We've Got to get a Screen

Huntsman Spider
Jebus H Crackwhore!  We just killed the biggest and fastest freaking spider I've ever seen!

We just got back from the grocery store, and Kristie saw this monstrosity running across the kitchen floor.  It was freaking huge!  It was, without hyperbole, as big as a freaking toonie!  She screamed, I, being the strong male that I am, ordered her to get the dogs out of the kitchen and get me something to kill it with.  She suggested a shoe, but I was hoping for she would get the car.

I took a whack at this thing with my running shoe, and managed to kill it with the first shot.  It is a good thing too, because I'm pretty sure if it lived, the spider would be writing this blog entry instead of me.

Sweet Jebus, New Zealand!  Put some freaking screens on your windows!

BTW, after doing some research we found that it was a Huntsman Spider, as pictured above.

Fluoridated Water: Good for Teeth, Bad for Mind Control

As a skeptic, there are tonnes of issues that people could tackle when it comes to an unenlightened public.  One of the things that comes up every now and then is the issue of fluoridated water.  There are a number of nut jobs out there that believe that fluoridated water is nothing but an attempt at governments to control the minds of its citizens.  I apologize in advance for calling you nut jobs if you  believe in this conspiracy theory....but come on!

Here is my problem with this theory.  If governments actually did believe that fluoride has the ability to control minds, you would think that one of their top priorities of utilizing this mind control would be to ensure that its citizens voted for the incumbent party each and every time there was an election.  Unfortunately, the trends don't show this to be true.  In 1952, the US enacted a federal regulation that would see water supplies supplemented with fluoride.  There have been many skirmishes and court cases since then, but that is when they tried to regulate it.

In 1952 (the year of the federal regulation to add fluoride to water) the US Presidential elections had a turn out rate of 63.3%   Since then, there has been a steady decline in voter turnout for virtually each Presidential election.

If fluoride in water actually does help the government control your minds, then there is a serious problem with implementation.  Maybe they lost the manual.

My Prediction is Coming True

Just a couple of days ago, I predicted that large bookstore chains would suffer in the new eBook reality.  Based on these news stories: Whitcoulls faces closure, my prediction came true.

That means I'm batting one thousand!  Take that Nostradamus!

Closing the Book


I just listened to a CBC Ideas podcast regarding the future of books called Closing the Book.  In the program, they talked about the meteoric rise of eBooks and the slow decline of the dead tree version.  They talked about how eBooks are changing (and will continue to change) publishing, they interviewed people that believed that the printed book would be dead in 15 years, and they had people stating that print would never truly die.  The latter group of people are starting to sound like old cranks to me.  "I don't want to be a part of this new fangled eReading!  You'll have to pry these books from my cold dead hand!"

OK, nobody actually said that, but to me, that is how they are coming across.

I don't believe that the world will convert fully to eBooks in the very near future as I think there will always be a niche market for the physical book.  I do believe that over the next few years however, the eBook will far out pace sales of physical books, just as some of the people interviewed on the Idea's program.  Many of them also think that this will be the end of your local book shop as there will be no need for a bookshop in an ebook world.  This is where my opinions diverge with those who were interviewed in Ideas.

I think that it will be the big chains that will feel the squeeze from the eBook revolution.  Stores like Chapters/Indigo, Borders, or Whitcoulls will lose out because their one advantage over the traditional local bookshop, low prices, will no longer be a factor.  With the high overhead that these book superstores have, they simply will not be able to compete against the likes of Amazon.  This is where I think the local bookshops will gain the upper hand.

Local bookshops have virtually always been owned and operated by book lovers; voracious readers who have, over many years, developed a wealth of tacit knowledge over everything about the written word.  These type of people not only know about the literature itself, but they also delve into various tangential  aspects of literature: author biographies, digging into source materials, learning the ins and outs of the publishing business, etc.  These people are the curators that we will need in the new eBook world; people who can use their knowledge to direct me to new types of literature I may be interested in.   That is one area where I see a need for the local book shop.

Another area that the local bookshop can excel at is in the procurement of real books.  As I said earlier, the written word will never totally go away, so it will be the the responsibility of the local bookshop to acquire the physical books no longer available through the large chain stores: the signed first editions, the ancient leather bound copies, or simply a normal hard cover instead of the virtual book.  Looking into the future, I can also foresee local bookshops providing print-on-demand books for patrons that simply want a physical keepsake.  There is also a benefit that current bookshops do that will never be available in a virtual format, that is having authors give personal readings during their book tours.  Barnes & Nobel is really good at this!

Finally, I can envision a local bookstore partnering with the ebook distributers themselves.  Have you ever tried to get a feel for a book you've never read through an online bookstore?  Some sites will let you read a the first page or two, or sometimes even a random page or two from the book.  I don't know about you, but for me, I often can't get a read (pardon the pun) on the author's style from a couple of pages.  This is where the local bookshops can help out.  Picture a bookshop that has a bunch of eReading devices with virtually every book you can possibly think of.  These devices would be available to all of the bookshop's patrons and would be licensed for in store use only; this would help avoid piracy.  All of the books available on the device would be either free to the bookstore, or at a ridiculously reduced price.  Now, if the consumer wishes to purchase the eBook, based on what he has read while in the bookstore, they can wirelessly purchase the book through the bookstore's network.  The purchase itself would be through a partnership program similar to Amazon's partnership program currently in place.

I've got a Kindle.  I love my Kindle.  I still like books too, and I don't think they're going anywhere...for a while.

I Can't Afford Peaches

You know those numbered stickers that you see on fruit?  The ones that tell the cashier which code to punch into the register?  They've started advertising on them now! The attached image is a sticker advertising the new Yogi Bear movie.

Advertisers are no longer content getting their message to kids through sugary cereals like you'd see on a box of Caffeinated-adrenalin-laced-chocolate-covered-sugar-bombs.  Now advertisers are seeing a trend towards parents giving their kids actual healthy food, hence the expanded advertising market.

My problem with this isn't so much the advertising to a consumer.  My issue is that this advertising represents a windfall of profits to the fruit companies, that does not get passed on to the consumer.  Another example of industry reaping the rewards of advertising while the consumer continually gets shafted is advertising in movie theatres.  Think about going to a movie and watching the 20 minutes (exagerated...but not much) of commercials before the movie.  Now, think about how much the theatre gets for those ads, and think about how much you paid for your movie ticket.  I can pretty much guess that you're not getting a break on your ticket price.

Going back to my earlier complaint about advertising on fruit, I wanted to say that healthy eating isn't cheap. Due to the heavily subsidized food industry, as well as economies of scale, it is much cheaper to purchase a highly processed (and dubiously nutritious) packaged meal than it is to purchase the raw materials to make your own meals.  And as government has proven in the past, you're not going to see many policies that make it easier to buy healthy food; like a sin tax that directly funds healthy alternatives (a Snickers Tax for instance).

Because it is so expensive to purchase fruit and veggies, I have no issue with industry getting extra money through advertising.  That being said however, I think the industry should pass some of that windfall onto the consumer.  Let's not allow healthy eating only accessible to the rich.

Puppy Bot

This is a drawing I have been working on for the last day.  I call it Puppy_bot.

Would It Kill You To Say Thanks?

Kristie and I were walking the dogs in the Ngaio gorge today, as we do virtually every day as long as the weather permits.  The paths in the gorge are generally quite narrow, and if you should pass someone travelling in the opposite direction, it would generally mean that one person would have to make way for the other by stepping aside and letting the other person pass by.  This generally happens many times a day, without incident, and with the person who was allowed to pass, thanking the person who would step aside.  As I said this happens many times each day as the path is shared by both walkers and runners.

Today however, we were walking along the path and we noticed that there was a runner coming up the path, with two kids behind.  So, as we would normally do, we quickly found a little alcove to step aside and let the runner through.  What did we get for our consideration? Did we get a box of chocolates, flowers, or cold hard cash?  Nope; we got nothing.  Not even so much as a "thanks" from this jerk! OK, I understand that sometimes when you're exercising hard, you just don't have the energy to speak, but this guy didn't seem to be suffering from exertion; he did seem to have a bad case of arseolitis (totally made up word).  He didn't even do the whole thank-you-nod.  The arsickle (another totally made up word, but now I'm going to use it all the time) didn't even make eye contact.

What a wonderful example he was giving to his children, or as I now refer to them, arscubes.