Friday, February 27, 2009

FYI: Woo-hoo! New Publications!

Not that I get royalties or anything, but the first two books in a series of eight have been published. I contributed to them, and (nice surprise) I'm even listed as a contributor.

So--presenting the FYI books, edited and compiled by Ken Leiker. For now, you can only get them at Barnes and Noble online. (Don't know why Amazon is dragging its feet.)

In spite of the titles, the 150 questions in each book covers all sorts of topics. The animal kingdom, food and drink, sports, science--weird (bodily functions) and otherwise (space, meteorology, all that stuff), health, traditions, history, etc. Here are some sample questions:

  • How many idiots owned a pet rock?
  • Who gets the royalties when "God Bless America" is sung?
  • Did some popes have children?
  • How terrible was Ivan the Terrible?
  • Why do we wear costumes on Halloween?
  • How many First Ladies were crazy?

Those are my topics, btw, along with Typhoid Mary, castrati singers, the ancient Maya, mistletoe, red skies, and femme druids. I can vouch for the accuracy of the information !

I'll blog again--with links--when they get on Amazon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Paris Daily Photo Oh, what a lovely and easy-to-read blog! I'm adding it to my favorites over on the right as well. Each and every day, a new photo taken in Paris. Some are whimsical (fashion faux-pas, for example) and others show well-known monuments.

I'll add my own--this picture of the statue of St. Rita in the church of St-Germain-des-Pres. I took this in 2004 and assume that supplicants are still writing their prayers all over lovely Rita with their Bics, in spite of the paper thoughtfully provided on a nearby pillar.

St-Germain-des-Pres exists today (after about 1500 years) mainly due to Victor Hugo. It was badly damaged during the Revolution, turned into a gunpowder factory, and many felt it should be demolished. But Hugo had a passion for Paris' old churches and rallied people to rebuild and preserve it. Read more about the history of St-Germain-des-Pres here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Time's Idea to Save Newspapers

I like it--charge per click, a la Itunes.

"Under a micropayment system, a newspaper might decide to charge a nickel for for an article or a dime fer that day's full edition. . . I suspect most [consumers] would merrily click through if it were cheap and easy enough."

The light bulb has flashed on but has not been implemented yet, so you can read Time Magazine's piece "How to Save Your Newspaper" online for free. And if you google the title, you'll get to see what all the bloggers are saying about the idea. But who cares about bloggers?

Walter Isaacson (the author) does. He is kind enough to include us in his idea: "magazines and blogs, games and apps, TV newscasts and amateur videos, porn pictures and policy monographs, the reports of citizen journalists, recipes of great cooks and songs of garage bands." Go, us!

The next article in the Feb. 16 2009 US edition of Time covers the new generation of readers that will be competing with Kindle in 2009-10: Plastic Logic, Pixel Qi, and Adobe AIR. Something on which to spend our tax refunds, oh joy.

I would love to have a Kindle, but the price of books for the device--given that there's no printing involved--still seems exorbitant. I'd rather go to the library.

As for the others, the Plastic Logic won't really be available until 2011 and the AIR's screen is to small for me. The Pixel Qi looks very promising but is not out yet. It all depends on how expensive the books and magazines will be.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Recommended Reading

Inkdeath !

The third book of the series starts out slow...about 200 pages of slow. Hang in there, it gets better--it always does. And if you're reading the third book then you made it through Inkheart and Inkspell, so how could you NOT read this?

I loved the Inkheart movie, btw, but since they tied up all lose ends so neatly at the end, I'm not holding my breath waiting for the sequel. Too bad. And while I love Helen Mirren, whose bright idea was it that she'd make a good Elinor (who is supposed to be fat) and should go charging around on a unicorn?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bicycle Vandals of Paris

The rentable bikes of Paris get press coverage in every large city, because every large city wonders of fleets of bikes would work for them. Reduce air pollution and traffic? Yeah! But there are drawbacks.

A lot of cities (Los Angeles included) are simply not bike friendly. Here where cars rule, vicious violence against bike riders happen frequently. Things like deliberately causing accidents, slamming bike riders with hands or bottles, or spilling drinks on them. I wouldn't say it's common, but if you ride daily, it will happen.

Why? My guess is because you don't need to pass an IQ test or be sober to ride in the passenger seat of a car, from whence much of the violence occurs.

BNew Cycle Scheme Under Way In Parisut in Paris, 42 million rides have been taken on the bikes--the velibs--provided by the city, in just 18 months of operation. Slide your credit card and go. Yay! Go green!

Sadly, half the original 15,000 velibs have been stolen or destroyed, and 1500 a day need repairs.

New bikes cost over $500, so the city is rethinking the system. Replacing all 20,000 bikes would cost $20 million, and at the rate they are being destroyed, that's about $10 million every three years. All per this BBC article, February 2009. And here's a YouTube video link called Velib Freeride.

And the vandals of Los Angeles, to whom storefronts and freeway signs are nothing more than fresh canvas for taggers, are probably thinking, "Eighteen months? Hell, we could destroy those bikes in eighteen days!"

The New York Times points out that their own proposed bike program has been put on hold.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Newsflash: Blogging Doesn't Pay

Yeah, like you didn't know. But as David Lyons wrote in a Newsweek column ("Time to Hang up the Pajamas," Feb 7, 2009): "that day more than 500,000 people hit my site—by far the biggest day I'd ever had—and through Google's AdSense program I earned about a hundred bucks."

Ouch! Lyons' site is The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, btw--no small potatoes. And "that day" was the day his identity was revealed.

He also quotes eMarketer analyst Paul Verna as saying, "People have not figured out a clear way to monetize some of these vehicles." (Hey, Ma! I'm a vehicle!), adding that the real issue is "the lack of a clear business model that can generate substantial revenues."

Bloggers with business models doesn't compute.

I blog for fun. I did the Adsense stuff but quickly realized that my monthly emails report no revenue. In that sense, they're not even worth the five seconds it takes to open and read them. I still blog. And you're reading it, though I don't expect you're paying anything to do so.

For the record, I know of one person who claims to support a family of four on blogging, and she's about the conduct an online class through The Renegade Writer. A class on blogging, of course, and on how to make money at it. Here's the link to the class, and I may poke you there.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Shipwrecks and brooches and cults, oh my!

Huzzah! The HMS Victory has been found! The flagship of the British Royal Navy sank Oct. 4, 1744 in choppy seas. Here's how the Independent puts it:

Laden with four tons of Portuguese gold, the pride of the British navy – and direct predecessor to Admiral Nelson's vessel of the same name – sank with all 1,150 of its crew. Only the shattered remains of its top-mast were found on a Guernsey beach as evidence of its terrible fate.

Until now. Odyssey Marine of Florida found the 100-gun HMS Victory ("the mightiest vessel of the 18th century") and its gold, estimated at 700 million pounds' worth in today's currency. (no wonder it went down. 100 bronze cannons and more than 100,000 gold coins [per the BBC]? That was one hefty ship!) A great deal of controversy surrounds Odyssey's intention to salvage the treasure, as reported here in The Independent.

But I'll see your 265-year-old shipwreck with a Saxon burial in Sussex--and raise you another Saxon grave! So there!

A couple of bright members of the Eastbourne District Metal Detecting Club were doing what metal detecting enthusiasts do when they stumbled across a pair of highly impressive 6th century Saxon graves. Spear, shield, male skeleton and bronze bowl, silver belt buckle, gilded brooches, and female skeleton. The two discoverers, Bob White and Cliff Smith, did NOT ransack the site, but called authorities so that the site could be properly excavated. Yay! Here's the BBC story.

Finally, a 4th century pagan cult mosaic was unearthed about 13 feet under a Catholic Church. 140 square feet of naked, carousing Romans! Read about that one here.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Amazon Break Through Novel Contest

It's time, it's time! If you're an unpublished novelist with a finished product on your hands, you can enter Amazon's Break Through Novel Contest! Grand Prize is a $25,000 advance and a contract with Penguin Books.

Go here, between Feb 2 and Feb 8. Sooner is better, because the contest closes once 10,000 novels have been entered. You will need a dynamite pitch of under 300 words (the first cut is made on the basis of that pitch, so it better be good!) and a completed novel. You'll need other stuff too (the first 5,000 words, a little bio) but those are the main things.