2019 Reading List

The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1)

The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, )

J.R.R. Tolkien

Published: 1954 | Pages:398

My Rating: 5/5

Description: One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkeness bind themIn ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, The Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit.In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.–back cover

The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2)

The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, )

J.R.R. Tolkien

Published: 1954 | Pages:322

My Rating: 5/5

Description: Frodo and his Companions of the Ring have been beset by danger during their quest to prevent the Ruling Ring from falling into the hands of the Dark Lord by destroying it in the Cracks of Doom. They have lost the wizard, Gandalf, in a battle in the Mines of Moria. And Boromir, seduced by the power of the Ring, tried to seize it by force. While Frodo and Sam made their escape, the rest of the company was attacked by Orcs. Now they continue the journey alone down the great River Anduin — alone, that is, save for the mysterious creeping figure that follows wherever they go.

The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, #3)

The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, )

J.R.R. Tolkien

Published: 1955 | Pages:404

My Rating: 5/5

Description: here.The Companions of the Ring have become involved in separate adventures as the quest continues. Aragorn, revealed as the hidden heir of the ancient Kings of the West, joined with the Riders of Rohan against the forces of Isengard, and took part in the desperate victory of the Hornburg. Merry and Pippin, captured by Orcs, escaped into Fangorn Forest and there encountered the Ents. Gandalf returned, miraculously, and defeated the evil wizard, Saruman. Meanwhile, Sam and Frodo progressed towards Mordor to destroy the Ring, accompanied by SmEagol–Gollum, still obsessed by his ‘precious’. After a battle with the giant spider, Shelob, Sam left his master for dead; but Frodo is still alive–in the hands of the Orcs. And all the time the armies of the Dark Lord are massing. J.R.R. Tolkien’s great work of imaginative fiction has been labeled both a heroic romance and a classic fantasy fiction. By turns comic and homely, epic and diabolic, the narrative moves through countless changes of scene and character in an imaginary world which is totally convincing in its detail.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project Volume 1

Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project Volume 1

Osamu Takahashi

Published: 2006 | Pages:192

My Rating: 3/5

Description: When Shinji starts to get curious about Rei, Asuka needs to figure out if she wants to be just friends with Shinji or something more. But why are so many people keeping an eye on these relationships? People like homeroom teacher Misato, school nurse Ritsuko, and Shinji’s mother and NERV’s chief scientist Yui Ikari… Each volume of Neon Genesis Evangelion features bonus color pages, your Evangelion fan art, letters, and special reader giveaways!

Battle Angel Alita, Vol. 2: Tears of an Angel

Battle Angel Alita, Vol. 2: Tears of an Angel

Yukito Kishiro

Published: 1992 | Pages:207

My Rating: 4/5


Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, #1)

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, )

James S.A. Corey

Published: 2011 | Pages:577

My Rating: 5/5

Description: From a New York Times bestselling and Hugo award-winning author comes a modern masterwork of science fiction, introducing a captain, his crew, and a detective as they unravel a horrifying solar system wide conspiracy that begins with a single missing girl.  Humanity has colonized the solar system—Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond—but the stars are still out of our reach.Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for—and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations—and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

Star Wars: Thrawn

Star Wars: Thrawn

Timothy Zahn

Published: 2017 | Pages:488

My Rating: 4/5

Description: After Thrawn is rescued from exile by Imperial soldiers, his deadly ingenuity and keen tactical abilities swiftly capture the attention of Emperor Palpatine. And just as quickly, Thrawn proves to be as indispensable to the Empire as he is ambitious; as devoted as its most loyal servant, Darth Vader; and a brilliant warrior never to be underestimated. On missions to rout smugglers, snare spies, and defeat pirates, he triumphs time and again—even as his renegade methods infuriate superiors while inspiring ever greater admiration from the Empire. As one promotion follows another in his rapid ascension to greater power, he schools his trusted aide, Ensign Eli Vanto, in the arts of combat and leadership, and the secrets of claiming victory. But even though Thrawn dominates the battlefield, he has much to learn in the arena of politics, where ruthless administrator Arihnda Pryce holds the power to be a potent ally or a brutal enemy.All these lessons will be put to the ultimate test when Thrawn rises to admiral and must pit all the knowledge, instincts, and battle forces at his command against an insurgent uprising that threatens not only innocent lives but also the Empire’s grip on the galaxy—and his own carefully laid plans for future ascendancy.

Battle Angel Alita, Vol. 1

Battle Angel Alita, Vol. 1

Yukito Kishiro

Published: 1990 | Pages:248

My Rating: 4/5

Description: Daisuke Ido, a talented cybernetic doctor, finds the head of a cyborg in a junk heap. When he rebuilds her body, Alita’s only clue to her past surfaces-her deadly fighting instincts! And now she is determine to find out the truth about who she once was…

One Year, One Decade, in Music

A lot of people recently started posting their Spotify year end reviews to social media. I don’t really use Spotify for music, but I do use Last.fm. In fact, I’ve used Last.fm off and on since 2005.

There are a few low points, I had basically zero Scrobbles for 2015 for example, and it was a lot lower while I was using Windows Phone, in general, but it’s still a pretty good snapshot of music habits. and changes. So rather than just settle for a year, i wanted to look over a year, and the last decade of music.

The top level kind of feels like it should be Artist. Across both lists of top 10 artists for the year and decade, only three make both lists. Taylor Swift, Sigrid, and The Who. I kind of feel like Taylor Swift doesn’t really need much said. She was literally named Artist of the Decade, she does music across various genres, basically like her or hate her, everyone knows who she is.

Sigrid is more notable on this list. I’ve talked about Sigrid in previous monthly posts quite a bit. She is notable because she is in third place for the decade, and in my overall list, and every single one of those listens is from 2019. Most of them are from the last 6 months. In more recent weeks I’ve been listening to less Sigrid, but I know that will change when she releases a new album. I can’t even really say that for Taylor Swift at the moment. I’ve only recently started listening to her most recent album, Lover, and so far, I’m really not feeling it like Reputation or 1989 or Red.

The Who is also a bit notable. Of all of the artists I’ve listened to over my lifetime, The Who has been the one consistent group I’ve come back to. I started listening to them back around 1990 when I first got a CD Player stereo of my own and have listened to their music ever since. Before that time, most of my music listening comprised of stuff my cousin was listening to like Madonna, Michael Jackson and Debbie Gibson, as well as the soundtracks to the Ninja Turtles movies and Oliver and Company on Cassette tape. They don’t really top any of my “favorites lists” but they are reliably always “up there”.

The rest of the top artists for the decade are all pretty representative of my primary musical tastes, though I honestly listen to a pretty wide cross section of genres overall. BT, Daft Punk, Skrillix make up some of my interest in electronic music, other like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Ke$ha making up the pop music aspects. I pick up a ton of singles by less known artists, but they tend to get pushed down the list simply by sheer volume numbers of bigger named artists.

The last particularly notable point I want to add for artists is Tessa Violet. I’ve only just started recently listening to her music and I expect to see her popping up more in 2020.

So what about individual Albums. On some level, this is just a more spread out version of the top artists lists. Funny enough, Sigrid’s Sucker Punch is my top album on both. Taylor Swift is higher over all, but her music is spread out over several albums. The same for Avril Lavigne. Sigrid does have several albums listed, but Don’t Kill my Vibe and Raw are both EPs and not full albums, and “In the Moment” is sort of a fake album that’s attached to live tracks.

Top tracks gets a little more interesting, at least on the side of Top for the decade, since it better pulls out singles I have listened to a lot. The top for the year isn’t that interesting, 13 of the top 15 are all Sigrid Tracks. Number 12 is “Why so Serious” by Alice Merton and number 14 is “Ready for it?” by Taylor Swift.

Sia doesn’t even show up in my top ten artists, but “The Greatest” is my single most listened to track. The Gorillaz are sort of int he same boat. I’ve even listened to a lot of other tracks by both artists, but “The Greatest” and “Stylo” both top these two on an individual basis. Also, despite being number 14 for the year, “Ready for it?” blows away the top Sigrid track, “Basic” for the decade. Which is to be expected since I’ve been listening to “Ready For it?” for a lot longer. Meanwhile, I’m not sure I’ve listened to Telephone or Bulletproof at all int he last few years. Which just shoes how one track can fall out of rotation despite clearly being dominant for a while.

Something that’s probably worth adding, that skews a lot of these lists, I still do listen to CDs, especially for artists I really like. I’m sure if I could track CD listens that Taylor Swift and Avril Lavigne would be higher, since that’s my primary way I’ve listened to both of them. This also makes BT come off a lot lower. I really really love BT’s music, but a lot of what I listen to there is on CD. Also, BT’s “These Hopeful Machines” is 2 continuous 45 minute+ tracks, mixing the tracks of “These Humble Machines” into one. Last.fm doesn’t really track these sort of things very well.

One Year of Duolingo

So, I have just reached a 1 year, 365 day streak, on Duolingo. Technically, it’s been a little longer than that I think, because I believe I broke some short, earlier streaks. I’ve also, occasionally, used a Streak Freeze item, which you can use to skip a day. Still, the point is, I have effectively used Duolingo, for 5-15+ minutes, each day, to learn a foreign language.

The vast majority of this time has been spent learning Spanish. I very briefly toyed with the idea of doing Japanese at the same time, but never bothered to get past the first set of challenges. I took 4 years of Japanese (maybe it was 3, I think it was 4), in High School. I still know the general idea of Japanese, but I am rusty enough that I couldn’t really understand it with any speed without some work. More recently, I have also started doing a little bit of the Norwegian tree, along side the Spanish.

Surprisingly, Norwegian is closer to English than Spanish. I guess if you look up some actual language relational trees, both English and Norwegian are on the same larger branch, and Spanish is on a seperate branch.

So the question is, do I feel like I’ve learned anything? I would say, yes. Early on I was doing a bit of research on what it means to “know” a language, and it’s essentially 4 parts. Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening. My weakest area would definitely be speaking. I seriously doubt I could speak Spanish well at all to anyone beyond some basic stuff. Part of this is because I don’t exactly have any way to really practice speaking Spanish to anyone.

“Always it’s sunny” versus
“It’s always sunny”

I would say listening is probably my second weakest area, but more because I’ve found that natural Spanish speakers, talk very quickly. I sometimes will run a Spanish TV channel or Spanish HBO in the background while doing other things and I can sort of pick out words I know, but they get jumbled among words I don’t know.

Writing is a little easier. My problem with writing is that I still get messed up on the tenses or whatever they are called for the verbs. Eating, eaten, will eat, he eats, I eat, that sort of thing. I still get kind of lost on which one to use where. I imagine I could get the idea across, but it would come off as broken Spanish.

Lastly is reading. I feel fairly confident in the reading department, at least if I know the vocabulary being used. Part of this is because I can get the idea of things like eating and eat and eats, using context clues. Como, Comer, comes, all just become “something to do with eating”.

The app itself overall, does an alright job, but it’s not perfect. It does a really good job of pushing memorization of the same handful of phrases, but it’s not so great at encouraging the free forming of sentences. I’m not sure that would even be possible though, since the App isn’t going ot be able to effectively evaluate open ended questions.

In a previous exercise, “Preferred food” was wrong, even though favorite and preferred are synonyms and obviously “Preferida” is the same root of “Preferred”.

I also wish there was a way to just do the matching mode with words learned so far. Especially with verbs. Like give me all the variations of “eat” and let me match them up, so maybe I can get a better handle on which is which. There is a separate app that sort of does this, but the format is a little different and it doesn’t directly sync to the main app.

It also gets a little less literal with it’s translations that I like. I have seen other people comment on this a bit on the Duolingo forums, and there are arguments for both ways. Some people will argue that making the translation more natural English is better, because it gets the point across more. I would argue it makes for poor learning, and encourages memorizing phrases instead of actually learning translations. One common one is with words like “Always” and “Never”. You may get the phrase, “He is always happy”, which in Spanish would be, “El siempre esta feliz.” Except it’s not, not directly, in English, “El siempre esta feliz”, is “He always is happy”. The placement of “always” in the English version is valid both ways, though it would be more common to say “is always” than “always is”. I feel like if Duolingo emphasized the “Always is” translation, it would better emphasize how the sentence structure works in Spanish. Since spanish is “siempre esta”.

Another synonym issue with plate and dish.

Another way more common example of this is the omission of “the”. A lot of the Spanish uses “la/el” in the sentence. “Me gusta la escuela”, which duo translates to “I like school”, even though it’s more literally, “I like the school”. Now, granted, I am learning Spanish, and it may in fact be perfectly valid to just say “Me gusta escuela”, except Duolingo, in the app, would mark that incorrect, for missing the “la”. These little inconsistencies drive me nuts and frankly, are probably one of the biggest reason I miss some of the questions. It also does make a difference int he long run, since “I like school” and “I like the school”, are arguably completely different phrases. One can like going to school and learning (I like school), or one can like a particular school (I like the school).

Anyway, I can deal with the little weirdness, but there are times when it’s annoying, it also feels a little inconsistent on it’s enforcement as well.

I plan to keep going on my learning expedition. I have been also doing a bit of LingoDeer Spanish, for a fresh perspective and methodology. I have a couple of Audiobooks for learning Spanish that I got in a Humble Bundle a while back I want to listen to. I hope to reach at least a mild level of competency in Spanish, and maybe eventually some other languages as well, eventually. I don’t have any particular reason for it, other than I have always liked the idea of learning other languages and, in general, I enjoy learning new things.