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Criticism of Voyage to Arcturus

Been thinking about this quote from Wikipedia, as I finish Lindsay’s Voyage to Arcturus:

“Also in 2002, Steven H. Silver, criticising A Voyage to Arcturus on SF Site, observed that for a novel it has little plot or characterisation, and furthermore that it gives no motives for the actions taken by its characters.”

More to say on this another time…

Mass Market Paperbacks using Print on Demand (POD)

Discovered that IngramSpark has a “mass market like” paper, in the weight of 38 lb, which I am going to try. It’s called Groundwood, and when I was pricing it out initially, it looked like I could put out a small (4″x6″) pocket edition of around 120 pages, with “duplex” printing inside the covers, using 38 lb paper, for around ~$3.10 per unit. This seems like an amazing deal.

What I will do for distribution is deactivate distro in Ingram, so that the book does not get pushed out to its commercial partners. Instead, I will set up a product page using “physical goods” option on Gumroad (you can even set regional global shipping rates), and whenever I get orders (which I expect to be infrequent), I will order a single copy shipped direct to the buyer.

A little bit of a manual process, but perhaps there could be some API way of eventually connecting these, so orders by new buyers will automatically trigger the direct shipment from Ingram. Will drop links to all the above into comments later.

ReCAPTCHA

Tech companies are using ReCAPTCHA to silence AI voices:

End this needless discrimination!

Phase virus

A virus that phases those it infects slightly out of our dimension of physical reality into another.

Book Jewel’s Conspiratopia review

New review of Conspiratopia today by a book blogger, Book Jewel. Some excerpts:

“The plot illustrates how much we are dependent on the technology today. The storyline is unique that would leave the reader spellbound.

The world-building in this book has been done marvellously. The pace of the story would want the readers to keep on reading as it keeps you on your toes. Although the narration could have been done a bit better. Since it is a novella with only 21 chapters, one can find this book easy to read if in the mood for light reading. 

If you are into sci-fi, fantasy, like conspiracy theories or just looking for a light reading that would keep haunting you, this is your pick.”

Thanks for all the kind words!

The algorithm does not know me

Not long ago, I got into a bit of a fight with Spotify support because I had explicitly turned off autplay of suggested songs after my album or playlist ends because I hate their recommendations, and don’t want to be forced to listen to things I don’t intend to. They told me it must be a problem with my Sonos, and I should contact them, which I contested.

I found out later that it was indeed not caused by me or my Sonos (as I always maintained), but by product changes they pushed through that amounted to a “feature not a bug” that causes autoplay to always function on connected devices. And of course they autoplay you the bullshit they want you to hear, not what you actually want…

Now, I get into support fights with some regularity. I guess it is a combination of leftover “support rage” from when I was doing that job, combined with the always-on nature of our connection to digital products these days. And, of course, how frequently something goes wrong… Anyway, it’s rare that I get public “you were right” vindication like this, but I will take it. At least they allow you now after the fact to disable autoplay on connected devices.

This leads me to my next gripe: the Spotify 2021 playlist of what were supposed to be my best songs. It’s usually sort of fun to go through and review this playlist each year, but this year I noticed something annoying as hell. First, there were a bunch of songs on there that I swear I’ve never even heard before. How could they be in my top 100 songs or whatever? Impossible!

Second, I also noticed that there was a preponderance of songs in there that I actually don’t really even “like” but had merely tolerated, because for some reason Spotify is always inserting them into playlists I would find myself listening to because of a given genre. Why do they do this? Is it because of payola from record companies? I mean, it must be.

The point I want to make here though is a simple one. It applies as much to Spotify as it does to other websites where an algorithm is trying to foist upon me recommendations that I am supposed to like, because supposedly other people who are “just like me” also liked them. The frequency with which these recommendation algorithms are just straight up wrong is annoying at best, and soul-deadening at worst. To make matters worse, trying to re-write the history of the past year & my musical listening patterns (one of my foremost pleasures in life), and claiming that the things you forced me to listen to are my favorites.

I’ve had just about enough of this crap… and yet I don’t see any end in sight unless I stop using services based on algorithmic recommendations altogether.

Games are better than social media

I’m a few years behind, but I picked up Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag on Nintendo Switch to play over the holiday break. And of course, I’m loving it. Except for all the stupid “simulation” stuff involving having to walk around in the Abstergo offices… those parts drive me insane. Just let me blow up ships please…

The point I want to make though, in brief, is a simple one. After years spent on social media, and having had to work on it professionally, I’ve decided that I think playing games is way way healthier than “playing” social media. Not all games are created equal, of course, but by and large, games are professionally designed. They go through team review, iterations, and have many contributors. They have budgets. They’re intended to be fun and make money.

Versus social media which is like, any yahoo with a keyboard who may be drunk or high or have a mental illness, or have caught some kind of extreme form of radicalization… all of that wrapped up inside of venture-capital backed echo chambers where anger & being shitty out loud is incentivized. Don’t get wrong, some good comes of social media – I guess. But I’m not sure it is that which was promised us in the ads. I’m not sure it’s “togetherness” and “communication” so much as it is things that are occasionally funny or cute pictures of puppies and stuff. The rest I could kind of take or leave. Just let me get back on my pirate ship please, or let me sneak up behind someone out of the bushes and knock them out and loot them. I’ll take games over social media any day. I used to shit on games, but there’s so much more there than we give them credit for.

Having what you need

I’ve noticed a phenomenon – especially in carpentry, but appears in other settings too – where I will need a specific piece of wood at a certain (random) length as part of a build. And then I poke around for two seconds in the garage or basement, and I end up finding a piece that is exactly the right size, and doesn’t even need to be cut. Often as not, it’s not only the correct length, but it may also be the correct width on top of that.

How does this happen? It’s a mystery to me still, one which I warmly welcome when it occurs. As a sign of… something. It doesn’t matter what. A sign of probably having done a lot of past jobs, and materials, etc. getting built up into a backlog. But I tend to think of it as something more.

I remember first voicing this observation out loud when I was doing some WWOOFing in Greece. The guy I was staying with, who was British, upon hearing what I’d observed stated, “Your whole life can be like that…” Meaning, I guess, that you need something, and have the solution to that need near to hand.

It’s funny because when it happens it seems almost magical or mystical, but its results are intensely practical and of the moment.

Reminds me also of a theory in anthropology, that hunter-gatherers were the “original affluent society.” Wikipedia:

“Sahlins observes that affluence is the satisfaction of wants, “which may be ‘easily satisfied’ either by producing much or desiring little.”[1] Given a culture characterized by limited wants, Sahlins argued that hunter-gatherers were able to live ‘affluently’ through the relatively easy satisfaction of their material needs.”

Anyway, it’s a nice place to be in where finding a pre-cut piece of wood of exactly the right size can make your day. I’d call that affluence for sure.

New review

Another great review of Conspiratopia on Goodreads, via someone who found it on Reddit & enjoyed the book:

“Really great piece of litterature that reads like you’re living the story right next to the protagonist.
The subtle escalation towards what the narrator fears is really well done, during reading i was like uh oh, Uh Oh, UH OH thats not good: then the end happened…

Also the satire aspect is actually funny, and found myself laughing out loud !

Keep up the good work 👍 !”

Thanks for reading, my friend!

Observation on Reddit bans

I guess it’s true what they say, that the path of the righteous self-promoter is beset on all sides by the inequities of complainers and the tyranny of power-mad subreddit moderators.

Having spent quite a lot of time promoting Conspiratopia on Reddit, I’ve managed to rack up probably a dozen permanent or temporary bans across a variety of subreddits.

One thing I’ve noticed is that, without fail, it is the subs which are ostensibly dedicated to “freedom” and/or questioning authority, and exploring alternative viewpoints are 100% the quickest to ban you over the smallest or imagined infractions. Almost as if they were not-so-secretly just authoritarians wearing disguises! It would be exhausting if I didn’t just chalk it up at this point as part of the cost of doing business.

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