Online support of Katie.com is inspirational but misguided

The Register, Slashdot, and others have been posting the story of Katie.com, a personal website that’s existed since 1996 but whose name was hijacked for a book about an online victim of a sexual predator, published in 2000 by Penguin Putnam.

The author has been getting harassed now, and that’s misguided. Here’s why.The short answer is that authors often don’t have any control over the titles of their books. They can make suggestions, but ultimately, the book title is usually up to the publisher.

That’s my experience as an author. My book was titled Optimizing Windows for Games, Graphics, and Multimedia. It didn’t exactly roll off the tongue, contained an oft-misunderstood technical term (“Optimizing”) and a dated buzzword (“Multimedia”), and, well, don’t get me started. I lobbied against it. I wrote in with a dozen alternatives, at least. None were picked.

I didn’t make a huge deal about it. I was more concerned about getting published.

Maybe the author, Katie Tarbox, approved of the name. Maybe she didn’t. Ultimately, it was the publisher’s decision and the publisher who is accountable. By some accounts, she seems to approve now of the publisher’s actions, but to think she has the ability to control her publisher is foolhardy. And to think she’s going to contradict her publisher is equally foolhardy. Getting into print is hard. Staying in print is just as hard, if not harder.

The Slashdot crowd has written numerous negative reviews on Amazon.com, and today Slashdot seems dismayed that the negative reviews and ratings are gone. Why? Amazon is not a public forum for your personal agenda. Amazon has had problems in the past with authors sending their shills to post glowing reviews of their books and/or malign their competitors’ books, and has tried to eliminate some of that. If you want to exercise your right to free speech online, exercise it on your own web site.

Don’t get me wrong. The groundswell of support is good. A book publisher should not have the right to steal someone else’s pre-existing web domain, whether it’s a registered trademark or not. I’m not one of those people who believe that big corporations can do no wrong. They’re just like Big Labor and Big Government: They’ll all do as much wrong as they think they can get away with, as long as that wrong is somehow profitable.

Penguin Putnam had intended to call the book girl.com but realized that name was taken and probably owned by someone who would put up more of a fight. Besides, at the time it was a porn site.

Corporate bullying? It looks like it.

So complain to Penguin Putnam. Tell them you’re not going to buy their books until they quit victimizing innocent bystanders online. Tell them you’re going to ask your local bookseller not to stock Penguin Putnam books for the same reason. If you own any Penguin Putnam books, consider dumping them on the used market, cheap, to take away a potential new book sale from the company. One way is to list them on half.com and see if you find any takers. You can let Penguin Putnam know you’re doing this as well. (Don’t burn the books–that doesn’t hurt the publisher any, but the used channel potentially does.)

For that matter, tell ’em it’s a stupid and misleading name anyway, because 13-year-old girls generally don’t use names like katie.com in chatrooms.

The key is to not make this about the book. Make it about the publisher. Books come and go, and publishers know this. Negative balance sheets and corporate image last much longer.

That type of protest has a small but real chance of making a difference. Online harrassment via Amazon.com does not.

Optimizing Windows networks

My church’s IT czar asked me a good question the other day. His network performance was erratic and Network Neighborhood was messed up. Some computers saw different views of the network, although if you manually connected to other computers, that usually worked.
There are probably 35 or so computers on the network now, so it’s no longer a small network. He asked a few good questions, and the tips that came out of the discussion bear repeating here.

1. Establish a master browser. There’s supposed to be one and only one keeper of the Network Neighborhood’s directory, if you will. Whenever a Windows computer comes online, it calls for an election. Usually the winner of the election makes sense. But sometimes a computer that has no business winning the election wins. Or sometimes the computers seem to get confused about who won the election.

Networks shouldn’t be like the U.S. political system.

Windows NT, 2000, and XP boxes run a service called Computer Browser. Ideally, you want one master browser and a couple of backups online all the time. So pick four computers who are likely to always be on, and who are running Windows 2000 or XP, preferably (since they’re likely to be newer computers). Then turn the Computer Browser service off on all but those four computers. Browser elections and related bureaucracy can chew up 30% of your network bandwidth in worst-case situations, so this can be worth doing even if you’re not yet experiencing the problem.

2. Use WINS. Unless you have an Active Directory domain and you’re running DNS on Windows 2000 or 2003 Server, Windows boxes have to broadcast because they don’t know the addresses of any other computers on the network. All that broadcast traffic chews up bandwidth and can cause other unusual behavior. WINS is basically like Windows-proprietary DNS. Set up WINS on one of your Windows servers, if you have one, or on a Linux box running Samba, and you’ll end up with a faster, more reliable network.

If you’re running a home network with fewer than 10 PCs, this probably isn’t worth the effort–especially the WINS server. The Computer Browser service might be worth disabling but more because it’ll save you a little bit of memory. If you’re a large enterprise with hundreds or thousands of computers running that service, the freeware PSTools suite from Sysinternals has some command-line utilities that can help you turn off services remotely, to avoid the daunting task of visiting every desk.

An author reflects on publishing

Last week must have been the week for writing and publishing questions. I’ll be honest: I don’t know much about publishing successfully. And I think the advice I’ve dispensed over the years has done a lot more to dissuade potential authors than it has to encourage them.
Someone asked me last week if I would write full-time if I thought I could make a good living off it. That’s an easy answer. Absolutely. So I guess it’s telling that I have a regular 40-hour-a-week job with a salary and benefits and three bosses.

The downsides of writing: Nothing is certain. There’s no way to know how many copies a book will sell, so there’s no way to know how much money you’ll make from quarter to quarter. There’s no way to know if you’ll have steady work. Steve DeLassus was telling me about some book proposals someone else we both know is currently pitching. This other guy said the publisher was really excited.

To me, that’s like getting excited because that young, single and attractive girl who just started in HR smiled at you as she passed you in the hall. Just because she smiled doesn’t mean she wants to marry you. A publisher’s excitement about a book proposal is worth less than the change in your pocket. The change you have in your pocket is certain, and it already belongs to you.

Publishing a book is a long road, like dating. It’s so much like dating that I almost started referring to Optimizing Windows by a girl’s name while I was writing it. I nixed that when one of my friends told me that was too weird and psycho. But think about it. Finding an idea is like getting interested in a girl. Finding a publisher is like asking a girl out. You probably get more rejections than you’d like. And maybe you ask the same one more than once. Writing the book and getting it to press is like the dating and engagement process. Hopefully you’re both excited and both working hard. But it’s sunk if either one of you gives up. Halfway through my second book, my publisher pulled the plug on it. A contract is no guarantee.

So, how do you pick a publisher? I wish I knew. I’ve worked with good ones and bad ones. The very best one I’ve worked with, by a long shot, is Dennis Publishing, a British magazine producer. But that’s magazines, not books.

An agent can help you find a publisher, but the agent doesn’t necessarily know everything, and the agent’s best interests may or may not be your best interests. Sometimes they are, but sometimes no. At times while I was writing my second book, I felt like both my publisher and my agent were taking advantage of me. I absolutely hated answering my phone.

But if you don’t have an existing relationship with an editor somewhere, it’s definitely much easier to get in the door with an agent. An agent, after all, knows the industry much better than most authors do, and has contact with a larger number of publishers and editors. The agent may even be able to call in a favor to get you noticed. And agents are typically always looking for new authors, whereas most editors would probably rather be doing other things and are more likely to listen to an agent than a wannabe writer. After all, if the writer is totally worthless and the idea is totally worthless, the agent has better things to do.

You may decide later not to use an agent. I don’t use one to do magazine gigs. There, you’re usually dealing with flat rate per-word pay, so it doesn’t make any sense to pay an agent 10% to firm up non-negotiables, especially in my case when the editor had already made all of the terms clear and was also making it very clear that he was eager to work with me.

But if you’re asking questions like what publishers would be best under specific circumstances and who would be the most likely to promote your book, you need an agent.

I’m not an expert. I signed two books and published one of them. I’ve published a number of magazine articles. I guess the most valuable thing I have to say is that most people need an agent but should be careful.

Hopefully my thoughts are better than nothing.

Why my ramdisk techniques don’t work with XP

I got a question today in a roundabout way asking about ramdisks in Windows, specifically, where to find my instructions for loading Win98 into a ramdisk, and how to do the same in XP.
I haven’t thought about any of this kind of stuff for more than two years. It seems like two lifetimes.

The original instructions appeared in my book, Optimizing Windows (now in the half-price bin at Amazon.com), and instructions to use DriveSpace to compress the disk appear here. You can get the freeware xmsdisk utility this trick requires from simtel.

These techniques absolutely do not work with Windows NT4, 2000, or XP. Despite the similar name, Windows NT/2000/XP are very different operating systems than Windows 9x. Believe it or not, they’re much more closely related to IBM’s OS/2 than they are to Windows 98. Since there is no DOS laying underneath it all, there’s no easy way to do the trickery that the bootable ramdisk tricks use. What these two tricks do is literally intercept the boot process, copy Windows into the ramdisk, then continue booting.

There’s a $99 piece of software called SuperSpeed that gives the NT-based operating systems this capability. I haven’t used it. I imagine it works using the same principle, hooking into the boot process and moving stuff around before booting continues.

The downside, no matter what OS you use, is the boot time. XP boots in seconds, and my book talks about the trickery necessary to get 95 and 98 to boot in 30 seconds or less. But any time you’re moving a few hundred megs or–yikes–a gig or two of data off a disk into a ramdisk, the boot process is going to end up taking minutes instead.

Is it worth it? For some people, yes. It’s nice to have applications load instantly. A lot of things aren’t CPU intensive. You spend more time waiting for your productivity apps to load than you do waiting for them to do anything. Web browsing and e-mail are generally more bandwidth- and disk-intensive than they are CPU-intensive (although CSS seems determined to change that).

But a lot of games aren’t especially disk-intensive, with the possible exception of when they’re loading a new level. So loading the flavor-of-the-week FPS game into a ramdisk isn’t going to speed it up very much.

Of course, XP is far, far more stable than 98. Windows 9x’s lack of stability absolutely drives me up the wall, and for that matter, I don’t think 2000 or XP are as stable as they should be. Given the choice between XP or 98 in a ramdisk, I’d go for XP, with or without speedup utilities.

I’ve made my choice. As I write, I’m sitting in front of a laptop running 2000 (it’s VPNed into work so I can keep an eye on tape backup jobs) and a desktop PC running Linux. I have a 400 MHz Celeron with Windows 98 on it, but it’s the last Win9x box I have (I think I had 4 at one point when I was writing the aforementioned book). Sometimes I use it to play Baseball Mogul and Railroad Tycoon. Right now it doesn’t even have a keyboard or monitor connected to it.

I guess in a way it feels like hypocrisy, but I wrote the first couple of chapters of that book with a word processor running in Red Hat Linux 5.2 (much to my editor’s chagrin), so I started down that path a long, long time ago.

Heading back to Way Back When for a day

Someone I know house-sat this weekend for a couple who are slightly older than my parents. Their youngest daughter, from what I could tell, is about my age, and they have two older daughters. All are out of the house.
It was like walking into a time warp in a lot of ways. There’s an old Zenith console TV in the living room. My aunt and uncle had one very similar to it when I was in grade school, and it spent several years in the basement after it lost its job in the family room. First there was an Atari 2600 connected to it, and later a Nintendo Entertainment System. My cousin and I used to spend hours playing Pole Position and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out and various baseball games down there.

The living room housed a modern JVC TV, armed with a modern Sony DVD player and RCA VCR. But in the other corner was a stereo. The Radio Shack Special 8-track player was the stereotypical 1970s/early 1980s brushed metal look, as was the graphic equalizer. The tuner was also a Radio Shack special, styled in that mid-1980s wanna-be futuristic style. If you lived through that time period, you probably know what I’m talking about. But if you’re much younger than me, you’re probably shrugging your shoulders. Beneath it was a Panasonic single-disc CD player in that same style, and a Pioneer dual tape deck. A very nice pair of Fisher speakers finished it off. It was definitely a setup that would have turned heads 17 years ago. (I have to wonder if the Fishers might not have been added later.)

It seems like there are only two genres of music capable of being emitted by an 8-track player. Once genre includes Led Zeppelin and Rush. The other includes John Denver, Rod Stewart, Barry Manilow and The Carpenters. Their collection was on the latter side, which sent my curiosity scurrying off elsewhere.

But I had to try out that stereo. I kind of like The Carpenters, but I have to be in the mood for them, and I’ve heard enough John Denver and Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow to last me forever. So I checked out the CDs. Their CD collection was an interesting mix, but with a good selection of contemporary Christian (albeit mostly pretty conservative contemporary Christian). I popped in a CD from Big Tent Revival. I don’t remember the title, but the disc was from 1995 and featured the song “Two Sets of Joneses,” which I still hear occasionally on contemporary Christian radio today.

About three measures into the disc, I understood why they hadn’t replaced that setup with something newer. It blew my mind. I heard a stereo that sounded like that once. In 1983, we moved to Farmington, Mo., which was at the time a small town of probably around 6,000. We lived on one side of the street. Our neighbor across the street owned the other side of the street. Any of you who’ve lived in small midwestern towns know what I mean when I say he owned the town.

Well, in addition to owning the biggest restaurant and catering business and tool rental business in town and a gas station, he also owned a mind-blowing stereo system. Hearing this one took me back.

I almost said they don’t make them like that anymore. Actually they do still make stereo equipment like that, and it costs every bit as much today as it cost in 1985.

And Big Tent Revival sounded good. If I’m ever out and see that disc, it’s mine.

Upstairs in one of the bedrooms, I spied a bookshelf. It was stocked with books of Peanuts cartoons, but also tons and tons of books I remember reading in grade school. Books by the likes of Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume, and books by other people that I remember reading 15 or even 20 years ago. The only things I didn’t remember seeing were S.E. Hinton and Paul Zindel, but as I recall, those books hit me so hard at such a period in my life that I didn’t leave those books at home. Or maybe Hinton and Zindel were a guy thing. I’m not sure. But seeing some of the names that made me want to be a writer, and being reminded of some of the others, well, it really took me back.

Next to that bookshelf was a lamp. Normally there’s nothing special about a lamp, but this lamp was made from a phone. This reminded me of my dad, because Dad went through a phase in life where there were exactly two kinds of things in this world: Things you could make a lamp from, and things you couldn’t make a lamp from. Well, this was a standard-issue wall-mount rotary phone from the pre-breakup AT&T Monopoly days. One just like it hung in my aunt and uncle’s kitchen well into the 1980s.

The computer was modern; a Gateway Pentium 4 running Windows Me. It desperately needed optimizing, as my Celeron-400 running Win98 runs circles around it. Note to self: The people who think Optimizing Windows was unnecessary have never seriously used a computer. But I behaved.

I don’t even know why I’m writing about this stuff. I just thought it was so cool.

But I remember long ago I wrote a column in my student newspaper (I’d link to it but it’s not in the Wayback Machine), which was titled simply “Retro-Inactive.” Basically it blasted retro night, calling it something that people use to evoke their past because their present is too miserable to be bearable.

Then I considered the present. Then I thought about the 1980s. We had problems in the 1980s, but they were all overshadowed by one big one–the Soviet Union–that kept most of us from even noticing the others. We had one big problem and by George, we solved it.

So I conceded that given the choice between living in the ’90s or living in the ’80s, well, the ’80s sure were a nice place to visit. Just don’t expect me to live there.

I’m sure people older than me have similar feelings about the ’70s, the ’60s, the ’50s, and every other previous decade.

And I guess I was just due for a visit.

Good news for Optimizing Windows fans

O’Reilly wants to release my 1999 book, Optimizing Windows for Games, Graphics, and Multimedia , under an open content-style license. I’d love to see the thing released so it can gain widespread distribution, which it never really had.
The forms for me to sign are in the mail. My understanding of the license is that it permits changes, so long as the original author and publisher are cited. This will give me the freedom to make a few changes I’ve wanted to make since the book’s initial release, which I intend to take advantage of. I won’t spend months rewriting the manuscript, but I would like to incorporate some corrections I accumulated over the past three and a half years. Not to mention the tools that have changed version numbers since then.

I’m excited at the possibility. I’ll be sure to post an update once I know something. More and more obsolete technical books are getting released in some form or another, and this is a very good thing.

Windows potpourri

I’ll give some random Windows tips tonight, since it’s getting late and I don’t really want to think. So here’s some stuff I’ve been putting off. So let’s talk utilities and troubleshooting.
Utilities first. Utilities are more fun. So let’s talk about a pair of reader submissions, from Bryan Welch.

Proxomitron. Bryan wondered if I’d ever heard of it because I’d never mentioned it. I’m sure I mentioned it on my page at editthispage.com because I ran Proxomitron for a couple of years. Proxomitron is a freeware proxy server that blocks ads, Javascript, cookies, and just about anything else undesirable. I’ve found that these days I get everything I need from Mozilla–it blocks popups just fine, and I can right-click and pick “Block images from this server” when I run across an objectionable ad, and of course I have GIF animation turned off and Flash not installed. That works for me, and it saves me memory and CPU time.

But if you want more than Mozilla gives you off the shelf, Proxomitron will give it to you. I used to recommend it wholeheartedly. I haven’t looked at a recent version of it but I’d be shocked if it’s changed much. If any of that interests you, I’m sure you’ve already run off to download it. It runs on any version of Windows from Win95 on.

98lite. Most of my readers run Windows 2000 or XP at this point, but about 20% of you are still running Win98 or WinMe. If you want to get a little extra speed, download and run 98lite to remove Internet Explorer and other not-quite-optional-but-mostly-useless cruft. It’s been pretty well established that Windows 9x runs 20-25% faster with IE gone. That’s more improvement than you’ll get from overclocking your CPU. Or from any single hardware upgrade, in most cases.

If you need IE, 98lite can still help you–it can break the desktop integration and speed things up for you, just not as much.

If you’re still running 98, I highly recommend it. How much so? When I was writing Optimizing Windows, Shane Brooks probably would have given me a copy of it, on the theory that its mention in a book would cause at least sales he wouldn’t get otherwise. I mentioned it (I think I dedicated half a chapter to it), but I didn’t ask him for one. I registered the thing. If I liked it enough to pay for it when I probably didn’t have to, that ought to say something.

Troubleshooting. Let’s talk about troubleshooting Windows 2000 and XP.

Weird BSODs in Premiere under Windows 2000. I haven’t completely figured out the pattern yet, but my video editing computer gets really unstable when the disk gets jammed. A power play at church forced me to “fork” my new video–my church gets its edited, censored, changed-for-the-sake-of-change version (pick one) while everyone else gets the slightly longer how-the-guy-with-the-journalism-degree-intended-it version. Re-saving a second project filled up nearly all available disk space and the machine started bluescreening left and right. After I’d done some cleanup last week and freed up over a gig on all my drives, and then defragmented, it had been rock solid.

So if you run Premiere and it seems less than stable, try freeing up some disk space and defragmenting. It seems to be a whole lot more picky than any other app I’ve ever seen. I suspect it’s Premiere that’s picky about disk space and one or more of the video codecs that’s picky about fragmentation. But if you’re like me, you don’t really care which of them is causing the BSODs, you just want it to stop.

Spontaneous, continuous Explorer crashes in Windows 2000. Yeah, the same machine was doing that too. I finally traced the problem to a corrupt file on my desktop. I don’t know which file. I found a mysterious file called settings.ini or something similar. I don’t know if deleting that was what got me going again or if it was some other file. But if Explorer keeps killing itself off on you and restarting and you can’t figure out why, try opening a command prompt, CD’ing to your desktop, and deleting everything you find. (I found I had the same problem if I opened the desktop directory window in Explorer while logged on as a different user, which was how I stumbled across the command line trick.)

I can’t say I’ve ever seen this kind of behavior before. First I thought I had a virus. Then I thought I had a corrupt system file somewhere. I’m glad the problem turned out to have a simple cure, but I wish I’d found that out before I did that reinstall and that lengthy virus scan…

Defragging jammed drives in Windows 2000 and XP. If you don’t have 15% free space available to Defrag (and how it defines “available” seems to be one of the great mysteries of the 21st century), it’ll complain and not do as good of a job as it should. In a pinch, run it anyway. Then run it again. Often, the available free space will climb slightly. You’ll probably never get the drive completely defragmented but you should be able to improve it at least slightly.

Self publishing to success

There was a thread on Slashdot on Friday about self-publishing, the result of a review of a self-published novel. I found it pretty interesting.
People complained about the price of the book. I looked at Xlibris’ pricing. Had they published Optimizing Windows, it would have sold for about $4 less than it did.

People talked about self-publishing as a sign of poor quality. Unfortunately, anything is a sign of poor quality. If it’s published by a publishing house, marketing is paramount, rather than quality. Don’t listen to the publishers who claim they think about quality and nothing else. It’s a lie. Some publishers are worse than others. There are a lot of publishers I just won’t buy a book from, period. There are a lot of authors I won’t buy a book from, period. (And don’t bother trying to give their books to me either; I don’t want the other books on my bookshelves to look bad by association.)

The author of the book complained about Xlibris’ pricing being designed to make money off the author rather than the readers. That’s true of every self-publishing company. To a degree that’s true of the big publishing houses too. The terms of places like iUniverse and Wildside may be more favorable.

The author of the book complained that he made $2 per copy of the book. If I remember right, my royalties for Optimizing Windows, had everything gone well, would have worked out to about $1.75 per copy. And that’s actually not bad. Some of the authors of Dummies books make 25 cents per copy. The hope is that they can make it up in volume. Sometimes that happens and sometimes it doesn’t. If your name is Andy Rathbone and your book is titled Windows [whatever] for Dummies, you’re going to sell a million copies so even if you only get 25 cents per book it’s worth your while to do it. Though I’m pretty sure Andy Rathbone gets better terms than that.

While Optimizing Windows didn’t sell terribly well, it outsold some of the Dummies books, including some written by authors who were more established than me.

There’s a misconception out there that writers are rich. Writing books isn’t like big-league baseball, where the minimum salary is more than $200,000 and you get a minimum of three months off (and that’s assuming you’re a pitcher or a catcher and went to the World Series). You get an advance and you write your manuscript. Hopefully the advance is enough to pay your bills while you write, or you have money from somewhere else. The advance is taxable income. You’re self-employed. So the government’s going to take half of it. Some creative financing and tax planning can soften that blow a little.

Authors pay that advance back in the form of deferred royalties. Once a book sells enough copies that royalties cover the advance, the author starts getting checks every quarter. But when you pay $25 for a book, the author’s getting a small percentage of it. It might be as low as 25 cents. If it’s five bucks, that’s really high. Paper isn’t cheap and presses aren’t cheap, so most of what you’re paying for is the printing cost. The publisher and retailer make a few bucks and the author makes a couple of bucks.

I met an author last month who’s sold more than half a million books. He drives a Hyundai.

An awful lot of authors could make more money doing something else for a living. Those who choose to make a living writing are doing it for prestige or independece or enjoyment, much more so than for the money.

So I’m not convinced that self-publishing–especially print-on-demand self-publishing with little or no up-front cost–is a bad idea. Now that’s not to say I’m going to run out and self-publish immediately. But the thought’s crossed my mind a few times, yes. And if I had enough material already written for one reason or another to make up about half of a book (the half-book I wrote two years ago about Linux doesn’t qualify–I’d have to buy back the rights to parts of it), I’d probably write the other half and do it, for exactly the same reason that some musicians choose to self-publish.

I’m in debt

It’s official. I’m a debtholder.
And a homeowner.

And after the brouhaha around my downpayment, I understand why my mom’s whole side of the family hates banks. It’s my money! Not yours! Gimme!

So here’s what I learned:

1. Banks don’t talk to each other. That’s fraternizing with the enemy.

2. In this age of computer automation, it can–and will–still take days for a check to clear. Give your brain-dead financial institution a week to sort it out. Don’t count on them getting into the 20th century before your closing date. (Yes, I am aware that it’s now the 21st century.)

3. Try to keep your money in the same institution as your family members, just in case they need to quickly loan you what you put in limbo by writing a check (ha ha!). You know that computer system it refuses to use to quickly transfer money to and from other banks? It will use it to at least check account balances and verify that the money you say is there really is there.

4. Keep as little of your money as possible in banks. My stockbroker/money manager/whatever-you-want-to-call-him gets money to me faster than my banks do. And he beats the tar out of the interest rates a bank pays.

5. You say it’s your money? Possession’s 9/10 of the law, pal.

But anyway, that’s over. I signed my name a few dozen times and around 8 pm I got a key. I drove over. I had a few things with me.

My mom wanted to know what the first thing I’d bring in was. Well, I figure you’ve got two hands. So, since I’m the greatest writer who ever lived, I brought a bronzed copy of my book, Optimizing Windows, and the Nov. 1991 issue of Compute, which contained the first published article I got paid for.

Actually, several of my friends are under orders to shoot to kill if I ever do anything like that. And, for the record, the greatest writer who ever lived was F. Scott Fitzgerald.

So what’d I really bring in?

In one hand I brought in a pewter cross I received on March 18, 1999, the day my membership became official at my current church. (But its main significance is it’s the only wall-hanging cross I have.) I hung it above the fireplace. In the other hand, I brought a framed copy of my dad’s senior picture. I set that on the mantle.

Then I brought in some old stuff. I brought in the sign that hung outside my grandfather’s office (“Dr. Ralph C. Farquhar Jr., Osteopath”), and I brought in a box. The contents of the box:

An apothecary that had belonged to my grandfather
A medical instrument that had belonged to my grandfather (whatever that thing’s called that he uses to look in your ears)
My great-grandfather’s microscope
Dad’s camera (a Minolta) and a couple of Kodak lenses
Dad’s wallet
A can of Farquhar’s Texas-Style BBQ Seasoning

I arranged those on the mantle as well. They look good there.

Unfortunately, since my dad was a radiologist, it’s hard to find anything that symbolizes what he did for a living. But soon I’ll be getting the OMT table that had belonged to Dr. Ralph and then to my dad. OMT is an osteopathic practice similar to what chiropractors do. Dad used to give OMT treatments to his friends after work in our basement. So the OMT table is going in the basement. Then, this house will be home.