The previous month is:
The next month is:
1 June 2006
In my case, posting the versions of my website might be helpful. My obsessive need to tinker has gotten me in trouble again. I hope that this time will turn out better than some others.
Hello! You may have noticed some changes around here. Sidebars! Search boxes! Blogrolls! Cats and Dogs living together!
Madness, I tell you.
Anyhow, the short version is: I’m rearranging furniture. (It’s what I do.)
The slightly longer version is:
- Having used Textpattern for the last year on my son’s site, I’ve come to like it much more than Movable Type, the tool that’s been driving logjam and flotsam & jetsam.
- Gallery is harder to use than Flickr. Sorry, but it’s true. Gallery has a ways to go to catch up.
- Wikis are changing how I work on the web. I’m moving a lot of this site into my private wiki, and am taking the opportunity to clean house.
- I wasn’t blown away by WordPress; it seemed like a step up from MT, but not anything really different. Maybe I’m just addicted to Textpattern’s Textile and Referrer elements.
- I appear to have a terminal case of stupid when it comes to upgrading.
I debated leaving the new site on stage for a while longer while I polished it, but - you know what? Those sorts of controls are for work. I’m not so attached to version 4.x of my website that I can’t toss it back into alpha and make my changes right in production.
So, there are changes. Some of them are obvious - a whole lot more stuff on the sidebars. I have no idea if I’m going to keep them or not. Some are a little less obvious, as the backend moves from SSI to php. Some of the big changes:
- logjam, my former informal weblog, has been replaced… er, moved… er… well, it’s probaly going to stay where it is, and new posts will appear here, on website root. I may move the posts into Textpattern, but my initial attempts at importing them didn’t work, and I’m not going to copy over 1000 posts by hand.
- flotsam & jetsam, my rambling autobiography, is still where it has always been. I don’t know yet if it’s going to move and migrate into the main site, or stay where it is on Movable Type. I have been much happier with Flotsam the way it is, so I don’t have much incentive to change it. The only reason to move it would be to centralize everything, and that’s hardly a compelling reason.
- input has been effectively absorbed by the book list on the left and the “words which will make me leave the party” category in the posts. I don’t really watch TV or movies anymore, so I’ll just keep the booklist going.
- Various other informational pages (about, contact, etc.) will get rolled into Textpattern eventually.
Comments are, for the first time in years, open for business again. Let me know what you think and what you’d like to see.
Update 15 June 2006: New look? Not so much. Post on the subject forthcoming.
At work, I have been issued a Thinkpad R51 that has - to put it mildly - seen better days. It’s not a bad machine, but it runs Windows, and that (through some unseen force of nature) means that it has problems.
And when I mean problems, I mean Blue Screens Of Death. All the time. So my Help Desk people have tried to fix it, but without any noticable success. I don’t blame them for this; Windows is like that. (This is one reason I switched to Linux and Macs.)
Yesterday, however, they did something so unspeakably diabolical, so fiendishly clever, that my mind boggles. They took my computer away to install some drivers, and when it came back…
… it was clean.
Not just a little clean, mind you. Clean clean. Sparkling clean. Screen was clean, case was clean, keyboard was clean…
Dumbfounded, I tell you. It’s like when you go in to get your oil changed and they wash and clean your car; everything about the car is better, even though it’s just had some fluids replaced.
As an aside, why did dealers stop doing this? VW Springfield only does this if I blow a whole bunch of cash on repairs, and if they had time. Back in Texas no dealer ever let a car off the lot if it wasn’t washed first. It was something that just wasn’t done.
Apparently, different rules apply in DC.
Now here’s the telling thing: even though the computer is still broken, I am completely happy to work with these guys as long as it takes, because they’re giving me things that I didn’t realize I wanted.
Like, a nice, shiny computer to show off that BSOD.
(It’s the little things that make us happy.)
11 June 2006
Guardians of the West is the first book of Eddings’ five-volume “The Mallorean”, the sequel to the five-volume “The Belgariad.” I read the Belgariad at some point in 1987 when I was first introduced to Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and I wanted more.
I don’t think I found out about Guardians right away - this was pre-internet, and I wasn’t exactly attending the book circuit - but I remember being very excited about it when I stumbled upon it. It must have been 1989, so I was what, 15? It was a tough time for me, what with the being 15 and all, and my parents were FORCING ME TO MOVE. I was going to have to move to the hinterlands of Missouri and leave civilization… and truth be told, girls, whom I had finally started to notice. (And who noticed me noticing.) I was fairly sure there weren’t any girls in Missouri. My life was LITERALLY OVER.
(Give me a break, okay? I’m sure there are stories about you at that age you’d rather not tell. This was fifteen years ago, and I’m happy to report that there were girls in Missouri. And other places, too. So much for teenage angst.)
In the middle of all that teenage drama, I remember finding that David Eddings, bless him, had written a sequel to my second-favorite fantasy series of all time.
I got Guardians in mass-market paperback, like most books I got in those days. This would prove to be a major mistake on my part, as “The Mallorean” was the first series I ever bought/received as it was being published in hardback. As soon as I read Guardians I made sure that The King of the Murgos was on my Christmas list, and I remember lugging that hardback around in the car when we drove from NYC to St. Louis in a freezing-cold December.
Anyhow, the mistake was that by getting the paperback I had driven a wedge between Guardians and the rest of the series just by virtue of the format. Hardbacks and paperbacks do not mingle on my shelves, especially not on my Sci-Fi/Fantasy shelves. This irritated me for years before I finally found a nice paperback copy of the rest of the series somewhere — maybe Michael’s Books in Bellingham? — and sold off the hardbacks. That would have been in 2002 or thereabouts, so I endured a dozen years of moving those damn hardbacks.
The Guardians of the West is a little bit of an odd book. It has a tough job to do (restart a series that had been brought to a satisfying final conclusion) and does it adeqeuately well, but I remember being overwhelmed by the new plot elements. It was only years later, after many rereadings, that I could feel the same sense of easy familiarity with Guardians as I did with Pawn of Prophecy, the first book of “The Belgariad.”
There’s a lot I like about this book. I enjoy watching the grown-up Garion playing superhero in the Kingdoms of the West and grumbling about how when there’s something no rational person would even attempt, they send for him. There’s a lot of the familliar ease between the main characters which made the first series so successful, and that’s one of the reasons I love this book. The weak points will actually come to a head in the next book; the party gets larger and larger until finally I want to stop and take attendance, the plot grows more complex (with no hope of resolution until later books, a pet peeve of mine) and the gyrations the plot goes through to explain why we’re doing all this again are excessive. The first series could handle it by having 7000 years of backstory leading up to the novels; this series has less than 10 years, and has to contradict elements from the first series to even have a chance. So there’s a pretty big disconnect there, and one that I wasn’t ready to deal with as a teenager.
However, as an adult, I can unabashedly not care about that. I don’t read this book for the plot; I read it for the characters, for the old familliar banter between Silk and Belgarath, for Aunt Pol and Durnik and all the rest. As long as that characterization remains strong, I ultimately will enjoy the story and recapture the excitement I felt when I found out we got to do it all over again.
Bookdragon: The Guardians of the West.
12 June 2006
Merrystar and I are watching a few of our favorite Stargate and Star Trek episodes tonight:
- Stargate SG-1: “Fail Safe”
- Stargate SG-1: “Window of Opportunity”
- Star Trek TNG: “Cause and Effect”
We’ve both watched these episodes dozens of times over the years, and every time — every time — Data says, “a collision is eminent,” Merrystar yells “Imminent! Imminent!”
And every time, I wish Data would talk faster when he talks about depressurizing the main shuttle bay, and clearer when he talks about the collision. Every. Single. Time.
As it is clear that these television episodes about time loops have caused time loops within my own life, with the addition of “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “Groundhog Day”, I hereby dub this the Infinite Recurrence series.
(Yes, I know “Fail Safe” has no time loop in it. We still love it. Deal.)
14 June 2006
After Robert’s mother died, he asked for advice on perspective. I sent him my [sic] advice, which is really rather simple. Fifty years from now, no one will care whether or not I made great software. Quite a few people will, however, care very much about how well I’ve raised my children.
This comes on the heels of an odd day; 20 seconds after I met someone, she remarked that I didn’t look like the sort of person who does what I do. (She used fewer words, and professions changed to protect the guilty, but you get the idea.) She was one of the few people in the world who would actually know, too.
Hours later, I still don’t know how to take that compliment. It was a compliment, but it was also … food for thought.
I’ve been watching my son a lot lately. A few weeks ago he started jutting out his chin when he was concentrating on something. Last week he furrowed his eyes at Merrystar — at first, only at her, but now he does it to me, too.
Don’t get me wrong. These are cute mannerisms in a 13-month old. But when I realized he’s mimicking the way I clench my jaw and jut out my chin when I’m upset but determined not to show it, I broke down. I’m almost certain that the eye-furrow is him copying the way I glare at Merrystar in that instant when she’s irritated me and I haven’t got my temper under control —
These are not the things I want my son to learn from me.
15 June 2006
Jon Gruber has a thoughtful response to Mark Pilgrim’s switching away from the Mac and the flood of commenters he unleashed on Mark’s site. I’ll point the way over there and let you make up your own mind about the respective arguments. There’s a lot of depth in both posts, and they’re both worthwhile reads.
Reading Mark’s writing reminds me of why I don’t listen to Led Zeppelin anymore; it’s excellent, superb in places, but tinged with too many memories of sadder times. Unresolved issues from my youth keep me from enjoying Thank You or Four Sticks. Ditto for Dive Into Mark. Sorry: it’s me, not you.
While I personally think the arguments are interesting, I ultimately don’t see it as an either/or proposition. I currently use a Mac as my primary machine, Linux for my servers, and Windows at work. I may not be happy about the last one, but ultimately I can do my job with the tools at hand..
When I switched from Linux to OS X, I experienced a sense of great relief. More than the pretty shiny thing, I got time back. And time is precious. No more working with hardware incompatabilities. No more constant monitoring of security lists, upgrades, updates, tinkering to make it work better. Life will be perfect with a Mac!
Then an upgrade broke bluetooth, and I still read all the same security lists, and the wireless network needed upgrading… but overall, I still had more time. Using the Mac as my primary computer did not solve everything. But it made enough things easier to make a difference.
When did the choice of tool acquire such moral overtones? This thing on my lap — whatever thing you’re reading this on — is a glorified screwdriver. That’s it.
So, I don’t quite know how to bring this up, so I’ll just say it.
I watched an opera tonight… and liked it.
The Light In The Piazza was on PBS, and Merrystar and I were enthralled. Enthralled by an opera.
Do you understand the problem here, people?
What the hell is happening to me? First posts about pragmatic approaches to software, and now opera?
Maybe it is time for bed.
(Did I mention it had Beverly Sills introducing it? Huzzah!)
Icemaker’s broken. Refrigerator is a year and a half old.
16 June 2006
Laid-Off Dad: Instinct and Improv.
19 June 2006
The excellent Mac OS X / Linux discussion continues with:
- Tim Bray: Unswitch
- Mark: Juggling oranges
- Tim: Time to switch?
- John Gruber: Why Apple Won’t Open Source Its Apps
The hardware/OS integration is essential to the Just Works-ness that makes the Mac (and the SGI, and NeXT, and Sun boxes, and DEC Alphas, and the Amiga, etc.) work so well. Linux’s very nature, however, is opposed to this integration, and that’s its strength. Linux runs on anything. Anything. With enough work, I can wire the tree outside my window to run Linux. But that tree won’t Just Work. You better believe I will have to recompile my tree kernel at some point.
Here is the thing I hope that a Linux vendor gets, and soon, because when they do, they’ll capture the geek market (and probably much more): Do what Apple did, but do it open source. Optimize your Linux for your hardware, and your hardware only, but leave your applications open and take advantage of all the eyeballs looking at them.
I remain pessimistic on the matter.
20 June 2006
Here’s the thing about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell; I should have, by all rights and all Amazon reviews, loved this book.
Instead, I trudged to page 156 and stopped. I checked, just to be sure, and I’ve been waiting to pick up again at Chapter 17 — for over a year now.
I have the hardback book with the plain black front with white letters, not pictured above, unfortunately. (This is an editorial quandry; do I use the available picture from booksellers, or should I photograph the individual specimens from my library? I suspect I should do the former in all cases, and the latter when it is relevant, but I digress.)
This book is not a small book, and my wife thoughtfully inscribed a note celebrating this on the front cover:
To my beloved,
who likes big books.
This is true. I like big books. I love the feel of them, the weight of them, and because I often read like a madman in a hurry, big books are the only way I can stretch out the pleasure of a new book over several nights. However, I don’t like big books per se; I like what I like, and I like it when it lasts a long time.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, unfortunately, is just a big book that has been on my nightstand for a year and a half that just never hooked me.
I, like many readers, have a hundred-page rule. It’s a rule observed in passing instead of as an imperative; if I am not hooked within the first 100 pages, I will not finish the book. If I get past the first 100 pages, I’ll finish — and usually like it, with some exceptions (cough, A Game of Thrones, cough.)
(I think, coincidentally enough, that David Eddings was the first author who I heard talk about this rule. I have since heard many other people observe the same behavior.)
This rule is flexible, of course. Sometimes I’ll stall out by page 200, sometimes I throw the book across the room on page 5. But the hundred-page rule is pretty accurate, as these things go.
This book was praised on Amazon, it had many elements that I should have enjoyed (Victoriana, magic, strong writing), and I barely made it past 150 pages. Since this is a big book, I’ve barely scratched the surface. This book may be as fantastic as the reviews say, but I wouldn’t know.
Perhaps — if it escapes one of our periodic purges and doesn’t get sent to a used bookstore for a more appreciative owner — I will give Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell another try in a few years. Some books just have to come into your life at the right place and time; this may be one of them.
Then again, this may be a book that I just can’t get into, and that’s all there is to say about it.
While I make up my mind on the matter, I will leave the book jacket folded in between pages 156 and 157, just to remind me that the hundred-page rule was invoked.
Bookdragon: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.
21 June 2006
I really like this dish, but my son Trip loves it. He can’t get enough of it.
He also can’t put enough of it in people’s hair; his hair, my hair, Merrystar’s hair - doesn’t matter. Hence the dish’s name.
* 1 pound of chicken breasts
* 1 cup chicken broth
* 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
* sprinkle of garlic
* sprinkle of basil
* 1/2 pound of fresh green beans
This is a one-skillet meal:
- Brown chicken in skillet.
- Add everything else.
- Heat to boil.
- Cover, cook on low heat for 20 minutes or so.
Serves 2 + 1 toddler. (Conditioner optional.)
Merrystar notes: This is actually a modified version of the recipe on the back of the chicken broth package. And I think a cup of broth was a bit much actually; I would cut it back to maybe 3/4 next time.
Merrystar has taken over Hithlum (my 17” PowerBook) for a project she is working on. It’s always amusing to watch her using it, because it is wider than she is. The proportions are all wrong.
Some of this is due to her own choice in laptops; her 12” Panasonic W2 (Tsiolkovsky) is very small, very light, and very well suited to her size. (Very pretty, too! she will no doubt add, when she reads this.) Merrystar has an excellent sense of proportion.
Which is why, as I’m now using Tsiolkovsky, I am left wondering two things:
- How can she put up with these god-awful jaggedy non-anti-aliased fonts?
- How do I put up with them every day at work and not notice them?
Don’t believe that they’re a problem? Let’s review.
Here is how this site looks on Hithlum using Safari. The font is different (Lucida Grande), but even with the default Trebuchet MS, the anti-aliasing and smoothing is really apparent.
Now, the same site, but on Tsiolkovsky using Firefox. Notice the jagged fonts.
Can you see the difference? Does it bother you?
In Merrystar’s case, and I’m completely speculating here, it’s that she spends most of her day using Linux, so Window’s font display is on par with the environment she’s comfortable with. Or, and this may be more likely, Windows is so alien that it just fades into the background of strangeness. It is very odd living with someone who doesn’t equate CTRL-X/C/V instinctively with the Cut/Copy/Paste sequence. (When I asked her how to paste just now, she couldn’t answer until I specified the program and OS.)
In my case, I think it’s because there’s such a division between my work and personal computer use. Everything is different between the environments; not just the OS and hardware, but the sites I go to, the applications I use, everything is different. I assume that the sites I read at night just look better.
Isn’t that odd?
I’ve tried changing some of the display settings on Tsiolkovsky to make it better. Changing smoothing in the Display Control Panel from Standard to ClearType helps, but turns all the type fuzzy. I can see why it’s not the default.
(Merrystar, are you done yet? I miss my fonts.)
22 June 2006
Via the ISC and the nmap-hacker’s list, top 100 network security tools.
Post before the power goes!
Update, a few minutes later:
Power still on, but we’ve got two more to go:
23 June 2006
Dear Fellow Mac Users,
Anyone else having problems with Safari not loading pages? I certainly am.
This started yesterday: Safari goes along for a while, merrily loading tabs, until some sort of threshold is reached and it decrees no more pages for you. I then have to restart it. Usually I end up launching Camino and copying the open tabs over there.
Restarting Safari doesn’t fix it.
Neither does restarting the Mac.
(Maybe this is a good chance to try out the other browsers on this machine?)
Recently read: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford.
Recently read: Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie.
Recently read: The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle.
Recently read: After the Ice Age : The Return of Life to Glaciated North America, by E. C. Pielou
Eric Myer, Mail Mishandling
Thunderbird vs. Mail 2.0.
Amalah: Laughing Noah.
Who knew? Baby dolls repeatedly plummeting to their deaths are the FUNNIEST THING EVER.
he new policy says that AT&T — not customers — owns customers’ confidential info and can use it “to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process.”
Recently read: The Book of Lost Tales, Part One (The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 1), by J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien
Dinosaur Comics: Hippocleides doesn’t care!
24 June 2006
(I cannot hear it at all, and had my volume up full-blast when I tried. Did I mention Merrystar can hear it very well?)
David Pogue: Reconsidering Bill Gates.
Upon reading the post on fonts, Merrystar said:
“You mean Ctrl-X cuts? I never knew that.”
I rest my case.
Guy Kawasaki: The Art of the Start Video
25 June 2006
Last month I decided that I was going to change some things around this site. I’d grown increasingly unhappy with the photo Gallery problems, and thought I would move to a more traditional blog layout at the same time.
Yes, this would qualify as an upgrade, which means, you know, major amounts of pain. No matter what else I may have learned through this weblog, I’ve learned that I should never upgrade “just because.”
So I set up a new weblog using Textpattern on a subdomain. It looked like many other weblogs:
After two weeks of working with it, I have to admit: I hated it.
Two sidebars? Too much clutter. Narrow center column? Wasted space. PHP? Can’t make the URLs behave the way I want.
I suppose that there is a part of me that doesn’t trust dynamic database connections for websites that don’t really need them: I smell overengineering. Why introduce complexity when the application doesn’t actually require it?
I find it interesting that setting up the database is actually really easy, much easier than any of the design work that comes later. I’ve had zero problems launching those Textpattern websites I actually use. The problems come later, when the MySQL database server goes down. And requiring every page to make a MySQL call is so sloooooow. Pages took seconds to load, and that’s just. not. right.
I know I sound like a curmudgeon, but seriously, people. The right tool for the right job.
Still, I could have gotten over the whole overengineering thing — I have gotten over it for other sites, like the new Bookdragon Tales and my son’s site — but I couldn’t get over the clutter, the amount of “stuff” that a weblog seems to require on every single page. Some of those things I really wanted to add (blogroll, recently-read books, recently-visited web pages), and some of them would be nice to have (Textpattern’s referral and visitor tracking), but in the end the design never satisfied me. I am attached to my idiosyncratic website. The archives go backwards from a normal weblog, but forwards in time, so you can read them like a book.
So I switched back. No real surprise, and no real harm done.
I took some of the features that I did like and added them to the new Links section: a blogroll, recently-read books (the only part of Input that ever saw any change), and recently-visited pages. The last are links I’m passing on without comment, as I found that most of the entries in the Web Log were basically that. I’ve cleaned up some of the categories, added some RSS feeds, etc..
(Still no comments, though.)
Anyhow. Enough of the tedious self justification. Back to work.
Toughpigs: Muppets: 1, Host: 0.
Hawk Wings: Quicksilver Documentation
26 June 2006
New Blue Lamp Cafe: Sweet Potatoes
Seth Godin: Dividing By Zero
Scobleizer: Inside Sharepoint’s Blogs, Wikis and RSS Feeds
Bookdragon log files: We Feel Fine
27 June 2006
TNPI: Do it yourself .Mac
You know what I like best about this cool little USB lamp?
That’s right. The Panasonic W-2 in the background. (Hello, sailor!)
28 June 2006
Via Red Ferret: Roll Your Own Solar Heater
One of Merrystar’s coworkers asked me at a party if I could recommend some books about the First Crusade for his summer travel plans.
I, of course, was overjoyed to get such a request. (And yes, it was a fun party, these sorts of conversations are normal for them.)
So, instead of just linking to the Wikipedia entry, I spent some time tonight going through my bookroom, browsing to see which books I would recommend.
- A good introduction to the Crusading movement is The Crusades by Hans Eberhard Mayer. This offers a good introduction to the ideology and places the First Crusade context of all that follows. (Plus, it has the Mongol Yoke!)
- Next, source materials. The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials (edited by Edward Peters, no relation) is where moderately serious history begins.
- Other good primary sources include Chronicles of the Crusades by Joinville and Villehardouin and The Alexiad of Anna Comnena. I thought about recommending The Song of Roland and The Poem of the Cid, but they are really better for later Crusades (especially the Reconquista.)
- For views outside the Christian participants, I would recommend Arab Historians of the Crusades by by Francesco Gabrieli for contemporary accounts and The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the 6th to the 11th Century by Hugh Kennedy for context of the Caliphate at the time of the invasions.
- I’m still searching for a good contemporary Byzantine history (other than those already included in The First Crusade and The Alexiad), but The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity 395-600 by Averil Cameron is a good place to start.
- I am sadly at a loss to provide a good book recommendation that deals solely with the rise of anti-semitic violence in the wake of the First Crusade, but many of these others touch on it, particularly the Peters book.
- If you are looking for good introductions to medieval history, Norman Cantor’s Civilization of the Middle Ages is deservedly respected, though I used Edward Peters’ Europe and the Middle Ages as my primary introductory textbook in college. I see they’re on the fourth edition; I used the first (which was blue, I think) and replaced it with the second (red) after my first year.
While it’s outside of the scope of the First Crusade, I can’t let the opportunity pass without also plugging Early Medieval Europe 300-1000 by Roger Collins. I had a photocopied version of it for years from my Medieval History I class (yes, we wrote to the publisher for permission, I had to pay $30 for it) that was an eyesore for years before I stumbled across a copy in a used bookstore in Bellingham, Washington. I squeeeeed like a little fanboy when I found it, but that is a story for another time.
Boing Boing: Fake Eyes Boost Honesty
Squidblog/Seth Godin: 2 Cents on AdSense
The Hivelogic Narrative: At Last: Mac OS X 10.4.7 Update, with a discussion on anti-aliasing.
29 June 2006
Dooce: Britney Spears, Mother
30 June 2006
Via Jim: Johnny Cash, American V
Unfinished Tales is one of the pivotal books in my collection, and I have more than one tale about it. Hence, this is “Part I” of the tale, not part I of the Unfinished Tales.
All clear? Good.
I discovered Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales in a bookstore near Westminster in 1984. It was a black-bordered wonder, with Roger Garland’s picture of Glaurung the Dragon leering from the front. This was the 1983 paperback printing by Allen and Unwin, ISBN 0-04-823208-4, third edition.
I, a recent Tolkien convert, was thunderstruck. I was 10 years old on my first trip outside of my own country. I had already read everything I could get my hands on in the States, and here was something new, something wonderful.
I remember very clearly that sense of amazed joy when I discovered the book, followed closely by a sense of panic that my parents wouldn’t get it for me. I remember those two emotions very clearly, intermixed with a vision of green velvet and dark brown wood (which I can only take to be a garbled impression of the interior of the shop and shelves, unless I was in some sort of snooker hall.)
And then I remember walking in the shadow of Westminster, clutching my treasure, having already read the introduction, savoring the anticipation of more undiscovered Tolkien. I needn’t had worried; I don’t think I got much more past “Ijustfoundthistolkienbookanditsnotavailablebackhomeandlookatthetableofcontents” before my Mom understood the situation and reassured me that we wouldn’t have to leave my new best friend behind.
I remember the worry, though, as sharp as the joy. Odd. Memories from that long ago are difficult to sort out.
This oversized paperback assured me instant geek credibility for years to come. There was nothing like showing up to a Dungeons and Dragons session with it tucked into my bag to let everyone know who the real Tolkien expert was. At the very first English 318 (Tolkien) class held at Rice in 1994, there was only one UK edition of Unfinished Tales. And it was mine.
Unfortunately, there were 10 other Tolkien experts in that class with me, and the few extra years I’d had with my beloved black book with the funny dragon on the cover didn’t matter in the end, because, you know, it was never actually a competition.
Twenty years after I first found Unfinished Tales, I can safely say it’s not a good idea to base your self-esteem on which books you own. Or how many books you own, for that matter.
I’ve also learned that there is very little to compare with the unexpected joy of discovering a new book by a favorite. There are maybe, at the most, a half-dozen books in my entire collection that I was actually surprised to find.
None of them rival that day in England.
Bookdragon: Unfinished Tales, Part I