Random Acts of Blogging
I think I’m one of the last people to try this tool, which purports to analyze your writing style and determine which famous author your writing is most similar to. I must admit, I was skeptical, but I fed it three fairly different posts (my obituary of George Steinbrenner, my update on New York City’s Freedom Tower and my summary of the 2008 Financial Crisis), and all three of them produced the same result:
So, here’s the irony: I’ve never read a single word written by Cory Doctorow, with the possible exception of comments he may have left on John Scalzi’s Whatever blog. I guess I’ll have to go pick up some of his books and check out his awesome writing style. ;-)
|Barack Obama earns 50 points for his house from Professor Flitwick after successfully conjuring golden birds in both hands simultaneously|
NOTE: The above picture is not Photoshopped – the birds are actually on the top of flagpoles just behind President Obama. Click here for another, more revealing view.
That’s right, boys & girls – it’s CENSUS time! I’ve seen all the ads telling me how important it is that I fill out the census, but I didn’t know this until I got the envelope:
Required by law? Really? I wonder what the penalty is. And given that the letter is addressed to “Resident,” I wonder how they find me if I don’t fill it out. I mean, isn’t identifying me and the members of my household the whole point? If they show up to arrest me, haven’t they conclusively proven that they don’t need me to fill it out?
You heard it here first, folks – We need Census Law Reform!
OK, this post is about eighteen months late, but as they say, better late than never…
When we packed up our house to vacate before the renovation, I had to go through my basement and put everything in boxes. Along the way, I discovered some of those “oh, wow – I can’t believe I still have this” items, and decided to photograph them for posterity (i.e., for posting on Flickr).
The entire set is here, but here’s one to whet your appetite:
Yeah, that’s right. 45 rpm records. Not only that, but Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees, and I Write the Songs by Barry Manilow. The late 70′s were an innocent time, indeed.
If that piques your interest, click through to the whole set. We’re talking Mickey Mouse Club membership buttons, Star Wars trading cards, floppy disk write-protect tabs, and much, much more.
Consider it my personal contribution to the ephemera that is the Internet…
Think you had a bad couple of months? Check out these folks:
SAN BERNARDO, Chile – The Desarmes family left their native Haiti two weeks after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, joining the eldest son in Chile for what seemed a refuge from the fear and chaos of Port-au-Prince. Their sense of security lasted barely a month. It was shattered at 3:43 a.m. Saturday when one of the most powerful quakes on record shook a swath of Chile.
All the Desarmes’ immediate family survived both quakes. But twice cursed, the family now sleeps in the garden of a home that the eldest son, Pierre Desarmes, found for them just south of the Chilean capital of Santiago. They fear yet another temblor will strike.
Pierre Desarmes, 34, [and the lead singer of a popular Haitian reggaeton band in Chile] managed to get his family out of Haiti thanks to personal contacts at the Chilean Embassy in Port-au-Prince and the Chilean armed forces. Nine members of his family — his parents, two brothers and their families, and three cousins — arrived in Santiago on a Chilean air force plane Jan. 23.
I don’t think I could blame them if they started to take this personally…
“Enron,” the Broadway play? Really?
Toyota Recalls Remaining Models Due to Faulty Chick Magnets
February 24th, 2010
Toyota suffered yet another setback today, as it was forced to recall all remaining models due to faulty chick magnets. “We’ve received numerous complaints about the complete lack of arousal induced by our dependable, fuel-efficient vehicles,” said Shotaro Kamiya, spokesman for the beleaguered automotive company. “The panty-dropping capacity of our products falls far short of our standards, and for that we apologize.”
Owners are urged to bring their vehicle into local dealerships, where technicians will replace lithium-ion batteries with hemis, install chrome rims, and affix Truck Nutz to the underside of pickups.
Kamiya stressed that the recall was voluntary, and that no deaths were attributable to the defect. “But as no one has ever gotten laid in the backseat of a Yaris, no births are attributable either,” he added. “We regret this senseless loss of life.”
Well done, Mr. Baldwin…
Ostensibly because of Valentine’s Day, the bookstore at my train station had a table in front of the store today covered with various books about love and/or sex. There were the titles you’d expect to see – The Joy of Sex, Karma Sutra, etc., but this one gave me a real chuckle:
Call me a curmudgeon, but some things just don’t need to change:
According to Gizmodo, the 75th anniversary edition of Monopoly not only features a round board (I’m sorry, “wedges” belong in Trivial Pursuit, not Monopoly), but it also features digital currency! Apparently, the gizmo in the middle keeps track of how much money you have, handles payments, gives you $200 for passing Go, etc.. Monopoly without Monopoly money? Are you freakin’ kidding me?
And while I’m at it, GET OFF MY LAWN!!
Building on the book theme from yesterday, we turn to this post from Megan McArdle at Asymmetrical Information. She relates a story about the American Booksellers Association, which is upset at Amazon, Target and Wal-Mart for selling us books too cheaply:
Wal-Mart announced that it would offer Walmart.com customers . . . the chance to buy the books in hardcover editions for just $10. Typically new hardcovers sell for $25 to $35, although some discounting is common. Amazon.com quickly matched Wal-Mart’s pre-order price on the same books.
Wal-Mart then lowered the price to $9, and Amazon followed suit. By late Friday afternoon Wal-Mart had cut another penny off the price. On Monday, Target entered the fray by offering six of the preorder titles on Target.com for $8.99. By Tuesday Wal-Mart had lowered the price on those titles to $8.98.
The association . . . accused the retailers of “devaluing the very concept of the book” and effectively selling the books at a loss in an “attempt to win control of the market for hardcover best sellers.” Retailers typically pay publishers a wholesale price of half the list price of a hardcover book — so on a $35 hardcover, the retailer pays $17.50, meaning that it loses money on a $9 consumer price.
Now, the story of the big chain taking over the Mom & Pop store is so common that Tom Hanks made his movie about it more than a decade ago. But that story usually relates to the big chain undercutting the small store by selling products at razor-thin margins, making its profits on high volume, and reducing overhead by deprioritizing customer service and amortizing its fixed costs (e.g., its employees, its rent) over a much wider customer base.
This time, it’s different. The big chains are offering these discounts on their websites. And they’re selling these books as loss leaders, in hopes that when people click over to buy their $8.98 book, they’ll throw another, more profitable item in their electronic shopping cart as well. The advantage Amazon, Target and Wal-Mart have here is the variety of products they offer and their high-value brand names that drives a lot of traffic to their web sites. Small booksellers could also choose to lose money on certain books by selling them for $8.98, but they’d run a greater risk that people would buy only those books, leaving them with a loss, rather than a profit, on the sale.
My question is this: in the online model, where customer service is mostly self-serve and Google searches, is this a good thing or a bad thing? Yes, the Kathleen Kelly‘s of the world may be forced out of business by these tactics, but then again, isn’t it the Kathleen Kelly’s of the world who would appreciate the chance to pick up the newest hot novel for $8.98, rather than $30? We may be putting the “little guy” bookseller out of business, but are we not providing the “little guy” consumer with equal quality merchandise at a much lower cost? Have we finally jumped off the cliff where the small, specialty shop isn’t so much “under attack” by the big chain, but has become a dying industry because it’s no longer the best way to serve the customer?
That’s your socio-economic question of the day. Discuss…