Category Archives: FYI

General announcements for the blog’s readers.

Beginning a New Chapter

Hello and again, welcome to the Labyrinth Library.

As I said at the end of the last episode, this podcast is undergoing something of a transition from this point – going from a weekly podcast to an occasional podcast. This means that I will no longer be updating every week, for reasons of Reality.

I've also sacrificed my career as PUNCHCAT. I'm not sure which was harder...

I’ve also sacrificed my career as a PUNCHCAT. I’m not sure which was harder…

The basic gist is this: when I started, I had a huge backlog of reviews available to me, since I’d been writing reviews of books I had read for years prior. It wasn’t hard to do a weekly podcast that way, but alas the reality is that I cannot read and review one book per week. I have a job which requires a lot more time and energy from me than previous jobs did, and it’s a job that I am happy to give my time and energy to. Unfortunately, this time and energy has to come from somewhere, and unless there’s an Anonymous Benefactor out there who wants to pay me an absurd amount of money to do a weekly podcast, this is one of the sacrifices that needs to be made.

Fear not, though! I do still read, just at a slower pace than I used to, and I do still write about what I read. This means that I will be updating the podcast on an irregular basis so you kind people can get your fix.

If you’re worried about missing an episode, or can’t be bothered to check the blog every day on the off chance that there might be a new post, don’t worry! The internet has you covered.

  • Click “Subscribe to this feed” in the sidebar, and paste that link into your favorite RSS reader (with the upcoming demise of Google Reader, I’ve moved over to Feedly)
  • If you’re a WordPress user, you can click the “Follow” button at the top of the page and have new posts sent to you by email.
  • You can go to iTunes and subscribe there, or paste the aforementioned RSS link into your podcast catcher of choice.
  • You can follow me on Twitter @lablib or Like the Facebook page, which I will update when new posts are up.
This sums up my reading habits nicely. Also: I should re-grow my beard.

This sums up my reading habits nicely. Also: I should re-grow my beard.

Any of those options will tell you when I post new content, which I will try to do as often as I can.

To make a long story short (too late), this is not the end, but simply a change. I am immeasurably grateful to all of you who have been reading and listening, and hope that you will continue to do so.

Stay well, and keep on reading…

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Good News, Everyone!

My new recording space is almost complete. Just have to put up the baby seal-fur sound baffles. Gold is awful echoey...

As I mentioned on last week’s podcast – and as you will no doubt notice in this week’s – I’ve entered into a partnership with Audible.com to promote the use of their services!

The benefit to you is that they have a ridiculous amount of audiobooks, which are great if you’re driving, shopping, commuting, gardening, exercising, holding up convenience stores – whatever makes your heart sing.

The benefit to me, of course, is the mad money – the Romney-level money, no doubt – that will almost assuredly be pouring in as soon as the new episode is uploaded. You know how sometimes someone like Neil Gaiman will plug a website and then the resulting rush of viewers knocks the whole thing offline for a little while? Yeah, that’s what I figure will happen. And once they get their site reinforced against the onslaught of my listening army, I’ll be eating diamonds for breakfast and bathing in liquid gold…

No. Wait. That doesn’t work. But you get my point.

Anyway, the only change to the podcast itself will be a very short spot right before the drums in the beginning, and I’ll plug a book after the quote from the review. Odds are it’ll be the book I’m reviewing, but if I can’t find that in their vast library, then I’ll point you towards something else you’ll enjoy. I’ll also be putting up a banner here on the site so you can get to it that way and support the podcast. Other than that, everything stays the same.

Except, of course, for the four-color tattoo across my forehead that was part of the partnership agreement, but you probably won’t notice that from where you are.

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Well, now, this is awkward….

Due to bodily dysfunction the likes of which can only be explained by my stealing that little Tiki last time I was in Hawaii, there’s no way I can record tonight. Really, it would be awful for everyone.

So, my apologies, I feel terrible – literally and figuratively. Keep an eye on the blog/Twitter/Facebook for the next episode, which should be up in a day or two.

Thanks,

Chris

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Want to help Japan?

Art by anonimus-kyreii on DeviantArt

Disasters like this are immensely frustrating because there’s not a whole lot you can do to help. You can donate money, but that feels ephemeral, no matter how useful it may be. Rest assured, however, that you are doing something, and people will be helped.

Here are some places you can go to do your part:
First, some helpful advice from Charity Navigator

You can donate money at:
Amazon.com
Doctors Without Borders
Japan Society
Google’s excellent information page lets you donate to Japanese Red Cross, Unicef, and Save the Children
The Japan Times has a list of over a dozen resources for help (as well as ways to get information on what’s going on)

There are thousands upon thousands of people whose homes have been annihilated, whose families, businesses and livelihoods have literally been washed away. You can’t do much by yourself, but together we can do a lot.

It goes without saying that any natural disaster, be it Japan or Haiti or China or the United States anywhere else, deserves our full compassion and willingness to help. This one just kinda hits home…

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Isn’t synchronicity wonderful?

On the same day that I review Flim-Flam! on the podcast, Wikipedia has as its featured article The Cottingley Fairies, the topic with which Randi begins his book.

Do… do you think the editors of Wikipedia are psychic? Maybe they’re using their eerie omniscience to monitor my podcast. Or they’re monitoring me! Where’s my tinfoil hat…?

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More…. weight…

Okay, it probably says something about me that this was the first thing to pop into my mind when I head that I had been Freshly Pressed by WordPress while I was sleeping. This is for two reasons: I am a lit nerd and Arthur Miller knows how to write a good play.

Anyway, thank you, WordPress, for adding my review of Eats, Shoots & Leaves to their Freshly Pressed page! It was kind of a thrill to look at my site stats:

Tuesday: 3
Wednesday: 2
Thursday: 16
Friday: 256

So, welcome to all you new readers and listeners! Feel free to wander around and explore.

– Chris

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Best (and not-so-best) of 2010

You know, everyone else is doing lists, so now that the year is over, so am I. Here are the best books I read in 2010!

  • Howard Zinn – A People’s History of the United States. Either a long-overdue look at the disenfranchised and overlooked victims in America’s rise to power or a screed of anti-American socialist dogma. Take your pick, but I know which side I come down on.
  • Warren Ellis – Crooked Little Vein. A trip through Weird America, introducing you to the things people do that you didn’t know people did.
  • Max Brooks – World War Z. An oral history of the Zombie War. Enthralling, exciting, disturbing.
  • Apostolos Doxiadis & Christos Papadimitriou – Logicomix. A graphic novel involving the search for ultimate truth. So involving that I had to read it several times in a row.
  • Barry Hughart – Bridge of Birds. It’s rare that a book shoots right into the “favorite books” category, but this one did it.
  • James Randi – Flim-Flam! This book  is great to give to people who you want to be more skeptical in their lives. A harsh takedown of the ways we try to fool ourselves and others.
  • Elaine Pagels, The Origin of Satan. Reading this was like taking a trip back to the early Church, and realizing that they were all just making it up as they went along.
  • North, Bennardo, and Malki ! – Machine of Death. Personally, I’m hoping for HEAT DEATH OF THE UNIVERSE, but we can’t all get what we want.
  • Robert Kirkman – The Walking Dead, Compendium 1. A really good zombie comic, something I don’t usually find myself reading.
  • Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha – Sex at Dawn. A funny and very compelling look at the nature of human sexuality, at least before we invented agriculture and screwed everything up.

I don’t really have a “worst” list, because my baseline for “worst” is The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket, so this is more like my “Meh List.”

  • Lois Gresh and Robert Weinberg – The Science of Supervillains. Much like their Science of Superheroes book, it focused more on why comic books get science wrong than what comics can teach us about science.
  • Robert Heinlein – Starship Troopers. A love letter to militarism, thinly disguised as a science fiction novel.
  • Terry Pratchett – Unseen Academicals. This isn’t Terry’s fault, it’s mine. The book is about soccer, and I really couldn’t care less about soccer.
  • Henry Hitchings – The Secret Life of Words. I like words, but this was every bit as boring as people who don’t like words think that books about words might be.
  • Robert Heinlein – I Will Fear no Evil. It would be a great story, if there was a story there. As it was, it was a memoir at best. A really weird memoir, but still….
  • John Scalzi – The God Engines. A really cool idea that didn’t seem to come to life for me. If he explores it further, though, I will happily read it.

That’s it! How about you – what were the best, worst, and meh-est books you read this year?

Have a happy New Year, and keep reading!

– Chris

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Filed under Apostolos Doxiadis, Barry Hughart, Cacilda Jetha, Christopher Ryan, Christos Papadimitriou, David Malki !, Elaine Pagels, FYI, Henry Hitchings, Howard Zinn, James Randi, John Scalzi, Lois Gresh, Matthew Bennardo, Max Brooks, Robert Heinlein, Robert Kirkman, Robert Weinberg, Ryan North, Terry Pratchett, Warren Ellis