Not a huge surprise

The Fraters Libertas’ discuss media Jeopardy:On Monday Tucker Carlson staged a late rally to pass Peggy Noonan and win the day. According to Shawn, Bob Woodward was doing his best Mark Dayton impersonation. Here’s Shawn’s recap of Tuesday’s show: Maria Bartiromo: A doorknob. Holy crap. I don’t think that she just has a slow thumb. I was giving her the benefit of the doubt (slow thumb, or using the marker as a signaling button) until she answered “Computer worm” where “Earth Worm” was the right question. And it was obvious, the answer was about moles, digging, eating these types of worms or something. She was like a supermodel, or Jessica Simpson. Lots to look at, nothing between the ears.

Keep that in mind when she’s touting stocks and rosy economic growth stats. As some of you may recall what I wrote a few weeks ago, it’s hardly an accident that the journalists can’t keep pace with the commentators. I don’t know how I’d do on Jeopardy, as my pop cultural knowledge has some pretty serious holes in it, but I daresay I wouldn’t sweat much about taking on any reporter. However, I have a terrible habit of looking for trick questions that might trip me up in this sort of thing. Sure would have loved to take on Alice, though.

Opera 7.50

I’ve been messing around with the beta and found that the Linux version is significantly improved. The fonts look good – better than straight-up unaliased Mozilla – and the new icons are not only spiffy, but tiny too. In coordination with Blogger’s new update, the Blogger hotlink button should work now. Adios, bane of my blogging.

It’s always been good under Windows, but now it’s even better. Truly new and improved, I’m impressed. Check it out.I’ve been messing around with the beta and found that the Linux version is significantly improved. The fonts look good – better than straight-up unaliased Mozilla – and the new icons are not only spiffy, but tiny too. In coordination with Blogger’s new update, the Blogger hotlink button should work now. Adios, bane of my blogging.

It’s always been good under Windows, but now it’s even better. Truly new and improved, I’m impressed. Check it out.I’ve been messing around with the beta and found that the Linux version is significantly improved. The fonts look good – better than straight-up unaliased Mozilla – and the new icons are not only spiffy, but tiny too. In coordination with Blogger’s new update, the Blogger hotlink button should work now. Adios, bane of my blogging.

It’s always been good under Windows, but now it’s even better. Truly new and improved, I’m impressed. Check it out.

Spoke too soon, clearly. What you should have seen was a hotlink to “Check it out.” and an end to the post. I still like it for my surfing, but I’ll have to keep Mozilla around for posting. Well, shoot.

Mark Cuban on stocks

What gets me even worse are the big name guys who come on like all they have is an honest opinion to share. I remember sitting next to Mario Gabelli. I brought up my position that the “investment theme” of buy and hold is nothing more than a sales pitch and the best way for sales reps and brokers to get upset customers off the phone. “I know the fund is down 12 pct Mr. Doe, but that happens in a buy and hold strategy. Over the last 80 years…” What nonsense.

I have to agree with him. The lies are even worse when they try to use an index – which changes from between once a year (Nasdaq-100) and every five years (the Dow) – to justify buying individual stocks. Over time, stocks generally pace inflation on the average. We’ve had a great run until 2000, we’ve had what looks like a nice counter-trend second-wave up, and now we’re getting rolling on wave three down. If the Fed had more bullets, I have no doubt they’d cut rates again, and they may try it yet.

Oh, but the economics statistics are so wonderful, you say? I am a fiction writer. I know fiction when I see it. Cuban’s blog is great – no wonder the Dallas fans love him.

Space Bunny unveiled

Space Bunny was tired of the speculation as to her appearance, so she asked me to post a picture of her and get it over with. As the Vox Cave is not yet ready for business, I asked the infamous Gargler of Pan-Galactic fame to host this and he kindly agreed.

His first words in response to getting the file were pretty funny. “HOLY CRAP! She does look like Alison!”

It can’t hurt

On April 28, Sen. Miller, the last genuinely conservative Democrat we will likely ever see in the Senate, laid the blame for what ails that august body at the door of the 17th amendment to the Constitution. This is the provision that provides for the popular election of senators.

Few people today know that the Founding Fathers never intended for senators to be popularly elected. The Constitution originally provided that senators would be chosen by state legislatures. The purpose was to provide the states — as states — an institutional role in the federal government. In effect, senators were to function as ambassadors from the states, which were expected to retain a large degree of sovereignty even after ratification of the Constitution, thereby ensuring that their rights would be protected in a federal system. The role of senators as representatives of the states was assured by a procedure, now forgotten, whereby states would “instruct” their senators how to vote on particular issues. Such instructions were not conveyed to members of the House of Representatives because they have always been popularly elected and are not expected to speak for their states, but only for their constituents.

When senators represented states as states, rather than being super House members as they are now, they zealously protected states’ rights.

Most regulars here are aware of this of course. I don’t think this would make my first day’s list as confidential Presidential advisor, or even second – that meeting with Greenspan is likely to take awhile as I was planning to invite the Mogambo Guru to provide color commentary – but, hey, let’s try it.

Soul-killing and software piracy

Last weekend, I hit a treasure trove of digital piracy – the entire collection of Dilbert in PDF format. I’m not sure where I stand on digital rights in the abstract, although seeing how Disney managed to ram another 25 years of copyright protection through the Congress has me leaning towards the “DR is a myth” crowd. In practice, I’m a lifelong software pirate, which may be part of why my computer game company became “the most profitable game developer you’ve never heard of” in the words of Computer Gaming World, through our focus on bundled distribution.

Since game companies happily send me whatever games I ask for now, that’s taken all the fun out of the hunt and so I don’t bother anymore except for the occasional emulator ROM. But it’s still fun hunting down ebooks, although I wish someone would write a decent ebook reader/text converter for Linux. Doesn’t this directly contradict my existence as a writer? Not at all. In fact, I’ve even lobbied my publisher to release my books as free and open ebooks, since the main obstacle to book-selling success is not people reading for free what they could have bought, but people never having heard of you or your work in the first place.

Pirate readers don’t pay, but they still engage in word of mouth, and from my own experience, I know that people buy what they like and want to support. I have an ebook of QUICKSILVER that I’ve never read, because I am a Neal Stephenson fan and I wanted to support him by buying the big fat tome. I have multiple copies of Umberto Eco’s THE NAME OF THE ROSE simply because I love the book, and that’s not even counting the .PDB files.

The problem is that for-sale ebooks are still priced too high. We can separate out the value of the author’s contribution from the publisher’s fairly easily. The publisher’s and distributor’s shares of production and distribution are the major components of the total price of a book. The actual value of the copyrighted aspect, then, is approximately 10 percent of the retail price if we average out hardcovers, trade paperbacks and mass-market paperbacks. Now, the production cost of an ebook is trivial; the Original Cyberpunk converted REBEL MOON in about a day. Even at his lofty, big-brain rates, that’s a trivial amount compared to the cost of printing 20,000 copies.

So, in other words, the value of an ebook as determined by the market is around 70 cents. Make it 75 to cover the production and transaction costs. That’s the model that authors should be pursuing – perhaps a big-name author can command a premium of 2x or 3x. The challenge is that it has to be made as easy to pay for the book as it is to otherwise pirate.

My suggestion would be to follow the newsgroup example. Sell a subscription for $7.50/month (+ whatever distribution cost is required – that’s outside the example). Subscribers can download ten books per month, and be billed an additional .75 for each additional book they download. The books are properly formatted and the buyer knows that .75 is going directly to the author. People are already paying $12/month for access to poorly formatted texts that often need to be reformatted; presumably more people would pay an equivalent sum for proper, fully legal texts as well.

This will frighten the publishers, of course, but in the meantime, the market will be served, legally or illegally, just as it always is. Anyhow, back to my intended point….

I talked with a friend of mine last week and asked him about four things. He wasn’t sure about what I meant by one of them, so he provided answers to none of them. It’s no big deal; there was nothing urgent about the questions but it was so utterly uncharacteristic of him that I was truly taken aback. Then, after reading through a year or three of Dilbert, it suddenly occurred to me that this was a corporate version of what I wrote about two weeks ago.

Your environment will affect you, whether you are a child in a public school, an employee at a giant corporation or a bureaucrat in a government agency. The frightening thing is that you will probably not even realize that it has modified your customary behavior. After all, unless one is very ill or desperately unhappy, everybody thinks he’s fine.