Originally: Wednesday, May 10, 2006 (After a Long Absence)
What constitutes my being these days?
I'm an online bookseller, struggling to make it pay decently.
It often seems like I'm just shuffling around; as for intellectual life, I pick up a book, read it for a while, then go on to another, and maybe back on another day to a previous one. It feels pretty aimless. Every now and then I go to a history seminar and get somewhat inspired. I hope to say something useful to the speaker.
Books looked at recently: have almost read to the end Pandaemonium by Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Seems like very good ruminations on the influence of ethnicity on recent history, and how ethnicity has been given short shrift in political analysis. Marxism has focused on economic class as the Rosetta Stone of history. Liberalism has believed too much in the rational individual, and market forces, which are seen as largely benign. Enough for now on Pandaemonium.
Not too long ago I was readhing Thomas Browne, a physician in the time of Cromwell and the Restoration. This was influenced by the course I took over a year ago on the History of Communication, an experience that turned out badly, as due to the difficulty of making a living, I found myself at a critical point in the class, unable to spend time writing a paper, which led to one more incomplete. If I ever salvage my graduate school career, it will take almost a miracle.
I also read, with some pleasure, On the Shoulders of Giants by Robert Merton, a playful exploration of Newton's saying "If I see far, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants and its antecedents, perhaps going back to the classical era -- certainly going far back into medieval times.
For entertainment, I've read Depth Takes a Holiday by Sandra Tsing Loh. It is for some reason one of a couple of dozen books that seem to be climbing the stairs, trying to escape the basement or "book dungeon".
Not long ago I was working on scripts or programs to identify past customers most worth contacting to make suggestions about books I have that they might want, and to facilitate finding books related to those they'd ordered in the past, but where in the million files on my computer IS that code? I have no idea. I pulled out of that sort of work abruptly to bail out the ship by putting lots of books on line.