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The book I'd write if I didn't have to pay rent...

Books (especially tech books) are a tough way to eke out a living today, unless you're maybe a porn star,former president, or actually talented and entertaining.

Since the most exotic thing I've ever been is, um, an aerobics instructor, I won't pay the rent unless I can do books on topics enough people want to learn. And given that tech book sales are now 10% of what they were during the bubble, the topics with enough potential readers to make it do-able might not include some of my favorites.

So, if market size were not an issue, here's what I'd love to do a book on:

1) Jini
No doubt Sun's coolest distributed computing technology, yet somehow J2EE (and its MS counterpart .NET) get all the glory (or at least all the marketing and development dollars). For a quick cocktail-party overview of Jini (compared with J2EE and Web Services), read this. And Dan Steinberg, editor of java.net just wrote an amazing call-to-action, Out of the Bottle and Into the Box. There is reason to hope that things might just be turning the tide in the Jini world.

2) Weird science
Something along the lines of Where Does the Weirdness Go or one of John Gribbin's books, and definitely aimed at non-science types. Quantum physics for dogs or something. (Actually, someone DID write a physics for dogs article, but it's more of a physics OF dogs as opposed to trying to teach quantum mechanics TO dogs.)

I just think the weird science world is FULL of useful metaphors, and that I should be able to say (and not just to geeks) things like, "their relationship is in a Shrodinger's cat state..." or the often appropriate, "We must have been drinking some kind of Heisenberg's uncertainty brew." And who hasn't experienced spooky action at a distance? Or the moment at which a hot date starts slipping into the event horizon....
I'd especially like it if I could discuss the two-slit experiment without it sounding vaguely sexual...

We do use references like this in some of our books--a new Java object in the midst of constructor-chaining simply can't be described without a reference to Shrodinger. (We're forever apologizing to the animal lovers who didn't realize it was a thought experiment.)

3) Kicking the TV habit
TV is bad for your brain in ways most people don't realize. You don't see public service spots against TV... on TV. (Some have tried but, oddly, most networks and cable channels refuse to run them.) I'd much rather see a "This is your brain on TV" than a "This is your brain on drugs" announcement. (Which reminds me of the wonderfully caustic, thought-provoking, and much-missed comedian Bill Hicks, who has a hilarious sketch on how little sense the "your brain on drugs" campaign made.)

4) Skateboarding for Girls
(And no, I do not believe it's sexist to suggest that girls would/could/should understand skateboarding differently than boys. In the culture around skateboarding today, there IS a difference. And it's a difference that hasn't always been there. Way back in my California surfer-girl days, there were as many girls as guys happily breaking their wrists and legs on their way to class at my college campus. Here's one of the best from the old days.)

5) Systems Thinking for kids
I can only imagine how things might have turned out differently in, say, the last election here... if more people truly understood and practiced systems thinking.

And finally...

6) Fitness Hacks
Enough of the South Bitch Diet...dieting simply isn't fun, and doesn't do a damn thing to make you stronger. I'd much rather play DDR or go for a run, followed by pancakes for dinner.

So... let's say YOU win the lottery tomorrow and can write a book on anything you like. Or if you're not interested in writing a book, think of it this way--what's the one thing you know you've said to yourself, "Arrrgh--I wish more people knew THIS!" If you could teach the world (or maybe just a few co-workers or family members) one thing, what would it be?

Posted by Kathy on January 6, 2005 | Permalink


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I just have to pipe up: TV isn't necessarily bad for you. Everytime I speak to one of my kids' teachers, they (the teachers) comment on my child knowing about such-and-such. Often-as-not it is something I didn't know. When I ask the child where she learned that fact the answer is usually a PBS children's show. Our kids are pretty much restricted to watching PBS or the evening news.

So, it isn't the watching, it's the what-you-watch.

Posted by: Lance Lavandowska | Jan 6, 2005 2:20:31 PM

IMO, "Fitness Hacks" sounds like it could be a huge success. You should jump on that one right now.

Posted by: Andrew | Mar 25, 2005 4:08:06 PM

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