Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Dirty Little Secret Behind e-Books

Up to now, books were never considered impulse purchases--except maybe at airports, but even then you had to be physically present where books were sold to buy one. I have a number of friends who enjoy nothing more than browsing a bookstore; spending an hour or more before finally selecting some carefully considered tome--or just going home empty-handed.

My spouse is not one of those types but will quickly look over what's new by an author she's familiar with or has recently read about and sometimes (rarely) not buying anything at all. For her though, being without a book to read for any length of time eventually becomes something of a crisis.

I have a different attitude about books. I can make a book last forever and occasionally will stop reading one for weeks while I read another. I got so tired of Follett's World Without End (which I dubbed book without end) that I put it away for a couple of months before finally knocking off the final 100 pages last week. As a Nook owner with a slightly compulsive personality, I have to resist the urge to buy more books than I will ever read. It is SO incredibly easy to buy a book on a whim that you can, like I did recently, forget you bought something until you browse your Nook library and discover it. The good folks at Barnes and Nobles are in touch with me nearly everyday via email offering incredible buys on some book I simply MUST have. But they're not the only one touting books.

Used to be, I'd see an ad or read a review of a book in the NYT or elsewhere and make a mental note to take a look at it next time I was in a bookstore. Not anymore, especially if I'm reading the ad or review online. Both Barnes and Nobles and Amazon know me and greet me with a friendly "Hi Bob" whenever I access their sites. In mere seconds I can become the proud owner of the book in question. Before e-Books, I forgot about most of the books I intended to read before ever getting to the bookstore.

Sometimes, in moments resembling clarity I will download an excerpt instead. This usually will cure me of ordering the book because whoever it is selecting stuff to excerpt usually picks some god-awful section (actually, I don't think there is much "picking" involved with excerpts.) As interested as I initially was in The Autobiography of Mark Twain, the interminable Preface they chose to excerpt was all I needed to convince me I had no interest in reading it.
Unfortunately, today, I was not so wise and downloaded The Game of Thrones simply because I saw some action-heavy sequence from the upcoming HBO production of the book. George R. R. Martin damned-well better be this generation's J. R. R. Tolkien or I'm going to be pissed.

One last thing: I own a Nook, Barnes and Nobles, and can't imagine why I would need a new Nook Color. E-ink still only comes in black, doesn't it? OK, you've got magazines now too.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

On becoming a Cyborg

Six weeks ago I began my quest to become a cybernetic organism. My right shoulder which used to be made of bone is now some crazy metal amalgam (unfortunately, NOT titanium)--which will, for the rest of my life, alert TSA officials that I am not all that I appear to be. Currently I am undergoing the therapy necessary (I presume) to become a walking, talking killing machine.

The next phase in my transformation is a total knee replacement which will allow me to have powers similar to The Flash--again, I presume, because, try as I may, I cannot get my doctors to actually say these things out loud. I am taking their casual nodding for confirmation.

I knew that becoming a cyborg would be an expensive proposition (which the U.S. Army flatly rejected to pay for, by the way, citing some obscure clause in their budget that prohibits them from enhancing civilians) so I had to rely on our friends at BCBS to help me finance my transformation. I don't want them to get suspicious about my actual motives for having my joints replaced so I am doing this piecemeal. Luckily, I have been able to find doctors willing to go along with my plan.

If you ever plan to become a cyborg, like me, selecting the right doctors is a must. I have found that surgeons will almost always go along with anything that involves cutting into flesh and connective tissue. My own doctor was so excited about my shoulder replacement that he invited several other surgeons to join in the fun. And even though, they weren't in my budget, I was informed that I'd better pay up or I would be blacklisted. This is the cost of doing cyborg business.

I can't decide what to have replaced after the knee. I've heard that hip replacements are pretty well advanced and I can feel my left one deteriorating rapidly but my lumbar vertebrae are definitely higher on my list for an upgrade. I was kind of jealous when my friend, Adam, had his entire spine replaced last year but he took a really long time to recover and to be honest, I can't really see that he is any more formidable now than he was before. (He may even be less formidable.) I may wait for a while until they get that procedure perfected. I'm really hoping that engineered stem cells will be reality sooner rather than later. I didn't mind the surgery itself or the physical therapy but two days in a hospital room with all the noise and the 5 am bloodlettings got on my nerves.

I guess I need to start thinking about a costume. Any suggestions?