Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner by Joe Kissell

cover of Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner by Joe KisselIn 2007 Joe Kissell, an able an adept technical writer about all things Macintosh with a serious interest in preparing and consuming good food, turned his geekly technical writing skills to documenting the creation of Thanksgiving dinner. Take Control of Thanksgiving, a guide to planning, shopping, and preparing Thanksgiving dinner is the book I wish I’d had the first time I produced a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

The version of Take Control of Thanksgiving I read has been updated several times since that first version. Using easily understood language, Kissell outlines exactly how and what to do if you’re responsible for Thanksgiving dinner. He covers planning a menu, organizing a shopping list, and figuring out the cooking and prep schedule for a typical Thanksgiving dinner consisting of roasted turkey with gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry relish, candied sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie.

But Kissel doesn’t stop there. One of the basic principles behind Kissell’s how-to guide is that he keeps the need for alternatives in mind. For instance, Kissell, very much aware of the importance of presentation and visual appeal in terms of creating food people want to eat, feels that, properly speaking, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is built around “the traditional Thanksgiving colors of white, yellow, orange, red, and brown” (TCT 61),  and consequently cheerfully offers not only the “traditional” Green Bean Casserole recipe, but a nifty suggestion for roasting green beans. Throughout Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner, Kissell presents a number of alternates for dishes and cooking styles, and provides for adjusting the menu to suit the idiosyncrasies of guests.

One of the things I love about this book, aside from the easy, comfortable, and clear writing, is that there’s a lot of practical help here. Don’t have time for a day of shopping and a day of prep? Joe’s got that covered. Need to cook for more people? See the section explaining how to scale recipes. Worried about a life that includes six months of turkey tetrazzini? It doesn’t have to be that way, if you use Kissell’s very smart “Deal With Leftovers” advice. Plus, in one of the really, smart, helpful user-friendly parts of the Take Control of Thanksgiving ebook is that the book includes a file of shopping guides and prep schedules ready to print and use. Kissell really does cover all the bases—including vegetarians guests, Tofurkey Roasts, and a homemade Polenta Dome.

It’s very apparent that this is a book written by someone who knows what QA and testing means; these are recipes that have been carefully tested and even adjusted with subsequent editions to make sure that they can be successfully prepared by people besides the author.

Whether you’re an old hand at cooking the bird for friends and family, someone venturing into a holiday kitchen for the first time, or interested in exploring alternatives, there’s something here for you. And if you want something beyond the basics, this is my dead easy recipe for homemade rolls, and my mom’s Pecan pie.

Go download the free 33 page .pdf Take Control of Thanksgiving Sample and read the TOC and excerpts at Take Control Books. Or buy the book yourself in multiple formats for a mere $10.00. Take advantage of the fact that you can download the book in multiple formats, and use it while you’re in the kitchen.

Exporting Your Books and Data From Goodreads

goodreads_booksI like social networking sites for bibliophiles. I’ve tried most of them. The recent idiocies surrounding Goodreads has had me re-thinking my participation for quite a while. The latest Goodreads faux pas has Goodreads deleting reviews and user’s shelves based on arbitrary criteria about shelf labels referring to authors. There’s a certain irony in that the instructions in the My Shelves sidebar on Goodreads refer to a shelf label “gave-up-on” which could refer to a book or to an author.

While I don’t know that I’d call this censorship, I do know it’s poor IT policy. It’s also playing into the hands of authors behaving badly by engaging in the author’s big mistake; responding to reviews.

Reviews aren’t for authors; they’re for readers. Goodreads has very clearly moved from being a site for readers to being a site for authors, and most particularly, for Amazon Kindle Direct and Create Space self-published authors. Deleting “low” rating reviews but not “high” rating reviews is a poor but telling decision. So is deleting users’ shelves with labels that (i.e. labels for groups of books)

I’m probably going to delete my books and profile from Good Reads permanently. I don’t really see them engaging with readers/reviewers honestly, and I do see an increasing interest in exploiting self-published authors to the detriment of readers trying to find the next good book.

Consequently, I’ve been experimenting with importing to and from Goodreads. You can export your data from Goodreads in order to have a backup, or to move your data to another site. Here’s how:

To Export Your Goodreads data

  1. Log on
  2. Click My Books in the top nav bar
  3. Click Import/Export on the left sidebar
  4. Click Export on the far right

To Import Your Goodreads Data to LibraryThing

  1. Log on.
  2. Click More in the top navigation bar.
  3. Under “Features” click Import/Export.
  4. Click GoodReads import.
  5. Click “Choose file” and select the file you downloaded earlier.
  6. Click Save (or OK on some OSs).
  7. Wait for processing (which may take a while depending on the server load and your book).
  8. Select your import options regarding duplicates, tags, etc.
  9. Click the Import books button.

LibraryThing logo

I’m a fan of LibraryThing; I paid the $25.00 lifetime membership fee, and have bought several CueCat scanners for libraries to make entering books a simply matter of scanning, then copying and pasting barcodes into the LibraryThing add a book field. I like the features of the site, I like LibraryThing’s emphasis on actually reading and thinking about books, and I like the attitude about community and giving back. Plus, Tim Spaulding, the developer and founder, is a medievalist.

Amazon owns Goodreads and Shelfari. Amazon also owns a minority chunk of LibraryThing via Amazon’s purchase of ABE Books, who own 40%. Tim Spaulding is still the majority owner of LibraryThing, and he strikes me as fiercely protective of his users (and that’s a very important quality).

There’s a fairly new European site called booklikes.com. I’ve joined it largely out of curiosity, but it too accepts GoodReads exported files. You need to register, then look at your profile; on the far right of the top navigation bar is a gear icon; click it, then click the Import tab. You can import files exported from GoodReads or LibraryThing to Booklikes. There’s an interesting discussion of Booklikes at The Digital Reader; do read the comments and follow the links.

The import can take a few hours, so be patient. Here’s a post from BookLikes explaining the import process.

Meet iPhoto for iOS

Cover of Meet iPhoto for iOSToday is the official release date for my new ePub ebook from Peachpit. Meet iPhoto for iOS is a quick introduction to using iPhoto on iOS 6.x to organize, caption, crop, rotate, edit, adjust, and share photos using the iPhoto for the iOS application.

This really is a quick introduction written to help you start using iPhoto for iOS right away.

You can read more about Meet iPhoto for iOS here.

Ebook Pricing vs Print Pricing

It really isn’t that much cheaper to produce an ebook. The binding/printing costs are depending on the book and the binding and the numbers printed somewhere around 1 to 3 bucks a book, for a Robert Jordan Hardcover with foil. The costs up to the point a file is sent to an ebook producer or to a printer are identical—and that’s where most of the costs to make a book occur. Author’s advance is often the single largest item in terms of genre fiction. Then you’ve got designer, cover artist, editor, copy editor, proofer, typesetter—and there may be other costs, depending on the book (indexer, rights licensing, compositor). The ebook has to be formatted, and done properly, it’s not just a matter of running scripts. It needs to be created in multiple formats, usually, with administrative costs related to licensing images, cover art, DRM, and QA. There are additional production costs in terms of staff and software/hardware, and in terms of archiving. The initial costs up to the fork are shared. Honestly, for genre fiction, there’s reason to base the price ebooks pretty closely on the prices for the equivalent paperbacks.

Now, what I’m not sure of is how much angst there is from publishers about day-and-date release, and issues of libraries buying hardcover in preference to softcover. Book prices at the point of a printed codex book are of three sorts:

  • Raw cost in labor/materials/costs to the publisher.
  • Price the publisher sells the book to retailers/distributors/wholesaler (discounts of various sorts).
  • Price the retailer sells the book to a customer.

Keep in mind that frequently the author is paid putative royalties on some version of 3, after the publisher has recouped the advance—at which point the publisher may still be trying to (and probably won’t have succeeded) recoup their costs and generate profit. If publishers don’t profit, they can’t pay advances, or make more books.

It’s Complicated

This is a really smart article by Mathew Ingram: “Our Relationship with E-Books: It’s Complicated“.

Ingram quite even-handedly covers the bases on sharing ebooks and ebook annotations, complete with lots of links, in clear language. He notes:

Will we ever be able to download a digital version of the print book we just bought, and then share that book with friends — or even sell it to someone else at a discounted price, as we can with real books — or share our margin notes and highlights with others, regardless of what e-book reader they use? . . .

The unfortunate part of all this, of course, is that publishers would likely be able to sell far more books if they made it easier for readers to download, read and share them — or passages from them — with anyone regardless of what device they owned. Until that happens, e-books will continue to be a Balkanized mess of competing standards and sharing silos, and the book-reading public will be the worse for it.

Go read the whole thing, and do follow the links in his post, because they provide examples that support his central argument.

Trying to teach with ebooks in an English literature class is almost impossible in terms of using them for analyses by students because they can’t annotate the text, and export their own annotations as notes along with the passage they’re analyzing. Ideally, I’d like a highlighted passage, the annotations or notes associated with the passage and a citation (author, title, chapter and/or section and publication data) to be easily exported. Restricting the excerpt by character or word would be fine; but the practice of not allowing any passages to be copied and pasted is frustrating for teachers, academics, scholars and students.

Ironically, The Voyager Company’s Expanded books had this feature (among others) in 1992.