Tag: lists

Life on Mars

I’ve been enjoying Life on Mars on ABC.  I may have mentioned somewhere that I was puzzled by a few things–like why Sam doesn’t "prove" he’s from the future by making a specific prediction.  But it seems that, for now, the writers are avoiding the issue.  Nevertheless, I enjoy the show.  One thing I really like about the show is the music.  Unlike most shows these days, Life on Mars is not making use of the latest hits by Dido or The Fray (or any other CW-like music).  Instead, because the events take place in 1973, they are using some good classic rock from that time period.  In other words, the music has been great!

I’ve been working on putting together a playlist of the songs that they’ve used so far.  Here’s my list:

  • Everything I Own (Bread)
  • Reeling in the Years (Steely Dan)
  • Life on Mars (David Bowie)
  • Spaceman (Harry Nilsson)
  • Sweet Lucy (The Propositions)
  • We’re an American Band (Grand Funk Railroad)
  • Going to Make a Time Machine (The Majestic Arrows)
  • Tuesday’s Dead (Cat Stevens)
  • Wild in the Streets (Garland Jefferys)
  • I’m Gonna Keep on Loving You (Kool Blues)
  • He Keeps You (Boscoe)
  • Anywhere In Glory (The Mighty Indiana Travelers)
  • Everybody is a Star (Sly & the Family Stone)
  • Black and White (Three Dog Night)
  • Mother and Child Reunion (Paul Simon)
  • Rock and Roll (The Velvet Underground)
  • Bang a Gong (T. Rex)
  • Lucky Lady (Jones Brothers)
  • 20th Century Man (The Kinks)
  • Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress (The Hollies)
  • Long Promised Road (Beach Boys)
  • Sweet Cherry Wine (Tommy James and the Shondells)
  • I’m Chief Kamanawanalea (The Turtles)
  • Just a Little Lovin’ (Dusty Springfield) 
  • Reflections of My Life (Marmalade)
  • All the Way to Memphis (Mott the Hoopie)
  • Get Down (Gilbert O’Sullivan)
  • I am a Rock (Simon and Garfunkel)
  • Ground Zero (Chris Cornell)
  • Signs (Five Man Electric Band)
  • Baba O’Reily (The Who)
  • Little Willy (The Sweet)
  • Out of Time (The Rolling Stones)

There you have it.  Now isn’t that a cool play list?

Roll out the barrel

What’s on tap today:

  • Produce massive list of reports for 3 PM meeting
  • Adding logging to the Visitor application
  • Try, try try to finish up Rainbows End
  • Read part one of Rob Sawyer’s "Wake" in ANALOG
  • Read Paul Levinson’s story in ANALOG
  • Begin work on week 4 assignment for the writer’s workshop
  • Take suits to cleaners
  • Pick up stuff from Kelly’s cleaner
  • Narrow our "first dance" song down to five possibles
  • Switch payment account for Bally’s
  • Mail off voter registration for Virginia

Otherwise, it’s just your usual, quite and dull Monday morning here in the Nation’s Capital.

My highest rated authors

Since I’m talking about books so much this morning, I figured I post something I’ve been meaning to look at for some time now: my highest rated authors. The data comes from my reading lists, which I have kept since January 1, 1996. In order to generate the following data, I filtered it for fiction only, and only those authors for which I had read, and rated 5 or more books.

For fellow database nerds, my exact SQL query was:

SELECT Author1, COUNT(Rating), AVG(Rating)
FROM ReadingList
WHERE Fiction = ‘y’
GROUP BY Author1
HAVING COUNT(Rating) >= 5
ORDER BY 3 DESC

I rate the books I read on a scale of 1-5 stars.

Here are the (relatively unsurprising) results for fiction authors:

Author Books Read Avg Rating
Asimov, Isaac 43 3.7907
Sawyer, Robert J. 7 3.7143
Haldeman, Joe 10 3.5000
Bear, Greg 5 3.4000
Bradbury, Ray 9 3.3333
Anthony, Piers 10 3.3000
Malzberg, Barry N. 23 3.2609
Clarke, Arthur C. 7 3.1429
Clancy, Tom. 7 3.1429
Heinlein, Robert A. 8 3.0000

It’s a little embarrassing to find Clarke and Clancy tied for 8th place. I feel like I enjoy Clarke’s stuff more than Clancy. I read Clancy’s "Jack Ryan" novels in a whirlwind vacation week in the summer of 2000 and haven’t returned to them since. I keep reading Clarke, but at least one of his books, The Fountains of Paradise, underwhelmed me. As for Piers Anthony: I read a lot of PA growing up, before I ever kept my lists. At one point, I went back and reread the first 10 books of the Xanth series. I think this was late 1999. That’s why he shows up on the list. His score might have been higher if I included stuff from before the list like Macroscope or Tarot.

It would seem that I can’t produce a list of highest rated fiction authors without showing the list of highest-rated non-fiction authors. If we go based on the same criteria, the list looks like this:

Author Books Read Avg Rating
Asimov, Isaac 71 3.8028
Sagan, Carl 6 3.6667
Rooney, Andy 5 3.6000
Ambrose, Stephen E. 6 3.3333

So there you have it.  Isaac Asimov takes top position for both categories.  In the fiction category, most of my favorite authors make the list.  A few are missing, probably because I’ve read less than 5 books each (Bester and Kornbluth, for instance.)

Anyone else have similar data?

If you were stuck on a desert island…

…for twenty years and all you had for entertainment were the complete works of ten authors, who would those authors be. (I came across this interesting question on Phil Farmer’s website.)

My answers, in alphabetical order:

  1. Isaac Asimov
  2. Alfred Bester
  3. Ray Bradbury
  4. Arthur C. Clarke
  5. Will Durant
  6. Harlan Ellison
  7. Barry N. Malzberg
  8. Carl Sagan
  9. John Steinbeck
  10. Mark Twain

Fortunately, for me, this list would prove to be on the order of 800-900 books, ranging the gamut from literature, science fiction, history, science, etc.

What would your list be?

Back to basics!

Back in January 1996, I had a simple goal of reading 1 book per week, or 52 books a year. It’s funny how simple things evolve. Not long after I set my goal, I decided I needed a way to capture the list of books that I read. I started, naturally enough, using an Excel file, which worked fine, but it had it’s limits. For one thing, at least back in 1996, it was not easy to post my Excel file on the web and I wanted to share my progress. So I switched to HTML. Of course, that led to ever more creative ways for managing the list. My HTML evolved into delimited list files, processed by a set of perl scripts. There was still quite a bit of manual work involved, but this worked well for a while. Years later, it seemed that the thing to do was to convert all of the perl scripts to PHP and store the lists in a relational database–which I did on my local machine. I then wrote scripts to upload changes to my website each night. This worked pretty well, too. Finally, I evolved an elaborate SQL database and a collection of massive PHP scripts all of which was hosted at my ISP.

But there was always a problem: I never had the time to fully develop the interfaces to these applications to make them easy to update and maintain. So while I had the scripts and the pretty HTML lists, I still was essentially typing SQL commands to update the database.

Over the last several months, I haven’t been updating my reading list the way I used to and it occurred to me that if after 11 years, I could not come up with an easy system for maintaining the list, I would never come up with it. These days, I have neither the time nor the inclination to do it, so today, I gave up and went back to basics on a number of levels.

First, I went back to a slightly more elaborate (and better designed) version of my original excel spreadsheet from back in 1996. It’s more elaborate only in that I know a lot more about Excel now than I did then and am able to do some things more elegantly. But it is incredibly easy to maintain. It takes me less than a minute to add a book to my list!

Second, I have fought a constant battle of page design, trying to keep up with various trends in look and feel, RSS, AJAX and all of the rest of the stuff that makes the web look so good these day. It’s a losing battle for me. I do this stuff constantly at work and I simply don’t want to do it at home anymore. So I decided to eschew all ornamentation and go back to basic, circa 1996 HTML. No style sheets. No fancy formatting. But it’s clear, easy to read, and presents the information without an effort on my part.

I’ve consolidated my new reading list into one single page, rather than a page for each year.

To make up for this retro look and feel, I’ve added some new things. First, I’ve reinstated my favorite books page, which went away several years back. This is a page that lists my all-time favorite books, books which I have given 5 out of 5 stars. Second, I update the FAQ for the list. Last, but not least, I developed a consolidated statistics page and packed it with all kinds of new information that I’ve never posted before. For people who are interested in that kind of stuff, it’s pretty cool.

These pages are easy to update from my master spreadsheet and so I don’t anticipate them getting stale again. I also don’t anticipate any fancy interface updates. It’s plain vanilla, but it works. And best of all, I feel as though a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Top 10 albums for writing code

Today is a code-writing day at work. There is also construction going on outside the building and there is intermittent bone-jarring noise that has already developed into a headache. Headaches are rare for me so you get the idea. I was about to put on my iPod to block out the sound when it occurred to me that I have been meaning to post what are, for me, the top 10 albums for writing code. Keep in mind that I personally feel more productive when I listening to these albums while casting out spells of C# or Transact-SQL or PHP or Perl. The downside is that I am so focused, I usually don’t hear the songs. The list is alphabetcial by album title.

The list

I’m not the only one…

Yes, it is true that I have kept lists of what I have read since 1996. And I have followed along with another fellow who has lists all the way back to 1974.

But today I discovered someone who has both of us beat and it is none other than Art Garfunkel (yes, that one). It seems in addition to writing songs, recording albums, and playing concerts, Mr. Garfunkel has managed to read 980 books since 1968. And I’m not talking about fluff books either. The list is pretty impressive. (During the month that I was born, for instance, he was reading Albert Schweitzer’s J. S. Bach, Volume 1.)

How does he manage to find the time?

The new MySQL-based reading lists

Enough of the infrastructure is in place where so that my new MySQL/PHP-based reading lists are available. They are far from finished, and functionality is minimal at the moment. No stats yet. Just a basic stylesheet, some queries and presentation of some of the data.

All of my reading back through 1996 is available, and if you want to take a look at a “beta” version of the new design, check it out at:

http://www.jamierubin.net/reading/list.cgi

The nice thing about this is that it integrates seamlessly with (and will eventually have links in to) my book collection database. At some point in the near future, I will post the data model and you can see for yourself how cool this really is.

Top-earning dead celebrities

In one of it’s more obscure lists, Forbes recently released its list of top-earning dead celebrities. At the top of the list (and the reason it was newsworthy) was Kurt Cobain, who recently overtook Elvis as the top dead earner ($50 million in the last year alone).

But of all of the celebrities on the list, 2 stood out and 1 surprised me.

Those that stood out to me (and I was pleased in both cases) were Charles M. Schulz who, at #3, earned a cool $35 million last year. I’ve always enjoyed the Peanuts cartoon. I take it as a sign of popularity that it is still selling. (Of course, a lot of the money comes from licensing rights, but that still indicates a level of popularity.)

Also on the list was author Theodore Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss. At #7 on the list, Dr. Seuss earned $10 million in the last year. I grew up with Dr. Seuss books. I learned how to read from Dr. Seuss books. I’m glad to see that they are still popular too.

Most surprising on the list, at least to me, was #5, Albert Einstein. That’s right, the guy who came up with E = mc2 earned $20 million in the last year, most of which came from rights to his name and likeness. He is still probably the most recognized scientist in the world, and he hasn’t been around for 52 years.

It was an interesting list, and I am happy for these three dead people. On the flip side, it is somewhat depressing to think that there are dead people out there making two orders of magnitude more money than someone like me, who is still alive and kicking, and working (relatively) hard. Sometimes.