Anne Holt: Presidentens Valg

As one of my major projects the other day I set up the hammock. Can't just laze around, so I picked up a book on the top of my book pile, Presidentens Valg (The President's Choice/Election - a play on words) by Anne Holt. She used to be the Minister of Justice in Norway and now writes nice crime novels.

The first line already shocked me so that I almost fell out of the hammock - "It's in Norwegian!" I hollered across to WiseMan. "Well, of course," he said. "I bought it for you in Oslo. They speak Norwegian there, you know." There was nothing nearby that I could throw at him, so I just hunkered down to read it. Norwegian is not bad, if you know Icelandic, English, German and Swedish.

Except for all the "slikke"s (seems to be an all-purpose word like "so") I actually made out pretty well following the story. The newly-elected American president visits Oslo for their national drinking holiday on May 17 and gets herself kidnapped. You read that right, and no it is not Hillary, 'cause this president met Hillary and got some advice from her: Trust no one but your husband, and only him if he is still with you.

Anyway, it was actually something of a page turner, so I kept going and finished up this evening. The book has some interesting explanations of how left-out Americans feel, and describes a great plot to destroy America from the inside. No, not hijack any planes. Just deprive them of gasoline, TV and shopping malls, and they'll overthrow the government of their own accord.

The book careens to a crazy ending, tying up all sorts of loose ends, and then makes a stupid blooper: The secret letters that will start the destruction are delivered to a post box outside a house in Maine - and she writes that the little letter flag was up so he knew that the mail was there.

NO NO NO! This is a basic misunderstanding that the first XWindows icons for E-Mail got wrong - the little flag would go up if you had new mail. But the point of the flag is *not* to let you know that you have mail - it is to let the postal worker know that you put a letter in the box for them to take with them. There just aren't many public mail drops, especially in rural areas, so the mail is picked up by the mail carrier. And if there is no mail for you, they would sail right past unless you let them know by lifting the flag that there is outgoing mail.

How on earth can we get rid of this fallacy?

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