Beware the UPS Store (or Mailboxes Etc or similar) mailbox 2014

Warning: If you sign up for a mailbox at a non-USPS location, you will not ever be able to file a change of address for it with the postal service.

Also, it's probably a franchise, meaning UPS (with their potentially-consumer-benefiting concerns about maintaining their brand) has no control over pricing, meaning the store might decide to double the fee for that mailbox at some point and leave you with a tough choice.

CRMAs are required to offer mail forwarding services for six months, but they can (and do) charge for them. So far as I am aware UPS Stores do not offer forwarding for a closed box for longer than that six month minimum.

Yes, it's nice to have a non-home-address to use for business or other purposes, but be aware that there are serious flexibility issues with signing up for CRMA (Commercial Mail Receiving Agency) services.

 

Update July 25, 2014: Just spent 51 minutes on the phone with USPS. The person I spoke with said her supervisor told her that you can put in a change of address from a CRMA address to a street address or USPS P.O. box. I'm going to try that and hope it works.

My particular UPS Store, while not bending on their pricing which is now 4x the cost a USPS box, did say that it is their policy to hold mail from terminated boxes for a little while and to turn it over to the former box owner if they check in, after which they return it to the postal service. It is unclear what would happen to that mail then. It's already been delivered, but maybe a change of address could kick in.

But no. After trying to submit the change of address, I got this on the USPS website:

"Mail addressed to an addressee at commercial mail receiving agency (CMRA) is not forwarded through the USPS. The CMRA customer may make special arrangements for the CMRA operator to re-mail the mail with payment of new postage. A CMRA must accept and re-mail mail to former customers for at least 6 months after termination of the agency relationship. After the 6-month period, the CMRA may refuse mail addressed to a former customer. The Application for Delivery of Mail through Agent (PS Form 1583) requires an addressee and agent to comply with all applicable postal rules and regulations relative to delivery of mail through an agent. For more information on mail forwarding regulations, contact your local Postmaster."

I have not been offered any mail forwarding service from the UPS Store and it sounds as though they would immediately put in a termination notice with USPS for accepting my mail. Not sure what that means would happen to any of my mail, but seems as if it would be destroyed or returned to sender.

@ Posted on July 3, 2014 at 11:44 AM in warnings & kvetches, work | Comments (0)

How to Avoid Setting Yourself Up for Ebook Disappointment 2014

Some lessons drawn from the how-not-to-do-it example in Tony Horwitz's New York Times op-ed, "I Was a Digital Best Seller!"

  • If you've had a negative digital publishing experience, talk to a wider range of those who've published in digital format before concluding that your experience represents "a cautionary farce about the new media and technology we’re so often told is the bright shining future for writers and readers." It's possible that the farce wasn't entirely about the platform, but also your use of it.
  • Ensure when you're contracting with a publisher that the expenses they've said they'll cover are covered as you go and that you are contractually well-protected should they not publish the piece as originally planned.
  • Also budget your own expenses and degree of risk and, with those and what you've agreed on with the publisher, stay within the boundaries.
  • Use potential future income as motivation to complete the contracted work, but by no means assume that that compensation will actually come to you. This holds true also for dreams of glorious enhancement of your reputation. Bear in mind, also, as expected sales figures get tossed about that the typical non-fiction physical book sells less than 3000 copies. Be excited about potential upsides, but be realistic—and don't count on them.
  • Once again, ensure your contracts exist and that contingencies are in place which will incentivize the publisher to honor their deal with you and, ideally, publish and pay, or at least pay an exit amount and revert rights to the work to you.
  • If you aren't great at the contractual/financial sides of the business, make sure to involve professionals who are on your side, and preferably with whom you have a long history of working together. They, like you, should be taking the long view of building your success and security. They, like you, should not assume that a single project will guarantee that success or security.
  • Get realistic estimates of potential sales and income not only from the digital publisher who wants you to do work for them, but from others with experience in that industry and with that publisher. Get an understanding of how volitile sales indicators (such as Amazon Kindle best sellers) are and what kind of total sales they represent. It's important to know what kind of sales spike can shoot you to the top of a list and how those spikes relate to aggregate sales of the work over time. Do not assume any understanding you may have of physical book sales indications will translate to these new areas.
  • Do not assume your publisher—digital or traditional—will put in the effort to bring readers and buyers to your work. Get a clear picture of what they will be doing to attract readers to your piece specifically. Above and beyond their planned effort (which like the potential returns must be taken with a grain of salt), you need to prepare to promote the work yourself.
  • Before you take on a project, research and understand the audience(s) for it. What do they like? What formats will they pay for? How much will they pay? Use this as a reality check for the proposed compensation and expenses for the project.
  • Before you take on a project, get a basic plan outlined of how you will reach those audiences. How do they learn about new works of interest to them? Whose recommendations do they trust? What communities do they participate in, and are you excited about participating in those communities too as you promote the work?
  • If your past experience is with traditional publishing only, talk to a variety of authors who've had both success and failure with digital publishing. You should pay particular attention to their experiences with promotion, both what they did and what their publishers did, as well as to what worked and what did not.
  • Thanks to frequently poor online browsing setups for ebooks—yes, iTunes Store, I am looking at you especially—random discovery of your work will be one of the least common ways for a reader to find it. People aren't generally poking around the shelves the way they do in physical bookstores. It's word of mouth and reviews on which you need to focus.
  • Plan to prime the pump for those reviews by building enthusiasm for the piece through your own professional social network. (You have been building a Twitter following around your past work, yes? And you don't have that all muddled up with your personal tweeting, right? Ditto for your professional blog or regular community participation in your areas of expertise.) Thank your readers and encourage them (without being pushy) to review the work or spread the word about it.
  • Work with the publisher to ensure that review copies will be sent out as quickly as possible, including—if you'll be releasing a physical version of the work as well as ebook—a giveaway through Goodreads.
  • Do not assume that enthusiastic readers, the kind who'll recommend your work repeatedly, will be fooled by fake glowing reviews written by publicists or pals of the author. Build enthusiasm in those whose opinions would be trusted and whom you can expect to engage with the work in detail, writing a review that is clearly by someone who cares about the topic.
  • Ensure that you have a contracted and reliable way to get copies of the work for yourself to use in direct sales (for example, at speaking engagements) and as another means to get review copies in the right hands.
  • Once again, make sure that your rights to the work are very clearly spelled out in your contract and that there is a clear path for any rights the publisher has to revert to you under conditions of them ceasing to publish the work.
  • Bottom line: Know the kind of writing you want to do, the hats you're willing to wear in the course of getting it in the hands of readers, and the realistic market for compensation for that writing with different kinds of publishers and (important and different!) through self-publishing.

    Writing is a tough job to make pay; don't enter into the profession with just a dream and crossed fingers.

@ Posted on June 20, 2014 at 03:17 PM in Books, warnings & kvetches, writing | Comments (0)

Election Slate June 2014 2014

Was hoping to get this up earlier but a combination of travel and headcold slowed me down. Fortunately it's all pretty straightforward this time.

Governor: Jerry Brown
This guy plays economic management on the hard setting and he still seems to be winning the game. Very interested to see what he can do with a few more years of turning things around.

Lietenant Governor: Gavin Newsom
Seems to be doing just fine and working well with Brown.

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla
Seems to have done a good job in the State Senate.

Controller: Betty Yee
A fair, capable administrator.

Treasurer: John Chiang
Another sound fiscal adminstrator from whose good work the state can continue to benefit.

Attorney General: Kamala Harris
She's doing a good job, let's keep her at it.

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones
Seems to be doing good work so far.

Member, State Board of Equalization, District 2: Fiona Ma
Though often too partisan in more politicized positions, Ma does have a sound financial background and we can hope will be able to carry on Betty Yee's good work.

U.S. Representative: Nancy Pelosi
She ain't perfect, but she's far better than the alternatives and I want to keep her strong voice in the House.

Member of the State Assembly: David Chiu
(his has been one of those campaigns where the larger pile of mailers with over-the-top photoshopped imagery indicates which side NOT to support. When this campaign season started I didn't see huge differences between David Chiu and David Campos, but the way Campos and his backers have conducted their campaign—with attack mailers, stretched truths, and sensationalism instead of a proven track record—makes it clear that they aren't the same kind of candidate at all. I'm sticking with someone focused on achieving results, through keeping his ass in his chair for Board of Supes meetings and compromising when necessary. I'm hopeful that Chiu will take on a bit more of Ammiano's progressive mantle as he moves to this larger stage where stubborn idealism is more needed than in heart-on-its-sleeve SF.

Judge of the Superior Court, Office no. 20: Carol Kingsley
All three candidates look pretty good, frankly, but Kingsley's experience stands out here.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson
Definitely don't want to give the privatization movement the boost Marshall Tuck would bring.

State Proposition 41: Yes
This is a small price for housing people, better yet that it helps homeless veterans.

State Proposition 42: Yes
Public information access needs to be protected from budgetary excuses. Pleasingly, this also creates incentives for local government to streamline their processes to keep their costs down while still providing the required access.

City and County Proposition A: Yes.
This is earthquake country. We cannot rely on century-old infrastructure to protect us and allow us to recover quickly. Bonds are a way better investment than the massive expense of lost income we'd see with greater damage and delayed recovery after a major quake or big fires.

City and County Proposition B: No.
This is a bad, sneaky proposal and an attempt to create loopholes for developers. Elections are not the place to conduct planning and evaluate environmental impacts. Why would we want to push these decisions into an arena which favors big money over community wishes? We know what elections are going to bring; piles of often-sleazy mailers attempting to manipulate opinion. Election mailers don't build community. Participation in the planning process can. Besides, aren't we supposed to be those liberal citizens that believe government can be a force for good? We have a public participation process; let's use it.

@ Posted on May 31, 2014 at 04:46 PM in politics & philosophy | Comments (1)

Shims on the coast 2014

[Photos by Mum Jinx]

I gave a presentation on The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level in the afternoon at Coast Library. Alas, due to a complaint from a modern-day Puritan we could not give samples of even the lowest proof of cocktails, so the attendees just got to taste Luxardo cherries. Despite the sample setback, the event was a success and the small crowd enthusiastic.

There were great questions, including one on the history of an obscure drink or possibly dessert or possibly both, the Knickerbocker Glory, which I'm researching in the picture below.

13211934183_5513db8e8c_h Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 12.23.21 PM

It was very windy but lovely on the way back to my folks' house.

13211934193_d970668e8b_h Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 12.25.52 PM

13212052933_994c619ebf_h

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 12.28.02 PM

That evening I was able to provide a private sample to thank my parents for their help with the event.

13228914765_6dd8ac98c8_h Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 12.33.05 PM

 

@ Posted on March 16, 2014 at 12:00 PM in Food and Drink, friends & family | Comments (0)

River's End 2014

A lovely stop on the way north this evening!

Photo by Mum Jinx.

13160820985_0e333b2858_h Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 12.05.58 PM

@ Posted on March 14, 2014 at 07:16 PM in Food and Drink, friends & family, the big room with the blue ceiling | Comments (0)

The sort of ideas that come to me at 1am: a deeply detailed, historical, world census 2014

Drifting to sleep, maybe asleep and resurfacing to wakefulness my mind was flitting around from idea to idea, from memory to memory. What I remember and was left fully awake with was two things: Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now' stuck in my head and the notion that it ought to be possible to create a deeply detailed census of the entire world population at a point in the past, provided that point was recent enough to be reached by many genealogists, but not so recent that the world population was in the billions.

Now, the more recent a point, the more accurate the data and the greater the likelihood of living descendents, but also, the more daunting the project (due to the number of individuals described) and thus the less likely of enticing participants to join in the grand adventure.

As interested as I am personally in the year 1600, I know from my own genealogical and historical research that it is distant enough to be problematic. Jumping forward to 1750 would give an estimated world population of 700-825 million people. Or, by other estimates, of 629-961 million. That's a lot, but not an insane number of nodes. For example, using the former range, it's about the number of articles in Wikipedia in Chinese or in Portuguese.

1750 has also got the inspirational benefit of a big anniversary coming up within the probable lifetime of the participants or their children—300 years in 2050.

So, how to begin?

Infrastructure is vital. It must be incredibly robust and flexible. It must have profound internationalization support. It must allow for advancement and diversification separately of its data storage, software interfaces, and human interfaces.

Data will come in in many forms and must be clearly associated with its source, so that later conflicts on details can be weighed based on their respective supporting data.

Detail will vary wildly from broad guesses of total population in a country to general counts of categories of individuals (e.g., heads of household, taxpayers, members of the military) to detailed nodes about a specific person (both the famous and the genealogically derived).

Eventually, participants will no doubt be interested in assessing the relationships between individual nodes, thus it would be helpful to be able to retain data details (e.g., membership of an individual in a particular tracked category such as "the 12th regiment of Lord So-and-So's light horse", or "household at 123 Elm St, Anytown, New York, USA", or "inventory of the slave ship blah-de-blah", or "signatories of proclamation X".)

Such detail nodes will, of necessity, be much greater in number than the number of individuals alive because merger of them as applying to the same individual will be a more gradual and difficult process. This is a vital factor in infrastructure design.

 

So what do we know about 1750?

It's used by some sources as a baseline year for the end of the pre-industrial era; rather nice as a stake in the ground for pushing back our knowledge of individual human participation.

The population of North America is only about 2 million, thus forcing U.S. participants to think about the world outside their borders (which I think is always a good thing). It also makes an enticing early goal for "near complete description", which is the best I'd expect we can hope for in any region.

Sweden begin taking a census in 1749, one of the very few countries doing so in the mid-18th century, and is thus a logical target for another "near complete description" goal. Conveniently, it's also a good country for online project participation with its highly tech-savvy population. The 1750 estimated populations of Sweden (which I'm presuming refers to its territory then, not its smaller borders now) 1.7 million or 1.78 million. (Pleasantly for me, it's also where I am pretty certain I have personal genealogical data for 1750. Been a while since I was working on my paternal grandmother's line, but I recall it going back that far and farther thanks to the good data there.)

Iceland is also promising for early population data and participation.

 

Now, what haven't I considered yet?

 

***

Thought which came to mind after I went back to bed:

Every part of this idea needs further definition, but particularly the area around what defines a counted individual. Chronological confirmation of someone with a citable source is a big part of it; that is, an individual for whom we have a specific record of them being born, dying, marrying, becoming a parent, or otherwise being specifically one of those alive at some point during the year 1750.

However, those records may actually be less evocative of human experience than the categoric description associated with what I'm calling, for lack of a better term, 'unmatched individual details', or 'unmadeets'. Whose story would you be most interested in, the confirmed individual "Mary Jane Smith born 1750, later the mother of Winifred Harding", or the unmadeet "one of 350 purchased slaves who rebelled on the ship King David at 5a.m. on May 8, 1750"? Which says more about what was going on in 1750?

@ Posted on February 26, 2014 at 02:15 AM in creativity, history, random synaptic firing, Web/Tech | Comments (0)

media I've enjoyed recently 2014

Advertising and Selling

- Morgan Spurlock: The greatest TED Talk ever sold (TEDtalks)

- Full Price Beats Penny Saved for Selling Some Items (60-second Science)

- Candidates Affect Viewer Reactions to Ads in Debates (60-second Science)

Creativity

- Michael Pawlyn: Using nature's genius in architecture (TEDtalks)

- Jacqueline Novogratz: Inspiring a life of immersion (TEDtalks)

- 100,000-Year-Old Art Studio Discovered (60-second Science)

Education

- Bill Gates: How state budgets are breaking US schools (TEDtalks)

- Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies (TEDtalks)

- Science Grad Students Who Teach Write Better Proposals (60-second Science)

- Doodles and Drawings Help Cement Concepts (60-second Science)

Food and Drink

- Student Researchers Find Secret Tea Ingredients (60-second Science)

- Molars Say Cooking Is Almost 2 Million Years Old (60-second Science)

- High-Pressure Food Treatment Can Kill Microbes And Up Nutrients (60-second Science)

Health and Growth

- Charity Tilleman-Dick: Singing after a double lung transplant (TEDtalks)

- Molly Stevens: A new way to grow bone (TEDtalks)

- Gamekeeper's Thumb Condition Outlives the Occupation (60-second Science)

- Test Tells Viral and Bacterial Infections Apart (60-second Science)

- Poultry Farms That Stop Antibiotics See Resistance Fall (60-second Science)

- Endurance Exercise Has Stem Cells Make Bone Over Fat (60-second Science)

- Carbon Nanotubes Impale Compulsive Cells (60-second Science)

- Online Gamers Help Solve Protein Structure (60-second Science)

- Health Data Could Spot Genocide Risk (60-second Science)

- City Cyclists Suck In Soot (60-second Science)

- Rapid PCR Could Bring Quick Diagnoses (60-second Science)

- Pathogen Genomics Has Become Dirt Cheap (60-second Science)

- Kid Scientists Show Medicines Can Be Mistaken For Candy (60-second Science)

- Fever Increases Numbers of Immune Cells (60-second Science)

Nature and Sexuality

- Christopher Ryan: Are we designed to be sexual omnivores? (TEDtalks)

- Mole's Extra Finger Is Wrist Bone-us (60-second Science)

- Full Moon May Signal Rise in Lion Attacks (60-second Science)

- Send Ants to College (60-second Science)

- Sea Lampreys Flee Death Smells (60-second Science)

- Toxoplasma Infected Rats Love Their Enemies (60-second Science)

- Modern Rivers Shaped By Trees (60-second Science)

- Upright and Hairless Make Better Long-Distance Hunters (60-second Science)

- Electrolyte Balancers Set Stage for Multicellularity (60-second Science)

- Flesh-Tearing Piranhas Communicate with Sound (60-second Science)

Politics and Philosophy

- Jody Williams: A realistic vision for world peace (TEDtalks)

- Martin Jacques: Understanding the rise of China (TEDtalks)

- El Nino Ups Conflict Odds (TEDtalks)

- David Puttnam: What happens when the media's priority is profit? (TEDtalks)

- Steven Pinker: Violence Is Lower Than Ever (60-second Science)

Technology and Physics

- Johanna Blakley: Social media and the end of gender (TEDtalks)

- Leyla Acaroglu: Paper beats plastic? How to rethink environmental folklore (TEDtalks)

- Dan Berkenstock: The world is one big dataset. Now, how to photograph it... (TEDtalks)

- Medieval Armor: Was It Worth the Weight? (60-second Science)

- Traffic Cameras Save Millions in Canceled Crashes (60-second Science)

- Juno Mission Gets Goes for Launch (60-second Science)

- Channeled Chips Can Spot Substances (60-second Science)

- Smartphone System Saves Gas (60-second Science)

- Sound Sends Electron to Specific Location (60-second Science)

- Moon Not Made of Cheese, Physicist Explains (60-second Science)

@ Posted on February 21, 2014 at 01:38 PM in creativity, Food and Drink, health, linky goodness, politics & philosophy, school, sex, the big room with the blue ceiling, warnings & kvetches, Web/Tech | Comments (0)

social browsing 2013

This is an interlude of relaxation after the stockings, before our drive back home.

Photo by Mum Jinx.
11574313084_4f9a7d0572_h

Photo by Uncle Larry.

11591339765_090fc4b5b1_h Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 12.02.26 PM

@ Posted on December 25, 2013 at 11:00 AM in friends & family, holidays | Comments (0)

Winter familytime 2013

Having a marvelous relaxing time visiting with my family. My low-key background activity is adding photos into my blog from Flickr.

One that I haven't placed in time precisely enough to post, but which I love is this one of me and my dad Paul.
5372293664_4f82700c9e_o
Larry asks:
Screen Shot 2013-12-24 at 5.50.05 PM

@ Posted on December 24, 2013 at 05:52 PM in friends & family | Comments (0)

feasting with family 2013

Joe and I brought a small Wagyu beef roast to my parents' house. They prepared it, along with fresh crab, Hollandaise sauce, and broccoli for the four of us and my aunt and uncle to enjoy. Boy oh boy did we!
11536069434_f613b60342_h(Photo by my mum)

@ Posted on December 23, 2013 at 07:00 PM in Food and Drink, friends & family, holidays | Comments (0)

Blog (noun) A weblog or similar brief journal usually containing links and commentary thereon. Term coined by Peter Merholz.

Visit Typepad or Blogger to start your own. (I began with hand coding, then switched to Blogger when it first became available, then to Movable Type when I wanted more control over my weblog and to have it hosted at a place of my choosing (Hurricane Electric). Since 06/2003 I've used Typepad, a hosted service built by the same folks who made Movable Type, which I love because I don't have to maintain the underlying system).

You may write to Dinah @ this domain.

Except where otherwise noted all content is copyright 1965-2014 Dinah Sanders. Please do not repost my writing or other creations elsewhere. Instead, copy a tiny bit and link to the rest. Thanks! Images are copyright of their original creators. MetaGrrrl logo and photos by Dinah are copyright 1965-2014 Dinah Sanders. Inkspot Books and the Inkspot logo have been Service Marks of Dinah Sanders since 1993.