Saturday, April 24, 2004
Someone asks why previous entries keep changing.

I write quickly, but not very well. Anything worth keeping usually takes 10+ drafts to emerge. The right words are usually there from the start, but never next to one another. And web writing inspires a concision that other genres (like, oh, say, art criticism) don't neccessarily require. Everyone's familiar with the sinking sensation occasioned by reading previously published works whose flaws, now public, are all too glaringly obvious. Part of writing in public is the obligation not to be sloppy, to choke off glaring instances of overwriting and adverb abuse as soon as recognized, which in my case unfortunately means hours if not days later.
We just bought the contents of another Vancouver bookstore, after a month of intense negotiations. About 35,000 books in all, which Chris and I will begin to move on Monday morning with a rented panel van and lots of patience.

In my 15+ years of experience, no used bookseller will ever confess to having steady sales or being profitable, at least not with another dealer in earshot. But spring 2004, at least on the West Coast, has been particularly bad. Lots of shops on semi-permanant sale, and lots more not buying at all, or being very selective, so there's plenty of stock to choose from. "I like bookstores that are in the habit of having new arrivals," says legendary Berkeley bookman Peter Howard. I agree. Nothing turns me off a shop faster than the exact same -- invariably overpriced and/or overgraded -- stock I saw when I was last in.

Lots of new shops in the Lower Mainland, too, though I wonder how long some of them will last. In one, an otherwise well- laid out and designed- room, I saw the proprietor hesitating over a spined paperback copy of Thomas Harris' Hannibal, and then, as if to compound that error, actually checking the publication date of DOS For Dummies. The scout, no slouch, smelled blood, and moved in for the kill, offering J.D. Robb pocketbooks, ex-library Stephen King novels, and hardcover biographies from the same box. $40 changed hands. John and I headed quietly for the door, aghast, feeling like we'd just witnessed a mugging in the park.
System Mechanic, one of the few pieces of software I've purchased online. The office computer was crawling like a slug and crashing, and all the defragmentation utility included with the box could do was tell me that a full system defragmentation would take approximately 18 hours to complete. System Mechanic took 12 minutes to fix the same problem. I registered my evaluation copy the same day.

SM also comes with a robust antivirus/firewall utility, Panda, that found and killed several viruses on the machine that our previous virus product (Norton), though regularly updated, couldn't find or fix.

Friday, April 23, 2004
McLean's Brain -- tons of 2D, 3D and polydimensional artwork by my friend Jason McLean. Check out the detailed colored drawings in the 2D section of the site, and their sizes. Them's feet, folks!
This Time, from Suede's Sci-Fi Lullabies, a soundtrack for this day of high wind and billowing blues and greens:

Oh day after day every morning
The city sighs and cars collide
Oh we take the train through the winter hinterland and garage bands
And we wash it away we wash it away this grey wash it away

Oh 'cos this time is yours and mine
Oh hear the city sound see the lonely crowds
This scene is you and me
Oh in the lazy sun we're the only ones

Oh day after day every morning
The roundabouts will take us south
Past every train in every station
Traffic signs and circle lines

'Cos this time is yours and mine
Oh hear the city sound, see the lonely crowds
This scene is you and me
Oh in the lazy sun, we're the only ones

This time is yours and mine
Oh, we're the city sounds, we're the underground
This scene is you and me
Oh, we're the lazy suns, we're the only ones
Tableau at the mall, supremely bored-looking security guard and scrawny young guy with no shirt, boxers protruding an inch and a half out of the top of his pants, goofy-looking Tupac-style crucifix around his neck, and an electric guitar slung over one shoulder.

"Yeah, man, I know I'm not allowed in Kingsgate Mall, but I forgot what this place was until I came inside."
Rain through overnight, noticably cooler, breaths of moist air knocking against my face all the way down Davie Street. The young green trees on the corner of Davie and Howe, an afterthought of "landscaping" designed to sanitize and humanize the streetlevel profile of an otherwise unremarkable residential tower, bending and tossing their fresh crop of leaves in the wind.

Steel-grey clouds moving across the face of the North Shore mountains. Sunlight and washed-out blue sky off to the west, sunny in Nanaimo definitely, hell, maybe even sunny on Passage Island or around Cape Roger Curtis. But not at Main and Broadway, where little flurries of showers keep coming through, blue skies, then spatters of rain.
Glamour Profession, by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, my favorite SD track ever, absolutely:

6:05 outside the stadium
Special delivery
For Hoops McCann
Brut and Charisma
Poured from the shadow where he stood
Looking good
He's a crowd pleasing man
One on one
He's schoolyard superman
Crashing the backboard
He's Jungle Jim again
When it's all over
We'll make some calls from my car
We're a star

It's a glamour profession
The L.A. concession
Local boys will spend a quarter
Just to shine the silver bowl
Living hard will take its toll

Illegal fun
Under the sun

All aboard
The Carib Cannibal
Off to Barbados
Just for the ride
Jack with his radar
Stalking the dread moray eel
At the wheel
With his Eurasian bride
On the town
We dress for action
Celluloid bikers
Is Friday's theme
I drove the Chrysler
Watched from the darkness while they danced
I'm the one


I know your middle name
Who inspires your fabled fools
That's my claim to fame


Jive Miguel
He's in from Bogota
Meet me at midnight
At Mr. Chow
Szechuan dumplings
After the deal has been done
I'm the one

Thursday, April 22, 2004
Just a sliver moon & Venus bright in the western sky tonight at twilight

More than I ever wanted to know about toilet construction & repair, occasioned by a broken hose and water spurting everywhere when the lid was removed at 1:30 a.m. this morning.
Just announced -- Tijuana Straits: A Novel, by Kem Nunn. 10 August 2004. Don't expect to see me for a day or two.
Quantifiable economic benefits of online bookselling, courtesy MIT.
Cates Park, North Vancouver, B.C., near the former site of Malcolm Lowry's shack house. I took the train along the opposite shore of the inlet a week or two ago. Still surprised by how fast signs of civilization disappear east of the Ironworkers' Memorial Bridge.

Multiple greens on the West Coast in springtime. Light, almost lime-green salmonberries and alders, darker, jade- or spinach- green skunk cabbages and salals.
Bad Sneakers, alternate version from the Katy Lied sessions. Slow download, but worth it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004
The Steely Dan Dictionary, new expanded edition. Not quite sure now how I first stumbled across this, till I hit the entry for "cutouts."

What a shame about me, indeed.

Monday, April 19, 2004
Philip Fisher R.I.P.

Philip Fisher's writings, along with with Warren Buffett's, David Dreman's, and Irwin Michael's, are pretty much responsible for any investing success I've had to date. I never thought of writing to Fisher while he was alive, to express my thanks for making fundamental analysis comprehensible to a 25 year old bookseller, so this belated shout out will have to do. Thanks, Philip!

(from the New York Times)

Philip A. Fisher, Author of Key Investment Book, Dies at 96

Published: April 19, 2004

Philip A. Fisher, who wrote one of the first investment books to appear on the New York Times best-seller list, "Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits," a 1958 guide to growth-stock investing that the billionaire investor Warren E. Buffett has cited as a major influence on his career, died at his home in San Mateo, Calif., on March 11. He was 96.

His death was reported by his son Kenneth L. Fisher in a column in the current issue of Forbes magazine.

Still in print, "Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits" outlines Mr. Fisher's buy-and-hold approach to investing and his method for identifying stocks that have a strong potential for long-term growth. In the book's "15 Points to Look for in a Common Stock," he advised readers to invest in innovative companies that are world leaders in their field, have a commitment to research and development and are led by executives of unquestioned quality and integrity.

He also told readers to limit the number of stocks in their portfolio and to limit turnover even further. "If the job has been correctly done when a common stock is purchased," he wrote, "the time to sell is almost never."

Following his own advice, Mr. Fisher invested in technology companies like Texas Instruments and Motorola for the long haul. He bought Motorola stock in 1955, when the company was still a radio manufacturer, and held its shares until his death.

Philip Arthur Fisher was born in 1907 in San Francisco. A graduate of Stanford with a bachelor's degree in economics, and a veteran of the Army Air Corps, he started an investment counseling firm, Fisher & Company, in 1932. He retired in 1999 at 91.

Mr. Fisher's books, which also include "Paths to Wealth Through Common Stocks"(1960) and "Conservative Investors Sleep Well"(1975), influenced generations of investors, including Mr. Buffett.

"I sought out Phil Fisher after reading his `Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits' and `Paths to Wealth Through Common Stocks' in the early 1960's," Mr. Buffett wrote in a 1987 article in Forbes. "From him I learned the value of the `scuttlebutt' approach: Go out and talk to competitors, suppliers and customers to find out how an industry or a company really operates."

In addition to his son Kenneth, of Woodside, Calif., Mr. Fisher is survived by his wife of 61 years, Dorothy; his sister, Caroline E. Fisher of Belmont, Calif.; two other sons, Arthur of Seattle and Donald of Lakeside, Ore.; 11 grandchildren; and 4 great-grandchildren.

Mr. Fisher also offered readers suggestions on finding a portfolio manager. In a 1987 interview with Forbes, he said that he always urged investors to ask for detailed transcripts from prospective advisers to scrutinize their record.

"If they take losses and small losses quickly and let their profits run, give them a gold star," he said. "If they take their profits quickly and let their losses run, don't go near them."

Sunday, April 18, 2004
Tumbo Island (foreground), Cabbage Island (middle distance), & Saturna Island (rear). Some of the happiest days of my life, & etc. I once piloted a small rowboat all the way from Saturna to the long harbour in the middle of the photograph. Slack tide, obviously, makes a project like this much easier. Try it at the wrong time of day and you find yourself drawn down the channel to East Point's lighthouse and Boiling Reef, whose massive tidal rips, whirlpools, and standing waves are best experienced from the shore.

Sunflower starfish are amazing animals. I saw my first non-aquarium sun stars in the deep, clear waters off Tumbo's rocky eastern shoreline.

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