How my iPad Mini 2 turned me into even more of a reading fiend

It wasn’t so long ago that I was full of angst over whether I should get an e-reader. Having set a challenge for myself of reading at least 20 books in a year, and finding it awfully hard at times, I wasn’t sure if an e-reader would make life easier or just take me farther away from the printed page. My first job–ever–was as a page in a library, shelving books, and I truly enjoy the tactile experience of holding a book, turning the pages, and reading the book as the author intended. Still, it’s hard when you run into storage issues, as we have. We have seven 7-foot-tall Ikea bookcases filled to the gills with books, stacked up and shelved so thickly that there’s barely any space for new additions (and that doesn’t even include the bookcases in our living room or the kids’ rooms, all of which are also full).

Last Fall, I bought an iPad Mini 2 after much internal deliberation of iPad Mini versus Kindle Fire HDX. Ultimately, I didn’t want something as large as a traditional iPad, but I wasn’t impressed with the Kindle native app–and the iPad Mini seemed to be the most compatible with my environment (where I already have an iPhone and a MacBook Pro). Staying with an Apple product also meant little to no learning curve.

I took my iPad Mini 2 with me on a trip to California, and it seduced me immediately. I wasn’t excited by the movie options on the plane but–lo and behold!–I had downloaded “Captain America: Winter Soldier” onto my iPad Mini 2 before I left the house, so I was able to watch that on my way westward. Reading became simply a matter of flipping open the case, jumping into the Kindle app, and going for as long as my eyes would stay open. Even before I could finish my current book, Amazon was RIGHT THERE with an email offering a free book (their “Kindle First” program) or deeply discounted Kindle books (often $1.99-3.99 per book). Unsure of what I wanted for Hanukkah or Christmas, I asked for Amazon gift cards to feed my addiction.

Using Goodreads to track everything, as I aimed to get to 23 books this year, I’ve found myself flying through my reading list. Not having to wait to go to the bookstore (or stare endlessly at our shelves of books to see what I’m up for reading from dh’s collection), I’ve been consuming books at a nearly alarming pace. We’re just barely three months into the new year and already I’ve finished 12 books. That’s incredible.

There’s a part of me that pines for the days when I read paper books. I still have some, and occasionally I’ll get handed a new one to read (or there will be a book coming out that I insist on acquiring in print), but our storage problems and the far too few barriers to acquiring more e-books have sucked me into the e-reader lifestyle all too easily. There’s a part of me that rationalizes this as, “Well, at least I’m still reading and at least I’m still supporting the writers that I like and discovering new writers more easily”, although it’s hard for me to imagine how much of the $1.99-$4.99 that I typically spend per e-book actually makes its way back to the author. Then again, I don’t know how much of a $9.99-$29.99 printed book gets back to the author, either, so it’s possible that it’s all just publisher and bookseller margin with roughly the same pennies thrown at the writer.

I also have a terrible time justifying spending much more than this on e-books. After all, it’s an electronic file that’s distributed to thousands of people without the additional cost of printing presses, binding machines, and shipping/freight. So, really, perhaps $1.99 is closer to what the publisher actually spends per item (based on a projected number of units sold), before you factor in the costs of the book’s physical presence?

I don’t know. There’s a lot I don’t get about all of this, but what I do know is that I’m reading almost incessantly. I’ll probably be posting some more book reviews than I previously had–and anyone who wants to see what I wrote about any of the books I’ve read thus far is welcome to check out my Goodreads feed. Some of the ones I’ve read have been really good. Some have been meh. I’m discovering more about my personal tastes and how they have or haven’t changed in the last few years, like how I will occasionally read what could be classified as “chick lit”, but I still shun traditional romance as derivative pandering. Sci-Fi/Fantasy will always be a sweet spot with me, but I also love biographies, and historical fiction is an area I’m interested in exploring more.

At $1.99 per book, the barrier to entry is low. And now I’m sucked in, exactly as I’d feared. It’s almost as if I should set a goal to read a certain number of paper books per year, just to make sure I don’t completely and literally lose touch with that medium.

I don’t know why I feel so guilty for using an e-reader, but there is definitely a part of me that feels like I’m cheating on the printed page. It’s a first-world problem, to be sure, and one I’m not likely to resolve anytime soon. I adore my iPad Mini 2 (and not just for its e-reading capabilities), so this is likely the path I’ll tread for years to come, if not the rest of my life.

It took almost two years to get here (and still Boston Strong)

After weeks of hearing witness testimony, seeing horrific photos and physical evidence, and visiting the boat where he holed up during the latter portion of the manhunt in Watertown, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s jury has found him guilty on all 30 counts related to the Boston Marathon Bombing of 2013.

It’s been almost two years.

I still remember the day vividly, how I was in a conference room at work with a co-worker when frantic texts started pouring into my phone, a friend checking on me and asking if I was at the Boston Marathon. I had no idea why the concern until she told me there had been explosions. My blood ran cold.

My co-worker and I immediately stopped working and started pounding away at our laptops, trying to get any kind of news we could find that would tell us what had happened. I was panic-checking Twitter constantly, because I had friends working and hanging out at or near the finish line and I was terrified they would number among the dead and injured.

In the days that followed, the world became very strange. Boston became the Hub of the Universe for others, with reporters and federal agents flooding the city and surrounding suburbs. Work was stopped for many on the fateful day the Tsarnaevs went on the run in earnest, as Cambridge and Watertown were on lockdown. No one was to go anywhere. DH and I worked from home, checking the news websites, checking Twitter, hoping for news.

And then it happened: one brother dead, one captured. The stories that emerged of their attempt to escape are nearly as horrifying as the bombing that started all this madness: one brother running over the other with a car as he desperately tried to get away from law enforcement, and an MIT Police Officer, Sean Collier, shot dead.

It makes me sick thinking of it still.

The Boston Marathon is a symbol of hope. It’s the hope that you can be and do more than the average human should. It’s the hope that we can persevere in the face of pain, frustration, hills, and our own limitations as people.

We can’t and won’t let anyone tarnish our hope with their evil. The Boston Marathon will continue, and the route from Hopkinton to Boston will remain as storied and hallowed as it ever was.

And as for Tsarnaev, the guilty verdict was necessary and proper. He admitted to the bombing, and his lawyers were positioning their messages only so they could help him avoid the death penalty. He can be put to death or allowed to rot in the deepest, darkest hole in our Federal penitentiary system–either will suit him just fine. Nothing will bring back the four lives lost, the hundreds of limbs ripped from bodies, the peace of mind in the souls of those terrorized that fateful day.

He can now become a footnote in the annals of history.

The Boston Marathon will run on, and all those amazing runners and wheelchair racers will continue to be the symbols of hope they’ve been for decades. We will always be Boston Strong. Period.

Product Review: Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves

{Disclaimers: 1) I am not, not do I claim to be a doctor. Before you attempt to use this product, check with your primary care physician and/or specialist health care professional to be sure that it’s right for you. 2) I received this product for the purpose of testing and was allowed to keep it as a courtesy for posting a review. I received no other compensation for this review. In other words: this is MY opinion and not a company-paid PR piece. Take that for what you will.}

 

Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves

If you’d asked me a year ago whether I wanted calf sleeves, I’d probably have given you more than a little side-eye. It wasn’t until my triathlete dh started showing off his calf sleeves that I learned of their value for workouts. Prior to that, my sole exposure to these was knowing them as “compression stockings” (or similarly named items), worn by patients with lymph edema on their lower extremities.

DH wears high-quality calf sleeves during his workouts, so when I was approached with the opportunity to review Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves, I was curious about trying them out for myself. I will say that the product information on the Amazon product page is somewhat lacking for textual information, so it’s vital to review the pictures, including this one, with a size chart:

 

Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves Size Chart

 

Unfortunately, the size chart didn’t start things off on the right foot; what I consider “top of sleeve” would be the highest point of my calf (or, alternately, the girth, which other manufacturers use as a key measurement). Also, the sizes listed can’t possibly be in centimeters, else there’s no way I could’ve fit even the XL sleeve on my women’s size 14 calf. Things didn’t improve dramatically when my sleeves showed up with no packaging other than a plastic bag marked with an “XL” sticker. (I can only hope that this was due to my getting these for a review; if this is how they send out products purchased by customers, that’s not a good thing.)

 

The tests:

I took my calf compression sleeves out for two different workouts–a 5K walk inside on the treadmill at the gym and just under 5K outside on a cold Sunday morning. They were also washed in between the workouts.

 

The results:

Both workouts went well enough. In the gym-based workout, I wore them with the same climbing capris that I used for last year’s marathon walk, and I was able to keep a nice clip going on the treadmill without my shins kicking up any measure of fuss about my speed. I didn’t overheat, and the sleeves stayed put without feeling like I was having my blood supply cut off. For my outdoor walk, in 30-35ºF, I put them on under thinly-lined track pants, since the temperature at the end of a walk typically feels about 10ºF warmer than the actual air temperature. My thighs were slightly chilly as I set out, but this wasn’t the case at all for my calves–they were a perfect temperature and, again, very comfortable without any concern of feeling too constricted.

Unable to find any information on proper washing instructions, I hand-washed them on a day in between the two workouts. They felt exactly the same after air-drying as they did when they first arrived (no pilling, no snagging, and no easily detectable degradation of elastic quality).

 

Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves

The Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves, with my track pants pulled up to show how they fit as “cold weather” gear

 

The Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves look and fit much like a footless women’s knee-high stocking, in tights-level weight, and I found them generally comfortable to wear before, during, and post-workout. The trouble is, without knowing that I was wearing the right size (thanks to the screwball size chart), and not knowing that I was applying them properly (due to the lack of ribbing, markings, or any other indication that definitively shows which way should face front), it’s hard for me to know that I was using them properly. That’s more than a little bit disconcerting.

The price point is considerably lower than that of most calf compression sleeves ($19.99 versus the $50.00 or so that I’m used to seeing), but other manufacturers’ sleeves–including the ones dh and his fellow triathletes purchase–have packaging, ribbing, markings, and various other indications designed to increase the likelihood of correct use. The Light Step sleeves are also marketed for general use, from fitness to therapeutic needs, which suggests they’re designed for no specific application.

It’s hard for me to recommend the Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves; it’s unclear to me that they did much to help my performance and they seem designed as a generic alternative calf sleeve. Perhaps a future revision of the product and packaging will move the Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves forward, but for now they leave me with the impression that these sleeves aren’t yet ready to go the distance.

 

Where to buy:

Light Step Calf Compression Sleeves are exclusively sold through Amazon.com. As Light Step does not yet appear to have a formal website of their own, you can connect directly with Light Step through their Facebook page.