Saturday, September 29, 2018

"The Un(solv)able Problem" in Scientific American



The October 2018 Scientific American has an essay on p. 28 that is one of the most abstract ever. It is “The Un(solv)able Problem”, by Toby S. Cubitt, David Perez-Garcia, and Michael Wolf.
  
This starts out with a long statement of the Spectral Gap Problem about how electrons in small atoms get activated to energy states at all. There are “gaped” and “gapless” systems proposed for materials. It rather reminds me of “air gap” security for power plants from Internet intrusions.


But soon the authors get to the “Liar’s Paradox”. If Kavanaugh tells you “the sentence is a lie”, is Kavanaugh telling the truth or lying?  That seems to really matter right now.

Then they get into Alan Turning’s Halting Test. And later the problem of tiling an infinite bathroom floor, for a David Lynch movie.
  
All of this relates to Godel’s incompleteness theories (Stanford reference).  Hence we need procreative life forms, aiming toward personhood (and God’s) to make decisions that have real consequences, to reverse the effects of entropy.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Dog Eared Books on Castro Street in San Francisco: previews



Tonight I got to Dog Eared Books on Castro Street (I had visited it in 1995 and 2002) right after a booksigning party for Jim Provenzano for his “Now I’m Here”, from Beautiful Dreamer Press, 2018, three parts, 42 chapters, 358 pages. This book should be helpful to me in figuring out how to hard-sell my own novel in 2019. Details to come. 

One Eric Gotlund recalls his boyhood friends in Ohio in the 1970s and 1980s, going through “conversion therapy” and surviving, and then living through the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.


I also picked up Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions”, part of a series, Anchor-Penguin, 2017, 64 pages.  I’ll get to this one first.

There is also an Alley Cat Books.  Sort of reminds me of Lost Dog and Stray Cat companion restaurants in Westover in Arlington VA. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"Ghost in the Machine: Can Mark Zuckerberg fix Facebook before it breaks demoocracy?" in The New Yorker



On p. 32 of the New Yorker September 17, 2016 there appears a booklet-length article “Ghost in the Machine” by Evan Osnos, with the printed tagline “Can Mark Zuckerberg fix Facebook before it breaks democracy?” There’s an embedded poem by Ishion Hutchinson, “The Old Professor’s Notebook”.

Online there is a further tagline, “The most famous entrepreneur of his generation is facing a public reckoning with the power of Big Tech”.


Zuckerberg’s creation challenges libertarian notions that more freedom is better. Inequality simply turns it into combativeness from neglected peoples. No historical change is painless, Zuckerberg feels. There are tradeoffs between truth and speech, between security and scale. All of these provide problems just to be solved.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Robin D'Angelo on "White Fragility: Why It Is so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism"



The NBC News “Think” page offers a preview by author Robin DiAngelo, of “White Fragility: Why It Is so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism”, from Beacon Press (June, 2018).

The NBC article is titled “White people are still raised tobe racially illiterate. If we don’t recognize the system, our inaction will uphold it.” Then she offers the tagline, “the question is not whether I have been shaped by the forces of racism, it’s how I’ve been shaped by them.”


She criticizes the libertarian interpretation of the story of individual black successes, like Jackie Robinson, as a false user of meritocracy. In the movie “42”, Jackie Robinson finally plays for the Brooklyn Dodgers when “white people” let him play – and some road games were actually canceled because of Robinson in the movie at first.
  
The problem is, what is someone to do individually if asked to make up for his own use of “privilege”. This complicates the idea of individual karma tremendously.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Eric Klinenberg argues for more social capital as a strategy for meeting disasters, in "Palaces of the People"



Today Smerconish on CNN interviewed Eric Klinenberg, sociology professor at NYU, about his new book “Palaces of the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life”. Random House.  At first glance, this sounds like a reissue of Charles Murray’s call for more social capital in his book “Coming Apart” (March 14, 2012).


The title seems somewhat self-explanatory. Klinenberg argues that we indeed neglected out infrastructure, ranging from flood protection to climate change to the electric grids, but we have also neglected setting up public spaces – he talks about libraries, playgrounds, parks (including national parks).  I don’t know from the interview how much he gets into the psychological dynamics of increasing social capital in a location among neighbors.  It’s more than condo Christmas parties of block parties.

Klinenberg does argue that social capital is a critical aspect of resilience for recovering from natural disasters and possibility form discouraging enemy terrorism.

Klinenebrg has also authored “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone”. Penguin, 2013.  And the summarizes say his account of this development (of which I am a part) are surprisingly positive. Paul Rosenfels knew that.  


Picture: North Carolina, in area affected by Matthew 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Amazon bans supposedly misogynstic books by "Roosh" and some Kindle authors for "manipulation"





Tim Pool, on Timcast, describes the removal of nine of Daryush “Roosh”Valizadeh’s books, in his video “9 Banned Books: Amazon Has Started Modern Book Burning”.   One of the books is called “Game” and involves hook-ups.


Pool talks about book banning as a practice, and notes that Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is available. He notes that some people were offended by gay marriage but publishing books on it helped get the courts to change their minds. 

I checked into this and found a HuffPost article (Sebastian Murdoch and Jessalyn Cook) on the problem, claiming an exclusive story and that Roosh was viewed as a “rape apologist”.  In the article, HuffPost seems to brag that it instigated the banning. It also says he was removed from YouTube, but I found him there.

Daily Mail has an article about the protests against his books.

Roosh does have a book co-authored with Quintus Curtius: "Free Speech Isn't Free: How 90 Men Stood Up Against the Globalist Establishment." His "Day Bang" about heterosexual pick-ups is also there. 
  
Amazon has terminated authors whom it says manipulated their Kindle accounts, as in this story about J. A. Capriano, prolific fantasy author. The story has book cover for “Seized: The Thrice Cursed Mage” with an incredible hunk on the cover.  Sorry, the author doesn’t look like that.  This self-published author has very large sales volumes for five years and up to 90 titles.  The article describes problems of several other authors.  One of the programs pays a monthly royalty by pages read but it is easily fooled by mechanical gimmicks that encourages readers to skip to the end. .


Monday, September 10, 2018

"Democracy in Black" previewed by Glaude's essay for Time Magazine, on how Trump materialized out of our darkest desires for social "rightsizing"



The Sept. 17, 2018 issue of Time Magazine offers a booklet-length essayDon’t Let the Loud Bigots Distract You: America’s Real Problem with Race Cuts Much Deeper”, by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr , who is the Willisam S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton.  He is author of “Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul”, from Deckle Edge, hardcover (2016) or Crown, paper.

Glaude notes that for most of the last few decades, through the Obama years, most of us believed we weren’t racist – we didn’t mention race in the workplace (and usually not religion), we neutral.  We qualified people for jobs based on merit.  


But at the same time, we exacerbated the inequality of opportunity with artificial resegregation.  I remember that from Dallas in the 1980s, when companies gradually moved from the close-in areas to far North Dallas or Richardson or Plano to have better (white) school districts for their own kids.  We paid for schools with property taxes, and conducting tea parties. 
  
We also didn’t admit a streak in some of us, where (as Umair Haque points out on Medium) where some of us would get off on the idea that some people are “born better” than others.  Trump, Glaude says, was a president who would play on our darkest deep prejudices.  We didn’t think it could happen.  But enemies divides us, and knew a lot of us didn’t care enough personally.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Sorkin's "Too Big to Fail": The 2008 crash generated today's populism and mistrust of experts (social media alone isn't "to blame')



Andrew Ross Sorkin was interviewed on CNN’s Michael Smerconish today (Saturday) about the paperback for “Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of how Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System – and Themselves”, on Penguin paperback, from Penguin (Sept 7), originally published in hardcover in 2009 by Viking.

  
Sorkin said today that the 2008 financial crash helped drive populism, distrust of experts and “facts”, and the polarization we see on social media, and the vulnerability to foreign manipulation of this populism. If so, that actually argues for libertarian ideas of speech – as user-generated content is more likely to lead to challenging of dangerous trends within the establishment (like “credit default swaps”). This is an interesting and valuable interpretation.

(This is not the same Sorkin who wrote "The Social Network" -that was Aaron -- but the content and attitude seem similar.) 

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Woodward's "Fear: Trump in the White House", due Sept. 11, previewed in the New York Times by anonymous op-ed



Because I posted yesterday here, I didn’t get around to a preview of Bob Woodward’s “Fear” until now. That is, “Fear: Trump in the White House”, from Simon and Schuster, 448 pages hardcover (and ebook).

Tuesday, Carl Bernstein (“All the President’s Men”) said this was an immediate national security crisis.

Trump’s staff disobeys his orders and Trump doesn’t have the IQ to understand what is happening, so they say.


Or maybe it is just the understanding of how world foreign policy has to work.

Then, today, “Anonymous” leaked what’s going to be in the book, without mentioning names, in the New York Times. 

The book becomes available Tuesday, September 11, 2018.

“Anonymous” calls himself part of the “Resistance” within the White House decision. 
Trump tweeted “Treason?”.

“There are adults in the room”.  Sorry, David Hogg isn’t in the room.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Does self-publishing actually make money for its authors (that is, pay its own way) often? It's "back to school"



To start the “back to school” period, I thought it would be good to review the question, do self-published books sold on Amazon (especially POD) make money for their authors?
  
Here’s a good answer on Quora . One problem is that there are so many “vanity” books, so to speak, that the aggregate mathematically summed demand in society to make all of them profitable just would not be there.

Of course, there are many individual success stories.  It is true that in the past, some things (even “self-help”) have been popular.  And some “fads” might raise serious societal ethical or security questions.  Could Amazon even deal with public pressure if it carried a book on how to make a 3D-printed gun right now?  I wonder.

Let me add, on this particular blog, I don’t like seeing platforms (whether social media companies, mass retail sites, or even Internet hosts) expected to police the social consequences of what users sell.  But there is obviously a growing pressure on them to do so. 


One problem is that an author may not particularly care if a book “sells”; he or she may know that the content of the book will get around and have a political impact.  This is easier for an individual author, if determined, to pull off than a lot of people realize (even given al the attention to the manipulation of social media algorithms by Russia and other foreign enemies).  This problem could quickly get more attention than it has.

I’ll share a recent link (June 2018) on Amazon self-publishing, after Amazon stopped its own copyediting and formatting services. 
  
My own first DADT-1 book in 1997 sold reasonably well in its first two years, and the first printing (380 copies or so) did sell out. I wend to POD in 2000, so lower numbers are partly explained by the fact that the POD was already a second printing (with some typo corrections, especially on the back cover).

One of the aspects of my experience with selling my own print run in the late 1990s (right out of the Churchill apartments in downtown Minneapolis, where I lived well while working for ING-ReliaStar right on the Skyway) was the dot-com boom, which would start to flounder in late 2000 (before 9/11).  But that period was marked by unusual effectiveness of search engines.  I was often found on Google, long before modern social media aggregation.  A modern business climate were a few huge tech companies control everything has not been good for my own ability to sell books, even though it still gets my content out – for free.  Competition matters.
  
The video above stresses the importance of a successful first launch (even the first few days), and for continued promotion of the book. I have been criticized for not spending more time on promoting books I have already authored compared to new content, blogging, or covert support for music or movie projects (some of this by others).