Monday, December 31, 2007

Publishing A Blog With Blogger-- Elizabeth Castro-- Review

I decided to look at a practical book for a change. This book is part of the Visual Quick Project series published by Peachpit Press. There are not a lot of reviews of practical books. The exact title is Publishing A Blog With Blogger by Elizabeth Castro. This book was published in 2005 so it does not match the CSS code used currently. This makes its usefulness rather limited.

However, it did explain most parts of blogger and how they worked. I got a better understanding of the basic structure of a blogger blog. It also allowed me put in a footer to my blog. You can see the Mother Goose nursery rhyme at the bottom of the page.

I also figured out how the about me picture came into view. You have to add it to your profile then it appears on the main page. I thought the process was different. I added a picture by Aubrey Beardsley, Le Mort D'Arthur to my biography section.

This was a very quick book to read. It had photographs of blog pages with highlighted explanations on them to explain how to do different things in blogger. I wouldn't recommend the 2005 version. It is outdated. Hopefully they will come out with a more recent version.

This is the state of many books at the library. Technology changes so fast that they can't write a book quickly enough to keep updated. There is usually about a year between the initial manuscript and final publishing. While this is fine for fiction titles, it is not so great for technology titles.

However, I find most web tutorials to be a nightmare because they are poorly written and edited. Often simple mistakes can make the task they are supposed to help you with nearly impossible. So far, this has been the case with converting my web page from a two column blog to a three colum blog in blogger. It would have been nice to have an ebook which was tightly edited explain exactly what I needed to do. Instead I have run into a lot of web sites that have not gotten me where I want to go.

I hope I am not annoying people. I also have Startup Start Your Own Blogging Business printed in 2007 on reserve at the library. It is published by Entrepreneur Press which does a series on starting small busineses like Start Your Own Laundromat, Start Your Own Arts And Crafts Business, and Start Your Own Photography Business. This series is pretty basic.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia-- Review

The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia is an absolutely unique and wonderful urban fantasy which incorporates Russian fairytales.

Galina a young woman watches her sister turn into a bird and fly away. She is left with her sister's baby and mother to watch. Galina tries to get help and eventually ends up with Yakov a police inspector trying to find a slew of missing people who have also turned into jackdaws, pigeons, and owls then simply disappeared.

Thus begins a strange urban fairytale where eventually Galina ends up in an underground fairyland Moscow underneath the real city. There we readers get to meet many strange Russian small spirits, small gods, and fairies. There is Father Frost, Zhemun the Celestial Cow, and Khoschey the Deathless. These are truly wonderful and strange characters.
The city itself reminds me of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere or China Mieville's Un Lundun. It is a deathless land of the forgotten.

After getting help in the underground city, they must return to the surface travelling through the dark forest under the city of Moscow, crossing the black river and meeting the ferryman, and eventually making it up top. There are helpers with them. I won't list all of them. It would spoil the surprise. A few of them are a white jackdaw with the soul of a thug trapped in it, rats that can form into a bear, and a gypsy girl.

If you like urban fantasy, or fairytales this is an excellent read. There is a sardonic, melancholy, funny quality to the book unlike anything else I have ever read. The setting is truly unique. The writing uses memories and evokes feeling far better than most novels which I have read.

If I gave stars, this would be the North Star.

Books And Chicken.

There is a famous saying that librarians survive on "Books and Chicken". Because I am already in the library I can get most of my magazines, books, dvds, cds, and videos that I want to watch or use fairly easily.

But, a librarians salary does not let you spend a whole lot on things. This means many public librarians bring their entertainment home from their job. I bring several videos and books home every week from where I work. It is natural that librarians become specialists in the things which they happen to like.

My boss orders most of the videos in the collection. I end up ordering a lot of the graphic novels.

This is probably even more true for booksellers. Most booksellers don't earn huge amounts of money, they are doing their job for the love of books. In New England, it is traditional for many booksellers to have their living quarters directly above their shop. They pay down their mortgage and eventually have a piece of property.

Even with the closing of many small bookstores this can still be said to be true. Instead of selling out of a storefront many booksellers sell directly out of their garage or house on ebay or other online services. This was even true before the internet. Instead of having a web site, many specialty booksellers would have a printed catalog of their books for sale which they would send out to customers. The customer would either meet the person to pick up the book or get the book by mail order. I think of mail order having just moved to the internet.

It used to be to find the price of a book before the internet you would look in small catalogs put out by specialty mail order places, auction catalogs where lots and blocks of books were sold. Also there was something called Bookman's Price Index which is a huge reference work by year which lists the price of a book. Then there were various price guides for books, paperback books, comic books, and other books. The standard price guide to comic books in the United States which is most used is the Overstreet Comic Books Price Guide. We have a copy at our library. You would look through these, approximate the condition and rarity of the item and then price it accordingly.

You might also wander around to other bookstores and see how they were pricing books and check their inventory. Sometimes, the bookseller might even buy something which you thought was mispriced by another bookstore. Booksellers are like a giant grumpy fraternity which can't survive without other booksellers.

Now, there is the internet where you can see comparative prices for books instantly on places like The prices seem to vary wildly when you are looking for books. But, the variations in prices are not just about the item. People often buy from a particular seller paying a higher price, because they are more accurate in grading their items, have better shipping and handling policies, and better customer service.

There is an ambivalent relationship between librarians and booksellers. Because of this relationship, The Friends of the Library are the ones who hold the book sales to avoid conflict of interest. I have known many librarians who have worked part-time in bookstores on the side to earn extra money or just because they are really obsessed with books. Sometimes, I think it is more likely, they are obsessed with books.

It seems there is a revolving door between publisher, librarian, and bookseller. People who publish library books, especially reference books often hire librarians. Baker & Taylor and Ingram the giant distributors all hire librarians to help libraries select which materials to buy.

Now, the bookseller and librarian are spreading into the internet. Google, Yahoo, and most of the big search engines hire librarians to index and tag their databases. With Google and Microsoft building specialty search engines for books it creates even more of an interconnection.

I am writing this as I search for the Secret History of Moscow which I am almost done reading. I wanted ro read it, but I put it down and can't find it for the moment. I'll find it later today and write a review.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Authors@Google: Paul Hawken

Paul Hawken is the coauthor of Natural Capitalism with Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins.

The Clean Tech Revolution by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder-- Review

Venture One Hybrid Three Wheel Vehicle

The book The Clean Tech Revolution The Next Big Growth and Investment Opportunity by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder is about how green technology will be a tremendous future business opportunity.

The writing is very exuberant with an almost bouncy quality to it. It reminds me of Red Herring during the dotcom boom, or Wired Magazine. It can get annoying at times. However, it does bring out the quality of showing you a lot of information very fast in a fun manner.

Another unfortunate aspect of the book is that many of the companies that are investments are not publicly traded. I was hoping that I could find publicly traded stocks to investigate. There are some of these like Cree, Florida Power and Light, and GE. Also there are a lot of foreign stocks listed like Q-Cell AG and Vestas which are on foreign exchanges. I even saw some stocks from the Indian and Spanish stock exchange.

The book is initially broken down into eight sections on different kinds of technology; solar energy, wind power, biofuels and biomaterials, green buildings, personal transportation, smart grid, mobile applications, and water filtration. I think the book is more an introduction to the topic than for an advanced reader. I had a number of quibbles with the content in the book.

The section on solar energy focuses on how solar will scale up with larger production. One of the major problems with solar power is that it is not profitable unless it is on the large industrial scale. Walmart for example has invested in buying bulk quantities of solar panels and using them to power a lot of their stores. They believe this will lead them to long term savings. There is a bit on solar in developing countries. Solar power is non-grid based so it can be used to make things like solar powered lanterns for developing countries like India. For investments, there were not a lot of companies I was interested in.

The next section on wind energy was much better. In November of 2005 in Colorado, Xcel energy sold wind power for cheaper than natural gas or coal to 33,000 customers. Wind power for the first time had achieved parity in pricing with other forms of energy. This has led to a boom in production of wind energy in the United States as a viable alternative form of energy. I was quite happy with this chapter. It is very hard to find out about publicly traded companies for wind energy. I know of one that wasn't listed here, Western Wind Energy, but the listing for Florida Power and Light was quite useful to me as an invester.

I thought the chapter on biofuels and biomaterials was shoddily done. I don't think they gave the concept of the biorefinery justice in this chapter. The one point which I liked is that they described the point where ethanol mixed with gasoline became cheaper than just gasoline alone. Biodiesel and ethanol are currently cheaper than gasoline at the pump. There was also an over focus on cellulosic ethanol a future technology which is in development. Cellulosic ethanol seems to be pie in the sky to me.

I think they are much closer to developing ethanol from algae than cellulosic ethanol. Two companies that are working on algae ethanol are Aquaflow Bionomics in New Zealand and Greenfuel Technologies in the United States. These companies are already in the demonstration stages for commercial production of biodiesel from algae.

The picks for stocks annoyed me as well. I understand the choice of ADM, the monster of ethanol and agribusiness giant. But, they aren't exactly an environmentalists dream. If I had a choice to put down a company instead, I would have put down MGPI , a company that makes multiple products from wheat, alcohol-- including ethanol, personal care products, pet products, vegetarian products, and biopolymers. MGP Ingredients is a very interesting example of a biorefinery, or a refinery which makes multiple products from a single biological source. An interesting tidbit from the chapter was that Toyota plans to produce $30 billion dollars of bioplastics per year.

The chapter on green buildings was one of the better chapters in the book. It gave good descriptions of the benefits of green buildings. Green buildings cost slightly more but in the long run save money on energy, sewage, recycling, water reclamation, and air conditioning. It is interesting to note that 46% of our energy usage comes from the built environment, and 76% of electricity use. The dichotomy of long term planning versus short term profits comes out very clearly in this chapter. A green building will pay for itself in approximately 8.1 years. From my understanding, most companies survive for approximately 20 years. This means that huge green buildings won't be viable except for larger corporations with strong finances that can plan for the long term. For example, Bank of America is working on building the greenest building in the world.

The book also talks about the concept of the ZEB-- Zero Energy Building. This is being done with large housing developments where houses are built green from the start and include energy efficient insulation, solar power, water conservation and enough green features to make them not need the energy grid most of the time. The features are amortized into the mortgage, ultimately saving money in the long run.

The next section is on personal transportation. I found the focus on personal transportation only to be odd. From the perspective of clean transportation, clean trains and airplanes ultimately have more environmental impact. I understand the urge to have your own car. I even think that the description of the Toyota prius becoming a mainstream vehicle is very interesting. I also think the concept of the Tesla all electric sports car is interesting. But, the Tesla is still $92,000 to buy, not exactly a mainstream item.

I am going to add in my own two cents here. I wished they had included things like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a new passenger airplane that is 20% more efficient in fuel usage than other planes. . Also a bit on trains like the Green Goat hybrid diesel electric train being developed by Railpower would have been nice.

The section on the smart grid fails to hold my attention. While it is interesting, they are talking about using superconductors to transmit power as well as carbon nanotube power lines. These are very interesting subjects, but they seem to be ten to twenty years from now. Their story on grid monitoring software to check peak usage seems to be the most practical thing being discussed. They also mention in passing that Google locates some of its data centers near hydroelectric power plants to guarantee a continuous supply of power. Again, they fail to mention a very important technology, net metering, meters designed to allow people to sell excess solar and wind power back to utilities.

I found the section on mobile technologies to be very future oriented. Too future oriented. They talk about things like portable fuel cells and carbon nanotube ultracapacitors. These seem to be things that are in the future not now.

The water filtration section was kind of odd. It was a step away from the talk about energy usage and efficiency. It almost didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the book. They posit that water will be the new oil. People need to make massive investments in desalinization plants along the coastlines to meet the United States water needs. It was a little bit too much hype for my tastes.

Where the book fails is that it makes no mention of updating existing hydroelectric dams so they produce more energy and are more environmentally sound, nor does it mention geothermal energy.

The final sections of the book are "cool". I especially like the chapter called "Create Your Own Silicon Valley". This sets up steps on how to encourage clean tech centers in cities which create new jobs, encourage research, and improve the economies of cities. The writers of the book do a very good job with this because it seems to be what they are focused on in real life. Their website is basically about publicly traded clean technology stocks and clean venture capital.

I would recommend this book as an introduction to the concept of "clean technology." However, if you are beyond the introductory stage you might have some difficulties with the book.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Thoughts on Review Material

Sometimes I Feel Like the Gentleman in the Picture.

This morning, I was reading the New York Times Book Review, November 27, 2007 issue. There was nothing in it which I wanted to read. I often find bestselling books banal and formulaic. I'm finding it is often better to talk to other people about what they are reading than rely purely on review sources. Some of the patrons will mention a book before it is listed in the New York Times Book Review.

I also took time to read the Locus Bestseller List, which had a lot of books by J.K Rowling, Mike Chabon, and of course I am Legend on it by Richard Matheson. Books which have movies about them tend to hit the top of the charts. After looking at SF Site as well and seeing nothing of interest I was a bit disappointed.

I am now looking through the links of different current bestseller lists on my libraries home page. Publishers Weekly, New York Times Fiction and Nonfiction, New York Times Business. Sometimes the New York Times Business bestsellers are so ridiculous they can be funny. I have a hard time taking books like Think Big and Kick Ass by Donald Trump or The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris very seriously. These books seem to be more about wish fulfillment than anything else. But, people love to fulfill their wishes. Having big dreams leads to bigger realities if you plan right.

Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army by Jeremy Scahill looks interesting. However, I am not sure that it is exactly a business book... Alan Greenspan, The Age of Turbulence is the #1 book on the New York Times Business bestsellers.

I just put Blackwater on hold for myself. Anyways, we keep a copy of the New York Times Bestseller list at the front checkout desk. Most libraries make photocopies of this and keep it at hand. It is good if you are a librarian or bookseller to read the bestseller lists at the beginning of every week to get a sense of what people are reading. As you do this over the years, it will get to point where you will be able to spot a potential bestselling book before it is put on the bestseller lists.

I was looking at the Publishers Weekly Nonfiction bestseller list, they had something which looks like it should be on the New York Times Business Bestseller list, Jim Cramer's Stay Mad For Life: Get Rich, Stay Rich (Make Your Kids Even Richer) by James J. Cramer and Cliff Mason. In some ways, I am not a big fan of Cramer. But, I think occassionally he has something useful to say, even if I don't agree with him a lot of the time. There is of course a lot of overlap between the New York Times Bestseller List and the Publishers Weekly Bestseller List.

Now, I am looking at the Booksense Bestseller List, which is the bestseller list of the ABA-- American Booksellers Association. It is a list of independent bookstore bestsellers. This is a surprisingly useful list for librarians. It is far more literary than the New York Times Bestseller list. Once again, a book which has a movie based on it, No Country For Old Men is doing well. Also the nonfiction titles, I find much more interesting than the New York Times Bestseller List.

Sometimes, you find things which look like they should be on the New York Times Bestseller list on the Booksense Bestseller List like Sue Grafton's T is for Trespass. Please do take a look at this if you are a librarian.

Anyways, this is my thought for the day.
Etta Rose put in a recommendation for my site. The least I can do is thank for her it. I appreciate it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Random Thoughts In No Meaningful Order

Image of A Social Network. Think of the button labeled as an individual as an individual website or blog. (Thought Experiment).

Today, I am at the library again. I had three books waiting for me this morning, Ekaterina Sedia, The Secret History of Moscow, Ron Pernick, The Clean Tech Revolution, and David Sandalow, Freedom From Oil.

I check out my books every time. This is to increase circulation of books. The more circulation or items checked out, the more likely that the library will get additional federal, state, and city funding. The government wants you to use the library. I want you to use the library. Be literate, read.

I handed over my plastic library card to the clerk and she zapped the books with the scanner. Then there was that clicking sound you hear of the printer spitting out the receipt with the due dates for the books. For me, it is a wonderful sound.

Now, I have something to read and review for your enjoyment.


I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to promote this blog. I have tried entrecard, blogcatalog, and fuelmyblog. I have even asked people to exchange links. I do look at a lot of different peoples blogs to see who is doing a very good job.

It takes quite a bit of time to do this. I've found the best way to find good blog sites is not to search for them by using search engines. Search engines do not find social networks. I find a blog which I like in a particular category like books or writing, then I check the links which lead away from the blog. I do spend time looking at a lot of different peoples sites. When one person has a lot of links to their site, I consider it a hub or central point to look for other sites. These are the best places to find the good sites.

Like sites attract like quality. So a high quality hub site is what I am looking for when I am looking at blogs. A place with very good writing or recommendations of books is my ideal blog find. If it has a lot of high quality links that is a very good sign. Huge numbers of links are unimpressive, they just create clutter. In the case of friends like in blogcatalog, the ideal number of friends I'd say is about 100-200 with very high selectivity.

I am also looking for people who are part of multiple communities. People who are members of lets say three directory sites, or have membership in a couple different blog rings. These connections form webs kind of like a spider, with one hub leading to the center of the next hub. However, if you think of it, it is more like a ball with links spreading out from each separate center.

Anyways, these are my thoughts for the moment.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Fading of the Western Novel

I was watching Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad and The Ugly starring Clint Eastwood. It very much reminded me of the decline of the western novel. There is a lot to say for western novels. They have fairly strong male lead characters who face tough situations.

Unfortunately, the only people who come in to check out westerns are people assigned in class to read Jack Schaeffer's Shane or Louis L'Amour Jubal Sackett. Louis L'Amour has become a regular high school assignment. Most of our other western novels are in the Large Print, mostly older gentlemen ask for Zane Grey, or Max Brank. Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage is considered a classic in western literature.

Larry McMurtry makes westerns which are more novels than stories about hard gunfighters. What is odd is that it feels like a lot of western style writers have switched to writing mysteries. Tony Hillerman writes mysteries set on Native American reservations. Joe Lansdale writes Texas mysteries with his characters Hap and Leonard. You can no longer walk into town with six guns blazing. Instead you have to be the local sheriff or detective ready to hunt down the bad man.

Kinky Friedman is president Bush's favorite author. He also writes Texas mysteries. Right now, he is running for governor of Texas. He recently wrote a book called You Can Lead A Politician to Water But You Can't Make Him Think: Ten Commandments for Texas Politics. It seems the Texas gunslinger has turned into the Texas detective.

With this decline in the western novel, it seems the image of the cowboy is being picked up in the wrong way. We hear the word cowboy diplomacy coming from a lot of people who probably have no understanding of the history of the American west. Hopefully, we will have some people who can revive the meaning of this kind of writing. It really goes to the heart of what it means to be American.

There are no more shows like Bonanza on television and very few western movies coming out. Because very few people see these things anymore and they are so loved by American politicians, like mom, god, and apple pie we see a lot of distortions. Cartoons with men in cowboy hats riding missiles or standing high noon with mullahs. This is a pretty distorted image of the wild west. Conservative and cowboy are not always the same thing.

Luckily there are still some holdouts for Western writing. Places like

A Collection of Convention Name Tags.

Like many people I have attended a number of conventions throughout my career. I have saved the name tags for many of the conventions I have attended. I have a nostalgia for these things. There is something memorable about attending professional conventions even if you are not part of the profession at the convention. Also, the name tags have little or no value in and of themselves.

Collecting name tags is like collecting free bookmarks, they are inexpensive, interesting, and bring back memories. People wax nostalgic about what they have done, even if it wasn't so great when they were doing it.

I keep them in a plastic ziplock bag. It is an old ziplock bag and does not preserve their condition. But, this is not why I am keeping the name tags. I am not thinking that my name tag collection will one day have astronomical value and be prized by collectors the world over.

I like going to conventions. I find them interesting. I will now name some of the convention name tags I have.

I attended my first library convention in 1991, I was a page working in the library as well as a college student. I know, it sounds funny, usually pages are often teenagers with acne. It was the California Library Association. I wasn't sure yet that I wanted to be a librarian. Being a page is a funny experience. You put books on shelves, pick up books off the tables and do little odd jobs for the librarians.

The next library convention I attended was in 1992 while I was volunteering at SPD-- Small Press Distributors in Berkeley, California. I wasn't in library school at the time. I went as an exhibitor with Small Press Distributors. I don't particularly remember the convention that well. All I know is that I have the name tag. I shelved the books in back at Small Press Distributors. I always have been good at shelving books. I tried to do the basic office work, but I really wasn't that good at it. I'm not the best at office work.

I didn't go to library school until 1993. At the end of library school, I attended library legislation day. I still have the name tag from Library Legislation Day in Penssylvania. I went to speak to Diane Feinstein and got to talk to her briefly about the importance of libraries. I remember being scared out of my pants and being very zealous at the same time.

In 1996, I went to the International Space Development Conference as an exhibitor, I was helping a small bookstore which has since folded. It was quite interesting. The best part was the astronomical art. You could get really beautiful photographs of space for very cheap.

I also have a button which simply says Exhibitor Mystery & Science Fiction Book Fair. I have no idea what the button is for. It is just a curiosity. I have been to lots of small book fairs. One of my favorite small book fairs was the paperback collectors association. They had a lot of old paperbacks. My favorite old paperbacks are the ACE doubles-- two science books in one printed in the 1960s.

The next convention button I have is from when I was working at an ISP during the internet boom. It was for PC Expo 2000. PC expo was very interesting. There was a ton of hardware and software, most of it didn't make much sense because it was during the internet boom. I remember wandering around the Jacob Javits Convention Center and thinking how humongous the place was. Also during 2000, I went to Internet World. This was a weird experience, there was a lot of experimental stuff for the time, micropayment systems, online photo sites, and a lot of stuff that never saw the light of day.

My next button is from 2005, it is for Book Expo America, the largest book exposition in the country. I went as a librarian. It was a lot of fun to go and look at the different publishers.

I am going to the New York Comic Con in April 2008 as a professional. They give free passes to professionals. If you are a librarian who is interested in comic books or graphic novels this is a lot of fun to attend. Like Book Expo America, you can get a lot of freebies to bring back. They also give out lots of little knick knacks, book marks, pens, and other things. You get to see a lot of the professional comic book artists. They had panels for librarians on manga, anime, and graphic novels in the library.

When I go to conventions I usually plan a little bit beforehand. I get a floor map of the exhibits and circle which exhibitors I am goint to look at and ask my colleagues if there is anybody they would like to me look at. I also plan which panels I am going to watch in advance. I try to go in early the first day so I can get an idea of what the convention will be like. I always like to check to see if there is a restaurant near the convention before I go in. Convention food prices are always too high except for the reserved areas with coffee and bagels for attendees. I also pick up a lot of stuff. The stuff I don't want, I'll leave for my colleagues to look at sometimes. I'm often asked to summarize what I learned at the panels so I take a notepad and pen with me.

I try and walk the whole convention floor so I can see all the exhibitors, even if only for a brief time. Sometimes, I'll collect business cards just to have them. I also try and get to the more popular panels about an hour early. There have been a few times where I still haven't been able to go in and see the speakers.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Where Do You Find A New Book To Read

This is a list. I thought I would create one for your enjoyment.

1) Check at your local bookstore. There is is usually a staff picks section. Powell's books
has a nice short Staff Picks section.

2) Check at your local library. They usually have staff picks. This is a list of staff picks from New York Public Library.

3) If you use public transportation, watch for ads for books. I see ads for John Grisham on the New York subway as well as the Metro North.

4) Read the latest review material like Publishers Weekly or Kirkus Reviews. There are specialty review books like Horn Book for Children, Choice mostly for academic libraries, and VOYA-- Voice of Youth Advocates for teenage books.

5) Read popular magazines like Jet, People, or Newsweek. They all have book reviews.

6) Listen to the radio. Radio shows often talk about books. Jim Freund's Hour of the Wolf interviews science fiction authors. . NPR-- National Public Radio often has authors reading.

7) Watch television. Most of the talk shows interview authors. Oprah Winfrey has a book club. It is one of those giant things. She revived a lot of classic literature. Charlie Rose invites quite a few authors. A lot of the documentaries on PBS are also in book form. Ken Burn's civil war series has an excellent corresponding book series.

8) Watch to see what other people are reading. People read everywhere, on the subway, at the park, in waiting rooms, and other places.

9) Attend readings if you can get to them. KGB Bar has a fantastic fiction reading series.

10) Watch the news. Every time something horrible happens, there is a new set of books coming out. O.J. Simpson spawned huge amount of books.

11) Check the obituaries. If an author dies, their estate often releases a lot of material for publication. Also, many people wait until after they are dead to have their biography released.

12) Go to book festivals. New York Is Book Country is the big festival of books for New York.

13) Go to conventions. Book Expo America is the giant book convention for the publishing industry in the United States.

14) Check out authors web sites. Neil Gaiman has an excellent blog.

15) Check out publishers web sites. Their new books will be featured prominently.

16) Make sure to look at your favorite cover artists site. I like Donato Giancola a lot. They will describe the books which they are creating covers for.

17) Check the various writers professional associations. Most professional associations for writers give awards for quality new fiction. The Horror Writers Association has the Bram Stoker Award. The Mystery Writers of America has the Edgars

18) Check specialty genre sites like Science Fiction Site, or Uchronia, the alternate history list,

19) Most genres will also have forums or newsgroups where they discuss a specific type of book.

20) Expect that your favorite writer in comic books might also write in other formats. Alan Moore wrote his autobiography, Peter David wrote both comic books and regular science fiction books.

21) Don't expect to see an author stick to just one genre. Joe Lansdale writes mysteries, horror, and westerns. Elizabeth Lowell writes science fiction, romance, mystery, and suspense. Walter Mosley writes novels, science fiction, and mysteries. Check to see if your favorite author writes in more genres than one.

22) Check the latest movies. Many of them came from novels. Read the novel before you go see the film. Richard Matheson's I Am Legend is just as good as the film.

23) You can find author readings on Youtube. This really surprised me. I put up a video of Jonathan Carroll reading from Youtube earlier on this site.

24) Philip Jose Farmer has a page which is pretty interesting. Authors are taking advantage of the new media.

25) Authors also do podcasts. Bantam Dell has a nice list of podcasts by authors.

26) Don't forget to support your local library. Go to local library booksales put togther by the Friends of the Library.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Writer and Comic Book Writer In Film, Link Exchange

Marjane Satrapi -- Iranian Comic Book Artist, Author of Embroideries and Persepolis.

Last night I was watching the biographical film, American Splendor about the writer Harvey Pekar who writes comic books and jazz reviews. It is an utterly fascinating film. I haven't finished watching the video yet, I'll probably do that today.

Harvey Pekar is famous for saying "Ordinary Life is Very Complex." He writes about the every day experiences of ordinary life. American Splendor is the underground comic book he started writing with R. Crumb illustrating the first editions. Harvey Pekar met R. Crumb while he was searching for jazz records at garage sales. They have a friendship based on comic books and old records.

I am up to the point in watching the film where Harvey Pekar gets cancer. He has a graphic novel called Our Cancer Year which is really excellent to read. It is about his recovery from cancer. His wife, Joyce helped him write it. One of the things about husband and wife writing together, is that it is often hard to tell who is writing what.

All of the people in the film are fascinating because they are all a little odd. His wife Joyce married him after visiting him for a week in Cleveland. There is quite a bit on what it is like to appear in your own comic book. American Splendor was also made into a play before it was made into a film.

The interviews on David Letterman and Harvey Pekar are peppered throughout the film.

Harvey Pekar has his own blog . It includes him, his wife Joyce, and his adopted daughter, Danielle. Harvey Pekar chose to get a vasectomy because he didn't want to have a family originally.

While I am talking about this, I will give a brief aside. If you want to watch something deeply disturbing with lots of very black humor, Robert Crumb has a biographical film, Crumb. Watching Robert Crumb's brother Max is a truly disturbing experience. Max is seen laying on a bed of nails. Just about everything about Robert Crumb in the movie is likely to cause some revulsion or amazement. This film is not for children under any circumstances, and many adults will have a hard time stomaching it.

Writers on film are usually far different than you imagined them when you are reading their books. Getting to see a biographical picture of a writer often reveals how far off most literary criticism is on writers. You get to hear why they are writing in the film.

Most of the films about writers I have seen are very dark. Another film, The Whole Wide World about Robert E. Howard's relationship with Novalyne Price Ellis is really beautiful to watch. It is an art film set in the 1930's. The sunsets, and the scenery are really beautifully done. Robert E. Howard is very much a tragic figure in real life, his mother died of terminal illness and he committed suicide before he could see the popularity of his works.

Renee Zellwegger stars as Novalyne Price Ellis, a school teacher who Robert E. Howard has a brief romance with. Vincent D'Onofrio stars as Robert E. Howard. The actors make a handsome couple on screen. Robert E. Howard's immature predilection with fantasy, boxing, and swordfighting, as well as writing pulp stories dooms the relationship.

Another film about writers which is also very dark is "Born Into This", a biographical picture of Charles Bukowski which is basically one long documentary interview with him. He talks about the different places he lived in Los Angeles, his excessive drinking, his working at the post office to make ends meet, and the various women in his life.

There is always a little respite in films like these. Bukowski also loved to listen to classical music. The classic image of him which comes to mind is him banging away on the typewriter with a bottle of wine listening to Brahms while his cat is sitting in the background. He is in a little room with a bare light bulb and a few oil paintings which he has painted on the walls.

Bukowski is also a writer who succeeded. He talks about what it means to have ones own house and have to stop worrying about the world crushing him. He seems almost contented in the film. When you look at him during the interviews he is smoking a brown cigarillo and has a clear glass with some red wine in it while he is talking.

I finished watching American Splendor about half an hour ago. The ending is kind of uplifting. Harvey and Joyce adopt another comic book artists little girl Danielle and he retires from his job as a filing clerk in a medical office.

Harvey Pekar has written numerous graphic novels. I rather liked The Quitter about Harvey Pekar's tendency to quit things like school and college, and his redemption as a writer. Another graphic novel is American Splendor: Unsung Hero about the story of Robert McNeill, one of Harvey Pekar's coworkers at the hospital. It tells the story of Robert McNeill joining the marines during the Vietnam war. A very revealing story about what it was like to be a teenage black soldier during that time period.

Another comic book artists film I want to see is Persepolis. The graphic novel, Persepolis is really excellent and well worth reading. It is a story of growing up in Iran. This is a link to the films website . There is also a Persepolis II and another graphic novel Embroideries by her.

Another film which I am looking forward to is Miss Potter starring Rene Zellwegger. This is the story of the sale of Beatrix Potter's first book. I've always loved The Tale of Benjamin Bunny and Jemima Puddle Duck. There is something wonderfully eccentric about these books.
Literary Jewels asked me to do a link exchange. I put up a link to her site under the heading Literary And Reading Link Exchange. She is the first person to ask me about doing this.
I replaced my adsense button with this.

In the long run, I think, this will be better for the site than Adsense. I noticed that when I looked at Blogger's sites of note, none of them had advertisements on them which is kind of interesting.

I have started inviting people to join in sharing links.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Down Home Zombie Blues-- Linnea Sinclair-- Review

Illustration by Howard Pyle; Pirate Romance

This is a science fiction romance. It is what you might get if you read star trek or stargate and added a decent amount of sex and romance to it. The book is campy and fun. It is full of cliches about science fiction.

Guardian Force Commander Jorie Mikkalah is hunting biomechanical zombies in the earth system. She must slip in with her crew and destroy the zombies without the earth people knowing about it.

Things don't go quite right and suddenly Jorie is hot and heavy with a greek cop from Miami named Theo. Theo saves Jorie from one of the monsters by using Jorie's laser pistol to burn out a zombies eyes. He understands how to use the pistol because it looked like something from Deep Space 1.

What will Jorie do? She has become involved in forbidden contact with an earth man. And eventually forbidden sex. Jorie really likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Theo. Earth food is wonderful and earth men must be even more wonderful.

Theo is taken aboard Jories ship where he is told that he will be sent to Paroo, a tropical island planet like Hawaii, because he has seen a guardian force ship. Then, Jorie convinces her crew that Theo should help them out. He knows about earth and can help them kill the zombies. The crew is kind of amusing. There is "something like a miniature Wookie".

Theo brings the alien Guardians to his house where they set up a base of operations with an invisible forcefield and get ready to hunt zombies. Theo wonders what the neighbors will think, he needs a cover story for Jorie which he can explain to his aunt Tootie. This is pretty silly. He has a hot woman in his house.

Things go wrong and Jorie's ship disappears. There is a secret group of evil aliens on the planet controlling the zombies. Things get scary for Jorie (and really steamy between Jorie and Theo).

The Tresh, a group of aliens that look like absolutely perfect humans with a love of giving others pain are on the planet. The Tresh remind me of Khan Noonien Singh played by Ricardo Montalban in the Star Trek episode "Space Seed."

There is the dichotomy of pain and pleasure going on in the background. One of Jorie's crew must be rescued from the Tresh who have taken over Theo's house. Jorie and Theo retake the house. They must take a rescued crew member to a veterinarian to have the pain implant removed. Jorie is very pleased, veterinarians are the highest form of doctor on her world. If you pay close attention to the novel there are a lot of ridiculous things like this in the novel.

Eventually, alone and isolated on the planet, Jorie and Theo seek out help to destroy the remaining zombies. Theo manages to convince a few of his friends to help him kill zombies by showing off some of Jorie's super alien toys. Look we have a forcefield, a holoprojector, and a laser rifle, wow aliens.

There is a final showdown with the alien zombies. The showdown kind of reminds of a video game. The zombies are much larger than before. They must get past the big zombies to shoot the super big boss ending the zombies. It is a boss fight.

For the final cliche, Jorie's ship reappears and she is promoted to Captain. Of course, there is a happy, sexy ending. Jorie gets assigned to earth to watch it for future "alien zombie infestations" and Tresh. She can be with her alien lover whenever she wants.

A trashy, campy, sexy, sometimes ridiculous, and funny science fiction romance. Apparently Linnea Sinclair has won quite a few romance book awards for her speculative fiction romances, like the 2006 RITA award for Paranormal Romances, 2003 Prism Award,2nd Place for Best Futuristic Romance, 2002 Affaire de Coeure Award for best Futuristic Romance, and many other romance awards. I am used to things like the Philip K. Dick, Campbell, Arthur C. Clarke, Nebula, and Hugo awards.

There are two songs before the book opens, they are The Down Home Zombie Blues Lyrics by Linnea Sinclair & Ed Teja, Music by Ed Teja (ASCAP), and the Downhome Divorced Guy Blues words by Ed Teja and Uncle Steve, music by Ed Teja.

I found this paperback listed in Locus magazine in their new books for December section. They don't usually list science fiction romance books. This is better than most. Despite some of the ridiculous qualities in the book, I couldn't put it down until I finished it.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cradle to Cradle Print On Demand Kiosk Book System-- A Syncretic Idea

Occassionally, I get syncretic ideas, ideas which combine two or more things into something new. The idea is that you would take a print on demand book kiosk system and design the books coming out of the system so they can be recycled completely back into the system. A person would buy the book from the kiosk, then get a deposit when they returned the book.

You would go to the kiosk look at a selection of materials then key in the material you were interested in and the book would be printed once you made your selection and paid for it.

The books would be designed as a cradle to cradle product. The pages would use ink that could be reclaimed, instead of paper you would use a thin plastic which could be printed on multiple times, the glue could be removed as well, the cover could be stripped off and reused.

Initially the book would cost a little more, but costs would be reduced because the books would be recycled. I was thinking you would have a few standard size formats and would initially focus on plain text books without illustrations. Maybe the classics or things which people would read a lot over and over again.

Please comment on the idea.

A Few Duds.

I took some books home to read over the weekend, but I can't really get myself to read them. They are not as good as I thought they would be. I had to put one of the books down after reading the first chapter of the book. I try to read at least the first chaper before I put down a book.

The second one might be alright. I am not enthused with it. Sometimes there just isn't that much interesting to read. Or maybe, I want to look at something else.

$100 Laptop Prototype-- Design Continuum.

Quite honestly, I am not enthused with the idea of having masses of books around. I really do think there is such a thing as having too many books. When you read as many books as I do, you get to realize that a lot of books probably shouldn't have been published.

A lot of people will hate me for this. I am not impressed with a house full of books, unless there is something exceptional about them. If you have a house full of books on horses I might be impressed, or if you have a house full of beautiful art books, or mystery books I might be impressed.

Part of this is the way people use the book as a sign of intellectuality. You can buy books by the foot with certain types of binding, or request a certain type of book as a backdrop for a film or television show. This is more a sign of having a hoard of jewels than intellectual prominence. Lawyers and CEOs buy books to fill their offices often to show they are smart.

Most books do not survive. I think the average shelf life of a book in a bookstore is about two weeks to a month. Imagine a giant room full of paper where in a month or two, the majority of it will be recycled.

I don't think everything in print should be saved. A lot of people think of a book as a sacred object. The content inside the book is what is sacred. It would be incredible if we could preserve everything that was written for all time. I look forward to the day when I can go into a bookstore and in five minutes have a choice of having a bound book, or an electronic download of everything ever printed. The same goes for libraries. It would also be interesting if we could also do the same thing with movies, music, and other forms of expression.

Packaging does not fascinate me. I wouldn't mind if I could see what the book looked like when it was finished before I bought it, but I don't need to see piles of 25 copies of it arranged in different patterns.

I am not a luddite. The main value of having printed books is if they are illustrated-- The resolution of paper is still much higher than digital books. But, if they are not illustrated, it is a waste of resources to have a building stuffed with paper.

I am saying this in the sense, that if we could put all of the books inside a print on demand machine or download on demand machine, it might be better than having a house of paper. Also we would need to have the machine easily searchable and readily available for people to use.

I understand the comfortableness of the used bookstore. It has an air of coffee and old things. The propietor might be your grumpy neighbor. There might even be a nice cat, or even a dog.

I also understand the need to hoard things in piles. Messy piles of paper on desks, bookmarks, old books, videos in piles, drawers full of forms, and fliers. It happens to me like many librarians.

I too am afraid of the mad path of "creative destruction" running through American capitalist society tearing apart my profession. I have watched the positions for librarians shrink as well as the number of booksellers. There are less and less of us in the world.

I would be less concerned with this if more books were designed with the cradle to cradle philosophy. Cradle to Cradle Rethinking The Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Baungart is a fairly radical idea. It says you should design things so they can be completely reused. The book Cradle to Cradle is designed this way. You can remove the ink with natural solvents and reuse the ink to print an entirely different book.

There is a certain ambivalence in all this. I am not sure if I am lying to myself on this one, people are so good at self delusion...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Clean Technology (Green Technology) and Natural Capitalism Books,

I am very interested in industrial ecology and clean technology. It is very hard to get good reading material on this subject. I tried to get A Safe and Sustainable World by Nancy Jack Todd: The Promise of Ecological Design. John Todd is the inventor of Living Machines and Artificial Wetlands. His site Ocean Arks International is very interesting

Currently, The Clean Tech Revolution: The Next Big Growth and Investment Opportunity by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder is on reserve at the library for me. I also have Freedom From Oil: How The Next President Can End The United States Oil Addiction by David Sandalow on reserve.

Two books which talk about natural capitalism, or green business practices which I can recommend are Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution by Amory R. Lovins and Paul Hawken, and Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage. The article which the book Natural Capitalism came from is here,

There is not a whole lot written on this material. I am taking home Green Gold Japan, Germany, and the United States Race For Environmental Technologies by Curtis Moore and Alan Miller. I read this but it was not that good. The information was very dated. It was written in 1994 and much of what was being talked about has changed considerably. I would suggest reading something more recent.

Getting back on topic. Recently, I had mentioned a failure by Finavera to commercialize their wave energy buoy. They wrote the technology down to zero value. Something unusual has happened. After they wrote the value of their wave energy buoy technology down to zero, they are opening a wave energy project with PG&E

It is an utterly odd experience going from thinking a company is worthless and will never do any wave energy projects to the first commercializer in the United States of wave energy.

Walking The Stacks or Why a Librarian Appears to Wander

Occassionally, I walk the whole area which I am in charge of. This is to make sure the books are neat, nothing is out of place and everything looks right. Sometimes I get the question why are you wandering through the stacks.

Mainly I pick up books which are left on top of other books, scraps of paper, hidden soda cans, and other minor garbage. Occassionally, I will find a few books tucked in the corners on forbidden subjects like sex or abortion. These get put back in the sorting room.

I take notes in my mind spot checking for which places need to be rearranged, shelf read or neatened by the library aides (it is impolitic to call them "pages" like they did in the old days). Occassionally, I'll find something odd. Maybe, one of the patrons (library customers) has decided the books look better if they are tilted sideways or pushed in four inches, or has decided to stack large amounts of books on the floor. This really is not predictable.

There is a recurring fantasy which I have heard from many people that they would like to run through the library and knock over all the bookshelves so all the books fell on the floor and the shelves tipped over like dominos. I heard that the gangs when they were really bad where I worked used to run through the library throwing books on the floor.

The teenagers sometimes like to hide in the stacks and talk to each other about forbidden things, or chase after each other when we are not looking.

Sometimes little kids like to run their hands along the shelves like they are running their hands along a metal fence pushing the books in. Books have a nice feel to them. But, this has to be discouraged.

Mostly things are in order where I work. I check to make sure all the stuff is put away behind the desk.

Then if time permits, I scan through the new books both fiction and nonfiction to see what has just come in. This often works better than searching on the computer when people come up to ask for new books. Customers are confused and often don't remember the exact title of a book which they are looking for. They remember the title was in Ebony, The New York Times, Military Times, or some magazine or other. Having a vague idea of the new stock is a good idea.

A lot of people think checking to see the order of books, or shelf reading should only be done by the library pages or shelvers. This works only if you check their work on occassion. It is very easy to transpose letters and make slight mistakes in order.

Also occassionally reading sections of books which are not in your assigned areas gives you a better idea of what is inside a large collection of books. I can picture the location of many of the books in my mind because I have seen and read the shelves closeup over the years.

We have two floors below us where I work. These are actually fairly well organized. It is a huge last copy repository for the system. There are a lot of very strange old books some of them dating from the 19th century. Just looking through the old books is very entertaining.

You get to learn about what books people value because we keep books by circulation. There are a lot of really weird things which keep their relevance, old circus books, tattoo books, books on the maritime trade, old railroad books, human freaks, woodcuts and a lot of really odd things.

Many people want to go downstairs to look at the items, but we only allow people to look at things in the stacks if they are accompanied by a librarian. We have a couple people who come in and ask to see the World War II books, many of the books we have were written close to that that time period. We usually go downstairs to get them for people.

If I have time, I will occassionally go look at the old science fiction and fantasy books in the stacks, there are a lot of the less popular titles by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells as well as some of the classic science fiction or fantasy writers like Andre Norton, L. Sprage De Camp, and A.E. Van Vogt. It is interesting looking at these in their library bindings.

I couldn't think of what to write about exactly today, so I chose something a little more free form.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gentlemen of the Road-- Michael Chabon-- Review

Map which includes Khazaria.

Michael Chabon, Gentlemen of the Road concerns the adventures of Zelikman, a travelling Frankish Jewish physician and his compatriot, Amram, a giant black ex-soldier from Constantinople.

This is a classic story of the adventuring pair in the tradition of the Lone Ranger and Tonto or Gray Mouser and Fafhrd. The book is very much an ode to swashbuckling fantasy. What separatesthis book from most of these books is the use of an accurate historical backdrop. Thereis no magic or fantastic creatures. The closest thing to magic is Zelikman's arab spy glass, his hempen pipe, and the medicine which he carries. There are some runes on Amrams axe but, they don't have any discernable effect. The most magical creatures in the novel are the elephants in the bek's palace.

The setting is rather interesting. The original title was supposed to be Jews with Swords which conjures up some rather interesting images. The story occurs in the Eastern Europeankingdom of Khazaria, a real Jewish kingdom that existed from 850 A.D. to 1136 A.D.. The actualyear of the story is 950 A.D. Khazaria is known for its candleabrum flag, and its wild redhaired jews. The turkic people of the area converted to judaism.

The novel itself is a light and fast read. I read it in a single night. The characters arevery entertaining. I rather like Hanukkah, a bit character who has turned to becoming a mercenary so he can buy his lover from a brothel.

There is plenty of action with the marauding Rus, the soldiers of the Bek, and the arabic Arsiya. The two main characters in the opening scene Zelikman and Amram stage a fight where Zelikman appears to die so they can make money.

Gary Gianni illustrates the story with very detailed black and white illustrations. Gary Gianni is currently drawing the syndicated strip of Prince Valiant. The illustrations in the book have a very similar tone to Prince Valiant.

It seems that Michael Chabon is hitting his stride with this novel. His last novel, The Yiddish Policemen's Union was on the Locus Bestseller List. Read the story to find out what happens.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tobias Buckell-- Ragamuffin-- Review

The Chupacabra

Tobias Buckell-- Ragamuffin is a science fiction novel. It is his second novel. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the first book in the setting, Crystal Rain from the library. I had reserved it at the library, but it never came.

In a way, this novel is quite hard to review because of its non-traditional structure. It is a novel in three parts. The first part is the opening sectin of the novel, Nashara, the main heroine of the novel is on a human reservation, she assassinates an alien Gahe breeder for the Human League so she can earn passage off world. The opening is a bit confusing because it immediately jumps into action sequences without explanation.

The second part of the novel is set on Angade, a human world which has been cut off from the wormhole network which links the different worlds in the story. The world is very interesting, it contains two cultures, a kind of Caribbean island culture led by the original settlers, and a proto-Aztec culture controlled by the alien Teotl. The action starts in the second part when the alien Teotl reopen the wormhole leading to Angade. The Teotl are the last remnants of their species fleeing genocide by the Satrapy, the masters of the wormholes. The Teotl have a message, the Satrapy wants to wipe out the human race.

The third part brings together the first two parts in a climactic battle between the human agents of the Satrapy, the Hongguo who are charged with suppressing human technology and the Ragamuffins, a group of human pirates of caribbean island descent. The setting is around the world of Angade.

This is a difficult complex books in many ways. There is use of dialect, and presentation of cultures not normally seen in most science fiction settings. The different factions, the Human League, the Ragamuffins, the Angade, the Hongguo represent different human cultures. The Hongguo appear to be Asian, the Angade a mix of Aztec and Caribbean, and the Human League might be Russian. Add to the mix the alien Teotl and the alien Satrapy and you have a very complex world.

The best part of this book is the world and culture building. The setting is quite unique. Humans are not on top. They live at the edges of the Satrapy on reservations, on backwards worlds, as second class citizens on space stations. Earth has been cut off from the wormhole network so they develop their own civilization. Technology is suppressed by the Hongguo so there is not a lot of super technology.

The alien Teotl are convincingly done. They are well described as aliens. The Satraps are in the background acting as puppet masters, so their presence is felt as a kind of hidden force.

There is a lot of action in the novel. This could have been done better. Some of the fights are quite confusing. I thought the fight sequences should have been edited better. Sometimes what is happening is lost in the action.

I will read the first novel, Crystal Rain because I like the setting. I don't know of any other authors with a Caribbean viewpoint in science fiction. It really is a unique book. He also is unique in writing science fiction with multiple human racial backgrounds in his stories. Most people do not do this. They tend to make the aliens the other races.

I found the novel on the web while reading an interview of Tobias Buckell. Tobias Buckell has his own blog. . There is a lot of material on what it is like to write a novel and how you sell your first novel.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wonders of the Library Card, Book Gizmos

Woodrow Wilson's Bookplate.

Library cards are very interesting objects. Where I work, many patrons, we call them patrons not customers in library land often come to my desk and ask for books then tell me they don't have a library card.

This is a rather odd experience for me. I've noticed quite a few people who use the library don't have a library card. Some patrons just come in and read the books in the library only. They'll come in the library and sit down for a couple hours in their favorite spot and read. This is especially true for the newspaper and magazine readers. They will get the daily paper and read their paper then leave.

It has gotten to the point where I can recognize a few of them. There is one gentleman who reads music books and kung fu magazines. Another person reads books on hip hop and cartooning and draws cartoons.

They apparently don't want library cards.

Other people will come in and ask for books for their school assignments then tell me they don't have a library card. I ask them how they are going to check out their books and they say it doesn't matter. But, they keep coming back to get more assignment books. This happens with all kinds of books.

We can't come out and say hey you are you taking the books out without a card. This seems to happen sometimes, a book will go missing for a couple weeks then you find it again. A person will complain, why can't we find this book you should mark it missing. Because of the disappearing and reappearing book phenomena we can't really do it until it has been gone for a couple months. Things reappear in the most unlikely fashion.

Patrons put books back in the wrong places. They think, they are helping us by putting away the material for us. Please leave the books in the book drop or give the books back to the librarian at the desk when you are done with them. Or, if they are especially enterprising, they will hide a book on sex, drugs, or some other subject so they can get it later when they come back. They don't want their mother, their wife, or their friends to know they are reading something so they don't take it out.

Often patrons will come in and ask us what have they read in the last month. We wipe our records after a book is returned. We don't store peoples reading habits. Library records can be subpoenaed by the police or even Homeland Security in the United States. They are a record of a persons character. Lawyers can and do use lists of what people have read as part of their testimony in court. They also comment on whether people have fines and have lost items. They also have lists of what people plan on reading, because of the holds list on peoples cards.

We also wipe record of computer use after a certain period to insure privacy as well. With the new computer logging systems, it requires that you use your card barcode number to logon to computers. While this has caused some drop in usage, it has deterred a lot of problems. There are a lot less fights and arguments around the public computers because a persons identity is known. Also people use a lot less pornography in public.

If a person collects enough fines on a library card, it can effect their credit rating. Some libraries report fines to a credit collection agency. Not returning books in some cases will effect a persons credit history.

Also report your library card stolen or missing immediately and don't lend your card to other people. A lot of little kids will lend their library cards to their friends and then find out their friends have checked out a lot of books and not returned them. This happens a lot. We have to pardon this a lot of the time. The children often don't know not to do this.

Library cards are one of the first cards which a child receives. Usually a child will come with their class and get a library card. The teachers call in first and sends the information in to be processed. Then the class comes to visit, is given a tour, then the library cards are distributed alphabetically to the students.

Sometimes, a person will come in and say they forgot their library card can't they just give their name or show some identification. Because library cards are private records which can be subpoenaed we can't do this. I know it sounds kind of strange and extreme, but we have to be very careful. Some people claim librarians worry more about privacy than most government and police agencies.

The library card can be used to place holds. We have a few people who fill their holds to capacity on movies, then use their childrens or mothers card to get more holds. Movies are becoming more popular than books in many cases to check out. There is one disabled gentleman who calls every day and places two to three holds over the phone using the barcode on his library card for movies. There is another lady who calls and places three or four holds every single day for old television shows like Gilligan's Island and The Honeymooners.

There doesn't seem to be much discernment in what people check out in movies. Most people in my experience seem to check out more two star reviewed movies than well rated movies. It is really incredible. Bride of Chucky, Halloween III, and National Lampoons Vacation are far more popular than Masterpiece Theatre. There seems to be more of a focus on mindless escape than thinking.

The library card is also a primary piece of identification. It is one of the pieces of identification which can be used to acquire a social security number, a drivers license, or a passport. If you read about how people create false identities, one of the steps which people often take is to get a library card.

It is standard to ask for a piece of mail and a piece of identification with a signature or picture to get a library card in most places that I have worked. Usually we only give a card to local residents, but if a person works in the area, we will also issue a card to a person as well.

These are thoughts on library cards.


Here are some general thoughts. I decided to add some book gizmos to the items I am selling. I haven't sold anything yet, but hey it is still an experiment. I put the Kindle ebook reader and some playaways on my site. Playaways are a plug and play audiobook. You turn the audiobook on, put on the earphones and listen. They are very convenient for libraries.

Kindle is Amazon's new ebook reader. It uses something called electronic ink, a new form of screen display technology.

Magnetic bookmarks have a few advantages over regular bookmarks. They don't slip from place, or fall out of books because they are held in place magnetically. They are also slightly heavier than regular bookmarks. I think they are a nice little invention.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Alan Greenspan The Age of Turbulence Adventures In A New World-- Book Review

Alan Greenspan The Age of Turbulence Adventures in A New World is currently on the New York Times Bestseller list. It is 529 pages long with two sets of black and white pictures. The pictures are some of the best political photographs I have ever seen. My favorite picture is of Alan Greenspan lying on the floor of the white house.

This book is both a biographical account, a book on economics, and a story about the federal reserve. The book embodies history in the making. Because Alan Greenspan was directly involved he can talk with authority about the fall of the Berlin Wall, the World Trade Organization protests, Nixon's presidency, and his experiences with leaders around the world from China, Russia, Latin America, and other countries.

The book gives a nice sense of Alan Greenspan as a person. There are anecdotes about him like he takes a bath every morning. In the bath, he takes notes for his morning meetings. It also gives his political viewpoint. He is both an objectivist, a Libertarian Republican, an admirer of President Ford, and a free market capitalist.

Alan Greenspan demonstrates original thinking and a willingness to hold viewpoints which are not popular. He makes some interesting statements like global warming is real, the Iraq war is about oil, and the free market is useless without property rights and the rule of law. At the same time, he claims that carbon caps are futile and we should build nuclear power plants and electric cars so we can cut global warming.

The book is quite readable. There is not a lot of jargon or complex business terms. He addresses the reader directly in plain language. Despite this, the book has a tremendous amount of ideas and opinions in it.

On a personal level, there is some useful information. If you read carefully, you may learn a bit more on how to prepare to live in a complex world. For example, he claims that managers earn 57% more than line workers. The main determiner of this is reliance on highly complex technical education. It makes me rethink what I am going to do with my time.

There is also quite a bit on how the federal reserve monitors the economy. While he does not talk about how to pick stocks, he does talk about how the federal reserve effects the stock markets and banks with its decisions. There is enough on the process of business cycles, irrational exuberance, the internet, and the effects of globalization to make it worth reading if you are an investor.

There is an amazing amount of material covered in this book. It took me about a week to read this book. It is impossible to summarize everything that was written in this book. If you want to learn how economics effect the real world, this book is for you.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Random Thoughts on Blogging

Well here are some random thoughts on blogging.

Today I was accepted into the Bookaholics Blogring. I really enjoyed looking at the blogs in this ring. They are all literary in nature. It is a break from Entrecard which is almost all business exchange links. There are so many blogs in the ring that it will take me a while to look at all of them.

My favorite site in the ring is Stephanie's Confessions of A Bookaholic. It is a quite excellent site on books. She reviews some books on Neil Gaiman and has a number of book challenges. Book Challenges are challenges that get you to read a set of books on a particular subject. There is even a "graphic novels challenge" on her site with a list to read. The site is quite excellent.

If you like poetry, there is a rather odd phenomenon happening called spam poetry, poems derived from spam.

Tea Reads on the Bookaholic Blogring has two spamkus on it worth reading. Something new for all the spammers in all of us.

The best of the spam poetry sites I have found so far is The Spam Poetry Anthology. It has a lot of depth and surprisingly good poems in it.

I have some further thoughts on my site. I had over 100 hits on my site yesterday-- 110 hits. I know, I am being a click monkey, but so what. It is nice to know people are at least looking at my site. I'll probably have to erase my hit counter again. It only covers the first 500 sites before it asks for payment. What is it with good free hit counters.

No Barriers for Entry In Small Scale Bookselling.

Secondhand Bookseller on the Quai Voltaire in Paris, France, 1821. In a way, it hasn't changed much.

Someone told me about a network marketing company for books. It was quite interesting. It looks like tupperware for books. There are two ways this would work, you would sell the books as an affiliate, or you would buy the books at a discount and resell them to customers. What is interesting about this scheme is that you are an independent contractor, a contract employee of the company. The contract looks very complicated. There is no storefront involved. I can imagine someone having book parties much like tupperware parties where they invite groups of people over to look at their small selection of books.

I can imagine a small group of ladies getting together to look at the latest Danielle Steel, or Debbie Macomber books. Maybe, they would pick up a small glossy catalog with a few of the latest titles. I wonder if the top seller would get a minivan instead of a pink cadillac like they give for their top sales people at Avon.

Another thing which is coming up is the electronic book kiosk. Apparently is planning on setting up kiosks to print some titles on demand at a variety of libraries. All it requires is a PDF file which is fed into a book production setup. It produces a trade paperback style book at a cost of approximately a penny a page.

Of course, book vending machines are not new. Although, I don't have a picture of it, the Japanese have book vending machines in their subways in many places. Maxi Livres in France just started selling books in vending machines for approximately $2.45 in American dollars. They are supposed to have a wide variety of books available.

It doesn't take that much to sell books from a vending machine. The University of Iowa has sold both zines and handmade books directly from standard vending machines, The Aramark 111-112 snack machine will do it. This is an article on it.$356

I was looking through the google images on book vending machines. Apparently, they aren't as uncommon as I thought. I saw images of them from Scotland, Sao Paolo, Barcelona, France, and Japan. It must only be a unique phenomena here in the United States.

After digging a little more, I found an example of a company with specifications for a book vending maching in Ireland. I wonder why it has not come here to America. It would be a very nice import. I can imagine it in subways and at the airport. The company is called Novel Idea.

If you really think about it, it does not take much to sell books in the real world as well. A table at a flea market isn't that expensive, and if you sell from a table in the street, it costs very little. Vendors on Manhattan's sidewalks are the bane of the local bookstores. They just need a tax id and a vendors license which is much cheaper than rent.

The Manhattan book street vendors also have a reputation for theft. A person can ask some Manhattan street vendors for a new book in a day which if you think about it, is not possible if they are using a regular distributor like Baker and Taylor or Ingram. Please buy from your bookstore, not the street vendors. It saves the bookstore money on broken windows and keeps them in business.

After a while, if the person is good enough at selling, they move from the street to the flea markets and eventually their own store. This usually doesn't happen. Selling books on the streets in Manhattan is a great way to end up nowhere.

Although, I've heard that selling hot dogs or morning coffee and bagels in Manhattan is not a bad way to make money if you are tough enough for it.

Of course, it is even easier on the internet. There are numerous affiliate programs for selling books. You can sell using or which I am doing, or any of a number of other affiliate programs.

There are also various places where you can put together a back list of books to sell. For $25.00 a month you can set up an account on ABEbooks for up to 500 books. It is very easy to sell through their site. . Alibris another service costs about the same amount and also sells music and films.

There are effectively no barriers to entry to start a small book storefront on the internet. If you only have a few books, you can simply put them up on ebay or another auction site to sell.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Aliens by Charles Bukowski

A very cool animated piece with Charles Bukowskis poem.

Nursery Rhymes, Poetry, and Fairytales

I really enjoy reading nursery rhymes. I have memorized quite a few of them from Mother Goose. Mother Goose is the source for many of todays childrens picture books. I have fond memories of it from when I was a child. I also love Beatrix Potter, especially the Tales of Benjamin Bunny and Jemima Puddleduck.

I took some time to write some poems that are variations of nursery rhymes and odes to fairytales.

Hey fiddle, fiddle, the cat's in the middle,
The dog jumped over the moon,
The little cow laughed to see such sport,
As the dish rapped a tune with the spoon.

Jill be thimbled
Jill be quickened
Jill jumped onto the candlestick

Hat and feather
Collars and lace
Boots of velvet
What a fine cat you are

Quick Smiling
Quick Thinking
Sleight of Hand
Fleet of Foot
A master trickster

These, I wrote on the train coming to work this morning.

Earlier, I had written another poem at the Poetry In The Branches Workshop

Puss's Boots

If I had boots like these,
I'd dance across the oceans,
And climb the highest mountains,

I'd jump and hang from the moon,
Then walk across the starry sky,

The sun would be a single step,
The moon a soft shuffle,
And the farthest stars a mile.

I think nursery rhymes for todays children are too sanitized. Removing the scary or naughty parts makes them less real. It also changes the effect on children. Disney often to me is more scary with its sanitized fairytales than the original versions.

There are two major collectors of fairytales which we think of the west, Charles Perrault who was French, and The Brothers Grimm who was German. Luckily, these are no longer under copywrite and can be used for almost any purpose. I think of them as a repository and excellent source for fantasy writing.

The other place we often draw our stories from is Aesop who is attributed with Aesop's fables. The original unexpurgated version is far better than the clean children's version. Aesop himself is very interesting. He was a slave who was supposed to be very ugly.

I am not sure what else to say at this point. Oh yes, I also wrote two approximation of koans in the Poetry At The Branches workshop. Here they are:

Is the glove on the hand, or the hand in the glove?

Does the scarf blow in the wind, or the wind blow the scarf?

I am often ambivalent about poetry. I know I can write it, but I am not sure that I want to be known in any way as being a poet. There are interesting connotations that go with being a poet.

I have a few favorite poets. I have always liked Shel Silverstein's childrens poetry-- Where the Sidewalk Ends is a truly excellent book.

I also like Charles Bukowski who is a story unto himself with his raunchy, drunken, often whimsical self reflecting poetry. It is not for children.

When I was younger, I used to collect poetry books when I was in college renting a room. Then I had something traumatic happen. The old lady who was the landlady downstairs passed out on her bed with a bottle of gin and some cigarettes. The apartment burned down. With it went the poetry collection. I still read poetry books sometimes.

The net is a truly excellent medium for poetry. There are a lot of blogs with poetry in them. Because it is easy to screen blogs, you can quickly find blogs with quite a few good poems in them.

My favorite blog with poems so far is this one:


I decided to change my heading picture for Book Calendar. I found a picture from a public domain photo archive. I think it is a little better looking than the original lectern image.

Also, I updated my image, so it would include my "friends" log.

Every day, I try to improve my blog a bit. It is slow improvement that makes things better.