Monday, June 18, 2012

Ray Bradbury and E-Books

My local newspaper featured an opinion piece by John Sweeney, editor of The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware. In it he revealed that Ray Bradbury warned about books ‘in the air,’ and that he never would have allowed a digital version of “Fahrenheit 451” to be released if Simon & Schuster hadn’t told him that unless he agreed to it, they would no longer keep the book in print.
A number of authors have expressed concern about the impermanence of digital books because e-books can be removed, revised, and reloaded. In fact, they can be endlessly revised and perhaps even subjected to censorship. It doesn’t take much to imagination to envision various scenarios along that line.
Remember the big flap over Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and how it was altered for young readers? In the years to come, if your child’s text books and library books are all digital, think how much easier it will be for a publisher from sanitize such classics for the schools. The picture of our real history, warts and all, will be lost if that happens.
At this point, I must say that I embrace digital books. I have over a dozen books loaded in my Kindle. Just last week I uploaded my own book, Lottie’s Legacy, to Kindle, and I hope many people will enjoy my offering.
But I also have several shelves of books made of paper, some very old. I have my mother’s nursing textbook from 1915, where I’m able to read about medical and nursing practices of that time. In the future, if as predicted, brick and mortar libraries disappear, current books like that would be lost in a digital haze. Historians and genealogists constantly comb the world’s archives for authentic source material. Without libraries, will our history be lost?
Each new advance of science, technology and art comes with a hazard, whether it’s genetic engineering or e-books. It’s my opinion that we must consider the issue of digitalizing all written material carefully. The truth is, we need both types of books. That’s my opinion. What do you think?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Useful ASCII Character Codes

Ever notice when you using Word to write a document and you need a special letter or symbol, like a tilde ( ˜ ), word doesn't have it. That’s when an ASCII character comes in handy. I’ve listed some of the more commonly used ones below. To achieve these characters press & hold down Alt + the number listed, and the desired character will appear on your page.
’ = 0146           This reversed apostrophe is generally used to abbreviate a year as in ’80.
¢ = 0162
° = 0176          As in, it’s 93° today
ñ = 0241
é = 0233
¿ = 0191
æ = 0230
™ = 0153
£ = 0163          I hope these will be useful to someone.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Murder at the Library of Congress

I confess this is the first book of Margaret Truman’s books that I have read. I picked it because the Mystery Readers group I belong to decided that this month we would read a mystery with a famous person as a character or one that was written by a famous person.
This book, published in 1999, opens with a break-in and theft of an oil painting from a museum in Miami. A security guard is shot and killed. Two of the three burglars are picked up right away, but the painting is not recovered. Within hours it is on its way to LA where it is exchanged for money.
The scene then switches to New York, where the main protagonist, Annabel Reed-Smith, receives an assignment to write an article for the magazine, Civilization, about the search for the diaries of Bartolomé de Las Casas, the friend and sailing companion of Christopher Columbus. The mysterious diaries, if ever found, would be very valuable, especially to the Library of Congress. She has two months to research and write the article.
Annabel takes the reader to the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, and we are introduced to the important characters and the workings of the Hispanic and Portuguese reading room. She soon learns that the leading expert on the subject she’s researching is a man who is despised by almost everyone who comes in contact with him. He is pompous, mean-spirited and vicious. The man, Michele Paul, is murdered (of course). That sets everyone in the department on edge because only a limited number of people have access to the reading room where he is found dead. It must be an inside job.
An aggressive TV reporter, Lucianne Huston, is sent from Miami to DC to cover the story and immediately unearths information about the disappearance eight years earlier of another Las Casas researcher. She keeps the pot stirred by hounding people with questions,  piecing the facts together and reporting what she learns on the TV news. Her boss tells her to follow the money and she does. She uncovers a tax evasion scheme of a very wealthy man who is connected to the Library of Congress.
The search for the truth takes the reader from Miami to Washington, DC to Los Angeles to Mexico City and back to DC. The murders are solved, corruption is uncovered and justice is served. I won’t reveal if the diaries are found, or if the painting in the original scene was important. You might want to check that out for yourself.
This book is a fast read, reasonably well written and interesting to anyone, like me, who doesn’t know much about the Library of Congress. I checked the reader reviews after I finished the book, and most gave the book three stars. Some of her other books got rave reviews, so I would read another.
Margaret Truman-Daniel was a prolific author. She began her writing career in the mid-fifties with a book about her father. Her mystery series began in 1980, and she wrote a book a year until she died in 2008 at the age of 83. Her last book was published in 2012, though probably not completed by her.