Separating mental illness from terrorism

Governments, police and news outlets are too eager to blame recent deaths on terrorism when mental illness is likely the culprit.

Before jumping on the ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism’ bandwagon police and news agencies should first find out the whole truth and not the superficial truth behind a ‘terrorist’ act like those in Ottawa recently.

Before announcing a news story reporters should remember the 5 W’s of reporting; Who, What, When, Where, Why.

Terrorism drives fear, fear drives protection, protection removes freedoms.

“Terrorism” or “terrorist” sells far better to the public than “mentally ill” does, after all we all know someone who has some mental illness of some kind and so the term ‘mentally ill’ doesn’t strike the fear necessary to sell newspapers, increase police surveillance, and restrict personal freedoms.

By linking violent acts to terrorism the police and governments move quickly to restrict or remove personal freedoms previously enjoyed by citizens:

“Why We Need to Resist Quick-Fix Anti-Terrorism Measures” article by Dr. Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa.

“Accelerated review of police abilities’ underway, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney says” from the CBC may be read here.

“Conservatives’ new anti-terror laws likely to mirror ‘immensely controversial’ U.K. legislation” from the National Post may be read here.

“Canadians must not trade freedom for the illusion of security” from The Tyee may be read here.

So while governments and police use ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’ to remove more freedoms from citizens the same governments and police do nothing about one cause for why a person may become a terrorist; mental illness. That’s like a doctor coming to perform emergency surgery on a dead patient.


“Home-Grown Terrorists: Actually Terrorists or Mentally Ill?” may be read here.

“The Line Between Terrorism and Mental Illness” may be read here.

“Why Can’t Terrorists Be Mentally Ill, Too?” may be read here.

“Ottawa shooting: Was Michael Zehaf-Bibeau a terrorist or mentally ill?” may be read here.

“Ottawa gunman was mentally ill and ‘wanted to die’ says his mother” may be read here.

Author goes into a tizzy over amateur response

Globe and Mail columnist Russell Smith penned an article about author Kathleen Hale’s obsessive hunt for an amateur reviewer who had expressed an intense dislike for her book.

From the article:

Conventional wisdom has it that an author should never even respond to a negative review, let alone show up unannounced at a stranger’s house, looking for a fight. The intellectual level at Goodreads is known to be embarrassingly low, and most serious authors will claim to never even look at it, let alone engage with it. So why would a successful writer stoop so low? But the issue is a little more complicated than that. It’s not just about one writer’s hypersensitivity. The fact of the false identity and pictures is particularly intriguing. Posing as someone you’re not is fundamentally fraudulent, and we all have a natural urge to try to expose such frauds. When a friend of mine was harassed with anonymous hate messages and vague threats, I, too, wanted to hire a hacker to try to track down and identify such a cowardly person. (I was persuaded not to pursue it.) I completely understand the urge for justice. We all fantasize about the gotcha moment.

There’s something else going on here, too, and it’s a new phenomenon in literature. It’s not just the democratization of comment, the fact that average or illiterate readers now have public forums just like professional reviewers, nor is it even the commercial power of such forums. It’s the fact that authors are actually pressured to respond to amateur comment, to “engage,” as the PR jargon goes. This is the new wisdom of publishing, particularly for some reason in genre fiction such as YA: It helps to sell your work if you respect the “community” of readers (meaning online community, of course), if you make yourself accessible, if you tweet and blog frequently so as to make yourself as interesting as your writing. The idea is that readers will follow a charismatic person with more excitement than they will follow a body of work.

Read the full piece on the Globe and Mail here.

Spitting Image

Spitting Image is a British satirical puppet show, created by Peter Fluck, Roger Law and Martin Lambie-Nairn. The series was produced by ‘Spitting Image Productions’ for Central Independent Television over 18 series which aired on the ITV network. The series was nominated and won numerous awards during its run including 10 BAFTA Television Awards, including one for editing in 1989, and even won two Emmy Awards in 1985 and 1986 in the Popular Arts Category.

The series featured puppet caricatures of celebrities prominent during the 1980s and 1990s, including British Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major and other politicians, American president Ronald Reagan, and the British Royal Family; the series was the first to caricature Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

The series was cancelled in 1996, after viewing figures declined. ITV had plans for a new series in 2006, but these were scrapped after a dispute over Ant & Dec puppets used to host the reviews “Best Ever Spitting Image”, which were created against Roger Law’s wishes.

(Source Wikipedia… )

When I was writing/performing puppet shows I used to watch the series on local TV. I hope you enjoy this video and all the others available on youtube.

Kobo report on using big data to help authors

An opportunity lies among those books that have high completion rates yet suffer low sales. Clearly those readers who have stumbled upon these books have loved them – so while the marketing team or editorial department may not have seen a winner among these titles, the reader did; it may well be worth experimenting with marketing efforts to see if the books catch on with a wider audience once they’ve been surfaced and attention is drawn to them.

Over all, being able to identify true reader engagement allows for more targeted allotment of marketing and publicity resources. For single titles that are over-performing in terms of engagement versus sales, is there potential to create more awareness, a follow-up title, or turn the title into a series of books?

This report from Kobo looks at data in the same manner as Mark Coker has done with his numerous Smashwords ebook reports like those listed here and here, but perhaps making the use of such data more clear to some authors.

Data from subscription services like Scribd and/or Oyster provide valuable information on completion ratios of your ebooks by readers, thus providing more insight for Smashwords authors of which works are consistently attracting readers and which works are not.

Publishing in the Era of Big Data – Kobo Whitepaper Fall 2014

TED talk on privacy

In this searing talk, Glenn Greenwald makes the case for why you need to care about privacy, even if you’re “not doing anything you need to hide.”

I know how hard it is to discuss privacy with anyone, for during the past fifteen years I have attempted to have friends understand how important privacy is and how it is being stripped away in the most pernicious way by governments and corporations alike.

Some of my friends repeated the mantra “not doing anything you need to hide”, and I asked if that included smoking pot in your backyard, or exceeding your limit of fish, or padding the company expense tab, or the yacht you claim as business expense but use for personal use most of the time. These were things friends wrote in emails or posted pictures on the web.

Glenn Greenwald presents his TED talk on why privacy matters….

Bowker list shows Author Solutions still scamming book authors

Author Solutions is well-known in the self-publishing world for being a scam and scourge, suckering desperate authors into paying hundreds and thousands of dollars for a dream of riches and fame. There have been so many complaints about Author Solutions and its associated publishers that web sites and blogs have been created just to warn authors about Author Solutions and its associated publishers.

Author Solutions (AS) was purchased by the Penguin Group (Random House is part of PG) in 2012 and, according to a blogger and this blogger, AS continues to scam authors to this day.

How many authors are scammed by Author Solutions? According to a recent Bowker report – which analyzed data from 2013 – there are lots of authors still being scammed by AS and their associated publishers.Who are these ‘associated publishers’? The following list of publishing companies associated with Author Solutions (owned by Penquin) is provided by Bowker, and lists print books – not ebooks – by publisher in 2013:

Xlibris (Div. of Author Solutions) – 9,3191
AuthorHouse (Div. of Author Solutions) – 7,498
iUniverse (Div. of Author Solutions) – 3,147
Trafford (Div. of Author Solutions) – 2,463
WestBow Press (imprint of Author Solutions) – 2,362
Palibrio (Div. of Author Solutions) – 1,441
Balboa Press (imprint of Author Solutions) – 1,036
Abbott Press (imprint of Author Solutions) – 328
PartridgeIndia (imprint of Author Solutions) – 279
Inspiring Voices (imprint of Author Solutions) – 178
CrossBooks (imprint of Author Solutions) – 5
Booktango (Div. of Author Solutions) – 2
DellArte Press (imprint of Author Solutions) – 2

*These same companies also provide ebook services for a fee – and are also featured on blogs such as Writer Beware as scamming ebook authors with exorbitant fees for service.

The above list of scammer publishers of print books is not complete. It is only the list of one publishing company, Author Solutions – now owned by Penquin Group of companies.There a more scammers out there, some of whom are failed authors who learned the real money in self-publishing is made not from writing but from scamming other newbie authors.

The job of a scammer is simple; promise a newbie book author a world of riches and fame, provide a list of uncheckable and unverifiable examples of how wonderful and great and profitable your service is/has been for newbie authors, take their money, ask for more money, take that money, ask for more money, take that money, and repeat until newbie runs of out money or smartens up and gets wise to your scam.

Some book publishing scammers may have actually had one or two authors who made money using their service. Using such mistakes to their advantage, the book publishing scammer will promote/market information about this successful author as proof of how wonderful and valuable is the services provided by the scummy scammer.

There is the possibility the one or two authors promoted as being successful had their works ghosted by someone else, or they worked for Author Solutions and got a great discount and extra promotion/marketing in order to become successful, or out of the hundreds of thousands of books published by Author Solutions et al during the years those one or two books actually sold enough to recover the original costs and a bit more.It’s not uncommon for an unsuspecting author to pay $1,000 or more to Author Solutions for services which usually return little or none of the original fee.

Author Solutions earns millions of dollars a year scamming authors, yet even in 2013 there are thousands of desperate authors eager to spend their hard earned money chasing a pipe dream fueled by Author Solutions. Anyone thinking of publishing a book or an ebook, and everyone who knows someone who is thinking of publishing a book or ebook, take a moment to burn the above list of scammers into your brain. Be scared. Be very scared. You don’t want to be the next sucker.

Is it the same in the ebook publishing world?

Yes. The same scammers stalk the ebook publishing world. So who can an author trust for publishing ebooks? The Bowker report states Smashwords continues to be the leading publisher of ebooks, publishing almost 3 times as many ebooks as second place Lulu. Smashwords has a earned a reputation for working hard on behalf of self-publishing authors, evidenced by their being the number one ebook publisher since 2010 – according to the Bowker report below.

Draft2Digital publishing, sometimes erroneously called Direct2Digital on Kindle boards or other forums, a company kicked out of Amazon by Amazon in 2014, didn’t even make the list. Draft2Digital may have been included in the ‘small publishers’ grouping of companies having 10 or less ISBN ebooks published. Draft2Digital may still be around, but alarm bells should ring in the head of any author when a company has been kicked out of Amazon – even if Amazon later allows them to return. After all, if the company was run badly enough to get kicked out of Amazon in the first place and the same players are still involved with the company, wouldn’t you be hesitant to trust them?

The full report by Bowker is available here.

What happens if someone farts in an operating room?

Back in 2001 a nurse phoned radio host Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and told listeners to his science phone-in show on the Triple J radio station in Brisbane she wanted to know whether she was contaminating the operating theatre she worked in by quietly farting in the sterile environment during operations. He replied he didn’t know and would look into the matter.

Dr Kruszelnicki then described the method by which he had established whether human flatus was germ-laden, or merely malodorous. “I contacted Luke Tennent, a microbiologist in Canberra, and together we devised an experiment. He asked a colleague to break wind directly onto two Petri dishes from a distance of 5 centimetres, first fully clothed, then with his trousers down. Then he observed what happened. Overnight, the second Petri dish sprouted visible lumps of two types of bacteria that are usually found only in the gut and on the skin. But the flatus which had passed through clothing caused no bacteria to sprout, which suggests that clothing acts as a filter.

“Our deduction is that the enteric zone in the second Petri dish was caused by the flatus itself, and the splatter ring around that was caused by the sheer velocity of the fart, which blew skin bacteria from the cheeks and blasted it onto the dish. It seems, therefore, that flatus can cause infection if the emitter is naked, but not if he or she is clothed. But the results of the experiment should not be considered alarming, because neither type of bacterium is harmful. In fact, they’re similar to the ‘friendly’ bacteria found in yoghurt.

“Our final conclusion? Don’t fart naked near food. All right, it’s not rocket science. But then again, maybe it is?”

I find that type of question asked by the nurse to be quite interesting. But I’m wondering what would happen if the patient being operated upon, and wearing one of those open at the back gowns, farted? I wondered if the test results would have been different?

It’s these type of questions which keep me up at night. Like what happens if you’re in a car accident or something and need immediate surgery? The hospital staff probably don’t have the time to cleanse your body of all that beer and beans you ate before they operate.

So, dear readers, be careful where you fart. The life you save could be your own.