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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Thank You

h/t Gary Armitage, who posted this on his Facebook page

Monday, May 18, 2015


In the Mother's Day post I said that I did not have a scanned photo of Magdalena Riess, my mother's mother's mother's mother. That lacuna has now been rectified! Here is a photo of the aforesaid Madgalena with her husband Conrad Hungrege. No prizes for guessing who is who.
 Conrad was born in Westpfalz (Westphalia) which had been taken over by the Kingdom of Prussia. He was a steamboat captain on the Rhine. Madgalena was born in Niederhausen, in the Grand Principality of Baden. I have her passport. Since it was prior to photography, it describes her in great detail; so we know her nose was long and her forehead was broad. There is also a notation: "Schuh: 5. Daume: 2."

Those Germans were thorough! Her shoe size was 5 and she had two thumbs. Wait. Everyone has two thumbs. Almost everyone. Maybe it meant her thumbs were two inches long? That makes no sense. No, before the metric system 5 shoes and 2 thumbs was "five feet, two inches."

 Their daughter Frances Hungrege (third from left back row) married Francis Joseph Schwar (back row right). Their daughter was Helen Myrtle Schwar (far right). There were other sons and daughters (everyone else). Uncle Leo, who set the stones in the House, is between the two parents.

Helen then married Harry Singley, who was in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918. Their daughter was the Mut.
who is shown here surrounded by her treasures.

Since Mut had no daughters, we must switch over to the daughter-she-never-had; viz., the Incomparable Marge:
shown here back in the Big Hair Era with some goofball in what is not in fact an actual Nehru jacket.

Friday, May 15, 2015

That Dang Scanner

Sometimes it scans and sometimes it doesn't. Last night, on a whim, TOF printed a couple of pages and, lo!, they printed! Astonished and delighted, TOF then placed a picture on the machine and scanned it. AND IT SCANNED! Hooray.

Not being one to waste an opportunity, TOF placed a second picture on the plate and again went to scanner-land.

Only this time, TOF was told curtly that no scanner could be located. What had been there mere moments before was somehow now an Unscanner.

Life is a mystery. The Trinity is minor compared to the Intransigence of the Machines. They can't just work or not work. They have to whimsically work sometimes.

Oh. The successful scan was this one:
which shows the Stone House built by great-uncle Leo. Judging by various signs and portents, TOF pegs this at 1959 or 60. The following photo may be the one Mut sent to the Pacific Theater, but TOF might be wrong.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It was bound to happen someday

The latest installment of "The Journeyman" this one "In the Great North Woods" had been turned down by ANALOG. This is TOF's first rejection in a great long time.

The reason was that at 40,000 words, it was too long and TOF admits to some uneasiness over its length. A magazine is like a jigsaw puzzle and Trevor saw no way to fit a three-part serial into the page count; nor was there obvious break points for serial episodes.

OTOH, he likes the story and will give it another look if I can substantially reduce its length. Now the question is if I reduce a 40 kiloword story to a 20 kiloword story, is it still the same story?

Let the games begin!

TOF and the Mut

I once saw my mother cry.

Last Sunday was Mother's Day and TOF intended to mull over it. Like many people in the Old Days™, TOF had a mother. Somewhere along the line, she picked up the sobriquet "Mut" or "The Mut" from German "die Mutter," but in TOF's storied childhood she was simply "Mommy."

TOF still remembers and treasures a tender bit of advice his mother gave him when he was but a tad complaining of some Great Injustice, probably involving his brother Dennis. When the complaint had been delivered, she looked up and said:
"Dry up and blow away."

Friday, May 8, 2015

Odds and Ends

In the End, They Always Eat Their Young

This is just as funny as Richard Carrier outing himself as a polyamorous-American. (Hinting why atheist conventions are no-fly zones for women.) An organization calling itself Atheist Ireland dissociates themselves from one PZ Meyers because the latter is too intemperate. Meyers for his part attacks Dawkins, Hitchens, and others. There is blood in the water, amigos. Recall Kissinger's remark when Saddam Hussein and the ayatollahs went after each other. But to those of us who remember the 60s the faction-forming, fissioning, and infighting is all very familiar. "Atheism +" for those out of the loop who did not receive the memo, is "atheism plus feminism, environmentalism, [secular] social justice, etc." A fine illustration of the totalizing tendencies in that region of the spectrum. Diversity will not be tolerated. Orthodoxy will be enforced, even in so heterodox a place as "free" thinking.

300 Years of Philosophical Squid Ink

Philosopher John Searle (he of Chinese Room fame) slaps early modern philosophy across the chops with a dead fish. He's not quite there yet, but he does see the problem. Way too many people will post comments like "Hume proved that causation is not demonstrable" or "Kant proved that we only experience our sensations, not the outside world" -- or even that they "refuted" the Cosmnological arguments -- without any inquiry as to how they might have done these things. Fortunately, natural scientists gave only lip service to Hume and continued to be closet Aristotelians in most things.

Useful Road Signs

Caution: Science Ahead
h/t Dr Boli

The Nanotech Chronicles

In The Washer at the Ford and then again in one of the Firestar books, TOF featured in passing nanomachines that would disassemble harmful molecules or otherwise render them harmless. Now science is catching up with fiction. "Two years ago, [Professor Thalappil Pradeep and] his team developed ... a combination filter that kills microbes with silver and breaks down chemical toxins with other nanoparticles. It’s portable, works at room temperature, and doesn’t require electricity." This is a tremendous accomplishment in providing potable water in ill-watered regions. It is also why drinking vessels in ancient times were so often made of or lined with silver [or gold]. It was not so much a flaunting of wealth as a health measure!

Wasn't One Enough?

In an article breathlessly titled "The Man Who May One Up Darwin" we are told of Prof. Jeremy England who is explaining how life may emerge from non-life, despite-or-because he is a devout Orthodox Jew who prays three times a day.
"Under the right conditions, a random group of atoms will self-organize, unbidden, to more effectively use energy. Over time and with just the right amount of, say, sunlight, a cluster of atoms could come remarkably close to what we call life. In fact, here’s a thought: Some things we consider inanimate actually may already be 'alive.'" 
It's all models and equations right now, but who knows. The problem with any of these inevitable-outcome-of-natural-processes ideas is that by implication life ought to be starting up all the time, here, there, and in milady's chambers. Well, "under the right conditions," whatever they are. Yet it seems to have originated only once in the course of Earth's history. Howcum? Or maybe, as suggested by the dazzling novella "Where the Winds Are All Asleep," it has happened more than once!

VE Day

David Warren has a tribute to the Canadian troops who liberated Holland. Mark Shea salutes his father for winning the war single-handedly.

Super-Heroes Who Did Not Make the Cut

Dr. Boli provides a list, of which my two  favorites are:
  • The Plant. Has awesome vegetative power that can crack sidewalks and split rocks. Moves very, very slowly, so evildoers never notice him until it’s too late.
  • The Accountant. His preternatural ability to detect financial irregularities has stopped many a supervillain’s evil plan.

A Book Review

Joseph Moore, who sometimes comments here, has put up a review of our 1996 novel Firestar. It is a favorable, even gushing review. Perhaps he goes too far, but I for one will not tell him he is wrong. Those Faithful Readers who have previously read said book may wish to reread it, perhaps even purchase a fresh copy to replace the old worn-out ones. (They are worn-out, aren't they, folks?) By coincidence, we received today also a check for royalties from the aforesaid book in its Blackstone Audio incarnation. The gift indeed that keeps on giving.