Archive for the Books Category

Bad Idea

Posted in Books, Culture on February 22, 2009 by gyma

blown-bitsI’m currently reading this book and, in the process, am rethinking the whole ‘blogging’ thing.  Why are we so willing and ready to give up our privacy and anonymity for convenience or a few bucks or perhaps something else?  I was surprised to discover that digital photos contain identifying information.  Apparently it’s possible to determine which camera (by serial number) took the picture, and by implication, if you mailed in your owner registration card, the camera’s owner.  And in order to thwart counterfeiting of money, every page printed on a color printer contains an embedded ‘fingerprint’ that can be traced back to that printer.  Keep this in mind if you thought you could print something (perhaps a nasty letter about your employer) and send it anonymously.

And did you know the government is able to remotely turn on the microphone in your cell phone even when it is turned off?  They can do the same thing to your OnStar navigation system in your car if they want to listen in on conversations taking place in your car.  I’ve also learned that 87% of the population in the United States can be uniquely identified if you have the following  pieces of info:  gender, zip code, and date of birth.  And gender can often be inferred. 

Don’t think this doesn’t affect you if you believe you have nothing to hide.  Why?  Because think about what needed to take place during the American Revolution in order to win independence from England.  Had England been able to control all the communications taking place, it would have been impossible to organize and plan the revolution.  Dissidents and opposing opinions are vital to a thriving democracy and we shouldn’t be willing to give away our privacy so thoughtlessly.

I’ve only read the first 50 pages of this book but it already has me viewing life differently.  I’m not sure how I would have felt about an article I read in today’s paper prior to reading this book.  Is it a good idea to have individuals taking pictures of every single person encountered and then uploading those pictures to a web site in the unlikely event that person commits a crime against you?  The entrepreneur behind Face File wants you to believe this will keep you safe. 

I think it’s a way for Wilcox to make money.


T.C. Boyle

Posted in Books on February 12, 2009 by gyma

boyleT. Coraghessan Boyle is one of my favorite contemporary authors.  I fell in love with his writing after reading The Road to Wellville, the hilarious account of the founder of the cornflake, John Harvey Kellogg.  Read this book to put into perspective the recent stink over Michael Phelps taking a bong hit.  Kellogg was a nutjob, plain and simple.

I also loved his next book, The Tortilla Curtain, which should be a must read for the likes of Lou Dobbs.  Perhaps he would come away with a different perspective on immigration.  Or maybe not.

Boyle’s latest book, The Women, is about Frank Lloyd Wright.  I’ll be adding it to my list of must reads and hope it’s as good as some of his previous books.

Here’s a video of Boyle talking to Sam Tanenhaus, the editor of The New York Times Book Review.  Boyle is one funky guy and one of the best writers around.

Clipping Coupons

Posted in Books, Money Matters with tags , , , on November 23, 2008 by gyma

I just finished reading the Sunday newspaper and realized that for the last several months or so I’ve not found any coupons to clip from the paper.  And believe me, living on a limited income means searching for bargains wherever you can find them.

It seems the coupons are for things like expensive cleaning supplies I don’t use, air fresheners, ditto, lots of hair care, including coloring products, and junk food.  Today I managed to find a coupon for peanut butter and another for Progresso soups, which occasionally goes on sale, so if I’m lucky I’ll be able to combine the two before the coupon expires in January.

Has anyone else found it harder and harder to find usable coupons lately?

And speaking of searching for ways to keep expenses down, is anyone else a bit uneasy about being forced to use a grocery store courtesy card  to get the best deals?  I shop mostly at King Soopers (Krogers) and Albertson’s.  Albertson’s doesn’t require a card but I usually can only afford the items they have on sale.  King Soopers does use a card and if I’m careful I can get some really good deals.

Last year I read a very interesting book, Spychips, that I reviewed at Books and More Books.  One thing I remember reading in the book is that if marketing agencies get their way, and it’s looking more and more likely that they will, then RFID chips inserted into all sorts of products will mean poor people can be targeted and actually charged more for products than more upscale and regular customers.   Apparently these RFID tags will keep track of what and where you purchase and then stores won’t have to give the deep discounts to people who only buy sale products from them.

Sobering thought and only a few years ago it would have been unthinkable.  Thanks, George!

Banned Books Week

Posted in Books, Politics with tags , on September 27, 2008 by gyma

This is the beginning of Banned Books Week which is sponsored by the American Library Association.

As a retired librarian, I want you to know that I dealt with parents who wanted books removed from the public library because they didn’t like the content of the book.  It was one of the more unpleasant aspects of my job because those who want to ban books are very passionate about their beliefs and wish to impose them on everyone else.  In this case passionate = confrontational.

If you have children or grandchildren, please talk to them about the dangers of censorship and banning books.

And from experience, I can tell you that the librarians in your public library rarely hear thanks from the community for standing up to the bullies who would like to control what you read.  So, stop in at the library and let them know you appreciate what they are doing.  I guaratee you will make that librarian’s day.

You can find a list of the top 25 most controversial banned books here along with information on where you can read them free online.

Financial Dieting

Posted in Books, Culture with tags , , on September 23, 2008 by gyma

Yesterday I wrote about how we have become a nation of spenders and how our economy is now based on our buying stuff we don’t necessarily need.

Over the weekend, I read an interesting article in The Denver Post by David Wann, co-author of the book, Affluenza.  Wann starts off the article by asking the following questions:

If so many are willing to die for our country, why are we afraid to live for it, moderately and unselfishly? Why do we place a higher value on convenience, size, and speed than the well being of living things (including ourselves)?

Good questions.  Wann suggests we will have to fundamentally change how we live.  It will no longer work to think that using CFLs, carrying cloth bags to the grocery store, driving plug-in hybrid cars, or erecting huge windfarms will solve our collective problems.

We are in need of bold leadership that will provide “value-directed policies that reward efficiency and durability and penalize over-consumption.”  As automobile efficiency increased, we demanded heavier and larger vehicles, negating any gains from higher fuel standards.  Similarly, as household appliances became more efficient, we continued using more electricity with our HDTVs, computers, and other high tech gadgets.  Believe it or not, our consumption of bottled water has increased more than 2,000 percent since 1975 and we are now in danger of having large sections of our water supply privatized by Coca-Cola and other water bottlers.

I don’t know if Arnold Toynbee got it right on this but:

{He} observed that civilizations that ultimately succeed follow a “law of progressive simplification,” in which they become culturally richer but materially leaner.{…}

As I age I am continually downsizing.  We live in a 900 square foot ranch with a full basement.  There are 2 bedrooms and 1 bath on the main floor and we have an attached 2 car garage.  We have a large backyard that could contain a good-sized garden (if we had enough water, that is).  We have everything we could possibly need.

Two years ago my depression-era mother died and I was forced to go through years and years of yellowed, clipped newspaper articles, stacks and stacks of magazines and catalogs, piles of saved rubber bands that had become brittle, margarine tubs that filled an entire shelf of a closet, a drawer filled with broken watches, and so much more.  She lived through the depression and wasn’t going to rid herself of anything she thought might be useful.

Upon returning home I started going through all my nooks and crannies.  I took a carload of perfectly good “stuff” to the Goodwill.  Then I discovered craigslist and began selling things I hadn’t used since moving here 9 years ago.  So far I’ve sold about $1,500 work of “stuff.”  I like that my closets are now spacious and that there is less clutter.  I am also pleased that when I’m gone, someone else won’t have to wade through mounds of detritus to get to the good stuff.

On My Nightstand

Posted in Books with tags on September 16, 2008 by gyma

Here’s what I’m reading:







Deer Hunting with Jesus is one of those rare books that is colorful, depressing, hilarious, and biting all at the same time. Joe Bageant has given us a glimpse into the vicious class war that is too often ignored or hidden by those happily perpetrating this war.”
—David Sirota, author of Hostile Takeover

Leaderless Jihad: terror networks in the twenty-first century by Marc Sageman

Posted in Books, Politics with tags , , , on August 24, 2008 by gyma

Back in February, David Ignatius of the Washington Post published a column titled “The Fading Jihadists.”  In that column he refers to the book mentioned in the title and recommends it be read by all politicians engaged in waging the “Global War on Terrorism.”

I’m not a politician and I’ve never fully bought into the notion of the GWOT in the first place.  I’m very lucky that my public library owns this book and I’ll be picking it up tomorrow.

According to Ignatius, a major premise of this book is that [surprise, surprise] our presence in Iraq is creating a group of terrorists who are younger, don’t speak Arabic, and don’t read the Koran.  Rather they are bored youth, addicted to the Internet who use password protected chat rooms to dare each other to take action.

But I doubt the mainstream media will ever tell us this because the Islamofascist meme is sexier.  And more importantly, it keeps us scared and we should know by now that scared Americans vote Republican.

I’ll post a book review after I’ve finished reading the book.