40 by 40

Some of you may have seen on the blogosphere people posting lists of 101 things they would accomplish in the next 1001 days. As my 38th birthday approaches, I am putting my own twist on that challenge by making a list of 40 things to do by the time I am 40. I need to finish the following things by August 17, 2009.

(Updated 5/30/07–had too many travel related tasks, sadly not enough vacation time…)

1. Quit my job (completed 10/12/07 and again on 12/01/08)
2. Get another job (completed 10/13/07 and again on 2/5/09)
3. Go to my 20 year high school reunion (completed 7/28/07)
4. Pass the TAP Exam (completed 8/10/07)
5. Make four new friends (1 down, 3 to go)
6. Write a blog tribute to the
Womenfolk (completed 6/9/07)
7. Finish my first novel
8. Submit novel for publication
9. Outline my second novel
10. Finish my business plan
11. Take a cruise (completed 1/18/09)
12. Become a homeowner
13. Reduce my cholesterol below 200
14. Make a timpano (see the movie Big Night)
15. Volunteer during the next Presidential election cycle (completed Oct and Nov 2008)
16. Get a letter published in the New York Times (completed 7/18/07)

17. Spend a long weekend in Vienna, Berlin or Barcelona
18. Start and finish the “Write Now” better handwriting program
19. Release 25 books into the wild through BookCrossing (abondoned 7/29/07)
20. Make pudding from scratch (completed 7/7/7)
21. Hear Mahler’s 8th Symphony again
22. Read at least the first volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time
23. Finish the rest of the Modern Library’s list of 100 top novels of the 20th Century (except for Faulkner and Joyce-I just can’t do it)
24. Go back to the house in Italy for 2 weeks
25. Get the maximum Roth IRA for ’08 and ’09 (I got one for 2007 thinking it was part of the challenge, oh well, now I will be able to retire a week earlier than expected.)
26. Go a month without TV
27. See every best picture Oscar nominee
28. Go to the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum near Dulles (completed 3/08)
29. Go back to
Ithaca, NY for a long weekend (completed 8/08)
30. Finish organizing my recipe files
31. Don’t curse for two weeks
32. Go to the Museum of Television and Radio (completed 12/08)
33. Streamline my wardrobe (completed 10/01/07)
34. Have a vegetable garden
35. Go to a BSO concert at Strathmore
36. Go to a concert at the Library of Congress
37. Find an opera/orchestra/concert buddy
38. Go to a concert at the Peabody Institute
39. Sing in a choir
40. Give 10 dollars to charity for every item not finished by August 17, 2009

By the Decade: Reading 12 decades in 12 months

Blogger 3M has issued a challenge to the book-reading blogosphere to read books from as many consecutive decades as possible by the end of the year. She is going to do 15 books/15 decades between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2007. You can check out her By the Decade Reading Challenge and sign up by June 30, 2007 if you want to participate officially.

Even if you don’t, you might want to think about going beyond the bestseller list and choosing some things from other decades.

I have decided to do 12 books from 12 consecutive decades, working back from our present 2000s (otherwise named by my partner as the “ought naughts” as in “these Bush years ought naught to have happened”) to the 1890s.

So, here is my list (bold titles have been finished):

1890s: Lourdes by Emile Zola
1900s: The Golden Bowl by Henry James
1910s: The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence – 5/23/07
1920s: Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley – 7/16/07
1930s: The Big Money by John Dos Passos (3rd in his USA trilogy) – 5/30/07
1940s: Dirty Snow by Georges Simenon – 5/20/07
1950s: Mountolive by Lawrence Durrell (3rd in his Alexandria Quartet) – 2/27/07
1960s: The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark – 7/1/07
1970s: A Word Child by Iris Murdoch – 6/4/07
1980s: In the City of Fear by Ward Just – 11/10/07
1990s: American Pastoral by Philip Roth
2000s: I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe – 4/20/07

Somerset Maugham and my Addiction to Spreadsheets

Back in 1994, after getting through about 30 pages of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel Cakes and Ale, I realized that I had read it before. As a result, I began keeping a log of all of the books that I finished. I had a blank journal where I kept track of the title, author, and the date I finished each book. I loved watching the pages fill up and comparing what I was reading at the moment to what I finished a year earlier. Looking back at the titles on the list conjured up memories about where I was and what my life was like when I read a particular book. I finished Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone on a gorgeous sunny September afternoon in 1997 while lying on the grass in the Place des Vosges in Paris. Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto was finished on a frigid January day in Minneapolis while I was on winter break from graduate school. I finished Love in the Time of Cholera while I was lying in a hammock overlooking the Pacific on the island of Kaua’i. These are welcome associations I doubt I would make if it weren’t for the list.

As much as I love this handwritten log, over a decade of entries made it hard to gather information from the list quickly. I had a devil of a time trying to figure out which of Anita Brookner’s many novels I had already read. So I decided to enter all of the data into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. And so the mania began. Once the information was entered into a spreadsheet I could instantly sort the list to figure out which of my favorite author’s still have books out there that I haven’t read yet. Sadly, I have already read all of Maugham, Forster, and the late Carol Shields and almost finished Iris Murdoch’s prolific output. Happily, I have a whole lot of Trollope to go and Ward Just, Anita Brookner, Ann Patchett are still alive and writing.

I still keep the handwritten log–there is nothing I like more than adding a title–but now I also add each book to the spreadsheet. In fact, I actually get pleasure from the act of adding data to the spreadsheet. It is busy work that I find deeply satisfying.

Since I started the book spreadsheet I have also created one for every concert and opera that I have been to, one that lists every work of music contained in my 350+ classical CD collection, one that organizes music festivals I want to go to, and even one that indexes all of my favorite recipes by category and tells me which cookbook contains the recipe. Perhaps my magnum opus, is the spreadsheet I created when I was trying to decide which city to move to once I finished my planing degree at Cornell. That spreadsheet has 13 cities and about 22 categories of ratings. Everything from weather, to average airfares to Europe, to the quality of each city’s symphony. Each category was weighted by priority and totalled to give me a city ranking. It was a joy to behold, helped me make my relocation decision, and has proven accurate five years later.

This weekend I plan to create a spreadsheet of all the places I have travelled to.

It’ll be a hoot. You should give it a try.