Another Brilliant Notion

Before I get to today’s main topic, a little bit of housekeeping, loosely following Tuesday’s post.

I will be attending the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival again this year. There’s still time to make your own plans to attend. What better way is there to spend a weekend than listening to great music performed well? In addition to the music, there will be dancing; symposia on ragtime, it’s precursors, and successors; and tours of Sedalia.

And yes, there will be copies of TRTT for sale. I’m not currently planning on a formal signing–though I’m certainly open to the possibility–but I’ll be happy to sign your copy*. I recognize most of you have been resistant to the idea of distributing copies to friends and relatives, so how about an alternative plan? Get ’em for people you don’t know–the possibilities are endless:

  • Send one to Donald Trump. He won’t read it, but maybe dealing with thousands of copies will distract him from tweeting for a few minutes.
  • Slip one to the opposing pitcher before the next ballgame you go to. Who knows, it might distract him enough to give your team a chance.
  • Give them to Scott Pruitt. He needs something cheerful in his life right now. And if he gets enough copies, he can use them to build himself a privacy booth at least as good as the one he made with the sofa cushions when he was a kid.

I’ll be happy to sign any “Strangers and Enemies” copies too. And I’ll add a personal message of your choice!

* I’m still unsure how to sign ebooks. Suggestions welcome!

Admittedly, the weather in Missouri in June is a bit on the hot and muggy side, but for those of you east of the Rockies, it’ll be a nice change from the snow you’re still getting. And better June than September, right?

So I hope to see a few of you at the Liberty Center and around Sedalia between May 30 and June 2.

Commercial over, moving on.

By now many of you have probably heard that the amazingly ill-thought-out Amazon Key program is expanding. If you don’t want Amazon unlocking your house and putting your packages inside–and who would?–they’re now going to offer an alternative: they’ll unlock your car and put your package in the trunk.

Which is, at least by comparison with the original offering, not a bad idea.

Despite San Francisco’s well-publicized problem with smash-and-grab auto robberies, your chances of having your car broken into are probably no higher than of having your house robbed. Assuming, of course, that nobody is following Amazon delivery peons around their routes and texting car delivery locations to a confederate.

Anyway, the service will be offered in conjunction with GM and Volvo initially, and then expand to other makes later. Trunk delivery will also require a recent model with online connectivity, i.e. OnStar.

Which brings us to my major complaint about this iteration of Amazon Key: it’s a reminder that we don’t really own our cars anymore. Ownership should mean control, but a modern, connected car sacrifices control. The manufacturer–and potentially dealers, repair shops, police, and others–can unlock your car, disable features, and display advertisements at will.

Yes, I’m talking capability rather than practice, but policies can change. Once the hardware is in place to, for example, show ads on your navigation screen, you’re never more than one manufacturer-controlled software update from not being able to turn the ads off.

Or one bug–or hack–away from the car failing to recognize the remote relock signal.

That’s true whether you use Amazon Key or not, of course.

SAST 08

First things first. Hard as it may be to believe sometimes, this blog is intended to showcase and sell my writing. That means you’re going to get an occasional commercial message.

I’ll be at the West Coast Ragtime Festival in Sacramento on Saturday, November 18. There’s no plan for a formal book signing, but the festival store will have copies of The RagTime Traveler, and I’ll be happy to sign them.

Moving on.

Thanks to everyone who voted Tuesday. As I’ve said before, here and elsewhere, we elect people to represent our interests, and elections are how we tell them what our interests are.

Or–to put it in terms the current administration should understand, given their focus on business–elections are their annual review, where we, the employers, tell them how well or poorly they’re doing their job, and what the prospects are for a raise next year.

Tuesday’s election suggests that they’re running a solid “Failed to Meet Expectations” and even a cost of living adjustment is iffy.

My Google News feed is still toxic, but at least I feel like someone’s distributing hazmat suits.

Moving on.

The other big news Tuesday was, regrettably, the death of Roy Halladay.

I’ll admit up front I didn’t know him or follow his career. But by everything I can see, he was one of the good guys, on the field and off.

“Any man’s death diminishes me,” and Mr. Halladay’s death diminishes us all more than most. I love to see anyone, especially someone as visible as Mr. Halladay, working to help others. He was nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award multiple times during his playing days, and he continued his charitable work after his retirement.

And finally, just to end on a cheerier note, I see that Pope Francis has banned the sale of cigarettes at the Vatican. The statement announcing the move says “the Holy See cannot contribute to an activity that clearly damages the health of people.”

It’s interesting that he didn’t also ban the sale of alcohol, but I still like the tobacco ban. I don’t support a world-wide total ban on tobacco products–prohibition doesn’t work–but if this is the first step in a program to encourage Catholics to give up smoking, it’s an idea I can get behind.

A Very Special Event


So a thing happened last weekend. You may have heard me warning you about it. Yeah, that. The event* at Borderlands. I’ve never been a special event before. Nor did I know beforehand that it was going to be special, or I would have publicized it that way.

* Loosely speaking, there are three kinds of author appearances: signings, readings, and events. The names should be obvious, but in order to get the word count on this post up**, I’ll spell it out. When the author sits behind a table, chats briefly with everyone who shows up, and scribbles something semi-legibly in their books, it’s a signing. If the author also reads part of the book aloud to the audience, it’s a reading. And if the author does anything else–reads part of another book, sings and dances, juggles flaming chainsaws–it’s an event.

** No, I’m not being paid by the word. I just want enough words to balance the pictures a bit.

The room wasn’t packed, but there were enough people there that I feel justified in calling it a crowd. (I should point out that I didn’t take most of these pictures. Credit and copyright belong to Maggie Young, Eric Zuckerman, and Beth Zuckerman. Thanks, gang!)

Many thanks to Jude Feldman, front and center in that picture, for ensuring everything ran smoothly. Everyone’s first event should have a Jude.


Since this was an event, I didn’t read from The RagTime Traveler. Instead, I gave a 50,000 foot overview of the histories of ragtime music, Scott Joplin–the man who made ragtime into America’s first popular music–and TRTT.

That card on the desk? Let me zoom in and rotate:

Just something I found in the greeting card rack before the event. It seemed remarkably appropriate, so I offered it as a suggestion to the crowd. The card is now hanging on the wall over my desk, where I hope it will encourage and inspire me when the words misbehave.

My thanks to those of you who attended, as well as those who couldn’t make it, but sent good wishes. Hope to see a few more of you at future events. Nothing’s scheduled yet, but there will be more, and naturally, I’ll announce them here.

One final note: You need signed copies of TRTT–even if you’ve already got one, remember that they make great gifts, and it’s never too early to get your Christmas shopping out of the way.

Coincidentally–or rather, conspiratorially–

Borderlands has a stack of signed copies they’d love to sell you. I’m sure they’d be happy to ship one or more to you, even if you’re not in the San Francisco area.

Why not pick up the phone and give them a call?