January 2018 Overview and Assessment

It does no good to outline a plan if you don’t bother to follow through, and since the only one who will hold me accountable is me, it’s time to take a look at how I did this month.

At the beginning of the year, I said I that don’t bother with resolutions anymore, but I was looking to change a whole load of things for the better this year, even if only by minor course correction.  The intent in the midst of this was to add something to the mix each month in an effort to help it become part of my lifestyle.

The short list of what I wanted to change were in the areas of money / success, quality education / entertainment, and meditation.

On the financial front, I think I’ve learned quiet a bit.  I held my feet to the fire until it no longer burned.  I won’t say I wasn’t bored out of my mind or frustrated more often than not, but there are some things that can’t be helped.  Change isn’t always easy, but if the reward is sufficient, we do what we must.  This includes the idea of taking action, because simply learning isn’t enough.  Positive change comes through applied knowledge.  To that end, I’ve done some investing across a diverse and global set of business opportunities, small at first, but with a path to growth.  As Einstein once said, compound interest is truly a wonder.  Every drop in the bucket is a bucket to itself (or more) down the path of long term investing.  None of this day trader crap for me.  That’s the stuff that kills economies when bubbles burst.  On this point, I’m calling this a success.

As the human mind is essentially a computer, I’ve been operating with the programmer axiom of “garbage in = garbage out.”  On the financial front, I can easily point to Tony Robbins for my basic understanding.  His book MONEY: Master the Game has been integral.  Likewise, I can add in the additional support messaging from Bob Proctor’s It’s Not About the Money, and I’ve been chipping away at Napoleon Hill’s The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons.  In the latter case, it’s more about slowly absorbing what I’m learning.

My further education will come from Robbins’ follow-up book Unshakeable, as well as some deep dives into the investing advice books of John C. Bogle.  These things are not going to come right away because, quite frankly, my brain is well and truly melted from what I learned thus far.  Even so, they are shortlisted.

My other reads have this month were accordingly tailored per the idea of reading for substance, which was easy enough because that tends to be a bit of a default setting for me.

The big one was finishing out the 5th volume of Durant’s The Story of Civilization.  There is virtually nothing about this particular quest that I regret, apart from how long it takes simply because you can’t breeze through it and retain anything.  I wanted a deep dive survey with old school commentary and philosophy, I got it.  Boy howdy, I got it in spades.  The Renaissance never truly exhausts her inspirations.

Of course, this massive tome wasn’t my only other read this month, though if it were, I could hardly be accused of having read nothing.  I read through Pedro Barrento’s The Algorithm of Power, which was quite interesting and had the side effect of hearing from the author himself in a way that really drove home some of the lessons I’m learning from Robbins, Proctor, and Hill.  Funny how that works out, but then, we don’t operate in a vacuum.

I had two author requests this month.  The first was from Patrick Rogers for his book The Green Unknown, which really opened up some ideas for me about our world.  Always a good thing.  The other… I can’t speak of yet, but suffice to say a friend of mine has another novella in the hopper, and it may be the best of that series yet.  Impressive characterizations.  I can say no more for now.

Somehow I managed to squeeze in even more reading above and beyond all of this.  I read through the incredibly challenging and enlightening Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, 2nd edition, by Julia Serano.  I didn’t review it because, quite frankly, I’m not entirely certain how to do that.  I will say I was impressed by it on a number of levels.  I’m still chewing on most of what that book brought to the table in terms of social and biological awareness.  If you’re keeping score, this is the second book I’ve read in the past months on the transgender experience.  I feel this one was more about looking at feminism through that lens, so it offered a completely different perspective.  Why did I read it?  Because sometimes I feel the need to read books that completely open up the world in ways you never thought possible.  Along the same lines of challenging my perceptions, I also read Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff.  Talk about contrasting world views. These books couldn’t have been more different!  All that, and the continued buddy reads of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion and Conan Doyle’s Complete Sherlock Holmes.  Oh, and I finally started on Empire of Doom, the latest Doc Savage pulp by Will Murray writing as Kenneth Robeson.  The Shadow.  Shiwan Khan.  AWESOME!!!  Be still, my beating geeky heart.  This book started out bigger than most pulps end, and while I’m only 20% in right now, it just keeps getting bigger.

All in all, a rather diverse set of books, don’t you think?

Since books aren’t the only things I input into my brain, let’s talk about the other audio / visual experiences.

On the TV front, I’ve basically been keeping up with the usual suspects in my world.  Vikings had a fun season finale.  I don’t feel like the series has a lot of direction right now, but that can change at any time.  I think that rudderless feeling is part of the plot.  It’s where the characters are right now in the wake of everything that transpired.  Supernatural is still going strong this season, and they even had an episode designed to be a backdoor pilot using some of their recurring characters.  Certainly more interesting than the last time they tried that with no-name characters.  As previously reported, Star Trek: Discovery has earned my trust.  As of this entry, we have two more episodes to go this season, after which I’ll blog more about it, but suffice to say we have some Game of Thrones level television with the underlying Star Trek motifs and messages that the series rightfully should continue to build upon.  It’s an interesting to see how the franchise has evolved for the current generation.

Not many movies this month either, but some good ones.  I got my paws on the Kickstarter documentary Journey to Tataouine: The Archaeology of a Faraway Galaxy.  The big movies I saw, two of which I reviewed, were The Shape of Water, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Darkest Hour, The Post, and Paddington 2.  Hard to complain with a line up like that.

The big event this month was undoubtedly seeing Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson live on stage.  What an experience!

I don’t know if you can say I’ve listened to more music this month or not, but I’ve certainly kept my tunes in rotation.  This month has largely been continuing my listens in jazz, the blues, and film scores, though I generally toss in all manner of genres to keep things fresh.  One of the great advantages of a large and ever-growing music library: I’m never bored.  For instance, I’m currently typing this while listening to Ben-Hur: The Complete Soundtrack Collection by Miklós Rózsa, one of my newest additions to that library.  I’ve toyed with the idea of another blog project where I just talk about one album from any given genre.  Could be anything at all.  I just realistically don’t have a clue how to make that unfold just yet.  Appreciating music is one thing.  Figuring out how to discuss it… not really my forte, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Now for what didn’t quite work out as planned.  Did you see more project blogs?  Probably not.  A few, certainly, but not nearly as many as I’d hoped.  I do have a couple more in the works.  I’ve renewed work on Shakespeare’s Richard III, I’ve finally gotten started on the Roger Moore era for the 007 project.

Meditation.  This another one that didn’t quite work out as planned, but I still got results.  The idea behind this was that I’d do guided meditation half an hour before bedtime every night.  Yeah… not so much.  I ended up taking a completely different tact without realizing it, one that ended up with the same benefits.  The name of the game is mindfulness, right?  Well, one method of moving meditation is simply to focus your mind on any given task at hand.  Once I realized I was doing this, I dedicated to the idea.  And it’s worked out… mostly.  Hey, it’s a work in progress, and I’m not a master level monk.  Even so, like with the finances, any step forward is still forward.  I still benefit.  The more momentum I make, the more I can keep.

My reads for February are looking every bit as diverse as January, and potentially just as challenging.  After the false alarm of nuclear threat sounded in Hawaii recently, I decided to look further into just how many such instances we’ve had over the years, wherein I discovered a book by Eric Schlosser called Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, The Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety.  You just know this one’s going to be all kinds of cheerful.  I’ll be offsetting this with a number of fiction reads.  As big a fan as I am of the film, I’ve always wanted to read Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff.  There’s an audiobook released next week narrated by Dennis Quaid (who magnificently played Gordo Cooper in the movie).  That’s on the list, as is the newest Star Trek: Discovery novel by Dayton Ward, Drastic Measures.  After Discovery absolutely blew me away when they returned from mid-season break, I couldn’t not grab it.  Ward’s fellow Trek novelist has written the first of a series of WWII era novels involving sorcerers as the secret weapon on both sides of the war.  Piqued my interest, so I picked that up.  It’s called The Midnight Front: A Dark Arts Novel.  And playing into my perpetual interest of learning about the people behind the music, I now have a copy of Michael Owen’s Go Slow: The Life of Julie London.  And if I somehow get through all of this, I still have Will Murray’s King Kong vs. Tarzan.  Apparently he’s started another line of pulps featuring the Lord of the Apes which, like with the Doc Savage series, I really can’t keep up with… but I may cherry pick them.  Still waiting on that series for The Shadow, but it sounds like it’s a rights issue from Conde Nast.  Go figure.  I still hold out hope since Murray’s proven himself twice on that front.  Anyway… that’s what’s lined up for the coming month, in addition to the aforementioned buddy reads.

And in between all of this, I may sneak in a couple of Audible edition pulps from The Shadow and Doc Savage because I can.  I can’t believe they’re releasing more of the originals, but I’m pouncing on them as they come.

I haven’t given a thought to any movies for this month.  I’m just picking at random as time allows.  For TV, the ones I’m looking for this month are Stargate: Origins, Mozart in the Jungle, and the grand finale of Star Wars: Rebels.  For this last one… there will be blogs.  Oh yes, there will be blogs.

In terms of what I’ll add to my lifestyle, I think this month is all about getting back in the kitchen.  As a bachelor who spends money on absolutely everything else but food, I tend to eat a lot of things that aren’t so great for me.  I don’t eat out a lot, not even fast food, but much of what I buy at the grocery store is still easy and cheap.  This month is going to be dedicated to the idea of operating within my limited budget to make some better choices for myself.  Much like with the mind, the body works on the same principle of “garbage in = garbage out.”  I’m not looking for a complete overhaul here.  Not yet.  Just… better.  I’ll figure it out as I go.

So that’s January with a look ahead to February.  In addition to the improvements I’ve discussed, the side effects have been rather nice: sleeping a little more is always good, more relaxed, fewer migraines… even fewer allergies, though that has more to do with the few days of hard freeze we had that finally killed off some pollen.  I’ll take it where I can.

I’m calling this month a success all around.  Here’s to forward momentum.

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