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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Mutiny on the Harmony

Luxury cruise ship a floating construction site, say passengers

From the New Zealand Herald

She was supposed to be the last word in luxury on the open waves when she set off on her inaugural trip to great fanfare just over a week ago.

But the world's biggest cruise ship has been branded a floating "construction site" that puts passengers at risk by those on board.

Furious cruise fans who left on £800 million (NZ$1.74 billion) Harmony of the Seas' "maiden voyage" from Southampton to Rotterdam and a subsequent trip to Cherbourg complained contractors were still carrying out vital work on board.

Gaping holes were left in floors and walls, the hot water cut out, 90 per cent of children's rides were out of service and sleep was impossible in some rooms as drilling carried on through the night.

They also said the top deck of the 1188ft-long vessel was littered with hazards including loose cables, blow torches, open paint tins and power tools.

Ladders were left lying around and tables were dumped beside railings, leaving children at risk of climbing up and falling into the sea.

"Hundreds" of passengers have besieged the customer services desk throughout the sailings, according to witnesses.

Some that were offered compensation accused owner Royal Caribbean International of trying to gag them by saying they could not discuss what compensation they were offered with others on board.

The company yesterday tried to dampen down the furore by describing the North European trips as "pre-inaugural sailings" before the "official maiden cruise" leaves from Southampton for Barcelona tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Island of the Lost -- a view from the top

Island of the Lost - A Fantastic Leadership Lesson

A marvelous book by Joan Druett offers a fantastic leadership lesson:

The book describes the true account of two ships wrecking on the opposite ends of a deserted island in the Southern Ocean in the late 1800s. Both crews have virtually zero supplies and face harsh conditions with freezing temperatures, rain and wind. One crew turns on each other and splits up. Some of the men die of starvation and others turn to cannibalism. The other crew endures for more than two years and manages to escape the island after meticulously planning and executing their getaway.

Given that both crews were facing the same outset how comes that one made it whilst the other hopelessly failed? I would argue their respective captains and their differing “management styles” played the most important role. The captain of the surviving crew, Capt. Musgrave, did foremost two things right:

First, he not only managed to inspire his team by pointing out the advantages of working together, but his course of action yielded noticeable results every single crew member benefitted from early on.

Secondly, he obtained the buy-in from his crew for his leadership position. Whilst he had previously been the captain of a ship and thus the team’s alleged natural leader, he nevertheless held a democratic vote on who should be “not a superior, but a head or chief”.

To my experience organizations in distress tend to do the opposite. Rather than inspiring their staff members and pointing out how a strategy would bring benefits to the entire organization, oftentimes regimes are installed that lopsidedly satisfy the needs of other stakeholders than the crew. By doing so, these organizations typically worsen the overall situation of the very workforce they so desperately depend on in order to overcome the adverse situation.

Moreover, organizations faced with hardship typically display an authoritarian top-down type of management style following the motto “I order, you execute – otherwise you will hang from the mast!”. If at all this management style fosters slavish obedience, instead of creating true buy-in.

Leaders who do not follow Capt. Musgrave’s role model cannot expect to have all hands (or brains!) on deck when needed. Far worse, however, these leaders run the risk of creating an atmosphere of distrust and even back-stabbing. Unfortunately the desertion that set in among the second crew and the cannibalism that followed suit are indicative of this very danger in the worst possible way.

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, A.Dip.C., M.I.B., Dipl.-Kfm.
Adjunct Professsor
Haute école de gestion Fribourg

With many thanks to Professor Patrick Schüffel, who very kindly gave permission to reproduce his post.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Is Kindle Unlimited killing Indie publishing?

A recent item in the Digital Book World newsletter caught my attention, to the extent that I have been thinking about it ever since.

It was embedded in an interview with Smashwords' Mark Coker, who -- in effect -- accuses Amazon of killing off the goose that laid the golden egg.

This is it.

Amazon is exploiting the glut of cheap, high quality, Indie-produced digital books to drive the massive devaluation of e-books—with Kindle Unlimited as the tip of the spear, he says.

As Coker points out, thanks to Amazon’s KDP Select program (where authors agree not to list their books with any other distributor), it has exclusive access to 1.3 million e-books. And Kindle Unlimited (where customers buy a subscription with the right to read any of those books for nothing), means it can dump them on the market at below-market costs. Once someone has subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, after all, all those books are effectively “free” to read.

Coker compares Amazon’s exclusivity terms to a gun to the head of authors: “Go exclusive and we’ll give you preferential tools, discovery and sales advantage—or, go wide (distribute everywhere) and we’ll bury your books.” The ironic dilemma, Coker notes, is that KDP Select (which powers KU) is almost entirely powered by indie authors—authors who are surrendering their independence by enrolling in KDP Select.

Further, he notes that Kindle Unlimited is undermining the market for single-copy sales. “With KU, Amazon is training the world’s largest community of readers to consume books for what feels like free,” Coker says. When you can read 1.3 million e-books for free, why pay even 99 cents for a single title?

As I said before, it is worrying.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The unspeakable Trump

Trump has breached the boundaries of good taste yet again.

Relatives are mourning the apparent crash of  Egypt Air Flight 804, somewhere in the Med.

Does he commiserate?  Offer condolences?  No.  Instead he tweeted a little tirade of nastiness.

"Airplane departed from Paris," Trump wrote. "When will we get tough, smart and vigilant? Great hate and sickness!"

The Washington Post is rightfully derisive of such coldbloodedness.

To be sure, Trump is dabbling in speculation (they say) -- the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804 only "looks like" a terrorist attack. But instead of offering condolences to those likely lost aboard the missing plane, or expressing solidarity with the governments now conducting a desperate search mission, the reality-show star aspiring to be leader of a world superpower played politics.

 Here's what he was inferring:

1. Because the flight left from Paris, the terrorist plotters probably came from there.

2. This clearly means there were security lapses in Europe. What do we need to be tough and vigilant about? Perhaps the Muslims in our midst, as Trump similarly stressed in the wake of November's Paris attacks and the terrorist spree in Brussels in March. He used those attacks to both inveigh against accepting Syrian refugees and to champion the use of torture and racial profiling.

3. The "hate and sickness" Trump refers to is his now-longstanding diagnosis of what he sees ailing Islam and the Muslim world. (WorldViews has taken his rhetoric to task repeatedly, such as here and here.)

At a moment when panicked families were rushing to find more information from authorities, Trump thought it appropriate to trot out his campaign talking points.

Never mind that Trump probably has no immediate access to the specific information being sifted and gathered by French, Egyptian and Greek investigators. Never mind that he has no jurisdiction over security matters in these countries.

Never mind that we have no idea yet what the hypothetical motives of a phantom militant group may be. And never mind that counterterrorism experts and an array of commentators on both sides of the Atlantic have poured cold water on Trump's proposed policies, such as they are.

But, given the vast number of retweets his missive garnered in the morning, Trump certainly has an audience, both domestically and abroad. And his purported enemies are listening, too.
In the wake of the Brussels terrorist assault, a media wing of the Islamic State put out a video hailing the success of the attack. One measure of their supposed triumph: a sound bite from Trump, bemoaning the fall of a great European capital.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Nebula Award winners 2016


Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has revealed the winners of the 2015 Nebula Awards, as well as the winner of the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the winner of the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Naomi Novik took the Nebula Award for best novel with Uprooted.

Nnedi Okorafor won the Nebula Award for best novella for Binti.

Sarah Pinsker won the Nebula Award for the novelette Our Lady of the Open Road and Alyssa Wong won for her short story, “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers.”

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation went to "Mad Max: Fury Road" by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris.

Updraft by Fran Wilde won the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Nielson confirms slump in eBook sales

from the Publishers Weekly

BEA 2016: E-book Sales Fell 13% in 2015, Nielsen Reports

Unit sales of e-books published by traditional publishers fell 13% in 2015 compared to 2014, said Kempton Mooney of Nielsen during a Thursday panel aimed at examining different publishing markets.

Units fell to 204 million from 234 million in 2014. The high point of e-book sales was 2013 when units totaled 242 million units. While e-book sales fell in the year, print units rose 2.8%, to 653 million. As a result, e-books’s market share of units dipped to 24% in 2015, down from 27% in 2014. Mooney observed that some of the gain in print sales was due to the extraordinary popularity of adult coloring books last year. The e-book sales figures came from about 400 traditional publishers, Mooney said.

In another look at e-book sales, Mooney reported that the Big 5 publishers’ share of e-book sales fell to 34% in 2015, down from 38% in 2014. In 2012, the Big 5 held a 46% of e-book unit sales. The loss of share of the Big 5 was made up by self-publishers and small publishers. Self-publishers’ share of the e-book market rose to 12% last year from 8% in 2014, while small presses accounted for 30% of e-book unit sales in 2015, up from 26% in 2014.

In some other trends taken from Nielsen’s BookScan database of print sales, Mooney said sales of children’s board books posted solid gains in 2015. He attributed the increase to adults desire to read physical books to their children rather than using digital devices. He said no one title was responsible for the increase in the year and that sales were good for both new and backlist board books.
Sticking to the children’s category, Mooney pointed to a recent survey that found 51% of children under age 9 are non-white. He said publishers that aren’t publishing books that can appeal to children from diverse backgrounds are losing “huge chunks of sales.”

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Books are back!

Books are back. Only the technodazzled thought they would go away

Simon Jenkins

The hysterical cheerleaders of the e-book failed to account for human
experience, and publishers blindly followed suit. But the novelty has worn

Friday 13 May 2016 10.43 BST  Last modified on Friday 13 May 2016 17.05 BST

At last. Peak digital is at hand. The ultimate disruptor of the new
information age is - wait for it - the book.

Shrewd observers noted the early signs. Kindle sales initially outstripped
hardbacks but have slid fast since 2011. Sony killed off its e-readers.
Waterstones last year stopped selling Kindles and e-books outside the UK,
switched shelf space to books and saw a 5% rise in sales.

Amazon has opened its first bookshop.

Now the official Publishers Association confirms the trend. Last year
digital content sales fell last year from £563m to £554m. After years on a
plateau, physical book sales turned up, from £2.74bn to £2.76bn.

They have been boosted by the marketing of colouring and lifestyle titles,
but there is always a reason. The truth is that digital readers were never
remotely in the same ballpark. The PA regards the evidence as unmistakable,
'Readers take a pleasure in a physical book that does not translate well on
to digital.' Virtual books, like virtual holidays or virtual relationships,
are not real. People want a break from another damned screen.

What went wrong? Clearly publishing, like other industries before (and
since), suffered a bad attack of technodazzle: It failed to distinguish
between newness and value. It could read digital's hysterical cheerleaders,
but not predict how a market of human beings would respond to a product once
the novelty had passed. It ignored human nature. Reading the meaning of
words is not consuming a manufacture: it is experience.

As so often, the market leader was the music business. Already, by the turn
of the 21st century, its revenues were shifting dramatically from
reproduction to live. This was partly because recording and distributing
music became so cheap there was no profit margin, but it was largely because
the market had changed. Buyers, young and old, wanted to witness music
played in the company of like minds, and were prepared to pay for the
experience ­ often to pay lots. Soon the same was true for live sport, live
theatre, even live talks. The festival has become king. The money is back at
the gate.

Books must be the ultimate test. Admittedly some festivals now give away
books for free and charge instead to hear the writers speak.

But just buying, handling, giving and talking about a book seems to have
caught the magic dust of experience. A book is beauty. A book is a shelf,
a wall, a home.

The book was declared dead with the coming of radio. The hardback was dead
with the coming of paperbacks. Print-on-paper was buried fathoms deep by the
great god, digital. It was rubbish, all rubbish. Like other aids to reading,
such as rotary presses, Linotyping and computer-setting, digital had brought
innovation to the dissemination of knowledge and delight. But it was a
means, not an end.

Since the days of Caxton and Gutenberg, print-on-paper has shown astonishing
longevity. The old bruisers have seen off another challenge.

© Guardian 2016

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Gorgeous whaling logbooks

In Maritime Logbooks, a Trove of ‘Extraordinary’ Imagery

Capt. Ephraim Harding Jr.’s 1843 depiction of whales and the ship Arab of Fairhaven. Credit New Bedford Whaling Museum

During the 19th century, travelers on whaling ships used art to record dramatic and sometimes gory events. In official logbooks and personal journals, sailors and passengers listed sea routes, weather conditions, whale-oil harvests, ship repairs and stops for provisions. In pen, pencil and watercolor, they added drawings of heaving whales in their death throes dragging boats, bleeding whale carcasses being torn apart and seamen’s coffins lowered into the ocean.

Michael P. Dyer, the senior maritime historian at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts, is tracking down these illustrations for a book, “The Art of the Yankee Whale Hunt: Manuscript Illustration in the Age of Sail.” Some journals contain just one meticulously detailed image because, Mr. Dyer said, “in the middle of the voyage, something extraordinary happened.”

The last major study of the subject appeared in the 1980s. Illustrated whaling journals are now on display in the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s exhibition “Mapping Ahab’s ‘Storied Waves’ — Whaling and the Geography of ‘Moby-Dick,’” about cartographic resources that Herman Melville’s vengeful main character would have used to find the white behemoth that bit off his lower leg.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum owns 2,300 logbooks. About 100 are digitized and online, and more digitizing is in progress. The museum has been acquiring them, as gifts and purchases, for more than a century. (Heavily illustrated volumes can sell for tens of thousands of dollars each.) One-third of the collection’s logbooks contain some kind of drawing, including simple outlines of whales in the margins or tableaus detailed with ship rigging; portraits of particular American Indian and African-American crewmen; marine creatures’ fin and fluke silhouettes; and the animals’ wounds from gunshots, lances and harpoons.

The drawings at times reveal mishaps: broken tools and ropes, escaped whales and the untethered bodies of whales that sank. Each logbook could cover several trips around the world and contain writings and images from numerous shipmates. Sailors would share drawings onboard, they critiqued one another’s art, and they sometimes worked on commission for officers. A number of the identifiable artists, including Joseph Bogart Hersey and Joseph Washington Tuck, were based in Provincetown, Mass., where a culture of maritime sketching seems to have arisen. “To this day, Provincetown is an artists’ colony,” Mr. Dyer observed.

He can sometimes pinpoint not only the dates of the incidents but also the ships’ geographic coordinates at the relevant moment. “You can, in many, many cases, identify the event,” he said.


A journal kept by Joseph Washington Tuck onboard the brig E. Nickerson, of Provincetown, 1851-1853. Credit New Bedford Whaling Museum

In 1864, a young Massachusetts man, Amos C. Baker Jr., sketched his own accident off the Patagonian coast; a whale smashed his boat, and his leg was broken in two places. “Getting cracked” was Mr. Baker’s caption for the logbook picture. After healing for a few months in his cabin, he returned to work as a third mate, hobbling on crutches and leaning on oars.

“He was in misery for the rest of the voyage, and he was lame for the rest of his life,” Mr. Dyer said. Mr. Baker, who later worked as a lighthouse keeper, probably took some comfort in knowing that in an act of vengeance that Captain Ahab would have admired, his shipmates slaughtered the whale that had slammed into him.

A handful of women, traveling with husbands who were ship officers, contributed drawings to sea journals. The New Bedford Whaling Museum owns Lydia Tuck’s watercolors of hunts off the West African coast, which she produced in the 1850s while accompanying her husband, Francis Tuck, the ship’s master and a brother of the artist Joseph Tuck. She was pleased at their large oil harvest from “a noble whale,” she wrote, although “it seems cruel to kill them.”

Other institutions, including the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, have begun digitizing illustrated logbooks. Yale University has posted pages from a journal that the Yale-educated writer Francis Allyn Olmsted produced around 1840, during a sailing voyage from the Northeastern United States to the Pacific Islands and back. Mr. Olmsted recorded whale carcasses amid choppy waves; weapons used in hunting expeditions; costumes worn by islanders; and encounters with icebergs, snow, hail and gales. He apologized for the quality of his workmanship on the page: “My friends must remember the great disadvantages I labor under in drawing, as for instance the constant motion of the ship.”
Unsigned sketches, untraceable so far to any identifiable voyage, have turned up tucked inside logbooks, and some illustrations have apparently been removed from logbooks and turned into framed art, disconnected from their original narratives. Mr. Dyer has also found journals that illustrate seamen’s hunting triumphs on specific whaleboats, although other archival records of the voyages show the slaughters never actually happened.

“It’s wishful thinking, a whaleman imagining that he’d captured whales on that particular day,” Mr. Dyer said.

Logbook artists worked in other media as well. The New Bedford museum owns whalebone and whale ivory carvings by Mr. Hersey and Mr. Baker. Mr. Hersey, in his 1843 journal, described himself as “slightly skilled in the art of flowering; that is drawing and painting upon bone; steam boats, flower pots, monuments, balloons, landscapes &c.” He considered himself something of a naturalist too, documenting “much diversity in the form and habits of the inhabitants of the ocean.”

One combination, however, remains elusive. Mr. Dyer said that he had “not yet been able to connect a whaling scene drawn in a journal with a whaling scene engraved on a whale’s tooth.”

Thursday, May 12, 2016

History of the White House Women

OK, it is probably not great to attack a presidential candidate through his or her spouse, but The Trump started it, so why not?

White House Spouses in recent history ....

One has to admit that they all had dignity.  And style.