"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Books to Live Without?

"Is a gentleman’s library of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves anything more than a vanity?" -- Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate of the U.S.

Well, um. This article at the NY Times blogs has a few philosophies of weeding through books, and one holdout who refuses to get rid of any (Joshua Ferris, whose latest, The Unnamed, is on my to-read shelf), but vanity? Books I've read work as mnemonics for me. Not sure I'd remember them as well if I didn't keep them. The co-owner of The Strand in New York says honestly that it's a matter of how much space you have, and if you haven't got it, to send your books to him.

So do I need to get rid of some books or can I just get a bigger house? I have culled through books in the past before moves. It's never pleasant. I seldom miss what I toss, tho I have replaced a few discards.

And I do have a fantasy of a permanent residence with lots of storage space.

Are the English Human, Lesbian Horse Stories

and my personal favorite, Ductigami. At Abebooks, Literary Oddities.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Collective Conscious, or, Mind-Blowing Massive Math

In January, Timothy Gowers, a professor of mathematics at Cambridge and a holder of the Fields Medal, math's highest honor, decided to see if the comment section of his blog could prove a theorem he could not.

In two blog posts he proposed an attack on a stubborn math problem called the Density Hales-Jewett Theorem. He encouraged the thousands of readers of his blog to jump in and start proving. Mathematics is a process of generating vast quantities of ideas and rejecting the majority that don't work; maybe, Gowers reasoned, the participation of so many people would speed the sifting.

Six weeks later, the theorem was proved.

By now we're used to the idea that gigantic aggregates of human brains — especially when allowed to communicate nearly instantaneously via the Internet — can carry out fantastically difficult cognitive tasks, like writing an encyclopedia or mapping a social network. But some problems we still jealously guard as the province of individual beautiful minds: writing a novel, choosing a spouse, creating a new mathematical theorem. The Polymath experiment suggests this prejudice may need to be rethought. In the near future, we might talk not only about the wisdom of crowds but also of their genius.

From the NY Times Year in Ideas.

But bear in mind that this crowd consisted of at least one other Fields medalist in addition to Gowers. I'm not sure I ever had the prejudice that mathematical theorems were as privately arrived at as spousal choices, but this sounds amazing, anyway, the connection of (eventually) all our minds.

Department of Dinosaurishness

Did crotchety old penmanship aficionados claim that the typewriter destroyed writing? So why do crotchety old typewriter users think that ebooks and the computer will?

For that matter, we should all be chiseling words into stone. Then, we'd be sure only to say what we mean. None of this papery, verbose stuff.

At the Guardian.

Pissy Moods Are Good for Your Writing

Research shows that irritable moods spur creativity. But, don't get too depressed.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kindle for PC

Does everyone know you can get a free download from Amazon to read Kindle books on your PC. You don't have to have a Kindle.

I just found out...tempting, and interesting that publishers make the same money from e-books as from hardcovers. I still like paperbacks, tho.

*Sits on hands, does not press download key...yet*

Also interesting is this multimedia reader, Blio.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

E-books = the future?

Thanks to Nathan Bransford (see sidebar) for this link to predictions about the future of e-books.

I agree that the prices for e-readers will most likely come way down, but $99 (his breakthrough price point) is still a bit high for me with e-books costing almost as much as paperbacks. Maybe if e-tailers run a program of, buy 10 e-books, get a free reader? Kind of like convenience stores around here do with gallons of milk. Otherwise, I'll be bidding on ebay, hoping to win an e-reader for, oh, $19.99.

Cormac McCarthy's typewriter goes for $254k

And it doesn't even work that well any more, five million words later.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Recycle those old phone booths

I think this is a great idea, altho in my town, we have a lot of options: the library, the library used book sales, where people often buy and then re-donate books, and the laundromat across the street from the library, which is also an informal book and periodicals exchange locale.

Still, I like the idea of book kiosks scattered about. Forget what you were driving to the mall for? Pull over and read a quick story or chapter, then on your way.