September, 2005

Sep 05

More on Banned Books

some stats from my mom for Banned Books week…

from Sept. 26 issue of Publishers Weekly:

547: number of book challenges received by the ALA in 2004
458: number of book challenges received by the ALA in 2003
515: number of book challenges received by the ALA in 2002
448: number of book challenges received by the ALA in 2001

6,364: total number of book challenges received by the ALA, 1990-2000
1,607: number of challenges based on sexually explicit material
1,427: number of challenges based on offensive language
737: number of challenges based on violence

5: number of Judy Blume’s books among the 100 most frequently challenged books
15: number of years James Joyce’s Ulysses was banned in America (1918-1933)
217: number of years it took for the U.S. Supreme Court to clear John Cleland’s Fanny Hill of obscenity charges
1881: year Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was banned in Boston

Sep 05

A Man without a Country, by Kurt Vonnegut


"…While on the subject of burning books, I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength, their powerful political connections or great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and destroyed records rather than have to revealt to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or the media. The America I loved still exists at the front desks of our public libraries."


This latest book from Kurt Vonnegut is a very short collection of essays — not more than about 100 pages, and I read it in an afternoon, which is saying something given my current reading rate. Vonnegut has always, to me, been a provacative and smart author — in the tradition of great American authors like Mark Twain and John Steinbeck, but with slightly more aliens and scatalogical humor. One of my favorite skeptics — although he’d call himself a humanist.

Over the years he’s gotten a little ticked at how things have gone in this country, and the current adminstration, coupled with Vonnegut’s advanced age, has resulted in some really scathing writing from him. While I don’t agree with all of it, I believe in a lot of it.

It seems to me that asking questions, putting a fine point on the choices that we’re making as a society and a country, and really talking about what’s happening — these characteristics are some of what makes authors truly great — and they’re what Kurt Vonnegut has done his whole career.

Maybe that’s why he’s been banned so much in our libraries, too, come to think of it.

Sep 05

Celebrate Banned Books Week

Everyone should celebrate Banned Books Week by picking up something from one of the following incredibly subversive authors (top 10 list of most challenged authors from 1990 – 2004):

1. Alvin Schwartz

2. Judy Blume

3. Robert Cormier

4. J.K. Rowling

5. Michael Willhoite

6. Katherine Paterson

7. Stephen King

8. Maya Angelou

9. R.L. Stine

10. John Steinbeck

It’s just shocking to me that we live in a society where anyone advocates a curtailing of freedoms like writing and reading. Just seems like we should be past that point. Except for Stephen King. He should clearly be banned from all work on his own television mini-series.

Sep 05

The Search, by John Batelle

I know a lot of people that work at Google there; in my work lately I have met a bunch more — it’s an interesting place. Sort of the center of the world for the consumer Internet these days.

John Batelle is a very smart, very connected guy here in the Valley — he was at Wired in the early days, and the founder of The Industry Standard — and is probably closer to Google than anyone on the outside of the company.

This book is a very readable, very interesting account not only of Google’s rise and challenges, but also how search started (with Yahoo & AltaVista) and the notion of advertising and search colliding really made a whole new industry possible. Everyone who’s in the industry or cares about information and how we find it should read this.

Sep 05

.mac or not?

Kathy & I have been using .mac for a while now — it’s been really amazingly easy for her to take a ton of pictures with her Digital Rebel, import them into iPhoto, select which ones to post, and automatically put them up on .mac to share with the family. (Here’s a great one of our nephew Andrew’s first soccer game. As you can see by the numbering in the URL, this is the 120th album that she’s posted in the past couple of years. 1 a week or so. She’s also used .mac as a place to get her e-mail forwarded to — with some grief (the interaction between .mac and went through some rough spots, in our experience).

The yearly renewal is coming up — it’s something like $99/year for 100MB of disk space.

And we’re thinking about it. Not sure what to do.

What’s happening on the net is interesting. With GMail supporting POP and giving me 2.6 GB of storage space, not to mention being a *great* & innovative mail client and awesome example of how good a web-based AJAX application can be, there’s no reason in my mind to use any other web-based mail application.

With flickr, slide, picasa, typepad & others, there are getting to be way more powerful ways to store & share pictures online, and cheaper to boot. Readers on this blog will notice that mostly for Sam we’re using typepad photo albums instead of .mac based photo albums (really enabled by someone who wrote an iPhoto plug-in that makes it easier to automatically export from iPhoto).

So it’s the same old story: the vertical integration of Apple/MacOS/iLife/.mac is amazingly good — easy to use, generally works great — but is more expensive (by a bunch, really — Typepad is $149/yr to store 1GB and support blogs; .mac is $99/year for 100MB and no blogs, but some other features like the above-mentioned e-mail that are marginal value to us). On the other hand, there’s a ton of innovative stuff on the web ( that’s evolving very quickly into more cool stuff, it’s cheaper (often free or minimal cost), but it just doesn’t integrate as well, especially with OS X, but generally with everything.

So. I don’t know. I’m betting we end up paying for .mac again this year in addition to our Typepad account. But I don’t think it’ll be very compelling by this time a year from now.