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This page is the archives of our Ramblings/Blog/Book Reviews and whatever. No telling what will show up here. Hope you find it of interest.

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Oct-Dec 2005
Jul-Sep 2005
Mar-Jun 2005

6/27 - 7/3 2005

I've decided that since I can't seem to keep up with the daily grind to fall back to a weekly blurb. Also, this weeks is going to be short and a small extension of something I talked about just a short while ago.

Remember that 40 million credit card breach several weeks ago, see for example Credit card breach exposes 40 million accounts I had a though when I read the statement about probably only two percent of the 40 million cards will be used in a fraudulant manner in a different article about this. Just assuming a hundred dollar average order and only fifty percent of the merchandise returned, this still means a $40M loss to merchants. And, using the $50 chargeback fee quoted in another article, it means $40 million in fees to the credit card companies/banks. Hmmm, makes one wonder if it was just carelessness? Is there such a thing a deliberate carelessness? Oops, sorry I robbed you of $40 million dollars, just careless of me.

On a different subject, we have been asked about who is responsible for the book delivery? That is, suppose a book is lost in the mail. Is the buyer legally responsible for the cost of the book or must the merchant return the customers money. In our case, it "doesn't make any difference" since we assure our customers that we are responsible until the time of delivery to the customer. However, it is a legitimate question. I've seen discussions of this on talk boards - some taking one side and some the other. Some quoting "the law" from one point of view and some from the other. I used to think that the "legal answer" (as well as the moral answer) was that the merchant was responsible. However, now I am not so sure. I've seen what purports to be "good legal advice", see for example Buyers may still have to pay for goods that are damaged, which seems to indicate otherwise. If you are doing business with someone make sure you know which is which.

'til next time - DW


References, references, references! Part of what I started to talk about yesterday. [BTW: today is really the 24th and I'm running a day behind, just in case someone is following this page]. We still haven't got our Books on Books catalog corrected yet, but we're working on it. References these days though are on the net a lot. That's why I collect URL's. One set is that of libraries. The USA Library of Congress was talked about below, but bibliographic information is available at other libraries and sometimes they have information the LOC doesn't [remember the LOC is falling behing at a rate of thousands of books a day]. I thought I would share some URL's I've collected:
  • Copac
    Copac® is a union catalogue. It provides FREE access to the merged online catalogues of 24 major university research libraries in the UK and Ireland PLUS the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, and the National Library of Wales/Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru.
  • Library of Congress Gateway
    Z39.50 is a national and international (ISO 23950) standard defining a protocol for computer-to-computer information retrieval. Z39.50 makes it possible for a user in one system to search and retrieve information from other computer systems (that have also implemented Z39.50) without knowing the search syntax that is used by those other systems. Z39.50 was originally approved by the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) in 1988.
    This is the Library of Congress's Z39.50 gateway access to LC's catalog and those at other many many institutions from Academica Sinica in Taiwan to Yale University (Endeavor)in the USA.
  • Public Libraries
    A community of public libraries! Here you will find the most extensive directory of public libraries of the United States. The listings of local libraries in this web site will be updated continuously. They even have a place for you to to suggest a library to the site.
  • Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog
    The Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog (KVK) is a meta search interface which allows you to access library and book trade catalogs via WWW. It starts a simultaneous search in the catalogs and gives you a standardized hit list. As the Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog does not have a own database it depends on the availability of the target systems. If you click through from the hit list you are linked to the target system and leave the Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog. KVK gives access to more than 75.000.000 books and serials titles.
  • Melvyl
    The Melvyl catalog contains records for materials (books, journals, movies, maps, music scores and recordings, computer files, dissertations, government documents, etc.) held by the libraries of the ten UC campuses, the California State Library, Hastings College of the Law, the California Academy of Sciences, the California Historical Society, the Center for Research Libraries, the Graduate Theological Union, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. All publication dates are included. The database contains over 25,000,000 records, and most campuses update their holdings on a weekly basis.
    CATNYP includes more than 6 million records: nearly 4 million records for titles cataloged since 1972 and over 2 million records for titles cataloged prior to 1972.
    The records represent collections acquired from around the world in more than 370 languages or dialects, and in a variety of formats.
  • Libweb
    Updated daily at midnight, Pacific Time, Libweb currently lists over 7200 pages from libraries in over 125 countries.

'til next time - DW


Seems like I just keep getting futher behind. I don't want to give up my reading. In fact, I've added a new category to the books I'm reading. As you could probably tell from the book reviews, I primarily read Science Fiction and Fantasy. However, in trying to keep up this page with a blurb (one really can't call it a column) every day and keep up the web site, I find that I like to read books about books like Sixty Years of Arkham House because I'm trying to add a Lovecraft page or ABC for Book Collectors by John Carter and Nicolas Barker because I just enjoy it.

We don't have a whole lot of Books about Books, in fact in looking at the category Books on Books, I note that we only have the one book in that category, Joyce Godsey's DISCARDED BOOKS, The Facelift for Ex-library Books. which is reviewed somewhere on this page. Oh well, another job. I know Bill McBride's books (also reviewed on this page) belong in that category. More work to do -------

'til next time - DW


Got an e-mail today and it started me thinking about God and Country. I don't mean to turn this into some sort of diatribe about how the US has forsaken its past and how we should put God back in our government, back on our coins, etc. etc. etc. I could discuss what I think should happen but that is different from what other people think should happen and they can be as vocal as they like the same way I can ("within reason"). One of the privileges of living here. What I would like to ask though, is whether one group of people should be able to "change history". As an example, I have been told that the World War II Memorial (WWII) has part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Infamy Speech":

     "With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounded determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

and that the final words "so help us God" were left out. See, for example, Joint Address to Congress ...    Assuming that is true (I don't know anyone who has seen it), I think one of the reasons for not including those words at the end of the sentence is because "they" didn't want the hassle of being sued because a "government memorial" referred to God. Note, I said hassled, I don't think they could win the case. At least not yet. However, it does kind of remind me of a story I read a long time ago in Astounding (Analogue?) or F&SF or ??? (sorry, that's all I remember - if anyone can remember the magazine, title, and/or author and send it to me, I'll put it up) The short story was about a man who was about to be arrested for some crime against the government (I believe the crime was named and was as innocuous as including those final four words at the end of the Roosevelt's sentence). The man's name - Patrick Henry. And the point of the story - the man died just as he was arrested.

For those who don't know, Patrick Henry is (at least was when I was going to grade school) famous in US History for, among other things, his statement at the end of a speech "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!". See, for example, Patrick Henry Speech, March 23, 1775.

'til next time - DW


You know those e-mails you get that have these sayings like "Ham and Eggs: A day's work for the chicken, a life time commitment for the pig!". My wife just got e-mail that had one which applied to me (so she said) - "Procastinate Now!". Come to think of it, I think I will adapt something like that for myself - "I do not always put everythng off 'til later! I almost always procastinate immediately."

Answers to Friday's book trivia is in last Friday's blurb. Oh, BTW, the 10% discount is over for now. Just in case you're wondering, no one availed themselves of the opportunity. However, we did get a nice comment from a customer about how they really liked the web site (they called to give us an order).

'til next time - DW

6/17/2005 - 6/19/2005

Horrible! Horrible! Horrible! To have the blurb written, but not get it up until late! It's bad enough that I can't seem to get one here every week day, but to have one and not get it posted. Oh well, nobody reads it anyway.

We haven't had any bites yet even though we have had some orders through the site. See yesterday for a way to get a 10% discount [through next Sunday]. How about some book trivia today. Questions today - answers Monday.

  • What is the only mystery written by A. A. Milne?
         The Red House Mystery, published in 1921. Milne is better known for his children's stories and poems.

  • Chichi Jima was the subject of a book by James Bradley. What is Chichi Jima, what was the title of the book and what was it about?
         Flyboys was a factual account of the lives of a group of World War II fighter pilots. Chichi-jima ("Father Island") is the largest island of the Ogasawara Islands

  • What's the largest library in the world?
         If you didn't get this, you should read this page more often. The USA Library of Congress is the largest library in the world and is so large it falls behind in the cataloging of books at the rate of of approximately 12,000 books per day.

  • What's the oldest continuously operating science fiction publisher in the United States?
         Ace (now an imprint of the Penquin Group). Did you know that the first prints of Tolkein's LOTR trilogy in the USA was a paperback "pirate edition" by Ace and that a Fine copy of the set could run $200.

  • What and why is a monograph?
         In library and information science, a book is called a monograph to distinguish it from serial publications such as magazines, journals or newspapers.

Five questions are enough since its so damn hot and time for a cool glass of wine! And no, I don't plan to cheat. Plans are for answers to show up here Monday along with the usual "column".

'til next time - DW


I wonder if anyone ever reads any of the things I put up here. Lets try a little experiment. I'm going to put tomorrow's blurb up a little early so we can have a little more time for the experiment. If, before Sunday midnight 19 June, 2005, you order a book (or books) from our site and use the coupon code BookReview when you are checking out (note there is no space between Book and Review), we will give you 10% off the price of the book(s). Or you can e-mail us at [email protected] or call us at 214 948 1835 and mention this blurb for your 10%. If you want to tell your friends, feel free.

Time for another Book Review. This time a book by Lois McMaster Bujold. What can you say about someone like her except maybe quote Anne McCaffrey "Boy, can she write".

Title: Diplomatic Immunity
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
The copy reviewed is the second printing (in the same month, year as the first printing) of May, 2002 by Simon & Schuster / A Baen Books Original. BTW: We may even have a copy for sale - but not mine.

This is another of Ms Bujolds "life and times of Miles Vorkosigan series". Miles and Ekaterin are just returning home from a belated honeymoon in time for the birth (via replicator) of their first two children, Aral Alexander and Helen Natalia when an Imperial courier catches up with their ship. The message from Emperor Gregor starts out "I'm sorry to interrupt you honeymoon, Miles" As one of Gregor's Imperial Auditors, Miles must get himself to Graf Station and sort out the situation "Without starting a war, if you please, or breaking my Imperial Budget". When Miles gets to Graf station, the Barrayaran propensity for reacting adversley to mutants has caused trouble between Barrayaran fleet personal and the Quaddies who run Graf Station ["one officer referred to them as horrible spider mutants ]. Because of this, the Komarran merchant fleet they were escorting has been impounded. Also, a mess of blood has been left on station docks which was identified as the blood of a security officer of the Barrayaran escort. Miles seems a little slow in getting started (he is a little distracted since Ekaterin has gone with him), but after he meets his old friend Bel things start picking up. Although Ekaterin is more interested in the station itself (from Ekaterin: "An Auditor's wife, however, is not an assistant Auditor."), she even gets involved by giving Miles some help with repeated conversations of pertinate matters. The romantical asides come a little more often in this book than they generally have in the past - after all Miles is still on his honeymoon even if it has been delayed a year - but it seems as natural as it has been in the past books for Admiral Naismith.

As usual, Ms Bujold developes her other characters so that one just naturally accepts them as real people in the story. She doesn't neglegt adding to the new Miles since his marriage. Not that he has changed all that much, but he does sometimes seem a little less intense and one isn't likely to say something like, as in an eariler story, "My God, you mean he's like this all the time". Instead you now sometimes find him looking at images in a vid plate of sperm wriggling in the grip of the medical micro-tractor and being interupped by his wife with a "Miles, are you looking at those baby pictures again ".

Of course, as in any good novel of this sort, the good guys win in the end but it is a lot of fun getting there.

'til next time - DW


You know, at first it was just another item across my desk and I wasn't even sure I was going to read it. But I clicked on the link and did. And became a little upset. And became mad. What am I talking about? Credit Cards! Yes those oh so wonderful things that let us go deeper and deeper in debt if mismanaged or maybe just let us have a single itemized statement of spending and some other perks if managed properly. BUT! HOWEVER! One of the perks is NOT PREVENTION OF FRAUD BY YOUR CREDIT CARD COMPANY/BANK! Yes, that is why I am mad. Oh, I don't doubt that it costs the credit card companies some money because of fraud. But I also don't doubt that they make millions of dollars from fraud and, in some respects, encourage it (although that may be a little strong).

To give you an idea of what I'm talking about lets look at a fairly typical case of the stolen credit card where an actual "bad charge" is made. The card or card number, billing address and CVV is obtained by the culprit. He (or she) then uses the card for a transaction with a merchant. The merchant processes the credit card, takes the shipping address (different than the billing address because "it is a present" for the son/daughter/friend), and gets an o.k. from the credit card company (or bank) and charges the card. So, you say, the merchant got an o.k. and if there is a problem the credit card company eats the cost! After all, that is part of what the 3-10% or more of the cost of the sale which goes to the credit card company pays for, isn't it? No, nein, não, nr, non, uh-uh, NOT! What the credit card company means when it "tells the merchant" it is o.k. to charge the card is that - "Yes, there is a credit card with that number, CVV, and billing address. If it turns out that it is stolen, we will charge back the amount, we won't help you find the culprit, you will lose your merchandise, shipping costs, and the credit card processing fees, AND we will charge you $15 for the privilege of having been told this." Now, what happens. Hopefully, the person the card actually belongs to looks at the bill when it comes in, says something like "I didn't order this", calls the card company and gets it taken off their bill. Oh yes, just like the credit card company, I agree that the person shouldn't have to pay for what they didn't order. What makes me so mad is that the credit card company puffs up its chest and says to the consumer "look what we did for you" when they made $15 PLUS what they charged the merchant on the deal and the merchant lost the cost of the merchandise, the shipping cost, the credit card costs, AND the $15 charge back fee they had to pay to the credit card company! Do you wonder that the CC companies/banks refuse to help prosecute fraud when combined the chargeback income runs into the millions of dollars for them. In fact, IMO, they have actively fought bills to make them co-operate with merchants in prosecuting these criminals. As an example of the (IMO) overcharges, consider the $1 billion settlement MasterCard reached in 2003 with Wal-Mart and Sears, Roebuck over allegations the credit card giant added excessive fees to debit card transactions.

What was that article which came across my desk? You guessed, didn't you? The pounding on its chest by Visa, i.e. a publicity announcement, about the great new thing they are doing to protect the consumer from credit card fraud. How much do you think the charge back fee is going up to pay for this? BTW: some chargeback fees are less than the $15, but then some are more. There is an article about what it is costing the merchant in credit card fraud if you are interested in further information. In addition, there is a wealth of advice and help if you are a merchant at Merchant911.

'til next time - DW


Like many of the Brick & Mortar book stores these days, Forest Books in San Francisco is in trouble and in fact this one has been a "de-facto non-profit business" for some time now. It's a shame that this great store may be going out of business and needs some help if it is going to survive.

In order to encourage business, the owner has added an incentive for a purchase of Gift Certifiates: "If you buy a Gift Certificate for $50, I'll increase its value by 10% and for $100 or more, I'll increase its value by 20%!" Or, if know someone willing to invest, or offer a loan to help pay off tax debt and buy new stock, you might contact the store (see below for address and phone number). Forest Books is very well though of in the community and has been called the best book store in San Francisco. Below is just one of many positive reviews from fellow booksellers. To see another great review on the San Francisco City Search site along with a picture of the store go to Forest Books review

Review of
Forest Books
3080 16th St at Valencia
San Francisco CA 94103
Michael Watson
20 Ants online book store
5709 Broadway St. Indianapolis IN 46220-2569
[email protected] (317) 514-3829 Mon-Fri, 6p-8p, Sat 11a-6p

Easily the best shop I visited, due mostly to what I assumed to be the owner/proprietor being the one on duty. Of all the shops I visited, this was the only one where the person at the counter was cordial, professional, acted as though the customer mattered, and acted as though he/she had a personal interest in the business and a passion for books. The stock was better-than-average in condition and topic: obvious that the sub-standard stuff was rejected instead of being bought-in and stocked at a lower price. I and fellow shoppers got a cordial greeting and some genuine interest in how our wants could be filled. A clean, well-ordered place. Mostly better-quality used hardbacks and trade paperbacks, with a small-but-good antiquarian/collectible case. I bought Sara, a Victorian erotica hardback; an illustrated Shakespeare (an association copy inscribed by the illustrator to a modern poet); and A Lost Language, another little fun thing that I don't remember anything about now. Much after-purchase conversation about the trade, politics, and the Patriot Act. They don't seem to be in the 2004 Yellow Pages, so you'll have to dig for the address and phone. A fine, friendly shop, an example for other shops to follow, and my first stop for the next time I'm in SF. My idea of what a shop should be.

After trudging through shop after shop in San Francisco and Berkeley (and facing clutter, dirt, couldn't-give-a-rat's-ass employees, and poor, overpriced stock) I found Forest Books and truly did think it was an oasis. Clean, inviting, well-organized, and overseen by the proprietor who did give a rat's-ass about books and why they mattered to folks like us. I found reason to buy and drag a few nice things back here to Indianapolis. Gregory and I parted after discussions on the Patriot Act and the general demise of the open shop and I promised to stop again when I was in SF.

My Forest Books bookmark was within arm's reach, here, and I see that it says...

Open Daily 11am to 9pm, 3080 16th St at Valencia, San Francisco CA 94103 (415)863-2755

You'd do yourself a favor by stopping by and browsing. Bring some bucks and a book bag.

Michael Watson

'til next time - DW


Some of you who have looked around our site know that we are members of the Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA) and that the IOBA has a site where you can search the IOBA members inventory. What you may not have know was that the IOBA was changing providers. The following press release says it all:

Biblio.com and IOBA strike data deal

ASHEVILLE, NC - June 9, 2005 - Biblio.com, one of the world's largest suppliers of used, rare, and out-of-print books, announced today that they will be developing a new database for The Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA) members to list their titles for sale on the IOBAbooks.com web site. Biblio.com will be providing programming and support to IOBA for a new back-end system to manage the book listings and e-commerce on www.iobabooks.com. The web site is a service that IOBA currently provides to its members to create an online marketplace that perpetuates the organization's mission. By providing new technology for the service, Biblio.com will be extending its capabilities and future flexibility. The Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA) is dedicated to maintaining and enforcing high ethical and professional standards for their member booksellers, including a Code of Ethics and promoting trust between customers and booksellers by providing a safe online environment for the purchase and sale of books. "We are thrilled to be entering this arrangement with Biblio. The IOBA board set out to find a company that had the capabilities to meet our needs and offer high quality service, and Biblio represents this. Our member dealers will have a convenient, technologically sophisticated arena to sell their books in. Buyers will know that each seller is committed to a high level of customer service, ethical practice, and stands behind their product. It's a win for both seller and consumer" said David Friedman, the current president of IOBA. "Our new project with IOBA continues to reinforce Biblio's commitment to the quality of the independent bookselling industry," said Brendan Sherar, President and CEO of Biblio.com, Inc. "Our custom software is designed with the infrastructure to serve the online bookselling and book buying community across multiple channels."

Independent Online Booksellers Association
IOBA is a member based association representing the needs of on-line booksellers. It was formed 6 years ago. IOBA has developed a code of ethics for member sellers; issues an online Journal for book community (the Standard), has developed widely accepted standards for grading and describing books, and provides educational resources for the "on-line" book community. The IOBA website is www.ioba.org

Biblio.com Inc. is now one of the leading sources for used, rare, out-of-print, and hard-to-find books in the world. With the launch of their online services in February 2003, Biblio.com entered a market dominated by several major companies, as well as more than a dozen smaller competitors. With substantial growth in the last two years, Biblio.com has gone from a fledgling company to becoming the third largest site of its kind in the world. Biblio.com currently offers 20 million titles from 2850 independent booksellers in 24 countries.
For more information, press only: Kevin Donaldson, 828-350-0744, [email protected] For more information on the Biblio.com: http://www.biblio.com

ttfn - DW


Well, did I find a new plaything today - The Visual Thesaurus ! From the advertisments: "The Visual Theaurus offers stunning visual displays of the English language. Looking up a word creates an interactive visual map with your word in the center of the display, connected to related words and meanings. Click on these words or meanings to explore further." And boy does it. BTW, I have absolutely no monetary interest in the product or producer, it's just that I like to see things presented in new ways. I also can get lost in chasing down the meaning of a word or its synonym. That's what happened this time. I was looking up the word pedantic and found that it didn't quite mean what I though it did [it tends have a "book learning" flavor]. One of thing I do when I can't think of a particular word I want is to try Google. I did with the query - tiresome trivial synonym. What happens is trhe usual with Visual Theaurus as a Sponsored Link - you know, one of those paid for things. Normally I just ignore these but this time something happened and I clicked on the link. There was a search box with a "Try it now! FOR FREE". Why not? I put in the tiresome and click on Search. Up pops a window, blah, blab, ... Try Buy/Login. Click on Try. A nice little window with tiresome in the middle with a radiating spoke and then about eight words connected - words like boring, dull, etc. Oh o.k., so what. Try a click on wearisome. It becomes the central word and all of the other words move over to the part at the end of the radiating spoke (I didn't really check to see if it were exactly the others). Well, o.k. it makes for a nice affect, but so? You go try it. Then click on dull. If you're anything like me in this instance, you will have found a new toy. You might even consider buying it. I am.

'til next time - DW


Since I just finished reading Dilvish, The Damned, he is my favorite Zelazny character at the moment, although my favorite does keep circulating between others of his, like Sam, Francis, Conrad, Corwin, and Jack. I think this would be a good time for a book review of him:

Title: Dilvish, The Damned
Author: Roger Zelazny
The edition reviewed is the Del Rey paperback of Nov. 1982 which collectes all seven of the Dilvish short stories: Passage to Dilfar (c 1964), Thelinde's Song (c 1965), The Bells of Shoredan (c 1966), A Knight for Merytha (c 1967), The Places of Aache (c 1979), A City Divided, The White Beast (c 1979), Tower of Ice (c 1981), Devil and the Dancer, Garden of Blood (c 1979), and Dilvish, the Damned.

Dilvish is the last of his house which had been stricken from the peerage because of several generations of inter-marriage with Elf-kind. Bereft of his lands,he turns his hand to many occupations. At a time when he was soldiering and had just finished participating in a great battle, he comes across a situation he must must try to correct. Being of the High Blood, he is not killed when he breaks Jelerak's circle trying to rescue the girl being used in a sorcerous rite. But he is sufficiently weakened that Jelerak is able to turn his body is turned to stone and imprison his spirit in Hell for over two centuries.

The first story picks up Dilvish at his defeat at Portaroy where he had returned from Hell and also introduces us to his companion Black, a demonic metal horse. The last story ends with a young woman rushing from the woods, imploring Dilvish for help. Black is warning Dilvish "the woman will stab you in the back" and Dilvish is replying "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" as he goes to help her. In between, there is plenty of action as Dilvish leads an army in defense of the city of Difar, encounters Cal-den, his old tormenter in Hell, stays a while with a vampire, tries to win the game forced on him by two sorcerers, and other adventures on his quest for vengeance against Jelerak.

This is one of Zelazny's sword and sorcery series of stories. The remaining story in the series is a novel called The Changing Land. If you enjoy sword and sorcery, I think you will enjoy this book and The Changing Land. The style of writing reminds me more of the writing in EC Tubb's Dumerest or Karl Edward Wagner's Kane series or that of John Brunner in The Traveler in Black than it does of the tales of swashbuckling exploits of violent, amoral swordsmen like that of Robert E Howard, Lin Carter, et. al. As I've mentioned before, I re-read and this is one of the books I'll keep around to read again just because it is, IMO, one of the better examples of this style of writing.

'til next time - DW


Just read an article about Wikipedia, the web encyclopedia composed of some 579 810 articles written and/or edited by who ever had the gumption to do so. And that's just the english version. There are over 100 000 articles in each of the German, French, and Japanese languages and some twenty or so other languages have over 10 000 articles each. Included in those languages which have over a 1 000 articles are Asturian, Belarusian, Western Frisian, and many other I had never even heard of.

Started in 2001 by Jimmy Wales (one of those homeschooled types), it quickly outgrew the "standard online encyclopedia" he was working on at the time. I don't know if it was his idea to install a random page link on the site, but it's one I think is a great idea. The first time I used it, I was indroducted to D'Nealian Script which is a popular slanted script developed by primary school teacher Donald Thurber. The page also introduced me to a possible method of expanding the encyclopedia with the phrase "This article is a typography stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it". So, what are you waiting for! Go ahead and edit the D'Nealian Script article. First though, you might want some help on Modifying a Wikipedia page.


One of the problems with home schooling [or homeschooling, as some are want to say] is that the money required is too little. Too little, you say! Well, yes. According to one article I've read, the corporate and philanthropic foundations want to give away "billions" and the requirement is only for "millions", so they aren't interested. What is needed is a "clearing house" for home schooling.

There are several help organizations for home schoolers. One is the National Black Home Educators Resource Association (NBHERA). Eric and Joyce Burges started NBHERA July 2000. They have homeschooled for nearly l4 years. Yahoo has a list of Christian Homeschooling Organizations, a list of Islamic Homeschooling Organizations. One would hope all of the religions would get involved. I've always though our northern neighbors did some things a little better than we did. But in this case, they only have the Canada > Christian Education > Home Schooling

Another problem with homeschooling is the rather sorry mish-mash of regulations reguarding requirements. Some states require only that you be alive to home school [actually I'm not sure they require that since there doesn't seem to be any regulations for some 10 states]. Other states require that you notify the state - probably so that they aren't charged by the school district for the education of the child. Only 26 states anything resembling real requirements, i.e. require "proof of learning". However, this may be a better percentage than what is required by the "regular schools". I'm sorry to say that Texas appears to be one of those that only have a notification requirement and not even that if your child is not enrolled in a public school.

Two internet book stores which have a speciality in homeschooling are Miz Book Biz Booksellers (San Joaquin Valley, California, USA) and Nikki's Book Nook (Canada). Tell 'em that White Unicorn Books sent you.


What do those ISBN numbers found in books really mean? Well, the long answer starts some 40 years ago in 1965 when the then largest single book retailer in Great Britain had plans to move to a computerized warehouse and wanted a standard numbering system for books it carried. Thus Great Britian devised the Standard Book Numbering (SBN) system in 1966 and it was implemented in 1967. Enter the International Organization for Standardization who decided that was a pretty good idea which should be expanded to the world. The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) was approved as an ISO standard in 1970. The USA Official ISBN Site has a little more detail.

Yes, that's nice. But what do those numbers mean? Well the 10 "digit" number [actually one of the "digits" can be a letter] represent 4 things:

  • The Group identifier stands for the language and country groups. It can be a single digit [(United States, Canada, United Kingdom use 0 or 1 indicating English] or three digits [Mexico uses 968].
  • The publisher identifers represent the publisher of the item. Also of varying length.
  • The title identifier is assigned by the publisher and represents the specific item.
  • The check "digit". This is a single character composed of either 0-9 or X (Roman Numeral for 10). The check digit allows computer systems to validate ISBNs.

Ha, you say. My book has 13 numbers. Oh, that's the new ISBN which is going into effect soon and we'll get to that some other time. [Actually, the first three number are probably just a 978 with the standard 10 digit ISBN number].

'til next time - De


For some reason I got interested in large libraries, large books, and other facts about books and publishing today.

Did you know that the largest library in the world is the USA Library of Congress. It is so large that it is falling behind in the cataloging of books at the rate of of approximately 12,000 books per day (about 20% more than they catalog each day). They have about 128 million items but not all of them are books. See Fascinating Facts About the Library of Congress

The Mellon Foundation appears to be the largest foundation in the country with a program interest in scholarly publishing in the humanities. See University Press Publishing in the United States.

True Facts says the world's largest book is "Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey" and is in a Chicago public library. The book measures 5 feet tall by 7 feet wide when open. It weighs 133 pounds. But I have another note (found at the defunct http://www.bookmate.biz/bookfacts.htm site) that the world's largest book weights 577 lbs. and Earth Station Nine reports "The largest book in the world is purportedly "The Golden Book of Cleveland". Measuring five feet by seven feet it contains 6,000 pages for signatures and weighed approximately two and half tons." Maybe a definition of a book is needed?

I really enjoy running over the web just checking out whatever but I've got to get back to playing more with the web site and keeping it updated. For example we just ran out of "Points of Issue" again and I have to go change that link.

'til next time - De


Don't know what's with the new update for Mozilla, but it seems to have lost some of it's capabilities. One example is that I can no longer keep notes inside my HTML documents with comments. I was looking at some history on the Lord Of The Rings publications and found the following information somewhere [I know, I should keep better notes about where I get things but I wasn't expecting the stuff in comments to show up]. Anyway, since it showed up anyway, here is the rest of it:

The American publication of LOTR turned out to be a milestone in an unexpected way. Two different publishers brought out the trilogy about the same time, even though Tolkien had only authorized one version, which was published by Ballentine. A different edition was brought out by Ace Books which was a major power in the SF and Fantasy fields at that time. Tolkien and Ballantine were unable to prevent Ace Books from bringing out the edition due to a loophole in American Copyright Law which had been partially closed in late 1957 -- any books published before then remained subject to the older law.
The law in question was put in place originally as a protectionist gesture to American printing unions (called the manufacturing clause), and went like this. Books that were printed -- printed mind you, not bound -- outside of the United States, written in English and imported, had to be imported with certain formalities observed or copyright protection was withheld. Ace Books jumped on that with all four feet and brought out their own version of the trilogy.

BTW: Did you know that Ace (now an imprint of the Penquin Group) is the oldest continuously operating science fiction publisher in the United States.
The Ace LOTR series [see ACE SF A-Series Singles Image Library]:
  • A-004 J. R. R. TOLKIEN The Fellowship of the Ring (cover by Jack Gaughan; 1965)
  • A-005 J. R. R. TOLKIEN The Two Towers (cover by Jack Gaughan; 1965)
  • A-006 J. R. R. TOLKIEN The Return of the King (cover by Jack Gaughan; 1965)


Well, finally a comment from one of you folks out there. They liked the ideas of the book reviews and information about books. So, just for her, another book review and this time with information about books.

   Points of Issue compiled by Bill McBride   -  Books about Books. The review copy is the Third Edition, 5th Printing by McBride/Publisher.

 Points of Issue (along with A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions) should be in the pocket of every book collector. This 93 page small book (it's only 3.5 by 6 inches) fits nicely in the pocket or purse when one is booking. It isn't easy to carry along all of the reference works you would like to carry when you are out and around. But this and the companion pocket guide provide a tremendous amount of information in just a small space.

What is a point of issue? In the simplest sense, it is something that futher identifies almost identical books. For example, there is a list of books by Tolkien in the edition of his Silmarillion. In the true first of the American edition, the title Farmer Giles of Ham is listed as Father Giles of Ham. This mistake is a point of issue.

Once you have "identified a first edition" with the use of the pocket guide, this book comes into play so that you can be sure it is a first edition. Not only does it have points of issue for very many 19th and 20th century authors, it also gives you a list of those Authors without points and some good information about book clubs. How many books are listed? Well certainly not every one, but it tries to cover all of the collectable authors/books. I estimate that there are somewhat over 1700 books listed in the 93 pages. You shouldn't leave home without one.

BTW: We probably have some for sale, just click on Points of Issue.

'til next time - De


How many book awards are there? Jillions! Just in the field of Science Fiction and Fantasy, there's the Arthur C. Clarke Award, British Fantasy Awards, British SF Association Awards, Hugo Awards, James White Award, John W. Campbell Award, Nebula Awards, Philip K. Dick Award, Sidewise Award, Sturgeon Award, Tiptree Award, and World Fantasy Awards and I hope I haven't left any out - although as time goes on I'm sure this won't be a complete list. You can get a very good idea of what's happening in the world of SF&F Awards at Award Web. Although the site focuses on the Hugos, Nebulas, Stokers, and World Fantasy awards, you will also find other Awards there including non SF&F. Another good place for Award information is Locus. For example see here for a short history of SF&F awards. Or take a look at Emerald City.

How about the most nominations/wins for a Hugo. Charles N. "Charlie" Brown has 41 nominations and 26 wins. The only time he (and Locus) didn't win amateur magazine or fanzine or semi-prozine was in 1979 when he withdrew after winning the previous 9 years. But even that isn't the most nominations. What was the most wins for a professional, as opposed to a fan/semi-pro? I'll give you a hint. It wasn't Poul Anderson with 15 nominations and 7 wins although he does have the most wins of the SFWA Grand Masters.

ttfn - De


Lately, my wife and I have been going around saying "Why not? Why the hell not?" when we think of doing something as innocuous as emptying the trash. We'll get over it in a day or two but might start it up again next week when Mom comes back into town (she has another doctors appointment so I'm pretty sure she'll make it). She hates the big city (and anything with a population over 500 is a big city). She would rather live out in the middle of the woods by herself. That seems to be one of her favorite expressions - like the limb needs cutting off the tree. O.K. Why not? Why the hell not? And she ties a ladder to the tree, gets a chain saw, climbs the ladder and cuts off the limb. So what? Well, I think its about time she quit doing that since, at the age of 81, she did it and got knocked off the ladder when the limb hit her. She had just had the chain replaced/sharpened or something and the saw cut faster than she though it would. It only resulted in two fractures - one to the right knee and one to the left wrist. She was only laid up about a week before she was up and around again. Well, semi up and around. Most of the up and around was physical therapy for about 6 weeks. Not that she didn't take advantage of being waited on since she had to stay with us in the big city, rather than at home some 75 miles away with just a few neighbors.

To get back to that "Why not?" thingy. I got to wondering where it came from. Not that Mom couldn't have made it up herself, but it didn't really sound like it. Well some searching around lead me to Holden in The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger. Yep, there were the exact words. She probably read it in 1951 when it first came out or shortly there after, saw the comment, liked it and adopted it for her own use. Was that the first - probably not exactly, but it's old enough for me to assume that's where it came from. Oh well, she's passed it on to me, at least sporadically. It probably won't die out for quite a good while. Just "Google it" and you'll see that the expression is alive and well. BTW: Did you know there was a Catcher in the Rye Award. It's for the Advocacy for Children from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. I'm sure Holden would not have approved. But then again, he might just say "Why not? Why the hell not?".


About time for another book review. Think we'll do a mystery this time.

   Enquiry by Dick Francis   -  Mystery. The review copy is the First Printing of the Jove paperback of July 2000 [It had been published previously by Ballantine].

What can you say about a Dick Francis except you will very likely enjoy reading it? Jockey Kelly Hughes and trainer Cranfield has been found guilty of throwing a race for money. As usual, the protagonist is one of those people who won't quit when they know they are right. When Cranfield falls apart and his daughter asks for Kelly's help, this chrystalizes Kelly and he sets about proving to world that he and Cranfield aren't guilty. As usual, the action follows swiftly with time out for some personal life and we get to know the characters fairly well. I found out again that I enjoyed meeting the characters, was sorry for their troubles, and applauding Kelly's actions as he continues his investigation. If you haven't read a Dick Francis book yet, you should and this one would be a good one to start with. If you have read any, you very likely know what I'm talking about and have already read the book.


Well, you can't say I'm consistant abut keeping up the page. Maybe the best you can say is that I'm consistantly inconsistant.

I learned three new things today. The problem is I've already forgotten one of them. Oh well, maybe it's being saved for some other time. The other two though I think are worth mentioning. Mom was waiting for the windshield rearview mirror to "cure" [it just fell on the floor while she was parked in the back yard] and working a crossword puzzle. Now all you crossword puzzle fans probably know what a rain and snow olio is, but I didn't [sleet, in case you don't know]. Well, that was a new thing for me, but what interested me was a previous puzzle for which the clue was salmagundis. Mom had the answer - olios. There was that word again. So my two new words for today are salmagundi and olio. It doesn't matter that they mean the same thing, it is still two different things. Hey - maybe the fact that it doesn't make any difference was the third thing? Naw, that would be TOO easy.

Talk to you again fairly soon - De

    salmagundi \sal-muh-GUHN-dee\, noun

  1. A salad plate usually consisting of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, and onions, served with oil and vinegar.
  2. Any mixture or assortment; a medley; a potpourri; a miscellany.
    olio \O"li*o\, noun
  1. A dish of stewed meat of different kinds.
  2. A mixture; a medley.
  3. A collection of miscellaneous pieces.


How do you find out about books? There are several options around and we gave an example below for Google. But you could look on our site [see that "Search" up at the top] to see if we have a copy of it and it would at least tell you something about the book -:)

Another option is Library of Congress Basic Search. Put in "Outsider and Others" in the Title field and you find:     LC Control Number: 40000667
    Type of Material: Text (Book, Microform, Electronic, etc.)
    Personal Name: Lovecraft, H. P. (Howard Phillips), 1890-1937.
    Main Title: The outsider, and others,
    Published/Created: Sauk City, Wis., Arkham house, 1939.
    Related Names: Derleth, August William, 1909-1971, comp.
    Wandrei, Donald, [from old catalog] joint comp.
    Description: xiv, 553 p., 1 l. 24 cm.
    LC Classification: PS3523.O833 O9 1939

Well not quite as much as you could have found out here, but still some useful information.

Another method of researching books is to use the public libraries. Yeah, I know, who wants to go down to the library these days to try to find out about a book they may not have. Well, you don't have to. Just get on the computer and look at OCLC. OCLC, you ask? What is that? Glad, you asked. OCLC is the Ohio Computer Library Center founded in 1967. Well not really, since 1981 the legal name of the corporation is Online Computer Library Center, Inc. But it did start at Ohio State.

The OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. is a nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to furthering access to the world's information and reducing information costs. More than 53,000 libraries in 96 countries and territories around the world use OCLC services to locate, acquire, catalog, lend and preserve library materials.

Membership required! Well yes, but you can at least get some partial information through Biblio http://www.biblio.com/. Put in the title and author and if they don't have it, they will refer you to OCLC where you can gather more information about the book.


Just noticed an old something on line at MSNBC News which changes the way Random House identifies its First Editions [The Tip Sheet referred to was the Jan 26, 2004 issue]:

For the Books

Your Tip Sheet item "The Word on Books" says that Random House "marks first editions with the number two" (Jan. 26). This is inaccurate on a couple of levels. The Random House division of Random House, Inc., used to mark first editions with a printing line (number line) concluding with a 2 (as in 98765432) and the words "First Edition." When we went to a second printing, the words "First Edition" were eliminated from the copyright page, leaving the number 2 as an indication that the book was, in fact, a second printing. However, complaints from confused book collectors inspired us within the last 12 months to start following the system used by most other publishers, and our first editions are now indicated by the words "First Edition" and the digit 1 . As both someone who helps make books and someone who collects them, I thought the article was otherwise very helpful.
Benjamin Dreyer
Managing Editor/Copy Chief
Random House Publishing Group
New York, New York
Another book review:
Carnivores of Light and Darkness by Alan Dean Foster  -  Fantasy. Book reviewed is the Warner Books, Inc June 1998 hardcover edition. The first of the trilogy "Journeys of the Catechist".

First, I guess I need to tell you that ADF generally is right up there in the list of my favorite authors. The reason being the Flinx stories, With Friends Like These, and numerous other novels, short stories, "letters to the editor" [his first sale which was to Arkham House], and almost anything else he has written. This story is among those I'm glad I've read. Although I tend to like action stories in the first person, this is a little different. It has plenty of action, but sometimes changes from the first to the third person and back again. And not always the same first person. It is a little disconcerning to be "living the book" [which is sort of the way I read fiction] and all of a sudden run across: "This is a story that is told to every member of the colony on the day when they slough off the last vestiges of pupahood and graduate to the status of worker, attendant, or soldier." The story then continues with a description of the events involving Ehomba (our "hero"). Oh well - it was still a good book and I'll probably re-read the whole set again one day. And that makes it a good book, IMO.

For a little more detail about the book, we have Ehomba: "Being a herdsman, he is used to hardship. Being humble, he asks many questions. Being simple, he is not surprised to be answered by beasts, trees, or forces of nature." (from the inside DJ). We also find that his philosophy is "We are all fallen leaves drifting on the river of life, and we go where the current takes us." His morality is such that a task laid on him by the request of a dying man he has never seen before must be done if at all possible. He leaves his home to "save the Visioness ...". He is supplied for his journey with the usual provisions and the unusual items which he uses to advantage. He eventually picks up two traveling companions. First, Simma, who he rescues from Corruption and who becomes convinced that Ehomba seeks a great treasure and travels with him to share in it. And next, Ahlitah, who Ehomba rescues from a toranado who is chasing Ahlitah because he bragged he could run faster than the wind. Ahlitah, a cross between a lion and a cheeta, must now accompany the one who has saved his life. These rescues and other adventures are possible because Ejomba uses those unusal items to a great advantage, so great in fact that most people are convinced that he is much more than just a simple humble herdsman.

Now I know something is wrong. I wrote that review below (Starburst) last week. Maybe I'd better be more careful of of what dates I put up here. Yep, I just looked below that and it was 3/30 also - no "Maybe" about it.

One of the things I do each day is look around some of the sites and check out the new questions and answers. There may be a few I can answer and I can generally pick up some new knowledge. One of the things I was noticing today (and have noticed in the past) was the apparent lack of knowledge about how to do some basic research on a book's value. As an example, suppose you have a copy of The House of the Seven Gables and are not sure what you have. Well why not go to Google and enter

        house of seven gables first edition

[ you can hope, can't you :-) ]. Well staring you in the face is a book for $4500. Clicking on that gives information on the first edition - assuming you trust the ABAA book dealer Between the Covers Rare Books, Inc. Well the ABAA has been around a while and their dealers are generally well respected. Anyway, back to our book which, shucks, isn't a first edition. Lets assume our book is a hard cover published Harper Perennial and look at Bookfinder. We put in house of seven gables in Title, check Book Type as Any (for a wider selection), Harper Perennial in Keywords, and check Classic Search Display. Now click Begin Search and we get three books (this will change over time and if you do the search now you may not get this). Two of the descriptions are the same and offered by the same bookseller, so you have two books. These two prices give you an idea of what your book is worth. Also, read the descriptions. The value of your book is probably the one which is more like your book in condition. However, the dealers may not ever be able to sell the books at that price or they may also be wrong about the price and they disappeared 5 minutes after I saw them because some knowlegeable dealer knows where he can sell it for $100. Oh well, that's why its called BASIC RESEARCH to give you some idea's, not to be definitive.

Anyway that gives you an idea of how to do a little research and find out what the value of your book may be. Remember though, unless you are willing to actually put your book up for sale, pay the costs of listing the book, the possible commission if you sell the book, and pack and send the book, you will not get this price. Cetainly, not from a bookseller.

BTW: in changing the "Updated" date below, I notice it was 4/7, so the following 3/30 was probably 4/7. Just in case anyone was wondering.

Well, once again we don't have anything from the outside world. Want to add anything to the page? Let us hear from you at [email protected].

Since I read at least a couple of books a week, I thought I might review one (or more) of them. It will give me something to do and maybe bring someone to the site. This week's first review:

   Starburst by Alfred Bester   -  Science Fiction. The review copy is the Second Printing of the Signet D-2672 copy of about 1958 or so. The book contains Disappearing Act, Adam and No Eve, Star Light, Star Bright, The Roller Coaster, Oddy and Id ("The Devil's Invention"), The Starcomber ("5,271,009"), Travel Diary, Fondly Fahrenheit, Hobson's Choice, The Die-Hard, and Of Time and Third Avenue. Travel Diary and The Die-Hard appear to be new for the book. Adam and No Eve is from 1941 and the remaining stories come from the 1950 to 1954.

It was fun to read these again. I can't really remember when I first read the stories but I know I read some of them in the original magazine publication. For the most part they were as much fun this time as they were then. Take Disappearing Act for example - it takes place in an army ward during "the war for the American Dream". Patients in Ward T are disappearing and finding their own solution to the American Dream. I didn't remember the ending and it came as something between a surprise and a "oh yeah! What else could you expect". I did remember the endings of several of the other stories, but it was still fun to see Mr. Bester's choice of dialogue associated with the ideas in the stories. Each story is its own vignette of an idea. Some are interesting ideas - I particularly like Disappearing Act, Fondly Fahrenheit (who is really crazy, the android or the human who "owns him"), the simple little travelogue of Travel Diary, and the quid pro quo for giving up a 1990's Almanac in the year 1950 in Of Time and Third Avenue. And some are so-so - There were really none I disliked but Adam and No Eve (a last man on earth story) drug a little before reaching the conclusion and Oddy and ID (the super monster who doesn't know he is a monster) isn't really my kind of story. In general a pretty good collection of short stories but nothing really outstanding. If you like short stories and especially if you liked any of Bester's other work, these are all worth reading (some even several times).

Well, we really don't have anything to say this week - or the last few weeks to be truthful. It isn't that we don't have opinions, its just that we don't have anyone to discuss them with.

Want to add anything to the page? Let us hear from you at [email protected].

Change the home page for featured books and not much else to talk about here, although we did add about a hundred books this week (a few less than that net, since we sold some). I don't really agree with President Bush's changes in Social Security. Although I think he might be pointing in the right direction, I think he is going too far with what he is proposing. I'd be glad to discuss the particulars. Let us hear from you at [email protected].

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