Archive for December 8, 2008

Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #468: End Of Days

December 8, 2008

Vauxhall Insignia 2.8 V6
An adequate way to drive to hell

Yes, this is a car columnist. Yes, this is a column about cars.

It also presents the most frank assessment of our economic doom.

I have spoken to a couple of pretty senior bankers in the past couple of weeks and their story is rather different. They don’t refer to the looming problems as being like 1992 or even 1929. They talk about a total financial meltdown. They talk about the End of Days.

Emphasis added by me.


It is impossible for someone who scored a U in his economics A-level to grapple with the consequences of all this but I’m told that in simple terms money will cease to function as a meaningful commodity. The binary dots and dashes that fuel the entire system will flicker and die. And without money there will be no business. No means of selling goods. No means of transporting them. No means of making them in the first place even. That’s why another friend of mine has recently sold his London house and bought somewhere in the country . . . with a kitchen garden.

These, as I see them, are the facts. Planet Earth thought it had £10. But it turns out we had only £2. Which means everyone must lose 80% of their wealth. And that’s going to be a problem if you were living on the breadline beforehand.

Eventually, of course, the system will reboot itself, but for a while there will be absolute chaos: riots, lynchings, starvation. It’ll be a world without power or fuel, and with no fuel there’s no way the modern agricultural system can be maintained. Which means there will be no food either. You might like to stop and think about that for a while.

Emphasis added by me.

Oh, you can read it again and again and wonder if his tongue is planted in his cheek. That’s what the Brits are very, very good at doing. But reading through it carefully, all to the end, and no, he’s telling the truth you won’t see on front pages.

Update: Jeremy Clarkson on car sales decline — here’s a BBC video with him on the radio briefly mentioning key points written above. You decide. I don’t see tongue-in-cheek. (Thanks to Alan Pritt for this!)

Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #467: Slingshot

December 8, 2008

The $7 trillion question
Do expansive federal bailout plans doom Americans to an inflationary future?

NEW YORK (Fortune) — A billion dollars here, $7 trillion there: How long till Uncle Sam has to cry “uncle?”

For now, frightened investors worldwide continue to gobble up U.S. Treasury bonds, and they aren’t much concerned about the impact of all the obligations the U.S. government is taking on to try and head off economic catastrophe.

But the government printing money, lending money to shaky corporations and guaranteeing debt that may never be repaid all could have troubling consequences in the not-too-distant future.

The No. 1 concern: Even if actions taken by the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury succeeds at stabilizing the global financial system, and an economic recovery takes hold, a brutal inflationary spike will be right around the corner.

“Inflation is the 8,000-pound gorilla in the room,” said Gary Hager, president of Integrated Wealth Management in New Jersey. “We’re sitting in the room with the coffee cups vibrating.”

In that environment, long-term interest rates would soar, the value of the U.S. dollar would plummet, policy makers would face a whole new set of challenges.

Emphasis added by me.

Pay attention. This is the brutal truth you will be facing:

“Everyone is going to lose something,” said Will Hepburn, president and chief investment officer of Hepburn Capital Management in Prescott, Ariz. “The winners will be those who end up losing the least.”

Emphasis added by me.

Here’s what’s already gone:

Hepburn gives federal officials “bonus points” for concocting innovative responses to the credit crunch. The ongoing collapse of U.S. stock market and real estate values, he said, has slashed U.S. household wealth by at least $10 trillion – and those paper losses could go much higher before the swoon ends.

Emphasis added by me.

How’s that 401K looking these days? What will be left of it tomorrow?

Taleb said things could happen fast. Here’s the recent history:

But Hager notes that it was only four months ago that oil cost $100 a barrel more than its recent $47, which shows how quickly market dynamics can change.

What’s more, he said, while people are still struggling to figure out the costs tied to starting up and overseeing the government bailouts, no one seems to have put much thought to an equally important endeavor – how the government withdraws the massive support it has offered the markets in the event its efforts start to bear fruit.

While efforts to thaw the credit markets are taking effect slowly, Tom Sowanick, chief investment officer at Clearbrook Financial, sees a risk that they could suddenly become much more effective, leading to a jump in prices and a selloff in the dollar.

“The economy’s in a bit of a slingshot,” said Sowanick. “We are looking at a high probability of inflation issues ahead.”

Emphasis added by me.

But this is what I want you to remember of this post:

“Everyone is going to lose something. The winners will be those who end up losing the least.”

Emphasis added by me.

If they have their way, we will lose the most. I say let’s all be losers — so we can all be winners.

iPhone Stanza: Free Charlie Huston eBooks!

December 8, 2008

Random House Publishing Group Makes Free Titles Available on Lexcycle’s Stanza Reader

New York, NY – December 8, 2008 — The Random House Publishing Group and Lexcycle, Inc., jointly announced today that Random House and Ballantine will be the first major book publishers to make full-length books available for free on iPhone through Lexcycle Stanza, the most popular electronic book reader for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch.

This promotion will allow over 500,000 Stanza users to enjoy free eBooks from a varied list of authors including Alan Furst, Julie Garwood, Charlie Huston, David Liss, Laurie Notaro, Arthur Phillips and Simon Rich. The initial offerings will be drawn from each author’s backlist and will include excerpts for any new hardcovers coming in 2009. Random House is providing links to retailers like Amazon, Barnes and,, and to encourage readers to purchase more books by these authors.

“A free eBook is a great way to sample a new writer, and help spread the word,” says Charlie Huston, whose novels ‘Caught Stealing’, ‘Six Bad Things’, and ‘A Dangerous Man’ will all be available on Stanza. “Besides, it’s good to give things away. They’re books. We write them for people to read them.”

Emphasis added by me.



I’ve previously posted about free Charlie Huston eBooks:

Second Free Charlie Huston eBook!
Free eBook By Charlie Huston!

What’s exciting about this new Stanza way of getting them is that they aren’t in PDF format! Apparently they’re in glorious ePub, which will make them even more exciting to read!

And don’t forget: It’s not necessary to buy an iPhone. All of this will work with an iPod Touch too!

I’m Back In Firefox 2.x

December 8, 2008

Yes, Chrome was faster.

But the UI feedback just sucks.

I had tabs sit there blank. I had one tab not want to close or switch to Google(!). I just could not get used to New Tab going to the right of the current one and not all the way to the right.

At the bottom left of Fox, when I go to any site, I get a very detailed enunciation of everyfrikkinthing that’s being switched through to build the site. With Chrome, I’d only get the the main URL. I’d have no idea of what was delaying anything.

iTweet gave me refresh errors and was slower than Twitterfox. Plus, it seemed to arrange tweets in a tossed salad fashion. I kept missing tweets. Since I’ve gone back to Firefox, I’ve found two Private tweets I didn’t see in iTweet.

So, Firefox 2.x — slow as shit, yes. But my brain has been sutured to it.

eBooks: Penguin Does 2.0

December 8, 2008

Penguin Launches Penguin 2.0, iPhone App; Stanza Deal with Random House

The bigger news comes from Penguin Group USA, which today announced a new program it is calling Penguin 2.0, Called by CEO David Shanks, “the next evolution of the Penguin brand,” the Penguin 2.0 initiative at this point includes two programs, both centered around a new section of the Penguin Web site:, which will feature a new blog and access to exclusive Penguin content, including enhanced e-books, videos and special print products.

So I went there:


Of interest to me was choice 3, Enriched eBooks.

And of the eight(!) titles, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle caught my eye:


At US$9.95, what does it offer?

Penguin Enriched eBook Classics Features:

* How to Navigate Guide
* Upton Sinclair Chronology
* Filmography and 1914 The Jungle Film Poster
* Early Twentieth-Century Reviews of The Jungle
* Upton Sinclair’s Letter to the Editor of The New York Times
* Suggested Further Reading
* The Jungle and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906
* The Jungle Book Cover Designs
* Federal Food and Drugs Act of 1906
* Immigrants and the Meatpacking Industry, Then and Now
* Images of the Chicago Stockyards
* Images of Cuts of Beef and Pork
* Enriched eBook Notes

Ummmm … “Images of Cuts of Beef and Pork”???? What?

As for “Upton Sinclair’s Letter to the Editor of The New York Times.” it’s right here, for free, in this PDF link.

What about the book itself?

It’s been scanned by Google and the OCRed text is at the Internet Archive and in HTML at Project Gutenberg.

But would I want either of those?

I’ve pointed out the silliness of at least two of the “extras,” but I will admit that I would pay for a professionally-formatted eBook of The Jungle.

Would I pay Penguin’s ten bucks?

I don’t know.

On the one hand, that would encourage them to add material I don’t want or need to boost the sales price. That would also enable them to claim a floor on eBook pricing and then slap higher prices on newly-published eBooks, saying those prices are no worse than paying $10.00 for something “free.”


On the other hand, I do want professionally-formatted eBooks. And since The Jungle is in the public domain — and I’ve already read it and have no pressing need for it as an eBook right now — I could wait to see if someone else comes along with a less-expensive eBook edition.

Given that the extras aren’t so compelling to me, I’d be inclined to pass up Penguin’s edition and wait.

Here’s a hint, Penguin: Lower prices!


The eBook Tax: Some Publishers Want Hardcover Prices to Be Ebook Pricing Standard

Previously here:

Penguin Books Does iPhone App

R.I.P. TV Director Bob Spiers

December 8, 2008

Ab Fab director Spiers dies at 63

Bob Spiers, who directed classic TV sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, has died at the age of 63 after a long illness.

— via Twitter from stephenfry

I’m Using Google Chrome Today

December 8, 2008

And I’m all bollixed up.

I’m used to the way Firefox 2.x (the only version this PC can use without going to its knees, mostly) does things. I miss the lower-right hand green progress bar.

Things are considerably faster, but it’s all also making me slightly dizzy, with everything looking and acting differently.

I had to go Chrome after being told by three people in charge of Teleread that the site in fact loads quickly — and not aggravatingly-slow as it always does for me. Chrome has confirmed Firefox is terrible.

I also miss Twitterfox.

I’m using iTweet, but it’s very disorienting. It’s giving me refresh problems and I feel like I’m not directly plugged into my Twitterstream.

Expect missed tweets and late or even no replies.

Dan Menaker Knows The Book Score!

December 8, 2008

Q&A with former Random House EIC Dan Menaker

I really hate linking to anything HarperCollins, but this interview is with someone so sharp, so bright, it’d be criminal of me not to.

It’s his closing reply that is Killer:

Can you envision a future in which people would simply self-publish online without the help of an editor or publisher?

No, but I can and do see something closer to this than the model we have now, which appears at the moment to be breaking up like Arctic ice. I see consortiums of writers or single, bankable writers selling their books, e-books, directly–especially if the techies can come up with non-print-outable and non-forwardable texts–and paying editors and publicists and marketers to help them with editing and marketing. No more 15% royalties–each sale, at, say, $9.95, might well mean $8 or $9 revenues for the author. Probably can’t happen exactly that way, though: bootlegging and all.

Emphasis added by me.


This guy is brilliant. He knows of Ted Nelson and Nassim Taleb!

Go run over there and read!

Help Save A Writer’s Home!

December 8, 2008

Writer John Scalzi: A Story For a Donation: Fiction to Help Save an SF Writer’s Home

Short Explanation: Science fiction writer and publisher Vera Nazarian is about to lose her home due to various medical and legal expenses. Various folks are fund raising to help her make the payment on her home. My contribution is to offer you a free short story behind the cut below. If you like it, consider donating a small sum via PayPal, which I will send to Vera next Saturday. For the first $1000 sent to the PayPal via the address provided in this entry, Subterranean Press will match the contribution 1-for-1, effectively doubling your donation.

I checked my soon-to-go-bye-bye PayPal account.

I had a whopping $1.68 in it.

I gave a dollar (hoping the sixty-eight cents will keep the account alive long enough for later monetary CPR…).

If you have more in your account, give more.

Now is the time for all you smiley-smiley people to show your true colors.

Be very generous.