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Odd Lots


  1. TRX says:

    > lousy year

    Ten years ago we had a bookstore here in town, one at a mall in the next town, and a couple of bookstores in the next town. Now: zero. And we’re down from half a dozen used book stores to two, both in the next town.

    I like to hold a book in my hand, read the blurb and front page, and maybe flip through. At $8 to $10 for a paperback nowadays, that’s an expensive mistake if I don’t like the book. “Curated lists” and reviews are, in my opinion, no better than random chance, so buying something online isn’t an attractive proposition.

    In order to sell a book, you have to connect to your customer. And for fiction, that’s something I want to inspect before I buy, and by the time the mail brought an online order in I’d probably want to read something else.

    > fix-ups

    I’ve read quite a few of the books on that list. Van Vogt is a no-brainer; the majority of his books were pasted together out of pieces of other books or stories like a Mr. Potato Head. Books like Gibson’s “Neuromancer” (not on the list) were definitely collections of disparate short stories jammed together with some bridgework. But most of the books on the list are novellas that were expanded into complete novels, not pasted up from multiple stories.

    > doctoring data

    My wife’s insurance company sent us a letter a few years ago. It essentially told her if she didn’t start taking some particular anti-cholesterol drug they would cancel her policy. We had a “marital dispute” about some actuary at the other end of the country having the gall to practice medicine, but she saw her doctor and got a prescription anyway.

    About a year later someone mentioned a problem with the drug in passing, and she had most of the symptoms. I spent hours on chasing links until I found the original approval study, which had something like 36 subjects… and on 3/4 of them, the drug had both aggravated the problem and had serious side effects.

    So they approved the drug anyway…

    > snuck into… universities

    Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley that I’ve read of, and I would assume most others, not only don’t care, but actively encourage this. It’s called “auditing.” They also have their entire curricula online for anybody to click on.

    Universities aren’t in the business of selling education. You can get an education anywhere. What they’re selling is their name on your transcript.

    > abandoned microwave towers

    How could you tell? And given the costs of cell towers, why wouldn’t there be at least a cellular repeater on it?

  2. Carrington Dixon says:

    I’ve always disliked the term ‘fix-up’ as it seems to imply that the original stories were somehow broken. That;s just not the usual case.

    Van Vogt, who is credited with coining the term, seemed to do more ‘fixing’ than most. Some of these books are little more that the original stories with a few pages of linking, e.g. Foundation, or even none at all, e.g. Men, Martians and Machines.

    As the linked tesxt says, the fix-up book as mainly an artifact of the change from magazine stf to book stf after WWII, but Burroughs and Merritt were doing such well before the war.

  3. re: corrugated galaxies:
    Wasn’t Dark Matter postulated to explain the “missing mass” of galaxies? If they’re all corrugated, I wonder if it’s still necessary.


  4. Erbo says:

    TV Tropes calls the fix-up a Patchwork Story, and has multiple examples of it, including not just books, but a D&D module, a video game, and the Robotech cartoon series.

  5. Woodrow Stool says:

    Just thinking out loud here, but I wonder how many people who criticize the value of a four year university degree actually have one?

    Not many people can successfully manage a project that takes four or more years, but that is exactly what getting a degree is all about.

    1. Most critics have at least a four-year degree (as I do) and some a good deal more. We question the value of the education for reasons of grade inflation, fluffy or downright bizarre curricula (“Leisure Studies”) and the cost, which is not generally related to the career potential of the credential. Management of a degree program wasn’t much of a challenge, as I recall. There were requirements, I took the classwork, and I graduated. Managing your time could be a challenge, and there are some who never catch on to that particular skill or don’t consider it important. However, if you can’t impose enough self-discipline to score a college degree, you probably won’t score much else in life either.

  6. Jack Smith says:

    AT&T built a huge microwave network in the 1950’s and 60’s. There’s a map at of the 1960 system. There’s a great deal of interesting reading at this site, by the way, so check all of it out.

    At that time, the long haul was TD-2 microwave, in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band with up to 1000 voice channels multiplexed each microwave path. Voice channels were USB, with pilot carrier frequency lock to avoid the “Donald Duck” effect of frequency error in SSB systems.

    Many of these were hardened sites intended to survive a nuke strike against the US. In addition, AT&T had some underground survivable switching centers tied to an improved survivable microwave and buried cable network to link government relocation sites and military bases.

    Many of AT&T’s towers in the flat midwest were built with a concrete “grain silo” type base and steel lattice antenna support at the top.

    1. Whoa, that’s a cool site. Spent some time there just now.

      I do need to mention for my non-radio readers that “USB” in this context means “upper sideband,” which is a form of AM modulation optimized for efficient use of the radio spectrum by removing the carrier wave and one of the two (identical) sidebands. See:

  7. Bob says:

    Re. book sales

    From the site that you linked:
    “… print book unit sales”

    I do not know whether you were aware that only dead tree book sales were included. I would not be counted among the sales even though I bought more than 10 books last year–not sure exactly how many. I read only ebooks.

  8. TRX says:

    > Men, Martians and Machines.

    I overlooked that the first time around…

    MMM was a short story collection, not a fixup novel. Depending on what edition you read, it might not have been packaged that way, though.

    I don’t seem to encounter them any more, but at one time it wasn’t unusual for an author to write a number of connected short stories that later got collected in a single volume. George O. Smith’s “Venus Equilateral” stories, John Campbell’s “Wade, Arcot, and Morey” stories, or Colin Kapp’s “The Unorthodox Engineers” stories, for example. Even novels like Zelazny’s “My Name is Legion,” which was just three connected short stories.

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