Thursday, July 12, 2012

Read a book: Done! (Part 1 of 2)

During college and almost all of grad school (a total of more than 10 years), I finished exactly two books: Freakonomics and Walter Cronkite's autobiography. (And then he died a week later at the age of 92.) 
It's not that I'm anti-reading... I generally read magazines cover-to-cover (including letters to the editor and the yearly sidebar that tells you the magazine's readership), and I keep up with a lot of blogs. There were a few books I started reading, but never finished, including Stephen Fry's autobiography. Based on my most previous experience with completing an autobiography, maybe it's a good thing for Stephen Fry's health that I never finished his book. For some reason, I used to find it hard to commit to reading a full-length book. Even if I did try to read, I felt that only non-fiction, where I might learn facts that are potentially useful for trivia night, was worthy of my time.

I kept up this avoidance of books all throughout grad school, until the very end. My lease was up, and I only needed two more months to finish my thesis, so instead of renewing my lease for another year, JM kindly let me crash at her apartment. It's important to note that aside from being a biology major in college, JM was also an English major, so she had hundreds of books along her shelves.
As everyone knows, when you have to do something that you don't want to do, you'll find anything else to do to procrastinate. (For example: The internet is an excellent vehicle for procrastination, but unfortunately, JM didn't have internet at her apartment. And her TV has no channels. And her apartment was clean enough. And her cat sleeps all day. I spent one afternoon arranging the plastic containers in her cupboard to make sure they all had matching lids. (But you can really only do that once.) I spent another afternoon organizing her receipts, bills, and letters from her grandfather. (And once they're in their separate boxes, you just keep following that system.) But I digress....

At one point, I was so bored of working that I picked up a short fictional book ("Eat When You Feel Sad") that one of JM's friends had lent her, and starting reading. The story and the style of writing was so strange that I kept reading just to get to the ending. I didn't like the book, but I finished it. When JM got home from lab, she was obviously disappointed that I didn't make progress with my writing, but at the same time a bit incredulous that I voluntarily finished an entire book.
From that day on, I would pull books from JM's shelf that seemed interesting:
You might notice that these are all non-fiction books. Shortly after finishing my thesis (which I did eventually finish despite discovering this new time-consuming hobby), I decided to give fiction a try and chose to start with the Harry Potter series. Enough of my friends were fans (Pottheads?) of the books and the movies, and they all seemed to be in the loop about Muggles, and the rules of Quidditch, and who killed Dumbledore. (Incidentally, I was of no help to my trivia team when we encountered a round based solely on Harry Potter.) My understanding of the stories was something like this.  My friend MU had all the books, so as I finished one book, he would supply the next. 
Before finishing off Harry Potter, I took a short hiatus to read the Hunger Games trilogy, provided by CB. I realized that this was the first time I read a book before the movie came out. (But I still cried like a baby when that girl died in the movie.)

About two months ago, I bought myself a Kindle, on which I've read five books:
So in the span of less than a year, I've essentially converted from a non-reader to a legitimate Kindle toter. For all the readers and especially non-readers out there, ES shared this wonderful reading-related song with me several years ago. The language is NSFW, but it contains a lot of important life lessons. R-E-A-D a B-O-Ohhhkayyy!

Read a book: Done! (Part 2 of 2)

The early Harry Potter books were only a couple hundred pages each, so I was able to stick them in my bag and read them while I waited for the shuttle. However, the later books were insanely thick, and I could no longer easily transport them. Eventually, I decided to get a Kindle.
Obviously, every Kindle needs its own case. I visited the Salvation Army and bought two books that might be able to fit the Kindle inside. Eric Carle's "My Very First Book of Words" would be the ironic option, and the Harry Potter book would have significance in that it got me into reading fiction. 

Based on my experience in cutting secret compartments into books (this would be my third), I ultimately decided on the Eric Carle book because it was a board book and would hold its structure more easily. I was in a bit of a rush at the time, so I used clear tape to temporarily hold it all together. I have since replaced all the visible tape with double-sided tape (which everyone should have... it's magical!). I also stuck magnets on each side of the case (right below the surface pages) to keep the book from drifting open.

Because the Kindle uses E-ink instead of an LCD screen, it minimizes glare, but is useless in the dark. I wanted to see if I could make a simple gadget to supply a light source. After a bit of finagling with basic supplies I had lying around, I came up with a design that uses a small binder clip, a medium binder clip, 2 LEDs, 1 cell battery, and a small strip of paper. The medium binder clip is used to attach the contraption to the custom Kindle case.

Surprisingly, binder clips conduct electricity decently well. I used one of the arms of the binder clip to be the on/off switch. In the first picture below, the arm pointing off to the left side of the picture leaves the circuit open, so the LEDs stay off. In the picture on the right, I have flipped the arm so that it rests on the battery, thus completing the circuit and turning the LEDs on.

Here is what it looks like in the dark.

Some people have asked what the point of all this is. Yes, I know there are all sorts of cases and lights made for the Kindle, but by ThaiBinh standards, that would just be too easy. There wouldn't be anything to blog about and share with all 1 of my followers.