Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Kindle - a moral dilemma

'To Kindle or not to Kindle, that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous book prices,
or take arms against a sea of e-books,
and by opposing end free dowloads,
to read, to buy, 
purchase the file,
ay, there's the rub'

(with apologies to Shakespeare's  Hamlet, Act III, Scene I)

What's a girl to do in this day and age, hey?  And particularly, what's a girl who spent 15 years in the book trade to do? 

For a long time, I resisted the idea of a Kindle, my bookseller's heart rejected the lack of paper pages to flick, the impersonal generic-ness of reading from a screen, the empty feeling of one's hands holding not a wodge of paper but a bit of plastic, and even the absence of that wonderful book smell.

And then I left the book trade to finish studying and so as not to work weekends any more (kills your social life with your kids once they're at school!), and my endless source of free and cheap books, the river that had run through my life for 15 years, dried up in a flash.

In the past 2.5 years, I've bought books second-hand, got them from *hangs head in shame* Target, from eBay, from Amazon, read an awful lot of fanfiction (and that's another post!), even a few times bought them from proper bookshops like Dymocks, and ON A KINDLE (the horror!)!!!  Pretty much the only thing I haven't done is join a library, and that's because I'm too impatient to wait for favourite authors on a waiting list (yes, I will die if I can't read the latest Harry Hole or Sookie Stackhouse the week it comes out...).

I'm not sure where this pic originally comes from, but it was obviously taken in a real bookshop!!
And I have to say, I really love my Kindle and she is a lot of fun (her name's Enid).  I'm coming to terms with my place in a mutli-media book age.  And when I saw this quote from the wonderful Stephen Fry on the internet a few days ago, I felt at peace

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Library porn for bibliophiles

Look at this!

This is the Mortlock Wing at the State Library of South Australia, and honestly one of the most lovely libraries I've ever been in (yes I know there are many other lovelies in the book world, but this one on my doorstep is a favourite).  This wing houses the State Library's South Australiana collection, which began early in the colony's lifetime as one trunk of books brought out from England in 1860, and now takes up 50 kilometres of shelf space in storage.

Yes, I had to read it twice when I saw it, FIFTY LINEAR KILOMETRES OF BOOKS = bookgasm!  You could basically shut me in there with a large box of muesli bars and not see me for 30 years or so.  Heaven.

The wing is named after one of the library's greatest benefactors, John Tennant, who left over $70K to the libraries of South Australia when he died in 1950, a phenomenal sum for the time.  And I'm jolly glad he did, as South Australia's libraries are superb.  Thanks John!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Sometimes chickens can be bad for you

This is from the UK Guardian online.

Improbable research: chicken bone injury leaves a fowl smell

Baffling medical mystery of the poultry worker who stank for five years
A man who dressed chickens for a living cut his finger on a chicken bone
A man who dressed chickens for a living cut his finger on a chicken bone and carried the stink with him for half a decade. Photograph: Orlando Kissner/AFP/Getty Images
Four doctors in Wales rose to fame because of a man who pricked his finger and smelled putrid for five years.
The doctors were hit nose-on with one of the most baffling medical mysteries on record. It all started with a chicken. The case ended happily – yet mysteriously – half a decade later, the stink having vanished. The Lancet published an account of this called, accurately, A Man Who Pricked His Finger and Smelled Putrid for 5 Years.
The report, written by the relieved but puzzled physicians, ends with a plea: "We ask assistance from colleagues who may have encountered a similar case or for suggestions to relieve this patient's odour."
Here's what happened. In September 1991, a 29-year-old man who dressed chickens for a living cut his finger with a chicken bone. This fateful prick cause his finger to soon become reddish and smelly. The man got himself to the Royal Gwent Hospital, in Newport, Wales, where Drs Caroline Mills, Meirion Llewelyn, David Kelly and Peter Holt took him under their care.
The doctors treated the man with the antibiotic flucloxacillin. His hand still smelled.
Then they tried a different antibiotic, ciprofloxacin. His hand still smelled.
Next came erythromycin. Still his hand smelled.
Next up: metronidazole. The smell persisted.
The doctors delved into the hand surgically, but found nothing there of interest. They did a skin biopsy and cultured the microorganisms from it, hoping to discover some noxious bug. Here, too, they found nothing of interest.
Meanwhile, the man continued to stink.
The doctors took stool cultures. These stank, too, but only in the ordinary way.
The doctors tried everything they could think of: isotretinoin, psoralen, ultraviolet light treatment, colpermin, probanthene, chlorophyll, and even antibiotic withdrawal to allow restoration of normal flora. All to no avail.
As they put it: "Although the clinical appearance improved, the most disabling consequence of the infection was a putrid smell emanating from the affected arm, which could be detected across a large room, and when confined to a smaller examination room became almost intolerable."
After five years the man still stank. The doctors wrote up a description of this curious case, and published it in hopes that some physician somewhere had encountered a similar problem and could suggest a way to relieve the patient's distress.
For treating, and of necessity smelling, the unfortunate man who pricked his finger and smelled putrid for five years, the doctors – together with their unnamed patient – won the 1998 Ig Nobel prize in the field of medicine.
Their acceptance speech spoke of their hope to advance medical knowledge: "We published this case to seek help. Despite enormous amounts of correspondence, nobody had ever seen anything like this before, and no suggestions were effective. Our story, however, does have a happy ending.
Our patient no longer smells putrid. Thank you very much."
• Marc Abrahams is editor of the bimonthly Annals of Improbable Research and organiser of the Ig Nobel prize

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Lego - the world's best thing?

Last year we went to Europe, and one of the very first things we did after arriving in the UK (other than having a large drink to congratulate ourselves on getting two small children halfway across the world in one piece) was go to Legoland at Windsor.

You really can make pretty much anything with Lego, including the Crown Jewels

OMG, it was awesome, fabulous, imaginative, crowded, expensive, inspiring, annoyingly hilly when you're pushing a stroller with jetlagged kids in it, but all round bloody good!!

We saw a giant T-rex made of Lego, cities and attractions of the world in miniature (including Cape Canaveral and a Space Shuttle that launches), Lego vikings, took a Lego driving test, spent hours in the amazing shop (pricey but sooooooo worth it), went on rides, panned for gold and won a medal, got drench on the log flume even with waterproofs on, made and then raced tiny Lego cars on a special track, and many many other things.  Two days was barely enough time, we could have easily stayed for 3.

Safe to say it was one of the highlights of our whirlwind tour.  We had planned to go to the original Legoland at Billund in Denmark but unfortunately ran out of time on our trip.  Oh well, there's always next time!