The Dying of the Book

This is a little different from my usual lighthearted romps of casual events. This one is serious, sort of.

You may have noticed that I’ve converted all my books to paperback so they are now available in both e-book and paper. Yippee. It took a large amount of effort to convert them, which I will explain shortly. But I have so far sold a total of: TaDa, zero paperbacks.

The reason is simple: they cost too much. An e-book is essentially worthless and free, it consists of bits of electrical energy arranged in a form than computers can read. Paper books, on the other hand require Stuff. Paper, ink, printers or presses, cover makers, binders. And labor.

So a simple piece of short swill, no matter how clever, like Monkeyshines, Otters, and Drunks, that can sell for $0.99 in e-book must sell at $6.50 in paperback even if the author is willing to make no money from it. That’s right, the entire cost of the book is in paper and printing and such.

Self-publishing has opened the door for all authors but unless you are famous (Stephen King) or fortunate (the lady that did Fifty Shades of Grey) you are not going to sell paper books.

I learned a lot in the conversion process. I never thought about it, even though I have handled and read thousands, maybe a million hard and soft books. Things like the gutter, the inside edge of the pages, must have a wider margin than the outside edge of the page because part of the page is sunk below the waterline where the binding is. And the proper way to head and begin a new chapter. And the most readable fonts. And the difference between fonts and typefaces. And copyright format. and ISBN’s and front matter and the difference between a prologue and a foreword.

Anyway, is is enough to say that the conversion process was not painless and certainly took a lot of time. But the end result was a book that I could not afford to get a profit on: after printing costs and the fee to the service, the damn books cost so much no one will buy them at even the lowest possible price.

Note that this price is fixed: it is the same regardless of content, so a Monkeyshines, Otters, and Drunks costs the same to print as a Catch 22. Not long ago my wife and I had occasion to go into a real book store, one of the few that are left. I priced various paperbacks and hards. The prices were unbelievable, maybe $14 for a thin paperback by an unknown author. How can anyone afford to read these? That is why I am afraid the end is near for real books. They are becoming like caviar, something only the rich can indulge in.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about that. I get books to read from the library myself.

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Bobo

I’ve been thinking about Bobo lately. Not as a last name. It is fine there. But as a front name, it is somehow Funny to me.

I remember a fellow employee, an Engineer, who was named Bob X. One time he received a mailing at the office that was misaddressed – I think it was an advertisement for a technical journal but that does not matter – and it was sent to Bobo X. The receptionist told everyone and soon he was Bobo forever after . Why? Because Bobo is a funny name. It conjured up images of Clowns or Monkeys. No one names their child Bobo. It is never the top of the Baby Name list. Jason and stuff like that is what people name their children.

You remember the Seinfeld joke about if you name your child ‘Jeeves’ you have pretty much set their future as a gentlemans gentleman – a butler. Well, Bobo is much the same. It’s to the circus for that child when it grows up.

Anyway, it’s something to think about.

Personal Space Intrusion

What is it that makes people think they can invade your personal space with their demands to use your sensory apparatus for their experiments? You would think with most social interaction now being done remotely and in sterility by electronic means, these invasions would have stopped. But even in modern times, there are those that will lurch into you demanding that you smell this, or taste this, or feel this, or see this or some other ‘thing’ they have.

There is no benefit to you. In fact, most such demands are unpleasant for the recipient. All benefits accrue to the lurcher. Sometimes it is strangers, but more often it is ‘acquaintances’, people you know but not intimately. Sometimes it is the unwelcome attention of an Aunt or some other vague relative, demanding a ‘hug’. It does not matter. The point is, when someone lunges at you with a finger out demanding that you ‘Smell this!’ you can be sure it is not perfume they are offering you. Or if they shout, ‘Feel this!’ and thrust something against your skin, you know it isn’t going to be cashmere.

To some degree, these are cultural adaptations. I understand the Japanese put up with a lot of interpersonal stranger-on-stranger contact because it is such a crowded country. Probably the radius of acceptance varies along those lines. I imagine the people in Kansas require a combine-length distance between themselves and another, where in New York, a foot of distance might be tolerated. But nobody likes strangers mashed up against them. In subway cars and at concerts, maybe. But such unsolicited mashings are rife with conflict and potential violence.

My advice, and the way I live my life, is to never solicit unasked-for, smells, tastes, feels, hears, or sees. If it is someone you are intimate with, say, your dog, you can offer him a smell or taste of your finger. Otherwise, it is best to keep it to yourself. And stay as far away as you can without falling off of something.

Tin Foil Hat

You know who you are. The ones that see a conspiracy behind every stump. This is for you.

You have to realize that your tinfoil hat won’t protect you. It is yet another conspiracy, to make you think that wearing a thin metallic shield made of a light metal will save you from their Control Waves.

No, you need LEAD foil to get the proper protection. The density and toxicity of lead will make it harder for them to get to your brain and implant thoughts. And line the hat with a Faraday Cage, an electronic shield that will also protect you from the EMP. Plus, for your comfort, a quilted lining

I recently saw an ad for a cat tinfoil hat. Perhaps you need this if your cat is prone to worrying about these plots. But make it lead if you like the cat. Otherwise they will get to him even though you are safe.

What’s the Answer?

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The old yin and yang. It is clear from recent elections that the United States is not so united. We are divided almost in half along deep fault lines. Maybe it is 45/45/10 along liberal/conservative/undecided lines (although I never run across anyone that is undecided).

I guess we got here based mainly on where we live and what our religious leanings are. If you followed the mid-term election results it was obvious that the cities are mostly liberal and the rural areas are mostly conservative, with the suburbs sort of swinging back and forth. The maps were spotted like measles. There are also cultural divides along almost the same geographical lines. Abortion rights, non-standard sexual orientation, belief in the Bible, acceptance of science over superstition, all manner of cultural divides separate us.

Maybe this experiment, this Constitutional Republic, is not made to work with a large diverse population. It seemed to work well for the first hundred or so years, but the US was never a welcoming place to immigrants (for example) and those pilgrims were grim indeed: they would stone you or brand you for adultery, maybe hang you if they thought you might be a ‘witch’.

All this is clear. But what can we do about it? We are never going to agree on basic issues like science vs. religion or what to do with unwanted pregnancies. Never. Many (including me) have considered splitting the country (peacefully, not like in the Civil War) and each group taking half. But that won’t work because of the distribution. The pockets of high-density liberalism are the cities. They are surrounded by low-density conservative areas.

You could force it, say, “OK, people, everything west of the Mississippi will become Conservative USA on this date. Everything east will be Liberal USA. Everyone that doesn’t want to be where they are better move.” But that would mean west coast ports would be closed to the liberals and east coast to the conservatives unless something could be worked out. There would have to be flyover rights agreed to.. And how about the border areas where east and west met? Would there be fights and such? Would a woman from the conservative side be allowed to go to the east to get an abortion in case she became pregnant from rape? Would Easterners have to never have an avocado again?

I do not know the long-term answer. Maybe some of you do.

Superstition? Gimme a Dose

Any of you that know me (I think there are about six of you) know that I am not a fan of supernatural shit. It doesn’t matter if it is a fringe item – like zombies and Loch Ness monsters – or wildly popular, like Christianity. I do not think supernatural events and beings rise to the level of scientific truth.

Superstition is a sub-heading of supernatural. There is no more logic to believing walking under a ladder will bring a citizen bad luck than there is to believing that Bigfoot wanders the woods and has managed for a hundred years to avoid any verifiable contact with humans, left any sign that it eats or shits, and has (apparently) managed to find a mate and breed.

Superstition has sometimes even rational people searching for a piece of wood to knock on if they say or do something they feel may anger the invisible watchers. For example, if somebody says ” I haven’t had a cold for a year”, someone else is sure to say, “Ooohh, you better Knock On Wood.” If someone sneezes, the body reaction to a nose irritant, invariably someone, even a stranger will holler, “Gesundheit” to ward off some evil spirit. If a black cat crosses in front of a person, they will be worried. In fact, they should grab that cat and inspect the article: most black cats have a few white furs somewhere on them. Be careful though. Cats do not like such familiarity  and are likely to bite you. Sidebar: I know a lady whose own cat bit her and she nearly lost a finger. Cat mouths are bad news.

Anyway, I advise you to avoid both supernatural and superstition. Thanks for dropping by.

The Thrashing of a Mortally Wounded Beast

You all have heard of how professional hunters warn their clients not to wound game, as the animal becomes angry and will attack anyone that approaches? The animal, say a Cape Buffalo, ultimately expires from trauma or blood loss. But while alive and wounded it randomly squishes anyone it can get to. Well, that is the condition of the G.O.P., the Republican Party. Demographics is killing it, has mortally wounded it but still alive enough to thrash about, doing all the damage it can as it slips into the darkness. Simple arithmetic shows that it cannot exist. It is the political choice of Conservative Old White people, mostly male. Unfortunately for them, the birth rate for that group is near zero, and the birth rate for Young, Liberal, Nonwhites is bounding ahead. You may think the Republicans are dumb because of the way they act and the things they believe. But they are smart enough to see this train coming. So for some years now they have implemented a simple strategy: we do not have the votes to win at the polls, so instead of changing our policies to what people want, lets just eliminate some of those voters. Make it harder or impossible for the young, nonwhite, and poor to get to the polls, or block them from voting, and we win because our old farts will always show up. There are may ways to do this: disenfranchise anyone that has ever been in jail, that doesn’t have working transportation, that doesn’t have enough money to hire a taxi, that cannot provide a picture ID that requires taking off from fragile jobs. Purge the polls periodically in the name of non-existent voter fraud so that people have to go through the hassle of registering again. MAKE IT DIFFICULT. They can do this because they control most state houses, the result of gerrymandering over the years to create secure seats. And as a long term strategy, they try to make the ten-year census as exclusionary of anyone that isn’t an Old White Man as they can. The good news is that it will ultimately fail: the last skinny old white man’s hand will fall from the reins and they will become like the Whigs. Demographics will win. But for now, it is a struggle. So if you are in the group that is not an old white man, better make sure you vote.