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May 29, 2011
And the Student was Enlightened
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:06 PM *

venn diagram

Label appropriately:

  1. People who print-publish
  2. People who e-publish
  3. People who self-publish

Agents for Sale
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:14 AM * 32 comments

Want a literary agent? Don’t know what to do or where to turn? Have $199 burning a hole in your pocket?

Let PublishAmerica be your agent! From the fine folks who could have brought you Atlanta Nights (but lost the chance), Sign up today, and have an agent for your book tomorrow! (in 48 business hours, that is, which is around six business days, but “tomorrow” sounds better, I guess). In a surprise move that’s provoking derision from sea to shining sea, the guys who can’t sell your book to readers now want you to believe they can sell it to publishers who aren’t them, provided you pay $199 per title up front.

Prediction: Sorrow and tears, and authors asking “Why didn’t you warn me?”

May 27, 2011
False Equivalency Litmus Test of the Week
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 08:42 AM * 93 comments

Talk radio host uses offensive personal invective against a political opponent.

Said talk radio host is then called on the carpet by his broadcaster and his base. He issues a genuine apology for his words and is suspended for a week.

Guess the political affiliation.

May 22, 2011
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:08 AM * 0 comments

To the surprise of only a few, the so-called “Rapture” scheduled to happen yesterday, didn’t.

May 21, 2011, according to loyal listeners of Family Radio, a Christian broadcasting network based in Oakland, California, will mark the Day of Rapture and the start of Judgment Day (which, they say, will last five months). Those who are saved will be taken up to heaven, and those who aren’t will endure unspeakable suffering. Dead bodies will be strewn about as earthquakes ravage the Earth, they say. And come October 21, they’ll tell you, the entire world will be kaput.

This marks the second time Harold Camping was wrong about this. (The first time he predicted the (contra-scriptural, heretical) Rapture was for September, 1994.)

Watch for the follow-up post on October 22nd.

May 21, 2011
It Starts
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:28 AM * 40 comments

The first wave of presidential hopefuls hit New Hampshire this week, with Buddy Roemer and Jon Huntsman both visiting.

Follow Making Light for up to the minute occasional, if we feel like it, reporting from the first stop on the campaign trail, from now to the Dixville Notch primary (where we routinely scoop CNN).

Making Light, for all your political needs (not that you need politics, mind).

Hacking the Rapture
Posted by Teresa at 08:40 AM *

So far, the best suggestion for the supposed end of the world is Eileen Gunn’s Rapture hack:

1. A bunch of inflatable sex dolls.
2. A tank of helium.
3. Rapture!

Der Preis der Sterne: Die Kommandantin
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:33 AM * 9 comments

Zwischen den Sternen warten Freiheit, Abenteuer - und Gefahr

Beka will möglichst wenig mit ihrer Mutter, der Regentin der halben Galaxis, zu tun haben, sondern lieber eine einfache Raumpilotin sein. Doch nach der Ermordung ihrer Mutter bleibt Beka kaum eine Wahl. Sie muss die Assassinen finden und deren Hintermänner stellen. Doch wer Mördern nachspürt, gerät bald selbst in deren Fadenkreuz …

Der Preis der Sterne: Die Kommandantin 21. June 2011 von Random House Deutschland, dem ersten Mageworlds Buch, auf Deutsch. Die zweite wird im Dezember veröffentlicht werden.

ISBN: 978-3-442-26817-7
Aus dem Amerikanschen von Wolfgang Thon

Auch erhältlich als e-book.

Kaufen Sie ein! Besser noch, kaufen ein Dutzend! Sie machen sich hervorragend als Geschenke.

Alle coolen Kids sind Vorbestellung.

May 20, 2011
Cycling, mindfulness, and urbanism
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:18 AM * 290 comments

On my Twitter stream, @hanlsp (Sebastian Hanlon) linked to one of those clarifying essays that the internet is so good at. You know, the ones that explain the things you always knew, but didn’t know you knew? In this case, it’s about the transformative power of cycling in an urban environment: The Real Reason Why Bicycles are the Key to Better Cities, by Kasey Klimes.

Invite a motorist for a bike ride through your city and you’ll be cycling with an urbanist by the end of the day. Even the most eloquent of lectures about livable cities and sustainable design can’t compete with the experience from atop a bicycle saddle…

Suddenly livability isn’t an abstract concept, it’s an experience. Human scale, connectivity, land use efficiency, urban fabric, complete streets… all the codewords, catchphrases, and academic jargon can be tossed out the window because now they are one synthesized moment of appreciation.

Klimes’ article makes me conscious of the degree to which cycling—as opposed to driving—is an opportunity for mindfulness, for the intimate and measured experience of one’s environment. (It is entirely possible to cycle unmindfully, of course, just as it is possible to say prayers, watch sunsets, and make love unmindfully. People are capable of many things.)

I had previously considered this contrast between biking and driving in the light of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it’s right there, so blurred you can’t focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.

The insight about framing, and about being in the space rather than in your own private box, is useful. But even Pirsig acknowledges the distorting effect of speed: “so blurred you can’t focus on it,” he says of the concrete.

At cycling speeds, particularly Dutch cycling speeds (around 10 - 13 mph), that blurring is gone. I make eye contact with people. I have time to look at the new display in the window of the kaftan store (wish I had an excuse to buy one), watch the progress of the door-painting effort in the housing estate, notice the new café settling in across the road. A little boy on his scooter races me for a block or two, and I hold my speed back a bit so he gets to the corner shop before I do, winning the race. “Wat snel!” I call to him as I go on.

And I think that mindfulness is what leads to love.

If we are to reform our cities, if we are to turn them into decent places to live and work, we can only do it by loving them. Even those of us who aren’t really urbanites (I’m not, at least not in the North American sense) need to be able to enjoy visiting them and working in them. Having more people from all over experience them intimately is the first step; without that, whence comes the population that cares enough to improve them?

All of which is a verbose and somewhat self-involved way of saying, “Neat article. Read the whole thing.”


From Brother Guy @1:

The world is not a lodging-house at Brighton, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more.
Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton

From @paulbeard on Twitter:

In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.
—Senegalese poet and naturalist Baba Dioum

From Malaclypse @21:

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.
—Ernest Hemingway

The Glory of You
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:01 AM * 26 comments

By royal proclamation, today is Eliza Doolittle Day.

Celebrate appropriately.

May 18, 2011
Alice is Dead
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:40 PM * 120 comments

A little Flash puzzle-game.

The episodes are very brief.

Forget it, Jake. It’s Wonderland.

(ROT-13 hints and spoilers, please.)

May 16, 2011
Crowdsourcing Poland
Posted by Patrick at 09:27 AM * 27 comments

In the annals of sentences I didn’t expect to say this year, or possibly in this lifetime, I have to admit that “We’re going to Poland” was pretty high up there. But as anyone with experience booking frequent-flyer reward travel knows, sometimes the weirdly indirect routes on offer present chances to briefly visit someplace you never really expected to see. And so it is that a few months from now, on our way to someplace else, Teresa and I will have ten and a half morning-to-evening hours to kill in Warsaw. Yes, that Warsaw.

Of course we’re already reading all the obvious web pages, and we’ll probably pick up a book or three, but surely there’s someone reading this who already has opinions, formed by personal experience, about what mustn’t be missed when paying a flying visit to Little-Paris-on-the-Vistula. If this is you, please feel encouraged to tell us about it in the comments…

May 15, 2011
Open thread 158
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:17 AM *

Crossover fic I’d love to read:

Doctor Stephen Maturin scowled at his reflection in the looking-glass and shifted his shoulders uncomfortably inside his borrowed coat. “I look like a dandy,” he complained untruthfully at his companion. “And I cannot understand how anyone can wear collars like these for an entire evening. Every turn of my head scrapes my jaw against them, and they sit in the corners of my vision like blinders on a horse. Why, pray, must we attend this function?”

Jack Aubrey, already dressed, laughed at his friend. “We are going because you wished to meet the owner of that ascending balloon that we sighted over Burnett last week. I spent a few days making enquiries here and there. It’s devilish difficult to discover anything about such a contraption, but I think I’m on the trail of it now.”

“How does that translate into our presence at a rout-party in Bath—on solicited invitations, no less? Are we expecting to meet the balloonist in the midst of a country dance, perhaps? Arrange to see the vehicle as we trot through a cotillion? Surely we could call on the aeronaut during the day like civilized men.”

“The balloonist won’t be at the party.” Jack smiled in response Stephen’s exasperated glare. He was alight with the childlike enjoyment that comes of possessing a secret, and pleased at the game of feeding information out by the ell rather than gathering what his friend let fall. “We’re going there to become acquainted his sister, without whose consent we haven’t a chance of meeting the pilot at all.”

“His sister? How does she affect the matter in the least? Who is this precious female?”

“Frederica, Marchioness of Alverstoke.”

Back to Open thread 157.

May 14, 2011
The Morganza Spillway
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 02:35 PM * 28 comments

The US Army Corps of Engineers is planning to open the Morganza Spillway this afternoon.

When it opens, the event will be streamed live. It’s expected to happen around 4:00pm EDT. Looks like it’s going to flood Cajun country, but the alternative is worse.

Water has a lot of energy behind it.

See more at WAFB, Baton Rouge.

May 11, 2011
Ras el Hanout
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:58 AM * 55 comments

This is a Moroccan spice mixture to add to coffee. A while back we ran all over the North Country trying to find the ingredients.

You add ¼ teaspoon Ras el Hanout to every ½ cup of ground coffee, then make coffee in your usual way. This stuff totally super-charges it.

The recipe is from the Time/Life Beverages cookbook.

  • 2 whole nutmegs, grated, or 4 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 2-inch stick of cinnamon, crushed, or 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 6 to 8 dried rosebuds
  • 12 whole cloves or ½ tsp. ground cloves
  • 18 tsp. gum arabic
  • 1 Tbsp. ground ginger
  • 2 pieces galingale or about ½ tsp ground galingale [ETA: galangal and numerous other spellings; AKA Laos ginger, Siamese ginger, or Thai ginger]
  • 2 whole allspice or 18 tsp. ground allspice
  • ¾ tsp. ground white pepper
  • 3 blades mace or ½ tsp ground mace
  • 15 white or green cardamoms
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. aniseed
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

Combine all the ingredients, then grind, sieve, and bottle to preserve freshness.

Cooking With Light (recipe index)

May 10, 2011
Anchors Aweigh
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:30 PM * 66 comments

Tying together our recent Navy, marriage, and gay rights discussions:

Navy plan to allow same-sex marriage on bases draws opposition Vintage photo

Washington (CNN) — A preliminary U.S. Navy plan to allow its chaplains to perform same-sex marriages in military chapels after the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” has fired up congressional opposition.

All services are moving forward with the transition from the present ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in uniform. Top Pentagon officials are expected to sign off on the new rules and the progress of training in coming weeks.

An April 13 memo from the Navy officer in charge of chaplains says they “may” officiate at same-sex marriages or civil unions, depending on both local laws and their religious organization.

“Regarding the use of base facilities for same-sex marriages, legal counsel has concluded that, generally speaking, base facility use is sexual orientation-neutral,” Rear Adm. Mark Tidd, the Navy’s chief of chaplains, said in the memo. “This is a change to previous training that stated same-sex marriages are not authorized on federal property.”

As you might expect, the usual suspects among the Republicans got their knickers in a twist and started yelling “DOMA! DOMA!”

My money is on the Navy. Congress took away our lash, and Josephus Daniels* took away our rum, but nothing is going to take away our sodomy.

May 07, 2011
Epubbing the Backlist
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:01 AM *

“So,” I said, “what the heck. Why not try republishing some of our short stories in electronic versions? All the cool kids are doing it….”

Bad Blood  The Confessions of Peter Crossman  Crossover  Ecdysis  Uncle Joshua and the Grooglemen  Jenny Nettles 
Remailer  The Last Real New Yorker in the World  Philologos; or, A Murder in Bistrita  The Queen's Mirror  A Tremble in the Air  Two From the Mageworlds 

“Why not” included the fact that we didn’t have electronic text versions of many of our stories. Stuff that only exists on a 3.5” Atari ST disk (or a 5.25” Atari 800 disk), and we think we saw the disk sometime in 1993, aren’t easily converted to e-book formats. But, we’re doing it. Fifteen stories so far (roughly half of our corpus), with more to come.

These are promulgating across the world of e-publishing even as we speak; some are available on the Nook, for example; I’m told that others may be in the Apple store, or as apps for assorted mobile phones and such.

And just for Making Light readers, from now ’til June the 6th, here’s a special coupon to get our short science fiction story “Crossover” free. The code is: PR29V

Covers and e-book formatting are by my elder son, Brendan (the guy with the master’s degree in Entertainment Technology).

May 06, 2011
Robert Fletcher, Part VI: The Monster and the Critics
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:44 PM * 58 comments

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Subject: FW: Character Assassin on James MacDonald what should I do?
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Hello Jim/James MacDonald,

Someone is trying to do a character assassination on you I think. But, if it’s true, then it will certainly help us in our battle with you.

I have a dilemma, I have some info about you that I think is incorrect, but I’m not sure. Unfortunately, it’s from some criminal databases so I thought I’d contact you first before I post it to the world.

You’ve been pretty strong in posting a bunch of things about us that is hearsay and innuendo and I’d like you to reconsider what you are posting, and here’s why…

Let’s say that someone wants to do a character assassination on you. (unfortunately, someone does, and that’s what started this email to you.) So what they did is they went to the criminal records database and they found all kinds of James MacDonald crimes.. stuff that is a lot worse than you’ve seen on anyone we know. Actually if even half of these crimes done by ‘James MacDonald” are real then you’re a pretty evil person.

They then sent that material to me, knowing that we have a beef, asking me to find out if it was true, and hoping I’d promulgate it to the world.

I don’t have time to figure this out, so I’m going to post the info on a bunch of message boards (where it will never go away) and ask writers to really start digging into your background and find out if you are the criminal that all this evidence points to. I’m sure you will be exonerated, but unfortunately, once the info hits the web boards, it never goes away.

If you were in my shoes, what would you do?

Part of me wants to just ignore them, and hopefully you can use this as a chance to clean up the innuendo that prevails.

What do you think?

Should I tell them to post all this very ugly stuff, or should you and we “agree to disagree” and you can clean up all this incorrect data and character assassination stuff.

Let’s disagree about business, but all this stuff about criminal stuff doesn’t belong. He doesn’t work for us, that’s old data, and that’s a low blow, and he’s a victim of the same kind of character assassination that you find yourself faced with.

I hope you can bring this to a more professional level, once this stuff is posted, it’s fugly fast, as you’ve seen…

I don’t care if we disagree about methods, but you’re hurting people deeply now and it’s really not called for.

Let’s have some class about this, otherwise, I’ve seen what this kind of viscious posting will do.. for years and years it will haunt you.

Call us 20 Worst, or worse, but take off all the criminal and name stuff.

Thanks for being a professional about this.

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.

May 05, 2011
Alternate Diversity!
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:34 PM * 86 comments

In a mailing list that most of y’all probably don’t read, the question has arisen (much like the question of stealing the golden box arose in all its magnitude when the nomads came to El Lola with no more songs), “Why are so few women published in the major SF mags and anthologies?”

This led to someone linking to this article from, from a couple of years ago: Oh No, The Mammoth Books of X, No, which links to many other things all pertinent.

Which led me to ask: “If I were putting together an SF anthology, thirty stories, half original, half reprint, where the authors were only female and/or persons of color, who would I invite, and which stories would I want to reprint?”

So, I have my opinions.

And I wonder, could I actually do this?

May 03, 2011
It Isn’t Just Fox
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:24 PM * 65 comments

CNN, on its front page, right now, is displaying “Obama” where they clearly meant “Osama.”

The elusive bon mot
Posted by Teresa at 09:03 PM * 71 comments

When I heard that Osama bin Laden was dead, a particularly apt quotation occurred to me, though I didn’t quote it at the time.

Since then, it has come to my attention that everyone* has been quoting it, everyone has been arguing about who said it, and everyone is getting it wrong. Here’s an example cited by the estimable Vnend on Boing Boing, used not because Vnend is exceptionally wrong—which would be out of character—but because the example is exceptionally convenient. Vnend observes:

It turns out that a whole SATA-drive-load of people have been passing around the quote. … It also turns out that it is really hard to find where Twain actually said it.

It took a little digging, but I found the following pairing, posted back in 2006, that might explain where it came from:
August 16, 2006

Clarence Darrow
I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.

Mark Twain
I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vnend is correct. It is hard to find where Twain actually said it. That’s because Twain didn’t say it.

The line properly belongs to Rep. Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine, 36th* and 38th* Speaker of the House. He was noted for his sharp-tongued wit. He once said of a pair of his colleagues that “They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.” When asked whether his party might nominate him for President, he said, “They could do worse, and they probably will.” Some other good ones:

A statesman is a successful politician who is dead.

One, with God, is always a majority, but many a martyr has been burned at the stake while the votes were being counted.

All the wisdom of the world consists of shouting with the majority.

The quotation in dispute today:
“When asked whether he would attend the funeral of a political opponent, Reed said ‘No, but I approve of it.’”
There’s a standard set of names that get attached to funny remarks—Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, et cetera. It’s part of a larger pattern whereby loose quotations and anonymous works get attributed to the nearest big name. There were a couple of centuries when almost any collection of prophecies (then a popular form of camouflaged political writing) would be attributed to Thomas of Ercildoune, and a longer period when anything that sounded like a proverb got attributed to Alfred the Great. There’s an entire apocrypha’s worth of medieval poems that were misattributed to Chaucer. And so forth. You get the idea.

This looks to me like that process in action. The quotation was first uttered around the right time, and it sounds kind of like Twain—who, by the way, was a friend of Reed’s—so people misattribute it to the more familiar source.

How sure am I? Not. I don’t have a hardcopy primary source from a respectable publisher open in front of me. However, the line is prominently quoted in Ken Burns’ documentary on Congress, right around 1:30:00. That’s not a guarantee of accuracy, but it’s a good secondary source—Burns’s staff researched the hell out of those documentaries.

Let us therefore quote Rep. Thomas B. Reed (R-Maine), and give him his due when we quote him. He was a man of some integrity, and an interesting character. He has it coming.

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