Monday, November 26, 2012

Chapter 2, 35: Games

Rowan, headmistress of Ravenswood Academy, isn't actually a stuck-up snob. But she might be seen that way.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chapter 2, 34: Hearing

Your stock Chinese character is always quoting Confucius. There's a reason for that, and I wish people would stop doing it when they're trying to be funny.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chapter 2, 30: Burn!

A handler works long and hard to earn an agent's trust. Because only when the trust is deep and real are you really ready to burn.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Chapter 2, 28: Mean Girls Pass Time, Too

The Dewdney Trail; Anarchist Mountain.

". . . .The Dewdney Trail to Wild Horse Creek wound around the hill on the south side of Anarchist Mountain, sometimes on the Canadian side of the boundary and sometimes on the American side, depending on the grade. At the time of the Rock Creek gold rush, Chinese packed supplies over the Dewdney Trail, but were waylaid on the US side; subsequently they cut a new trail on the Canadian side, known as the China Road . . . ."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Chapter 2, 26: Graves

This chapter is a tribute to the crazy internal geography of the Hebb-Henning building complex at the University of British Columbia, which really does, or at least did, have one room numbered in the sequence of a building all the way across campus, not that it was a classroom. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Hours Down, Work Up: What's With Canadian Retail, Doc?

So. Like a lot of my friends, I work in retail. And Canadian retail is a pretty scary place right now. From company to company and sector to sector, you may or may not be hearing about how competition, "the economy," cross-border shopping, or bad management is hurting sales and forcing labour cuts.

So there you are, looking at the endless lineups at your cash register, and the heaps of work to be done in the backroom, and you're wondering what's going on.

First, the problem isn't just where you work. It's everywhere. Sales were down 0.4% in June, or 1% in B.C. By the way, June is which is the latest date we have, because apparently StatsCan is a month behind the rest of the world. Don't worry, Statistics Canada. Canadian business wouldn't use the numbers anyway!

Second, don't put much faith in the explanations people keep giving you. The gigantic (2150 stores) American chain, Supervalu (not to be confused with the Canadian Supervalu chain) is a good example of a grocery chain that's in real trouble.

Here's a quote from that link, which is to an article by  David Welch, Leslie Patton and Cristina Alesci. “The No. 1 problem is, everything in Supervalu costs too much” and is more expensive than Kroger and the discounters, said David Dietze, president and chief investment strategist at Summit, New Jersey-based Point View Wealth Management."

Where have I heard that one before? Well, stop for a moment. Grocery stores are in the business of selling staples. If you can get your milk at one grocery store for less than at another, you don't buy more milk. You spend less money on groceries. So grocery stores try not to compete on staples like milk, bread, or mayonnaise. What they try to do is sell you "impulse buys." If you walk into a grocery store intending to spend $25, and you spend $30, whether it's because you buy a more expensive brand of ketchup or add a bag of chips to your basket, you just turned from an average shopper to a super shopper. If everyone who walked into an urban supermarket spent $30, the industry would be rolling in money. Conversely, if you walk in intending to spend $25 and walk out with $20 in groceries, you are a retail sales disaster. If every customer did that, the grocery store you're shopping at would have to close. 

So while you might be able to shop economically at a store that has lots of expensive stuff in it, just by buying the inexpensive staples that you really need, we're betting that you won't, and the margin is incredibly thin. We're not trying to rip off poor people. We're trying to sell you a bag of chips. You would have to be a pretty price conscious shopper to care about this. 

Of course, some people are extremely price-sensitive shoppers for various reasons, but mainly because they just don't have much money. For various reasons, it is cheaper to run a store that just stocks the staples, but the business model isn't about just selling the staples. How do you make money off of people like that? In the tricky range between a staple and a luxury. Take ketchup. Is it a staple or a luxury? The answer is that it is somewhere in between. So, at an upscale grocery store like Supervalu, you have a big bottle of generic ketchup at one price, and a small bottle of brand-name organic ketchup at another, much higher price. Or you can run a store that just stocks the big bottle of generic ketchup (along with milk, bread, eggs and such.)  A store like that will sell everything cheaper, probably even including the ketchup, and still make money.

Good news for Supervalu. It has exactly that kind of store in its inventory: the Save-a-Lot chain. Bad news for Supevalu: it's hurting, too.  And not just a little bit: same sale stores are down 3.4%! Ouch. So what's going on there? Mike Hughlett reports for the Minnesota Star-Tribune. "Jimmie Gipson, head of the largest Save-A-Lot licensee, agreed on the pricing issue. Supervalu, as wholesaler to Save-A-Lot stores, "had kept its costs pretty much in line for several years, but I think they've lost a little of that focus."

Price comparison. It's hard. Save-a-Lot management has forgotten how to do it, and its core clientele of extremely poor people have noticed and are driving down to Wal-Mart instead. Fortunately, Save-a-Lot has a brilliant strategy. It's going to drive the milk and the egg deliveries right out onto the sales floor and let people help themselves, instead of stocking them.

Yeah, I don't think so. Even Walmart has problems keeping its prices down, and milk and eggs are already very time-efficient to work. I wouldn't be surprised if it took longer to drive a skid of milk into a walk-in display on the sales floor than it does to work liquid milk to the shelf from a back-loading cooler.

Excuses. That's what we're seeing here. What is going on? Well, my argument hinges on the idea that it doesn't take much time to work the liquid milk, so this plan won't save very much. That doesn't have to be how you manage the place, though. You could decree that it takes 2 hours, and chop that much time off the store labour budget. Chances are that won't lead to the store exploding and burning to the ground. Instead, it will lead to lineups and out-of-stocks at dinner time, and neither of those things leaves, like, a big greasy mark on the floor or anything. They happen, they end, and the next day, everything is back to normal except for the sales report, which shows that customers spent an average of $20 at the store last night.

Okay, I don't have to lecture you on why this is bad. It's not like the idea that you can underinvest in a business is news. I think that might be what's going on at Save-a-Lot. I don't think  that it is what is going on in Canada. It's just an example.

So what is happening? Well, it's not the economy. Canadians made more money in June, even as retail sales went down. It's not discretionary spending. While stores were struggling, the Vancouver Fireworks, Calgary Stampede, Winnipeg Folk Festival, and Toronto Fan Expo all reported record crowds. Is it cross-border shopping, with the new, increased duty-free allowance?

Probably: to a point, but only to a point. Canada's total trade deficit with the US only went up 1.4% in June, and the trend well predates the change in the rules.

I'm just going to throw it right out there. Consumers' behaviour is changing. Why shouldn't it change? Our clientele looks different every year, because the composition of the population changes every year. In 1990, at the peak of the echo boom, 405,000 Canadians were born. Compare that with the least populous year ever (before --well, let's not get ahead of ourselves), 1973, when only 344,000 Canadians were born. Do you remember what retail was like in 1989, or 2006? I don't remember 1989. I was out of the job market, hiding in graduate school. Two years later, Douglas Coupland explained why in his Generation X, a book that explained that there were hardly any jobs, and they all sucked.

 I do remember 2006.  It was crazy. We were actually facing a labour shortage in downtown Vancouver.

So why did I pick 1989 and 2006? Because those came 16 years after. Sixteen isn't when you go to the grocery store by yourself for the first time, but it is when you get your first job. It's when you party all night and work all day on a buzz of Red Bull, keeping yourself fueled with Slim Jims and Tahiti Treat drunk through a Twizzler. (True story.)

Oh, oh, Doc, you ask. How many people were born in 1996? Good question, which I answered a few weeks ago, here: 365,000, and the birthrate just kept on going lower. Only 327,000 people were born in Canada in 2001. Cumulatively, in the ten years 1993--2003, 3.138 million Canadians were born. These are today's 9-19 year-olds. They're not the peak impulse-buying demographic, but they are an important one. In the 1987--97 period, it was 3.84 million.

The good news, such as it is, is that the birth rate has recovered quite a bit in the last few years. There are 3.6 million kids in the 0--10 bracket right now. This is the glimmer of hope I see on the horizon. The attendance numbers I just quoted might mean that the kids have all been away on summer vacation. The dip in the June retail sales might even be the first blip in that. (We'll see if the July-August numbers hold).

If so, then we should see a rebound in retail sales come September. Well, we expect that in the grocery business anyway, but perhaps it'll be healthier than we expect. I hope it will be.

As a final point, may I end this by politely requesting that the government maybe do something about this? Best estimates are that last year saw 376,000 births, or 10.28 births per thousand women. I'm not labouring under the delusion that women just want to be baby-making machines, but there's no way that that number isn't depressed by longstanding economic disincentives to baby having in Canada, and it's not just retail sale jobs that hang on turning that trend around.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Chapter 2, 23: Chaperone

The Slug is a relatively minor master villain in the old Champions Universe, but he works very well in an MMO because he has such a big mob of followers. A mob that unfortunately doesn't have any members with Transform powers except for the Slug himself. So am I saying that Chris could survive a confrontation with the Slug?

With an Obvious, Accessible Focus to channel his powers, and, more importantly, a girlfriend to get him out of trouble, yes.

Girlfriend? Dunh dunh dunh.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Chapter 2, 22: Anger Management

Luathon gave eleven lights to Thanoro Azoic, Archmage of Earth before life even evolved there. It happened so long ago that we cannot even guess what name Luathon goes by now, if that being even exists.

Dean Shomshak, everyone. I wish I could write like that.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Chapter 2, 21: Not The Worst Day Ever

It turns out that Eldritch, the "eccentric Bay-area sorceror" of the Champions Universe looks like the late Stephen Straker. What can I say? It's fan fiction.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Birth Crisis in Grocery Retail?

Last two times I did this, I was taking hard aim at the way that Hostess Frito-Lay was leaving money on the table with an excess of sheer stupid.

This, I'm more sympathetic about. This is a shot in an ice cream novelties section window of a stand-up freezer display case on a hot Saturday afternoon. There's a case to be made for it being empty. Running out of things happens, this is the time of the day and season when you expect to run out of ice cream, and at some point, it is physically impossible to do more.

But, the translucent plastic flaps at the front of the empty displays are the spring loaded plates at the back of a self-facing display installation. Facing builds sales, but the display takes up space that could be used to stock more product in the first place. Has the tradeoff really been costed out?

Of course not.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

Chapter 19: Hanging Out All Week With You

Character descriptions, I haz them! Well, a few, and nineteen chapters late. But I have them.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Chapter 2, 17: Histories

I have received information that kids are still passing notes in class today.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Smells Great Around Here: On Demand

This post is brought to you by this spring's general and local trend of a year-over-year decline in retail sales, which is making it hard for me to enjoy the perhaps-excessive benefits that I've finally qualified for, given the risk of a seniority bump due to "cost cutting measures in a challenging retail market." 

So, anyway, the title is a reference to Nirvana's 1991 "Smells Like Teen Spirit," implying that there's not that many teenagers around here. You may have heard of the song. In fact, I'm guessing to the point where I ought not play it straight.

But it's a void in my mind. I'm not sure why, because knowing stuff is hard. That's even true of what should be the most obvious thing that you can know, such as what your customers want. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Chapter 2, 13: A Power In Lythrum

"Lythrum" is introduced as a dark (but not necessarily evil) dimension in the background of the Black Rose, one of the Sentinels written up in 2006's Champions: News of the World. I had no idea that it was a name for loosestrife until I Googled it a moment ago..

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Chapter 2, 12: On A Quest

The only reason I didn't talk about Pong was that I couldn't think of a good joke.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chapter 2, 11: Estate Planning

It may not surprise the reader to learn that I'm not very good at describing wedding dresses. Oh, the challenges we present ourselves with.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chapter 2, 10: Momma’s Boy

Take a drive up Anarchist Summit if you're ever in the south Okanagan. It's crazy, and it's got a great name.

Now, must sleep. Evening shifts this week doesn't mean that I have to like them.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chapter 2, 8: All Tied Up

Girls and clothes are hilarious to guys, because we really don't understand. We just do that "isn't it crazy that girls are all like this about clothes, and we're like that? Honestly, we don't. As far as I know, not even the ones who seem to understand, although obviously I shouldn't be speaking for them.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Chapter 2, 7: Ready For A Rematch

Thorn (Lawrence Lloyd) apparently hates all contact with human beings now, so he's perfect material for a Ph.D. supervisor. Unfortunately, his writeup in Champions Villains says that he has a public identity, i.e. that his cover is blown. I think that being exposed as a would-be world-conqueror would get you put on administrative leave at most universities. The second or third time, you might even lose your tenure!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chapter 2, 6: Plagues

The Atom used to be a university professor who fought crime. If you've spent any time in academia, you'd be completely unsurprised that one of his main archenemies was another professor. I think? Was that the original version of Jason Woodrue, or a couple of revisions in? The point is that botanists don't get much respect from the mad scientist perspective. I think it might be a gender bias thing.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Why We're So Screwed: Santa's Magic Space Monkeys






Watch the until you're a little unmoored from reality, and who knows: you could be a great business mind like the crack minds at Frito-Lay that came up with the idea of competing with themselves in the lucrative jalapeno-and-cheese-flavoured-premium-potato-chip market. And I'm not kidding about the "competing with yourself" thing. There are supermarkets in my neighbourhood where those two products are shelved side by side.

Does that sound stupid? Walk into the back room of a supermarket this last Christmas season, and you would have seen many of these:

From here
  At many stores, you'd run into them in the front, too. That's because these are often "prebuilds," stacked at the warehouse according to a delivery plan instead of being ordered at store level. Marketing figures out what you need, and you get it.

"Figured out." Hah! I'm hilarious. I should have taken a picture of it, but all last Christmas, we routinely stripped excess 12-pack cases of Sprite off our Coke orders and sent them back to the warehouse. I assume that at the warehouse, they took the returns, put them on new rebuilds, and shipped them back to us. I don't know why, although my working theory is that the prebuilds were planned in the United States, where, unlike up here in the True North Strong and Free the bottler doesn't have the Canada Dry  contract. The software spits out a quantity of Sprite based on expected sales in an American store, and the Sprite sloshes back and forth between store and warehouse all over Canada.

I haven't been to business school, so this is only a theory, but, from what I've seen, it's a good theory. It is this: that on the first day of class, they share the Great Secret of Business Management: "If you ignore a problem long enough, Santa sends magic space monkeys to fix it." Like I say, it's only a theory, but it's strongly empirical.

But I've wandered off topic in talking about Coke. Let's get back to Frito-Lay so that I can illustrate an important point. In the middle of last year, Frito-Lay introduced another product:

Artisanal Tostito chips! Because if there's one thing that snobbish foodies love, it's mass market brands! Look, I'm not saying that it's a bad idea. What I'm saying is precisely this:

Pardoning the photo quality, that's a bag of Tostitos Recipe Black Bean and Salsa chips on the shelf. Yay for it. Only that's not where it goes. It's where this goes:

You see, that's one of the two top sellers in the Tostitos line. As you can eyeball from the picture, there's space for two facings of them, about 10 bags of chips, $35 retail, approximately. And they've sold out.

Well, of course they've sold out. This is a store that does north of half a million a week in sales, and Frito-Lay Brand Tostitos Hint of Lime tortilla chips are a very important part of those sales.

But the Recipe Black Bean and Salsa haven't sold out. That's why there's one on the shelf. Now, you business executives, try to stay with me, because this is where it gets complicated.

 Hint of Lime sells BETTER than Black Bean and Salsa. Therefore, 10 bags of Hint of Lime will sell out BEFORE 10 bags of Black Bean and Salsa. Then you will have bags of Black Bean and Salsa not selling (because no-one is buying them) and bags of Hint of Lime not selling (because there's none on the shelf.

You know what would stop this from happening? If you delisted the Black Bean and Salsa brand, and made it four facings of Hint of Lime. But you don't do that, because out of stocks aren't your problem. They're the supermarket's problem. If the supermarket would just make sure that the shelf was stocked, Frito-Lay would capture the large amount of money that people want to spend on Hint of Lime, and the much smaller amount that they want to spend on Black Bean and Salsa.

This looks like a business case problem, so we could use some magic space monkeys. Fortunately, they're on their way.

Let's imagine a universe in which there's no inflation, or, at least, very low inflation. In this nigh-unimaginable world, supermarket year-over-year same-store sales net of costs would climb very, very slowly by historic standards, because historic standards assume that sales are being carried aloft by inflation.

Now put yourself in the place of a supermarket executive. (No, not a store manager. You can't trust those guys to make these calls. They might make a mistake.) Imagine that you had to deliver increasing sales net of costs, and sales aren't likely to increase at the stores that you're responsible for. What do you do? Reduce costs! And how do you do that? By reducing labour costs!

And how do you do that? By reducing the amount of hours of labour available to the store. Here's your new target, Store manager dude!

So how does a store manager deal with this? the manager will drive sales down to meet hours. That sounds bad! How do you get away with something like that?

He doesn't need to, because we're doing it for him. Replace Hint of Lime shelf space with the Black Bean and Salsa, and, because people don't want them, fewer will sell. Santa has come through!

Oh, you're saying; but doesn't this mean that I won't be able to buy the groceries that I want, and that I'm prepared to pay for? Well, yeah, I guess that it does. Doesn't it mean that Frito-Lay is selling fewer chips? Yes, it does. On the other hand, this isn't exactly complicated, so it must be part of their plan. Doesn't it mean that the grocery store is selling less product? Again, yes, but they wouldn't be cutting labour hours if that weren't in their plan.

It does mean that there's spare money around, but fortunately you can always sock it away in a savings account.

We have a problem here, is what I'm saying, and there's all kinds of hysteresis in our culture and economy that is making it worse.

Also, whoever is paying the current Frito-Lay board needs to stop and think about what they're getting for their money. Because, seriously, dudes, this is just stupid.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chapter 2, 5: Toga!

Henry Winkler played the role of Arthur Henry Fonzarelli for eight years on Happy Days, from 1974 to 1984. He is probably best known today for "jumping the shark." The early Fonzie at least somewhat justified himself. He was a bad boy, and a presence who stood up for his girlfriends, so it made sense that he had a lot of them. I guess you can justify the whole thing where he would snap his fingers and instantly be surrounded by girls by arguing that the trope had more to do with adolescent male fantasy than any intent to comment on gender relations. 

It's true. I'd like to be able to snap my fingers and be surrounded by pretty girls, and also stand up for her honour against a belligerent Tom Hanks. (You'll understand what I'm talking about if you click the link.) The point is, that's two adolescent male fantasies here. In one, we rescue the princess. In the other, we're surrounded by sexy ladies who worship us. 

We're not completely dumb. We can see that the two fantasies are contradictory. We don't want the princess coming when we snap our fingers. "Oh, yeah," you say. "That's the whole bad girl/good girl thing." But I'm pretty sure that that's wrong, that there's something else going on. I'd explain it to the girls who show up when I snap my fingers, but for some reason, it doesn't work for me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chapter 2, 4: Making Connections

I have a "Zombie Day" label, but it belatedly occurs to me that when you're actually feeling like a zombie (cf. "Yesterday," you don't want to post. Because you're a zombie. I have another evening pop shift tomorrow, which means that I should take a zombie day on Friday, too. But I won't, because I've just discovered that the Journal of Roman Archaeology is in open stacks, and who can resist that much fun?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Chapter 2, 4: Introductions

What's a superhero universe without some mad scientists? I'm going to be accused of stereotyping if I suggest that mad scientists might need to relax a bit; the point is that everyone does, especially when they're young enough to remember how. (Sad face now.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chapter 2,3: Warnings

Havana is a Subtle Clue of the fan fiction variety. 

It's also a tribute to Puerto Rico. And why not? The whole of my social life currently consists of playing it with my fellow UBC Wargamer old farts on Friday nights.  It's fun, and since for some reason we play out in public on the very nice tables in the South Plaza lounge outside the Student Union Building cafeteria, I get field experience with The Young Folks Today, in the form of undergraduates on their way to and from the Pit pub.  
(They're pretty cool, I think. We don't even get old-fashioned suggestions that we need to get a life because we're all nerds now. Cool. Cool cool cool.) 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Chapter 2, 2: Treed

It's always a shock to go back to familiar places and see how they've change. Or how we've changed. That's because we're all time travellers.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chapter 1 of Volume 2, Chris and Charlotte Vs. the World: Always Arriving

Have I lost track of the Wong genealogy? Why, yes I have. Thanks for noticing. Here it is laid down concretely so that I don't screw it up again.

Generation 0: David II (b. 1983), Henry III (b. 1990), Jenny (b. 1993), May (b. 1995), Jason II and Amy Wong (b. 1997). Unless I adjust birth years to take birthdays into account.
Generation -1: Henry Wong II. [Mr. Wong, Wong Ng Le, Ning Wong, The Furious Fist.]:1(945--); (by Wong Kwan Le) Christopher Wong (1959--1975; 2011--); Charlotte Wong (1961--1975; 2011--)
Generation -2: Wong Da Wei [David Wong I] (1910-1950), Wong Kwan Le (1912—1950, sometime after 1984--present); Wong Yili Shabai (Elizabeth Wong) 1914--1934).
Generation -3: Wong Ng Le [Henry Wong I], 1862--1964
Generation -4: Wong Xiān Qū ('Pioneer' Wong, hence 'Argonaut Wong,' hence Jason Wong I. It's a pseudonym, of course) 1810--1890.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Epilogue: John and the Master Plan

Sometimes, your characters get away from you. I have a plan that has a few more twists and turns to tell on the way to the big climax. Mrs. Wong has a plan that involves matching up every child under her root. She's much more efficient at her plan than I am at any of mine.

So I'm throwing a few more kids at her, just so she doesn't tear through them all before I'm ready for the big climax.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chapter 31: Last, and First

And so ends John and the Masterplan. I imagined the last part first, they always say. Of course I did. I imagine it a lot, and I should really do something about that.

Well, strictly, there's an epilogue to come to set up the next volume, but here ends this story.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chapter 29: Heart, Wolf, Monkey

So, it's Valentine's Day. I'd resolve the main romantic arc today, except it would blow my longest-laid cliffhanger. So you'll have to settle for the other romantic resolution. Don't blink or you'll miss it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chapter 28: The Chase

Three days into my (hopefully three week) night manager rotation at work, and I'm already two days behind.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chapter 27: Shuddering

I still dream about Port Alice all the time. It's always a larger, more prosperous town in my dream than it ever was in real life. That's the point of the dream. I get it. But I can't stop having it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chapter 26: Running Down the Road

How did the Eagles end up being a Muzak staple? I ask, but I'm inclined to just go ahead and blame them for it, on the grounds that I really, really hate "Hotel California." "Taking it Easy," on the other hand, I kind of like.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chapter 25: And One Car That Will Do

I had no idea that "Pink Cadillac" was a Springsteen song. Or what most of its lyrics were, either.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Chapter 24: Weaving A Web

Black Fang's writeup appears in Champions Villains, Volume 3: Solo Villains, 29--30. He's pointed out at 433, only 33 more than a starting standard hero writeup. However, the body armour adds about 20 points (and the implicit life support to function on Mars something like 5, I'd say, without actually looking it up.) More importantly, he's fighting slightly weaker-than-standard-build Teen Champions. I'm assuming. I'm not sure that I can write up John or Amy on 250 points, but Rafe, Jason and Emily are easily in that  range.

They're in for a tough fight against Black Fang, is what I'm saying.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Chapter 23: When A Plan Comes Together

I thought that I was just going to rush this into print and run off to work. Which goes to show that I really need to start reading my schedule better. Instead, I could easily end up dawdling over this post all day. As a point of plot complexity, I'll note that I originally intended for one of the plot points following to rise naturally out of the discovery of armour in Chapter 15, be detected, and blamed on someone other than the goody-two-shoes who has it.

Oh, well. A publishable version  of this (because the way things are going, everyone's going to have a self-published novel up on Amazon soon!) should be about three times as long, anyway.