Monthly Archives: August 2006

The most popular books

One of the interesting features of LibraryThing is all the statistics.

Currently there are slightly over 74,000 users with a total library of slightly over 5,248,000 books (1,200,000 unique). It might not be a good random sample. But the list of the top 25 most popular books is interesting. (The first 7 aren’t too surprising. #7 will drop to #8, likely next year, but I suspect there won’t be any other changes at the top for awhile.) I’ve read 19 of these. Incidentally, there is one book in the list that I hadn’t even heard of.  Curiously, it’s #19.

  1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (6,214)
  2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (5,877)
  3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (5,715)
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (5,517)
  5. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (5,460)
  6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (5,394)
  7. The Da Vinci Code (4,812)
  8. 1984 (3,970)
  9. The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again (3,856)
  10. The Catcher in the Rye (3,791)
  11. Pride and Prejudice (3,719)
  12. To Kill a Mockingbird (3,322)
  13. The Great Gatsby (3,181)
  14. Jane Eyre (2,741)
  15. Brave New World (2,684)
  16. Animal Farm (2,589)
  17. American Gods (2,533)
  18. Life of Pi (2,519)
  19. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2,513)
  20. The Fellowship of the Ring (2,505)
  21. Angels & Demons (2,503)
  22. One Hundred Years of Solitude (2,475)
  23. Wuthering Heights (2,459)
  24. Catch-22 (2,450)
  25. The Chronicles of Narnia (2,400)

More Metrolink Thoughts

There were approximately 35 cars in the Metrolink parking lot when I finally returned to my car.  So some usage is being made, but with a 200-space lot, if for some reason you were refraining from using the metrolink because you wanted to leave spaces open for other people — that isn’t a valid excuse.  (I can’t speak for other stops.  This only applies to the Brentwood/I64 lot.  But I suspect others are similarly sparse)

All-in-all, this first day of taking the Metrolink to work – has been a success.

In a healthy society, every useful activity is compensated in a way to permit of a decent living.  The exercise of any socially valuable activity gives inner satisfaction; but it cannot be considered as part of the salary.  The teacher cannot use his inner satisfaction to fill the stomachs of his children.

Albert Einstein.  Ensuring the Future of Mankind. 1952

I’ve made it through the first 86 pages of the book.


Einstein on The Cult of Individuals

“The cult of individuals is always, in my view, unjustified. To be sure, nature distributes her gifts unevenly among her children. But there are plenty of the well-endowed, thank God, and I am firmly convinced that most of them live quiet, unobtrusive lives. It strikes me as unfair, and even in bad taste, to select a few of them for boundless admiration, attributing super-human powers of mind and character to them.”

Albert Einstein. from My First Impression of the USA, 1921.

So…the fact that it is Einstein saying this should bear no weight whatsoever on how one reacts to it.  He does go on to say that the one consolation for the way he finds himself treated is that it shows that “knowledge and justice is ranked above wealth and power by a large section of the human race.”

Metrolink Thoughts

Monday: I was unable to motivate myself out of my house in time to take the Link to work.  It takes a little longer, and I had an 8 am meeting I didn’t want to be late to.

Tuesday: I arrived at the Brentwood-I64 station real early.  I hadn’t stopped by over the weekend festivities so I was going somewhat blind, but I found the parking lot fairly easily.  It’s one of the smaller park-and-rides with only 200 spaces, but only 3 of them were filled at the time I arrived.  We’ll see how many are filled when I return after work.

One of the ticket machines rejected my $10 bill and insisted on either a $5 or a $1.  This worried me as I thought this might derail my 2nd day, but the second machine took it.  I think it may have been a matter of the first machine not having enough Sacajaweas or Susan Bs to give me in change.  (I would be very upset if I were a woman that women have been relegated to these dollar coins reviled by many, and in use primarily by public transit.)

There was one other person in my section of the train.  Certainly a different metrolink experience than for Mardi Gras or Cardinals games.

The Metrolink TripFinder told me it would take me 10 minutes to walk from the UnionStation stop to my office.  I doubted that information, and had planned for 20.  It took me 15.  I guess I’m a pessimist, but Metrolink is definitely overly optimistic.  Sure, there are people who walk quicker than me, but they shouldn’t estimate on the low-end.

It’s a little more difficult to read on the metrolink than it is on a metrobus.  I took the bus to work many years ago when I was still living with my parents and there was a direct line about a block from the house to AGEdwards, where I worked at the time.  Once I moved away from home it was no longer so convenient, so I started to drive.  I read a lot on the bus, but found that it was easy to get engrossed enough in the book that I missed my stop.

That won’t happen on the metrolink since they announce every stop quite loudly.  Of course, this provides a certain amount of distraction.  I actually have the abiilty to tune out the noise…but if I do that…I might not hear them announce my stop.

Quote: I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause.  The example of great and pure individuals is the only thing that can lead us to noble thoughts and deeds.  Money only appeals to selfishness and irresistably invites abuse.

Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus, or Gandhi armed with the money-bags of Carnegie?

— Albert Einstein.  On Wealth.  1934  (from Ideas and Opinions)

Albert won the contest for my reading choice this morning. 

Rod McKuen

While Rod McKuen was a very popular poet in the 1970s, he is often derided with scorn for overly sentimental schlock.

His poem, Thoughts on Capital Punishment is a good example. However, Rod admits on his blog, that the poem “is by no means one of my best or even favorite poems, but since its publication it has certainly stirred up more than its share of controversy. Proving, I suppose, that no one remains ambivalent to the subject.”

The archives for McKuen’s “Flight Plan” go back to 1998. And he’s been answering mail and posting his thoughts on the web almost daily since then. Fairly impressive.

Beyond discovering his website, one other thing of note I’ve discovered this evening while reading through the collection of his poetry I picked up this weekend: In the author’s bio it lists some of his works, and I discovered McKuen was partially responsible for one of my favorite songs from my youth. I was a child of the seventies. Terry Jacks is often credited with writing it, even though the Kingston Trio recorded it several years before he did. The song is Seasons in the Sun. It was originally written in French by Jacques Brel, and translated into English by McKuen.

And, yes, I know that the song has a reputation similar to McKuen’s.

OK, maybe I like schlock.

As if I really needed 16 more books

I heard about the Carondelet YMCA book fair, and decided I had to check it out. It is in its 28th year, and I am a little upset I’ve missed the first 27. A huge parking lot full of books, plus more inside the building on three separate floors. It will last until Wednesday.
Here are the purchases I made today:

Man and Superman
by George Bernard Shaw 50c
Tales From the Secret Annex by Anne Frank 50c
The Essential James Joyce 25c
Snow in August by Pete Hamill 75c
Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle 25c
Profiles in Courage by John F Kennedy 25c
Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust $1
The Wisdom and Ideas of Plato 50c
My Brother Bill by John Faulkner 25c
Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein 25c
Love’s been good to me by Rod McKuen 50c
In the Night Room by Peter Straub $1
The Eyes of Darkness by Dean Koontz 75c
The Sunlight Dialogues by John Gardner 50c
Q-in-Law by Peter David 50c
Another Country by James Baldwin 50c

Total: $8.25


I’ve read Snow in August, but from a borrowed copy. Now that I own a copy, I may reread it.

My Brother Bill – for those who didn’t figure it out – is a biography of William Faulkner. I don’t read a lot of biographies, but this looked interesting.

Planet of the Apes isn’t a novelization; the movie was based on the book. The author also wrote Bridge over the River Kwai.

I used to read a lot of horror, but I haven’t lately, and figured a good Straub or Koontz would be fun to read on the metrolink. Hopefully both are up to par in these works.

The one good thing about blog spam

I get emails notifying me that my software has picked up a comment it thinks might be spam.  Usually spammers like to spam really old posts in the hopes the spam goes unnoticed.  I have a tendency to come up with strange subject lines for posts, so when I get the emails, I sometimes think: What was that post about?  And then I follow the link and head down nostalgia lane.

For example: William Blake and Meatloaf

I like my Tyger, and her dashboard lights, but I have a suspicion some time next year, I will have a post about “Hysteria, Pyromania, and HG Wells”.  And I’m not even a metal fan.

Of course, there is one album released in this millennia by the same band as the one that released the two mentioned above, that would be even more appropriate, but it would also be a lot less subtle.  Anyone care to make a guess?

What am I listening to right now: You Took My Breath Away from Travelling Wilburys Vol 3.  That’s how far away I am from metal.


Peter David requested the readers of his blog come up with a completely new Astronomical mnemonic:

Here was my suggestion:

Moses & Vishnu Emerged. Mohammed & Jesus Slept. Utu Nibbled.

Dwarf Children Prefer Xylophones.

(The latter will be very easy to change when Xena gets her official name.)

Size no longer matters

The IAU has spoken.

The scientists decided to be scientists, and not politicians.

Classical Planet:

A celestial body that
(a) is in orbit around the Sun,
(b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape
(c) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

Dwarf planet: (currently Pluto, Ceres, and ‘Xena’, with a dozen more potential Dwarfs being analyzed)

A celestial body that
(a) is in orbit around the Sun
(b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape
(c) has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit
(d) is not a satellite.

Small Solar System Bodies:

Anything else.