Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mikael Blomkvist

His contempt for his fellow financial journalists was based on something that in his opinion was as plain as morality. The equation was simple. A bank director who blows millions on foolhardy speculations should not keep his job. A managing director who plays shell company games should do time. A slum landlord who forces young people to pay through the nose and under the table for a one-room apartment with shared toilet should be hung out to dry.

The job of the financial journalist was to examine the sharks who created interest crises and speculated away the savings of small investors, to scrutinise company boards with the same merciless zeal with which political reporters pursue the tiniest steps out of line of ministers and members of Parliament.

from "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why do people play MMORPG's?

Very cute trailer for "The Guild" Trade paperback, that answers the above question.

The Guild gang are pretty excited about it...

...and if you've never heard the song they're playing, it's here
(but there might be an ad first... yes, it's one of THOSE... yech)

and if you're wondering what the heck the title means, it's "Massively multiplayer online role-playing game"

Mother Gaia

I apologize for hot-linking to but I couldn't figure out how to link to the full size image on Deviant Art. Go browse Humon's art. It's pretty. And witty.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Amazon may suck, but not for the reasons you list.

Someone linked to a post on Facebook, that I just had to respond to it...
It's not something I often do, but sometimes you just gotta rant...

The post is
"Why Amazon Sucks, Pt. 1: Tax-evasion, Bullying, Censorship"

In my humble opinion, this is bullshit.

Interstate Commerce

I don't pay sales taxes when I buy from L.L. Bean online, because they don't have a store in California either.
Ditto for ordering from Wireless, or any other catalog store that doesn't have physical stores in my state.

They don't collect sales tax because Federal law says they don't have to. The Supreme Court, in 1992, interpreting Congressional law, said so too. Yes, they did it to help a fledgling industry get it's feet on the ground, but that doesn't change the fact that Congress and the Supremes took the matter out of the states' hands.

In California, there are 1700 jurisdictions that charge their own tax rates.
Of course, most of them break down to 5 or 6 different rates, but still, a merchant has to keep track of them all? Multiply that by 50 states.

If Amazon has to collect sales tax, so does every small t-shirt or pen or jewelry maker in the country. When I buy jewelry from a little shop I know in Raleigh, N.C., I don't pay sales tax either. Is every person who sells anything on the internet (or by mail order) supposed to track tens of thousands of sales rates?

Based on what... shipping address? What if I live in Oregon, which doesn't have sales tax, and am buying something for my mother in California, which has 1700 sales tax lookups?
Billing address? Fine, I'll do what corporations do, and get a mailbox in a tax-free state for billing.
We don't make laws that only apply to big companies.

Holding Employees Hostage

There's still a legal question about whether having a distribution center that doesn't do any sales is a "point of presence" legally. This, again, doesn't apply only to Amazon. Up till now, a "point of presence" meant a store. Texas said they were going to redefine it to include distribution centers. Amazon said "Fine. See ya."

Why is this Amazon "holding employees hostage", in view of the thousands of rants about raising taxes driving businesses out of a state? Isn't that what Texas is doing in this case?  

But the issue 90% of the news stories talk about is the "affiliates". The states are saying that "Because Amazon has affiliates in our state, they have a business presence and have to charge sales tax."

Amazon affiliates are bloggers and other people who have small websites who run ads for Amazon, that have links to Amazon in the ads. That's it. Is The Sacramento Bee an employee of every advertiser that runs ads on California was saying that when they were arguing about a law that would try and make Amazon charge sales tax in the state,. but it's moot, because our legislature didn't pass the law. They can't pass a law banning burning kittens, they're so completely dysfunctional.

From a editorial:
", the giant online retailer, is becoming quite the bully.

From its base in Seattle, Amazon is threatening the livelihoods of 10,000 California affiliates if legislators proceed with efforts to force Amazon to collect sales taxes from its customers, something it should have been doing for years.

Amazon affiliates place Amazon ads on their websites in exchange for payments when visitors click on the ads. With its threat, Amazon proposes to further damage California by removing a revenue source from this state's businesses."

They bully publishers

Melville books has to sell its books through Amazon?

The Nation article  referenced in the post has this, in the 6th paragraph:

"(Disclosure: the new publishing company with which I am involved, OR Books, does not deal with Amazon. We sell direct to customers, channeling money that would otherwise go on discount and distribution to extensive promotion, primarily on the Internet.)"

So a writer who has a company that doesn't deal with Amazon, but sells their books direct, is doing a story about another publisher,  who DOES sell through Amazon, but doesn't like the deal, and will "be forced out of business" unless they succumb to Amazon's evil ways?

I buy TONS of books and ebooks from Smashwords, Baen, Apex Books, Strange Horizons, Orbit Books, Prime Books, Pib Press, O'Reilly, Subterranean Press, Book View Cafe, and authors' websites.

With Macmillan, they had a deal with Amazon that they had been using for years. Apple came along with a better deal with its ibooks store. Macmillan signed up, but also demanded that Amazon go with the same deal. Amazon and Macmillan got into a pissing match with each other for about a week where Amazon was trying to show Macmillan that they needed Amazon more than Amazon needed them, and Amazon lost. Amazon caved, and went with the model that Steve Jobs declared was the new ebook sales plan. Feel better being under Steve's control than Jeff's? Good. Does this make Amazon evil?

Harper Collins made big news a couple of months ago when it announced that ebooks with the Overdrive licensing that libraries use (so they can't lend 20 copies of a book they only have one copy of) would be limited to 26 checkouts before the license would die and the library would have to buy another copy… of an ebook… which is a bunch of data. There was a large uproar among the library and ebook geek crowd.

Oh, yeah… Macmillan won't allow library copies of its ebooks at all. It hasn't found a "viable business model" to make that profitable.

We don't need no stinkin Publishers

"So, Amazon decided that, with publishers finally challenging them, they would just become a publisher themselves and knock out the middle man"

So there's a problem with Amazon OFFERING a self-publishing service that bypasses the big publishers and let's the authors get a bigger cut of the sales? Are they forcing anyone to use this service? Huh?


Wow, they cite a story from April 2009 that Amazon was censoring LGBT titles, which Amazon responded to almost immediately with

Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith told CNN partner Web site CNET News that the "glitch" was being fixed, but declined to elaborate. "This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection," she wrote in an e-mail statement.

"It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles -- in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica," the statement said.

"This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search."

I find dozens, if not hundreds of listings when I search Amazon for "Lady Chatterly's Lover". Oh, wait, the article says:
"If you are looking through best-sellers, you’ll be protected from Lady Chatterly (thanks, 1950’s morality court Amazon)."
Um… Is "Lady Chatterly's Lover" still a bestseller?

The article goes on to say that Amazon is "censoring" novels with "graphic sex and/or violence". One reference I found (there's aren't many unique ones in googling this) was an author saying Amazon had removed his titles
How To Rape A Straight Guy
Rape In Holding Cell 6

And Amazon said:
"During our review process, we found that your titles contain content that is in violation of our content guidelines. As a result, we have removed the books from our store."

Another blog post was about "erotic incest fantasy fiction" books being dropped from the store.

I realize Amazon is the largest bookseller in the world, and may even "pride itself on offering complete selection", but it's mandatory that they sell every book in the world? I don't think these titles are available at Barnes & Nobel either. Is B&N "censoring" these books?

Enough rant for one day.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life.... But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why would Apple make me spoof a user-agent string to buy something from their store?

I discovered a while back that in Firefox, if I come across a page to an Apple App Store link, the link doesn't open the App Store, it takes me to a page where I can download the app store. Which I already have.

Someone mentioned that it works correctly in Safari.

I found that it also works in Firefox if you install the user-agent-switcher extension, and set a user agent to Safari, with the string
Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; Intel Mac OS X 10_6_6; en-US) AppleWebKit/534.16 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/10.0.648.127 Safari/534.16

Set that, switch user agent to Safari, and bingo, the link works.

Can anyone... ANYONE give me a non-paranoid-idiotic reason for Apple setting it up like this?

What, "We don't want you in our store buying stuff from us unless you're here in our browser."

I KNOW Apple's not that stupid... are they?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I just don't understand...

One of the greats of SF, Frederik Pohl, blogs!
When I first heard about this, I thought, "This is so cool!"

And then, today, I read this. Mass Murder Courtesy of the NRA

It's about the Tucson shootings, but Mr. Pohl's take on it is that the shootings are the fault of the NRA.

I can understand people feeling that the NRA make access to weapons too easy, but that's not it. Here's his take ......
However. the specific tool that Loughner used for his work of killing. was less widely reported.
He got them all — and wounded a dozen more — with his 9-millimeter Glock.
What is a Glock, and what is it designed to be used for? It’s a
rapid-fire weapon that can accommodate a 30-bullet clip, and it has only
one real use. It’s of very little value for hunting or for Grandma to
keep under her pillow to repel burglars. What it is good for is the
killing of groups of human beings by a single shooter, and for nothing
For that reason, it was outlawed by federal statute until 2004, when
that law expired and our Congress, cowardly as it always is when it
comes to offending the National Rifle Association, failed to renew it.
Since no conventional rifle or pistol could have murdered so many so
fast, it is entirely due to the work of the National Rifle Association
that most of this current crop of victims are dead.
I lost count of how many errors there are in this short piece.
  1. Pretty much every early story I read (which weren't that many. I hate repeat-news cycles) pointed out that the weapon was a Glock.
  2. I don't see how it would be of any more or less value than any other gun for Grandma to keep under her pillow. It's lighter than some.
  3. It's apparently good for other things than "killing of groups of human beings by a single shooter", being one of the top handguns chosen by law enforcement, and I don't think they're really known for that kind of thing.
  4. I've had a Glock 17 for 20 years. I bought it used from the firing range I used to go to. Legally. I certainly never heard anything about it being outlawed by federal statute.
  5. Pretty much ANY 'conventional' rifle or pistol could have murdered so many, so fast, since the Glock IS a 'conventional' pistol. I don't think it shoots much faster or slower than any other semi-auto.
I'm not an NRA member, but I have been in the past, and I don't think there's anything Mr. Pohl mentioned here that would make any member ashamed, since every point he made in his post is wrong. (Except the one about Christina Taylor Green probably not being a specific target. May she rest in peace.)

It's possible that he's a bit confused and thinks 'Glock' means '30 round magazine'. If that's the case, he probably doesn't know that 30 round magazines are also available for Smith & Wessons, Berettas, (that I checked on) and probably most other semi-auto handguns and rifles.

It sounds more like he thinks 'Glock' means 'Devil gun'. He's got that big honkin' picture of a Glock beneath the headline, and he seems to focus on the brand name more than any features (other than its magical and nonexistant rapid fire capabilities).

I don't know what the heck he's talking about, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't either.

AND.. I had my first blog comments deleted!

He invited comments on his piece, and I posted:
I’ve owned a 9mm Glock 17 for almost 20 years. I purchased it used at the gun range where I used to shoot.

When were they banned by Federal law?

I don’t know why it is any less useful to Grandma for keeping under her pillow than any other gun, nor how it differs from a “conventional pistol or rifle” in it’s ability to murder so many so fast.

It’s no more rapid fire than any other semi-automatic handgun.

What the heck are you talking about?.

But please, since I’ve never posted here before, let me also say that I’ve loved your writing since I started reading science fiction in the 60’s.

“Man Plus” is still one of my favorite all time novels.

They sat in moderation for a while, and then were gone.

UPDATE: I looked this morning, and they're back. possibly a moderating hiccup.