Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Terror of Christmas

from Eifelheim:

The monks at St. Martin’s Church were assembling a large crèche in the sanctuary.  Francis of Assisi had begun the custom of building a Christmas crèche, and its popularity had lately been growing in the Germanies. 
     “We start placing figures after Martinmas,” the prior explained.  The Feast of St. Martin would mark the popular beginning of the Christmas season, though not the liturgical one.  “First, the animals.  Then, on Christmas Vigil-night, the Holy Family; on Christmas day, the Shepherds; and finally on Epiphany, the Wise Men.” 
     “Certain church fathers,” Dietrich said, “ascribed the Nativity to March, which would be more reasonable than December if shepherds were watching their flocks by night.” 
     The monks paused in their labors and looked at each other.  They laughed.  “It’s what happened that matters, not when it happened,” the prior told him.
     Dietrich had no answer, only that it was the sort of historical irony that had appealed to students in Paris and he was no longer a student and this was not Paris.  “The calendar is wrong in any case,” he said. 
     “As Bacon and Grosseteste showed,” the prior agreed.  “Franciscans are not backward in natural philosophy.  ‘Only the man learned in nature truly understands the Spirit, since he uncovers the Spirit where it lies – in the heart of nature.’” 
     Dietrich shrugged.  “I intended a jest, not a criticism.  Everyone talks about the calendar, but no one does anything to fix it.”  In fact, since the Incarnation signified the beginning of a new era, it had been symbolically assigned to New Year’s Day in March, and December 25th necessarily fell nine months after.  Dietrich nodded at the crèche.  “In any case, a pretty display.”
     “It is not ‘a pretty display,’” the prior admonished him, “but a dread and solemn warning to the mighty: ‘Behold your God: a poor and helpless child!’” 
 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas, 1954

Hard to think of the Old Man as only 29 and the Mut with long hair. Much easier to think of bro Dennis grinning. TOF was always the more serious bro. Thirdbro is the Honorable Kevin, who seems not entirely certain what is going on.
Tinsel was very popular back in the day. We called if "rain" for some reason. In the back right you can see a portion of the putz. It comprised a miniature village with two concentric ovals of HO-gauge track. There was also a creche in the faux fireplace, but it is not visible in the snapshot. It was a German thing. Everyone in the neighborhood -- which is to say all of TOF's relatives -- had a putz and on Christmas Day we would all go around the neighborhood to view one another's putz. This was known as "putzin' around," a phrase which the Mut used to describe her children when they were goofing off, which was more than occasional.

Because Dennis was born only 362 days after TOF, we tended to get the same presents. The parents would buy two of each. This year, it was Superman suits. Another year it was space helmets. These were the proper big plastic globes with antennae, but with a face-plate cut our of the front to forestall suffocation. Even in those young years, the Flynnlings suspected this feature would impair function in hard vacuum.

Ho ho ho. Merry Christmas to all.

Merry Christmas

"[F]or Almighty God, Who desires that all men shall be saved and that none shall perish, approves nothing more highly in us than this: that a man love his fellow man next to his God and do nothing to him which he would not that others should do to himself.

This affection we and you owe to each other in a more peculiar way than to people of other races because we worship and confess the same God though in diverse forms and daily praise and adore Him as the creator and ruler of this world. For, in the words of the Apostle, 'He is our peace who hath made both one.'

This grace granted to you by God is admired and praised by many of the Roman nobility who have learned from us of your benevolence and high qualities.[. . .]

For God knows our true regard for you to his glory and how truly we desire your prosperity and honor, both in this life and in the life to come, and how earnestly we pray both with our lips and with our heart that God Himself, after the long journey of this life, may lead you into the bosom of the most holy patriarch Abraham."

-- From Letter XXI of Pope St. Gregory VII (†1085) to the (Muslim) King of Mauritania:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Evolution of Comic Species


Something about Classic ID and Classic Dilbert, should you find them on the Web. The drawing are sketchier, but the humor is edgier.

Compare the king in an old strip:
to the king in the new:
He's gotten fatter, his nose is bigger, his crown is smaller.

Something similar happened to Dilbert. Originally, he (and the pointy-haired boss) looked like
That is, he had a longer head, an iconic curled tie, and when standing was tall with long legs. PHB was short out of proportion, not much skull. In the earliest strips, he was even sketchier. Now they look like this:
Now they are the same height, Dilbert's head has become shorter, the boss' head has become normally proportioned, the pointy hair is more stylized. And no one wears ties anymore. The strip had been trending toward cartoons over caricatures. We seldom see anymore Bob the Dinosaur that lives in his basement or even the genius garbage collector and the other outre characters that once inhabited the strip. 

There is only one thing that can account for these differences: the Theory of Comic Change.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

There Will Be War X

TOF has a story in Jerry Pournelle's revivified series There Will Be War - Vol.X. The story in question is "Rules of Engagement," which ran initially in Analog (Mar. 1998) The anthology is currently available in Kindle format, but other formats will be available later.

Also in the anthology are stories, essays, and poems by Gregory Benford, Larry Niven, Ben Bova, Poul Anderson, Doug Beason, Alan Steele, et al.

Reportedly, the anthology has already earned out its advance, which is pretty good initial sales! Woo-hoo.

Teaser as follows:

Rules of Engagement
by Michael F. Flynn

Winter having locked the passes with snow and ice, the brass parceled out long-deferred leaves and junior officers scattered across the country.  Some descended on their hometowns to rest in the bosoms of their families.  Some came to the City to rest in other sorts of bosoms.  That was the last winter before the big offensive, when I still had the flat in Chelsea.  Jimmy Topeka dropped in to see me, all somber as always.  He seemed to have something on his mind, but he talked around it six ways from Sunday the way he always does and hadn’t gotten to the nub of it before Angel Osborne clumped his way up the stairs.  I hadn’t seen Angel in almost three years, though he and Jimmy had crossed paths during the Red River campaign.  I went how we lacked only Lyle “the Style” Guzman to make the old gang complete; and the Angel ups and beeps him over the Lynx and, wouldn’t you know it, Lyle was in the City, too.  So before long we were all together, just like old times, drinking and shooting the shit and waiting for the sun to come up.  Those were wild years, and we were still young enough to be immortal.

I hadn’t much in the way of furniture; and once Angel had occupied two-thirds of the sofa, there was less of it to go around.  Lyle, being slightly built, perched himself on the table, while Jimmy raided my kitchen and passed out bottles of Skull Mountain before squatting cross-legged on the floor.  We all said what a coincidence and long time no see and what’ve you been up to. 

It wasn’t quite like old times.  A few years had gone by between us.  They were long years; it didn’t seem possible they’d held only three-hundred-odd days each.  The four of us had been different places, seen different sights; and so we had become different men than the ones who had known each other at camp.  But also there was a curtain between me and the three of them.  Every now and then, in the midst of some tale or other, they would share a look; or they would fall silent and they’d say, well, you had to be there.  You see, they’d been Inside and I hadn’t, and that marks a man. 

Angel had served with the 82nd against the Snakes; and Lyle had seen action against both the Crips and the Yoopers.  Jimmy allowed as he’d tangoed in the high country, where the bandits had secret refuges among the twisting canyons; but he said very little else.  Only he drank two beers for every one the others put down, and Jimmy had never been a drinking man. 


***

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sliding Down the Slippery Slope

In the 90’s, nobody was arguing for smoking bans across college campuses. Nobody was publicly, anyway. The net gains and justifications for banning smoking from family restaurants was pretty strong. Kids who don’t have any choice about where to eat dinner would be going to these places, and inhaling second hand smoke. People who don’t smoke had severely limited options without being in closed rooms filled with smoke. Some pretty significant stuff. And could be viewed as completely different from bars (no kids), smoking lounges (a small subset of establishments), and public parks (outdoors). So there’s no continuum. There’s no slippery slope. These are fallacious.

And yet, here we are.
Ain'y no slippery slope here
The Slippery Slope Argument is often called the Slippery Slope Fallacy, usually by those favorably disposed toward the bottom of the slope and anxious to get there as quickly as possible with a minimum of tumbling and bruising along the way. But it is really neither a fallacy nor an argument.

On the One Hand

History is replete with examples of "give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile." The pre-war course of Hitler's micro-aggressions provides a nicely Godwinesque illustration of a slippery slope. Give 'em a Saarland, and they'll take a Bohemia. Recall also that Griswold v. Conn. legitimized the sale of contraceptives to married couples only, precisely on the grounds of the privacy of the marriage bond, and the thought that this might lead to unmarried couples using contraceptives was dismissed as slippery slopitude. Ho-ho, that will never happen! Likewise the forecast was poo-poohed that such availability would eventually weaken the whole concept of marriage and turn women into sex objects. And yet, here we are. So too the late Daniel Pat Moynihan's "defining deviancy down."¹

Hence, as Will Truman contends in "It’s 1987, And That’s a Slippery Slope Fallacy," a slippery slope is not ipso facto fallacious.
Notes:
1. Defining deviancy down.
"[O]ver the past generation, ...the amount of deviant behavior in American society has increased beyond the levels the community can "afford to recognize" and that, accordingly, we have been re-defining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the "normal" level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard"

-- "Defining Deviancy Down," The American Scholar, Vol. 62, No. 1 (Winter 1993), pp. 17-30

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Happy Birthday to the Burrito!

Though he is far away in body, he is close in spirit.
Shown here in Alaska, proving he is not yet over-the-hill like his aged and decrepit father. (They have prodigious big hills in Alaska.)  Many happy returns, beloved offspring.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

San Bernadino as Cultural Artifact

One of the benefits of anti-social media is that it encourages the Usual Suspects to opinionate in a sort of spasm, thereby revealing their hearts. Shortly after the San Bernadino shootings, several "tweets" (as TOF believes they are called) made announcements akin to the following:
Alan Colmes @AlanColmes
Planned Parenthood Clinic Across Street From San Bernardino Shooting
http://colm.es/1Tw8tpd 
This and other tweets were found here.
It actually wasn't across the street. It was over a mile away. But there are many folks who play by Deming's Funnel Rule #4. That is, they center on the most recent result. Some fruitcake had shot up a Planned Parenthood Clinic shortly before and killed three people; so this must be another. In the same spirit, generals in 1914 expected a replay of the Franco-Prussian War, and in 1939, a replay of the Great War. Activists today often seem to think they are reliving the Sixties™. But Funnel Rule #4 always results in flying way off target.

The one thing anti-social media doe not encourage is waiting for the information before whistling for your dog. Other "tweets" pushed other popular thought-cliches:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Infamy, Then and Now


Yesterday, a day that once lived in infamy, passed unnoticed on those newsitainment shows that floated before TOF's eyeballs. However, the History Channel ran a history show (mirabile dictu!) covering the twenty-four hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. How was the word transmitted and perceived by the players back in Washington (and elsewhere). Communications ran more slowly back then. There was no direct connection from Hawaii to Washington, so the President was in the dark on the details for several hours, and when he found out how bad it really was, he withheld that information from the Congressmen and Senators who came to meet with him. He did not want the situation running away and the press picking up rumors and hints. The "media" was newspapers and radio.

The evening after, FDR was to have had dinner with Edward R. Murrow. Instead, they had sandwiches and a midnight snack in the White House and FDR spilled all the beans -- which battleships had been sunk and all the rest. FDR said nothing about being "off the record." Murrow, the first celebrity journalist, decided to... keep the information private until after the president addressed the United States in Congress Assembled. He felt that the People should get the news from the president, not from a radio reporter. Who among the Late Modern fourth estate would show such judgement?

But another theme ran silently throughout the background. In one scene, the dead from the attack are buried unceremoniously in a mass grave and the news film shows only about two dozen of the survivors in attendance. Everyone else was off getting the ships repaired and prepping for war with Japan.

Best of the Year? Who Knew?

Now it can be told. 
 
TOF's story "In Panic Town, On the Backward Moon," which appears in the anthology, Mission Tomorrow, has been picked by the estimable Gardner Dozois to be included in his annual The Year's Best Science Fiction, 33rd Annual Collection. 

Fist bumps all around.

Intro teaser:

The man who slipped into the Second Dog that day was thin and pinch-faced and crossed the room with a half-scared, furtive look. Willy cut off in the middle of a sentence and said, “I wonder what that Gof wants?” The rest of us at the table turned to watch. An Authority cop at the next table, busy not noticing how strong the near-beer was, slipped his hand into his pocket, and VJ loosened the knife in his ankle scabbard. Robbery was rare in Panic Town – making the getaway being a major hurdle – but it was not unknown.
     Hot Dog sucked the nipple of his beer bottle. “He has something.”
     “Something he values,” suggested Willy.
     VJ chuckled. “That a man values something is no assurance that the thing is valuable. It might be a picture of his sainted grandmother.” But he didn’t think so, and neither did anyone else in the Dog.
 
All this happened a long time ago. Mars was the happening place back then. Magnetic sails had brought transit times down to one month, and costs had dropped with them, so the place was filling up with dreamers and scamps and dogs of all kinds, out to siphon a buck from the desert or from the pockets of those who did. There were zeppelin pilots and water miners, air-squeezers and terraformers. Half the industry supported the parasol-makers of course, but they needed construction, maintenance, teamsters, and rocket-jocks, and throughout history whenever there was a man and a dollar there was another man willing to separate them.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Viktor Frankenstein Notices a Wee Problem With His Programme

Science Fiction, Meet Reality; Reality, Science Fiction.

Now shake hands and come out fighting.


The first phase of every Great Programme is What Can Possibly Go Wrong? This is because of a certain confirmation bias in which only the positive consequences of the proposal are considered. The second phase, How Were We Supposed to Know?, occurs when the negative consequences kick in. Among the unexpected side-effects is The Revolution Eats Its Young. Robespierre went to the guillotine. The Old Bolsheviks were shot or trundled off to the gulags. Germaine Greer is denounced as an enemy of feminism.

The burger-making machine! Behold our Master!
You can never do just one thing. Every system is like a Calder mobile: jiggle one piece and the others will start to jiggle, often in unexpected ways.

Suppose you raise the minimum wage. On the one hand, it would be happy indeed if entry-level, unskilled workers were paid more. But on the other hand, if employers must pay more in increased wages (and overhead) than they would obtain in increased productivity, they will naturally hire fewer such workers. So it profiteth a man not if the wage is increased on a job that he loseth the opportunity to gain. There is just as much hardship as before, only now it is less evenly distributed; and it may very well saw off the bottom rung of the ladder of opportunity, and create a permanent class of unemployed youth. A burger-flipping robot has already been invented. Once the wages and burden for burger flippers exceeds the capital costs for installing the robot, we can kiss those bottom-rung jobs goodbye and people will be unemployed from better-paying jobs.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Quote of the Day

"I am living proof that you can be -- at the same time -- both a fanatic and a nerd. I’m a fanatic about my science, actually, and a bit of a nerd about my church."
-- Guy Consomagno, SJ, Director of the Vatican Observatory


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Friday, November 20, 2015

Now I Feel Really Old

Saw this on Gary Armitage's Facebook page.


There are also a bunch of Tyrannosaur cartoons.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

At the Eleventh Hour

... of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the guns in Europe fell silent at last. The United States built a wall inscribed with the names of servicemen killed or missing in the nine years' war in Vietnam. In three-and-a-half years, the Allies in WW1 suffered deaths amounting to 103 Vietnam walls. That's just over 2.5 Vietnam walls every month.
Technically, it was only an armistice, and 21 years later, they had to do it all over again; this time with massive civilian casualties. In between, as our friend Fabio pointed out once before, more people were killed in battle than in the years of the Great War. Think only of the Reds and Whites in Russia, of the Greeks and Turks in Anatolia, of the Polish-Soviet conflict, and a host of smaller conflicts, such as in Ireland.

Armistice Day has been expanded to include all veterans of all wars. As generally done on Veteran's day, TOF appends here a short account of veterans in my own and the Incomparable Marge's families. 

TOF in uniform, Artillery ROTC
TOF himself is not a veteran.  The closest he got was two years of Artillery ROTC (so he can call down shells on your location.  You have been warned.) but he was classified 4F by a wise military. This was at the height of the Vietnam War, toward which TOF expressed opposition, though unlike other opponents, it was LBJ's insistence on micromanaging the war that irritated him the most, as well as Sec. McNamara's weird focus on corporate-like numbers crunching. He never imagined, as others did, that the victory of Ho Chi Minh would be all sweetness and light, rather than re-education camps and boat people.

Note: TOF does not know why there are whimsical font and font size changes scattered throughout this post. He has tried several times to correct them but has been defeated by the daemons of the internet each time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Missing Inaction

Where did they go? You must remember them! A few years ago, they were everywhere. Celebrities spoke of them in the hushed and rapturous tones usually reserved for pyramid power or acupuncture. There was hardly a thought-manager who neglected to tell us of the wonders they would bring. We can "resist the onslaught of time’s vulture." They would provide "answers that have so long been beyond our grasp." They constituted "one of the most promising areas of research."

Troglodytes and religious fundamentalists raised barriers that would result in patients "suffer[ing] needlessly" and "put many critical future advances in medicine beyond the reach of patients in the United States."

Yes, it's good ol' Human Embryonic Stem Cells, that were gonna cure Parkinson's, Alzheimers, and all the rest. That's if anyone could get past that bodily rejection thingie.Those who were opposed to grinding up embryos to make their bread were ridiculed as "anti-science" and the opposition of the Church was called, as was her earlier opposition to eugenics, another episode in the "war of religion on science."

I wonder if they would have also called those opposed to Nazi experimentation on Jews "anti-science"? Yes, I know. Godwin's Law and all that. But the point is that not every instance in which people put on white lab coats is quite the same.

Now, the only thing being opposed was killing human embryos in order to obtain stem cells to experiment with. No one was objecting to the use of non-human embryonic stem cells or of human adult stem cells (like bone marrow). And the usual course of research had been to work on animal models before going on to humans, so a few folks were bemused by the rush at that early stage to jump directly to the human subject. It's not as if benign therapies were going to burst fully formed from the brow of Zeus.

Well, science, as it often does, surprised the activists and in 2007 a Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka discovered how to "regress" ordinary cells to stem cell status ("induced pluripotent stem cells"). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for this in 2012. There is an obvious benefit in that tissues can be developed in this way from a patient's own cells, thus bypassing the rejection problem. And you didn't have to kill anyone to get them.

For a while, activists pooh-poohed regressed cells and claimed they were somehow not as good as embryonic stem cells. It was almost as if the goal was not scientific discovery but simply to use embryonic cells, period. When necessary, they touted results achieved with "induced pluripotent stem cells" as simply "stem cells" so they could chide those who had opposed the use of embryonic stem cells. See? THEY would have prevented this beneficial result! Meanwhile, cases like this one raised caution flags over the use of embryonic stem cells. Such stem cells are programmed to proliferate, and the risk that they will result in runaway tumors is quite real.

Now, in a paper in Nature Biotechnology, Choi (et the usual al.) finds that induced and embryonic stem cells "are molecularly and functionally equivalent and cannot be distinguished by a consistent gene expression signature."

As time passed and induced stem cells became the preferred research material, noise about stem cell research has quietly faded from the news-smog. It's almost as if the point had always been to find a reason to use embryos.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Panic Town

From a review of the anthology Mission: Tomorrow:
There’s a kind of updated, au courant Planet Stories vibe to Michael Flynn’s “In Panic Town, On the Backward Moon,” and that’s pretty neat. Our working-man narrator gets involved with some criminal elements concerning a stolen artifact, on a Red Planet that has a thriving infrastructure detailed slyly and deeply. 
Sly and deep, that's TOF alright.
Mission: Tomorrow, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt (Baen 978-1-4767-8094-8, $15, 336pp, trade paperback), November 2015

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Agincourt!

fought by Legos!





Elfs Unite!

Selfoss, Iceland, elf door sign
In Iceland, construction must deal not only with the habitats of this or that species, but also with the habitats of elves or huldufólk.

You read that right: elves.  If you disturb the elves, bad luck will befall you; and folks will be glad to re-tell stories of the bad luck they had after moving an elfstone.
Huddled together amid the jagged rocks of the Gálgahraun lava field, a group of nervous onlookers wait with bated breath. Suddenly, there’s a loud crack and a tumble of stones as a 50-tonne boulder is wrenched from the ground, then slowly raised into the air and eased down nearby, so delicately you’d think it was a priceless sculpture. “I just hope they’re happy in their new home,” says Ragnhildur Jónsdóttir. “The elves really don’t like being uprooted like this.”
...
The rock, known as Ófeigskirkja, has been at the centre of an eight-year battle to stop a road being built
Couldn't possibly be confirmation bias, right? Iceland is apparently chock full of álagablettir, or enchanted spots of one sort or another. (And it's interesting how many elf activists have -dóttir names while the road-builders have -son names.)
For the huge Kárahnjúkastífla dam project in the east, consultants with clairvoyant skills were hired to check out the landscape first to ensure it was empty of elvish rocks. There’s now money to be made in this sort of consultancy work.
There is usually money to be made, no matter what the hoo-hoo is. The secondary link is more pedestrian and is focused on protesting the "capitalists" who insisted on shoving a road through a pristine lava field. (How a community planned by a government is "capitalist" is left as an exercise for the reader. Perhaps the word only means "people I disagree with.")

Now, the Wee Folk of Ireland.... That's a different story.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Sestina

Well, this one did not make the cut at Analog, and I can't say I am surprised. It was my first attempt at writing a sestina, which is a difficult form to begin with. Even the best examples often have a stilted aspect to them from the word repetition.

So, here it is:

Though finer points of their philosophy may prove obscure
By Michael F. Flynn

Alas we seem alone; no other mind takes form
On this fair Earth – nor any other place
That eye can see or instruments appraise.
From distant stars no missives we receive.
As if in that vast vacuum no soul
Abides save only those we call our own.

Such life, we’re told, will be unlike our own;
That’s true for trivia: species, body, form,
Appetites and senses foreign to our soul.
(What lusts do bats endure when squeaks they place,
What pleasures due to echoes they receive?
Our minds cannot conceive what bats appraise.) 

But not unlike entire, for kinship we appraise
Beneath those accidents they call their own:
They too preserve, perfect what they receive.
(The struggle to survive is higher form
Of that by which a boulder holds its place.
Inertia is but life deprived of soul.)

They will pursue the good known to their soul,
Whatever good it is that they appraise
In foreign far-flung interstellar place.
Survival’s urge is much alike our own,
Though executed through some other form:
Those powers and appetites that they receive.

Do bats admire the echoes they receive?
Do certain sounds enrich their very soul?
What drives impel the unfamiliar form
On distant stars we do not yet appraise?
Far from and yet alike unto our own
They are, no matter where their outré place.

And what awaits, would we fare to their place
Or they to ours? What welcome to receive?
A sister mind? A tasty snack? A pet to own?
It all depends on what completes their soul
And how both good and ill they do appraise.
When seeing us, what image do they form?

L’Envoi
A place within each soul
Receives and does appraise
Its own and other’s form.





Return of the Journeyman

TOF is pleased to announce that "The Journeyman: In the Great North Woods" has been accepted for publication at Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact. Oorah.

Since two scenes have already been teased, perhaps a third is in order?

+++++++++++++++++

Rather than raise questions among the greenies, the princess of Cliffside Keep pretended to be “Anna Overcreek,” a shortgrass woman, with Chum acting as her common-law husband. She had dyed her hair, painted uuli symbols up her arms, and grown her braids to “married” length. There was no Cliffside Keep to be princess of, and House Tiger had been slaughtered in the battle. She had sworn eternal vengeance against House Moose, who had fought that day on the green side.
     “Tavern-gossip claims,” she said, “that Yar Yoodavig and the remnants of the Legion still fly the Tiger-striped banner.”
     Chum sighed and took the bird to the cutting board. “Maybe I can cut out the parts his knife touched. Teo, you can be the taste-tester. Princess,” he answered her unspoken question, “even if we did learn the formula for the thunderpowder like the Yar asked, I’ve no more pigeons and Yoodavig does not advertise his whereabouts.”
     “Oh!” said Teo. “Almost forgot. Saw a moosehead down by the Harbor.”
     The princess turned. “And you slew the treacher not on the spot?”
     “I was busy. Besides, he woulda died without knowing why, and that is a bad death.”
     Sammi looked at him. “There good one?”
     “Nah. Point is, lots of Moosers been to Cliffside Keep over the years, and it’d be a good idea if this guy didn’t get a close look at Anya here.”
     “Until you kill him,” Anya said. She snatched up her bonnet and scarf and stalked out of their rooms. Nor had she neglected to fasten the straps on her scabbards.
     Sammi waited a bit, before following. The three of them were taking turns secretly escorting the princess to the chandlery.
     “Don’t let her see you,” Chum warned.
     “What you expect to see, when Sammi follows?”

Afterward, Teo shook his head. “I thought castrating Mamu after the battle canceled that debt.” He meant the heir of House Moose, to whom Anya had been betrothed. Her refusal, though permitted by custom, had turned Mamu and his House to the greenies.
     Chum winced and stirred the pot. “Mamu shoulda waited to drag her back to Moose Hold before he went all frisky on her.”
     “Or at least disarmed her,” Teodorq suggested.
     “I think that’s why everyone’s supposed to get naked first.”


Teo preferred sleeping on the roof, but he was wakened shortly after drifting off by voices below. He snapped alert and pulled his short-sword from its place inside the bedroll. Slow awakening, no awakening, men said on the Great Grass. He stuck a dagger into his belt in case he had to fight with both hands and a smile on his face in case he didn’t have to fight at all.
     He threw back the roof hatch and the voices below ceased.
     Chum was still at the strew pot, but he had put the hacked-up pheasant aside. In its place he had a plump goose. He was chatting with one of the Big Hat’s minions, who sat with one leg crossed over his knee, though when the hatch door flew open, the fop’s hand had moved on his stick. Teo grunted. These overseamen were not as foolish as they appeared.
     Chum gestured at the goose. “Yo, Teo. That Big Hat you helped this morning gave us the bird.”
The Big Hat, Teo mused, had learned his identity, traced his residence, and knew the pheasant had been ruined in his defense. That was a lot of knowing, even if it had taken him until mid-afternoon to know it.
     Teo slid down the ladder. A rich man’s gratitude is never cause for heel-dragging.
     Mr. Fancy Pants stood and kissed both Teo’s cheeks. “My master, Lar Feddy, is grateful for your actions this morning,” the man said, “and sends this mean and paltry bird as recompense for the magnificent fowl you sacrificed in his protection. He was especially impressed by the grace with which you dispatched the two men. One does not expect polish and style from rude barbarians.”
     Teo scratched his crotch. “Nah, I guess not.”
     “Lar Feddy has made inquiries and has learned that you hire out as a bodyguard.”
     Teo crossed his arms and waited. There might be an evening’s employment out of his morning’s impulse. He wondered how much he dared raise his rates. This Lar Feddy seemed to have deep pockets as well as a big hat. But if he had “made inquiries” he likely knew Teo’s customary fee.
     “The Lar proposes,” the man went on, “to mount an expedition into the Great North Woods in search of antiquities. It will be a dangerous undertaking of several moon-laps duration – there are unpacified tribes, not to mention the usual hazards of a wilderness trek – and he needs a bold man to handle security. We Gay Companions will protect his person, but we want you to organize a crew to guard our digs and campsites. The governor,” he added with no change of expression, “has no soldiers to spare.”
     Nagarajan’s son was not deaf to the sound of opportunity banging with both her fists on his doorpost. He exchanged looks with Chum, and said, “I’ll need a staff: a camp-master, a hunter, a scout, a couple lieutenants.”
     The Gay Companion tossed a poke to Teo, who formed a fair estimate of its contents from its trajectory. “Hire as many as you think needful,” the man said, “up to the limits of that purse. The digging party will include twenty laborers, a cook and quartermaster, doctor, and two overseers as well as the archaeologist and his people.”
     Teo didn’t ask what an archaeologist was. He thought the size of the security detail depended more on the size of the threat than on the size of the threatened. “When do you want us?”
     “It will take half a moon-lap to gather the rest of the party, some of whom are arriving on Fair Zephyr. But plan to come by the governor’s guest house to render daily progress reports. Ask for Eiskwy Naldo.” He indicated himself with a wave of the hand.
     “And what if’n I take this here poke and light a shuck.”
     Eiskwy Naldo smiled and with spare motion whipped his walking stick around so the weighted end halted a bare thumb’s-width from Teodorq’s nose. “You won’t abscond,” the Gay Companion said. “Lar Feddy is a good judge of character. He is seldom wrong; and he is never wrong twice.”
+++++
(c)2015 Michael F. Flynn

Monday, November 2, 2015

Notes from the Untergang

Without a clear indicator of the author's intent, parodies of extreme views will, to some readers, be indistinguishable from sincere expressions of the parodied views.
-- Nathan Poe's Law of the Internet

This, from a national magazine:
Colleges are hanging flyers around campus with phone numbers of officials that students can call to consult with about whether or not their Halloween costume is perfectly politically correct. “Unsure if your costume might be offensive?” asks a poster that’s been hung around campus at State University of New York at Geneseo. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions.” The poster contains the phone numbers and e-mails of five (five!) campus officials that students can contact and discuss the very important issue of whether or not what they will dress up as to get drunk in will be advancing social-justice causes. Wesleyan University has been hanging similar posters around the school — but with six (six!) numbers listed.
It’s a good first step. Maybe next year, the schools can deploy cultural-sensitivity control officers to bust into parties and round up anyone spotted in a sombrero or afro wig. To make the world, you know, better.
You can't make this stuff up. They were serious. Joseph Moore states in a separate context:
Moderns do not read old dead guys, in fact make it a point of pride that all they know about the past is the-predigested tidbits spoon-fed to them, and yet are full of opinions and outrage. Duh. No wonder they need safe spaces – it’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door...

Even some of the Usual Suspects are beginning to grow uneasy.  (Notice the sort of casual, unexamined assumptions in the linked article, and the signals sent by the author to indicate that he is himself right-thinking despite defending a badthinker. It is indeed sad, but these days to defend badthinkers gets you yourself accused of badthink.)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Solemnity of All Saints



This is a reprint of a post from 2011, itself a re-post from 2009 over in Live Journal.

Everyone thinks Halloween is the Irish Feis Samhain, which began at sunset on 31 Oct and that the Church co-opted the date.  However, the  feast "in honor of all the saints in heaven" was originally 13 May, and Pope Gregory III (d. 741) moved it to 1 Nov to mark the dedication day of All Saints Chapel in St. Peter’s at Rome.  There was no connection to distant Irish customs, and the parishioners of St. Peter would not likely have been beguiled by it.  Not until the 840s, did Pope Gregory IV declare All Saints to be a universal feast, not restricted to St. Peter's.  The holy day spread to Ireland.

The day a feast is the "vigil mass" and so after sunset on 31 Oct became "All Hallows Even" or "Hallowe’en."  It had no more significance than the "Vigil of St. Lawrence" or the "Vigil of John the Baptist" or any of the other vigils on the calendar.

In 998, St. Odilo, the abbot of the powerful monastery of Cluny in Southern France, added a celebration on Nov. 2. This was a day of prayer for "the souls of all the faithful departed." This feast, called All Souls Day, spread from France to the rest of Europe.

That took care of Heaven and Purgatory.  The Irish, being the Irish, thought it unfair to leave the souls in Hell out.  So on Hallowe'en they would bang pots and pans to let the souls in Hell know they were not forgotten.  However, the Feast of All Damned never caught on, for fairly obvious theological reasons.  The Irish, however, had another day for partying.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Antipopes

Mark Shea tipped TOF to the following item at a blog called "Cosmic Yarns" by one Robert Scherrer. Who says science and religion are incompatible?
[W]hat, you may ask, is an antipope? An antipope is anyone who falsely claims to be the pope. For instance, the papal claimants residing at Avignon during the Great Schism of the 14th century are considered to be antipopes. This leads to a further question: what happens when a pope meets an antipope?

The answer: they annihilate and produce two Protestants. Because you have to conserve Anglican momentum.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Rise of Sentiment and the Fall of Civilization



It is said by some, though not by TOF, that the ancient Egyptians used dirt for money. They were wealthy because a plenitude of mud was imported on a sedimental journey and deposited in the Banks of the Nile.

Now you know why TOF would not say this. Actually, he read it many years ago in one of those humorous history-of-the-world books whose contents were even funnier than the actual history. He would hesitate to suggest that the dirt was coined in a sedi-mint or that a penny so-coined would be a centiment.

Let alone that Egyptians parking their donkey carts would insert the coins into a sedimeter.

Ho ho! Enough! Today's topic du jour is not sediment, but sentiment, on which we are prepared to dish the dirt.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Quote of the Day

There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing which is really narrow is the clique.
-- G.K. Chesterton

Monday, October 12, 2015

TOF is Bugged

Well, not literally; but there was a recent news item that buried the lead. It regarded a software modification on VW diesels that enabled the cars to maintain fuel efficiency while at the same time meeting the letter of the law on the particulates and NOx tests. Now they will be forced to reduce fuel efficiency permanently, spew additional tons of pollutants into the environment, and impose billions in higher costs on VW diesel owners, all in the name of reducing emissions (particulates) that have never been shown to cause a death.

Of course, there have been simulated deaths predicted by Models, but even they do not approach the annual death toll from giant meteor impacts.
Suppose a "dinosaur killer" has one chance in 70 million of striking, and suppose it wipes out all or nearly all dinosaurs, including people as well as bureaucrats and professors with tenure. Estimate the death toll at six billion. That's 85.7 deaths per year. You can't argue with Science!™
That's more or less how they get the "death" toll from particulates. Let's apply that thinking laterally.

Suppose VW were to comply wholeheartedly with the spirit of the edict rather than with the actual law (which, recognizing the variability introduced by usage, requires compliance only at the time of testing).
[S]uppose the net effect of the rule if applied would be to decrease the mileage ... from a claimed 68.75 MPG to a real 55 MPG -- in part because the engine burns fuel less efficiently and in in part because it has to run at a higher RPM to produce comparable power. Now assume 400,000 VW diesels averaging 20,000 miles a year over eight years, and you get the guess that the EPA wanted to force VW customers to buy and burn an additional 230 million gallons of fuel over the period. Figure an average $3 and 23 pounds of exhaust per gallon, and this rule shows as a $698 million dollar differential tax burden on VW owners -- and 5.3 billion pound assault on the environment. -- American Thinker
TOF does not believe the SWAG of 23 lbs exhaust per gallon, inasmuch as a gallon of diesel weights only 7.5 pounds at room temp. We suspect the author intended 2.3 pounds, which reduces the total burden to a mere half-billion pound assault.

Yet we repeatedly see news items like this: "the world’s largest [sic] automaker had systematically cheated on U.S. emissions tests to make its diesel engines appear more eco-friendly than they really are." In the trade-off between fuel efficiency and particulate emissions, which is the better option? One might say that by sacrificing gas mileage for particulates, the EPA test is designed to make diesel engines appear more eco-friendly than they really are, since what they gain on the shy, they lose on the roundabout. (Also, VW is listed as third-largest, after Toyota and GM, which Astute Reader will note, have previously been sent to the woodshed by the US government. Interesting. Hyundai better watch out. They're next.)

And how do the $18 billions in fines [a quarter of VW's corporate value] imposed for theoretical deaths compare to the $0.9 billions fine imposed on GM for a switch defect that actually caused over a hundred real deaths? Is violating the spirit of an EPA reg really 20 times worse than killing people?

None of the stories TOF has seen have told us the actual difference in particulate levels between the fuel-efficient and EPA-compliant engines. Quantity matters, at least in the real world; and when quantities are never mentioned, despite the public's Right to Know™, it is generally a sign that they are negligible.

However, the headlines have been garnered, Emmanuel Goldstein has been ritually hated, and we move on. Perhaps we ought to keep an eye on who buys up the VW stock now that it has been depressed to half its value. They stand to make a great deal once it rebounds.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Quote of the Day

Such utter self-assurance produces the irony-deafness of those who identify themselves with the slogan: "I get my news from Comedy Central and my comedy from Fox News." ... Of course, none of this is news — even Fox news. Nor do I mean to suggest that there is any shortage of offensive cocksureness on the right — not least among the supporters of Mr Trump. But then that’s really the point. Donald Trump is the product of the Jon Stewarts and the Garry Trudeaux, who dominate the media culture, and their mirror image. He speaks to an audience accustomed to their contempt, and he answers it, to their applause, with contempt of his own, joining, too, in their cheerful willingness to write off anyone who doesn’t share it.
-- John Bowman, "Sixteen no-Trump", The New Criterion September 30, 2015.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

TOF and the Ambo

The ambo at St. Jane
Today marked TOF's return as Lector. For a number of years, he was a lector at St. Joseph's church and then, after its dissolution and incorporation with St. Bernard's and St. Michael's, at Our Lady of Mercy. But then he was felled sick enough that, as one of the doctors put it, he was "this close to being on the wrong side of the grass." Faithful reader may imagine that "this close" referred to the thumb and forefinger held together like a micrometer, and not to the arms widespread by a fathom. After that, the leg pain from a pinched sciatic nerve seemed almost a blessing.

Later, when the old church building was closed and TOF's father went back to his childhood parish, TOF joined the Incomparable Marge at St. Jane de Chantal out in the wilds of Palmer Township.


Note the steps to climb
As tall as the steps to the ambo?
But as a result of his sciatica, TOF could barely hobble along, and the steps leading up to the altar at St. Jane's seemed in his eyes as improbable of climbing as the steps ascending to the shrine at Knock or perhaps the Bullman St. Stairs in P'burg. It just wasn't gonna happen.

However, nowadays TOF can walk unaided with little trouble and, having gone through the training program (held once a year), he was "installed" as a Lector and has now appeared on the Schedule in time to read just this morning, when he had the chance to regale folks with the story of Adam and his rib. Many people regard the story as a kind of failed biology lesson, as if the original compiler of the tale or the church that adopted the story gave a rat's patoot about biology! 

What some people fail to appreciate is how danged funny the story is. A fit companion, is it? How about the cattle? Hmmm, no. Birds of the air? Don't think so. Hey, what about a wild animal? Ah, no. TOF is convinced that properly told, this story should have the children laughing and the young men and women grinning, for they must know that when their beloved "fit companion" is absent they feel something missing under their heart; and if it is not the physical absence of a material rib, they story gets the point across.

However, TOF is grievously disappointed that he did not read last week from the epistle of James:
Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.
Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten,
your gold and silver have corroded,
and that corrosion will be a testimony against you;
it will devour your flesh like a fire.
You have stored up treasure for the last days.
Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers
who harvested your fields are crying aloud;
and the cries of the harvesters
have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;
you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.
You have condemned;
you have murdered the righteous one;
he offers you no resistance.
Some of you will remember that this "day of slaughter" passage was a favorite of "Brother Angelus" during the Armleder peasant revolt mentioned in Eifelheim. And it actually was a favorite passage of the revolutionaries of that time.

Just in case anyone thinks Pope Francis was the first to point out the sin of greed.

Friday, October 2, 2015

We're Running Out!!


Los Angeles oil fields, 1935
 Courtesy of Paleofuture, a roster of Peak Oil predictions:

1909: until 1934-39
"Petroleum has been used for less than 50 years, and it is estimated that the supply will last about 25 or 30 years longer. If production is curtailed and waste stopped it may last till the end of the century. The most important effects of its disappearance will be in the lack of illuminants. Animal and vegetable oils will not begin to supply its place. This being the case, the reckless exploitation of oil fields and the consumption of oil for fuel should be checked."
— July 19, 1909 Titusville Herald (Titusville, PA)

1919: until 1921-1924
"In meeting the world's needs, however, the oil from the United States will continue to occupy a less and less dominant position, because within the next two to five years the oil fields of this country will reach their maximum production and from that on we will face an ever increasing decline."
— October 23, 1919 Oil and Gas News

1937: Gone in 15 years (1952)
Capt. H. A. Stuart, director of the naval petroleum reserves, told the Senate Naval Affairs Committee today the oil supply of this country will last only about 15 years.

"We have been making estimates for the last 15 years,' Stuart said. 'We always underestimate because of the possibility of discovering new oil fields. The best information is that the present supply will last only 15 years. That is a conservative estimate.'"
— March 9, 1937 Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1943: Peak oil has been reached
"There is a growing opinion that the United States has reached its peak oil production, the Oil and Gas Journal pointed out in its current issue. Since 1938, discoveries of new oil have not equaled withdrawals, in any single year, although there is a very good chance that 1943 will see enough new Ellenburger oil in West Texas to provide an excess."
— June 7, 1943 Bradford Evening Star (Bradford, PA)

1945: Just thirteen years left (1958)
"Faced with the threat that our nation's petroleum reserves may last only thirteen years, geologists are striving to tap the almost limitless supply of oil located beneath the seas off our coastline. The first attempt to get oil from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean was begun this month near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes revealed that the scientists are making progress in their efforts to reach the underwater oil."
— December 10, 1945 Times Recorder (Zanesville, Ohio)

1956: Ten to fifteen years until peak oil (1966-1971)
"M. King Hubbert of the Shell Development Co. predicted [one year ago] that peak oil production would be reached in the next 10 to 15 years and after that would gradually decline."
— March 9, 1957 Corpus Christi Times (Corpus Christi, TX)

1966: Gone in ten years (1976)
"A geologist stuck a figurative dipstick into the United States' oil supplies Tuesday and estimated that the country may be dry in 10 years."
— August 3, 1966 Brandon Sun (Brandon, Manitoba)

1972: U.S. oil depleted in twenty years (1992)
"At any rate, U.S. oil supplies will last only 20 years. Foreign supplies will last 40 or 50 years, but are increasingly dependent upon world politics."
— May 1972 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

1977: Oil will peak by the early 90s
"As a nation, Americans have been reluctant to accept the prospect of physical shortages. We must recognize that world oil production will likely peak in the early 1990's, and from that point on will be on a declining curve. By the early part of the 21st century, we must face the prospect of running out of oil and natural gas."
— 1977 US Department of Energy Organization Act

1980: In the year 2000
"Stressing the need for conservation, [physicist Dr. Hans] Bethe said the world will reach its peak oil production before the year 2000. Production of oil worldwide will then drop to zero over about 20 years, he said. Rigorous conservation could stretch the world's oil supply to the year 2050, he said.
— October 17, 1980 Syracuse Post Standard (Syracuse, NY)

1996: Peak oil likely by 2020
"Unfortunately, oil production will likely peak by 2020 and start declining. Without a change, developing countries will ultimately be left in the dark, and developed countries will struggle to keep the lights on. Conflict is inevitable. My guess is that this won't become a big issue unless there is a thalidomide event. We will have to see in the rear-view mirror that we are past the peak in worldwide oil production."
— Richard Smalley, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, 1996

2002: Global peak by the year 2010
"Global supplies of crude oil will peak as early as 2010 and then start to decline, ushering in an era of soaring energy prices and economic upheaval — or so said an international group of petroleum specialists meeting Friday."
— May 25, 2002 Index Journal (Greenwood, SC)

2007: Sometime between now and 2040
Most studies estimate that oil production will peak sometime between now and 2040. This range of estimates is wide because the timing of the peak depends on multiple, uncertain factors that will help determine how quickly the oil remaining in the ground is used, including the amount of oil still in the ground; how much of that oil can ultimately be produced given technological, cost, and environmental challenges as well as potentially unfavorable political and investment conditions in some countries where oil is located; and future global demand for oil.
— February 2007 GAO Report

So buckle up sports fans. The oil is gonna run out Real Soon Now. Unless it already did and we're living in the Matrix.

Yet each time one of these predictions comes along, we still take it seriously.

Balticon 50: Bring 'Em Back!

For its 50th anniversary, Balticon is trying to bring back all her previous guests of honor, one tenth of one being TOF himself. (He was one of the "Ten Previous Compton Crook Award Winners" who were GoHed at Balticon26:

In aid of this, Balticon is raising funds to pay the hotel rooms of these Special Guests. Please help fund TOF! Donate to the BOOSTER CAMPAIGN! Get Kool Swag!

 Give early and give often. What more Star-Studded cast can you ask for than those noted above (who are the past guests who have already expressed their willingness). Even the presence of TOF does not detract from its lustre.

Gene Wolfe and Jodi Lynn Nye already have their hotel cost covered. TOF travels cheap and needs no subsidy for that, but Don't let TOF go homeless!
Gimme Shelter!

Friday, September 25, 2015

“In Panic Town, on the Backward Moon”

From Publishers Weekly's Sept. 28 issue:

Mission: Tomorrow
Edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt. Baen, $15 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-4767-8094-8

What happens to the final frontier when corporations replace NASA? These 19 often satirical, sometimes hopeful stories (17 original to this volume) depict a variety of near futures in which “outer space technicians” replace astronauts (“Ten Days Up” by Curtis C. Chen) and work-from home asteroid miners fight off claim-jumping hackers (David D. Levine’s “Malf”), while eccentric billionaires promise the stars (Jay Werkheiser’s “Around the NEO in 80 Days” and Christopher McKitterick’s “Orpheus’ Engines”). While there is some variation—China is the last to launch in “Tribute” by Jack Skillingstead, but the first to capitalize on space in “Rare (Off) Earth Elements” by Ben Bova—most pieces revolve around small-time operators and their struggles to survive the oncoming corporate space race. Readers looking for a solar system tour from Mercury to the Kuiper Belt will be entertained by Old West–style marshals rounding up the usual suspects (Michael F. Flynn’s “In Panic Town, on the Backward Moon”) as well as robots seeking justice and battling loneliness in the great dark night (Brenda Cooper’s “Iron Pegasus”). Editor Schmidt adds grandmasters to a mix of newer established names and balances the tragic with the humorous. (Nov.)


A stellar list of contributors, sez TOF, among which TOF was inexplicably included.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Yet Another Gotcha Question


Dastardly People Screw Syrian Refugees

The Washington Post running ahead of the TV news, illustrates the primary distinction between print news and video news: viz., the latter needs visuals, not noodle tapping thought and words.

No, the screwers are not the Hungarian police. (Recall that if there are 700,000 migrants as claimed, that equals 7% of the entire population of Hungary -- and 3% of the population of Syria. The magyars simply do not have the infrastructure to handle such an influx. As it is, a substantial number of people are arriving at the Westbahnhof in Vienna having never had to show a passport or be identified.) The ones screwing over the Syrian refugees are young men from Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, and even from Iran, Albania, Kosovo, and India, who want to ger into the EU. To do so, they will bump desperate Syrians out of line.
“What we see here has nothing to do with seeking refuge and safety,” Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said Monday. “It is nothing but opportunism.”
There are European States already in double digit permanent unemployment; so let's add a whole bunch more.

They are sometimes detected by interpreters who discover that the "refugee" does not even speak Arabic. ("Sorry, English only."), cannot name what neighborhood they came from in Aleppo or Damascus, or they speak Arabic with thick Egyptian or Maghrebi accents. Some indeed are using the flood to swim with the fish, as the WaPo notes:
Swimming in the river of humanity are shady characters, too, admitted criminals, Islamic State sympathizers and a couple of guys from Fallujah, one with a fresh bullet wound, who when asked their occupation seemed confused.
“Army,” said one. His friend corrected him. “We’re all drivers,” he said.
Forty-five years ago, historian John Lukacs wrote:
"[T]he time is coming when [States] will not be able to stop foreign incursions by land. I am not only thinking of guerrilla or commando raids, I am thinking of the sudden migratory pressure of large populations sloshing across frontiers."

-- John Lukacs, The Passing of the Modern Age (Harper Torchbooks, 1970) p.50
 While sitting here at a comfortable distance, we Americans may sympathize, but Europeans may nor be able to help but wonder if this is an invasion-by-other-means, as recommended some ten years ago by a radical imam and used by the Moroccans to take over the Spanish Sahara. The basis of European States is nationality, and Americans (and even Canadians) may at times forget what that means. They are less afraid of refugees from the Middle East coming to Europe than they are that they will bring the Middle East with them.

More Fun With Statistics!

Fortune magazine tells us that The gender gap is especially high in the business of securing the world’s data.

In this article, we are breathlessly told that:
Women represent more than half of U.S. college graduates, yet they account for only 11% of today’s cybersecurity workforce. 
The non sequitur should be obvious to anyone, even without a technical degree. That was a hint. How many of those woman college graduates take degrees that would prepare them for a career in cybersecurity? How many, for example, major instead in education, English lit, law, or medicine.

 We are also told that that 11% is
even lower than the 26% of IT professionals who are female, according to a report from the ISC Foundation. 
This is more pertinent, but we need to know what being an "IT professional" means operationally. What percentage of such "professionals" are also qualified for and interested in careers in cybersecurity?

Now, if the writer simply wanted to pump for more women to enter the field, well-a-day. Why not, sez I? But citing the %-ages given does not make the case. Perhaps, more women can be drafted and forced into cybersecurity, whether they are interested or not? They darned well ought to be interested!

Anyone who actively discourages women from entering the field should be penalized an appropriate number of strokes -- with a cat-o-nine-tails. But you cannot legislate interest.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Quote of the Day

In human affairs whatever is against reason is a sin. Now it is against reason for a man to be burdensome to others, by offering no pleasure to others, and by hindering their enjoyment… [A] man who is without mirth, not only is lacking in playful speech, but is also burdensome to others, since he is deaf to the moderate mirth of others. Consequently they are vicious, and are said to be boorish or rude…  
-- Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae II-II.168.4
 
 
 So killjoys are guilty in some fashion of a kind of murder, and those who seldom crack a smile and see everything through the lens of a dead seriousness are to some extent sinful.
 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Party Time at the "Shipwrecks."

An excerpt from the so-far unfinished novel, The Shipwrecks of Time.  The TOC for Part I is as follows:


[Dedication]
Prologue:  Old Times
I. Old Books
1.      The New Station of Francis Delacorte
2.     The Short Walk of Sister Mary Barbara
3.     The Slow Burn of Wilma Masterson
4       The Jingled Bells of Carole Harris
5.     The Fierce Combat of Ogier the Dane
6.     The Faint Smile of Gustav Sorgensson
7.     The Heroic Deeds of Arthur the Soldier
8.     The Flames of Louvain
9.     The Triumphant Homecoming of Francis Delacorte
10.   The Blackened Eye of Leo Pearson
11.    The Front Yard of Judge Robert Cannon
Entr’acte
12.    The Awful Letter of Magda Mauer
13.    The Strange Bequest of Gustav Sorgensson
14.    The Safe House of Francis Delacorte
15.    The Long Walk of Carole Harris
16.    The Flames of Milwaukee

The last two chapters are not written yet. TOF proposes to post for a short while on the Stories and Preview Page an excerpt from the current draft, from chapter 11.

If there are requests for other snippets, let TOF know.

Whoa, What's This?

adam amateur theology Aquinas argument from motion Aristotelianism art atheism autumn of the modern ages books brains breaking news captive dreams cartoon charts chieftain clannafhloinn comix commentary counterattack crusades culcha dogheads easton stuff economics eifelheim evolution factoids on parade fake news fallen angels Feeders fir trees in lungs firestar flicks floods flynncestry flynnstuff forecasts forest of time fun facts gandersauce gimlet eye global warming glvwg headlines henchmen high frontier history home front how to lie with statistics humor hush-hush hypatia in the house of submission irish Iron Shirts irrationalism january dancer jihad journeyman kabuki kool letter lion's mouth lunacon maps mayerling medieval metrology miscellany modern mythology moose zombies music new years nexus odds odds and ends paleofuture passing of the modern age philosophy philosophy math poetry politics psyched out! public service quality quiet sun quote of the day razor's edge redefinition of marriage religio reviews river of stars scandal science science marches on scientism scrivening shipwrecks of time shroud skiffy skiffy in the news skools slipping masks some people will believe anything stats stories stranger things the auld curmudgeon the madness continues the new fascism the spiral arm the writing life thomism thread o' years tofspot topology untergang des abendlandes untergang des morgenlandes up jim river video clips vignettes war on science we get letters we're all gonna die whimsy words at play xmas you can't make this stuff up