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March 30, 2007
Author Identity Publishing
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:41 PM *

I came in very close to the ground floor on this story. On the morning of 08 November 2006 I got a piece of spam: Newsletter
Author Identity Publishing

Hi Short Story Author,
Would you like to get your short story published?
Would you be interested in selling one of your stories to us?
We are a small, but very reputable publisher looking to buy short stories for a compilation coming out this holiday season. This could be your chance to jump start your writing career.
If you are interested in submitting a story or just finding out additional information, please click on the following link
Wishing you success in your writing career.

Author Identity

I promptly went over to the Bewares and Background Check forum at Absolute Write and started a thread about this wonderful thing. I mean, I’m all about success in my writing career.

Much hilarity was had noting that Author Identity said:

We require you supply us with five (5) local newspapers we will send a press release to. We also require you to find 25 people who are willing to purchase your book on its release. Most of our authors have reached out to friends and family, however, we never tell you who must buy your book. You must however, demonstrate you have the ability to sell 25 copies prior to the books release. Once this book is published, the marketing will continue to be a concentrated effort. We recommend you approach at least two local bookstores and present the book for them to sell. Again, if you are not willing or unable to do so WE ARE NOT THE PUBLISHER FOR YOU!

Continued below the cut.

Kids these days
Posted by Teresa at 12:02 PM * 163 comments is reporting that a high school senior has temporarily blinded himself with a device he learned about on the Internet. The video verson of the story has WHDH’s Victoria Block saying, “The online sites showing kids making bombs is a growing and volatile problem for police.”

Yeah, right. As if kids didn’t mess themselves up that way before the internet existed.

Here’s the print version of the story:

SWAMPSCOTT, Mass. — A high school student from Swampscott is seriously hurt while attempting a stunt made popular on the Internet. Jaren Richard, 15, and his friends mixed alcohol and chlorine together in a plastic bottle on Wednesday, after getting directions online. The victim was allegedly both badly blinded and burned during the reaction.

“The police were the ones who informed him and myself of how powerful it was,” said Jaren’s mother, Dianne Richard. “It’s a bomb. They actually created a bomb, and by capping it, the explosion… it was as powerful as a shotgun.”

Put anything that generates gases into a plastic soda bottle. Screw the lid on tight. It will explode. Will it be as powerful as a shotgun? I doubt it.

As Jim Macdonald remarked to me in chat:

Heck, I made bombs back when I was young, years before there was an internet.

Anyone who stayed awake in high school chemistry can do it.

(I didn’t make that exact one after I figured out how to make high explosives.)

The instructions for the cholorine-and-alcohol bomb were in a book at the White Plains Library in the children’s room, where it taught you how to make a model submarine that fired torpedoes.

Lots of great books for kids published in the thirties and forties that taught you lots of cool stuff. Check out Dan Beard’s Boy’s Handy Book some day.

Back to the news story:
The sweatshirt Jaren was wearing apparently saved the boy’s life, according to Dianne Richard. Seeing Jaren injured, his friends immediately retrieved a hose to rinse out his eyes.

However, it may be between one to six months before Jane’s eyes are completely healed. “My eyes kind of sting,” said Jaren, talking to 7NEWS while recovering at home.

Police say the teen found out the hard way the stunt is something you should definitely not try at home. Authorities hope that other kids will learn from Jaren’s experience before they try to create any homemade bombs from instructions off the Internet.

“It could be anyone’s son or daughter,” said Det. Sgt. Tim Cassidy, of the Swampscott Police Department. “It’s unfortunate what’s on the Internet now, and these kids want to experiment, like typical teenage boys do.”

Police are still investigating this incident, but they have not ruled out the possibility that charges could be filed in this case.

I’d like to see those instructions. I have to wonder whether they actually said, “Mix these two liquids together in a soda bottle, cap tightly, and stand over it until it explodes.”

I can’t watch videos on this machine, but Jim says these are three YouTube videos of one of the bombs: one, two, three.

March 29, 2007
Open thread 83
Posted by Teresa at 10:42 PM *

It looked extremely rocky for the Theban Band that day
The odds were one to fifty with more Persians on the way.
So when Themist’cles fumbled, and Euanetus too,
An air of sadness fell upon that bare-assed hoplite crew.
A scattered few got up to go attend the Olympic Games
Another few decided that they’d try their luck with dames.
When to that Attic army came the news that cured dismay:
King Leonidas’ Spartans had come to join the fray.
They had no place for cowards and they had no use for c***:
Three hundred Spartan willies were advancing to the front.

(James D. Macdonald)

March 28, 2007
Hugo and John W. Campbell Award finalists, 2007
Posted by Patrick at 09:44 PM *

Complete list below the fold.

UPDATE, March 29: Quite a few small corrections, mostly entailing additional bibliographic information.

March 27, 2007
David Honigsberg, 1958-2007
Posted by Teresa at 11:59 AM * 61 comments

I still can’t quite believe this, but David Honigsberg is dead. A terse report went out to the Malibu list this morning from Glenn Hauman: “David had a massive heart attack last night, and he didn’t make it.” Alexandra’s still up at Columbia Presbyterian, and friends have been gathering up there.

David had his first heart attack about six months ago, but he’d been doing all the right things, and the prognosis was good. He was at Lunacon just weekend before last, where he played an hour-long acoustic concert.

(Short version of the bio: David Honigsberg, b. 13 September 1958, d. 26 March 2007. Writer, musician, game designer, and rabbi. Married for 25-26 years to fellow writer, musician, and clergyperson Alexandra Honigsberg. He is survived by everyone who knew him, all of whom are in shock.)

March 23, 2007
Fuzzy internet porn law struck down
Posted by Teresa at 07:17 AM *

Senior Judge Lowell Reed Jr. of the Federal District Court has struck down the 1998 Child Protection Act, under which “commercial Web publishers” would have been required to procure proof of age from their viewers (like, getting credit card information from them, not just having them push a button that says “yes, I am 17 or older”) before allowing them to access material deemed “harmful to minors” by “contemporary community standards.” Penalties included a $50,000 fine and up to six months in prison.

Judge Reed ruled that the law was ineffective, overly broad, and at odds with free speech rights. The line of his that everyone’s quoting is “Perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection.”

The various purity-of-essence lobbies are grumbling about it, of course. Most prominently featured so far is Donna Rice Hughes (yes, that Donna Rice), who’s made a career out of Protecting Our Children from Internet Smut. Her line, quoted yesterday in the NYTimes, is “It’s a very frustrating decision. We have an epidemic problem of kids accessing pornographic material online.”

I suppose that depends on your definitions of epidemic, kids, and pornographic material. What I mostly hear kids are accessing are online comics (including manga) and fanfic. Both genres have their startlingly steamy moments, but they’re not the eee-vile predatory commercial smut the law supposedly targeted.

I used to have a dismissive attitude toward reductio ad absurdum interpretations of the possibly consequences of this or that law. Watching the nonstop misuse of the Patriot Acts has cured me of that.

I’m happy this law has been struck down. Too many of us have advertisements on our websites for me to feel comfortable with laws that target “commercial web publishers.” “Contemporary community standards” can mean anything a political pressure group wants it to mean. Same goes for “harmful to minors.” And the legal definition of “publish” is broader than most people imagine.

March 20, 2007
Bush patently in denial over Gonzales
Posted by Teresa at 03:40 PM * 240 comments

George Bush has issued a strong statement of support for his longtime friend, disgraced Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The White House also denied that it was looking into possible successors.

Joining Bush in Nephelococcygia is disgraced former Republican House Leader Tom Delay, who in an interview Tuesday on NBC’s Today Show said, “This is a made-up scandal. There is no evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever.”

Hoo boy.

Senior Republican officials are being quoted as saying that the Attorney General’s departure is inevitable, and that Gonzales has lost the confidence of key Republican senators, some of whom are up for tough reelection campaigns in 2008. Party mandarins and White House aides have been openly speculating about who will replace him.

D. Kyle Sampson, one of Gonzales’ senior advisers, has already been thrown off the back of the sleigh. It won’t save Gonzales—his claim that he knew nothing, and that Sampson did all the firing, is not going to stand up—but it’s been great fun to watch. The New York Times has Sampson’s political obituary here.

Expect to hear a lot more about the U.S. Attorney firings. The Justice Department has gone for obfuscation by inundation, responding to requests for information by releasing some 3,000 documents. Sorting and assessment is still going on. Apparently there are mentions of “performance concerns” about the fired officials: yeah, yeah, yeah. I have yet to see anything that would come close to satisfying your average corporate HR department’s documentation standards for a proposed termination.

One of the more interesting infobits extracted thus far is a chart the Justice Department sent the White House in March of 2005. It ranks U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald among the prosecutors who had “not distinguished themselves.”

The ranking placed Fitzgerald below “strong U.S. attorneys … who exhibited loyalty” to the administration but above “weak U.S. attorneys who … chafed against administration initiatives, etc.,” according to Justice documents.

The chart was the first step in an effort to identify U.S. attorneys who should be removed. Two prosecutors who received the same ranking as Fitzgerald were later fired, documents show. …

The March 2005 chart ranking Fitzgerald and other prosecutors was drawn up by Gonzales aide Kyle Sampson and sent to then-White House counsel Harriet Miers. The reference to Fitzgerald is in a portion of the memo that Justice has refused to turn over to Congress, officials told the Washington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

At the time, Fitzgerald was leading the independent investigation into the leak of the identity of a CIA operative, which led this month to the perjury conviction of former vice-presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, also had recently brought a corruption indictment in Illinois against former Republican Gov. George Ryan.

A Justice Department official Monday sought to play down the importance of Fitzgerald’s ranking, saying the chart was “put together by Sampson and is not an official department position on these U.S. attorneys.”

Yeah, sure. You betcha.

Annals of all-time bad advance work
Posted by Teresa at 02:57 PM * 58 comments

Mitt Romney has put his foot in it. At the annual Miami-Dade Lincoln Day Dinner (for our overseas readers, that translates as “South Florida, right-wing Republicans”), he ended his speech with the stirring phrase, “¡Patria o muerte, venceremos!”

Somehow, Romney missed out on knowing that that phrase—“Fatherland or death, we shall overcome!”—has for decades been the closing line of almost every one of Castro’s speeches. It’s 100% associated with the Castro regime.

Romney’s audience was not impressed. It’s not that they thought he was a Castro supporter; they just thought he was an idiot.

March 19, 2007
A spelling demonology
Posted by Teresa at 09:17 PM * 432 comments

Ten years ago, I stopped believing that the OED understands which English words are and aren’t hard to spell. I’d link to the article that did it to me, but it’s no longer findable online, so there’s the thing in full. It raises all sorts of perennially stupid issues in spelling:

August 29 1997, Britain: Master wordsmiths fail spelling test

DO NOT despair if you cannot spell nil desperandum or if you get into a muddle over imbroglio. You are not alone.

They are among the most fiendishly difficult words to spell in the English language, according to the compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Nil desperandum was at the head of a list of lexicographers’ horrors put together by the experts who compile the OED. When The Times tried it out on famous wordsmiths yesterday, the author J.G. Ballard was one who could not get it right. “I must protest,” he said, “that it is not English. It is Latin.”

Finding that famous authors can’t spell a given list of words proves nothing. Spelling and writing are unrelated skills. The ability to spell is as variable in authors as it is in the general population. For example, Steve is dyslexic, Chip is severely dyslexic, and Hilbert can’t distinguish homophones. Gene and Mary Jane probably won spelling bees when they were kids. The only typos in Harry’s manuscripts are the kind that are invisible to spellcheckers, which means he can reliably recognize errors in words that are pointed out to him. And so forth.

(Being able to tell whether an indicated word is spelled correctly is the normal sort of spelling ability. Being unable to ignore the existence of a typo that’s within your field of vision, even if you aren’t consciously reading the text in which it occurs, is the kind of spelling ability copyeditors and proofreaders tend to have.)

If J.G. Ballard complained about Latin vocabulary, he’s clearly not the sort of speller who wins spelling bees. Latin spelling is regular, and we pick up the vocabulary from written sources. If you know a Latin word or phrase, you ought to be able to spell it.


No excuse, according to the taskmasters in Oxford. A spokeswoman said: “Many words in everyday use are not English in origin. School pupils returning to school shortly are still expected to be able to spell them.” The list was designed to test even the most accomplished linguistic practitioners who, it was thought, might have trouble with obscurities such as poetaster or rehoboam.
Poetaster and rehoboam aren’t inherently hard to spell. They’re seldom-used words which readers are occasionally called upon to recognize, and hardly anyone is called upon to spell—outside of spelling bees and stunt spelling tests.
The idea came from a “back to school” campaign in which the OED publishers put together a list of the most common spelling mistakes. Words such as accommodation or separate are frequently spelt wrongly by children.
Right there, I can tell they don’t know what they’re talking about. Accommodate and separate are misspelled by people of all ages.
Even adults have difficulty remembering the difference between licence and license or recalling those occasions when i does not precede e even after c.
More nonsense. Most adults who can remember ie/ei could do the same when they were in high school. What makes the difference is what kind of speller you are, not how old you are.
The new list is claimed to be even harder because many of the words break the accepted rules of English spelling, …
There are rules?
… mainly because several have foreign origins.
Eeeeek, imported foreign words in English! To quote the worthy James D. Nicoll,
“English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and ri[f]fle their pockets for new vocabulary.”
Foreign-derived words in English are not noteworthy—unless I’ve somehow missed out on all the people who are going around saying “Hwaet! Merry Infangthief to you! I want a brown cow that gives much milk, for cheese and butter to eat with my daily worts.”
Edmund Weiner, deputy chief editor of the OED, said: “These are words which often defy all logic and sometimes seem deliberately designed to cause trouble, not only for children but parents and adults in general.”
Oddly enough, I have long kept just such a list; and mine is far more troublesome than theirs. But first, here’s their puny list:
The words used in the challenge: nil desperandum, imbroglio, hoi polloi, paterfamilias, uxorious, licentious, meretricious, plagiarism, poetaster, counterfeiter, indecipherable. Others in Oxford’s complete list include: shibboleths, fuchsia, psephologist, encephalopathy, jejune, nonpareil, and icthyological.
I am not impressed. Fuchsia is the only genuine spelling demon on that list. Psephologist is difficult for its sheer unfamiliarity, and icthyological is difficult because the h in fourth position makes you want to put in an h following the initial ic.** I suppose you could get indecipherable wrong if you thought it was undecipherable, but that hardly counts. And the eis in counterfeiter and nonpareil aren’t particularly difficult, because if you make them ie they’re obviously wrong. As for the rest, if you’re sufficiently familiar with the words to be using them, you ought to know how to spell them. It’s not as though there were obvious alternate spellings to paterfamilias or hoi polloi or jejune.

Bah. I’ve been saving up that story to stomp on it for a long time now.

Want to see my nasty wordlist? I first started compiling it back when I was Managing Editor at Tor. People would phone me who wanted to get hired as freelance copyeditors or proofreaders. They’d rattle on for a while about their qualifications. I’d wait for a gap, then say, “Spell accommodate.”

Usually there’d be a gulp at the other end of the phone. Then some would spell it incorrectly. Others would start to spell it, stop, and say “But I’d know to look it up.” My favorite response was the guy who spelled it correctly; also supersede and bizarre. “Very good!” I said. He chuckled and said “Pharaoh.” I spelled it and said “I’ll add it to the list.” He proved to be an excellent nonfiction copyeditor.

My wordlist was designed to trip up people who spell for a living. Ideally, it should be administered as an oral spelling test, with the words in the order given below:

Bazaar, bizarre, accede, precede, desiccated, supersede, accessory, necessary, accommodate, harass, artillery, battalion, guerrilla, iridescent, miscellaneous, millennium, vermilion, parallelism, commitment, committed, committee, counselor, calendar, stratagem, sorcerer, restaurateur, prophesy, pharaoh, eulogy, feud, fluorescent, suede, pseudopod, fuchsia, jodhpurs, frieze, receive, sacrilegious, seize, siege, weird.

—The principle is that (for instance) artillery, battalion, guerrilla, iridescent and accessory, necessary are easier to spell if they aren’t sitting next to each other.

—In an oral spelling test, the correct response to counselor is a dismayed squeak: it has several alternate spellings.

—Some words are only hard because their pronunciations screw up our ability to remember how to spell them; thus: calander, strategem, sorceror, restauranteur, pharoh, fuschia, sacreligious.

—Two ways to remember how to spell fuchsia: (1.) The botanist was named Fuchs. (2.) If you pronounce it the way it’s spelled, it comes out fucks ya.

And finally, just because I can, a list of all the variant spellings of icicle, icicles in the OED:

hyse-hykylle, icecles, ice-ickel, ice-schokkill, ice-schoklis, ice-seekles, ice-seskel, ice-shackle, ice-shockles, ice-shog, ice-shoggle, ice-shogle, iceshogles, ice-shoglin, ice-shokle, ice-sickel, icesicles, iceycel, iceycle, icicles, icikle, isch schoklis, ische-schokkill, ische-shackle, ische-shockle, ische-shog, ische-shoggle, ische-shogle, ische-shoglin, ische-shokle, isch-schokkill, isch-shackle, isch-shockle, isch-shog, isch-shoggle, isch-shogle, isch-shoglin, isch-shokle, ise3kille, isechele, isecle, ise-sickel(s), ise-sickle, ise-sicklels, ise-yokel, isickles, isicle, isikle, isykle, izekelle, ycicle, yese-ikkle, ysckeles, yse sycles, ysekele, yse-schokkill, yse-shackle, yse-shockle, yse-shog, yse-shoggle, yse-shogle, yse-shoglin, yse-shokle, yse-yckel, ysicles, ysse-ikkles.
I think one of the ways the Time Patrol indexes alternities is by how they spell icicle.

March 18, 2007
Bub, bar cher flap!
Posted by Avram Grumer at 01:18 AM * 92 comments

Paxed, in a comment on the efflorescence of zombies thread, pointed out that terra is green when transformed by Rot13. This intrigued me; I wondered what other such pairs there could be. So I cobbled together a quick Ruby script to hunt for such pairs, and pointed it at my system’s /usr/share/dict/words file.

The resulting file ran to over 150 lines, with some duplication, but consisted mostly of what I call “bullshit Scrabble words” — the sort of words that Scrabble players and Gene Wolfe use all the time, but which rarely show up in real conversations: yn, avo, sneb, qubba, and the like. But there were a few pairs of real, everyday words:

  • terra ⇔ green
  • nun ⇔ aha
  • nag ⇔ ant
  • oho ⇔ bub
  • one ⇔ bar
  • onyx ⇔ balk
  • ova ⇔ bin
  • pent ⇔ crag
  • rail ⇔ envy
  • sync ⇔ flap

Some more, if you’re willing to tolerate proper nouns:

  • noon ⇔ Abba
  • nor ⇔ Abe
  • vend ⇔ Iraq
  • Pyrex ⇔ clerk
  • pure ⇔ Cher

And the real gems:

  • nowhere ⇔ abjurer
  • tang ⇔ gnat
  • vex ⇔ irk

March 16, 2007
An efflorescence of zombies
Posted by Teresa at 12:42 PM * 420 comments

Back in November 2006, The Uselessness of Airleaf Publishing generated a nice chewy comment thread, which flourished, decayed, and fell silent. Then, a week ago, Epacris spotted comment spam in that thread, and posted a message saying so. Niall McAuley got in while the spam was still comment #52 and posted:

A spammer writes: We will appreciate if you will use the following information to link us back from your web site

I hope no-one on ML minds, but I’ve been running a Zombies simulation on a 2 Mqbit SQUID using the comment threads here as modelling data. This is not a Vingefied AI system with trapped, sentient copies of the contributors here: the agents modelled are guaranteed soulless empty software shells.

I’d just like to note that when I fed comment #52 above into the system, the Zombie Jim Macdonald said “No”.

After that, they were off and running. To quote some incidental bits:
I for one welcome our artifically intelligent/undead overlords. ::: Why did I just get an email from myself, containing a sonnet that scans and rhymes perfectly, but has no artistic interest whatsoever? ::: If I understand this correctly, Zkathryn necessarily knows everything Kathryn knows, but has no awareness of that knowledge. Zkathryn claims not to be a p-zombie, but that’s exactly what a p-zombie would claim, isn’t it? I mean, a p-zombie would need consciousness in order to make truth claims about its nature, and if it had consciousness, it would not be a p-zombie. “I am a p-zombie” is always a false statement. ::: People, can we not stereotype about zombies based on misrepresentations in really atrocious, campy movies? ::: In California, the workplace guide set (employment law, minimum wage, existential threats) includes the standard zombie warning chart. ::: The preferred weapon for personal anti-zombie defense is the chainsaw. For a horrifying example of what happens when you don’t have a fully-fueled chainsaw handy, see The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander. ::: HA! Has anyone seen this? Bush has even pissed off the Mayan spirit guides. … Sorry, wrong thread. ::: “My Favorite Things” ::: Kathryn, it’s twelve steps for the walking dead, but only maybe three for the living. ::: I Am Not A Politically-aware, Angry Mayan Spirit Guide (Abbreviated, for your convenience, as IANAPAAMSG…) ::: “Rezume” ::: I think that we need to stop trying to define liches and revenants, and start trying to describe them. ::: I can feel a post coming on titled Trauma And You… ::: IANAPAAMSG either, but I’m pretty sure it should be Yma Sumac as the zombie-summoning Mayan Spirit Guide, and Julie Andrews as the singing, chainsaw-wielding heroine who saves the day, because I just can’t imagine Yma Sumac doing the patter songs. ::: Me, I’d wonder about the utility of inducing zombies to follow me through any sort of heavy manufacturing environment; I can read the safety signs and they can’t, after all. A rolling mill would be nearly ideal. ::: Well, philosophical zombies like to start conversations about themselves any chance we get. Such conversations are often diverted into discussions about chainsaw sharpening, but this is clearly just a diversionary tactic: those with present qualia conspiring to confuse those of us whose qualia are MIA. ::: from “William Shakespeare’s Zombies” ::: The ritual deployment of “This is just to say” ::: “How will I eat thee? Let me count the ways” ::: “The Second Coming” ::: “Resume” ::: “When, running from the zombies’ prying eyes/I all alone beweep my outcast state” ::: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of brains. ::: Ok, now I’m officially creeped-out. Look: a zombie teddy bear ::: OH MY GOD THAT’S THE CUTEST AND I WANT IT. ::: Aw! His intestines are removable! I love him! ::: The Creature was part human, part livestock, and part chemistry set. I suppose he was Bavarian in the sense that BMWs are Bavarian…
Happy Friday.

March 15, 2007
“Clinton Did It Too”
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:21 PM * 143 comments

Talking Points Memo is all over this story. Check there, including the archives, for full details on this Bush scandal.

The predictable reaction of the Repubs to the general outrage about the Bush Justice Department firing eight US Attorneys for not being sufficiently partisan has been Clinton Did It Too.

The Wall St. Journal (as reported at TPM) can’t keep their story straight as they variously report that Reagan did or did not replace all of the US Attorneys when he took office.

Bush says that firing US Attorneys for political purity is a “customary practice.” He’s lying, of course. It isn’t a customary practice and never has been. It’s corruption on a wide scale. The enabling legislation is a paragraph in the ill-thought-out and hastily-passed USA PATRIOT Act. Under the newly-invented process, if a US Attorney is fired, he or she can be replaced by someone who is never required to be confirmed by the Senate—leading us to a place where the top US law enforcement officer in each region can be another Brownie.

The Bush Administration fired U.S. Attorneys because they prosecuted well-connected Republicans, as happened with Carol Lam in San Diego, who lost her job for convicting congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham for evading taxes and conspiring to pocket $2.4 million in bribes, including a Rolls-Royce, a yacht and a 19th-century Louis-Philippe commode. They fired them for not going out of their way to prosecute Democrats when the timing would be advantageous to Republicans. This happened to U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico, who ignored requests by Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) to indict Manny Aragon before the November elections in order to improve her chances of being reelected. U.S. Attorney H. E. “Bud” Cummins III of Little Rock was fired in order to politicize the office and reward a political operative by giving the job to Tim Griffin, a hand-picked protege of Karl Rove.

Back to the Clinton excuse: How many US Attorneys left office before their four-year terms were up during the Clinton presidency (other than to accept greater responsibility within the Justice Department), and why? Answer: Two of them. (via Bite to Bite)

Larry Colleton, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. Colleton, appointed by President Clinton, according to news reports, “had been U.S. attorney for Florida’s middle district for only five months on May 6 [1994] when he was videotaped grabbing Jacksonville television reporter Richard Rose by the throat. The newsman had been trying to question him about recent decisions in his office.” He resigned in July 1994.
Kendall Coffey, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Coffey, appointed by President Clinton, resigned on May 12, 1996, according to news reports, “amid accusations that he bit a topless dancer on the arm during a visit to an adult club after losing a big drug case.”

How many, of any description, were replaced by someone who was never presented to, or confirmed by, the Senate? Answer: None of them.

The heck “Clinton did it too.”

March 13, 2007
POD-dy Mouth
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:01 PM *

Two years ago, Girl On Demand started with the mission to find the unknown masterpieces lurking in the world of POD publishing. Today, she’s ending it.

The folks I have met through here (agents, editors, publishing pros, writers) have been the absolute best, and I certainly do not regret any of the time and effort I have spent here. But … I’m afraid the time has come for POD-Dy Mouth Industrial Clothing and Fine Baked Goods to close its doors. For good.
It isn’t because she didn’t find worthwhile works in among the self-published ranks, but after reading 1,600 books she’s burned out. She sketches out the varied reasons:
To begin with, this blog became something completely other than what I had originally intended. If you look at my original posts (and the survey I conducted ages ago), the majority of visitors were readers. It was supposed to open up the eyes of the reading community to untouched, unfound, and unknown books. It didn’t take long (say 7 - 8 months) for it to become a literary hideout. And I gotta tell you, the weakest group of individuals to target for reading is writers. They’re (we’re) already broke, and having (yet another) incestuous place to read about books is as useful as … whatever, it’s not useful.
Farewell, POD-dy. I recommend your archives to all.

News for vampire slayers
Posted by Avram Grumer at 11:59 AM * 101 comments

‘Impaler’ pledges to impale Bush:

The American Secret Service have launched an investigation into one of the candidates for the presidency in 2008 — after he pledged that as President, one of his first acts would be to impale President George W. Bush.

The candidate in question is Jonathon ‘The Impaler’ Sharkey, and he is running as the only self-described satanic vampire candidate who has so far entered the 2008 race. […]

But a legal expert is unsure if a case could be made against The Impaler. ‘Under the First Amendment, what it boils down to here is whether or not he’s a vampire who wants to impale the president,’ law professor Neil Richards of Washington University in St. Louis told the Chronicle.

‘I guess the question is, if he’s a vampire, why is he the one staking people? Shouldn’t he want to bite the president and feed on him?’ added Richards[.]

Guards to protect Milosevic’s body from vampire hunters:

Slobodan Milosevic’s daughter Marija Milosevic has hired security guards to protect her father’s body from vampire hunters.

The self-styled vampire hunters have already made one attempt at driving a wooden stake through the former dictator’s heart to ‘stop him returning from the dead’.

March 12, 2007
Gom Soon, and Porco Bruno
Posted by Teresa at 10:30 AM *

Gom Soon (the name means “bear”) is a hamster living somewhere in Canada. Yesterday Kevin Maroney sent me a link to a video posted at Cute Overload. It didn’t identify her. I posted the link in the Particles list.

Later, a bit of poking around at YouTube turned up Gom Soon’s name plus the name of her owner, Shootoed; a longer version of the video, titled I Want These Cookies!!: The Director’s Cut; an earlier work, Breakfast with Gom Soon; and assorted snippets.

We love hamsters for their character and personality, not their brains.

I’ve been putting off posting this bit of news, but young Porco Bruno is no more, dead at just about one year old of what was probably lung cancer. It wasn’t a terribly painful death, just a much-regretted one. He died in my hands the night of February 25th. I posted a memorial for him here. Fare thee well, Hamster that Roared.

In the midst of death we are in life. We have a new guy, a cheerful little Syrian who looks like he started out brown-and-white but either got caught in an ashfall or has been experimenting with kabuki makeup. He has fine dark shading around his eyes, black stripes along his jowls, a symmetrical assortment of other soft gray spots, and an Ash Wednesday splotch on top of his head. We haven’t yet figured out his name.

March 10, 2007
Open thread 82
Posted by Patrick at 09:31 AM *

Buffy: Does it ever get easy?
Giles: You mean life?
Buffy: Yeah. Does it get easy?
Giles: What do you want me to say?
Buffy: (looks up at him) Lie to me.
Giles: (considers a moment) Yes, it’s terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true, the bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies, and everybody lives happily ever after.
Buffy: Liar.

March 09, 2007
Big Brother
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:08 AM *

The FBI failed to report accurately how many people it snooped on using anti-terror measures, officials said a government audit revealed today. Demands for banks and phone companies to hand over people’s private information without telling them may also have gone beyond what is allowed by the Patriot Act, officials with access to the report told CNN.
CNN, 09MAR07

Okay, show of hands: How many people are surprised?

March 08, 2007
Stumped by Microsoft Word
Posted by Patrick at 09:39 AM *

We’ve wondered this before, but we’ve never had any luck figuring it out, and it comes up once in a while in the course of our work. Postulate a long manuscript composed entirely of ASCII text. The writer has indicated italics by framing the text to be italicized—sometimes a single word, sometimes several words—with asterisks, *like this*.

Is there a way, with Word (2003, “Professional Edition”, running on XP SP2) to automate the conversion of these passages to underlined text, per normal manuscript format? It seems to me the kind of thing that a computer ought to be able to do. (Possibly simplifying matters, the writer doesn’t use the asterisk character for anything else.)

March 06, 2007
Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Pt. Seven)
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:30 PM * 28 comments

Literal translation makes figurative translation possible, however crudely:

When three ways simmer down to two
A man who knows not what to do
Will not just laugh and stay between
But coldly sacrifice his queen.

A lady at the same divide
Who’s as resigned to take a side
Won’t curse the game, or snarl and fight,
But lose the pawn, and play the knight.

(Don’t expect an alternate version of Saucers.)

Open thread 60

Continue reading Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Part Seven)

Scooter Libby verdict
Posted by Teresa at 11:38 AM * 118 comments

There’s a verdict in the Scooter Libby trial. It will be read out at noon.

CNN’s carrying it live. The website to monitor is of course Firedoglake, which has been on top of this story all along.

We can’t get CNN here. Let us know if anyone says anything startling.



That is, guilty on charges no. 1, 2, 4, and 5; not guilty on #3, Cooper/false statement to FBI.

Now let’s see whether Fitzgerald defers sentencing pending the guilty parties’ cooperation in other investigations.

March 04, 2007
K-9: Rise of the Machines
Posted by Patrick at 10:23 AM * 44 comments

I can’t be the only person who glanced at this story about the forthcoming TV show The Sarah Connor Chronicles and spent several seconds wondering how Terminators got into a Doctor Who spinoff. Now that’s crossover power!

All Knowledge Is Contained
Posted by Patrick at 09:45 AM * 211 comments

You know that bit from Teresa in the sidebar about our readers being the best thing about Making Light? In the comment thread following the post that links to SFRevu’s interview with me, frequent commenter Abi Sutherland has posted a five-part history of bookbinding, from ancient Egypt to the modern day. Interesting and trenchant stuff, even (or perhaps especially) for people like me who really aren’t all that enraptured by the romance of books as physical objects.

UPDATE: Abi explains some terms of art.

Maps and more maps
Posted by Avram Grumer at 01:04 AM *

The Strange Maps blog is one of those tightly-focussed, single-topic blogs. If you like unusual maps, this is the blog for you. Some highlights:

The Google Sightseeing blog is even more narrowly focussed: All Google Maps, all the time.

March 03, 2007
A seriousness that fails
Posted by Avram Grumer at 07:55 PM *

Irony is a slippery thing.

Everyone who’s looked at Conservapedia has noticed how hard it is to tell whether the posts there are really written by dim-bulb right-wing nutjobs, or are ironic parodies of dim-bulb right-wing nutjob writing by bright non-nutjobs. You just can’t tell. It’s a risk you run parodying a stupid person. The usual way of signaling to the reader that you’re being ironic is to include idiotic or monstrous statements (as Swift did with baby-eating), but when the actual targets of your parody are themselves idiotic, the signal gets lost.

For example, take Dennis Madalone’s “America We Stand As One”, though Madalone’s sin here is not stupidity, but bathos. Madalone (musician and former Star Trek stunt coordinator) looks a little like Stephen Colbert in a wig, so you’ll be reminded of Colbert, and think that maybe you’re watching something along those lines. But as the video goes on, and you count the mawkish clichés — walking on the beach, the pounding surf, angels, flags, tearful wife at a grave, dream-firemen projected on clouds — waiting for some kind of parody signal or expression of satiric norm, a wink or a punchline, you’ll will slowly realize that no, he really means it.

At that point, you’ll want this mashup with the Team America theme to wash the taste out of your brain. Or maybe this rap video about George Washington.

March 01, 2007
Interview with the Me
Posted by Patrick at 05:36 PM * 124 comments

Ernest Lilley of the science fiction news site SFRevu interviewed me in my office back in 2004. He’s finally posted the transcript, complete with some interjections by “PNH 2007.” It’s a bit shaggy and certainly rambling. I blame society. Wait, I said that already.

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