MY $3 DINNER: Dim Sum

Back in July, I posted this piece about a ribeye “steak” for sale at my local Dollar Tree. A week later, my sister Facebooked a cell phone pic of a poster advertising the same “steaks” at her local Dollar Tree. I commented on her pic, and suggested that I review all the frozen food Dollar Tree sells. My sis thought it was funny… and so… here we are.

The missus and I go to Dollar Tree every few weeks to pick up various odds and ends, like shower curtain liners, tealight candles, C batteries, circus peanuts (don’t judge!) and Utz Crab Chips (every store in Charlotte sells Utz chips, but only Dollar Tree sells the Crab Chip flavor for some reason). Also, my local Dollar Tree recently installed a freezer, allowing this particular location to sell frozen food items for the first time. I almost always check out the frozen foods, and often pick up a few Golden Krust Jamaican beef patties, ‘cos they’re $2.58 for 2 at Walmart, but only $1 each at Dollar Tree.

On our most recent trip, the missus pointed out a bag of frozen pot stickers. I gave ’em a look, and was surprised that they were a 7 oz pack (compared to some of the other laughably small frozen items they sell). But then I spied another Chinese food item: cha siu bao, a bun stuffed with barbequed pork! Considering that this was a Dollar Tree in Belmont, North Carolina I was well and truly shocked! I know of only a couple of places to buy them in Charlotte, and those are restaurants. The notion of buying frozen ones – and for only a dollar no less! – was just… amazing!

I gleefully grabbed a pack of pot stickers (pork, naturally) and 2 bao. And last night was the night they became my $3 dinner:

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Although microwave instructions were provided for both items, I decided to go the traditional route and steam them. That meant getting out the double boiler and filling it halfway up with water. I then sprayed the top “rack” of the boiler with Pam, added the pot stickers and, when the water began to boil, put the rack on the boiler and covered. I let those cook for 9 minutes before adding the bao, as they (allegedly) only required 5 minutes of steaming. Come to find out, the bao were still slightly frozen inside after 6 minutes of steaming, so I plated the pot stickers and nuked the bao for a minute in the microwave. When the bao were done, it was time to eat:

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So… how were they?

Well, as soon as I opened the bag of pot stickers I noticed how pungent they were… and I mean that in a good way. They smelled almost exactly like the ones I get from my local Chinese restaurant. So that was a good sign. But it wasn’t until they’d steamed that I realized just how thin the wrappers are on these things. The wrappers my local Chinese place uses for pot stickers are thick, almost as thick as a Kraft cheese slice. These, on the other hand, were paper thin. I almost tore the first couple in half as I pulled them out of the steam basket. What’s more, these diminutive dumplings only had a teaspoon of filling each, compared to the tablespoon (and a half?) stuffed in the ones from my local Chinese place. Having said all that, all the right tastes were there. They might be small, but they sure tasted almost exactly like the ones from my favorite Chinese restaurant. And actually, when it comes to copying the taste of Chinese restaurant pot stickers, these actually put Trader Joe’s pot stickers to shame! If I had to choose between these and restaurant ones, I’d certainly choose the restaurant ones any day. But these are a perfectly serviceable substitute. I’d be happy to keep a couple packs in the freezer for football games and snacks. And they certainly have my local Chinese place beat on price: I could almost buy 5 bags of the things for what New China charges for a single order of pot stickers!

And then there were the bao. One thing I don’t like about bao generally is the inconsistent sweetness of the bun. At some places, the bun is nearly tasteless. At others there’s a faint sweet taste, as if they misted it with sugar water after steaming. But then some places seem to dunk the buns in high fructose corn syrup after steaming. Gross. So yeah – I’m not a fan of the sweeter buns, and thankfully these only had a slight sweetness to them.

I was also impressed by the ratio of filling to bun: many bao have a tiny amount of filling in a giant bun. If you’ve ever had chicken and dumplings with drop dumplings, imagine a baseball-sized dumpling with a tiny teaspoon of filling inside. These were perfectly balanced – not too much bun, not too much filling. And guess what? The filling had plenty of pork in it! If you’ve ever looked at the picture of a Hot Pocket on the front of the box – where they’re almost bursting with pepperoni or ham or whatever – then bit in to one to find mostly air… you have nothing to worry about here!

My only problem was that there was an odd sweetness to the barbeque pork that seemed to build as I ate the buns. Sugar (or corn syrup) is not listed as ingredient in the buns, but the oyster sauce and hoisin sauce both have sugar as a main ingredient. Still, it’s a minor quibble. These aren’t quite as good as the ones you’d get in a dim sum house… but they’re really, really good for a frozen product. Just steam them for at least 10 minutes, not the 5 listed on the instructions.

THE VERDICT: Two thumbs up – would eat both again!

The “Battle” of the Sexes?

We’re around a month shy of the 40th anniversary of one of the most controversial tennis matches ever: the “Battle of the Sexes”, which took place between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King on September 20, 1973.

I was only two years old when the match happened, so I don’t remember it. But I certainly remember the era in which it took place. “Women’s Lib” was on the rise, and this tennis match, of all things, was very nearly a referendum on gender roles and equality. Millions of “male chauvinist pigs” were sure that no man could lose to a woman, and millions of women cheered for King, either vocally or silently.

Many people have forgotten that there was actually an earlier “Battle of the Sexes”. Riggs, who was 55 and retired, initially challenged King, then ranked #2 in the world, to a match. She refused, and so Australia’s Margaret Court, then 30 years old and the #1 female player in the world, agreed in her stead. On Mother’s Day 1973, Riggs and Court met in Ramona, California. Riggs easily won the match 6–2, 6–1, and got himself on the cover of Sports Illustrated and Time that week.


All the media attention from the first match put enormous pressure on King to accept when Riggs approached her for “Battle of the Sexes II”. Riggs, who in truth was probably interested in money much more than gender issues, put together an effective PR campaign hyping the event. Indeed, it was likely Riggs’ people who really hyped the gender issues, stoking the fire of feminism in hopes of making more money from the event. Not that it was really needed: King was an outspoken feminist, and Riggs’ sexist taunts, freely given to any media outlet that would listen, begged King to reply. T-shirts and buttons were made up promoting the event, and millions of Americans chose sides. ABC, the network airing the event, ran breathless promos for the match around the clock, and Riggs went on 60 Minutes before the event just to make sure that every single American was aware of the match.

Tennis is normally a pretty sedate and well-mannered sport. But all the hype around the event gave it a pro wrestling feel. The 30,472 people who showed up at the Astrodome to watch the spectacle (the highest-ever attendance at a tennis match in the US, by the way) were treated to King being brought to the court in a chair “held by four bare-chested muscle men dressed in the style of ancient slaves”, while Riggs was brought in on a “rickshaw drawn by a bevy of scantily-clad models”. The two met at mid-court, where Riggs gave King a large lollipop, and King gave Riggs a live piglet named Larimore Hustle (“Larimore” being RIgg’s middle name, and “Hustle” coming from his reputation as a gambler). 90 million people around the world – a staggering 50 million in the United States, whose population was only 212 million at the time – were glued to their TVs as the match began.

And then, the damnedest thing happened: King won, 6–4, 6–3, 6–3.

Women across America cheered while men cried in their beers.

But let’s take a closer look at what actually happened, shall we?

Continue reading “The “Battle” of the Sexes?”

Ask One Simple Question…

So I’ve been watching a lot of Australian crime dramas over the past couple of years, and one slang term always piqued my interest: “Jacks”, Aussie slang for police officers, as in “ever since the bank robbery, the Jacks have been watching me nonstop”. I wondered where it came from. Did early Australian police officers wear badges with prominent Union Jacks on them, maybe? Or did they represent British authority, as embodied by the Union Jack?

Nope – as always, the answer is far more complicated.

It all goes back to the Middle Ages, specifically France. Cavalrymen of noble birth were known as gens d’armes, which literally translates as “men at arms”. By the early 1700s, however, the gun had made heavily-armored cavalrymen nearly obsolete. So in 1720, the cavalry was placed under the authority of the French national police force – the Maréchaussée de France – and became known as the Gendarmerie de France. During the French Revolution, both the Maréchaussée and the Gendarmerie were abolished, only to be reincarnated as a military police force (still around today) called the Gendarmerie Nationale.

Contrary to popular belief, gendarme is not the generic French term for “police officer”.  The Gendarmerie Nationale has very specific tasks:

– to provide police services in areas outside the jurisdiction of the Police Nationale. This mostly includes rural areas, towns of less than 20,000 people and areas that cross multiple jurisdictions (like lakes and rivers). In this sense, they’re roughly analogous to county police in the United States that patrol areas outside city limits.

– Certain criminal investigations under judicial supervision.

– to provide all security at airports and military bases, and to conduct all investigations related to the military.

– to dress up in fancy costumes and participate in ceremonies involving foreign heads of state (much like the Coldstream Guards and their funny bear hats in the UK).

– to provide for crowd control.

– to provide all para-military (SWAT) services in France.

Sooooo… what does any of this have to do with Australian slang? Well, for a time in the late 1800s it was fashionable for seedy British types to call the police “John Darmes” in an obvious riff on gendarmes. Over time, “John Darme” became “John”, and then just “Jack” (that word being in use in English since the 1700s as British slang for a common man, as in “every man Jack needs a job”).

If it sounds weird… it’s possible that “John Darme” had a brief life in the United States, too. In the early 20th century, many Americans referred to the police as “John Law”. Whether this particular “John” comes from Britain and Australia’s “John Darme” or whether it’s a home-grown usage of John meaning “an everyman” (like “John Doe” or “John Q. Public”) is up for debate.

Rugby Signage

I was flipping through the channels one rainy Sunday a while back and came across a rugby match from Australia. Since I hadn’t watched rugby in like… years (and since there wasn’t anything else on), I decided to watch for a bit.

I don’t remember much about the actual match, but I do remember being blown away by the ads on the field. It looked like they were made using the same technology TV networks use in American football broadcasts to “paint” the first-down line on the field… which is amazingly complex, by the way. Only this was some kind of super high-tech version, able to do all kinds of designs:

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Come to find out, it’s not high-tech at all. It’s just paint on a field, applied in such a manner so that from the camera’s point of view it looks like it’s “floating” on the grass. Here are a few pics from other angles so you can see how odd the graphics look away from the TV cameras:

Newlands Rugby
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Rugby 2
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Apparently this type of “grass signage” is a big deal in Australia (see this company or this company). Although it’s not as high-tech as I’d thought, it’s still pretty clever.

The (Bizarre) History of American Coinage

A while back I stumbled across this article at British newspaper The Guardian‘s website. It’s a filler piece written by a young man named Richard Morris. In it, he discusses the “five best” and “five worst” things about the year he spent studying at the University of West Georgia in the United States. One of Morris’ “worst things” was American coinage:

I’m not very good with numbers, so maybe this didn’t help me, but I still cannot understand American coins after living here for 10 months. One of the coins which is larger actually has a lower value than a coin which is smaller (and of the same colour), go figure. “Dimes” and “nickels,” still mean nothing to me.

Of course, to many of you the real mystery might be why anyone would travel 4,270 miles to go to West Georgia! SERIOUSLY: THOUSANDS OF UNIVERSITIES IN THE UNITED STATES, AND YOU CHOSE THAT ONE?? But that’s neither here nor there. And it is true that many foreign visitors have trouble with American coins. So let’s take a look at the history of American coinage and see if we can make sense of it all.

*     *     *

Modern American coins go back 221 years, to the Coinage Act of 1792. The act authorized the construction of the US Mint in Philadelphia, the very first building erected by the federal government under the new Constitution. The act also made the dollar the national currency of the United States, finally abolishing the hodgepodge of British and Spanish coins that had been used before. The act also defined several types of coin, which I’ll summarize below:


A mill is a thousandth of a dollar, or, to put it another way, a tenth of a cent. The name comes from the Latin millesimum, which means “thousandth part”. The funny thing is, even in 1792 mills were useless as a unit of currency. One couldn’t buy anything with a mill coin, so the Mint never bothered to make any. A few states made mill coins out of cheap materials like tin or paper for the purpose of paying taxes, but for the most part, mill coins have never existed.

But just because mills don’t exist as coins doesn’t mean they don’t exist as units of currency. In most American locales, property taxes are calculated using mills. Counties assess the value of each property in their jurisdiction and apply a millage rate to calculate the amount of tax a landowner owes. For example, a county might assess a piece of property as being worth $250,000. If the tax rate is 5 mills, then the homeowner owes $1,250 in taxes ($250,000 x .005 = $1,250). Mills are also used in a couple of industries: electric power is usually measured internally in mills, and stock brokers often charge their clients in mills rather than percentages.

But outside property taxes, the average American sees the mills most often with gasoline prices. In every US state, gas prices have nine mills tacked on the end, so that gas might cost $3.109 per US gallon. Why this is so is a mystery. Some say it came about thanks to a 1933 increase in the gas tax from 1¢ to 1.5¢ per gallon. Others say it’s just “charm pricing”, which is to offer an item for $1.99 instead of $2.00, because our brains process the former as being significantly cheaper than the latter. Still others believe a more likely story: that back when gasoline emerged as a consumer item in the early 1900s, it was sold in such small amounts and at such low prices that mills actually mattered.

But gas prices reveal something else about American culture: the universal dislike of mills. With the exception of property taxes, most every American will discuss such small units of currency as fractions of a cent instead of mills. No one ever thinks of a gallon of gas costing $3.10 and 9 mills… it’s $3.10 and 9/10 of a cent. And this might be because of trading stamps.

For almost a century, retailers across the United States offered trading stamps with every purchase. You’d save the stamps and redeem them for things like clocks, toasters and lamps. You may even remember the “54-40 and Fight” episode of The Brady Bunch, in which the kids agree to pool their saved trading stamp books, but chaos breaks out when the boys want to use the stamps to get a “boy’s item” (a row boat) while the girls want to use them for a “girl’s item” (a sewing machine).

Green Stamp

Of course, the stamps weren’t free. Companies like Sperry & Hutchinson charged retailers to join their programs, and charged for each roll of stamps the retailer ordered. And retailers, not surprisingly, passed these costs on to consumers as higher prices. In 1904, the state of New York passed a law requiring trading stamp companies to offer cash rebates in addition to housewares and sporting goods. Companies like S&H placed a value of one mill on each stamp, meaning that one could trade a book of 1,000 stamps for a dollar. But here’s the thing: almost no one took them up on the offer, because it was almost always a better deal to redeem stamps for goods instead of cash.

Continue reading “The (Bizarre) History of American Coinage”

No Kidding?

So the other day I was reading this post at The Daily Caller. The gist of the story was that increasing tobacco taxes decreases revenue. This should seem obvious to anyone who took ECON 101 in college: the higher the price, the less demand there will be for the product. Because, ya know, that’s how supply and demand works.

Yet America’s politicians keep piling on the taxes and end up amazed when the higher tax generates less revenue than the lower tax did before. The linked article cites a study by the National Taxpayers Union, which found that (among other things) a 2006 cigarette tax increase in New Jersey actually produced $52 million less than the lower tax did the previous year. And broke-ass Illinois approved a $1/pack increase last June… which led to 39% less revenue compared to the lower tax the year before. Total shortfall: $130 million.

Of course, it helps that neighboring states might have lower taxes. Illinois has Missouri on one side (which has a 17¢/pack tax, the lowest in the country) and Indiana on the other side (which has half the excise tax of Illinois). And, for much of Massachusetts, dirt-cheap smokes and booze are only a 30-minute drive to New Hampshire.

Believe it or not, of all the issues we disagree on, THIS has always been my main beef with the Democratic Party. Not cigarette taxes specifically, but how Democrats want to have it both ways.

Back in 1990, Congress passed the infamous “luxury tax”, which added a 10% surcharge to jewelry and furs over $10,000, cars over $30,000, boats over $100,000 and private planes over $250,000. The theory, of course, was that wealthy Americans could easily afford such taxes, and would happily pay them. Or, to put it in more economic terms, TAXATION WOULD NOT AFFECT CONSUMPTION.

So… what happened? It was a disaster for American boat and airplane manufacturers. Before passage, Congressional policy wonks had estimated that the luxury tax would generate $9 billion in revenue over 5 years. But in 1991, the first full year of the tax, government revenues from the luxury tax were a mere $3 million. Demand for new boats plummeted by 70%, and at least 7,600 people in the boating industry lost their jobs (other estimates are much higher: one source says 13,000 workers in Florida alone lost their jobs, and as many as 30,000 people in related industries lost their jobs, too). It’s almost certain that the federal government paid out more in unemployment benefits than they gained from the tax. At the same time, the “boat tax” helped make a bunch of Bahamians and Panamanians rich. I don’t know if the tax did not apply to purchases made outside the US, or if the tax was simply easy to evade with overseas purchases, but suddenly overseas boat salesmen were swimming in money, thanks to Democrats in Congress. Odd how the world works sometimes..

The tax was such a disaster that Congress repealed it in 1993. And you know a tax is a mistake when the New York Times (a bastion of right-wing thought if ever there was one) says so. But yet, that very same year, First Lady Hillary Clinton advocated raising the tax on cigarettes by as much as $2/pack, with the publicly stated goal of “reducing teen smoking”. Thus, TAXATION DOES AFFECT CONSUMPTION.

So Democrats… which one is it? Does taxation affect consumption or not? You guys might be surprised to find that Chief Justice John Marshall figured it out all the way back in 1819 in McCulloch v. Maryland:

“the power to tax involves the power to destroy”

Use that power wisely, folks.


QUICK REVIEW: Parralox’s “Recovery”

I like Parralox. I really do. But their new album is nothing but covers, and to say that covers “aren’t their strong point” would be too kind. This album is AWFUL. You’d expect an Australian synthpop band to do a crappy cover of Alan Parson’s “Eye in the Sky”… but (amazingly) their cover of Front 242’s “Headhunter” sucks just as much.

Imagine a bad German techno band covering some iconic rock and roll song, and even though you can’t stand AC\DC, and even though rednecks in AC\DC shirts used beat you up every day in high school, you just can’t bear to have “Highway to Hell” slaughtered this way. And even though you love synthpop with all your heart, there’s just something… fundamentally wrong about a crappy Kraftwerk knock-off turning “Born to Run” into a campy European dance club hit.

True story: I once went to a castle in Austria that had horrific statutes of disfigured animals all over the place. According to the tour guide, the Archbishop of Salzberg who built the place in the early 1600s sought out deformed animals and mated them with other deformed animals, just to see what would happen. He’d then commission artists to make statues of the poor creatures for posterity. And just as a three-headed cow shouldn’t exist, neither should this album.


Happy Birthday, Andy Warhol!

Today is Andy Warhol’s birthday. He would have been 85.

Andy Warhol

I was born in the early 70s. By the time I was old enough to appreciate art, Warhol had become something of a caricature of himself. Sure, I knew who he was, and was familiar with his work. Hell, it would have been hard to grow up in the 70s and 80s and not know who Andy Warhol was. But I was too young to remember the “Revolutionary” Warhol of the 60s and early 70s. I didn’t know him as the counter-culture icon he truly was back then. Warhol was kind of like The Beatles to me: I knew who The Beatles were, and had heard dozens of their songs. But the band broke up before I was born, and I totally missed the whole “Beatlemania” phenomenon. It’s kind of like how teenagers of today know what MTV was, but didn’t live through it, and can’t ever know how truly awesome it was at the time.

So anyway, one thing I always found odd about Warhol was how stiff he seemed. I’d see him on TV and thought it was weird how he didn’t really move his body much. It almost seemed as if Warhol was a fully-functioning human head on top of a mannequin’s body. It wasn’t until much later – the past few years, actually – that I realized why that was.

Valerie Solanas was a radical feminist, born in New Jersey in 1936. In the mid 1960s, she moved to New York City. She ran in to Warhol outside his art studio, The Factory, and asked him to produce her play, Up Your Ass (the play has never been published, but is about a prostitute who kills one of her johns, apparently an eerie foreshadowing of Aileen Wuornos’ story). Warhol said that he would. But, so the story goes, he lost her manuscript. Solanas, enraged, demanded $25 from Warhol as compensation. Instead he paid her $25 to appear in his film I, a Man.

At the time, Solanas was living at the Chelsea Hotel, the former home of Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Charles Bukowski, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Leonard Cohen, Arthur C. Clarke, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller (and the place where Sid Vicious allegedly killed Nancy Spungen). Also living at the Chelsea was Maurice Girodias, founder of Olympia Press. In 1967, Girodias signed Solanas to a $500 contract. Solanas, who was later diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, freaked out about this, thinking Girodias would “own” her work. She began to think that Warhol and Girodias were behind some sort of “conspiracy” to steal her work.

On June 3, 1968, Solanas sat in lobby of the Chelsea and waited for Girodas for three hours, despite having been told by the front desk that he had left the city for the weekend. She then went to Grove Press and asked for Barney Rosset (another member of her imagined “conspiracy”). She was told that he was out of town, too. So she went to The Factory. Warhol’s friend, director Paul Morrissey, told her that Warhol wouldn’t be there that day, either. Solanas waited outside for two hours, then went up to the studio, where Morrissey again told her that Warhol wasn’t coming in that day. So Solanas rode the elevator up and down until Warhol showed up. They walked in the studio together, where Morrissey again asked her to leave. He then went to the restroom. While he was gone, the phone rang. Warhol answered it, and while he was on the phone Solanas took three shots at him. The first two missed, but the third hit Warhol in both lungs, his spleen, stomach, liver and esophagus. Warhol was taken to Columbus-Mother Cabrini Hospital, where he barely clung to life. According to Warhol lore, he was actually pronounced dead, but when the surgeon realized who it was, he opened Warhol’s chest and massaged his heart until it started beating again. Warhol faced a long, painful recovery. The bullet had literally torn up his insides, and for the rest of his life he was forced to wear a “surgical corset”… which is why Warhol always appeared so stuff on TV.

As for Solanas, she turned herself in the next day. At her arraignment, she went off on a bizarre rant about why she shot Warhol. She was promptly committed to Bellevue Hospital. She was transferred to several hospitals, and was eventually deemed fit enough to stand trial. She was convicted of “reckless assault with intent to harm”, and sentenced to three years in prison, with the year she spent in mental hospitals credited to her sentence. After getting out she moved to California and lived in several flophouses before dying of pneumonia on April 25, 1988. She was 52. A giant pile of typewritten papers were found on a desk in her hotel room, but we’ll never know what they said because her mother burned them all.

One more interesting thing about Warhol: he was a really devout Catholic. Born in Pittsburgh, Warhol was baptized at St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church. After moving to Manhattan, Warhol attended mass almost every day at Church of St. Vincent Ferrer (even before the shooting, when a lot of people might “find Jesus”). St. Vincent’s priest at the time, Father Sam Matarazzo, speculated that Warhol kept his religious beliefs a secret because of his homosexuality (although Warhol was gay, many who knew him said he was kind of asexual, more prone to “voyeuristic masturbation” than actually having sex with people). Others have speculated that Warhol kept his piety to himself because it wasn’t “cool” to be religious in the 1960s art world. Amusingly, Warhol himself said that he kept a low profile at the church – by sitting in the back row, refusing communion, and not going to confession – because he “was self-conscious about being seen crossing himself the Orthodox way”.

Free audiobooks and ebooks in NC!

Live in North Carolina? Have a library card? Own a Mac or Windows PC? Optionally, do you have an iPhone, iPod, some other portable MP3\WMA player, a Kindle, Nook or Android device? Then you have access to the North Carolina Digital Library! Just click here to go to the site. All you need to create an “account” is your library card: click on the “Account” link, choose your county library from the drop-down list and enter your library card number when prompted.


You’ll have to download and install something called the OverDrive Media Console, but so far I’ve found it to be remarkably well-behaved for this kind of software. Once installed, you can go to a book’s page and click the “Borrow” button. You’ll be prompted for the type of file you want (in many cases, both WMA and MP3 files are available). You then download a small *.ODM file, which you open with OverDrive, which automagically downloads the audiobook(s) you want, much like the Amazon MP3 Downloader.

Part of the reason the OverDrive software is so well-behaved (for me) is that I’ve only downloaded mp3 audiobooks, which by definition cannot have DRM (I once saw a hilarious “this is why people pirate” webcomic where a guy recounted his real-life troubles with downloading content from his library, which ended with him downloading it from The Pirate Bay instead. I can’t seem to find the comic again, but this one from The Oatmeal is pretty similar and The Oatmeal is hilarious, so go read that and come back. I’ll wait.).

You’re supposed to delete any file(s) you’ve downloaded after a certain number of days, and OverDrive will do that automatically if you open the software after a book’s due date. But here’s the thing: all OverDrive does is copy mp3 files to a “My Media” folder in your Documents folder. If one were to, say, copy the mp3s to a different location, one could (theoretically) keep the files forever. Not that I would ever do such a thing… I’m just pointing it out to you. And if that’s a bit close to straight-up piracy for you, note that the OverDrive software will (in many cases) allow you to burn the files to audio CD or copy them to a portable player:


I don’t know anything about how the NC Digital Library handles ebooks… because quite frankly I’d rather have my eyes gouged out than read a book on my PC, phone or netbook. As tech-friendly as I am, I’m not even excited about Kindles or Nooks, either. So I really can’t help you there. I just know that ebooks are available in Kindle, OverDrive READ and Adobe EPUB formats, so if your device can handle those, knock yourself out.

One last thing: if the book you want is “out” – and many appear to be – you can place a “hold” for it, and the library will email you when the book is available for download.