Sunday, December 30, 2007

What would you do with 30 billion dollars?

One of the joys of pleasure reading is the ability to let mental connections happen freely. For instance, I finally got around to reading “Freakonomics” a few weeks back, and now that I’ve picked up “Your Brain on Music,” associations present themselves within the first pages of the introduction. Here’s what caught my eye: on page 7, Daniel Levitin makes an offhand remark that Album sales bring in around $30 billion a year, later remarking that 30 billion some songs were downloaded free through peer-to-peer networks in 2005.

Of course, unlike Leavitt in “Freakonomics,” I’ve no head for math, and no interest in any sort of correlation between these two numbers. Anyway, estimating things in the billions makes for a hell of a lot of rounding so analyzing any data like this is a job left to those who enjoy that sort of thing, not somebody who recently had a standardized test inform him that maybe he shouldn’t go into a field where he would be required to add, or count, for that matter.

Naturally, big numbers are impressive, so to my untrained mind for math, the first thought, is of course, that 30 billion is a fucking lot. When the $30 billion that those record sales brought in is broken down into who gets what, I’m sure the numbers are less impressive. Maybe they’d be more impressive if the iTunes buck-a-song idea were affixed to the 30 billion songs shared through P2P networks, but for some reason, record executives aren’t exactly painted as po’ folk, especially to a guy trying to make the rent.

In short, everybody could have made twice the money from record sales, but didn’t, and the media (aside from record company flackery) is making no effort to imply that these people need the dough. So you’ve got $30 billion coming in from record sales, and if the buck-a-song idea is affixed to the illegal side, another $30 billion that could be floating around.

Where could it go?

Heifer International is a wonderful charity that works to end hunger and help out the planet itself by allowing folks to purchase animals or shares of animals to be sent to those who could most use them. I’ve always had a soft spot for the organization, so it seems like a good enough place to start. Giving a llama, for instance, costs $150, keeping the math at a level that I can deal with, $30 billion would get you 200 million llamas. That $30 billion could have given each person in Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, Bolivia and Belize their very own llama.

So you’re not into llamas; that’s fine, the goons at Something Awful just recently did a charity drive concerned with giving bees through Heifer, 12,500 bees for $30. I’m going to keep the zeroes on this, because it’s worth all the zeroes: 12,500,000,000,000 bees. In the movie “My Girl,” that would be enough to kill Macaulay Culkin about one trillion times.

Say we did something more illicit with the money; a June 28, 2007 article in the Economist listed the typical retail price of a gram of cocaine in the US at around $100. So, there’s a good 300,000 kilos of coke that could be bought. Granted, at the time of publication, the average retail price in Columbia was just $2 a gram, so if we were buying it there, we could afford to be generous. Even after giving every Columbian a llama, we could still buy 11,695,416.5 kilos of cocaine. Keep in mind, that’s with the retail, not wholesale price.

Maybe you’d rather spend that $30 billion domestically, so let’s see what kind of government projects we could fund. Looking at the 2008 federal budget we could match the budget for all branches of the National Institute of Health, as well as throwing in the Department of Renewable Energy (28.7 billion and 1.236 billion accordingly). We could combine the budget for the United States Postal Service at 3.722 billion and the procurement budget for the Army at 24.253 billion and arm the Postal Service better than the Army. Or, here’s a fun one, we could more than match what the US government pays toward higher education.

Americans spend more money on music than on sex or prescription drugs. In 2005, the music we pirated theoretically could have saved us $30 billion.

So where the fuck did it go?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Yes yes, new posts, about that...

To the question, "how have I been?" I think freakishly busy should be a good enough reply. In the time since my last post I have filled in for a while at my library's branches whereupon I did:
  • A crap-ass attempt at a first storytime. (I have gone to state competitions for speech and debate, I have done Shakespeare in front of nuns as well as lead roles in other shows, I've pitched PR plans in front of companies, nothing prepares you for tanking in front of pre-schoolers.)
  • Recover the next week to have those same kids eating out of my hand on a weekly basis for the next month and a half.
  • Become slightly uncomfortable working circulation as an older patron checked out our entire collection of "guy in a kilt" trashy romance novels.
  • Fall in love with an accent. For any of you who have never had the pleasure of meeting somebody from New Zealand, trust me, wow.
  • Work alongside two phenomenal ladies who welcomed me with open arms when I had amazingly large shoes to fill as a substitute.
  • Encounter some of the best patrons any public library system should hope to have.
  • Get sent off at the end of my time there with a cookie cake, a big ol' sammich and a bottle of scotch.
Unfortunately, when I got back to the main branch, things had changed a bit. Due to what I can only think of as an epileptic fit on the part of organized labor, my position at the library has taken a turn south. As the union sees it, as a substitute I should not be able to do storytime, other children's programming, special projects around the library, or even work the desk on any regular basis. The only times I am permitted to work the desk are when one of the regular staff in the children's department is unable to. As such, I no longer have regular hours, but have to rely on other employees to take vacations. What makes this even more cute is that the day after this was decided, the director of our library system called me over to share something that had been mailed to her. Five of the local high-schoolers who would show up at one of our branches every Tuesday and Thursday after school had written her a letter asking that I be kept at that branch. As far as my job is concerned, I'm not sure I'll ever get a compliment quite like that.

Though it still doesn't take the sting out of the fact that I'm hunting for a second job right as the holidays are closing in on me.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

I wish that I knew what I know now...

So I've been at the library for about two months now, and as such, there are some life/work lessons that I'd like to impart to anyone who should stumble upon this...
Here's some of what I've learned.

-"Because I have a Master's degree in SCIENCE!" is not a valid excuse for making up answers to reference questions. Also, it is not true.

-The shelvers do not need roller skates.

-If I refer to them as my "Go to hell" shorts, they are probably not work appropriate.

-On a related wardrobe note: if asked what I'm wearing under my kilt, the only appropriate answer is "my sandals." Inappropriate answers include, but are not limited to: "nothing's worn, it's all in perfect working order," "look it up in the 611's," "ask your mother" and yelling "freedom!" at the top of my lungs.

-I will not hide in the book drop.

-The wands are for circulation purposes, not for waving at the patrons and muttering "silencio."

-Do not book talk Proust, not because it's long, but because: a. I haven't read it and b. 8 year-olds don't care.

-Even if I bring a guitar, "Albi, the Racist Dragon" won't fly in storytime.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

bulletin board blues

So we've got these bulletin boards toward the back of our nonfiction section, right above our holiday books and I'm working on some ideas for decorations that will be able to stay up for a while. (We just took down our summer reading decorations.) Right now I'm thinking "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" done with scrap newspaper and Ellison dies. After that I figure I can get away with only using one stone by tacking up information on where the kids can find our books with Dewey numbers, you know, "pets: 636-" that sort of thing. Luckily I'm still new enough to this to not realize that theme has probably been done to death.
That isn't to say I haven't had worse ideas...
"Juvenile Non-fiction: facts with pictures!"
"Area under construction, Dewey decimated it."
"Reference: the sky is blue because we say so."
or on a related note...
"How to know when your parents and teachers lied to you"
Though I think the best bad idea so far is still:
"Welcome to the library's Zero Wing. All your books are belong to us."
Bulletin boards for great justice.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Act II: the end of summer

-In which I feel evil, give a desk attendant at the local hospital something to tell her friends, and probably make an advertising executive really happy.
So I'm outside the coffee house, a bus goes past with an ad on the side for the local hospital, it reads "When it comes to babies, we deliver!"
Out comes the phone, in goes the number, through goes the call...

"******** Hospital, how may I direct your call?"
"Hi, I'm calling regarding an ad on one of your buses concerning your new services"
"Which of our new services would that be, sir?"
"Well, the baby delivery part"
"Sir, we've been capable of providing quality care in that department for quite a while now."
"Ok, good to know, see, I live out on Arrowhead Ave. and I was getting a bit tired of ordering pizzas all the time, what's the average time on a delivery?"
"Well, from start to finish sir, usually about nine months"
"Wow, I'd imagine it might get cold by that point, I was hoping to have one delivered to my area in the half-hour range, that won't be possible?"
"...Ok, who the hell is this?"
"Nevermind, miss, Chinese it is then, you have a good night."

I love this town.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Writing again

So I think working in a room full of books is starting to have some sort of osmosis effect on me. Tonight I managed to sit down and tap out the first pages of what I hope turns into a nice little short story. This is pretty much the first time in a year that I've had the chance to get some writing in for my own sake and not an instance of PR student flackery. Even that, short of the poetry open mics, I think the last time I finished something of any length was the children's story I did back in High School. If only "The Adventures of Bi-Polar Bear and Olive Ewe" was entirely age appropriate for me to read at work. Still for the possible one or two people that may read this, do me a favor and ride my ass to keep working on this.

Oh yeah, and a random thought while nursing a beer, after the term "resting on your laurels" was coined, does that by default mean that Emperors and Olympians get asshats?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Poolside Story-time update:

Today I got to introduce 50 impressionable young minds to the work of Syd Barrett.
I love my job.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Back online!

And it's official, I now have the nerdiest wireless network on the block. Other folks have their address or names like "pimphouse," and what do I call mine? "Dukedom large enough."
(What do you expect, it's been storming a lot here lately!)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Because it needs to be linked... everywhere.

That first letter is one of the main reasons that I love my job. And as a related fun fact, I used to work as a shelver in that library system.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Why is it...

that when I cancel books, I have the amazing urge to speak in all-caps?