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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, November 30, 2009

TIGER SCRATCHINGS

Over at Baldilocks, a blog I have long enjoyed, we find another blogger who has turned fiction writer. Her story is a bit different than mine, cause she's a gurl:
At a southwestern university, a young man and a young woman do something that’s done every day: they fall in love. There’s just one thing–he’s white and she’s black.

Set in the early 1990s, Tale of the Tigers tells the story of how the tables have turned on race relations and sexual jealousy and of how two young Americans weather the storm of that heritage in the post-Civil Rights Era.
If I sell enough copies of Snowberry's Veil, I can buy Tale of The Tigers. Check it out, and pick up a copy for Christmas. Trust me, Baldilocks has a different approach to this issue than you've seen so often, and her writing is great.

Look for Tale of the Tigers at online retailers soon, or you can advance order it from the writer now, and get an autographed copy!. Check out this video trailer for the book too!

WHERE THE BUMS EAT BETTER THAN THE SWELLS

"I can’t in good conscience throw away food."

Feeding Bums
In New York City, trans fatty foods are banned. That was implemented not long ago, and restaurants technically are not supposed to serve any such food. Its unhealthy, and as we know from Demolition Man:
"...anything not good for you is bad, hence, illegal."
-Lenina Huxley
New York City's Raymond Cockteau is Mayor Bloomberg who, despite personally and spectacularly violating all these health ordinances himself, demands everyone else be and do what he will not. While this is not new for those on the left (witness Al Gore's gargantuan, massively-emitting home and multiple flights around the world to ride in limousines), in New York City, this is creating a new problem. Metro International has the story:
When a small church comes to the Bowery Mission bearing fried chicken with trans fat, unwittingly breaking the law, they’re told “thank you.” Then workers quietly chuck the food, mission director Tom Bastile said.

“It’s always hard for us to do,” Basile said. “We know we have to do it.”
Other missions don't bother checking the food. They serve what they have regardless of the fat content, because they are short on supplies and long on needy. Although New York City is not one of the cities hit hardest by unemployment, it still has a lot of "homeless" people and needy living in it.

And, as I wrote almost two years ago, food banks are facing problems with supply. When times get tight, people have less to donate and cannot help charities as much. These missions and charities for the homeless and needy have the same problems, and turning away food when you're in that situation makes even less sense.

For Mayor Bloomberg, and his leftist cronies in charge of the city its better you starve than eat food he has declared unhealthy. The workers at some missions disagree - and rightly so.

*Big tip of the beer chug helmet to Three Beers Later for this story.

DISNEY'S PRINCES

Someday my prince will come!

Over at Linkiest, there is a linky to a site called IMGUR in which they offer a graphic showing what Disney is teaching little girls and boys. What does it take to attract a princess? Here's what Disney says in their movies:

Its a pretty consistent pattern. Be rich, handsome, famous and charming. One of them is even named Prince Charming. There's a lot of talk about what the princesses teach and how they are role models for little girls and so on - princess marketing is big for Disney. But nobody really seems to be paying attention to what the princes are like. What are they teaching boys, and what does that teach little girls about the guys that they should look for?

I don't see loyal, hard working, trustworthy, or masculine in there. In fact they all look pretty boyish and effeminate, to be honest. The really strong, masculine-looking characters usually are the bad guys.

In Mulan the bad guy is a strong warrior named Shan-Yu, a huge, bald figure with massive muscles and incredible skill in combat as well as leading soldiers. He's usually shown with an evil grimace, but clearly his men trust and rely on him and he seems responsible. Shan Yu looks somewhat Mongol, while Mulan looks more Chinese.

Beauty and the Beast features Gaston, the oafish, but handsome and muscular villain. All the girls love him except Belle naturally who wants a sensitive hero with a gentle heart and fewer muscles. Gaston naturally turns wicked because he has to be established as not being a good mate.

Now, granted, the girls all look pretty much the same and quite young as well - the kind of young that gets guys thrown in jail for courting. So that's the style, but the contrast with older, more manly men is pretty stark. The lesson seems to be this:
Girls, look for a boy who is rich and handsome and famous, one that's not very threatening and certainly not masculine. You want a guy who has lots of cash but no dirt under his fingernails. Even if he starts that way (Beast) he should with your love turn into a slightly feminized little boy before you let him have you.

Guys who are not rich or famous? Not handsome in a boyish way? The are no good, even dangerous. Especially soldiers or men who are very masculine, avoid them. They are boring and never read a book and you can't turn them into whatever you want.
At least, that's what I see.

Oh and the Beast was named Adam, although its never given in the film.

Old Habits, part the last

OK this is it for National Novel Writing Month 2009, the final day of writing. I've almost finished my novel but Thanksgiving and recovering from that took several productive days away so I won't have it done this month.

I jumped ahead several chapters to near the end for the final part, for the big reveal. Readers may have possibly guessed what this story is an adaptation or homage to, but the clues have been pretty vague. This chapter ought to give a decent idea. A lot has happened in the intervening chapters, so the situation has changed some, but it isn't so different that it is incomprehensible.

I'll put a spoiler below the break so people can see that first if they want.

Old Habits, part 21

Party
This is, of course, an adaptation of Die Hard. What I wanted to do was pull together a fantasy version of the story because it is such a fun and distinctive tale but no one has - to my knowledge - tried to put it into any other setting. Instead of a huge corporate tower, we have a castle. Instead of explosives, we have a wizard's spell. Instead of a cop, we have a thief and instead of a thief we have the guards.

Ideally, I think an adaptation should retain enough of the story elements and ideas to be recognizable, but be changed enough to make the tale unique. I'm really trying to make this work because I have not a few adaptations in mind, such as the Mel Gibson movie Payback as a western - since that's what the movie feels like to me (as I understand it, Payback is a remake so I'm curious what the original is like. Maybe I can Netflix it).

Die Hard is so iconic that I thought it would be a wonderful story to work with, and placing it in fantasy instead of modern day changes things enough that it hopefully isn't a direct rip off. And I've adjusted the story flow a bit so things are unique to Old Habits. Hopefully this one will be published next year - I'd really rather not go through PublishAmerica again, but I might have to if I can't find an agent or publisher.

Oh, the title. How's that saying go again?

Quote of the Day

"The American people have an anger about the growth of the deficit because they're not getting anything for it..."
-Nancy Pelosi, admitting the "stimulus" package was a failure

Saturday, November 28, 2009

SNOWBERRY'S VEIL RELEASE PARTY!

SV cover
I am very proud to announce that I have managed to get a book written and published. The book Snowberry's Veil is now available at any major online bookseller such as Amazon.Com or Barnes & Noble. At the present it is only available online, and I'd like to extend a special offer to my readers so that they can get the book at a deep discount compared to the online prices you'll find. More on that in a moment.

What is Snowberry's Veil? It is a fantasy novel, and while you can go to the website I've built all about the book, I will give the description here:
Serving the king as a Ranger has never been boring, but once Erkenbrand takes on the responsibility of scouting for a caravan of settlers heading to the wilderness, he faces challenges like never before.

Separated from the caravan, Erkenbrand loses all of his gear and almost his live several times before he can see the Thealea, girl he loves, again. The wilderness, the monsters that dwell there, and the creatures he meets along the way all complicate matters. And behind it all is a dark secret that might doom both Thealea and Erkenbrand.

Snowberry's Veil is a departure from the usual world-changing multi-part fantasy epic, taking a more personal look at a smaller adventure. Instead of saving the world from vast evil, this is a more intimate look at one man's struggle to survive and help those around him.
Snowberry's Veil is 224 pages in paperback and you can get it either from an online publisher or directly from PublishAmerica; and if you buy it from the publisher, you can get a 55% discount.

Here's how: When you add Snowberry's Veil to your cart, you can go to the ordering page and type "Thanks55" in the coupon window on that page. That will cut the price down to under nine dollars, plus 99 cents shipping in America and Canada.

Unfortunately, the discount only lasts today and tomorrow, the 29th of November - its for black friday shopping.

Those of you overseas: I found Snowberry's Veil on a few European booksellers, so you can find it there.

Thanks to everyone who has been supportive and interested in this, and especially to anyone who buys a copy!

-Christopher

Friday, November 27, 2009

ENRON PRINTING

"We are the deciders"
-David McCumber

Two stories recently came out in the news which are largely related.

The first is a report on ad revenues. Online advertising was seen in the late 1990s as a big boon for business, it would be a cheap, easy way to reach billions of people and it could be tailored on the internet to reach people where their interests lay. Interactive, personally tailored ads would be like magic bullets, reaching everyone with precision and effectiveness, bringing more customers per dollar than any other kind.

Even better, you could get real time information about how effective an ad is and who its reaching. This was going to bring about a new age of advertising and business, where websites would adjust to personal preferences of buyers and suggest related products they hadn't looked for.

Price Waterhouse Coopers publishes as report every quarter about ad revenues online, and things don't look good. Deborah Yao at the AP reports:
Online advertising revenue in the U.S. fell 5.4 percent in the third quarter from a year ago, as the sputtering economy kept its tight grip on even the fastest growing segment of industry, according to a report released Wednesday.
Ad revenues online have been down since 2008, although there was a slight raise in the second quarter of this year.

In short: the advertising golden age of the Internet has been good, but not the wonder it was predicted and hoped to be. Targeted advertising is useful and cheap online but... also easy to ignore. I don't really look at ads, and I almost never click on one. I've never, ever yet bought anything because of an ad I've seen online. I have programs running which specifically strip away most ads so I'm not bothered by them. I'm not exactly unique in this.

The other related story is this: Michael Liedtke writes on Breitbart that newspaper circulation data, which is very dire, might be even worse than is being reported.
While U.S. newspapers are losing subscribers at a staggering rate, a few dailies stand out because their circulation is rising. But they aren't necessarily selling more copies.

Here's why: Since April 1, new auditing rules have made it easier for newspapers to count a reader as a paying customer.

These looser standards are especially helpful to a newspaper if it sells an "electronic edition." That can include a subscriber-only Web site, such as what The Wall Street Journal has, or it can be a digital replica of a newspaper's printed product. Several dozen publications, including USA Today, sell access to these daily "e-editions" that show how the news was laid out in print.

Under the new auditing standards, if a newspaper sells a "bundled" subscription to both the print and electronic editions, the publication is often allowed to count that subscriber twice.
Without that accounting trick, circulation numbers are markedly lower. In other words, the internet is being relied upon to make circulation data look better than it is. Why does this matter?

Technically if someone subscribes to your online paper, they're subscribers. They just aren't getting the print version. However, there's a difference. Not only can subscriptions be hacked but the advertising revenue is less. You cannot charge as much for an online ad as you do a print ad. And a print ad cannot be electronically expunged from your website like several anti-script and ad programs do online.

And many of the papers who started using this accounting system this year already had subscribers. Many started to charge for subscriptions when they hadn't previously. So the numbers leaped up this year without actually being an increase in subscriptions, they just were now able to count them. So their circulation didn't actually go up, it just was adjusted to include people already part of the system. The average increase was 10.6% in circulation for various newspapers around the country.

This makes their business look more solid and profitable, thus reassuring investors and potential investors that they aren't in as dire straits as they really are.

And since online ads don't pay as well as print ads (newspapers sell both, space online and in their print paper), that means revenue numbers can be misleading. If The Daily Blab sells 50 newspapers and 50 online subscriptions, that means they can now claim 100 subscribers in their circulation data. Yet only 50 of those give the full print ad revenue prices, while 50 give the lesser online prices. They seem to be getting more revenue because they can claim 100 subscribers, but it is in fact not as big as it seems.

There is some bright news, though. Smaller, local newspapers believe they are benefiting from readers abandoning big papers, and given the arrogance, elitism, and disassociation of these big papers from their readers, that's probably a good thing. In any case, increased competition will only help pressure these papers to work harder and perhaps even be a bit more honest and complete in their reporting.

Because stories like warmaquiddick and the various Inspector Generals by the White House for investigating things President Obama's administration doesn't like are with few exceptions are being well shut out of the big media.

GORE'S FALSE PROPHECIES

"We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest."
-Dr Steven Schneider

Al Gore, best known for winning awards and failing to steal the 2000 US Presidential election, has made a prediction. By 2010, he says he's optimistic that there will be a new climate control treaty. He also blamed the decline in public support for his hysterical theories on Conservative Republicans, although most would just say "hey, knucklehead, its getting colder where I live." The latest revelations of deliberate fraud and manipulation of data won't help his cause any.

Will Gore be right about the climate treaty? President Obama is traveling to Copenhagen for the summit, but then his last European trip to bring about results he wanted didn't end so well for him. Already the expectations are being pushed back and despite outrageously sweeping intentions, it appears that any treaty resulting from this meeting will be significantly less important than initially hoped.

Al Gore's previous predictions have not exactly worked out.
  • He claimed that the world would continually, without slowing or reversal, get warmer over the next century.
  • He claimed that hurricanes would get more numerous and more destructive in 2006, when they've actually become less numerous and less destructive.
  • He claimed that the arctic ice would all be melted by this year, when it has in fact returned to levels not seen for decades.
  • He claimed that polar bears were endangered and that their population would be wiped out when it is actually increasing and there are more now than at any point in recorded history.
Like Mathus in the 19th century who predicted global starvation and overpopulation and Ehrlich in 1968 who predicted mass starvation and famine in the 1970s and that "By 1985, enough millions will have died to reduce the earth's population to some acceptable level, like 1.5 billion people," Al Gore will have his place in history as yet another failed prophet who spewed plenty of predictions of doom which failed to take place. He'll be yet another leftist icon who was humiliatingly wrong and failed, yet stilled revered by many on the left.

That's my prediction.

WORD AROUND THE NET

"Pay cash to destroy valuable assets? Only the government would think this was a good idea."

A weekly roundup of news and stories from around the internet for November 22-28, 2009.

The big story of this week was the warmaquiddick scandal at Hadley Climate Research Unit in England. Leaked emails revealed deliberate attempts to manipulate or ignore problematic data, admissions that certain data just didn't make sense, mockery and glee over the death of AGW skeptics, a pattern of deception and even deleting materials rather than obeying Freedom of Information act requests, and a strange, incestuous relationship between AGW advocates around the world in an insular "us vs them" attitude. In short: it was a series of embarrassing revelations about the shoddy and even completely lacking real science in the area of climate change.

As the week went on, more and more was revealed, but not only from these emails. For example, repeated attempts to use global warming advocate weather modeling and predicting programs were attempted in India to predict rainfall patterns during the monsoon season. Seventeen different programs from the IPCC's climate modeling to see how the weather would be this year. G. S. Mudur reports in the Telegraph:
None of the multiple computer simulations used by a UN climate-change agency for assessments of global warming appears good enough to predict how India’s monsoon will behave, two Indian scientists have said.

The researchers examined 10 simulations of future climate scenarios used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and found none could reproduce correctly the behaviour of even 20th-century rainfall.

Not a single model could simulate realistically key features of the Indian monsoon such as maximum activity over the Bay of Bengal and the Northeast and along the west coast, and minimum activity over the northwest, the researchers said. They have presented their analysis in a review paper in Current Trends in Science, a publication of the Indian Academy of Sciences.
They can't predict anything accurately, not the future, not the past. The models are broken and useless, and the Hadley CRU emails tell us why: they're tweaked to give proper results.

That's not all the emails tell us. Obama's Science Czar, overpopulation radical John Holdren is involved in warmaquiddick. Dr. Tim Ball and Judi McLeod at the Canada Free Press report:
Obama Science Czar John Holdren is directly involved in CRU’s unfolding Climategate scandal. In fact, according to files released by a CEU hacker or whistleblower, Holdren is involved in what Canada Free Press (CFP) columnist Canadian climatologist Dr. Tim Ball terms “a truculent and nasty manner that provides a brief demonstration of his lack of understanding, commitment on faith and willingness to ridicule and bully people.”
Holdren's radical views on population control such as forced abortions and sterilization he made clear in the 1970s when he worked with Ehrlich on the first big modern fraudulent crisismongering: overpopulation.

Around the planet in to New Zealand we find another smaller warmaquiddick is developing. At Watt's Up With That, two graphs are shown. One is the graph of what New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research claims is local temperature over the last 150 years, and the other is what the actual data shows the temperature was like. One shows a continuous upward trend that increases as the years advance, the other shows a ragged variation up and down without any clear trend at all. Like the Hadley CRU team, the NIWA team in New Zealand refused for years to release their data for others to examine unless they were strong warming advocates. When the data finally was obtained, the results weren't pretty:
The shocking truth is that the oldest readings have been cranked way down and later readings artificially lifted to give a false impression of warming, as documented below. There is nothing in the station histories to warrant these adjustments and to date Dr Salinger and NIWA have not revealed why they did this.

One station, Hokitika, had its early temperatures reduced by a huge 1.3°C, creating strong warming from a mild cooling, yet there’s no apparent reason for it.

We have discovered that the warming in New Zealand over the past 156 years was indeed man-made, but it had nothing to do with emissions of CO2—it was created by man-made adjustments of the temperature. It’s a disgrace.

Meanwhile, Peter Singer, famous for declaring that being born is no reason children shouldn't be legally put to death until around age two and sex with animals is perfectly reasonable, was asked about climate change and carbon emissions in the Sydney Morning Herald by Georgina Robinson. Singer's response?
He likened Australia's production of greenhouse gases to a country dropping bombs on Bangladesh.
More like dropping bombs on the truth.

In other news, we learn of Rom Houben, British man who for 23 years was thought to be in a coma. He was in a traffic collision and doctors declared his consciousness "extinct." In other words, they said he would never recover and his brain was essentially destroyed. Three years ago, a more advanced scan revealed that he was not, in fact a vegetable, but was instead simply paralyzed. Allan Hall reports in the Daily Mail:
"I screamed, but there was nothing to hear," said Mr Houben, now 46, who doctors thought was in a persistent vegatative state.

"I dreamed myself away," he added, tapping his tale out with the aid of a computer.
...
Mr Houben said: "All that time I just literally dreamed of a better life. Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt."
...
He is never likely to leave hospital, but as well as his computer he now has a special device above his bed which lets him read books while lying down.

Mr Houben said: "I shall never forget the day when they discovered what was truly wrong with me - it was my second birth."

"I want to read, talk with my friends via the computer and enjoy my life now that people know I am not dead."
Good thing his wife hadn't found another guy and decided to pull the plug.

At The Hill, Maryann Dreas, Sydelle Moore and Tony Romm ask a simple question: does the push for a jobs bill mean the "stimulus" package failed? Remember, we were told that if the package wasn't passed immediately, without delay, not even long enough for anyone to read it, then unemployment would reach as high as eight percent! Now that the unemployment rate is over ten percent in the United States, Democrats in Washington are looking for new ways to spend money. Answers from pundits and bloggers varied. Those on the right said "obviously, since rather than being limited, unemployment went up by more than 2% higher than was warned." Those on the left said "oh no it worked, just not enough so we need to spend even more!"

Jihadi murderer Major Nidal Malik Hasan had a good side, he liked to give to charities, according to Joseph Rhee, Anna Schecter and Brian Ross at ABC News:
Investigators also found that Hasan donated $20,000 to $30,000 a year to overseas Islamic “charities.” As an Army major, his yearly salary, including housing and food allowances, was approximately $92,000. A number of Islamic charities have been identified by U.S. authorities as conduits to terror groups.
Generous fellow, donating a third of his total yearly income. Turns out he was less than stellar even in his job:
One of Hasan’s commanding officers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Lieutenant Colonel Melanie Guerrero, told investigators she had considered failing him as an intern but “decided to allow him to pass since he was going into psychiatry and would not be doing any real patient care.”
...
Guerrero told ABC News his performance problems stemmed from his lack of competence in the intensive care unit, including problems with recommending the proper medications or coming up with the right kind of patient treatment plan.
I was told once by a soldier that the only real requirement to get your Majority was to have a pulse. One wonders, based on this information if that isn't so. Tim Blair muses "If Hasan beats his murder rap, he’s due for a promotion." ABC's story is primarily focused on Hasan's worries about getting AIDS.

Detroit continues to suffer from the bad economy worse than the rest of the nation. Michigan has had a big head start on the US under leftist radicals in charge of government so they're ahead of the curve. Paul Kedrovsky looked at unemployment data and came up with a handy chart showing the top fifty cities in America. The graph shows how many people are looking for a job in that city compared to the number of job listings:


Detroit, of course, is the worst by far. Washington DC has the fewest people looking for work because the one job sector that's grown the most (other than ammunition manufacturing) is the federal government whose hiring has exploded under President Obama. Live in DC, you can find a job. Live in Detroit, not so much so. Portland, the big city nearest me, is not doing so well, either.

Last week a story came out in the Examiner about Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder. It seems that he hired on a bunch of lawyers who once were defense attorneys for Guantanamo Bay detainees. In other words, he hired the guys for the prosecution who were previously working to defend the very same clients. I sat on the story waiting for more to come out, and more has. It seems, based on a few firings, that the White House may be clearing some of these lawyers out. Leftist Steven Soltz at Psyche, Science and Society moans
It’s beginning to look as if the... Obama administration may be purging those officials who don’t understand that human rights take last place, after placating the intelligence community and looking strong so Liz Cheney doesn’t mock them.
In the Examiner report, Byron York details how congressmen tried to find out if any of Holder's hires were formerly defense for the detainees and terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, but he was reluctant at best to respond, saying "I'll consider it." Steven Soltz and other leftists don't seem to grasp that this is an ethical and legal violation. It's called "conflict of interest," because these are the guys that have been holding up the entire process by throwing one legal challenge after another up. You shouldn't hire people defending people to then be their prosecutors. So these guys are being let go, apparently.

Remember Cash for Clunkers? I have another update on the program. When Edmunds.com published their analysis of the program showing that the program actually ended up costing tens of thousands of dollars a car, the White House was swift to act and defend their scheme, claiming that 1.7% of the third quarter growth came from cash for clunkers alone! Except, as National Review Online notes in the Corner, like the growth estimates the contribution by Cash for Clunkers wasn't quite so great.
The revised numbers out today indicate that automotive consumption was less than half of what was initially estimated, contributing 0.81 of a percentage point to growth.
Was that worth it? Not when you consider the drawbacks of the program as well as the fact that this was more like borrowing money from a credit card to pay for another credit card: it just delays the loss.

Emergency! 2 teaspoons of mercury were found in a street in Twin Falls, Idaho. The FDA was swift to act, sending agents to clean up this environmental disaster as rapidly as possible. The cost? A measly $50,000. As Larrey Anderson at American Thinker notes, old style bulbs have been outlawed in favor of compact fluorescent bulbs. Putting aside how unconstitutional, dictatorial, and absurd it is to have the federal government telling you how to light your own house those bulbs all contain mercury and have to be disposed of very carefully or they constitute a legal environmental hazard.

Speaking of mercury gas filled fluorescent bulbs, a study done recently in Engineering and Technology magazine found some problems with manufacturer's claims about the bulbs. The BBC reports:
Energy-efficient light bulbs lose on average 22% of their brightness over their lifetime, a study has found.

In some cases they emit just 60% as much light as traditional models which are being phased out of shops, it says.
...
Of the 18 energy-saving bulbs tested over 10,000 hours by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, three stopped altogether.
The nanny state: making your life worse, for your own good. At your expense.

That's the Word Around the Net for this week. Those of you who are American readers, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Quote of the Day

"Where lipstick is concerned, the important thing is not color, but to accept God's final word on where your lips end."
-Jerry Seinfeld

Thursday, November 26, 2009

THANKSGIVING 2009

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
-John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Thanksgiving is uniquely American, although the Canadians have adopted the holiday in their own fashion. Most people know the story behind thanksgiving, so I won't go over it again here, save to point out that these were people who survived a year of incredible hardship struggling to make a new life for themselves free of tyranny. When they made it, they gave thanks to God for all his blessings, despite their hardships and sorrow.

These were pilgrims, people who lived their lives by Calvinistic ideals, shaped by the themes and theologies of the protestant reformation. They fled religious oppression in their home: their children could not attend school, they could not have businesses near cities, they were not permitted to meet for worship, and much more, simply because they rejected the official state church of England.

In America, they saw an opportunity for a new life without lords and ladies, without kings and princes, without the church of England and without boundaries. The land was vast, the resources seemingly unlimited, and the possibilities almost as endless. These pilgrims founded the United States in their humble and simple way with a love of liberty and a love of God in their hearts and on their lips.

They failed, in many ways. They didn't bring religious liberty so much as freedom to practice their own religion. They didn't bring true liberty so much as liberty for themselves, and not Native Americans or slaves. Yet they planted the seeds of liberty, and in their infant state of understanding freedom and the new world that was starting, we owe these early settlers an immense debt of gratitude, black or white, Christian or not.

And that heritage of honoring God was an inextricable part of the meaning and substance of the United States, a steel reinforcement which gave the nation shape and strength to build and grow in a manner not previously thought possible. From a few humble colonies on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, the United States in a few hundred years became the most powerful and richest nation in the history of the world.

And that success was based on a three-legged stool: Liberty, God, and Fortitude

Liberty gave the American people the ability to be whatever they had within them to be, without restriction by the state or their neighbors save that of the social contract. You gave a little bit of your liberty up for the security and good of all around you - you did not simply do every possible thing you could do regardless of your neighbor's good, but you were free to act ethically, responsibly, and productively.

God gave a reason beyond the immediate and what made one happy. This gave the settlers the will and drive to build a future for their children despite their hardships and sacrifices, it encouraged the pioneers to build a future for their children, and it gave reason to the businessmen and workers alike to strive harder, do better, and accomplish more. Knowing that what you do matters beyond the here and now gives reason to do better and work harder even when you see no immediate benefit and reward.

And Fortitude gave the people who settled the land the ability to get past the seemingly impossible task of settling a wilderness nearly untouched by man so vast it was almost incomprehensible. It gave the pioneers the will to rebuild after having their homes burned down, to start again after drought or fire or criminals wiped out their herds, it gave the workers in factories and businessmen in companies the will to continue when times got hard. Fortitude means you keep going even when everything is hard, even when you aren't having fun or feel used and pointless.

Let's not lose any of those, no matter who comes along and promises better by giving up a little more of each. Let's not abandon what we've been given by men and women greater than us who strove harder than us for a dream better than us. America is about more than a flag and boundaries. We stand as a nation alone in the world, unique in the history of the world, as a leader and example of liberty and strength used for good and progress. The United States is the shining beacon on the hill, but that hill was only climbed and that beacon only lit by those who came before us and showed us how.

We must follow in their footsteps, no matter how hard it seems or whose feelings get hurt. Because there's more at stake here than being happy, comfortable, and healthy.

"Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow."
-Edward Sandford Martin

Quote of the Day

"The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving."
-H.U. Westermayer

Old Habits, pt 19

Its thanksgiving today, and I've got some cooking to do and a dinner to get to, but I wouldn't want to miss a day, so here's the next part of the ongoing story of Stoce and his Old Habits.

So far Stoce hasn't been a very combattive fellow. When faced with danger he tends to flee instead of fight. It isn't that he cannot fight, its that he's a thief, and fights are noisy, attract attention, take time, and usually get you hurt. When someone has died, that attracts more attention and ire than if you avoid them entirely, or simply knock them out.

Death is a pretty standard part of fantasy books. Conan hews through enemies like wheat, the Lord of the Rings is stacked with bodies - mostly orcs, of course, so no one cares much, but they die anyway. Elric slays entire armies in the Stormbringer books. I am trying to write different sorts of characters. Very capable in their own way, but not as godlike as Conan and Elric and not as vast and world-shaping as Bilbo and Frodo.

I've never killed someone, and if God is merciful, I never will have to face that in my life. I don't think I could, but if I've learned anything so far, its that I'm capable - usually to my shame - of just about anything in the right circumstances and time. From all accounts, save those of madmen and monsters, killing someone is an awful experience, something you simply do not shrug off. Its bad enough with a gun, which is kind of remote and clinical: you push a button, and they fall down. With a knife or a sword, its up close and personal, you are connected.

So I want any deaths that happen in my writings to mean something instead of being one fewer obstacle in the way of my hero's success. And Stoce has to deal with this in his tale.

Part Nineteen

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A COLOR THING

"As long as he’s black I cover his back"

There's an odd contrast in news right now. According to polling, blacks support President Obama by somewhere around 90% to 10% disapproval. At the same time, unemployment among blacks is over 30% according to the latest data.

In other words, blacks in America are among the hardest hit and most suffering from the bad economy and unemployment, yet are most in support of the president. This is contradictory to the usual pattern. Typically as your pocketbook goes in America, so goes your vote. Even if it is unfair to blame the party in charge (and especially the president), they're the ones who get the blame and suffer the consequences when things go particularly wrong. Even when its unreasonable to credit the president and his party for a good economy, they tend to benefit from it

But blacks love President Obama and support him, according to polls, and in this case I'm inclined to trust the polling based on what I know personally and people I've talked to online. That seems to indicate something other than the usual pressures and typical reasons are involved in Obama's popularity. And the obvious is very hard to miss: because of his appearance and how he presents himself.

Unlike Tiger Woods, who is also ethnically mixed, President Obama rejects his non-black heritage and embraces his black, going so far as to (absurdly out of character) speak ebonics to black crowds. This appeals to black identity, and gives a sense of having "one of our own" in office, who presumably understands the black struggle, or what have you.

White folks such as myself are not particularly concerned about a candidate's whiteness. Some might be racist fools and think someone ought not be in office if they aren't white, but none are going to simply support and back a politician based upon his pale hue. It might be argued that this is because almost all politicians are pinkish in color, so having "one of our own" holds no special character or importance. Perhaps this is so... but it would be rightly condemned as racist for white folks to back a guy based upon his whiteness regardless of his competence and actions.

President Obama's support among blacks is not a wholesome thing, nor is it any sign of a post-racial culture. If anything, it mires the US worse in racism, by focusing on his appearance and ethnic identity to the exclusion of his abilities, policies, and accomplishments.

Naturally, the first kneejerk response by Obama defenders is to declare the slightest disagreement or opposition to the president "racist." We all knew this was coming and in a way I welcome it because I am hoping that continual use of the word will ruin its sting and power, making the charge empty and an object of derision - and most of the time rightly so.

Yet if you look at the history of presidents in the past, white voters tend to tail off in support rapidly after an initial rush of excitement. Here's the new guy, he's got my support, until he does something stupid! Let's give him a chance! Since that pattern is consistent whether the man is white or black, fading support of Obama among white voters (if polls are to be trusted) is a sign of typical behavior, not anything unique regarding him.

In other words: if you're looking for people responding based upon racial characteristics, you're looking the wrong direction when you look at whites.

Second Quote of the Day

“We need to show some left to cover the costs of the trip Roger didn’t make and also the fees/equipment/computer money we haven’t spent otherwise NOAA will be suspicious.”
-yet another Hadley CRU email

WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

"Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise."

Warmaquiddick is being largely ignored by the legacy media (several instead have run stories on how the warming is even worse than we suspected, and the danger is far greater!). However, CBS is defying this trend and has run several stories on the scandal, including one by Declan McCullagh which I wanted to highlight here:
A few days after leaked e-mail messages appeared on the Internet, the U.S. Congress may probe whether prominent scientists who are advocates of global warming theories misrepresented the truth about climate change.

Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said on Monday the leaked correspondence suggested researchers "cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled, when all the time of course we knew it was not," according to a transcript of a radio interview posted on his Web site. Aides for Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, are also looking into the disclosure.
Now no one rational expects these congressional probes to go anywhere, not any more than a probe into Senator Rangel's tax law breaking and ethics violations.

Why? Both of these congressmen who are actually showing any interest are Republicans, and thus have no power to make the investigation or any hearings happen (until 2010, perhaps). The Democrats, who control congress, have absolutely no interest in any attention to this story in any slightest degree. Even if they weren't trying to pass a global-warming inspired "Cap and Trade" bill, the whole AGW hysteria thing plays nicely into their bigger government, more socialism, and greater government control of your life platform, so they aren't likely to do anything to harm it.

The more that comes out about the Hadley CRU emails, the worse things look for the whole climate modeling and global warming industry. And it is proper to think of this as an industry. I think Ace put it best when he said:
Science is in the business of reproducible results. That is the central point of it. That results must be reproducible by anyone following the same procedure.

But they refuse to disclose what procedure produced these results, so no one can reproduce them. At least -- no one except their buddies, chatting together in secret email lists, telling each other what "tricks" to use to "hide the decline."

And no one points out: This is not science. Science is not secret. It is open, it is conducted openly, information -- the goal of science -- is to be disseminated, not hoarded and kept under lock and key.

These dirty motherf***ers are doing the exact opposite, guarding their data and methods like it's the Coke formula, like it's a business.

Because it is a business. It is not science. It is a money-making for-profit enterprise, so trade secrets are implicated.
So hats off to CBS and their coverage of this story. Everyone else is running away, this is a chance to put their news department out of the doghouse and back into the public's eye as being at least somewhat more trustworthy.

NEVER HAVING TO SAY SORRY

"But the most worrying possibility - that this is Southern populist terrorism, whipped up by the GOP and its Fox and talk radio cohorts - remains real."

One bad thing about being a pundit is that it often leads you to be so arrogant or confident that you have a hard time admitting you're wrong or that you are sorry for what you've said. Sometimes that happens to me, although I try to always note when I was in error and post the correction prominently. It is cathartic, even if it can damage your readership or reputation.

The recent tragic story of a census worker found dead in a cemetery in Kentucky was leaped upon by several pundits eager to find political gain. Newsbusters, for example rounded up a few of the declarations:
  • The Democratic Underground quickly posted a ‘Handy Guide to how Republicans and Fox News are responsible for Census worker being hanged'.
  • Rachel Maddow suggested Sparkman was killed simply because ‘he was a federal employee'.
  • Liberal bloggers were quick to accuse ‘right wing zealots' trying to ‘take their country back.
  • Time chalked it up to government distrust, a sentiment fanned by ‘talk media, tea parties and white-hot town-hall meetings'.
  • The Huffington Post immediately assumed this was a case of right-wing paranoia.
  • True/Slant opined that the body of Sparkman should be shipped to Glenn Beck.
  • Think Progress pointed the finger at Michelle Bachman and her ‘inflammatory and fear-mongering rhetoric against the Census'.
  • New York Magazine linked the death to that of ‘some wide-eyed, hysterical woman' named Michelle Bachman. (The irony in this is that the reference to a wide-eyed, hysterical woman was made in an article mentioning Nancy Pelosi).
Reason Magazine also offers up some additional cries of right wing guilt:
Even Little Green Footballs, who has slouched left ever since November (apparently looking to hook into the zeitgeist), declared
...the description of the circumstances and the timing (around the time of the Washington DC tea party) raises a strong suspicion that anti-government sentiment may have been the motivation.
And like many others categorically ruled out suicide, which coroners have now determined was how this man's death came about.

The blog Patriotboy came up with this graphic, giving clear indication of blame to the usual boogey men of the left:


Even in the story reporting on the suicide verdict, the Associated Press writer mentions:
"The strange case attracted national attention when it first came to light, prompting worries that it may be a sign of increased anger toward the federal government in the first year of Barack Obama's presidency."
The thing that triggered this was the word FED carved in the victim's chest: a federal worker. Apparently that's what the suicide victim wanted to have happen, because apparently he did it to himself. And the left jumped on this like a frog on a lillypad.

Like many online, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for an apology or retraction from any of these sources, least of all the demented and bizarrely over popular Andrew Sullivan.

Old Habits, pt 18

Last year I wrote about introducing complications to a story. With Snowberry's Veil I used this device every time things were going too well for the main character Erkenbrand. It is an easy method of moving the story along because if things go to well any story just becomes either boring or entirely too short.

It can be overdone, of course. I like the movie Armageddon quite a bit, but the last half hour or so is frustrating and annoying because it is nothing but a series of continual complications: something goes wrong over and over and over to the point you're just sick of it, or at least I was. So the trick is to make the story complex, at least a little unpredictable, and interesting without becoming frustrating and boring by simply being a series of failures.

And if your hero fails too much, they tend to seem a great deal less heroic. This is a problem a lot of writers have as well, it seems: they don't give their character a chance to really shine before looking like a fool. You cannot really get a feel for how good they are if everyone they meet is just as good. Your main character always needs a chance to shine at least once before they face the big boss that is better than them, or they just never seem all that capable.

I've gotten better at bringing complications into a story than I was a year ago. Maybe next year I'll be even better at this writing thing. And hopefully by then I'll have an agent and maybe even a real publisher.

Part eighteen

Quote of the Day

"There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality."
-Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

LET ME SWEETEN THE DEAL

"We have already established what sort of woman you are, madam, we are merely negotiating the price."

Briefly, I wanted to draw some attention to an article at the Hill which details something voters need to be aware of. There are a few ways you can get people to vote for something they disagree with or consider a bad thing in congress. One is to make a trade: you vote for mine and I'll vote for yours. Another is to stick an amendment on that is so desired and noble that people feel compelled to vote for the whole bill. A third way is to just bribe people.

Take the case of Senator Landrieu (D-LA) who voted for cloture to begin debate on the Government Health Insurance Takeover plan. She didn't want to... until a 300 million dollar giveaway to Louisiana was tacked on to the bill. Technically its for any gulf area hurricane-wracked area, but because of provisions in the bill it only really gives money to LA. Suddenly she decided she was for the bill.

Mike Soraghn highlights some other examples in the Hill article:
Before Rep. Joseph Cao (La.) cast the lone Republican vote for the healthcare bill in the House, he secured assurances from President Barack Obama to work on Medicaid funding, loan forgiveness and issues related to two of his local hospitals.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) also reportedly promised a visit to Cao’s hurricane-ravaged district.

Besides the promises secured by Cao, the best-known deal involved Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa, two Blue Dog Democrats from the Golden State who secured funding for a medical school for California’s Central Valley.

Other lawmakers won carve-outs for their state healthcare systems.

Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) got her state’s existing health program exempted by what the Honolulu Advertiser called the “Hirono Amendment.” As a result, the reform measures will be a non-event for many people in Hawaii.
This isn't necessarily a betrayal of principles. Some of these voters might simply be holding out, using their hesitance as leverage to get something done that they've wanted by haven't had the power previously to achieve. And, as the article points out, this is not new, or exclusive to Democrats. The Republicans do it to, and last time it was on a pretty similar unconstitutional expansion of federal power in the name of health care and helping the sick.

The proper response to this is to find the ones who went for this kind of bribe and show them the door, voters. So how about it? We have a chance for a lot of these people come November next year. Will you make it happen?

WARMAQUIDDICK MARCHES ON

"Jones says that UK climate organisations are coordinating themselves to resist FoI"

Some pundits are calling it "Climategate" which is a pretty pathetic name, and following previously established rules, I think Warmaquiddick is a far better name. By now anyone following the new media, at least the right side of things politically, is aware of a massive scandal involving one of the world's leading climate change science centers Hadley CRU in East Anglia England. Emails reveal not just a tendency to mock and attack anyone who dared disagree, but to hide data, manipulate results, and even delete materials to keep them from Freedom of Information requests.

Iain Murray writes at Pajamas Media that there are three things everyone should know about this scandal.
First, the scientists discuss manipulating data to get their preferred results. The most prominently featured scientists are paleoclimatologists, who reconstruct historical temperatures and who were responsible for a series of reconstructions that seemed to show a sharp rise in temperatures well above historical variation in recent decades.

Secondly, scientists on several occasions discussed methods of subverting the scientific peer review process to ensure that skeptical papers had no access to publication. In 2003, Tom Wigley of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, complained that paleoclimatologist Hans von Storch was responsible for “the publication of crap science ‘in order to stimulate debate’” and that they “must get rid of von Storch” (1051190249) as an editor of the journal Climate Research (he indeed subsequently resigned).

Finally, the scientists worked to circumvent the Freedom of Information process of the United Kingdom.
And, as S. Weasel points out the emails reveal a creepy sort of inbred relationship between all these and any other warmy scientists around the world, a clique of like-minded people sharing and carefully manipulating data while shutting out any disagreement.

That's not science, as Charlie Martin notes in another Pajamas Media article.
Among other things, however, these emails suggest that a number of highly reputable climate scientists had been conniving for years to prevent other researchers from obtaining the data needed to replicate climate science results. At the same time, these scientists appear to have colluded to subvert the whole peer review process in order to prevent critical or contradictory results from being published.

This violates the whole social contract that is the basis of what we call science.
The scientific method properly engaged in means that you take whatever the data tells you even if you don't happen to like the results. It means you share the data and research with others to make sure you're doing it correctly. And it means you use the best material and techniques available, without carefully weeding through it to give the results you want, then you make sure others can duplicate and achieve the same results. The Hadley CRU Warmaquiddic emails show they did none of what they were supposed to.

The fact is, Hadley CRU is not the only organization which has been stonewalling requests for data and research as well as denying Freedom of Information requests. NASA and Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) for example are two more which have simply refused to share data.

This means nobody can peer-review your work. It also means that you're not engaging in real science, because you're hiding your research from anyone who might be skeptical or not be in on the game. And as these emails reveal, there was an inside and an outside here: if you were on the inside you got the data, if you weren't a true believer or even questionable, you were shut out.

This means there was no real peer review process. Their research was handed to other zealots who rubber stamped it with a wink and a nod, being in on the fix, and then it was shown to the world: see, we have peer review, we have consensus, the data is certain!

This has gotten so bad that even AGW hysteric and the original moonbat George Monbiot is calling for review of the data and for heads to roll, recently in a "Comment is Free" column in the Guardian:
It's no use pretending this isn't a major blow. The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. I am now convinced that they are genuine, and I'm dismayed and deeply shaken by them.
...
Worse still, some of the emails suggest efforts to prevent the publication of work by climate sceptics, or to keep it out of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I believe that the head of the unit, Phil Jones, should now resign. Some of the data discussed in the emails should be re-analysed.
Monbiot clings bravely to the certainty that AGW is true and the essence of what these guys were doing was all valid, but the house of cards has started its tumble. When you've lost George Monbiot, you've lost the world's trust.

And still, this story just isn't making it into the legacy media. There have been a few small reports and even hilariously pathetic attempts to spin it, but this is the biggest story of 2009 and its just not out there yet. And I have every faith that the legacy media will sit on it as long as possible, even to their detriment, then minimize and even mislead about it until they can plausibly drop it entirely and move on to the next story. Yet warmaquiddick marches on, despite their efforts.

The only question left for me is this: how many other "settled, consensus, the science is good, our models all work" parts of science are being done this way? How many other theories that are generally accepted as scientifically valid and trustworthy are based upon an activist group's zealotry and determination to produce the results they desire?

*Hat tip Instapundit for these stories.

THE TEST

"President Ronald Reagan believed, as a result, that someone who agreed with him 8 out of 10 times was his friend, not his opponent"

The Republican Party, in an attempt to generate some interest and cohesion in a party rapidly being torn in two by wanna be democrats and conservatives, has released what some are calling a "purity test" for members of the party. If someone wants to run for office as a Republican, the party wants them to agree to at least 8 of the 10 points on this list:
  1. Smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill
  2. Market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;
  3. Market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;
  4. Workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check
  5. Legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;
  6. Victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;
  7. Containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat
  8. Retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;
  9. Protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and
  10. The right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership
Appealing to the name Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party is hoping that it can bring some sense of cohesion and better discipline, so that instead of candidates begin Republican simply because of the name, it means something and stands for a basic, minimal level of agreement to which all members can sign on.

I'm not a Republican, although its possible next year I'll register as one long enough to vote in the primaries (or, a Democrat, depending on the candidates offered - the idea is to support the most conservative candidate, then return to independent after the primary election). However, when I look at this list I see a few things.

First, it seems fairly good, if a bit lacking in some critical areas such as tax policy, smaller government, less interference in public life, state sovereignty, and so on. The biggest problem I see, however, is that it doesn't show leadership.

The Contract With America which Newt Gingrich came up with in the '94 election season was a document which blazed a new trail, it made a bold, different, and appealing statement which voters were attracted to. This 10 point document is mostly reactionary. It says "we're not Obama and Democrats" which is fine - the GOP is the opposition party, after all - but its almost entirely based on reacting to what the Democrats are doing.

Specifically mentioning Obama in a few of these points likely tested well in polling and focus groups, but it doesn't look good. Republicans aren't running against Obama, he's not in congress any longer. They're running against Democrats in congress. The Republican leadership needs to lead, not merely be opposed to Democratic Party tactics and ideas. They have to offer up something more, something better, and something new to counter the Democrats. This document doesn't really do that.

Point 8 is particularly troubling to me. The idea behind the Defense of Marriage Act I am not so much opposed to. It is an attempt to by federal law protect and define marriage between states so that it is consistent and limited to one man and one woman. In principle I agree with this, but my problem is that it nudges up entirely too much against federalism and the principles of the founding fathers. Marriage was not new to them, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison for example were both married men. The concept of marriage was well known and quite established, it has changed little since those days. They simply didn't think it was a matter for the federal government.

The Defense of Marriage Act takes a private, church matter, and turns it into a public, state matter. It puts the idea and act of marriage at least partly under federal control which I believe is a terrible mistake. Imagine the federal government like a mob boss. You might find him a very nice fellow and he might do some good in your community. You might appreciate his business when he drops in for canolis. What you do not want is for him to have any slightest interest or control in your business or personal life. You don't want him even a little bit involved in some tangential way because that is the toe in the door which leads to a foot, which leads to a well-dressed, creased pants leg, which leads to a whole mobster with guns blazing. Not even a little.

If I was going to come up with a list of this sort, I'd probably focus on some different, more general and universal concerns rather than short term, trendy ones. For example:

  • Lowering taxation to encourage investment, personal spending, and economic growth
  • Auditing every agency of the federal government to determine waste, fraud, and mismanagement
  • Fighting Corruption
  • Voting Accuracy and fraud-fighting
  • Immigration enforcement
  • Fighting Terrorism world wide
  • Reducing the expense and intrusive nature of the federal government
  • Greater government transparency
  • Saving and restructuring Social Security (granted, I'd like it eliminated and moved to the state level if at all but: baby steps)
  • Tort Reform to save doctors and reduce costs in all business
  • Examining all regulations to determine validity and worth
  • Reducing dependency on foreign oil by drilling and more nuclear power
  • Fighting against political correctness which blinds the military to crazed extremists in their midst
  • Eliminating federal agencies and jobs which are obsolete or ineffective
  • Confirm only wise, carefully studied, and capable appointees for any office
It seems to me that these sorts of things would appeal more broadly than "stop Obama." You'll note I don't mention abortion in that mix, despite my strong, passionate opposition to this practice. That's because it isn't a legislative issue at this point. The Supreme Court's usurpation of power and unconstitutional declaration is what brought us forced legalized abortion in every state. That's where the battle lies, not at the legislative level. The last point would be the one which would affect abortion, and things like eminent domain and capital punishment, among others.

The GOP has a long ways to go and a short time to do it in if they want to convince people they should be let back in power. There are few, if any, indications they're even trying to learn.

Picture of the Day


This calls for a pile of otter pups.

Old Habits, pt 17

More fun with language. The serving girl is a bit wenchy and rough in her dialect, while the Captain of the Guard is more polished, and the Baron more polished yet - or at least that's my intent. Even if no one really picks that out while reading, it ought to help divide between the different strata of classes in this society more easily.

Secret passages are just a classic bit (or "trope") in castles and fantasy. I tend to approach writing fantasy at least as if I'm running or playing a role playing game, so the actions of the characters and the settings reflect this background. Secret doors are always a possibility, and who better to find them than a thief?

The internal layout of the castle features in this as well. I have a map actually drawn up in my room, so I can keep details like where the windows are, what you can see from the doors of each room, where the secret passage(s) are, and so on. In a way, its almost like a Gothic mystery, with the building being a major character in how the plot develops. Mess up an important detail or contradict and someone with a good mind for architecture will call you on the carpet. I'd like thousands (millions?) of people to read my books, and if enough people do, eventually someone will spot all your errors. Best to minimize that, if possible because God knows I make enough errors as it is.

Part Seventeen

Quote of the Day

"If I call myself black I reject the mother who raised me."
Tiger Woods

Monday, November 23, 2009

WITCHES COLLECT BODIES

"To make soap, first we render fat. The salt balance has to be just right... so the best fat comes from humans."
-Tyler Durden

Headbone
This is a story I simply could not pass up. "Witches" in Peru luring and killing people to render them for their fat. The story comes from News.Com from Australia:
The gang used abandoned buildings in the Amazon jungle and high Andes to clandestinely butcher victims and "formed a network, or brotherhood that carried out criminal activities," police general Eusebio Felix said.

Peruvian authorities have taken three men and a woman into custody and are hunting two unnamed Italians suspected of buying human fat for as much as $US15,000 ($16,300) a litre.
For thirty years, this gang has been capturing people and gathering fat, then selling it. The cops think they've killed 60 people, but I'm guessing it was a lot more.

How is this lucrative? Well cosmetic companies will pay for human fat, and apparently they weren't terribly picky how they got it. The victims were murdered and bled out then hung on hooks in a heated room, where the fat would slowly seep out and be collected. Usually these companies buy it from executed prisoners or donated cadavers, but they needed a bigger supply for their lab work.
So far police have found the remains of just one of their victims, but one of the suspects, 56-year-old Hilario Cudena, is said to have told police he committed "various" murders since he was 20 years old.

He is accused of being part of a gang which called themselves the "Pishtacos of Huallaga," a reference to an Andean bogeyman said to kill and dismember victims in a region of central Peru.

The gang was uncovered earlier this month when police arrested one person in the possession of 17 litres of human fat, with an apparent value of $US255,000.
The police are hoping that this clears up a lot of unsolved murder cases in the area. So where's the witch part come in? Well, the cops are calling them witches, although they also refer to them as pishtacos (a sort of ghoul).

No, they weren't part of Fight Club.

Picture of the Day

THE NEW CLASSICAL

"If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music."
-Gustav Mahler

I like classical music. Little of it ends up in the Songs I Like series because not much classical has lyrics I really like, but the music its self is in my opinion, and based upon objective standards of beauty and excellence, the finest form of music on the planet.

Classical is the grown up literature compared to pop music's fun comic books and folk music's pulp fiction. The best stuff is the pinnacle of human musical achievement, as much as I might enjoy other kinds of music. Some other forms of music, such as Jazz, sometimes achieve the same heights.

Yet there isn't a lot of classical being written lately. Some is coming out, but classical hasn't the popularity it used to have, so you don't get new compositions being performed by great masters like it used to be. It isn't that there are no new composers, its is that classical isn't as popular as it once was, so the demand isn't there. If you're a composer, you can make maybe a few bucks writing a new symphony, and hope it is performed somewhere, but you won't become famous, rich, and well-loved at the work.

Unless... you write movie music. And here's where it gets interesting to me. One of the complaints against some more modern composers such as Gershwin, Tchaikovsky, and Copland is that their music sounds like a score to a movie. And some of it absolutely does, but that's missing the point. Movie music is classical music in many cases. When John Williams wrote music for Star Wars and other movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler's List, and Jaws, he was not just writing soundtrack, he was composing classical music.

There are dozens of these composers behind the scenes, and some of them are magnificent. Harry Gregson-Williams' work on the Narnia movies is wonderful stuff. John Williams, Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings, Crash), James Horner (Glory, Braveheart), Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen, Poltergeist), Basil Poledouris (Hunt for the Red October, Lonesome Dove), Ennio Morricone (Most spaghetti westerns), and Hans Zimmer (King Arthur, Batman Begins), among others, are producing amazing, memorable works of classical music. You just don't think of them being classical because they're doing it for movies. Movie scores often have wonderful music behind them, music which often you don't notice on purpose - it sets the mood and emotion but isn't blaring and obvious.

I love these soundtracks because they not only have great music but if you've seen the movie they evoke images and memories from what took place when you heard the music. The theme from Band of Brothers (Michael Kamen - also did Open Range and Die Hard) is hearbreakingly powerful. Listen to a few bars of the Emperor's theme from Star Wars and you know instantly what it is and yet enjoy the music every time.

These guys are putting out new classical music, great music and there's dozens of them out there. Check out MovieMusic.com some time, find a soundtrack you like, and go look up what else that composer has written. For example I liked the soundtrack to 300 (not classical but fun), which is by Tyler Bates. He's also done the soundtracks for Watchmen, Get Carter, and the crappy new The Day the Earth Stood Still movies. In my opinion the best Star Trek soundtrack was for Wrath of Khan... written by James Horner.

Next time you see a movie, ignore the rap inspired music over the credits - that's just to sell the pop album. Pay atttention to the main theme and the incidental music, not the pop songs played over the top of a montage, but the music that sets the emotional theme of a scene. Who wrote that? Chances are it was pretty good stuff, sometimes great stuff.

What's interesting to me is that classical music radio stations and even conductors of orchestras are starting to pay attention to this too - performances of these pieces are starting to become part of the repertoire of great orchestras.

Old Habits, pt 16

You may have noticed that Stoce tends to store things all over the place. Although that is a major and useful plot device early on, it wasn't intended as a character flaw. I don't actually plan out that much ahead what I'm going to write, I have a very vague concept of how plot unfolds, a story in mind (good vs evil, etc), and the main character.

For this one I started with a story adaptation from a well-known tale (I'll say what it is at the end here, although I think its more fun if you read it and notice for yourself), and a thief. Then I had to figure out why he would get involved at all, so the jewel heist was the hook. Then I had to make the introduction interesting, an in media res as they call it - starting at an interesting point midway through the story, then moving back to explain how we got there.

And to explain why his gems were sailing away I had to come up with a system he used to hide things until he could get them sold properly - and since he was in an organization of crooks and criminals, it couldn't be in his home because they knew where that was and would likely steal from him. So he became a packrat. By now I've figured out that will feature importantly in the climax of the story.

Between that and listing questions that come up in the book such as "who is trying to take over the keep?" and "what happened to the gems?" I can keep writing and keep moving the story along by answering those questions. As I go, I think of bits I can use that I've either thought of in the past and remembered, or come up with based on what's happening in the story. In this case, I have a useful background to pull from in the original story I'm adapting, so I try to come up with equivalents or variants of how that story turned out.

And so far that's worked for me, hopefully it won't result in predictable, too-similar stories over time.

Part Sixteen

Quote of the Day

"The Climate Conference in Copenhagen is another step forward towards the global management of our planet"
-EU President Herman Van Rompuy

Saturday, November 21, 2009

THE FADING BENEFITS

After all the revelations about the hockey stick graph, selective cherrypicking of data to make modern warming seem worse, and the latest flood of damning emails - which nobody, not one person at the CRU is claiming are fake - it seems that the very least we can say is what a commenter at Tim Blair's site named lyle says:
That’s the crux. They no longer get the benefit of the doubt. Now they have to demonstrate their scientific integrity, if they in fact have any.
Even if you're a person convinced of the dangers of global warming and manmade climate change, certainly this evidence ought to make you at least begin to question them a little.

Friday, November 20, 2009

THE SLOPING PLATEAU

"I hardly know any colleagues who would deny that it hasn't gotten warmer in recent years."
-Hamburg Max Planck Institute scientist Jochem Marotzke

After years of telling everyone that rising greenhouse gases cause a continuous rise in temperature which will eventually doom the world, scientists are struggling to deal with the recent ten year cooling period. Gerald Traufetter at Speigel reports that climatologists are baffled by the "global warming time out" as they put it. The whole article presumes two errors:
1) That Global Warming is absolutely still going on, just taking a brief hiatus
2) That the recent cooling period is a flat plateau, that it simply stopped getting warmer and stayed steady rather than actually cooling, as global data proves.
However, it is the scrambling by AGW advocates to find a way to spin this so their theories (and funding) can continue. Some simply deny the cooling is happening at all (if you read blog comments, there are commenters who share this sad ignorance): "Warming has continued in the last few years," says Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

Others such as Marotzke and Leibniz Institute meteorologist Mojib Latif have a different approach: "We have to explain to the public that greenhouse gases will not cause temperatures to keep rising from one record temperature to the next, but that they are still subject to natural fluctuations." In other words "all those years we said the warming was guaranteed to continue without abatement and will result in floods and catastrophe? We actually meant 'it won't really continue without abatement.' We were just being misunderstood."

Some claim that the scattering of just a few hundred temperature monitoring stations around the world is giving misleading data, that this apparent cooling is not really accurate because there's not enough of the stations. Unfortunately for this position, they came to their conclusions about warming based on that limited number of stations. And as climatologist Anthony Watts has been shouting about for years, many of those measuring stations are poorly maintained and positioned, guaranteeing warmer data than the area actually is experiencing.

All the scientists interviewed in the Speigel article guarantee more warming in the future. All of them discount or outright reject the fact that the sun has been amazingly free of spots and thus solar storms during a period of cooling, and was heavily covered with spots and thus solar storms during the period of warming. Exactly as previously observed periods of this sort have been in the past: more spots = warming. Fewer spots = cooling.

When your reputation and funding is on the line, the facts have to give way to the theories.

Meanwhile the global warming conference in Copenhagen appears to be accomplishing exactly nothing, which is good for everyone except AGW scientists and those who want greater leftist control over the global economy and behavior.

*UPDATE: And today, at Watt's Up With That, we have email evidence that at least some scientists are deliberately manipulating data to show warming where there is none. A sample:
I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.
Is it valid, is this really happening? Well let's put it this way: the Hockey Stick graph was deliberately manipulated to not show previous warming, and to use only the data which supported their position. Dr Hanson at NASA manipulated historical data to make it seem like the late 90s were warmer than any time in the 20th century. So we can put this one down as plausible.

This would not, even if it ends up being truthful, mean global warming is fake or that the AGW hysterics are all frauds and wrong. It just means that they can't rely on the data and facts to support their arguments and thus policy suggestions. And that they cannot be trusted.