Thursday, 1 September 2011

08:24 – Thanks to everyone who comment on Colin’s image. Several people even sent me modified versions with adjustments to color balance and brightness. The image was shot in open shade, so the cool color balance is accurate. The image is straight out of the camera, with no adjustments other than cropping

As to Colin’s ears, yes, they always stick up like that. Some of the neighbors call Colin “Hat Dog”, because he usually keeps the inner edges of his ears pressed together, resulting in what looks like a triangular peaked cap. As you might expect, Colin’s hearing is superb. (The US government invited Colin to join the distant early-warning line, but he declined.) It’s funny watching him in the evening, lying on his side on the den floor, napping. One ear sticks straight up. Whenever he hears a sound, the ear rotates to localize the sound.

If you own any euro-denominated instruments, now would be a good time to dump them. Next Wednesday, the German Federal Constitutional Court rules on whether Germany contributing to the EFSF and euro bailouts violates the terms of the Maastricht Treaty, the founding document of the EU, and potentially even more damaging to the euro, whether Merkel’s actions so far violate the German constitution. Given that the Maastricht Treaty explicitly prohibits EU nations from assuming debts of other EU nations, the first decision should be a slam-dunk, which in itself would be enough to destroy the euro. If the court also decides that Merkel’s actions have been in violation of the German constitution, it’s really game over.

Meanwhile, a credible rumor has it that Greece has hired a US law firm in preparation for leaving the eurozone and defaulting on its debts. Greek officials strongly deny this rumor, but what else could they say? Given that the second Greek bailout now looks almost certain to fail to gain approval, particularly with Finland’s unrelenting demands for collateral now proving an insuperable obstacle to the bailout going forward, the Greeks are left with few alternatives.

We’ve finished building a batch of chemistry kits that should hold us at least through the middle of this month, if not all the way through the month. That means I need to get purchase orders issued for the components to build more kits. While I’m at it, I’ll order enough components to build a small batch of the biology kits. The contents of that kit are semi-finalized, although there may be minor additions as I continue to work on the biology book.

09:34 – If you’re at all interested in self-publishing a novel, you should read this article on Joe Konrath’s blog. In it, he gives away the secret that has allowed him to sell hundreds of thousands of ebooks.

Well, I guess I can give the secret away here as well. It’s persistence. At the beginning of one summer when I was in junior high school, I decided to learn to play tennis. I took my racket and a can of balls to the tennis courts, where I found a bunch of kids my age and older hacking around. They looked terrible. There was no resemblance to the tennis players I’d seen on TV. None of them could hit a backhand to save his life. Their serves looked spastic. I decided there was no way that I’d step on a court until I was a lot better than they were.

So I took my racket and can of balls to my former elementary school, which was only a block away. It had a nice vacant parking lot of smooth asphalt abutting the featureless brick wall of the school. I started hitting balls off that backboard. When I returned the next day, I had a yardstick and a small can of black paint with me. I measured off the width of the singles court (27 feet, 8.23 meters) and painted hashmarks on the mortar of the brick wall. The tennis net is 3’6″ at the posts and 3′ at the center line, so I compromised and choose the line of mortar that was about 3’2″ off the ground, which I painted black. That gave me something to aim for.

For the rest of that summer, I made the five-minute walk from my house to the school almost every day to hit balls off that wall. Some days I had only 30 minutes or an hour available for practice. Other days, I’d spend hours hitting balls. Forehands, backhands, and serves. Flat, topspin, and backspin. Cross-court and down the line. I must have hit 100,000 balls without ever setting foot on a tennis court.

Come September and the start of the school year, I decided I was finally ready to play tennis. Not surprisingly, I usually won, even when playing guys who were on the high school tennis team. In tennis, persistence pays off, just as it does in writing.