New year, who are you?

When I started project 2020 I didn’t think that the changes would be as quick as they have been. We are on day twenty of the new year and I already have 25 books clocked into my Goodreads account, the most involved, Phone by Will Self, I finished earlier today. The first full length Will Self shouldn’t have been the third installment of a trilogy but when you have no idea that there was such a trilogy it is hard to go back and start again.
My workouts have become a daily routine that I start the mornings with. To help pass the time I watch an episode of Ramy, a new show on Hulu, and I have already finished the first season leaving me to question what I will watch tomorrow while I do pushups and arm curls. My home gym is slowly growing with resistance bands and pushup bars joining the dumb bell set. My arms and shoulders are noticeably more defined and my legs have a new springiness to them. I don’t know if I have lost any weight, making sure to weigh myself once a month to document changes.
Another house payment went out with all other bills paid. I think at this point I don’t have a payment due until June. With spare cash I started to pick up Modern Library books. These are the hard cover pocket size classics that were printed between 1919 and 1970. These are fairly common and really cheap for what they are. I did some research and found that there is a community of people who collect these. All together there are 498 books in the series with a few titles that are harder to find because of low sales. I come across these all the time and since I am developing the habit of reading an hour or two before bed what better hobby could a man find?
There are ten days left and I still have to finish reading Sand by Hugh Howey, Nicotine by Will Self, Eat Memory, and The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley. I doubt I will have an issue with this and I haven’t decided if the last day of the month is a shut off day or if I continue reading things into the next month. A few dozen Louie L’amour novels are waiting for me and I don’t want to disappoint them.

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Twelve days, Twelve books

We are twelve days into the new year and so far, so good. I sent out another check to the mortgage company which means I’ve paid $1200 so far this year and I don’t have a payment due until May. I finally finished reading Quicksand by Henning Mankell and have to say that I really enjoyed it. I felt a bit of quilt having put it down earlier. This was the last book the man decided to write after finding out he had a form of cancer that was usually fatal. Sure enough, it was the last book he ever wrote. I own most of his other work but have yet to read any of it. I watched the Kurt Wallander BBC series and have to admit it was pretty good. Rarely am I ever disappointed by the BBC, they tend to think about quality over profitability. Besides the books I have yet to finish I also took the opportunity to go back and read any of the comic books that I have missed out on over the past twenty years. I have to say it all goes back to The Watchmen. Wolverine, Deadpool, and a few independent titles have been breezing through my hands. The quality of the art and stories haven’t changed much. In an industry that has been struggling for over a decade now I am not surprised at some of the leaps they have taken with different characters. They talk about jumping the shark for television, well, comics have been jumping sharks among a few other things over the years.
The stack of books has been thinning out and the Goodreads list is down to five last time I checked. I don’t know if I will get to every book in the stack although there are a few I could save for when their author’s month arrives. Jim Harrison, Thomas McGuane, and Will Self all have their time coming and Will has been making things difficult with his last epic novel Phone. I’m finally have way through and with a run time of 21 hours in audio book and over 700 pages in print it is not an easy read. This doesn’t include the lack of paragraphs, jumping around from scene to scene, and the use of UK English to add to the confusion. It is a chore and yet there is something to be said about the depth of which Self dives into with his characters. The Butcher, for all of his gory antics, turns out to be just another person from a shitty upbringing that you find yourself rooting for in a way. Yes, he ahs done horrible things, but haven’t we all?
Today was the first day I can say I didn’t get a work out in. There has been some cardio and weight lifting, easing back into things because past experience has shown me how over doing it can go wrong. You can’t lose weight or get into shape if you can’t work out. For the moment P90x is sitting on the shelf, where it belongs. Not having the time or ability to properly do the program will just frustrate me and won’t help at all. I am still waiting until the end of the month to weigh in and my shirts fit better than they have. During the past two weeks I have used an app for intermediate fasting and already I can tell there is a difference in the size of my stomach and how much I can eat. This diet routine is not the cure all for what I’m seeking but it does help.
My study now has the addition of a reading chair for those nights I come home from work and need an hour or two to wind down. That has been the biggest change I have noticed so far this year, sitting down to read before bed is something I have been wanting to do for a long time. Turn the radio on for the local jazz channel and enjoy a story here and there. I don’t know of too many people that look back on there lives and say “I wish I would have watched more movies” but I have met a few that mentioned they wished they would have read more books. So far this year I am at a book a day and while I know it won’t last it is a good start to the new year.

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Intermediate fasting

I am currently at the first hour of a 16 hour fast. I have an app for this that helps me keep track of when my body is burning sugar and when it is eating fat. I once had a job that took care of this for me, keeping me so busy that I would forget to eat for 8-12 hours at a time. These days I factor in my 6-8 hours of broken sleep and a late breakfast to cover the time. I haven’t had any problems yet and even squeezed in a 20 hour fast because, well, I was busy at work. Four days into the year and I already have my 2-3 workouts in for the week. Even with the holiday I have stuck to my 1-2 drinks per week. My calorie count is down at the moment with the fasting keeping me from snacking on the off hours.
Yesterday I was supposed to have my new dumbbells arrive only to have a message from Amazon that UPS “delayed” my package. I don’t know what exactly this means but I wasn’t too happen to see that it was delivered to my city this morning at 2:30am and wasn’t delivered today when it is already two days late. New years resolutions are already hard enough, it doesn’t help when somebody else sabotages what you are already going to sabotage yourself.
Two books I finished so far include: Braided Creek by Jim Harrison and In Search of Reagan’s Brain, a Doonesbury annual from 1980-81. Neither of them were a “deep” read, one being poetry and the other a collection of newspaper comic strips. I’m still reading anything I can get my hands on when I have the time, and so far, 2 books in four days isn’t bad. I have been books on order that I received a discount on from Ebay. These were the missing Will Self books that I don’t have in my library and while I should be upset that I spent the money instead of putting it towards my mortgage it should be pointed out that Will Self is not found on the shelves of book stores in the states. Eventually I will find some crude thing he said about this great country of ours. Perhaps he made fun of our “Freedom Fries” or wrote a short story about Trump’s small mushroom shaped penis, who knows. Either way I look forward to these books and march should be a self-indulgent time.
I received a letter in the mail from my mortgage company informing me that I was more than 90 paid up in advance. I didn’t know that paying your bills was a problem. Perhaps my extra money made them want to spend it on postage thanking me for being so punctual on my payments. Or maybe they noticed that I could end up paying off the principle early, eliminating what is owed in interest and therefore losing the company some money over the long haul. I’m thinking of framing this beautiful piece of office literature as a reminder that I annoyed someone enough by paying my bills ahead of time that they felt they had to send a message that I was tampering with their books. And here I thought they only wrote you when you were 90 days behind, not when you were ahead.

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Unfinished books

Tomorrow starts the reading challenge for 2020, the first month is the unfinished books I have been neglecting throughout the year. The list includes four titles by Jim Harrison, one epic novel by Will Self, Thomas McGuane’s first novel, Henning Mankell’s last book, plus a few about pipes and food. There are also two titles in my Hoopla Audiobook files that I need to finish.
Most of these books I am about half way through and the only time I really have to read these days is after work before bed. Once in a while, who am I kidding, every night my daughter helps by waking up at 3am and not falling back asleep until 5am. I haven’t figured out what I will do with the books when I am finished with them. Time will tell.

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Project 2020 is a go!

Every year there are things that I set out to do and most of them are left as distant memories sitting in a smoldering pile of crap. These are goals I set for myself and are quickly forgotten for various reasons. The excuse of “Life” is often used, and going along with life has only gotten me so far. After turning forty and running out of excuses I have decided that it is time to “Man Up” and make these changes that I keep telling myself that I need to do. The new year is as good of a time as any to try something new and see what sticks and what doesn’t.
This project has three different aspects to it; reading, fitness, and finance. Why did I pick these three? They are the three things that have irritated me the most about my life. I don’t read as much as I would like, instead always choosing to watch some shitty show on Netflix and wasting my time that could be spent doing something more productive. Skipping to finance, it bugs the crap out of me how much of my monthly payment on my house is eaten up by interest. Instead of complaining I think it is a better idea to do something about it and have some joy in knowing the mortgage company won’t make as much as they were hoping. Finally fitness, my dad had a second heart attack this year and while I am young I have noticed that I’m no longer in the kind of shape I was in at 30. Lifting weights and running were part of my daily routine and since I moved into my wife’s house there isn’t any room for exercise equipment. Walking as become my routine, towing my daughter behind me in a wagon, but that hasn’t kept the pounds off and reaching an ungodly 225 pounds. I haven’t weighed that since I was married in 2003 and back then I bought P90X shredding down to an athletic 185. Even when I was at my most muscular state, I only peaked at 205 for a frame of 5 foot 9 inches. Either way, I need to lose about 40 pounds.
Reading challenge is as follows, each month there will be an author that I will read. At the end of the month I will reveal the books I read, what I thought, and what I recommend. The list of authors is as follows:
Jan- read unfinished books and clean out Goodreads list.
Feb- louis L’amour
March- Will Self
April- Craig Johnson
May- Joe R Lansdale
June- Thomas McGuane
July- Jim Harrison
Aug- Larry McMurtry
Sept- E. L. Doctorow
Oct- Mark Twain
Nov- Philip Roth
Dec- Michael Perry
Read along if you like, my current reads will be logged in on Goodreads under Matthew Gilman.
Workout Goals include:
-lose 40 pounds by June 2020
-Eat less carbs. Limit myself to 1-2 drinks per week.
-Eat oatmeal every morning.
-Drink 2 glasses of whole milk after every workout.
While I do have a schedule of things I would like to do I have decided that I need to ease into things and set the bar low at first. Free weight workouts will get me started in the winter months while I also play around with diet. I want to see what kind of changes I can get from playing around with carnivore diets, paleo, vegan, and intermediate fasting. I’m not that interested in bulking up since my joints might be able to handle the weight they once did over a decade ago. While I experiment with these diets I also want to find recipes in cookbooks I have collected over the years and not be stuck with the same boring crap you would see an athlete or bodybuilder eating.
Finance Goals:
Obviously if you want to pay down a mortgage you start by making payment towards the principle. I sat down and made a budget for the year that doesn’t give me much wiggle room. If I keep myself busy with the two other goals, I should be able to stash away $1100 a month towards my mortgage totaling $13,200 for the year. It’s a good chunk of cash and I’m hoping I will see some results when it comes to the principle. Any other money that comes my way will also be thrown at that monstrosity. We will see what the end result is.
So, that’s it, my project 2020 for the coming year. You can also find videos on YouTube at Typing Piper and follow along there with updates.

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Will By Will Self

I was able to find a uncorrected proof of Will on Ebay while searching for other books by Will Self. At the time I was disappointed to see some unflattering reviews, but considering that some of them admitted to not finishing the damn thing or complaining about things like the English spelling and Vernacular of the dialogue I had to give a go.
considering the subject matter and where Mr. Self is currently in his life I was not surprised that he referred to himself in the third person. As a man in my 40s now I have to say I am not the same person I was back in my 20s. The stories at appear to jump back and forth connecting here and there and ultimately coming back to the beginning. There are catch phrases that are repeated “Againanagain” being one and “Waste not want not.” there are several of these and a few appear to be song lyrics appropriate for the time. there is an odd mix of writing in Italics but I took it as pointing out the importance of the phrase and it of course came up in the story at some time later tying the book together in these fine threads.
I’m not an addict and have never gone to AA or tried hard drug ever in my life, but I do know people who have gone that path and most of them are no longer with us. from what I saw and the things I know that happened I can say that regardless of this book taking place over the pond and in India, for a short period of time, the life of an addict is the same and I for one am glad that Mr. Self was able to pull himself out of it. I doubt this book will ever be turned into a movie or a Netflix series and it doesn’t need to. The format of the novel was the perfect format to tell it and there is should remain.

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Letters to Harrison: 10

How is it that the dead are able to stay with us for so long after their body is buried, covered by the earth? Business is never finished and that is true also for the dead. It has been over a year since my father in law has passed away and we are still handling his possessions. Those who don’t believe in immortality have never dealt with an estate after death. Items remain, bill collectors come calling, houses sit dormant, family photos with people unknown to those who remain are tossed into boxes and stored away in the hopes that somebody still knows or cares about the ghost in the pictures, and there are the clothes. A family of foxes have taken up residence at the old house and it is hard to say if this is a good omen or bad. The fox is known to be sly and could be mocking us at our choice to sell the place, or it was a warning to get rid of the property as soon as possible. Either way you never know until you are looking at the end result and hind sight is always 20/20. Immortality is different for writers, successful ones that is. While your books will appear on store shelves for the next hundred years mine just started to appear in the used book stores. There was a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in seeing my book sitting in a pile of donated material but it was sad to find the bookmark halfway through. The person who doesn’t finish reading your book is the ultimate critic. I was listening to a book yesterday called Inadvertent and the writer, a superstar from Norway, was talking about why he writes. The goal in his mind was to express an idea on paper and to say it so clearly that anyone can understand it. Then in a separate interview he talked about how his essays and books are about nothing and how well he can write about nothing. I started to wonder if these were the same thing, after all in this world where you can find anything on the internet and it would appear that anything that had to be said has been said, then is nothing the new thing to share that people can understand? Nihilism is the new cool and I can tell you this coming generation does not care about the people who came before or the ones who will be here in the future. The 80s notion of not caring because we are all going to die in a burning inferno of our own doing is alive and well, without the cocaine. I’m waiting for the day that someone out there writes a book called “Nothing Matters” and when you open the pages to start reading you find a title page and everything is blank afterwards. That would push the point home. Of course, the book would be declared a piece of genius, the critics would ask the symbolism of why it was 350 pages instead of one or two hundred. People will spend ungodly amounts of money for a signed first edition and people would still spend money to download and almost blank file onto their phones and computers because it is the cool thing to do and nothing matters. Physicist will claim this was the breakthrough they were looking for in quantum mechanics and wars would stop for five minutes. Then one person, the only one who can still think for themselves, will point out that the book is a fraud and that the world had been swindled by a giant hoax. In the end the author, whoever it may be, will still live long after death in the public mind for the grand book they never wrote because it didn’t matter. I laugh at these professors who try to say what the author really meant and what the story was really about. You and I both know that the author wanted to write. If the book was published it was good enough to make money on. If the public liked it, then it was a good story. If it becomes a classic then it was written well. In the end it comes down to the author needing a paycheck, needed to fight boredom, was trying to get out of his own life, or heaven forbid they were hearing voices. People are not perfect and we know that writers are far from that. Will Self is too lazy to write in paragraphs. David Foster Wallace was bitten by the Thomas Wolfe bug and thought good writing was determined by weight and not style. The Russians found a way to make depression a communicable disease. As for you, well we know how you felt about nature, sex, and food. Things that anyone, especially the French, could understand. Through a book we can learn what a person was thinking about at a certain time in their life. In that sense a part of us lives on. Is there anything more we could hope for?

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