If it bleeds

📚 Com sangue, the Brazilian Portuguese version of “If it bleeds” is the latest book I’ve finished this year — the second in my goal of 20. This is a book composed of four novellas, all of them new material from Stephen King’s mind, who published the book in 2019.

I liked three of them very much: The one giving the book its title, “If it bleeds”, is a new (solo) Holly Gibney adventure, after “The Outsider”, that I needed to read before “Holly”, Stephen King’s latest novel as I write this — that, by the way, I had already started reading without being aware that “If it bleeds” existed.

So when I knew about that particular novella, I (temporarily) stopped reading “Holly” so I could read her series in the proper order, giving me a complete, sequential idea of the characters' development. In the end, the novella proved amazing and didn’t disappoint me even for a second. I love Holly and her stories, so much so that I share Mr. King’s vision of her:

I love Holly. It’s that simple. She should have been a small character in Mr. Mercedes, just make a quirky cameo. But she stole my heart (and almost stole the book). I’m always curious to know what she’s doing and how she’s living. When I get back to her, I’m relieved to see that she’s still taking the Lexapro and still not smoking. I was also curious, to be honest, about the circumstances that made her what she is, and I thought I’d explore that a little more… — Stephen King, from the author notes at the end of “If it bleeds” book.

But I said I liked three of the four novellas. “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone”, the first story in the book, was very nice. It tells the story of a professional relationship between a boy and a retired billionaire, to whom he starts reading as the old man’s sight starts decaying. They develop a friendship which evolves many ways, even supernaturally. A side note on this story is that once I finished the novella I decided to watch Mr. Harrigan’s Phone movie version, out on Netflix. In this case, I found it… OK. I’m the kind of person who believes movies never make it better than their written, wordy, counterparts. Not to mention that they always have to adapt things here and there, and it ends up diverting from the original story.

“Rat” is the last story in the book — and the third out of three that I liked. It tells the story of an academic and writer who, despite having published several short stories during his career, has never been able to complete a full sized novel. In the book’s notes at the end, Stephen King calls this novella an evil fairy tale, where he could write a little about the mysteries of the imagination and how that translates to the page of a writer. From all the four novellas this was the darker one, indeed.

The one story I didn’t like, “Chuck’s Life”, was very bad. It’s told in three acts, chronologically reversed, and tells the story of Chuck and a disease that will end his life after only 39 years, making him die young. I got lost during the chronology, and couldn’t quite get the grip of how the parts, or acts, composed the final puzzle and that’s why I didn’t like it. I guess one can never hope every book is fine, even if it is from one of their favorite authors.

That’s ok. 75% of the book was fine — and Stephen King’s got enough credit with me for a story that is worse than his average once in a while. I’d still recommend the book overall, though.

🕹️ Played some Overcooked 2 with the kids on Nintendo Switch. As usual everything started smooth just to turn into chaos later. Waaaay fun 😂😂😂

❝If you commit to nothing, then you’ll find that it’s easy to be distracted by everything.❞ — James Clear

Lollipops and AI don't go together well

LinkedIn popped this story on my personal feed last night, and I felt I needed to share it.

In the story, a man named Gustavo Borges mentions he received a packet filled with lollipops at his house, all properly addressed to him (see the picture, which I’ve borrowed from the text). Aware of the fact that neither him, nor nobody at his house consumes lollipops — not so many at a time, at least —, he started to try to understand how could such a gift have been given to him.

Everything started in December, when he got an Alexa for Christmas and his children started enjoying it — maybe a little too much, apparently. According to him, some days ago his 6 year old daughter asked the AI assistant “what was the smallest lollipop in the world”, question to which Alexa answered there was a lollipop sale going on, and if she would care for some lollipop.

Now, tell me… what child offered lollipops would refuse it?

Long story short, Alexa went on and made a purchase using Gustavo’s credit card… so there’s the answer about where the lollipops came from.

Alexa (and other assistants) will always try to act proactively. That’s why I believe it offered lollipops to be purchased in this case. Gustavo says in his LinkedIn post that Alexa failed to identify that it’s interlocutor, his daughter, didn’t have privileges to purchasing goodies, but I don’t think the machine is to be blamed in this case.

Now, I don’t own an Alexa myself, but I find it very difficult to believe that it doesn’t have security measures to prevent unwanted purchases — come on, even our phone’s app stores have got biometrics and/ or PIN protections, why wouldn’t Alexa have one? So, fiddling with its settings should probably solve (or prevent, in that case) the problem. I’ve got two boys myself, and I’ve always tried to adopt as many safeguards as possible to avoid unauthorized purchasing. Even nowadays, with them already grown — the older one’s 18, the younger, 12 —, restrictions remain active, exactly for accidents prevention sake.

Anyway, more than a discussion about privacy and AI use, there’s a small parenthood lesson here, to be learned by all of us.

Week 01, 2024

I’ve spent New Year’s Eve with my parents, along with my wife and kids. We did nothing fancy, just had a small dinner while we all waited until midnight came and 2023 gave place to 2024. This year fireworks were more visible from my parent’s apartment, and longer, too — it may have taken longer to finish, as well, 12 minutes if I’m not mistaken.

— I was reading Otavio’s Weeknotes and how he said, as an adult, nothing much changes with each new year, except for remembering to exchange 2023 for 2024 in some forms, especially checkbooks (who uses them nowadays, anyways?), and I couldn’t agree more. Living in Brazil, and having a kid in school does mean, though, news for him: a new grade, new teachers, new subjects and so on, so we try to take the same train and enjoy the novelty along with him.

Within three days of 2024 I finished reading my first book of the year, “Devoradores de Estrelas”, by Andy Weir (“Project Hail Mary”, in English), and this made me very happy, not only because 1/20 of my reading goal this year is already fulfilled, but also because that was a real page turner, as I’ve stated before. So, double happiness, completed with two books I’m already reading now, both by the master, Stephen King.

I’m on vacations right now — meaning I’ll be back to work only by the last week of January. I intend to take these days off not only to read a lot, but also to do fun things with the family. This means a lot of time by the pool, at the club and also a couple of short trips — I might even end up going to the zoo, as requested by my younger son, and maybe go watch our team debut in the regional soccer championship — aka Paulistão 2024. Be it what we do, it’s nice to be able to start the year relaxing a little bit. That’s the first time in my whole life I’m taking vacations in January.

We’ve watched McMillion$, a 2020 documentary HBO Max was suggesting me as an option for quite some time now. It’s a 6 episode series, with, according to Trakt.tv, “a detailed account of the McDonald’s Monopoly game scam during the 1990s as told by the participants in the case, including the prizewinners and the FBI agents who caught the security officer who orchestrated the entire scheme”. Now, I have mixed feelings about that program… while the story was unknown to me, so interesting to follow along, the series was way toooo long, I mean, it could have been told in 2 or 3 episodes tops. There came a time when I felt like fast forwarding some scenes, so I won’t give it more than 3½ stars. Forgive me, Ronald McDonald.

Changed my mind again and since the first of January, I’m (again) inhabiting the Micro.blog neighborhood. I have already imported all of my Wordpress posts to it, and now need to make some small adjustments here and there, but I believe I came to stay. Next step is to stop using the micro subdomain and moving Micro.blog to the main domain.

🎉 Happy new year to you all!

Às vezes um charuto é só um charuto mesmo

Um amigo mencionou a frase que escolhi para dar título a este post, esta semana, durante uma boa conversa que estávamos tendo. Ao citar a frase, ele me disse se tratar do charuto de Freud.

Sigmund Freud, neurologista e psiquiatra austríaco, é considerado o pai da psicanálise e, enquanto vivo, adorava fumar charutos — continuando com o hábito mesmo depois de diagnosticado, em 1923, com câncer na boca. Ele dizia que os charutos lhe serviram, por 50 anos, “como proteção e arma para os combates da vida”.1

É mais do que claro, portanto, que Freud adorava fumar seus charutos. “Algumas vezes um charuto é apenas um charuto”, no entanto, apesar de ser uma das frases mais atribuídas a ele, é uma atribuição equivocada, dado que não existe nenhum registro ou evidência formal de que ele alguma vez tenha dito ou escrito tal coisa.1

Só que, ainda que a frase não seja de Freud, eu considero seu significado muito interessante, pois nos faz pensar que nem tudo na vida tem que ter um significado oculto, ou mais profundo, do que aquele que está na superfície, e que as pessoas, portanto, não deveriam se preocupar em procurar por tal significado.2

Eu nunca escondi de ninguém o quanto eu sou uma pessoa ansiosa, e o quanto ansiedade pode ser algo que faz mal. Por isso, independentemente de quem disse a frase originalmente, está aqui uma lição valiosa: nem tudo aquilo que ouço tem uma segunda camada de significado, nem tudo que é dito é para ser complexo. As coisas podem ser bem mais simples e diretas e, na maioria das vezes, certamente são, o que quer dizer que é preciso receber as mensagens de uma forma mais simples e tranquila, e simplesmente viver a vida.

  1. Freud and his Cigars - Freud Museum London, acessado em 06 de janeiro de 2024. ↩︎

  2. Sigmund Freud famously said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. What did he mean by this statement (…), postagem do Quora, acessada em 06 de janeiro de 2024. ↩︎

Ceci n’est pas une pipe, Mario.

Is that too late to ask for a Bluesky invite?

📺 I watched Mr. Harrigan’s Phone on Netflix. Based on the homonym Stephen King’s novella I finished reading last night. OK movie, some adaptations here and there — but as I imagined, no movie’s ever better than the book.

Mr. Harrigan's Phone

📚 I was reading “Hollie”, by Stephen King when a character from “If It Bleeds”, a collection of King’s four short novellas, was mentioned by Hollie and I found out she appears in that book, too. So I started reading it — temporarily pausing “Hollie”.

Now, I’ve just read “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone”, the first of the four novellas in the book (not the one where Hollie appears, though), and I had to write about this: Mr. King, one of my all-time favorite authors, is a hell of a storyteller! That story, that I found out was turned into a Netflix movie, was very good — it flowed so well that, when I saw it, it had already finished.

Now I’ll watch the movie, as well. It probably won’t be as good as the novella (to me movies never beat their paper counterparts), but I’m sure it’ll yet be nice.

On cancelling streaming services

About one-quarter of U.S. subscribers to major streaming services—a group that includes Apple TV+, Discovery+, Disney+, Hulu, Max, Netflix, Paramount+, Peacock and Starz—have canceled at least three of them over the past two years, according to November data from subscription-analytics provider Antenna. Two years ago, that number stood at 15%, a sign that streaming users are becoming increasingly fickle.

Americans Are Cancelling More of Their Streaming Services

I’m not an American myself, but this is quite interesting. Truth be told, it’s past time that I do such an analysis myself, to decide on what streaming services to keep, and which ones to let go.

Currently Reading: Com sangue by Stephen King 📚

Happy New (Reading) Year

I couldn’t quite meet my reading goal in 2023. From the 20 books I meant to read I only got 17, and despite being very near the objective, not reaching it made me very sad. For 2024, I’ve decided to keep the goal, that is, read the same 20 books I meant to read before. But there’ll be a twist, aiming at my own happiness.

Part of the reason of my not being able to read the 20 books set for 2023 lies in a simple explanation: I mixed too much fiction and non-fiction. I love reading the first, and I dislike (hate?) reading the latter, doing so just because I have to, mostly because of professional reasons. The thing is, although I’ve never measured it properly, I believe it must take me almost 4 times to read non-fiction compared to fiction (now I’ll have to make this calculation and post about it).

So I decided to be happier in 2024. These 20 books will be my goal, as I’ve said above — but they’ll be 20 fiction books. I’ll read non-fiction using my non-fiction rule and taking my time. This is certainly going to make me happier this year.

And I have to say, before finishing this post, that I was fiddling with the idea of writing this post already, but it came to be faster, after I saw Tom Gauld’s New Year’s Resolution comic, one he published last Monday. As an avid reader, I’ve always loved his comics, all about books and reading, so I have to agree with him once again: THIS YEAR I WILL READ FOR FUN.

Currently Reading: Holly by Stephen King 📚

Project Hail Mary (Devoradores de Estrelas)

The year started only 3 days ago, but I can say that I’ve already read my first book. It is “Devoradores de Estrelas”, the Brazilian Portuguese version of Andy Weir’s “Project Hail Mary”. And my story with this particular book is very interesting.

Having read the other two books by Weir so far (The Martian and Artemis), I recommended “Project Hail Mary” to my father some months ago, as he was looking for something new to read — even without having read it myself by then, because I knew, from the content of Weir’s other books that he couldn’t go wrong.

When we met during Christmas he brought the book about during a conversation. He’d read it and liked it very much, so much so that he was reading it for the second time that same week. This really surprised me because he’s not a person of rereading many books (as me myself am not). So that got me curious… to the point that on December 29 last year I (finally) decided to start reading it myself.

“Project Hail Mary” tells us the story of Ryland Grace, an astronaut who needs to find a way to save the Earth from destruction on his own, as he is the only survivor of a desperate emergency mission — if he fails, all of humanity will be destroyed. But when the story begins, he can’t even remember his own name, much less his mission or how to fulfill it. He just knows that he slept for a long, long time, and that now he’s millions of kilometers from home.

Being someone who reads a lot, I know that it’s normal for authors to have their ups and downs, I mean, not every book written is going to be amazing. “Artemis”, which came after “The Martian”, caused me a meh feeling, not because it was bad, but because its predecessor set the level high up. And this made me expect a lot from “Project Hail Mary” as well — and even more after my father told me he’d enjoyed it so much to cause him to read it twice.

And I was amazed at how fast I could read this book. Only 5 days! It’s a page turner, I have to say and repeat it. When I was an English teacher I taught my students about the word unputdownable, exactly for situations when you come across something like “Project Hail Mary”. One could say, oh, this book’s gonna be boring because it’s just a lonely astronaut out there, but no! It’s amazing, and I can’t recommend it enough.

I wish I had come across the Brickcrafts YouTube channel before. I mean, just take a look at this amazing Lego city, created over the last 3 years!

2024, from xkcd. Clever as always… makes me wonder why amendment 22 isn’t adopted by other countries in the world… (yeees, looking at you, Brazil).

📚 I’m reading the pt-br version of Andy Weir’s “Project Hail Mary, called “Devoradores de Estrelas” and I have to admit that this book’s a real page turner. Glad to having started reading it. I’m 2/3 into it already and only started it yesterday!

Hello, micro.blog! I’m back :)

Week 52, 2023

✱ We've spent Christmas in the company of our family. We got reunited — me, my wife and kids, my parents, my sister, her husband and his family, including his sister and kids — in my sister's house, where we had a very good time, a fine supper and Santa even paid a visit to my brother-in-law's two nephews, something I hadn't seen in a long time, as my children are way past this belief. Even so it was a joy to see their happiness. Meanwhile, my younger son spent a long time swimming in my sister's pool, and had lots of fun. I have to admit this was a very good night — and I hope yours has been as nice and near your loved ones as well.

✱ I finished reading Julia, an amazing book written by author Sandra Newman, from whom I'd never read anything before but from whom now I want to read lots more. The story, which takes place in the same universe of Orwell's 1984, despite of covering the connection between the title character and Winston Smith, has a life of its own, and a very interesting plot and storyline. Last week I had already kind of admitted I wouldn't be able to fulfill my 2023's reading goal — this book was my 17th this year, placing me 3 titles behind my objective. But, at the same time, I was happy to close the year with this specific book, and, if you're into dystopian worlds and 1984, this is a book you shouldn't miss.

✱ But just because I won't meet my reading goal, it doesn't mean I wouldn't keep on reading in 2023. So I've started reading Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary, which, according to my father, who recommended it to me, is such a page turner that it made him read it twice. I'm still in chapter 8 of a total of 30, but I have to agree with my father. It's a fantastic space sci-fi title so far, probably the one to dethrone The Martian. And unarguably better than Artemis, too, IMHO.

✱ My wife and I were one season behind Superman & Lois, so this week it was time to binge watch all the 13 third season's episodes. Similar to my opinion regarding the 2 first seasons, this one also had a very fine plot. I like the way the writers mix family matters into the duties of the man of steel, who has to face his foes and a lot of different menaces while raising his two teen boys and taking care of Lois Lane. So, after all the 43 episodes so far, while I was looking for information on a next season as I always do with shows that I like, it made me very sad to learn that, despite a fourth season will happen, it will be the show's last, as expressed by the series' executive producers and co-showrunners — and that's such a shame. I wonder if I'll ever understand the reasons behind show cancellations. I guess not, though.

✱ Speaking of TV shows, I forgot to mention that last week I received my Trakt.tv 2023 Year in Review statistics. Now, I don't have a premium account to have access to all my statistics, but I've learned that I watched 198 hours of TV shows and 62 hours of movies during this year, totaling 413 plays. I know that there are people out there who are much more addicted to TV than myself, yet I believe this was a very good mark for myself. And I've enjoyed every minute of these 260 hours… oh yeah 👍

✱ Contrary to North America, where white Christmas is a reality in many places, filled with ice, sweaters and snow, here in the South hemisphere, and in Brazil specifically, the heat is on. Summer has just started, on December, 23. So what did we do? We went to the club's pool. Now, I'm not very much a pool person myself, so I normally go swimming begrudgingly, although I end up having lots of fun despite myself. Besides, because temperatures here are yet around the 30°C (86°C), any contact with fresh water and some inviting shadow turns into a complete bliss.

✱ I'll be on long-waited and well deserved vacations during January, meaning I won't post during the first 20 or so days of 2024. I'd like to wish you and all your loved ones a very successful new year, happy days and conquers... 🥂🍾