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

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Quote of the Day

Brandon at Siris had this bon mot:
Smart people and stupid people are equally likely to come up with stupid ideas; the major difference is that smart people are clever enough to find ways to implement them.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Quote of the Day. Models and Turism

"A dirty, actually filthy, open secret in statistics is that for any set of data you can always find a model which fits that data arbitrarily close. Finding “statistical significance” is as difficult as the San Francisco City Council discovering something new to ban. The only evidence weaker than hypothesis tests are raw assertions and fallacies of appeal to authority.

The exclusive, or lone, or only, or single, solitary, sole way to check whether any model is good is if it can skillfully predict new data, where “new” means as yet unknown to the model in any way—as in in any way. The reason skeptics exist is because no known model has been able to do this with temperatures past a couple of months ahead."
One way of avoiding this is to pretend that the skill of the model lies in predicting the values of a parameter of the model, which is tested by comparing models against one another and pretending that the differences among models is due to random causes. 

It is also worth noting the Turing Fallacy.  The basic programme in AI research is to mimic human performance with a computer algorithm until the mimicry is indistinguishable from actual human responses.  Then to assume that whatever the algorithm did to achieve this is what the human mind does to do so.  The same may be said of any modeling.  If the model outputs do match the Real World™ with adequate precision, it is not guaranteed that what the model was doing matches what the Real World™ does.  The Ptolemaic model of the World adequately matched the actual positions of stars and planets for thousands of years; and the Tychonic model was mathematically equivalent to the Copernican model, differing only in the origin point of the coordinate systems.  In the end, both the Ptolemaic and the Tychonic systems failed, but they did so for physics reasons, not because the models were a poor fit. 

The sad fact is that scientific theories are underdetermined:  There will always be multiple theories that account for the same body of facts.  IOW, a dirty open secret is that for any set of data you can always find multiple models which fit that data arbitrarily close.

Memorial Day 2013

This is my customary Memorial Day post, though it should be noted that the first two are thankfully not eligible for Memorial day yet, but I don't feel like waiting for Veteran's Day.

Sgt. Tommy Flynn, CAC team Papa Three, USMC, Vietnam

Sgt. Tommy Flynn


My father's cousin lived with villagers in the mountains near Cam Lo just a few miles south of the DMZ. 

"The idea was to somewhat integrate with the Vietnamese people in order to gain their trust and friendship and ultimately military intelligence that would help us find the bad guys. It sounds good, and at times it was probably very good, because the Vietnamese were helped with schools and sanitation and protection from the Viet Cong. But it was also an extremely dangerous assignment. CAC soldiers lived near a village and survived mostly on their own. It was a small compound that was flooded when it rained and was overrun several times by the Viet Cong. On one such occasion, Mr. Flynn was severely wounded in the face, neck and thigh. He spent weeks in several hospitals and then a hospital ship with his jaw wired shut, before being mistakenly sent back to the war. He was given a choice; he could work in the rear or go back to his CAC squad. He was either a little nuts, or little bit more brave than most of us, because he chose to return to his squad."-- from Joni Bour's review of A Voice of Hope by Thomas Flynn
+ + +
Joe Flynn was discharged as corporal

Pfc. Joseph Flynn, 5th Eng. Btn., 5th Marine Division, USMC

My father served on Iwo Jima and in the Japanese Occupation.  The photo on the right is the only time he ever wore dress blues.

As a combat engineer, Joe had the task of blowing things up, a task at which he had had practice, since he had once blown up his bedroom at home while electrolysizing water into oxygen and (alas) hydrogen.  He was assigned to battalion liaison for the landing, which meant he landed with the first wave on Iwo Jima and would take word to his company of battalion location.  His buddies all figured he was a dead duck.  The beach was volcanic sand so fine and slippery that it was hard to get traction, and the Japanese had always dealt harshly with the first wave. 

On the beaches at Iwo Jima
During one bombardment, he took refuge in a shellhole on the beach with (iirc) his captain.  A black marine from the Pioneer Battalion came to the edge of the hole and... stopped.  "Permission to join you, sir!"  The officer responded by telling him to get his sorry black ass into the shellhole tout suite.  Years later, recounting the incident, Joe said that the young man had grown up in an environment in which a black man did not join a group of whites without their leave, even if Japanese shells were raining about him.  A culture that would do that to a man just wasn't right. 

TOF asked the Old Man once when he first felt old, and he said on his 21st birthday, when he left Iwo Jima. 
+ + +

Pfc. Harry Singley, 304th Eng., 72nd "Rainbow" Div., AEF

Harry Singley and his wife Helen Schwar
My grandfather on my mother's side served in the St. Mihel, Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  He wrote home:

"It was on Sept. 26 when the big drive started in the Argonne Forest and I saw all kinds of things that I never witnessed before.  We started out on the night of the 25th.  At 9 o'clock we commenced a tank road and worked our way almost to the German's front line trenches.  At 2:30 one of the greatest of all barrages was opened.  It was said that between 3500 and 4000 guns, some of them of very large calibre, went off at that hour just like clock work.  We worked on this road under shell fire until about 3:45 and then went back until the infantry went over the top at 5 oclock.  We followed with the tanks.  That is the way the Americans started and kept pounding and pushing ahead until the great day on Nov. 11.  ...

First day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive
26 Sept. 1918
It was some life.  I am proud that I went through it, for nobody on the Hill will have anything on me...  I was a little with sneezing or tear gas.  It made me sick but I remained with the company for I did not like to leave my detachment at any time for if something would happen, I thought, there would be plenty of help.  I felt much better in a few days.  A small piece of shrapnel splinter hit me below the knee.  Otherwise I was lucky. ..."


"Somebody will wake up soon when the boys get back to the States..."
+ + +

Pvt. John H. Hammontree, Co. H, 5th Tenn. Inf., US Vol.


Photograph of John's cousin, Hiram
Nine Hammontrees served in Co.H, 5th Tennessee
The great-great grandfather of the Incomparable Marge joined the Union Army when Confederates come into East Tennessee and told the fellas there 'you boys better be a-wearing gray in the morning' or they would be hung.  Well, they didn't cotton to that at-all, and so they left that night and crossed the mountains to sign up with Buell's army of the Ohio. 

John fought in the Atlanta Campaign under Sherman, at Dalton, Rocky Faced Ridge, and Resaca.  At Resaca he received a bullet wound in left leg, of which he eventually died years after the war, after emigrating from Tennessee to Arkansas.   
+ + +

Pvt. James Hammontree, Capt. Duncan's Co., Col. Bunch's Regt.
(2nd Regt, East Tennessee Militia)

Battle of Horseshoe Bend
Margie's great-great-grandfather's grandfather fought at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend under Gen. Andrew Jackson in the Creek (Red Stick) War.  This was included in the War of 1812.  

Andrew Jackson's official report of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (27 March 1814) mentions that "a few companies" of Colonel Bunch were part of the right line of the American forces at this engagement. More than likely, some of those companies included Captains Francis Berry, Nicholas Gibbs (who was killed at the battle), Jones Griffin, and John McNair. In addition, muster rolls show some casualties from this battle in the companies led by Captains Moses Davis, Joseph Duncan, and John Houk. Other men from this regiment remained at Fort Williams prior to Horseshoe Bend to guard the post -- provision returns indicate that there were 283 men from Bunch's regiment at the fort at the time of the battle.
+ + +


Pvt. John Hammontree,
Capt. John Mountjoy's Co. of Foot, 10th Virginia, Continental Line.


James Hammontree's great uncle John enlisted in the 10th Virginia at an unknown date and may have seen action with the regiment at Brandywine and Germantown before entering winter quarters at Valley Forge.  In January 1778, he was reported "sick in camp" and he died there on 24 Feb 1778. 

Pvt. Harris[on] Hammontree,
Capt. Wm. Cunningham's Co. of Foot, 1st Virginia, Continental Line.

The 1st Virginia has a long ancestry, and exists today as the 276th Eng. Battalion of the Virginian National Guard.  John Hammontree's younger brother Harris Hammontree enlisted in the 1st Virginia on Feb. 12, 1778, after the regiment had gone into encampment at Valley Forge.  In April and June he was reported as "sick," but unlike his older brother, he survived.  He may have participated in the battle of Monmouth in June 1778.  Most of the regiment was captured by the British at Charlestown, South Carolina, on May 12, 1780, but Harris may or may not have still been with the regiment at that point.  He was killed by Indians on the Virginia frontier, 25 Jul. 1781.  
+ + +

Earlier engagements by the Flynns don't count.  While it might be gratifying to read that Cromwell's Council issued an order to apprehend the person of Fiachra O'Flynn, describing him as armed and dangerous, it isn't covered by US Memorial Days.  The Flynns arrived in the US after the Civil War and TOF's paternal grandfather was in the cadet corps in WWI when the Armistice was signed.  TOF himself was in artillery ROTC (so he can call down shells on your location.  You have been warned.) but was classified 4F by a wise military. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Balticon

TOF announcing award.
photo by M. Ventrella

It was my happy duty to attend Balticon this weekend to present the Heinlein Award to Allen Steele and Yoji Kondo.  The Heinlein Society inaugurated the Robert A. Heinlein Award for “outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings to inspire the human exploration of space.”  It is not for any one particular work in any one particular year, but for an author’s body of work, or at least for a significant part of it.  The Award Panel consists of science fiction writers and literature professors at Heinlein’s alma mater, the Naval Academy. 

Allen Steele is well-known for his stories of near space, such novels as Orbital Decay, Clarke County, Space, and Lunar Descent, and my personal favorite collection: Sex and Violence in Zero-G.  He has won three Hugos, which is three more than TOF has managed.  He has also flown NASA's space shuttle cockpit simulator, which is Way Cool. 

TOF, Allen Steele, Yoji Kondo, and Ian Strock
photo by M. Ventrella
Yoji Kondo has also written SF, as "Eric Kotani," but received the award as much for his work as an astrophysicist at NASA and as an advocate for SSTO, RLV, and SPS.  That is, Single-Stage to Orbit launch systems, Reusable Launch Vehicles, and Solar Power Satelites in geosynchronous orbit. 

Yoji was also the first chairman of the Heinlein Award panel, but stepped down this year for reasons of health.  Well, it would have been unseemly for him to give the award to himself.  The choice had been made by the rest of the panel without his knowledge.  So the panel gathered behind TOF's back and unanimously chose him to be the new chairman.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  

Little Boys, Roller Coasters, and Angelina Jolie

The British have come up with the solution to sexual abuse of minors.  Namely, we must act now to prevent young boys (and girls, TOF supposes) from using their wiles to seduce vulnerable older men. 

The age of consent for sex should be lowered to 13 years-old to end the ''persecution of old men'' in the wake of the Savile sex abuse scandal, a leading barrister has claimed.
....
The barrister added: ''Instead, we should focus on arming today's youngsters with the savoir-faire and social skills to avoid drifting into compromising situations, and prosecute modern crime.

''As for law reform, now regrettably necessary, my recommendations are remove complainant anonymity, introduce a strict statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil actions and reduce the age of consent to 13.''

Ms Hewson argued that ''touching a 17-year-old's breast, kissing a 13-year-old, or putting one's hand up a 16-year-old's skirt'' are not comparable to cases such as the Ealing Vicarage rape or Fordingbridge gang rape and murders from 1986.
This reminds me of the book with the Worst Release Date Ever.  TOF no longer recalls the title or author, but it was a professor at Univ. of Minn. and the thesis was that we cruelly deny the sexuality of children.  We should instead allow the little darlings to be, well, darlings.  What made the release date so bad was that the clergy abuse scandal erupted shortly after and the opportunity to pound the Church took precedence over poking a stick in the eye of bourgeois morality.   For a while everyone pretended to be outraged over fondling young boys; at least until it became far too obvious that it was nearly always boys that were being molested (80% of accusations). 

Marriage-go-round

Remember the woman who married the Eiffel Tower?  The warehouse?  His pet dogHerself?  Another lesson in the ongoing decline of the Modern Ages has surfaced: a woman has decided to marry a roller coaster.  
Amy Wolfe, a US church organist who claims to have objectum sexuality, a condition that makes sufferers attracted to inanimate objects, plans to marry a magic carpet fairground ride.
Most of this would be much simpler if folks actually realized that the term "marriage" has a specific meaning and that not every attraction or appetite should be called that. 

Angelina Jolie and Denialism

Any scientific theory that argues from an appeal to celebrity should always be discounted for that reason.  But the headline Will Angelina Jolie Help End Climate-Change Denial, And Help The Republican Party? is too remarkable to pass by with no comment. 

The gist of the story is that Ms. Jolie's decision to have a double mastectomy in the absence of any positive evidence of breast cancer will help people get in line with the pravda on global warming climate change.  "By modeling how to think with data when data do not tell us what we would otherwise want them to say, she displayed a level of decision-making courage that business and political leaders should strive to emulate."

Or perhaps not.  It is a mistake to suppose that a scientific fact or -- as in this case -- a mathematical model determines a policy of action.  Facts by themselves have no values. 

Everybody dies. Therefore, Jolie will die of something. Might be cancer, might be a worn-out heart, or by apoplexy brought on by reading the NYT. Jolie will not now die from breast cancer (almost certainly), though she might exit via ovarian cancer—or maybe by some other cancer (colon, skin, pancreatic, etc.). Her liver might fail or she may stroke out. Anyway, she will die, though she may (only may) live longer and then dye from something else. All she has done, then, was to remove one of these many, many choices of death. 
There are also the possibilities of false positives on the test for "the gene" and of negative outcomes on the surgery.  Or to put it more plainly, it is not at all clear that anyone was "thinking with data" or at least not all the data.  A certain amount of emotional commitment was involved. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

In Search of the Historical Socrates

Apparently, the existence of certain characters, long thought to be historical have actually been fabricated from whole cloth.  We have the word of that esteemed newspaper of record The Onion.

Historians Admit To Inventing Ancient Greeks

Saturday, May 25, 2013

All Time Favorites

According to Blogger, this is the list of all-time most-viewed posts on the TOF Spot

EntryPageviews
Sep 1, 2011, 40 comments
10,103








Feb 13, 2012, 37 comments
3,508








Oct 5, 2011, 16 comments
2,127








Mar 15, 2013, 18 comments
1,926








May 4, 2013, 50 comments
1,919








May 5, 2012, 17 comments
1,797








Jul 19, 2012, 7 comments
1,781








Apr 2, 2012, 45 comments
1,749








Sep 18, 2011, 6 comments
1,638








May 13, 2012, 33 comments
1,583

Scrapbook

Just ran across this today: my brother's caricature at the Denver Press Club, into which he was inducted last September:
Hey, I always wanted a caricature, but I've been told that I am one, so tough luck. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Few Cutting Remarks

Don't mess with Teodorq or Conan
Teodorq sunna Nagarajan, a supporting character in Up Jim River and the protagonist in "The Journeyman: On the Shortgrass Prairie," now finds himself confronted with a duel in "The Journeyman: In the Stone House."  The duel is being fought with longswords, since the society he finds himself among is of a late medieval character. 

Don't mess with the chicks, neither 
 

Now, TOF has never dueled with longswords, nor indeed with any fell instrument, so for versimilitude, he consulted that Font of All Wisdom; viz., the Internet, to obtain nuggets of neepery with which to strew his narrative.  There is a veritable cornucopia of such info Out There, which TOF judges reliable since it does not involve God or Darwin.  Fighting with longswords is quite intricate, with a number of guards and thrusts, a three-fold division of the combat, and sundry other technologia.  Who knew.  Those Western oafs, unlike the refined Japanese samurai, were supposed to merely flail and hack at one another with big clumsy blades of sharp steel.  But it seems there was some art to it after all. 

Though they did not pirouette.  All the great fightmasters were agreed on that.  Exposing your back to your enemy while you spun around was a great foolishness, since the enemy was, you know, trying to kill you? 
For one thing, the longsword was a complicated gizmo.  The strong and the weak are parts of the blade, but are translations from MHGerman starke and schwech, and refer to the leverage you get from them.  The strong is the part where you try to catch or parry the enemy's blade, and the weak is the part that moves fast and possesses the pointy thing.  The fuller is not to let the blood run off but to lighten the blade without weakening it. 

Half-swording meant gripping the blade along the strong in close combat.
The fight manuals also mention the long edge and the short edge, which is funny since both edges are the same length.  Imagine you have gripped the sword in the picture.  The long edge is the edge that runs from where your knuckles are, facing down.  If you were thinking of chopping onions, this is the chopping edge.  The short edge is the upper edge, used in the backhand stroke.  If you hold the sword out flat and you are right handed, the long edge is the edge you use swinging left to right. 

There were two main schools of longsword art: the German and the Italian.  The Germans emphasized the attack and the Italians emphasized the defense.  Go figure. 

The pommel was more than decorative.  TOF had always imagined that the longsword was gripped in both hand like a peasant wielding an axe or Duke Snider a baseball bat, and indeed there are thrusts and guards where this is done.  But in many of the postures, the two hands work independently.  Primarily, the strong arm (usually the right, as shown) grips the sword below the cross guard, sometimes placing the thumb against the crossguard for better control.  The off hand grips down by the pommel and apply the laws of leverage by pulling or pushing on the pommel while the strong hand acts as a fulcrum or moves in the opposite direction. 

Left-handed Ox-Guard. 
A most awkward-looking guard is the one called the Ox.  The name comes from a fanciful resemblance to the horn of an ox.  The hilt is held high on the side of the head and the point is aimed that the enemy's face.  (This guard disuades him from rushing forward and blocks downward attacks.) 

But look at the wrists.  They are crossed.  The strong hand is gripping at the crossguard, but the off hand is crossed under it and is gripping at or near the pommel.  This means that if you thrust from this position, you give an additional push on the pommel with your other hand.  This gives the thrust greater strength.   

The problem with neepery is one can get sucked deeply into it, leading to the dread Infodump in one's writing.  So much of what TOF is presently reading will vanish into the narrative, revealing like a fan dancer just enough to show there is substance underneath.  So I must take care in the narration not to describe every guard and every thrust. 

The German Longsword
Meyer Frei Fechter Guild



Friday, May 17, 2013

America's Next Top Model - revised

When Are Data Not Data?

Revised and updated

Now there's nothing wrong with models, as such.  F=G(M*m)/d² is a model.  It says the force of gravity between two masses is like the solution to that equation.  (It is thus also a metaphor, and hence, a poem.  h/t Br. Guy for noting that in an interview.)  The difficulty comes when we confuse the output of the model for actual, you know, data.  And the peril is especially fraught when the model is a statistical assemblage produced by regression rather than a mathematical relationship deduced from principles.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fun With Statistics - the Saga Continues

Sometimes BadStats are simply trivially bad and stem from poor math skills on the part of reporters and/or researchers.  For example, we lately had the following story:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Publisher's Weekly Weighs In

*On the Razor's Edge
Michael Flynn Tor $25.99( 352p) ISBN 978-0-7653-3480-0

Flynn's fourth far-future tale of interstellar adventurer Donovan buigh (after In the Lion's Mouth) continues to impress with lyrical writing and a complex plot.  Millennia into the future. humankind has spread among the stars. Language has drifted, cultures have mixed, and governments rise only to fall. The Confederation -- home to Holy Terra -- is embroiled in a secret civil war. The rebel Shadows, seeking the key to the Secret City of the ruling oligarchy of the Names, have Donovan, who once entered the Secret City by unknown ways. The snag is that Donovan forgot his past when his mind was riven into ten personalities by the Shadows. Meanwhile, Ravn Olafsdottr entices the harper Mearana, Donovan's daughter, to attempt a rescue of her father and perhaps draw the Hounds of the Ardry into the conflict. As the covert war breaks into open revolution, true allegiances are revealed, enemies become allies, and the moribund Confederation quakes. By blending the textual and tonal elegance of ancient sagas with future technology, Flynn connects humanity's past with its future in an epic transgalactic prose poem. (July)
+ + +

IOW, it is Way Kool. 

Hoo-Ah

First review of On the Razor's Edge 
a starred review from Booklist. 

On the Razor's Edge.Flynn, Michael (Author)
Jul 2013. 352 p. Tor, hardcover, $25.99. (9780765334800).

On The Razor’s Edge is a magnificent and satisfyingly open-ended conclusion to the tale of the civil war between the Shadows of the Names. The Harper, Méarana, is kidnapped by Ravn Olafsdotter or, more accurately, manipulated into venturing to Terra to rescue her father, and Bridget ban, as Ravn and Méarana know, follows with a pack of Hounds. Gidula, one of the rebels, holds Donovan, demanding that he retrieve the secrets held between the fractured personalities of his mind. Flynn’s epic style, applied to a semimedieval culture in a space-opera backdrop, continues to be greatly compelling. There are layers of conspiracy and secrets, both because of history so ancient it has passed beyond legend and as a result of the complex duplicity involved in the dealings of Those of Name. There is a spectacular showdown at the end, a battle quite worthy of all that has gone before, and a fascinating narrative of regime change and rebellion. It is a beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing.
— Regina Schroeder

Magnificent! Epic style!  Greatly compelling!  Fascinating narrative!  Beautifully told!  Colorful characters!  Tight and complex plot!  Solid pacing!  

TOF naturally blushes; but who is he to protest against such expertise?
+ + +

A brief snippet can be found here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bats in the Belfrey

Not a bird
Every now and then one stumbles upon comments about how the Stoopid Bible™, written by Bronze-Age [sic] goat-herders who didn't know Jack, somewhere or other seems to include bats among birds.  How droll!  Those sillies! 

Now when sometimes it is pointed out that the New Guinea highlanders likewise classify bats as birds, they will oft hesitate, reluctant to refer to certified Victims of Indonesian Western Imperialism as stoopid, but then, after a quick look around the room, will lower their voices and crow that this proves their very point.  Even though they did not have the Stoopid Bible™, the New Guineans were somehow also Backward and Very Confused about the True Nature of Birds.  This latter is also very droll, since these same people are often at great pains to deny the very existence of natures. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Where is Global Warming When You Really Need It?

Springtime in Minnesota:


This is definitely a creepy thingie, almost SFnal.  You can actually see the mini-glacier flowing toward the houses.  (This is actually ice pushed off the lake in the background, presumably by wave and wind action, although the trees don't seen to indicate strong winds.)

Sometimes They Don't Read What They Done Wrote

It has since been deleted by someone with an ear for irony, but....

Friday, May 10, 2013

Can a Plot Become Obsolete?

TOF has a soft spot in his head for taxonomy.  When he was younger and maintained a sort of library in his basement - and his milk-cousin still remembers how TOF charged her an overdue fine on a book she kept too long - TOF began to notice structural and thematic similarities among the SF stories he devoured.  [Some of those books still have bite marks; but the fantasies were hard to swallow.] 
  • Galactic empires, decline and collapse of.  
  • Time travel, serial closed loop.  
  • Alien contact, hidden aliens among us.  
  • etc.
Inspired by the four-letter classification of alien beings in James White's Sector General stories, Young TOF set about taxonomizing all of his SF books and short stories with 4-letter codes.  The details are now thnakfully lost in the mists of time, but the first letter was a broad overall category, such as the aforesaid galactic empire; the next level, a detail within that category, such as galactic empire in decay; and so on.  The whole thing eventually was set aside.  Was a story about an alien galactic empire classed under Aliens or under Galactic Empire?  Still, TOF could not shake the feeling that there were underlying structural similarities among groups of stories. 

Later, it turned out he was not alone. 

Enter Polti

Georges Polti (1867-1946) was a French writer, critic, and theorist - and what self-respecting French litterateur is not a theorist? - who possessed a masterful command of the theater.  Based on a remark by Goethe that there were 36 dramatic situations - and Schiller's inability to find even that many - he set about cataloging and typing them, supplying for each situation examples from ancient and modern theater, occasional novels, and even historical and everyday events.  Criticized by Etienne Souriau for artificially tweaking the list in order to achieve the magical 36, he did not, in TOF's undeniably humble opinion, achieve a true taxonomy, in that the canonical 36 were not apparently organized as to species, genus, and family.  Some indeed seemed to be the same situation, though they may have appeared distinct to those with the sensibilities of an earlier generation. 

M. Polti did not claim there were 36 plots.  He claimed there were 36 distinct dramatic situations.  A plot is a series of encounters.  A novel might contain several of these situations; a short story may revolve around only one.   About one of the Situations, the first one, he made the curious observation that:
It is apparent that, in the modern theater, very little use has been made of this First Situation.
Can a Dramatic Situation go obsolete?  Why would this Situation fall into disuse? 

We'd tell you (TOF hears you say) if you would tell us what the @#$% this Situation is!

TOF is glad you asked. 

Unclear on the Concept

Fearless Leader  wants to put us all in our place, tweeting us that

"Unless you're a Native American, you came from someplace else."--tweet, @whitehouse, May 8

Now, to be a native of some place you must have been born in that place, so the tweet is self-contradictory. 

But let us suppose good ol' @whitehouse really meant "unless you're an American Indian (Amerind)" and was merely employing the incoherent vocabulary forced upon devotees of delicate speech.

In that case, it is also an improper proposition.  TOF is not a Native American in that sense, but does "come from" the very place from which he is this very moment blogging; viz., a quondam mill town on the Pennsylvania-Jersey border.  This falsifies the proposition.  (modus tollens)  QED and up your nose. 

But perhaps @whitehouse meant one's ancestors came from somewhere else - save for the Amerinds.  This raises all sorts of worrisome thoughts about Rasenwissenschaft and Blood, soil, and honor.  Why should it matter where from and when one's ancestors came? 

Then the tweet is also historically incorrect.  Because the ancestors of the Amerinds also came from someplace else (i.e. NE Siberia across the Bering Land bridge some 20,000 years ago). 

But perhaps it meant to say that everyone in America has ancestors who came from somewhere else, with magic exemptions given to Amerinds, Athapaskans, and Eskaleuts.  

In that case, it is merely a fatuous tweet - but I repeat myself.  Pretty much everyone everywhere has ancestors who came from elsewhere.  Arabs in the Middle East came from Arabia; Peninsular Arabs claim the Yemen as their origin.  Genetic evidence suggests proto-Australoids canoing out of Africa along the coast as the original Yemenis.  (They also dropped their genes in southern India, Thailand, Indonesia, New Guinea, the Philippines, Japan (Ainu), and likely account for the Pre-Siberian American Aborigines.) 
The C-route is that of the proto-Australoids



Political Philosophy in the Late Modern Ages

“Mine! Me! Not Fair! Gimme! It’s Not My Fault! He Hurt My Feelings!”

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Passing of the Age of Reason

Da Man
Recently, on a forum called Quora, TOF was amused to see this topic:  What are the strongest arguments for atheism?

There are actually only two such arguments, both put forth by Thomas Aquinas some 743 years ago.  Each was stated in the form of an actual syllogism, and then answered.  They are:

Objection 1. It seems that God does not exist; because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word "God" means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.
Videtur quod Deus non sit. Quia si unum contrariorum fuerit infinitum, totaliter destruetur aliud. Sed hoc intelligitur in hoc nomine Deus, scilicet quod sit quoddam bonum infinitum. Si ergo Deus esset, nullum malum inveniretur. Invenitur autem malum in mundo. Ergo Deus non est.
Objection 2. Further, it is superfluous to suppose that what can be accounted for by a few principles has been produced by many. But it seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle which is nature; and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle which is human reason, or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God's existence.
Praeterea, quod potest compleri per pauciora principia, non fit per plura. Sed videtur quod omnia quae apparent in mundo, possunt compleri per alia principia, supposito quod Deus non sit, quia ea quae sunt naturalia, reducuntur in principium quod est natura; ea vero quae sunt a proposito, reducuntur in principium quod est ratio humana vel voluntas. Nulla igitur necessitas est ponere Deum esse.

These can be summarized as:
  1. Life sucks.  Therefore, no God. 
    (Vita sugit. Igitur nullus Deus.)
  2. Everything seems to work fine.  Therefore, no God. 
    (Omnia videtur ad bene operandum.
    Igitur nullus Deus.)
All other arguments are either padding or irrelevant.  So curiosity compelled a glance at this "Quora" site to see what the ingenuity of the Late Modern mind has come up with.  TOF was bemused. 

The Wonderful World of Statistics - Part II

Back in August 2012, we presented the Allegory of the Fluoropolymers and promised a Part II "soon."  Well, nine months seems long enough to give birth, so...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Have You Seen This Theory?


HiMy Name is Global Warming
Have You Seen Me? 
Rochester MN, 1 May 2013
This young theory has been missing for a decade, now,
and her parents are very worried

Anyone who thinks they have seen this theory should call 555-WARM immediately