On the cult of printed books.

April 27th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Memes | Reading | Reference | Soapbox | Whining - (0 Comments)

In which I’m kind of a dick about people trying to wean themselves off of their identification with their belongings (which is a very important stage of development, of course, but seriously, this has to be the hundredth blog post I’ve read about how deeply attached bitches are to their Harry Potter books, and I’m like, You were literally raised in the cheap portable personal electronics age, and your attachment to books, to actual paper printed books, is, compared to those who went before you and truly used books in a way you never needed to, tenuous at best, and yet here you are talking like you were a monk illuminator who just watched his whole life’s work burn to the very ground).

I love to read, but this maudlin affectation about book collecting currently infecting our group consciousness is getting silly. “I really love books!” is turning into some sort of off-kilter, past-worshiping, item-hoarding cult. We get it: you love the smell of books and the feel of a favorite volume in your hand. So does everybody else. Shut up already.

The vast majority of books you read aren’t that good, and won’t need to be read again. And reference is all online now, you don’t need encyclopedias or dictionaries or histories. You can put a thousand years of human knowledge on a single eReader, but you’ll still probably read throw-away pop fiction. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

The old fashioned library is dying, and in many ways, yes, it sucks, but let it go. Jesus. The TERRIBLE STRUGGLE you go through trying to pare down your embarrassment of stuff, to minimalize, to quit decorating with books you’ve never even read, truly verges on the absurd. You’re having crazy romantical identity feelings about a particular style of inanimate object. If you talked like this about rolls of aluminum foil, we’d tell you to see a specialist.

(I realize the analogy breaks down, because while aluminum foil is incredibly useful, it’s not potentially filled with knowledge in the same way a book is, but books aren’t dying: the format is changing. As are our lifestyles: we don’t have family seats where libraries can live for generations; we move every few years. The energy expended in moving a library of paper books that you could store on a six ounce device just for false nostalgia is wasteful. Period. And there are more books being published every day than used to be published in entire years.)

I get that it’s hard the first time, when you’re ten or eleven or so, and, because you spent all Saturday fucking off and not cleaning your room, your dad stuffs “everything that isn’t schoolwork or clothing,” meaning all your books and toys, into trash bags and throws it all out: yeah, you’re a kid, and you cry because you just lost your purple teddy bear for disobeying, and losing your beloved things is hard.

But if you’re old enough to have a book collection, you’re old enough to know that you are not your stuff, and that reading itself, that magical alchemy in which somehow an entire world fits inside you and lives there, isn’t going away, and everything in your books and papers can be digitized and stored in a smaller, lighter, more easily searchable format, and your maudlin attachment to a data format is too forced and common to really seem genuine.


I recently started learning how to make bread. It turns out that holding a ball of soft, living bread dough in your hand feels an awful lot like holding a book: it’s an act that belongs to everyone of us, it reaches backwards and forwards through time, it contains potential, it nourishes, and, honestly, you really have only a vague idea of how it’s going to turn out.

All of which is to say, hey, if getting rid of some treeware is truly heartbreakingly difficult for you, then you’re basically a Disney princess in terms of level of real world difficulty. Lucky you!


July 12th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Food | Gadgets | Life | Photography | Reading - (0 Comments)

In which it’s a lazy Sunday.

It’s so shitty outside there’s a heat warning on! Stay inside, stay hydrated, check on your neighbors, that sort of thing! Temperature in the mid-90’s with a heat index of one hundred degrees! A big-ass line of storms tonight! Large hail possible!

So I’m staying inside with the A/C on. I’m so grateful to have access to air conditioning technology. And fans, too — we have two fans running, to circulate all that conditioned air (because otherwise it just pools by the door and does no one any good at all).

I stayed up super late last night devouring part three of Seveneves. Other than the agnostic science fiction writer’s silly dream that a catastrophe survived only by scientists would somehow end religion1, it’s a really fantastic read. Being the jaded reader I am I’m loving being so absorbed in a story, since it happens so infrequently to me now.

I’d like to go look for curtains and wood glue and a few other needed household items, but I’m pretty sure leaving the apartment is a bad idea. Scott’s asleep anyway, taking a lazy Sunday afternoon nap.

I slept until two-thirty, then got up and made fried potatoes, Hollandaise, eggs, spinach, and toast for brunch. Not as good as the AMAZING Eggs Florentine at The Egg and I, but still edible. I also had a brilliant iced cardamom mocha breve with the last of the Radiance Dairy cream in it.

The bit of sky I can see under the blinds looks nice and blue, with fluffy clouds and a strong breeze ruffling the leaves, but it’s probably as damp as sweaty crotch out there. I’ve always maintained that the Midwest looks lovely all summer but feels awful.

Yesterday I installed Flickr on my phone and it worked. (It’s never worked on this phone before, and getting images off the phone and onto Flickr has been a pain in the ass since I got the phone last year.) It worked so well, in fact, it uploaded all 200 images in the phone’s gallery and now I have to delete them!

The credit union didn’t get ahold of me at the end of the week, but neither did they do so last time. I just don’t think they’re in a hurry about anything. Hopefully they’ll offer me a position next week! *fingers crossed* If they don’t, I’ll have to start looking for something else in earnest. I mean, I’ve applied for three jobs this week so as not to have too many eggs in one basket, but I’ll really need to buckle down before I run out of money.

Friday, I got my nails done because they looked awful. That evening, Scott went to a ball game (and watched Detroit lose to the Twins in the final inning) and I had the evening to myself. I drank some wine, then rode my bike down to Nicollet and ate at a Mexican restaurant.

El Nuevo Mariachi Restaurant

Then I went home and took a nap, sprawled diagonally across the entire bed, with a fan blowing on me. It was a fucking glorious Friday night.

I just looked up to see that the blue sky is gone, and is now the gunmetal grey of a thick cloud deck. The last time I checked, storms weren’t due for five more hours. Maybe it’ll get interesting out there!

1 We all want to end the bullshittery of organized religion, of course, but evolution and bureaucracy are part and parcel of human nature. Wherever there are human beings, there will be religion, because there will always be a need for jargon to describe the internal and the numinous, and there will always be weird little rule-following bureaucratic assholes making people miserable. Basically, every time a writer kills “religion” in a book, it just tells you that s/he has no idea what religion actually is beyond what it looks like on the surface.

A blog post.

November 18th, 2012 | Posted by Mush in Blurbs | Reading - (1 Comments)

In which I blog more because it’s time than because I have anything to say.

I got my hair cut and colored after work Thursday night. It’s got honey blonde highlights and medium brown lowlights and it’s been cut into layers and it feels great. I also got the shit waxed out of what had become some truly gigantic unruly eyebrows and look like a girl again. The experience cost $102 plus tip, and was worth every. single. cent. My stylist had discovered The Secret in the past year so there was some “the world is as you are” midst the gossip, which was good because it reminded me it always starts somewhere, even though to be honest The Secret is really baby tier spirituality about getting desires fulfilled more than anything else.

Then I went to Marcy’s and drank my dinner so yeah, Friday morning sucked ass, but I had fun and got to see Kimi whom I’d been missing, so: totally worth it.

I’ve been weirder and more emotional and internal than I’ve been in a loooong time. It feels like some important evolutionary phase, somehow, but I have to be honest that the mood swings are so bad they’re almost hilarious. I’d suspect perimenopause except I’m ovulating like clockwork so it’s more likely I’m just being crazy (although what with last month’s loooooong term bout of The Dread and now this… hmm. yeah. beginning of the end, probably). These unexpected bouts of, like, heartbreaking existential loneliness have been bizarre. All kinds of midlife-crisis loops playing in my head (WHERE IS MY BEAUTIFUL HOUSE etc), plus the short days and the fucking rain and overcast skies and glacier-paced days at work and, as usual, knowing basically no one my own age and, well, I can go days without even really talking to anyone that isn’t a customer. Oh, the human condition: you’re just so funny. None of this matters, except oh holy shit it fucking matters. Gah. (tl;dr The panic has passed and now I think I’m a little depressed.)

Since my last post I’ve actually managed to sleep a lot, hit up Goodwill for some jeans and tops, sign up for a yoga class, buy groceries, make Egyptian and Turkish dishes, and take a bubble bath. For someone who never does anything I’m pretty good at crossing items off of to-do lists.

The Internet crush, surprisingly, continues apace. It’s pretty cool. There may be plane tickets at some point.

I’ve now been employed again for long enough that I’m living for weekends. Damn you, 40-hour work week: damn you and your soul-killing length.

In other news, Barnes & Noble bought Fictionwise awhile back and now, of course, they’re closing it. I received an email inviting me to transfer all my Fictionwise books — many many hundreds I’ve purchased over the past 8 years or so — to a Nook account. There was no way to bulk-download my purchases, nor any easy way to download the DRM’d items in multiple formats. I’ve basically lost access to a bunch of shit I OWN because I happened to buy a Kindle instead of a Nook. Good job, the publishing industry: you suck at internet.

Joining the tablet revolution.

November 22nd, 2011 | Posted by administratrix in Gadgets | Reading - (5 Comments)

In which I accidentally buy a Kindle Fire.

I did not need a new device. My Kindle 3 (the model now known as the “Kindle Keyboard”) isn’t even a year old yet, and it works just fine. After I sprung (sprang?) for the expensive but elegant and cleverly-designed OEM leather cover with the built-in light, I could even read in the dark. It’s eminently portable, wireless, holds 1500 books, and I’d hacked it to display custom screen savers. It did not need to be replaced.

It’s just that I have a job now, and therefore there was money in my account on the day my clicking finger went ahead and decided for me. And now I have the Kindle Fire!

Kindle Fire 1st gen

The Fire is a seriously great deal for two hundred bucks. The hardware is really nice for such a low price point — I hear they’re being sold at a loss (Amazon’s favorite market-cornering trick, see: the entire ebook industry). The device is fast, responsive, and has very nice screen resolution. It’s many, many times more elegant than that knock-off tablet I had briefly last year.


What I'm Reading

September 2nd, 2010 | Posted by administratrix in Reading - (1 Comments)

In which there are books. In various formats.

I’ll start school in eighteen days (if the financial aid office at WWCC ever awards me any aid, that is) and probably won’t read much that isn’t assigned for the next nine months. That being true, I thought I’d share my current reading-for-pleasure list with you.

“Real” Books
As far as treeware goes, there’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Twenty-third Annual Collection that I haul out every once in awhile. I’m not sure if I’ve read it before or not, but I don’t remember the stories so it’s just like reading them for the first time anyway. There’s also Eternal Wisdom, Upadeshamritam Part 2. I have read this before, but it was different water then and I was a different bridge.

New Message

The last three items I opened on my Kindle were the October 2010 edition of Asimov’s Science Fiction (the double issue! yay! delivered wirelessly while I wasn’t even looking!), Bright Of The Sky (a loss leader Amazon.com suggested to me and which I downloaded because hey, it was free), and Free As In Freedom: Richard Stallmann’s Crusade for Free Software.

The last three ebooks I added to the Kindle were Byron in Love: A Short Daring Life, Galt’s The Life of Lord Byron, and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

I have fifteen non-fiction items on the Kindle, all free samples from Amazon, that I have not yet begun to read, and I’m on page three of Cory Doctorow’s Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future. I guess I forgot it was on there because I buried the ebook in a folder I haven’t looked into for awhile.

I bought the latest Clarkesworld Magazine a few days ago and am about to crack into that, and I’ve been reading Cryptonomicon on and off for months. It’s hilarious and brilliant, but somehow I never feel compelled to read it. (My favorite Stephenson book was Anathem; I actually finished that in a reasonable amount of time. It took me forever to read Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, and forget about The Baroque Cycle; I’ll never read those. NOTHING should require that many words to convey!)

Miscellaneous Book Facts
Total number of ebooks (including magazines and today’s NYT) on my Kindle: 79
Total number of ebooks on my iPod (in five different reader apps): 110 (a few of which are duplicated on the Kindle)
Total number of ebooks in Calibre: 304 (about a sixth of which are DRM-locked to devices I no longer have but most can be re-downloaded for the current device)
Total number of “real” books I own: 113 (most of which are cookbooks, and 6 of which are musical scores)

In which I recap my madcap, whirlwind, SUPERfun trip to the cit-ay!

By 8:30 Friday morning I was in Sheila‘s van, heading west. Her awesome daughters let me ride shotgun, which was supercool of them. The ride was lovely – watching the land change from desert to rain forest is beautiful every single time I see it – and the company was lovely.

Columbia river

I was at the Hollywood TC before one in the afternoon. I called Dave. He told me to start walking down 39th and he’d come and get me.

I can’t tell you exactly how long, but it’s been a loooooooong time since I last saw Dave. We were in the MHCC jazz program together in the late 80’s. We had beers, and his neighbor (who also happens to be his bass player) set up an ad hoc wireless network for me so I could get online.


Adie came and picked me up after she got off work, and we went to her house, where I was attacked by terriers!. (Hah!) I put my bag in the guest room, changed my clothes, and after a bit we wandered over to Alberta for dinner at The Hilt. (Falafel! Hummus! Mojitos!)


My friend Leila dropped in and had a little nosh with us. It was a wonderful visit. After she took off we walked home, watched some TV, and were in bed by 10:30. (more…)

In which publishers and sellers alike seem to be on the verge of losing their minds.

kindle2iFirst off, let me just say that I’ve been reading ebooks since 1994. They’re not new. This whole ebook thing has been coming for a long, long time, and I can’t figure out why the big book publishers can’t figure out how to monetize ebooks without acting like morons.

Second off, I’ve been buying ebooks for a long time too, and I’ve read a lot of ebooks on a lot of platforms. Those are my creds as an ebook reader, so I kinda know what I’m talking about here, from a customer’s point of view. Seriously, I only know one person who has been reading ebooks as long as I have (this means you, NLW).

Third off, what the fuck is going on over at Amazon? They’ve pulled literally every Macmillan title due to some kind of “pricing dispute.” Apparently, Macmillan, after learning that the Apple ebook store will let them charge more than $9.99 per title, has decided that Amazon should do the same. Since Amazon sells virtually all of its ebooks at the $9.99 pricepoint, they pulled the Macmillan titles! (My beloved Tor is a Macmillan imprint, BTW.) It’s a freakin’ mess, and you know who’s getting hurt?

The authors. Because their BOOKS AREN’T SELLING.

A lot of treeware publishers are doing a terrible job embracing the ebook format. They’re running around carrying on about DRM and sounding like idiot RIAA executives from the 90’s. It’s a mess. They should all go read Eric Flint’s brilliant argument for loss leaders and against DRM, written a decade ago, posted at the Baen Free Library.

Here are some truths:


1. I have never given anyone an ebook that I have purchased. NEVER. Not once. (Well, maybe once or twice, but if so I don’t remember it.) But if I wanted to give someone an ebook, the file format wouldn’t matter – any secure format can be broken. Back when the iTunes store was still selling music with DRM, all you had to do to break it was burn your songs to disc and then rip them back into your library! Duh! I have software on my computer right now that will break DRM on music, video, and certain ebook formats. Why? Because sometimes I want to use my content on hardware other than the hardware the seller wants me to use it on. Since I PAID FOR IT, I feel completely fine about breaking the DRM for my own ends, just as I feel fine tearing a blank page out of a treeware book to write a note on.

2. I’ve read absurd projections by some publishers; they claim they would lose a huge amount of money if they distributed new book releases in non-secure ebook format. WTF, over? They sound just like the record companies. I can’t believe these people didn’t pay attention to electronic formats in the music industry! Where the hell were they? Yes, some content gets pirated, but so what? It’s free advertisement! A truly heartening percentage of the ebook reading public is made up of moral people who will, if they can, pay for things they’ve enjoyed. Piracy does not “lose” you money. You can’t lose money you never had in the first place.

3. And, as they say so well over at Baen, loss leaders WORK. If you have a trilogy, give the first book away for free in ebook format. It’s cheap because all you have to do is format it once and host it; there are no manufacturing costs involved. You’ll find (if the book doesn’t suck) that the entire trilogy’s sales will increase: win/win for publisher and author.

Hey big publishers, the electronics are coming! You gotta get ready! It used to be a sub-market of weirdos like me with rare hardware, but now we’ve got the Kindle and the iPad and by the end of this decade the ebook format is going to be ubiquitous. You need to figure this out tout de suite. You are going to have to embrace the ebook format. You are going to have to take a smaller cut on electronic books, and you are going to have to change your product release cycle to quit holding ebook versions for ten months and then overcharging for them.

We, your audience, know perfectly well that the cost of producing a treeware book is SIGNIFICANTLY LARGER than the cost of releasing an ebook, and it pisses us off when you set ebook price points at hardcover levels. (I didn’t buy the a particular Guy Gavriel Kay book for over five years because it was nearly thirty bucks. THIRTY BUCKS FOR AN EBOOK? I waited until it came down to proper ebook range before I bought it.) It also pisses us off when we learn that between you and the ebook vendor, authors are making pennies off of ebooks – that’s why we buy them, when we can, directly from the author’s website, or from ebook sellers who are known to pay higher percentages.

With the paper, printing, and shipping out of the equation, all a publisher does is select, edit, and promote. That pretty much makes you an agent, which lowers your take pretty significantly. Which is okay, because the book market is huge. Readers tend to read a lot, and ebook readers will continue to make it easier and easier to read (and buy) a lot of content.

You have got to change.

Please, do it more gracefully than the music industry did, mmm’kay? You need to get ebooks to market alongside the treeware versions, and yes, you have to charge less for them. You have to select industry-standard formats; don’t bring yet another format to the table because there are already dozens. Forget about stupid DRM, too, because it DOESN’T DO ANYTHING BUT ANNOY EVERYONE. Design and implement appropriate sales tracking, so that you can see for yourself that ebooks can actually increase treeware sales. (Look at Cory Doctorow! He releases all his books in ebook format… for free! And he’s a success. Go figure!)

Believe me. This doesn’t have to be scary, and you don’t have to look stupid. Mellow out, there, big fellas. It’ll be okay.

Happy New Year!

January 2nd, 2010 | Posted by administratrix in Music | Reading - (2 Comments)

In which I had a great time on New Year’s Eve at Pub 21 with the band.

Load-in was at 4:30, but I was late because I had to take a paper copy of my resume (and cover letter and references) to WorkSource to apply for a job.

WTF? Why wouldn’t they let me email it to them? Not only did I have to drive over there in the snow to deliver three pieces of paper, but they scanned the documents to send – one assumes electronically – to the employer; somehow they couldn’t use the DOC and PDF format copies I’d helpfully brought along on a thumb drive, and they wouldn’t let me email the items in the first place! The mind boggles. It’s like it’s still 2002 at WorkSource or something.


Set up for the NYE gig. Merchant's last night ever! Come say bye!

We finished setup and did a sound check and still had three hours left before the gig. The weather was crap – snow and freezing rain – and the streets were treacherously icy in a pickup with no weight in the bed.

I went home and changed my pants (it turned out there was a hole in them) and read Makers in the interim.

The gig was a blast. People started dancing during the second song of the first set, and danced most of the night. The substitute bass player – the regular guy had another gig – did a fantastic job. (So fantastic, in fact, that I gave him a big ol’ bossy lecture about how “you only regret the things you didn’t do” and why he should move to a city and actually play for a living.)

NYE Gig '09

Bob gave me a couple of glasses of wine for free because I was in the band. I gave out a bunch of business cards so people could get free downloads. My friend Sheila came and I danced about twelve bars with her and Shelley. Rob sold a bunch of the Kings’ latest CD.

NYE Gig '09

Since I never make New Year’s resolutions, I made none this year. Yay! I’ve already averted much fail by simply doing nothing.

Speaking of doing nothing, I was supposed to be back over at the venue at one o’clock the next day for load-out, but The Curse had arrived and I slept all damn day instead. I suck. I’m lucky anybody ever hires me.

Today, I need to find a job to apply for (ideally via email, fer chrissakes) and I’m going to read a bunch of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother on my Kindle.

From Picture of Dorian Gray

June 24th, 2009 | Posted by administratrix in Reading - (4 Comments)

by Oscar Wilde

“My dear boy,” said Lord Henry, smiling, “anybody can be good in the country. There are no temptations there. That is the reason why people who live out of town are so absolutely uncivilized. Civilization is not by any means an easy thing to attain to. There are only two ways by which man can reach it. One is by being cultured, the other by being corrupt. Country people have no opportunity of being either, so they stagnate.”

Reading List

June 23rd, 2009 | Posted by administratrix in Reading - (2 Comments)

In which I’ve decided, in an effort to keep my mind from rotting in my head, to read, or in most cases re-read, the following works. This list is incomplete.

Sonnets (in progress)

Oscar Wilde
The Ballad of Reading Gaol (done)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (done)
The Portrait of Mr. W.H. (done)
An Ideal Husband
Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime (done)

The Republic

The Memorable Thoughts of Socrates

The awesome part about reading public domain works is that I can download them (using Stanza on my iThing) from Project Gutenberg for free!