Authors Guild’s 2018 Author Income Survey Shows 42% Decline in Authors’ Incomes Since Kindle Debut: A Response

Several factors have been mentioned in causing this, most of them coming back to Amazon, Google, and Facebook (especially Amazon) working to reduce their distribution costs and secure profits for themselves at the expense of devaluing the publications themselves. Self-published authors are peanuts at the mercy of an elephant, while traditional publishing houses swallow the additional costs by cutting down on advances and royalties for their authors.

Particularly egregious is Amazon’s willingness to allow third-party vendors to list “new” and “nearly new” books at prices below what they will allow original publishers (including self-published authors) to list them at. This is creating a race-to-the-bottom push in publishing that will have the next great “American” novel being written in India, or Nigeria. Truly American authors will be restricted to celebrities who can sell half a million copies on their name alone, and independently-wealthy dilettantes who only write as a hobby.

An often-made suggestion to deal with this is charging royalties on secondhand books.

I don’t agree in charging a royalty on resale. That’s a whole new can of worms that will enable lawyers to take a vise grip on books, just as they have done with music. Not to mention it won’t solve the problem of Amazon allowing third-party vendors to underbid the original publisher.

What I would like to see is a limitation on copyrights–copyrights are SUPPOSED to enable the CREATOR to enjoy a monopoly on their work, but how does a creator benefit from royalties earned after her death? Either royalties end up with heirs she’s never met, much less determined whether to bequeath her royalties to them, or in the hands of some corporate entity, which is either reaping the royalties (if it’s a cash cow) or forcing it out of the market (in order to clear its list for what may be the next cash cow). Either way, the royalties end up beneffitting someone who hand NOTHING to do with the creation, which is what copyright law is intended to reward. Patent doesn’t last NEAR that long, and the average patent takes longer to develop (time and money) and “publish” than the average book! There’s a lot of good material published in the mid-20th Century that’s going to be lost to time because copyright law allows publishers to suppress it until it’s completely forgotten.

Lawyers are already becoming a problem for authors by defending publishers who slap copyright labels on what should be public domain–if it had ever been copyrightable in the first place. (For example: A fact is not copyrightable, therefore a string of facts that forms a description of a game is not copyrightable, yet the NFL fines “Unauthorized pictures, descriptions, or accounts” of their games with impunity.)

Oh, and about “destroying bookstore returns”: The problem with that one is the cost of returns. That’s why a lot of mass-market paperbacks have these statements about “if you bought this book without a cover”–to save postage, bookstores just rip the front cover off the book and send it back as proof of “unsold and destroyed” while shipping the rest of it off to overstock dollar-store distributors.

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Looking for the Keys Where the Light’s Good.

There’s this old joke about a guy looking for his keys under a streetlamp:

A passerby comes along and offers to help. After several minutes of fruitless looking, the passerby asks where the guy lost his keys.

“In that alley” (or “my apartment,” in some versions.)

“Then why are you looking here?” the passerby asks.

“The light’s better here.”


This is, unfortunately, the ways the Government often deals with danger. Take cadmium, for example.  If you’re an artist, you know cadmium as the pigment responsible for a range of colors from warm red to yellow. Though there might conceivably be a teensy-tiny risk to the artist, once the painting’s done it’s pretty much sealed off and harmless to everyone.

What you might not know is that it could also be in your jewelry box. Recent tests on jewelry sold in common discount retailers (Ross, Papaya, and the like) found some of them were up to 100% cadmium. The common factor isn’t the price point, but the source: “made in China.” (Is anyone surprised?)*

Cadmium’s also been found in drinking water and food, though how it’s getting there isn’t quite so straightforward.

California (naturally) has been slapping warning labels on cadmium-pigmented paints for a few years, now. And many manufacturers are proudly proclaiming their paints as “cadmium-free.” It looks like we may be heading toward an outright ban on cadmium-pigmented paints. (Whether enough die-hard fans of cadmium will carve out an exception for artist-grade paints, as they did with lead, remains to be seen.)

Whether this will have any effect on the increasing levels of cadmium in our bodies is dubious, at best.

But that’s where the light is better.


*Source: Dr. Mark Stengler <> [Warning] The ONE holiday gift you should NEVER give

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Five Theories on the Fitz: Leftoverture

When you’re writing a book that involves a lot of research, there comes a point when you have to tell yourself, “Enough! Write the book already!”

The aftermath of this being, even as you’re finishing the final edits, you’re still discovering new information, and your brain is still formulating new material on your research.

For example, as I paged through my proof copies (typo #23, typo #24…) I began to think more about the equipment the boats carry and what it shows about how Government “solves” problems. More importantly, which problems Government chooses to solve.

You see, at the time the Edmund Fitzgerald went down, there was no requirement to have fathometers on large vessels, and the Fitz only carried a hand lead (a weight on a marked line–not something you’d use in heavy weather). There was no requirement to have anemometers, thermometers, or wind vanes, either, but Fitz had a full suite of these.

Why Fitz was carrying a suite of weather equipment is a story that goes back to November 11, 1940. That was a nasty storm that brought a few boats down. The lakers wanted better forecasting. The National Weather Service wanted more data for their weather models. So they entered into an agreement: the NWS would supply and maintain 40 suites of weather equipment on lake carriers, and the crews would learn to make weather observations and report them four times a day (except when they were navigating rivers). The Edmund Fitzgerald was one of those 40 boats carrying NWS equipment. The program was so popular and beneficial to the boats, that some companies bought and installed weather equipment out of their own pockets.

The Arthur M. Anderson carried company weather equipment.

If the Government’s attitude of “they won’t do it unless we force them” is correct, then why were they buying anemometers and not fathometers?

To outside lubbers, the lack of a fathometer bordered on criminal negligence. Why wouldn’t you want to know if you were getting into shoal areas? To the freighter community, a fathometer was irrelevant. They traipsed over the same paths day after day, week after week, they knew from years of experience where the shallow spots were. The only place there was any variation of note was in the harbors, where erosion and spilled cargo could, over the course of a few weeks or months, leave an ore boat with not as much water under her keel as she should have. In that case, a hand lead was adequate to let the dock know it was time to dredge. Hull damage from shallow harbors and canals is considered normal wear and tear for freighters.

Weather, on the other hand, was a huge unknown. Going to anchor when they didn’t need to wasted tens of thousands of dollars. Not going to anchor (or picking the wrong place to anchor) when they needed to could lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage or loss of the entire boat (and crew). Sometimes a spot that provided safe anchorage early in a blow would leave a boat exposed to the full force of the storm when the wind shifted. The only defense against this was better weather forecasting, and the only way to get that was by accumulating more weather data.

So why were fathometers mandated for large vessels after the Fitz went down and not weather monitoring suites?

Because fathometers to prevent grounding is an easier problem to understand and simpler to apply a fix to than improving freighters’ ability to gauge exactly how dangerous an incoming weather system will be.

Once you recognize this pattern, you see it in legislation everywhere. Government looks for the easiest fix, then tries to convince you that the the fix Government came up with is the most effective solution to the problem, that the problem it solves is the biggest problem you have to face, and that the problems that it can’t solve are so unlikely to occur as to not bother about.

Look around. You’ll see.



Five Theories on the Fitz: And What They Reveal About the Politics of Disaster launched on October 18, 2018 .

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“Strong” Passwords?

When I logged into my email today, as usual I checked my spam folder first, to make sure there wasn’t anything good in it. The only thing in the folder was a notice from WordPress that my “login credentials were recently discovered in a list of compromised accounts published by security researchers,” and therefore my password was reset.

Not sure if it was genuine or not, I went to my WordPress account. Sure enough, I couldn’t get in. So I clicked “Forgot password?” (NO! I did NOT “forget” it!), and then opened my password spreadsheet. I used to keep all my passwords in my head, but password rules have gotten so complex in the past few years–or even assign you strings of unrememberable random letters and numbers–that I’ve resorted to keeping a password list. Especially when a site forces me to create a password by rules that violate my password rules.

I won’t say what my rules are, because if you’re a brute-force attacker, it would eliminate a big chunk of combinations you’d have to go through. Of course, complex password rules also eliminate a big chunk of combinations that have to be tried. To a computer, saying you have to have an uppercase letter and a lowercase letter and a number and a symbol is like saying, “Guess a number between 1-1,000, but don’t bother with anything between 200-900.”

The passwords that I commit to memory are referred to simply by a reminder or which one I’m using for a site. That used to include WordPress. But when I changed to memorized password #2, WordPress rejected it as “too easy to guess.” Memorized password #3 it rejected as “too common.” That left password #4, which is only semi-memorized because there’s variant ways to write it, and I don’t always remember which way I wrote it for a given site, so I have to write it out in the password log.

Having to write it out in the password log means I can’t get to it when I’m not logging in through my own computer. It also means that anybody who gets a hold of my computer can get into all the sites that have complex password rules (including WordPress, now), but still wouldn’t be able to get into the sites that are only logged with reminders of memorized passwords.

For all the 30-odd years I’ve been entering computer passwords, I never considered using significant dates. But with these complex password rules, I may start. 11September2001! may be far more guessable than the passwords WordPress won’t allow me to use, but most complex-rules password systems would be happy to have me using it.


Oh, yeah, and my password was compromised by “an external site or service that you also use being hacked and their user data leaked by the attackers.” (My guess is that means a site that uses WordPress for its comments.) In situations like that (which I believe are the most common way for the bad guys to get your password–more common than all other ways combined), it makes ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE WHAT YOUR PASSWORD IS!

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Unbelievable: “snowflake meltdown” after riding jeep with replica gun at parade

“Why was that necessary, sir? My child didn’t need that today. Don’t care what your position is on second amendment that is completely unnecessary.”

–Pastor Johnny Lewis of Shawnee Community Christian Church, Kansas

What would this snowflake think if he learned that the first firearm I ever held was at just such an event?

Around my neck of the woods, the biggest parade all year is the Bonduel 4th of July parade, and the “picnic” that follows. The highlight of the picnic is the fireman’s fights (popularity varies directly with the temperature), but there’s plenty else going on.

This includes a display put on by the Clintonville National Guard. One year, when I was around five or six (and my big sister was relatively new to the Army Reserves), they let kids have a chance to shoot an M16. Back then, the M16 was still a bit exotic; I think all civilian weapons were still wood stocks and such back then (you know, what today’s gun-grabbers think the only tolerable civilian guns ought to be). We waited in line, and one by one, a Guardsman would have us get down on one knee, put the gun in our hands, show us how to hold it, let us aim it at something above us (they were set up under a tree with lots of convenient leaves to target), and pull the trigger. Then go find the shell.

I was too young and naive to understand or care that only gas was coming out the muzzle, I had it in my head it was the shell that came out and remember thinking when I found it that it was an odd place for where I had aimed. I poked it onto a leaf and carried it by that leaf until it was cool enough to hold directly.

I still have that shell today. (Along with a shell from the color guard of the parade that I participated in as State Miss Poppy.) Sometimes I wonder if the Guard still does stuff like that, or if/when they stopped. (Since I haven’t been to the Bonduel parade in years, I don’t even know if the National Guard is still invited, given the snowflake anti-gun climate that’s developed since the 1980’s.)

I will say, as I’ve said in other posts, that a good chunk of the reason people are so paranoid about having guns around is because they’re not exposed to them as children. When are we going to do something about that?



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Deaths of Despair and Natural Selection

Economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case have discovered a rising trend of “deaths of despair” (suicides, alcohol abuse, and drug overdose) among middle-class American whites.

They look at Europe and don’t see the same rise in middle class deaths, nor do they see it among non-white Americans.

They wonder what is causing this, and offer several possibilities: the loss of jobs among the middle-aged, when it’s hard to start all over again in a new career; the (adjusted for inflation) decline in income among people with only a high-school diploma; and the breakdown of the social fabric as possible causes.

They don’t look at evolution.

American colonists from Europe were coming to a relatively unknown world, with little technological and material support. Co-dependents and people happy with the gentry “taking care” of them wouldn’t have gotten very far. To survive, they had to develop “Yankee ingenuity” and a strong independent streak, traits passed to the modern American White. (And, incidentally, greatly reduced among the Europeans.)

Arrivals from Africa faced a different situation. Most of them arrived in chains. They arrived from overcrowded ships of disease and malnourishment to be auctioned off to people who held power over every aspect of their lives–and deaths. Independence and individuality are not survival traits for a slave. The ones who survived to foster the modern American Black were the ones most receptive to having their lives managed.

And what do we have today? Big Government licensing itself to manage more and more aspects of our lives today. Compared to what negro slaves endured in past centuries, it’s still glorious freedom. Compared to the pioneers, modern society is the very embodiment of what their ancestors willingly left behind.

I grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. In the later books, you find people who are moving west to avoid the encroachment of “civilization” and all its rules and taxes. Well, we reached the ocean several generations ago. The fiercely independent streak cultivated in our ancestors has nowhere to go.

Save death.

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Fix “The Problem” or at least a problem

(A response to “Safe Spaces, Toxic Masculinity and Guns” in Manward)

First of all, “The Problem” didn’t stem from any one thing, and isn’t going to get fixed with any one thing. So, let’s talk about a step to fix a problem. Since we’re mentioning Las Vegas and safe spaces, an obvious problem is guns.

Trivia for you: What do the Boys Scouts and the National Rifle Association have in common?

Answer: They were both founded by war veterans who were disgusted with the shooting ability of soldiers: the NRA by Union veterans after the Civil War, and the Boys Scouts after the Spanish-American War. The logic being, the US Army can’t afford the time necessary to make up for a lack of gun experience prior to entering service.

Now, in a like vein, we have the NYPD having the heaviest trigger-pulls among American police departments. Why? Because they’ve got the highest rate of accidental discharge. Coincidentally, New York has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the U.S. Like the military, police academies have too many other things to teach recruits to spend time overcoming a lack of prior experience in handling guns.  So there’s a little tidbit that rarely finds its way into gun-control discussions: If you live in a gun-restrictive state, you’re more likely to get accidentally shot by a cop.

Then we also have the argument that children are exposed to gaming and Hollywood violence and become desensitized to violence. There’s a flip side to this: Gun-phobics who are only exposed to guns through Hollywood and gaming develop an exaggerated idea of what guns are capable of. You can see this in the resistance to allowing muzzle suppressors (erroneously referred to as “silencers”) for civilian use. Hollywood has taught them that “silencers” reduce the sound of a gunshot to undetectable/unrecognizable levels, enabling murderers to shoot victims without bystanders being the wiser. In truth, they just save everyone around the gun the hassle of having to wear earmuffs to preserve their hearing (something to keep in mind if you’re in a public area and someone near you draws their gun in self-defense).

The solution to both of these problems is to create a basic familiarity with firearms before the age of majority. Yes, I’m advocating not only putting guns in schools, but (under controlled conditions, of course) in the hands of students. Most of the training can be done with air rifles (a.k.a. “BB guns”), which can be safely handled and fired with a few additions to the gymnasium for a firing range. Students could be exposed to actual firearms in a traveling range that could be designed into a semi-trailer. (No, that’s not a targeting challenge, but the idea would be to understand how the gun behaves–marksmanship could be learned with the air rifles.)

A few years of this, and we’ll have a society that actually understands what guns can–and more importantly can’t–do, a good deal of this common nonsense about guns will disappear, and we’ll be able to focus on where the real problems lie.

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