Thursday, March 12, 2009

Harper's Index Now Online!

I do not read Harper's Magazine often, but when I do, I LOVE the Harper's Index, a luscious potpourri of statistical trivia goodness. What a great FREE resource of offbeat facts and stats.

Here is a small example of the bounty within:

6/07 Minimum number of different books sold in the U.S. last year, as tracked by Nielsen BookScan: 1,446,000

Number of these that sold fewer than 99 copies: 1,123,000

Number that sold more than 100,000: 483

9/07 Number of goats that Chattanooga, Tennessee, has rented to roam city land and clear kudzu: 12

Number of llamas it has had to rent to guard the goats from neighborhood dogs: 2

City of Chattanooga Public Works Department

So if
you are looking for an oddball statistic to use for a story-starter, or idea, the free Harper's Index is the place to go.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What's My Excuse?

I think it all started when I lost the all of the data on my USB jumpdrive when Elvira, my imposing feline office-guardian, leapt off of the monitor, landed on the edge of my laptop, causing it to do a complete flip and landing on the jumpdrive inserted in the USB port when it hit the floor. The good news: the jump drive must have absorbed all of the impact when it landed and the laptop was fine. The bad news: It fried the drive... and I hadn't backed up the drive in MONTHS. I should know better. And considering that I had data on it was more valuable to me than a horde of gold buried in a rabid survivalist's back yard, I sunk into a morass of self-pity and self-loathing. The contents included: a completed book proposal, all of the data for the Fantasy and Sci-Fi JumpStart Jar tickets (which I had been wrapping up at the time of the "Leaping Cat Incident," the spreadsheet that had been tracking all of the books that I had bought or read since 2004, (which hadn't been updated in about 6 months), along with dozens of other projects in various states in completion.

I should know better. I've worked both in IT and technical writing for over a decade now, and have seen similar catastrophic data loss many times. Did I learn anything?

I spent days scouring the internet for tricks to revive the drive. I even tried to solder it back together (which appeared to be successful), but all it did was make the broken drive hot enough to burn my hand. But losing data is like losing someone close to you... and you must go through the grieving process mentioned in
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' book, On Death and Dying
  • Denial - You can fix this jump drive enough to get the data off of it. All I need is it to let me copy a few files... You're not so stupid as not to have backed this up this week... right?!?
  • Anger - Damn cat! How dare you jump on MY computer! POS jumpdrive! How could you break after such a perfect flip and then crashing down to the floor so far from the desktop above!? Haven't they tested these types of scenarios in Quality Control?!?
  • Bargaining - Please, please, PLEASE let me have backed this up to an obscure folder somewhere on the external HD... I PROMISE to set up extensive alarms and reminders in my Outlook and Palm Pilot to nag me incessantly to back-up if you'll JUST LET ME RETRIEVE MY FILES THIS ONE TIME! Please?
  • Depression - I can't believe I was sooooo stupid. Those files were a ticket to the best-seller list for me... I'll never be able to create anything as brilliant as this again...
  • Acceptance - Now?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Starting All Over Again...

I’m digging out of my long funk at last. It has been about 2 years now since I’ve really been actively engaged in any writing projects and that is a lot of lost time. With a new little one that we adopted from China last summer, and my wife going back to grad school, I’ve had to cut back my teaching schedule as well.

So this is going to be like starting all over again and re-discovering my writing identity. As well as finding out what Grist’s new identity is as well. This will be a process which we will go through together I think as I use the blog to drive content for the newsletter once again. Drop me a line. Let me know what you are up to.

What I do know is that Grist for the Muse will be part good info that I find out on the net… both writing-related and non-writing related… it may have some ranting and raving, maybe a little unsolicited opinions about the world and life in general. I’ll try to make it visually appealing with an occasional picture or two. But mostly it will be about me, the writing life, and trying to figure it all out.