Odd how the two most “offensive” words in the English language at the moment were words that were only mildly naughty 30 years ago. While one of these will continue to be a problem for a while, the other is redeemable. Check out Hal Duncan’s brilliant linguistic history of “cunt,” and his take-down of the implicit sexism sold with the demonization of what is, after all, a very cute word for a very delightful organ. He also goes into depth in the way usage varies on either side of the Atlantic. Unusually thought-provoking, and not played for shock value. Very useful for writers who write cross-culturally.
We all know publishing is changing — snooze, hit the alarm, pull the other one, etc. We read about it in the New York Times a hundred times, which one would expect, as publishing is a big presence in New York. But when you read about it in the LA Times you know the movement’s gone big. Of course, this is the LA Times, which isn’t exactly a bastion of non-sensationalistic accuracy. Even so, it’s a fun read full of links to authors doing innovative things. Fun stuff!
TeleRead posted an interesting overview of the history of book piracy, it’s sociodynamics, and economics, with a follow-up column speculating on what it means for the industry. Some interesting stuff here by Chris Meadows.
For those of you who, like me, have a huge library full of books by dead people that will never be released in e-book format (or, at least, not for anothe decade or two) there is an inexpensive non-destructive way to digitize your books. This method is legal and ethically benign so long as you do not share or sell the resulting digital books. As an open source advocate and DIY culture member, I am very much in favor of projects like this. As an author who makes his living off his intellectual property, I work hard to make sure my work is always available in forms that do not strip the reader of his or her fair use rights. The other side of that contract is that the reader doesn’t steal or pirate the creative work of the entertainers whose work they consume. So, with that caveat, enjoy the workshop experience 🙂 I’ll keep writing ’em if you keep reading ’em.
Got a book available on Kindle? You can now post the sample on your website with the Kindle for the Web app. This post from indieKindle gives instructions for embedding the app on your site or in a blog post.
Recycling. We all do it for the environment, but some kinds of recycling–like recycling plastic–are a waste of energy, resources, money, and doesn’t yeild an environemntal or economic gain. This isn’t true for everything–aluminum, scrap metal, electronics, and (thanks to a recent breakthrough in dealing with treatment of toxic de-inking chemicals) paper–all yeild tremendous benefits when properly recycled. But plastics…man, plastics are a problem. They’re all chemically different, they have to be very carefully sorted, cooked, and then are downcycled (made into things further down the supply chain) rather than recycled to the same quality. It’s a dirty secret, and it’s been a bit of a problem and embarassment for a couple decades now. That might not be true for much longer. Seems that, rather than resorting to dogmatism and moral guilting on one side, or lazy-bones naysaying on the other, one scientist has figured out a process for recycling all plastics that’s inexpensive, energy efficient, and a net environmental gain. Bravo!
In the realm of philosophy of science, Alvin Plantinga, an otherwise respected epistemologist from Harvard, is in the process of dipping his face in egg when it comes to philosphy of science. His companionable discussion with Daniel Dennet gives you the bulk of his case in his own words, and P.Z. Meyers (whom I consider entertaining but not exactly one for nuance) takes him apart very effectively here.
Research on different kinds of invisiblity continues apace. This article talks time distortion effects of certain kinds of meta-materials, and gives a roadmap for a proof-of-concept. I’ve been having a blast watching this field go from the stuff of dreams and science fiction to the stuff of serious, hard-core well-funded research in the last ten years. I can’t wait to see–or not see–some metamaterial-based invisibility prototypes in action.
If you’re a strong autodidact like me, you’re always on the prowl for new educational stuff. OpenCulture just updated their list of free online courses from major universities this month, and the selection is getting really impressive. Even scarier, as one who grew up in academia, I’m starting to recognize a lot of names on that list.
Meanwhile, one of the most excellent shows on the history of technology, James Burke’s Connections, has made its way onto YouTube. Bears multiple re-watchings. Check it out.
If you’re like most people, you’ve heard about the Theory of Relativity (E=MC^2) and have a vague idea that it means all matter is energy or something like that, but you’ve never really been able to get your head around the math to understand what it really means. Well, fear not — the always-readable Bertrand Russel wrote the definitive popularization of general relativity, and Derek Jacobi read it. Now, it’s available for free to the public as an audiobook. Go grab it now, give it a listen, and prepare to have your mind turned inside-out. Fun stuff 🙂
Also in the “good clean fun” department, someone with actual sexual experience on the order of decades is now producing a sex education series on youtube. Funny, clever, and no-bullshit, he calls it the “Guide to Getting It On,” and he hits a lot of points that younger, hipper educators often miss.