June 2010 Archives

Happy birthday to me

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Gaaah! iPad!Okay, honestly, I feel like crap today. It's only been two days since my last chemotherapy treatment, so that's to be expected. But it is my 41st birthday, and my wife and kids bought me an iPad! (The 16 GB Wi-Fi model, if you're interested.) So that already makes it an improvement over other chemo days.

This is also my fourth birthday since I found out I have cancer back in 2007. Birthdays are milestones for everyone, but for me in particular, reaching another one is always a good sign.

Thank you to everyone who has wished me well on Twitter, on Facebook, on the phone, by mail, and in person. I hope the weather's decent for our party on Saturday.

Thirty-one air guitar solos

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Rock out!Monday was the last full day for my kids this school year and, as you would expect, there wasn't much schooling going on. In fact, my older daughter Marina organized an air guitar contest for her class, and asked me to put together a CD of appropriate heavy-shredding music that they could wail away to. When I mentioned it online, some of my friends asked for the list.

Here it is. I didn't put the whole songs on CD. Instead I excerpted just the appropriate guitar solos, or edited down a shorter section. They're listed in order from shortest to longest solos:

  1. Takin' Care of Business - Bachman Turner Overdrive (Randy Bachman)
  2. Get a Leg Up - John Mellencamp (David Grissom)
  3. All Day and All of the Night - The Kinks (Dave Davies)
  4. You Really Got Me - The Kinks (Dave Davies)
  5. You Shook Me All Night Long - AC/DC (Angus Young)
  6. Beat It - Michael Jackson (Eddie Van Halen)
  7. Even Flow - Pearl Jam (Mike McCready)
  8. Are You Gonna Go My Way? - Lenny Kravitz (Craig Ross)
  9. Hard To Handle - The Black Crowes (Rich Robinson)
  10. Heartbreaker - Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page)
  11. Peelin' Taters - Junior Brown
  12. Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes (Jack White)
  13. Back in Black - AC/DC (Angus Young)
  14. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana (Kurt Cobain)
  15. New Year's Day - U2 (The Edge)
  16. Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page)
  17. Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits (Mark Knopfler)
  18. Scuttle Buttin' - Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
  19. Oye Como Va - Santana (Carlos Santana)
  20. Oh Well - Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green)
  21. La Grange - ZZ Top (Billy Gibbons)
  22. Mississippi Queen - Mountain (Leslie West)
  23. Crossroads - Cream (Eric Clapton)
  24. All Along the Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix
  25. Time - Pink Floyd (David Gilmour)
  26. Sugarfoot Rag - Junior Brown
  27. My Sharona - The Knack (Berton Averre)
  28. Eruption - Van Halen (Eddie Van Halen)
  29. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen (Brian May)
  30. Blues Jam - Greg Koch
  31. Free Bird - Lynyrd Skynyrd (Allen Collins)

I've listed the guitarist in parentheses. Notice that all but two of these tracks were recorded before any of the kids in her class was born. Nevertheless, they know many of them from "Rock Band," "Guitar Hero," and retro video shows on TV.

Sure, there are some famous solos missing, from the likes of Guns 'n' Roses, Metallica, Aerosmith, and the like, but I think it's a pretty decent list anyway. And of course I included "Free Bird" last.

Day 2 - Emote, dammit!For almost seven years now (!), I've been compiling an occasionally-updated list of tips and tricks on giving good presentations and talks—and avoiding bad ones. That takes the form of links to articles and advice from experts around the Web on the topic.

You can always find the list at penmachine.com/powerpoint—but it's not really about Microsoft PowerPoint. In fact, much of my commentary is about avoiding PowerPoint, or at least not giving presentations the way it generally leads you to do them.

A good talk is three things: informative, memorable, and entertaining. I hope the advice I link to can help all three parts of your talks be better. And if you want to see how all three can really come together, watch Dave Olson's WordCamp Vancouver session from earlier this month, "Art and Tech Are Old Pals," or any of his others.

My co-host Dave Chick and I have posted the latest episode of our podcast Inside Home Recording, which is number 81. This one features:

  • Listener Paul Hogue talking about the Big Ears Music Festival in Knoxville, TN.
  • Dave and, from the Home Recording Show podcast, Ryan Canestro talking about audio phase.
  • Me discussing the merits of small guitar tube amplifiers.
  • An editorial on whether audio mastering is... a scam?

You can get our show in two formats: Enhanced AAC (with pictures that appear as you play on your iPod, iPhone, iPad, or in iTunes), and audio-only MP3. This is our first episode in a couple of months. Hope you like it—if so, you can subscribe.

Marina and Lucy

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They say that dogs and their owners come to resemble one another:

Two doggies

I don't know. I'm not sure I see it.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Air India bombing. I wrote a big post about it more than three years ago, which I think is still relevant:

[Canadian] governments and police and the general public treated the conflict between Canadian Sikhs in the '80s as a foreign problem, and Indian problem. It was not. It was a Canadian problem. And I don't think that very many people believed in our hearts that we Canadians could germinate terrorists capable of such mass murder. But we did, and worse yet, we didn't stop them.

A report released last week reiterated the point: we screwed up. We could have stopped those killers, yet we didn't. And we didn't catch them afterwards either. We failed. For that, we should all be sorry, and hope that we have learned.

Oil on the water

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"What we can't seem to accept," says Roger Ebert, "is that the oil is leaking and we can't stop it."

My friend Kris Krug and web acquaintance Duncan Davidson are two great photographers who recently traveled to the Gulf of Mexico to see what's going on. Some of their results:





I have a degree in marine biology, granted to me at UBC 20 years ago. In the back of my mind, I often think these days of what the oil is doing to the physiologies of the animals, plants, and microorganisms in the Gulf. (And what oil is doing elsewhere to organisms in the waters of Nigeria, Venezuela, northern Alberta, the Persian Gulf, and elsewhere.)

There's irony. Petroleum is a natural product: millions of years ago, in an ancient ocean, microscopic algae absorbed sunlight and used the energy to build their tiny cells from carbon dioxide dissolved in water from the air. Similarly tiny zooplankton ate some of the algae. Then they all died, and were buried, and with heat and pressure and eons of time their remains turned into goopy sludge buried in layers of sedimentary rock.

There were titanic numbers of those microorganisms, so there's a lot of sludge in our planet's crust, trapped here and there. We extract it, process it, and burn it. The CO2 returns to the atmosphere, eventually to our detriment. Oil power is an extremely awkward, inefficient, roundabout, and time-delayed form of solar power.

And the oil gushing out from a hole we drilled into the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico? The organisms now living in that sea are being poisoned by the remains of their remote ancestors. It's as if the cities of western North America were being inundated by a spewing geyser of fossil dinosaur bones, unleashed from the Badlands east of the Rockies, burying us in the petrified skeletons of our distant relatives.

A weird Safari-Google bug

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A little while ago, I started using a couple of Google's embeddable web fonts here on my website. If your browser supports web font embedding, you'll see my headlines in Yanone Kaffeesatz, and body text in Droid Sans. (If not, you'll see different fonts that are on your computer already.) Safari, the default Mac and iPhone browser, supports font embedding, but I discovered something odd.

On a Mac, Safari displays everything, as do other modern browsers like Firefox and Opera. But on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, their version of the browser (known as Mobile Safari) embeds fonts just fine, but it only displays text in the ASCII character set. Extended characters (letters with accents, long dashes, curly quotes, and so on) appear either as blank spaces or as "missing character" boxes.

I reported the inconsistent behaviour as a bug to Apple (#8067325). When their developer support team got back to me, they suggested I try using the developer features of Mac desktop Safari to have it pretend to be Mobile Safari, by reporting its User Agent string to websites (and Google) as if it were running on an iPhone. Lo and behold, extended characters don't display anymore on the desktop version of Safari:

Safari vs. Mobile Safari

Notice that the fonts look different too: a bit smaller and thinner. (It's hard to detect that difference if you're actually using an iPhone, since the screen is so different from a desktop or laptop Mac.) It turns out that Mobile Safari doesn't support as many embeddable font formats as the desktop version, so Google sends an SVG font version to iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches, or anything pretending to be them. And it looks like Google's SVG fonts contain only ASCII characters, while the other formats have full character sets.

I thought this was an Apple browser bug, but it appears to be a Google font bug instead. There are probably workarounds, but so far I've decided not to bother with them. I expect either Google will extend their SVG font character sets, or Mobile Safari will start supporting more font formats. In the meantime, I apologize if you're a user of Mobile Safari (or another browser that gets SVG fonts from Google), and miss out on a few letters or dashes here and there in my blog posts.

I think we'll all live.

Not a stuffed toy

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As an early Father's Day present, our dog Lucy decided to give me (and my wife Air) some extra space in the bed today, and sleep on a pile of clothes on the bedroom floor instead:

Lucy, asleep on the bedroom floor

No, she's not actually a stuffed toy.

iPad blogging

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I'm testing this post from an iPad at the Apple Store to see how feasible it is to type a blog entry on the screen. Not bad, though some features of the Movable Type web interface don't work quite right, like category selection.

Zoom zoom

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And here it is, Air's Mazda3 GT with five-speed Sport Mode automatic transmission and power moonroof:

Air's new Mazda3!

It's even nicer than expected. My wife has excellent taste in cars.

Now, being a technical writer and all, I just have to go through the five-hundred page (!) Mazda3 owner's manual.

Today we're bringing home a new car, to replace the Toyota Echo we bought in 2004, almost exactly six years ago. There's nothing wrong with the Echo, but my wife Air, who drives it, was finding it a bit bare-bones, with its manual windows and locks, and—most crucially—lack of air conditioning. (As our kids say every summer, "Why did you buy a black car with no AC?")

Extra features like a sunroof (which every manufacturer calls a moonroof now, I guess because long ago, sunroofs didn't include glass) and cruise control were also on the menu. We were looking in the small-sedan market, one step up from the true econoboxes like our Echo, with enough options to put the price over the $20,000 Cdn mark, but not into the $30,000 range of true mid-size cars.

2010 Kia Soul 4UKia Soul

The small-car market is certainly competitive. At times we wished there were fewer choices so the decision would be easier. At the recommendation of a few friends, including Steven and the Biehlers, we first looked at the Kia Soul 4U, which I suppose you'd call an "urban crossover" vehicle. I think it might still be my favourite, but while Air liked it, she prefers sedans over the Soul's more truck-like stance, engine sound, and slightly quirky look. (The quirky look is probably why it appeals to me.) It certainly offers the best features for the money, and the longest warranty.

2010 Toyota Corolla LEToyota Corolla

At the extremely non-quirky end of the scale is the Toyota Corolla LE, pretty much the definition of the basic family sedan for the past few decades. Toyota seems to have pushed the Corolla into slightly more luxe territory recently, with the interior of the LE model including very Euro-style faux-wood paneling, keyless entry and push-button starting, a spacious trunk, and a remarkably quiet and smooth ride compared to its competitors. But it's not an exciting car. Still, for Air, it was top of the list almost to the end.

2010 Suzuki SX4 SedanSuzuki SX4

I expected to be impressed with the Suzuki SX4 sedan, but the company seems to be overcharging for what it offers. Even without the all-wheel drive from higher-end SX4 models, its price fell into the same territory as the other cars here, but without the same level of fit and finish. It's also a genuinely small car, more in line with the Echo we have already, and not very inspiring to look at or sit in. I didn't even test-drive it. By comparison, Suzuki's new Kizashi sedan is a beautiful machine, but is also several thousand dollars out of our price range.

2010 Honda Civic SportHonda Civic

For me, the Honda Civic Sport sedan deserves its place as Canada's best-selling passenger car. It looks good, drives wonderfully, and has a space-age interior with a sexy but functional two-tier dashboard display. Alas, despite all the available adjustments, Air didn't find the driving position comfortable. The current Civic also lacks stability and traction control, which are standard on most of the other cars we tried, and will soon be mandatory in Canada anyway.

2010 Ford Focus SEL SedanFord Focus

We already own a Ford Focus station wagon, from 2001, so it made sense to check out the current Focus SEL sedan—although that's not what I wanted to do. I visited our local Ford dealer to see the new Ford Fiesta, prominently advertised on the company's website. But the Fiestas aren't actually arriving for a few weeks, so a Focus test drive would have to do. The car was perfectly fine, an improvement in ride and power over our wagon, but less distinctive in appearance inside and out. Not in the same league as the top contenders, in other words. Despite a full-court press from the salesman, I left the lot somewhat underwhelmed.

2010 Madza3 SedanMazda3 - the winner

I was completely uninvolved in our final purchase decision, but I'm still happy with the result. While driving our friend Steven home from a visit to our house, Air dropped in to see the Mazda3 sedan, and she loved it. My cousin and my friend Paul already own older models of the same car, and the 2010 version looks slightly sportier still. Air got a better trade-in for our Echo than other dealers were offering, and added some higher-end features such as Bluetooth connectivity and a six-CD changer for a similar price. Oh, and tinted rear windows.

One thing I found universally annoying: car company websites use way, way, way too much Adobe Flash—especially in places where it's entirely unnecessary, like spec sheets and build-and-price applications. As we webby types have known for years, while often pretty, the overuse of Flash makes it impossible to bookmark or link to specific pages, uses more processing power on my computer than it should, and is entirely useless on devices like the iPhone and iPad that don't support Flash. As those devices become more popular, I expect the design houses that the car makers hire to build websites will be forced to change soon enough. I can't wait.

Anyway, Air and the kids are off to pick up the car as I write this. Unfortunately, I'm still recovering from my latest chemotherapy treatment on Tuesday (at least I'm awake today), so I'm still popping Gravol pills, and don't feel well enough to spend an hour at the car dealership. I'll wait to get my first look at our new vehicle when she brings it home. We'll post pictures, of course.

As a writer and editor, I find knowing that Red Robin Canada printed and laminated thousands of these menus a bit depressing:

Really, Red Robin? Really?

At least the website gets it right, even using the proper accent on "entrées." But the website would be way easier to fix if it were wrong, wouldn't it?

If you put a lot of stuff on the Web, as I do, sometimes people will use it in questionable ways. Even though I make it easy and authorized to make use of my blog posts, photos, music, and other things with my Creative Commons licensing schemes, often enough some splog will, for instance, republish my posts without attribution, or someone will claim a photo of mine as their own, or whatever.

Most of the time that's no big deal. Yes, it's theft, but I also think a bit of shady reuse is part of the price I pay for being as out there online as I am. But yesterday something small happened that I couldn't let pass, because not only did it include unauthorized use of one of my photos, it simultaneously made it look like I'd written and endorsed something that I certainly do not.

I won't link to the web page in question, since it doesn't deserve the publicity, but I found it using one of the ego search feeds I maintain (most of which rarely turn up anything interesting, but which occasionally alert me to something worth noting, like this). In this case it was a search at IceRocket, which pointed out an article about "alternative cancer treatment" that included the byline "by Derek K. Miller." And it wasn't by me.

I clicked over to the page, and it turned out that the article—a generic piece about alternative cancer treatments, including some pretty questionable assertions, obviously designed to generate search-ad revenue and to link to an alternative-treatment centre in the U.S.—featured a photo of my face, purloined from my Cancer Treatment set on flickr.com. The picture was "attributed" to me with the line "by Derek K. Miller" underneath, with a link back to Flickr.

That would have been fine in some circumstances, but it violated the terms of my license because the splog was obviously a commercially promotional site (my photos are only for sharing non-commercially unless you get my permission otherwise). More importantly, the attribution appeared in such a way that, while it theoretically credited me for the photo, because of the layout and because it was also a picture of me, it appeared that I was being credited for the article, and that the picture was some sort of author's image.

I don't like people using my stuff improperly, but even worse is making it look like I've written an article that I didn't write, which is endorsing claims and a company that I don't endorse, or have any affiliation with at all.

I left a comment to that effect on the site, and while it never got published, whoever made the page got the point: within an hour my photo and byline were gone—which was far quicker and easier than I expected. The article is still there, and it's still crap, but it no longer seems to be crap that I had anything to do with. And that's all I wanted.

A couple of days ago, Ayaan Hirsi Ali—author, politician, activist, and polarizing figure worldwide—appeared on CBC's Q radio show to discuss her second memoir, Nomad, with host Jian Ghomeshi.

Ali, who was born in Somalia and raised there, as well as in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, later emigrated to the Netherlands and became a strong critic of Islam (especially how Muslim societies treat women) and of multiculturalism policies in the West. As a Dutch parliamentarian, she faced threats of assassination from Islamist extremists, and eventually moved to America.

I blasted through her first memoir, Infidel, a few months ago—it's a riveting account of her physical and mental journey. There's little doubt why she thinks the way she does now. She's a little younger than me, but her life well deserves two books (so far).

It seems to me that the core of Ali's argument on the radio was that no moral or political ideas should be respected or endorsed simply because they emerge from religion or other ideologies, culture, or traditions. She pointed to societies that cling dogmatically to such ideas, as in Somalia, who remain backward and fail. Conversely, societies like those in the Netherlands, the U.S., and Canada are largely successful, prosperous, and safe because we analyze and debate ideas of all kinds, make decisions about which ones are better—and then improve because of it.

We're far from perfect at it, of course, but it is an ideal we strive toward. And it applies not only to ideas coming from immigrant communities, but to long-standing homegrown ideas as well. In Canada over the past few decades, analysis and debate helped us decide that Indian residential schools were wrong, fomented the Quiet Revolution in Québec, and are bringing gay people into the legal and cultural mainstream. Similar progress happens much more slowly, if at all, in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, North Korea, Haiti, Burma, Malawi, or even China.

Isn't it an inherently good idea that one of CBC's top-rated national radio shows is hosted by a guy named Jian Ghomeshi, who didn't have to change that name to seem "more Canadian?" It would have been unimaginable 40 or 50 years ago.

More World Oceans Day

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A few more from my photo collection, once again all of the Pacific Ocean.

Sailboat passes the Moon

Surfing the Apocalypse


Foam B&W

Waikiki Reef

May photowalk B&W - cormorant silhouettes

Beneath the Stack

World Oceans Day

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More about it...


Kelp Forest

Towing Home

Mr. Surfer Guy Heads Out


Georgia Strait solstice sunset - 9:25pm 21 June 2008

Nettle 2

Sandcastle's End Wallpaper 1600x1200

Island vessels HDR

It doesn't relent

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I don't have chronic pain in the clinical sense, but after more than three years of cancer treatment, I've come to realize that I'm almost never entirely comfortable. Something in my body hurts, or itches, or aches, or feels off pretty much all the time.

Most of the time I'm not in real pain, but it's nevertheless pretty tiring. My feet tingle, or my guts churn, or I vomit unpredictably, and so on. Often it's a vague combination of symptoms, such as a slight stomach upset combined with swollen-feeling fingers and a bad taste in my mouth. Something like that woke me at 4 a.m. today, after six hours of sleep, and kept me awake, so I'm up for the day now, it seems. (Oh, and having been awake for three hours without eating, I of course barfed when I finally got out of bed to get myself some food. Sigh. But I'm fine now.)

Once again, I'm 40, but my body acts much older.

This isn't easy on anybody in the house, not me, not my wife Air, not my daughters. Not even the dog, who when I'm feeling poorly doesn't always get as long a walk as she should. But it's surprising what your body can get used to.

It's also given me a perspective on something I've never understood viscerally: addiction. I'm not on painkillers right now, but I have been in the past, and I've felt withdrawal when I stopped. But that was almost entirely physical. It was unpleasant, but I didn't feel a need for the morphine. I don't seem to be prone to addiction, at least not to anything I've tried in my life so far.

Yet when I feel the constant, low-level, nagging discomfort, I can imagine it being not that much worse so that I'd need medicine to go about my day. And then I can take another step, and imagine that the discomfort and pain weren't physical, but emotional, and how I'd want to do almost anything to dull them. And I can see where that could go.

I still don't really understand what that would be like. I have no idea what it would be like to be there. But I can imagine better, like seeing it from closer than I used to.

Fake blogging the iPhone 4

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apple-wwdc10_502While Steve Jobs was onstage at Apple's World Wide Developers' Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco this morning, announcing the new iPhone 4, we techies on Twitter were, of course, typing furiously. Those commenting on his keynote speech used the #wwdc "hashtag" to identify the topic.

But there were a few of us, spurred by Glenn Fleishman, who wrote snarky commentary as if we were attending the event, using the #fakewwdc hashtag (in the spirit of Fake Steve Jobs).

If you're into that sort of insanely in-joke nerdery, here are selections from my "Fake WWDC" tweets, roughly following the chronology of the real announcements, to be imagined in Steve Jobs's voice:

  • "Exclusively on iPhone, Farmville will subsidize you heavily if you grow only corn for high-fructose syrup production."
  • "iPhone 4 is so thin it actually has negative thickness, and is only visible in four-dimensional space. Hence the name."
  • "iPhone 4's new screen has pixels so dense, the display is a rectangular black hole, something physicists told us was impossible. Suck it, physics!"
  • "We called it Retina Display because it's now just as bright as the surface of the Sun, and will sear your retina accordingly."
  • "The new built-in gyroscope lets you ride your iPhone like a Tilt-a-Whirl. I've personally measured a time-to-vomit of less than 30 seconds!"
  • "Following iPhone 4's new HD movie recording capability, we've partnered with Panavision on a full-harness Steadicam and rack-focus cinematography rig for iPhone 4 video. It weighs only 85 pounds."
  • "We've completely automated iMovie for iPhone. So much that you can't actually record your own footage, but who needs that?"
  • "Sure, iMovie for iPhone looks great, but alas, it uses private APIs and crashes a lot, so we've been forced to reject it from the App Store."
  • "iOS 4 bypasses multitasking for RetinaTasking™, which is like the Retina Display, but for tasks. No, I don't get that either."
  • "The iPhone 4 gyroscope also enables it to feel heavier and heavier as you buy more iBooks."
  • "Our proudest iAd brand by far is Glenn Beck's Goldline, integrated right into your app! What? Why is everyone leaving? Hello?"
  • "My engineers backstage have just developed an EMP-generating worldwide Wi-Fi kill switch, which I will now use. ZZZZZT!" (NOTE: Freakishly, Glenn tweeted something almost identical at the same time. Spooooky.)
  • "The iPhone 4 camera's digital zoom automatically plays Bob and Doug McKenzie saying 'zoom in on me, eh?'"
  • "One more more thing: iPhone 4 comes in black, white, and blwite, a new colour we invented (which is NOT grey), for $75 extra."

You can read the entire stream everyone wrote (including some posts in what I think were Tagalog) on Twitter. Most of the others were funnier than mine.

Gutenberg press in 1568 from WikimediaI have a few friends who've written non-fiction books and had them published, including Darren and Julie, Tris, Susie and Shane, Dave, and Kris. I haven't, and while I'm not planning on writing one, I do wonder what the experience is like. If you've published a book, how did you find the process, and why did you go through it?

I ask because I've copy-edited and proofread books, and written many booklets (PDF file), brochures, technical documents (PDF file), proposals, manuals, magazine articles, and other publications—and people often say to me, "You should write a book!" Maybe about photography, maybe about podcasting, maybe about my cancer experience. I even have a Diploma in Applied Creative-Non Fiction writing, so I could be considered academically qualified for the task, whatever that means.

But my question is always, "Why?" Because none of the people saying I should write a book has been someone wanting to publish it.

Yes, there's still a lot of prestige in being a Published Author and having a printed and bound copy of your work on a shelf, but publishers large and small have been in trouble for awhile now. Many writers, from Salon's entertaining aviation columnist Patrick Smith (whose 2004 book Ask the Pilot is a great read, but won't see a printed update anytime soon) to my friend and former podcast co-host Paul Garay (who wrote an entire huge book on Logic, the digital recording software, only to see it never get published at all), put in a lot of work and receive little but frustration in return. (Then again, even back in the print-heavy 1800s, Mark Twain found it necessary to supplement his considerable publishing royalties with public speaking—though that was mostly because he invested his other money very badly.)

So, I'm curious what motivates non-fiction writers today. (Fiction is a whole other ballgame, but that would be interesting to find out about too.) I want to know, if you've had a book published, why did you write it? How did the process go? What benefits did you get from it, direct or indirect? Would you do it again, and if so, what would you change?

Say EverythingLast year I reviewed Scott Rosenberg's book Say Everything, which is a (very good) history of blogging. It's now coming out in paperback, and has a new postscript, which you can read in full at the book's website.

It's a sign of the Internet's speed of change that this book, less than a year after first publication, needs an update like that. But I think it's wise of Scott to write it, because he fits the latest "blogging is dead" topics in with older ones. The new supposed blog-killers are Twitter, Facebook, the Apple App Store, and so-called "content farms," where online articles are written specifically to generate search revenue, without any concern for whether anyone would want to read them.

He makes a reasonable argument that while these new platforms all affect blogging, none of them replace it. I've certainly noticed that in my own writing online. Short links and comments I might previously have posted on this blog tend to appear in my Twitter stream instead (though I'll occasionally collect some of the better ones here for posterity). I interact with a lot of people on Facebook, where we might previously have commented on one another's blogs or emailed each other.

Yet neither of those have stopped me from writing here almost every day. Often things I find out on Twitter and Facebook are what inspire a new blog entry, in fact.

The App Store? At first I had trouble imagining what it had to do with blogging at all. But then I realized that there are people in old-school publishing who like iPhone and iPad apps that once again charge discrete prices for written material—or, as Scott puts it, "a genie-bottling move that might allow them, once more, to package and sell media products the old way."

That has no impact on me whatsoever, and whatever effect it might have on blogs would be, perhaps, on those published by major media outlets that might turn their efforts to the App Store instead. I guess. Whatever.

As for content farms like the not-very-useful eHow, they're essentially another form of Internet pollution, like email and comment spam, splogs, and so on. We'll learn to work around them in time. Scott's take:

...there is little evidence that the material produced by the content farms holds any value outside of Google. These articles are good at generating click-throughs from search results. But, having clicked on the story's headline, is anyone ever happy to read the body?

It took me a long time to think of penmachine.com as a blog. I preferred to consider it a website, and blog software as an easy way to update it and maintain an archive. Indeed, that's what I highlighted about it in my very first post close to ten years ago. Whether blogging survives in the long run as something we call by that name is irrelevant. I'm more interesting in preserving interesting, useful writing online—and making whatever small contribution to it that I can.

From my perspective, good writing online doesn't seem to be going anywhere. There's more of it than ever.

Poison time

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Back to chemo today, finally, for the first time in almost a month. I hope my body is well enough recovered this time.

If so, I'll see you again in a few days. Happy June.