iPad, Mac questions? They’ve got the answers

Take Control has just announced their summer sale — 50% off on most ebook titles — so now is the time to buy and download.

If you’ve got a new iPad — or just about any Apple device — the Take Control ebooks are a quick way to master the basics and gets tips you’ll actually use.

One of the new Take Control ebooks about the iPad.

Take Control has just announced their summer sale — 50% off on most titles — so now is the time to buy and download. (You’ll even find an ebook covering iPad Basics that’s absolutely free.)

Full disclosure: Take Control is one of my favorite clients. I’ve edited two of the books in their current catalog: Take Control of iWeb by Steve Sande and Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner by Joe Kissell.

iWeb is Apple’s web software, a application that allows complete beginners to use Apple-designed templates to turn their words, photos, audio, movies, etc., in professional looking websites. Thanksgiving Dinner is, well, I suspect you have an idea. This free sample of the ebook includes Joe’s method for making great mashed potatoes and his tips for putting together a Thanksgiving dinner at the last minute.

Gardening mysteries, redux

I talked with Sharon Asakawa on Garden Life Radio this weekend about garden-related mysteries. Here are some lists and links.

A few years back I wrote an article (“Detectives of the Garden: A Thyme to Kill”) on mystery novels with gardening themes for the online book-review site January Magazine.

Sharon Asakawa from the Garden Life radio show asked me to revisit that story and update it for a show they’re airing this week. So I dug up some recent mysteries with gardening themes and settings—and I found a few more classics:

Garden and Gardening Mystery Novels

The Trail of the Wild Rose (2009) by Anthony Eglin. A suspicious death during a plant-hunting trip in a remote, mountainous region of China is followed by the suspicious deaths of several other expedition members on their return to England. Dr. Laurence Kingston, a retired botany professor and amateur detective, looks into it. It’s a rather convoluted mystery, but you’ll learn quite a bit about rare roses.

The Night Gardener (2006) by George Pelecanos. In 1985, a killer leaves a body in in a community garden in a rough neighborhood in Washington, D.C. The murder is unsolved. Twenty years later a killer with the same modus operandi strikes, and some of the same cops—and ex-cops—investigate. Pelecanos is one of the great hardboiled urban mystery writers; the gardening aspect of the story is somewhat incidental.

The Savage Garden (2007) by Mark Mills. In 1958, Adam Strickland, a bright but uneven art history student is sent to Italy by his professor to study the design of an an elaborate garden at the Villa Docci outside Florence. The novel offers  mysteries, one contemporary and one historic, plus fascinating detail on the design of gardens with symbolic details (in this case, clues to a murder).

The Man Who Liked Slow Tomatoes (1982) by K.C. Constantine. Constantine’s series about a rural Pennsylvania police chief, Mario Balzic, is some of the best American literary crime fiction. In this Mario Balzic story, baskets of out-of-season tomatoes are annoying the chief but eventually give him insight into a murder case.

A Long Finish (1998) by Michael Dibdin. The late Michael Dibdin, a British writer who lived in Seattle, set many of his books in Italy. In A Long Finish, Italian police investigator Aurelio Zen looks into a murder in the vineyards of Piedmont. You’ll never look at your grapevines in quite the same way.

Deadheads (1983) by Reginald Hill. As gardeners will immediately recognize, the title of the book refers not to fans of the American rock band the Grateful Dead but to the practice of pinching spent blossoms on a plant to encourage new flowers. In this witty novel by one of England’s foremost mystery writers, police investigators get suspicious when a murder suspect displays rather too much interest in his roses—and his sharp pruning tools.

Garden Mystery Book Lists

“Murder in the Gardens” at The History of the Mystery. Tip: They like Michelle Wan’s The Orchid Shroud (2006). Wild orchids, werewolves, and a complex family history entertwine in southwest France.

“Gardening Cozy Mysteries” at The Cozy Mystery Blog. Here you’ll find an extensive list of gardening mysteries in the “cozy” style, in which the amateur sleuth works in a garden-related profession.

“Seeds of Change: Gardening Mysteries” at the Princeton Public Library.

When your phone doesn’t ring, it’s me!

Good website design is not rocket science. Or is it?

I have long pointed to the website of a local junk hauling company, Happy Hauler, as the epitome of effective web design.

Their clients call to book junk pickups. So, at the top of their homepage they’ve put great big phone numbers for booking appointments. Their left-hand navigation, consistent throughout the site, has prominent links to:

  • a list of their services
  • pricing info
  • an FAQ

This is not rocket science. Or is it?

Today I went to the website of a large local business to make an appointment for services and found the following:

A phone number at the bottom of the homepage in what is probably 6-point type. I couldn’t read it clearly, so I clicked on the “us” in the nav bar. Hey, it was the closest thing to “Contact Us” that I could find. But the “Us” page turned out to be the company’s mission statement. The first element in the navigation on this page (a whole other design, in a different part of the page) was “the founder.”

Showing customers their gushy, eye-glazing mission statement and telling us about the person who founded the company (whom I have never heard of, and who has no direct customer contact) was obviously more important to them than giving me a readable phone number so I could (gasp) book an appointment.

I can’t believe that in this day and age people are still designing websites like this. I called a rival business.

Swimming upstream

My favorite Seth Godin book is the recent Linchpins.

Last week I had a day in which I felt as though I were moving backwards. Every small, simple step I took, I got shoved backwards. Every road I took had a roadblock. People who are usually supportive were suddenly cranky and irrational.

Fortunately, my email included the daily blog post from Seth Godin. He has a talent for getting a lot of us past the roadblocks, and inspiring us to charm the cranky and irrational — or sometimes, to learn a valuable lesson by examining why people are being cranky and irrational.

My favorite Seth Godin book is the recent Linchpin: Are You Indispensible? Today he released an addendum to the book that profiles people who are linchpins, from Wired’s Chris Anderson to Jo Ann McGrath, a high school teacher. It’s free! Enjoy.

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