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April 2009

Antiquarian Adventures: "A curious mode of salutation"

We are sorting antiquarian books in our Westport, NY storefront this afternoon, and encountered this peculiar illustration in the book The Story of Exploration and Adventure in Africa Compiled from the Most Authoritative Sources, Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, 1896.

A curious mode of salutation

The accompanying text read: "The natives of [Kalai] have a curious way of saluting strangers. Instead of bowing, they throw themselves on their backs on the ground , rolling from side to side and slapping themselves on the thighs, while they utter the words, "Kina bomba! kina bomba!" In vain Livingston implored them to stop."

Presumably "Kina bomba" translates to "Dr. Livingston, I presume."


Revamped my blogroll

hypertext 3-D

I just revamped my blogroll. (I'll probably do more later.) I haven't done this thorough a job in years, so check it out, There are a lot of interesting new sites listed.

(Also, if you think your blog belongs on my list, let me know.)


John Hertz accused of being a "clothesist"!

As read in Vanamonde by John Hertz, dated April 23, 2008, a letter of comment from one John DeChancie, which begins:

If you think I'd consider informal anything less than a white tie, you surely don't know me very well, do you? Also you invite  the inference you're a clothesist.

The letter continues with what appears to be a lengthy quotation from Shaw.

John Hertz & Cheryl Morgan, Best Fan Writer Nominees

John Hertz & Cheryl Morgan, Best Fan Writer Nominees, 2006; they have a rematch in this year's Hugo nominations.


Charlie Stross on Web 2.0 as an attractive nuisance

Charles Stross & Kathryn Cramer

Antisocial Networking:

And what I've noticed is that all successful social network sites are structured to provide an attractive nuisance.

This isn't to say that they aren't sometimes useful, but in order to attract users, a social networking side like Facebook or LinkedIn has to keep folks coming back. It's not enough to get them to create a user ID in the first place; I've seen some estimates that around 90% of legitimate, human-derived accounts on social networking sites are inactive. (I qualify this as human-derived because a whole lot of them are bot-generated accounts used by spammers. I'm talking about the ones with a human brain behind the name.) So the successful sites need to get real humans to keep coming back — especially if they're going to raise the advertising revenue from click-throughs to pay their bandwidth bills — and the developers are therefore subjected to a ruthless Darwinian selection pressure: add attractive nuisances, or die.

We can see this on FaceBook with its endless games. (I sometimes wonder if I'm a Facebook widower.) We can see this on LJ with its endless rounds of emotional affirmation in comment threads. We used to see it on USENET back in the eighties and nineties, with the flamewar season. Social networks don't grow because they provide utility to their users: they grow because they keep pushing the social stimulus button.

I do get something out of Facebook (by disabling all games and other intrusive apps), and a little bit out of Twitter. But in general, I think Charlie's spot on.


Year's Best Fantasy 9 Table of Contents

Year's Best Fantasy 9, David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer, eds. table of contents. (Forthcoming from Tor.com in 2009.)

Shoggoths in Bloom • Elizabeth Bear

The Rabbi’s Hobby • Peter Beagle

Running the Snake • Kage Baker

The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm • Daryl Gregory

Reader’s Guide • Lisa Goldstein

The Salting and Canning of Benevolence D. • Al Michaud

Araminta, or, the Wreck of the Amphidrake • Naomi Novik

A Buyer’s Guide to Maps of Antarctica • Catherynne M. Valente

From the Clay of His Heart • John Brown

If Angels Fight • Richard Bowes

26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss • Kij Johnson

Philologos; or, A Murder in Bistrita • Debra Doyle & James MacDonald

Film-Makers of Mars • Geoff Ryman

Childrun • Marc Laidlaw

Queen of the Sunlit Shore • Liz Williams

Lady Witherspoon’s Solution • James Morrow

Dearest Cecily • Kristine Dikeman

Ringing the Changes in Okotoks, Alberta • Randy McCharles

Caverns of Mystery • Kage Baker

Skin Deep • Richard Parks

King Pelles the Sure • Peter Beagle

A Guided Tour in the Kingdom of the Dead • Richard Harland

Avast, Abaft! • Howard Waldrop

Gift from a Spring • Delia Sherman

The First Editions • James Stoddard

The Olverung • Stephen Woodworth 

Daltharee • Jeffrey Ford

The Forest • Kim Wilkins