Sunday, March 23, 2014

Still Blogging Away

I'm happy to see ADM. Stavridis (ret.) still blogging away.  I just recently found his posts.  For those unaware, he's the Dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University.  And of course, he's still plugging his favorite reads.  His top 5 for 2013 are a mix of fiction and non-fiction.  I haven't read any of them.  Here they are:

ADM Stavridis (ret.)
Wikipedia Commons

  • The Circle,” by Dave Eggers.
  • The Orphan Master’s Son,” by Adam Johnson.
  • The Revenge of Geography,” by Robert Kaplan
  • The Goldfinch,” by Donna Tartt.
  • Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know,” by Peter Singer and Allan Friedman.

The Peter Singer book looks like a great primer for anyone working in the Cybersecurity world.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Fantastic Typewritten Letter

1934 Smith-Corona
I've previously mentioned that the actor, writer, and producer Tom Hanks collects and regularly uses manual typewriters.  Recently he wrote an excellent article in the NY Times titled, "I Am TOM. I like to TYPE.  Hear That?" In which he goes on to tells us all the different reasons he enjoys pounding away on an old manual.  It is an excellent piece.  So recently I was amused to see his funny response to the folks from Nerdist when they gave Mr. Hanks a 1934 Smith-Corona manual typewriter as a gift in an effort to get him on their show.  Here's his hilarious typewritten response to the folks at Nerdist:


A great sport and not a bad gift either.  A 1934 Smith Corona is a nice typewriter.  If you get the chance, read his piece in the NY Times.  Because, rather if it is a manual typewriter or a fountain pen, taking the time to put something down on a piece of paper and throwing it in the post is worth your time -- and often well received. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Antique Surprise

Photo courtesy of author
I've recently relocated to Rhode Island.  A few weeks ago I wandered into an antique store in the quaint historic downtown of Newport.  Most of the items in the store were expensive.  Interesting stuff, no doubt, but when I spied a beautiful marble bust for three thousand dollars, I knew most of the items (or as you’ll soon see, almost all of them) were out of my price range.  After a few minutes, however, I discovered a side room and in it a very small stack of books.  In between two large, non-descript books, I found a slim book, about the size of a piece of paper.  It looked to be in good condition.  There was nothing written on the spine, so this of course made me curious.  

I pulled out the thin book and read the title: Washington, The Nation’s Capital by William Howard Taft and James Bryce.

I was excited to learn that William Howard Taft -- our 27th President and later Chief Justice -- wrote a book about Washington D.C.  And I later learned that the coauthor, James Bryce, was the British Ambassador to the US.  

The owner was asking five dollars for the book.  A pittance for some beautiful images and illustrations that made up this slim work.  After further inspection, I realized the binding was beginning to come off the spine.  That would explain the price.  Oh well.  One man’s trash is another’s they say.  

I plucked down my cash and walked out with my find.  
William Howard Taft(c) and James Bryce(r) via Wikipedia

Later, when I got home and gently turned the pages, I smiled when I came across a picture in the book (circa 1917) which showed a few sheep grazing in a green pasture.  The caption read, “In the Suburbs of Washington.”  My guess is where there was grass, there is now a mall -- or a highway.  

Oh, how times change.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hidden Treasures

When I travel across the country -- or whenever I stop in any city for a few days -- I try to find a used bookstore.  I enjoy Barnes and Noble, but why pay full price for a book you can find for half the price at a good used book store?  

If you love books and become fond of a particular author, genre, or illustrator, eventually you'll start looking for first editions.  It is the first symptom of becoming a "bookman.”  And there is no better place to start looking than a good used bookstore.  Sometimes you'll find a store stocked with mass market paperbacks;  chock full of Stephen King, Daniel Steele, Louis L'Amor, James Patterson, and so on.  You'll probably not find a first edition of your favorite author in such a store.  On the opposite end of the spectrum is the antiquarian bookstore, technically "used" books, because they had probably been read by someone at sometime, but due to their age, subject matter, and scarcity they are considered antiquarian -- or rare and expensive.  Somewhere in between these two types of bookstores there is the used bookstore that stocks a bit of everything -- mass market, first  editions, rare, and of course, expensive.  

Recently I ventured into a used bookstore in the Houston area.  It was of the latter type -- full of books of all types, all prices.  In it I found what I like to think of as my first hidden treasure.  And what an exciting find it was.  In the shelves of the mass market fiction, I found a first edition, British Printing of the great comic writer P.G. Wodhouse’s The Golf Omnibus.  It was marked on the outside of the book for $3.95.  I pulled it off the shelf, surprised.  Surely there must be something wrong with it?  A prior library book maybe?  Nope.  Clean and with no markings, it was in near fine condition.  In fact, when I opened the book and looked in the first few pages, there was still a pencil marking with the price from another used book store...$50.00.  Wow!  Now you can find a copy ranging anywhere (depending on condition) from $15.00 to $130.00 from a major online book retailer.  Apparently, after short examination, the bookseller simply looked at the book flap price, which in 1973 was $7.95, and simply did what most used booksellers do when selling something they believe is not valuable (or when their stock is so large they are simply trying to get stuff on the shelves), they sell it for half the cover price. was marked on a sticker on the outside of the book at $3.95.

Now it isn’t like I found a Shakespeare first folio or a page of the Gutenburg bible.  No, no.  The joy however, is discovering something you know is worth more than what the seller is asking for.  And to boot, you enjoy the author or book in question.  So win-win.  I am looking forward to reading Wodehouse’s little gem.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Long Hiatus

My apologies...moving across the country has taken me away from the computer.   I haven't forgotten the 10 or so readers that actually check up on my ramblings.   So here you go. Back to reading and blogging. I've recently stumbled across this website post on how to skim a book. Useful -- yes. But I wouldn't do this with every book.    From the productivity blog Asian Efficiency:

''The main objective of the skimming process is to familiarize yourself with the concepts of the book and to begin getting a conceptual overview of the material before you even start reading it. If you have access to a summary of the book (or if the book includes one), you can and should read that. If not, you can just skim through the concepts and form a first impression that way.

One important thing to keep in mind is that lots of books are written with extraneous details – essentially filler and fluff designed to make books longer than they need to be.

Towards the end of the skimming process, if you start to form a good high-level understanding of the concepts, you may want to start a mind map. Simply open a new map, put the title in the middle and then list the concepts as your first-tier nodes.''

Read the entire post HERE.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Writer's Method

Gay Talese
I've mentioned in previous posts that I enjoy reading about writer's methods -- their writing space, note taking, how they organize their research, etc.  So I was happy that I stumbled upon this 3 minute video interview of literary journalist Gay Talese.  The video shows Talese at his New York home, and his writing space, directly below his apartment, which he refers to as his "bunker."  Gay Talese is most famously known for his articles on Frank Sinatra and Joe DiMaggio -- which I believe he wrote back in the 1960s -- but he is still cranking out articles for the New Yorker and his stuff is fantastic reading.

I'm truly impressed with how well he has organized years and years of research.  If you watch the video you'll see what I'm talking about.  Finally, as you can see in the picture on the left, he is a sharp dresser.   Which is even more impressive, is that he dresses in suit and tie only to walk a few steps from his apartment to his workspace below.   Fantastic.  It reminds me of a similar habit by fellow New Yorker alum and short story writer, John Cheever.  Cheever would do something very similiar: he'd put on a suit that morning and just go a few floors down to the basement of his house to write during the day, and then when the day was over, he'd come back upstairs and take his suit off.

Well, if you have a few minutes to spare, and if you are interested in seeing how a great writer -- well, at least this great writer -- organizes his writing space, check it out HERE.  Enjoy.