Thursday, April 29, 2010

In which I complain

Bookstores have been in the news more than usual lately, thanks in part to the Amazon vs. MacMillan e-book contremps. Lots of people are coming out in favor of independent booksellers, and, sure, I like the idea myself. But in practice, when I go to independent bookstores, like Davis-Kidd here in Nashville, the only way I can tell I'm not at Barnes and Noble is the large "Nashville" section. At neither place can I find many books I actually want to read.

I keep a list of books I want on an Amazon wishlist. (Note: Books referenced below can be found on this list.) Mostly, this is because their wishlist function is really well designed. Some of these books are scholarly texts that I hardly expect to find in a local bookstore. But a lot of them are fiction, many of which have gotten positive press and I imagined would be selling well.

For example, there is China Mieville's The City and the City, which just won a reasonably major prize. Adam Roberts' Yellow Blue Tibia was also shortlisted for it. Other books I've become interested in because of positive blogosphere word (especially from Three Percent) include Ajvaz's The Other City, Waberi's In the United States of Africa, and Ilya and Ilf's The Golden Calf. Heck, I haven't even been able to locate a copy of the reprint of Jennifer Crusie's The Cinderella Deal, which hardly qualifies as obscure.

But I go to the sci-fi/fantasy section of the bookstore, where many of these might be shelved, and what do I find? Row upon row of Star Trek novels and lot of Robert Jordan. I check the fiction/literature section, just to make sure they're not there either, and of course they're not. Davis-Kidd does have a nice large section of Vera Bradley handbags, which is a good thing, because it's not as if there is anyplace else in Nashville to find her designs. [sarcasm alert]

My point? Independent bookstores aren't, as far as I can tell, filling the role being claimed for them now. I am sure there are exceptions (I have fond recollections of the Elliott Bay Book Company), but lots of independent bookstores are indistinguishable from Borders and Barnes and Noble. So I mostly shop online, generally from Powell's even though I feel the price difference over Amazon. About half the time when I go into a bookstore, ready to spend my dollar, I come out empty-handed.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In which we talk about economists

I subscribe to the NBER Digest, which is a way to find out about interesting papers in economics without [shudder] having to read them. The latest contained two studies I found of passing interest. One found that calorie posting in Starbucks reduced customers' calorie intake - but by a whopping 15 calories. (To be fair, consumers consuming the highest amount dropped their consumption by the largest percent.) Another found that, shockingly, bottle deposit laws increased recycling. But I was still disheartened to know that only 8.3 out of 10 bottles were recycled where there are deposits.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

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Well, I know what book I'll be picking up at AERA this weekend.

I've spent part of today figuring out my schedule, juggling sessions I have to be at versus those I want to be at, as well as trying to make plans to see friends in town. Also, I've been working on my poster. And making sure I have all the info together for my flight, the hostel, etc.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Link roundup

Some of these links are getting decidedly stale; time to clear them out.

Which are more effective, taxes on junk or subsidies on healthy food?

How would you like to spend half your waking life fetching water? (Via Elizabeth Royte.)

How much land would it take if we all lived as densely as NYC?

High-fructose corn syrup is part of the axis of evil.

Adorable houses, but ignore the twee captions.

The challenges of "data-driven" decision-making.

Horrifying maternity leave story.

Everyone's already linked to this, but ... is TV programming as we know it doomed? "The most watched minute of video made in the last five years shows baby Charlie biting his brother’s finger. (Twice!) That minute has been watched by more people than the viewership of American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, and the Superbowl combined. (174 million views and counting.)"

I don't own a television. It's not because I don't watch any TV, but because I rarely care to watch it when it's programmed to be on*. I don't just mean I want to Tivo things. I mean I didn't start watching Battlestar Galactica (from the beginning) until the final season. It's not just me - how many people were introduced to Entourage by DVDs their friends insisted they borrow? But media companies still judge television shows by Neilson ratings, as any frustrated fan of Joss Whedon knows.

I don't think that the rise of services like YouTube means that products requiring a cast of thousands will disappear. It means they'll have to be delivered differently, though.

* Also, the cost. Paying a bundle for a bundle of stations you don't care about is so old-school.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Questions to which the answer is "no" that I have been asked lately

  1. Do you speak Portuguese?
  2. Are you a yoga teacher?
  3. Are you a lesbian too?
  4. Have you heard from [REDACTED] University yet?
  5. Are you going to the workshop on Saturday?
  6. Do you know Will Smith's agent name in Independence Day?
  7. Have you been a vegetarian long?
  8. Have you been here before?
  9. Do you have change for a $5?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A List of Things You Probably Don't Know about Me

  1. Pretty much my favorite band of all time is KMFDM.
  2. I really loathe a capella music.
  3. I have a secret crush on one of my friends. I'm pretty sure he doesn't know.
  4. I would rather do just about anything other than clean the bathtub.
  5. I would rather clean the bathtub than call strangers on the phone.
  6. I don't like potato chips.
  7. Every morning, when I'm home, I get up and write first thing.
  8. I could eat a whole tube of raw chocolate chip cookie dough, easy.
  9. My hair is turning white.
  10. The three hottest celebrities are China Mieville, George Clooney, and Owen Wilson, but mostly China Mieville.
  11. I'm a really good flosser.
  12. I've never seen any episodes of Gilligan's Island or M.A.S.H.
  13. I know it's trendy to say Moby Dick is overrated, but I love it.
  14. Sociology? Awesomesauce.
  15. I don't like auto-flush toilets.
  16. I've never had poison ivy.
  17. I think it's weird when people say they don't have memories before, say, age 7; I can remember the house we moved out of before I turned 3.
  18. Video games totally bore me.
  19. I eat my Oreos top, filling, bottom.
  20. I would secretly love it if someone dedicated a song on the radio to me. Except I don't listen to shows with dedications.
  21. I covet built-in bookcases.
  22. I don't like the color orange.
  23. It takes me an hour to fall asleep at night.
  24. I wish I didn't suck at team sports.
  25. I have no idea what kind of car you drive.
  26. Snoring is a dealbreaker.
  27. My contact lens prescription is the same in both eyes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Trail building

Building drainage
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
I spent the weekend building trail with the Cumberland Trail Conference. We were in pretty rocky territory, so it was slow going; on the second day we were on a wicked slope, so we had to crib the downhill side and build up the inside. But it was a good time and it's great to see our hard work turn into a trail.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Florida International University - Assistant/Associate Professor of Higher Education.

I can't find a good link, but there is a Visiting Assistant Professor position at the University of Southern Mississippi in their student affairs program.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Big South Fork weekend report

In Maude's Crack!
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
As promised, here's a recap of last weekend. We camped out at Big South Fork, which has some pretty nice campsites - lots of shade, very clean showerhouses, a dish-washing sink, and a RV-free tent area. The weather couldn't have been better, either.

The first day we did a hike in the Pogue Creek Natural Area. Hiking here is limited to guided tours with rangers and the Nature Conservancy. There are no trails, aside from some old logging roads. Rangers Alan and Brandon led us on a nice tour of York Palace (a natural arch), a waterfall, and a cave (closed due to WNS).

The second day we did a loop hike to Maude's Crack and the John Muir Overlook. The crack is a way down a bluff that would otherwise be a real rock climb or a long trip around. The trail also passes by two old communities; BSF only became a park in the 1970s, so there are a lot of foundations still standing. This is a nice hike, but too open to do in the heat of summer. It's also (partially) shared with horses, so be aware of where you step.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Assistant professor of higher and postsecondary education - University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Assistant/associate professor in adult education and higher education leadership - Oregon State University.

Teaching assistant professor at North Carolina State University. (I can't find a stable link to this job, but it's teaching 5 courses a semester in a distance program, non-tenure track.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another weekend out

Foreground background
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
I spent the past weekend hiking and camping at Big South Fork. This is my favorite photo of the weekend. I'll post more about the trip later (including photos showing the landscape, which is full of more arches and whatnot).

Friday, April 9, 2010

Plot cliche I never want to read again

We were in a tight spot, that was for sure. Every idea we came up with had some flaw in it, some Achilles' heel. The enemy was just too powerful.

"Hey, wait a minute, guys," said Jake. "I have an idea. I know it sounds crazy, but it ... just ... might ... work."

He told us his idea, and pretty soon everyone in the room was nodding. It was the only hope we had with time running short. We assigned Louise to play decoy, while Fred was a back-up distraction. I would go in the back way and Ted in the front. Meanwhile, we sent Terry out to get the supplies we needed.

We were nervous, but the plan went off just as Jake said it would. Fred's backup distraction wasn't even needed. In just half an hour, we had done the impossible and taken the enemy down.

Spectators gaped at the burning rubble where the enemy fortress had once stood. "But how did you do it?" asked General Fortescue, who had come out of his bunker to see if the rumors were true.

"Ah, it was easy, once we figured it out. All we had to do was use to Device backwards, running the current through the Field while the enemy was distracted," I said.


If the only way you're building suspense is by signaling loud and clear to the reader that you're withholding The Plan for now, you're building fake suspense. The reader thinks, "I wonder what trick the writer is going to end with," not, "I hope these good guys take down the enemy."

I recently read a story of this genre in an anthology by editors whose taste I generally trust. Sure, it was an older story, but this isn't a case of "was fun but it's been overdone." This is a plot that couldn't have been good the first time someone crawled out of the primordial ooze and used it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Weekend at Natural Bridge

View from Lover's Leap
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
April isn't the cruelest month, but it may be the busiest. Last weekend I went to Natural Bridge State Park in Kentucky, near Lexington. You may have heard of the general region it is in - the Red River Gorge, a mecca for climbers. But there is a lot of good hiking there. Some members of the group climbed, whereas I just hiked. We ended up with three absolutely beautiful days of weather.

Geologically, the hills aren't mountains but gorges worn down around sandstone. (You can see this when you look at the horizon - instead of being peaky, the hills are flat on top.) The result is not only formations like the one pictured, but natural arches, such as the one the park is named after. I found it hard to get a good arch photo; it seems I was always too close or too far away. But if you click through you will see that I tried anyway.

I'm in and out of town a lot this month; this weekend I will be at a park very similar to Natural Bridges, Big South Fork on the Kentucky/Tennessee border. It has a lot of similar rock formations, such as arches and cliffs, but it doesn't have as many panoramic views.