An apology to ebooks

So I eventually succumbed. My joy of tech over won my aversion to the e-book reader and I bought a Kindle. The years fighting it and making better and better arguments for not needing or wanting one suddenly slip away.

And I apologize. I still love and define myself large parts of myself by my physical library but I have become a follower. Instead of constantly needing to carry books inside my heavy laptop bag I have this little device. I can choose from a great library of works and I can read them in a dark corner in a crowded bus.

On the differences between the Kindle and the iPad the Kindle wins because it lacks features. This is counter intuitive and most probably will not last but it should be the Kindles strongest selling argument. Another e-book sceptic Hiltzik writes in the LA Times :

The Kindle, by contrast, has been optimized as a reading device. The letters seem to sit on top of its matte black-and-white E Ink display, reducing eyestrain, their outlines razor-sharp. One good thing about the Kindle is it’s distraction-free — there is a Web browser, but luckily it’s almost useless. The iPad invites you to set aside your reading to play, Web surf, check e-mail, futz around in a million digital ways; the Kindle is solely for reading.

Once again I can see that the traditional bookstore (which I love) has lost relevance to my lifestyle. My reading habits are also changing in relation to what I read, how I read and when I read.

So even though I love a good book – actually holding the physical copy will be a special event. I eventually got rid of my cd collection… how long will my library last?

My top 20 non-fiction

OK, so I should be writing but I needs a break and this seems like a worthwhile attempt at procrastination…

Every time someone dares to create a canon they are naturally shot down. But at the same time I really want to list the 20  non-fiction books a well rounded person should read. A list like this can never be complete and I would really appreciate any and all tips on books which should be included:

Richard DawkinsThe Greatest Show on Earth: The evidence for evolution

Richard DawkinsThe God Delusion

Bill BrysonA Short History of Nearly Everything

Rainer Maria RilkeLetters to a Young Poet

Karen ArmstrongA History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

David BollierSilent Theft: The Private Plunder of Our Common Wealth

George MonbiotBring on the Apocalypse: Six Arguments for Global Justice

George MonbiotThe Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order

John PilgerFreedom Next Time

Fredrick SchauerFree Speech: A philosophical inquiry

Rupert SmithThe Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World

John GribbinScience: A History 1543-2001

Vandana ShivaWater Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit

Vandana ShivaProtect or Plunder?: Understanding Intellectual Property Rights

Ronald DworkinTaking Rights Seriously

Neil PostmanTechnopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology

Okakura KakuzoThe Book of Tea

Amartya SenThe Idea of Justice

Peter SingerAnimal Liberation

John Stuart MillOn Liberty

Too many books – a givaway

I am now faced with an aesthetic dilemma – I have too many books and not enough will-power to stop buying more. The solution to the problem was to decrease the number of books I had so that I could keep up my addiction to dead trees. So first I used BookCrossing to release a bunch of books into the wild. Ten books, almost all in Swedish, but this was not enough

So now I am announcing a book givaway. I will send you any of the following books just tell me which you want in the comments below:

Collins & Makowsky (1998) The Discovery of Society (6th ed)

Robert Graves (1981) The Greek Myths vol 1 & 2

David Ariel (1988) The Mystic Quest

Wittgenstein (1961) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

John Allen Paulos (2000) I Think Therefore I Laugh

Sean Lang (1999) Parliamentary Reform 1785-1928

Stephen Gray (2001) The Artist is a Thief

Will Kymlicka (1995) Multicultural Citizenship

Hegel’s Political Writings (1998)

Mary Midgley (1991) Wisdom, Information & Wonder: What is knowledge for?

Giordano Bruno (1995) The Ash Wednesday Supper

Never Whistle While You're Pissing

A badly kept secret about myself is that I suffer from a sci-fi/fantasy/murder/mystery deficiency. It’s a bit like dyslexia (which oddly enough is a very difficult word to spell… is this sarcasm on the part of the non-dyslectics?). Anyway it’s a bit like dyslexia in that I like, enjoy and get sci-fi/fantasy films but it’s really grueling work for me to read even the shorter books. Reading Lord of the Rings was almost as difficult as reading Joyce’s Ulysses – and I enjoyed the latter more! In the interest of honesty I admit to reading Dan Brown’s Da Vinci code but it made me cringe with embarrassment at its banality and silliness – I would have preferred to read a porn magazine on the bus but I realized that the rest of the bus probably didn’t care what I read.

Due to this deficiency I am often being educated by more knowledgeable people (mainly sci-fi/fantasy nerds and most under 16) about points I need to know. Most recently one of my students emailed me a link to the Wikipedia page on the fascinating Celine’s Laws.

Celine’s Laws are a series of three laws regarding government and social interaction attributed to the fictional character Hagbard Celine from Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! Trilogy. Celine, a gentleman anarchist, serves as a mouthpiece for Wilson’s libertarian, anarchist and sometimes completely uncategorizable ideas about the nature of mankind. Celine’s Laws are outlined in the trilogy by a manifesto titled Never Whistle While You’re Pissing.

The three laws are

  1. National Security is the chief cause of national insecurity.
  2. Accurate communication is possible only in a non-punishing situation.
  3. An honest politician is a national calamity.

Pessimistic and reasonably accurate. I like it, very dystopian so I guess I have found another sci-fi/fantasy book to punish myself with.

Oh, I don’t mean that I don’t read fiction. Right now I am on the final chapters of the brilliant and strange Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase.

Hanging with TJ

On my way home I was wandering aimlessly browsing stores and walked into a second hand bookstore and found The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson for 1.99 euros! The book includes many of his longer and shorter works and a large selection of letters. My favorite is Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Isaac McPherson (13 August 1813) which includes the wonderful quote:

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

Thomas Jefferson was also in Paris during the French revolution and I am looking forward to reading his letters during this period. Some red wine and an interesting discussion with Thomas is my idea of a good Friday.

Google books and Oscar I

King Oscar I of Sweden 1799-1859 was the son of one of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, one Napoleon’s marshals who became king Charles XIV John of Sweden. During Oscar’s time as crown prince and heir to the Swedish throne he was very socially active. Among other things he wrote a series of articles on popular education, and (in 1841) an anonymous work, “Om Straff och straffanstalter”, advocating prison reforms. The latter was translated in many languages and in English was given the title On Punishments and Prisons. More info on Oscar and photo on wikipedia.

This is not really common knowledge even in Sweden but was mentioned briefly in a documentary tonight and it sparked my curiousity. So I looked for the book, searching the online databases of second hand bookstores. No luck. Then, almost as a joke, I googled it. And there it was on google books. Cool but it was not like I was going to read it online. Then I saw the download button. Within minutes of hearing of the book for the first time I had a pdf of it on my computer – Google books is too cool!

The book seems quite interesting and I look forward to comparing it to Panopticon. Here is a quote:

It is undoubtedly, both the right and the duty of society, to punish every action which can disturb the public system of justice; it can even, if the offender has, by a relapse, shown himself incorrigible, or his offence is of a nature to endanger the public safety, render him incapable of again injuring the other members of the community. But does this right extend farther that to the loss of liberty, by which the object is gained? Every punishment, which goes beyond the limit of necessity, enters the jurisdiction of despotism and revenge.

Because its Sunday

It’s been a long weekend going slowly blind over text and screen. It’s time for a reasonable level of Monday normality to start. But before that it’s time for some light relief. These are from my absolute favorite cartoonist Mattias Adolfsson, he does the most amazing artwork, creative interpretations of our inner animals (or just fun stuff – you decide). I am the proud owner of a framed original. Here are Some Animals from his blog which capture my weekend…

Mattias Adolfsson - Reading Dragon

Mattias Adolfsson - Reading Dragon

Mattias Adolfsson - Computer worker

Mattias Adolfsson - Computer worker

Greener Grass

Sitting indoors typing stupid stupid stupid work stuff. When I take a break and look out the window I see a neighbor sitting on her balcony reading a book in the sunshine. This is totally envious, I want to sit and read a book, stroll in the park and do non-work related things on weekends. So sitting writing a major report makes me really annoyed.

Mouse on Auction

Sometimes, not often, but sometimes I wish I had endless funds. It would be fun to fly to London and go to Sotheby’s on the 17 July and bid on Lot 300, a mouse with glasses reading a newspaper by Beatrix Potter.

It’s a 125mm by 70mm fine ink and watercolour drawing, signed and dated lower right corner “HB.P. | 1890.”, mounted, minor browning not affecting image, slight soiling to blank border.

The Catalogue Note – Reminiscent of “The Day’s News” (c. 1892?), see The Art of Beatrix Potter p.196 and Beatrix Potter 1866-1943 – The Artist and Her World, p.57, Beatrix Potter appears to have had a fondness for mice reading newspapers. Perhaps the most famous example is the mouse reading The Tailor and Cutter from The Tailor of Gloucester. this drawing is entirely unknown and dates from the year of Beatrix Potter’s first association with the firm of Hildesheimer & Faulkner.

But with a starting price of 10 000 to 15 000 pounds I guess its not happening…


Sitting at the train station waiting for the train – this is really nothing noteworthy in my life since I seem to spend much of it on trains these days. But you realize that you are spending too much time in train stations when you begin to recognize members of the cleaning train cleaning crew. It may be not too surprising to recognize them since these are the people who stand and wait at the station at the end of the line (where I get off) in fact these are the people I see most often at the station. Even though I am also beginning to become familiar with the train crews.

Today is different. Sitting with a big yellow suitcase on my way to Norway is the first leg of the journey. Tomorrow the real trip begins: it’s off to Marrakesh in Morocco. Besides being a trip away from a cloudy 14 degrees to a sunny 35 degrees minimum it is also an adventure to new sights, sounds and smells.

The heat demands poolside relaxation during the day so I carry relaxing paperbacks: Heather “The Fall of the Roman Empire”, Sen “The Argumentative Indian”, Murakami “Kafka on the Shore” & Auster “The New York Triology” – as you can see I am planning to do some non-work related reading. But not to worry, there is a laptop discretely tucked away in the suitcase.