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Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

  • Ars has the best article I’ve yet seen on the recent ruling in the Apple ebook price fixing trial. Insight: Publishers get less under agency than they do under wholesale, but they’re willing to accept it to keep control of pricing. Book publishing is a freaky business. This may not work out as planned for the publishers.
  • Also from Ars: Weird search terms that brought readers to the Ars site. I used to publish these too, but I don’t get as many as I once did. Web search has always been a freaky business. I guess the freakiness just wanders around.
  • The sunspot cycle still struggles. Cycle 24 will be freaky, and weak–even with our modern tendency to count spots that could not be detected a hundred years ago.
  • Not news, but still freaky if you think about it: The Air Force tried building a flying saucer in 1956. The aliens are still laughing at us.
  • Actually, the best flying saucers are all triangles. In the greater UFO freakshow, these are by far my favorites.
  • There’s a quirk in the insurance industry that will allow young people to opt out of the ACA and still get health insurance–while paying much less they would buying traditional health policies under ACA. Life insurance policies often allow for accelerated payouts of benefits while the insured is still alive. My insight: Such a policy would be a way to finesse limited enrollment windows by paying for catastrophic care until enrollment opens again. (Which would be no more than ten months max.) And you thought publishing was a freaky business.
  • We thought we knew how muscles work. We were wrong. Human biology is always freakier than we thought.
  • As is washing your hair–in space.
  • Streaming is the ultimate end of the DRM debate. Music, movies, sure. Could one stream an ebook? Of course. Would people accept such a system, or would they freak out? Well, we thought DRM for serial content was dead, too. (Book publishers have become much more aggressive against piracy lately. More tomorrow.)
  • And finally, if you want freaky, consider the humble cicada killer, which vomits on its own head to keep from frying in the summer. We had them living under our driveway in Baltimore. I didn’t know what they were and they scared us a little until I called the county ag agent, who said, “They’re cicada killers, but don’t worry. They’re harmless.” I immediately called Carol at work to give her the good news. The receptionist at the clinic wrote down: “Jeff called. The things living under your driveway are psychotic killers, but don’t worry. They’re harmless.”

Summer Doldrums

Yes, I’ve been gone for awhile, and for any number of reasons found it inconvenient to put anything together until this evening. I’ve been having some trouble with that old book-hauling injury in my left arm, spent ten days in Chicago, fixed some stuff (including an interesting repair on a dog grooming hair dryer) and learned some new things that I didn’t expect to learn, including a few that I probably didn’t need to learn.

In short, I’ve had nothing much to report, and in the summer heat just felt better reading books and taking it easy in the cause of getting my whiny supinator to shut the hell up. The gruel here is on the thin side, but that’s summer.

My younger niancee, Justine, made me aware of something called Prancercise by demonstrating it in front of the whole family. Damn. I thought she was kidding. Then I watched the video. Wow. It has nothing on the Invisible Horse Dance, but it could be the next craze at weddings. Or maybe not.

Weddings. We did attend a terrific wedding, of the daughter of my oldest friend Art. At her reception I saw something called the Casper Slide–not to be confused with the skateboarding stunt of the same name. And if you are confused, you’re not alone. I think this is why the real name of the dance is the Cha-Cha Slide, developed by a Chicago DJ named Casper. I watched the dance, and apart from some stomping, it looked a lot like the Electric Slide. But hey, what do I know about cultural tropes?

Another bit of knowledge that was true but unwelcome is that Barnes & Noble comtinues to come apart at the seams. Their CEO quit the other day over the failure of the Nook tablets to capture any significant part of the tablet market. The Nook division is for sale, and Microsoft is making slobbering noises. The Nook guys have been on my you-know-what list for some time, for pushing down updates that freeze in mid-install and can’t be removed. (I don’t use AMV, but I wonder if it works at all after the installer gets stuck.) Leonard Riggio wants to take back the retail division. A lot of stores are closing, and half the remaining stores have leases that expire in 2016. And everybody’s wondering what happens after all this happens. Especially publishers.

I learned that the Chicago Tribune has a page dedicated to documenting every single homicide that happens in Chicago. That this would be a big, frequently updated page is bad enough. That is exists at all is worse. I guess Chicago is a terrific place to be from.

There’s a video on domesticated fox, pointed out to me by Pete Albrecht. I mentioned the Russian research on Siberian fox years ago, but this is the first time I’ve seen videos of the animals themselves. It’s sad in a way; the poor things are stuck somewhere between fox and dogs, and are at best unreliably tame. It’s pretty clear to me, however, that this was the same process our ancestors used to turn wolves into dogs. And it didn’t take thousands of years.

I learned that the backlight behind the controls of my new car stereo changes color continuously.

Ok, ok, I can see eyes glazing over. That’s it for tonight. I hope to get back on my usual schedule shortly.

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Pirates vs. Ebooks: A Webinar

Very quick note here: I will be giving a webinar today on ebook piracy and DRM at noon Mountain Time (11:00 Pacific Time, 1 PM Central Time) to a site called Book Street Cafe, based in Phoenix but not geographically limited except by time zones. It was founded by some of my friends from the now-folded Arizona Book Publishing Association, which I belonged to all the time I lived in Scottsdale and acted as president for two years. The webinar is scheduled for 45 minutes, with another 15 minutes for questions and discussion.

Book Street Cafe is a paid membership organization, but they’ve given me a one-time link for my webinar that I can post. If you want to participate, click here.

You’ll have to either have Java running or download the Citrix app that underlies the GoToMeeting technology. You’ll be able to do the download when you click to the site. I know that Java is in a bad odor right now, but the Citrix app is relatively small and only takes a few seconds to download and install.

The presentation is oriented toward print book publishers who are nervous about ebook piracy and are considering DRM. It is not a techie show. It draws on research and positions I’ve presented on Contra for several years.

We’d love to have you. Try to log in a little early so that you make sure you’re properly connected.

Odd Lots

  • From the “…And Then We Win” Department: Lulu is eliminating DRM on ebooks published through the site. (I was notified by email.)
  • The Adobe CS2 download link everybody’s talking about (see my entry for January 10, 2013) is still wide-open. If it was indeed a mistake, you’d think they would have fixed it by now. New suggestion: They’re arguing about it. New hope: They’re really going to allow CS2′s general use without charge.
  • I didn’t get the art gene from my mother, but I did indeed enjoy the Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies. I still have my full drafting set in a drawer somewhere, replete with bow compasses, French curves, triangles, and so on. How many years will it be before nobody under 50 has any idea what those are? (Thanks to Jim Rittenhouse for the link.)
  • And while we’re doing peculiar museums, check out this selection of implements from the International Spy Museum. I believe the surplus houses were selling CIA turd transmitters twenty or thirty years ago. Shoulda bought one when I could. As the late, great George M. Ewing would have said: “Forget it, Jeff. Nobody will pick that up.”
  • Strange transmitters you want? From Bruce Baker comes a video link that no steampunker will want to miss: The annual fire-up of the only Alexanderson alternator left in the world, station SAQ in Sweden. From the sparks to the swinging meter needles, it’s just like Frankenstein, only it’s real–and sends Morse telegraphy at 100 KHz or so. No vacuum tubes, and I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t have been in operation in 1890.
  • Every wonder who was behind Information Unlimited? Here’s the guy.
  • Here’s more on how fructose messes with your brain. It’s not just the number of calories. It’s the chemical composition of those calories. Whoever says “a calorie is a calorie” is wrong, and probably has an agenda.
  • It’s almost pointless to link to the first video ever made of a giant squid (since we won’t see the whole thing until January 27) but Ars Technica has a background page that’s worth reading. “Hello, beastie!”
  • The BMI is worse than worthless. But I told you that years ago.
  • Brand fanboys may have low self-esteem. Or they may just be tribalists. Or tribalists may be people with low self-esteem. No matter: Defend no brand but your own. Big Brands can damned well defend themselves.

Odd Lots