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June 2011

Nonfiction training: Looking for a few good libraries.

Update, 7/27/2011: Thanks to all who have responded to this post. I'm currently working with several libraries to test this online training stuff and work out technological kinks--if all goes well I hope to offer reasonably priced (and flexibly scheduled) online training services soon! -CR

Would any of you out there in LibraryLand be interested in receiving some training or a general presentation on the wacky and wonderful world of nonfiction books and readers' advisory? I'd like to set up a service whereby we actually use technology for good (you know, not the way Facebook uses it). From working in the library world, I've learned that a lot of training actually goes on at conferences and workshops, and although those can be quite a good time, not everyone has the inclination or the resources to attend those. And for me, right now, CRjr's a little young to go to conferences with me. He already appreciates food, so I'm thinking someday he'll also appreciate my favorites parts of conferences, namely taking breaks from the exhibits to get snacks, and eating out in different cities.

For those reasons, I'm interested in giving presentations online--either through Skype or some other type of web meeting software--and I'd also be interested in working with library staff members to serve as an ongoing resource person for all questions nonfiction. What I need now are a few good libraries to help me test technical kinks and answer a few questions about their training needs and resources: in exchange for your patience and information, I'd provide a free basic nonfiction presentation (or a free workshop on the nonfiction topic of your choice). If interested in helping me test this idea, please leave your name and email in the comments, or contact me directly at [email protected].

And p.s.--if you'd like to see the sort of presentations I give, click on any of the titles under the "Readers' Advisory Programs" heading at the right.

International Anita Brookner Day: The Debut

Anita Brookner's novel The Debut pleased me very much.

Debut And that is the exact phrase I'm sticking with. I did not love this novel. It didn't really change my life. Although I will certainly read more Anita Brookner novels in the future, based on my experience of reading this one, I will not be running out to read everything she's written immediately (as I did with someone like, say, Helene Hanff). And there is something fittingly British, and even middle-aged, about the phrasing of "pleased me very much" that seems just right for this book.

It's a slim novel, at 192 pages, and, like its title, it was Brookner's fiction debut (the original British title was A Start in Life, which, here's a surprise considering my unconditional love for all things British, I think I prefer). It can be called an actual story in only the loosest possible sense: Ruth Weiss, looking back on her life from the vantage point of 40, explores how she came to learn that "her life had been ruined by literature."

The question I kept coming back to was, "But had it?" Or its corollary: "Shouldn't life be ashamed of itself, that it couldn't compare a little more favorably to literature?"

Brookner's protagonist Weiss relates her childhood spent loving books, watching the increasingly (but always quietly) volatile marriage between her parents deteriorate, and her young adulthood spent studying the works of Balzac in Paris. Along the way she tries to make friends, take lovers, explore the City of Light, and get out from under the thumbs of her completely selfish and childish parents (and their cook and servant, Mrs. Cutler, who only encourages their worst impulses).

But the story is not the story here. In fact, I can picture many readers, especially those more in tune with the pace of James Patterson and Lee Child-esque thrillers, becoming distinctly annoyed with the lack of action and overall story arc here. (When I worked in a bookstore, ages ago, my lovely boss loved Brookner's similarly languid novel Hotel du Lac, and I remember eavesdropping on his conversation with a friend who thought it was the biggest snoozefest ever.) So what pleased me about this book?

First and foremost, every now and then there is a line in it that sparkles. Absolutely sparkles. With truth and humor and resignation and all my other favorite human attributes. Lines like this, when Ruth asks a potential love interest to a meal at her house and is stressing out about what to cook for him:

"She did not realize that most men accept invitations to dinner simply in order to know where the next meal is coming from. Her father, who could have told her this, had not." (p. 55.)

Oh, my god, it's brilliant. Centuries of annoying back-and-forth between the male and female sexes and how they do not and never will understand one another, distilled into one depressing sentence that is simultaneously exhilirating because it is steeped in truth. And how the encounter with this man ends is so, so perfect. Again, depressing as hell, and it will make you want to hit the man. But trust me. Those few chapters alone would make the whole book worthwhile, even if the rest of it wasn't.

Iabd The other fascinating thing to contemplate is how much of this novel came from life: Brookner herself has never married, and spent many years caring for her aging parents (as does Ruth Weiss). Does Brookner feel her life was ruined by literature? Or, because she didn't start publishing novels until she was in her fifties, does she feel literature reinvigorated her life? I wonder. And the wondering, combined with the fun of actually reading this novel, made this whole experience very satisfying. Anita Brookner's novel pleased me very much.

This post was written to participate in the International Anita Brookner Day challenge being hosted by Thomas at My Porch Blog.

Tuesday Article: Anna Nicole Smith

For my money, New York magazine is producing some of the finest print journalism out there right now. Consider a recent article on Anna Nicole Smith:

Paw Paw and Lady Love

They took what could have been (was) a sensationalized story and made it into an article that read like the very best (and of course, saddest) Greek tragedy. It's worth a read. (And, for good measure, here's the latest on the court case discussed in the article.)

Oh, eighth grade, you were good times.


You should know I was not always a nonfiction addict. Way back in the hallowed annals of time, I read all the fiction I could find--a lot of fantasy, a lot of novels, even some "classics." When I finally made it through the tunnel of misery that was my grade school experience, I found that the bigger school I went to for seventh and eighth grade was a wonderful haven where I could finally, finally meet some new people. Once I figured out I didn't have enough money to ever be one of the cool kids (this took a good chunk of seventh grade, but give me a break--some people never do figure it out) I realized I could act as nutty as I wanted and say whatever I pleased, which was very freeing. By the time I got to eighth grade, which was, as Frank Sinatra would sing, a very good year, I even had a best friend and sometimes got to stay over at her house.

Sweet I always had a good time at Christina's house, and one of my favorite things to do there was to wake up the next morning before anyone else was up and attack her hallowed shelf containing the entire Sweet Valley High series by Francine Pascal. I'm sure she would have just lent me any of the books, but somehow it was more fun just to try and plow through as many of them as I could in those quiet morning hours. Eighth grade was the very best of times.

So when I saw that good old Francine was publishing an adult novel titled Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later, I HAD to get it. I knew it wasn't going to be any great shakes as literature (and boy, is it not), but I knew the nostalgia would be so, like, worth it.

And it was. I read the first hundred pages, and then skipped to the end and the epilogue that described what happened to all the Sweet Valley characters. I just laughed and laughed. I laughed so much that CRjr, who was playing on the floor next to me, kept looking over and raising his eyebrow (he can't get pincer grasp but he's been raising his eyebrow since birth--I'm so proud) like, what is the crazy old lady chortling about now? Well, this:

"Still, it was nothing like it would have been had it been Jessica. Instinctively, Todd knew that she was the true danger. But he planned never to get close enough to find out how dangerous she really was." (p. 20.)

Oh, Jessica Wakefield, you're so dangerous! And this:

"Lila, her perfect body delectable in the shortest shorts possible and a salmon-colored silk halter top loose enough to slide lightly over her just right, slightly augmented, perky braless breasts..." (p. 29.)

No one, but no one, could describe gorgeous valley girls and boys (and they're all gorgeous in Sweet Valley) and their clothes like Francine Pascal. Who could ever forget Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, the twins with the perfect blonde hair, the blue-green eyes like the ocean, the perfect size sixes, and their matching gold lavalieres?

What's great about this book is it totally reflects what, as an eighth grader, you think adult life is going to be like (glamorous, full of romantic dilemmas, with not a money or health care worry in sight). I'm not going to tell you any of the story; if you read any SWH books in your youth you're going to enjoy finding it out yourselves too much. Have a great time. I know I did.

Tuesday articles: Reviewing the reviewers

The Tuesday articles are a day late this week, as I wanted to post Joanna Kavenna's email answers together.

Cindy Orr over at the Reader's Advisor Online blog recently had the great idea to compare and contrast how many books are given "starred" reviews in librarian-ish review publications (Booklist, Library Journal, Publishers' Weekly, Kirkus) vs. how many of those same titles ended up on the year's "best of" lists. It was really kind of an interesting project, and she draws some interesting conclusions:

Reviewing the Reviews: Part 1

and, Reviewing the Reviews, Part 2

I wrote an article for the series about, what else?, nonfiction. Here it is: Reviewing the Reviews, Part 3.

Book Menage: Joanna Kavenna's answers, part 2.

Today I have the rest of author Joanna Kavenna's emailed answers to some of our Book Menage questions.

Question: Did you keep notes during pregnancy and right after labor, or were you just able to dredge up the details of labor (which everyone seemed to concur were accurate) from memory?

Kavenna's answer: "I have always written diaries and copious notes, so I did have lots of writing about my own experiences of labour. However, it was very important to me that Brigid's labour wasn't the same as my experiences of labour.  I didn't think I'd be able to exercise any sort of editorial judgement if I was just writing up what happened to me. Also I felt it wasn't really fair on my children, to use the stories of their birth in my fiction, without asking them if they minded. So I created Brigid's labour from an amalgam of stories friends had told me, stories I had read. Inevitably, though, I drew on my own recollections of that relentless, escalating pain, and also on what I mentioned above, that dreamlike state, the sense that what you are doing in labour is both completely commonplace, billions of women have done it, and yet utterly bizarre at the same time. And how ordinary reality becomes dreamlike." 

Question: How do you pronounce your last name? Kuh-ven-na or like "Cavanaugh"?
Answer: "Your first guess is the right one - Kuh-venn-a. It's a Norwegian word, anglicised."
Our sincere thanks to Joanna Kavenna, author of the novels The Birth of Love and Inglorious, as well as the nonfiction title The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule.

Book Menage answers: Joanna Kavenna

Good morning! Does everyone still remember our book menage, where we discussed Sherwin Nuland's The Doctor's Plague and Joanna Kavenna's The Birth of Love? We raised a few questions for Ms. Kavenna, and after I emailed her with those, she was gracious enough to reply. I'll post the answer to one question today, and to the other tomorrow. And our thanks to Joanna Kavenna!

Our Question: Did you purposely contrast the "doctor's intervention" in Semmelweis's time and modern day intervention in the form of Caesarean sections, both of which result(ed) in higher mortality rates? (I think this reader had in mind that c-sections carry an increased risk of danger for the mother.)

The answer: "I was very interested in good medicine and bad medicine, or rather the idea that there are medical procedures and then flawed individuals trying to decide when to apply them. Medicine is very interesting to me because a wrong theory or wrong action can be completely devastating and even lead to the deaths of patients. My own equivocations, and those of most people, are less significant in their effects.  So in the Semmelweis, Brigid Hayes and future narratives I was looking at scientific conviction, and even at times dogmatism. The doctors in the Semmelweis narrative thought they were right, and that Semmelweis was wrong, and yet it turned out the whole thing was inverted, that he was right all along. When I was reading about the professional resistance to his theories, it amazed me that some of his colleagues refused even to contemplate the possibility that he might be right. As with the present day, there's a slender distinction between having convictions, being able to take decisions, and becoming rigid in your certainties, refusing to change. 
I wrote The Birth of Love after my own experiences of birth, in hospital.  Towards the end of the birth of my first child, the doctors said I might well have to have a caesarean, made me sign forms, wheeled me off to the operating theatre.  In the end, I didn't need a caesarean after all, but there was an interval when I was lying on an operating table, completely inert, my lower body paralysed by an epidural, with these doctors coming in and out, talking to each other, or sometimes to me. I was lying under a bright light in a sterile room, everyone wearing surgical gowns, myself - my body - the passive centre of it all. Even though I knew the doctors were doing their best to keep me informed, were really being highly professional and kind, there was still something very uncomfortable about the whole thing, losing control of your body, being surrounded by masked figures. It was very strange, like a bad dream.  And later, it made me think about all those women - say, in Semmelweis's hospital in Vienna, who were examined by one doctor after another, and not really told what was happening to them, just that it was 'the best thing', and how, doubtless, those poor women had submitted to it all, because they didn't want to endanger the lives of their babies. And yet, in the end, the doctors were infecting them with childbed fever, unnecessarily, because Semmelweis had already realised how it could be prevented. So much human suffering, so many mothers who died in agony as their babies cried beside them and so many children deprived of their mothers, and all because of a few rigid-minded individuals, who clung to what they regarded as the 'facts', which turned out to be wrong. 
I didn't want to say that all medical intervention in birth is intrinsically bad - it can often be life-saving and completely necessary. But I was very interested in that basic dilemma -  that doctors need to be able to act, without being paralysed by a sense of uncertainty, and yet certainty can become dangerous, even fatal, when it becomes dogmatic and unyielding." 
Tune in tomorrow for another answer from Joanna Kavenna!

Women in Finance (Books) Week: Friday edition.

Well, I didn't really succeed in my quest to find a good, understandable personal finance book by a woman writer. I'll keep looking, though.

Assets The best book by a woman I've seen remains a title I reviewed about a year ago, titled Does This Make My Assets Look Fat?: A Woman's Guide to Finding Financial Empowerment and Success. The author used an annoying dieting analogy (figuring it was something every woman could relate to) as her "hook," but I chose to overlook that because it was the first finance book I read in a long time that I wanted to re-read and take some notes from. This is part of what I said about it in a review for Library Journal:

"What might get lost in this extended metaphor are her definitions, explanations, and suggestions, which are comprehensive and excellent. In addition to covering the basics, the author (a financial advisor with JPMorgan Chase) provides surprisingly in-depth information about investment strategies. Of the books reviewed here, it's the only one I'll give to a friend with investing questions--although only as a loaner, since I also want to keep it."

I'm also on the hold list for The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy, which Unruly Reader liked. I'll let you know how that one goes.

Women in Finance (Books) Week: Filling your "purse."

Welcome to today's installment of Women in Finance (Books) Week!

Purse Today's book is yet another purple one, titled A Purse of Your Own: An Easy Guide to Financial Security, by Deborah Owens. As you can tell by the title (and the book's cover), this is yet another book that thinks layering some analogies on the problem will help women understand finance better. Owens's shtick is to get women to think of their entire financial picture as their "purse."

I don't own or carry a purse, so as you can imagine, this analogy was not as helpful to me as it might be to some.

But, once you get past the analogy stuff, and the author's introductory chapters about "wealthy habits" and "wealthy visions" (she's a big fan, as are most personal finance writers, of helping make yourself wealthy by believing you can BECOME wealthy), there's actually some interesting stuff here. For one thing, she does explain the "Rule of 72" (also, coincidentally, one of my father's favorite tools for understanding numbers): "This simple equation helps you to determine a rough estimate of the length of time it will take to double your money in an investment. Simply divide the number 72 by the annual interest rate or return on your investment." (p. 34.) Find something that pays 4% interest annually? It will take 18 years to double your money (72 divided by 4 equals 18). When authors share this rule, it always makes me feel a bit more secure in their knowledge.

This book also boasts one of the nicer explanations I've seen on bonds, and she doesn't do a bad job with stocks, either. I guess I can put up with a little nonsense about purses to get to some good (if still pretty basic) information.

Women in Finance (Books) Week: Stereotypes Abound

One of my least favorite "tricks" listed in personal finance books for saving money is to "cut out buying your daily latte."

Pretty much everybody says it, and it makes me nuts every time. I don't know what kind of glamorous life these personal finance writers think I'm living, but I can assure you it doesn't include daily lattes.

Broke In today's entry in Women in Finance (Books) Week, we have the latte issue right up front in the title: Nancy Trejos's Hot (Broke) Messes: How to Have Your Latte and Drink It Too. Trejos is a personal finance columnist for The Washington Post, which is amazing, because this woman has no idea how to handle money:

"In January 2005, when I was twenty-eight, I bought an overpriced condo during the height of the real estate boom with my then-boyfriend, later my fiance, and then had to sell it at a loss two years later after we broke up. When I turned thirty, I bought a Volkswagen Beetle that I really couldn't afford because I got sick of my old car and wanted to drive around in something cute...After another bad breakup in April 2007, I blew all sorts of cash on a crazy trip through California..." (p. 6.)

Now, I don't really care what this woman does in her personal life or with her money. But she is a PERSONAL FINANCE COLUMNIST for The Washington Post? How does something like that happen?

This book is also hot pink.

This book is basic in the extreme: use your credit card responsibly, live within your means, be smarter with how you handle your money, especially in relationships, etc. It's really more of a memoir (she also details her experiences working with a financial planner) than a how-to, and unless you really need an introduction to how to control your finances, there will be nothing here for you. And, of course, there's this really annoying bit on page 197, when Trejos is well into (supposedly) taking back control of her finances:

"Over coffee at Starbucks one morning, Christine [her financial planner] and I reviewed my contributions..."

Well, as long as it was coffee, and not a latte.

Tuesday Articles: Diana Athill is the best.

We interrupt Women in Finance (Books) Week for a literary Tuesday Article post.

Last week's big literary story was author V.S. Naipaul stating that no women writers are his literary match.

But my favorite part of the story was longtime Naipaul editor Diana Athill's response to his remarks. My favorite line there is at the end: "And Athill has previously said that when she needed cheering up, 'I used to tell myself, At least I'm not married to Vidia.'" Ha.*

Full disclosure: I love Diana Athill.

Women in Finance (books) Week: Suze Orman

Recently I've been reading finance books by and for women. I've been doing this for a few reasons:

1. I honestly enjoy business books, which is weird, because I have no business sense or skills whatsoever.
2. I've been looking for anything that can explain to me how people actually make money in the stock market. I just don't get it.
3. I am a woman.

The first thing you learn about finance books for women is that they must have pink or purple covers. (More on this later in the week.) The second thing you learn is that there are a lot of them. One of the best-known authors in this field is Suze Orman.*

Suze Orman is one of those people who, if I'm flipping through channels and find her on PBS or a news program, I can't look away. I think that's largely because she is a spectacular public speaker. (I'm interested in public speaking and how best to do it as well.) She's always immaculately dressed and made up. She uses her hands emphatically while she talks, and when she moves across the stage, she moves deliberately. She makes good eye contact, varies her pitch and tone, and when she answers questions from audience members, you can tell they feel like they're the only person in the room with her, just having a conversation. It's always a performance. But I digress. I also enjoy watching Orman because, although I don't usually learn anything new from her, most of what she says makes sense to me.

Her new book is titled The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream, which is a genius title, when you think about it. The "new American dream," of course, has more to do with making do with less, etc., although Orman spins this with a genius tagline: "live below your means but within your needs." This one is for investors at a very basic stage in their lives**: those who are trying to use their credit cards less and still need to figure out how to have an emergency fund and save up for big purchases. For better or worse, I'm beyond that stage. (Well, not really in that I have any money, but I do know I have to pay off my credit card balance every month, and have known that since I got a credit card all those millennia ago.)

But I will still read her chapters on 529s and saving for college, because she does have a knack for making things pretty understandable. I'll peruse her chapters on retirement planning. But for the most part her books are for people just starting to think about their finances; her chapters here include tips for renting vs. owning your home, how to talk about finances with your kids, and how to start retirement planning and saving.

The bottom line: I get a kick out of ol' Suze (Mr. CR and I like to look at our pay stubs and crack "live below your means, but within your needs" to each other, and then laugh, bitterly), but she's not really offering a lot of high-level investing tips.

*And thankfully most of Suze's books do NOT have pink or purple covers.

**The first subheading in her "Advice for the Unemployed" chapter is "Cut your spending immediately." Really? Do people really need to be told this?

Tina Fey is not funny.

I know, everyone else thinks she is, including my sister. And it hurts me to disagree with my sister, if not with everyone else. But I've been saying it for years and I'm sticking with it: Tina Fey is not funny.

Bossy Checking out her new memoir Bossypants from the library was my last-ditch effort to find her funny, so I could agree with my sister and all would once again be right in my familial circle. But I can't do it. I read the first few chapters, some bits in the middle, and then some of the excruciating conclusion when she gave the play-by-play (seemingly minute by unending minute) of her stint impersonating Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. Now, I'm not saying she's not talented. Or a bad person. Or that she wasn't just spectacularly in the right time and place to be an unnerving lookalike for a famous politician whose accent is really easy to impersonate. All I'm saying is: she's just not that funny.

Okay, well, there's one funny bit in the very beginning, when she describes how her mother told her about menstruation by giving her a box of Modess pads and leaving the room; evidently Modess used to put pamphlets in their "feminine products" in which a fake correspondence between friends was supposed to help illuminate the mysteries of the process. Here's Fey's re-creation of that pamphlet, in a sidebar:

"Dear Pam, I'm supposed to go to a pool party this week, but my 'Aunt Blood' is still in town. Can I go?

Dear Tabitha, Of course you can still go! Modess makes great feminine protection products that are so thick and puffy, you'll be super comfortable sitting on that bench near the pool telling everyone you're sick." (p. 14.)

Okay, I got a mild giggle out of that, but that's about it. (And by the way, I personally think "Aunt Flo" would have been funnier than "Aunt Blood," but maybe AF was too obvious? Copyrighted?)

So, even though I should find Tina Fey funny, and there's lots of bits in this book about being an older lady with a baby, which I should enjoy, as a similarly older lady with a baby, there's just not that much for me here. I can't even get myself to track down any bits with Alec Baldwin, although I LOVE Alec Baldwin. It's just going back to the library.

Update (before I posted, even!): Unruly Reader just posted a review of this (audio)book on her blog, and it hurts me to disagree with Unruly. So I went back and read one of the last chapters, on breastfeeding, which, by rights, I should find HI-larious, as my experience with breastfeeding made (makes) me think my breasts should be revoked by some sort of "Real Women" judging panel. I can't resist the pun: I got a few titters out of the chapter, but that's about it. Yes, I'm just not that funny. But neither is Tina Fey.

Wow, I forgot dating was THIS bad.

I'm a total sucker for investigative/"year in the life" books. Even when I don't particularly enjoy them, I almost always feel compelled to finish them. This was the case, this past weekend, with Rachel Machacek's The Science of Single: One Woman's Grand Experiment in Modern Dating, Creating Chemistry, and Finding Love.

Single Machacek, who lives in Washington DC and works for a trade magazine, decided that she would undertake a year's worth of power dating--leaving no stone unturned* in her search for "the one." During her quest she enrolled in online dating services, attended singles events and mixers, paid dating services**, committed to dating in other cities, read a pile of dating advice books, and hired dating coaches.

I'll let you read it and find out if she finds her "One," but let me just say this: if the guys she dates are representative, wow, it's a scary dating world out there. Although I wasn't crazy about the author as a character (she did seem a little picky, I'll admit it, and her insistence on immediate and overpowering chemistry was a bit off-putting after a while), she did make me laugh a few times. Consider:

 "He's a good kisser, but the chemistry has waned at exactly the same rate that my buzz has worn off. It's gone by the time he goes for the boob grab, awkwardly reaching under my seat belt that's still fastened. There's a time and place for boob grabbing, and when you are thirty-five years old, you should know when and where that is." (p. 38.)

Ha. (Funny sad.) Although I can't find the page right now, later on she decides that guys should really be taught the aforementioned proper place and time in health class, as they are all helpless at mastering a properly timed boob grab. I totally agree.

I'm sitting here trying to think of some pithy way to sum this one up, but nothing's really coming to me. It's that kind of read--okay but not really anything to write home (or on one's blog) about.

*It seems like this literally sometimes, as many of the guys she dates seem to have slithered out from under a primordial rock somewhere.

**She paid one company, It's Just Lunch, $1300 for fourteen date match-ups. Holy cow. I need to get into the dating advice business.

Tuesday Article: The Injectable Vasectomy

Evidently Mr. CR is well-versed in my "why isn't there a male equivalent of the birth control pill" gripe, because over the weekend he said to me, "Hey, there's an article in Wired magazine about male birth control." And so there is:

The Injectable Vasectomy

Well, it's about time, I say. I've always wondered why feminists were so happy with birth control methods that so often carry serious side effects for women, rather than agitating for more methods for men to take care of that on (pun intended) their end.

Poor dolphin.

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (and Other Useful Guides) the funniest book ever?

Dolphin Well, I don't know about funniest book EVER. But I did laugh all the way through it, and Mr. CR had to show me the cartoon he thought was the funniest. Mr. CR has a poker face that would get him through any televised poker tournament--without sunglasses--so when he thinks something is funny enough to tell me about it, and then laugh himself, trust me, it's funny.

The book is a collection of cartoons drawn by a guy who calls himself The Oatmeal (really: Matthew Inman). Luckily, a lot of his cartoons are online, but there's just something fun about reading them in a book (you don't have to wait for them to load, for one thing). This also makes it handy for me to show you one of his cartoons (one of my favorites; I looked for Mr. CR's but couldn't find it online):

What it's like to own an Apple product.

Tee hee. This new one also made me giggle like a five-year-old.

So yeah, read this one. It's good for a solid half-hour of mindless giggles, and sometimes you need that at the end of the day. I could see this being a good graduation present too, although let's face it, the best present for graduation (any occasion, really) is still cold hard cash.