Has the e-book killed cover art?

Before anybody yells at me and calls me Luddite, let me just say I have the tech and the streams, etc. BUT:

I still maintain that album cover art was A LOT better for records than it was for cds, and that liner notes were better (the ones for cds were basically micro printed and I hated them). CDs had better cover art than anything you can stream, though with streaming at least you get readable notes.

I’m starting to believe that e-books have killed off book cover art. There were some new editions of beloved classics in recent years with covers that made me shriek. But today I think I may have found the worst example ever.

Little backstory: I have decided that in 2023, I am going to reread Sci-Fi books that felt pretty life-changing the first time I read them. The first one I picked was Solaris by Stanislaus Len. I figured, well hell, that book is so old, there have to be paperback copies everywhere. I’ll just go grab one.

Google of course kept shoving me towards kindle versions on Amazon. I resisted. But then I discovered the monstrosity that is the currently marketed cover for the book, and I died inside a little. You see what I mean here in this little progression.

this is the first paperback cover. Pretty cool, suggests something important about the book.

I didn’t read this version. I read the following version, back when I was in high school in the 1980s, one summer, in between dodging my parents who wanted to me work (always best avoided) at various things.

Still good, right? This cover I found at Goodreads, and I think it’s damn good.

So when I go over to Barnes and Noble to look at their inventory for a new paperback copy, I don’t find much, but the site is pushing the e-book on me, but with this cover, oy to the vey God help us:

Ok, yes, a large part of novel is about the narrator being tormented by sad memories of lost love, but this….no. I know lots of people like the 2002 movie, but I don’t, and I REALLY think we do this book a disservice by giving it a romance novel cover.

Now, regular readers will know that I am perfectly happy reading trashy books. I have nothing against romance novels. But this is way not a romance novel. It’s not even a happy novel—Lem is Polish and the Poles didn’t have a ton of things to be happy about, and this novel, brilliant though it is, is not happy.

Am I just being an Oldy. McOldface or are other people bothered by this? The only explanation I have for it is that ebooks are a big part of the market, and nobody pays attention to ebook covers. I don’t. Do you? So why put in the time and money to get art done when nobody is looking?

I have told myself a dozen times that the cover doesn’t matter, that I should grow up and just deal with the kissy face cover.

But I may have found an old copy at the Independence public library, and I think I may just check out that one.

A few things the Hallmark Christmas movies seem to get right

A few years ago, we had to sit through the endless online deconstructions of how Love, Actually is terrible et al because all the relationships aren’t healthy (of course not) and that got kinda tedious. FWIW, there are some fantastic love stories in that movie if you ignore the romantic ones: Liam Neeson and his little guy, the one lady who yearns for one of her office colleague loves her disabled brother without reservation, Emma Thompson’s character loves her kids enough to hide her own heartbreak to make sure their Сhristmas pageant memories are good, etc.

So now we have the memes making fun of Hallmark channel movies, about how the big city girl should stick with her job and avoid her loser high school boyfriend, where were those loser boyfriends on Jan 6, etc. Those are all funny, but I have THOTS and this here is where I share them, so here we go.

First off, as solidly red as rural areas are, let’s not act like all the major metro areas aren’t surrounded by wealthy suburbs absolutely teeming with Trumpers, and a lot of them at that. Take a look at a bunch of the organizers getting sentenced in Jan 6. They are not redneck stump jumpers necessarily. I looked up some Iowa defendants—of 6, four are from the largest cities in the state or their suburbs, and the one who is very likely going to jail is from Des Moines. (The CA defendants are split about 50-50 between major cities (2 out of 53 are from Beverly Hills and I don’t think they are married, but not sure; 2 are from Huntington Beach (no surprises there, etc. etc.

So while I am surrounded in low-density rural Iowa by people who are definitely voting for the wrong guy, it looks uniform because there are so few people per square mile. The big metros are contributing whackos aplenty, though, and I think it’s time the FBI and Homeland investigate Yale Law School as a radicalizing organization.

The second thing the movies get right: breakups. Maybe I haven’t seen a sufficient number of them, but I feel like I’ve sampled pretty widely, and in general, the city guy who gets dumped is a complete gentleman and behaves decently about the entire thing. The breakup happens because the individual members of the couple want different things—and to be honest, I don’t really see that Hallmark really judges the city guy for wanting what he wants. In my experience wanting different things is a REALLY VALID reason to go your separate ways in a relationship. And if we want to help men find models for behavior that aren’t based in toxic tropes, we could in general do worse than the dumped city slicker whose reactions are reasonable, supportive, and consist of a largely of a wistful backwards glance…and that’s all.

Finally, that high-powered city job is often not particularly good, lets be real. It seems to me that a lot of women in these movies have middling corporate jobs. It’s not like they are CEOS or upper management making boatloads. Instead, they answer to a shitty boss and their offices are, as often as not, in cubicle-farms. In a LOT of US cities, jobs like these allow these women to work themselves to death for a salary that covers housing and not all that much else. Big whoop if you are surrounded by urban delights and a million restaurants if you can’t afford to go to any of them.

No, I don’t think it’s particularly realistic that you can afford to make a living in your small-town Poinsetta Farm/Cookie Bakery/Flower shop but…the urban hustle of working long hours into the night gets PUH-LENTY of air time in US television.

My point isn’t really that rural life is great and wonderful and whatnot. My point is that her job in the city sucks because most jobs suck. Just saying.

As for me, I’m really forking cold because it’s snowing. But it is pretty.

“It’s only an animal”

Oh, bug off.

Since I began rescuing animals about a decade ago, I’ve heard a lot of stupid crap, and the stupid crap I’d like to address today is the “it’s only an animal” comment. You know them, the people who respond to friends grieving over a lost pet with impatience and comments like this.

These people think they have their priorities straight, and anybody who grieves over an animal doesn’t. After all, it’s not like a person died. It’s just an animal.

Here’s the deal: these people do not have their priorities straight. Because if they did, they’d shut their face and support their friend through their grief—because even if you think an animal’s life or suffering doesn’t matter, your friend’s grief does matter. Nobody ever, not once, ever in the history of the world ever stopped feeling grief because somebody told them to. They just learned to hide it, which is about the comfort and convenience of those around them, nothing else.

People who treat their friends like their problems are dumb or inconsequential are bad friends.

Beyond that, I don’t have any need to prioritize what I love or care for. I’m not Sophie in Sophie’s Choice—thank heaven. The love I give to a dog or a cat or a lizard is not a lizard-or dog- or cat-sized amount of love taken out from the finite amount of love I have available, gone forever, squandered on an animal when it could have gone to a precious human. My ability to love gets bigger, not smaller, the more I do it. My time and energy may be finite, so I can’t take care of everything and everybody—and love may involve recognizing those limits —but my capacity for love is, I’ve found, pretty damn capacious.

If yours isn’t…well, that must be nice….I guess.

I can simultaneously be sad a gorilla is shot dead to protect a child AND be overjoyed the child is ok. I’m rich and complex in how I love and care.

If you are not…ok.

But don’t judge my kind by your kind.

How I would reform the US Supreme Court

Attention conservation notice; if you want to skip the rant-y bits, skip to the two numbered points.

So SCOTUS this week did everything women said they were going to only to be met with “OH SHUT UP THAT WON’T EVER HAPPEN STOP BEING SO HISTRIONIC YOU DUMB BITCHES” and here we are.

The court has been captured by religious minorities in the US who are also welll-funded. The Court has always, however, been stupidly undemocratic, and it should be reformed.

Five of the six people who voted for the garbage we got this week (STATE’S RIGHTS…but not with guns) and (ERMERGERD YOU CAN’T FORCE PEOPLE TO GET A VACCINE IT’S A BIG GIANT MEDICAL PROSHEDURRRR but giving birth? Meh, NBD, right?) were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote.

So here’s a start on how to fix it:

1. End lifetime appointments. Replace it with a well-enumerated 8-year term. That way when you get complete duds like Clarence Thomas or Anthony Scalia, they eventually cycle out and those of us who read their opinions aren’t stuck reading their garbage reasoning and terrible writing for decades.

2. Select judges at random from the circuit courts instead of through presidential appointments. That way you get judges that have been in a court room instead of the fed society professor types. I am a professor type, I think profs can do great things and I have no patience for the whole academic practitioner sandbox fights, but in this case, various law schools have a stranglehold on the court, and it’s time that stopped.

Yes, a lot of those circuit court judges are also religious weirdos but it’s a much bigger pool and it decreases the likelihood that the fed society can do what they did with Amy Coney Barrett—groom them from undergrad to do exactly what she just did—and Brett Whatshisface—brought to us by his lifetime of relentless ass-kissing.

I don’t think necessarily that expanding the court changes what needs to be changed. There are an endless line of fed society drones with their palms out willing to sell out women and minorities to feather their nest with a SCOTUS appointment. I don’t think it makes any difference to have the votes go 16 to 13 as long as SCOTUS is a sinecure for conservatives from Yale and UChicago and the religious unis.

Fiddling around with Japanese multiplication

I lurve the idea of teaching students lots of methods for solving math problems because I just plain love math problems and I can’t help but think that there has got to be a better way of teaching concepts than the humorless, awful, dry, disempowering way I was taught. Follow the blue box. OR ELSE. You will be WRONG. WRONGITY WRONG WRONG WRONG. Oh, don’t fret, dear, girls aren’t good at math anyway. Yeah, maybe because boys in my childhood were the only people raised with the kind of self-esteem and security that lets you face that kind of instruction.

ANYHOO, I will watch “new math” tutorials online until my eyeballs bleed because they are so fun and I am so curious. I decided over the weekend to take a whack at the visual line-factoring method that is variously referred to as “Japanese multiplication.” I really couldn’t find out whether it was Japanese or not, or who was the originator of it; most websites are focused on teaching you the how and why of it, not the history of it. But whoever made it up, good job.

The method is explained very well here. In sum, you draw out lines for each digit of each number in one direction, and then you draw outline lines for each digit of the multiplier crossing the first, and then you add the intersections of the lines that occur at specific locations: the hundreds, tens, and ones.

I didn’t happen upon this site until I had been noodling around a little bit and gotten myself in a little trouble, and then that site made sense: it’s not an efficient method for numbers with large digits: I got myself in trouble pretty fast getting ambitious with 973 x 819. It’s not that it doesn’t work; it’s that it’s a PITA to draw all those damn lines and count up all the intersections, and it gets messy. AHA. So THAT’S why all the exemplars are things like that 321 x 123.

It’s not an efficient method of calculation, but it is a very good way to understand what is actually happening with multiplication. Using this method, you see how factors work. So you don’t really need to do examples with the larger digits–you can just use the standard algorithm or a ubiquitous calculator if you want to calculate efficiently.

Did Elizabeth Warren spoil things for Bernie Sanders (by the numbers)

Sorry I have been MIA. I’ve been having procedures that suck.

Ok, there is no way this “Spoiler” question gets answered just with primary outcomes simply because of things like momentum and other things that are pretty intangible, but I remember a lot of kvetching from Bernie camp about Warren. My own position on this is that

  • Primaries are there to let people get on the big national stage, get their name out there, etc, and that a lot of the kvetching about Warren as a spoiler amounted to “Girls shouldn’t run for public office, let alone for the big chair” and
  • If you can’t win the primaries, decisively, then you are going to get routed in the generals.

but I always planned to go back and look at the states where not having Warren in the race would have made a difference for Sanders. I put together data from Wikipedia—I am assuming these are probably fine. If they aren’t, then let me know a better source. From this I patched together a Google sheet that got so messy I am loathe to share it. If you really want it, email me.

I’m going to go forward with the assumption that every single Warren vote would have gone to Sanders and not Biden or Bloomberg, which is a pretty big assumption, but I don’t actually have a good reason to parse the votes any differently.

It looks like Biden walked off with a total of 19,080,152 votes and Sanders got 9,680,042, so that the overall vote gap was 9,400,110. Warren got 2,831,566. So the aggregate level isn’t even interesting, even if you dump in Bloomberg at 2,493,523. (Sanders plus Warren plus Bloomberg would put the gap between Biden and Sanders at 4,075,021. Why in heaven’s name did people vote for Bloomberg? Why do people think rich buttheads from New York are good candidates? Why? And BTW, I am not in any way of the mind that rich buttholes from California would be any better. )

So going state by state, I calculated the gap between Biden and Sanders and compared it to Warren’s vote take. Then I compared: which was bigger? I threw out states with caucuses because those are weird and I threw out states that Sanders won. I found there were six states where Warren not being in the race might have helped Sanders: Maine, Massachusetts (the state she reps), Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington. But, Bloomberg actually beat Warren in Texas and Oklahoma–in Texas, he beat her by kind of a lot.

The plot below shows the votes needed and votes available if you kick out either Warren (W) or Bloomberg (B). So there are two states that stand out: Texas and Massachusetts and they split between Warren and Bloomberg.

So who was the spoiler for Sanders? I think the argument is that the people who voted for Bloomberg would never vote for Sanders, and that Bloomberg was a spoiler for Biden if anybody. But I’m not sure about that–Trumpism is populism led by a rich guy from New York, and I don’t think the left is immune from becoming enamored of rich dudes from New York. Nobody asked whether Bloomberg had any business running, and nobody that I followed ever ragged on him to endorse Sanders the way Sanders people went after Warren to do so. Misogyny, of course.

But also, I think a lot of the Bernie people just didn’t watch Bloomberg too terribly closely, and it’s one of the blindspots that I think needs to get some attention. Bloomberg is arguably more of a center-right candidate that Barack Obama was. The idea that somehow challengers from the left would drain much from Sanders, as well as the grumbling about “centrist democrats”–a straw man construct that online lefties like whip for their (legitimate) gripes with the Democrats–masks the fact that the center among Democrats is actually pretty big swath of difference in policy positions if you are going to count Warren as a “centrist” when Democrats like Bloomberg are getting the vote take they are.

Are you watching The Repair Shop? You should be.

I don’t have any data things to relate today, just a recommendation.

The Repair Shop is…”reality tv”, very light, about the heirloom restorers who work at the Weald and Downland Living Museum in Singleton, West Sussex. I LURVE it. I love to watch people make and fix things. It’s the only kind of reality TV I can stomach.

It is hokey, but it’s awfully sweet to see how attached people are to the material things of their family history. I have absolutely nothing like that from my family, and Andy has only one or two things. I want to be best friends and have tea with the ladies who fix teddy bears. I want to to ask ask Suzie Fletcher, who fixes leather, if she wants to be my girlfriend (whooooo! Leather! Wheee!)

Mostly, it’s nice and wholesome and it is very, very reassuring to me at the moment that broken things might be repaired.

It also makes me think about material culture and the things that are worth treasuring.

By way of getting something visual on this post that I don’t have to steal off the inter webs, here is my attempt to save something–I made Andy candy corn socks for Halloween a few years ago, but an evil moth got in and at holes in them. So I darned them. I am pleased with them.

Hey, Jay Blades, if you need a fabric restorer, look me up.

I maybe should have just cut the toes off and re-knit the toes but he’s wearing them, so….if it rocks, we use it.

In which I draw to learn Celsius because I’m kinda pathetic that way

I was part of the Gen X world who experienced that brief moment in time when the US educational system decided it was going to become like a normal country and start using metric. I absolutely loved it. It made so much sense, and to this day, I can move readily between volume, distance, and weight measures quite readily.

The problem has *always* been Celsius. It means nothing to me. I don’t mean doing the conversion. I can do that. It’s just in reading or conversation, I just don’t have a sense of whether a measurement in Celsius is relatively hot or relatively cold. I have always felt very bad about this, and always assumed someday I’d have a better grasp of it. But it hasn’t come.

One of my most wonderful students Dustin Wong who has traveled at lot but is I believe originally from Singapore overhead me describe this problem, and he said to me “Fahrenheit means nothing to me.” Since I’m pretty sure Dustin is 40 times smarter than me (Dustin actually has a legit shot at TRULY being the Smartest urbanist in the room), his comment made me feel much better.

I was stuck at the cancer center waiting and waiting and waiting for my imaging appointment and I decided to take myself in hand and try to learn what Celsius means relative to my own understanding of temperature (what I call “the Lisadex”) and Fahrenheit. Also, I decided to do a silly font because waiting at the cancer center is depressing and blows.

The result follows:

Empire compared for no reason

I couldn’t really find a dataset I wanted to fiddle with this week, and I’m feeling rotten, so I just did a little drawing of some empires. Now, I just Googled around for some general timelines, and I think one reason why the Mayan Empire is so long is the way people have constructed the definition of the Mayan Empire, but it’s still old. It might be that it is more like 3,000 (like Egyptian) but…I did what I did.

Mostly, I got kind of interested in the over-emphasis that the Roman Emperors get. If you include Byzantium, yes, the time period is long, but I guess I still don’t see Byzantine leaders studied and storied as much the emperors of the western empire. The Republic by this accounting actually held out at little bit longer. The Emperor period seems longer I think just because there are so many Emperors, largely because they murdered each other left and right.

Anyhoodily I’m sure there empire in SE Asia and throughout Africa that deserve a bar here, these are just the ones that popped into my head when I was drawing this morning. (Keep in mind, these are compared for no reason other than I am stuck in bed feeling like garbage today.

If you have one you want to me do, feel free to email me.