Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

30 August, 2012

I Am Not a Librarian: But I Try

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

OK, so let’s look at top-level categories. You’ll remember the MDS from last time, but let me line it up with some other systems as well, just to get an idea of the variation.

Melvil Decimal System Universal Decimal Classification Library of Congress Classification Bliss bibliographic classification
  1. General Works and Information Sciences
  2. Philosophy and Psychology
  3. Religion
  4. Social Sciences
  5. Language
  6. Mathematics and Science
  7. Applied Sciences and Technology
  8. Arts and Leisure
  9. Literature
  10. Biography and History
  1. Science and Knowledge. Organization. Computer Science. Information. Documentation. Librarianship. Institutions. Publications
  2. Philosophy. Psychology
  3. Religion. Theology
  4. Social Sciences
  5. empty
  6. Mathematics. Natural Sciences
  7. Applied Sciences. Medicine, Technology
  8. The Arts. Recreation. Entertainment. Sport
  9. Language, Linguistics, Literature
  10. Geography, Biography, History
A – General Works
B – Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion
C – Auxiliary Sciences of History
D – General and Old World History
E – History of America
F – History of the United States and British, Dutch, French, and Latin America
G – Geography, Anthropology, and Recreation
H – Social Sciences
J – Political Science
K – Law
L – Education
M – Music
N – Fine Arts
P – Language and Literature
Q – Science
R – Medicine
S – Agriculture
T – Technology
U – Military Science
V – Naval Science
Z – Bibliography, Library Science, and General Information Resources
2/9 – Generalia, Phenomena, Knowledge, Information science & technology
A/AL – Philosophy & Logic
AM/AX – Mathematics, Probability, Statistics
AY/B – General science, Physics
C – Chemistry
D – Astronomy and earth sciences
DG/DY – Earth sciences
E/GQ – Biological sciences
GR/GZ – Applied biological sciences: agriculture and ecology
H – Physical Anthropology, Human biology, Health sciences
I – Psychology & Psychiatry
J – Education
K – Society (includes Social sciences, sociology & social anthropology)
L/O – History (including area studies, travel and topography, and biography)
LA – Archaeology
P – Religion, Occult, Morals and ethics
Q – Social welfare & Criminology
R – Politics & Public administration
S – Law
T – Economics & Management of economic enterprises
U/V – Technology and useful arts (including household management and services)
W – The Arts
WV/WX – Music
X/Y – Language and literature
ZA/ZW – Museology

It all adds up to quite the mouthful. And they’ve got some pretty different notations, too – I don’t know what’s going on with Bliss. To get way ahead of myself, I think maybe using the alphabet is a good idea, just for the extra room it gives you to expand – although the UDC has left a whole number unused by collapsing subjects into others. Combining language and literature certainly isn’t for me. So what do they all have in common, then? Can I draw out some main topics?

  • Philosophy
    • Grouped with Psychology (or Logic, in Bliss)
  • Religion
    • Grouped with Philosophy in LoC
  • Social Sciences
  • Language
    • Frequently combined with Literature, but screw that!
  • Literature
  • Mathematics
    • Generally grouped with Science, specifically Natural Sciences
  • Arts and Recreation
  • History and Biography
  • Geography
  • And they all have some sort of General Stuff-category

Some of them divide sciences and history further on the top-level, but my instinct is to go as broad as I can for the top-level, and go for greater granularity later. I’m actually tempted to go for just a Science top-level – Wikipedia organises its articles into Formal, Physical, Life, Social and Applied Sciences, and that seems like a good subdivision of a big field to me. Of course, I immediately get into trouble, as Linguistics should then be a Social Science, but I want Language on the top-level. Dangit.

OK, let me compare these pulled out with my own tentative categories, then.

General Works
Social Sciences
Natural Sciences
Arts and Recreation
History and Biography


I actually quite like this boiled-down list. Let me redo my list a bit, and see if I get a top-level I can work with, and throw in some of the rest as sub-levels just to see how it’d work.

  1. General Works
  2. Formal Sciences
    • Mathematics
  3. Natural Sciences
    • Geography
  4. Social Sciences
    • Politics
    • Education
  5. Philosophy
  6. Religion
  7. Language
  8. Literature
  9. Art
    • Food
    • Music
  10. History
    • Biography

That even shook out to ten! I’m not sure if I should be happy about that; if I go with these as top-level, I’ll obviously use numbers, and leave myself no room to expand. And I’ve surely overlooked something. And what are General Works, really? Like, encyclopaedias and stuff? Do they even sell print versions of those to private consumers any more? It seems like a good category to have, you know, “stuff”, but I don’t know that I’d really use it. Maybe I should have some sort of Applied Sciences instead – though it’s not like I’ll use that much either. I think this set-up will pretty much work for my current books, though… I think I’m on to something here.

9 July, 2012

Summer Reading

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

Summer is upon us at last, and even in this neck of the woods there have been days that actually look like it. I’ve started my vacation, and am greatly looking forwards to days spent doing nothing but what I feel like. I’m even slowing down my post writing, as the notice on the front page should already have told you about. Unless you’re reading this at some point in the future, of course, in which case, it doesn’t really matter.

Over the past few years, summer has become the time when I get the most reading done. Over the course of the year, I mostly read stuff I need to, and every time I read something just for fun, I feel guilty for not reading something useful instead. No such problem in summer. The only problem then is picking from the smorgasbord of books I have yet to read.

That list keeps on growing, it seems to me. So much gets added to it, and then slips down the list as new and shiny titles catch my eye. On the top of this year’s summer reading list, for example, lies Elantris and Snuff, two very recent purchases. Snuff, of course, is the latest Discworld novel, and I have long been a fan of the works of Terry Pratchett, so I’ve basically been saving this one as a summer treat. Elantris, I have high hopes for. I have enjoyed every other book I’ve read by Brandon Sanderson, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t enjoy this one as well. This will be the first of his I actually read in print, though – all the others I listened to as audiobooks. I wanted to that with this one as well, but couldn’t find a copy for purchase, since I apparently live in the wrong part of the world. I’ll save my annoyance with region restricted audiobooks for a different post, though, and just enjoy Elantris the old fashioned way.

To offset the new and shiny factor, I also grabbed a book that has been waiting on the shelves for a while, when I vacated my Bergen room for the summer. I have a tiny ambition of being versed in pre-Tolkien fantasy, so The Worm Ouroboros seems a good place to start. I’ve actually read a few pages of this already, and wow, this is heavy on the “high” in “high fantasy”. Lofty language and archaic word forms mixed with fairy tale epic. Seems like fun.

Even though I couldn’t get Elantris, I still have a fair few audiobooks lines up as well. Related to my previously mentioned tiny ambition, I have  A Princess of Mars, and its first sequel stored in the iTunes library. In a recent sale, I also grabbed Lucifer’s Hammer and Gulliver’s Travels. I know very little of the first book, but the blurb seemed interesting enough to get it; the second I know through its many adaptations, but I have never read the original myself. Finally, in the audiobook category, there is Out of Oz, the conclusion of the series Gregory Maguire started with Wicked. I loved Wicked, but found myself less impressed by the first two sequels. I started a re-listen of the whole series to refresh my memory before starting on this one, but stranded half-way through Son of a Witch, lacking the interest to complete it. Even so, I want to see the end of the series, so I guess I’ll just skip straight to it and hope my memory catches up.

That’s all the books I have lines up for the summer so far, but there’s no shortage of titles on the big unread list, so maybe I’ll manage to fit in a few more. Maybe I’ll even manage to type up some thoughts as I finish them. What’s on your summer reading list? Happy summer, and happy reading.


31 May, 2012

Gateway Drugs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

A couple of days ago, I suddenly rediscovered one of LibraryThing’s beta features, which I had looked at when it first debuted and then not thought about again until now: lists. In particular, the one that caught my eye was a list of fantasy gateway books. The idea of the lists feature is that it aggregates the individual lists from the members that create one, and generate a common list from it, in this case of books that first sparked the reader’s interests in fantasy.

I like this, and it got me thinking about which books made me so interested in that particular genre. Now, this particular list asks members to list a single book, which I have completely failed to do – what’s the fun in just one? But I’m having some trouble thinking back – what were the books that formed my tastes in early years?

There’s one that’s not even a question, the one I’ve put on spot number one, and the books that without question has been the most formative reading experience I had as a child: The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper. I don’t know how many times I read that book back when I was twelve, or how many times since then – every couple of years, at least. It remains my favourite book. The series it’s part of is great as well, but this one was my first and will always have pride of place.

But I don’t think I can attribute my love of fantasy just to one book – if all the other ones I read hadn’t been good as well, I don’t think it would have stuck. The truth is, though, I don’t really remember reading much fantasy as a child. I remember reading sci-fi. Jon Bing’s Starship Alexandria series and, a few years later, Animorphs. I did read Narnia at some point, but I think I was into my mid-teens by then, having previously contented myself with the excellent BBC TV adaptation.

I do have a very vivid memory of reading Mio, My Son at what must have been a young age, and being so utterly terrified at the first appearance of Kato that I actually screamed aloud and ran away from the book. I have vaguer memories of reading Micheal Ende’s Momo, and I’m not sure if that was before or after I saw the film adaptation. I was 13 when Harry Potter first came out in Norway, and read that not too long after, so I suppose that has been an influence as well. I don’t remember when i first read Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, but I think those came later, when I was already in love. The Belgariad certainly came after that again, so I’m afraid Eddings doesn’t get much credit for my tastes at all.

I’m trying to think back to afternoons spent snooping through the public library, digging out treasures and duds from its shelves, and completely failing to put any titles to these experiences. What books were big before Potter? What was the first fantasy I read? I have no idea. But I’m interested in seeing the other lists, where other people got started in on this peculiar genre, so I think I’ll make a point of going back to this one periodically, and see what’s changed.

12 April, 2012

The Fighting Temeraire

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

His Majesty’s Dragon, the first book in the Temeraire series, opens with a British ship capturing a French one in 1805, and finding a dragon egg in its hold. This is not extraordinary – in the alternate history of this series, dragons have been domesticated in Europe since the Romans – but it is a great good fortune, as England has a dearth of dragons compared to other European powers, and France especially. Unfortunately, the egg is ready to hatch. The ship, naturally, carries no trained aviators, so it falls to the crew of sailors to attempt to harness the dragon, lest it become feral and of no use. The problem is that a dragon bonds with a rider for life, and the man who succeeds with the harnessing will be forced to leave the relatively respectable Navy for a life in the much more maligned Aerial Corps.

I have greatly enjoyed the Temeraire books since I first discovered them about a year ago. They are a delightful mix of  Hornblower-esque military fiction and fantasy. All of the stories are enjoyable – the lifelong sailor adapting to life as an aviator, the ongoing war with Napoleon and the sacrifices needed to win it, the continual discovery of the full extent of the dragon Temeraire’s abilities, Temeraire’s slow, slow campaign for dragon rights, and best of all the friendship that develops between the dragon and the rider. It’s a thing of beauty, I tells ya!

I also really like the world the books are set in. The presence of dragons all over the world – except in Australia, obviously, ’cause Australia’s always got to be different, hasn’t it, with its freaking koalas and platypuses and poison everythings – has resulted in a pretty different history from our own, at least outside Europe. Luckily, the author seems eager to show it off, and several of the books involve long journeys to various corners of the globe, giving us a good view of it. I haven’t read the most recent book yet, but I understand it involves a visit to the Inca empire, which with dragons was able to withstand Spanish incursion, and I’m greatly looking forwards to it.

As with the Dresden files, I have primarily listened to these as audiobooks, which I can heartily recommend. Simon Vance has a great voice for this sort of period piece, and he manages to make all the characters sound different enough that there is no problem following along.

The books aren’t very long, nor too heavy reading, so I have found them perfect for quick and very enjoyable reads in between larger projects. And come on, it’s the Napoleonic wars with dragons! How can you not love that?

30 January, 2012

Mourning the Printed Page

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

A home without books is like a body without a soul.

Cicero said that, with his customary artful understatement. Horace Mann apparently said that “A house without books is like a room without windows,” but I think the points go to Cicero on this one.

I don’t care for e-books. The news inform me that e-books are marching ahead, while the printed page is in decline – the hopelessly old fashioned book stores going out of business while purveyors of e-books grow and grow. Like the music and film industry before it, the publishing world must now adapt to a primarily digital model. That’s just the way the world turns.

I will get an e-book reader when they are physically indistinguishable from regular books.

I am not opposed to e-books on philosophical grounds; I actually think it’s a good thing that more obscure books become more easily available, and I can well see that an e-reader is practical on trips and plane rides. I just find the notion of reading off a screen profoundly unsatisfying. I know that many, if not most, e-readers do not have screens in the way that a laptop or a tablet does, but use e-paper instead. That is indeed nifty technology, and makes reading on them much less of a strain, but it is still a very different thing from actual paper – something I’m sure they’re working on.

A book is more than the text inside it. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the text is the most important part, but a proper book is something more. It is texture and weight and smell and the sound of the pages turning and the immense satisfaction of cracking it open. There is something magical about a room full of books, a big and beautiful library, that a tiny e-reader with all its storage space cannot match. Foolishly sentimental, perhaps, but I embrace that part of my personality wholeheartedly. And yes, paper books are heavy and require storage space, but I consider that a very good bargain. I am currently moving, and lugging boxes of books up and down stairs may be tiresome, but I would not trade satisfaction for a slight increase in convenience. As for storage space, I have no greater ambition than one day owning a house with a room that can properly be called “the library”.

Anyway, there are practical reasons why I don’t want e-books as well. I object to the idea of leasing books, paying for access, and that the access can be revoked again should the seller so decide, as when Amazon pulled back a book without warning. I think they don’t do that too much any more, and maybe the trend is towards my kind of model, where a file, once bought, is yours to do with as you please, but I would rather not jump into any risky sort of situation in this. I have not really gotten into the stream music services for the same reason; if I buy a copy of a song, I want to keep it and use it as I choose. I also scoff at DRM nonsense. I appreciate that piracy is a problem, but I will not meekly subscribe to solutions which only punish the lawful consumer. Paper books, I can read however and whenever I like.

So there. Through hopeless romanticism and stubbornness, I shall cling to my shelves and books, and not get an e-reader. It’s a matter of principle.

And we’ve seen how well I’ve stood on principle in the past.

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