Archive for Books

Canadians read, Americans shop, Everyone Googles

Posted in Books, Finds, Random with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2011 by Mitch Leuraner

I had a funky issue with my computer last night that made it so I couldn’t access Google.ca – I could access every other Google version, just not Canada. Boo. In any case, once I got everything sorted out, I was switching back and forth between the basic Google home page for the .com version and the .ca version, and I noticed a tiny difference:

The menu options at the top of the Google.com page are: Web, Images, Videos, Maps, News, Shopping, Gmail, and more. Like this:

But the same menu on Google.ca has slightly different options: Web, Images, Videos, Maps, News, Books, Gmail, and more. Like this:

Now, the fact that the US page would have shopping on the main list while Canada doesn’t, isn’t really that big a mystery.  Google is an American company and there are a whole lot of reason’s why they would be less likely to have shopping as a major option for Canadians.  But what I found most interesting is that they chose to replace shopping with books.

Google has so many products and services, I just find it surprising that they wouldn’t have chosen something like YouTube, or Photos. But hey, Google is all about knowing everything about their users, so if they say that Canadians want books, I tend to believe them!

Flashforward (the novel) isn’t terrible

Posted in Books, Thoughts with tags , , , on May 10, 2010 by Mitch Leuraner

I just finished reading Flashforward by Canadian writer Robert J. Sawyer.  I’ve been watching the TV version of it sort of halfheartedly since it started last fall, and I was intrigued to learn that it had been based on a novel written in 1999.

Flashforward (novel)To be honest, the show isn’t great.  It’s entertaining, but as a mystery it’s just not that captivating.  The only thing that really keeps me watching is the sense of investment that I feel.  I gave it a chance and now I don’t want to walk away so close to the end of the season.

Despite my disappointment with the show, I held out hope for the original novel.  I figured that in book form the story could be more comprehensive – since TV is always worried that a cancellation may leave viewers without a resolution.

What I didn’t realize was that the novel is a completely different story.  So different in fact, that there is no need to worry about reading the novel before seeing the end of the show.

To be sure, their are similarities:  One day the whole world blacks out for two minutes and sees the future. There are also similarities between some of the characters, at least one of which actually shares a name with a character from the show.

But that is pretty well where the similarities end.  The time-frame is totally different.  The show takes place in the present and the future scenes are only a few months away.  But the novel’s ‘present’ takes place in a future 2009 (remember it was written in 1999) and the future scenes actually take place more than 20 years later.  Another major difference is that the novel’s narrative is told from the perspective of those who caused the blackout, rather than those trying to determine the cause. In fact, in the novel there is almost no question who was actually responsible.  These few changes take the story in a completely different direction.

I won’t ruin the story for anyone that still wants to read it, but I will say that I wasn’t happy about the ending.  For me, the last 75 pages or so were a let down, despite what seemed to be a very good story until that point.

In any case, it was a decent read and while I didn’t care for the ending, I’m sure plenty of people probably will.

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Books at home make kids smarter

Posted in Books, Finds, Thoughts with tags , , , , on May 9, 2010 by Mitch Leuraner

I have a lot of books.  So many, in fact, that when people come to my home for the first time they usually say something along the lines of, “Wow, you have a lot of books.”

I don’t have kids, but I would like to think that if I did, they would grow up to love books as much as I do.  As it turns out, having a home library actually gives a statistical advantage to the educational success of children.  At least that is what a recently available study in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility is suggesting. The researchers looked at the presence of books in homes across 27 countries and determined that,

Home library size has a very substantial effect on educational attainment, even adjusting for parents’ education, father’s occupational status and other family background characteristics.

Apparently, the presence of 500 books will give students an average boost of 3.2 years in education – which is of course the better part of an undergraduate degree.  Obviously, this boost is more effective in cultures where education is systemically lower, but the effect is present to a substantial degree even in affluent countries. And to top it all off, parents don’t actually have to be well educated themselves.  All that is necessary is for there to be a clear respect and enjoyment of books in the home.

I’m glad to see that my vast library will be of benefit to my offspring someday.  I just hope that the effect works without regard for the type of books in the library.  I would hate to think that my future children might be hindered academically because of the overwhelming presence of science fiction novels.  Then again, I think most would agree that there is far more to Robert A. Heinlein than just spaceships and time-travel.

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