Logikal Blog

Thoughts and words from Roland Hughes

March 18, 2015

Sucky Farm and Fleet Boots

Sorry I haven’t been blogging as much as I used to but I’ve been on yet another “Death March” project and only recently came up for air. This story actually began in October. I was actually staying on the family farm and, if the predicted snow turned up, would have a chance to chase some pheasant. It is something I hadn’t had the opportunity to do in years. My old rubber boots were long since past their life.

I hopped on to Sears.com and found a great pair of rubber boots. The local Sears inventory showed they had them in the store. That store, however, is in “the mall.” Gasp! Horror! Don’t go there!!!! You could encounter “Mall Dwellers!”

Thankfully Sears is a brick & click retail operation, despite what the buffoons currently running the company believe. I placed the order. Right after doing that the “projected delivery time” started to weigh on me. The math wasn’t adding up to the boots actually arriving before the morning which was to have a fresh dusting of snow.

After a couple of days, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I made the drive to Blain’s Farm and Fleet. Yes, it is always a zoo in there, but, at least it was not “The Mall.” Note that according to the on-line inventory only Sears, not the Big-K, had the boots I wanted so I couldn’t both avoid “The Mall” and give Sears more business. Given the fact it is completely un-American to buy anything at Wal-mart, I didn’t even bother looking at their site or store.

I should have seen the red flags. I should have just turned around and walked out, but, desperate times . . .

The first red flag was the rubber boot isle looked like a 3 year old had been allowed to play with the boots.

When I finally got done sorting through the various brands, it looked like there were more than half a dozen “pair” in my size. I say “pair” because there was only one actual pair of boots. The rest were boots grouped together in twos but all the same foot. You read that correctly, they were all the same foot.

At the check out counter I asked the little girl “How many one legged customers do you get in a week?” She gave me her best puzzled deer in headlights look and I explained the “pairs” of boots they had. Her response was “That’s odd. Will this be cash?”

Given it is a farm yard I walk across to get to my office I’ve always had the habit of slipping on rubber boots during the fall/early spring to get here, then putting on comfy boat shoes or sneakers to scoot around my office in. These boots didn’t make it to the end of January.

boot_split Take a good look at where these boots split. If this had been the toe or the heel then my bad for treating them rough. These split on top, over the center of the foot. Well, the left foot. The right was fine. Which, I guess, explains why there were so many right boots on the shelf.

The snow didn’t come until after the season so no pheasants where chased.

The boots from Sears have been phenom!

The sloppy part of spring is almost over so rubber boots will only see use on icky days while I’m still here.

 

March 17, 2015

The ST506 Tale

I have been saving this brittle, yellow, tractor feed sheet of paper for a very long time. It was printed with a dot matrix printer back when dot matrix ruled the land. I saved it because it was a shining example of the writing quality we used to have during the time of RelayNet, FidoNet and Echomail. I’m posting it now so it might one day be picked up by the Internet Archive project and preserved for all time. Sadly the harddisk conference (hdconf) doesn’t appear to go back to 1990.

I am keying in only the story portion of this post

 

From: Robert Falbo

Subject: ST-4096 Problems

Number: 1740

Date: 12-01-90 (17:47)

In the beginning, there was darness, and the knashing of teeth, and 8” floppies ruled the land. And Al shugart looked out over the Land, and saw that it was bad. And Al begot Shugart Associates to lead the people out of the 8” darkness to the land of 5 1/4” floppies, and he did prosper. And his floppy drives spread the length and breadth of the Land, and he saw that it was good. But time marches on…and so it came to pass that Al was not satisfied with floppy storage, but yearned for a faster, bigger means of storage… the holy hard drive! And it so came to pass that Al and his Associates sold their business and formed another in search of the holy hard drive…and Seagate was it’s name. And Seagate did bequith the ST506 full-height hard drive, and Al did hold it up before the masses, and they were taken by it’s brilliance. And ST506 hard drives did litter the landscape, and Al saw that it was good. But deep inside, the flame of innovation still burned. And from this flame came the idea of a still larger drive, with an improved interface (well, only slightly), and two (count ’em!) rigid platters supporting a magnificent 10 formatted megabytes. And Seagate did produce this drive, and All who saw it pronounced it to be the standard by which other drives were to be measured. And Al saw that ti was good. Now while this was happening, the Dark Empire of Armonk (& Boca Raton) watched from afar, and understood some of the ramifications, and so decided to offer this hard drive with their new Computer. And so they did. And thus became the ST506/412 Interface, as told to me by an old Sage.

(With appologies to just about anybody concerned, including you, Al!)

I did leave off the last little bit which took a poke at someone’s age, otherwise, unless I made some typos, this is as it was posted though I needed to squint hard at the paper. A friend of mine ran Scintillation BBS and that is where I obtained my feed.

February 24, 2015

Will the Last One to Leave eBay Please Turn Out the Lights?

I have bought a lot of stuff on eBay over the years. I even bought a Jeep on there and had it shipped from New Hampshire. The site used to be known as “America’s Garage Sale” but lately it has devolved into “just another shopping mall.” Heck, I’ve even bid on keyboards I thought were being sold by individuals only to find out they were from Newegg.com.

My New Years resolution was to finally clean out the “spare parts” which have accumulated in my office over the past 20 or so years in IT. My goal was to have at least one entire bookshelf (preferably two) completely empty by the end of March. Complicating this goal is the fact I have been working remotely 6 days per week on a contract so I only have a few hours on the weekend to take photos and list the items. I wasn’t trying to make money with this stuff. I put the initial bid at what I believed the postage would be and offered free shipping. If someone could use it that would save me a trip to the electronics recycling drop off.

As luck would have it, I now need to travel to my client site for a week. I had gotten notices in the past about things I was bidding on when the seller went on vacation, so I thought I would try it. After half an hour I finally had to endure a call to customer service. The only way you can notify bidders you are out of town is to open a store. That is why eBay has become just another shopping mall, eBay is forcing it in that direction.

I made a few phone calls to people I know. Nobody uses eBay anymore. Even though Craigslist has the public image of “the place where serial killers shop for prey” they have all moved there, and just for the shopping mall reason. Personally, I never used Craigslist because I viewed it as a place populated by people too cheap to pay for shipping, but now I understand.

Both eBay and Amazon are on the wrong side of a sea change occurring in the public mindset.

Ethics: Think globally, buy locally.

It has been in the works for a long time, but is finally snowballing. It started rather simply with some “buy American” Web sites. Then we had ABC News doing a “Made in America” series which was echoed in other shows to various degrees. The Republicans spurred it along by offering up Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate. (Someone I personally believe has directly or indirectly off-shored more American jobs than Obammacare ever could.) Even American Express has been on this band wagon for years with their Small Business Saturday initiative.

We should have all read the writing on the wall when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act institutionalized this with a “Buy American” provision. Many didn’t. An MBA has to actually _have_ ethics to purchase things which are best for the country instead of their numbers for this quarter. Every person in America has not only heard about government entities being broke, they have been personally impacted by it. The blame spreads far and wide. Every person who buys on-line avoiding sales tax is “off-shoring” local retail jobs though they want to believe they are “just saving money.” Every Wall Street darling corporation has been burying profits in tax havens off-shore to avoid taxes. You have all heard about the “Double Irish” tax scam, but it seems that story about certain large corporations being allowed to create entities which have no country of origin keeps getting quieted. If you cannot do the math, “No Country of Origin” means there is no country able to tax their profits. 99-percenters, feel free to howl. When you are done howling though, find out who voted for those bills which became law and vote them out of office!

How many of you have noticed the 13 or so year agenda currently embarked on to change the mindset of America? The one which _will_ stop them from buying on-line just to avoid taxes and _will_ stop them from buying a cheap foreign knock-off at Wal-Mart. You heard all of the news reports, you just didn’t look down the road.

When I was a child on a family farm we knew where our beef came from because we raise most of it ourselves. Eggs came from “people up the road” unless the hens hadn’t laid, then they had to come from town but the little store in town bought them from a big chicken farm not that far away. In short, we either raised it, knew the person who raised it, or knew the farm it came from if it didn’t come in a can or jar. Someone told me the bulk of the food (dairy, meats, fruits and vegetables) produced in the Midwest were consumed within 60 miles of their place of growth. In my personal world it was true so I never questioned it. Whether true or not it was believable to many because that is the way they lived.

I point out the “barefoot in the snow” tail because this is now being institutionalized by state, local, and federal governments. The mindset is good for America and it will grow with each graduating class of school kids. This “fast buck at the expense of all” mindset which became prevalent in the 90s (think “Greed is Good”) has made a train wreck of the global economy, not just ours. It is slowly and surely being snuffed out starting with the school lunch program. Not only are school lunch programs begin directed to purchase locally grown food, some of those schools are actually passing along the knowledge about where food comes from. After years of knowing where the food you eat comes from, the leap back to “it came from somewhere” because difficult.

Before you dismiss this as a rant take a look around at the growing number of eateries serving customers who want free-range, organic and/or locally grown. People who live in Washington and Oregon have made BurgerVille  rather popular. Perhaps you don’t live in those states, but you probably don’t live too far from a Chipotle which has made a stand with the battle cry “food with integrity.” Even if you have lived under a rock this past decade you still had to buy groceries at some point and you _had_ to notice the ever increasing size of the organic/free-range section of your favorite store.

This is a mindset which starts with your food and continues to the rest of your life. People who eat like this start taking notice of where their clothes are made. They ask where their car is made. (The automotive magazines have been making this information available for years now.) Eventually it comes back around to the quality of local schools, fire, police, etc. Eventually it those stats people have heard about the percentage of a dollar spent locally staying in their community, like the ones from American Independent Business Alliance come home to roost.

So, as soon as these final auctions end, I will be closing my eBay account, and my PayPal account. I will finally have to figure out how to create an account on craigslist because that is now is “America’s Garage Sale” and it’s “local.

February 21, 2015

The Indie Book Store Solution

This is part of a discussion I started on Linked-in. Since it is important I thought I would post a version of it here for those who don’t belong to that group or Linked-in.

—-

Lots of places have tried various methods of solving the Indie book store survivability problem. Most Indie book stores actually list inventory on-line with Alibris or Abe or somewhere else. I have read some claims that a large percentage of their business, especially for very old and vintage books, has come via these channels. All of these sites seem to be lacking the last little bit.

“Consignment” is a filthy-nasty word for most. When dealing with Indie book stores it is fraught with peril. Some authors who have tried it claim no two have the same terms, etc. What sparked my memory of this was some “service” emailing me years ago which was offering to let me “rent” shelf space at their stable of Indie book stores. I don’t remember if the number of stores or the genre(s)/markets they cater to were ever discussed. I just remember that it sounded like yet another way to turn authors upside down, emptying out their pockets.

I’m not the only one who thought it sounded like quickly separate an author from his/her money. I went searching for the “service” with multiple search engines and came up dry. I did stumble across the article I posted in the initial discussion and was intrigued by the street cred of the original author. I joined in to some of the discussion there and the real solution formed in my mind.

James Patterson’s feud with Amazon is the stuff of legend now. A good number of authors, myself included, will do no business what-so-ever with Amazon. What big name authors going indie and unknown indie authors do not currently have is a reliable method of getting “splash space.” The next logical step is for some site which not only allows Indie book stores to list all of their inventory for sale, but allows them to uniformly rent “just inside the door upright cover facing table space” to vendors/authors where they don’t have to compete with Amazon.

I have heard many times that table space you first view when walking into a Barnes & Noble (and probably other chains around the globe) is all rented space. The major publishers pay to have a book positioned there for some length of time. Perhaps they also do it for Indie book stores, but I have to doubt they really pursue the indies.

The site needs to be the clearing house for payments both ways and enforce a uniform consignment code.

  1. All consignment space is on one or two tables directly in front of the door so customer has to see when entering.
  2. Each book stack is topped with an upright front cover facing door copy.
  3. Standard wholesaling margins apply.
  4. Each store is allowed to specify genre and content restrictions so a children’s book store doesn’t get porn sent to it, etc.

On the author/publisher side:

  1. Each title must be from an actual print run, not POD.
  2. Author does no business with Amazon
  3. Each title has been can be verified to have been edited by professional editors, not self-edited or “friends & family” edited.

Yes, I have listened to the moans and complaints and “rationale” from self-editors and POD users, and quite honestly, it doesn’t apply. The Indie store allowing you to rent such coveted space (vs. a shelf in the back room the public doesn’t visit) is putting their reputation on the line. They need a professional product not a Wal-mart quality thing. They also need the table to be full of products which people cannot browse in-store for a while then buy on Amazon for less.

There is quite a bit of chatter in the industry about survival of Indie book stores given high costs of store rent and utilities combined with “everyone trying to sell everything on Amazon.” This type of site solves both problems. Not only do the book stores get a cash flow to cover the cost of keeping the doors open, they get unique content which will not be sold on Amazon for at least 12 months (with the stipulation scammers hawking review copies as new will always be there.)

Authors should not expect to break even or turn profit on the rental of such prime space, but it will get them more exposure than they can get otherwise. During off-peak season the price should be somewhere between $300-$600 (depending on amount of foot traffic store has). Yes, November, December, May and June would have “prime” rates because Christmas and pool season are prime times.

Before this discussion devolves into yet another conversation about the low quality of POD, just stop. Even if there were some magic pixie dust which could make a POD book of the same quality as a Web run or a sheet fed run, the one thing you cannot get around is the COST. The per-unit cost of POD is astronomical (leave the multi-colored textbook argument in the closet.) A service such as this won’t give the Indie bookstores anything which is both unique AND appealing if your paperback novel _has_ to have a list price of $24 so the store can have a 40% discount and you can still earn a few cents per copy.

The Indie book store still needs to compete on price, but now it is price within a genre not price on a title. If they can retail titles in the same price range as the ones from the major publishers, but ones which simply are not available on Amazon, they have something. If every book on that table is twice the price of every competing title on Amazon, all you have done is help pay their rent. You have not helped build their business and you won’t be selling any copies. You may not realize it, but you aren’t going to sell any copies.

I certainly don’t want to create such a site. I’m too far into my IT career to take on something like that. Hopefully Abe will see the light. Perhaps that person working on the other thing will take it up? Maybe some young IT student reading this from their college dorm will pursue the venture funding. Perhaps someone will put this notion forward at Apple since physical books not sold on Amazon do not compete with any line of Apple’s business?

February 15, 2015

The Devil’s Music

 

Non Fiction

Date Published: August 2014

Certain musical modes, tones, and instruments have been used to represent evil for centuries. From the torturous musical instruments depicted in Hieronymus Bosch’s famous “Garden of Earthly Delights” to the dark tones that announce the presence of Darth Vader in the Star Wars films, from the cantatas of Bach and the operas of Mozart to heavy metal, music has been used to represent a gallery of rogues and demons including the devil himself. But can music do more than suggest the presence of evil? Can certain music actually embody evil? Since antiquity many have thought so. And this belief combined with religious and philosophical concepts drawn from Eastern cultures has influenced the direction of Western culture, its mythology, cosmology, theology, and politics, and consequently the structure of Western society itself. This book recounts the history of demonic music and its extraordinary influence on Western culture.

Guest Post
 

10 Favorite Authors & Why  

As a writer,  I like Clancy’s technical knowledge and gripping style, Colleen McCullough’s epic depictions of great families in turmoil, Hemmingway’s terse descriptive style, Camus’s epigrammatic style, Dreiser’s realism,  Twain’s humor, Tolstoy’s evocation of Russian society, Balzac’s complex characterizations, Shakespeare’s deep knowledge of human nature, Murasaki Shikibu’s  intimate depiction of a unique medieval society.

 

10 Things Reader’s Would Be Surprised To Know About You  

I love wilderness hiking. I’m a HAM (radio enthusiast).  I’m experimenting with fractal antennas.  I’ve practiced flint napping.  I’ve studied ancient methods for determining longitude and latitude,   I’m an astronomy nut.  I’m fascinated by ancient civilizations.  I’m green (I mean I believe in minimizing my carbon footprint).  I’ve lived abroad.

 

Starting Out As A Writer – 5 Things You Should Know

It’s not easy. Learn the rules of publishing. Learn about copyright laws. Learn about marketing.

 

5 Reasons to Write Non-Fiction

You love research and writing, need to communicate, want to make a difference, crave creative self-expression, and want to pursue your own interests not those of the workplace.

 

Top 10 Favorite (fiction) Books & Why

In order of first appearance, Murasaki Shikibu’s  Tale of Genji, Arabian Nights (folk tales), Shakespeare’s  Henry V, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn,  Joyce’s Ulysses, Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, Clavell’s Shōgun,  Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear, McCullough’s First Man in Rome. I like historical fiction.

 

Your Writing Process

Epiphany, outline, decision to continue,, notes, wondering whether I’m crazy to pursue this, researching and writing chapters, getting feedback, revising.

 

 
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