Domains public and otherwise

I see blogs that post whatever random photos they’ve found from all over the Internet, with the disclaimer that everything they post is “assumed to be in the public domain.”

That’s like a bar owner saying that all drinks they serve are “assumed to be non-alcoholic.”

I mean, selling booze without a license isn’t the worst crime in the world. But don’t be like, “What? How did this beer get in your Samuel Adams bottle?”

Meanwhile, in happier news…

I recently passed 100,000 words on the first draft of Crane Girl.



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Meet Stephen Miller


Stephen Miller is a senior adviser to President Trump. Lately, he’s been making the rounds on news shows, offering the official White House viewpoint on all sorts of issues.

I don’t think I can say much more about him without violating my “minimal profanity” rule, so I’ll just offer this excerpt from George Stephanopoulos’ February 12 interview.

I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting every sentence that contains the word “evidence,” since that’s really what the whole conversation is about.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me move on, though, to the question of voter fraud as well. President Trump again this week suggested in a meeting with senators that thousands of illegal voters were bused from Massachusetts to New Hampshire and that’s what caused his defeat in the state of New Hampshire, also the defeat of Senator Kelly Ayotte.

That has provoked a response from a member of the Federal Election Commission, Ellen Weintraub, who says, “I call upon the president to immediately share New Hampshire voter fraud evidence so that his allegations may be investigated promptly.”

Do you have that evidence?

MILLER: I have actually haven’t worked before on a campaign in New Hampshire. I can tell you that this issue of busing voters into New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who’s worked in New Hampshire politics. It’s very real. It’s very serious. This morning, on this show, is not the venue for me to lay out all the evidence.

But I can tell you this, voter fraud is a serious problem in this country. You have millions of people who are registered in two states or who are dead who are registered to vote. And you have 14 percent of non-citizens, according to academic research, at a minimum, are registered to vote, which is an astonishing statistic.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You can’t make a — hold on a second. You just claimed again that there was illegal voting in New Hampshire, people bused in from the state of Massachusetts.

Do you have any evidence to back that up?

MILLER: I’m saying anybody — George, go to New Hampshire. Talk to anybody who has worked in politics there for a long time. Everybody is aware of the problem in New Hampshire with respect to —

STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m asking you as the White House senior — hold on a second. I’m asking use as the White House senior policy adviser. The president made a statement, saying he was the victim of voter fraud, people are being bused from —

MILLER: And the president — the president — the president was.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you have any evidence?

MILLER: — issue — if this is an issue that interests you, then we can talk about it more in the future. And we now have our government is beginning to get stood up. But we have a Department of Justice and we have more officials.

An issue of voter fraud is something we’re going to be looking at very seriously and very hard.

But the reality is, is that we know for a fact, you have massive numbers of non-citizens registered to vote in this country. Nobody disputes that. And many, many highly qualified people, like Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, have looked deeply into this issue and have confirmed it to be true and have put together evidence [citation needed].

And I suggest you invite Kris Kobach onto your show and he can walk you through some of the evidence of voter fraud —

STEPHANOPOULOS: You have — you have —

MILLER: — in greater detail.

STEPHANOPOULOS: — just for the record, you have provided absolutely no evidence. The president’s made a statement.

MILLER: The White House has provided enormous evidence [citation needed] with respect to voter fraud, with respect to people being registered in more than one state, dead people voting, non-citizens being registered to vote. George, it is a fact and you will not deny it, that there are massive numbers of non-citizens in this country, who are registered to vote. That is a scandal.

We should stop the presses. And as a country, we should be aghast about the fact that you have people who have no right to vote in this country, registered to vote, canceling out the franchise of lawful citizens of this country.

That’s the story we should be talking about. And I’m prepared to go on any show, anywhere, anytime, and repeat it and say the President of the United States is correct 100 percent.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you just repeated, though, you just made those declarations. But, for the record, you have provided zero evidence that the president was the victim of massive voter fraud in New Hampshire. You provided zero evidence —

MILLER: Anyone who’s worked —


MILLER: — politics is familiar —

STEPHANOPOULOS: You have provided zero evidence that the president’s claim that he would have won the general — the popular vote if 3 million to 5 million illegal immigrants hadn’t voted, zero evidence for either one of those claims.

MILLER: Well, it’s —

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks a lot for joining us this morning.

MILLER: — that non-citizen voting issues, pervasive and widespread, and we are going to protect our country from voter fraud. We’re going to protect our borders from terrorism. And we’re going to protect innocent men, women and children from violent criminal illegal immigrants that need to be removed from this country.

And our country will create jobs, safety, prosperity and security, particularly for disenfranchised working people of every background, faith and ethnicity in this country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You can start by providing evidence to back up your claims. Thanks for joining us this morning.

Complete text. Video clip.

It’s honestly just surreal.

May It Please His Majesty

A short story, for your reading pleasure.

This is the first new fiction I’ve written in a long while, aside from Crane Girl. I got the idea for this on Saturday while I was vacuuming, and after that, it pretty much wrote itself.


In the ancient days, on a world very much like Earth, there lived a king so great that he conquered the whole planet and put every nation under his scarlet banner. This king seized and drank the Gilded Ambrosia, and thereby gained immortal life.

Millions of subjects vied eagerly for the king’s favor, trying to impress him with luxuries, with secret books, with dark-eyed concubines, with curious riddles and blades of adamant. But as his age grew from decades to centuries, and then to millennia, the king grew ever more difficult to impress. If an acrobat was skillful, the king had seen another one ages ago who was yet more brilliant. If a bomb could level a city, his armory held capsules of fire that would demolish ten cities each. No army could be stronger, no counselor could be wiser, than those he had seen already in his long, long life.

But there was one man, a sorcerer, who had used his art to make himself immortal, as the king was. And this man was no sycophant. He didn’t care about status in the court, or silver, or fame. The sorcerer was truly loyal to his king, on account of some kindness in the distant past, and he wanted no more than to please his monarch by giving him something truly impressive.

He knew that the king had every luxury, that a hundred servants scrambled at his every whim, so he pondered long and deep on what could genuinely impress his king after all these years.

At last, he had it.

With his own vast wealth, the sorcerer hired scores of apprentices, hundreds of jewel-smiths, armies of builders and craftsmen. He scoured the libraries of the world for every scrap of esoteric knowledge. His workers worked, and he began his own Great Work, an incantation so dreadful and intricate that he had thirty boys and thirty girls chanting mantras day and night just to keep the cosmic forces from ripping his temple apart. The spell itself was yet more terrible and took eleven months to cast, and twelve years to sculpt, and thirteen centuries to polish.

But the sorcerer finished his task in the end.

He gained an audience with the king, and in a burst of radiance he teleported them both from the royal palace to a location the sorcerer had prepared, on the other side of the world.

The king didn’t lift an eyebrow.

The sorcerer unveiled the new palace he had built for the king. It had a thousand turrets, ten thousand chambers, emerald ramparts, sapphire gates, and a ruby portcullis. It was geometrically perfect. There was none like it anywhere.

The king gave a tired sigh.

The sorcerer (on foot) led his monarch (in a palanquin) through the palace, showing off vaulted ceilings adorned with billions of tiles, none wider than a hair’s breadth, each hand-painted separately by a master artist. The kitchens had such clever and elaborate machinery that any order could be made and delivered to anywhere in the building within seconds. The bells and the pipe organs could produce any melody, and they could be heard for leagues in all directions.

The king yawned.

But the sorcerer wasn’t concerned, because all these features of the palace were mere trifles compared to what was coming next.

For the sorcerer brought the king (who was still in his palanquin, borne by eight servants) to the last room, and there the sorcerer showed him a machine that stretched half a mile underground. He prostrated himself on the lapis lazuli floor and said:

“May it please His Majesty, this machine is the great jewel of the palace, beside which all other trappings are as nothing. For this machine will transform His Royal Highness, turning him into no less than the Lord God Omnipotent, Commander of Galaxies, Wielder of the Infinite Flame, Master of the River of Time. All this will transpire instantly, as the machine reacts to the merest touch of my lord’s royal fingers, if His Majesty will but press this lever.”

The king didn’t answer.

And now the sorcerer really was worried, because he could tell by the faint downward curl of the king’s lip that he was sorely displeased, perhaps even offended. Any other man would have feared for his life, but the sorcerer’s only concern was that he had failed to impress the king.

He could not understand what had gone wrong. It was impossible that the king had ever received a gift like this before, and still more impossible that he would object to having unlimited power. But try as he might, he could not think of a reason for the king to be upset with his offering.

At last, the sorcerer dared to whisper, “I am certain I have not merited my lord’s approval. I beg that my lord would reveal to his obedient servant the reason for his displeasure. For, if by some chance my lord did not choose to give his attention to what I said before, if he will but press this lever –”

The king spat in disgust.

“What,” he said, “you expect me to press it myself?

Just a reminder, if you liked that story, you can find a lot more of my fiction (and other work) at

Crane Girl research list

Current word count on the first draft of Crane Girl is 97,645 and growing daily. Final word count is tough to estimate, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 130K wouldn’t surprise me. I might actually get this monstrosity finished someday.

Part of the fun of this particular novel is the ridiculously over-the-top amount of research I’ve had to do. (Okay, “had to” might be a bit much. But it’s all useful.) Here is an incomplete list of stuff that I’ve read specifically for Crane Girl purposes. I took notes on most of these.


  • The 1950s, Stuart A. Kallen
  • Point of Order: A Profile of Senator Joe Mccarthy, Robert P. Ingalls
  • Lewis Carroll: Looking-Glass Letters, Thomas Hinde
  • Warriors Don’t Cry (abridged), Melba Pattillo Beals
  • Magic, Supernaturalism and Religion, Kurt Seligmann
  • The Emperor, Ryszard Kapuściński — A biography of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. One of the most fascinating books I’ve read in years.
  • Lewis Carroll and Alice, Stephanie Lovett Stoffel
  • What It Is Like to Go to War, Karl Marlantes — Written by someone who knows firsthand.
  • The Fall of Constantinople: 1453, Steven Runciman
  • In Cold Blood, Truman Capote — A so-called “nonfiction novel,” based heavily on real events that occurred in 1959, the same year Crane Girl takes place.
  • The Book of Imaginary Beings, Jorge Luis Borges — Hard to know which category to put this in.
  • The Book of Legendary Lands, Umberto Eco
  • The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England, Ian Mortimer
  • Joan of Arc: Her Story, Régine Pernoud & Marie-Véronique Clin — Carefully researched, beautiful, and heartbreaking.
  • The Secrets of Alchemy, Lawrence M. Principe
  • Alchemy & Mysticism, Alexander Roob — An art book: lots of ancient alchemical illustrations, with extensive commentary.


  • Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandThrough the Looking-glass, Lewis Carroll — I had read these before, but I read them again to get them fresh in my brain.
  • Alice’s Adventures Underground, Lewis Carroll — An early draft of Wonderland, with Carroll’s own illustrations and in his handwriting. It’s not all that different from the final version.
  • At the Mountains of Madness, H. P. Lovecraft – Deeply disappointing, but still useful.
  • “Ligeia” and “The Masque of the Red Death,” Edgar Allan Poe

Religious texts, myths, legends, epics, and fairy tales

  • The World’s Great Stories: 55 Legends that Live Forever, Louis Untermeyer — I started skimming toward the end. Not as interesting as I’d hoped.
  • The Annotated Brothers Grimm, Maria Tatar
  • The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, Daniel C. Matt — A selection of authentic Kabbalah texts.
  • The Quest of the Holy Grail, Anonymous — An Arthurian tale from the 13th century.
  • Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament, Bart D. Ehrman
  • Russian Fairy Tales, Alexander Afanasyev — Of the five tales, the first, “Vasilisa the Beautiful,” is especially good. Stunning illustrations.
  • Faust, Johann Goethe
  • Gilgamesh, Anonymous — I had read it before, but I skimmed over again and took notes.
  • Paradise Lost, John Milton — Likewise, I’d read it before, but I skimmed and copied significant passages.
  • The Song of Solomon (from the Bible) — I read this several times, took extensive notes, and did background research.
  • “Descent of Inanna,” a short (and very ancient) Babylonian poem/legend

Long poems

  • The Annotated Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll
  • Goblin Market, Christina Rossetti
  • The Bird Parliament, Farid ud-Din Attar, the Edward FitzGerald translation


  • 1940 census records for the village of Lorraine, Kansas
  • “The Descent of Odin,” a poem by Thomas Gray — Final lines are “Till wrapped in flames, in ruin hurled, / Sinks the fabric of the world.”
  • Lots of W. B. Yeats poems
  • Lots of nursery rhymes

I also read the first dozen chapters of Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno (couldn’t go on, it’s really just awful); the final two chapters of Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur; chapters XIII – XX of the fourth-century Gospel of Nicodemus (containing the first-ever coherent account of the Harrowing of Hell); half of a book about the Tarot; a good chunk of the Mayan Popol Vuh; as much Jung and Campbell as I could stomach (spoiler: it was less than a whole book); large portions of the Persian epic Shahnameh; and a chapter of Wells’ The Time Machine (I had read the entire book years ago).

Also, significant reading about: St. John of the Cross, the Arabian Nights, Robin Hood, various species of wild dog (especially wolves, jackals, and foxes), symbolism, Latin, theology, angels and demons, various religions, various world mythologies, various passages in the Bible, Aesop’s fables, the Reynard/Isengrim cycle, and roughly nine million other topics.

You can hate my book if you like, but don’t tell me I didn’t do my homework. 🙂

Have a good weekend!

President declares that 2 + 2 = 5


WASHINGTON — At the headquarters of the Department of Education, President Trump signed a memorandum this morning declaring the mathematical statement “2 + 2 = 5” to be “valid for all purposes” in the United States.

In a sharp break with the attitudes of the Obama administration, the one-page edict also stated that “algabra [sic] is dumb,” although it was not clear whether the latter statement carried the force of an order, or should be considered explanatory in nature. Regardless, public attention has focused almost entirely on the “2 + 2 = 5” portion of the declaration.

“It’s about doing what the President has said all along: making America great again,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer in a briefing today. “The people of this nation want more, and they finally have a leader who will give it to them. No excuses. The liberal elite want to enslave Americans to the belief that 4 is all they can have, but in President Trump’s America, we can have 5. And now we do.”

A presidential memorandum, much like an executive order, has authority only over the executive branch, so it was not immediately clear what the scope of the directive would be. But Spicer said that more legal backing would be forthcoming from Congress in the months to come.

The President’s move was met with swift backlash from a wide range of groups, including mathematicians, civil rights organizations, Democrats, and third graders.

“I don’t think that’s right,” said nine-year-old Emma Carlton, who goes to elementary school in Rushville, Indiana. “Isn’t it four? I think two plus two is four.”

Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, also slammed the order. “The President does not have the constitutional authority to decide something like this,” he said. When asked which specific part of the Constitution forbids mathematical statements, Romero said they were “looking into it. But if you have two amendments, and then you get two more amendments, you’re up to the Fourth Amendment, not the Fifth. So I think that should count for something.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an unofficial adviser and advocate for Mr. Trump, dismissed the criticism. “They want our country to fail,” he said. “They want our sums to be tiny so the rest of the world can surpass us. We shouldn’t be surprised. This has been going on for thirty years. And now we have a President who’s finally willing to do something, and he gets attacked in his first month in office? It’s pathetic.”

A source within the administration says that Mr. Trump’s chief adviser, Steve Bannon, was the driving force behind the memorandum. Bannon, the controversial former head of Breitbart News and a self-described leader of the alt-right, reportedly mulled over several variant drafts before sending the final order to the President. Ideas discussed but ultimately discarded include “War is peace,” “Freedom is slavery,” and “Ignorance is strength.” According to the source, one senior aide suggested “Black is white” and was fired on the spot.

A number of critics have pointed out that the use of “2 + 2 = 5” as a political statement appears in the dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell, as do all three of the draft statements. “It’s unbelievable,” said Dr. Marcus Jay, a professor of literature at the University of Wisconsin. “This is literally Orwellian. I mean, it’s just exactly the same as what’s in the book. How could anyone support this?”

But the administration was quick to counter. In an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway called the literary argument “completely hypocritical. Look, you’ve got the word ‘and,’ which occurs hundreds of times in the book. Obama said ‘and’ constantly. But nobody’s talking about that. If the media were honest, that’s the story they’d be covering, instead of hyperventilating over this completely innocuous order.”

Spicer, during his briefing, also gave what he called a “proof” of the President’s mathematical statement. “If I take 2 inches plus 2 millimeters, I get 5 centimeters. Ask a scientist, if you don’t believe me.” Later in the press conference, when a reporter countered that 2 inches plus 2 millimeters was in fact 5.28 centimeters, Spicer seemed to grow agitated. “So first you were saying 2 + 2 = 4, and now you’re saying it’s 5.28. If you can’t even decide for yourself what it is, what are you doing criticizing us?”

While congressional Democrats were quick to condemn this “math by fiat,” GOP leaders offered more qualified criticism. “I agree with the President that we need our numbers to be as high as possible,” offered Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “But historically, numerical sums have been an issue for the states to decide, and I think we want to respect that.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan likewise stated that “it has not traditionally been the government’s place to dictate arithmetic,” but stopped short of calling for the order to be revoked. “I think we need to look at this more. We’re working with the President, and we’re going to take a look at this. I think we can come to an agreement as we also focus on repealing and replacing Obamacare.”

Fact-checking site Politifact gave the “2 + 2 = 5” statement its lowest rating, “Pants on Fire.” But some conservative pundits offered a full-throated endorsement of the President’s order.

Fox News commentator Sean Hannity focused on the type of numerals being used. “These digits are called Arabic numerals. That’s the actual name, you can look that up. And these people, these radical alt-left Islamic socialists, are willing to bow down and accept whatever the Arabic numerals tell them. And anyone who doesn’t like that is going to be labeled ‘racist’ or ‘anti-math.’ We should be thankful we finally have a leader who will put America first. We decide what the Arabic numbers do, and they obey us.”

Newly confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she had not been informed of the order before it was signed, but she was supportive. “The President is saying that 2 + 2 = 5. A lot of people still say 2 + 2 = 4, and of course we want to be open-minded. We want to give parents a choice and give students a choice. Let’s teach the controversy.”

International reaction has been largely muted, with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull assuring the press that reports of an “arithmetical rift” between his nation and the United States were greatly exaggerated.

A spokesman for the Kremlin was unable to comment, as he was laughing too hard to catch his breath.