Archive for January, 2010

Why I Love Borders

Borders offers everyone who has shopped at their store a free Borders Rewards card in exchange for their email address. I’ve had the card for over a year and have not yet received anything that may be classified as spam. I receive coupons that can be printed out and redeemed quite often, ranging from 20 to 40% off any book in the store—other types of merchandise usually have restrictions that I don’t wish to list.

I received a 33% off coupon not too long ago and decided to visit Borders and see if I could snatch an inexpensive book. I noticed a fairly large book for only $4.99 and decided to check it out. That book turned out to be The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, 2nd edition. The book currently selling for $43.87 on Amazon. With my 33% off coupon, the total came out to be $3.65 for a hardcover book that’s over 1200 pages. The pages themselves are not the usual ultra-cheap, about-to-fall-apart-in-your-hands type. The pages actually feel good in my hands, a quality which affects my reading a surprising amount.

Perhaps Borders forgot to add an extra “9” in the price tag, which would’ve made it $49.99, a figure that would make more sense in comparison to the Amazon price. Amazon may not have the absolute best pricing, but it certainly isn’t off by a factor of 10 or more.


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College Bookstores

In my recent visit to one of the community colleges I’ll be attending, I looked for the appropriate chemistry textbook that will be used for class. It turned out to be Chemistry: A Molecular Approach, offered for $150 for a used textbook and $200 for a new textbook. I suspected the price to be inflated, so I logged onto AbeBooks and saw the same used textbooks selling for $60 with about $4 shipping. Eventually, a used textbook in like-new condition was found on for $51 and $4 shipping. The textbook (which I now have received) has less wear and tear than the used textbooks at the college bookstore for 1/3rd of the price.

As if cost inflation wasn’t enough, college bookstores like to do other annoying things. For instance, the same college bookstore refused to announce which textbooks classes would use until January 4th in the hopes of forcing students who forget to order books early or are unable to order them online to buy from the college bookstore for exorbitant prices. The bookstore of the college where I have most of my units registered did no such thing, posting the required textbook(s) and materials in October. The textbooks and materials were sold shortly after in the same month. This was the case with my biology textbook, which I was able to pick up months before my chemistry textbook. However, there is another issue to be addressed which has to do with my biology textbook.

The textbook is a “custom edition” of Biology by Campbell and Reece. The same textbook was used for my AP Biology class, which I took my senior year in high school. The “custom edition” is the same exact book with chapters 26 though 50 omitted, leaving essentially molecular biology, genetics, evolution, and ecology, with most of anatomy and physiology gone. Due to such pruning, the book is also softcover instead of hardcover. The textbook was sold in a sealed package along with the printed study guide. If the seal is broken, the textbook cannot be returned (~$130). Not only is this a bit expensive, as the full version, containing about twice the pages as the custom version, currently costs $142.97 on Amazon (though this is without the study guide, but it still cannot justify the difference), but the buyer is unable to determine what exactly is in the textbook (in this case, it’s the 8th edition of Biology by Campbell and Reece, which can probably be found for about $60 online, although in International Edition form). Thus, this ensures that brand new textbooks are always bought, preventing students from saving money on used textbooks, and it ensures that cheaper alternatives cannot be searched for.

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Computer Illiterates

This is what the Internet Explorer (their browser of choice) of a computer illiterate person resembles. While I personally haven’t seen such chaos myself, I did see half of a 21″ screen covered up with completely and utterly useless toolbars. I offered to remove some of the toolbars to increase the owner’s quality of experience online, but he was rather apprehensive and was convinced that the toolbars served a vital function and should not be tampered with. I insisted that he at least try other browsers, such as Firefox, which would have various plugins that would benefit the owner, such as Adblock Plus, but he remained adamant that Internet Explorer, along with his plethora of toolbars, was the height of browsing.

The sad aspect of this is that users such as these contribute to the virus and malware problem more than they realize. They are the perfect targets for botnets as they are probably willing to put up with a lot of unusual lag and probably have plenty of computer power to spare (i.e., they don’t play games or use things which require too much processing power). The spare processing power of the computer and the ignorance of the user combine to allow exploiters to combine thousands or more of such ‘zombie computers’ into networks called botnets, centrally directed for minimization of redundancy. Botnets are just one example of computer illiterates unknowingly contributing to the virus and malware problem.

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I’ve decided to try out the service and will try my best to subject others to torture (i.e., thinking).  Hopefully my efforts to incite philosophical thought will be of use to someone.

Occasionally I will share things such as the following:

and other types of things a personal blog typically has.

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