I used to think Barack Obama was Jimmy Carter-lite, but with his ordering the assassination of Osama bin Laden and the markedly increased drone killings in Pakistan, I realise now that he is actually extra-strength Carter. He did waste the first two years of his presidency on a rickety public medical programme that will probably fail. Nevertheless, he has earned his place in the history books as the first non-white American president. Good on him. That said, when Romney becomes the president next week, America can get back to being the toughest dude on the block.
(Kaituna RD2, Christchurch)
SELF PUBLISHING E-BOOKS
The list of steps given by Felicity Price (“Rewriting the book”, October 27) missed one essential step. The 11th step is quite simple – ignore her steps five to 10 inclusive. There is much more to creating and publishing e-books than adopting the Kindle approach. By concentrating solely on the Kindle format and Amazon, the article was unbalanced and demonstrated a lack of understanding of the power of e-books. The article failed to point out that an e-book published via the Kindle Store is unlikely to be available to those who do not use Kindle devices or Kindle readers. It failed to identify that the Kindle is a closed format linked to one supplier. There are other formats – in particular, ePub is an open standard that the Amazon Kindle does not support. Worse, the article failed to mention Amazon’s policy of adding digital rights management (DRM) to the e-books it publishes. Amazon sells books published by other publishers, such as technical books specialist O’Reilly. It is possible to purchase an e-book version of an O’Reilly publication from both the publisher and Amazon, but the version obtained from Amazon will be encumbered by DRM. O’Reilly also publishes its e-books in the Daisy format so that they are accessible to those with impaired vision. Again, the article made no mention of publishing e-books for such audiences.
(Mt Victoria, Wellington)
A book published on Amazon’s Kindle Store can be downloaded and read on non-Kindle devices, such as the iPad and Android tablets, using the Kindle app
Regarding Ian Miller’s comments (Letters, November 3), I recently published my novel online and agree that the chances of selling a lot are slim. However, I did find that createspace.com is very supportive in giving good ideas regarding marketing. This is the hardest part of self-publishing, as it involves creating publicity about oneself, which goes against the grain for many writers. I have decided to grit my teeth and have my book printed in New Zealand, and will run a marketing campaign even though I expect it to run at a loss. I am amused to see that my book is being offered second-hand in one online bookstore when I haven’t actually sold any new yet.
Professor Michael Kelly (Letters, October 27) is a well-respected physicist, mainly in the field of electronics. It is great to have his firm reassurance regarding the dangers of climate change. I wish him well and as a fellow resident of this planet I do hope that he is right. There remains a problem though, quite apart from the fact that he is not a climate scientist. It relates to risk management. If 90 or so firemen are telling you your house is on fire and two or three are saying “she’ll be right, no worries”, a prudent person would see that there is a risk to be managed. Risk management as a public policy obligation is not understood by many scientists. It is not just a scholarly discussion and there is only this planet to experiment with. The consequences of Kelly being wrong and the huge majority of climate scientists being right are catastrophic. We can’t just wait and see. The Government seems happy with short-term populism and, like many others, is doing nothing. I hear the warnings from countless real experts and consider that any risk of long-term catastrophe requires real attention. A large part of good governance is managing risk. On these grounds our Government is negligent.
Michael Kelly’s letter reminded me of the old joke about a professor falling from a skyscraper who was heard to remark, as he passed the fourth floor, “So far, so good.”
SCARY DRUG EDUCATION
I applaud Bill Ralston’s appeal for rationality in debates about drug laws (“Joint effort,” October 27). He cites the way authorities undermine their own credibility while attempting to prevent drug abuse. British psychopharmacologist Professor David Nutt (Close Up, October 24), presents a similar viewpoint. We’re so busy lumping various substances in the same illegal basket that users are unlikely to get clear messages about comparative risk. In the 1960s, I taught high school students in a Canadian town where heroin was readily available. A number of teenagers tried it. Some didn’t return to school on Mondays; a few disappeared into addiction. Their experiences with marijuana had taught them that the drug education they had been getting was mainly scare-mongering, so why should they take heroin warnings seriously? The most responsible role I could take was to question conventional attitudes, alert students to the dangers of different drugs (“soft”,”hard”, legal or otherwise) and emphasise the addictive and toxic consequences of the worst ones. As Nutt would argue, we should pay more urgent attention to our favourite poisons – not to ban them but to provide believable consumer information and restraint in proportion to harm.
David Cohen and Gianluca Watson (Letters, October 13 and November 3) seem to be in favour of motorists paying road taxes – except diesel-car owners, who pay a road-user charge instead of a petrol tax. The road-user charges are proportional to the distance travelled and to the axle load on the road, so vehicles such as heavier trucks pay higher road-user charges – because they cause more damage to the road – which closely reflect the use made of roads. Why should cars that do not pay fuel taxes, such as diesel and electric cars, be exempt from taxes to pay for transport expenditure?
DON’T SCOFF AT THE WOF
I read the October 27 Editorial on the Warrant of Fitness with pleasure at finding an attempt at an unbiased piece. As a “genuinely horrified” mechanic, I am on the “Hands off the WoF” side, and tire of selfish opinions about the subject. Although I found nothing to change my opinion as I read through your statistics, I agree that we shouldn’t be afraid to re-evaluate a 70-year-old system, and that allowing newer vehicles to go through less frequent inspections makes sense. But the system has been re-evaluated, resulting in the current system that does allow newer vehicles less-frequent inspections. Vehicles up to five years old already have 12-month inspection intervals. From my 18 years’ experience, that seems about right. I can’t be accused of self-interest, as I no longer work in the motor trade. But safer roads are good for everyone – not just mechanics.
I buy the Listener every week to keep up to date, and be well informed and, of course, entertained. However, I am becoming increasingly annoyed by the use of abbreviations and acronyms when they are not explained in full somewhere in a feature. Your publication is not the only culprit. TV, radio and other print media are also guilty. A case in point is the October 6 Politics column, “Beware the BFG”. If your readers do not know the meaning of BFG, it may be difficult to make sense of the commentary. BTW, those of us who need help to distinguish a BFG from a BFF would appreciate it if you explained such terms in full at least once. TTFN.