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August 30, 2009
The Club Is All Their Law, To Keep All Men in Awe
Posted by Patrick at 08:45 PM *

The AP reports:

Bush daughter Jenna Hager becomes ‘Today’ reporter

NBC’s “Today” show has hired someone with White House experience as a new correspondent—former first daughter Jenna Hager, the daughter of former President George W. Bush….She “just sort of popped to us as a natural presence, comfortable” on the air, [Executive Producer Jim] Bell said. Hager will work out of NBC’s Washington bureau.

Glenn Greenwald observes:
They should convene a panel for the next Meet the Press with Jenna Bush Hager, Luke Russert, Liz Cheney, Megan McCain and Jonah Goldberg, and they should have Chris Wallace moderate it. They can all bash affirmative action and talk about how vitally important it is that the U.S. remain a Great Meritocracy because it’s really unfair for anything other than merit to determine position and employment. They can interview Lisa Murkowski, Evan Bayh, Jeb Bush, Bob Casey, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller, Dan Lipinksi, and Harold Ford, Jr. about personal responsibility and the virtues of self-sufficiency. Bill Kristol, Tucker Carlson and John Podhoretz can provide moving commentary on how America is so special because all that matters is merit, not who you know or where you come from.
Read the whole thing (it’s short and deadly). Our children and grandchildren will remember these strutting second- and third-generation media peacocks they way we look back at the White Russian officer corps—as examples of astonishing decadence. They will wonder how these people, out of all those who could be discussing the day’s events, were the ones chosen to be on television, day after day, as the world careened toward ruin.

Oh No Lev Grossman No
Posted by Patrick at 01:12 PM *

Point, counterpoint. I do feel like I’ve seen this argument before. Endlessly.

I generally enjoy the books Lev Grossman praises more than the books Matt Cheney praises, but I think that on balance Cheney is more right than not. Grossman is getting at something real, but the way he’s couching his argument is rife with what Cheney calls “armies of straw people marching through an alternate literary history.” Among other things, Grossman palms a whole bunch of cards, first telling us that “the Modernists” were a group of writers including E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald—none of whom are really known for their wild, plot-free typographic experimentalism—and then suddenly turning around to reveal that, no, actually, the Modernists were really Pound, Joyce, and Eliot, who set out in their remote mountain fastness to “break plot.” Which evidently they managed to do, putting “the novel” into a “100-year carbonite nap” from which it is finally awakening (never mind the math), because there are a bunch of new mainstream writers who don’t disdain genre elements and fun storylines, hooray.

I want to see the bookstore shelves in this alternate world, the one in which The Waste Land and Ulysses had this titanic influence on what got published, filling the catalogs of Doubleday and Harper & Row with brilliantly hermetic stream-of-consciousness narratives and irregular verse. More to the point, I sometimes think that people lap this storyline up because so many people’s school experience contains at least one instance of being looked down upon because they didn’t care for one or more of the sacred mutant outcroppings of High Modernism, and they concluded from this that Literature is all about impenetrable stuff that they don’t like. That damn Hemingway with his crazy free verse.

As far as “plot” goes, as I get older I more and more suspect that “plot” is really being used, in the many incarnations of this argument, as a placeholder for a whole cloud of qualities found (or not found) in certain narratives, some of which actually constitute “plot” and many of which do not. What first led me to suspect this is the fact that many of the sternest exponents of “I want novels to have plots, dammit” are also demonstrably fans of, for instance, quite a few Robert A. Heinlein novels whose plots can barely be detected even by advanced scientific equipment. (Not just later Heinlein, either; go back and look at Beyond This Horizon). As it happens, I like some of those books, too, and what I learn from them, and from thousands of other books, is that what matters isn’t the presence of a carefully-engineered, structurally sound “plot.” What matters is whether a book entrances us into reading it or forces us to decode it—and “plot” is just one of several methods of getting us into the reading trance. It’s a good method. It’s not the only one.

Teresa has observed that “plot is a literary convention; story is a force of nature.” But that’s only a sidebar to what I’m saying, because “story” isn’t the only way a book can entrance us, either. Sometimes it’s just the voice. A sensibility. The promise of knowledge we urgently want. Sometimes it’s the way a book flatters us, and sometimes it’s because it hurts us, but in just the right way. (Seductions don’t all work by a single means; why should we expect books to?) My point is this: We don’t read plots. We read books. Some of them captivate us; many don’t. Plot is one way to captivate us, but there are far too many uninteresting books with perfectly-formed plots, and fascinating books with defective or stunted plots, to support an argument that Plot is the magic juice that makes good books good.

I said that Grossman is getting at something real. Cheney is right when he says:

Lev Grossman sez: “Old hierarchies of taste are collapsing. Genres are hybridizing.” This is called The History of the Novel. Those two statements could have been made at any time during the last 300 years at least.
Quite right. And yet, it’s worth talking about the specifics; what’s actually happening between particular readers and particular books. Imagine: Conversations about actual books! Instead of grudge matches about somebody else’s imagined (or even real) snobbery! We could even try believing one another when we talk about why we find certain things cool. Instead of making up narratives about straw men. It’s a crazy idea, but it might be worth a try.

UPDATE: Evil Monkey weighs in.

Flash of insight: swift, blinding, pointless
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:09 AM * 56 comments

Saints were the Pokémon of the Middle Ages.

August 28, 2009
Robert M. Fletcher of Boca Raton, Scammer. Part IV
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:55 PM * 24 comments

The Broward-Palm Beach New Times has this: In Boca, Even the Book Publishers Are Fraud Suspects.

Both Publishers Weekly and The Bookseller have picked up the story of Robert “Strategic Book Group” Fletcher’s ignominious rout in his long-threatened, but utterly baseless, lawsuit.

From the PW story, we find:

Although PW was unable to reach Fletcher by phone, he responded to several e-mails. Fletcher defended himself, claiming that the lawsuit was “a waste of corporate resources so I killed it.” Fletcher agreed industry self-regulation is important, but asked, “What happens when a company or individual is wrongly tagged? It is… impossible to remove negative comments about a company, even if proved baseless.” According to Fletcher, his company has published more than 1,000 authors and sold 50,000 books, acting as a “blend of a traditional publisher and AuthorSolutions” wherein some manuscripts are published following a traditional model and others are published through a joint-venture subsidy program. He charges a flat rate of $895, and writers are told the cost up front.

Robert is not being exactly forthcoming: Both sides of his house are pure vanity publication. The only thing “traditional” about them is that vanity presses have traditions too. And the 50 copies per author that he’s boasting of is below pathetic.

But what of the lawsuit? The one of which the judge said, “This Court concludes and finds that this case was brought in bad faith by the plaintiffs for the mere purpose of causing great inconvenience and financial costs to Crispin and Strauss (as set out in Fletcher’s pre-lawsuit e-mails to the defendants, Crispin and Strauss). This case is frivolous and this Court finds so, finds that the two plaintiffs and their lawyer, Jerrold G. Neeff, knew it to be frivolous before it even commenced.”

I’m attaching the full text here, as a series of PDFs.


Exhibit A


I, ROBERT FLETCHER, do hereby depose and state as follows:

1. I am the principal of the Literary Agency Group, a company whose mission is to dedicate and provide quality services to authors.

If he had been providing “quality services” to anyone he wouldn’t be in this trouble to start with. And I love that “I am the principal of the Literary Agency Group” when he’d been claiming for years (via various sockpuppets, pseudonyms, and fake identities) that no one named Fletcher was associated with The Literary Agency Group (TLAG/LAG).
2. We use the Internet as our primary vehicle for providing these services.

3. In the age of the Internet, the venue has become a key resource to authors everywhere; as such, our reputation in cyberspace is integral to our success.

4. The Defendants’ publications are false and defamatory and have been devastating to our business.

Devastating? Score one for the good guys! As to “false and defamatory,” not so much. And that reputation is one he worked hard for, he earned, and now he owns.
5. I have had at least 100 potential clients, including those in Massachusetts, tell me that they were interested in doing business but have declined to [sic] due to the disparaging postings by the Defendants and I do hereby attest to the integrity of providing those reproductions of same as they are attached to the Motion papers.
Just 100? Darn it! We’ve got to work harder.

(Yo, Bobby! Editing is important, even in legal filings. Did you proofread?)

6. I have also had several clients seek reimbursement of fees for services provided after finding these postings.
Score! Those “services provided” were worthless.
7. I estimate that these defamatory postings which have spread rampantly throughout cyberspace have cost us approximately $25,000 per month in lost revenue.
$25,000 per month? Really? This is a damaging admission. Fletcher claims in his advertising that “we only get paid when you get paid.” Yet he also claims (via a sockpuppet) that, in nearly ten years in operation, “We now have 4 deals.” Those four deals are minor at best. (One that he doesn’t mention went to PublishAmerica for a presumed $1.00 advance, putting another $0.15 in his pocket). So where’s the money coming from? In publishing there are exactly two sources of cash: From the readers, or from the authors. He’s admitting here that he’s getting money from authors, and he’s admitting that he’s getting a lot. All that money, and next-to-nothing from sales.
8. The defamatory publications posted by the Defendants have caused clear irreparable harm and will continue to do so if not removed.
I think of it as saving authors from clear irreparable harm.


(Woo! Perjury! Are you sure you want to do that, Bobby?)

I wonder if someone could look more closely at this Affidavit and maybe find some more charges against Bobby for that day when he stands in front of a judge. Well, for starters, calling the posts “false and defamatory” is a lie, and Fletcher knew it was a lie, because he knows his own business and he knows that we’ve been telling the truth about him and his businesses.

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.

Open thread 129
Posted by Teresa at 12:06 PM *

129 is the atomic number of Unbiennium, an element which has yet to be discovered.

It is also the number of one of the more distinctive teachings in the Doctrine and Covenants.

August 26, 2009
Posted by Patrick at 02:06 PM * 139 comments

Flaws and all, he was probably the greatest senator in American history. Ezra Klein:

There is an impulse to honor the dead by erasing the sharp edges of their life. To ensure they belong to all of us, and in doing, deprive them of the dignity conferred by their actual choices, their lonely stands, and their long work. But Ted Kennedy didn’t belong to all of us. He didn’t even belong to all Democrats. He was not of the party that voted for more than a trillion in unfunded tax cuts but cannot bring itself to pay for health-care reform. He was not of the party that fears the next election more than the next failure to help America’s needy. Rather, he belonged to the party of Medicare and Medicaid, the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Civil Rights Act and immigration reform. He belonged to the party that sought to advance the conditions and opportunities of the least among us. He was, as Harold Meyerson says, “the senior senator from Massachusetts and for all the excluded in American life.”

The General Lousiness of Everything, Account’d For
Posted by Patrick at 12:07 AM * 67 comments

Kieran Healy explains:

[A]s a famous paper by Kruger and Sunning showed, people who are bad at what they do are generally also incapable of understanding that they suck—and this directly contributes to inflated self-perception. So, incompetence tends to make people cocky and people prefer cocky judgements over demonstrated expertise, which is pretty much the worst of both worlds.

August 24, 2009
Op anger tale
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:02 PM * 75 comments

Something Old

The Dutch are famed for, among other things, their excellent command of English. Children here start studying it at the age of ten or so, though they have generally been exposed to it on TV and in music from a much earlier age.

What very few people outside of the Netherlands realize is that, for a substantial proportion of the population outside the Randstad, English is not the second language, but the third. The old dialects and regional languages are still the mother tongues of children in many parts of the country, most particularly in Friesland and Limburg.

Fans of Eddie Izzard know all about Frisian already. I’m more closely acquainted with Limburgs dialect, since my better half grew up in those parts. (He doesn’t speak dialect, but it sounds like home to him.)

Limburgs is old. We have written examples of it from about 1170. But it isn’t a single entity; there are actually over 550 dialects, pretty much one for every village and hamlet in an area that covers the southernmost province of the Netherlands, parts of northern Belgium, and a fair chunk of land in Germany. It has something under two million speakers, for most of whom it is the modertaol, the mother tongue. It’s the language they speak at home and at the local bakery1, the tongue of lovers and mothers and talkers in sleep. Dutch is for school, for work, for outsiders.

So it has been for nearly a thousand years.

Something New

Then into this descendant of Babel comes the internet.

More specifically, in comes a Limburgs Wikipedia. The ‘pedia has an entire policy for creating versions in different languages2, and many Dutch dialects and regional languages have their own.

But creating a Wikipedia in a language like Limburgs isn’t easy. First off, most Limburgs speakers are barely literate in the language. They all learned to read in Dutch, remember, because that was the school language. This is both a practical and a psychological barrier, and the page on writing in the language (which also has a Dutch version) is written in very reassuring style:3

How do I write in Limburgs?
Many Limburgers ask themselves that when they read books, newspapers, or other material in Limburgs. Speaking it isn’t a problem, but writing it? We only learned to write Dutch in school. In the beginning it may be a problem to even figure out what it says here! And it’s even harder to learn to write well. Nevertheless, anyone who speaks Limburgs can, in principle, write it. You can find a few easy tips for doing so on this page.

The other major problem that the Limburgs Wikipedia has is that there isn’t one single master dialect4. Every village has its own usages, its own terms and grammatical quirks.

There is an ongoing attempt to create something called Algemein Gesjreve Limburgs, a kind of lingua franca of Limburg dialects. The common articles in the Limburgs Wikipedia are written using it (including Wie shrief ich Limburgs itself). But since very few Limburgers seem to use AGL as a regular thing5, it would constitute another barrier to contributions.

So the Limburg Wikipedia has taken another tack6. Each article is written in the dialect of the original author, which is marked at the top of the page. Subsequent contributors try to match the article dialect in small corrections, and trust that a native speaker will fix any mistakes they make.

But sometimes a contributor will want to add or change a significant portion of text—a paragraph or more. In that case, they can write the paragraph in their own dialect, and tag it appropriately. So you can have an article whose head and foot are written in ‘t Mestreechs (Maastricht dialect) but whose inner paragraphs are in ‘t Norbiks (from Noorbeek, about 20 kilometers to the southeast).

(Irony: The article on Lucius Ferenius is blank.)


There’s no real point to this. I just enjoy seeing people do neat things op anger tale (in different languages).

  1. My first sight of written Limburgs was on a pastry box in Voerendaal, which we brought to lunch with one of Martin’s high school friends.
  2. The only omission there that surprises me is Láadan [fixed, thank you, ACW]
  3. Many other dialect Wikipedias have similarly gentle pages. It’s clearly a pervasive problem for languages in these niches.
  4. It shares this with even the largest of Wikipedias, of course.
  5. Actually, in this, they’re not far off the rest of the Dutch. There is an official spelling reference from 2005 (‘t Groene Boekje), which is almost universally snubbed in favor of an unofficial alternative (‘t Witte Boekje).
  6. In common with the West Vlaams Wikipedia, but not the Frisian, Nedersaksisch or Zeelands ones.

That Was Weird
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:20 PM *

I just got an unusual phone call. Caller ID said it was from Clearwater, Florida, and the number was 1-727-475-2550.

It went like this:

Ring ring ring

Me: Hello?

Caller: Mr. Macdonald?

Me: Yeah?

Caller: This is the Reader’s Digest Customer Satisfaction office. I’m calling about your subscription to Reader’s Digest.

(Note: I have never had a subscription to Reader’s Digest.)

Me: Tell me about my subscription to Reader’s Digest.

Caller: Are you still receiving it at [address]?

Me: Who are you, really?

Click. Bzzzzzz.

August 21, 2009
An Expansion on Palliative Care
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:44 PM * 213 comments

I’m promoting this from PNH’s Sidelights: The utter venality of the chattering-class “yes, but” stance (a blog post by Kevin Drum at Mother Jones which I recommend you all read, for it has many intelligent things to say). The story includes this two-paragraph quote from Charles Krauthammer:

So why get Medicare to pay the doctor to do the counseling? Because we know that if this white-coated authority whose chosen vocation is curing and healing is the one opening your mind to hospice and palliative care, we’ve nudged you ever so slightly toward letting go.

It’s not an outrage. It’s surely not a death panel. But it is subtle pressure applied by society through your doctor. And when you include it in a health-care reform whose major objective is to bend the cost curve downward, you have to be a fool or a knave to deny that it’s intended to gently point the patient in a certain direction, toward the corner of the sickroom where stands a ghostly figure, scythe in hand, offering release.

I’m going to comment on this based on my perspective as a health-care professional who has seen more than one person die (in many ways, from relatively good, to bad, to horrible), and as a man who sat at his mother’s bedside for a month as she lay dying with cancer: Whether Charles Krauthammer likes it or not, we are all going to die. That “ghostly figure, scythe in hand,” is waiting at the end of every path.

And on that day, I promise you, you, or your nearest and dearest and best beloved, are going to wish to God that you had taken the time to make some plans and communicate those plans to others.

Here’s another point that Charles Krauthammer may not have thought of: In health care, if insurance doesn’t pay for it, it doesn’t happen. So denying insurance payments for a discussion now is saying, “You’re going to have to make health care decisions in a rush, in emotional and physical distress, and possibly you won’t get what you wanted because you can’t communicate at all.”

Robert M. Fletcher, Part III: Spammer and Scammer
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:21 AM * 33 comments

Fletcher has been urging his victims authors for some time to advertise their Strategic Book Group (Strategic Book Publishing and Eloquent Books) books with comment spam on message boards.

How it works is this: He’d tell them to put in Google Alerts for keywords based on their book. Then, when one of those keywords came up and they got the e-mail alert, go to the place and (if there’s a comment thread) post their ad. You can, in fact, find comment spam for (and presumably from) Eloquent and Strategic authors all over the web. (With the usual success that such spam has in selling books that aren’t in stores: that is, negligible.)

Now he’s doing the same thing with his employees (allegedly around fifty of ‘em), urging them to spam with this letter that he has allegedly sent them:

To: All

From: Robert

Re: Please help us reduce our dependence on Google Advertising by posting this blurb whenever appropriate.

Many of us surf the web and as we do, we might see opportunities to post the following information about our company. If you see a place to “put us into the list” would you please do so? (Adding a comment like, “this is the company I work for and I am proud of what we are accomplishing” would be nice. Of course, just posting it is fine too).

Here is the publishing version:

“Strategic Book Publishing (SBP) is a member of the Strategic Book Group ( . Our imprints, Strategic Publishing and Eloquent Books, have published over 1000 authors in the last twenty-four months in all genres, including children’s books. The Strategic Book Group also includes a Literary Agency, Kindle and eBook Consulting, Writers Services, a Book-To-Film Division, and a global foreign rights department. When asked what Strategic does better than their competition, their CEO states, “Frankly, our book marketing division is better than anyone’s. We are selling a ton of books for our authors in bookstores, in non-traditional locations, and around the world. We attend the major trade shows in NY, London, and Germany with our authors, and we are on top of all social media and traditional marketing techniques”. Our exhibit at the Book Expo in NY was a resounding success! We had a double booth and numerous authors attended with us. Here are some great pictures.…albumview=grid
For more information please visit

Here is the marketing version:

“Strategic Book Marketing (SBM) is a member of the Strategic Book Group which has published over 1000 authors in the last 24 months in all genres, including children’s books. The Strategic Book Group also includes Kindle and eBook Consulting, Writers Services, a Book-To-Film Division, and a global foreign rights department. When asked what Strategic does better than their competition, their CEO states, “Frankly, our book marketing division is better than anyone’s. We are selling a ton of books for our authors in bookstores, in non-traditional locations, and around the world. We attend the major trade shows in NY, London, and Germany with our authors, and we are on top of all social media and traditional marketing techniques”. Our exhibit at the Book Expo in NY was a resounding success! We had a double booth and numerous authors attended with us. Here are some great pictures.…albumview=grid
For more information please visit

Here is the Agency version.

The Literary Agency Group (,,, is a member of the Strategic Book Group which has published over 1000 authors in the last 24 months in all genres, including children’s books. The Strategic Book Group also includes Kindle and eBook Consulting, Writers Services, a Book-To-Film Division, and a global foreign rights department. When asked what Strategic does better than their competition, their CEO states, “We are selling a ton of books for our authors in bookstores, in non-traditional locations, and around the world. We attend the major trade shows in NY, London, and Germany with our authors, and we are on top of all social media and traditional marketing techniques to spread the word about their work”. Our exhibit at the Book Expo in NY was a resounding success! We had a double booth and numerous authors attended with us. Here are some great pictures.…albumview=grid
For more information please visit

Also, you will notice the move to Strategic Book Group. We are going to slowly but surely move to that as a corporate holding company. We need a better name than AEG, so that’s where it is headed. My goal is to LOAD GOOGLE WITH Strategic Book Group before it has a chance to get on the negative message boards, so the more postings the better.

Ps. For every group of 5 places that you post us, we’ll give you a thank you bonus of $25. Send the URL list to and they will account for it there. If you want to post for hours to hundreds of places and make a lot of extra money, that’s fine with me, there are no limits to this offer. This will be some of the best marketing money we will spend.

Ps. If you have any other marketing or revenue producing ideas, please don’t hesitate to email me.. That’s my job, revenue creation.

This could mean several things. Perhaps Fletcher can’t pay the Google bills any more (he’s all over AdSense and has to pay for all those clicks). Perhaps Google is about to shut him down, since his operation is fraudulent and if Google ever sees the judge’s order describing it that way … anyone know Google’s Terms of Service?

And there’s the change to the new name (Strategic Book Group). That might mean that AEG has worn out their welcome, with too much information on them on the web, so it’s time to move on to a new name. Or it could mean that one or another of the pre-existing AEGs out there have whacked him for trademark infringment.

Be that as it may, one way we can judge the authenticity of that supposed letter from “Rob” is that Googling on key phrases turns up that comment spam actually being posted.

[UPDATE: 03SEP09: Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against “Literary Company”]

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 20, 2009
Papier-blogging le Congrès Mondial
Posted by Avram Grumer at 05:40 PM * 17 comments

I came home from Worldcon to some hard drive trouble. All fixed now, but it was the work of days to track down the problem and solve it, and it wasn’t till last night that I finally had Photoshop and my scanner drivers reinstalled.

Basilique Notre-Dame
Creative Commons License
This image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

As with last year, there’s a drawing of a church. Also continuing last year’s tradition, a drawing of a caffeinated beverage.

I’m not as happy with this year’s batch of sketches. Last year I used a Moleskine 3½x5½ʺ pocket sketchbook; this year a Hand•Book 5½ʺ square sketchbook. Maybe I’m better off with the smaller sketchbook? Maybe the cream-colored Moleskine paper makes everything look better? Probably I just need more practice.

Here’s the full set on Flickr, here’s the set for last year’s Worldcon in Denver, and here’s last year’s Making Light entry with some background on sketchblogging at conventions.

Touching back to principles
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:55 PM *

This quote, from a widely forwarded article in the (British) Guardian, got me thinking about a picture wider than just health insurance.

In the US, the greatest restriction on personal freedom that I have ever encountered in my own life, or witnessed in the lives of friends, all comes down to health insurance. Creative, innovative, talented people are unable to change jobs because they need the insurance. Small companies collapse because they cannot afford employee insurance. People die because they do not have insurance.
—American expat Bee Lavender, contrasting US health insurance and the NHS

I agree…in part. I actually think it’s bigger than that. From my perspective, living overseas, Americans seem whipsawed by a combination of two things: very poor employment protection (“at will” employment in particular) and the way that health insurance is tied to employment. The government may not be able to restrict your freedom of speech or your pursuit of happiness, but your employer certainly can.

Thus am I a progressive.

Conservatives1 seem to feel that the only real threats to individual liberty are those that have existed since the foundation of the nation (in other words, government malfeasance). While I agree that power-grabs by governments2 are a menace to personal liberty, I don’t think they’re the only one—or even the worst. I think we face additional threats now, and that we need to find appropriate tools to combat them. We need, in short, to progress, because the dangers to our liberty haven’t stood still.

And the emergent danger to personal liberty that I see, the threat of our time? The fundamental imbalance between the individual and the corporation. Corporate power distorts our lives, from DRM and the struggle over net neutrality, through the health insurance/employment trap and all the way to the power of lobbyists and the ownership of news media. What ordinary individual would have the resources to pursue a grievance against a large company? Who could hold his patent or his impolitic truth against one determined to pursue him3?

The two ways to address this imbalance are to limit corporate power and to strengthen the individual. And the tool to use in both of these efforts is government; nothing else has the standing or power to do it. Enforcing antitrust laws, strengthening union protections, and yes, reforming health insurance would all create real improvements in individual liberty. (Unfortunately, the use of government as a tool to enhance liberty is anathema to conservatives, focused as they are on the eighteenth-century threat alone.)

If we lose this health insurance battle—or even if we win it—I’m still a progressive. I’ll still be pushing to right the balance. I expect to work on it all my life.

  1. I’m talking about real principled conservatives here, not theocons or neocons, corporate shills or red-state tribalists.
  2. All governments are prone to this, from the US to the former Eastern Bloc
  3. I worked for a while with a sister of one of the McLibel defendants. I know how bad it can get.

August 18, 2009
I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:07 PM * 102 comments

We all hear talk of the ruinous tax rates in Europe as opposed to the US. I mean, us poor oppressed Europeans are at least supposed to get something for the vast sums we give our socialist, corrupt and limp-wristed governments, of course, but they say we pay a lot.

So let’s lay it out, shall we? Nothing too revealing, of course, but maybe I could get some of you to dig back to your files from tax season and give me some representative percentages (no concrete numbers, please).

What I would be interested in knowing, if anyone wants to join my rough and ready survey, is the following:

  1. Effective tax rate: (g - n) / g
  2. Effective rate of taxes plus health costs: ((g - n) + (i + o))/g


  • g = gross pay
  • n = net pay after federal (or equivalent), state (or equivalent) and niggling little (e.g. FICA) taxes
  • i = health insurance costs
  • o = out of pocket health costs

It would also be interesting, if you wanted, to note the country and state you live in, the number of hours you work a week, and anything else that might be of interest to someone trying to get a feel for these things.

I will, of course, start. I’ll use the latest tax figures I have for the two tax regimes I’ve lived in in the recent past.

August 16, 2009
Robert Fletcher, Literary Scammer, Part II
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:45 PM * 113 comments

I’d wondered why Fletcher had filed his wholly insubstantial, frivolous and not advanced in good faith lawsuit when he did. My thinking is that he did it to cover the launch of Strategic Book Publishing / Eloquent Books / Strategic Book Marketing / AEG Publishing Group. Perhaps he figured that if he could silence the watchdogs for a year he’d have a better time getting the next stage of his scam going.

Alas for him, when those vanity presses rolled out it was intuitively obvious what they were, and the warnings were going up, long before it became clear that this was Fletcher’s latest fraud.

One of the chief points against Fletcher-the-Agent (New York Literary Agency, Writer’s Literary Agency, Children’s Literary Agency, Poets Literary Agency, etc. etc.) was that he demonstrably couldn’t sell books to publishers. But if he owned a publisher….

The difference between Strategic Book Publishing and Eloquent Books is this: Strategic Book Publishing pretends to be a “traditional” publisher—no fees to the author—provided the author agrees to buy five copies per week at full retail price. Eloquent Books, on the other hand, pretends to be a “joint venture” publisher, where the author and the publisher each put up half of the cost. But since Eloquent Books authors typically send Fletcher (under one or another of his names) a thousand bucks plus in advance, it’s clear that they’re paying the whole freight plus a nice profit for Fletcher.

And, naturally enough, clients of various of Fletcher’s fraudulent literary agencies would be told that they’d found a publisher! Glory, hallelujah, a publishing deal at last! Without, of course, mentioning that the same people owned both the publisher and the agency.

Also typically Fletcher, he had a form letter ginned up to send to disgruntled authors. Here it is:

Thank you for requesting more information about all that information you found on the web. Recently, we were interviewed by a very known web-writer named DeleriousGirl, and this is the text of the interview. I think you will find it interesting, to say the least.


The Naked Truth Interview: Is WL and AEG a Scam?

Copyright 2008-2009. This interview may be reproduced only in its entirety.


DeleriousGirl (DG) decides to see what is really going on with the merger between one of most vocally discussed and denounced literary agency and publisher companies on the internet, the WL Literary Agency Group, and AEG Strategic & Eloquent Publishing.

First point, there really is a DeliriousGirl, but as a “well-known web writer” you’d need FBI assistance to find anything she’d written. She was an employee of Fletcher’s (although he was lax in getting around to paying her) at the time of this “interview.” The second point is that DeliriousGirl didn’t write the interview. Fletcher did; questions and answers both. It’s filled with his verbal tics. And he got confused at various times about who he was supposed to be.

More, far more, below the cut.

[UPDATE: 03SEP09: Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against “Literary Company”]

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 15, 2009
More Moose Festival
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:00 PM * 31 comments

Remember how much fun you had at last year’s Moose Festival? Well, this year’s Moose Festival is coming up in just two weeks, and it isn’t too late to make your plans.

There’ll be the same stuff, only more, and bigger, and better! The two-week forecast says partly sunny with highs in the seventies and lows in the fifties for all three days. It’s gonna be nice.

The last two years we’ve even had a US Congressman walking the streets, shaking hands, and asking folks how’re they doing.

What’s new? Helicopter rides! 11:00 am to 7:00 pm Friday from behind the Bridge Street Gym. That’s just down from the Trinity Methodist Church and the Town Hall and the Civil War Memorial. Trinity United Methodist is where the Quilt Show is going to be (1:00-6:00 pm, so you can check ‘em out while you’re waiting for your helicopter ride).

There’s going to be a Moose Tour to Averill, VT, and I can guarantee that you’ll see a moose or two (and a caribou, and a bison cow or so…. well, maybe not the caribou, but if you swing out by Errol they’re raising bison over there).

Saturday, the Berlin 17-piece Jazz Band will be over in Canaan, VT, at the Canaan Community Park from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm (though they’ll break from 1:00-2:00 so they won’t have to compete with the Moose Calling Contest). And, helicopter rides! And balloon animals for the kiddies! And pony rides! But the big new thing will be a hike up to Table Rock in Dixville Notch. That’s a rugged little hike, but from the top you can see two countries, three states, and the place where we have the First-in-the-Nation Balloting every election day. If you’re going to go hike Table Rock register by calling 603-538-6777 or e-mail prospmw[at]localnet[dot]com.

Sunday (in addition to the usual), there’ll be guided hikes around Lake Francis. Meet at the parking lot of Young’s Store on Rt. 3 north of Pittsburg Village at 9:30 a.m. and bring plenty of water and bug spray. Pre-registration as above.

Did I mention Bobo the Clown? Bobo will definitely be on hand Friday and Saturday. And while I can’t guarantee that they’ll be back, last year we had a couple of Mormon Missionaries walking the streets with looks of absolute wonder on their faces.

So come on up to the North Country. We make our fun the old-fashioned way—we make it ourselves, only we have helicopter rides and pony rides and clowns and congressmen. Boy, howdy! Only a four-hour drive from Boston for a taste of real old-fashioned Yankee tourist squeezing.

Places to stay locally range from B&Bs to tourist cabins to motels. Or even The Balsams.

And really, seriously, where else are you going to get Moose Burger BBQ and craft-made mosquitoes constructed from gen-u-ine moose dung?

Fighting fire with fire: an email forward
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:01 AM *

You know those political email forwards one gets from relatives? Well, I got one from my father, but it didn’t originate from an anonymous source, exactly. I don’t know if it’s going to be effective; it looks a little too factual and verifiable to be a genuine political chain email.

Still, worth a read. It’s below the cut.

True Tales of Health Insurance
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:01 AM *

From the Weekend Reformer (Brattleboro, VT), August 8-9, 2009:

BELLOWS FALLS — A former LeFevre Ambulance Service employee is accusing the company of stealing the insurance payments from his paycheck to help make payroll, leading the insurance company to cancel his policy.

Gregory Malone received a letter from MVP Health Care telling him that his policy was terminated just after his wife gave birth to the couple’s first child.

Now, with bills piling up for the mother and child due to complications brought on from the birth, Malone is talking to local, state and federal authorities to try to get the company to back pay the insurance money to get the coverage for his wife and child.

“I did everything I was supposed to do. I made the payments every week,” Malone said as he pointed to the line on past payroll stubs showing that $151.52 was taken out. “But where did the money go?”

Malone said LeFevre Ambulance Director David Booth admitted that a former office employee had used the insurance payments to help meet the company’s financial obligations, and according to Malone, the company promised to get the past due payments to MVP Healthcare.

The story continues, and only gets worse.

“Our baby needs surgery and the bills are piling up,” Malone said. “The surgery needs to happen and we don’t have the money to pay for it.”

“We don’t know what else to do. We don’t want the money back, we just need the coverage,” she [Malone’s wife] said. “We’re worried about our baby. We already owe $22,000 and we don’t have $22,000. If they don’t take care of this, we are really going to be in trouble.”

The story was reported by Howard Weiss-Tisman, hwtisman [at] reformer [dot] com, (802) 254-2311 ext 279, if anyone needs more details. The AP hasn’t picked this up. A Google News search shows only this one story in one tiny local newspaper.

Bellows Falls is a town of 3,000 in south-eastern Vermont, on the New Hampshire border, not too far from Massachusetts. I recommend the Miss Bellows Falls Diner, if you happen to be in town for some reason (say, to interview a guy who needs health insurance).

August 14, 2009
Panels and parlor games
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:55 PM * 119 comments

So all you lucky devils went to Worldcon and I didn’t. And now I get to read panel reports, which are always both fun and tantalizingly vague.

So let’s have a game of it. What fictional characters would you put on a panel, what would you have them talk about, and how would the panel go, do you think? I’ll start off with three.

The Doctor’s Dilemma

Doctors have been part of ships crews and household staffs for centuries. But there is an essential tension between the close involvement in a team, particularly a combat team, and the Hippocratic Oath. Sometimes the doctor’s obligation to “first do no harm” is even in direct conflict with the aims of his colleagues. How does one square the demands of duty and vocation?

  • Leonard McCoy, MD
  • Simon Tam, MD
  • John Watson, MD*
  • Stephen Maturin, MD
  • Wellington Yueh, IC Suk

I went to this one mostly to see Dr McCoy and Simon together. I gather that they met for the first time in the panel, but they have similarly pragmatic approaches.

Unfortunately, Simon is not much of a panelist. He simply couldn’t get any of his points across, and Watson, as moderator, seemed unable to fathom his problem. Dr Yueh was also rather quiet; I think he took the topic of conversation rather personally. In the end, Dr McCoy and Dr Maturin carried the discussion and, inevitably, they drifted pretty far from the topic.

On the good side, they each know some very interesting drink recipes. Unfortunately, they don’t have much of an overlap on available ingredients, and the conversation quickly turned into a chemistry lesson. They left fairly quickly after the panel. I think I saw them heading for the bar.

Telepathy and Coercion

The line between reading minds and influencing them is a thin one indeed. Sometimes just knowing what others think can give a telepath the edge; other times the TP will step across the bounds of the self. Where are the ethical boundaries? Do teeps have a greater responsibility to respect others’ privacy because of their powers, or, alternatively, do their Gifts exempt them from traditional ethics when they have unique ways of pursing the greater good?

  • Jean Grey
  • Col Carl Jenkins
  • Marc Remillard*
  • Telzey Amberdon
  • Talia Winters

I’m a deadhead myself, but I thought it might be interesting to hear an exposition of the issues here. So I went into the room and sat down. And the panel never said a word.

Their body language said they were communicating. The glanced back and forth at one another, nodded, frowned, shrugged and gesticulated. Everyone laughed at Marc once or twice, while he maintained a half-serious poker face.

After a while, I got up and wandered off, disappointed. I’ve emailed the ConCom about the availability of interpreters, but since the contact address was, I don’t hold out a lot of hope of a satisfactory answer.

The Captain’s Lounge

Captaining a space ship is a unique challenge, and each captain has his or her own way of tackling it. Listen to five of the best and most savvy of the breed swap anecdotes and strategies.

  • Miles Vorkosigan
  • Han Solo
  • Malcolm Reynolds*
  • Kathryn Janeway
  • Roj Blake

I wasn’t sure this panel was going to go at all smoothly, since it was made up of two military officers and three rebels. But I was confident that it would be interesting.

Well, it was interesting. Fortunately, Miles seemed to be in Admiral Naismith mode (his Betan accent sounds really strange if you’re used to hearing him be Barryaran), and Janeway is more laid-back than most Starfleet captains. Her first officer was a rebel himself, after all.

Blake was definitely the odd one out of the group. It became clear that he considered himself a rebel first and a captain later; I suspect that all the best stories from that crew would have come from Avon. Oddly enough, it was Janeway, the officer, who seemed the best cushion between him and the rest of the panel. I’d have expected Han to be a better match for him, but apparently he took Blake’s acid comment about “having an asshole of a first officer” as some kind of a slight on Chewie and ignored him for the rest of the session.

I was impressed at Captain Reynolds’ moderation skills. Both Han and Miles tried, at various points, to get him on their side (so he would allow them to talk over the others). But he was having none of it. Although he told the fewest stories, his practical example of captaincy was fascinating. I learned a lot.

However, in the end, even he could not get Miles to slow down and let others have their say. On the other hand, if he had, we would not have been treated to that manic final anecdote about the load of worthless rocks he was paid a fortune to smuggle from one airless moon to another, which he delivered from on top of the table.

Shame they ran out of time and had to cancel questions.

August 11, 2009
Been lied to so long you wouldn’t know the truth if it came up and kissed you on the mouth
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:59 PM *

I’ve been reading defenses of the current US health insurance/care system multi-tentacled soul-destroying monster. Not the official ones, the paid ones, but the ordinary people who are arguing for a status quo that could bankrupt or kill them at any time. And there’s a certain familiarity to them.

You know the sort of thing I mean. Suggestions about eating right and getting exercise so that you don’t get sick, and thus don’t need coverage. Swapping tips about working within the system, which “isn’t so bad” if you know what you’re doing. Financial calculations that “prove” that the money simply isn’t there for good health care for everyone. What do they sound like?

Vanity press authors.

Specifically, the ones in that awkward middle stage between the first flush of enthusiasm (“Got my dollar!”) and the final embittered realization that they’ve been had. (Here are some examples, readily refuted for your convenience.)

It’s all there. Urging patience with publishers who stop communicating once the check’s cleared. Helpful tips about arranging one’s own signing tours (it isn’t so bad, apparently). And the constant rubbishing of the advances and publicity that authors get from “traditional publishers”.

Maybe it’s some weird combination of Stockholm syndrome and sunk cost reasoning. Or maybe they’ve taken the line about how “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” a little further than even life in this vale of tears really requires.

Whatever you call it, it’s a natural reaction to a certain type of mistreatment (the points practically rewrite themselves to apply to insurance and medical care, don’t they?)

So what strategies, O Pursuers of Fraud in the Publishing Industry, can we use in conversations with these people?

Robert M. Fletcher, Literary Scammer
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:09 PM *

More on Robert M. Fletcher (and I will have yet more to say about him).

Fletcher and his various scams have been mentioned here before:

What isn’t generally known is that Robert M. Fletcher sued me, and Ann Crispin and Victoria Strauss. My post that particularly got under his skin was this one; I know this because he quoted it in his frivolous lawsuit:

This agency is an utter fraud.

What will Poet’s Literary Agency do for you? They’ll betray, bluff, burn, cheat, chisel, con, deceive, delude, diddle, double-cross, dupe, entice, exploit, finesse, flimflam, gyp, have, hoodwink, impose on, jockey, juggle, lure, manipulate, mislead, play, rook, rope in, scam, screw, seduce, shave, snow, stick, string along, suck in, take, take in, and trick you.

The Ann Crispin/Victoria Strauss portion appears to be over.

See (for the moment):

The complete text of the court order requiring Fletcher to pay Ann and Victoria’s legal expenses is below the cut. Highlight:
Over time, Fletcher used over ten names for publishing operations under the umbrella of the AEG Publishing Group. Basically, Fletcher and LAG were running a fraud by charging fees for all services while falsely giving hope to the authors that Fletcher and LAG would find a publisher for their book.

UPDATE 20AUG09 They’re changing their name (again!) to Strategic Book Group

Continued below the cut.

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 07, 2009
Making Lumiere: The Changelog
Posted by Patrick at 04:44 PM * 138 comments


After a brief pause for station identification to move the plums to a different icebox, the party has been restarted in the Lower level, room Cartier A and B.

(Abi, who may rejoin in a bit after the Kid Incident is resolved)

Originally planned for room 631 of the Delta hotel, then moved to room 2831, the Worldcon Making Light party will now happen in room 2131. Adjust your ordinateurs accordingly.

I’m sure there’s a very entertaining story behind all the moving around. I’m just passing on what I’ve been told. As you know, Bob, we’re not running this shindig; we’ll just be there.


(Above: Seth Breidbardt, Paul Krugman, and Tom Doherty at last night’s Tor party.)

August 06, 2009
Life affords few such opportunities
Posted by Patrick at 12:53 PM *

For complicated reasons, we wound up driving the Hugo Award bases up to Montreal in the trunk of our rented car. (Just the bases, not the plaques; neither we nor our pre-Worldcon house guest Dave Howell, who designed this year’s bases, have any idea who won.)

Right now those bases are still in our car. Soon Dave will come and take them away. But for just a little while, we can truly say to the Worldcon—indeed, to the entire science fiction community—that all your base are belong to us.

August 05, 2009
Shooting Back
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 02:01 PM *

The DNC, for a wonder, isn’t taking the latest wingnut assaults on freedom and democracy lying down.

August 04, 2009
Pushing back
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:36 PM * 322 comments

I gather from the Interwebs that August is going to be a heavy month for health politics. The fight back against any change to the way that America deals with health care and health insurance is starting now, and it’s going to be intense.

They’re going to say it can’t be done, that health insurance and health care are inevitably expensive. They’re going to shriek about rationing, and ignore the fact that the US already rations health care on the basis of ability to pay—one of the most barbaric and obscene metrics conceivable.

And they’re going to say that health care in the rest of the world isn’t really that good. That the American system, for all its flaws, is the best there can be.


I am 39 years old. I lived in the UK for a decade and a half, and have been in the Netherlands for just over two years. The two countries differ enormously in the ways that they ensure that their populations get medical care, but in both places, ordinary grumbles aside:

  1. I have never doubted whether I would receive any ordinary medical treatment that I would need*.
  2. Medical insurance and access to medical care has not been a significant factor in any decision in my life**.
  3. I feel that I get good value for my medical payments (direct or via taxation).

This is not extraordinary. This is the way the rest of the developed world lives.

Now, the British National Health Service gets a lot of bad press, but I am deeply fond of it. Even in the fairly scabby districts of Edinburgh where I lived, the medical care was good and humane. I had two children on the NHS, and got excellent ante-, peri- and post-natal care. But the NHS is the duckbilled platypus of the healthcare world; we won’t evolve its like again.

Meanwhile, here in the Netherlands, we have a heavily regulated‡ medical insurance market. Everyone is required by law to participate. I pay just over €200 per month to insure a family of four, including dental care (Yes, there are copays; no, they’re not much†).

I’ve discussed the health care/health insurance issue with my colleagues. The question they (along with the rest of the world) are asking is not “how can America afford to provide basic health care for its population?” It’s “How does America manage to pay so much for what it’s getting?” The amount of money that passes through the medical system in the US is not ordinary, not inevitable, and not necessary.

Don’t be bamboozled. Don’t be fooled. Don’t be lied to, discouraged, or shouted down. It is entirely possible for the vast majority of Americans to have decent and affordable medical care. For goodness’ sakes, the Belgians provide a decent standard of health care for their populace, and they took six months to form a government after their most recent election. And you’re supposed to believe that clunker meme?

Don’t give up. Fight for this like we fought for the election.

* I am ordinarily healthy. During those seventeen years, I have had one miscarriage, antaenatal care for two pregnancies, one Caesarian section, one ordinary birth, a blood transfusion, a cancer worry (turned out to be a lipoma), and physiotherapy for a torn shoulder ligament. My medical care has ranged from ordinarily vexing to highly satisfactory.
** Except for the decision not to return to the US while things remain the way they are.
‡ Regulation covers (among other things) the rates they are allowed to charge, the level of care they may offer, and the fact that they’re not allowed to capriciously deny cover after the fact.
† I had a root canal earlier this year, with an extra filling thrown in. It cost me a total of €465, about 75% of which the insurance company repaid.

Remember To Wear Your Brown Shirt
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:52 PM * 194 comments

…so people will know who you are.

Via Think Progress we have the Right-Wing Harassment Strategy that the Republicans are planning to use—are already using—in Town Hall meetings in order to disrupt and derail legitimate discussions. Their plan is to stop health-care reform. From a memo leaked from Freedomworks:

- Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”

- Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”

- Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

It’s nice of them to put this in writing.

This puts me in mind of nothing so much as the “Brooks Brothers Riot” that stopped the recount in Florida back in 2000. It’s the same astroturf right-wing-spin-machine paid lobby nonsense that brought us the “birthers” and the “teabaggers.”

And it’s the same set of tactics that brought us Nazi Germany.

[updated to add: from CNN]

You can watch video of these people following their memo:

Recently, for instance, Sen. Arlen Specter held a town hall meeting with Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary. In attempting to answer questions, they were shouted down by folks more interested in venting than discussing.

On the conservative FreedomWorks Web site, the display was headlined “Specter Gets Schooled.” Above the video of the event, the site says “… this is a must watch and a must emulate at town halls across the country over the next month.”

No, they weren’t “more interested in venting than discussing.” They were professional outside agitators whose mission wasn’t “venting,” it was silencing.

August 03, 2009
Melting point tester
Posted by Teresa at 02:53 PM *

Would anyone within earshot know of a working melting point tester the owner would be willing to sell for cheap? A friend of mine is looking for one.

August 02, 2009
Montreal by train
Posted by Avram Grumer at 06:25 PM *

Is anyone else going to be taking Amtrak to Montreal on Wednesday Aug 5th on the east coast? There’s only one train on that route per day (at least, going from NYC — the Adirondack), so if a bunch of us are going, we can all meet up and sit together. (Our reservations say we have “coach reserved seats”, but I think that just means we’re guaranteed to have seats, not that specific seats have been assigned to us.)

If anyone from further north is going to be joining the train en route, I suppose we might be able to figure out a way to post online which car we’re sitting in, but that would require more advanced technology than I’m planning on taking with me.

Also, anyone who’s taken this route before, how easy is it to get access to a table? I expect one of my traveling companions will be bringing some boardgames (and I may as well), and the trip is eleven hours long, and I want to play some more hands of the Dominion: Intrigue expansion, which needs a decent chunk of flat space. (My own Amtrak experience is limited to the Northeast Corridor.)

Making Light party at Worldcon
Posted by Patrick at 04:02 PM *

Not being organized by persons named Nielsen Hayden, although we’ll certainly be there. Friday night, 8:45 until all hours, Delta Centre-Ville Hotel. To obtain the room number, find one of us, or Kathryn-from-Sunnyvale, or Serge, or TexAnne, or any of the several other volunteers found posting and commenting here.

Last year’s party in Denver, run by more or less the same mysterious conspiracy, was insanely good fun, and this year we’re promised exciting new features like oxygen and temperatures below 90F. This new technology, it’s all the rage.


There is a separate RSVP and Requests post for the Miracle Fruit Tasting subparty. Whether or not you’re interested in trying the miracle fruit, can you check if there’s anything that you may be able to bring? Note that we’ll need smaller quantities of things like cheap whisky (which miracle fruit is reputed to improve) than good whisky to use as a control (which the entire party would then benefit from).


As this article points out, beer is an ideal flavor for experiments involving miracle fruit. Could any of our beer fanciers bring some, or (if not attending) recommend some good beers for trying out?

Open thread 128
Posted by Teresa at 03:30 PM *

dubious flamingos small.jpg

“Is there anything more beautiful than a beautiful, beautiful flamingo, flying across in front of a beautiful, beautiful sunset? And he’s carrying a beautiful rose in his beak, and also he’s carrying a very beautiful painting with his feet. And also, you’re drunk.” —Jack Handy.

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.