Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hedgehogs in Clay and Crystal

I found a piece of cactus quartz that reminded me of a hedgehog. So I made a little mate to go with it.

If you're not familiar with cactus quartz, it occurs when smaller crystals grow around a larger crystal. In this case, the tip of the larger crystal was still visible (the hedgehog's head), but the sides were completely covered with smaller crystals.

I saw cactus quartz for the first time a couple of weeks ago, when my mom found a beautiful piece of clear quartz partially covered by smaller citrine crystals, resembling what she described as "a castle on a craggy mountian top."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My New Cabinet

Behold the magnificent cabinet my stepdad Dave made for me.

The saga began last summer when I found an 18" x 24", 32-lb. slab of marble propped against the wall in the alley between the twin buildings of my apartment complex. It was near the dumpster, so it was obvious someone was trying to dispose of it, but perhaps found it too heavy to lift up over the edge of the trash bin. So I claimed it, with the vague idea that I would make a table or something.

At first, I shopped around antique stores and flea markets, looking for an appropriately-sized table that needed a new top. I didn't find anything to my liking. Then I shopped the home improvement stores for table legs, with the half-baked idea that I might borrow my stepdad's woodshop and make a table.

Eventually, he said he'd make it for me. And somewhere along the line, the table concept morphed into a cabinet, because I really need some pantry space, and (unlike me) he is skilled enough to make something with moveable shelves and hinged doors.

And then he had his knee injury. He was laid up for quite some time. He's still not fully recovered, but he made a push to finish the cabinet because he has a lot of other projects he wants to work on. He's not the type who can tolerate sitting idle. He is driven to create.

And so, with the help of Paul (my stepsister's husband, general handyman, and strong guy), Mom and Dave delivered the cabinet to my apartment tonight. It is made of solid oak and likely sturdier than any other piece of furniture I have. The ornate molding is gorgeous, and the shelf-pegs are seated into metal-lined holes. The marble top is at a good height for me to work on something while standing up. He did a truly amazing job on this.

And, without actually trying to, he somehow matched the color of my hardwood floor exactly.

I'm very excited. I can't wait to fill it with the kitchen stuff that is presently scattered all around my apartment. Yes, the cabinet is in my living room, but it's a lot closer to my kitchen than any of the closets I have stuff stashed in now.

Murphy approves of his fancy new marble-topped cat perch.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ebook Piracy

There's an interesting discussion on ebook piracy going on over at The Blood-Red Pencil. Whether or not you want to participate in this discussion, The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog all writers ought to follow. They've always got interesting things to say.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Peaceful Snow

This morning, Omaha woke up to our first snow of the season. It's cold out, but by no means bone chilling. In fact, for a snowy day, it's rather temperate. Big clusters of sticky flakes drift down serenely, with no wind to trouble them. It's a beautiful morning.

There are many bewildered robins hopping around the sidewalks and streets, probably wishing they'd thought to fly south a little earlier this year.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Video + Book = ?

Remember how I was ranting about video ads in print magazines?

Vooks are ebooks with video interspersed through the text. And while there is no print involved with Vooks, some people (like me) don't really like to read long texts on a screen. I prefer online for short texts and print for long ones. And since there are still a lot of people like me who want physical books, anyone who desires to make money will try to get their text into as many formats (i.e. markets) as possible.

With those ultra-thin video screens they're designing for magazines, they could make print editions of these Vooks (minus the social networking aspects, unless some clever person figures out a way to build a wireless connection into a print book). Of course, I hope the next company to get in the game comes up with a better name than "Vook."

Now, I wouldn't want all of my books to have videos. The whole point of reading a novel, for me, is to enjoy the pictures that form in my head. I'd just as soon not have that spoiled by someone else's idea of what the characters and setting look like.

However, for illustrated children's books, how-to manuals, textbooks, and many other types of print material, accompanying videos might be very appealing. But let me tell you, if a video is integral to the text, I'd MUCH rather have it physically embedded in the book than have to stop reading, head over to the computer or dig some electronic device out of my bag, and go online, as you'd have to do if you were something like Anthony E. Zuiker's Level 26: Dark Origins. (I haven't read it, so I have nothing to say for or against the book. I'm just pointing out its existence as a hybrid text, which I wouldn't have even known about if it hadn't been mentioned in the New York Times article.)

At that point, you really cease to have a book. You have something new. That's not necessarily bad, but reading a text in a linear fashion--with no hyperlinks, no video, nothing but you and the printed word--engages the brain in a different way than one typically interacts with an electronic text. I don't know about you, but when I read something online, I tend to follow links, check out less-familiar terms in Wikipedia, shoot off the occasional email, then return to the text. Before I finish an article, I might have ten related browser tabs open. In other words, when I read online, I multitask.

Reading offline, in print, provides the opportunity to monotask. That's not something we do a lot of in the modern world. And I think it's something we need.

So maybe we don't need videos embedded in our books. I'm sure someone will do it anyway. People will always experiment with combining technologies in all kinds of ways. Some will fail, and some will take off and change our society. But I think there will always be a place for the old fashioned print novel alongside all the new forms of storytelling. The new hybrid books will not supersede the original; there's plenty of room for coexistence. We need different formats for different experiences, and I think people like to be able to change pace once in a while.