Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tactile Sensations

I bet you've been wondering where I've been the last couple of months. Yeah, I'll just bet you're wondering. Right. Well, if you must know, I went out in late October for a sandwich. The next thing I knew, I found myself involved in sensitive negotiations between one S. Claus, and Local 1 of the AF of Elves, concerning overtime payments. As anyone who got Christmas presents can certify, those talks ended successfully. After purchasing and enjoying my meal [ham and provolone, on wheat bread], I safely returned to this locale, and bent to the keyboard...

As any human can communicate, some things are just better when the sense of touch is involved. Anyone who has ever kissed or caressed another human knows the joy and beauty that touch brings to such an activity. Manufacturers of touch-screen devices are constantly trying to improve the simulation of pressing a letter key or button on their machines, going so far as to add the sound of a "click" when someone inputs on the device [of course, this has its limits; PC Magazine's Sascha Segan registers his complaints in this column].

This love of the tactile frequently shows up in future-based fiction, most notably in the world of Star Trek. In the world of the 22nd or 23rd century [I always forget which one it's set in], virtually everything we currently find in hard copy print today would be available on computer screen, portable device, or whatever technology the inventors of future days can come up. But in the world of Trek, old books are highly prized gifts; Spock presents Captain Kirk with a book [and reading glasses!] in one of the movies, while Captain Picard, among others, receives a book on a special occasion. Certainly part of the attraction is the item's antiquity: I personally would be surprised to find actual printing being done anywhere in the developed world by the end of this current century. But there is also a tactile component to a book or magazine - the heft of the piece of print, the sensation of turning pages, even the odors that sometime are associated with a particular hard copy item [can any of us of a certain age say they truly have forgotten the aroma of freshly-mimeographed pages?]

This all comes up, of course, for a reason: the announcement that the current issue of PC Magazine {January 2009} will be the last printed one. Future copies will be available only in digital, with full text being available to those who subscribe. Given the current economic crisis, I can understand the decision, After all, it reduces costs to make only digital versions [as well as reducing the price to subscribers; an ad at PCMag.com touts the digital price per issue at 62 US Cents. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I will miss the feel of a copy of PC Magazine, the aroma of its glossy page stock. I understand the logic behind the decision, but the realities of it are still disappointing.

Speaking of the new economic realities, bloggers should take to heart the Assassin's Creed; namely, BE PREPARED ! If your blog
host were suddenly to go "belly up", would you be able to move it to a new host site? Have you backed-up your previous posts [given the circumstances, more than one site may be advisable: who knows where bankruptcy may strike?]? (By the way, finding free hosts for your archives isn't difficult; a quick online search, followed by checking the pros and cons of each location, should do the trick) I'm really not trying to be a fear monger, but, watching the imminent collapse of up to one-quarter of US chain stores, and remembering when the "dot com" boom went boom in the 90's, a little preparation seems in order.

But, in the spirit of the season, let's hope [and pray, if appropriate for you] for fiscal recovery in the New Year. I also hope you have much happiness, love, and more than a little fun...

-Mike Riley

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