Ode to Nook: Reading ebooks in an eink eworld.

My awesome mother gave me an ebook reader as birthday present, which sorta proves that if you bitch, whine and drop hints like a rabbit shits, someone will give in. I have tons of stuff which I’m slowly transferring to the Nook, and reading is encroaching on my podcast listening which is a good thing. There’s no app for organizing your documents on the computer, so I’m using the competent but ass-ugly Calibre for this. I might not be paying enough attention, or I might just have low tolerance for stupid interfaces, but using Calibre isn’t very efficient. Unfortunately there are no alternatives. I’ve found an app for syncing Instapaper articles which works like a charm though. (Ephemera)

All in all, I enjoy using the Nook. It’s easy enough to use and once you get used to reading on a computer device in broad daylight you’ll be annoyed with all the gadgets which aren’t legible in direct light. E ink is awesome and very pleasant to read — not quite like paper but miles beyond LCD screens. (Although if you spend your days in murky settings you might go for the backlit iPad.) It’ll be interesting to see how the usability will change once winter and darkness comes.

I jailbroke the Nook but had little use for it. Using Internet over 3G would be useful if there was a good RSS app and/or syncing with a desktop app like Evernote, so jailbreaking might become more interesting once the proper Android apps are adapted for the Nook LCD.

The battery only lasts some 400 page turns over three days, but Barnes & Noble seem to consider it within acceptable levels. I concede that it’s not an undue burden to charge the thing every other night, but it galls me that they’re advertising it as lasting for 10 days with “normal use” without mentioning that “normal use” is “up to one hour per day.” Their support personell is quick to respond but are writing straight from a flowchart — I don’t know if it’s corporate culture or unmotivated kids, but if they replaced them with scripts they’d still improve on service and “the human touch.”

Because I’m a positive and creative person I express my disappointment through poetry in odd meter. If you can get someone to read this with a deep voice and British accent I will send you a present. Until then, imagine Ian McKellen doing a dramatic reading:

Quite a device, my Nook
it’s swell in the sun!
People stop and stare,
it fails to impress no-one.
As long as it works,
it works rather fine.
So I’ve grown quite fond
of this Nook of mine.

But compared with your ads,
“foul!” ring my cries,
the sparkle and shine,
mostly mirrors and lies
“go to page” is a “feature”
we got with point four.
as if skipping pages
was unheard of before.

Browsing books is a pain,
all’s one big directory,
Sorting Gutenberg documents
like colon endoscopy.

No apps for the desktop
is vexing indeed
While non-standard USB
make hairlines recede.

I don’t mind that it scratches,
dulls or is slow,
But wish your support wasn’t also.
They read from a sheet,
and not my complaint,
perhaps y’all lay off the lead paint?

Quite a device, my Nook
it’s nimble and fun!
People stop and ask,
and I recommend it to some.
As long as it works,
it works rather fine.
So despite Barnes and Noble
I’m fond of this Nook of mine.

The future! The future!

The Singularity is no longer talked about as the geek rapture which will make people happy and good and content with life; Just as our capacity for rational and creative thought will be multiplied hundredfold in a short time, our capacity to act according to our own morals increases accordingly. No longer a world where anyone can build an atom bomb, but one in which each of us is a walking one. The will to power will out, and just because there’s no need to fight over oil or water doesn’t mean someone won’t want to kill us all.

Ray Kurzweils movie Trancendent Man seems like an interesting overview of the mans ideas, and h+ has an interview with him which you might want to read before the movie makes it onto the torrent sites; He is good at articulating the problems which might appear as a result of technological advances (eternal life, nano-tech, AI) and because of his technological background actually has numbers he can throw at you when it comes to the hard sci-fi predictions.

James Hughes over at Changesurfer Radio interviewed professor of philosphy Asher Seidel about his book, and it’s a good guide to the kinds of questions that might challenge our successors. I started listening to the transhumanist Changesurfer Radio ten years ago in Karlstad, and it’s a great source of interesting ideas and people. I heartily recommend it, if for no other reason than that James is a politically conscious person who doesn’t let his interviewees get away with just technological solutions to human problems; Humans are social and political beasts and use technology accordingly. Which, incidentally, also is the lesson that good science fiction can teach us.


Lately, between fattening myself on crisps and ramen, and watching The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, I’ve been reading. Since none of you heathens got me an ebook reader for the holidays, I’ve been perched in my comfy new fake leather armchair, reading off the screen or on paper.

Mostly I’ve been rekindling old flames: Iain M. Banks Matter as well as the abridged Transition; Peter F Hamiltons Starflyer books — Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained — have sent me back to the first two parts of the Dreaming Void trilogy, and I can hardly wait for the last installment which is due out in fall of 2010, and where I’m guessing we’re going to see a fascist universe be created in the Void.

Matter is a Culture novel and as such it’s a fascinating read. More than in other novels there is intervention by the Culture — a futuristic, egalitarian galactic society which tries to nudge more primitive civilizations along —  into the life and society of a Victorian era feudal world which exists on a shell world; a spherical world within a world within a world, built for unknown purposes. The king is murdered and his daughter, who has gone off and joined the Culture, returns for his funeral, getting mixed up in a world she’d left behind. If you enjoy Iains style of prose, you’ll love this book — its imagery is powerful and the language just the right amount of funny.

Petter gave me Foreskins Lament by Shalom Auslander — known from This American Life as the Jew who hates God — and it’s a good read so far. If you need a reason for why religion might be more damaging to your mental health than a regular abusive home, look no further than to his description of how he was taught about God. Apatheism is the way to go, people. Trust me on this — just focus on an existential issue other than theism, and make that issue the cornerstone of your personal ontology and moral conviction.

I still haven’t slogged through 45 by Bill Drummond, a collection of essays which Olle lent me, but I’m getting there, although that has been delayed by my adorable mom, who just sent me a Polish account of two years spent in Tokyo. It being mom I have to prioritize that, even though it reads like a punny Lost in Translation. Never an endorsement.

Required reading, doing, being: Everyware.

We are now a predominantly urban species, with over 50% of humanity living in a city. The overwhelming majority of these are not old post-industrial world cities such as London or New York, but large chaotic sprawls of the industrialising world such as the “maximum cities” of Mumbai or Guangzhou. Here the infrastructures are layered, ad-hoc, adaptive and personal – people there really are walking architecture, as Archigram said.

→ Future Metro, Matt Jones: The city is a battlesuit for surviving the future

Lalvani is anxious that his work not be portrayed as the development of trendy shapes; this is an entire system for generating infinitely variable form. Like Fuller before him, he cleaves to the idea that when science begins to mimic nature at a molecular level, it moves into a realm outside of fashion.

→ Core.form.ula, Peter Hall: Bending the Rules of Structure originally published in Metropolis 2004

In everyware, the garment, the room and the street become sites of processing and mediation. Household objects from shower stalls to coffee pots are reimagined as places where facts about the world can be gathered, considered, and acted upon. And all the familiar rituals of daily life, things as fundamental as the way we wake up in the morning, get to work, or shop for our groceries, are remade as an intricate dance of information about ourselves, the state of the external world, and the options available to us at any given moment.

→ Adam Greenfield: Introduction to Everware

If you wanted an allegorical portrait of modern western capitalist society, you could do a lot worse than a man alone at a shaving mirror, intent on his own reflection, while from the other side of the glass a vast global corporation is watching, recording and planning what to sell him next.

→ Guardian.co.uk, Thomas Jones: Cutting Edge


Yes, yours may not look exactly like the original, but it’s recognizable as a copy, right? What this exercise illustrates is a different kind of seeing. As you were drawing, you weren’t thinking about drawing the nose exactly right, because you may have not known it was a nose.

→ Kirk Bjorndahl: Learn how to draw

Filled fountain pens should always be stored nib up, as they would be in a shirt pocket. You should never store a fountain pen nib down…Gravity works. Filled fountain pens should never be stored for an extended period of time. When you fill a pen, consider it a commitment to use it.

→ Bertrams inkwell: How to care for your fountain pen

The business of business


Sony releases two new ebook readers, which I’m unnaturally enthusiastic about (if you live in the Americas – where the streets flow with milk and honey – I’d appreciate one of these) and in the article over at New York times one of the publishers is brooding about the (reduced!) costs of doing business in the digital age.

Their plan is to wait with digital copies of books so that fans can spend money on buying the hardcover version first. See, because the strategy to delay DVD sales until the cinema screenings have milked the marked has really worked out swell for the movie industry. How come these people still have a job to go to? They must have heard of OCR and rabid fans typing up new books, right?

In response to the $9.99 list price, some publishers are thinking about postponing the release of the digital versions of their most popular books, lengthening the period in which only the higher-priced hardcover versions are available. This is similar to the approach taken by Hollywood studios, which allow DVD sales and rentals only after a film has left theaters.

→ New York Times, Brad Stone: Sony to Cut E-Book Prices and Offer New Readers

To help budding entrepreneurs avoid these traps, I also identified the three key elements that go into a successful business plan: a logical statement of a problem and its solution; a battery of cold, hard evidence; and candor about the risks, gaps and other assumptions that might be proved wrong.

→ Wall Street Journal, John W. Mullins: Why business plans don’t deliver

Abortion n’ stuff

I felt sad all day yesterday. Don’t know why. Maybe I’m not drinking enough, or maybe I’m just in stage three. The list goes: numbness, denial, despair, acceptance.

So to cheer myself up I made a whole lotta food and read late into the night. I’m still reading up on Leibniz for my thesis, and need to send in a synopsis later today. Not a problem. Synopsis I can do.
I’ve been multitasking quite a lot the past two weeks, reading a lot, sketching a lot, making some lockpicks and helped Anna shoot a remake of the bang-bang-bang videos I did three years ago. She’s doing something on appropriation.

And for your reading pleasure: A story about a women who shot herself in the stomach because she couldn’t afford an abortion. I found this story at warrenellis.com, a blog you should be reading from time to time.

Pratchett progress

I always do this.

I really have taken the Oscar Wilde saying to heart, that too much of something good is wonderful (or words to that sentiment, I can’t be bothered to look it up) and currently that means that I spend all my waking hours with headphones on, listening to Terry Pratchett audiobooks. When I was but a wee lad I used to buy the Discworld novels and read them in the same spirit that I’d read the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, but ever since I started downloading audio versions of the books, I’ve come to realise that Pratchett can have a lot to offer when it comes to plot and character development – or to put it differently, it’s all rather good. (albeit silly at times)

Since I like compiling lists I made one showing the Discworld novels in their chronological order, ticking off the ones I’ve read:

[x]The Colour of Magic
[x]The Light Fantastic
[x]Equal Rites
[x]Wyrd Sisters
[ ]Pyramids
[x]Guards! Guards!
[ ]Eric
[x]Moving Pictures
[x]Reaper Man
[x]Witches Abroad
[ ]Small Gods
[x]Lords and Ladies
[x]Men at Arms
[ ]Soul Music
[x]Interesting Times
[x]Feet of Clay
[x]The Last Continent
[ ]Carpe Jugulum
[x]The Fifth Elephant
[x]The Truth
[x]Thief of Time
[x]The Last Hero
[ ]The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
[x]Night Watch
[ ]The Wee Free Men
[x]Monstrous Regiment
[x]A Hat Full of Sky
[x]Going Postal

Some of the uncheked ones I’m quite sure I’ve read already, but that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far away so to speak, so I’m gonna give em a listen and see if that doesn’t jolt my memory. Currently, I’m nearing the end of Moving pictures; Not the best in the lot, there’s too much real-world-influence jokes (popcorn is called banged grains and so on) for my liking, but still. It’s part of whatever disorder I have to go through them all. I just can’t bear the thought of not gobbing it all up in one go; A behaviour that can be readily observed whenever I’m making food and subsequently eating all of it regardless if it’s three helpings or six.


Update: I’ve finished two more: Moving pictures and Light fantastic. I’m listening to Carpe jugulum right now, althought I know I’ve read it already – it was a while ago, so the book is sort of new with just occasional anticipation on my part.