Thursday, November 29, 2018

Independent bookstores can now do print-on-demand on the premises (some of them)

CBS News reports that independent bookstores are making strong returns after being almost wiped out in the middle 2000s. 

The resurgence of independent bookstores is related to “localism”, and some bookstores can now to print-on-demand on the premises, which could be an interesting development for me.

One of the largest indie bookstores in the DC area is Kammerbooks at Dupont Circle.  Recently I went to a reading at One More Page Books in Falls Church VA. 

CBS has a story in 2003 concerning some bookstores' purging customer records when Congress passed the Patriot Act! 

Heavy rain hampered “shop small” Saturday in the DC Area, although I had a chance in Ellicott City MD Sunday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Time offers "Great Scientists" for your coffee table

Time Magazine sells a supermarket coffee table booklet “Great Scientists: The Geniuses and Visionaries Who Transformed Our World.” The Editor is not named.

The book starts out with a lot of material on Stephen Hawking (by Brian Greene, who passed away of ALS in 2018 at age 76, living extraordinarily long since it started when he was in college.

Hawking came up with the theory that black holes may not be completely black, but could evaporate with Hawking radiation. That could theoretically mean that (mini) black holes could store and retransmit information (about someone’s life).

Hawking also believed that the Universe might have started with a singularity inside a black hole.
On p. 72 the booklet presents Paul Crutzen, who discovered the ozone holes which, adjunct to climate change, can threaten future generations.

On p 31, the booklet shows how Muhammad al-Khwarizmi invented Algebra I around 800 AD.

It would be nice if a booklet like this could cover Jack Andraka’s “Science Fair” which appears to have invented a cheaper blood test for many cancers (not just pancreatic).

I would be nice also to cover the work of Taylor Wilson, who invented a fusion reactor in 2008 at age 14.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

"The Land that Failed to Fail": New York Times starts massive booklet on what makes China work

Philip P. Pan and photographer Bryan Denton are offering a serialized book about China “The Land that Failed to Fail”, link.

The byline is "China rules." That is, "They didn't like the West's playbook.  So they wrote their own."
It seems that statist capitalism (what Ted Koppel called “The People’s Republic of Capitalism” ten years ago in a Nightline series) has worked out very well.

There is a curious combination of nationalism, consumerism, and psychological socialism – personal right-sizing and forced participation in social capital – that seems to be working.  The idea seems very threatening.  But in a sense China expects everyone to know their place and act before speaking.
There will be more installments, particularly about the Internet censorship.

Wikipedia photo attribution: By Alex Needham - English wikipedia , Public Domain, reference.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Author of novel "Occupation" in China gets prison time for depicting gay sex; book had sold well online

A female fiction author, “Liu”, in China has been sentenced to ten years in prison for writing and publishing a novel called “Occupation” that describes male homosexual acts.

The sentence was laid down by the People’s Court in Wuhu in Anhui Province.

All this despite the fact that homosexual acts are legal in China. The situation seems parallel to the 2013 Russian anti-gay propaganda law, but Chinese attitude toward gay rights gets much less attention than Russia’s (and the middle East and sub-Saharan Africa).

The book had sold well online in China. 

The Metro Weekly in Washington DC had a detailed story by Rhuaridh Marr.

The Global Times in China has a source story.   The BBC offers details here

Friday, November 16, 2018

NYTimes offers booklet giving a chronicle of Facebook's gradual change of heart on the need to monitor user speech

On Tuesday’s New York Times, five writers: Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia King, Matthew Rosenberg, and Jack Nicas, describe the Facebook saga:  "Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leader’s Fought Through Crisis", in a booklet-length article
At this point I need to mention Siva Vaidhyanthan’s book “Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracyhere  as well as several films and articles on that blog concerning Facebook. I attended a panel discussion about this matter in San Francisco in mid September, 2018.

The article notes that Sheryl Sandberg was at first angry at general counsel Alex Stamos for “throwing the company under the bus” as evidence of foreign (especially Russian) misuse of the site mounted in 2016.
Zuckerberg, as late as 2015, insisted that Facebook was a utility, not a publisher, and could not screen content for political consequences.  That is partly about Section 230.

Now the company is very choosy about accepting page boost for issue-oriented content separate from normal commercial business advertising, and seems unwilling to monetize controversial independent journalism (as News2Share and Ford Fischer have recently found out). 
Vanity Fair has a special issue “Moguls and Masterminds” in supermarkets now, with an article by Nick Bilton “Status Change” about Mark Zuckerberg on p.42. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains”, according to Facebook ex-president Sean Parker (from “The Social Network”).  

Thursday, November 15, 2018

"Illegal", by John Dennehy, self-published on a blockchain site (Steemit)

I have started looking into Steemit (with the idea of signing up soon with some special material) and I did find that some authors, at least one, publish e-books on it.
There is a book “Illegal”, by John Dennehy, first chapter link is here.  The subtitle is “A True Story of Love, Revolution, and Crossing Borders”.

The author, a “na├»ve New Yorker”, travels to Ecuador and falls in love with Lucia, and gets deported back to the US after “getting involved”.

He is up to Chapter 20.

To buy a copy, it looks like you have to join Steemit (which I will do soon) and get your cryptoaccount set up first.  It can take some time to get your account verified first.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

"Inside Animal Minds", from NatGeo

Brandon Keim’s “Inside Animal Minds”, 112 pages, National Geographic, is available in supermarket checkout stands in November 2018.

The subtitle is “what they think, feel, and know”.  It's a lot that we don't know.  They're already doomsday preppers. 
There are three main sections in the book: Intelligence, Feelings, Relationships.

But there is a great emphasis on the likelihood that every individual animal has some minimal self-awareness.  Even a worker bee in a hive knows that it is a prole and obedient to the will of the hive.
Animals (even birds) have more language capabilities than we realize, and more tool-using.  They engage in altruistic behavior.  Among some fish, males will guard the females eggs, and if a male is eaten by a shark, another male, like a soldier on guard duty, will take its place.

Even some invertebrates, especially mullosks, have surprising intelligence.

There is a YouTube video of a cat encountering a stranded octopus on a deck near the ocean.  You find yourself “rooting” for the cat because she seems more like us than a mullosk, but an octopus may have intelligence comparable to a cat or dog.

Biologists disagree on the significance of the mirror recognition test (elephants, cetaceans, primates).
Some dolphins (especially orcas) may have human-equivalent problem solving ability and arguably should have the legal rights of persons.

Mammals vary as to whether they are solitary or live in colonies, which tend to have authoritarian tribal structures like early human tribes. Lions and tigers are very similar genetically, but split off, with lions living in prides and males developing manes as a sexual secondary characteristic not needed by solitary tigers. 

There are many videos which show that wild animals, especially carnivores (including most wild cats) learn to recognize people in their environment.  In Colorado, a rancher finds that the same four mountain lions appear on his property for water, and seem to remember and trust the rancher as a human individual.  When I had a house, a fox got to the point that he did not run when he saw me in the yard.

When I lived in a garden apartment in Dallas, a male cat simply invited himself in.  He would disappear for days and then return and remember the apartment, and bring birds to me.  He was called "Timmy" and seemed to have an interesting life.  He knew who he was. 
A friend and tech journalist and his wife have two daughters and a female cat who preceded them. The cat watched each baby as if the cat thought they were hers to raise (to learn to hunt). 

Bobcats are common in the Dallas area and often become illegal pets if they get used to finding food on a homeowner’s premises.  They cannot usually live inside a house but some will roam a large territory and return to people whom they like (who fed them).
In South Africa, in one film, a cheetah became a member of the family despite being allowed to roam.  He would always return and even knew how to turn on a television with a remote and knew that the images were not real.

There are some controversial videos on YouTube of bobcats and servals grooming and playing with teenage boys.  Maybe dangerous.  But for an adolescent to learn to communicate with a wild animal is a great way to develop social skills for life.

Back in 1993 there had been a Time magazine cover asking, “Can animals think?”  Yes they can.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Prager U exposes far-Left propaganda in established children's book industry

I open November with a video from Prager U, “Leftist Books for Brainwashing Kids” (Oct. 30)

"Story Time with Will" (that is, Will Witt), presents children’s books “Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights” (Rob Sanders and Jared Andrew Schorr) (from Barnes and Noble) and “The Little Book of Little Activists” (by Penguin Young Readers, a corporate author).   Yup, would four year-olds have jobs they can go on strike from?  What should they “resist”?  Maybe the volunteer banner is OK.
Will (the presenter) is certainly photogenic in the video (and youthful).

Maybe this video helps explain the “snowflake generation” with its safe spaces and trigger warnings.

I looked up these booklets on Amazon, but I will refrain from emedding my usual Amazon Associates ads on these ones (my own "censorship" as a private person). It rather scares me that major publishers seem to support books like with age-inappropriate borderline Marxist propaganda, when some Big Tech companies are deplatforming conservative voices (although the lines between constructive speech and what may be hate speech are very subjective-- especially given "intersectionality"). 

Imagine what it would be like if, to be online, I had to write for pay what other people demanded of me.  Somebody got paid to do all this.  I can also remember in a summer "notehand" class in 1961, when I practiced my note-taking skills at a GWU class on "children's literature" in the English Department. 
If the Left were really able to get most individual Internet speakers shut down so the Left could control the message, I hate to think what the next generation would grow up to be like.  As it is, super Leftist (sometimes almost Marxist) columnist Umair Haque is optimistic in what looks like an open letter to David Hogg, here.  But David is actually much more “capitalistic” in the way he can use the media to grab attention and pull levers on irresponsible companies (related to the NRA issues) than a true socialist could ever accept.

Outside of nature (the Universe, cosmology, the biosphere) wealth and standard of living do not create themselves.  Any alien civilizations far enough along to discover the mathematics of blockchain know that.