Monday, December 31, 2007

10 years of tracking reads

Happy last day of 2007!

This month marks the tenth anniversary of my keeping a list of every book I read -- the grand total: I've read 691 books in ten years, 96 this year alone. I've had lots of fun this week looking back at a decade of reading habits.

Here's your top-ten list for 2007: my favorite fiction over the past decade -- I had to narrow the choices down somehow, so these were all newly published in the year I read them:

2007 - Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
2006 - The Game by Laurie R King
2005 - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
2004 - The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
2003 - Atonement by Ian McEwan
2002 - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
2001 - The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
2000 - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
1999 - The Hours by Michael Cunningham
1998 - Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Happy reading! Happy 2008!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

When is a word really a real word?

My other half asked me to "go librarian" this week to help him settle a real-life Scrabble challenge type of situation:

Matt heard a word he'd never heard before, used by someone who swore that the word was a real word. Of course, the only way to settle such a debate is to look up the word in a dictionary ... but does it have to be the "real" dictionary? Does a slang dictionary count?

The debated definition: "wenis" as the skin around your elbow.

This was a new definition for me, too. I remember "wenis" as an early '80's playground word, somewhere between "dorkus" and "butthead" in the family of vaguely anatomical kid-on-kid slurs.

But apparently Matt's wenis-as-elbow-skin friend is not alone. The user-generated slang source Urban Dictionary is chock-full of witnesses to this usage (often under the variant spelling "weenis"). And a quick Google of "wenis +elbow" shows at least 700 other people trying to verify this usage.

So does that mean it's a real word? In my reference librarian/ armchair linguist opinion, yes -- lots and lots of evidence points to plenty of people using "wenis" to talk about the skin on their elbows (don't ask me why). And, remember, in Scrabble, if all the players agree that a word's in common usage, it doesn't matter if it isn't in the dictionary. Yet.

For more about words' journeys to the dictionary, check out the Dictionary Evangelist blog from Erin McKean who (I can't resist!!) gave a great TED talk about the future of dictionaries:

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Is anyone still reading this blog? Sorry it's been ages ... again ... but I'm finally writing today because I've got a new obsession, and his name is TED.

TED -- Technology, Entertainment, Design -- has been around since 1984 (read more about it here) and I can't believe I didn't know about this group until yesterday, because what they do is what I wish I did all day, every day.

I've been reading lots of books lately about interface design and user experience, about how the way we interact with computers is not the best way or the easiest way and is certainly not the only way. (Stop reading now if you don't care about his kind of thing. But since you're using a computer to read this, you probably should care. At least a little bit.)

Anyway, I think about this stuff for fun, and so do lots of the people that give talks at TED conferences, so I am now fully obsessed with watching TED talks online (for free! This is nerd heaven).

Here are two recent talks that made my jaw drop: