13.1.08

Goal(s)

This morning, we were playing soccer in the backyard. Jane scored a goal, high-fived me, and then, curiously, stopped playing in order to stand under the apple tree.

"What are you doing, Jane?"

"I scored a goal. I'm waiting for my gold medal."

11.1.08

Not So Much A Name as a Function

When Jane needs something and neither of us is in sight, she calls out "Parents? Parents?"

8.1.08

Krazy! Glue!

Note to self: Next time something gets wobbly or broken, before you even think about calling the handyman -- the very thought of whom will send you into months of desperate procrastination -- TRY A DROP OF KRAZY GLUE.

Have just fixed many weird and wobbly items throughout the house with about ten drops of the stuff. Marvelous. Now the whole house feels more solidly put together. Formerly wobbly or crooked things are perfectly straight and tight.

I am a krazy kompulsive person, yes, yes, I am.

7.1.08

Funny

"What do you want for breakfast?"

"Pancakes!"

Hmm.

"What do you think you'll actually get for breakfast?"

"Toast."

4.1.08

New Neighbor

John Maeda (author of TAP TYPE WRITE and other REACTIVE BOOKS) jumps from MIT's Media Lab to be the next president of RISD.

3.1.08

Resolute

For 2008, I will: stretch more, and grouch less.

Another Lesson Learned

I'm revising the novel so I can submit it for my degree, at last.

Here's what I just figured out: The perspective shifted all over the place in the early drafts. I followed these shifts, correcting them where I could, and wondering how in the world I had managed to become such a crummy writer. Now I understand what was happening: In a third-person narrative, slight, subtle, almost unnoticeable shifts in perspective actually happen all the time. And that's okay. More than okay. It's how you show, rather than tell, that the characters are changing.

We do this all the time in real life, and our ordinary language captures it: And then I saw things a different way. My perspective shifted. I changed my mind.

2.1.08

I See Dead People['s Books] (LibraryThing)

LibraryThing has a group dedicated to the topic: I See Dead People['s] Books. Despite the ghoulish name, what they're chasing is important from a scholarly point of view -- and a business one, too, I think.

One of the most intriguing books I used for my dissertation was a catalogue of Carl Friedrich Gauss's library. Even though I kept coming back to it, I was never able to solve the basic historiographic problem that it posed: What sort of evidence is this? Evidence of what? What kinds of conclusions can be drawn from these data? (LT has just finished a similar project, a catalogue of Thomas Jefferson's library.)

Current academic historiographical conventions disallow, or at least frown upon, claims like "He was a wit, open-eyed and realistic, but susceptible to the epic kinds of romantic enthusiasms you find in his favorite authors, Walter Scott and Jean Paul."

But people in the business of hand-selling -- booksellers and literary agents -- make these calls all the time.

Library data encode important information. We just don't know what sort of information it is. Is it information about mentalities? Literary influences? Certainly, we learn something about what publishers think is worth publishing at any given time. But it's the decision to own that poses the problem -- and the opportunity.

Reflecting on the Jefferson project, LT's founder Tim Spalding put it this way: "Books are a sort of mental world, and shared books a shared mental space."

It's the "sort of" that gets me. Sort of this, sort of that -- we just don't know what to do with this information. We don't even know what to call it. I like Spalding's spatial metaphor, though. Instead of talking about some vague collective consciousness, we're actually talking about something real, even topographical. A shared library.

I have a feeling when big money gets behind LibraryThing (and it will), the idea will be to automate the hand-selling process. Amazon's "If You Like...Then You'll Like" algorithm isn't nearly as precise as LT's library data because the former is based on what you buy (for yourself, yes, but also for your kids, your mother, who likes how-to manuals, your neighbor who likes Tom Clancy, your nephew who really likes obscure poets, etc. etc.) rather than what you love enough to own, meaning make space in your life (on your shelf) for. In contrast, LT's got the data set that publishers really want, and it's been unavailable until now because people don't make their libraries publicly available. But LT could easily aggregate and anonymize the data, circumventing privacy concerns...

Focused

In September, 1830, William Beckford writes to George Clarke in London: "Lord Rochford has left Easton and all his property to the D[uke] of Easton. Were there any books?"