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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Commemoration of Thomas Aquinas

Yeah, I know.  A day late and a thaler short.  But to make up for it, we have this link.

Whether St. Thomas is boring.

The Late Modern Age, which has substituted the locution "I feel that..." for "I think that..." undoubtedly finds the Dumb Ox boring.  Logic has that effect on the video-game mentality. 

Previously on the TOF Spot...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Random Thoughts on the White Room

One of the critiques often leveled at SF from the 50s and 40s is that it envisioned the future as the 40s and 50s on steroids.  But when we look back today at the 50s, we blink and say, "we're not like that any more," even those of us who were there (when our memories are not failing us).  There were things we took for granted -- little kids running around the neighborhood unsupervised; going out of the house without locking the doors, and so on -- that are unimaginable today for most people today, when play has become play-dates and helicopter parents supervise the child's downtime. 

And those are just minor changes of culture and setting.  I had the fortune as a management consultant to visit all parts of the country and a fair number of other countries, and so had the opportunity to view people who did not behave like the people on the TV shows. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Shipwrecks of Time -- Preview

Carole Harris, having left the convent, is being introduced to secular life by her new roommate, Vivian, in The Short Farewell of Sr. Mary Barbara

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Headlines of the Week

Culled from the WSJ "Best of the Web"

Group Snags Trout.  Now That Would be News!

"Mike Trout snags 550-pound grouper at Key West"--headline, Yahoo! Sports, Jan. 15

Unclear on the Concept

"Traditional Wood Antiques Are Beginning to Get Old"--headline, Journal News (White Plains, N.Y.), Jan. 13

What is Wrong With This Metaphor?

"The Bears took a swing for the fences by choosing Marc Trestman to be the 14th head coach in team history, an NFL source told the Tribune early Wednesday."--Chicago Tribune website, Jan. 16

Thank Goodness for Arab Spring

"An earlier version of this article misstated the timing of some of Mr. Morsi's comments. The television interview in which he referred to Zionists as "these bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs" was made in September of 2010, not early that year."
-- correction run in New York Times, Jan. 15

Contest: Imagine the Context

"Morsi Says His Slurs of Jews Were Taken Out of Context"--headline, New York Times, Jan. 17

Unclear on the Concept

"Obama Declares War on Violence"--headline, New York Post, Jan. 16

No Wonder She Turned Teacher

"Calif. Porn Actress-Turned Teacher Loses Appeal"--headline, Associated Press, Jan. 15

News of the Oxymoronic

"Returning Zing to Dutch Cooking"--headline, New York Times, Jan. 16





Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Long Time Ago...

 ...there was a bunch of kids who formed a club, called The Adventure Club!  There were seven of them, and they had their own proud flag.  The club was formed for the purpose of having adventures, the which Persistent Reader has already no doubt winkled out on his own.  
The flag of the Adventure Club.  Seven stripes for seven members.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Novel Excerpt

A new excerpt had been posted on The Other Page, namely, the introduction of Carole Harris in the WIP, THE SHIPWRECKS OF TIME, from Chapter 2: "The Short Farewell of Sister Mary Barbara."

     Sister Mary Barbara, SSM, paid the cabby and ran from the parking apron up the stairs to the Motherhouse, fearful that she would be late.  Behind her, the cab waited as agreed, a faint tick-tick-tick warning of engine problems soon to come.  He ought to have that looked at, Sr. Barbara thought irrelevantly.  Her rosary, dangling at her left side, flapped comically and she wondered what a sight she must present to the cabby.  Black habit, white wimple enclosing forehead, ears, neck – only her face peeked out, small and fine, almost a child’s face.  It was a legend among the children that the knotted cincture was used to whip the unruly into shape. 
     But she must not think of the children.  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Talking Statistics

There is an amusing video posted on TOF's Auld Blogge here:
http://m-francis.livejournal.com/266310.html

The Spiral Arm

It doesn't look that far from here.....

Granted, this is as the crow flies and the distances are different when using the roads.  Some stars are closer by road than shown.  Other stars close together on the Newtonian flats are unreachable by the road network.

Where the words "Orion Spur" appear is the Rift.  The CCW occupies the space between "Sun" and "Orion Spur" while the ULP occupies the region of the Perseus Arm just under the word "Orion."  The La Frontera region is the other side of the Perseus Arm, facing the Outer Arm, shading off into the Wild just above the word "Arm".  The Outer Arm of course constitutes the Rim.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Science Marches On!

The wonders of Electricity!  What did folks foresee in 1919?  Radio direction finders!  Dental x-Rays!  Electric light baths!  Electric washing machines -- with a motor-driven wringer!  Electric stove!  Electric cooking utensils!  Vacuum cleaners!  Even, if you can believe it, a dish-washing machine!

No wonder the great age of Science Fiction was about to dawn!  This was the Future, man, an electric thrill in store for everyone!  Hoo-ah!

I especially like the demure young Lady Electricity, emblematic of a less provocative age of clothing.
from the 1919 New York Electrical Show illustrated in the December 1919 issue of Electrical Experimenter magazine 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sometimes the Mask Slips, Just a Little

Let's give up on the Constitution.

Somehow, one doubts that Mr. Seidman would have said such a thing during the tenure of G.W.Bush or R.Reagan.  But there are some rulers who can do no wrong.  (And "rulers" they would be.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Shipwrecks of Time excerpt

There is a new excerpt over on the Other Page.    But this may be the last one, since there seems very little interest.

Headlines & Quotes of the Week

"Even After..."

"And even after accounting for financial aid, the costs of attending a public university have risen 60 percent in the past two decades."--Jason DeParle, New York Times, Dec. 22

Science Marches On

"Scientists Create Projectile Vomiting Robot Named Vomiting Larry"--headline, Geek.com, Jan. 3

Just what the world has been waiting for. 

And On

"Hot Chocolate Tastes Better in an Orange Cup Say Scientists"--headline, ScienceSpaceRobots.com, Jan. 3


But do oranges taste better in a chocolate cup?  How do they know?  Or do they only know that "more respondents replied affirmatively" and they could not possibly lie or be mistaken on a matter of taste.  Didn't science used to eschew such things as taste on the grounds that they were subjective? 

But Can He Chew Gum Without Falling?

"Teen Smoking Keeps Falling"--headline, The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 20

That's Where Most People Think He Hangs Out Anyway

"At Christmas Eve Mass, Pope Urges Space for God"--headline, Associated Press, Dec. 24

How to Make Dawkins' Head Explode

Currently, I see in Germany, but also in the United States, a somewhat fierce debate raging between so-called ‘creationism’ and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives: those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God. This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favor of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from?
– Pope Benedict XVI
Interesting that he says "so-called" creationism (den sogenannten Kreationismus).  See here for original, scroll to "Ich sehe, daß zur Zeit in Deutschland, aber auch in den Vereinigten Staaten".  

On the Training of Freethinkers

No group is as rigidly conformist as a bunch of college freshmen. They have been introduced into a new society – college – different from and presumed superior to their home. They MUST fit in – it’s a human drive as powerful in most people as sex and hunger. The keepers of this society are largely the professors, and those who can play the professors’ games. So, college freshmen are exceedingly unlikely to question anything their professors and peers tell them – they are painfully aware that they are the provisional junior members of this tribe. So, they not only accept Power Dynamic analysis, deconstruction and relativism without question, they become their staunchest defenders. Problem is, their defense consists entirely of pointing out that any questioner is not a member of their tribe – no argument is made (in fact, it’s difficult to imagine a 19 year old traditionally educated college freshman having the intellectual chops to even make a rudimentary argument about anything at all. Assuming they’d want to, which they don’t). Mockery, insult and presumed intellectual and moral superiority are the tools.
-- Ishmael Alighieri 
Ah, the herd of independent minds.  

Tacit Comment

“Then too the truthfulness of history was impaired in many ways; at first, through men’s ignorance of public affairs, which were now wholly strange to them, then, through their passion for flattery, or, on the other hand, their hatred of their masters. And so between the enmity of the one and the servility of the other, neither had any regard for posterity. But while we instinctively shrink from a writer’s adulation, we lend a ready ear to detraction and spite, because flattery involves the shameful imputation of servility, whereas malignity wears the false appearance of honesty. … those who profess inviolable truthfulness must speak of all without partiality and without hatred. I have reserved as an employment for my old age, should my life be long enough, a subject at once more fruitful and less anxious in the reign of the Divine Nerva and the empire of Trajan, enjoying the rare happiness of times, when we may think what we please, and express what we think.”
– Tacitus, The Histories, Book I
Speculations on modern examples of hatred and flattery are left as exercises to the readers.  But be careful how you express your thoughts.  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Evolution Marches On


In an astonishing feat of adaptation, trees in Washington State have evolved the ability to seize and ingest bicycles.  The is an advantageous mutation for the tree because
  1. it gets more iron in its diet
  2. it becomes unharvestable by Evil Big Timber
In addition, it suggests a more sustainable way of getting all those old used bicycles off the street.  The mutation is so radical that evolutionists are hailing it as an instance of speciation and creationists are denying it has even happened.  Some environmentalists meanwhile believe that it was the bicycle that attacked the tree and that the event proves the dangers of riding bicycles at high speed in the woods.  They point out ominously that the bicycle's seat -- and any likely rider -- is fully embedded in the tree.