Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I need a break.

I began blogging on 5/7/06. I started writing one blog, and gradually built up to seven blogs a day. I got out of bed at 3:30AM to start my daily writing.

I did it for fun, but lately it has seemed too much like work. I'm not sure that I am officially "burned-out," but I have definitely lost enthusiasm for the daily grind of blogging.

Since the blog obligation was only to myself, and I have no contract, it's an obligation I am free to suspend, cancel or modify at will. No one has a paid-up subscription for words they won't receive.

Therefore, after 2,715 posts, I have decided to take some time off. I need to finish writing a few books, and some essays, and maybe I'll even try poetry and songwriting. My to-do list includes many unread books and un-watched DVDs. I want to spend more time swimming, and walk my dog more often.

The break will last at least a few weeks, but might even be several months, or many months. J. D. Salinger did not publish an original work after 1965, but I won't be away that long. Even if I don't come back full-time until next year, I might pop back in occasionally if I think there's something worth saying.

I am continuing to write BookMakingBlog, my blog about writing, editing and publishing.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

2008: Print-On-Demand exceeds conventional publishing in the US

Yesterday Bowker, the major provider of book information, released statistics on US book publishing for 2008, compiled from its Books In Print® database. Based on preliminary figures from publishers, Bowker is projecting that US title output in 2008 decreased by 3.2%, with 275,232 new titles and editions, down from the 284,370 in 2007.

Despite this decline in traditional book publishing, there was another extraordinary year of growth in the reported number of “On Demand” and short-run books produced in 2008. Bowker projects that 285,394 On Demand books were produced last year, a staggering 132% increase over the 2007 total of 123,276 titles. This is the second consecutive year of triple-digit growth in the On Demand segment, which in 2008 was 462% above levels seen as recently as 2006.

“Our statistics for 2008 benchmark an historic development in the US book publishing industry as we crossed a point last year in which On Demand and short-run books exceeded the number of traditional books entering the marketplace,” said Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publisher services for Bowker. “It remains to be seen how this trend will unfold in the coming years before we know if we just experienced a watershed year in the book publishing industry, fueled by the changing dynamics of the marketplace and the proliferation of sophisticated publishing technologies, or an anomaly that caused the major industry trade publishers to retrench.”

“The statistics from last year are not just an indicator that the industry had a decline in new titles coming to the market, but they’re also a reflection of how publishers are getting smarter and more strategic about the specific kinds of books they’re choosing to publish,” explained Gallagher. “If you look beyond the numbers, you begin to see that 2008 was a pivotal year that benchmarks the changing face of publishing.”

Among the major publishing categories, the big winners last year were Education and Business, two categories that might suggest publishers were seeking to give consumers more resources for success amidst a very tough job environment. There were 9,510 new education titles introduced in the US in 2008, up 33% from the prior year, and 8,838 new business titles, an increase of 14% over 2007 levels.

By contrast, the big category losers in 2008 were Travel and Fiction, two categories in which publishers clearly saw less demand during a deep recession in the US. There were 4,817 new travel books introduced last year, down 15% from the year before, and 47,541 new fiction titles, a drop of 11% from 2007. Moreover, the Religion category dropped again last year, with 14% fewer titles introduced in the US, and that once reliable engine of growth for publishers is now well off its peak year of 2004.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

1903: First woman to win a Nobel prize

Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in 1903. In 1911 she became the first person of either gender to win a second Nobel Prize.

Marie Skłodowska Curie (1867 – 1934) was a physicist and chemist of Polish upbringing and, subsequently, French citizenship. She was a pioneer in the field of radioactivity, the first person honored with two Nobel Prizes (physics in 1903 and chemistry in 1911), and the first female professor at the University of Paris.

She was born Maria Skłodowska in Warsaw (then Vistula Country, Russian Empire; now Poland) and lived there until she was 24. In 1891 she followed her elder sister Bronisława to study in Paris, where she obtained her higher degrees and conducted her subsequent scientific work. She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw. Her husband Pierre Curie was a Nobel co-laureate of hers, and her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie and son-in-law Frédéric Joliot-Curie also received Nobel prizes.

Her achievements include the creation of a theory of radioactivity (a term coined by her), techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, and the discovery of two new elements, polonium and radium. It was also under her personal direction that the world's first studies were conducted into the treatment of neoplasms ("cancers"), using radioactive isotopes.

While an actively loyal French citizen, she never lost her sense of Polish identity. She named the first new chemical element that she discovered (1898) "polonium" for her native country, and in 1932 she founded a Radium Institute (now the Maria Skłodowska–Curie Institute of Oncology) in her home town Warsaw, headed by her physician-sister Bronisława.

If the work of Maria Skłodowska–Curie helped overturn established ideas in physics and chemistry, it has had an equally profound effect in the societal sphere. In order to attain her scientific achievements, she had to overcome barriers that were placed in her way as a woman in both her country of origin and her adoptive country.

This aspect of her life and career is highlighted in Françoise Giroud's Marie Curie: A Life, which emphasizes Skłodowska's role as a feminist precursor. She was ahead of her time, emancipated, independent, and in addition uncorrupted. Albert Einstein is said to have remarked that she was probably the only person who was not corrupted by the fame that she had won

Madame Curie was decorated with the French Legion of Honor. In Poland, she had received honorary doctorates from the Lwów Polytechnic (1912), Poznań University (1922), Kraków's Jagiellonian University (1924) and the Warsaw Polytechnic (1926).

The Curies' elder daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1935 for discovering that aluminium could be made radioactive and emit neutrons when bombarded with alpha rays. (info from Wikipedia)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

2008: first time US homes with cellphones only outnumber homes with landlines only

Last year, for the first time, the number of American households using only cellphones outnumber those that just have traditional landlines in a high-tech shift accelerated by the recession.

In the freshest evidence of the growing appeal of cellphones, 20% of households had only cellphones during the last half of 2008, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey. That was an increase of nearly three percentage points over the first half of the year, the largest six-month increase since the government started gathering such data in 2003.

The 20% of homes with only cellphones compared with 17% with landlines but no cellphones. That ratio has changed starkly in recent years: In the first six months of 2003, just 3% of households were wireless only, while 43% stuck to landlines.

Stephen Blumberg, senior scientist at the CDC and an author of the report, attributed the growing number of cell-only households in part to a recession that has forced many families to scour their budgets for savings. "We do expect that with the recession, we'd see an increase in the prevalence of wireless-only households, above what we might have expected had there been no recession," Blumberg said.

Further underscoring the public's shrinking reliance on landline phones, 15% of households have both landlines and cells but take few or no calls on their landlines, often because they are wired into computers. Combined with wireless-only homes, that means that 35% of households -- more than one in three -- are basically reachable only on cellphones.

The changes are important for pollsters, who for years relied on reaching people on their landline telephones. Growing numbers of surveys now include calls to people on their cells, which is more expensive partly because federal laws forbid pollsters from using computers to place calls to wireless phones.

About a third of people age 18 to 24 live in households with only cellphones, making them far likelier than older people to rely exclusively on cells. The same is true of four in 10 people age 25 to 29.

Those likeliest to live in wireless-only households also include the poor, renters, Hispanics, Southerners, Midwesterners and those living with unrelated adults, such as roommates or unmarried couples.

Six in 10 households have both landline and cellphones, while one in 50 have no phones at all. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Monday, May 11, 2009

1999: first female Jewish president

It was in Switzerland.

An outspoken and strong feminist, Switzerland’s first Jewish member of the Federal Government and first woman president Ruth Dreifuss was born in 1940. The Dreifuss family was among the oldest in Switzerland.

The uncertainties of living so close to the border with Nazi Germany, combined with the loss of professional opportunities in World War II, led the family to move to Bern in 1942. After the war, the family established itself in Geneva where Dreifuss finished school in 1958. She began her working life as a hotel secretary.

After studying social work, she served as a deputy editor of Coopération, the weekly publication of the Swiss Union of Cooperatives, the biggest consumer cooperative in Switzerland. She studied economics and econometrics at the University of Geneva, earning her degree in 1970. From 1970 to 1972 she was on the faculty of the university’s Department of Economic Social Studies. She then worked for ten years on overseas development and cooperative projects in the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Involved in politics as a member of the Social Democrat Party since 1965, she was elected in 1981 as general-secretary of the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions —- the first woman in this position -— dealing with social insurance, labor laws, promotion of women’s rights and relations with the International Labor Organization (ILO).

From 1989–1992 she served as a member of the Bern City Council. In 1993 she was elected by the Swiss Parliament to the seven-member Federal Council, the second woman and the first Jewish woman to serve on this body.

For ten years she held the post of Minister for Domestic Affairs, presiding over extensive reforms in health, social security and pension services. A strong advocate of women’s issues, Dreifuss fought for general paid maternity leave, which was finally introduced into federal legislation in 2004.

During her time in the Swiss cabinet, Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations. She also took an active role in the process of investigating Switzerland’s role during World War II and in the discussions between Switzerland, the World Jewish Congress and the American authorities regarding funds of Jewish Holocaust victims held in Swiss bank accounts.

In 1997 she served as Vice President of the Swiss Federal Council and in 1999 took over as President of the Swiss Confederation —- the first woman and the first Jew to hold this office. This was considered a significant personal achievement in Switzerland, where women received the right to vote only in 1971 and which was the last country in Western Europe to recognize Jewish rights.

The office of Swiss President rotates among the seven members of the Federal Council and is held for one year, in addition to the normal activity as a minister. Ruth Dreifuss resigned from the Federal Council at the end of 2002.

Since leaving the government Dreifuss has continued to live in Geneva, where she maintains her involvement in public affairs. In 2004, the World Health Organization asked her to chair the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health. She has been recognized widely for her political achievements; among other accolades she was awarded honorary doctorates by Haifa University in 1999 and by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 2000. (info from Jewish Women's Archive)

Monday, May 4, 2009


I'm taking a few days off to finish writing a book and start a new one. I should be back during the week of 5/11.

Friday, May 1, 2009

2009: First female poet laureate in the U.K.
is also first known gay poet laureate

Carol Ann Duffy has been appointed as Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom. She is the first woman, the first Scot and the first openly gay poet to take the post.

Duffy will succeed Andrew Motion. Ten years ago Duffy lost out to Motion, and it is believed that her sexuality was the reason. The latest offer is thought to have been made after approval from the Queen and Prime Minister.

Duffy said, "Poetry matters to people in this country, poetry is a place we can go to for comfort, celebration, when we're in love, when we're bereaved and sometimes for events that happen to us as a nation. Poetry comes from the imagination, from memories, from experience, from events both personal and public so I will be following the truth of that and I will write whatever needs to be written. The ministry of culture and the palace made it very clear, particularly the palace, that there is no expectation or requirement at all to write royal poems and the same with government people. I don't have to write anything about anything if I don't want to."

"Like all the poets, I would only ever write poems that are truthful, from an authentic source, whether that's private or public. It's not a job. I have been able to relinquish myself from any financial commitment by giving the money to the Poetry Society to establish a prize so I'll just continue reading my poems and writing my poems as I always have. People know who I am, they know my life and they know that I'm truthful and I can only be myself, be true to myself, and be seen to live my life as myself and as a vocational poet. "I think we've all grown up a lot over the past 10 years. Sexuality is something that is celebrated now we have civil partnerships and it's fantastic that I'm an openly gay writer, and anyone here or watching the interviews who feels shy or uncomfortable about their sexuality should celebrate and be confident and be happy. It's a lovely, ordinary, normal thing."

A Poet Laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government and is often expected to compose poems for government events.

In the United Kingdom the term has for centuries been the title of the official poet of the monarch, since the time of Charles II. Poets laureate are appointed by many countries. In Britain there is also a Children's Laureate and in the United States there is a Student Poet Laureate.

The title of Poet Laureate, as a royal office, was first conferred on John Dryden in 1670. The post then became a regular institution. Dryden's successor Shadwell originated annual birthday and New Year odes. The poet laureate became responsible for writing and presenting official verses to commemorate both personal occasions, such as the monarch's birthday or royal births and marriages, and public occasions, such as coronations and military victories.

His activity in this respect has varied according to circumstances, and the custom ceased to be obligatory after Pye's death. The office fell into some contempt before Southey, but took on a new luster from his personal distinction and that of Wordsworth and Tennyson. Wordsworth stipulated, before accepting the honor, that no formal effusions from him should be considered a necessity; but Tennyson was generally happy in his numerous poems of this class.

On Tennyson's death there was a considerable feeling that no possible successor was acceptable, William Morris and Swinburne being hardly suitable as court poets. Eventually, however, the undesirability of breaking with tradition for temporary reasons, and thus severing the one official link between literature and the state, prevailed over the protests against allowing anyone of inferior genius to follow Tennyson. It may be noted that abolition had been similarly advocated when Warton and Wordsworth died. Edward Gibbon had condemned the position's artificial approach to poetry.

The salary has varied, but traditionally includes some alcohol. Ben Jonson first received a pension of 100 marks, and later an annual "terse of Canary wine". Dryden had a pension of £300 and a butt of Canary wine. Pye received £27 instead of the wine. Tennyson drew £72 a year from the Lord Chamberlain's department, and £27 from the Lord Steward's "in lieu of the butt of sack". Duffy will receive and give away about 5,700 pounds ($8,500). (info from The Guardian & Wikipedia)