In the history of shopping, Amazon.com isn’t as new as it seems

Being an immigrant, I wasn’t as familiar with US economic history as I was with that of other countries and regions.  Therefore, I found this article, comparing Amazon.com with a much earlier vendor, very interesting. The history of US consumerism starts with the Sears Roebuck mail order catalog. Yes, the very same Sears that is struggling to emerge from bankruptcy today. But 125 years ago the company was every bit the disruptive innovator. A brief summary of how that happened: Mail order became viable in the late 1800s because of the expansion of the US rail system, post office regulations that allowed for

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Unintended consequences – the Cobra Effect

I was amused to read this article at the Foundation for Economic Education’s web site. In colonial India, Delhi suffered a proliferation of cobras, which was a problem very clearly in need of a solution given the sorts of things that cobras bring, like death. To cut the number of cobras slithering through the city, the local government placed a bounty on them. This seemed like a perfectly reasonable solution. The bounty was generous enough that many people took up cobra hunting, which led exactly to the desired outcome: The cobra population decreased. And that’s where things get interesting. As the cobra

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Walmart, guns, and safety

I note that Walmart has announced new restrictions on the sale of firearms and ammunition, and has asked its customers not to open-carry their firearms, even in states where this is legal. I have no problem with Walmart making whatever decisions are best for its business.  That’s entirely within the company’s purview.  What troubles me about these restrictions is that they’re public relations window-dressing.  They won’t actually do anything to solve the problem of the misuse of firearms for criminal purposes.  They’re feel-good measures, not actually do-good steps.  The Babylon Bee highlighted the difference in its usual masterly satirical way. In a bold move intended

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Book news and updates – and please vote for a cover

After publishing or participating in three books over the past two months, I’m catching my breath and assessing the situation.  So far, so good! “Gold on the Hoof“, my latest Western novel, is doing well after its first week on sale. It’s attracted nine reviews at the time of writing, all of them 5-star, which is very gratifying.  I’m glad you like it.  Westerns are by no means my biggest “earner”, because that genre is a lot smaller than science fiction or fantasy.  With fewer readers, one gets fewer sales by default.  Even so, I enjoy writing Westerns, so I

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Karl Denninger’s Presidential platform – there’s some good stuff here

The inimitable Karl Denninger has published what he’d do if he were drafted to be President.  Based on what I see there, I’d draft him tomorrow!  Examples: 100% E-Verify now.  All employers have six months to comply for existing employees, all new hires must have it run.  Liability is personal and cannot be thrown off on a staffing company or other scheme.  All 941s (quarterly withholding filings) must include E-Verify control numbers on them.  Congress will receive a bill on my first day in office to upgrade failure to include same on 941s, hiring or paying people without reporting accurately on same, or any

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A century of scheduled international air travel

Last week saw a milestone:  the centenary of scheduled international air travel. In a year that marks so many important aviation anniversaries, the month of August has possibly the most significant of them all. For on 25 August 1919, a small British-built biplane took off from heathland close to where London Heathrow is today, beginning the first-ever daily international passenger air service. . . . While other passenger air services had been flown before, aviation historians point to the Aircraft Transport and Travel (AT&T) operation between Hounslow Heath and Le Bourget as the true beginning of international flights, as it marked

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Yet more proof that we have no privacy whatsoever in public

This article dates from 2016, but I’m sure things have only gotten worse since then. The NSA and the GCHQ are able to intercept data from passengers traveling on board commercial aircrafts. . . . At the end of 2012, in a presentation, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British equivalent of the NSA … disclosed a ‘top secret strap’, the term used for the highest level of classification, the content of the Southwinds programme, set up to gather all the activity, voices and data, metadata and content of the calls on board aircraft. The zone was still restricted to the regions

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Liberal arts degrees still have a place – but only if they’re “real” degrees

I was struck by this article at CNBC, not only for its positive points, but for what it misses.  It’s a case of “close, but no cigar“. By investing in liberal arts graduates, we gain people with human-centered skills who can approach problems in entirely new ways, contributing to out-of-the-box thinking in a digital age. Liberal arts graduates bring a depth and breadth of knowledge from across the humanities and social sciences that complement the hard skills of engineers and data scientists. And in a world that increasingly interacts with technology in every facet of daily life, it’s increasingly important that technology

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“The Thousand Dollar Windshield”

That’s the title of the latest article at Eric Peters’ blog.  He points out that modern technology in our vehicles is costing all of us a lot more when it comes to repairs, even for something as ostensibly simple as replacing a windshield. Embedded in the glass – part of the “assembly” – is saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety technology. It’s usually part of the rearview mirror, technically – but that’s now part of the windshield assembly in more and more new cars. It’s no longer the simple – and generic/universal – glue it in place rearview mirror cars used to have. The rearview mirror is almost an

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“Gold on the Hoof” is published!

My latest Western novel, “Gold on the Hoof“, third in the Ames Archives series, has been published in e-book format on Amazon.  A print edition will follow soon. I previously published an excerpt from the book on this blog, to whet your appetite. The blurb reads: The Comanche and Kiowa are painting for war in the Texas Panhandle. The US Army is preparing to stop them – but it needs horses to do so. Lots of horses. Walt Ames knows where to find them, and breeding stock for his horse ranch, too. All he has to do is ride down to Mexico, buy them,

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