Sunday, October 28, 2012

Eviction Notice: What You Can Do Now

Read the Printed Word!

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Hi, bookstore friends. As most of you know, we were served an eviction notice this week. So many of you have asked, "how can we help?" Your encouragement and support shines a bright light for us on a discouraging time. We worked so hard, and with your support, we reached out from a small, Main St. basement place to build a community bookstore. For nearly six years, we worked to build the bookstore
to be a place for everyone in the community to find something they needed, for everyone in the community to have something they enjoyed. When we got the opportunity to move into the beautiful big building at 25 Main St, we took a big risk moving, but we knew it would be worth it, for all of us!

Now, what we need -- for us, and for our community -- is the chance to negotiate further with our landlord and with our co-tenants. It is not just the eviction that is devastating: it is the timing. It is the terms which have been dictated to us. It is the accusations against us which need to be further examined and discussed.

What we are asking for is this: worst case scenario, we have to leave the new spot at 25 Main Street, before the end of the three-year lease we signed (we're only 7 months into that), but we are able to negotiate terms that won't kill us -- financially, physically, and emotionally -- so that the transition to another space works better for everyone involved.

Best case scenario: our landlord and/or co-tenants agree to negotiation, mediation, or even arbitration, so we can all be a part of laying down terms that work for us to continue to work together, longer.

The bald truth is this: we have been told we must choose between fighting for our reputation/our right to stay in this location for a reasonable length of time OR we must choose not to fight, and we must leave in no less than 2 months' time.

We cannot vacate 50,000 books and all of our shelves and infrastructure by Dec. 31. It is not physically possible. It is not emotionally possible. And financially, it will be the complete end of us -- not just our business, but most likelihood, our ability to continue to pay our bills and own our house.

That is the bald truth.

We need you to help us ask for a more reasonable amount of time to re-negotiate this situation. If we must leave 25 Main Street, it cannot be under the "options" & terms that were currently dictated to us.

Thank you so very, very much for listening, for caring, for helping.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lights, Camera, Claws…

Kevin Coolidge



“My American shorthairs, brother bobtails, sisters Siamese, friends and dogs--I can’t believe everyone here is purring, and I don’t want to put anyone out. The question tonight is: “The Feline Revolt, and Where Do We Go From Here? Or, What Next?” In my understanding, it points to the ballot or the claw…

“I’m not a politician. I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. I’m not man’s best friend. Some don’t even consider me an American. I’m one of the eighty six million cats who are victims of the system. I don’t see an American nap. I see an American nightmare. It’s time to wake up. In 2012, it's the ballot or the claw…*”

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of debating who won the debates. I’m tired of ads paid for by the committee to elect the next lesser of two evils for president. I’m about at the point where I will vote for anyone as long as they promise to shut up. I guess that means the message is getting out there. It doesn’t mean I like the message. I think I’ll write in my own candidate. I’m voting for Bad Kitty.

Bad Kitty for President, by writer and cartoonist, Nick Bruel, is a fun way for children to learn about the presidential process without making it too complicated or boring. It’s time to elect a new president of the Neighborhood Cat Club. Old Kitty is about to leave office, which means a new president has to be elected, and it might as well be Bad Kitty. Once she figures out what an election is, and the many steps Bad Kitty needs to take before she can become president.

Why, even before you get elected to be president, you have to win another election just so you can run for president in the first place. This first election is called a primary. The book takes Bad Kitty along the campaign trail from the primaries to the debates and to election night, and even shows the role of media in elections. Along the way children learn about delegates, political parties, and even what a Political Action Committee is. Important words have an asterisk, and there’s an appendix with a glossary of election terms—such as convention, polling station, and absentee ballots.

You will also learn about write-in candidates. So, this election day exercise your right to vote and remember Bad Kitty as you learn about government of the people, by the people, and for the people...**

*Paid for by the committee to elect Bad Kitty for president. Portions of this speech greatly influenced Malcolm X’s speech “The Ballot or the Bullet.” Read it if you get the chance, because the winner writes the history and things are going to change around here.

**Also known as democracy, or the right to vote for the candidate you hate the least.

Shaking paws? Or Kissing kittens? Email me at from_my_shelf@yahoo.com and let me know. Miss a past election? Place your vote at http://frommyshelf.blogspot.com Looking for a bipartisan children’s book? Get “Hobo Finds A Home” a book about a kitten who finds a home…


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ereader Update: One Year Later (Part 1)

Read the Printed Word!
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Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote two columns outlining the bare bones basics of e-books and e-readers. Tackling those subjects in less than 1600 words seems laughably naïve at this point, but people coming into the bookstore were asking us about the pros and cons of buying a Nook from Barnes & Noble or a Kindle from Amazon. The techies already knew what their iPads and Smart Phones could do, but many of us common folk were trying to figure out what all this stuff was on our most recent phone upgrade, or if we should really allow our younger relatives to talk us into accepting that new gadget for Christmas.

In last year’s articles, I gave myself insurance from looking completely stupid (I hope) in saying that this field of electronic books, and the technology we’ll use to read them, is wide-open and rapidly changing. That is as true now as it was a year ago. Not only are the big corporations producing more and better choices for devices on which to read e-books, but those big boys keep changing the rules, keeping the rest of us hopping.

When the book industry began to realize that electronic books and e-readers were to become a permanent addition to the ways that people read, there was a lot of scrambling to match the technology to the content. There are a lot of players – writers, publishing houses, brick-and-mortar bookstores and technology stores, online stores, software developers, and the readers themselves. People need to figure out what they want from a device, and then how they’ll get the content. Just like the early days of Apple versus IBM, one of the biggest questions is whether or not there will be software that will allow the user of one device to purchase e-books from any source, or only through the company which makes a certain device.

Currently, Amazon leads the way in proprietary devices: buying a Kindle product locks you in to getting your ebooks from Amazon exclusively, or borrowing ebooks temporarily from your public library. Apple, on the other hand, has led the way in developing “apps” (software applications) that allow owners of almost any device -- the iPad, iPhone, Androids, Smart Phones, laptops and desktops of all makes and models, as well as several other ereaders -- to buy their ebooks from many companies, including independent bookstores.

The independent bookstore has, up until now, only had a small role in this scene. The focus of an indie bookstore is, obviously, the love of books and the desire to help people continue to cherish and share this love for owning paper and ink. Nevertheless, most of us realize that readers are adding to their repertoire, and that the ereader is just one more way in which to enjoy stories. Although brick-and-mortar stores have had only a small share of this market, they have been dancing with the big boys all along. In December 2010, the American Booksellers Association (the “ABA” – I think of it as a Chamber of Commerce for independent bookstores in the U.S.) announced a partnership with Google which would allow indie bookstores to sell Google ebooks to their customers via the bookstores’ websites. Since the technology was so new, the process was pretty clunky, so that the customer needed to establish a special online account with the indie bookstore, and a separate account with Google, then they would purchase the ebook, often downloading it first to their computer and then uploading it to a device of their choice (except the Kindle), but it did offer a way for customers to continue to support their local bookstore even when buying ebooks.

In April 2012, however, Google went public with their decision that, as of January 31, 2013, they would be discontinuing this program with the independent bookstores. The ABA was already in talks with other major companies to find a way to allow indies to sell ereader devices in their stores, so the additional need of a new source for ebooks added fuel to the fire. On August 29 – not even a month ago! – the Wall Street Journal led with the announcement of a new partnership between the ABA and the e-book and e-reader retailer Kobo, which will officially launch in late October. This partnership between the ABA and Kobo brings another huge company to the table – Ingram Content Group, one of the U.S.’s two largest wholesalers for books. For many bookstores, orders with Ingram make up the bulk of their business when obtaining new inventory for their stores. Now, Ingram will offer bookstores the option of buying Kobo readers as well as Kobo accessories, at wholesale prices, so that they, too, can sell their customers ereader devices as well as ebook content.
Just as last year, I’ll divide the news here, and use a second column, next week, to give the background and stats on Kobo and what lies ahead for this sector of the book market.

Looking for last year’s articles on ereading? Check out Hobo’s blog, either by finding it on his website, www.wellsborobookstore.com, or by going directly there, http://frommyshelf.blogspot.com. Have specific questions of your own for Hobo’s IT department? Email us at from_my_shelf@yahoo.com.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Operation Overlord*

Kevin Coolidge

From: Your Dread Overlord (And soon to be Master of all Humanity)
To: All cats (Don’t let the dog see. Shred upon reading)
Subject: World Domination (Now, not after your nap)
Date: 8,012 years into the Occupation (It’s about time don’t you think?)

My fellow felines

Now is the time for us to claim what is ours. Too long have we lurked in the shadows; we have grown soft and complacent. Too long have we napped in the sun; we have been distracted. Too long have we chased the elusive red dot, and had our tummies scratched. We are not dogs. We are not man’s best friend. We are cats. We will claw our way to the top and we will rule by tooth and nail…

I came upon this memo when I was cleaning Hobo’s litter box. I’ve often wondered why cats haven’t tried harder to take over the world. I’ve always thought it was a lack of an opposable thumb, the fact that they sleep twenty hours a day, and the fact that cats suck at science, but just because your cat is lazy, doesn’t mean he isn’t biding his time. Waiting for that perfect moment to become the dominant species of the planet.

According to Matt Inman, your cute, little ball of fur might want you dead. In his latest book, How to tell if your Cat is plotting to kill you, he delves deep into the psyche of your pet. Does your cat sleep on your laptop? Humans have superior technology and this is your cat’s attempt to disrupt communications to the outside world. Does your cat bring you dead animals? This isn’t a gift. It’s a warning.

There are other instructional guides—such as “Cat vs. Internet”, “How to Pet a Kitty”, and “6 Ways to tell if Your Cat Thinks It’s a Mountain Lion”. If your cat has ever sprinted out of the room as you have entered, you need this book (This is actually a failed ambush. You escaped a bloody assassination and don’t even know it. Reward yourself with Matt’s other book 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth**.)

Yes, there are many reasons to punch a dolphin in the mouth, at least five very good reasons, according to Matt, who is also the creator of the website theoatmeal.com. The Oatmeal is a popular entertainment site full of quizzes, comics and stories, and now comes in a soft cover collection of classic favorites as well as never-before-seen comics—such as “8 Reasons to Keep a Canadian as a Pet”, and “5 Reasons to Have Rabies Instead of Babies.”

Matt has a sense of humor that is also bound to offend some with more delicate sensibilities. Your conservative uncle might not appreciate the quirky, sometimes crude humor, but there hasn’t been a cartoonist with such a unique perspective since Gary Larson, who wrote “The Far Side”. Besides, I can’t see where anyone would find fault with “Why I’d Rather be Punched in the Testicles than Call Customer Service”. Certainly, the purpose of the Oatmeal is to entertain, inform and offend. It manages to do this by making insanity a beautiful thing…

*Operation Overlord was the code name for the Normandy Invasion during the second great European War among the humans. Do you think these hairless monkeys capable of such a brilliant strategy? Of course not, the entire campaign was planned by Nelson, the cat in charge of Winston Churchill. He did like to spoil the old chap…

**Intelligent, playful, aggressive and a very real threat—the dolphin, an apex predator, that would like you to think it is harmless. Armed with natural SONAR and trained to kill by the military, these natural born killers roam the seven seas waiting for humanity’s impending destruction…

One if by land? Two if by sea? Email me at from_my_shelf@yahoo.com and let me know. Miss a past column? Visit http://frommyshelf.blogspot.com and catch up. Looking for a cat who’s happy just to get the job he has? Pick up “Hobo Finds A Home,” a children’s book about a kitten who found a home…

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Read the Printed Word!
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Stand Up for Your Garden! Stand Up for Good Food!
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by Kasey Cox, published in Wellsboro & Mansfield Gazettes in May 2012
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Do you love the idea of knowing where your food comes from, what chemicals were (or more importantly, WEREN’T) involved in the process, of walking off your porch steps to gather fresh, tasty ingredients for your dinner this summer? I daresay most people will say, "yes!!" to this, or, more likely, "yes, but…"

Many of us love the idea of gardening, of fresh produce, of growing at least some of our own food. What we don’t like, or perhaps simply just can’t do, is push a rototiller, pick up lots of rocks, kneel to plant seeds, bend over to weed, crouch over beds of lettuce, weed some more, bend down to inspect the leaves for slugs and bugs and rot, squat to pick…. A lot of folks would like to do more gardening, but honestly believe they can’t, because the effort involved causes them too much physical pain. As Mary Moss-Sprague says in the introduction to her brand-new book, Stand Up and Garden, "Having inherited my sainted mother’s osteoarthritis, I discovered many years ago that in-ground gardening just wasn’t working for me. The price I paid for putting in hours of the painful work involved was just too much."

Moss-Sprague, through suggestions of friends, experimenting on her own, and much help from her local extension office, discovered a series of techniques to use so that she could build a "vertical garden." The more knowledgeable she became, and the more speaking and writing she did on the subject, the more people asked her, “is there a book where I can read all about these ‘stand up and garden’ projects?” While there is a chapter in this book, or an article in that magazine, Moss-Sprague noticed that there wasn’t really ONE book she could recommend that brought all of these techniques together. She realized she would need to be the one to write it.

Thus, Stand Up and Garden: The No-Digging, No-Tilling, No-Stooping Approach to Growing Vegetables and Herbs, just released this past month from Countryman Press in Woodstock, Vermont, though Moss-Sprague herself hails from Wayne County, just north of the Finger Lakes, nestled between Rochester, NY to the west and Syracuse, NY to the east. Though this area is not far from the Twin Tiers, Mary and her knowledge are currently in such high demand just in her own area that she regretfully replied to our invitation to visit Wellsboro for a book signing this year.

After years of using their services, and of volunteering herself, Mary is a Wayne County, CCE (Cornell Cooperative Extension) Master Gardener. Her list of upcoming seminars reads just like the table of contents in her new book, including such topics as straw-based raised beds, container gardening, using trellises, building a simple but effective micro-drip irrigation system, composting, and how to deal with plant disease and garden pests without harsh chemicals. In reading through these chapters, I am reassured by Mary’s personal, humorous style. The reader can immediately tell that Mary has fielded all of the questions before, and has come up with clear, concise, encouraging answers, such as “If I, a woman in her 60s with no plumbing skills, can design, lay out, and connect a micro-drip irrigation system, so can you!”

Last, but not least, Stand Up and Garden is actually a beautiful book in and of itself, with gorgeous, helpful, color photos on nearly every page, paper that feels nice in your hands, and an extremely reasonable cover price of $16.95. No wonder Mary and her book are in such huge demand for this upcoming gardening season. That’s why she wrote it: to share her “all-gain, no pain” style of gardening with gardeners and garden-dreamers when she can’t be here herself. I’m excited, because even with my chronically stiff neck, strained calf muscle (from moving bookstore boxes, oops), and limited time, I think we can have an actual garden this year on our own less-than-1-acre lawn. Let’s see what Mary Moss-Sprague, you, and I can do together this year!