Sunday, February 07, 2010

E-Book Pricing is Lousy

I have been reading recently that many publishers are fighting with Amazon to be able to price their books at far more than the $9.99 Amazon has for most books now.

I would ask them one thing: Are they trying to hasten their death? I have bought several books for my Kindle (I own the DX and the original), but I have only spent over $9.95 twice. Once was for the CISSP study book and once was for a secure development book. I am not sure I have gotten my money out of either. Ironically, I own both in paperback, but that didn't save me a penny on the electronic purchase. I am sure these same publishers would like to bill me a few more times for the same book as well!

Sure, they may get some readers to pay more, but how many people are actively reading these days anyway? I find that I tend to listen to audiobooks instead anyway, though that is tough with most technical books. Who has the time for lots of reading? Who has the inclination? Most will watch a TV show or movie, or even play a video game, before opening a book. I am the exception, but they are doing their best to push me away.

I don't know the exact margins for ebooks, but I know they were really tight for hardcopy ones when I was looking at writing one many years back. So they would make a whole lot more on an ebook than they would on the hardcopy version. Yet, they don't want me to see any price savings. Ironically, I might even be able to go into a Sams Club and get one cheaper than I could on the Kindle. What kind of logic is that?

Ah well, turn off those customers publishers! We don't need you anyway. I have too much information to read as it is. I just wish blogs didn't cost a minimum of a dollar a month on the Kindle or I would use a whole lot more....

Your Reaction Matters

How do you respond when you are accused of something you didn't do? Do you try to respond calmly, figure out the facts and then provide light on the situation? Do you jump right in, proclaiming your innocence and letting everyone know how offended you are that they even dreamed you might have done anything wrong? If you don't do the latter, do others think you do that?

I would have to admit I have been guilty of the second choice far more often than I would like. in fact, it is one of the things I have to watch myself closely with when my wife is talking with me. It is far too easy to be offended and kill a relationship than to risk being wrong and keeping things much better.

Sometimes I find that I really was right, the other individual just understood. Sometimes they come around and see that, sometimes they don't. Either way, a calm reaction leaves a much better taste in everyone's mouth.

Sometimes I find out that I really was wrong. I may have misunderstood what they were saying at first, something that can happen because I normally will admit when I am wrong. Being right in this case, by admitting I was wrong, is more important to me than trying to cover it up.

No matter what, a calm reaction is much more likely to produce a good response in others. Reacting harshly, whatever the method (anger, sarcasm, something else), is more likely to produce much more trouble than the whole situation was worth.

It also makes others think you really were guilty. "Methinks he doth protest too much" comes to mind!


Saturday, February 06, 2010

Letting Students Earn Their Grades

Other than grading papers (my least favorite activity that takes time), perhaps the worst part of teaching college courses is allowing students to earn their scores. Sometimes this can be great, especially when a struggling student scores a partial or full grade over where they were headed. Even better is the student who earns an A through consistently high quality work and participation.

Unfortunately, these are far outweighed, at least in my mind, with those students who either earn an F or who get caught with material that can only be explained as plagiarism. Some students try to change things at the last minute, often after the course is over. No work can be taken after the class ends if an institution wants to keep its accreditation (except when an official extension was granted of course), so such work can not be evaluated, no matter how good or bad.

A tragic part of this is that every time I have seen had the student skipping very easy to earn points (things like participation, easy assignments, etc.). Thus they made their own shortfall, but found out too late.

A few get very mad about it, but what can an instructor do? The numbers show what the numbers show.

No specifics in this post, I am just venting a general frustration. I am a very tough instructor (or so I have heard), but virtually everyone comes out of my classes having learned something. Most learn far more than just "something". I don't want to just be someone who pushes people through. I want to be someone that has an impact!

This means I have to work past those who fall way short, out of their own choice. I am glad to work with anyone, but I can only do so with those who recognize they need help and then take advantage of that help! Isn't that true of life? How many times have we missed the best because we thought we knew it all and didn't want to take input from others?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Design -> No Designer?

One of the things that amazes me is that so many people look at the wonders of design we see all around us and can't see a designer. Yet, we search space for designed signals to prove another civilization. Design there would prove a designer to us, but not in nature.

I have yet to find a thing in life that spontaneously produces order, yet that must be what happened.

Why can't that work in my work area sometime? It takes constant outside effort to maintain any order. None comes about on its own, nor would it if I applied a bunch of general energy, like a really strong heat lamp. The most that would bring is to run up my electrical bill and possibly burn the house down when things caught fire. But that is what happened, we are told, as the energy in stars made more organization.

Yeah, right.

We Will Mak It Fit!

Slashdot recently had an article Darwinian Evolution Considered As a Phase that presented a link to the idea that Evolution as we know it (and currently worship) only applied to recent history. Prior to that it is supposed to have worked differently. The reasoning, the best I can tell, is that things worked differently because they must have worked differently. Everything is fit into the "theory" or the "theory" is tweaked to account for what is found.

I read a few of the comments and of course it had to degenerate in many places into slams against those who see design and credit a designer. It is quite ironic that those who claim the most intelligence can lack it so much. Perhaps early evolution didn't work (in the since of a gain in information and changing one thing to another) because it doesn't work. Of course, this is not an acceptable answer, so some way must come to show that the fraud really is true.

Exactly who is the religious one here? The god of Evolution cannot fail. All must bow to this golden idol....