Support: We believe that you can do whatever you set your mind to. “Can’t” isn’t in your vocabulary. You’re strong, brilliant, resourceful and original. Because of this, and also because we have no money to pay the tech support guy, we won’t be offering support for Bullfighter.

Are men boring? A straw poll among friends and relations would suggest the contention is so irrefutable that evidence is barely necessary.

"Why you should throw books out"

That's the title of today's post from Tyler Cowen both at his blog and as a guest blogger at Penguin. His point seems to be that the book you've read is likely not the best book you could be reading, and by passing it down the line (via donation or BookMooch or leaving it somewhere in public) your "gift" is preventing someone from reading something better. He says the calculations here are tricky; you could give the book to a friend, but if the friend is highly discriminating, then your standing in their eyes could suffer by proffering them a substandard book. Better to avoid those calculations and simply throw the book in the trash. The author has been paid, you've gotten what you want out of the book, and you've saved some poor schlub from having to make the calculations you made when you thought about buying the book in the first place.

His commenters are mainly book-lovers who beseech, implore, and adjure to donate the book to a library for its book sale, or a thrift store, or just leave it somewhere as a serendipitous gift for someone else. They also point out that Tyler may not know his friends as well as he thinks and that the second-bookstore or thrift shop would know better than he what value books have in their local market.

I go through periodic book purges. My usual method is to pile them up in a box (along with any CDs I've stopped listening to) and take them to BDFAR or Nice Price for trade. Whatever they don't take, I donate to the library for their book sale. And then the box goes back into the closet to collect more books, the making of which there is no ending.

I had a friend years ago who threw away an Anais Nin book because she thought it was so trashy she couldn't bear it anymore. I remember being astonished at the time (I was in my 20s) at the thought of throwing a book into the trash. Even for books I despised, I still would trade them for something better. Today, I'm still more likely than not to write in the margins and trade them if possible, even though I have less time today than ever to read books. My goal now is to either borrow them from the library or in some other way reduce the flow taking up room on my shelves, so that I reduce the time spent on purging them later.

Snarky Facebook e-cards

someecards have a wonderfully snarky, face-slapping, aphoristic intensity to their e-card messages. They don't always work and aren't always funny, but the classically lined clip art helps, and when their one-liners do connect, I smile and nod in admiration. What got my attention today were their terribly well-directed Facebook slams.

There is a kind of heroic pessimism running through this work, and one is inclined to appropriate for the sort of essay collected in this volume a lament Vidal once delivered for the novel: “Our lovely vulgar and most human art is at an end, if not the end. Yet that is no reason not to want to practice it, or even to read it. In any case, rather like priests who have forgotten the meaning of the prayers they chant, we shall go on for quite a long time talking of books and writing books, pretending all the while not to notice that the church is empty and the parishioners have gone elsewhere to attend other gods, perhaps in silence or with new words.”

Links 25-May-2008

  • Penelope Trunk has an excellent post on how she got her current favorite mentor, to complement her other posts on the topic. As a forty-odder among twenty-somethings, I find that my mentors are not just the professors, but my peers who have longer experience of being a student, being at SILS, being connected to many other students who they think may be good for me to meet. I have a couple of trusted mentors -- including, of course, The Illimitable Cassidy -- both 20 years younger than me, who provide me with excellent advice and guidance.  I hope to be of use to them one day, or to pay it forward in some way.
  • I recall an author reading I went to years ago; she'd written a book about the Book of the Month club. Her opinion at that time was that literate book-culture was seeing its history growing smaller in a rearview mirror, hence the explosion of books about books, books about reading, books about bibliophiles. There's a strong flavor of sadness and melancholy in these books. I thought of this when reading the UK Guardian review of Alberto Manguel's "The Library at Night":

The traditional library was a citadel sacred to the notion of omniscience; the web, by contrast, is 'the emblem of our ambition of omnipresence', like a supermarket that boundlessly proliferates in space and deluges the planet with its tacky wares. 'The library that contained everything,' Manguel laments, 'has become the library that contains anything.'

  • In junior high school, I got hooked on the Doc Savage novels with the James Bama covers. William Denton somehow located the author Lester Dent's Master Fiction Plot Formula for any 6000-word story. While you're there, check out William's library science pages. And I'll probably try his index card system for organizing my school work this fall. Update: I tried it for a while but it duplicated other systems for tracking work and reading that were more convenient, so I dropped it.
  • Susie Bright is looking for odd book titles. (Susie's site is fun, but its ads could be classified as NSFW.)

MOON WATCHING

To know whether the moon you see tonight will be bigger or smaller tomorrow night - In the Northern Hemisphere, the moon spells “DOC” each month - first it looks like a “D” (waxing moon), then an “O”…


MOON WATCHING

Links 22-May-08


  • This paper studies the CVs of assistant professors of economics at several American universities and finds “evidence of a strong brain drain” and a “predominance of empirical work.” If you searched the CVs of assistant professors at top-10 IS/LS schools, what do you think you’d find? [via Marginal Revolution]
  • Michael Leddy (of the consistently fun Orange Crate Art blog) recommends this Atlantic article written from a teacher in the academic trenches. Professor X’s message to her/his students? “[T]hey lack the most-basic skills and have no sense of the volume of work required; that they are in some cases barely literate; that they are so bereft of schemata, so dispossessed of contexts in which to place newly acquired knowledge, that every bit of information simply raises more questions. They are not ready for high school, some of them, much less for college.” Note, though, the type of college the Professor works at. Does this lack of preparation prevail at better colleges also?
  • A great NY Times profile of the great Mad fold-in artist Al Jaffee. By hand, people!! And the Times did a fabulous job of animating some of the fold-ins. The Broderbund set of Mad CDs I bought (cheap!) years ago had that feature, also.
  • Tyler Cowen cites the really only truly most important reason for becoming a full professor.