Saturday, December 27, 2008

Life is Short - Read Fast 

My family's holiday is Christmas, and it went, surprisingly and with problems in planning, extremely well. My mom hosted dinner for 28 without a hitch (actually 27, because one uncle phoned in sick), and the little nephews running around at the in-laws' house have (to my knowledge) broken nothing of importance or of value.

The odd thing about this holiday, though, is that mostly people give me books. It isn't unusual for me to get a two foot tall stack of books. (and I can't describe my delight at that except through pictures, both from Christmas 2007 - hence the red sweater. Normally I shy away from dramatic colors like red.).

This year, though, the husband actually got more books that I. I got An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 by Rick Atkinson (and it looks great. I can't wait.). Then we both got a coffee-table book that is too heavy for our coffee table: Africa by Michael Poliza, which has some stunning photographs, many from the parts of Africa I haven't visited yet. My mom gave me Wildside III: Best of Rose Rigden, a book of comics by an artist I'm unfamiliar with, all about safaris. Sadly, I recognize my family and myself is more than a few of the images.

I also got two postcard books of Happy Bunny images. I'm already plotting which friend should get which card. Bwa ha ha.

I am pleased.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Operation Paperback party was a success! 

I've been doing this, sending books to troops for at least 2 years, and it is incredibly rewarding. I love the occasional thank you note or postcard people take the time to write, and I have a few pen pal-type correspondences going with some men and women overseas (I take care to mention my husband at least once during these penpal letters - I don't want people to think I'm looking for a boyfriend!).

During my last office job, I asked coworkers to drop off any books or magazines they didn't want anymore. I had a steady stream of books coming in. Then I started to run low (as in, I only had women's lit and uninteresting history and really old sci-fi that didn't seem too appealing). A few light bulbs went off - I don't know my neighbors as well as I'd like, having missed all the summer block parties. Having kids draw pictures to include in the packages could be a neat morale-booster, and I have plenty of paper and markers and stickers. Customs forms are hell to fill out, so I hoped to enlist help from adults with those, and I was very glad a few people gave me a few dollars to help with postage (at $5 a package, and sending 10 packages every few weeks, it adds up). And so many people brought over books. I've also found the library book sales a good place for books. They sell paperbacks for 50 cents, and downstairs there are free books for the taking (it does take some sifting through lots of junk, but I last came back with a few dozen action / sci-fi / history books that were appropriate.

The party went well (though I bought too much food) ;) . I plan to host another, and give people more advance notice, in a month or two. Maybe Valentine's Day? Or wait a few months, and send kids' letters with a Flag Day theme? I'm too hostessed out to think too much about the next, and I have some heavy bags of packages to take to the post office tomorrow (I'm getting strong, carrying all these books).

Yea! I'm in such a good mood. I'm glad this went so well. I'm always nervous playing hostess, scared that I won't make my guests comfortable. But it went very, very well. I want to do this again!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Party at my house! Go, Operation Paperback! 

Everyone in the DC Metro area:

Come by my house on Sunday from 2-4 if you're interested in getting
involved with Operation Paperback (the charity I volunteer with that
sends books to troops stationed overseas).

I'd appreciate donations of books that I will send to US troops stationed abroad. I don't like asking for money, but postage gets expensive. Each envelope (which holds 3-4 books and sometimes magazines) costs about $5 to mail APO. A few dollars to help defray what I pay in postage would be welcome.

Kids can write letters or draw pictures that I'll include in the
packages I'll be sending early next week. Adults are welcome to
socialize, have snacks, and see what Alan and I have done with Jody's
old house (if you're feeling generous, you can even help me fill out
customs forms :) ).

I have computer paper, construction paper, lots of stickers, crayons,
and markers for the kids to use. Since I often get thank you notes
when I include stationery and a self-addressed envelope, parents can
address envelopes to their kids and probably receive a note of thanks.

I'll have snacks and hot chocolate. (Feel free to bring your own beer). Let me know if you plan to drop by so I can plan to have enough food.

Any type of book (within reason) would be appreciated. Reason excludes anything religious (getting religious books to troops in Muslim countries is dicey and should generally be done through military chaplains. I'm not currently in contact with any), pornographic, written for kids, or romance novels.

Good books are action/adventure, mystery, sci-fi, history, horror, classics. Once individuals have read their books, they donate them to the rest of the team. Libraries have sprung up in remote posts. I'll show you pictures - it's inspiring.

Every book will find its way to a reader. If you're curious and want to read more about Operation Paperback, their URL is operationpaperback.org.

If you're in the DC area and want to drop by Sunday, email me for directions.

Even if you don't feel like a party with socializing and the like, I would welcome book donations. You can leave them on my doorstep.

I'll return to regular blogging momentarily.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell can kiss my ass 

Oh, will he not just GO AWAY??? His last book, Blink, was horrid. It read well, sure. But it was the worst science reading I'd read in a long time. I wouldn't hate him as much as I do if that book hadn't been required reading and discussion at grad school. But it was. And too many of my colleagues loved it. He tells a neat story, and he tells a story a lot of people want to believe, about how the best decisions can be made in the blink of an eye, by some kind of intuition, some instant subconscious processing. But he cherry picks anecdotes to prove his theory. When he does reference actual research, he misrepresents it. Either he has no understanding of statistics, or he understands them really well and lies with them.

It's bad science. And if his book had stayed were it belonged, in the business / management section, I'd have no problem with him. But he's a household name, now. Everything he says is taken as truth. It's like he doesn't even need to bother with the anecdotal evidence or the 3 studies out of a thousand that showed results favorable to his thesis.

When I thought he had faded away, he comes out with a new book, Outliers.

There's a reason academics don't like pop science. It's books like these.

Ah, well, at least Steve Pinker has a new book out. He may write pop science too, but I've not found any misrepresentations of the literature, or attempts to prove things though anecdotes, in his books (what I've read, anyway. I haven't read everything he's published).

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