Literary Birthdays: Harry Potter!

Artwork by Mary GrandPre

Since today happens to be my posting day, and it also happens to be the birthday of our favorite (well, my favorite) fictional wizard as well as his creator, I had to do a quick post. According to all of the Harry Potter sites and J.K. Rowling herself, Harry was born in 1980. So, today he would be turning thirty-two years old! Hardly a boy wizard, eh? I know not everyone in the world is a fan of Harry, but if you simply can’t stand the kid or his books, just scroll past this post because I’m going to wax poetic for a moment.

Another Harry Potter milestone took place earlier this month. Since I didn’t make a post about it then, I figured I would mention it now. The 21st of July this year marked the five-year anniversary of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book in the septology, being released. I remember that night quite well. Anderson’s Book Shop, a rather impressive store in the western suburbs of Chicago, was hosting a street party for the midnight release. I spray-painted my hair hot pink and went to the party as Nymphadora Tonks, a character from the series. The evening was a ton of fun and — it seemed — in the blink of an eye, I was holding the orange-y tome that would mark the end of an era and the effective end of my childhood. I read the book in one and a half days.

Do any of you share a personal connection with the Harry Potter series? Whatever you may think about the books, I believe they ushered in a whole new era of reading for pleasure for my generation. Many kids said they were inspired to read other books because of their love for the Potter series. For me, Harry Potter will always have a sacred spot on my bookshelves. Happy Birthday Harry, and  — of course — J.K. Rowling!

— Jet Fuel Editor (and Potterhead), Mary Egan

Fun for Nerds: Book-Making From the Past

Before the laser printer, before machines that allowed us to mass produce any kind of product, book-making was difficult and arduous. These days, we wouldn’t consider book-making as a trade or an occupation. You might operate machines that construct books, but it just doesn’t require as much training and skill as it once did. I think it’s easy to be of two minds on book-making — I think it’s wonderful that we no longer have to put so much effort into books because they are now more easily made and more readily available. On the other hand, I’m somewhat nostalgic for those typesetters who place little metal rectangles into a machine and press out letters onto paper. And perhaps if more effort had to be put into creating books we would endeavor to avoid wasting typesetter’s time on a book “written” by Snooki. In any case, here is an interesting video on how books used to be made, courtesy of Boing Boing.

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Fun for Nerds: Writing Sonnets

Yes, thanks to the power of the internet, Shakespeare has been able to continue creating memorable quotes despite the inconvenient handicap of having been dead for hundreds of years.

Some of his more memorable recent works include the saying “prose before hos” and of course “bitches love sonnets,” which go to join his more classic lines such as “All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players” and, of course, “Cowards die many times before their deaths, / The valiant never taste of death but once.”

When asked how he has undergone such a dramatic change in his more recent works, the bard cited fourchan as a great source of insperation for his more recent works. Shakespeare seems to still be creating great and memorable works since the advent of the internet, and, I believe, we can continue to look forward for more inperational quotes such as these for a good while longer.

Fun for Nerds: YouTube comments


We’ve all seen them. The easiest solution to our aching brains would be to simply not look, but it’s like a car wreck that you can’t look away from — like Charlie Sheen. Something just makes your finger stick to the scroll wheel of your mouse and page down to see those hideous words mismatched with lower and upper cases and misplaced commas. That’s right: YouTube comments.  For those of you who may not know, YouTube comments seem to be a haven for the grammar challenged folk amongst us. Everyone who has a computer was not meant to put their opinion out there, and yet they do. To be sure, there are some insightful comments on YouTube videos, but those aren’t the ones that get voted up, are they? No, the ones you’ll see at the top of the stack are the ones that say things like “dis great video, do u make moar?

I saw an interesting post on BoingBoing this morning about these comments that make English majors cringe. It seems that some college professors are putting the dreadful things to a good use. This BoingBoing article states that teacher Andy Selsberg has created assignments that revolve around new kinds of writing that we — the technology generation — encounter in our daily lives. These assignments include writing good tweets on Twitter writing constructive YouTube comments.

The original article from the New York Times that talked about Selsberg includes this amazing quote from the teacher, “My ideal composition class would include assignments like ‘Write coherent and original comments for five YouTube videos, quickly telling us why surprised kittens or unconventional wedding dances resonate with millions,’ and ‘Write Amazon reviews, including a bit of summary, insight and analysis, for three canonical works we read this semester (points off for gratuitous modern argot and emoticons).'”

I think it’s really interesting to see that composition teachers are incorporating writing that we actually do encounter in their classes. It seems like a constructive and innovative way to create a new generation of better writers — by showing them the writing that they do and by making writing more interesting to them. What do you guys think?

Also, for those who are familiar and for those who are not, the phenomenal web comic ‘xkcd’ has two fantastic comics on the subject of YouTube comments. Check them out here and here.

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Fun for Nerds: Care & Keeping of Books


Happy Friday, everyone! I have to give my most sincerest apologies for the lack of posts here at the blog in the latter half of this week. I’ve been laid up with a nasty head cold and have been spending most of time amongst tissues and in front of the television drinking lots of fluids. My brain just couldn’t quite configure itself to write a coherent post these past few days and it still isn’t, so I thought I’d post something interesting I found a few weeks ago.

A few weeks ago, I followed a trail of blog links to find tips on How to Care For Your Books.  I say “trail of blog links” because I found it through BoingBoing, which redirected me to LifeHacker, which then finally sent me to Apartment Therapy. Personally, I think the fact that it’s gone through so many blogs just means it’s a good list of tips.

So, if you’re concerned about the well-being of your books, feel free to check out this link. I’m going to get back to bed and rest up for another week of blogging. Enjoy your Friday!

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

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A Bit of Sadness for Nerds: Books in Japan


This morning on BoingBoing, the culture & technology blog, I found a post that connected our literary loves to the tragedy in Japan. I firstly want to say that I am in no way trivializing the loss and devastation that’s occurred in Japan. This is just one more angle from which to observe the despair and destruction that’s regrettably taken place there. BoingBoing posted a picture of a library that has been destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami that took place there at the end of last week.

Some commenters on BoingBoing said the post was insensitive to all of the human loss that has occurred in Japan. I can understand that, and yet the image of floating books and submerged bookshelves makes me think of all of those people who once read those books and may never read again. Or of the children who used to frequent the library and may no longer have parents.

These water-logged books are just a small effect of the natural disaster in Japan, of course, but they present an image of just how vast the destruction is throughout the country. Book lovers are sure to have their hearts wrenched as they page through image after image of destroyed libraries. I suspect the cadre of photos are being accumulated to show people just how dire the situation in Japan is right now. If this is how the libraries look, just imagine how schools and people’s homes look after the wall of water shook towns and villages.

If you’re interested in helping and find yourself in a position to do so, the Red Cross is always an excellent organization to donate to. I also found a charity called ShelterBox that takes donations starting at $25. There are numerous other charities you can donate to if you feel the need to help.

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Edit: Check out Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s post about Writers for the Red Cross if you’re interested in donating. Donating means you could receive a book package contributed by authors. They have some truly awesome book baskets and writers’ services for you bid on!

Fun for Nerds: Stop-Motion Bookshelf

Brooch made my Etsy user "lupin":

A quick note about commenting If you click the little number in the talk-balloon button at the top right of this entry, you can comment very easily on what you see here. We’d love to see some comments begin to pour in as that will help us grow our community!

A little while ago, I posted about my voyeuristic tendencies when it comes to the bookshelves and book collections of others. These people need not even be famous, I just love snooping on what people display on their bookshelves and how they arrange those books. I posted some bookshelf pictures in that installment of “fun for nerds,” but I’ve found something even better.  Thanks to BoingBoing, I’ve found a really neat video of books arranging and re-arranging themselves on a bookshelf. I’ve always been fascinated by sped-up video and stop-motion features and this satisfies all of those curiosities as well as including books. Check this video out and see if you can spot books that you love or own! Happy Friday!

Fun for Nerds: Pictures of Bookshelves

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For me, there is nothing more enjoyable than looking at pictures of other people’s bookshelves. I suppose it’s a special kind of voyeurism for nerds to look at how other people have arranged their bookshelves. Perhaps the nerdiest thing that I enjoy doing is arranging my own bookshelf, and a close second is examining how others have arranged and organized theirs. I think it has a lot to do with seeing what other people read and pining after their cozy reading corners.

Boing Boing, the all-around-fun blog dedicated a post to this nerdy pastime just last week. They termed it something that I would normally use in conversation or on my personal blog. But, for discretion (and so the site doesn’t get mistakenly blocked), I won’t use the term here. You can see what I’m talking about at this Boing Boing post.

In any case, and sketchy language aside, bookshelves are simply fun to look at. Through the Boing Boing post, I found pictures of Cory Doctorow’s bookshelves, Neil Gaiman’s bookshelves, and a whole feed for bookshelf pictures. If you’re as obsessed with this eye candy as I am, feel free to click any of these links. Or, you can simply click the cut and see some amazing pictures in this post.

Do you like to look at other people’s bookshelves? If so, what do you think is the appeal? Why are you interested and why is it so entertaining?

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

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Fun for Nerds: Microcosm Publishing

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A quick note about commenting: If you click the little number in the talk-balloon button at the top right of this entry, you can comment very easily on what you see here. We’d love to see some comments begin to pour in as that will help us grow our community!

Earlier this week, I posted about the re-purposing of books and the rise of e-readers. Imagine my surprise when my brother shared an article with me, the headline of which included the words: “Bored of Your Kindle Already?” My brother knows all about my disdain for the Kindle and other e-readers, so he told me about this article right away. The article came from the tech blog Gizmodo and was all about how one publishing company in Portland, Oregon is trading magazines and books for your Kindle.

According to their website, Microcosm Publishing will take your “soulless faux-literary technology” (their words, not mine) and give you, in return, its worth in books and magazines. Microcosm isn’t kidding either! The site goes on to say that most books in their store are in the price range of $2 – $6, so a $100+ Kindle could leave you with a veritable mountain of books!

I absolutely love this idea and I love that Microcosm has decided to cater to those of us who still love holding an actual, physical book in their hands. I must say, I’d certainly be appreciative if someone got me a Kindle or another e-reader for Christmas or my birthday, but if there were a Microcosm store close by, I’d be going to trade it in for a wheelbarrow full of actual books.

If you’re interested, check out the webpage for Microcosm Publishing and, if you’re like, me, wish that you lived in Portland.

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

Fun for Nerds: Books on Your Birthday

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Here’s something I stumbled upon this afternoon — you can find out what book was at the top of the New York Times bestseller list on the day you were born! If you’re interested, simply click this link and type in your birthday to find out.

On my birthday, the top of the fiction list was The Russia House by John le Carré. According to my research, this book was about the division of the British Secret Intelligence Service that was assigned to spying on the Soviet Union. This is certainly a sign of the times seeing as the Soviet Union no longer exists. Now I feel a bit old. On the non-fiction side of the coin, a biography of Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis entitled A Woman Named Jackie by C. David Heymann topped the list.

Go try out the site for yourself and share in the comments what was topping the charts on the day you were born!

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan