Week of 24 March 2008
Update: Friday, 28 March 2008 08:37 -0500
Crunch week. The second milestone on the home forensics lab book--the
first being contract signing--is submission of two complete chapters.
According to the contract, that's not due until 12 May, but I fully
intend to make it by 31 March. In fact, I'm going to attempt to reach
the third milestone, submission of 50% of the chapters, by 12 May,
although it's not due contractually until 14 July.
chapters I plan to submit by next Monday are chapter 3, Equipping
a Home Forensics Lab, and the first of the lab chapters, chapter 7,
Soil Analysis. Both of those are well in progress, and should be
complete this week. Of course, getting those complete doesn't leave me
much time for anything else, so updates here are likely to be sparse
Speaking of chapters, the galley proofs for the
next couple of chapters of the home chemistry lab book will be up on
the subscribers' page later this morning. There are still some errors
in the PDF documents, but I think I caught all of them and reported
them to my editors.
The microscope adapter and t-ring arrived from Edmund Scientific, and
I've spent some time playing with the setup. The inside diameter of the
microscope adapter is almost a slip-fit for the external diameter of
the eyepiece, within probably 0.1 mm, so things fit together very
tightly and securely.
Focusing is difficult with the standard,
non-interchangeable focusing screen in the Pentax DSLR, but I'll get it
right. The good news is that once I get it right there shouldn't be any
problem keeping it right. I can remove and replace the camera without
changing the focus. The vertical eyepiece tube has a diopter
adjustment, so between roughly positioning the camera vertically and
using that adjustment, I should be able to get the camera focus to
match the focus of the visual eyepiece, if only by trial and error.
Once I get that done, I should be finished.
PDF galley proofs of chapters 8 and 9 of the home chem lab book are now posted on the Subscribers' Page.
After reading about the Illinois-shaped cornflake that sold for more
than $1,300 on eBay, I was delighted when Barbara showed me an
individually-wrapped Life Savers candy that was deformed. My first
reaction was that it looked like a 90° pipe bend, but upon reflection I
soon realized that it kind of resembles the state of California. My
first thought was to put it up for bid on eBay, but then I decided to
give my readers the first shot at it. I don't want to be greedy, so the
first bid of $1,000 takes it. It comes with a Certificate of
Authenticity, and I'll even pay shipping.
And then, as I was
cleaning up the kitchen, I noticed a small piece of uncooked egg
noodle that looks exactly like Colorado. Or maybe Wyoming. I'll put
that one up for bid later.
I'm going to try to finish up the first lab chapter for the home
forensics book, Soil Analysis. Well, all except the images, which I'll
shoot later. That'll give me the rest of the week to finish up chapter
3, Equipping a Home Forensics Lab. Submitting those two chapters meets
the second milestone, after which I'll start thinking about doing our
I've been reading an interesting thread on the DorothyL mailing list
about the appalling behavior of a few mystery authors at conventions
and signings. I suppose there may be a few bad apples in any barrel,
but my experiences with mystery authors have been anything but bad.
first mystery convention that Barbara and I attended was the first
annual Cape Fear Crime Festival. It was organized by a group of
librarians and bookstore people, none of whom had any experience with
putting on a mystery convention. None of them had even attended a
mystery convention. And they did a superb job, both in terms of
attracting big-name mystery authors and in terms of putting on an
There were inevitable glitches. When Barbara
and I arrived to sign in, they found her name tag immediately but
couldn't find mine. As it turned out, they'd registered me as Richard
Thompson. Furthermore, they thought I was a mystery author, so I ended
up with a green author's name tag.
Soon after I pinned the name
tag to my shirt, I was accosted by a woman fan who exclaimed, "Richard
Thompson! I loved your book!" Without missing a beat, I replied, "Which
A few minutes later, Peter Robinson approached me and
introduced himself. Peter is a top-notch mystery author who frequently
appears on the bestseller lists. He suggested we go to the private
authors' lounge and grab a Coke and continue our discussion. I told him
that I didn't really belong there because I wrote computer books rather
than mysteries. Peter said, "Well, does your publisher pay you for
writing these computer books?" and I said that they did. He then asked
me what they called a person who wrote computer books. "An author," I
replied. "Well, then," said Peter, "you're certainly entitled to use
the authors' lounge."
We arrived in the authors' lounge to find
half a dozen or so other authors already seated around the conference
table. Peter announced, "This is Bob Thompson. He writes computer
books." And immediately the questions started. Many non-authors think
that when authors gather they talk about writing. We don't. We
talk about publishers and contracts and advances and royalty rates and
Amazon rankings and all that other stuff that really matters.
mystery authors in the lounge were fascinated to learn the nitty-gritty
details about computer book publishing. They were surprised to learn
that we computer book authors actually did receive advances in the
sense of being paid as we were actually writing the books. Fiction
authors normally get advances only in the sense that a publisher pays
for a completed book before publishing it, but they generally pay only
after the book has been completed and accepted. Conversely, the mystery
authors thought it was outrageous that computer book royalties are
calculated on net rather than gross, and that royalty rates were
generally lower for computer books.
So I spent most of my free
time during that convention in the authors' lounge, talking at length
with a lot of the authors. By the end of that convention I knew that
I'd never write fiction. There's just not enough money in it, other
than for the very top authors.
And, speaking of top authors, the
guest of honor at that convention was Ridley Pearson, whose books
regularly appear on the New York Times bestseller list. If anyone there
might have been expected to be aloof, it was Ridley, who is a huge
name. Instead, Ridley was just a regular guy.
So regular, in
fact, that he didn't bother to point out a major oversight by the event
organizers. Usually, the organizers of such conventions assign a
watcher or watchers to the guest of honor to make sure that all of his
or her needs are accommodated. The organizers of this convention forgot
to do that, leaving Ridley on his own.
The last night of the
convention there was a final ceremony. I was standing at the far back
of the room, leaning on the wall. Ridley came up to me and said, "Bob,
you and Barbara are staying at the Marriott, right? Can I catch a ride
back with you?" I told Ridley that we'd be happy to give him a ride
back to the Marriott, which was a mile or so from the convention site.
He then added that he didn't want to impose, but he was just too tired
to walk back to the hotel, which he'd been doing every day during the
convention because he hadn't been able to get a rental car and didn't
want to cause any problems for the event organizers. So, yeah, Ridley
is about as regular a guy as I can imagine.
The next morning
there were a couple of sessions scheduled as the event wound down. I
collared Nicki Leone, who was running the event, and told her what had
happened. She was horrified at their oversight, of course. I'll bet
that never happened again.
- Fred Reed has posted an interesting article about the wetback problem.
As Fred points out, it's not Mexican physicians and scientists crossing
the border illegally; it's Mexico's poor, stupid, and criminal classes
who are invading us. And, if there's any one subject upon which nearly
every American agrees, it's that we don't want them here. Rich or poor,
black or white, man or woman, the feeling is nearly universal: send
them back where they came from. Stop them from taking our jobs,
crowding our emergency rooms, filling our jails, and eating our taxes.
Mexico were sending us the cream of its population, that'd be one
thing. It's not. It's sending us the dregs of its population, the
people it doesn't want. We don't want them either. There are some
obvious steps we should be taking:
1. The first responsibility
of our armed forces is to protect our borders. Deploy our armed forces
along the Mexican border with orders to shoot first and ask questions
later. Define a border zone with a depth of, say, ten miles, and make
that a dead zone. Scatter sensors and mines liberally throughout
the dead zone. Patrol it with attack aircraft. Anything that moves in
that zone draws immediate fire.
2. Immediately expel anyone who
is here illegally. Announce a 30-day grace period during which all
illegal residents must leave the country. Any who remain are outlaws in
the original sense, and do not have the protection of the law. Offer a
bounty on them, payable to anyone, no questions asked.
retroactively the citizenship of anyone who is a citizen merely by
virtue of being born in the US. If one or both of your parents is or
was an American citizen at the time you were born, you are an American
citizen no matter where you were born. If neither of your parents is or
was an American citizen at the time you were born, you are not an
American citizen, no matter where you were born. And if one or both of
your parents was an American citizen merely by virtue of being born
here, their citizenship is also revoked, and so does not confer
American citizenship on you.
4. In all fairness, Mexico has been
sending us its dregs for a long time now, and we've been bearing the
costs of that, so turnabout is fair play. Why not clear out our jails
and send 20 million of our worst dregs to Mexico? It's time for Mexico
to pay for a change. If we send back 20 million Mexican losers and 20
million more of our own losers, we'll be a lot better off.
Also in all fairness, the movement shouldn't be all one way, so I
suggest that we allow free immigration of any qualified Mexicans who
want to move to the US and become citizens. What qualifications? Fluent
English, for a start. An education to acceptable standards in a useful
field such as medicine, science, or engineering. And perhaps a net
worth requirement, say $100,000.
Am I serious? You figure it out.
- I downloaded Geert Wilders' film Fitna
yesterday and watched it. From the prerelease commentary, I was
expecting it to be much more inflammatory. Instead, it just showed
islam for what it is, which I suppose is inflammatory enough. It's
impossible to rebut, because all it does is link quotes from the koran
and news headlines to news footage of islamic outrages and excerpts of
speeches by islamic leaders and ordinary man-in-the-street comments
from various muslims. It's the kind of thing that should be run on our
evening newscasts, but isn't.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Robert