Friday, July 17, 2009

B&N Shuffle

I walked into a Barnes & Noble today. First time in awhile. I remember I used to enjoy doing that. You know, walking into a Barnes & Noble. Today it felt obscene, and not the good kind of obscene. Everywhere I looked I saw excess. The same title with 15 or more copies piled high. I imagined those books piled high in B&Ns across the country.

Then I imagined how many of those books wouldn't sell. Would be sitting on a table or a shelf until B&N collectively boxed them up and sent them back to the publisher or marked them down to far less than their value. Less than B&N supposedly paid for them.

So why is this obscene? Shouldn't I be applauding the fact that B&N (and Borders and Wal-mart) are bringing books to the masses? Clap ... clap. Primarily because of the chain "super"store (and the weakness of publishers), you and I are paying twice as much for books than we should be paying.

You see, once upon a time (i.e., before the big-box store), publishers set the suggested retail price for books at approximately five times their production costs. This is according to Andrew Laties must-read for any bookshop owner: Rebel Bookseller. Andrew goes on to say that due to illegal wholesale deals with publishers and the overstocking on books, the big-box stores were the main factor in publishers hiking their suggested retail prices to roughly 10 times their production cost to offset the money they were LOSING in providing the big-box stores with these great wholesale deals and all these stacks of books.

Wait, publishers were losing money? Yep. You see to meet the faux demand of the big-box store they ended up publishing in higher volumes. Then the big-boxers would send the unsold back, which the publisher would have to write off. And which is why it's obscene to me now to see 15 copies of a title in B&N (and knowing there's a stack like that in every B&N across the country). Eesh.

A few footnotes. Andrew's book does talk about the lawsuit against the publishers for unfairly providing better deals to the big-box store than to independent bookstores. The lawsuit was successful and the lopsided wholesale practice, in theory, no longer exists (do you believe it? I don't. I assume they've come up with some nifty accounting tricks to stay within the law ... but I digress). However, the damage was/is done. Thanks to the big-box and to the stupidity (or weakness) of publishers, we're still paying approximately 10 times the production costs of a book. So why hasn't the price come down?

Because big-box stores still order way more copies than they ever plan to sell. So publishers still eat this cost because they're too afraid of the big-box to say "No."

And, of course, the big-box store doesn't affect only booksellers. Really, they affect every business and everyone in the country. If you're interested in this topic look for these books at your INDEPENDENT bookseller (and don't be afraid to have them order it for you if they don't have it in stock):

Rebel Bookseller by Andrew Laties. I borrowed all of my facts from this book. Any errors are completely mine.

Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses by Stacy Mitchell. The title says it all.

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell. It talks about how discount pricing is affecting us all, and it ain't good.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Baloney Head ... You Heard Me

Now this looks pretty cool. It would appear that Marvel has asked a group of indie comics people to take their own spin around the block with a Marvel character. Case in point would be Iron Man vs. Baloney Head and Liver-wurst Face. I do believe I'll have to pick up a copy. I thought I saw somewhere that it's coming out this Fall (maybe September?).

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wallet Found After 63 Years

Bill Fulton lost his wallet 63 years ago. It was found behind the bleachers of a middle school. Way to go cleaning crew. For 63 years they came up with excuses not to clean behind the bleachers. The wallet was found when the bleachers were removed for renovation. Mr. Fulton, 78, is confident that the condom inside the wallet is still good and plans to try it out at his first opportunity.

And then did you hear about the wallet found in Central Park after 27 years? It was found in a tree, stashed there by the pickpocket who took it during the 1982 NYC marathon.

What? There's no punchline. Move along, people.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Interstellar Mooning

Welcome back, moon. We missed ya. Here are a few of the first shots of the moon taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). These are basically just test shots taken near the moon's terminator (I'll be back ... er, the line between night and day, you are the one, only you beneath the moon or under the sun).

Click here to see NASA's article.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Girl Named Maria

Maria was ten when she moved in with another family. Her own family could no longer support her. Several years later her "foster" family had another child and they, in turn, could no longer support her. That's how she found herself with a marriage broker who connected her with a bachelor in the United States. She corresponded with the man and agreed to marry him, if he wired the money necessary for the voyage from Italy.

The family story says that Maria Mormile was sixteen when she headed to America. Checking online Ellis Island information, there was a 20-year-old Maria Mormile who went through Ellis Island in 1904 ... the year of her marriage. Is this the same Maria? Did she lie to the custom's officials? Did they record the wrong age? Or over the past century did the family misremember her age? It could be any of these. [Update. According to her husband's death certificate, Maria would have actually been sixteen in 1904 ... so I'm guessing she lied to get on the ship.]

But she did make the voyage, by herself, and took a train from the East Coast to Florence, Colorado. Then onto Rockvale, a coal-mining town. It wasn't until she got there that she learned of the lie. The picture she had received of a young Italian man was not the man who waited for her in Rockvale. No. The man who waited was much older and was hobbled, walking with a cane.

She refused to marry him, hiding away in a local hotel. It was a small mining town and news traveled quickly. Another bachelor, Angelo, heard of Maria's plight. The two talked and agreed to be married, once Angelo repaid Maria's expenses. And so Angelo "Harris" and Maria Mormile married on July 2, 1904.

No, Harris is not your typical Italian name. His real name was Ariasi. It was quite common for names to magically change at Ellis Island. It took just the scrawl of a pen on paper to suddenly have an Anglo-sounding name. And just as magically, Maria Mormile became Mary Harris. Though on Angelo's death certificate, his name reads: Angelo Ariasi (Harris).

Angelo and Maria Harris were my great grandparents. The parents of the grandmother I never met. My grandmother, Minnie, died when my dad was young.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wasted Daze

Sometimes I have a day where I don't remember one thing out of the ordinary. Not one thing stands out.

What a waste of a day.

But that's a matter of perception, of course. No matter how ordinary I think of the day, something extraordinary happened, but I failed to comment on it. Failed to note and remember it. Failed to see the wonderful that was there, waiting.

Right in front of me.

To me.

By me.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Comics Digest 1

Welcome to a new feature on this blog. The Comics Digest. Really it'll just be reviews of your modern-day comic book. But first, let me digress. I grew up reading comic books. My oldest brother (Jeff) collected comics when he was a kid and he was a major influence on my reading habits. However, I also found his stash of underground comix. Weird trippy tales with hardly a superhero to be found. Must say, they freaked me out a bit at the time. I'm sure I'm still scarred.

But that's not what this new blog feature is about. I read his superhero comics and started buying my own (can you technically buy "your own" when the money comes from your parents?). Loved comics. At one point I had subscriptions to six or seven comics while buying others at the PDQ. The crappy thing back then was that for subscriptions the distributor folded the comic in half to put it in a brown mailing sleeve. Who wants a folded-in-half comic book?

Well, at some point I lost interest in comic books. The price per issue was becoming obscene (back then that meant a single issue was going for something like $1.25. When I first started buying them they were $.20 and $.25 cents. Now comic publishers are toying with the idea of $3.99 for a single issue. Wow. But whatever the reason back then, I stopped buying them.

Fast forward a couple of years. I still love the idea of superhero comic books, I just haven't bought any in quite awhile. I stumble across (I don't even remember the first one I stumbled across) a collection of comic books reproduced in a trade paperback format. You get the entire story (let's say the story ran for eight issues of the comic book) collected in one place. Very cool.

Sorry, no embiggening - already full size

But that's not why I started buying them again. Comic books were/are a part of my childhood. In picking up the trade paperback I was hoping to somehow recapture some of that childhood magic. Step back in time for a moment. As we all know, that's much easier said than done. More often than not you pick up something from your childhood, let's say a book you loved, re-read it and find it to be utterly dreadful. Only a child could have loved that book. My heart breaks a little bit each time that happens.

Cue victory music. That didn't happen. I picked up a few collections here and there and I found that I enjoyed them. That they really did recapture that magic I felt as a kid. The stories (and the artwork) had grown up with me. Sure, they're cheesy at times, over-the-top, and even silly, but they're still good. Some of them, as I'll review later, are excellent. Are they great literature? A couple here and there actually come close. But in whole, no. They're comic books. They're the equivalent of Taco Bell versus authentic Mexican food. But man I loves me some Taco Bell. I can appreciate Taco Bell for exactly what it is - and it's awesome. So if you can read modern-day comic books for what they are, you might love them (again) as well.

With all that said, I'm going to provide my first review in the next edition of Comic Digest because, frankly, this post has gotten kinda long. But let me throw in a couple of review caveats:

  • I'm only going to review the comics that I enjoy. No bummer trips, unless something is so egregious, is such a slap in the face to readers, that it deserves to be called out.

  • Most of the collections/graphic novels that I review will be superhero in nature. That's what I geek to, man. I suspect comic-book snobs (oh, believe me, they exist) will shudder at many of my selections. I'm cool with that.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Buck Fiddy

Stumbled across this rather cool site about our fair city (Denver, that is). Here's a quick blurb:

Over the course of the upcoming season we will offer up our favorite 150 different expressions of the city, its neighborhoods, people, and culture. All media whether in image, text, or video will be published. Along the way, we’ll be offering up some opportunities for getting together to share some new stories and some whisky too.

So far I've read stories about the old City Spirits Cafe and Muddy's and My Brother's Bar and Chuck's Do-Nuts. A nifty mix between old and new. Click here to go there:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Laserbread Bridge

Um, so this guy in Denver (click here to see the pictures and his article) built a gingerbread bridge using a laser. Yes, a laser. First of all ... they sell lasers to regular people? He used the laser that a workshop club in Denver owns. The bridge looks quite amazing. And I totally want to play with the laser.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

She Has the Power

Yes, yes, I know, she has large eyes. Welcome to the world of comics. This was drawn by someone calling himself Rantz (Randy Kintz) [click here to see more of his stuff] - who is a professional penciler. I colored it using Corel Painter X. In the world of comics, the drawing (without color) is known as "pencils" (click here to see the pencil version). It's been drawn, but isn't ready for prime-time. The next stage is someone inking it (literally using pen or brush with ink to trace the pencil lines - though in this day and age, it's also done on computer now). After the pencils are inked, then a colorist would go to work. Most comics are colored on computers now. Every once in awhile, I like to color just for fun. It's like an adult coloring book.

Oh, she's known as Power Girl and she may or may not be the cousin of Kal-El (Superman).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Donder is Pissed

In the original Clement Clarke Moore tale Twas the Night before Christmas: A Visit from St. Nicholas we have the following:

Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

The name was (and is) Donder ... not Donner. Just thought I'd clarify that. In case, you know, you were worried about it or anything. So in the Rudolph Christmas special, that would make Rudolph's dad being Donder. Not Donner. You know, in case you were worried. Next we'll discuss the deplorable living conditions of the reindeer, living in bleak unfurnished caves.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Geek Times Infinity

Found this on Gizmodo. It puts into perspective the awesome achievements of mankind:

Click the image to see some really cool details.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Don't Worry, I'll Grow More

Being the son of a man who had a heart transplant (and a bad ticker since his 40s - I'm now 45), I've been hoping for some medical breakthrough to make bypass surgery and, you know, stuff related to the heart ... um ... well ... easier. More reliable. Less intrusive. And all that jazz. At least five years ago I read reports about a patch of your own tissue, grown in a lab, that could be slapped onto the side of your heart where your arteries are clogged and it would start growing blood vessels and create your own bypass. No taking veins from your legs and making them act as arteries for your heart. Well, over five years later, I haven't heard anything new about that procedure. In fact, I don't hear anything at all about it anymore. Instead, doctors are using balloons to enlarge clogged arteries and placing stents in there and still doing "old-fashioned" bypasses.

But now I'm hoping the trachea has just opened the door for, not only the heart, but all kinds of "regenerative" surgery for one's body. In case you haven't heard about it, click here to read a CNN article about it. They used her own stem cells to grow a windpipe for her and then transplant it into her body. Now I'm not expecting them to grow new organs, but why couldn't they grow your own blood vessels for grafting onto your heart? I sure don't know, I ain't the science guy, but I would think it's getting closer to reality. And if they're just trying to graft a section of your own lab-grown tissue, could it not be attached non-surgically? Instead of stitching it into place, you "glue" it over the clogged arteries and wait for it to start attaching blood vessels to your heart. Maybe that could mean some type of arthroscopic heart surgery instead of the full-blown open-heart surgery.

And maybe monkeys'll fly out of my butt. Though, honestly, I'm guessing new heart procedures are much closer to reality than anus monkeys.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thank You Very Much

Well, I guess we should thank them. These three men helped usher in the new Democrats. Without them, Dems wouldn't be running all three [sorry, just two - executive and legislative] branches of government (well, as of January 20, 2009). So thanks, fellas.

I'm still undecided, however, how to characterize them. Are they evil or just incredibly stupid? Or both. And I'm being serious. I would love to know if they were going about the destruction of the country (and parts of the world) thinking they were doing the right thing, but were simply too stupid. Or did they set out to help their friends (corporation, oil, etc.) and they just didn't care what the hell happened to the country or the world? I lean towards thinking that Iraq was all a ploy to drive up the price of oil to give Bush's oil buddies one last hurrah. Even these numbnuts know that oil is on a downward slide. Alternatives must (and certainly will) be found (I hope). So Bush did everything he could to make sure his buddies got their golden parachutes before the world heads away from an oil economy.

Now we have the Democrat Triumvirate [nope, no triumvirate, as noted earlier]. I honestly feel immensely relieved. But I'm also scared. Yes, Dems govern better than Republicans, but when you're the sole power, it's so easy to get full of yourselves. So to Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi, all I have to say is: Don't be jackasses. Do the right thing. Remember that the MAJORITY of this country is in the middle. We have the right-wing nuts and the left-wing wackos, but most of us are stuck in the middle. Don't be too liberal, or the House will be back in Republican hands by 2010 or 2012. As with most things in life, moderation is a good thing. Yes, we'll need bold immoderate leadership in the beginning to get us out of this hell that Bush put us in. But please, please, please remember where most of us live ... in the middle.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New Hope

Man, I haven't felt this much pride in my state

or my country in a long time. It doesn't wash away the Bush years, unfortunately, but it is a time of hope and relief.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Early Worm


As of yesterday, November 3, here are the stats for early voters in Colorado:

Percentage of registered voters sent mail-in (absentee) ballots: 62% (wow)
In-person ballots cast: 365,215
Mail-in (absentee) ballots cast: 1,339,065 (82% have been cast)

That's 64.6% of registered voters.

Click here to go there.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Water, "Whoa, dude."

Just watch this.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

There's Batusi Flyin' All Over the Place

For whatever reason (and, really, who needs a reason?), Ty Buttars got some artist pals together to do their rendition of the Batusi. Here's the original:

And here's one of the new ones, featuring the ever-lovin' blue-eyed ...

This is a watercolor done by Evan (Doc) Shaner. Click here to see other stuff he's done.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I've Been Processed!

Well, Jefferson County has acknowledged my mail-in ballot, telling me it was received and processed on October 15. I can finally sleep at night.

And we just had a big rain and thunderstorm, which is pretty rare for this late into October (the thunder part).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Absenteeism at its Finest

Gotta love the absentee ballot. No, really, you gotta! Okay, well, I love it. My wife, step-daughter, and myself voted two days ago. I even got to wear the little "I Voted" sticker (nice touch voter people!).

Now don't get me wrong, without the absentee ballot I still would have voted, trundling on down to my polling place and casting my vote in person. But it's nice having this option. The last time I showed up in person was when my polling place switched to computerized voting four years ago (or so). Had to try it out. But my voting of choice has been the mail-in ballot, which I've used for many years now.

And now you can check online to see if they received it. Well, you can if you live in Jefferson County, Colorado. Shall we check? Okay, let's see, you click on this link right here: All right, now let's see. It's not really clear what you click on next. Ah, the big link at the top of the page that says: Look up my Voter Registration (woulda thought that meant your registration, not your ballot, but under it you'll see it says you can track your ballot).

Click (ain't this exciting?!).

Okay, enter my birthday (shhh, no telling) and my address number and click Search. Waiting a long time and ... hey, it's my voter information (though my name is not listed, which is probably a good thing). Shows that my voting status is Active and that I'm a Democrat (huh, who'da thought?) and ... that they have not received and processed my ballot yet. Ack.

Well, hang in there kids, we'll see what they have to say tomorrow (or maybe later today).

Stupid anti-climaxes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

John McPenguin

Uh, this is just too scary (if you want to cut to the punchline, just watch the second one):

Saturday, October 4, 2008

You Betcha

Fargo, North Alaska:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

It Ends Here - Let's Hope Metaphorically

The end of the world never looked so cool. This is an inside view of the Large Hadron Collider.

Some think there's a possibility that when fully functional (sometime next year) and they (the science guys, that's their official title) start pissing off protons by throwing them at each other at ridiculously high speeds (99.999999% the speed of light) that the LHC could, well, create a blackhole right here on Earth, pretty much destroying us all. But you gotta admit, the picture is way cool. Note the man at the bottom. This thing is friggin' huge!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008