For all the spiffy, shiny new pseudo-social networking features in Google Books, they seem to have left off something pretty basic: SEARCHING.
One of their features is called "My Library", where Google account holders can add books from their own library. I did that, basically so I could Google's search engine to search within the content of my books, which is easier than pulling down books from the shelf and leafing through them until I find what I want.
Now, in their "update", that functionality to search within one's own library has vanished. Have they decided to give up on the whole "search engine" thing in favor of Facebookesque social networking?
I don't need another Facebook; I need a search engine. If they're not going to be an actual search engine, what the hell good are they?
It's Christmas, so here's an old photo of that symbol of a traditional Japanese Christmas: fried chicken.
No, seriously. Many years ago, the marketing geniuses -- and I do not use that term ironically -- at Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan started a campaign to convince Japanese consumers that a traditional Christmas dish is fried chicken. They succeeded wildly, not only to the point that people now need to make reservations to pick up their fried chicken on Christmas Day at "Kentucky" (as the place is nicknamed) and that they've expanded the product range to include "premium roasted chicken" on that day, but also that convenience stores and other fast-food chains have gotten into the act, also offering that traditional Christmas chicken.
Which explains why, last night, the 7-11 near my house had a table set up outside in the dark, displaying the Christmas cakes (another, albeit non-KFC, Christmas tradition) and the chicken, sold by three 7-11 employees, one in a Santa suit and the other two dressed as reindeer.
(The chicken didn't seem to be fried, but grilled, with a sweetish teriyaki sauce on top. Pretty tasty, actually.)
As for The Colonel above: there's a statute of him permanently outside every KFC in Japan, but he only wears the Santa suit at Christmas time. (There's a purely Japanese holiday where he dons a colorful suit of samurai armor, but that's something for another post.)
Hmm, according to this item from Boing Boing, former South Dakota State Representative and convicted rapist Ted Alvin Klaudt is claiming that the very use of his name without permission is a copyright infringement, and that anyone using the name of former South Dakota State Representative and convicted rapist Ted Alvin Klaudt without prior written authorization owes him money. According to the news story:
A letter and an accompanying document labeled ''Common Law Copyright Notice'' said former state Rep. Ted Alvin Klaudt is reserving a common-law copyright of a trade name or trademark for his name. It said no one can use his name without his consent, and anyone who does would owe him $500,000...
The letter said anyone seeking to use Klaudt's name would have to file a written request 20 days in advance. It also said he would pursue charges and other legal action against anyone who violated the notice.
Doesn't sound like like legal theory is this guy's strong suit, though chutzpah apparently is. But given that former South Dakota State Representative and convicted rapist Ted Alvin Klaudt is a guest of the state of South Dakota -- and will be for the next 52 years -- I'm not overly worried about the consequences of having forgotten to send him a written request. Besides, I'm pretty sure inmates don't have Internet access.
You can probably already guess what political party former South Dakota State Representative and convicted rapist Ted Alvin Klaudt belonged to.
(Odd factoid about this story: former South Dakota State Representative and convicted rapist Ted Alvin Klaudt's current home is the Mike Durfee State Prison -- which was formerly the University of South Dakota, Springfield before it was closed and converted into a prison. Not relevant, just odd.)
I am now officially in the publishing business, courtesy of Amazon and the Amazon Kindle. I'm calling the venture "Jinrikisha Press".
It turns out that the Amazon Kindle Store allows self-publication of books: just format the text, upload it and the cover image, and set a price, and (after a delay while they look over things) your book is ready for instant download to be read on a Kindle device (the large version, which is only available in the U.S., and the small version, which works internationally). If you don't own a Kindle or don't want to pony up the money for one, you can read e-books from Amazon through the free Kindle Reader for the iPhone or for the PC (no Mac version yet).
And, thanks to things like Project Gutenberg, many old books about Japan which are now in the public domain text are now available in full (more or less).
Putting two and two together, some entrepreneurial (but lazy) types have grabbed those texts and have uploaded them to the Kindle Store and put them up for sale. Unfortunately, most of these have been lazy cut-and-paste jobs, leaving in the numerous scanning errors, line breaks at the end of each line, undigested-by-ASCII characters, and even the original headers from the copied source (one particularly lazy job I noticed even left in the (now non-functional) search box from the Internet Archive page).
Well, I can do better. I've taken some of those old books about Japan that I found interesting, copy-edited (yes, actual copy-editing) and formatted them properly, added some footnotes in a few places, and uploaded them to the Amazon Kindle Store. I've done this with four so far, and they've (finally) just gone "live".
I did a fairly straightforward clean-up and republication on those, but those are really test cases for the REAL book, one which I started work on before all the others and am still working on. This one is going to be a full-blown annotated version: I've got 214 historical footnotes so far on that book, and will probably add several more, at least, not to mention the background introduction and biography which I still have to write. More later when I'm closer to completion.
So far, the titles are in two categories. The first imprint, which I'm calling "Western Narratives of Old Japan", are travel books and memoirs by Westerners responding to Japan. So far, I have:
Jinrikisha Days in Japan by Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore (1904), a fairly detailed -- and, on traditional Japanese culture, still relevant -- travel book by an American woman who was the first female trustee for the National Geographic Society and the person who came up with the idea of planting cherry trees in Washington, D.C.
A Diplomatist's Wife in Japan, Volume 1 and Volume 2, by Mrs. Hugh Fraser (1899). AkaMary Crawford Fraser (yes, she published under her married name), the American wife of British diplomat Hugh Fraser, recording their four years (1889-1894) in Japan as he negotiated the end of the "unequal treaties" Japan had been chafing under since 1859.
The second imprint I'm calling "Western Tales of Old Japan", and are fictional -- usually highly romanticized -- stories based in Japan but written by Westerners. The first title is:
The Stolen Emperor by Mary Crawford Fraser (1904), which is a historical romance set in 13th-century Japan. Think Sir Walter Scott with kimonos.
I have some other titles in mind, but sometimes it's like looking for gold among the dross, as there is a fairly huge number of candidates to sift through. As I find more, I'll edit those, too, and add them to the collection. Someday, if I have enough of these collected, I may venture into regular printed editions.
So let's say you're a software engineer or computer programmer in search of good hair styling, and maybe some pampering, too. Well, there's only one place to go when you're in Yokohama near the main train station -- and you can treat yourself to Buffalo Chicken Wings right after, too!
One slightly odd thing -- to me, at least -- about yesterday was that after we had given up waiting while standing in front of Suntory Hall, I turned around, and the man standing behind us in the plaza, I swear, looked almost exactly like -- Steve Jobs, of Apple. True, this guy didn't have a beard, but I looked twice and yeah, he could have passed for Steve Jobs and not just in dim lighting.
Which is ridiculous, of course: what would Steve Jobs be doing in Tokyo, and even if he were in Tokyo, why wouldn't he be inside the hall with the audience of dignitaries, listening to the speech? Steve Jobs, after all, could probably get Barack Obama to return his phone calls and wouldn't need to stand waiting outside with the rest of the everyday folk.
In any case, found the notion of seeing Steve Jobs when he couldn't be there slightly ironic because a few years ago, I pretty indisputably was looking right at Steve Jobs only a few meters away -- and didn't spot him.
In that case, I was in the employee cafeteria at the Apple campus in Cupertino, California, about to have lunch with an Apple Computer employee who's a friend of mine. I was standing by the pizza section when my friend sidled up and whispered, with a slight nod, "Steve's over there."
My first thought was of a mutual friend. "What?" I said, startled, "Steve G_______g is here? Where?"
"No, no, Steve JOBS."
I turned and peered in the direction of the salad bar (and a very good salad bar it was, too, by the way), but I couldn't spot the Apple Steve. I gave up pretty quickly, though, because I didn't want to be caught gawking. So while quite probably light reflected off of Steve Jobs hit the back of my eyeballs, my brain never processed the data.
So there you have it: I'm seeing Steve Jobs when he can't be there, and not seeing him when he is there. I'd make a lousy paparazzo.