Ben Crowder

Monthly Archives: September 2011Page 2 of 2 (17 posts)

New books page design

My books page (ebooks, that is) used to look like this:

Not horrible, but man, it was getting long. And the thumbnails were so small. And the download links were hard to see (and click). So today at lunch I redesigned the page, splitting it out into separate category pages:

I also added breadcrumbs, something I should’ve done a long time ago. And I’ll have some new ebooks up soon, including some Mormon Texts Project books (I’ve, um, been a slacker).

(The reason I post stuff like this, by the way, is mainly to keep a record of the design history of the site.)

Book of Mormon word frequency charts

Because I’m a language nerd who loves the Book of Mormon, I’ve put together a few charts showing the top 400 words by frequency in the Book of Mormon in Spanish, French, German, and Italian.

(There are two pages, which is why you only see 150 words here.)

Methodology

For each language I downloaded the text from scriptures.lds.org and removed the HTML tags, then ran a modified version of my friend Chad’s text cleaner script to get a sorted list of the words by frequency (lowercased so I wouldn’t get duplicate words). I then recapitalized the words (proper names for all four languages, and with German I also capitalized the nouns as they’re used in the text) and put it all into InDesign.

My rule of thumb was that I want this to show the words as they appear in the text, so I haven’t consolidated variant forms, and in French I’ve kept the elided articles separate. Basically, if you want to read the Book of Mormon in any of these languages, these lists will show you what words appear and the forms they appear in.

I’m passingly familiar with these languages but I’m nowhere near fluent, so if any of you happen to spot errors, let me know.

Seventeen Steps

A new-ish poem: Seventeen Steps, a short narrative poem I wrote four years ago but didn’t get around to polishing and finishing till today. I think you could classify it as fantasy. (Or crazy.)

In other news, I’m wrapping up revisions on two new short stories (“Tyrk” and “Blueprints”) and I’ll have them up soon on the writing page.

Bookkeeper

About a month ago I was thinking about how I want to read more long, hard books — specifically The Brothers Karamazov. Back in college I plowed through Don Quixote in a week for my Comp Lit class (and I still think that’s slightly insane), and I read lots of other long books as well, all because I had a deadline.

Enter Bookkeeper. My coworker Chad and I have been working on it for the past couple weeks and it’s finally ready for an initial release. And we’re super excited.

What Bookkeeper is

It’s a reading goal tracker. You give it a book, the number of pages in the book, a start date, and a deadline, along with which days you’d like to read (since sometimes you’ll want to take weekends off or what have you), and Bookkeeper will tell you how many pages per day you have to read to hit your goal. If you miss a day, or if you read ahead, it’ll adjust that number (the red line on the chart).

Where to get it

Right now it’s just available on Github (it’s a PHP/MySQL app), and there are installation instructions in the README. It uses Google Accounts for authentication.

I’m not planning to host a public instance of it, at least not right now, but if anyone wants to do that, let me know so I can forward people to it. And of course anyone is welcome to fork the code and do whatever they want with it.

How to use it

You add books, then whenever you read, you update the page number (in the upper right). And that’s about it. The list of tabs on the left shows you your current books; the All Books tab will let you also see books you’ve finished and books you’ve hidden (for when you temporarily put a book on the back burner).

On the Account page (the link’s at the lower right) you can export your book/entry data as JSON. We figured it’d be nice to have some easy way to get your data out. (And the link doesn’t change, so you could set up a cronjob to curl the JSON weekly or something if you really want regular backups.)

The future

As we make Bookkeeper more social going forward, we’re thinking it’d be cool to build book recommendations based at least partly on reading curves. Looking at my Well of Ascension reading curve up there, you can see that it starts to go up quickly and it’s ahead of the curve, which pretty much means I really got into the book and must have liked it. That’s not a surefire method for determining which books are good and which aren’t, but we’re interested in seeing what kinds of recommendations we can get from reading data like this.

More screenshots

Even more recent reads

Apparently my internal clock spurs me to write these posts every three months. It’s not intentional.

Anyway, there aren’t as many books this time. I’ll talk more about this later on in the post, but during July and August I was reading some chunky epic fantasy novels: The Name of the Wind (around 700 pages) and Mistborn: The Final Empire (around 650 pages) and the first half of Mistborn: Well of Ascension (around 800 pages). But we’ll go through the list in order:

Smiles to Go, by Jerry Spinelli. Pretty good. I can’t remember anything about it, though, so maybe it wasn’t that good after all. Not memorable, anyway. (Or maybe my memory is just shot. It has been three months since I read it.)

Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, by Orson Scott Card. A second reading. I liked it more this time (the first was over ten years ago when I was a whippersnapper). The older I get, the more I like the way Card incorporates politics and sociology into his fiction. (I loved the Ender’s Shadow series for that reason, actually.) And time travel is pretty much always awesome. (Except in the movie version of A Sound of Thunder.) Anyway, I think I read that Card is writing a second book in the Pastwatch series, about Noah and the Flood. Hopefully that’s still in the works.

A Lion and a Lamb, by Rand Packer. A Church history sort of book, about a missionary couple (Willard and Rebecca Bean) called to serve in Palmyra. The writing is a little clunky in places but it’s a good read.

Sean Griswold’s Head, by Lindsey Leavitt. Realistic YA. Really fun book, great voice. I think I may have teared up at a couple parts, too.

An Abundance of the Heart, by Arthur Henry King. A collection of essays by AHK about all sorts of things. I particularly love anything he writes that has to do with literature (and thankfully most of the essays do). Reading AHK makes me want to read more classics. You’d think that I’d act on that desire, but no — instead, my next book was…

The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey. It’s about monsters. And it’s icky and gross and dark (but with a sense of humor). Don’t read it if you’re queasy. That said, I liked it. I’ve been meaning to get around to reading the sequel (The Curse of the Wendigo) but haven’t yet.

Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury. Great book on writing. I read it in an hour or two and loved it. I think I’ll be rereading this one every few years.

Half Magic, by Edward Eager. A delightful book ala E. Nesbit’s stories. (The children in them reference Nesbit’s stories, actually.) I intended to read more of Eager but got carried away with the next couple of books on my list. I do plan to go back and read the rest of his books, though. They’re fun and charming.

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. This book is brilliant. One of the best tales I’ve read. It’s long but oh man, it’s worth it — the story is gripping (the man’s a genius) and the language is beautiful and poetic and eminently readable. I want to write like Pat Rothfuss. Name of the Wind is easily on the same level of Lord of the Rings (but easier to read). For years I’ve avoided epic fantasy, mainly because I see books like the Wheel of Time series and they’re insanely long and you could fit a whole family of YA books inside one of those monsters, but I kept hearing rave reviews of Name of the Wind and I decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I did. I love The Name of the Wind. It’s a keeper. (Content-wise, there’s occasional profanity and innuendo, and there’s a PG-13 scene near the end.)

Mistborn: The Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson. My stint with Name of the Wind got me thinking I ought to try more epic fantasy, so I picked up Mistborn (which I’ve owned for years but hadn’t ever read). And I got sucked in. I’m now halfway through the sequel, Well of Ascension, and I’ve already checked out Hero of Ages so I can start it as soon as I finish Well. So yes, I’m liking it. A lot. Epic fantasy (at least as exemplified by Rothfuss and Sanderson) is way cooler than I thought it was. I stand corrected. (I was more into urban fantasy and science fiction the past several years.)

After I finish the Mistborn series, I’m planning to finally get to Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (which I’ve also owned for years but have never read) and read some Ursula K. LeGuin (ditto). And The Wise Man’s Fear (sequel to Name of the Wind), once it comes in on hold for me.