Congress is often criticized for getting nothing done.
But, here's a shout-out for the bureaucrats in D.C. for putting together a reallly useful public service.
Andrew Weber at the Law Library of Congress has reported that three types of e-mail alerts are now being sent out to those who request them.
You can now get an e-mail that a specific member of Congress has either sponsored or cosponsored legislation. Another type of alert is a daily summary of the text, cosponsor or action on a particular bill that you're watching. And the third type of alert lets you know when a new issue of the Congressional Record is available at Congress.gov.
If you've ever tried to figure out what your congressional representative is actually doing, here's a great way to find out without getting bogged down in the flotsam and jetsam of congressional jibber-jabber.
I'd say that nine times out of ten when I see a move that's based on a book, I come away thinking that the book was better.
Not so with "American Sniper," the story of Texan Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL credited with the most kills in U.S. military history.
When I read the book a couple of years ago right after it came out, I thought Kyle did himself a great disservice. He came off as something less than a man to be revered and honored.
On Saturday, my wife and I went to see the movie at the new theater in Kyle, and director Clint Eastwood painted a portrait of Chris Kyle that was much more sympathetic. He made Kyle seem like a good old boy, which may well be what he was before his life ended.
Eastwood has produced an excellent tribute of a movie. I recommend it; skip the book.
The question asked by the headline writer for the op-ed piece in the Sunday New York Times by Susan Pinker is one I've wondered about and sought an answer to: "Can Students Have Too Much Tech?"
I have always thought the more cogent question was: "Can Students Succeed Without A Lot of Tech?"
Pinker draws on her own experience in research and those of colleagues to assert that kids who are given a lot of tech resources use them to -- guess what! -- play games, look at movies, text, etc., etc., everything but study.
Furthermore, "we still have no proof that the newly acquired, tech-centric skills that students learn in the classroom transfer to novel problems that they need to solve in other areas."
So, the news about high-tech purchases for schools is mostly bad.
Here's the good, according to Pinker: "... technology can work only when it is deployed as a tool by a terrific, highly trained teacher. ... To the extent that such a teacher can benefit from classroom technology, he or she could get it."
I'm not sure what that would be, though.
So, before everyone runs out and gives iPads to middle-schoolers, stop! Do the research first!
Among the many, many things I just don't understand is this: How in the world do publishers price their books and ebooks?
The Douglas County Libraries at Castle Rock, Colo., has just released its February pricing comparison for 25 popular works of fiction and nonfiction in both paper and ebook categories. The report compares library pricing versus consumer pricing and prices.
Library prices for paper books are shown for two vendors and consumer prices are shown for Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Ebook prices are for libraries and for consumers. Overdrive is one of the ebook vendors, and, again, the ebook vendors are Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
So, what's so hard to understand?
Well, let's look at an example or two, and you see if you can unravel the mystery:
The book Unbroken is available to libraries for about $15 per copy. Consumers will pay almost $17 at Amazon and a little more than that at Barnes & Noble. The ebook version is $48 for libraries and $4.99 at both book-sellers.
A paperback copy of American Sniper is about $9.60 to libraries, but about $11.50 for consumers. Overdrive will pay $9.99 for the ebook, and Amazon will charge $5.90.
Gray Mountain in hardback is about $16 for libraries, but $85 to Overdrive and $9.99 for an Amazon ebook.
In other words, pricing is all over the place. I can't even begin to find a pattern or paradigm.
But, from what I see here, libraries aren't getting any bargains, either from those sellling paper books or from those selling ebooks.
The library will publish its first-ever book before Christmas, and you can be part of it.
Just write something about or set in or having to do with the people of Wimberley, and send it in and we'll see if it will be fit to print.
Works of fiction, nonfiction, essays, interviews, memoirs, poems -- anything goes as long as it's written and submitted by the deadline, which is Sept. 1, and in the proper format, which is electronic, and meets the length requirements. Maximum word length is 3,000 words.
The book will be called "Wimberley Voices," and it will be a softback.
I'll be the editor, so if you have any questions come by the library or give me a call.
Now's your chance to get into print.
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