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Are you in the Path of the Steamroller?

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Are you in the path of the steamroller?

When I talk about catastrophic technological change, that’s more or less what it is.

Look, it’s generally a good thing, okay? The technology we now have makes specialized production possible. It makes it possible for someone with an idea to create something and put it for sale without intermediaries.

But few science fiction writers and even fewer “futurists” saw what it would do to various sectors of the economy.

Because, I mean, the net? What’s the big deal? In the nineties, it was some geeks talking at each other over the internet, right?

But, ah…  Then it turned out you could buy things over the net.  And then…. yep, the whole massive ball of wax exploded.

Apparently most of the purchases on black Friday were online, which is not surprising.

I can tell you, though I don’t live in a small town now, and could, technically, find most things I want by driving around Denver like a mad person, it’s worth it to simply order from Amazon, even when there’s a difference of pennies cheaper in favor of the hometown store. Because there’s the gas, and going out, and going through the stores, and–

But if you live in even a slightly remote place — when we first started shopping amazon we lived about 15 miles west of Colorado Springs.  For certain things, like older son’s massive boat-like shoes, we needed to make a special trip to Denver, and pray that the particularly store had that particular size, or something that would kind of fit.  (16 extra wide or 15 massively wide. Seriously.)

So, I welcome the possibility of internet shopping. For everything except groceries, clothes (we tend to go thrift for them, unless they’re the things you DO NOT buy used.  Yes, I do order underwear from Amazon. And bras. And night clothes. Your point is?) and cat food or something related to one of those that we need “right now” because the old one broke, we shop online.

Oh, I also tend to buy home repair stuff at our local Home Despot (yes, I know. I just find it funny to spell it that way.)  Tend to, so not always. Sometimes I need something specialized only found online.  (Beware, though, when buying either toilets or sinks on line, often the fittings are from Eastern Europe and retrofitting them takes more creativity than you might be willing to use.)

Anyway we appreciate the convenience, the variety, an amazing array of choice previously only available to very large city dwellers.

But the implications of this haven’t stopped playing themselves through.  One of them I never saw coming is, as online shopping becomes dominant, grocery stores are competing by delivering your purchases either to your home or to your car outside the store.  (I confess that were we still a “with kids” household I’d probably use this all the time.  As is, though, we shop less frequently and often take the time to find “Interesting stuff” particularly on sale.)

The other implications are: what will that change the landscape of our cities? Who knows? You hear people — even me — talk about how much we miss bookstores.  It could be, and not in the far distant future, that it will be the hallmark of an “old timer” that they miss shopping in stores.  (I don’t but no one ever said I was average or even normal. I view shopping in general (except for books, yes, even now, even when I just look and don’t buy because there’s little I want that’s not massively overpriced in the remaining stores) as a hunting expedition to be accomplished as quickly and tactically as possible. Identify where thing why is likely to be. Rush in to the store. Grab thing. Pay. Emerge in triumph. Try to explain to husband that even though thing is totally the wrong size you don’t NEED to go back in.  “Look, it’s three sizes too small. Maybe I’ll lose weight. Maybe it will grow.”  You could say I’m the ideal online customer.)

But there are other things, too that retail does. For instance, a lesson that cities keep forgetting and having to relearn is that if your downtown is all office buildings, you will have a deserted area at night, which in turn means that the criminals can come out and prey on that late-working business man, or the lone guy walking out of the one restaurant still open.  Healthy downtowns have a mix of offices, residences and retail.

What happens when retail disappears, not just from downtown but from everywhere?  Will it just be restaurants and cafes in the downtown areas, as far the eye can see?

And that brings us to the other side of it, what happens when most people don’t work out of offices.  Most people look at that and go “Ah, time to move to the middle of nowhere.  Endless acres. Cows.”

Look, I grew up in a rural area.  (Also there ain’t no such thing as endless acres in Portugal, near the coasts. Never mind.) I see the attraction. Truly. I know I’ve said I had enough of cornfields before the age of 12, and that’s true too. But I like puttering with plantings; I like having animals; I like the security of knowing no matter what we won’t starve.

But the thing is that the endless acres and semi-agricultural lifestyle are a lot of work, and work the person who would have been a cubicle dweller 20 years ago might not want to do, when they’re also working full time on the computer.  And upteen untended acres can become a fire danger or a breeding ground for dangerous animals. (The majesty of nature, where predators eat large prey is also best watched on Animal channel, not from your living room window.

All that aside, in the country most people quickly find there’s nothing to do, besides tend those acres. If you’re single, and you spent your entire day writing reports or whatever, you might want to see people.  You might also want to be part of some hobby — did you know Denver has a Lego builders group? No, I didn’t know. — you want to learn to brew beer, or take a sewing class. If you’re my variety of introvert, you might just want to walk around and see people.  That people exist reassures you and you don’t need to talk to them.

Right now the life cycle for young people seems to be to move to a city till you find someone, then settle into small town living.  Which you could say sort of kind of satisfies both needs.  Even if there are no local stores, your kids can attend the local school and–

Yeah.  You guessed it. Like all information businesses, schools are in the path of the technological innovation steam roller.

Mind you, I don’t know if they would admit it. I kind of doubt it. I mean, look, publishing was getting hit hard with it 11 years ago, and yet it’s still staggering around, looking more zombie-like every year, and saying “I’m not dead. I think I’ll go for a walk.” And finding more and better reasons why indie is totally dying, listen to their authority.

I think education will be the one most seriously affected next. There is already a lot of movement going on, but the absolute numbers are still small. However, the combination of a field committing suicide and a new way of doing things is a combination I know. This will get ugly. Expect over the next 12 years all sorts of craziness where humans and distance learning intersect with all levels of education.

Again, I absolutely love the opportunity of learning whatever I very well please without leaving my living room. But to an extent the current education system is part of the industrial mass-system, and helped shape it too. Which means that as education changes, what will change?  Humans aren’t infinitely plastic, but universal schooling experience has shaped a lot of the way we look at the world. “Making the grade” is a thing for a reason.  How will our internal perceptions of the world change when it’s all different and highly individualized.

And there are things now completely possible thanks to the internet gps and computers that weren’t possible before. I believe Uber vans are doing this, but it’s not widespread yet.

America was never very good for public transport. We are too spread out, even in the East. Outside places like NYC, most public transport runs empty most of the time.

Trains in particular seem to be a fetish of progressives (more on that tomorrow) and I think they are singularly inappropriate for the US transport landscape.

But someone willing to have their route change every day and be controlled by computer “bookings” could make a mint of a highly personalized public transportation scheme.  Say I need to go to the Art museum and don’t want to drive (pretty much accurate, since depending on my eyes I might not be able to at all; or if it’s winter, I have to curtail my hours to be home before sundown) And my neighbor up the street wants to go to DIA, while another neighbor, five blocks away wants to go to the tech center.  You input where you want to go, acceptable times, it all goes in and gets calculated, and sometime in your acceptable range, a van or bus depending on who is booked for the trip, follows the most economical route, picks people up, drops them off, and then does the reverse on the way back.

It’s so close I can practically taste it. It won’t happen — probably — via city governments, because they are desperately trying to cling to big and inefficient.

But I bet you in the next ten years someone will take that model, have enough to invest, and run with it. And then it will spread.

The advantage of internet/online is that it can give modular supply to meet varying demand.

And sure, most offices still have problems with employees telecommuting, but that won’t hold. Why not? Because it won’t. Younger people who become bosses will be perfectly aware of how to manage over a distance, and won’t understand what the big deal is. You do the job or you don’t.

But then, think about it — commutes change, car ownership changes, office buildings are left unoccupied or semi occupied.

There are other things. I was shocked when I went to the dentist 10 years ago (I’d still go there, if we were in the city still) and found out that his profession too was being hit by change at a spanking pace.  (He was telling me of stuff that we can now do, that I had no idea.)

I’ve had any number of friends have eye surgery unheard of in the past.

To an extent every technological advance has ripples of this sort. It’s just the current change has a lot of ripples in a lot of different fields; it’s going very fast, and we’re in the very beginning of it, which means advances are hard to anticipate.

Will we survive this? Absolutely.

But in the next ten years it will change most things about our lives, from the way we raise our kids to our politics.

Now, the problem with that is that when this happens a lot of people will be left high and dry and with things they’ve always done for money suddenly not working.

The other problem is that most humans, and yes, even us, have a picture of the world in their heads that was formed sometime at age two or so. And we have a picture of our career and what it would/should be formed somewhere in our thirties.

And this used to be perfectly adequate.  Well. The 20th century threw some upheaval in its way, but war is still understandable as part of things that might happen, and once the war is past you can rebuild.

The tech steam roller? Well, when it’s past everything is completely different.

There are a lot of people my age and older starting new careers. (And in a way I am, or at least starting a new way of approaching my career.) Which in many ways is lovely.

The problem is when it’s forced because the field is going away or changing, and people have to change to completely different fields.

It’s no longer “What do I want to do when I grow up?” It’s “what do I do now?”

Now, in general all the changes are for the better. And most fields dying really did commit suicide (though much of retail is just in the way of the steamroller, there are specialized areas where it was suicide.)

What this means again is that though the economy is doing better than during the endless summers of recovery, there will be pockets, and places where the slide down is seemingly endless.

If you’re in that situation, it might seem like the solution is just to fight the future and go back to the safe past.  Many states, and the party that ironically calls itself “progressive” (boldly progressing to the 1930s!) are trying to do exactly that.
But it won’t work, and it will just make the pain longer and deeper.

As painful as it is, as difficult as it is, if we’re to survive the next decade or so, we need to look at all the trends, look at what we’re doing, look at where our field of endeavor. Then retool, replot, re-approach.

Because the future is still there. And with life expectancy growing longer, we’re going to collide with it.  Might as well be prepared.

And meanwhile get out of the path of the technological steam roller. Find another field, or work at a higher level.

Because that steam roller is merciless. And it’s on fire. What it touches will not be coming back.

 

So, How are we Doing? Economy, Age And Confusion

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In his books about a future, underpopulated Earth (the other humans have gone to the stars) Simak paints an attractive lifestyle, with each human living in an estate served by robots.

My brother told me that surprisingly that’s not what’s happening as the population falls (and in Portugal it is already clearly and obviously falling, not to mention edging overwhelmingly to the elderly. And no, I have no clue what the statistics say. It’s obvious to anyone on the ground.) Instead people are crowding into the largest cities, and no one seems to be getting very wealthy.

Which would have been obvious hadn’t people in the twentieth century taken the wrong lessons from the wealth and expansion after the Black Plague.  You see — being mostly Marxist infused, even those who didn’t realize it — thinkers of the twentieth century thought of more people as more slices needing to be taken out of the common and fixed pie, and therefore fewer people meant more wealth.  Only, of course, it was no such thing.

The expansion and growth in both wealth and social equality after the black plague came fromt he fact that a) a lot of people had died suddenly, leaving a lot of goods behind.  b) the society before the plague was a near-zero-surplus society, aka, living close to the bone. c) the goods left behind gave enough of a surplus to be able to finance future expansion and innovation.

A contraction of the population by failure to reproduce is not the same thing.

As the US travels the path already trail-blazed by Europe, there will be economic ripples from the majority of people suddenly being middle-aged to old.

There is, you see, a tide in the affairs of men… and women… and definitely children.

When my mom came to visit, 23 years ago, I was in what’s known as the “settling” phase.  The kids were growing out of toddlerwood. This meant, within certain limits, we could now have “nice things” described as matching dinner plates (without danger of their being broken), curtains (which didn’t get used for swinging on, Tarzan-style) and bedclothes that weren’t of some cartoon character or other.

My thirties were an age of acquisition (and yes, we’re cheap, so a lot of it from thrift shops.)  We needed this, that and the other thing, and a cabinet to store it, and…

So imagine my confusion when mom told me it was time to think of getting rid of stuff, and downsize.

She was wrong — or perhaps simply indulging her habit of assuming we’re in the same place in life — as at that time I had nothing I could downsize except books, and since ebooks weren’t a thing yet, that was a no-go.

But I am reminded, as people ask me what I want for Christmas that I’ve entered that difficult age, when I’m hard to buy for.  Oh, sure, I wouldn’t mind another signed Heinlein (I have one, that a friend gave me.)  I probably have room for that. (What, no volunteers? <G>) and you know, I do still buy books, though my purchases are often whimsical in fiction and utilitarian in non-fiction (i.e. research, or trade books.)

And we need some furniture, though we’re waiting for it to pop up free on craigslist…

But other than that, we’re not buying much.

And that’s the problem. From somewhere in your mid forties and for the rest of your life, you really don’t buy much.  A trinket or even a piece of jewelry has to be amazing to get me to buy it. I DO buy interesting ceramic, particularly in sets of 2 because I can use it for our “date night at home” when the money doesn’t allow going out somewhere. But what I buy is mostly small, targeted and truly unusual or interesting, if that makes sense.

So you can see how a majority of the population going that mode will affect the economics of retail, right? I swear I’ve seen retail change too, and not just in local shops but what’s available on Amazon.  It might be my view only, a subconscious highlighting of things I see and don’t see,  but it seems to me most small decorative objects aren’t for sale in the quantities they used to be, say in the eighties.

Is my growing impatience with small things to dust becoming universal? Who knows?

Anyway, if you’re in retail in a part of retail that specializes in small, decorative objects, unless they are very unique it is likely you’re in for a hard time.

In addition to that I think there is a sense of glut in small-and-cheap. In the nineties, when catalogues of Chinese manufactured goods hit, I confess we bought a lot. Mostly because we bought stuff like “Small farm animals” in a bag, because our kids liked creating unlikely make-believe situations.  My favorite remains the dinosaurs and the army men fighting the invading aliens for possession of the Thomas the Tank Engine railroad. It stayed up for days and had it been a book, it would have contained Ringo-like levels of casualties.

But since then, yes, Chinese manufacturing made a lot of things very cheap. But it also flooded the market on things like “plates” and “small kitchen implement.”

Take it from someone who lives form the secondary market — mostly thrift stores — all of us have got a lot of stuff.  Probably more than we need, which is what prompts the desire to simplify.

The other thing driving the desire to simplify is the fact that our young people are loaded with debt.  Really loaded with debt, to a level we couldn’t imagine at their age.

This means they’re not buying the “matched set of blah blah” or “that cute scarf” or much of anything. We should be grateful they still seem to buy (or at least subscribe to) books, movies and music. But that’ about it, and usually in e-format for portability.

And it’s hitting further up than “amusing ornaments.”  It’s doing things I never expected to see.

The other day I was reading about the general devaluation of antiques. The author had some silly notion it was because millenials eschewed old stuff.  I was going “Dude, they’re broke. Also, they’re living with four roommates. They have no space. And if they had money and space they wouldn’t trust their roommates or their roommates kids to actually keep their antiques looking nice.”

But even I have been shocked at the extent of the “free” section in craigslist.  What I mean is, most of it these days is new, and often good quality.

Also, the for sale section doesn’t seem to move (and not just for us.)

Which to me implies that furniture sales have to be down. Because it must be only older people who are replacing decor and buying new.

There are probably a ton of other impacts I’m not seeing.  People my age don’t tend to care as much for hairstyles. Or clothes.  Um….

Are these areas down for good? Well, no demographics could turn around (and I HOPE they do.) But unless there’s another babyboom I doubt that houses will value at the same pace (unless you’re careful to buy in or very near a big city because for some reason falling population makes humans flock into big cities. Herd instinct, maybe.)

I doubt throwing everything in on making the most fashionable clothes evah — unless they’re truly unique and amazing — would be a good idea.  Same for furniture and oh, heck, baby items.

Even if we keep our population from “aging” further, if we maintain more or less where we are, it changes everything, long term.

For instance, most shopping will be done online.  Why? Because at some point you don’t want to go out for every little thing (trust me.)

And that brings us to the internet and how it has majorly changed… everything, and what’s still in store.

More tomorrow.

 

So, How Are We Doing?

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As the election approaches, and ramping up, the left is going to do their best to talk the economy down and inspire lack of confidence in order to — if they can pull it off — bring about something like the crash in 08, which gives the average uninformed voter the impression that they can do better.

I don’t need to tell any of you that, right? You’ve all seen it. And you know what, they can’t do better. All they have are prescriptions for 100 years ago, and even then the wrong prescriptions. (Unless you think the economy of Soviet Russia was wonderful.)

So, in case you need warning, don’t fall for it:

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Unless of course you enjoyed your summers of recovery 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and 8 and are ready for a return of the franchise: Summer of recovery 8, This time it’s malicious!

However, part of …. uh, inoculating against those fears — and preparing for real fears, actually — is to understand what the economy is doing.

The plural of anecdote is not data, but none of us has any good data. The media will report or not report whatever is around them as a way of influencing politics in the right (left for them) direction. They are true believers, brainwashed in J schools. And even if they weren’t, I doubt they could see it.

I see some of it, or at least some of the trends feeding into it, and I agree with some economist who, the other day was complaining the world economy is looking “Weird.”  Now in his case I suspect it’s because it refuses to comply with the Marxist “truths” he learned, but that’s another kettle of fish.

So I posted yesterday’s post in various groups full of people whose opinions and experience I trust, and who are a broader reach than my own immediate circle. (Which is about 100 people, all over the country and not particularly uniform, but never mind.)

Before we go into what’s weird, and what things are converging into what can turn out to be a perfect storm of either suckage or uplift, let’s set out what the economy — at least from me, and those I heard from — is NOT.

The economy is NOT uniform. 

This should not be a surprise to anyone, right? It never is.  In the eighties, as we were scraping, saving, working too much and  trying to get a toe hold in our fields, we used to laugh at “The future’s so bright I got to wear shades” because, you know… we weren’t that cock sure. People ten years older than us, OTOH they seemed to have it made.  It was probably not universal either. Yes, some fields and niches and age groups are doing very badly.

The economy is NOT tanking

Well, it’s not tanking right now. No, I don’t base this on the stock market, but on the fact that almost everyone I know who was unemployed (sometimes for four or five years) now has a job. Sometimes not their ideal job, but in a surprising number of cases, their ideal job.

Also things that were selling at deep discount even last Christmas are full price now. Which sucks for us bargain shoppers, but it’s a sure sign the merchants aren’t desperate.

The economy — as it is now — is NOT something that government can improve.

It can be argued that government can never improve any economy, but that’s not true. Government can undo the mess government made. In this case, that involves Obama standing astride the economy hitting it with a bag of money (in the form of “stymulus”) but also lovely ideas like not allowing fracking, piling on onerous regulations of all kinds, all the time (yes, sure, Obamacare, but also insane bullshit like requirements for energy and water use for various appliances, with built in instructions that they have to reduce more every year.)

Note that every democrat running for president is intending to stop fracking, and also that both Saudi and Russian money are financing campaigns against fracking. Just in case you wondered what all the collusion BS was. These people project more than an IMAX.

So, how are we doing?

We’re flying by instruments in heavy fog, is how and what we’re doing, since our institutions and the people who are supposed to know how to analyze trends have betrayed us in the name of their shiny socialist would-be paradise.

Here’s the thing though: analyzing trends and hypothesizing their effects is part of what I do in writing.

Future casting is not a science. I was talking to friends yesterday and noted that simply extending our life with so everyone is pretty sure of living to 100 and being functional and basically “early adulthood” level to 90 would turn society upside down, sideways, and make it sing like a cricket. What it would do to morals, manners and economics is impossible to fully forecast.

No, I didn’t say difficult. I said impossible.  Take for instance that now very old invention, the contraceptive pill. Not only have we not stopped working through the secondary and tertiary effects of it, I doubt we’re much past the early primary effects of it.

I also very much doubt anyone fully saw how it would play out when it was first released.

Or take the car, and the effect it had on our polity. States, as sovereign entities used to have far more meaning when we were less mobile.  It also apparently destroyed the mode and manners of courting. (I’m not sure of that one. I wasn’t around to observe.)

And the computer… well, the computer and its secondary and tertiary — and yeah, its primary — effects are part of what’s making everything unpredictable.

Most of us are reading this on computers, or cell phones which are as powerful as computers were 30 years ago.

And if you’ve been alive that long, you know 30 years ago the computers were almost curiosities, used for various things — husband’s early work was writing software for banking — at work, but practically not affecting our daily life.  Our daily life would have been completely intelligible to our grandparents.  Sure our phones had push buttons, and our cars had catalytic converters, but they did more or less exactly what their phones and cars did, and behaved in the same way.

I was telling the kids the other day that Dan and I had our life-hacks down pat for the 80s. Move into a new city? Secure a phone book and a map.  Drive around identifying all the things you’re going to need.  Want to find a club in your interest areas? (For us mostly writers’ groups.) Call the library and ask them. Oh, yeah, and subscribe to two or three papers (in Colorado Springs, we subscribed to the Gazette, the Denver Post, and the Wall Street Journal) so you know what’s going on in the country and the world. Also, subscribe to various magazines in fields of interest, and keep them all, so you can reference stuff you read six years ago, if you need to put it in a story.

Mind you, I wrote on a computer from the second year of our marriage, but the memory was so small I had to store individual chapters separately.  And we could — sort of — connect to the internet from the early 90s, but there was nowhere to go unless you went in with one of the services like aol.

It wasn’t till the mid nineties that I discovered the austen fanfic group and various “weblogs.”  By then I knew how to search to research stuff (mostly with Altavista) and we had an unmetered internet connection.

Because we’re down-grade consumers of almost everything and rarely jump on new tech (the exception being the Kindle Oasis, because I use it SO MUCH) it took us a while to get a GPS.  We still have it separate from the phone because I’m hard of hearing and the car is old and won’t connect to the speakers from the phone.

And then things changed. First slowly, then very fast.  All of a sudden, my social life moved MOSTLY online.  Sometimes things changed so fast I didn’t realize they had changed.

For instance when we moved from the last house, our attic was FULL of books. We ended up donating 4k books, most of them weird reference things.  For many years, I had made it a practice of buying tourist guides to places I’d never been and never intended to be, and histories of weird things “The history of chess in the 20th century” say.  Why?

Well, there was a method to my madness. in 2003 when I found myself without novel work, I made enough money to keep us afloat from doing short stories.  My two advantages for people who found themselves with a hole in their anthology were that I could write very fast and I could follow any theme, just about.

Those books were invaluable.

But here’s the thing: at the level that goes into a short story? I don’t need those books. If I need to find out who won a certain chess match in 71, I look it up at line with the names of the players.  (Also publishing has changed, but that’s something else.)

Those books, had the web never come to fruition, would have followed us from house to house, and our housing arrangements would have to take them into account.

But they weren’t needed, so I offloaded them. (Not ALL the reference books, okay? If they are things in which I’m genuinely interested and which might fuel novels, I kept them. other things I kept are the writer’s guide to (they’re a good first pass at a time period) x time, and the more scholarly version of that aimed at historians (I can’t remember the name of the press? Greenwood? The titles are Daily Life in x. No longer published, and house went under.) And then a good smattering about each period from Ancient Greece to Present. Yes, I’ve read them all at some time. No, I don’t remember them in detail. Yes, I continue to buy new ones. Ye– Well, maybe they’ll come in handy some day. But that’s more for novels, and deep-immersion research.)

And an interesting thing happened while we were offloading them. About six/seven years ago, I identified all the books I could live without, and started selling them on Amazon.  The first six months we made a respectable income.  It was work, mind you, because I had to keep track of orders, etc, but we were making a decentish income.

… then it stopped. It didn’t taper off. It wasn’t a case of having sold the more desirable books (we were selling by how we could get to them, so no particular category) but it just stopped.  Oh, okay, not totally but suddenly we were making maybe $20 a month. Which is when you get into territory where it’s easy to forget you sold it, or remember to ship it or whatever.  So I closed off the business, and started donating.

4k is a low estimate, but it’s the number I actually remembered to record.

Why didn’t I take them to a bookstore and sell them? Because by the time it got to that the used bookstores were either demanding absolutely perfect books, or straight out picking two books out of the mass you brought in. And those would be collectible and autographed. And they’d give you a token payment or token credit.

The bottom had fallen out. It remains fallen out. Paper books just aren’t selling.  Not like they used to. Sometimes not at all.

Sure, I can sell my books, autographed. But the ones I have on paper on Amazon? They don’t move. The ratio of 1 paper book per 100 ebooks is unbreakable across all indie authors I know.  The only ones making a lot of money on paper are those who go to conventions, do a big thing, autograph and move the books.  And even then, it’s often a mixed bag.  (In my case, I’m convinced for indie books hearing me speak will make fewer people buy. It’s different with traditional, because they know someone else vetted it.)

Anyway, this post is getting massive, and I’m not writing a book in one post. I’m going to list the trends hitting the economy, and then tomorrow we’ll do “What does this mean” for some of them at least.  This should explain why there are eddies like the one Leigh identified (though that has other trends, within the field) and then discuss how to cope with this entire mess and thrive.

The goal is to come through this physically and economically sound and have a say in building the future. Remember that. Even if sometimes we get tired of jumping with the change and it would be much easier to give up.

Okay, some of the things influencing the economy, things no government can alter or ease (though they can make us all massively less prosperous.)

  • The median age in the US in 2018 was 38.9 and frankly I think that’s optimistic, since we too tend to inflate the size of our population, by counting uncountables, etc. (and heaven only knows what age they assign them.)
    We aren’t as senescent as some European countries, but the balance of the population is towards older.  Specifically, our old people far outnumber our young people.  We keep complaining about how some fandom or some church or some hobby is “full of grey heads” but take a deep breath? How often have you found a group that isn’t? Unless you teach school, probably not often. Even on college campuses people look more… ah… mature than when I was in college.

    Most young people spent the last 8 years either struggling to find work or accumulating truly spectacular amounts of student loan debt, which around 2008 was made “impossible to discharge in bankruptcy” (Which should make you wonder a lot of things.)  Meaning that economically our young people are disproportionately “poor.”

  • Information, entertainment and knowledge has become almost unimaginably accessible and free compared to even a dozen years ago. It’s also become almost exclusively “intangible” and not attached to a physical object.
  • The technology revolution we’re in the middle of is a “Catastrophic innovation event.”  Why catastrophic? Because it rips apart established structures and ways of doing things that have always worked. And some of the innovations are themselves short lived. Look, 30 years ago VCRs were the way of the future. Then it was CDs and DVDs.  Yeah.
    We’re quick to embrace the convenience, but at the other end of that innovation a lot of those industries are getting hit hard and in ways and timetables that are hard to predict.
  • Our press and most of our bureaucracy are the result of the Marxist long march through the institutions. This means that most of the time they don’t report facts, they try to stampede us in their desired direction.
    It also means some states are now openly and bizarrely against letting individuals make a living. California is a good example. But others aren’t far behind, probably including mine, if we let them get away with it.

    All of this adds up to a mess, and if you can’t see it, I’ll explain at least some of it tomorrow.

    I KNOW I’ve done 6k word posts before, but not right now. I have a novel to finish.  So, more tomorrow.

 

 

The Economy Seen from the Dealers’ Room Floor by Leigh Kimmel

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The Economy Seen from the Dealers’ Room Floor by Leigh Kimmel

My husband and I run The Starship Cat, a small business selling at various kinds of fannish and nerdy events. For the most part we stay in the Midwest, although an exceptional show can take us further afield.

As a result, we have an unusual perspective on the economy. As Jim Baen was fond of saying in reference to writers, we’re competing for “Joe’s beer money.” However, we’re doing it at events scattered widely across a region, rather than a single storefront, or an online store that can potentially reach the entire world. This means we’re selling in a wide variety of areas, but dealing directly with customers and observing their decision-making process as I interact with them.

Also, convention dealers talk to each other, both at conventions (usually during set-up hours in the morning) and online in various public and private fora. We give each other heads-up information about venues and promoters, but we also let each other know how sales went at our shows.

This year our company sold at fifteen conventions and two small outdoor events. Of our conventions, four were anime conventions, six were comic cons, one was a media con, two were traditional science fiction conventions, one was a pulp fiction convention, and one was a writers’ convention.

Of our fifteen conventions, four were complete flops, in which we fell short of our break-even point by such a significant amount that there could be no question of our returning. All four of them were first-time conventions for us, so we went in knowing we were going into unknown territory.

Two of them (the pulp fiction convention and the writers’ convention) were simply not the right markets for our product. We went to both of them hoping they would be good places to sell off some of our book stock from the days when we were making a good profit selling books at science fiction conventions and online. However, the people at the pulp fiction convention were collectors rather than bibliophiles, and were looking for books several decades older than our stock, and in near pristine condition. The people at the writers’ convention were by and large so busy with their panels and workshops that they never managed to get to the dealers’ room and do any significant shopping. As I was wheeling out a stack of book boxes on Sunday, I had a woman say that it was a good thing she never made it to the dealers’ room or she would’ve blown her entire budget. I had to bite my tongue hard against a sarcastic thanks a lot, lady.

The other two complete flops were both comic conventions, and in both cases were first-year events. In both cases, it appears that the promoters grossly overestimated their ability to draw attendance, and as such oversold the vendor hall, spreading too few customer dollars over too many dealers and artists, meaning that no one made any money.

Of the remaining conventions, five showed noticeable declines in sales compared to the previous year, two showed significant rebounds after poor sales the previous year, three held steady, and one was a first-time convention that did well enough that we will definitely want to go back next year. Of the five that showed declining sales, one had moved off its normal weekend, another had changed location and weekend, and the other three were held the same weekend they had been previously, so the drop in sales could not be ascribed to such differences.

Although two of our conventions did show significant increases in sales compared to the previous year, neither of them was a huge win for us. Both of them had declining sales last year, to the point that both of them were potentially on the chopping block if the downward trend continued. And while both of them moved back into positive numbers, our profit margins at them remain sufficiently slender that we will have to be very careful in how we plan for them in 2020.

Overall, the figures show a troubling picture that squares with reports I’m hearing from a number of other convention dealers. Some of the decline in sales and profitability can be ascribed to a saturation of the convention market as more and more promoters, especially for-profit companies who have the financial reach to rent large venues and sign large numbers of high-ticket media guests, move into the business. Whereas a decade ago there might be only one or two conventions each year in a region, now there are often a dozen or more. Furthermore, very few of these conventions are old-school fan-run science fiction conventions where the membership can hang out with the guests of honor at the con suite. Instead, more and more of them are focused primarily on media celebrities and formal encounters with them, to the point that attendees (a significant difference in terminology) spend as much or more time and money on getting autographs and photo-ops with the celebrities as they do on buying things from the dealers and artists in the vendor hall.

Because these extremely celebrity-focused shows (often referred to as “autograph mills”) draw such large crowds, they can sound like great possibilities to a dealer accustomed to lower-key shows. However, they often prove to be a double whammy to the unsuspecting dealer’s bottom line: not only are the large crowds not spending on the dealers’ wares, but the large crowds are also used to justify much higher booth costs to vendors, leaving the vendor with a much higher break-even point. As a result of having discovered this dynamic the hard way, we avoid all shows by certain promoters known to run this sort of convention, and look very carefully at the lineup of celebrity guests at any media or comics convention we’re considering selling it. If there are more than one or two really big-name actors on the guest list, and especially if booth prices are also very high, we are apt to avoid it no matter how promising attendance numbers may look.

Even more concerning to my mind is the shift in the pattern of what items are selling well. When we started the shift away from science fiction conventions to anime and comics conventions, the bulk of our sales were t-shirts. When I go back through the ledgers from 2013, 2014 and 2015, I see whole pages covered with transactions for various sizes and designs of t-shirt, with a sprinkling of other merchandise scattered here and there. By 2016, a shift away from t-shirts as a significant part of our sales becomes noticeable. Initially I chalked it up to the increasing saturation of the t-shirt market as more and more dealers got into selling (and in some cases, producing) t-shirts. Where we previously might have been one of three or four t-shirt vendors at a larger show, we were now often one of ten or fifteen dealers selling t-shirts. At one convention in late 2016, someone counted twenty-six vendors with t-shirts making up a significant portion of their wares.

However, there was also another dynamic that I hadn’t noticed until another dealer brought it to my attention. People were changing their attitude about how much they were spending. Five years ago, people would think nothing about paying $20 for a t-shirt. But by 2017 and 2018, it was increasingly becoming something that needed to be thought about. Instead, we were selling more and more low-ticket items, especially in the five-buck range: emoji masks, squishies, Japanese bells. People now bought those with the casual abandon they had once given our t-shirt stock. While I might do well to empty one box of t-shirts, I would often empty two or three boxes of emoji masks and squishies, and a number of compartments in the carrying case for our Japanese bells. I began to use the term “impulse buy threshold” as a metric of this phenomenon, and considered what it would mean for adapting our business model to a changing market.

This shift may not be as much of a problem when you are selling digital goods online — individual transactions are handled automatically and do not take up more of your time. However, when you are selling physical goods in person, trying to make up for the smaller individual sales through higher volume hits the problem that you can only deal with one customer at a time. You simply may not have enough time to take enough five-buck transactions in the hours that the dealers’ room is open. Even if you could, you also have the problem that sales at conventions tend to come in spurts — and many of your customers are not apt to want to wait very long in line unless what you have is extraordinarily desirable. I’ve regularly noticed that people will start putting merchandise back down and walking away as soon as things start backing up, often as few as two or three people.

One conclusion is definite: no matter what the government may say, whatever the numbers we see in high finance, the economy is not doing well for the average consumer. Even if people are doing well at the moment, they do not feel confident that they will continue to enjoy the same success they currently have. So they’re cutting back on their spending, and start thinking carefully about their purchases at much lower prices than they had previously. More are using cash, debit cards and stored-value cards like Vanilla as a way of restricting their spending.

Right now, this shift in the market means that small business owners in this segment of the entertainment industry are going to need to tread very carefully. Here I will echo several other vendors I know: be very careful about large capital purchases, especially of durable goods. If your business model is based upon retail sales, you’re going to have to make wholesale purchases of product, but be cautious in your choices. Be judicious about adding new lines of product, and be willing to eliminate products that are showing stagnant or declining sales. Even with seemingly proven sellers, don’t forget that consumer tastes can turn on a dime, often right after you made a major bulk purchase of inventory.

Even more so, now is not the time to make major purchases of vehicles or equipment unless you literally have no other choice. For us, that means that our business van is going to have to keep going for at least a few more years, even if it means spending some money on major repairs. There are some small items we might have bought to improve our displays, but which will probably have to wait unless we get an excellent bargain at a time when we have surplus cash.

Speaking of cash, now is a time to move away from credit as much as possible. There are certain purchases you’ll probably want to make on a credit card because of the fraud protection built into most major credit cards. However, make sure to pay off the balances right away, and if that isn’t possible, to get them paid off as quickly as practicable. If the economy continues to slow down, or worse has major hiccups that disrupt your cash flow, those obligations can become real difficulties.

Finally, now is the time to really think about how you can diversify your income so that you are not dependent on one type of income. This goes for everyone, even if you have a regular job. Having a side hustle or two that brings a little extra income means that you won’t be staring at the abyss if your job up and quits you. However, be aware of the terms by which you get paid — much as regular jobs pay you a week or two weeks after you did the work, many online income channels pay only some time after you make the money, often as much as two to three months later in the case of many affiliate programs (in which a company pays you for purchases made via special links you place on your blog or website). Others (especially advertisers such as Google AdSense) will only pay when a certain income threshold is made, which can leave you waiting for your money for weeks or months as the click-throughs dribble in.

For this reason, it’s really helpful to start thinking now of ways in which you can legitimately earn some money and have it in your pocket within a day or two. Whether it’s selling something on Craigslist or doing errands and handyman work for your neighbors, it can help cover an unexpected hole in your regular income or a surprise expense. Knowing how to bring in even a relatively small amount of money quickly can keep you out of the trap of “you’re six bucks short on $ImportantBill, it’s due Wednesday, and you have no way to close the gap in time.”

I thoroughly expect our 2020 selling season to be down from previous years, at least in part because we will be selling at fewer conventions, but also because people’s fun spending is shrinking. I’d strongly advise anyone who has a small business, whether as a primary source of income or a side hustle, to take a very close look at the numbers in your particular niche and make adjustments in your operations and expenditures accordingly.

***

Leigh Kimmel’s retail business website can be found at The Starship Cat. There you can find a list of upcoming conventions she will be selling at, as well as links to how to buy some of her products, especially her substantial catalog of out-of-print books, online. A separate but associated website, Starship Cat Press, covers her indie publishing imprint. She blogs regularly about both on her LiveJournal, The Starship Cat.


Leigh Kimmel — writer, artist, historian and bookseller
leighkimmel@yahoo.com http://www.leighkimmel.com/
http://www.billionlightyearbookshelf.com/
http://www.starshipcat.com/

Rattling the Cage Doors

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Totalitarian regimes create people who find a way to get around them.

In the Soviet Union there was the famous Soviet joke, the only one of which I remember is: The agricultural inspector came to the collective farm, and asked how the potato harvest had gone.  The secretary of the cooperative assured him, “We produced so many potatoes, they’ll reach the knees of G-d.”  To which the bureaucrat snapped, “There is no G-d.” And the secretary said, “The same with potatoes.”

There is also the anecdote that during the Roman Empire, when the emperor ordered a certain courtier to commit suicide (an order that if refused ended in execution and expropriation of the heirs) the courtier did so, but left his will, to be read in public, listing all the various lewd amusements and gross injustices that the Emperor had committed, thereby ruining his reputation.

You see, any curtailment of free speech doesn’t actually silence people. It leads people to communicate in other ways.  Which can mean the “rulers” having no clue of what is actually going on in people’s minds because they’re not in on the joke — few of them would understand they’re the joke — and don’t see the communication taking place.

IMHO part of the reason for the increasingly paranoid behavior of the left is that they know there is communication going on but they don’t understand it/know what we’re saying.  They just have the impression that we’re getting restive, and they don’t fully get it. Even though they obviously should.

Look, yeah, the first amendment still protects our speech. And yes, I know the first amendment only protects our speech from the government.  But in the year of our Lord 2019 we also know for sure that if you say the wrong thing you could find yourself fired, your reputation destroyed, your family threatened, your career a thing of the past. It’s not exactly by the government — though remember that poor schmo dragged in for the movie The Innocence of Muslims whom no one had watched and which Obama decided to blame for the 9/11/12 Embassy attack? — but by the Marxist Hydra which encompasses various power structures: the government bureaucracy, the media, entertainment, a lot of rich people and what’s known as the “movers and shakers.”

This btw has happened for a long time, at least in my field, (and in a lot of others). But it was impossible to get word out, and anyone who managed it was disbelieved.

Now, of course we know we’re not alone. We also know the limits to our speech.  And we’re of course told things like “free speech doesn’t cover hate speech” which is what is technically known as bullshit, since no one ever needed a right to free speech to say that butterflies are pretty and ice cream tastes delicious.  Or for that matter to echo the things the controllers of media and social media want you to say.

And of course, the left, knowing the game is up and we can see them, has dropped all the masks and has gone to naked aggression and force.  Daft and naked aggression and force. I guess all out of touch would be elites, in their terminal state seem to get a little … odd.

The problem is that for decades, in many ways they had this thing called “Absolute power.” For decades our Marxists had full control over the media, full control over publishing, full control over entertainment, full control over the bureaucracy behind the government, full control of a lot of our judicial system, full control–  It turns out, after all that we’ve been saying it all wrong.  It’s not Absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is, in fact Absolute control of the means of communication dumbs you down infinitely.

Until you think your sh*t don’t stink and if you refuse to impose consequences on other leftists everyone will be fine with that. They are after all leftists and therefore above the law.

So the left, not knowing any history but Marx and his paler (and let’s face it, being German, he was pale enough) and dumber imitators like Howard Zinn, think the way to secure full control — again. They liked it, see — is to keep tightening their fist.

Instead they should look to Hong Kong (and ooh, boy, they hate Hong Kong. They want to be left to felate the PRC’s bloody … organ in peace) and learn that when you tighten hard enough, the people become like water, be it in confrontation or in words. They flow over and around you.  And they get angry.

The signs are already here. We’re learning.  The left is teaching us.  A man with an overcoat is an enemy.

Or in this case, a man — or woman — in the control of the left is the enemy.

I hope you boys and girls are telling the polls what they want to hear.  (Bats eyelashes) “Why Mr. Poll taker, I can’t wait to vote Trump out of office.  I’m all for Biden/Warren/Harris/Mayor Pete/ Bernie Sanders [gargles with mouth wash, followed by sheep dip]/Tulsi/Bloombug/the rest of the clown car.”  That is a form of (real, not their imagined bullshit) resistance, because you’re messing with their knowledge of how many votes to manufacture. We must beat the margin of fraud. And we know they’re going to fraud like nobody’s business.

Then there is…  well…. you know, we’re not allowed to say the name of Mr. C * aramella.  Because he’s totally not the whistleblower that Schiffty claims not to know. (Rolls eyes.  Yeah, bud, we’re dumb. Pull the other leg. It plays jingle bells. Bake me an Italian caramel cake, you tax-sucker.)

And then there is, amazingly, joyously the fact that:

Jeffrey Epstein did not kill himself.

It’s an act of civil disobedience, and it’s everywhere. And I’ve seen people complain they’re tired of the meme. Or try to be rational and go “but the hyoid bone can be broken if you hang yourself if you’re over sixty and–”

People…  I doubt very few of us care how the famed sex-trafficker died. Though I must tell you it stinks to high heaven for a millionaire who is known to have dirt with everyone and who ran possibly the largest and most high-reaching sex ring with underage girls in the world to “kill himself” in prison while both guards are asleep and the camera is disabled.  Because you know, there are only so many coincidences we will swallow.

We also know — know for an absolute fact — that the media is not only trying to whitewash the whole thing, but also trying to hustle it out of sight as fast as possible, with the cooperation of most of the agents and agencies of the law who are SUPPOSED TO BE WORKING FOR US.

It begins with what Epstein was and what he did. Back int he early two thousands I heard of Bill Clinton and flights in the Lolita Express leaving out of Mena airport in Arkansas. Dark mutterings of young girls and drug traffic. And all the time, all the time I thought “Right-wing fever swamps. I guess we have nutters too. Because if that were happening, involving someone who later became president, there’s no way it wouldn’t have come out. Everyone would know.”

Well, dear fever swamps, I want to apologize to you. You were right, I was wrong. It turns out the Lolita Express was flying and Bill Clinton was part of the party and no one NO ONE, not one man jack in the main stream media thought this news worthy? NOT ONE. The Omerta held it as silent as they held Obama’s grades or what courses he actually took in college, or how he got to be president of Harvard Law Review without ever publishing a single thing.

Now, how do you expect me to laugh when someone says all leftist politicians are lizard-beings from Ganymede? HOW can I say that’s insanity because someone would know and report it? They might know, indeed, but they wouldn’t report it. Not on leftists. (And to be fair mad uncle Bernie does look like a reptiloid. Oh, my bad. He’s just a communist. After a while it starts showing in their features.)

And we’ve seen things that just ten years ago I’d have thought were insane: we’ve seen Hillary pardoned for crimes that would have sent anyone else with her clearance to prison. We’ve seen open conspirators and liars disporting themselves in the limelight and get not even a slap on the wrist. Instead they get lucrative book deals for books that everyone knows will sell three copies. We’ve seen a former president bug a rival’s campaign, and try to discredit the rival with a fake dossier, and yet remain free, rich and revered (though not by the left who now are trying to convince us he was a conservative. No sale, guys, that baby with the bright red diaper is ALL yours. Kiss him on the puss and call him daddy. You own him.) We’ve seen now two attempts to take the president down on fake accusations and fake “evidence” with full complicity of the media. We’ve seen the President’s executive orders countermanded by judges out of podunk who never said “Bah” to a single one of Obama’s use of pen and phone, no matter how outrageous.

We’ve seen you try to impeach the president because Joe Biden is corrupt.

And what’ seen can’t be unseen.

Here, I’ll decode for you, hard of hearing leftists: Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself, means “We can see you there behind the curtain.  You’re not a great wizard. You’re not a medium size wizard. You’re just corrupt little leftists swollen in your own importance.  AND WE SEE YOU.  AND WE SEE THROUGH YOU.”

You thought you had us locked safe and tight, didn’t you? You’re trying so hard to slam the door on us. Bless your little rotten hearts. But Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself is the measure of how you can’t control us. It’s the sound of prisoners rattling the cage bars, faster and faster in a crescendo rhythm.

You’ve seen enough prison movies to know how that ends, right?

You poor sons (and daughters. must not discriminate) of bitches. You thought you could cage Americans? You thought you could control our words? You thought you could confine our thoughts? You thought you were OUR betters?

We ain’t got no betters. Those sons-and-daughters of bitches ain’t been born.

Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself.  And Eric C*aramella won’t kill himself either, when you discover he no longer serves your purposes. Oh, and by the way, I know absolutely nothing that will lead to the conviction and impeachment of Hillary Clinton.

Hear that? Rattle rattle rattle, growing to a deafening crescendo.

There is an anger in the land I don’t think you’re even vaguely aware of.  I’m not — not even close — the most hot tempered on our side.  And I was a very reluctant Trump voter. But watching your sham- wow-impeachment (It’s Russia, it’s Ukraine, it’s taxes, it’s mean tweets against the squad, it’s the fact that orange man bad), your attempt to reverse elections you don’t like, and silence people who don’t agree with you, has me spitting mad, furious, not even sure what to do with all this anger.  And I’m not alone. You have no idea of the anger stalking this land. (And if you say “you sound angry” guess what “Damn skippy. You have no idea how angry.” The only ones not angry aren’t paying attention.)

We’re expressing it with humor. We are as fond of a joke as Jeffrey Epstein, who didn’t kill himself.

Be glad we can still express it with humor. But beware there’s anger there. Deadly serious anger.

Rattle, rattle, rattle.

You can’t stop us.  The more you do to try to stop us the angrier we get. And you won’t like us when we’re angry.

That much I can promise you. You won’t like us when we’re angry.

 

Challenge and Book Promo

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*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. GREEBO needs very expensive medical treatment, which will hopefully ensure us another year or two with him, but it’s kind of a very bad time for it.  (I mean, we can, okay? It’s just … very expensive, but I can’t give up on him.)  So, every little bit helps-SAH*

Yes, I’m sorry. This is another of those weeks where the challenge word JUST didn’t make it. My email was hungry, I guess.

So, your challenge for vignettes is: Tell us about the life of one of the hamsters who runs the internet, and the things that can go wrong (or right.) Make it as serious or funny as you wish.  Make it focused on ONE particularly hamster or the weird effects that happen when one of the runs too fast on his wheel.

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FROM MARY CATELLI: The Hall of the Heiress.

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She knows nothing of the hall where she lives, alone, where sea serpents prowl the shore, except that it bears the name Hall of the Heiress — not even if she is the heiress it speaks of.

Any more than she knows her own name.

Or whether there is any escape from the hall.

FROM DAVID L. BURKHEAD:  The Chooser: A Tale of Modern Valkyrie.

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A Tale of Modern Valkyrie

Göll is a Valkyrie, a chooser of the slain. She takes those who die in battle first to Hel for judgement, then on to their final destination, whether it’s Valhöl or elsewhere. When her latest slain is an eight year old boy she finds herself facing a new challenge, one she had never before faced in all her centuries of serving the Lord of Battles.

FROM MEL DUNAY:  Saving a Queen (Ancestors of Jaiya Book 2).

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Journey to the country of Jaiya, in a world not quite like ours. Here the humans wield magical powers and fight against an Empire which seeks to enslave them, but they share their world with insect people and trollfolk, and stranger things lurk in the shadows…

Queen Prasa escapes from her city as it falls to the Empire. Her only hope of survival lies in traveling with Nirav, a smuggler who pilots a type of balloon called a skyboat. Caught between her sense of duty and her attraction to the smuggler, Prasa must listen to her heart in order to find the best way to save her people. But what is the secret cargo that Nirav carries…and why is a flying monster out of the old stories hunting his skyboat?

Note: Queen is meant as a standalone with a “happily ever after” ending. However, the heroes in the later books in this series are descended from Prasa and Nirav, who are also the ancestors of some of the characters in the original Jaiya series. The romance is on the sweet side, but there are some references to the horrors of war, more implied than shown, and violent fights with the flying monster.

The Best People

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Let me begin this by saying there are millions of people way smarter than myself.  This is a necessary statement, as you will see because otherwise I’ll sound insane.

Though I’ll say there are only two people so much smarter than myself that I felt like a little kid trying to comprehend an adult.  One of them was Ginny Heinlein. There is a third one I can almost keep up with if I run fast enough. And I’ve caught him in an error once, in economic forecasting, which has zero to do with this field.

Other than that life in this family is a daily act of humility as the other members of it are way smarter than myself. When they get going on something, particularly blue sky physics, I can just sit and watch like someone with two broken legs looking on at acrobats.

That said, my feeling of inferiority is tempered by the fact I often correct the English of one, the history of another and that I’ve read more than husband, (it being part of my job.) so I can pull up examples of things he was unaware of.

And that paragraph above is why I don’t believe in “Smart people” and “The top men.”

Even admittedly brilliant, stunningly erudite people have areas they know or understand or think about more than others.  And in some of them they can be strangely and stunningly ignorant.

I won’t give the example of actors who run their mouths on politics and political systems, because that would be low hanging fruit.  I’m not sure — and I know some of them are bright people but that’s not the point — what acting talent is exactly (which since maternal grandparents met on the boards and enjoyed some acclaim is kind of odd, right?) but it doesn’t seem to be a strictly intellectual function. Maybe it is simply an enhancement of that mimic ability that allows humans to adapt to the tribe when yet very young and to manipulate their caretakers so they survive.

I won’t mention authors, either, because authors are … well. I have no idea how others work.  I know some say they do this rationally and purely from intellect, but you know what? We lie for a living. And we tend to claim as the origin story of someone’s favorite book whatever fits the rule of cool, even if the real origin story was to quote a meme with Yoda. “Young I was, needed money, I did.”

We are usually learned and competent in two areas that impress those who aren’t writers: the manipulation of words and knowledge of obscure facts.

In addition, I can sound incredibly smart — without trying to, just geeking out, because I read a lot of history and economics and my mind is a stainless steel lint trap. Meaning I retain the most obscure, bizarre and often irrelevant pieces of information seemingly for life.  If I live that long, after I forget my own name and can no longer recognize my kids or — more alarmingly — my cats, I’ll be able to tell you the very last words that Leonardo DaVinci ever wrote was Il Caldo e Freddo.  Which means “[My] soup grows cold.”  (Actually the soup is cold, but what he meant is that he’d be right back but had to eat his soup before it got cold. Which will be the title of the last Leonardo Da Vinci Mystery, if I can clear the time and muster the discipline to write everything else on the way to those.

But again, most areas of human endeavor are opaque to me and I’m a babe unborn. I am in the end a savage with modern day creations. I can’t tell you why what I’m doing works, why the words get typed into this blog and will be shown to you.  I can’t tell you why or how the computer works. I can’t even program the computers I use every day. My electrical gadget expertise stopped with assembling a tube radio from parts more than forty years ago, and I doubt I could do that now.  Or keep my first tape recorder going through amazing feats of repair even though it had been made in (I kid you not) North Korea. (Someday I’ll do a post on how all the crappy regimes allow imports and entertainment from all the crappy regimes, or how we learned to have fun when we had Russian and Romanian movies inflicted on us. Too long a digression for here. Let’s say “Russian technology” is an improvement on “North Korean machinery.”)

Sure, I could learn all of that, and I’ve promised myself quiet time to study some of it as a reward for finishing books, because as the good doctor says, I’m a bad boss and a worse employee and I should just fire myself and find someone else to be me. But that too is a digression worthy of another post.

The thing is, when we come to this “Smarter people” or if you prefer “Top men” (even when they’re women) I will never know as much about any of these things as people who are objectively — if such a thing is possible to measure — dumber than I, but who have devoted their lives to one of them.

Which brings me to this post, or the precipitating event that led me to write it: Yesterday on Facebook I talked to a polite and rational liberal.

Having determined that someone — not me — asked him how he reconciled his beliefs in the inherent dignity and value of the individual with wanting Universal Health Care.

This man agreed most systems of universal healthcare are a florid disaster and do way worse than the mangled, government-raped thing we have, but he insisted that “Someone smarter than me can design a system that works.”

He also held out hopes that we could have a system like Sweden.

As I said he’s rational and polite, so I’m not including him in the following — I think he just heard it so much from other leftists he thinks it must be true —  but I’m just going to say I’ve often wondered if the left’s obsession with the way a used-to-be extremely white country where everyone is relatively closely genetically related is rooted in their subconscious eugenic and racial beliefs.

But of course Sweden is not a model. Long before that thread was over someone who knew it better than I pointed out they now have a parallel private system, which people pay for (and is quite expensive) in addition to paying for the “universal” one out of their taxes. Because it’s so much better.  The same thing is true of Portugal, btw.  And you probably can’t find two more different cultures and modes of behavior than Sweden and Portugal.

And the problem is even with Sweden, or Great Britain, or any of that, there’s a ton of stuff we don’t know about these government-run systems.  Such as, for instance, how much they actually cost. Or what their real statistics are.  Americans (born and raised) tend to trust statistics from abroad as if they were their own, forgetting we’re the autistic kids in the nations playground, who actually say what we think, and believe facts matter.

I’ll point out in passing that it took me till two years ago to make sense of something mom told me from birth: when I was born extremely premature, the doctor who came over to examine me after delivery called the hospital to beg the use of an incubator.  He was reportedly told that since mom had chosen to have the baby at home with a midwife, there were no incubators available. This seems like one of those things you read about on how a “patriarchal” system suppressed midwives in favor of doctors.  And eh, maybe it was, though I doubt it. For one, given the transportation possibilities in the village at the time, trying to get to the hospital once labor started would mostly mean delivering on the road.  A couple of years ago, a lightbulb went on in my head: given my birth weight and general expectations of survival, they didn’t want me to die in the hospital. Because I’d skew their numbers.  And yes, Portugal had universal health care.

No matter what a governmental department — and I mean any nation — is supposed to do, over time their actions will be changed and decisions made so as to skew the numbers in their favor.  Since inter-government people aren’t evaluated on profit (i.e. on how efficiently they use resources versus results) but on how good they look on paper everything is will be done to look good on paper.

Which endeth the semi-digression (yes, my mind is like an eighteen wheeler, occasionally lurching from lane to lane.  Stop gripping the wheel of your reasoning so tightly and enjoy the ride) and brings us back to my point: you can have people way smarter than I design a universal health care system, or a long distance communication system, or an economic strategy.  But the thing is, see, they are still humans.

If their incentive is to look good on paper, even if they’re the best of people and devoted to their seeming objectives, they’re going to have to do some “looking good on paper” or the only thing that will happen is that someone else will take over who does look good on paper.

Beyond that, they will come in with all their prejudices, their acquired and never examined opinions (“it works in Sweden” or “population is exploding.”) and a ton of other things likely acquired with mother’s milk and never thought over (because most people don’t) and they will be influenced by them.

This is fine when what they’re doing is designing something with objective parameters that follows immutable laws. Even then unintended consequences can bite you in the ass.  Ask any engineer.

But when you’re dealing with humans, where each individual is the original chaotic system, and when you get them in a crowd they’re…. unfathomable incarnations of chaos, then the system tends to come apart fast or slow depending on how big it is and how much it’s supposed to cover.

Even the smartest person in the world, for instance, knows less about me than I do.  And speaking of chaotic systems, my body is unfathomable. It was supposed to have stopped ticking 57 years and some months ago, and nine times out of ten when it throws a wobbler and husband drags me to ER, (over my strenuous protests that “It’s just my body being my body. If you give it an hour it will be okay again”) the diagnosis and proposed treatment is “Heck if we know.”  Stupid docs assume I’m hypocondriac and get very upset when told I don’t remember any of this, it’s my husband who observed it. I’m amazed no one has accused him of Munchhausen by proxy. (And I’ll point out I was doing this long before we were married, just in case you’re silly.)

The tenth time the diagnosis is… weird? And the recommendations weirder.  I’m probably not the only patient ever discharged with the instructions to “eat more salt” but I must be rare because the nurse tried to change it to “less.”  If ever anyone gets discharged with instructions to “take up smoking and work to smoke a pack a day” it will be me! (Or at least that’s the joke in my family.)

Even the level of standardization our government (Yes, we should be thanking Obama. Ptui.) has introduced in health care has made it very difficult for off beat, strange body-systems.  Yes, part of it is the shortage of doctors, and the time allotted per patient, but part of it just they’re treating us by statistics as much as anything else because of those stupid codes, and insurance. (“Attacked by ducks, second encounter.”)

What is a Smart Person TM supposed to do with stuff like that? Even when I’m in perhaps a group of 0.3% of the population, when you’re talking about something the size of the US that’s a lot of people. And other people have weird stuff of their own.

As for the economy… Brother. We know what smart people do. (And dumb people too, like Denver raising its minimum wage to stratospheric levels on the ASSUMPTION this will raise people’s income, instead of sending the low skilled into unemployment. Lord have mercy. I expect a lot of robots in the area in the future.)

Smart or dumb, no one can muster the level of complexity inherent in even 100 humans, much less 300 million, assuming that’s our current population.

There is no one smart enough, free or prejudices and preconceptions enough to handle that. (It could be argued my DST series is all making this point, actually.)

Because even the smartest human who ever lived, supposing he’s interested in bureaucracy (which would be a strange perversion) is still human, and will have his preconceptions and ideas that aren’t exactly rational. Worse than that, he will ASSUME everyone is as smart as he is, and as well intentioned.  I’ve long observed the very smart CANNOT believe in stupidity beyond a certain level. And the very compassionate and sweet get easily duped by the evil.  More so than the rest of us who have — Thank Heavens — a broad streak of darkness, and therefore know how the evil operate, because we see the impulses in ourselves. (And we watch ourselves ALL the time.)

And then there’s the way bureaucracy works. In any department, any office, any group of humans, decisions are made not by what is more rational or “smarter” but by horse trading, back-rubbing and horse-trading.  At which, btw, anyone one standard of deviation or more above the mean (which is very mean indeed) tends to be beyond bizarrely awful. Because IQ differences aren’t quantitative, they’re qualitative.  And you lose the instinctive rapport with the rest of the species the more different you are from them. (And who’d be surprised, considering if the difference is physical pack-apes will shun, ostracize or kill the mutant.)

So, policy in the end is not set by the smartest guy, muttering away in his cubicle in the corner (and from the policy prescriptions I read from very smart people, this might be a good thing. They tend to shun the pack, and the species, as much those shun them.) Policy is made by the empire-builder within the department who manipulates everything so that he has job security. There might be some input from Auntie Marge who has worked for the department forever and brings in cookies and chocolate cake on Friday because no one wants it to stop.

And that might be the big divide in our country between right and left. Beyond everything else, beyond the screaming and throwing things, the left believes in “Top Men Women” who can design and carry out utopia.

Heaven knows why. I don’t. It is impossible for me to understand why their belief comes from, and I must assume it’s from “assumptions, half digested information and wishful thinking.” I’d also blame the unified media of the 20th century for hiding a lot of the cock ups that “top people” have made on the way to success.  I think WWII set us in this idea that government COULD run things, because people didn’t know (and many still don’t) of all the slips betwix the cup and the lip.  But who knows? The reason could be completely different.

The right, in the US, largely doesn’t believe in “Smart People.”  We know they exist. We just repose no trust in them.  The fact that the media has for decades been depicting as “Smart” people whose conclusions and ideas we were forced (from some life event usually) after examination to consider simplistic and borderline inane, doesn’t help us believe in “smart people.”

So in the end we’re stuck screaming across the divide “We would love perfect and free health care; yes, we think some people would greatly benefit from not having to worry about the daily bread, so they could create great things; yes, we’re all for improving the lot of the homeless and the addicted; yep, sure, some people are rolling in undeserved and misappropriated wealth.

It’s just that we think when we let anyone, smart or dumb try to fix that stuff, what we get is systems where bureaucrats prevent parents from saving their child’s  life; universal income that disincentivizes 90% of recipients from trying to work and reduces them to the level of pets or prisoners of their vices; turns major cities into open sewers that are not safe to walk in, lest you be attacked by a feral human; strips all incentive from the hardest working, most productive people in a society and leaves everyone in equal poverty.”

In other words, we yell across the divide “Yes, yes, we would all love paradise. But we don’t think it can happen, and certainly not in a planned model. The lurching chaotic system of everyone looking out for their own individual interests (which they know better than everyone else) has done better than VERY Smart People TM planning in their lofty towers.

Because humans are unpredictable, regressive, full of irrational impulses and subconscious never examined certainties.

And sure you can hate them for it, but don’t go pretending you are some lofty, all-knowing, pure intelligence. Because you’re not. And you too are filled with all of those. Denying them only makes them worse.

The only solution is to give people as little power as possible over masses of other people. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we can do, jumped-up apes that we are.

The problem is the divide is so fundamental and absolute, no matter how hard we shout, they can’t hear us. Examples will be useless. The fact that all attempts before have failed won’t deter them. They’re sure if they just find people smart enough we’ll have paradise.

Unfortunately mostly what they find is the rapacious, the power hungry and the good actors.

 

 

Incoming: The Chicxulub Impactor, Part 6 ― Now What? By Stephanie Osborn

Incoming: The Chicxulub Impactor, Part 6 ― Now What? By Stephanie Osborn

http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

 

In the last 600 million years, at least 3 large asteroids have impacted Earth, sufficient to generate craters of order 100km (60mi) across or greater. These are Chicxulub (in Yucatan, Mexico), Popigai (in Siberia, Russia), and Manicouagan (in Quebec, Canada).

Popigai

Popigai Crater, Russia

Manicouagan

Manicouagan Crater, Quebec, Canada

 

All three have been considered for the causes of mass extinctions.

As we saw last time, even older extinction events may have impactors as the cause. This includes the so-called “Great Dying,” the Permian-Triassic extinction event, which may relate to an unconfirmed impact crater in Wilkes Land, Antarctica.

There are many more very large structures and suspected structures that we may never know about, because of their locations―in the deep ocean basins, like the Eltanin iridium anomaly, three miles deep in the south Pacific basin off the tip of South America, discovered by core drilling. Or under the polar ice caps, like that Wilkes Land anomaly in Antarctica; the few places where rock outcrops can be seen in the Wilkes Land feature don’t display impact ejecta layers, which argues against the hypothesis. But the anomaly exists, and is still being debated.

What does all this mean?

It means that Chicxulub ISN’T unusual. It isn’t a one-of-a-kind event. It’s a semi-regular occurrence on geological timescales. It means figure out what to do NOW, while there’s time, because it IS gonna happen again. No “might.” No “maybe.” It WILL happen again.

If we let it.

The general consensus of the community is that a 60km (37mi) diameter impactor would “kill” Earth―would, as one of my favorite film characters noted, “wipe out all life on this little planet.”

The good news? That’s big enough for us to see it coming now.

The bad news? An asteroid doesn’t have to be a planet-killer to do a lot of damage.

whatdoi
What do I mean?

Chelyabinsk

The Chelyabinsk bolide was only an estimated 20m (66ft) in diameter, and it was coming in at a very shallow angle to the ground. Had it come in at a steeper angle, closer to vertical, it would probably have hit the city and wiped it out. Even had it still detonated as an air blast, the shock wave would have come straight down, hit Chelyabinsk, and flattened it. This was “only” an estimated 600kt-equivalent explosion. Such an event is often called a city-killer.

weneversaw

And we never even saw the Chelyabinsk asteroid coming.

Why not?

Speed, size, and reflectivity.

These things are very small as such things go―a few meters’ diameter―and they’re moving like a bat out of hell. The Chelyabinsk asteroid was moving at about 20km/s. In day-to-day terminology, that’s ~60,000-69,000km/hr (40,000-42,900mph)! They’re dark, dusty, and don’t reflect sunlight very well, and they have no light of their own. They’re durn near impossible to see. The usual method of detecting asteroids is to take long-exposure sky photographs and look for short streaks of light as the asteroid moves. But if it’s coming right AT you, it’s going to be a point of light, not a streak, indistinguishable from the background stars until it’s too late!

Soassuming

So assuming you SEE it coming, what do you do with it once you’ve found it?

Well, what you do NOT do―Hollywood notwithstanding―is blow it up with a nuke. That just turns it into a shotgun blast instead of a slug. Either will kill you.

What you DO…is move it. Just a nudge. It doesn’t really take that much.

Dr. Travis S. Taylor and I wrote in detail about this sort of thing in A New American Space Plan, and I do highly recommend checking out that book. But there are quite a few ways of moving an asteroid into a new orbit, some harder than others, some requiring a bit more advance warning, but all within our current levels of technology to accomplish.

The easiest is a game of interplanetary pool. Shoot a rocket at it, whose payload is a big dense hunk of rock or metal, on a precise trajectory designed to knock the thing into a known orbit that is NOT going to hit Earth―preferably into a non-Earth-crossing trajectory, though that might take a couple of shots to do. Of course, if it’s a rubble pile, that might just knock it to pieces and put us back in shotgun-blast territory.

So other options include nukes detonated ALONGSIDE, to nudge it; mounting a rocket engine directly on it; parallel the rocket engine alongside and use the exhaust to nudge it; attach a solar sail to it…you get the idea here. And I haven’t even exhausted the options yet.

But there are two gotchas: We have to know it’s coming, and we have to be able to get to it. If we don’t have those two things, well. It’s gonna get awfully messy, awfully fast.

And like I said, it IS coming. Sooner or later, astronomers are going to point and yell, “INCOMING!”

And we’d better be ready when that happens.

~~~

For more details, check out INCOMING! The Chicxulub Impactor by Stephanie Osborn on Kindleand Nook. 

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or alternately try out her fiction: Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse.

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Happy Thanksgiving

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If you’re reading this blog, and are alone or near alone for thanksgiving, come in, pull up a chair. You’re with family here.  (Next year it might very well be just us.)

For those of you who worry about … well, about me, I actually have a lot to be thankful for this year.  Not only am I at long last writing regularly again, but despite this sore throat thing, I am MILES better than I was even last year.  Even two years ago walking out in the cold would give me an instant asthma attack, and last year I had to stop all the time to get my breath, if it was even mildly chilly.  But yesterday I put on all my clothes (seriously, I looked like a walking mound of clothing) mostly because I was stir crazy from being inside. And I went out to get some exercise. To wit, I shoveled half the driveway.

My arms still hurt — news flash, snow is heavy — but despite the cold and the wind, I didn’t lose my breath and my asthma didn’t kick in.

Therefore, even though progress is slow (as it was for writing again) there is movement and it’s in the right direction. For this I’m thankful.

I’m also thankful for lovely DIL who has brought a lot of joy into our life, even when — particularly when — she bullies me into walking. 😉

And most of all now and always I’m thankful for my husband without whom I’m sure I wouldn’t be me, and I might never have written anything. I certainly wouldn’t be writing this blog, or expressing my opinions on anything. I won a big lottery when he decided he wanted to marry me, and even more when he stuck it out with the excitable Latina.

And I’m grateful for our sons who are decent human beings even when we don’t agree or clash and who are both hard workers and strivers. In their own way they’re both healthy and wise, and the wealthy — whatever they consider wealthy — can come later.

I’m even thankful for the cats, though one of them — Euclid — might not be with us long.  You might also wish to keep Greebo, yes, my fuzzy editor, in your prayers. At 16, he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and is looking thin and seedy.  He is of course unpillable and uncreamable (What you expected otherwise from the buzzsaw in fur?) so we’re going to get him bloody expensive radio iodine treatment in the hopes of keeping him with us another year or two. Because he’s absurdly loyal to me, and loyalty demands loyalty.

But most of all I’m thankful that the writing is flowing again. Fiction, I mean. For a while there it was a struggle, for various reasons.

A shortish novel, (but well into pulp novel size) Deep Pink will be coming out within the week (yes, I’ll announce it here) and Winter Prince, a space opera, the first novel set in what I call The Human Universe (Though Winter Prince is part of a series called Alien Seasons) will be coming out next month.  Then sometime after that, hopefully Dyce.  (Yes, it’s mostly written. Things just kept happening.)

May the next year bring us yet more blessings, even if sometimes they’re in disguise.  Hold on tight to what you love, and celebrate the happiness in your lives.

Let us labor and work as hard as we can, so when the harvest is brought in it is a good one, and we’re rewarded as good and faithful workers.

And now, let’s eat.

 

 

 

The Flaw at the Center

longhorn-cowfish-375110_1920

I did tell you I’ve been thinking a lot of heretical thoughts, right? Downright heresy against the fundamental principles of the society that brought me up, and the unwritten rules of the one who adopted me.

I suspect the reason for this … taste for heresy — yes, yes, you’re going to need two bolters — is that I acculturated ONCE. I acculturated willingly, and have no intention of reversing it (I’m not sure it would be possible, honestly. What’s seen and learned can’t be unseen and unlearned) but I’m also the fish who saw the water. (Insert heretical thoughts about Moses growing up between two cultures which probably prepared him for his role, honestly. Whatever divine intervention came after.)

People normally don’t see culture.  Just like a fish doesn’t see water. It’s just there. It’s the way things are.

But if you’ve acculturated, at least if you’re the kind that thinks too much (oh, hai there) you do. And you can’t unsee it.

For example the other day I was walking past a pedicure and manicure place. Their shop window had hands and feet and a lot of pink roses. So far so good. But it also had a pair of feet where the ankles were bound with a pink ribbon…  Yep, Asian place, and I’m sure it doesn’t mean the same in their culture, but my immediate thought was “bondage, with kindness? Gift bondage? What the heck?” And that’s why I looked in, and realized it was an Asian place, and realized they didn’t see the semiotics of the thing the same way. (To be fair, it’s harder if you come from a culture that “far” culturally from the US.  Portugal is — mostly — Western, or at least we share a lot of things, and it was far enough. Until I started doing covers, I didn’t realize my fonts weren’t congruent with what the rest of the US saw. “Historical fantasy” for me was “horror” to the average person.)

Anyway, lately I’ve been running into things having to do with kids and population.  There was a post on Facebook about how right now the biggest suicide risk group is around 13-14. And the highest suicide rate. Which is unheard of.

I pointed out that every culture who lets strangers raise their kids gets into trouble. There was the usual protest of “but I can’t.” And I get this. Honestly I do. I know how difficult it was for us.  Probably cost us not only my potential income (writing is not a patch on multilingual scientific translation, which back then could not be done remote) but also, ultimately my skills, as I don’t remember half of what I learned but used last 30 years ago. And also I have no resume. Right now, if indie and cover making doesn’t work, my recourse is to go trippingly to Walmart and become a cashier.

There were also at least fifteen years of heroics, trying to get the soit-disant career off the ground, while raising the two boys (while husband was working 18 hour days) and skills I had to learn like furniture refinishing and sewing, just to keep us living a decent life. Also everything was cooked from scratch (that’s not a hardship, btw) Husband learned to keep our cars going (not possible now, with everything on computers) and we both learned to renovate houses from the ground up. And eh… our big vacations were to Denver, and visits to my parents (who often paid half the trip) were at best every three years, which means the kids had no extended family in their lives.

As I write this, every car in this family is over 20 years old and one is in the process of self-destroying and will have — somehow — to be replaced.

I UNDERSTAND the price one pays to raise one’s own kids. And you can add to that general societal disapproval. The number of people who sneer at me and treat me like an idiot because I was a stay at home mom beat the number of people who treat me like a human being 100 to 1.

HOWEVER I think — shoals still ahead not withstanding — we did a better job than strangers could have done raising the sprogs. At least I hope so. The younger one, particularly, with his sensory issues would probably have been identified as having behavioral problems. (I mean they tried that in middle school.)  And put on psychiatric drugs. And destroyed.

Look, there are fine daycares. Excellent places. The best of them is not as good as medium-level parent. Trust me, there’s a difference. I KNEW as a kid when I was being watched by even very nice strangers that they didn’t CARE the way my parents did.

There’s other things going on. I haven’t looked into it in decades, but when kid was five or so I read about research on a mechanism by which … this is hard to explain… by the age of 3 kids “download” the mind of their principal caregiver. Yes, there was a mechanism for it other than “magic.” They studied kids who were adopted and even kids who were watched by other people, and found that their minds were closer to those who looked after them than their genetic relations.

Now, it’s been at least two decades since I looked at the research, and maybe it wasn’t even valid, but think about it. Do you want to risk THAT?  I didn’t.

Anyway, historically, societies who gave their kids to strangers to raise, from Ancient Rome to Imperial Britain (at the aristocratic level) crashed hard, fast and ugly once that became widespread.  And had EXACTLY the same problems we have with our youth.

That’s your first heresy of the day.  The second one is:

I came across this book. Or rather a talk by its authors.

Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline

How it happened was like this: I thought I’d like to hear a favorite song I don’t own, went to youtube and accidentally clicked on an interview with the authors.

I haven’t read the book, yet, I ordered it, but it is due in FEBRUARY (no, no clue why.) So all my impressions are from that interview.

  • They don’t follow my line of reasoning and think we’re already in trouble. This is because none of them has stopped and thought about whether censuses are “real” or who the hell counts illiterate peasants in trackless Africa. Or how come the great AIDS die off in sub-Saharan Africa was never reflected in our figures, or for that matter, they never got adjusted down after it was proven the USSR had been spinning numbers wholesale.  And who in hell actually tracks figures from places like the Arab countries or China, where communication is more propaganda than anything else?
  • They didn’t do that, they swallowed the censuses wholesale (Rolls eyes) and think we have 7 billion and will peak at 11 billion mid century. (Yeah, good luck with that.)
  • What they’re sounding the alarm on is the fact that we have a falling birthrate across the world, like India and China are reporting (and I don’t remember which is which) 2.1 children per woman and 1.5 children per woman. Assume that whatever the Arab world and Africa are reporting is unsubstantiated bullshit. The developed countries, including us, are below replacement rate. (And that’s without counting the shennenigans in our censuses, too.)

So far so good. I think the alarm should be sounded faster and higher, but yeah, we’re in trouble bad as a species. Particularly when you add in that most kids simply aren’t marrying, or if marrying not having kids. (As a former friend in Portugal told me “It’s the most absurd thing. We’ve forgotten how to make babies.”)

We don’t know what rate of population fall will collapse the economy. And we DO NOT know how many people it takes to keep civilization going.

This is because, despite the fact that the fall is obvious and coming at us fast, our establishment is still worried about the “overpopulation crisis.” If this reminds you of something else they’ve gotten backwards, you have it. So even saying population is falling or that it might be a bad thing is an heresy. They have my admiration on that.

BUT THEN they proposed as a holding measure, open-borders immigration to make up the numbers in the west.

Head desk, head desk, head desk.  I guess it’s to be expected. These people are demographers, therefore they SEE people as widgets. But people aren’t widgets. And cultures aren’t all “equally valid.”

Importing vast quantities of third worlders, from countries, btw, where the population is also likely falling but where the CULTURE is so vastly embuggered that they can’t look after their former population will do nothing for keeping the west going.  And if the West crashes — sorry, guys — civilization as we know it, crashes along with it. Sure, China will go on, for a while at least and probably eventually have a global empire. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

More pertinently, I’m coming to the conclusion that “culture” is … organic.  Think of it as a group mind.  In many ways it has a mind of its own. And its OLD.  And when disrupted it dies.  Now, I’m anthropomorphizing culture and this is not exactly what I mean, but it seems that contra the “plastic culture” and “Tabula rasa people” views of the last century (which filled 100 million graves) cultures are things that have to be respected and can only be changed incrementally, or the POPULATION the culture belongs to interprets it as being conquered and stops having kids or functioning. Which is where most of the west is with socialism. (The slow death of socialism. When it doesn’t kill fast, it still kills.)

Bringing another culture (or a couple) into the west just makes the clash of cultures happen harder, faster, and makes it more likely neither will survive. And nor will civilization.

The fact these smart heretics missed that is… mind boggling. And a sign of how the failed ideologies and false assumptions of the 20th century are still with us.

Now, I know how to save us, of course. But it’s something I can’t do alone, except by incremental influence of the culture. And you have to be prepared to be considered heretics and lunatics if you buy into this program. Because everyone knows OVER population will kill us. (Like everyone knew the Soviet Union was far more prosperous than the West.)

First, we MUST beat socialism back on all fronts. Both because it’s a culture incompatible with the West, and because our back brains interpret having it imposed on us as “having been conquered” and proceed to destroy the population; and because more power of the state means less power of the family, smaller families, atomized dysfunctional families, and strangers raising your kids.  None of this ends well.

Second, we must make it easier for women to work from the home.  Yes, I know.  I KNOW.  There are those who think women shouldn’t work at all. But in Western culture women have always been treated as human beings. Which in the present era means learning to read, write and use their minds. And if they do that… well, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.
Also, honestly, being ONLY child carers is a recipe for helicopter parenting. Women have always worked. Cottagers and farmers worked — both parents — with the kids around them. That’s most of our history. In prehistory women foraged with the kids. It was only the industrial revolution that broke that (to an extent, though often kids worked with their parents) and the 20th century “liberation” that destroyed it.  Kids are not widgets and they’re best with their parents biological or not. The resistance to working from home is stupid and based on a desire to control people. When you go out to build over, under and around, try to make this a humane world where families can work together from the home or whatever space they work in, and the kids can grow up around their working parents.

Rebuild the West.
Look, I’ll be blunt. The crash might already be inevitable. The mistaken assumptions of the twentieth century might be stretched across our path like an invisible wire, ready to trip us as we come running.  It might be impossible to turn around in time, even if this heresy too hold.
BUT if Western Culture, English Enlightenment culture remains with its principles of respect for the individual and a law-abiding community, we WILL rebuild.
We might rebuild anyway, yes, but we don’t know what frankenstein culture will emerge from this broken world. And some cultures are less functional than others.
A friend thinks rebuilding is unlikely already because it’s mostly the underclass (national and global) reproducing and the genetic material is poor.  To the extent we’ve yet to figure out (lots of mechanisms, including the mirroring thing above) how biology and culture intersect, he has a point.  But we also know what happens when you dump a bunch of what we’ll call “poor stock” in a very British way, in a place to sink or swim, with no help.  We know that from parts of the US and from Australia.  The first step is tons of deaths.  The population self culls. But what actually survives is no better and no worse than large populations of mankind.
So the genetics doesn’t worry me, except that it might prolong the length of the dark night of civilization.  Best if the dark night doesn’t come. (Even if massive dying is inevitable in any amount of civilizational crash.)
So, go out and learn the history of the West, and teach it to the young, and sweep Marxism and Howard Zinn’s lies into the dustbin of history.

Build under, build over, build around.  The time is short, and we MIGHT still have a bare chance to avert a worldwide civilizational crash.

Teach the children well. We might end up having to trust them to rebuild.