Category Archives: technology


OK, this is pretty cool. Google Labs’ Books Ngram Viewer allows you to search the text of all the books Google has cataloged, and it automatically charts the results, in comparison to other search terms, over time. You can search … Continue reading

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

boy who harnessed the windThe Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (William Morrow, September 29, 2009), 288 pages

William Kamkwamba, growing up in Malawi, tells us his story. He tells us about his family, his friends. A brief history of Malawi. When a severe drought (followed by famine) hits, this country of largely subsistence corn growers is starving. William can’t go to secondary school, although his parents try everything, because all the money that would have covered the fees were spent keeping them alive. Instead, William goes to the new library at the local primary school. He’s surprised by the wide selection of books and is drawn to the science texts, particularly physics.

Taken in rural central Nebraska. Windmills are common sites on Midwestern farmland.

Taken in rural central Nebraska. Windmills are common sites on Midwestern farmland.

He decides to build a windmill, to give his family electricity and later a water pump so they can irrigate crops. He doesn’t have any money, though, so finding the parts he needs is challenging. He heads to the scrapyard and little by little collects all the pieces he needs.

I’m not generally a lover of nonfiction, and certainly not nonfiction about scientific achievements. But this book is amazing.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is inspiring, hopeful, authentic. While I’ve never visited Malawi, some of the aspects of how it’s depicted reminded me strongly of my time in Cameroon. The writing is lovely. I was transported.

A great story, a great book. Besides that, it’s a quick read. I wish everyone would read The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (and this is something I say only very rarely).

Kamkwamba gave a brief TED talk earlier this year:

Kamkwamba’s blog and Mealer’s website.

Other reviews:
Bibliophile by the Sea
Bookworm’s Dinner
Starting Fresh
Ramya’s Bookshelf
Sophisticated Dorkiness
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Free e-book: The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English

official dictionary of unofficial englishGrant Barrett released his book The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English: A Crunk Omnibus for Thrillionaires and Bampots for the Ecozoic Age as a free PDF download this week.

I haven’t really started reading it yet (I think I should finish one nonfiction e-book before I start another, don’t you?), but I’m excited to dive in; I downloaded it immediately. Seems like a good read for anyone interested in language and words.

I’ve been reading and enjoying Barrett’s blog for quite a while.

Don’t forget about my giveaway of The Night Watchman!

Reading via laptop part 2

This series of posts is about my experience reading a book on my laptop, for the first time.

Start with part 1 to know fully what I’m talking about here.

I was surprised how slow it seemed that I read on screen. Perhaps it’s that I don’t get to physically turn pages that I was missing? While reading with the laptop not plugged in, my standard screensaver / battery saver options didn’t work well; I wouldn’t get through a whole page before the screen started dimming, so I had to move the cursor around, which effectively pulled me out of the story.

While this could be easily remedied (and I may), this was part of the experience for me.

Eyes often tired enough (I look at a computer screen long enough while working, blogging, twittering …) that I found myself putting off this book in favor of a paper book.

Another obstacle: I filed it away. Put it in a folder, with other e-books. Logical enough, but once it got closed, I wasn’t reminded to read a page or two when I was sitting at the computer trying to remember what I came there for (or whatever).

My progress on this book is very slow. When I scheduled this post, I was on page 47 of 246, and I’d already been “reading” it for a month.

Any questions?

Don’t forget about my first ever giveaway! It’s only open for a few more days.

Reading via laptop part 1

I’m making my first attempt at reading an e-book.

Back story: Device-wise
I’ve nabbed a few e-books when I’ve seen them and thought I might be interested over the past year or two, but none of these has enticed me to actually attempt to read them onscreen. See, I have no e-reader. No Kindle, no Sony Reader, no iPhone (alas). While I may not be entirely happy with this situation, it appears to be part of a larger situation that we’re still collectively waiting to see how it unfolds.

I’ve written before (more than a year ago now) about how (free) e-books are great publicity for the author and the title but aren’t necessarily read much. My thought process goes something like this: Great, a free book! Ugh, I don’t really want to print this tome. Besides, even if I did — well, first it wouldn’t actually be free anymore — do I really want to read a finished book, which I’m not marking up, in unbound galley form? Not the most pleasant reading experience. Then again, neither is reading an entire book on the computer, either. This, for the reader, is an impasse. That free book doesn’t really do anything, except take up hard drive space.

Back story: Book-wise:
Just recently, though, an e-book found its way onto my hard drive that I decided I’d at least attempt to read. This is the first post in my ongoing attempt to chronicle this effort.

The book: Same Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together by Ron Hall and Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent (Thomas Nelson, 2006), 246 pages

Although this book was published in 2006, I don’t recall hearing anything about it — at least not anything that made me think the book might be for me (That is some subtitle, though, isn’t it?) — until February 2009. In February, while preparing for my writing hermitage, I asked for suggestions of books to read. This book was recommended over and over, by a barrage of friends, readers and non-readers alike. When I came upon an email offering me a free e-book of it a week or so ago, I decided to give it a shot.

Reading experience:
I started reading right away, and I made it to page 14 of the 246-page PDF document in the first day. I read that page count spread out over the course of the day, some while sitting at the desk and some at the couch, where I’d taken the laptop for that purpose specifically. The story pulled me right in.

After looking at the screen all day, though, I was happy to switch out the e-book for a different title, this time in real-life book form.

This is the first in what I’m planning to be a series of brief (much shorter than this!) journal-type posts about my experience reading an e-book. On a laptop. Hope you enjoy it. I’d love feedback.

Anything you want to know?

Free e-book: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

I’ve been wanting to read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice for what feels like a very long time now. Alas, my library doesn’t have it (although they have several other Laurie R. King titles).

Today through April 15, you too can download the e-book (PDFs) version, free. I just did.

I actually just started reading my first ever e-book earlier this morning, too. Alas, I have no Kindle (or other e-reader device), so for the moment I’m reading on my laptop screen. It’s not ideal, certainly — I’ve received other free e-books but I’ve never felt a strong enough pull toward the title to actually attempt reading it.

Via Bookish Ruth.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Today’s publishing revolution

    “Revolutions create a curious inversion of perception. In ordinary times, people who do no more than describe the world around them are seen as pragmatists, while those who imagine fabulous alternative futures are viewed as radicals. The last couple of decades haven’t been ordinary, however. Inside the papers, the pragmatists were the ones simply looking out the window and noticing that the real world was increasingly resembling the unthinkable scenario. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. Meanwhile the people spinning visions of popular walled gardens and enthusiastic micropayment adoption, visions unsupported by reality, were regarded not as charlatans but saviors.”

Agreed. Having worked in the newspaper industry, I’ve seen this, first hand.

That’s just one small tidbit of an in-depth look at the current revolution impacting journalism (and all of publishing, really). Among other things, Clay Shirky talks about the revolution of the printing press.

Here’s another peek:

    “Print media does much of society’s heavy journalistic lifting, from flooding the zone — covering every angle of a huge story — to the daily grind of attending the City Council meeting, just in case. This coverage creates benefits even for people who aren’t newspaper readers, because the work of print journalists is used by everyone from politicians to district attorneys to talk radio hosts to bloggers. The newspaper people often note that newspapers benefit society as a whole. This is true, but irrelevant to the problem at hand; “You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone!” has never been much of a business model. So who covers all that news if some significant fraction of the currently employed newspaper people lose their jobs?”


But really, just go read the whole piece.


Via @publishingtalk.

Weekend linkage

A couple brief snippets for you today.

Author Ted Dekker talks, in a recent blog post, about why his new suspense novel, BoneMan’s Daughter (set to be released in April 2009), is the first of his books to not sport the Christian Fiction label. The title of his post? The Challenge of being Gay. It’s a worthwhile read, if you care about this subject (I do). The comments have quite the discussion going on, too, and he’s got a poll where you can succinctly express your opinion (after reading the post, of course!).

Secondly, The Curator lists Top Ten Reasons Real Books Are Better than eBooks. One of my favorites from the list: No. 5. You’d look silly burying your head in your iPhone. (‘Course, I might not agree with this particular item as much if I was the owner of an iPhone …)

I’ve got some great posts simmering for the near future (including wrap-up stuff from 2008), but hopefully this tides you over for a bit.

Happy weekend!