Friday, February 8, 2013

My Pick for the Ugliest Dog Award - 2013


This book is the recipient of my version of the "Ugliest Dog" Award for 2013.  This award, given once in a blue moon - is given to a book that meets a certain unassailable set of criteria: It must be one of the most important books in it's genre.  It must be a true collectable, with a commensurate price tag.  It must be highly sought after - a high spot item, as it were.  It also must be in the absolute worst condition imaginable - while still remaining complete.

 First, the pedigree:

This book was the recipient of Heinlein's fourth and final Hugo Award (given while he was alive - there have been several "retro" Hugos given out to him since then) and is considered one of Heinlein's best works along with being one of the most influential science fiction novels ever written. First Edition copies of this book are not common and command premium prices -- when the book is in nice condition and with a nice dust jacket. The book was originally serialized in Worlds of IF Magazine (Dec 1965 through April 1966) and was the 1967 winner of the Hugo Award. It was also nominated for a Nebula Award for 1966. This book is credited with coining the acronym: TANSTAAFL (There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch) and is considered by many science fiction critics to be one of Heinlein's best works, comparable with Stranger in a Strange Land.  

Then the details:

This particular copy is definitely a First Edition with all the correct points according to Currey (p 233) including the $5.95 price on the dust jacket but this book in no way matches the requirement of "nice" condition.  At *best* you could generously call it an ex-library copy in reading condition. A starter copy if there ever was one.  At worst, you could call it an amalgamation of all the terms you've ever read in John Carter's ABE for Book Collectors: ex-library, spine cocked, hinges taped, pages starting, with ground-in dirt, random fingerprints, foxing of various sorts (including  one page that has a huge brown patch of foxing that looks more like a coffee stain - page 191), boards showing at both top and bottom edges where the cloth has been rubbed away, fraying to all edges, gilt lettering dulled, library marks, pocket and stickers in their usual spots.

 The dust jacket is complete....technically speaking; as all the parts of the dust jacket are still attached.  However, the tears to the spine and the subsequent heavy-duty tape on the reverse  along with edge tears, nicking, chipping, library sticker, black marker over the library sticker and generalized crazing to all the joints make it appear less than complete. On the good side, this copy has NOT been price clipped.

  For me, the thing that makes this book a true Ugly Dog Award Winner is that even with all its faults (ha!)  there's something about the book that makes me want to hold on to it and love it.

As the dogs in the ugliest dog contests are so utterly pathetic that they have their own beauty, this book has a charm all its own. It has been read by many, loved by many, abused by many; and it still manages to hang on to its form by sheer will power (and heavy-duty tape). It is, scorned by all, and yet, it is one of the more lovely books I've been privileged to meet. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Oy! It's been a while!

You'd think summertime is the time to relax - to fiddle with leftover projects.... to keep up with a blog.

Yeah, right.

Not this year.

But I'm back now.  And right off the bat, It's into book stuff.

And now, for the beginning of the school year (at least around here it is), here's what I did on my Summer Vacation:

I was the lucky (and very grateful) recipient of a CABS faculty scholarship to the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. The Seminar was held in Colorado Springs, CO from August 5th through August 10th, 2012.  This year, there were 41 attendees from all over the US and Canada and Switzerland. Together, we 41 dealers-- from brand-spanking-newbies to those who've been in business for quite a while -- got to pick the brains of some of the most dynamic book dealers, librarians and scholars currently inhabiting the world of collectable and antiquarian books.

I have to say the seminar definitely did the job of pumping me (clap clap) up!

I've already started tinkering with the way I work, the way I think about work (work being the buying and selling of collectable and rare books), and the way I project myself via my online presence, book fairs, and my stock.

There's TONS to do -- but if I break it down into smaller bits to work on, it will all get done.

There are a couple of things that I've done right off the bat:

1)  I'm in the process of updating my website -- it is still a work in progress, but I'd love to hear comments and ideas.  Here's a link to website, just in case you'd like to see it: S. Howlett-West Books .

2) I'm updating my email newsletter list.  I've started an account with an honest-to-goodness email list compiler which will help me send out professional looking emails, AND will be a way that customers can join my list that much more up-to-date and professional than what I had done in the past.

3) I'm once again working through my customer database to get more specific information  -- and ways I can access it so that I can USE the information to quote new stock to people.

I know there's more, but for right now, this is definitely enough to be working on... while still doing a complete purge of my old stock AND listing the new stock I've gotten in the last month or so.

Thank you CABS faculty for a wonderful seminar and for the scholarship I received that made it possible for me to attend.

If there's anyone out there who has been contemplating attending this seminar, but has shied at the price, the week away from home, or was worried that you might feel like a rank beginner next to all the other seminar attendees ....



No matter what you're level, this seminar is definitely worth every penny.

Here's a link to the seminar's website -- just in case you'd like to start saving your pennies for next year.    CABS Website

I'll get into more detail at a later date.  Right now, I'm just glad that school's back in session and that I've got LOTS of new ideas to dig into.

Oh, and one more thing....

here's a link to add yourself to my newly updated email list :S. Howlett-West Email List

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I wish I had a better photo of this -- and that I could get one with him smiling.... but that just didn't happen.

Son #1 is officially a graduate of Middle School and can now call himself a freshman in High school.


Not for him, but for me... Congrats to him though. 

(in one of those grumpy asides -- the principal, at the start of the ceremony, asked if parents would not SHOUT or WHISTLE or use HORNS as the students received their diplomas so that each child could get equal attention but did that happen?   Not on your life.  There were shouts, whistles, feet stomping... and even near silence for those unfortunate kids who didn't have the big cheering sections.  I found myself wanting to smack people for their disrespectful attitudes... which just goes to show that as #1 grows up, I continue to grow older and more grumpy.  Sigh).

Graduation day was followed by Pentecost at church -- and as both #1 & #2 sons are in "Communion Class"  (it's in quotes because technically, the Episcopal church doesn't have a standardized First Communion / Communion Class sort of thing, but our parish priest found a lesson plan that he liked. The only problem I can see with it is that it's geared towards younger kids -- and my two are the oldest in the lot so it's a bit slow going for them.

Son #2 in the Middle -with blue shirt

Son #1 with the orange (Orange) polo shirt

The Final product -- one Communion Bread (there were 10-12 made in total)

However, the reason I mention Pentecost is because on Saturday afternoon (after graduation) the kids in the Communion Class got to make Communion Bread which we used on Sunday.  
I took the boys for the bread making  and got to take photos  (terrible as usual).  The bread was a form of quick bread, so it only took a few minutes to get the dough made, then they had to divide and pat out to a regular size.

NOTE for future bread making -- do NOT give 6 kids in ages from 7-14 an open can of flour....
 as they found ways to poof the flour everywhere. And there was a wee bit too much flour in the dough, but with some quick thinking and a lot of kneading, it got fixed.

I got to be one of the first taste-testers while the bread was still warm.  Yummy stuff. Lots of honey (and it was part whole wheat, part white flour) so it had some nice texture to it.  I plan on making some myself -- as soon as I can grab a bag of whole wheat flour.

The boys really enjoyed the process, and the people at church, while a bit confused as they are used to wafers, got into the spirit of it.

Then it was Memorial Day -- we missed the ceremony in Santa Nella that finished off the Eagle Project the boys worked on the week before (planting flowers -- just check back a few blog entries to find that one) because we needed to be at church, but we did get to see a photo of it in the paper the next day. AND we could see some of the flowers we planted.  Right there by the service men!

 Rounding out the weekend,  we got invited to a Memorial Day Barbeque (Thanks L!)  which (sad to say) was nearly a first for us -- the family is just not on the party list for most things as we're hermits....
 A great time was had by all.  Lots of teachers, so honored husband felt comfy, the boys got to swim most of the afternoon and there was loads of food and it was all GREAT!   AND, because the party was at the home of a  war widow, we all said the pledge of allegiance and sang God Bless America before chowing down.

Of course, with all the commotion, work did not get done - and emails did not get answered which is just par for the course.  Now it's back to the regular grind, but with the added help from #1 & #2 while they're home on vacation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Continuing the slog

Hey - I'm up to the letter 'E' in the ongoing stock updating / purging process.  I guess I'm finally fired up to really get this job done, since I seem to be whacking my way through a shelf a day currently (we'll see how long that lasts when school is officially out on Friday. Production might slow to a standstill depending on how many things I can find for the kids to do during vacation).

The shelves are looking good -- at least the shelves that are finished.  I am cleaning (dusting, everlasting dusting!) and reorganizing.  So far, I have several subject areas that are NOT on shelves yet since I don't have the space for them, but I'll get there.  And the purging is going extremely well -- I have completely run out of paper bags in which to put them.  I'm still holding out on putting them in boxes as I NEED boxes for book fairs, so will have to scrounge for more bags.  I have more places to give the books; my sister, who lives in San Jose, asked for kids books to donate to her school. I'll donate to other schools in the area as well if they'll take them.

I've also started a true purge / cleaning binge of the house in general -- I'm on a mission -- and it involves going through every nook and cranny of the house, pulling things out into the light of day, making a final decision about it's relative worth to the household and chucking anything that just doesn't need to stay.

This is a long, involved process, as you can imagine - and it has to happen around my regularly posted work hours, so it's also a long slow slog.  I've made headway in the garage, the kitchen and my closet (which is actually more full of books and kid stuff than clothes).

I'm still looking for alternate employment - either part time or full time.  Books are selling, and the purging seems to help with this, but it's just not stable enough at the moment to make me comfortable.  So, if you're in the Modesto area and have any part time jobs for a willing worker who has awesome skills (yeah, I said it!),  send me a comment and I'll come running.

The Great Sewer Debacle is continuing - slowly  - to unfurl.  No word yet on what we'll actually do, but I'm in contact with the insurance people, and the Roto-Rooter people.  It will involve permits from the city as well. No word on THAT yet.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Day to follow up on things

Today is a good day to follow up on a few things  -

First, some more pictures of the latest info on the "Great Sewer Debacle":

After the Roto-Rooter men (two trucks this time) came back to our house last Wednesday to give the sewer issue another look, they left with no real plan -- there was nothing they could do until they checked with all the utility companies to see where other utilities might be in comparison to the sewer line.

These are a few pictures of the new colorful additions we have to our lawn, sidewalk and street showing the codes, etc. that have been marked by the utilities. I personally have NO idea what they mean, but they seem awfully close to the place where digging will have to begin.

I haven't heard anything from the Roto-Rooter men this week so far -- I don't know if they're waiting for me to call, or for the utilities to finish (and I can't tell if everyone has put their marks out yet).  Tomorrow is my day to dig in and start calling again.  Sigh.

In other news,  Son Number One, Son Number Two and I spent Saturday working on an Eagle Project for one of the scouts in our troop.  We caravaned down to Santa Nella (about an hour & a half from home) with gardening gear in hand.  The project was to add landscaping / flowers to the areas around some of the contemplation spots at the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery / Veterans Cemetery.

Our Eagle Scout candidate received donations of all the flowers, etc. from Lowes and with the help of 30+ volunteers,  landscaped the areas all over the cemetery that had been prepared.  It was a large job, but definitely worth the work we all put in.

While we were there, we saw some interesting things -- nature in action, as it were.

  This is a baby owl that was just sitting on the ground a  few yards from one of the areas we were working -- we tried to be careful not to startle it.  No one really knew why he was sitting on the ground but we definitely knew not to disturb him.

Here's a closer view:

We saw a couple of large vultures sitting on fence posts as we drove in, but I couldn't get a good photo of them (I was driving at the time).

We did see a juvenile hare (rabbit?)  who didn't seem to mind a bunch of guys whacking away with their trowels (well, for the most part- when they tried to corner him, he got very nervous -- then the leaders stepped in).

Son number two spent some time coaxing fuzzy guy a bit closer --

it's a bit hard to see the fuzzy as he's quite well camouflaged, but he's to the right of the picture.

 There was a lot of discussion about where the flowers would go -- there was no layout design made ahead of time and a whole passel of flowers in various sizes, colors, etc.  The only common thing was that they were all flowers that love the sun.  Lots of Marigolds, pansies, etc.

So much for asking for a smile.....

I never did get a photo of Son #1 Saturday.

Saturday was a LONG day -- the morning was definitely full of work (in straight out sun -- it was only in the upper 80's and there was a bit of a breeze, but this was the first day we'd all been out doing heavy gardening work in the heat  -- and then we had to race home before my Mother-In-Law arrived for dinner.

Sunday was party day with my Mother-in-Law ... she hosts a party (at my house) for all the people born in May ... so we had a house full of visitors, which is always nice.  However, trying to explain what we (and visitors) could and couldn't do with the toilets was no fun at all.

Luckily, we went out for dinner.

And that's the round up for now.  I have one more follow up to write regarding the envelope that goes with the 1st US edition of The Story of Babar, but I figure it deserves a blog post of its own, so that will come later.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Child's Garden of Verses

I had been hoping to intersperse this blog with some of the wonderful poems that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote -- but that will have to wait for a better time.

The book called A Child's Garden of Verses, is, variously -- a group of poems that RLS wrote that were specifically for children.  The collection first appeared (according to Wikipedia) in 1885 and contained something around 65 poems.

What I wanted to do was look at a few of the different illustrated editions that have come out over the years.  I happen to have several (wildly ) different editions of this book and I find the differences completely fascinating.

Starting off with this wonderful (but slim) volume :

Illustrated by Tadasu Izawa and Shigemi Hijikata  - from  1969 - with a hologram on the front cover.

This second book is an over-sized, thin hardback book by Golden books
and features the stitchery of
Virginia Tiffany.
All the illustrations are
worked embroidery / needlecraft.
Very 1960's -70's but great!

Compare that to this:

This is a Pop-up edition (and unfortunately, it's sold, so I can't get a photo of the pop-ups).
This one is much more 1980's in style and very cutesy.

Even Tasha Tudor took a whack at the collection -- with a resulting compilation that reflects her wonderful detailed illustrations.

This book is one I've shown before -- it's part of the newest consignment  and it's illustrated by Maria L. Kirk with wonderful black and white illustrations. This compilation contains nearly all of the poems.

There are so many famous illustrators who have used this collection of poems to highlight their work -- This particular copy is illustrated by Martin & Alice Provensen.

 And finally (as I've run out of photos of different versions) -  this school text version of the collection which has about half of the poems, is illustrated by E. Mars and M. H. Squire. The illustrations in this collection are wonderful typical of the 1920's-30s.

This book is one that could make a great single-title collection (that's a collection that consists of a SINGLE title -- but with as many different editions / styles of the book as possible).

If you happen to have other editions for this collection -- send me a jpg and I'll be happy to post it.

Next time, I'll add some of the poems.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

X marks the Spot

What a week!

I thought it was going to be a great week -- I got to travel to the Bay area and meet a friend for a heavenly breakfast, and some book hunting at one of our favorite (well, not so sure if it's her favorite, but I always find fun stuff ) book hunting spots.

And then Sunday was a whirlwind of picking up tired, dirty scouts from camp and a tornadoes worth of housecleaning in expectation of visitors coming this weekend.  Everything seemed to be going according to plan.

And then on Monday morning -- the downstairs shower forgot how to drain properly.  And about an hour later, the downstairs toilet also decided that flushing water DOWN was just not a good thing.

From there, it was a simple (ha!) matter of grabbing the plunger and going at it with a will.  Except it didn't do anything but bring some dirt up into the shower. 

This was followed by a quick phone call to our friend who has EVERY TOOL KNOWN TO MAN who brought a toilet auger.  A few quick twists and the water was flushing just fine...or so we thought.
Two hours later the water forgot to flush again. 

This time the friend ported over a 20 foot toilet snake and proceeded to go at the shower and toilet as if it were a mortal enemy.  Unfortunately, this just brought up more water and more dirt.  That's when we knew it was not going  to be a regular day.

By the time the Roto-Rooter man got here I figured it was just going to be a somewhat costly day, but a few twists with the giant economy sized, industrial snake would fix everything and we'd be back in business.  (here's where I'm always at a loss for imagination when it comes to what could happen.)

We found out that it was not a simple clog that needed to be whirled away by flying blades, but a problem with the pipe that connects the house sewer line to the main line.  We found this out when the snake hit a block that was not to be moved, followed by the snake coming back up the line minus part of it's blade (it had snapped and was stuck down in the pipe).

The next move was one we had to think about -- the plumber told us that we'd need to send a scope down to see what the blockage was.  Of course, this costs more money. But there was really no way to determine what the blockage might be until the scope went down.  Our daring plumber started listing all the possibilities of what might be the cause for the blockage....   That's when my  imagination finally kicked in and the dollar signs  flashed in front of my eyes.  We decided that there was no alternative but to scope out the blockage (ka-ching $$$).   Luckily, daring plumber carried all the machinery on his truck and in less than 15 minutes we were looking at the place where the blade had snapped.  The pipe, which is normally 3 inches in diameter appeared to be about half that -- is was squished up from the bottom and down from the top.  The next step was to find out WHERE the blockage sat.  Was it within the property, or in the street (if it's off the property and into city territory, then it gets to be even more fun to deal with, I found out).  The next gadget came out of the truck -- a locator wand thingy that tracked the end of the scope to its resting point.

Which was here:

X marks the spot (well, it's supposed to be an X)

 Doesn't look like much but a lump of ground and a few blobs of roots, right?

That X is the ground view of this:

The tree in our front yard

The tree is lovely.  It's about 30 years old (we figure it was put in when the subdivision was added, which was 1980).  It also belongs to the city.  The tree  I mean.  Which adds all sorts of layers to the problem.   You can't  do stuff to city trees without getting permission from the city -- at least, that's what I've been led to believe.


Another view of the tree roots and bright green X

So, daring plumber suggested I call the city RIGHT AWAY  to find out what we needed to do.
 Because in order to fix the pipe, a trench is going to have to be dug up -- right next to the tree.

And we need to know what the city needs to do about this, and whether the tree will actually survive the damage to it that it will sustain in the process.   Here's where my brain explodes.  I am, however, quite calm on the outside.  We spend a bit of time trying to figure out where the sewer connection links to the main line in the street.... this is not only confusing (because it doesn't make sense to angle the line across someone's front yard and smack dab under an TREE) but involves continued talks with the City of Modesto Forestry division.

A fine upstanding city worker comes out to join the party.  Unfortunately, he's not a forester - he can't tell me what sort of tree it is, or whether digging roots this close to the actual tree will do any lasting damage to the tree (or weaken it enough that it will topple onto the house during the first windstorm of the year). What he can do is mark the spot where the sewer connection should meet.  

See that faint green line in the street - that should be the sewer line connection (approximately).

And  the fine upstanding City worker's answer to most questions is -- you'll have to rip up the ground yourself before we can do anything.


(Head exploding continues).

Did I mention that this happened on May 14th, Honored Husband's birthday?  I was planning on taking him out to dinner with the gift certificate I had gotten for being the Soccer coordinator for Son #1's mini season team.  Yeah.    That didn't happen last night.

Not much else was learned after the fine upstanding City worker left.   Daring plumber gave me his contact info and said he'd be happy to help when we figured out what we were going to do.

I got to spend time today calling our homeowners insurance to find out if this is covered.

It's going to take a few days to find out.  In the meantime, we do have some constraints on what can go down the sewer (I won't go into the gory details, but the idea of my mother-in-law coming this weekend just got that much more stressful. There's no WAY this will be fixed by Saturday night).


Now I need to sell a ton more books to pay for the deductible.