Monthly Archives: July 2008

Happy Birthday, Stella Physics VonBarf!

photo.jpg, originally uploaded by underwaterguy.

Today is our cat’s birthday. What does it mean for you? Ice cream cupcakes and a good time, at our place tonight.

What? You don’t live in Bostonland? Oh. No icecreamcupcakes for you. Just a picture of an impromptu birthday hat.

Infinite Sunday

I suppose that title works in two ways – my online nom (nom nom nom!), and probably a descriptor of my upcoming weekend.

During the summer of 2005, whipped into a frenzy by my friend Jake, I joined his Infinite Jest book club. If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s (roundabout) thousand pages are right up there in the list of often-unreadable books.

Jake’s resurrected the group for another read, and I decided to give it another go. I’ve not started, partially because I lent my copy to a friend who was going to be recuperating from surgery, and thought it would be a good time to read it (which is reminiscent of my friend who taught himself to play the banjo one summer while rocking a broken leg), and because I’m happily busy with my job.

An aside – I typically don’t start working till 10 a.m., and have found myself waking up at 9:30 regularly. I seem to be so reticent to get out of bed, that it’s starting to suck what is generally a couple of extra hours other people get at the end of their day out of my life. So, in addition to starting to read IJ, my goal is to do so in the morning, before work. Or at least do the dishes so I can spend more time reading in the evening.

This got me wondering if Infinite Jest was in audiobook form. Certainly, there would be issues with inserting footnotes. Then again, they managed to turn the Thursday Next series into audiobooks, and there are much weirder format issues there (a footnoterphone, and a character’s name that has no vowels.)

My job currently involves scanning book reviews. I’m seeing a lot of reviews for Gravity’s Rainbow that talk about how it’s known for the hard-to-crack aspect, but people who write seem overjoyed at finishing and seeing the big picture of visiting the book cover to cover (or are they smug and bragging?)

So I present to you, LibraryThing’s data on Infinite Jest. Why look at this? In addition to pulling MARC record data (the info libraries typically have), LT also has a “Common Knowledge” section, that allows LT members to add information typically not found in a MARC record – important places, character names, awards, publisher’s editors, etc.

LibraryThing also has a crapload of reviews (I say that because I’m reviewing lots of them for inclusion in LTFL) and 24 of them are for Infinite Jest.

To throw in the other aspects of LTFL, we can look at the tags associated with Infinite Jest, as well as the recommendations.

These are the most popular tags:
1001 1001 books 1996 20th century addiction america American american fiction american literature boston canada contemporary Contemporary Fiction David Foster Wallace dfw drugs endnotes entertainment favorite favorites fiction film footnotes humor humour literary literary fiction Literature metafiction novel own owned postmodern postmodernism read satire science fiction signed tbr tennis terrorism to read unfinished unread usa wallace wishlist

‘Own’ is a tag often found, it means that the member owns the book. In this case, it’s interesting to look at ‘read’ and ‘unread’. Not that it HAS to be statistically significant, but the number of people who have tagged this books ‘read’ is 36, while 50 tagged it ‘unread’.

LibraryThing (algorithms) say that if you like Infinite Jest, you’ll like:

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments by David Foster Wallace
Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace
Oblivion: Stories by David Foster Wallace
The Devil’s Details: A History of Footnotes by Chuck Zerby
David Foster Wallace’s Infinite jest : a reader’s guide by Stephen Burn
Amazing grace by Megan Shull
The Recognitions by William Gaddis
Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis–Lessons from a Master by Brad Gilbert
JR by William Gaddis

I tried reading this giant book last time, and got 200 pages in. Environment factors Jake talked about – hating my job and general place in life, distracted by my hot boyfriend probably played a part. Hopefully this time I can bite down on this book and not give up so early.

At said hated job, had a coworker who talked about IJ as being DFW’s way of impressing people with his giant brain by creating a book that was just detached and abstracted enough to confuse you into thinking he was smarter than you, while wanking off for a thousand pages.

The two factors that brought me back to it were Jason’s enthusiasm for reading it again, and Jake’s fantastic blog posts that are acting in a professorial role – making me enthusiastic to take the role of a student (and a student’s guilt at not starting the assignment).

So I’m going to kick it up a notch – reading a library copy. Or taking the Fung Wah bus to NYC to retrieve my copy.

Local dinner

Local dinner, originally uploaded by sundaykofax.

What’s better than a CSA-based Thai basil chicken with neighbors? The
same dinner with Steve Holt! Steve Holt!

Open source library classification (or: eff Dewey)

(My apologies to the hundres on drinking_GSLIS who also read my blog.)

So, as you know, I work at LibraryThing now, and Tim (ye olde founder) just declared war on the Dewey Decimal System at the American Library Association conference last week.

Anyway, the point is, he’d like to start an open source classification system. That means instead of the Dewey System that public libraries tend to use (and you have to pay for, and is antiquated), we build a new one, based on everyone’s expertise – think hot wiki action.) Now, will this work? (My paycheck tells me ‘yes’.) Is it possible to get consensus? Is it possible to get enough crowdsourcing? Will it be discovered that everyone lurves Dewey and there’s no need for change, and we like paying for DDC access? Probably not that.

Having spent a goodly amount of time as a grad student thinking about things just like this, I’m totally enamored with this as an idea. (Also I get to spend work time thinking about it.)

His blog post outlining the idea.

The LibraryThing group that has started in on it.

Any questions or thoughts not meant for the group? You can email me at my work email
– sonya at

If this post is completely uninteresting, watch this instead.

Gork gork gork, says Keem.

Happy Anniversary, Jason!

Happy Anniversary, Jason!, originally uploaded by sundaykofax.

To celebrate our anniversary, we decided to do the traditional paper
gifts. We went out for Chinese food, to get the paper carry-out boxes.

We got styrofoam. Oh well. We’re still awesome married, as you can
tell from this photo, which was totally impromptu.

Delay delay delay

Delay delay delay, originally uploaded by sundaykofax.

Can’t wait to get home, just as soon as we can start actually
traveling. As much as I’m looking forward to going home, I do kind of
want to stay here. I got used to the mountains, and I’m going to miss

We’re leaving 9 pm Alaska time (Saturday), and will hopefully be home
around noon on Sunday.

Denali National Park

Trains!, originally uploaded by sundaykofax.

We’re getting on the Alaska line to Seward, to see about a whale.

Analog burg,
originally uploaded by sundaykofax.

They offered up glacial margaritas,
made with real glacial ice. Other
than being very clear and melting slowly, it was like run-of-the-mill

Denali National Park,
originally uploaded by sundaykofax.

Today drove from Denali Visitors Center to Eilson. The white blob
behind us is Denali, or Mount McKinley.