Print Story Overdue Missive
By Kellnerin (Sun Sep 12, 2010 at 08:56:39 PM EST) (all tags)
Let's not talk about how long it's been.

THIS GIRL AT ONE of the kiosks in the mall tried to sell me on some Dead Sea lotion that is supposed to cure your skin of all sorts of diseases, which is a pretty strange pitch, if you think about it semantically. I'd gone to the mall to buy dress shoes, which is the sort of thing I only do under extreme duress, and I had just barely accomplished my mission.

She started by polishing my fingernail. Just the one: the left middle finger (which I'm sure was part of the script, but is another strange choice, semantically speaking). So, she went over the fingernail with three sides of this special fingernail-polishing tool, keeping a patter going the entire time, and when she revealed the results, even before she got to the drop of cuticle solution or the Dead Sea lotion, I was thinking, damnit, one of my fingernails is freakishly shiny, now what?

She offered me a special deal compared to the price this stuff supposedly sells for on the Internet, and an even better one if I was a student. But I'm not a student, I told her. She acted shocked. (People have been acting shocked at my age a lot, lately. I might have to start taking it personally.) Anyway, she and I reached an understanding whereby she'd give me the student deal if I agreed to keep it hush hush (whatever), and when I said "she tried" back at the beginning I was kind of lying, because to be entirely truthful, she succeeded.

I walked away with my nail care kit feeling kind of out-of-sorts, with one fingernail that just felt wrong to the touch, and after wandering aimlessly for a while, decided that what I needed was a bookstore.

Unfortunately, the nearest bookstore, a B&N superstore across the way from the mall, wasn't the store I wanted. I've recently come to the realization that many of the assumptions I had about books when I first entered the publishing industry, while they were pretty reasonable at the time, seem more or less ridiculous now, in 2010. And I also realized that brick-and-mortar bookstores piss me off now, at least the large chain ones. Really, I think it comes down to the whole physical-display-space thing -- that's a little whackadoo, isn't it?

It reminds me of the time when one of the developers I work with came in one day during the holiday shopping season talking about how he'd gone to this store over the weekend and been sort of floored by the implications of the store taking up physical space, to wit: that it requires you, the shopper, to move your body around in order to browse the various wares for sale, and that as the shopper, you're subject to the layout that is imposed on you by the shopkeeper, rather than dictating your own wishes with a few clicks or keystrokes. Now, I'm not averse to self-locomotion in order to inspect the merchandise available to me (it is of course worse when you have to deal with collisions between yourself and other meatbags attempting to occupy the same space), but what bugs me is when the people whose responsibility is to "curate" the space don't happen to choose what I think they should. For example, I was distressed to discover that they did not carry a single title by Hugo award-winning author Peter Watts.

If you ask me, I say it's time to replace these megabookstores with places that will print what you want on the spot, or else just have warehouses full of robots that deliver what you want to you. That is, if you absolutely insist on acquiring molecules instead of bits. But it feels like we've done a silly thing where we've deprecated the past while the future isn't yet ready for general availability. Anyway, it's sad when the most useful thing a bookstore can do for me is to sell me a Raspberry Java Chip Frappucino.

And on top of it all, my fingernail still feels strange, and there's a very distracting reflection from the laptop screen as I type.

THINGS AT WORK have been interesting, in the proverbial curse sense of the word. I'm continuing to play fake-it-till-I-make-it, and apparently I talk a good game. We'll see how long that lasts.

My colleague Geoff is working on project Geoff 2.0, the main feature of which, as I understand it, is that the new Geoff will be totally laid back. When we have one of our typically cynical conversations and he says something like, "Oh, why'd you have to go ahead and say that, now I'm going to be depressed about it all day." I say "No! Geoff 2.0!" and he goes, "Oh yeah!" and immediately cheers up.

I'm trying to take inspiration from this and roll out Kellnerin 2.0. I think this will be sort of an infrastructure release, rather than one with a bunch of flashy new features. To be honest, the current Kellnerin implementation suffers somewhat from feature-bloat and the attendant performance hits that come with a broad range of capabilities. The next iteration may need to sacrifice some previously available functionality in order to focus on the core value proposition, whatever that is. I think I need a product manager.

MEANWHILE, I'VE BEEN SLACKING on a few creative fronts. For example, I haven't responded to clock's gentle query from a while back because I wanted to have a better answer than, "Um." I didn't intend to drop that project, but I've basically found myself in a state where I kinda hate where it is (though there are parts of it I do like) and I haven't figured out how to reboot it, jumpstart it, or whatever the proper verb is. Perils of posting stuff raw and in real time, I guess.

I've been rummaging around in old pieces of mental luggage where I've been storing bits and fragments of story ideas, but I haven't found anything that I really want to travel with for any length of time. But I want a project, so I'll keep looking. Suggestions are welcome, for frameworks, strategies, or whatnot. I'll throw them in the box, shake them up, and see if the resulting tangle looks like it would be fun to unravel. I need something to do with my hands.

< Week One | Kitchen Gurus of HuSi! >
Overdue Missive | 25 comments (25 topical, 0 hidden)
Drugstores... by ana (2.00 / 0) #1 Sun Sep 12, 2010 at 09:15:10 PM EST
could totally benefit from a google interface. Bookstores also, of course, though I like the wandering around going "hello, what's this?"

The big box book stores annoy me, though. And my "read me next" pile is really unmanageably huge now, so I try to avoid bookstores altogether. Which is sad, and might change, now that I seem to have an abundance of free time.

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

such stores ... by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #3 Sun Sep 12, 2010 at 11:04:14 PM EST
often do have such an interface, only they're not the kind you can walk into and emerge with what you wanted; they're the kind where you add things to your "shopping cart" with a click rather than by manipulating physical objects. (Borders, if they still exist, is an exception with their search kiosks, kind of like the card catalog in a library.) Also, dare I say, you don't really want the Google so much as you want $MY_EMPLOYER'S_TECH.

Browsing a bookstore that's been thoughtfully and lovingly stocked is a pleasure; knocking around in one that's stocked via algorithm is less so. It's true that I'm less likely to acquire new books now that my free-time-to-unread-books is rather less favorable, but I like to wander in their midst every so often, nonetheless.

"Plans aren't check lists, they are loose frameworks for what's going to go wrong." -- technician

[ Parent ]
The only (new) bookstore that by wumpus (2.00 / 0) #20 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 12:09:25 PM EST
I remember enjoying browsing was a pre-corporate (or maybe just pre-Kmart-buyout) Borders. The place eventually moved across the street into a mall and was never the same.


[ Parent ]
I used to adore Borders by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #22 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 07:33:17 PM EST
when I first encountered them, in the pre-Kmart days. Even during the early stages of B&Nification I preferred them to their rival, before they both ramped up their race to the bland. These days, I'm only mildly nostalgic about them and don't know if I'd miss them much if they were to vanish entirely, which is sad in and of itself.

"Plans aren't check lists, they are loose frameworks for what's going to go wrong." -- technician
[ Parent ]
Please don't forget by johnny (2.00 / 0) #2 Sun Sep 12, 2010 at 10:37:50 PM EST
[$johnny's] stricture: never upgrade anything, ever.

I like Kellnerin 1.0 just fine, in other words. Am quite fond of same.  Please upgrade with all appropriate caution. Or better yet, don't upgrade.

Plus, topic number two: in conversations with various "real" publishers about some of my books. We should talk.

She has effectively checked out. She's an un-person of her own making. So it falls to me.--ad hoc (in the hole)

2.0 roadmap by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #4 Sun Sep 12, 2010 at 11:10:16 PM EST
applies strictly to Kellnerin Professional Edition. We're currently in the requirements-gathering phase and expect that it will be some time in development.

Re: the second topic, I am intrigued. I'm actually curious what "real" publishers are up to these days, and it would be a lovely surprise if "acquiring johnny's books" was on the agenda.

"Plans aren't check lists, they are loose frameworks for what's going to go wrong." -- technician

[ Parent ]
I let them do my thumbnail once. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #5 Sun Sep 12, 2010 at 11:55:28 PM EST
I stared at my super-shiny thumbnail for 2 weeks, then I went back and bought 2 gift sets. Made my nails less brittle.

The fact that she was a hot Israeli chick may also have been a factor.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Maybe by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #6 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 03:09:28 AM EST
... the perfect way to conclude a novel being written backwards is to end it in the middle?

On curating space ... In London B worked a shifting schedule, and one day she went to this exhibition with two of our friends who were new in town. It was kind of a neat concept, I Am A Curator, neat enough to have its own wiki page several years later, it seems. The idea was that the same art would be presented different ways on different days by different people, whoever was keen to sign up for it.

Anyway it was at a relatively obscure gallery, on a weekday. So when they turned up they were the only ones there, and the staff said no-one had actually curated the exhibition for that day, it was all just sort of half assembled from the day before. Our friends found this kind of irritating but it didn't seem to detract from B's day.

Otherwise the tightarse in me has always felt like too much floorspace was a bad sign in shops. If tech is involved to hold the inventory, this may be misguided.

Iambic Web Certified

it's not by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #11 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 08:57:40 AM EST
altogether a bad middle to end at, since it's more or less the pivotal point of the overall story, but I originally had more in mind than that. But even if I managed to commit everything I was thinking of to pixels and didn't completely hate it, I'd likely want to revise it dramatically. This is probably what's blocking me from getting the first step done.

I Am A Curator does sound neat in a sense, though being the daughter of a curator and having witnessed the birthing of many exhibitions, it sounds a bit like having an "I Am An Author" project where people can sign up to throw words and concepts together however they like (which has no doubt been done in many shapes and forms) or, perhaps more aptly, an "I Am A Director" project where they put up some sets and hire some actors and you can show up to boss them around for the day. I guess what I'm trying to say is that a good exhibition is a narrative, one that is expressed both in the selection and the installation, and is usually made explicit in the catalogue. But the narrative exists before any of these manifestations of it.

Still, it sounds like a potentially fun exercise. If you showed up on an uncurated day, would they let you try your hand at it?

"Plans aren't check lists, they are loose frameworks for what's going to go wrong." -- technician

[ Parent ]
I believe they would by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #17 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:34:30 AM EST
But they turned up around lunch, and the group wasn't keen as a whole. And as you must know it can be an involved activity.

I think it is like an I Am A Director project, but people don't necessarily think about curators as performing a similar function to directors, or at least not so much. Kind of like drawing attention to the frame by using no canvas.

I guess the way this exhibition turned the usual process upside down was in having 57 pieces to use as the content. So it was more like rehousing a permanent collection. In a day, by amateurs. Like curatorial improv, perhaps.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
Dead Sea by jump the ladder (2.00 / 0) #7 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 06:21:26 AM EST
I've been to the actual Dead Sea in Jordan for around 2 weeks on three occasions to help relieve my psoriasis. It's not the Dead Sea salts or mud that does the cure, it's the sunlight as you can sit outside tanning for hours without sun cream due to being 500m below sea level and the evaporation of the sea creating a haze that filters the sunlight. The Dead Sea bathing and mud at best soften the skin but it's 99% the sunlight that does the trick.

Yeah by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #12 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:00:57 AM EST
I'm not really expecting the Dead Sea gunk to have any miraculous properties, although it's interesting to know that the geography of the sea itself does have benefits.

"Plans aren't check lists, they are loose frameworks for what's going to go wrong." -- technician
[ Parent ]
The Decline and Fall of Bookstores. by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #8 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 07:55:55 AM EST
Norman Spinrad on The Publishing Death Spiral (Johnny should NOT read this.)

Also, Pirating the Pirates, or How to use someone else's criminality for your profit!

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

death spiral by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #13 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:08:56 AM EST
Publishing has been circling the drain since before I got into the game. I entered it long after some mythical Golden Age, and even since I've left I can point to symptoms of further decline. (It doesn't matter what the relevant dates are here; the previous statement is a truism.)

I think my musings were more based in the observation that the whole machinery of chain bookstores may once have been a reasonable compromise for getting books to the masses, but their evolution, in parallel with the evolution of places like Amazon, have led to a point where they seem a lot less reasonable. I'll check out the linked piece, though. If there's one thing about publishers, it's that they take a long time to adapt to a new meaning of the word "reasonable," and I don't just mean the lexicographers in the houses the publish dictionaries.

"Plans aren't check lists, they are loose frameworks for what's going to go wrong." -- technician

[ Parent ]
so, I read the post by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #24 Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 09:19:12 PM EST
That's quite a rant, in every sense of the word. The bookstore algorithm stuff is nothing new, though the Sonny Mehta story is amusing. (Especially to me, having worked at Knopf and being acquainted with the man himself -- even though Spinrad doesn't have all his facts straight, as I know from having lived through some of the events he alludes to, and even if he shows just a bit too much ego in thinking that it was any kind of personal attack on him.) He's also not the first person to look to the so-called eBook revolution to save the future of publishing, and while it is no doubt going to be a big part of the future, I don't believe it's a panacea for all ills (especially as there are oh so many ills).

It's good for people to be thinking -- and talking -- about how publishing is broken, even if no one gets it quite right. Hopefully it will get the industry as a whole closer to actually fixing itself. The tenuous benefits of the filesharing culture are equally worth observing, rather than stomping on altogether.

"Plans aren't check lists, they are loose frameworks for what's going to go wrong." -- technician

[ Parent ]
Salesperson by jimgon (2.00 / 0) #9 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 08:14:16 AM EST
You are too nice to have actually stood there and be sold to. 

Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
I think I must have been by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #14 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:10:40 AM EST
in a vulnerable state from the shoe shopping. I'm usually more alert and able to dodge the incoming vendors before they can get a hold of my hand to polish any part of it.

"Plans aren't check lists, they are loose frameworks for what's going to go wrong." -- technician
[ Parent ]
not saying that I felt ignored... by clock (2.00 / 0) #10 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 08:31:24 AM EST
...but...ya know...right?

I hate malls.  I hate chain bookstores.  Sadly, it's all I've got.  B&N, for better or worse, is where I go to relax.  After a lifetime of great bookstores, it's painful.  Oh so painful.  But we do what we can with what we have.

Could we increase your diarizing frequency?

I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

I know ... by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #15 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:25:15 AM EST
I do. And I apologize.

I live in Sasquatchia, so my local shopping options are overwhelmingly generic. But I get by, most of the time.

Re: diarizing (in)frequency, I'll just say that it dismays me more than anyone. I can't promise anything except that I'll work on it, on trying to remember when I have things to say, and actually sharing them when I do.

"Plans aren't check lists, they are loose frameworks for what's going to go wrong." -- technician

[ Parent ]
Liar! by StackyMcRacky (4.00 / 2) #16 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:25:28 AM EST
we learned to love B&N once The Dude was walking, remember?  REMEMBER?  He plays with the Thomas set-up while we tag-team book shopping.  This doesn't work so well in other book stores, although BookPeople has tunnels he can climb through.

[ Parent ]
my dear lady! by clock (4.00 / 1) #18 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 10:03:08 AM EST
i must protest!  no lie hath passed my lips!

it sucks that B&N is what we've got.  didn't say it doesn't work.  didn't say it doesn't have a couple of perks.  just sayin' that it'd be nice to have something more Book People-ish or sumpin'.  most of the indie bookstores i have loved had great kid zones.

thusly do i demand a retraction of your allegation!

I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
no. by StackyMcRacky (4.00 / 1) #19 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 10:49:00 AM EST
You have a B&N credit card.  'nuff said!

[ Parent ]
On bookshops: by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #21 Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 01:36:09 PM EST
I kind of feel obliged to be smug here - number 1 on this list (Mr B's) is my local. Well, number 5 (Topping & co) is more local, but slightly intimidating.

I mainly browse for books for my nephews and nieces there, mind, because I've got a backlog of books I've been given. But if I want something, I'll order it there, even if I did look it up on Amazon.

That fingernail polishing just doesn't seem right. by muchagecko (2.00 / 0) #23 Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 02:32:43 AM EST
I've had a really handsome Israeli man polish one of my nails. Honestly, he could have said anything and I would have let him do it. But then I had no idea what he was doing.

Guerrilla nail polishing.

A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
My Name is Earl

those Israelis ... by Kellnerin (4.00 / 2) #25 Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 09:20:26 PM EST
and their tactical nail buffing blocks. They are unstoppable!

"Plans aren't check lists, they are loose frameworks for what's going to go wrong." -- technician
[ Parent ]
Overdue Missive | 25 comments (25 topical, 0 hidden)