Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Darth Vader

When the King of Saudi Arabia, the ruler of a brutal totalitarian dictatorship, visited England this week, he was greeted with an interesting choice in music by the British.

The news and discussion forum following that is interesting to watch, as well.

Immortality Research

An interesting article in the Washington Post on speculations about ending the aging process.
Halloween quote of the day from Stephen King:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

On Writing
On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg. He hadn't intended to start a revolution. He thought he was just going to argue a bit of theology with some academics. His list was written in Latin, after all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

After I got done teaching my theology class tonight, I took a look at Comet Holmes; it was very easy to find. It looks like a small dandilion puff, especially through a telescope (I took a look through a small three and a half inch Meade Maksutov-Cassegrain when I got home, using a 26 mm Ploessl eyepiece). My wife Ruth enjoyed looking at it too.

Sky and Telsecope magazine has sky charts that help locate it. It is easy to see all night long.
Comet Holmes is now a naked eye object, about magnitude 2 or 3. For details, see the article on
Science Fiction quote of the day:

That's the thing about people who think they hate computers... What they really hate are lousy programmers.

Oath of Fealty , Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ray Bradbury, Science Fiction quote of the day:

There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian, Irish/Italian/Octogenarian/Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women's Lib/Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.

Fahrenheit 451, Coda 1979

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Science Fiction quote for the day from Robert A. Heinlein:

The whole principle is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak.

On censorship, in The Man Who Sold the Moon (1949)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Science Fiction quote of the day from Isaac Asimov:

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!', but 'That's funny ...'

The same thing works in theology. I know from my own experience that the parts of the Bible or life that are hardest to understand, or those things that don't seem to quite fit, or that really bother me, will often lead me to the most exciting ideas.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Science Fiction quote of the day from Ray Bradbury:

Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it's the history of ideas, the history of our civilization birthing itself. ...Science fiction is central to everything we've ever done, and people who make fun of science fiction writers don't know what they're talking about.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Today's Science Fiction quote is from Stephen R. Donaldson:

This you have to understand. There's only one way to hurt a man who's lost everything. Give him back something broken.

The Wounded Land (1980)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Space Shuttle Discovery launched on time and is now safely in orbit. It should dock with the International Space Station on Thursday. Discovery is scheduled to return to Earth in two weeks.
Science Fiction quote of the day from Joe Haldeman:

"Bad books on writing and thoughtless English professors solemnly tell beginners to 'Write What You Know', which explains why so many mediocre novels are about English professors contemplating adultery."

And then the opening lines from his best known book, The Forever War:

"Tonight we're going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man." The guy who said that was a sergeant who didn't look five years older than me. So if he'd ever killed a man in combat, silently or otherwise, he'd done it as an infant.

I already knew eighty ways to kill people, but most of them were pretty noisy. I sat up straight in my chair and assumed a look of polite attention and fell asleep with my eyes open.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Assuming the weather cooperates, the Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to launch at 8:38 AM on Tuesday morning. Its goal is to deliver another piece to the International Space Station, specifically the Harmony module, which is one of the two connecting nodes. This one will allow the delivery of the Columbus Laboratory, built by the European Space Agency come December.

This mission will also be rearanging the solar arrays. There will be 5 space walks, the most ever on a shuttle mission to the space station.
Science Fiction quote of the day from Robert Heinlein:

One can judge from experiment, or one can blindly accept authority. To the scientific mind, experimental proof is all important and theory is merely a convenience in description, to be junked when it no longer fits. To the academic mind, authority is everything and facts are junked when they do not fit theory laid down by authority.

"Doctor Pinero" in Life Line (1939)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

On Saturday mornings here in the Antelope Valley, a free newspaper appears on our driveways called the Antelope Valley Press Express; it's mostly advertising, but there are a few articles. I noticed one by Don Mayhew entitled "Making e-mends: Fixing a faux pas when communicating via e-mail." It began with the following story:

Author Bonnie Hearn Hill was exchanging ideas via e-mail this summer with a friend writing a psychological thriller. The story involved a character’s murder.

“I think you need to kill him sooner, right off the bat,” Hill, of Fresno, Calif., wrote. The friend didn’t reply.

She wrote again, supplying details about where and when the murder might take place. No response.

She tried again: “Let’s discuss this murder of yours over coffee.” Still nothing.

Finally, Hill called her friend, who said he hadn’t received any of her e-mails—and by the way, uses his middle initial in his e-mail address. She’d been sending her homicidal messages to a stranger with a similar name.

One of those little occupational hazards that writers need to be careful about.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Science fiction quote of the day from H.G. Wells:

While there is a chance of the world getting through its troubles, I hold that a reasonable man has to behave as though he were sure of it. If at the end your cheerfulness is not justified, at any rate you will have been cheerful.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Science Fictiona author quote of the day from Neal Stephenson (author of Cryptonomicon, among other works):

For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter's is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you're trying to breathe liquid methane.

Wired 2.02: In the Kindom of Mao Bell
The transcript of a lecture on the origins of anti-Semitism by the German academic, Dr. Matthias Kuentzel at Leeds University:

Despite common misconceptions, Islamism was born not during the 1960s but during the 1930s. Its rise was inspired not by the failure of Nasserism but by the rise of Fascism and of Nazism.

It was the Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928 in Egypt, that established Islamism as a mass movement. The significance of the Brotherhood to Islamism is comparable to that of the Bolshevik party to communism: It was and remains to this day the ideological reference point and organizational core for all later Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda and Hamas or the group around Sidique Khan.

It is true that British colonial policy produced Islamism, insofar as Islamism viewed itself as a resistance movement against "cultural modernity." Their “liberation struggle”, however, had more in common with the “liberation struggle” of the Nazis than with any kind of progressive movement.
Thus, the Brotherhood advocated the replacement of Parliamentarianism by an “organic” state order based on the Caliphate. It demanded the abolition of interest and profit in favour of a forcibly imposed community of interests between capital and labour.

The whole thing is worth reading.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Having had several letters to the editor published in the Los Angeles Times, and generally getting most of the letters I write them published, I thought I would share what I think makes for a letter that the L.A Times will publish. This may or may not work for other newspapers.

1. Get angry.

The only time I write letters to the editor is when I'm really mad. Therefore, I don't write letters very often. If you're not mad, why bother?

2. Keep to a single point.

Don't ramble. Figure out what you want to say and then say it clearly and simply. Logic helps.

3. Keep it short.

They will probably cut your letter even if you keep it short; so the less work they have to do, the better your odds.

4. Be inflamatory and colorful.

You're expressing your opinion, so be opinionated. Embrace your angry inner child. Saracasm seems to be something they go for.

5. If you're responding to a front page article, your odds improve.

If a single paragraph article on page D-12 has pissed you off, go ahead and write the letter--it will make you feel better--but your odds of seeing it in print match the original prominence of the piece.

Two reletively recent letters of mine they published, just to give you examples of what has worked:

Published October 13, 2007 in response to a puff piece on Che Guevara on the front page

It shouldn't surprise me, but it always does. Why do you write glowing articles about communist thugs guilty of mass murder? I doubt you'd write nice things about the German doctors and teachers who fanned out from Hitler's Germany to "help" in neighboring countries. I really find it difficult to comprehend why you can't understand that all totalitarianism, whether left or right, is equally evil.

Published March 13, 2005 in response to a front page article on Communists in a retirement community

Such a sweet story about old Communists in a retirement home. What's next, a puff piece on a Nazi country club in Idaho? No? Why haven't the millions of victims of the communist ideology not been enough for you to denounce it as fiercely as you rightfully denounce Nazism? Communism and those who sympathize with it deserve no more respect or sympathy than we offer for any who sympathized with such jack-booted thugs. Care you not for the blood of its millions slaughtered or oppressed in the name of that vile cause?

Obviously I'm not fond of Communism or Nazism or any form of totalitarianism.
Another Douglas Adams Science Fiction quote of the day:

"What to do if you find yourself stuck with no hope of rescue: Consider yourself lucky that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn't been good to you so far, which given your present circumstances seems more likely, consider yourself lucky that it won't be troubling you much longer."

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Today's science fiction quote of the day is from Philip K. Dick:

I, for one, bet on science as helping us. I have yet to see how it fundamentally endangers us, even with the H-bomb lurking about. Science has given us more lives than it has taken; we must remember that.

"Self Portrait" (1968)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Interesting article in this morning's Los Angeles Times about Doris Lessing, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature last week: Doris Lessing's Nobel: A victory for science fiction. Science Fiction has often been dismissed as of no importance by mainstream literary critics. That odd attitude will now be harder to justify.
Science Fiction author quote of the day, from Douglas Adams:

All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.

The Salmon of Doubt, 2002

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Los Angeles Times made it to my house today and they delivered Saturday's paper along with today's paper, so I was able to read my letter to the editor. One can also view it online.
Science Fiction quote of the day from Brian W. Aldiss:

I was hardly fit for human society. Thus destiny shaped me to be a science fiction writer.

The Twinkling of an Eye: My Life as an Englishman (1998)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

There was a horrible accident on the freeway that leads to the Antelope Valley. As a consequence, the Los Angeles Times was not delivered, so I didn't get to see my letter to the editor. The Times indicated that they might deliver Saturday's paper with Sunday's tomorrow, assuming they are able to get the paper up here even then.
Harlen Ellison, the science fiction quote of the day:

That's [a] good question. More than likely it will never be answered to your complete satisfaction. But then, how many questions ever are?

"Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman (1965)

Friday, October 12, 2007

I wrote an email to the L.A. Times earlier this week. I rarely write letters to the editor; I have to get really angry in order to do so. The Times had done a front page puff piece on Che Guevara, the Communist who was a murdering thug. I pointed out that they probably wouldn't have done such a piece on a Fascist who was a murdering thug. I got a call this afternoon from someone at the L.A. Times. My letter will be in tomorrow's paper.
I received the colorproofs of my book, The Bible's Most Fascinating People, by "courier" as my editor would say; that is, it came by DHL this morning. It included the cover of the book as well:

The colorproofs of the interior of the book are the actual pages of the book, printed on one side. The paper is thick and glossy. I think the book is gorgeous. I'm very pleased.
And on the teleportation front....

"Quantum entanglement is valuable in transmitting particles such as atoms and photons where the most delicate properties are significant and where simple approximation is not enough," he explains.

"Teleporting a person, on the other hand, would not require reproducing the quantum state anything like as exactly.

"Everything we know about biology and how molecules fit together to produce a living being, including the brain, indicates that creating some level of approximation would give you a real person who was a serviceable replica of the original in terms of looking the same and thinking the same thoughts, without necessarily being a perfect quantum replica.

"The teleported person would end up slightly different, but not in a biologically important way."

The implication of this is that you could scan a person using some advanced form of the technology used to perform MRI scans, and transmit that scanned information somewhere else -- using normal electrical or sound signals -- where it would then be reassembled into an approximation of the original.

"It's the same principle as a fax machine," says Bennett. "When you fax something what comes out the other end obviously looks like the original and contains the same information. It's not the same paper, however, or the same type of ink.

"It's the same, but not the same.

"We already have three-dimensional fax machines, so the basic theory is there."

From "Beam me up: Just how close are we to teleportation?"
A quote from S.M. Stirling, science fiction author of Island in the Sea of Time, among other works:

There is a technical term for someone who confuses the opinions of a character in a book with those of the author. That term is idiot.

from Conquistador

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Allen Telescope Array begins operation today. Paul Allen, who also helped bankroll SpaceShipOne, donated large sums to a radio telescope project designed to search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Currently made up of 42 6 meter dishes, it will eventually have 350. For details, there's a good article at
Science Fiction Quote of the Day:

To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.

Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Russian Soyuz rocket launched on time this morning at 6:22 AM PDT, carrying the new Expedition 16 crew toward the International Space Station. Now in orbit aboard the Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft are Expedition 16 commander Peggy Whitson, flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko and Malaysian astronaut Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor. They'll dock with the space station on Friday.

The International Space Station has been continuously inhabited since November 2, 2000 when the first group of three astronauts, William Shepherd, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev became the station’s first inhabitants.

The current inhabitants of the space station, the Expedition 15 crew has been busy readying the station as they prepare to greet their replacements and Malaysian guest. Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov set up a work space in the Zvezda service module that will allow the visiting Shukor to perform several experiments over nine days. Flight Engineer Clay Anderson also resized U.S. spacesuits for Whitson and Malenchenko for an upcoming spacewalk.

Yurchikhin and Kotov are scheduled to leave the station on Oct. 21, officially ending the Expedition 15 mission. The Malaysian astronaut Shukor will go home with the two cosmonauts. Anderson will remain onboard with Expedition 16 and return to Earth aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on its STS-120 mission which is scheduled to launch on October 23.
Today's quote from a science fiction author. Jerry Pournelle:

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

From Chaos Manor View 408, April 3-9, 2006

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Today's science fiction quote, from Isaac Asimov. This is what being a writer is like:

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.
LIFE magazine (January 1984)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Barry Gehm's Corollary to Clarke's Third Law, "Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced." (From Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact Magazine, 1991)
Today's quotes from a science fiction author, Arthur C. Clarke:

Clarke's Three Laws

Clarke's First Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

"Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination" in Profiles of the Future (1962)

Clarke's Second Law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

"Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination" in Profiles of the Future (1962)

Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Profiles of the Future (revised edition, 1973)
Interesting news:

JERUSALEM (AP) - A confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that his government would support a division of Jerusalem, which is reportedly a key component of an Israeli-Palestinian declaration to be made at a U.S.-sponsored Mideast peace conference next month.

As part of recent negotiations between the sides, Deputy Vice Prime Minister Haim Ramon has proposed turning over many of the Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem to the Palestinians. Ramon said the Palestinians could establish the capital of a future state in the sector of the city, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war.

In return, Israel would receive the recognition of the international community, including Arab states, of its sovereignty over Jewish neighborhoods and the existence of its capital there, Ramon said.

On Monday Ramon said even hawkish elements of Olmert's coalition, like Cabinet Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party, would back such an Israeli concession. The centrist Labor Party would also support the proposal, Ramon said.

"There are two central parties that agree to this," Ramon told Army Radio. "The most important thing is to preserve the state of Israel Jewish and democratic."

Under his proposal, neighborhoods in east Jerusalem where about 170,000 Palestinians live would be transferred to Palestinian sovereignty, Ramon said.

Prediction: the Palestinians and Arabs will respond to this proposal by lobbing more mortars at Israelis, together with stepped up attempts at suicide bombing. They are unlikely to accept the proposal. Instead, they will complain about what Israel isn't offering them, accuse them of playing games and not being serious, along with offering lists of the other faults of the Israeli government and how that once again Israel is guilty of not being serious about peace.

If they do accept it, the Palestinians will simply move in mortars and other weapons and use the newly acquired territory for more attacks against the Jews. Any Israeli response will be greeted by more accusations of their warmongering and oppression.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Science fiction/fantasy author quote of the day, from Neil Gaiman, author of Neverwhere and American Gods:

You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.

from an essay at
The daily mortar attacks from Gaza into Israel rarely make the news. You might not have heard about today's attack:

Two Palestinian armed groups said Sunday they launched four homemade rockets from northern Gaza Strip at the southern Israeli town of Sderout early in the day.

The armed wings of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and the Fatah movement led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas claimed their responsibility for the attack in leaflets.

The two groups also told media that they attacked the Israeli- Egyptian crossing by eight mortar shells.

Oddly enough, besides being reported in the Jerusalem Post, as one might expect, the above quote came from People's Daily, which comes out of China.

I am still trying to figure out why Israel is always painted as a bad guy. But of course criticism of Israeli policies could never, ever be a consequence of anti-Semitism. Surely the constant drumbeat of negative statements against Israel by those on the far left and far right, in the universities and elsewhere is nothing but legitimate criticism of the Israeli government's current policies. Odd, how both Hamas and Fatah, despite their differences, seem united in their commitment to attacking Israel.

I'm just curious as to what the Palestinians have ever done to promote peace. Perhaps their constant preaching in mosques, newspapers, school text books, magazines, radio shows, and television shows of Nazi-style anti-Semitism are designed to encourage peace with Israel?

Of course if the Israelis respond to this attack in any way, the critics of Israel will be quick to argue that it is Israel, and Israel alone, that is guilty of putting roadblocks in the way to peace. After all, if it weren't for how awful Israel is to the Palestinians, none of this would be happening (which reminds me of what neanderthals have to say about rape victims, but I'm sure I'm just being viscious). I'm sure it would be rude on my part to suggest that those critics of Israeli policy who seem always silent about daily mortar attacks and anti-Semitic preaching might be oh, just a wee bit anti-Semitic themselves in their one sided condemnations of the only liberal democratic nation in the Middle East.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

An etymology lesson from a philologist:

I don't recall my English professors ever looking like this. My wife discovered Marina's video lessons and made me watch some of them. If all English teachers looked like this, there would be no child left behind--at least if that child was male. Just visit YouTube and do a search under "hotforwords."

Friday, October 05, 2007

From an interview with newspaper editor Flemming Rose, Revisiting the Danish Cartoon Crisis

But what really bothers me today—and this hasn't been reported very widely—is that right after the cartoon crisis, the Organization of the Islamic Conference at the United Nations sponsored a resolution condemning the "ridiculing of religion." It didn't pass, but in March of this year the United Nations Human Rights Consul, which is the highest international body in the world for the protection of human rights, passed a resolution condoning state punishment of people criticizing religion. I think this is a big scandal. This was a direct result of the "cartoon crisis." Fortunately the European Union voted against it. But countries like Russia, Mexico and China supported the resolution. And in this resolution, they call on governments to pass laws or write provisions into their constitutions forbidding criticism of religion. This would give a free hand to authoritarian regimes around the world to clamp down on dissidents.

The whole interview is worth reading.
Science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein quotes for the day:

Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it.


Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as "bad luck."

Both of these are from his 1973 novel, Time Enough for Love. One can read a bunch more of his quotes at Wikiquote.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Japan orbited the moon today:

Japan's Kaguya probe slid into lunar orbit late Wednesday after a circuitous 20-day trek from Earth to begin more than a dozen science investigations designed to gain insights about the moon's history.

Email today from Barnes and Noble letting me know they have corrected the spelling of my name on their website for my book, The Bible's Most Fascinating People. I checked, and the spelling correction has already appeared, though they still show Penguin Group, USA as the publisher rather than Reader's Digest.
Happy birthday to the Space Age. 50 years ago today Sputnik became the first artificial satellite.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Christian Book Distributors has let me know that they're fixing my name on their website for my book. Amazon fixed the problem on their site yesterday. So I'm only waiting on Barnes and Noble now.
Interesting article from the British center-left magazine, Prospect:

The question of what to do in Iraq today must be separated from the decision to topple Saddam Hussein four and a half years ago. That decision is a matter for historians. By any normal ethical standard, the coalition's current project in Iraq is a just one. Britain, America and Iraq's other allies are there as the guests of an elected government given a huge mandate by Iraqi voters under a legitimate constitution. The UN approved the coalition's role in May 2003, and the mandate has been renewed annually since then, most recently this August. Meanwhile, the other side in this war are among the worst people in global politics: Baathists, the Nazis of the middle east; Sunni fundamentalists, the chief opponents of progress in Islam's struggle with modernity; and the government of Iran. Ethically, causes do not come much clearer than this one.

Some just wars, however, are not worth fighting. There are countries that do not matter very much to the rest of the world. Rwanda is one tragic example; and its case illustrates the immorality of a completely pragmatic foreign policy. But Iraq, the world's axial country since the beginning of history and all the more important in the current era for probably possessing the world's largest reserves of oil, is no Rwanda. Nor do two or three improvised explosive devices a day, for all the personal tragedy involved in each casualty, make a Vietnam.

The great question in deciding whether to keep fighting in Iraq is not about the morality and self-interest of supporting a struggling democracy that is also one of the most important countries in the world. The question is whether the war is winnable and whether we can help the winning of it. The answer is made much easier by the fact that three and a half years after the start of the insurgency, most of the big questions in Iraq have been resolved. Moreover, they have been resolved in ways that are mostly towards the positive end of the range of outcomes imagined at the start of the project. The country is whole. It has embraced the ballot box. It has created a fair and popular constitution. It has avoided all-out civil war. It has not been taken over by Iran. It has put an end to Kurdish and marsh Arab genocide, and anti-Shia apartheid. It has rejected mass revenge against the Sunnis. As shown in the great national votes of 2005 and the noisy celebrations of the Iraq football team's success in July, Iraq survived the Saddam Hussein era with a sense of national unity; even the Kurds—whose reluctant commitment to autonomy rather than full independence is in no danger of changing—celebrated. Iraq's condition has not caused a sectarian apocalypse across the region. The country has ceased to be a threat to the world or its region. The only neighbours threatened by its status today are the leaders in Damascus, Riyadh and Tehran.

The whole article is worth reading.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Amazon has updated my name to "R.P. Nettelhorst" on my new book's listing on their website. So when you click on my name on my book's page, it now gives you a list of my other books. Potentially, that could increase sales of those books--assuming of course, that people like The Bible's Most Fascinating People.

Speaking of liking: for a couple days I noticed that it was a best seller in a narrow category of "stories" from the Bible--it got at least as high as 29 out of 100, but it has since dropped off that list and the page no longer references that list. Apparently someone had recently pre-ordered the book again and that boosted my sales figures, briefly. The Amazon sales rank is incredibly volitile. A single sale can move you way up on the list, for a little while. But as the days pass with no more sales, the number quickly declines....

Monday, October 01, 2007

I got a nice email from today letting me know that they will fix my name on their website within "two or three" days. So my book The Bible's Most Fascinating People will now be listed as by "R.P. Nettelhorst" instead of by "Robin Paul Nettelhorst." The nice thing about the change, besides it being my preferred byline, is that it will link my new book with my other books--which may help sales of the older books. At least I like to think it will.

As to why I prefer my byline to be "R.P. Nettelhorst," it is related to the fact that 87 per cent of the people in the United States who are named "Robin" are female. I didn't recognized this could be a problem until I started getting junk mail addressed to "Miss," including tampon samples. The first two days in a row in a new High School my Senior year, one of my teachers called out "Miss Nettelhorst" as he was doing roll call. That's when I realized I had to take action. Ever after, if my name is going to be seen by people who don't know me, I use my initials. That way they won't automatically assume I'm female.