Archive for November, 2004

November 10th, 2004

Take Control of Upgrading in Dutch

My first ebook, Take Control of Upgrading to Panther, came out just over a year ago. It has sold incredibly well and received rave reviews; it’s also now available in printed form as part of Take Control of Panther: Volume 1. In addition, it’s the first one of my books to have been translated into other languages. The arrangement the publisher has is that any willing and able party may translate the text into their language of choice but with no money paid up front. The translated ebooks are sold at 150% of the cost of the English versions, so that author, translator, and publisher can all receive equal shares of the profits at the same rate as the original. In other words, a translation becomes worthwhile for the translator only if he or she does enough marketing, and sells enough copies, in the target country to justify the time spent.

The first translation to appear, back in February (four months after Panther’s release) was Japanese, of which a respectable (if not stunning) 181 copies have been sold so far. In June (release + eight months), a German translation appeared; it’s sold only 26 copies, meaning the translator received a paltry reward for his efforts. Amazingly, just last month—a full year after Panther came out—a Dutch translation was released. Total sold so far: 17.

As cool as it is to be able to say my work has been translated into three other languages, I really feel for these folks who have invested so much of their time for virtually no pay. And yet, the reason seems fairly obvious to me: by the time the German and Dutch translations had appeared, the vast majority of potential customers had undoubtedly already completed their upgrades to Panther, with no further need for a book to help them. As it is, I’m only selling about one or two copies a day of the English edition (down from hundreds a day in the first few weeks), because most Mac users who have not yet made the move to Panther are now more likely to wait for Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4), due out some time in the first half of 2005.

Computer books always have a relatively short shelf life, because the products they describe change so rapidly. Thus, any hopes of making significant money from a translation require that the work be done as rapidly as possible after the book’s release. There will of course be an English edition of Take Control of Upgrading to Tiger when the time comes, and though no one has said anything to me yet about translations of that book, I certainly hope that if they happen, they happen quickly. Not just for the sake of the translators, either, but for the sake of the readers!

November 9th, 2004

T'ai Chi Redux

Morgen and I just got back from a t’ai chi class. As I’ve been studying t’ai chi off and on for about eight years, this is not in itself a remarkable fact. But the circumstances under which we’re now studying are kind of interesting.

We had been studying at the Inner Research Institute for about a year, and though we liked it at first, we had reached a point of frustration for multiple reasons. Our teacher, Dmitri, was great, but there were other things about the school’s approach and methodology that caused us some consternation. Plus, ever since we moved to our current home nearly two years ago, the school was much harder to get to, and the thrice-weekly classes, especially given the commute, were putting a real strain on our schedules. Apart from our pedagogical, stylistic, and logistical issues with the school, our income had dipped to a dangerously low level, and we couldn’t justify the expense anymore. So around September of 2003, we reluctantly decided to drop out.

At that time, we said to ourselves that Dmitri should really start his own school, in which case we’d be very happy to study with him.

So a couple of months ago, Dmitri called me and said that he had just been thinking to himself that maybe the time was right to strike out on his own, when he unexpectedly ran into a former student at the BART station. This woman runs a Montessori preschool a few blocks from our home, and she said Dmitri was welcome to use the space in the evenings to teach t’ai chi if he were so inclined. He took that as a sign, made up some posters, and started classes a few weeks later.

Since about the beginning of October, we’ve been back in class, Tuesday and Thursday evenings. We’re having a great time, and you can’t beat the five-minute walk to get there. We invariably leave with very sore legs, but I couldn’t be happier. It’s been too long since I felt that kind of pain on a regular basis. I don’t exactly look forward to the classes, and the actual repetitions of some of these moves can be grueling, but as I limp out of there, I always think to myself, Wow, this feels good. Maybe it’s just the endorphins, or maybe it’s the ch’i, but in any case the sensation is one of meaningful, useful, body- and character-building pain, coupled with a kind of relaxation I can’t seem to achieve any other way.

If you happen to live in San Francisco, you’re welcome to join us: 6–7 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, 647 Chenery St. in Glen Park (about a block from the Glen Park BART station). Cost is $60 per month (two classes per week). Everyone is welcome, from absolute beginners to advanced students. We do the Yang style short form (Cheng Man-Ch’ing tradition), and will also be doing push-hands probably after the beginning of the year. More info: call Dmitri at (415) 285-1453.

November 8th, 2004

Pictures of Zora

Just yesterday I was telling Morgen that we might want to consider investing in a new digital camera for our trip to Patagonia. The one we have now is about five years old, which must be 35 in computer years. One of the things that has improved on many of the newer models is shutter lag—the delay between when you press the button and when the picture is actually snapped. Our current camera is pretty bad in that regard, making it all but useless for capturing action shots, such as a kitten jumping at a toy. As a result, most of the pictures I’ve taken of Zora that actually manage to get her face in the frame show her napping, about to nap, or just having awoken from a nap. But I’ve put a few fairly good images here: pictures of Zora. A sample:

Zora, ~4 months old

November 4th, 2004

Normal Life

What kind of person would go to the effort of starting a new blog and writing entries for a few days, only to abandon it for more than a month? The kind of person who badly needed the flexibility not to do something every single day.

Although I sometimes have Interesting Thing of the Day articles prepared well ahead of time (and my server is smart enough to post them on their scheduled date without my intervention), more often than not I’m working late into the night on the following day’s article, because ordinary work hours are often filled with other activities. And that every-single-day deadline can get very wearying after a while. So when I set up this blog, it was with the explicit intention that I would allow myself the freedom to go an indefinite number of days without posting anything. And that feels good.

The past four or five weeks have been filled with a continuous string of small crises, which together felt like a big crisis. My new cat was sick for a while (she’s better now); I was sick for a while (I’m mostly better now); strange and aggravating bugs showed up on my Web site (they’re fixed now); and of course there was that whole election thing (still a problem, but nothing I can do about it now). On top of all that, I was working hard to finish the first draft of my next (and long-overdue) ebook, Take Control of Mac OS X Backups. When I get into an intense writing phase, everything else seems to disappear into the background. My In Box fills up, unpaid bills accumulate, phone messages go unanswered, and in general life gets put on hold.

On Tuesday evening as Morgen was slipping into a state of depression in front of the TV, I was putting the finishing touches on my manuscript, which is now in the hands of my editor for the first of what will undoubtedly be several rounds of editing and rewrites. But at least the hardest and longest part is done. And the election, though it produced disappointing results from the local through the national level, is also over with. So now I have a cat on my lap, the afternoon ahead of me, and only an average amount of daily work to do. What I think of as normal life.

And yet I’m also aware that the pattern of my life as long as I can remember has been long stretches of crisis mode—late nights dealing with urgent projects, assorted small mishaps, and other “abnormal” events—punctuated by very brief intervals of normality. This obviously shows that I have a skewed sense of what “normal” means; a state can hardly be normal if it occurs only rarely. But I’m going to indulge in this fantasy for a few days or however long it lasts.

My great plan for today is to do the dishes, fold the laundry, go for a walk, answer all that delinquent email, pay those bills, and perhaps get a start on writing here about some of the many things that have been on my mind during the last month. And maybe put in a few hours of productive revenue-producing work, just for good measure. In other words, to have a go at experiencing normal life for at least a day.