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Saturday, April 26, 2003

12:48 PM

Otherwise, I'd be rough shape, here in Seven Dials, smack in the middle of Covent Garden hyper-branded retail-fever. On the other hand, though, it wouldn't be Tommy Hilfiger I'd have to worry about; more Duffer of St. George and Offspring.

I hadn't realised that the end-point of Cayce's hypothetical process of sneaker-evolution, starting with observation of the hooves of the Camden Children's Crusade, would be these few blocks of Neal Street (around the corner, it turns out, from our heroine's Pilates studio).

And around another couple of corners from New Oxford Street and Forbidden Planet, where I did the very last PR signing-session today.

It's a wrap.


was as perfect a place to wait out soul-delay as I'd expected it would be.

It even has its own branch of Wagamama, the world's coolest noodle restaurant.

Though even all that fine soba wasn't enough to keep me from winding up where I always eventually do if I'm jetlagged in Dublin: peering throughy the fence at the tiny, deeply strange Huguenot Cemetary on Merrion Row, c. 1693. Grave-markers like Shaker tables carved from stone. Bluebells growing up through boxwood. Litter-spillage from the Merrion Row bus-stop: tall tinnies of Guiness and Linden Village Strong Cider. Deja-vu of soul-delay.



Friday, April 18, 2003

8:58 AM

Off to Dublin via Heathrow, this evening. Will use Easter weekend to wait out the worst of the soul-delay.

There is, alas, no Dublin signing scheduled. For complex, non-author-related reasons, this one just didn't come together. Will do some interviews on Tuesday, then on to London in the evening.

The British events are all 100% on, though, and here they are:

April 23rd, Nottingham
1-5 Bridlesmith Gate.

April 24th, London
with Foyles, in the Congress Centre, 28 Great Russell, St WC1B 3LS
£2 off the book.

April 25th, Birmingham
Waterstone's, 128 New Street, .
£3 redeemable.
Booking no: 0121 631 4333.

April 26th, London
Forbidden Planet

The foreign British habit of charging entrance to signings is still, well, foreign, but the cost of the ticket can almost always be deducted from purchase of the book, plus attendees are given a certain amount of free wine beforehand, encouraging a congenial pre-event milling about and talking that can be very pleasant. (There may well be laws prohibiting this in large American chain bookstores.)

That may not look like a particularly daunting work week, but it doesn't show the media activity, which is, as we say. "full".

Still, it's London, and peaceful Dublin before that, and those are both places I'm extremely fond of. Looking forward to it. See you there.


In a work of fiction, you can name a character Pollard, but you probably wouldn't name her Sobers unless you had some very good reason for it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

8:54 AM

Enforced meditation in the tatami room, no doubt.


Re the thread on whether or not Soviet technology was any good... That's not really the question, here, I think. Rather, it's the recognition that, in terms of the paradigm-shift the US military has brought about, previous paradigms are increasingly unlikely to be able to prevail.

Perhaps there's a cultural angle here as well. Recent US military successes are not entirely dependant on smart weaponry, advanced telepresence, etc., but also on a radically new, relatively counter-hierarchical Special Ops doctrine, in which small, highly trained, remarkably autonomous units, in the field, select their own targets and make their own decisions. This requires that those who field such units trust them. It may be that societies with a certain trust-deficit are, by their very nature, functionally unable to do this. What dictator would be able to trust his own Delta Force? Is it possible that this new paradigm of warfare might prove to only be workable for relatively democratic societies?


Tuesday, April 15, 2003

7:39 PM

Man, it is getting *so* hard to dream up anything that will feel even remotely outrageous, against background radiation like this:

For Immediate Release:
> NSA's SPOCK Program Selects Bodacion's HYDRA Web Server
> National Security Agency Deploys Bodacion's Secure Web Technology to
> Deflect Hackers, Shorten Training Time and Reduce Maintenance Costs
> BARRINGTON, ILLINOIS (April 2, 2003) — The Security Proof of Concept
> Keystone (SPOCK), a Department of Defense consortium of corporate and
> government organizations sponsored by the National Security Agency
> (NSA), has selected Bodacion Technologies' HYDRA secure Web Services
> appliance as its primary Web server. The NSA cited HYDRA's extreme
> resistance to all known hacking attacks, as well as the appliance's
> simplicity and reliability, as reasons for choosing Bodacion's > product.
> "After SPOCK demonstrations showed HYDRA's improved security and
> maintainability over current solutions, the NSA saw a clear fit for
> their own needs," said Eric Ridvan Uner, Co-Founder of Bodacion
> Technologies, Co-Inventor of HYDRA and his company's chief liaison to
> government agencies. "The NSA, of course, has a vested interest in
> making sure that hackers stay out of any NSA Web site, and so the
> SPOCK program selected HYDRA for its high level of resistance to
> hacking attacks of all kinds."
> Compatibility and maintenance were also primary SPOCK concerns,
> according to Uner. HYDRA was a simple drop-in replacement for the
> legacy solution, he said, which required minimal deployment effort.
> HYDRA also will require less maintenance and training than the legacy
> system, he added.
> Last year, SPOCK conducted a demonstration of HYDRA consisting of
> security claims by Bodacion Technologies and tests jointly agreed to
> by the participants. The results were that all Bodacion’s claims were
> verified. More than 350 technologists from civil and defense entities
> are involved in the SPOCK program; currently there are 65
> security-related corporations and 19 government agencies participating
> in the program.
> Bodacion’s appliance is designed specifically for secure Web Services
> computing and has captured the attention of senior authorities at
> national intelligence and Department of Defense organizations because
> it does not suffer from common vulnerabilities of general purpose
> computers/servers that run general purpose operating systems. For
> example, HYDRA is the only Web server known to prevent “tunneling,” a
> technique malicious system users apply to observe the activities of
> other network users. Such protection is vital for federal agencies
> with multiple levels of security interests.
> Major General (retired) Michael Davidson, a former assistant to the
> Joint Chiefs of Staff and an advisor to Bodacion executives,
> facilitates the company's relationships with government organizations.
> “For federal agencies continually assaulted by hackers and other
> malicious cyber-criminals, HYDRA represents a critical Internet
> security technology,” Davidson said.
> About Bodacion Technologies
> Bodacion Technologies, LLC, creates revolutionary Web Services
> products for Internet-intensive enterprises that are seeking secure,
> reliable, high-performance systems to minimize the Internet's risks
> and maximize its rewards. The company’s flagship product, HYDRA,
> combines the security of complex mathematics with the reliability of
> embedded systems to create a Web Services appliance that cannot be
> hacked, will virtually never crash and can handle thousands of
> concurrent users. Based in Barrington, Illinois, Bodacion
> Technologies’ serves an international clientele of government
> agencies, financial institutions and other e-Business enterprises.
> For more information, visit

Monday, April 14, 2003

7:07 AM

For those intimate moments, the dictator favored faux-Vallejo kitsch purchased by his agents from the art shows of American fantasy conventions:,4057,6281353%255E26277,00.html


From The Moscow Times. Interesting.


The contract, thought not yet signed, specifies three years. I would hope, given that new ground had to be broken for PR, that for once I could bring it in ahead of contract. But like they say, don't jinx it.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

6:43 AM

I am indeed a tired little publicity monkey, as Fashionpolice's spoof of the Penguin site states, but nonetheless will shortly depart for Dublin, where I hope to sleep off the worst of the soul-delay over the Easter weekend. The signing there, I'm informed, has been cancelled, due to some difficulty with the intended co-sponsor of the event. Will do some press interviews there on Tuesday morning, then on to England.

I don't know why, as someone asked here, back when we started, the UK edition is coming out so much later than the US edition. Prior to the advent of internet bookselling, cunning British publishers sought to be first, thereby ensuring a certain tiny foreign market of people intent on owning "hardcover first". This has gradually changed, although PR has the biggest gap, so far, between US and UK publication. I imagine that it has nothing to do with PR per se, but rather is the result of the internal scheduling issues of both publishers. Publishers bring books out constantly, as do their competitors, and schedule, to what extent they can, to garner the maximum amount of attention for a given title.

I'm looking forward to the UK tour, as indeed I always do, though this really does seem to have been an unsually long promotional interlude. It started back in January, in Copenhagen, went to half-speed after the US leg, and now is about to finish out in London. After which... After which, I'll toggle to non-promo mode and start to approach the writing of a next book.


Will necessarily involve that which Fashionpolice already seeks to avoid experiencing: the complete and utter cessation of blogging.

One thing that was immediately clear to me, from the first blog, is that this is not an activity, for me, that can coexist with the writing of a novel. In some way I only dimly apprehend, it requires too much of the same bandwidth (yet never engages anything like the total *available* bandwidth).

But, definitely, the ecology of novelization and the ecology of blogging couldn't coexist, for me. It would be like trying to boil water without a lid. Or, more like it, trying to run a steam engine without a lid. (I wonder if that would be the case for a native of the blogosphere -- for whom, as Lou Reed once said of heroin addicts, "the needle is a toothbrush"? Maybe not.)

So, fair warning: I will indeed stop doing this at some point, though not until I return from England.

And not until I've told the true story of the "I Want Room Service" scene in JOHNNY MNEMONIC, discussed in a recent thread. Coming soon.

Best wishes to Fashionpolice for her continuing recovery. It's been very nice, having you addicted!

Friday, April 11, 2003

4:07 PM

"Watching the current action in Baghdad is extremely strange," writes a friend. "First of all, those palaces of Sadaam's, all of which look like Atlantic City casinos -- plastic washbasins with gold faucets and hollowcore doors. Then, the sight of burned out tanks and bodies in the road, both in the middle of what appears to be the more distant stretches of, say, La Cienega just above the intersection of I-5...."

What grabs me most are the accounts (lists, really) of the regime's more personal gomi. Drakkar Noir definitely the cologne of choice. They all seem to have been avid readers of VANITY FAIR (which makes a horrid kind of sense). Well-thumbed Danielle Steele paperbacks seem to turn up pretty frequently as well. One of Saddam's sons had a pretty cool collection of personal firearms, but nothing really that a Montana dentist and heavy contributor to the NRA couldn't assemble, with a little help from his friends. Saddam's yacht managed a little of the old Austin Powers super-villain flash, though, boasting a secret underwater escape-hatch (though the mini-sub, my Plot Device noted, is *missing*) and a private operating theater with a black leather operating table (maybe this was for tweaking the doubles into more Saddamoid parameters?).

Personally I think he's in that mini-sub. Reading Danielle Steele.


Where I will soon be going.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

11:42 AM

We got your Disneyland right here, pal:


Glad someone started a thread on this, the most disgusting non-assaultive crime formerly practiced in the New York subway system. Like I'm always telling you, technology is the primary driver of social change. Those magstrips come in, the suckers of tokens, that tiny, weirdly Dickensian tribe, go out.


The only state shaped like a handgun.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

8:14 AM

I hate putting together the "thanks" page at the back of a novel. I hate it because I know I'll forget to thank someone who provided something absolutely essential. I know I'll forget because I have to put that page together when I'm still reeling from having completed the manuscript, and am in full and quite headless flight from the very process of writing.

Well, I did it again. I did it bigtime, this time. Came to me in the middle of the night, last night, when I happened to wake and find myself thinking about that thread about the Russian "military archaeology" site that Searchstring Sensei recently Googled the stills from. How people were wondering whether Damien's Dig, in PR, has any basis in reality. "Silly people," I thought, sleepily, "What do they think I thanked Chris Stein for?"

Eyes shooting open in horror. *Did* I thank Chris Stein. Toss. Turn.

And, of course, I didn't. That's Chris Stein of Blondie, or so he's best known. Also Chris Stein the Japanese model-building otaku, ultra-specialist Japanese magazine afficionado and custom knife maven. Very high otaku-DNA factor, Chris has.

About the time I was starting what would become PR, Chris sent me an email describing, pretty much as you've come to know it, Damien's dig. The scene with the pilot of the excavated plane is imaginary, but the rest of it is worked up quite directly from Chris's brilliant description of this scene he'd discovered. A friend of his had been there, and seen it, and Chris was corresponding with him. Chris mentioned to me, in passing, how cool it would be to go there and shoot documentary video. His email made my ears ring, though in my non-linear way it took months to occur to me that the film I had absented Damien for was in fact Chris Stein's documentary.

Now I can only groan, and apologize. But this is *exactly* why I hate having to do the "thanks" page. Not only will I manage to leave someone out, but I'll manage to leave out the person whose passion, enthusiasm and descriptive powers managed in a single email to affect the entire course and meaning of the book!


Though it makes me appreciate yet another advantage of having this website, as I can instantly go public with my apology and this citation.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Chris Stein: Aside from all that great music, he's given us...The Dig!

As to how I can manage to do these things... Remember that long early thread about drugs and creativity? Well, I really do write in an altered state. It's an altered state called "writing a book", and, let me tell you, it's seriously *chronic*.


Wish I knew how to do an umlaut.

I saw the Uber-Jetta in Barcelona, this past December, when I walked past a Volkswagen showroom. It's called the Phaeton, and they build it in the Glass Factory.

The Glass Factory is a purpose-built Phaeton-factory with glass walls, in a German city, the entire assembly-line visible constantly to passers-by. The Phaeton itself, retailing in Canada for about three times the list on my Jetta, struck me as looking like a Jetta on steroids. I would have expected it to look more like a Passat (but more so, somehow). But it doesn't have that Passat roofline thing going on.

The ultimate in a German stealth car: I've probably seen a few in traffic, even here, but have read them as Jetta's. Like it's a Jetta, but it must be *closer* than I think it is, because it's somehow a little too *big*.


But, meanwhile, The Agonist has this remarkable indie material from the epicenter of the outbreak. I recommend this particularly for anyone prone to imagine that SARS is the result some sort of biotech. My best guess, as a sci-fi guy, is that SARS is the result of millions of people living in all too cosy proximity with a whole petting zoo of billions of farm critters, *in a tropical climate*. Epidemiology teaches that no more than that classic recipe is required to produce outbreaks of even the most fearsomely novel diseases.


But still...


Thanks to Kevin Kelly for pointing this one out.


That reminded you so strongly of the general vibe of STARSHIP TROOPERS...

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

6:48 PM

8:41 AM

Someone posts the burning question: what kind of car do I drive?

A Jetta. A globalist Jetta, a German car assembled in Mexico for sale in Canada. Actually I think these may only be for sale in Canada; they are the best deal you can get, anywhere, on a new Jetta, and the dealer makes you sign an agreement that you won't turn around and re-sell the car to someone in the United States (for a tidy profit).

The Jetta is actually a very good car in terms of leg and headroom, but the latter only if the sun-roof is lacking. In order to build the sun-roof in, they have to lower the header by about three inches, which definitely doesn't work if you're over six feet.

If someone offered me my choice of a free new car, I would probably choose the nearest Audi equivalent to the Jetta. Same thing, just that much better. I don't know what that is. Some kind of "stealth car" impulse. Would definitely prefer a fully-loaded Passat to any Mercedes or BMW. Have never wanted to drive a car that anyone would have any very strong opinion of. The Jetta's good that way, and has the advantage of being fun to drive.

Talk about a "slow news day", blogging!


Spare me, please. That poster's idea of me sounds more like Hunter Thompson, or some kind of Deadhead fantasy writer.

And people have forgotten that "yuppification" has its roots in Young Upwardly Mobile Professional. I'm showing clean on two of those three, anyway, as I'm neither young nor (at least in the traditional sense) "a professional". (Used to mean doctors, lawyers, and, just barely, dentists, members of "the professions".) Not sure about upwardly mobile. At this point I'd settle for stasis. But working novelists are generally about as un-"professional", in that sense, as you can get.

Shoes. Elmore Leonard would have a hard time figuring me out on the basis of shoes, I think. I have a lot of shoes. Though not like that supposed Raymond Chandler line about having to write because he had a butler and two dozen pairs of shoes to support.


The following, from todays New York Times, seems to me to pretty much constitute a "reality spoiler":

'Hong Kong reported 45 new cases today, including the infections of 18 health care workers, as well as the deaths of two elderly men who were infected with SARS but had other health problems as well. Figures for new cases over the last several days have included 30 cases at the Ngau Tau Kok apartment complex, which had not previously been affected, Dr. Leung said.

The disease has already infected close to 300 people in the nearby Amoy Gardens apartment complex, and it appears that people from the Ngau Tau Kok complex had been visiting Amoy Gardens, Dr. Leung added.

Until today, Hong Kong health officials had discouraged the everyday use of face masks, saying that regular hand washing was more important. But Dr. Leung endorsed the use of face masks tonight.

He did not draw a distinction between cloth surgical masks of the sort that doctors have worn for decades and the newer, cupped respirators that doctors wear in some of the most hazardous rooms.

Some doctors here have expressed concern that while the respirators filter more out of the air, they may be less effective for the lay user than a surgical mask because the respirators are so uncomfortable that they prompt wearers to touch their faces to adjust them. This can spread the virus to the eyes, nose or mouth and then into the body, causing an infection.

In one of the more unusual health tips here lately, government officials also said it might help if people were to close toilet lids when flushing, and to clean the underside of the lid and the toilet seat with a bleach solution later. Preliminary analyses of the outbreak at Amoy Gardens suggest that it was spread by sewage, partly from toilets that backed up into neighbors' apartments and partly from cockroaches that tracked tiny amounts of virus-tainted sewage through homes, they added.'

RE "In Memorium of a Matyr" (sp)

Watching those ugly-ass statues topple, to the cheers of huge crowds, I imagine that some poor sucker who blew himself up to prevent this happening was exactly that.

Monday, April 07, 2003

9:24 AM

The descriptive genius of J.G. Ballard could find an entire novel, here:


The more things change: Primate throws rock, primate throws great big laser-guided rock...

Sunday, April 06, 2003

10:17 PM

"I knew they'd turn up on the net eventually,' writes my friend the Searchstring Sensei.

This is as close as anyone is ever going to get to finding footage. Really quite weird to see, for me in particular.

[Spoiler alert: If you haven't read PATTERN RECOGNITION, I suppose the images at the following link may constitute a spoiler. Albeit a deeply cryptic one. Personally, if I hadn't read PR, and saw these images, I'd probably decide to go ahead and read PR.]

I recall someone here asking, recently, whether anything like The Dig actually exists. Searchstring Sensei provides the definitive answer.

Friday, April 04, 2003

2:55 PM

BBC Monitoring, Caversham :: John Andrew :: 1501GMT

The Iraqi media is not as detailed today. We saw the
Information minister a few minutes ago. He was extremely

Thursday, April 03, 2003

5:47 AM

Didn't you imagine having one of these when you were a kid, playing soldiers? Why does it take so long for some things to become reality?


I wish there were more of these. Maybe there are. If you know of one, start a thread.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

9:58 PM

You found it strange, that I'd post that?

I wouldn't even rate that as "high weirdness".

It had been sitting around my desktop for weeks. Just another little reminder of the complexity of Mother Nature. If it had turned up while I was writing PR, it might have found its way into Cayce's sense of the world.


is absolutely right, about Hub and Hube.


is...somber. A collection of Terkelesque interviews with people who were affected when Aum released sarin in the Tokyo subway. Just started it.


for get-well wishes. I'm feeling better.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

9:05 AM

Penises have higher bandwidth than cable modems. [The following found, of course, on the Internet.]

The human genome is about 3,120,000,000 base pairs long, so half of that is in each spermatozoa -- 1,560,000,000 base pairs . Each side of these base pairs can either be an adenine -thymine or a guanine -cytosine bond, and they can be aligned either direction, so there are four choices. Four possibilities for a value means it can be fully represented with two bits; 00 = guanine, 01 = cytosine, and so forth.

The figures that I've read state the number of sperm in a human ejaculation to be anywhere from 50 to 500 million. I'm going to go with the number 200,000,000 sperm cells , but if anyone knows differently, please tell me.

Putting these together, the average amount of information per ejaculation is 1.560*10^ 9* 2 bits * 2.00*10^ 8, which comes out to be 6.24*10 ^17 bits. That's about 78,000 terabytes of data! As a basis of comparison, were the entire text content of the Library of Congress to be scanned and stored, it would only take up about 20 terabytes. If you figure that a male orgasm lasts five seconds , you get a transmission rate of 15,600 tb/s . In comparison, an OC-96 line (like the ones that make up much of the backbone of the internet ) can move .005 tb/s. Cable modems generally transmit somewhere around 1/5000th of that .

If you consider signal to noise , though, the figures come out much differently. If only the single sperm cell that fertilizes the egg counts as signal , you get (1.560*10^ 9* 2 bits) / 5 s = 6.24*10^ 8bits/s, or somewhere in the neighborhood of 78 Mb/s . Still a great deal more bandwidth than your average cable modem , but not nearly the 5,000,000 Mb/s of the OC-96 .