Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Grammar Cop: The Texas Beat

Those darn transporation picks are making trouble again.

Gosh. I really shouldn't have even tried to read the news today.

Grammar Cop: The World Edition

I know the pundits sometimes claim Hillary Clinton is overreaching, but I had no idea she was running for president in India too!

My Grandmother Would Have Gone to Jail!

Publishers Weekly is reporting:

The Association of American Publishers is fighting censorship in Oregon. Yesterday it joined with six Oregon booksellers and the ACLU of Oregon to challenge a new Oregon law that criminalizes the dissemination of sexually explicit material to anyone under age 13, or the dissemination to anyone under age 18 of any material with the intent to sexually arouse the recipient or the provider. The new statute, which makes no provision for judging the material as a whole, nor for considering its serious literary, artistic or scientific value...

It doesn't seem like such a terrible thing, does it? Well, not until you read the example!

The Oregon ACLU said that among those who could be prosecuted are a 17-year-old girl who lends her 13-year-old-sister a copy of Judy Blume’s Forever, or a mother who gives her child a copy of Robie Harris’s It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health.

My grandmother used to take me to the library EVERY week, and help me cart home the maximum limit of 14 books. By the time I was twelve, NONE of them were from the children's section. None of them. Unless, I was in the mood for rereading an old friend.

Sometimes the librarians would point out to my grandmother that I was picking "adult" books, and she would say, "Yes; she reads at an adult level." And that would be the end of it. She told me later that she had asked her sister, who was also a librarian, if she thought it was all right to let me read grown up books when I was so young, and the answer had been an unqualified yes. She said El had told her that if she forced me into simplistic children's books when I was ready for more complex reading that it might cause me to lose interest and that it was better to be ready to handle the awkwardness of discussing things I didn't understand than to risk turning me away from reading.

I'm sure she was right and that's one of the reasons I'm so grateful to her (and to my parents, who followed the same policy). Reading is such a major part of who I am as a person.

I read The Sting when I was eleven. Think how awful it must have been for her to explain to me that a Protestant and a prostitute was not the same thing! You cannot always count on phonics!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

All in the Family

I was looking at my statistics the other day, and, no big surprise, I get a ginormous number of visitors whenever I write about Amazon, particularly since LibraryThing and Writers Weekly picked up a couple of my posts. If I were trying to sell something here, I suppose it would be a good idea to write about Amazon every day. But obviously, since I spend a lot more time writing about my family and my garden, and I don't even use my name on this blog, I'm not trying to sell anything here, or at least I'm not doing a very good job of it.

Auntie commented on my last post about my dad that she was glad "we found each other" – presumably referring to my cousins who have also been reading and commenting on some of my blog posts, as I've been commenting on some of theirs. Yes, Auntie, I'm glad we found each other too. I think, in a way, that's probably part of my deep-down reason for why I decided to blog in the first place, even though I didn't rush out and tell everyone in the universe that I was doing it. I actually didn't mention it to many people at all for a long time, although I've been doing it for more than two years, and though I had a couple of different blogs before that. The earlier blogs were on my web site, and one of them was more of a "selling things" blog, and I took it down because I got tired of doing it. This one, which owes its existence to RunSteve, is just a "whatever" blog that contains spill-over from the journal I've been keeping since I was little.

Sometimes, the spill-over includes Amazon, but far more frequently, the spill-over includes my dad or something else from my life. And that's just the way I like it. In the whole scheme of things Amazon is nothing and Daddy and Auntie and DH and my dog and my flowers, well they're pretty much the sum total.

So, I reckon I will go on writing about stupid things like reading Fried Green Tomatoes yesterday and being overcome by a longing for a Nehi grape soda that was so strong that I practically begged DH to get me one when he was out running errands. He got me a grape soda, but it wasn't Nehi; it was some nasty Yankee Jolly Rancher thing that wasn't nearly as good. Even so, I dreamed about walking down to the Tull store for banana popsicles with Cousin CH. We loved to do this and, for some unknown reason, we never wanted to wear shoes. I can still remember how the tar would bubble up and burn your feet if the gravel on the side of the road was too sharp and you took a side step onto the black top.

(The Tull road in late June. It's so hot then, you think you really can imagine the fires of hell)

The store was nothing more than a shack by the side of the road. The freezer with the popsicles was a little low case with a sliding glass top. The inside was coated with a good 4 inches of ice. Oh, but it felt so fine after slogging down that burning pitch road to stick your arm into the case to retrieve your banana prize!

(The Tull store in the late 1940s. It looked much the same as I remember it in the late 60s & early 70s)

We had to eat them fast, before they melted, so for three quarters of the way back down the burning pitch road we had nothing to look forward to but the fan in the cool shady bedroom at the other end of the journey. Once we were there, we'd get a glass of iced tea and lie on the wood floor in front of the fan until we recovered enough to play dress up in our mothers' old homecoming dresses.

That's a different cousin from the ones who have been reading and commenting on my blog, although I'd like to hear from her too. But that's the thing. When my dad died, since I'm an only child and the rest of my family lived so far from me, it seemed as if I had lost not just him, but that whole side of my family. My grandparents really came through for me then – just as they did for all of my life. I'm a lot older than my cousins, and we've never lived near each other, nor spent enough time together to know each other well, but we must have something in common besides a common last name since we are all blogging. Right?

Or maybe not. But I still think it's cool.

Blogging Barbers:

Auntie (tamsaunt)
John (Caviar & Dirt)
Janna, John's Wife (Rainbow Dull)
Sherry & Aaron (Adoption Journey)
And me, of course, but you're here already

This photo is of me and my grandparents and my dad's little brother (my blogging cousins' dad). It was taken circa 1969. My grandmother was doing some serious stylin' with those glasses!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Pennies From Heaven or Daddy Blows the Train Whistle

I used to read Dear Abby in the Lake Charles newspaper; every so often she would run these "pennies from heaven" letters from people who would find pennies in places or ways that would remind them of someone who had died. I'm a sentimental person, but I just really cannot get into the whole pennies from heaven thing.

I sure do miss my dad though. If I had a penny for every time I've wished I could talk to him, just ONCE, since he's been gone, then DH and I would be drinking champagne on our yacht in the Caribbean right now – 23 years is a long time. They say time heals all wounds, and I suppose it does, but wounds that deep, those wounds, they leave scars.

I was thinking about him last night, and funnily enough, I guess I had my own kind of pennies from heaven moment. To explain – when I was a kid, every Saturday without fail, Daddy and I would watch American Bandstand and Soul Train. He loved music and he taught me to love it too, something that has always stayed with me.

Well, anyway, last night, we were watching Scrubs, and they did a silly skit about moving elderly patients to new rooms. The music they used was Love Train by the O'Jays. I don't think I've heard that song since our Soul Train days. For me, that was like one of Dear Abby's pennies from heaven.

Auntie wrote about the amazingly noisy train whistle that blew during my grandmother's burial service. We thought it seemed like a final salute. At the time, I had fleeting thoughts of a train whistling goodbye, but my new silly thought for the day is of joining a love train. A soul train. I doubt very seriously that Mama and Papa Barber would pick Love Train as their song of choice, although I'm sure they would know it just as they knew all the top forty songs of the seventies because of me (Mama Barber once threatened to write down the words to Bad Bad Leroy Brown and strangle me with them), but, Hey! This is heaven! They can pick whatever song they want to listen to. Love Train is exactly the type of song Daddy would pick. If people can believe in pennies from heaven, then I can believe in train whistles.

Thanks Daddy. I hear you. If you are on that train, I hope you have a better sense of rhythm now.


Daddy and I watched this show together. I wish there was a better version of it on youtube!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Grammar Police: On the Beat

I am sorry to learn that, according to CNN, Mr. Wesley Snipes, an actor for whom I have had much admiration, has been "setnenced" to three years in prison for income tax evasion. I believe the copy editor at CNN online should be required to share his cell for egregious crimes against the spelling of the English language.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Accolades, or How a Peculiar Sense of Humour Runs in My Family

I'm not entirely sure he'll thank me for pointing it out, but my cousin John has written the funniest thing I've read in a long time. It's nice to see that in addition to good looks and prodigious writing talent, a sense of humour also runs in the family.

Making the World a More Grammatical Place

The Grammar Police, sometimes known as Nanci, have inspired me to join the effort to Make the World a More Grammatical Place. I also couldn't sleep last night and all known drugs have failed me, and so I give you my own feeble attempt at correction, from a CNN/Money article (Yes; I read about mortgage-backed securities when I have a headache. That's because they normally give me a headache, so I figure I have nothing to lose when I already have a headache. Go figure.) Anyhoo...

There are so many problems here, words (almost) fail me.

1. "they'll dumping" - they'll either dump or start dumping, but I doubt very seriously that there will ever be a case in which "they'll dumping."

2. Whether they dump something, or start dumping it, the paragraph above refers to "loans" and "them", implying that the thing potentially being dumped is loans, but it isn't. What would be dumped is mortgage-backed securities, which is noted two paragraphs down. Perhaps instead of dumping mortgage-backed securities, investors should dump the editor of CNN/Money!

I know this is not as impressive as properly punctuated signage, but cut me some slack -- it's 3:00 am.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


We live in an old house that was here before all of the houses around us, and so while we have a lot of neighbors, we don't actually share a street with them. Instead, our house faces onto the original gravel track (it's just an easement to the street now), rather than an actual street. The result of this is that we only see the back lawns of all our neighbors, and the land owned by the little church across the way. The church is great, and so are most of the neighbors, but our nearest neighbors have a pile of ... stuff ... that may be dirt (or compost) way down at the end of their back yard. Next to the pile, they have an electric yellow El Camino with a rusted boat trailer attached. It clearly doesn't run as it is sitting on blocks rather than wheels.

This neighbor's house faces perpendicular to ours, and like ours, their lot is long and narrow. They have placed their ... stuff ... and their junked car as far from their own house as possible, which, of course, means that it is right next to our drive way, and in fact, it is maybe 15 feet from our house. That eye-catching yellow is, naturally, the first thing you see when you turn into our driveway. In spite of the fact that I don't like it much, I am not one of those people who requires a plastic-y perfect environment. I've never cared for fake looking suburban perfection, so I expect that means I'm going to have to live with the odd junked car now and again.

What I'm not happy with today, however, is the bulldozer! Yes; Mr. Neighbor has got a bulldozer and he's out there digging in his pile! I was just on the verge of making a phone call when he started up; it's been nearly three hours and he's still going at it. I stuffed cotton in my ears because It sounds like a motorcycle convention -- there's no escaping the noise anywhere in the house. I suspect the UPS man thinks I'm mad as a hatter because he saw me peering out the window at Mr Neighbor and his bulldozer -- and I forgot to take the tufts of cotton out of my ears before opening the door!

I felt like Gladys Kravitz from Bewitched. Abner? ABNER! The UPS guy is probably still laughing.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Full-Court Press

I am in all-out creative-mode -- which, for me, means boosting the music and reducing the email for a little while. If I owe you an email, please be patient; I promise, I'll be in touch soon. If it's important, you can reach me on my cellphone. In the meantime, here is some nice music to get your own creative juices flowing. For all you kids out there, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young were a famous rock and roll band in the 1960s and 70s. This song was the background music for one of the first stories I ever wrote. I still remember the groove I felt listening to it on my dad's brand spanking new stereo!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Washington State Attorney General Statement Regarding Amazon

Angela Hoy at Writers Weekly has posted an email she received from the Washington Attorney General:

As with all complaints regarding a business, we have advised
of these concerns and have asked the company to respond to us. In the
meantime, the Antitrust Division is conducting an initial review of the
marketplace and will respond more fully once that review is complete.

Read the rest here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

SPAN Says Email Jeff Bezos at Amazon!

Here's an excerpt from an email I just received from Scott Flora at SPAN (Small Publishers Assn of North America):

If you would like to write your own letter to Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, and the Amazon Board, the e-mail address is They must be getting thousands of letters. I got the canned response in three days. Keep them coming.

Also feel free to share this e-mail and my full letter with blogs, Web sites, and writer's and publisher's organizations.

Read the letter Scott Flora sent to Jeff Bezos here.

Amazon Furious?

According to the Times Online they are:
Amazon furious after publishers undercut its book prices online

An online price war for books has broken out, pitching Amazon against some of Britain’s biggest publishers.

Amazon is angry that Penguin, Bloomsbury and others are discounting titles on their websites, encouraging customers to buy direct instead of using the online retailer.

Poor Amazon. I feel for them. Not!

Such is the power of Amazon that several publishers did not feel able to talk on the record yesterday. One senior executive said: “It’s very serious. I can’t believe they’d be allowed to get away with it under competition law. Forcing people to increase prices seems to me entirely wrong.”

Others accused Amazon of having become particularly aggressive lately. One source claimed that the online seller recently removed the “buy buttons” from a book on its website to prevent users from being able to purchase it. “They then went to the publisher and said, ‘Give us an extra 2 or 3 per cent or we won’t put the buy buttons back’,” the source said.

Read the rest here.

What's that thing they say about the chickens coming home to roost?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Springtime at Pennington Farm

We interrupt our incessant ranting about Amazon to bring you a little springtime at Pennington Farm. And to note that we really need to paint our front steps!

The curse of the black thumb is in retreat!

SPAN Response to Amazon Policies

Scott Flora, Executive Director of the Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN) has written a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and posted it online. You should read the whole thing, but here's a quote:
As we all know, a significant part of’s business comes from sales of books not carried by a typical “big box” bookstore, and that a large portion of these books come from independent publishers. It seems to be bad business to alienate the vendors who contribute to so much of Amazon’s success.

The rest is here.

Thanks Scott!

Friday, April 4, 2008

More Publishing World Shake-Ups

Apparently this is the silly season. I guess we can truly say that the winds, they are a changing.

From the Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

HarperCollins Turns Page in Publishing

Marking a radical departure from traditional book-publishing practices, HarperCollins Publishers says it will launch a new book imprint that won't accept returns from retailers and will pay little or no advances to authors.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

PMA, The Independent Book Publishers Association Speaks Out Against Amazon

This is part of an email I just received from Terry Nathan, director of the PMA:
PMA, The Independent Book Publishers Association, representing more than 4,000 independent publishers, is speaking out against Amazon's recent policy aimed at publishers who use print-on-demand technology to sell directly on The company has directed that publishers either must print their books on demand exclusively at Amazon's subsidiary printer for fulfillment of orders placed with Amazon or incur additional cost to print elsewhere and maintain inventory with the online retailer.

“This policy imposes a significant financial burden on tens of thousands of small and independent publishers who can least afford it,” points out Executive Director Terry Nathan. “Without the opportunity to benefit from competitive pricing, small publishers risk at best an expensive and needless overhaul of their manufacturing process, and at worst, the loss of their livelihood.

“On behalf of all the small and independent publishers whose businesses are in jeopardy, we urge Amazon to reconsider its position,” continues Nathan. “Over the years, Jeff Bezos and his company have given small and independent publishers a level playing field to compete with the largest of companies. Suddenly, this magnificent playing field has been converted into a 'members only' club, to the detriment of those very publishers who have contributed to Amazon's success. We will continue to monitor developments in the weeks ahead.”

NEW Threat From Amazon!

What? Are they trying to kill EVERYONE? From British journal Publishing News Online:
AMAZON HAS THREATENED publishers who sell direct at discount on their own websites with punitive action. PN understands that it has said that if the publisher continues, Amazon will take the selling price as the RRP and apply its terms of trading to that price. In other words, if Amazon receives a 50% discount from Penguin, for example, but Penguin is selling a £20 book for £15 on its website, Amazon will only give Penguin £7.50, rather than £10.

Read the rest here.

To use a Texas saying, somebody needs to open up a can of whoop-ass on Amazon!

More On the Amazon Mess

From Angela Hoy at Writers Weekly:
Many guffaw the idea that, after taking over POD titles, Amazon might dare to go after traditional publishers, too. What most don't understand is that it's already happening. Booksurge is already printing POD versions of back-list, out-of-print and large-print books for HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Springer, Gale, Oxford University Press, and others.

Last week, the University of Pennsylvania Press contacted us, reporting they'd received the Amazon ultimatum, too. She said, "I work at a medium-sized university press, where most of our titles are conventionally printed via offset. However, Amazon called our director about two weeks ago, telling him that soon we would be required to use Booksurge."
And this:
It wouldn't surprise me at all if Amazon's ultimate goal is to print every single book they ship. I bet Walmart's sorry they didn't think of it first!

But, according to Angela, there is hope.

Despite all of this, the good news is Amazon has not removed anymore "buy" buttons from POD publishers' books pages. Maybe, just maybe, after such a large public outcry, and perhaps after some consultations with their attorneys, they're realizing that this wasn't such a great idea after all. And, as I noted earlier, attorneys and government officials are still studying the legalities of this situation.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

DashBook Part 2

I'm still not happy with Amazon, but this makes me very happy!
HOUSTON, Texas -- Today Financial Softworks, LLC announced the release of DashBook 1.0, Microsoft(R) Windows based software, expressly designed for small and medium sized publishers. According to founder Gregory Carrier, "DashBook is focused on the idiosyncrasies of selling books."

DashBook provides both front and back office functionality for publishers' needs. Specifically, publishers can use DashBook for orders, invoices, payments, returns, product inventory, contacts, royalties, and reports. DashBook also allows users to customize their reports with an integrated report writing tool. Finally, as an "open system," DashBook data may be imported and exported to external sources.

The rest is here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Finally, A Little Good News: DashBook

After all my disgust and ranting about Amazon, it's nice to see something happen that's good news for small publishers. DashBook Version 1 is available!

I've seen it, and (disclosure) I've worked on it, and I think it's going to be the key to changing my business enough to deal with Amazon's shenanigans. Heck, I may even go back to running my own bookstore, which I used to do until messing with ridiculous spreadsheets drove me bananas.

If you're interested, you can read about it here:

And you can see it in action here: