Thoughts from an Avid Reader

January 2018
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A Week in the Woods
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 7:54 am

Well, not really.  This cabin in the woods has all the basics (electricity, running hot and cold water, indoor plumbing, etc), as well as all the kitchen stuff one could want or need, cable, broadband Internet, a private hot tub, etc.  What makes it worth the nine hour drive to get here is the river flowing by right off the deck, the trees (probably 3rd or even 4th growth) crowding around that deck, the nicely manicured grounds, the chickens cock-a-doodle-doodling, the garden from which one picks one’s lettuce for the dinner salad, and the ducks and geese and their little pond.  This little bit of paradise is rather a perfect antidote for suburban life in a big (sorry, Sacramento, not major) city. 

And what does one do for a week in such an idyllic setting?  One reads, of course!  This week’s stack of books is almost all class-related, but it is still reading.  And one marvels at how differently the light acts upon these trees, and why the river water is peridot green (rather than brown), and how it can be this verdant anywhere in water-starved California without an immense irrigation system.  The weather forecast for the week - rain five of the six days.  Perfect reading weather!

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Ebooks and Bookstores
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 10:44 am

A couple of days ago I started reading a new book.  Not an exceptional occasion, true, but this is an actual book with pages and paper and ink.  It got me to wondering about how things have changed so completely in the last few years.  In the last year I’ve read a couple of hundred books.  This includes a dozen or so that are specific to the classes I’ve taken.  The rest of them, with only a few exceptions, have been in electronic media.  When I go to the bookstore, it is for the purpose of holding new and newly released books in my hand and seeing them on the shelf.  Then I look up the titles on Amazon to confirm they are available for the Kindle.  Only if they are not available electronically do I consider purchasing the book at the bookstore.


Why has the ebook become not only a default format for me, but a preferred one as well?  Portability, space, preference for trees still attached to the ground, and access.  I can read far more comfortably on the Kindle (or more recently, my IPhone) than I ever could with a ‘real’ book.  The contention with the spine goes away.  I hardly ever lose my place, and I don’t need to carry a dictionary.  Wikipedia is just a tap away (on the IPhone – it’s frustratingly complicated to get to the Internet on the Kindle). 


What does all this mean to bookstores?  Barnes and Noble as well as Borders both have dedicated much of their space to toys, puzzles, and board games.  In the last several months, it seems like the fiction and literature section has shrunk while the mysteries, romance and sci fi sections have gotten larger.  The space dedicated to large format ‘coffee table books,’ travel guides, maps and so forth has dramatically increased.  And they both now greet customers not with the tables featuring new releases, but hawkers selling their own respective brands of ebook readers.  Last week, in an area that used to be occupied by books pertaining to local interests (local history, flora and fauna, hiking trails, etc.) there was a class being conducted on how to use an ebook reader. 


Being part of the reason all these changes have happened, I can hardly complain. Even so, when confronted with these tangible consequences of the shift to ebooks, there is more than a twinge of nostalgia for the good old days of finding books, stacks and stack of them, at a bookstore. 

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Personal Information and Laptops
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 10:32 am

In the last few days, some 13,000 residents in the Gulf region, including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, received letters from the BP.  It seems that a BP employee lost his laptop.  Laptops go missing all the time.  Their very portability is also one of their biggest problems.  Now an employee losing his laptop is not necessarily news-worthy, and certainly not cause in and of itself to bother those folks in the Gulf region.  Goodness knows they’ve been bothered enough already by BP.  It turns out that the employee had personal information about those 13,000 employees (read, their names and social security numbers along with all sorts of other interesting tidbits about the claims they made for losses caused by the Deepwater Horizon incident) on that laptop.  And the laptop was unencrypted.  What is the significance of encryption?  It means
that a single layer of protection was in place to guard all that information - a logon password.  If the thief removes the hard drive from the laptop, the information on that drive is there for the taking.  As if those folks have not already endured enough, now they need to be worried about identity theft.


In my former life (pre-retirement), I was an Information Security Officer, and it was my job to be sure we (the State of California) took good care of the information we collected.  Not wanting to rant on a soapbox here, I won’t go into the drill about what that entails.  But I do want to say a few words about personal information and the things we all need to do to protect ourselves:


1.    Shred those credit card ‘invitations’ you get in the mail.  It is amazing what unscrupulous people can do in your name with those invitations after they fish them out of your trash.

Don’t give your social security number (unless it is for tax purposes – the original reason SSNs were created).  I am not sure what BP was doing with those SSNs, besides using them as identification numbers, not one of the things allowed to do with them.

Don’t put anything in an email or text message that you are not okay seeing in somebody’s Facebook post, blog, or the front page of a newspaper.  This includes your personal and financial information.

If you keep personal information on your laptop (and who doesn’t??), encrypt the laptop, or at the very least, encrypt the personal information.  Make sure you have a ‘strong’ logon password, and if possible a password to access the personal information.  It is a pain to deal with passwords, true, but if your laptop walks away someday, you’ll rest a little easier knowing the miscreants will have to work a bit harder to get to your stuff.

Keep a current backup of your laptop somewhere safe.  If the laptop disappears, you’ll want that backup for all kinds of reasons.

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First Entry and Intro
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 10:10 am

Being new to AR&E, Beverly and I thought it might be good if I write an occasional blog.  At first I was very hesitant - what could I possibly have to say that would be worth our clients’ time to read??  After months of dithering and excuses, today is the the day I finally take the plunge, and put electrons to screen. 


First, a bit about myself – I am a recent retiree from public service in the fine state of California (this is almost a fearful thing
to admit in these very scary days!).  Since retiring last summer, I’ve devoted my time to four main activities: taking over webmaster responsibilities here on AR&E, starting work on my masters in Humanities, quilt making (from design all the way to finished
product), and photography.  I am an avid reader of just about everything.  In my former employment, I was very fluent in writing what I fondly refer to as ‘bureaucratese.’  I spent countless hours and days and months (adding up to many years) writing and editing proposals for new positions, pleas for more money, feasibility studies, compliance reports, policy, program justifications, and so forth - your tax dollars at work.  Now, I write papers on much more interesting subjects, such as history, contemporary philosophical issues, literature, the role of art and music in the Humanities, and Latin.  The hours that used to be dedicated to the service of California’s residents are now filled with words and images, altogether a very satisfactory trade.


In the weeks to come, I’ll share my observations and thoughts about my readings, musings about retired life, and perhaps even
occasional pictures.  What does this have to do with finding an agent?  Absolutely nothing, but consider me one your best customers.  My appetite for words and books is unquenchable.  Perhaps these musings may help you with yours, which in turn, will result in new and wonderful books to be discovered and read.

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