Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kindle Mania

I've had a little time to fiddle around with my new Kindle now, and I'm just amazed. I can tell I'm just barely scratching the surface, but what I've run across so far is mind boggling.

First of all, I've been running across source after source of downloadable ebooks for free. More books than you can shake a stick at. I don't see why I should ever again pay a penny for a book that's in the public domain, unless my heart is set on owning a hard copy. Really, just about anything you've ever heard of, and much that is obscure and unheard of, is out there. Just in these past few days, I've downloaded for free all of the Fairy Books of Andrew Lang... a number of books by Jack London, including Tales of the Fish Patrol (new to me) and The Star Rover (35 years ago my dad got me interested in this book, and I read a copy I found in the archive-stacks of a university library; never dreamed of finding it again since). Wow, and this is just after a few days of cursory search...

Second, I'm just beginning to glimpse the technical side of all this. Found free software called Calibre, with which I've been editing the metadata on some of my ebooks, little items like author or title which someone along the way couldn't be bothered to get right.

Third, there's a lot of dross out there, and some of it (even if it's for free, so that no one stands to profit) misrepresents itself, as if people think they can score bonus points if only they can trick you into downloading their faulty edition. Lewis Carroll's two Alice books, with the illustrations by John Tenniel-- prime example of a work where both text and illustrations have long been in the public domain, but do you know how many ebook editions I downloaded before I found one that actually contained both text and original illustrations? Text-only editions that falsely claimed to include pictures; "Complete" editions that contained only a few of the pictures; "illustrated" editions that used someone else's drawings in place of Tenniel's. At long last I found what I was looking for, but only after several false starts.

Finally, yes, I have bought a newly published book from Amazon's Kindle store. The kind of book I'll probably read once, may want to refer back to it again some day, but why take up bookshelf space with a hard copy? So I got it, downloaded in seconds, for $15 instead of $25.

At first I was a bit dubious about this device. But after a few days, well, color my mind suitably boggled.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rod Dreher: The Mystery Continues

It was four weeks ago yesterday that Rod Dreher's blog at the Templeton Foundation's new Big Questions Online site was suspended, suddenly and with only the most cryptic of explanations. Suspended, and many of Rod's posts on the blog suddenly missing. Anything that was even moderately controversial, suddenly missing.

Four weeks, and it's still murky as pea soup just what has happened to Rod. I think few of Rod's readers ever imagined his sudden blogging "hiatus" would continue this long. Has Rod been called in on the carpet by his superiors at Templeton? Has he been fired? Or just given a stern time-out to cool off?

At this point, it's a complete mystery, and one that grows more ominous as the silence grows ever more protracted. I've unearthed one blog post, from about a week ago, that quotes an email from Rod in tangential connection with his "sabbatical from blogging," with a subsequent, seemingly wistful comment from Rod himself:
I love blogging, and built up a pretty large blog following over the years by constantly scanning for interesting information, and putting it on my daily bulletin board to facilitate discussion. I love this stuff! I've not had a blog hiatus in four years, until now...
Apart from that, about all you'll find online are the accumulating speculation and expressions of concern from Rod's readers here and here at Alexandria.

Yeah, I intend to keep on bringing this up until we learn what's going on.


So, my Kindle arrived yesterday. My brother has long had a Kindle, and swears by it. I've been a bit more dubious, and will need to wait a few days before I really dive in (I have to work this weekend, ahem), but already I've downloaded a few old classics. Most of them for under a buck, seeing how old they are, though I did sink $10 in an e-edition (or whatever they call it) of Boswell's Life of Johnson.

Thus the e-revolution claims another victim. Oh, I know... give me a while, and I'll be just as much at home with this strange new gadget as I long have been with my computer. It's just that it seems so... so futuristic, like, I dunno, the Jetsons, or a flying car.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Holy Amway

When you go to a Tuesday evening event at church, and there's a "program" at this church event, do you expect that for the "program" a member of the congregation is going to invite her mother to come and give the congregation an Amway presentation?

Neither did I. But I guess there's a first time for everything.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ring of Mushrooms

There used to be a large tree out in my back yard. Then a few years ago I had to have it cut down. Now, looking out the window, I see mushrooms have sprung up where that tree once stood. A large ring of mushrooms, and other mushrooms spread about here and there. All around where that tree once stood.

A faery ring where that tree once stood.

Friday, September 10, 2010

More Crotchety

If this blog had any regular readers (which I'm pretty sure it doesn't) they would surely have noticed that my blogging has been getting more and more crotchety, with more and more of an acid edge to it, over the past month or more.

I've noticed it myself. And I'm not sure where it's coming from inside of me. I'm not feeling any more crotchety than usual. I'm not going through any more stress lately than I'm accustomed to. I'm sure people who deal with me in everyday life have been finding me to be the same laid back, mellow, easy going guy they're used to.

But there's no denying it. My blogging lately has been taking on an unwonted edge. Wish I could figure out where that's coming from, and why.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Once a Date

Yesterday I was in town again (what is this with driving in to town all the time?!) and while I was there I stopped off at the post office to buy some stamps. It wasn't until I was almost through with the transaction that I noticed... the woman behind the counter... I once went out on a date with that woman, something like ten years ago.

There was no doubt about it. She was wearing a name tag. It was her, all right.

I don't think she recognized me. Gave no sign of it, at any rate.

But it was her. I remember, we were set up by a mutual friend. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It was a pleasant enough evening, and she had a winning personality, though (color me a shallow male) physically she was definitely not my type. I silently decided not to ask her out again.

Then came the emails. For the next several months she kept emailing me, drumming up excuses for conversation, obviously trying to finagle me into asking her out again. I would dutifully reply, though not in such a way (I thought) as to get her hopes up. Until she raised the ante, and solicited a more active show of my support over her father's sudden health woes. At that point I stopped answering her emails, and that was the end of it, as far as I was concerned.

At the time of our one and only date, she was working as a librarian. Then a few years later I somehow became aware that she was now working at the post office. Until I sighted her yesterday, name tag and all, I wouldn't have realized she was still there at the post office, after all these years.

Yeah, after all these years. She and I are about the same age, and I must say, these past ten years have not been kind to her. She looks all of her age and then some. Whereas I, thanks to genes from my father's side of the family, look basically the same today as I did ten years ago. Oh, more grey in my beard, but otherwise I could easily pass for mid 30s, which is a good twenty years younger than I actually am.

It can be strange, and a little disquieting, to run into a woman I once went out on a date with.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hog but Don't Read

I was in town today on business, and stopped to eat at a fast food joint. (No, not the fast food joint that also sells firewood.) At this place they provide a copy of the daily paper from the big city, and I sometimes borrow the paper to read while I'm eating, if someone else hasn't borrowed it already.

But today, just like last time, I saw someone had already gotten to the paper before I did. Same person both times, a grey haired lady who's probably not far into retirement. Today she was there with her husband, last time she was there with some friends. And both times she had that newspaper lying folded beside her on the table. Both times she made not even the slightest pretense of reading the paper.

Yes, today, just like last time, she had picked up the fast food joint's copy of the newspaper and taken it to the table with her, where she left it lying unread while she talked, laughed, joked, engaged in incessant conversation, and did anything but read the paper.

So why then was she hogging the paper, if she had no intention of reading it?

I can think of various explanations which would reflect poorly on her. But let's be charitable: perhaps she was hogging but not reading that paper in order to ensure that nobody had an advantage over anyone else. After all, if she'd borrowed the paper and actually read it, she would've had an advantage over the rest of us; and if she'd left the paper for someone else to borrow and read, then that person would've had an advantage over her. However by borrowing the paper but not reading it, she was ensuring that everyone else had just as little access to the paper as she herself.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

I'm being pretty lazy on this Labor Day holiday. Got off to a late start today, lounged around the house all morning, and then this afternoon I actually drove all the way in to town just to pick up a bag of sourdough pretzels.

I know, Labor Day has a meaning; or had, once upon a time. At this point, however, Labor Day mostly connotes laziness and holiday and lie around the house all sprawled out.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Where in the World Is Rod Dreher?

It was two weeks ago yesterday that Rod Dreher's blog over at Big Questions Online was suddenly suspended. And still no word as to what's up, or why. What in the world is going on between Rod and his employers at the Templeton Foundation? Conversation and speculation continue in this thread at Alexandria.

As I was remarking recently, I enjoy Rod's blogging immensely. I've been reading him for years, I even comment once in a great while. I don't always understand his fixation on certain topics, even where I'm largely in agreement with him; but I'd much rather read the full Rod Dreher than no Rod at all. In fact I'd much rather read the full Rod Dreher than Rod on a leash. The longer the silence drags on, the more ominous it looks.

Friday, September 3, 2010

An Old Professor

Yesterday the alumni magazine from my alma mater came in the mail. Reading it through, I discovered that an old professor of mine died a few months ago. He was pushing 90, and in ill health; still, it comes as a shock. When I had him for several classes in graduate school, he was only a few years older than I am now. I remember that to me, then in my early 20s, he seemed positively ancient.

He was a great guy. A good teacher too. And well known in his field, not only for his research but also for a couple of textbooks he wrote which are still widely used. I'm sure I've got one of them on the shelf somewhere around the house here.

Requiescat in pace.