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[Comments] (1) Only to Find Gutenberg's Bible: Yesterday we planned to go to the Transit Museum in Brooklyn. Instead we went to the research library (the one with the lions) and saw the handwritten Declaration of Independence. It's riddled with apostrophe errors! ("laying it's foundation on such principles") What would my mother think? Incidentally, that link does not have the exact version we saw, but it's close.

Among the topics I need to write about is my antipathy towards libraries that don't let you browse the stacks. But the really huge libraries with closed stacks also tend to be the ones that have things on display like a freaking Gutenberg Bible. Just right there in a case in the middle of an otherwise boring room. Do people know about this? I didn't.

To overcome my closed-stack anguish we went across the street to the mid-Manhattan library and checked out some books. This was great, especially the self-service machine you use to check the books out. But on the way out there was a different form of anguish, a lengthly fracas with the guy who makes sure you don't take books out of the library without checking them out. That's the totality of this poor guy's job, so when I triggered his "unchecked books being removed from library" alarm he went right to work on me.

"You need to check those out." "I did check them out." "Sir, those are library books. You need to check them out." "I did check them out. Do you want to see the receipts?" "Sir, you need to check those books out." "What do you do to check them out besides use the checkout machine?" "You can't take books without checking them out." Yes, I KNOW HOW A LIBRARY WORKS. (I didn't say that. I only say rude things like that afterwards, in weblog entries.)

Eventually he looked at the receipts and conceded that I had probably checked out my library books, deviously disguising myself as an honest citizen and cheating him out of a juicy apprehension. Paperwork beats alarm in this rock-paper-scissors. Sumana suggests that the self-service checkout machine demagnetizes or magnetizes some RFID-like object in the book, and I'd picked my books back up before the machine had had a chance to do that.

Then we decided to go to the transit museum for real, so we took the subway. Sumana has a greedy algorithm for taking the subway through a bottleneck, but one of its implicit assumptions is that the subway graph looks like San Francisco's, with few paths through a bottleneck. Now that we've moved, the algorithm needs generalization. The end result is that, due to stereotypically unintelligible service announcements, we ended up near the Brooklyn Bridge with no simple subway path to the museum. So we just walked the bridge. Which was fun, but once we got to the museum Sumana sat down on a bench and fell asleep, leaving me to explore the museum by myself.

This entry is long, so I'll publish it and write another one.

Brooklyn Transit Museum: This is a museum in an unused subway station. The subway level has a switching tower with a live view of the nearby subway lines. In fact, the whole subway level is full of old restored subway cars. Which is awesome. You can time travel throughout the twentieth century by going from car to car.

The cars were mostly decorated with period advertising placards, which were pretty interesting, but which destroyed the time-travel metaphor in a Vonnegutian way. Instead of having ads from a specific time, each car had a collection of ads from the entirety of its run, all unstuck in time and smushed together in one car. There were WWII-era ads next to Prohibition-era ads, including one that claimed "One day all women will vote... for [brand of soap]". I don't think that ever happened. Incidentally, the soap ad was one of those ads that features terrible and irrelevant racist cartoons.

Another soap ad had a Depression-era mother saying, "My children must purify hands before eating." Well, I hope your children enjoy starving, since nothing they do will ever be good enough for you.

I walked around for a while thinking these cynical thoughts. Not helped by an ad for subway ad space I'd seen upstairs in a historical exhibit, which claimed that subway riders "have learned to believe implicitly in the advertising displayed in the New York City Surface Cars because it merits and invites confidence."

This attitude was mocked by a contemporaneous newspaper cartoon where, having nowhere else to put ads, the conductor was looping signs over the necks of the passengers. It was from the golden age of political cartoons, when there were lots of strange details but not the loopy word balloons full of cursive dialogue that's poorly blocked and illegible, and not worth reading since it just explains in great detail "Oh! The Situation depicted in this cartoon, though considered by the reader a japish Metaphor, is something that truly does affect my corporeal Form!"

The truth is that most of the subway ads did, and do, not merit or inspire confidence. The golden age of the subway ads were the 1950s, a time when advertisers had forgotten that words had connotations as well as denotations, when you had ridiculous claims like "84 out of 100 women prefer men who wear hats" (an ad for hats, or for men?) and needed gorgeous MAD magazine-style paintings to make up for them.

Trivia: the original name of the Brooklyn Dodgers was the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers, answering my decades-old question of what the Dodgers were dodging. Also, an old sign once posted near an elevator says "Meddlers Take Notice" in a preemptive anti-Scooby-Doo move.

: Sumana's reading a Dave Barry book. Yesterday she read a bit of it to me about how Abner Doubleday "invented a game that included virtually all of the elements of modern-day baseball, including Bob Costas and the song 'Who Let the Dogs Out'. This led to the Civil War."

"Actually there is a connection between Abner Doubleday and the Civil War," I said, ever the vigilant connection-spotter and nitpicker. I looked it up in Bully for Brontosaurus and, yes, Abner Doubleday did start the Civil War. He was a Union officer who fired the first shot from Fort Sumter.

Actually his Confederate counterpart is the one who really started the war, but it's more true to say that he started the Civil War than to say he invented baseball.

Ruby Cookbook Promotion: The Ruby Cookbook is either available or almost available, depending on who you ask (Amazon sales rank right now: an amazing 7230; incidentally, authors, I have a small script that records and graphs a book's Amazon rank, since I know you're all obsessed with that). So it's time to start promoting the sucker.

I wrote an article for the O'Reilly Network (which I think is technically not part of O'Reilly, somehow) about how we tested the code in the Cookbook. Which I should nudge the editors about. Lucas lives in Portland, so he doesn't have to pay for a plane ticket to go to OSCON and talk peoples' ears off about the book.

My ill-formed plan was to do a virtual book tour: guest-post on technical weblogs about the coolest recipes from the book. Other people have done this in the past, notably Greg Knauss, but I don't think it's been done with a technical book before. And I never actually emailed anyone about doing this, so it's probably too late now. I got an invitation to join the O'Reilly Ruby group weblog, so maybe I'll just post once a week on there about one of the cool recipes.

Does anyone else have ideas for book promotion? I want to focus on my current project but I should set aside some time for selling what I've already written.

Mars Needs B-Roll: I forgot to mention that if you ever go to the Union Square famer's market on a Saturday, there'll always be at least three camera crews filming. Some of them are obviously students doing assignments, but for the rest of them, how many puff pieces about the farmer's market does one city, even a city of 8 million people, need? Is it all going to stock footage? "Man with rowdy child buys arugula (0:32)"


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