Nobody Knows Not’ing

 

This is not a post about writing.  It is actually a post about epistemological uncertainty.  Put down the dictionary.  Do not throw it at my head.  It’s early, I haven’t had coffee and before I’m fully awake I talk almost exclusively in jaw breaking words.  This is not a brag.  It’s a logical result of my background.  Mothers don’t let your daughters be brought up in Latin languages.

Hold the line a moment.  I’m going to get coffee or this could yet become tedious.  (Become?- Ed.  Shut up wretch – Sarah)

However, what started it was Dave Freer’s post yesterday, comparing a writing career to a muddy river (we always knew there was a load of … er… mud in this profession) and describing the changing scene as the floods of ebooks come down from the mountains.

I commented with what Dan has told me before: right now writing reminds him of computers in the seventies.  Nobody knows anything and anyone who tells you he does is lying.  We’re living on the wild frontier and as yet there’s no data, only anecdote.

No one knows why some books take off on Amazon and some are left behind – Not even Amazon who IS trying to figure it out.

In what is going on in writing, right now, this is understandable.  The field is being hit by catastrophic change, so everything is moving very fast, in all directions.  In October the years before last, I went to Oregon and took a course on how to put up books.  Things have already changed so much, in terms of format, software, covers, as well as pricing, that I’m running to catch up and people whom I told how to do this who are still following my instructions are certainly doing it wrong.

As is, I’m lagging behind on things like getting on Kobo or – for  the relevant stories – All Romance.  I simply have no time, between the traditional career, new writing, doing covers for the back list (was fighting to get the backlist back!) and then getting hit by a series of bugs since… October?  (Actually mid September.) to keep up with the fast pace of changes.  I dip by my writing blogs when I can, but I should be doing it everyday.  And just keeping up with the changes in writing would be a full time job, let alone writing and all the other administrivia.

(Now I should confess I’m never very good at administrivia.  Even in the old model, I had the times I was writing, and the times I was sending out/keeping records.  The two never seem to happen in my mind at once.)

THAT however is neither here nor there.  Even the people who are plugged in 24/7 don’t know much, because there is no systematic collecting of data that presents a coherent picture.  Even Amazon can’t give us a coherent picture, and they’re sitting on the firehose of data.  Because… everything is changing, very fast.  Before the blind men can assemble the data and describe the elephant it’s turned into an emu.

In this environment you get a lot of spinners.  What is your clue that you’re being spun and that things are not what they say they are?  They often keep repeating things, and moreso they repeat them without any seeming awareness that they’ve said this before and it turned out not to be true.  So we get the repeated, screamed “Amazon is really going down, this time sweartagad it’s true, and paper books are coming back, and we’ll have full control of the distribution again” over and over and over again from the traditional publishers.  And then they say it again.

The other thing is misuse of numbers.  How misuse?  Oh, stuff like telling you that the growth in sales of ebooks has slowed down but spinning it so you think that fewer ebooks are being sold, instead of the logical and inevitable development that the PERCENTAGE of ebooks being sold can’t keep doubling forever.  (No?  Well, imagine it grows by 50% one year, and it was 50% of all ebooks sold.  In the next year it will stop growing, inevitably.  Why?  Because it’s now 100% of the market.  Does this mean ebooks are done?  Well, no.  It can’t be.  They’re a 100% of the market in this scenario.)

Most people don’t understand numbers and shut down their brain when numbers are mentioned.  Also, they have a firm faith in mathemagics, which means “math says so, so it’s true.”

If by now you’re going “but I’ve seen those signs on the economy at large”  — this is why I told you this wasn’t a post about publishing.  It’s not a post about publishing because the same thing is going on in the economy and society at large.

I’m getting very tired of starting to read articles, even in reputable investors’ journals that start with “The US economy is improving markedly, but will the world’s economy drag it down?”

Is the US economy improving markedly?  Who knows?  As in publishing, nobody knows not’ing.

Yes, I have my opinions.  Yep, the stores are boarded, every other one, in our city, but then again, you know, our city is making such stellar management decisions (Art on the streets, but no money for lighting crossstreets, for instance.  Or jacking the price of parking downtown up so much – and making the period you can park for only half an hour in some areas.  This is the work of people who don’t understand the experience of shopping downtown and think people drive down, go to a shop, drive to the next one – that only bars and nightclubs survive because they’re open after parking meters shut down.) that it could easily be  a localized thing.  Of course, I have friends all over the country, and yep, a few have lost their jobs, and found other jobs.  But then again, my friends tend to be not only college educated but also the sort of strivers who can turn their hands to a hundred different things.

The children of friends and neighbors have come home because they can’t find jobs/got laid off, but of course this, dire though it is, is not universal.  Some have jobs.

I do know the Hoyt household is pinching very badly.  As in, we’re holding on by our fingernails, and the fingernails are starting to bleed at the edges.  But then, we have two sons in college, and even though we’re doing the thing on the cheap, with them living at home, no one said the thing was cheap, after all.  And last year we were hit by a series of disasters that cost us about 30k in savings, which means we’re about to be very broke, and the taxes due.

I have sort of a sense this is normally not as a bad, that we’ve recovered from bigger expenses in the past sooner.

Most of all, I KNOW – and yep, it’s a know – that regardless of the claims that there is no inflation, our grocery bills have doubled, and that we’re not eating twice as much.  I also know (or suspect) inflation hasn’t doubled the prices of things, just the things we buy specifically.  (Meat, veggies, cleaners.)

I also know that hanging by the fingernails though we are, we’re relatively well off compared to other people, even other employed people.  (Having no debt except the mortgage does help.  Even if that means you have to drive ancient cars and pay for the repairs.)

And I know that in the same way, the rest of the world is hurting more than the US.  How much of this is their misguided policies, and how much the fact that when the US sneezes the rest of the world catches pneumonia, I can’t tell you.  I can only tell you that since the US is the main consumer, the tightening of purse strings here hurts everyone.

And I can tell you that no one I know is making big, extravagant purchases.  Everyone I know is going “one more year on the car, hopefully.”  And “One more winter on this coat” and…

In the case of the economy of course people have the data.  To an extent.  But are the data they’re looking at the relevant data?  For instance, finding that unemployment has stopped growing… is it true?  Well, no, they drop the long term unemployed.  So, as with ebooks, eventually, if they lay off everyone and wait long enough we’ll have 0% unemployment.  But no one will be working.

The problem is that the people who have the data, the people who analyze the data and the people who report the data are not even close to the same people.  If someone tells you something about their field, you believe them because you assume they know more than you do.  But what they say might not be what you hear.

What I’m saying is that even without ideological intrusion, it’s perfectly possible that journalists are lying to us without meaning to.  They’re not good with numbers, that’s why they didn’t take STEM degrees.  And they might not get what they’re being told.

Do I think this is true?  Well, no I don’t.  I think there’s a rich and yeasty combination of ignorance and malice.  Why?

Because as with the publishing houses, we see the hysterical repeated screaming and the seeming ignorance that they said this before and their predictions failed to come true.  So we get “Summer of recovery” and “Son of Summer of recovery” and “Son of Summer of Recovery, Enter the dragon” each one peddled with the wide-eyed credulity of someone who thinks we’re all stupid.

We also get the “Things are getting better” and “This time they’re really getting better” and “Happy times are here again,” even though truthfully there is no sign of anything better for us or anyone we know.

At the same time, other things have totally vanished from the headlines.  For instance, how many of you know that Egypt is sliding into dangerous radical Islam?  Well, on this blog probably a lot of people.  Out there?  Bah.  The man on the street will tell you “Arab Spring” and have a vague idea this means they’ve gone all democratic and that the veils have come off.  Or something.  The camels are dancing with the sphinx and it’s a miracle of Ramadan.  Or something.

And the average journalist would go along with them.  Not just because it suits their ideology, but because they think it’s true.  Then there’s the ideological skew, which, yes, is there.  When 98% of journalists sign on to the “progressive” agenda (and we won’t go on how it’s partly because the humanities have been taken over by the Beasts of Marxism, or this post will never end) they’re going to try to push it, of course they are.

And in that sense, it can’t be said we have a free press.  Not when progressives are in charge.

Oh, look, yeah, no journalist is going to get thrown in jail for saying something the administration doesn’t like.  But he’s going to get crucified by the other journalists, have his reputation trashed – even if he’s a legend of reporting – and probably “never work in this town again.”

This is why in fields like journalism, where the “progressives” have taken the commanding heights of being able to hire and fire (and they always hire and fire by ideology.  Unlike the rest of us who look for other attributes) people like me stay in the closet or risk limiting or losing their career.  (You don’t see that on the other side, btw.)

When your entire news is coming through people who, if they tell something that is unpalatable to the people currently in power, might lose their ability to make a living – how good do you think that information is?

And we can’t, of course, any of us, know everything.

In fact, it might have come to the point that we can’t, any of us, know much of anything.  The firehose of information is full on and despite the dreams of those who thought 1984 was a manual, that doesn’t mean people can control everything or have a full picture of how you’re supposed to vote if they just hit you on the diaper issue, because you bought diapers last week.  No, what that vast amount of information means is that nobody knows not’ing.

When we get the direct data, we get too much and a lot of it contradicts itself.  When we get it filtered, we get it according to what the media mavens want us to see.  (Look, as a writer I know this.  I’ve mentioned before – I can take the same character and present it in a way you see him as a hero or a villain.  Take Kit Marlowe: working class boy, made good, indications he was in favor of freedom of expression – yay.  But then take double agent, weirdly heretic (and I mean weirdly, and often ignorantly), possible pedophile (there’s some doubt if boys is really boys or in the sense of “dancing boys” who are usually men), almost certainly a sadist, at least in his dreams – ew.  And then add: Possible secret Catholic? False coiner? Work-for-hire writer?  What?)

Ideologically bent information was what kept the USSR quiescent so long. They knew they were hurting, but they thought the rest of the world was worse.  How could they know it wasn’t?  Most of them couldn’t travel abroad.  All they had was the reports of a press who wanted them to believe things a certain way.  Which meant they believed what they heard, and they thought bad as things were it was inevitable, and a free market would be worse.

The people here are told, in the same way, that what we have is a free market, and that’s collapsing from being free (not from over regulation.)  And then, of course, they think socialism must be better. But even those who see behind that, can’t get the relevant data to know what’s happening in other areas, particularly areas they’re not experts in.

We’re all low information voters.  Worse, it’s highly possible the government is a low information government, something more terrifying than their drinking their own ink, even if they’re also doing that.

This is a problem because the idiocy of the government can affect the recovery (which I don’t believe exists) or make the recession (do I hear depression?) worse all without their knowing what they’re doing, and without any clue of which direction they should be headed in.

Like a skier caught in an avalanche things are changing too fast and neither us nor those in charge have any clue which way is up, even though we’re all p*ssing ourselves.

Just knowing how the writing field is changing is insane enough a job.  Knowing how the entire economy, all the tech, etc. is changing requires a brilliant mind and more time than any of us has.

I go on general principles and what I know has worked from history: for a country this side, I support less regulation, more freedom and more regional solutions (on the principle that those closer to the problem see it better.)

But do I KNOW for a fact how things are changing?  Not on your life.

Which of course means that those who favor centralized government must prove to me why they know more than the rest of us and why they think they have the information to run everything.

Once more we come to malice or incompetence and the answer is “yes”.  They are malicious because they favor power for themselves and their cronies, which necessitates central-control which is hampered by ignorance and makes everyone worse off.  Which brings us to malice again.

Nobody knows not’ing and I’m tired of their pretending they know everything.

Brief update for the Sarah Spotters: I was at No Pasaran on March 8, but got sick, didn’t read blogs and wasn’t aware of it.  Also, I’ll be at PJM lifestyle with the writing thing this afternoon, and of course I’m being a fraction of insty (where mostly I do the late night posting.)

And apologies on being so late.  We have a furnace-fixing person in the house.

260 thoughts on “Nobody Knows Not’ing

  1. It is actually a post about epistemological uncertainty. Put down the dictionary. Do not throw it at my head. It’s early, I haven’t had coffee and before I’m fully awake I talk almost exclusively in jaw breaking words.
    ….
    This crowd is probably the one most likely to either know the words just fine (even before coffee) or have a good enough grasp of the gist to not need to look it up for anything but personal satisfaction.

    1. I think I pre-proved Foxfier’s point for her when I wrote “Ia! Ia! Epistemology fhtagn!” the other day. How many of you needed to look it up? (Looks around, sees no hands). Yeah, thought so.

          1. The like button is right up there, to the right of the comment date, labelled “Reply” and allows you to post a “Me Likey” or even a “Me Likey Ver’ Much” statement. There is another like button at the page bottom, labelled “Your Turn” which follows the same rules.

            But the best like button is at the top of the page, labelled “Donate” — use it freel … er, liberall … uhm … generously. (Yeah, that’s the Lee.)

              1. You produce money? I’d keep quite about that if I was you, that generally carries a pretty hefty sentence.

          1. On your head. Please refer to the diagram you have been provided MULTIPLE times. I swear, it’s like training a hyperglycemic weasel sometimes …

              1. What do you mean you’re not responsible. That weasel is now traumatized. Do you know how much it costs taking your weasel to a shrink? (This comment left intentionally ambiguous.)

                1. The only weasel I know about was the one that tried to crawl up my pants covered leg while I was elk hunting in the Flat Tops Wilderness.

                  And he was above the age of consent.

                    1. The weasel told him! Are you going to doubt the weasel? He got it straight from the weasel’s mouth!

                      (Pauses. Reads last sentence. Mental Floss? Bleach? Oh, thank you. I’ll pour it right in my ear.)

              1. Technically, I *asked* if I should wear pants. You did not issue a ruling. Ma’am. Waffling about what various members of your blog entourage might or might not prefer does not constitute a ruling.

                  1. Having lived in NC you ought know that there is reportedly a tree in the mountains inscribed “D. Boon Kilt a Bar” (bear) on this spot. Less well known is the fact that the bear subsequently competed in the Highland Games for several years, once placing as high as third in the tossing of the caber. Reportedly he finally quit attending because he “just got so sick of those demmed pipes.”

        1. My dear Sarah,

          Nothing we comment here will scare the mundanes more than you already have. 🙂 Meanwhile, we adapt by minimizing our therbligs, literal and metaphorical.

            1. You have been fierily shouting Truth in a crowded theatre.

              Most people don’t like Truth, spend most of their time avoiding Truth. They’ve invested heavily in their illusions and don’t welcome what you are doing. If nobody don’t know not’ing how can they sell their hot air? You are exacerbating the recession with your rude commentary on the Emperor’s Spring wardrobe.

                    1. I saw that cover yesterday. I bet whoever in the administration thought posing that photo was a good idea suddenly started looking for a very deep hole to crawl into. *evil grin*

                    2. Unfortunately I haven’t picked up my mail this week, so I haven’t seen the cover yet.

                  1. you see how it’s labeled aquavit? You go by doses, not funnel; it’s powerful stuff. One jigger at a time, my good sir, measured by this handy shot glass…

            2. But of course! You’re in training to be a little old lady, scary beyond all reason– and you’re a mother of two boys. SOME scary is going to be involved!

        2. I’m not sure “mundane” is the best description, but I’ve referred several people to this site in the last few months (need to do so again on Facebook), and haven’t seen them posting — yet. I did suggest they read for a bit before posting, so they wouldn’t “reinvent the rhetoric”, or expose themselves to too many dead fish. 8^)

              1. That’s it. I’m getting the Panko Breaded Tilapia out of the freezer tonight.

                1. “Salmon-chanted evening, when you find your true love . . .” (Runs opposite direction from Sarah)

            1. OK, but how do you propose to put the heads of our enemies on them? Even duct tape has limits.

        3. Nah, I just confirm what they thought at a glance– I got stopped in a grocery store parking lot the other day to be asked for directions to the nearest library. (By a kind of cute kid who had lovely manners, including the “stand at least one and a half arms away from any woman you don’t know, especially if she isn’t facing you” rule of thumb.)

          1. “(By a kind of cute kid who had lovely manners, including the “stand at least one and a half arms away from any woman you don’t know, especially if she isn’t facing you” rule of thumb.)”

            Is it manners or just common sense to stop beyond reach of a species known to be unpredictable and dangerous, particularly a mother with young?

            1. As folks have noted, common sense ain’t; I’d rather praise someone for lovely manners than for good sense, even if it was also good sense. (I was armed, and the girls were in the car already, but I don’t think he knew either.)

  2. “right now writing reminds him of computers in the seventies. Nobody knows anything and anyone who tells you he does is lying. We’re living on the wild frontier and as yet there’s no data, only anecdote.”

    I’m going to quote you. The more I read about publishing, the less I know. I keep trying, but mostly right now I must do, and gather my own anecdotes, because there just isn’t more out there to relay to me what I ought to do.

    1. It is a moving target in a whirlwind — changes are too frequent, too unpredictable, too chaotic to permit aiming. The only practical is to pick a target zone and keep firing into it in hopes the target will lurch in front of your shot.

      This is a common industrial life cycle issue, one which can be observed in any industry as it goes through the upheaval of rapid technological change. The railroad, automobile, computer and cellphone markets have all demonstrated this pattern of rapid development in multiple directions until industry standards became established by the marketplace, at which time a consolidation of businesses follows as the more efficient (for certain values of efficiency) players absorb the assets of the weaker participants.

      Publishing is in the process of reinvention as it attempts to absorb the implications of significant upheavals in the distribution system of its traditional product AND adapt to the introduction of new technologies (ebooks) in the production of its primary product. Vested interests cling ever more tightly to traditional norms and standards, repeating their rituals of control (or, as Speaker might say: hitting the pellet producing button ever more frantically.)

      1. I think publishing, as a whole, has the additional disadvantage of not having adjusted to previous changes. Their accounting practices, sales tracking, market research . . . Some of it sounds like it hasn’t advanced past Neolithic times.

        Now it’s hitting all at once.

        And it’s been badly infected by “Progressives.” Most other businesses are at least run for profit.

            1. I think that’s where tech will make the difference. Johnny can’t read because, basically, it’s a lot of work at the start and the Litrature they push at him is so dismal. _But_ a lot of really fun games require that he read . . . and all the social media requires that he read . . . and then he trips across something that’s fun to read . . . and suddenly reading is automatic and easy.

              1. The other day somebody told me that one of the pieces of “literature” high school students will endure under the Common Core is an EPA manual on determining how much insulation a building will need in its walls. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they wanted to keep kids from reading.

                1. Not to mention making the kiddies hate thermodynamics too much to learn to understand it. 😦

                  That said, people being unable to understand thermodynamics probably does favor the greens.

            2. The regime is collapsing:

              Major Victory for School Choice in Indiana
              By ROSS KAMINSKY on 3.26.13 @ 3:18PM

              The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously upheld that state’s school voucher program. Summary, with link to full opinion here. I hope this influences a similar case that will likely be going to the Colorado State Supreme Court.

              From the Indiana Supreme Court web site:

              Briefly, the court rejected claims that the program violates provisions of the Indiana Constitution regarding education and religion. The court emphasized that Indiana’s Constitution does not intend to prohibit religious institutions from receiving indirect government services, “such as fire and police protection, municipal water and sewage service, sidewalks and streets,” but only prohibits expenditures directly benefiting such institutions. The direct beneficiaries of the voucher program are not the schools but those eligible families who are free to select which schools to attend.
              http://spectator.org/blog/2013/03/26/major-victory-for-school-choic

  3. Another sign that not everyone is as rosy about the economy as the media: the regional chorus has gotten NO assistance from any of our usual corporate supporters. They are all having to cut back on charitable giving because of diverting funds to 1) emergency cash stash, 2)the new federal health care fees, and/or 3)inflation padding. The feeling in the air reminds me of the stories from US and European history, when people would go into the fields to plow or harvest, carrying a weapon and keeping one eye on their task and the other on the edge of the woods, in case a wild animal or wild human attacked.

    So, which of the guys forgot to feed the dragon who heats the house? 🙂

      1. I was terrified of that thing when I was a child. Noisy, big, hot, resides in a small dark cave. Ours was in father’s garage, it heated both buildings, in a very small room with a very low ceiling. Never went there voluntarily. The room still occasionally figures in my nightmares.

        1. Weird. He’s never caused me any trouble. He does laugh when I say I want to be a dragon when I grow up, though. Or a wizard. Or both.

          1. Ahhh… you describe a wee little dragon. I have associated with much larger ones and they were very pleasant as long as they were fed and watered with religious regularity. And even if not, they just went to sleep until I could get back to tend them.

  4. I haven’t bought anything new in two or three years, now – or paid full price for anything but food items. There’s a bad feeling in the air that nothing said by the mainstream media can explain away.
    Oddly enough, things are going a little better for the Tiny Publishing Bidness – we had three brand-new clients at the end of the year, and right now we are up to our eyeballs in other clients wanting a professional edit for their books. I think this might indicate that writers who do have a book in them are getting down to brass tacks about getting it out there … and would rather work with someone local than a faceless website somewhere. (I know this last is true as three of the clients have told me so, up front.)
    Interesting time, people, interesting times – in the sense of the Chinse curse.

    1. I’m making more money than ever, from writing — but taxes are KILLING us. OTOH Jerry Pournelle said that entertainment does well in tough times, and the only reason publishing hasn’t, recently, is that it’s not been entertaining.

      1. I, for one unrepresentative sample, would much rather pay $8 for your novel A Few Good Men than pay twice that or more with snacks for that movie A Few Good Men (was that the title?). Anyway, comparative entertainment … your books a much better value than Hollywood. Thank you. Fwiw the prison break snippet totally sold that book to me.

          1. Sarah won’t say it, but being the crass accountant type I can:

            While she is delighted to hear your compliments here, she could be just as easily delighted to read them posted at Amazon (or B&N – she doesn’t discriminate about such trifles) under a five-star review heading.

            (Sigh – my review will go up after I finish reading the book. Call me old-fashioned, call me a stickler, call me late for dinner but I insist on reading all of a book before posting a review.)

          1. Years ago, Eric Flint — who like all collectivists is pretty good about managing HIS money (weird that, but it is common) — told me 30k. Others told me 50k. I’ve been finding out Eric was right.

            1. Whew. Got a ways to go before that’s an issue. Plenty of time to learn how (he says, laughing out the other side of his face).

              Anybody have resource suggestions? Book titles, etc?

              1. If you and your lovelier half do end up here in the top of the mountains, the state has a One Stop website that will walk you through the whole process pretty painlessly. When we created the LLC for my tech company last month, it only took about an hour, including looking up information and making several executive decisions on terms of operation.

                    1. That’s because you’re programmed not to notice. The implant is actually larger than your entire head. They were working on a miniaturized version, but they found it was more cost-effective just to program the victims, er, recipients to believe it had been miniaturized already.

                    2. Mary: It wasn’t the government that was concerned. It was the private-sector company that was the lowest bidder on the contract. If they had actually developed new tech, instead of just programming people not to notice the old tech, that would have wiped out their whole profit on the gig.

                    3. The private contractor in question was incorporated in New Jersey. If I may be permitted to refer to the noted legal decision handed down in Tweeter v. Monkey Man: ‘In Jersey anything’s legal, as long as you don’t get caught.’

            2. Just a comment (in the comments section? How droll!). When you do get around to thinking about formally organizing, you’ll want to look into the current advantages of ALL forms. LLC isn’t the only way to go. I’ve been out of it for some time, but back when I was doing that sort of thing, (when LLCs were new) we took most self-employeds to Subchapter S corps. They got the protection of a corp, the ease of doing taxes as a pass-through, and got to sort of “opt out” of most SS contributions (as an “employee” of the S-Corp who made… yep… about 30K a year.) And there also used to be a couple of “gottcha” things that you had to make sure you didn’t do… like taking “regular dividends” which would encourage the IRS to reclassify them as “wages”. But as I say…. I’ve been out of it for some time. You’ll want someone who’s good at it and current.

                1. Don’t refresh. Start over. Time was a casual I’ll play their game attitude would pay off. Today more than ever a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Likely enough AI and expert systems will make the game easier in the not too distant future but not currently.

  5. “I commented with what Dan has told me before: right now writing reminds him of computers in the seventies. Nobody knows anything and anyone who tells you he does is lying.”

    I’m in that industry, and things haven’t changed from the 70s. Lots of people claim to know things they don’t.

    These people are writing code and maintaining systems that run medical and banking systems.

    1. comment from the farm re computers:
      Back in The Day, when we had a whopping 1 MB of memory the programmers had to write elegant programs. With only a 1 MB limit I wrote an adjustable, easily up-datable Lotus database that had features in it that Lotus said couldn’t be done. And my almamatter used my database for their alum lists for 3 years (without even ONE support call!). (And the instructor of the class I wrote it for had the gall to give me a “B”!!!) Now with virtually no limit on program size, we get crap. Computer programmers don’t HAVE to be elegant anymore – so they’re not. Consider the society as the computer world writ large. Things have become so easy, people don’t HAVE to be good at what they do anymore. Just one of the changes…

      1. You had a MB? Luxury! When I was programming the best we could manage was to suck on a piece of damp 32K of RAM.

        1. Well… the first computer I worked with didn’t even have a memory as such… and the computers in the computer lab had ONE 3.25″ floppy port and no HD. (Or was it 3.5″?) but that was when I was a Frosh…

          1. I think you meant either 5.25 floppys or 3.5 ones. Amazing how spacious those seemed at the time.

            I was going to comment that the computers in the computer lab at my school ran on punched paper tape — but then I remembered my first computer was actually an arrangement of stone monoliths in an open field. Man, one coding error with those babies entailed serious, back-breaking labor to fix.

            And, because any excuse to link Flanders & Swann justifies so doing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usdf8UHL0vU

              1. I always love telling this story: In 1982, I went on a field trip (I was a senior in high school) to Bell Labs in Columbus. They had a large room full of floor-standing, 15″ hard drives, which totaled 10GB for the entire room. We were flabbergasted that they had so much storage in one place.

                Then they pointed to a huge cabinet in the back, where they had racks of 3″ wide rolls of tape in cartridges that looked like oversized 35mm film canisters, and said that cabinet had 270GB of storage, and it was all handled by an automatic mechanical indexing system.

                1. According to a NY Times Sunday Magazine story back in the 90s (when they still did news) Bill Gates at one point was so desperate for capital investment that he offered to hand Microsoft over, free and clear, to IBM (one of the backers) only to be told they weren’t interested in “toys” and had no interest in increasing their investment.

                  Technological advance is a vicious 6itch.

            1. Speaking of them, I wanted to say thank you for introducing me to their work the other day – I found all their discography on Spotify, and had a fantastic time listening to the whole lot in one long go. It’s been great! I owe you a debt of gratitude. *tips hat*

              1. A pleasure. I first met them when their “At the Drop of Another Hat” revue was telecast, which IMDb says would have been December 1967. I have NO idea what network (although I would hazard a guess it would have been CBS as they still styled themselves The Tiffany Network) nor why I tuned in, but I was absolutely gobsmacked by them, as much as by discovery of Tom Lehrer and Monty Python in the years that followed. I don’t know when Beloved Spouse met them, as it predated our acquaintance. Of course, Daughtorial Unit was singing First & Second Law by her entry to kindergarten.

                We were driving Highway 17 up the NC coast one Saturday afternoon some twenty years ago and tuned the car radio into a NPR program that was highlighting Flanders & Swann and enjoyed an hour all the more delightful for its serendipitousness.

          2. A 3.5″ floppy? They hadn’t even been invented when I started programming. 5 1/4″ was it, and 360KB was top end.

            Oh, we used to dream of using a 3.5″ floppy! Would ha’ been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woke up every morning by having a load of rotting software dumped all over us! 3.5″ floppy? Huh.

            1. Kind of related to both this and the talk of credentials in the “Nature” thread: I’ve run into the problem of not having a degree in Computer Science, even though I have 10 years experience. I tried telling them, “NOTHING that I got during my time in college learning about programming translates to today in Object-Oriented languages. We learned the ins and outs of using ONE BYTE FOR 8 Y/N FLAGS, fer cryin’ out loud!. NO ONE does that today!” This argument actually did get me one temp position, but they didn’t extend the contract.

              Still, you’re right about programmers today. I wouldn’t fool around with checking individual bits, either, when memory is so cheap, but some people just start typing, and then kludge whatever breaks until it sort of works. I’ve seen thousands of lines of code devoted to things that could be done in a couple of hundred. In fact, I’m reverse-engineering one now.

              1. A friend of mine was complaining the other day of working on some legacy Java code and finding that the program had a million bytes of “” strings …

                1. That’s as bad as the website my friend was looking over to find out why it loaded so slowly, only to find out that the background color was a 1-pixel dot repeated to fill the screen.

            2. At least you had floppy disks… I remember when cassette tape interfaces came out for storing programs and we all rejoiced at how easy it was to record and then read it off sequentially… you can imagine the joy when 5 1/4″ floppies came out, especially once we figured out you could take a hole punch and make the single-sided ones double-sided…

            1. The Air Force introduced me to computers, using punched cards and patch panels. I learned to do trig on a slide rule, so punched cards and data manipulation by machine was a step up. Graduated from that into legacy systems with mag tape, then up to dumb slave systems, and finally into “smart” slaves and PCs. Only took about 25 years. Oh, and I can add and subtract on an abacus. I’m currently trying to teach Timmy, but he won’t listen to me. Maybe next year.

      2. The first computer I played with had 64k.

        You know, everyone whines like that. Well, except me. I still reflexively work to reduce my memory footprint and keep telling myself it doesn’t matter.

        I’d rather have todays self healing, stable code that is a bit bloated and a bit slow than the sort of buggy, brittle shit we had to deal with in the 80s and 90s.

        In 1995 I was an intern at one of the Big 6. Part of my job was Powerpoint. On a Macintosh (one of the first PowerPC machines, the 6100). I could reboot my machine and double click on the PP icon. 8 times out of 10 the WHOLE MACHINE would lock up. Now, 10 times out of 10 I could explain. 1 time out of 1000 I could write off. 8 times out of 10?

        I have, at times, been responsible for (almost) an ACRE of machines running all kinds of quantity 1 software, and being used by some of the most myopic nitwits to ever get a top secret clearance and shit rarely crashed.

        Why? Because since we don’t have 1 MB of memory any more and since we DO NOT have to worry about it some really bright boys wrote slow crappy stuff like Java and Python and Perl and added in shit like automatic memory manglement and garbage collection and fencing and we’ve learned how to do Unit Testing (which I wish someone would teach aforesaid nitwits, along with stuff like “code review” and “code management practices”.

        The biggest machine at my last gig had 7T available if you hooked it up right (yes, 7T of ram. It had it’s own personal 120T SAN).

        Yeah, we got to the moon on machines with 64k addressable. Well, that and sliderules.

        But we’re kicking cancers ass on 1000 node compute clusters with terabytes of memory and exabytes of diskspace.

        So yeah, maybe it’s not the tightest code, but a working solution now saves a Brazilian lives down the road.

        And that’s even cooler.

        1. PowerPC! You were lucky to have a PowerPC! We used to live in one Apple 6502 CPU, all twenty-six of us, no furniture, ‘alf the RAM was missing, and we were all ‘uddled together in one corner for fear of crashing.

              1. I did know how to use a slide rule once. Not anymore.

                Well, I also had to memorize the multiplication tables from one times to ten times, but most of those I actually managed to forget right after the test. But I used a slide rule for several years in school before we moved to calculators so presumably I should remember at least something, it’s not as if they are that complicated. Nope, found my old one a few years ago, and had no clue.

            1. I truly did have a math class (algebra – in the tech school I tried to go to after blowing college, where I had soaked up differential equations like a sponge – shoulda tested out), during the battle over calculators in the classroom. The instructor finally allowed it, but he put some large problems on the tests. I didn’t have a calculator at the time, so wound up having to do 9- or 10-digit multiplication and division on paper. Blah.

            2. HA! I was limited to a single processing unit with only 5 major input nodes/modes and 5 output nodes. And it required at least 6 hours of downtime per day or it didn’t work very well! That all would have been okay if the output when it was up and running was reliable – but even that was iffy…

    2. I spent 30+ years in the computer development bidness, in both hardware and software. I am literally speechless seeing what is increasingly required for medical record keeping software user interfaces. By law (or at least regulations). I don’t even want to think of what the internals of that software is doing (or not doing).

      1. The Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone has written about this:

        In response to my blogpost on how setting up the information technology for Obamacare is an “impossible endeavor,” Reader John Capron of Modena, New York, whose LinkedIn profile shows 35 years of IT experience, has given me permission to quote the following, which I pass along without further comment:

        “Wow, what can go wrong here? Let me assess this based on my years of experience in this industry. The federal government is going to build 50 exchanges, using a data hub that doesn’t exist physically and in fact, the design hasn’t been solidified, and must be accessible to a variety of data processing technologies that range from archaic to old.

        “Each of the 50 states have different eligibility rules, and with a significant number of states opting out, the federal government now has to learn the intricacies of each state’s Medicaid eligibility models which then scale to different applicability rules for different members of a given family. The thousands of pages of bureaucratic rules that will drive requirements haven’t been completed yet, and those requirements are needed to drive design not only for the application programs, but for the entire processing architecture.

        “The issue of network, processor, and storage performance has to be decided, modeled and tested. To complicate matters, the convoluted federal procurement rules for hardware and software have to be adhered to, which require mixing different hardware brands, software packages and service providers.

        “Add to this compliance analysis to validate and revalidate trusted sources of data. All legal requirements at the local, state, and federal level have to be met by the design. And last but not least, staffing up for customer support which requires hiring, training on applications not yet designed and real world tested, the creation of support documentation, building or retrofitting facilities for these folks, setting up backup sites for the required redundancies, plus hardening the sites for natural disaster power failures. Additionally, the people hired must meet the Equal Opportunity criteria, and all GUIs must be handicapped usable, as well as the facilities themselves.

        “I could be here all evening defining additional work to be done. Oh, did I mention this will be done by next year. Now I know why this has never been attempted. We are a country made up of 50 separate and distinct states, with all their own rules of governing, and to make things more unworkable are all the federal rules that have to be adhered to. I think we the people are going to be safe for quite awhile here.”
        http://washingtonexaminer.com/more-on-the-obamacare-it-nightmare/article/2524900</BLOCKQUOTE

        Link to original article referenced in paragraph 1 can be found at the link for the column posted. Paragraph breaks inserted for ease of reading according to my best guess.

        1. N.B. Sarah, this might be suited to posting at Instapundit, possibly with the heading “When the Obamacare hits the fan.”

        2. For another interesting perspective, ask Larry Correia, Former Professional Auditor, about his opinions on Obummercare sometime. Just make sure you HAVE the time. And popcorn.

          1. I’ve read his opinion on gun control. I don’t want to know how many words he could produce on the subject of Obamacare.

      2. Oh… you’ve only seen the half of it. My wife took two hospitals that she worked at to computerized charting, and then out of it and back to paper. Why? Because the software companies would screw something up in the programs, the hospital would complain, and the software company would fix it… but they’d fix it on their copy of the program so when they blew the “fix” into the hospital’s copy it erased former fixes, and they were apparently too dumb to figure out how to stop chasing their tails.. which was why she ended up rejecting the entire program. I’m thinking that the new regime under OC will be even more complex… and the software people won’t be any better than they used to be and the resultant mess will be of epic proportions…

        1. So basically that hospital had hired a software firm that couldn’t do basic source code control and configuration management?

          OMG

    3. Everyone talks like all these dinosaurs are dead and gone. One of my job functions is the care and feeding of a herd of VAXen older than I am! And this ain’t no museum piece either, it’s still doing the jobs it was installed for back in the 80s.

      And here people were telling me that if I joined the military I’d get to play with all the cutting edge toys that show up in the trade mags.

      1. Do you mean VMS clusters, or real live VAX machines?

        There’s a few places where the VMS clusters are still growing.

        1. VMS clusters providing interfaces to software running under VAXELN actually. The hardware’s actually mid-90s microVAXen, but the code’s all 80s, I checked.

      2. Who the hell sells you parts? Some Chinese scrap dealer? Last time I heard of DEC, Michael Dell rolled over them in his sleep.

        1. Perhaps this is why homeland security needs several billion rounds of ammo, that way when everybody else has upgraded to lasers and railguns they will still have plenty of 9mm ammo for their Beretta’s.

            1. Yeah, well, since I predict the .40 is going to be one of those ultimately superior calibers that refuses to die, like the 45-70, regardless of how many technological advances should technically make it obsolete, there will always be .40 ammo around. 9mm on the other hand is an obviously inferior caliber and doomed to an ungrieved (is to a word) demise.

                1. You forget that 45-70 fills a useful niche, and is rockin’ fun to shoot, but .40 is probably going to go the way of 9mm Largo. It may be a better cartridge, but there is so much support for the manufacture and use of 9×19.
                  I always want to ask a .40 shooter if it was Tubbs or Crocket that carried one of those.

                  1. 10mm Auto supposedly. Back in the ’80’s, I shot IPSC with a club in Southern California that had as a member Jim Zubiena the guy who played “the Argentinian” in the Miami Vice episode “Hit List”. (His gun handling in the opening scene of the episode is iconic among those of us in IPSC in the ’80’s). He had worked with the two lead actors on gun handling before the first season. He also got one of the Bren Ten pistols in .45 ACP I think, and tried to use it to shoot matches. But as anyone can find by a little Googlefu, they didn’t run for crap.

                  2. Despite or maybe because of a confusing marking the Largo was popular enough (cheap import handguns marked 9mm/.38?) to be in the Blazer low priced ammunition product line for a long time and of course the cartridge interchanges nicely with the 9×23 for light loads in the 9×23 and a case for handloads in the Largo – BUT DON’T USE 9X23 LOADS IN A LARGO HANDGUN.

                  3. If you looked simply at stats the 45-70 should be obsolete, in the real world a stainless 45-70 Guide Gun pushing a 405 flatnose at 15-1600 fps is the best close range brush gun for bear, made.

                    In reality I was just bashing 9mm’s because I hate them (while at the same time looking for one at the right price, because they have their uses) and bragging on the .40 because it is clearly a superior cartridge. 🙂

                    Oh, and shoving a stick in a dark hole to see how many snakes I could stir up to defend the 9 😉

                    1. I’ll join in hating on the 9mm, while seeing their uses.

                      Anything so poorly designed that every single shooting qual on ship had at least one person laying their hand open has a lot of reasons to hate on it. (It’s not that sailors are that dumb, it’s that the quals are held after dark, far out at sea and at least half of the ship doesn’t actually GET the “12 off” part of the supposed work rotation. No weapon for use after a long period of disuse should require that an operator be well rested and thinking at high speed or bleed.)

                    2. Is that a question of 9×19 cartridge or firearm to shoot it in? Seems to me that with the M9 Beretta the choice was more to please bullseye shooters than combat shooters.

                      Long ago and far away I had a Model 39-2 in 9×19 and liked it very much. Currently I have switchbarrel 1911 in 9×23 and 9×19 which I am in the process of retiring in favor of a red dot sight on the handgun. The new one is a switchbarrel S&W M&P compact (with RMR by David Bowie) with barrels in 9×19, .357 Sig and .40 S&W.

                      On the whole I am inclined to agree with Michael Bane (who gave a shout out/link to our hostess and this blog last week) that the 9×19 is good enough and the magazine holds more. The .40 S&W has a nasty feel in the hand and the .357 Sig is too loud. Given hearing protection or a can I like the .357 Sig just as I liked the 9×23.

                    3. No, the M9 Beretta was chosen to appease Italy as a member of NATO by buying something from them besides pasta for US base chow halls.

                    4. I like 45-70 because I load black powder for my trapdoor. But then I also load .43 Mauser for the 71/84. (Both are fun to shoot at 600yds but it makes the guys in the pit concerned)
                      As for poking up snakes I have to say that the 9X18 Makarov is much funner to shoot than parabellum.

                    5. The 40 has nasty feel in the hand? Well in a compact maybe, or in a Glock, (I swear Glock makes their prototypes out of 2×2’s without rounding the edges, and then builds a polymer pistol with the exact same dimensions) but my Witness is comfortable to shoot a couple hundred rounds through. Now 10mm on the other hand has a bit of a bite to it. 😉 Oh and if you think the .357 SIG is loud, shoot a 22 Jet sometime.

  6. Agreed – I would only add that, while we don’t know anything about what’s going on now for certain, we do know a bit more about history, and what the policies being pursued now (as far as I can tell) have done when applied in the past. Or, to twist a phrase I heard recently, the 1930s called, they want their failed policies back.

      1. Their desire is not driven by the policies having been successful, their desire is driven by their policies having given them a sense of control from having their hands on the choke point. Such people have no problem with societal decline so long as their decline is happening slightly more slowly than the rest of the culture’s.

        In nautical metaphor: they don’t care about the ship sinking so long as they are the last to go under;.

  7. At best one can achieve some modicum of knowledge by inference through the observation of local conditions. For example, the cost of groceries in what we’ve been repeatedly told is a low inflation period, the sharp painful twinge every time one pays for a tank of gas, that just about everyone knows someone who’s kid just graduated but has settled back in to their childhood bedroom “until things improve.”
    Yet there are areas of the economy quite literally booming, pun intended. I am a hobbyist shooter and reloader, so keep an eye on that area of commerce. Gun store counters are five deep in customers willing to pay exorbitant prices for anything that shoots. Those same stores have had to impose quantity limits on both guns and ammo to keep from being stripped bare, unsuccessfully in some cases. I have had to limit my reloading services to family and close friends to keep from seriously depleting my own reserves. I’ve had any number of casual acquaintances quite literally begging for just a few rounds to tide them over until the market improves.

    Hey, spring is here, who needs a furnace? (yeah, I’ve seen the weather reports for your area, Happy white Easter)
    OTOH, a coffee pot with a timer might just be a worthwhile investment.

    1. Can I be a close friend? Heck, I’ll be family: I’m not difficult (that way, shaddap). Though honestly, I’d like to get into reloading in the future. I like the idea of paying less for shooting.

      1. Everybody says it’s to save money, but just ain’t so. What happens is you spend as much, but get to shoot a whole lot more.
        Now is a very bad time to get into reloading. The components markets are drier than a popcorn poot, and scalpers are driving what is available out of the reach of cost conscious consumers.

        1. That’s the impression I’ve been getting. And honestly, I’d settle for shooting more. Living in Hawaii (jokes aside) makes that difficult. Fortunately, moving to the East Part (southern MD, an improvement, believe it or not) next month. Keeping an eye out for deals, but not terribly worried about timing. Do you recommend a particular brand of equipment?

          1. If you are just wanting to try it out I would recommend one of the LEE package deals. Practically any particular piece of equipment somebody else will make a product of better quality than LEE, but not for a cheaper price, and all the LEE products work. Their package deals are very economical, and come with everything needed to start reloading. Also while somebody will make something of better quality, albeit for more money, some LEE products are more user friendly and more comfortable to use (their classic press while not the stoutest, best made on the market, is the most comfortable single-stage press I have ever used, and in ten years I have never managed to break anything, and as my father used to fond of pointing out, I could break an anvil) in fact the only thing I have ever broken made by LEE was a case feeder on a Load-Master, which a) was my fault using the wrong one for the caliber I was loading b) is not a beginner press and c) is a PITA and the one item I have used made by LEE I would not recommend.

          2. I always recommend getting a good heavy duty single stage press. Any of the big cast iron “O” presses will do. Avoid “C” presses as they are intended for light duty. Do not, repeat not, jump straight into a progressive press. Reloading a metallic cartridge is a precise meticulous process with a number of steps that must be performed carefully and in the correct order, and a single stage press forces you to focus on each step separately.
            And before any acquisition of hardware invest in one, or better two or more, reloading manuals by Lee, Lyman, Hornady, etc. They all will walk you through the entire process from a pile of scattered components to the finished product. Once you know and understand the purpose of each step you will be ready to crank out some shells of your own.

            1. My learning to reload suggestions start with reading some of the older but much more complete books on the general subject. I like Naramore’s Principals and Practice of Loading Ammunition and Phil Sharpe’s Complete Guide to Handloading. Richard Lee’s book is also a useful book not just a collection of brief magazine articles. With those as a firm foundation then perhaps areas of particular interest – handgun or long gun and hunting, bullseye or action competition or what have you. For hunting there is no better book than Bob Hagel’s Game Loads and Practical Ballistics. Hanloader Magazine from Wolfe Publishing can be browsed on newsstands for more information and to develop some sophistication. Curiously like tooling and components some of the books are in short supply and selling at bid up prices for immediate delivery. Some of the new data books are best bought as part of a tooling kit.

              No loads should ever be taken on faith from older books. In substantially all cases the most current data should always be used – components change, technology changes from pressure measured by crushers and velocity by ballistic pendulums to electronic tools and knowledge grows. Folks have always liked to shoot loads that outperform the neighbors but just as racing cars on the highway that’s at best unwise and at worst downright dangerous.

              If the needs are light duty then there’s nothing wrong with a light duty press. I started with a Lyman 310 tong tool – perhaps still useful for a bugout bag but a specialty tool rather than an economy tool today. My most used press today is a Harrell 4 station turret – which as a matter of fact is a C press style – clamped next to this monitor and used for preliminary processing and small runs. To that I add among others another portable, a load Anywhere Press (Meacham) a Forster CoAx for precision – neither a C nor really an O press but a best in class single stage just the same. A Hollywood Universal Turret – bought because Elmer Keith said it was the best and in his day maybe it was – hardly true today but truly universal including the biggest Kynoch cartridges and .50 Browning. A Redding T7 turret so I can keep some Redding Instant Indicator case gages setup all the time. To that add a Hornady LNL Auto Progressive with a case feeder – clearly the most economical in its class and IMHO the most versatile. The Dillon 650 progressive with a case feeder has maybe a slight edge for short stubby not self aligning cases like the .45 Auto and the RCBS, with the APS primer system, may be best progressive for folks who make shorter runs of many different cartridges with large and small primers.
              Capitalism works and all of the brands work – Lee does just fine but for more specific purposes some spend more and get more.

              In today’s market prices for tools and components are all over the place with many shortages and some paying far above last year’s prices. Folks who are price insensitive and just want the best are faced with long long delays at list or discounted prices and so are bidding up what they want and so prices have been bid up. Pays to look at many catalogs and websites to get a feel for normal past prices and current prices and watch for the market to settle down – I have no idea when the market will be less volatile and what prices well settle at but a close examination will let folks reach some conclusions of their own.

          3. For data these days, I just use the powder manufacturers websites online. Hodgdon is best as it has their line, plus IMR and Winchester powder lines. They also sell a magazine sized pamphlet of data each year on the magazine racks.

  8. On the stealth inflation front… In the past few weeks, Pringles cans shrunk about an eighth of an inch. The weight of chips inside dropped about a quarter ounce. The price didn’t change. I only noticed because I found both old and new cans on the same shelf.

    Nope, no inflation ’round here, nuh-uh…

  9. It is very important to fix your furnace. Failing to do so might result in it breeding and there are already too many feral furnaces in this world. EVERYBODY: make sure your furnace has been fixed!

    Besides, if it is a male furnace and it hasn’t been fixed … well, don’t complain nobody warned you. (And oh, don’t even get me started on what happens when a female furnace goes into heat.)

  10. “(Having no debt except the mortgage does help. Even if that means you have to drive ancient cars and pay for the repairs.)”

    We are pretty happy with no debt. And I actually love my 15 year old paid off Jeep Cherokee. Bumper sticker: “Driver carries only $20 worth of ammunition”

    1. You really should make sure your magazine or cylinder is full. Just $20 worth of ammo is not enough.

        1. *checks her plinking ammo* I get 50 cartridges for $14, before tax; that would be ten full loads, not counting the home defense rounds already in there. Pretty sure if I need more ammo than that in the car, I’m not gonna have a chance to reload my little 38 special!

          1. Great googly…. apparently, the price is even better than I thought, from tooling around online….

            If anybody ever drives over by the McChord base, Surplus Ammo and Arms is great. (they also have awesome Zombie target stuff)

        1. Cheaper Than Dirt has it for $29.59/20, not counting shipping & tax. So figure just under $25. I really need to get the press out, but without primers, it’s not so useful at the moment.

          1. Last I looked, I still had about 1500 large pistol primers. But I planned on shooting more USPSA this summer … won’t last long.

        2. Box of 20 lists on line for $24-26 with a status of Out of Stock, No Backorder, so I suspect scalpers are getting at least $2 a round for that load.
          Just fyi, I charge my friends $15 a box of 50 for ball and $20 for hollow point reloads based on what I paid for components in hand. Once I have to start replacing supplies… Looks like it’s gonna be a hot dry summer as far as recreational shooting goes.

  11. THANK you everyone… You have no idea how encouraging this thread is to me. I took my first econ class in HS back in the days of old, with Knights so bold. (1967). Since that time I’ve sorta-studied econ (including a couple of University classes as part of my accounting degree). I won’t bore you with the rather long list of the things I’ve learned to do over the last lottsa years.

    So… comes now the Expert on absolutely nothing to tell you stuff.

    First – you don’t have to be an economist to get an accurate feel for the economy, or to figure out how it’s going to run over you and smash you like a bug. Just look at whatever industry you ARE an expert in, examine the parts and pieces, see how they are changing and trending – and even if you don’t understand the Ways the government Lies to you (like the meaning of “core inflation”) you’ll know.

    Second – once you’ve figured out where you stand and how to build an overhanging cliff to hide under, do it if you can. If not remember the posterd back in the ’50s and ’60s about what to do in the event of a nuclear attack… and pay special attention to the last instruction – economically.

    I’ve been avoiding my usual information sources (some off-shore, etc) for about a week – a periodically required exercise that re-sets my balance bubble. Now I’m getting all depressed again.

    Sigh… If you want to see Econ written for the masses, go to my blog, and click on the economics tab. If you go back to the first post, you can learn some of the BASICS of money and economics that might be helpful – and might not. (I get nothing for clicks or any ads you might find there. without Flash, I don’t even see them)

    Perhaps especially useful might be the post about the USA is Rome. As I said above – History is just tomorrow written in quaint language.

    Yep… now I’m all depressed. Think I’ll wake the kid up and go worm the cows…

  12. I think it is important not to get depressed or too risk-averse in times of great change. True, don’t get into ventures that require you to invest lots of capital destined for retirement savings. But these kinds of chaotic periods can present a lot of opportunity to those willing to grab a wave and ride it.

    But if you start a new venture, stay lean, don’t borrow and be agile.

    1. Taken from Instapundit this morning:

      NASSIM TALEB: How Debt Ruins Systems. “Debt leads to fragility. We’ve discovered since the Babylonians that debt has systemic consequences whereas equity doesn’t. Let’s say that you have two brothers. One of them borrowed and they both had predictions about the future—forecasts. One brother borrows. The other issues equity. The one who borrows will go bust if he makes a mistake. The one who issues equity will fluctuate but will be able to survive a forecast error.”

      Posted at 7:58 am by Glenn Reynolds
      http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/165488/

      1. Minor correction – As Monsieur Bastiat put it, there are visible effects, and not visible effects…. I’d submit that if things go south, BOTH will lose their shirts. the visible effect is that folks with debt will not be able to pay it back. The not immediately visible effect is that the lender will not be paid back. So in the final analysis it doesn’t matter what either of them does – they’ll be sharing the same can of soup at the burn barrel on the corner.

    2. I’m a long term kind of person because I really suck at “timing” markets and such. And so I’ve been doing things that should – that’s SHOULD keep us in biscuits and warm and dry no matter which way the evil frogs jump. But life does not come with guarantees…

  13. Speaking of economic indicators, I’ve seen a puzzling one. Maybe it’s just me. My Barnes & Noble sales have gone from a steady state of “not even a Happy Meal” to “nice dinner for two at the best restaurant in Seattle” in the space of three months, and this is *before* SoM came out. We’re talking exponential growth, and I didn’t do nothin’. Amazon sales have been flat over that period.

    My paranoia says all those people with Nooks are worried B&N is in a death spiral and want books now before the online store disappears. (If I squint the numbers look a lot like “mene, mene, tekel, upharsin” ….)

    1. You may be right, but the more likely outcome of a B&N collapse is the closing of the brick&mortar half and the spinoff of the Nook business.

      1. I have seen reports that they are already at work on separating the two businesses.

        My suggestion is wariness when viewing changes in performance, harvest the bounty and don’t count on more. Although spreading a little manure around a prospering crop probably wouldn’t hurt. This may be nothing more than somebody discovering your work and telling a friend or two who each tell a friend or two. It may be the start of a trend, it may be a squib.

        1. Yeah yeah… I know… you were going for metaphor – but JUST IN CASE someone thinks that spreading manure on a prospering crop is a good idea… nope. REAL manure will burn the prospering crop – and if you work the stuff into the ground too close to planting it will tie up the nitrogen while it breaks down and you get yellow leaves… 😮

  14. Or jacking the price of parking downtown up so much – and making the period you can park for only half an hour in some areas. This is the work of people who don’t understand the experience of shopping downtown and think people drive down, go to a shop, drive to the next one – that only bars and nightclubs survive because they’re open after parking meters shut down.

    Know what the brilliant city of Cincinnati is about to do? Contract out their parking facilities to a private company, so that the one-time payment the company pays them for this privilege goes towards the budget deficit of this year. Yes, there is a yearly payment, too, but nothing like the one-time payment for taking over, and everyone is certain that parking prices are going up (I pay $4 a day for poor location parking. Some people pay $20 a day for the good locations).

    Of course, they’re trying to build a street car system, too, and the estimates on how much it will improve business are ridiculously inflated. Funny thing – everyone tells them to just buy buses that LOOK like street cars, and not build the rails. One of the cities across the river in Ky did that for some of their buses that go into Cincinnati. I think they did it to mock them. 🙂

    1. Funny thing – everyone tells them to just buy buses that LOOK like street cars, and not build the rails. One of the cities across the river in Ky did that for some of their buses that go into Cincinnati. I think they did it to mock them. 🙂

      I love those modified bus trolley things! They were the best part of the Fair when I was a kid– especially since you could pop it out the sun blinds or the rain cover, and they’re so much easier to get drivers for.

  15. Latest economic news in Europe is that the European Commonwealth is confiscating 40% of the money in bank accounts in Cyprus over 100k Euros to pay bad loans. Most of those accounts are held by Russians. And Putin of course is going to say, well, gosh darn gee, isn’t that too bad.
    I think the shoe about to fall is a hobnailed boot.

    1. Rumor on a few of the German sites is that the Oligarchs and mobsters already got their cash out. That was what caused/ is causing the delay in reopening the banks. So only the Cypriots and non-Russians will get hammered. There’s also talk about applying a similar process to P.I.and G.

      1. Since Cyprus is run by the mob I highly suspect this is true. Say what you will of the mob an ignorance of personal finance is not one of their common traits.

    2. I’ve been wondering lately if the screams we hear are the archduke getting murdered.

      Does anyone know if the Russians still have the street signs in Russian to direct their troops across Europe ALL the way to Portugal? What? Well, who’s gonna stop them?

      1. Guys, don’t scare me. The border is less than 350 km away from where I live. And a month or so ago one professor got some attention when he estimated that Finnish defense would last only a few hours against a full on attack.

        Maybe I should start reading about things like guerrilla warfare, resistance movements and potential escape destinations. Or just hope that our dear leaders can lick the bear’s behind in the most soothing manner, and it figures there is still no need to waste forces in this direction since we are such good underlings already. Finlandization, phase II.

        1. In the limited comfort department, if they overrun your country things probably won’t noticeably change. The government might actually be run more honestly (if by honestly you mean overtly corrupt instead of the covert corruption that permeates most Western governments these days.)

        2. The original tactics of the Winter War would probably do just as well against current Russian army as it did against the 1940 one. Maybe better, as I think current Russians are softer.

          1. So are current Finns, I’m afraid. In that generation most men knew how to handle a gun, and how to move in a forest, since most had grown on small farms and hunted. Now most are city kids.

      2. “President” Obama did say he’s have more flexibility after the election.

        I think Putin scared him s*tless.

  16. Put it together – higher grocery prices goes with violence from revolutionary France to the contemporary Egypt mentioned above. No doubt for Egypt there are many clues.

    “Besides cutting subsidies, the severe economic crisis has forced the Islamist-led government to introduce rationing.
    Tension is already high in Egypt with the shortage of fuel, and economists have warned that restrictions on bread sales could cause a “revolution of the hungry.” AL ARABIYA

    The genius of capitalism is that somebody someplace will be doing what after the fact turns out to have been the right thing – but can’t properly be said to have been the smart thing – pessimists who predict failure are much more likely to be right than optimists who predict success – but optimists have a much higher success rate.

    Scroll back to the top and think about the quote from Mr. Heinlein .

    1. The Muslim Brotherhood is the least of Egypt’s problems.

      Several knowledgeable commentators (I can’t be sure and checking is too much bother, but at a guess it would be Walter Russell Mead’s Via Media blog) have been discussing for months the problem Egypt has of being a net importer of grain & other foodstuffs. Their currency reserves are badly depleting and nothing is happening to replenish them. The MB can’t do much about famine and it is coming up Egypt’s sidewalk to present its bill as Past Due.

      Good management might, might have generated sufficient tourist traffic to delay the reckoning. The MB ain’t good management.

      The Cypriot haircut was triggered by the Greek haircut — Cyprus’ banks held a lot of Greek bonds. Now the question arises over who’s been scalped in Cyprus’ bailout.

      1. Always wanted to visit Egypt, would be nice to see all those monuments live and the package tours from here haven’t been all that expensive (if just a bit too much so for my budget). But that probably will not happen now even if I got the money, that place is starting to look seriously scary. I would not even be averse to something like wearing a hijab if necessary, I pretty much have to cover myself if I spend longer periods in the sun anyway, but right now that country doesn’t even seem to be safe for their own women.

        1. My daughter went as an active-duty Marine to Brightstar 2001 – that was the regularly-scheduled NATO exercise which took place in Egypt just after 9/11. She had volunteered for it months before, because she would have a chance to see the various ancient sites during off-duty excursions organized for those personnel who were interested … but after 9/11, all of that went by the wayside. Egypt was seriously scary even then. She had a seriously scary encounter, driving two young officers in the vicinity of the port of Alexandria, where some Egyptian police essentially tried to kidnap her from the car. They were all only rescued by the timely arrival of some heavily-armed American military policemen. She had no interest in venturing to see the Pyramids and all, after that. Sad. That was probably the last chance for anyone in our family to see the Eqyptian antiquities on anything but the History Channel. Sad, that.

      2. I suspect the surge in attacks on the Copts is part of a distraction by the “government” from the food supply problem, now that they’ve eliminated their main source of outside income (aside from the largess of the current US administration). That and a last-ditch way to keep the Brotherhood and the Salafists from killing each other, at least for another few weeks or months.

        1. Traditionally that function has been filled by “The Jews” but given Egypt’s location and circumstances the Copts probably seem a much safer target.

          The next stage is typically either an attack on an external enemy (impractical) or a renewing of religious fervor (ongoing.)

      3. The MB can’t do much about famine and it is coming up Egypt’s sidewalk to present its bill as Past Due.

        IIRC, there was also something about how the Copts with their pigs were making up a lot of money flow– and the muslim brotherhood keeps finding excuses to slaughter the herds for “health reasons.”

        Making it too dangerous to visit for tourism is also headbangingly dumb.

  17. I must unlurk long enough to say that I’ll be pointing my management to “Son of Summer of Recovery, Enter the dragon” as the reason I’ll be needing a new keyboard, as my current one is full of the coffee that I was attempting to drink at the time

    1. Well! You should know better than to read this blog with liquids in your mouth! The management of this blog is not responsible for ruined keyboards or bosses suddenly startled by loud laughter. There are lawyers among my commenters. Don’t make invoke them. (Particularly because it’s so hard to shove them back into the lamp afterwards. PARTICULARLY now with the twisty light bulbs.)

      1. Those reading here either do or should also follow Dr. Pournelle who from time to time reports showering with his keyboards (in some part because he often has a bowl of artificially buttered popcorn handy to the computer) I’ve done it myself with no adverse consequences – though it does pay to have a spare so the wet one is given ample time to dry out.

        1. Yeah… sure… rub it in that you can afford the keyboards that cost more than $10 USD… when mine get wet, they stay wet. (I tried to wash syrupy ice cream goo off of one a while back and it never worked again… )

            1. I have a revenge pee-ing cat. Needless to say, I buy keyboards at goodwill for those days when she is feeling neglected.
              (To answer the obvious question, she came with the house, the previous owner went into assisted care living)

      2. Ah, but lawyers being naturally crooked fit extremely well in the new twisty bulbs. You just have to be very careful to get them started just right then know which way to crank their tails. Helps to have a supply of corks and a hefty bung starter handy as well.

        1. Okay, if they fit in there, where does the light come from? You’d think they’d obscure all of it, considering how little space there is. Unless it’s the lawyers who produce the light? That’s a new one.

          1. The light comes from their glowing opinions of themselves. That and from the friction from them rubbing their hands together in anticipation of committing yet another act of legal theft against the innocent.

              1. Alternate definition: Lacking sophistication, guile, or self-preservation. Synonyms artless, ingenuous clueless.
                Such are the natural prey of the lawyers.

  18. The main stream media will not show anything damaging to the economic or political powers. Irritating or disrespectful yes. But nothing that actually can be used against them.
    If you want real news it’s out there. But you have to go look at the ‘nut sites’ and decide which are nuts but right. Then ignore the comments.
    I’d recommend a couple but I think bias against them is so strong most people will just discount them if they aren’t a major network.
    I knew about the Cyprus mess four days before I saw anything about it on MSM sites. This morning you’d think they are wrapping it up – but the trouble from it has barely started to spread.
    Oh – and I closed my brokerage accounts over two years ago. I can’t play the fat finger fandango against computers that can withdraw their offer before I can finish reading it.

    1. Oh, good heavens, I freaked out half of my facebook friends by “knowing all about the Pope half an hour before CNN heard about it!”

      My intensive research?

      I signed up for the White Smoke/Pope Alert text thing, which got there about ten minutes after some Catholic friends at The American Catholic who had EWTN’s Smoke Watch streaming, and then I turned on Sacred Heart radio’s stream of EWTN radio.

      Streaming is about a fifteen second delay, average, from what I could get by normal radio signal…. but it’s not like I can even speak Latin or anything, I was scanning the list for what bishop was named some form of Francis before becoming Pope. (No, I didn’t know the ritual announcement phrase, and I don’t think I’d have been able to translate anyways.)

      And while watching kids, I was able to beat the “breaking news” leader by half an hour. (or so)

      Freaking ridiculous.

    2. Journalists are people who, by definition, know nothing about everything.

      My sister has a friend who works for an Irish newspaper. A few years ago she was assigned to write a story about a nuclear plant the British were restarting on the coast of the Irish Sea. She did her job and interviewed both pro-nuclear groups and a bunch of idiots opposed to the plant. At the end she confessed to my sister that she simply didn’t know enough about the subject to tell who was lying to her.

  19. Getting exposure on blogs or social network accounts helps a lot. Not book review blogs, but blogs and sites that have a theme similar to your books’ (politics/activism/faith/preparedness/whatever) – so every reader is your target audience. You make some good friends that way as well.

    That helps a lot in regards to some books selling more than others.

  20. I haven’t read all the comments but I thought I’d throw this [from another site] out there.

    Dollar devaluation can EITHER cause a wage-price spiral
    OR choke the economy to death.
    -KnotRP 2/28/2011

    We have the feds pumping trillions into the economy but it’s not getting into wages so we aren’t getting “classic” inflation. Instead, it’s sloshing all over commodities, stocks, foreign exchanges and driving up the prices of things that aren’t bought with wages. That means people with wages are spending more on necessities made from those commodities and less on wants so “overall” there’s no inflation.

    The image (blatantly stolen) I love for our economy, is a microwaved frozen burrito. Some parts are scalding, some are still frozen. On average, it’s a perfect temperature.

    Now back to catching up.

    1. I got a confused “C” in a linguistics class when I claimed that in English,”Ortography recapitulates Philology”

  21. “The other thing is misuse of numbers. How misuse? Oh, stuff like telling you that the growth in sales of ebooks has slowed down but spinning it so you think that fewer ebooks are being sold, instead of the logical and inevitable development that the PERCENTAGE of ebooks being sold can’t keep doubling forever.”

    The first computer company I worked for (what? Nobody remembers them now, the first all-LSI minicomputer maker, competitive with IBM mid-range minis. Built what’s currently Apple’s corporate headquarters; nothing else remains of the company.) was doing pretty well, selling systems, making money, growing well. Until.

    One day they issued their quarterly report, projecting that the rate of increase in sales growth would level off during the next quarter.

    Except the marketing guy who sent out the mail dropped a couple of words; specifically “rate of increase”. He didn’t see that it made any difference. So instead of reading that sales would continue to grow, just not at the accelerating rate of the previous couple of year, it was read as sales would stagnate, at best. (The CEO was neither amused nor forgiving.) And the company stock dropped >50% that week, most of it in the first day. I’m not sure it ever recovered, actually.

    The stock dropped 50% that week, most of it that day.

  22. The last crash I estimated a 60 to 75% downside. It didn’t go down that far. What was it? About 50%? So there was a lot of downside still in the markets way back then. And pop the current hyper-inflation into the toaster and you get a HUGE potential crash – it’ll be big enough that the reverbs could make SoCal slide off into the Pacific…. or maybe slide south to become part of Mexico. (No loss…)

    1. As they say about CA at Small Dead Animals: “Oh sweet Saint of San Andreas, pray for us.”

  23. And the average journalist would go along with them. Not just because it suits their ideology, but because they think it’s true. Then there’s the ideological skew, which, yes, is there. When 98% of journalists sign on to the “progressive” agenda (and we won’t go on how it’s partly because the humanities have been taken over by the Beasts of Marxism, or this post will never end) they’re going to try to push it, of course they are.

    And in that sense, it can’t be said we have a free press. Not when progressives are in charge.

    Oh, look, yeah, no journalist is going to get thrown in jail for saying something the administration doesn’t like. But he’s going to get crucified by the other journalists, have his reputation trashed – even if he’s a legend of reporting – and probably “never work in this town again.”

    Related:
    Suburban Banshee shared a similar to the not-coverage of the Egypt problem with countries being taken over.

    Since I don’t really listen to normal news, I’m a little surprised that it’s not being covered… yay, talk radio. (Including Dark, Secret Place on KFI!)

  24. OK, I’m easily amused but while Sarah and I’ve been doing Four Yorkshiremen, and someone did Princess Bride, not one of you has done a single Hogan’s Heroes’ line after the title.

  25. Sarah, I just hit paypal, not much but I’m disabled on fixed income, having lost almost all from illnesses forcing my retirement at 52 in 2000. I am reading A Few Good Men to my blind godmother, 6 years my elder, and we are both enjoying it greatly. Thank you!

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