Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Thoughts Surfacing   1 comment

Just yesterday, I walked through one of the Borders that is in the process of shuttering its doors as part of their retraction strategy.  Everything in the store was 30%-50% off.

This isn’t a bankruptcy, but it’s close.  When you’re closing a retail outlet of any sort, you have to dispose of the inventory.  At this point, a lot of your normal decision-making is inverted, when it comes to pricing.  In normal business operations, you’ll often sell some very popular items at or below your unit cost (what’s referred to in the retail world as a loss-leader), just to get bodies in the door.  One example germane to the book business is the last Harry Potter book; you could find this brand-new bestseller for %30 off at Borders.  You walk in the door, you browse the new hardback section, you pick up Deathly Hallows, but you browse the magazine rack and the classics and maybe buy a cookbook for Aunt Mabel while you’re there.  Profit!  They don’t make any money off of Harry, but you helped move some of their other inventory.

In a liquidation scenario, though, you’re balancing two opposing factors: you have a strong incentive to sell the *entire* inventory, so that you don’t have to pack it into boxes and ship it elsewhere (in the Pasadena Borders, they’re even selling off the furniture – need a bookshelf?)  However, for the inventory items that have good turnover rates you’re actually less inclined to fire-sale, because if you *do* have to pack some stuff up after you close the doors, the boxes of books that will move anyway are less likely to be a major loss than the 80 copies of The South Beach Diet that you still have in the back, that are likely to just wind up, after shipping, in the back of whichever store they’re destined to live out the rest of their bookish lives.

This leads to a whole different set of economic incentives both for the seller, and the buyer.  The buyer who only buys new releases or bestsellers might hit the store in the first couple of days, looking for a bargain.  But the other new-releases-and-bestseller buyers are also there, so the popular book will be (maybe) 10-15% off.  As you get closer to the “shuttering the doors” deadline, you might drop the price another chunk.  But the books that are unlikely to sell are unlikely to sell everywhere, so the discount will be much higher.

This is a very long winded way of noting the following: in the Pasadena Borders store, the following genres were marked down by the following rate:

  • Science Fiction and Fantasy: 30% off
  • Mystery: 30% off
  • Romance: 40% off
  • Computer Howto/Fix It books: 40% off
  • Fiction/Novels: 40-50% off
  • Philosophy and Classic Literature: 50% off

Pleased that our economic overlords are indicating that the general public likes Mysteries and SF more than Romance Novels, but wryly amused that Homer and Shakespeare and Hobbes are really in the “nobody will buy this unless we dump it” category.

Posted March 15, 2011 by padraic2112 in books, noise

I Blame Megan IV   1 comment

Following up Megan‘s pointing me to Caffeinated Joe‘s tumblr/blogmeme… (Kitty‘s doing it now, too)

Day Four: Favourite Book

Hm. How does one actually measure “favorite” book? For music, I went with “I listen to this probably more than anything else”. For actor, I went with “Body of work is that which I find most enjoyable”. For movie, I went with “That which I have seen the most and would gladly see again”.

It’s hard to judge literature on any of those sorts of guides. I’m a re-reader (I’ve read virtually every fiction book I own at least twice, some a dozen times or more), but re-reading isn’t the same as reading every day. This isn’t “favourite author”, either, so I can’t go off of a body of work.

People often talk about their favorite book using something along the lines of “It changed their lives”. In my case, however, it’s uncommon for any single piece of literature to change my life in any very “monumental” way, and those that have are often wildly different and in some cases contradictory effects. I liked “The Republic” as much as “The Wealth of Nations”, “Beyond Good and Evil”, “The Sickness Unto Death”, and “Summa Theologica”, just to name a few. It’s difficult to find people who like Nietzsche or Kierkegaard or Plato or Aquinas without having a very strong negative opinion about one of the others.

AH! I have it. Thank you, gray matter, for making a jump. There is one overall class of literature that deserves significant note in my brainpan; the heroic epic. In the framework of appealing to the baser notions of entertainment that attract everybody, the writer of the heroic epic often manages to have his or her protagonist engage in the same philosophical struggles discussed more formally by those mentioned in the previous paragraph. Plus they throw in …fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles! Rargh!

In that case, I shall cheat outrageously and use The Iliad and The Odyssey (not really cheating, the category is “book”, not “literary work”, and you typically buy them together!)

The Odyssey is the actual heroic epic of the two, but you can’t pass up on adding in the Iliad if you can add it for free…

Posted June 5, 2010 by padraic2112 in books, memes

Theme Thursday: Mystery   6 comments

I love mysteries.  I love hard-boiled detective fiction, whodunits, and campy mysteriocomedies.  Gimme all if it, Miss Marple, Peter Death Bredon Whimsey, Sam Spade, Elvis Cole, Bernie Rhodenbarr, Hieronymous Bosch, Travis McGee, Irwin Maurice Fletcher, Francis Xavier Flynn, Philip Marlowe, I could go on and on and on… in novel form or short story, on the little screen or deep in the bowels of a dark cinema.  The kids are into the original Scooby Doo episodes right now, and as campy and silly as they are, it’s been a good lead-in to explaining to Jack what that big chunk of brown- and blue-bound books are and why he wants to read them…

I read those Hardy Boys books, from The Tower Treasure to The Sting of the Scorpion (all 58 stories) before I started third grade, most of the first 38 in the original runs prior to the re-writes.  I still have most of them, having survived the cycle of being loaned out to, and returned from, avid younger readers.  I’m looking forward to reading Jack those crazy cliff-hanger end-of-chapter pages!

As cheesy as the television series was at times, it still had that late-70s trend towards awesome intros.  Orson, you da man.

Something to Read   Leave a comment

Tip o’ the blogger hat to Ben Laurie.

This book (Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air) takes a straightforward and fact-based approach to the question (of sustainable energy), summing up all the sinks of energy and possible sustainable sources, and seeing what works. The sad fact is, it seems, that not much does.


The book is also available for free in PDF form from the author’s website. But don’t forget that if you buy the book, you are sequestering carbon!

Posted May 3, 2010 by padraic2112 in books, reference

Science Fiction Literature: Rebooted?   2 comments

John Scalzi is rebooting H. Beam Piper’s classic, Little Fuzzy.

You better get this one right, John.  Like, Peter Jackson does “The Fellowship of the Ring” right, not Peter Jackson does “King Kong” right.

Posted April 7, 2010 by padraic2112 in books, science fiction, web sites

Thursday Themes (N+1)   2 comments

Yesterday’s theme was books.  Ann and Meg both blogged accordingly.

Both of my sisters are currently living in housing arrangements that don’t give them quite enough space to adequately reflect what their book collections should be, given how often they read.  Those people that follow Meg and Ann on the blogosphere may be interested to know what the literary environment would look like, if they were given a bit more elbow room.

We’re not too far apart, so you can get an idea by looking at shots from my house (keep in mind, my house is way, way too small for me and mine, so what you’re seeing here is actually *condensed*).  Click for title-readable views…

just north of the entry door

bookshelf number 1: just north of the entry door - books for the yonkers

just north of bookshelf 1

bookshelf number 2: just north of bookshelf 1

That’s the Great Books series there.  Moving on into the office:

east wall of the office

bookshelf number 3: east wall of the office

All fantasy/scifi – I brought this into the marriage.  Next office wall is overflow (plus some DVDs):

south wall of the office

bookshelf number 4: south wall of the office

Now we move on into the bedroom, this is just to the left of the door…

mostly classics

bookshelf number 5: mostly classics

And we can’t forget Kitty’s nightstand…

not a bookshelf, but has books

not a bookshelf, but has books

And then there’s the wall o’ books on the east wall of the bedroom…

bookshelves 5, 6, and sort of 7... about 64% Kitty's stuff

bookshelves 5, 6, and sort of 7... about 64% Kitty

The “corner’ piece there is overpacked.  You have do dig through two layers of books to get to the back on at least one shelf…

yes, this is tragic and wrong

yes, this is tragic and wrong

And then you zip down the hall to the kid’s room and see “books for the kids that they’re not quite old enough to have yet” here…

bookshelf 8, Harry Potter on the bottom shelf

bookshelf 8, Harry Potter on the bottom shelf

And then there’s two other bookshelves crammed into a corner…

bottom shelf is admittedly just magazines

bottom shelf is admittedly just magazines

yep, one more!

yep, one more!

As you can see, Kitty and I *really* need a house with more wall space.  It’s not just me, it’s HER too!! Heck, if I changed jobs we’d have another two bookshelves (at least) worth of my technical library (from one office) and assorted books (from the other)…

Of course, even combined, we’re not as bad as someone else we know… yes, that catalog includes over 11,000 books..

One More Word Out Of You, Big Booty!   3 comments

A tangent from the Great Books post, here’s the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Banned/Challenged books from 2000-2007.  Copy the list, strike through the ones that you’ve read.

How subversive are you?

Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books in 2000-2007

  1. Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling
  2. Alice series, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  3. The Chocolate War, Robert Cormier
  4. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
  5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  6. Scary Stories, Alvin Schwartz
  7. Fallen Angels, Walter Dean Myers
  8. It’s Perfectly Normal, Robie Harris
  9. And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
  10. Captain Underpants, Dav Pilkey
  11. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  12. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
  13. Forever, Judy Blume
  14. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
  15. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
  16. Killing Mr. Griffin, Lois Duncan
  17. Go Ask Alice, Anonymous
  18. King and King, Linda de Haan
  19. Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
  20. Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
  21. The Giver, Lois Lowry
  22. We All Fall Down, Robert Cormier
  23. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee`
  24. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  25. The Face on the Milk Carton, Caroline Cooney
  26. Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson
  27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, James Lincoln Collier
  28. In the Night Kitchen, Maurice Sendak
  29. His Dark Materials series, Philip Pullman
  30. Gossip Girl series, Cecily von Ziegesar
  31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, Sonya Sones
  32. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, Louise Rennison
  33. It’s So Amazing, Robie Harris
  34. Arming America, Michael Bellasiles
  35. Kaffir Boy, Mark Mathabane
  36. Blubber, Judy Blume
  37. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  38. Athletic Shorts, Chris Crutcher
  39. Bless Me, Ultima, Rudolfo Anaya
  40. Life is Funny, E.R. Frank
  41. Daughters of Eve, Lois Duncan
  42. Crazy Lady, Jane Leslie Conly
  43. The Great Gilly Hopkins, Katherine Paterson
  44. You Hear Me, Betsy Franco
  45. Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
  46. Whale Talk, Chris Crutcher
  47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, Dav Pilkey
  48. The Facts Speak for Themselves, Brock Cole
  49. The Terrorist, Caroline Cooney
  50. Mick Harte Was Here, Barbara Park
  51. Summer of My German Soldier, Bette Green
  52. The Upstairs Room, Johanna Reiss
  53. When Dad Killed Mom, Julius Lester
  54. Blood and Chocolate, Annette Curtis Klause
  55. The Fighting Ground, Avi
  56. The Things They Carried, Tim O’ Brien
  57. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred Taylor
  58. Fat Kid Rules the World, K.L. Going
  59. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, Carolyn Mackler
  60. A Time To Kill, John Grisham
  61. Rainbow Boys, Alex Sanchez
  62. Olive’s Ocean, Kevin Henkes
  63. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
  64. A Day No Pigs Would Die, Robert Newton Peck
  65. Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson
  66. Always Running, Luis Rodriguez
  67. Black Boy, Richard Wright
  68. Julie of the Wolves, Jean Craighead George
  69. Deal With It!, Esther Drill
  70. Detour for Emmy, Marilyn Reynolds
  71. Draw Me A Star, Eric Carle
  72. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  73. Harris and Me, Gary Paulsen
  74. Junie B. Jones series, Barbara Park
  75. So Far From the Bamboo Grove, Yoko Watkins
  76. Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
  77. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, Chris Crutcher
  78. What’s Happening to My Body Book, Lynda Madaras
  79. The Boy Who Lost His Face, Louis Sachar
  80. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
  81. Anastasia Again!, Lois Lowry
  82. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Judy Blume
  83. Bumps In the Night, Harry Allard
  84. Goosebumps series, R.L. Stine
  85. Shade’s Children, Garth Nix
  86. Cut, Patricia McCormick
  87. Grendel, John Gardner
  88. The House of Spirits, Isabel Allende
  89. I Saw Esau, Iona Opte
  90. Ironman, Chris Crutcher
  91. The Stupids series, Harry Allard
  92. Taming the Star Runner, S.E. Hinton
  93. Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, Judy Blume
  94. Tiger Eyes, Judy Blume
  95. Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
  96. Nathan’s Run, John Gilstrap
  97. Pinkerton, Behave!, Steven Kellog
  98. Freaky Friday, Mary Rodgers
  99. Halloween ABC, Eve Merriam
  100. Heather Has Two Mommies, Leslea Newman

Out of 3,869 challenges reported to or recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom, as compiled by the Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom does not claim comprehensiveness in recording challenges. Research suggests that for each challenge reported there are as many as four or five which go unreported.

Posted October 11, 2008 by padraic2112 in books, memes, Uncategorized

Great Books Meme   4 comments

Once upon a time, I thought this collection of books was the neatest one in my parent’s library. It was just so impressive, visually, dominating a shelf or three (depending upon which house we lived in at what the configuration of the library was at the time), brown tomes lined up in an impressive array of Things Which Ought To Be Read.  When I worked for Loyola High School they replaced the copy they had in the library as too worn, and I picked up the discards.  I’ve lugged them around for over a decade now.  I’m missing Aristotle II (probably one of the Jesuits in the community checked it out informally and forgot to return it), but I’ve got the rest.  Some of the criticisms of the collection are of justifiable validity, but on the whole it’s not a bad idea to read the original set, and the Second Edition contains some additional “must reads”.

So, here’s the list of works that are included in both editions.  Copy, paste, and strike-through those you’ve read.  I probably should get back to work on these, I still have a long way to go.  I know if my mother reads this she’ll respond with horror, “You haven’t read Emma?  You haven’t read War and Peace?”  No, I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

[edited to add] Out of curiosity, I wanted to know how many of these were banned somewhere.  Turns out a few were on the Index of Forbidden Books,  and others have been banned here or there at one time or another, which I noted next to the books in question.  The Index has been dead for a while, and to the best of my knowledge none of these books are still banned in the areas listed, but book burnings and censorship are still out there.

Posted October 7, 2008 by padraic2112 in books, memes

Blogmeme: Page 56 of the Book Nearest You   Leave a comment

Got this from Erich, via Corey.

The rules:

  • Grab the nearest book.
  • Open the book to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the text of the next two to five sentences in your journal along with these instructions.
  • Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

I read Corey’s post late last night at the dinner table right before I shut down my computer.  In the interest of maintaining blogmeme integrity, I grabbed the nearest book and brought it to work with me today to complete this post (else you’d be getting page 56 of “Hacking: The Art of Exploitation, by Jon Erickson”).  It was a close call; the Virgina Lee Burton collection was closer if I turned clockwise, and the book I grabbed was closer if I turned counterclockwise (actually, there were a few other candidates in the kid’s bookshelf, but the Burton book was the only one with 56+ pages that was close enough to qualify).

I admit, I turned and looked over my left shoulder first on purpose.

From Volume 35: Great Books of the Western World (Locke, Berkeley, Hume), page 56 happens to be a portion of Locke’s “Concerning Civil Government“, Chapter XI: Of the Extent of the Legislative Power.

It is a power that hath no other end but preservation, and therefore can never have a right to destroy, enslave, or designedly to impoverish the subjects; the obligations of the law of Nature cease not in society, but only in many cases are drawn closer, and have, by human laws, known penalties annexed to them to enforce their observation.  Thus the law of Nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others.  The rules that they make for other men’s actions must, as well as their own and other men’s actions, be conformable to the law of Nature – i.e., to the will of God, of which that is a declaration, and the fundamental law of Nature being the preservation of mankind, no human sanction can be good or valid against it.

A pretty good Judeo-Christian argument against the validity of the death penalty, right there.  Full of dicey propositions at best from a logical consistency standpoint, but Locke does have a rather stirring voice that’s fun to read.  The guy did write run-on sentences, though… a common problem in the “Great Books” collection.  I guess great thinkers have a tendency to be verbose, don’t they?

Posted October 7, 2008 by padraic2112 in books, memes

On the Nightstand – A PILE   1 comment

Currently, I am reading (or have just completed) David Weinberger’sEverything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the new Digital Disorder“, E.B. Sledge’sWith The Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa“, Joel Spolsky’sSmart & Gets Things Done“, and Michael Pollan’sThe Omnivore’s Dilemma“.

Here’s the nickel reviews.

Sledge – Five Stars (done).

  • Who should read this: anybody interested in WWII, military history, or who has a relative or friend serving in a war zone.
  • What it’s about: the amphibious landings performed by the US Marines during WWII on the islands of Peleliu and Okinawa.  More specifically, what it was like to be a grunt during those two military actions, fighting an enemy with major philosophical differences when it comes to war.
  • Why it’s a good read: it reminds you that it is normal for “the good guys” to be dehumanized when participating in war.  Sledge describes man’s inhumanity to man in stark terms, without the intention to pass judgment on the actions of the troops, but rather to simply describe what it’s like to have people trying to kill you with guns and bombs while you try to kill them with guns and bombs.  You have to wonder what sorts of stories the troops currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan will write five or ten years from now.
  • Why I read it: there are lots of excerpts from the book in Ken Burn’s “The War”, which Kitty and I finished watching on the DVR recently.

Weinberger: Three.Five Stars (done).

  • Who should read this: people who believe “all of us are smarter than one of us”, people who believe that last statement is a bunch of bunk, and anyone who hasn’t studied set theory and is over 25, because they may not have any idea how the young whippersnappers are going to experience learning different from the way they themselves did.
  • What it’s about: how organizing information and meta information is inherently different in a digital world than the physical world (ie, print media).
  • Why it’s a good read: it’s a pretty decent introductory book on the topic.  I confess I was slightly dissapointed, though… Weinberger has a chance to tackle some big issues here, but glosses over the hard stuff.  The description of the Dewey Decimal system is well done.  His writeup of the implications of the historical publishing models, particularly as they tie to academic publishing is well done… but all he does is throw in the viewpoints, he takes no stand on the issues.  Coming from someone who’s writing a book about a topic that has pretty revolutionary implications on knowledge management and learning, that’s a disservice to the readership.  Plus, he throws the words “information” and “knowledge” around as being equivalent, but the two are not the same.
  • Why I read it: knowledge management is an interesting problem, particularly when it comes to community taxonomies.  I was hoping for a little more meat in here.

Spolsky: Three.Five Stars (done).

  • Who should read this: anyone who hires IT people, particularly programmers.  Anyone who is an executive at a high-tech company.
  • What it’s about: how to find and hire good IT people, particularly programmers.
  • Why it’s a good read: if you’re a technology-centric company, it’s great at explaining how to find and hire people that will actually make a huge difference for your company.  If you’re not Google or Microsoft, and you want to be able to find programmers or IT people who are that caliber of worker (or near it), it’s a pretty good collection of advice.  If, on the other hand, you’re looking for commodity IT work, you’re probably going to get some wrong ideas if you just read this book and think of it as gospel.  Joel does a great job of talking about the top 3% of the pack and how to attract them, but it probably would have been a good idea to include at least a few paragraphs on what the demographics of the pack actually are.  Your org may not need the top 3%.
  • Why I read it: I like Joel’s stuff.

Pollan – Five Stars, with Cluster (still reading)

  • Who should read this: everybody who eats food in the U.S, or pays taxes.
  • What it’s about: a pretty interesting investigation into the agricultural industry in the U.S.  Did you know that about almost of the chemical fertilizer produced in the U.S. goes directly to the corn crop?  The chapters on industrial agriculture, nitrogen fixing, and the implications of the weird market forces created by the USDA’s farm subsidy programs are downright scary.  It doesn’t make much sense to switch cars to ethanol if it takes more petroleum energy to (a) create the fertilizer (b) grow the corn (c) make the ethanol… than it does to just run the car in the first place, now does it?
  • Why it’s a good read: I’m not done, and I haven’t thoroughly hashed through the references in the book, so I can’t say how accurate all of the information is in it yet (if you take the book on face value, you’re liable to get very, very irritated at your local congressperson).  His credentials aren’t science-heavy, but his writing indicates that he knows the basics of agribusiness, economics, and biology… and more importantly he knows how to write a compelling illustratative argument.
  • Why I read it: Kitty read it for her book group, and recommended it.

Posted July 29, 2008 by padraic2112 in books