Cryptocurrencies: Time for a Look Under the Engine

The Psychology of Cryptocurrency Investing

I, from time to time, give investment thoughts and perspectives (not recommendations) with an eye towards better understanding the psychology involved.  Since Bitcoin and Ether are the next big thing I thought I would spend a little time on them, trying to put it in perspective.

Bitcoin and Ether are both coins, but they are not tangible. They are instead digital and as such are both more secure and safe (if you take necessary precautions), and they cannot be controlled by centralized power brokers the way countries can control their own currency. Bitcoin has been around the longest, and while it suffered a long drought in it’s early days, it is now getting wide acceptance, especially internationally. People from Japan, Korea, China, and other countries are enamored with it, and it has been on a roll. Bitcoins are also becoming more widely accepted at the retail level.

Ether costs a lot less per coin, but it has been rising (and falling) even faster than Bitcoin. While it has not been around long (2015) it is more useful than bitcoin, because software can be developed with it that makes the new economy sing. I will leave a discussion of blockchains to a later article.

People who are buying digital currency are usually buying them either because they understand the ideas behind it, or because they have heard someone say how much money they made in the past few months. For many, it is more of a gamble than an investment. If you try to catch a wave (buy low and sell high) you will likely suffer the same fate others do in the stock market getting it wrong more often than not. It is best to buy for the long run, planning to hold your coins for several years, adding to it on a regular basis, say once a month or once a quarter.

If you want to speculate, so you can begin to make big money (it would still require a fair amount of knowledge), you would do best to diversify – either by owning a fund that invests in a variety of alternative currencies (altcoins) or by buying  (for very small amounts) several start ups. These currency equivalents of the IPO (Initial Public Offerings in stocks) are ICO’s (Initial Coin Offerings). You can buy in at the start of companies or projects, all of whom are on the cutting edge of the new economy. If you do some research, your odds may be quite good that one or more of these ICO’s will reward you handsomely for your diligence, again only if you hold them for long enough to wait out the variance.

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Study Indicates Stress Effects Decision Making

Silvia Maier, in a study published in Neuron, showed that stress may negatively impact decision making and self-control. This study by a Swiss graduate student, revealed that when stressed people indicated preferences for tasty food over healthy food.

Stress, in this study was manipulated by subjects having their hands plunged into cold water for several minutes. This way of inducing stress has often been used in hard science research. Cortisol was a mediating factor noted in the study conducted in Zurich Switzerland.  The study was small and involved 29 persons, and did not measure anxiety levels but instead just focused on normal stress pathways.

Published in: on August 25, 2015 at 8:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Overcoming Anxiety Showcased at Virtual Bookcase

With seven days to go until the official launch of Overcoming Anxiety, we begin the launch party with a showcase at the Virtual Book Case. Here is the link; Click here to visit the Virtual Bookcase.

The Virtual Bookcase showcases select books that the owner, Glynis Smye deems worthwhile. She is very personable and lives in the UK, at the seaside town of Dovercourt-Harwhich. She is author of the Ripper Romance Series and while she tends to favor historical fiction, especially from the Victorian era, she has some interests in Mind, Body and Sprit topics and was gracious to include a showcase for Overcoming Anxiety.

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Overcoming Anxiety Virtual Book Tour

As part of the eBook Launch Extravaganza for Overcoming Anxiety, there will be a huge discount on the book during the first 10 days after the release, and some extensive virtual touring. I will be doing the usual virtual touring activities  (guest posts, reviews, interviews, responding to comments) and look forward to interacting with many of my readers on these sites:

Here is the planned virtual blog tour so far for this nonfiction mental health book:

7/27         interview   Va Beach Publishing Examiner
7/28         excerpt      Book Reviews and Authors
7/28         spotlight      Fit4moms
7/28         review          My Bookish Life
7/28         guest post    Books Direct Online
7/29         review          The Dark Phantom
7/29         spotlight       KitnKaboodle
7/29         guest post     Literally Speaking
7/29         excerpt         Jamie Hope’s Journey
7/30         review           The Serious Reader
7/30         excerpt         Valley Girl Gone Country
7/30         review            Bound for Escape
7/30         interview         CA Milson’s Blog
7/31          interview        Julius Thom Novels
7/31          review            The Pink Lyme
8/1            review              Book Fidelity
8/2           interview         Book Adventures of Emily
8/3           interview       Virtual Book Club
8/4           review              Literary Meanderings
8/5           review               Crafty Mom Zen
8/5           guest post         What is That Book About?
8/6
8/7            review             Ogitchida Book Blog
8/8            interview          Literary Lunes
8/10          interview       The Writer’s Life
8/11           review             Curling Up By the Fire
8/12           review            My Life, Loves and Passion
8/13           guest blog      Mythical Books
8/17           review               Laura’s Interests
8/18           guest blog        Queen Of All She Reads
8/20          review             Our Family’s Adventure

Reader Engagement to Be the Next Big Thing

Amazon ™ just today announced in a letter to its authors, that instead of their previous method of reimbursing authors for borrowed books, they are moving to a system that awards a certain amount per page of the borrowed book that was read. Few authors realize how often a book -in fact this is true even more so with bestsellers – does not get read.

People buy a best selling author because everyone else is buying it: word of mouth, reviews, and several obtuse factors (“I want it on my shelf”) can all lead to the purchase. But often there is not enough due diligence.  Too frequently there is not any questioning about whether you would actually enjoy reading that best seller. Indeed romance readers are far more likely to read to their HEA ending of a romance, than the typical best seller.

But as Amazon with its KU (TM) program and others move to reimbursing authors based on reader involvement, the question becomes, how will worth be translated into metrics like pages read? Will pictures count for 1000 words, or none? That will effect coffee tables and children’s authors.  Will dialogue-intensive genres like romance get a bonus (i.e, more pages) or, as I expect will happen with Amazon’s page count method, will they be penalized?

As a writer of mostly nonfiction, I wonder what will become of information intensive books in which chapters 10 and 13 may be more compelling than  Chapter 3? I have faith in technology to be able to eventually handle these issues, but in the interim, when retailers make business decisions based on imperfect technology, this could really impact the field, more than people imagine. Will the next James Joyce give up because his readers put the book down after 8 pages, only to pick it up a month or two later?

Overall, I think that big data will win the most from this, and it will be a way to commoditize writing content, that the distributors have only dreamed of until now. Will writers make two cents a word (at least for borrowed books) or three, and will an upstart company, paying more per word, be the next Amazon? It is a slippery slope that the retail giant has embarked on, and it depends on Jeff Bezos and his peers, and how well they play their hand, and whether a free market economy can bring out the best in writers. I believe this move could easily be the kind of over reach that opens the door to more competition, buy we shall see.

 

PTSD Overdiagnosed in Soldiers?

No way.

An article in NY times tried to argue that PTSD in returning soldiers is really just lack of home support, because more are being diagnosed than actually saw enemy fire. Obviously misguided.

If you sit in a hostile foreign land where your companions are being killed, you do not have to be shot at to be traumatized. One client I had, for example, had PTSD from the Panama Canal zone even though he was never shot at. It was nevertheless disturbing on a daily basis, since his job was to go up and down the canal in the body barge collecting bodies. That picture in his head was still traumatic.

While it is true that in cultures where there is more affluence there is greater alienation and social supports are low for any problems one has, that does not account for these numbers. Some people get trauma from a car accident, or even seeing one. Should not up close and personal experience of war count as much as how many bullets one dodges? My definition of trauma is rather broad : any event(s) that exceed(s) your resources.

 

There are a few misdiagnoses, such as TBS being mistaken for PTSD. Not nearly so many as there were when the VA tried to mislabel for economic reasons..

Published in: on May 7, 2015 at 8:01 am  Comments (1)  
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Indie Publishers gaining market share, while big 5 are slipping

Bestselling author Hugh Howey’s quarterly analysis of sales is remarkable:

http://authorearnings.com/report/may-2015-author-earnings-report/

Several interesting findings include a 44% increase in share of bestsellers by indie books and a 26% slide in number of big-5 published books on the bestseller lists. The traditional publishers had only 14% of the bestsellers.

The Nook is also down to single digits and sinking, (sales off by nearly 50%) leaving Amazon back in the catbird seat.

Over 7 quarters of data, the price of eBooks in the big-5 legacy publishers has risen 17%.

All in all the Big 5 publishers and their authors are losing money fast, selling fewer ebooks, and losing discoverability as they are giving up significant market share.

Leonard “Spock” Nimoy Dies at Home

Leonard Nimoy died in his home at 83 years old. The actor, who all of us know as Spock, had a chronic Pulmonary problem that was the cause of his death. H credited his smoking as the reason he had these problems.

Mr. Nimoy also was a musician and poet, and enjoyed photography. Here is spock doing Bilbo Baggins:

Live Long and Prosper Spock
Dif-tor heh smusma

Published in: on February 27, 2015 at 4:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Independent Publishing in the Year 2015

I mentioned in a previous post that I was planning on self publishing my upcoming Non-Fiction book Overcoming Anxiety, and I noted the changed landscape of the publishing industry. I promised to update and share the information I learned as I picked it up. Reader beware, at the speed of a flash, these things are changing so everything I say here will be outdated by the time I push the publish button on WordPress.

One most noticeable difference is that Discoverability is now the buzz word. There are millions of digital books flooding the market and the gatekeepers have changed.  While previously you needed to send ARC’s to bookstores and newspapers, the gold standard was Publisher’s Weekly and New York Times. You also wanted your legacy publisher to buy you shelf space near the front of the store. Blogs were a nice niche place to get reviews, but they were often seen, with the exception of a few of the bigger ones, as rather frivolous and really nor important.

in 2013-2014 it became more necessary to get plenty of reviews, to get promoted on a site know as Bookbub (which reached over a million digital readers and could be targeted), and to write series, as they were the engines of online sales. For reasons I won’t go into now, even that changed and independent publishing got much harder. It no longer was a gold rush.

Bookbub‘s success (it now reaches over 2 million subscribers) meant that it had to get picky and expensive. You still made your money back and more if they “picked” your book but it was an expensive outlay for the struggling indie author. But getting picked meant, among other things, that you needed at least five substantial reviews, a certain length of book, and the most convincing book description, since you were often competing with 19 other authors for one opening (nowadays there is no specified number, but in a recent Q and A on Kindle boards Bookbub admitted that in a competitive area like contemporary romance, typically 100+ reviews were the norm

To make matters harder, how was a new independent author to get all those reviews? The multitude of authors with whom you are competing all turned to niche blogs to get reviewed, which worked for a while, but then all these bloggers were swamped with books to read after they came home from their day jobs.  Soon getting five reviews in the first few weeks became hard, and when the goal posts moved again (Bookbub‘s success squeezed your success out) – there was no way to get 100 reviews, except by giving away free books in the tens of thousands.  The free giveaway worked briefly for increased sales and definitely for more reviewers (including more negative ones) but Amazon changed the algorithms and the way affiliate referral were made, and so free books, while still a good idea with a series, became much less useful.

When I return to this topic I will talk about the trend to lend (especially on Amazon) instead of sell, and to other issues only briefly touched on here.

Review: Snap Strategies for Couples, a Quick Read

As a psychologist I often read and sometimes review books about psychology and psychological interventions, so when I saw Snap Strategies For Couples by Lana Staheli and Pepper Schwartz, I was eager to get it. In part I was curious because there had not been any good book by a new author skilled in couples work in recent times. I was provided the Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review of this book, which is currently in pre-release status, and will be available for sale to the public on April 21st, 2015.

The authors have both published before, and this is their first collaboration. Dr. Staheli is a coach, and Dr. Schwartz describes herself as a “relationship coach,”but she is best known as a sexologist and sociologist. Dr. Schwartz writes a column on sexuality for AARP, and a book she wrote earlier made the New York Times bestseller list. In Snap Strategies for Couples neither author give their specific credentials; however from the content of the book it is likely that they are both trained in the coaching area. As a consequence, some might find these ideas a little too simplistic. Yet the 40 brief interventions that the authors describe are consistent with the kinds of emphasis and scope that is often found in the coaching domain. As such, Snap Strategies is a useful and well written collection of simple straightforward things a couple can do to improve their relationship.

Each of the 40 topics is introduced and followed by two clinical anecdotes that illustrate the issue. Each of these brief 5-9 page chapters is then concluded by a prescribed solution offered by Drs. Staheli and Shwartz.  Many of these suggestions seem self-evident, as in the chapter on Snarky Comments. The authors point out that making snarky comments to your spouse can “poison the relationship,” and in the prescription, they say that recipient should first recognize that the snarky comments are hurtful, take them on, and then be specific in describing what is being said that is so hurtful. This is fairly typical of the level at which these discussions are presented. They are always straightforward and  simple, but nonetheless often useful. However, if you expect in depth or scholarly discussions of marital problems and their solutions, tied to research or to the known experts in the field, then the reader may be disappointed. The authors do have a chapter on the Languages of Love that credits and relies upon the 1995 book by Chapman.

I found some of these pithy interventions quite well crafted and helpful. For example, one solution to a tendency of one partner to be too critical is for the critic to focus instead on the good things that they would like to see increased, rather than on trying to  curb purportedly problematic areas.  Where this book is at it’s best, however, is in addressing sexual conflicts and problems. Dr. Schwartz has already made something of a name for herself in this arena, with writing as far back as 1970 in her topic area. Her expertise shines through in these chapters, mostly outlined towards the end of the book.

I give the book Snap Strategies for Couples 4 out if 5 stars, and this quick read, aimed at couples trying to breaks some bad habits and patterns, may help many couples navigate these conflicts and problems more smoothly.

Snap Strategies for Couples

40 Fast Fixes for Everyday Relationship Struggles

by  Lana Staheli and Pepper Schwartz

Seal Press

263 Pages

Release Date: April 21st, 2015

 

 

 

 

Published in: on January 19, 2015 at 11:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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