Author Archive

Tech Ramblings Revisited

Although I have discontinued my posts to the Tech Ramblings blog, it still receives a fair amount of traffic and it does seem to me that it would be extremely useful if new content was being posted regularly to the site. Recently, a friend from the blogosphere, emailed me and requested the opportunity to add to the editorial content on Tech Ramblings.  I thought it would do no harm, and would be good to keep the site alive, so I was only too glad to provide Paul with editorial rights to the site.

Paul keeps a close eye on the bookselling trade and has a good sense of how technology relates to the trade. He offers some valuable advice on his own personal site, and I believe that his posts will only add to the value of this blog.

Meanwhile, all is good with myself. It has been a very busy year so far, and I have been offering as much advice as I can to the technology team at Rare Book Review, who have decided to start their own tech-related column on their own website. Its still just starting out, but it looks positive. My employer seems happy with my involvement here and I may just get to post some of my own opinions on their site as well.

I will keep administrative rights to Tech Ramblings and will keep a close eye on it in the future. If I get the chance to post the odd comment or small bit of editorial, I will do so. Meanwhile, I leave the heart of the blog in Paul’s hands and hope that he has plenty to offer you.

Thanks for all of your support.

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May 8, 2007 at 9:11 am Leave a comment

Clarifications

I’m now stepping beyond my intention, and posting again to my blog, only because my last post seems to have caused more of a furor than I expected. I appreciate many of the comments that have been made about my situation and understand that some perceive the limitations on my postings to be a form of censorship. However I would like to clarify a number of points before this spirals any further out of control.

Firstly, I have decided to discontinue posting of my own free-will. My employer has not demanded that I take down the blog, only that if I continue with it he has more of a hand in how it is run. Some may see this as an infringement on my rights, however I see it as more in line with Ian Kahn’s thinking, that my employer would like to bring the blog closer to home and link it more closely with his business. My decision to rather abandon the blog is simply a recognition that if this becomes yet another business project to be run by the IT department, I would firstly lose some of the flexibility and freedom in my posts and secondly it would impact on my workload and the expectations of the company.

The second point that I’d like to make is that I do not consider my employer to be narrow minded in any sense of the word. Yes, he maybe doesn’t realise all of the ways in which technology can benefit his business, and perhaps does not grasp all of the power that is generated through the building of online community. Or perhaps, this is my techno-centric framework and at the end of the day, it doesn’t translate to much in a business sense. However, to be fair to my employer, he has trusted me in all of the IT decisions I have made so far. He has allowed me to move all of our server software across to an open source paradigm, in an effort to cut costs and to explore development options that were not available to us before. This, in my opinion, is massively forward thinking and open minded. My employer is very encouraging in the projects that I take on and gives me a lot of free reign when it comes to making decisions about technology and sometimes gives me freedom to present ideas which will help with marketing, which is well outside of my remit. On the whole, he pays me well, looks after me and is generally encouraging of the work that I do.

Part of my employer’s concern was that I had not made him aware of my blog directly, and he felt that since it was related to the industry, this was somewhat underhanded on my part. And that’s a fair criticism. My reasons for keeping quiet about it were initially because I wanted to build up some traffic and articles before presenting it to him. And eventually because I felt that discussing it with him, would probably put me into the situation in which I am now.

Finally, I’m posting this article during my working hours, from my work PC, as I believe that this posting will help clear up any ill-feeling that may be circulating around the net and which may have some impact on our business. Generally I posted my articles during my lunch hour, but from my work PC. I guess you could argue the company resources thing either way. But at the end of the day, I have not been censored or treated poorly by my employer. I have just made a decision as to how I would like to continue both with my work, and with respect for my employer’s wishes.

Perhaps in future, I may post the odd article on somebody else’s blog, or I might contribute to one of the magazines that deal with the trade, but for now, I’ve got to focus on what I’m employed to do. Please just enjoy what I have left here as a mark of my enjoyment working in the trade and the positive experience that I have had doing so.

February 8, 2007 at 10:12 am 6 comments

Update

To regular readers of my blog, you may have noticed that there have not been any updates for a couple of weeks now. Toward the end of last month, my employer called me in for a meeting and brought the existence of this blog into discussion. He felt that this blog was potentially a conflict of interest and that he was not certain that he wanted me to continue writing for it. My response was that I felt that the blog as a whole provided a number of incoming links to his site, was written anonymously and represented my personal experiences working in the trade, as such I felt that it had no direct impact on his business and that if anything it helped to benefit him through cross-linking.

Unfortunately, my employer felt that by linking to other book dealers I was acting contrary to his interests as a dealer. While he has expressed an interest in using my writing skills in other areas of the business, and has suggested that I could continue writing for this blog if he can influence who I link to and which articles can remain online, I have decided that I would prefer to return my focus simply to getting my job done and I will no longer blog about anything to do with the rare book trade.  I will however leave this blog online, so that any of the notes that I have left up that have proved helpful to anybody else can continue to be used.

I appreciate my employer’s position and he has treated me very fairly and looked after me while I have worked for him. I thank you all for your readership and for your support while I shared what I could of my experiences. Good luck and happy blogging.

February 6, 2007 at 12:21 pm 10 comments

Your Old Books Revised

The good folks at Fine Books have just posted a good article on the value of Old Books. In the article, they mention that the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department at the American Library Association have released a revision of the classic reference Your Old Books.

I really enjoyed the write-up at Fine Books, because friends frequently tell me about a stash of old books that they have that they are convinced must be worth something. Of course, more often than not, a small bit of research shows that most old books are not worth an awful lot. The article concludes that spending money on books is less of an investment and that the value lies more in the entertainment value. This conclusion may appeal less to the bookseller than the collector. But its an important message. And while I am aware that a proportion of the books sold in this industry are often sold based on their investment value. The heart of the collector is more likely to be grounded in the sheer pleasure of owning the book than in its monetary value.

January 16, 2007 at 11:48 am 3 comments

Aaargh! Jahrbuch der Auktionspreise can’t install on PC’s running IE7

One of my colleagues recently ordered the latest Jahrbuch der Auktionspreise CD-ROM. Unfortunately JAP Nr. 10 has made a significant change in the software used to present the database, and this has caused some undue frustration. By using the Microsoft JET database engine technology and MDAC in order to provide access to their data, their application has a dependency on a version of Internet Explorer that is rapidly disappearing off the net.

Bundled on the CD-ROM is the installer file for Internet Explorer 5.5. The JAP setup application checks to see which version of Internet Explorer is available. If the version precedes IE 5.5, it offers to install this version. However, with some intelligence, the installer recognises if IE 6 is installed and will proceed without a hitch. Unfortunately, for computers running IE 7, the installer presumes that Internet Explorer is not installed and offers the option of installing IE 5.5. If you cancel this, you cancel the entire install. If you accept this option, the IE 5.5 setup fails because a newer version of Internet Explorer is already installed. And so the JAP install fails.

If you are running a computer with Automatic Updates enabled, it is quite possible that without even thinking about it, you are already running Internet Explorer 7. The result, no JAP-CD Nr. 10.

The only workaround that I can find to this, is to actually go into you Control Panel and Add-Remove Programs, and remove Internet Explorer 7. Then install the JAP-CD. Then finally, go to the Microsoft Internet Explorer website, and download the installer to reinstall IE 7. Be aware, though, the IE7  website uses Active-X controls to validate your copy of Windows before you can download. For some reason, on my colleague’s system, Active-X was disabled after we uninstalled IE7. And we didn’t seem to be able to access the Internet settings to re-enable it. If you look further down the screen on the website, there is an option to download an application that will run to give you a validation code that you can then enter manually to get access to the installer download link.

When you have finally re-installed IE7, you will find that JAP runs without a problem. It seems to me that the publishers of the Jahrbuch need to rethink the installer somewhat. Meanwhile, there are going to be a number of frustrated users out there who are just unable to install the application.

January 12, 2007 at 12:05 pm 5 comments

From lunch to a rare book

Ah, lunch can sometimes be an inspiring affair. Today, as I picked through my Spicy Dumpling Noodles, and scanned through my RSS Feeds, I became aware of how much online activity seems to revolve around the science vs. religion debate. Much of this has been escalated by the publication of The God Delusion by outspoken athiest, Richard Dawkins. Prior to this event, though, plenty of interesting discussion along this line has taken place at Edge, home to voracious thinkers known as The Reality Club. However, the noise reached fever-pitch sometime ago with the appearance of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and his noodly appendages, created as a parody by Bobby Henderson. Somehow, the combination of my noodle lunch and the Flying Spaghetti Monster inspired a wild web search that resulted in some amusing discoveries and led me back to my antiquarian roots.

The word ‘noodle’, most likely derives from the latin nodus, which means ‘knot’. The foodstuff originated in China some 4000 years ago. And of course, legend has it that it was brought across to Italy from China by none other than Marco Polo. Nonetheless, it appears that Europe had at least managed to invent its own noodle like pasta before any likely interaction with the Far East. Indeed, through trawling the British Library’s Manuscripts department, Constance Hieatt managed to provide a 13th century Anglo-Norman recipe for noodles and for ravioli. These are documented in her article in Speculum v. 61 #4 (1986), Two Anglo-Norman Culinary Collections Edited From British Library Manuscripts. However the noodles displayed at the above link look nothing like the noodles that I would associate with any traditional Italian pasta or Chinese take-away. So who knows?

But noodles have other associations. In particular, one frequently talks about ‘using one’s noodle’ with reference to putting the old grey matter to work. I would presume that the association of the noodle-knot had somehow managed to link to the image of a brain. But in an interesting twist, in the 19th century, the word was used to denote a fool. Perhaps in the sense that the fool manages to get his thought tangled into a knot. And so, in 1888 we have the appearance of The Book of Noodles by W.A. Clouston. I wonder to myself if this could be an apocyphitic text belonging to the Cult of The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Indeed this church has only managed to produce a singular Gospel. After all, the book includes the wondrous story of a man who sets out to find a trinity of fools that surpass the idiocy of his wife and in-laws. And this made me return to the storm of atheists who are engaged in revolutionary activity that brings to mind the names of Martin Luther and John Calvin. The thrust of their attack rooted in deep-seated rationalism that presents scathing arguments that belief in a personal god is nothing more than foolery. Indeed, the Spaghetti Monster itself is a symbol of Foolish Fear. And ironically its followers are noodles.

Incidentally, my discovery of The Book of Noodles, gave me cause to further peruse the site at which it is hosted, The Internet Sacred Text Archive. It is a fascinating resource. By sheer coincidence, I stumbled on another religious work that had caught me eye recently. This being The Worship of The Serpent, by Rev. John Bathurst Deane. I had seen that this work was a recent acquisition at Bernard Shapero Rare Books recently in my feeds. And my old occultic interest in the history of religions was re-awakened. The thrust of this 19th century book is to present serpent-worship as evidence of the validity of the Genesis story of the garden of Eden. As such, it opens with a fervent Preface:

…I have therefore endeavoured to establish the fact, while I appeal to the argument: to prove the universality of Serpent-worship, while I adduce the universal worship of the Serpent as a testimony to the Temptation and Fall of Man…

And so it seems that this fight to establish the historical proof of any belief in the stories as presented in Biblical text, has raged for much longer than the appearance of a bunch of vocal atheists. Though I would find the argument presented by the good Rev. Deane almost laughable, the text itself is a testament to the battle that arrived with people like Mr Darwin himself.

And so ended my noodle lunch.

January 5, 2007 at 3:35 pm 3 comments

Lazy blogging and link-sharing

Things have been busy since I got back from my brief vacation and I’ve hardly had a minute to write anything. So in the tradition of a huge variety of lazy-bloggers I’m going to skip writing a lengthy diatribe on rare books or technology and just point to a few links that I have found of interest already this year:

Jorge Luis Borges, a BBC Radio 4 special, discussing how Borges has influenced the world through his writings.

Photographs that changed the world, a blog posting of 13 images that altered history. Its worth looking through the comments on this blog for links to a few more interesting images that have a similar scale of impact.

The Times has published an article on how Oscar Wilde has been paid rare tribute to by the Vatican. Father Leonardo Sapienza, head of protocol at the Vatican, has published Provocations: Aphorisms for an Anti-conformist Christianity, which includes many of Wilde’s witty quotes.

Time to update your websites. The Register points out that companies in the UK that do not publish specific regulatory information on their websites will breach the Companies Act and risk a fine.

January 5, 2007 at 1:02 pm 1 comment

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