Weblogging is for winners

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Marc Canter called me a couple of months ago about a new concept he was working that would help webloggers make money. The concept became reality today, as several people started making 800.00US a month to promote a new CMS called Marqui.

When Marc and I talked, I was ambivalent about the idea and whether it would work. Ben Hammersley has been a sponsored site for some time, but it worked with Ben because he could be enthusiastic about the products of the company that was paying him bucks. Ben likes cigars, and the ambiance associated with cigar smoking, so being sponsored by a cigar company suited his site. I remember reading one of his cigar reviews and being surprised at how much I enjoyed it, precisely because he does feel enthusiastic about cigars.

But I don’t know of many people excited about Content Management Systems, or CMS. I’ve used too many commercial variations of these product to have anything even remotely resembling enthusiasm for them, myself. And if you couldn’t be enthusiastic about the product, wouldn’t the sponsorship come off like the old Geritol television show sponsorships of the past? You know the kind, where the host would stop whatever he or she was doing, plant a fake, bright smile on their face and extol the virtues of a product that would re-build tired blood?

Still, there is a great deal of discussion about the ‘purity’ of this environment and compromising the faith with our readers and that sort of thing, all of which gives me a rash. It’s as if weblogging is for winners only — people who are supremely successful and need no other help; or independently wealthy, and couldn’t use a few extra bucks. Let me tell you something: only the rich can be Saints, and the rich weren’t Saints to become that way.

Or as Alan, Head Lemur, wrote:

This is going to facilitate a dialog, between the company, me and most importantly you. They are paying us for this. They are paying me to tell them and everyone else who reads me what I think. It may not be what they want to hear. This is a risk they are taking.

I do not need the money, I have a day job.
Can I use the money? You bet!

Here are my risks.

Will I be regarded as a whore for taking money?
I already have. And if I am successful I will become a call girl.

Isn’t that ‘call boy’, Alan?

Can I use the money? Damn straight. I had a hard time making enough money to keep this site going, without having to pass the hat not once, but twice in the last few years. So which is better, and more dignified? The hooker on the corner, or the beggar across the street from her?

Still, I write tips and techniques and help folks and I like to think that when the people have contributed to keep the site going, it’s because I’ve provided something that’s been helpful a time or two. But it would be nice to be able to do this _without_ having to pass the hat.

*sob*

(Of course, what I really need to do is finish my own weblogging tool, Wordform, and then I will automatically become both wealthy and hugely popular.)

So what’s stopping me from tugging at Marc’s shirt and saying, “Hey buddy of mine, can I get back into this deal?” It’s that old Geritol thing, I can’t get it out of my mind.

Stowe Boyd covered some of this in a writing about the Marqui Effect, saying:

Note: I am not a purist who turns away from ads. On the contrary. But I think there needs to be a clear separation from content and commerce. I don’t say good things about Silkroad just because they are sponsoring my blog and the True Voice seminar series. Their ad occupies the upper right rectangle on the blog, and by all means, click through sometime and see what they have to offer. And if they don’t get enough traffic, I am sure that they will put their ad dollars elsewhere. But I am not being paid to write about Silkblogs once per week. And that distinction, although nuanced, is important.

Mitch Ratcliff responded to Boyd’s assertion, writing:

Of course Corante has incentives to increase click throughs, because most ad programs are priced based on click performance. Sorry, but the condescension here is just annoying, since the substance of the Marqui agreement seems to be identical to the ads placed on Stowe’s site, from the simple click through on the SilkRoad ad to the “free” seminar offer (Corante presumably gets some kind of compensation for promoting the conference, even if it is sponsorship placement at the event) that are clearly compensated placements or else they would not be on the page. I’ve been a publisher and editor and trade show producer, so let’s step back from the ledge (or “Get Real,” as Stowe’s blog is called) right here and now: Admit that publishers, especially early-stage publishing companies, exist on in-kind trades. If these are not “not evil,” how are they qualitatively different than what I am doing in relation to Marqui? I put a sponsorship graphic on my site and say thanks once a week, creating a kind of periodicity in the appearance of the company’s name in the blog, just as Corante creates a special section sponsored by Zero Degrees that features fresh links.

Ratcliff’s point is good, as is his earlier notes in the post about how at one time he used to make a lot more money for his writing. Hey, if a few bucks can help Ratcliff and others continue writing, where’s the bad?

Boundaries. I’m hearing people say, “boundaries”. As if Technorati and Google aren’t already placing boundaries in this game.

From the Wikipedia article on the history of commercial television:

In the earliest days of television, it was often difficult to perceive the boundary between the actual television programs and the commercials. Many of the earliest television shows were sponsored by single companies, who inserted their names and products into the shows as much as possible. One of the most famous examples of early television broadcasting was Texaco Star Theater, the variety show that made Milton Berle a household name. Texaco not only included its own brand name as part of the show, it also made certain that Texaco employees were prominently featured during the course of the show, often appearing as smiling “guardian angels” who performed good deeds in one way or another, while the Texaco musical logo would play in the background.

I know Alan, aka Head Lemur, and I have no doubts that he wouldn’t be corrupted for a mere 800.00 a month. A couple of grand now…

Seriously, unlike the television shows of yore, the amount of money at stake, and the number of people involved is going to limit how much the Marqui Effect will impact on the weblogging environment. As for me, personally, at a minimum it doesn’t impact on how much I trust the webloggers involved. If I trusted the weblogger before, I still do now. If I didn’t know the weblogger before now, I don’t have an increased sense of trust because they’re, like wow, sponsored.

In comments to this post at the Kitchen, I wrote:

I have known some people in weblogging for years. I trust them and their judgment. If they were to tell me that a product is great, I would trust what they said. Even if I found out later they’re being sponsored by the company who sold the product, I would still trust what they said. I would be surprised, but my trust would still be in place.

But, and here’s the kicker, the people who I trust and who I’ve known for years would not, I feel, do such a thing. They would either tell me they’re being sponsored or make note of this in their recommendation. So in a way, my trust is based on their past behavior, which would preclude the need for the trust anyway, because their behavior is such that they would issue a disclaimer.

After some thought, though, I realized that even if I trusted another weblogger, and there are some I have known for years now, and do trust implicitly, I would still not likely act on just that trust, alone.

If it comes to buying a product, especially something fairly expensive, I research reviews at publications and read opinions in forums and scrutinize the specs in addition to listening to those I know from weblogging. I would value the other weblogger’s opinion, highly in fact; but would also understand that they bring into their discussion all sorts of assumptions about what is a ‘good’ product that may not agree with mine. A case in point is my recent purchase of a photo printer — I had advice from several people I know and trust, but ultimately made my decision based on which printer fit my needs the best.

And if others are more easily influenced? Well, I guess they’ll have to find room for their boxed CMS software — perhaps next to the Chia pet, or up against the Ginzoo knives.

Sponsorship isn’t the Titanic event of weblogging; our ‘purity’ is not compromised because some people are selling some space and words in their weblogs. Still, those webloggers who protest that being sponsored in this way will have no effect on them whatsoever are being idealistic and even a little naive.

Becoming sponsored does impact on you. You will be made aware of it each week as you write your little thank-you note to Marqui. You will see it every time you access your site and the first thing you see is the largish “Sponsored by Marqui” graphic. Your readers will be aware of it, and it will, even subtly, alter their perceptions of you and your writing. This may not be bad — in fact, you may get increased respect for swinging such a good deal. But your relationship with your readers will be different.

Eventually, the Marqui Effect could impact how you perceive your own space. Being hired to write an article for O’Reilly or weblog posts at a Marqui weblog, still leaves you your space to do whatever you want in it: to write obscene material, and be hateful all you want; or write your most intimate thoughts, which could eventually be equated one in the same. You may find yourself hesitating, even a moment, before you put down those words.

Or maybe you’ll continue just as you are, sane or not. Who knows? Me? I’m still working through that “weblogging is for winners” thing–but I think he or she who has the cutest kitten picture, or the most lovely poem, or is the most amazingly well read and erudite, or can bake a mean loaf of bread, be the best friend, or is the biggest pain the butt (that’s the rest of you), is a winner in my book. But then, I’m a begger on the corner, so what do I know?

I guess only time will tell what impact the Marqui Effect has. Stay tuned, and we’ll return after a word from our sponsor…

update

Marc was kind enough to extend the offer to me once more, and I was tempted. And it was tough to decline, but decline I must. I didn’t know that Marqui used to be Maestro, and Maestro is an ASP (Application Service Provider) — a service that you subscribe to, to manage your content; not a product you install and own.

It’s comparable to using Blogger or TypePad to manage your weblogs, rather than WordPress or Movable Type. This isn’t bad, but it does make you dependent on the service, and that’s something I’ve been rather vocally against for some time. However, I also know service-based products can be faster and easier to use for non-techs.

Personally though, regardless of subscription service or installed product. I think most CMS (and that’s Content Management System, no matter what word games are played) are bloated, over-priced, and over-engineered. They’re the primary reason why I now only work with lightweight, modular, open, PHP-based or comparable technologies. They’re why I’ve rejected ‘frameworks’ or anything of that kind — because the clients of the software more often than not buy into systems more complicated than they need, too costly to maintain, and usually dead-ended proprietary to boot. And I helped by supporting these products.

It would be tough for me to endorse a CMS, but to endorse a centralized one? No, just cannot do it. And endorsement of the product is what this is about. Reading the contract that the webloggers have to sign with Marqui, the following spells out a direct endorsement of the product:

It is our desire that acceptance of this agreement reflects your basic confidence in the product and that it serves as an endorsement on your part of the Marqui product.

I can’t help thinking it would send confusing signals to spend three months being negative about a product that supposedly you endorse.

However, just because I am burned out on CMS and large-scale, complex, proprietary, centralized applications doesn’t mean others should be. Each of us has unique interests and challenges, and one woman’s corrosive drain cleaner is another woman’s fragrant tea.

In other words, lots of really smart and intelligent people like CMS, and have excellent reasons to do so. This, then, could be a very good deal for them, and for those of you who have gotten the golden goose for the next three months, I am glad for you.

And if I were to beg on the corner for alms to support this site again–which I don’t plan on doing but lord knows I change my mind more than my underwear– but if I were, then you’re more than entitled to a ‘neener neener’ all the way to the bank.

But since I’m not being paid, consider this my last word on Marqui.

Bookbinding and Disappointment

I had a call tonight. All the person said on the line was, ‘You are nothing’, and then hung up. Odd sort of call for a crank.

It came when I was in the middle of cutting more paper for another one of the books I’m making. Each of these books is a gift for someone who is important to me, someone I care for. I’ll post a photo of all the books when finished, though the going is slow.

Some aspects of the bookbinding have been a surprise and delight for me. For instance, I’ve found that I’m quite good at cutting things out–even things that are complex and curvy. Though I had a slight accident when I was putting the exacto knife blade into its piece of protective cardboard and pushed through it into my finger, I am, shall we say, to the knife born.

In addition, the primary component of one of the star tunnel books has also come out extraordinarily well; I can only hope the rest of the book falls in line. The Japanese stab binding books are extremely satisfying in their elegance and simplicity; with their colorful covers, intricate knots, and handmade papers.

A couple of the projects, though, have not gone as expected. It’s not that they don’t match my mental expectations; it’s that when they are real, they aren’t what I was hoping to achieve. Disappointing that, but I think that all good craftwork results in disappointment from time to time.

Working on the books provides something I’ve been missing in my life–a tactile contact that I don’t have with other activities. What I particularly like about working on the books is that I can attach part of my mind to the task at hand, but the rest is free to roam, to think on other things. I can’t do this when I’m working on the computer, nor when I’m on most of the trails I hike, either (that’s a good way to end up with a broken ankle).

Today while working, I found myself thinking, oddly enough, about the weblogger known only as Invisible Adjunct. She’s been on my mind ever since I read her decision to not only quit her weblog, but also the profession she had been working towards for a long time–a tenure-track position at a university. I thought about her disappointment, which must be acute; but I was also taken by the grace she exhibited when she wrote about her decisions:

A few months ago, I made a vow to myself that this would be my last semester as an invisible adjunct. Since I’ve failed to secure a full-time position in my final attempt at the academic job market, what this means, of course, is that I made a vow to leave the academy. Six more weeks of teaching, and I head for the nearest exit.

Though I must inevitably feel a sense of loss and sadness, it’s thanks to this blog and its readers that I don’t feel the kind of life-twisting bitterness that I might otherwise have experienced. I’ll take with me, among other things, a knowledge of XHTML (which I never thought I could learn!), an undiminished passion for the Scottish Enlightenment, and a heightened sense of life’s possibilities.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to give up the blog.

Simple words expressing a profound message. It was the nature of her writing that made her words that much more piquant and feeling and even though I’ve never been a reader of hers, I felt a deep and personal connection with her–all through her elegant acceptance of her disappointment.

I know some may not agree with me–Invisible Adjunct’s words are seen as a cry to arms, to kindle anger at the academic establishment that fosters the heartbreak of so many. I can also imagine the loss that IA is experiencing, having myself lost a career built up over 20 years. But Invisible Adjunct showed that there is a beauty in disappointment; that it can be a way of stripping away one more layer of the wants and needs we wrap about ourselves; leaving the core essence of what we are, separate from what we want to be. Or, as she eloquently put it, what remains is …a heightened sense of life’s possibilities.

This afternoon, out walking on a familiar trail where I can safely let my mind wander, I thought more about disappointment, and how it can be shallow and slight, such as the minor disappointments we suffer growing up; or it can be deeply altering, such as that which Invisible Adjunct embraced.

The shallow disappointments, the present not received, the trip not taken, the treat denied, are minor and trite and soon forgotten unless we ourselves bring them up in a burst of pettiness. You know what I mean–the anger at spouse or parent when you regress to that young inner child and pettishly say, “But you didn’t get me that doll”, or, “But you didn’t get me that coat I wanted.” Getting caught up in these slight acts makes us as small as the act, and the wise person quickly purges them from memory so as not to waste time in an infantile state.

“You promised!” You promised! You promised!

The larger disappointments, though, they’re different. Having to leave a beloved career, as Invisible Adjunct did; discovering that a long-held hope will not be realized; being deeply in love with someone who is attracted to another; a wished for pregnancy that turns out to be a false alarm–these are emotionally significant disappointments, and they shape us in small ways and large, though we may not know it when the event occurs, and may not cherish it until later. Much later.

Disappointment is not grief, though grief can also have its own beauty, a darker beauty like watching the moonlight reflect on the wings of a moth in the darkest hour of the night. Unlike disappointment, grief never ends. It may become less real over time and the sharp edges dull, and we may become better because of it–but it never leaves.

No, living through a profound disappoint is like being sick, for a very long time, and then gradually getting well again. The experience isn’t pleasant, and may even be frightening because you wonder if you will recover; but then there’s that moment when you wake and you feel better. You rise, and take your first steps away from your bed, lightheaded, as if you’re not quite anchored to the earth.

I have this mental image of a person who has suffered through a profound disappointment. I see them as a figure wearing a cloak of soft, sad grey; gradually, over time, they drop the heavy cloak and underneath is …

Houses Dark and Shuttered

Out on errands tonight I noticed how few homes decorated for Christmas this year. Last year at this time, you would know you were in the midst of a town that took Christmas seriously. This year, most of the homes seem dark and shuttered.

Rather than going straight home after shopping I decided to visit some of the neighborhoods I know to be good Christmas decorators, looking for a little Christmas color.

Several families in St. Louis have members who are serving overseas, some in Iraq, others in Afghanistan. There is usually a story in the news once per week or so about another Missouri or Kansas or Iowa or Kentucky youth killed overseas and honored with a military funeral.

One of the neighborhoods on the other side of the Seminary from us is an old established neighborhood, filled for the most part with working families who are moderately comfortable income-wise. Most also have kids and this is a prime incentive to decorate—for the children, if no one else.

But I would go for blocks with at most a small strand of lights around a bush here and there, some lights around the roofs. Passing tree lots along the way, I was surprised at how full they were. A week before Christmas, they should be half empty.

Missouri and Kansas layoff rates have been less in 2003 than in 2002 — only 12 mass layoffs this year compared to 24 mass layoffs last year. The report is that the unemployment claims are down, too.

But then, the joke goes, 50,000 people have left the area in the last year.

I went to the library to re-check out some books I’ve had for a long time — Let Us Now Praise Famous Men among them, and until someone reserves it from the Stacks, I’ll just keep it. It’s not in general circulation anyway, only available to those people who specifically request it. I’m not depriving a casual wanderer through the aisles.

Across the street I was attracted by a bit of bright color. It was the house with the lady that has three dogs, all of whom bark at one when one goes to the library. All of whom sound fierce, but are friendly buggers; except on Friday, which is bath day.

I think I spend a lot of time at the Library.

Today’s newspaper headline read that the President’s approval rating is at a six-month high. This following on weeks of petty, back-handed squabbling among the Democratic candidates that more closely resembles a pack of junk yard dogs fighting over a bone that’s been picked too clean in previous fights.

One block did have three homes, one after the other, quite nicely decorated and I stopped in the street to appreciate the color and the light against the darkness.

In times past, though, the effort on these three homes would barely have rated a second look. This year, they rated a good long stare. When I saw the headlights of another car in my rearview mirror, I reluctantly moved along; then I noticed that the driver of the other car also stopped in front of the three houses.

When I visited my father last week, I asked him what happened with his bird, Mrs. Murgatroid. He didn’t remember ever having a bird, and became confused at the question. I asked my brother about the bird and he said that before Dad moved in with him, he’d let the bird out of the cage and it flew out the door.

Now, he doesn’t remember a bird he had for twenty years. But he does remember me — he calls me Rae. That’s my mother’s name.

My father served in World War II, then as a State Patrolman for twenty years, followed by being an advisor for the military police in Vietnam, and finally an investigator for Welfare fraud. He was injured in war, had best friends killed in the line of duty, and was poisoned by Agent Orange, suffering cancer after cancer — and he doesn’t have enough money to cover the cost of assisted living so he lives with my brother. My brother is afraid to leave him alone because he forgets things, like turning off burners.

I picked up one prescription for my Dad while I was there. It cost $127.00. He has six of these that need filling every month, and his supplemental medical insurance plan was just cancelled because the “Prescription costs were too high”.

Okay, I was now very determined to find some serious Christmas action, so I pulled out the big guns, driving over to Webster Groves. This college town has Money — if they didn’t have a load of lights, no one would.

Lights I found, but they were subdued: mainly some white lights around the eaves, a few around the bushes by the front door. Elegant little expensive wreathes with big red bows covered the doors and everything was tasteful and restrained on the big white houses with the Mercedes and Audi cars out front.

The little kid in me doesn’t like tasteful and restrained. I want gaudy and blinking and mismatched and yes, even cheesy cardboard cutouts in the yard. This is what I grew up with, where we would have a tradition every year of going for a ride to look at the lights and then come home to have cocoa and pretty decorated sugar cookies.

Where are the young and young at heart?

A very big financial corporation with offices in St. Louis sent out a company memo to its employees. ‘Great news’, it read. ‘This year was the best ever for the company!’

The company then gave the employees, those not impacted by the wholesale move of the company’s call center to India, a $50.00 gift certificate to local grocery stores, and a 2% raise for the year.

The Cost of Living increase nationally for 2003 was 3%.

I stopped by the drugstore on the way back home. Coming out, I put a dollar in the bell ringer’s bright red pail.

“I used to know a bell ringer that would get so cold, he’d hold the bell between his teeth”, he said.

I stopped, surprised, because the bell ringers normally only say Thank You and Merry Christmas.

“Yes,” he continued. “I can’t remember his name, but his face sure rings a bell.”

He then gave me a huge smile, winked, and said “Merry Christmas!”

I love the people of this country.

Merry Christmas, and see you when your journey meets up with mine, again, underneath the mistletoe.

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Artifice

I discovered the name of the green mystery mineral. It’s Vivianite.

viv1.jpg

It’s not a perfect sample, but at least it’s not blackened as so many Vivianite samples are with exposure to light (she says as she looks at her sample, sitting in the sun). Obvious holes in the matrix show where better crystals have been pried loose, probably to be sold separately. Personally, I think imperfections in the piece adds to its character.

I have always collected based on beauty and character rather than value and perfection. Because of my undisciplined approach, my collection is interesting rather than profound. That’s not to say that the collection isn’t worth money — sometimes beauty and character do go hand in hand with monetary worth, as demonstrated with this virtually flawless rhodochrosite.

rhodochrosite.jpg

Still, there are a few of my samples I shouldn’t include in the collection photos because they’re obvious fakes, or novelty items and of no serious value. When you show your collection, you don’t show these rocks. You certainly don’t photograph them.

Mineral collectors will only show you their good pieces, the ones they’re most proud of. However, if you look into their dark corners and hidden drawers, you’ll find their bits of fraud, fiction, and flaws — samples they think about tossing someday, but they won’t. The imperfect pieces, the mistakes, and the fakes add life to a collection. They add history. They make a collection interesting.

For instance, the photo below is of bismuth, which is normally a featureless blobby white/grey mineral. However, put it into a centrifuge, spin it at fast speeds and inject a little oxygen, and viola — you have a beautiful bit of color. No value to it, but I like my eccentric no value pieces. This particular one reminds me of an Escher drawing. You can also use it as a pencil — now, how handy is that?

bismuth.jpg

I have a few frauds, too. My favorite is a hand-sized rock with quartz and appetite crystals in it. I have no doubt about the nature and quality of crystals, but the sample itself is an obvious fraud. I knew it was a fraud when I bought it. I still bought it, and therein lies the value of the rock.

At an outdoor mineral show consisting of tents set up in the parking lot around a rather seedy motel in Tucson, Arizona, I came across one table filled with yellow-green appetite crystals from Mexico. Most were still attached to their rust-red matrix, making the pieces quite pretty overall.

I tried to effect a knowing attitude, but I swear, I must have had rube tattooed on my forehead. The Dealer, an older man who was very gallant to me and kind to my niece (not all that common among the tents if you’re not buying in bulk), sized me up, came to some kind of internal decision, and brought a rock from underneath his table for me to look at — a hand-sized piece with a couple of relatively nice appetite crystals in it.

“That’s what you want”, he said in heavily accented English. “That’s good rock. Nice crystals. I give you good deal on it.”

I picked up the rock and looked more closely at the two larger crystals. They were both wedged into the rock but even a cursory examination showed that the crystals were cut at the bottom and then glued into the rock, with bits and pieces of broken crystal glued around them in an attempt to hide the obvious manipulation. (Crystals in matrix always sell better than those that are loose.)

I looked up at the dealer and he beamed at me, nodding his head, pointing at the rock and kept saying, “Good rock, nice crystals, eh?”

“It looks like the crystals have flat bottoms and aren’t attached to the rock”, I said.

“No, no. This happens sometimes. Pressure on rock force crystals loose, but they held in by rest of rock.” He assured me, shaking his head a modest display of genuine sincerity. “No, this is good rock. Good crystals. I give you good deal.” Pause.

“Fifty dollars.”

I gaped at him. Literally gaped at him, mouth open in astonishment at the chutzpah of the dealer. I held the rock in my left hand, and pointed at the crystals with the index finger on my right hand and just looked at him.

He smiled back, beaming in pride of this treat he was bestowing on me.

“Fifty dollars?”

Beam.

“Are you kidding? This is a fake!”

His smile faltered. A hurt look entered his big brown eyes (before, bright black and alert, now suddenly taking on aspects of one’s favorite dog just before it dies). His age set more heavily on his shoulders and he shrunk in slightly, as if in despair. His body said it all: His son has died; his daughter has run off with a biker. I even thought that, for a moment, I could see his upper lip trembling, and a hint of moisture appearing in the corner of his eye. I watched his change of expression — from certitude to dejection — with utter fascination, and more than a little consternation.

“Madam,” he said quietly. “You wrong me. This is no fake. Please, I would not do such a thing”

Placing his hand over his heart, he lowered his head slightly and pulled away from the table, turning his shoulder away from me as if flinching from a blow. I looked back at him and I realized in that moment, I have met fraud before, but I have not met artifice. And artifice is a ceremony, as precise as the tea ceremonies in Japan — my response was equivalent to not taking off my shoes, spilling the tea, dropping the cup, and then farting when I go to pick up the pieces.

I didn’t know what to do. Putting the rock down and walking away would have flawed the moment and marred the experience, for both me and my young niece who was with me that day. But I didn’t know how to recover.

“I, uh, I’m sorry,” I stammered. “Uhm…I didn’t mean to..uh”

The dealer was not a cruel man; or perhaps he was used to dealing with gauche Americans who buy their goods marked with barcodes and stickers, with heavy assurances of quality. He turned towards me, his face now that of one’s favorite wise old Uncle, the one mother invites to dinner but then hides the booze.

“Madam, I understand. There is so much evil in the world. You must be careful. But see now, I am an honest man. But I am not a selfish man. I will give you this rock, this pretty rock for … forty dollars. It is a steal at forty dollars.”

Shrewd eyes on my face. Next line was mine. I had my opening. I could have put the rock down and say that I hadn’t that much money and I still needed to buy lunch for my niece and thanked him and walked away and the moment would have been salvaged, but it wouldn’t have been right. Besides, the crystals were good if small, and there were some interesting bits to the piece, not counting the ingenious use of glue.

“I’ll give you ten dollars for it.”

“Madam! Ten dollars! You are joking! No, no. Ten dollars. No, no!” He exclaimed in dismay, but he also smiled at me in approval of my response — there was hope for me yet, me with my wits dulled by years of supermarket shopping and sell-by dates.

“Thirty-five dollars. I will take thirty-five dollars.”

I was about to counter with fifteen, feeling more confident in this bargaining game when the Dealer picked up another crystal on the table — a small one. A very small one. Barely more than pretty dust.

“And I’ll throw in this lovely crystal for your niece. See? It is a fine crystal. Yes? Good offer?”

“That’s very kind of you,” I said, clenching my teeth at the exclamations of delight from my niece who loves getting something for free even more than she likes sparkly things that cost money.

Artifice.

myfavoritefake.jpg

Storms

Dug out from a storm this week and the winds are still blowing, and the lighting still lighting up the sky and none of this has anything to do with the weather. Well, there was a storm earlier, which blew down the tree across from us. Lots of trees down online, too.

I emerged from various uninteresting things and went online this morning and found all these moods today. For instance, there’s an anti-intellectual/postmodern thing going on, links pulled together by AKMA, who attaches his own take on the discussion.

I don’t know enough about postmodernism to be hostile about it, one way or another. I used to be insecure about this — now I’m glad. Ignorance really is bliss.

Jeneane’s leading the charge against the Jupiter Biz Blog conference — too many people attending too many conferences, and all of them are blogging about them, but what’s worse is their blogging about each other blogging about each other and I’m getting dizzy.

One more person writes “What’s a weblog” and I’m going to lose my cookies.

I found out I can’t use Plesk to manage accounts on the new co-op server because it’s dependent on MySQL 3.23, and we’ll be using MySQL 4.x. That’s okay, though, because we should use open source solutions like Webmin instead. Speaking of open source, from Ken’s posting today, sounds like there have been a few trees down out in the Apache world.

Tom Shugart doesn’t think much of the heartland or people with weight problems:

Each time I find myself back in the heartland, it seems to get worse. The food seems to get more and more tasteless and toxic, and the inhabitants more and more rotund. How can the food be so bad—and so bad for you, I wonder, in the middle of one of the richest agricultural areas in the world?

True, the small towns don’t always have the fancy cuisine, though you look about a bit and you might be surprised; and the people are just plain folks — many of them making little money because of unemployment, so they fill their diet with potatoes and pasta and Big Macs — cheap food but starchy and fattening. As Tom noted.

But one thing I’ll say about the Midwest, which also includes my beautiful new home, Missouri: I’ve never noticed a lack of courtesy in the people — something I found in short supply in California. Generosity, too, as several of us prepare for this weekend’s Race for the Cure, thinking how best to waddle around the 5K course.

I just had an exchange of emails with News is Free about linking directly to my photographs — that whirring sound you hear is my bandwidth being sucked dry.

Me: Don’t scrape my pages.
Them: Your RSS feed is hard to find.
Me: Autodiscovery.
Them: Human beings and handy little orange XML button.
Me: Your personal requirement does not make my courtesy into an imperative. Don’t like little orange button.

So, who is not in a pissy mood? Speak up.

At least nature always comes through: the fireflies made their debut last night. No photos — they’re camera shy. I’d send you all a bouquet of fireflies to cheer you up, but they don’t like the tiny little leashes and keep tearing off the bows. And FedEx said no way.

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