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August 31, 2010
Open thread 146
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:48 PM *

Carthago deleta est.

(I couldn’t find words for this. Carthage was easier.)


link back to Open thread 145

August 28, 2010
Wickedness
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:55 AM *

The story in the Mirror says,

Leo Hunter, 6, lands a mega deal for 23 books

By Rod Chaytor 27/08/2010

A boy of six has won a book deal worth thousands.

Leo Hunter was awarded a 23-story contract with an American company after they read his first tale, Me and My Best Friend.

Leo started the book - about a little boy called Liam and his make-believe adventures with his dog Henry - when he was five.

It is now hitting bookshelves in America and is available online in the UK.

Leo, from Derby, said: “Writing makes me very, very happy. It’s so interesting.

“I like writing about dogs, people, every single thing.

“I like Harry Potter but I like my books even more.

“I would like to be more famous than JK Rowling - even more famous than Cheryl Cole and Simon Cowell.”

Leo’s novelist mum Jamie, 29, gave her literary agency Leo’s tale and they brought it to the attention of US publishers Strategic Book Publishing.

Strategic Book Publishing? The ones who are being sued by the State of Florida? Yes.

The deal is worth thousands, all right, but not for the boy. It’s worth thousands to Bouncing Bobby Fletcher and his magical carousel of rotating scams.

Three gets you seven that Leo’s novelist mom Jamie is represented (if you can call it that) by Robert M. Fletcher under another of his many names and constantly-changing business identities.

But the Mirror didn’t notice.

Want to know what’s worse? Publishers Weekly picked up the story, and they didn’t notice that Strategic Book Publishing is a vanity press either.

Writer Beware has picked this one up.

You’d think that someone, somewhere, would have Googled on “Strategic Book Publishing,” wouldn’t you?

[UPDATE: 20JUN12]
Bobby has renamed his scam (again) to Strategic Book Publishing & Rights Agency (SBPRA), Publish On Demand Global, Best Quality Editing Services, and Best Selling Book Rights Agency, plus a dozen other names.

August 26, 2010
Bending the arc
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:07 PM * 304 comments

Dark times.

In the US, opponents of the Cordoba House project have mostly moved from The First Amendment only applies to religions we agree with; everything else is an ideology to The fact that we can spew lies and racist hatred is a sign of a healthy First Amendment, so yay us for being loud bigots! I confess that I am unmoved by the eloquence of this argument.

Meanwhile, here in the Netherlands, we’re nearly through our third month without a government. It has been agreed in principle that the CDA and VVD, two right-wing parties, should form a minority government which Geert Wilders’ anti-Islamic PVV can support but not join. This agreement may be falling apart as members of the CDA balk at any association with the PVV, but is no government really preferable to one that abandons the Netherlands’ long-standing commitment to the samenleving?

We all find our own ways of coping when the injustice of the world seems overwhelming. I’m not surprised that so many of us shy away from discussions of politics, and I understand and sympathize with those who fall into despair. For my part, I turn back to Martin Luther King, Jr:

I must confess, my friends, the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will be still rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. We may again with tear-drenched eyes have to stand before the bier of some courageous civil rights worker whose life will be snuffed out by the dastardly acts of bloodthirsty mobs. Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. … When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.
—Address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, August 16, 1967

Fine words, you say. But why should we believe them?

Let me go back a little further, to a passage by the person for whom I was named*:

…and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.
That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend. Why then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the Lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity. Men of Sense in all Ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your Sex…
—Abigail Adams, Letter to John Adams, March 31, 1776

She was an early voice for equality. Even her best friend, her husband John, didn’t share her vision of a country in which women had a voice in government. It was a long time before critical mass was reached, before the battle was joined, and longer yet before it was won†. But it was won, and ninety years ago today, the Consitution grew by thirty-nine words:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
—XIXth Amendment to the US Constitution

I sit here now typing this, an unremarkable woman, educated, enfranchised and employed. A century ago, those would have been extraordinary or impossible things. In 1945, my grandmother had to give up the work she loved because she was pregnant with my mother. My mother faced down sexism and harassment as a big-firm lawyer in the 1970’s. But I can count the “out” sexists I’ve had to work with on the fingers of one hand, and my daughter’s educational and employment prospects are as bright as my son’s.

We did that thing. We, as a society. The struggle for equality goes on for women, for gays, for the disabled, for ethnic and religious minorities. And the arc of history bends toward justice only because we bend it that way.

But we did it. We can do this, too.


* Indeed, it is due to those words that I am her namesake.
† And, by coincidence, I share a birthday with one of the most famous activists in the struggle.

August 19, 2010
Messing about in boats
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:06 PM * 110 comments

Today was the first day of SAIL Amsterdam, the quinquennial tall ships festival. It’ll be going on until Monday.

The festival started as a one-off event in 1975 to celebrate Amsterdam’s septicentennial. But it was so much fun that they decided to do it every five years. It’s now the largest free event in the Netherlands, with tours of the tall ships, reenactments, and general festivities.

The first day includes a parade of ships along the IJ. But it’s not just the big ships, like the Amerigo Vespucci or the Kruzenshtern that throng the river. Thousands of smaller craft—pretty much everything riverworthy (and some not, probably)—join the nautical procession. My new office is on the seventh floor of a building overlooking the river†, and I saw small motorboats, speedboats, canal tour boats, and yachts of various sizes and conditions weaving in and out of the larger vessels. There were even a few flat boats with sofas on them, clearly the back gardens of houseboats which had been fitted up with motors*.

More than one of the tall ships fired a (blank) salute as they passed Centraal Station. Many of the smaller boats were playing music. There was drinking, and dancing‡, and passing of food between the boats. The ferries that had to cross all that traffic gave up entirely on schedules and just nosed their way patiently back and forth whenever they could.

It was spectacular. But I didn’t envy the river police their jobs today.


† Astonishingly enough, work got done today. We did stop to stare at the really good ships as they went past, but they were slow enough that entire quarter hours of uninterrupted effort also occurred.
* Many Amsterdam houseboats have something flat and floating moored to them with a couple of plants and some seating. Just because your house is on water is no excuse not to have someplace to sit outside of an evening. Never seen them on the move before, though.
‡ Some of it rather unwise, considering the size of the boats in question.

August 18, 2010
Open thread 145
Posted by Teresa at 06:19 PM *

Battle Injuries and First Aid in the Norse Era: Both the saga literature and forensic studies of skeletal remains suggest that battle injuries could be horrific. … [Discussing an extant femur from a man who died of battle injuries in the 11th century] The bone shows clear marks of the impact of ring mail against the bone, suggesting his upper leg was hit with a sword blow so powerful as to force the rings of his mail shirt through the muscles of his leg into contact with the bone. Astonishingly, this injury was not the cause of his death. His skeletal remains show other serious injuries received in that battle. However, it was a cut that partially severed his spine at the neck that killed him.

The sagas tell of several types of first aid used during a fight. Shields were thrown over fallen men to protect them from further injury (Brennu-Njáls saga, chapter 150). During Gísli’s last battle (Gísla saga Súrssonar, chapter 36), Eyjólf’s men thrust at Gísli with spears until his guts fell out. Gísli bound his guts up in his shirt with a cord and continued fighting. When fights continued for a long time (for example Heiðarvíga saga, chapter 31), a pause was called in the fighting to allow men to bind up their wounds.

An example of battlefield medicine is described in chapter 234 of Óláfs saga helga. Þormóðr was wounded by an arrow in his side. He broke off the shaft and supported his companions in the fight as best he could. After the battle had been lost, he left the field and entered the hut where the healer women were tending the wounded. One of the women inspected the wound and could see the iron arrow head, but could not determine its path to determine what internal organs it had struck. She gave Þormóðr a hot broth, containing leeks and onions and other herbs. If, after eating it, she could smell the broth from his wound, she would know that vital parts had been injured, and that the wound was fatal.

Þormóðr refused the broth. Instead, he directed the woman to cut into the wound to expose the iron arrow head. He grabbed hold of the arrow head with pincers and pulled it out. Seeing fatty fibers on the arrow head, Þormóðr said, “See how well the king keeps his men. There is fat by my heart,” and he died.

Blood from a wound was examined to determine the extent of the injuries. In chapter 45 of Eyrbyggja saga, Snorri goði examined the snow where Bergþór had lain after being injured in battle. Snorri picked up the bloody snow, squeezed it, and put it in his mouth. Realizing that it was blood from an internal wound, Snorri said that Bergþór was a dead man, and there was no need to chase after him. …

Both the saga literature and forensic studies of skeletal remains show that people survived serious battle injuries and lived to fight again after their wounds healed. In chapter 23 of Víga-Glúms saga, Þórarinn was struck by a blow that cut through his shoulder such that his lungs fell out. He was bound up, and Halldóra watched over him until the battle was over. Þórarinn was carried home where his wounds were treated, and over the summer, he recovered.

August 11, 2010
Ground Zero mosque
Posted by Teresa at 07:15 AM * 649 comments

I note with disapprobation the continuing flap about building a mosque next to the site of the World Trade Center attacks.

You know, if we’re trying to prevent future attacks on that site, putting a mosque there doesn’t strike me as a bad idea.

I don’t think the protesters have thought this through. But then, so many of the “WE MUST NEVER FORGET 9/11” hardliners seem to live in midcontinent cities where the only terrorist threat is homegrown American crazies. I always want to tell them “Dude, I don’t know about you, but here in NYC we’re not likely to forget 9/11, so please stop yelling at us about it, thank you very much and have a nice day.”

More to the point: where do these hicks get off thinking that no Muslims died in the WTC towers?

The appropriate comment in the local dialect is unsuitable for publication, so I’ll just have to fill in again with “thank you very much and have a nice day,” and hope they can translate.

August 05, 2010
Cablevision done me wrong
Posted by Avram Grumer at 03:59 PM * 81 comments

We just went through 27 hours of being dicked around by my cable and internet provider, Cablevision aka Optimum Online.

August 03, 2010
Patrick’s won the Hugo for Best Editor!
Posted by Teresa at 07:29 AM * 15 comments

He called me just now, as soon as he got off stage. The ceremony is still going on. I am amazed and delighted, also still waking up.

Hurrah!

And Girl Genius just won. Hurrah again!

Must go make coffee now.

August 01, 2010
Between the Wave and the Particle, a Benediction
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 01:01 PM *

There was no doubt about it: the well-tanned gentleman outside of the Somes Bar General Store had looked upon the leaf when it was green. He introduced himself to me in a most friendly and enthusiastic fashion, but I confess that I have mislaid his name. We engaged in a brief discussion about the availability of further supplies of local produce*, a matter regarding which I professed myself wholly ignorant. He pressed; I demurred with, I flatter myself, such a civil yet convincing demeanor that he found himself unable to pursue the matter further.

Yet he was not an unpleasant conversationalist, combining as he did a general warmth toward his fellow creatures with an unfailing optimism and delight for the wonders of the world around him. And though our intercourse might have grown tiresome had it been further protracted, I had a fast car, a juvenile audience, and an impatient driver. With escape so readily to hand, I was not minded to dampen his mood with anything less than the friendliest of partings.

“Hey, have a fantastic day,” I told him, climbing into the passenger seat of the Jeep and strapping myself in.

“F— the day,” he replied (his enthusiasm did tend to overwhelm any awareness of the standards of discourse appropriate in the presence of children, but mine are too well-educated to find his vocabulary startling, and too well-mannered to react in any case). “Have a fantastic m—f—ing life!”

“That’s the idea,” I replied with a smile. “One fantastic day at a time.” My mother gunned the engine, and we were off.


* A conversation that reminded me irresistibly of one a year ago with an inebriated gentleman in a kilt who, despite staying in the heart of De Wallen, somehow reckoned that I was his best bet for getting laid that evening. People baffle me.

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