Pixel Scroll 10/23/16 Earth Scrolls Are Easy

(1) LE GUIN HEALTH NEWS. Ursula K. Le Guin, who was hospitalized for a few days this summer with heart problems, gave a health update in a comment at Book View Café on October 22.

The kindness of these messages is wonderful.  I wish I could thank you each. I can only thank you all with all my heart.

Health update: My daily bouquet of medicines with weird names is definitely doing its job.   Am quite recovered from the bad time, and get along fine if I don’t push it. My model of behavior is the Sloth.  Can’t hang from branches yet, but am real good at moving slo o o w w l y . . .

Best wishes to all my well-wishers.

(2) STARSHIPS IN OUR LIFETIME. Starship Engineer Workshops are being offered in London on November 12-13.

For further information or to book contact the team at: info@i4is.org  for more details.  For the full promotional flyer: http://i4is.org/app/webroot/uploads/files/SE_A4_Nov2016%20(AM)%20Vers%202.pdf

The Initiative for Interstellar Studies in collaboration with the British Interplanetary Society will deliver an updated Starship Engineer workshop course. Two one day courses, either attend one or both, each will be different and important in their own way.

12th November: Starship Engineer.  Aims to give a grounding in interstellar studies. It starts from considering the essential requirements to giving you an overview of different spacecraft systems, then takes you on a journey through several actual starship design studies. We use examples from the literature, but focus on two specific case studies, that of fusion and beamed-sail propulsion, as plausible ways by which we may someday reach the  stars.

13th November: Science Fiction Starships.  The works of science fiction literature have fascinating starship concepts, but how realistic are they? In this day course we will examine and evaluate the laser-sails in “The Mote in Gods Eye (Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle), Torch Ships in “Time for the Stars” (Robert Heinlein), Quantum Ramjets in “The Songs of Distant Earth” (Arthur C Clarke) and other inspirational examples of interstellar vessels….

Principal Lecturers: Kelvin F. Longis a physicist and aerospace engineer, until recently Chief Editor Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, author of the book “Deep Space Propulsion: A Roadmap to the Stars” and is the Executive Director i4is and a member of the Breakthrough Starshot advisory committee.

Rob Swinney is a former RAF Squadron Leader aerosystems engineer and is a Deputy Director of i4is. He, and Long, have both been involved in the creation and running of the only two modern starship design projects, Project Icarus (fusion) and Project Dragonfly (laser-sails).

(3) IN TRAINING. Kevin Standlee writes a lyrical post about taking the California Zephyr through the Sierras.

Speaking of the nice parts: the eastbound Zephyr includes some views through the Sierra Nevada that you don’t get on the westbound trip. For example, shortly after Colfax the train goes around “Cape Horn” with some spectacular views of the American River Canyon. Some of the trees have finally been cut back as well; for a while, they’d grown so thick that they cut off the vista, which was unfortunate. Eastbound you miss this because the normal eastbound track goes through a tunnel that custs off this corner with its precipitous view. I’m composing most of them while snaking our way up the mountain, but I can’t post it because on this stretch there is no cell phone signal. We’re on the opposite side of the mountains from the I-80 corridor where the cell phone towers are. Not that I mind. I’m mostly looking out the window. As a touch-typist, I don’t need to stare at the keyboard to write.

(4) NOT A TYPICAL ANALOG WRITER. Galactic Journey says Harry Harrison has finally registered on their radar screen –

Author Harry Harrison has been around for a long time, starting his science fiction writing career at the beginning of the last decade (1951).  Yet, it was not until this decade that I (and probably many others) discovered him.  He came into my view with the stellar Deathworld, a novel that was a strong contender for last year’s Hugo.  Then I found his popular Stainless Steel Rat stories, which were recently anthologized.  The fellow is definitely making a name for himself.

Harrison actually occupies a liberal spot in generally conservative Analog magazine’s stable of authors.  While Harry tends to stick with typical Analog tropes (psionics, humano-centric stories, interstellar hijinx), there are themes in his work which are quite progressive – even subversive, at least for the medium in which they appear.

For instance, there is a strong pro-ecological message in Deathworld.  I also detect threads of pacifism in Harrison’s works, not to mention rather unorthodox portrayal of women and sexual mores.  Harry isn’t Ted Sturgeon or anything, but he is definitely an outlier for Analog, and refreshing for the genre as a whole.

(5) ALMOST YOUR BIGGEST FAN. The Twitter user formerly known as Jim Henley knows how to pay a compliment.

(6) DILLON OBIT. Comics artist Steve Dillion died October 22 reports the BBC.

Steve Dillon, the legendary British comic book artist, known for his work on Preacher, Punisher, and 2000AD’s Judge Dredd has died aged 54.

His brother Glyn confirmed the death on Twitter, saying his “big brother and hero” had died in New York City.

Dillon was a prolific artist who began professional work at age 16, drawing for Marvel UK’s Hulk magazine.

He was best known for his US collaborations with writer Garth Ennis, creating classic cult comic titles.

In his Twitter profile, Dillon, originally from Luton, describes himself as: “A comic book bloke. Co-creator/Artist of Preacher. Co-founder/Editor of Deadline magazine. Artist on Punisher, Judge Dredd and many others.”


  • Born October 23, 1942  — Michael Crichton.

(8) YOUR EPIC IMAGINATION. James Davis Nicoll says it’s “Good news!” Dorothy J. Heydt’s The Interior Life (published under penname Katherine Blake) available again as a free ebook.

Go here for the download.

(9) DO YOU LIKE WHAT SMART PEOPLE LIKE? Ann Leckie keeps hitting them out of the park. Today’s topic: “On Guilty Pleasures”.

Or Romance. Romance isn’t one of my things, right, but let’s be honest, a crappy detective novel or a crappy SF or Extruded Fantasy Product is just as bad as a crappy Romance. When it’s SF we’ll protest that no, that’s just a bad one, the whole genre’s not like that, but Romance? Romance is just stupid, man.

Isn’t it funny how guilty pleasures are things that poor people like–or tend to buy or use because it’s cheap. Isn’t it funny how guilty pleasures are things that teenage girls like, or women. Isn’t it funny how guilty pleasures are things we liked when we were kids.

I’m not saying that nothing can be criticized–there are surely bad Romance novels. Taylor Swift is a pretty good songwriter who has done some very admirable things, but she’s also had her less than admirable public moments. Velveeta doesn’t come out well in a comparison with really good cheese (unless its a competition for what will make the easiest mac & cheese, given only three minutes and a microwave to work with), and it’s probably not very good for you. I’m perfectly willing to criticize things I like, or consider criticism of those things, and still like them.

No, I’m talking about that weird, moral dimension to likes and dislikes. You like pumpkin spice anything? You should be ashamed. You should feel guilty, because you’re not supposed to like that, smart people don’t like that, people who like that have something wrong with them.

So much of what we like or dislike–what we’re publicly supposed to like or dislike–is functioning as in-group identifiers.

(10) HAN SOLO MOVIE CASTING. Donald Glover will play young Lando Calrissian, and YES he will wear a cape reports the Los Angeles Times.

Donald Glover is officially your new Lando Calrissian. Lucasfilm has announced that Glover will play the younger version of “Star Wars’” Cloud City administrator turned Rebel Alliance general in the upcoming standalone Han Solo film.

Glover will join Alden Ehrenreich, who was confirmed to play the young Solo during Star Wars Celebration in July.

According to the press release, the upcoming film will depict “Lando in his formative years as a scoundrel on the rise in the galaxy’s underworld — years before the events involving Han, Leia, and Darth Vader in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and his rise to Rebel hero in ‘Return of the Jedi.’”

(11) ACCELERATING HUMAN IMAGINATION IN ENGLAND. Did somebody think it wasn’t fast enough?

On November 24 and 25th on the campus of the University of Liverpool, London, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the University of Liverpool, London will host a workshop called Accelerating Human Imagination, bringing together a number of US and European experts in the study of imagination. They will be presenting and discussing new research on questions such as: What is “imagination?” Is there a singular basis of imagination that develops into a number of different phenomena, or do we use the word imagination to group together a number of aspects of behavior and cognition into a common category? If we can better understand imagination, we might be able to find ways of directly engaging it in order to accelerate its operation. What use might we put this accelerated imagination to?

(12) RAW SCIENCE FILM FESTIVAL. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination is a  partner of the Raw Science Film Festival, which honors films on science and technology from around the world. The screening and award ceremony will take place on December 10, 2016, on the Fox Studio lot inside the historic Zanuck Theater. Sheldon Brown will be on hand to present the inaugural Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination Prize in Speculative Media. The deadline for festival submissions is November 9.

(13) INDIE SHRINKS. At Mad Genius Club, Fynbospress makes insightful speculations about the new author earnings report.

Interesting times, interesting results. After two and half years of constant growth, this time we see the first contraction for indie market share. Trad Pub’s big five showed a very slight gain in unit sales, but most of the market share went to Amazon’s own publishing arm, and a smaller amount to uncategorized single-author publishers (mostly indies).

On gross revenues, most of the lost market share went to small and medium publishers, with a smaller amount to amazon Pub.

Having the what, we’re left to speculate on the why, and how. Causes may include, but are not limited to: Amazon’s Kindle first program, pushing their own new releases; Bookbub’s increasing percentage of big and medium press slots as opposed to indies (and increased price raising the barrier to the fewer slots left); Amazon’s new promoted/sponsored search ads; consolidation of indies into small pubs; the stars being in the right configuration for C’thulu to rise from dead R’lyeh; other factors unknown at this time.

(14) SAY AHHHHH. Research shows “Migraine Sufferers Have More Nitrate-Reducing Microbes in their Mouths”.

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have found that the mouths of migraine sufferers harbor significantly more microbes with the ability to modify nitrates than people who do not get migraine headaches. The study is published October 18 by mSystems.

“There is this idea out there that certain foods trigger migraines — chocolate, wine and especially foods containing nitrates,” said first author Antonio Gonzalez, a programmer analyst in the laboratory of Rob Knight, PhD, professor and director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego and senior author on the study. “We thought that perhaps there are connections between what people are eating, their microbiomes and their experiences with migraines.”

Many of the 38 million Americans who suffer from migraines report an association between consuming nitrates and their severe headaches. Nitrates, found in foods such as processed meats and green leafy vegetables and in certain medicines, can be reduced to nitrites by bacteria found in the mouth. When circulating in the blood, these nitrites can then be converted to nitric oxide under certain conditions. Nitric oxide can aid cardiovascular health by improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure. However, roughly four in five cardiac patients who take nitrate-containing drugs for chest pain or congestive heart failure report severe headaches as a side effect.

(15) SQUINTING. Kevin Marks discusses “How the Web Became Unreadable”. Surprisingly, he’s not talking about all the political posts.

It’s been getting harder for me to read things on my phone and my laptop. I’ve caught myself squinting and holding the screen closer to my face. I’ve worried that my eyesight is starting to go.

These hurdles have made me grumpier over time, but what pushed me over the edge was when Google’s App Engine console—a page that, as a developer, I use daily—changed its text from legible to illegible. Text that was once crisp and dark was suddenly lightened to a pallid gray. Though age has indeed taken its toll on my eyesight, it turns out that I was suffering from a design trend.

There’s a widespread movement in design circles to reduce the contrast between text and background, making type harder to read. Apple is guilty. Google is, too. So is Twitter.

(16) HAGIOGRAPHY. Leonard Maltin interviews Stan Lee for Parade.


When asked which three of his superheroes he would like to have dinner with, he takes a moment to think the question through. “I’d probably enjoy talking to Iron Man,” he says. “I’d like to talk to Doctor Strange. I like the Silver Surfer. Iron Man is sort of a classier Donald Trump, if you can imagine that sort of thing. The Silver Surfer is always philosophical; he comments about the world and man’s position in the universe, why we don’t enjoy living on this wonderful planet and why we don’t help each other.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, JJ and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

146 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/23/16 Earth Scrolls Are Easy

  1. Struggling with reading so spent yesterday going through the Oglaf archives. Some of the strips I laughed the most at were even totally work-safe. Thanks to @John A Arkansawyer for reminding me of the strip’s existence 🙂

  2. Russell Letson, I note that Oscar Brand suggests that women use the men’s room if the women’s room is occupied. Clearly, he was not from North Carolina… <wry grin>

    Seriously, thank you for find this and attaching it. I’ve known the song “City of New Orleans” for decades, and never actually knew what the passengers were supposed to “please refrain” from doing. Or doo-ing. As it were. (I’d assumed that it was smoking outside smoking cars. Or spitting. Or something like that.)

  3. Russell Letson on October 24, 2016 at 12:09 pm said:

    I first heard the mildly-risqué folk version of “Humoresque” on one of the late Oscar Brand’s “Bawdy Songs and Backroom Ballads” LPs.

    Huh. Curiously, I’d only heard the last verse. (Bits and pieces of the rest, never all together.)

    Sorry to hear about Sherri Tepper.

  4. You never forget your first Chick Tract. Mine was probably This Was Your Life which is supposedly his most popular title and was translated into 100 languages.

  5. Did anyone notice that Strange Horizons has a totally new look today? Much improved, I think.

    They have a lengthy, thoughtful review of All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders. By coincidence, I finished that novel myself last night. It’s about two misfit kids, one a nerd the other sort of a goth who grow up to be an engineer and a witch. The grow from friends to lovers, but they’re on opposite sides of a conflict that threatens to end the world. It’s a fun read, with lots of ironic humor. I don’t think I’ll be nominating it for a Hugo, but I’d definitely vote it above No Award if it ended up on the finalist list.

  6. Chick Tracts: I probably saw Dark Dungeons first like many RPGers (forwarded by someone in the “can you believe this BS?” mode, I’ve never personally met anyone who took it seriously), but I’ve read a few. Most interesting was getting one mailed to our house anonymously. Because our names weren’t on it but the address was handwritten, we spent some time speculating on whether it was mailed to us in particular or whether any of our neighbours also got one. Never did remember to ask the ones we talk to, though.

  7. A year or two back, I saw the movie made from “Dark Dungeons” (don’t recall if that was also the title of the movie or not) with a bunch of Millennials.

    I had to explain to them that, no, this was taken deadly seriously back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They thought it was pure farce. Me, I am older than dirt was an RPGer starting in about 1977, so I knew better…

  8. @Dann

    I don’t generally feel any need to advertise it, but I have been a card-carrying member of the IAoPaC for decades now, having qualified and paid my first dues when I was still in elementary school. You will have to look in the archives for my application.

    That same elementary school education included an intensive crash course in receiving unkind words, which I aced, so the prospect of mere criticism holds no terrors for me.

  9. I just caugth up with the news of Sherri Tepper’s death.

    Dammit, 2016, you continue to disappoint. I first encountered her writing in the True Game books & was hooked. “The Revenants” was an early favourite, and then, “Grass”, but I haven’t kept up with her more recent output.

  10. Regarding Jack Chick: anyone with the slightest interest in his bizarre oeuvre should read Daniel Raeburn’s extremely thorough critical study – including more actual interview material than I’ve seen anywhere else – in the second issue of The Imp, which can be found in its entirety here.

  11. Apologies if this has been posted before – there’s a music video I think people here might find interesting:

    Porter Robinson & Madeon – Shelter (Official Video) (Short Film with A-1 Pictures & Crunchyroll)


    A rather heartwrenching SFnal story, delightfully animated by A-1 Pictures, accompanying a catchy tune by Porter Robinson & Madeon.

  12. 20 years ago I used to travel back & forth between Chicago and Rochester NY by Amtrak. Eastbound left before midnight, got in at 8 AM. Instead of trying to sleep sitting up, I would hang out in the lounge car all night. I had good luck finding random people to talk to. One time I played cards for hours with two women, a game they had made up themselves. Another time a person told me all about the movement therapy she was thinking of establishing– based on the idea, if I recall, that the lizard brain evolved before the mammal brain and we still have a lizard brain which we can reactivate by moving like a lizard if the mammal brain isn’t working. Whatever… I felt like these were not circumstances where I wanted to argue about her conception of evolution, and she was an interesting talker.

  13. Tepper: screw you 2016

    Chick: my first tract was (of course) Dark Dungeons. I was sufficiently far from the 80s and the US to treat it as hilarious rather than worrying.


    I also enjoyed All the Birds in the Sky. I think I agree with your assessment – lots of fun, and some cool ideas with the very deliberate smooshing together of sub-genres, but not totally satisfying.

  14. Well, the top of the Strange Horizons website is much better — but ugh, that horrible Tumblr interface. The usability / user-friendliness / accessibility of that is so poor. I hope they’ll reconsider it.

  15. I was given my first Chick tract – Dark Dungeons – by a housemate at university, who was a strict Baptist and took it all quite seriously. (At first. Living in a house full of roleplayers, all happily gaming and not performing any Satanic rituals or being dragged off to Hell or killing ourselves, eventually persuaded him to change his views, at least on that.)

    As a Christian, I feel sure that the God which Chick is now meeting will be kinder and more merciful than the bizarre glowing faceless thing on a throne in his drawings….

    Sherri Tepper will be missed.

  16. I am really sorry that 2016 has given me such horrible reasons for experiencing or re-visiting the work of so many gifted people. But doing so is the only way I can make some meaning of all these losses. 🙁

  17. @Mark

    It’s not as esoteric as the number of days in a week changing, but controlling the calendar was an important part of social control. And not just in china

    Re: Jack Chick

    There’s an establishment in Minneapolis that had a cocktail called the “Satan Laughs” where they’d serve it on a coaster made from a Chick Tract. It’s a pretty good cocktail.

  18. @Ann

    Ahhhh….a fellow member. I hope you are enjoying your 2016 commemorative asbestos underoos as much as I am!

    One of the take-aways that I get from your piece is that there shouldn’t be any pleasures that are associated with guilt. We all like what we like and that should be OK with everyone at the table. I think that’s a fine message that I try to live up to on a regular basis.


  19. A lot of Tepper’s books struggled with issues that have no good answers. Sometimes her characters found answers that were harsher than I was comfortable with, sometimes things I’d outright retreat from–but she never treated them as easy answers, if that makes any sense, and her characters said I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing when taking action.

    Some of her books I loved, some of them are…heh…guilty pleasures…because I am comfortable with the fact that sometimes my escapism is petty and vindictive, some of them make me uncomfortable, but I respected the fact that she took on some of the brutally nasty questions and stared them in the face and didn’t take the easy way out. Even if I didn’t like the answers the characters came to, she didn’t flinch from the questions.

  20. (9) I don’t care if it makes me uncool or not, I damn well love Pumpkin Spice season. Not for coffee, though. I buy about half of everything pumpkin that Trader Joe’s carries. Most of their stuff has actual pumpkin in it, too, not just the spices (she said with snobbery?). Because pumpkin macarons are awesome, as are pumpkin spice Joe-Joes (Oreos, only natural), Pumpkin O’s (ditto), pumpkin toaster pastries (Pop-Tarts, ditto), and pumpkin spice cream cheese (like Philly only you won’t vomit).

    And a nice Krispy Kreme pumpkin spice donut when I splurge on the calories. I think Krispy Kreme is out of fashion again, but I don’t care. Like my mother before me, I eat ’em. When that HOT NOW sign lights up, it’s time to grab one off the line.

    And yet I also manage to appreciate Fine Dining, with the waiters who appear silently at just the right time for the amuse bouche or the next course or the appropriate wine, with artistic plating and all. I like what I like.

    (15) OH HELL YES. For reasons of migraine, I have to keep my screen brightness low. So this gray-on-gray business is just miserable. Migraine or eye-strain is not a choice I should have to make just to read my email, or articles about my mouth microbes like (14). Contrast is good, dammit.

    @Bonnie McDaniel: I thought books were getting bigger? Because of old farts buying in dead-tree (still black on white as mentioned in 15!), the print in MMPB is now larger and so they made the books taller to still fit in the supermarket racks and keep them from getting fatter in the other two directions.

    @Camestros: Call in the squirrels. That’ll get Timothy off the computer.

    (@Paul/jvstin: I agree. We need to find new hobbies for Camestros.)

    @Greg H: I was going to put “All the Birds” on my Hugo list until about 80% through. It did NOT stick the landing, IMO, which retroactively ruined all the keen stuff I liked in the earlier parts.

    Chick Tracts: I think I saw one years after I heard about them, so I was “eh”. I don’t even remember what it was about, just that it was ugly. Sadly, I’m sure he has assistant loonies who’ll carry on frightening the kids.

    @Kevin Standlee: I’m curious about the bus, BART, train thing; I presume that the mechanic is close to the Fremont train station (and not the Fremont or Union City BART), but the ACE and Amtrak trains from there just go east and doesn’t connect up with the Emeryville or Richmond Amtrak station? Couldn’t you change trains in Sacramento, taking the Capitol Corridor?

    It’s such a patchwork; once a friend was wanting to take a Sacto-SJ train down for a con and the people on the 800 number did not know about a train I found on the web site that arrived in mid-afternoon instead of at 10PM. Until I told them. At which point I heard the lightbulb go on and my friend (female) was able to arrive NOT in the dark.

    Apparently, they still call one train “The City of New Orleans”, if the book I was reading yesterday is correct (he went from NOLA to Chicago and back, but lamented that it no longer goes past NOLA to Florida).

  21. Back in the Before Times, St. Jerome’s (a local Catholic school) had a roleplaying game club. There was a big Dark Dungeons-related fuss among parents that lasted roughly as long as it took the teacher-supervisor to find and share one of Chick’s pamphlets about Catholics….

  22. It occurs to me (maybe I’m slow) that Jack Chick was a well-known writer of in a genre we don’t see much: Christian horror. Christian-themed SFF seems to be very rare. Maybe Orson Scott Card publishes some of it.

  23. lurkertype on October 24, 2016 at 6:01 pm said:

    Once upon a time I could find pumpkin empanadas this time of year. (They were minimally spiced.)

  24. Hrm. Strangely enough, I think I’ve read more Chick than Tepper – Grass didn’t really grab me, while the CompSci workshop teacher in my secondary school was trying some half-arsed evangelism by leaving Chick tracts prominently on her desk. It was a terribly boring class, and I had to distract myself somehow…. Must’ve read about 20 or 30 of those things..

    For whatever reason, the only bits that sticks to mind was the anti-D&D one, and one that (IIRC) was about converting Jews while at the same time being massively anti-Catholic. I think that was probably the first time I realised that Christianity had different bits.

    I always found it convenient that there were never any that addressed Islam. I suspect that there must’ve been, but that the teacher was smart enough to leave those elsewhere…

  25. lurkertype on October 24, 2016 at 6:01 pm said:

    @Kevin Standlee: I’m curious about the bus, BART, train thing; I presume that the mechanic is close to the Fremont train station (and not the Fremont or Union City BART)

    That is correct. His shop is a relatively short walk from the Fremont-Centerville Amtrak station, which is not a BART station and is in fact several miles from the nearest BART station.

    …but the ACE and Amtrak trains from there just go east and doesn’t connect up with the Emeryville or Richmond Amtrak station?

    Not exactly. ACE trains (weekdays only, commute-direction only) do run only east to Stockton, but Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains do run San Jose-Fremont-Oakland-Emeryville-Sacramento.

    Couldn’t you change trains in Sacramento, taking the Capitol Corridor?

    Well, you could, except that you’d have to spend the night sleeping on a train platform to make the connection. Here’s the limiting factor: there is one train per day between Emeryville and Reno, which is Amtrak train #6, the eastbound California Zephyr. Here are the key stops (Emeryville-Richmond-Sacramento-Reno):

    Lv EMY 9:10 AM
    Lv RIC 9:22 AM
    Lv SAC 11:09 AM
    Ar RNO 4:06 PM

    Obviously, in order to catch this one and only one train to Reno, I would have to arrive at the connecting station before train #6 leaves. Also obviously, since I have to work Monday-Friday, I can’t leave on Friday because the train leaves at 9 o’clock in the morning. Therefore, the next limiting factor is weekend train service between San Jose and Emeryville. So let’s consult the Capitol Corridor’s weekend schedule between San Jose and Sacramento:

    Lv SJC 8:10 AM
    Lv FMT 8:41 AM
    Lv EMY 9:25 AM
    Lv RIC 9:37 AM
    Ar SAC 11:18 AM

    That’s the first train of the day. It follows the California Zephyr to Sacramento, running a few minutes behind it all the way. So while both trains follow the same route and share a bunch of stations, they do not actually connect to each other.

    As it happens the connections do work going the other way, as the westbound Zephyr arrives EMY around 4 PM and there are two subsequent Capitol Corridor trains that call there and go on to Fremont. (On weekends, there’s actually a third one that I can sometimes catch if the Zephyr is running an hour early, which believe it or not sometimes happens due to recovery time built into the train’s schedule between Sacramento and Emeryville.)

    So because it’s not actually possible to connect between trains going east from Fremont (i.e. north to Emeryville, then east toward Sacramento), I have to use the bus-BART combo to get me out ahead of the Zephyr. It’s a bit inconvenient, but better than the alternatives.

    Apparently, they still call one train “The City of New Orleans”…

    Yes. The City of New Orleans runs daily between Chicago and New Orleans.

    …lamented that it no longer goes past NOLA to Florida

    It never did. There was a different Amtrak train, the Sunset Limited that currently runs three days/week between Los Angeles-New Orleans and once continued on to Florida, but after Hurricane Katrina it was “temporarily suspended,” with no sign of it ever being reinstated.

  26. Train toilets that dumped their contents right onto the track were a thing well into the 1990s. You also were not allowed to use the toilet during a stop at a station and sometimes the toilet doors were even locked during longer stops. This was particularly annoying during the two to three hour track gauge conversion stop in Brest-Litovsk at the Polish-Belarusian (then Polish-Soviet) border, when I had to pee really desperately and couldn’t go, either inside the train or outside, since there wasn’t actually a station, just a big track gauge conversion hall. The train then stopped for another two hours at Minsk, where you couldn’t use the train toilets again. That trip was certainly an adventure, but not really one I’d care to repeat by train.

    I also had a couple of other bad train experiences as a kid and teenager (which mostly involved getting yelled at by teachers that I was a spoiled brat, because I knew how airplane travel worked, but not how train travel worked). That’s part of the reason why I limit train travel to trips of under three hours, even though I haven’t had a bad train experience in twenty years.

    9) That’s a great post by Ann Leckie. “Guilty pleasure” is a term I’ve always disliked, because if I enjoy it, why should I feel guilty about it? And uncritical romance bashing, which is so endemic in the SFF world, had always annoyed me.

    Regarding pumpkin spice, I had to google what it is and apparently it’s a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice. Which sounds pretty good actually.

    I remember liking Velveeta as a kid, thought I haven’t had it in more than twenty years now (ditto for Philadelphia cheese), because other brands serve the same purpose and use fewer additives. I still don’t see why people should feel guilty for liking it.

    Sorry to hear about Sherri Tepper and Steve Dillon.

  27. snowcrash: Chick considered Islam to be just another puppet of his all-purpose villain, the Catholic Church. He didn’t bother with it too much, but did lay out his conspiracy theory version of Muslim history in two or three tracts. I think in general the conspiracy theory ones didn’t get as widely distributed and read as the “sex/drugs/murder/redemption” ones, since the latter have way more pulp entertainment value.

    lurkertype: About “assistant loonies”— Chick had a long-time artist collaborator, Fred Carter, who illustrated a lot of the comics, but otherwise it was pretty much a one-man operation directed by Chick’s own inner demons. From what I’ve read about Carter, he’s unlikely to continue their work.

    Not to be a pest but since comments are easy to miss, I’ll just repeat my plug for Dan Raeburn’s online monograph about Chick, which I can’t recommend enough. Raeburn wrote a handful of excellent long-form critical works about comics in the ’90s and you can read many of them on that site.

  28. Thx @Eli., @Greg Hullender

    OMG they’re online? Hahaha, thanks. I think.

    Can the Suck Fairy impact something that was already sucky to begin with?

  29. @lurkertype– I am very happy to have other people enjoy pumpkin spice season, and even to have them be the cool set, as long as I don’t have to consume the stuff.

  30. Regarding pumpkin spice, I had to google what it is and apparently it’s a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice. Which sounds pretty good actually.

    It is essentially the spice mixture that has been traditionally used in pumpkin pies in the U.S.

  31. @Aaron

    It is essentially the spice mixture that has been traditionally used in pumpkin pies in the U.S.

    That’s probably why I don’t know it. For while we have pumpkins, we traditionally prepare them differently, either as pumpkin bread or pickled. In fact, I just bought my pumpkin pickling ingredients.

    Interestingly enough, the pumpkin spice ingredients are similar to the components of gingerbread or spekulatius spice mixes here in Germany.

  32. @Bonnie McDaniel

    Great news about an audiobook for the Long List Anthology 2 edited by David Steffen and read by the fantastic voices at Skyboat Media. 😀

  33. Cora: Regarding pumpkin spice, I had to google what it is and apparently it’s a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice. Which sounds pretty good actually.

    Aaron: It is essentially the spice mixture that has been traditionally used in pumpkin pies in the U.S.

    It’s a very pleasant aroma, really — the same ingredients are often used in potpourri.

    In the U.S., for the reason Aaron cites, and the fact that pumpkin pie is a traditional dessert for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, it generally brings some extra emotional baggage of past family holidays to the person who smells it — for some, that baggage is good; and as you can imagine, for others, it is bad.

  34. It occurs to me (maybe I’m slow) that Jack Chick was a well-known writer of in a genre we don’t see much: Christian horror. Christian-themed SFF seems to be very rare. Maybe Orson Scott Card publishes some of it.

    Speaking of Steve Dillion, PREACHER might count as Christian-based horror. It’s certainly Christian-based, at least.

    As is LUCIFER, to some degree. And big swaths of HELLBLAZER.

  35. “Pumpkin spice” is also within the range of mixed spices generically known in medieval cookery as “powder douce” (sweet powder), although that typically included sugar as well. (So imagine a cross between pumpkin spice and cinnamon sugar.) During particular culinary era in northwestern Europe, almost every dish either included powder douce or powder fort (“strong powder”, which had some overlap in components but always included pepper of some type and was…um…stronger tasting). They corresponded vaguely to concepts of “dessert spices” and “main dish spices” but not in any particularly useful way. You might have meat dishes that used power douce, for example.

    I always have a a bottle or two of power douce and powder fort in my spice rack, although they’re rarely exactly the same mixture twice.

  36. What with Halloween pumpkins and Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, and on into Christmas cookies, we do consume a lot of those spices. But they’re so tasty! Diane Duane has a good recipe for pumpkin pie for those who can’t get it (spoiler: butternut squash).

    @Lis: now that pumpkin spice is gauche, you’re the cool kid!

    @Eli: that was a good article.

    @Kevin: We need more trains more often, obviously.

  37. @Heather Rose Jones
    Gingerbread, spekulatius, brown cookies, etc… have been around for a very long time, so I’m not all that surprised that similar spice mixes have been used in the Middle Ages.

    Coincidentally, many of the same spices are also used to flavour mulled wine, though commercially made mulled wine is also heavily sugared. They also show up in other contexts, e.g. recipes for “Kohl und Pinkel” (North German specialty consisting of kale stew served with a haggis-like groat sausage and salted pork) call for adding allspice to the kale. As a result, it is much easier to find allspice during kale season than otherwise. Ditto for a lot of spices associated with holiday baking, they’re much easier to find during holiday season.

  38. “Pumpkin spice” is only the most current American name for a spice mix that goes back hundreds of years. It’s primarily associated with sweets these days, but can also be used (in smaller amounts) with savory dishes. Try a pinch or two in the basting juices for your next pot roast, or even in a pot of homemade spaghetti sauce.

    Many people also know it under the name “mulling spice”, when it’s used to flavor hot apple juice or in hot holiday punch.

  39. @Heather: Since I’ve never had anything pumpkin spice that didn’t also have some sugar (or at least sweetener) in it, I think we can safely say it’s poudre douce plus that newfangled allspice. So hey, it’s very very retro!

  40. In the UK we just call it mixed spice, most kitchen’s will have a jar lurking in the spice rack of uncertain vintage.

  41. The “strong powder” Heather mentions makes a very good additive to apple pie and other baked goods. The higher proportions of pepper or pepper-like ingredients might make that seem unlikely, but it worked. I first knew it as “Duke’s mixture”, a gift from a person; the particular mixture was (iirc) peppercorns, cubebs, grains of paradise, cinnamon and nutmeg.

  42. Dann on October 24, 2016 at 10:57 am said:

    The reason for the link love is that they held a contest for a bunch of free books. The prize was Brian Stavely’s “Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne” trilogy courtesy of Tor. I won. I’m halfway through book two and am very much enjoying his work.

    I’ve read the first two of these and thought that they were pretty solid, although I did find myself losing interest a little in the second one.

    One thing that I liked about them is that the author seems to be a fit outdoors-y type and this comes through in the physicality of the characters’ experiences. Sometimes in modern fantasy the characters seem to glide untroubled through experiences which I would expect to be physically and mentally demanding, and I appreciate reading something which feels more ‘real’.

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