Tag Archive: “books”

Ebook Recipe for Safari Reading List

Reading List is a Safari browser feature that helps you bookmark articles you want to read later. Calibre is an ebook utility program. I wrote a script for Calibre that generates an ebook of the articles in your Reading List, so you can read them at your leisure on the device of your choice.

Click here for a more detailed introduction and instructions…

Posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2012.

Ereader Assessment

I’ve had a Kindle for about a year now and have used it quite a lot (but by no means exclusively).

Recently, I had a chance to play around with a Nook Simple Touch. I thought I would share a few observations for the benefit of anyone interested in comparing these ereaders.

The Kindle 3 keyboard and “SYM” punctuation menu.

Click here to read the rest of the post…

Posted on Wednesday, February 8th, 2012.

Strange Horizons ebook issue generator

Attentive readers may notice I’ve been on a bit of an ebook kick recently. Here’s a tool I made to generate ebook issues of Strange Horizons, an SF magazine:

Strange Horizons is a weekly magazine of and about speculative fiction. Calibre is a free and open source ebook library management application.

Calibre has an extensible system “for downloading news from the Internet and converting it into an ebook.” The scripts Calibre uses to retrieve and format news are known as recipes. Recipes can be configured as simple RSS readers or as custom Python scripts using Calibre’s recipe API.

Strange Horizons is published online as a web site. This Calibre recipe retrieves the current issue of Strange Horizons and outputs an ebook suitable for reading on a Kindle or other ereader device.

The script and other details, including installation and usage notes, are available on GitHub. It is included with Calibre since Calibre version 0.8.38.

Update, March 4, 2012: This script has been acknowledged on the Strange Horizons blog.

Posted on Tuesday, January 31st, 2012.

Text Justification with the Kindle Collections Plugin for Calibre

I recently mentioned that I used Calibre to enable left justification on my Kindle. More precisely, the justification option is a minor feature of the Kindle Collections plugin. The plugin’s primary purpose is to help organize collections on your Kindle. I find it a bit complicated for that purpose, but I was happy to discover a way to enable left justification. (Turns out there are other ways to do it, too.) Full justification looks great when typeset well, as is usually the case in printed books, but in some circumstances it doesn’t appear quite so stately on the Kindle. In these cases, I prefer the “ragged right” of left justification to distracting gaps or rivers within the text itself.

Like screenshots? Read on for a step-by-step guide.

Posted on Monday, January 30th, 2012.

Calibre Content Server

Calibre is an ebook management application. You can use it to convert ebooks to different formats, to edit metadata, or to organize and browse your ebook library. It can also act as a “Content Server”, providing an easy way to publish a searchable online catalog of your ebooks. This feature is useful for accessing your ebooks on different computers and devices. It could also be useful for libraries or research groups interested in sharing material over the internet.

In this post, I’ll show how to setup the Calibre Content Server and share a few examples.


Posted on Thursday, January 26th, 2012.

Orbital Drop eBooks

Do you like science fiction and fantasy? Do you read ebooks? You might want to check out The Orbital Drop, a monthly deal on an ebook title from publisher Orbit Books.

The currently discounted title is Consider Phlebas, the first novel in Iain M. Banks’ Culture series. It’s far-future space opera. Now, I am known to opine that science fiction is made of richer stuff than just rockets and robots, but hey – I like rockets and robots, too.

I read a more recent Culture novel last year (Matter). While enjoyable, I recall that it felt a bit haphazard, as if I’d tuned in to a series too late to catch the introduction and was relying on recaps to catch up – which is evidently exactly what I did. So, for $0.99, I’ll pop Consider Phlebas into the queue and enjoy the world-building from the beginning.

Posted on Tuesday, April 5th, 2011.

Art on Anarres

This quote from Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed resonates strongly with me:

“No distinction was drawn between the arts and the crafts; art was not considered as having a place in life, but as being a basic technique of life, like speech.”

(As with art, so with science.)

The quote is an excerpt from a description of the egalitarian culture of the protagonist’s homeland.

The book is a dialectical dissection of ideas about culture and society and belonging and belongings, told through the device of the main character’s attempt to bridge two very different but intimately related worlds. From my vantage point halfway through the book, the central question is whether the two peoples will be reunited – or whether the reuniter will ultimately find himself without a people. The title underscores that risk, and reminds me of the challenges faced by all who would seek compromise.

Posted on Sunday, April 3rd, 2011.

Used Book Sale Acquisitions

Today was one of the used book sales organized by the friends of the Broome County Public Library. Hardcovers for $1, paperbacks for 50¢! I bought a big stack of books for $5.

Book Sale Books

What’d I get? Short stories by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg. A regional field guide to trees. More short stories by authors I like. Poems about upstate NY by Dugan Gilman. A history of religion in the US for a friend’s research, and, last but not least, E. O. Wilson’s Diversity of Life.

Not too shabby!

Posted on Saturday, September 11th, 2010.

Haiku Reviews of Selected Stories from Fragile Things, a Compendium of Short Fiction by Neil Gaiman

Here’s my take on a few of the tales from Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders. As always, let’s not be too pedantic about what constitutes a haiku or a review.

October in the Chair

The boy ran away
and found a friend with whom to play
and maybe stay.

In high school, some of our cross country routes took us through a cemetery. Some folks said it wasn’t an appropriate place to run, but I always figured the residents wouldn’t mind the company.

Other People

Who is the demon
who resurrects your regrets?
Feelings, flayed, expire.

Gaiman’s comments on this compact parable introduced me to the “Möbius story” label for cyclical stories. This is the first of two or three summarized here.

The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch

Evening on the town:
at the circus, underground,
kingdoms, lost, are found.

While they were in the fifth room, the prim biologist said she wished the Smilodon was not extinct. In the eighth room, the Cabinet of Wishes Fulfill’d, she was chosen as a volunteer.

Apparently this story was partly inspired by a Frazetta painting. Awesome.

Feeders and Eaters

We all have our needs –
a hunger for friends, or meat;
and some of us feed.

Ever run in to someone you used to know, and wonder what happened to them? Ever wish they hadn’t told you?

Pages from a Journal Found in a Greyhound Bus Somewhere Between Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Louisville, Kentucky

Dreams of roads and rain
in America’s motels,
searching for yourself.

There’s no better place to work out what you’re after than a booth at an all-night diner. If that doesn’t lead anywhere, you might really be lost – or at least there’s a long road ahead. Refill?


Barbecue Sunbird –
a summer delicacy!
Ashes, hatch, repeat.

I want to hang out with Zebediah T. Crawcrustle.

The Monarch of the Glen

Each year, here we meet
to drink and feast but most to
make you monsters weep.

This story features characters from American Gods, and is set in the world of that novel. It’s a spin on the legend of Beowulf and Grendel, inflected by the American Gods idea that mythical figures exist but subsist only on the strength of human belief. The central question of Monarch of the Glen is simply this: what makes a monster?

Posted on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010.

My Interpretation of the Litany Against Fear

Dune is a work of fiction, but it presents philosophies I accept as powerful kernels of real-world wisdom. Here is the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, introduced in Herbert’s 1965 classic:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Confrontation and acknowledgement transforms fear into an understanding of risk. To face fear – or to embrace joy, for that matter – is not to be deluded by denial or delight, but to be human: to recognize emotion as an indicator of important experience.

As a cognitive tool, the Litany guides us to observe and identify sources of uncertainty. Observation changes challenges by changing how we see them; the paralyzing fog is dispelled by our gaze to reveal specific obstacles that can be attended to in turn.

I think this is especially useful as an approach to the anxiety that can sometimes inhibit opportunity or ambition. What will you tackle next?

Posted on Friday, April 9th, 2010.