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Eating iPads February 5, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, education, food, gummint, ideas, inventions, iPad, iPhone, VIPub, web & computers, writing.

The restaurant business operates on razor-thin profits. I ran a big restaurant for a while and we sported the best profit in the chain at a bit over 1%. That took constant vigilance and attention to who was hired, especially at waiter and waitress (this was back in the day when they were called that and not some PC variant like server, which can apply to a computer as easily.)

The paper today told of a NC restaurant equipping its servers with iPads. If the customer can’t decide, a picture of the food comes up (something that I have always felt is counter productive. There’s a reason food ads on TV use Elmer’s glue for milk, varnish on meat and other ugly things to mimic food–real food looks terrible photographed). I suppose this is a way to get past a language barrier, but the idea was to broaden the menu and give the potential feaster a hint as to which wine went best with that hot dog. (Hint:1787 Lafite claret is always a good choice.) The server touch screens the boxes, then submits the order via the iPad. No messy written checks.

It wasn’t stated but there might be another benefit other than using the iPad as a POS device. Put the order into a computer and have that decide how to optimally prepare the meal. Might be possible to fix 2 or 3 other customers’ same order together, cutting down on waste food and improving response/cooking/order time. Churn that computer a bit more and you can inventory the same way that bars inventory using a liquor gun. Every shot is monitored and matched with income. Every shallot can be similarly tracked. And it would be even easier if you could put in an edible RFID.

Why not couple the iPad to a webcam in the kitchen so you can watch the cook spitting in your food?

But my stfnal mind jumped a bit beyond simple profits on this. Paper checks are discarded. Once the meal is paid for now, all the tracking you get is the purchase price. (My son took me to a place in LA where they use Scantron sheets to order on–but below is an article on a restaurant near where he lives in Torrance using iPads) Using an iPad can record what every diner ate, or at least ordered. This can be pumped into a gummint database, let’s call it Michelle’s List, and the FDA can order out the TSA to arrest you if you are not eating properly. Or maybe the FDA will have its own SWAT team like the Dept of Education.

Fertile ground for stories. Of course, since this interests me, I’ve already done one novel with background like this. You can read it for free here, if you like.

Or maybe you can use a restaurant app like Fandango. Set up a reservation, order food and expect it to be ready when you arrive. The restaurant can monitor your approach using GPS to make sure you’re not one of those who orders a mushroom/onion/pineapple pizza and sends it to another house as a prank. With so many fast-casual (this term is being applied to places like Chipotle and, maybe a favorite of mine, Souper Salad) restaurants putting in wifi to keep the patrons there a bit longer, all kinds of other innovations might crop up.

Twas the Day Before Christmas December 24, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in food, iPad, nostalgia, Tom Swift.
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And not even the cats are stirring. I should emulate them. But no, am going to a Christmas eve dinner prior to dinner tomorrow afternoon out of town. Such food! Such friends! Best of all, my son’s back in town until tomorrow evening.

My memories of Christmas are strange since my dad worked the midwatch as an air controller and wouldn’t get off until 8am on Christmas day. So we usually had present opening and the like on Christmas eve. Amazing how Santa knew that. We’d go out to dinner and come back, and sure enough, Santa had started his rounds early, too. I can’t say what presents impressed me the most over the years. I got a miniature printing press (with movable rubber type) one year. A robot that ran and steered with a crank handle fastened to a flexible metal cable. Always Tom Swift books and other titles. I was not impressed with the obligatory chemistry set (which might be why chemistry never appealed to me–nothing ever worked, and this was back in the day when chemistry sets had real chemicals). My #1 present was probably the Erector set. It was a hand-me-down from a distant cousin, lacked a lot of important parts and I spent hours putting together weird projects. Nothing in the instruction book looked cool. I built spaceports and rocket ships and a roller coaster and all manner of things that ran off an electric motor with exposed gears. Just getting within 10 ft of that motor today is probably a felony.

Somehow, though the years, it has never seemed like Christmas to me until I hear Silver Bells. Patty’s favorite was Carol of the Bells, but that wasn’t ever quite enough for me. This year I’m listening to Pandora but didn’t go the route of setting up a Christmas carol channel. And the radio is no help so I turned to YouTube. I considered posting the Twisted Sister version, but that’s not right. Johnny Mathias comes closer. Andy Williams? This isn’t the most inspired video but Anne Murray has the best voice.

Enjoy. Seasons greetings, merry Christmas, bah humbug. Whatever oils your sprockets.

Happy Thanksgiving! November 24, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in food.
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Gobble, gobble--but not too much!

Wrapping Up November 6, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, Chain story, conventions, e-books, food, geocaching, iPad, iPhone, movies, science fiction, serial fiction, steampunk, VIPub, writing.
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Odds and ends. First off, today’s the centennial of Roy Rogers’ birth. The King of the Cowboys.

Next is my website being down. Think it might have gotten hacked. Guru Leif has been informed and will see if it can’t get back into action ASAP. Or at least RSN.

One benefit of face to face meetings such as at World Fantasy Convention, is brainstorming. Or maybe that’s barnstorming. Mike Stackpole, Nathan Long and I got together and have plans brewing with a potential launch on a brand new project come January. And not satisfied with this, Mike’s come up with another project playing off the successful Chain Story concept. Working idea is heroic fantasy and killer stuff. That’ll develop and be a couple months later than the aforementioned steampunk project. The benefit of WFC (or any other con) is tossing out an idea, having it turned over and inside out and revised and added to and subtracted from and coming up with a synthesis better than any of the people involved could have come up with alone. Writing may be a solitary profession but group effort pays off now and then, especially in these days of VIPub. Pooling talent and information is so necessary.

Also at WFC, I got the chance to do some geocaching, with Alice Henderson as well as on my own. I’d bought my android smartphone in June with an eye toward using it with Square to accept credit cards for my book sales. The more I use the phone, the more things I find to do with it. Reading ebooks isn’t as easy as on my iPad but it can be done. The 3G connectivity I lack on the iPad comes in quite handy, though. I can’t say this is a tool for any writer but it is proving useful. I put on the geocaching app and found it quirky but adequate for the task. That sums up the other apps, too. At one time it struck me as peculiar to use a cell phone to call someone who was only across the room–but it is less so now. The sheer immensity of bouncing a signal off a tower, maybe going to a geosynchronous satellite and then back is so….stfnal. Great for getting in touch with people, especially on a 40 acre hotel site such as WFC’s this year. And with internet google capability, factoids can be summoned up fast (as well as maps, restaurants and all the rest of things con goers need).

This is what I found about Angels Flight in LA. And am I wrong thinking this was used in a terrible movie of the great Lawrence Block book 8 Million Ways to Die?

World's shortest railroad

Things Have Changed (as well as FB) September 22, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, cats, e-books, food, movies & TV, music, sci-fi, Second Life, VIPub, writing.
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A couple days ago I blogged about reviews and reading/not reading them. Since progress always marches on (and sometimes over us, as witnessed by the “upgrade” in Facebook) what’s a reader to do without a reviewer?

The answer is pretty obvious if you read ebooks. There is a sample function that lets you read the first few pages of the work. If you like what you read, go for it. If you don’t, you’ve gone to a primary source (your own likes/dislikes) and spent about the same amount of time as reading someone else’s review. The latter requires you to decipher the reviewer’s opinions and use them as a filter. If the reviewer hates s&s and gives a bad review, this is pretty worthless since the best s&s would get the same level of contempt. If the reviewer hates s&s and gives a good review, you might have to dig further. Reviewer a friend? Having a good day? Something else? You still don’t know.

Read the sample chapter yourself and decide. What a concept, forming your own opinion rather than relying on an outsourced one.

Last night in Mike Stackpole’s office hours (Second Life) he made the point that we writers are entertainers. A long time ago Poul Anderson famously said we are in competition for the reader’s beer money. Do they buy our book or a six pack? Cost is about the same. This is an example of indirect competition. We are indirectly in competition with all forms of entertainment, video games, movies, amusement parks, music, baseball games, tv, even that six-pack. (Think of this as an example. You want to go to a restaurant and there’s a McD’s at hand. Next to it is an Applebee’s–indirect competition. They both serve food but different kinds in different atmosphere. Next to that is a Burger Thief. Direct competition since both food and ambiance are on a par with McD’s. Which do you choose? This is the heart of direct & indirect competition.)

Direct competition comes from other authors, other books (pretty much in the same genre). It’s always good for a business to identify both customers and potential customers. How do we do things better than tv or movies? How do we give the reader a superior experience to another author? This is all part of VIPub and the business of writing.

The Man with No Fortune March 4, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in conventions, fantasy, food, iPad, movies, sci-fi, science fiction, writing.

Yes, that’s me. The man without a fortune, and that’s not counting money (I’m working on my second million dollars since getting the first million didn’t turn out so well). While in AZ, Mike Stackpole took me to a marvelous Chinese restaurant, George and Son’s.

Shrimp with honey glazed walnuts is superb. But the no fortune part. Traditional end of meal, fortune cookies. Mike gets his and I don’t remember what it was. Something about him wanting to be a writer, maybe. Mine was a thin strip of paper with a black smear along its length. I have no fortune.

Or is this some existential message about fate, kismet, karma, predestination not existing? Do I write my own future and to hell with some Hallmark Card reject’s cryptic missive? The scene out of Lawrence of Arabia about making your own fate has always stuck with me. Nothing is written that you don’t write yourself.

Good advice for an author.

I suppose I’ll see Adjustment Bureau sometime, maybe when it gets to the dollar theater. I suspect that my admiration for Dark City will remain unshaken as the premier “we’re all pawns” movie, though the same might be said of Bladerunner.

Lots happening out there. The iPad2. Rumor that the iPad3 will be out for Christmas, though from the iPad2 comparison to Motorola’s Xoom, Apple is a couple laps ahead, the odd competition here notwithstanding.

Most exciting at the moment is the autographing with Walter Jon Williams, Jane Lindskold, John Maddox Roberts and Daniel Abraham tomorrow. For you Albq locals, Page One, 2:30, Golden Reflections

Be there or be somewhere else.

A last look at the 2011 Arizona Renaissance Faire, through the mast of the pirate ship.

Can You Can (Open)? January 29, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in food, ideas, inventions, nostalgia, Wild West.
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Lunch is always problematical for me. I would likely starve if it weren’t for can openers. But in recent years, the lift tab style of canned food is increasingly available. In fact, most cans now can be opened without using the mechanical snap-it-down-run-it-around opener. While some inventions like the safety pin are nigh on perfect (how do you improve on it?) this way of getting to food, while better than stabbing it with a Bowie knife, seems inefficient.

The current schema doesn’t require a can opener, either electric or manual (which I own–power goes out, I’m not starving!) But might there be something easier and/or better?

Years ago some bright guy in PR thought up the idea of an edible candy bar wrapper. Well, there had to be an external wrapper to keep the edible one clean, of course, and I don’t know anyone who sampled this fiasco that didn’t eat the wrapper along with the candy bar to see what it tasted like. Adding extra expense obviously wasn’t a path to fame and riches. I suspect the inventor and everyone who OK’d it were summarily fired. Or forced to eat the stock of edible wrappers.

But we live in a microwave world. Could a container be designed that would melt under microwaves, be tasteless and harmless (or maybe add flavoring and be harmless?) And reach a high enough temperature to kill any bacteria or smudgery on the exterior? This would save metal and disposal and not require a can opener of any kind. Or perhaps it could be hit with UV and then melted and prepared, though the microwave option seems more elegant.

Can openers date back to 1855 in England and 1858 in the US.

Out on the trail, openers tended to be knives jammed down into the air tights. Why complicate (and carry extra weight)? Peaches and tomatoes were put up this way and, I suspect a great deal of other fruits and vegetables as well but weight is always a consideration on the trail. Lugging a couple cases of peaches along, even with easy disposal of simply tossing the empty can over your shoulder, slowed you down and was fairly impractical. Better to shoot your dinner and save the peaches for special occasions.

Microwaving that edible can seems more reasonable all the time, even if you don’t leave behind anything for the dog or coyote to lick clean.

Can Opener (in case you didn't recognize it)

Be There With Your Square October 25, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in conventions, food, ideas, inventions, iPad, VIPub, web & computers, writing.
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Mike Stackpole forwarded this yesterday, and a major innovation it is, too. At booksignings, especially conventions, I hate the idea of selling my books as well as autographing and generally talking with fans. But VIPub sorta requires, you know, sales. This is a high potential situation but fumbling with money while figuring out whether the book ought to be inscribed (omg, the names! I always ask for the spelling, even for common names–most names aren’t spelled commonly anymore), making change and generally confusing what I am doing. Am I an author or a sales clerk? Answer too often is both.

And sales generally requires a leap of faith to take a check from someone you have never seen before or, more likely, trying to make change when everyone ahead of your current fan has dropped a $20 bill on you. I know, what a terrible burden to bear. But usually this can be 2 earlier fans. Now comes the Square which will revolutionize taking credit cards.

If you’ve got an iPad (I do and still love it!), you can become a POS (Point of Sale). Swipe the card, get credit card approved and the money’s on its way to you and the fan has a book, signed or inscribed. Fantastic idea. And the Square will also handle smartphones, of course. This is almost enough to make me consider a 3G iPad. I don’t do that many cons but the ones I do…

Of course my first thought was how to screw the card holder. Scenario: paying your bill in a restaurant and that waitcritter who ignored you throughout the meal takes your card into the back room to perform demonic rituals with it. Only this demonic ritual is to run it through for not only the restaurant bill but also a couple bogus ones on the waitthief’s smartphone. Out of sight, you’re helpless to control access. And it might be weeks unless you are OCD before you find the illicit charges. And then you have to hassle over it since your card wasn’t lost–its function was momentarily stolen.

One possible way around this is something AMX does on gas pumps. Run the card, enter your ZIP code to continue. Restaurants might have to use their own version of the Square right at the table where you get to enter you PIN or ZIP code before the transaction goes through. Even then, you have to worry about key capture software learning your super secret 4 digit code (as if this is much of a problem anyway).

But the gizmo can be a real game changer. Buy Girl Scout cookies. A taco from the street vendor. Maybe even your dope and no cash required, instant payment, instant gratification.

Ring ‘er up, Danno.

Unindicted Pay for Play Spaceport October 24, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in conventions, e-books, food, iPad, steampunk, VIPub, weird news, writing.
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More news tidbit catching up. It seems that Governor Bill has named Spaceport America after himself. He’s only got a few more months in office. I think I mentioned the scuttlebutt that relations with Cuba will be normalized after the election and Governor Bill will be appointed the new ambassador to Cuba. A way of getting him over there quick would be suborbital.

Richard Branson
did the honors and said he’d be among the first to go suborbital next year. Looking good for a summer launch. Ad astra!

But not too astra since the sun is belching right now. Sunspot activity is picking up after a long quiet stretch. Does not bode well for peaceful weather.

Kinda excited. Just sold another steampunk romance, “Her Faith Is Fixt.” And the brand spanking new anthology Steampunk’d is due out on November 2. Buy it. Enjoy it. Got a story in it titled “The Transmogrification Ray.”

I am having dreams of whetstones. What does this mean? If it had been of Wheatstone bridges I might think it was the steampunk influence.

Lots and lots of stuff will be ready for the Nook in a day or two.

Stuff on Kindle including the just released this very day mystery Resonance of Blood<

The cornucopia never ends, but, alas, I foolishly bought Halloween candy 6 weeks ago and it is long gone. Costco is already gearing up for Valentine’s Day, I think, Thanksgiving and Xmas already past (well, not really–I exaggerate, but not by much. This year I might buy *2* fruitcakes at Costco. Wonder if they freeze? If so, I can indulge for months to come, even if I haven’t dropped the weight gained from gorging on last year’s Xmas goodies.)

Off to World Fantasy Convention in a few days. Will try to keep stuff flowing. Lots of great add-ons for the iPaddy that Mike Stackpole sent along. Will touch on some of them tomorrow. And lots of new tablets, too.

Talik’ ‘n Signin’ October 12, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in conventions, e-books, food, podcast, VIPub, web & computers, westerns, writing.
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Up to Friday: Condo bed was so soft I considered breathing through a straw.  But my back didn’t hurt when I got up in the morning so I count that as a good bed.

Had breakfast at the Cornerstone Bakery and hustled over to the Ruidoso Downs.  Found the WWA desk easily.

My talk was the first one out of the chute.  I had one guy, so I scrubbed the lecture and went into just talking mode.  Another guy came in and we had a grand ole time.  Ollie Reed introduced me and hung round to hear what I had to say (or because the Bobby Flores band with its really cute (apprentice) fiddle player Caitlyn wasn’t on stage yet).  Talk, well, conversation, was about the oral tradition in western culture.  I tried to give ways of updating how fiction is delivered through podcasts, as well as exploring the expanding audiobook market.  You can check out the bonus material by clicking on the appropriate spot on my Karl Lassiter front page.

Friday night had dinner with Mike & Melody Groves and Dick and Linda Hopkins after a day of mostly (for me) sitting round and not selling much in the way of books.  Mike got some good bbq, I got a six pack of Moosehead and there were margaritas and wine flowing, so we had a great time talking about how the Silverado set burned down and other NM filmy things.

Below are a couple WWA newbies undergoing their training in how to properly dress.  They passed.