Doug Drops Links, Ponderings, and Short Updates: sky based explosions taking care, pencil necked weasels, a hat of many signatures, continued tragedies, and daydreamings...

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Summary: Back to update an update that should have went out yesterday. I clear out a handful of links, sum up the past couple of days, and close down a few tabs on my browser. Neil Gaiman gets called a pencil-necked weasel, a hat goes on auction for a good cause, tragedies still abound, life returns to normal, and so forth...

BLOT: (07 May 2011 - 03:58:54 PM)

Doug Drops Links, Ponderings, and Short Updates: sky based explosions taking care, pencil necked weasels, a hat of many signatures, continued tragedies, and daydreamings...

Let me start this with a confession: after getting used to Turkey Jerky, [any but high quality] Beef Jerky is ass. You hear me, Jack's Links? Let the cows go and get to slaughtering the birds. Doug demands it.

Giving Explosions in the Sky's Take Care, Take Care, Take Care a third or fourth playthrough as I write this. This is the first time that listening to it has really made me feel like I might need it on top of other albums, especially the recentish All of Sudden I Miss Everyone, an album I more highly recommend. I have nothing inherently against Take Care, it is mostly that when your signature sound is epic, long-winded poetry as expressed through sweeping and slow-to-change guitar riffs and drones, you have to do something to embrace the uniqueness of the moments. Sort of the way that Robert Rich distinguishes between Ylang, Below Zero, and The Echo of Small Things.

As said, though, this listen through is helping to pick out the little but sometimes important differences and enjoy it on its own some more, but I would still say to start with All of Sudden and then move on to this one. If you go for this one, the sweet spot seems to occur in the transition from the mid-to late track 2—"Human Quality"—and the opening of track 3—"Trembling Hands". The nature of the songs makes it hard to sample the appropriate bits, but you could get both of those for about $2 and then you'd know.

Remember Borders declaring bankruptcy? I talked about it a little bit in my Hoarders Not Readers post. Other places talked about it more. Well, yesterday McSweeney's released "An Open Letter to the Customers Shopping at the Liquidation Sale at the Bookstore Where I Work". Part of their Open Letters to People Unlikely to Respond series. The whole thing is full of truthiness on several levels, and I'll quote three paragraphs from the center and say you should read it, whether you have ever been one of the entitled bottom-feeding bargain hunters or you have had to serve them while trying to figure where next month's rent is coming from:

You're right: it is completely rude of me to simply nod and point to the nearest sign when you ask me if this store is closing. I should be a lot nicer, especially since my job will die as soon as I finish digging its grave.
I also understand the liquidation process is difficult. I get that you don't want me to mark through the bar code on your book because you're buying it as a gift and don't want the recipient of said gift to think you're cheap. Clearly, your falsely gained reputation is worth more than my job, and I'm okay with that.
It also makes complete sense to me that you would believe a store that is liquidating its inventory and closing forever is still receiving new books, or that if you can't find a book I can order it for you. I also understand your anger and frustration with the fact that we have no computer system to check our inventory for a book you want despite that you don't remember the title or author, or even whether it's fiction or non.

Speaking of other book-ish news, did you hear the one about the a Minnesotan GOP Head calling Neil Gaiman a pencil-necked weasel and a thief? Note: both of those links go to Gaiman's own blog, but his blog has several links to stories on it. At any rate, it wasn't that a conservative type might be against art, education, and so forth that surprised me, but the fact that the language was something quite literally like: "Gaiman, who I hate, is a pencil-necked weasel who stole..." Even if it was just "Gaiman stole..." it would be libelous statement to be said on the state floor, but throwing in declarations of hate and personal insults into an official forum? Is this the new politics? Where Donald Dumbass Trump can imply that his private eyes are on the verge of a big discovery about Obama's past even while he knows it is bullshit, or where semi-political (and likely political hopeful) folk can claim that thousands/millions towards stuff like Planned Parenthood and NPR are destroying our economy but handwave away four billion dollars in oil subsidies as being just a drop in the bucket, or where elected officials can slander people who live in their state to get brownie points with the far-edge crazy crowd? The "stole", by the way, is because Gaiman accepted payment of $45,000 for a speaking gig, $34,000 or so after taxes, that came out of public funds that were designated for getting cultural events going. Gaiman gave the entire wad to charity but apparently said politician thinks that it is right to attack the man who accepted the fee rather than the government that gave it to him. How political is that? Keep in mind, folk, if you get paid for doing a job by the government, the politicians consider you the one responsible for taking the money.

In yet MORE semi-bookish news, Bryan Smith (horror writer who lives nearby in Tennessee) recently lost his wife to cancer. While there is simply nothing that can be done to make that better, obviously, several of his friends and peers got together to host an auction on eBay on his behalf. A hat with 135 signatures by many horror writers and other people at the World Horror Convention is up for bid. It has already went past what I could afford but I am not afraid to pass on the news about it. Besides, if any of my readers wants to buy me the most kick-ass graduation gift ever...well, there you go.

The final one I have for you that involves books harks back to the recent 23 million dollar book on Amazon. Turned out it was the result of auto-algorithms gone bad. I wrote a short Python script that crunches how many iterations at the given values (see article to see how it happened) it would take to get that far. My script (I'll embed it below) came back with 52. If it was updating once a week, that would put it at 1 year to get up to that ridiculous of a price.

x = 100 y = 100 z = 0 while y < 23000000: x = 1.27059 * y y = x * .99830 z = z + 1 print z

Anyhow, while it is not as extreme, I always find it funny/weird when I find high prices on materials that seem to simply not warrant them. Look at Miskatonic Press's Dead but Dreaming. The publisher has new copies up for $17.99. The others are selling copies for near or over $100. Any_book, who seems to always have multiple copies priced far too high considering other offers*, has two copies over $200 for sell. Used. Only one of which is marked as "Like New". It's almost like the original publisher's prices are too low for whatever automatic or quick, human-eye glance at price ratios is used to figure prices, and so the best place to get the book is not factored in by those trying to make money off of it.

Closing out the book news portion, and going on to my few other links I have to share at this time, my mind is still regularly on the aftermath of the April 27 tornadoes. I was talking to a teacher friend about the debate going on about whether to let school out on time or extend the time-in-session to make up for the lost days. Outside of such matters, it will take weeks before we know the cost to North Alabama. Maybe longer. All those stores that had to dump inventory. All the panicked buying and its aftermath. Employees who are missing a week's pay, maybe more. People whose confidence in everyday comforts has been shot. It will take some time. Some tragedies are easy to sum up, like the horrible case of the family who had five out of nine people killed, or all the photos of extreme devastation out of Harvest and Tuscaloosa. There are others, though, like small businesses who might get some insurance might it could still take weeks before everything is sorted. We are definitely on the road to recovery but events like this leave cracks and holes that are sometimes not noticed, or are simply avoided to everyone's detriment, for a bit of time.

Speaking of problems that we have not seen the final cost of yet, last year's oil spill rarely gets much attention nowadays except for those who want to make puns by calling it Last Year's OLD Spill (amirite?) and folk who are still trying to get some payment or another out of BP; but really the impact will likely take years to figure out. Flowing Data recently embedded a neat little video about the oil spill in perspective (see below this paragraph for the video), and it makes two great points. A) That's a lot of oil that was lost. B) The US goes through over three times that much oil every single day. Don't look at me, though, I just bought the totally rad GO GREEN stamps from the post office. No joke, by the way, they are totally rad.

And since this post is gone on long enough, and turned a bit morbid in the interim, I'll end on some happy notes:

* Presumably any_book's $100 over the competition tactic is put into place on the off-chance that all other copies will sell, and eventually people will be forced to buy the book. Or maybe they are a front for another store who jack up the price to throw off auto-pricers. Or maybe they are front for international drug smugglers. I have no idea. Their ratings are pretty high, though, 500,000 at 95% positive suggests they do good.


Written by Doug Bolden

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