Book Mooching

I recently signed up to BookMooch which is a little community site whose goal is to enable you to “give away books you no longer need in exchange for books you really want”. You can read more about the site, its goals and activities for yourself.
Essentially you use the service as a means to advertise books that you don’t want any more. People can then “mooch” them from your list, and you pop it into the post to them. Similarly you can browse books offered by others, and ask them to send their unwanted copy to you. Every time you send a book you score a point. Every time you mooch a book you spend a point. So you’re encouraged to share books in order to be able to receive them.
There’s a bit more to the point system which offers further rewards for being a good community member, and encourage you to advertise more books, but that’s the process in a nutshell. And the process seems to work very well. For the price of postage (about

Judging Books by Their Covers

Geoff has written up a nice article about what he’s dubbed Early Social Bookmarking: cues he used to help him choose/select books from his school library.
I used to use a cue to help me find books too. But in my case there wasn’t a social element it was a simple visual cue. The technique was simple, and went like this: I would walk to the middle of the small portakabin that served as the local library in Dawley, and then slowly turn around and look at all the shelves from a distance. What I was looking for was books with yellow jackets.
Victor Gollancz published a lot of excellent novels including (and most importantly to me then), a lot of science fiction. All of their books had trademark yellow dust covers and so they easily stood out from others on the shelves.
Having found some candidate yellow books I simply strode across the room to take a closer look. Rinse and repeat.
So yes, I really did judge books by their covers. And very well it worked too.

We’re All Harmonies

Attempting to bring the teetering pile of books in my “to read” pile under control I’ve banned myself from Waterstones and the local library so I don’t get tempted to buy any others. So far it’s been mostly successful: I’ve strayed in, but not actually bought anything.
In typically anal retentive fashion I’ve adopted a strategy for working through the book list. I could have used date of purchase or alphabetic order to organize my reading list, but instead have sorting them by category. So at the moment I’m working through all the physics books whilst absorbing the occasional novel as light-relief.
I’ve already read Flatland, Flatterland, Information, and am currently working through Hyperspace, with the Elegant Universe next and last on the list.
So I now understand more about multiple dimensions, string theory and quantum physics than I ever did before. Which means that I’m still hopeless lost, especially when the current interpretation of quantum physics may be crumbling. Still, fun and intriguing stuff.
The purpose of this post though was to note what it is that I find so fascinating about string theory: if all of space-time can be reduced to the vibrations of 10 dimensional string (or maybe 26 depending on which theory you subscribe to) then that means we’re all just harmonics. A melody within the greater score that is the world around us.
And what really gives the romantic in me a nice fuzzy feeling is the thought that my children are new harmonics, new melodies that have unfolded from the overture of their parents.
So the saying is true, we really can make beautiful music together.

The Fifth Sentence

Passing on a meme I caught from Norman Walsh. The fifth sentence on page 23 of The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson is:

But while Lord Finkle-McGraw was not the sort to express feelings promiscuously, he gave the impression of being nearly satisfied with the way the conversation was going.

This isn’t the book I’m reading, that’s Foucault’s Pendulum, this was just on my desk in work as I’ve recently lent it to a colleague.