Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Adventure #2.

Almost bid for an upgrade to "premium cabin," which is the equivalent of business class in international travel. We'll be on the plane for 12 hours, so...once in a lifetime trip, you know.

But, my God, why the huge difference in price!

The low bid is still almost double the regular price, or three times the price overall. Basically, we'd be paying $100 bucks more each for each hour of flight, that's IF they took our low bid. The "confirm" bid is would end up being four times the regular price. 

None of this is probably news to the travelers among you. 

But couldn't they design a price system where everyone gets a bit more comfort for a bit more of a price? Eh? Average it out?

I've read up on the deregulation of the airlines. My understanding is that air travel before deregulation was just flat out expensive because the only people flying were business people and/or the rich. The empty seats were more or less compensated by the government. 

Nature abhors a vacuum, so when they deregulated, the trick was to fill those empty seats, so travel got affordable. 

But we still had the business people whose companies paid for their trips, and the well-off, who could afford the older way of traveling, so we have what we have. 

Fucked up.


Monday, September 25, 2023

Heading down under.

No, not to hell. Not yet. Linda and I are going to spend the month of October in Australia.

Todd and Toby are going to house and cat-sit for us. In fact, if it wasn't for them, Linda probably wouldn't have left Jasper alone at all. 

So I'm going to be annoying and probably post stuff most days. It's a casual trip, no real schedule. Landing in Sidney, driving down the east coast to Melbourne, staying with our friends Wes and Ev for a week or so, then driving up the southwest coast to Adelaide, then over the top of that southern bulge back to Sydney by way of Canberra. 

It's my first overseas trip. I haven't even been on an airplane in 40 years. Linda is much more traveled than I am. 

Leaving the store completely in Sabrina's hands. A good practice for when she takes over completely. 

Adventure #1. 

So I thought I was really being smart by buying electrical adapters for our gear. So the adapters arrive...and they are Australian to American rather than the other way around. 

It never even occurred to me, but of course.... Even then I had a 50/50 chance of getting it right. Now I'm just hoping our two prong stuff will work on their 3 prong stuff. 

That's traveling for you. A series of complications you just have to get over.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

The dwindling usefulness of the internet.

From the obvious, Twitter, to the slightly more subtle, Google, the internet is becoming less and less generally useful. It's still completely necessary to dedicated tasks. It would be difficult to run my business without it. It's handy to pay bills, to check my accounts, everyday housekeeping and storekeeping chores.

But informationally? It has diminished noticeably in the last year or so. Or maybe I'm just noticing it more. 

I used to say to anyone with a question: "Google it!" But that isn't great advice anymore. Now it's "Google it...AND be sure to search deeper into the suggestions."

For example, I wanted a very simple price gun for my store. I wanted just the one feature, a printed price label, nothing more. I searched for a long time on the question "Price Guns," and all that was suggested were higher priced and elaborate price guns. It wasn't until I bought one useless price gun that malfunctioned almost immediately that I thought to refine my Google questions to "old-fashioned" price guns. It had to have been 30 pages in...I don't want to have to search 30 pages in or constantly change my simple questions to get a simple answer.

I never much used Twitter, and have left it completely now, so I'll say no more about that.

There is a recent article in "Vulture" about the corruption of the website "Rotten Tomatoes." I'd already pretty much decided that it was becoming less and less useful as a guide to good movies and shows. It seemed to me that objectively bad or mediocre movies were getting 70% to 80% rating. (And yes, I think quality can sometimes be objective.) While shows that were excellent were ALSO getting 70% to 80% ratings. 

I could, of course, try to figure out what the "top critics" are saying, but even that doesn't work anymore. I think the term "top critic" has been watered down to the point that it no longer makes a difference. 

Facebook. Same people everyday, (bless your little hearts) less and less response to my posts, more and more ads, more and more unoriginal, lazy posts instead of personal posts. So I go to Facebook much, much less often than I used to.

I never made the jump to the other social media sites. They just seem like sound and fury, signifying nothing. 

I'll admit, some of the dumbing down of the internet an actually be worked: for instance, as a 70 year old male with a reading range of thrillers, SF and Fantasy, horror, mystery, non-fiction, and some literary, I was having a hard time trying figure out what to get for younger readers, as well as female readers. So Tik Tok books comes along and I simply order what is being recommended there and, Wal la,(viola!) problem solved. At least for the time being. But I can pretty much predict that this site will also be gamed into uselessness. 

Oh, well. Can't stop progress...or is it, can't stop devolution?

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Of course he's a fake and con. That's the point.

Listening to the "Fake History" podcast, the episode about professional wrestling, and he makes the point that Trump is an exemplar of the "heel" in wresting. Someone who bends the rules when it suits him, then cries foul if anyone else does. Who knowingly twists the truth, knowing that his fans will know he his twisting the truth and cheer him on. He quotes a scholar from the 50's whose description of the "heel" is eerily Trumpian.

In other words, calling Trump a fake and a con is like calling professional wresting a fake and a con. Only idiot liberals wouldn't understand what Trump is doing, thus confirming the reason to back Trump in the first place.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Froth in the economy?

Somebody asked me if I thought there was a housing bubble in Central Oregon. 

I'm not sure about that--a bubble is a frenzy, and this seems like a steady climb. But I do have the sense of there being a bit of froth in the economy, at least locally. 

Lots of people moving here without really seeming to know where they moved. Just because Bend seems like a happening place. That doesn't seem to me like a sturdy reason. And if, or when, there is a slow down, I suspect they'll be just as easy to up and leave. 

I'm noticing a lot of frothy cultural events, that if you asked yourself if they would do those sorts of things if the economy was struggling, is a big no. 

A lot of new competition for me in the store, trying things that I've seen being tried in the past and which never really took hold before.

Frankly, as a business owner, I've noticed a certain cycle, that all of a sudden people are coming out of nowhere to do things that people in Bend are already doing. The thing is, recessions have a way of either keeping that from happening too much, or worse, shutting them down completely. 

I do pretty well in these slowdowns, because I'm established and have had multiple experiences and I kind of know when and how much to cut back. 

I don't know that we've really had a recession in a long time. Covid didn't do it, not really. In fact, I think some businesses came out of Covid in better shape for a lot of counter-intuitive reasons. So we've had steady expansion and I think we've reached the frothy stage. 

When that will end, I can't predict. It almost always takes longer than I think it will. But these slowdowns probably need to happen once in a while to keep things from bubbling over. 

Friday, September 8, 2023

My take on the current publishing world.

Sometimes you have to step away from something to see it clearly. 

I haven't written anything for publication for several years now, but I pay attention to what's happening in the publishing industry, and while I don't think I've learned anything particularly new, I'm seeing the same things with less emotional freight. 

I think I've had a pretty good handle on the odds against writers; the combination of talent, luck, persistence, and connections it takes to succeed. I came back to writing at the age of 60, not worried about money, and I decided from the start that I wouldn't try to get published again by the mainstream. 

I liked writing as much as I wanted, when I wanted, and what I wanted, and it was clear to me that trying for any kind of career as a mainstream writer was going to take way too much effort, and even then, the odds were pretty much against any significant success.

I think it would have been possible, given the right combination of circumstances, but I understood that I lacked a lot of the personality traits and work habits that would make it likely. (My one foray into mainstream was a ghostwritten book that actually hit the Publishers Weekly bestseller list one week: but that was a completely awful experience, which only reinforced my suspicion of mainstream publishing.)

Talent? Who knows. But I knew it took more than talent.

I had doors open a crack for me every time I wrote something, and I got pretty good at sneaking my way through those cracks, and then finding another crack in the door, and then another. 

That was fine. My books got out into the world, more than few people read them, and I was personally proud of them. I spent a fair amount of money on editing and covers; but my earnings paid for that. I had two or three books that sold better than your average indie writer. 

I found a publisher who backed me up, who was willing to publish what I wrote, but when I felt I couldn't give them my best efforts anymore, I didn't think it was fair to keep sending them my scribblings. 

Looking at the terrain now, it seems to me that all the factors I identified early have only gotten bigger. It's cool to see that the USA Today bestseller list is replete with "self-published" authors, but these aren't the same kind of self-published authors as I remembered. These authors are dynamos of promotion and organization: pretty much the opposite of me. Bless their little hearts.

And more power to anyone who is willing the buck the odds and keep on trying.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Philosophy, Poetry, and Self-Help, oh, my.

By moving the music books to their own shelf, I've opened up enough space to separate the poetry and philosophy books. 

I'm continually amazed by how well both sections sell. I never would have thought it.

Meanwhile, I get asked all the time for self-help books. Thing is, the requests are always very specific and I'm leery of that. Self-help books are a little like diet books; they have limited shelf-life and once their day in the sun has passed are nearly impossible to sell. 

So what I've taken to doing is waving my hand and saying, "I have a philosophy shelf over there."

The way I look at it, most self-help is simplified-for-consumption philosophy or spiritual writing. (I also put most "new age" books in the philosophy section, also trying hard to limit how many I carry for the same reasons as self-help.)

Stoicism is especially popular right now. Not quite sure why. Linda and I have been delving into stoicism for several years now. (Most all philosophy I delve into are because of Linda, who has a expansive interest in such things.)

I also put all the wicca books in the philosophy section. 

When I first married Linda, I was the kind of guy who scoffed at all that stuff. I had spent ten year of depression reading worthless or even counter-productive self-help books. I was also pretty much an agnostic about spiritual matters. I still tend to think that the supernatural doesn't exist, at least I've seen nothing to convince me otherwise.

On the other hand, there is a world of interesting ideas. Philosophy, if you will. So spiritual books and wicca books and personality tests and, yes, even tarots have their place. I think of them as "prompts," if nothing else. 

I'm much more accepting of philosophic ideas that seem a little fringe. I respect Linda a lot, and she sees worth in it, so I follow.