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Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Growing Respectability of Indie Publishing

From the BBC

Andy Weir's The Martian eventually went on to become a Hollywood blockbuster. But the story was originally published chapter by chapter on the author's blog for free.

Oscar-nominated film The Martian starring Matt Damon began life as a self-published book
This turned out to be great exposure and it became a huge hit as an audiobook, e-book and physical book.

"There was an adversarial attitude between mainstream publishing houses and self publishers a few years ago," says Mr Bond, "but I think that's changed dramatically."

He attributes this to traditional publishers' new-found admiration for the self publishers' social media skills, which have helped them find new readers without the benefit of expensive marketing campaigns.

Lawyer-turned-author Mark Dawson, for example, uses his website and Facebook page to give out free copies of his thrillers and curates 'Readers' Groups'. Online conversations help him establish a closer relationship with his readers encouraging them to come back for subsequent publications.

Another thriller writer Joanna Penn has bolstered her following by helping others to self-publish through her website which explains how to go about self publishing. She also hosts a popular podcast interview series.

So-called "Instapoets" like New Zealander Lang Leav have built up huge followings on Instagram and Tumblr, publishing their work on these platforms, before securing traditional publishing deals.

Also see my own help site for prospective Indie authors,

There are cautionary tales as well as successes, however.  READ MORE 

Fifty years ...

Well, one of the couple is special ....

And we only got married because we were settling in a country town, and I would have been fired if we had moved in together!

Thank you, Ron, for a terrific half century.

Publishing opportunities for historians

Notification from the publishers of Praeger books.

Writing Opportunities

We are looking for authors to execute the following book projects:
  • Twentieth-Century and Contemporary American Literature in Context
  • The Historian’s Red Badge of Courage: Reading Stephen Crane’s  Masterpiece as Social and Cultural History
  • Health and Wellness in 20th-Century America
  • Eyewitness to History: The Salem Witch Trials
  • Eyewitness to History: The Lewis & Clark Expedition
  • Artifacts from Nineteenth-Century America: Daily Life of Nineteenth-Century Americans Illustrated

We are actively seeking contributors for encyclopedia entries in the following works in progress:

Shaping the New World
A Social, Political, and Cultural Encyclopedia and Document Collection of Colonial America
James E. Seelye, Christine Eisel, and Shawn Selby, Editors

Political Groups, Parties, and Organizations that Shaped America: An Encyclopedia and Document Collection
Scott H. Ainsworth and Brian M. Harward, Editors

All Things Steinbeck: An Encyclopedia of John Steinbeck's World
Edited by Susan Shillinglaw and Katharine A. Rodger

The World of the Antebellum America: A Daily Life Encyclopedia
Edited by Jaime A. Martinez

Technological Innovation in American History
An Encyclopedia of Science and Technology

  If you are interested in contributing, please send your C.V. to Michael Millman at

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Underwater restaurant

Innovative underwater restaurant built in New Zealand

The multi-million dollar underwater restaurant which will be shipped to the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

The multi-million dollar underwater restaurant that will be shipped to the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

Creating a 450 tonne restaurant to sit underwater on a coral reef has taken a fair bit of Kiwi ingenuity.
Fitzroy Engineering in New Plymouth has spent almost 10 months building, painting and outfitting an underwater restaurant, the second in the world, for a resort in the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

Creating the 18 metre by 5 metre structure took some inventive techniques, said project manager Adrian van't Hof.

The Island where the restaurant will be placed under the water. Its future position is circled in red.

The Island where the restaurant will be placed under the water. Its future position is circled in red.
For instance, working out how to weld the 80 tonne steel base of the restaurant into place wasn't easy.

"We worked out a way of flipping it over rotisserie style so that we could weld both sides to keep it straight. It's been interesting more than challenging," van't Hof said. 

The inside of the restaurant during construction.

The inside of the restaurant during construction.

He said the company was used to working on pressurised underwater vessels because of the work it did in the oil and gas industry.

The restaurant will sit on the side of a coral reef, with the right hand side facing the reef and and the left side looking out to sea.

The coral beneath the structure had been removed from the rocks and was being grown on concrete slabs, which would then be mounted onto the left hand side of the structure to attract fish.

Fitzroy Engineering' business development and marketing manager Mark Arnold said the restaurant was more like a dinning room, as the food would be prepared onshore and carried down in a dumbwaiter lift.

Diners would access the restaurant by walking out to a hut above the water, before walking down a spiral staircase which would have two small windows that would give them a glimpse of what was to come.

The roof, sides and end wall of the dining room are made of acrylic, giving near panoramic views of the reef.

Arnold said managing the whole project, instead of just the construction, was a highlight for the company.

"One of the keys for us was to be able to manage all the sub-trades," he said. "We were able to deliver a complete project."

The structure would be trucked from Fitzroy Engineering's workshop in Waiwhakaiho to Port Taranaki on Tuesday night, leaving at 10.30pm and arriving about 4am on Wednesday morning.

A specialist ship is waiting offshore and would come in once the restaurant was at the port.
The ship would then head to the Maldives, near the equator in the Indian Ocean, where the restaurant would be lowered into position and concreted in.

Arnold said the project was an example of how the company was diversifying with the downturn in the oil and gas sector.

"It's certainly something we would like to do more of," he said.

Taranaki company Fitzroy Engineering building underwater restaurant for Maldives
The Maldives travel guide and things to do: 20 reasons to visit
Fitzroy giant on the move
Earth moved as bridge taken to river

Thursday, February 4, 2016

More journalists slaughtered

From the NYRB Daily

More than fifty journalists have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001. But until this year, nobody had tried to massacre an entire busload of journalists in the center of Kabul, all working for the country’s largest and most successful broadcaster. That changed on January 20, when a suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosives into a minibus taking forty journalists and staff of Tolo TV home after a day at the office.

At least seven people were killed including several women in their early twenties; some of the victims were burnt and scarred beyond recognition. Another twenty-six were injured, many extremely seriously. It was easily the most deadly single attack against journalists ever made in Afghan history...

Notwithstanding the one trillion dollars spent in Afghanistan by American taxpayers since 2001, the fact is that Afghanistan is a country whose government has hardly any ability to enforce its writ, even in the capital itself. Corruption and warlordism have become an essential part of the system and the population has gradually lost faith in its leadership. And as security continues to deteriorate, Afghans now make up the second largest contingent of asylum-seekers arriving in Europe, their numbers surpassed only by those fleeing Syria. According to UN statistics, they constitute almost 15 percent of the 650,000 refugees who reached Europe between January and August. Many of them come from well-educated, middle-class backgrounds and had good jobs in Afghanistan when there was still a large presence of foreign forces in the country.

Amid this collapse of the rule of law, Tolo TV has been one of the few bright spots. The network has built up an amazing reputation for reporting the news as it is and presenting the country’s problems as they unfold. It is also intensely creative, translating programs such as American Idol into the hugely popular Afghan Idol, and launching the country’s first league soccer teams. Tolo’s soap operas are watched around the region. Tolo is less a TV station than a national institution in a country that has few others.

But this reputation has come at a steep price. Last year the Taliban threatened Tolo after they accused it of misreporting atrocities carried out in Kunduz when the northern city briefly fell under Taliban control. There was a direct threat against Tolo CEO Saad Mohseni and his three brothers, who help run Tolo. Staff members and prominent TV anchors also received threats.

 Hit the link at the top to read the rest of this very disturbing story.

Article written by  Ahmed Rashid

Travel scams

Sun, sea and scams

Southern Cross Travel Insurance survey reveals how crime affects us on holiday.
  • 60% of people have encountered a crime whilst travelling overseas.
  • 15% have been ripped off converting currency.
  • 21% have been deliberately given incorrect change.
  • 7% have had a bank card duplicated or stolen.
  • 5% have been mugged or robbed and a further 5% have been pick-pocketed.
  • 38% of travellers stated that crime ruined part, or all, of their holiday.
  • 14% of people had to cover the losses themselves, because they had no travel insurance.


Where travellers encounter crime

  • Indonesia / Bali 14%
  • Thailand 11%
  • USA 10%
  • Hong Kong 8%
  • China 7%
  • Fiji 7%
  • France 7%
  • Italy 5%
  • Malaysia 5%
  • Singapore 5%
  • UK 5%
  • Vietnam 5%

5 tips for avoiding crime

  1. Keep valuables in sight or in a secure place such as the hotel safe
  2. Avoid walking around at night alone, especially in unlit areas
  3. Stay sharp! Don’t drink too much and get plenty of rest
  4. Don’t keep all your money in one place and never leave your wallet in your back pocket
  5. Make it difficult for pickpockets by keeping your bag zipped and close to you

What to do if you encounter crime

  • Contact the police immediately
  • Get a police report to help with any claims
  • Contact your travel insurance company who will be able to advise what documents you need to make a claim

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Death Toll

In just the last 25 years, the deaths have been confirmed of 2297 journalists and other media staff, who have been killed for nothing more than trying to keep the world informed about the state of a war.  Or for writing about a revolution.  Or for exposing crime and corruption.

Their killers continue to act with impunity, according to a new report by the International Federation of Journalists.

In 1990 the toll was 40.  Since then, it has always exceeded a hundred each year.

"The last ten years were the most dangerous," said the General Secretary of the organization, Anthony Bellanger.

In Afghanistan, more journalists have been killed by unfriendly fire than American soldiers.

Read more

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Save the Channel hovercraft!

From the BBC

Hoverspeed hovercraft set to be destroyed

Two famous hovercraft are set to be destroyed in Hampshire.

The Princess Margaret and Princess Anne Hoverspeed vessels carried passengers between Dover and France for 30 years.

They were taken out of service in 2000 and have since been stored at Lee-on-Solent.

Contractors aiming to develop the land to create new homes now plan to demolish them.

The nearby Hovercraft Museum hopes to save one of them for the nation.


Museum volunteers who fear the last remaining cross-Channel hovercraft are on the verge of being destroyed have started a petition to save them.

The Princess Margaret and Princess Anne Hoverspeed vessels are stored at the Hovercraft Museum at Lee-on-Solent.

The museum said the site's owner, the government's Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), wants to develop the land to create new homes.

More than 2,600 people have signed the petition to date.

According to the museum, the craft - which are the last remaining cross-Channel SRN4 hovercraft - are now in the possession of HCA.

The vessels are not owned by the Hovercraft Museum Trust.

The museum's trustees said they hoped a deal could be reached with HCA and have submitted a proposal to save the Princess Anne, which is in better condition than the Princess Margaret.


'National treasures'

However, they said they had "reluctantly accepted" the Princess Margaret was likely to be broken up and sold for scrap.

Hovercraft Museum trustee Emma Pullen said: "Many people come simply to see these huge relics from a bygone age and their loss would be an enormous blow to the museum.

"They are piece of British history, the like of which we will never see again.

"We will do everything in our powers to protect at least one of these national treasures."

The cross-Channel service from Dover to Calais closed in 2000.

The two 250-tonne vessels could carry 400 passengers and 55 cars.

They were built on the Isle of Wight by the British Hovercraft Corporation in the 1970s and operated from Dover and Pegwell Bay in Kent.

They were replaced in 2000 by a catamaran service.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The future for Peking

Hamburg News

Millions For Hamburg's Historic Museums

New York's tall ship "Peking" is coming home: the German Bundestag contributes 120 Million towards a German Port Museum in Hamburg

Built in Hamburg, Germany in 1911, the mighty four-masted barque “Peking” is docked at the South Street Seaport in New York City, where the tall ship is used as a maritime museum. A steel-hulled four-masted barque, “Peking” was part of the so-called Flying P-Liners of the Hamburg shipping company F. Laeisz, it was one of the last generation of windjammers used in the nitrate trade and wheat trade around the often treacherous Cape Horn.

Now, the famous tall ship will be returning home. On 12 November 2015, the budget committee of the German German Bundestag decided to purchase the ship and to return it to Hamburg. It is going to be a part of the announced German Port Museum in Hamburg, for which 120 million euro were allocated. Hamburg’s Bundestag members Rüdiger Kruse (CDU) and Johannes Kahrs (SPD) significantly promoted and supported the project in the budget committee.

Hamburg’s Future Port Museum

With the establishment of a German Port Museum in Hamburg, a vision pursued for long by Hamburg’s locals and politicians will finally become true. The city of Hamburg with its international sea port will thus be given a spectacular showcase for its significant economic and cultural history. With the granting of 120 million euro, the museum will be fully financed by the federal budget.

The Economic and Cultural History of the Port

Upon completion, Hamburg will cover the operating cost of the Hamburg Port Museum.. “The support of the federal government for the Hamburg’s culture is a great appreciation of the performance of the city’s cultural institutions on a national and international level”, said Barbara Kisseler, Hamburg Minister of Culture. “The establishment of a national museum reflecting the importance of the Port of Hamburg gives us the opportunity to present the economic and cultural history of the Port of Hamburg in a wider context. Now , all partners in the project will have to develop a viable concept, illustrating the complex maritime history in an exciting and multi-faceted way”, continued Kisseler.

The Perfect Place

“For Hamburg and its historic museum, building a national port museum is a unique opportunity. Finally, a place can be set up, where the exciting and important layers of global trade connected to the largest German port can be displayed and explained”, rejoiced Börries von Notz, director of the Foundation HistoricMuseums Hamburg.

“With the more than 500,000 objects on the economic and cultural history of the port that have been waiting for years in the depots of the Foundation Historic Museums Hamburg to be shown, a rich collection is available to display the history of the port with its significant economic and urban history and its international relations to visitors from all over the world in a modern and exciting way.”

As a city that has been a symbol of trade and shipping for centuries, Hamburg is the perfect place for the German Port Museum. “There is hardly a better place for the port than being located right in the middle of Hamburg’s bustling port, the gateway to the world”, says Rüdiger Kruse, CDU, Rapporteur-General for Culture and the Media in the budget committee of the German Bundestag.