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Entries in Books (42)


Neal Stepenson & The Baroque Cycle

The Baroque Cycle
About a month ago, I'd come close to buying Quicksilver, the first book of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle Trilogy over at There was a special deal available for all 3 books, but I was hesitant to buy without having read any of the books.

I decided against the purchase, choosing to ordered Quicksilver from the local library. Well, I've now had a chance to read a fair bit of Quicksilver, and am enjoying the story. It's set in the 1600s, and features famous characters from history mixing it up with characters created by Stephenson. From the eReader site:

Set against the backdrop of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Quicksilver tells the intertwining tales of three unforgettable main characters (ancestors of characters from Cryptonomicon) as they traverse a landscape populated by mad alchemists, Barbary pirates, and bawdy courtiers, as well as historical figures including Ben Franklin, William of Orange, Louis XIV, and many others.

This breathtaking story ranges from the American colonies to the Tower of London to the glittering palace at Versailles, and all manner of places in between — and plays out during a singular nexus point in history, when rationality triumphed over mysticism, monarchy was overthrown, markets become free, and religious tolerance gained ground over harsh oppression.

If you're a history and historical fiction fan like I am, The Baroque Cycle sounds like (and is) an interesting story.

So, today, when I came across two tidbits related to Neal Stephenson and his latest book series, I thought I'd share them:

First, is offering the entire 3 ebook Baroque Cycle Trilogy, for $29.95. That includes Quicksilver, The Confusion and The System of the World.

There are advantages to buying the ebooks, most notably the additional material available only in those editions. Further, buying the trilogy as ebooks is cheaper than buying all 3 of printed editions (even used). Finally, it's much easier to haul ebooks around on a Palm handheld! Just the hardcover edition of Quicksilver is a massive 927 page volume.

The second tidbit: Neal Stephenson was sent questions posed by the folks at Slashdot. Today, his answsers have been posted in Neal Stephenson Responds With Wit and Humor.

So, if you're at all interested in Stephenson or his books, I hope you take advantage of the ebook deal and have a chance to read the interview at Slashdot.

Have a great weekend!


The Joy of New Books


One of my fondest memories as a grade school kid, were book days. More specifically, Scholastic Book Club order sheet days, and Scholastic Book Fairs each year. I was reminded of this Monday night, while submitting an order at

Now, American kids growing up will probably remember Scholastic Book Clubs and Fairs, but in case you're not from the US, here's a quick overview. Scholastic Book Clubs distribute book sheets with about 100 book selections (photos and descriptions) to participating US grade schools. Book sheets are given to students, who review the selections, choose books, and fill out the order form on the back page. Sheets are given back to the teacher for mass ordering. In a few weeks, all the books arrive, packed in cardboard.

Oh, I savored the Book Club order sheet each month. I'd carefully review the entire sheet several times, honing in on just the right books to buy (if I could afford them). I'd fill out my sheet and return it, then patiently anticipate delivery.

A few weeks later, our books would arrive, and there was happiness in the air! I loved the unwrapping ceremony, though I must admit it generally didn't last long. There was, and still is, something wonderful about unpacking a crisp new book.

The yearly Book Fairs were another long-awaited event. In our school, the library's reading tables would be stocked with books to browse. This was even better than a Book Club order sheet, because stacks of freshly printed books could be seen, touched and read. I remember spending lunch hour and time before and after school at the fairs, carefully choosing my purchases for the year.

I'm very grateful for this formative book experience. Scholastic, along with the reading atmosphere established by my mom and the stacks of titles we'd gather at the public library, built my enjoyment of books and reading. I sincerely hope I can pass along this same foundation to my son Nathan. He does love his books now, so I'm optimistic.

So what are your memories of books as a kid? Please feel free to share your own book memories that established a love of books in you in the comments area!

If you're curious, my latest book purchase included: Wil Wheaton's Just a Geek, Eric Brende's Better Off, and Chump Change, a comedy on DVD comparing Milwaukee and Hollywood. I can't wait to receive my packages from next week.

The unwrapping ceremony will live on. :-)


Moleskinerie featured on

This evening, my friend Armand Frasco, IM'ed me to mention that his Moleskine weblog, Moleskinerie, was just featured in the branding website,!

A nice snippet from the article:

One measure of the strength of a brand is by the amount of fervor that it inspires among its devotees. “I love my Moleskines, and you can have them when you pry them from my cold dead hands,” says one anonymous contributor to the blog,, which is “dedicated to the proposition that not all notebooks are created equal.”

Armando B. Frasco, a “photo/documentarist” and graphic designer in Chicago, Illinois, started on a whim in January 2004, after doing a Google search to see whether there were any other people as “crazy” about the “little black book” as he was (today, searching on “Moleskine” nets 54,900 results, and Frasco’s results were probably no less astounding).

Asked why he thinks people are so fond of Moleskine notebooks, Frasco says, “I believe it has something to do with the provenance of Moleskine. Using the same notebook that Chatwin, Matisse, Hemingway, et al., supposedly used somehow lends cachet to one's notebook.”

What a great thing, seeing the effort Armand has poured into his weblog, starting to pay off. I know how hard he's worked on the site, starting it out and maintaining it on his own dime, working hard to find interesting stories to post, and searching out famous and non-famous Moleskine users from all walks of life.

Congratulations are in order to Armand and all of the volunteers over at Moleskinerie who are now enjoying the fruits of their efforts.

Have a nice weekend everyone!


Better Off

Better OffIn this month's Wired Magazine, I read a story about an MIT graduate who left the high tech world for a life without electricity, out in the countryside. Eric Brende is the chap who turned in his high tech lifestyle for a simple one similar to the lives the Amish / Mennonite live — low tech and off the grid.

Drawing on the experiences of living a simple life for a year with his wife, Eric has written the book Better OFF; Flipping the Switch on Technology. It appears the book is just out (or soon will be) because when I tried to request the book from the Milwaukee Public Library, it spit back an error "Object not in System".

Here's an excerpt from Eric's personal About page:

My new book, coming out from HarperCollins this August (2004), is entitled "Better OFF; Flipping the Switch on Technology." It describes the journey my wife and I have taken from the fast-paced life of high technology at MIT to a richer, more leisurely and savory existence, using our own arms, legs, and heads to perform most of the everyday tasks machines once performed for us--from washing clothes to walking to the bank or grocery store to thinking through a frugal plan of "home-economics" in a modern city. Most of the book focuses vividly on a year Mary and I spent living in the country with an Old Order Anabaptist group that I call the "Minimites," where we learned practical knacks and principles of technological selection we now apply in our urban home.

Looks very interesting indeed. I'll have to keep an eye on this book and maybe even buy it before borrowing from the library, to see Eric's insights. It's especially relevant to my thinking lately, as I have written on the topic of being in control of technology, rather than driven by it in On Keeping Technology in Perspective. I do try to manage the tech in my life, but I'm sure I could improve.

So, if you too have an interest in simplifying your life by hearing insights from a fellow techie turned low-techie for a year, Better OFF seems like it might be worth checking out.

BTW, I must express my thanks to Wired Magazine, which I have decided to continue for another year. You might recall I contemplated dropping Wired not long ago, but decided to hold on for another year, at $10.

Oddly enough though, my "loyal" subscriber rate was $12, while the new subscriber cards (you know, the pile cards that fall out of each issue) were at $10 per year. I let my old subscription lapse and sent in a $10 card instead, saving $2. :-)


The Joy of Magazines

There's something special about the arrival of my monthly Wired magazine that still beats any e-zine or website or weblog. A magazine tactile and local in a way an electronic thing cannot be. Even on my Tungsten E, an iSilo'ed version of a weblog is still digital bits, held virtually inside of an electronic thing.

That's not to say electronic or digitally delivered items are not wonderful, they indeed can be. I thoroughly enjoy many websites, ezines and weblogs for the ideas and writers who generate them. Still, they can never quite match the feeling of a fresh magazine arriving in the mailbox.

I bought my first Wired magazine at the grocery store, because it looked a bit funky and right up my alley as a designer interested in the tech culture. Shortly after my first newsstand copy, I became a subscriber. For nearly 8 years (I think that's right) I've enjoyed each issue of Wired, arriving the snail-mail way to my mailbox. I've even archived each issue for future reference.

Normally I'd hide myself away somewhere and scan the new issue, mentally marking articles I had to read, noting others that seemed interesting. Either at that moment or not long after, I would read the new arrival from cover to cover.

Funny thing is, I'm currently thinking of terminating my Wired magazine subscription. For me, it seems to have lost the original vision and feel it had just a few years ago. It could be changes in the magazine and its leadership, changes in our times or even changes in me.

Whatever the reason, I don't have the same level of interest in Wired as I once did. It feels like a shadow of its former self. I will still visit the website, read the news and interesting articles, but I no longer feel compelled to stay a subscriber.

I've already been considering other magazines, such as Communication Arts (a design magazine), as a replacement. I truly love the feeling of a new magazine in the mail — pulling off the wrapper and reading cover to cover. I want that feeling back.

Any other suggestions?

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