Thursday, December 23, 2010

Google's Book Scanning Project: Research Tool?

NPR reports on Google's new searchable database made up of of 500 billion words. Google's project has been controversial because it involved scanning 5 million books, many still covered by copyright. Google got around that by using the text from these works as a collection of words and phrases removed from their context other than date.

Scholars are using it to show trends in language. And I can think of many authors who will love being able to research the evolution of slang and idioms.

You can go play for yourself here.

You can look at it from a more cultural perspective here.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mark Twain's Still Making News With His Writing

Mark Twain graced the New York Times Book Review recently. His autobiography, Volume 1 of “The Complete Authentic Unexpurgated Edition, Nothing Has Been Omitted, Not Even Scandalous Passages Likely to Cause Grown Men to Gasp and Women to Collapse in Tears — No Children Under 7 Allowed to Read This Book Under Any Circumstance” (whew!) has been released 100 years after his death, per his instructions.

Garrison Keillor's review of Twain's autobiography is nearly as entertaining as Twain himself. In fact, one of my favorite things about the New York Times Sunday Book Review is the reviews themselves, which are often more interesting and better written than the books they are reviewing. A snippet of Keillor on Twain here:

...bravo to Samuel Clemens, still able to catch the public’s attention a century after he expired. He speaks from the grave, he writes, so that he can speak freely — “as frank and free and unembarrassed as a love letter” — but there’s precious little frankness and freedom here and plenty of proof that Mark Twain, in the hands of academics, can be just as tedious as anybody else when he is under the burden of his own reputation. Here, sandwiched between a 58-page barrage of an introduction and 180 pages of footnotes, is a ragbag of scraps, some of interest, most of them not: travel notes, the dictated reminiscences of an old man in a dithery voice...

And it goes on from there. Twain's comments on his well-known contemporaries were a hundred years before WikiLeaks. The only thing that makes them more entertaining is Keillor's take on them. Enjoy.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Why do you work at home?

As you may remember, I recently partnered up with Making Work at Home Work as a blogger. This post is a thought-provoking one on why we choose to work at home.

By Mary M. Byers

Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who don't know why they are working. Most assume that they are working for money. But when I talk to people about the topic, I hear a lot of different reasons for work. Some work for the mental stimulation. Some to keep their skills up to date. Other work to support their scrapbooking habit or to be able to purchase cosmetics at a discount.

There's a big difference between working to put food on the table vs.working for the "extras" such as summer camp or a vacation. Both are legitimate but it's essential to be honest about your motivation. Knowing what drives you will help you keep your priorities in order. When my children were young, I worked for the extras. However, instead of stopping when I earned enough to help with vacation costs I kept right on going, becoming a workaholic in the process. It didn't serve me or my family. When I recognized my error, I was able to cut back on work in order to create a healthier balance. Now that my children are school-age and I'm working to help cover orthodontia, tuition and retirement, I've increased my hours accordingly.

Understanding why you are working makes it easier to make tough work-related decisions. Will you work on the weekends? Stay up late to get it all done? If you're working to put food on the table, the answer will more likely be yes. But if you're working for the fun of it, you may choose not to compromise family time by late night or weekend work. When you know why you are working, it gets easier to decide what kind of boundaries you'll adhere to.

Mary Byers is the author of Making Work at Home Work: Successfully Growing a Business and a Family Under One Roof. You can learn more about making work at home work by subscribing to Mary’s free blog at Interested in more articles like this? Join the blog ring here.