Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Year End Book List

Most of these were published in the last year or so. A couple are older but were new to me. These are not in any order nor did I limit it to a certain number of books. I went over my list of books I read in 2008 and these were the ones that stood out. If I finish it before 2009 I would also add my current read: "American Lion" by Jon Meacham. It's the story of Andrew Jackson's years in the White House.

The Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick: the second novel by Swanwick set in his world of Faery. A modern version of the faery world where characters speak like modern Americans and fairy tale characters at the same time. I don't know how he does it but it's amazing to read it.

The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin: A fantastically written account of how the current Supreme Court lineup came to come together with some nice history of the court thrown in. I'm probably naive for being surprised by how much politics is involved in this institution.

Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker: One of the more eye-opening books about World War II I have have ever read. It's what we need occasionally, a reminder that history is not preordained.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow: A young adult SF novel in the vein of the classic YA stuff by Heinlein and Asimov. Good science, good story and instructions on how to be an individual.

City of Thieves by David Benioff: An adventure novel set during the siege of Leningrad during World War II. The writing is so good that I was awed by his talent several times.

Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe: An older piece of SF that I learned about from Michal Swanwick's blog. It's set in the far future where super-science and a medieval society combine to make a fascinating world that is a pleasure to get lost in.

One Minute to Midnight by Michael Dobbs: The story of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It's scary and fascinating. It's a miracle we are all here right now. What impressed me the most was that the professionalism of the Soviet officers is a big reason this did not explode into World War III.

Driftless by David Rhodes: Another shockingly well written piece of fiction. It's about a small farming community in the midwest. That is all. It's enough. It's funny, deep and will break your heart. I can't recommend it enough.

Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides: Another older book. The story of a POW rescue operation in the Philipines during World War II. If you are looking for a great WWII adventure story and you haven't read this yet you are in for a treat.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Poetry Competition

I just recieved a flyer in the interoffice mail about a poetry competiton sponsored by the Lanier Library of Tryon, NC. It's called the Sidney Lanier Poetry Award. You can view information on it here. They even have a category for high school students.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Upcoming Events

Since I haven't posted anything here in a while how about a quick list of what fun stuff we have coming up here at the branch?

Tomorrow, Saturday December 13th from 2pm until 5 pm we will be hosting a "Gift Wrapping Party." Bring your presents and a roll of wrapping paper to get a jump on the holiday season. There will be a gift tag station and other fun ideas to make you presents special. Cookies and hot apple cider included.

On December 16th at 7pm the "New Book Club" will be discussing Julia Glass' I See You Everywhere. They are always looking for new members.

On December 22nd at 6pm the Teen Writers Group will meet here. If you have a teen that enjoys writing and would like to meet other writers and participate in sharing and writing exercises bring 'em on by. Our group has been meeting for over two years and we have a great core of kids that are very supportive of each other.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Have you seen the white whale?

No, not New Gingrich, I am referring to the original white whale, ya'll: Moby Dick. Is anyone here interested in an online annotated version of Herman Melville's classic? You know I read that book when I was way too young to understand it. I should read it again. Who wants to start a discussion group?

Yes, We Are

Open that is. The library is open today and we are open for our usual hours. C'mon in, we don't want to sit here by ourselves. Not that we are but you know what I mean.

Friday, October 31, 2008

More Early Voting

Early voting is now completely out of control. The line stretches around the front of the building as you can see below and then curves around into the parking lot on the side of the building which you can see in the following pictures. Craziness. The wait is at least two hours.
From Drop Box



Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Testing Photo Posting Again

This time using Google's Picasa.

Small Size
From All we need is Blog?

From All we need is Blog?

Friday, October 17, 2008

People are Funny (more early voting)

I've taken several calls about the wait for early voting and I have informed a few people that the Marion Diehl Rec Center has less of a line than we do here at the Morrison Regional Library. A couple of people have reacted to this like I told them to hop in their car and drive to Michigan to vote. According to the all powerful Google Maps the Rec Center is only 2.6 miles away.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Early Voting

It's that time of the year again. The time of the year when people stand in line all day so they can vote early. There are campaign signs all over the place, our parking lot is full and there are campaigners waving signs and handing out literature out front. It's a regular hootenanny. Early voting locations, dates and times can be viewed here.

The line is actually forming in the back of the building. You can walk around the outside of the library or you can cut through. This is the front of the line around noon today. This line you see here is not that bad. It was longer earlier, from what I have been told. I think the wait in this line is about 30 minutes. That's not too bad.

This is a view from the end of the line.

Here are the faithful with their signs and literature. It's easier if you just take what they want to give you and move on rather than so "no, thanks." Believe me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Testing picture posting

I've been perusing a few photo hosting sites the last couple of days in preparation for the class I am teaching next Wednesday and I am really liking how the site called Photobucket plays well with other sites.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

David Foster Wallace

I don't know how many of you have heard of or read anything by David Foster Wallace. He has an enormous book called Infinite Jest that I have yet to read. All that I have read by him have been his essays. If you ever get a chance you should read the long essay called A Supposed Fun Thing I'll Never do Again. It's about a cruise a magazine sent him on hoping to get an article out of it. It's an amazing piece of writing. Whenever you read something by him you just could sense you were reading the writings of someone that saw the universe a little more clearly than you did. He could dig a little deeper and then do the hardest thing in the world, write about what he saw and make you understand. A lot of times he would do that and simultaneously make you laugh.

He was found dead on Friday. Supposedly he committed suicide. He truly was a great writer and it's too bad that, at 46, his output has ended. There is a good remembrance of him here. The quote used in the last paragraph is a good example of Wallace's writing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Igoogle gets really cool

I don't know how many of you mess with the personalized google paged called Igoogle but they have some really awesome backgrounds available now. I got me a Bob Dylan one.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

PLCMC Madden Tournament

This is going to be fun. The library now has Xbox 360's. We have multiple copies of Madden '09. We are having a tournament. We will be having a first round at 8 different branches and a final round with the 8 winners at the main library. The schedule is below. There are only 16 spots available at each branch so registration is required. There will be prizes awarded at each first round and the grand prize for whoever comes out on top at the finals is a $50 gift card for GameStop. Not a bad deal if you ask me. If you think you can beat 127 other Madden players call one of the branches listed below and get in the game.

DatesLocationEvent TimeTelephone
October 2nd Independence Regional Library 6-8 704-416-4800
October 4th Morrison Regional Library 12-4 704-416-5431
October 9th Beatties Ford Road Library 5-9 704-416-3000
November 4th South County Regional 1-4 704-416-6640
November 4th Mint Hill Library 1-4 704-416-5200
November 10th Freedom Regional Library 3-7 704-416-4221
November 15th Main Library 12-4 704-416-0500
November 15th Matthews Library 1-5 704-416-5000

Finals at the Main Library on November 22nd from 1-4.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Joe Haldeman

I just finished a nice fairly short science fiction novel the other day. It's called Marsbound and it's by Joe Haldeman. It's told in a first person perspective in the voice of a 18 or 19 year old woman who is emigrating to Mars with her parents and younger brother.

The only problem with reviewing a science fiction book is that it's hard to discuss a book of science fiction without giving away too much. What I will say is that this character is a little different than what you might expect for a narrator in a hard science fiction novel like this. She's not a genius. She's a bright kid that is just starting college but is not in the top 1/10 percentile of her class.

Haldeman takes us through their long trip to Mars and manages to make the six-month trip interesting. Our narrator has an unexpected romance that is handled nicely and we get some good character development during the relatively down time.

He does in this novel what he has done in much of his most recent work, he places a story not too far in the future and changes the technology just enough so any of us would be comfortable in that world.

The first half of this novel is much stronger than the second half. First we meet the characters, they travel to Mars, establish themselves in the small rustic community and have some normal interpersonal conflict. Shortly after that the book takes a more galactic turn. For a while there I thought he might be producing a John Kessel type of story where the action takes place in a nicely realized setting with conflicts between humans. I was really hoping the action would stay on Mars and a couple of nicely set up stories would resolve themselves over the course of the novel. It's not to be, the novel expands beyond Mars and mankind realizes they may not be alone in the universe.

Not that the book goes south and is not worth reading. It's still a fine piece of science fiction and I tore through it. There is some nicely conceived alien biology and an appealing alien character called "Red" that is really worth experiencing. I think I would have been more satisfied at the end if it had stayed home on Mars a bit longer. Maybe it could have just been longer. I have felt that way about a few of his later novels and I reckon wanting a novel to be longer is a good thing.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Outside Looking In

Originally uploaded by zzazazz
Jessica saw this praying mantis clinging to the outside of one of the windows downstairs, right next to where the holds are kept. I stepped outside and the giant insect actually turned its head to look at me. I was ready for it to raise one of its claws and say, "Hello."

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The New York Times Daily

Every year we reevaluate our magazine subscriptions. This year I suggested we drop an expensive publication that, due to its free electronic format had become redundant, and pick up the daily New York Times. It's pretty pricey but I think it's worth it since the total cost was offset by our canceling the Sunday edition we were getting. We are now the only branch, other than the Main Library, that can say it provides its users with access to the New York Times Daily. We're pretty happy about that.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How the Library can help

The Consumerists magazine website has a list of ways the public library can help you during tough economic times. You can read it here.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts by Thomas Farley

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I tore through this book. Like the history of Saturday Night Live called "Live from New York" this is an oral biography of Chris Farley (interestingly, in this book the "Live from New York" book takes a pretty harsh hit from someone claiming he was misquoted in the SNL history). The oral format worked for me. As Tom wrote in the introduction, Chris Farley lived the type of life where all his friends had "Chris stories."

This book, like its subject's life, is funny, revealing, touching, maddening and ultimately tragic. There is a period in Chris' life where he really had his stuff together he was on top of the world and I was unaware of that. I was not prepared to for the Chris Farley that was sober and on top of things and brightening the world around him. That high period in his life makes his ending all the more depressing. Especially since it really seemed he was going to keep his addictions down and go on to break out from the "fat guy falls down" comedy and truly make something great one day.

What surprised me was the unanimous love for Chris by everyone that is interviewed. Surely they could have found someone out there that knew Chris that thought he was a jerk? Even at his most outrageous he could still find a way to make people love him. To me, that's another tragedy of his life. He was greatly loved and it seems he really didn't see it or, if he did see it, feel he deserved it.

It's also impressive for the honesty of all those interviewed. Sure, they all loved Chris but they do not airbrush his faults. Even some of things that made him endearing could become a pain in the behind if a schtick was carried on too long. His drinking, his drug use, his rehab and the problems of and caused by his family are all addressed here. It's an honest book and in a biography, that is all that you can really hope for.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Reading List from Slate

I found an annotated weekly list of what the writers at Slate are reading here. I like it because it's a thematic list. Right now the current list concerns the birth of our country.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Robert Sawyer Lecture on SF

I found this lecture on Robert Sawyer's website. It's an excellent analysis of what makes good and bad science fiction. I highly recommend giving it a listen.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Music at the library

This Saturday we will be having a musician playing in the auditorium at the Morrison Library at 2 pm. Lenny's been playing music around Charlotte for over thirty years and he'll bring a wide range of acoustic Americana and blues songs to entertain us for about an hour. It should be fun for the whole family.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

...our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts

According to Nicholas Carr Nietzsche said that. The article I linked to is in the current issue of the Atlantic Monthly and in it Carr ponders what it means for our minds now that we rely so much on the Internet for our research. Diane Rehm recently did a show on a very similar topic.

What struck me early in my reading of the article is Carr's admission that he has a hard time getting into deep reading mode. I noticed that in myself but I hadn't thought to ask around of my readin' friends if they were having the same problem. As a TV raised child of the 70's it took me a while to become a good reader. I don't want to the internet to ruin me as a reader.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Author Interviews

The Atlantic Monthly has published an index to their author interviews here. There's some pretty good stuff there.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Summer film series

Wow, I haven't posted here in a couple of weeks. I've probably lost the two people that checked this every now and then. My buddy, Sam Shapiro, who is the manager of the Popular Library at the Main Library loves to put together film series. I work mostly evenings so I miss almost everything he does. Finally he has a series on Sunday afternoons this summer that I hope attend a few times. He's going to show westerns. Not only that, he is going to show two of my favorite John Wayne westerns, Rio Bravo and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. You can view the whole lineup here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

How not to get taken

There is a nice entry on the official Google blog on how not to get scammed over the internet. You can read it here.

I've noticed I tend to get a lot of phishing emails disguised as communication from eBay. A good rule of thumb for eBay users is to log into eBay and see if there is a message in your inbox on the eBay website. If not, then the email is fake.

Monday, May 05, 2008

New Robert Heinlein

It's not often you can say that a new book by a dead science fiction writer contains quality material that has never been printed before. There is a collection of scripts he wrote in the 1950's that is being released by Subterranean Press. It's called Project Moonbase and Others. Pretty neat, I think. The collection is a little pricey but I own pretty much everything he's ever released, admittedly much of it in paperback, so I may have to consider purchasing this.

If you are interested there is a script available for free at the Subterranean site. You can view it here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Joys of Reading

Pulitzer prize winner, and now Nebula award winner, Michael Chabon has an essay in the Los Angeles Times about how cool reading is. You can read it here.

Scary Clouds over Southpark

Scary Clouds over Southpark
Originally uploaded by zzazazz
During my dinner break yesterday I saw these clouds over Southpark. I couldn't resist taking a shot.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Short fiction

I love science fiction short stories. Some of the best SF I have read has been in the short story form. Right now I am reading a collection called Wastelands. So far I am really enjoying it. My only criticisms of it are that there aren't enough older stories and and that first one by Stephen King was just silly. Other than that it's been a fun read so far.

Today I did find a list put together by Jonathan Strahan of all the science fiction short story collections he could find that are coming out in 2008. You can view it here. There sure are a lot.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Brad Bird on Ollie Johnston

One of the classic Disney animators, Ollie Johnston, passed away recently. A personal favorite of mine, Brad Bird, wrote a nice piece on Mr. Johnston for an animation blog. You can read it here.
People don't use Google?

From the smart people at Metafilter I found a chart displaying which search engines are used the most. You can view the chart here. I use Google exclusively, which do you use?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Need more book blogs to read?

The always helpful Metafilter site today has an entry that links to a lot, and I mean a lot, of good book related blogs. You can view them here. Be sure to scroll down to the comments. There are some good suggestions there also. Metafilter is the brightest online community out there.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I think I'll write a fake memoir

I see on the New York Times book blog that another memoir may be fake. I was thinking not that long before these fake memoirs were exposed that there were an awful lot of memoirs out there. "Can there really be that many interesting people in the world?" I thought. I think you should have to be at least 60 before you are allowed to write a memoir. I will tell you one thing, you are going to have to be at least 60 before I read your memoir.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Main Library

Did you happen to read the article on the early stages of the possible renovation of the Main Library? I like what I am hearing from Mr. Brown, the library director. I think looking at the Main Library as a possible Imaginon for adults would be a great idea. I know that teens meet up at Imaginon and spend a day there using the facility. Friends that don't live in the same neighborhood have a fun place to rendezvous. A place that their parents know is safe.

I would like to see a Main Library that is a facility that adults will go to just for the heck of it. A place in downtown where they don't have to worry about parking or dodging transients. Right now the Main Library isn't a gathering place. Those that work downtown use it for picking up items they have placed on hold or browsing the CD or DVD collection. When I go down to do research I see a bunch of homeless people hanging out and that's it. Most other people seem to come in and get what they want and leave. Balancing the needs of transient citizens and year round residents has always been a challenge for libraries in big cities. Books have been written on that topic, I think.

I've always thought that partnering with a coffee shop would be a great idea for the downtown library. Initially I thought they were going to put in a coffee shop and then I saw that a cart had been stuck near the entrance on the first floor. I'd like to see a working coffee shop with its own entrance and periodical collection at the corner of Sixth and Tryon. It could be a gathering place full of good coffee, magazines, out-of-town newspapers and wireless internet. Something like a Border's Books and Music. Since it has its own entrance it could make its own hours and you could even have entertainment in there at night. A little stage could be stuck in the corner and you could have music, readings or even stand up comedy.

I'd also like to see a gaming room that was open the same hours as the library. Right now they have gaming events and every machine is used. A room devoted to gaming would be unique and a huge hit.

I remember traveling to Winston-Salem with a friend a few years ago to see a band play at a club. Being library people we decided we should go to the local main library. We did and we left pretty quickly. It was an old building full of homeless guys. It wasn't a bad library, I'd use it if I lived there. They had plenty of material and computers but it was just not a place that was conducive to killing a few hours of time. What did we do? We went to Border's. I would like to see the Mecklenburg Main Library become a place where someone like me would go the library to see what it was like and then stay for a few hours because it offered me a reasons to hang out.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Whodunnit

Last week I finished probably the fifth mystery I have ever read in my life. Maybe sixth if you count those robot SF mysteries that Isaac Asimov wrote. I remember the one I read was about a murder that took place on a planet where the human society that developed there loathed contact with other humans. If they didn't see each other in person how could someone be murdered? I guess that would be a...mystery.

The novel I finished last week was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. It was the second Agatha Christie book I have read. Seeing as how it's a mystery I cant' say too much about it but I will say that I first decided to read the book because of the introduction written by Connie Willis for her new book of short fiction. Willis names this books specifically as one of her favorites and goes on to say that she learned almost everything she knows about plotting a novel from "Dame Agatha." Unfortunately the introduction also gives away the identity of the murderer. I read it anyway. I had never read mystery that I had known who was going to be the murderer before going in.

I will say this for Agatha Christie, each of her books that I have read I have torn through. I guess in any good mystery you get to the point where sleep and hygiene become less important than getting to the end and discovering who is the murderer. I don't see myself ever becoming an avid reader of mysteries but an Agatha Christie mystery every year or so might be a nice break from routine.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Human Smoke

I just finished reading the most amazing book last night. It's called Human Smoke and it's by Nicholson Baker. The book is a series of paragraph to page-long vignettes about the lead up to and first couple years of World War II. Each tiny chapter covers a news story or diary entry and, at some point in the entry, the date will be given. It's written in a journalistic style with very little editorializing by the author. It is obvious, though, that the author's sympathies are with those who opposed the war rather than with those that worked to broaden the conflict.

I have seen at least one other review remark on the similarity between the beginnings of World War II and the current conflict in Iraq. I don't mean that there is any comparison between Hitler and Saddam although both of them were brutal mass murderers. The similarity that stands out in this book is when you compare the desire for war of Churchill and Roosevelt and George W. Bush and friends. In both instances the Western powers spoke of their desire for peace while rushing headlong into war. The similarity in the rhetoric will cause you to doubt your own existence.

What had always been impressed upon me was the inevitability of the Second World War. Hitler was bad and if it hadn't had been for Churchill and Roosevelt and the mighty sacrifices of the 'greatest generation' then we would all be speaking German right now. What Baker shows is the folly of that belief. There were plenty of opportunities to stop the war from spreading in 1940 and 1941. What is intriguing is that it may have been possible to avoid the ultimate horrors of the Holocaust if the goal of the allies was truly humanitarian and not on an aggressive war footing. Imagine that, lives saved by avoiding war.

The reviewer, Mark Kurlansky, sums it up better than I can: "It may be one of the most important books you will ever read. It could help the world to understand that there is no Just War, there is just war -- and that wars are not caused by isolationists and peaceniks but by the promoters of warfare."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Legal Forms

Surprisingly, one of the hardest questions to answer at the reference desk is whether or not we carry legal forms. We do have a few books on our reference shelves that can be photocopied but usually we just don't seem to have exactly what someone desires. There is a nice set downtown that people were always happy with when I worked in telephone reference but a legal form is something most library users don't consider a big enough project for a trip downtown. It is a very useful set of books. They are designed to be legal in North Carolina.

This last Saturday a gentleman came in and needed a Power of Attorney form. I showed him what we had on our reference shelves and he wasn't happy with it. He suggest I check online. I searched a site had saved on my Delicious bookmark page but it was a pay site and the forms were priced at over $25. We decided to search some more. I then searched the bookmarks of other Delicious users and found this form. He looked it over and thought it was perfect and I printed it out for him. I then bookmarked the site myself. If you ever need to do your own search you can do that here.

I never can know when I mention a website like Delicous if everyone knows what I mean. Delicious calls itself a "social bookmarking site." Essentially you use the site to bookmark other websites. You can then share what you find with others and use what others have bookmarked for your own purposes. That is what I did this weekend. I used what others had bookmarked to help me with the question. I searched for "legal forms" on Delicious and went to the site that the most users had bookmarked. After I did that I had the question answered and the form printed out two minutes later. It's the power of the hive mind.

My favorite use of the internet hive mind concept is a section of the site Metafilter (a collection of nerdy people that link to cool and interesting and educational and funny webites) called Ask Metafilter. It's simple, once a week each member of the Metafilter community can submit a question to the hive mind. There are some smart people on Metafilter and you get good answers from the community. I tried it for the first time a week ago and got these answers.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

100 greatest last lines

I don't recall seeing one of these lists before. I've seen the 100 greatest novel lists. I've seen the 100 greatest American novel list. I've seen the list of the best opening lines. Now the American Book Review has released a list of the 100 best last lines from novels.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke has died. I've been reading his stuff for a long time. I haven't devoured his books over the years like I have Robert Heinlein's but I consider his short stories to be a treasure.
Submit art to the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is getting ready to unveil a new display that stresses interactivity and they are asking for citizens to send their works of art to this website. They will take just about anything: poems, photographs, songs and essays and whatever else you can send as an email attachment. All they want to know is what inspired that piece of art.

Online Sports Illustrated Archives (Free)

A short while ago I wrote a post about some free quality online reading you can find on the internet. Today I learned about a new magazine to add to that list.

This Thursday the Sports Illustrated website will launch something called the Vault. The Vault will give free access to the archives of Sports Illustrated magazine. We may not know this but Sports Illustrated has been around for over fifty years and the writing at the magazine has been spectacular as long as I have been reading it. I started reading it in the early 80's. My Step Father's Mother bought him a subscription for him to SI every Christmas. You can read a good New York Times story on the story here.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Free Credit Report

A question that comes up every now and then is "How can I get my credit report?" People often end up getting suckered in by sites that will charge you to get your report but there is a free way to get it. Due to a law that was passed you can get one free each year from each of the three major credit companies. You can do it here. If you wish to verify the veracity of this website you can read about at the Federal Trade Commission's website here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Crooked Little Vein

I just finished the strangest book this morning. It's called "Crooked Little Vein" by Warren Ellis. It's a short book and it's about a down and out private detective in Manhattan (think Guy Noir with a potty mouth and a drinking problem) that is engaged by the President of the United States' chief of staff to find an ancient book that allegedly could change our country. The detective, Mike McGill, then embarks on a cross country journey and meets every type of whack job and freak you can possibly imagine. I gather that Warren Ellis has spent way to much time on the internet because he has mined the underbelly of the web and has decided if he's seen it there then it must be everywhere. Maybe it is, sometimes I don't need to know though. A fascinating, occasionally gross and funny book that is not for the timid.

I first came across Ellis because of Bryan Hitch who did the art work for the Marvel Comics series called The Ultimates. I was so taken by that series that I went to the comic bookstore Heroes Aren't Hard to Find and asked one of the always helpful staff to suggest some of Hitch's early work to me. He immediately mentioned a series called The Authority, a reimagining of the superhero team which was written by Ellis with art by Hitch. I love when things come together like that. Warren Ellis has a blog here. It can occasionally be a little not safe for work and he's frank with his use of strong language but he does link to some pretty fascinating stuff now and then. Like I said, he spends a lot of time online.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ed's Handy Dandy eBay Selling Strategies

I teach a class on selling your just on eBay at the library. In fact I am teaching it next month and I have been working on what I will use for tips at the end of the class. Here is what I have now. I've been selling on eBay since 1999 and I think this is all solid advice. The next time you sell some valuable family heirloom to a total stranger over the internet I hope you use a few of my tips.

1)Don't use a reserve. Your opening bid is your reserve. What are you afraid of? More than likely you didn't pay that much for what you are selling anyway. And if you don't want it don't be afraid to get less than you think you should. You'll get what it's worth without a reserve, believe me.

2) Set the opening bid low. I'm talking like $1.00 even if what you are selling may sell for more than $200. I have found that the lower you start the opening bid the more early bids you receive. The more early bids you receive then the more interest there will be in your item. More bids gives a potential buyer confidence in your item. If other people are interested it must be worthwhile. It's the same behavior you see at the library when someone brings a cart of books onto the floor for shelving. More interest equals more bids and more bids equals more competition. Competition means a higher selling price. It's a loop that fuels itself and it works. Don't be afraid. If it's really worth $200 then it will sell for $200 regardless of the opening bid level. The reward of a higher selling price outweighs the risk.

3) Set your shipping price low. Heck, set your shipping price less than the actual cost. A low shipping price shows your potential buyer that you are not looking to make every last cent off of him that you can. One of the biggest reasons I don't bid on an item is the shipping cost floating around ten dollars. Those people with high shipping costs are just trying to make an extra buck off their customers and, to me, that's just greedy. Just like a low starting bid a low shipping price may actually help drive the selling price of your auction higher and occasionally you make out like a bandit. Consider it a reward for not being overly greedy.

4) Avoid hyperbolic language. Don't call it rare if it's not really rare. The T206 Honus Wagner card is rare and what you are selling probably isn't. People know what they want and what you have. Getting carried away with your description causes doubt in the buyer's mind and you want them to have confidence in you. The more professional your writing the better off you will be.

5) Always, alway, always include a picture. Always. If you don't have a picture eBay now provides pictures for some items like books and DVD's.

6) Do not use the extra bells and whistles eBay offers to sell you. You don't need them. If you have something that people want it will sell without the extras.

7) Consider the timing of your auction. I like to end mine in the evening and, if I am on top of things, on Sunday evening. I know a lot of people can access the internet all day but there are some that can't. People like to bid late so why not end your auction when the highest percentage of buyers are at home, in their underwear and bidding on your stuff?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Murder Mystery Night

On February 8th we had our Murder Mystery Night here at the Morrison Library. It was a huge success, over 100 people attended the event. Main Library computer nerd, Ian, was on hand with has super fancy digital camera to photograph the event. You can view his photographs here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Retirement Party

Longtime circulation staff fixture, Joan, is retiring this week. Today we had a little shindig for her and you can see pictures of the event here. She will be with us until Friday so if you see her at the circulation desk this week wish her well.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Michael Swanwick's "The Dragons of Babel"

Right now one of my favorite writers of speculative fiction is Michael Swanwick. I just finished a novel by him called "The Dragons of Babel." It's a fantasy novel but it's about as far as you can get from the traditional Lord of the Rings "high fantasy" as you can get. The world he has created, and used for a few short stories and one previous novel, is a world of magic and the modern. You will find familiar and unfamiliar fantasy world denizens that can speak in the purple ways of an imaginary past while simultaneously speaking like someone born in 2009. I don't know if I ever read stories like his before. It's like they exist in two worlds at once. The obvious influences are there yet the dichotomy of his world is what makes it unique, rich and very lived in.

These two extremes he combines in setting, character and language he also uses in his storytelling. In "The Dragons of Babel" he takes us from the humblest of villages, to refugees fleeing a massive war, a dirty, but still magical refugee camp and then to the throne room of the most powerful nation in the Land of Faery. Along the way we encounter handsome and cruel elf princes and dog-faced rapists and a ten year old girl with an ancient soul and a troop of randy female centaur soldiers and a city alderman who is a haint and can literally feel the pulse of his city and a metal dragon fighter/bomber who cruelly rules over a small village he crash landed near. All these settings and characters enrich this most realized of fantasy worlds. The novel is a mystery, a comic romp with palace intrigue, a love story that starts during a treasure hunt in giant landfill and a tale of the traditional hero's journey. It's a genius display of an imagination that has been released of all its bonds.

I understand from Swanick's blog that he is working on another book in this world. I can't wait.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Follow the election

Google has put together a tool that can allow you to have live Super Tuesday election results appear on your blog. You can see it below. Google is so fun.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Morrison Panorama

Morrison Panorama
Originally uploaded by zzazazz
This is the new photograph we will be using on our in-house programming schedule in March. It's a two picture panorama I took today.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

University Podcasts

This is something I have not really delved into yet but here is a promising list of podcasts of courses provided by big ole universities. Unfortunately, some require Itunes. I'm not a big fan of Itunes.

This aspect of the internet is just starting and, once everyone has a camera and a fast connection, online education may really take off.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Amazon Reviews

I've never asked any of my friends if they post reviews on Amazon. I do, but not very often. I've been using Amazon for several years and have less than ten reviews. I found a good article on Slate that discusses top Amazon reviewers and the strange limbo in which amateur writers live in.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Free Quality Reading Online

I see a few newspaper and magazine sites that now offer free content online. Some even include archives. I think this is going to be the standard pretty soon. Many news and magazine sites have tried using a subscription service and have seen them go over like lead balloons. Here's a list of what I have found so far.

You can read the NY Times for free back to 1987

The Atlantic magazine is offering free back issues to 1995

Time magazine has an archive you can search and read back to 1923. I've done some searching and if it's not a complete archive it's pretty big.

The Boston Globe has a free archive back to 2003.

Discover magazine goes back to 1993.

The Paris Review is building an archive of the interviews.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Library Murder

On Friday, February 8th at 7 pm we will be sponsoring a Murder Mystery night here at the Morrison Regional Library. There is going to be some wine, some catering, a body and some clues. Several staff members have been spending a lot of time putting this together and it sounds like the plot and the clues are starting to come together. There is a blog about the night and its preparation over on a blog that was set up by one of our librarian's, Melanie. You can view that here.

So far we have sold over thirty tickets so it's looking to be a pretty exciting night. All money raised is going to the Friends of the Morrison Library and they will take the money and use it to improve the Morrison Library. A lot of the library staff will be on hand also as participants and hosts so this will also be a good chance to interact with your friendly, helpful and interesting Morrison staff people.

Here is how the program is listed on the library's website: Love Your Library to Death, A Murder-Mystery Party
You can be part of the mystery during an incredible evening of wine, cheese and mayhem. Collect clues to figure out just who did the dastardly deed. Proceeds from this event benefit the Morrison Chapter of the Friends of the Public Library. Tickets $20. Call 704-336-2109. Credit card, cash or check.
Location: Morrison Regional
Date: Friday, 2/8/2008 at 7:00 PM
Age Range: Adults

Friday, January 11, 2008

Today we did some switching around of furniture in the fiction/young adult area. We took the newspaper shelf and moved it into the adult reading area and that opened up a bunch of space down in the young adult area. We put a table and some chairs in there along with four large bean bags. We now have a Teen Reading Area. We are very excited about this and there were already some teens down there lounging this morning. They weren't playing hooky, they were here with their school. You can see pictures of our improvements here.