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Journal Journal: Book proposal time : Estimating word count 7

You might think someone who wants to write a big fat book would be happy to sit down and write a little proposal. Wrong!

Writing a book is like putting on your most gorgeous outfit for an all-night party with all the people you like. Writing a book proposal is like being kidnapped, in your oldest underwear, to convince some grumpy space-aliens why Earth should be saved.

So why am I writing about this here in Slashdot? Aside from the obvious reason (avoiding work), I am inspired by Lingqi's Japan journal to write about stuff going on in my real life, assuming that fellow nerds will be interested. In fact, more of us probably plan to write books some day than will ever visit Japan, which is a good thing for Japan, because those islands would sink into the sea under the weight of the world's potential authors.

A typical trade-book proposal is between 15 and 70 pages long. Most of that is bits of your book in progress--that part is no problem. The annoying things, in no particular order, are your author biography, proposed word count, market analysis, and discussion of the competition.

The author biography is where the author explains (third-person pronouns preferred) that the already incredibly-famous author is taking a break from singing on MTV, making touchdowns on ESPN, and saving the world on CNN to write a book that millions of people are already dying to buy. This for me is the underwear-talking-to-aliens part.

The proposed word count is a technical problem, and therefore kind of fun. I went at the issue like a typical nerd--looking up techniques on the web. It turns out the editors don't really care about the number of words at all--what they want is to figure out the number of pages, estimating 250 words per page. Since my book has lots of pictures, plus about a thousand jokes, most of them with titles (each title, taking up a line, is estimated at about 13 words), I spent hours this weekend computing words and pages.

Then, after I was all finished, I realized all I really had to do was to take down a book from my shelf that looked the right size and shape for the book I wanted, count the pages of that book, and that was my page count, or (multiplied by 250), that was my word count. So if you've read this far in my journal entry, you can write your book proposal faster than I did.

Journal Journal: Even more moderation madness 1

I just got my most-modded post . Within an hour of posting, three people had modded it up for "Interesting." But it didn't stay long at 5. As the day progressed, it's been modded back and forth between 4 and 5: Overrated (-1). Insightful (+1). Overrated (-1). Underrated (+1).

Here's what I think is the funniest thing of all. I wrote my post after doing lots of research through Google News--it's loaded with real information about the topic, and links to places where you can learn even more. But nobody rated it Informative. Isn't that funny?

The Almighty Buck

Journal Journal: The Segway, coming to a sidewalk near you. 2

The Register says there are now Segways on sale. Rush in your $495 deposit (toward the $4950 purchase price) to, the only place currently selling them.

So far, with no fanfare, legislators in 32 states have declared the Segway welcome on local sidewalks. New Jersey, for example, is paying an unexpected price for its hasty cave-in, says this article at Segway lobbyists pushed through a state law that prohibits towns from banning any "electric personal assistive mobility devices.'' According to the story, that law " was passed after Segway, maker of the "Human Transporter,'' lobbied New Jersey's Legislature and others throughout the country." As a result, New Jersey towns have been unable to deal with the latest fad among local teenagers, electric scooters, which they ride on the sidewalks.

Note that the scooters now terrorizing North Jersey pedestrians are not "assistive devices" that deserve protection by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)--neither is the Segway. These are vehicles you have to stand up on to drive. But affluent parents who bought these toys for their teens are calling on the protection of the ADA to keep them on the sidewalks and out of traffic. We can expect to see the same with the Segway.

San Francisco plans to fight back, according to this Examiner article. Senior-citizen activists and walkers protested they don't want to share their space with a 95 lb machine traveling 12 mph. "The whole point of sidewalks is to separate vehicles from pedestrians," says Walk San Francisco director Michael Smith.

IMO, the Segway is a pyramid scheme waiting to tumble. Early investors put up the cash for a massive publicity and lobbying campaign. They now have until March to lure unsuspecting buyers to buy their Segways, and unsuspecting investors to buy their stock.

In March it's all over. Once Segways hit the sidewalks, the pyramid crumbles. Whoever has money in Segways in March will take the hits for liability claims that already have class-action lawyers licking their chops. State legislators will quickly rescind Segway laws, and Segway owners will be riding their white elephants in the street--if they feel like admitting they own this year's version of Edsel.

Journal Journal: Moderation okay in moderation.... 3

Today, one of my comments got modded up to 5, my very first 5! (For being Funny.)

Then some heartless person modded it back down to 4. I'd like to have the same enthusiasm for my first "Overrated" mod as I did for my first 5, but the sincerity just isn't there.

Then somebody modded it back up to 5--I am happy again. I know how lame it is to care about this, but wouldn't it be even lamer not to admit it?


Journal Journal: Google again kills Microsoft switch story

After Slashdot flagged Microsoft's phony switch testimonial, Microsoft pulled the ad, and somehow its Google cache also vanished. (You can still see the ad at ScriptingNews, however.)

Now another Microsoft switcher story is gone from Google.

David Pogue wrote two columns for the October 17 New York Times. One of them, on the two-b utton Palm, is in the Times online index and turns up at the top of the Google search page for (for example) "Pogue two-button" . The other colu mn has mysteriously become invisible both to Google and to the NY Times online search engine. Not surprisingly, the invisible column was the Microsoft switcher stor y. I finally found it by going to Pogue's own site,

Try it yourself--pick a string-- any string--related to Pogue's Microsoft switcher story--even something as detailed as "Pogue Microsoft New York Times" . You can find a few people who quoted Pogue's column, but you can't find the column itself.

Google claims it doesn't invisibly kill links. If someone demands that a page be removed by Google, due to copyright or other infringement, Google claims it links to the "kill request" instead. But this is not what happened when the Microsoft switcher ad was killed--even its Google cache disappeared without a trace. This is also not what happened when the Oct. 17 NY Times article about the Microsoft switcher ad vanished.

Conspiracy theory: did someone object to Pogue's calling Slashdotters "articulate"?


Journal Journal: Brits make funny sounds...

Sound clips from Private Eye . You have to scroll down to find the best--"My One-Eyed Trouser Snake" sung by raunchy Aussie Barry Humphries (I don't know what Dame Edna does with that trouser snake now).

Monty Python sound bytes: I'm French--why do you think I have this outrageous accent? Sex, sex, sex, that's all they think about. Well, that's cast rather a gloom over the evening, hasn't it?

You can get whole songs in various formats from the Unofficial Monty Python Sound Page.

It's funny.  Laugh.

Journal Journal: Fictional people, real prizes!

Britain's Royal Society of Chemistry just gave Sherlock Holmes an Honorary Fellowship, says the BBC .

Jumping on this bandwagon, I propose:

  • Olympic gold medal to Legolas for archery.
    Nobel Peace Prize to the crew of the Enterprise.
    MacArthur genius grant to Slartibartfast, who did such a fine job designing the coast of Norway.

Journal Journal: Five fine URLs for wasting time.

Merriam-Webster's word games.

Web museum, infinite eye candy online.

Full page of links to Flash goodies.

World's weirdest site--exploring an abandoned missile silo.

If you can't waste an hour here, there's no hope for you.

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"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe