Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Google realtime search

From ResourceShelf, news of Google's realtime search site. Note that the current url will change.

Every Time Zone is an ingenious tool for visualizing time zone differences, and very useful if you need to set up a conference call or teleconference with participants in far flung parts of the world.

Omnivore on words

Today's issue of BookForum's wonderful Omnivore is about words.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Craft your very own academic sentences!

With this ingenious application from the University of Chicago Writing Program, you can write academic sentences (e.g. "The epistemology of praxis recapitulates the historicization of linguistic transparency.") with the best of them.

NYT most looked up words

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mark Twain at Duino Castle

Mark Twain's responses to a guestbook questionnaire at Duino Castle, on display in the Castle museum. Twain visited Duino in May, 1899, while staying in Nuremberg.  12 years later, between October 1911 and May 1912, Rilke would stay there and find inspiration for his Duino Elegies Twain's responses to the questionnaire are as follows:

Name and position
Mark Twain
(geb. S.L. Clemens)
Ambassador at large U.S.A.

Staying at/date
Nürnberg, May 29, 1899

The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it

Highest wish
That I may pass for what I ought to be, not what I am

Favorite author or composer

Favorite flower

Lifelong occupation

Worst habit
Das Rauchen [ie. smoking]

Greatest dislike
Getting up

Favorite book
The Jungle Books

Favorite poem
Omar's Rubaiyat

Favorite color
Old gold (22 karat)

Favorite drink
Pure water, adulterated with Scotch whisky

p.s -In 1897, Twain spoke to the Concordia Press Club in Vienna in German, amusing his audience with the speech  "Die Schrecken der deutschen Sprache" ("The Horrors of the German Language")  For readers with even a rudimentary familiarity with German, Twain's literal translation of the speech into English is equally hilarious.

Wonders of evolution: mallards win human affection with dog masks

Evolution truly is mind-boggling; note how mallards have developed cute "dog masks" to win the affection of humans. And speaking of evolution, and the development of such ingratiating traits, Dr. Richard Dawkins has a trick or two up his sleeve also...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

British writers in their own words

Here's a treat - BBC's collection of author interviews provides insights into the imaginations and personalities behind some of the greatest modern novels in the English language.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book google, and pool shaped kidneys

Urban Dictionary, which is not concerned with grammar, defines "book google" as "When you need to figure out something, so you look it up in a book, like in the olden times, when dinosaurs ruled the earth." Does this phenomenon have a name? Another example: in Amazons, Don Delillo talks about "swimming pool shaped kidneys."

Cavalcade of Time Magazine's 83 covergirls and -boys

Fascinating post by Craig Fehrman at the Millions; a brief history of authors who have graced the cover of Time Magazine from Joseph Conrad (1923) through this week's issue, with Jonathan Franzen on its cover.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Social Media Analytics

If you'd like to see what impression your blog is making on the social media crowd, enter the feed url at, and Social Media Analytics will tell you how many times your posts have been shared on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Knowledge Environments, Vol.1, No.1

"New Knowledge Environments is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal and open community archive for those engaged in exploring and understanding the nature of text-oriented communication in the past, present, and future." Inaugural issue is Research Foundations for Understanding Books and Reading in the Digital Age. 

Elsekiss thou may mean Kerry piggy?

Many years ago Professor Bjørn Tysdahl wrote an interesting article about James Joyce's use of Norwegian in Finnegans Wake. Joyce had several Norwegian teachers when he lived in Paris during the 20s, and one of them was the great Norwegian poet Olaf Bull.  The mellifluous question (Finnegans Wake is uncommonly mellifluous, if not intelligible, as I've noted here and there) "Elsekiss thou may mean Kerry piggy?" is surely a Joycean rendition of "Elsker du mig, min kære pige" (Do you love me, my dear girl?) - and perhaps an echo of Bull's poem "Smerte" (Pain), which concludes  "Min elskede - elsker du mig? (My love, do you love me?)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Surgeon's knot

One of the best practical bits of wisdom I've gleaned from the internet is how to tie my shoes securely. Three years ago I discovered the surgeon's knot - the most common of all the secure shoelace knots - at Ian's exemplary Ian's Shoelace Site.  I know that many surgeons now favor clogs and crocs, but that's their business; I've been using the knot for three years, and not once have my laces come untied!

Books vs. E-Books

Exeunt Mloovi, enter FeedTranslate

A couple of years ago I posted about Mloovi, a neat service that drew on the amazing powers of Google Translate to translate RSS feeds into the language of your choice. Unfortunately Mloovi disappeared from the screen a while back, but now there's another service that does the same thing, Here's a page of rss feeds from various Norwegian media outlets, translated by into English and assembled in Netvibes.

A Netvibes page pulling Norwegian news feeds translated by FeedTranslate. Mouseover titles for preview, click-through to read article.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tony Judt

Tony Judt died today after a horrific 2 year decline from Gehrig's disease.  Judt's last book, Ill Fares the Land, was mentioned here earlier this year as one of several indications that perhaps the excellent notion that the "state can play a significant role in its citizens’ lives without imperiling their liberties" might not be dead after all.  Since then I've had a chance to read most of Ill Fares the Land, a rousing tribute to the noble ideals of social democracies. To a Norwegian social democrat the ideas in Ill Fares the Land are not radical, but they are unconventional fare - and carry extra weight - coming from a historian and professor who spent most of his life teaching in the U.S. The book made me want to go and join a march some place, which is unusual. It was based on a lecture he gave at NYU a year ago, which was also his last public appearance.  Here are his parting words...([he is quoting a passage from Orwell's Homage to Catalonia] There was much in it [the Spanish revolution in 1937] that I didn’t understand , in some ways I did not even like it. I was not sure that it could work. I was not sure that it did work, but I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for. That I believe is true. Whatever we can retrieve of the 20th century memory of social democracy. And I leave you with that thought. Thank you.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Endangered species

If you've ever wondered how many books there are in the world (ie. separate titles or editions that merit individual cataloging) Google has come up with a number.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Orenstein on Twittering and performing

Peggy Orenstein works Erving Goffman, Sherry Turkle, and David Riesman into a short, thoughtful and nicely turned performance about Twitter. For a frat boy take on the same existential problems, try Charles Trippy's Twitter ruined my life