Pirates Ahoy Again! This time you all get pirated!

I saw this Tweet and was tut-tutting about how the web was full of terrible people creating scam websites:

The site in question has nothing to do with the Australian online book company also called Booktopia (https://www.booktopia.com.au/ <- genuine non-scam site) but that’s just part of how appalling the place is — even the website name is a scam!

Then I followed the link…

Then, because I’m vain, I typed in my name to the search field…

How bad must internet book piracy be that not only I but ALSO MY CAT has been pirated TWICE! What the flippin’ flip? “Free For Member”? Free for anybody, if you want the genuine article! Just go to https://www.smashwords.com/ and download to your hearts content for the low, low price of nothing at all dollars.

Outraged yet? Oh, be prepared to be outraged a bit more! The scam goes beyond stealing books. There are fake reviews as well.

Ha, ha…no

Not angry yet? Ok, the fake reviewers have been harvested from Twitter followers…

For example”

I don’t even know what to call whatever this is that they are doing:

It’s like invasion of the body snatchers!

The particular link is just one of many domains that link to identical scams offering free pdfs, ebooks, games or video download if you sign-up. The sign-up is a phishing scam and possibly a source of malware as well.

Photo from the apocalypse

Sydney is still surrounded by fires but the haze in the city wasn’t as bad yesterday. The picture above was from Thursday, taken in the Blue Mountains. That smoke looks ominous but it is from a fire further south and Sydney’s main water catchment lake is between that fire and the main towns on the highway over the Blue Mountains*.


As you can imagine, both fire services are now not just stretched to the maximum fighting multiple fires but also exhausted. Currently, significant rainfall isn’t expected until later January, so there are still weeks ahead of this.


*[Not blue and not mountains but ‘green heavily eroded plateau’ doesn’t sound as good]

A Christmas Song to Bring in The Season

It’s December and that means it is the season in which we must appease the spider gods with song so that they do not consume our souls.

Santa The Christmas Spider
Santa the Christmas Spider,
Had far too many legs,
And if you ever saw it,
It would use your soul to hatch it's eggs.
All of the Christmas reindeers,
Hid from its hypnotic gaze,
It could trap a reindeer,
In a psychic trance for days.
Then one sunny Christmas day,
The spider came to say,
Reindeers with your blood so bright,
I'll trap you in cocoons tonight.
Then all the reindeers bolted,
Ran away as fast as light,
But they couldn't escape the spider,
Whose psychic web had caught them tight

Review: One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence’s teenage time-travel fantasy has all the elements to make an easy comparison with Stranger Things: a group of Dungeons & Dragons playing friends in the 1980s encounter some actual weird stuff and must solve a deep mystery while coping with a host of real-life problems.

The comparison obscures the novels distinct charm and personality. Set in an not always convincing 1980’s London, the novel is focused on a single character Nick Hayes — a mathematical prodigy struggling with chemotherapy for a potentially terminal case of leukaemia. The more fantastical events that intrude into his life drive the plot but the bulk of the story deals with the interplay between Nick, his friends and the more mundane threat of two bullies aspiring to be brutal criminals.

Deftly written, the story carries some real emotional punches but few surprises. The supernatural/science-fictional element has its own twists but not ones that are terribly surprising. However, the story plays out deftly and what it lacks in the unexpected it makes up for in engaging characters and atmosphere.

Apparently this is part one of a series (Impossible Times #1) but the story works as a stand alone novel. Very enjoyable.

How denial of global warming kills

I’ll start with the usual satellite temperature record:


All the usual caveats apply.

Meanwhile, here is a photo I took yesterday:

Those clouds aren’t clouds but smoke from a huge 26 thousand hectare fire in the southern part of the Blue Mountains/Kanangra-Boyd National Park. The smoke from that fire, another near by, and an even bigger fire in bushland to the north-west of Sydney is pushing smoke into the Sydney Metropolitan area and creating a persistent smog-haze in the city.

Further north in the state, more extensive fires have been burning for months now, impacting farms, regional communities, tourism and wildlife. With no end in sight to the current drought and three months of summer still to come, Rural Fire Service volunteers and NSW Fire Brigade staff are stretched to the limit.

Naturally the issue of global warming is a major topic in Australia. The right, for obvious reasons, want to downplay that discussion. They have been making use of three arguments. Two have some value (but avoids a deeper point) and the other is a rather nasty lie:

  1. If Australia had taken more extensive action on climate change it wouldn’t have stopped the drought or these fires.
  2. Periods of drought and fire is just a fact of life in Australia.
  3. The fires are the fault of the Greens (sometimes they say ‘inner city Greens etc) who stop burning back aka hazard reduction burns in cooler months.

The first of those points is strictly true. If Australia alone had taken stronger action on climate change it would not, BY ITSELF, have prevented global warming and hence the inaction on climate change isn’t to blame for the fires. Of course, that downplays the role Australia has played in undermining global efforts on climate change but there is a worse aspect that I’ll get to.

The second point is true. Australia has some unusual climate cycles, including periods of drought and periods of heavy rains. There is plenty of evidence to suggest substantial bush fires have been a fact of life in Australia since at least human habitation began a very, very long time ago. That fact though tells us nothing about how we might currently be making things worse.

The last is a simple lie and reveals the issue hidden behind the other two. The Greens who currently enjoy no substantial control over any government in Australia have zero influence on hazard reduction policy and ‘greens’ in a generic sense are not particularly opposed to nor are campaigning against hazard reduction burns and even if they were, nobody is going to NOT do a needed burning back because of that. It’s an obvious nonsense that falls down after a moments inspection. Yet it is repeated on talk-back radio stations and by conservative politicians.

So what is the core issue that is being hidden? Mitigation.

We are already past the point where every nation but particularly Australia now has to plan for and adapt to a world with higher baseline temperatures. Reducing emissions will help limit how bad it will get but the bad is happening now whether we like it or not.

But here is a simple fact: mitigation is going to cost money. At a basic level for Australia that means:

  • More firefighters
  • More firefighting equipment
  • Less sharing of specialist equipment with other nations because now our fire seasons overlap (e.g. California and Australia share equipment which is great but not when b0th places have fires at the same time)

None of that, even in the wildest libertarian imaginings, is going to be paid for by magic market forces. That means funding has to come from somewhere and yes, you guessed it, that means taxation.

The real reason why there aren’t more hazard reduction burns in Australia during winter is that they are difficult to do right, dangerous and require lots of expertise and people…all of which costs money…which the two fire services don’t have…because of limits on public spending…by conservatives.

Spending big on fire fighting should be an easy vote winner and an obvious thing to do EVEN IF a politician thought that reducing carbon emissions was not worth it economically. However, spending big on fire fighting in a planned manner (or on mitigation measures against drought or other impacts of global warming) would mean conservatives conceding that global warming really was real and a problem. If they did that then…well they would find it difficult to argue against emission reductions, so they have been playing down the risks of climate change for decades INCLUDING around mitigation.

Note, this avoidance of both mitigation spending and emission reduction doesn’t save money in the long term. The Australian government (and the ‘taxpayer’) still ends up footing a big bill to help out drought stricken farmers, the huge cost of fighting massive bush fires and the huge economic cost to communities of both bush fires and drought. We can add to that the direct deaths caused by the fires and the indirect health problems caused by heat and air-quality and the mental-health impact on rural communities.

Global warming denial is costing lives in Australia. It is a crude diversion to avoid and disrupt a national conversation. By pretending the risks are low or non-existent right-leaning state and federal politicians have avoided taking even the absolutely needed measures needed to mitigate the impact of climate change. Denial is killing us.

A Tube Map of SF&F Genres

As with any London Tube style map, distance on the map has no connection with distance in reality. Position is about how to make everything fit. I feel like it needs more stops on the big pink Fantasy circle line. Green stops allow you to change services to mainstream rail lines. Purple stops allow you to change to the horror tram services.

There is a foot tunnel between Cyber Punk and Steam Punk.