Friday, May 25, 2007

On Serendipity With Special Reference To Buying Music And The Sadness That The New Paradigm Brings

I had a rare moment of pleasure yesterday.

I have been struggling with a new piece of technology, a particular "Open Source" package that has received much good press but unfortunately is leaving me high and dry in a few key critical areas. I was never so on the bleeding edge, even when I worked for a Microsoft Strategic Partner in the heady days of the Windows 95 rollout. I expect future generations will have it easier.

Anyway. I finally hit rock bottom the day before yesterday when the online documentation (generally thought of as being a strength of the OS world1) refused to divulge a fairly basic piece of information no matter how I phrased the search query. I did a bit of digging, both at work and at home and found that there was an O'Reilly book that covered the missing information. For those lucky enough to not have derived income from the cowing of recalcitrant computers, O'Reilly is a publisher that produces computer and IT books, mainly concentrating in the Unix and Unix-like2 world but covering a very wide field. O'reilly books have a good reputation with most people, though I have found them a bit patchy and uneven in content of late since I've been forced to use them more and more, and I've never had much time for most of their Windows books3. For some subjects they have been, for years, the only game in town if not the best, and they are well made and can take much use. They come in at around $45 apiece generally, which makes them very much a "company pays for them or we do without" prospect usually. This time I couldn't wait and so I went into Manhattan for an extended lunch hour search for the book. Which I found in the Union Square Burns & Nobble, and now that I've gotten us into Manhattan, plausibly if boringly, we can forget about computer books.

On the other side of Union Square sits a massive Splurgin Records store, and when I'm in the area I always drop in with my little want list of eclectic hard-to-get music for a spot of opportunistic shopping. Today I would be looking for "Hummingbird" a little-known album put out by Wakeman4 and Cousins5. I had seen a promo on a Strawbs video I got last year and it sounded good. I looked under Wakeman's shelves and couldn't see it. I was about to move on to the "C"s and "V"s6 when I idly flipped one of the CD-sized deviders on another shelf and there was the only copy of "Hummingbird" in the store and in all likelyhood on the island of Manhattan too.

That gave me a little glow inside. I was hopeful but not expecting to find it when I went into the store, was disappointed but unsurprised that it wasn't where it should be if they had it in stock and then really happy to find the only one they had by accident. I get the same feeling when I find a hard-to-locate book during a general browse. I got it every time I found one of the missing B.C. collections, and when I found a missing part of a multi-book set in a second-hand market stall back when I was a poor ex-student with hardly any dosh for luxuries. I can't describe the sensation. It's like a combination of happy and smug and surprised.

I haven't expeienced the rush for a long time because all I have to do to find that rare recording or that missing second volume of a Jack Vance trilogy is to boot up the family one-stop pr0n portal and fire up Google. I hadn't realised that I had lost what was formerly a big part of my shopping experience either.

It's that great that I can just get the stuff I want that I forgot what the serendipidous find felt like.

  1. Next to the fact that it is free, of course
  2. Next to the fact that it is free, of course
  3. The problem is that O'Reilly books are written by and large by people in the Unix community, many of whom just don't "get" how Windows computers are used. For example: A book entitled Windows Annoyances urged the reader to get rid of the "My Documents" and "My Computer" icon from their desktop, clearly not grasping why they were put there in the first place. The exception that proves the rule was the first edition of "ASP In A Nutshell", an outstanding volume for its time
  4. Rick Wakeman, Keyboardist. Ex Bowie, Strawbs, Yes
  5. Dave Cousins, Guitarist, Vocalist, Songwriter and frontman for The Strawbs amongst other things
  6. "Cousins" and "Various". Keep up!

No comments: