Sunday, May 31, 2015

Three in One Oil

Today is Trinity Sunday, a Solemnity. The concept it one of great bemusement and wonder to all. How can this be? How can three be one? How can one be three?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

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.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


TOF's eager reader,
eagerly reading
Spent much of today working on what is shaping up to a novelette. Up to 6800 words so far, but not all of them are of equal quality. Trying to apply the dictum: First, get it written; then get it right.

Have finished parts I-III: Loberta Shinbro, Stacey Papadopolous, and Lt. Col. Bruno Zendahl, USAF. In Part I Shinbro saw Stacey on the TV, discovered his time machine being fiddled with by local criminals, and has a close encounter with Jim-7. In Part II, Stacey notices Janet Murchison at a distance, then encounters Shinbro. In Part III, Zendahl stops by the Seladar League in Philadelphia and is asked by the council to review surveillance video in which Jim-7 appears. In the course of this, he notices Shinbro briefly at the edge of the frame. He also calls Annie Troy to ask for information on possible orbital shenanigans.

Just why Shinbro was getting drunk is revealed in Part I, but not the cause of the cause, as it were. Why Jim-7 was in the electronics warehouse will be learned in Part IV. Stacey, Bruno, and Annie have similar -- and more passive -- motives, so I think Janet may hold the key. However, I will not know until I get there.

Plato meets Huxley

Today's quotes are from  Adam Swift, Professor of Political Theory, Univ. of Warwick, who is upset that unequal outcomes ("social injustice") may result from how parents raise their kids, and like all those who profess a field that ends with the word "Theory" immediately thinks of what he and Plato will allow others to do.

'One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.'

‘What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children’.*

‘Private schooling cannot be justified by appeal to these familial relationship goods,’

'I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally.'

There's more at the link. He thinks there could be more than two parents**, and they need not be the biological parents.***

There is some reaction to the article here and here
(*) Yes. They realized they needed a way of thinking about what they wanted. Professors of Theory never simply want something or realize something. What they really need is an editor.
(*) Yes. "Allow" parents to do for their children. The jackboots are always there.
(**) But he thinks that ten parents is pushing it. That's too much like being raised by a committee. He does not say where between two and ten he would draw the line. Nor does he say how he would deal with the tragedy of the commons should children be held in common.
(***) He doesn't mean the latter as an emergency measure dealing with exigent circumstances like orphans or child abuse. He means that the biological production of a child should be decoupled from the parenting of that child.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Quote of the Day

We aren’t in a “marketplace of ideas.” If they are true, they are not fungible; if they are false, they are worthless.
Violence is also a currency, as Messrs Daish, Qaeda, Boko Haram, &c, remind us every day. It can be more efficient than money in getting what you want, and is quicker than queueing, though like money it requires good management to get the best results. Which is just where psychopaths most frequently go wrong: they do not think ahead.
-- David Warren, Marketplace of ideas

Friday, May 1, 2015

TOF in Örnsköldsvik

A fair number of years ago, TOF awoke one May Day morning to the sound of a brass band tuning up outside his hotel window. However, said window was in Örnsköldsvik, Västernorrland County, Sweden  while TOF's brain was somewhere over mid-Atlantic, so however welcome the sound of brass bands might be in the early morning, it was not so much so under the jet-lagged circumstances.

Now the Swedishly challenged among TOF's readers may have noted an unconscionable concatenation of consonants in the name of the town Örnsköldsvik (which means "Ox-shield-bay"); to wit rnsk and ldsv. These might challenge even a Russian, the mightiest consonant cruncher this side of Polish. So even the Swedes care for their tongues by calling the town Ö-vik.

TOF does not say that the town is remote, but there is not much north of it except lots of north. On the road out of town -- TOF is not making this up -- there was a sign with an arrow pointing north reading "Santa Klaus".

But TOF, I hear you say, what were you doing in such a remote location as Örnsköldsvik, Västernorrland County, Sweden on such a nice May morning?

Catherine of Siena and Deaconfest '15

Deacons R Us
Yesterday was the Feast of Catherine of Siena, a Doctor of the Church. Not coincidentally, five days earlier, the Bishop of Allentown ordained 47 deacons, the largest class of permanent deacons in the US at St. Thomas More. See above.

The Cathedral church of the diocese is St. Catherine of Siena, which possesses a relic of the saint.David Warren write a nice encomium to the Doctor, one of four women with that distinction. (The other three are  Hildegard of Bingen ["The Sybil of the Rhine"], Teresa of Ávila, and Thérèse of Lisieux ["The Little Flower"]. Mr. Warren writes:
She is among the largest figures in Church history, but also in worldly, political affairs; a paragon for sanctity in absolute terms; a font of spiritual knowledge communicated in hundreds of extraordinary letters, prayers, meditations — and her Dialogue of Divine Providence, a formative work in the Tuscan vernacular. She stands astride the fourteenth century as a beacon to all ages: patroness of Italy (with Saint Francis Assisi), mystical counterpart to Dante, and angel of reconciliation across Christendom.
Yet more extraordinary, to us glib moderns: everything she accomplished remains within sight of the demonstrable historical record; everything witnessed with conventional human eyes, and surviving in evidence still physically available.
Were nothing holy allowed to her — nothing the agnostic historian will recognize as miraculous — she must still be admired for having, often single-handedly, by the boldest imaginable acts of persuasion, on the basis of no formal authority or title, achieved astounding things.
These would include healing the Great Schism of the fourteenth century; bringing the papacy from exile in Avignon home to Rome (with Europe-wide ramifications); negotiating peace between warring Italian states; quelling insurrections; reforming the incorrigible; and turning the whole worldly activity of the Church once again healthily outward — back on mission and crusade, after a period of institutional self-immolation almost as shameful to recount as our own times. And this before she died, “under the whole weight of the Barque of Peter,” at the age of thirty-three.

In The Belly of the Whale: Publisher's Weekly Review & Pre-Order Links

 Hello Fans of Michael Flynn. I am pleased to let you know that Dad's novel In the Belly of the Whale will be released by CAEZIK on July...