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Comment: Re:Equally suspect (Score 1) 173

by AthanasiusKircher (#47572157) Attached to: Amazon's eBook Math

People who have enough of a passion for books to become professionals in the industry often do not understand just how little they mean to most of their customers, when it really comes down to it. Books may not be fungible by author, but entertainment overall is.

The question is -- why do you think Amazon needs to force these prices, then? If publishers are charging too much, people won't buy, and the publishers go out of business, making room for those with better pricing.

On the other hand, what if customers are willing to pay the extra $5 or $10 or $50 for a particular book? If the publisher is okay making money at the prices it selects, why do we need Amazon to intervene in the free market?

Suppose you were trying to find a new job as a programmer. You go to a headhunter. You say you want at least $50/hour. The headhunter says, "Sorry, you can only charge $10/hour. No programmer is worth more than that. We did surveys and discovered that companies would ship labor to India and pay $10/hour for random programmers there, rather than pay more."

You object, and say that you want the headhunter to look for jobs on your terms. You have 20 years of experience, managed large project teams, and are personally responsible for the core code in some popular mathematical analysis package. Also, you don't live in a small village in India, you live in the middle of Manhattan and need a higher salary to live. "Doesn't matter," comes the reply, "No programmer is worth more than $10/hour."

Now imagine that headhunter is responsible for finding most people in the world their jobs. It doesn't matter who you are... but you're not allowed to charge more than $10/hour. It doesn't matter if your training and education would require you to make at least $20/hour or $50/hour or whatever to recoup those costs over a lifetime... it doesn't matter if you're actually better and the companies might be willing to pay $75/hour for you, if they could only find you. All that matter is the headhunter with the database monopoly on candidates says you can't get a salary of more than $10/hour.

You really think that system would lead to better quality work or give incentive for high quality work? You really think we should let the headhunter decide how you're allowed to market yourself? If you ask too much, you simply won't get a job. For books, why not let publishers choose? If they overcharge, the market will fix it... I can't understand why people want to defend Amazon's greedy monopolistic bullying.

Comment: Re:Disengenous (Score 1) 173

by AthanasiusKircher (#47572055) Attached to: Amazon's eBook Math

There is no reason that any of these services need to be, or should be, bundled with "publishing". There are plenty of people offering these services, either per-page, or for an hourly rate. You can find them on any Freelancer website.

Do these NEED to be bundled? No. SHOULD they be? I don't know. That depends on the situation. What I can tell you is that I care about good editing, consistent formatting, good writing, and an overall decent job in making a book. There may be loads of qualified people out there who can do these things as freelancers, but how do I know if the book I'm looking at to buy was edited by these qualified people, or by the author himself, who did a crappy job, or something in between?

Today, if I purchase a book from any number of reputable presses, I know exactly what to expect for these standards. Further, I know that many of these presses only accept quality vetted monographs for publication in the first place. I also know that the vast majority of books I want to buy (mostly specialized "academic" books) require a higher standard of care and expertise than average... and they may only sell a few thousand or even a few hundred copies, so they'll never even get put together for publication at a price of $10.

You want to live in a world without all that stuff? Fine. Let your books be done the way you want. But why does that justify you in saying it's okay for Amazon to bully publishers so it's no longer possible for anyone to make the kind of books I want? Obviously in many cases publishers are skimming money off the top. In the case of books I buy, the publisher often are losing money even when they charge $50 or more per book. (And yes, I know some of the people who run the backend of academic presses, so I'm not making this up.)

Why shouldn't someone who produces a product be able to decide its price? If we really want the market to be free and resolve unnecessary inefficiencies, then let customers decide, not Amazon. If customers only buy the $10 crap books from no-name press and self-publications, the publishers will naturally go out of business. If, on the other hand, customers are willing to pay $15 or $20 or $50 for a book -- for whatever reason -- why should Amazon be able to say the publisher can't charge that?

Comment: Re:medical services need a billing time limit (Score 1) 514

by AthanasiusKircher (#47571967) Attached to: 35% of American Adults Have Debt 'In Collections'

Why do you Americans put up with this awful service? Why is it legal for medical providers to behave in this way?

The answers to all your questions are complicated, because to understand why we have this completely screwed up system, you need to understand the entire history of health insurance in the U.S. for the past hundred years. Very few people know that story, and I myself didn't until a few years ago. But the short answer is that the original system had good intentions, but problems arose, so they put a legal "band-aid" on the problem, which led to other issues, so they put another "band-aid" on, and so on for decades. And in the past couple decades, costs have gone up exponentially, while insurance plans have become increasingly complicated. Almost all of these ideas were originally implemented with good intentions, but it has resulted in a truly dysfunctional system now.

Comment: Re:medical services need a billing time limit (Score 4, Interesting) 514

by AthanasiusKircher (#47563171) Attached to: 35% of American Adults Have Debt 'In Collections'

I once went to a US hospital, I asked how much would it cost, they wouldn't tell me. I asked will it in the range of $100, or $1000, or $10,000 still wouldn't tell me.

How is any sane person meant to go into a contract without actually knowing even an approximate price.

THIS. With all the complaints about health care costs and clarity about insurance plans, the most fair and straightforward thing they could do is force doctors to give an estimate, like you'd get from any mechanic or painter or tradesman. Obviously this wouldn't quite be possible for complex procedures where quick decisions to do additional things are needed. But a general estimate or range, or maybe a list of "potentially necessary add-ons during complications" would make things so much clearer.

But that kind of reform would never pass, and not just because of the complexity -- doing this would reveal the true cost of care, it would show the gross disparities among charges at different hospitals, and it would make clear that all the "discounts" granted large insurers is just some weird kind of game where hospitals nominally charge often twice or three times as much as they actually expect to get paid, and the amounts are "adjusted" down by the insurance companies.

Healthcare costs are spiralling out of control in the US partly because we have a system where the true cost is hardly ever seen or paid by anyone, making it impossible for consumers to make choices or comparison shop in ways that could actually improve care and make the whole system more efficient.

Comment: Re:Appropriate punishment (Score 1) 248

We'll look back on Citizens United approximately the same way we now look back on Brown v Board of Education. As the product of a shameful period in our history.

I think you mean Plessy v. Ferguson, not Brown in your analogy, unless you mean that DEsegregation is "a product of a shameful period in our history."

Comment: Re:You needn't charge anything (Score 1) 514

by AthanasiusKircher (#47562889) Attached to: 35% of American Adults Have Debt 'In Collections'
It's not true. Research it online if you don't believe me, or just look at your credit report. Creditors report monthly balance and payment information, NOT carryover. So credit agencies receive no info on carryover. As long as you're showing a balance on your statement each month, it doesn't matter if you pay it off completely.

Comment: Re:You needn't charge anything (Score 2) 514

by AthanasiusKircher (#47562863) Attached to: 35% of American Adults Have Debt 'In Collections'

His loan officer told him his credit score would reflect more positively if he used only about 60% of his available credit line each month, and left 15 or 20 dollars per month in carryover balance, instead of paying off the entire balance each month.

Truth or bullshit?

I'm going to have to call BS on this one (speaking as someone with a credit score over 800 for quite a few years); I've never carried a balance on a credit card to get there.

First off, 60% credit utilization is too high. I haven't looked up the numbers recently, but there are people out there who game the system and have figured out near optimal values. The stats I remember seeing were more like no more than 25% of your credit line, and no more than 50% of the credit line on a given credit card. Don't quote me on those figures -- do your own research, but 60% sounds quite high. (Too high and you HURT your score.)

As for carrying a balance, that's completely bogus as long as the debt shows up on a statement. Look at an actual credit report -- all it shows are statement balances and payments. Carry over from month to month is NOT reported to credit agencies, so I don't know why people here are saying you should carry a balance.

It is critical that you do wait for the debt to show up on a statement, though. But you can then pay it off in full.

This loan officer is just trying to make a profit for the bank.

If you're really eager to pay interest to build up your score faster, do it sensibly and take out a small installment loan at a lower rate of interest than a credit card, and make regular payments for a while. Regular payments on an installment plan are much better to show your ability to handle a car loan, so you may qualify for lower rates.

But you can also just keep paying the credit cards in full every month... the score will inch upward over time, and once you take out the first car loan and make regular payments for a year or two, the score will go through the roof. If it were me, I'd skip the fancy expensive car for the first loan, and take out a more modest loan for a cheaper car... then in a couple years, the credit score will be high enough to get the best rates for a better car. You'll save a LOT of money in interest in the long run.

Comment: Re:So! The game is rigged! (Score 2) 514

by AthanasiusKircher (#47562753) Attached to: 35% of American Adults Have Debt 'In Collections'

So I should have a much higher credit rating than someone who is constantly paying with credit cards in my opinion.

Not necessarily. There's a reason it's called a "credit" score, not a "cash" score. You need to be able to demonstrate that you can handle credit responsibly. Believe it or not, MOST people who pay cash all the time are forced to, because they don't have reliable enough income or reliable spending methods, and no one would give them a credit card, even if they applied (or certainly not a good one).

So, you need to prove to banks who might lend you money that IF you go into debt (or even have the possibility of going into debt, like having credit lines you don't necessarily use) that you will make regular payments and be able to handle the debt. Frankly, I'd view you as a risk too if you had no payment history. It's great that you pay in cash, but lots of other people do who aren't as responsible with you and would not be a good loan risk.

So get one. Apply for a card, buy some stuff you were planning to buy anyway, pay it off... costs you NOTHING. And you get a higher score on the credit rating game, for when you need it.

Yep -- this isn't rocket science. Get a credit card, use it to buy stuff, wait for the statement, and pay off immediately. You will pay no interest, but since you received a statement with a balance, your report will show records of credit utilization and regular payments. You might need to apply for a crappy card at first if you really have NO history, but just always pay it off every month. In a couple years, you will even be able to move up to a rewards card and earn money off of your credit card, all while paying no interest AND establishing a credit history.

Comment: Re:Wow ... (Score 1) 396

So it's a big f-up, but I can totally understand how and why it happened.

Yeah, I suppose. Except for the part where you had a card declined, and you trusted the customer to provide authorization for the transaction.

I completely get the situation you're talking about -- i.e., where Apple is flagged as an "unusual large transaction," and the customer has to call their bank to clear it. But, as you noted, in that case you can often re-run the card in a few minutes and all is fine. At no point are you trusting the customer's word on ANYTHING -- from your perspective, the card didn't work, but they did some magic dance or sprinkled magic dust, and now the card does work... thus the transaction is authorized.

But here you're talking about a cashier denying a transaction and then manually authorizing it based on what a customer told them. This has a half-dozen red flags all over it. If you were this cashier, would you accept some other lame excuse? "My dog ate my checkbook, so I had to do a special money order thing-o, which didn't show up on my credit statement yet, so they froze everything, but I talked to the bank this morning, and they said it was all honky-dory, so please won't you accept my transaction?" If you wouldn't accept this load of crap from a customer, why would you trust that they called their bank and obtained "authorization"?

And if you'll accept that, I have a set of speakers in my van that I can sell you for 90% off retail. I have a catalog to show you what the "real price" is [wink, wink]. But I need cash now. Honest... I can even show you a nearby ATM where you can get some....

Comment: Re:Virtual gamepad problems (Score 1) 535

Netbooks are dead, but Ultrabooks are much better anyway

Meh -- the nomenclature is pretty much meaningless. I bought an "ultraportable" about 7 years ago, a "netbook" about 4 years ago, and a "ultrabook" last year. They all pretty much were smaller-than-usual laptops, they were all underpowered compared to standard size laptops when I bought them, and they all weigh pretty much the same thing. The only thing that has changed over time is that the prices have gone down, the value has gone up, and they're generally thinner (usually with slightly large screens). But they're basically the same market. Anyone declaring that "netbooks are dead" is just buying into a marketing ploy because everyone kept saying "netbooks are dead" in 2012. So now they're basically the same, just fewer of the ones with really tiny screens... but we call them "ultrabooks" because it sounds snazzier.

Comment: Re:Planned obsolescence (Score 2) 281

The concept is called planned obsolescence , and it has existed for as long as people have been buying things.

It may have existed for millennia, but until the past few decades it was commonly perceived as "cheating" someone out of money. The assumption 50 years ago was pretty much that anything you bought could and should be repaired, until so many parts fail that it doesn't make sense repair it anymore. I still own and use my mother's kitchen stand mixer, which is nearly 50 years old. I could say the same thing for a number of things that have been passed down to me and still work even though they were manufactured a couple generations ago. My grandmothers used to repair clothing rather than simply buying something new when a hole appeared.

Nowadays, we just expect that most things we buy will fall apart or wear out in a few years, but this is a radical departure from what the world was like 50 years ago or more.

Comment: Re:Not a Slippery Slope (Score 1) 183

The problem is that this is not just humans versus corporations/machine, this is human rights vs human rights. Free Speech Vs the Right to be Forgotten, why does the latter, which is no where codified, larger then the first which has been for centuries?

It isn't "larger." We've always accepted there must be some limits on free speech. In the U.S., you can't incite people to riot lawlessly, for example. In much of the EU, there are stronger restrictions, like not being able to publicly insult someone else's reputation (e.g. in Germany), an idea that goes back quite some time. (Even in the US, it used to be justification for a duel, a practice which I believe had its roots in medieval Germanic trial practices which could involve combat.)

This seemingly novel "right to be forgotten" is simply an extension of much older law like this in the EU, which prevented punishment for offenses after time has been served. (Ever read Les Miserables, for example, where Jean Valjean is supposed to go about for the rest of his life carrying a yellow card branding him as a convict for stealing a loaf of bread? That kind of crap was real, and reforms ere implemented to allow convicts to move on after time was served and they were "rehabilitated" -- they were essentially granted the right to have their past forgotten.)

So this isn't a new right, and it has been codified in various ways before. But even if it were, rights have to evolve with technology. Before the printing press, there was no reason for "freedom of the press," but after a century of governments trying to suppress it and control it, a movement to assert this right began in earnest in the 1600s, which we now accept to be a bedrock principle of law. But the right not to be publicly defamed is much older than that, so how do we adjudicate between these in the present case with Google?

I'm not saying that the EU ruling is actually workable right now, but your assertion that this is entirely new legal territory is demonstrably false.

You should do things considering that it may get put out there. Why should I not be able to know that someone I may be hiring makes bad decisions just because they dont want me to know they did something stupid?

First, because we've fought wars over the right to live our private lives without government or others tracking everything we do.

But if you need a stronger justification: because something may actually be false information, or it may present information in a misleading way. Lots of people are charged or arrested or whatever everyday and ultimately released because the allegations turned out to be false. But all those newspaper stories which are technically okay because they say "alleged" never go away, and since dropping charges rarely sells news as well as the initial outrage, newspapers and media often never even bother reporting that charged or were dropped (or never even filed) or the person was acquitted. Even if the newspaper prints something about that in a blurb on page 20, is your employer going to go through hundred of Google hits to find that, or just read the headline in the top links that you were accused of child abuse or whatever? (And by the way, just for one example, if you think false accusations of child abuse or neglect are rare, look up the stats -- child protection services in the U.S. removes something like 100,000 kids per year for allegations that ultimately turn out to be completely unsubstantiated... and that's not even counting the questionable cases.)

Your latter argument is poor, as there are already laws that work well at getting rid of libel/slander...

The standard for libel or slander is quite high in the U.S., particularly against a news media source. (It varies in other countries.) You basically need to show that a news source acted with "reckless disregard" for the truth, and often a few "alleged" adjectives serves as sufficient protection.

I don't know what a workable system should look like, and this current Google thing has a lot of problems. But the questions do deserve to be asked, because we are dealing with conflicts between long-standing "rights," which are just framed in a new way and more prominent in an internet age.

Comment: Re:As soon as greenpeace touches it (Score 1) 288

From the paper

Vitamin B12 is only provided in animal derived proteins

By definition there is no vegetarian or vegan diet that is not deficient in B12.

By definition, the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian is that a vegetarian will consume animal derived products (including proteins), just not animals themselves. Hence your statement is correct for vegans, false for vegetarians.

+ - Thousands of Workers Strike to Reinstate Fired Grocery CEO

Submitted by AthanasiusKircher
AthanasiusKircher (1333179) writes "Have you heard of Market Basket, a regional grocery chain which brings in $4 billion per year? If you're not from New England, you may not know about this quirky century-old family business, which didn't even have a website until two days ago. But that's only the beginning of its strange saga. In a story that labor experts are calling 'unique' and 'unprecedented', shelves in grocery stores across New England have been left empty while thousands of Market Basket workers have rallied for days to reinstate former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, who was fired last month (along with a number of his management allies) as part of a long-standing family squabble. At a protest this morning, 6,000 protesters gathered at the Tewkbury, Massachusetts location where the supermarket chain is based, similar to rallies that have been staged at various locations over the past week. Unlike most labor protests, the workers have no demands for better working conditions or better pay--they simply want their old boss back. Reaction from consumers has been swift and decisive as well: a petition was submitted to the board this morning with over 100,000 signatures from customers calling for the reinstatement of the CEO, and over 100 local lawmakers have expressed support for the workers' cause, including the governor of New Hampshire and candidates for U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races in the region.

In an age where workers are often pitted against management, what could explain this incredible support for a CEO and member of the 0.1%? Columnist Adrian Walker from the Boston Globe described his interview last year with 'Artie T.': 'We toured the Chelsea store together... the connection between the magnate and his employees was frankly shocking. Demoulas knew almost everyone’s name. He knew the name of the guy cutting meat whose wife had just completed chemotherapy and asked about her with obvious concern. Customers came up to him and hugged him, cheered him on. The interactions were too numerous and spontaneous to be staged.' Workers at Market Basket are loyal to their employer and often stay for 20, 30, or more than 40 years. Even lowly store clerks receive significant quarterly bonuses, and experienced loyal workers are rewarded and promoted. Despite running a $4 billion per year business, 'Artie T.' over the years has shown up at countless family events for employees, even visiting sick family members of employees when they are in the hospital. But his generosity hurt the bottom line, according to other board members, who have sought for years to increase profits by raising prices and reducing employee benefits to be in line with norms at other grocery chains. (Market Basket has commonly led grocery store lists for value in regional price surveys.) As one possible resolution to the crisis, the former CEO yesterday offered to buy the entire grocery chain from other board members; this morning, the board stated they were considering the offer."

+ - Wikipedia to US Congress: Stop Trolling->

Submitted by alphatel
alphatel (1450715) writes "Wikipedia has blocked anonymous edits from a congressional IP address for 10 days because of "disruptive" edits. These otherwise anonymous edits were brought to light recently by @Congressedits.

The biography of former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld was edited to say that he was an "alien lizard". Mediaite's Wikipedia page was modified to label the site as a "sexist transphobic" publication."

Link to Original Source

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