Would this business model work for writers?

I’ve spoken before about alternative business models for authors – some way to get paid for writing while at the same time embracing digital distribution and the economics of infinite goods. Techdirt talks about music artists getting fans to help pay for the creation of a new album – fans give money and the artist uses that money to produce the album. Then, the artist has some options for what to do with the music after it’s created, like selling cds or giving it away for free or whatever they want to do. This might work for writers, too. Not all writers, maybe. But let’s say you’re a talented writer without a book deal. You set up a blog and connect with people who love the type of books you want to write. Give away free short stories or excerpts from your novel-in-progress. Then take money to produce the book. People who donate maybe get a discount on a paper copy, or a signed paper copy, or whatever other non-scare goods you might be interested in producing. If you’re really good with your non-scare goods, you can give away the resulting ebook when you’re done writing. This builds more fans, and helps you get more money to produce the next book. I think it’s harder for authors to do this than musicians, because it’s harder for the author to come up with compelling non-scarce goods to sell. They have no equivalent of the live show (At least for the vast majority of authors). But at the same time, producing a book, especially an ebook, is vastly cheaper. In fact, with a little computer knowledge, it’s almost free. So what your fans are really paying for is your time more than the production of the book.

Wolf Blitzer needs to go

I hate to bring this up again, but Wolf Blitzer was worse last night than he has been previously. They were talking about Obama’s acceptance speech, which I thought was excellent. The confetti and fireworks were over, and someone on stage started some sort of closing prayer. Now, I’m not a religious person. And I don’t like mixing religion and politics. But if people are praying, you should be respectful. And most of the CNN talking heads were – someone suggested that they all shut up for a minute. That lasted for all of two or three seconds before Wolf started talking again! And about nothing! He was sending everyone to CNN.com for more information. Wolf Blitzer needs to be reminded every single day that anyone with good enunciation can do his job. Just because he’s well known does not mean that he’s important. The day robots can read cue cards is the day that Wolf Blitzer is redundant.

From the farmers market to your table at Poste

If you’re looking for a unique and interesting dinner in DC on a Thursday night, look no further. You have to make reservations in advance (Which requires a form. A form to fax in to get a dinner reservation. I feel so important.), and it books up (Although not last night), but the “To Market/To Market” dinner at Poste at Gallery Place is a fantastic way to spend a Thursday evening. We were supposed to go last week for our anniversary (My surprise for the wife, thanks to my coworker for the recommendation), but they were already booked. So we went tonight, and were the only ones doing the special dinner. The evening begins with greetings from the chef and your server. Then you’re whisked off to the farmers market across the street. We got a tour from the guy who runs it, and got to hear about all the different farmers who sell things there, and a little about what they sell. It’s a very warm and inviting atmosphere. And there’s a good chance you’ve eaten food from there even if you didn’t go yourself – many DC chefs show up there at opening with huge carts to take back to their respective restaurants. After the tour, we got a tour of the garden at Poste, which is inside their charming little courtyard, just past people drinking fruity martinis and glasses of wine. They grow all sorts of stuff to supplement what they buy. We got to taste their spinach leaves, which the chef picked while we were standing there. And then dinner. It’s a little pricey, and the organic wine pairing is also not cheap, but it’s a ton of food, and it’s delicious. We started with amuse-bouche. There was a salmon tartar with dijon mustard in a funny sweetish cone that was really good. My favorite was the yellowtail with fruit. They had fried squash blossom with cheese, and a very salty oyster. The second course was a gazpacho that I didn’t like very much. But the wife thought it was great, so I conclude that I just don’t like gazpacho. Next was a tomato salad, which was great. Different kinds of tomatoes, prepared different ways, with some fresh cheese from the market. And then fish with a mushroom sauce for me, and a pistou (Apparently French pesto – who knew?). Which brings me to another point – I mentioned when making the reservation that the wife eats seafood but no other meat, and that she can’t stand mushrooms, and they made sure not to serve her either one. That was followed by the “main course”. All the courses were small, but it ended up being plenty of food. I suppose that’s what happens when you have so many courses. Anyway, my main course was rabbit, which was delicious. I would never have ordered rabbit if I were choosing from a menu, but it was good. A little more meaty than chicken, I thought. The wife had ravioli with cheese and nettles from the garden, which was also delicious. That’s the hidden benefit of a partner who doesn’t eat meat – if your dinner has meat in it, you can taste hers and not share yours. Marry a vegetarian who can cook, kids – you won’t regret it. And finally the dessert course. There was a cheesecake with blackberries and sweet corn ice cream (Yes, I know that’s weird. Yes, it was good). There was a chocolate mousse, and olive oil cake with rosemary, dates, and creme fraiche ice cream. Just when we thought we were done, they brought out peaches, poached in paper, with a honey cheese sauce. They were fantastic, as well. And on the way out, they gave us little mason jars, one with pickled heirloom tomatoes, and one with apricot jam. If I did it again, I might skip the wine pairing. They were all good – I was especially surprised by the muscat that they served first, because I don’t generally like sweet wine, but it was very light and pleasant. But the wines were all white or rose. I would have liked a nice dry red. I suppose it doesn’t pair with summer vegetables, but they could make up an excuse and no one would call them on it. Except maybe super food snobs, and no one cares what they think, anyway. I wish I’d written down the wines we had (Well, I had, and the wife tried. It’s funny – the tables are high enough that you can’t really see that she’s pregnant), but I didn’t think to bring a notepad. The service was great. We got a lot of attention from a number of different people, and never had to wait long when we needed a server. The atmosphere in the restaurant was good, although the bathroom is quite a hike (Through the hotel lobby, around the corner, up the stairs, down the hall). The bar had a very Happy Hour crowd, although it wasn’t unpleasant. At the end of the night, we were quite happy with our evening. It was a lot of money, but it was also a lot of food, all of it delicious (Unless you don’t like gazpacho). If you love white wines and some sweetish light reds, go for the wine pairing, but if you’re more of a dry red person, you’re probably better off ordering your own wine. But we would definitely go back. And I think we’ll be visiting the farmers market sometimes, too – it’s nice to know about a market during the week, since so many are open only on a weekend day.

Go check out Mozilla Ubiquity

Yesterday, Mozilla Labs introduced Ubiquity, “An experiment in connecting the web with language”. It’s a lot like Launchy or Gnome-Do, except different. Install Ubiquity into Firefox and then hit the shortcut keys to launch Ubiquity, and then start typing. You can search Google, post to Twitter, send an email – all through an intuitive command-line interface. It’s not for everyone – if you spend all your time pointing and clicking, you may not like using the keyboard this way. But for those of you who use the mouse only when you really need it, this may revolutionize the way you use your browser. Remember, the browser knows a lot about you. If you’re signed in to Gmail, for example, and you find a great webpage you want to share with your friend, you don’t have to know your friend’s email. Just type, “email ” and then your friend’s name – Gmail will find the address, and copy the url for the page into a new email to your friend. And this is just the beginning – there are already tons of user-created scripts available, and it’s pretty easy to create your own. There’s even a tutorial. And lest you think I forgot to get in a dig on Microsoft, ye of little faith, let me remind you that this is the sort of functionality that will be in Internet Explorer 17, due to be released around the time your great-great-grandchildren are colonizing Mars. If you’re in Firefox now, install Ubiquity now. If you aren’t, get Firefox first, then install Ubiquity. And if you find or write any really cool scripts for it, be sure to let me know.

What would happen if the airline industry failed?

I’ve often wondered if we wouldn’t be better off in the long run if a significant chunk of the airlines went out of business. It would suck for a while, but it would really open up the market for innovation and new ideas. Today, Techdirt wonders the same thing.

. . . people seem to take for granted what cheap and readily available air travel allows. It touches on so many different businesses that it’s hard to fathom how deep the eventual impact would be if air travel needs to be significantly curtailed in the future.

The whole flying experience is pretty unpleasant these days. And a lot of that is TSA’s fault, and I’m hoping that maybe a new President might come in and remind TSA that the enemy is actually people trying to hijack or blow up planes, not people with unfortunate names, liquids, and underwire bras. But a lot of it is the airlines’ fault, too. The incessant nickel-and-dime charges are pretty annoying. Customer service is often lacking, like when I was told they would hold our connecting flight, even though I knew I would miss it, and we ended up staying at a hotel at the airport in Milwaukee instead of Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas for the night. Some new airline innovation would be really nice. But in order to get there, it may take a few years of transportation (and shipping) misery first. As an aside – could someone please comment on a post? Any post? The total number of comments for the site right now is 666, and that’s just bad karma.

Do you ever Google yourself?

Have you ever typed your name into a search engine? I have a relatively unusual last name, at least outside of French-speaking countries, so most of the results for my name are actually me. That’s kind of nice. Then, earlier this evening, a friend told me, “you aren’t that hard to find on teh intrawebs”. That got me thinking – I wonder what else is out there? For the first time, I googled my usual screenname, thetejon, which I’ve used for most everything ever since I had my first AOL account. The results are pretty impressive. Some of the most interesting: Wedding Toasts for the Groom – a blog post that used a picture of me giving a toast at the wedding of one good friend to another. 2006 October PUNK Blogs & News @ PROPUNK.COM! – I suspect this site runs scripts to scrape content tagged with “punk” from wherever it can find it and hopes to generate ad revenue. The picture they got is actually of my cat. большое спасибо мите за лицензионный balance 005 – a LiveJournal entry linking to one of my photos from Costa Rica. The entry is not in a language I’m familiar with. Perhaps you are. So, there you go. Think about that next time you do something stupid on the internet. Google doesn’t forget.

Forget playing, this mouse is having Five Guys

The wife having dinner with a coworker down on U Street is a perfect reason to venture over to everyone’s favorite greasy bag of french fries, Five Guys. I’m not sure how Columbia Heights survived without them. Of course, Five Guys isn’t really helping my waistline. And the months of relative inactivity since I stopped running due to the bunion help even less. But soon that will be no more! I wore shoes yesterday, and today my flip-flops were nearly comfortable. I’ll give shoes another try tomorrow as I actually have to go into the office. And that means I can get back to running soon. I have a 10K in six weeks that I’m woefully unprepared for, so that should help a lot. It would certainly be embarrassing if it turned out that I’ve gained more weight than the wife in the last nine months.

Is this even legal?

I don’t really know much about the law surrounding this, so I have assume that the LPGA is within its legal rights to require all members to speak English. I mean, they have lawyers, and I imagine the lawyers approved this. But it sure doesn’t sound that cool.

“The economy is bad, and we are losing sponsors,” [golfer Seon-Hwa Lee] said, according to the report. “Everybody understands.”

I can understand the LPGA’s motivation. They are in the business of selling women’s golf, and if their players can’t communicate in the target market, it makes their job more difficult. I get that. But surely there’s a way to increase the marketing appeal of the sport that’s a little more tolerant. It would be interesting to see a once-in-a-lifetime golfer come through who doesn’t speak English and refuses to learn. I bet the LPGA would back down before alienating a potential superstar.

Experimental new stuff from Mozilla

Remember when Internet Explorer was pretty much the only browser out there? Yeah, me neither. IE has always sucked, and IE7, touted as competing with the newer browsers, is really just playing catch-up. And not actually ever catching up. Over at the Mozilla Labs Blog, they have a little video about experimental browser changes for Firefox. The idea is to anticipate your actions in the browser and offer no-cost assistance. That is, when I open a new tab, if my browser could offer me options, like a search bar, instead of a blank page, there is no cost to me, and it may streamline my browsing experience. Anyway, it’s a cool video, and it demonstrates one more time how far Microsoft has fallen in terms of innovation.

Get over yourself, CNN

Would someone please remind CNN again that they report the news, they are not news themselves. This convention is about Barack Obama and the future of our country, not Wolf Blitzer and additional information at CNN.com. Anyway. Kind of cool that they’ve been embedding the commercials inside the border showing the schedule and whatnot, so you can always see the dumb factoids that CNN thinks you should be aware of. We’ll be seeing more of this in the future.