Millions of years of evolution, for this?

Trivia: looking at Bloglines’ top blogs the other day, I discovered this site of which I am sure I should disapprove, but somehow I don’t. It is called Popgadget, and features (you guessed it) gadgets for women. So you can get cable jewelry: make those wires streaming from your computer, audio and visual gadgetry an art feature of your room; bibi cases, "the cutest i-pod (and mac book) covers ever"; a personalisable cover and intempo digital radio; and a digital scrapblog. I think there were also some little creatures that jumped up and down squeaking when your mobile phone rings, but I don’t seem to have kept the link to that one. Anyway, go over and have a look at the links: even if nobody you know would want these for birthday or Christmas, it will give you a taste of the direction in which a little corner of civilisation is heading.

And Write from Karen has quite a good meme:

1. What’s the last thing you broke?
2.What’s the most expensive thing you’ve broken?

(are you detecting a bit of a theme here?)

3. Do you consider yourself clumsy or graceful?
4.How much money do you have in your wallet right now?
5. Someone asks for change when you’re walking down the street: what do you do?

Feel free to answer in the comments (Karen’s are at the link). No obligation 😉

Who’s reading what

Right, I’m now going to catch up, and it is only Saturday night! Maybe tomorrow (Sunday), I’ll manage to maintain a holding position, or even nose ahead!

The blogosphere is replete with quizzes and questionnaires, most of them boring, but here’s one that looks good, featured on Books, Words, and Writing: "Mastermind Quiz: Specialist Subject Jane Austen". If I really do get the backlog of life cleared by tomorrow, a non-working day, I might even go to the link Amy identifies to see how I do.

Isabella is being a bit enigmatic about what she’s going to be reading next on the group reading blog, having finished War and Peace. Here she hints it might be Turn of the Screw, but on the reading blog itself, The Red and the Black seems to be in the frame. I await the verdict with interest.

The Millions posts about a new blog on Amazon — for the Penguin Classics. From The Millions post: "The club will read books from the vast Penguin Classics catalog. Two cool things about this: 1. Penguin found the host of the book club, Kathryn Gursky, from a review she wrote of The Penguin Classics Library Complete Collection — yes, she actually owns it — and 2. she picked a fairly obscure book, Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, rather than an obvious Oprah-style pick." And while on the subject of book groups, Borders has launched a reading group website (says Publishers Weekly).

And finally, as they say, I read about a thriller in today’s Times reading group report that was previously unknown to me: Little Face 2. Clearly another one I’m going to have to read.

Refreshing tree

I just had to call this post "refreshing tree" because I think it is a lovely term. It is what Bloglines now does — it updates your subscriptions in real time instead of each time you refresh your screen, so every time a blog you’ve subscribed to gets a new post, this little grey icon pops up inscribed with the words "refreshing tree". I think that is a lovely title for a blog, but as I can’t think of a topic for a new blog at the moment ;-), I will make it the title of this post [for now…].

[Next day addition to this post: "tree" is what Bloglines seems to call one’s list of blog subscriptions. So when it is updated, they refer to "refreshing the tree". To me this brings to mind the idea of a real tree, under whose shade, perhaps, one could sit when weary and feel refreshed as a result. The term could thus refer both to a continuously updated blog, and to the fact that one might feel stimulated after having read its contents.]

I shall continue in more sensible vein with some news of what I’ve enjoyed reading on the web recently. Keeper of the Snails features one of Clare’s lovely photo essays on her recent trip to Amsterdam for the launch of the Dutch translation of her book –which she enjoyed seeing "in vivo", as she charmingly puts it.

International Noir Fiction features a review of The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo, "a new Scandinavian crime novel". Like the Wallender series of Henning Mankell, it seems to have been translated out of order with its fellows, but even so, it sounds as if it is another book that justifies quarrying the time to read.

The famous Rebecca Blood (of the Weblog Handbook) links to the international crime fiction resources of Waterboro public library.

OK, gotta run, Cathy and Jenny are about to start watching a movie and I’ve agreed to join them.

Amazonaholic associate

Thanks to Debra’s example and subsequent assistance,  I became an AA (Amazon Associate) as well as an aa (amazonaholic) and created an Amazon store, which is featured somewhere down in the depths of the left-hand sidebar. Click on it and you’ll see what I’m reading and have recently read (nothing there that I can’t recommend) plus recently watched or about to watch. Apparently if you want to buy any of those items and do it by clicking on the image in my store, I get 0.001 p towards an Amazon gift certificate. By the time I’m about 250, I will have accumulated enough money to buy a paperback. I’ll try to remember to update the store now and again, as you can only have nine items in it, so do check it occasionally if you are short of things to read.

But for a more technologically literate experience, please go and look at Debra’s example on the deblog. She has Amazon UK and Amazon Canada stores (not sure why not the USA?) with a little flag on each one. And check out the books she features on it, by "the deblog gang", as she calls it. An impressively creative lot.

A complete brain

I don’t often post about work-related topics, but I thought this new publication from Nature Publishing Group might be of interest: a complete atlas of the mouse brain. From Matt Day’s Nascent post (link below):

"The Brain Atlas is an important new tool for many reasons. It makes freely public the results of the Allen Institute’s $100M research project looking into the activity of genes in each region of the mouse, and it allows users to navigate around the massively complex anatomy of the mouse brain in order to visualize all this gene activity."

Matt’s post provides links to various media (old and new) articles about the new database.

Link: Nascent: Allen Brain Atlas: A complete brain.

Bloggers’ and critics’ book passion

Critical Mass carries a report by Jane Ciabattari of the Housing Works book discussion evening that is well worth reading. The link is at the foot of this post, but in true blogging nested style the part I’m quoting here is not from Jane’s excellent report (read it!) but what she says about our friend Frank of Books Inq., who was one of the panellists:

"Frank Wilson in his blog today:"My review this Sunday is of Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale. I loved it. Laurie Muchnick did not like it at all. She wasn’t going to review it, but may do so now. I hope so, because as soon as she does, I’ll link to her review from my blog, so readers can see an altogether different viewpoint. Who’s right, Laurie or me? I’d say neither and both. I’m right for me and Laurie’s right for her. As Michael Allen has pointed out, what gives me pleasure doesn’t necessarily give anyone else pleasure, certainly not everyone else. But two contrasting viewpoints will make discussion of the book richer for everybody." "

One of the many reasons wby blogging is such a great medium.

(Thanks to Jenny Davidson of Light Reading for the link to the Critical Mass post, which I would have got to eventually, but her blog is above the Critical Mass blog in my Bloglines list.)

(I am sure someone will soon start up a collection of links to articles about The Thirteenth Tale, but for now, here are a couple via an earlier Petrona post.)

Link: CRITICAL MASS: Bloggers, Critics, Passionate about Books.

Coffee break at Librarian’s place

My friendly OWL has drawn my attention to a lovely article by Michael Blowhard about the history of coffee shops. It is posted over at Librarian’s Place. And while you are there, scroll down, as some of the articles there are sure to catch your interest. The underground grammarian, the mystery of the wire loop, Lulu does it differently, libraries’ missing millions — a wonderful browse.

Local bookshops dot com

My Dad sent me an article from the Daily Telegraph (Saturday 23 September, page 3) about his friends Patrick Neale and Polly Jaffe, who own a bookshop in Chipping Norton, the Cotswold market town about three miles from where he lives. Patrick and Polly are opening a new bookshop in the town, with cafe, in an attempt to attract more customers. (Hope they have read Army of Davids and include wireless Internet connection!).

The newspaper article, however, although featuring a large photo of Patrick and Polly and their attractive new shop, is mainly about a new website called About 150 local, independent booksellers in the UK collaborate for the site, whose MD is quoted as saying could do anything Amazon and Waterstone’s do but "potentially a lot better". The idea is that customers can browse and order books online via an honest stock-control system (Amazon’s infamous "delivery in 4-6 weeks" was mentioned), then either collect them or have them delivered from their local bookshop.

It is an excellent initiative and I hope it is successful in the attempt to save independent bookstores. One very attractive feature is that email enquiries are said to be dealt with by the bookshops themselves, which if true would be a refreshing change from the ghastly "customer service" of Amazon et al., mainly designed to stop you from actually contacting the seller by sending you all round the houses of various web pages, and if you do succeed, your query is answered by someone in a distant land who can’t understand the question unless it is from a preselected menu of six.

Returning to the local books website, it seems user-friendly in terms of search and ordering (though the prices don’t look to be discounted). But when I keyed in my postcode (I live on the south-west edge of London) I was returned only one local bookshop, in Weybridge — quite a way from where I live and where I would never go in the usual scheme of things. I know that there are independent bookshops nearer to me than Weybridge (though, sadly, not in Kingston upon Thames), so the site needs to attract more booksellers to sign up. For my part, I would use such a service if convenient to me, but it would not stop me from simultaneously continuing my compulsive use of Amazon, which despite some less-than-perfect aspects, is pretty ace for almost everything.

Christmas comes early

From today’s Times (news in brief columns, not available online):

Gut reaction

Juliette Piesley called the AA to her home in Addlestone, Surrey, when her car would not start after she renewed the battery in its key fob. The patrolman found that its immobiliser chip was missing. Ms Piesley recalled seeing her Hungarian vizsla eating. They sat the dog in the driving seat — and the car started.

(good story, pity about the style and grammar).

Where Christmas comes early

To the bafflement of its residents, St Austell, in Cornwall, has put up the Christmas lights in its main street three months early. The town’s chamber of commerce said that it normally put the lights up in November but had lost its storage facilities. Townsfolk said that the lights made the town look ridiculous, but Paul Scott, chairman of the chamber, said: "They’re not doing any harm. It saves you a job later when the weather is more inclement."

(picture provided in the print edition, page 23)

Housing works panel, tonight

Link: Maud Newton: Blog.

From Maud’s post: "I’ll be at Housing Works tonight at 7 p.m. for a discussion about blogging and book reviewing, and "what happens when the two intersect." Lizzie Skurnick (Old Hag), Laurie Muchnick (Newsday), and Frank Wilson (The Philadelphia Inquirer and Books, Inq.) are the other panelists. John Freeman of the National Book Critics Circle will moderate."

I wish I could be there – sounds a great event for anyone in the New York area who is free this evening.