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You got paid for this?

On Wednesday of this week, my company, Voyant Technologies, Inc. of Westminster, Colorado, had our quarterly all company meeting. (You may think that 5 commas in a sentence of 19 words is extreme, but as far as I know I used them all correctly) From time to time, the powers that be like to give us special trinkets for attending these meetings, which usually last 2 to 3 hours. Well, this time every employee got a new copy of Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D. I had heard of this book before, but never imagined I would own my very own copy. After glancing through the book, my first and strongest reaction was, “You got paid for this?”

You see, the “book” is only 94 pages long, hardly a length of book you would expect to pay $19.95 (retail price) for. But a more careful look at those 94 pages shows that included in that count all of the front pages – the title page, two pages of “Praise for Spencer Johnson’s Books”, a page listing people who bought the book, another page showing reviewers’ comments on the book, a page listing the author’s other books, a second title page, a copyright page, a page of a couple quotes the author likes, a table of contents, and several more pages of introduction and blank separator pages, followed by a third title page. So will all that filler, the book doesn’t even start until page 21! Discounting all the fluff, that means the “book” is actually only 74 pages.

But wait, there’s less! 15 of those 74 pages aren’t actually text, but contain a drawing of a section of a cheese wheel with a single-sentence smarmy saying. For instance, they used an entire page to say “Having cheese makes you happy.” So, assuming they could (and should) have printed those as callouts instead of giving them their own pages, there’s really only about 60 pages of content here.

Are you getting the idea that the author and publisher of this book used the same approach you used in 9th grade English class when you had to write a 20 page research paper? I don’t know about you, but I would write as much as I could and then double space it, make big margins, and – if possible – use the largest font size the typewriter would handle. Well, the people who brought you Who Moved My Cheese! didn’t forget those lessons from 9th grade. It’s not double spaced, but they used the largest typeface I’ve ever seen an adult book printed in. There’s definitely no need for a special “large type” edition of this book for visually impaired readers. I’m guessing it’s 14 point, maybe 16 point. I just took a random sample of a typical page of this book. It has 150 words. 150 x 60 is 9000. So I’m guessing this book is roughly 9000 words long.

Compare that to 1200 to 2500 for a typical mainstream magazine article. But I guess tiny books are popular in the business world. This particular one says it’s a “#1 Bestseller”. Virginia Polytechnic Institute says “A ‘good’ reading speed is around 500 to 700 words per minute for “fiction and non-technical materials” which probably fits this book. Let’s do some basic math. 9000 / 500 = 18. So, it’ll probably take a good-but-slow reader roughly 18 minutes to read this “book”. OK, OK, I’ll be generous. I’ll assume it’s a good book and that most readers will re-read some of the better passages. And nobody will probably read it straight through. So let’s say it takes 30 minutes to read this book. At $19.95, that’s about $40/hour.

Compare that to a movie, which is about $3/hour ($8 ticket for a 2.5 hour movie). Or a long paperback sci-fi book, which is about $0.16/hour ($8 book that takes about 50 hours to read). Or commercial television, which is $0/hour (and you get what you pay for).

On the other end of the spectrum, consider a visit to a nice spa for $75/hour. Or a high class prostitute at about $1200/hour (ask my friend Charlie Sheen). Or a ride on the Concorde at about $4000/hour.

My point? I guess my point is that this book is a much better deal than taking a high class prostitute on the Concorde to a Paris spa. But it’s pretty lousy in comparison to the next Lord of the Rings movie or a good sci-fi book.

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I’m currently reading a book that a friend and former boss recommended. It’s How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living. Not that I have any particular tough choices to make, but when I asked for a recommendation for a book on moral relativism, he recommended this (which isn’t on moral relativism). So far it’s easy to understand.

In the mail today was delivered a new DVD that I bought on Half.com. It’s called Dark Days and it’s an award winning documentary on homeless people in NYC who live in the subway tunnels. I read a book on this same topic once, though I can’t remember the title. Hold on and I’ll go search Amazon.com for a second. Ah, here we go. the book was The Mole People. Just now, in search for that title, though, I also found this interesting site disputing much of what was written in The Mole People. And it seems there’s a whole website devoted to the history of the NYC subway system. Wow!

In other news, I’ve been thinking more and more of writing an essay on frozen beverages. Most people don’t appreciate them as much as I do, and I think I must be a connoisseur of them. I haven’t met too many people who can describe – or even recognize – the difference between a snow cone, Hawaiian shave ice, Slurpee, and Mr. Misty. But I can.

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Holy smokes! As I’m writing this, I’m ripping my Doughty CD into MP3 files using my new do-it-all CD/DVD drive. I can’t believe how fast it is! It’s copying the data and compressing to MP3 at about 10x to 15x speed. So I just MP3-ified the entire album in less time than it took to write this blog entry – about 13 seconds per song. I should be able to crank through my backlog of CDs to rip in no time at all, now!

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Oh, and another thing. I downloaded some software for my DVD burner to allow me to rip movies and chapters of movies. It works great! If I had a ton of free time, I’d make a 404 Not Found music video using still photos, animation, hand drawings, and clips from movies. But I don’t have a ton of free time.

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I just finished voting. This year, I did an absentee voter ballot for the first time ever. Hurray! Now on to the rest of my Sunday morning chores. I’m going to try to get them all done so I can watch the Broncos game a little while before band practice at 1:00.

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Denver Radio Sucks – it’s true!

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Here is an interesting article on how the “Black Mesa Trust” agrees with Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, who wants to see a pipeline built from the Grand Canyon to the Black Mesa coal mine’s coal slurry pipeline that feeds the Mojave Generating Station. Personally, I’m torn. On the one hand, building a $100 million pipeline to the Grand Canyon to suck out water to be used for coal will tax an already overextended resource – the Colorado River. On the other hand, Peabody Energy is currently pumping fresh water out of the Navajo Aquifer to feed this slurry line, and using river water instead of that aquifer seems like a good idea. Really, the ideal solution is to get rid of the slurry line altogether. What genius had the idea of using a slurry line to transport coal in the middle of the desert where water is most scarce? (feel free to write back, if you really know the answer to my seemingly rhetorical question)

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What countries besides the United States have sent astronauts to the moon?

What countries besides the United States have sent astronauts to the moon? – Here’s an interesting Q&A! This Ask Yahoo! feature is a good one. I have it on my main Yahoo! front page.

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Yahoo! News – North Korea Told to Renounce Nukes – Why doesn’t this surprise me at all? I assumed all along they had nukes. Why is this a “startling disclosure”?

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Oh, another thing I did earlier this week was to figure out all the election issues for my area. Election day is November 5, and I’ll be in the desert hunting with my dad that day. So I’m going to do an absentee ballot for the first time ever. So I sent in my application for that and spent a couple hours Monday night reading up on all the issues and candidates and making a list of who and what to vote for. I’m now an educated and prepared voter!