Filed under: Book Conservation, Brave New World, Connections, Kindle, Marketing, NYT, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, tech | Tags: blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, jim downey, Kindle, New York Times, Nick Bilton, Science Fiction, technology
A very nice meditation on physical versus electronic books, and how each has a role in the world: In a Mother’s Library, Bound in Spirit and in Print
From the piece:
Over the years, I’ve gone back and forth over the merits of print versus digital books so many times, it’s as if I were in an abusive relationship with myself. But my mother’s passing and the sentimental value of her library have finally put an end to that debate in my head. It’s not that one is superior to the other. They each have their place in this modern world.
For example, I love listening to audiobooks when I drive. And taking a Kindle on a long trip is nothing short of magical. But that doesn’t mean I want my mother’s old Kindle to remember her by. And I certainly wouldn’t get much from her Audible collection.
Instead, I want her physical books. I want to be able to smell the paper, to see her handwriting inside, to know that she flipped those pages and that a piece of her lives on through them.
I understand the “back and forth”. On the one hand, I love the fact that something in excess of thirty thousand Kindle edition copies of Communion of Dreams have been downloaded. On the other, I’m a book conservator.
As a conservator, as well as a huge fan of the appropriate use of technology, I’ll say this: for convenience, electronic. For permanence, print. My smartphone has dozens of different books on it, and access to millions more. But there’s not a digital technology out there that has anywhere the stability of paper and ink.
Filed under: Brave New World, Connections, General Musings, Genetic Testing, Health, NPR, Science, tech, Wired | Tags: Allen Institute for Brain Science, blogging, BRAIN Initiative, health, jim downey, Katie M. Palmer, NPR, Rob Stein, science, technology, Wired
Two brief news items in the last day or so illustrate just *how much* fundamental knowledge we don’t have about our own biology.
The first is this good article from Wired about building a comprehensive model of the human brain: A First Big Step Toward Mapping the Human Brain
The Allen Cell Types Database, on its surface, doesn’t look like much. The first release includes information on just 240 neurons out of hundreds of thousands in the mouse visual cortex, with a focus on the electrophysiology of those individual cells: the electrical pulses that tell a neuron to fire, initiating a pattern of neural activation that results in perception and action. But understanding those single cells well enough to put them into larger categories will be crucial to understanding the brain as a whole—much like the periodic table was necessary to establish basic chemical principles.
Consider that: we’re just now really building a good map of how the different neurons interact within one small component of the brain. And not even the human brain, at that.
And this news story, which came as a shock to me when I heard it on NPR: Seasons May Tweak Genes That Trigger Some Chronic Diseases
From the story:
The seasons appear to influence when certain genes are active, with those associated with inflammation being more active in the winter, according to new research released Tuesday.
* * *
Other researchers say the findings could have far-reaching implications.
“The fact that they find so many genes that go up and down over the seasons is very interesting because we just didn’t know that our bodies go through this type of seasonal change before,” says Akhilesh Reddy, who studies circadian rhythms at the University of Cambridge but was not involved in the new research. “And if you look at the actual genetic evidence for the first time, it’s pretty profound really.”
Again, this is a really basic bit of science — akin to understanding how the sequence of gene expression leads to the development of an organism. Learning that your genetic activity changes during the year means that illnesses are much more dynamic than anyone realized previously.
Not to get too Rumsfeldian, but it really is important to know what we don’t know, as seen between the two items above. In the first case, researchers set out to build a model because they knew that they needed the basic knowledge. In the other, it was investigation of a mystery which led to an unexpected discovery.
And in both cases, it’s science at work. And very cool.
Filed under: Writing stuff | Tags: blogging, cats, Greystoke, jim downey, kitten, Tarzan, trust
He doesn’t even flinch a whisker when I pet him while he sleeps in my lap like that.
Trust almost beyond what I can even glimpse an understanding of. So innocent. So pure.
Welcome, Lord Greystoke.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Astronomy, Babylon 5, Brave New World, Connections, Feedback, Fermi's Paradox, Gardening, Habanero, J. Michael Straczynski, Man Conquers Space, Marketing, Promotion, Science, Science Fiction, SETI, Space, Survival, Writing stuff, YouTube | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Babylon 5, Bad Astronomy, blogging, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, Dukhat, feedback, free, gardening, Glen Tickle, Habaneros, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, Kurzgesagt, Laughing Squid, Mother's Day, promotion, science, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, video, writing, www youtube
(Does not contain spoilers for Communion of Dreams. ;) )
* * *
Been a busy week. Part of it was putting in my garden:
(That’s just the tomato plants — the super-hot peppers will go in next week.)
Part of it was a MASSIVE job converting a 16 x 16 storage space into the beginnings of a workshop:
(There’s still lots to do, but man, what a change from being hip-high in grungy boxes and scattered junk!)
And part of it was we have a new addition to the family:
(He’s just 6 weeks old, entirely too cute, bold & adventurous, and tiny. For now. No name yet, though given his grey color I suggested perhaps we should go with Dukhat … )
* * *
I’m just now finishing up the first major revision to the working copy of St Cybi’s Well. I already have a couple of people lined up to take a look at it with fresh eyes, but if anyone else is interested also having a preview, leave a comment and I’ll get in touch with you.
Lastly: for Mother’s Day weekend, the Kindle edition of Her Final Year will be available for free. Check it out, download it, share it with others!
Filed under: Art, Connections, Ray Bradbury, Science Fiction, Writing stuff, YouTube | Tags: art, blogging, jim downey, Jonathan Crow, Open Culture, Ray Bradbury, Science Fiction, video, writing, www youtube
Another gem of a video from Open Culture:
The whole thing (about 4 minutes of actual interview, done as an impromptu chat in the back of a car about 40 years ago) is worth enjoying, but this bit in particular will resonate for anyone who writes:
If you can’t resist, if the typewriter is like candy to you, you train yourself for a lifetime. Every single day of your life, some wild new thing to be done. You write to please yourself. You write for the joy of writing. Then your public reads you and it begins to gather around your selling a potato peeler in an alley, you know. The enthusiasm, the joy itself draws me.
The joy, and the sublime struggle to understand. Like all art.
Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, Connections, tech, YouTube | Tags: art, Ayun Halliday, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Japan, Japanese, jim downey, Open Culture, video, www youtube
Via Open Culture, here’s an interesting 10 minute video about my Japanese counterpart, doing a nice job on refurbishing a small dictionary. It’s entirely in Japanese, but that doesn’t matter too much — the images are all pretty self-explanatory.
If you want a glimpse into the processes involved in my work, this is a good one.
But it’s interesting to note the differences in his approach from my own. Most of it involves fairly arcane techniques which I’m not going to go into. And there may be reasons given in the narration which explain some of his choices, so I’m just going to make a couple of observations and leave it at that.
One, I was surprised at just how much he trimmed the edges of the book. Particularly on the fore-edge, you can see where the trimming has cut off part of the index icons. That’s a lot more aggressive than I usually am when I have to resort to trimming.
And two, the cover material seems to be an artificial or “bonded” leather, though that’s not entirely easy to determine from the video. While that would have been the original cover material, I would advise the client to go with something which would hold up much better over time, or the book will soon be back in the same condition that it was at the start of the video.
Again, there may be good reasons to make those choices, explained in the narration. So this isn’t intended as a criticism, just an observation.
And I like his little pink iron. It’s too cute. So how could I possibly criticize him? :)