The truth is out there

Entered “The Conscience of a Conservative” into Toronto Public Library catalogue (for this book) and got none of that but three books titled “The Conscience of a Liberal”. Are they trying to tell me something?

Futurama and art as radar

I saw this Futurama series tonight and was astonished by how it fits the current economic situation. See for yourself.

Act I: Everybody’s rich

Earth forces have defeated the Spiderians of Tarantulon 6 and seized plenty of spoils: one trillion dollars in silk and treasure. Richard Nixon’s head, after a consultation with voodoo economists, decides to give every citizen of Earth three hundred dollars.

Act II: Frivolous spending

People spend their money on meaningless things, e.g. Professor Farnsworth gets a treatment that will make him look younger for a very short time. Fry decides to drink 100 cups of coffee. Hermes buys his son Dwight a set of Bamboo Boogie Boot, a kind of powered stilts, which Dwight is not too happy with (he wanted to invest the money). Hermes puts them on and loses control, Dwight tries to save his father but is stuck up the stilts with him, and the two of them roam the city completely out of control.

Act III: The loot! The loot!! The loot is on fire!!!

The reception at the presentation of the National Silk Surplus. Zoidberg wants to buy one of the tapestries, but finds out that it costs $1 billion. He realizes that even with $300 he is still desperately poor and that money brought him no happiness. Bender smokes the Grand Cigar (that cost $10,000). Hermes and Dwight, still on the Bamboo Boogie Boots, crash the reception, the Grand Cigar is dropped and sets fire to the precious silks. Fry, after his 100th cup of coffee, suddenly gains superman powers. He can move so fast that he cannot be seen. He saves everyone at the reception. Hermes gives the penny left from the purchase of the Boogie Boots to Dwight, who decides to invest it in five shares of Amazon.com. Richard Nixon’s head is devastated because the budget surplus is gone – burned away in the blink of an eye.

This actually proves the point that I stated here: a real artist does not ape history, he, in fact, foresees it. As Marshall MacLuhan put it,

The power of the arts to anticipate future social and technological developments, by a generation and more, has long been recognized. In this century Ezra Pound called the artist “the antennae of the race.” Art as radar acts as “an early alarm system,” as it were, enabling us to discover social and psychic targets in lots of time to prepare to cope with them. This concept of the art as prophetic contrasts with the popular idea of them as mere self-expression. If art is an “early warning system”, to use the phrase from World War II, when radar was new, art has the utmost relevance not only to media study, but to the development of media controls.

Dan Pink is in town

Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Career Management Speaker Series @ Rotman
5:00 sharp-6:15p
TOPIC: “Career Secrets No One Ever Told You”
GUEST SPEAKER: Daniel Pink, Author, “Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself”, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future” and “The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need”
REGISTRATION FEE: $15.00 per person includes GST (includes 1 copy of “The Adventures of Johnny Bunko”)
TO REGISTER: Click Here
LOCATION: Fleck Atrium (ground floor), Rotman School of Management, U of Toronto, 105 St. George St., Toronto

QUESTIONS: events@rotman.utoronto.ca or call 416-946-7462

Yay indigo.ca!

2 of 3 books I ordered on Sunday (decided to go with indigo.ca) are already here! That’s free delivery, and it happened within three days. Yay for indigo.ca! They are the fastest!

P.S. I should note they were the most expensive too, about 5% over amazon.com, even with the iRewards card which by the way I am probably not going to renew (more on that in the next entries). 5%, however, isn’t that much if you are looking at getting your books in 3 days instead of two weeks (or, God forbid, 2.5 months as amazon.ca offers).

UPDATE. The third book arrived 2 days later. Yay indigo!

Online bookstore rant (a comparative study of online bookstores)

After the emotional ordeal of yesterday (no, seriously, how do you like that? I have been a loyal member for about 9 years, never lost or damaged a single book, and they block my account without as much as saying hello, as if I were a delinquent teenager who pulls out pages to make joints), I decided to order books online (f*** you, Toronto Public Library). I assembled identical shopping carts on three major online bookstore websites, and the results were very interesting.

Amazon.ca (prices in CAN$) Amazon.com (prices in US$) Indigo.ca (prices in CAN$)
Order cost 44.48 33.56 48.14 (with 10% iRewards discount)
Taxes 2.22 n/a 2.41
Shipping Free 16.96 Free
Total cost 46.70 50.52 50.55
Estimated shipping date Oct 20 – Nov 28 September 22-30 not indicated, but pretty much like next day, see here
Delivery time or date 2-3 business days October 1-16 3-9 business days

There are some very interesting questions that arise after perusing this table.

1. How come the books on Amazon.com, even with international shipping, cost less (considering the exchange rate) than free-delivered, loyalty-card-discounted books of a Canadian online store?

2. How come the delivery date of Amazon.com (crossing the border and all) is sooner than the shipping date on Amazon.ca?

3. Why does it take Amazon.ca 6 to 8 week to ship 3 books? Do they deliver them to the assembling point in a dogsled? (Right, that would explain the date; they are probably waiting for the snow to make the roads passable for dogsleds).

4. What’s the use of telling your customers how long the delivery takes if you don’t tell them the shipping date (indigo.ca)?

Now I am facing a hard dilemma: shall I opt for the fastest delivery, lowest price, or choose Canadian?

I connected to Ernie Zelinski on LinkedIn

Yesterday I connected to Ernie Zelinski on LinkedIn! Ernie Zelinski is a Canadian writer who mostly writes about how great it is to be self-employed. I have translated his book, Real success without a real job, into Russian (Russian edition, Успех без офисного рабства). He sings praises (overdoing it a little, that was my first impression) to being self-employed. While working on the translation, I was sceptical at first about the whole point because at the time I was an employee of a certain three-letter-acronym-named global corporation and thought my position to be very stable, safe and much better than precarious situation of self-employment. However, I was fired after 1 year (that’s a separate story, I told it at FAILcamp Toronto and may sometime repeat it here) and recalled Ernie’s praises to self-employment. I thought, screw it, I’m fed up with software development altogether. By that time I had several books in my translation already published (Ernie’s was my 4th, if I am not much mistaken; I have 6 now and 3 more in the works). 2 days later I responded to an ad at proz.com and started freelance translation of user documentation of the abovementioned corporation-who-must-not-be-named into Russian. About a year later I entered Canadian government’s SEB program for small business development. Everything was so ridiculously easy that I am still amazed. The only catch is, I am not very good at managing my time, so my routine work (mostly translating software manuals and writing SR&ED claims) tends to crawl all over the day, and I am somewhat behind schedule with my literary translations (currently, Iris Murdoch‘s “Philosopher’s Pupil”). But I hope I’ll learn to manage my time better in the future (kaizen!)

P.S. I definitely owe Ernie a lunch in a restaurant of his choice. I’ll never ever have to sit in a cubicle for the rest of my life!

Quote of the day

That’s a quote from Alan Greenspan’s “Age of Turbulence” that I simply must share. He quotes Martin Feldstein, Harvard economist, in saying:

“Cellphone service is widely available [in India] at low cost because it was regarded as a luxury and therefore left to market, while electricity is hard to obtain because it has been regarded as a necessity and therefore managed by the government”.

Greenspan also mentions that India’s decrepit infrastructure cannot provide reliable electric power, and many business establishments have installed their own small generators to ensure power.