So I dunno... When I'm away from home and teaching a grad programme (which is pretty much 100% of the fee-earning work I do computing-wise these days), I take my heavy-duty laptop and a large bag containing workout gear and hardcopy books and A4 folders full of notes and diagrams, besides the usual essentials. At least I did until last month, when I tweaked my lower back as I lugged the stuff up and down Tube station stairs.

Throughout my 20s and 30s, when my only strength training was on the weights, the odd back injury was no surprise. Or you could say, I should've trained smarter. For me personally, though, it was the addition of calisthenics (Hindu push-ups, Hindu squats and neck bridges) that largely banished such injuries, so I was a little miffed when my back said ouch. Part of my response, since I had to travel again the next week, was to lighten the load I carried... and part of that was to order my very first Kindle, specifying next-day delivery.

Ah-ha, Meaney. Coming to the point at last, are we?

Despite my love for dead-tree books, text books included, I've had a variety of Kindle books on my laptop for several years - over a hundred books - but never found it a satisfying experience, particularly in regards to fiction. I've bought Kindle readers as presents, but this was the first time I'd bought one for myself.

Since I teach computer science graduates as well as grads of other disciplines, I'm aware that part of preparing them for the cut and thrust of projects is creating an awareness of the differences between the worlds of business and research. The former includes risk analysis and management, which means not letting the cutting edge sever your arteries: unless there's a compelling reason in terms of being first to market, you might want to wait until the bugs have been fixed in whatever technology you'd like to adopt.

Hang on... Aren't you always going on about learning Haskell and keeping track of the new stuff?

Well, yes... But keeping track of the leading edge is different from using it in projects. It's more in line with being an eternal student, and it applies to computing and martial arts both, or can do: Dan Inosanto, the doyen of jeet kune do, was fifty-eight when he took up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Blimey, Meaney. That's about your age, innit?

I'm fifty-seven and three-quarters, and that's enough of that.

So anyway, my brand-new Kindle is seventh generation, which makes it thinner and lighter than its predecessors and something of a joy to read. A month later and here I am, with over a hundred and thirty books in my pocket, weighing practically nothing...

You said over a hundred. Where did the extra thirty come from?

I might have gone a little over the top purchasing new books. The point is, it's an SF future brought into the present, a true pocket library, and a joy. And if you've read my early books, you might have noticed that a happy scene with lots of laughter is sometimes the set-up for a cataclysm. So this isn't entirely a happy story, because I finally got round to catching up with the news from Borderland Books in San Francisco, to discover they're closing down, victim of the current book trade environment, with a local change in legislation being the final straw that means the business is no longer viable.

One way or another, progress kicks you in the @$$. We're all caught up in the tides of history, and if we avoid tsunamis, it's probably down to the laws of chance.

Anyway, I'd like to proclaim public best wishes to Alan and Jude and the rest of the Borderland gang, and hope they do well. (If I were living in SF, I'd back Alan Beatts for mayor any day.)

Somewhere I've got a photo of Alan performing his party trick with a coat hanger: passing his entire body through it. From the tips of his fingers to the tips of his toes... It's the least of his talents, of course. He's rather more dangerous than you'd probably expect.

Perseverance sometimes involves changing goals. Nil carborundum, my friends.

Keep on truckin'.


Blogger Chris Mays said...

John, glad you're following the SF trade at sufficient granularity to notice Borderlands' woes. I wonder if you know that at the last moment, their community decided it was worth sponsoring the store at $100/year? And that they got the necessary 300 in less than 48 hours, and that the list keeps growing, and that they are over the moon with pride and joy at what fans they have in this town?

Funny, too, that they were the darlings of right-wing blowhards with a national audience who brayed "told ya so, living wages kill business and jobs"... until their customers stepped up and kept them open and celebrated better wages. All of a sudden, the conservative circus left town without saying goodbye.

April 22, 2015 at 9:41 PM  
Blogger John Meaney said...

Hi Chris! I knew of the good news (though not the departed blowhards) and I'm really pleased. The idea that a bookstore might be a community gathering-place that's important to people - that's a message worth spreading, too.

April 23, 2015 at 3:15 PM  

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