Books Writing

Don’t search on me

Following on the heels of the recent excitement about searching within pages of books at Amazon, there’s now a growing backlash against this facility from, among others, the Author’s Guild. According to Volokh Conspiracy and numerous publications, such as Ziff-Davis News in the UK, and The New York Times the pushback occurs because each search returns five surrounding pages of a book, and the Guild says that this could be used to get all the pages for a relevant section of a book so it need not be purchased. Ultimately, according to the Guild, this violates contracts between authors and publishers.

I’m an author, and currently have several books out at Amazon. From test searches, it would seem that my Practical RDF book has not been added to the database yet. Personally, I hope it does get added, because it can only help sales.

For instance, a person is interested in an RDF API called Jena, and searches on this keyword, rather than RDF. My book shows up in the results because I cover Jena. This is good for me as an author because the more I put my book in the front of readers’ eyes, the better chance it has of selling. This is a much better selling tool then me going into book stores, pulling my books from obscure shelves and putting them in more prominant locations.

(Eye level of the average person, front of book displayed if there’s room, or pulled out from shelf so it’s no longer even with the other books.)

If I have a problem with the facility is that it’s a mess. There doesn’t seem to be a way to turn off this look inside feature to find a book on a subject, not just a keyword. As for ‘Jena’, its rather surprising the number of ‘Jenas’ in books out there. To compensate for this, you’re reduced to trying different search patterns that focus on Jena, the RDF API, rather than Jena, the Napoleon campaign.

This is less easy then it seems. For instance, you’d think you’d have a winner with ‘java jena rdf’, except the first title that shows is “The Polish Officer: A Novel”. What are these authors talking about?

I, of course, also did a vanity search on my name, in quotes, out at the site and found a few references to it in other books. Not many – I’m usually the writer not the writee. One I thought was particularly interesting is my name showing up in a figure in a book,and the page containing the figure was shown. It would seem the search works with figures as well as text.

As for this enhanced facility adversely impacting on book sales, I’m finding that the current political and economic climate in this country and the rest of the world is doing a great job of this anyway – Amazon’s efforts aren’t adding much to the overall effect.


Professor Bainbridge has some good comments on the negative aspects of this search facility on the sale of his books – but I still want my books in it.


On the Rocks

Recovered story. I no longer have the collection, but you can see photos of what once was.

I spent yesterday taking photos of my rocks for the auction, but I’m never going to get this job finished if I spend all day and only have a few photographs for my effort. I can’t help myself, though — I’m having too much fun.

I started using the traditional mineral photographing techniques, as outlined in Jeffrey Scovil’s excellent Photographing Minerals, Fossils, and Lapidary Materials. However, somewhere along the way, I began to improvise.

For instance, I found that my TiBook makes a great backdrop for some of the harder to photograph minerals such as Azurite and Dioptase. I don’t have my studio lights and am having to use natural light, which makes my job much more challenging. Both black and white backdrops desaturate these minerals extremely rich hues. However, the neutral gray color allows the colors of the samples to come through.

(Or at least, that’s the excuse I’m using for such blatant disregard of mineral photography rules.)

As a backdrop for this yellow crystal, I used the paper the rock was originally wrapped in before I decided to use soft foam, instead (better for shipping).

Yellow Crystal

Notice that I called this mineral ‘yellow crystal’ rather than giving it a name? Well, I have to confess that I have no idea of what this crystal is. In fact, I have two minerals I can’t classify in my collection, and a third that I can’t tell is a fake or not.

This might surprise you: that a mineral collector can’t identify all the minerals in their collection. However, I purchased the mystery rocks at the Tucson mineral show early in 2001 and carried them home with their little labeling tags. When I got home, I found the dot-com I worked at had died while I was gone. I was distracted and didn’t record the purchases in my mineral ledger. Then I ended up getting divorced a few months later, and moving to California soon after that. During the move, I wrapped the rocks and stored them, losing their little tags.

Only now, going on three years later, am I looking at the rocks and I haven’t the foggiest what the yellow crystal is. Or the identity of a beautiful green crystal I haven’t photographed yet. I think the yellow is calcite, but the specific gravity is all wrong, and the luster doesn’t feel right. And its rare for calcite to form bladed crystals, though calcite will form into pretty much any crystal form.

I don’t have the materials to make a streak test, nor do I have the acids to see if the mineral behaves appropriately when exposed to this substance. I suppose I could hit it with a hammer to test its hardness, but that seems a bit extreme.

There’s the old taste test, and I remember when I took geology in college that we had to use taste during our mineral identification exam (boy, those were the innocent days.) However, there’s drawbacks to using taste on an unknown mineral. For instance, another crystal I photographed yesterday is this nice piece of Chalcanthite:


Pretty, isn’t it? It’s also toxic. In fact, if you bend your minds back to chemistry class, you might recognize this crystal if your class ever left a solution of cupper sulfate to evaporate over a few days. Crystals of Chalcanthite will form, which is one of the three reasons why people hesitate to have this mineral in their collection. First, it’s water soluble, and fine examples have been known to reduce to dust eventually. Then there’s that toxic thing. Finally, how can you tell the difference between lab grown crystals and naturally occurring ones?

This sample is one that grew naturally, but it was instigated by humans — it formed in a copper mine as a result of the mining actions.

While I photograph the minerals, I find myself just looking at them and this accounts for much of the delay. I hold them to light, move them around to watch the glitter on the surfaces; look into their depths to see the fractures and inclusions. Gloat in the rich and subtle colors. I like to feel the surface because the stones each have a different tactile feel to them. My favorite is the apophyllite, which has a soapy feel to it, and an iridescence that reminds me of those bubbles we used to blow as a kids.

Some of my samples were hot glued into little boxes and stands when I purchased them, and the first thing I did was remove these. I dislike having any form of container around my rocks. How can I feel the rock, or look more closely at it with all that protective gear in the way? Mineral collectors would be appalled to hear what I’m saying — crystals can be impacted by the oils on our fingers, the light or the even the air around us. Holding a crystal increases the chances of it being damaged. What am I thinking?

But look at this opal from Oregon. It’s like a bit of the river from which it came, but petrified and preserved for all time. The feel of it is wonderful, and I wish there was a way I could attach that feel to this page so you can experience the texture — like candle wax dripped on velvet. It’s a very sensuous stone, and the colors become so real when you hold it up to the light.


Diet Cherry coke

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I splurged this weekend and purchased 20 rolls of film from B & H, a photo supply shop I’ve used for years. I think most people who are into photography in this country, and even internationally, are familiar with B & H. Not everyone cares for them, but I’ve always been happy with their products and services.

Anyway, back to my major investment. Of the 20 rolls, ten were Fuji Velvia, ISO 50, my favorite color slide film; ten were Kodak’s classic Tri-X Pan Black & White print film (ISO of 400). I recently experimented with the Tri-X and really liked the results: fast so it works in most daylight environments, and with enough graininess to add interest. Seems to be a most forgiving film, too.

What can I say? Sometimes I feel like color, sometimes I don’t. Depends on the mood I want to set. For instance, the following two photos are of the same subject – but what is the story behind each? What am I saying? Other than, don’t drink the water?

Don’t drink the water.


Don’t drink the water.

Of course, I hope they say something different. If they don’t then I haven’t done my job.

I’m causing trouble in this weblog instead of out there in the world on promised break because plans I made went awry, or I should say, have been postponed. The surgery for removing the gallbladder went very well, but I’m amazed at how much it’s tired me out and how much I’m having to adapt. I’m not used to this – I’m a quick healer, and am rarely kept down for long. However, I’ve been fighting problems with the little bugger for a couple of years, and I’m not going to be climbing hills immediately. Not just immediately.

Still, as I said a couple of days ago before I decided to test the burn and see if I flame or only smoke, I feel good. And I don’t itch.

I’m also in the process of finally getting around to selling my mineral collection. This week I’ve been taking photos of the different samples, posting them to a site dedicated to this effort, but I have over 100 samples – this isn’t going to be a quick job. I’ve been in contact with one dealer who is interested in the collection, but I can’t connect up with them until Thanksgiving. What I’ll most likely do is send the URL for the collection out to several rock magazines and dealers and see if I can find a nibble. If not, on to eBay we go, though eBay is not my preferred option.

Once the pictures are all taken, I’m going to add a story about my favorite pieces to the associated page. I want to make the collection come alive, show the care and thought that comes with each sample. I’ll post the link again when I’m finished. Even if rocks aren’t your thing, there are fun stories associated with the collection.

(Well, I think they’re fun. If you don’t, then I haven’t done my job.)

When I was getting ready to check out after surgery, the nurse told me to drink plenty of fluids, but good things like juice or water, or tea would be okay. By no means was I supposed to drink cola products like Coke or Pepsi.

What? No Diet Cherry Coke?

No, that stuff will eat your stomach up in your current state, she said.

Since then I’ve been scared to try one of my favorite drinks. Not until today, and I’m drinking a can of it right now as I write this. Another step in the recovery process – indulging in my favorite degreasing substance, Diet Cherry Coke. Recovery is not measured by the good things we do for our bodies when we still have fresh memories of hospital white and green and the fear of frailty, and worse, lies heavy on our minds. Getting better is marked by Bad Things, like tic marks on a measuring stick. Coffee, check. Steak, check. Diet Cherry Coke, check.

When the nurse was telling me what to start eating, she said start with broths and jello and progress to light soups and finally start eating normally in a couple of days. Under no circumstances was I to eat fast food for at least a week.

What, no White Castle hamburgers, I asked?

She looked at me in horror, she really did, and exclaimed that under no circumstances should I eat White Castle ever again!

Well, this one really wasn’t a problem for me because I’ve heard so many stories about White Castle hamburgers, good and bad. They really are a cult food here in the States, and I thought about trying them when a new restaurant opened just a couple of blocks away from us. However, when I found a taste alike recipe for them, and saw what it used, I’m afraid I’ve lost my interest in trying White Castle.

But I had a Toaster at Sonic Thursday. See, it’s the bad things that measure our wellness.