Monthly Archives: July 2017

Ten Ways to Organize Your Bookshelf

30 July 2017

From The Millions

I recently moved to a new apartment, which gave me an excuse to pursue, without guilt, my favorite procrastination activity: reorganizing my bookshelf. It also forced me to go through each and every one of my books and ask hard questions like, am I really ever going to read The Forsyte Saga? (Answer: It’s been up there for 10 years, but maybe? I kept it.) Or: will I ever reread Middlemarch, and if so, will I want to use this yellowed paperback with a taped spine that I got for free off of a stoop? (Answer: No. If a person returns to Middlemarch, they deserve a fresh copy, possibly a reissue with interesting new cover art.)

On my old shelves, my books were organized into four broad genres: fiction, nonfiction, plays, and poetry. Fiction was arranged by date published, nonfiction by subject area, and plays and poetry were not in any particular order. On my new shelf, I stuck with my broad genres, and within each one, I kept things simple and organized everything alphabetically. Boring, but effective. But part of the fun of reorganizing your books is considering all your options, so here are 10 organizational strategies for the next time you find yourself in the throes of moving, decluttering, or, if you’re anything like me, procrastinating.

1. Chronologically, by Date Published
As I mentioned above, this is how I have arranged the majority of my books for the past decade. It’s kind of a pretentious way to shelve your collection, and to make it even more pretentious, I got the idea secondhand, from a literary memoir. (I can’t remember whose memoir anymore.) But this method ended up working for me for two reasons: 1) the act of putting my books on the shelf in order helped me to remember history, and to get a better sense of which writers were writing and publishing at the same time, and perhaps influencing one another; and 2) when I add books to my collection, they’re usually brand-new, published recently, and it’s easier to just plunk them down on the end of the shelf rather than finding a place for them alphabetically.

. . . .

6. In Order of Importance and/or Goodness
This could be a good way to start debates among guests. It also could be a good way to kill a rainy afternoon.

Link to the rest at The Millions

India contributes to Amazon’s 77% profit plunge: Why company will still continue to invest here

30 July 2017

From FirstPost:

Seattle-based Amazon, known for its strategy of investing in the future, has reported a 77 percent plunge in profits to $197 million from $857 million a year ago in the second quarter. The sharp fall in profit has been attributed to the investments the company is making in faster growing economies like India and in video content, Reuters reported. It could lose up to $400 million in operating profit during the current quarter, Reuters reported.

Though his company’s profit plunged, founder Jeff Bezos briefly displaced Bill Gates as the world’s richest man in the Forbes list before conceding the spot back to Gates after Amazon shares pared their gains reacting to the results. This shows that the investors’ faith in Bezos’ business strategy is strong, analysts say.

“The company is in India for the long haul,” said Harish HV, Partner, India Leadership Team, Grant Thornton India LLP, adding that its valuation is strong at $500 billion. Amazon’s market potential is huge and it views the Indian market as having huge potential. “They will continue to invest in the market,” he said.

Though Amazon singed its hands in China where its site has less than 1 percent of market share in the $378 billion e-commerce business, according to Business Insider, India is the only big market that can match China in size and Amazon is keen to have a solid presence here. India can even beat China in terms of population and government-friendly policies. Also, it has to be remembered that India has no linguistic and cultural biases like China. Clearly, Amazon can’t afford to lose India.

Unlike China, e-commerce is immature in India with many parts of the country not being fully penetrated, says Sanchit Vir Gogia, Chief Futurist, Founder and CEO of Greyhound Knowledge Group, a strategy and transformation research, advisory and consulting group. “With consolidation happening in the Indian e-commerce arena, this is the time Amazon should invest more heavily here. The competition is going to get intense especially now because the earlier confusion caused by having too many players has been whittled down with consolidations,” Gogia said.

Link to the rest at FirstPost

Amazon May Be the Next Tech Giant Muscling Into Health Care

29 July 2017

From MIT Technology Review:

At this point, there’s very little that Amazon isn’t involved in, or at least exploring: personal AI assistants, cloud services, TV shows, furniture, groceries … hell, it even finds time to sell the occasional book. So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that the e-commerce leviathan is reported to be sniffing around the health-care sector, too.

CNBC says that the company has set up a team called, cryptically, 1492 that is researching hardware and software projects relating to health care. High on the list of the topics it’s investigating, says the report, are digital medical records, online doctor appointments, and health-related services for its own hardware, including its Echo smart speakers.

. . . .

[N]o tech firm has so far managed to disrupt health care, and the industry remains fit for technological upheaval. It’s worth remembering that Amazon has a key advantage over other firms, with its sophisticated retail and distribution network—indeed, earlier this year, CNBC also reported that Amazon was contemplating a move into selling pharmaceuticals. It may hope to offer a more comprehensive service than Apple or Google could right now.

Link to the rest at MIT Technology Review

“Alexa, restart my heart.”

Part of courage

29 July 2017

Part of courage is simple consistency.

Peggy Noonan

Here (with 2 Years of Exhausting Photographic Detail) Is How To Write A Book

29 July 2017

From author Ryan Holiday:

Before I was a writer, I was simply a reader. Like many readers, I was somewhat in awe of the process. I had no idea how the books I read were made, or how if I was beginning to then aspire to one day write one myself, how on earth I would manage to string so many words together.

The author and poet Austin Kleon has done the creative world an enormous favor with his concept of showing your work. Part of the mystique of the artistic brand is to make it look easy, effortless. The result is that creativity seems like a black box. In fact, we should show how we make what we make. To help others, to understand our own process, to practice humility. To show people that it’s not impossible to turn their ideas into work.

There was once an exchange between the painter Edgar Degas and the poet Stéphane Mallarmé. Degas was having trouble trying his hand at poetry and so he complained to his friend about his trouble writing, “I can’t manage to say what I want, and yet I’m full of ideas.” Mallarmé’s response: “It’s not with ideas, my dear Degas, that one makes verse. It’s with words.”

. . . .

[H]ere is the original title (a suggestion from my agent) and subtitle I used in the book proposal:

THE NEW RULES OF BOOK PROMOTION:

Why Content and Strategy Trump Tactics Every Time or How to Succeed with Content and Strategy When All the Old Tactics No Longer Work

Taking a step back for a second, if you’re wondering what a book proposal even is, you’re not alone. In the world of nonfiction traditional publishing, most authors don’t get to simply wake up one day and sit down to write a manuscript (even when it’s their sixth book). Before an author writes a single word of the book itself he or she will write down what the idea for the book will be and why people will read (i.e. buy) it — and they have to sell that to someone. It’s like writing a business plan for a book. Proposals can contain an outline, sample chapters, endorsements from relevant tastemakers, and anything else that may attract the attention of an editor at a publishing house, with the goal usually being to secure as high of an advance as possible. A publisher essentially buys the rights to publish a future book by you based on your book proposal.

In my case, my publisher bought the rights to my book about book promotion based on the proposal I’d written. It ended up selling that same month, in March 2015.

It’s important to stress that the iterative phase of the book idea doesn’t necessarily stop once the book proposal sells. Authors frequently (maybe even usually) deliver a book that is substantially different that the book that was laid out in the original proposal. I usually tell authors that the proposal is for the publisher — the book is for themselves. So what is even the point of a proposal anyway? That’s another article for another time, but suffice it to say that even though I’d sold a book about book promotion, by May of 2015 the idea still wasn’t sitting right with me.

Link to the rest at Ryan Holiday via Medium

Here’s a link to Ryan Holiday’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

The Enduring Legacy Of Jane Austen’s ‘Truth Universally Acknowledged’

29 July 2017
Comments Off on The Enduring Legacy Of Jane Austen’s ‘Truth Universally Acknowledged’

From National Public Radio:

Shortly after Amazon introduced the Kindle, they put up a page with a ranked list of the most frequently highlighted passages across all the books. It’s not there anymore, but when I first looked at the list in 2013, the opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice was in third place. That was all the more impressive because eight of the other top 10 finishers were passages from the Hunger Games series, which was the hit of the season that year, as Austen’s novel had been exactly 200 years earlier.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

We can argue about whether that’s the most famous first line in English literature or whether the honor belongs to the opening sentence of Moby Dick or A Tale of Two Cities or 1984. But there’s no other opening sentence that lends itself so well to sampling, mash-ups and adaptation.

If you’re looking to add a literary touch to your article on pension schemes or emergency contraceptives, you’re not going to get very far with “Call me Ishmael.” But “It is a truth universally acknowledged” is always available as an elegant replacement for “As everybody knows” when you want to introduce some banal truism.

. . . .

Yet my guess is that a large portion of the people who adapt that sentence know perfectly well that the original version is anything but straightforward. It may be the single most celebrated example of literary irony in all of English literature. Pick up a paperback of Pride and Prejudice at a garage sale and it’s even money you’ll find the first sentence underlined with “IRONY” written in the margin.

The sentence may look like a truism, but the first part actually undermines the second. In her book Why Jane Austen, Rachel Brownstein points out that if the novel had begun simply with “A single man possessed of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,” we’d snuggle in for a stock romantic story. We might expect the next sentence to describe an aristocratic Colin Firth lookalike galloping full-tilt toward the Bennets’ house at Longbourn.

But prefacing that clause with “It is a truth universally acknowledged” implies that’s only what most people say they believe — after all, if everybody really does accept it, why bother to mention the fact? In fact, as Austen says in the following sentence, nobody really cares what the wealthy man himself thinks he needs. There’s only one truth that matters to Mrs. Bennet and the other families in the neighborhood — that a daughter who has no fortune must be found a well-to-do husband to look after her, which Mrs. Bennet has made “the business of her life.”

Link to the rest at NPR

The Profound Power of Consistency

29 July 2017

From Medium:

If there’s one piece of advice that I could offer any aspiring creative, it’s this. Develop a habit of consistently doing something. It doesn’t matter what it is, how small or how big it is.

  • It can be as simple as going for a walk or meditating for 2 minutes.
  • It can be as hardcore as writing 1000 words a day or going for a 5-mile run.

The power of consistency is profound and underrated. It can help you overcome a lack of natural talent, and allow you to focus on the process instead of the prize.

If you can learn to do something consistently, you’ll tap into a much greater superpower than the habit itself: the belief that you’re completely capable of changing your behavior.

Once you’re capable of changing your behavior, you’ll be capable of making massive changes because little things done repeatedly lead to big changes in our lives.

Inconsistency Squanders Your Creative Potential

There are few things that will kill your confidence and your ability to succeed in a creative career or any creative endeavor for that matter, like inconsistency. I’ve seen incredibly talented people amount to a fraction of what they’re capable of solely because they are so inconsistent with what they do. They start something new frequently, but never actually finish anything.

. . . .

[T]he pattern I’ve noticed over and over in people who have successful creative careers is consistency.

If you create media, the sustained attention of an audience requires consistency. Think about your favorite TV shows. If they aired on different times and days every month, you’d never form the habit of watching the show. If you want to benefit from exercise or learn a new skill it requires consistency.

  • By the time Ryan Holiday submits a manuscript for one book, he’s usually submitted a proposal and sold the next one. Consistency has enabled him to write 3 books in 3 years.
  • Seth Godin has published a blog post every day for more than 10 years. The results of his consistency speak for themselves.

. . . .

Consistency Creates Momentum

If you ask me how to write a book, it’s simple but not easy. Write a little bit every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s bad or good. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the mood, feeling inspired or having a bad day. What matters ultimately is that you’re in the habit of showing up and trying.

Momentum is based on the idea that an object in motion stays in motion.

  • This is why it’s more effective to write 200 words every day than it is to write 1000 words once a week
  • This is why we’re better off practicing an instrument for 15 minutes every day than we are an hour once a week.

When we’re consistent with anything that we do, we stay in motion. When we stay in motion we gather momentum, which is the lifeblood of any startup or creative endeavor.

Link to the rest at Medium

After The Smoke Clears – Future Of Amazon

28 July 2017

From Seeking Alpha:

Seeing some of the wild projections by some analysts, with one calling for Amazon to soar to $2,000 per share, it was good to see the latest earnings report confirm it isn’t changing its ways and deciding to focus on margins, free cash flow and earnings in the near future.

Many investors and analysts got so caught up in the many things Amazon is doing right, they forgot the type of spending it engages in to achieve the revenue growth results. They received a heavy dose of a reminder when it reported its earnings had plunged in the last quarter, and said it’s going to continue to spend heavily in the second half.

If any investors are uncertain as to Amazon’s intentions, after spending more than normal in the first half, it said it wasn’t a shifting of spend to the first half, meaning normal spending in preparation for the busy holiday season will go on as usual; including hiring thousands of employees.

Any idea the company is ready to sacrifice revenue and growth for margins and earnings can safely be put aside. The company isn’t close to transitioning to that as a strategy. In other words, nothing has changed for Amazon in its strategy and tactics. They’re going to continue on as they have in the past.

. . . .

By now just about all investors are aware of the 77 percent drop in earnings of Amazon in the second quarter, with operating expenses soaring. That generated the lowest net income since the third quarter of 2015.

Overall expenses climbed 28.2 percent year-over-year and 7.5 percent sequentially. Again, that’s usually the way Amazon does business in the second half, which is why it surprised the market.

Again, I think this is a nice surprise for investors because they were getting irrationally exuberant over the near-term prospects of the company. It reinforces the fact that nothing has changed in the way Amazon does business, and it’s going to continue to spend in order to maintain its growth trajectory and create more value for its Amazon Prime subscribers.

. . . .

I never have taken seriously the propped up anti-trust issues alleged by a couple of politicians, and almost certainly prompted from some unknown competitors seeing Amazon as a threat to their business.

A lot of that was the result of the media frenzy surrounding Amazon, as the $2,000 per share estimates were touted, and the usual idea of it having a chance to become the first company valued at over $1 trillion. All that is possible in the future, but it’s not something that is going to happen anytime soon.

I think those types of outlooks were leveraged by those trying to slow the growth of Amazon. With this latest quarter and its outlook for the remainder of the year, that has largely deflated the thought Amazon was a threat to capitalism and the world.

The truth is when looking at its market share in the areas it competes in, they were all not even close to monopoly levels based upon historical precedent.

Link to the rest at Seeking Alpha

At thirty-six

28 July 2017

At thirty-six, bereft, brimming with grief and thwarted love, Quoyle steered away to Newfoundland, the rock that had generated his ancestors, a place he had never been nor thought to go.

Annie Proulx

 

The Ghost Villages of Newfoundland

28 July 2017

PG isn’t certain whether this is a writing prompt or not, but this story was very evocative for him.

From the Atlas Obscura:

The small village near Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, was once a charming place to live. A quaint, centuries-old fishing village, that overlooked the sea, with winding lanes, asymmetrical “saltbox” family homes, and quiet streets filled with a post office, church, and a graveyard. It would be an idyllic, country scene, apart from the fact there are no people.

The Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador is home to around 300 such ghost villages.

Between 1954 and 1975, around 30,000 people were relocated as part of controversial government “resettlement” programs. Today these abandoned villages are largely forgotten and unknown, except by those who once lived there.

Newfoundland and Labrador is a vast, beautiful, often remote and isolated place. The wild landscape is home to unusually named towns such as Come By Chance, Heart’s Desire, Happy Adventure and Chimney Tickle. Dotted sparingly along its miles of rugged shorelines, and in the shelter of its thousands of tiny islands, are the “outports”; small, tightly knit fishing villages, many dating as far back as the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

By the end of World War II, the population of Newfoundland stood at around 320,000, spread out over a thousand such settlements, three quarters of which held under 300 inhabitants. Some villages, such as Tacks Beach on King Island, had a population of several hundred, while others such as Pinchard’s Island, Bonavista Bay, had just eight families living there.

. . . .

These communities were largely self-sufficient, and mostly isolated from each other. They lived by fishing the abundant cod and herring fields, and by logging and seal hunting.

. . . .

But life in the outports was to change forever in 1949. That was the year Newfoundland and Labrador, Great Britain’s first permanent colony, voted to join Canada. Following confederation, the government began to take a keen interest in these hundreds of isolated communities. Pondering what to do with their vast new territory, with its rich fishing fields, it commissioned studies undertaken by the Department of Welfare and the Department of Fisheries.

Anthropologists dispatched from Memorial University in St. John’s—the capital of Newfoundland—found that in Placentia Bay, located in the southwest, only 68 percent of children could read and write. Medical care was sparse. Some small communities, such as Come By Chance, had a cottage hospital, but they were few and far between. Some of the more remote outports were served by occasional medical ships such as the M.V. Lady Anderson, which ferried doctors around on 40-foot boats. One fisherman interviewed on King Island explained that “if the wife got sick … it’s two hours away [by sail] and if it was rough, you mightn’t get there at all.”

Experts landing at Little Brehat, a bay in northern Newfoundland found a fishing village of 14 families, with “no road connection, no agricultural potential” that was “often completely isolated in winter.”

The Canadian government concluded that a significant part of the Newfoundland population was living in conditions not far off the 19th century. But many people living in the islands were reluctant to leave the only home they’d ever known. The Government Game, a protest song about resettlement written by poet Al Pittman in 1983, includes this verse:

My home was St Kyran’s, a heavenly place,
It thrived on the fishin’ of a good hearty race;
But now it will never again be the same,
Since they made it a pawn in the government game.

And the costs to modernize the new province, to provide electricity, telephones, medical care, and education at a level that would match the rest of Canada, would be enormous given the distances involved. Over on Sop’s Island, population 222 in 1956, the government inspectors recorded that because “there are no roads and because of the rugged and mountainous country, the cost of building roads … would be tremendous.”

For the Department Of Fisheries, the primary concern was how best to capitalize on the rich fishing industry of its new province. Small fishing villages were to make way for deep-water ports capable of berthing deep sea trawlers, bringing their catches back to modern, mass processing plants. “Formally one case of the resettlement may be based on the economic non-viability of the Newfoundland fishing ports,” concluded a report by the Canadian Council on Rural Development, which was ominously titled “Economically Worthless.”

The only solution, it seemed, was to make the distances between these increasingly isolated villages smaller; their inhabitants would have to move to larger “Growth Centres.” Asked one government official: “Could the settlers upon these barren little islands and the rugged creeks and coves which present no basis for growth and prosperity, be induced to remove en masse?”

Michael Skolnik at the Institute of Social Economic Research at Memorial University, St. John’s, put it more bluntly: to end “peasant subsistence … is to facilitate the process of urbanization.”

The government report on Sop’s Island concluded: “In my opinion, the settlement should be completely evacuated.”

. . . .

The first inklings of the change came in 1957, when a government questionnaire was sent to “doctors, clergy and other responsible persons” living in these peaceable villages. The questionnaire was to gather their “opinions as to those settlements suffering from social and economic problems and which might be vacated.” And so the doctors and vicars began surreptitiously weighing up the future of the outports and whether centuries of tradition were to be suddenly abandoned.

. . . .

But where some outports held out, clinging to their old way of life, unofficial coercion saw the vital post offices threatened with closure. One by one, the old outports were steadily vacated.

Link to the rest at Atlas Obscura

Here are some photos from Canadian government archives. You’ll find several more at the OP.

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King Island, Newfoundland, c. 1930s. LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA

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Newfoundland summer fishing station. ca. 1880 – 1890 BIBLIOTHÈQUE ET ARCHIVES CANADA/FONDS DE L’OFFICE NATIONAL DU FILM/E011177528

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Cod drying on the Flakes, 1886, THÈQUE ET ARCHIVES CANADA/FONDS DE L’OFFICE NATIONAL DU FILM.

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Flat Island, Newfoundland, 1961. BIBLIOTHÈQUE ET ARCHIVES CANADA/FONDS DE L’OFFICE NATIONAL DU FILM/E011177528

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Newfoundland cod being dried out on fishing flakes at Pouch Cove. October 1948 THÈQUE ET ARCHIVES CANADA/FONDS DE L’OFFICE NATIONAL DU FILM

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Squid fishing in Conception Bay, Newfoundland [Pêche au calmar dans la baie de la Conception, Terre-Neuve ] août 1960 BIBLIOTHÈQUE ET ARCHIVES CANADA/FONDS DE L’OFFICE NATIONAL DU FILM/E011177528

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