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2018 May 3

Season theater tickets purchased for 2018

In the past week, I have bought my season tickets for both Santa Cruz Shakespeare and Jewel Theatre. For both, we ended up buying three subscriptions—for my wife, my son, and me, although there is one of the Jewel Theatre performances that my son will not be in town for.

The SCS tickets are only available to “members” at the moment, but go on sale to the general public on May 15 (but for $50 you can become a member right away).  By buying tickets on the first day that sales opened to members, we managed to get ideal seating. We are going to everything:

  • Love’s Labours Lost
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Venus in Fur
  • Men I’m Not Married To (the interns’ production)
  • Doll’s House (staged reading—free)
  • The Taming (staged reading—free)

In fact, we’re going to Love’s Labours Lost twice, because my mother-in-law will be in town during the previews, when our son can’t go, so we’ll go with her to the preview and with our son to a showing later in the season.

Similarly, the Jewel Theatre tickets are only available to subscribers (they haven’t even posted the new season on their website yet), but you can become a new subscriber at no cost (other than tickets).  We are only going to 4 of the 5 shows, because we see no point to going to their musical.  (I don’t like musicals in general, and my wife likes some musicals, but not this year’s.)  We’re also not bothering with their non-subscription holiday show—again it is a musical we have no interest in. The shows we are seeing are

  • The Beauty Queen of Leenane
  • Red Velvet
  • Breaking the Code
  • The Explorers Club

The Jewel Theatre plays look like an interesting season, though I’m a bit worried about Julie James having cast herself as the lead in the first one—she has a habit of casting herself in parts intended for much younger actresses, and she is almost old enough to be playing the mother rather than the daughter in this play.  Still, it is less of a stretch than some of the roles she has tried to pull off in previous years.

We bought subscriptions to Actors’ Theatre at the beginning of the year, since they start selling in January.  We still have two plays to go in that subscription:

  • The Realistic Jones
  • Red

This weekend, we are going to a non-subscription theater event: WEST Ensemble Players’ production of Antigone. WEST Ensemble Players are the grade 10–12 invitation-only troupe for WEST Performing Arts, and they are usually pretty good.  We enjoyed the performance of She Kills Monsters that they did in February.

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2018 April 23

Thinking of dumping Wells Fargo

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:53
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For decades, my personal checking account has been with Wells Fargo, largely because they had conveniently located ATMs and branches, and because Bank of America treated me poorly enough that I dumped them, even though they had the closest branch to my house (that branch is now closed and for lease at prices inflated even by Santa Cruz standards).

But Wells Fargo has done so much wrong lately that I’m feeling I can’t really do business with them any more. So I’m looking for recommendations of places to move my personal checking account to.

I already have my household account with Bay Federal Credit Union, and the last time I checked they didn’t allow a member to have two checking accounts.  In any case, I’d prefer to keep my personal and household accounts in separate institutions with different ATM networks, just in case of difficulties with one institution.

So do any of my local readers have recommendations for me of places to move my checking account to?

I mainly use my checking account for direct deposit of my paycheck, ATM machines, debit card, and monthly transfers to a mutual fund account (with a different institution).  I write an average of about 2 checks a month, with an occasional flurry of more when I decide to give to several charities at once.

2018 April 22

Leanpub changing their pricing model again

Filed under: Circuits course,Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 09:50
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I’ve been publishing drafts of my book with Leanpub since August 2015, shortly after I first heard about them from Katrin Becker.  I took the chance with an unknown publisher largely because it cost me nothing, they took no rights to the book, and their e-book store had very generous royalties.

About  a year ago, they changed their pricing model for authors, so that there was a flat $99 fee for starting each new book, though existing books like mine were grandfathered in with no fee.

They just announced to authors another change in their pricing plan (though again, existing books are grandfathered in).  Now authors have a choice between a $99 flat fee per book or subscription plans of $8, $19, $29, or $59 a month, depending on how many books they have—the $8/month plan is for up to 3 books.  For the 32 months I’ve been with LeanPub, the new subscription pricing scheme would have cost me $256—much more than the $99 flat fee, which would have already been high enough for me to look elsewhere when I was starting.

The new subscription pricing scheme strikes me as a sucker’s deal, if you are really going to stick with a book long enough to complete the book and sell it. Unless you remove a book from Leanpub quickly (taking it to a traditional publisher, for example), the subscription fees add up fast.  Unless you are churning out books and moving them off Leanpub within 2–3 years, the $99 flat fee per book remains a better deal.

number of books months until flat fee cheaper
1 13
2 25
3 38
4 21
5 27
6 32
7 37
8 42
9 47
10 53
11 38
12 41
13 45
14 48
15 52
16 55

They do have some deals where earning sufficient royalties will provide the subscription for free, but I’m still a long way from the first breakpoint ($1000 in royalties), because I give away the book to students in my classes (235 free copies of the book vs. only 133 paid-for copies) and because I charge so little (the price is now $9.99 recommended, $4.99 minimum).  At that low price, my royalties are minimal.  I suppose that in another couple of years I’ll be up to the level that would unlock their standard plan, allowing me to do up to 3 more books without a subscription fee (unless they’ve raised their thresholds by then).

Of course, if I could get some other teacher to adopt my book for a course, my sales would go up substantially, but self-promotion has never been one of strong skills, and Leanpub provides no marketing.  Other than the authors of books on Leanpub and their students, no one knows about the website or looks for books there.

Leanpub has also changed the royalties they give, from 90%–50¢ to 80%.  For the lowest price they allow ($4.99), the royalties are the same either way, but for higher prices, they now take more (again, existing books are grandfathered in under the old agreement, though they are trying to induce authors to switch to the new royalty scheme with a not-very-exciting promotion scheme).  The new royalties are still much better than Amazon’s 35% for ebooks, but Amazon provides much more visibility for books.  Amazon does have a 70% royalty deal for ebooks in a very narrow price range.

I understand why Leanpub has been making changes to their business model—their initial pricing was a loss leader, to build up a sufficient clientele while they were developing their software for book publishing.  The main value they add (in their view) is their mark-up language for producing EPUB, MOBI, and PDF formats from the same source, and most of their development costs have been for improving their mark-up language (first Leanpub-flavored Markdown and now Markua).

But I’m not using their mark-up language, because it is not really suited for the graph-heavy, math-heavy textbook I’m writing. I’m using LaTeX to produce PDF files directly.  I gave up on EPUB and MOBI, as they are not suitable formats for graph-heavy books, even though that locks me out of many of the e-book markets. I’m using Leanpub only for their storefront, for which their 10%+50¢ charge was quite reasonable, but increasing the charges to 20% and adding a $8/month subscription fee to that would make me think twice about staying with Leanpub, if they hadn’t grandfathered in the existing books.

2018 April 15

Marcus’s first outside adventure

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 14:52
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Our kitten, Marcus, had his first excursion outside yesterday.  We have been keeping him inside all winter, and we expected him to race away the moment we opened the door for him (given how he races around the house so much, as if it were too small a box for him). But, to our surprise, he was very cautious and it was several days until he condescended to step over the threshold—and then only because the trusted older cat, Georgie, was sitting on the doorstep.  It took him over half an hour to get down the steps to the patio and explore there.

Marcus sheltering in the corner, where nothing can reach him.

Marcus steps out from the corner.

He did not stay outside very long, but he did go outside again for five minutes later in the day. He still does not know how to use the cat door, and even with the back door open he prefers to sit on the threshold and look out, rather than venture out into unknown territory.

The lighting in these pictures is a bit misleading—Marcus is a sleek black cat, not black and grey.

Rapid delivery

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 09:37
Tags: , ,

I made a serious mistake in putting together the parts list for my Applied Electronics course this quarter—I forgot to include a potentiometer on the list. I think what happened is that in previous years I had put the trimpot on the first quarter list, but we didn’t use it until the second quarter. I had a note to move it from the first-quarter list to the second-quarter list, but the move only happened half way (it was removed from the first list, but not added to the second one).

The mistake was pointed out to me be students in my Thursday office hours (they were asking where the potentiometer they were to use was).

Late Thursday night (after the evening labs were ordered), I ordered 85 25-turn 10kΩ trimpots from DigiKey, and they arrived Saturday morning (at 36 hours, about the fastest delivery I’ve ever had for anything other than pizza—particularly good for a delivery from Minnesota to California).  The Post Office package delivery gives good service here (now that they are no longer short-staffed as they were in December).

Because the lab course fee for the Applied Electronics course has all been spent on parts and tools already, I probably won’t be able to get reimbursed for these parts. The $76.52 they cost is probably the price I’ll have to pay for my mistake. (It isn’t my most expensive mistake in the last year—I forgot to pay my first installment of property taxes on time, which cost me a couple hundred dollars in penalties.)

Although I’m very happy with DigiKey’s rapid service, I might still specify trimpots from AliExpress next year, since 100 trimpots would cost only about $12 with shipping (ePacket, not the unreliable China Post).

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