Quick Hits

It’s hot up in here.

1. Author T. K. Kenyon (Rabid) is auctioning off the right to name a character in his next novel. It’s a benefit for the Polaris Project, an intriguing organization I’ve never heard of before. Kenyon’s auction is already up to $76.00, which seems like a bargain with two days left to go.

2. Man! I wish I could go to this. It’s the annual Steinbeck Festival in the author’s hometown of Salinas, California. Have some grapes of wrath for me, folks. And somebody out there can enter a contest sponsored by Abe Books and win a free trip to Steinbeck country.

3. Dan Wickett’s been running an E-Panel of literary bloggers that’s now up to 55 participants, and I’m glad to be one of them. Jessica thought she was the last to link to it, but actually I am the last to link to it.

4. Plato and a Platypus, reviewed by Nancy Yanes Hoffman.

5. So, there’s this meme going around, and I’ve been tagged for the second time. But the first time it came around I was supposed to name five things about me (here they are, or were, or are). This time I’m supposed to name eight things, and then tag eight other people to do the same, but since I already did five I figure I only need three more. So, okay, let’s do this. Three more things:

• I once had tickets to the David Letterman show, which was filmed every day at 5:30 a few blocks from where I worked in the Time-Life Building. I was standing in line when a guy with a clipboard asked me to be the guy who talks to Dave on the show during one of the opening segments. I thought about it for a moment. I had had a very hard day at work and had been just looking forward to sitting back and watching the show get taped. I also didn’t like the shirt I was wearing. So I told him no, I’d rather not. He was very surprised, and tried to talk me into changing my mind. Several people around me volunteered to go in my place, but the guy walked off in a huff and picked somebody else in a different part of the line. The moral of this story? I’m happy to be on TV, but I’m sure as hell not going to be somebody else’s straight man.

• I’ve written a lot about my years as a software developer for media companies, music companies and Wall Street banks, but I don’t think I’ve ever told you about my earlier years in the tech business, when I was just out of college and working as a software developer for Robotic Vision Systems, a robotics firm on Long Island. For my first couple of years there I wrote C and assembly language programs to manipulate industrial robots (we mainly used the Cincinnati Milacron model), and then I spent three years on a visual feature extraction system in C++ for a circuit board inspection assembly line which we eventually installed at an upstate IBM plant. This work could be loosely classified as “artificial intelligence”, though our methods were rather prosaic and practical. I worked at Robotic Vision Systems for five years, and I sometimes wonder if part of my weird personality can be explained by the fact that I once spent five years communing with robots, and trying to make them think the way I wanted them to think.

• My dirty little secret as a lit-blogger: I really don’t enjoy reading. I just love literature. This is probably why I hate long books.

Okay, and now I have to tag three people. Here they are: my darling fiance Caryn, Carolyn Kellogg of Pinky’s Paperhaus and Marydell of Bookblog.

4 Responses

  1. LettermanThey couldn’t just

    They couldn’t just pick any volunteer. They needed a replacement for Larry “Bud” Melman.

  2. isn’t it crazy…That
    isn’t it crazy…

    That “Steinbeck country” is now actually an attractive travel destination? (Salinas = McMansion magnet; Cannery Row = upscale tourist attraction.)

    I anxiously await the Upton Sinclair fantasy-camp packages, the Giovanni Verga timeshares…

  3. milacronI’ve been enjoying

    I’ve been enjoying your blog for nearly a year now and commenting occasionally, but I have to respond to this one.

    The thing is, my background might be somewhat similar to yours, I do software for a living (well as a manager now, whose best talent is holding a coffee cup). I worked in Cincinnati back around 1990 for Cincinnati Milacron. I wrote software for them in a big adventurous group who introduced C++ to the pocket protectorate Fortranites. A funny, perpetually smiling, and brilliant Vietnamese guy and I developed the computer language that plant engineers used to control the flexible manufacturing cell that Millacron sold (remember Synchron?). It was a great time, when C++ was so young it was still preprocessed C…

    Anyway, there is another funny connection with the things you mentioned in your blog to my time in Cincinnati. When I lived there my wife worked in a small wine and gourmet food store that was frequented by Marge Schott who bought her twice-weekly half gallon of Kamchatka vodka. One day my wife brought our dog Millie into the store. It just so happened the Marge introduced herself to Millie by letting Millie sniff her crotch. I always thought that would have made a great “my brush with greatness” segment on the Lettermen show.

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!