Assign yourself reading homework….

DailyLit is an internet service that lets takes public domain or creative commons books and will email them to you a bit each day. I tried this once several months ago with a book that I was interested in reading but wasn’t sure I wanted to buy, and I really liked the enforced progress on making my way through the book. I only realized today that they provide a ton of books in a number of different genres. I am tempted to try to work my way through Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights on Woman this way, as it … Continue reading Assign yourself reading homework….

Cover to Cover

If you know me at all, you will not be shocked that I have a bit of a “completeness” compulsion, particularly when it comes to reading. In its most innocuous form, I cannot leave a book unfinished or skip/skim over parts of it, even if it is nonfiction. This includes the introduction, appendices, and footnote material. The idea of putting a book down because you are bored with it, or only reading the “relevant” chapters just makes no sense. This is why my “currently reading” list can have the same books on it for months (or years….) at a time, … Continue reading Cover to Cover

Narbonic Rewind

I’ve been a fan of the online comic Narbonic for quite a while now, and was sad to see it come to a close at the end of 2006, though with the strip becoming more plot-driven, and its overall longevity, it was actually a satisfying close. If you missed the strip and want to check it out, not only are the archives all available online, but starting yesterday Garrity is re-circulating the strip to her front page starting from the beginning, adding a “Director’s Cut commentary” to each one – interesting back story if you don’t mind the risk of … Continue reading Narbonic Rewind

Books to avoid

B sends me a link to the opposite of all of those book recommender tools out there, the LibraryThing UnSuggester, which analyzes their database of people’s book collections and tells you what books you shouldn’t read if you like a particular book. More accurately, it tells you what books are least likely to be in the same collection with your selected book. I tried out two of my favorites from different genres, and while it was pretty accurate on its unsuggestions for Cryptonomicon, the list for Pride and Prejudice has a significant overlap with my collection, what with the Norvig … Continue reading Books to avoid

Moby-Dick Liveblog

Maybe this is done a lot and it’s the first time I’ve run into it, but I love the idea of liveblogging a book as you read it, and defective yeti is doiing a brilliant job with Moby-Dick. Just a couple of weeks ago he came up against the infamous “whale chapter”: “Cetology” has the narrator giving an impromptu lecture on the nature of the whale, grouping the beasts into fourteen categories and offering lengthy descriptions of each. Here, Melville uses a literary technique known as OMG BORING! In some other context I might have found this engrossing, but here … Continue reading Moby-Dick Liveblog

But from whence the five minute rule?

If I could afford to add any more books to my to-read list, I would pick up a copy of Clark’s Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University, reviewed here by The New Yorker [via Arts & Letters Daily] Tracing the history of modern academia and its traditions forward from their roots in 18th century Germany (including the ancient roots of faculty balking at oversight and bureaucratic instrusion, such as early requirements that faculty publically list what courses they are taking in a course catalog), Clark uses the idea of charisma to talk about the sources of authority … Continue reading But from whence the five minute rule?

On the Importance of Being a Nit-Picking Language Geek

In the case of the $2.13 million comma, misplaced punctuation in a contract will allow one of the parties to withdraw earlier than intended, as the contract-cancelation clause was inadvertently attached to the entire contract, and not just a restricted time period [via Language Log]. It’s a lovely example for use in any course where the instructor might want to justify grammar “counting”. I think it also illustrates the value of practicing the skill of proofreading.

The Look of Your Book

This weblogger describes their job, book interior designer, and describes the number of things that it makes perfect sense someone has to do when producing a book, and yet which I never really thought about as part of the process. It’s not just choosing the font, as they note, but layout and material issues that have to balance attractiveness and readability with the financial considerations of publishing the book. For example, they are told how many pages the book will have (based on non-design considerations), and then have to find the best way to put the book into that many … Continue reading The Look of Your Book

Grammar Geeks

I’ve added the Language Log to my daily websurf this week and am enjoying it thoroughly. If you wish you knew more about the picky details of writing, or if you just enjoy discussions/dissections of real-world writing, check it out. There are also lots of fun entries about the entrance of new words into our lexicon, including a recent one about “meh”. Also worth scanning for are their opinions about “fake” profanity.


The Eggcorn Database is a really fun resource – I’d particularly recommend it to students trying to improve their writing or writing instructors, but I suspect that everyone is guilty of one of the confusions on the list. In a nutshell, an eggcorn is a word which is frequently used in place of the correct word, usually in the context of a set phrase, for example: “veil of tears” instead of “vale of tears” or “do to the fact” instead of “due to the fact”. I agree with Bitch Ph.D. (where I found the link) that these confusions could probably … Continue reading Eggcorns