ESC!Webs Blogitorials

Sunday, January 30, 2005

It IS a small world after all

I got an e-mail from a past contributor this weekend who was having trouble corresponding with a small press chapbook publisher. It seems back in December a check for half the cost of publishing his chapbook was sent off to the publisher with the understanding that production would begin shortly after receiving it. Apparently final payment was due before delivery.

The problem came when “Darrin” wanted to follow up on the progress of his work. After numerous e-mails to the publisher with no reply, he decided to write to me to see if I had any thoughts about how to approach the situation. Specifically he wondered if he was ever going to see his money again. A fair concern, even though at this point the check had not yet been cashed.

Being small press myself, and not having a financial interest in the situation, I took the side of the small publisher offering a number of scenarios that could have come into play.

Playing “devil's advocate” I explained to Darrin that operating a small press is unlike larger publishers in that should something happen to the owner of the press; car accident, prolonged illness or even ... death, in all likelihood you will not get your piece published any time soon ... if ever. At the very least it would slow things up considerably. After all, unless you believe in the afterlife and the whole business about spirits needed to complete unfinished business before retreating through the great white tunnel, it's just not gonna happen.

But “give 'em a break” was my advice. Three months minimum regardless of what they say in their guidelines. It's amazing how time flies. I would venture to guess that most small presses are "hobbies" ... meaning, they're not the primary source of income for the person putting it all together. If it's like ESC!, well, I'm IT baby ... the whole enchilada. I list a few names in the masthead because they're people who will read for me when I need an honest and objective opinion or provide quick layout help but, as for real help? Don't have it. As for income, I'm waaaaaay in the hole with ESC! as you no doubt know from reading my last editorial (ESC! Magazine, V8N2).

In other words, I said, don't get mad at someone who's doing something more as a labor of love than for money.

Seeing that only four weeks or so had passed since the check was mailed I said, “Darrin, you need to give it a bit more time in case the check hasn't been received yet. Try to follow up with other authors he's published to see if they've had similar experiences. Find out the procedure for canceling your check should your worst fears become reality.” Keep in mind that I was shooting from the hip when I wrote that. I don't know this publisher and it HAD only been about four weeks since the check was sent so I advised ... give it some more time.

It was a Saturday and I had a few minutes and thought I'd look up the publisher myself because the name seemed vaguely familiar. After a quick Google search, I found the homepage and checked out some of the other titles he'd published.

Browse. Browse. Browse.... Hey! Bingo!

It turns out a couple of the chapbooks published by this small press were by ANOTHER contributor to ESC! Magazine! In an odd twist of fortune, “William”, the other writer, and I had been trading e-mails just that morning, so I fired off a quick question as part of my reply to another issue: “What's up with this place? Is this normal?”

Within minutes I had the answer -- and validation for my reluctance to hang the guy without knowing the full story. It seems there HAD been an accident in his family recently and, additionally, his second child had just been born! Good gracious but anyone would fall behind in that situation! Not only that, William personally knew the publisher and was willing to promise on his behalf that the chapbook would get published!

Without passing along all the details, I immediately forwarded the reply to Darrin who had, during the time this was happening – all of 15 minutes or so, already gotten a reply and explanation from the publisher himself! Now everybody was happy and I was left amazed that, though none of us had ever met face to face, in a matter of an hour or so, we were able to find an answer to Darrin's problem, verify the reputation of the small press publisher and, most amazingly, I was the conduit for this to happen. It was, after all, through Darrin and William's association with ESC! ... with me ... that we were able to resolve the issue for Darrin as quickly as we did.

That sounds a little “pat-on-the-backish” but when I brought ESC! Magazine to the Internet back in 2000, that is what I envisioned happening. I want our website to be a place where writers can congregate (in the forums) and share information about small press publishers and magazines they like (or to be wary of), their experiences as writers and the struggles they face as well as anything else they'd like to discuss.

ESC! Magazine is for all writers but most of all, the aspiring writer. One who, with feedback, can discover that, yes, his writing can “move someone to an emotional response ... how satisfying that feeling is ... to be able to communicate in such a way that elicits an emotional response from the reader.” That's a direct quote from another contributor. One who, since last Summer, has found great solace in his writing. One who first found his voice in ESC!

That is what ESC! Magazine is all about.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


Blogging is handled so differently by those who do it. Some use it to keep a daily journal of their thoughts and experiences, some post random silly things they find or hear about in their daily travels and some use it as a news outlet.

I guess the ESC! Magazine Blogitorials are a little of all those things. You will find personal entries from time to time, you will find news items I think might be of interest to others and you'll find experiences from my life that seem -- at the time anyway -- relevant to ESC! Magazine or to the writing life.

You just won't find entries every day.


If you like to keep up on all things ESC! but don't have the time to check our blog webpage all the time, be sure to add our ESC! Atom Site Feed link at the right to your favorite RSS/Feed reader (I prefer Mozilla Thunderbird or Mozilla Firefox) and let the software inform you when I've posted a new entry!

Monday, January 17, 2005

Reflections on Dr. King

I received a short e-mail from my Dad today and, with his permission, I'd like to share it with you:
Hi everyone,

It seems only right to take a few minutes to reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King on his birthday, especially since it is a day off for me.

As a child, I attended a little Baptist church on the South Side of Chicago. In the late 1950s, our church youth group was invited to attend a service at the Woodlawn Baptist Church, a few miles away, where Rev. King was to preach. At that time, Martin Luther King was a national civil rights leader, but not yet an international icon. (That came after his 1959 month-long visit with Indian Prime Minister Nehru and many of Gandhi's followers and his 1963 March on Washington.) The young people of the (Black) Woodlawn Baptist Church and my (white) church were seated together in the front pews. Reverend King addressed the congregation, not in the ringing tones of his "I Have a Dream" speech, nor in the rousing "call and response" style, but in a quiet, yet powerful voice full of deep conviction. He often focused his warm, kind eyes on the racially mixed group of young people close to him when he spoke of brotherhood, peace, love, and hope for the future. I may have been thirteen of fourteen at the time, but I will never forget those eyes and that voice.

If Martin Luther King had lived, would his dream have come true? It's hard to say; sometimes people become larger in death than they were in life. Still, many people credit the world-wide reaction to King's March on Washington and "I Have a Dream" speech with passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the signing of which he attended. Things are far from perfect today, but racial segregation is no longer the law in the United States.

Dr. King was a Baptist minister. Like many other civil rights leaders, he used his pulpit to provide social, as well as spiritual guidance. He believed that we should live our values: Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not bear false witness, etc... Some say he was idealistic, a dreamer. Perhaps, but to reach a goal, we must first visualize it. King's vision went beyond race, to encompass a world of peace and justice. King's widow, Coretta Scott King, is quoted in an Associated Press article Sunday as saying, "Non-violence would work today, it would work 2,000 years from now, it would work 5,000 years from now."

Friday, January 14, 2005

Don't Throw That Old PC Away!

Most folks don't give a second thought to dumping their old TVs, small electronics and computer equipment in the trash.

They should.

Old equipment like monitors and computers contain heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic in them which, when thrown away, leech into the ground water poisoning us in the process.

Fortunately many states (like Illinois) have developed laws outlawing the dumping of CRTs and other electronics containing toxic substances but they haven't done anything to make it EASY for us to be responsible cititzens. At work I have piles of old electronic equipment (some still good) which I can't dispose of because there's simply no easy way to do so.

Last week I read about a new effort spearheaded by eBay that puts all the information needed to dispose of your equipment in one, easy-to-access site -- the Rethink Initiative.

Here is a description of the site in their own words:

"The Rethink Initiative brings together industry, government and environmental organizations to offer a fresh perspective and new answers to the challenge of e-waste.

"On this site you can find information, tools and solutions that make it easy – and even profitable – to find new users for idle computers and electronics, and responsibly recycle unwanted products."

Using this site, I can easily locate companies in my area that can help dispose of my broken equipment as well as use tools to perhaps make a little money selling the still usable stuff.

If you would like to learn more about their efforts, please visit:

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Ordered the Mac mini!

My daughter's computer is an old PowerMac 7600.

This was just fine for her basic educational software up until I finally drew a network cable to her room to get the computer on the Internet this last weekend. Not that her trusty old Mac doesn't hook up to the Internet just fine ... it does. Rather, once we got it online, I had the hardest time finding a modern web browser for OS9! You know, something that could handle Flash and all of the new HTML standards being used on sites these days.

I was able to download Opera for it, but gosh darn if it wasn't so slooooow on that old computer. Especially when a Flash site such as or was up. Dang near dragged that computer to its knees! I can't really blame Opera though. It's a great browser and I'd recommend it to anyone -- it's just an old computer.

Unfortunately there's no development of Mozilla or Firefox for OS9 -- only OSX. And Apple never developed Safari for OS9 that I know of, so that left me with one other option:

I gritted my teeth and downloaded IE 5.1 for the Mac. Yes, I know, in light of my recent rant, perhaps I shouldn't do that, but you should know that any product developed by Microsoft for the Mac is completely different than the similarly named product for the PC. It's two different development teams! This means you'll often find kick-ass features in the Mac versions you'd never find on Windows ... but I digress.

Anyway, that was working okay ... though still not overly fast.

In the mean time, Apple and Steve Jobs were getting ready to announce new products at MacWorld 2005 and it had been rumoured for a couple weeks that they were going to introduce a new, headless, Mac for $500. This was something that would be perfect for my daughter as the PowerMac is already headless (this means without a monitor, btw). So I could use the existing display and get her a new box for about $500! It's hard to buy a good USED Mac for that money that wouldn't be obsolete the day I get it, and a new one would be OSX capable as well. A new Mac would be powerful enough to last her a few years. As hard as it was to watch her slow screen, I had to wait and see what came out of Apple on Tuesday. (1/11)

All day at work I monitored the news sites to see what was being announced. iPod Shuffle? Great but not what I was after. OSX Tiger? Okay, knew about that already! This and that and the other thing until ... MAC Mini! Cool.

I spent a lot of time looking over the specs and comparing them to the eMac (their next lowest priced computer) and realized that the Mac mini really couldn't be beat! In my estimation what Apple did here was take the guts of the old "desk lamp" iMac of 2003 and slapped it in another box. But, still, what you end up with is a pretty powerful desktop computer that is 2" high and only 6.5" inches on a side. Pretty incredible.

After negotiating with my wife and checking to see if we really could budget it, I took the plunge and ordered one Tuesday night. Yes, we will need to save here and there to pay for it, but once our daughter has it, the benefits to her will pay for the machine with no problem. Being homeschooled, our daughter needs a good computer that won't turn her off because it's too slow. She needs a computer that will run the latest software. And having a computer that can occassionaly entertain her when the evening comes is a plus as well.

To tie in with my previous rant, my daughter needs a computer not prone to the latest viruses and worms plaguing the Windows world every day ... My daughter needs a Mac.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Buttons, Bumperstickers, Mugs, OH MY!

Wow, I'm pretty amazed at how well the buttons and bumper stickers are selling on my CafePress "ESC! Fun Stuff" page.

The phrase came from a phone conversation I had with my Dad shortly after the election in which he said "Cheer up, tomorrow is another day." And I replied, "Yeah, closer to the next election."

BAM! I had my slogan.

With a little guidance from my long time friend (and ESC! Contributor) Paul Tucker, I was able to come up with a design I was happy with and wanted to make a button out of. This was back in November.

Tomorrow's another day...closer to 2008 (Magnet)

Shortly after going online, I made my first sale November 17th. I was thrilled, of course, that someone actually wanted one of these, but what I found most fulfilling was that there were others who felt my sentiment resonated with them.

Since then I've sold a few buttons but mostly bumper stickers -- which is the biggest surprise to me. I guess folks want the largest audience possible to share their disgust with the way things turned out last November.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Figgy FUDding


Fear ... Uncertainty ... Doubt

When reading interviews with Microsoft officials beware the FUD. Much like this country's administration, Microsoft loves to smear the competition while playing up their own, inferior products.

What got my ire up this week, is an interview with Bill Gates about the state of Microsoft, the industry, competition, etc.

What amazed me most is the way Gates danced around every issue, making sure to plug a product when he had no other answer.

Here are some lowlights (speckled with my own comments) of the C|Net article which can, in its entirety, be found here.

CNET: One of the big phenomena of the year has been blogging. Has the growth surprised you?
BG: "Now, with blogs, you always have to be careful. The decay rate of 'I started and I stopped' or 'I started and nobody visited' is fairly high"

Comment: Yes, that's because Microsoft doesn't have any blogging products. Just wait until they release some of the stuff he talks about. It won't matter if the drop off rate is 100%, it will still be the best thing invented since the wheel - according to Microsoft that is.

RE Online Music:
BG: "Apple is doing things the way Apple does--where it's the Apple hardware and the Apple store, that's great for them. We're doing it the Windows way, where you've got things like this Creative Zen Micro, which sold out this holiday season."

Comment: Right. Apparently Gates is not aware that iTunes is available for Windows? So now I'm using Wintel hardware with Apple's service. Not what he means you say? How about Apple licensing the iPod to HP? To Motorola. Now they're just playing the same game MS does but in a more open format. I can load MP3's and AAC's on the iPod. What can you load on the Windows based device? WMA. This is Microsoft's prorietary format. Of course they want you using it.

Oh, and the Zen Sold Out? How many units was that Mr. Gates? How many iPods sold again? FUD

Gate's comment about Apple having only "three hits" in the past 20 years is a nice way to backhand Apple across the face without seeming like he's doing so. I think Microsoft would be thrilled to have hits like the Apple II, the Mac and the iPod instead of just ... Windows and Office. Seriously, that's only two hits by my count.

CNET: Other browsers are making market share gains. When does this become a problem or an issue for you guys?
BG: "So when people say Firefox is being downloaded onto people's systems, that's true, but IE is also on those systems."

Comment: IE CAN'T BE REMOVED. If it could, it sure as hell wouldn't be on MY system anymore. Microsoft has inextricably linked the browser to the OS which is what causes most of the problems for them. So your browser has a security hole in it? Well, now so does your operating system.

BG: "it's (Firefox) very easy to download."

Comment: Yes. Yes, it is. It's very small, easy to install and doesn't wreak havoc on your computer if something goes wrong or you want to uninstall it. So let's just stick with bloated and buggy IE ... shall we?

BG: "We need to keep IE the best. We need to innovate in IE, do more add-ons, do improvements. We have some very exciting plans there. Some percentage of users are going to try Firefox and IE side by side, and use the one that's best.

"So no big problem; it's not that people have stopped using IE, it's just we've got lots of good ideas that can match and move ahead.

"In terms of our agility to do things on the browser, people who underestimated us there in the past lived to regret that."

Comment: So why don't you do just that? Innovate! Create more add-ons! Do IMPROVEMENTS! The last thing added to IE was pop-up blocking and that's ONLY for Win XP Service Pack 2 folks. Otherwise the browser has remained untouched for 3 years! The rest of the world? Screw 'em!

He keeps talking about all the great ideas they have but doesn't say they're going to do anything about them. THEN he launches what he does best ... a threat. Personally I don't know anyone who's moved to Firefox and regretted it.

CNET: But some people have left because of security issues.
BG: "Well, no one invests more in security of their browser than what we do on IE."

Comment: Yes. Microsoft is big, has money and pays their developers gobs of cash. So naturally they would be the ones who "invest" more in security. The competition developing more secure browsers RIGHT NOW are investing very little because they are not paid or paid very little for the work they do and, yet, they're able to run circles around Microsoft in this area.

BG: "know that there are hundreds of very smart people who are constantly improving your browser and making sure that you're safe. And so with auto update and IE, you're getting the top security team and the quickest response team that there is anywhere."

Comment: Yes. Hundreds of smart people. No doubt they are very smart. But Firefox has THOUSANDS of very smart people working on it in some form or another. As far as quickest response team? Well, there's been a security hole in IE since before October 2004 and a patch for it was only just released this week. Let's see, that's 1, 2, 3, 4 ... ummm, how many weeks did that take? In the mean time... watch out!

For more of the Gates interview, click the link at the top of this entry. That's all my blood pressure can take today...

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

I Would Like MY Computer to SMELL Like a Yeti...

You've seen the commercial. How could you not?

"I would like my computer to sound like a Yeti! Aaaarrggghlllllllllllllllllllllllllll!!!"

Yes, that's about what I expect would happen should you ever decide that A*L is the right online service for you. Your computer will scream like a dying Yeti and attempt to spit the disc back out as you cram it down the poor beast's throat.

Anyway ... the point of their commercial is that they now offer anti-virus software for their users. Bravo! Err, except most A*L users are newbies who just purchased their computer and already have anti-virus software installed. So A*L can pat itself on the back on a national forum for giving users something they already have - though perhaps don't know they have. Which brings me to:

What will happen to the anti-virus software A*L passes out?

The software is a "separate download." It would go miles to solving the problem if they would make the software install as part of the package, but then again, they would be better served to build their product around a secure browser like Firefox instead of Internet Explorer, so that just goes to show where the mindset of the company is -- $$$$.

In my experience, most new Internet users - especially those coddled by A*L's "pretty picture" window to the Internet - have little idea how to download and install software. This is not a slam on newbies so much as a commentary on how little effort is put into training people the right way to work with their computers. Companies like A*L have the responsibility to teach their users the right way to use their service - especially for $25/month. Computers are not toasters. They're closer to cars in that they are extremely complex pieces of machinery that need to be cleaned, updated and used properly to get the most enjoyment out of them.

So here is my prediction as to what will happen to A*L's anti-virus software:

25% of their users will not be able to download it. Period.
20% of their users will somehow actually get the thing downloaded but then forget where they saved it. I've seen this happen more times that you'd think!
End USER: "I need help with this file I downloaded."
ME: "So you downloaded the file ... where did you download it to? You know, where did you save it?"
End USER: "Ummm, I don't know."
ME: "But it asked you where you wanted to save it. What folder did you pick?"
End USER: "I just hit enter. How am I supposed to know where it saved it?"

of their users will uninstall (read: "I just deleted the directory"-grrr!) the software because they don't like the look of the tray icon.
20% of their users will just click "continue using file anyway" whenever the anti-virus software warns them what they're about to do will be dangerous and destroy every file on their computer -- possibly even making it sound like a Yeti.
9% of their users will freeze at any warnings they get, shut down their computer, lock it in a closet with "666" painted on the door and never use it again. (Perhaps they're smarter than I give 'em credit for.)
1% of their users will NOT install the A*L anti-virus software, buy Frisk F-prot or Norton Anti-Virus instead, drop A*L as a provider, banish Internet Explorer from their computer in favor of Firefox, realize that's merely a round-about way of taking care of the real problem and buy a Mac instead.

Those are the SMART A*L users ... oh, wait ... they're not users anymore!

Saturday, January 01, 2005


How many bloggers begin their first post that way? "Welcome!" It may be uninspired, but it is appropriate. If you've never read ESC! Magazine before I'd like to welcome you to our publication and give a bit of insight into why I finally decided to enter the world of blogging.

For some time, I've encouraged others to create blogs as a means to express themselves in writing. Too often I'd hear from folks with things to say or writing to publish but with no outlet. No place to vent their anger, share their latest love poem or ... reveal their deepest secrets with complete anonymity -- if desired. You see, blogging is simply an digital-age version of the daily journal with the major exception that, if you choose to, you could share your thoughts with a few million new friends.

Here are a couple blogs from folks who've recently started up blogs and have a lot of good things to say:

So This is Janet's Blog

Temporary Trouble Spots

ESC! Magazine, being available in both print and electronic editions, keeps me busy even though I've recently reduced the number of annual issues to two from the four of years past. In addition I have the website and the forums where writers and artists can share news of their latest triumphs.

So why the blog?

This online journal will be different from the other mediums in that I won't necessarily talk about ESC!, writing or even the latest book I'm reading. More so, this blog will give me a place to put interesting links I've found, climb on my soapbox to rant about the latest evils coming out of Microsoft or just share my thoughts at the moment. For good or bad, this will be an opportunity to give the readers of ESC! a broader perspective of the man behind the magazine and maybe ... just maybe ... pick up a few new readers in the process.