Corrupted Markets

Sometime ago I mentioned here the concept of corrupt markets.

You guys fanned out — as you will — across the web to look for the concept and couldn’t find it. I’ve had penciled in, on my wall, to write a post about it, so maybe one of you guys (I know at least one) who have a doctorate in economics or related disciplines can research it and do it up in proper format.

Yes I’m ABD but the papers I was taught to do was on literature analysis.

And btw my master thesis was on the intersectionof the biography of the author and the work they wrote. One particular author, of course, but that’s a long story to go into here, as it involved getting older books from the US. And I did it that way because at least when I went through — that was almost forty years ago, so it might have changed — the experts were adamant that the biograhy of the author had nothing to do with the work. That is, authors are widgets and what comes through them unbiden isn’t shaped by what they know or do. This idea strikes me as madness, and while I disagree with “write only what you know” I disagree equally hard with “the author doesn’t shape the work. Anyway, I still got the degree, but it’s important to note that this idea of the author as widget was out there, in academia, when I came through. By the time I broke into publishing it was in publishing, too, in the last phase of a corrupt market. And I became intimately acquainted with how corrupt markets work.

I’d seen it before in Portugal, as various governments didn’t give a hangnail for what people wanted and forced things on them from above. That too is a corrupt market.

In fact, if you really want to look at it this way, 2020 was the year we learned all our politics — governments, institutions, even our tech giants, have become corrupt markets. I was so horrified at the realization that my mind shut down, which accounts for the horrible year.

Let’s start with a definition, okay: Market is not just a way to make money (though it is that too.) Any human endeavor designed to facilitate human life is a market. Sure, you selling your apples to aunt Mimmy (I had an aunt Mimmy, G-d rest her soul) is a market. But you making regulations for your little town saying, for instance, no piles of rotten apples on the front porch is also a market.

Both succeed or fail to the extent that you meet the needs of the customer/community. If aunt Mimmy is violently allergic to apples, and yet you insist on selling her apples in a normal market you’re going to fail. If you insist on telling everyone they have to fill their front porches with rotten apples, in a functioning market you’re going to fail.

This is why politicians talk of “explaining” things to the people or “getting their buy in”. Well, used to. Because every polity has a Mandate of Heaven. Even absolute kings could be brought down by management so bad that people feel it. In Medieval Europe when things went very bad, kings built Cathedrals and did penance to restore the Mandate of Heaven. This had mixed results, unless the penance involved a copious amount of alms that stopped the famine, or whatever. If things continued going wrong the king was deposed openly or covertly.

But of course, feudal monarchy was to an extent a corrupt market, and there were violent revolutions and widespread famines to prove it.

In the same way, in the very early twentieth century, the publishers might sneer at the pulp flowing out of their pens, and they might — did, they were after all the educated “elite” — consider themselves above it all, but if the books failed, they didn’t eat, and so with some amount of corruption, the market toddled on. It was only after, when they divorced and insulated themselves from the failure of what they published, that the market became corrupted.

So, let me give you a definition: a corrupt market is that in which the supplier has divorced himself from demand by some means that allows him to continue supplying what he (she, it, whatevs) wants to provide regardless of what the demand for the product is: whether the market is books, apples, hamsters or laws and regulations, it doesn’t matter.

The follow on that is “there are no non-corrupt markets.” And I’ll explain why. The ideal market is one on one. I.e. you sell you apples to aunt Mimmy who can’t get enough of your apples. You know she can’t get enough of your apples, because she tells you so. So every morning, you harvest apples and bring them to her by the bushel load. And she pays you a good price because she loves your apples.

You see, a perfect uncorrupted market requires perfect information. You know exactly what people want, and you provide it.

To some extent that does not and cannot exist at a scale. Because your information is never going to be perfect. Btw, this is why the wise men who crafted our constitution made it so that the biggest power is at local level, where those governing can see the immediate effects of their governance and immediately feel the wrath of the constituents when they decide everyone needs a pile of rotten apples on the front porch. At that level, too, unless all your constituents are on hard drugs, you know when the voting (which is the currency in representative governments) is falsified. Because let me tell you, everyone in the village knew who the two monarchist votes were and in general what the trend of the voting was. You gossiped with neighbors, you knew what they thought of the asshole in chief. (If you are thinking this has to do with the Great Muzzling of 2020 give yourself a star. Or don’t. They will soon enough. And we won’t like it.)

So while perfectly uncorrupted markets are impossible, completely corrupted markets — those in which the consumer of apples, books or governance has no say — are things of absolute and total horror. In the case of apples and books they fail very hard, and if you’re lucky a new market develops and explodes. Well, in the case of governance, too. But before that happens utterly corrupt market for governance has a case of the mass murders, and most of the consumers end up in mass graves for failing to be the right market for the supply that those in power are SURE is the right one.

One of the first tells of a corrupt market is that the supplier couldn’t care less what the consumer wants. This is why I panicked when, a couple of years into my professional career, I found out that the publishers had no mechanism — other than sales, and that was corrupt in various ways I’ll explain — to find out what people ACTUALLY wanted to read. And the bookstores were in the process of aggregating their data (already corrupt, and yes, I’ll explain) into meaningless sets. Because large enough aggregates of data will tell you exactly nothing about each individual market. And for reading markets are very individual, having to do with the tastes of little hammlets, villages and small towns as much or more than with those of big cities, where many forms of entertainment are available that have nothing to do with reading, and where people are usually young, working crazy hours and socializing after, and not having much time to read. In fact one of my “Oh, sh*t” moments was when the publishers (when I had just turned forty) informed me they were trying to capture the 20 something market because people older than that didn’t read. It made me goggle at them, since I and all the moms with younger kids I knew read. There’s a lot of time spent waiting outside schools, or while supervising play, where you really can’t do much of anything else.

How did they know this? They didn’t. Someone in their marketing team had decided that younger people didn’t read as much and therefore they were a vast untapped market. And since their numbers were in a straight fall, this must be the market they needed to survive.

Because the publishers did no survey, no consumer research, nothing so simple as asking the readers what they wanted more of. (To the extent Baen resisted the rot longer, it was due to the Baen Bar, and publishers who paid attention. As imperfect and non-scientific an instrument as that was, it was better than absolutely no market knowlege and giving yourself a lot of excuses for failure.)

But Sarah, you’ll say, they had sales numbers! Waggles hand back and forth. Kind of, maybe? Sort of? The sales numbers are really good at measuring stunning success. I’d say stunning failure, too, but that can be obscured in a lot of ways. Like at one point they found out, in real numbers, after returns a fetted bestseller had sold four books.

How is that possible? Weren’t they paying out royalties? Well, sure. But the market was corrupted all the way through. Look, sure, they sort of knew how many books sold. Sort of because they didn’t even (forty years ago) know exactly how many books were printed. Apparently the machinery was of such calibre, that when you pushed “stop at 1k books) you might have 993 or 1012. With bigger numbers for large print runs. I’m not sure they know now, because a a publisher informed in 2003, “We’re really now all small batch print on demand.” Oh, and printruns of less than a hundred don’t get reported to the publisher.

So, it starts with “we don’t know how much supply is in play” and then it gets stupider (totally a word and appropriate in this case.) How much more stupid does it get? Oh, dear.

Well, because of the accommodations done for WWII and never withdrawn, all books are put in bookstores on consignment. In theory when they don’t sell, the front cover is stripped out of paperbacks, and they’re tossed. (In theory because in the eighties and early nineties, when it wasn’t print on demand, you found these for sale in every used bookstore, to the point they started printing warnings inside the book that you were reading what amounted to a stolen copy.) Hardcovers, in principle, get returned for full credit, and then put in pallets to be sent to those dollar bookstores.

Except there’s a lot of play in all of that. There is a large amount of shoplifting in books, as in all small objects. And then in the nineties the publisher decided it was okay not to return the covers. “Just tell us how many books you’re tossing.” Yeah.

But Sarah! There are counters on the point of sale that tell them exactly how much they sold. Sure there are. Kind of. You see, it is only in some bookstores, mostly in large cities. It excludes 90% or so of the places where books get sold in the country: Most indie bookstores, most supermarkets, most new-and-used bookstores, most military stores, most comic book stores.

So, say, you have a property that mostly appeals to the military? It’s going to seem to underperform the other books massively, even if that’s nonsense.

What the publishing houses do to pay you royalties (I SWEAR I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP) is take the point-of-sale count and average it out according to a formula over the entire country. This is why at one point I was getting royalty statements from 3 publishers, and the books the same age — say, had come out three years ago — though completely different genres, subgenres and voice, had all sold the exact same and completely impossible number: something like 176 copies per book. Which…. I live with a mathematician, okay? When he looks at numbers, be they royalty reports or election numbers and starts laughing till he cries it’s a BAD sign.

BUT counting what sold is only part of the problem. The other part is the book availability. One year — I THINK 2010 — I had ten books released. You couldn’t find them on a single shelf in the whole country. They were on Amazon. And given that, it’s shocking some earned out. BUT the casual shopper in 2010 was still largely a “walk in bookstore and browse” and for that, none of my books had a chance of selling a single copy.

“BUT Sarah, if they didn’t give you shelf space, surely they asked the store that told them they wouldn’t sell.” Sure. Except that’s not how any of this works. In 1995 — and it was the same sort of experience as the 2012 election for me. I realized the rot was very far advanced, even though I couldn’t quite process it. Or didn’t want to — I happened to be in Chinook bookstore in downtown Colorado springs, browsing a shelf when the book rep for a house (I want to say it was Berkley Ace, but I no longer remember clearly) was talking to the bookstore rep.

For those of you who never knew the Chinook, it was a lot like the Tattered Bookcover in Denver now. Upscale, a little nose in air, beautiful surroundings and hushed tones. So I could hear the conversation perfectly well.

The book rep had a catalogue of covers. And he was telling the store how many of which book they’d take. Take a deep breath, take that in for a minute. They were telling the bookstore how much of each book they’d take. The exception was a mega bestseller, whom the store wanted. Actually what the rep said was “You’ll want a hundred of book x, of course. We’re printing 150k,” (Or some equally absurd number.) Oh, and if the store wanted those 100, they had to take 20 each of three books that the house was going big on, and give them big displays. And then there were pages, and pages and pages that he said, “You may look through those and see how many you want.” The store manager flipped through quickly and sometimes ordered a couple of books for the shelf. But he didn’t have to, and the reason he did it might have to do with cover, name that caught his fancy, whatever. These people are what they call the “midlist” and when you hear that the “midlist just doesn’t sell” remember, this is how the midlist used to be treated.

The second part of my enlightenment was when I was invited to go the …. I have no clue what it’s called anymore, call it the Book Expo in Denver. This is where the book reps met with the BIG bookstore chain reps around 2002. At this place, I found I’d been invited because the book rep had actually chanced to read my first Shakespeare book, and was outraged it wasn’t getting more play. BUT the corollary of this? They normally didn’t read the books. They just took the “level of excitement at the house” usually translated by how many books the house SAID it would print. And from that they pushed “you want so many of these.”

As you imagine, there was plenty of money floating around, particularly since Amazon didn’t count for “how many books you sold.” And they could be attributed in royalty to “It must have sold x number.” Usually the books that appeal in big cities, college neighborhoods, ect. In fact, the same books the publishers and editors (who are usually graduates of good colleges with degrees in impractical liberal arts crap — I should throw stones, right –) prefer.

The market was so thoroughly corrupted they really had no idea which books had done well, and could attribute the “win” to the books they chose to attribute it. And then this reinforced their choices for the next batch.

Which is — ladies and gentlemen — the average print run has gone down from something like 100k to something like 7k since the seventies.

“But it’s a very different world. People have more options for entertainment. People don’t read as much.” Poppycock. As a reader, I had fallen through genre after genre, widened my net of “things I’ll read” and was still coming up dry most of the time by the late 90s. And I wasn’t alone. There are some number of passionate readers (not very high, but much higher than is met even now) whose needs were not being met. At the same time, the books that were being put out, and particularly those pushed, were unapetizing to 90% of those readers.

And yet, the information the publishers and editors received — particularly because of the people they talked to/lived among were mostly their colleagues and people of similar background — reinforced the choices that were making the supply more maladaptive to the demand.

BTW, one of the funny things — if you like dark jokes — is that the traditional publishers finally did a market survey. Sometime in the 10s they did a survey on whether people preferred ebooks or paper books, and trad or indie. It came back as a resounding trad and paperbooks….

Which is completely belied by the market. At a guess the surveys were done in groups and by show of hands. And probably on college campuses. (I looked at the internals at the time and they were skimpy. I no longer remember where to find the study.) Traditionally published and paper is the virtue signal. It makes you sound smart and up scale. But every author I know — of fiction, non fiction is different — sells ten times the number of ebooks to paperbooks Because they’re cheaper, and it’s instant gratification, of course.

But the traditional publishers believed that survey like gospel and set their course by it.

Two notes: they might have no clue how many ebooks they’re selling. While this is trivially easy (if opaque. We don’t see INSIDE Amazon’s book keeping, for instance) for self-published or single-author indie houses to know how much they sell, it’s almost impossible for houses with several authors. No, I don’t fully understand how or when, but when we were running a small publisher (which we’re doing again, because we’re insane) husband looked at the internals, tore out his hair, and built a complex program to keep track of the sales per author. He now uses it, freelance, to do books for small publishers (and is available for hire. Within limits. He’s working crazy hours at private job right now.) I don’t understand it, of course, but listening in on his discussions with a client: most houses have no idea how much they’re selling of what. The ebook money comes in and acts as a giant slush fund, which further corrupts the market by divorcing publishers from their disastrous choices.

Second, as far as we can tell, the tastes of readers haven’t chanced at all since the 1920s. No, I haven’t done a survey. Those are tricky and would need to be calibrated to discount virtue signal. BUT most of the people doing exceptionally well are telling pulp stories with pulp structure.

And I can’t be the only one who figured that out, as there’s a glut of books on “how to write fiction the pulp way.”

So, a completely corrupt market is one in which the information gathering means is so messed up as to be non-existent (in the case of books, for instance, the sales data is the only information, and it’s corrupted/messed up at every level.) This is the market in which you bring bushels and bushels of apples to aunt Mimmy and when she only buys half a bushel, you decide it’s out of your control, and the market for fruit is just tanking, and it’s not your fault, without ever asking her if she also would like some oranges or some berries. The end result of this is that other people start selling aunt Mimmy oranges and berries, and your market diminishes some.

HOWEVER, if you are a government, and your market is just as corrupt because you messed the elections with rampant fraud, say, and silenced opposing voices, you can make Aunt Mimmy buy five bushels of apples every morning, even if she’s allergic to apples, and the people next door would love it.

I knew there was rampant fraud in American elections after poll washing in 2012. I knew that the Republicans refused to fight it or even mention it. I didn’t know if there was enough fraud nation wide to sway a national election.

I realized it when they picked China Joe and the Ho as the standard bearers for the democratic ticket. I realized it when I watched the democrats debate, and they kept promising open borders and money and free health care to illegal immigrants, which is the equivalent of giving bushels of apples to Aunt Mimmy who is allergic to apples.

I knew it for ABSOLUTE sure when Zhou Bai Den was campaigning from his basement or not at all.

The only reason to run a potemkin campaign is that you knew you couldn’t lose. Even if a single American voted for you, you had it in the bag.

Let’s be glad, I guess, that their guess of the opposing party votes was too low and they had to fraud last minute and in plain sight. Not that it matters, since the corrupt system spit out the information.

But for what it’s worth, just like the publishers deciding that people really wanted more “literary hardcovers” from a flawed survey, our current Junta is really really bad at measuring the temperature of the country.

Which, in the end, might shorten our time in hell.

The problem is that when electoral markets are corrupted, all hell breaks lose. Particularly when it’s a big, central government that thinks itself invulnerable. And where people can communicate ONLY in their little cliques, never looking outside those, so their wrong information is forever magnified and reinforced.

Which brings us to…

Corrupted governamental markets bring about death. Lots and lots of death. There are no famines under a representative government, for instance, but they exist under every other market.

There is only one remedy: we must make this a representative republic again.

But there is only one way, long term, to make the government not become a corrupt market: most of the power has to devolve to small, local governments.

The bigger the government, the easier it is to insulate yourself from the consequences of your malgovernance and what you do to the governed. I guess this is why the left wants global government, which would be well-nigh uncorrectable. It would also have near no power at local level, and unleash utter anarchy, but the left doesn’t care about that, as they view themselves as Lords of creation.

So, whether it’s book publishers putting out stories only on the latest leftist preoccupations, or facebook pushing a new interface no one wants, or the government shutting down fracking and making energy “necessarilly skyrocket”, when a system acts as if it doesn’t care what the demand is, it’s because those making the decisions think that it doesn’t matter what people want. They’ll take what they get.

In markets, this usually leads to massive crashes and start-up replacements.

In government…. It usually ends in blood. Lots and lots of blood. Faster in the measure of how corrupt the market is.

Be not afraid, but be prepared.

Keep your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark.

289 thoughts on “Corrupted Markets

    1. Fortified like that Maginot Line – which would have worked very well, had the other side not changed its tactics since the last encounter and gone around the most dangerous part of the fortifications.

      Supposedly Mark Twain said that the only person who likes change is a wet baby. The PTB, in whatever field, seem to agree with his statement.

      1. Worse than that.
        Germany went through the low countries in WWI as well.
        France just rationalized that they wouldn’t do *that* again.
        (They did have contingencies, but they severely underestimated how much force Germany could bring to a point, the mobility of the mechanized German army, and the extent to which that mechanized army could operate without a secured supply chain. In short, their military doctrine still had armor as an element supporting the infantry, rather than an assault element in its own right. And their mechanical transport of infantry was almost entirely administrative.)

        1. No, France did think that the Germans would go through the Low Countries again. That’s why the bulk of their armies were stationed just outside Belgium.

          The problem was that the Germans not only invaded Belgium and Holland, but also sent a large armored thrust through the very dense Ardennes Forest. The Allies had assumed that the Forest was impenetrable in strength, and didn’t cover it properly. Then the troops that went through the forest punched through the very thin French lines, raced to the sea, and cut off the Allies troops in Belgium. And that’s why Dunkirk was needed.

          The idea was the brainchild of Hitler, as his generals didn’t think it was possible. He tried it again at the end of 1944. The result was the Battle of the Bulge.

          The French had discussed running the Maginot Line all the way to the sea. But the cost and the implied political message it sent (i.e. that France was fortifying itself against Belgium) caused the French to drop the idea.

          1. On the bright side, being smarter than the general helped encourage Hitler to make some stupid mistakes later — but that was later.

            1. It’s not quite accurate to say that he was smarter. It would be more accurate to say that he was better able to predict his enemies. The Allies did lightly screen the Ardennes Forest. And this very light screen caused huge amounts of trouble for the German army. If the Allies had bothered to put even a nominally decent blocking force in place, then Hitler’s generals would have turned out to be correct, and Hitler would have been the one called foolish.

              But the Allies turned out to be the more foolish ones, and suffered the consequences of that.

              In 1944, the Americans also considered the idea of a German attack through the Ardennes to be foolish. But unlike the Allies in 1940, they left a reasonable number of troops on the line. So when the Germans did attack at the end of the year, the American forces in place were able to slow the Germans long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Of course, the presence of a proper defensive force on the line wasn’t the only thing that had changed. The balance of power had shifted between the two sides. As Gen. Patton quipped, the proper thing to do would have been to let the Germans run all the way to Paris, cut them off in the flanks, and take out the entire German army on the Western front in one go. His observation was completely accurate, even if there were very good reasons not to actually try that.

              1. Yes – smarter does not apply. Hitler took better measure of the Allies than did his generals, understanding the Allies would not fight if given the chance. That does not mean he was smarter, any more than Alexander’s solution to Gordias’ knot made him a better knotsman.

                One advantage Hitler had over his generals was that, if proven wrong, Adolph was not answerable to a madman. That can make a commander more willing to play hunches.

                1. When you are in a situation where you figure out things better than other people, you are smarter than them, at least in the situation.

                  1. By your logic, Immanuel Velikovsky was smarter than all the professional astronomers – he was the only one to have figured out Venus was infernally hot.

          2. Even then, a slightly ballsier French defense which had followed through on attacks of the over extended German thrust through the Ardennes would have probably saved France.

            The collapse of France is almost entirely political, not military. The saving grace of that is it convinced Hilter that mechanized warfare was able to win no matter what and seduced him into believing he could win a war in the USSR by using mechanized warfare to cause political collapse. When it failed to deliver said political collapse, the Germans were doomed.

      2. Actually, the Maginot Line gets a bum rap. It ends at the Meuse river and the Belgian border. When it was designed, the French were negotiating a treat to allow immediate advancement into Belgium to the Meuse. It was designed to extend the river line into an unbroken defensive barrier.

        In the 30s, the Belgians no longer agreed to French advance to the Meuse as part of mobilization in order to not offend Germany. When it became clear the war was coming, Belgium refused to let the country east of the Meuse go and only allowed allied entry if they agreed to fight east of the line as well.

        The failure of the Maginot line was not military or of the imagination. It was a failure of politics. Had it been used as designed, even the advent of mechanized warfare would not have rendered it mute, as the relative success of the Seigfried line, which extended the Rhine defensive line and stymed the allies in late 44/early 45 showed.

  1. the author doesn’t shape the work.

    This surely must have changed, else there would be no reason for an author’s “identity” to matter, so that ONLY a South American woman could write “The Latina Experience” or that even a Portuguese-born woman would be able to write credible space-opera.

    And we KNOW that just ain’t so!

    1. You’re missing a subtle distinction. The personal, individual experience of an author doesn’t matter, but the group experience of an author’s assigned identity group is of unique and critical importance. Each identity-group is a special unique snowflake, but individuals within a group are all interchangeable widgets.

      1. Bravissimo! A perfect subtlety of societal sarcasm!

        Personally, I identify as falling naturally outside of the astonishingly large class of homo sapiens recusatio (“man who refuses or balks (at any one or more of a huge number of logical observations of physical, social, economic, or political realities)”). I wonder where that places me in the hierarchy of favored (or unfavored) social classes. At the very bottom? Probably, and it’s nonetheless a mental state in which to glory, gloat, and gambol!

        (Yes, I do like me some awesome, if arguably awkward, alliteration.) -_-

  2. Pondering the ‘Information Problem’ it comes down to “the last doughnut” in a way.

    A bakery might have a Very Good Idea of just exactly how much demand they have for, say, plain cake doughnuts. BUT… they must always make a few more than that. Because demand does vary (someone just move in who likes them? An event that wasn’t predicted? A visitor happen in?) and.. some people will be quite happy to snag the last one… and others will reject it, despite desire, as “Well, if it wasn’t good enough for anyone else… and how many people touched it (even if they were supposed to use tongs or waxed paper…)” ? Result: The bakery HAS to over-produce… and has the associated waste. At least, in something at least approximating a free market economy. In command economies? Doughnuts? What doughnuts? There isn’t enough bread… even though the EXACT RIGHT number of loaves were made… accordingk to The Plan.

    It is better to live in a ‘wasteful’ market economy than to waste away in a “planned” economy. Success is when the *failure mode* is ‘excess’. And all of history stands agape in horror that some are so damned stupid they wish to throw that MIRACLE away.

    1. While not always the case, typically the “waste” of a free market includes a lot of buffer that makes the system not crash and burn the moment anything unexpected happens.

      1. Which is why Just In Time systems are so fragile, as we saw a year ago.

        Unfortunately, there’s a real tendency to mistake slack (which functions to absorb shocks so the wheels don’t come off at the first bump) for fat and want to pare it away. Just like it seems like you can get more for your money if you spend your whole paycheck — but if you have no slack and no savings, an unexpected expense becomes a disaster.

        1. At the same time you have to keep in mind that JIT is possible because there is a well functioning economy. Soviet industry had to operate on the assumption that none of their suppliers could supply, so they tended to stockpile like NK refugees.

          No reason you can’t do JIT *and* have buffers.

          1. Pa did injection molding and one customer (~40 miles away) had a bad habit of NOT re-ordering until they had run out and had to shut a line down or close to it. DESPITE putting notes (RE-ORDER NOW) in some boxes. So Pa would make a run of, say, 30,000 pieces… and an extra 1,000 he set aside. More than once, that worked out. (That their plant was next to an airport and pa was a pilot didn’t hurt… he got to fly, they got going that little bit faster).

          2. You can, but then you’ve got to be constantly guarding your buffers against that bean-counter who comes along and wants to reallocate them “more efficiently” toward immediate productivity. And what happens when you retire or move to a different job and the new guy comes along who doesn’t understand why you’re always holding a little extra of this, that, and the other?

            The problem with JIT is maintaining the institutional memory of why the system needs slack to absorb shocks, to counter the tendency for slack to be mistaken for fat that needs trimming away.

            1. That isn’t a problem with JIT: if you don’t have JIT you will have exactly the same pressure, but in the form of “we should do JIT”.

              Incompetent managers gonna incompetent. And they will do so with whatever tools they have at hand.

              1. Ultimately it comes down to the old problem of “That which is seen, and that which is unseen.” The shiny new manager sees the cost of keeping that extra stock of widgets, but not the expected value of the buffer-against-shocks that extra stock supplies. It’s a cousin of the Broken Window fallacy.

                It doesn’t help that the government has artificially increased the cost of keeping extra stock, via the IRS rules upheld in Thor Power Tool Company and kept by Congress despite multiple opportunities over the decades to fix the problem.

                1. Thor aside, buffer probably needs to be enshrined as part of the accounting techniques for this to ever be fixed.

                  When the most you can expect of most managers is for them to push the food button and avoid the shock button you need buffer to be food and lack of buffer to be a shock.

                  1. Yet, why didn’t JIT rule before Thor? Because most managers experienced a shock, because they aren’t once in a lifetime issues, and its associated costs so could guess a buffer that was cheaper than the shock. Thor raised the cost of the buffer immensely and brought it to the attention of higher management every quarter, thus raising the institutional as well as monetary cost.

                    1. Yet, why didn’t JIT rule before Thor?

                      It wasn’t possible for JIT to work back then. You need dirt cheap and reliable communications, tracking, and computation before you can even think of JIT. One could similarly ask why we didn’t get linux in 1950.

                      A Thorless JIT wouldn’t be strictly speaking JIT, but the effects of that technology would still enable the much tighter scheduling. Warehouse space still has costs outside of oppressive taxes; it is the balance point that has been screwed up, not the existence of the scale.

                    2. which they keeeeep pushing, over and over… like when Thin Clients were going to be the next big thing, or when we were all going to be running programs written in Java that were hosted by our handy dandy Sun server…

                    3. Your concerns are NONSENSE! Why, you might as reasonably fret about to allowing somebody else to control your servers!

                    4. Why, you might as reasonably fret about to allowing somebody else to control your servers!

                      Ha. Ha. Ha.

                      Not happening either.

                    5. A major factor in delay of JIT acceptance was management cost accounting practices focusing on minimizing cost at each step in a process rather than on attending to throughput, minding the overall processing cost rather than the sum of its parts.

                      JIT understood that by accepting higher costs in one phase of production it was possible to reduce overall costs because that acceptance avoided expensive delays later in the production process.

                      To use a baseball analogy, the old metrics focused on hits, the new metrics on run production.

                2. Bingo, you’ll notice the popularity of JIT comes almost immediately after Thor Power Tool Company. Sure, the idea existed, but its widespread adoption as the holy gospel needed the IRS.

                  1. From the Wikipedia entry:

                    The Thor decision caused publishers and booksellers to be much quicker to destroy stocks of poorly-selling books in order to realize a taxable loss. These books would previously have been kept in stock but written down to reflect the fact that not all of them were expected to sell

                    Possibly relevant to the OP: how much of the publishing houses printing huge stocks of books that won’t sell is so they can generate “losses” for tax purposes that will benefit the overall finances of the conglomerates that own them?

                  2. The influence of Eliyahu M. Goldratt also had something to do with it, his book The Goal becoming a touchstone for accountants in the Eighties. Similarly to how Bill James’ explorations in Sabremetrics led to the Moneyball craze, Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints caused a re-thinking of production and therefore inventory management.

                    The Japanese use of JIT also influenced American companies, although few seemed to recognize the effects of Japanese labor relationships being far better than America’s and the much shorter shipping times enjoyed in Japan. The there is the fact that JIT requires much more active management involvement for effective implementation.

                    JIT has strong arguments in its favor, but comparably strong cautions regarding its use.

                    1. “The Goal”…I haven’t thought about that book in a decade or more, but three employers ago it was required reading.

          3. Yes! For parts that wear out and are essential for production a local source (under 1 hour away) may be more efficient than having each factory stock every part they use in production. These “distributors” stock parts instead. The manufacturing plant can use JIT production as orders are received (demand flow production). Overnight delivery has put tension on Distributors as an inventory holding middleman, but rapid direct delivery also makes JIT more practical.

            1. It is kind of like the difference between skin and bones, vs healthy weight, vs morbidly obese.

              Simply saying “oh we need to get this number as high/low as possible” won’t work. You have to look at why the number is that way.

      2. Aye, the waste is ‘elasticity’ – even the nasty supply-chain shortages of nearly a year ago, few things were TRULY in short supply. BRANDS shifted mightily, and maybe you couldn’t get Green Giant, but Del Monte stepped right up… or vice versa. Yeah, paper products were nuts for a while.. and local stores suddenly had ‘Latin’ brands… but overall? The shelves got WEIRD, and WEIRD beat the HELL out of *BARE*. Millions of small decisions.. some brilliant, some stupid, some insane…. do better than The One Great Decision. And sometimes the insane turn out to be brilliant.

        1. Interestingly enough, I’ve started seeing out-of-stock on paper and sanitary wipe/spray products at Costco, again. But, rather than the more expensive brands like Clorox or Charmin, it is the Kirkland brand or at Kroger, the Kroger brands. Which makes sense. Store brands are generally the same (some are *lower end) house name brand product rebranded. If your market is being under served, why would you waste production runs on store brands? People might be gravitating to the lower price.

          * Costco Kirkland TP is NOT Charmin level. But their sanitary wipes OTOH are as good as the more expensive options.

            1. Not 100% out of stock, no. In Jan – June, there would be no TP within hours of any being delivered for the week, regardless of brand. Same with cleaning sanitary wipes. Now national name brands stocked. Kirkland/Kroger or other strictly local, brands, not so much.
              I liked the meme my cousin posted. Picture a freshly cut load of logs on a log truck. With “Raw TP Format” across the bottom of the picture.

              1. Here there were places completely cleared out, but only briefly; mostly it was shortages. And limits

                1. Ditto here. Complete out for a few weeks. Then stock would come in. Even with limits, it’d be out before noon. Now? There is always some. For awhile they were even limiting how much meat could be purchased. Well at Costco that was their regular packaging sizes. Even with limits it was at the check out. Not number of times you went through the checkout. (Only did it once. They’d been out of all of son’s late night dinner/snack after work, 2 AM, items. So wanted to get two packages when one finally showed up. Couldn’t. Took everything out to the car. Came back in and got second one.)

                  I can tell Costco is down items. It “looks” full, but center specialty item spacing is a lot spacier than it should be (if that makes sense).

                  1. And look at the shelf inventory above eye level. In normal times, the shelves are full, all the way to the top. There have been a lot of empty upper shelves for months.

                    1. Shelves here tend to be full or close to it, but with what varies. Canned goods seem to be fairly stable now, but TP & paper towels still can have some wild fluctuation.

                    2. There have been a lot of empty upper shelves for months.

                      Yes. That way here too. Higher the storage, more likely it is to be empty.

          1. Our Bi-Mart ran out of Santiam veggies (I assume it was a mix of Chinavirus and Antifa-arson tantrum) this fall, but now has Libby’s in place. They are also requesting people buy 6 max of a given product. Mild pain for us, as we’d buy a dozen cans at a time, but we can deal.

            FWIW, when the Kirkland TP stopped shipping rolls in wraps, we shifted to Marathon. It was a little sketchy for a while (they redid the embossing of the laminations, and Mark I change sucked, but Mark 2 is working). At least down here, Marathon is a bit cheaper, too.

            Haven’t used Charmin in forever, so no idea which is better.

            Lysol wipes are showing up again. I think I got the last batch from Costco in early December.

            No-salt added veggies are tough to get at times. Kroger black beans, no luck, but kidney has high test and no salt. (grumbles at salt-sensitive cardiovascular system…)

            1. Yes. I feel for the families who bulk shop because they are in outlying areas and a quick run to the store is impracticable. Or families by their sheer size buy carts at a time (like those with 6 or 9 kids … oh heck, those with two or three teen boys like my in laws had, or my younger cousins were. You know … bottomless stomachs.)

              1. At the worst of it here, I was talking to the DIL of my neighbor, whose sister lives out in Benson, a small town southeast of Tucson. She was going out on a day trip – hit the Base Exchange first (neighbor’s son is a Marine), then the Safeway on Golf Links, the Frys (Kroger) on Golf Links, the Frys on 22nd Street, the WalMart Neighborhood Market just across the street from there, then the WalMart Superstore on Speedway, and the WalMart Superstore on Houghton. All of these are just a few miles away from my neighborhood, but it took a fair amount of time nonetheless. Sister would then come into town, load up the “stash” at my neighbor’s house, then hit the Safeway and Frys that were on her way back out of town.

                I stopped whining to myself after that conversation – all that I had to do to keep supplies up was get out of the house at oh-my-God-not-enough-coffee time to hit one store; two at the most. (Frys for a while had a “special 6 to 7 AM hour” for us old vulnerable folks. I’m not all that “vulnerable,” but I am shameless.)

                1. A local store (regional chain) opens at 6 AM but claims to have a 7AM-8AM shopping hour for those who consider themselves “at risk.” As far as I can tell, this is more a corporate virtue-signal sign on the door than anything. The “limit one” for paper products & cleaners (I think you can buy one of both per trip) might be enforced – haven’t tried to find out. But I suspect nobody will care if one bought stuff, loaded the car (or whatever) and came right back in and made a second pass/purchase – though doing when there is more than one checker (after 8 AM) might be beneficial. No matter what the signs say, just about the worst time to check out is 7:30-8:00 AM when there is only ONE designated checker and the backups.. aren’t exactly Johnny-on-the-spot.

                  1. Lunch hours can be nasty, though the checkers have staggered break hours. What little industry is left in town has a firm lunch hour. Retail/service is usually later than 1PM.

                    OTOH, Tuesdays can be bad because of certain promotions, both at the small club store (drawing for goodies, sometimes nice ones) and Fred Meyer (Kroger) does a monthly discount for 55+.

                    The discount supermarket tends to be jammed the first 10 days of the month because EBT cards are refreshed. Not so much at Fred’s because more expensive. I assume Wally World is also busy then, but we prefer to pass on them.

              2. Yeah the people who live out of town either have to buy in bulk or have to shop at the tiny markets in the area. Those prices suck, but when it’s an 60-100 mile round trip just to get to the city, some people just don’t have the gas money. The small markets take EBT and sell gas and propane at nontrivial markups, so people can get by. Sort of.

                $SPOUSE stays home with our elderly dog, so the weekly market trip is on me. 4 places where we get groceries (supplemented by quarterly-ish Costco runs), plus whatever else we need. Pretty much an all-day affair with takeout tacos* in the vehicle (serious gluten intolerance means no driveup hamburgers. Sigh) and on a good day, I’ll get home at 3. Bad days, 4+.

                (*) Despicable Kate Brown is going to keep the inside dining closed until we all start loving Big Sister. See my matched pair of fingers? We have “numbers” in the bottom decile for problems, so DKB is using that as “scientific proof” that her lockdowns work. OR-OSHA just made the temporary restrictions (spacing, face diaper) permanent. (“But we’ll change them later”, they lied.) People are getting more pissed.

                1. Pretty much an all-day affair

                  Heck my route is 10 miles round trip and I spend two hours shopping. That’s 3, maybe 4, stops. Costco, Petsmart, then Fred Meyers. Rumor has it that Winco is suppose to go in the old Shopco at Coburg and Chad, near Petsmart (and Costco). I don’t shop there regularly because it is outside my loop, but I will if it goes in.

                  With the pandemic I haven’t been taking Pepper with me. I really need to. There have been times I’ve walked in the house and her little 20# self has herded me to the kitchen because my BS had dropped. Really shouldn’t have been driving (when my BS drops I can get a little “spacey”). At least when she is with me and alerts, I’m aware of what is going on and can compensate until I can deal with the problem; plus her alert levels are high enough that it isn’t a problem, yet. No warning and I’m not aware unless something happens that amounts to a “near miss” (uh, no thank you?).

                  Despicable Kate Brown is going to keep the inside dining closed until we all start loving Big Sister. (snip) We have “numbers” in the bottom decile for problems, so DKB is using that as “scientific proof” that her lockdowns work. OR-OSHA just made the temporary restrictions (spacing, face diaper) permanent.

                  Did not know this. We haven’t been watching news, let alone local news. Plus don’t get the local rag.

                  (they lied.)

                  No kidding.

                  I join you with “my matched pair of fingers”.

          2. That seems to vary depending on the local panic level – which is horribly difficult to project for businesses these days. You get as much as a week’s warning of a possible hurricane bearing down on your area, but what an idiot Governor is going to proclaim tomorrow is completely unknowable. You can be caught short, or unprofitably high.

            (I think that is what may have happened here – I happened to be buying TP at CostCo just a bit over a week ago; there had been rumors going around, that did not materialize, that the idiot up in Phoenix was about to declare a new lockdown. The CostCo here had both Charmin and Kirkland areas completely filled, and I saw several pallets of it in the back stock area.)

        2. On supply chain shortages:

          Don’t forget that these can be caused by unexpected and unpredictable increases in demand. TP being bought by people who can’t use the facilities at work during lockdown, for example. 8 million new gun owners, all of whom need a few hundred rounds of ammo for their new gun adds up to over a billion more rounds of ammo. Without knowing if the trend is long term, manufacturers are reluctant to spend significant amounts of money building new production facilities.

          Book example: I start a series of popular new university classes dedicated to the works of Sarah Hoyt. Demand for her books spikes (let’s assume ebooks out of the scenario). The shelves are bare. Students are begging their friends for “just a few pages to tide me over”. This could be interpreted in the market as a new demand requiring massive new print runs and the facilities to print them. However, next year two thirds of the demand is met by the used book market and the publisher is left with warehouses full of unsaleable books (and massive debt). So they choose instead to not build a new printing facility and the shortages continue as some students keep their books or accidentally douse them in beer, while new students join the class.

          I know I’m talking with people who probably know these things but I’m always amazed at the number of people who don’t get how market forces work.

          1. The local chain of Ace hardware stores started stocking the small-business-bathroom stuff, like tp dispensers, were normal people could find it easier.

            I know one of the issues with meat was getting permission to package the business orders into individual orders– some restaurants were building up “take out” boxes with the uncooked stuff in it for pickup.

          2. Too many people educated by Hollywood and public schools think everything is available in infinite amounts at no cost, but the rich are hoarding it.

            While at the same time believing we’ll run out of resource X tomorrow if we don’t cut back.

        3. One of the interesting things TP and other paper products demonstrated was how siloed markets are. While home TP demand increased not just from panic buying but because everyone was at home, institutional demand fell for the same reason. After all, all the times I wiped my butt at work in 2019 turned into times I did it at home in 2020.

          Yet the ability to move TP from the institutional supply stream to the home market was very limited after production. It wasn’t just packaging that needed changing, but the distribution chains were unrelated.

          1. *holds up two foot wide roll of toilet paper, made for one of the industrial bathroom dispensers* All the way down to the hand, the supply chain is borked.

            I already buy TP in small-business-supply quantities, but it’s amazing how many folks simply can’t.

      3. JIT also seems to foster a complete lack of understanding of how much of a product is actually USED, and needs to be IN the pipeline even for JIT to work. Example that springs to mind:

        About a year ago there was a hoo-rah over “there’s a huge backup in the beef supply –and as a result there’s 8 million pounds of meat that’s going to rot in warehouses all across the U.S.!!”

        That’s TWO DAYS worth of the normal demand.

        [I might misremember the quantity, but at the time I looked it up and it was indeed just two days worth.]


        WPDE: anyone else intermittently have no cursor and unable to highlight text here?

        1. WPDE: Yes. A work-around (that works for me) is to click in the “Email (required)” box. That makes the cursor and highlighting visible in the reply box. (The cursor and highlight seem to be invisible, otherwise, which is different from absent and even more annoying.)

          1. Huh. Works so long as the comment box doesn’t come up with several spaces and a stuck avatar in place. Thanks, explains why sometimes I’d get a cursor, sometimes not… evidently when I do, I’d already gone to input my identity (which WP has refused to autofill for a couple years now) then had more to say.

            It’s definitely not browser-specific, tho, nor version-specific. My everyday is SeaMonkey 2.49.4 (quite old) on WinXP, but I’ve had the same problem in Chrome-latest-and-greatest on linux (rolling distro so always up to date), if not as consistently. Do NOT have the problem in Borealis (sort of Palemoon).

            Guessing it’s some intersection of onclick and a stylesheet bug courtesy of a WPDE or theme update, thus tickles different setups apparently at random.

            While I’m griping… in everything but Chrome I get the most gawdawful illegible fuzzy-looking font. Fortunately in SM, I can disable site fonts (in fact I leave ’em off by default, because I’m tired of one-pixel-thick fonts). Just leave fonts as browser default, already…

            1. I’ve run into a number of web sites – generally larger corporate ones – that will only display/function properly with the *Windows* version of Firefox.

              “Virtual machines to the rescue…”

        2. Same for me as Deep Lurker. Showed up at the same time as a major update for Pale Moon, so I thougt it was them, though the vast majority of the blogs I comment at use WP.

          I use the alternate field click workaround, too.

            1. Trying FF on the Linux box, and I’m getting cursors. I know that the last PM updates had some major code changes, so that might have hit. They mentioned that a lot of sites were starting to use Google WebComponent bits, and that the PM implementation of such wasn’t yet functional. The implementation note for the WebComponent stuff was not heartwarming. See v29.0.0

    2. I drink Diet Mountain Dew (only single serve 2 liter s). I am ALWAYS surprised by DMD 2liters being out. Rows of everything else including regular Mountain Dew. Just no DMD and they will be out for DAYS until they get a new shipment. The shelves are stocked by the dealers, so the small markets have very little to do with it. I saw one of the service guys stocking soft drinks and asked him WHY they didn’t stock more DMD since they ran out so often? He said HE knows they run out BUT management TELLS him HOW he will fill the shelves and with WHAT. He had tried to tell them that they were normally out of DMD while having lots of everything else. He said THEY would NOT listen, THEY knew what would sell and WHAT / How Much to stock and they didn’t need his input. So he shut up and just stocks as they tell him to.

      NOW I know that publishers and the like are supposed to be out of touch and are because they have setup a system where they cannot even know how much a author sells BUT a soft drink distributer knows exactly how much each type sells and pays no attention is INSANE. What is WRONG with these people, can they really be THAT Stupid?

      1. I noticed that with the corner store I frequent. I recently switched to diet drinks (my blood sugar was showing to be way too high) and lately I’ve noticed they’ve run out of various diet drinks and haven’t restocked. I may ask them when I have a chance.

        1. One issue with diet drinks last was that for many of the artificial sweeteners (e.g. NutraSweet) their precursor chemicals are/were made in China. When ships stopped moving for a bit all of a sudden JIT production ran out of the precursors. A lot depended on how much stock folks had of either precursors or stashed sweetener. I live on Coke Zero and it was hit hard…

          1. I am not talking about during COVID. This has been happening for YEARS. They will be out for Days, while having 10 rows of a different brand from the same company.

        2. Another issue is that most of the artificial sweeteners actually have a negative impact on insulin response and can actually contribute to blood sugar problems. If you are going to use a non-sugar sweetened beverage, get ones that use either stevia (which is now sold in packets) which has zero sugars and carbs but is a natural leaf, or sucrulose, which as an artificial sweetener that is an extract from sugar cane and does not have the problems that saccharine or nutra-sweet (whatever that chemical conconction is called).

          If you want something sweet but can’t find an appropriate zero-calorie one, drink something made using cane sugar. The one thing that you should avoid in all foods and drink is high fructose corn syrup. It is HFCS that is by far and large the thing that causes blood sugar problems, weight problems and a whole host of other negative effects. Coca Cola imported from Mexico for instance is made with cane sugar, not corn syrup, has less calories, creates less of a blood sugar response, and tastes better. There are a number of “boutique/craft” soft drink brands that are made with cane sugar as well.,

          1. most of the artificial sweeteners actually have a negative impact on insulin response and can actually contribute to blood sugar problems

            1000x Yes. Not diabetic. But still get (have to) test BS/Glucose levels. I can’t have most yogurts. Especially the low caloric ones. Doesn’t increase my BS. But it triggers the insulin response. Before 92 (immediately on getting up). Sixty minutes after … 70, and dropping … For crying out loud! I just ATE. Lord help me if I started in low 80s before eating. (Stupid RH). Cottage Cheese is almost as bad (as well as being too salty, but that is a different problem).

            I can’t stand plain yogurt, Greek or regular. Might be able to eat plain Australian version, but haven’t found any non-flavored locally.

            1. I liked Nancy’s for a while, but that stopped being available here. Now I go with high-fat Fage, which comes with no added sugars or sweeteners but is pretty nice for just being cream & cultures, mixed with the little fruit cups that come with my kids’ lunches that they don’t eat. (School “lunch” and breakfasts are currently free for everybody with twice-weekly pickups, and honestly they end up as dinners more often than not.)

          2. You can also look for “kosher” CocaCola around Passover; apparently corn syrup counts as leaven.

            1. You’re specifically looking for “Kosher for Passover” HFCS counts as flaka (bread) somehow. As noted elsewhere Mexican Coca Cola does not use HFCS either, but if you’re any distance from the southern border it’s hard to find 9other than at a Mexican restaurant. I think RC Cola used to also use ONLY cane sugar well into the 2000’s, but that’s NJ/NY/CT only pretty much and they’ve changed hands so many times in the last 10-15 years that they may have given in to the HFCS.

          3. I remember a few years back Pepsi did “throwback” versions of pepsi and dew using sugar instead of corn syrup. The Dew tasted so much better. Which has made it easier for me to cut back. (And down 15 pounds! Woot, Woot!)

            I figure I should count myself fortunate that I don’t like the taste of pretty much all no-calorie sweetners, if only because a lot of them have rather unpleasant side effects. (Why does everything have to have acesulfame potassium? I’m sensitive to sulfates and sulfites, and that stuff has the same unfortunate GI response though not to the point of making the docs think I have salmonella, like the gent sulfate eyedrops did.)

          4. Stevia, known to me as POISON, can cause “Intestinal Distress”.
            last actual sick day I had (last fall) was stomach issues and I had just gotten a new drink mix that didn’t trumpet it’s use of Stevia on the front label (and the packages are damned small so I missed it in the ingredients) so it slipped past my radar and laid me low for a day, and left me unpleasant, but functional, for another. At least this time it was only a small amount. The first time I drank a rather lot more before the symptoms started.
            One of the reasons I tend to drink energy drinks is they tend to use sugar instead of HFCS, but they use a lot of sugar. Woodman’s had Mexican coke half liters for 99¢ for a while. I’d buy it a case at a time.

            1. Stevia does NOT taste sweet to me, so…
              I do drink energy drinks with artificial sweetener. It doesn’t seem to affect me like sugar. BUT you know, I only have one a day max.

              1. I once made the mistake of having two such within 4 hours (less?)… it was strange. I felt kinda like I was mid-way through my third Manhattan, without the Manhattans. That was a pretty good “Alright, do NOT do that” indicator.

          5. tastes better

            De gustibus non est disputandum. I think Mexican Coca-Cola (and Canadian, at least back in 2001) tastes sickly, syrupy sweet. Ick. It does not taste like old original Coca-Cola.

            1. The body sees those as “sugar with a slightly lower absorption rate.” Ask me how I know. And it has all the laxative effects that many artificial sweeteners are known for.

      2. BUT a soft drink distributer knows exactly how much each type sells and pays no attention is INSANE. What is WRONG with these people, can they really be THAT Stupid?

        Worse. Hire driver(s?), who have horrible driving records. Only to have to pay out 3 million to the parents of the 12 year old he killed. His version. It was a traffic accident. Implying she was in another car whose driver compounded the mistake. No. She was walking at the head of a line of 4, because rural road, on the line or just off, because no shoulder, on a straight section. Driver brushed by the last person (her older brother who was escorting the 3 pre-teens over for a sleepover), hit (bruised) the other two girls, hit the 12 year old hard enough to throw her over the 6′ wide ditch. There wasn’t a DUI on record before then, just a bad record. Should have been a DUI, but driver ran (turned in when vehicle turned in for repair “for hitting a deer). Driver got 30 months + loosing driver’s license through 2011. PTB tried to let go after 24 months for “good behavior”. Judge from original sentencing said “HE** No” and slammed the driver’s tail back in jail for remaining period. Driver has since, gotten driver’s license legally back, had at least one recorded DUIs. It has been hinted that driver was buzzed or drunk enough to “look, watch me scare these kids.” Criminally stupid doesn’t come close. 30 months wasn’t near enough to learn lesson. In addition, this driver is the reason for “Katie’s Law” in Oregon. Hit and Run with a major injury or worse (death), is equivalent to DUI accident had the driver not ran.

      3. I don’t know whether it was the store, or the distributor, or the market geniuses in New York – but it is only recently that the Pepsi with real sugar has been able to stay in stock at my local stores. (Except for this week, of course – just about everything out of stock. Although I might have seen some DMD sitting there all lonely…)

      4. Had a short chat with the fellow re-stocking Pepsi products the other day. Didn’t mention 2L, but the sale (then) was $10 for 4 12-packs. He said the PALLET of Diet Mt. Dew they had all but evaporated. [More than once he’s said they might as well just drop the pallet on the sales floor and be done rather than have to re-stock the shelf constantly – and *sometimes* that even happens. Sometimes.] His complaints were more of “They send us this stuff that doesn’t move.” rather than “Not enough of what does move” – seems the folks ordering have at least figured out SOME things.

      5. As I understand it from many years of occasionally paying a bit of attention to the matter, the diet versions of any given brand of soda pop are a little more expensive to produce per unit. Thus the bean counters prefer to push the sugared versions while neglecting the diet versions but not so badly that the company incurs a serious risk of losing its coveted shelf space for the diet versions. Just to clarify, holding on to the shelf space reserved for all versions of a specific company’s product line (soda pop in this case) has the double benefit of quickly selling the diet versions whenever the company deigns to actually ship out a few thousand cases across the whole country and of hurting the competition by keeping down the number of their varied offerings or even blocking them out altogether (in drugstore chains with severely limited shelf space for comestibles and small independent corner stores, for example).

        If this practice strikes you as cynical, manipulative, and abusive, you’re not alone. Hell, the Price-Rite down the street from my own abode now rarely carries the diet versions of any soda pop whatsoever, notwithstanding the fair number of customers who’d be glad to buy them when available. Yes, I can see what you’re thinking. That’s it exactly — the explicit goal of these companies is NOT to sell to you what you want to buy but rather to sell to you what THEY want to sell to you, sometimes with only the most tenuous relationship to your own needs and wants. That’s (warty, imperfectly implemented) capitalism, baby. -_-

      6. Yes they are insane. However the shelf space in your grocery is sold to the vendors. Frequently the store makes more profit selling shelf placement than selling the actual product. ( one year Safeway would have made zero profit except for vendors payola which this basically is) Been that way to my personal knowledge for over two decades+. I used to buy features of items like diet Mountain dew when I could to try to tweak the algorithm. Doesn’t help when the shelve space is bought and paid for. Corrupt markets indeed.

        1. Ah, now — that’s another dim memory refreshed. Thank you for the brutal reminder of one of the possibly unavoidable consequences of untrammeled capitalism. Make no mistake — capitalism is still infinitely superior to all other non-insane alternatives. But it does have its quirks. Humans are inherently born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards. -_-

    3. I saw this in action the couple of years I worked in a Pizza restaurant. You could never tell exactly what the day’s demand was going to be, so in the morning you prepared a little bit more than the average. Some days you had leftovers to give/throw away, and some days you ran out and had to tell customers “We’re out of that, would you like to try…?”

      1. In the stone ages, one of my brothers would take home some of the excess doughnuts from the bakery.

        When I worked at MacD’s in ’69, leftover hamburgers either went home (deep freeze FTW) or got tossed into the incinerator. The shake guy tried to minimize the leftovers, but that was a challenge. IIRC, depending on the load, we’d have some blanched french fries (we’d process from bagged potatoes) for the morning crew. Yeah, 1960s MacDonald’s did *not* believe in JIT at the retail level.

        1. One of the perks working at Little Caesars in the 80s was pizza to take home at the end of the day. They always made extra dough and the leftover toppings were thrown out so the owner would let us make ourselves two pizzas (remember that) for ourselves. As a starving college student I loved that part of the job. I also am pretty sure that job cost me more than I made as I delivered pizzas in my 1971 Dodge Challenger at 7 mpg.

          1. The grill guys would make half-pound burgers (long before the McDouble) for themselves at closing. At that time, the only frozen stuff were the fish cakes and the pies. The downside of that was the occasional need for the lunch crew to toss patties that went bad, usually when the manager (part owner) wasn’t looking.

            I was happy to get a hardware store job when school started that year.

          2. What did you have in that beast, the 426 Hemi?

            If you did, the car would be worth a fortune today.

  3. I’m going to have to read this a second time but I think I understand it enough to say “Thanks, Sarah” for taking the time to explain things so clearly.

    I have to keep my cheaters, weapons, and clothing where I can find them in the dark. Oh, and two cat cages because fat-boy Jimmy will not share an emergency cage with Fiona. Or, the other way around….

    Anyhow, this “fortifies” my heart because it’s real. It also isn’t some admonition to “take over the school board,” even though that’s what local government entails. This isn’t airy fairy. This is hard. And it’s local, so it’s going to get really in your face brutal. Oh, well.

    Thanks for being real, and honest, and caring so much. It helps me to read that your brain shut down last year because my own brain has been wayward for awhile and it feels crazy and uncontrollable until somebody else feels that way.

    1. This is absolutely correct.
      Start at a trivial point. Batch processing , like printing books or pumping wheat into a bin, end around the target amount , rarely on it. I did legal work for a software product for industry that addressed that obscure issue.
      In business, corrupt businesses, in collusion, with common culture, arrogance, are cut off from customers. I worked my entire career in 2 companies that sold only to companies manufacturing products. The communication with customers was always good because if products did not work, they went out of business. And yes, my goal was to get that kind of job. I hoped to avoid the politics of many other lawyer jobs in government or a law firm.
      As you clearly show many companies now are complicit in a corrupt market These markets arise in government and business alike when employees and managers act in their own interests, not those of the people or customers. We have it now in government, with the Democrats and in many companies. With the Media and Tech sharing ideologies and swapping employees, gov. and Woke corporations act in their own interests, not the People’s
      We need to resist. Just communicating the the truth is key with elections and and Media both corruptly rigged.
      Fantastic Sarah!

    2. I need to get a third emergency hardsided carrier. Or use the larger dog softside carrier. Lil Bit, miss grumpy, won’t share with TJ and Amber. Amber & TJ will share, but they are officially too big to share even the larger cat carrier; rather TJ is too big to share. Either of the dog crates would work. Only one breaks down, that one the dog needs. Could use the other one, but don’t know how it would hold up when actually traveling.

      Likely need emergency catico, or two – for same reason. Neither the dog crates nor the cat kennels have room for litter box.

      1. When we move, we’ll probably use the dog carriers for the cats. Large dog carriers. Big enough to put a bed and a box in. Comfy enough for them to spend two days as we drive to new place (PRAY G-d we find one.) At night we’d take them into room, of course.
        #1 son moved his geriatric cat that way, and it seemed fairly comfortable, (though geriatric cat needed hot water bottle in his bed to keep him happy.)

        1. I have stolen that idea. Moving would have been way easier if I’d taken care of the cats a little better.

      2. Holy cow. What do you do if an emergency is imminent, like a fire? I could wrangle two only because everything bad happens at night, so we’ll all be in our room. Much easier to capture in a 10 x 10!

        But seriously, how do you plan to round everyone up in case you need to get out of Dodge?

        1. When we had two dogs (snif) the Lab-Aussie would sleep in a closed crate. We relaxed that several months ago (peeing in the crate disappeared, and no stealth peeing, so it’s good). Making sure everybody has clothing ready to go, with relevant bug-out bags will help. My SWAG is that the less rushing around to get $ITEMS, the calmer it would be. Might only have one critter attached to legs and/or arms, instead of two.

          When I worked on a volunteer FD, I’d leave clothes laid out near the bed. For fires, we’ve figured that 99.9% of the wildland fires would not clobber the house, and it was safer to stay put. (YMMV) We’re far enough away from the cities to avoid most of the (hypothetical so far, Please, Lord?) left wing death squads, but… I need to have a conversation or two.

          On the gripping hand, I really need to prepare a bug-IN bag in case things go sideways in $SMALL_CITY and I need to get home the hard way.

        2. A house fire? Even if we had enough carriers. Pray the cats would run out of house. We might be able to get to the dog, she’s well trained (at least I work at it) and she sleeps with us. The cats would be inside, but an alarm is going to send all three under a bed. Lil Bit is one of 14 cats we’ve had over 42+ years that we couldn’t double up with anyone else.

          Quick emergency, where we’d have time to actually gather everyone without spooking, but not do anything else:

          Small Carrier – Lil Bit

          Larger Carrier – TJ and Amber (tight but doable) – long term not good solution, but short term emergency doable. It is just TJ turning out to be a big cat. Not a problem if Lil Bit and Amber could share the bigger kennel, but Lil Bit is a grouch. We’d have an actual cat fight in the kennel. We do have the two soft dog kennels, but wouldn’t want to transport the cats in those.

          Dog harnessed leashed. She can be seat belted in.

          After this last summer? You bet I’ve thought about it. Our home was within 14 miles of level 3 evacuation this last summer AND we weren’t even home during start of it (have mentioned learning of the fire in prior blog comments). Our son was home working. (Sounds worse than it was. Fire would have had to wipe out Springfield, jump I-5, jump the Willamette, jump River Road, before it came within a mile of our home. Still there was a lot of Ash in the air. Hot ash could have been BAD.) If the arson fire west of us had taken hold, < 10 miles of grassland between there and our house, with 4 major fires already in full fury?

          We at least have the *resources to deal after evacuating, even if it means buying larger hard sided kennels for each cat with their own box. Animals & Us First. Anything else is a bonus.

          * Wouldn't have always true. But is true now. We've worked hard to be where we are now.

            1. I’m glad you’ve got it sorted. Your area refuses to manage the forests properly.

              Tell me about it. Just ask those up the McKenzie (hwy 126), N. Umpqua, Detroit (Hwy 22), east of Portland, and even *Sweet Home (Hwy 20), about this last summer. Not to mention the towns of Detroit, Blue River, Vida, Phoenix, and Talent, all destroyed in the 2020 fires.

              * The ONLY one that didn’t blow up and trigger major evacuations.

                1. IDK Haven’t followed it that hard.

                  What I do know is.

                  Detroit fire didn’t reach dad’s cousin’s son’s home. Didn’t get that far west.

                  Hwy 126 (Blue River) fire went around street and houses on both sides missing Aunt’s sister’s house, and her neighbors.

                  Southern Oregon Fire that took out Phoenix left cousin’s house standing (the only one or one of very few). Don’t know about the storage facility business.

                  We had to come home Hwy 58 from Bend, VS Hwy 126 …

                  Supposedly the fires were due to high hot wind and power lines going down and power companies not turning the power off to the lines. Even though Santa Anna type winds are NOT known in Oregon. Not in the dryer sections of I-5 (Douglas County and south), let alone the Willamette Valley to Columbia River.

                  Let’s put it this way. To have 3 major W – E corridors shutdown 100% + fires, that didn’t blowup, out of Sweet Home (20), and Goshen (58), as well as the fire west of hwy 99 toward the coast, without major lightening storms? Stretches belief. I would believe coordinated Arson in a heartbeat.

    3. The first step to addressing* a problem is analysis of the problem.

      *Problems cannot be solved, only addressed. The “solution” to any problem is certain to be the basis of your subsequent problem.

      1. Some problems can be solved. Others can only be addressed. Wisdom is needed to discern the difference.

    4. You’re not the only one. I’m particularly fighting a case of “want to break things” that totally ruins concentration due to Relative shenanigans. You’d think with the trouble already out there people wouldn’t have time for their little bullying games, but noooo…..

          1. I have to remind myself how much cleanup will be involved, if I give in to the impulse to break things.

            Sometimes the cleanup might be worth it, but usually not…

              1. *sympathy* YMMV on how cathartic giving into the tears would be, but if it would release some of the frustration, that’s usually less messy than smashing a fishtank.

        1. There have been times I’ve pondered “accidentally” overlooking warnings on some cleaning products or such. So far, it’s only been pondering. Not even preparation.

          1. Well, according to some quick calculations and research, 1 ounce each of Clorox and household ammonia will evolve enough chlorine gas to create tear gas conditions (chest pain, shortage of breath, and cough, but unlikely to cause severe permanent damage) in approximately 70 cubic feet. The heat of the reaction should help with aerosolization, but as chlorine gas is heavier than air, eventually it will sink to the lowest spot in the local topography.

            Obviously, you should never combine those chemicals. You should never store each liquid in containers where they could mix if the containers were broken together.

            1. I have a short story that deals with someone telling people (in a fantasy world) how to mix this with the expectation that they’ll kill themselves in the process. They deserve it, though.

    5. And don’t even think of trying to take over the school board if you have children of an age that they might be affected…. (You could ask me, but it’s a long, long story; I think my younger daughter has forgiven me.)

      1. Or you could have been like my mom … pretty sure the teachers at our HS threw a party once the youngest of us three graduated … They graduated mom too! …. THEN 4 grandchildren attended … (evil grin). Actually she had to start over as all the staff when we were there had moved on (retired, mostly). Worse as their mom was a middle school teacher. Let us just say that both have limited BS tolerance. Worse? It is very possible that both will be around when the first great-grandchild reaches the same HS.

        How’s the popcorn supplies?

        1. My local school board didn’t like me because I got them in trouble with the Fire Marshall. (Another longish story.)

          And then when I was on the Representative Town Meeting the one year when we were voting on the town budget lines, which include the school budget, the schools were asking for $75M, the town council had cut their request by about $300K, but the state was talking about cutting their contribution by over $12M, an amount the town could absolutely not find anywhere else. Someone proposed the town council’s number, someone countered with the original number, and then I countered with $69M. You could hear the gasps from all the teachers in the room, and I was told by a friend on the school board that another board member had politely uttered “C**ks**ker” about me. To quote the friend “I think she (the other board member, who by the way, shows up to board meetings wearing a cat ear hair band, trés professional) must have Tourette’s or something. She called you a c***s***er, and all I could think was “I should hope so, she’s happily married!” But I didn’t say it out loud.” I have interesting friends.

  4. A closely related concept, paraphrased from David Friedman’s explanation of what Market Failure is: In a free market market failure is an occasional error, in the political market it is the norm.

    And not quite entirely unrelated for those of the gaming persuasion:

    1. Is that where Jeep got the star for their Superbowl commercial? Even my mother, who is a dyed-in-the-wool academic leftie had to admit that using a red star was more-than-a-bit tone dear.

    2. I note that the combine in the opening sequence is burning the crop to fuel itself. How perfectly fitting…

  5. Sarah is exactly right on publishers not knowing how many books are printed. One of the first things I was taught on entering the printing trade was that 10% plus-or-minus was a good count and that up to 25% over was billable to the count without contract revisions. And we were printing ADMISSION TICKETS. Money. Which had to be accounted for — to the penny — to artist management and the IRS. (I don’t quite understand, though, why publishers got/get away with such loosey-goosey accounting with the IRS. They don’t have much of a sense of humor.)

        1. The IRS relies upon “Industry Accounting Standards” — which, among other things, define materiality. So in some industries an error in the count of +/-25% might be considered immaterial.

          Consider the movie industry, which assume a person buying two tickets at the multiplex for a showing of Star Trek: TMP is actually attending that film and not slipping into an adjacent theatre for the R-rated flick showing there. Having worked in a theatre box office I can assure you that the count is “accurate enough” and management doesn’t really care what movie the patron saw.

          1. Fond memories of seeing Midway then sneaking next door to Murder on the Orient Express. OTOH, the theater PTB caught on, and they wouldn’t let people back in the lobby after the movie.

            1. Oy, Midway. My best friend forgot his glasses, so we had to sit close to the screen. Or in other words, about fifteen feet in front of the giant Sensurround subwoofers. I had such a headache for the rest of the day.

              1. Yeah, when they turned on that track, my first thought was “we’re going to be in trouble…”

                That was the only movie I saw with Sensurround. I saw Earthquake but at a drive-in with friends and their very young son (who slept through it.) No fancy sound system there.

  6. I think your definition of a corrupt market is pretty good. I am going to run it by the econ PhD-holding spousal unit this evening and see what he says (yes, we are an over-educated house).

    I completely agree that local control of political parties is the only way to go. Our political market is corrupted in another way that you didn’t really touch on and that’s funding. National party organizations for both D and R make the determination of which candidates are viable at the local level. If the national party doesn’t like the local candidate for whatever reason, they will not fund that candidate. They create self-fulfilling prophecies. It happens to both parties and it pisses off supporters of both parties, but I don’t know that anybody has actually taken on either national party and said, hey! you should be funding the guy the local party wants, not your guy. It’s a vicious circle and from what I can tell, the only way out is for a candidate to succeed *without* national party funding and *despite* their support for a different candidate in the primary.

    Having said that, I think that this election and all the accompanying chaos have shown how vital that local control is. Here’s hoping it will happen.

    1. It’s a vicious circle and from what I can tell, the only way out is for a candidate to succeed *without* national party funding and *despite* their support for a different candidate in the primary.

      Unfortunately we just saw what happens when someone succeeds.

      1. Agree. But at the local level it’s harder to do that because more people on the other side of the political spectrum personally know the candidate. It’s much harder to get the “racist Nazi” label to stick.

        1. The local GOPe tried that a couple elections ago. Didn’t work well for the Establishment chaps as their favorite got curbstomped. The guy who spearheaded the smoke-filled room effort got kicked out of office the next election, so local elections can have some control, and Karma is a stone bitch.

    2. Frightening to think about, that a local candidate succeeding despite the national parties wishes, could give us another AOC…

      I don’t disagree with your point, though, what the parties have forgotten or willfully ignored is, these people are being sent to {insert level of gov here} to represent US not the “parties” interests.

      1. Re: another AOC, at the very local level that would be their problem. However, the sitting rep that AOC beat in her first primary did not get support from the national party because he’d tread on toes. So, they supported AOC by default. The PTB in the DNC *want* AOC out there deflecting and drawing attention. So, it is still a case of national DNC deciding on a district’s candidate for them (and I don’t put it past the DNC to have rigged those elections either).

        As for representing us rather than the parties, yes, they’ve totally forgotten that at best and willfully ignored at worst.

        The founders originally didn’t want term limits because they were afraid that a rep in his/her last term would have nothing to lose and therefore would become corrupt, therefore, they argued, no term limits would mean that reps would have to keep their noses clean in order to win re-election. They clearly didn’t anticipate that “Congressional representative” would become a career goal for so many.

        1. That it *CAN* become a career just shows how much the national parties have managed to corrupt the market. Other side is putting up a candidate that the locals REALLY like? Dig up or manufacture some dirt on them, dump mountains of money into advertising and pushing your candidate, and odds on you win again.

          Arguably, between the “jungle” primaries where you could end up with 2 Dems on the ballot and the above method, that could explain Pelosi being re-elected so many times.

          1. To be fair, I think “San Francisco” is probably enough of an explanation for Pelosi being elected so many times. The rest of California, however, it helps to explain. Plus the outright fraud.

            1. Just as in the UK Parliamentary system, in our system, due to gerrymandering and wealth levels and demographics and such, there are certainly safe seats. No one other than the D party anointed is ever going to win CA-12.

            2. I just watched a true crime show episode which discussed the Night Stalker, and showed how Feinstien nearly scuppered the investigation when she was the SF mayor by giving a news conference to calm the locals at which she gave out detailed forensic info which allowed the guy to change his MO.

              Somehow watching that, it made it so much easier to believe that she really was stupid enough to have a Chinese spy as a driver and really didn’t know for all those years.

              Not quite as easy to believe that people kept voting for her, unless they voted for her to go to Congress to get and keep her away from SF.

              1. the mass of the party is just that stupid. See their IT work being done by a Pakistani national with a shady past . . . but they did it so cheap!

          2. I kind of like the idea that a person can run for as many terms as they please – nonconsecutively. Maybe having to stay out for two. But then there is the tag-team problem (two or three siblings/buddies rotating and nothing changes).

            1. Term limits (which I was formerly in favor of) actually accelerated one-party rule in CA. It became all about the churn for promotion to the next higher office, which favored getting Dems into the newly-vacated lower seat, rinse and repeat until it’s D top to bottom. Lost most of the state legislature to the Dems that way.

              We liked our local R well enough (or were sufficiently terrified of the Ds) that when he termed out, we gleefully voted in his wife, knowing perfectly well it was really him again.

        2. The Congressional representatives of that time had had jobs prior to their election/selection/appointment as representatives. The travel and communications requirements of that time kept them from considering the possibility of lifelong statesmen without prior employment being a thing. That’s why they put the age requirements into the Constitution. Twenty-five seems young to us, but that would have been someone with about ten years of work experience back then.

          1. Most of today’s congresscritters have never done any real work. What exactly is a ‘community organizer’ anyway? Don’t most communities organize themselves, for the most part? Isn’t that what MAKES them communities?

            That’s what’s running this country. A bunch of spoiled, useless trust-fund diaper babies that like to play commie because they have never faced the consequences of the stupidity they’ve inflicted on everybody else. Instead, we’re paying for it.
            Communism and socialism do not create, they only take, and they collapse when there is nothing left to steal.

  7. … you know when the voting (which is the currency in representative governments) is falsified.

    Last weekend Beloved Spouse & I watched a debate on the Constitution, staged by the folks at Colonial Williamsburg, between James Madison and George Mason. A moment of levity near the end centered o their befuddlement over a question as to whether “voting by mail” was permissible and neither reenactor could grasp the concept.

    At first the thought the questioner meant voting by male, and quickly observed that females were allowed to vote in New Jersey … they then discussed their expectation all should vote and vote publicly, in person:

    Madison: You confound me, Mr. Harris. I should say that in every instance, it 1 — it has been allowed in new jersey for the female to vote. Should the vote be male? That is a question for another time. Upon that, voting by mail confounds me further. As colonel mason spoke of the electioneering of virginia and a great many other provinces has never functioned the same. Upon the abortione — the apportioned date, voters should go to the polling place and they should say specifically who they are voting for. This ensures that a man’s vote is equitable to his house as well as to his own honor. It prevents various measures by which a vote — there are a great many witnesses. Mr. Harris, you insinuate there should be a day someone should cast their vote in secret?

    Moderator: That is implicit in the question.

    Madison: I know not how I feel upon it, sir. I have never given great consideration to it. I should say the Constitution on many instances allows for the establishment of postal roads and post offices, a postal service. Upon that, we have witnessed in many instances the dangers of mail being tampered with, using our own ciphers to ensure letters that might be apprehended can’t be read or decoded. From that, I should say it must remain a question for tomorrow, for whatever innovations or patents America might ask at the present moment. At the present moment, outside with the drinking and carousing that often comes from election day, the present system of voting functions very well.

    Moderator: Are people penalized if they don’t vote?

    Madison: Yes, as I think they should be. Should any freeholder not appear when his name is called upon the roles, from that he should be find a third of his annual tax levy because if people do not vote in a system of government, a republican system of government, or the various sources of democracy we find some of — so much pride in, the system will become what Colonel Mason has claimed it will. An aristocracy, a monarchy, a tyranny, — a tyranny. The vote is perhaps a right, but most importantly it is the greatest civic duty a citizen might have.

    Moderator: Great point. How do you feel, Mr. Mason?

    Mason: I find myself in agreement with the worthy gentleman. Mr. Madison and I have been friends for a great many years. We find ourselves in the opposite ends of this particular debate as to the constitution, there are many things we agree upon, this being one of them. I think the only fear that I see for our future of voting is the degeneracy, and I do call it as such — there are those who do not see the insistence upon it. It is difficult to find oneself up on the courthouse steps come upon voting day, but it is a day of celebration where you see individuals who you might not have for sometime. It is perhaps that greatest celebration of the freedom of what this American experiment is and was even prior. It was our vote that we had, that allowed us to take pride, that allowed us to ultimately revolt against Great Britain, because we knew the importance of voting. So long as it is never altered or taken from the people, it is that fear that worries me far greater — that there are those that would not vote or not be punished for not voting for our future, than the means by which they go about it.

    (at about 40 minutes) Transcription courtesy CSPAN, re-transcription by my own hand as the folks at CSPAN seem to be slightly hard of hearing and subject to peculiar typos.

    1. I do like those Colonial willamsburg re-enactors. They train them very well.

      When we were there some tourist asked “Thomas Jefferson” what he though of the issue of slaves.

      His answer? “Why the issue of a slave would be a slave, just as the issue of a free man would be free.”


  8. To the extent Baen resisted the rot longer, it was due to the Baen Bar, and publishers who paid attention.

    Contrariwise, certain publishers who need not be named had so corrupted the market that even such things as Fan Awards, such as the Hugos, rigged the vote by fixing the voting pool. The Hugos, of course, had suffered from a non-representative pool of voters since their conception, but they at least attempted to be representative of the kind of enthusiasts who bestirred themselves to attend a con, the folk whose fandom was passionate … the kinds of folk who bought twenty or more books a year.

    That is NOT a pool any publisher wishes to trust for success, nor one which can long be allowed to persist un-corralled.

    1. It is worth observing that for decades, in the pop music business, sales were calculated via reports from selected record stores in big cities, those being larger and more reliable outlets than, say, the jobber stocking the record rack at Mom & Pop’s Emporium in Smallville, USA.

      When they eventually expanded their sampling, including cites like Nashville and Birmingham and Austin they suddenly discovered that Americans were not buying what record companies thought they were.

      Sampling matters.

      1. Indeed – and on a tangent, I was told repeatedly that the western as a genre was dead, and a good few of the agencies that I tried to interest in my first few books (which concerned doings on the mid 19th century trans-Mississippi frontier) stated somewhat snottily that they didn’t consider “westerns.” Me protesting that my books were historical novels set in that time and place buttered no parsnips with them whatsoever.
        But amazingly – readers adored and treasured books by Louis Lamour, and Elmer Shelton, and fall upon them with rapturous joy whenever they discover a new or revamped writer writing in that tradition.
        Weird, that.
        The panjandrums of the New York based Literary Industrial Establishment declared that the western was done and over, and so it was done. No more westerns. Never mind what actual readers wanted to read.
        (PS – Thanks, Sarah – for the link on Insty to the Adelsverein Trilogy – did very respectable sales on Kindle today for a book that’s been out there for at least a decade. Some very nice comments – although might explain to the clueless that Insty and Co. are trying to support indy authors with their huge conservative platform. I think there are those who haven’t quite got the word…”

  9. So, a completely corrupt market is one in which the information gathering means is so messed up as to be non-existent

    A minor quibble, here. There is a distinction to be made between a market in which information is buried in so much noise as to be unavailable and a market in which information is essentially falsified. For example, one in which the village shaman, reading the chicken entrails, advises the chief that the shaman should be given a larger house, upwind from the village latrine.

    If there is truly no practical way of tracking which books sell how many, then publishers have vested interest in “assigning” sales to those books which they had predicted would be best-sellers … and in NOT allocating sales to books which might cause them to pay royalties above the amounts advanced.

      1. Well, I knew that.

        Really, how do you expect to find glory with that sort of a knock-down, drag out opening of an argument?

  10. Very thought provoking. If we look at government as a market, it seems like they are generally monopolies. With all of the downsides of monopolies. And it definitely gets worse the farther you get from local, because you just can’t get good information in the larger units, i.e. it doesn’t scale well. Particularly when the members of the same “class” control both the government and the means of communication, like we’re seeing now.

    1. The libertarian / ancap definition of government is “The entity which claims the exclusive right to the initiation of force”.

      Still haven’t seen an alternate that doesn’t spiral into either special pleading or circular logic.

      1. An issue with that definition is the definition of “force” or “violence.”

        Having been in more than a few discussions where preventing someone from dumping poison in my water was counted as starting it, it gets messy. 😀

          1. Not really, usually the issue is “the person who wants to lecture me hasn’t looked at his own assumptions.”

            Not being passive-aggressive, pointing out the pattern that I’ve seen unfold.

      2. Except that there are those who claim it that no one would acknowledge as governments. School-yard bullies who wail “Johnny hit me back!” do not even think they are governments themselves.

      3. I rather like the definition proffered by Ambrose Bierce:

        GOVERNMENT, n. A modern Chronos who devours his own children. The priesthood are charged with the duty of preparing them for his tooth.

        But then, I like a great deal of that which was proffered by Ambrose Bierce.

  11. It’s been very noticeable here in England that those newspapers and magazines that still have (weekly or whatever) fiction reviews always lead off with the ‘literary’ stuff, then look at biographies (mostly political), and varoius genres – ‘women’s’, chidren’s, detective, and occasionally SF and fantasy it they didn’t have ny more of the others to put on a page. The curious thing I used to notice in the days when I still had to work – which meant taking the train – was that the book pages always got hurriedly ignored and turned over. And the other curious thing was that ‘what’ editors regarded as the rubbish market contained all the books that people were actually sitting there reading when the’d finished the newspaper! I was clearly not the only book-addict who took reviews praising a book as meaning ‘avoid this, it’s pretetious rubbish’. Most of us chose by word of mouth, and still do – I’ve never seen in a friend’s house any of thos books praided by critics. The point I’m trying to make is that if the experts and intelligensia praise something it should be avoided like the plague, and it applies in all fields not just books.

    1. Movies come to mind as showing the same thing.

      My friends and I, back in high school years, had a relatively simple but accurate way to determine if we wanted to spend our money on a particular movie or not.
      If the reviewer from one of our local papers liked the movie or at least didn’t hate it, it was likely going to be OK to fun.
      If the reviewer from the other local paper liked the movie, we avoided it at all costs as it was likely something boring (to a teenager / early 20s male.) If the reviewer hated the movie, then we checked what the other reviewer said about the movie.

      As I commented to my wife a few years ago, inside every movie critic, you’ve got a frustrated “I should’ve been a famous movie director by now” person (and I suspect the same can be applied to a great many book reviewers.)

      1. There was a book reviewer for, alas, too brief a time, whom I knew would describe good books as “too sweet.”

      2. I used Siskel and Ebert that way. Siskel liked entertaining; Ebert liked pretentious. Made it very easy to tell which films I’d like or not.

        1. The most important quality in any critic is consistency. The brilliance of the S&E format was you could reliably predict from their reviews whether it was likely you would enjoy a movie.

          Back when I worked in a theatre box office I would occasionally be asked by a customer, “What’s good?” As if my highly refined and educated filmic judgement was something this anonymous stranger could rely upon! For goshakes, I liked French farces and much preferred Buster Keaton over Charlie Chaplin! I quickly came up with the infallible 2-Question film recommendation test:

          1. What was the last movie you really enjoyed?

          2. What was the last movie you really hated?

          Given that shot bracketing info it became quite easy to steer a customer to a movie likely to be enjoyed.

    2. Pa’s take on promos for stuff on TV was, roughly, “‘Critically Acclaimed’ is a code phrase, meaning it’s unwatchable garbage.” Lack of ‘critical acclaim’ didn’t mean it was NOT garbage, but I do not recall ever encountering an exception to the rule ‘CA==garbage’.

  12. I guess this is why the left wants global government, which would be well-nigh uncorrectable.

    Oh, there are plenty of reasons they want global government. Graft is always in effect, as is making sure decisions are only made by the “right people, through :proper” processes. There are also the Deep State vested interests, not so much concerned about what decisions are made as they are about who gets to make them.

    I would insert a Yes, Minister clip illustrating this point but there are so many of them as to embarrass the choice.

    1. Yes, Minister is a wonderful teaching tool. I used to use clips in class all the time. Especially the one about surveys. Brilliant!

    2. Brexit was a great UK move to leave EU, an unelected government. If only our press would report that.

    3. Brexit was a great UK move to leave EU, an unelected government. If only our press would report that.

  13. Ebooks. I quite understand for Indies Amazon & Kindle is the marketplace, but if your there you ain’t really an Indie. I quite understand selling and shipping ebooks from your home computer, even though the monetary return all lands in your hand, trying to keep track of what state and local sales taxes, etc., need be paid, is a Byzantine nightmare. True, but not insurmountable if someone like Sara’s hubby and thirty eleven friends get together and build a program accessible to Indie’s home computers for a small fee that would give such information and, possibly, handle and pay the graft necessary to stay straight with the state….

    Paper books and book stores. I suspect one of the many boats missed was replacing a few of the bookshelves in book stores with a Kinko’s copy machine. Years ago, when I used to work for a living, I’d teach some classes through the local university and also out in remote Alaska villages. I’d often write my own texts and workbooks, run into town to Kinkos with a data disk in hand & have them print from it and bind my texts while I’d wait for a very reasonable price. Most of mine were 20-30 pages but a few were well over a hundred pages long, still at a reasonable price. I still think that’s a valid model for a modern bookstore: Thousands, tens of thousands, of books on a hard drive, A library type catalog. Let’s see… Sarah Hoyt. OK, Darkship thieves, There it is, $2.99! Hit the buy button, 2-4 minutes later it’s in my hand, bound, color cover and all. Minor amount of storage space needed, No unsold books to destroy or return, little cost until printed, and sold, on demand.

      1. Maybe so, quite likely I misunderstand but I thought if you book is on Amazon’s shelves you aren’t allowed to sell copies of it though any other outlets. If this true, as a reader I see them as a publisher, not a storefront since I can’t shop another store for the same book.

        1. No. Only if we choose to put it on the lending program. Which I do, because it gives me half of the income I make.
          It does not make them a publisher because again I can remove it at a moment’s notice and then put it up wide or elsewhere.

        2. I think that applies only to specialty parts of Amazon, like Kindle Unlimited. For generic Amazon book sales, it’s possible to list on other sites as well as Amazon.

          1. Yeah but kindle unlimited is still a store front, not a publisher.
            Their restrictions are annoying, mind you, but it pays.
            AMAZON DOES have a publisher. 40 something North. But that’s different.

        3. Also, dead tree editions can be sold anywhere even if you are in KU. Then, that requires a dead tree edition.

          1. On the other side, storing & keeping available ebooked data; I just bought a no bells or whistles Kobo nia, 6 inch epaper ebook reader, readable for weeks on a charge and chargeable from cheap, small solars. Am now copying over 600 ebooks from computer to it which will use about 1/3 of its 8 GB storage.

            & yes dead tree storage is better, looking at my over 150 feet of book shelves.

    1. The biggest problem with taking it to my own store is discoverability. Even the Baen store doesn’t do that well (truly, the sales are TINY) when people are conditioned to go to Amazon for ebooks.
      Now, this might change in time and will change faster if they start f*ck f*ck games with books (Despite many, largely false or… “both sides” alarums, they haven’t yet.).
      But for now, it’s the only way I sell beyond my core 200 readers who spring for things immediately. (Yes, 200. In book after book, after book. Yes, I DO wish it was more.) Now, that’s not the sum total of my e sales, but the rest trickles in VERY slowly, over a long,long time.

      1. Any author’s store also has to differentiate – the Weber store does honor Harrington swag and author-signed hardcovers, not trying to compete with the publisher sales through ‘zon.

        My initial guess would be those 200 are the readers plugged in enough to find out about new stuff right away. Does ‘zon tell you how many have clicked the “follow author'” thingee on you?

    2. They have espresso machines that do books undistinguishable from the ones on shelves for about the same price. (More than 2.99. Just on paper)
      BUT the bookstores were reluctant to install them (at 14k they don’t SEEM exhorbitant to me,but….) and now people mostly seem to be happy just reading electrons.

      1. No $14k doesn’t seem exorbitant to me neither. I suspect most book stores, even minor ones, had more than that as inventory on their shelves.

      2. 14k does not seem expensive for a machine that can PoD from a catalogue. I don’t understand why I haven’t seen those in person in a bookstore. That would be sooo cool. I don’t mind electrons, but my ereaders do break down. I’ve been buying them every 3rd year. And atm, a big appeal of paper is that it’s not hostage to DRM for the general reader. And imagine the out of print books too… say a fresh copy of Don Camillo? Paper’s ok, but I very much like to have clean text and non-yellowed pages. Maybe a true book aficionado wouldn’t care, but I do.

      3. While $14K equipment cost may not seem excessive, there are also the operating costs — paper, toner, electricity, incidental, and the need for trained operators. On the one hand it may well have been that the return on investment from such machines was too low, so that the machines broke down before recouping their purchase cost. Or it could be there were corporate marketing peoople thinking that allowing customers to print whatever they want would eliminate too many jobs in our department.

        Or maybe there were other factors.

    3. There was a printing-and-binding machine, the Espresso, I think it was called. It was probably a bit finicky to run, and would need a sh*t-ton of paper and cover stock in the back room to make a go if it, but as originally visualized, would be able to print and bind a copy, from a book selected in the store catalogue. All that any book store would need would be an extensive catalogue, and maybe a single copy of the most popular best-sellers for impulse shoppers to thumb through.

    4. I’d often write my own texts and workbooks, run into town to Kinkos with a data disk in hand & have them print from it and bind my texts while I’d wait for a very reasonable price.

      Oregon State University Press … That is where 95% of our Forestry Text books came from. ’74 to ’89, that I know of. (Graduated ’79, but worked with Forester’s who graduated later from other programs that used the same books. Had them in their work libraries. They were suitably impressed that I also had the books as well as taken my classes in the topics from the authors. Even though by then, I was out of Forestry as an occupation. I was writing the software both for field, and back end processing.) ’80s might have been taking down on data drives (floppies) … Before then? IDK.

    5. I’d often write my own texts and workbooks, run into town to Kinkos with a data disk in hand & have them print from it and bind my texts while I’d wait

      As I recall, that sort of thing was briefly VERY popular in the 1980s, until textbook publishers decided that professors were violating copyright and fair use restrictions (e.g., horning in on the publishers’ scam) and threatened to pauperize Kinkos through legal process.

      It isn’t necessary to win i such actions, merely deplete the target’s resources.

  14. A fancy word for it is Subsidiarity (move down where you do stuff until it’s actually *effective*)– Chesterton wrote on it, he had some mildly crazy ideas about it which are wrong in a way that can help build stuff better.

    1. The opposite is the Peter Principle: a person or function is moved up in the organization until work is done incompetently. The PP holds for many things, especially for pushing the responsibilities of The People, communities, states and the Nation to the Presidunce.

    1. Poking around further I note the three-letter-media totally-not-coordinated-at-the-direction-of-The-Party headline is not “Senate Vote Falls Well Short Of Anything Like Conviction Which Dooms Impeachment Stunt Trial Outcome In Advance” but rather “Senate Votes That Impeachment Stunt Trial Is Totes Constitutional So Saying Otherwise Is Sedition”.

      The entire LA Times story, as one example, completely overlooks mentioning any discussion about how any outcome other than a clean and complete acquittal is even remotely possible if 45 of 100 Senators sitting as the sworn impeachment trial finders of fact think the trial itself is unconstitutional given 66 votes are required for conviction. An accidental oversight, I am certain.

  15. I still remember loaning a copy of Larry Correia’s Spellbound to one ofy old co-workers who “didn’t read much”.

    I think he read through the whole thing on a flight and was quoting lines from it for months later…

  16. From 2005-2010, Mr. BTEG worked for a greeting card company. The project he worked on kept track of sales data from their various stores, so they knew, for example, how many Hanukkah vs Christmas cards to send to a particular store. Even though the reporting probably wasn’t perfect, I can’t believe other companies can’t come up with something similar at POS for stores.

    I already knew that the NYT best-seller list was bollocks, but how much sillier is it if book sales can’t reliably be tracked?

    1. If you are running barcodes and POS systems it shouldn’t even be *possible* to not have those kinds of sales figures.

      Not unless you have reached the level where incompetence and malice have blended into a seamless union.

      1. You’d have to design a point of sale system specifically to not know how many of a certain SKU were sold in actual rung-up money transactions.

        So malice over incompetence.

      2. Occasionally there would a ‘refuse to scan’ code and the checker wouldn’t bother (after experiencing it not working) entering the UPC manually and just ring up whatever the listed price was. That wouldn’t be properly counted – but THAT should be in realm of ’rounding error’ rather than “way of life.”

  17. Another sign of a corrupt market: my husband buys desk calendars as Christmas presents for all the empoloyees. This year he gt me a Sudoku calendar. When I mentioned I was using the tablet program for playing he suggested I take the calendar for the bookkeeper who left at the beginning of the year.
    He’d gotten her a “literary,” calendar.

    Most of the entries so far are for books and authors I’ve never heard of, with stories I emphatically don’t want to read. Ick!

    1. My Audible subscription constantly sends me advertisements alerting me to the new books that they’ve just received… that have absolutely nothing in common with the books that I’m actually getting from them.

  18. “…most of the power has to devolve to small, local governments.”

    Small being more important than local. I can have absolutely no influence on my local government (a city of 2 million residents), nor my congress critter who “represents” about 600,000 residents by my calculation. That, in fact, may be the reason for the leftist cities floating in a sea of conservative rural areas that lack all influence.

  19. One of the first tells of a corrupt market is that the supplier couldn’t care less what the consumer wants. This is why I panicked when, a couple of years into my professional career, I found out that the publishers had no mechanism — other than sales, and that was corrupt in various ways I’ll explain — to find out what people ACTUALLY wanted to read.

    In 2014, Tom Kirby, the CEO of Games Workshop, made the following comment in the company’s annual financial report:

    “Our market is a niche market made up of people who want to collect our miniatures. They tend to be male, middle-class, discerning teenagers and adults. We do no demographic research, we have no focus groups, we do not ask the market what it wants. These things are otiose in a niche.”

    When I found out about that, I predicted that Games Workshop would be bankrupt within a decade, and expressed the hope that their intellectual property would be bought by another company that knew how to make good games. Instead, what happened is that Tom Kirby stepped down the next year (January 2015) and was replaced as CEO by Kevin Rountree, who had been the company’s COO (and CFO before that). Under Rountree’s leadership, Games Workshop started focusing on — gasp! — games again, bringing back several popular product lines that had been languishing (in 2016, they re-released a board game that hadn’t had a release in 20 years but had been kept alive by fan-made rule sets — and that same game got another re-release in 2020 with an updated rule set that fixes several balance issues in the fan-made rule sets). Gamer opinion of GW turned around: from being a widely-reviled company for ignoring what their customers wanted, suddenly gamers were noticing that the company was actually listening to them and thinking about what the market would want. I’m no longer predicting bankruptcy for GW; if they continue on their current course, they’re going to be quite successful.

    1. Quibble on Gamer Workshop, they’ve now got to compete with home printers, less expensive paint, and having a really bad reputation with gamers.

      But now they have a CHANCE.

      1. Yeah, their reputation took a while to come back, but I’m seeing signs all over the place that it’s no longer nearly as bad as it was. Lots of people saying things like “I used to hate GW, but I’ll give them a chance now, they’ve really turned things around.” And I personally spent money on a GW product for the first time last year; I used to not buy any of their stuff out of principle (and in the case of WH40K, because I just couldn’t afford that game’s $1000+ pricetag to build a proper army), but now that they’ve changed their management, I’m willing to give them some of the money I have budgeted for games.

      2. Not just home printers. There have been a number of companies making less expensive miniatures games for quite a while. Warmachine and Hordes (which Larry Correia used to play) was *extremely* popular at my local store for years – to the point where my understanding was that most of the best players in the regional tournaments came from my local store (and then Privateer Press screwed things up so badly that one day I walked into the store and noticed all of the Warmahordes figures were on the discount shelf).. Malifaux was played quite a bit for a while. And there were others. The GW games had a constant presence, but that’s largely because lots of people already had collections for them. The popularity of the rules would ebb and flow from one edition to the next, but you could almost always find someone to play with if you needed to. That didn’t necessarily apply if you showed up with miniatures from a different game (with the noted exception for WarmaHordes).

        Historical miniatures really put the whole thing in perspective. If you play Warhammer 40,000, then you’re expected to use the miniatures that Games Workshop makes. If you show up with an army from a different manufacturer and claim that it’s an Eldar army, then there might be issues, particularly if your opponent has to ask you ever minute or two about the unfamiliar figures that you’re using. And you’re definitely not going to be allowed to play competitively with that army, as tournaments invariably require you to use GW figures.

        Historicals, on the other hand, are based off of public domain images. You can’t trademark an M4 Medium Tank. Any miniature manufacturer that feels the urge can make one and market it. As a result, the price tends to get pushed down. If you’re going to charge more for your miniature than the next company, then there had better be a good reason for it, or players aren’t going to buy your miniatures. The massive disparity in price between miniatures for historical miniatures versus the fantasy and sci-fi markets is rather dramatic.

        1. Add Dark Sword Miniatures to the list — that’s where most of our D&D type minis come from, right now, besides the ones that are bought from kickstarters.

          Good quality, great price, often less cleaning.

        2. And they also have to complete with things like, a ruleset where the basic rules are free and the advanced rules (extra mission types, more detailed rules for terrain placement, that sort of thing) cost $5. It also plays faster and easier than WH40K, as they’ve consolidated a lot of the special rules of various WH40K units into a smaller number of easier-to-remember rules. Just to name one example, in WH40K you roll to see if you hit (shooting/melee accuracy of the unit determines the target number), roll to see if the hits cause damage (strength of the attacking unit vs. armor of the defending unit determines the target number), and roll to see if the defending unit can just avoid taking damage anyway (due to energy shields, psychic abilities, gadgets that teleport them away from incoming fire, whatever). In the free Grimdark Future ruleset, it’s just two rolls: roll to hit (target number determined by attacking unit’s “quality” stat right there on their sheet), then roll to see if the defending unit’s armor protected them (target number is defending unit’s “armor” stat printed right there on their sheet). The various different ways to avoid damage have been consolidated into one roll. Simple and easy to remember, which is why GF games take about 60 to 90 minutes while WH40K games can be 3-4 hour sessions.

          How do I know all this, when I don’t play WH40K? Well, I can’t afford to play it, but I do watch battle reports on Youtube. Quite fun, at least for me though I realize that watching other people play a game isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

        1. A problem here is the closing of our 2 neighborhood gaming supply stores. Both had live gaming, which 2 of my kids used to learn and have fun. One closed when the owner retired, the other when the owner got a job offer too good to pass up.
          With CCPVirus lockdowns and other totalitarian measures wrecking the real economy, neighborhood gaming stores will have a hard time surviving ( unlike the fraudulently appointed Elite.)🙀

    2. As a regular on the DakkaDakka forums, I can tell you with a wide degree of confidence that Kirby was widely despised by the members of the niche market that he wanted to sell to.

  20. Speaking of markets, David Hogg is trying to start his own left-wing pillow company* on Twitter and it’s just as pathetically hilarious as you’d think.

    *Not the strangest thing I’ve typed this year, amazingly.

    1. From what I read, he found an already established company that he’s going to grift off of with Michael Bloomberg’s money. Vladimir Linen is one of the more humorous names I’ve heard suggested for the company.

    2. Not in California because the cost of living is too high.

      There have been stranger paths to conversion.

    3. He’s using the three-year anniversary of the shooting to promote his company.

      I just can’t even.

      1. I’m glad I believe in demonic possession. It’s the only explanation for that shiite stain.

  21. Off-Topic (although I am sure I could warp it onto topic as it involves classic SF, which is always On-topic here) via recently arrived message from NESFA (the New England Science Fiction Association):

    Good news! We just got in the reprint of the Concordance to Cordwainer Smith that had been out of stock for a few months. Anyone wishing to order a copy can do so on this page: NESFA Press Store – Concordance to Cordwainer Smith.

    Please email if you have any questions.

    Excerpts (the letter “A” and the letter “R”) are available.

    Cordwainer Smith’s universe of the Instrumentality is one of the most complex, beautiful and fascinating every created. The Concordance to Cordwainer Smith lists and identifies all the people, places, and things in his huge future history. Where known, the origin of the name, place, or thing is given. Many previously unknown references have been added as well as entries from the revised version of “War No. 81-Q.”. The book also includes an annotated timeline of the Instrumentality, and an expanded and updated bibliography to the fiction of Paul M. A. Linebarger (Cordwainer Smith, et al.). Cordwainer Smith was the SF pseudonym of Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger, a specialist on Asian affairs and a professor at Johns Hopkins University. This third edition is a revised and expanded version which previously appeared as an 8.5″x11″ GBC-bound booklet. Cover photograph courtesy of Linebarger’s older daughter, Rosana Hart, who has a web site dedicated to her father at

    NESFA Press publishes the complete Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith in The Rediscovery of Man and Norstrilia.

    A French translation of the Concordance exists: “Concordance de Cordwainer Smith” (traduit de l’américain par Pierre-Paul Durastanti), en Les Seigneurs de l’Instrumentalité, IV, Éditions Gallimard, 2004, 2-07-042700-5.

    Paperback (Trade) price: $13.00
    Third edition, Third printing
    ISBN-13: 978-1-886778-25-2
    ISBN-10: 1-886778-25-6
    Page count: 190
    Book Size: 5-1/2″ x 8-3/4″

  22. Good grief! Publishing is more f’ed up than I deduced! I cobbled together a lot of it from my days as a bookseller. Oh yes, the regional manager refused to stock certain titles, even though we told them we were asked for them over and over again.

    It also makes sense when at a writers conference, I got sat at a table with a snooty high powered editor. I got condescension from her when I said hitting the NYT wasn’t that hard. I then proceeded to do the math, including buying product from stores at just a fraction above cost, in a low selling month, and concluded it’s basic math not rocket science. She stopped talking to me and kept giving me glancing looks of fear for the rest of the dinner. (This was before the slew of articles on how to game the NYT system came up. The only thing I missed was the ‘special bookstores’ that are polled, but I’d alluded to follow the Big Name Authors book tour destinations as prime ground to get it to work.)

    1. Well, there’s the little aspect that the NYT counts bulk buys at their own discretion. That is, only the RIGHT people get to buy their way onto it.

      1. Exactly! Heck, I even had that in my plan. All the bulk purchases are then sent out to SF cons to be put in goody bags, for marketing. The one thing I was missing was how you had to be one of the RIGHT people to be allowed to game the system.

  23. A book by Gerald Weinberg provided several examples of how *not* do do marketing research & analysis…

    One case was that of a suburban commuter railroad. Several suburbanites had written the railroad asking for a minor change in the train schedule. They wanted to be able to go into town in mid-afternoon to spend the evening with spouses or friends. There was a train that already passed the station at 2:30 but did not stop–all they wanted was to have a scheduled stop added for their station. Here is the response they got:

    “Dear Committee: Than you for your interest in Central Railroad operations. We take seriously our commitment to providing responsive service…

    In response to your petition, our customer service representative visited the Suburbantown station on three separate days, each time at 2:30 in the afternoon. Although he observed with great care, on none of the three occasions were there any passengers waiting for a southbound train.

    We can only conclude that there is no real demand for a southbound stop at 2:30, and must therefore regretfully decline your petition.”

    Another case: A systems analyst in a consumer products company heard that some marketing reps in another building might need terminals to access the marketing database (this was before the days of readily-available PCs). He circulated a questionnaire with the question:

    “How much use do you presently make of the marketing database?”

    Since making use of the marketing database required a 6-block walk to another building, the usage was zero. The analyst concluded that no terminals for the reps was needed.

    1. A breakdown left me carless and I had to take mass transit for a couple of weeks, one bus and two trains. Every day — EVERY F—IN DAY — as the train I was on pulled into the station, before it even STOPPED, I could see the other train, the one I needed to take next, rolling merrily into the distance.


      1. Careful, there – if history is any guide, wishing the trains were to run on time is a slippery slope right down the slide of consequences leading to those black hoodie thugs beating up journalists they don’t like with no official sanction.


        1. If memory serves, Mussolini got the trains to run on time by making the schedules bow to (slow) reality, not by making the trains run faster.

          1. A number of years back there was a news item about a British bus driver who was hauled in to explain why he kept ignoring patrons standing at bus stops. He told them that, with the schedule they’d drawn up he had to choose between being on schedule and picking up and dropping off passengers. As he understood their pay schedule the bus service put the greater priority on keeping the schedule.

      2. I worked at a downtown Comics Store for a while, hours being 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM (7:00 Fridays, when the new books arrived.) Not wanting to leave my car sitting in a downtown lot, especially at the prices charged for parking, I looked into buss schedules.

        The last bus from my neighborhood (near the university) to downtown got there by 9:00 AM. The last bus from downtown to my neighborhood departed by 5:15. Not particularly useful.

        As best Beloved Spouse & I could determine by careful analysis of city bus schedules, the primary market for riders were maids taking buses downtown, there making transfers to go to the suburbs where there was demand for their services, then reversing the process in the evening to return home.

        1. In San Diego there are trolley tracks to the Mexican border. The last one leaves the San Ysidro station at around 11:40 PM, and then all the trolleys stop until about 5 AM the next day. Miss the last train by two minutes and you’re stuck at the border ALL F-ING NIGHT and everything is closed.

          How much would it cost to keep one trolley running and make FOUR TRIPS during the night? Just one an hour, that’s all it would take.

          Another triumph of central planning and head-up-ass bureaucracy!
          If you tried to run a business the way they run the government, you would be in jail or the poor-house within six months.

          1. in Los Angeles, the train schedule was changed so the last gold line run changed from midnight to 11:20.

            the only way to see this schedule change was to ride the train.

    2. When I was working for a major timber company, early ’90s, when individual PC’s were becoming popular, status symbols, corporate IT put out a list of who was going to get approval for hardware and software without a full review and special dispensation from on high (corporate IT). The process was a PIA. None of the people I wrote production software for, were on the list. Not:

      * Tree Nursery: planted inventory, rotation status, packaging, billing – intermediate, and final.
      * Foresters: Biomass sampling and cruise data, which feed the massive Inventory System, that was used for modeling and logging decisions. The massive Inventory and Reporting System itself.
      * Engineers: Forest Road modeling system (essentially minimum path solution now available in GIS systems).
      * Wood Chip Procurement Payment and Reporting system.

      Every single time a computer or component (then) had to be replaced, including mine (justification – writing code to create or support all of the above and more), had to go through the review and approval. I got really good about writing technical requirements.

      Wasn’t the only one either. The Log Accounting software developer manager had to go through a full review about every 18 to 24 months (about when IT management would have turn over) on why western region required it’s own custom Fiber Inventory System … It was called the “Log Accounting” System for a reason. The corporate Fiber system couldn’t handle multiple entries per unit, let alone multiple entries by single tree. Let alone track a single log … OTOH the area where corporate was doesn’t have the concept of a single log.

  24. “If you insist on telling everyone they have to fill their front porches with rotten apples, in a functioning market you’re going to fail.” Depends on how many people you’d WANT to throw them at, and how many OTHERS would like to get into the game… Upside to most everything, doncha know…

  25. The bit about the survey finding people said the preferred print books doesn’t actually surprise me, nor does the fact that it doesn’t actually pan out. It reminds me of a marketing essay I once read about airlines. After de-regulation airlines learned that consumer surveys were not reliable measures. See, if you ask a customer “what’s most important for you in a flight?” most people rate spacing pretty high. But when you look at actual purchasing behavior, price trumps everything else. People complain about squeezing space, baggage costs, lowering of condiments, etc, and yet the buying pattern is routinely showing to airlines that their customers highly prefer cheap tickets over anything else, so they ignore the whining and pay attention to buying behavior.

    Similarly, I think most people DO prefer paper books, but asking preference is not the same thing as actual buying behavior. Reality is, while, all things being equal, I would prefer a paperback or a hardcover paper book, if the book run 70% less for an ebook and I don’t have to wait to get it, I’ll take the less preferable sale. It’s why that clusterf-ah-clown fiesta of a sales tracking that the publihing industry has is so stupid. Surveys don’t measure buying behavior well, but without good purchasing behavior they know nothing.

    1. Just the other day I saw a leftist claiming that the surveys she had conducted at college proved that people would pay 21% more to buy from a company that aligned with their values.

      1. I will lay you three against two that the survey respondents would go as high as thirty percent premium if they are male and the female asking the survey questions wears a D-cup and a low cut shirt.

    2. Hardcovers are great “on the shelf” and for preservation (hard cover or paperback, signed.. which one?) BUT the e-book is cheap(er or damn well ought to be) and immediate. Paperback is great for “gotta have paper” (Ma…) and easier to hold or carry.

  26. I’m not seeing as much direct praise as might be expected, so I’ll add my bit. Another excellent, deeply insightful essay by our esteemed Mrs. Sarah A. Hoyt! I … I’d never dreamed that the publishing racket was so utterly messed up and divorced from objective reality.

    Honestly, it’s becoming extremely difficult to shake the feeling that I’m “living” in a highly detailed simulation and that the the superhuman “Class Seven” A.I. controlling it is growing impatient with my continued neglect of a full implementation of memetic networks. The A.I. is trying to rattle my cage by making the NPCs act in increasingly bizarre ways that demand the sort of rational counters that are far more effective with proper memetic networks. Perhaps I’ll “die” before much longer and emerge with the realization that I’ve substantially flunked the numerous, implied subtle challenges and … what? Have to “live” in another hellworld with a new set of challenges to pass the requirements for full citizenship? Find another, lesser social club to which to belong in a hypertechnological society of the far future in which robots take care of all the dull jobs and humans focus on, among other things, jaded mind games such as the aforementioned NPC-riddled dystopian dream?

    Ah, well … such are the pointed musings of a self-professed “rational objectivist” whose epistemological path wandered far from “classic” (Ayn Rand) objectivism before the late discovery of the existence of dear Ayn Rand and her books of cogent essays. (Long story — this was the age before the Internet, and I was unusually isolated for other reasons as well.)

    Oh, right, and Mrs. Sarah A. Hoyt is very obviously not one of the NPCs either. Nor RES and certain others here over the years. In fact, this blog may have become an inadvertent strange attractor for a fair collection of other real people who similarly found or find themselves baffled at the oftentimes extreme irrationalities of the NPCs that constitute the “people” portion of the artificial world’s background detail.

    1. This would be a very bad time to tell you of two VERY odd incidents.
      One was about six years ago. Older son and I went for a walk. Not unusual. We lived in the Old North End of Colorado Springs, a once trolley-car suburb. We were about three blocks from Colorado College, and 8 blocks from downtown. We often walked all the way downtown, got coffees, and walked back, in the middle of a very busy day.
      That day we didn’t make it much further than a block down from the college. Why?
      Well, it wasn’t unusual to pass groups of people, or to have a lot of cars go by us.
      It’s just that people and cars REPEATED every half block. Yes, the exact same people and cars.
      I was trying to ignore it, till #1 son said “Mom, there’s something broken in the CGI.” We looked at each other in horror, did an about face and went back home, and tried to forget, but neither of us has.
      The second incident was about four months ago and involved younger son. I have two chairs in my office, and at the time didn’t have a cat-bed on one of them. So he took that chair and was talking at me, and asked if I wanted to go for a walk. We both were looking out the window.
      I said wasn’t it supposed to sn–
      And at that minute, the external world blinked. I can’t really explain it. It didn’t go dark. The outside wasn’t suddenly darkness. It just wasn’t there. There was nothing outside my window.
      Younger son let out breath and said, “Wait, did the outside blink out?”
      At which point we looked at each other in horror.
      Look, I’m not lending credence to your obviously insane idea. But I keep feeling something ain’t right, and those two incidents keep coming to mind.

      1. Yowza. I get the idea I might have missed a few things, or rationalized some. Then, maybe I am just used to a certain level of Strange (some have claimed that I’m the strangest thing they know [don’t get out much, do they?]… so my reference point might be,,, what’s the word.. oh yes.. Odd).

      2. Next thing you know, you’re painting over all your mirrors and sleeping handcuffed to your husband… 😀

      3. This is a test of WP threading. Hard to edit in the browser box because the dratted cursor is invisible again. Too lazy to copy and paste to and from my own editor. Both my subsequent replies from the other day appeared as main comments outside of the thread. Why? Ignore this reply — merely a test in the harsh light of late morning. Testing … (unconvincing robotic voice).

        Oh, wait — missing cursor reappeared when clicked on email address box and then back to browser editing box. Ist gut. Must remember. -_-

  27. Oh, brother. I’m reminded again of a few extremely peculiar incidents over the years that I’ve made little effort to remember clearly. Certain items simply disappearing without explanation in an apartment occupied by and normally accessible to only one person and so forth. But your story of those two mutually witnessed incidents in broad daylight is … unsettling. Yes, indeedy. O_O

    I think I’m going to get totally blasted on a credible simulation of cheap but not totally hobo-grade beer. And then after waking up make a supreme effort to get my multiple projects started before that perhaps not hypothetical A.I. gets really pissed off at me in its own hypersmart machine fashion. It might arrange for Iran to get its nuclear deliverables shipshape and erase Washington, D.C., or something similarly drastic meant to get me to run around like a headless chicken, whereupon a barely discernible tinkle of laughter from an unimaginably jaded audience seems to emerge from the empty air. -_-

  28. In my own defense, in addition to the truly sucky health realities of my troubled life, it’s been amazingly difficult over the years to refrain from endless sidetracking into fascinating lines of thought such as the application of small-factor (is that the right wording, one wonders) brute-force solutions to so-called NP-complete problems that are relevant to practical Internet A.I. applications. Reasonably on-target movie recommendations, social matching between politically and socially disparate individuals, etc. After a pause of some decades, for example, I’ve returned to trying to better comprehend the implications of the classic clique problem for social media management and practical reputation networks (not that the clique problem is inherently special — it’s just one way of comprehending the general class of NP-complete problems in that if you understand one, you essentially understand them all). Plus, of course, practical chaos theory begs a revisiting in addition to a trimmed-down grokking of fuzzy logic that bypasses the typically human problem of seeing every problem as a nail when the primary tool is a hammer.

    Plus, I just cannot resist carefully rereading the fun 20th-anniversary introduction to Douglas R. Hofstadter’s classic book “Gödel, Escher, Bach — An Eternal Golden Braid” (20th Anniversary Edition). Endless articles on business management challenges, programming verities, consumer psychology, and on and on — it all adds up, and time passes. -_-

Comments are closed.