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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Letter to the Editor

Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact received the following letter:
I'm working my way through Nexus by Michael F. Flynn and am thoroughly enjoying the plays on words, the humor, the multiple plot lines and the excellent writing.
May I request the favor of you passing along my sincere "thanks!" and appreciation to Mr. Flynn for his work?
This story exemplifies why I subscribe to and read Analog.  It's great, entertaining reading!  And I've not yet come across a single obscene word in his piece.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
John Harcinske
Not a single obscene word? Forsooth! How the @#$%^& did I miss that?

Friday, March 17, 2017

The March of the Tabs

March comes in like a lion, the proverb says, and this is surely true of the march of the tabs, which have accumulated unpruned on TOF's tab-bar over the unruly winter months, frozen on the branches like cherry blossoms in global warming. Hereunder, with appropriately short shrift:

1. "Everything Old is New Again" Remember the torrential rains in California this past winter? The following article appeared in Scientific American back in 2013:
THE INTENSE RAINSTORMS SWEEPING IN FROM the Pacific Ocean began to pound central California on Christmas Eve in 1861 and continued virtually unabated for 43 days. The deluges quickly transformed rivers running down from the Sierra Nevada mountains along the state’s eastern border into raging torrents that swept away entire communities and mining settlements. The rivers and rains poured into the state’s vast Central Valley, turning it into an inland sea 300 miles long and 20 miles wide. Thousands of people died, and one quarter of the state’s estimated 800,000 cattle drowned. Downtown Sacramento was submerged under 10 feet of brown water filled with debris from countless mudslides on the region’s steep slopes. California’s legislature, unable to function, moved to San Francisco until Sacramento dried out—six months later. By then, the state was bankrupt. 
It gives the usual nod to "but this time the rains will be worse because global warming blah-blah-blah," but it's hard to overlook the pre-emptive catatastrophes that look so much like those of today.  

However, when the "rivers in the sky" were reported during the California deluge this winter, none of this background was reported. This was not likely because they wished to conceal the context, but because the needed more air-time for commercials. These days, you may notice they sometimes don't have enough time to complete a sentence. 

2. La Grande Scazzottata Copernica is up. If you read Italian, enjoy it.

Monday, March 6, 2017


The estimable Joseph Moore has posted a review of TOF's novella "Nexus" on his blog, Yard Sale of the Mind.

A: Review: Michael Flynn’s Novella Nexsus in this month’s Analog

A reconstruction of a conversation taking place around 12:30 a.m. last night, as my wife is entering the bedroom where I am just putting down the latest issues of Analog:

“Reading Mike Flynn?”

“Just finished. It has about every ridiculous pulp science fiction idea you’ve ever heard of in one place: time travel, appalling space aliens, space aliens that can pass for human, telepathy,  faster than light travel, transporter beams, androids…”

“What’s it about?”

“Aristotelian causality.”

 There is a woman who can’t die, a weather balloon cover story, ninja space cops, weird alien necrophilia (PG-13), alien invaders, aliens working under cover to protect earth from alien invaders. There’s Theadora the hooker-Empress, conflicting time-lines, the need to keep the cops and the military out of it, and super-ninja space cops.

Trying to remember if Area 51 gets a shout out.

And, yes, it all hangs on what Aristotle would call in Greek a ‘walking together’ – a series of coincidences – the component events of which are most definitely caused (they literally could not not be) but the walking together itself is just Fate, which takes the blame but is not, strictly speaking, a cause.

To sum up: Totally awesome. Mr. Flynn has made no direct comments on the whole Pulp Revolution stuff of which I am aware (wise man) – but, based on this, he’s down with it, at least conceptually.

TOF would be a great fool to dispute this review.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Flynn Stories in the Queue

Coming to you in Analog

TOF's great opus "Nexus", a novella length something or other, has the cover in the March/April issue of Analog. Woo Hoo.
Also on the Analog web site is an extensive excerpt from the aforesaid tale. Read it and weep. Or else go out and buy the issue on sale now.

Future expectations 

relating to Things Flynnic, dates subject to change:
  • Sep/Oct: "Viktor Frankenstein's Bar and Grill and 24-Hour Roadside Emporium"
  • Nov/Dec: "Laminated Moose Zombies and Other Road Maintenance Problems"
    (w/Dennis M. Flynn)
  • Jan/Feb: "The Journeyman: Through Madness Gap"

In other news

A German contract is pending for a German-language translation of Eifelheim. I can't wait to see how they translate "Eifelheim".....

Russia Explained

If every person is the hero of his own story, then every country is the center of the world. Geography is not fate, but it will often do until Fate comes a-knocking on the door, so what does Russia look like when the world is centered on it?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friends Don't Let Friends Do Stats

A recent story by NBC News [sic]

Female Doctors Outperform Male Doctors, According to Study

Patients treated by women are less likely to die of what ails them and less likely to have to come back to the hospital for more treatment, researchers reported Monday.
If all doctors performed as well as the female physicians in the study, it would save 32,000 lives every year, the team at the Harvard School of Public Health estimated.
Thus does NBC summarize the paper "Comparison of Hospital Mortality and Readmission Rates for Medicare Patients Treated by Male vs Female Physicians" by Yusuke Tsugawa, MD, MPH, PhD; Anupam B. Jena, MD, PhD; Jose F. Figueroa, MD, MPH; et al.

(I wish I knew who Et Al. was. Gets his name on a lot of papers, it seems.)

NBC "News" tells us
“The data out there says that women physicians tend to be a little bit better at sticking to the evidence and doing the things that we know work better.”
Apparently male doctors practice medicine regardless of what the evidence dictates. Worse, they are paid more for their foolish and dangerous behavior.

Alas, Tsugawa and his co-authors did not actually measure how doctors practiced. So even if the 30-day mortality and readmission rates differed between male and female doctors, the researchers had no way of knowing why they differed; and ipso facto neither would NBC. Someone was blowing smoke because the newsmog cannot abide a story that doesn't give a paradigm-conforming reason. Sticking to the evidence? Forsooth..
Design, Setting, and Participants  We analyzed a 20% random sample of Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries 65 years or older hospitalized with a medical condition and treated by general internists from January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2014. We examined the association between physician sex and 30-day mortality and readmission rates, adjusted for patient and physician characteristics and hospital fixed effects (effectively comparing female and male physicians within the same hospital). As a sensitivity analysis, we examined only physicians focusing on hospital care (hospitalists), among whom patients are plausibly quasi-randomized to physicians based on the physician’s specific work schedules. We also investigated whether differences in patient outcomes varied by specific condition or by underlying severity of illness.
That just sounds scientificalistic as all hell, dunnit? And hospitalists? Who knew? TOF always thought they were "doctors."
Conclusion: Patients treated by female physicians had lower 30-day mortality (adjusted mortality, 11.07% vs 11.49% …) and lower 30-day readmissions (adjusted readmissions, 15.02% vs 15.57% …) than patients cared for by male physicians, after accounting for potential confounders.
It is important to realize that the researchers were not as bold as the newsreaders. They wrote under Key Points:
Differences in practice patterns between male and female physicians, as suggested in previous studies, may have important clinical implications for patient outcomes.
TOF notes a few cautions:

Caution #1. The mortality difference was 11.1% vs. 11.5%. We caution you not to clutch your pearls too tightly over this chasm-like gap.

Caution #2. These were "adjusted percentages." That means the actual percentages were something else and the researchers tweaked the numbers to make them "all else being equal." That is, the reported %'s are the result of a model. The uncertainty of the model was not mentioned. One suspects it may have been more than 0.4%-points.

Caution #3. There were about 1,000 "all elses" that were equalized. These are called co-variates in stat-lingo. That's a heckuva lot of co-variates, leading to the possibility of multi-collinearity. This is when two or more covariates are themselved correlated with each other. If this happens, the model is over-determined and the estimates may be flawed. One is more likely to obtain an uninterpretable swamp. Did they check the Variance Inflation Factors and eliminate superfluous covariates? Inquiring minds want to know.

Caution #4. NBC simply said "patients," but the mean age of these patients was about 80 years old and the first rule of sampling is that the results cannot be generalized to populations that were not subjected to the sampling.

Caution #5. Female doctors were about 5 years younger on average, and female docs also treated many fewer patients on average than men. This implies women docs had more time per patient.

Caution #6.  The report says, “female physicians treated slightly higher proportions of female patients than male physicians did.” Since females tend to live longer than males, especially at advanced age, this would present as a higher survival rate for the patients of female doctors, not because of the doctors' skills but because of the patients' longevity. Is that the reason? TOF does not know, and neither do you or NBC.
One species of "Fake News" is when the reporter doesn't know what he's writing about, which is often the case, especially in technical subjects. The problem is that most scientific papers are wrong.
Most published scientific research papers are wrong, according to a new analysis. Assuming that the new paper is itself correct, problems with experimental and statistical methods mean that there is less than a 50% chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper are true. -- New Scientist
Most clinical researchers, while experts in their fields, are not experts in statistics and tend to find significant results that aren't there, especially if they want to find them. What is almost as bad, if not worse, is when they took Intro to Stats back in college and learned a cook-book approach to "number crunching." The on-going obsession with p-values and tests of significance often overlooks two things:
  1. Statistical significance is not causal significance.
  2. Statistical significance applies to the parameters of the model, not to the actual data.
Therefore, findings from such models tend to be overconfident.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


When his step-daughter heard the news she reportedly told him, “My gosh, Harold, you’re a hero,” to which replied “No, I was a Marine.”

Last Sunday, we were having lunch with Pere at the Key City Diner, and Pere remarked that he knew exactly where he was 72 years earlier on that exact day. "I was playing in the sand," he said.

That sand was the black volcanic sand of Iwo Jima.

He used to tell my brothers and me that in the famous photo above:
I just located a good spot and said “Put it right here guys”, then moved on to give them cover.

He was just joshing us. He was elsewhere on the island at that time, but one time in the Smithsonian when the flag was on exhibit, he recalled how much it meant to the Marines on the front line to see that huge banner go up. It meant they would no longer need to worry about being shot in the back by snipers on the mountain. There was an earlier flag, he told us, but it was too small to see at a distance, so they put one up that no one could mistake. 

Here is a post from the Auld Blogge from a decade ago, with some updates and corrections.: