2012 Year in Books

As 2012 closes out, so does the first year of this blog.  I started the year out with a pregnant wife about to give birth, and what do I do?  I start yet another blog dedicated to reading and writing while we have a baby to take care of.  I must have been crazy.  Well, I’m loving doing this blog.

So what happened in 2012?  I finished reading 14 books, most of them in the second half of the year.  I set a target of 12 books and I exceeded it.  I’ll go for 25 next year.

2012 was also the year that I finally became serious about writing books.  I’ve developed so many ideas, though I’m going to concentrate on only 2 of them for now.  I decided to try out self-publishing through Amazon’s Kindle and Smashwords.  I’ve been working on using social media to get myself known.  I still have a lot of work to do on that.

best book of the year

This is a pretty easy topic.  There’s one book I was completely enthralled by, and that would have to be A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.   I found it refreshing to read, although it took me a long time.  I started reading 3 big epic fantasy series this year, and A Song of Fire and Ice seems to be leading the pack (the others are Wheel of Time and Malazan Book of the Fallen).

worst book of the year

This is a really difficult choice to make.  I didn’t read any bad books.  I enjoyed every book I read.  However, I would have to choose Gunship by John Davis. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s a simple, action oriented book with little depth.  I don’t intend to stop anyone from reading it, I think it was a good, light read.  I do recommend reading it, by all means.  But the main thing that didn’t impress me was the lack of editing.

top 13 most popular posts

Why top 13? Numbers 9 to 13 all have the same number of views. The most popular posts on this blog are the following:

  1. Which Shakespearean play should I read? – This was a poll I ran to choose a Shakespearean play to read.  Macbeth won.
  2. What’s the greatest epic fantasy series? – A question for my readers.  Of course, go there and leave a comment!
  3. What is an advanced society? – Are we advanced? See what I say.
  4. What should I read next? – Another poll to ask what I should read.
  5. Book Review – 2001: A Space Odyssey – My most popular review.
  6. Wow! Moment: Killer whales – An incredible event in my life.
  7. My dream writing studio – This is mine, what’s yours?
  8. Why are people afraid of gay marriage? – No reason to be afraid.
  9. A bright comet for 2013 – I’m really looking forward to this!
  10. Another poll. What should I read? – Yup, a poll.
  11. Book Review – A Game of Thrones – My second most popular review.
  12. Random things you may not know about me – Go ahead, find out a bit about me.
  13. Poll: the Sequel – Another poll!

Other noteworthy posts

These are some other posts I think you really should read!

My SF world teaser – I’m writing a science fiction novel.  Here’s a bit about my world.

I am a Geek – Yes, I am.  And I’m proud of it!

What does an earthquake feel like? – I’ve been through many earthquakes in Japan.  This is what it feels like to be in one.

Who are you? – I actually just posted this today.  I still think you should read it and post your comment.

The evolution of alien species – What do you do when you create an alien world?

Goodreads and giving reviews – I suggest to anyone who likes books to join Goodreads!

World creation, development, and planning – This is a big topic, and I think well worth the read.

Well, that’s about it for 2012.  I’m looking forward to 2013, and hopefully a published book!  Thanks for reading, everyone!

Who are you?

I often wonder who my readers are.  I wonder what you’re like.  I wonder where you’re from, what you do, what you enjoy reading.  Why did you come here?

I can answer only one of those questions using WordPress’s country stats, which they started using this year.  In the past 7 days, my readers are mostly from Japan and the USA with some from Canada and Australia.  And then there are the countries with very few visitors, such as Brazil, Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, UK, and Norway.  But that’s only a week.  Here are my top 10 countries since February:

  1. United States
  2. Japan
  3. Canada
  4. United Kingdom
  5. Australia
  6. Germany
  7. India
  8. Norway
  9. Ireland
  10. Poland

And then I look way down at the bottom.  These are the countries with only 1 single visitor: Colombia, Croatia, Finland, Nigeria, Chile, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Belarus, Jordan, Argentina, Belgium, Kenya, Moldova, Sri Lanka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania, Venezuela, and Barbados.

It’s all very interesting to see where I’m popular in.  Of course, my target audience is the English speaking world, so it’s no surprise that USA is number 1. I’m from Canada, so a lot of my Canadian readers would be friends and family.  UK and Australia are also a big target.  But number 2 is Japan.  I live in Japan, and I know that many other expats living in Japan read this blog, as well as my Japan blog.

But who are you?  I want to get to know my readers.  Let’s talk.  I’m very curious about everyone.

So, here is my challenge to you.  It’s very simple.  Leave a comment on this post with the following information:

  1. Which country are you from?
  2. Are you male or female?
  3. What’s your favourite book genre?
  4. Where are you reading this blog from? Home? Library? On your smartphone in the bus? Where?
  5. What brought you to this blog?
  6. And finally, do you have a blog or website?

Of course, you can add anything else you like.  I look forward to reading your comments!

I’m on holiday! Here are my plans

I’m currently on day 2 of an 8 day holiday.  It’s still early, but I’m sure it’ll all go by very quickly.  So how will I spend it?

Apart from one day at the in-laws’ houses, I’ll be spending most days at home, and a lot of time reading, writing, and blogging.  For the short term, I have plenty of posts about writing to write, two books to finish and review, and I’ll do a lot of work on improving how I use social media.  I will also be doing some serious book writing!

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For slightly longer term, I have joined The 2013 Science Fiction Experience (and review site). For 2 months from January 1st to February 28th, it’s a way for people to discuss science fiction and post reviews.  I have two sci-fi books nearly finished, so they’ll be up there pretty quickly, I think.

Also, I have my own big challenge.  I intend to make at least 5 blog posts a week, with a goal of making one a day.  I’m pretty sure it’ll be difficult to do it perfectly, so I’m setting my target at 5 a week.  The posts will be about writing, my books, reviews (books, sci-fi TV, and food), and possibly even interviews and highlighting other review or books sites.

Finally, I have been nominated for a couple of blogger awards, so I’ll be making the appropriate posts in the near future.

And before I forget, on the 31st, I’ll be making a year in review post.  Here’s to a great 2013!

Sushiro – Conveyor Belt Sushi

I love sushi.  Living in Japan, I get to eat plenty of it.  And what’s great is kaitenzushi, or conveyor belt sushi.  It’s very cheap, only 105 yen per plate, and very easy to fill yourself up.  While it’s not the highest quality sushi, it still tastes good.  One such restaurant is Sushiro (スシロー).  It’s a chain, and during the evening, it is very busy.  This particular Sushiro is in the Ishikawa area of Fujisawa.

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The entrance of Sushiro.

Sushiro has a big selection of sushi to sample.  You can try the traditional types of nigiri sushi, such as salmon, tuna, shrimp, squid, salmon roe, and more.  I started with some salmon, tuna, and shrimp.

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The top plates are salmon, bottom left is shrimp, and bottom right is chuu toro (medium fatty tuna).

There are two ways to get your sushi.  One is to just grab a plate from the conveyor belt that goes past your booth.  Just don”t take any that are on special coloured plates.  Those are reserved foods that are being delivered to a specific table.  You order those by using the touch panel screen.

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Touch panel menu and conveyor belt.

While there are many traditional types of sushi, there are also some special, non-traditional sushi available.  I especially like the kalbi (pork rib meat) and shrimp tempura.

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Grilled pork sushi.
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Kalbi sushi. I love this stuff.
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Top is more shrimp sushi, then roast beef on the left, and shrimp tempura on the right.

At only 105 yen per piece, it’s a very good value.  A full meal for two people can cost around 3000 yen.  Also available are drinks, dessert (chocolate cake, ice cream, sweet potato, and more), and tako karaage (deep friend octopus).  I highly recommend it, not just for the sushi, but mostly for the experience.

Yokohama Daitou – Vegetable Tanmen and More

On Friday, I had some fairly average tasting Chinese food at Yokohama Daitou (横浜大唐) in the Shonan Fujisawa Tokyu Store.  I had the Yasai Tanmen (野菜タンメン).  It was a light flavoured ramen with vegetables and pork.  It tasted decent, but the serving size was quite large.  It came with a half serving of fried rice.  That was good, I thought.  This was all for 680 yen.  In addition to that, I also had Ebimushi Gyoza (海老蒸し餃子), or steamed shrimp dumpling.  It came with soy sauce and Japan’s very spicy mustard.  It was also good.  That was 300 yen.  All of this was too much food.  I was very full.

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This is a food court restaurant.
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Vegetable tanmen.
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Fried rice.
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Steamed shrimp gyoza.

Sneaking in another sneaky teaser for my SF world

As I’ve mentioned before, the world I’m basing my books on is orbiting a star that actually exists.  Now, I’m going to give some extra technical information about the star to give you some more clues about what it is.

It’s a G0 V star, meaning it’s a G-type star, somewhat similar to our sun, and it’s a main sequence star.  It’s slightly larger and more luminous than our sun, as well.  However, it is younger, at about 3 billion years old.  It’s less than 30 light years away, and is the brightest star in its constellation.  However, it is not the alpha star in its constellation.  As I said before, the star does have an Arabic name, though it’s not commonly used.  Please check my previous post about this for more information.

So, does this help you?  Any idea which star this is?  Can you guess the name of the planet, too?  Leave your guesses in the comments!

Costco – Bulgogi Bake

For my first restaurant food review, I’m talking about a food that’s not even from a restaurant.  Actually, it’s from Costco’s cafeteria.  This particular Costco is in Kanazawa Ward of Yokohama.

The cafeteria is much like its North American counterpart, including the very cheap 1/4 pound hot dog, pizza, and drink.  What I had was Bulgogi Bake, which is a long bread filled with bulgogi beef.  Bulgogi beef is a Korean food, which is mainly grilled beef with a sweet soy sauce and garlic based sauce.  The bake is very heavy.  It’s quite dense, and provides a good meal.  I love bulgogi beef, and the Bulgogi Bake is very good.  At 400 yen, it’s more expensive than other foods in the cafeteria, but I highly recommend it.

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That’s a regular sized plate. They’re big!
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A closeup after I took a bite.

Dramatically Mundane – The Bus

This is the first in my Dramatically Mundane series of flash fiction.  In this series, I will make the mundane more interesting.  The main character is named John.  That’s as generic a name as you can get in the English language.  He’s meant to represent anyone.  Please note that I do not edit these vignettes.  I post them as I wrote them.  I’ll read it after I write it, but I won’t change it.  This is how a first draft would look from me.  Comments are always welcome and encouraged.  So please tell me what you thought.

The Bus

As he stepped on the bus, John glanced around the boxy vehicle. No one looked at him. Several people read books, some looked at their cell phones, a couple had a quiet conversation, and the rest looked outside through the slightly tinted windows.  John wanted to sit down in a seat in solitude.

He stepped forward on the floor, which was covered by a grooved rubber. He sensed the texture through the soles of his shoes as he shifted his weight from his heel to his toes. Each step propelled him forward to his ultimate destination. It waited for him somewhere in the cavernous bus.

There it was. That glorious seat. It was situated on his left, third row from the back in the elevated aft section of the bus. His heart quickened as he stepped up the lone step. He could anticipate the incredible relief he was about to experience.

John stopped at the seat and felt great joy at finding this structure that comforts and supports the human body in a seated position. He turned around and slowly slipped sideways into the seat. His knees bent and his body lowered gently onto the luxurious felt upholstery that covered his fantastic prize. His hand touched the seat and it gave him brief insight into the happiness he would experience.  Finally, his buttocks settled onto the surface of the bench-style seat, and he enjoyed an intense bliss through his entire body and mind.  He was at peace.

But then, a rather large, sweaty man sat next to him, spoiling his paradise.

The appeal of longevity

My mom’s uncle Johnny died yesterday.  He was a month short of 98 years old.  When he was 96, he was still curling and taking care of his farm.  He was healthy until he had a heart attack 2 weeks ago.

It seems that longevity runs in my family on both sides.  All of my grandparents lived into their 80s and one into his 90s.  It’s pretty impressive, I think.

So what is the appeal of having a long life?  I can’t speak for others, but this is how I feel.  I’ve often said I want to live until I’m 124 years old.  It’s a very specific age, isn’t it?  At that age, I will have lived in 3 centuries.  I will turn 124 in the 22nd century.  But why do I want to live so long?

I have many reasons.  I think one of the biggest reasons is that I want to see how everything changes.  I want to see the changing dynamics between the world’s nations.  I want to see how far technology advances.  I want to see humans return to the moon and walk on Mars.  I want to see my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren grow up and have wonderful lives.  I want to spend it with my wife.  I want us to travel the world.  I want to read hundreds or thousands of books.  I want to write many books.  I want to experience so many things.

So, can it be done?  With the advances of medical technology, many people think it’s quite possible.  I often look to science fiction and see that longevity is a common theme.  People live well beyond 100 years and continue to be very healthy and active.  Much of this is through genetic engineering, some kind of anti-aging therapy, or some other treatment.  I understand that the number of times our heart cells can divide limits us to 120 years.  Research on test animals has shown that they can significantly lengthen their natural lifespans.  I’m pretty sure it can be done for humans.

In the science fiction books I’m writing, people will live longer, mostly due to medical advances.  I don’t know how much longer they’ll live, but it will be a significant amount.  It takes place in the 22nd century, and I’d guess that we’ll see people living to 150 years regularly.

I leave you with a question.  If you could increase the length of your life, how long would you like to live?  What would you do with all that time?