Sunday, August 12, 2018

"Democratic Socialism Threatens Minorities": Atlantic article gets to the root of the proble,

Conor Friedersdorf has a nice “booklet” article in the Atlantic, Aug. 9, 2018, that it is at least (or at most) a “constructive criticism” of democratic socialism as Ocasio-Cortez could deploy it.  (David Hogg seems to be supporting her on Twitter, by the way.)
The article best title is “Democratic Socialism Threatens Minorities.”  The byline is “Nothing better protects victims of bigotry than a system where they can pursue their needs and wants outside the realm of popular control.”

Conor takes pure socialism to mean, the people decide what will be produced and consumed and control the means of production.  That is, more or less, the workers and their families. Ocasio hasn’t really said she would go that far, and neither really did Bernie Sanders.  Hogg will grow up into full adulthood practicing capitalism for himself, to be sure.  (After all, there’s nothing wrong with that, nothing “to be ashamed of”) . 

What Conor winds up describing is pretty much the early days of the Soviet Union, where they really did try statist planning of everything.  The Soviets continued, and eventually imploded.

China is a little different, and we need to look at why it works better than we would expect it to.  But China is cracking down on its Muslim minorities in the western provinces (which are, to a lot of people's surprise, largely white or Caucasian). 
I remember when in France I bought some antihistamines for a cold.  I paid for them privately, in a country with socialized medicine.  It is much cheaper and more efficient to let me take care of this myself.
Conor’s point is well-taken.  In a decentralized, capitalist economy with libertarian values, Muslims, evangelical Christians, LGBTQ people, minorities can produce and sell the items that meet the real demands of people in their own communities without central interference, according to a free market.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Masih Alinejad ("The Wind in My Hair") explains how the anti-shah revolution in Iran destroyed women

Fox News last night briefly interviewed author and journalist Masih Alinejad, a woman from Iran who lives in exile in New York City.  It was not immediately apparent if she had won asylum in the usual manner.

Her latest book is “The Wind in My Hair: My Fight for Freedom in Modern Iran”, from Little Brown.
She told Fox that before the 1978 revolution, deposing the Shah and installing the Ayatollah, with the hostage crisis at the embassy which Jimmy Carter flubbed (EDS made the daring rescue), women did well in Iran and the society was socially reasonably progressive.  The lesson of the revolution is that economic inequality and tribal strife can indeed cause the loss of civil liberties for everyone as revolutionaries expropriate from the privileged or force religious rules on everyone.
Masih has been active in women’s chess, and has led protests regarding forcing Muslim women to adhere to dress codes at international tournaments.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Amazon CreateSpace has ended editorial services for authors, but POD continues

As I get closer to working on my own novel manuscript, I will start looking more closely at the self-publishing options, including POD, as well as convention agenting (the post on Sunday Aug. 5).

I have just noted that Amazon ended its own CreateSpace services for authors on April 18.  This did not affect the actually affect the print-on-demand.  It means you have to go to a third party company for the same services.

I’ll give the link to 1106 Design here

A user forum on CreateSpace itself presents questions from writers on the future of the POD itself.  There are no comments from Amazon on the future of the program, and the POD continues now as it always has, but you would wonder.

There is a basic business model problem with the issue as to whether consumers really buy these books in sufficient quantity, even though there is vanity value to authors who don’t need to sell to make a living – this is a big philosophical problem in the business now.  This could affect all POD companies, which may explain their notably more aggressive behavior with authors since about 2012. It’s also crept into the classical music world, where getting commissions is a touchy subject for composers. 

Curiously, YouTube doesn’t seem to be up to date on this issue.  I’ll keep tabs on it.

Update: Aug. 12

At least for now Amazon seems to allow books with poor reputations and skimpy reviews to stay up.  Look at Jason Kessler's "Badland Blues" (Kindle) and the one-sentence reviews.  I won't give the Amazon link, rather Ian Shapira's Metro Section Washington Post article today.  Some people do try to rescue themselves with creative writing, unsuccessfully. 

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Outwrite 2018 book fair in Washington DC

I attended some sessions this weekend at Outwrite 2018 for LGBTQ authors and writers in Washington DC.

The session on “How to Pitch Your Book” offers this worksheet 

It was authored by Marcos L. Martinez from Georgetown University.

There were examples of books published by Stillhouse Press in Fairfax, VA.  One of the books was “Helen on 86th Street and Other Stories” by Wendi Kaufman.

There are also three small books of poetry by Bryan Borland, including “Tourist” and “DIG”.
On Saturday I attended a session on “WorldBuilding” in fiction (which applies especially to period stories and sci-fi or horror).
Under public pressure, Amazon has removed Nazi and white-supremacy rated products (visible symbols).  It is not clear if books are affected (a children’s book by George Lincoln Rockwell was said to have been removed).

Apple and Spotify have removed podcasts or other materials from the Alex Jones channel as conspiracy theories or hate speech, Yahoo story.  Trump had actually promoted Alex Jones as real media in his 2016 campaign. Will Amazon follow suit?  Later Monday it was reported that YouTube and Facebook had removed it.  Blacklisting is contagious. 

Thursday, August 02, 2018

UK bookseller website that specializes in independent publishing is for sale

I got an email advising me that an online bookstore site in the UK, emphasizing independent publishers and probably self-publishers, was for sale.  It is called “Look for books”, here.
I note that it doesn’t, on its home page, invoke https.

It also has an adult section.

It’s noteworthy for a couple reasons.  Sometimes websites alone are sold as businesses (just as Ramsay Taplin recently sold his Blogytyrant to a Wordpress guru – haven’t seen any changes to it yet). The email and website itself does not give a price.

Here’s my reaction.  I get questioned on why I don’t try harder to retail my own or other people’s books with normal retail operations, with volume discounts, promotions, and the like.  The short answer is that I am still interested mainly in developing new content (novels, music, and the news in these blogs) and not in operations – so I would never time.

But I note the cultural shift, which started about five years ago, and which accelerated maybe in 2014 with tensions overseas and then really crashed with the foreign manipulation of “amateur journalism” in conjunction with the 2016 elections by “the Russians”, etc.  Starting around 2012, self-publishing assist companies (especially POD) realized that their business models probably weren’t sustainable indefinitely even from author fees (typically around $3000 for high-end services) unless the books actually sold as copies (not just as e-books or Kindle) to consumers. So they started pressuring authors to be more interested in business and not just to leave everything to Amazon.
And then there is the whole “skin in the game” think of Nichokas Taleb’s book of that name (May 23). “You must start a business”, Taleb orders, rather than just talk or virtue-signal.  
Still, I keep my distance on this one.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"The Peculiar Math that Could Underly the Laws of Nature": how tuples generate string theory, and more

Wired Magazine has published several important articles on the way deep laws of mathematics drive physics and biology.

The most recent, July 28, is by Matalie Wolchover, and is titled “The Peculiar Math that Could Underly the Laws of Nature”.  It’s also in Quanta Magazine here

She is a mathematician from Waterloo University in Ontario, and has worked with Penn State on this issue.

Her argument reminds me of the progression to real variables to complex variable in graduate school in mathematics (in my case, at Kansas University in the 1960s). Complex gives us some beauty, like the Mandelbrot set;  and Liousville Theorem may explain why the Universe seems infinite from any point.

From complex variables you get to quaternions, and from those to octonions. 

Now quaternion field theory doesn’t follow the commutative law, and octernions don’t even follow the associate law.  I remember giving my students quiz questions on those laws when I worked as a graduate student assistant instructor (many of them couldn’t restate the concepts).

From octonion math you can deduce string theory, the 11 dimensions and why time behaves the way it does.  You can also explain the fundamental forces in physics, maybe, and build quarks.
I hope you can’t build a contagious strangelet to make gray goo.

I could wonder, though, wouldn’t these tuples behave like vector spaces? Remember linear independence?

Here are a couple other big Wired (paywall) stories on theoretical mathematics. 

John Rennie on July1, 2018 writes “This Mutation Math Shows How Life Keeps on Evolving.”

And on Dec. 17, 2017, Kevin Hartnett published, “Secret Link Discovered Between Pure Math and Physics” , the work of Minhyong Kim at the University of Oxford, getting into “series of spaces”.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Atlantic Health Issue examines "When the Next Plague Hits"

The July/August issue of The Atlantic is “The Health Report”, has two long articles of particular importance.

Ed Yong’s “When the Next Plague Hits”, pp. 58-72, really is like a short book.  The article particularly notes that Trump, with his diffidence to science, is much less likely to take maintaining public health defenses seriously in the homeland than was Obama.

The article spends some space on the latest Ebola outbreak in the Congos, and notes that today there is a modern road to Uganda along which it can spread.  In 1995, when there was a previous outbreak, a drive would have taken much longer. Therefore Ebola or a similar filiovirus disease like Marburg, might spread much more quickly than even in 2014, when parts of West Africa had a notorious outbreak. The article gives some details as to how care for Ebola patients is provided at a medical center at the University of Nebraska, and the burdens on medical personnel are quite extraordinary.

CDC recommends the new Ebola virus vaccine for people going to areas of the Congo now, but not elsewhere.  This could lead to greater risks for people who work or intern today some of the other countries, like Liberia or Sierra Leone or West Africa, than might have been expected.  A new epidemic might spread even more quickly now throughout the continent than it did even a few years ago, ironically because Africa is modernizing econonically so quickly.  
The article also covers the science of influenza, including the 1918 pandemic and the reoccurrence of H1N1 in 2009.  We don’t seem very far along with bird flu strains like H5N1 and H7N9. There is a lot of attention to using cellular nanotechnology (an interest of Jack Andraka, also here March 18, 2015) to engineer an immune response to a more stable part of most influenza viruses so that a universal influenza vaccine could be engineered without the time delay of egg manufacture.

There is also some discussion of contact tracing and conventional infection control, as with SARS (2003). Nigeria, normally not known for an efficient government, was successful in stamping out Ebola in 2014.

On p. 74, Olga Khazan provides a long article, “Being Black in America Can Be Hazardous to Your Health”.
The article focuses on the Sandtown section of Baltimore, site of the riots in April 2015 after the police shooting of Freddie Gray.  The article suggests a life expectancy less by as much as twenty years because of the cumulative effects of compromised opportunity and toxic environment and dangers in the ghetto.

Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. diagram by Chloe Cryhanand