2013 in Review

I did­n’t post a set or goals for 2013, but I did review my goals for 2012 and I feel pret­ty good about work­ing on some of those goals in 2013, as well.

In fact, I think with regard to my per­son­al health, this past year was a very good year for me. Track­ing my activ­i­ties and food made a big dif­fer­ence. Also, I attend­ed a good form run­ning clin­ic and began work­ing on my run­ning tech­nique to pre­vent injuries. Pos­si­bly as a result, I set a PR this year in the Turkey Trot 5k &emdash; run­ning it in near­ly 25 min­utes (I’m num­ber 61 over­all). Last­ly, I recent­ly com­plet­ed an Iron­man Chal­lenge1 at our gym: swim­ming 2.4 miles, bik­ing 112 miles, and run­ning 26.2 miles over the course of the month (I fin­ished it in 22 days). I’ve also man­aged to eat (a lit­tle) bet­ter and have even recent­ly cut soda out of my reg­u­lar diet.

I cer­tain­ly go a lot more expe­ri­ence this year with XML pro­gram­ming (and pro­gram­ming in gen­er­al, also learn­ing some JavaScript along the way). I’m not expert, but I’ve learned enough to com­fort­ably be able to manip­u­late HTML and XSL:FO out­put at work.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I can’t say that I made much of a great effort into vis­it­ing friends & fam­i­ly, nor in cre­at­ing more2. I cer­tain­ly failed to blog reg­u­lar­ly here or post updates on the kids. Those are all things I’ll have to work on in 2014.

  1. Angela signed us both up, with­out me know­ing. Which was sort of pay­back for sign­ing her up for a marathon all those years ago. []
  2. Unless you count build­ing LEGO kits with my kids because I think I must have done a hun­dred of those. []

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

I recent­ly lis­tened to the direct-to-Eng­lish trans­la­tion of Solaris com­mis­sioned by Audible.com. While I could appre­ci­ate much of the nov­el, I frankly did­n’t find it all that enjoy­able of a read/listen. I felt guilty about my 3‑star review on Goodreads.com until I noticed that Patrick Roth­fuss gave it 2 stars.
SolarisSolaris by Stanisław Lem
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

I love sci­ence fic­tion with tru­ly ‘alien’ aliens. That being said, per­haps Lem went a bit too far in cre­at­ing some­thing we lit­er­al­ly can­not com­pre­hent or com­mu­ni­cate with.

After hav­ing recent­ly watched the Soder­bergh film from 2002, I decid­ed I’d like to read the ‘orig­i­nal’ (well, the recent Ama­zon/Audi­ble-direct­ed trans­la­tion into Eng­lish; not the Pol­ish). Hav­ing read the book, I can tru­ly appre­ci­ate what a let-down the movie was. While it was great movie, to para­phrase Lem, it was “love in out­er space”, not “Solaris.” The film does­n’t show a sin­gle wave or sur­face for­ma­tion and I bare­ly recall them men­tion­ing an ‘ocean’. It’s pret­ty impor­tant to the book, which reminds me…

…this is a book review, so I’ll dis­cuss the book and why I felt com­pelled to give a wide­ly-regard­ed mas­ter­piece only three stars. I can cer­tain­ly appre­ci­ate that the book is about the inabil­i­ty for humans to effec­tive­ly com­mu­ni­cate with a tru­ly ‘alien’ species. But the com­plete lack of any real inter­ac­tion between human­i­ty and the plan­et was frus­trat­ing. Peo­ple go there and occa­sion­al­ly die, but their explo­ration with this large­ly inert thing con­sists of fly-bys. How­ev­er, an entire branch of sci­ence has been ded­i­cat­ed to the planet/being. This results in lots of dry descrip­tions of explo­rations which sum to nill knowl­edge. Again, I con­cede it’s the philo­soph­i­cal point Lem is try­ing to make. I just argue it does­n’t make for the most engag­ing read­ing. It feels more like read­ing a Nation­al Weath­er Cen­ter’s descrip­tion of the his­to­ry of hur­ri­canes in out­er space (*makes note for idea of future sci­fi nov­el*).

Fur­ther, I felt the inabil­i­ty of the sci­en­tists to get over the shame, guilt, etc. they feel about their vis­i­tors hard to con­nect with. There’s been a shift in com­mon atti­tudes between 1961 Poland and 2013 Amer­i­ca which per­haps makes it hard for me to grasp the atti­tudes of ded­i­cat­ed sci­en­tists. Kelvin clear­ly rec­og­nizes this issue and hopes to address it, but I nev­er felt any sense of get­ting any­where this nudge in atti­tudes.

As I stat­ed, I tru­ly enjoy ali­en­ness in sci­fi, and I would rec­om­mend this book to any­one who does as well. I just wished I could have enjoyed it more.

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