Book Review: Cat’s Cradle by Vonnegut

Cat's CradleCat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the first books I remember being ‘required’ to read in school (Middle School to be exact) happened to be Slaughterhouse-Five. Looking back, even though I had been reading at a college level since I reached double-digit age, I probably wasn’t ready for the subject matter. Come to think of it, I should probably re-read Vonnegut’s most famous novel again, from the other end of three decades of my life gone by. The same could be said for Cat’s Cradle, if I had read it back then, but I’m reading it for the first time on the downhill side of my life.

Published a year before I took my first breath, I get all the cultural references. I am still pondering the ramifications of the ‘Truth’ of all religions, according to Vonnegut’s character (who remained nameless throughout the entire novel). Satire? Irony? Poetic justice? Nihilism? Or some chaotic cohesion of all of them?

I found a few gems among the exceptionally short chapters (some less than a page in length): The ambassador’s speech before tossing the wreath in honor of the Hundred Martyrs to Democracy: ‘Think of what a paradise this world would be if men were kind and wise.’; Newt: ‘No damn cat, and no damn cradle.’; and Mona: ‘I love everyone.’

I actually heard Kurt Vonnegut speak during my college years. He came to Wichita State University in the early 80s to give a lecture. I learned about his appearance late (on the same day in fact), so I arrived almost too late to get a seat. For some reason, the facility decided to open up seating on the stage, so I sat cross-legged within ten or twenty feet of him to his right. As memorable as my seating arrangements were, I cannot remember anything he said during that lecture, nor even what his topic was. My book collection remained at home in Leavenworth County, so I had nothing to ask him to sign. I sincerely regret that now.

I gave Cat’s Cradle three stars. I liked it, and it definitely made me think deeply and ponder many questions, but I can’t say I really liked it. An interesting read, and it has aged remarkably well.

View all my reviews

This is the first ebook I read using the OverDrive Media Nook application.  I checked it out smoothly and easily from the Kansas City Public Library.  After fiddling with the Reading Options, I found a happy medium for speed of page turns (but not transitions between chapters) and font shape and size.  The dictionary feature only works if you have your wifi on and connected to the Internet because it uses  This differs from the default ereading application provided by Barnes & Noble, which uses a pre-installed copy of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (11th Edition).  I definitely missed the highlighting and annotating features that come standard with most ereading software.   Strangely, I’ve checked out ebooks from the KC Public Library before, but used the Adobe Digital Editions software and a USB cable to transfer the ebook from my computer to my Nook Color.  In that instance, I used the default ereader to read the ebook, so I had all my normal functionality.  I can only hope the OverDrive Media Console application will improve with time and feedback.

Quick Reference Guide for Nook Color eBook Management

I am composing this quick reference guide (or workflow or flowchart) for persons who shall remain anonymous.  I plan to refer them to this page (encouraging them to bookmark it in their browser) the next time I receive yet another request for how to get an ebook transferred to their Nook.

This guide assumes you own the Nook Color.

Nook Color eBook Management Flowchart

Where did you purchase the ebook?

How to Get eBooks to Your Nook Color

1. Barnes & Noble Nook Books:  It is not necessary to click the Download button after you purchase a Nook Book.  This is tempting, especially if you are sitting at your computer, browsing through the Barnes & Noble website and not actually shopping via your Nook Color (using a wifi connection).

(a)                Press the n button on your Nook Color and select the Library item.

(b)               Press the Sync button in the lower left-hand corner of the screen (which looks like two arrows chasing each other in a circular pattern).

(c)                Any new books you have purchased will appear after the sync completes.

2. Non-Barnes & Noble eBooks: Anything you purchase from a non-B&N retailer, even if the price is ‘free’, will most likely be ‘protected’ by DRM (digital rights management), which actively prevents you from copying the downloaded ebook file from your computer to your Nook Color.  If you are lucky enough to find an ebook without DRM protection, please skip down to the last step below.  Otherwise, the only approved method for transferring ebooks you legitimately purchased involves using yet another piece of software called Adobe Digital Editions. This transfer process may vary depending on the vender and assumes you have downloaded, installed and activated both your copy of Adobe Digital Editions and your device (Nook Color) in that software.

(a)                Download the ebook from where you bought it and make note of the file name (in case you have trouble remembering where your computer downloads file to – usually the Downloads folder).  Windows may automatically associated the downloading file with Adobe Digital Editions, which is a good thing.  Let it launch ADE after it downloads the file if need be.

(b)               Connect the Nook Color USB cable to your computer, then connect it to your Nook Color.

(c)                ADE should now display your Nook Color device as available in the left-hand navigation pane.

(i)                 To add the ebook you just purchased/downloaded, select Add Library Item (or press Ctrl+O to open) from the Library menu in ADE.

(ii)               Navigate to the folder where you downloaded the file (in a Windows 7 environment, you may already have a favorites item called ‘Downloads’ available).

(iii)             Select the ebook and click the Open button.  ADE should now display the cover of the ebook as a thumbnail in the left-hand area.  Or, if your view is currently set to the List option, then new ebook will be listed by Title, Author, etc.

(iv)             Click the thumbnail of the new ebook cover and drag it to your Nook Color device (listed in the left-hand navigation pane of ADE).

(d)               Close ADE and safely disconnect your Nook Color from your computer.

(e)                Back on your Nook Color, there are two ways to find the ebook you just transferred from your computer:

(i)                 Using the Library application:

(1)               Open your Library and switch to the My Stuff area (last tab/button along the top).

(2)               Drill down to the Digital Editions folder and click on the ebook file name you just transferred from your computer to the Nook Color.

(ii)               Using Search

(1)               Type the file name or title of the new ebook.

(2)               Select the ebook from the search results.

3. Library eBook Lending:  Most libraries also use Adobe Digital Editions to managed the ebooks you borrow.  Your library may already provide you with instructions and a tutorial.  I know mine did:

(a)                Kansas City Public Library instructions for Checking Out eBooks to a Nook, Kobo or other non-Amazon eReader.

(b)               Kansas City Public Library video tutorial on Downloading eBooks for the Nook and other non-Amazon eReaders.

(c)                You can use the same process described above to find the file on your Nook Color (either through the Library application or by Searching for the file name or title of the ebook).

4. Public Domain eBooks (DRM-Free):  Those ebooks downloaded from Project Gutenberg or the public domain section of Feedbooks, should be DRM free and thus will not require the use of Adobe Digital Editions to copy the ebook file to your Nook Color.

(a)                Download the ebook and note the file name and folder location.

(b)               Connect your Nook Color to your computer.

(c)                When prompted (an Autoplay dialog box should pop up), click the ‘Open folder to view files’ option.

(d)               Drill down to the My Files folder on your Nook Color and open the Books subfolder.

(e)                In a separate Windows Explorer window, find the ebook file and Copy it (Ctrl+C).

(f)                Return to the Nook Color window that should be open to the Books subfolder of the My Files folder and Paste (Ctrl+V).

(g)               Close all Windows Explorer windows and safely disconnect your Nook Color from your computer.

(h)               You can use the same process described above to find the file on your Nook Color (either through the Library application or by Searching for the file name or title of the ebook).

To manage all your DRM-free ebooks, I would suggest using Calibre, an open source software package.  I give you fair warning, however, that Calibre is not as easy to use as it could be, but I have hopes that the user interface will improve with each update.  I only recommend Calibre to people who are not technology challenged.

Rain Showers Instead of Meteor Showers

Photo1005.jpgI got a strange call this afternoon from my daughter’s boyfriend.  I let it go to my voice-mail because I happened to be in the middle of a meeting at that time.  When I got a chance to listen to his voice-mail, I nearly laughed out loud.  I always fear the worst when I get calls out-of-the-blue from my kids (or their significant others), but this time he just wanted to let me know he had heard a blurb on NPR about the peak viewing opportunity tonight for the annual Geminid meteor shower.  I called him back to thank him for the heads up, but I already had at least four other feeds (from various astronomy magazines, clubs and websites) keeping me up-to-date on all things astronomincal.  My biggest hurdle to viewing anything in the night sky this week is the non-stop rain and overcast huddled over Kansas.  Check out tonight’s hourly forecast for my viewing area:

The star Castor in the constellation Gemini nearly coinicides with the radiant point of the annual Geminid meteor shower

So just like what happened last month with the Leonids, I guess I’ll be missing the Geminids this year.  I sure hope 2012 allows me better viewing opportunities for meteor shows, comets and the planets.  I remember May being especially disappointing with overcast skies nearly every weekend.  I finally gave up in August and stored the telescope in the basement because the weather just wouldn’t cooperate with my observing goals and schedule.  I almost retrieved it for last weekend’s lunar eclipse, but since the eclipse coincided with moonset and sunrise, I decided looking through the hazy atmosphere with my camera’s telephoto lens would be sufficient.

Parking Temporarily Returns

Photo1006.jpgLast week I reported my home town Public Works Department had installed a ‘no parking’ sign in my court (and twelve other cul-de-sacs spread across the city).  This afternoon when I turned into my driveway, I noticed the sign had been removed from the pole.  Terry will need to let the band members know they can park in the usual locations for tomorrow night’s weekly rehearsal.  I’m just happy I won’t be juggling cars tomorrow or worrying about where to put them, especially since the wet yard would rut if I had to park some of them off the street.  I doubt my previous blog post could have caused so much fervor that it necessitated the complete removal of the sign by the City.  I know they planned to add an addendum to the ‘no parking’ sign to indicate only during snow, but I assumed a second sign would be attached below the first one.  Apparently, something else is planned and I will keep an eye on the sign post for the next few days to see what develops.

Tips and Teaks

I continue to experiment and enjoy the enhancements of the Nook Color software update 1.4.1 released yesterday.  I encountered some diminished functionality from a couple of websites I frequented.  After trying the usual things (clearing cache, cookies and history and powering the device off), I chatted with a customer service representative at Barnes & Noble.  I didn’t agree with his proposed solution and while he went seeking advice from a higher power (second tier tech support), I stumbled upon a solution.  I updated yesterday’s blog post to include my findings.

Continued Prayers Please

My husband saw the specialist today and a biopsy is scheduled for three days before Christmas.  Your continued prayers for healing, strength, understanding and patience are greatly appreciated.

Product Review: Nook Color Software Update 1.4.1 (Released for Manual Download and Install 12/12/2011)

About four hours ago, I received notice (several of them actually from various different venues and feeds) of the highly anticipated software update from Barnes & Noble for the Nook Color (specifically update 1.4.1).  When the Nook Tablet was announced last month, B&N also mentioned this software update, probably as a carrot to current owners of the Nook Color.  Since I’m a geek by nature and can’t stand to let an update languish, I dived right in and manually installed the update.

Manual Update (Download, Side-Load, Wait)

I barely glanced at the instructions.  I read just enough to confirm that the process for 1.4.1 seemed essentially identical to the last three software updates.  I actually didn’t get a chance to manually install 1.3 as it happened ‘automatically’ overnight while I was sleeping.  I did manually download and install 1.2 though, but that was back in May when I first received my Nook Color.

Basically, I downloaded the 208 MB file.  I made sure I had at least 20 percent battery life left (I had 65 percent), then I connected my Nook Color to my laptop.  I copied the downloaded file to the root of the Nook Color’s internal storage area (not the root of my microSD card).  I safely disconnected my Nook Color and left it alone for the next couple of hours (I had other things I needed to attend to).  The Nook Color will automatically ‘see’ the file, uncompress it and install the software update.

What’s New?

The following is copied directly from the Nook Color Software Updates page:

The NOOK Color Ver 1.4.1 update contains new features and enhancements, including:

  • Access to popular movies and TV shows streamed through Netflix
  • NOOK Comics™ including the largest collection of Marvel graphic novels – with vivid colors & rich images, the action nearly jumps off the page. Your issues always in perfect condition to enjoy again & again.
  • PagePerfect™ NOOK Books™ – a whole new category of NOOK Books carefully crafted to keep the precision and beauty of their stunning print versions. Zoom in on pictures, and fluidly scroll through pages of beautiful cookbooks, art books, and more.
  • Over 100 enhancements, including reading NOOK Books in portrait and landscape modes, direct look-up of words in the built-in dictionary, increased font size selection, and more.


Landscape eReading
Nook Color eReader in Landscape Mode

I tested out as many of the enhancements as I could find over lunch.  I read an ebook in portrait and landscape mode (the latter was not previously an option).  The ereader reacted faster to my touch gestures as well.  I really like the updated ereader interface, including the progress bar that shows me how many pages are left to read in the current chapter and the ability to lookup a highlighted phrase via Google or Wikipedia.

I checked out the new home for Nook Color apps (relocated to the Library section).  The Library got a small overhaul, but nothing that jumps out and grabs me.  The new non-beta version of Nook Friends lets you import contacts from Facebook in addition to the other sources previously supported. I connected to my NetFlix account and tested video streaming.  The music player didn’t lose my music or my playlists or my audiobooks and the Pandora app still streamed music.  All my photos and non-B&N ebooks remained intact and readily available.

Nook Color Apps now found in Library

The only app I had any trouble with was the GoodReads one.*  I contacted them via their Feedback forum as I’m probably one of the first to update the Nook Color and attempt to use their application.  I was able to access GoodReads, however, via the web browser.

My initial thoughts on the update are positive.  I like what I see, especially in the updated ereader interface.  I also like having my Netflix streaming available literally in the palm of my hand (so if I don’t feel like reading at lunch, I can instead watch old Star Trek episodes).  The software update will be pushed via wifi starting next week, but if you don’t mind getting your hands a little tech-dirty, I’d recommend you download the update and enjoy the benefits at your earliest convenience.  This update takes some of the sting out of not waiting until Christmas to purchase an ereader.  If I’d had the patience back in May to wait just six months, I could have had a dual-core processor version in the Nook Tablet.  At least now I can enjoy most of the benefits of the software, without the hardware upgrade.


After nearly a full day of use, I’ve found a couple of strange web browser issues that Barnes & Noble customer service wanted to fix with a sledge hammer (i.e., they wanted me to de-register and re-register my Nook Color).  I refused and asked for a different less ‘scorched earth’ resolution.  By the time I started chatting with them, I’d already cleared my cache, cookies and history and powered off the device twice.  The customer service representative asked me to wait a few minutes while he consulted the next tier of support.  He came back and asked the I set the browser to ‘default’ mode.  I countered asking if he meant the option under Advanced Settings that resets the browser to ‘factory’ defaults.  He wasn’t completely sure so while I waited for him to get confirmation, I reset my Browser Mode setting from ‘Mobile Browser Mode‘ (where I had been for months if not from the beginning) to ‘Desktop Browser Mode‘ and returned to my web page.  Now, I was able to navigate to my Yahoo Mail mobile web site and the Google Reader page included all the options (some where missing before switching modes).

I still use mobile sites when I can (and had to edit my bookmarks or re-bookmark the mobile versions of my favorites) because I prefer the streamlined interface on the smaller screen.  So I’m back to being happy with my Nook Color and still exploring all the new and enhanced features.  If I find any more tweaks or tips this week, I’ll continue to add them to this post.

* Update 12/15/2011:  GoodReads fixed the application within 48 hours of my initial post to their Feedback forum and last night I downloaded the updated app (press the ‘Check for Updates’ link in the Apps section of the Library) to my Nook Color.   The About page displays version 1.7.3 as the currently installed version.  I tested the app and determined all the features I’ve come to know and love were again functioning as expected.  A DropBox update presented itself simultaneously with the GoodReads update, so I downloaded it as well.  The About section of the Settings show version 1.2.7 installed.  The application appears to be functioning normally.