Book Heaven

Where the world of books and life intersect

Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Monday, July 25, 2005

Changing Priorities

In my recent book recovery efforts after the leak in my basement, I came across a collection of men's magazines that I forgot that I still had. Of course I was unable to bring myself to throw them out (I am working on this shortcoming) but a curious thing happened. I suddenly was wishing that the magazines had been ruined rather than the several years of xerox copies of The New England Journal of Medicine and The Journal of the American Medical Association that I had diligently assembled only to see them damaged bythe elements and subsequently tossed out by my wife -- I was still trying to "rehabilitate" them.

If you haven't read these august medical journals you're missing out on a lot. I admit that I'm kind of addicted to them. Sometimes you find out that stuff you thought was good and other times things kind of even out when supposedly bad stuff turns out to be beneficial. Some good news: the July 6th, 2005 JAMA seems to conclude that habitual coffee consumption is associated with a substantially lower risk of type 2 diabetes (doesn't help me since I rarely drink the stuff). Bad news: vitamin e doesn't seem to be as great as it seemed to be -- it either seemed to have no cardiovascular protective effects, or, worse yet, people with higher vitamin e levels seemed to have higher c-reactive protein levels, a marker for the dreaded inflammation now thought to be a culprit in heart disease. The NEJM also has nifty case studies where doctors try to troubleshoot ailing patients. Read one or two of these and you'll wonder how anything is ever diagnosed (and these guys at Mass General are the cream of the crop).

If you've ever wondered about that guy who goes for a checkup and is pronounced fit as a fiddle only to drop dead outside the doctor's office, wonder no longer. It ain't always a blood clot. You can read about it in the May 12th, 2005 NEJM in the article entitled "Heart Rate Profile during Exercise as a Predictor of Sudden Death." Now those are two really frightening words. The greatest risk of sudden death seems to be in people who exhibit three things -- resting heart rates above 75 bpm, people who can't increase their heart rate by 89 beats per minute during exercise, and people with recovery rates of less than 25 bpm after one minute of rest after exercise.

Still, even with all that bad stuff, I'm looking forward to the day when I can have online access to these two essential (at least for me) publications. Stay healthy and eat your salmon!!!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

All Things KONG!

A couple of months back I glanced at a copy of a new book on King Kong. The book in question, Kong: King of Skull Island is considered to be a prequel/sequel to the 1932 book King Kong. The work of author/illustrator Joe DeVito, it was a pretty impressive book and I think I decided to see if I could find a review copy at the Strand at 50% off. I then promptly forgot about the book, not having noticed a copy at the Strand. Then, the other night, I'm flipping through the high definition channels to see what's on and come across some previews of coming attractions on the Universal high definition channel. The first one, called (I think) The 40 Year Old Virgin, looks mildly interesting. Then, it is followed up by a trailer that has you riveted to your seat. It took a little while (no I didn't need to see the ape) before I realized it was for King Kong. My first impression as the trailer started was that this is a movie I've just got to see. Quite an endorsement indeed since I can't remember the last movie I've seen, preferring instead to wait until they appear on the dish, hopefully on one of the high definition channels. I have vowed to watch only movies in IMAX theatres but I'll gladly break that vow to see King Kong. It looks to be that spectacular.

Now, I'm warning you. Whatever you do, don't venture near the website. Unless of course you've got a lot of time to spare.

Monday, July 18, 2005

10,000 Books!!!

No, I'm not just trying to get your attention. There's a great article in the real estate section of the Sunday New York Times (7/17/05). In a regular section called "The Hunt," this entry entitled "When It's Time To Turn the Page," is about a couple (he's 71, she's 62) who decided to close the Connecticut chapter of their life and begin the Manhattan one. Problem? Find a reasonably priced apartment that would house them and his 10,000 books. Well, it turns out he really had 15,000 of them but he somehow managed to sell or give away a third of them. Consider me impressed. A retired classics professor, Thomas Cole is currently writing a literary study of Ovid, so one might argue he still needs those books. At the end of the article, Mr. Cole answers the question all of us book accumulators are constantly asked -- whether we have read all those books. I have now added his wonderful answer to my other great answer to this question. I will now alternate between the two answers, both of which will give your questioner pause. If you want to know his answer you'll just have to check it out online at the New York Times website (which of course you should already be doing anyway). I'm not trying to hold out on you but his response won't be nearly as valuable if everybody is using it.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Trouble in Book Vault #67

My tours of my book holdings have temporarily been suspended because my basement now looks like the lair of a madman (which of course it is). After emptying out book vault #67 (just a slight exaggeration) I now find virtually every foot of space (and there's quite a bit of territory there) covered with books and magazines. Since I still haven't been able to determine the source of the water (no visible leaks in pipes and it hadn't rained in two weeks before the event) I have held off moving the books back.

One thing came out of this adventure though. Although a lot of books were marginally affected, a few that I didn't want to throw away got pretty wet. If you put them outside in the sun, you can bring them back to life (they won't look pretty though) and they won't have any dreaded mold. You've just got to make sure they get plenty of air (a couple I had in a box did get moldy) and they'll be just fine. One last word of advice: don't drag this process on for more than a month or so. My wife finally got tired of looking at the books and magazines sitting under my porch (needing only another airing or two) and threw them out one day. The biggest loss was about five thousand pages of stuff I had xeroxed over the last couple of years. Actually the ones I'm gonna miss most are the articles from The New England Journal of Medicine. Yeah, I guess I am a madman.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Discounts Make the Heart Grow Fonder

It would be easy to cure my "book problem." If only Barnes & Noble and Borders (to mention nothing of The Strand) would only cooperate. If only all books were sold at full list price. That is my dream but it doesn't look likely that we'll ever see that scenario again. The economy is in the toilet and isn't coming out anytime soon (if ever). The fact that the yield on the ten year treasury note is almost three-quarters of a point below what I can get on a five year CD is an ominous sign indeed.

I'm trying to remember the last book I bought at full retail and I can't. It's been a long long time. I can't even remember the last book I bought at 10% off with my Barnes & Noble Reader's Advantage card. I will buy a book though when they throw in an additional 10 % off (20% off total) but 25% off is better and when Borders sends out those 30% off coupons, well I've just got to help the cause if they're being that generous. I'm a sucker for 50% off at the Strand and don't even get me started about those dollar books at the Strand annex. I got a momentary good feeling there the other day when a rather normal looking young lady fairly zipped through the dollar tables pulling out five or six books to my every one. I kind of felt like the guys at the Indy 500 trying to figure out how an attractive young lady could leave them in the dust. For a moment I thought of questioning her about her purchases (she had 200 or so books put aside in mere minutes) but I was afraid she'd tell me she was buying them for resale. Better to delude myself that there was somebody worse off with dollar books. Far far worse off.

Borders had no sooner finished pumping up their second quarter revenue with a end of June 30% off a book offer when they came up with a way to give the third quarter an opening jolt. When you bought a book at 30% off, you got a coupon good in July for 25% off a DVD. How sick is that? And why am I even telling you this since everybody is probably falling victim to these consumer traps.