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December 17, 2004

Open thread 34
Posted by Teresa at 03:01 PM * 295 comments

When all the other threads start reading like open threads, it’s time to start a new one.

Comments on Open thread 34:
#1 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 03:10 PM:

Bah. I'm having one of those bad-memory moments when you lose your citations, your locations, and all your searchable character strings. Episode, Greek historian, bunch of Greek warriors stranded in Asia Minor, have to fight their way to the coast. At this point I'm so frustrated over being unable to remember it that the memories are afraid to come home.

#2 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 03:15 PM:

Xenophon?

#3 ::: gaukler ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 03:19 PM:

The Anabasis (march upcountry) of Xenophon.
mark

#4 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 03:20 PM:

This is only tangentially related to the "Squick and squee" thread, so I didn't post it there, but I was amused to see this in The Onion's astrology column this week (no link since I can't get MT to render it properly, for some reason):

Leo: (July 23—Aug. 22)

You thought you'd seen the worst humanity had to offer, but that was before you read fan-fiction set in an alternate universe where Hawkeye Pierce and Father Mulcahy are lovers.

#5 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 03:20 PM:

I see I've been beated to the answer, but here's a useful link:
Wikipedia entry for Anabasis

#6 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 03:23 PM:

And here's a lovely table comparing the 1979 cult film "The Warriors" to Xenophon's Anabasis:

Warriors/Anabasis comparison

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 03:43 PM:

Ahhhhhhhh. Thank you. That's like finally scratching a persistent itch.

Alex, how did you figure out why I wanted it?

#8 ::: Joel Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 03:53 PM:

A link right up yer alley: Crocheting the Lorenz Manifold.

http://www.enm.bris.ac.uk/anm/preprints/2004r03.pdf

Best,

Joel

#9 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 03:56 PM:

Is Xenophon the European spelling of Xenophone: a device for hearing what foreigners are saying?

Also, what influence did "The Warriors" have on "Gangs of New York?"

Additionally, how valid is the ratio:

"The Warriors" is to Xenophon's "Anabasis"
as "West Side Story" is to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?"

Or as "Throne of Blood" is to Macbeth?

Finally, as many of you already know, excerpting from:

The Ultimate Science Fiction Web Guide: Authors "S"

William Shakespeare (1564-1616): greatest English poet/playwright
"The Tempest" (1611, revised in First Folio 1623) is
a superbly wrought, graceful play, with some of the Bard's best lines.
It was also so science-fictional as to have been rewritten into the modern
film "Forbidden Planet" {hotlink to be done}. Here's the key:
* Prospero, Duke of Milan, Magician = Dr. Morbius (Mad Scientist)
* He studies magic = He studies the alien technology
* Magic Island = Altair-4 (Alien Planet)
* Shipwreck = Forced landing of Spaceship
* Beautiful daughter Miranda = Beautiful daughter Altaira
* Brutish servant Caliban = Robbie the Robot
* Ariel, Spirit of the Air = invisible "Monster of the Id"


#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 04:06 PM:

Joel, I love it. I'm trying to figure out whether it could be used for something clever.

#11 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 04:20 PM:

Alex, how did you figure out why I wanted it?

Is that why you wanted it? I just posted it because when I saw that table, I gasped out loud. I've seen the movie but had never even considered that it had classical roots. But come on, the name of the gang leader is Cyrus!

As I writer, I really, really struggle with plot. I can write paragraphs and scenes fine, and I can worldbuild all day long, but I sit and stare at my screen and my characters sit and stare at each other. I know the advice is to steal plots, but for some reason that just doesn't seem to work for me. Maybe I abstract plot at the wrong level? Maybe I'm stealing from the wrong people?

There are plenty of super-excellent writers and editors who hang out here: can I hijack a tiny portion of this open thread and ask for advice?

#12 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 04:21 PM:

My best beloved was watching Throne of Blood on tv (Samurai Saturday!) recently. Now that's a creepy movie.

If I remember Renault's Fire from Heaven, Aristotle had Alexander reading Xenophon, which apparently made him into a fan of Persian culture (Persiaphile?).

#14 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 04:25 PM:

Alex:
I'm just a struggling newbie at writing, but I found out not too long ago that when I get stuck, it helps me to return to the characters.
One time I had my characters write blog posts, really whiney, angsty ones, to find out what happened next.

#15 ::: Darkhawk ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 04:45 PM:

Ahhhh. An open thread. I need to augh.

I had an argument with an acquaintance the other day about "You have to have published short stories to get published." Which she had learned from Sources In The Publishing Industry, and was trying to foist off on me.

Augh! Augh! And other frustration noises!

*goes back to working on the novel*

#16 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 04:46 PM:

Did anyone actually watch the Earthsea adaptation? I more or less ignored it because it was so thoroughly pre-panned.

Just for fun, I watched the original adaptation of Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven back to back with the more recent one. What a contrast - they spent all of $5 making the PBS version from 1979, and it so totally outclasses the much more produced contemporary version. The new version is so unfaithful to the storyline that it's almost unrecognizable, whereas the only major defect in the PBS version is that people stopped being gray.

So, it can be done. A good Le Guin adaptation is possible, just not, apparently, by contemporary TV producers.

#17 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 04:46 PM:

For what it's worth, Sol Yurick's novel "The Warriors" has very little to do with Walter Hill's movie, beyond the idea of "NYC gang gets stuck deep in hostile territory and has to make its way home." It's a character story rather than an Urban Action Movie. (The gang in the book isn't even named "The Warriors;" they're the Coney Island Dominators. They start out in the Bronx, which will be significant to students of NYC geography.) Yurick did use the Anabasis as a source, but not in a scene-by-scene fashion.

Comparing either the book or film to "Gangs of New York" makes about as much sense as comparing it to the "Our Gang" comedies, or "Till all the seas gang dry," for that matter.

#18 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 04:51 PM:

The last of the inappropriate holiday cards is sickeningly, poignantly inappropriate this week: 35 people got laid off or put on a job expiration timer Tuesday. Lost my manager, two immediate co-workers, lots of familiar faces.

A good chunk of the day has been spent saying stuff like "Gee, the guy in the next cube would know where those are . . . wait, he's not here!" and "Sorry, only ____ knew how to do that."

I should have taken that position as bag changer on a prairie-dog vacuum when I had a chance.

#19 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 05:01 PM:

If I remember Renault's Fire from Heaven, Aristotle had Alexander reading Xenophon, which apparently made him into a fan of Persian culture (Persiaphile?).

Medeophile. :-)

#20 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 05:12 PM:

Alex,

I'm still struggling, but I learned a lot about plot by taking the advice of one of my favorite writers, Suzanne Brockmann. She said she learned plot and pacing by writing TV scripts (not paid or anything). She said to pick shows you already know and love and then practice the patterns of the show--end on a cliffhanger at commercial breaks, etc. It really helped me because I could tell when I had enough story...or not. For me, a forty five page screenplay is a lot easier to do as an exericse than a 450 page novel. I also really like the Evil Overlord Generates A Plot, by our hostess.

#21 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 05:19 PM:

Trivial tangent to The Warriors

Is it just me, or does Chris Rock show up as an extra in a pan across the crowd at the big gang meeting? It's right before the leader gets shot. I know he would've been 14 or so, but I'll be damned if it doesn't look just like him.

#22 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 05:21 PM:

This is not nearly as cool as crocheting chaos, but here's a knitting blog that is currently featuring some anatomically correct (or incorrect as the case may be) knitted items. (May be NSFW if your work environment is particulary prudish. Nothing but yarn to be seen here, though.)

I woudn't want the, er, member warming garment to be made of an itchy wool, though.

#23 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 05:22 PM:

I'm sorry, Stefan, that sucks. They did a massive bloodletting at my last job and everyone was shellshocked for a long time afterwards.

Joel, I will never have the patience to do that but you've given me an idea for a collar.

#24 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 05:48 PM:

John M. Ford:

So, you have an emotional reaction to "Gangs of New York?" I'd love to know more.

Joel Davis:

Thank you for posting that yarnaceous link. In a rare example of keeping my Mathematical Demon under control, I wanted to post it much earlier, but waited to see if someone normal would do so.

Stefan Jones:

Thank you for sharing that. Painful as it is, and personal, I suspect that Emperor Bush II has guaranteed that we'll be seeing a lot more of it.

I found myself oddly sympathizing with Ronald Reagan, who was traumatized by seeing his father's unemployment during The Great Depression, and thereafter, even as President, being unable to fire anyone, however necessary.

My years of mostly full employment (1973-1991), which overlapped my years of college and grad school, gave way to a roller coaster of wealthy months interspersed with scrape-the-last-peanut-butter-from the jar.

Again and again I saw bloodlettings in the small, medium, and gigantic companies where I worked. It's a fad taught in MBA programs that these help the bottom line. Actual data does not support this theory.

Inevitably, they fired the people who actually knew how to do stuff, kept the ones who knew nothing, and promoted the ones who did actual daily damage, sometimes (as on the Space Shuttle program where I worked in Safety) deadly damage. Who played golf with/went to church with/went boozing with/smoked dope with/went swingdancing with/ slept with the boss was highly correlated with retention and promotion.

Who spoke the truth/ helped the customer/ rationally allocated resources was highly correlated with non-raises and termination.

I'm a Capitalist, but not a Worshipper-of-the-so-called-free-market. Today's workplaces make me weep.

Schools are businesses too, with the instructive question "who are the customers?" The same pattern that I cite for corporations applies to schools. Yesterday I collected my last meagre paycheck of the year. I will not know until at least 3 January 2005 if I have any position at my university or not (I mentioned why on an earlier thread). Several kindly Making Light people recommended that I apply for High School teaching jobs. I've been doing so for several years.

I may have already gone on too long. Thank you again.

#25 ::: Glen Blankenship ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 05:51 PM:
If I remember Renault's Fire from Heaven, Aristotle had Alexander reading Xenophon, which apparently made him into a fan of Persian culture (Persiaphile?).

Medeophile. :-)

Well, you know what they say: "One man's Mede is another man's Persian."

:-)

#26 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 06:08 PM:

That's it. I'm going home now.

#27 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 06:13 PM:

JVP, I wouldn't ordinarily disagree with you, since you're often over my head, but as to Reagan and firing people, one acronym: PATCO.

#28 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 06:20 PM:

In this case, the layoffs were the result of an acquisition, not a bad economy. Gotta get rid of redundant people, you know. :-/

But sheeat, the current method of conducting layoffs is massively insulting and bad. "Thank you for your service. Here's an envelope with a check. Here's a box."

If my manager had been offered, say, an extra two weeks severance in exchange for staying on a week to turn over responsibilities and knowledge, he would have done it and things would be going a lot easier.

#29 ::: Martin Schafer ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 09:17 PM:

Another Xenophon factoid: The cave dwellers the ten thousand winter with in south eastern Anatolia are the Kurds.

#30 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 11:22 PM:

I watched the Earthsea miniseries, but I have nothing to add to all
the bad reviews. Oh, except that too many of the reviews focus on how
different it is from LeGuin's books. It's important to remember that
even if you don't care about that, the show was still bad.

Since that's not worth further discussion, and I haven't seen _The
Warriors_ or read Greek poetry, I will say a few words about -- about
-- hm. Cold out, isn't it? I hate cars. This version of "Bohemian
Rhapsody" has accordions but no singing. Fipple! Tweak! I really
should work on my electroluminescent top hat this weekend.

#31 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 12:03 AM:

Stefan Jones wrote:
If my manager had been offered, say, an extra two weeks severance in exchange for staying on a week to turn over responsibilities and knowledge, he would have done it and things would be going a lot easier.

I believe the misguided corporate thinking is, if you lay someone off and then let them hang around the office a minute longer than necessary, there's no telling what kind of retributive rabble-rousing / file-deleting / paperclip-stealing / coffee-mooching they might get up to. Best to get it done with quick, walk them supervised out the door, and change all the locks and passwords.

I'm not saying it's logical, efficient, or humane. I'm personally of your opinion: the best way to protect company resources is to maintain an atmosphere of respect so revenge doesn't occur to anybody. I'm just expressing my belief, having been laid off before, that this is how human resources people think.

#32 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 06:34 AM:

I just got word that the mailroom temp job I've been working at for the past 90 days (after three years of job retraining and unemployment--Huzzah! for Parker Services) will go away after the 30th. The higher-ups have decided that instead of using a temp to help do a 2 7/8ths person job they'll cut back to two full-time people. This is a road to resignation, retirement, or transfer, and management should know better. Oh well, at least I got three weeks extended into three months and renewed my mailroom skills... The unemployment figures in the Seattle area are still horrifying--one more reason that this state went Blue.

#33 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 08:09 AM:

I'm reminded of how I liked the episode of Duckman where he's at a high school, getting beaten up by various gangs. "Our Gang" beats him up in black and white, and the gang from "West Side Story" beats him up in choreography. Nice music, too.

#34 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 09:44 AM:

Alex, re plotting, I can't do it either. The good thing is, you have a problem and you've identified it. That's way ahead of lots of people. Now you have to work around it.

Some advice, since you asked for it.

First: Don't be afraid to do things just as an experiment. Everything you do doesn't need to be publishable. Trying stuff to see if it works is a good thing. Knowing you're only practicing can be quite freeing.

Second: What plot is for, is to keep everything from happening at the same time. Plot is character, plot is pacing. Work on those things. Meanwhile, steal plots while you're practicing.

Third: Learn how to steal plots. You don't steal a plot by taking a plot and copying it. You have something, like some characters, and you want something to happen. When you steal a plot, it will come out different anyway because your characters are different. But what you want to do is have a plot that works for them. So to start, when you're practicing, steal a plot that's ludicrous for them and see where it goes. Say you had the characters from Northanger Abbey. Put them into the plot from Sophocles Electra. The first thing you notice is that you can't start there -- I mean you can't start where Electra starts. The second thing is that Catherine's brother, who is really insignificant in NA, needs to become Orestes, so you have to think about him a lot. Then you realize that Catherine's boyfriend will have to be Pylades, and you think about the relationship between O and P, and then between Henry and his father and you realize that that's where that story could become Electra, with the General as Agamemnon. By the time you've finished poking at this, what you'll have won't be recognisable as anything, but it'll have a plot. Consider minor characters in the plot you're trying to steal. I stole Framley Parsonage for Tooth and Claw, but of my major characters in T&C, one of them gets about two lines in the original and two of the others have an implied off-page existence, one doesn't even have that. The scene I start with happens off the page of FP. T&C can best be seen, plotwise, as a variation on a theme of FP, and I think it's best where it gets most away from the original. But the point is, by writing anything with your characters, it goes away from what it was and develops baroque sprouts, and this is a good thing.

Fourth: Steal plots from silly things that have fuzzy holes in them. I wrote something once based on the plot of "Hotel California". I wrote three things of 10 kwords each (and no, you can't see them) based on the plot of "Famous Blue Raincoat", from the POVs of the three main characters. Forget about plot and do the other things, but if your characters take the plot away from where it's "supposed" to go, measure that against where it's going to end up and make it all balance. Songs are perfect. So are fairy tales and myths, because often the way we have them we have raw plot without motivation. There's the line from Galaxy Quest, "What is the rock's motivation in this scene?" I got a whole short story out of "What is the mirror's motivation in telling the queen she isn't the fairest of them all?"

Fifth: if you have characters and you have things happening, you can do what I call plot simulation, where it becomes indistinguishable from plot to the reader. So instead of stealing a plot, get some events, some big complex hairy events, and set them in order, and push your characters into them. Say a coronation and an abduction and a legacy and... also, either steal two plots or set up two lots of events, and set them going against each other. Work out the timing of everything, and when you get stuck with one set, consider how the other set will be interacting and where that will be. "Shouldn't we be getting to the execution about now" can be a godsend when plot-stuck. Take your characters out of their situation and pitchfork them into other things -- know you're going to put in a spaceship chase sequence about two-thirds of the way through, and figure out why later.

This might not work. None of it might work. But that doesn't matter, you're only practicing, just like me.

#35 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 10:04 AM:

Teresa, here's another picture for your WW1 memorial collection: the Magdeburger Ehrenmal by Max Barlach in Magdeburg Cathedral. It was a gathering point for some of the demonstrations that helped spark reuinification.

Steve: I believe the misguided corporate thinking is, if you lay someone off and then let them hang around the office a minute longer than necessary, there's no telling what kind of retributive rabble-rousing / file-deleting / paperclip-stealing / coffee-mooching they might get up to

Yeah, it is an extension of the way IT layoffs or firings have been handled for some time. The classic form of the dotcom layoff is that everybody is invited to one of two meetings. At one, probably larger meeting, those whom the shadow has passed over this time learn of your imminent demise. Then everyone goes to lunch. Those of you at the other meeting are informed by someone from HR that your services are no longer required, and manila envelopes are passed out with your check, COBRA and other HR forms, a short and insincere letter from either the CEO or your boss, and any transitional benefits they choose to extend. All your system access was canceled as you entered the meeting. A rent-a-cop (often retained just for this event) escorts you to your desk, watches you pack, checks off the inventory of what you are taking, and escorts you to the door, hopefully before everyone else returns from a well lubricated lunch. No goodbyes or farewells on company time. You can barely hear the whisper of the axe . . .

I got to miss being the object of this particular exercise myself, but I have frends whose stories are strangely similar -- there must be a book about how to do this. I was once laid off twice in 18 months. The first time was quick -- it was handled well by my immediate supervisor and his boss, We were given the rest of the day to pack up without a lot of supervision, and we had interviews with other firms set up by our boss. After a couple of contract jobs, I became the sysop for another firm. When their parent company decided to close that division, I was offered a substantial bonus to stay on a full 90 days to shut things down. (As people left, I ended up becoming the de facto overall facilities manager.) My last day there, I was called by the first company and asked to return. Overall, a strange experience.

#36 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 10:13 AM:

In addition to the Anabasis, Aristotle might well have aimed Alexander at Xenophon's other book about the Persians, Cyropaedia, which is mostly* about the education of Cyrus the Younger, who hired Xenophon and rest of the Ten Thousand to help him overthrow his brother. For a look into that tome, try the essential classical studies site:

www.perseus.tufts.edu and look under the Classics link--they have online text of both the Greek and an English translation.

*I say mostly, because Xenophon was almost as distractable as Herodotus when it came to interesting details.

#37 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 11:22 AM:

Jo Walton wrote:
Fourth: Steal plots from silly things that have fuzzy holes in them.

Now that's cool advice.

#38 ::: Elese ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 12:48 PM:

Hey everyone. I have a question about a possible publishing scam. My cousin writes poetry, some of which is published in Canada (although I don't know where). She has been contacted by Noble House, who want to publish one of her poems in a volume of poetry to be published worldwide. They aren't asking for any money, nor are they offering any. But if she wants a copy of the book when it's published, she will have to pay $45.

Is this a scam? I know money is always supposed to flow towards the author so I'm worried, but it doesn't sound as bad as the definite scams. She isn't required to pay anything to have the poem published. Just if she wants a personal copy.

#39 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 01:02 PM:

Alex, I am an Unpublished Writer, so take my advice with salt to taste.

Nonetheless, I pass on to you the most useful stuff I know about plotting, courtesy of my playwrighting teacher Frank Gagliano (which I was able to follow about half the time while writing for his classes, so there you go).

The smallest unit of plot is the event. An event occurs when pressure builds up to the extent that someone has to do something to alleviate it. "Put your characters in the pressure cooker," sayeth Frank; the forces exerting pressure can be internal or external, but the stronger they are, the more momentum the event will have.

The event's resolution will hopefully create a new pressure. The Ring must leave the Shire, but now the hobbits are alone in the wild; Cordelia chooses integrity over duty, and Lear exiles her. The new pressure builds until it creates a new event, and so on.

This is part of what's behind the "two guys with guns" trick - introduce an immediate high-pressure situation that must be resolved, and then make everyone deal with the consequences.

When one event follows another in this way, the plot is something that is allowed to happen more or less organically, as the resolutions present themselves until there's a Story. And this allows the narrative to unfold from the inside - what happens is the result of the decisions people make, rather than an artificial structure imposed by the author from above.

When in doubt, increase pressure; pressure makes plot happen.

#40 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 01:06 PM:

Elese, see here:
http://www.writers.net/forum/read/6/3887/3887Vf

They would appear to be scammers.

#41 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 01:11 PM:

Elese wrote:
She has been contacted by Noble House, who want to publish one of her poems in a volume of poetry to be published worldwide. They aren't asking for any money, nor are they offering any. But if she wants a copy of the book when it's published, she will have to pay $45.

It doesn't appear to be terribly legitimate, judging by the scorn unearthed in a google search. Sounds like it'd be prudent to steer clear of that outfit.


Getting the Scoop on Poetry Contest Scams

The Worst Poetry Contests

Keep googling for "noble house", plus various other terms such as 'scam', 'beware', or 'problems'.... a lot of people have had unpleasant experiences with them.


#42 ::: Elese ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 01:23 PM:

bugger bugger bugger. Now my moral dilemma is: do I tell her? I really don't want her scammed, but I know that the truth would break her heart.

I used to be an astronomer. We'd get calls at the observatory about naming stars after people. And I would patiently explain that the company offering to name a star after their girlfriend/boyfriend/deceased loved-one for $50 were scammers. They'd send the victim a certificate and a catalogue listing their star with its position and name. And then I get the call from the lady who has bought a star for her baby who died one week old. She wanted me to send her a star chart and tell her about the star. Which I did. I couldn't tell her the truth.

I don't like hatred, but on that day I came very close when thinking about that company.

#43 ::: Red ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 02:18 PM:

Elese, you have more control over your emotions than I can even aspire to. I'm no professional, just one of the oddballs with the 'scope in the park on public night, and I thought I'd heard it all about those vile thieves. Your story is even worse. How dare they make others choose between lying for their benefit, or wounding the afflicted, troubling the joyful, and embarrassing the innocent. I know it's the actions I should despise, and not the actor, but when they treat people like that it's hard to control the spillover.

#44 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 03:27 PM:

Elese wrote:
bugger bugger bugger. Now my moral dilemma is: do I tell her? I really don't want her scammed, but I know that the truth would break her heart.

The fact that you asked the question yourself suggest that, somewhere in your spine, you probably already know what you intend to do.

FWIW, you don't have to be blunt with it: "These guys are scammers who only care about your cash" isn't the only way to say it. You could phrase it more positively: "I looked up those Noble House guys on the Web, and it sounds like they don't really do a lot of publicity. They mostly just sell the books to the people whose poems are in them, so you might not get a lot of readers. I wonder if you could do better? Maybe try selling your poems to some magazines?"

Of course if she does try to place her poetry in legitimate markets, she's in for a world of rejection, frustration and vanishing reward. This is true even if her poems are brilliant enough to find an audience. It's more true if they aren't. If she simply wants a quick self-esteem shot, and forty-five bucks won't mean missing any meals, don't tell her she sucks if she chooses to go with the Noble House people. If she wants long-term self-esteem, though, she ought to know that there are in fact people who publish poems and get money for them, or at least copies of the journals. Never a lot of money, and it's an uphill climb all the way, but it's been known to happen.

#45 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 05:19 PM:

The WashPost finally published my slightly-edited letter to the editor about Howl's Moving Castle in the Free For All section today:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A9255-2004Dec17.html

bottom of the page.

This is the second time I've been published in the FFA section, the first time was when a headline writer wrote about tanks fainting.

#46 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 05:42 PM:

This version of "Bohemian
Rhapsody" has accordions but no singing.

At last, a problem I can fix (mp3 link).

#47 ::: An Announcement from Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 05:50 PM:

(Note: I'm cross-posting this announcement from Electrolite.)

Jonathan Vos Post, I'm suspending your Electrolite and Making Light posting privileges for the next two weeks, which means you're out of here until New Year's Day.

You are not mindful of the company in which you find yourself.

You've posted far too many messages that had little or nothing to do with the discussions in which they occurred.

You've been a burden on the conversation.

Furthermore, you've failed to take cognizance of the longest-running and most heavy-handed series of hints and suggestions I've ever given anyone in all my years as a moderator.

See you in 2005.


Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Moderator, Enforcer, and
Wielder of Arbitrary Power

#48 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 07:08 PM:

Joel, I was in the library today, and I was rolling yarn while my dad tutored my daughter in math, and a nice man came over to show my how to roll a pullskein. It turned out he was a mathematician who knits getting the kids out of the house.

I made him incredibly happy by showing him that pdf.

He wanted to know if anyone has worked out a pattern for a Klein bottle yet. I told him I'd ask.

#49 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 07:09 PM:

TNH: Aw, gee...I feel like you've been a little rough on JVP. Digressive as he sometimes is, I feel like his posts are usually at least tangential to the subject matter. OK, awhile ago he was posting a lot of math stuff that was kind of excessive, but that seems to have stopped. Anyway, I for one am fine with what he posts.

And hey, isn't this supposed to be an open thread?

But that's just my opinion. I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of a Wielder of Arbitrary Power...

dollop: I don't think Chris Rock is in The Warriors. But the woman on the bench in the park, who turns out to be an undercover cop, is Mercedes Ruehl, early in her career.

#50 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 07:11 PM:

Show me, that is.

#51 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 07:31 PM:

Robert: you, hesitant about chiding me? When did this get started? It seems unnatural, or at least unaccustomed.

Julia, there is indeed a knitted Klein bottle, and it turns out to make a good hat. There's a knitted Mobius-strip scarf that goes with it. You might make your mathematician friend happy by giving him this link:

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004347.html

It's a post I did a while back on geek knitting, collecting as many of these oddities as I could find.

#52 ::: Toni ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 07:58 PM:

Bill Blum's link to The Worst Poetry Contests led me, eventually, to this:

http://www.windpub.com/literary.scams/D-Barry.htm

#53 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 08:05 PM:

Teresa--

You don't, of course, need my approval for your policy decisions: you're the moderator here. That said, thank you. Anyone who wants to go on at that much irrelevant length can start their own blog.

#54 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 08:26 PM:

". . . and it turns out to make a good hat."

Of course, one good sneeze and your cranium gets sucked into n-space.

#55 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 08:39 PM:

Because the knitted fabric can interpenetrate itself without breaking, it's even a better model of a Klein bottle than one made of glass is!

#56 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 08:40 PM:

A few years ago at Potlatch a Klein Bottle Hat and Mobius scarf set went up for auction, courtesy of Vonda. When one of the bidders told me the advantage of the set was that you were invisible if you wore it, I politely pointed out that to make that possible you had to be wearing Schrodinger's Cap.

#57 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 08:52 PM:

You know, I think I may even have commented on that post, and I certainly read it. I should have thought to look.

Thanks. E-mail away...

#58 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 08:59 PM:

Howdy, Alex. You've already got some good stuff here, so I'll just give you what I think was the most important lesson I've pounded into my own skull in the past year or so:

Don't forget that the characters off-stage should be taking action simultaneously with the characters currently on the page.

I had the damnedest time putting the plot of my first novel together until I realized that most of the cast (including three different sets of antagonists) was just sitting around doing nothing while the main characters were onstage. My plot at the time was a sort of arbitrary teleporter that brought them into contact for pre-ordained setpieces and then ignored them again. Total crap.

I sat down and drew up four different timelines, noting who was where, and what they were doing, at what times. When this was finished, I had a chart that showed me exactly where everyone's plots and schemes would intersect, usually with fireworks.

Once this was done, I was even able to go back and erase things, keeping the first major plot intersection as a new starting point and re-extrapolating from the fallout. It really made the whole thing seem much more organic and lively. So don't forget that every character should be active, all the time, even if the reader doesn't see these actions except through their eventual consequences.


#59 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 09:14 PM:

And hey, if you wanted to be really special, I suppose you could even map out all of these separate chrono-instances from your plot diagrams onto graph paper, choose appropriate yarn colors, and use them as a pattern to knit a hat.

I would so do this, but I can't knit. In fact, I'm a negative knitting quantity. I actually suck talent from knitters when I drive past their houses; baby sweaters end up lopsided, with two necks. Dog comforters turn into Chinese finger traps.

#60 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 09:50 PM:

I always thought Robbie the Robot was Ariel, since he's similarly useful and can provide quickly whatever is needed, and that the Monster of the Id was Caliban, who was full of barely controlled lust and anger.
On the other hand, Robbie does provide alcohol to one of the crewmen, so perhaps that's analogous to the instance in the play where the shipwrecked sailors get Caliban drunk?

#61 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 09:58 PM:

Teresa--Within this forum is different. In the real world, I can control my own vowels...

#62 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 10:16 PM:

Barbara, I don't think you're alone in that. It's been far too long since I've seen Forbidden Planet and even longer since I read The Tempest but I also figured Robbie as Ariel, the captive spirit, and the Monster from the Id as Caliban.

I'm amazed (and rather thankful) that they haven't remade that film.

#63 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 11:05 PM:

There have been threats^H^H^H^H^H^H^H plans to remake Forbidden Planet. Rumors of the sort that used to get cover billing in Starlog magazine. Like Dave, I'm glad none of them came to fruition.

Although . . . the first-pilot episode of "Star Trek" is a kind of hommage to FP, and I thought not a bad one.

#64 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 11:54 PM:

Vicki, that thought has occurred to me.

Scott, that's one of Pat Wrede's great pieces of advice for getting out of plot bottlenecks: take note of what your secondary characters have been doing in the meantime.

Barbara, I've always figured Robbie was Ariel. The wizard only has two servants, and the Monster from the Id is an obvious Caliban-analogue.

Robert, granted, in the real world you can control your own vowels. Here, only my sense of honor keeps me from messing with your use of judgment and acknowledge.

#65 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 11:56 PM:

Since there are knitters here, can I ask some questions?

I've really only just learned to knit, and by knit, I mean the regular plain knitting stitch; I think it's called a gauge stitch. I've now made several squares (sans holes or dropped stitches !) for baby blankets. Last week I learned to purl. I can cast on, and cast off. I thought I'd practice making squares of various combinations of knitting and purling, since I'm still doing some very odd things from time to time. I like knitting, but frankly, it's the kind of thing that's really hard for me, so I know I need to practice more.

I'm not overly adept at learning spatially-related tasks from books, and I tend to do most things backwards, but umm--I kind of like this. I've got a couple of friends I can ask very specific questions of. Now where do I go from here?

#66 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 01:17 AM:

Teresa wrote:
Julia, there is indeed a knitted Klein bottle, and it turns out to make a good hat. There's a knitted Mobius-strip scarf that goes with it. You might make your mathematician friend happy by giving him this link:

Although they're currently sold out of the Klein bottle hats, I'd like to put in a plug for the Acme Klein Bottle company responsible for such fine manifolds. I ordered my chemist wife their Klein Erlenmeyer flask for Christmas, and I got a warm and funny acknowledgement e-mail ten minutes after placing the order.

It was only after I'd responded back that I noticed the name of the proprietor. It's Cliff Stoll -- author of The Cuckoo's Egg and eminent countergeek. I'm delighted to see he's keeping himself entertained these days.

#67 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 01:34 AM:

Lisa, I have a little book called "the Knitter's Companion" by Vicki Square which has been very useful. It is spiral bound and fits inside my knitting bag, which is NOT very large. (it's the size of approximatley a 4 x 6 notecard plus the spiral, plus 3/4" of pages)

I learned to knit at a child but only became adventerous recently (from scarves and simple baby sweaters to things like Teddy Bears).

I also apparently knit oddly, I've had a lot of people watch me for a while, then say, "Okay, that looked odd to start with, but you were obviously taught how to knit by a left-hander (and I'm a right-hander)."

But things always come out okay, even if they don't always start promisingly. Right now I'm trying to learn how to make socks/foot warmers.

#68 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 02:14 AM:

A slight commercial plug for something I have no actual monetary interest in --

Connor Freff Cochran has produced a new, unabridged reading by the author (with songs and music) of Peter S. Beagle's _The Last Unicorn_. Peter's an amazing reader -- I haven't actually heard this reading, but I've loved listening to him read (and I don't usually like readings). Downloads will be available before the end of the month, and CDs/tapes will be available in early Feb. And early purchasers will get a limited edition of a new short story which continues the story (and a damn fine story it is, too!). www.conlanpress.com -- check it out.

The tenuous connection with TNH and Making Light -- the illustration they're using is from Leo and Diane Dillon, who also live in Brooklyn, and who I got to visit once whilst visiting P&T. And they're only using that illustration because I saw an incomplete version that the Dillons showed at a slide show at one of the few conventions they've attended, and told Connor that it existed. And I'm just totally chuffed that I managed to get that painting finished by bringing them together....

The announcement here is one of the very first about the existence of this site.

#69 ::: Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 04:18 AM:

Something I've been meaning to ask:

How's the move going?

#70 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 06:26 AM:

Paula - Are you sure that you were taught by a left-hander? You may have been taught to knit "Continental" style. I'm right-handed, but hold the yarn in my left hand, and was taught to knit this way by two right-handed people.

At one point, I did teach myself to knit with my right hand as well (in order to do a 2-color pattern without switching the yarn color every 3 stitches), but I prefer lefty knitting for general use. I won't go into why, as lefty vs. righty knitting debates seem to get people as whipped up as Red Sox vs. Yankees.

#71 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 07:49 AM:

Acme Klein Bottle is Good. I have a Klein Stein. I'm not sure I'd dare put beer in it -- it's virtually impossible to klean -- but it still looks kute.

#72 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 08:02 AM:

Issey Miyake had a klein bottle evening gown about 10 years ago, though they didn't call it that. I really wanted one, but they were about two grand.

#73 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 09:02 AM:

Stefan: how do you see "The Menagerie" as hommage to FP? Yes, it has a sheltered girl and a masculine intruder -- but that's an ancient and well-used plot; by that standard Shakespeare was cribbing from "Rapunzel". And the older works are about learning to master one's own passions as well as the outside world, where the Talosians are the ultimate pin-the-butterfly-to-the-display-board cold intellects.

#74 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 09:08 AM:

Jo: re the source of Tooth and Claw: does that make it this generation's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead?

#75 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 09:57 AM:

Alter, do you mean Tor's move? We're back on the 14th floor, plus parts of the 13th. Unpacking and re-establishing ourselves now.

#76 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 11:49 AM:

CHip: Not to my understanding of what Stoppard meant, no. I don't see R&GaD as a variation on a theme of Hamlet, I see it as literal intertextuality.

And I still want to see the performance of both plays with the same cast that the characters in Pamela Dean's Tam Lin got to see.

#77 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 01:46 PM:

"Stefan: how do you see 'The Menagerie' as hommage to FP?"

"The Cage" (available largely intact on video, BTW) and _Forbidden Planet_ share a similar sober vibe.

Specific plot stuff:

* Protagonists come to rescue shipwrecked explorers. One of them is an alluring beauty.

* Ancient, accomplished civilization falls prey to technology . . . in this case, memory records and something like virtual reality. Not fatal, but the Talosians are effectively as moribund as the Krell, who fell prey to a wishing machine.

I don't think this is a cheat or plaguarism on Roddenberry's part. He chose to model his "Horatio Hornblower in Space" series after a somber but wonder-filled movie.

#78 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 01:50 PM:

I have an Acme Klein Bottle here in my cube at work. It's on a little marble platform.

I'm disappointed how few of my cow-orkers know what it is.

I also have print-outs of pictures of Burgess Shale critters, so people will know what the test machines "Opabinia" and "Wiwaxia" are named after.

#79 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 03:19 PM:

Issey Miyake had a klein bottle evening gown about 10 years ago, though they didn't call it that.

Oh dear, now we have to accessorize.

Jewelry by Arisia, obviously, with a heavy ceramic bangle from Firsk in native yellow. (We're thinking golds and blacks here.)

Second Foundation garments from the Earle Bergey Collection.

Hermes scarf. The god, not the other guys.

To cover up, a hooded leather cape by Isaac Mizrahi, for a touch of the mundane.

Lorgnette by Weissenbroch & Söhne.

Something from Isher; probably an energy derringer with pavé diamond optics in a garter holster. (This isn't> streetwear, darlings.) Because the right to buy weapons is the right to shop.

And a Snakeskin temporal displacement bag from Judith & Fritz Leiber; if you forget something, you can always go back and put it in.

The shoes are an interesting problem. Probably a pair of Instrumentality heels in 18k from Smith Cordovan, though I'm not actually sure one wears shoes with this outfit; holographic nail treatments might be better.

Yes, you're right, I can't be trusted with any arrangement of words.

#80 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 03:38 PM:

Vicki, Teresa not only suggested JVP make his own blog, he did, but apparently there aren't enough people reading it, so he posts here.

#81 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 03:40 PM:

Lead story in today's WashPost is the first of three articles on the high incidence of pregnant women and new mothers killed by the father of the baby:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10074-2004Dec18.html

#82 ::: genibee ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 04:28 PM:

I just got an odd piece of email in my inbox, and given its subject matter, I thought I'd post here and see if this is some new trend for marketing self-published books, or if a particular author hit on a Big Idea.

The author looked at the reviews of a book similar to his/hers (in this case, Guy Gavriel Kay's Last Light of the Sun) and picked up my email address from a review I left there. He/she sent me an email saying basically that if you like Kay's, you might like mine, and also was slightly apologetic about being mixed in with "vanity press" authors which might make him look bad. The publisher of the book was XLibris, which I know nothing about.

It sort of bemused me, as it was a very polite email, and could, I suppose, be a reliable marketing effort - except most people loathe spam, and might be moved to leave a bad review at Amazon in retaliation. Has anybody else had this happen? And what do you think of the strategy?

#83 ::: iJames ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 05:18 PM:

genibee:
"It sort of bemused me, as it was a very polite email, and could, I suppose, be a reliable marketing effort - except most people loathe spam, and might be moved to leave a bad review at Amazon in retaliation. Has anybody else had this happen? And what do you think of the strategy?"

I wouldn't retaliate, if that's what you're asking. And even if it's technically spam, if the author addressed you directly then it's spam on the very shallow end of the asshole pool. It sounds like a sincere marketing attempt by a person who just wants a little validation. That doesn't mean you should buy the book, of course. (And XLibris is in fact a vanity PoD press, albeit a relatively non-evil one.)

I've done similar myself. When Randy Milholland at Something Positive was talking about online superhero fiction last week, I dropped him a line with a pointer to my blogfic, saying I thought he might like it. I didn't expect anything to come of it, and as far as I know nothing has. I figure the popular sites probably get a few dozen e-mails like that a day. But I don't believe it hurts, either, so long as you aren't obnoxious about it. When you're relatively unknown, the only way to make people aware of something you've done is to tell them.

#84 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 06:44 PM:

Tom Whitmore: the news about the audiobook of _The Last Unicorn_ is quite interesting. Will it be available through Audible.com, do you know? (And if the web maintainer is here, why no pricing info yet? "By phone or e-mail," pfui.)

#85 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 06:49 PM:

Bruce wrote:
When one of the bidders told me the advantage of the set was that you were invisible if you wore it, I politely pointed out that to make that possible you had to be wearing Schrodinger's Cap.

One of the characters in Bad Magic has a "Schroedinger's cap" in his bag. (Page 62.) And yes, TNH figured I'd typoed "Schroedinger's cat"-- but after I said it was okay as written, she didn't ask me what a "Schroedinger's cap" was. We were both in a hurry, so I figured I'd get back to it later...

My idea for what a "Schroedinger's cap" does is it's a last-ditch emergency protective measure. You can put it on any time you want-- but at the next instant in time someone observes you, there will be exactly a 50% chance you'll be alive. (Hey, if you're standing next to a hydrogen bomb that's about to go off, it's better than nothing...)

#86 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 07:21 PM:

Stephan - Interesting. For years, I've regarded airplanes as Schroedinger's Capsules, which exist in an indeterminate state between boarding and disembarking, although the odds are considerably better than 50-50. I'm not sure I'd want to add a Schroedinger's Cap to my wardrobe, though.

#87 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 07:46 PM:

Anyone know a good user guide or reference book for Quicken?

My father could use one. The product he has only comes with online docs, which he doesn't seem comfortable using.

Thanks...

#88 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 07:57 PM:

... and my cats delight in trying to find Schroedinger's Cat-toys... especially at 2am!

#89 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 08:08 PM:

Kate, I agree they should have the price there; but it's not my website, and I think the decision was not to put the price up until they were ready to sell the streaming version. I believe it's about $30 for the streamed version and $40 for the CDs. They won't be available through Audible, because Audible takes way too big a cut -- and they're hoping to start breaking that stranglehold and get more money into the authors' hands with this. It'll be an interesting experiment, indeed.

#90 ::: Connor Freff Cochran ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 09:00 PM:

Kate (and anybody else who is interested): Regarding pricing on the new LAST UNICORN audiobook and the special collector's edition hardcover of "Two Hearts," Peter's new sequel/coda to his original novel...

1) The prices *will* be on the website as soon as the techies on the team hook up our new shopping cart software to our new merchant account software to our new secure file downloading software and make it all work. They tell me this will be very soon now, and I certainly hope they are right.

2) The prices weren't there yet because, frankly, no one was supposed to KNOW about this yet. The site that is there now was set up just one week ago, and was intended solely to prove to the merchant account bank that we weren't selling porn, drugs, or a chance to come gamble. The web being what it is, of course, people started to find us anyway within less than 24 hours and here we are scrambling to catch up. (As problems go, it's one I'm actually happy to have.)

3) Here are the prices. $30 for the downloadable MP3 version (available as soon as the filehandling software works). $40 for the CD edition (available in February). $55 for both together. Plus a small shipping/handling charge which will vary depending on whether you are a US resident or live overseas. California residents will also have to pay CA sales tax.

4) The first 2000 customers will also get, for free, the signed limited edition hardcover of "Two Hearts." That will ship around mid-January.

Anything else anyone wants to know, I'd be happy to answer. Just email me.

BTW, Tom was being kind when he referred to Audible.com's cut as "way too big." Their standard deal is that they take 88%, and as far as I'm concerned that's robbery.

#91 ::: genibee ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 09:19 PM:

I have no intention of retaliating, although I know people rabid enough and with very hardline definitions of spam that might consider it. It mostly was that given the recent discussion of vanity press topics, it was funny to see the topic pop up again in a way I didn't expect. I do hope that it isn't a new trend of harvesting email addresses off of Amazon, however, because then I'll have to make myself unavailable there, and I've had a few good conversations with people who wanted to respond to something I've said in one of my occasional reviews.

#92 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 10:43 PM:

Tom, Connor Freff Cochran, thanks for the information. I confess that I have an Audible subscription and really like it--mostly I just don't *want* to pay $30 for an audiobook, which is more than the print version for something less desirable (though obviously still desirable). Without Audible I wouldn't buy _any_ audiobooks--I'd just make do with what my local library has.

I shall certainly ask my local library to get the CD version of this.

#93 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 11:35 PM:

Let's see: The .mp3 + hardcover is $30. CD + hardcover is $40. Therefore, .mp3 + CD + 2 hardcovers is $70. .mp3 + CD + hardcover is $55. Therefore the hardcover costs $15 (at least, to someone who's buying both audio versions anyway). That makes the .mp3 by itself $15, and the CD $25.

My brain works that way: it automatically does any available arithmetic. At least the prices here are consistent. (One sandwich shop I used to go to in the Fulton Fish Market before they touristized it had a swiss cheese and avocado sandwich, an avocado sandwich with added swiss cheese, and a swiss cheese sandwich with added avocado at three different prices.)

#94 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 12:49 AM:

Mr. Cochran, what the heck does Audible provide that it wants an 88% cut? They don't line up the reader, do they? Or do the master digitized disk(s)?

Even American Express only wants about a point more than Visa/MC takes from merchants; somewhere in the 3-5 percent range, as I recall.

#95 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 01:28 AM:

Kate -- "more than the print version"...

Which print version? Current hardcovers are getting close to that price, but are still a bit less. First editions are a lot more. THE LAST UNICORN is currently available as a trade paperback at about half the price -- but last I looked, the actual cost of producing a trade paperback is significantly less than the price of producing any (even a mediocre) audiobook. I haven't heard this book, I have no investment in it (except that two old friends are deeply involved!) -- and I think that at the length it takes to read and record this particular story, the cost is very appropriate. And knowing the prinicpals -- this won't be mediocre. What Connor and Peter have done seems very parallel to the "cool limited edition book" approach to audio (without the bonus of a limitation). And the short story (which is, I say as an outsider who's read it, of a quality to match the novel -- it's prime Beagle, and I do not say that lightly) sort of adds limitation back in. I currently don't have a working sound card or CD burner, so I'm not planning to download it myself (full disclosure).

Connor, I didn't mention numbers because I didn't think it was my place to do so.

#96 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 01:35 AM:

Seth, you're assuming that fixed costs scale precisely to relative costs. Not a good assumption. I'm not privy to the finances, but assuming a base amortization cost of (say) $15 per copy (which will, of course, go down if many, many copies sell, but will also go up if fewer than expected copies actually sell), something pretty close to the costs seems reasonable.

Or -- yer talking outa yer hat dude, that's not how costs work -- n-th copy ain't same as first copy, which you assume.

#97 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 05:39 AM:

Stefan Jones: I also have print-outs of pictures of Burgess Shale critters, so people will know what the test machines "Opabinia" and "Wiwaxia" are named after.

Stefan, you do know that there are some very nice Burgess fossil toys these days as well? I like this set from the Royal Ontario Museum which has an Opabinia and a Wiwaxia. There's also the Chocolasaurs, a Japanese series of prehistoric creature toys that includes Opabinia, Anomalocaris, and Hallucigenia.

#98 ::: Walt Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 06:32 AM:

Linkmeister asked "what the heck does Audible provide that it wants an 88% cut? They don't line up the reader, do they? Or do the master digitized disk(s)?"

I'm sure they would say that they -do- line up the reader, given their website devoted to audio books.

One thing I know they do is arrange with various hardware companies that make MP3 players to provide special support for Audible-format MP3 files. An Audible-compatible player must be capable of remembering exactly where you were when you last stopped listening to any book. Thus, you can stop reading book A anywhere you want, read book B for awhile, then book C, and when go back to either A or B and you will automatically resume exactly where you left off.

Also, they have several buying plans for "heavy" consumers of audio books. For 20 USD per month you can get 2 books, regardless of their list price. They run occasional sales at that price (10 USD per book) for as many as you want to buy.

I'm not sure whether any of that justifies the purported 88% commission, but if they weren't keeping that much I doubt they could provide such good deals as they do on their monthly plan or their sales, both of which significantly reduce the cost of audio books to the consumer.

(By the way, I have no affiliation with Audible other than as a happy consumer.)

#99 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 10:00 AM:

Tom: I buy books to read, not to collect, so first editions etc. aren't of interest to me. I don't doubt that audiobooks cost more to produce--that's not the issue to me. I'm saying that the enjoyment I get out of audio versions is less than the enjoyment I get out of a print version, and the price I'm willing to pay varies accordingly.

#100 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 10:56 AM:

genibee, I remember this method being popular a couple of years ago. Some POD writer got some sales that way and then was interviewed in a magazine. I forget what magazine.

I'm planning on reviewing grammar over break. I wondered if anyone here has read Eats, Shoots and Leaves? Is it fun and good? I want to brush up but have fun at the same time.

#101 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 11:29 AM:

Checkitout.

And of course the very day that I see it and think, "Oh boy, two recent-ish Making Light posts got together and had a Hitherby baby," there's an open thread here so I can spout off about it. Must be the work of the Fanfic Devil!

#102 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 11:32 AM:

ElizabethVomMarlowe wrote:
I'm planning on reviewing grammar over break. I wondered if anyone here has read Eats, Shoots and Leaves? Is it fun and good? I want to brush up but have fun at the same time.

May I commend to your attention The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed, by Karen Elizabeth Gordon.

It's not the best grammar reference in the world for a quick lookup or to get a specific question answered, but it's a good general read, and the example sentenes are consistently entertaining if you're in a Gorey sort of mood.

#103 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 12:22 PM:

Sorry - I guess that was a bit off-topic even for an open thread. It seemed vaguely appropriate and I was all excited, that's my only excuse.

Having now gone back and read the rest of this thread, it seems I have more things to be all excited about (i.e. the upcoming Last Unicorn audio book).

#104 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 12:49 PM:

Thanks Steve! It sounds great. I love a good gothic.

#105 ::: Tiger Spot ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 01:20 PM:

Elizabeth -- I've read Eats, Shoots and Leaves and it was pretty entertaining. It focuses on the British variants of punctuation, but does mention American rules as well (in a nice non-judgemental way: I like some British rules and some American rules, and never once felt like I was being told I was wrong). There's quite a lot of history in it, which is interesting, and some amusing sample sentences. I don't know how terribly much it would teach anyone; I think anybody who's interested enough to pick it up already knows what it covers.

#106 ::: Tiger Spot ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 01:23 PM:

Dear God, I think I used every available punctuation mark in that last post. I didn't mean to, really. I just write like that. I've probably done something embarrassingly ungrammatical, too.

#107 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 01:29 PM:

Tiger Spot: every single punctuation mark? I think not!

#108 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 01:34 PM:

Not twenty mintues out of my trademark exam, I find a link to a trademark article, and from there, a link to the actual complaint.

The following is not Legal Advice. I am not a lawyer. Do not rely on the following statements for any reason whatsoever. Don't. Really.

If that's the complaint, NCSoft may actually be in trouble. The "Statesman" stuff is crap, as are the causes based on the abilities of users to name their avatars whatever they choose (note that they HAVE prevented use of actual TMed names). But the ease of construction of TMed characters? That's a little worrisome, especially if discovery finds documents tending towards that being in the intent of the designers (not unlikely, is my guess. And if design notes on the claw option says "Three! like Wolverine!", well...) or if the options presented take some of Marvel's design choices as default (the three-claw thing is a good example here: if a Mutant:Scrapper:Claws choice produces three claws in a Wolvie-like configuration, I'd worry. If they're more Molly (or Lady Deathstrike, a less-notable Marvel entity) or generic Werewolf, things look better.).

But the general disparagement of Marvel's suit, is not, I think, warranted.

#109 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 01:38 PM:

Mr. Farrell, by "reader" I meant the actor/author who does the book-reading, not the customer. Sorry for the confusion.

That array of services is broader than I'd thought. I didn't realize that Audible's format is non-standard; that would obviously add cost to the equation. Thanks.

#110 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 02:37 PM:

Tom, by prices I was referring to the prices that the purchaser (me) would see. They have nothing to do with production costs, which I realize are mostly fixed.

By "consistent" I meant with each other; that is, I didn't see any arbitrage possibilities.

#111 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 03:19 PM:

30 years ago, my roommate had a set of Napoleon Hill's salesman-inspiring books, The Laws of Success. I read two or three books into the ten-volume series, and felt that Hill had some good ideas. The best thing I took away, I didn't take as he intended. He said something like, 'If you would know a man, see how he behaves
...when he's winning
...when he's losing
...when he doesn't know he's being watched
...when he's with people he loves
...when he's with people he hates..."
and so on.

Wow! I said to myself, this is what a writer does when showing a character -- not describing, but demonstrating. I filed it away for the day it would be useful. Well, now I'm getting older and older, and it's time to hand some of this brilliance off to others, who probably know it already, but what the h*ck.

By the way, speaking of squeezeboxes, I'm just listening to Bach's famous Toccata & Fugue in d minor played by Russian virtuoso Sergei Slepokourov. Technically, it's a bayan, not an accordion, but the tone's pretty similar. That's some mighty sweet squeezin', Sergei. (He also does Voices of Spring and Largo Al Factotum.)

#112 ::: Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 04:06 PM:

Where to go from knitting garter stitch squares: Barbara G. Walker put together a lovely guide, The Learn-to-Knit Afghan Book, which Schoolhouse Press has kept in print. It's a really astonishing knitting primer -- if you can do everything in that book, you'll have few problems doing anything else you'd like to make.

Geek knitting alert: Cat Bordhi has published two books of patterns, all of which start with moebius strips in some way. The first one is called A Treasury of Magical Knitting. I can't vouch for the quality of either the patterns or prose, but the premise is at least amusing.

#113 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 05:36 PM:

OK, I don't know if this is a no-go topic, in which case forget I asked, but the whole Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas thing (speaking of which, Our Fearless Leader, the spearhead of the Xtian-in-public-life juggernaut, sent out Happy Holidays cards this year, but I don't upon reflection expect a boycott) has been on my mind the last few days, and I keep getting back to this: it seems to me far less objectionable to wish that strangers have a good time on their day off than to instruct them in how to experience a religious observance, especially in the medium of appliance store sales inserts.

What am I missing here?

#114 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 07:25 PM:

What you're missing is the persecution complex that drives people to ignore the thought that "Happy Holidays" is a damned convenient contraction that takes in a period ranging from Thanksgiving to All Saints Day to Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, and New Year's, in favor of the thought that it must be another assault by the touchy-feely pinko-atheist brigade on the Christian Societal Bedrock that All Good People Cherish.

See also Wikipedia entries on "whining hypocrite pissants," and "sad song just for you, played by the world's smallest violin."

#115 ::: Scott's an Idiot ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 07:31 PM:

Doh. Wait a minute. All Saints is after Halloween, isn't it? I was under the impression that something imprtant happened on December 1st or 2nd, and I'm drawing a blank. Is there anything there?

#116 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 07:32 PM:

Perhaps it's time for a spoof Jack Chick comic, where a bunch of doughty Christian teens uncover the sinister conspiracy at city hall to take Christ out of Christmas:

[Clueless nobs: This is satire]
Mayor: "Our 'multicultural' holiday plan is succeeding brilliantly! The fools don't realize that 'Kawanzaa' is a pagan ceremony for paying tribute to African Demons!"

Aide: "The 'dreidel' encourages them to gamble, and the blood sacrifice reenacted by the Menorah* lighting we'll doom them for sure!"

Alderman: "Violent video game sales are through the roof! Soon their souls will be ours!"

Demon in corner: "HAW-Haw!"

* "Satan's Candalabra."
[/Clueless nobs: This is satire]

#117 ::: Glen Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 07:43 PM:

Sayeth julia:
it seems to me far less objectionable to wish that strangers have a good time on their day off than to instruct them in how to experience a religious observance, especially in the medium of appliance store sales inserts.

What am I missing here?

The fact that the insert has nothing to do with religious observance, but relates only to the like-named commercial buying frenzy? That is, it's not instruction, merely the usual meaningless PR verbiage, dressed up in the usual fall fashion. I doubt even its creators consider it as religious advice. It says what it says because (1) that's the customary expression of good will this time of year when the recipient's religion (or lack thereof) is unknown, and (2) it makes the store/company/whatever look better than blatant expressions of corporate greed.

This all assumes, of course, that the insert contains the usual blather put out by companies after Thanksgiving. If it doesn't, do share the details with us.

#118 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 07:50 PM:

The few rotten apples were apparently stacked high enough to reach the Oval Office:

http://www.aclu.org/SafeandFree/SafeandFree.cfm?ID=17216&c=206

The only thing more sickening than the thought of having a president who approves of stuff like this is the smuggery we're going hear defending said approval.

#119 ::: Glen Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 07:57 PM:

Stefan Jones riffed:
Mayor: "Our 'multicultural' holiday plan is succeeding brilliantly! The fools don't realize that 'Kawanzaa' is a pagan ceremony for paying tribute to African Demons!"

Isn't this the plot of the Lost Buffy Christmas Episode, the one written when Joss Whedon was on vacation?

#120 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 09:40 PM:

Teresa, citrus fancier: our lemons have been tentatively identified as "Ponderosa" lemons. Ever heard of them?

#121 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 09:49 PM:

For a limited time: movie rights to 4 self-published novels for the low, low price of a quarter mil.

#122 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 11:46 PM:

The funniest thing about the eBay listing Stephanie points us out:

The seller wants $25.00 shipping and handling on top of the high bid.

This is like telling someone planning on riding a unicycle from New York to San Francisco to stay in the *right hand lane* the whole way on I-80 because they need to be *sure* they'll be in position for that tricky exit to the Civic Center once they get over the Bay Bridge.

Of course, this item won't sell, because Shelia didn't specify that the four novels and the rights were not "NIB."

#123 ::: Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 12:06 AM:

Wow, Sheila's a really precise writer:

Please, no bidders who are not serious in paying for this package deal for the copyrights and movie rights! If you're not serious with no doubts of paying, then please bid and know that the merchandise and contract will be sent to you once the payment and S & H cost is paid in full to my account through the paypal process only.

I love how many times in her posting she goes back to harp on the $25 s/h fee. I think I've figured it out: $25 is an amount of money that is real for her, and she'd be pissed to lose it. $250,000 is play money, and so she's simply not able to understand that anyone paying $250,000 for something really ought to have the $25 kicked in for them.

#124 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 12:12 AM:

I have to say that I'm down with Kanji of the year.

#125 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 12:18 AM:

Mad: Ponderosas? Whacking huge fruit, the Hagrid of the lemon clan. Good flavor, makes great marmalade and candied peel. They're also good for Shaker-style lemon pie, if you're familiar with that recipe, and for all other lemonish purposes. A very nice variety.

With the kind help of Alison Heath, who talked her produce manager into ordering the fruit for me, then FedExed it to me, I have now achieved a long-term ambition: making strange ornate candied citrus-peel slices by cutting up Buddha's Hand citrus latitudinally. Some of the slices look like those daisies people used to stick on their Volkswagens. Others are stranger. Many of them are little roundels, sliced from the long pointy appendages. Even better, they're delicious. Citrons make the very best candied peel.

#126 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 02:45 AM:

The seller wants $25.00 shipping and handling on top of the high bid.

If anyone wants to buy the movie rights to my book for a quarter mill, I throw in shipping and handling for free, cause I'm just that kinda guy. Call now. Operator standing by. Offer expires midnight tonight.

#127 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 03:01 AM:

I haven't read all the way through this thread and I apologize but I should get to bed soon and I wanted to shout-out to Geoff--

ElizabethVomMarlowe: I'm still struggling, but I learned a lot about plot by taking the advice of one of my favorite writers, Suzanne Brockmann. She said she learned plot and pacing by writing TV scripts (not paid or anything). She said to pick shows you already know and love and then practice the patterns of the show--end on a cliffhanger at commercial breaks, etc. It really helped me because I could tell when I had enough story...or not. For me, a forty five page screenplay is a lot easier to do as an exericse than a 450 page novel.

A friend of mine gave me that advice. She was using Babylon-5 as a plotting learning tool. (And I saw what she was getting at once I hit, I think it was, S3?) Studying the structures and the way Anvils of Doom came upon the characters and how to do that. And it seems to have worked reasonably well for her.

I can't speak so well to that because the place I usually fall down and suck rocks is characterization, so I'm studying Buffy for that. :-]

Anyway, when I have to think explicitly about plotting, when the arc and sweep of the story hasn't spread itself out in my head (it's kind of like what it feels like to compose, actually, seeing how the [musical] themes weave in and out and develop and knot to a close, even if I am a total piano/orchestra amateur and real musicians/composers might do it otherly)--when I have to think about it, it helps me most to frame it in terms of conflict. I am usually for torment, anguish, and things beating up other things. (Yes, yes, very low on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, moving on.) Figuring out what people, or things, or institutions "want" and how to frustrate them. (I usually get stuck on institutions and have to humanize the conflict, in longer works. Have I mentioned I suck rocks at characterization?)

I have no idea if this is of use to anyone else, but it comes together in my brain so there is a small chance it might come together in someone else's.

*leaves the thread in agony, but knows there will be much +more+ good stuff to read here in the morning*

#128 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 03:55 AM:

About the Howl's Moving Castle movie, a word of warning for Dianna Wynne Jones fans: Do not go to the movie expecting it to be like the book. It is not. It is, however, pure uncut Miyazaki, in ways that will amuse those who are familiar with both the source book and Miyazaki's usual tropes.

I've watched it twice, spent the first time muttering to myself "...this was much better in the book..." all the way through and enjoyed it only moderately, spent the second time actually experiencing the thrill of Miyazaki's animations, and came out much more happily wowed.

However, Howl still expresses his displeasure with green slime, so I must be content.

#129 ::: Connor Freff Cochran ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 04:07 AM:

Kate: “I confess that I have an Audible subscription and really like it--mostly I just don't *want* to pay $30 for an audiobook, which is more than the print version for something less desirable (though obviously still desirable).”

Well, what’s more or less desirable is personal matter, of course. Some people like listening, some people like reading, some people go back and forth depending on context. An audiobook is clearly more desirable than a printed book if your only spare “book” time is while driving to work.

But the real thing driving the price differential is the much higher cost of audiobook production and manufacturing. The new LAST UNICORN audiobook is more than seven hours long, has a lot of original music, was professionally recorded on a top-of-the-line Pro Tools HD system with expensive microphones...and all that was just to get the audio component in place. Then you add a real graphic designer, professional photography, cover art by the Dillons, packaging sufficient to hold seven CDs efficiently but attractively...whoa brother, but it does add up.

There is a reason that most well-done audiobooks are by bestselling authors, and just about everybody else gets low-value production and packaging (or doesn't get audiobook publication at all). Unless a publisher knows that they are going to sell a lot, they just won't risk spending the money.

We certainly hope to sell a lot, but there’s no guarantee of that. Truth is we put so much into making the LAST UNICORN audiobook great out of sheer obsession with quality and love for Peter’s work. It’s what it deserved.

Kate: “I shall certainly ask my local library to get the CD version of this.”

Thanks!

#130 ::: Connor Freff Cochran ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 04:23 AM:

Linkmeister: “Mr. Cochran, what the heck does Audible provide that it wants an 88% cut? They don't line up the reader, do they? Or do the master digitized disk(s)?”

They process the audio that is supplied by audiobook publishers, and prep it in their own proprietary formats for various players at various audio qualities. And they do provide a growing base of reachable customers, which now totals around 165,000 subscribing powers. And of course they maintain a slick website and pay for a lot of advertising and the cost of a lot of bandwidth and data delivery technology. They also have an extremely high overhead cost in terms of office space, people, salaries, proprietary programming, advertising, big bonus payments to suppliers who bring in subscribers, etc.

In fact, their overhead is so high that they actually lose money even taking 88%. Last year they were net negative $3m on around $27m in revenues. The year before they lost even more, and the year before they lost even MORE. In fact, they have yet to see a single profitable year. Without a steady influx of venture capital they would have been out of business long ago.

I have an industry analyst acquaintance who thinks they are actually a deliberate “loss-leader,” meaning that the major book publishers are using other people’s venture and investor money to fund the creation of a viable downloadable audio market, with the intent of swooping in and buying an “unprofitable” Audible on the cheap after that finally happens. Given some of the players in this particular game, he could easily be right.

#131 ::: Connor Freff Cochran ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 04:28 AM:

Oops. Somehow my autocorrect turned "subscribers" into "subscribing powers." Very, very weird.

#132 ::: Connor Freff Cochran ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 04:37 AM:

Seth: “Tom, by prices I was referring to the prices that the purchaser (me) would see. They have nothing to do with production costs, which I realize are mostly fixed.”

Actually, manufacturing costs are mostly fixed and follow pretty clear rules in respect to economies of scale. But *production* costs are wildly variant.

An example: When we do our scheduled audiobook of Peter’s THE INNKEEPER’S SONG, our production costs will take a big, big leap because we’ll be casting close to a dozen professional voices instead of one (and all but two of those voices won’t be willing to work mainly on spec, as Peter and I will in order to increase our shot at eventual profitability). Plus there is the time and expense of casting that many people in the first place. INNKEEPER is really going to eat a hole in our bank account when we tackle it.

#133 ::: Connor Freff Cochran ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 04:53 AM:

MORE PETER S. BEAGLE INFO, JUST TO JAZZ IT UP A LITTLE

Enough with the audiobooks already. We're all readers, and Peter has a bunch of books in the pipeline. Here's the current news.

All of these should see print in 2005 from various places.

1) SUMMERLONG. His first new fantasy novel for adults in 12 years. Illustrated by me (my first book illustration job in more than 20 years: lordie!)

2) SMEAGOL, DEAGOL, AND BEAGLE: ESSAYS FROM THE HEADWATERS OF MY VOICE. Peter tackles his many sources of literary inspiration, from POGO to George Brassens to T. H. White and, of course, Tolkien. The latter essay, from which the book takes its title, goes into gory detail about the writing of his screenplay for the 1978 animated LORD OF THE RINGS, and includes great chunks of it by way of example.

3) THE FIRST LAST UNICORN AND OTHER BEGINNINGS. Peter opens up his filing cabinet for a tour of might-have-been and never-quite-was. Among other things this book includes the *very* different abandoned 80-page first draft of THE LAST UNICORN; a sentence-by-sentence annotated analysis of the Butterfly's classic speech; and the four chapters that Viking cut out of A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE before publication. Cool stuff all. Illustrations and cover by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.

4) RINGERS. The "coffee table book" companion to the documentary film RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS, which gives a sociocultural history of the impact of Tolkien's books on world culture and the arts.

5) An as-yet-untitled children's book, Peter's first, from Scholastic's Blue Sky Press. Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon.

It's going to be a very nice year.

#134 ::: Adrian Bedford ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 07:22 AM:

I just wanted to say "thank you!" to Jo Walton and the others here who have had such interesting and useful things to say and suggest about plot. I've found it all very helpful.

#135 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 08:51 AM:

The seller wants $25.00 shipping and handling on top of the high bid.

Well, you know, those rights weigh a lot.

#136 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 09:01 AM:

This is the bit that made me choke on my Wheaties:

Please remember, it's the copyright and movie rights that you're buying and not my original copy of each of the four novels.  I will send a CD that has all of the book covers- front and back, as well as the stories in the novels of their content. That's what will be yours and my name will no longer be on the novels, instead... yours can be.

Book covers. Front and back. But not, you understand, her original copies of the novels. Just so we're clear about that.

#137 ::: Moira ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 11:35 AM:

Jonathan Vos Post, I'm suspending your Electrolite and Making Light posting privileges for the next two weeks, which means you're out of here until New Year's Day.

thank.goodness.

#138 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 11:41 AM:

Connor Freff Cochran: Thanks for the information. I realize that audiobooks are a more expensive proposition to do, and it's too bad that usually prices based on those expenses don't meet my willingness to pay. But, again, this is why we have libraries.

And you very nearly made me literally salivate with this news:

When we do our scheduled audiobook of Peter’s THE INNKEEPER’S SONG, our production costs will take a big, big leap because we’ll be casting close to a dozen professional voices instead of one

*This* I will pay to own, assuming I can listen to samples and make sure the voices don't clash with what's in my head [*], because _The Innkeeper's Song_ is one of my favorite books in the world and doing it with a full-cast is the only way possible.

[*] Another peril of audiobooks (again, for me). I tried listening to Pratchett, because there are lots of them and they would make good commute listening, but couldn't get more than an hour into _Jingo_--Vimes doesn't sound like that. I couldn't tell you what he *does* sound like, but it isn't like that, not to me. Similarly, Lois McMaster Bujold has just announced that Blackstone has picked up a bunch of her Vorkosigan backlist, and well, it would be a lucky break indeed if Miles sounded on tape like he does in my head.

#139 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 11:52 AM:

Kate inspired me to dredge up an old joke of mine:

Name That Hero:

He's 4' 10". He's had hip replacement surgery. He's slightly manic, brilliant, but a little odd. He's got a dry sense of humor, often aimed at himself.

He's been in and out of the government, largely due to his close childhood friendship with the head of state. Although he's upper class, he tries to improve the lot of the less fortunate.

The first half of the punchline, to spare a lot of comment pile-on: "No, Miles Vorkosigan is 4' 9". Guess again."

#140 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 12:58 PM:

Mr. Cochran: Thanks for the info. If I were a VC provider I might be looking for returns at some point, and the way you describe it, the buyout you suggest might be the only way that could happen. Phew!

#141 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 12:58 PM:

If the game Mortality ("Even the losers enjoy it, because they tend to end up being the focus of charitable efforts by the other players.") alone doesn't seem quite Christmassy enough for your family, try packaging it with The Grow Op Game.

#142 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 01:18 PM:

Rose: I bought the first Treasury of Magical Knitting because I wanted Bordhi's Moebius cast-on. But the projects themselves are kinda meh, IMO.

#143 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 01:41 PM:

Another good word for Acme Klein Bottle. I have one of the Klein bottles sitting on my mantel. I mentioned it in passing to a friend when our baby was about three months old, and he said, "Er, isn't that a little advanced for her?" I had to explain that I wasn't using the fragile pretty mathematical glass thing to *feed* the baby!

I suppose it says something that my friend thought it was even jokingly *plausible* that I'd do such a thing. :-p

Also, JonH? I don't know how much depth your dad wants out of Quicken, and I've barely scratched the surface of the thing, but when I was having a little trouble using it for personal finance records/planning, I found _Quicken 2005 for Dummies_ was pretty clearly written and had what I needed. If your dad has specific questions, he might stop by a bookstore and page through a copy (for whatever version) to see if it addresses them.

#144 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 01:57 PM:

The big appeal of the Last Unicorn audiobook is the music, to me.

::drooooool::

#145 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 02:46 PM:

Okay, so the Mortality game: "Depending on how many Testimonies you already have, these trials can hurt you or help you. You also have an opportunity to help other players, for which you will gain even more Testimonies. The first player with 150 Testimonies "finishes mortality" and is the winner."

"Finishes mortality"? Is this like ascending in NetHack--you become immortal after getting enough Testimonies?

And here I thought it was going to be an odd typo for Morality . . .

#146 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 02:55 PM:

Mormon theology: weirder than you may have thought.

#147 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 02:57 PM:

Hey, Freff. Good to see you here. Those comments couldn't be mistaken for advertisements, could they?

#148 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 03:05 PM:

Shaker lemon pie.

I've been experimenting with it, using various kinds of lemons, and limes. So far the Persian Sweet Lemons, if they have thinner than usual skin, and the Meyer's Lemons have been the best.

For me, the key is slicing the lemons Really Really thinly, and letting them percolate, so to speak, in the two cups of sugar overnight.

I have also cheated by adding a little vanilla extract, or using vanilla sugar.

The hardest part was finding the right knife to use; instead of The Spouse's Fancy Knife, I'm using a cheap serated knife meant for bagel slicing.

Shaker Lemon pie is one of the pies I'm using as holiday presents this year. The other is a chocolate mousse pie my mother invented that's frighteningly easy, and twice as unhealthy.

#149 ::: Connor Freff Cochran ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 03:07 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden: "Hey, Freff. Good to see you here. Those comments couldn't be mistaken for advertisements, could they?"

Good to be here,Teresa.

I certainly don't want to break any rules, so a little guidance would be helpful. Since I am Peter's business manager (not to mention friend, collaborator, sometime illustrator, sometime publisher, sometime producer, and general all-around reliable buddy in the foxhole) everything I say about him and his work does, in some way, come back to my benefit. Is there a way I can share information without stepping over the line? Please advise!

#150 ::: Connor Freff Cochran ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 03:13 PM:

Kate Nepveu: "*This* I will pay to own, assuming I can listen to samples and make sure the voices don't clash with what's in my head [*], because _The Innkeeper's Song_ is one of my favorite books in the world and doing it with a full-cast is the only way possible."

Well, Peter will have final say over all the voices. I can't guarantee that what he likes will match what is in *your* head (grin), but at least they'll come close to matching what is in his.

He'll be the voice of Karsh the Innkeeper. He has asked me to audition for the Fox, but I'll happily step aside if we find better. As for the rest...we'll, the search is on.

Speaking of voice weirdness in audiobooks: someday I hope to get the audiobook rights back for TAMSIN so we can do it over, because the current version has Peter himself reading it, and I have to say it's just....weird and a little creepy, even...to hear a gruffish 65 year-old male voice doing first-person teenage girl.

#151 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 03:48 PM:

Sure, Freff. The one true basic guideline is that this is a conversation. Since you're conversing, there's no problem at all.

#152 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 06:15 PM:

Apropos of nothing else in this thread: I just got my copy of Making Book from the nice UPS lady about an hour ago.

My only complaint is that there's not enough of it. :)

(I'm about halfway through.)

#153 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 01:28 AM:

Time to attempt to start catching up here. I still exist [and no, I am NOT Santa Claus....], and have been for the past nearly four weeks being doing temp seasonal more than 20 hours per week Low Paid Service Industry Cash Register at-will operation. Hey, it's paid income....

And I wish that the Schmuck and all his plutocratic associates got relegated to such types of work for an extended period of time, and the pay rates involved, and the working conditions, and had to -live- on it. They are SO smug about "job creation," -they- should have the personal experience of the types of jobs being created in the US, losing -their- affluent cushions of disdain and smugness. I'd say relegate them to working for Wal-Mart EXCEPT they would never get the -low- paid jobs at that company I suspect

I had a migraine back around 5 PM, from dehydration and was longing for the First Break of the shift I was working. Taking my misery out out on the people I was dealing with was not appropriate. I started envisioning castrating [expletive deleted] slowly with thin slice after thin slice instead....

#154 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 01:58 AM:

Yoon Ha Lee wrote: "Also, JonH? I don't know how much depth your dad wants out of Quicken, and I've barely scratched the surface of the thing, but when I was having a little trouble using it for personal finance records/planning, I found _Quicken 2005 for Dummies_ was pretty clearly written and had what I needed. If your dad has specific questions, he might stop by a bookstore and page through a copy (for whatever version) to see if it addresses them."

Thanks! I'll take a look.

It's bound to be better than the mid-90's Quicken (for Mac) manual he's been looking at, especially considering he's using a modern Quicken on a PC.

#155 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 08:29 AM:

Lisa --

Citrus is fibrous, and cuts like it, even if the fibres are forming bags for lots of flavoured water.

Serrated knives tend to work better for heterogeneous stuff, and particularly heterogeneous fibrous stuff, unless the knife is all of fine -- the rate at which the blade widens back from the edge is low -- keen -- the cutting edge is formed by a narrow angle -- and even -- the cutting edge is smooth down at a microscopic level.

This a value of sharp that most craft blades or commercial razor blades don't meet, or not for long; very few of them have particularly even edges.

One of the advances of the modern world is half-micron chromium dioxide grit applied to optically flat mylar by a static deposition process that leaves the individual particles precisely aligned with each other. I use this stuff on my kitchen knives, and can generally neatly slice up over-ripe tomatoes with them, but it must be acknowledged that as a process it's much more time consuming than just getting something serrated in the first place.

#156 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 08:41 AM:

Paula Lieberman wrote:
And I wish that the Schmuck and all his plutocratic associates got relegated to such types of work for an extended period of time, and the pay rates involved, and the working conditions, and had to -live- on it.

No kidding...

I got to watch my job (research assistant, working for a non-profit organization that puts grad students into government labs) go away, thanks to new security rules.

Since I don't have the appropriate tickets punched (and it's a delay of 5-24 months, depending on the level of ticket to be punched), I'm not eligible for a job with the contractor that has stepped into the role of supplying grad student labor.

#157 ::: Greg Black ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 10:09 AM:

Whenever I see a book with “for Dummies” or “for Idiots” or anything similar in its title, I feel insulted—I am not a dummy or an idiot and I do not expect to be treated as such. I have taken the time to read parts of some of these books on topics that I am expert in and have established that, for those books at least, the authors are neither expert nor even well-informed. I have not read Quicken 2005 for Dummies and so cannot say anything about it; but I would not offer it to anybody I cared about. (In this specific case, I would try to persuade the person to avoid Quicken for a whole lot of reasons that I won’t bother people with now.)

It seems to me that the success of this kind of book is an indictment of our society. It's as though we glorify stupidity instead of recognising the great achievements of humans and of the glorious intelligence that allowed those achievements—an intelligence that we all share.

#158 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 10:47 AM:

I've known the person who refers to himself as "Primary Perpetrator of 'The Internet for Dummies'" since we were both grad students. He does know what he's writing about; the style isn't his choice.

(tnh, what's the correct way to quote something with quotes in it? I changed his double quotes to single quotes, but that's a change to what he had. That's one good thing for the FORTRAN method of writing text strings (7HFORTRAN): you start by giving the length, so there's no quoting or escaping needed. This is really helpful to people who program in dozens of languages each with subtle differences in their escape mechanisms. The downside is that you have to be able to count. It's also less than easy to determine which flavor of whitespace something is.)

#159 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 11:20 AM:

All right, sorry if that's far too much off topic, but I hoped some of you luminaries out there might help me with a recurring problem.
Every year, by this time of the year, someone is breaking-in my home, leaving absolutely no trace of the larceny but for a single item, generally something I had been craving for the whole preceding year, sometimes even something I didn't knew I wanted till I found it out, which makes me fear not only has that person free access to my home, not only has he (I think it's a man, I heard some kind of laughter once)been spying on me: he's been using all this as some sort of sick psychological study of me.
I've been to the cops already and they laughed at me first, then threatened me not to make them lose their time. Now I don't know who to go to anymore. Seems like my torturer's got some far reaching connections in my governement's appointed officials as well.
I'm afraid. Don't know where to go anymore. Don't want to hear those chilling chimes and menacing "Ho, ho, ho..." again.
Please help me.

===

Hum, sorry, that bit of a joke story was inspired to me by reading the "Bad, bad Santas" thread, and I thought it would have been sad to let it disappear just like that.

#160 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 11:32 AM:

Re: Audible.com
In fact, their overhead is so high that they actually lose money even taking 88%. Last year they were net negative $3m on around $27m in revenues. The year before they lost even more, and the year before they lost even MORE. In fact, they have yet to see a single profitable year. Without a steady influx of venture capital they would have been out of business long ago.

I have an industry analyst acquaintance who thinks they are actually a deliberate “loss-leader,” meaning that the major book publishers are using other people’s venture and investor money to fund the creation of a viable downloadable audio market, with the intent of swooping in and buying an “unprofitable” Audible on the cheap after that finally happens. Given some of the players in this particular game, he could easily be right.

I don't know that you need this to be part of a sinister plot. That sounds like the same basic trajectory that Amazon followed, after all, and as far as I know, they're doing pretty well these days. (If I'm wrong about that, I'm sure someone will correct me...)

I'm not really convinced that immediate profitablility is really the best way to evaluate new businesses-- in fact, I'd say that the Wall Street obsession with instant gratification is a major problem. Amazon's willingness to suck up short-term losses, and be up front about doing so, is one of the reasons why they were one of the few bubble-era companies that I respected. And, probably not coincidentally, why they're one of the few still around.

Audible might conceivably be doing the same sort of thing: taking short-term losses in order to build a customer base which will make for long-term success. Or, they might be part of a nefarious scheme. Tough call.

(I've been meaning to write a long rant about this sort of thing, but I never quite have the time, and now Blogger is completely hosed for some reason, so I couldn't publish it even if I did. And I'm not about to go all JVP on you, and post it here...)

#161 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 11:51 AM:

Today in SF baking, from the maker of Half-Life 2 cookies, I present to you Bread Crabs.

Eat them, before they eat you.

#162 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 12:00 PM:

Greg Black wrote:
Whenever I see a book with “for Dummies” or “for Idiots” or anything similar in its title, I feel insulted—I am not a dummy or an idiot and I do not expect to be treated as such.

What you say is true, but it's also a pure surface objection. It is, literally, judging a book by its cover. If you're a genuine novice in a subject and don't want to become an expert, you just want a practical familiarity, the books can be quite useful.

I had the same basic problem with the titles as you. Then we had to buy a house. Once I swallowed my pride, Home Buying for Dummies turned out to be the most efficient way to find out what I needed to know for my time and money. Since then I've bought a couple more, on business plans and the like, and they've been worthwhile.

Now the only one I claim any sort of moral objection to, with a sideways smile, is Sex for Dummies. (On the basis that, if you can't figure it out because you're a dummy, I'm not entirely sure you ought to be reproducing.) >8-> Even that one's reputed to be of some value, though, as it's by Dr. Ruth.

#163 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 12:08 PM:

Greg Black wrote:
Whenever I see a book with “for Dummies” or “for Idiots” or anything similar in its title, I feel insulted—I am not a dummy or an idiot and I do not expect to be treated as such.

Steve Ely replied:
What you say is true, but it's also a pure surface objection. It is, literally, judging a book by its cover. If you're a genuine novice in a subject and don't want to become an expert, you just want a practical familiarity, the books can be quite useful.

I'll agree that this is a Good Thing-- I was re-doing my work web page earleir this week, and lamenting the lack of good HTML information for people who don't need to have the parts of the document defined, but aren't (and don't want to be) professional web designers. If that's what the "For Dummies" series is (I can't say I've ever looked at any of their books), then good for them.

I just wish they'd give them less embarassing titles.

#164 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 12:14 PM:

What Steve Said.

The very, very first ____ for Dummies book (I believe it was DOS . . .) came out when I was working for a second-rate technical writing outfit that churned out OEM manuals for DOS, Windows 3.0, Norton Desktop and so on. These were sold for packaging with low-end home PCs.

I forget the name of the Dummies publisher of the time, but they were giving away copies at a trade show. I picked it up and showed it to my boss. We were both blown away. It was essentially what we were doing, but . . . good. Really good. Better than the official Microsoft / Norton manuals. Fun to read and informative. With cartoons!

I hadn't bought a Dummies book for ages, until I got a dog, and picked up Dogs for Dummies as a general reference. It's pretty good.

Anyway, I don't think the concept is celebrating stupidity. In a sense, it does acknowledge that Americans don't love intellectualism, but at the same time it provides a safe way for folks to go about repairing the deficits in their practical knowledge.

#165 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 12:45 PM:

"The Hagrid of lemons" just about says it. I am in the middle of making a batch of lemonade, half Meyer lemons, half backyard Ponderosas. The kitchen is wildly fragrant...

#166 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 12:50 PM:

Let me just say here that Witchcraft for Dummies -- or was it Idiots? -- was really for people who are stupid and want to remain stupid. Also for people who never let ethics get in the way of having fun.

#167 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 12:53 PM:

What does it mean if X for Dummies is too advanced for you?

I ran into this twice-- Home Decorating for Dummies and Cooking for Dummies. I was expecting chapter titles like "Why Paint is Not The Enemy" and "Gravy Demystified" Instead, HDFD explicitly assumed I had a budget of US$10K / room for redecorating, and CFD launched right into helpful tips like "Practice your sauteeing technique by flipping M&Ms."

Apparently, what I actually needed was Remedial Home Economics For Bachelors and Other Mindless Dolts.

(Small print: one or both of the texts may well have been _The Complete Idiot's Guide to X_ instead.)

#168 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 01:24 PM:

I actually got some mileage out of Golf for Dummies, but that's the only "Dummies" book I've ever purchased. I did borrow Meditation for Dummies from the library, to no avail.

The books can be remarkably uneven, but I do like to skim them when I'm thinking about trying something new.

Oh, and Stefan, there are plenty of good books that will help demystify gravy. When I was a teenager, I got a lot of mileage out of the (not sure of exact title) Some Homemaking Magazine's Step by Step Cookbook, which did not use a panoply of mixes and canned products and which did have lots of photographs of how things should look at various stages. That book and a steady diet of Julia Child TV shows helped make me unafraid of the kitchen.

----

I also note that those two wrold-changing jodhpur posts appeared and disappeard. Don't tell me that it was post spam. Aaaargh!

#169 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 01:26 PM:

Whoops - I misspelled Stephan's name in the above comment. Sorry!

#170 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 01:26 PM:

My objection to the ...For Dummies series is stylistic and possibly author-specific. I wanted to learn about Cascading Style Sheets, so I picked up the Dummies version as an alternative to a $45 tome which was doorstop-sized. The info was useful, but I had to get past all the silly jokes to get to it. That said, it did tell me what I wanted to know (mostly).

#171 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 01:50 PM:

Proof that this year wasn't a total waste of time . . . I trained my Belgian shepherd to jump through a hula hoop:

http://home.comcast.net/~stefan_jones/kira_jumps_hoop.ASF

ASF format video. Kind of dark. Several false passes. But she does it.

Next year, we add some flames.

#172 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 01:56 PM:

Xopher wrote:
Let me just say here that Witchcraft for Dummies -- or was it Idiots? -- was really for people who are stupid and want to remain stupid. Also for people who never let ethics get in the way of having fun.

For clarity, Xopher, can I ask you to be more specific on the title?

I ask because, although I've got no reason to disbelieve you on whatever Witchcraft title was bugging you, I'm a very good friend of the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Paganism, Carl McColman, and I wouldn't want people avoiding his book by mistake.

#173 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 02:01 PM:

BTW, I hope it wasn't my comment that made the "glooming in wrold" posts go away. I was only being flippant.

#174 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 02:18 PM:

Alex Cohen wrote:

He's 4' 10". He's had hip replacement surgery. He's slightly manic, brilliant, but a little odd. He's got a dry sense of humor, often aimed at himself.

Sounds kinda like Robert Reich to me.

#175 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 02:23 PM:

Steve Eley, that wasn't it. It has either 'Wicca' or 'Witchcraft' in the title; I'm at work now, but I'll check when I get home and post the real name.

I don't remember the author, either, but I'm pretty sure it was a female name. It wasn't Silver Ravenwolf (now THERE's an light-on-ethics writer), but I can't remember the name.

#176 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 02:43 PM:

Sounds kinda like Robert Reich to me.

Ding!

#177 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 03:05 PM:

I enjoy the cognitive dissonance of titles like "Bioinformatics For Dummies." My favorite Dummies title, though, is The Origins of Tolkien's Middle-Earth for Dummies. There's just something really wrong with that.

#178 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 03:10 PM:

Xopher: It wasn't Silver Ravenwolf (now THERE's an light-on-ethics writer)

I thought she was Lady Moondrip's joke. You mean there is such a person?

*googles*

Oh my. It looks like several people find her books objectionable on those grounds.

#179 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 03:26 PM:

Horror writer Thomas Monteleone also wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel. And here, verbatim, is a review from Amazon's page for the book:

"I didn't like this book. The Author talked down to the reader like we really are idiots."

So. You bought a book called The Complete Idiot's Guide, and you're mad, because the author treats you like... an idiot?

What are you, some kind of, I don't know, idiot??

#180 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 04:06 PM:

Tim Walters said
>I enjoy the cognitive dissonance of titles >like "Bioinformatics For Dummies."

Me, I've been waiting with dread for the series to reach "Special Education for Dummies."
"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Special Education" would do, too, I guess.

#181 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 04:09 PM:

Andy, noooo, she's all too real. Take a look at Teen Witch sometime. There are spells in there that, if they worked, would ruin the young Witch's life for good...spell to make your boyfriend come back to you, for example: way to get an abuser who will stalk you if you try to escape.

#182 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 04:27 PM:

There is a _College Admissions for Dummies_.

#183 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 04:40 PM:

We (tinw) knew the Internet was going to hell (and September would never end) when WebTV for Dummies showed up.

#184 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 04:44 PM:

Er, Crash Testing for Dummies?

#185 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 05:34 PM:

There's also a Leadership for Dummies. Just what the world needs, more dummies in leadership positions.

#186 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 05:36 PM:

Why weren't the documents implying that encouragement of prisoner abuse came from the top released a couple of months ago (see here)?---I was hearing about this a year ago via Pacifica and sites. Was Rumsfeld locked away somewhere for the early autumn? I'm beginning to think that there was a Negative Surprise Field in place in October....

#187 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 05:42 PM:

Xopher, I've been reading Catherine Noble's takedown of Silverwolf over here. I do love a good bunk-letting. If Noble isn't cherry-picking her quotes, I see what you mean— Silverwolf sounds like a piece of work.

#188 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 05:49 PM:

I seem to have inadvertently condensed Silver Ravenwolf into 'Silverwolf.'

#189 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 05:57 PM:

Or Ventriloquism For Dummies.

#190 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 06:23 PM:

Woo. I was just reading that page myself. Here are some more:

Tarnished Silver.
A forum page.
Another forum page.

Looks like she's actively and enthusiastically despised. I had no idea.

(continued on next rock)

#193 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 06:33 PM:

Teresa, fluffy bunnies sound like the Wiccan equivalent of what Native Americans call Twinkies.

#194 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 08:59 PM:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft, by Denise Zimmermann and Katherine A. Gleason.

#195 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 09:10 PM:

We have a lot of names for these types of Witches. "Elves and Strawberries Witches" is one of the nicer names. But the "Ooga Booga" Witches are no better...you know, "Ooga Booga Booga, I'm a WITCH!!!!!" with black clothes, even at a wedding, never less than 10 pounds of silver jewelry, and lots of scary eyeshadow.

I hate them. Fortunately they have a short halflife; they decay into either reasonable people or ex-Witches.

One thing, though: Much as I love Buffy, there was nothing Wiccan about Willow. Wicca is primarily about worship of the Divine Power as manifest in nature. Magic is one means to that end; it serves about the same purpose in Wicca that prayer serves in Christianity. The silly group dismissed in Season Four was much more Wiccan than Willow. (A young-in-the-Craft, probably Fluffy-Bunny Wiccan group, to be sure.)

Willow was basically a ceremonial magician, though she did some shamanic things as well. I never saw her worship anyone or anything. I have to say that I was offended by their use of the term Wicca to describe her -- but not NEARLY enough to seriously blunt my enjoyment of the show!

#196 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 09:20 PM:

Greg Black: Whenever I see a book with “for Dummies” or “for Idiots” or anything similar in its title, I feel insulted—I am not a dummy or an idiot and I do not expect to be treated as such. I have taken the time to read parts of some of these books on topics that I am expert in and have established that, for those books at least, the authors are neither expert nor even well-informed.

I can't speak to any of the other "for Dummies" books, although I've mocked them to my sister, so I don't know how good they are generally. I was sort of desperate to figure out how to do one particular thing and couldn't find it (easily?) in the manual and the "for Dummies" book had the answer, and pointed out some neat features beside, so I am satisfied with it.

I admit that the "for Dummies" and "Idiots" and whatever titles are humorous, but they don't offend me particularly. After a lifetime of having my mom ask questions like, "What good is a college degree if you can't even figure out the geometry of making your bed?" (I majored in math), walking around with a "for Dummies" title doesn't especially bother me. 8-) (I decided that I wasn't going to be able to make the non-Euclidean geometry bed-making argument fly with my mother...)

I don't know (as I said) anything in depth about Quicken's features, but my needs are very modest, and it does the job. This may well not be the case for other people...

#197 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 10:41 PM:

The line "Bunch of wanna blessed be's" is just perfect.

Mercedes Lackey had a silly short story about this, which is on the web; it was her first Diana Tregarde story (I haven't read the novels). You want to search for "whoopie witch" if you don't want to read the whole thing.

#198 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 10:58 PM:

There are certain products for which I joke that the "for Dummies" book is missing the word "is" in the title.

#199 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2004, 11:12 PM:

Kate, I haven't laughed so hard since Elizabeth Peters' Die for Love. I'm going to have to read Mercedes Lackey now.

#200 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 07:53 AM:

Andy, ummm, don't jump too hard into that--like I said, I haven't read the novels in that series, but Lackey's other novels aren't generally that humorous. She's made her name with otherworld fantasies that really scratch that Mary Sue kinda itch--abandoned teenager turns out to be Really Special, is Horribly Tortured (often literally), and either wins out shiningly or dies poetically and legendarily.

That story is collected in _Werehunter_, you might give that a shot.

#201 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 07:54 AM:

Also, I've been thinking of starting Peters' Amelia Peabody series (lots of nice juicy audiobooks for my commute)--opinions?

#202 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 08:38 AM:

Speaking of Wiccans, in today's web comics we have:

http://www.somethingpositive.net/sp12222004.shtml

Synchronicity!

#203 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 09:07 AM:

Kate, thanks for the advice on Ms. Lackey.

The Amelia Peabodys (up to but not including the last three books) are wonderful. I started my father on the audio books from Audible recently and he seems to be enjoying them. One thing— the first book, Crocodile on the Sandbank, is somewhat different from the rest, so it's probably worth listening to the second one before deciding whether you like the series. You might consider treating Crocodile as a prequel and just start with the second book, which is what I did by accident.

#204 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 09:45 AM:

In the ...For Dummies vein, I believe that if Luttwak's Coup d'Etat had been published today, it would have been titled Staging A Coup d'Etat For Dummies. It's an absolutely fascinating book.

#205 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 09:59 AM:

Andy, thanks. I see on Audible that there's two narrators for the Amelia Peabody books--which did you use? (The one who uses a British accent for the main character (Rosenblat) is the one I'd prefer, all other things being equal, but it's always good to get a listener report.)

#206 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 10:11 AM:

It would appear that there are theological arguments within paganism, and bitter divisions among those who practice wicca, as well as name-calling, sect, phariseeism and puritanism, and all the other joys of organised religion.

I guess I just don't see the obvious advantages this belief system has over monotheism (pick your own flavour). But then, I was only born once (and I am not born again), because I think it's only one go per customer, folks. So what would I know?

Nothing. Not a damn thing. No knowledge. Try that in Greek.

#207 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 10:32 AM:

I read the books in print format. I'll have to ask my dad which narrator he used. (I gave him an Audible gift certificate for his birthday, he asked me for some new authors, and I recommended Peters.)

#208 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 11:33 AM:

The quality of the Dummies books varies quite a lot. Perl for Dummies is actually a good book for a learner. Some of the others, not so good.

Neo Paganism is just as rich with controversy as any other religion. The current high level of interest in things Celtic has spawned an entire cluster of authors writing about things Celtic, and most of them are pretty wretched. I've reviewed a number of books on Celtic paganism, mostly for the Green Man Review, and out of frustration I wrote an FAQ for neo pagan scholars.

It has not, in general been taken well. I really did try to moderate my tone. But I swear some of these authors make things up and haven't the skill to write fiction, so they pass it off as fact.

#209 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 12:55 PM:

Lisa, I'd say your tone was fine, and that your guidelines could be applied to any body of historical/literary scholarship.

When a friend of mine was studying Christian theology, she had to learn Hebrew, New Testament Greek, and Latin in order to do any serious Biblical study.

These languages were considered essential groundwork for her studies in the texts on which her religion is based. And, while there's a vast body of Christian writings to draw from, she was constantly encouraged to go back to the primary sources in order to write on the texts.

When I studied Early Christianity my experience was the same. I would have been laughed out of class if I'd tried to base my work only on secondary sources---any undergrad should know better than that. And I'd have been equally ridiculed if I'd relied only on antiquated commentary or translations, without understanding the current scholarship on the topic.

It seems very strange to me that neo-Celtic "scholars" would ignore the guidelines that might lend academic legitimacy to their work and research. Do they want not to be taken seriously?

#210 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 01:04 PM:

Although I'm only partway into my first Peters book, I'll second the recommendation.

#211 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 02:42 PM:

Something about those "Fluffy Bunny/Why Wiccans Suck" articles really bothered me. They sound so adolescent - like they were written by 20-year-olds who are ashamed to remember how foolish they were at 17.

Yeah, there are lots of stupid people out there, and many of them decide it's cool to call yourself a Wiccan. But . . . we all cherish certain irrational beliefs, most especially in the area of religion/magic/superstition. Saying nasty things about other people's superstitions doesn't make your own superstitions any more valid.

It seems like a situation where if you throw one stone, three stones will come sailing back and hit your glass house.

#212 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 04:38 PM:

I don't have superstitions.

#213 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 05:04 PM:

My devalued dime's worth on the ...for Imbeciles books: Some time back I got a (legitimate) upgrade to my word processor, but no manual. There was one feature, pair kerning, I couldn't find on the new version, and being unwilling to pay whatever for a book to answer one question, I went to the library and hunted up the relevant Dummy Guide.

What I found was not just a mention that pair kerning had been removed from the product, but a long paragraph celebrating the fact that the author's delicate sensibilities were no longer afflicted by seeing a command that he didn't understand the meaning or use of, and how wonderful it was that the manufacturer had made the software friendlier to the skill-impaired.

It's not that unusual that reading a product manual puts one off using the product -- used to be the norm with printers, still is with unassembled bicycles -- but, as Paul Veyne might put it, this was like stickering the package with NEW! IMPROVED! LESS GOOD!!

#214 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 06:29 PM:

Changing the subject for a moment (this *is* an open thread, and I'll be talking about thread, if not knitting), someone just sent me a link to a fascinating site about embroidery by a prison inmate: http://finecellwork.co.uk/inmates/gloria.html

#215 ::: Thel ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 06:43 PM:

Another one of those creative Ebay auctions.

You are bidding on my Christmas Bonus! I am an Aircraft Mechanic, and the company I work for, Horizon Airlines, has blessed me this year with a wonderful Collectable coffee mug. It is made of Fine China. I know this to be true, because when I turn it over, it says china, in fine letters. It is adorned with printed images celebrating our sacrifices to the Company...
#216 ::: Kathy Jackson ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 07:05 PM:

Lisa - Thank you for the FAQ page.

I think you are quite right in saying "some of these authors make things up and haven't the skill to write fiction, so they pass it off as fact." Along with that, some readers take *anything* in print as verified fact. As one person said to me, "They couldn't print it if it wasn't true."

The combination is most unfortunate.

#217 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 07:36 PM:

Happy Festivus everyone!

Apparently, people across the country are embracing Festivus (for the rest of us).

Listening to Ms. Willis on NPR this afternoon--although I confess I missed part of the interview--I'm still not sure how ironic these celebrations are. I expect they'd be a little ironic, but maybe they're 100% ironic. Who knows?

Does anyone here celebrate Festivus? Anyone partake of the annual Airing of Grievances?

#218 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 07:50 PM:

The "Fluffy Bunny" discussion brings up a tricky point: it's obnoxious to be generally contemptuous, but do some things and perhaps even some people deserve contempt? It probably should be treated as a potentially addictive drug, given the low pleasure it can bring, but even some of those drugs have their uses....

I'm not a "there're no bad feelings" believer; I admit the possibility that there are things that one should want never to feel, if only because our sentiment is a parent to actions. But many say that there are things about which we should be angry, and it might go the same for contempt.

And how could I otherwise in good conscience fill in the blank in "I have utter ________ for the career of Karl Rove,"?

#219 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 10:03 PM:

My 40 year old sister seems to be turning into a fluffy bunny Wiccan.

Something she read recently convinced her that she's actually been a Wiccan all her life. (Probably involved her youthful love of horses and unicorns).

Note that this is a woman who, while living in the Carolinas, went through a phase of Christianity which involved throwing out all her kids' toys and an (apparently inculcated) belief that "My Little Pony" toys are Satanic, with all the different colors having occult meanings.

#220 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2004, 11:59 PM:

Marilee: I don't have superstitions.

Andy (with mischief aforethought): Do you ever push the "come here" button on the elevator more than once?

#221 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2004, 02:29 AM:

Thel, that ebay entry for the Fine China cup is a howler! I am pleased to see that it is not going unrewarded: bidding is up to $275.

#222 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2004, 08:17 AM:

On audiobooks: Barbara Rosenblat is a WONDERFUL narrator. After listening to her narration of Ian Banks THE BUSINESS, I actually wrote her a fan letter.

And I don't do fan letters.

On odd Christmas songs: the latest Phoenix New Times has their annual column on seasonal music, and reports that "Millie Pulled A Gun On Santa Claus" by De La Soul is "Perhaps the most brilliant Christmas song ever involving pedophilia, murder and incest".

There's MORE THAN ONE?!

#223 ::: Magenta ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2004, 12:56 PM:

Lisa S.,
I would say your comments on Pagan scholarship are minimal and mild. That's the least anyone should do, but unfortunately, a lot of the current crop of both authors and practitioners are lazy.

And don't get me going about Barbara Walker. People who tell me about her tend to get lectures on footnotes and why they are important.

But then, I'm not a fluffy bunny Pagan at all. For me, Witchcraft is a religion, not a fashion statement, dammit.

#224 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2004, 08:10 PM:

Andy, only if the button doesn't light. Then I try it again to make sure I pushed it hard enough and to find out if the light is dead. I used to work in a building that used heat-sensitive buttons and my hands were always too cold to make them work. If no one else came around, I used my nose.

I do some things as tradition that others do as superstition -- Hopping John on New Year's for example. I don't believe it will affect my wealth in the new year at all, but it's a nice tradition for the day.

#225 ::: Mary R ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2004, 10:16 PM:

I must confess to enjoying "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Celtic Wisdom." I bought it because the title entranced me. However, I found it useful becase my only background in Celtic history is college courses, and I found it difficult to follow the conversations of New Agey friends, even though I allegedly had studied Celtic culture. The book bounced between demanding rigour and scholarship (learning the Celtic language is seen as a minimum) and warning against upsetting faerie believers. One of my professors did say that the real attraction of Celtic history and the Druids is that the gaps in the historical record allow people to find justification for their own beliefs in the past - and to claim to be historical while just making shit up. Makes me want to go out and rent the new King Arthur movie.

On a more serious note - my 15 yo niece is getting into Wicca. She is a serious type and fond of books. Can anyone suggest a good book on Wicca I could give her to help start her on her way? Thanks!

#226 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2004, 12:56 AM:

Andy -- is it superstition to think (a) that some elevators might have demand-weighted responses(*), or (b) that all have correctly-working call handlers (e.g., that mechanisms will always be kept in perfect repair)?

(*) cf the traffic-light sensor outside my office, which originally worked only when \two/ cars were waiting to cross the main road -- I had such \fun/ getting into work on weekends until I figured that out.

#227 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2004, 01:52 AM:

Mary R: On a more serious note - my 15 yo niece is getting into Wicca. She is a serious type and fond of books. Can anyone suggest a good book on Wicca I could give her to help start her on her way? Thanks!

My faves:

Scott Cunningham's The Truth About Witchcraft Today and Wicca: A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner ... Good introductions to walking the path. Lightweight on history, but solid on ethics and spirituality.

Margot Adler's Drawing Down The Moon (whatever the latest edition is, get that one) ... An almost anthropological study of the Neopagan movement today. Debunks a lot of those pesky "Burning Times" and "Cult Of The Great Goddess" myths. A must-read for a solid grounding in fact.

And lastly, Isaac Bonewits's Real Magic ... Magic and the occult from a more-than-Wiccan point of view. Gets his snark on real good. Also a good read if you're looking for ideas on how to incorporate magic in a fantasy novel. This guy says so.

Mileage may, of course, vary. These are the books I found most helpful when I was in your niece's shoes. Wish her a happy Solstice for me! (And a merry happy blessed whatever to everyone else, as appropriate!)

#228 ::: xeger has lost the sidebar ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2004, 11:13 AM:

... has anybody else lost the sidebar?

#229 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2004, 02:37 PM:

The sidebar goes away when I use G to force Opera to show me the entire page rather than cutting off early; but that hasn't happened on this entry, and I still see it over there <-----.

#230 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2004, 02:57 PM:

On the main page, for me (Safari 1.2.4 under OS X 10.3.7) everything that ought to be on the sidebar has moved down to the main page, below all the posts.

#231 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2004, 05:24 PM:

The sidebar is still there for me on Mozilla.

#232 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2004, 10:52 PM:

Mary R wrote:
I must confess to enjoying "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Celtic Wisdom." I bought it because the title entranced me. However, I found it useful becase my only background in Celtic history is college courses, and I found it difficult to follow the conversations of New Agey friends, even though I allegedly had studied Celtic culture. The book bounced between demanding rigour and scholarship (learning the Celtic language is seen as a minimum) and warning against upsetting faerie believers.

Another book by my friend Carl McColman. Carl was the senior druid in the Atlanta ADF (Isaac Bonewits's Druidic group) grove some years back, and he married me and my wife. In some ways one might consider him a fluffy bunny; but he's also one of the rare breed of Neopagan believers who draws a sharp line between historical practices and the synthetic Neopagan religions of today. He strongly believes that one should inform the other, but he doesn't confuse them.

Final plug: with the talk on magical ethics here, Xopher and others may be pleased by one of Carl's other books, Before You Cast a Spell: Understanding the Power of Magic. He doesn't actually provide any spells or rituals in it. It's about the whys and why nots, not the hows.

#233 ::: xeger has lost the sidebar ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2004, 11:58 PM:

David Goldfarb wrote:
On the main page, for me (Safari 1.2.4 under OS X 10.3.7) everything that ought to be on the sidebar has moved down to the main page, below all the posts.

Hah! That's where they've gone!

I'm also running Safari 1.2.4 under OS X 10.3.7. Novel...

#234 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2004, 03:33 AM:

On the topic of Wicca - the word has been used by lots of different kinds of witches to describe themselves, religious or not. In the past 10-15 years, there's been a real push by the Gardnerianesque trads to co-opt the word.

My articles on Wicca and Druids can be found on the University of Virginia's web site for the New Religious Movements. Just a note - they've been altered by students. Alexandrians, for example, are not named for a city in Egypt. I also wrote the workbook for the ADF course of study. I've been interviewing pagans for over thirty years for an archive in a couple of universities, as well. What you'd call primary source material, I guess.

Anyhow, I just wanted to pipe up on that subject since I can claim some background in it. Nice to see you all...

#235 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2004, 03:49 PM:

Steve Eley recommended... one of Carl's other books, Before You Cast a Spell: Understanding the Power of Magic

Thanks - I hadn't heard of that one, and it sounds like a valuable addition to the bookshelf.

Also, in mentioning Carl, thanks for stating much more succinctly than I could have: he's also one of the rare breed of Neopagan believers who draws a sharp line between historical practices and the synthetic Neopagan religions of today. He strongly believes that one should inform the other, but he doesn't confuse them. I was briefly interested in a book called The Wiccan Mysteries but began to drift away from it after the author exasperated me one too many times on that point. (This is, by the way, exactly why I mentioned the Adler book.)

#236 ::: james h ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2004, 04:40 PM:

Quick random question - can any Terry Pratchett fans help me out with something? In one of his earlier books, there's a reference to a number of other Discworld-style worlds existing - one of which is a Norse world boundaried by an enormous wolf, who grips his tail in his teeth. I'm thinking of using this world as the basis for an RPG campaign, only I can't for the life of me think from which book this description comes (I've got a lot of the later books, but I only started to get really into Pratchett when Vimes began to appear regularly as a character).

Can anyone tell me which book this comes from?

#237 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2004, 08:08 PM:

On a more serious note - my 15 yo niece is getting into Wicca. She is a serious type and fond of books. Can anyone suggest a good book on Wicca I could give her to help start her on her way? Thanks!

I have no idea, but I'd just like to note that I am grateful beyond words that there are places where a question like this can be asked.

#238 ::: Dylan O'Donnell ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2004, 08:32 PM:

Quick random question - can any Terry Pratchett fans help me out with something? In one of his earlier books, there's a reference to a number of other Discworld-style worlds existing - one of which is a Norse world boundaried by an enormous wolf, who grips his tail in his teeth.

I don't have my copy to hand, but I'm fairly certain this is from near the end of the first, The Colour of Magic, when Tethis the sea-troll is describing how he fell to the Discworld.

#239 ::: james h ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2004, 08:52 AM:

Aha, yes, that's it. It's a dragon biting his tail (I guess the World Serpent) Tethis talks about, so that's closer to the standard myth. Might stick to a wolf in mine though, as I quite like the idea of monstrous behemoth creatures threatening Godzilla-like devastation on the PC's turning out to be Fenrir's wandering fleas.

Dylan, many thanks.

#240 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2004, 09:02 AM:

Fenris the Wolf? I'd only heard of the great serpent which encircles the world, swallowing its own tail, but my knowledge is far lesser than some, who have made deeper studies, including one who is a great Pratchett fan. Shall see if there's any more info from that area.

#241 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2004, 09:28 AM:

Bother. My connexion has been very slow indeed over the last week. Didn't see that reply until it (eventually) refreshed after my post.

#242 ::: james h ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2004, 10:02 AM:

Epacris - always up for more Fenrir/Pratchett related stuff, so don't consider this bit necessarily curtailed...

#243 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2004, 04:10 PM:

The pair of NYTimes.com links in today's Particles reminded me of something I wanted to share with the assembled masses. There's now a way to create weblog-safe links to Times articles that won't rot away when the article passes beyond the archival veil a couple of weeks hence. The New York Times Link Generator kicks out a URL that conforms to the syntax used by the NYTimes RSS feeds, so the articles will be just as accesible six months from now as they are today. Plus your readers won't have to log in to see the article. How useful is that?

I would swear that NYTimes.com had a link generator of their own, but I can't find it just now. If I dig it up again I'll pass it along.

#244 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2004, 02:41 AM:

Certain parallels occurred to me between Caligula and S------

#245 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2004, 11:17 PM:

I had avoided the Pratchett books mostly because I did not want to be drawn into someone else's multiverse.

BUT.... we went to Bloomington, IL the weekend immediatly afgter Thanksgiving for the Bob Tucker's birthday party and I finished my brought book, "The Amazing Dr. Darwin" by Charles Sheffield. It was a wonderful read, once I got over the fact it was more anthologty than the novel I thought it was. BUT I finished it before we got to St. Louis. When browsing in the Barnes & Noble in Bloomington, the only thing that remotely appealed was The Color of Magic. I'm enjoying it immensely.

I think I'm going to have to buy a buttload of books eventually. Like we need more in this house.

#246 ::: james h ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2004, 04:59 AM:

Paula - you won't regret buying either a metric or imperial buttload. Pratchett really is a fantastic read. I'm back on the early one at present, and it's amazing just how different they are to the later ones. Early work contains lots of refs to Vance, Wolf and similar, while later ones seem to veer futher towards a kinder, more melancholic Waugh. He seems to have split into a number of directions now, following different sets of characters, and there's never enough Vimes (introduced in the excellent 'Guards Guards') in my opinion. Probably the best mid-period Pratchett, and one you can easily pick up the gist of without having to read too much back-story is 'Small Gods'. 'Good Omens' (co-written with Neil Gaiman) seems to undergoing a bit of a renaissance in the States as well, possibly off the back of the abandoned Gilliam project.

Apologies if it comes across like I'm trying to pass myself off as some kind of Pratchett expert, which I'm not, and many people are perfectly aware of his stuff. But I never like to miss an opportunity to push my faves.

#247 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2004, 08:06 AM:

I'm another one of those who never quite managed to get started on Pratchett in the early days of Discworld. And now that I've gotten to a point where I think I probably -should- read the books, the sheer number of them is intimidating.


The Particles link to the Wall Street bonuses story brings to mind an odd fact: The amount of Christmas tips I received from my mail delivery customers this year more than doubled from last year (from about $125 to $350). Not that I'm complaining, but I'm scratching my head and wondering what might be behind such a drastic change.

#248 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2004, 03:57 PM:

The iHustle sidebar is a thing of beauty, comparable only to the legendary P-p-p-powerbook.

#249 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2004, 04:12 PM:

Bruce says I'm another one of those who never quite managed to get started on Pratchett in the early days of Discworld. And now that I've gotten to a point where I think I probably -should- read the books, the sheer number of them is intimidating.

Don't be intimidated. The books run in several threads rather than being a single sequence, and each book usually has enough about current circumstances (instead of rehashing the back story) to make sense on its own. Reading them more-or-less in order doesn't hurt -- it's nice to know just where Susan comes from that her response to monsters under the bed amounts to "take names and kick ass" without wasting time taking names -- but isn't critical.

Besides -- think of all the fun you have ahead of you. (I don't reread much of anything, but I reread most of the existing books ~5 years ago to make additions to the concordance and did \not/ find it a chore.)

#250 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2004, 04:25 AM:

Finally back from the UK, and as you can see by the time stamp, time sense completely fucked, so some random comments.

Lisa Spangenberg: I want those recipes! Please?

Teresa: That candied Buddha's hand peel sounds yummy. One of the dishes we had at the epic dinner at Trio had Buddha's Hand zest on it. We all (me, Tammy Coxen, Mark and Priscilla Olsen) thought of you.

Omnes: I don't buy those idiot and dummy books because I have to be really careful about the messages I send to my subconscious. It believes them. I'm not being funny; I'm absolutely serious.

Freff: OMG!!! All those Beagle books. We'll be in Heaven around here. Thanks for letting us know.

Kate: I loved the Peabody books, but the later ones were less interesting and I haven't read the last few. I listened to one of the books on tape (I-5 from SF to LA: very long, very boring) and enjoyed it a lot.

MKK

#251 ::: Cassandra ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2004, 05:34 AM:

Teresa or Patrick, something to note: Warren Ellis' weblog, Die Puny Humans, is getting moved/transferred/changed over to www.warrenellis.com, and DPH will no longer be really active as a weblog as I understand it.

#252 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2004, 08:06 AM:

Paula - I started reading Pratchett this year also. Anyone tracking my library card's records probably thinks I'm trying to figure out how to get to Discworld.

#253 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2004, 08:17 AM:

Anyone tracking my library card's records probably thinks I'm trying to figure out how to get to Discworld.

If you figure it out, be sure to let me know. I need to pal around with Nanny and I want to apply to the Unseen University. Just to make them nervous.

MKK

#254 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2004, 10:09 AM:

Mary Kay, thanks; I've downloaded the first Amelia Peabody book and will let you all know what I think.

Meanwhile I'm listening to _So You Want To Be A Wizard_, which I haven't re-read for some time, which is working well; I had an insane fit of the giggles over Fred and his hiccups, which nicely offset the earlier twinge when we met Nita's parents for the first time.

#255 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2004, 03:22 PM:

It's hard to believe that Duane's _So You Want..._ came out 20 years ago! It still reads very well.

#256 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2004, 03:33 PM:

Will do, MKK - I want to beat up monsters with Susan Sto Helit and learn the Way of Mrs. Cosmopilite from Lu-Tze...

#257 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2004, 06:34 PM:

Have you seen the Land Rover commercial where the guy drives through all sorts of terrain and then stops at the end of the world? Just stars below, no sight of the animal. I like Esme.

#258 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2004, 10:10 PM:

Rose and Paula; thanks much for the knitting books; I shall look for them.

Mary Kay, you can go to the recipes I mentioned thusly:

Shaker Lemon Pie

Chocolate Mousse Pie

#259 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2004, 11:42 PM:

Happy New Year, everyone!

Teresa and everyone else who has enjoyed or participated in the "self-publishing" threads will probably appreciate today's "Non Sequitur", in which Danae becomes "a published novelist", and even "critically acclaimed".

#260 ::: Rose ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2005, 02:46 AM:

Die, spammers, die, indeed -- I just checked my e-mail before going to bed (on this lovely New Year's morning!) and Kate Nepveu (NOT!) sent me a link to some "sex pictures". Since I only know her name from here, I would guess some evil spambot is harvesting addresses and spoofing e-mails. So fucking evil!

I hope this doesn't mean 2005 will be the year of spam. I hope instead 2005 will be the year of pear champagne and good movies on DVD (The Long Goodbye, choice inspired partly by the pastiche thread) and cats and husband cuddled on the couch. Happy New Year, y'all!

#261 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2005, 04:19 AM:

Here's an article from last week's Stranger about judge who revoked a woman's divorce from her abusive husband because she's pregnant.

#262 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2005, 04:53 AM:

Now that's frightening, Harry.

Happy new year to all here, especially our lovely hostess.

#263 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2005, 10:52 AM:

Lois, unlike me, is certainly not on the short list for her country's Olympic Procrastination Team. That 'Non Sequitur' just completely correlated to several discussions I've read here.

Checkitout soonish, 'cos I think they go into archives after 2 weeks, when they become visible only to paid-up registered members who can store their favourites. This one may very well go into 'cult classic' mode, like Calvin & Hobbes' "Big Picture" strip.

#264 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2005, 12:51 PM:

Rose, thank you for being sure that I wasn't sending you sex pictures.

#265 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2005, 10:09 AM:

re: The Rules Of Sprodzoom


No shit, there I was, September 1976, driving back across the country from the Kansas City Worldcon, with Hilde, Patrick (still just plain Hayden at the time), and Bill Patterson.

And we're driving across the long, boring, flat, boring, monotonous, boring spaces of Kansas and Oklahoma, when suddenly Patrick says:

"Zoom!"

"What?" I say.

"Schwartz!" says Bill.

"What?" I say again.

"Profligiano!" cries Patrick.

"What?"

"Zoom!" "Schwartz!" "Zoom!" "Profligliano!"

This goes on for... okay, it probably wasn't hours, but it seemed like it at the time... with me, totally clueless, going "What? What? What?" all the way through. With NOT ONE WORD of explanation from Bill or Patrick about what they were doing.

So finally, finally, TWENTY-EIGHT FRIGGIN' YEARS LATER, I get -some- idea of what the hell they were doing.

*sigh* Patrick could be a bastard back then, y'know?

#267 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2005, 01:57 PM:

The effect of reading The Rules Of Sprodzoom after working though some of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations is difficult to describe. (OK, maybe I do have a strange taste in vacation reading.)

Maybe something that should be passed over in silence.

#268 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2005, 03:23 PM:

I'll second Bruce Arthur's reaction to "The Rules of Sprodzoom".

Some close variant of this was played at my college back in the mid-'70s -- and I couldn't figure it out then, and even after reading the rules, I can barely follow it now. While it was never high on my list of Unanswered Questions, I'm equally astonished that it's taken nearly 30 years to have somebody at least point me to the explanation.

#269 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2005, 06:51 PM:

No URLs as of yet, but BoingBoing is reporting that Frank Kelly Freas has passed away....

#270 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2005, 07:45 PM:

Rose:

re: "I hope instead 2005 will be..."

2005 is the year of the semiprime, because 2005 = 5 x 401. Both 5 and 401 are prime numbers. A semiprime is a number which is the product of exactly two prime numbers. This hasn't happened for a few years, and won't happen again for a few years. Extra credit for the first to say when...

Happy New Year!

#271 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2005, 09:34 PM:

JVP wrote:

re: "I hope instead 2005 will be..."

2005 is the year of the semiprime, because 2005 = 5 x 401. Both 5 and 401 are prime numbers. A semiprime is a number which is the product of exactly two prime numbers. This hasn't happened for a few years, and won't happen again for a few years. Extra credit for the first to say when...

... and I hope that 2005 will be the year that JVP responds on this blog with more non-mathematical content than mathematical content...

[JVP's livejournal being a profoundly apt place for the interesting mathy bits...]

#272 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2005, 09:43 PM:

xeger:

Fair enough. That also seems to be what our gracious hostess Teresa asks.

Bill Blum:

Can anyone update us here on the Frank Kelly Freas tragedy, if true? 150,000 people are incommeasurable with one, but Freas is (was?) sui generis.

#273 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2005, 10:02 PM:

JVP writes:

Can anyone update us here on the Frank Kelly Freas tragedy

I'm moderately fascinated to observe the speed with which Wikipedia has updated - This page was last modified 23:50, 2 Jan 2005.

They don't have any more information than I've seen elsewhere (to whit that he has expired) though.

#274 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2005, 10:52 PM:

SFWA has an obituary posted for Freas.

#275 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2005, 02:12 AM:

A sad note to start a new year year on . . . but while it is always a bummer to see another one of the great ones go, Freas was with us a long time, and left a huge body of significant work behind.

#276 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2005, 06:26 AM:

OFFICIAL FRANK KELLY FREAS WEBSITE

Service, burial, memorial schedule & addresses.

#277 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2005, 08:13 AM:

I'll second the endorsement for the p-p-p-Powerbook and add that I think it was funnier than the iHustle because it was On The Side Of Good. I especially liked the "congratulations" letter one of the Goons suggested. ("All the world is now at your fingertips. Except Korea. Stay the hell out of Korea!")

Very sorry to lose Kelly Freas. We all knew it had to happen, but seeing him always tended to make one hope it just wouldn't, somehow. I'll treasure those interactions I had with him, particularly when he said he liked my quick sketchy art better than the tediously worked out art. How liberating! Thanks, Kelly!

#278 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2005, 09:43 AM:

The p-p-p-Powerbook prank reminds me of Wendy Wilcox and her dog Willis and the Nigerian scammers.

#279 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2005, 04:34 PM:

I've seen quite a few "fun with Nigerian scammers" stories, but my favorite remains Quit While You're A Head, in which our friendly neighborhood Nigerian crook enters a business partnership with one Thomas Mallory, whose severed head is on life support in the basement of Miskatonic University. (You'd think Mallory's puppetmaster would have all the best lines, but it's the scammer who gets to say, "Like I told you last time before your death...").

See also this exchange, in which Randolph Carter enmeshes a poor, unassuming Nigerian crook in a tangled web involving the Necronomicon, Cthulu worshippers in Kentucky, and a certain Detective Sipowicz...

#280 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2005, 09:33 PM:

Approximately 110 mourners filled the Gates, Kingsley & Gates Chapel in Canonga Park, California, for the Frank Kelly Freas Funeral Service. These included well-known authors, artists, film and television personnel, family, and friends.

Rabbi Yisroel Kelemer was Officiant, and addressed such distinguished guests as Lydia Van Vogt, Forrest J. Ackerman, Harry Turtledove, Karen Anderson, J. Neil Schulman, Marv Wolfman, and Craig Miller.

A brochure, with a Menora on the cover and thumbnail data on Frank Kelly Freas, featured the poem "When Earth's Last Picture is Painted," by Rudyard Kipling [1892]. Also distributed was a photograph of the deceased on a "Chicago in 2000" collectable card with more data on his first publication, Hugo Awards, and ASFA Presidency.

Besides the widow Laura, and family members, those who spoke in loving memory of "Kelly" included David Gerrold, Brad Linaweaver, and John Hertz. One could almost imagine Kelly's gremlin grin through the light from the stained glass windows as the Rabbi extolled the fame of the next speaker, a world famous writer, and Jerry Pournelle approached the podium, just as the Rabbi said: "and so I give you... Larry Niven!"

Amid howls of laughter, Larry spoke before Jerry. I have notes as to high points of several of the heart-felt testimonials, but I shall not indulge myself by recounting them, nor to intrude on the private details of the reception that followed at the Freas home. Due to inclement weather, shifting chaotically between downpour, sunshine, and hail, the public interment was cancelled, and a private family ceremony will be held at Oakwood Memorial Park in the near future.

Among those quoted or cited at the Funeral Service were Bob Aspirin, Poul Anderson, Terry Carr, Gordon Dickson, Ted Cogswell, Robert Heinlein, Dick Allen, Brian Aldiss, and Isaac Asimov.

Among many floral arrangements was one from the Dorsai Irregulars.

#281 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2005, 01:33 AM:

Wonderful recount, Mr. Vos Post. Thanks for sharing.

#282 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2005, 11:32 AM:

Droppping in more political commentary.... Schmuck's actions in the current international disaster rank a 2 on a scale of 10. "We're sending $15 million in aid" after three days of hiding on the ranch. Termite.... "We're sending aid" didn't need to have a -number- attached to it.... and waiting three days... can't think on his feet about reality, obviously. Meanwhile....His Royal Repugnance and his slimy synchophants shouldn't get any excuses.

Oh my name is Donald Rumsfeld
I'm as oily as can be,
I push aggressive wars from lies,
As US policy,

I had old ties with old Saddam
But now he's enemy,
And when it comes to Osama,
It's okay he's still free!

I follow George Bush,
We're CHRISTIANS here,
I follow George Bush,
From Cheney's ear,
I follow George,
He tells so,
And since I like to run the war,
To Baghdad back I'll go!

Oh my name is Donald Rumsfeld
And I push a party line,
I send the soldiers out to war,
Equipped so very fine.

The generals don't have the guts
To tell the public that
Their troops were sent out unequipped,
Sans armor they got SPLAT!

Oh my name is Donald Rumsfeld
And I'm proud of what I do,
This is a CHRISTIAN nation,
Spreading the Word that is so true,

And while it was from elsewhere
The attack on New York came
I have called down vengeance
On Iraqis just the same.

I had lots of word to say Saddam
Was guilty of all crimes,
The ones he did and ones that he
Did not commit at times,

I put my effort into knocking
Baghdad back centuries,
Back to times when it should
Have been a CHRISTIAN city!

#283 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2005, 12:44 PM:

Oh, man, this is a sucky week.

Warren Ellis just posted:

* * *

Will Eisner: 1917-2005

Will Eisner passed away on January 4th, 2005 at the age of 86 following quadruple bypass heart surgery.

Will Eisner was one of America’s few truly great pioneers in the comics form, and one of the originators of the literary modern graphic novel.

#284 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2005, 02:52 PM:

Paula Lieberman wrote:
Droppping in more political commentary.... Schmuck's actions in the current international disaster rank a 2 on a scale of 10. "We're sending $15 million in aid" after three days of hiding on the ranch. Termite.... "We're sending aid" didn't need to have a -number- attached to it.... and waiting three days... can't think on his feet about reality, obviously.

To play Devil's Advocate on this: the right wing talking heads are pointing out that Kofi Annan didn't interrupt his ski vacation in Wyoming either. He also took three days to get back to work after the disaster.

The dollar value of our aid was going to be a matter of public record anyway, and if he didn't announce a figure it would've been the first question reporters hounded him on. The amount of aid we're sending (monetary and otherwise) has since gone way up. I also think it was a damn clever move to put his dad and Bill Clinton in charge of relief fundraising, thus defusing any reluctance on pure partisan grounds.

All that said, however, I'm with those who say that our donations as citizens should matter most in an emergency like this. Sending the military to help, airlifting supplies, hey, that's cool. That's something I can't do. But cash? I can pick my own aid organizations (and I did), and be confident that the money's being spent more efficiently than if it trickles down to them out of my taxes. We as individuals need to reach out. That's much more important, and we have more control over it, than how our government reaches out.

#285 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2005, 05:15 PM:

Regarding Idiot's Guides (upthread): This is a subject I happen to know something about. I was a copyeditor for the Alpha Books imprint of Macmillan Computer Publishing c. 1989-90. Alpha had just been split off from Sams to specializing in books for beginning computer users. We had been enjoying some success with the 10-Minute Guide format, when -- bang! -- IDG introduced the Dummies series and broke all kinds of sales records. Believe me, the next several months of editorial meetings were, well, as exciting as editorial meetings get, with the pro-Idiot and anti-Idiot factions facing off against each other week after week. The publisher and ME felt we had to launch a competing product line, while development and copyediting lobbied for developing intelligence-affirming alternatives like the 10-Minute Guides and the Plain English series. (I believe in one particularly heated meeting I sarcastically suggested we launch our proposed new series with The Microcephalic Banjo Picker from Deliverance's Guide to FoxPro Relational Database Design.)

Of course, as the publisher controls the pursestrings, it wasn't long before the first Idiot's Guides and Complete Idiot's Guides appeared on store shelves. The first ones tended to be substantive revisions of existing titles: The Plain English Computer Dictionary was rereleased as The Complete Idiot's Guide to Computer Lingo. The publisher's business savvy was borne out over the esthetic objections of the editorial side, as the Idiot's Guides began to outsell pretty much everything in the MCP catalog. Shortly thereafter, for unrelated reasons, I left MCP, although I continued to do some freelance work for a few years after that, including many Idiot's Guides.

Speaking of the style objections upthread: Right toward the end of my career freelancing for Alpha, I got a call from one the editors there about an Idiot's Guide that had already been through several development passes and a full copyedit, and yet lacked the necessary sense of whimsy. The author, it seemed, was irretrievably humorless. So, for the first and last time in my life, I was hired as a comedy writer, to inject whimsical gags into the text. It was a strange gig, as my own sense of humor tends toward the extremes, and this needed to be funny, yet strictly middle-brow.

Later I found that the series had been so successful that the parent company (Macmillan) opened a second Alpha Books office in New York to handle the non-technical titles. So, if you see an Idiot's Guide on a tech subject, it was developed in Indianapolis, but if it's about wine tasting or Wicca or weightlifting, the damage was done in Manhattan.

To this day, if you look on the back page or the intro to most Idiot's guides, you'll find a bit of smarmy boilerplate like, "Of course you're not an idiot, but sometimes blah, blah, blah can make you feel like one...." This bit of marketing is basically the rationale that the publisher used to sell editorial on the idea, rephrased for public consumption.

#286 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2005, 05:25 PM:

First 'graph: to specialize

Third 'graph: AQ: "irretrievably" s/b "irredeemably"?

#287 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 01:40 AM:

HP, I dunno. Irretrievably might work, if the guy had once had a sense of humor but subsequently lost it in a maelstrom of self-doubt or something.

#288 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 02:28 PM:

I found this today and was fascinated.

John Brockman of the Edge Foundation has asked 120 noted scientists, writers, and other thinkers the question, What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it? Their responses are varied and interesting.

#290 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 08:17 PM:

And isn't that just a perfect Nicoll quote?

#291 ::: JoshD ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 08:34 PM:

I had to share this. Someone on DeviantArt has put together a beautiful and informative graph showing the details of the United States budget, in scale to each other.

Death And Taxes.

The image is huge. But very much worth the download time.

#292 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2005, 02:46 AM:

After only a day or so in the rumor mill, it's official -- Six Apart is buying LiveJournal:
http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/82926.html

I guess this just confirms blogs really have hit the mainstream. The market leaders have started eating each other (er, I mean strategically merging).

#293 ::: Serge Broom sees tool SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2011, 01:19 AM:

We're already well equipped, he quipped.

#294 ::: janetl sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2014, 09:10 AM:

meg @ 294

#295 ::: Mary Aileen sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2016, 01:03 PM:

FB spam

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