Posts Tagged ‘Random interesting stuff from the internet’

The average author earns less than £600 per year, according to The Guardian.

This has long been a topic of interest for writers, perhaps unsurprisingly.

Dorothy Parker (asked which kind of writing pays best): ‘Ransom notes.’

Johnson: ‘No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.’

Mark Twain: ‘Write without pay until someone offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this as a sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for.’

Meanwhile, Sylvia Day (whose work I’ve not read – perhaps I should) is being paid at least ten million dollars as an advance for some romance books. I would put a fiver on the publisher not making that back. Mind you, it’s not an overnight success story. ‘Ms. Day, 40, has been a professional novelist for the last decade, writing more than 20 books that were released by a handful of publishers,’ says the NYT.

In other news, Batman’s greatest boner, the 15 most depressing books ever written, and economics professor Don Boudreaux on growth (he’s making an interesting case that we’re all much better off than we were, using an old Sears catalogue and 2014 smartphones vs ‘a telephone, a calculator, an alarm clock, a Walk-Man or boom box, a compass, a set of road maps, and a Rolodex’).

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I had lunch here with Inspector Gadget a week ago, with a couple of TV people. One of them is a very well-known writer. Appropriately, Gadget had Cochon de lait, chou, purée d’oignons et pruneau. I didn’t pay the bill. I can’t say any more about it at this stage than that.

Interestingly, during the lunch it came up that someone called Jed Mercurio, who wrote a BBC show called Line of Duty, had based a lot of it on Gadget and PC Copperfield. This was news to us. World Productions, who made the show, bought the rights to Generation F from us… but not Wasting Police Time or Perverting the Course of Justice. Strange.

Apparently, Victorian people were more intelligent than us. We know this because reaction times – a reliable marker of general intelligence – have declined steadily since the Victorian era from about 183 milliseconds to 250ms in men, and from 187ms to 277ms in women. Obviously, this is all rubbish – but then the median Monday Books score was better than 250 (and worse than 183) so there must be something in it. You can test yourself here.

An amusing review-ish of the new Dan Brown novel, by Steven Poole.

Mark Steyn on Mayor Bloomberg.

And another book due out from us later this year. Pete Ashton was an undercover cop who spent ten years busting major heroin and crack gangs. Along the way, he may have dabbled in drugs himself and certainly changed his views on the rights and wrongs of legalisation. In the wake of the still-rumbling Mark Kennedy scandal, it’s an interesting look at what it’s like to live several lives at once.

Undercover - AI Cover jpeg



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Somewhere out in space, there really is an asteroid with our name on it. The chances are, Monday Books will be long gone before it hits, but you never know. That’s why they’re thinking of firing lasers at it if they spot it in time. In the film Armageddon, some bloke from NASA says he thinks this is pretty pointless: it would be like ‘shooting a b.b. gun at a freight train’. But what would actually happen if you shot b.b. guns at a freight train? Presumably, enough of them could actually stop the thing? Randall Munroe’s brilliant what if? answers this, with proper physics etc.

This is a really, really good site (and no, we’re not publishing their book, we’ve been beaten to it).

In The Guardian, High Street books stores attack Amazon for ‘tax avoidance’.

I have mixed emotions about this: I love bookshops, particularly indies, and I do support them by buying stuff from them. I’d also like to sell more books in at lower discounts (Amazon’s discounts are punishing). But, as a reader, I love getting a £9.99 paperback for a couple of quid, plus postage. I also just love Amazon, generally. Life would be so much more irksome without it. In the last week, I have used it to buy several books, two torches, four packs of playing cards, some lightbulbs, some white t-shirts and marker pens (for a children’s party) and some vacuum cleaner bags – all without leaving my desk. When you add that saving – the cost of my own time – to the obvious, bottom line saving…

Janet Stewart, manager of the Gerrards Cross Bookshop in Buckinghamshire, was quick to sign up to the new promotion. ‘I think people are becoming more aware of the fact that Amazon and other places aren’t paying their taxes, so we decided to get involved,’ she said. ‘We’re trying to promote ourselves: we’re honest, hardworking people who do pay our taxes – support your local bookshop is the message.’

‘We pay tax on everything, rates, rents, staffing as well as corporation tax. Rates on out-of-town and industrial parks are lower than high-street rates,’ Frances Smith of Kenilworth Books told the Bookseller. ‘Perhaps with the decline of the high street, local authorities should look at their ratings structures and reduce the amount small businesses pay and government should seriously look at ways of rejuvenating the high street.

Lower taxes, lower rates – good luck with that!

(No comments: is someone at The Guardian worried that that newspaper’s own tax avoidance schemes might be mentioned? Or are they more concerned than Janet Stewart about libel? Because, as Tim Worstall explains, in The Times [but here reproduced on his own blog], maybe isn’t tax avoidance at all.)

Finally, Theodore Dalrymple on ‘Choice without Consequences’.

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I hope we will remember people like Ronald Brown.

[He] said the accident (an odd way for a journalist to describe a man’s stepping on a landmine during a war) had left him with a ‘bad knee’… and asked his grandchildren not to sit on his knee because of the pain it caused.

Of the 900 original members of his regiment, only 29 came home.

Here’s the shrapnel (photo from the Daily Telegraph via SWNS.com):

I have been known to moan about having a bad back. People like me should be shown that picture and asked to imagine having all those screws, wires and bits of steel buried in your flesh for 65 years.

That is Badass stuff, Mr Brown. RIP.

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Currently editing. Here are a few things which have caught my eye during coffee breaks.

Password advice.

Can we abolish pain?

The worst football team in Britain.

Dalrymple vs Orr.

10 False Facts Everyone ‘Knows’.

Finally, The Tomangoes, an obscure Detroit group from the 1960s. I bought a copy of this record in the Motorcity in 1987-ish from a man called James Winson, as part of a large haul of records. From memory, I paid him 75c apiece for the records. James was an early stages crack addict who later went full-blown, and was murdered by a Yardie dealer in the early 1990s. Sadly, I rolled over the record in my office chair one day, and broke it in two. Despite all of this, the song still brings back happy memories!

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I was going through some old 45s last night, and I came across my copy of this late 1960s Chicago group soul record (written and recorded shortly before one of the members, Eugene Amos, was drafted for Vietnam):

Then, in today’s Daily Mail, this.

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Michael Yon is well worth reading and supporting (via PayPal). Here he is on the recent attack on Camp Bastion, addressing the question of how Taliban fighters managed to get inside a theoretically impregnable military base:

A key realization: the enemy uses cheap night vision gear in the form of cameras that have night functions. When our IR lasers, our IR strobes, our IR illumination or our IR spotlights are radiating, they can easily be seen using cheap digital cameras. I recently told this to some Norwegian soldiers, who were as surprised as our soldiers to learn it. I learned this from the enemy, not from our guys. The Taliban even use smart phone cameras to watch for invisible lasers. The enemy in Afghanistan has been caught using cameras for night vision. It is just a stroke of common sense: I have been doing it for eight years since I noticed an IR laser one night in Iraq.

A Norwegian trooper explained that one dark night in Afghanistan, they got ambushed with accurate but distant machine-gun fire. When they turned off their IR strobes, the fire ended. When they turned the IR strobes back on, the fires resumed. When they turned them off for good, it was over.

There are some interesting comments underneath, too:

The US has had approximately 1,988 service people killed in the 11 years since it got involved in Afghanistan. About the same number of people die every 3 weeks on American roads. Should we abandon the roads? America lost nearly as many on Omaha beach in 1 day. Should America have withdrawn from D-Day as a result?


This reminds me of the war in Serbia where a F117 stealth aircraft was downed by a SAM-3 missile. We were stunned by that – how could a 2nd or 3rd tier military force locate and shoot down a stealth aircraft? The Serbs (using Russian hardware) were unable to find the aircraft on radar (score one for stealth technology). Instead they looked for what wasn’t there – interruptions in cell phone signals between cell towers caused by the passage of the jet through signal fields (score one for ingenuity)… The US and other 1st tier military forces develop a sense of hubris – “we’re smarter and more advanced than these [fill-in a pejorative about the enemy here] – our technology assures our victory.”


I know this is not-PC to say but one of the reasons the attack on Bastion was easier (not impossible just easier) was the US agreeing to go along with the outlawing of AP [anti-personnel] mines. Imagine trying to approach a defended perimeter with AP mines scattered in front.

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