Living under Las Vegas

Deep beneath Vegas’s glittering lights lies a sinister labyrinth inhabited by poisonous spiders and a man nicknamed The Troll who wields an iron bar.

But astonishingly, the 200 miles of flood tunnels are also home to 1,000 people who eke out a living in the strip’s dark underbelly.

via www.dailymail.co.uk

I've been to Las Vegas a few times, and I had no idea there were 200 miles of tunnels underneath all that glitz. Let alone that those selfsame tunnels are home to lots of people.


Oregon Book Purchases

Some of you may know that I'm crazy about Kindles. I like them not because they are cool pieces of technology but because they make it so easy to read, and store, a large number of books.

I must admit, however, that I often feel a twinge of guilt concerning the amount of money I spend at Amazon. No where is this twinge more evident than when I find myself in one of those rare bastions of the book world: a quality independent bookstore.

Whilst vacationing in Oregon I found myself in not one but three such fine establishments. The obvious one is Powell's in Portland, but we also visited two smaller bookstores: Cannon Beach Book Company and Beach Books (which was the home of this very nice kitty named Oz. Check out Oz's recommended books for some kitty reading).

I couldn't leave any of these stores without a book or three. I had to show my support for these small business people (I often dream of opening my very own bookstore, but then I realize that I enjoy making money).

Here's my book haul from the trip (in no particular order):

I've already read Transition, which I enjoyed, and have plans to read the rest... eventually.


Macs are out to get me

I'm a fairly technical guy, or so I like to think. Sadly, my Macs seem to be revolting!

It all started when Joe offered me the use of an SSD (a type of harddrive) for my work MacBook Pro. I leapt at the chance thinking it would take a couple hours to clone my old drive and slap in the new one.

12 hours later I had the new disk installed AND I had to manually copy over my old files. Sigh.

This evening I came home and tried to start my Mac Pro. It won't start, just gives me a flashing light (which means there is some funky RAM installed).

Sigh.

OK, I thought, why not make sure my Mac Mini (which has all my music and videos on it) is doing alright! I log into it and all the applications seem to be missing. I can't launch Software Update or anything. That's odd. I reboot the thing, and now it won't boot. Apple's disk utility tells me something is deeply wrong with the disk... which isn't a problem because Time Machine has been faithfully backing up all of my precious files, right? Nope, it would seem Time Machine has been silently failing without even a whisper.

Sigh.

I have most of my music backed up elsewhere, and I am fairly certain I'll be able to restore all the files from the disk (at the very least), but it is a hassle to say the least.

Damn technology!


Atlantic/Travels in Siberia

Tonight Marisa and I sallied forth to the Free Library of Philadelphia to get our culture on. We saw two authors speak about their new books: Simon Winchester and Ian Frazier.

Both gentlemen were erudite and succeeded in making me want to read their new books (Atlantic
and Travels in Siberia
respectively) though I must admit I'm a little peeved that the Kindle version of Atlantic is only 12 cents cheaper than the hardcover (sometimes I think publishers don't get eBooks... but that can't be possible, can it?).

Now, I know what you non-Philadelphians and library haters are thinking, "How can I get all the benefits of these author events without all the hassle of living in Philadelphia or going to a commie library?" Simple! Check out the Author Events podcast page which contains many free records of library hosted author events.


August - I totally posted once a day

augustirule.jpgAs I sat here trying to think of something (ANYTHING) to blog about it hit me: why was I trying to blog before going to bed? Because I wanted to post every day during the month of August.

Since this is the last day of August, I can now declare: Mission accomplished! Woo!

What were some of my favorite posts this month? Why, I'm glad you asked! Here they are:

I can't say that I'll be blogging every day in September, but I will try to blog more regularly.


OED Online only? OMG.

myOED.jpg

Recently Nigel Portwood, the chief executive of the Oxford University Press, caused something of a kerfuffle when he suggested that in 10 years time (when the 3rd edition of the OED might be ready for publishing) that they might not actually print a third edition.

Lots of people (many of whom, I am sure, have never actually seen let alone used the OED) decided they should pipe up and use this offhand comment as a jumping off point to pontificate about the future of publishing (which is now a hot topic amongst tech writers who know very little about the subject, but feel compelled to write about it because Apple introduced the iPad a few months ago and it is going to CHANGE EVERYTHING, i.e. they can get some cheap traffic by mentioning Apple and some other industry in the same article).

First, a little about me and the OED. I've long been a fan of the OED, mostly because I admire any dictionary that says, those other dictionaries define words, we define the language. The OED is less about trying to figure out what a word means and more about researching how it came to mean what it does. The OED does this through etymology (they don't do it through entomology as I first said, though I imagine someone at the OED enjoys insects). and by quoting the first known time a word has been used to mean a particular thing in writing.

I always had it in the back of my head that I wanted to own the second Edition of the OED (which is the one that is currently in print and consists of 20 volumes plus 3 additional update volumes). I told Marisa that I wanted to buy it, and she said yes thinking it was just a plain old dictionary. When the 5 boxes from Amazon showed up she was a little taken aback, but as you can see above in the very crappy picture I took for this post they've found quite a nice home in our den.

Now, the OED is a fantastic set of books to leaf through... but honestly OED.com is much more useful on a day to day basis. It is more up to date, easier to search, and more convenient. Now, unless I miss my guess I think that in ten years time, when the 3rd edition of the OED is complete it will be available in print. It will just be a very expensive, limited edition print version. Something for collectors and reference sections of libraries. Most people will just subscribe to the OED's service and have the OED app on their tablet or whatever the heck we'll be using in ten years time.

One final note to cement the fact that most people writing about this issue, at least on the tech Web sites, don't have a clue about the OED. Mathew Ingram writing for the usually excellent GigaOm has a piece called Oxford Dictionary Goes Online. Do You Really Care? Right off the bat the headline has two problems: the title of the tomes in question is the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press does publish a number of dictionaries, but only one is worthy of the OED monicker. The headline also creates the impression that the OED hasn't been online up until this very point. OED.com has been online for a decade, and available on CD long before that.

Of course the headline isn't the worst part of Ingram's post. He ends it with this thought:

But should a major reference work like the OED go online only? It seems inevitable, but just because the dictionary publishes online doesn’t mean it has to submit completely to the real-time frenzy of the web, and try to emulate Wikipedia. The OUP could continue to update the dictionary only at certain intervals, but this job would be a whole lot easier — not to mention substantially less expensive — without the need to print dozens of books for just a single copy of the finished product.

First off, it makes no sense what-so-ever to update the online version of the OED only at certain times... why adapt the worst aspect of the print version to the online version? Good thing the OUP doesn't do this.

Secondly, it would appear that Mr. Ingram isn't all that familiar with the OED otherwise he would be aware that Wikipedia itself has its roots in the way the Oxford English Dictionary is created. The fine lexicographers at Oxford are very talented but they can't research every word in the English language alone. The dictionary wouldn't exist if there wasn't a legion of 'readers' that submit quotations they believe to be the first use of a particular word in the English language. If you're gotten this far in the post you'll recall earlier I mentioned what set the OED apart from other dictionaries, in part, were the quotations. The OED is the great-grandfather of Wikipedia, and the Internet has only made the process more efficient (check out how you can help them find words here).

By the way, I busted out my OED to see where the word 'kerfuffle' comes from. Turns out kerfuffle is a colloquial version of curfuffle, which has its first known use in 1813 by George Bruce in the following sentence, "An' Jeannie's kirtle, aye sae neat, Gat there a sad carfuffle"


What are you reading?

OK, Blankbaby readers! Here's a little experiment. Over the last year or so Blankbaby has been somewhat fallow. However, you might have noticed an uptick in posts as of late.

I have no idea how many people still read this blog (to be honest, I never really understood why anyone would read this, but that's a subject for another time), so in an effort to see how popular I am (you like me! You really like me) I thought I ask for a little audience interaction.

As you know, I love to read but I tend to fall into ruts in my reading:

  • SciFi (and various sub-genres)
  • Fantasy from time to time
  • Historical/literary mysteries
  • Contemporary Fiction (i.e. 'serious fiction')

Sound off in the comments and let me know what you're reading, or what you've read recently you really enjoyed.

I just finished The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas which is a nice, light read.


My Kindle 3 arrives tomorrow

kindle3.jpg

Can you tell I'm a little excited? Ok, it is true I might have a Kindle problem, but thanks to the low price of the Kindle WiFi model and $70 worth of Amazon credits I had this Kindle only cost me $78. It is like Amazon is paying me to buy it.

For those keeping score, here's my Kindle score card (keep in mind this only takes into account the current generation of Kindle hardware):

kindlescore2010.jpg

Obviously I need to get myself an Android phone.


Mockingjay - what the heck?

mockingjay.jpgI'm not a teenaged girl (shocking, I know) so there are some cultural phenomenon that escape my attention until they become or prevalent that one is forced to know what they are.

Twilight is a recent example (sparkly vampires and hunky werewolves? Brilliant!). It seems the next Twilight (though I have no idea if anyone is calling it that, other than me) is the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (of which the last book, Mockingjay
, was just released).

Here's how Scholastic, the publisher of the Hunger Games trilogy (which, I suppose, means I should compare it to Harry Potter) describes the first book in the series (titled The Hunger Games
):

Twenty-four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives.

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.

Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

You know what? That actually sounds kind of interesting. Perhaps I'll try and convince the folk on the Incomparable podcast that we should talk about it in a future episode so I'll have an excuse to read it.


I really do like libraries

Library Cards

Just because I own a pile of eReaders doesn't mean I hate books (well, physical books). As anyone who has visited my home can attest to, I love books.

I was rooting around in a desk drawer looking for something, as you do, when I came across the pile of library cards pictured above. The red one is for the New York Public Library, the yellow one hails from the Bethlehem Area Public Library, and the gray one is for the Yonkers Public Library.

I clearly remember my mom taking me to the Will Library on Central Avenue to get my very first library card (I was very young, though I can't recall exactly how old I was). Here's what the Will Library looks like, courtesy of Flickr user bitchcakesny:

Will Library, Yonkers

When I was a kid I didn't really give the architecture too much though, it was just my library. However, looking at it now I really dig the building, and the font they used on the Yonkers Public Library sign.

I will admit, though, that despite my love of libraries I couldn't find my Philadelphia library card to add to the photo-shoot. I have one, though I have no idea where it is.


1: "We'll Always Have Zeppelins" - The Incomparable

TheIncomparable.jpgThe Internet is an odd place, don't you think? Where else could an innocent request for some reading suggestions turn into a podcast about geek culture?

A while back John Siracusa (at least I think it was him) asked folks on Twitter for some book recommendations. A flurry of suggestions popped up (the Venn diagram of the people I follow and the people John follows overlaps greatly), which gave Jason Snell an idea: why not create a podcast to talk about SciFi/fantasy books as well as comics, TV and movies?

That podcast is the Incomparable, and the first episode is "We'll Always Have Zeppelins". This episode features Glenn Fleishman, Dan Moren, Jason Snell, and myself chatting about geeky books. Given the fact that I hadn't read two of the three books discussed, there isn't an overwhelming amount of the patented "McNulty charm" in this episode, but rest assured that it will be on display in future episodes.

Anywho, here are links to the books that I mentioned in this episode, should you want to read one for yourself:


The last 7 Augusts of my life

I remember a time when people thought I was odd for having a blog (I'm odd for many reason, but blogging isn't one of them). When I started blogging 10 years ago no one knew what a blog was.

Now everyone knows what a blog is, but nobody seems to care about personal blogs. Blog have moved on, become corporate (I should know, I run a corporate blog!), become magazines... have become part of the wallpaper of our lives.

One of the greatest benefits of keeping a personal blog, though, is being able to delve into the archives and recall what you were doing at moments in the past... in your own words.

I thought it would be fun to see what I was doing, and thinking about, in each of the Augusts for which I have a blog archive. For some reason I have archives from August 2000 and then it skips to August 2003 so we'll consider 2001 and 2002 my 'Lost Augusts,' which would make a great title of a book.

August 2000: I saw some nuns, went to the dentist (twice!), and attended an Alumni Relations conference (I still remember the deafening sound of small talk).

August 2003: I'd been living in Philadelphia for about five months, and I was discovering the blogging community here. I was also obsessed with Macromedia (now Adobe) products for some reason.

August 2004: I watched some bad movies, thought about going to Ireland (spoiler alert: I haven't been to Ireland yet, I was excited to get a Pocket PC (hey, this was YEARS before the iPhone, people), and had my boss point out that I had a lot of gray hair (and she thought I was several years older than I actually was at the time).

August 2005: A neologism ('blankbabied') was coined and briefly in Wikipedia before their editors rejected it, was told "You would never be Jesus" which still holds true, looked back at the start of my blogging life (odd that here it is August, and once again I'm looking back at my blogging life), and stated once more my desire to go to Ireland.

August 2006: I went to see a Jonathan Coulton concert (before he got modestly famous), bought some books about libraries, shaved off my beard, and found out I was fat (I was as shocked as you are to here the news).

August 2007: I found that Sour Cream and Onion Quakes are quite tasty, purchased my first iPhone (and posted way too many pictures from it), created a promo video for a Viddler content with Marisa, and called Thad a jackass.

August 2008: I left TUAW, saw Neal Diamond in concert (for the second time), joined up with the merry crew at Macworld/MacUser (and I'll be blogging more over there soon!), and bought a new fridge.

August 2009: I created a blog for the purpose of posting pictures I wanted to Tweet (that blog has been abandoned), read a book, and and received a very cute key chain from Marisa.


Cool posters from Vintagraph

1939WorldsFair.jpgI was born in the wrong era. Well, maybe not since if I had been born in the 30's I wouldn't be able to enjoy all the gadgets (and blogs) that I spend so much of my time obsessing over.

Thankfully, Vintagraph is there to provide me with artwork so I can enjoy both my iPad and WPA produced posters. Isn't the world a wonderful place?

I have my eye on a few of their posters:


Hooked on Classics

Hooked on ClassicsI like classical music (I have enough of it in my iTunes library to listen to only classical music for 8 days non-stop) but I really know very little about it. It is relaxing and enjoyable, but I can't tell Mozart from Rachmaninov (actually, I probably could... but I'm trying to make a point here!).

I also happen to like Amazon, so when Amazon sent me an email listing a bunch of classical music albums on sale for $5 (these are MP3s, not CDs) I knew I was going to blow some cash, but I didn't think I would be transported back to my childhood.

When I was a little boy my family had an old record player in the livingroom, stored up on top of a built in china cabinet. Every once and awhile I would get it down and listen to some records that my parents had. I don't recall what any of those records were with one exception: Hooked On Classics.

What's Hooked On Classics? I suggest you check out the Amazon page and listen to the previews... think classical music meets disco and you'll have a good idea of what it sounds like.

Needless to say I'm $5 poorer but richer in the childhood memories that come flowing back whenever I hear a track from the album. Seems like a fair trade to me.


My Strand haul

newbooksforscott.jpg

The other day I went to the Strand, and if you know anything about me you know I can't leave the Strand without buying some books. The next question that should come to mind is, what books did you get, Scott?

Here's the list:

And now you know!