Thursday, June 3, 2010

taking the wind out of the sails

I was in St. Louis a few weeks ago, and I saw the following on a faculty member's door:

Unread books

Suppose you read four books a week every week for 70 years. Allowing for a day here and there where you're unable to read, we can call that 200 books a year, and 14,000 books over the whole three score years and ten. It's a lot of books. But relative to all the books there are, it's a tiny, tiny fraction. According to the guy who manages the Google Books metadata team, at the latest count the books in the world now total 168,178,719. Your 14,000 books are just 0.008324477724 per cent of that. You can think of it as follows. Suppose all the books in the world made up a single calendar year, and you were reading through the pages of that year, cover to cover. Then, 14,000 books - and that's going some - would only get you through the first 44 minutes of the year. There'd still be 364 days, 23 hours and 16 minutes that you hadn't read. And if you get through fewer than 14,000 books in your lifetime, it will look even worse. Comforting in a way.
(see the original post at

Comforting and nerve-wracking all at the same time, but it reminds me of one of my favorite websites, (I know), which answers all those cutesy motivational posters you see in offices with "demotivators": snarky little sayings that can take just enough wind out of my sails to let me laugh at myself a bit. In the spirit of the post above, how about this one:

All for now: have to get back to reading!

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