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Michael Kater comment on publishing

"We're a tiny industry perched atop a massive hobby."
-Michael Kater, as quoted by Richard Nash
"Calculated Risk: Adventures in Book Publishing"
BNC Terchnology Forum 2010
March 25, 2010, Toronto, ON, Canada
Sent us by Kevin Kelly

Brick vaults at Fort Pulaski in Georgia

"Inside the casemates at Fort Pulaski. In this area, the floorboards were burned away many years ago so they left it open so you could see the engineering of the structure. This foundation supported tons of earth and artillery on the terreplein above. I think it looks like an old subway tunnel."
Photo by Kappasigmapi: http://www.pbase.com/kappasigmapi/image/47008245
From Wikipedia:
"Fort Pulaski National Monument is located between Savannah and Tybee Island, Georgia. It preserves Fort Pulaski, notable as the place where, during the American Civil War, in 1862, the Union Army successfully tested a rifled cannon. The success of the test rendered brick fortifications obsolete. The fort was also used as a prisoner-of-war camp.…"

Homestead in the Spring

Both tower in background and pumphouse on right have new roofs with shakes split by Bruno Atkey from British Columbia. Billy Cummings did the tower shakes solo, since I'd had a carpal tunnel operation. That's the production studio on the left.

Classic Harley police motorcycle in Novato

Parked outside Buck's Saw Service on Grant Ave. last Saturday. This thing was lovingly maintained.

Flocks of birds have leaders, followers

I thought this comment from Steve Lamm on my posting of yesterday (4/20/10) was interesting enough to bring up front. It's feedback on my observations of birds flying in unison. Here's an excerpt from an NPR program by Nell Greenfield Boyce:
"For any given pair of birds, Biro says, "you can accurately work out which of them is the leader and which one of them is the follower."
Some birds had more followers than others. This demonstrates a hierarchy of influence within the flock. "You can actually rank birds in terms of the influence that they have on others within the group," Biro says. "Basically every individual gets a kind of a vote in what the flock does, but the weight of your vote depends on your rank, your position in the hierarchy."
And it did turn out that highly influential birds tended to fly out in front, according to a report on the study in the journal Nature.…"
Photo of common terns in flight by Max Skwarna: http://is.gd/bCqT9
Look at those aerodynamics!

Running, paddling…

I'm back in a running groove for the first time in 8 or so years. It's taken about 5 months, 3 times a week, to slowly get the machinery working and circuits and plumbing opened up. I can cruise, I can run 8-9 miles, and the mountain has never been more beautiful than right now. My tempestuous affair with running is on an upswing. It's good to be on the trails again.
Yesterday I took my Joe Bark racing paddleboard out in the lagoon. At certain tides, there is a winding 1- or 2-mile long channel that I paddle through. It's 20-30 feet wide, mud bottom, pickleweed growing on mudflats, birds abundant. It was a quiet day, overcsst, kind of warm, and the water was glassy like a mirror, but with bits of foam from the incoming tide. I'd paddle hard for a while, and there'd be a spray about a foot long on either side of the nose, like a slow speedboat. This thing skims across the water. I crept up on a beautiful egret. A few days before I'd been watching a flock of terns on a mudflat when two of them took off and flew together in perfect unison, diving, climbing, soaring, an aerial dance, the pair joyous with synchronization…how do they know to both take a right turn at exactly the same moment? In the book Star Maker, Olaf Stapledon described starlings or some such birds in a huge flock, and how they all turned at the same time as if the group were a collective intelligence…
Above photo, taken 10 minutes ago, of divider strip on Columbus Street, outside Cafe Roma, North Beach, San Francisco

Check out Bill and Athena Steen's blog!

This is fantastic!  Photos and stories. Such a rich collection, it was hard to not put up a dozen photos. Trust me. Check it out:

Go to the post page…

On a side street off the main drag in Novato, California (on a rainy Saturday). A brass plaque on the building says:
Novato's first railroad station
Constructed in 1875. Moved here from original site and restored to depict first structure relating to railroad transportation linking Marin and Northern counties Dedicated April 22, 1989

The curved roof braces are a nice touch.

Wild food on homestead, organized crime in Catholic church

Wild food last week: puffball mushroom sauteed with roadkill venison, and miner's lettuce in the salad. Today (Sunday) was a drop-dead gorgeous California blue-sky day. We were here totally alone, no one came by, the office closed, not even a phone call. Lesley worked in the garden all day. I started getting the chicken coop ready for the 30 baby chicks that will arrive from Murray McMurray in the mail on May 10th (all bantams -- Auracanas and Gold and Silver Sebrings). I worked on a bunch of things in my shop: fixing the radial arm saw bench, sorting out the lumber piles, getting ready to go eeling tomorrow.  

Last week Lesley engineered anther instant gopher-proof raised planting bed. So simple. Lay out 1/4" mesh on ground, stack two layers of concrete blcoks on mesh, fill with soil. Fill blocks also, inside of which can be grown strawberries, parsley. We've got our 1/2-acre homestead functioning pretty well; it's only taken us 35 years.
Jesse Ventura was a guest on the Bill Maher show on Friday. He said the Catholic church should be arraigned in the US, just the same as the Mafia, for organized crime. They have been responsible for felonies (molestation) and have not only covered them up, but kept the offending criminals in their organization. By the way, why should churches get a tax exemption? It was a great episode, the 3 guests were all on the same page. There was no Republican asshole to "balance" things out.
Mt.Tamalpais is stylin' right now. The creeks are full and rushing, wildflowers are out, the hills are green, the plants are happy with the rains, and there's even more rain predicted in the next few days. With the lakes full and the creeks bursting with life, I feel rich. Like money in the bank. No, better.

A few random factoids about the future of publishing

In the world I grew up in (grad. high school 52, college 57), communication was by phone and letter. I was comfortable with that. It never occurred to me it would change. When the fax machine came along, I was stunned. How could text and even drawings be sent over a phone line? Well, look where we're at now. I don't remember when I last wrote a (non e-mail) letter.

And in publishing books, we used to prepare "mechanicals" (text and graphics) — large paper sheets and take them into the printers to be photographed for film, which was used to prepare aluminum plates for the press. Then the Macintosh came along, and all that changed. We adapted. In fact, the film for our 1973 book Shelter is now being scanned and converted to digital files, since printing plants are ceasing film-based printing.
Now, we're apparently headed for a sea of change in the publishing industry. I haven't studied it extensively, since I barely have enough time to work on book projects as is, but I'm keenly interested in what's now going on out in the publishosphere..
For some reason, I feel a bit like the South Pacific natives in the last scene of Mondo Cane (1962 documentary) who thought that cargo planes were gods (I refer to the clueless, not reverential aspect of this scenario).
Our books are distributed by Publishers Group West, who in turn are owned by Perseus Books Group. Perseus has just set up a facility called Constellation to assist their client/publishers in navigating the digital world ("towards a digital strategy"). I went to a Constellation seminar in Berkeley a few days ago, and here are a few random facts I picked up:
-If you believe the media, the publishing world is in a state of turmoil. "Desperate," "losing control," "downward trend," "bleak future…" Yeah, well maybe — maybe — things aren't quite so desperate. Our bookstore sales have actually gone up this year. Books ain't dead. "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." -Mark Twain
-There were 140,000 self published titles in 2009. This is incredible. Power to the individual.
-There are way more e-book devices than I realized. At Book Expo America in New York in May, Perseus will have 18 devices on display. Different features, different formats, different requirements. It's dizzying. The iPad has got competition.
-We have some out-of-print books that we are now resuscitating with Print-on-demand and short run printing. Like Mrs. Restino's Country Kitchen, our 1996 book about cooking from your garden, which was ahead of its time, or our 1983 book Aerobic Tennis, about using tennis to get in shape. Some of our old books are seeing the light of day once again.
-Right now, e-book sales are handled by Amazon, Sony, eBrary, Overdrive, e-books.com, Follet, Ingram e-books, BN e-books, and Kobo (Shortliners). Phew!
-I've been reading the New York Times on the web about every day. The other day when I went to Berkeley, I picked up a copy of the paper, and boy, what a difference!
We'll keep publishing "hard copy" books forever. We're also starting work on converting some of our books to e-books.
It's an exciting time for communicators.