Sunday, December 31, 2017

"What Facebook Did to American Democracy", according to The Atlantic (that is, the elites like me)

Here’s another booklet-length article, “What Facebook Did to American Democracy” (“and why it was so hard to see it coming”) by Alexis C. Madrigal. 

Facebook simply curated the personalized news streams with its algorithms to what people “wanted” to see.  I don’t blame Mark Zuckerberg (even if Mark is an extraterrestrial alien, or is slightly “autistic” like me) for that. 

I think there is simply too great a cultural schism between the “elites” and the “average Joe’s” (the “Trader Joe” mentality). There was a tendency for people to organize themselves loosely out of resentment, without any specifics as to how to fix real problems like health care (hint: do your math first – and that requires elites).


The Russians took advantage of the fact that “elites” “like me” wouldn’t even care what “average Joe’s” thought because we did not hold them in high regard personally.  The “elites” don’t want to rule the world with an oligarchy, but someone like Donald Trump or Putin will pretend he cares about “them” when we won’t even bother. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Race and Genetics: Time Magazine long article shows how deceptive the debate has been

Since there is some occasional controversy over race and IQ, I thought I’d give a 2014 link to a booklet-length Time article by Nicholas Wade, “What Science Says About Race and Genetics”, link here.  
Evolution doesn’t stop,  Generally, over time, colder climates may tend to encourage the survival of people who have traits of deferral of gratification and lower time sensitivity (which translates into lower interest rates).  That may help explain why Western Europe tended toward capitalism and overcame the “Malthusian Trap”. Environmental influences may explain why China and much of Asia favored people who were more group oriented and obedient. 

There is nothing magical about skin color or other physical traits.  But when a society matures in a particular geographical environment with specific challenges, people with certain traits do better than others and may have more children with the same traits. In the late 20th Century, with gender equality and individualism, the notion of reproductive advantage for “smarts” may decrease and other populations may become larger again, producing a demographic winter threat.

These views may relate a bit to Charles Murray’s “The Bell Curve:Intelligence and Class Structure in America” (1994, the Free Press)    While the book produced anger from the left, the coldness of its logic is striking and hard to escape, especially for those who want to push intersectionality.  Politicians like Putin use this kind of reasoning to try to get educated people to have more kids and as an excuse for homophobia. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Major bookstore chain liquidates; books become dated quickly, and this hurts self-published authors

While self-publishing companies try to encourage authors to relate to bookstores, more of the chains are failing to Internet competition (as well as physical store competition from Amazon).  Wisconsin based Book World has announced its liquidation, as explained in a B Section story today in the New York Times by David Streitfeld.

This continuing development could make it harder for some kinds of self-publishing assist companies to make money.  Despite charging authors, they actually need to have some authors actually sell books with some kind of scale to remain sustainable.

Unpacking my books after downsizing and moving into a condo, I’m struck by how short the half-life of non-fiction policy books really is. A book on “marriage” written in the early of mid 2000’s is totally out of date today.

Period fiction and fantasy and some genres (romance) may be somewhat immune, but fiction authors who want to exploit current political controversies (like the Middle East, radical Islam, Russia, North Korea, China, and of course presidents) can find their setups dated quickly. The world is very different know than it was a the start of 2016. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Should authors (especially self-published) pay for book reviews? Is it legal? Ethical? Widespread?

Recently I’ve gotten emails offering deals for paid reviews for my books. 
Is it ethical for authors to pay for reviews?  I'll lay aside my own moral inclinations and try to survey industry opinions with some journalistic objectivity. Unfortunately, pundits are all over the place on this one. The question sounds more sensitive for self-published "newbies" than for established family-supporting writers. 
I checked a couple of stories.  Here is one by Kristem Houghton from July 2016 in Huffington Post. 
Jane Friedman weighs in on the topic, suggesting that paid reviews are more appropriate for trade books in certain industries or in children’s., but probably not for the overly personalized narratives I have offered.  As for whether they are “tainted”, the answer is, maybe.

But another site warns that buying paid reviews can get you kicked off Amazon.  It’s not clear if that means buying any paid reviews, or just buying Amazon reviews (and that reminds me of Twitter’s spying on “affiliations” of users for violence, just as I ponder this now).  But it seems to be legal.  I don’t think the FTC has ever said anything about it (thank you, Ajit Pai). 

Publisher’s Weekly offers an “Indie’s Guide to Paid Reviews”   and one can see that many regard this as an acceptable industry practice.

I'll add that my own book and movie reviews, both on Blogger and now Wordpress, are indeed "free".  Like in Reid Ewing's public library (in his 2012 short film). 

One problem with the offer I got recently:  the books in question are old (2000, 2002 and the latest is 2014 – even three-plus years is old for non-fiction).  With a novel being planned, I can consider the idea prospectively for 2018 for the novel. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Some "old books" make a reading list just before the FCC's vote to destroy network neutrality

In the week that the FCC plans to gut network neutrality (although the likelihood of real changes happening quickly as a result seems remote to me), the New York Times offers a survey in its “Newsbook” column by Concepion de Leon. 

There is Tom Standage’s “The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s Online Pioneers” (Walker).  Remember how I made myself into an “institution” in the 1980s before I even had the Internet (as I found ways to affect the AIDS debate in the early days, outside of conventional leftist activism).

Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu ask "Who Controls the Internet?" (2006, Oxford University); in 2010 Wu would follow with “The Master Switch”.  I had my own little lesson with this in 2005 when I was working as a substitute teacher.

In 2011, Thomas Hazlett offers “The Fallacy of Net Neutrality”, which preceded Obama’s 2015 regulations. But the beginnings of neutrality go back to 2005, and Pai wants to erase it all. 

Friday, December 08, 2017

Major papers on the psychology of libertarians: does lack of interest in groups and lack of emotional empathy suggest moral issues?

“PLOS One” has published a major study on the psychology of libertarians, by Ravi Iyer, Spasenna Koleva, Jesse Graham, Peter Ditto, and Jonathan Haidt, “Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Dispositions of Self-Identified Libertarians, link
Libertarians, it says, tend to be more individualistic.  They tend to be less interested in involuntary connections to other people, either vertically (as demanded by conservative morality) or horizontally, empathizing with people in various intersectional oppressed groups, as in leftist liberalism.  They believe that personal well-being should be proportional to effort, but not necessarily equal (in the sense of remedying inherited inequality). They tend to believe people should have the freedom to use what they already have without interference from others, but not to feel entitled to take from others who have more because of privilege.

Righteous mind, in a link shared by James Damore on Twitter today, summarizes the paper here.   Libertarians place more emphasis on logical consistency than on emotion.  It ends to be associated with cis masculinity (as among gay libertarians).

I would also read Yuval Levin’s “Taking the Long Way: Disciplines of the Soul Are the Basis of a Liberal Society” (link) from Oct. 2014  where Levin notes the limits that libertarianism can accept on remedying past oppression while letting people use what they have. David Brooks picked up on this essay with a recent piece “The Elites Still Don’t Get It”, where society is not reproducing individuals who can accept covenant with others or even accept needed connections across gulf, driving the less well-off into tribalism and resentment politics. 

Monday, December 04, 2017

"The Wounds They Carry": account of six high school young women at the

Here is a book length story “The Wounds They Carry”, by John Woodrow Cox, photos by Matt McCain, a story of six teenage girls who went to the Las Vegas concert Oct. 1, 2017 at the start of their high school (private, faith-based) homecoming week. It is published in the Washington Post online (paywall). 

Two of the girls were close to the front stand. Illustrations in the article show where they were and the escape path.

The article does get into he recovery and the actual homecoming event a few days later.
This is a more literal video, which is age-restricted (must sign on to Google account so not embedded).
My own most recent visit to Las Vegas occurred in May 2012 (personal photo above). 

I don't recall seeing a comparable article for "Pulse" yet. 

Sunday, December 03, 2017

"Book Barn" in Virginia town shows how used book business tries to support a community

I had the pleasure of stopping at a “Book Barn” on “Little Washington” VA along US 211 yesterday.
The “barn” had a massive sale of used books to support, well, “The Library”. (Yes, Reid Ewing, “It’s Free”.)

Actually, a lot the used books in the barn were free, including a basket of them in the bathroom near the commode.

Outdoors, I picked up Samantha Landry’s “Savvy Senior Singles: Navigating the Singles World from 50 and Beyond”, 2007, Destiny Image Publishers, Shippensburg PA, 176 pages, paper. That may supplement a sample I got recently, “Journey from Invisibility to Visibility: A Guide for Women 60 and Beyond”, by Gail K. Harris, Marilyn C. Lesser, and Cynthia T. Soloway, 2016, Amazon CreateSpace, 372 pages, paper. It starts with a verse poem, “A Woman’s Perspective.”

Then there is Charles K. Sykes, “Dumbing Down our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves but Can’t Read, Write or Add” (especially in their heads), 340 pages, hardcover, St. Martin’s Press, 1995.  Sykes has also authored “A Nation of Victims”.  Sounds conservative.

Then there is “Parenting Children with ADHD: 10 Lessons that Medicine Cannot Teach”, by Vincent J. Monastra, Ph. D, from the American Psychological Association, Washington, 2005, 261 pages, paper, originally in the Falls Church VA public library.  The book takes the position that it is about genetics. 

And there is “Surviving your Adolescents: How to Manage and Let Go Of your 13-18 Year old”, by Thomas W. Phelan, Ph. D. , 2012, Parent Magic, Glen Ellyn IL, 2012, 168 pages.   Don’t let them move back in with you later when they can’t afford their student loans.

I also picked up a paper copy of Suzanne Collins, “The Hunger Games” (2008, Schoolastic) for $1.

Later, in Front Royal, VA, at a random used book store on VA highway 55, I picked up a graphic novel in black and white called “Not So Bad”, by E. Hae (Korea, 2006), about two actors who have seen better days.  I was curious about what manga is all about, since Reid Ewing has covered Danganronpa on his Twitter feeds and reports he is working on his own graphic novel to be called “AppleCore”.