I did something a little different last night: I read a book in bed on a laptop. Yeah yeah - I'm a dork. But I'm a sucker for good science fiction, and I just couldn't stop reading.
There's a lot of good fiction available on the internet. But very little of it is portable enough to be able to view while offline. Enter the Baen Free Library. They've published a number of their books online for free. Not only that, but they've done it right: no silly banner ads mucking up the display, and they present the option of downloading the stories in several formats, so you can read the books on your preferred platform.
Way to go, Baen! You've increased the number of people likely to pay for your books by at least one. I respect the effort it took to make these works available, and I plan on supporting their efforts. Not only that, but it's introduced me to a number of new authors I'd probably never have read otherwise.
When I go to the bookstore, I rarely just grab an unknown author and start reading. I stick with the stuff I'm familiar with: Clive Barker, Piers Anthony, Neal Stephenson, and a few others. I've received as gifts books from authors I've never heard of, and I usually quite enjoy them. Two recent such treasures were Vernor Vinge's 'A Fire Upon The Deep' and Ricardo Pinto's 'The Chosen'. I can safely say that I'd never have read either of these had they not been given to me as gifts.
I like to read a good story. I don't like that good story being interrupted by advertising. I don't like to wade past annoying animated graphics down a sidebar as I scroll through a great story. The content is what is important to me. Thus, Baen gets high marks from me because they gave me a great story and allowed me to enjoy it. I downloaded the HTML version, curled up in bed, and devoured the story.
It was kind of an odd experience. I felt like I was reading a lot faster than normal - it seemed like scrolling through the chapters in Internet Explorer was some how less time-consuming than turning pages. The eye strain didn't seem quite as intense as reading the smaller print of a book, and my wrists didn't cramp from holding a book upright. My lap did get a good bit warmer, and my cats were none too pleased that they couldn't snuggle up on me as easily. Had the story not been so engaging for me, I might have put off finishing it until today.
I know I won't be downloading any stories to my Palm any time soon. I just don't like looking at that cramped display for long periods of time. It's not my preferred vehicle for reading e-texts. A nice laptop with a 15" display, and a built in CD player makes for a much better experience.
I can't harp on it enough how much I valued the lack of advertising. Lowtax, of Something Awful, has written an interesting commentary entitled The State of the Internet, in which he talks about the nature of internet advertising. His site is wildly popular, and serves millions of banner ads per month, so you'd think that the money would be rolling in. But he's been screwed over by the advertising networks that he's partnered with because they all seem to be going out of business.
There's no solid answer, unfortunately. Bandwidth isn't free. It's quite expensive. The more popular a site becomes, the more bandwidth it requires to satisfy its growing fan base. The costs keep going up and up. Somehow, though, I think that banner and pop-up ads are a pipe dream - it's a shotgun approach to advertising. You launch a wide spray, and hope you hit something. Even directed advertising is not likely to succeed too well online. I think, perhaps, we ought to consider a subtle shift to the business models of the internet.
It strikes me that there are only two dominant business models: a subscription-based system, or an advertising-based system. Each is fairly self-explanatory, and each has its comparative strengths and weaknesses. Questia is a great service, and they even offer a sampling of that service for free, but the resources needed to pull something like that off require that they charge for their services. I can accept that.
But surely there's got to be an alternative. Some way to maintain a successful web site without succumbing to either extreme of the two dominant internet business models. Unfortunately, there's only so much we can do, given the nature of the technology of the internet. Anyone have the answers?
I sometimes think I'm missing something.
Maybe it's the way my parents raised me. Maybe it's the Catholic education I endured. Maybe it's the torment I suffered in grade school. Maybe it's a chemical imbalance. I don't know.
I focus on things that other people don't seem to focus on.
I seem to have great trouble dealing with things that the rest of the world accepts pretty naturally. I am simply flabbergasted at the way most people seem to approach relationships. I know several people who can (and do) discuss at great length specific situations with previous partners while sitting next to their current partner (or spouse!). That boggles my mind.
When I'm dating someone, I don't even want to hear a funny anecdote involving a previous boyfriend. I get physically uncomfortable if the discussion strays to what I consider taboo subjects. A girl I'm dating could tell me the funniest story in the world, and I'll still experience a sickening reaction at the fact that it involved a previous boyfriend.
Is this normal? It's such an aversion for me - it's almost like I'd prefer to live in complete denial of the past ... her past, at least.
I've been this way for about as long as I can remember - including my very first girlfriend 10 years ago. Who knows, maybe it was a result of that first girlfriend, and the way our relationship fell apart due to an ex-boyfriend. As I get older (and hopefully more mature), I find that I'm able to discuss the issues a little more honestly. I don't have any reason to hide this character flaw. It's a part of me. And before you ask - yes, I try my best to walk the walk and not just talk the talk: I try my absolute best not to discuss ex-girlfriends ever. About the only time I'll discuss it is if I'm cornered and forced to discuss something.
My last relationship ended (among other reasons) as a result of this weakness of mine. She was quite comfortable discussing her ex-boyfriends, and did so quite a bit initially. I tried my best (and failed beautifully) to articulate my reservations. But we approached the situation from such radically different points of view that we couldn't meet in the middle.
It makes me wonder what the future holds. It certainly doesn't bode well for me, I don't think.
I guess in the long run it boils down to insecurity. I'm not very secure, and I've yet to date a girl that I feel very secure in dating. Logically I know I have no reason not to be secure, and that I'm projecting my own insecurities forward. But that logic doesn't help mitigate the sickening feeling in my stomach when ex-boyfriends come up.
Insecure and jealous, and afraid of being hurt, and selfish and weak.
It's not entirely that I feel like there's an unspoken competition between me and the guy(s) before. It's not entirely that for years I've had an abysmal self-image. It's a terrible combination of a great many things. And it's a tremendous impediment.
Anyone have any suggestions?
I heard a local DJ ask the question whether you can (and indeed, should) forgive and forget. I didn't get the chance to listen to what callers-in had to say; but it got me thinking quite a bit.
I've historically had a very hard time with forgiveness. I freely admit that I hold a lot of grudges. It's probably not the best thing to do, but at least I'm honest about it. As I've matured, I've learned how to let things go, and not get as upset over long-past offenses. So I guess I'm learning to forgive.
But I don't think I can forget. Nor do I really want to. If I were to forget an offense committed against me (whatever it may be), I'd be denying that it ever occured. This seems counter-intuitive to me. Forgive and forget is indeed counter-intuitive to the old expression of Hurt me once, shame on you; hurt me twice, shame on me.
Now, I don't go around with a laundry list of things that people have done to me. I don't remind my friends of the (sometimes) nasty things they've said to me in the past. But if someone I'm close to does indeed upset me in some way, my remembrance of the previous transgression will help me deal with the current situation. How was it handled last time? Was it adequately resolved? Did we reach some understanding that is relevant to the current situation? Should I just blow this off and not spend my time being upset about it? Is this likely to happen again in the future?
Obviously not everyone thinks this way, or else an expression like forgive and forget would never have really caught on. I agree that it's a nice sentiment, in that those close to you should not continually be reminded of something they've long since apologized for. I do think, though, that purposefully forgetting something is a form of denial. And denying something that happened is just a silly thing to do.
If we were to take the forgive and forget mentality at face value, we'd never really learn anything. How could we, if we put pain and struggle immediately out of our minds once we reach a form of resolution? We learn from evaluating our past experiences. If I put my experiences out of my mind, how can I properly evaluate it? How can I compare and contrast it with my current experiences?
In other news, I've been receiving more hits from search engines for the periodic table of the elements. Oh no! I've said it again! I'm doomed to get hits from grade and high school students around the world now looking for the atomic weight of Molybdenum.
I've also received a couple of hits from people using google looking for, of all things, incest fiction. Several of my stories involve an incest theme, and this was obviously cataloged by google. Now that I've used the word incest a few more times, I'm sure to be listed high in the search results for "incest fiction".
Any other words I should use liberally to attract visitors? It seems that the non-sequiter stuff yields the most search engine hits, so maybe I should stop trying to put up legitimate content and focus entirely on oddball word combinations...
I was at Outland last night with some friends, when an attractive young blonde girl approached asking for a lighter. My friend quickly lit her cigarette, and this girl said 'thank you' while doing a half-curtsie. The alterno-frat boy next to us looked over and said "You don't know how much I wanted to do that!" To which I immediately replied "What, you wanted to curtsie to me?" This was, of course, met with a blank stare from him and a good amount of snide laughter from my group of friends. It's pretty rare that I manage to be funny every time I try to be.
My friend Jay, on the other hand, always seems to enjoy tremendous success with his witty humour. At a recent party, he introduced himself to everyone as Jay From Ohio. That really doesn't sound at all funny. If I were to introduce myself as Scott From Ohio, most people would smile politely and make a mental note to avoid me as much as possible for the remainder of the evening. Jay, on the other hand, received a very favorable response to this.
I guess part of it is that I just don't understand exactly how I come across to people. A great example of this is when I'm in a crowd. I try very hard to be a polite person. I don't just barge through. I always say "Excuse me, please" and try to be as patient as possible. Elfboy always tells me that although I say polite words, my inflection is one that generally sounds extremely pissed off. Instead of a soft, polite "Excuse me", he tells me it sounds like a booming commandment from God "EXCUSE ME!".
No doubt something similar happened with the alterno-frat boy last night at Outlands. My witty joke was received as some sort of violent verbal assault. Oh well. I'm sure he'll get over it.
In a completely different vein, I've made a massive update to the content here at skippy.net. Late last week I made an off-hand joke to a friend that skippy.net wasn't nearly self-aggrandizing enough. So I spent an entire evening scanning photos of various events. I'll eventually get around to categorizing these better, and adding the appropriate bits to the World Tour section. Until then, do enjoy laughing at me and my friends!
I've had a Palm III for a little over a year. It took me several months to really get into the habit of using it. But then all of a sudden it was absolutely indispensible. All my contacts were stored in there. My calendar. My incredibly addictive game of Mah Johngg.
And then like the idiot I am I dropped it, and cracked the screen. A flat $100 to repair it from Palm. I figured for an extra couple of bucks I'd try a new model. Except no one had any of the Palm IIIe or IIIxe in stock. So I settled on a Handspring Visor.
It's the same basic thing as my old Palm III, but different enough to be aggravating. First, of course, was the trauma of trying to remember how I had all my settings: alarm sounds and volume, fonts, etc etc. Then came the realization that the hot synch cradle for the Visor was different from my old Palm. Not a huge deal, but I had bought a seperate hot-synch cable that didn't have that nasty block on the end. And finally, I decided I just liked my old Palm more than the new Visor. It wasn't that I disliked the Visor ... I just really liked what I was used to.
The extra cable I puchased for my Palm provided me with more uses for my Palm. I was able to keep the original cradle hooked up to my desktop computer, and carry only the much smaller serial cable - a real lifesaver when travelling as much as I was. The other nifty use for this cable was that I was able to configure a few switches using a telnet client for the Palm.
I've looked at a few WinCE devices, but I've got to be honest: I'm not terribly impressed with them. They try to be much more than they need. The great thing about the Palm units is that they offer a very basic level of functionality, and allow the user to add those nifty utilities that they want. The WinCE devices, though, force PocketWord and PocketExcel on you whether you want them or not. I don't want a stripped down computer that fits in my hand - that doesn't provide me much functionality. The PalmOS is sleek and unobtrusive. It's extensible enough to allow people to make software that I'd be willing to pay for.
If a WinCE device was really what I was after, I think I'd be much more inclined to purse some form of tablet computing. These things look pretty cool, seem to operate well, and offer a real benefit to mobile computing. If I'm going to read my email on a mobile device, that mobile device had better have a decent screen size - most WinCE devices are sorely lacking in that department. (To be fair, so is my Palm, which is why I don't use it for email).
So in the end I decided to return the Visor I purchased, and shell out the hundred bucks to get the screen fixed on my trusty Palm. Until I've got the cash for a tablet system, I'll stick with the Palm.