Coping: Business Model or Exploitation

I’m just fond as hell of the phrase “Everything’s a Business Model.”  But now, I may be forced to a revision of that outlook due to a conversation I had with a buddy of mine (Howard) last night which has really given me “cause to pause” for a bit and rethink the whole EBM concept.

I don’t think Howard would mind me sharing this.  He called and we got to talking about this, that, and some of the very high-end hi-fi gear he’s selling on eBay. 

Turns out, one eBay lately, there’s a new kind of exploit which has been developed by unethical buyers.  They buy something, take delivery, and then swap out a bunch of parts.  In electronics it might be tubes, highly prized original knobs, and things like that. 

Then, they turn around and exploit the seller by demanding a return – and they send a stripped out piece of junk back!

Doesn’t happen on every sale, of course.  But it has led to sellers ((including my son, who sells things once in a while) putting in long, involved disclaimers about “no returns” and “buyer agrees to no return under any condition” and that kind of thing.

You see the point?  Yes, I’m sure eBay has had issues with unethical sellers, but now they also seem to have occasional unethical buyers.  And might that, I wonder, over time imperil the eBay business model?  Hmmm…

And  we got on to talking about the book he’s writing and how economics of ebooks push out.  He’s been writing a cookbook (it’s really good since he is nothing short of a phenomenal cook) and he was thinking about releasing it as an Amazon ebook.

One thing led to another and I explained how ebooks, while fun, and not a major source of income like they once could be.  The reason?  Everyone and his mother/brother/son who has delusions of becoming a famous writer is cranking out ebooks on Amazon, hand over fist.

Some of the ebooks there, self-published and in the 99-cents to $3-dollar price range are really good.  But, the other side of it is that there’s a lot of trash and slop out there as well.  Collections of crap copy-pasted from Wikipedia and then sold.  That takes either some gumption but more fitting is the word exploit.  

You might remember that I’ve written a couple of ebooks myself, such as “How to Live on $10,000 a Year, Or Less…”  When that ebook first came out, before Amazon self-publishing came along it was sold directly on the internet as a .pdf delivered by email, it was $9.95 and it sold maybe 1,500 copies over a 5-year period.

That was then.  Along came the digital thieves and the book value has gone pretty near to zero now, although I think it’s still full of good information.

But it has been something of a turkey on Amazon, due to the huge increase in the number of ebooks for Kindle.

Then there’s a rise of writing “schools” which are now teaching people how to crank out 99-cent to $3.99 ebooks all day long, and flood the market with a huge number of titles instead of flooding the market with highest quality.  The theory is that if you write enough you will get some sales.

In other words, Amazon has been part of the very “commoditization of writing” that mirros what has gone wrong in many other parts of life.  Everything’s a commodity, now.

Howard and I then discussed how current times MIGHT be looked upon as  different than the Gilded Age which, ‘case you’ve forgotten, is summed up by Wikipedia this way:

The term was coined by writers Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873), satirizing what they believed to be an era of serious social problems disguised by a thin gold gilding.

The Gilded Age was an era of enormous growth, especially in the North and West. This attracted millions of emigres from Europe. However, the Gilded Age was also an era of enormous poverty. The average annual income for most families was $380, well below the poverty line.[1] Railroads were the major industry, but the factory system, mining, and labor unions also increased in importance.

Two major nationwide depressions known as the Panic of 1873 and the Panic of 1893 interrupted growth. The South remained economically devastated; its economy became increasingly tied to cotton and tobacco production, which suffered low prices. African-Americans in the South were stripped of political power and voting rights. The political landscape was notable in that despite some corruption, turnout was very high and elections between the evenly matched parties were close. The dominant issues were cultural (especially regarding prohibition, education and ethnic and racial groups), and economics (tariffs and money supply).

Reformers crusaded against child labour and for the 8-hour working day, civil service reform, prohibition, and women’s suffrage. State & local governments built schools, colleges and hospitals that sometimes received donations from philanthropists and various diverse religious denominations structured the social and cultural lives of many Americans.

Long-time readers will remember something I invented years ago as a thinking tool called the Substitution Method of Learning.  The way it works is simple:  You take a good description of something (old//else/or established current day orthodoxy) and you substitute terms to see how close you could use the same “template” and then extract some predictive outlooks from it.

I’ll retool this Wikipedia Gilded Age entry to bring it up to date:

The Age of Exploits

The term was coined by writers Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner  George & Howard in The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873),  Business Model or Exploitation? (2013) satirizing what they believed to be an era of serious social problems disguised by a thin gold gilding by a fixaction with Business Models, but which is really nothing more than Exploitation with a diploma and a bunch of fancy formulae.

The Gilded Age Age of Exploitation was an era of enormous growth, especially in the North and West high tech centers. This attracted millions of emigres from Europe  Mexico and South America. However, the Gilded Age of Exploitation was also an era of enormous poverty. The average annual  household income for most families was $380 $51,017 (2012) well below  which effectively became the new poverty line.Railroads The Internet  and computing were the major industries, but as the factory system, mining, and labor unions also increased decreased in importance.

[Say, is this fun, or what?]

Two major nationwide depressions known as the Panic of 1873 1987 Mini-Crash and thePanic of 1893  Internet Bubble’s collapse of 2001 interrupted growth. The South middle class remained economically devastated; its economy workforce became increasingly tied to cotton and tobacco production low labor cost producers which suffered low prices due to cheap imports. African-Americans in the South Middle class workers overall were stripped of political power and voting rights by the lobbyist cabal. The political landscape was notable in that despite some widespread corruption of electoral mandates, turnout was very high and elections between the evenly matched parties were close decided by campaign financing.  The dominant issues were cultural (especially regarding prohibition, marijuana, education and ethnic and racial groups),  immigration and economics (tariffs and money supply).

Reformers crusaded against child labour money-driven laws and for the livable 8-hour working day, civil service pension reform, prohibition, drug law reform, and women’s immigrant suffrage. State & local governments built schools, colleges and hospitals that sometimes received declining donations from philanthropists and various diverse religious denominations structured the social and cultural lives of many Americans. As a result, the public was taxed to death.

We then spent a few minutes talking about how those going up in the financial system were better at exploiting than  those who were going down in the financial system.  Near as we could agree, the “downers” were where they were because they had failed to embrace either a self-promoting business model or, as Howard hinted “They failed to learn and find an exploit for themselves.”

Just so.

All of which put me in a reflective mood this morning, since as clear as I am that Everything’s a Business Model, it’s true only when “all dressed up with a diploma and some high-end math.” Otherwise, it might be called something else by the “bottoms”:  Exploitation.

Which is the “true” case (the one arriving aliens would see as “true” as non-participating observers) is open to debate.  More’n likely, we just be another ant colony.  For that’s what we are to off-worlders: Nuclear armed ants.

Hey Zreoik!  Look at this group of ants on this planet Earth…see how they don’t understand Unity and how they break everything into what they call “good” and “evil”… lol….ain’t this a find?”

Then Zreoik utters to his colleague what no one on Earth seems up to admitting:

“Like bacteria that have just about filled the Petri dish, having over-consumed the food supply, they are ever-more crowded and thus working toward a certain end.”

But in the meantime, Howard’s onto something calling it The Age of Exploitation where (as I maintain) Everything’s a Business Model.  Unless you’re broke, of course.  In which case (with a nod to Howard)  Everything really is an Exploit.

As some subcutaneous level ants (er…humans) know this.  Which is where the urge to “prep” comes from.  Fear of running out of agar or sugar.  But I’m sure you already figured that out, right?

Speaking of Prepping

The way things are going, it’s hard to imagine a big old place like the USA running out of food.  But what if this bout of cold weather doesn’t give us a great growing season?  What if lower solar output (lowest in 200+ years) begins to nibble away at global food stocks?  Or what if the terrorists really do figure out how to hack automated warehouses…. the mind numbs at the prospect.

All of which gets me into a discussion of how you spend your dough around Christmas.  You got a choice here:  You can SPEND the Christmas fund or you can INVEST.  The spending part would be for something that has declining value over time whereas an INVESTMENT has the potential to appreciate over time.

Like a good prepper cache.

I asked one of our sponsors (Preparewise) to toss around a few Christmas “investments” that might supply some enduring value:

““You might start by visiting our website and taking a look at the backup stoves with fuel packs that can be used both indoors and outdoors, as a way to cook food should there be a power outage when electric stoves won’t work.

Or, here is a nice single bucket gift of freeze dried/dehydrated food that will last on the shelf for 25 years. Legacy Premium is known for the largest serving size, GMO free, and gluten free selections. This means more for your money, and high quality food. http://www.preparewise.com/32-serving-family-72-hour-emergency-food-kit.htmlLarger sizes are also available.

This is a great kit to have in emergencies, either at home or on the go. You can keep as is or incorporate more items to customize just for you and yours. http://www.preparewise.com/premium-family-survival-kit.html.

Need another thoughtful stocking stuffer? Check out this survival gift bottle jam packed with preparedness goodies: http://www.preparewise.com/survival-bottle.html

For the person that gluten sensitive, check out the gluten free selections: http://www.preparewise.com/food-storage/gluten-free-food-storage.html

Or, how about this package that comes with one of everything, making for a great variety backup to have on the shelf: http://www.preparewise.com/mega-sample-pack.html.

Consider buying some preparedness items for family, friends, and even those who can’t afford to buy it themselves. Providing items for some backups, should any emergency situation occur, provides both you and them peace of mind. http://www.preparewise.com/best-value-food-storage.html

Also, don’t forget about a backup food supply for your pets: http://www.preparewise.com/food-storage/pet-food-storage.html

These are all good ideas, but I’d especially underscore the back-up food supplies for the pets.  (This was seconded by Editor in Chief, Zeus the Cat.)

One of these days I have to interview Zeus about what a collapse of society would look like from a cat’s point of view.  But we have already seen what that world could be like when earlier this year – if you remember? – there were stories about how there were something like 50,000 wild dogs roaming the streets of Detroit.

Interesting global problem developing there:  About a year ago, there were reports of killings in suburban Mexico City being blamed on packs of wild dogs in the city.

All of which creeps into a topic for another morning:  How do we balance the interests of the pet owner with the real danger of killer-breed dogs running rampant?  Elaine’s been doing research for her book on point and has come up with stories like this one which mentions 450,000 wild dogs, mostly in southern Italy.

Pets were (and in an “after-world” case) would revert to being human-helpers (rather than objects of displaced affection/emotional substitutes for dealing with life.  And I’ve already had the talk with Zeus about that:  Half-rations from stored pet food and the rest he’s got to come up with on his own.  There’s a whole forest  out here, so no worries.  But in town?  Yee gads!

You might want to consider how much of that long-term pet food to store. I figure about equal to the human time frame:  Someone’s got to be around to open and serve…which is why pets keep us, I suppose.

Dowsing: Walk like an American Cop

We’ve been talking a fair bit lately about how to improve your dowsing skills.  If you’re still in the “Huh…what?” stage of Tuesday, you’ll remember that dowsing is the skill of using a physical prop (like a branch or a pair of brass curtain rods, or even welding rods, coat hangars, or whatever, to “feel” what’s buried beneath the ground.

OK, sure, it’s a little cold to be doing this in some parts of the country now, but reader Michal figures the easiest way to master the technique is to “Walk like an American Cop…”

George,
to add your your dowsing hints concerning shoes or bare feet.. I was taught dowsing a part of another class in Australia. As we went out to practice in a large grassy area looking for water and underground utilities, some people were not succeeding, including myself. That’s when the instructor told us to walk like an American cop.

Act like you own the place and your hips are being pulled down by the weight of your gun, flashlight, extra bullets and hand cuffs. You know, it worked. For me, the amazing part was that I was the only Yank in the class, along with two Canadians. The New Zealanders and Aussies somehow knew what it was to walk like an American cop!

To this day, if I walk like an American cop, I am successful. Found my parents buried septic tank lids, under 8 inches of soil using the technique.
Michal

I’ve never heard is described that way, but now I’ve got an excuse to watch some bad television…to figure out if that “walk like a cop” stuff  really is a walk, of just an attitude…

Do We Need to Talk?

Although I’ve resisted for years and years, I am thinking (now that we have simplified website management around here (thanks for your patience!) about opening up the site to comments.

As I see it, there’s a trade-off here:  We might get a few more comments on point.  Plus we might see some friendships develop in our discussion area between what are presumably either like-minded or linguistic Sadomasochists.

The bad news is that the internet is beset by trolls (people who bitch about everything and contribute nothing) and it would be a potential time sink for Ures truly.

Part of me says it would be a good thing:  Over the years people have asked if there’s a way to hook up with other people in an area, like Kansas City for example, where other people interested in discussing solar power systems could meet.

Frankly, I could be swayed either way.  So if you have any strong thoughts…let me know?

Related point:  I hear from people that I should post more often to my Facebook account – but again, is that worth it, or just another annoyance?

Last point:  The “Follow UrbanSurvival link  over in the right-hand column is now working just fine and we’re back to sending out daily notes about this and that…So if you’d like the “auto-notify” and an occasional email epistle..go see if you can make sense out of the sign-up process.

OK, off to writing our Peoplenomics Annual Forecast, part two, and then our usual report here on Thursday.

Send in WuJo reports, too.  There’s been a real fall-off in the reports and I don’t know if that’s because they really seem to cluster around the equinox (and lead-in periods) or whether there is a more normal (Gaussian) distribution…

Write when you break even…

George    george@ure.net

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