Reading List for March 2021

In a continuation of my monthly recap of what I have read, or more practically, listened to; at least in terms of books. You can review the lists from January or February. With it being the very beginning of April, it is time to provide last month’s list with the items that I have listened to. As is the case for most of my books and podcasts, I listened to most of these at 2x or possibly even slightly faster.

Unlike January and February, I did not listen to nearly as many books in March. Over the course of the month of March, I managed to listen to 12 different titles. Of these 3 were titles that I listened to for the first time. Not listening to as many books makes a lot of sense given that the first three titles total over 110 hours of listening. I am guessing that I might listen to about the same number of items in April as much, or something similar. It all depends on how the month goes.

Disclaimer: the links below will provide a bit of a commission if you purchase anything.

Title Author First Listen
Evening and the Morning (Kingsbridge Book 4) Ken Follett No
Pillars of the Earth (Kingsbridge Book 1) Ken Follett No
World without End (Kingsbridge Book 2) Ken Follett No
Origins: Fourteen Billion years of Cosmic Evolution Nathan Hystad No
Mars Rover Curiosity: an inside account from Curiosity’s Chief Engineer Bob Manning Yes
First Encounter Jasper T. Scott Yes
The Salvage Crew Yudhanjaya Wijeratne Yes
The Jester James Patterson and Andrew Gross No
Valhalla Rising Clive Cussler No
Trojan Odyssey Clive Cussler No
Black Wind Clive Cussler No
Bourne Identity (Bourne Book 1) Robert Ludlum No
Total   12

Reading List for February 2021

Last month I created a post about the items that I managed to read/listen to during the month of January. You can see that list here. With February just finished, I have another list with the items that I have listened to. As is the case for most of my books and podcasts, I listened to most of these at 2x.

Over the course of the month of February, I listened to 29 different titles, 12 of them being ones that I listened to for the first time. This is actually more than 1 book per day, which in some cases makes sense given how short some of the audiobooks are. I did not think I would be able to listen to more books in February than I did in January, but I did manage to. We will see if this pace keeps up, but I do not think it will, but we shall see.

Disclaimer: the links below will provide a bit of a commission if you purchase anything.

Title Author First Listen
Man in the High Castle Phillip K. Dick No
The Messengers Lindsay Joelle Yes
The Event (The Survivors Book 1) Nathan Hystad No
New Threat (The Survivors Book 2) Nathan Hystad No
New World (The Survivors Book 3) Nathan Hystad No
Fringe Runner Rachel Aukes No
The Salvage Crew Yudhanjaya Wijeratne Yes
Ashen Stars (Exile, Book 0) Glynn Stewart Yes
Exile (Exile, Book 1) Glynn Stewart Yes
36 Hours (The Blackout Series Book 1) Bobby Akart No
Zero Hour (The Black Out Series, Book 2) Bobby Akart No
Turning Point (The Black Out Series, Book 3) Bobby Akart No
Shiloh Ranch (The Black Out Series, Book 4) Bobby Akart No
Daemon Daniel Suarez No
Freedom(TM) Daniel Suarez No
Stranger in a Strange Land Robert Heinlein No
Farmer in the Sky Robert Heinlein No
Starship Grifters (Rex Nihilo, Book 1) Robert Kroese No
How the internet happened: From Netscape to the iPhone Brian McCullough Yes
Warship (Blackfleet Book 1) Joshua Dalzelle Yes
Call to Arms (Blackfleet Book 2) Joshua Dalzelle Yes
The American West: History, Myth, and Legacy (The Great Courses) Patrick N. Allitt No
Medieval Myths & Mysteries (The Great Courses) Dorsey Armstrong Yes
The History of Rum (The Great Courses) John Donoghue Yes
The Science of Sci-Fi: From Warp Speed to Interstellar Travel (The Great Courses) Erin MacDonald Yes
A History of Video Games (The Great Courses) Jeremy Parish Yes
Witches in Western Tradition (The Great Courses) Jennifer McNabb Yes
Turning Points in Medieval History (The Great Courses) Dorsey Armstrong No
The Black Death: The World’s Most Devastating Plague (The Great Courses) Dorsey Armstrong No
Total   29

There are two months down with another 10 to go. I can already tell I do not think I will be able to keep up this pace, but we shall see.

Reading List for January 2021

One of the things that I tend to do often is to listen to audio. This could be podcasts, music, or even audiobooks. Listening to Audiobooks allows me to do multiple things at once, like grocery shopping, playing video games, cleaning, and another tasks.

I generally listen to music when I am not listening to audiobooks or podcasts, and most often while I am working, although I can listen to audiobooks or podcasts as well, depending on what I am working on. If I am doing something that does not necessarily need me to concentrate on programming.

I cannot say why, but I thought I would keep track of the books that I have listened to over the course of the year. With today being February 1st, I figured now is a good time to recap those items that I listened to during January. It should be noted that I listen to audiobooks using the Audible app and generally listen between 1.5x and 2x. Therefore, I get through audiobooks a bit faster than normal. Typically, if it is a title that I have not listened to before, I listen at 1.5x or 1.6x. Whereas, if the title is something that I have listened to before, I will listen to it at 2x.

Over the course of the month of January, I listened to 27 different titles, 12 of them being ones that I listened to for the first time. I do not think I will be able to listen to as many books in February, but only time will tell.

With that, here is everything that I listened to throughout January, in the order that I listened to them.

Disclaimer: the links below will provide a bit of a commission if you purchase anything.

Title Author First Listen
The End of Everything Dr. Katie Mack Yes
Pilot X Tom Merritt No
Trigor Tom Merritt No
Band of Brothers Steven E. Ambrose No
Beyond Band of Brothers Major Dick Winters No
Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain 1942 American War Department No
Conversations with Major Dick Winters: Life Lessons from the Commander of the Band of Brothers Col. Cole C. Kingseed No
Ordinary Heroes Scott Turow No
Star Runner B.V. Larson Yes
Revolt in 2100 Robert Heinlein No
Methuselah’s Children Robert Heinlein No
The Real History of Secret Societies Great Courses Yes
Street Freaks Terry Brooks Yes
New York 2140 Kim Stanley Robinson No
Childhood’s End Arthur C. Clarke No
Fuzzy Nation John Scalzi No
The Enigma Cube Douglas E. Richards Yes
Rendezvous with Rama Arthur C. Clarke No
Time’s Eye Arthur C. Clarke & Stephen Baxter Yes
We are Legion (We are Bob) (Bobiverse 1) Dennis E. Taylor Yes
For We Are Many (Bobiverse 2) Dennis E. Taylor Yes
All These Worlds (Bobiverse 3) Dennis E. Taylor Yes
Heaven’s River (Bobiverse 4) Dennis E. Taylor Yes
Quantum: A Thriller (Captain Chase Book 1) Patricia Cornwall No
Spin (Captain Chase Book 2) Patricia Cornwall Yes
1984 George Orwell No
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams Yes
Total   27

I hope to be able to keep up the record of what I have listened to over the course of the year. I am sure that the number of books that I listen to during the summer will decrease, since I work on my books during the summer.

A Story of an Attempt to Switch AT&T Unlimited Plans

I have owned an iPhone since June 30th, 2007, which is the day after the first iPhone was made available for purchase. At the time, the iPhone was only available on one carrier in the US, and that was AT&T. When you got an original iPhone with AT&T, one of the things that you had to purchase was an unlimited data package. At the time it cost $30 per month.

The AT&T Unlimited Data plan was eliminated in June of 2010. The replacement options were $15 for 200MB or $25 for 2GB. If you had an existing unlimited data plan, you could keep it, provided you did not change your plan at all. I did not want to give up my unlimited data plan because who knew if AT&T would ever bring back unlimited data options. In 2017, AT&T brought back their unlimited data plan, albeit with some changes.

At some point between 2007 and 2010 my brother wanted to get an iPhone and so he bought one and his line was added to my account. When he did this, he also got the unlimited package. In 2015, I added another line to my account. This line was one that is used by a flip phone with no data. Each additional line, after the first one, is $10 per month, along with any extras. So this means that I had three lines on my account.

In 2015, AT&T increased the price of the grandfathered unlimited plans to $35 per month. The first increase since the introduction. However, this is not the only increase. AT&T increased the price to $40 in 2017 and then raised it to $45 per month in 2018.

If you have a grandfathered unlimited data plans, there are some features that you do not get. These are tethering, which was added in 2010, and more recently HBO Max with the “elite” plan. I am not as concerned with the HBO Max streaming, but I would like to have hotspot capabilities as a backup for internet.

Earlier this year my brother moved his line to its own account. While this reduced the bill, it did not reduce it as much as I might have thought. I got to thinking that I should reduce my cost and switch to one of the newer unlimited data plans, so I can get tethering, and if I so chose, HBO Max. After my brother moved his line, I was no longer able to modify my plan. In order to change my plan, I would have to call AT&T.

Today, I decided to actually call AT&T and inquire about changing my plan. So, I called and talked to a woman. I explained to her my situation and it took her like 10 minutes to figure out which plan would make the most sense for me. When she came back she said it would cost $190 for the two lines. Knowing this did not make sense, I asked her why. She stated that there were two lines at $95 each, so it would be $190. I explained that the second line is a flip phone with no data. She repeated that it would be $190 per month.

There is no way that I am going to be uselessly paying for data on a flip phone. I thanked the representative and decided to go to the store instead, hoping that they would be able to help me.

I went to the AT&T store and talked to a representative. Again, I explained the situation to her and she looked into it. She thought that she would be able to keep the plan for the flip phone and change my She wants to verify something with her manager. She indicated that if I changed the plan, the new price would be $150 per month, before tax. This is $15 moreover moth than I am paying now. It would be $55 for a flip phone with no data. Let me repeat that, $55 for a phone with no data. Naturally, I am reluctant to do that. The representative understood and indicated that I should call the Loyalty Department. She provided the direct number.

I called the AT&T Loyalty Department, explained the situation to the representative. She thought she would be able to help me. She took a few minutes to figure it out if it was possible. She came back onto the phone and indicated that it would be $150 per month for both lines, before tax, just as the store representative indicated. Needless to say, I did not change my unlimited data plan.

What bothers me the most is that the cell phone companies are able to get away with charging people $50 for a line without any data. How is this even legal? I understand not being able to keep the $10 per month, but $55 for a phone with no data is complete highway robbery.

I went looking at AT&T’s site to see if there were any plans without data. I was not able to find a single plan without data. While I understand the desire to provide people options for data, but there are some who do not need data and just need a cellular phone. I guess the only option for those are to go with a pre-paid plan or mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, like StraightTalk or Cricket.

I may ultimately be able to save myself some money at some point in the future by changing my unlimited plan, but for now, that is not the case.

Apple Updates 13-inch MacBook Pro

Today Apple released a refreshed 13.3-inch MacBook Pro. Amongst the changes are a new keyboard, increased base storage, and new processors. Let us look at these in detail.

Across the Board Changes

There are four different configurations that Apple presents on their page. There are the two lower-end models and two higher-end models. A majority of the changes only apply to the higher-end models. However, there are changes that have occurred across the board.

The first change is that the keyboard mechanism has gone from the butterfly mechanism back to a scissor switch mechanism. As you might expect, Apple has decided to name these keyboards “Magic Keyboards”. The Magic Keyboard is the same type introduced with the 16-inch MacBook Pro. This means that it has 1mm of travel, an inverted-T arrow configuration and a physical escape key.

With the 13-inch MacBook Pro getting a new keyboard, there are no current products that have the Butterfly keyboard mechanism in them. The 13-inch MacBook Pro was the last model to still have the butterfly keyboard.

The second change that is across the line is the base storage. The lower-end models have gone from 128GB and 256GB respectively, to 256GB and 512GB respectively. The higher end model similarly gone from 256GB and 512GB to 512GB and 1TB respectively.

Those are all of the changes that have occurred across the board. The higher-end models have seen some additional changes. Let us look at those now.

Higher-end Model Changes

In addition to the base storage and keyboard changes, the higher-end 13.3-inch MacBook Pros have seen additional changes, including memory speed and processor changes.

The processors available for the higher-end MacBook Pros are the 10th generation Intel processors. Both models come with a 2.0GHz quad-core processor that can go up to 3.8GHz with turbo boost. These can be configured with a 2.3GHz 10th generation Core i7 that can go up to 4.1GHz with Turbo Boost.

With the processor update, the speed, and type, of memory has changed. These higher-end models now have LPDDR4X memory that runs at 3733Mhz.

The faster memory in conjunction with the processor upgrades will allow, according to Apple, “ up to 80 percent faster performance over the previous generation 13-inch MacBook Pro for 4K video editing, faster rendering, and smoother gameplay.

The last big change with the graphics is that you can connect it to a Pro Display XDR for full 6k resolution, which will be good for those who have a Pro Display XDR monitor and would like to connect a MacBook Pro to it for displaying something.

Closing Thoughts

The updated 13-inch MacBook Pro are available to order today and start at $1299 for the base model with 256GB of storage and the 1.4GHz Quad-Core 8th-generation processors. If you are a student, you can get a discount and the price starts at $1199 for the base model. They will begin shipping this week.

If you were holding off on purchasing a new MacBook Pro until Apple refreshed them, then now is the time to buy.