Archive for March, 2012


I have now fixed the other two stories, Gypsy and OMB.  Again, the trick is to have Word write the file out as “Web Page, Filtered” and upload that.  So, I am no longer to be embarrassed by the presentation, but only by the stories themselves.

Next up, I get to actually write again, expanding my novella into a novel.  It has been awhile.  Wonder if I remember how.


Categories: Publishing

Text Success

I indented the text of Iron Man in MS Word (nevermind Amazon/KDP will do that for you in conversion) and then saved the page as Web Page, Filtered, which stores it as an htm file.  Uploaded this and previewed: almost perfect.  The first paragraph was indented, which it wasn’t in my file and I do not think should be, and italics, which are sort of important for this particular story, are difficult to discern from regular text.  Still, I don’t think I am going to get it any better.  Done and published.  Now that I have the secret formula, I will do the other two stories tomorrow night.

By the way, why does Microsoft go to such great lengths to hide file extensions from us?  I had to go through a few twists to discover that the file was, in fact, stored as file.htm.  Sure, if they want to focus on visual clues and icons, I will not complain, but I have gone down this road before and it is often dashed difficult to determine file extensions in Windows when you need them.  “What kind of file is that, sir?”  “I don’t know.  Looks sort of like a pumpkin.”

This should all be a bit easier.


Categories: Publishing

A Vile Business

So, I was at a political event some years ago, when a woman asked me why politics was so vile, so nasty, and so cut-throat these days.  Naturally, I replied to her, “Computers!” and moved on.

It was obvious to me, but perhaps she deserved more of an answer.

Gerrymandering – by whatever name – is as old as representative politics: the attempt to carve out political districts for political advantage.  Try to get as many safe districts for your party as possible and as few safe districts for the opposition as possible.

When this was done by party elders in the old, fabled, smoke-filled rooms, it was very hit or miss.  Mostly, they did not succeed in more than a couple of districts.  Starting around 1990 or so, however, the parties have been able to rely on computers and public-access voter registration records and what that does is what politicians have always wanted to do but could not – guarantee victory.  As a result, most districts are now “safe” districts and this has changed the whole nature of politics.

When most districts were competitive, the party elders would conspire to get moderates nominated in the primary elections.  Why?  Because only a fool would not.  If your party nominated an extreme candidate, either far left or far right, then they were guaranteeing that the other party would win in the general election.

Not clear?  Politics 101: 40% of the electorate always votes Republican, 40% always votes Democrat, so elections are won or lost based on the 20% in the middle – and they are moderates!  Moderates do not like extreme candidates, they are frightened by them.  So, as much as party elders may have liked the extreme candidates, they avoided nominating them when possible, because they wanted to win.

Now, however, most districts are safe.  The majority party in the district is going to win, so the main battle has moved from the general election to the primary.  There is no reason not to nominate an extreme candidate.

Statewide and national seats must still answer to the 40-20-40 rule, so presidents, governors, and senators have still tended towards the middle.  Even if they may not always seem that way, they still campaign that way.

But the US House and the state legislatures used to be full of moderates and now they are not.  No longer do political orators talk about their learned opponent across the aisle.  Rarely do political friendships cross the aisle.  Now politicians vent about the monsters and villains on the other side, seeing in them the root of all evil.  Most pretenses at civility are dead on arrival.  No longer are they opponents and colleagues, they are enemies.  The media, of course, eats all this up and spews it out.

I have known all this for some time.  What I have not been able to figure out is a solution, just a firm belief that we should give these people as little power over our lives as possible.


The March of Mediocrity

The Republicans seem committed to the notion of nominating Mitt Romney for President of the United States.  Apparently, the Dole and McCain debacles taught them nothing about nominating uninspiring moderates whose only promise is to keep the money flowing and whose only vision is of where they will live for four years – maybe eight.  Come the Fall, he will cross swords with another uninspired Democrat, whose only promise is to keep the money flowing in a slightly different direction.

I do not understand how we get to the same place, every four years, no matter which parties are in contention.  A horde of politicians do battle to gain the nomination of their party, while most of the public cannot garner enough enthusiasm for any of them.  By the time we get to this point, early Spring, although the conventions are many months away, we are told that there is no real choice and the surviving member of the horde is the only choice we can make.  If we do not “unite” behind the candidate now, all we do is ensure his demise in the Fall.

I think this is a load of poppycock myself, perpetrated by the combination of party elders, who want the tax spigots left full on and wish to avoid boat-rocking, and a media that is adverse to unfamiliar stories and unscripted contests.  How much better would 2008 have been if both parties had fought all the way to and through the conventions.  Even if they eventually wound up with the same nominees, they would have been better defined.

Which may be the answer to my own question, in this day of political stealth, where a candidate with fewer acknowledged positions polls higher, because it is harder to tie him to controversy.  We favor candidates that are blank slates, because we can then project our own beliefs and aspirations onto them, and the candidates, wishing to win election, do their best to avoid being pinned down, because they do not wish to break that illusion.  Being all things to all people does not require forthrightness, it requires judo.

So, as I have done for twenty years, I will end up not voting for a major party nominee, in punishment for not nominating somebody who holds and espouses the beliefs of their party’s rank and file membership.  If enough people did this, both major parties would be forced to nominate people of opinions and ideas and campaigns could become contests of ideas instead of personalities – as they were always meant to be.


An Abundance of Abundance

This week – and from the look of the thing, for a few weeks yet to come – I am reading Abundance, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler.  Diamandis – a physician amongst other things, is the man who gave us the X Prize, the award for private space flight that Space Ship One won a few years back.

The book is about the many forces, technological and social, that are colluding to improve the lot of all humanity.  Diamandis believes that by the end of this century all people everywhere – which he estimates will be nine billion – will enjoy a standard of living greater than Western civilization enjoys right now.  Energy costs will drop, smart machines will make many impossible things possible, new methods of making food will arrive, and health care will get much, much better.

It is, as I said, a long book and it has a few lefty-trendy ideas woven in, probably a knee-jerk sort of writing by the author, but nothing that really affects the main outcomes he talks about.  I am only about a third of the way through, so unless it is full of appendices and footnotes, I have no idea what else is to come.

By coincidence, Kristine Kathryn Rusch last week also wrote about abundance, but this article was about the publishing industry.  Her point was that the old guard publishing companies have always worked in an environment of scarcity, with limited options to sell a limited number of books from a limited number of authors.  They still act this way today, even though their world has changed and the entire publishing industry is now one of abundance.  Go ahead, read it if you have time.

Categories: Reading, Technology, Trends

Small Changes

Made a few changes to this blog.  Changed the page that was titled “Stories” to “Free Fiction” and added a new page for “Unfree Fiction.”  Put links in the latter page to my three little babies out in Amazon land.

Also added a blogroll to the side bar.  There are the two that I look at, plus some generic WordPress links that I will probably remove in time.

Updated my “About” page as well, placing most of my first blog post in there for posterity.

Updated Iron Man out on Amazon last night.  Now, instead of being randomly indented, it is not indented at all, although the KDP instructions state that the first line of each paragraph will be indented automatically.  Not so much.  Will play with it some more, as time permits.  Would really prefer not to have to get into HTML.  Something I read somewhere said something about saving as “filtered” or “filtered HTML” or something – that is okay, if I can just save it, and don’t have to edit tags.

“It’s never easy!” – every character Kevin Sorbo has played.


Categories: Administrative, Publishing

Negative Feedback

March 20, 2012 1 comment

Thermostats are simple devices.  They are simple on/off switches that work off temperature.  The room gets cold, the thermostat gets cold, the switch comes on, the heat comes on.  After a time, the room gets warm, the thermostat gets warm, the switch goes off, the heat goes off.  Repeat.  This is a simple process scientists and engineers refer to as negative feedback.

So, when it is too warm in a room, why do people forget how this simple process works?  The room is very warm, the thermometer on the thermostat says it is 75, the thermostat is set for 68, yet someone invariably comes over and turns the thermostat down even more.  Multiple times.  Why?  It is off!  It cannot be any more off.

These are not imbeciles, these are adults of at least average intelligence who have probably been using thermostats their whole life.  Just don’t get it.


Categories: Pet Peeves