Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Have you ever wished for a giant robot exoskeleton? With enough money, your wishes can come true.
  2. If you think that all the animals and plants in Australia want to kill you, you aren’t far wrong. Here’s a tree that makes people commit suicide.
  3. Fellow Harry Potter nerds and writers, here’s what a billion dollar outline looks like.
  4. And in case you don’t have enough nightmares in your life, check out the frilled shark.
  5. My wife and I are big fans of the show “White Collar”, but I didn’t think stuff like that really happened in real life. I was wrong.

Enjoy!

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What does it mean to be colorblind?

Plate4It shouldn’t come as any surprise to you that I am colorblind. Out of the 800+ posts I’ve written on this blog, I’ve mentioned it at least twice (Jokes at My Expense & I am colorblind in a color-coded Christmas wonderland). But for some people, it is still a novelty to learn of my minor disability.

For the lengthy scientific answer of what color blindness actually is, read up on this incredibly boring Wikipedia article. For the quick and dirty version, all you need to know is that eyeballs have rods and cones that allow us to perceive light and color differences. Colorblind folks have some messed up cones that make it impossible to differentiate between certain colors.

What it does not mean is that everything is a shade of gray (unless you have achromatopsia, but that doesn’t even really count since that is a failure to understand color differences not a failure to see them).

In fact, I would posit that aside from the obvious differences in color perception ability, color blindness is a meaningless condition. I mean, a big part of what I do everyday at work is create ads and other visuals to promote products, events and sales. Granted, I will occasionally ask a fully color-perceptive co-worker for verification of a specific color, but I make do pretty well on my own.

And in case you think that I’m just getting defensive, know this. Emerson Moser (distant relative?), one of the top crayon makers at Crayola revealed after 35 years in his job that he was colorblind. He only revealed it at his retirement. How crazy is that?

So what does it mean to be colorblind?

Not a colorful thing.

Chubby Bunny Deaths

From grade school through high school, I took my life in my hands semi-regularly, usually at church youth group events. I’ll blame it on peer pressure. Well, peer pressure and because we were instructed to do so by our youth group leaders. How?

Chubby Bunny.

marshmallowsThere is a game that is now banned in most thinking regions of the world called Chubby Bunny. If you don’t remember playing this game as a youngster (possibly because you suffer from memory lapses as a result of playing the game in question), let me explain it to you.

Step 1 – Put a marshmallow in  your mouth.

Step 2 – Say “Chubby Bunny” as articulately as possible.

Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until you can no longer be understood, you lose any of the marshmallows, or you die.

But has anyone really died from playing this childhood game? According to Snopes.com, yes. At least two people, in fact.

In 1999, 12-year-old Catherine “Casey” Fish met a sugary end during the Care Fair at Hoffman Elementary school outside Chicago. Had she waited until the authorized time for the Chubby Bunny competition to begin, she may have lived. Instead, she stuck four marshmallows in her mouth while the class supervisor was out of the room. By the time someone got help, it was too late.

But that was just a kid who wasn’t listening to the rules, right? That would never happen to someone who should know better.

Oops. It totally did. In 2006, 32-year-old Janet Rudd’s final sugar rush happened in London, Ontario during a game at the fair.

And those are only the reported Chubby Bunny deaths. Who knows how many go unreported everyday?

Let’s talk straight for a minute. Stuffing marshmallows into your gob probably isn’t the safest thing that you can do in life. So should we stop people from playing it at parties and such? I don’t know. I don’t think kids should be coerced into playing it as I was when I was young, but I don’t think the same rules should apply for adults. People do dumb things everyday and if an adult wants to play Russian Roulette with a mouthful of puffed sugar, I’m not going to stop them. I just hope they’ll act responsibly and know when to give up.

For that matter, I wonder what dumb things I do everyday that are analogous to playing Chubby Bunny. At what point should I give up before I get myself killed or worse? I guess I’ll just trudge on in my ignorance. That’s probably best.

Anyway, I won’t be playing Chubby Bunny.

The Glamorous Jobs of Parenthood: Vomit Patrol

Our eldest has hit another milestone in her life: Stomach Flu!

yellow_bucketNot that I think that we had the worse end of the stick, but being a parent to a sick child is no fun. When the most you can do is hold their hair out of their face while they’re emptying their little stomachs, you are virtually helpless. Unfortunately, aside from keeping them hydrated and comfortable, some diseases just need to run their course.

So is there nothing that we can do?

Well, there are always the basics. The morning after the great upheaval started, I went to the store for stomach flu supplies. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, these are them:

  • Vernor’s Ginger Ale (to be served warm, of course)
  • Saltines
  • Life Cereal
  • Pedialyte Kid’s Drink
  • and Jello

One other thing that I didn’t need to get at the store because we already had it on tap was water.

The weekend passed in a rush of bucket emptying, mouth rinsing, and pbskids.org watching (they have some great shows on there for kids).

Our kids have gotten colds before, so we know the joys of runny noses, coughing, and general crankiness, but this was our first time through the throw-up trials. I think we did pretty good, because after a rough weekend, she seems to be feeling better and eating normally again. And most importantly, keeping it down.

The best part? So far, our youngest hasn’t shown any symptoms of having picked up the stomach bug.

So, fellow parents, what do you do to treat the stomach flu? What did your own parents do for you when you were a kid?

I am a Bookstore Tour Guide.

baker_book_house

I recently had the opportunity to lead a group of intrepid high school students on an educational tour of Baker Book House, the indie Christian bookstore that I’ve called home for the last decade or so. I had that opportunity because the store was approached by a teacher of one of Grand Rapids Christian High School’s Winterim courses on the publishing industry. The teacher, Kim Childress, is not a full-time teacher as such, but a person who has experience in the publishing industry who was simply teaching a two-week course.

In the the initial email that Kim sent to the store, she asked if we could take the kids around and tell them a bit about the retail side of the publishing industry. Specifically:

  • How do we get books from publishers?
  • What are the differences between ABA bookstores and CBA bookstores?
  • What are the differences between indie bookstores and chains like Barnes & Noble?
  • And what is the importance of a bookstore relationship to a writer of books?

They were great questions and between talking about the history of Baker Book House and answering these questions, the tour took about two hours. Perhaps I was a bit long-winded. On the upside, I’m going to answer some of these same questions here and it should take less than two hours for you to read them.

How do we get books from publishers?

Bookstores either buy directly from publishers or we get product from distributors. Publishers create the books in-house and they often have a sales team that calls on larger accounts. Distributors cater to the needs smaller bookstores and are repositories for many publishers, but because they do not create the books themselves, they are not usually able to offer as great a discount as publishers. Sometimes, we get called on by independent sales representatives who sell products from many publishers.

The meeting with sales reps goes something like this. After a polite amount of small talk, the sales rep will open a catalog of products that will be released in the near future (from one month to six months in the future, usually). On each title, a sales rep will have a recommended quantity that they think your bookstore should buy. Discounts are usually offered on graduated system with the greatest discount given for the most products ordered. The recommended quantities are based on a combination of past sales of similar products and wishful thinking. The bookstore’s buyer must be able to realistically gauge their customer’s interest in these titles in order to bring in sufficient (but not excessive) supply at the best discount possible.

The sales rep will enter the order along with the special terms of the purchase (free shipping, 60-day payment terms, etc.). The buyer for the bookstore will take the order and create a purchase order for the products so that it can be received when it is shipped from the publisher. Once the book hits the bookshelves, they will usually stay there for about six months before they get returned to the publisher based on how they sold. In an ideal world, the buyer will not need to return any books because they will have bought the right amount at the beginning, but the world is not perfect in that way.

As an extra bit of information, our bookstore does a thriving trade in bargain (also known as “remainder”) books. These are books that have been on some store’s bookshelf, but did not sell there, so they were returned to the publisher. The publisher cannot sell them as brand new goods, so they mark them on the bottom page edge of the book and sell them at a steep discount to bargain book buyers. That’s why our store may have the same title at full-price on the bookshelf in one part of the store as well as for 60% off in our bargain department and with little noticeable difference between them.

What are the differences between ABA bookstores and CBA bookstores?

First, it would probably help to understand that ABA stands for the American Booksellers Association and CBA stands for the Christian Booksellers Association. As such, there are probably certain philosophical differences between the two types of stores. But for a practical answer, the difference is largely one of selection.

ABA stores offer a wide selection of books from all publishers. CBA stores offer a narrow selection from specifically Christian publishers. This is not exclusive by any means, as some CBA stores (like Baker Book House) offer some mainstream, family friendly products that are available in ABA stores. But the majority of the product that CBA stores carry is going to be religious in nature.

What are the differences between indie bookstores and chains?

At chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Family Christian Stores, buying decisions happen on a corporate level and represent all of the stores within that chain. As such, the selection at one chain bookstore is going to be virtually identical to others within that chain. As in any corporate situation, decisions take time and even more time to filter down into the bookstores themselves.

Indie bookstores can operate without this corporate red tape, thus they are much quicker to respond to the needs of customers. If a buying trend emerges, chains may get a better discount on the product, but indies are more able to get it into their stores first. So it is most a battle between buying power and agility.

And what is the importance of a bookstore relationship to a writer of books?

Many writers, when not holed up in their homes, can be found writing in coffee shops. But the wisest writers write in bookstores. Or, at the very least, are frequent shoppers at bookstores. Aside from the simple inspiration of being surrounded by other published works, writers need to cultivate a relationship with a bookstore for research reasons as well.

You see, in the manuscript proposal step in getting your writing published, publishers want to see a list of your book’s competition. They need to know if what you are writing is needed in the marketplace, that your book fits in with the other books that they publish, and that you are capable of doing some simple marketing homework in order to promote your own book. The book buyer at the local bookstore will have all of this knowledge on hand. In order to sell books, they know the current needs as well as the books that might be a writer’s competition.

And when your book is published, they can help you promote it with events and sales.

Bookstores are also great places to connect with other writers. Perhaps even form writers’ group that will amplify the success and resources of its members.

So that’s pretty much what I told the high school students. And now that I’ve read over this post, I wouldn’t be surprised if it took as long to read as the original tour did.

Sorry about that. But hey, knowledge is power! Right?

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Other resources for those curious about the publishing industry:

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. On Wednesday, I talked about the Cannibal of Rotenburg, but even more terrifying to me than the idea of being eaten is what happened to this man.
  2. Speaking of frightening things, here are some pants that might scare your own off.
  3. Have you ever looked at a car with racing stripes and thought, “Those stripes don’t help it go any faster so why are they there?” Believe it or not, racing stripes served a purpose.
  4. I’ve mentioned it before, but this article brought it back to mind. The death of physical books is greatly exaggerated. In fact, real books are on the rise.
  5. But is it possible that real books are making a comeback specifically because of the electronic screens that people stare at all day long? Maybe.

Enjoy!