Thursday, December 15, 2011

Yet another reason to get a Kindle: Library books!

Recently Amazon turned on the ability to borrow ebooks from your local library on your Kindle.  This is a feature that other e-reader have had for some time and many thought would never come to the Kindle.  Now that i have had a chance to try it out i have to admit it is pretty awesome.

It took a little while for me to get this set up since my library card had expired years ago and i had been using various other methods to borrow the ebooks i wanted to read.  I did have to go down to my local library and get a new card.  Once that was done i quickly went online to find a book to read and found what might be the only flaw with this program.

Currently there is a rather small selection of ebooks available to download and the number of ones you would actually want to read is even smaller.  This ended up not being a huge issue and is something that should change over time as publishers and libraries get more comfortable with ebooks.

This means that you do have to spend some time finding a book that is worth reading and when you do find it there will almost always be a waiting list.  After you put yourself on the waiting list you will get an email when the book is available and you then get a couple of days to download the book.  Once you get the email you log into the library ebook site and click a button and the book is sent to your Kindle over wifi, no wires needed!  

I am currently reading Ian Banks book Consider Phlebas which so far is pretty awesome.

You get the book for 21 days and once that is up the book does get deleted from your Kindle.  They do give you a 3 day warning before this happens.  If you made any notes or highlights they will still be available at kindle.amazon.com.

More information can be found here

Borrow Kindle Books from Your Local Library


Personal thoughts on Occupy Portland from conducting a survey of Occupiers on eviction day(Nov, 12 2011)



A few friends and I had the chance to be in Chapman and Lonsdale squares on the last day that the Occupy Portland movement had their encampment set up.  We were conducting a survey to learn more about the political views of the Occupiers.  Since then I have been asked by a lot of people what I thought and any insights I might have about the movement.

Honestly I'm still trying to put together what I learned from the experience but I thought it would be a good idea to share some of my thoughts.  I am sure this will change as I go over the results of the survey, which we hope to release by the end of the month.

The first thing I noticed was many of the Occupiers supported what would be considered fringe political and social views.  I met many articulate Socialists, Greens, Anarchists and more than a few people who really can't be classified.  The only thing that I thought really united these various political views is that they are what would be considered in American to be fringe political views that tend to be marginalized in the political debate of this nation.

Now just because these ideas are not mainstream in the United States doesn't mean that they are crazy or should not be a part of the political debate.  The issue, as I see it, is more about how we have set up our political institutions.  Since we use a system of First Past the Post Voting, political views that can not get a very large number of votes virtually never win an election or any type of representation.  This results in many peoples political views, especially those in the Occupy movement, never winning an election or seeing an elected official that shares their views.  Which means that many smart people who have legitimate political views, which are represented in other nations, have no representing in the American political system.

Many people I talked with often complained about "the system" and that they didn't have a voice in our government.  Which is completely true in many cases.  I am not sure that this can be blamed directly on corruption or on the 1% holding the people down as many Occupiers argued.  I see it more as a result of how we have set up our political systems and the types of voting systems that we use.  Other nations have made different choices that results in representation of less mainstream parties such as the Liberal Democrats being part of the coalition government in the UK and the Free Democratic Party being in the coalition in Germany.

The exclusion of these politicly views results in people who support the political views of the Greens, Socials, and Libertarians being marginalized and even mocked in our media and civil debate, even though these political philosophies are arguable more developed and consistent than anything the Democratic or Republican party has to offer.

The overall Occupy Wall-street Movement is probably being helped by the fact that it appears that more and more people are feeling that the two parties don't represent them and that a 3rd party is a waste of time.  This is a very rational view of our current political system.  For better of worse our system was set up to exclude political views that are not a part of mainstream culture.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  Most people would probably agree that we would rather not see a KKK party winning elections and being a part of our elected government.  At the same time though this means that groups like the Greens, who have had a large impact on public policy in Germany and much of the EU, is excluded from our political institutions and policy debates.