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Friday, at last August 5, 2011

Posted by Peeps in random stuff, What we're reading.
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After spending far too long trying to come up with something to blog about, I took a break.  I went outside to have a smoke and read a bit.

I just started rereading “The Great Train Robbery” by Michael Crichton the day before.  I never seem to get to the library because it’s out of the way.  So, mostly I subsist on what’s in the house.  And I hadn’t picked this particular book up in a few years.

Apparently, Mr. Crichton is a very accurate researcher.  At least that’s what just about every reviewer has ever said about the man.  He paints a vivid picture of what life is like in Victorian England, the book’s setting.  Around the mid 1850s.

Life was a lot different back then.  A lot.  There is one brief section that I would like to share with you.  And it may make you feel better about your life.

He recounts what ordinary working people have to go through just to make a living.  His example is the rules for the staff at a bank.  Have you ever heard the phrase “banker’s hours”?  That was not a phrase used back then.  So, for your enjoyment, the Rules for Office Staff:

  1. Godliness, cleanliness and punctuality are the necessities of a good business.
  2. The firm has reduced the working day to the hours  from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  3. Daily prayers will be held each morning in the main office. The clerical staff will be present.
  4. Clothing will be of a sober nature.  The clerical staff will not disport themselves in raiment of bright color.
  5. A stove is provided for the benefit of the clerical staff.  It is recommended that each member of the clerical staff bring 4 lbs. of coal each day during cold weather.
  6. No member of the clerical staff may leave the room without permission from Mr. Roberts.  The calls of nature are permitted and clerical staff may use the garden beyond the second gate.  This area must be kept clean in good order.
  7. No talking is allowed during business hours.
  8. The craving of tobacco, wines or spirits is a human weakness, and as such is forbidden to the clerical staff.
  9. members of the clerical staff will provide their own pens.
  10. The managers of the firm will expect a great rise in the output of work to compensate for these near Utopian conditions.

So, how much does your job suck now?  Enjoy your weekend.

Right ho! February 25, 2011

Posted by Peeps in Home, random stuff, What we're reading.
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It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to the library.  So, I’ve been having to live on what’s in the house for reading material.  That’s not usually a problem.  As a general rule, when I buy books, it’s because I plan to read them over and over again.

Lately, I’ve been going through my very small collection of stories by P.G. Wodehouse.  Never heard of him?  That’s a shame.  He was one of the funniest authors to ever set pen to paper.

My mother gave me a Wodehouse to read for the first time I think somewhere around the age of nine.  I then spent that summer reading every book of his I could get my hands on.  The library at home had a large selection of Wodehouse available, as did the library where my grandmother lived.

It’s not surprising, really.  He wrote well over one hundred books before he died.  Finding a good author is sometimes difficult.  Finding a prolific, good author is like winning the lottery.

He’s most famous for his character Jeeves, manservant to Bertie Wooster.  Jeeves is a marvel, and is forever getting his young, not terribly bright master out of all sorts of trouble.  Several adaptations of Wodehouse’s work have been done over the years, mostly by the BBC.  From the several that I’ve seen, I would judge “Jeeves and Wooster” from the early 90s to be far away the best.  Here, have a short example:

If you like British humor, I strongly urge that you pop round to your local bookseller and ask him to start uncrating the Wodehouse. You’ll be very glad you did.

Thing #57: Libraries are Cool September 23, 2010

Posted by Toy Lady in 101 Things, What we're reading.
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First, a confession.

When I originally made my 101 List, I looked all over the Internet to see what other people were doing – I mean, 101 is a LOT of Things, you know?  I needed some ideas.

And there was one thing that popped up several times – lots and lots of people had resolved to “read the whole Twilight series.”  Reading a book – or an entire series of books – is certainly a worthy goal, but since I knew nothing about those books, but, well, I had my doubts even then, I thought I’d leave it a little more open-ended.  After all, this little project of mine is as much about stepping outside my comfort zone (or at least sticking a toe out there!) as actually accomplishing things.

And it turns it that it’s just as well that I left myself some wiggle-room.  The more I’ve heard about this Twilight stuff, the happier I am that I’m older than 15 and, well, so over the sparkly vampire thing.  (Which is NOT AT ALL to say I was ever INTO the sparkly vampire thing, but, well, Dark Shadows.)

So anyway.  Here I am.

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OK, obviously, if I’m going to read an author I’ve never read, I’m going to borrow something from the library.  After all, the last thing I need is Yet More Stuff cluttering up the place!

Then, last summer, TNT started a new show-based-on-a-book-series called Rizzoli and Isles, with one of the ADAs from Law & Order in it, so we gave it a try.

And we liked it, and I noticed it was “based on” a series by Tess Gerritson.

A novelist I’d never heard of.

Huh.

Before I got too excited about that, though, Peeps reminded me of the Bones incident – Bones was also based on a series of novels by Kathy Reichs, and we both loved the TV series.  So I ran out to the library and checked out as many of the books in that series as I could, to come home and read.

I hated them.  (Okay, maybe “hate” is a strong word.  I disliked them.  A lot.  Still love the TV series, though.)

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So, OK, I’ll avoid the “series” books by this author for now and check out  a random book by Tess Gerritson.

Problem solved, right?

You probably can’t tell this easily, but I find that I’m getting older by the day.

Another confession coming up: for the first time EVER, I actually had to take my glasses off to be able to read the book I was trying to read.

They’re obviously making the print blurrier than they used to.

Aside:  I had an eye exam last week, and ANY DAY NOW, I need to go pick up my new bifocals.

(sigh)

So where was I again?

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Oh yeah.  Wanting to read a book, but unable to see it.

Here’s where the coolness factor comes in.

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading Heather’s Home-Ec 101 blog, and she talked about “borrowing” digital books from the library.

REALLY?

So, what you’re saying here is that I can log into my library’s website, borrow a digital book, load it onto my i-Pod, and “read” a book while I’m walking the dog?

Sign me up!

It was a simple matter of loading some software on my computer, then just choosing what I wanted!  The software interfaces with i-Tunes, which automatically loads it onto my i-Pod.  After the designated time (1, 2, or 3 weeks – I get to choose), it’ll just automatically delete return itself to the library.  Dog-walking just got a whole lot more fun!

And the book?

Well, I enjoyed it.  It was well-written, kind of a mystery, with a bit of the old romantic novel thing thrown in!  I’d certainly read more novels by this author, although I must say, my “wish list” will keep me quite busy for quite a while – and they seem to be adding more books all the time!

It’s been a rough year February 26, 2010

Posted by Peeps in news, random stuff, What we're reading.
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For authors.  And it’s only February.

My friend Maz actually requested that I blog about the recent rash of deaths among famous authors.  And as it turns out, I’m happy to oblige him.

Robert B. Parker died in January.  The creator of the Spenser books, among others.  The idea of never being able to read another new Spenser novel was very upsetting.  He never wrote anything that could be considered “significant”, but that’s okay.  I avoid significant books at all costs.  I read to be entertained, and Mr. Parker did that admirably.  His characters always felt very real to me, and the way he wrote dialog was very lifelike.

Did I like all of his books?  Nope.  He wrote several Westerns, which I can easily live without.  But he apparently brought back hard boiled detective fiction from obscurity all by himself.  At least, according to the experts.  To me, an afternoon with Spenser and Susan and Hawk was an afternoon well spent.

J.D. Salinger also died in January.  He was a lot closer to being significant than I usually care to deal with, but he was a special case.

I had to read “Catcher in the Rye” in high school.  Which is the perfect time to read it.  One of my teachers mentioned that there’s a little bit of Holden Caulfield in all of us.  He was correct.  It was a very important book when I was a teenager, and I’ve been known to reread it every few years every since.

But I think the reason I’ll miss Salinger is the fact that he wrote a book that people have been trying to ban since shortly after it was first published in 1951.  You have to love a guy who can inspire that kind of grudge.  People object to the language used and the mentioning of sex and prostitution.  Very much the same way people object to J.K. Rowling writing about witchcraft.  Only worse.

But that’s okay.  “Catcher” keeps selling well.  So the chances of it becoming an unbook are slim.  And Holden lives on in all of us.

Dick Francis died this month.  This was a blow.  My mother talked me into reading his books and I was hooked.  And he had lots of books.

He was a man among men.  He was a champion jockey in England.  He rode for the Queen Mother, for crying out loud.  Was that enough for him?  Of course not.  After his riding days were over, that’s when he started writing.  First for a newspaper.  His first novel was published in 1962.  And one every year since then.  Wow.

All of his books had something, somehow to do with horse racing.  Because he wrote about what he knew.  He apparently knew something about puzzles, because he wrote mysteries.  And they were damn good.

At least once a year, I need to go on a Dick Francis jag.  I’ll get a dozen or so from the library and go to town.  I only own a few, but the ones I do own are among what I consider his best.

I can’t believe he’s gone.  But there still one new book of his to be published.  So, it’s almost as though he’s not really gone yet.

My friend Maz mentioned one more who I was not aware had died.  Erich Segal left us in January.  He was the author who gave us “Love Story”.

Okay, I can’t honestly say that I’ll miss him.  At all.  Because I never want to think of the sappiest of all books.  He even wrote the screenplay for the movie.  Dude.  Cut it out.

To be fair, he also wrote the screenplay for the movie “Yellow Submarine”.  Yeah, well.  No one remembers that.  And he was probably high while he was doing it.

So, as you see, this is not a great year for authors.  I don’t want to lose any more.  I have so few left that I care about.

Kindling a new relationship January 22, 2010

Posted by Peeps in Home, What we're reading.
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I love books.  I may have mentioned that once or twice here.

As far back as I can remember, books have always been the best friends I’ve had.  They take you to interesting places and show you the most amazing things.  They even smell good.  One of the most dangerous places I’ve ever been in was here.  The smell of old paper draws me in and the next thing you know, a couple hours have gone by and I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money on a shopping bag or two full of books.

I don’t buy all the books I read.  On the other hand, I don’t buy all the books I’d like to, but I have a bunch of them.  Which is good, as the best branch of the local library is fifteen or so minutes away.  In a direction I seldom go.  So, I generally make do with old favorites that are in the house.

But on Christmas day, I got a huge surprise.  My sweetie got me a Kindle.  I was shocked.

I’d heard of electronic books before, but I was never really interested.  The very thought of the battery running out in the middle of the last chapter was enough to put me off such things.  Besides, I’m one of those people for whom reading is much easier on paper than on a computer monitor.

But as this was a gift from my wife, I decided to give it a try.  I let it charge Christmas day, while we were out doing the family thing.  The next day, I started to play with it.

After reading the manual, I was impressed.  It can hold up to 1500 books.  1500!  All in one little gadget that weighs less than a pound.  This could be just the thing for me.

I had just started a book a couple days before.  An old Tom Clancy, one I’d read several times.  But it seemed as good a test as any.  I bought the Kindle edition from Amazon.  It appeared on my new toy in less than a minute.  Wow.  The whole 700 plus page book.  This is mighty cool.

Okay, so I have a basic idea of how to work it, and I have something to read on it.  Time for one of my favorite things.

After just a short time, I got very used to it.  It makes reading with one hand very easy, as you can turn to the next “page” with either hand.  The screen is very clear to read.  Bright light doesn’t make the screen wash out in the slightest.  And you can lay it flat on a table to read while eating without losing your place.

The battery life is even pretty awesome.  I’d been using the Kindle for a little over a week before I got a low battery warning.  Sweet!

It does take some getting used to.  Turning off my book before going to bed is not something I ever thought I’d have to do.  And while it’s light, compact gadget, there were a couple times in the past that I’d had to tell people that I will swat them with a hard cover edition of something large to make them go away.  That’s a little tougher now.  I’d hate to damage it.

It’s too bad I don’t travel any more.  A fully loaded Kindle could get a person through the longest flights.  I’d laugh at delays.  Well, maybe.

And even though not everything I’d like to get for the gadget is available for Kindle, more things are becoming available all the time.

There may not be flying cars yet.  But the Star Trek universe just keeps becoming closer to reality.  I feel like Ben Sisko reading his PADD.  Except he’s all buff and bald and stuff.  And I’m not.