30 August 2018

Publication targets

So my books generally publish to Google Play, Kobo, iTunes, and Scribd.

Draft2Digital can (recently) publish to Amazon, and this solves my problems with Amazon's thing-like-a-contract and wire-payment-requires-a-chartered-bank-and-we-won't-cut-you-a-cheque policy.  It doesn't solve my issues with Amazon's labour practices.  When I used The Human Dress as an experiment to see how much market there was for my books on Amazon, there wasn't much; fewer sales than iTunes, which in turn is fewer than Kobo, which runs about a quarter to a third of the Google sales.  Putting the Commonweal on a platform with an internal flesh-robot business model is something I don't want to do, and it's not the case that I'm ignoring half the market; I might be ignoring ten percent of the market as it exists for me.  The Google Play version is DRM-free and readily cross-loaded, so liking your kindle shouldn't be too much disadvantage.

I don't publish to Nook.  Nook is a Draft2Digital publication target, but Nook as a platform cannot cope with the EPUB3 standard without introducing some highly specific workarounds.  These workarounds break everybody else, and the whole point of Draft2Digital is you give them one instance of the epub file and they publish the same thing everywhere you want to send it.  (I've been getting the same "EPUB3?  that's very advanced and our marketing tools may not cope!" message from Draft2Digital since the first time I used them in 2015, too.)  I like my EPUB3 toolchain; it's nicely debugged.  It validates readily.  It takes a couple of seconds to generate a new version.  I don't want to change it if I don't have to, and "have to" is not how I view "get books on Nook".

Tangible book publishing is outside my skillset and beyond my means, so there are no present plans to do so.

That's the current state of the means by which my books might wend their merry way to you, and I hope if there was any confusion there is now less.

20 August 2018

Committing book is getting to be a habit

Cover for Under One Banner, Commonweal #4
Egalitarian heroic fantasy.  Career options after your Talent-mediating brain tissue catches actual fire, what became of the Shot Shop, and certain events involving Scarlet Battery, Fifth Battalion (Artillery), First Brigade, Wapentake of the Creeks.

May contain feels.

Available on Google Play
Available via Draft2Digital  (this is a "universal link" and will show you everywhere it's available on Draft2Digital publication targets.  Amazon is not one of them.  Kobo, iTunes, and Scribd are.  It can take a couple weeks for a book to propagate on to the publication target.)

18 August 2018

Moral rot

"The moral rot of Trumpers like Dennard is breathtaking." That's Josh Marshall about some specific presumption-of-corruption incident.

I have this axiom that as soon as you're trying to explain anything beyond maybe a specific individual at a specific time in moral terms, you're making a mistake. Moral systems do not scale and have effectively no explanatory power. So what's going on?

Your complex modern world demands a couple of things, one obvious -- a willingness to accept you're going to have to approach it through abstraction -- and one much less obvious -- you're going to have to abandon anything that turns out to be counterfactual.

You can get a really clear example of "abandon the counterfactual" in drug policy. If the goal of the policy is to minimize harm[1], punitive laws don't work. Legalization and medical support mechanisms work.

Thing is, if you were raised in an authoritarian worldview, you probably can't do that. Abandoning your counterfactuals isn't something you've got the cognitive machinery to do, and you're nigh-certainly strongly conditioned to regard it as failure to attempt to do so. There's one immutable truth and you can never escape or alter it. (Facts aren't mutable but facts aren't the stuff in your head, either, and facts are just as complicated as the world they describe. Facts are a surprisingly poor tool for understanding. (Hence abstraction being both difficult to do well and essential.))

So what we're seeing isn't people in the grip of moral rot, so much as what we're seeing is a bunch of authoritarians who cannot abandon the counterfactual. (One of those counterfactuals is "money is virtue".) That inability leads to using an erroneous understanding of reality; it doesn't match up and the cost to get the reality map folded correctly starts to approximate "start over". This is impractically difficult for anyone to do. If you're rich enough, no one will expect you to and you'll wander around the landscape arguing what public schools (which at least approach the ideas of abstraction and abandoning the counterfactual) are bad, because they teach things which aren't authoritarian.

If you're not rich enough, you'll suppose everyone else is using your exact set of collapsed axioms and get angry when they won't admit it. Because what else could people be doing?

Simple does make things easier to copy into the future for awhile. Thing is, wrong is expensive, even when the complex society does its best to minimize the immediate consequences, that only lasts for awhile.

[1] the purpose of the system is what it does. Drug policy exists as an excuse for enslavement and terrorism with a side-note in avoiding civil control of the police by creating an independent revenue stream.

08 August 2018

More functionality

So when I was talking about functionality in a post recently, various commentators thought I was describing something plausibly either socialism or anarchism.

This made me blink a bit, and then I recognized that I hadn't said that the Seriously Full Service Credit Union Arrangement -- hereafter SFSCUA -- is a market actor.

Markets work fine if, and only if, all the participants are knowledgeable, all the participants have the option to refuse (at least on the scale of "this deal"), and there's a rough parity-of-pockets so that one party can't use greater financial endurance as a tool to impose costs.  (and if there's decent regulation disambiguating a common public notion of what it means to cheat and applying penalties to those as do anyhow.)

Part of the point of the SFSCUA arrangement is that it's potentially immortal.  It buys housing stock on the assumption that it's got a fifty year planning horizon and thereby a real need to minimize maintenance costs, so of course some initial capital spending is warranted.  It buys food on the futures market.  (It probably clubs together with other SFSCUAs and that entity buys food on the futures market, just as real credit unions handle insurance capital requirements today.)   It's not a corporation; it doesn't have immunity from liability and you are secure in your share.  (You can sell it or swap it but there's no way to offer the corporation (the SFSCUA isn't) a buyout agreement, sorts of thing.)

This is the sort of thing that makes markets effective; individuals can't possibly know enough for there to be an effective market in nearly all areas.  There is no fix for this that doesn't involve collective actors.  I think the intense opposition to collective actors on the part of corporations should tell us something.

07 August 2018

This regrettable map

I don't even know where to start.

  1. Anywhere that has farmable soil is farmed.  There isn't any north (or south) of sixty.  It takes a long, long time to create by natural processes.  (The ice melted ~10 kyears BP for most of Canada.  Still lots of places in (for example) the Ottawa Valley that don't have soil yet.  Even in a beaver pond in ideal (that is, there's lots of soil nearby) conditions you're looking at decades.  We have no real idea what's in there because we can't culture most of it.
  2. We have no idea how to build a city without using fossil carbon energy technologies.  (But stone masons! etc.  First off, 12 quarrymen to a stonecutter; 12 stonecutters to a mason.  There's a reason stone houses were swank for so long...)  Critical things are water and sewage; building a water treatment plant is a bit more challenging than an aqueduct.  What is the pipe made out of?
  3. We have no idea how to build any semiconductor, including solar panels, without fossil carbon.
  4. Every available indication we've got, including some Australian witness traditions, says "sea level rise is abrupt".  We've got, at most, until the coastal cities drown.  The old global economy goes with them.  It takes a lot less rise than what we're going to get to break a city as a functioning machine.
  5. We have no idea how to get enough to eat without agriculture.   Hunter-gathering in a depauperate ecosystem undergoing a mass extinction doesn't support enough (possibly "any") people.  Pastoralism, well, maybe, some, but also "not enough".
  6. 4 C is the absolutely minimum predictable warming that can be considered to have any scientific credibility.  It's nigh-certainly not an accurate prediction; the folks talking about Arctic amplification or the ocean feedback loops and albedo shifts aren't wrong about everything.
The Involuntary Human Extinction Project has succeeded.

We might be able to change that, but the appropriate level of effort is "full national mobilization and industrial rationalization", likely for a couple of generations.  It takes absolutely ceasing to extract fossil carbon as soon as humanly possible.  It takes replacing agriculture.  It takes creating a local industrial toolkit -- trade is great, but you can't count on much in the uncertain future; sea level rise or fall has a history of rendering ports unusable, and we could get a century of "is it done yet?" -- that can be maintained at the local level.  Try real hard to keep anesthetized dentistry while you're at it.

03 August 2018


So capitalism doesn't work.

This is pretty easy to demonstrate; we're in the middle of a mass extinction caused by capitalistic forms of social organization.  Present expectation is that the mass extinction is going to include us.  (The Involuntary Human Extinction Project has succeeded.)

Even theoretically, it's easy to demonstrate; capitalism seeks to increase profit. Value is the ratio of benefit to cost.  To increase profit, you need to either lower benefit or increase cost.  So capitalism is a mechanism to destroy value.  (As we do indeed see happening all over the place as the social barriers to treating profit as a goal, rather than a measure, collapse.)

Socialism also doesn't work.

This is a bit harder to demonstrate; you can start in on the linear optimization problem of a command economy, but someone can quite correctly point out that socialism doesn't necessarily imply a command economy.

The easiest way to grasp this (I think) is that any system has stocks, flows, feedback, and constraints.  (The mythological market is supposed to provide feedback, for example, in capitalist systems.)  The problem with socialism -- anything where you're taking "according to ability/according to need" or collective ownership of the means of production seriously -- is that you wind up with scale-invariant constraints.  That won't work.  It wouldn't work even if you could get the Angel of the Lord to quietly remove all the greedheads.

Consider -- In Soviet Russia, how many socks you are issued and when they are laundered (and where they are laundered...) is decided in Moscow.  You live in eastern Siberia and you herd horses.  This is very very bad; when you have socks, they neither fit nor have been washed.  In Soviet Russia, national emissions and atmospheric dumping policy is decided in Moscow.  That's pretty good, or at least it could be; that's the correct scale of collective to be addressing that problem.  The scale of the decision must be appropriate to the scale of the problem to have an effective solution. (And if you've got an intractable deadlock the issue is pretty much that you need to change the scale of the mechanism that's looking at the problem.)

Mixed economy?  It doesn't stay mixed, because the rich win the argument about the economy is for.

You can have something that exists to guarantee, defend, and extend existing wealth, or you can have something that exists to create a general prosperity.  You can't have both.  (The objectives are opposed!  "both?" is a bit like saying "hot AND cold".)

So what do you do?

No rich people.  If you want the general prosperity version, there have to be hard income and asset caps, and they have to be relatively low; around an order of magnitude more than the lower of the mean/median income as the income cap, for example.  (50 kCAD/annum median income, 500 kCAD/annum is the income cap.  The PM's salary is set a x8; I'd cap CEO salaries there, too.)

The limited liability corporation functions, effectively, as "you can't complain when I steal this".  Don't have those.  (Collectives, partnerships, and other forms of collective organization already work pretty well.  They'd work better if they were in an regulatory and legal environment where they were normalized rather than opposed.)

There's a really intractable fact that the solution has to be as complicated as the problem.  Social organization that forbids collective responses to problems is equivalent to an assertion that the problem must not be solved.  (Not that it can't be solved; that you're not allowed to solve it.)

So ... experiment.  Consider the possibilities of really full service credit unions.  (Housing is a way for capital to make everyone pay them to live.  The fix is to make housing something that's collectively arranged and managed.  And then you can diversify the investments, and start running a daycare, and then start buying things collectively.)

While you're experimenting, recognize that the purpose of the legal system is NOT to provide feedback; it's to set constraints.  ("Work or starve" is feedback.  "Everybody eats" is a constraint, at least if you attach legal liability to political units when that isn't factual there.  You need to pick your constraints carefully because lots of people prefer murdering the poor to providing them food.)

Also recognize that land is alive, and you make rules for it as though it is alive, and not dead.  (E.g., you own a Picasso.  (A painting by the famous painter of that name.)  You really own it; no liens, it's not loan collateral, you've got simple clear title.  You throw it through a wood chipper.  You have probably upset many people but you have not done wrong.  But throw a dog through a woodchipper and you have done wrong; the relative prices of the Picasso and the dog are not what's relevant, it's the categories.  The painting is dead and the dog is alive.  Pave over grassland and you have also done wrong.)

This is not actually difficult to do, it's giving up on the possibility of being king that's challenging.  (You can have success, or control.  (That is, be king; everybody has to do what you say.)  Trying for control precludes success.)