18 December 2012

Au Revoir, Instagram

It was going to happen sooner or later. I have simply outgrown the sandbox, its boundaries too confining.  612x612 pixels just are not enough in an 8 megapixel world.  So I'm shutting down my Instagram feed and deleting the photos.

What?  Yeah, it has something to do with the changes to the Terms of Service.  It's not about the ads; I don't mind ads.  Ads are the price we users pay for the Internet.  What I mind is re-using my photos, my composition, my experiences, my friends' likenesses, and re-purposing that content for your own ends, without sharing some of that income with me, the content creator.

But really, 612 pixels to a side and a limited array of filters to make my photos look neat were not cutting it any more.  It wasn't any of the people I follow, or anyone who follows me; if anything I'm hoping to find most of the people I follow on Flickr, where I will now be sharing my photos.  Maybe via Tumblr, where I cross-post my Flickr photos?  There are some good photographers on Instagram, once you get past the spammers and some of the other chaff.

So farewell, Instagram.  You have a good thing going, and you were a fun toy, but I'm off for greener pastures and better terms of service.  Thanks for the filters and the sandbox.

17 December 2012

Wisdom of the Founders

 I've been reading calls from all sides for drastic actions, and President Jefferson's words seem something of a beacon of sanity (via Daring Fireball / Jon Gruber, original source here):

"I am certainly not an advocate for for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Jefferson to H. Tompkinson (AKA Samuel Kercheval), July 12, 1816[10]

12 December 2012

Evolutionary Observations

Note:  This was originally posted to this site August 2008.

Infuriating when you are a parent that just wants to be able to see the floor, invigorating when you take a stand because (you hope) you know that what you're about to try will either be something wonderful and new, or at least cool. It's a behavior of which everyone has experienced both sides.
I was enjoying a perfect evening on the shores of the Conococheague yesterday with my wife, a good friend, and his family. My friend's nephew was insistent that he be allowed to clean and cook the fish he'd recently caught in the creek. His mother did not want him to do this, but he insisted, defiantly proud of his accomplishment.
You would think that defiance would have been genetically selected against in social species like homo sapiens. Defiant individuals would seem to work against the greater good of the group. When told not to eat something that looked poisonous, how many people fell over purple-faced at their sudden lack of oxygen? Of course, following the logic on this, there are species where defiance normally means death. In your herding and schooling species, standing proudly alone usually means you quickly become fondly remembered by carnivores as "that one meal what was so easy for us to catch", and an object lesson for young ibex just learning to leap.
We as a species could have gone down that path, if not for the defiant streak in our psychology. Our simian ancestors likely had individuals who died knowing a few moments too late that their mother was right, that you couldn't take down a lion by holding its jaws open. But one defiant Savannah dwelling thumb-wielder knew that a pointy stick (or a large heavy blunt stick) was the perfect weapon, even though everyone pointed him to the legend of The Guy Who Stood Up To The Lion And Got Eaten For His Trouble. After that moment it was a few short steps to fire, wheels, steam engines, and the Internet. Of course, each of these had their own individualists.
The successfully defiant were thus selected for by the processes of evolution, the end result of that purple hair, mohawks, and music that is invariably termed "noise". It also means that a few guys in a garage can take what they know to be a good idea and use it to change the world (HP, Apple, Google, to name three).
So whether it's foul-tasting creek fish (you eat something that's been marinating in the Conococheague it's entire life), purple hair, or a multi-billion dollar technology corporation, defiance has done well as one of the tools humanity wields in the ongoing evolutionary struggle.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't clean your room, for the love of God. Is it too much to ask to just be able to see the floor? Is there a floor in here or is it just junk all the way to China?

11 December 2012

Apple Brown Betti

A few months ago the Daily WTF (a site for sharing IT and computer-programming related horror stories) posted a call for new contributors, whose job would be to re-write submissions to bring them in line with the Daily WTF's voice.  They provided the source material and guidelines, and as a long-time reader and (you might not know this about me) writer, I gave it a shot ... and I never heard back.  To be fair, they indicated that they received several hundred entries; mine was likely lost in the shuffle of other qualified entries.

Stand resolute, dear reader!  For though I am not a contributor to the Daily WTF, I still hold those bits in storage, and now, for your reading enjoyment, my entry:

Betti was the gold standard for eager new developers; emigrating from Russia only a few years before she was aching to prove herself to her new team.  After working 2 years on the help desk as supporting the company's Apple computers Betti had been promoted to Junior Developer -- the week before Thanksgiving. The team maintained one of the company's oldest and most stable products, ironing out edge case bugs. Still, Betti was eager to prove herself, studying code through lunches and into evenings that first week so she could start contributing sooner. She'd also (before her promotion) requested all of Thanksgiving week off so she could visit friends a few hours away.

Though not working on anything she was desperate to use this time to continue her self-education and was looking forward to trying out some ideas that had taken shape in her mind. So Betti used her connections on the help desk to secure the use of a laptop for her trip, which she loaded with the code she'd been studying.  Her boss insisted that she take the week and enjoy herself, but Betti would not relent and left for vacation with the laptop and a head full of ideas.

The time off was fruitful and she managed to solve a tricky bug or two by turkey day.  She was so excited (and tipsy) by dinner time on Thanksgiving that she forgot to close both the laptop and the bedroom door.  While everyone ate, the ancient family cat found its way into Betti's room and onto the keyboard of her expensive company laptop for a nap -- until the fan kicked on. The noise so scared the cat that it not only peed on the keyboard but knocked the glowing halogen desk lamp onto the freshly sprayed keyboard.

Ignoring the startled cat bolting through the dining room Betti could not ignore the very suspicious burning smell not coming from the kitchen.  She ran to her room and found the laptop partially melted by the lamp and smoking from an electric short caused by cat urine.  It was then, as her nostrils filled with old cat urine, that the circuit breaker tripped and she was thrown into darkness.

After spending the rest of her vacation convinced she was fired, Betti returned to the office.  She chose honesty and her new boss was polite enough to hold his laughter until she finished her story, assuring her that she wouldn't be fired as he wiped tears from his eyes.  She would, however, have to pay for repairs to the laptop, if not a whole new machine.  To this day, Betti's friends on the help desk call her "Cat Lady" and make sure whenever she signs out a loaner that the laptop comes equipped with its own small bag of cat litter -- just in case.

10 December 2012

Something for Everyone this Holiday Season!

Hanukkah, Christmas - both at hand,
and you're still looking for some gifts.
Why not make your job much easier,
and order from my list:

I've poetry and zombie fun
plus aliens and more;
like rabid squirrels and rock 'n roll
and terr'ists from up north.

Don't just cop out on your pals,
with plastic cards or cash,
Show them that you've thought this through,
with books from my own stash!

The poetry only gets better, folks. Order now in time for Christmas!
Rush deliveries for those last couple nights of Hanukkah!


06 December 2012

In Search of: An Illustrator

I have written a poem that I plan to turn into a children's book, and I'm seeking an illustrator to collaborate with me on a project to make this into a new classic in both eBook and print formats.  The poem has been through a few drafts, but I'm still open to edits, additions, or other changes as my collaborator would think best.  It's for this editorial reason and because I think the theme of this poem/book could be expanded into a series of children's book that I am seeking a collaborator and not simply a for-hire illustrator.  It's also because I don't imagine I'd have the cash up-front to acquire the rights for said artwork, but I plan to share the profits with my partner.  If you're still interested, please read on for my thoughts on this project. If not, thanks for reading this far.

First, my thought on the layout of the book is to have the poem illustrated at one or two stanzas per page, but again, I'll trust my partner's judgment on the ratio of text to image/page.  The use-case I have in mind is that of a teacher reading it in front of his/her class and showing the kids the artwork. For the style of the art work itself, I'm excited to see what a talented artist can come up with from the words in the poem, but the concepts I come back to are classic yet distinct, watercolors and line art.  I have tried to not have any preconceived notions on the style of the art, but it's best that you know what I thought of before beginning.  I am not married to that concept, but I do know that anime-styled artwork is not what I'm thinking of.  On that I will not budge.

From a business angle, I want to split all gross income from the book 50/50 with my partner.  I imagine we will both have expenses in getting things put together, but as partners it's something we should discuss.  Like I said above, this is with the intention of expanding beyond this one project to a potential series if this goes well.

As for distributing the book, the quickest path to availability is to publish as an eBook in the iBooks / Kindle / Nook / Lulu.com stores - I have accounts set up with Amazon & Lulu, where I already have my currently finished projects (novel, poetry book, short story collection) listed.  I also already have a block of ISBNs from which I will assign one to this title.  I also have an account set up with CreateSpace, which prints paperback books.  If we chose to go this route it would be nice to identify some local book / toy stores (like The Dancing Bear in downtown Frederick) to whom we could offer some copies of the book.

While that is the easiest path, it is not the best.  It is likely time well spent shopping this to agents, with whom we could work to strike a deal wit ha publisher and see our creation in glorious hardback form with nice thick glossy pages.

Finding an agent and/or publisher makes the job of marketing the book that much easier.  I've been doing research and working at marketing my present library of titles, and DIY is not easy, but it can be done if we have to do it.  If you've read this far and you are still interested in working with me, please send me an email (lefthandrob at gmail) and I will share a few stanzas of the poem with you.  If I get multiple responses I will let everyone know and I will have to figure out how to decide.  I'll take responses for a week after the date stamp on this post on my site, and we'll go from there.  Finally, I'm hoping to work with someone who is relatively local (within an hour / 90 minute drive of Hagerstown, MD) so that we can meet in person to discuss the project every so often. Thank you for reading!

04 December 2012

On Photos (Yes, I mean Instagram)

Until a few hours ago, I was cross-posting my Instagram feed here to my site.  Talk about scope-creep.  This practice has now ended.

The idea of this site was always more for the word than the photo, but in a moment of weakness -- realizing that I was neglecting the content herein -- I shunted my prolific stream of photo-consciousness in place of things for you to read.  For this, I apologize.

While I'm proud of all my photos, you have plenty of options for browsing and viewing them (Facebook, Tumblr, various web interfaces, or even IG itself). It is therefore to restore balance to the force and refocus my verbal effort that I've turned off the cross-posting; thank you for your indulgence, and we now return you to your irregularly scheduled essays, rants, screeds, and observations.

If you have a concern one way or the other, let me know in the comments.

Support an Independent Author & Give the Gift of Reading!

Give the gift of reading this Holiday Season! I have something for everyone in multiple forms and at affordable prices. Pick up a copy in paperback for something to unwrap, or pre-load that new eReader with these excellent titles.

Heart-Pounding Action/Comedy/Scifi: For your cousin who just can’t get enough Dr. Who, Douglas Adams, or Die Hard, there’s “Astounding Adventure Tales of the Improbable”, a collection of short stories that will have your blood pumping and your face smiling.

Life, Love, & Rock n Roll: Looking for something with less violence and fewer explosions? “Mara’s Song” is the page-turner that’s the perfect gift for the novel enthusiast in your life.

Hand-Crafted Poems for All: What about your boss / Secret Santa giftee / person who you don’t know that well but want to get them something that’s not a gift card? “Stand Right, Walk Left” is just the thing. A collection of poetry that is sure to have something that speaks to that place we all have deep down, and won’t you look clever in the eyes of your recipient when you didn’t just hand them a (nother) Starbucks gift card!

For your purchasing ease I have compiled all the links to my titles on one easy to navigate page:  

As always, thank you for reading, and:

Merry Christmas! 
Happy Hanukkah!
Joyous Kwanzaa!

The Road Most Traveled

via Instagram http://instagr.am/p/S0V3BcOG5J/ Available for Purchase at http://1-Rob-Murray.Instaprints.com

03 December 2012

Hagerstown After Dark.

via Instagram http://instagr.am/p/Syf01_OG7v/ Available for Purchase at http://1-Rob-Murray.Instaprints.com

Flowers in December

via Instagram http://instagr.am/p/SyfOF7OG7Z/ Available for Purchase at http://1-Rob-Murray.Instaprints.com

02 December 2012

The road not taken.

via Instagram http://instagr.am/p/Sv7DQeOG1R/ Available for Purchase at http://1-Rob-Murray.Instaprints.com

01 December 2012

That's luck: guitar came loose as I entered the room, began to fall, caught on strap. #phew

via Instagram http://instagr.am/p/Ss3Gs7uG6U/ Available for Purchase at http://1-Rob-Murray.Instaprints.com

I swear I just put this calendar on the wall; hello #December

via Instagram http://instagr.am/p/Sso48JuG9x/ Available for Purchase at http://1-Rob-Murray.Instaprints.com

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