SOPA on hold, PROTECT IP still pending

I’m a registered Democrat. I vote, I canvass, I caucus. As a Website owner and as an American, I’m dismayed by Congressional attempts to censor the internet. I’m appalled and chilled that we have a former Senator who publicly asserts that the U.S. should take a lesson from China to establish internet censorship and stifle the free exchange of information.

censorship graphicThe House just acknowledged “legitimate concerns” about SOPA — its version of the PROTECT IP Act (pdf link) — and backed away from a vote that looked certain to occur. The Senate needs to do the same: PROTECT IP will kill jobs and innovation, undermine cyber security, censor the Internet, and provide ready justification to foreign regimes that want to crack down on dissent and political reform.

PROTECT IP won’t catch or punish internet pirates. They’ll simply move shop, work on darknets, or code workarounds. Online piracy won’t even slow as a result of this legislation. Legitimate sites, however, DO have a great deal of reason to worry.

It should be instructive that Universal Music incorrectly and abusively used the DMCA take-down process to stifle and censor content they did not own, just recently.

As flawed as the DMCA is, there IS recourse built into the process for site-owners who are improperly censored and/or interrupted by competitors who abuse the legal process.

I direct your attention to a December 8th, 2011 article in Techdirt:

The US government has effectively admitted that it totally screwed up and falsely seized & censored a non-infringing domain of a popular blog, having falsely claimed that it was taking part in criminal copyright infringement. Then, after trying to hide behind a totally secretive court process with absolutely no due process whatsoever (in fact, not even serving papers on the lawyer for the site or providing timely notifications — or providing any documents at all), for over a year, the government has finally realized it couldn’t hide any more and has given up, and returned the domain name to its original owner. If you ever wanted to understand why ICE’s domain seizures violate the law — and why SOPA and PROTECT IP are almost certainly unconstitutional — look no further than what happened in this case.

PROTECT IP and SOPA would both make these sorts of abuses devastatingly likely, remove the fragile existing protections for independent Websites and small Internet businesses, while doing nothing to effectively prevent piracy.

Harry Reid and Patrick Leahy: Don’t bring this bill up for a floor vote.

To my Senators: Please vote NO if the bill reaches the floor.

(Cross-posted on AbsoluteWrite.comSome text remixed from original letter here.)

Please feel free to remix and reuse this post to contact your own Senators. No attribution necessary.


Rowling’s Plot Chart for Order of the Phoenix

One of the things that both writers and literary scholars are interested in are the ways in which authors figure out their story, and plots. There are lots of super tools for helping writings plan, ranging from spreadsheets, to index cards, to paper scraps and post-it notes, as well as a lot of software, like Scrivener, or Dramatica, that’s specialized for fiction and screenplays. 

But this image shows J. K. Rowling’s loose-leaf notebook page turned to landscape view, and covered with quick notes about the basic plot premises of Rowling’s Order of the Phoenix.

The first column is the chapter number.

The second column shows the time of the year for that chapter.

The third column is a general chapter outline.

The rest of the columns deal with the various subplots that are part of the book, each column tracking one subplot wrt to the chapter, whether it actually appears on the chapter or not.

Thank you, Ms. Rowling, for being this generous to other writers, and thanks to the original poster, James Plafke at Geek System and Elvisaaron on Tumblr



See the original here

The Life of the Book Reviewer, In Pictures

The Book Publicity Blog collected pictures of the over-flowing bookshelves, desks, and floors, of book reviewers. Many authors, especially those who have newly self-published, think that book reviewers are just waiting to receive a copy of their book

The idea to collect the images was inspired by Murderati blogger and reviewer Tess Gerritsen’s post about Why the hell won’t they review my book.”


The truth of the matter is that there are thousands more books to be reviewed than book reviewers can possibly review—even if they wanted to review them all, and the sad truth is that a rather large percentage of the books in question are really rather wretched. 

You can read about the project to collect picures of reviewer’s shelves, and see the Flickr stream of the photos

The Dallas Morning News book room

This is the Dallas Morning News>/cite> Book Room, after the reviewer failed to shelve books “for a few weeks.”


This is a New Yorker piece by . It’s painfully funny in that a-little-too-close-to-the-bone way:

Let me introduce myself. My name is Gineen Klein, and I’ve been brought on as an intern to replace the promotion department here at Propensity Books. First, let me say that I absolutely love “Clancy the Doofus Beagle: A Love Story” and have some excellent ideas for promotion.


To start: Do you blog? If not, get in touch with Kris and Christopher from our online department, although at this point I think only Christopher is left. I’ll be out of the office from tomorrow until Monday, but when I get back I’ll ask him if he spoke to you. We use CopyBuoy via Hoster Broaster, because it streams really easily into a Plaxo/LinkedIn yak-fest meld. When you register, click “Endless,” and under “Contacts” just list everyone you’ve ever met. It would be great if you could post at least six hundred words every day until further notice.

Read more of Subject: Our Marketing Plan



J. R. R. Tolkien Encylopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment—Michael Drout, Ed.

Michael Drout, Ed.
J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia:
Scholarship and Critical Assessment
(Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2006).
Order Paperback from Amazon

drout_tolkien_encyclopediaThe J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment is a very large book, weighing just under 4.5 pounds, with 800 folio size two-column pages, including a list of the forty-six contributors, an alphabetical list of entries, a thematic list of entries, and an index. Right from the start, the Encyclopedia was meant to be the starting reference in terms of Tolkien scholarship, in terms of his fiction, his scholarly publications, and his biography. Michael D. C. Drout, the author of Beowulf and the Critics, and an editor of the scholarly journal Tollkien Studies, is the Editor, with Douglas A. Anderson, Marjorie Burns, Verlyn Flieger, and Thomas Shippey as Associate Editors. That list of names, with the addition of another handful more, is pretty much the list of the top Tolkien scholars.

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Maine Mead Works, Honeymaker Meads

In 2007, entrepreneur Ben Alexander co-founded the Maine Mead Works in Portland, Maine, with experienced South African mead-maker Dr. Garth Cambray. Maine Mead Works is going strong today, still staffed by Dr. Cambray, mead-maker Nick Higgins, and Ben and Carly Alexander. They offer a variety of carefully-crafted meads made from Maine wildflower honey, with a range that will suit both sophisticated palates and the most novice of mead drinkers.

First, I tried the Honeymaker Lavender Mead. Since I’m not a big fan of trendy artisan-style herbal flavorings, I was a little cautious. Well, okay; I was actually downright skeptical. Lavender is what grandmothers put in those little pomander balls hanging in the backs of old lady’s closets. My caution was entirely misplaced, though, and I’m happy to confess my skepticism was utterly baseless. You know how a summer hayfield smells? That’s sort of what this mead tastes like: honey, herbs, and sunshine, all carefully distilled into a lovely glass of crisp, pale liquid. The mouth feel is refreshing and gently astringent. The nose is reminiscent of a lazy country summer afternoon in a hammock. This mead definitely wanted to open up a little more as it warmed in the glass, and the flavor blossomed, too. Better served cool than actually chilled.

The other mead I tried, the Honeymaker Dry Mead, was so crisp and pleasantly dry that it seemed almost effervescent in terms of mouth feel—but nonetheless redolent of honey and citrus blossom. With all the elegance of a dry white wine, with all the tradition and flavor and spiciness of this ancient beverage, the Honeymaker Dry Mead was truly exceptional. This is a mead you can serve to friends with well-educated wine palates, and serve just as happily as to your more adventurous and less-jaded pals out in the yard on a warm spring evening. I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity to sample some of their other flavors, after this very pleasant introduction.

Maine Mead Works ships to Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, Washington D.C., West Virginia and Wyoming, through their partner website,, or if you find yourself in Portland, stop by their tasting room and taste some of their many extraordinary and carefully-crafted meads for yourself.

The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition—William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White

Strunk, William Jr. and E. B. White. The Elements of Style Longman 4th edition, 1999. ISBN: 978-0205309023.

Strunk and White is, and was, aimed at English undergraduate essay writers. It began as a small pamphlet that Strunk wrote, printed himself, and gave to his freshman comp and introduction to literature study students at Cornell in 1918. White, of New Yorker and Charlotte’s Web fame, was a former student of Strunk’s, and, out of admiration for his mentor’s work, reprinted a revised version of the pamphlet. White republished The Elements of Style in several editions.

Longman Publishing bought the rights to the content and the title, and have published several revised versions using a variety of editors and ghost writers, though the audience is still very much primarily freshman comp students.

The very first edition is available for free here. It is worth looking at, but it is not the version that people refer to with either fervent admiration, or fervent loathing. You will note that the Introduction starts with the very practical admonition to the reader:

This book is intended for use in English courses in which the practice of composition is combined with the study of literature. It aims to give in brief space the principal requirements of plain English style. It aims to lighten the task of instructor and student by concentrating attention (in Chapters II and III) on a few essentials, the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated. The numbers of the sections may be used as references in correcting manuscript.

I like Strunk and White; I’ve even used it to teach. But I am dismayed that it is so often touted as some sort of über usage and style guide when it wasn’t intended as such, and really, can’t function as such. I’m particularly dismayed to see how very often Strunk and White is treated as a grammar and usage oracle by writers beginning to write fiction. It was not ever, and is not now intended for an audience other than the freshman or sophomore essayist in a humanities class. Other than some very basic (and often inadequate guidelines) about punctuation and verb tense, it doesn’t really have a lot to say to writers outside of the freshman comp class.

I am very much of Geoffrey K. Pullum’s mind regarding Strunk and White; it is mostly harmless, but it is far too often taken by naive writers as the ultimate guide to English prose, and grammar. It is neither; it is at best simplistic, and at worst, just plain wrong. An example of “just plain wrong” is the discussion of passive voice; it’s idiotic in that the authors themselves use passive voice, three of the four examples given in the current edition (the fourth) as passive voice constructions aren’t, and in Strunk and White’s general terror at the very idea of using passive voice. Sometimes passive voice constructions are exactly the construction to use, for instance, when the agent is in fact unknown—as is often the case in science writing.

If you’ve read Strunk and White and want something more useful, I’d suggest On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction. William Zinsser. Zinsser covers a number of different kinds of non-fiction writing in clear and practical language. For a more useful general guide to English grammar, usage and style, I’d suggest June Casagrande’s It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences. This is a practical, specific, and thoroughly enjoyable guide to writing and revising English at the sentence level. Be cautious about very inexpensive editions of The Elements of Style, or Kindle versions; they’re based on the 1918 pamphlet and are noticeably inferior.

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