Book meme: Would you rather…

Some light reading for a recent Thursday afternoon

Well, I don't usually respond to memes, but I like me some books, so thanks, Mitch, for the tag and getting me back to thinking about books. I think the last time I responded to a meme, it was also about books. And like that time, I'm not going to tag anyone, but if you're looking for blogging ideas, by all means...

Here we go, then.

Would you rather only read trilogies or only read standalones?

I think trilogies are lazy, either on the part of the author, or the part of the reader. I enjoy series, and I enjoy recurring characters — I'm nearly through the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes books, and I enjoy Agatha Christie's Poirot books and Anne Rice's vampire series, but a trilogy would come out to roughly 1,000 pages, usually, and I think that's a fine length for a single book.

Putting out three books of 300-ish pages instead of a single 1,000-page book says to me you're either too scared to put that much work into a single product, or you think readers can't handle that much product, or you're an intermediary making extra money off someone's else's creative output. Or you're a reader who can't stand to think about picking up a big book (in the photo above, that brown hardcover in the center comes in at 1,125 pages, and the other books are there primarily for reference).

Would you rather only read male or female authors?

No, but I tend to read more male authors, for a couple of reasons. One is that we tend, as a species, to gravitate toward people who are more like us. As a male, I would naturally gravitate toward other males, particularly in my nonfiction reading. Also, since a lot of nonfiction I'm reading is on Freemasonry and you have to be male to be a Freemason, it stands to reason most books I'm reading on the subject are authored by men.

Would you rather shop at Barnes and Noble or Amazon?

I would rather browse at Barnes & Noble and buy at Amazon; I really like the "other people bought" feature of online shopping, and Amazon does it well. I'd rather browse and shop at an independent bookshop, preferably used, but hey, when the meme hands you a dichotomy...

Would you rather books were made into TV shows or movies?

I don't care. It takes the average person more like 8 or 10 hours to read a book than the 2 or 3 hours a movie can take up, or the 23 hours or so a moderately successful TV show can cover over 2-3 seasons. So, whatever. This is about books, and I like books.

Would you rather read only five pages per day or five books per week?

I'd rather read five pages a day, think about them, discuss them and incorporate the information into my life. If I read five books a week consistently, I'd be even more of a hermit than I already am.

More: 3 places to get free books »

Would you rather be a professional author or reviewer?

They're the same thing. I've been a reviewer. You have to write stuff, and you get paid to do so. That makes you a professional author. That said, given the opportunity, I'd rather be the reviewed than the reviewer. I've come to recognize that as a reviewer, you hold the power to make someone feel really bad about themselves for putting hundreds of hours of creativity and hard work into something. It's a power that's easily abused.

Would you rather be a librarian or a bookseller?

A bookseller, maybe. I'd rather not be either, truth be told, but some people have to go to a library. People self-select to walk into a shop, and as an independent bookseller, interesting people tend to go out of their way to walk into your shop.

Would you rather read only your favorite genre, or every other genre but your favorite?

I can't handle the false dichotomy here. If you ever limited what I could read, I'd probably stop reading altogether. Part of the glory of it is the freedom to read whatever I want.

Would you rather only read ebooks or physical books?

I read both, and also listen to audiobooks. When I first read an ebook, I was surprised to have enjoyed the ebook format, but noted that I also really like the way the weight shifts from heavy in the right hand to heavy in the left hand as you move through a physical book. At this point, though, I tend to have at least one of each format going, and often more.

I go to bed late — after 3 a.m. many nights — and the light from my iPad is much less shocking to my already-sleeping wife than if I walked in and turned on my bedside lamp. I also have the benefit of being able to read a really thick book on the iPad without having to worry about dropping a 1,000-page hardcover on my face as I doze.

I'm also a big fan of audiobooks. Now that my runs are crossing the hour threshold three times a week, it's easy to work through an audiobook every couple of weeks during a time I definitely wouldn't be able to read.

First half marathon diary, Week 7

Happy Monday, friends!

Phew. A little later than usual today, but you know how sometimes life happens while we make plans. As expected, did a little less distance and a little less time on the road than last week, since the recovery run is supposed to taper and no 5K this week. So...

I seem to pace my short runs well; my recovery run wound up at 2.38 miles, with the first two splits at 11:08 each and the last bit a little faster (mostly I just wanted to get home). My long run for the week, however (6.2 miles), featured an 8:58 third mile and a 12:32 fourth mile. I know that a lot of that was most of my third mile was done on even concrete while the rest featured uneven brick, curbs and the like. Since my goal is "finish," maybe I don't need to worry about pacing at all, so long as I can keep going.

This coming week, things change up to five runs instead of four, with one medium distance instead of two, and three short distances instead of one. Anyway. Onward for the rest of the day.


Me on Runkeeper
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Miles logged last week: 18.69
Time logged last week: 3:27:23
Weeks until race: 16
Weight: 164

Sweaty Josh picture of the week


Control your next step: Move forward

You know, this doesn't only apply to running. This is really about getting out of bed and pushing through every day, whatever your challenges are.

Some of you know I'm training for a half marathon in November. I get it. Thousands of people do these every year — maybe it's hundreds of thousands. I have a friend who, after suffering a foot injury in 2014, is looking to complete 15 of them this year. To qualify for the competition division in the Boston Marathon, people need to run a full marathon faster than my projected half marathon time. For many people, a half marathon is no big deal.

But it turns out it kind of is. It's a giant mental challenge. I'm not even to half that distance yet, and I'm already running more hours in a week than I typically drive. You know what else is a giant mental challenge? Life.

Tuesdays are my first run of the week, and a week ago Tuesday, I had five miles on my calendar. I really had to push, especially the last three-quarters of a mile or so. I felt good about getting past the temptation to walk for a bit, but in general I was giving myself a mental beating about it. I had other things to do, though, and I knew I'd need some of that brain power for the evening, so I let it go.

The next day, Wednesday, is typically a day off, but I'd already decided to change up my schedule for the week, so I went back out for another five-mile run. Two and a half miles in, I was feeling good, and I came to the realization that it didn't matter what yesterday's run felt like. It didn't even matter what the first mile of today's run felt like, or even the last step. Once the step had been taken, it was done. I couldn't take it again. I could only worry about the next step, and then the next one after that. I couldn't even worry about what happened in ten steps — I had nine steps to go before then, and I had to take each one of those as they came.

It wound up being a great run.

By that point in the week, the podcasts I typically listen to had started to pile up for the week. And they were all about pulling yourself together and doing what's next and not making a big deal out of what you just did. Almost all of them, in fact.

For your listening pleasure (no, really, this all converged in the same week; thanks, universe, for giving me an idea then clobbering me over the head with it a few times):

Seth Godin tells Brian Koppelman it's easier, sometimes, to keep failing, to not take the steps required for success because if you do succeed, then you'll have to deal with that success. Example: Do you have a manuscript under your arm? Go ahead, don't submit it for publication. You can keep having the excuse that you can't get it published.

Joe Rogan had Jon Ronson on, discussing some of Ronson's old documentaries, which really required him to do some crazy stuff, like infiltrate "secret societies" (I tend to prefer "societies with secrets" as a term, I guess), and his new book about public shaming. Realize, though, that to be publicly shamed, you have to have really taken a bold step in public.

Tim Ferriss talked to Ret. Gen. Stan McChrystal and his former aide-de-camp Chris Fussell about the mental toughness required to be a great leader. They also touch on the difference between impressing authority and impressing your peers — McChrystal found himself in considerable amounts of trouble at West Point (where for punishment they basically make you pace to waste time you don't have), but he always got really high peer reviews, and he turned out to be a great military leader and a successful entrepreneur.

Marc Maron spoke to transwoman Laura Jane Grace, who fronts the punk band Against Me!, about dealing with her identity, transitioning from a man to a woman while maintaining the same role in the same band, and what it means to "sell out" — that is, dealing with your success vs. changing to become successful.

Duncan Trussell talks to Marc Maron about what it was like to talk to a sitting president in his garage. Maron's garage, not the president's. And Maron's response is basically that it was exciting, but he woke up the next morning and still went back to work.

Robert Johnson talked to Joseph James about making movies, specifically the start of creating the second film of a planned "The Freemason" trilogy. It doesn't matter what the trilogy is about, though. The first film had a very limited release and made most of its money on screenings, but James is hoping for a wider release for the second film, including getting it into theaters. The discussion is really about following the calling to create, and what it takes to make that happen.

So, what's your next step? I'm not sure what mine is yet, but I know not only that I can control it, but that it's all I can control.

First half marathon diary, Week 6

Happy Monday, friends!

Really good week this week. In four runs, I had two road distance PRs (one of them was also farther than I've done on the treadmill) and three duration PRs. I finished out the week with a 5K for a recovery run. I'll go a little less distance this week, since the recovery runs taper down. It was nice mixing up the running days a little. I might mess around with my lifting routine this coming week, try some bodyweight work and such, just to mix it up there while I get back to Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday runs, before I go up to five runs per week the following week.


Summer Sizzler 5K
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Miles logged last week: 19.47
Time logged last week: 3:40:33
Weeks until race: 17
Weight: 165

Sweaty Josh picture of the week


This week in political correctness (or is it?): Trump, Schumer, Mexicans, the Confederate flag and the Washington Redskins

Wow, it's an interesting week in political correctness, or whatever we're calling it these days.

Let's see. Should we start with the Confederate flag, Mexicans or the Washington Redskins? Hmm. Maybe Mexicans.

You may have heard that the Miss USA Pageant had to set up streaming video on its own website after being dropped by Univision and NBC (and later picked up by Reelz) after pageant owner Donald Trump called Mexicans "rapists." You know who else called Mexicans "rapists" (or insinuated that they are)? Comedian Amy Schumer. A couple of WaPo columnists are saying she should be Donald Trump's running mate.

Really, what I think they're saying, is that Schumer has a new movie out and a show on Comedy Central and maybe you should put up a boycott.'s the thing. Schumer is a comedian. She's trying to get a laugh. If she tries a joke and it doesn't work, she won't use it anymore. If people find her funny, she'll keep saying it, even if she doesn't believe it.

Donald Trump is trying to be president of the United States. You know, the guy who helps make laws and is expected to be able to talk to other world leaders about international policy.

Nobody really thinks Tom Segura wants to gain 800 pounds or that Louis CK thinks it's ridiculous that people have Chinese babies or Daniel Tosh this his his sister getting raped is a good practical joke. Know why? They're comedians. Donald Trump? Not a comedian. If Trump's elected, the president of Mexico can skip the Amy Schumer movie but is stuck sharing a border with a guy who said publicly he's probably a criminal.

On to the Confederate flag.

The biggest debate right now, of course, is the Confederate flag flying at the South Carolina Capitol. It's been there since South Carolina joined the Confederacy integration movements in the 1960s. It represents racism to some people, states' rights to other people, and a whole bunch of other stuff to other folks.

The question facing the government is, should it come down? The state Senate said yes it should, and the House debated for 11 hours before agreeing.

Of course it should come down BUT here's why. It represents nothing more than a rooting interest, and it's at a government building. The U.S. flag is a symbol of the United States. The South Carolina state flag is a symbol of South Carolina. The Confederate flag is a symbol of a union of states that hasn't existed in 150 years, and now represents a variety of things to a variety of people.

They might as well put up a Gamecocks banner and wait for the Tigers fans to lose it.

Ever since the Charleston church shooting, the Confederate flag debate has also seeped into popular culture. Golfer Bubba Watson said he'll remove the Confederate flag from atop his "General Lee" (the car from "Dukes of Hazzard," a show TV Land pulled).

Some are really angry about that. They say TV Land and Bubba Watson are bowing to popular pressure; they're "selling out." Of course they are! You know what happens to television stations when people stop watching? They go off the air. Know what happens when people won't buy tickets to PGA events because one of the athletes is doing something to bother them? The PGA takes away his livelihood. Of course they'll bow to popular pressure. That's how they stay popular, because that's how definitions work.

On almost a side note, some NASCAR fans in Daytona were flying the Confederate flag — sometimes above the U.S. flag. Now, I get the flying of the Confederate flag, but above the U.S. flag? That's at the very least disrespectful (and a violation of U.S. flag code); it might actually be treasonous. As in, actionably so. As in, your choice of what you fly on top of your camper could get you drawn and quartered.

More: Minnesota firefighter suspended for flying Confederate flag on fire truck »

Another thing that happened this week is a judge said the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office was right to cancel the trademark of the NFL's Washington Redskins. The trademark was canceled last year, though the team can keep the trademark until it completes the appeals process.

Under section 37 C.F.R. 1.211, Publication of applications, of the trademark code, subsection (d):

The Office may refuse to publish an application, or to include a portion of an application in the patent application publication (ยง 1.215), if publication of the application or portion thereof would violate Federal or state law, or if the application or portion thereof contains offensive or disparaging material.

Essentially, under the determination that the term "Redskins" is offensive, the team can't hold a trademark on the name. That's not to say the team name has to change, but if they lose the trademark, they lose that big money on licensing. You or I or anyone else could start making Washington Redskins shirts or hats or bumper stickers or dog collars without paying the team for the use of the name. That's a huge business in sports.

That one's the most interesting to me, I think, because there's no precedent for it, it deals with a privately held business (even if the business is WAY in the public eye) and the outcome is going to swing millions of dollars in one direction or another and affect owners, employees and patrons all differently.

First half marathon diary, Week 5

Happy Monday, friends!

Baby steps, baby steps! I carried over Brother JH's advice from last week to good success. I ate like crap most of the week, and that's my next baby step: cleaning up the diet. Saturday, I finally did clean it up, and Sunday's recovery run was a PR for three miles on the road (3.05 mi in 29:00). I've done faster on the treadmill, but that's a lot different.

This week I start setting distance PRs every other week, and this week I'm changing things up a little by condensing the schedule. The schedule would have me running 5 miles on Tuesday and Thursday, 6 miles for my long run on Saturday, and a 2-3-mile recovery run on Sunday.

To get a little more race-day feeling in me, though, I signed up for a 5K on Saturday. Since that's about the distance of my recovery run, I'll move things up and switch around my days off, taking my 5-milers on Tuesday and Wednesday, my 6-miler on Friday, and then the 5K as a recovery run on Saturday.

My mileage was down this week, primarily because I stayed off the treadmill and stayed on the road. My time on the road was also down, primarily because my speed and endurance are up.


SaltStick PLUS Capsules
Summer Sizzler 5K
Me on Runkeeper
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Rock 'n' Roll Savannah
Training schedule


Miles logged last week: 16.1
Time logged last week: 2:53:15
Weeks until race: 18
Weight: 166

Sweaty Josh picture of the week

2015-07-05 13.23.20

First half marathon diary, Week 4

Happy Monday, friends!

Little crisis of faith this week, 2.5 miles into a four-mile run on Tuesday, so I hit the treadmill on Thursday and then had a good chat with Brother JH that evening. He gave me some advice that was good for Saturday and Sunday, so hopefully that'll carry through. More in the video, and hopefully even more next week.


Me on Runkeeper
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Rock 'n' Roll Savannah
Training schedule


Miles logged last week: 17.72 (5.72 treadmill)
Time logged last week: 3:10:26 (46:40 treadmill)
Weeks until race: 19
Weight: 165

Sweaty Josh picture of the week


Date night Savannah: Bar Food, CO, river, Bohemian and Leopold’s

We set out for a networking event last week, and found it was canceled. Woo! A reason to go out and try new places!

2015-06-18 18.00.06We'd been meaning to get to Bar Food for a while, but it's in a part of town we don't go to a lot, but it was right around the corner from our canceled event, so we went, had a beer and a snack. They have a solid selection of craft brews and the other usuals. I had a Two Boots, while Jenny had a cider. We shared a cheese board, which came with some toast, four cheeses, local honey, some pickles and strawberries. Great way to start the evening. The menu looked really good; the crowd was interesting — it's a contemporary, kind of hipster place, but the crowd leaned not exactly biker, but not exactly not biker.

We then headed downtown to another place that was on my list, CO, which recently opened in Savannah after having restaurants in Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Our server, Grace, soft-sold us some cucumber mojitos, which were light and refreshing on a 103-degree day. We had summer rolls and gyoza (pork dumplings) as appetizers — both delicious — and Jenny ordered some pad thai while I had a tiger roll, which their menu describes as "shrimp, surimi salad, cucumber, yamagobo, avocado, unagi sauce, spicy aioli." We were both very pleased with the meals, and with the overall atmosphere. We sat at the sushi bar, but there's also a bar in the front, some booths in the back, a couple of high tops and some long tables should you decide you might want to meet a couple of people. The electronic dance music was quiet and suited the space well. We'll be back, though we're worried this will become a hot spot and we won't be able to get a seat next time.

A photo posted by Josh Shear (@joshuanshear) on

Left, from top: Pork gyoza, cucumber mojito, summer roll. Right, from top: Pad thai with chicken and shrimp, tiger roll

With quite full bellies, we wandered on down to the river to sit for a bit. If you're ever wondering why we might have moved here, it's because we can park, walk and have this view about 330 nights a year.

2015-06-18 20.08.02-1

We finally decided after almost an hour to get up and visit a bar we'd gone to once and found it too crowded (at 10:00 on a Friday night). Rocks on the Roof at the Bohemian Hotel. The rooftop is open on two sides, one overlooking the Savannah River, and one overlooking the crowds on Bay Street and Founders Walk. We sat on the river side on a sofa and sipped a gin and tonic, and met a recently engaged couple. The electronic dance music seemed a little loud out of place for a space that's reminiscent of more of a jazz cocktail lounge, but it's still a cool spot.

Cute, happy and on a rooftop. #visitsavannah #savannah #datenight

A photo posted by Josh Shear (@joshuanshear) on

2015-06-18 21.47.03-1Our last stop for the night was, of course, at Leopold's. If you're new to the area or just visiting and the line out the door has turned you off, don't sweat it. The bend in the line at the curb is about a seven-minute wait, the ice cream is homemade and the soda fountain is basically the same as it was in 1930-whatever. I love the butter pecan ice cream, but pictured here is a dish of chocolate chewies and cream and a hot fudge sundae, which are both also delicious. They even have seasonal flavors; the Japanese cherry blossom is light and creamy and wonderful.

And apparently they also make good soups and such, but for now, we're happy working our way through the ice cream menu.

Where should we go next, Savannah?

First half marathon diary, Week 3

Happy Monday, friends!

It was a really hot week, so we did a couple of runs on the treadmill, but we went longer than scheduled to make up for the softer landing. Biggest traps at this point are diet and sleep.


Me on Runkeeper
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Rock 'n' Roll Savannah
Training schedule


Miles logged last week: 14.36 (7.56 treadmill)
Time logged last week: 2:29:05 (1:04:51 treadmill)
Weeks until race: 20
Weight: 167

Sweaty Josh picture of the week

2015-06-20 11.33.24

Get smarter: 3 places to get free books!

I've been reading all the Sherlock Holmes books this year. A couple of pages a night, just about every night before bed. The books are easy to read, entertaining, a good transition from the day. It will take me the bulk of the year to finish. I'm sure there will be a post when I'm done.

That's not all I'm reading, of course. But rather than spending hundreds of dollars a year on books that sometimes sit on the shelf for years, I've become a fan of discovering interesting free stuff. Here are some great places to find free books.

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is named after Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of moveable type. They're approaching 50,000 ebooks available in several formats, and they have some audiobooks as well — some of which are auto-generated from the texts.


LibriVox, as the name suggests, is free audiobooks, read by volunteers. All the books are public domain. Some of the readings are dramatic, some are funny, and some are collective. I listened to James Joyce's Ulysses, and each chapter was read by a different volunteer. LibriVox has a mobile app, too, and offers its titles for download. I was in the car for five hours on Saturday, and listened to a bunch of Gulliver's Travels, which I'd never read.

Open Culture

Open Culture is something else entirely. The have fewer titles, and often they'll link out to other sources. But you can spend hours perusing ebooks, textbooks, language lessons, audiobooks and a variety of classes and films.


Did you know there's a single source to search public libraries? If you're looking for a specific title but don't have access to a good library catalog, WorldCat will find a copy near you. And if you're looking for the takeaways from great books, Maria Popova does an amazing job with Brain Pickings.

Now you just have to figure out what's next on your list!