The problems of the Kindle

March 26, 2009

inspiration_bookshelvesAh Kindle, how the literati hate you, or sing your praises. Two years ago, when the first version was released, Dana posted about them and I made my feelings clear in the comments section. Well, it’s been a few year and we now have Kindle 2.0. My feelings haven softened, but not really changed.

I do not really want a Kindle at the moment for a few reason:

1. They are expensive. Do you know how many books I can buy with that money?

2. There’s not (yet) a mechanism yet for sharing Kindle books. If I buy a Kindle book, I can’t loan it to my friends and I can’t check out a Kindle book from the library. (I can check out other e-books from the library–can I read these on my Kindle? I don’t know. Do you?)

3. I fear reading a Kindle in the bathtub, which is the best place to read books ever.

4. Books smell good. And they’re pretty as objects.

5. Do they have an optional back light yet? While I do like that there isn’t one there by default, it would nice to have one so you can read in the dark.

6. Seriously dude, expensive.

I think some of these objections will fall away with later versions– price will fall, I’m sure we’ll figure lending out…

BUT! Over at Marginal Revolution today, another problem presents itself that I never thought of–

We can’t see what you’re reading, and you can’t signal things with what you’re reading.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sacred Harmonizing with the Subway

March 24, 2009

This morning on my way to work, I caught a story on NPR about the Tibetan Gyuto monks: Gyuto Monks: Ancient Practice, Modern Sound. The excuse for the story was that there is a new CD being released of their chants that more accurately reproduces the sound of what a full choir would have been like. Really, though, most of the story was about how these monks and their overtone (or throat) singing came to the attention of the outside world. The part I particularly liked was near the end, when they interviewed another monk who has already become famous as a singer in the US:

One of the first Tibetan monks to make his name in the West as a musician was Nawang Khechog, who was nominated for a Grammy in 2001. He says these chants are among the most secret and sacred of Tibetan Buddhism — that’s why they’re so heavily layered and deliberately hard to understand.

“Very secret practice,” Khechog says. “Secret as well as sacred … So, therefore, to hide the words, in the general public, it’s disguised in that kind of multitonic sound.”

[…] Khechog says that when he used to live in New York, he would get funny looks when he tried to harmonize with the subway trains.

“I start the chant, and then suddenly the train’s gone,” Khechog says, “and I’m still chanting that, and suddenly, few people standing there, and they think, ‘What’s going on,’ you know?”

I think it would be awesome to run across someone trying to harmonize with a subway train. Too bad there really isn’t any public transportation where I live.

Anyway, if you want to hear some of the singing, there’s a bit in the audio version of the NPR story, and also some longer pieces in the sidebar links on the article page, one of which I’m listening to right now. So there you go, my cool thing of the day.

-posted by Dana

National Grammar Day

March 4, 2009

Not to have the blog taken over by short announcements of amusing geek holidays, but again, this one was too good to pass up. Today, March 4, is National Grammar Day! Here are some suggestions from the organizers on how to celebrate:

Speak well! Write well! And on March 4, march forth and spread the word. We want people to think about language and how it can be used best.

Some of our members are planning Good-Grammar Potlucks at their offices. What do you serve at good-grammar potlucks? High-fiber foods, of course. They’re good for the colon. Afterward, at happy hour, we recommend the Grammartini. (Recipes are here.)

Visit their website for good grammar tips and the bad grammar hall of fame.

Feel free to leave a comment with any particularly heinous examples of bad grammar you notice today!

Square Root Day

March 3, 2009

For any of our readers who haven’t looked too closely at their calendars today, I feel it is my duty to point out that today is a very important Geek Holiday: Square Root Day.

This is, of course, a rare and precious holiday. The last one was 5 years ago, and the next one will not be for another 7 years. Feel free to share in the comments how you celebrated/plan to celebrate.