Friday, November 30, 2012

An outstanding Christmas decoration

I forgot to post this last year, but such a truly outstanding Christmas decoration should be revisited each holiday season! And testimony by the anonymous prankster about the response to his lifesize yuletide ornament (read it at Traveling Librarian) inspires faith in the goodness of mankind!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where there's life there's hope

Those who fear that the internet is draining the life out of us should be comforted by Stealth Mountain - talk about wringing some good old flesh and blood emotion out of cyberspace!  And the most hilarious - or disconcerting - thing about it is that it's a lifeless bot that is getting these folks so exercised.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Carl Sagan day

In commemoration of Carl Sagan's November 9 birthday, an appropriate quote:

I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries.

Many other quotable nuggets of wisdom here, and a more extended celebration of books and libraries here

Friday, November 2, 2012

Davidope in color

A climbing pyramid from davidope, who is doing more stuff in color these days.

Also, here's his impression of the NYC marathon...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Still learning at 58

I´ve always taken great care when shaving my upper lip to avoid getting cut, but I´ve never been really happy with the closeness of the shave on that part of the face. Today, at the age of 58, I discovered that by tucking my upper lip under my lower lip and pulling down hard, I can get a super-close shave without worrying about nicking those two ridges that extend downward from the nose and form the philtrum (the downward tug flattens the ridges completely!!! ) Until now, I´d always just turned the corners of my mouths slightly downwards when shaving the upper lip, but this new technique is far superior. Not sure whether this is worth a tweet as well as a blog post....perhaps it´s common knowledge?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Information is beautiful

I noted some weeks ago that a spreadsheet of IRCs all over the world would make a nice shirt, but the Information is Beautiful Awards take the aesthetics of information to another level.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

How to write a bad review

J. Robert Lennon provides good advice in Salon on how to write a good bad review,   occasioned by William Giraldi's truly bad bad review of a couple of Alix Ohlin's books in last Sunday's NYT Book Review. It's hard to imagine anyone reading Giraldi's review and not thinking "sheesh, what an asshole!" - and also hard to imagine that Giraldi is a colleague (at Agni) of the gentlemanly Sven Birkerts, who is both a victim and critic of just this kind of puerile, mean-spirited, show-offy snark.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Urban Neighborhood Institution

The UNI mobile library comes to Almaty and another marriage gets off to a good start, with good books and a good roof over their heads.

Friday, August 3, 2012

"There is trouble in the gypsy village"

Go to Better than English for your daily dose of untranslateable words and phrases. Not sure how accurate these definitions are (the entry on Norwegian "forelskelse" is all wrong), but plenty of comic relief.

See also Quotidian and Wordnik, if you like this kind of thing, and Howard Rheingold's book "They have a word for it"

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Criticism and theory and tools and machines

Here's an elegant little piece from William Deresiewicz's workbench about criticism and theory and tools and machines. The pith of it:

It occurred to me, eventually, that if criticism is a set of tools, theory is a series of machines. Tool-work—craft—which responds to both the grain of the material and the sensitivity of the guiding hand, is always unpredictable, always unique, and always bears the traces of the craftsperson. Machine-work—manufacture—is always predictable, uniform, and impersonal. You just feed the lumber into the mill. Tools extend the human; machines replace it. And that’s exactly what literary theory does: the work goes missing; the author, famously, is dead; and art, the highest expression of the human, is effaced.

Nice, eh?! 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Libraries 2020

Footballers with feelings

In our series about footballers who are in touch with their emotions, I'd like to follow that joyful abandon recently displayed by Pepe and Ruben with this tender moment shared by Zlatan and Pique.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Apropos of that poignant post recently about Ryan Gosling and libraries, see Lisa Hanawalt's excellent illustrated review of Drive at the Hairpin, which begins like this:

I like Ryan Gosling. I liked him in The Notebook, Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl, and Google Image Search. And driving around LA at night while listening to pop music is my favorite thing on Earth, so seeing Drive was a no-brainer. (read more)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A snack for researchers, historians, and the curious

A resource that holds promise for both professional and amateur hunter-gatherers is the Social Networks and Archival Context Project (SNAC)  - see article in the Chronicle and try out the prototype.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Higher education rankings

Rankings are always fun, even when woefully inaccurate (Norway's hapless football squad was in October 1993 ranked number 2 in the world by FIFA!), and this month sees the release of two higher education rankings: The Times Higher Education Supplement ranking of world universities, and an interesting newcomer, a ranking by U21 of countries (not institutions) that are the ‘best’ at providing higher education.

The ranking by U21 "aims to highlight the importance of creating a strong environment for higher education institutions to contribute to economic and cultural development, provide a high-quality experience for students and help institutions compete for overseas applicants."  Norway is ranked 7 in the world in the U21 survey, but behind Nordic neighbors Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The high ranking suggests that Norway has much to offer other than the quality of its institutions, since its top 4 universities - Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Tromsø - come in at 181, 191, 251-75 and 276-300 respectively in the Times ranking.

Literature at its wurst = literaturwurst

A lover of literature can’t help feeling that—as the conventions of the paper book have come under the interrogation of the visual arts—poetry, rhetoric, narrative, and meaning have often suffered.

So ends Michael Agresta's engaging and handsomely appointed  article in Slate about how the design of the paper book may evolve in the age of digital content. A wurst case outcome (can't help myself) might be German artist Dieter Roth’s literaturwurst -  Georg Wilhelm Hegel's complete works in 20 volumes ground up and used as a substitute for meat in a recipe for homemade sausage.

  Or, we might see more successful blendings of literary and visual arts, like this one:

Monday, May 14, 2012

An uncommonly beautiful and finely woven piece of fabric, from IRCs all over the world. Wish someone would fashion me a shirt out of that!

In a letter to the editor (NYT), director Valerie Hotchkiss of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne shares some sites that chronicle "eureka moments" in the rare book world.

Non Solus blog at the University of Illinois:

The Biblio File at the New York Public Library:

Brown University's blog space for reporting on new finds among old books:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In a review of some recent books on English usage, Joan Acocella provides a useful survey of the descriptivist vs. prescriptivist battles. She omits two of my favorite installments, however; Nicholson Baker's "Leading with the Grumper"(1994), and David Foster Wallace's Tense Present (2001).
Among the pleasures in Acocella's review is this line about Kingsley Amis: Amis’s father was a clerk in a mustard-manufacturing firm, so his pleasure in spotting arrivistes is understandable.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


I never reread books, but better readers do...
The Books We Come Back To

See also Patricia Meyer Spack's recent book "On Rereading" .... and here's a review by Jonathan Yardley

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Postcards from Norway

Check out the Library of Congress's spectacular collection of old postcards from Norway


The Spanish La Liga recently arranged a "Shake Your Booty" dance contest as half-time entertainment...a real sassy performance here by Villareal's Ruben and Real's Pepe.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Research Works [For Publishers] Act

NY Times op-ed about "the latest salvo in a continuing battle between the publishers of biomedical research journals like Cell, Science and The New England Journal of Medicine, which are seeking to protect a valuable franchise, and researchers, librarians and patient advocacy groups seeking to provide open access to publicly funded research"

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lisa Hanawalt

Lisa Hanawalt's illustrated review of Spielberg's War Horse sets a new standard for reviews of any kind. See her work at

Animated Joy of Books

Happy New Year, myriad readers!
Here's a really cool video about the joy of books, from Type bookstore in Toronto.