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December 29, 2008

'Out of print' has lost its meaning — Biennial reminder


Back in 2006 I remarked on how certain MSM writers continued to bemoan the status of books now "out of print," with further encouragements to publishers to get such titles back into print.

Such admonishments were ridiculous then and even more so today, two years on, what with the ease of access to and relatively small price to be paid for such titles at a myriad of online sites.

Here, then, is that 2006 post along with links to sites where you can find just about anything ever published, often for a relative pittance.

    'Out of print' has lost its meaning

    I see the phrase from time to time in book reviews.

    "It is out of print and difficult to find."


    Reviewers who write stuff like this need to wake up and smell the 21st century.

    Here is where you can locate those "out of print and difficult to find" books:

    AddALL — www.addall.com/

    BookHq — www.bookhq.com/

    BookFinder — www.bookfinder.com/

    Abebooks — www.abebooks.com/

    I've long since lost count of the number of times I've purchased books that were "unobtainable" for reviewers and writers who said as much.

    Must be priceless to see their faces when they open the package.

    No matter — for me, it's just something I like doing.


Though I didn't note it in my 2006 post, Amazon, which frequently has a ton of listings of used copies for sale oftimes starting at 1 cent, is an excellent starting point for your search, with the advantage of letting you buy the books you want with 1-Click (assuming you have an account).

If you don't, you should — it's transformative and still by a country mile the best online shopping experience on the planet.

Regarding the use of "out of print" as a scold in MSM, Jonathan Yardley, the Washington Post's book critic, is the writer whose dead-tree-version words I see most often invoking the phrase.

He ought to cease-and-desist before his paper does.

Look for the wood pulp Washington Post incarnation to publish its final issue within the next five years.

December 29, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Postcard Aeroplane


From the website:

Postcard Aeroplane

Is it a plane?

Is it a postcard?

No, it's a postcard aeroplane!


Excellent for kids and grown-ups who are just big kids, it's made from balsa wood and the pieces easily pop out to form your very own loop-de-loop flying glider.

It's much more fun than ordinary mail and once you write a little message on it, it becomes post with a bit more love and personality.

Don't forget to send it by ‘air mail' though, get it?


Because it's a plane and it flies through the air!



December 29, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

SpellWeb: Two spellings enter, one click decides


As a rule, when I'm uncertain about the correct or preferred spelling of a word, I Google the alternatives and then go with the one that generates the most results — crowdsourcing, if you will.

Now comes SpellWeb to let me do the same thing but with only one click.

You know I'm there as long as it means less effort for me.

Caution: "If you enter two misspellings of a word, it will show you which one is more popular, though neither one is right."

FunFact: The word "misspelled" is frequently misspelled, occasionally — to my great amusement — in a screed about poor spellers.

[via Milena]

December 29, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Acoustic Resonance Massage Chair


From the website:

    Acoustic Resonance Massage Chair

    This acoustic chair provides a resonant, vibrating massage that soothes and relaxes the upper and lower back, thighs — even the palms of your hands — when the 60 brass strings integrated into its seat back are strummed.

    Made in Germany and inspired by medieval Scandinavian cradles that had strings on the bottom for soothing infants, the chair is crafted from 3/4"-thick beech plywood sanded smooth and finished in natural wood oil.

    Played by another while you sit comfortably, the 30 plain and 30 wound piano strings span the entire vertical length of the 38-1/2" backrest and are uncoated for clear, unmuffled sound while generating the frequencies ideal for relaxing acoustic massage.

    The strings are tuned to B (can be tuned up two whole steps to D) with the plain, unwound strings tuned one octave higher than the wound strings, producing a rich, zither-like monochord that generates a relaxing drone.

    The "ears" of the chair create a special resonance chamber, and two adjustable wooden armrests that attach to each side have smooth balls on the end for your palms; when the strings are played, the vibration can be felt in the wrist, palms, and fingertips.

    Chair: 53"H x 22"W; Seat: 22"W x 16"D.

    Includes tuning key.

    Weight: 100 lbs.



"Played by another while you sit comfortably" — aye, there's the rub.


December 29, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

'The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — And Why' by Amanda Ripley

Absolutely fascinating book by someone who knows whereof she speaks.

Above, footage from the December 26, 2004 tsunami as it hit Thailand's Ko Phi Phi island.


    So what can regular people do to improve their own risk perception? When I asked risk experts this question, they told me their own tricks.

    When it comes to financial risk, [Nassim] Taleb, the mathematical trader, refuses to read the newspaper or watch TV news. He doesn't want to tempt his brain with buy-sell sound bites..... Similarly, when it comes to disaster risk, there's little to be gained by watching TV news segments: stories of shark attacks will distract your brain from focusing on far likelier risks.

    "I tell people that if it's in the news, don't worry about it. The very definition of 'news' is 'something that hardly ever happens,'" writes security expert Bruce Schneier. "It's when something isn't in the news, when it's so common that it's no longer news, — car crashes, domestic violence — that you should start worrying."

    ... time distortion primarily exists in our memory. "Time in general is not slowing down. It's just that in a fearful situation, you recruit other parts of the brain, like the amygdala, to lay down memories. And because they are laid down more richly, it seems as though it must have taken longer." In other words, trauma creates such a searing impression on our brains that it feels, in retrospect, like it happened in slow motion.

    Today, [Rogers V.] Shaw trains pilots to proactively scan their instrument panels, over and over again, to counteract the tendency to fixate on one problem. He also teaches pilots to make sure one member of the flight crew remains focused on flying the plane at all times. And he hammers home the importance of open communication and dissent.

    Most of us, I think it's fair to say, have no obvious way to train for life-or-death situations that may never happen. Other than fire drills, which are usually not very realistic anyway, there aren't many opportunities to get to know your disaster personality in a safe environment.

    But for now, there are simpler ways to train the fear response. One of the most surprising tactics, taught in all seriousness to some of the scariest gun-wielding men in the world, is breathing. Over and over again, when I ask combat trainers how people can master their fear, this is what they talk about. Of course, they call it "combat breathing" or "tactical breathing" when they teach it to Green Berets and FBI agents. But it's the same basic concept taught in yoga and Lamaze classes. One version taught to police works like this: breathe in for four counts; hold for four counts; breathe out for four counts; hold for four; start again. That's it.

    Keith Nelson Borders was shot ten times in six shoot-outs as a police officer in Oklahoma and then Nevada from 1994 to 2005. Every time he got shot, he breathed deeply and methodically, and he swears by the strategy. "It keeps you very calm. You don't start to hyperventilate or panic. Everything just kind of goes in slow motion for you," says Nelson.... "You say, OK, here's what's going on, I can handle this. I got shot in the head, and I'm still alive, things are working, so it's not so bad."

    How could something so simple be so powerful? The breath is one of the few actions that reside in both our somatic nervous system (which we can consciously control) and our autonomic nervous system (which controls our heartbeat and other actions we cannot easily access). So the breath is a bridge between the two.... By consciously slowing down the breath, we can de-escalate the primal fear response that otherwise takes over.

    There are people whom psychologists call "extreme dreaders" — people who have a tendency to live in a state of heightened anxiety. Then there are people like [General Nisso] Shacham. What makes him able to negotiate extreme fear so well? How does he navigate through the fog of deliberation without a map? When I ask him this question, he says it's not that he doesn'
    t feel fear; he does, every time. But a calmness resides just adjacent to the fear. "You have to be very cold-blooded," he says. But what makes someone "cold-blooded?" Is it genetics? A chemical imbalance? What makes the difference?

    Resilience is a precious skill. People who have it tend to also have three underlying advantages: a belief that they can influence life events; a tendency to find meaningful purpose in life's turmoil; and a conviction that they can learn from both positive and negative experiences. These beliefs act as a sort of buffer, cushioning the blow of any given disaster. Dangers seem more manageable to these people, and they perform better as a result.

    Resilient people aren't necessarily yoga-practicing Buddhists. One thing they have in abundance is confidence.... Confidence soothes the more disruptive effects of extreme fear. A few recent studies have shown that people who are unrealistically confident tend to fare spectacularly well in disasters. Psychologists call these people "self-enhancers," but you and I would probably call them arrogant. These are people who think more highly of themselves than other people think of them. They tend to come off as annoying and self-absorbed. In a way, they might be better adapted to crises than they are to real life.

    One thing most people don't understand about fires is that the smoke is the main event. It is what makes it nearly impossible to find your way out. Your eyes literally close to protect you from the smoke, and you can't get them open again.... Smoke is also by far the thing most likely to kill you. Firefighters rarely see a burned body. Toxic smoke from a smoldering fire can kill you in your your sleep before any flames are even visible. That's why it's so important to have a smoke detector with a working battery.


FunFact: The three people in the world who know me best all say that I am — by far, no one else is even in the frame — the most annoying person they've ever met.

But I digress.

There are worse things you could do with $16.47 than buy a copy of Ripley's book and read it, then pass it on to those you love.

December 29, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

December 29, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Year 1 World Population Map


1 AD Gregorian calendar, 3761 Hebrew calendar, Mayan calendar, 544 Buddhist calendar.

"The population two thousand years ago is estimated to have been 231 million. At this time North and South America were sparsely populated, as was Asia Pacific. The estimated population of New Zealand was zero. Southern Asia, Northern Africa, China and Southern Europe (parts of the same land mass) had relatively high populations. Colder northern latitudes tended to have lower populations. The territories that now encompass the Ganges, Tigris, Yangtze, Nile and Po rivers were the most populous."

[via Worldmapper]

December 29, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Gamucci Micro Rechargeable Electronic Cigarette — The tobacco alternative


That's different.

From the website:

Gamucci Micro Rechargeable Electronic Cigarette

The Gamucci Micro is a rechargeable electronic cigarette.

It is a completely non-flammable product that uses sophisticated state-of-the-art microelectronic technology to provide users with a real smoking experience — without the tobacco and tar found in real cigarettes.

It looks like, feels like and tastes like a real cigarette, yet it isn't — it is so much more.

Truly a healthier and satisfying alternative.

The Gamucci Micro does not produce any second-hand smoke nor does it cause harm to the environment — it produces a harmless vapour.

It doesn't need to be lit and therefore there is no fire risk.

The Gamucci Micro can be used legally in public areas, restaurants and offices where smoking is prohibited.

Do not be surprised when people ask about you smoking Gamucci Micro — to the casual observer, Gamucci Micro creates the appearance of traditional smoking.


How The Gamucci Micro Works:

The Gamucci Electronic Cigarette Micro uses advanced microelectronic and atomisation technology to atomise the nicotine dilution extracted from tobacco into a vapour when inhaled and accordingly meets the needs of the smoker.

The nicotine dilution used contains nicotine, a tobacco flavour and a non-toxic solution.

The cartridge of the electronic cigarette is composed of an inhaler and a liquid container.

Each cartridge is equivalent to 15 cigarettes.

The nicotine dilution to be atomised is stored in this container and is free from harmful ingredients such as tar and carcinogenic substances.


Advantages of the Gamucci Electronic Cigarette:

• Free from tar and carcinogenic substances harmful to the human body

• Non-flammable and doesn't contain the danger of over 4,000 chemical substances entering the body, like tobacco

• Harmless to others and doesn't cause any pollution to the environment normally caused by 'second-hand smoking

• No fire risk and the product can be used in most public places

• Free from electromagnetic radiation

• Nicotine content of each liquid container is equivalent to approximately 15 ordinary cigarettes


Starter Kit [above] Contains:

• 5 High strength tobacco flavour cartridges (16mg nicotine apiece, equivalent to 15 cigarettes)
• Mains charger with UK plug adapter
• Gamucci E-cigarette Micro
• 2 Rechargeable batteries
• Carry bag



a satisfied user.


December 29, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

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