Thursday, July 31, 2008

"There's a bright golden haze on the barky..."

The horror! The horror! Band of Brothers, the Aubrey/Maturin Musical!
Fire Sale!

Gas prices have gotten so low they are practically giving the stuff away!
Drawing a Blank

I had what seemed to be a pretty good idea for a short story, or possibly a series of short stories on the way to work. Of course, since I was driving, I could not write it down. Traffic was crazy, I couldn't even pull over to write it down.

So the idea fled. And I'm left with the recollection that it was a darn good idea. Ah well, maybe it'll come back sometime!
"There's a bright golden haze on the barky..."

The horror! The horror! Band of Brothers, the Aubrey/Maturin Musical!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Do You Have Any Grey Poupon?

Sadly, you can't make stuff like this up.
Show of Force

Captain Aubrey was a being that confused superior force with superior reason, that was Captain Aubrey's affair: nothing would prevent Professor Graham from telling the truth, calmly and without raising his voice. Volume of sound was in no way related to volume of veracity. Captain Aubrey might speak violently, if he chose; it made no difference to the truth. If Captain Aubrey were to turn his cannon—the ultima ratio regum, and of other bullies—on Professor Graham, the truth would remain unaltered. No, said Professor Graham, now quite hoarse from bellowing, he did not suppose that he possessed a monopoly of wisdom—the remark he might observe in passing was wholly irrelevant and as illiberal as if Professor Graham had referred to Captain Aubrey's remarkable bulk or to his lack of education—but in this particular case an impartial observer comparing Professor Graham's not inconsiderable knowledge of Turkish history, language, literature, policy, and customs with the encyclopedic ignorance and presumption of those who contradicted him, might be tempted to think so.


(Patrick O'Brian, The Ionian Mission)

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review, several articles caught my eye. Jeff Foust looks at COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services). Should it be more than cargo? Amitai Etzioni responds to a recent comparions between a presidential candidate and a past president. Jeff Foust looks at Walt Anderson and MirCorp via a new film (hope it makes it to DVD), Orphans of Apollo. Finally, related to the COTS article, David L. Christensen looks at infrastructure needed for future space exploration.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review, Michael Huang compares a past president with a presidential candidate. More differences than similarities? What will military space policy be like in a few years? Taylor Dinerman takes a look. Finally, Rand Simberg looks at our drive to explore. Do we still have it?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The 300

Τιμή σ' εκεινους όπου στην ζωή των
ώρισαν να φυλάγουν Θερμοπύλες.
Πότε από το χρέος μη κινούντες΄
δίκαιοι κ' ίσοι,σ'ολες των τες πράξεις,
αλλά με λύπη κιόλας κ' ευσπλαχνία,
γενναίοι οσάκις είναι πλούσιοι κι όταν
είναι πτωχοί, πάλ' εις μικρόν γενναίοι,
πάλι συντρέχοντες, όσο μπορούνε΄
πάντοτε την αλήθεια ομιλούντες,
πλην χωρίς μίσος για τους ψευδωμένους.


(C.P. Cavafy, Thermopylae)

Honor to those who in the life they lead
define and guard a Thermopylae.
Never betraying what is right,
consistent and just in all they do
but showing pity also, and compassion;
generous when they are rich, and when they are poor,
still generous in small ways,
still helping as much as they can;
always speaking the truth,
yet without hating those who lie.

And even more honor is due to them
when they foresee (as many do foresee)
that in the end Ephialtis will make his appearance,
that the Medes will break through after all.


(C.P. Cavafy, Thermopylae)

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review, James C. McLane III proposes a new way of landing on Earth. Greg Anderson looks at long-term projects and short-view politics. Jeff Foust looks at alternative energy. (Hmmm...long-term problems and short-view politics...will today's short-attention span theatre politicians actually solve any problems?)
She Blinded Me With Science!

Phil & Kaja Foglio: Girl Genius Omnibus Edition 01 (Airship Entertainment; 2006; ISBN 978-1-890856-40-3). Girl Genius, Volume 01: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank (Airship Entertainment; 2006; ISBN 1-890856-19-3). Girl Genius, Volume 02: Agatha Heterodyne and the Airship City (Airship Entertainment; 2006; ISBN 1-890856-30-4). Girl Genius, Volume 03: Agatha Heterodyne and the Monster Engine (Airship Entertainment; 2006; ISBN 1-890856-32-0). Girl Genius, Volume 04: Agatha Heterodyne and the Circus of Dreams (Airship Entertainment; 2006; ISBN 1-890856-36-3). Girl Genius, Volume 05: Agatha Heterodyne and the Clockwork Princess (Airship Entertainment; 2007; ISBN 978-1-890856-39-7). Girl Genius, Volume 06: Agatha Heterodyne and the Golden Trilobite (Airship Entertainment; 2007; ISBN 978-1-890856-42-7). Agatha Heterodyne and the Voice of the Castle (Airship Entertainment; 2008; ISBN 978-1-890856-45-8). 2010: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm (Airship Entertainment; 2010; 978-1-890856-52-6).

I'm not much for graphic novels. The whole superhero genre has pretty much passed me by; I'll admit to seeing some of the Superman and Batman movies, but otherwise, no interest there. Anime has interested me somewhat, mostly through stuff that my daughter has picked up on; the same with manga.

But every now and again I run across something that interests me. Heck, this time it has done more than interest me. I think I'm in love with Agatha Heterodyne!

I mean, what's not to like. Big clunky robots. Airships. Airships, for Pete's loving sake! Strange powers. Nasty technology. Evil villains. Scheming overlords. Wowza!

Then there's the occasional other bit that gets tossed in and has you wondering when it will be linked back in. For example, who is this woman? When will we see this future? What else does The Other have up her sleeve? How's the Baron doing? Will Gil and Agatha ever come to terms? And how about more coffee?

Not sure if you want to buy it? Heck, read it online until you are hooked. Then do what I did: buy them all!

2010 Update: Volume 9 is out! Volume 9 is out! More thrills! More chills! More daring escapades and some cracking good jokes. Really enjoyed this one!
Hope and Terror

Greg Bear: Quantico (Vanguard Press; 2007; ISBN 978-1-59315-455-5; cover by multiple persons).

Vernor Vinge: Rainbows End (Tor Books; 2006; ISBN 0-312-85684-9; cover by Stephan Martiniere).

Both these books are similar in their setting (time period, technology level, some plots bits), so I decided to review them together. I had read the Vernor Vinge book previously, but wanted to re-read it after listening too a two-part interview at The Agony Column.

Bear's work follows several veteran and novice FBI agents as they track several seemingly unconnected events. As the plot advances, they realize that they are involved in a terrorist plot of international scale that will attack all the world's religions in a way to cause a severe drain on the world economy as well as have potential repercussions beyond the initial attacks. Set "around" 2020, I read the entire book in one day (and a late night). I found the ending somewhat unsatisfying; the book ends, but doesn't really conclude. Real life is like that, though!

Vinge's book is set a little further out than Bear's book, both in terms of the year (2025) and the technology. This work follows the style that the late Sir Arthur C. Clarke used so many times: toss in dozens of ideas and concepts per chapter, but keep the overall book short. Vinge scatters a lot of stuff in here! For example, what is Mr. Rabbit? An AI? Or a multiple personality? Then there's the concept of the "heavenly minefield". Medical technology manages to come up with some amazing cures...but then a patient either misses the cure (because of a difference in the problem they have), lives long enough to develop another (incurable) problem or benefits from the cure only to lose a previously held talent (as happens to one of the main characters).

Computer technology (hardware and software) abounds. There is the method of finding solutions to problems by developing alliances and networks and doing a "Wikipeida-like" attack on a complex situation. There are terrorists with both computer and biological weapons. There are kids who outstrip their parents (gee, sounds familiar).

Bear concentrates less on the computer technology, but shows some interesting crime-fighting devices. His book centers around the biological threat and he shows how relatively easy creating such a threat might be. Easy. And scary. Very, very scary!

Vinge, in the interview says that his book is not a utopia. But, it is not a dystopia, either. There is both good and bad here, pain but hope as well (again, like real life). I'm not sure if I'd categorize Bear's book as a dystopia, but, overall, it is more negative than Vinge's work.

Both highly recommended reads.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

They DO Listen

So we're working our way through Post Captain, in the morning I've been dropping the Young Lady off at summer camp, I continue on to work; then the afternoon I reverse course...

Today she asked me "What is that word they keep using, Poly..."

"Polycreste. That's the name of their ship. In the last book, it was the Sophie."

"Why does it swim so badly?"

Later...

"Privateer! I know that word. You get permission to go out and capture ships and take treasure!"

"That's right. You also need what is known as a letter of marque."

"I know that! I read about that as well. That's permission to attack enemy shipping!"

It seems that the Magic Treehouse books and their associated guidebooks are chock full of some really interesting stuff!

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review, Dwayne A. Day takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the "faking" of the next moon landing.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Go Tell the Spartans

"The Republics were assembled. The Games were set to begin. The Sun glared down upon the Olympiad, brutal. Tempers were short. Surly Greeks exchanged surly words. An old man entered the arena. He was bent, this old man was. His every bone ached. He pleaded to the Athenians for a place to sit—and they ignored him. Leaning heavily on his walking stick, dizzy now, his knees quaking, the old man begged the delegates of Corinth, of Mykonos, of Naxos, of Thira. Each turned a deaf ear to his plea. At last, the old man staggered to the Spartan delegation—and before he could croak out a single word, every Spartan rose as one, and stepped aside. And the old man shook his walking stick at all assembled, his voice rising to a lion's roar that rattled the very stones. "Every Greek knows what is right," he bellowed, "every Greek knows—but only the Spartans choose to do it!"


(The character "Dilios", 300, Frank Miller and Lynn Varney)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Odyssey

I've read Homer's The Odyssey several times, including once in Latin (high school). One thing that has fascinated me about The Odyssey...as well as The Iliad...is how much "truth" there is to the epic. Amazing to find an occasional bit that has survived the passage of time, countless re-translations and re-interpretations and the like.

And then there's the fanciful side. For example, here's a depiction of the "cosmos" of The Odyssey...as a snowglobe.

Addendum: The scholarly paper (Adobe Acrobat).