Friday, April 24, 2009

L. Neil Smith's top 15 favorite books

A friend of mine on Facebook named Catherine Green has begun a "15 Books" meme on Facebook. The idea is to name the first 15 books you can think of in 15 minutes.

After I posted my list of 15, science fiction writer L. Neil Smith followed with his 15 books. Here El Neil's list:

Anthem by Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
The Crossroads of Time by Andre Norton
Death of a Dude by Rex Stout
Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein
Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein
Guardians of Time by Poul Anderson
Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen by H. Beam Piper
Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif
A Planet for Texans by H. Beam Piper
Principles of Personal Defense by Jeff Cooper
Roosevelt's Road to Russia by George N. Crocker
Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein
Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein
The Whenabouts of Burr by Michael Kurland

Smith noted later he forgot to list "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury. "
I knew the instant I pressed ENTER that I'd think of five more books I'd like to have added," he remarked.

If you want to try one of Smith's own books, he suggests "The Probability Broach," "The Forge of the Elders" or "Pallas."

Here's my fifteen:

Illuminatus! — Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea
Cryptonomicon — Neal Stephenson
The Gold Bug Variations — Richard Powers
Money — Martin Amis
Hyperion — Dan Simmons
Excession — Iain M. Banks
The Book of the New Sun — Gene Wolfe.
Pride and Prejudice — Jane Austen
The World of Late Antiquity — Peter Brown
Nine Hundred Grandmothers — R.A. Lafferty
Main Street — Sinclair Lewis
Pale Fire — Vladimir Nabokov
This Immortal — Roger Zelazny
Islands in the Net — Bruce Sterling
Flag of Ecstasy — Charles Henri Ford

I wish I'd remembered Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress." It's not a coincidence I listed "Illuminatus!" first — Robert Anton Wilson is a big influence on my politics and thinking.

My son Richard Jackson's list:

1.The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
2.The Princess Bride by William Goldman
3.And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
4.Matilda by Roald Dahl
5.The Giver by Lois Lowry
6.The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
7.The Seven Percent Solution by Nicholas Meyer
8.Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner
9-15. All seven Harry Potters by J.K. Rowling

Ricky says he forgot Orwell's "Animal Farm."

Cathy Green's original 15:

The Botany of Desire - Michael Pollan
This Our Exile - James Martin
Exiles - Ron Hansen
Dancing in the Streets - Barbara Ehrenreich
The Far Field - Theodore Roethke
Six Tales of the Jazz Age - F Scott Fitzgerald
Sweet Thursday - John Steinbeck
Sex Lives of Cannibals - Troost
Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Bauby
Owl in the Family - Farley Mowat
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - Dillard
Grendel - John Gardner
Nothing with Strings - Bailey White
A Green Journey - Jon Hassler
A Fine and Private Place - Beagle
Every Living Thing - Cynthia Rylant
Animal Vegetable Miracle - Kingsolver

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The good news about Kate Atkinson

A couple of months ago, I read an excellent mystery novel by Kate Atkinson called "When Will There Be Good News?" My wife has posted about it on her library's blog, Read it or Weep, to bring you up to speed.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Obama's useless broadband program

ProPublica, the investigative reporting Web site, ran a largely-ignored story about a useless program to provide Internet broadband to rural areas that received a big dose of money in the federal government's stimulus bill.

The program pays for such useful projects as bringing broadband to an affluent Houston suburb "built around a golf course" and providing fast Internet access to areas that already have it. The waste began under Dubya but Obama has been touting the program's wonderfulness in his speeches, a nice touch of bipartisanship, so I've written a headline allowing the president to claim overship.

Note that ProPublica is a nonprofit that allows anyone to reprint its articles if you provide credit, link to it, don't edit the story and don't sell it.

Full story follows. (Original ProPublica headline, "Rural Broadband Stimulus Program Slammed in Government Report." I like my headline better.)

By Michael Grabell

A key stimulus program to bring Internet service to rural America may not be up to the job of spending its $2.5 billion in extra funding effectively, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inspector general.

The Rural Utilities Service’s broadband program faced heavy criticism in 2005 when auditors found irregularities with a quarter of the funds the program had received in its first four years of operation. In one case, the program loaned $45 million to wire affluent subdivisions in the Houston suburbs—including one that was built around a golf course and another outside one of the richest cities in Texas.

Monday’s report found that the Rural Utilities Service continues to grant loans to areas that already have broadband service and to communities near major cities.

“We remain concerned with RUS’ current direction of the broadband program, particularly as they receive greater funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” Assistant Inspector General Robert W. Young wrote. “RUS’ broadband program may not meet the Recovery Act’s objective of awarding funds to projects that provide service to the most rural residents that do not have access to broadband service.”

In written comments attached to the report, the Agriculture Department said the law creating the broadband program contained no restrictions as to proximity to major cities. “Rural” was defined only as a community with fewer than 20,000 people.

More than 90 percent of the loan applications the agency has approved since the critical report in 2005 went to areas that already had broadband service, the report said. “OIG remains concerned because the overwhelming majority of communities…receiving service through the broadband program already have access to the technology,” Young wrote.

Agriculture Department officials declined to comment further Monday evening.

In nearly every speech about the federal stimulus package, President Obama has touted an initiative to expand broadband access to millions of Americans in underserved rural areas. Such an expansion, supporters say, would aid small businesses and improve access to health care and distance learning programs.

The stimulus package, passed by Congress in early February, provides $7.2 billion for broadband grants and loans. A Commerce Department agency will manage $4.7 billion while the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service will manage $2.5 billion.

That’s nearly twice as much as the rural broadband program has given out in loans over the last eight years.

The inspector general’s report also noted that 148 communities that receive broadband service funded by agency loans were within 30 miles of cities with more than 200,000 people, including communities outside Chicago and Las Vegas.

According to the Agriculture Department’s most recent report on April 3, none of the stimulus money for broadband grants has been awarded or spent.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Halpern talks about George Alec Effinger

Even before SF writer George Alec Effinger died in 2002, ace editor Marty Halpern had begun working on a collection of Effinger's "Budayeen" stories and trying to revive Effinger's career.

Halpern has now begun a three-part blog series, looking back at the three Effinger collections he edited for Golden Gryphon Press. It's a valuable source of information about an author I've always loved.

My tribute site for Effinger (needs a bit of updating, but includes FAQ) is here.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Much better than tofu, yes

Banned in Colorado.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Everyone's a publisher these days....

So it's worth listening to what two professors from The Ohio State University had to say at the SPJ conference in Columbus on Saturday.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Newspaper journalism, 2009

I'm in Columbus today, with five of my colleagues from the Sandusky Register, attending the Spring Conference 2009 of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Aside from the breakfast and lunch sessions, there are six program items. Five deal with the Internet, with one program on blogging and others dealing with various Net topics. The sixth item covers how to deal with layoffs, downsizing and "your next career move."
I seem to recall that when I went to these things in the 1980s, they used to deal with writing for a daily newspaper, one that was printed on paper.
(Cross posted at Jackson Street Beat.)