Benjie and I walk through our little farmers’ market, previewing each stand before making our purchases. There is a music booth at the corner, where a different solo musician is stationed each week. As we approach that corner, Benjie ducks behind me and tangles his arms around my legs. Though likely dressed down from what she might wear at a club gig, the guitar player’s outfit is drawn from the same wardrobe. She is not dressed for sex appeal, but enough of the elements are present that my five year old recognizes something is happening and it makes him blush.

“Who are you hiding from?” I tease.

“I don’t know,” he answers.


I told the 911 operator that a car had just rolled over in front of my house.

She asked, “What is the car’s color and make?”

I stammered for a moment, trying to puzzle out how to respond in a way that would clarify the apparent misunderstanding. I was sure that I’d spoken clearly. The car was upside down. Its color and make would no longer be its most distinguishing features. I said, “I don’t know. It’s dark and I’m on my way out there.”

The driver was laying in the street with his arm pinned under the roof of the car. In the darkness, I read the print on his t-shirt as blood pooling across his chest. I was sure that his arm was flattened to pulp.

My neighbor was already standing over him. He asked, “Is there anyone else in the car?”

The driver answered, “No. Just me. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I messed up.”

A group of neighbors tried to lift the car off of him. We barely nudged it, but he got his arm free. Then he jumped straight up and fell straight back down to the pavement. He tried to stand again and I grabbed hold to keep him from crashing to the ground. He careened backwards several steps, pulling me with him. When his feet stopped moving, I regained control and eased him down to the sidewalk into a seated position.

I could see more clearly after getting him away from the car. His shirt was clean. The only blood that was visible was a scratch on his face. When the police came, I told them his arm was injured. He would need first aid. He said, “No. My arm is fine, and demonstrated that he’d retained his arms’ full range of movement by stretching them out and back in an aerobic fashion.

West Handed

The moon, waning one day past full, is rising behind the Starbucks across the street. This doesn’t feel right. Last night at around this time, it was shining bright through my bedroom window keeping me awake. That window faces east and — I’m hesitating here while I get my bearings — I’m facing south. Santa Clara takes a bend somewhere between here and home, but that (plus the daily shift in the moon’s course as the Earth’s rotation overtakes — or falls behind — the moon’s revolution) doesn’t seem like it’s enough of a shift to explain the difference between the positions of yesterday’s and today’s moons.

I lost my sense of direction when I moved to the Bay Area. When tasked with knowing what direction I’m going, I must turn my body so that the hills are to my right and The Bay to my left, so that I’m facing north. Then I’m able to draw the other compass points in my head.

It may be the Bay Bridge’s fault. In my head, it runs parallel to the Golden Gate Bridge.

It seems now that the moon is actually setting. I’m having trouble even with up and down.

Nothing But

Windows 7’s default icon for an image file is a snapshot showing two flowers in muted orange and yellow. When I logged onto my computer at work this morning, my desktop was cluttered with files, half of them screenshots accidentally saved there due to missed mouse clicks. For the first moment that the icons appeared on screen, each of them showed a cached thumbnail version of their image. The thumbnails then disappeared and were replaced by the default flower icon in a pattern that cascaded from the top of the desktop to its bottom and from its left to its right. Just after the last flower bloomed in the lower right corner of the screen, the thumbnails started to re-render. Each flower quietly dropped away, following the same left-to-right and top-to-bottom pattern, the pattern broken in two or three places when a larger file took longer to load and its flower lingered on screen for one moment longer than the flower that came after it.

It’s Science!

BBC: “Science has discovered a fifth moon circling the dwarf planet Pluto.”

A moon is defined as “a natural satellite of a planet”. If Pluto is no longer a planet, then its satellites are not moons. You don’t get to have it both ways, science.

The Bell Character

My favorite ASCII character is the bell. This character was used in early five-bit character sets, first developed in the Nineteenth Century. It was used to signal a telegraph terminal to ring a bell, alerting the receiving telegraph operator that a message was coming in. Though it’s just a vestigial remnant of the immediate successor to Morse Code, there is still a slot reserved for the bell in modern character sets.

Your Inkjet printer will not ring a bell when fed a bell character, but many Unix/Linux or DOS-based command prompt terminals will sound a tone when called on to print a bell to the screen.

In your browser, a bell looks (or sounds) like this:

You’re probably seeing a rectangle, an empty space, or an oval with the letters “BEL” inside.

Book Search Aggregators

This entry has been parked in draft for almost four years. It was going to be part of a bookseller debriefing series that I was going to write. I’ve updated it a bit.

Here are some book search aggregators that I used when I was a bookseller. These sites bring book search results from many sources in together.

BookFinder was typically my first stop when shopping for a book or getting a sense for the market price of a title. Though the site was acquired by Amazon (first acquired by ABEBooks, who was then acquired by Amazon) and its founder has left, they still operate under the same model.

I favor BookFinder over Addall and vialibri, though there’s a lot of overlap among the sites that each one searches. BookFinder has some standout features. It include shipping costs in its results. It also filters some clutter by attempting to organize identical listings together when a bookseller has posted the same book on multiple sites.

Google Product Search usually returns fewer results than BookFinder, Addall, or viaLibri. It’s useful though because there’s less overlap between the sellers who list there and those who list on BookFinder. If an obscure title doesn’t turn up on BookFinder, Google Product Search is the next place to look.

More recently, I’ve gotten a lot of use out of Google Product Search’s local results feature. Books Inc., a Bay Area indy book chain, puts their inventory on Google Product Search. When I’m looking for a new book, I check Google Product Search to see whether it’s in stock at either the location near my office or near my home. Google Shopper, the iPhone app frontend for Google Product Search, almost serves as a Books Inc app for me.

WorldCat returns books from most of the US’s public library systems’ catalogs. As a bookseller, I used it to get a sense of how common a book is. These days, I use it to see how long the hold queues are for a given book at the different local library systems, to help me decide where to place a hold.