Sunday, March 31, 2013

Remi's Remix or How I Plan To Topple My TBR Pile Without Inflicting Great Harm on Myself

Hello out there.  It's been a while, hasn't it?  Anyways, I've been mulling over a way to revamp (restart) this blog for the past few months and I'm finally sitting down to actually start doing the writing.  So with a Starbucks concoction at my side and good tunes on the ipod, here goes.

I think it will come as no surprise to the people who know me or who have read this blog that I buy a lot of books.  I'm an avid reader, sure, but in some ways I'm an even more dedicated book buyer.  Yard sales, online, bookstores, thrift stores. . . If there is a way to acquire a book, I've probably tried it.  Well, except stealing, that is.  Heck, I even bought my tattered copy of Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book (though I probably shouldn't brag about that).  I love buying books.  So much so that some of my favourite vacations have involved treks (pilgrimages) to bookstores.  I mean, who can go to Paris without wandering amongst the lovely shelves Shakespeare and Company?  A train trip from New York to San Francisco?  More accurately, it was a trip from The Strand (NYC) to City Lights (SF).  So, while I do read a lot, the piles of books in my place tend to grow much faster than I can read.

Now, the dedicated book fiends out there are probably asking themselves "Hey, what's the problem?"  I mean, there are far worse habits to have, aren't there?  Isn't it almost a duty to rescue good books from bad (meaning not your) shelves?  How can a person really just pass by that lightly worn and wonderful hardcover of [insert great book title here]?  Seriously.  I've asked myself all these questions and more and I have the groaning bookshelves to prove it. 


Some of what I'm dealing with. . .
The problem is, a large number of the books I have taking up space in my place haven't been finished.  In some cases, they haven't even been started.  Maybe I bought the book with the intention of starting it after I finish the one I've been reading and then got distracted by something else.  Maybe the book didn't grab me after the first few chapters and I got distracted by something else.  Maybe I got distracted by something else but then, in turn, got distracted by something else entirely. . .

(There might be a theme here.)

. . . So now I've come to the point where I want to do something about this.  Sure, I love having all these books but what's the point of owning a book you don't wind up reading?  Maybe it's finally time to read some of those great 19th century tomes I've been accumulating to read someday.  Or the great sci-fi novel I read about on the NPR website (a great spot for book suggestions, if you haven't been).  Or maybe it's time to tackle some of the books I planned to read back in university but never got around to it.  So many options and they are all sitting there waiting for me on my shelves. 

So that's what I've been thinking about.  Of course, thinking about doing something and doing something are two different things.  If I make it a challenge to myself, I feel I'll be more likely to stick with it.  Readers of this blog will know I used to take part in John Mutford's Canadian Book Challenge.  I really enjoyed it for a couple of reasons.  First, it forced me to read a lot of great Canadian books (never a bad thing).  Second, it helped to discipline my reading, forcing me to finish what I started.  Thinking of this, I have decided to blog about this project as a way of keeping myself honest.  Here are the details:

The challenge - Remi's Remix (thanks to Emma for the title)

The goal - to read and blog about 20 books I had on my shelves on January 1, 2013 that I had not finished.  The only caveat is that I may reread a book but only if I had bought it in a new edition (i.e. ditching a tattered paperback for a hardcover) that I had not read from by January 1.

The deadline - December 31, 2013.

That's it.  The caveat is really only there for one book right now and I will explain the reasoning when I get there.

If you're wondering why I picked January 1, the reason is that I actually planned and started my rereading back in January.  I'm just getting to the blogging now.  Right now, I'm only into my third book but I'm starting to pick up the pace.  The only real problem with this challenge is that too many of my favourite writers are coming out with books this year.  I just finished Andrew Pyper's latest, The Demonologist, and it was great.  Elizabeth Ruth and Joe Hill both have new novels out this spring and Margaret Atwood has a new one this fall.  I'm sure there will be others.  So while I hope to buy fewer books this year, I can't stop completely.  Such is the life of the book geek.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Before and Midway - 13 Months and Counting

In December of 2010, I started on a series of lifestyle changes, attempting to make good on my previous failed efforts.  This time, for whatever reason, it finally stuck for more than a month or two.

I began exercising more (and more regularly) and, by spring, I finally started to whip my diet into shape.  I began counting calories on myfitnesspal.com (a really great site).  Then I started cycle commuting.  Since I bought my bike in April, I've put roughly 1400 miles on it.  In addition to this, I even started running.  Well, lumbering quickly, at least.  After years of joking about the people in my neighbourhood running for no good reason (no one was even chasing them), I kind of joined them.  It took a while to make the change but I started walking less and running more.  Now, I can go out and run for 3 1/2 miles without slowing.  In October, I did the CN Tower climb in a respectable 23:57.  That's 1776 steps.  Last year, I would have been gasping for breath after a few flights.

There is no great secret to what I did.  It all boils down to four words - eat less, move more.
 
The November before I started, I went to Vegas.  Though I didn't quite realize it then, I came back with a number of not terribly flattering 'before' pics.

For instance, in November of 2010, I looked like this:


Yup.  Even trying for a more flattering angle just couldn't hide the fact that I was, uh, big.

Last Saturday, I looked like this:


That's me getting ready for my first 5k run.  I'm already signed up for my next one (St. Patrick's Day) and am eyeing up a 10k run for the summer.  I think I like it better this way.  It's sweatier but more fun.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Only Benefit of Biking to Work at 5am on a Sunday...

...is that no one is around to see you rocking the very retro, yet questionable, combo of long underwear and shorts.  Time to find something warmer for my legs on these chilly mornings.

Other than that, the ride was fine. I've learned that once you resign yourself to the fact that you'll be riding in crappy weather, the ride itself isn't that bad.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Test

Okay. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Couldn't find a way to get my blogger phone app to accept my non-gmail account so I gave up. Thankfully, switching the blog wasn't too hard. Next up, my google+ one. I just wasn't made for this modern world.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

How I Roll

This summer, I started bicycling again. I finally ran out of reasons not to bike when I saw that other people in my apartment building had no problem keeping a bike in their apartment. Besides, I took an 8 mile walk out Leslie Spit and back this spring and realized that all those cyclists passing me seemed to be having even more fun than I was having. So it was a no brainer. Sure, the bike takes up space but benefits have far outweighed this one minor inconvenience.

I live about a 5 minute walk from a Trek store so I went down and picked up this beauty:



That's my bike at Bike to Work day back in May. Oddly enough, I didn't start actually biking to work until the weekend after. I just couldn't resist the opportunity to take part in a mass ride down Yonge St. (with police bike escort, no less).



Out for a ride. My sisters will tell you I've worn sillier looking hats.

Since I bought the bike, I've pretty much stopped taking the TTC. As much as I love transit, I have much more fun on my bike. Even better, it usually doesn't take me much longer to go by bike than it used to by transit. Grocery runs, evenings out, I take my bike everywhere. It's amazing how many groceries you can fit into a pannier.

I intended to start slowly, only biking to work on weekends, when the traffic was quieter. It's just under 5 miles from my place to work by the most direct route (the always interesting Yonge St.). The thing is, I started doing it one weekend and just kept doing it. I never really looked at commuting as fun until I started whipping down Yonge St. on my bike. Since June, I've taken transit to work maybe twice. Now, I'm seriously wondering how much winter I'm willing to brave on my bike. The fall is a given. The winter? If the roads are bare, I see no reason why I can't do it. That's quite a change in just a few months.

Biking really is the best way to get around the city. You go fast enough to get from place to place in good time yet you go slow enough that you can enjoy the sights and sounds. You just don't get that stuck in a tunnel or in a car.

So, yeah, sometimes when I'm out there, I kind of feel like this guy:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Some pics that don't really explain my absence. . .



Nothing beats the zoo and a long lens.



I waited about 20 minutes for the elephant to turn around.



From Nuit Blanche last year.



My uncle on his beloved tractor.



My sister at her wedding. Word of advice to anyone with an slr camera - when that relative comes up to you and asks you to shoot their wedding, offer them a toaster instead. The wedding turned out well but was way too stressful for a hobbyist like me.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Canuck Book 13 - Holding Still For As Long As Possible by Zoe Whittall

I finished my troika of Toronto novels with this Zoe Whittall book. Whittall is a writer I've known of for a while. I almost bought her first novel (Bottle Rocket Hearts) on a number of occasions but never quite got around to it. After reading Holding Still, I realize I will have to pick up her first book soon.

The story revolves around a group of friends and lovers who live around Parkdale, the slowly gentrifying neighbourhood near the west end of Queen Street. Billy - a one-time teen pop starlet - has split with her longtime girlfriend Maria. She is trying to go to school but suffers from severe panic attacks. Josh is a transgendered paramedic who is starting to grow apart from his girlfriend Amy (who is a filmmaker). There are a few other friends that come and go but these are the main three.

I'll be honest. The book took a while to grow on me. Each section starts with interludes describing an emergency that paramedics are attending to. There's a very detached feeling to these that had me guessing, trying to figure out why they were there. There was no need to question anything, though. Whittall knows what she's doing. The more I read, the more I realized how well she put this story together.

Stringing the last three books in the Canada Reads challenge together like I did was an interesting experience. I witnessed three different takes on Toronto (four if you count Consolation's split narrative) that had surprisingly little overlap. I wonder how many other Canadian cities this can can be said of? Montreal, for sure. Vancouver? Probably. Any others?