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From the Notebook

As everyone should have noticed by now, I have finished the novel and it is available on Amazon.com. I’m hoping to post some material about the book, why I wrote it and what I want people to take away from the book. Since publishing a book is rather stressful,  I took it easy on the blog this month.

– This blog officially turns ten years old in February of 2014. Which makes me feel very old. I am trying to keep this page alive, the best I can. Thus, I’m shooting for 5000 posts. It’s one of my last writing goals I really want to fulfill, as odd as that sounds. It looks like Random Links might be my preferred vessel. And I don’t care if they’re boring and no one cares or if Random Links shouldn’t even count as a blog post. I do care that some people have unsubscribed from the email list. But they were bound to quit on me anyway, right?

– Please, if you’ve read my book, review it!

Books Read:

William F. Buckley (Christian Encounters Series) by Jeremy Lott. This was a brief biography from a Christian perspective. Since Buckley played such a big role in my political development, I felt compelled to read this book, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It wasn’t bad, in fact, it was rather interesting. Well written. But sometimes the life of a writer is not as interesting as his writtens.

The Wikipedia Grand Tour from Dailylit. This exhaustive, almost three-year long email series sends you the intros to nearly 1000 of the most important Wikipedia articles. And there’s a lot of variation in interest depending on the topic. I felt like it was worth it.

Why Can’t I Use A Smiley Face?: Stories From One Month In America by Roosh V. Interesting book. I would recommend it.

Jim Cramer’s Getting Back to Even. This book outlines a few new tools and new rules to investing in the post-Great Recession world. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend a few of Cramer’s ideas. They just take too much work. But, the new focus on dividends and gold hedging is a step in the right direction and people should be well acquainted with them. Still, people will probably be better off just getting an index fund (like VOO from Vanguard).

Enjoy the Decline by Aaron Clarey. Get it. Read it. Make someone else read it.

The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists by Neil Strauss. The first books in the “PUA” genre I’ve read, but this is actually not a PUA guide. It’s a fascinating memoir, as Strauss goes from AFC to mPUA to burnout. Highly recommend.

– A Writers Bucket List by Dana Sitar. As I tell younger writers, you should probably read one or two books dealing with the craft of writing every year. This is a quick read with 99 solid goals writers should have going forward in their “careers”. Worth an afternoon.

Before There Was Bubble Gum: Our Favorite Pre-World War I Baseball Cards by Dean Hanley. I liked the first book of Hanley’s I read (The Bubble Gum Card War) that I immediately purchased his first book. Big mistake. This short book provides the sort of information you can find in any baseball card catalogue.

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The Personal Library of the Future

reliures dans un bibliothèque privée / bookbin...

reliures dans un bibliothèque privée / bookbinding: books in a personal library. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let me first acknowledge that everything about this post is wishful thinking; the idea people will have the patience to read books in the digital age is almost laughable…

Books are a burden. They’re heavy, they’re bulky, they aren’t conducive to the modern lifestyle of economic refugeeism. They’re obsolete as tens of thousands of books can be stored on a digital device that has a liquid paper screen and can be purchased on Amazon.com for the price equivalent to a day’s labor. Some of us Luddites will hold onto our books, but eventually we’ll go extinct. But maybe there’s room for books in the future…

Social networking now defines our personal relationships. The bloggers and Twitter tweeps we follow, our facebook friends, or just the people we seem so obsessed with that we need to text them every fifteen minutes, they represent the people important to us. And a few of them write books. And because they are important to us, we feel the need to read their books. This is a good thing. (So good, in fact, you should go out and buy my book.) While ebooks are convenient and cheap, I think a lot of us will choose to get physical copies of the books written by our friends. Think of the books not as a means of storing information, but more like souvenirs.

To me, having a physical copy of a book a friend has written is valuable more from a sentimental perspective. Like photos or yearbooks.

Instead of having large libraries filled with all the important books, we’ll have smaller libraries of a few books, most of them written by people we know personally, almost all of them self-published, almost all of them not widely circulated.

I find the idea almost romantic, if I dare use that word. The great classics of the world will be with us as long as we exist. So it’s okay to not have a physical copy of Plato’s Republic, since it’s so widely distributed. But the books being written now by intelligent people who don’t have the backing of big publishers, they will benefit in the longterm from having physical copies floating around. You can’t serendipitously find a good ebook. But we’ve all found a physical book we ended up reading and liking that we wouldn’t have otherwise found without its physical presence.

At least, a guy can dream…

Productivity and Minimum Wage

Argument: Minimum wage makes workers happier and thus more productive.

Counterargument: Happiness doesn’t work that way.

Minimum wage: Not about those already employed

English: Wage_labour

English: Wage_labour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The minimum wage is a fairly complex issue, and it’s been an issue that has been a little difficult to investigate quantitatively (for many reasons that I hope to get to in a future post). A lot of time is spent by proponents of raising the minimum wage on the plight of those working minimum wage jobs. And yes, a minimum wage job is not going to provide the income necessary to raise a family or buy a house or save for retirement. But, how severe is this problem? The answer is, not very:

The notion that there are millions of full-time workers struggling to raise a family, but are stuck in jobs paying the minimum wage for long periods of time is more myth than fact. Almost all full-time workers (99.4%) are earning more than the minimum wage, and almost all full-time hourly workers (98.3%) are earning more than the minimum wage. Most importantly, the fact that more than three out of four teenagers (77.2%), who are the least skilled and least educated group of workers, earned more than the minimum wage in 2011 would suggest the minimum wage is mostly an entry-level wage for beginning workers with no skills. The reality of the labor market is that even a large majority of previously unskilled teenage workers are earning more than the minimum wage as soon as they acquire minimal jobs skills and work habits, and can demonstrate their value to employers.

The minimum wage is not about people who are working minimum wage jobs. They, for the most part, are well on their way to earning more money. The few people who are forever stuck with minimum wage work are often also on Disability from SocSec. Very, very, very few people are going to be stuck in a minimum wage job, as their only source of income, their entire lives.

So, why not raise the minimum wage if it’s such a non-factor for people who are employed? because…

there are many unskilled workers who desperately need that first job that allows them to acquire the skills and experience that leads to higher wages as the teenage data demonstrate. But the minimum wage law prices many of those unskilled workers out of the labor market (especially minority populations), and they are denied the employment opportunities they desperately need (see cartoon above). The real tragedy isn’t that some full-time workers are initially earning $7.25 per hour and supposedly “living in poverty,” but that there are millions of unemployed Americans willing to work but are earning $0.00 per hour and living in poverty because of the minimum wage law.

Mark Perry even has a nifty graph showing the relationship between teenage employment and the minimum wage.

Everyone, at some point in their lives, had zero value to a potential employer. Some of us gained skills through school or through our parents. Some of us got lucky and got paid to screw up for six months before finally being worth a paycheck. A few of us even get trained by our employers. But the higher we keep pushing the minimum wage, the more it costs employers to train us. And eventually, employers are simply not going to provide those opportunities.