Monday, February 28, 2005

Little things you can do to help fight spam - Views - Beware Spam From Cyber-Drug Dealers

Provides tips for protecting yourself against malware and fraud, as well as how to help fight spammers in general.

That's malware. I presume they are using the root mal as in bad, evil, corrosive, tragic, mean...

The context in this article is ...spyware and other malware...

Barbara Simpson: The wonderful world of legal murder

WorldNetDaily: The wonderful world of legal murder

It's not just Terri we're talking about. Barbara Simpson, aka The Babe in the Bunker, takes Terri's case as a starting point, and goes from there. This article originally appeared Feb. 21, 2005.

Chrenkoff: 'Delightful for Its Ordinariness'

OpinionJournal - Extra

Arthur Chrenkoff checks in with "A roundup of the past two weeks' good news from Iraq".

Former communist countries lead the way on tax reform (how embarrassing)

OpinionJournal - John Fund on the Trail

Country after country is discovering the virtues of a flat tax. Even Clint Eastwood found something he likes about it...

Wittenberg Gate: Bloggers' Best for Terri Schiavo

This is one of the best round-ups, carefully selected. I wish I could write as well as what is featured here. Since I can't, I'll let them speak for me.

The fear of strange bedfellows

Inclusion Daily Express -- Unlikely Alliances And Foes In The Schiavo Debate (Oct. 22, 2004)

This article from late last year looks at the reasons why some people and groups are afraid to help save Terri Schiavo's life.

It reminds me of Ralph Waldo Emerson's famous quote, "Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." Well, small minds that are viciously closed off we probably can't reach. But small minds that are only scared of seeming to be inconsistent can be expanded. Let's try lending them courage and encouragement, eh? I'm not saying we ought to try to lure people to the cause and use them. Ugh. Not acceptable in my book. But I'm all for calling an intelligent truce or two.

The article also points out something that has gotten a wee bit buried of late. Disability rights groups have done some heavy lifting in the past, but now that the press has got its teeth into the pro-life vs 'right-to-die' battle, the disability groups are having difficulties getting the attention they used to get.

This brings me to another quote I heard lately. "We are human beings, not human doings." It fits here. I think I heard it from someone from Catholic church trying to explain the church's position on the sanctity of human life.

Anti-Sprawl Laws, Property Rights Collide in Oregon (

The Washington Post, with all due respect, is behind the times. Anti-sprawl laws and property rights have been colliding for a long time in Oregon. The mindset of the government hasn't precisely been one of treating citizens like serfs - but it's been close enough for discomfort, something along the lines of 'you can pretend to own the land but we're really in control here'.

Tevye, in Fiddler on the Roof, could only yell "Get off my land, this is still my land!" and then go start packing. (For readers who may not know, Fiddler on the Roof is a musical about, among other things, the Russian pogroms against the Jews. I'd tell you more, but I don't want to give away the ending. It was made into a play, and then a movie, and has been revived recently as a play on Broadway. For more on the current production, see The movie is available on DVD; as of post time Amazon was selling them new for $14.99. Much of it is charming and funny, which makes the scary and sad parts all that much more wrenching, I think.)

Thank goodness that in this country we have the option of nibbling away at government heavy-handedness, one election at a time. Tevye would dance with joy at such options. Such a country! You should know how lucky you are!

Hat tip: (and thanks to Terri Leo for pointing me to them). I hadn't heard of, but the first glance today is promising.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Newsweek chides Pope for not having a living will

MSNBC - International Periscope: March 7 issue

Christopher Dickey and Robert Blair Kaiser write in the 'March 7' International Edition of Newsweek, currently on the internet at MSNBC News, that the pope is confrontational. (Imagine this - he took the rough draft of his latest book and added to it shortly before publication. He inserted topics these writers didn't want him to talk about. Doesn't he know how to leave well enough alone?)

...Yet this same pontiff who continues to assert his will in the daily life of the church has given his doctors no instructions about how to sustain his life, or not, should he slip into a persistent coma. Could anyone—would anyone—pull the plug? And under what circumstances?...

I'm not Catholic, but I have a sneaking suspicion that church doctrine pretty much covers this without a living will. Yes?


hat tip:

Blogs For Terri

Please visit There are well over 200 bloggers working in concert to get facts about Terri Schiavo out in a civilized and responsible manner before it is too late.

This is not a case of 'letting someone die'. Terri is not helplessly and miserably waiting to die. She interacts with people, smiles at her friends, and has a limited vocabulary. She does not act like she wants to die.

She is not on life support. She just gets her food through a removable tube, and there are medical professionals who think she could eat the usual way if she were allowed to get therapy. Would we say that people who carry oxygen tanks around with them are on life support? Or would we say that they're entitled to the extra help getting the oxygen they need? Should we stop doing bowel surgeries that leave people in need of waste-collecting bags? Face it, a little plastic can be useful, and doesn't make monsters or subhumans out of people.

Michael Schiavo has denied Terri therapy for more than a decade, even to the point of admonishing a nurse who put a rolled-up washcloth in her hand to keep her from making tight fists. Many of his prohibitions have had nothing to do with prolonging life, and everything to do with quality of life: whether or not she can watch television, listen to music, have visitors, leave her room, etc.

The Florida courts are basing their decisions on the testimony of two 'expert witnesses' and ignoring the protests of a dozen medical professionals, half of whom are neurologists. One of the expert witnesses is an outspoken advocate of mercy killing.

Michael Schiavo forbids not only any rehab, but any testing to see if Terri might benefit from rehab. He also got an order from the court prohibiting her family from taking pictures of her. If the pictures would lend weight to his contention that she is suffering a fate worse than death, you'd think...

Well, but here's his problem. The pictures taken of Terri and smuggled out for the world to see show a woman who can sit up a little and smile when friends walk into the room, who turns her head to watch people, who scrunches up her face when her dad threatens playfully to tickle her with his mustache.

Terri is defenseless. Defenseless is not the same as hopeless.

If we do not defend people too weak to help themselves, what does that make us?

Wittenberg Gate: Should Michael Schiavo be Terri's Guardian?

Should Michael Schiavo be Terri's Guardian? This is a quiet, reasoned, thoughtful piece. I found it on another site (, and read it there. When I tracked it back, I was surprised to find it was from a religious site. I hope they won't be offended over at Wittenberg Gate, but I find it one of the most compelling secular arguments I've heard yet.

Please, take a moment to check out the BlogsforTerri site. At last count they had more than 200 blogs signed up, plus access to primary documents. If you are like me, the primary documents are invaluable (police reports, hospital reports, court testimony, etc.) In any case, the sites that sign up are required to pledge not only to fight for Terri's life, but to mind their manners, if you will. With this many sites they won't be able to ride herd on everybody - and what a diverse group of people they have on board! - but their goal is to excise acrimony and deal with the facts of the case. So far they are doing a great job.

High Calling, by Evelyn Husband

Evelyn Husband, widow of the commander of the space shuttle Columbia, has written a biography of her husband. The link is to an interview with her at

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Jacob Sullum: Can the Supreme Court stop the spread of blight?

New London, Conn., is arguing before the Supreme Court that property rights are contingent on how much the property owner pays in taxes. Really. Jacob Sullum has a good overview (linked above) in his Feb. 25, 2005, column at For instance, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor asked New London's lawyer about the prospect of, for instance, forcing Motel 6 to move out to make way for a Ritz-Carlton. And the guy said a city ought to be able to do that. Scary stuff.

Author interview: Susie Lloyd (Please Don't Drink the Holy Water!)

Lisa M. Hendy interviews author Susie Lloyd about her book Please Don't Drink the Holy Water!, a humorous look at life in a large Catholic family, homeschooling, and "the real world". The interview appears on

Please Don't Drink the Holy Water!, by Susie Lloyd, Sophia Institute Press, 2004, ISBN 1928832199, 200 pages, list price $14.95.

Haunted by a Paintbrush: A True Story, by Al Price

This is one of my “I Wish Someone Would Put It Back in Print” titles. It’s a roughly 30 page children’s book, slim and simple, illustrated with black and white art. But it’s interesting. Unique. And I find it inspiring. Al Price was born to a sharecropper, sent to an orphanage after his father died, was eventually adopted, wanted to be a musician, and then a doctor, and then an artist, served in the Army, became an Army artist, got out, and then got hurt and couldn’t use his right hand. So he learned to paint left-handed, and was better than before. There is a photograph of him in his Chicago studio, posing with one of his paintings. It’s a little book with heart, what you might call a 'you can do it, I know you can' book.

Haunted by A Paintbrush: A True Story, by Al Price with Margaret Friskey, Childrens Press, Chicago, 1968. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 68-14864.

Used prices on the web are currently averaging about $7 on most sites.

ScrappleFace makes a point about Terri

I used to ask, on appropriate occasions, "Where is Jonathan Swift when you need him?" The most common local answers around here being "Jonathan who?" and "He's dead" I've given up saying it. But I think it a lot. There is nothing like intelligent satire to put unintelligent behavior into focus. And, much to my dismay, I can't write it. Like most wannabe satirists, when I try it I almost always wind up short, usually sounding like I am whining or mean or too fond of my own prose or wit. Satire takes both skill and restraint, I think. In any case, most people stink at it.

Enter ScrappleFace. He can be very good. And he makes it look too easy.

On today's site, for instance, he has a couple of stories about Terri Schiavo. Reading them, I wondered where my brain had been that I hadn't thought of these angles. In one mock news story, Mr. Schiavo is selling his guardianship rights on eBay. In the other, the government is announcing that... oh, go read it if you're in the proper frame of mind. Satire is not only hard to write, it is pointless to describe it.

I have only one quibble. In this story, as in nearly everything out there on this case, the writer is talking about 'disconnecting' Terri's feeding tube. How you can disconnect a feeding tube that is only attached at mealtime is beyond me.

The Other Side of the Mountain, by E. G. (Evans) Valens

When I was in college, The Other Side of the Mountain played on campus. I guess I’m showing my age, but it was a new release then.

Spoiler alert: I’ll be giving away key points of the plot, but not the ending here.

The movie is based on the true story of Jill Kinmont, a skier paralyzed from the neck down when she fell during a race leading up to the Olympics.

She has a boyfriend. Buddy’s a handsome, charming, wonderful fellow. But he can’t cope with her new realities. After strenuous effort and serious rehab, Jill invites Buddy to come see her because she has a surprise. He shows up, eager for good news. She proudly shows him that she can pick food up and get it to her mouth without help. She has to struggle to get it done, and it takes what seemed like forever to those of us rooting for her in the audience, and there is nothing graceful about the procedure, but she gets it done. She looks to Buddy for kudos. It is a major achievement, given her injuries. ‘But aren’t you going to walk?’ he says. “No,’ she says, ‘I’m never going to walk.” He can walk, and does, right out of her life. It is a devastating turn of events for her, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Enter “Mad Dog” Buek, played by Beau Bridges. Mad Dog’s looks were not in the same league as Buddy’s, so it was hard at first to see him as a step up. (We were college students, what can I say?) But when Jill makes it known that she’s not sure what the point is in living anymore, he kidnaps her, pushes her wheelchair at a sometimes-frightening run, and parks her in the middle of an intersection, if I remember right. Faced with the possibility of being run over, she discovers that, as it happens, there are worse fates than merely having physical disabilities.

One of the best things about watching the movie, newly released, its contents completely unknown to us, the wild turns unexpected, was that my friends and I in the audience went crazy; telling Mad Dog what he could do with himself when he was kidnapping her, and voicing strong disapproval when he put her in harm’s way. And then, as I recall, there was silence. When we realized that this maniac had gotten through to her and had given her not only a new way of looking at life but also the courage to go forward, there was silence. We’d been outmaneuvered, and we had been wrong. In our sheepish chats afterward, we admitted that we had gone into the movie wanting boyfriends like the popular, polished Buddy, and had come out wishing we could find our own Mad Dog.

The movie tagline (hat tip: is “Once in your life may someone love you like this”. If they were aiming at college coeds, they hit their target. The guys, I remember, felt a need after that to protest their undying devotion to their girlfriends: the general line for a while ran along the lines of ‘but, honey, I love you no matter what, really I do’. After watching the tragically disappointing Buddy walk out on our heroine, it was incredibly important for us girls to hear that.

(The poor guys. The campus also showed The Stepford Wives. This would be the original, non-funny one. The general line after that was something along the lines of ‘but, sweetheart, I love you just the way you are, really I do’.)

I haven’t watched The Other Side of the Mountain since then, nor did I see the sequel. Sometimes it’s a good idea to leave turning points in your life alone. This is not to mention that it can be jarring to see how much your tastes have changed since you were younger. I haven’t read the books, either: same reasons. I presume they are good books. Certainly they are about an inspiring lady. In any case, my thanks to the author for helping make the tale widely available.

There are two books tied in with the movies: The Other Side of the Mountain, and The Other Side of the Mountain, Part 2. Both are by E. G. Valens. As of post time, there were (just for example) 203 used copies of both titles combined on Alibris, and just under 200 on, many at $5 or less. The first book was originally released as A Long Way Up: The Story of Jill Kinmont, by Evans G. Valens. There are still copies of that title floating around as well.

The VHS releases are currently running from $20 to $150 on Amazon, with a plateau at about $30. Really. The original The Other Side of the Mountain movie was also released (in Europe) under the title A Window to the Sky.

Update: Follow-up post here, with a link to a Jill Kinmont Boothe website. The lady seems to have made the most of her life.

Friday, February 25, 2005

George Washington, say who?

Kathleen Parker's Feb. 25, 2005, "George Washington, say who?" column at takes a look at the problem of historical ignorance in this country, primarily from the perspective of the people who keep Mount Vernon alive. She also talks about how the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association is launching a $95 million education project. Part (but only part) of this initiative includes a new orientation and education center at the site, but underground so it won't disturb the look of the place.

There are no government funds involved: these are people who see a need and attend to it themselves, thank you very much. They have raised about $85 million already. You can pitch in by making a donation or buying something from their online store. If it's your cup of tea, you can even buy a 3' x 5' United States flag certified to have flown over Mount Vernon.

The Mount Vernon folks have a fair amount of information on George Washington and his times on their website, This is not to mention a virtual tour of Mount Vernon.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

HMS Argonaut war record

Bingo! As I mentioned in previous posts, I was looking for more information on the HMS Argonaut of the World War II-era. I just found a wonderful write-up that manages to cover practically everything I was wondering about. Plus it provided some surprises. The crew lived on the ship while it was in the Philadelphia Navy Yard being repaired? That must have been fun. Also, there are two photos of her, one from when she was whole and fresh, and one showing torpedo damage.

More specifically, this is a write-up by Bill Procter, under the HMS Argonaut War Record title. This isn't the only Argonaut entry, but I haven't had a chance to review the others yet. I'm having trouble linking to the specific page directly. From the main page, use the drop down from stories, go to war records, and down to Argonaut.

This is from the site, which I hadn't known about. The heading says:

This site is my small tribute to the men of all navies who served on ships in WW2. Never forget what they did !
So now you are here, what is there to see ? What makes this site different is the war at sea is told by those who were there. Personal stories explain what is was like to be on a ship at war.

The current site statistics are 314 pages, 1281 pics, 841 page votes (you can vote for how good you think a page is), 62838 photo votes, most hits in a day - 453, votes per day - 73.12.

History buffs, this might be a site you'd like to check out.

Rue Morgue Press - Author Profiles

Tom and Enid Schantz of Rue Morgue Press, Lyons, Colorado, have been on what probably qualifies as a mission to get a certain type of mystery back in print: Golden Age, not generally very well known (at least in America), and, for the most part, "...that have at least some leavening of humor..." Aiming to add one title a month (a goal they usually reach), they are now up to 60 books in their catalog.

They also rescue authors from obscurity by writing author profiles, mixing bibliography with biography. The link is to the author's profile page at their website.

Peggy Noonan stumps for saint

Peggy Noonan, in her February 24, 2005, column at, makes the case (last item) for St. Joseph Cupertino being named the patron saint of the Internet. She also provides a link to an excerpt from the book Saints for Sinners, by Alban Goodier, to help make her case. St. Joseph Cupertino, it seems, was reputed to fly through the air, buoyed by truth and love. Authorities could not suppress him. Common people believed in his power. She thinks he is perfect for the part, as opposed to St. Isidore of Seville, favored by many.

I'm staying out of this one, but she even provides a link to the Vatican for anyone who wants to voice their support for St. Joseph.

Saints for Sinners, originally published decades ago, is still in print in trade and hardback editions, from more than one publisher, as it happens. There are also a few used copies floating around, no pun intended. (Well, OK, maybe.) The trade paperback ISBNs are 0898704634 for the Ignatius Press edition, and 0722074220 for the Sheed and Ward edition.

Hat tip: According to the title write-up by a bookseller at Alibris (Biblioworld, from Australia), this book is "...Studies of saints who overcame the world in themselves, although the world may have continued to see them as failures..."

Series watch: Mrs. Jeffries mysteries by Emily Brightwell

Back when I was working in a bricks-and-mortar full-service bookstore, one of the big challenges was learning where to steer avid fans of one author or another when the customer had read everything by their favorite and couldn’t wait for the next book. The lingo for this is ‘hand-selling’, i.e., you pull a book off the shelf that you think someone might like, and hand it to them, often with a short explanation about why you think they might like it.

Somewhere along the way, I learned that most people who like the Cat Who books tended to also appreciate the Victorian London mystery series starring Mrs. Jeffries and company, by Emily Brightwell. Also, people who liked the Mrs. Pollifax mystery series could usually safely be steered to the Brightwell books. Fans of Jan Karon could…

‘Wait a minute!’ I hear you say. ‘You’re mixing genres!’

Well, yes, but what I found hand-selling is that what matters more to most people (at least when they’re suffering from favorite author deprivation) isn’t the setting, it’s the tone of a book. The niceness and/or decency level, if you will, taken in combination with the humor level. And the Mrs. Jeffries books are light and nice and full of human interactions, not to mention that they are sometimes very funny. Hence, they are in the same class as Pollifax, etc, and (funny as it sounds) the Mitford books by Karon.

Over the last several years, the Brightwell books have quietly caught on. People who get into the series tend to want all of the series, which has driven up the used book prices of the titles no longer in print. For example, today on, the least expensive copy of The Ghost and Mrs. Jeffries is $9.95 – and that’s in ‘fair’ condition! This for a standard mass market paperback about the size of the average Harlequin romance. Amazon, Alibris, abebooks,, etc., same thing: the low price is about ten bucks, and the average price is $15 around the web. When there’s a supply drought, it’s not been unheard of for this title to sell for $25. (What happens to used prices when the omnibus "Mrs. Jeffries Learns the Trade" comes out in April is anyone's guess. It contains the first three books in the series, including The Ghost and Mrs. Jeffries.)

Mrs. Jeffries is the head housekeeper for a Scotland Yard inspector. The inspector, once upon a time, had been assigned a homicide investigation. He was in no way, shape or form suited to the task, so his devoted household staff helped him out behind his back. The success was so startling to his superiors that they dubbed him a genius at solving murders, and began to steer all sorts of murder investigations his way. Poor Inspector Witherspoon. He is quite squeamish, and wishes to have nothing to do with dead bodies, but, of course, if he can be of any help he will give it his best shot. Justice must be served, and he will do his duty. The staff, of course, continues to covertly help solve cases for him, sometimes with the help of their friends. The staff is a diverse group of people, each with his or her own talents and shortcomings. Sometimes they cooperate. Sometimes they squabble. Sometimes they get a little too competitive and run around trying to get a great scoop at the expense of the others. You get the picture.

A word to the wise: every once in a while a book in the series suffers from, uhm, something-short-of-world-class editing, shall we say? Just here and there, there is a lapse. This is a quibble. The series overall draws devoted fans, and with reason. There are at last count nineteen books in the series.

File these under British cozies. The mass market paperback publisher is Berkley. Thorndike puts them out in large print.

The author maintains a webpage at

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Compvter Romanvs (Roman Numeral Calculator)

OK, this is just for fun.

OK, no it isn't. I deal with a lot of books, including a lot of older, out-of-print books, and I have to struggle with converting copyright dates from Roman numerals into the sorts of numbers we generally use these days. Something that tries to make playing with Roman numerals fun is a welcome change.

If the link goes bad, it's a feature at, in the Wonders of Math section.

Hat tip: Jacob (he knows who he is).

The Road to Reality, by Roger Penrose

Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic magazine and a regular columnist for Scientific American, reviews Roger Penrose's "The Road to Reality" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1,099 pages, $40) and finds it worthy. People seriously interested in physics and/or math might want to check it out. Shermer's in-depth article appears in the Feb. 23, 2005, New York Sun online (linked above).

Good Dictionary: The Penguin English Dictionary, 2nd Edition

While we're on the subject of things British (see previous post), one of the best investments I’ve made in books in the last few years has to be my copy of The Penguin English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, Robert Allen (consultant editor), Penguin Books, 2003 revision of the 2000 Penguin English Dictionary, Penguin Books, London, ISBN 014051533X. This one covers Australian, British, Canadian, North American, Northern English, New Zealand, South African, and Scottish contributions to the language, plus a few key archaic words and phrases, in addition to the worldwide or more standard words and phrases. Bless their hearts; they include phrases. And word histories. I sometimes just browse inside for the fun of it.

It’s an ambitious project, coming in at 1642 pages just in the main text (there are introductory sections on top of that), all of it fresh – that is to say they’ve worked on not only keeping it up to date, but also having better definitions than the next guy. This is not to say that it is perfect. I have quibbles with a few (very few) of the Americanisms.

(Gentlemen and ladies of the dictionary staff, if you please, a “charley horse” is not “a muscle strain or bruising resulting from strenuous exercise”. Bruises and strains linger, and ache or hurt in their own ways. Charley horses are knotted and/or otherwise contracted muscles that cause sometimes serious problems, generally hurt like fury, but usually, thank goodness, go away in a relatively short time.

Ah, but there you go. I take on one of the very few words/phrases where I think they’ve misfired, and I’m not much help. My definition is too long and convoluted. Their definitions, taken on the whole, are almost all short and dead on.)

That they do list regional words, and list them as such, is one of the most useful features for me. I read a great deal of British fiction, mostly older but some new. I read British and Scottish news on the Internet. Most of the time, of course, you don’t need a British dictionary for that. But when you want it, well…

For instance, today in The Scotsman, in the Scrutineer column in the business section, Martin Flanagan was writing about a fellow who is making noises about taking over a major clothing store. The fellow represents himself one way, but isn’t looking so solid in his background checks if I may put it that way. No, let’s be polite and do as the article headline does, and call him a “mystery man”. See: Mystery man helps keep M&S in the headlines

In his column, Flanagan is tossing around James Bond references, including "the name’s Jumper, Lambswool Jumper". Now, if you didn’t know that a jumper is what we would call a top or sweater, you would form entirely the wrong mental image, now wouldn’t you?

UPDATE: Yes, I know, in a previous post I referred to Martin Flanaghan as the author of the Scrutineer column. The Scrutineer is written by several different people in turn, and I hold to a policy of copying whatever name the paper puts at the top of that day's column. I can't help it if there is a Flanaghan one day and a Flanagan the next. Perhaps they have two fellows with similiar names.

Good Book: No Entry, by Manning Coles

Very few espionage authors that shone during World War II seemed to know quite what to do with themselves during the Cold War. However, Cyril Henry Coles and Adelaide Frances Oke Manning (writing jointly as Manning Coles) seemed to see quite clearly that the game wasn't won yet.

In No Entry, c. 1958, Double & Company, Garden City, New York, they sent their primary hero into harm's way where it mattered, the no man's land along the border between East and West Germany. Tommy Hambledon - lovable, fallible, courageous, ingenious and plucky - had done super service during World War II. In this book, he showed himself still up to the game.

Tommy is a cleaner-living version of the English secret agent of the James Bond variety. When Tommy returns to his hotel room to find a dead stranger sitting in one of his chairs, he can be counted upon to say something along the lines of 'how inconvenient'. We should all be so cool in a crisis. But he's better about sticking to business, instead of chasing women about or idling at the bar. And he can be quite funny.

No Entry features trips back and forth between East and West Germany, and puts across the differences in the lives of the people under the different regimes. This sobering message, however, doesn't get in the way of the adventure. Never fear, when Tommy is on a case unusual circumstances are almost sure to follow, not to mention lots of action.

UPDATE: Here's a link with more information on Manning Coles, including a chronological listing of novels. Asterisks indicate books that don't feature Thomas Elphinstone (Tommy) Hambledon.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Orson Scott Card looks at The Wisdom of Crowds

World Watch - February 6, 2005 - Does Democracy Really Work? - The Ornery American

Well-known author Orson Scott Card looks at The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, and Nations by James Surowiecki, a business writer for The New Yorker; with a side mention of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel. It's a longish essay, but with meat and intelligence to it, and it contains interesting historical background. The link is to the World Watch column at

National Geographic Archaeoraptor Article for Review

I knew it hadn't been that long ago that there was another huge fossil dust-up.

Unlike some people, I am not crowing about the German pseudo-scientist flap now (see previous post), nor did I crow about Archaeoraptor then. Let's try to not paint all scientists with the same broad brush, shall we?

As far as legitimate scientists are concerned, Professor Reiner Protsch von Zieten definitely falls under the "With Friends Like This, Who Needs Enemies?" category.

Slick con upsets scientific community

Guardian Unlimited Life History of modern man unravels as German scholar is exposed as fraud

I hadn't seen this when I posted the Vercors book review earlier today. But once I had "missing links" on the brain, this story seemed to be popping up everywhere.

Bottom line: a German professor appears to have been, uhm, embellishing his data and, uhm, manipulating his evidence - for decades! And, of course, innocent people have been building their own theories on his work.

London: Threats to banks, hotels, change focus

The Scotsman - Business - You can bank on their anger at flood of regulation

This is a Scrutineer column written by Martin Flanaghan covering a handful of topics: banks suffering under a flood of new regs, hotels finally bouncing back after September 11, 2001, pressures on drugmakers, and one probable upside to an Office of Fair Trade inquiry re: major supermarkets. File under business, government, regulation, small suppliers, large corporations.

Good Book: Your Teens and Mine, by Eleanor Roosevelt and Helen Ferris

I’ll admit to guessing from the title that this was going to be a book about how to survive teenagers. Wrong. It is a combination memoir and self-help/advice book for teenage girls which covers such things as being afraid, gaining self-confidence, getting along with people, being one of a family, learning to think, going steady, exploring in books, being a citizen, getting the most out of travel, getting married, and more, with points illustrated by events and lessons from the former first lady's life.

Eleanor Roosevelt fans, this has nice snippets from her life, both from her childhood and her adulthood, plus explains how she sees things.

Girls, her advice isn’t all that bad… In my humble opinion, of course.

The copy I’m working from is a hardback published by Doubleday & Co., Garden City, New York, in 1961, with 189+ pp.

Adm. Byrd Takes Bliley Crystals...

Early Bliley Electric Ad & Promotional Literature

Why is it so fun to read old ads? This page has several connected to the early days of radio.

Disturbing book: Litigation as Spiritual Practice, by George J. Felos

George Felos is a lawyer on a crusade. Unfortunately for some disabled people (and those of us who love them), his crusade involves euthanasia of disabled people. Not confining himself to helping families cope with the decisions associated with disconnecting elaborate life-support devices that perhaps artificially keep a body going past the time there is any human being left, he has moved into the far more controversial and morally troubling realm of providing legal cover for the practice of issuing starvation orders: not 'do not resuscitate', but 'do not feed or give water to'. Terri Schindler-Schiavo is his most famous target, but not his only one.

In this book, he tells of his sometimes desperate search for spiritual meaning and how he found it in 'helping' people 'die with dignity'.

It is a pricey book for its genre, roughly $25 new, with limited used copies available, but to read it is to see what strange and sad thinking lies behind his branch of the 'death with dignity' movement. Litigation as Spiritual Practice, George J. Felos, Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2002, ISBN 1577331044, Hardcover, 344pp.

For related, see this blog's entry for February 17, 2005, which links to the article The New Ideology in Health Care and How to Survive It by Rabbi Mordechai Biser.

For more on Terri Schiavo, go to

Good Book: You Shall Know Them, by Vercors

You Shall Know Them (a translation of Les animaux denatures) by Vercors, published in the U.S. in 1953 by Little, Brown and Company, Boston, was an attack of racism that also, as it happens, is a good read.

Vercors, more famous for publishing things during World War II that made the Nazis unhappy, set his sights in this book on the insanity of the mid-twentieth-century debates about whether black people were as fully human as white people.

So he illustrated absurdity with absurdity. Suffice it to say Vercors wrote a murder mystery in which the murderer happily confesses but the mystery that must be solved is whether the victim is human or animal. I cannot think what else I can say that won’t give away too much of the plot. Oh, well, I think it’s fair to mention that this book was also issued as The Murder of the Missing Link (Pocket, 1958). “The Murder of the Missing Link” is catchy, but not entirely accurate, as you will find if you read the book.

It also seems to have been published as Borderline by Macmillan in 1953, and New English Library in 1976. Hat tip: Jessica Amanda Salmonson at for the various issue dates and publishers.

Vercors was the pen name of Jean Bruller.

Grey Souls, by Philippe Claudel

The Federation of Alliances Francaises USA book choice for 2005 is Les ames grises by Philippe Claudel, a murder mystery set in Lorraine during World War I. An English translation, titled Grey Souls, is due out in mid-April in the UK, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. It can be pre-ordered now at

I am not familiar with this author’s work and cannot say if this book would be suitable for mixed company. For what it’s worth, it was an award-winner in France. From the write-ups, it seems that the greyness of the title refers to the mix of good and evil in people.

There are more than a hundred chapters of the Alliances Francaises in the United States, and every year they pick one book jointly.

As a side note, in French le roman is a general term for a novel. If they want to be more specific, they call it something like a roman policier, i.e. a detective story.

They are sticking closer to earlier English uses of ‘romance’ as applied to fiction than we are. This is why when you read older newspaper accounts or books, and they refer to, say, the latest romance by Walter Scott, they are referring to something altogether different from the current application.

Way back when, in fact, to call a piece of fiction a roumauns (Middle English) was merely to say that it was written in the local language instead of in Latin.

This is because, even before that, romanice, in Latin, meant ‘in the Roman manner’. People got used to saying it to mean ‘not in Latin’ and it morphed into meaning ‘in the local language’ or ‘in the vernacular’.

From there, since so many of the early roumauns books were about knights, chivalry, heroics and courtly love, the word came to be associated not with the language in which the books were written, but to the type of book or story.

Through the years, the meaning has shifted still more, until pretty much the only types of contemporary fiction called romance are ‘love stories’.

Scarce book: An Oregon Crusader, by George S. Turnbull

Copyright 1955, 246+ pages. Illustrated: b/w photos. "This is an enlargement of the first edition of An Oregon Editor's Battle for Freedom of the Press (1952), which dealt with ...George Putnam's fight, in Medford in 1907-08, with an arrogant group of county politicians and a... circuit judge who ignored the spirit of the Bill of Rights and the plain mandate of the Oregon statute. The two additional sections deal with Mr. Putnam's crusades in Salem - one against the Ku Klux Klan...and the other against lawless forces controlling some of the Oregon labor unions...".

At last peek, there were 13 copies at abebooks, ranging from $7.20 to $135; 12 copies at, ranging from $7.62 to $141.75; 11 copies at, ranging from $7.95 up to $135; 10 copies at, ranging from $10 to $135; and seems to have a glitch because they say that both An Oregon Crusader and the earlier An Oregon Editor’s Battle for Freedom of the Press are out of stock. This is a problem. My copy, at least, should be listed. (What was I saying the other day about not daring to have all your eggs in one basket when making a living selling books on the Internet?)

Fellow professional booksellers, feel free to use the comments section of this posting to educate people about a scarce book or two in your inventory. What I’m looking for are descriptions that let people know what the book is about, not your ideas about how ‘collectible’ the book might be. The idea is to have something useful left over long after your copy is sold and shipped. Nothing rasty, thanks, both in terms of content and condition.

Monday, February 21, 2005

John Blundell Book Review: Against the Flow, by Samuel Brittan

The above link takes you to a review of a recent release in the UK: Against the Flow, Samuel Brittan, Atlantic Press, January 2005, 304 pages, ISBN 184354377X, £25. File under business, government, policy, politics, human nature, columnists.

According to the synopsis on the site, "Samuel Brittan has been one of the Financial Times' leading columnists for nearly thirty years...Taken together the pieces in Against the Flow amount to a robust defence of classic liberalism."

A quick check shows that Alibris has 7 copies at post time, although most are from UK booksellers.

UPDATE: Tuesday, February 22, 2005: I just thought to check They have 15 copies: 10 in the UK, 2 in New Zealand, 3 in the United States.

The Food Journal of Lewis and Clark: Recipes for an Expedition, by Mary Gunderson

I haven't seen this book, but both historians and cooking aficionados are saying very nice things about it (see Barnes & Noble, et al). Being a fan of this sort of approach to history, I'm happy to give it a plug.

Hat tip: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Lewis & Clark Expedition book list here.

Spirit of America: Iraqi Children's Library Project

Spirit of America

Iraq's Ministry of Education has identified the books. Spirit of America is helping provide them. You can help.

Navigation by cigar

Fad to Fundamental: Airmail in America

When pioneer aviator James DeWitt Hill was flying an airmail run in bad weather, his clock stopped. To figure out when to come down through the clouds to find his destination, he calculated how long his first cigar of the trip had lasted and factored that time into how many miles he had left. Then he smoked the proper number of cigars and descended, right on target, so they say.

He had less luck later, when he was one of the pilots for "Old Glory", a William Randolph Hearst-backed plane that was trying to make the first nonstop flight from New York to Rome in 1927. Rescuers found part of the plane's wreakage, but that was it. Also killed in the crash were pilot Lloyd Bertaud and Philip Payne, editor of the New York Daily Mirror.

The airport at Latrobe, Pennsylvania, was renamed for James DeWitt Hill.

Today's Latrobe, Pennsyvania, airport is called the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.

Good Book: John and Tom, by Willem Lange, illustrated by Bert Dodson

This wonderfully illustrated children’s book tells the true story of the remarkable Morgan horse named Tom, who rescued a young man pinned by a fallen tree in the winter-cold woods of Vermont.

This book is published by the Vermont Folklife Center. The above link is to their children's books page.

If you know of any other good books for younger children that are based on a true story, please tout them in the comments section.

Good Book: The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis was originally published in 1941 in England. In 1943, it was first published in the United States. It is still in print, and no wonder. Lewis does a masterful job of skewering people who build facades of either righteousness or sophistication. There’s also some Christian theology thrown in, but if you’re not Christian don’t let that scare you off.

On its surface it’s a simple story: Screwtape, the experienced devil, has his work cut out for him trying to explain to apprentice devil Wormwood how on Earth to corrupt people. It’s what runs under the surface that can get so interesting.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Good Book: The Electra Story, by Robert J. Serling

On September 29, 1959, a Lockheed Electra airliner crashed in Texas. Officials concluded that a wing had snapped off, but they didn’t know why. A few short months later, on March 17, 1960, another Electra passenger airline nose-dived into a soybean field near Tell City, Indiana, at more than 600 miles per hour. This time, it looked like both wings had snapped off in flight.

The public, of course, reacted with gallows humor (i.e., Mourning Becomes Electra, etc.) as well as outrage and fear. To airline officials and government investigators in charge of public safety it was no joke. And to some airline owners, a swift answer was crucial. They simply could not survive either more crashes or the groundings of their Electras, not to mention the horror of more loss of life. The bottom line: answers were needed, and fast.

The first crash had been a Braniff International Airways flight. The second had been a Northwest Orient Airlines flight. The problems couldn’t be shoved off on one carrier. The whole industry was affected.

To make it worse, this particular model of aircraft had been a pilot’s dream machine. Many of the men who flew it considered it to be better than any other airplane ever built. It was fast, smooth, and responsive, with tremendous reserve power. They considered her to be very forgiving of mistakes. If there was to be a plane that was jerked from service, they did not want it to be this one, their ‘sweetheart’.

Robert J. Serling, a leading aviation writer, detailed the crashes and their aftermath in The Electra Story: The Dramatic History of Aviation’s Most Controversial Airliner, 1963, Doubleday, reissued as The Electra Story: Aviation’s Greatest Mystery, by Bantam in 1991 as a mass market paperback. The Bantam edition is No. 9 in the Bantam Air & Space Series. It’s a compelling read, a true-life detective story.

This has been a collectible book for some time now. Even a paperback in fair condition tends to fetch $40 or more. Prices for books in better condition generally run between $60 and $150 these days. (See, you should take better care of your books, even the paperbacks.)

For a related bit of history, see Wind Tunnels of Nasa, Chapter 6: Winds Tunnels in the Space Age, The Langley Carry-Over Tunnels, at

Allowing for what works

The New York Times > Real Estate > National Perspectives: Why 'New Urbanism' Isn't for Everyone

The New York Times has an article in today’s online edition by Robert Johnson called “Why ‘New Urbanism’ Isn’t For Everyone.”

…Although new urban communities are relatively hot sellers in some areas, new urbanism in its purest form remains essentially an idealistic model that does not appeal to the vast majority of buyers…

The above link is to the article, which is evenhanded with both detractors and proponents. After all, different strokes for different folks.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, c.1961, available new in a reissue edition trade paperback from Random House, ISBN 067974195X, addresses much the same topic in greater detail. The author decided to put common sense ahead of theory and went out and studied city neighborhoods that worked, and then tried to figure out what made them work. Too many urban planners, she thought, were working against human nature instead of with it, if I may summarize one of her central themes that way.

She also lamented that too many planners did not seem to understand that cities were not big towns, nor were towns merely smaller versions of cities. There is also a difference, she proposed, between smaller cities and great ones. Different things made them tick, she said.

She asked that planners keep their eyes and ears and minds open, and not call a functioning, neighborly area a slum based on density statistics, nor call a brightly rebuilt neighborhood a success if the people did not feel safe on the streets. At heart, it is a book asking for the application of common sense and a willingness to see, if you will, that not all that glitters is gold.

Good Book: The Third Life of Per Smevik, by Ole Rolvaag

Ole Rolvaag, later famous for Giants in the Earth, wrote his first novel under a pseudonym because it was ‘too personal’ to put out under his own name. Amerika-breve, which translates as Letters from America, appeared in Norway in 1912, under the name Paal Morck. (Both Rolvaag and Morck feature the vowel that looks like an o, but has a right-leaning slash through it. I’ll fix this entry if I can figure out how to do that in this program.)

Ella Valborg Tweet, Rolvaag’s daughter, and granddaughter, Solvieg Tweet Zempel, translated it, and it came out as The Third Life of Per Smevik in 1971 in hardback from Dillon Press, and in 1987 as a Perennial Library trade paperback from Harper & Row. Tweet also wrote the introduction, which is, in essence, a short biography of Rolvaag.

The ‘third life’ of the title is explained in the first letter the young Norwegian immigrant to Clarkfield, South Dakota, writes home. He explains that it feels like he has led two lives on Earth already, the first being the nearly 21 years he lived in Helgeland, and the second one consisting of his trip from there to South Dakota. He tells his father that the second life, although just over three weeks long, seemed longer than the first life. His third life, he says, is starting in America.

The narrator of the novel has to adjust to a new country at the same time he is growing from a boy to a man. As the back cover copy of the Perennial Library edition says:

…Per Smevik is an astute observer and sensitive reporter of life in America at the turn of the century, of the immigrant’s experience, and, in the memorable story of his third life, of the tragicomical aspects of every man’s life…

This title is on my “Books I Wish Someone Would Put Back in Print” list. As of this posting there were 36 copies at, 32 copies at Alibris, 31 at, 21 at Amazon, and 9 at

Hmmm. Amazon lists the author’s last name as R2lvaag. I guess I might leave my o’s just the way they are, even if they should have a slash through them.

Incorrect History?

Incorrect History

I haven’t read the book in question, but there are murmurs on the right that the Politically Incorrect Guide to American History by Thomas Woods might be, uh, I guess you could say a cheap shot that isn’t really going to help anything, as the saying goes.

Max Boot, writing in the Weekly Standard (more specifically, the Daily Standard at, does more than murmur. I think it fair to say that he’s upset. The Weekly Standard, if you don’t know, generally supports conservative authors and causes, so this yelp of outrage would be more a reflection of a sense of betrayal than anything else. I would like to hope that Mr. Boot is wrong, but I’m beginning to wonder if this book might be a case of ‘with friends like this, who needs enemies?’ as far as conservatives are concerned.

The link takes you to the Max Boot article. He suggests Paul Johnson's A History of the American People or Walter McDougall's A New American History instead.

Good Book: Father and the Angels, by William Manners

Technically this is a memoir of a man who grew up in Zanesville, Ohio, in a family headed by an orthodox rabbi. But even with the religious portions and overlay, it is one of the better, more-universal coming-of-age books I’ve read: lots of wisdom mixed with humor. It reminded me a little of Papa’s Wife by Thyra Ferre Bjorn, only masculine, of course. And as much as I liked Papa’s Wife, I liked Father and the Angels more.

Commentary magazine notes in its archive list that they had an article in April 1948 called “Books About Everyday Jews”, by George J. Becker, which includes this book. The article is available for a fee to subscribers. From the teaser information, I gather that Becker was celebrating that American writing was breaking free of old stereotypes. Certainly there is nothing stereotypical about this book.

I read the abridged version published by Scholastic in 1966. The full-length version was published in 1947 by E. P. Dutton & Co., New York.

This is one of my “I Wish Someone Would Put It Back In Print” titles.

Book news to use: Internet Book List

Internet Book List :: Home

I just stumbled across the site, and found it useful doing some research on books. They are building quite a site for booklovers here, it looks like.

Mystery lovers, they need your input.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Good Book: The Zimmermann Telegram, by Barbara Tuchman

During World War I, Britain intercepted a coded telegram headed to the German Minister to Mexico. Decoded, it contained dynamite. Germany was floating an offer of United States territory to Mexico, in exchange for Mexican help keeping the Americans on their side of the Atlantic, of course. This is not to mention that they were working on getting Japan into the mix. Also, the message said, unrestricted submarine warfare would begin as of Feb. 1.

The above link from the Digital Classroom section of has the background. If you scroll down the page and click on the Decoded Message document, you can read the message for yourself. For that matter, you can look at a picture of the coded telegram.

So, then, the British finally had proof of a direct threat to the United States. What did they do? The time not being ripe, they sat on the information for a while. Brits of that era did not acquire a reputation for having nerves of steel for nothing.

Besides, they really, really wanted to figure out a way to tip off the Americans without tipping off the Germans that their codes were broken.

Barbara W. Tuchman’s book, The Zimmermann Telegram, c. 1958, is a wonderfully detailed account of this high-stakes showdown and war of nerves. It is available used, or new in a reissue trade paperback from Random House, ISBN 0345324250.

If you know of any other above-average books about World War I, please tout them in the comments section.

Good Book: "In God We Trust": The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers, by Norman Cousins

If you would like to get closer to the source on the debate about the founding principles of the United States, a 1958 book by Norman Cousins called “In God We Trust”: The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers (quotation marks in original), does a nice job of compiling pertinent material from relevant letters, diary entries and official papers. Cousins provides some background and commentary, but he mostly lets Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Jay and Thomas Paine speak for themselves. Chapters are arranged by person, not by subject. The Thomas Jefferson chapter includes extensive passages from his The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, which he shared with friends under the condition that they keep his religious studies and views strictly confidential.

This title was featured as a Book of the Month Club Book-Dividend and also as a free bonus book for new members. The BOMC hardback, which is the copy I’m working with, is 464 pages, including index. The publisher was Harper & Brothers, New York.

As of this posting there are 90 copies on, 74 copies on Alibris, 32 on, and 11 on Amazon. Amazon has surprisingly high prices compared to the other sites: which sometimes happens, of course, when there’s a quirky low volume at one site or another. I expect they’ll get even with the market soon.

There are also fewer than ten copies all told of a Norman Cousins book called The Republic of Reason: The Personal Philosophies of the Founding Fathers, Harper/Harpercollins 1988, San Francisco. This book is new to me. Oh. One of the booksellers at says it was originally published as “In God We Trust”.

Pardon me while I try to decide whether to blink in disbelief or chuckle at the probably-unintended humor of the situation.

From God to no God in the title in thirty years flat? Talk about not judging a book by its cover…

Uh, I think I’ll stop while I’m ahead on this.

Has anyone actually had both titles in hand at the same time? Is the latter one a reissue or has it been gutted and redone?

Dob in a hoon, etc.

I know it doesn't sound like something that can be said in polite company, but apparently to dob in a hoon is a good thing if you wish to help preserve honest citizens from mayhem and maiming.

From the Yorke Peninsula News:

South Australia's crackdown on hoon drivers started on Monday, February 7, with new offences targeting drag racing, burnouts, donuts, wheelies and music blaring from car speakers. The laws also target those who organise such events....

Premier Mike Rann welcomes the changes, saying..."We want to send a strong message to hoons their actions won't be tolerated and the best way to hammer that message home is by impounding their prized wheels...

"Experience interstate shows losing their cars once substantially reduces the likelihood of them trying it again.

"Only 22 of almost 1,600 drivers caught in the first two years of Queensland's laws were picked up for a second offence. Only three people have notched up a third offence..."

Substantially reduces, did he say? Only 22 of more than 1500 drivers might, just possibly, qualify as a substantial reduction.

Heads I win, tails you lose

The Australian: Heads and tails being put in a spin by tossers at the mint [November 22, 2004]

This story is a few months old, but with all the fuss about Wisconsin quarters - how many coins have you scrutinized in the hopes of finding an extra leaf? - I couldn't resist. The full article, of course, would be worth a read, but here's some of the fun. The columnist is Imre Salusinszky.

...Every morning, a colleague and I toss a coin to determine how key elements of the day's work will be distributed. It's simple, fair and efficient. Plus it's the only thing standing between us and a descent into a state of bloodthirsty anarchy that would make Lord of the Flies look like one of the William books. But far too often of late, we've been stymied.

To put the matter plainly, there appears to be a virus of two-headed coins – or, to be numismatically correct, of coins with heads on both the obverse and the reverse. Because of the watering-down of so-called circulating coins by so-called commemorative coins, you are increasingly likely to find the head of a Sir Charles Kingsford Smith or a Lord Howard Florey or a Henry Parkes on the reverse – the non-Queen Elizabeth II side – of your $1 coin. The state of affairs with the other denominations used for commemorative designs – the 20 cent coin and the dodecagonal 50 cent piece – is equally dire. Indeed, feature this: the 1998 Bass and Flinders anniversary 50 cent coin is a three-headed coin. It shows George Bass and Matthew Flinders on the reverse and Her Maj on the obverse....

...While the first function of money is certainly to provide the economy with a medium of exchange, the second is to be tossable, to allow both wagering and the convenient extinguishment of indecision....

British postal service dares to compete

The Scotsman - Business - Open mail warfare in 2006

IN JUST under a year, private companies will be able to hire postmen, put up their own post boxes, and collect, transport and deliver letters in the biggest shakeup of the British postal service in 350 years.

In a move ending the Royal Mail’s monopoly of the £4.5 billion letters market, the industry’s watchdog, Postcomm, yesterday announced the opening-up of the market...

...As well as the basic delivery services, companies could also be allowed to offer lower stamp prices, putting added pressure on Royal Mail to raise its game.

Big businesses are likely to be the first to take up the wider services, but Postcomm said benefits were also expected to feed through to domestic users...

There are still a few complications, of course, not least of which is that the government guys are currently exempt from VAT. And, of course, the unions are predicting dire things, simply dire. Read the linked article, by Nick Bevens, Scotsman Business Editor, for the lowdown on what promises to be a somewhat interesting transformation.

Maps: Recent World Earthquake Activity

Recent World Earthquake Activity - Clicking to Regions

I don't know about you, but I am amazed at the size and number of quakes that keep hitting the region hit by the tsunami. This is a great site for learning not only where there are unusually large earthquake problems, but seeing the patterns of smaller quakes over any one day or week:

Real estate agents and community leaders in certain parts of California and Alaska do not want you looking at this site very often, believe me.

Good Book: Roman Hasford, by Douglas C. Jones

A friend who read Roman Hasford by Douglas C. Jones proclaimed it one of the best books he’s read in a long time and also said that he was fairly sure it wouldn’t be my cup of tea. So I haven’t read it, but will recommend it.

Since it won the Spur Award for Best Historical Novel in 1987, I doubt I’m going out too far on a limb here.

It was originally released under the title Roman, and was issued the award under that name.

It has unaccountably gone out of print, but as of posting time there were 97 used copies at Alibris, 90 at, 64 at Amazon, and 40 at Of course, quite a few of those will be overlap, since many booksellers list at several sites simultaneously. (It’s the best way for little guys to survive, trust me on that. There is a Murphy’s Law that if you list at only one site, that site will be hacked or otherwise will lock up or get garbled, and you will be helpless and income-less for a while. I speak from experience. This is not to mention that if you have a smallish inventory you need all the exposure you can get...)

If you know of any other historical novels that you think are above average, please tout them in the comments section. I want this site to be a network for booklovers and history buffs.

The Binghams, old Sedro and their bank

June Burn: Charlie Bingham and old Sedro

This article tries to be a little artsy from time to time, but it's a sometimes-hilarious look at a young man from Iowa undergoing the difficult task of setting up a bank in a frontier town in 1890.

...One of the first things young Bingham did was to make the rounds of the stores and the "joints" to solicit patronage, explain his purpose. He came to a huge gambling tent called Klein's Hall.

"Know who I am?" the proprietor asked the banker, who admitted his ignorance. "Don't know who I am? Why, I'm the toughest guy north of San Francisco. I keep the toughest joint in the county. Name's Klein."...

As it happens, according to this website, the bank not only got established against the odds, but grew to be a strong presence in the Puget Sound area of Washington state.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Classic Pirate Fiction

Classic Pirate Fiction

I am not much of a pirate fiction reader, generally, but to go with the entry below on The Privateer (which I did like), here is a link to a book list compiled by people who like that genre.

One has to guess that several of these books are not suitable for mixed company, but if you use your head you should be all right.

And, yes, I know, privateers weren't precisely the same as pirates. Let's not quibble.

Good Book: The Privateer, by Josephine Tey/ Gordon Daviot

Henry Morgan (1635-1688) was larger than life without any help, but (according to Josephine Tey’s account) he also seems to have been the victim of his disgruntled ex-surgeon, who went to Europe and wrote a sensational book which portrayed his ex-boss leaving destruction and despair in his wake wherever he went, and killing without provocation or quarter. Of course, the pack of lies sold like hotcakes and forever inflated and twisted Morgan’s reputation.

Tey, in The Privateer, rescues Morgan from that vengeful legacy and presents him as a man who generally was as decent as he should be under the given circumstances. No saint, this; but no brute, either. In own, inimitable way, he likely did change the course of history, helping to push the Spanish out of key portions of their American empire.

I have the Signet mass market edition, 1970, which has a cover that would not have lured me, and jacket copy that I find misleading after having read the book. (I think perhaps they had the ex-surgeon’s book in mind instead of Tey’s.) But I read it on the strength of a recommendation of a friend and the fact that after reading The Daughter of Time I will give anything by Tey at least a go. And I found it every bit as good as The Daughter of Time, if not, perhaps, a little better.

This is not strictly a book that is suitable for mixed company. This is battling for survival and supremacy in the Caribbean in the seventeenth century, after all. The descriptions of men just released from Spanish dungeons are not designed to spare the feelings of readers, but to explain the rage and despair of their rescuers and the reality of what they were up against.

For military history buffs, there are battle plans that worked, and those that didn’t. For hopeless romantics, there is the story of the woman who was not going to get married, much less to a privateer who was pulling himself up by his bootstraps, so to speak, after having served time as a bond servant.

And there’s wit, too, and humor. Henry’s first attempt to seize a ship goes much better overall than can be expected, but…

…he bowed to Henry and said: “You have come too late for supper, but the madeira is good, monsieur Sansouliers.”

Even a conqueror does not feel at his best in his stocking soles; and Henry was a very young and new conqueror, and a Celt to boot. The flick stung him…

…raising his voice a little, he said: “Bluey! Come down here…This gentleman is going to lend me his shoes," Henry said. "Will you assist him to remove them?”

For anyone who shies away from historical fiction because of all the prithees and ‘I am vastly gratified’s, etc., this book has none of that. As Tey says in the Author’s Note, and I quote, “…If the characters in the story did not sound quaint to each other, then they have no right to sound quaint to us…”. She writes accordingly.

The book was published in 1952, shortly after the author’s death. Josephine Tey was one of the pen names of Elizabeth Mackintosh (MacKintosh in some references), born in 1896. The Privateer was originally published under another of her pen names, Gordon Daviot.

UPDATE: Sunday, February 20, 2005. For those who like their history straight up and not wrapped in fiction, Tey wrote that in her view The Life of Henry Morgan by Brigadier-General E. A. Cruikshank was the definitive biography.

Tragicomedy in 1914

Tragicomedy in 1914

Lest anybody think that our ancestors were immune from silly little mistakes, here's a story of Great Britain having to ask for a Declaration of War to be handed back.

(You know you're having a bad day when...)

Dedicated Dittohead: Woman Dumps Liberalism for Entrepreneurship

Dedicated Dittohead: Woman Dumps Liberalism for Entrepreneurship

This was on the Rush Limbaugh show.

CALLER: I'm a human resource consultant. I've ... written a book for small and medium-sized businesses to help them with all of the stupid laws and regulations dealing with business.

I love it when former liberals say stuff like this.

She also talks about finally figuring out that she could do more than she thought she could, and that that is what made the difference. Welcome to the happy world of converts to conservatism.

Good Book: Washington Goes To War, by David Brinkley

I have a weakness for history books, and Washington Goes to War, by David Brinkley, is one of my favorites: chatty, wise, warm, funny, pointed, and obviously written by a man who has been around the block a few times and no longer expects people to be perfect. He also seems to bear a grudging (if not open) admiration for people who learn to work around systems that don’t work. For instance, if I may be permitted an excerpt, from page 58 in the hardback book club edition, we have:

Captain Joseph E. Cheek, Company I’s commander, recalled that in the early thirties his infantry company on maneuvers had seen one of its pack mules stumble and fall down a hillside into a river and disappear in the current. While he regretted the loss of the mule, he was delighted to clear up his supply records by filing a report claiming that the load swept away in the river had included every piece of the company’s equipment lost or stolen since 1918. If anyone had checked the report, they would have discovered that one spindly mule was carrying three tons. Cheek would have liked to use this method again in 1941 but, regrettably, he no longer had pack mules.

This book is full of priceless vignettes like this. (I seem to remember a story about when guns set up to defend some site in Washington were being taken down after the war and the dismantlers made the shocking discovery that the ammo on hand wasn’t the right ammo for the weapon. If there had been an attack…yikes!)

Despite the title, the book does not confine itself to Washington, D.C., during the World War II years. The emphasis is there, but Brinkley was careful to provide earlier history and broader information to put his stories in context.

I haven’t seen the newer trade paperback edition, so can’t comment on how it’s laid out – but of the older editions, I’d recommend the hardback over the mass market paperback, simply because the black and white photo illustrations are too small to appreciate in the smaller format.

Are Leander Class ships hard to sail?

I had a friend who looked at the HMS Argonaut site (see Feb. 17, HMS Argonaut), and then told me that, first of all, British ships were cool because they looked like they were moving when they were just sitting still, and second, that the last ship in the series, the Leander Class Frigate, 1967-1993, would have been staffed with older men because the Leander Class was notoriously difficult and was therefore no fit ship for amateurs or rookies.

I know essentially nothing about warships, much less the relative finesse needed to operate each class of ship. Is this guy pulling my leg? Navy people, weigh in, pretty please.

(Heated defense of one’s own ship is expected, but kindly leave out the salty language you might use with your buddies to add emphasis. There are ladies present.)

UPDATE, Saturday, February 19, 2005: I have heard off-blog from Adam Phillips, Argonaut Crew 1991-1993, who informs me that her ship’s company was quite young, and for many of them she was their first ship. He celebrated his 18th birthday on patrol in the Iceland Faro gap (North Atlantic), and claims that the ship suited the rough conditions there because it was one of the most sea worthy vessels available to the Royal Navy at the time. He also says that she was “very easy to sail”. I stand corrected, and shall tell my friend he needs to amend what he says about the Leander Class.

Paleofeminists vs Postfeminists, Etc.

Independent Women's Forum: Have You Heard the (Gender-Equitized) Science Yell?

This article by Catherine Seipp has some interesting takes on the current women-in-the-sciences kerfuffle (and some let-it-loose stories about the author's mother, who was obviously no shrinking violet, shall we say?), but my favorite bit is this:

...There I witnessed a perfect little paleofeminist-vs.-postfeminist moment: One of the earnest, gray-haired female professors was advising the girls what to do if an job interviewer asked inappropriate questions like, "How soon do you plan to have children?" That would be of course illegal, but the professor advised the girls not to argue about it but to say something like, "I THINK what you're asking me is if my job will always come first, and the answer is YES!"

There was a silence as these words sort of hung in the air. How did this bunch of shy, mostly Asian teenagers know that a job would always come first? Had each one already decided that it absolutely should? Finally one girl raised her hand.

"Can you just decline to state?" she asked tentatively. "Because I kind of have a philosophy that family comes first." Not exactly the sort of sentiment the women role models in the room wanted to hear...

It's nice to know that there are still children who can see through the Career Cultists. Some of us older ladies took silly detours before we figured out we'd been sold a bill of goods by our politically correct mentors.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Reporter discovers soldiers aren't blood-thirsty maniacs

Myrna Blyth on First Amendment Breakfast on National Review Online

Guess what Mary Beth Sheridan, a reporter from the Washington Post, learned when she was embedded with our troops in Iraq?...

File this under "Reporters Who Need to Meet More People".

Actually, the article covers double ground, looking at the tug of war between duties as a reporter vs. duties as a citizen, as well as the tendency of reporters to hang onto assumptions that would suffer some serious jolts if the reporter got out and actually met more people outside his or her regular circle.

I know something about this. The newspaper I worked at in my earnest youth used to shuffle us around to different beats from time to time. The news editor was not always forthcoming on why she was doing this, but as I got older I suspected that she could smell when someone's usual sources were getting the reporter too well trained.

Books for the troops - Dr. Ray Pritchard's Weblog

Here's a story of people pulling out the stops to get Christian books to people in the service who want them. Hats off!

Regulation runaround, Missoula style

Missoulian: Regulation runaround - For 10 months, businessman has been trying to comply with Missoula's sign ordinance

What was that guy in Scotland saying about government regulations strangling small business? (See: Garage is an ideal place for business va va voom). Maybe the Scots and the Missoulians can get together some sort of international support group for guys just trying to make an honest buck.

The New Ideology in Health Care and How to Survive It


Although this article by Rabbi Mordechai Biser is written from an Orthodox Jewish standpoint, I think it offers good advice for everyone, plus good background on how we got to the point that starving people to death is seen as a proper role (by some!) for some doctors and nurses.

...The new thinking in medical circles, often expressed in terms of the need to "ration resources," essentially seeks to justify letting patients die solely on the basis of the doctor's personal view that a patient's "quality of life" is so diminished as to no longer be a life worth living.

Dr. David Hoffman, a medical oncologist who serves as Assistant Professor at Albert Einstein Medical Center and attending physician at Einstein Montefiore Medical Center — and is thus well-placed to know how doctors and residents view end-of-life issues — reported at the Agudah convention that many residents and younger doctors now openly advocate this new approach. Dr. Hoffman added that many hospitals have already adopted actual guidelines defining quality of life that govern when to intervene and when not to, and that medical schools are teaching this material to doctors-to-be. Concludes Dr. Hoffman, "These disturbing trends… have made and will make more inroads into our medical… practice."...

...We do not know, cannot know, when a human being is truly incapacitated — when his or her soul has been released. Only when a heart has stopped beating can we be certain that life in its truest sense has ended. And so hastening or abetting the death of even a physically or emotionally compromised human being is no less an abortion of meaningful life than gunning down a healthy one...

HMS Argonaut

HMS Argonaut Association - Home

The other day I was reading in a book on World War II, and came across a short mention of a British ship, the HMS Argonaut, that had both ends blown off but that still managed to get across the German-infested Atlantic for repairs at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. A bit of research showed me that the account I'd read was likely cobbled together from several different episodes, and therefore wasn't accurate. But the basic fact remained - this ship lost both ends, but was successfully delivered to a repair yard and put back into service. Amazing.

I would love to hear from anyone who has information on the journey to Philadelphia, or about what the reaction was when the Navy Yard workers saw her coming in, or were working on her.

And, please, be sure and write the HMS Argonaut Association with your stories. Their website seems to be fairly new, and they are asking for first-hand accounts from people with ties to any of the four ships that have had that name.

Very Good Book: Jim the Boy, by Tony Earley

Jim the Boy
Jim the Boy

Some of the promo blurbs on this book gave me the wrong idea, because so often 'coming of age' these days means the book is full of raunch. Not so this book. It's not all sweetness and light, but it never goes too far into darkness either, and never gets crass. I can recommend this for people who have become wary of recent releases. It feels pre-PC. Jim the Boy, Tony Earley, 2000, Back Bay Books.

Good Book: The Yellow Coach, by Elisabeth Kyle

Here's a good book that I just put out for sale on the Internet. The Yellow Coach, by Elisabeth Kyle, 1976. 46 pages. Illustrated: "Four full-colour pictures and sixteen line drawings". Juvenile historical fiction, set in France during Revolution. A servant girl at a remote country inn and her friend Jacques try to help King Louis, Marie Antoinette, and their two children sneak out of France. Somewhat poignant book - the servant is the same age as the royal daughter, and is afraid the girl so like herself will be guillotined if caught. It's part of a series called "Long Ago Children Books", put out by William Heinemann, Ltd., of London. I'm not familiar with the series, but if this book is representative, it's worth checking out others in the series, too.

I did some checking, and the book seems to be based on a real event. It seems to be a matter of legend, if not fact, that King Louis and Marie Antoinette and their children were captured in large part because Marie Antoinette refused to split the family and travel in smaller, faster coaches. Instead they stayed together in one large, slow coach. Whether it sealed their doom, as some writers say, is something we'll never know. It certainly couldn't have helped.

Garage is an ideal place for business va va voom

The Scotsman - Business - Garage is an ideal place for business va va voom

File this article under the "My Roof Or Yours?" category. The author is Peter Clarke. The whole article is worth a peek, but here's an excerpt.

...My point is that, in Scotland, planners are hostile to people setting up projects or ventures in their garages, or even in garden sheds. Scotland froze land use in 1947, when it all ceased to be the matter of the owner or tenants and became municipalised. Amendments occur, but they cause much heartache to municipal man. Streets set aside as domestic do not permit commercial use.

The HPs and Microsofts are heroic stories of enterprises starting at the most humble level, but flourishing far beyond their imaginings. Yet my point may be more crucial to little ventures that may never employ more than a dozen people in roles of only a modest level. Scotland’s local authorities have a hatred of the unplanned, spontaneous or untidy.

They have their "structure plans" and love and admire them. I’ve seen them taken out of drawers and polished: "Here be bungalows, here be shops, here be a swimming pool and here be light industry." We may not deviate from the maps because it would offend the entire municipal imagination.

This can get comical....