Forgot your password?
Neal Stephenson Responds With Wit and Humor
Books
Sci-Fi
Technology
Posted by Roblimo on Wed Oct 20, '04 11:20 AM
from the this-guy-ought-to-turn-pro dept.
There is nothing better than a Slashdot interview with someone who not only reads and understands Slashdot but can out-troll the trolls. Admittedly, the questions you asked Neal Stephenson were great in their own right, but his answers... Wow! let's just say that this guy shows how it's done.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] 1) right to keep and bear code - by arashiakari

Do you think that hacking tools should be protected (in the United States) under the second amendment?


Neal:

Such is the intensity of issues like this that I can't tell whether this is a troll. I'm going to assume it's not, and answer the question seriously.

I'm no constitutional scholar but I'm pretty sure that the Founding Fathers were thinking of flintlocks, not perl scripts, when they wrote the Second Amendment. Now you can dispute that and say "No, anything that enables citizens to defend themselves against an oppressive government is covered by the Second Amendment." There might be something to such an argument. But pragmatically, the question is whether you can get nine (or at least five) non-hacker Supreme Court Justices to see it that way. I suspect the answer is no. It's just too easy for them to say "it is not a weapon." To me it seems a lot easier simply to invoke the First Amendment.

Also, remember that there might be unwanted side effects to classifying code as weapons. In the U.S., where the right to bear certain weapons is written into the Constitution, it might seem like a clever way to secure access to such code. But authorities in other countries might say "look, even the U.S. Government defines this string of bits as a weapon---so we are going to outlaw it."

It's difficult to form an intelligent opinion on issues like this without doing a lot of work. One has to learn a lot about the issues and then think about them pretty hard. I haven't really done so, and so I'm inclined to trust people who have, like Matt Blaze. At crypto.com he has posted some interesting material that is germane to this topic.

See http://www.crypto.com/masterkey.html

and especially

http://www.crypto.com/hobbs.html

To make a long argument short, what I have learned from Matt's writings on the topic is that (1) it's not a new issue, (2) it's a First Amendment issue, and (3) it's best in the long run, for all concerned, if vulnerabilities are exposed in public.

2) The lack of respect... - by MosesJones

Science Fiction is normally relegated to the specialist publications rather than having reviews in the main stream press. Seen as "fringe" and a bit sad its seldom reviewed with anything more than condescension by the "quality" press.

Does it bother you that people like Jeffery Archer or Jackie Collins seem to get more respect for their writing than you ?


Neal:

OUCH!

(removes mirrorshades, wipes tears, blows nose, composes self)

Let me just come at this one from sort of a big picture point of view.

(the sound of a million Slashdot readers hitting the "back" button...)

First of all, I don't think that the condescending "quality" press look too kindly on Jackie Collins and Jeffrey Archer. So I disagree with the premise of the last sentence of this question and I'm not going to address it. Instead I'm going to answer what I think MosesJones is really getting at, which is why SF and other genre and popular writers don't seem to get a lot of respect from the literary world.

To set it up, a brief anecdote: a while back, I went to a writers' conference. I was making chitchat with another writer, a critically acclaimed literary novelist who taught at a university. She had never heard of me. After we'd exchanged a bit of of small talk, she asked me "And where do you teach?" just as naturally as one Slashdotter would ask another "And which distro do you use?"

I was taken aback. "I don't teach anywhere," I said.

Her turn to be taken aback. "Then what do you do?"

"I'm...a writer," I said. Which admittedly was a stupid thing to say, since she already knew that.

"Yes, but what do you do?"

I couldn't think of how to answer the question---I'd already answered it!

"You can't make a living out of being a writer, so how do you make money?" she tried.

"From...being a writer," I stammered.

At this point she finally got it, and her whole affect changed. She wasn't snobbish about it. But it was obvious that, in her mind, the sort of writer who actually made a living from it was an entirely different creature from the sort she generally associated with.

And once I got over the excruciating awkwardness of this conversation, I began to think she was right in thinking so. One way to classify artists is by to whom they are accountable.

The great artists of the Italian Renaissance were accountable to wealthy entities who became their patrons or gave them commissions. In many cases there was no other way to arrange it. There is only one Sistine Chapel. Not just anyone could walk in and start daubing paint on the ceiling. Someone had to be the gatekeeper---to hire an artist and give him a set of more or less restrictive limits within which he was allowed to be creative. So the artist was, in the end, accountable to the Church. The Church's goal was to build a magnificent structure that would stand there forever and provide inspiration to the Christians who walked into it, and they had to make sure that Michelangelo would carry out his work accordingly.

Similar arrangements were made by writers. After Dante was banished from Florence he found a patron in the Prince of Verona, for example. And if you look at many old books of the Baroque period you find the opening pages filled with florid expressions of gratitude from the authors to their patrons. It's the same as in a modern book when it says "this work was supported by a grant from the XYZ Foundation."

Nowadays we have different ways of supporting artists. Some painters, for example, make a living selling their work to wealthy collectors. In other cases, musicians or artists will find appointments at universities or other cultural institutions. But in both such cases there is a kind of accountability at work.

A wealthy art collector who pays a lot of money for a painting does not like to see his money evaporate. He wants to feel some confidence that if he or an heir decides to sell the painting later, they'll be able to get an amount of money that is at least in the same ballpark. But that price is going to be set by the market---it depends on the perceived value of the painting in the art world. And that in turn is a function of how the artist is esteemed by critics and by other collectors. So art criticism does two things at once: it's culture, but it's also economics.

There is also a kind of accountability in the case of, say, a composer who has a faculty job at a university. The trustees of the university have got a fiduciary responsibility not to throw away money. It's not the same as hiring a laborer in factory, whose output can be easily reduced to dollars and cents. Rather, the trustees have to justify the composer's salary by pointing to intangibles. And one of those intangibles is the degree of respect accorded that composer by critics, musicians, and other experts in the field: how often his works are performed by symphony orchestras, for example.

Accountability in the writing profession has been bifurcated for many centuries. I already mentioned that Dante and other writers were supported by patrons at least as far back as the Renaissance. But I doubt that Beowulf was written on commission. Probably there was a collection of legends and tales that had been passed along in an oral tradition---which is just a fancy way of saying that lots of people liked those stories and wanted to hear them told. And at some point perhaps there was an especially well-liked storyteller who pulled a few such tales together and fashioned them into the what we now know as Beowulf. Maybe there was a king or other wealthy patron who then caused the tale to be written down by a scribe. But I doubt it was created at the behest of a king. It was created at the behest of lots and lots of intoxicated Frisians sitting around the fire wanting to hear a yarn. And there was no grand purpose behind its creation, as there was with the painting of the Sistine Chapel.

The novel is a very new form of art. It was unthinkable until the invention of printing and impractical until a significant fraction of the population became literate. But when the conditions were right, it suddenly became huge. The great serialized novelists of the 19th Century were like rock stars or movie stars. The printing press and the apparatus of publishing had given these creators a means to bypass traditional arbiters and gatekeepers of culture and connect directly to a mass audience. And the economics worked out such that they didn't need to land a commission or find a patron in order to put bread on the table. The creators of those novels were therefore able to have a connection with a mass audience and a livelihood fundamentally different from other types of artists.

Nowadays, rock stars and movie stars are making all the money. But the publishing industry still works for some lucky novelists who find a way to establish a connection with a readership sufficiently large to put bread on their tables. It's conventional to refer to these as "commercial" novelists, but I hate that term, so I'm going to call them Beowulf writers.

But this is not true for a great many other writers who are every bit as talented and worthy of finding readers. And so, in addition, we have got an alternate system that makes it possible for those writers to pursue their careers and make their voices heard. Just as Renaissance princes supported writers like Dante because they felt it was the right thing to do, there are many affluent persons in modern society who, by making donations to cultural institutions like universities, support all sorts of artists, including writers. Usually they are called "literary" as opposed to "commercial" but I hate that term too, so I'm going to call them Dante writers. And this is what I mean when I speak of a bifurcated system.

Like all tricks for dividing people into two groups, this is simplistic, and needs to be taken with a grain of salt. But there is a cultural difference between these two types of writers, rooted in to whom they are accountable, and it explains what MosesJones is complaining about. Beowulf writers and Dante writers appear to have the same job, but in fact there is a quite radical difference between them---hence the odd conversation that I had with my fellow author at the writer's conference. Because she'd never heard of me, she made the quite reasonable assumption that I was a Dante writer---one so new or obscure that she'd never seen me mentioned in a journal of literary criticism, and never bumped into me at a conference. Therefore, I couldn't be making any money at it. Therefore, I was most likely teaching somewhere. All perfectly logical. In order to set her straight, I had to let her know that the reason she'd never heard of me was because I was famous.

All of this places someone like me in critical limbo. As everyone knows, there are literary critics, and journals that publish their work, and I imagine they have the same dual role as art critics. That is, they are engaging in intellectual discourse for its own sake. But they are also performing an economic function by making judgments. These judgments, taken collectively, eventually determine who's deemed worthy of receiving fellowships, teaching appointments, etc.

The relationship between that critical apparatus and Beowulf writers is famously awkward and leads to all sorts of peculiar misunderstandings. Occasionally I'll take a hit from a critic for being somehow arrogant or egomaniacal, which is difficult to understand from my point of view sitting here and just trying to write about whatever I find interesting. To begin with, it's not clear why they think I'm any more arrogant than anyone else who writes a book and actually expects that someone's going to read it. Secondly, I don't understand why they think that this is relevant enough to rate mention in a review. After all, if I'm going to eat at a restaurant, I don't care about the chef's personality flaws---I just want to eat good food. I was slagged for entitling my latest book "The System of the World" by one critic who found that title arrogant. That criticism is simply wrong; the critic has completely misunderstood why I chose that title. Why on earth would anyone think it was arrogant? Well, on the Dante side of the bifurcation it's implicit that authority comes from the top down, and you need to get in the habit of deferring to people who are older and grander than you. In that world, apparently one must never select a grand-sounding title for one's book until one has reached Nobel Prize status. But on my side, if I'm trying to write a book about a bunch of historical figures who were consciously trying to understand and invent the System of the World, then this is an obvious choice for the title of the book. The same argument, I believe, explains why the accusation of having a big ego is considered relevant for inclusion in a book review. Considering the economic function of these reviews (explained above) it is worth pointing out which writers are and are not suited for participating in the somewhat hierarchical and political community of Dante writers. Egomaniacs would only create trouble.

Mind you, much of the authority and seniority in that world is benevolent, or at least well-intentioned. If you are trying to become a writer by taking expensive classes in that subject, you want your teacher to know more about it than you and to behave like a teacher. And so you might hear advice along the lines of "I don't think you're ready to tackle Y yet, you need to spend a few more years honing your skills with X" and the like. All perfectly reasonable. But people on the Beowulf side may never have taken a writing class in their life. They just tend to lunge at whatever looks interesting to them, write whatever they please, and let the chips fall where they may. So we may seem not merely arrogant, but completely unhinged. It reminds me somewhat of the split between Christians and Faeries depicted in Susannah Clarke's wonderful book "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell." The faeries do whatever they want and strike the Christians (humans) as ludicrously irresponsible and "barely sane." They don't seem to deserve or appreciate their freedom.

Later at the writer's conference, I introduced myself to someone who was responsible for organizing it, and she looked at me keenly and said, "Ah, yes, you're the one who's going to bring in our males 18-32." And sure enough, when we got to the venue, there were the males 18-32, looking quite out of place compared to the baseline lit-festival crowd. They stood at long lines at the microphones and asked me one question after another while ignoring the Dante writers sitting at the table with me. Some of the males 18-32 were so out of place that they seemed to have warped in from the Land of Faerie, and had the organizers wondering whether they should summon the police. But in the end they were more or less reasonable people who just wanted to talk about books and were as mystified by the literary people as the literary people were by them.

In the same vein, I just got back from the National Book Festival on the Capitol Mall in D.C., where I crossed paths for a few minutes with Neil Gaiman. This was another event in which Beowulf writers and Dante writers were all mixed together. The organizers had queues set up in front of signing tables. Neil had mentioned on his blog that he was going to be there, and so hundreds, maybe thousands of his readers had showed up there as early as 5:30 a.m. to get stuff signed. The organizers simply had not anticipated this and so---very much to their credit---they had to make all sorts of last-minute rearrangements to accomodate the crowd. Neil spent many hours signing. As he says on his blog

http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/journal.asp

the Washington Post later said he did this because he was a "savvy businessman." Of course Neil was actually doing it to be polite; but even simple politeness to one's fans can seem grasping and cynical when viewed from the other side.

Because of such reactions, I know that certain people are going to read this screed as further evidence that I have a big head. But let me make at least a token effort to deflect this by stipulating that the system I am describing here IS NOT FAIR and that IT MAKES NO SENSE and that I don't deserve to have the freedom that is accorded a Beowulf writer when many talented and excellent writers---some of them good friends of mine---end up selling small numbers of books and having to cultivate grants, fellowships, faculty appointments, etc.

Anyway, most Beowulf writing is ignored by the critical apparatus or lightly made fun of when it's noticed at all. Literary critics know perfectly well that nothing they say is likely to have much effect on sales. Let's face it, when Neil Gaiman publishes Anansi Boys, all of his readers are going to know about it through his site and most of them are going to buy it and none of them is likely to see a review in the New York Review of Books, or care what that review says.

So what of MosesJones's original question, which was entitled "The lack of respect?" My answer is that I don't pay that much notice to these things because I am aware at some level that I am on one side of the bifurcation and most literary critics are on the other, and we simply are not that relevant to each other's lives and careers.

What is most interesting to me is when people make efforts to "route around" the apparatus of literary criticism and publish their thoughts about books in place where you wouldn't normally look for book reviews. For example, a year ago there was a piece by Edward Rothstein in the New York Times about Quicksilver that appears to have been a sort of wildcat review. He just got interested in the book and decided to write about it, independent of the New York Times's normal book-reviewing apparatus. It is not the first time such a thing has happened with one of my books.

It has happened many times in history that new systems will come along and, instead of obliterating the old, will surround and encapsulate them and work in symbiosis with them but otherwise pretty much leave them alone (think mitochondria) and sometimes I get the feeling that something similar is happening with these two literary worlds. The fact that we are having a discussion like this one on a forum such as Slashdot is Exhibit A.

3) Singularity - by randalx

What are your thoughts on Vernor Vinge's Singularity prediction. Is it inevitable? Will humans become a part of it or be left behind by this new "species"?


Neal:

I can never get past the structural similarities between the singularity prediction and the apocalypse of St. John the Divine. This is not the place to parse it out, but the key thing they have in common is the idea of a rapture, in which some chosen humans will be taken up and made one with the infinite while others will be left behind.

I know Vernor. To know him is to respect him. He kicked my ass (as well as J. K. Rowling's and Greg Bear's and a few other people's) at the 2000 Hugo Awards, and on top of that he knows more physics than I ever will. So I don't for a moment think that he is peddling any such ideas with his prediction of a singularity. I am only telling you why I have a personal mental block as far as the Singularity prediction is concerned.

My thoughts are more in line with those of Jaron Lanier, who points out that while hardware might be getting faster all the time, software is shit (I am paraphrasing his argument). And without software to do something useful with all that hardware, the hardware's nothing more than a really complicated space heater.

4) Who would win? (Score:5, Funny) - by Call Me Black Cloud

In a fight between you and William Gibson, who would win?


Neal:

You don't have to settle for mere idle speculation. Let me tell you how it came out on the three occasions when we did fight.

The first time was a year or two after SNOW CRASH came out. I was doing a reading/signing at White Dwarf Books in Vancouver. Gibson stopped by to say hello and extended his hand as if to shake. But I remembered something Bruce Sterling had told me. For, at the time, Sterling and I had formed a pact to fight Gibson. Gibson had been regrown in a vat from scraps of DNA after Sterling had crashed an LNG tanker into Gibson's Stealth pleasure barge in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. During the regeneration process, telescoping Carbonite stilettos had been incorporated into Gibson's arms. Remembering this in the nick of time, I grabbed the signing table and flipped it up between us. Of course the Carbonite stilettos pierced it as if it were cork board, but this spoiled his aim long enough for me to whip my wakizashi out from between my shoulder blades and swing at his head. He deflected the blow with a force blast that sprained my wrist. The falling table knocked over a space heater and set fire to the store. Everyone else fled. Gibson and I dueled among blazing stacks of books for a while. Slowly I gained the upper hand, for, on defense, his Praying Mantis style was no match for my Flying Cloud technique. But I lost him behind a cloud of smoke. Then I had to get out of the place. The streets were crowded with his black-suited minions and I had to turn into a swarm of locusts and fly back to Seattle.

The second time was a few years later when Gibson came through Seattle on his IDORU tour. Between doing some drive-by signings at local bookstores, he came and devastated my quarter of the city. I had been in a trance for seven days and seven nights and was unaware of these goings-on, but he came to me in a vision and taunted me, and left a message on my cellphone. That evening he was doing a reading at Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus. Swathed in black, I climbed to the top of the hall, mesmerized his snipers, sliced a hole in the roof using a plasma cutter, let myself into the catwalks above the stage, and then leapt down upon him from forty feet above. But I had forgotten that he had once studied in the same monastery as I, and knew all of my techniques. He rolled away at the last moment. I struck only the lectern, smashing it to kindling. Snatching up one jagged shard of oak I adopted the Mountain Tiger position just as you would expect. He pulled off his wireless mike and began to whirl it around his head. From there, the fight proceeded along predictable lines. As a stalemate developed we began to resort more and more to the use of pure energy, modulated by Red Lotus incantations of the third Sung group, which eventually to the collapse of the building's roof and the loss of eight hundred lives. But as they were only peasants, we did not care.

Our third fight occurred at the Peace Arch on the U.S./Canadian border between Seattle and Vancouver. Gibson wished to retire from that sort of lifestyle that required ceaseless training in the martial arts and sleeping outdoors under the rain. He only wished to sit in his garden brushing out novels on rice paper. But honor dictated that he must fight me for a third time first. Of course the Peace Arch did not remain standing for long. Before long my sword arm hung useless at my side. One of my psi blasts kicked up a large divot of earth and rubble, uncovering a silver metallic object, hitherto buried, that seemed to have been crafted by an industrial designer. It was a nitro-veridian device that had been buried there by Sterling. We were able to fly clear before it detonated. The blast caused a seismic rupture that split off a sizable part of Canada and created what we now know as Vancouver Island. This was the last fight between me and Gibson. For both of us, by studying certain ancient prophecies, had independently arrived at the same conclusion, namely that Sterling's professed interest in industrial design was a mere cover for work in superweapons. Gibson and I formed a pact to fight Sterling. So far we have made little headway in seeking out his lair of brushed steel and white LEDs, because I had a dentist appointment and Gibson had to attend a writers' conference, but keep an eye on Slashdot for any further developments.

5) What are you reading these days? - by IvyMike

Since you're Neal Stephenson, I suspect the answer could be something like "surveys of ancient Sumerian accounting systems".

If that's the case, please include a work of modern fiction or two in your list; something you think that a fan of your work might also enjoy. :)


Neal:

Fiction I have lately read and enjoyed:

Set this House in Order by Matt Ruff
Ilium by Dan Simmons
Iron Council by China Mieville
Perfect Circle by Sean Stewart
The I Love Bees alternate reality game
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susannah Clarke
The Fool's Tale by Nicole Galland (in galleys; soon to be published)
Short story collections by Etgar Keret: The Bus Driver who Wanted to be God, and The Nimrod Flip-out. Last time I checked, The Nimrod Flip-out was only available from an Australian publisher named Picador, but this should pose only the most minor of challenges to Slashdot readers. Keret is a young Israeli writer who has also done some work in film and graphic novels.

Nonfiction:

Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates and Lincoln's Cooper Union address
Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson

6) storygramming -by Doc Ruby

You programmed computers before you wrote novels. Greg Egan shares that hyphenated career, and continues to illustrate his stories with Java applets [netspace.net.au]. Do you still program, possibly targeting the same subjects with your word processor as your compiler?

As _Snow Crash_ was originally designed as an interactive game, and such landmarks as _Myst_ have regenerated as (usually bad) novels, do you see the arrival of a truly multimedia story, delivered simultaneously in multiple media, anytime soon? By whom, specifically or generally?


Neal:

It has already happened in the form of the I Love Bees alternate reality game, which, as many of you must know, is a promotional campaign for Halo 2. I know the people who did it, but I have lost track of what I promised not to reveal publicly, and so will shut up for now.

I still program, but I tend to do it as a diversion from writing, and so there is little crossover between it and fiction writing. Modern programming is hairy and difficult for me to get a grip on. This is because (1) there is so much user interface code, which kind of makes my eyes glaze over, and (2) GNU type code is crammed with macros, compiler directives and switches that make it very difficult for me to read the source files. Lately my platform of choice has been Mathematica, which is expensive (compared to gcc) but makes it easy to do anything with a few lines of code. Mathematica makes it easy to do proper documentation, in that you can mix narrative material freely with executable statements.

For Cryptonomicon I needed to generate some illustrations of a cutaway view of the mountain where Goto Dengo was building his tunnels. It needed to have a rough, natural-looking profile that maintained its roughness, but still had the same overall shape, when I zoomed in on it for more detailed illustrations. I did this with a Mathematica notebook that used the classic fractal technique of midpoint displacement.

For the Baroque Cycle books I needed to convert my manuscripts, which were all TeX files, into a Quark format used by the publisher. So I wrote an emacs lisp program that churned through the TeX files looking for TeX escape codes and converting them to their equivalents in Quark. This was nasty and tedious but, in the end, reasonably satisfying.

7) Money - by querencia

One of the major themes in Cryptonomicon that carried over (in a big way) to The Baroque Cycle is money. You introduced some "futuristic" views of currency and of where money might be going in Cryptonomicon, and you skillfully managed to do the same thing, while explaining some of the history of modern monetary systems, in the most recent books.

You've obviously spent a lot of time thinking about money lately. Is there anything going on in the modern world with monetary systems (barter networks, for example) that you find particularly interesting?


What do you see on the horizon with respect to money?

Neal:

Actually, what's interesting about money is that it doesn't seem to change that much at all. It became fantastically sophisticated hundreds of years ago. Back before people knew about germs, evolution, the Table of Elements, and other stuff that we now take for granted, people were engaging in financial manipulations that seem quite modern in their sophistication. So if I had to take a wild guess---and believe me, it is a wild guess---I'd say that money and the way it works is going to be a constant, not a variable.

8) BeOS - by Coryoth

When you wrote "In the Beginning was the Command Line," you were very much in love with BeOS. As nice as BeOS was, it is now mostly gone. Do you still use BeOS 5, or have you acquired YellowTab from Zeta? Or, instead have you embraced the new UNIX based MacOS X as the OS you want to use when you "Just want to go to Disneyland"?


Neal:

You guessed right: I embraced OS X as soon as it was available and have never looked back. So a lot of "In the beginning was the command line" is now obsolete. I keep meaning to update it, but if I'm honest with myself, I have to say this is unlikely.

9) Travel tips for modern primitives? - by timothy

Mr. Stephenson:

I greatly enjoy your travel stories, both non-fiction (Mother Earth, Motherboard) and in particular your descriptions of the Philippines in Cryptonomicon.

Can you share some of the ideas you've developed for savvy trav'lin? For instance, how do you deal with carrying sufficient technology (whatever level you deem this to be) while minimizing the risk of theft, breakage, or loss by other means? Do you dress native or carry your entire wardrobe? [And broader, do you travel with something close to nothing, picking up necessary items as the need arises? What do you not leave home without?]

Do you carry any sort of self-defense means in some places, and if so What and Where?


Neal:

I haven't done that much in the way of adventuresome travel lately. Even when I was doing so, I was never the sort of hardened third-world travel geek that you are imagining. The thing is that when you go to such countries you can typically get a room in a five-star hotel for less than a hundred bucks a night. At that rate, it's easy to be a sellout and wallow in luxury. Staying in a dive is more romantic, but makes it harder to write. My excuse (if I need one) is that typically I'm not writing about backpackers and rural people in those countries; I'm writing about well-heeled expats whose natural habitat is airport bars and Shangri-La hotels. So that's where I tend to end up.

Re "self-defense means:" I am reminded of a history book I read recently entitled "Skeletons on the Zahara" by Dean King. It is about some American sailors who get shipwrecked on the Atlantic Coast of Africa and go through hell. Eventually most of them make it back to freedom with the help of some Arab traders based in Morocco. These traders range across the Sahara on incredibly arduous journeys. They are just about the toughest and meanest hombres you can possibly imagine. They've been through all kinds of fights and ambushes, plagues of locusts, sandstorms, etc. and come out on top. Because of their success they have acquired camels, horses, and weapons: not only swords and daggers but rifles and shotguns too. After having rescued the Americans, these guys go out on another journey in the desert, and find themselves surrounded by a few dozen people who are wretched even by the standards of the Sahara: no animals, little in the way of clothing, and no weapons except for bags containing stones. A fight breaks out. The traders discharge their weapons and kill everyone they shoot at: maybe half a dozen. Then before they can reload they are all killed by flying stones.

The best "self-defense means" when you are surrounded by a hundred million people of some other culture is to avoid dangerous places and figure out some way to get along with the folks around you.

10) Confidential Proposal, Off shore data haven (Score:5, Funny) - by SlashDread

Greetings to you in the name of the most high God, from my beloved country Nigeria.

I am sorry and I solicit your permission into your privacy. I am Barrister Leonardo Akume, lawyer to the late Dr. Koffi Abachus, a brilliant Nigerian mathematician.

My former client, late Dr. Koffi Abachus, died in a mysterious plane crash in the year 1994 on the way to a scientific conference to make an announcement of the utmost importance to mankind.

He was planning to present a paper regarding his extensive work on data storage. It is said the data storage device he had developed, would be roughly ten times more secure compared to the latest quantum excyption techniques. The device was about the size of a steamer trunk, and stored on a privately owned island close to the coast of Nigeria. Dr Koffi Abachus is also the King of the local tribe by heritage...


Neal:

Your proposition sounds quite reasonable. In order for me to provide you with the support that you need, I will need for you to wire $100,000 into my Swiss bank account...

Oh well.. Should there BE a data haven? If so, where?

Neal:

At this point, that is probably a technical question that I might not be competent to answer. I can carry a gig of encrypted data on a thumb drive now, and it doesn't cost much. Soon it'll be smaller and cheaper. Millions of people in different countries carrying gigs of data on thumb drives, iPods, cellphones, etc. make for a pretty robust distributed data storage system. It is difficult to imagine how one could build a centralized, hardened facility that would be more robust than that. But perhaps there's some technical or regulatory angle that I'm failing to appreciate here. I have not kept up to speed on this since Cryptonomicon.

11) Blue Origin - by Concerned Onlooker

The Wikipedia lists you as a part-time advisor for Blue Origin [blueorigin.com], a company that is working to "develop a crewed, suborbital launch system." What is it that you do for them and has the recent winning of the X-Prize by the Spaceship One team had any effect on Blue Origin's plans? What are your visions of future private space flight?


Neal:

Like Spock on the deck of the Enterprise, I sit in the corner and await opportunities to jump out and yammer about Science. Unlike Spock, I don't have anyone reporting to me and I never get to sit in the captain's chair and aim the phasers. This is probably good.

Though the X-Prize is cool and good, Blue Origin never intended to compete for it. Consequently, it has had no effect, other than destroying productivity whenever a SpaceShipOne flight is being broadcast.

As for my visions of future private space flight: here I have to remind you of something, which is that, up to this point in the interview, I have been wearing my novelist hat, meaning that I talk freely about whatever I please. But private space flight is an area where I wear a different hat (or helmet). I do not freely disseminate my thoughts on this one topic because I have agreed to sell those thoughts to Blue Origin. Admittedly, this feels a little strange to a novelist who is accustomed to running his mouth whenever he feels like it. But it is a small price to pay for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a minor character in a Robert Heinlein novel.

12) Do new publishing models make sense? - by Infonaut

Have you contemplated using any sort of alternative to traditional copyright for your works of fiction, such as a flavor of Creative Commons [creativecommons.org] license? Do you feel that making money as a writer and more open copyright are compatible in the long term, or do you think that writers like Lessig who distribute electronically via CC are merely indulging in a short-lived fad?


Neal:

Publishing is a very ancient and crafty industry that existed and flourished before the idea of copyright even existed. When copyright came into existence, the publishing industry dealt with it and moved on. My suspicion is that everything that's been going on lately will amount to a sort of fire drill that will force publishing to scurry around and make some new arrangements so that they can get back to making money for themselves and for authors.

You can use the brick-and-mortar bookstore as a way to think about this. There was a time maybe five years ago when many people were questioning whether brick-and-mortar bookstores were going to survive the onslaught of online retailers. Now, if you take the narrow view that a bookstore is nothing more than a machine that swaps money for books, then it follows that there's no need for a physical store. But here we are five years later. Some bookstores have gone out of business, it's true. But there are big, beautiful bookstores all over the place, with sofas and coffee bars and author appearances and so on. Why? Because it turns out that a bookstore is a lot more than a machine that swaps money for books.

Likewise, if you think of a publisher as a machine that makes copies of bits and sells them, then you're going to predict the elimination of publishers. But that's only the smallest part of what publishers actually do. This is not to say that electronic distribution via CC is just a fad, any more than online bookstores are a fad. They will keep on going in parallel, and all of this will get sorted out in time.

    [an error occurred while processing this directive]
Slashdot Log In
Nickname:

Password:

Public Terminal

[ Create a new account ]

Related Links
· Compare the best prices on: Consumer Electronics
· http://www.crypto.com/masterke y.html
· http://www.crypto.com/hobbs.ht ml
· http://www.neilgaiman.com/jour nal/journal.asp
· Vernor Vinge's Singularity
· questions
· Neal Stephenson
· Books whitepapers
· Best deals: Books
· More Books stories
· Sci-Fi whitepapers
· Best deals: Sci-Fi
· More Sci-Fi stories
· Technology whitepapers
· Best deals: Technology
· More Technology stories
· Interviews whitepapers
· Best deals: Interviews
· More Interviews stories
 
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Neal Stephenson Responds With Wit and Humor | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 684 comments | Search Discussion
Threshold:
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
Thanks, Neal! (Score:5, Interesting)
by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Wednesday October 20, @11:25AM (#10576447)
(http://www.snowplow.org/tom/)
The best "self-defense means" when you are surrounded by a hundred million people of some other culture is to avoid dangerous places and figure out some way to get along with the folks around you.

...unless, of course, you happen to bump into Bruce Sterling.

You're spot-on, though. An open eye, a well-guarded money-belt, and a careful itinerary are your best defenses overseas. Shockingly enough, the vast minority of the world's population wants to attack tourists.

(I don't know whether or not Baltimore qualifies as a foreign land, but the missus and I would be happy to act as local guides next time you're in town. We know where the good beer is...)

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:5, Interesting)
by mekkab (133181) on Wednesday October 20, @11:53AM (#10576720)
(http://apl.jhu.edu/~mekkab | Last Journal: Thursday November 04, @12:42PM)
Just don't go to the brewers art late on a sunday night; my sis got to watch a firefight (Something I missed in my 5 years as a Baltimoron).

That being said, yeah; if you crawl around the streets late at night looking like you don't fit in you will get trouble. If you stick to the safe tourist spots the only thing you have to worry about are the pickpockets.

Speaking of pickpockets, in a UK station (Victoria?! I have no idea!) warning people about pickpockets, and one of the comments on the sign is to know where your wallet is at all times. Pickpockets watch people reading the sign; typically they will put their hand on where they keep their wallet! (breast pocket, back right pocket, wahtevet) Then they know where to hit! ;)
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:5, Interesting)
by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Wednesday October 20, @12:09PM (#10576905)
(http://www.snowplow.org/tom/)
Yeah, I've yet to witness one myself. Shame--Brewers' Art is good stuff.

Professional pickpockets are damn good at what they do. We'd wear money belts on a daily basis when travelling overseas--when worn down the front of your pants, they're hard enough to get at that the pickpockets won't even bother with you.

You're right--it is all about blending in. Way back when, we met and talked with an old Scot one night at our local haunt in Paris. He was part of a group visiting for the Rugby World Cup, and mentioned how three of the ladies in their group had their purses picked whilst visiting Notre Dame that day, and that he couldn't figure out why they'd had such bad luck. We sympathized with him but had to surpress a bit of a grin--as he (and many of his compatriots) were decked out in kilts, caps, and face paint...

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1)
by ObjetDart (700355) on Wednesday October 20, @01:56PM (#10578361)
It is all about blending in

If you're a pasty white American caucasian like myself, good luck blending in pretty much anywhere except Europe.

China, India, Central America - Forget It. You will stand out like sore thumb, and baring plastic surgery and/or radical makeovers, there is nothing you can do about it. The best you can do is be as conscious and as modest as possible about your glaring conspicuousness.

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1)
by Bertie (87778) on Wednesday October 20, @04:35PM (#10580149)
Heh. Check the pasty, white, deluded American thinking he can come to Europe without every man jack that sees him coming tutting and muttering "fucking Yanks" under his breath...

I don't mean any offence by this at all, but most Americans are a total self-awareness vacuum when it comes to matters such as this. You can always spot them in the UK because they're wearing raincoats, no matter what the weather. Nobody else wears raincoats. And then there's the size thing. And the loud thing. And...

It's quite endearing, really. Like when your country cousin joins you in the big city for a night out.
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1)
by ObjetDart (700355) on Wednesday October 20, @05:45PM (#10580831)
I don't mean any offence by this at all

Really? Hmmm. Then let give give you some advice. If you don't mean to be offensive, try to avoid posting insulting, absurd generalizations about Americans or anyone else. I suppose that in turn I could go on a rant about German tourists in America (don't get me started) or some other jingoistic nonsense like yours, but what would be the point, except to be offensive?

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:4, Funny)
by lee7guy (659916) on Wednesday October 20, @07:32PM (#10581636)
Well, every american tourist I've ever seen fit Bertie's description to the point. Every German tourist I ever saw looked like something recently released from the 80's, with large hairs, pastel coloured clothes and too large sunglasses.

Only problem is american or german tourists not looking/behaving like american or german tourists. You never realize they are american or german tourists to begin with. Bastards.
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by spRed (28066) on Wednesday October 20, @11:05PM (#10582858)
Only problem is american or german tourists not looking/behaving like american or german tourists. You never realize they are american or german tourists to begin with. Bastards.

Agreed, I lived in Australia for a year (I'm an American) and the "Americans" are easy to spot (A peircing female New Jersey accent carries for miles) but there are many more that you only notice on closer inpsection, and presumably some not at all.

Contra example, when I was in Paris recently with my family we stuck out like a sore thumb as all the males were wearing khaki pants, backpacks (day packs), and shoes. Shoes aren't unusual per se, but dark sneakers seemed to be the norm in mufti/casual. Pick pockets were _everywhere_ and most conspicuously by the signs that said "beware of pickpockets". At first I wondered how 30 guys could make any money selling $1 keychains to a pool of 100 tourists (with no tourists buying) and then I had my ah-ha moment. Five guys surrounding one tourist to sell a $1 trinket == Fucking gypsies.

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by vsprintf (579676) on Wednesday October 20, @06:05PM (#10581006)
(Last Journal: Saturday October 23, @06:08PM)

And then there's the size thing.

What? You're the twit who has been filling my inbox with spam? And how would you know in the first place, you peeping tommy?

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by k12linux (627320) on Thursday October 21, @12:11PM (#10589093)
I have to wonder if it is more of a class distinction. The majority of american tourists in Europe are fairly well-to-do. For most of the rest of us, a two week trip to England and France is a pretty major investment of money/time.

While in France on a college-related trip, our entire group was having lunch in a nice little cafe. We were all embarassed to be from the same country as a loud-mouth american who was literally yelling at the waitor. Why? Because her tuna-fish sandwitch didn't have tomato slices on it and "everybody knows that tuna-fish sandwitches have tomatoes and lettuce!" (Her verbal rampage lasted a good minute and could clearly be heard in all corners of the reasturant.)

Egads, no wonder most of the world's population hates American tourists! If I had to endure that type of abuse from a particular group of people... I'd grow to dislike them pretty fast too.

American loudness (Score:2)
by SeanDuggan (732224) on Thursday October 21, @09:51AM (#10586799)
(http://www.xanga.com/duggan/)
Actually, I'll agree with you on the loudness bit. As someone from the USA (commonly referred to as an American, arrogant as we are), returning from a trip to a European country is a shock when I realize how much people around here raise their voices when they've got no reason to. Try it some time. Speak in audible tone without "pushing" the sound. Perhaps project a little, but don't push. You'll be audible so long as no one else is shouting. Get your friends and co-workers to do the same and you might be amazed at how much more quietly the conversation can go.

As for the overweight thing, as I understand it, we're pretty bad on average (fast food society and all), but I've noticed that most of this seems to be either people mildly obese (carrying only 20-30 extra pounds, usually in the form of a belly) or the small set of extremely morbid cases where their thighs overlap their knees. *shrug* Most people I know are actually well within weight guidelines.

Re:American loudness (Score:2)
by Mattcelt (454751) <.moc.yllierom. .ta. .todhsals.> on Saturday October 23, @03:04AM (#10607463)
(http://www.emprecords.com/)
(commonly referred to as an American, arrogant as we are)

It's not arrogance, it's convenience. The U.S. is probably the only country whose English-language name isn't an adaptation of a common native ethnic group or similar basic name. What should we call ourselves? United Stateseans? USAians? Statesmen? Since our country was named, in English, as a political entity and not an ethnic one, what to call its citizens was not considered. Originally, they were all British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, and collectively "colonists". But all that changed on July 4, 1776. And at that point there was only one country in the Western Hemisphere - the United States. There were no other nationalities, and it is reasonable to think that at least some of the colonists fully expected the U.S. to be the only country in the Western Hemisphere at some point anyway! (The concept of "manifest destiny" is proof-in-point that thought was given to U.S. expansion very early on.)

Besides, there isn't likely to be any confusion anyhow - even though, technically, all inhabitants of the North and South American continents are "americans", every other nationality in the hemisphere has a national name by which to call themselves: Canadian, Mexican, Brazilian, Peruvian, Colombian, Chilean, etc. So it's not as if the residents of the U.S. of A. are likely to be confused with anyone else at any rate.

I know it's popular to bash "americans" right now, especially in the U.S., but apply a little Occam's Razor to the question and the answer might not be so damning as you might have thought.
Re:American loudness (Score:1)
by Paradise Pete (33184) <listcatcher@fastm[ ].fm ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday October 24, @09:34PM (#10617656)
(Last Journal: Friday May 21, @04:34PM)
every other nationality in the hemisphere has a national name by which to call themselves

Some Costa Ricans feel that their country doesn't really have a proper name. Like "United States," It's more of a description than a name. By the way, they call people from the US Estadounidenses, or roughly, United Statesians.

Re:American loudness (Score:1)
by Mattcelt (454751) <.moc.yllierom. .ta. .todhsals.> on Monday October 25, @12:20AM (#10618389)
(http://www.emprecords.com/)
By the way, they call people from the US Estadounidenses, or roughly, United Statesians.

Estadounidenses - that's a mouthful in Spanish, much less English! :-)
Re:American loudness (Score:1)
by Paradise Pete (33184) <listcatcher@fastm[ ].fm ['ail' in gap]> on Monday October 25, @03:34PM (#10624560)
(Last Journal: Friday May 21, @04:34PM)
Estadounidenses - that's a mouthful in Spanish, much less English!

No kidding. My spanish is pretty good, but I don't even try it. I just say Gringo ;-)

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1)
by Protozoa (19702) on Wednesday October 20, @01:44PM (#10578219)
(http://www.cluebot.com)
A firefight? Can you explain? I've been a regular at Brewer's Art for years..I was there last night, in fact!
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by mekkab (133181) on Wednesday October 20, @02:49PM (#10578927)
(http://apl.jhu.edu/~mekkab | Last Journal: Thursday November 04, @12:42PM)
October 7th, 2002. I'm inside Brewers Art downing Resurrections and listening to the (Then new) Slayer album on their system. (previous night was JSBX)

My sis comes in and says "I just saw somebody get shot at!"

Details:
Some altercation, a shot, some guy fell, the guy(s) with the gun ran, then, the guy who fell got up and ran (presumably in the other direction). Not exactly a shooting, but statistically consistent with your average firefight- in low light conditions with a poor accuracy and few shots exchanged at close range.

That being said, its fucking Baltimore. You can get shot on the campus of Hopkins*! (*But only if you are a young Republican. True story.) This knowledge doesn't prevent me from going back.
D'oh! 2001, NOT 2002!!! (Score:2)
by mekkab (133181) on Wednesday October 20, @02:52PM (#10578951)
(http://apl.jhu.edu/~mekkab | Last Journal: Thursday November 04, @12:42PM)
Shit man, I don't even know how long I've been married! (Yep- firefight happened on my wedding night. Even worse crime? fucking cabbie tried to rip me off (North Charles st vs South Charles! What do I look like? A fucking Rube? NO TIP! ))
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1)
by Protozoa (19702) on Wednesday October 20, @03:26PM (#10579330)
(http://www.cluebot.com)
Funny; I've lived in Baltimore all my life, only set foot on the Hopkins campus a handful of times, and have never once been shot at.

Glad to hear you had such an exciting night, though; cheers!
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by E-Lad (1262) on Wednesday October 20, @03:32PM (#10579397)
(http://elektronkind.org/)
Hell, anything can happen in Baltimore.

I used to own and live in a house on the 2600 block of Calvert. A wonderful place, it was.

A few months after I moved in, everyone's sewers on my side of the street were backing up. Finally, Public Works came out and, tadaaaa, found a complete set of skeletal remains in the sewer under a manhole right in back of my house in the alley. No telling how long it had been there.

Ah, Baltimore. /dale
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1)
by copper (32270) on Thursday October 21, @12:11AM (#10583243)
My own story of fun and pseudo-danger in Baltimore...

Went into the Ruby Lounge one night while attempting to bar hop... found out we couldn't leave as the police had shut down several blocks of Charles St. following a shooting involving undercover Baltimore PD where several shots went through the front window of The Great American Melting Pot, just a few blocks up Charles. Quite inconvenienced we were. If I remember correctly, it was before midnight when all this went down. Lovely town, Baltimore is :)
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1)
by chiphart (791140) on Wednesday October 20, @03:56PM (#10579693)
(http://www.pcc.com/)
Frankly, dodging a firefight is worth the effort if the result is a fresh one from Brewer's Art [thebrewersart.com]. God's milk.
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1)
by mekkab (133181) on Wednesday October 20, @04:19PM (#10579949)
(http://apl.jhu.edu/~mekkab | Last Journal: Thursday November 04, @12:42PM)
I'll drink to that!
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1)
by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Wednesday October 20, @04:28PM (#10580068)
(http://www.infamous.net/)
Just don't go to the brewers art late on a sunday night; my sis got to watch a firefight (Something I missed in my 5 years as a Baltimoron).

Yow! For the record, I've lived in the Baltimore area all my life, except for my years at College Park, and have only ever seen gunfire at licenced ranges. But I'd risk a firefight for the Brewer's Art's new Proletary Ale...

(Now, I've certainly heard gunshots off in the distance, when sitting on the back porch of a friends house near Leakin Park. People generally don't get killed in the park, but it is a popular body dump and unlicenced gun range.)

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1)
by vashti (57127) on Thursday October 21, @07:35AM (#10585040)
(http://www.dream.org.uk/)
The thing about the anti-pickpocketing sign is actually true - it was a campaign a few years ago across the London Underground network, but it was discontinued quickly for exactly the reason you stated. :)
Firefight? (Score:1)
by volkerstewart (824464) on Friday October 22, @09:56AM (#10598091)
As the founding partner of The Brewer's Art I have to take issue with this. Never in the 8 years we have been open has there been a firefight at our place (although a knife was drawn as part of a fistfight some years ago). When did this supposedly happen? Neil, come by for a beer, and if you are really worried, bring that flintlock, ha ha...
Re:Firefight? (Score:1)
by volkerstewart (824464) on Friday October 22, @10:04AM (#10598177)
Nevermind, just saw mekkab's description. I got shot at in Charles Village once (1991), at a speakeasy, by a coked up hillbilly, for what it's worth. Still went back to that speakeasy. Hell, these days you can get shot at anywhere. Generally, it's pretty safe around here, though...
Re:Firefight? (Score:2)
by mekkab (133181) on Friday October 22, @10:27AM (#10598393)
(http://apl.jhu.edu/~mekkab | Last Journal: Thursday November 04, @12:42PM)
Generally, it's pretty safe around here, though...


Sorry, I should have been more explicit. YES! It generally IS pretty safe 'round your neck of the woods. It was more of a shock/amazement kind of thing- I mean, a sunday night? Hunh? (I guess this was before HBO started showing "The Wire" on Sunday's...)
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1, Informative)
by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, @11:55AM (#10576747)
(I don't know whether or not Baltimore qualifies as a foreign land, but the missus and I would be happy to act as local guides next time you're in town. We know where the good beer is...)

I'm open-sourcing your knowledge:

  • The Wharf Rat
  • The Brewer's Art

Also recommended:

  • The Mt. Royal Tavern
  • The Owl Bar

Plentiful, good, and cheap beer is pretty much the best thing about Baltimore.

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:5, Funny)
by hypnagogue (700024) on Wednesday October 20, @11:57AM (#10576766)
Shockingly enough, the vast minority of the world's population wants to attack tourists.
I had no idea how vast that violent minority was. I'm staying home.
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1, Insightful)
by Golias (176380) on Wednesday October 20, @01:44PM (#10578221)
Heh. My favorite part was this:

But the publishing industry still works for some lucky novelists who find a way to establish a connection with a readership sufficiently large to put bread on their tables. It's conventional to refer to these as "commercial" novelists, but I hate that term, so I'm going to call them Beowulf writers.

Pretense, thy name is Neal.

I can refute his point just by pulling a couple writers off the top of my head: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Maybe you've heard of them, Neal. They were a couple of college Profs who also wrote books, and you would probably kill for the chance for your books to sell nearly as well as some of their lesser works.

Patronage artists are not less accountable than commercial artists. Commercial artists have a publisher, who decides whether or not to print their books based on the opinion of whether or not they will sell.

So, unless he or she self-publishes and hands out the books in coffee shops, a commercial artist has a patron, too: the publisher.

You are not the village skald. You are a contracted employee, hired to write books that can be marketed to a chosen demographic. Get over it, and yourself.

P.S. All this nastiness aside, I do enjoy your books. Keep up the good work.
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:3, Informative)
by noewun (591275) on Wednesday October 20, @02:36PM (#10578807)
(Last Journal: Tuesday September 23, @04:07PM)
I can refute his point just by pulling a couple writers off the top of my head: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Sayeth Neal: Like all tricks for dividing people into two groups, this is simplistic, and needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

Sayeth me: Reading comprehension is important.

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by elmegil (12001) on Wednesday October 20, @02:38PM (#10578825)
(http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Thursday November 04, @11:46PM)
OH please. Just because a couple of profs had commercial success doesn't at all dismiss the general outlines of Neal's commentary. Tolkien in particular was quite taken off guard by his commercial success, thank you very much. This is quite different from the "usual" commercial writer who is inspired to simply try to "go do it", often from fannish impulses (just look at Harlan Ellison; but not for too long).
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by elmegil (12001) on Thursday October 21, @03:09PM (#10591494)
(http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Thursday November 04, @11:46PM)
The point is that the literary writers dismissed Tolkien in exactly the same manner they dismissed most of the popular genre writers.

Only because they perceived him (rightly in my opinion) to have jumped across the divide to the other side of the bifurcation. He betrayed them. The fact that it wasn't his intent to do so was irrelevant to them.

As for Stephenson being a juvenile writer....that smacks more of flamebait than anything so I'm just going to leave it alone except to say that you're entitled your incorrect opinion :-)

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:3, Insightful)
by Eneff (96967) on Wednesday October 20, @03:58PM (#10579719)
(http://ibsulon.cc/)
I think you miss his point. An author can live in both worlds, as Tolkien and Lewis (and Toni Morrison for another example) did and do, but authors such as these know that they live in two worlds.

Fitzgerald was a Beowolf writer embraced by the Dante crowd, for example. There is definite crossover, but the point is sound: having read both, there is a distinct difference of literature coming from the two communities.

Would Georges Perec's La Disparition ever be read by the masses? It's unlikely at best.
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by Vintermann (400722) on Thursday October 21, @03:42AM (#10584162)
(http://vintermann.paranoidkoala.org/)
The masses don't generally speak french, nor do I, I'm afriad. I have been looking for the translation, though (A Void)
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by tiled_rainbows (686195) on Thursday October 21, @05:14AM (#10584490)
(http://www.godsrudewireless.co.uk/ | Last Journal: Thursday June 03, @05:22AM)
Uhh, the French masses do. And I bet they mostly haven't read la disparation, either.
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by Vintermann (400722) on Thursday October 21, @07:01AM (#10584860)
(http://vintermann.paranoidkoala.org/)
True enough. I wonder if the russian-speaking masses have read Solshenitzyn, though.
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by child_of_mercy (168861) <johnboy&the-riotact,com> on Monday October 25, @07:40PM (#10627067)
(http://the-riotact.com/)
More than you'd think.

But it's a good example because for years in the Soviet Union nothing got published just to be popular, it had to pass the critical community first.
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:5, Interesting)
by Grab (126025) on Wednesday October 20, @06:34PM (#10581254)
(http://gunfire.sourceforge.net/)
Lewis was certainly a college Prof. But he was also an incredibly well-known front-man for Christianity, and all his novels were written on thinly-disguised Christian themes, to sell based on his existing fan-base. Can you say "Beowulf"? I knew you could... ;-)

Tolkein came from another angle, though. He was doing the whole thing for his own intellectual enjoyment, and it just happened that he wrote the most popular novel of the 20th century. His main gig was ancient European languages and the myths of those cultures. Creating his own "ancient culture" and populating it with his own myths was done entirely because that's the kind of thing he was interested in. He wrote his books to be evaluated by the same standards as the Norse Sagas, for example - in other words, writing books to be studied by the literary circle of which he was a member. And the fact that it made him heaps of money afterwards is irrelevant - at the time he wrote it, he was supported by his university work, and he kept doing the university work even when the books started jumping off the shelves. Dante author.

As for your point about patronage, I quote: "Commercial artists have a publisher, who decides whether or not to print their books based on the opinion of whether or not they will sell" (emphasis mine). So the publisher is accountable to the bunch of drunken Frisians, and you're accountable to the publisher. So unless you're writing books that appeal to drunken Frisians, you're SOL. That makes you as accountable to the drunken Frisians as if you were personally reciting it to each of them.

Certainly there are some Beowulf authors who don't write stuff with mass appeal and so don't get published (or get kicked out of the bar by the drunken Frisians, or by the bartender who caters for the drunken Frisians). But NS was talking about *successful* writers in this question, not about no-hopers who can't sell their books.

Grab.

PS. I *love* the drunken Frisians analogy. Can I say it again? Drunken Frisians, drunken Frisians, drunken... (fade) ;-)
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by Simon Garlick (104721) on Wednesday October 20, @07:01PM (#10581436)
OK, so you want to criticise Stephenson for being pretentious... and the manner you choose is to post:

Pretense, thy name is Neal.

:)
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by Golias (176380) on Thursday October 21, @03:19AM (#10584092)
Oh, my God. Thank you for being the only one here to catch that joke!

Some people are too busy getting upset that I sounded critical of their favorite author to see that.
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by Simon Garlick (104721) on Friday October 22, @05:07AM (#10596338)
Heh! no problem :) Surely, though, the noun should have been "pretentiousness"?
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1)
by cylcyl (144755) on Wednesday October 20, @01:54PM (#10578334)
The same quote caught my eye, but from a more political slant. I wish the current / next US administration will realize this and foster more ties rather than severing them by a "with us or against us" approach.
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by Stephen Samuel (106962) <{moc.neergcb} {ta} {leumas}> on Wednesday October 20, @03:18PM (#10579222)
(http://www.bcgreen.com/~samuel | Last Journal: Sunday May 23, @03:03PM)
(( Paraphrase: The best defence is to avoid firefights. ))

Someone please pass on that bit of wisdom on to Bush and his pentagon drinking buddies who seem to think that killind and displacing thousands of Iraqis is going to solve the base problem which is that the US government has been pissing off the Iraqi people since Bush Sr. Betrayed the Iraqis who answered his call for a revolt against Saddamn.

If you piss off enough people, sooner or later someone is going to get a critical hit in. Star Wars II (whatever it's official name) is not going to defend New York against a cargo ship with a dirty nuke and a big slingshot; or someone grief-torn enough to allow him/herself to be injected with a nasty airborn virus that has a 3-day incubation period.

On the other hand, all of the terrorist attacks on US soil in the last decade don't even get into the ballpark of what drunk drivers and second hand smoke have done in the last year.

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by ckd (72611) on Wednesday October 20, @06:25PM (#10581176)
(http://blogs.ckdhr.com/dag/)
On the other hand, all of the terrorist attacks on US soil in the last decade don't even get into the ballpark of what drunk drivers and second hand smoke have done in the last year.
Or, for that matter, the average yearly US deaths from...the flu.

You know, that disease we're currently facing without enough vaccine available?
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by rho (6063) on Wednesday October 20, @10:43PM (#10582686)
(http://www.deadgobot.com/ | Last Journal: Wednesday June 23, @12:51PM)

The best defence is to avoid firefights.

Proactive peace does not scale.

When it's just you and some knob, you can get along by bending with the wind. When it's a "group" of "people", i.e. terrorists, and another "group" of "people", i.e. The Great Satan America, who do you get to bend? The president? He has to answer to the voters. Voters? Which ones? Who do we talk to? What if they say "no"?

Overly simplifying the issue does not make you right, nor smart, nor even relevant. And, on another note, since you equate terrorist attacks with second-hand smoke, you tell me which you would prefer--death from second-hand smoke (which you can avoid, and which takes forever anyway) or death by terrorism (which you cannot avoid, unless you live in a cave in Montana somewhere, and happens instantaneously and may end up with you leaping from the 80th story of a building that's on fire).

You pick. Chump.

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by Vintermann (400722) on Thursday October 21, @04:00AM (#10584214)
(http://vintermann.paranoidkoala.org/)
"tell me which you would prefer--death from second-hand smoke (which you can avoid, and which takes forever anyway) or death by terrorism (which you cannot avoid, unless you live in a cave in Montana somewhere, and happens instantaneously and may end up with you leaping from the 80th story of a building that's on fire)."

I read a book by a dutch social scientist of some sort called Geert Hofstede, about cultural differences. I highly reccomend it - it reads a lot like Fred Brooks or his favourite quoter Eric Raymond.
Anyway, she/he (I have no idea if Geert is a male or female name in the netherlands) divides national cultures into groups according to their place on a variety of different scales (using scientific techniques and a huge IBM study). You have scales like
* power distance - how far away the boss is socially speaking
* femininity/masculinity - perhaps really about whether there are sharp gender profiles or weak ones.
And the one I think you perhaps should reflect on:
* Uncertainty avoidance.

In some cultures people readily accept that some things are out of their hands, whether it's the weather or political troubles. In other cultures people don't. The answer to your question above, I believe, depends crucially on where you are on this scale, and where your culture is.
Personally, I say dead is dead. If this is the result of willful intent from some people, that's bad, but once it happens, I doubt it will make much difference either way. The great american philosopher Thoreau famously said that he was not in this world to change it, but to live in it. Take his advice, and change the things you need to, and don't worry about the things you can't.
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by mi (197448) <mi+slashdot@aldan.algebra.com> on Wednesday October 20, @11:03PM (#10582846)
seem to think that killing and displacing thousands of Iraqis is going to solve the base problem [...] Bush Sr. betrayed the Iraqis who answered his call for a revolt against Saddamn.

So Bush Jr. made up for the father's mistake by finally deposing of the despot, that his predecessors failed to finish off [bbc.co.uk]. Do you honestly believe, going to Baghdad in 1991 (as, indeed, Bush Sr. should've done) would've required much less "killing and displacing" somehow?

Talk about off-topic flamebaits...

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:3, Insightful)
by Stephen Samuel (106962) <{moc.neergcb} {ta} {leumas}> on Thursday October 21, @04:05AM (#10584234)
(http://www.bcgreen.com/~samuel | Last Journal: Sunday May 23, @03:03PM)
In 1991 Many Iraqis were entirely fed up with Saddam, and QUITE willing to put up with the bombing campaign, etc. to get him out. When Bush (sr) called for the people of Iraq to rise up and revolt against Saddam, many did.

Many a surprised Journalist in that war came across Iraqi soldiers happily surrendering and chanting stuff lie "long live George Bush". I expect that they meant it because they expected that their country was well on the way to being liberated.

What GB Sr. did, however, was -- once he had secured the oil wells of Kuwait, the no-fly stipulation for the Iraqi military was relaxed to allow saddam to use his helicopter gunships against the civilians who had heeded GB Sr's calls for revolt. The people of Iraq who responded to bush's call for support were literally rewarded with death and dismemberment.

This cost the US in general, and the name of George Bush specifically a LOT of good will. That the US and UN then funneled most of the money/supplies from the food-for-oil campaign thru Saddamn and his minions (thus reinforcing his hold on Iraq) didn't help much.

Junior's insistence on going into Iraq based on clearly fabricated grounds didn't help much. The Iraqi people were clear, at that point, that whatever the reason GB had for going into Iraq, helping them was NOT at the top of the list (and possibly not even near the top).

The unwillingness of US soldiers to protect Iraqi civilians from looting and random violence in the early days of the occupation didn't help (and was, by the way, a possible violation of the Geneva Convention).

That the US military seems to be continually acting as if Iraqi civilian 'collateral damage' (read: death, and maiming of innocent civilians and destructin of (what's left of) their proerty) isn't a big deal doesn't help. Things like the tourture, murder and general mistreatment at Abu Gharib (and probably other) prisons -- and the way that it was dealt with when it came to light have been bad ideas too.

It's not that GB Sr. didn't go all the way into Iraq, and GB Jr. did. that's at question here. The contexts of the two invasions were very different. Among other things, there were a good number of Arab nations involved in 1991, but effectively none in 2003 other than Turkey who are (a) not arab, and (b) seriously hated by the Kurds in northern Iraq (not without reason).

Best analogy I can come up with at this late hour: If you let a fat lady drown and then insist on saving the pretty blonde who seems to be in somewhat less distress (having waited for her to work her way out of deep water), some people may (rightly) question your motives -- for both situations.

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by mi (197448) <mi+slashdot@aldan.algebra.com> on Thursday October 21, @08:15AM (#10585412)
This may all be fine and true, but has little to do with Neal's advice to avoid fights altogether -- the piece of wisdom, you wanted somebody to pass to "Bush and his drinking buddies".

For, after all, "Saddam had to be disarmed, and I am glad we did it," said John Kerry in May 2003. And Iraqis seem to concurr, however dissatisfied they (and Kerry) may be with some aspects of the post-war period...

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by Stephen Samuel (106962) <{moc.neergcb} {ta} {leumas}> on Thursday October 21, @11:55AM (#10588835)
(http://www.bcgreen.com/~samuel | Last Journal: Sunday May 23, @03:03PM)
That reminds me of the quote: "Say want you want about Mussolini, but he made the trains run on time" (paraphrase [snopes.com]).

I think that there were very few people who were unhappy to see Saddamn go. On the other hand, the way Bush Did it sucked bigtime for a number of reasons -- including him causing a massive rise in extremism, both inside Iraq and outside.

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1)
by ahdeoz (714773) on Thursday October 21, @02:14PM (#10590864)
Yeah me too, only it's the opposite. More like: "Say what you want about Eisenhower and the AEF but when they got rid of Mussolini, it was months before the trains ran on time again. FDR has no business attacking Italy after Hoover didn't finish them off when the sanctions for invading Abyssinia didn't deter the Fascists."
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1)
by mi (197448) <mi+slashdot@aldan.algebra.com> on Thursday October 21, @03:35PM (#10591804)
And this still has nothing to do with the wisdom of not picking up fights... You remain flamebaitingly offtopic.
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2, Flamebait)
by Stephen Samuel (106962) <{moc.neergcb} {ta} {leumas}> on Thursday October 21, @04:18PM (#10592382)
(http://www.bcgreen.com/~samuel | Last Journal: Sunday May 23, @03:03PM)
Regarding the rise of militant extremism, I say good. Let's confront it now, today, rather than later. This hatred of the West, and the United States in particular, is not going to go away on it's own.

The rise of extremism like what we're seeing in Iraq is coming from the US's disregard for human and civil rights.
Way too many innocent civilians are dying in Iraq at the hands of US soldiers, and people are starting to go "If I'm gonna take a bullet in the back of the head at any time, I might as well get shot for a good reason'. Many people in the Middle east have no problems with the people of America and The West, but they have deep issues with the actions of the governments and corporatins thereof.

Blowing up someone's house withoug so much as an 'oops, sorry', is not the way to make friends and influence people.

Well, there's a bit more to it than that. (Score:3, Insightful)
by Merk (25521) on Wednesday October 20, @03:49PM (#10579602)
(http://infofiend.com/)

An open eye is important, but an open mind and brain is more important. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you find you're making friends much faster than you expect, they might not be friends. If you feel out of place, you probably look out of place, etc.

He's also right about getting along with the folks around you. Chances are, you'll always stand out, but if you make an effort to fit in it will help. For example, in many places, people wear long pants even when it's very hot out. If you wear shorts, you stand out, and you *look* like a tourist -- a tourist is a target. If you wear long pants, you may still look like a tourist, but you may be mistaken for a tourist who has been around for long enough that he won't fall for the scams.

Re:Well, there's a bit more to it than that. (Score:1)
by raju1kabir (251972) on Thursday October 21, @11:46AM (#10588691)
(http://slashdot.org/)
He's also right about getting along with the folks around you. Chances are, you'll always stand out, but if you make an effort to fit in it will help. For example, in many places, people wear long pants even when it's very hot out. If you wear shorts, you stand out, and you *look* like a tourist -- a tourist is a target. If you wear long pants, you may still look like a tourist, but you may be mistaken for a tourist who has been around for long enough that he won't fall for the scams.

I don't think that pant length has that much to do with it, though this viewpoint could just be in service to my strong preference for shorts (which was only a problem once, when the police in Riyadh made me change - I thought that at 3am I could get away with it).

I've been around long enough not to fall for the scams, and pretty much nobody tries to scam me anymore, despite the fact that I doggedly persist in wearing clothing because it's comfortable rather than because it's locally popular. I think it's a lot more about how you carry yourself; that's something that does come from experience, and unlike changing your pants, can't be taught, only learned.

And by the way, in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar customs and social networks, there is nothing stupider than arming yourself with anything but a hefty dose of awareness and an unfailingly polite manner. You don't know who's carrying what, how good they are with it, and who's on whose side. Your tactic in difficult situations should be to make as many allies as possible.

Re:Well, there's a bit more to it than that. (Score:2)
by Merk (25521) on Thursday October 21, @03:16PM (#10591596)
(http://infofiend.com/)

I think you're right. I think if you don't have the confidence and experience to carry yourself properly you'll be a target. I just think that wearing long pants will help a bit otherwise. It's like a job interview. If you can show that you're an amazing candidate, it doesn't matter so much what you wear to the interview. On the other hand, if you're not the ideal candidate making a good first impression can help. Wearing a good suit might at least get things off to a good start.

I couldn't agree more about the weapon idea though. Pulling a weapon in a foreign place not only ups the ante, but it might change the situation into "foreigner vs. local". If you keep your eyes open, you can normally avoid a potentially dangerous situation before it really gets dangerous. Be *nice* to the locals and treat them with respect, you never know when you might need a friend. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is, and don't trust people too easily.

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:2)
by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) <uiprhfzn02@sneakemail.com> on Wednesday October 20, @09:21PM (#10582266)
(http://www.berylliumsphere.com/ | Last Journal: Tuesday November 02, @03:35PM)
Neal Stephenson's comment about self defense when visiting strange cultures went straight to my information security blog ("The Security Mentor").

There are people who've successfully used "avoid dangerous places" as an alternative to antivirus software.

Of course in the physical world, dangerous places usually don't mail themselves to you.
Avoiding Dangerous Situations (Score:2)
by SeanDuggan (732224) on Thursday October 21, @10:01AM (#10586984)
(http://www.xanga.com/duggan/)
I highly agree that a good part of self-defense training involves avoiding sticky situations, convincing people that maybe taking the longer route around the block through well-lit streets is a better choice than cutting through the poorly-lit back alley or even teaching them to toss the wallet and run if confronted by an armed attacker. However, in life, you're always going to run into situations that happen in safe areas. (On my college campus, we had an attempted rape case in broad daylight, within an open-air cemetary in the middle of campus, on Sunday.) Additionally, as one teacher of a self-defense course stated, you're not always going to be able to avoid the dodgy situation. Sometimes you don't have a second person to walk with you. Sometimes the only viable route is through the poorly lit ghetto. Sometimes the guy at the bar will take a swing at you no matter how much you apologize and offer to buy him a drink. *wry grin* And I've probably rambled past the point of the subject. Basically, while we can teach people to "avoid dangerous places" and to not resort to violence at first, we should also teach them that sometimes violence is an appropriate response, and teach them to act decisively in such a situation.

Like the saying goes, "Violence may be a matter of last resort, but it is a valid choice and the only one some people will listen to."

Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1, Funny)
by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, @10:57PM (#10582807)
"Shockingly enough, the vast minority of the world's population wants to attack tourists."

Because only a minority works in hospitality...
Re:Thanks, Neal! (Score:1)
by mephistus (217351) on Thursday October 21, @11:45AM (#10588675)
Well if you're going to Brewer's, go on Monday night. The house beers are $2.50 on Mondays. Except the cerberus Tripel. Apparently that was a little too well appreciated in it's 10% goodness. Not that me and my monday night crowd partially responsible for that. :) And the monday night bartender is totally awesome.
Slashdot Users (Score:5, Funny)
by Pinkoir (666130) on Wednesday October 20, @11:28AM (#10576463)
(the sound of a million Slashdot readers hitting the "back" button...)

C'mon Neal...you should know slashdotters better than that. We don't hit the back button, we use mouse gestures.

-Pinkoir
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:5, Funny)
by spellraiser (764337) on Wednesday October 20, @11:36AM (#10576539)
(Last Journal: Monday September 27, @09:39AM)
Amateur!

I use the backspace key for this, naturally. Anyone who uses a mouse at all is a false geek!

Re:Slashdot Users (Score:5, Funny)
by NanoGator (522640) on Wednesday October 20, @02:21PM (#10578647)
(http://www.ferion.net/ | Last Journal: Monday May 06, @02:16AM)
"I use the backspace key for this, naturally. Anyone who uses a mouse at all is a false geek!"

Pff. Anybody who's keyboard has more than just a 1 and 0 key is a false geek.
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:2)
by Greg W. (15623) on Thursday October 21, @07:56AM (#10585198)
(http://wooledge.org/~greg/)
I usually use Ctrl-W to close the tab, having previous opened it by middle-clicking something. But on the occasions where I actually left-clicked on something ("exec" as opposed to "fork and wait"), and the web site didn't pop up a new window (grrr!), and I want to go back... then I use the back button with the mouse.

This actually happens more often than you might think. It mostly depends on the second criterion ("the web site didn't pop up a new window"). People who write sites that pop up a new window when I left click something need reeducation. Desperately.
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:2)
by incom (570967) on Wednesday October 20, @02:41PM (#10578849)
(Last Journal: Saturday October 16, @10:35AM)
Oh, no you don't. I will not try random variations on backspace keycombos until I inevitably hit ctrl+alt+backspace.
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:5, Funny)
by Betelgeuse (35904) on Wednesday October 20, @04:32PM (#10580113)
(http://slashdot.org/)
Ha! I actually did this the other day. I was making an Open Office presentation and I was trying to remember the way to go "up a level" in a bulleted list.

Ctrl-Tab? No.
Alt-Tab? No.
Ctrl-Backspace? No.
Alt-Backspace? No.
Ctrl-Alt-Backspace? Arrrr!
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:2)
by boots@work (17305) on Thursday October 21, @02:13AM (#10583818)
That's why I always set Option "DontZap" in XF86Config.
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:2)
by Bozdune (68800) on Thursday October 21, @02:48AM (#10583974)
Actually, it was "control-meta-mumble", back in the days when men were men, and words had 36 bits.
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:1)
by mairas (102089) <mairas@iki.fi> on Thursday October 21, @05:05AM (#10584453)
(http://www.iki.fi/mairas/)

Ctrl-Tab? No. Alt-Tab? No. Ctrl-Backspace? No. Alt-Backspace? No. Ctrl-Alt-Backspace? Arrrr!

Actually that is a daily issue for us EMACS users with poor memory. Sigh.

Re:Slashdot Users (Score:2)
by metlin (258108) * <metlin AT cc DOT gatech DOT edu> on Thursday October 21, @11:49AM (#10588745)
(http://labs.highbrew.com/ | Last Journal: Tuesday October 26, @11:09PM)
That's why even after using Emacs for all these years, I still have a printout of the commands on my desk :-)
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:2)
by Hektor_Troy (262592) on Saturday October 23, @10:05AM (#10608637)
Ctrl-Alt-Backspace? Arrrr!
Ah, the famous Pirate Key.
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:3, Informative)
by Traa (158207) * on Wednesday October 20, @03:12PM (#10579144)
(http://www.yellowcatdesign.com/ | Last Journal: Monday June 23, @01:55AM)
Nice try, but the backspace key doesn't allways work. For example if the page you are visiting drops the cursor in an edit box like google [google.com]. Instead you should use alt + left-cursor to navigate to the previous page!
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:1)
by Tiram (650450) on Thursday October 21, @05:20AM (#10584519)
(http://tiram.org/ | Last Journal: Thursday October 07, @03:41AM)
Don't get me started! I hate it when Web pages include that "feature" -- focusing on the first field in a form. It's not only Backspace that breaks either, but several other keys.

I am perfectly capable of putting the cursor in the search field myself, thank you.

Re:Slashdot Users (Score:1)
by Woy (606550) on Wednesday October 20, @06:00PM (#10580954)
Personally i just short out 2 lines of the bus with my toe at the exact right moment to make it seem like a backspace was pressed. Its pretty hard to get used to the timing, so you kids can keep your toys for now.

Re:Slashdot Users (Score:1)
by ahdeoz (714773) on Thursday October 21, @02:20PM (#10590926)
You got to love Stephenson's renunciation of "In the beginning was the command line..." just because of a fashion and political affinity he might find with a certain company's marketing department.
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:1)
by Paradise Pete (33184) <listcatcher@fastm[ ].fm ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday October 24, @09:44PM (#10617702)
(Last Journal: Friday May 21, @04:34PM)
just because of a fashion and political affinity he might find with a certain company's marketing department.

Or just maybe he simply meant what he said. It happens sometimes.

Re:Slashdot Users (Score:3, Funny)
by Mulletproof (513805) on Wednesday October 20, @11:50AM (#10576699)
(http://www.dreamops.com/ | Last Journal: Wednesday October 06, @10:59PM)
"C'mon Neal...you should know slashdotters better than that. We don't hit the back button, we use mouse gestures."

How about "spinning the mouse wheel wildly"?
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:3, Funny)
by SilentChris (452960) on Wednesday October 20, @11:56AM (#10576751)
(http://slashdot.org/)
"We don't hit the back button, we use mouse gestures."

Not in Lynx I don't, you insensitive clod!
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:2)
by Zangief (461457) on Wednesday October 20, @08:19PM (#10581909)
(http://www.dcc.uchil...ez/pmwiki/pmwiki.php | Last Journal: Tuesday October 05, @04:57PM)
While using lynx, I make gestures like I was using a mouse!

Does this count?
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:2, Funny)
by torpor (458) <jayv@s[ ]h.net ['ynt' in gap]> on Wednesday October 20, @11:57AM (#10576758)
(http://virus.info/ | Last Journal: Saturday March 29, @01:33PM)

Pah! Mice are for weanies who learned computers in the 90's.

(I use Alt-Left Arrow)
you're right (Score:1)
by Anubis350 (772791) on Wednesday October 20, @12:09PM (#10576908)
he does

But private space flight is an area where I wear a different hat (or helmet).

he's obviously wearing his tinfoil hat.....
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:3, Informative)
by Phroggy (441) * <slashdot1@@@phroggy...com> on Wednesday October 20, @01:14PM (#10577845)
(http://phroggy.com/)
C'mon Neal...you should know slashdotters better than that. We don't hit the back button, we use mouse gestures.

And you should know that despite the hype and rhetoric, most Slashdotters run Internet Explorer on Windows.

But yeah, like other people said.. keyboard navigation all the way. Command-left arrow in Safari for me.
Offtopic:Slashdot Users (Score:1)
by Handpaper (566373) on Thursday October 21, @08:14PM (#10594212)
And you should know that despite the hype and rhetoric, most Slashdotters run Internet Explorer on Windows.

Funny you should say that...
About a week ago, the link in my sig was a relevant to a discussion, so I pointed this out, and lo, the site's traffic went up by c.1000%.
The site is....well, go and have a look and you'll see. The point is, I build and admin the site, so I have access to the logs. And it's always nice to see a traffic spike. It's something you can spend time admiring. And analysing.
F'rinstance, Slashdotters come from all over the World, from (in this case) Japan to Finland, but of those leaving trails in this log, about half are at college/university in the US, and have domains ending in .edu. Five have IP addresses that do not resolve (I'm sure that's a violation of RFC something-or-other)
The (semi-)relevant bit, however, is that over 70% of accesses were by non-IE browsers, with Mozilla at the top of the list. I guess that's what happens when Microsoft's own staff recommend it.

P.S. Kudos to the Slashdotter surfing from a WAP-phone in Holland :)

Re:Slashdot Users (Score:1)
by Paradise Pete (33184) <listcatcher@fastm[ ].fm ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday October 24, @09:49PM (#10617729)
(Last Journal: Friday May 21, @04:34PM)
most Slashdotters run Internet Explorer on Windows.

And I suspect that group is highly correlated with the group that posts the step 3 profit and overlord jokes, thinking they're hilarious.

Re:Slashdot Users (Score:2)
by arose (644256) <artis@aaa.apollo.lv> on Wednesday October 20, @03:13PM (#10579161)
(http://arose.hopto.org/)
I'd assume their is a fair porttion of tab closing.
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:2)
by k12linux (627320) on Thursday October 21, @12:16PM (#10589189)
Here's a vote for Ctrl+W (close tab)
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:2)
by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Wednesday October 20, @04:16PM (#10579908)
(http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Thursday February 21, @04:37PM)
I just say "Browser Back."

looser. ;)
Re:Slashdot Users (Score:1)
by bob beta (778094) on Wednesday October 20, @09:11PM (#10582198)
I just gather up the big tail of yellow teletype paper streaming over and behind the terminal and scan back with my eyes.
C'mon dude (Score:3, Insightful)
by apankrat (314147) on Wednesday October 20, @05:49PM (#10580869)
(http://swapped.cc/)
C'mon Neal...you should know slashdotters better than that. We don't hit the back button, we use mouse gestures.

C'mon, dude...you should know slashdotters better than that. We can't use mouse gestures, because we have carpal tunnel syndrom.

Re:Slashdot Users (Score:2)
by cheesybagel (670288) on Wednesday October 20, @11:15PM (#10582913)
Well, I certainly would hit the back button. I see Neal continues his usual verbose self. Phewww...

After I finished reading Cryptonomicon (which I affectionately call "the phonebook"), I decided not to read a Neal Stephenson book again. The story was good. But all those wasted pages! I could have cut that book to a fifth its size and there would have been no real loss in plot. Just think about the poor trees man...

Yes people, I'm saying this tongue in cheek.

Re:Slashdot Users (Score:2)
by Wraithlyn (133796) on Thursday October 21, @02:36PM (#10591102)
Oh get with the times. I middle-clicked the new tab I opened. Navigating "Back" to anything is soooo 2002. ;D
Superb (Score:5, Interesting)
by kalidasa (577403) * on Wednesday October 20, @11:35AM (#10576529)
(Last Journal: Saturday September 04, @09:24AM)
The best interview with a writer I've read in a long time. I have never read any of Stephenson's books (only "In the Beginning was the Command Line"), but will run out and buy the three Baroque cycle books.
Re:Superb (Score:5, Funny)
by ideatrack (702667) on Wednesday October 20, @11:48AM (#10576666)
will run out and buy the three Baroque cycle books

Run? I thought people who read Slashdot more sort of...waddled...
Re:Superb (Score:5, Funny)
by Have Blue (616) on Wednesday October 20, @12:11PM (#10576929)
(http://slashdot.org/)
By "run out" he means "Open a new browser window and type 'amazon'".
Re:Superb (Score:2, Insightful)
by drpentode (586437) on Wednesday October 20, @01:30PM (#10578038)
(http://www.pentodelabs.com/)
Don't you mean a new tab? ;)
Re:Superb (Score:2)
by kalidasa (577403) * on Wednesday October 20, @01:46PM (#10578235)
(Last Journal: Saturday September 04, @09:24AM)
Nope, I mean bricks&mortar. I want to read them NOW.
Re:Superb (Score:1)
by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Wednesday October 20, @03:22PM (#10579277)
(Last Journal: Sunday September 29, @11:21AM)
They're 800 pages each. "NOW" may take a few days.
Re:Superb (Score:2)
by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Wednesday October 20, @04:46PM (#10580254)
(Last Journal: Friday January 02, @07:40AM)
Seriously, you might want to just buy Quicksilver and see how you like it. Or try Quicksilver and one of his older sf books.

The Baroque cycle hasn't been everyone's cup of tea, though I've loved it so far (I've read Quicksilver and am partway through The Confusion).
Re:Superb (Score:2)
by Ed_Moyse (171820) on Thursday October 21, @04:30AM (#10584325)
(http://hepwww.ph.qmw.ac.uk/~moyse/index.html)
Read Snow Crash. That is excellent.
Re:Superb (Score:2)
by WhiteDragon (4556) on Tuesday October 26, @12:15PM (#10632328)
(https://dawgchain.at/ | Last Journal: Thursday September 23, @03:40PM)
yes, snow crash was pretty cool. I liked the main character's business card. I think though, that my favorite is still Cryptonomicon, althouth Diamond Age was also really good.
Re:Superb (Score:1)
by Raunch (191457) on Wednesday October 20, @02:41PM (#10578847)
By "window" he means tab.
Re:Superb (Score:1)
by slapout (93640) on Wednesday October 20, @08:09PM (#10581856)
I thought we were still mad at amazon.com for the 1-click patent. :-)

That reminds me...i have to go there and check on my order...
Re:Superb (Score:2)
by KnightStalker (1929) <hoffmanj@pacifier.com> on Wednesday October 20, @12:31PM (#10577265)
(http://slashdot.org/)
Particularly when attempting to carry those books!
Re:Superb (Score:2)
by gamgee5273 (410326) on Wednesday October 20, @02:14PM (#10578569)
(http://www.geemu.com/ | Last Journal: Friday June 11, @05:23PM)
Yes, one does tend to waddle when pushing a wheelbarrow...
Re:Superb (Score:5, Funny)
by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday October 20, @12:48PM (#10577475)
> > will run out and buy the three Baroque cycle books
>
> Run? I thought people who read Slashdot more sort of...waddled...

"Some people have told me they don't think a fat penguin really embodies the grace of Linux, which just tells me they have never seen a angry penguin charging at them in excess of 100mph. They'd be a lot more careful about what they say if they had."
- Linus Torvalds

Re:Superb (Score:2)
by NanoGator (522640) on Wednesday October 20, @02:23PM (#10578677)
(http://www.ferion.net/ | Last Journal: Monday May 06, @02:16AM)
"Run? I thought people who read Slashdot more sort of...waddled..."

Some of us stay in shape running from jocks.
Re:Superb (Score:1)
by tepples (727027) <tepplesatslashdot@pineight.com> on Wednesday October 20, @10:45PM (#10582707)
(http://www.pineight.com/gba/ | Last Journal: Sunday July 18, @03:10AM)

Run? I thought people who read Slashdot more sort of...waddled...

I read Slashdot and play DDR competently. Does that make me not "people"?

Re:Superb (Score:5, Interesting)
by Txiasaeia (581598) on Wednesday October 20, @11:55AM (#10576739)
With respect to Mr. Stephenson, you might do better to find a copy of _Snow Crash_. Not that the Baroque cycle isn't entertaining, but Snow Crash is far, far superior.
Re:Superb (Score:1)
by FuzzzyLogik (592766) * on Wednesday October 20, @12:06PM (#10576841)
(http://www.unlogikal.net/)
not to mention the uh... encyclopedia like volumes each of the trilogy books compare to. i think it's like 2400 pages all together. unless you've got a lot of time on your hands pick something smaller :) i have all 3 books myself but haven't picked them up to read yet, waiting for the semester to get over with before i start running into those books, i'd like to avoid them without long interuptions between reading.

every one of his books i have read have been interesting so try to enjoy it they're fun reads.
Re:Superb (Score:3, Funny)
by Madcapjack (635982) on Wednesday October 20, @07:28PM (#10581595)
(http://half.ebay.com...sp?seller_id=1235593)
Try not picking it up to read it. Best to have it set on a table, so that you only have to lift one page at a time. e=humor
Re:Superb (Score:1)
by TheGreatGraySkwid (553871) on Wednesday October 20, @01:36PM (#10578109)
(http://www.thehumblest.net/)
I'm going to agree and disagree.

I agree with the reccomendation to start with Snow Crash. It's, by far, the better beginner book to Stephenson's style.

But the Baroque Cycle is superior to Snow Crash in almost every regard. It has better characterization, more consistent plotting, and more thoroughly thought out digressionary material. As a bonus, it can teach you a little something about history and economics. The only areas where Snow Crash surpasses the Baroque Cycle are in humor and setting, and these only barely.

Stephenson's finesse as a writer has only continued to improve over the years, and Snow Crash is very much an "early in career" book. There are aspects of it that practically shout that, IMO, and it's not really a good thing. The Baroque Cycle is *not* as easy of a read, but it's a much more mature novel by a much more mature author.

So, by all means, start with Snow Crash. But don't be surprised when things get better (and more complicated) as you continue exploring Stephenson's creations...
Re:Superb (Score:5, Interesting)
by gamgee5273 (410326) on Wednesday October 20, @02:21PM (#10578646)
(http://www.geemu.com/ | Last Journal: Friday June 11, @05:23PM)
A lot of us would disagree. I personally find that Stephenson grows as a writer with each book. Snow Crash was a good story, yes, but Cryptonomicon and the Baroque cycle are examples of strong writing.

I loved Snow Crash when I was 21. I like it now that I'm 31, but my respect for Stephenson as an author comes from his past four novels, not SC.

Re:Superb (Score:2)
by Madcapjack (635982) on Wednesday October 20, @07:21PM (#10581561)
(http://half.ebay.com...sp?seller_id=1235593)
Look, I liked Cryptonomicon, it was a pretty good book- and maybe the prose is a little more polished than his earlier work- but I still think Snow Crash is better- it was an original, while Cryptonomicon was, well, sorta conventional (good, but...conventional) (Sorry Neal, I think your essays are brilliant).
Re:Superb (Score:2)
by gamgee5273 (410326) on Wednesday October 20, @08:48PM (#10582081)
(http://www.geemu.com/ | Last Journal: Friday June 11, @05:23PM)
Conventional? How?

Or is it because it isn't "true" Science Fiction (even though the argument can easily be made that it is)?

I would argue that Snow Crash was a very conventional post-cyberpunk SF novel. If you had said Neuromancer was an original, I would have to completely agree. But Snow Crash? I have to heartily disagree with that.

Re:Superb (Score:2)
by Madcapjack (635982) on Wednesday October 20, @11:11PM (#10582891)
(http://half.ebay.com...sp?seller_id=1235593)
In another post, I compared Snow Crash and Neuromancer, saying that I thought that Snow Crash was on par with Neuromancer, only funnier.

Yes, Snow Crash is very in-line with the cyberpunk thing, but, I call it original because I think that the approach it took to cyberpunk was original. But that is only my opinion.

As I said, I enjoyed Cryptinomicon (is it really SciFi though? and how?), but I thought that it was in-line with a very common approach to sci-fi narrative, and to other fiction as well- it is something I have been giving thought to for a few weeks now, but still have a hard time expressing: what exactly this approach I'm talking about is...unfortunately, I'm not able to really state what it is (i'm not copping out, I'm just stating my inability to describe this common approach that I'm thinking of, or that I half recognize when I read a new sci-fi novel- I don't expect you to take too much stock in my undescribed 'feelings'!).

Some of my favorite sci-fi is not so much sci-fi in the classic sense: e.g. A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, and The Gold Coast by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Re:Superb (Score:2, Insightful)
by bob beta (778094) on Wednesday October 20, @09:14PM (#10582209)
I personally find that Stephenson grows as a writer with each book.

I like The Big U best.

No, I am not kidding. No, I am not trolling.

The two psuedonym books are good, too. Can't remember their titles.
Re:Superb (Score:2)
by hymie3 (187934) on Thursday October 21, @02:35PM (#10591091)
I loved Snow Crash when I was 21. I like it now that I'm 31, but my respect for Stephenson as an author comes from his past four novels, not SC.

Yes! You've hit it exactly! I tell people that Snow Crash is fun whereas Cryptonomicon is good.

I'm currently re-reading his canon and the writing gets better and better. More verbose, yes, but also much more tight.

Anyhoo, "loved it at 21, like it at 31" is how I can describe a lot of SF. Thanks for the comment (which I'll be using liberally now).
Re:Superb (Score:3, Insightful)
by gamgee5273 (410326) on Wednesday October 20, @06:04PM (#10580992)
(http://www.geemu.com/ | Last Journal: Friday June 11, @05:23PM)
Methinks someone needs to read a bit more. Have you actually read all of the books, or does their size scare you?

Just because a book is long, Jethro, doesn't mean it's not good.

Personally, and speaking as someone who has edited magazines and a few short books: Snow Crash was in dire need of better editing. Like I said: strong book if you're 21. Not so strong once you've grown up.

Re:Superb (Score:1)
by hexgrid (595569) on Wednesday October 20, @03:17PM (#10579200)

Naw, Snow Crash is kid stuff compared to the Baroque Cycle.

Re:Superb (Score:1)
by Felonious Ham (709958) on Wednesday October 20, @03:55PM (#10579681)
(http://zclipse.org/)
I have to disagree. I loved the Cryptonomicon (which I read first), but found Snow Crash... juvenile. My friends adored the book so I read it to page 100, then gave it back (and this is knowing that that "ultimate badass" passage was coming up--hilarious in the retelling). It probably has more to do with my disinterest in the cyberpunk genre in general, but Crypto is far and away his best and most accessible book (I'm midway through Quicksilver).
Re:Superb (Score:2)
by NickFusion (456530) on Wednesday October 20, @04:28PM (#10580070)
(http://www.chromecow.com/)
I just finished "The System of the World" this morning, and I'm filled with saddness that there is no more left to read.

An awesome set of books. I'm ready for the next three, 1845-1900.

Shaftoes in the old west. I can dream, can't I?
Re:Superb (Score:1)
by stryder22204 (824198) on Thursday October 21, @01:14PM (#10590138)
(http://www.ralphcrawford.org/)
I disagree. I liked both of these better than either Snow Crash or Diamond Age (though I admittedly read Snow Crash pretty late in the game, well after the Internet had been established). The technology in DA is still cutting edge though. Outside of Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle (I'm 2/3 of the way through BC) I don't think I've ever read anything that had so many stand up and cheer moments. I read selected passages out loud to my wife or whoever else is around. Once I finished Cryptonomicon it became my favorite book of all time, but so far it looks like BC will eclipse it, in terms of breadth, depth and high ass kicking quotient.
SnowCrash (Score:5, Informative)
by mekkab (133181) on Wednesday October 20, @11:57AM (#10576761)
(http://apl.jhu.edu/~mekkab | Last Journal: Thursday November 04, @12:42PM)
Start with snowcrash,
but my wife and I actually prefer "The Diamond Age"
Eco-thriller (Score:5, Interesting)
by Scrameustache (459504) on Wednesday October 20, @01:02PM (#10577683)
(http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Tuesday December 24, @12:08AM)
Depending on the sort of person I'm aiming my book-recommendation-gun at, I sometimes use Zodiac as the payload, if the person is not a True Geek. It takes place in a modern city and keeps the sci-fi stuff to a managable level for "normal" people.
Also, its a damn good book, and short too.

The Baroque cycle is for freaks whith good wrist, to support the huge weight of its massive volumes. Snowcrash and Diamond Age are for science fiction afficionados, Cryptonomicon is for engineers and Lord of the Rings fans.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've just been made aware that perfecting the Red Lotus incantations would not suffice to bring down my target... how foolish I've been. Back to the dojo!
the hardcover baroque cycle (Score:4, Interesting)
by k2enemy (555744) on Wednesday October 20, @08:09PM (#10581853)
(http://jahana.com/)
The Baroque cycle is for freaks whith good wrist, to support the huge weight of its massive volumes.

this may sound weird, but i think the roughcut hardcover edition of the baroque cycle books are physically the nicest books i've ever held. everything from the paper texture and weight to how easily the books sit flat on a table while open.

Re:the hardcover baroque cycle (by Chairman Mao) (Score:1)
by loudmouth (661510) on Friday October 22, @12:44AM (#10595625)
We can learn what we did not know. We are not only good at destroying the old world, we are also good at building the new.
Re:SnowCrash (Score:2)
by Speare (84249) on Wednesday October 20, @01:21PM (#10577944)
(http://www.halley.cc/ed/)

Though it's not official, I like to think of Zodiac, Snow Crash and Diamond Age as a trilogy; as if each one is a generation apart in the same timeline. There's even a hint that SC and DA are intended that way, with a character that seems to overlap.

Re:SnowCrash (Score:2)
by WhiteDragon (4556) on Tuesday October 26, @12:19PM (#10632367)
(https://dawgchain.at/ | Last Journal: Thursday September 23, @03:40PM)
There's even a hint that SC and DA are intended that way, with a character that seems to overlap.
What character is that? I may have to go back and re-read DA now...
Re:SnowCrash (Score:2)
by jafac (1449) on Wednesday October 20, @04:03PM (#10579789)
(http://slashdot.org/)
I've been reading for years here on /. about how cool Neal Stephenson is, and how great his books are, etc. I was motivated to read Diamond Age first (because I couldn't find the copy of Snow Crash that I *know* I bought, years ago, but squirrelled away somewhere) - then, when I figured out it was my WIFE who squirrelled it away, I found Snow Crash, and I'm reading that, and when I'm done with that, I'll move on to Cryptonomicon - it's really been YEARS since I've been able to take the time to read some fiction on my own time.

That said - I'm finding Snow Crash to be a big disappointment, compared to the Diamond Age. And not just because Cyberpunk, as a genre is passe now. There's just something. . . less mature, about Snow Crash. I was *very* impressed with Diamond Age. As I have not yet cracked the cover of Cryptonomicon, I remain desperately intimindated by it's girth. As I'm also reading aloud, JK Rowling's latest work to my kids, I think I'll finish up that effort with a tad more self-confidence on "big books". After all, back in the day, I read Godel, Escher, Bach - for sheer pleasure. So I doubt Cryptonomicon can really do me in.
Re:SnowCrash (Score:2)
by EvilSporkMan (648878) on Wednesday October 20, @04:37PM (#10580164)
Cryptonomicon reads like Hitchhiker. Think of it like reading the entire Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, only NEW.
Re:SnowCrash (Score:2)
by Nightpaw (18207) <jesse.uchicago@edu> on Wednesday October 20, @08:18PM (#10581905)
(http://www.flywheel.org/)
And not quite as many laugh-out-loud bits, but a more coherent plot. Though Organ (Waterhouse goes to Church) might be the best chapter ever written.
Re:SnowCrash (Score:2)
by Greg W. (15623) on Thursday October 21, @08:04AM (#10585280)
(http://wooledge.org/~greg/)
After all, back in the day, I read Godel, Escher, Bach - for sheer pleasure. So I doubt Cryptonomicon can really do me in.

Those two books actually overlap quite a bit. You'll see a lot of references to GEB material in Cryptonomicon. Whether Neal used GEB as research material when writing Cryptonomicon, I can't say... but it certainly seems like it to me.
Re:SnowCrash (Score:2)
by jsebrech (525647) on Wednesday October 20, @05:04PM (#10580428)
Definitely the diamond age. The more nanotech advances, the more it seems like a near-perfect prediction of what the future will be like.

Imho, the reason stephenson reads better to non-geeks than most sci-fi is because he comprehends (consciously or not) a novel is first and foremost about the people. A lot of sci-fi writers don't seem to understand books must reveal a slice of humanity first, technology wizardry second. They write one-dimensional characters you have a hard time caring about, and if you're not interested in the technology, they're insanely boring.

Incidentally, this is why the star wars prequels suck, the George Lucas model III android had a memory malfunction in between the original trilogy and the new one, and it forgot the part of making movies where you require believable characters that people care about.
Re:Diamond Age (Score:3, Insightful)
by ajs (35943) <ajs@ajs.com> on Wednesday October 20, @01:34PM (#10578096)
(http://www.ajs.com/~ajs/ | Last Journal: Sunday October 24, @09:33AM)
except for the lame ending.

I've written my thoughts on Stephenson's endings here before, but let me re-state: he's a very bright man, and like most of his ilk, is obviously very easily distracted. This leads to the sorts of endings that make it feel like he's left the room.

That said, you get more out of the first 90% of a Stephenson book than you do with almost all modern fiction (there are exceptions, and they're ALL worth reading, and many suffer from the same problem). Personally, I find his insights on topics ranging from nanotechnology to pipe organs useful enough to warrant suffering his endings. I even hear that the Baroque Cycle marks his first set of good endings, and I look forward to getting my copy of Quicksilver back to find out ;-)

YMMV, but I find that true insight into maters of modern technology and society are rare. This is why I grasp onto authors like Vernor Vinge and Neil Stephenson. They're the bards of our age, and we should listen and learn what we have taught them.
smart and good endings (Score:1)
by Random_Goblin (781985) on Wednesday October 20, @11:23PM (#10582978)
I have yet to pick up one of mr Stephenson's books, (have made note to self to pick some up next shop) but on the subject of poor endings, may i recommend anything by Iain M Banks [amazon.com].

I don't see his name floated on slashdot that often, so i suspect he isn't quite as big in the states as perhaps he deserves to be.

his Culture novels are a joy to read, and his story telling is state of the art. His books are strong throughout, and are crafted as a whole, none of the 90% syndrome that quite a lot of other science fiction i've read suffers from.

he has a rare talent for pacing and suprise. He is particuarly fond of starting a story in the middle, showing the history at the same time as advancing the plot, and of course it is only when we discover exactly how the path began, that we fully appreciate where the plot has ended up (quite often in a radically different place than we had assumed).
Re:Diamond Age (Score:1)
by Remillard (67835) on Wednesday October 20, @03:26PM (#10579319)
(http://mnorton.chaosnet.org/)
...except for the lame ending.

Frankly, I thought the ending for The Diamond Age was just fine. The entire book was about connections in all variations (strength, importance of, breaking, etc). The final scene is the last and most important connection between Nell and Miranda and nothing more needs to be said. Mother and daughter (albeit in a non-traditional fashion) are reunited. I don't think Nell would appreciate melodramatic nonsense to appease those who wanted a little more.
Re:Diamond Age (Score:1)
by Wtcher (312395) <nospambirdy@ultima-dragons.org> on Friday October 22, @10:34PM (#10606461)
(http://www.udic.org/)
Perhaps, but I recall that there were a number of threads that were left untied... such as her mouse army.

It was a rather good book - but I do agree that the ending left a bit to be desired.
"Me too" to sibling posts (Score:2)
by wurp (51446) on Wednesday October 20, @12:07PM (#10576858)
(http://www.magicosm.net/)
I see responses to you suggesting Snow Crash and Diamond Age. I would like to second (or third, or nth, or whatever) those suggestions. The baroque cycle books are good, but SC and DA (aka A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer) are much better.
Re:Superb (Score:1)
by Thwyx (137997) on Wednesday October 20, @12:18PM (#10577054)
Don't read the Baroque cycle as your introduction to his works...they are atypical of his style, and may turn you away from some of the fantastic storytelling in Snow Crash and Diamond Age. My particular favorite is Cryptonomicon.
Re:Superb (Score:2)
by ideonode (163753) on Wednesday October 20, @12:53PM (#10577543)
Respectfully disagree. Given that the Baroque Cycle represents nearly 2400 pages of his corpus, I'd say it is certainly not atypical of his style at all.

And given that you think that Cryptonomicon is your favorite, I'm surprised you haven't noticed the stylistic and thematic cross-overs between it and the Baroque Cycle volumes.

Whilst the Baroque cycle might not be a good introduction to his works if you're a SF fan, I'd say they're certainly readable to a general lay audience. They're superb pieces of historical fiction which develop and progress the style and content of his earlier works.
Re:Superb (Score:1)
by SidV (800332) <slash@sidv.org> on Wednesday October 20, @01:32PM (#10578068)
"I'm surprised you haven't noticed the stylistic and thematic cross-overs between it and the Baroque Cycle volumes"

Specially considering they are predescesors to Cryptonimicon (in story, ot in when written) But listen to everyone else. Pick up anything but "the Baroque Cycle" or "The Big U" as your introduction to him. The first book in the the Baroque Cycle is particularly difficult to read. The Big U could have been great, but he hadn't worked his style out yet. Everything else is great.
Re:Superb (Score:2)
by ScuzzMonkey (208981) on Wednesday October 20, @05:02PM (#10580411)
(http://slashdot.org/)
Funny you'd say that, since Cryptonomicon is far closer to the Baroque Cycle style than to SC or DA. I liked them all, but I've always (at odds with the majority, obviously) felt that Snow Crash is one of his weakest works. It's got a lot of good bits and pieces in it, but they never seem to all add up to a great story the way most of the rest of his books do.

I also particularly like his works under the Stephen Bury pen-name, and I think those are pretty close to his Baroque cycle style, too. I tend to view Snow Crash and Diamond Age as the outliers, and the rest as "his style" if there is such a thing.

Re:Superb (Score:2)
by contagious_d (807463) on Wednesday October 20, @12:19PM (#10577069)
(Last Journal: Saturday September 04, @12:42PM)
Everyone seems to be saying "get Snow Crash", I would say just go ahead and buy them all, it might save you some shipping and handling costs if you get them all shipped in one box rather than ordering one now and then buying everything else he wrote five hours after Snow Crash arrives.
Re:Superb (Score:1)
by yeah_right (137209) on Wednesday October 20, @01:26PM (#10577997)
(http://www.sparetimecomp.com)
Zodiac and Cryptonomicon (sp?) are my favorites books of his. But you really can't go wrong with any of them.
Re:Superb (Score:2)
by Prof.Phreak (584152) on Wednesday October 20, @01:59PM (#10578410)
(http://www.thepartic...reak/profphreak.html)
/me recommends Snow Crash as the first book (then Cryptonomicon)---the Boroque Cycle tends to get a bit looooong after a very short while.
Re:Superb (Score:2)
by Greg W. (15623) on Thursday October 21, @08:09AM (#10585338)
(http://wooledge.org/~greg/)
/me recommends Snow Crash as the first book (then Cryptonomicon)---the Boroque Cycle tends to get a bit looooong after a very short while.

Ironically, that's a very good review. "If you speak in IRCisms on a web forum, and can't spell 'Baroque', then you probably won't like Stephenson's latest trilogy."

That sums it up pretty well.

(Disclaimer: I haven't read The System of the World yet; I've only read the first two books of that trilogy.)
Re:Superb (Score:1)
by n54 (807502) on Wednesday October 20, @03:59PM (#10579742)
(http://slashdot.org/~n54/journal | Last Journal: Monday October 18, @07:25PM)
You really should try Cryptonomicon first and foremost (and pick up some of those writeable adhesive strip bookmarks as well to "index" the interesting parts for research).
Re:Superb (Score:2)
by Madcapjack (635982) on Wednesday October 20, @07:17PM (#10581537)
(http://half.ebay.com...sp?seller_id=1235593)
I haven't read the Baroque cycle, so I can't precisely say, but I would suggest that you start with Snow Crash. Its the best cyber punk novel I've ever read, at least on par with Neuromancer (but wittier).
Cryptonomicon (Score:2)
by ink (4325) * on Thursday October 21, @12:11AM (#10583246)
(http://www.isu.edu/~kellcrai)
Start with Cryptonomicon; it is brilliant. I had Neal sign a paperback at USENIX 2003. I felt like a heel, having him sign a paperback, but... it's an incredible read.
Hang on... (Score:5, Funny)
by rde (17364) * on Wednesday October 20, @11:35AM (#10576538)
(http://robertelliott.org/)
He pulled off his wireless mike and began to whirl it around his head

But, but... it's a wireless mike.

You know, I'm beginning to suspect that that whole answer might have had a little embellishment in it.
Re:Hang on... (Score:1)
by turboflux (781551) on Wednesday October 20, @11:39AM (#10576584)
Wireless mics aren't completely wireless (most of the time?). They are wired to a battery/transmitter pack that clips to your belt.
Re:Hang on... (Score:1)
by Golias (176380) on Wednesday October 20, @01:50PM (#10578290)
No, most of the time the transmitter and the battery compartment are built into the handle.

It's generally only the little condenser mics that you wear on a headset or clip to your lapel which need the transmitter to be in a separate box.

P.S. I noticed that you and the parent of your post used alternate spellings. Just for the record, both "mic" and "mike" are correct. One is a more clear abbreviation, the other is more clear to pronounce. Which one you use is a matter of taste. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise.
Re:Hang on... (Score:2)
by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Wednesday October 20, @04:58PM (#10580382)
(Last Journal: Friday January 02, @07:40AM)
He pulled off his wireless mike and began to whirl it around his head


No, most of the time the transmitter and the battery compartment are built into the handle.

It's generally only the little condenser mics that you wear on a headset or clip to your lapel which need the transmitter to be in a separate box.


By implication it's a lapel mic, since it's "pulled off". One doesn't wear a hand held microphone.

P.S. I noticed that you and the parent of your post used alternate spellings. Just for the record, both "mic" and "mike" are correct. One is a more clear abbreviation, the other is more clear to pronounce. Which one you use is a matter of taste. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

Gee, Mr. Golias, thanks for the seal of approval. The world has been a better place since you appointed yourself. . . whatever it was that you appointed yourself. Anyway, thanks for clearing that up about alternate spellings. Who knew?
Re:Hang on... (Score:5, Funny)
by karmaflux (148909) on Wednesday October 20, @11:40AM (#10576587)
(http://www.madleet.net/)
No, I was there. My father lost his life at Kane Hall. It was a wireless mic in that there was a tiny bud attached to his lapel. A wire ran from that to a box clipped to his belt behind him.

He killed eight civilians with that damn monofilament microphone.
Re:Hang on... (Score:2)
by Kristoffer Lunden (800757) on Wednesday October 20, @06:02PM (#10580975)
He killed eight civilians with that damn monofilament microphone.

And that's what I call REAL Ultimate Power!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Re:Hang on... (Score:2)
by kigrwik (462930) on Wednesday October 20, @11:58AM (#10576784)
> But, but... it's a wireless mike.

Use the Force, Luke.
Re:Hang on... (Score:1)
by HitScan (180399) on Wednesday October 20, @12:01PM (#10576809)
We've got a wireless lavalier mic here, but there's a cable from the actual mic to the wireless transmitter. I may have to swing it around today. :D
Re:Hang on... (Score:5, Informative)
by Rasmus (740) on Wednesday October 20, @12:13PM (#10576984)
(http://www.php.net/)
Having spoken with hundreds of these over the years, I can tell you that they make a fine weapon. And you can indeed swing them by their wire. The wireless part is between you and the receiver. What I think Neal meant was the kind where you have a little clip-on with a wire down to the transmitter typically stuffed into your pocket or clipped onto your belt. Swing that box full of heavy batteries with a bit of gumption and you have yourself a weapon.
Re:Hang on... (Score:1)
by neuroslime (304931) on Wednesday October 20, @02:47PM (#10578895)
I think it's the kind of wireless mic that has a wire running down to a transmitter. Ha!
suspicious? (Score:1)
by LordMyren (15499) on Wednesday October 20, @03:26PM (#10579317)
(http://www.alienintels.com/)
nothing suspicious about that at all. get yours here [nokia.com].
Re:Hang on... (Score:2, Funny)
by Remillard (67835) on Wednesday October 20, @03:31PM (#10579392)
(http://mnorton.chaosnet.org/)
>> He pulled off his wireless mike and began to whirl it around his head

> But, but... it's a wireless mike.

> You know, I'm beginning to suspect that that whole answer might have had a little embellishment in it.

Well your basic credulity aside, there is a long tradition of this sort of internally inconsistent narrative embellishment.

Observe Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe who strips naked, swims out to the shipwreck, and fills his pockets with all the necessities he requires.
Re:Hang on... (Score:2)
by uradu (10768) on Wednesday October 20, @04:12PM (#10579867)
> Observe Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe who strips naked,
> swims out to the shipwreck, and fills his pockets with
> all the necessities he requires.

After being stranded on an island and losing a lot of weight due to malnutrition, you too will develop pockets where there were none before.
Re:Hang on... (Score:1)
by Al Al Cool J (234559) on Wednesday October 20, @08:32PM (#10581991)
there is a long tradition of this sort of internally inconsistent narrative embellishment.

Observe Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe who strips naked, swims out to the shipwreck, and fills his pockets with all the necessities he requires.
According to Project Gutenberg, the passages from Robinson Crusoe are:
I resolved, if possible, to get to the ship; so I pulled off my clothes - for the weather was hot to extremity - and took the water.
and a few lines later:
And, first, I found that all the ship's provisions were dry and untouched by the water, and being very well disposed to eat, I went to the bread room and filled my pockets with biscuit, and ate it as I went about other things, for I had no time to lose.
This is not necessarily inconsistent narrative. According to Letterman's Lemma, there are alway at least 10 explanations for everything. Hence:

Top 10 Explanations for the Robinson Crusoe Pocket Reference

10. Trivially, if he has no pockets, then it is very easy for him to fill them.
9. As another poster suggested, they were folds of skin in his emaciated body.
8. He meant his cheek pockets. In other words he filled his face with biscuit.
7. He found some dry clothes along with the provisions.
6. He took off his clothes on the beach, but then carried them with him.
5. He only took off some of his clothes and had pockets in his undergarments.
4. He's a kangaroo. Oh it's pockets . OK, two Kangaroos.
3. He happened to be carrying a billiard table.
2. Filled my pockets with biscuit is actually an old colloquialism for shit myself.

And the number one explanation:

1. It was a bread room. Obviously they were pita pockets.

Re:Hang on... (Score:2)
by abhinavnath (157483) on Wednesday October 20, @04:21PM (#10579978)
I'm a TA for a course that meets in Kane Hall this quarter. I can verify that the Kane Hall wireless mike is, in fact, a lapel mike tethered to a transmitter clipped onto your belt.

Very useful for subduing undergrad biochemistry students...
Re:Hang on... (Score:2)
by himself (66589) on Thursday October 21, @08:44AM (#10585847)
This answer reminded me of the "Jesus vs. Spider Man" USENET post which I rediscovered saved on an old jaz disk last weekend, and which I am pleased to find is still online:
        http://www.sadinoff.com/fun/quotes/xvy.txt (Or look for rec.arts.comics.xbooks on May 11, 1995 in Google groups.)
Great-Even more to think about! (Score:1)
by sobriquet (666716) on Wednesday October 20, @11:36AM (#10576549)
I am in the process of reading all of his works. Digesting his responses here will probably set me back a week! It is nice to see such thoughtful, well constructed answers.
My father lost his life at Kane Hall. (Score:5, Funny)
by karmaflux (148909) on Wednesday October 20, @11:37AM (#10576558)
(http://www.madleet.net/)
5/14 NEVER FORGET America has declared war on science fiction writers!
Re:My father lost his life at Kane Hall. (Score:5, Funny)
by Xofer D (29055) on Wednesday October 20, @12:05PM (#10576836)
(http://localhost/)
5/14 NEVER FORGET America has declared war on science fiction writers!
I'm afraid you misunderstand the current state of US foreign policy. The group "science fiction writers" is a tangible group. It is possible to round up science fiction writers and shoot them. This is not consistent with current policy.

Instead, the USA must declare war on something intangible, like Science Fiction - or better, to declare war on the abstract concept Science. This is much more consistent with the way things are done in the USA these days.

Re:My father lost his life at Kane Hall. (Score:5, Funny)
by karmaflux (148909) on Wednesday October 20, @12:23PM (#10577132)
(http://www.madleet.net/)
I'm afraid you misunderstand the current state of my policy. The group "people who suck all the joy out of a simple joke" is a tangible group. It is desireable to round up people who suck all the joy out of a simple joke and shoot them.
Re:My father lost his life at Kane Hall. (Score:1)
by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Wednesday October 20, @01:28PM (#10578008)
Whenever you kill one science fiction writer, three pop up to take his place.
Re:My father lost his life at Kane Hall. (Score:5, Funny)
by Hard_Code (49548) on Wednesday October 20, @01:31PM (#10578059)
Yes! War on Science Fiction! And to that end, we must immediately invade the Arts and Crafts Section, which is posing a gathering threat!

sorry, couldn't resist
Cross Stitching! Save me! (Score:2)
by purduephotog (218304) <hirsch@@@inorbit...com> on Wednesday October 20, @04:04PM (#10579795)
(Last Journal: Wednesday August 13, @11:49PM)
Hey! If my GF can't cross stitch anymore, she'll drag me back up to the bedroom. Please oh please don't make her do that- Vote to allow "Cross Stitching" for personal use only. If you don't, I don't know how my prostate will hold up...

*please note needles and scissors should still be banned from planes, wheras sharp metal pens and tubes of metallic epoxy should be allowed
Re:My father lost his life at Kane Hall. (Score:5, Funny)
by Raunch (191457) on Wednesday October 20, @02:46PM (#10578889)
the USA must ... declare war on the abstract concept Science.

I beleive that you are not aware of a certain faction that is currenly in control of the white house.
i.e. global warming isn't real, mercury is the groundwater is good for you.
Lisa The Skeptic (Score:3, Funny)
by Kristoffer Lunden (800757) on Wednesday October 20, @06:30PM (#10581215)
"Science is like a blabbermouth who ruins a movie by telling you how it ends. Well, I say there are some things we don't want to know! Important things!" - Ned Flanders

"I find the defendant not guilty. As for Science vs Religion, I'm issuing a restraining order. Religion must stay 500 yards from Science at all times." - Judge Snyder

Re:My father lost his life at Kane Hall. (Score:1)
by Smilodon (66992) on Wednesday October 20, @01:00PM (#10577657)
I thought that was Canadians, what with the whole Vancouver Island thing and all...

This may also explain the excess of Canadian Sci-Fi writers working underground in the states.
Re:My father lost his life at Kane Hall. (Score:2)
by ahodgson (74077) on Wednesday October 20, @01:48PM (#10578260)
That can be explained by looking at our ludicrous tax rates. Anyone making over $50K whose job allows flexibility of locale should definitely not choose to stay in Canada.
Re:My father lost his life at Kane Hall. (Score:1)
by vsprintf (579676) on Wednesday October 20, @06:49PM (#10581366)
(Last Journal: Saturday October 23, @06:08PM)
They will all be returning for a flu shot, at which time you can capture and tax them.
Great interview... (Score:5, Funny)
by JimDabell (42870) on Wednesday October 20, @11:37AM (#10576561)
(http://www.jimdabell.com/)
...but I hated the last answer.
Re:Great interview... (Score:3, Funny)
by justforaday (560408) on Wednesday October 20, @11:50AM (#10576694)
...but I hated the last answer.

I guess this is right in line with how a lot of people don't like the way Neal ends most things that he writes... : p
Re:Great interview... (Score:5, Interesting)
by ahfoo (223186) on Wednesday October 20, @12:23PM (#10577147)
(Last Journal: Friday April 04, @12:49AM)
I thought the same thing. I really enjoyed the answers. It was genuinely a pleasure to read up until the end.
        I was just at one of the giant chain bookstores in town, these have replaced several of the smaller ones that are already gone. They do the overpriced coffee thing and it does have the function as a public space, but I'm not sure this is a long term sustainable business. There were tons of people reading books as though it were a library and the books looked like library books as well, the pages were well thumbed through and most wrapped books had long since been unwrapped. So, it was filled with people, but I noticed that for the few hours I was there practically nobody purchased a thing and the four check-out lanes were occupied by staff chatting amongst themselves. Perhaps they make it up by volume?
        And as for publishers. Well, that seems to have been conveniently skipped over. I mean I happen to have some small publishers in my family and in my experience they're first and foremost precisely about changing books for money and that role is indeed quite threatened by the Net. That's a good thing as far as I'm concnered despite the fact that it means people I love need to get a new business and go through rough times. I still believe it is for the better. It would have been nice to see some more thoughtful reflection on what's really going on here.
        Actually though, that criticism also applies to his lack of originality on the future of money. Money is not such an ancient or impenetrable concept really. There are many many ways to distribute wealth in societies besides paper currency.
        But overall it was quite entertaining.
Re:Great interview... (Score:2)
by drew (2081) on Wednesday October 20, @02:48PM (#10578905)
(http://www.drewandkim.com/)
i think they make up for it with the overpriced coffee. it's like crossing starbucks with the local library.
Re:Great interview... (Score:2)
by mdfst13 (664665) on Wednesday October 20, @03:19PM (#10579236)
"like crossing starbucks with the local library."

My local library already has a Starbucks clone inside.
Publishers and the Net (Score:2)
by reptilicus (605251) on Wednesday October 20, @03:38PM (#10579476)
---And as for publishers. Well, that seems to have been conveniently skipped over. I mean I happen to have some small publishers in my family and in my experience they're first and foremost precisely about changing books for money and that role is indeed quite threatened by the Net---

Actually, publishers make a lot more money selling books directly to customers, rather than going through a reseller like Amazon or a book store. The net is wonderful for this, and Google's new Print function may drive even more buyers to go directly to a publisher's site. A publisher can sell a book to a buyer at a 10% discount and make more money than selling the same book to Amazon for a 25% discount. And the buyer gets the book for 10% less than on Amazon.
Re:Great interview... (Score:2)
by demachina (71715) on Wednesday October 20, @06:17PM (#10581099)
If they are selling a cup of coffee for $4-5 who needs to sell books. Coffee is almost all profit and a lot easier than lugging heavy books from warehouse to reatailer.
Rubbish (Score:2)
by ewe2 (47163) <ewe2 AT aardvark DOT net DOT au> on Thursday October 21, @01:59AM (#10583774)
(http://www.geocities.com/ewe2_au/ | Last Journal: Saturday August 14, @12:02AM)
If it's not too late for moderation, the parent is so ignorant I can only wonder how it was modded up at all unless there is a sea of profound ignorance out there.

Most moans about Neal's endings are primarily about the bits the moaners wanted to hear about and didn't, much like parent. Somehow parent expects a writer to expound on the state of the publishing industry, something that is extremely rare to hear from writers for some very good reasons (hint: career).

Parent doesn't understand the economics of bookshops although parent claims to have spent hours in one doing something mysterious and point to relatives who also apparently don't understand the economics of bookshops. This is apparently Neal's fault too.

Parent has obviously not read the Baroque Cycle or would have realized it is in part about the point at which in Western civilization money went from essentially tangible to essentially intangible. Apart from suggesting a study of economics, I'm not sure what parent expects of money beyond an intangible glue, perhaps credit-chip implants. What would be so original about that?
Shatner he ain't (Score:5, Insightful)
by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, @11:38AM (#10576564)
This has got to be one of the longest interviews on Slashdot. but then again this is the author that used 5 pages to describe a character eating cereal. (captain crunch in Cryptonomicon)
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:5, Funny)
by imsabbel (611519) on Wednesday October 20, @12:12PM (#10576955)
Hah. He has much to learn still.
Robert Jordan could have filled 8 pages, just for the cereal (and another 3 for they texture of those guys shoes)
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:4, Funny)
by keesh (202812) * on Wednesday October 20, @12:40PM (#10577359)
(http://127.0.0.1/)
Robert Jordan could then include the exact same material, give or take a few words, in the sequel, and the third in the series and so on, and he could carry on putting out the same book under a different title over and over again.
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:3, Funny)
by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday October 20, @12:50PM (#10577504)
> Robert Jordan could then include the exact same material, give or take a few words, in the sequel, and the third in the series and so on, and he could carry on putting out the same book under a different title over and over again.

Could be worse.

CRUNCHBERRIES OF GOR!

Because it's the crunchberry's joyous duty to be crushed betwee, oh, fuck it.

Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:2)
by irhtfp (581712) on Thursday October 21, @12:05AM (#10583212)
Wow! Gor!

The first sci-fi-esque book I ever read was Marauders of Gor. Sort of Vikings, slave girls and big foot. Could there be a better starter book for a 13 year-old lust-ridden vat of hormones like myself?

I don't think so!

I thought the series dipped a bit after Tarl Cabot got enslaved but it didn't really jump the shark until Kajira of Gor, which (IIRC) followed a slave girl around and tried to make me sympathize with her plight?!?! Umm, Mr. Norman totally lost his target audience at that point. Sweaty-palmed pimple-faced junior high drones want to OWN the slave girl, not sympathize with her.

I'm just saying.

Of course I understand now that owning women, dressing them in silk, welding on a collar and branding them with a hot iron is wrong.

I know that now.

Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:5, Funny)
by Shadow Wrought (586631) on Wednesday October 20, @12:55PM (#10577585)
(http://slashdot.org/~Shadow%20Wrought/journal | Last Journal: Tuesday November 02, @03:02PM)
Robert Jordan could have filled 8 pages, just for the cereal (and another 3 for they texture of those guys shoes)

All while introducing four new dark friends, five subplot twists, and an Aes Sedai smoothing her dress;-)

Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:2)
by imsabbel (611519) on Wednesday October 20, @03:48PM (#10579593)
Hah. Forgot about the darkfriends...
Every 10 pages there are a few new ones... the first books that really created suspense... But after a while even the dumbest reader notices that the main chars cannot die (they are only beaten and insulted by women because they are trying to save the world), so "more darkfriends" transformed from "more dangerous enemies" to "less guys to care about in case Rands sorcery creates some more friendly fire"...
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:1)
by the grace of R'hllor (530051) on Wednesday October 20, @05:00PM (#10580397)
At least RJ's main characters didn't outlaw fire, the yellowy-orange hot stuff that makes food edible. As some hack's characters did.
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:4, Funny)
by FinalCut (555823) on Wednesday October 20, @10:20PM (#10582581)
Don't forget, she would be sniffing, pulling her hair, or doing something totally obnoxious and condescending toward anyone else while smoothing her dress.... A luxuriant cloth wrapping, whose texture is so soft and luxuriant even a harden warrior of the Stone Dogs might shed a precious tear to think about. The dress, was of course, cut in a style that was once fashionable among the larger houses of Tear, back before the War of the Dragon when Lews Therin tore the world asunder and tainted the male half of the One Power.....[continuing on for 2 pages]...the low cut bodice showed more clevage than typcially appropriate for an Aes Sedai but her green shawl laid seductively over her shoulder obscuring and hinting at what lay beneath. The shawl, fringed yet slightly tattered from the many battles this particular Aes Sadai had faced while at the side of her good, blue, friend So'me Girlwi'pow'er; a formidable Aes Sedai in her own right who will be introduced here so that you, the good reader, might wonder if there is a bit of foreshadowing going on. Of course, there isn't, at least not for anything that will happen in any of the next 7 subsequently shorter in length, yet longer in production, novels of the series. However, when convenient, so that I can string the series, and my fans out even more, I will reintroduce So'me Girlwi'pow'er in book 18 as she comes back as the daughter of the Dark One, a forgotten forsaken that nobody ever really knew about, but now she is a convienient plot element that will help me sell another few million books....[another four pages go on]..and finally the dress is smooth enough for the Aes Sedai to look disdainfully upon you and sniff yet again as she pulls her braid and thinks "Men, such as waste, except for..."...
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:2)
by Shadow Wrought (586631) on Wednesday October 20, @02:13PM (#10578557)
(http://slashdot.org/~Shadow%20Wrought/journal | Last Journal: Tuesday November 02, @03:02PM)
It is pretty amazing just hopw many threads the man has started without actually closing any off. I have enjoyed the books quite a bit, but I am very ready for them to at last come to a (graceful;-) end.
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:2)
by kris_lang (466170) on Wednesday October 20, @02:03PM (#10578453)
Hmm..., Nicholson Baker (Vox, and a few other books too) could have written the whole BOOK on just the cereal eating. Italo Calvino's book would have covered the guy getting ready to pull the cereal box out and all of his internal mental states leading to that moment would have been fully explored. (If On a Winter's Night, A Traveller...) (Se un Notte d'Iverno, un Viagiatorre... i think was the italian title).
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:1)
by digrhino (522369) on Wednesday October 20, @03:52PM (#10579624)
Oh please, that's nothing. Proust filled 6 whole books with what he was thinking about while eating a cookie.
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:2)
by imsabbel (611519) on Wednesday October 20, @04:55PM (#10580351)
Well, at least to do that he has to do SOME kind of thinking...
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:1)
by Col. Panic (90528) on Wednesday October 20, @12:27PM (#10577205)
(http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Thursday March 27, @09:01PM)
and that's a good thing

best. read. ever.
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:3, Funny)
by jgardn (539054) on Wednesday October 20, @12:51PM (#10577521)
(http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Thursday October 28, @05:27PM)
How does a cereal eat characters? I guess I got to get the book. But 5 pages sounds about right to describe a character-eating cereal.
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:2)
by rxmd (205533) on Wednesday October 20, @03:58PM (#10579720)
Just imagine it's Pacman.

Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:2)
by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Wednesday October 20, @05:04PM (#10580427)
(Last Journal: Friday January 02, @07:40AM)
How does a cereal eat characters?

You have to purchase the Soviet Russian translation to find out.
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:4, Insightful)
by DoctorPepper (92269) on Wednesday October 20, @01:13PM (#10577835)
Shatner he ain't

Thank God for small favors! ;-)

This has got to be one of the longest interviews on Slashdot. but then again this is the author that used 5 pages to describe a character eating cereal. (captain crunch in Cryptonomicon)

Perhaps, but it was one of the most intertaining interviews I've read on Slashdot in a long time! :-)
But it was a decent 5 pages (Score:2)
by OmniGeek (72743) on Wednesday October 20, @01:48PM (#10578261)
And more entertaining than many other serials I've eaten (metaphorically speaking)...
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:2)
by Dolly_Llama (267016) on Wednesday October 20, @03:07PM (#10579098)
(http://slashdot.org/)
I couldn't imagine eating serial. With over a hundred pieces in your average bowl, it would get soggy by the time you got to the end.

I much prefer parallelizing at least a spoonful at a time.
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:1)
by mickyD (745546) on Thursday October 21, @10:55AM (#10587860)
I love his answer to the question about critics, it's like reading one of his books. He goes on and on for an interesting read when he could have simply answered, "They don't bother me."
Re:Shatner he ain't (Score:1)
by XJHardware (809439) on Sunday October 31, @09:04AM (#10678492)
Cap'n Crunch!?! The pain! The agony! The sorrow when the roof of your mouth feels like it has been sandblasted!

MMMMMM.
Clearly written by a man... (Score:5, Funny)
by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, @11:38AM (#10576572)
...who gets paid by the word.
Re:Clearly written by a man... (Score:1)
by waster (230903) on Wednesday October 20, @03:10PM (#10579127)
(http://niall.frogstomp.com/)
You're thinking of lawyers.
Classic ... (Score:5, Funny)
by Paul Lamere (21149) on Wednesday October 20, @11:41AM (#10576600)
(http://blogs.sun.com/plamere | Last Journal: Thursday December 06, @01:58PM)
"In order to set her straight, I had to let her know that the reason she'd never heard of me was because I was famous."
Re:Classic ... (Score:1)
by Golias (176380) on Wednesday October 20, @01:54PM (#10578327)
Classic, in that it sounds awfully familiar...

I'm thinking a Google search just might yield prior art. Not that there's anything wrong with stealing old jokes, but writers are usually in the habit of crediting them to the originator of the quip.
Re:Classic ... (Score:2)
by Golias (176380) on Wednesday October 20, @02:00PM (#10578423)
Hmm... Neither Google nor Bartlet's has yielded anything in the 30 seconds or so that I looked, so it may be that I owe our guest an apology for that crass accusation, but I could swear I've heard that same gag (that being famous disqualifies you from being recognized by High Society) somewhere before. Now it's going to bug me all day...
Re:Classic ... (Score:2, Informative)
by mike2R (721965) on Wednesday October 20, @02:25PM (#10578699)
Do a Google search for success acclaim dichotomy [google.co.uk] and you will see it is not a new concept. Still it was a good line, and I'm sure we'll see it in someone's sig soon.
Re:Classic ... (Score:2)
by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday October 20, @03:30PM (#10579377)
(http://slashdot.org/)
It is an old joke. Sam on Cheers once said when picking up a lady: "Not many people know this but I'm actually famous". New jokes don't come around much, so I settle for good delivery of old ones. :)
Ouch! (Score:3, Funny)
by cmstremi (206046) on Wednesday October 20, @11:41AM (#10576603)
(http://www.stremick.com/)
My thoughts are more in line with those of Jaron Lanier, who points out that while hardware might be getting faster all the time, software is shit
OUCH!

(removes mirrorshades, wipes tears, blows nose, composes self)
Re:Ouch! (Score:3, Interesting)
by capt.Hij (318203) on Wednesday October 20, @11:48AM (#10576673)
(http://www.cyclismo.org/)
Actually this quote was way off base. The director of the scientific computing/applied math program at Columbia has a set of graphs he uses in his talks. One graph demonstrates the computational power as a function of time due to hardware advances. The other demonstrates the time it takes to invert large, linear systems over time due to advances in mathematics. Over time the mathematicians are doing as good as or better than the hardware advances. The conclusion is that we can't solve the big problems without investing both in hardware and algorithm development.
Re:Ouch! (Score:1)
by Coz (178857) on Wednesday October 20, @12:46PM (#10577450)
(http://www.starwarrior.com/ | Last Journal: Tuesday July 27, @10:40AM)
Fine. Mathemeticians can optimize an algorithm at a pace roughly analogous to the speed increase in hardware.

Which version of Windoze do you want to run it on?

There's Software written by people with Purpose, then there's the stuff that gets sold in shrink-wrap (or preinstalled), that makes a Pentium 4 run like a P2. That's not algorithm development - that's eye-candy and CPU-munching filesystem indexers.
Re:Ouch! (Score:3, Interesting)
by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, @12:59PM (#10577642)
Sorry, can you please explain what advances in mathematics over the last 15 years has given a 1000-fold improvement in performance of the inversion of linear systems that would match Moore's law?

I'd say the answer is none. Sure, we can solve specific cases faster, but in the general case the basic algorithms have existed and not been improved for hundreds of years.

Surely? Or am I missing some developments (I graduated over 10 years ago, I must confess!)
Re:Ouch! (Score:4, Insightful)
by NoOneInParticular (221808) on Wednesday October 20, @02:53PM (#10578965)
I don't know of specific advances in mathematics, but if you shave off a tiny bit of the power of the general O(N^3) inversion for a special case of practical importance, it's a simple calculation to determine the size of the matrix to make the calculation a thousand times faster, a hundred thousand times faster, etc. Algorithms work that way, unlike computers. Furthermore, Moore's law only talks about the number of transistors which is a special case in building a general-purpose machine. CPU speed, memory/cache/harddisk access also count. Each of these have increased but not all in line with Moore's law.
Drive-by management (was Re:Ouch!) (Score:2)
by The Fun Guy (21791) <bniemiraNO@SPAMarserrc.gov> on Thursday October 21, @09:49AM (#10586775)
(http://www.ars.usda....le.htm?personid=4114 | Last Journal: Thursday November 04, @09:50AM)
Well, sure that much is obvious, anybody can see that. I mean, hell, I said as much to myself over coffee this morning, but that's the kind of thinking that could potentially lead us into a mental cul-de-sac, unless we look at the details within the context of the big picture. Sure the trees are important, but don't forget about the forest.

Oops, look at the time, I have another meeting I need to get to. Why don't you write all this up and send it to everybody as a summary, or better yet, just send it to me and I'll pass it along at the board meeting next week.
Gotta disagree here (Score:5, Insightful)
by wiredog (43288) on Wednesday October 20, @01:01PM (#10577674)
(Last Journal: Monday October 01, @06:53PM)
I'm a Professional Programmer doing Serious Work for Real Money, which often involves looking through Other People's Code, and software is shit. I will never forget looking through some code and, just before some Deep Magic, seeing /*Why did I do this?*/

Sturgeon's Law states that 90% of SF is shit. Well, >99% of software is.

Re:Gotta disagree here (Score:2)
by TiggertheMad (556308) on Wednesday October 20, @02:33PM (#10578780)
(http://www.thebamboogrove.com/ | Last Journal: Tuesday September 21, @01:50PM)
I'm a Professional Programmer...

...and not a computer scientist? You are already shooting holes in the credibility of your own statement...

which often involves looking through Other People's Code, and software is shit

So, based off the fact that you see there are people who have written code who have no talent and/or education for it, you emperically state that software in general, is shit.

I'll make a more believeable and less grandiose statement about the state of things: 'Unless the education system is improved to better train programmers in applying mathermatical techniques developed by computer scientists, the advances in hardware will not be fully utilized'.
Re:Gotta disagree here (Score:2)
by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Wednesday October 20, @05:11PM (#10580506)
(Last Journal: Friday January 02, @07:40AM)
I'll make a more believeable and less grandiose statement about the state of things: 'Unless the education system is improved to better train programmers in applying mathermatical techniques developed by computer scientists, the advances in hardware will not be fully utilized'.

So basically, you're saying software is shit. =) It took you 41 words to say what was already said in 3.
Re:Gotta disagree here (Score:1)
by tepples (727027) <tepplesatslashdot@pineight.com> on Wednesday October 20, @10:54PM (#10582782)
(http://www.pineight.com/gba/ | Last Journal: Sunday July 18, @03:10AM)

It took you 41 words to say what was already said in 3.

Not exactly. What I got from TiggertheMad's statement is "Software is shit because programmer education is shit."

Re:Gotta disagree here (Score:5, Insightful)
by Grab (126025) on Wednesday October 20, @06:54PM (#10581402)
(http://gunfire.sourceforge.net/)
A computer scientist is what you start with. A Professional Programmer is what you get when you take a computer scientist and train them properly...

I'll make a more general statement about software. It starts off good. Then you double the number of features, and have to keep all the old hooks for backwards compatibility. OK, it leaves you with messy interfaces, but that's tolerable. Then someone tweaks something in their code that breaks yours, so you have to do some architecturally horrible things that are like taking the Taj Mahal, blocking up the doorways and forcing people to get in via the roof, using some rickety scaffolding (painted orange and purple) to get up there.

You ask for time to rewrite and remove cruft. Request denied. Meantime someone has now written some scaffolding traversal algorithm which will be broken if you clean up your code, so you're screwed. The scaffolding is now seen to be rickety, and someone else's code falls off it and is damaged. The owner of this code is currently on an ultra-high-priority project and can't spare the time to fix it, and no-one else understands it well enough to fix it for him. So the decision is made to fix the problem by concreting the scaffolding in place. After all, it's only a short-term solution until the owner of the other code has time to fix it, isn't it...?

The thrust of this more general statement is that humans who are encumbered with the limitations of a commercial environment are not designed to write software. Humans are fallible, and a commercial environment means that it doesn't get done unless the customer can tell the difference. Each individual bit of cruft isn't noticeable, and by the time the cruft has slowed the code down noticeably, the complete rewrite that it needs is way too expensive. Unless blessed with a godlike manager, your software will become shit.

Let's call this Bartlett's Law:

"All software does not start shit. However, all software will become shit unless management can recognise bad architectural decisions and will allow rewrites to fix them."

Grab.
Re:Gotta disagree here (Score:2)
by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday October 20, @11:18PM (#10582949)
you emperically state that software in general, is shit.
I'll step in.
Buffer overflow. Divide by zero. Race conditions. Memory allocation problems. My uncle knew how to avoid these in the late 1950s despite only working with computers on occasion. What is out excuse now? How can a divide by zero error disable a warship?

These things can only happen if attention is not paid to making sure they don't. This lack of attention to detail has reduced the time required by produced vast mountains of software that is shit, and a general low standard.

Re:Gotta disagree here (Score:1)
by kubrick (27291) on Wednesday October 20, @06:25PM (#10581178)
Sturgeon's Law states that 90% of SF is shit.

Sturgeon's Law [wikipedia.org] was actually a response to the observation that "90% of SF is crud": "90% of *everything* is crud".

Well, >99% of software is.

To paraphrase, Sturgeon was an optimist.
Re:Gotta disagree here (Score:2)
by sideshow (99249) on Wednesday October 20, @07:56PM (#10581764)
(http://www.trendwhore.com/)
Guess that's better then: /*I dare you to untangle the enigma that is my code!
BOW BEFORE YOUR CODING MASTER!
BUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
*/

I see this shit all time by way of my company's former webmaster.
Re:Gotta disagree here (Score:2)
by pragma_x (644215) on Thursday October 21, @08:35AM (#10585712)
(Last Journal: Tuesday August 31, @10:10AM)
Pfftt.. that's nothing. At least you had something to go by.

He could have written it in cold fusion or perl without the comments.

Plus, nothing tops: /*Drunk: fix later*/
Re:Gotta disagree here (Score:2)
by catsidhe (454589) <sigma@rie.net3.1415926.au minus pi> on Wednesday October 20, @11:53PM (#10583149)
(http://www.relax.com.au/~sigma)
Sturgeon's Law states that 90% of SF is shit. Well, >99% of software is.

Or, "Sturgeon's Law is recursive".
Re:Ouch! (Score:2)
by BarryNorton (778694) on Wednesday October 20, @12:17PM (#10577043)
I can point him to one or two... thousand (!)... pieces of shit hardware (however fast).
OSX.. (Score:1)
by imbezol (588268) on Wednesday October 20, @01:16PM (#10577879)
(http://bigfiber.net/)
is pretty good then?
Re:OSX.. (Score:2)
by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Wednesday October 20, @05:14PM (#10580531)
(Last Journal: Friday January 02, @07:40AM)
If you want to go purely by what Neal has written, we can deduce it's the least shitty of the OSes. So, if by "pretty good" you mean "relatively good", yeah it's pretty good.
Re:OSX.. (Score:1)
by wf314 (823974) on Wednesday October 20, @08:29PM (#10581970)
Mr. Stephenson wants to make me buy a Mac now. Nooo!!! Can I send him the bill?
uh uh (Score:5, Funny)
by WormholeFiend (674934) on Wednesday October 20, @11:41AM (#10576609)
And without software to do something useful with all that hardware, the hardware's nothing more than a really complicated space heater.

I guess he doesn't play any computer games on his space heater... :P
Re:uh uh (Score:1)
by Xofer D (29055) on Wednesday October 20, @12:07PM (#10576868)
(http://localhost/)
I guess he doesn't play any computer games on his space heater..
He did say that he uses OS X, so he's probably using a mac. As we all know, there are no games [insidemacgames.com] for the macintosh.
Re:uh uh (Score:2)
by Erik Hollensbe (808) on Wednesday October 20, @01:59PM (#10578398)
(http://erik.hollensbe.org/)
I'm typing this on a mac. Games or not, it's little more than fandom to not have a windows machine if you want to play PC games.
Re:uh uh (Score:2)
by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Wednesday October 20, @05:17PM (#10580561)
(Last Journal: Friday January 02, @07:40AM)
He did say that he uses OS X, so he's probably using a mac. As we all know, there are no games for the macintosh.

Can you be more specific in the probablilty? Would you say highly probable? Do you think there's a chance he's running OS X on Pear PC? =)
Re:uh uh (Score:1, Flamebait)
by White Roses (211207) <wh1t3r0s3s AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday October 20, @12:20PM (#10577092)
(http://members.cox.net/dinyes)
Well, he does utilize Mac OS X. And everyone knows there are no games for Macs, right?
Re:uh uh (Score:2)
by White Roses (211207) <wh1t3r0s3s AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday October 21, @10:15AM (#10587245)
(http://members.cox.net/dinyes)
Flamebait. This is what I get for not using the sarcasm tags. One look at my webpage would show the moderator that I myself use Macs. All the time. Someone buy the moderator a sense of humor.
Interesting (Score:5, Funny)
by Pentagram (40862) <rls@hwylGIRAFFE.org minus herbivore> on Wednesday October 20, @11:41AM (#10576610)
(http://slashdot.org/)
Nice interview with some interesting ideas, but tailed off rather abruptly.
Re:Interesting (Score:2, Informative)
by FiloEleven (602040) on Wednesday October 20, @01:04PM (#10577711)
Mods: parent is a humorous reference to the (perhaps valid) accusations that Stephenson writes fantastic ideas and interesting plots into his books, but the endings are rather like the pavement at the end of the free-fall.
Re:Interesting (Score:1)
by elmegil (12001) on Wednesday October 20, @02:48PM (#10578914)
(http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Thursday November 04, @11:46PM)
And is redundant to a funnier and more succinct statement of the same concept.
Re:Interesting (Score:2)
by mcmonkey (96054) on Wednesday October 20, @03:25PM (#10579308)
(http://www.evolt.org/)
Gibson and I formed a pact to fight Sterling. So far we have made little headway in seeking out his lair of brushed steel and white LEDs, because I had a dentist appointment and Gibson had to attend a writers' conference, but keep an eye on Slashdot for any further developments.

I think Neal is a little too much into the Tenacious D

Re:Interesting (Score:2)
by Billy Bo Bob (87919) on Wednesday October 20, @09:51PM (#10582430)
Dude, that is so damn funny. The fact that there are essentially no responses just tells me that very few here have read his complete works and gets the joke.

He remains one of my favorite authors, but really can't write an ending worth a damn.
Just a quick reminder (Score:3, Funny)
by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, @11:45AM (#10576645)
You can get this interview in printed form as a five book boxed set. Thank you. ;)
Second Amendment (Score:5, Insightful)
by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, @11:47AM (#10576658)
"In the U.S., where the right to bear **certain** weapons is written into the Constitution..."

My own emphasis on the word "certain." This is a common mistake, fostered by our educational system. The 2nd amendment doesn't specify "certain" or "specific" weapons for protection. It protects **all** weapons. The key phrase here is "Congress shall make no law..." And even though your government-approved social studies teacher told you that the Constitution is a "living document" and is "open to interpretation," I submit to you that "Congress shall make no law" means what it says and says what it means.

Remember this document was written by people who had just won a war, by a long shot, against the most powerful and oppressive empire in their world. One of the reasons they won is because the **individual** colonists had better rifles than their government overlords. This would be like individual Americans having better assault rifles than the American government. Which, of course, is forbidden by federal and state laws.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:5, Informative)
by adavies42 (746183) on Wednesday October 20, @11:54AM (#10576723)
While I agree in general, the nitpicker in me is forced to point out that your specific point is totally bogus. "Congress shall make no law" is from the *First* Amendment. The key phrase from the Second is "shall not be infringed", as someone on here has in their sig.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Speare (84249) on Wednesday October 20, @01:19PM (#10577913)
(http://www.halley.cc/ed/)
The key phrase from the Second [Amendment] is "shall not be infringed", as someone on here has in their sig.

I'd have to say that another key phrase in that very short Amendment is "well regulated."

Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by adavies42 (746183) on Wednesday October 20, @01:53PM (#10578317)
Which didn't mean in 179 what it means today. "Regulated" was more in the sense that one might describe a machine part as a "regulator", not the way we now refer to a government offical by that term. IOW, a better rendition in modern language might be "a well organized militia" or even "a well equipped militia".
Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by elmegil (12001) on Wednesday October 20, @02:53PM (#10578964)
(http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Thursday November 04, @11:46PM)
Seems to me machine regulators do a fine job of limiting machines so they don't go too far and blow up. How is that not like limiting access to guns so the society doesn't blow up?

Heh. That should get 'em. Oh wait, did I say that out loud?

Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday October 21, @05:21PM (#10592973)
IOW, a better rendition in modern language might be "a well organized militia" or even "a well equipped militia".

So, I'd say that someone that was in the militia should be allowed to keep and bear arms, but that there can be some regulations regarding what a militia is, and possibly a few regulations regarding what arms may be carried (i.e. nuclear bombs aren't militia-style weapons).

When it specifically says that the purpose of bearing arms is for militia duty, defining what a militia is, who may join, and what they may carry would be matters the legislature may address without violating the Constitution.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by ahodgson (74077) on Wednesday October 20, @01:55PM (#10578344)
Of course, the Bill of Rights was not intended to be an exhaustive list of rights. Several of the founders argued strongly against including the Bill of Rights at all, as they expected misinformed judges to look at it as such, rather than seeing the Constitution as an exhaustive list of government powers, with all other rights devolved to the people, as intended.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by kbonin (58917) on Wednesday October 20, @05:23PM (#10580623)
Actually, "well regulated" at the time the second ammendment was written would translate today into "well maintained and accurate". Timepieces and tools of the same era were also marketed as "well regulated", meaning they kept time or performed their job well.

The concept that this has anything to do with organized militias was introduced by groups trying to distort the meaning so they could 'regulate' in the modern sense, i.e. pass gun control laws.

By a strict reading of the 2nd ammendment, ALL modern US laws "regulating" firearms (and most other weapons) are unconstitutional.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by MoebiusStreet (709659) on Wednesday October 20, @03:21PM (#10579252)
This is a key distinction, because it's much STRONGER than the restriction in the 1st Amendment.

The 1st Amendment, the only restriction is that Congress can't make a law, but apparently my employer, say, can do so.

Contrast this to the 2nd, which says that the RKAB "shall not be infringed" -- period. When juxtaposed with the 1st, it's easy to read into this that NO ONE can infringe on my RKBA -- including my employer.

And as an aside to a sibling of this post, please consider the etymology of the word "regulated". It didn't mean that it was subject to restrictions as we would read that today. Rather, it means that the militia should be made regular, as in, they should be train in similar exercises, understand commands the same way, etc.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by adavies42 (746183) on Wednesday October 20, @03:55PM (#10579674)
Interesting point. It suggests that perhaps the 2nd should have always been interpreted to apply to all levels of government (at the very least), even before the 14th "incorporated" (I think that's the con law term) all the other rights that were originally only binding against the Feds.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by MoebiusStreet (709659) on Wednesday October 20, @04:20PM (#10579968)
The interpretation of the 14th Amendment is bizarre. Despite the plain language, it's not binding for any particular right until that right has been explicitly incorporated (as you noted) into the record.

To date, the 14th Amendment has not been incorporated.

Whether you're for or against self defense rights, it's very frustrating that the Court won't make an explicit decision one way or the other.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by adavies42 (746183) on Wednesday October 20, @07:00PM (#10581432)
Personally, I found the Cato Institute's paper on the privileges and immunities clause very persuasive. They say that had it been enforced as written and intended, we'd be living in a very dfifferent country today. They say that it was essentially intended to grant the feds (court or otherwise) full authority to review *all* state laws for compliance with both enumerated and unenumerated (but traditional) rights. Unfortunately, the original case upholding Jim Crow laws declared that clause meaningless.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by malfunct (120790) on Wednesday October 20, @11:59AM (#10576794)
(http://www.happypirate.com/)
Its more like they won because the people they were fighting against were to busy in an argument with someone else to properly deal with some pesky colonists in a place they weren't even sure was much good for anything except for a few taxes that were probably not enough to pay for the military they had to provide to insure that they were collected.

That said I am on the same lines of thinking as you that in America you should have the protected right to bear any arms available. You should not however have the right to use those arms in any manner that you please except in the case you plan to overthrow the established government through show of arms. In that case you better have friends who are thinking the same as you are.

Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by malfunct (120790) on Wednesday October 20, @03:56PM (#10579691)
(http://www.happypirate.com/)
show of arms = fighting the enemy with your weapons, not showing your weapons to the enemy
Re:Second Amendment (Score:3, Insightful)
by Mac Degger (576336) on Wednesday October 20, @12:09PM (#10576901)
(Last Journal: Wednesday March 05, @05:56PM)
I'm a EU-an, and don't know the US constitution by heart, but doesn't the second amendment also have something along the lines of 'by a militia' in there?
The way I always thought of it, that means that individual weapon ownership should be illegal, except if you are litterally part of a militia, /with all the duties which that entails/.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:5, Insightful)
by VAXcat (674775) on Wednesday October 20, @12:30PM (#10577249)
It goes "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed". Some interpret that to mean the right to bear arms wes restricted to the miilitia, which is a curious interpretation. If the statement read "a well educated faculty, being necessary to the eduction of the contry, the right of the people to keep and bear books shall not be infringed", would you conclude that only professors had a right to possess book?
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) <geoffreyerffoeg@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Wednesday October 20, @04:28PM (#10580072)
Sorry, but your analogy doesn't quite work. Military defense is a job usually given to a designated part of society. Education is not. Besides, to educate people, you often have to give them books. To defend people, you don't need to give them weapons -- that's why you're defending them.

The phrasing that would correlate a little better to your analogy would be "The right of the people to have bullets inside them shall not be infringed" or something.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by VAXcat (674775) on Wednesday October 20, @04:49PM (#10580289)
An interesting assertion...but, since the "designated part of society" assigned the task of defense at the time of the writing of the Bill of Rights was almost the whole durned population, not a valid one...
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) <geoffreyerffoeg@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Wednesday October 20, @05:26PM (#10580653)
Wait, so you're saying that women, children under 14ish, men over 40ish, businessmen, politicians, craftsmen, lawyers, doctors, field-working slaves, aristocratic plantation owners, etc., were mostly all included in the fighting? That's not the way I learned it.

From a theoretical standpoint, if the entire society is putting itself in danger to defend themselves...well, there's no point in defending anything, is there? We've got soldiers fighting the other soldiers so that the entire society doesn't have to fight. Of course most people kept weaponry for defending themselves if the militia lost, but most of the fighting wasn't there. The reason we had regular battles is that the varied militias of the States intercepted the British armies before they had a chance (as the militias feared) to disrupt the towns themselves. That's why most fighting is near but not in a major town: the offense makes their objective a population center, but the defense tries to stop it from actually getting in. If everyone were fighting, there would be no need for a regular army or militia.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:3, Insightful)
by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@[ ... t ['net' in gap]> on Wednesday October 20, @09:11PM (#10582197)
(http://127.0.0.1/ | Last Journal: Saturday August 14, @11:21AM)
Unfortunately there are times and situations where every single member of a society is in grave danger, and notable situations where every single person in a society was killed due to warfare. This is the situation that is going on right now in Sudan, and had those people living there been able to bear arms to fight the invaders driving the Sudanese from their homes, it may not be as big of an international issue.

BTW, there have been many battles that take place in major towns. The problem is that such warfare is always problematic and tends to have extreamly high casulty rates for everybody that tries to do it. It was in Stalingrad that the German Army pretty much bled to death and was stopped, although at a very high cost to the Red Army as well. During that series of battles in that city, a major offensive was considered successful when they captured a single city block. In terms of the American Revolutionary War, you might want to look up the Battle of Brooklyn Heights for some interesting "urban" combat that took place, including a series of skirmishes that occured on Manhattan itself. These make a very interesting tour if you ever get to NYC and want to visit the old battle fields. New York City was occupied by the British Army primarily because Royal Marines and the Royal Army were able to invade with sufficient numbers to completely overwhelm the Americans.

One of the advantages of the Geneva Protocols of Warfare is to make an honorable means to surrender, and realizing that civilian populations will be (at least attempted) to be kept away from combat operations. The problem is when civilians become the target of operations on one side, the gloves come off and these procedures are thrown out the window, as happened during WWII.

Americans have been pretty much isolated from having to directly face warfare as civilians, with the exception of Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, it is because of 9/11 directly affecting ordinary Americans that has given Pres. Bush much of his current warmaking power. It would be interesting if infantry combat operations took place on American soil what the civilian component to combat resistance would be.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Scrameustache (459504) on Thursday October 21, @10:07PM (#10594809)
(http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Tuesday December 24, @12:08AM)
Americans have been pretty much isolated from having to directly face warfare as civilians, with the exception of Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks.

So, there were a lot of civilians on those warships they bombed then?
Just wondering...
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@[ ... t ['net' in gap]> on Friday October 22, @01:13PM (#10600611)
(http://127.0.0.1/ | Last Journal: Saturday August 14, @11:21AM)
Not a lot of civilians, but there were a few. Remember, it was a Sunday morning during "peacetime" activities, which included tours of ships (like they were some kind of museum), catering services, civilian dock workers, dependants of military personnel, visiting priests (during workship service... yes, I know there were chaplins as well). The same could be said about the air bases.

Honolulu itself also recieved some collateral damage, and some ordinary citizens minding their own business and not being directly connected to or immediately at military installations also died. The exact number is not particularly high, but yes, some very ordinary civilians did die there.

BTW, this is a listing of casualties at Pearl Harbor [execpc.com], including an official death toll of 54 civilians.

Indeed, it was precisely because ordinary citizens could very easily extrapolate that if Pearl Harbor was attacked, what would be next? Los Angeles? Seattle? San Francisco? There were at least six senators and a couple dozen members of the House of Representatives that had constituents realizing that they were indeed the very next target. That makes congressmen very twitchy and wanting to "DO SOMETHING NOW!"(tm) And in terms of the Japanese plans, there were also specific plans to at least bomb San Francisco in a manner similar to Pearl Harbor. That it never happened is more a credit to the fact that the U.S. military was able to at least push Japan into a stalemate for a couple years, with the main battle front in the Western Pacific region.

With all the complaining in Iraq about the deaths of ordinary civilians who are caught in the crossfire, as well as people complaining about civilian deaths in Gaza, why should Hawaii be any different in 1941? Japan certainly didn't have non-leathal combat weapony, nor even "smart bombs".
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Scrameustache (459504) on Friday October 22, @01:45PM (#10601185)
(http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Tuesday December 24, @12:08AM)
With all the complaining in Iraq about the deaths of ordinary civilians who are caught in the crossfire, as well as people complaining about civilian deaths in Gaza, why should Hawaii be any different in 1941?

Well, 54 is a tad different than the upwards of eleven thousand dead civilians in Iraq, if you ask me...
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@[ ... t ['net' in gap]> on Friday October 22, @02:51PM (#10602449)
(http://127.0.0.1/ | Last Journal: Saturday August 14, @11:21AM)
Well, 11,000 dead is a far cry from the estimated 20 million dead civilians in Russia during WWII, isn't it, huh?
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Scrameustache (459504) on Friday October 22, @03:23PM (#10602893)
(http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Tuesday December 24, @12:08AM)
Well, 11,000 dead is a far cry from the estimated 20 million dead civilians in Russia during WWII, isn't it, huh?

What the hell does that have to do with pearl harbour?
Re:Second Amendment (Score:3, Insightful)
by Hektor_Troy (262592) on Saturday October 23, @10:17AM (#10608709)
It would be interesting if infantry combat operations took place on American soil what the civilian component to combat resistance would be.
Thrown in jail with no legal rights, no vistation rights and no option of being told what exactly they did; they would be kept on an island far from their home, perhaps one could use of the Pacific Islands in the middle of onewhere.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@[ ... t ['net' in gap]> on Saturday October 23, @06:23PM (#10611073)
(http://127.0.0.1/ | Last Journal: Saturday August 14, @11:21AM)
If being thrown into jail or being executed is the only option besides sticking a knife or taking pot shots with a hunting rifle at the invading army, I think I know why my option is going to be.

While a little bit far-fetched, I think "Red Dawn" [imdb.com] at least gives a little bit of taste of what ordinary citizens would do when occupied by an invading army. The real question would then be just how far would organized resistance be, and would citizen-soldiers be employed during such an invasion. The very fact that foriegn soldiers are occupying parts of America would indicate a failure of major proprotions on the part of the U.S. military, so under such a theoretical situation the regular U.S. Federal military would be in shambles.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@[ ... t ['net' in gap]> on Saturday October 23, @06:26PM (#10611094)
(http://127.0.0.1/ | Last Journal: Saturday August 14, @11:21AM)
If being thrown into jail or being executed is the only option besides sticking a knife or taking pot shots with a hunting rifle at the invading army, I think I know why my option is going to be.

While a little bit far-fetched, I think "Red Dawn" [imdb.com] at least gives a little bit of taste of what ordinary citizens would do when occupied by an invading army. The real question would then be just how far would organized resistance be, and would citizen-soldiers be employed during such an invasion. The very fact that foriegn soldiers are occupying parts of America would indicate a failure of major proprotions on the part of the U.S. military, so under such a theoretical situation the regular U.S. Federal military would be in shambles.
YOU. A militia of one. (Score:1)
by tepples (727027) <tepplesatslashdot@pineight.com> on Wednesday October 20, @11:04PM (#10582854)
(http://www.pineight.com/gba/ | Last Journal: Sunday July 18, @03:10AM)

Military defense is a job usually given to a designated part of society.

Some U.S. states have an old law on the books (spottily enforced at best) stating that every able-bodied adult male citizen is part of the state militia.

Besides, to educate people, you often have to give them books. To defend people, you don't need to give them weapons -- that's why you're defending them.

Why do we educate people? Shouldn't we be educating them to defend themselves?

Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) <geoffreyerffoeg@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Wednesday October 20, @05:20PM (#10580590)
Yes, I agree, but you didn't catch what I was trying to say (maybe I wasn't clear enough).

Everybody ought to educate themselves.

Not everybody ought to defend themselves: that's why we have an army, to defend everybody else.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by mister_tim (653773) on Wednesday October 20, @10:55PM (#10582787)
I just feel sorry for all the bears who gave their arms to keep your country free and ready for revolt against corrupt governments.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday October 21, @06:02PM (#10593315)
If the statement read "a well educated faculty, being necessary to the eduction of the contry, the right of the people to keep and bear books shall not be infringed", would you conclude that only professors had a right to possess book?

Possibly. Almost anyone could be a member fo the militia. Not everyone could be a member of the faculty. If the definition of "faculty" was something along the lines of "anyone capable of teaching another" then yes. I would conclude that the intention was to prevent regulation that banned books of educational value from being posessed by faculty.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday October 21, @05:03PM (#10592825)
The bit of reasoning that precedes it is irrelevant.

No, the bit of reasoning was qualifying. Can you point to any other sentence in the Constitution that provides no other purpose than to answer why (other than the preamble)? I submit it is because it is *not* "reasoning" but a qualification that means that all people may bear arms (provided they do so to protect the nation - and laws may be enacted to ensure that this is their goal and they are prepared to do so).
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Peter La Casse (3992) on Wednesday October 20, @12:44PM (#10577411)
(http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~lacasse/)
I'm a EU-an, and don't know the US constitution by heart, but doesn't the second amendment also have something along the lines of 'by a militia' in there?
The way I always thought of it, that means that individual weapon ownership should be illegal, except if you are litterally part of a militia, /with all the duties which that entails/.

The exact wording is as follows:

"A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."

Different people obviously have different interpretations, but grammatically, the rule itself is found in the second clause. The first clause is provided as justification, with the implication that if the second clause is not held to, it will not be possible to have "a well-regulated Militia."

This implication is obviously debatable (lots of countries restrict weapons ownership and still have well-regulated militias), but it doesn't matter, because the rule is found in the second clause. You could drop the first clause entirely and it wouldn't change the meaning of the sentence.

Here's a statement that shows similar sentence structure: "Since all clowns are purple, you must clean your room." The truthfulness of whether or not all clowns actually are purple doesn't affect whether or not you must clean your room.

If the first clause started with "if", then things would be very different.

Re:Second Amendment (Score:2, Interesting)
by OldAndSlow (528779) on Wednesday October 20, @02:07PM (#10578499)
because the rule is found in the second clause

True. But if you look up the phrase "to bear arms" in the Oxford English Dictionary, you will find that the definition current at the time of the writing of the Second Amendment (indeed, the only definition the phrase has ever had) is "to serve as a soldier, to fight."

Here's a statement that shows similar sentence structure: "Since all clowns are purple, you must clean your room." The truthfulness of whether or not all clowns actually are purple doesn't affect whether or not you must clean your room.

You misparse the Second Amendment. What you call the first clause is actually a nominative absolute (NA). NAs are descended from the Latin ablative absolute, and serve to set the conditions of the sentence. An example NA is, "The weather being fair, we decided to have a picnic." The main sentence (the picnic decision) is embedded in the fact that the weather was nice. So the right to bear arms is colored by the the necessity of well-regulated militias.

There was also a bit of social nose-thumbing going on, because in England you had to be at a certain level in the hierarchy of the aristocracy before you were allowed to bear arms. The new Americans were turning that bit of snobery on its head.

Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Coryoth (254751) on Wednesday October 20, @02:59PM (#10579009)
(http://jedidiah.stuff.gen.nz/)
True. But if you look up the phrase "to bear arms" in the Oxford English Dictionary, you will find that the definition current at the time of the writing of the Second Amendment (indeed, the only definition the phrase has ever had) is "to serve as a soldier, to fight."

So then the Second Amendment is ensuring the rights of women and gays to serve in the military, and has nothing to do with the right to own guns? Interesting iterpretation. Sounds kind of tempting, but unfortunately I think you'll find very few people indeed who will read it that way.

Jedidiah.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Peter La Casse (3992) on Wednesday October 20, @03:03PM (#10579051)
(http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~lacasse/)
because the rule is found in the second clause

True. But if you look up the phrase "to bear arms" in the Oxford English Dictionary, you will find that the definition current at the time of the writing of the Second Amendment (indeed, the only definition the phrase has ever had) is "to serve as a soldier, to fight."

I make no claim about the meaning of that clause, so using "but" is not necessary. (After rereading my post, I can see how someone could think it is, but that's not my intent.)

Here's a statement that shows similar sentence structure: "Since all clowns are purple, you must clean your room." The truthfulness of whether or not all clowns actually are purple doesn't affect whether or not you must clean your room.

You misparse the Second Amendment. What you call the first clause is actually a nominative absolute (NA). NAs are descended from the Latin ablative absolute, and serve to set the conditions of the sentence. An example NA is, "The weather being fair, we decided to have a picnic." The main sentence (the picnic decision) is embedded in the fact that the weather was nice. So the right to bear arms is colored by the the necessity of well-regulated militias.

In your sample NA, it is merely the speaker's opinion that the weather was nice. Maybe someone else thinks that the weather is actually far too cold to have a picnic, or maybe someone else thinks that fair weather is not sufficient motivation for a picnic; none of that changes the fact that the speaker decided to have a picnic.

Similarly, the question of whether or not the right to keep and bear arms (whatever that means) shall be infringed (whatever that means) is independent of whether or not the speaker's given reason is valid. It was clearly valid to him; whether or not it is valid to us is irrelevant (although if there is a consensus that it is not valid, we are free to make a new amendment overturning this one.)

My main point is that the second amendment is not an "if-then" conditional statement. It's more of a "since-then" statement, where we are free to disagree about the "since" without affecting whether or not we are bound to follow the "then". If enough people disagree with the "since", then we are free to pass a new amendment counteracting this one, but until then we are bound by its "then" clause.

Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Peter La Casse (3992) on Wednesday October 20, @01:54PM (#10578331)
(http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~lacasse/)
I was thinking the same thing. Was the constitution vetted by rules lawyers? Is it munchy?
The Well-Regulated Militia (Score:4, Insightful)
by Latent Heat (558884) on Wednesday October 20, @12:52PM (#10577524)
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

The "militia" clause has been a long-time issue of contention, and it is widely believed that courts in the U.S. don't have any issues with gun control (many cities have very strict gun ordinances which are very often violated) as the 2nd Amendment applies to, as you say, serving in the National Guard. The only people who seem to believe that the 2nd Amendment outlaws gun control laws are members of the NRA, who are a group with a cause rather than people with official standing.

With that said, I think there is a larger issue here than only th people in the U.S. who want to run around with guns as they see fit. If the 2nd Amendment is held to not mean much of anything with regard to enabling gun ownership, perhaps all of the other amendments could be just as readily dismissed. The First Amendment has been given an expansive and broad interpretation while the 2nd Amendment has been given the narrowest of interpretations -- what is to keep it that way?

IANACS (I am not a constitutional scholar) but let me offer my take on the 2nd Amendment. The Militia historically refered to the adult (male) citizenry who would be expected to take up arms to defend the Republic, not to the Texas Air National Guard or related institutions. A well-regulated Militia refers to those adult males having sufficient training with arms that they know how to shoot straight. There are historical precedents. You haven't told us what part of the EU you hail from, but every adult male Swiss is required to have not only a gun, but something quite capable like an H-K stashed away in their closet. They don't get to keep the ammunition, but they are required to have that automatic weapon at the ready. Going back in time, there were English kings who required the male citizenry to able to shoot a cross bow, the H-K of its day in terms of capabilities. The training to handle a cross bow is no small undertaking.

So, the intent of the 2nd amendment is that all adult males in good standing be not restricted in owning, acquiring, and practicing with the type of firearms necessary to acquire good shooting skills. Can we bar felons from guns? We bar them from voting. Can we restrict the kind of gun? In my opinion, we can restrict the type of gun to what is reasonable to use in training and practicing shooting skills. Can we restrict where you can take a gun? Why not -- the 2nd Amendment protects the right to own guns, not the right to wave them around. Is the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment important to people who want nothing to do with guns? Yes, because then all of the other amendments are in peril.

Re:The Well-Regulated Militia (Score:1)
by maubp (303462) on Wednesday October 20, @01:20PM (#10577920)
You haven't told us what part of the EU you hail from, but every adult male Swiss is required to have not only a gun, but something quite capable like an H-K stashed away in their closet. They don't get to keep the ammunition, but they are required to have that automatic weapon at the ready. Going back in time, there were English kings who required the male citizenry to able to shoot a cross bow, the H-K of its day in terms of capabilities. The training to handle a cross bow is no small undertaking.
Except Switzerland isn't in the EU!
Re:The Well-Regulated Militia (Score:2)
by Phroggy (441) * <slashdot1@@@phroggy...com> on Wednesday October 20, @01:40PM (#10578160)
(http://phroggy.com/)
Excellent points. Let me expand slightly:

So, the intent of the 2nd amendment is that all adult males in good standing be not restricted in owning, acquiring, and practicing with the type of firearms necessary to acquire good shooting skills. Can we bar felons from guns? We bar them from voting.

Convicted felons currently serving a sentence, sure, but previously-convicted felons who have done their time and been released are people too, with rights which "shall not be infringed". When your sentence has been completed, that should be the end of it. Of course, the judge should be able to add specific restrictions at the time of sentencing, for example that you should be barred from possessing a gun for 10 years after release from prison, in which case that restriction is part of your sentence. Same idea as Kevin Mitnick being barred from using a computer (just an example of a sentence; I don't condone what happened to Mitnick).

Can we restrict the kind of gun? In my opinion, we can restrict the type of gun to what is reasonable to use in training and practicing shooting skills.

The Second Amendment doesn't say the people have the right to keep and bear any kind of arms they want. I don't see how reasonable restrictions on what types of guns you can buy would violate the 2nd Amendment, as long as you can buy guns.

Can we restrict where you can take a gun? Why not -- the 2nd Amendment protects the right to own guns, not the right to wave them around.

It also doesn't say the people have the right to keep and bear arms anywhere they want.

Is the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment important to people who want nothing to do with guns? Yes, because then all of the other amendments are in peril.

Agreed.
Re:The Well-Regulated Militia (Score:1)
by BandwidthHog (257320) <billg@fuckmicrosoft.com> on Thursday October 21, @07:50PM (#10594082)
(http://isdickcheneydeadyet.com/)
The Second Amendment doesn't say the people have the right to keep and bear any kind of arms they want. I don't see how reasonable restrictions on what types of guns you can buy would violate the 2nd Amendment, as long as you can buy guns.

But then we’re vulnerable to what constitutes a ‘gun’ being arbitrarily redefined.
Re:The Well-Regulated Militia (Score:1)
by Mac Degger (576336) on Wednesday October 20, @02:07PM (#10578501)
(Last Journal: Wednesday March 05, @05:56PM)
Hmmm...interesting. I'll qualify it again by saying I don't know too much about US law, but (you knew it was coming :)) I thought a lot of 'rights' in the US where infered from the constitutaional articles. Like the right to privacy being not a direct right granted in the constitution, but something following from the wording of an article, an interpretation of the 'will' (if you will :)) of the founding fathers. Isn't that how a lot of judges come up with judgements?

IF that is the case (and I'm not saying it is), then couldn't gun ownership be curtailed by the meaning behind the words, being that having guns is only aloud to justify the end specified by the article, ie to enable the formation of militia? The whole idea of the article being that, when the revolution comes, the people have the means of deposing the corrupt government. Now I'd say that allowing everyone to own a gun doesn't ensure that. Requiring everyone who wants a gun to 'enlist' in the /unregulated/ militia of their choice, with the only requirement being that said militia train the people to be effective, would be more in line with the founders ideals.

Of course, that would mean that you have organisations around the country training people on how to overthrow a government, which said government might not want to encourage...to which I'd say that if the government is worried about that, they aren't doing a good job and /should/ be overthrown :)
Re:The Well-Regulated Militia (Score:2)
by sleepingsquirrel (587025) <Greg.Buchholz@sl ... g ['el.' in gap]> on Wednesday October 20, @03:34PM (#10579424)
(Last Journal: Friday July 09, @03:29PM)
First off, if you're a man (living in the US) aged 17-45 you already happen to be a member of the militia [house.gov].
I thought a lot of 'rights' in the US where infered from the constitutaional articles.
The constitution [house.gov] is merely a listing of what limited powers the government posesses. Rights are one of those self evident things that are endowed by the Creator [ushistory.org]. In addition to listing the only things that the government was allowed to do, the founders also added the ninth [cornell.edu] and tenth amendments, just to clarify what that meant.
Amendment IX: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

----
Like the right to privacy being not a direct right granted in the constitution, but something following from the wording of an article, an interpretation of the 'will' (if you will :)) of the founding fathers.
People like to debate this right-to-privacy thing, but even if you ignore the ninth amendment, there is always the fourth...
Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
And of course it is impossible to know the "will" or "intent" of the founders. So we have to rely on what they actually agreed upon and wrote down.
Re:The Well-Regulated Militia (Score:1)
by MoebiusStreet (709659) on Wednesday October 20, @03:47PM (#10579574)
> Can we restrict the kind of gun? In my
> opinion, we can restrict the type of gun
> to what is reasonable to use in training
> and practicing shooting skills.

The Supreme Court's 1939 Miller decision said essentially that -- it's intent is for arms of the type useful to the infantry. Interestingly, the reasoning may have been correct but the conclusion was wrong. Because the defendant had skipped town, there was no one to present the fact that a short-barrelled shotgun is useful to the infantry (which it clearly is, as they were used in WWI). This misunderstanding is the only reason Miller, the defendant, lost the case.

> Can we restrict where you can take a gun?
> Why not -- the 2nd Amendment protects the
> right to own guns, not the right to wave
> them around.

I must disagree: "keep AND BEAR arms". Bearing arms means taking them with you.
Re:The Well-Regulated Militia (Score:1)
by BandwidthHog (257320) <billg@fuckmicrosoft.com> on Thursday October 21, @07:56PM (#10594123)
(http://isdickcheneydeadyet.com/)
I must disagree: "keep AND BEAR arms". Bearing arms means taking them with you.

So you feel it’s wrong to forbid bank patrons from packing heat at the teller window?

I’m asking this from a devil’s advocate position; I used to be the type of liberal in favor of many (but not all) forms of gun control. I’m still a liberal (depending on your definition of such) but realize that the Second Amendment is there for a reason, even if I do feel that the NRA is, as an institusion, shit throwing crazy.
Re:The Well-Regulated Militia (Score:2)
by qbwiz (87077) <john@baEEEumanfa ... inus threevowels> on Wednesday October 27, @07:15PM (#10648705)
(http://www.baumanfamily.com/john/)
The constitution only restricts what the government may do. Private institutions (such as banks) have many more options.
Re:The Well-Regulated Militia (Score:2)
by RedBear (207369) <redbear AT redbearnet DOT com> on Wednesday October 20, @07:48PM (#10581726)
(http://www.redbearnet.com/)
Good points, but a couple of nitpicks:

[...] every adult male Swiss is required to have not only a gun, but something quite capable like an H-K stashed away in their closet. They don't get to keep the ammunition, but they are required to have that automatic weapon at the ready.

Exactly what use is a gun without bullets? Do you think if someone is going to attempt to overrun the Swiss they will give adequate warning for the citizenry to take their guns (paperweights) and line up at some central facility for bullet rationing? Wouldn't it be just as easy to hand out the guns at the same time? No, I don't think it works that way. I once read a post from a Swiss that mentioned that they do actually have ammunition in their homes along with the firearm. Anything else would make no sense. Of course they are in sealed packages and the military keeps close track on exactly how many cartridges you were given. If you give back less than that or an open package, you better have a damn good reason.

Can we restrict where you can take a gun? Why not -- the 2nd Amendment protects the right to own guns, not the right to wave them around.

The exact language is "keep and bear arms", I don't see how that can be interpreted except as giving the right to both own and carry a firearm. Private establishments of course will always have the right to refuse to let individuals onto the premesis with a firearm (or for any other reason they deem fit). But in public and on your own land --according to the Constitution-- there should be no laws restricting the owning, purchasing or carrying of a firearm.

Your other point is very good. A narrow interpretation of the 2nd Amendment can reflect negatively on the other amendments.

Can we bar felons from guns? We bar them from voting.

This part is offtopic and shouldn't have been included in the conversation. Restricting the rights of felons to vote has been left up to the states by the 14th Amendment, it's not a federal thing. There are many people who would class this activity as cruel and unusual punishment. Why should we punish a person for the rest of their lives, after they've served their sentence?

Most importantly, relating the restriction of voting with the restriction of gun ownership is exactly the kind of slippery-slope argument and false tying interpretation that you are arguing against. "We can already do this thing, so obviously it's acceptable do this other unrelated thing." Very dangerous thinking.

When it comes right down to it, there is nothing in the 2nd Amendment saying that felons can't own firearms. The language is very clear and simple. Felons are still people (they're even full citizens!) and "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed". So unless you want to make them non-persons, I don't see how it can be interpreted as legal to restrict gun ownership by ex-felons, who have served out their punishment.

And secondarily, does not a felon still have an inalienable human right to self-defense? It makes no sense to continue punishing people after they have served the debt that society assigned to them. Punish the action, not the person. Give them some kind of hope for the future, so they don't just give up and continually revert to the criminal activities that are easiest for many of them to fall back on in hard times. Our treatment of ex-convicts throughout society is partially responsible for their lack of successful rehabilitation. I said "partially". People of course make their own choices, but they should always be assisted into making the right ones if possible.

Can we restrict the kind of gun? In my opinion, we can restrict the type of gun to what is reasonable to use in training and practicing shooting skills.

Exactly what good would that do? I'm honestly wondering how you can have this opinion. Do you really think the founders meant for the well regulated militia to carry around practice weapons? Then what, during a time of war they would gather at some central location and get real weapons and real ammunition, after they received their adequate warning from the friendly enemy? This sounds very similar to the Swiss thing, guns but no bullets. What would be the point of even having it? (By the way, who gets to define "reasonable" and who's this "we" you keep talking about? When I say "we" I mean "we the People" not the goverment. The people and the government are separate entities.)

The purpose of the militia is so that every able-bodied person can step out their front door and defend their lands and thus their nation against any aggressor at a moment's notice, with deadly force. Don't you realize that your way of thinking makes everything dependent on the government willingly handing out weapons and ammunition to everyone who lines up during a crisis? This is akin to routing the entire Internet through a single central server. What if the crisis is the fact that the government has turned against the people and become a totalitarian state? In that situation the people are suddenly helpless before the government, which is exactly what the Constitution is supposed to be guarding against. It restricts the government's powers to protect us, it gives us certain rights to protect us.

Think back to your American History classes. The main reason for the 2nd Amendment is so that the populace can protect themselves from government aggression, just as we did during the Revolutionary War. We, the citizens of the British Colonies, actively rebelled against our current government at the time, the British Empire. Everything the founding fathers did after that was to protect the people from the government, and that includes the 2nd Amendment.

So arguing that it's perfectly fine to restrict the type of firearm, who can own it, where you can have it and who has ammunition for it, is all going directly against the entire purpose of the amendment, and of the Constitution itself. You might as well not even have the whole amendment if you're going to interpret it that way. And as you say, if you can strike that one down, why not the rest? Who needs free speech anyway? Or a right to unreasonable search and siezure?

In MY opinion, the government has no business restricting the ownership of anything less than what would be effective against our own military, since in the event of this democracy collapsing that is exactly who we may be fighting against. Think about it.

Anyway, good argument at the end, but a few missteps in there, and you don't even seem to follow your own argument. The things you say in the middle are contrary to your conclusion. Here's one from above again:

Can we restrict where you can take a gun? Why not -- the 2nd Amendment protects the right to own guns, not the right to wave them around.

This falls into the same pattern. You think it's just fine to allow people to own a gun but, what, restrict it to only existing in their own home? Let me guess, outside the home you should rely on the police to protect you. They can do that, right, because all police officers can run faster than a speeding bullet and teleport themselves across town to keep you from harm? That's why you have no need to carry a firearm wherever you go.

Methinks you've got some logical fallacies to wrestle with, my friend.

Re:The Well-Regulated Militia (Score:2)
by Latent Heat (558884) on Wednesday October 20, @09:41PM (#10582383)
As I said, IANACS, and I was expressing my own personal opinion and I defer to people with greater insight on this.

As to the Swiss having the H-K in the closet and not the ammo, I am going by what I am told. I am pretty sure the situation in Switzerland is more oriented towards the common defense rather than upholding a right to gun ownership. Do you know what the setup is in Switzerland? Do they have the guns and the ammo? Only the guns and the ammo at an armory or depot?

Re:The Well-Regulated Militia (Score:1)
by RedBear (207369) <redbear AT redbearnet DOT com> on Thursday October 21, @02:26AM (#10583875)
(http://www.redbearnet.com/)
I'm just going by what I saw a Swiss guy say here a couple years back, and it's the only thing that makes sense to me, which is that they have both the weapons and the ammo to go with it in their homes during their military terms. But of course both are regulated very closely by the government/military so they know at the end of your term that you haven't used them inappropriately for shooting up the neighborhood or hunting or something like that. They do have the guns, that much we know, but a gun without ammo is a very expensive paperweight. That just doesn't jive. If the Swiss want their people ready to fight, they will give them all the necessary tools, not half the necessary tools. I also get the feeling that he said they even keep things like tanks at home, but I can't confirm that. It wouldn't surprise me since that goes along with the Swiss idea of having every man ready to fight immediately. Also a great way to decentralize your weak points, kind of like the Internet.

You aren't a Constitutional Scholar, but your votes affect the way this country operates, so if you think what I've said is insightful please take it to heart and vote accordingly in the future. If not, well, it is a free country after all. When the war comes I'll be fighting by your side to protect your right to have a differing opinion. ;)
Re:The Well-Regulated Militia (Score:2)
by Vintermann (400722) on Thursday October 21, @04:27AM (#10584309)
(http://vintermann.paranoidkoala.org/)
"Is the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment important to people who want nothing to do with guns? Yes, because then all of the other amendments are in peril."

You say much that's sensible, Latent Heat. But this particular argument reminds me a lot of those heard from fundamentalist theologians.
The Well-Regulated Militia in medieval England (Score:2)
by Latent Heat (558884) on Wednesday October 20, @12:55PM (#10577591)
My bad, I meant long bow, not cross bow.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2, Insightful)
by rot26 (240034) on Wednesday October 20, @12:56PM (#10577605)
(http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Thursday January 30, @07:52PM)
doesn't the second amendment also have something along the lines of 'by a militia' in there?

No.

It only mentions militias in the sense that they may be necessary from time to time and that it impossible to have a militia unless the individuals which might be called upon to form it are armed.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by mbbac (568880) on Wednesday October 20, @01:39PM (#10578140)
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Is the second amendment. It doesn't say that the right to keep and bear arms is contingent on being part of a Militia. Nor does it set up the notion that a Militia is strictly in the realm of the government.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by SnapShot (171582) on Wednesday October 20, @03:13PM (#10579155)
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The biggest problem I done been seeing is that ain't like no sentence I done ever said. What's with, like, all the extra prepositional phrases and what not? It done seems like, the, commas are in improper places, to make a decent sentence, my third-grade teacher would have had a fit with her fancy sentence diagramming on them words.

Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Wednesday October 20, @04:58PM (#10580377)
(http://www.infamous.net/)
The way I always thought of it, that means that individual weapon ownership should be illegal, except if you are litterally part of a militia, /with all the duties which that entails/.

A common misconception.

First, Ammendment II does not say 'by a militia'. It says that because an militia (armed citizens) are important, the RKBA is to be protected: " A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." ("Well regulated" is a term that means "effective in the use of arms.)

Second, according to U.S. federal law, and also the laws of many states, every able-bodied male of a certain age range is in the militia.

Thrid, it's important to note that the Founders were generally opposed to having a standing army. They wanted us all to have guns, but only put an army together on a temporary basis when needed to protect the country. (As opposed to, say, having a bunch of guys standing around ready to go invade some other country.) Somewhat similar to the situation in Switzerland.

Re:Second Amendment (Score:2, Insightful)
by iamacat (583406) on Wednesday October 20, @12:10PM (#10576919)
(http://u1.netgate.net/~snowcat/)
Somehow I suspect Second Amendment was talking about pistols, not mortars. Something you can use to repell bandits who show up at your house, but not to interfere with general public's "pursuit of happiness".

If, despite common sense, second amendment advocates private ownership of nuclear bombs, well it's time for another amendment. How are snipper or automatic rifles necessary for self defence? Let everyone have manually loaded single-shot pistols, or better yet decent non/less-lethal weapons.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Reteo Varala (743) <reteo@@@hotpop...com> on Wednesday October 20, @12:31PM (#10577266)
(http://www.outpost.com/ | Last Journal: Thursday July 15, @09:28PM)
Actually, the full text of the amendment is: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

http://www.house.gov/Constitution/Amend.html

However, I don't like the idea of considering software as fitting under the 2nd amendment rights, because then software would likely fall under export restrictions.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by pjt33 (739471) on Wednesday October 20, @01:11PM (#10577797)
(http://pjt33.f2g.net/)
Some software did fall under US export restrictions the last time I looked into the matter.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Reteo Varala (743) <reteo@@@hotpop...com> on Wednesday October 20, @01:48PM (#10578262)
(http://www.outpost.com/ | Last Journal: Thursday July 15, @09:28PM)
Yes, encryption if I'm not mistaken. However, if hacking-type software was a 2nd-Amendment issue, then ALL hacking-type software would fall under export restrictions, including some classic staples as Perl, EMACS, bash, various network analysis tools, and, of course, the Linux kernel.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by Gigabit Switchman (16654) <denimskater.yahoo@com> on Wednesday October 20, @12:37PM (#10577325)
(http://oddones.org/)
As I recall, the purpose of the second amendment isn't just self-defense; it's a provision included to keep the government honest. If (entirely hypothetical) the government became totalitarian with the trappings of democracy, it would still be possible to revolt. This requires that individuals be allowed to own whatever weapons they want. Using them, of course, is another matter. :-)
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by iamacat (583406) on Wednesday October 20, @12:46PM (#10577449)
(http://u1.netgate.net/~snowcat/)
Well, the problem is that if you own weapons powerful enough to take on modern US military, you can also kill hundreds of people before someone stops you. Given that 1% of population will develop schizophrenia, hardly a feasable idea.

Look at Iraq - people have pleanty of regular weapons but they can not stop the foreign army from doing whatever it wants. The reason there is still resistance is because US is civilized to some degree and is limiting civilian casualties. Otherwise there would be carpet bombing of rebel strongholds and beheading of all the known relatives of hostage-takers.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by Reducer2001 (197985) <jasonfischer&gmail,com> on Wednesday October 20, @01:42PM (#10578192)
US is civilized to some degree and is limiting civilian casualties.

Think again. [iraqbodycount.net]

Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by ahodgson (74077) on Wednesday October 20, @01:58PM (#10578396)
Well, the real problem is that the US wasn't supposed to have a standing military. It was the Civil War that resulted in the federal government arming itself, and the pork and power that allowed has created a self-perpetuating need for it ever since.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by iamacat (583406) on Wednesday October 20, @05:14PM (#10580533)
(http://u1.netgate.net/~snowcat/)
So would you support the right of shizophrenics to bear arms, including the kind of weapons needed to overthrow a government with a modern army?
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by iamacat (583406) on Thursday October 21, @03:47AM (#10584179)
(http://u1.netgate.net/~snowcat/)
I am talking about the kind of weapons needed to defeat US military. If you mean mild shizophrenics or even apparently healthy but unsupervised civilians like Timothy McVey should legally be allowed to have surfice to air missiles, I will be scared to fly if you ever became a polititian. If you mean a girl who had a psycotic episode long time ago should be able to buy a pepper spray or a single-shot pistol to protect herself against assult, I am all for it.

Overall, I think people with mental disease would much rather not be given ability to kill people with a single squeeze of a finger. They have enough things to worry about already.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by TheProcrastinatorTM (539571) on Wednesday October 20, @03:00PM (#10579016)
(http://slashdot.org/)
Yes, I want my nuclear weapons!

Oh, wait...

All of this sort of points to the fact that the Second Amendment as in need of modification (well, I KNOW there are some of you who probably will argue that position, but...). Then again, we moderns/post-moderns are so good at living with contradiction, no one cares. But that last glowing ember of logic within me compels me to suggest that we should really try to fix the Constitution so that it actually fits modern standards. That will never happen of course (well, until people get fed up with more mundane weapons); thus we will continue to be deprived of our Constitutional but bizarre right to bear nuclear arms.)
Re:Second Amendment (Score:3, Informative)
by Zeriel (670422) <sholes&athertonia,org> on Wednesday October 20, @12:43PM (#10577392)
(http://slashdot.org/~Zeriel | Last Journal: Wednesday November 03, @01:19PM)
Actually, if you read other documents written by the writers of the Constitution, one of the biggest reasons for the 2nd amendment is to make sure the general public can successfully take down the government.

Implicitly, that means private citizens should be allowed to have military-grade hardware.
Re: Second Amendment (Score:1)
by winterdrake (823887) on Wednesday October 20, @04:31PM (#10580109)
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Sounds rather suspiciously like a civil defense meausure to me, while not saying anything I can see about encouraging armed revolt. Constitutions are designed to help keep governments (and the nations they represent) INTACT, not to provide for their early demise at the hands of nuke-toting disgruntled minorities.

Please supply links to these other documents by the signatories of the US Constitution you mentioned that would contradict this, and remember that one man does not a conspiracy make.
Re: Second Amendment (Score:1)
by bluesnowmonkey (148168) on Wednesday October 20, @05:15PM (#10580541)
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

I don't see much in there about keeping a government intact. On the contrary, it seems that the US Constitution exists for the benefit of the people. Justice, tranquility, defence, public welfare, and liberty are all imperiled by an imperfect union. So it seems right that the people should rise up in such cases. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people has nothing to fear from its citizens, so why take their weapons?
Re: Second Amendment (Score:1)
by winterdrake (823887) on Wednesday October 20, @07:47PM (#10581718)
Look again..."to form a more perfect Union" is the very first thing spoken of in the Constitution. Also, the Civil War (or the War of Secession depending on viewpoint) rather firmly established that acting to disolve that union is not A Good Thing. Furthermore if you want to get into the Founding Fathers bit, I challenge you to find a single one that did not consider himself an Englishman, and would not have gladly tried to pursue any grievances through Parlament - if they had been given a representative there. Furthermore the realities of our history are far from the idealized versions promoted in our schools. I can't think of a way to talk about the kind of scenario you're thinking about without starting out with either "in an ideal world..." or "it'd be nice if..." or something similar. I compeletely agree with your ideals, but the world does not and probably can not work that way with any degree of long-term stability.
Re: Second Amendment (Score:1)
by Zeriel (670422) <sholes&athertonia,org> on Thursday October 21, @08:39AM (#10585763)
(http://slashdot.org/~Zeriel | Last Journal: Wednesday November 03, @01:19PM)
If you look at Lincoln's public statements and writings, you'll know the civil war happened entirely because the cotton tariff was pretty much entirely funding the federal government, and Lincoln didn't want to let 90% of federal income go without a fight.

Hell, you can also read up on how Lincoln suspeded habeas corpus, attempted to imprison a justice who disagreed with him, encouraged war crimes and pardoned convicted war criminals, and ordered the only genocide in American history (which, thankfully, wasn't completely fully).

So arguing anything about the civil war isn't gonna help your case much when you're talking to people who actually know history.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by thrillseeker (518224) <slashdot2@thrillseeker.net> on Wednesday October 20, @12:56PM (#10577600)
Somehow I suspect Second Amendment was talking about pistols, not mortars. Something you can use to repell bandits who show up at your house, but not to interfere with general public's "pursuit of happiness".

That all depends on how well armed the bandits are when they show up.

Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by Elminst (53259) on Wednesday October 20, @05:23PM (#10580624)
(http://slashdot.org/)
And whether the bandits happened to be government sponsored... (ie. armies under a dictatorship or other fascist regime)

Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Wednesday October 20, @05:26PM (#10580649)
(Last Journal: Friday January 02, @07:40AM)
Or whether the bandits are the government [whitehouse.gov].
Re:Second Amendment (Score:5, Interesting)
by Edward Faulkner (664260) <edward@nOSPaM.mit.edu> on Wednesday October 20, @01:07PM (#10577751)
(http://web.mit.edu/edward/)
The second amendment was primarily intended so that people could have another revolution if they ever needed to.

And what country can preserve its liberties, if it's rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. - Thomas Jefferson, November 13, 1787

Actually, there was another revolution about 80 years later, but unfortunately it lost to a brutal dictator named Lincoln.

Re:Second Amendment (Score:4, Insightful)
by Ubergrendle (531719) on Wednesday October 20, @03:39PM (#10579484)
(http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Thursday December 04, @09:13AM)
This is modded as funny, but I'm sure that Native Americans or the southern states that democratically elected to leave the union would agree with "lincoln was a dictator".

Civil rights and abolition of slavery were later incorporated into the justification for the war, as the body count rose and the South under some brilliant military leadership retained the initiative. "Slavery" is the kindergarden version recounted to try and justify the self-mutilation the US underwent in the 1870s. There's even a joke about this in The Simpsons when Apu applies for US citizenship...The fact remains that if the southern states were justified in leaving the British Empire, they were similarly justified in leaving the Union.

I'm not one for hero worship...Lincoln was a very good leader, but he definitely improved as the war carried on. I'm glad the North won, and the US turned into a much better, recognisable nation after the civil war.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:3, Interesting)
by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@[ ... t ['net' in gap]> on Wednesday October 20, @08:43PM (#10582057)
(http://127.0.0.1/ | Last Journal: Saturday August 14, @11:21AM)
The analogy is actually much more accurate than most Americans really care to give it. Lincoln was given war powers that were more along the lines of the Roman Emperors than a beneveolent "first citizen" (hence President) of the country.

Mistakes were made by both the North and the South, with the major Confederate mistake being trying to fight the issue of succession with arms than trying to fight it through treaties and legal means. It would have been real interesting to see what the USA would be like had South Carolina, for instance, tried to get the SCOTUS to agree that its seccession was legal.

The Confederacy thought they had the upper hand, and at the beginning of the Civil War they certainly seemed to have the superior military force. It wasn't until the Northern states got into a war economy in a style more recognizable in the 20th Century and flooding Dixie with superior weapons, massive numbers of soldiers, and improved logistics (notably with a superior infrastructure of railroads).

BTW, most of the fighting happened in the 1860's, with most of the fighting over by the beginning of Lincoln's second term in 1864. The 1870's were noted as being quite bloody in Dixie as well, and throughout most of the rest of the 19th Century as the Klu Klux Klan fought against blacks (African-Americans), often with pitch battles between the two groups. There is some reason to believe that almost as many casualties occured from these actions as occured in open combat during the Civil War, although certianly not in as organized of military units as was seen during the Civil War itself. Keep in mind that black groups weren't exactly unarmed either, nor without simpathizers in the North.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Ubergrendle (531719) on Wednesday October 20, @10:02PM (#10582481)
(http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Thursday December 04, @09:13AM)
I agree with all your points. I actually meant 1860s, I just made a typo. You're right that the south took many years to recover from some brutal campaigns, and black vs white violence continued well into the 20th century.

Given longtime ongoing tension between the northern and southern states, this conflict was probably inevitable.

The interesting thing is that Europe had pretty much ignored the US Civil war and thus missed alot of the lessons of modern industrialised warfare. WWI trench warfare was not difficult to predict if you're familiar with the sieges of Richmond and Atlanta, for example.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday October 21, @10:01AM (#10586983)
(http://slashdot.org/)
Civil rights and abolition of slavery were later incorporated into the justification for the war, as the body count rose and the South under some brilliant military leadership retained the initiative. "Slavery" is the kindergarden version recounted to try and justify the self-mutilation the US underwent in the 1870s.

This is true... Lincoln's intent was not to free the slaves, it was to "save the union" by waging war on half of it. However, the issue of slavery was deeply woven into the reasons for the conflict. In many ways, the Civil War was just the culmination of the conflict over slavery that began before the Constitution was ratified. The issue was recognized at the time as being so divisive that it had to simply be ignored, lest the flegdling union break apart. In particular, any discussion on the issue of slavery in Congress or any alteration to the Constitution prohibiting slavery was disallowed until 1808 (the latter actually being in the Constitution itself). At several points attempts to put forward anti-slavery ammendments or bills had threatened the union. Cessation was threatened before finally being acted upon, and in those earlier days there would have been little chance of the northern states preventing this.

On the issue of the right of the southern states to leave the union... It's probably true that they should have had the right, and were just as justified as they were when they rebelled against Britain. On the other hand, when the majority of their population had no say in this decision, can they really be said to be executing a right? That's only the perspective from my moral high horse in 2004, though. After all, the North disenfranchised the female half of its population. But were it to come up again in modern times, I think we would be justified in preventing seccession on behalf of the rights of those the secceeding states wished to strip rights from.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2, Insightful)
by Edward Faulkner (664260) <edward@nOSPaM.mit.edu> on Thursday October 21, @01:20PM (#10590228)
(http://web.mit.edu/edward/)
There are two problems with your argument:

First, you can't use slavery to distinguish between the cases of 1776 and 1860. In both cases, the seceding states held slaves.

Second, the belief that a war was necessary to end slavery is ridiculous, considering that every other slave-owning nation of the world managed to end slavery peacefully through comepensated emancipation. Lincoln could have purchased every slave in the south at fair market value, and still spent less money than the cost of the war. By many metrics, slavery was already in decline.

Id' you'd like to learn more, I'd recommend "The Real Lincoln" by Thomas DiLorenzo.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday October 21, @10:18PM (#10594870)
(http://slashdot.org/)
First, you can't use slavery to distinguish between the cases of 1776 and 1860. In both cases, the seceding states held slaves.

Yes, but in 1775, none of the colonists had representation in their government, and they seceeded to get it. The situation was somewhat the opposite in 1860 -- the secessionists in fact had government representation. That is the concept under which it was legitimate: that seceding from the Union represented the will of the people of those states and in this case a state should be allowed to secede, while the existence of unrepresented slaves clearly goes against that.

Second, the belief that a war was necessary to end slavery is ridiculous, considering that every other slave-owning nation of the world managed to end slavery peacefully through comepensated emancipation.

That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that the civil war to a large degree occured because of the slavery issue. Whether it was hypothetically possible for the slaves to have been emancipated without a war is irrelevent to my point. The decline of slavery is irrelevent to the South's willingness to fight over it and the other issues that were intertwined with slavery. The issue was long-lived and deeply divided the nation, and whether or not the issue could have been resolved in some fashion is irrelevent to the fact that it wasn't. Like I said, Lincoln did not wage the war to free the slaves, he did it to save the Union (this according to his own words) which they did shortly after he took office, before he could have possibly mended the issues causing secession.

Id' you'd like to learn more, I'd recommend "The Real Lincoln" by Thomas DiLorenzo.

Sounds interesting.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by Edward Faulkner (664260) <edward@nOSPaM.mit.edu> on Monday October 25, @11:57AM (#10621994)
(http://web.mit.edu/edward/)
Yes, but in 1775, none of the colonists had representation in their government, and they seceeded to get it. The situation was somewhat the opposite in 1860 -- the secessionists in fact had government representation.

You're falling into the democracy==liberty trap. Just because you have a representative in congress doesn't mean the government can do whatever they want to you - the federal government must abide by the Constitution. The southern states accused the north of violating the letter of the Constitution, which they clearly did.

That is the concept under which it was legitimate: that seceding from the Union represented the will of the people of those states and in this case a state should be allowed to secede, while the existence of unrepresented slaves clearly goes against that.

If that's true, the colonial rebellion didn't reflect "the will of the people" because women and slaves had no representation in the colonies... By your argument only a perfectly just state can have the right to secession.

We've all been taught from childhood that the North was justified and Lincoln was a hero. But the facts speak differently. Seek them out. This stuff is important, because it has had a profound impact on American since then. And many of the most persistence political problems in the world today (Kashmir, Iraq, former Yugoslavia) could be solved peacefully if only we would embrace the legitimacy of secession.

Naturally, powerful centralized governments hate the idea.

Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by tchalvak (823612) on Wednesday October 20, @11:41PM (#10583091)
(http://nxs.vze.com/)
An excellent point. Such an excellent one, in fact, that I am rather horrified to have not seen it up until now.
So in the end, what we have weighing against each-other are two factors:

The ability of the masses, in the event of a failure of representation (which we will for an instant call justice) to rise up and overthrow the injust.
Vs.
The ability of the masses to have a better quality of life, due to the absence of the never-ending spot instances of misuse of guns that will occur when the rabid masses have easy access to them.

I have never, ever seen a reasonable benefit of self defense through guns when it meant that by being accessable to everyone, a criminal can gain easy power over the innocent simply by getting a gun.
But the viewpoint of the countrywide survival of liberty, makes me willing to endure the concept of guns in the hands of the idiots that I see every day. 'cause at least I know that they'll be just as rabidly patriotic in revolting against an invader as they are in following a stubbornly uncomprehending leader.

And I also find it amusing to think Jefferson used manure humor to make a point. Almost humor, at least.

Re:Second Amendment (Score:3, Insightful)
by Coulson (146956) on Thursday October 21, @01:01AM (#10583498)
(http://rescomp.stanford.edu/~coulson/)
I can't think of any sane raeason my neighbor (in a heavily populated area) could have for owning a machine gun. Potential revolt against a totalitarian state (results of Nov. 2 notwithstanding) seems much less likely than the chance of it being used to harm a large number of innocent people. Or consider an RPG or similar "military" weaponry... I just don't think in belongs. If you want to go out of town to shoot it at a range, well, be my guest. Hmm. I guess I'm more against usage than owning, then...

Regardless, the point of this post is to say that, if guns were allowed, it wouldn't be just the criminals who would have easy access to weapons. An armed society is a polite society, as they say.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:5, Informative)
by Dirtside (91468) on Wednesday October 20, @01:07PM (#10577754)
(http://matt.waggoner.com/ | Last Journal: Tuesday February 17, @02:03PM)
The point of the Second Amendment was not to guarantee people the right to arm themselves against criminals and bandits (although that is a side benefit). The point of the Second Amendment was so that the people can take up arms against the government if it became corrupt and oppressive.

Whether it's a good amendment, or still makes any sense in modern times, is a different kettle of fish entirely.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by kiltedtaco (213773) on Wednesday October 20, @03:40PM (#10579497)
(https://www.tacomeat.net/)
For all those who haven't read Cryptonomicon: There's an event in the book where Stephenson explictly states that the second amendment is to permit revolution. That's why so many people felt the urge to reply to this.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Vintermann (400722) on Thursday October 21, @04:41AM (#10584365)
(http://vintermann.paranoidkoala.org/)
No, Stephenson doesn't state that, if I recall correctly: one of his characters does. I don't remember the name, it's been a long time, but I don't necessarily think that N.S agrees with this character in everything. After I read this interview, I'm even less sure. Notice that when asked a gun-related question, he answers that it's better to keep your wits about you and stay out of trouble, at least when being abroad. This doesn't necessarily show that he opposes the revolution thing, but it shows that he is by no means a gun nut.

(BTW, I wonder what the questioner was thinking - doesn't he know that in many places is the world carrying guns is both illegal and very, very dangerous?)
Re:Second Amendment (Score:5, Insightful)
by BladeRider (24966) on Wednesday October 20, @01:15PM (#10577854)
I submit you don't understand the purpose of the second amendment. It was not to provide weapons of self-defense to citizens. It was to insure they could take up arms against an oppressive government, if needed. A one shot pistol isn't going to fulfill that necessity.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2, Funny)
by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, @02:49PM (#10578920)
well dont just stand there. start assembiling yoru first nuke. that will teach the communist goverment from messing with my drinking water...

damn flouride..
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by thelenm (213782) <.ude.hatu.sc. .ta. .mneleht.> on Thursday October 21, @11:23AM (#10588243)
(http://mike.pietdepsi.com/ | Last Journal: Thursday October 28, @11:16AM)
In that case, I guess I need to stockpile some assault rifles.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by WhiteDragon (4556) on Tuesday October 26, @01:02PM (#10632865)
(https://dawgchain.at/ | Last Journal: Thursday September 23, @03:40PM)
A one shot pistol isn't going to fulfill that necessity.
I don't know if John Wilkes Booth's pistol was single shot or not, but it seems he probably thougt of himself as taking up arms against an oppressive government.
Re:Errr... (Score:2)
by sleepingsquirrel (587025) <Greg.Buchholz@sl ... g ['el.' in gap]> on Wednesday October 20, @03:51PM (#10579622)
(Last Journal: Friday July 09, @03:29PM)
Here's an excerpt from the rought draft [loc.gov] of the declaration of indepencence which Mr. Jefferson wrote (about King George III)...
he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.
Re:Errr... (Score:1)
by bluesnowmonkey (148168) on Wednesday October 20, @05:36PM (#10580750)
I mean, Jefferson also believed in slavery, and was a slave owner. This is not to rag on him, but it does point out that their oppinions are hardly infallable, and I *can* tell you that the courts aren't going to buy that explanation.

The Founding Fathers were imperfect but held generally excellent ideals.

If anything, you'll wind up like McVeigh & co.--that was their reasoning (if indeed it can be called such) in what they did, after all.

History is written by the victorious.

When no less a conservative and no less a gun enthusiast than the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, William Rhenquest, comes out and says your rationale is rediculous, you *might* want to rethink it.

I respect the opinions of leaders only when they also happen to be wise.

The right to bear arms, after all, is subservient to our right to LIFE, liberty and the persuit of happiness. You may notice "LIFE" being at the top of that list.

Gun ownership does not imply low esteem for human life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness -- just the opposite, in fact.

But what am I talking about? Nobody seems to care who they kill anymore, so long as they can rationalize those people as being somehow unworthy of life. The felons (including those retarded or juvenile), terminally ill, terrorists, small (rather than larger and supposedly more intelligent) blobs of cells whatever their species, Iraqis, insurgents, the poor, people in poor African countries, anyone you disagree with strongly enough... the list goes on, and on, and on... :-/

I hold myself and everyone I know as counter-examples.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by rent-a-zilla (814446) on Wednesday October 20, @01:32PM (#10578079)
Oh fsck! Snippers! Run everyone he has scissors!
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by jafac (1449) on Wednesday October 20, @04:18PM (#10579943)
(http://slashdot.org/)
Well, I think that the "slippery slope" argument comes in here somewhere.

When it comes to the 2nd Amendment - the right to "keep and bear arms" leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to specifying precisely WHAT arms. If you interpret the spirit of the intent behind what they were thinking when they wrote it - you could easily come away with the impression that they included not only nuclear arms, but antimatter, bioweapons, or nanoweapons as well. Arms is arms, and as long as an "opressive regime" has the Power lent to it by posession of a given weapons technology, then THE PEOPLE also should have a right to own it.

This, of course, is ridiculous. Look at the mayhem in third world countries where people are permitted to "bear arms" (due to poor enforcement or a weak central authority) - case-in-point: in Iraq, families are allowed to have 1 AK-47 in their home. (I am not making this shit up, I wish I were!) - which is scary when you think of how that stacks up against the desire to preserve civic order. Then again, 1 AK-47 is a far cry from IED's, Mortars, Rockets, RPG's, etc.

The point is, in the broader context, like you say, of the rest of the Constitution (particularly the preamble), or the phrase you quote from the Declaration of Independence - you simply HAVE to draw the line somewhere. I don't accept that allowing groups like the Branch Davidians to stockpile belt-fed .50-cal machineguns is going to benefit ME and my political freedom. On the other hand, where DO you draw the line. The 2nd Amendment was about civillian power against government military force. So a 30-06 hunting rifle, or a .44 magnum revolver are similarly ridiculous, given that intent. Those are about empowering a civillian to enforce the law or protect his livestock from wild animals. The 2nd Amendment and attendant writings by the Founding Fathers don't talk much at all about that purpose. Following that line of reasoning, why not ban ALL guns?

To me, the obvious answer is, let's find a happy medium. With an eye towards modulation for circumstances and individual interest weighed against community interest. People living in Rural Areas sure as hell should NOT be prohibited from owning and operating tools vital for their survival and maintenance of their livelyhood (protecting livestock from wild animals). People living in Urban Areas sure as hell should be permitted to, if they agree, ban all handguns, to deter criminal misuse. They're different environments, and have different requirements.

In neither case do I advocate a situation that grants ordinary civillians the right to own technology that would allow them to take on the local military. I don't want to live in Somalia, Afghanistan, or Iraq. This is a case where right-wing ideology, where confronted with hard facts, falls flat on it's face.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@[ ... t ['net' in gap]> on Wednesday October 20, @08:23PM (#10581937)
(http://127.0.0.1/ | Last Journal: Saturday August 14, @11:21AM)
Keep in mind that the whole issue with the Branch Davidians was blown up totally out of control by inept law enforcement personnel, particularly Federal officials who were frankly itching to get into a fight and try out a new "unit" that was developed to deal with exactly that sort of assult. That the Branch Davidians held off the feds for as long as they did gives credit to the fact that they were well prepared. Remember, it was the feds going into the Branch Davidian compound, not the other way around.

Also, major missed opportunities included things like having an ATF agent stand right next to David Korish at a check-out counter in a store (a gun shop no less) and waving good-bye as he left the store unarmed. Similar incidents occured where they could have arrested people in Waco itself rather than killing everybody as it finally happened.

Basically, if you are invading somebody's home against the occupant's will, you should expect to get your a**** shot off, fall into a pit of spikes, or get your foot chewed off by a doberman. If this doesn't happen, just count yourself lucky. All of these things can be done "legally" without even having a .50 caliber weapon, or even a firearm.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by ChaosDiscord (4913) on Wednesday October 20, @05:23PM (#10580629)
(http://www.highprogrammer.com/alan/ | Last Journal: Monday November 01, @04:06PM)
Somehow I suspect Second Amendment was talking about pistols, not mortars. Something you can use to repell bandits who show up at your house, but not to interfere with general public's "pursuit of happiness".

Somehow I suspect that the Second Amendment was talking about rifles and cannons overtly intended to kill government representatives. Something you use to repel your country's lawful army to prevent them from enforcing the law. Something to stage a rebellion with. Having just rebelled from England and fought a bloody revolutionary war, I suspect that this was fresh in their minds. The second amendment is a defense against one's own government. The militia's in question would be those that grouped up to defeat tyranny.

Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by chl (247840) on Wednesday October 20, @08:36PM (#10582008)
Let everyone have manually loaded single-shot pistols,

Who modded this insightful? Are you completely utterly out of your fucking mind? Single-shot pistols for self defence? Have you for one second thought about the consequences (hint: the defender will be dead)? The very concept is so painful to behold, a good precursor to the pain you will feel when you use your one-shot gun against a determined attacker, because one shot, even if you score a hit somewhere, will not usually incapacitate someone who has already demonstrated his determination to hurt you (otherwise you would not pull out your gun, of course). But it will surely make him mad. Carrying a useless (yes, USELESS) gun for self defense will make you less safe. Using it in a situation that requires a gun will make you dead. And another thing, even if your attacker is lawful/evil and does not have his Glock with super high capacity magazine, he can still beat you into a pulp with his 3ft stainless steel pipe, while you can only wave your empty gun at him.

Your comment nicely demonstrates why a sensible gun control discussion is simply not possible: Too many people think that they are capable of discussing guns on the grounds that they have a vague emotional response ("guns scary! guns be gone!") to the subject. This leads to such utterly ludicrous suggestions as in your comment (or the "assault weapons" ban).

or better yet decent non/less-lethal weapons.

Just because there is a word for it does not mean a thing has to exist. There are situations in which pepper spray may not be enough.

chl

Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by iamacat (583406) on Thursday October 21, @03:30AM (#10584120)
(http://u1.netgate.net/~snowcat/)
Wow, either you played too much Silent Hill or NRA propoganda is far more impressive than I imagined. If I shoot and run, how far do you think a criminal (as opposed to a Navy SEAL) will chase me with "only" a collapsed lung or punctured liver? I think he better equip a horse whip instead of the 3 foot pipe, because he will be feeling woozy!

More importantly, criminals are cowards. If someone knows that if he tries to rape a girl, he has 10% chance of dying and 75% chance of getting caught and sent to prison for really long time (either the girl survives and testifies, or he has to get medical treatment for the wound and the bullet has some kind of ID, or hopefully both), he will just look at some pr0n instead.

Frankly, I wouldn't mind you using a 6 shot revolver for self defence from a mortal danger, except that once everyone has guns they would be inevitibly misused for duels, angry children shooting their parents/siblings, questionable self-defence like trying to kill running pickpockets and so on. I just wish that in most of these cases both parties survive and get out of jail before old age so that they can learn from their mistakes. At the same time, even a small chance of getting killed should discourage violent attacks.

As for non-lethal weapons, who said anything about pepper spray? There are fast-acting tranquilizer darts, pistols that shoot nerve gas capsules, tazers.. strong stuff that might kill but tries to just incapacitate. If NRA dedicated their resources and lobbying power to develop and approve such weapons, I am sure they could come up with some reliable, low fatality stuff.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by chl (247840) on Thursday October 21, @11:04AM (#10587968)
Wow, either you played too much Silent Hill or NRA propoganda is far more impressive than I imagined.
Nice try at insulting me without listening to my argument. I let neither games nor the NRA define my sense of reality. Maybe you play too many games if you think that you can reliably hit an attacker when you are under stress. It is totally suicidal to artifically restrict yourself to one shot. That harebrained suggestion is what I was getting angry at.

With tranquilizer guns, there would be the problem of multiple hits, because, as I said earlier, you cannot guarantee a certain number of hits. The usual recommendation for using a gun in self defence (in close quarters at least) is to fire and keep firing until the attacker falls, because you can not reliably tell after a shot how badly you hit the attacker. If one hit can send him to sleep, several might kill him. If several hits make him sleep, one hit may not be enough, severely reducing the benefit of the weapon.

chl

Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by iamacat (583406) on Thursday October 21, @11:52AM (#10588799)
(http://u1.netgate.net/~snowcat/)
I let neither games nor the NRA define my sense of reality

Entertain me then - where did you get the idea of an attacker with a hole in some internal organ chasing me around with a 3 foot metal pipe while I circle him with an empty gun rather than getting the hell out?

And I would think you would be happy with a tranquilizer guns because you can fire several shots and make sure the guy is well hit. Yes, he might die, but police will administer an antidot and so might I - after tying him to a pipe in my bathroom with electric cords.

You are precisely the kind of person I would keep away from guns because you are so bent on using excessive force and killing someone even if other options become available at only a small risk to yourself.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by chl (247840) on Thursday October 21, @01:21PM (#10590234)
Maybe I did not make myself clear enough on the "attacker is hit but not incapacitated" issue. It is well possible to hit an extremity or a non-vital part of the body. Bullets do get reflected by bones and what looks like a lung shot may be only a few cm deep. Fortunately, the law is on your side (if you were justified in using deadly force in the first place) even if you hit an attacker several times.

Keep in mind that I am talking about the rare and extreme situations where using deadly force against an attacker is necessary and legal.

You are precisely the person I would keep away from gun legislation because your idea of "excessive force" would put half the police force in jail.

About your last point, how much extra risk is acceptable to you for not using a firearm? AFAIK, the US law does not force you to take an extra risk to spare an attacker's life. After all, for legally using a gun in self defense you must be convinced that the other person is going to kill or maim you. This makes the decision about the risk of not using the gun a very personal one.

chl

Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Chris Carollo (251937) on Wednesday October 20, @02:15PM (#10578573)
Yes, submachineguns are more effective and are better for home defense. They are not offensive weapons; effective range is limited to a hundred meters or so.
Perhaps your definition of "offensive" and mine differ. Being able to effectively use a submachine gun from a football field away seems like it's appropriate for all sorts of offensive uses, and certainly good enough to clean out an office building or two in short order.
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by arose (644256) <artis@aaa.apollo.lv> on Wednesday October 20, @03:24PM (#10579299)
(http://arose.hopto.org/)
Yes, but you see if EVFERYONE had submachine guns the workers in the office buildings could start an effective counter attack by shooting out of the windows at everything that moves, this would ensure that the attacker would have to stand still... :-P
Re:Second Amendment (Score:3)
by mozumder (178398) on Wednesday October 20, @12:46PM (#10577438)
So does that mean I am legally entitled to own an H-Bomb?
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by Nick of NSTime (597712) on Wednesday October 20, @12:48PM (#10577471)
Yes. Donald Rumsfeld is holding on line two for you.
Private Nukes (Score:2)
by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@[ ... t ['net' in gap]> on Wednesday October 20, @01:10PM (#10577796)
(http://127.0.0.1/ | Last Journal: Saturday August 14, @11:21AM)
From my viewpoint and reading of the U.S. Constitution, absolutely!

Now at the same time, the possession of a nuclear warhead would require you to file environment impact statements if you are going to store it in your basement, and the 10000% federal excise tax on its purchase may also discourage you from actually purchasing it, considering that you would have to purchase components through interstate trade.

Also, if that same said bomb gets used you would be financially liable for the damage done by that same device, and subject to criminal prosecution if you kill anybody. Trafficing in the sale of a nuke to terrorist organizations may also be a capital crime.

The point is that while specifically "congress may make no law prohibiting..." there still are ways to regulate the possession of nukes by private individuals, even if ultimately Wm. H. Gates III is the only citizen that could afford to buy one.
Re:Private Nukes (Score:2)
by WhiteDragon (4556) on Tuesday October 26, @01:35PM (#10633228)
(https://dawgchain.at/ | Last Journal: Thursday September 23, @03:40PM)
The trouble with this idea is that it basically means the rich will have weapons, and the poor will not.
Re:Private Nukes (Score:1)
by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@[ ... t ['net' in gap]> on Tuesday October 26, @05:17PM (#10635953)
(http://127.0.0.1/ | Last Journal: Saturday August 14, @11:21AM)
Since when was this any different than in times past. During medeval times, only the rich could afford an armored horse and a set of mail for combat, together with retainers and squires to help feed and maintain the horse. Even now you have to be fairly wealthy to get some of the weapons, not to mention that you have to have property in places away from cities so you don't have draconian laws keeping you from having those weapons.
Re:Private Nukes (Score:2)
by WhiteDragon (4556) on Wednesday October 27, @09:11AM (#10641315)
(https://dawgchain.at/ | Last Journal: Thursday September 23, @03:40PM)
ok, makes sense to me.
Let's discuss the Second Amendment's history (Score:2)
by DG (989) on Wednesday October 20, @01:10PM (#10577791)
(http://farnorthracing.com/ | Last Journal: Wednesday October 13, @09:29AM)
It seems appropriate here, in a thread about/by Neal S., maaestro of the historical novel, to examine some of the history around the Second Amendment and how well it applies to the modern day.

(Quick point - after reading the Baroque Cycle, go re-read Crypto. Many suprises abound!)

OK then. At the time the Second Amendment was penned:

1) There was no such thing as a representative democratic republic. Governments were monarchies or oligarchies of one sort or another, and the common people had little or no say in the mechanisms of government. Government was something that _happened to you_ rather something that you _participated in_

As such, the only real way to deal with a tyrrany was violent revolution.

In the modern day, there exist elections. If you want to get rid of the government of the day, you are given regular opportunities to do so - in the US, one is coming up very quickly, and I rather expect to see one government removed and another installed in its place.

The requirement for violent revolution is pretty much past - one might even claim that the success of the American Revolution and the democratic republic it established is the _direct cause_ of violent revolution being made obsolete as a tool of political science.

2) The standard infantry arm of the day was the smoothbore musket - smoothbore, because it allowed for greater rates of fire than a rifled musket (the rifling makes it tough to ram the ball home)

Smoothbore muskets project great force to a reasonable distance, but the individual accuracy of the weapon suffers quite a bit compared to a rifle. Attempting to hit an individual with an aimed shot at any distance other than point-blank is wasted effort.

In order to make smoothbores work, you need to collect a bunch of them into a group and fire en masse. While individuals cannot hit individuals, a mass firing crates a wall of fast-moving lead roughly the width of the frontage of the firing unit and roughly 10 feet high. Anything occupying this space has a very high probability of being struck. Increase the rate of fire (as you can with a smoothbore) and the probability of being struck rises proportionately.

Yes, you can get good results using irregulars/skirmishers with rifles, who gain accuracy (and with it, effectiveness) at the cost of a slower rate of fire. That slow ROF though, means that your rifled skirmishers are unable to hold ground in the face of a massed formation of smoothbores. They are harrassing troops, not war-winners.

That the American Revolutionary Army, being composed primarily of skirmishers, defeated the British regular army, speaks more to the amount of strategic value placed on America by the British than to the superiority of the rifle over the massed formation. Note that in the American Civil War 100 years later (ish) it was massed formation vs massed formation.

The point of all that? If you're going to overthrow a government by strength of arms, and assuming that government actually intends to stick it out and fight (as one would assume any home-grown American government would) you're going to need a lot of muskets concentrated in one place. A LOT of muskets.

The flip side? A lone nutcase with a musket can't cause all that much damage.

Now then, fast forward to today. A modern assault rifle is accurate out to 600m (as in, at 600m I assume that a single aimed shot will hit its target) The rate of fire of a good shot is about 2 aimed shots per 3 seconds. A typical magazine holds 30 rounds, and the normal battle load is between 5 to as many as 12 magazines.

A single modern rifleman - or anybody equipped with a modern battle rifle - carries more firepower than a typical 18th century regiment.

Give that rifleman a modern LMG (a belt-fed, portable weapon like the Minimi) And you double his firepower yet again.

Want to trade ROF for distance? Modern sniper rifles have ranges measured in KILOMETRES (a Canadian sniper scored a kill at 2400m in Afganistan) and can still sustain a greater ROF than a musket regiment.

Unlike a lone musketeer, a modern rifleman loaded for bear is a VERY serious threat. Let one run amok, and you can have serious casulties on your hands - as has been proven several times over.

The American Founding Fathers could not have been expected to imagine the machine gun, or even the centre-fire cartridge, when they wrote the Second Amendment. Expecting a law written in the age of muskets to apply to assult weapons is a little bit like expecting 17th century copyright law to effectively deal with the internet.

Unfortunately, in the US gun ownership and the Second Amendment is a religous issue, not a matter of law (or even logic) If it were, it would have been repealed LONG ago.

DG
Re:Let's discuss the Second Amendment's history (Score:1)
by craw (6958) on Wednesday October 20, @02:47PM (#10578893)
(http://slashdot.org/)
Slight correction. In the earlier phases of the American Civil Warr, it was common strategy to employ massed formations against massed formations (e.g., massed frontal assaults). However, the use of rifled muskets changed all of that. Unfortunately, many generals did not change tactics but continued to used those from the Napoleanic era.

Rifled muskets increased the effective killing range to about 1/4 mile. A massed formation attempting to attack an entrenched defense would be severely decimated before they could get close.
Re:Let's discuss the Second Amendment's history (Score:2)
by DG (989) on Wednesday October 20, @02:52PM (#10578955)
(http://farnorthracing.com/ | Last Journal: Wednesday October 13, @09:29AM)
The magic word there is "entrenched defense"

But you are correct that the US Civil War was a transitional war where a new technology superceded an earlier one and changed tactics accordingly.

Moving troops by rail, the metal cartridge, explosive artillery, and the development of early rapid-fire weapons _heavily_ forshadowed WW1.

DG
Re:Let's discuss the Second Amendment's history (Score:2, Informative)
by MoebiusStreet (709659) on Wednesday October 20, @03:58PM (#10579733)
Numerous inaccuracies, to summarize:

1) Just plain wrong. Extant at the time was the Netherlands, for example. And the concept of democracy has been around at least since the Athenians. The thing that was, well, revolutionary about the USA was the idea of limiting the gov't's power to a short list of explicitly enumerated powers, something that seems to have been forgotten.

To the extent that Constitutional limitations have been eroding, replaced by democratic rule, the need for violent revolution is certainly not past. Democracy without limitation is nothing but mob rule, and when 51% of the voters decide to take the property of the minority (as happens every day in the USA, whether or not you believe it justified), a violent revolution is the logical conclusion.

2) The fact that the most common firearm was a smoothbore is a complete red herring, for at least three reasons. First, while in the minority, rifles were still common in the late 18th century. Second, shotguns were common as well, and these afford the power to damage a large number of people in a single shot, so although the number of discharges per unit time may have been limited, the amount of total carnage was still high. Third, what about cannon?
Re:Let's discuss the Second Amendment's history (Score:2)
by DG (989) on Wednesday October 20, @07:39PM (#10581680)
(http://farnorthracing.com/ | Last Journal: Wednesday October 13, @09:29AM)
1) While the concept of a democratic republic was hardly new, it took the Americans to get it right. The Netherlands, notionally a republic in the 1700s, in practice was an alliance of monarchies in all but name, the office of statholder being for life.

2) a) While rifles were in use (the English, for example, employed rifle companies) their slow rate of fire meant that they could not go toe-to-toe with the faster rate of fire of the smoothbores. Greater accuracy and slightly longer range don't count for much when the enemy is getting off 5 volleys for every two of yours.

The role of rifles was to act as skirmishers - set up in advance of the main body, engage the enemy (using the extra range and accuracy of the rifle) until the enemy got close enough to pose a threat, and then withdraw and let the massed smoothbores take over.

The analogy to modern weaponry is the sniper. Snipers don't fight in the main line of battle. That doesn't mean they are ineffective (quite the contrary) but they are specialists and rare.

b) Shotguns have even shorter ranges than the smoothbore muskets, and have to be close to produce any serious damage. They work well in VERY close quarters (urban, tunnels, shipboard) but have no place on an open battlefield.

The one exception - canister rounds for cannon. But canister uses musket balls as "shot" and cannot be fired by individuals. Which leads us to:

c) Cannon. Yes, cannon are an integral and important part of the gunpowder battlefield. But cannon are not _arms_ - they are _artillery_ and artillery has always been the private domain of governments and (especially) royalty. Ever see a British cannon? You can tell when it was cast by looking at whose arms are cast into it.

I can find no evidence of privately-owned cannon anytime in American history.

DG
Re:Let's discuss the Second Amendment's history (Score:1)
by MoebiusStreet (709659) on Wednesday October 20, @09:33PM (#10582337)
1:
> in practice was an alliance of monarchies in
> all but name, the office of statholder being
> for life

How does this differ from America (serious question, not just baiting)? Exhibit A: Teddy Kennedy. Exhibit B: Gerrymandering to strengthen incumbent's chances of reelection. Exhibit C: the McCain-Feingold incumbency protection act.

There are many other examples of pre-American representative democracy, like Rome. Indeed, the idea of the divine right of kings is fairly modern. Pre-renaissance, the nobility were obligated to the peasants very strongly.

In any case, you still haven't refuted my point about democracy being equivalent to mob rules, and therefore being anything BUT proof against the need for revolution.

2:
So all these predecessors to modern arms were known at the time, yet you believe that none of the Framers would have expected further development of the technology -- not even noted inventor Ben Franklin?

It's odd to believe that they wouldn't foresee any changes in military machinery or tactics, when they were so careful to look forward with the rest of the Constitution.

And as an aside, of course there were privately held cannon in America. All Yankee cannon MUST have been private property. Clearly they were not owned by the British. Yet there was no formal American government that *could* have been the owner (remember, we're talking about militias and stuff). So who owned the cannon that the colonial army fought with?
Re:Let's discuss the Second Amendment's history (Score:2)
by DG (989) on Thursday October 21, @09:32AM (#10586512)
(http://farnorthracing.com/ | Last Journal: Wednesday October 13, @09:29AM)
1) It is possible to vote out Mr. Kennedy, should enough of the electorate decide to do so. If you have an election where Kennedy loses, he's gone.

That he seems to be very popular with the voters must mean he's doing a good job in their eyes, which you may or may not like very much, but does not mean de facto that the voting process is broken and is in need of violent revolution to fix.

If you think that the democratic process in the US is wounded, then vote for candidates who will fix it - or become a candidate yourself, and get yourself elected.

As far as democracy being equal to mob rule, your Founders would agree - that's why your govenment IS NOT a democracy. It is a deomcratic republic.

2) I don't think that even Ben Franklin could have forseen the ENORMOUS increases in firepower availible to an individual person today. In fact, I think that if you dropped a machine gun in front of ol' Ben, at first he'd be facinated by the mechanism, and then very shortly he'd be utterly horrified at what it represented - and on several levels.

They is the phrase "a well-regulated Militia". In Franklin's day, it was assumed that, should it come to fighting off a new tyrrany, that men would have to be organized into a fighting organization (with all the trappings; officers, NCOs and the like) because there was no physical way to do otherwise. Fighting battles meant masses of men in ranks. THAT, in turn, means you need a lot of like-minded people to get together, organize, and train. Battalions of musket-wielding infantry do not materialize out of the aether.

But with machine guns (and other modern weapons) that's no longer true. It is now possible for small groups of men to wreak utter havoc should they be so inclined. It is no longer a valid assumption that to do battle, one needs mass.

The risk posed to the general public by a standard battlefield arm has gone up from negligible in Ben's day, to enormous in ours. I find it very hard to believe that your founding fathers forsaw that.

As far as the owners of Yankee revolutionary war cannon - the true owners were either British (captured guns) or French (donated guns) and after the Revolutionary War, production of native cannon was the province of the government.

DG
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by PMuse (320639) on Wednesday October 20, @01:47PM (#10578239)
Assuming we're now talking about Amendment I, ...I submit to you that "Congress shall make no law" means what it says and says what it means.

Many have submitted that position to the-court-that-is-right-because-it-is-last and that court has not accepted it. At least, no majority of that court has accepted it.

They allow all kinds of caveats for things like hiring assassings to comit murder, inciting a riot in a packed theatre, revealing top secret documents, and slandering people.

"No law" sounds like a nice and clean formulation of the principle, but actually having no laws would be bad. How would it be if some one took out a full-page ad calling you an adulterer and an embezzler and there was abosolutely nothing you could do to get them to stop?
Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by soft_guy (534437) on Wednesday October 20, @01:54PM (#10578329)
If the US Constitution protects all weapons, then why are there so many laws banning certain kinds of knives? For example, switch blade knives, gravity knives, and knives with a blade over a certain length are illegal in most places. How can this be constitutional?

Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
by SuiteSisterMary (123932) <(slebrun) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday October 20, @01:55PM (#10578351)
(Last Journal: Thursday October 14, @02:08PM)

This is extra interesting when you think that under American law, Cryptography was (and might still be) classified as 'munitions.'

Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
by Ancient Devices King (469802) on Wednesday October 20, @02:03PM (#10578461)
"A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."

Do we have a "well regulated militia"? Can you argue that it is it even necessary, or that it would help ensure a free state? Look what happens every time some group within the US gets infantry grade weapons and tries to resist giving them up. The SWAT team/FBI/ATF/National Guard shows up with overwhelming force and that's the end of it. In the modern world, real military gear is so expensive and requires so much training to truely use effectively that no militia made up of amateurs would stand a chance at "securing a free state" if it came to that.

BTW, going with a stritly literal interpretation, you would not be allowed to infringe on the right of:
  • children,
  • people on airplanes or in other weapons-free locations (at least not by law),
  • people convicted of violent crimes, and
  • people who are actually in prison
    to bear arms. Nor would you be allowed to do such things as background checks before handgun purchases (I have no idea what your view on this last one is though). If you're willing to allow interpretation of the law to restrict access to those people, then it's hypocritical to not allow other interpretations.

  • Re:Second Amendment (Score:3, Interesting)
    by drwho (4190) on Wednesday October 20, @02:48PM (#10578913)
    (http://sinister.com/ | Last Journal: Monday September 03, @10:09PM)
    Remember this document was written by people who had just won a war, by a long shot, against the most powerful and oppressive empire in their world.



    No, they didn't. The U.S. has yet to fight the Roman Catholic Church, and seems less likely to do so each year (unfortunately).

    Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
    by metlin (258108) * <metlin AT cc DOT gatech DOT edu> on Thursday October 21, @11:52AM (#10588793)
    (http://labs.highbrew.com/ | Last Journal: Tuesday October 26, @11:09PM)
    I wonder how many people got what you were really trying to say :)

    Good one, though!
    Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
    by glyons (263484) on Wednesday October 20, @03:37PM (#10579471)
    "A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State..."

    Why is it that the 'cold dead fingers' contingent never seems to remember the first half of the Second Amendment? It seems to me that while the founders wished to protect the right of citizens to defend themselves, they never intended for every dim bulb with a firearm fetish to have free reign with firepower they could never have imagined at the time.
    Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
    by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Wednesday October 20, @04:47PM (#10580260)
    (http://www.infamous.net/)
    The 2nd amendment doesn't specify "certain" or "specific" weapons for protection. It protects **all** weapons.

    Actually, it says "arms". IIRC, at the time there was a clear distinction in usage between "arms" and "artillery"; arms basically being rifles and other weapons carried by one man, artillery being cannon, etcetera. So the Second Amendment does have some limit (though as you point out, military assault rifles certainly do fall within its protection as arms for a modern militia.)

    The key phrase here is "Congress shall make no law..."

    That phrase does not appear in Amendment II: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
    by focitrixilous P (690813) <focitrixilousP@gmail3.14159.com minus pi> on Wednesday October 20, @06:04PM (#10580989)
    (http://fred.wackiness.org/ | Last Journal: Wednesday September 01, @10:32PM)
    OT, yes, but I'll throw my take on this in.

    The US government is designed around checks and balances. The branches will oppose one another if they get out of line, and even it takes forever to get something done, in the end it usually ends up right. However, knowing that eventually everything falls apart, the constitution granted one last balance to the people, the right to bear arms. IF things ever got so bad that the government's internal balances fail, the people are capable of creating new government. This is how the country became independant fron England.

    This may sound far fetched, but I think it's the road we are headed down right now. Everything is so "with us or against us" right now that conflict in the US seems inevetible within 50 years if nothing changes the attitudes of Americans. If/When the revolution comes again, Amendment #2 will be right there with the fighters.

    Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
    by idsofmarch (646389) <ingramp@@@dakotacom...net> on Wednesday October 20, @11:47PM (#10583120)
    I hope you remember that when I bombard your house with my brand-new MILES system. Or maybe I'll just go thermonuclear. The 2nd Amendment isn't clear about such things, I wonder why?
    Re:Second Amendment (Score:2)
    by Graabein (96715) on Thursday October 21, @07:31AM (#10585023)
    (http://www.bitcon.no/~gunnar/ | Last Journal: Wednesday January 21, @08:13PM)
    It protects **all** weapons.
    Cool. So if I move to the US and become a citizen, can I have my own nuke?

    No, seriously.

    Wouldn't have to be a big one, one of those small tactical jobs would do me nicely.

    "These premised protected by a nuclear device" - has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

    (and that's "nuh-culur" to you, buddy)

    Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
    by AllergicToMilk (653529) on Thursday October 21, @08:59AM (#10586057)
    The right to keep and bear arms derives from the second and the ninth amendments to the constitution.

    The second lays out the need for a militia to provide for the security of the state. Implied in the language is that the general populace should compose the militia. The unstated reason for that is that the general populace should be able protect itself against the possibility of its leaders becoming tyrranical.

    The ninth amendment is where we derive our right to keep arms for the more practical puposes of sports, hunting and self defense. In particular we are endowed with rights not specifically stated by any amendment. The ninth protects those rights from encroachment. Perhaps the most powerful right we have is the right to defend our own persons and to anticipate the need to defend our persons. Firearms are the "great equalizer" that allows a 5' tall, 110 lb woman to have a chance at defending herself against a 6' tall, 210 lb man. Or a chance for my 6' 250 lb out-of-shape self any chance of defending myself against a muscled attacker. Or, for that matter, anyone the chance of defending themselves against anyone else with a gun. All of these are reasonably envisionable scenarios today.

    The way the federal govt. gets around these amendments (and others, such as the 10th) is through taking advantage of a contradiction in the constitution and liberal interpretation of the language. Typically, federal code can draw a lot of power from the "inter-state commerce" portion of the main body of the constitution in order to regulate a great many things beyond simple cross-state-border transactions. It accomplishes this by inferring that for the thing/activity to exist a cross-state-border transaction must have taken place. Much of the power of the federal govt. that was obviously inteded to be limited by the 10th amendment has been achieved through this "backdoor".
    Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
    by MoebiusStreet (709659) on Wednesday October 20, @04:15PM (#10579900)
    So what you're saying is that the phrase "the people" as appears in Amendments I, IV, X, all refer to individual humans, but when written in the 2nd Amendment, the definition changes, without explanation, to refer to collectives of people and NOT individuals? That's absurd.

    And the Courts realize this. In a bizarre twist, the Supreme Court acknowledged it in the Dred Scott decision:

    "For if they were so received, and entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens, it would exempt them [blacks] from the operation of the special laws and from the police regulations which they considered to be necessary for their own safety. It would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognized as citizens in any one State of the Union, the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went."
    Re:Second Amendment (Score:1)
    by TLCowart (740749) on Thursday October 21, @11:00AM (#10587934)
    My favorite quote on this perspective is by Michael Kinsley:

    "The purpose of the First Amendment's free-speech guarantee was pretty clearly to protect political discourse. But liberals reject the notion that free speech is therefore limited to political topics, even broadly defined. True, that purpose is not inscribed in the amendment itself. But why leap to the conclusion that a broadly worded constitutional freedom ("the right of the people to keep and bear arms") is narrowly limited by its stated purpose, unless you're trying to explain it away? My New Republic colleague Mickey Kaus says that if liberals interpreted the Second Amendment the way they interpret the rest of the Bill of Rights, there would be law professors arguing that gun ownership is mandatory."
    -- Washington Post, January 8, 1990 [Emphasis mine].

    It should be noted, for the record, that Michael Kinsley is NOT part of the gun fanatic crowd-- quite the opposite. Anyone who doubts this can simply check out The New Republic Online [tnr.com] website to get the gist of their political perspective. As for my own perspective, I am a gun ownership advocate, though casting me as a fanatic might be stretching it a bit.

    In defense of the perspective you claim invalid (and in support of Mickey Kaus' statement indirectly quoted above) I present the following argument. If you really believe the literalist perspective that you stated, then you must also agree that all legal decisions derived from the "right to privacy" should be null and void. This is obvious, as the word "privacy", along with all of its synonyms, appears nowhere in the Constitution. While obviously true, it is not so likely that you are willing to jump on this bandwagon, as many of the decisions based on this nonexistent right tend to align with the philosophy of those who wield the phrase "gun fanatic" as a diatribe.

    As for the legal know-nothings on the Supreme Court, I would hazard this is not the case. I would also hazard that you are referring to UNITED STATES v. MILLER, 307 U.S. 174 (1939) [findlaw.com] in which the Supreme Court ruled that possession of the shotgun you described could not be construed as protected because such a weapon would not fulfill the definition of providing for a well armed militia. The problem is that they also defined what a well armed militia was, and I don't think you are going to like their answer:

    "The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. 'A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline.' And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time."
    --- UNITED STATES v. MILLER, 307 U.S. 174 (1939) [Emphasis mine]

    As a physically capable male, I appreciate the insight these know-nothings had into the definition of a Militia. While I myself am in possession of nothing more than a small handgun for self-defense, I can still appreciate the wisdom of our forefathers, and our Supreme Court justices, in providing for, and maintaining, this fundamental right.

    Finally, as for the access to good hacking code, I agree completely. This is important, because I have found it is better to end on an agreeable note-- it cuts down on continued conversational clutter.
    Wonderful interview, except... (Score:5, Funny)
    by Masker (25119) on Wednesday October 20, @11:48AM (#10576675)
    while I enjoyed his answers, the endings tended to fall a little flat.
    MOD PARENT UP/FUNNY (Score:1)
    by adavies42 (746183) on Wednesday October 20, @12:25PM (#10577162)
    Stephenson in-joke, very funny if you've read his books
    Re:Wonderful interview, except... (Score:2, Interesting)
    by The Fun Guy (21791) <bniemiraNO@SPAMarserrc.gov> on Wednesday October 20, @12:54PM (#10577572)
    (http://www.ars.usda....le.htm?personid=4114 | Last Journal: Thursday November 04, @09:50AM)
    Thank God I'd fully swallowed that mouthful of coffee before reading this, or I'd have choked to death. As it was, I salute you for your humor, sir.
    Re:Wonderful interview, except... (Score:2)
    by arose (644256) <artis@aaa.apollo.lv> on Wednesday October 20, @03:29PM (#10579365)
    (http://arose.hopto.org/)
    Choking to death from a mix of coffee and humor, what a nice way to and a long book...
    MicroSoft's Second Mouse Philosophy (Score:1)
    by KarlKaiser (823865) on Wednesday October 20, @02:41PM (#10578848)
    Yep. ala Word vs. Word Perfect, IE vs. Navigator, and Excel vs. Lotus (well MicroSoft was the third mouse in that case, after Borland).
    pffft. I call shenanigans (Score:1, Redundant)
    by Frequanaut (135988) on Wednesday October 20, @11:53AM (#10576711)


    How do you "whirl a wireless mike"?

    Re:pffft. I call shenanigans (Score:1)
    by obirt (713598) on Wednesday October 20, @12:19PM (#10577073)
    (Last Journal: Tuesday June 15, @01:51PM)
    Think a lapel microphone where there's a tiny mic clipped to your tie and a transmitter box in your pocket or some such connected by a wire to the microphone. Not a handheld wireless microphone.
    Re:pffft. I call shenanigans (Score:1, Redundant)
    by Compulawyer (318018) on Wednesday October 20, @12:21PM (#10577105)
    Picture the type with an electret mike that clips to the lapel with a wire to the Tx/Rx box - not the handheld type.
    Re:pffft. I call shenanigans (Score:1)
    by RexDart (806741) <jim.foster @ c o x .net> on Wednesday October 20, @12:21PM (#10577109)
    As noted by a previous comment, most wireless lavalier mikes have a microphone bud which is connected by a wire to a belt-mounted transmitter.
    Re:pffft. I call shenanigans (Score:1)
    by fishy jew (452414) <bigsNO@SPAMbigs18.com> on Wednesday October 20, @12:26PM (#10577182)
    A wireless microphone is actually made up of two (or three, depending on whether or not you count the antenna) pieces. You have the microphone, which is the small black cylinder you see clipped on the lapels of TV interviewees. The microphone is attached by cable to the transmitter box, which includes a battery, power switch, volume slider, and belt clip (the antenna is attached to that transmitter box). Therefore, one could very easily grasp the microphone in their hand and whirl the transmitter box around.

    If you want to really analyze the whirling, while it is theoretically possible (you have a cable and a massive object on the end of it - that's all you need) to whirl, it may not be useful in this situation, as the microphone and cable could very well pop out of their socket in the transmitter box, thus allowing the transmitter box to follow its natural trajectory tangent to the circular whirl-path.

    Oh well.
    Re:pffft. I call shenanigans (Score:2)
    by Kiryat Malachi (177258) on Wednesday October 20, @01:34PM (#10578092)
    (Last Journal: Wednesday March 10, @01:38AM)
    There are also wireless dynamic mics, which are one piece. Not whirlable.
    Re:pffft. I call shenanigans (Score:1)
    by Random Guru 42 (687672) <chrisc@melPERIODdstar.com minus punct> on Wednesday October 20, @12:27PM (#10577211)
    (http://members.meldstar.com/chrisc/ | Last Journal: Tuesday November 02, @04:21PM)
    Junpei [megatokyo.com] knows, as should you: Leet ninj4 ski11z.
    Re:pffft. I call shenanigans (Score:1)
    by EyeSavant (725627) on Wednesday October 20, @12:45PM (#10577423)
    Most wireless mikes I have seen on TV involve a small microphone connected to a much larger powerpack/tranmitter which is cliped to the body somehow.

    So it is pretty easy to whirl one of those if you keep hold of the box bit
    Re:pffft. I call shenanigans (Score:2)
    by C. E. Sum (1065) on Wednesday October 20, @12:55PM (#10577593)
    (http://www.thewalrus.org | Last Journal: Thursday August 08, @01:55PM)
    by the antenna?
    Re:pffft. I call shenanigans (Score:2)
    by Scrameustache (459504) on Wednesday October 20, @01:08PM (#10577769)
    (http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Tuesday December 24, @12:08AM)
    How do you "whirl a wireless mike"?

    I refer you to this site [homestarrunner.com] for visual aides.
    Er... (Score:2)
    by arafel (15551) * on Wednesday October 20, @06:17PM (#10581105)
    That's the *only* bit that you find to question? :-)
    Beowulf writers (Score:5, Insightful)
    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 20, @11:53AM (#10576722)
    (http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Tuesday July 27, @11:49AM)

    Imagine a...

    Seriously though, Neal says that the contrast between popular authors making money and literary authors not making money "IS NOT FAIR and [...] MAKES NO SENSE" but to me it's perfectly logical. The strength in any system belongs to the masses, whether they realize it or not. The public (myself included) wants good yarns more than great literary works. Do I care that Neal's fiction is, while incredible bright and interesting, essentially mental popcorn? Hell no. I just want to be entertained and his books provide me the greatest entertainment per page and per dollar, so I buy them. I would prefer to read Zodiac rather than Wuthering Heights because it does a superior job of entertaining me.

    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:2)
    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday October 20, @12:11PM (#10576932)
    (Last Journal: Thursday July 15, @09:56PM)
    The public (myself included) wants good yarns more than great literary works. Do I care that Neal's fiction is, while incredible bright and interesting, essentially mental popcorn? Hell no. I just want to be entertained and his books provide me the greatest entertainment per page and per dollar, so I buy them. I would prefer to read Zodiac rather than Wuthering Heights because it does a superior job of entertaining me.

    I submit that all great literature is entertaining, due to its very greatness. I fail to understand how a boring book could be considered great. For books like Wuthering Heights, which stink to high heaven, I point you to the parable of the Emperor's New Clothes.
    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:2)
    by arose (644256) <artis@aaa.apollo.lv> on Wednesday October 20, @03:32PM (#10579405)
    (http://arose.hopto.org/)
    There are different kinds of boring. I fell asleep when first watching 2001 (it was aroud 04:00 so..), but I still though it was a great movie and regreted falling asleep.
    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:3, Insightful)
    by RexDart (806741) <jim.foster @ c o x .net> on Wednesday October 20, @12:25PM (#10577173)
    I might note that Wuthering Heights, in Stephenson's classification, is a Beowulf novel, not a Dante novel.

    More precisely, it's a Beowulf novel transformed into a Dante novel by antiquity and the assimilation by the Dante circle and gatekeepers.

    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:3, Insightful)
    by mbbac (568880) on Wednesday October 20, @01:49PM (#10578281)
    More precisely, it's a Beowulf novel transformed into a Dante novel by antiquity and the assimilation by the Dante circle and gatekeepers.
    Doesn't the same go for Beowolf?
    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:1)
    by ocmeking (815945) on Wednesday October 20, @02:14PM (#10578567)
    Yes, and to Dickens and to Shakespeare. Funny how that happens, the popular entertainment of one age is looked down upon by the literati and adored by the masses then becomes classic, then becomes part of the literati and disliked by the masses.
    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:2)
    by GeoGreg (631708) on Wednesday October 20, @12:32PM (#10577274)
    I would prefer to read Zodiac rather than Wuthering Heights because it does a superior job of entertaining me.

    Did the Bronte sisters have academic appointments? The things one learns on Slashdot...

    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:5, Insightful)
    by Jameth (664111) on Wednesday October 20, @12:42PM (#10577382)
    Did you notice the way that you insult science fiction as a whole while saying you like it? I would have to say that your suppositions are wrong and are based entirely on what literary critics have been pushing forever (or at least a while).

    As a student currently working at a writing major, I run into a lot of literary authors that just don't get Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Literary fiction focuses on giving depth to characters and showing rich emotions, usually specifically at the expense of the rest of the piece.

    Most literary critics have trouble understanding that having a piece which studies society as a whole, rather than just individuals, is just as valid, and that science fiction, with an alternative future or alternative world, is an incredibly effective way to portray this.

    The other genres which are so denigrated, fantasy and sci-fi, are just different, and treating them as less intellectually valid merely because their purpose is different, is a massive failing.
    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:2)
    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday October 21, @03:24PM (#10591678)
    (http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Tuesday July 27, @11:49AM)
    Well, you might be right that I have let out some secret preprogrammed bias against my favorite genre, but all I was trying to say is that I don't buy/read books because I think they're great literature that will stand the test of time. I read them because they entertain me. I have a special place in my heart for hard sci-fi, and for books with rich interpersonal commentaries like Robinson's Mars books, which are both. Or, for that matter, Stephenson's works, which also tend to contain both sorts of subject matter.
    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:3, Insightful)
    by bskin (35954) <bskin@poboxes.com> on Wednesday October 20, @12:47PM (#10577467)
    (http://bemtech.net/)
    Mental popcorn? 2500+ pages of historical fiction contemplating the roots of our modern scientific, social, political, and financial systems is mental popcorn? I mean, it seemed to me like the whole Baroque Cycle was trying to get at the roots of modern thought. That's not popcorn to me.

    Of course, as a caveat, I'll point out that I consider there to be a big difference between the plot of a novel and what it's about.
    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:5, Interesting)
    by Paul Lamere (21149) on Wednesday October 20, @01:22PM (#10577952)
    (http://blogs.sun.com/plamere | Last Journal: Thursday December 06, @01:58PM)
    Tolkien was dogged throughout his career by the literary critics that felt that the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings was beneath the dignity of an Oxford professor (and certainly not worthy of their attention let alone praise). Perhaps Neal picks the term 'Beowulf' as a nod to Tolkien who was the preeminent Beowulf translator and scholar of the 20th century.
    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:2)
    by cbiffle (211614) on Wednesday October 20, @05:41PM (#10580787)
    Or he may have simply been referencing Beowulf, which was, fundamentally, just an adventure novel.

    If Beowulf were written today, it wouldn't merit study for those who don't like Stephenson's "Beowulf writers." (And not just because everyone would say "You just rewrote Beowulf." :-) )
    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:1)
    by digitalmedievalist (637461) on Thursday October 21, @07:53PM (#10594099)
    (http://www.digitalmedievalist.com/)
    Though Tolkien is and was certainly a crucial scholar of Beowulf, it was his largely because of his essay "The Monstor and the the Critics," which changed the face of Beowulf criticism, not for his translation of Beowulf, which is still not yet published, though Michael Drout has written about it.
    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:2)
    by tgibbs (83782) on Wednesday October 20, @01:38PM (#10578135)
    Seriously though, Neal says that the contrast between popular authors making money and literary authors not making money "IS NOT FAIR and [...] MAKES NO SENSE" but to me it's perfectly logical.

    Actually, a lot of perfectly logical stuff is not fair. That is why the world is generally not very fair, because logic often trumps fairness. Not everything of value is popular. Look at some of the more advanced scientific work: there may be only a few dozen people in the world who actually understand it, but they are the right people--the ones who can actually use that information in a productive way that maybe (a few generations of scientists and technologists downstream) will result in something of great value to the public at large.

    However, when value is indirect or delayed, it's a lot harder to figure out what is or is not valuable, hence we need the whole apparatus of criticism--basically a bunch of middlemen whose job it is to figure it out. A popular writer has the advantage of cutting out all of these middlemen, because the value in his work is of a type that is directly accessible to a substantial fraction of the public at large.
    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:2, Insightful)
    by jazman_777 (44742) on Wednesday October 20, @01:44PM (#10578218)
    (http://slashdot.org/)
    The strength in any system belongs to the masses

    Yes, if there is hope, it lies with the proles. Thus, there is no hope.

    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:2)
    by arose (644256) <artis@aaa.apollo.lv> on Wednesday October 20, @03:35PM (#10579441)
    (http://arose.hopto.org/)
    The strength in any system belongs to the masses
    No, the strength belongs to those who are able to control masses.
    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:3, Insightful)
    by ThousandStars (556222) on Wednesday October 20, @03:57PM (#10579711)
    (http://www.editingandwriting.com/)
    The public (myself included) wants good yarns more than great literary works.

    I think the public -- over the long term, anyway -- wants good yarns that are literary works. I don't think there needs to be a distinction between them, although I suspect many writers on both sides of the Dante/Beowulf divide want to say that one is superior as a way of justifying their own style or importance. The best books seek and achieve both.

    To my mind, that is the distinction of a great writer: to be both literary and cognizant of the importance of a powerful story. Stephenson does this in books like _Cyrptonomicon_, which explain his well-deserved fame.

    Re:Beowulf writers (Score:1)
    by mbullock (623257) on Wednesday October 20, @04:13PM (#10579878)
    The public may want a good yarn, but that is neither here nor there. If the 'public' were always correct we wouldn't need a bill of rights. My understanding of Neal's distinction between literary and popular writers was very different. I think the underlying point was that the distinction is largely external and false in many ways. Some few writers are skilled/lucky enough to enjoy a level of popular response that allows them to live off of the commercial returns from their trade. Others are not and have to find other outlets for their work. I completely reject the parent post's contention that there is some mythic 'public' that dictates what is good or bad literature. A good deal of the great literary works that the poster eschews in favor of vapid popcorn novels were the commercial and poplular works of their day. Think Shakespear, Dickens, Tolstoy, etc. The reason the works of these writers are considered great has nothing to do with the fact that they started out as popular works. They are considered great because they were found to have enduring value and appeal. There are certainly science fiction and fantasy works that have the potential for this sort of long term appeal. Tolkein is a great example. Give it more time. On the other hand, sci-fi stories that lack any true style or backbone will rightfully fade from memory. Certainly it will not be this public that decides alone! Lets wait and see who is watching reruns of 'Survivor' in 100 years. The droll, vapid popular garbage of the day will be forgotten despite the fact that the 'public' likes it at the moment. Personally, I find I am equally capable of enjoying a popcorn novel, a great work of literature, or even an occassion an episode of surviver. I do not, however, attempt to justify my ignorance of great or classical literature on the bases of a cracked theory that attempts to glorify ignorance by cloaking it the garb of the democratic voice of 'the public'. The masses are, after all, not always that clever. The masses supported slavery in the USA.
    Re:Beowulf writers (by Chairman Mao) (Score:1)
    by loudmouth (661510) on Friday October 22, @12:40AM (#10595601)

    There is in fact no such thing as art for art's sake, art that stands above classes, art that is detached from or independent of politics. Proletarian literature and art are part of the whole proletarian revolutionary cause.

    * * *

    To read too many books is harmful.

    Imagine... (Score:1)
    by adam31 (817930) on Wednesday October 20, @11:55AM (#10576735)
    so I'm going to call them 'Beowulf writers'

    Imagine... Neal Stephenson writing this phrase with a Big Huge Grin.

    Beowulf Writers (Score:5, Funny)
    by Z4rd0Z (211373) <joseph at mammalia dot net> on Wednesday October 20, @11:55AM (#10576737)
    (http://slashdot.org/)
    Since he mentioned Beowulf writers, I'd like to designate this thread as a place for all Beowulf cluster jokes. Just think of it as a public service.
    Re:Beowulf Writers (Score:5, Funny)
    by dpilot (134227) on Wednesday October 20, @12:09PM (#10576907)
    (http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Wednesday October 02, @07:20AM)
    So is a convention of commercial authors a...

    rimshot please...

    Oh, why even bother with the punchline. You can see it coming a mile away.
    Re:Beowulf Writers (Score:2)
    by Scrameustache (459504) on Wednesday October 20, @01:20PM (#10577921)
    (http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Tuesday December 24, @12:08AM)

    So, if one of these authors publishes a book that does not sell as well as was expected...

    Can we say that he cluster bombed?


    Hello? Hello... Is this thing on? : )

    Re:Beowulf Writers (Score:2)
    by Rimbo (139781) <jrimmer1NO@SPAMsan.rr.com> on Wednesday October 20, @04:32PM (#10580117)
    (http://www.rimbosity.com/ | Last Journal: Saturday September 27, @02:24AM)
    "So is a convention of commercial authors a..." ...great place to be a pickpocket?

    Or better yet, kidnap 'em for ransom.
    Re:Beowulf Writers (Score:2, Funny)
    by ajrs (186276) on Wednesday October 20, @01:26PM (#10577998)
    (http://slashdot.org/)
    in the literary world, the output a cluster of "Beowulf writers" are measured in thousands of monkey years, or Kmy.
    Never read him, but: (Score:5, Interesting)
    by RealProgrammer (723725) on Wednesday October 20, @11:57AM (#10576767)
    (http://healconsulting.com/ | Last Journal: Wednesday October 06, @11:24AM)
    From Q.2:
    ...the system I am describing here IS NOT FAIR and that IT MAKES NO SENSE and that I don't deserve to have the freedom that is accorded a Beowulf writer when many talented and excellent writers---some of them good friends of mine---end up selling small numbers of books and having to cultivate grants....

    I understand his position, and why he has to say that, but the system does make sense in this way: he took the risk. The academic writers have worked very hard to get where they are, but their career choices have followed a path of risk avoidance.

    I work in academia, and I have made the same decisions they have. Do I work on writing software that people (the masses) will use and pay for, or do I cling to the safety of Alma Mater? I'm still here, clinging, critiquing other people's work instead of taking the risks of failure and rejection by writing my own.

    Real programmer? Ha.

    Academia is a riskier career (Score:5, Insightful)
    by cquark (246669) on Wednesday October 20, @03:13PM (#10579157)
    I'm not sure your risk evaluation is correct. You may be right about your own field because in some fields, it's relatively easy to get an academic job. However, English is not such a field. As there aren't nearly as many jobs outside universities that require an English PhD as there are for a CS PhD, there are far more English PhDs produced than jobs for them.

    After all, if a professor produces 10 grad students during a 30-40 year career, only one of them can get his job. Worse yet, English professors are more likely to be replaced after retirement by several part-time adjuncts rather than by another full time professor. All the effort of getting a PhD, then years of non-tenure track jobs, is a taking a considerable risk with a decade or more of your life on the chance of getting an academic job.

    You may have a better chance of becoming an academic making the $20,000 a year a starting English prof makes in many universities than you do of being a writer who makes that much, but I'm not sure the chances are that much better and taking a chance at being a writer doesn't take the decade of time that taking a chance at being an English professor does.

    Re:Never read him, but: (Score:1)
    by bware (148533) on Wednesday October 20, @04:17PM (#10579927)
    (http://www.bware.org/)
    The academic writers have worked very hard to get where they are, but their career choices have followed a path of risk avoidance.

    Lessee, the better part of a decade of grad school, followed by low probability postdocs, fellowships, grant applications, applications for very limited tenure-track jobs, tenure committees, versus just going out and getting a job that pays N times as much? Toss in the two-body problem for kicks.

    Speaking as a failed academic, the getting of the job seemed like a lower risk category to me. Academia just seemed like a huge crapshoot.
    risk in academia? (Score:2)
    by rjnagle (122374) on Wednesday October 20, @04:44PM (#10580237)
    (http://www.imaginary...programmer/index.php)
    The above poster's remark is truly deluded.

    I'm a fiction writer who works in industry. I love teaching and have strong credentials (taught at prestigious colleges both here and abroad).

    We may bemoan the type of writer who works in (and depends on) academia, but academic opportunities are sadly so rare in the humanities that only a tiny fraction of talented writers can actually obtain academic employment. (Demand is different in engineering and computer science; don't assume that the longtime Petrarch scholar/poet will have a reasonable chance of finding a job in business).

    It takes an incredible leap of faith for literary types to "pay their dues" for 10-15 years in adjunct teaching jobs while waiting for a professor to pass away. I for one was not willing to risk it.
    Re:risk in academia? (Score:2)
    by khallow (566160) on Wednesday October 20, @07:37PM (#10581659)
    The above poster's remark is truly deluded.

    I disagree. You're confusing opportunity costs with risk. Sure the bar is pretty high for tenure, but even 10-15 years in adjunct teaching jobs is pretty low risk and low pay. And if you get tenure, they pretty much can't fire you except for egregious misconduct (eg, not showing up for classes you teach, having sex with students under your supervision, etc). But you can do better (at higher risk) in the real world.

    Gibson? Stephenson? (Score:2, Funny)
    by Tibor the Hun (143056) on Wednesday October 20, @12:02PM (#10576815)
    Fuck, for the life of me I still can't tell the difference between the two.
    Anyone have any mnemonic devices to help me out?

    Re:Gibson? Stephenson? (Score:3, Funny)
    by borroff (267566) on Wednesday October 20, @12:33PM (#10577287)
    (Last Journal: Monday May 05, @12:55PM)
    Well, there's this guy named Johnny....

    Re:Gibson? Stephenson? (Score:2)
    by WhiteDragon (4556) on Tuesday October 26, @01:58PM (#10633502)
    (https://dawgchain.at/ | Last Journal: Thursday September 23, @03:40PM)
    awesome. That was really funny. Welcome to my friends list.
    Re:Gibson? Stephenson? (Score:5, Funny)
    by Scrameustache (459504) on Wednesday October 20, @01:32PM (#10578074)
    (http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Tuesday December 24, @12:08AM)
    Fuck, for the life of me I still can't tell the difference between the two.
    Anyone have any mnemonic devices to help me out?


    The guy with the longer name is the one that writes the longer books...
    Re:Gibson? Stephenson? (Score:2)
    by ajlitt (19055) on Wednesday October 20, @02:15PM (#10578584)
    (http://www.splunge.net/)
    IMHO, with the exception of Snow Crash, Gibson's work is more bloody. So when there are GIBlets think of GIBson. (twajs)
    Cliff Notes! (Score:2, Funny)
    by CitznFish (222446) on Wednesday October 20, @12:09PM (#10576909)
    (http://disney.go.com)
    Need cliff notes! I don't have 8 hours to read this while at work!
    Re:Cliff Notes! (Score:5, Funny)
    by renderhead (206057) on Wednesday October 20, @01:18PM (#10577904)
    Here you go:

    1.) Should hacking software be protected by the 2nd Amendment?
    Neal: Nah.

    2.) Does it bother you that Science Fiction doesn't get as much respect as other types of literature?
    Neal: Not really.

    3.) [Question about some geeky theory of human development]
    Neal: Software sucks too much for that to happen.

    4.) In a fight between you and William Gibson, who would win?
    Neal: [Makes up a funny story about fighting William Gibson]

    5.) What do you read these days?
    Neal: Mostly books.

    6.) Do you still program?
    Neal: Not very much.

    7.) What will money be like in the future?
    Neal: Same old, same old.

    8.) Do you still use BeOS?
    Neal: No.

    9.) What tips do you have for world travellers?
    Neal: Don't be a dumbass when you travel.

    10a.) [Nigerian e-mail scammer joke]
    Neal: [Responds in kind]

    10b.) Should there be a data haven?
    Neal: I dunno. Maybe?

    11.) You're an advisor for a group that's building a spaceship. Care to comment?
    Neal: No.

    12.) Will digital publishing replace traditional publishing?
    Neal: Nope.

    There you have it!
    Re:Cliff Notes! (Score:1)
    by bmf033069 (149738) on Wednesday October 20, @03:50PM (#10579608)
    Those aren't Cliff Notes, that is a William Shatner interview!
    Re:Cliff Notes! (Score:2)
    by renderhead (206057) on Thursday October 21, @12:00PM (#10588912)
    Ha! If I had mod points and could mod in the same thread I posted in, you'd get a +1 Funny from me.
    Re:Cliff Notes! (Score:2, Redundant)
    by ThousandStars (556222) on Wednesday October 20, @04:03PM (#10579785)
    (http://www.editingandwriting.com/)
    I'd edit a few of those just a little, but I like the spirit:

    8.) Do you still use BeOS?
    Neal:
    No. I use OS X.

    12.) Will digital publishing replace traditional publishing?
    Neal:
    Maybe. But publishers will still have their role and writers will still get paid.

    Re:Cliff Notes! (Score:2)
    by StikyPad (445176) on Thursday October 21, @02:58AM (#10584013)
    (http://slashdot.org/)
    They should post your summary as the story, and link to the interview instead. If only I had the 30 minutes of my life back that were stolen by the long version.
    Best. Interview. Evar! (Score:3, Interesting)
    by soliptic (665417) on Wednesday October 20, @12:11PM (#10576933)
    (http://www.dartrecordings.co.uk/ | Last Journal: Monday July 19, @06:05PM)
    And I'm only half way through Question 4.

    For anyone preparing themselves to shout "fanboy!" - I've never read any of this guy's books in my life. I think that might have to change now ;)

    Gee, Neal, thanks a lot (Score:1, Funny)
    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, @12:11PM (#10576942)
    I can generally restrain myself from laughing out loud at work, but I wasn't able to help myself as I read through the accounts of your three fights with Bill Gibson. To make things worse, my directorate manager (a corporate vice-president) happened to choose that particular moment to walk right past my office. He gave me a quizzical glance and went on his way.
    Aha! (Score:3, Funny)
    by identity0 (77976) on Wednesday October 20, @12:12PM (#10576961)
    (Last Journal: Monday March 31, @01:23AM)
    which eventually to the collapse of the building's roof and the loss of eight hundred lives.

    Aha! So even the great Neal Stephenson makes grammar mistakes! I think you missed a 'led' there, Mr. Stephenson...

    (chant: 'I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy....')
    Re:Aha! (Score:2)
    by hacksoncode (239847) on Wednesday October 20, @12:58PM (#10577624)
    You've obviously never read any of his books :-).

    Seriously, though, most great writers I know of consider grammer to be little more than a set of suggestions they vaguely remember learning in grade school.

    Speaking of grammar, Neal: you're The Master of Similes. I bow down before your awfulness [brainydictionary.com].

    Re:Aha! (Score:2)
    by Scrameustache (459504) on Wednesday October 20, @01:25PM (#10577987)
    (http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Tuesday December 24, @12:08AM)
    The Baroque Cycle is full of mistakes.

    Some speculate its a hidden code. I think its just common, everyday rushing to the printing press.
    Re:Aha! (Score:2)
    by pknoll (215959) on Wednesday October 20, @02:16PM (#10578592)
    This is why good writers have good editors. =)
    Re:Aha! (Score:3, Funny)
    by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday October 20, @03:44PM (#10579543)
    (http://slashdot.org/)
    That's called "knowing your audience".
    This may sound a little odd... (Score:3, Interesting)
    by Denyer (717613) on Wednesday October 20, @12:13PM (#10576977)
    ...especially to myself, as I'm more of an English geek than a computer one: I'd never heard of Neal Stephenson either.

    So, time to do a little digging. The design of his website is painful to navigate, but I have every intention of tracking down a book or two by him because that interview was one of the most interesting things I've read on Slashdot in four years. In particular the bifurcation and accountability issues raised in question two—that's a useful and engaging summary for writing class students.

    it turns out that a bookstore is a lot more than a machine that swaps money for books.

    People who've read The Salmon of Doubt should appreciate that line all the more. :)

    Re:This may sound a little odd... (Score:1)
    by Urox (603916) <luthien3&juno,com> on Wednesday October 20, @02:11PM (#10578526)
    (Last Journal: Thursday July 01, @08:34PM)
    Cryptonomicon was my wet dream. This from a math geek.
    Re:This may sound a little odd... (Score:2)
    by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Wednesday October 20, @01:40PM (#10578155)
    Mother Earth Mother Board [wired.com] is an interesting read too.
    He dodged it (Score:2)
    by mankey wanker (673345) on Wednesday October 20, @12:18PM (#10577059)
    He dodged the only interesting question he was asked, the one on the future of publishing and copyrights. It'll get sorted out in time, eh? Wow, visionary stuff that...
    Re:He dodged it (Score:5, Interesting)
    by Azghoul (25786) on Wednesday October 20, @12:57PM (#10577617)
    (http://www.buffalonews.com)
    Actually yes, one of the more enlightened responses I've heard to that sort of question in a while.

    The upshot: Who cares?? It'll get figured out eventually, and we'll all be okay.
    Re:He dodged it (Score:2)
    by mankey wanker (673345) on Wednesday October 20, @01:55PM (#10578338)
    Hey, I don't care what the guy does in his writing. I personally find him only passable as a writer. He doesn't tend to do anthing interesting that he didn't swipe from William Burroughs or maybe Proust.

    And baby, you are living in fairyland. The reality is that CC is sort of de facto in the natural/social world and that copyright is a legal fiction. Can you see how you have the concepts reversed?

    The harsh reality is that corporations are about to learn that everyone's eyes are wide open to this issue.

    That said, no one wants to take the bread off a creative person's table. But how many generations after him are we expected to feed?

    Reasonableness means limits. All monopolies come to an end.
    Re:He dodged it (Score:2)
    by arose (644256) <artis@aaa.apollo.lv> on Wednesday October 20, @03:40PM (#10579508)
    (http://arose.hopto.org/)
    I ho[pe that with ever increasing productivity work times will become shorter and more people with day jobs can realize their creative ambitions.
    Ending the answer with "A" (Score:5, Funny)
    by thelenm (213782) <.ude.hatu.sc. .ta. .mneleht.> on Wednesday October 20, @12:22PM (#10577125)
    (http://mike.pietdepsi.com/ | Last Journal: Thursday October 28, @11:16AM)
    [... really long answer to Question 2 ...] The fact that we are having a discussion like this one on a forum such as Slashdot is Exhibit A.

    Wow, a 2820-word answer ending with the word "A". Neal Stephenson is the master.
    That's not impressive. (Score:4, Funny)
    by pavon (30274) on Wednesday October 20, @02:01PM (#10578440)
    Canadians can do that without even trying :P
    The answer to question 4... (Score:2)
    by jea6 (117959) on Wednesday October 20, @12:24PM (#10577160)
    (Last Journal: Friday October 01, @03:27PM)
    The answer to question 4 is exactly why I love Neal Stephenson's fiction. Just love it. And in 100 pages I'll be done with The System of the World.
    Thanks for taking the time to perform (Score:1)
    by Kirellii (688799) on Wednesday October 20, @12:27PM (#10577206)
    (http://www.geocities.com/kirellii)
    Your big words tire me mentally. However, you give me hope that humanity has a future. If we ever meet ET - you talk first. I definitely will never compete directly with your niche as I could never keep on track for such a mental distance. Thanks for making the world a bit brighter by existing.
    Jesse Jackson (Score:1)
    by michael.teter (811516) <michael.teter@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 20, @06:21PM (#10581132)
    His words may have been big, but they said exactly what he meant. They also probably said it in fewer words than if he'd used smaller, less precise words. In fact, this paragraph of mine should be a counter example :P

    This is in stark contrast to Jesse Jackson. To hear him is to hear a random selection of big words, some of which aren't even real words.
    I think he made the stuff up about the fight... (Score:4, Funny)
    by Ipecac (224122) on Wednesday October 20, @12:29PM (#10577242)
    ...Gibson lives down the street from me and I've watched him train. He's not a preying mantis guy at all -- he's into drunken style.

    Re:I think he made the stuff up about the fight... (Score:2)
    by kirkjobsluder (520465) <{ten.redulsboj} {ta} {krik}> on Wednesday October 20, @12:50PM (#10577502)
    (http://www.jobsluder.net/~kirk/)
    Whoo, another singularity skeptic. At least the killer for me is that Vinge makes sweeping claims [caltech.edu] about how changes in technology will have radical and unpredictable effects on society, but fails to hit any of the relevant works about the intimate symbiotic relationship between technology, culture and economics.
    Book industry and Music Industry (Score:5, Interesting)
    by darthtuttle (448989) <meconlen@obfuscated.net> on Wednesday October 20, @12:42PM (#10577381)
    (http://obfuscated.net/)
    Neal's last answer about the book industry makes a point that the Music industry has been missing, and more to the point the "downloadable music" industry is missing. The internet will not destroy the music industry because they do more than make and distribute CDs. They promote. They are the ones who get you air time on the radio stations (those playlists come from somehwere). They get the concert tours together. They get you gigs at the festivals. They make things happen that all have the end result of people buying a CD they otherwise wouldn't. That's called Marketing (cynically, it's making you buy something you don't want to).

    But blogs, but user communities, but but but! you say!

    The average person on the street doesn't do all those things. If you want someone to buy your book or buy your CD you have to get to them where they live, not make them come to you. In the book industry this may be done with reviews in well read magazines and getting your book on Oprah. With music it's done through Clearchannel and MTV.
    Re:Book industry and Music Industry (Score:2, Interesting)
    by pbrewer (141436) on Wednesday October 20, @02:31PM (#10578755)
    (http://www.philipbrewer.net/ | Last Journal: Monday August 20, @03:29PM)
    You're right to an extent--there are lots of other activities that book publishers and record companies do to contribute to the eventual success of the book or record. But you've missed the most important one.

    All the ones you've listed can be, and increasingly are, outsourced. Talent scouts or agents bring in authors or acts. Publicists and more specialised people handle promotion. Engineering, editing, printing, etc. are done by third parties.

    The main thing that can't be outsourced is the advance: Publishers are specialized venture capital firms.

    That's the value-add that will keep publishing firms (books or music) in business, even as blogs and other ultra-low-cost marketing efforts become more and more important. Somebody who can front money to get the book written and printed (or the CD recorded and produced) will always have an advantage. They will soon learn that it's the one big advantage they have left.

    Fight - Dragon Ball Z (Score:2)
    by bludstone (103539) on Wednesday October 20, @12:42PM (#10577388)
    It was like an episode of dbz, except two of my favorite authors were beating the snot out of each other instead of constipated, blonde aliens.

    WACHOO~~
    out troll the trolls? (Score:2)
    by js3 (319268) on Wednesday October 20, @01:11PM (#10577806)
    sounds like a super troll to me
    Neal (Score:5, Insightful)
    by alexjohns (53323) <slashdot.almuric@com> on Wednesday October 20, @01:14PM (#10577841)
    (http://www.carnageblender.com?specialoffer=32373 | Last Journal: Tuesday July 15, @10:03AM)
    I'm going to come out of the closet and declare publically that I love Neal Stephenson.

    Actually, I'm going to step further out and say that I love intelligent people.

    I guess, more accurately, I love the fact that there are intelligent people in the world.

    Note to Cmdr Taco, et. al.: We need more writing like this on here. Do what you can to make that happen. Thanks. Carry on.

    Re:Neal (Score:2)
    by LaCosaNostradamus (630659) <LaCosaNostradamusNO@SPAMmail.com> on Wednesday October 20, @04:20PM (#10579958)
    (Last Journal: Sunday September 21, @11:32AM)
    I'm going to ditto this a step further:

    Mr Stephenson makes it painfully obvious that there are people in the world who are a lot brighter and/or erudite that I am. There's something in people like Neal that give me hope for Humanity's progression, but at the same time, I feel a bit chagrined in personal comparison to his command of thought and language.

    Is this envy? Cynical realism? Or is this simply as far as a proud man can go in feeling inferior?
    Re:Neal (Score:2)
    by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Wednesday October 20, @06:50PM (#10581370)
    Cmdr Taco: Note to self....schedule interview with Mr. Pice...Picc...Picq....aww hell, Roland, they'll love that!

    Thomas Pynchon (Score:5, Interesting)
    by ChiralSoftware (743411) <info@chiralsoftware.net> on Wednesday October 20, @01:15PM (#10577866)
    (http://chiralsoftware.net/)

    Of course, no answer to my question re: the strong connections between Stephenson's work and Pynchon's. Let's do a quick comparison chart:

    Mason & Dixon

    • Pawns of the Royal Society are dispatched on perilous ocean voyages around the world that they don't really understand
    • Powerful people are attempting to use science and technology extend their control of the world.
    • Slavery is the major theme
    • The language is 18th-century, but with some modern puns thrown in
    • The book involves an huge number of sub-plots and minor characters

    The Baroque Cycle

    • Pawns of the Royal Society are working for powerful people they don't really understand, and one of them in particular gets dispatched on ocean voyages
    • Powerful people are attempting to use science and technology extend their control of the world.
    • Slavery is the major theme
    • The language is 18th-century, but with some modern puns thrown in
    • The book involves an huge number of sub-plots and minor characters

    I think I could write up a similar chart about Gravity's Rainbow and Cryptonomicon.

    I wish Stephenson had answered some questions about this. This isn't intended as trolling, it's just that very few people have read the Pynchon books so most people may not be aware of the strong connections between these two authors.

    Puns? (Score:1, Funny)
    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, @01:32PM (#10578071)
    I don't recall any characters in Neal's novels with names like Sir Stephen Dodson-Truck.
    Re:Thomas Pynchon (Score:1)
    by samberdoo (812366) on Wednesday October 20, @02:25PM (#10578702)
    I noticed some of the same similarities. Of course Pynchon is considered literature and Stephenson is popular fiction. I don't think he is as literary as he'd like to think, but he is entertaining. On the other hand, Pynchon is a bit hard to read and take much more concentration, but well worth it.
    Re:Thomas Pynchon (Score:1)
    by algae (2196) on Wednesday October 20, @09:56PM (#10582453)
    (http://www.netspace.org/~algae)

    Of course Pynchon is considered literature and Stephenson is popular fiction.

    You didn't read the interview, did you. The bit about "Beowulf" authors vs. "Dante" authors?

    ;)

    Re:Thomas Pynchon (Score:2)
    by gobbo (567674) <melmoth@myrealbox.c3.14159om minus pi> on Wednesday October 20, @03:43PM (#10579536)
    (Last Journal: Saturday June 12, @07:53PM)
    I think I could write up a similar chart about Gravity's Rainbow and Cryptonomicon.

    Hear, hear. I kept thinking while reading Cryptonomicon; "this is an upgrade of Gravity's Rainbow" -- every bit as fun and wordgeeky, and I was happy to trade the traces of Mystery in Pynchon for the traces of the Future in Stephenson.

    English majors (oh wait, do any read /.?) -- there's a paper topic for ya.

    Re:Thomas Pynchon (Score:2)
    by OnanTheBarbarian (245959) on Wednesday October 20, @06:28PM (#10581199)
    Here's a couple more:

    - Both made their name with shorter, interesting books that played to their strengths (Crying of Lot 49, Snow Crash)

    - Both went on to write undiscplined, monster-length big sellers of no real merit, that gave legions of true believers the illusory sense that they were grappling with serious issues and great literature.
    Pynchon and Gibson (Score:3, Insightful)
    by sbszine (633428) on Wednesday October 20, @08:21PM (#10581930)
    (http://www.redwolf.c...on/auth_sbszine.html | Last Journal: Tuesday October 26, @07:28PM)
    People have seen comparisons to Pynchon (Lot 49 particularly) in William Gibson novels as well. He blogs about it here [williamgibsonbooks.com], if you're interested. Gibson says he thinks it's to do with the abrupt endings, which apply to Stephenson as well (more so, really).

    My take is that cyberpunk is an outgrowth of the new wave, and the new wave placed value on non-realistic Pynchon, Kafka etc. (Norman Spinrad talks about this a bit in his book Science Fiction In The Real World).
    Re:Thomas Pynchon (Score:2, Funny)
    by gunship167 (622202) on Wednesday October 20, @10:51PM (#10582758)
    To my view, this trolling sounds remarkably like the Newton - Leibnitz calculus dispute... almost no... differentiation... go figure... (this could go on forever, without limit...) perhaps, we could heed the wisdom of rodney king
    More like Victor Hugo (Score:1)
    by pynchon (815175) on Thursday October 21, @12:11AM (#10583241)
    There might be some superficial similarities with Pynchon (yes, I'm a fan of his...) but I think Neal reminds me more of Victor Hugo. Long, luscious, convoluted plots; vast tracts of exposition (Les Miserables spends about 100 pages on the background to the Battle of Waterloo and another 50 pages on conditions in a Parisian convent at the turn of the 19th Century); and make-you-smile coincidence at every turn of the page. Hugo's work was the ultimate Beowulf writing (most of Paris turned out on for Hugo's funeral), but would anyone dare to claim that Hugo doesn't belong in the pantheon of literary grea I'm half way through The Confusion. The Baroque Cycle is a masterpiece. Popular or not.
    Re:Thomas Pynchon (Score:1)
    by sepal (826794) on Sunday October 31, @12:13AM (#10677053)

    You forgot the most important similarity: both use the same font on the dustjacket....
    Well (Score:1)
    by SidV (800332) <slash@sidv.org> on Wednesday October 20, @01:23PM (#10577965)
    No one has ever accused Neal of being to concise. :D before anyone gets in a huff. that's what I like about his writing, Barouqe Cycle excluded of course.
    Beowulf? Interesting... (Score:5, Funny)
    by theghost (156240) on Wednesday October 20, @01:29PM (#10578034)
    (Last Journal: Friday December 12, @01:24PM)
    Interesting to note that his definition of a Beowulf Writer is essentially a writer that is supported by what might be described as a Beowulf Cluster of Fans.
    Re:Beowulf? Interesting... (by Chairman Mao) (Score:1)
    by loudmouth (661510) on Friday October 22, @12:47AM (#10595635)

    I have witnessed the tremendous energy of the masses. On this foundation it is possible to accomplish any task whatsoever.
    science fiction in the class room (Score:1)
    by toiletmonster (722398) on Wednesday October 20, @01:35PM (#10578106)
    (http://toiletmonster.org/)
    what neal doesn't address and what drives me nuts is the fact that science fiction is never taught in schools. there are many bad science fiction novels but there are many good ones as well with themes relating to racism or love or whatever you want. everything in school is either from novels that are hundreds of years old or sanitized politically correct and therefore incredibly boring modern works about tribesmen in africa. either way its difficult to get young students interested in reading with literature that they can't relate to. students should explore new things, so i'm not saying everything should be science fiction, but if we want our kids to be interested in reading, give them something they want to read!
    Re:science fiction in the class room (Score:2, Insightful)
    by teidou (651247) <tait@noSpaM.fitis.com> on Wednesday October 20, @01:55PM (#10578355)
    (http://www.fitis.com/)
    I Call BS.

    FYI, some of our local schools (MD) are teaching Ender's game as required reading this year.

    Now, instead of being indifferent to science-fiction, non-nerds will hate it. Yeah.
    Re:science fiction in the class room (Score:4, Interesting)
    by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Wednesday October 20, @05:57PM (#10580935)
    (Last Journal: Friday January 02, @07:40AM)
    Apparently, you haven't heard of the movement to teach Intelligent Design [ydr.com] in public schools alongside Evolution.
    Re:science fiction in the class room (Score:1)
    by Zan Lynx (87672) on Wednesday October 20, @08:02PM (#10581802)
    (http://www.zlynx.org/)
    Read Kicking The Sacred Cow by James P. Hogan, a science fiction author. It was published in August 2004 by Baen.

    Section One of the book is titled Humanistic Religion and brings up a lot of facts counter to the existing theories of evolution. Yes, with references. After reading it, you'll see that Intelligent Design by God, space aliens or whatever, makes as much sense as evolution.

    Evolution is one of modern science's Sacred Cows. It must not be questioned. If you do, you're automatically a heretic.

    The other Sacred Cows are good too. Read it. It'll make you think.
    Re:science fiction in the class room (Score:3, Informative)
    by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Thursday October 21, @03:06AM (#10584041)
    (Last Journal: Friday January 02, @07:40AM)
    Read Kicking The Sacred Cow by James P. Hogan, a science fiction author.
    Re:science fiction in the class room (Score:1)
    by digitalmedievalist (637461) on Friday October 22, @10:54AM (#10598762)
    (http://www.digitalmedievalist.com/)
    You need to get out more; SF has been taught in the classroom, meaning both K-12 and higher education, since the seventies, at least. Ray Bradbury's "When the Rains Came," "The Martian Chronicles," Asimov's "Robots" stories, Ursula LeGuin's Lathe of Heaven and hosts of others' works are frequently anthologized in the readers used for grades 8-12. SF is a staple course at colleges all over, to the point where it's now common to offer seminars on specific authors--Stephenson among them. I can think of about fifteen of my peers writing dissertations on SF.
    Re:science fiction in the class room (Score:1)
    by toiletmonster (722398) on Friday October 22, @10:59AM (#10598825)
    (http://toiletmonster.org/)
    i had no idea. none of the schools i went to ever let us read that stuff. i guess i mostly went to small suburban conservative schools... but not even in college did i see science fiction and i went to a very liberal college.
    Good thing my boss doesn't know... (Score:2, Insightful)
    by greyfeld (521548) on Wednesday October 20, @01:40PM (#10578156)
    that I just spent a good half hour reading your replies and some of the comments. It's been a long time since I posted, but your interview was thought provoking and entertaining. Thanks, you made my day.
    Sterling Suspicions (Score:2)
    by peacefinder (469349) * <aland AT hevanet DOT com> on Wednesday October 20, @01:41PM (#10578178)
    (http://politicalcompass.org/ | Last Journal: Thursday October 28, @12:21AM)
    You know, ever since I read "Islands in the Net" I suspected that Sterling was building a guerilla army somewhere in Africa. I had no notion he might go the WMD route, though.

    With respect to his first answer... (Score:5, Insightful)
    by gmcraff (61718) <gmcraff@yFORTRANahoo.com minus language> on Wednesday October 20, @01:52PM (#10578304)
    ... and I firmly believe that "hacking tools" should be held in the same regard as hammers, saws, pliers, crowbars, etceteras: instruments that have a daily legal purpose that a unlawful minority might use for a unlawful act. The military has them, but that doesn't make them weapons in nature. The military has them because everyone has them.

    While he makes the point that the Founding Fathers probably had in their minds flintlocks (and sabers, cannon, horse-cavalry) when they were thinking of the arms that the people might keep and bear, at the same time their view of the press was those with manual printing presses, paper and quill-pens, not radio, TV, high-speed automatic presses and the internet. (Remember that any successful argument limiting the scope of one article of the Bill of Rights can immediately be used in the same form against another... precedent can be a bitch.)

    I would point out that the intention of the Founding Fathers was that the militia, both organized and unorganized [gpo.gov], be equipped with such weapons as are customary for the time. (For those who won't RTFLink, the militia is every able bodied male from 17 to 45 that is a citizen or has declared their intention to become one, plus any female that have joined an organized militia, state or national. Religious conscientious objectors are excused from combat duty, and may be assigned noncombatant roles. Still on the books and in effect... if you're American and male, you're a militiaman.) In order to avoid having an standing army in peace-time, the militia would be relied upon to handle defence against an aggressor until an army could be raised. Furthermore, in order that the standing army not be used as an instrument of oppression after it is raised, the militia would be armed alike to the standing army. Indeed, a few years after the Constitution was established, the Militia Act of 1792 was established requiring all men that could afford it to procure a musket, bayonet, shot, powder and associated gear (i.e. the "assault weapons" of the time). Sunday mornings were spent in worship, exercising their hard earned rights; Sunday afternoon were spent at the local firing range, practicing in order to defend those rights.

    I think it is clear that the intention of the Founding Fathers was very clear: if the military can have it, the people can have it. It does not, however, follow that the government shall provide it to any individual of the people. Domestic builders of tanks are under contract with clauses to provide them only to the government, so you'll have to build your own, and you can't import them. Want hacking tools? Well, the military doesn't have to give you theirs, but you can write your own.

    So the question posed by arashiakari is interesting: if the government is to classify something as an "arm", then they may not infringe the right of the people to keep and "bear" it, even if it is a Perl script, but they don't have to make it easy to acquire. Which does not mean that you can export it, which is where I think the source of the question came from (i.e. the prohibition on the export of cryptographic devices under their classification as a "munition").

    When one is unclear as to the intention of the Founding Fathers, the Internet can bring you some of their insight in the form of the Federalist Papers [ou.edu], thanks to Project Gutenberg.

    Re:With respect to his first answer... (Score:2)
    by LaCosaNostradamus (630659) <LaCosaNostradamusNO@SPAMmail.com> on Wednesday October 20, @04:22PM (#10579994)
    (Last Journal: Sunday September 21, @11:32AM)
    Sunday mornings were spent in worship, exercising their hard earned rights; Sunday afternoon were spent at the local firing range, practicing in order to defend those rights.

    There's a potential sig in there, struggling to be born.
    Re:With respect to his first answer... (Score:2)
    by winwar (114053) on Sunday October 24, @06:00PM (#10616400)
    "I'd like to have my personal nuke then..."

    Go ahead. Of course, you will have to buy the parts and supplies locally and build it yourself :)
    Wit and Humor (Score:5, Funny)
    by chandoni (28843) on Wednesday October 20, @02:04PM (#10578466)
    (http://www.dolorespark.org/)
    We're lucky he responded to us with wit and humor... he sounds really dangerous when he gets pissed off.
    followup question (Score:2)
    by MattW (97290) on Wednesday October 20, @02:12PM (#10578540)
    Assuming I am under contract to produce code on a deadline, and I read your account of combat with Gibson, and snorted coffee all over my keyboard, rendering my computer inoperable and causing me to miss my contractual deadline, can I sue you for tortious interference?

    Hmmmmm....
    Have you considered writing? (Score:1)
    by danheretic (689990) on Wednesday October 20, @02:29PM (#10578734)
    (http://www.danheretic.com/)
    Not bad, "Neal" (real name?), not bad at all. Have you considered writing for publication?
    I still consider it an honor (Score:2)
    by Chagrin (128939) on Wednesday October 20, @02:46PM (#10578887)
    (http://slashdot.org/)
    Finding flaws in a master's work is strangely satisfying.

    "...the third Sung group, which eventually to the collapse of the building's roof..."
    Money - Constancy thru Abstraction (Score:1)
    by KarlKaiser (823865) on Wednesday October 20, @02:51PM (#10578943)
    money and the way it works is going to be a constant, not a variable

    Interestingly enough, the constancy of money's function is a direct consequence of it's essential variability, that is, it's inherent nature as an abstract index (of the perceived relative value of goods & services).
    Without patrons? (Score:4, Informative)
    by BorgCopyeditor (590345) on Wednesday October 20, @02:54PM (#10578970)
    Probably there was a collection of legends and tales that had been passed along in an oral tradition---which is just a fancy way of saying that lots of people liked those stories and wanted to hear them told. And at some point perhaps there was an especially well-liked storyteller who pulled a few such tales together and fashioned them into the what we now know as Beowulf. Maybe there was a king or other wealthy patron who then caused the tale to be written down by a scribe. But I doubt it was created at the behest of a king. It was created at the behest of lots and lots of intoxicated Frisians sitting around the fire wanting to hear a yarn.

    This is effectively Gregory Nagy's (and others') account of how we came to have the epic poetry transmitted to us under the name of Homer. (One interesting phenomenon, of many, in all this, is that Homer treats this very theme in the Odyssey, where he has Odysseus "sing for his dinner.") One small difference is that "official" patronage was crucial for making the transition from an oral tradition to a written one: the Athenian "tyrant" Peisistratus commissioned a definitive written version to be assembled from various rhapsodes' performances. To this end, he provided funding for contests at which the poems were sung.

    If you want to know more, check out Nagy's books "Poetry as Performance" or "The Best of the Achaeans."

    on underexposure of authors (Score:1)
    by LordMyren (15499) on Wednesday October 20, @03:07PM (#10579092)
    (http://www.alienintels.com/)
    my article [livejournal.com] published concerning enhanced search and cross-referencing's ability to promote niche and over throw the media machine. In response to Wired's Niche article and details the social impacts of growing niche markets.
    booklist & slashdot effect? (Score:1)
    by soup_laser (616676) on Wednesday October 20, @03:30PM (#10579379)
    I'm glad Neal didn't beg off replying to a request for a list of books that he's recently read. Anyone in a postition to notice if there is a slashdot effect in the world of print? Will the servers (publishers) experience lag?
    Thanks, Neal (Score:1)
    by tina juarez (823896) on Wednesday October 20, @04:35PM (#10580145)
    Amazing that the booksellers see stephansen as attracting 18-35 males, When my introduction to and discussions about his writing have always been between 35- women!.. I recommend stephansen to SF readers from behind the checkout counter, but the only people who have come back to me have been the women... This news is encouraging as the 18-35 male group was also given credit for electing in the current CA. gov. TJ
    This is what I heard... (Score:2, Funny)
    by Capt_Troy (60831) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (ognadnaft)> on Wednesday October 20, @05:06PM (#10580451)
    (http://troy.morpheus.net/ | Last Journal: Wednesday December 24, @11:03AM)
    I heard that he wrote this interview by first carving it into a limestone tablet using a sharp piece of flint. Then he transcribed that using a feather and cow's blood on paper that he creted himself from a tree which he gnawed down with his very own teeth. From that, blindfolded, he typed it into an email using only his toes and sent it in.
    Hooray for Neal! (Score:2)
    by AEton (654737) on Wednesday October 20, @05:21PM (#10580607)
    But it is a small price to pay for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a minor character in a Robert Heinlein novel.

    Congratulations, Neal! You can now have polygamous sex with every woman and man you can find, including but not limited to your redheaded, barely-pubescent, twin female clones! And your mother!

    You must be so proud.
    Fight (Score:2)
    by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Wednesday October 20, @06:52PM (#10581386)
    While I enjoyed all his answers thoroughly, I have to give a big thank you to Mr. Stephenson for indulging us with the fight scene. I've always loved the way he describes fights, and while he didn't have the space necessary to do it full justice, it brought back a memory of Snowcrash, perhaps I should dig it up and read it again.

    Blue Origin's suborbital launch system (Score:1)
    by Phong (38038) on Wednesday October 20, @07:08PM (#10581475)
    Blue Origin is "currently working to develop a crewed, suborbital launch system that emphasizes safety and low cost of operations."

    I think we should start a new urban myth around this line (akin to the tales such as the Nova not selling well in Mexico). Let's hope that the end result of their work is something really ugly, then we can tell everyone about a conversation that must have gone like this:

    Mr. X: I want to develop a crewed, suborbital launch system.

    Mr. Y: No worries there! We can make it as crude as you like.

    Similarity of NS's style to WS Burroughs (Score:1, Insightful)
    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, @07:16PM (#10581526)
    Wotcher,

    If one would want to pursue a lit-crit bent inre NS, suggestion: compare in general to WS Burroughs in his "Boy's own adventure" mode. Particularly /Cities of the Red Night/ more than any other text.

    NS's style has alot of WSB's cut-up technique applied. And, in terms of criticism, usually doesn't apply sufficient editing from a "literary novel" point of view. NS probably wont become cannon, unlike WSB, but WSB was aiming at an entirely different audience.
    Money has changed, since derivatives (Score:3, Informative)
    by schmaltz (70977) on Wednesday October 20, @07:42PM (#10581696)
    Actually, what's interesting about money is that it doesn't seem to change that much at all. It became fantastically sophisticated hundreds of years ago... people were engaging in financial manipulations that seem quite modern in their sophistication... So if I had to take a wild guess---and believe me, it is a wild guess---I'd say that money and the way it works is going to be a constant, not a variable.

    One word: derivatives. I'm not talking options, which have been around a long, long time, 1500s at least.

    Consider this: usually when you place a bet with a bookie or the card dealer, you're betting on the appearance of a certain outcome. When you buy equities, you're hoping for a rise in price (and maybe a dividend distribution, but that's old-skool.)

    Today, you can make a bet with your bookie (erm, trader) that a certain market index or rate is going to follow certain pattern during a period of time. That pattern is defined by upper and lower bounds, and it can change up or down, but generally the spread (difference between the bounds) stays the same (on some instruments it can vary.)

    To place this bet and win, you need to be at least as smart at math and market(s) in question as the quantitative analyst (usually with a PhD, in physics, engineering or math) who's engineering the other side of that bet.

    There's infamous case of the former treasurer of Orange County, Calif., Robert Citron [google.com], where he laid a billion in taxpayer dollars [turtletrader.com] on the table and lost it all.

    The underlying financial instruments in these bets is generally not an equity, but something that relates to the price of an equity (or option, etc.) There's no value traded, necessarily, usually; instead, these bets are placed as contingencies or hedges (generally.)

    Anyway, my point is that money is leveraged in huge mountainfuls these days, and one of the outcomes is that the value of your home currency is constantly decreasing in value, much faster than prior to the advent of sophisticated markets. The cost for delivering water to your tap, or an apple to your grocer, is relatively fixed in terms of the underlying infrastructure and all. But one of the forces behind costs that keep spiraling up is currency values declining due to the huge forces that affect value these days.

    That is what's different from centuries ago. Maybe that wasn't so clear, but it's worth checking out. It's a global scam, no less.
    Keret's story titled "The Nimrod Flip-out" (Score:2, Informative)
    by toby (759) on Wednesday October 20, @09:03PM (#10582143)
    (http://www.telegraphics.com.au/)
    Was recently showcased in Zoetrope All-Story magazine, and lucky for us, is actually published [all-story.com] on their web site.
    The Nimrod Flip-Out (Score:2, Informative)
    by Kuja (216958) on Wednesday October 20, @10:17PM (#10582559)
    (http://kujawski.blogspot.com/)
    Seems like The Nimrod Flip-Out, by Etgar Keret, is in the net.
    http://www.all-story.com/issues.cgi?action=show_st ory&story_id=229 [all-story.com]
    Matt Ruff (Score:2)
    by swordgeek (112599) on Wednesday October 20, @10:25PM (#10582601)
    (Last Journal: Monday May 05, @06:46PM)
    Man, I don't BELIEVE that I missed Matt Ruff's new book release.

    For those who don't know him, go find Fool on the Hill. NOW!
    How is the novel new? (Score:2, Interesting)
    by ^_^x (178540) on Wednesday October 20, @10:45PM (#10582702)
    The novel is a very new form of art. It was unthinkable until the invention of printing and impractical until a significant fraction of the population became literate. But when the conditions were right, it suddenly became huge.

    What does he consider "new" or "art?"

    The "Hyakumanto Darani" was a printed document reproduced in Japan in the 760s. [honco.net]The Tale of Genji was released around 1010. That's almost a millenium ago. Gutenberg demonstrated movable type in 1448. New compared to cave paintings? Not really, but compared to the numerous contemporary art forms, printed novels are pretty old hat.
    Gibson/Stephenson knockdown (Score:2)
    by Jack William Bell (84469) on Wednesday October 20, @11:50PM (#10583132)
    (http://del.icio.us/JackWilliamBell | Last Journal: Wednesday November 12, @12:20PM)
    I was at that reading at UW's Kane Hall, and Stephenson's description isn't quite like I remember it...

    For one thing it was no stalemate; Gibson definately kicked his ass. Secondly Stephenson didn't even mention the six hours he spent tied to the Fremont Troll while Gibson chain-smoked and burned him with the cigs.
    Heinlein? (Score:2)
    by frovingslosh (582462) on Thursday October 21, @01:03AM (#10583507)
    But it is a small price to pay for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a minor character in a Robert Heinlein novel.

    When did they thaw out Robert Heinlein?

    St. John and rapture (Score:2)
    by Vintermann (400722) on Thursday October 21, @03:25AM (#10584109)
    (http://vintermann.paranoidkoala.org/)
    "This is not the place to parse it out, but the key thing they have in common is the idea of a rapture, in which some chosen humans will be taken up and made one with the infinite while others will be left behind."
    This is perhaps not the place to parse out a reply, but rapture is a theological creation with comparatively little basis in the Bible. And unless I'm very wrong, the idea of rapture comes mainly from the other apocalyptic texts in the bible.
    Re:St. John and rapture (Score:1)
    by Aeolusz (734781) on Thursday October 21, @11:21AM (#10588186)
    You are right about rapture coming from other parts of the Bible, the Revelation of John does not mention it at all.

    Rapture is from Saint Paul and was a brand new idea, never once seen in any of the prophecies in the Old Testament (Isaiah, Daniel for instance). See 1 Thessalonians 4 -- For the Lord Himself shall descend with a shout, with the voice of the archangel....

    Dante or Beowulf? (Score:2)
    by msouth (10321) on Thursday October 21, @07:54AM (#10585178)
    (http://fulcrum.org/ | Last Journal: Saturday March 29, @08:41PM)
    It's the new "boxers or briefs".
    money and the way it works is going to be a const (Score:4, Interesting)
    by aug24 (38229) on Thursday October 21, @08:22AM (#10585508)
    (http://www.aug24.co.uk/)

    Actually, I think it (money and money-relationships) recently changed and could therefore change again.

    Until only a few years ago, owning a large amount of money was not a stable position. Typically, money had to be paid to protect money - negative interest. If you didn't pay someone to protect your money, it would be more likely to be stolen - still negative. Money had to be used just to keep it.

    With the abstraction of money into just numbers, and the advent of banks which invest their customers' money, we have the opposite effect. Money is not easily stolen, is easily protected, and, crucially, it grows.

    It strikes me that this is an enormous change that will have ramifications for generations... the rich (above some threshold) will now get richer by doing nothing at all, where previously they had to continue making money in order to stay in the same place.

    Comments? Neal?

    Justin.

    Only an American (Score:2)
    by DuranDuran (252246) on Thursday October 21, @05:01PM (#10592805)
    > Do you carry any sort of self-defense means in some places, and if so What and Where?

    Only an American would ask this question.
    Arm is as arm does (Score:1)
    by Hognoxious (631665) on Tuesday October 26, @08:04AM (#10629981)
    (Last Journal: Wednesday June 23, @12:34PM)
    I'm pretty sure that the Founding Fathers were thinking of flintlocks, not perl scripts, when they wrote the Second Amendment.
    Perhaps. Did the founding fathers predict automatic weapons? What if I s/perl scripts/AK 47s or Uzis/ in the quote above? And I note that the main suppoerters of T2A are the National Rifle Association, not Ye Greate Leauge ov Arquebusiers.[1]

    OTOH, code clearly is considered a weapon from a legal POV - you need an export license for some kinds of cryptography software.

    [1] Yes, I know there are/were flintlock, muzzle loading rifles e.g. the Baker. You get my point though.

    Neal Stephenson Books @ Amazon (Score:2, Insightful)
    by OmegaSphere Inc. (827003) on Monday November 01, @01:24AM (#10683596)
    (http://www.omegasphere.net/)
    Books by Neal Stephenson at Amazon [amazon.com]

    Attention Slashbots: Yes, that is an affiliate link. That doesn't mean it isn't useful for people!
    Neal Stephenson out-trolls the trolls? (Score:1, Offtopic)
    by Exmet Paff Daxx (535601) on Wednesday October 20, @11:30AM (#10576485)
    (http://fark.com/ | Last Journal: Thursday July 08, @09:33AM)
    That would imply that trolls were allowed to ask Neal Stephenson questions, which is impossible because the moderation system elminates all trolling before it reaches a score of +5. Can we get the story amended? All in all a pretty good interview though... very detailed response on encryption tools as weapons.
    Re:Neal Stephenson out-trolls the trolls? (Score:2, Insightful)
    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, @11:35AM (#10576536)
    Not true. Remember Signal 11? He demonstrated that the moderation system can be socially engineered to give you high karma.

    The Slashdot moderation system also serves as a means to eliminate dissent and unpopular opinions. Anyone who asks a question that does not fit the general groupthink will be modded down, regardless of wether the comment was a good question or not.
    Re:Neal Stephenson out-trolls the trolls? (Score:2)
    by Txiasaeia (581598) on Wednesday October 20, @11:58AM (#10576775)
    Are you referring to Neil Gaiman or Neal Stephenson?
    Re:Conciseness... (Score:2)
    by Yosemite Sue (15589) on Wednesday October 20, @11:47AM (#10576657)
    (Last Journal: Thursday September 02, @03:34PM)
    Heh, you won't be finishing the Baroque Cycle books anytime soon, then ... :-7

    YS
    Re:Dear Neal, (Score:2)
    by Matey-O (518004) <michaeljohnmiller@mSPAMsSPAMnSPAM.com> on Wednesday October 20, @12:11PM (#10576937)
    (http://slashdot.org/ | Last Journal: Tuesday February 19, @10:25AM)
    You've obviously never gone to Zombocom [zombo.com]
    Re:Dear Neal, (Score:2)
    by Jucius Maximus (229128) <54lcrcv02@@@sneakemail...com> on Wednesday October 20, @12:17PM (#10577030)
    (http://www.goatse.cx/ | Last Journal: Thursday November 04, @03:59PM)
    No, Jamby was worse than Zombocom. It took 5 minutes to load this flash video of a Kevin Sorbo lookalike talking about their 'internet solutions management' business or something like that, going through this flash-embedded powerpoint slideshow. All of the content was provided in flash with that guy talking next to a tiny 150 x 300 pixel window of text information (embedded in flash) that changed at regular intervals to match up with the forced powerpoint via flash silideshow.

    And most importantly, Jamby was actually trying to sell a product, while zombocom just tries to be stupid and annoying.

    That is why Jamby > NealStephenson > Zombo

    Re:Dear Neal, (Score:2)
    by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Wednesday October 20, @06:04PM (#10580990)
    (Last Journal: Friday January 02, @07:40AM)
    I don't know how you can say that about Zombocom [zombo.com]. You can do anything at Zombocom. The only limit is yourself.
    Re:Stephenson got knighted (Score:2)
    by fireboy1919 (257783) <rustyp@freeREDHATshell.org minus distro> on Wednesday October 20, @12:12PM (#10576950)
    (http://rustyp.freeshell.org/ | Last Journal: Tuesday April 29, @09:22AM)
    Thank you, Spider Robinson.

    Re:Gawd that was tedious (Score:1)
    by BitterAndDrunk (799378) on Wednesday October 20, @02:40PM (#10578839)
    and some people shouldn't write at all!
    You know, like critics.
     

    Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.

     



    Forgot your password?
    Working...