Saturday, July 08, 2006

Return of the Blog

Did you all enjoy the hiatus?

I just got back from a frenetic trip to New York (to film my new History Channel show)...

...then Boston (the International Complexity Conference) ...

...DC (a conference on thwarting "evil genius" scenarios, hosted by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency) ...

...then Gettysburg and Philadelphia. The kids toured sights and learned huge amounts of history while I worked, sigh. (We always seem to bring freakish weather when we travel east and this time it was a monsoon! The Archives and Pickett's Charge and some other milestones were washed out.)

Favorite parts? Congressional aides/lobbyists (there's a difference?) Dan and Erik taking us on a lovely guided tour of the Capitol. (God bless the heroes of UA93 who saved BOTH our civilization AND this heart-filling treasure!) Thanks Dan & Erik!
...Touring Gettysburg by foot and car (after having watched Ted Turner's great film.)
... Living in a Hoboken fire house for three days, meeting real heroes like former NYC Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen and the men of Rescue One.
...Seeing old pals in DC and meeting great minds like Judge Posner, while Tom Clancy gave our dinner speech...

... and standing yet again in that Temple of the Enlightenment - a place every bit as sacred as Sinai - Independence Hall. (I get shivers, every time. All choked up.)
...And, yes, a block away, visiting the humble grave of old Ben. My hero.

(One complaint. At Arlington National Cemetary, most of the tour guides had not even HEARD of George Marshall, let alone had a clue of where he could be found. Only the greatest American in 100 years. Should have been Time's Man of the Century.)

A great (if exhausting) trip.

All right, then, shall we resume?

Where shall we begin? How about one small item that's apolotical and one from politics? Sound fair?

1) Announcing the most vivid and interesting new online magazine -- Jim Baen's Universe
which offers a generous variety of fiction and fascinating articles. Editor Eric Flint has gathered an impressive array of talent, and even allowed me to slip in too, with a serialized novel... my first big science fiction comedy in years! The good news? Subscription is a real bargain. The sad news is that founder and publisher Jim Baen recently passed away, even at the moment of triumphantly launching Universe Magazine. A tragic loss to the field - one of our most vivid and dynamic leaders.

2) Under the category of "can you imagine what would have been said if this happened under Bill Clinton?"

Oh the hypocrisy! Enron's Ken Lay dropping dead, just as he's in the process of plea-bargaining a tell-all to prosecutors in order to avoid prison? Is this a no-brainer? (Even if it really was of "natural causes.") And yet the obvious paranoid riff gets no mention at all? Yeesh!

I mean, are paranoid freakazoids REALLY that partisan, that they cannot spread it around a bit? Without a scintilla of cause or evidence, they STILL call poor Vince Foster's "travelgate" suicide a murder (murdered... over that?) and yet never seem to notice stuff 10,000 times as suspicious on the other side.


I accuse them of utter hypocrisy. They are credulous maniacs, every single one.

More soon.


David Brin said...

Oh, BTW... would any of you like to host a formal posting online of my GAR vs FIBM essay?

I did ask before for people to nominate (with URLs) their best-blogs-by-brin. If any of them deserve a home of their own, let me know!


Anonymous said...

Welcome Back!

Did you know that Philadelphia at the time of the declaration was the largest city in America? Larger than New York and Boston combined, and Lowest taxes of any state. They even had a clause in the constitution that automatically voided all tax legislation after 12 months. Can you imagine that today?

Anonymous said...

I agree and recommend Jim Baen's Universe. When David sent me the e-mail about its development and imminent arrival, I checked the previews and was sold. Definitely worth it (and I can't wait to read David's new serial).

Regards the latest political antics - still reminds me of many other animal species behaviors I've observed or read the studies and reports of.

The dominant males of a communal species using threat displays to intimidate other members within the group.

teflonjedi said...

I was on the magazine site a few days ago, because of an earlier recommendation, and was sad to read of Baen's death. I can see he was well loved in the community.

Anonymous said...

I visited Gettysburg for the Dead Media Project. The battlefield has one of the last surviving panoramic paintings, a once-popular form of public "edutainment."

The giant paintings -- of holy sites, famous battles, scenes of great natural beauty -- used to tour around the country, along with lecturers and props.

There were actually four Gettysburg panoramic paintings. The battlefield's museum used their copy as the basis for a lecture.

I wrote up an essay about the visit, but ironically I can't find it anywhere on the web! The Dead Media website isn't complete.

Anonymous said...

Battlefields, terrorist attacks, cemetaries and a pair of obituaries?

Death on your mind much, Dr. Brin?

David Brin said...

Not quite. Death is what obsesses the culture. I am just a hired hand.

Me? I am more interested in victory, which could also be seen as a theme....

Anonymous said...

Host how?

I'd certainly love to have your essays somewhere accessible. I'm off to teach in China in a few days, and blogger is blocked there (but not your main website).

Actually, if you could pick one of your essays that you'd most like used to teach English to Chinese students, which would it be?

Tony Fisk said...

Welcome back. Sounds like the break was fun, if a tad exhausting.

I definitely agree that decent posts should be preserved in a wiki, otherwise the chronological 'firefront' soon passes through a topic that's worth an ongoing thought or two, and it gets lost (or at least gathers more cobwebs than it deserves).
Quick suggestion for hosting: create a wiki of your own (for instance one at pbwiki, where the Earth predictions are slowly accumulating, can be made in under a minute. You can't be *that* busy!? If you want someone else to maintain it, that's fine! But the main point is that you will then be the guy in charge of the password!)

One possible means of ongoing feedback is to include a double linked reference between an article and a posting on this blog. Read there, place comments here.

As for which posts? That sounds a bit like a delve in the archives!

Anonymous said...

A lot of essays may be found at Dr. Brin's non-blogger site:

I've been trying to unravel and get at the essence of the "Tribalism" essay. Not easy when there are SO MANY ideas in your typical Brin essay!

Rob Perkins said...

Death is certain. That ought to be self-evident...

David, I'd be happy to give your essay a home, but nobody comes to my site as far as I can tell...

Re Ken Lay... it was my first thought that his death was *faked*...

Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't you host GAR vs FIBM at

But if you're looking for a home, I'd be thrilled to host it on my new web site. The site will be about the process of moving from MS Windows to GNU/Linux and about free software in general (free as in free speech, not free beer) and associated problems with software patents and DRM and other issues of a free society, which I think ties in to the things that you write about, Dr. Brin. I really enjoy your thought-provoking essays here and at -- it would be a pleasure to host some of your work.

Anyway, just a thought. It seems odd to me that you're looking for a host for this. I think it would be a huge boost to a new site to host your essay, but then I'm also concerned that it might overwhelm my meager start-up offerings :-)

Also, I'm licensing the site (mostly) under a Creative Commons Share Alike license, but would consider different terms for your essay if that's important to you, although I'd strongly encourage you to consider the share-alike license, at least for this one piece.

You can email me at scottc(at)movingtofreedom(dot)org if you want to work with a completely unproven entity!

David Brin said...

For teaching English to Chinese? WOw. I'd pick something short and poetical like:
A little allegory from The Transparent Society

Be sure and tell your students that science fiction is rising in China. Both of the top SF magazines on Earth are there and there will be an SF conference in Chengdu in mid-August 2007, hosted by SF World Magazine, that I hope to attend before the Yokohama Worldcon.

Tony, I discuss the failures of the internet as a useful idea resolution medium at:
The "firefront" effect is one that, when exhibited my real people, is diagnosed as insanity or mental damage, yet we put up with it online.

Scott, I probably will host the GAR essay at But I overwork my poor volunteer web designer, Beverly, with sheer volume. I only mentioned alternate hosting because it seems a nice modern backup. Each of us can post things that seemed ephemeral in the locale where they originally appeared. The disadvantage (especially in Wikis!) is that the original poster thus loses quality control and can forever afterward be attributed words and opinions not his own. A secondary disadvantage is version control. I will almost certainly revise the GAR essay later. But those reading it at another site will get the older version.

Hence the vital importance of disclaimers like: "this is an informal posting (with permission) of a draft in progress as of __(date)__ that might be superseded. Later versions might be found at"

And yet, the advantages of this approach are also clear.

Anonymous said...


I was going to ask if there were Chinese language editions of your books . . . but a better question might be, "Do your Chinese publishers pay royalties?"

I remember reading that Fred Pohl occasionally took vacations in Eastern Europe to use up the accumulated trickle of royalties in hard-to-convert currencies.


Anonymous said...

Death and Victory...

Death hasn't changed much since the Revolution and the Civil War, but Victory sure has.

Anonymous said...

I find myself often referring to your "social diamond" (as opposed to social pyramid) concept, but there's not one canonical blog posting that I can point to in order to get the point across. Would it be too much to ask for a short but to-the-point article on your main website to refer people to?

David Brin said...

The best "diamonds" explanation that's in print is (I think) at:

Tony Fisk said...

To restate what I said earlier, I think the simplest setup that will allow persistence and feedback is to have a wiki (or David's homesite) to store, arrange, and index the articles, and this blog to store the comments. (Plus a permanent link to the site in the sidebar)

With that setup, David retains complete editorial control while still allowing feedback.

As an example, I have posted the GAR vs FIBM essay here (not going to make a habit of this as it isn't the Earth wiki's main intention). I have also set up a link to comments back on the original posting.

What do folks think? Does it work? Could it work?

(BTW pbwiki provides password protection, maintains version control, and allows you to make your own backups. Not that I'm plugging pbwiki. It's not perfect and I'm sure there is competition. OTOH it is convenient and pretty good for the price)

Anonymous said...

Ken Lay/"are paranoid freakazoids REALLY that partisan?"

No, no, I can promise you that the thought of assassination lept instantly to the minds of every paranoid freakazoid I know (although I have only confirmed with one--er, been intensely informed at the first opportunity by one--thus far).

Conspiracy theories that serve the monied interests get public play, just like partisan "science" and "philosophy" do.

Anonymous said...

Now I thought that the death was faked, to take the money and run. But that's just me.

Woozle said...

Oh boy, I've got some catching up to do...


1. Please add me to the ever-growing list of those who would be happy to post your GAR-FIBM essay, or pretty much any of them. (As far as I know, none of my sites are blocked by China, but I have no way to test.)

2. I can think of the following ways in which a non-techie might be given the ability to post essays on a site without having it rewritten: (a) use a content management system. There is much free software out there for doing this; I've tried three so far, and two of them were very easy to set up. CMS software gives you very tight control over who can edit, who can comment, etc. (b) A wiki where you have admin powers. This would allow you to mark certain pages "read-only" to everyone else, but still allow discussion on the "discussion" page (with MediaWiki, anyway; I don't know about other wiki software). (c) A wiki where the editor(s) have a clear policy regarding the editing of attributed works, and where that policy is acceptable to you, and where said editors constantly monitor the site to prevent violations of said policy.

To refresh your memory, I once (many months ago) asked you for permission to post any of your blog entries, and you offered me Reducing Blame to Fundamentals, for which I was (and remain) eternally grateful. ^_^

That essay is, in fact, posted on a wiki page which is editable by anyone. My policy (as yet unwritten, but nonetheless enforced) is to disallow (and revert) any edits which change any of the words within the body of the essay. The only changes allowed are (a) adding links, where appropriate and where the link target is actually what you're talking about (e.g. linking from the word "liar" to a page about George Bush would be inappropriate, even if I agreed with the sentiment), (b) spelling and (very) minor grammar corrections. I would be very hesitant to allow any other corrections, and would likely contact you for approval if I thought any other types of correction were actually needed.

(Note: so far, I am the only one who has attempted to edit the page; this is clearly visible in the page's history.)

3. I've been keeping an index to your works on this page, for what it's worth.

How does the idea of turning into, say, a Drupal-based site strike you?

Tony Fisk said...

Hi, Woozle,
You seem a little more interested in the hosting site notion than most: would you mind following up and commenting on my idea of placing an essay on a wiki with links back to the comment list of a reserved blog posting? (Check my recent comment for details)