Monday, January 5, 2015

On (e)Books and Reading

Some time ago I blurted out on Google+ "I don't love books, I love reading" (I'd link to the post except that my default sharing was to circles only, I will try not to make that mistake again). In the context I meant that reading was what was important to me, not the physical book. But I still love the book form far more than other types of reading.

I read an amount of blog posts, articles, journals, news & magazines but none of them give me the pleasure of a good book. In a book you can immerse yourself in someone else's world, a good argument can be built up and the foundations and the structure properly explored. You don't get that from shorter forms of writing.

So I do still love the book and the experience of reading one, and I prefer them in electronic format. Not only do ebooks take up much less space (the older you get the more of a problem that is, books amass over time!) but features such as being able to highlight passages, make notes and then migrate those highlights and notes into a note taking system add a lot of value.

Another great feature of ebooks is instant delivery. Recently my wife and I were discussing the parenting challenges we have with young Master 5. Our making-it-all-up-as-we-go-along approach to parenting seems to have worked pretty well with little Miss nearly 7 but not so well with young Master 5. So we decided it was time for outside help. We were both aware of Steve Biddulph's "Raising Boys" so we decided to start there. At 11pm at night and $7 later we had a copy ready to read. For a book that is a few years old, even if I could find a physical copy it would take time to get it (and probably cost more too!). I'd rather spend that time reading.

I also still love bookshops. Aside from the books themselves there is a serendipity that can lead to reading things you might never otherwise see. Amazon's recommendation engine has given me some winners (I don't know if it was the books I was reading on running or the books on Buddhism but Running with the Mind of Meditation was a great recommendation) but it tends to expose me to more of what I already read whereas a wander around a bookshop will often turn up something completely different- Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London being a good example (go read the series it is good), I discovered Aaronovitch browsing through a bookshop in Busselton.

I buy my ebooks from Amazon because I have an account, I like and know how to use the Kindle application, and I want all of my books to be in the same place which is not possible if I buy books from other suppliers. Fortunately Amazon's prices tend to be good and their range is fantastic. But I think the true golden age of books will come when you can buy a book from any supplier and read it in whatever application you like and on whichever device you have. I don't know what it will take to bring that about but I am eagerly waiting for it. In the mean time grab a book and enjoy.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Poem Of The Week - Alexander Gray

My sister Mairi has started a blog, you should go read her because she writes really well. One of her posts "Farewell Scotland, Hola Spain" had a snippet of poetry by Alexander Gray which if she hadn't told me was by a Scottish poet I might easily have sworn it was Australian so much it took me to my own experiences of Western Australia. It reminds me of a favourite quote by Henry Lawson

I'm Australian, I know no other land. -Henry Lawson

I've highlighted the snippet, below but the whole poem is worth reading and re-reading.


Here in the Uplands
The soil is ungrateful;
The fields, red with sorrel,
Are stony and bare.
A few trees, wind-twisted –
Or are they but bushes? –
Stand stubbornly guarding
A home here and there.

Scooped out like a saucer,
The land lies before me;
The waters, once scattered,
Flow orderly now
Through fields where the ghosts
Of the marsh and the moorland
Still ride the old marches,
Despising the plough.

The marsh and the moorland
Are not to be banished;
The bracken and heather,
The glory of broom,
Usurp all the balks
And the fields’ broken fringes,
And claim from the sower
Their portion of room.

This is my country,
The land that begat me.
These windy spaces
Are surely my own.
And those who here toil
In the sweat of their faces
Are flesh of my flesh,
And bone of my bone.

Hard is the day’s task –
Scotland, stern Mother –
Wherewith at all times
Thy sons have been faced:
Labour by day,
And scant rest in the gloaming,
With Want an attendant,
Not lightly outpaced.

Yet do thy children
Honour and love thee.
Harsh is thy schooling,
Yet great is the gain:
True hearts and strong limbs,
The beauty of faces,
Kissed by the wind
And caressed by the rain.

Sir Alexander Gray

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book Review- Six Frames For Thinking Abut Information

Edward de Bono provides tools for thinking outside of ones habitual ruts. In Six Frames For Thinking about Information he describes 6 "frames" or perspectives for analysing information to assist with effectively locating, assessing and drawing value from it.

  • Triangle Frame- what's our purpose for the information?
  • Circle Frame- how accurate is the information?
  • Square Frame- what are the alternate points of view?
  • Heart Frame- what are the points of interest? what can be read "between the lines"?
  • Diamond Frame- what are the values of the information?
  • Slab (Rectangle) Frame- what are the conclusions and/or outcomes?

I can recognise my use of some of these frames when I am searching the internet, the volume and diversity of information available necessitates some skill in filtering through it. de Bono's 6 Frames offers a more structured approach.

Whilst this isn't de Bono's best work given the volume of information we are exposed to daily any tools that aid us in dealing with it all is a valuable addition. It's a short read but worth the investment.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cerberus the Red Eyed Hellhound

After getting all sentimental about the not-an-apocalypse I thought I'd balance things out with an apocolyptic Christmas carol.

Cerberus the Red Eyed Hellhound

Cerberus the red eyed hellhound
had two very hellish eyes
and if you ever saw him
you would probably even die

All of the other demons
feared him and cast him into chains
They made that mad-dog Cerberus
guardian of their underworld games

Then one smoky Apocolyptic Eve
Satan came to say
Cerberus with your eyes so bright
won't you lead my hoards tonight

Then all the other demons followed him
and they rended souls with glee
Cerberus the red-eyed hellhound
began the end of history!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Poem For The End Of The World

Just in case...

Poem For The End Of The World

According to some interpreters
of Mayan lore and calendars.
marks the last day of the world.

And just in case,
those soothsayers and doom-mongers
are right this time.
I thought it best
I straighten a few things out.

Firstly let me say,
I'm sorry.

For all the stupid-idiot, thoughtless
and plain boneheaded things,
I said and did, and didn't do.
I'm sorry.

I forgive you.
If this is our last day,
go knowing
between us
the slate is clean.
Even of the things
you've been certain
I could never forgive.

I also want to say,

For all the things you did.
For all the things that made me smile.
For all the laughter and tears
and the multitude flavours
of emotional angst
we shared along the way.
For making life beautiful.

And lastly I want to say,
I love you.

Yes you specifically,
Mum, Dad, Wife, Sibling, Child.
But also,
you and you and you.
All of you.
Without condition, without exception.
I love you.

If this really is
the end of the world.
Then this poem,
is irrefutably,
a grand and pointless gesture.
But if it really is
the end of the world.
So was everything else too.
I'm still glad
I had the opportunity.