Play Ball, Part II

A couple more pictures from the other day. Because I feel like it, that’s why.

Off for a day o’ family fun. See you all later. 

Catching Up on News

Aside from the "Being Poor" piece, I’ve largely been out of the news commentary business around here for the last couple of weeks, so let me catch up on a couple of things briefly:

The Roberts Confirmation Hearings: I don’t really have anything useful to say on this matter, largely because I’m of the opinion that Roberts is the best we’re likely to get out of Bush in terms of a Supreme Court candidate, and because I think he’s a reasonable choice for the bench — probably not my top choice for Chief Justice, I suppose, although anyone’s preferable to Scalia, who would have been my next guess. I’m not at all convinced he’s anything approaching the stealth fundie boogyman some of the more fervent of liberal set adjudge him to be, so my opposition is correspondingly lower; so low, in fact, that I guess I would actually have to say I don’t oppose him at all.

Bush and Katrina: Bush wants to spend $200 billion to rebuild the South, which is good in theory, but I expect his administration to do a good job at the effort about as much as I expect my cat to whip up a light and tasty souffle. Word has reached my far province that Karl Rove will be in charge of the reconstruction, which I find as appalling as can possibly be, since it just about assures that everything related to the rebuilding will be turned into an exercise in ideological fealty to the administration. Which means that my cat-fashioned souffle is actually more likely than this reconstruction being done in any way other than the most petty and political way possible.

I also note the Bush doesn’t expect we’ll need to raise any taxes to pay for the $200 billion. This is not in the least bit surprising, since the current crop of tax jihadists would try to rescue a choking man by giving him a tax cut instead of the Heimlich maneuver, and then when he’s dead would try to comfort the grieving family by assuring them they’re working to repeal estate taxes. But it does remind me yet again that anyone who still actually believes that the Republican party is the party of fiscal intelligence needs a 2×4 upside the head. There hasn’t been a day in the last five years that Bush adminstration has shown even the slightest bit of fiscal acumen, and when Bush says the answer to finding the $200 billion is to slash through the federal budget, if you think those slashings are going to be balanced across the ideological spectrum, you need another wood kiss from that 2×4. Leave it to this administration to take a national tragedy and turn it into an opportunity for some nice political ball-cutting.

"Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People": I don’t think this is true at all. He cares about black people just fine, as long as they make more than $100,000 a year. His concern for white people runs at roughly the same level. Outside of interns and a few lackeys, one does wonder if Bush has ever spent any useful amount of time with people who makes less than that amount. Certainly growing up as a scion of the Bush family he did not, nor does anything in his work life suggest that he did, either. He’s got a blind spot at the 100 large line, which is a real shame because that’s where most people live, including the vast majority of the people who voted for him, being as they were under the impression that he "got" their needs.

Mike Brown Resigns: Well, yeah. He may have been dim and incompetent, but was not so dim and incompetent as not to realize the Bush administration couldn’t been seen firing him, because that would be an admission that they’d hired a moron. One does wonder what would have happened had Brown not resigned; whether he would have been actually fired, or whether the administration would have simply kept routing around him, leaving him to stare at empty walls for the next three years. Naturally, I would hope for the former and honestly expect that eventually the Bush folks would have pulled the trigger, but one does wonder how long it would have taken.

Pledge of Allegiance Ruled Unconstitutional: I find it deeply amusing to see so many conservatives get so worked up over a bit of doggerel that was written by a rock-ribbed socialist, but other than that I find this a true waste of time. I have no more objection to the "under God" portion of the Pledge than I do the "In God We Trust" saying stamped on my coins, and God knows that hearing "One Nation Under God" thousands of times over the course of my educational career did absolutely nothing to endear Him to me, as evidenced by the fact I am entirely agnostic, and will likely be so up until the moment before I die, at which point I might believe it to be prudent to hedge my bets. But even if I do that it won’t be because of the Pledge.

There, I think that gets me all caught up for now. 

New Amazonian Sickness

Because the people at Amazon are sadistic bastards, they’ve implemented yet another way to drive authors (and other people who have thing stocked at Amazon) absolutely insane: They’ve implemented daily tracking of the Amazon ranking, so you can see where the ranking is today and you can see where it was the day before.

For the twitchy bags of neuroses that are known as authors, who already track their Amazon numbers with unhealthy zeal, this means that everybody else now knows if you’re selling more or less than you did the day before. Sometimes this may be good (for example, the ranking of Old Man’s War is #3,992 as I write this, up from #6,381 as of yesterday) and everyone can see you’re on the way to the top, you big success, you. But tomorrow, when the sales of the book inevitably dip, it’ll be clear to everyone that one’s career is in a flaming death spiral, and who will want to buy a book that is going to take them down with it?

And yes, dear readers, authors are just the sort of people who will think that a visible slide in sales rankings will turn you off from our books. We are silly that way.  

One thing I find interesting about this new and sadistic Amazonian tool is how it makes you aware of how much noise and jostle there is in Amazon rankings. For example, today’s ranking for my very first book, The Rough Guide to Money Online, is #1,365,312, which is several hundred spots higher than it was yesterday. Of course, in real world terms, this means nothing: No one bought the book yesterday, no one’s going to buy the book today, and it’s highly unlikely anyone’s going to buy the book tomorrow (and for good reason — it’s five years out of date). Any ascension or decline of this book is simply the Brownian motion of Amazon’s vast collection of salable items. Among the books that are selling, a book could sell exactly the same number of copies on two adjoining days but have vastly different Amazon rankings, because the rankings are relative to what other books are selling as well.

If Amazon wanted to drive authors to the ragged bloody edge of madness, in addition to the Amazon Rankings, it would also post the number of units any particular book sold in a week or month. The reason they won’t is that no one is that cruel, and also it’s not in anyone’s interest to expose just how low-volume a business bookselling is: A public that thinks a movie is a failure if it doesn’t have a $50 million opening weekend or that an album is underperforming if it doesn’t go double-platinum is not going to be impressed that a book has sold, say, 20,000 in hardcover (which would be absolutely fab for most books). Shhhh. Don’t tell.

Nevertheless, this new wrinkle will be sufficiently maddening that you can expect authors to begin fretting about it… well, about now. No, no. I’m not fretting about it at all.  

AdvancedEntryEditing Plugin

Ah, this is much better. One of the small but annoying things about Movable Type is that the editing window for the main entry is tiny, so it’s difficult to see much of what you’re typing at any one time. However, I just installed a plugin called AdvancedEntryEditing that, among other things, allows you to expand the size of the editing window, so you can see a much larger amount of your actual text at one time. It also institutes a WYSIWYG interface, so that people who don’t want to hand-roll their own html code don’t have to do it anymore. I’ve been using html code in MT entries for so long I don’t even really notice I’m doing it anymore, but even so, it’s nice just to be able to see the entry closer to what it’s actually going to look like once you post it. The only minor inconvenience I can see so far is that there’s a tiny pause when one backtracks.

Anyway, if you’re using Movable Type, this is a plug-in that might be worth your while to check out.