strange, not-so-boring interests

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strange, not-so-boring interests

Postby cyrano » Thu Apr 24, 2003 7:26 am

Nothing against the strange and boring thread, but I created this new one because I, in my hubris, think some of my interests aren't boring at all. I started to list them and realized that they energized me. If they don't energize anyone else, that's too bad. So in no particular order, here goes-- 1. far-away radio stations. I never liked to "collect" them (DXing in shortwave parlance) but I used to love to pick up, say, a domestic shortwave station from Australia, talking about the local weather and what was in the papers. Now with streaming audio, it's a snap and I keep my computer tuned to BBC Radio 4, Radio Eireann, and the French classical music station. 2. Electronic publishing. I loved the webin 1995 when it was a medium of words. I tolerate it now that it's a screaming multimedia cacophany. I am a word guy. Now I enjoy converting text to portable formats like Palm Reader and Microsoft Reader. I don't make any money from it but it satisfies me to publish. This is only "strange" because I am not in my 20s. When I try to explain this to people my age they just Don't Get It. 3. Time travel in the midwest. Since moving here 4 years ago, one of my major interests has been to seek out places where time seemingly has stood still-- a soda fountain attached to a regional dairy in Jefferson City that isn't cutesy old, it's just old; the Amtrak station in La Plata where the Amish catch the train to Chicago and from there to their relatives in Pennsylvania; towns in Iowa that froze around 1970. 4. (Okay, this one may push the boring envelope) For someone who otherwise only saves through force majeure, I love finding stray coins, putting them in my coin sorter, and taking the wrapped coinage to the bank for deposit. It's about thirty bucks a year, enough for a decent meal for two. 5. British railway posters from the 1930s. 6. French posters of any sort from the 20s to the 50s. 7. late night TV, especially infomercials, but only because the Bowflex spokesmodel looks so much like me. Image 8. road trips. 9. big cities in faraway lands, like Calcutta, Bangkok, Beirut (this really dates me-- I was there before most of the troubles started), Singapore, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires. I like the mix of extreme foreignness and the energy.
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Postby Orchid » Thu Apr 24, 2003 7:40 am

I put boring in quotation marks because I <i>don't</i> think my interests are boring, but others sometimes think it strange that I would "waste" my time on them. Of course, I don't think it's a waste at all. Image
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Postby MDG » Thu Apr 24, 2003 9:17 am

Cyrano, Nothing boring on your list at all. We, in this household, love all the same things. (We are 65 and 78, and I think that helps!) Though I must admit that we don't chase computer play, I must admit that we do like learning a trick or two. We have neighbors in their seventies who play with computers their son has fitted out with all the bells and whistles. They often spend five hours on the telephone with him in California, of a Sunday. Father is employed to keep the machinery running in fruit packing plants. Do you also like La Fitte's (sp?) pub in New Orleans? And the Antiques Roadshow, both British and American? We always watch. In fact, I haven't seen any passions listed on this subject that are the least bit boring, or any waste of time! I'm with you, Orchid, and all who are so moved to write here. Most interesting! I'll add polished stones, touchstones have always been a softspot, even when I was the only one using the word. And sands. I do like sands. I have a little boxful I took home from Hawaii in 1961. It's made of polished bits of shells, and many-colored... I know the red, orange and purple bits well. I like the textures of sands, damp and dry, and digging my feet in, and feeling the slippery ones give way when a wave washes over. M-m-m-m...!
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Postby sgoldie » Thu Apr 24, 2003 9:45 am

Hey Cyrano, 1970 is recent history, n'est pas? Stop by sometime if you like towns that seem untouched by time. There are places in the nearby foothills of the Western Adirondacks that you would swear are back in the 1800's. No franchises here.
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Postby BarbaraSher » Thu Apr 24, 2003 9:50 am

You totally owned me with this one, Cyrano: 2. Electronic publishing. I loved the webin 1995 when it was a medium of words. I tolerate it now that it's a screaming multimedia cacophany. I am a word guy. Now I enjoy converting text to portable formats like Palm Reader and Microsoft Reader. I don't make any money from it but it satisfies me to publish. This is only "strange" because I am not in my 20s. When I try to explain this to people my age they just Don't Get It. Cyrano, I'm so excited about electronic publishing, I can't tell you. I have some beginnings of a group of useful but easy-to-write ebooks and I've found that one only needs to push a button to turn a WORD book into a PDF book -- and I'm cranky because I have so many things to do every day I don't get enough time to work on these books. Is it hard to turn them into readable form for PalmReader or the Microsoft reader? I was just going to let people read online or download them. Is the benefit of the "readers" only that you can take them with you on the road?
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Postby cyrano » Thu Apr 24, 2003 11:12 am

From the Mistress of All She Surveys:
Is it hard to turn them into readable form for PalmReader or the Microsoft reader? I was just going to let people read online or download them. Is the benefit of the "readers" only that you can take them with you on the road?
It's an easier convert to Palm Reader than to Microsoft Reader in my experience but neither is difficult. There are multiple conversion tools for both options. I use something called Palm eBook Studio as a default, partially because the conversion process is cleaner once you configure the source text properly, and because Palm Reader is available for PocketPC as well as Palm platforms and can be downloaded for free to either one. I use a program called ReaderWorks (standard edition) to convert to Microsoft Reader. They make a more robust version that costs money (remember, this is a hobby at this point) that I would have to buy if I were converting for sale. The reason it's worthwhile to put some effort into making an accessible book is that the alternative is akin to a long word processing document that you can't change. In Palm eBook Studio, for instance, if I set it up right, I can not only have a hyperlinked table of contents generated automatically, but the layout is much more user friendly. Also, the program has a way of managing user access and ability to copy the book. Herein lies the problem with eBooks-- sell one copy, have it copied, potentially, hundreds of times. Hundreds of lost sales as a result. The Napster problem. Palms (and PPCs too, I believe) have teh capacity to send whole documents by beaming them. And of course, if you've downloaded the book to your computer for further download to your PDA, there may be little to prevent downloading to a second PDA. Palm sells a variety of books through its Palm Digital Media website that require unlocking to read. What's the advantage of making your book portable? Here we get into the more general discussion, a bit philosophical, of what is a "book." The main audiences for full-length, Jane Austen-type books, IMO, are people being carried somewhere-- planes, trains, passenger seats on automobiles. There's a happy little side industry involved in publishing just that sort of thing for just that sort of person. That's not my shtick. Mine is to publish tools for users-- statutes and court rules for lawyers, prescription drug info for medical professionals (already being very successfully done by an outfit called ePocrates), bootleg test answers for college students (just kidding). In other words, these are information access tools, in a nether area between books and databases. It's been proven that it's more difficult to read off a computer screen than a printed page (altho' Microsoft, with its ClearType technology, claims that both PPC and monitor reading can be improved with it), and our readers in any case aren't that interested in the electronic version of a cover-to-cover reading experience online. In some respects, I liken electronic books now to paperbacks in the 1940s (? I think that's when they started). No one in publishing thought they would succeed. Too flimsy. Not a real book, not the real "book experience." Time, obviously, has proven them wrong. The whole notion of carrying vital reference materials with you in a device you already carry is simply too elegantly wonderful to be ignored. In my opinion anyway. What most people in e-publishing are truly waiting to see is whether wireless internet access truly takes off. The people who sell information would much rather sell you access to their web database at $200 or more per hour than sell you an e-book with the info you're likely to need for $10 or $20. That's the opinion of my day job employer, who quietly pooh-poohed my e-publishing idea (another reason I do it for a hobby-- something called a noncompete agreement). My informal marketing surveys, however, tell me that people in certain professions would gladly give over 1-2 megabytes of their PDA's memory for a reference tool they want to access several times a week when they're away from their main reference materials. My thought regarding simply publishing to people's computers is that the preferred method is Adobe Acrobat. They have an e-book format as well which works just fine and which can be created from the off-the-shelf version of Acrobat (not the reader, the $250 program).
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Postby MDG » Thu Apr 24, 2003 12:58 pm

I am too green to understand much, Cyrano. But I think you are on to something important. I read 161 pages of one of several classical novels offered on the beautiful website of the Italian government. (I've never seen better.) And, I've struggled valiantly to get my monitor at an easy-to-read level and angle. I designed my own corner desk with a slide-out shelf for the keyboard. The chair-height isn't quite right, and the monitor should sit in a well, I think. I made do with a small three-ring binder beneath the front of the monitor. But, I digress... A gal I know has vision problems, and had great difficulty following the text in Barbara's Wishcraft, www.wishcraft.com I wonder how many others will have difficulty, or read it with ease. Perhaps I should be making it available on paper, for some. I have thought to ask my printer/publisher if he could do it. I am certain he would like to read your post. I will tell him it's here. He is Ken Jones, at Valley Publishing in Summerland, B.C. www.valleypublishing.net Note: I haven't determined Ken's age, he's younger than I, I'm sure, but he's getting there. I think there is a great discovery going on, older folk are finding they love 'putering! Image [This message has been edited by MDG (edited April 25, 2003).]
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Postby BarbaraSher » Thu Apr 24, 2003 2:49 pm

Cyrano, run over to www.wishcraft.com and see what Matt Pearl (who is learning pdf as he works) has done with his proofing/pda update of it. There are tables of contents and pictures of pages, a whole lot of things I thought were only in a fancier package. (Maybe he's working with a fancier package! He's overseas in fact, and I'm not sure what he's using.) Mahara, while I can't stop anyone from printing out the book, I don't actually have print rights.. I only have electronic rights. Ballantine and Viking have print rights. Because they've let WISHCRAFT go off the bookshelves but not out of print (if they had let it go out of print, I'd have all rights and that would be great, but they have no intention of doing that) I've put it up here. So many people want to read it, and I want them to read it, so this is the way I'm doing that. The only reason I have these rights is because the book was first published 23 years ago so (according to a recent court decision) the author (me) couldn't have signed away the electronic rights because there was no electronic 23 years ago -- only microfilm or some such thing. (the publishers are still fighting this, and we can only pray they'll never win.) So, as I say, while I can't stop anyone from printing out the book, I can't give permission either.
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Postby Catherine-aka-Cat » Thu Apr 24, 2003 3:00 pm

What an asset, to understand all this technical stuff. I'm in awe and green in both ways (novice and envy). Such an educational thread. Thank you! Barbara, I've been out of the loop. Sort of stunned by grad school (and oh I could say a lot about THAT). Have you written or are you writing the book for which you were gathering our stories last year? Cat
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Postby BarbaraSher » Thu Apr 24, 2003 4:17 pm

That book is 3/4 written and awaiting some other developments before it's shopped around to publishers. Another book is being self-published for my next public tv show. And a few extras will show up as pdf/electronic books on a new website of mine (not up yet). I love designing and writing books and courses with workbooks and audios and stuff like that. I wish I were 3 people. 7, maybe. And days were 36 hours long, and weeks were 12 days long. And weekends were 4 1/2 days long. And.... uh...oops. Pull self together.
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Postby cyrano » Thu Apr 24, 2003 5:58 pm

Barbara, I looked at wishcraft.com and it looks fine. Mr. Pearl did a fine job-- it looks like he took a word processed version of the text (that was formatted very similarly to the 1979 Ballantine paperback I have) and converted it, one chapter at a time, to PDF (Acrobat) format, each chapter being a separate PDF document. To say I might have done it differently is no denigration of his work or of the website. Probably the main change that can be done within the Acrobat format is to make the book into a single document with the pre-made bookmarks denoting the chapters-- it's a quick and easy way to create a hyperlinked (click on the chapter, go to it) table of contents. Within Acrobat (well, kind of), Adobe has a format called Acrobat eBook Reader, which is a far more booklike experience, mostly meaning that there are icons for turning the virtual page. Here is the main page for Adobe's eBook Reader. It downloads for free and then you can borrow any of several books for 1-3 days to test it out. I think it's kind of cool. My more general feeling about electronic "books" is that only early adapters will want to read Jane Eyre on their Palm, but if you want to know stuff, maybe I or someone like me can put it in easily accessible form on your device.
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