David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Holiday Gift-Shopping Ideas (to probably stay away from)

December 7, 2011:  Holiday Gift-Shopping Ideas (to probably stay away from)

My wife recently bought The CIA World Factbook: 2012.  It's not nearly as fun as I thought it would be.  Having first seen the title, I assumed there might be information about terrorist cells, JFK conspiracies, secret presidential bunkers, and water-boarding.  Boy, was I disappointed?  Instead, I randomly open the book to page 36, and I get facts about Ashmore and Cartier Islands, territories of Australia.  Having been to Australia twice, I wasn't aware of these islands, so the book is teaching me something.  I now know it has 74.1km of coastline, tropical climate, no indigenous inhabitants, and no diplomatic representation in the US (gee, what a surprise, given the other facts).

I leaf through the pages, learning more about Kosovo, Malta, Niue, Samoa and Togo than I ever thought I would.  So it is quite the educational tome (I now know where to go to find what countries were non consultative parties to the "Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty"--Denmark, I have my eye on you!).  It is just a tamer tome to me than I had hoped.

However, it got me thinking that I have never really considered the wealth of "factbooks" our government must provide.  Check out the Government Bookstore for some great holiday gift ideas:

There is a "special values" tab, which looks promising.  However, one quickly discerns nothing (I'm not going to make a "nothing of value" crack here) is available at the following links for "special values"--"Aerospace," "Code of Federal Regulation" (shucks!), "Employment" (that may say everything we need to know about our current challenges with unemployment), "Energy," "Posters" (I guess my son's Aaron Rodgers' poster will have to stay up another year!), "Social Security" (see parenthetical for "employment"), and "taxes."  Just as disturbing is the fact that the only special value in the education section is "a quick reference guide for finding correct word divisions."

Finally, see what we discover in the "best sellers": "Health Insurance Claim Form," "United States Government Manual 2011," and, eek, "U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual:  An Official Guide to the Form and Style of Federal Government Printing, 2008."  With best sellers like this, what are the remaindered books?  Oh, that's right, see paragraph directly above.

Actually, I am no fool.  I only need to refer to my CIA World Factbook to know that we are very lucky to have our government bookstore.  I hear the special values at the North Korean bookstore are "Government Approved Spellings of Pyongyang" and "No WMD's Here, No Sir."  America the Beautiful, baby!

{Hmm, I hope that knocking on the door isn't coming from a man in a dark suit and sunglasses.}