Pixel Scroll 12/2/16 Scrolls, Mr. Pixel, Zillions Of ’Em!

(1) I ROCK, I RAN, EUPHRASIA. Amazing Stories’ Jack Clemons answers the question “Killer Asteroids: Can We Stop Them?”

In an earlier post I talked about the ongoing risk of a sizable asteroid impacting Earth, causing atomic bomb-like destruction, and the still-nascent technologies we’ve developed so far just to track asteroids. So an obvious question is, if we did discover one headed for a bullseye with Earth, and if we had enough time to react, what could we do about it?

The answer at this point is: not much. In the words of NASA administrator Charles Bolden, “If it’s coming in three weeks, pray.” The difficulty comes from attempting to stop, slow or even deflect a massively destructive boulder, which might range in girth anywhere from the size of a tractor-trailer to a planetoid hundreds of miles in diameter, traveling at 40,000 miles per hour.

That’s not to say no one is worrying about it. In fact, several of NASA’s finest have given the problem a lot of thought and so far they’ve come up with three options they’ve labeled “Nuke”, “Kick” or “Tug”.

(2) RING OUT. Moshe Feder calls it bad news for Rob Hansen and everyone who loves bells. Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the UK’s oldest manufacturing business, founded 1570 – and reportedly where fanhistorian Rob Hansen works – is is closing down. The announcement earned the business a long profile in Spitalfields Life.

It is with deep regret that I announce the closure of Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the world’s most famous bell foundry and Britain’s oldest manufacturing company. Below you can read my interview with Alan Hughes, the last in a line of bell founders stretching back to 1420, who will retire next year at sixty-eight years old when the foundry closes in May 2017 and the building is sold – meanwhile, negotiations for the future ownership of the business are underway.

Feder says, “I hope someone buys and saves it, even if it has to move.”

(3) MURDER MOST FOUR. Dave Langford’s Ansible Editions has published an ebook edition of Yvonne Rousseau’s The Murders at Hanging Rock (first published in 1980). Mystery multiplied!

murders-at-hanging-rock

What really happened at Hanging Rock on St Valentine’s Day in 1900?

Picnic at Hanging Rock is the source for this erudite literary entertainment, which will be enjoyed and appreciated by all scholars and lovers of unsolved mysteries. In The Murders at Hanging Rock, Yvonne Rousseau offers four logical, carefully worked-out but thoroughly tongue-in-cheek explanations of the fate of the missing picnickers from Appleyard College.

Now reprinted with a foreword by John Taylor which casts yet more light on the subject, The Murders at Hanging Rock is an essential and amusing companion to Lady Lindsay’s classic story.

  • • •

In 1987, the long-suppressed Chapter 18 of Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock was published as The Secret of Hanging Rock, a chapbook to which Yvonne Rousseau contributed a further ingenious commentary which has been added (with a new Preface of its own) to the Ansible Editions ebook of The Murders at Hanging Rock.

(4) RETROSPECTIVE. Randy Byers, just about the nicest person in fanzine fandom, looks back on his first year of fighting a cancer that tore his life apart and reassembled it in a new way.

A lot has happened in the last year and I’m hopeful that there’s more amazement to come, but I thought it was worth marking that a year ago I walked through a door into an examination room and exited a stranger in a strange land that had such people in it.

(5) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #7. The seventh of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed novel and half a pound of specially roasted coffee beans, from Leah Cutter.

Today’s auction is for a signed copy of THE RAVEN AND THE DANCING TIGER, and half a pound of specially roasted coffee beans, both from author and coffee geek Leah Cutter.

About the Book:

Peter worries about just three things: dancing, finding a girlfriend, and hiding his raven soul.

Peter is a raven warrior, an ancient race known for their assassination and fighting skills. Through secrecy and strict teaching, they’ve learned to cope with the modern world.

When Peter meets Tamara, he knows she’s different. Special. He doesn’t learn until too late that she has secrets too. Tamara is a tiger warrior. And her kind are only interested in killing his kind.

About the Coffee:

Leah will be in touch with the winner to determine what type of roast you want. (Light? Dark? Espresso? Uncertain blend? Decaf? Etc…)

(6) HARLAN IS #1. Digital Trends reviewed all the iterations of Star Trek and picked the top episode from each: “From time travel to Tribbles: Here are the best Star Trek episodes from every series”.

Over its five decades, no science-fiction property has had more of an effect on the genre than Star Trek. Five television series, an animated cartoon, and a dozen movies have captivated Trekkies for generations. While the show has occasionally produced some kitschy dialogue and plot lines that are cringe-worthy, there are many episodes that withstand the test of time as some of the greatest sci-fi adventures ever put on a screen.

In preparation for the forthcoming new series from CBS, Star Trek: Discovery, we glossed hundreds of episodes from each live-action series and picked some of our favorites for you to enjoy, whether you’re new to the franchise or a life-long fan. We’re sure this will cause a lot of discussion, but if you really want to go where no sci-fi adventure has gone before, here are the 20 episodes you’ll want on your watch list.

Star Trek: The Original Series

Set in the 23rd century, Star Trek: TOS follows the five-year mission of the USS Enterprise, with Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), first officer and half-Vulcan Spock, the ever cantankerous ship’s Doctor Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelly), Uhuru (Nichelle Nichols), Sulu (George Takei), and the rest of the gang, alongside a host of alien species.

The winner

Season 1, episode 28: The City on the Edge of Forever

The final episode of the original series’ first season gets our nod for its solid storyline. Some of the episodes of TOS seemed to suffer from gimmicky — if not corny — plots, but Roddenberry and his team thread the needle well in this one. In fact, it was good enough to receive the 1968 Hugo (the Emmys of sci-fi) for Best Dramatic Presentation.

In this episode, Kirk and Spock must travel back in time to go after McCoy, who, in a fit of delusion following an accidental overdose of Cordrazine, transports down to the nearest planet. This planet is home to a time portal, and McCoy enters the portal. The incident alters the time line, causing the Enterprise and the entire Federation to disappear. Kirk and Spock bargain with the “Guardian of Forever” to enter the portal, which takes them back to 1930s New York City. What unfolds is a story about timelines that might have been, a device later used by J.J. Abrams in the series’ cinematic reboot.

(7) IT’S CONTAGIOUS. Skyboat Audiobook of Harlan Ellison’s Star Trek Teleplay was named to AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks of 2016.

Today, AudioFile Magazine named THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER as one of the BEST AUDIOBOOKS of 2016. Took our breath away. We wanted to share this amazing news with you, because without you, there would have been no audiobook. There are thousands of books produced every year, and it is deeply moving that CITY was included on this prestigious list. And that brings us back to thanking all of you again and again for your outpouring of love and financial support. Bless you one and all during this Holiday Season.

(8) SACHS OBIT. Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs has died reports the BBC.

Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs, who played hapless Spanish waiter Manuel in the BBC sitcom, has died aged 86, his family has confirmed.

Sachs, who had been suffering from dementia for four years, died on 23 November and was buried on Thursday.

On his role of Manuel, he told the BBC in 2014: “It was just a part I was playing and people seemed to laugh.”

….Manuel was one of the most imitated comedy characters of the 1970s.

The waiter, who famously hailed from Barcelona, often said little more than the word “Que?” to generate laughs, but arguably his most famous line was “I know nothing”.

Fawlty Towers co-writer Booth, who played hotel maid Polly Sherman in the series, said Sachs “spoke to the world with his body as well as his mangled English.”

She said he was a “universally beloved figure”, saying it was “a privilege and an education to work with him”.

Writing in the Guardian, she also compared the pairing of Cleese and Sachs to that of Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy.

(9) CARTOON AMERICAN. Gizmodo’s Casey Chan thinks this is true: “Why Bugs Bunny Is the Ultimate Animated American Icon”.

Mickey Mouse is obviously more well-known than Bugs Bunny. But there’s a kitschy globalization aspect to Mickey that Bugs has somehow managed to avoid ,even though they both served as mascots for their companies (Disney and Warner Bros., respectively). How did Bugs do it?

Kaptain Kristian breaks down the difference between Mickey and Bugs as such: Bugs is cool, slick, funny, defiant, and in control. Mickey is tame, inoffensive, and, well, corporate as hell. Bugs is who most Americans want to be (even if we’re meek li’l Mickeys inside), Mickey is just a safe brand that gets stamped around the world. And while Bugs is a character, Mickey is a company.

Instead of running down Mickey Mouse, Chan needs to justify picking Bugs over Homer Simpson. The aggressively credulous Homer is our neighbor, our nightmare, and – if never to be admitted – sometimes ourselves.

(10) INDIE OR NOT TO INDIE. When asked “Why even have a publisher?”, Fynbospress gave this answer in a comment at Mad Genius Club:

For us, the value of a publisher is as follows:

1.) Exploitation of rights that would otherwise lay fallow. Namely, audiobook, because I personally don’t care for the medium, and therefore am crippled when it comes to trying to put out a good quality product.

2.) additional fanbase. Publishers like Baen and Castalia have cultivated a fanbase that is willing to buy a new author based solely on the publisher – and whether you’re a newcomer to the field or trying to expand into a new market, these are additional sales and market penetration above what we can easily reach. (Note; do research on your publisher. Nobody ever says “Oh, boy, I can’t wait for the next Penguin Putnam release!” So the majors are actually less attractive this way.)

3.) additional marketing efforts. Again, due diligence is required, but if the publisher is willing to commit to pushing your book, that’s more work the author doesn’t have to do. If the press is big enough that your editor has to run this past a marketing department, then it’s critical to get this in the contract.

4.) Someone else to carry the ball. We’ve had some interesting medical adventures over the last couple years. The ability to hand a manuscript off, and not have to do anything else (even though the publisher did ask us for approval / suggestions on cover and blurb), was the difference between getting Brings the Lightning out or not. And when we’re more concerned with the surgeon saying “Unfortunately, due to shrapnel in his body, we can’t put your husband in the MRI to see if complications X or Y will ensue…” having a publisher who will get a royalty check to us is much nicer than having 70% of nothing.

Note that these reasons are very individual to us and our circumstances; they do not necessarily apply to all authors.

(11) AWARD FOR NON-ALTERNATE HISTORY. Pornokitsch tells us that once upon a time there was such a thing as “The Georgette Heyer Historical Fiction Prize”.

Something else I’ve learned this week – the existence of “The Georgette Heyer Historical Fiction Prize”. This was proudly emblazoned on the spine of Zemindar, which I promptly bought for £2. See, awards do sell books!

Sponsored by Corgi Books and The Bodley Head, the Georgette Heyer Historical Fiction Prize ran from 1978 to 1989. It was for discovering “new talent in historical fiction writing” – and not solely Heyer’s stomping ground of the Regency period, as shown by the list of winners below….

There’s a great article about the prize on Reading the Pastwhere Sarah Johnson has done a terrific job of piecing together the award’s history.

(12) RIOT BEGINS IN 3, 2, 1…. Peter Burfeind pokes all those sensitive places in an article for The Federalist, “Aliens Don’t Exist, But They Tell Us A Lot About Atheists”.

In his movie “Expelled,” Ben Stein challenged Richard Dawkins about the remarkable phenomenon of life on planet earth: how could life arise given the sheer magnitude of its improbability? Dawkins suggested aliens possibly deposited life on earth.

Dawkins, we recall, is an atheist, a scientist directed only by provable facts. Yet he’s willing to posit the source of earthly life to a concept lacking any evidence.

Of course, Dawkins is guilty of nothing more than a thought experiment, something great scientists do all the time. Accordingly, a galaxy without aliens would be like a valley producing no life decades after a massive volcano covered it with volcanic ash—eventually some seed will find its way into the hard crevices, and though difficult, life will find a way.

(13) BACK TO THE BIG BANG. Beware – CinemaBlend tells “What Christopher Lloyd Did On The Big Bang Theory”.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for tonight’s episode of The Big Bang Theory.

The Big Bang Theory has become known, in its 10 seasons on the air, for enlisting the help of several guest stars to enhance the stories the show tells of the group of funny friends we’ve all come to know and love. It was announced a few weeks ago that tonight’s episode, titled “The Property Division Collision,” would feature a guest appearance from iconic actor Christopher Lloyd, but we didn’t know who he’d be playing or how his character would feature into the main plot. Episode 10 of The Big Bang Theory saw Christopher Lloyd playing Theodore, Penny and Leonard’s new oddball roommate.

(14) FOR AN INCREASE IN CHRISTMAS CHEER.  The Tea and Jeopardy advent calendar podcasts run from thirty seconds to five minutes (so far).

Advent Calendar 2016 – Day 1

Whimsy, silliness and festive cheer! The Tea and Jeopardy advent calendar begins with a card and gift from the Harper Voyager Publishing Director Natasha Bardon!

Advent Calendar 2016 – Day 2

Day 2 of the Tea and Jeopardy advent calendar features a card and gift from Sebastien de Castell. A song is mentioned in the episode that you can listen to here.

(15) IT GETS VERSE. A magnificent effort by Peer Sylvester: https://file770.com/?p=32198&cpage=2#comment-513386

I scrolled myself today
To see if I still file
I boxticked on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The pixel tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to scroll it all away
But I remember everything

(Rest of the day: Try to get the song out of my head again)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

79 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/2/16 Scrolls, Mr. Pixel, Zillions Of ’Em!

  1. (10) INDIE OR NOT TO INDIE. Nobody ever says “Oh, boy, I can’t wait for the next Penguin Putnam release!”

    Maybe not, but I frequently say “Oh boy, I can’t wait to see what Orbit / Tor / DAW puts out next!” — simply because those publishers have earned a reputation with me for consistent excellence in what they publish.

    I know that the Puppies like to believe that they are special snowflakes, but they are delusional if they believe that Baen and Castalia are the only publishers which have earned customer esteem and loyalty.

  2. @JJ – “I know that the Puppies like to believe that they are special snowflakes, but they are delusional if they believe that Baen and Castalia are the only publishers which have earned customer esteem and loyalty.”

    I think most rational people would think that if a company publishes books and remains in business that they are financially viable in some market.

    I think you are a “special snowflake” for thinking that individuals who do not share your literary tastes are delusional about basic market economics.

  3. [2] Rob told me that his place of business made the Liberty Bell, and that periodically someone in the US gets sniffy and decides that it cracked (the bell) because it had been improperly cast. To which Whitechapel Foundry always had the same reply: the casting was proper, but the bell received improper handling when carrying it across the sea, and they repeated their standing off—bring it back to us, and we will melt it down and recast it in the original mold, which we still have.

    But they never take them up on this generous offer.

    So sorry to hear of this change in fortunes for the company and for Rob.

    “I wept because I had no pixels, until I met a fan who had no scroll.”

  4. 2) An ancestor of mine (maternal great great grandfather, I think) was a bell founder (not at this company, though), which I always thought was pretty cool.

    10) Okay, so the Grants want to corner to puppy market. Well, if it works for them…

    11) I read Gallows Wedding by Rhona Martin, which apparently was the inaugural winner of this award, a long time ago. It was good, but also very depressing.

    12) Why are certain religious people unable to comprehend that there are people who are not religious and aren’t missing anything? Cause I’m heartily sick of religious people calling science fiction, fantasy and even sports fandom substitutes for religion. I like SFF because I like SFF, not because my non-religious self is secretly yearning for religion.
    Also sorry, but there is very little in the way of objective evidence for the Christian or any other religion. There’s a reason it’s called faith, you know?

  5. Mike
    Yes, but the citizens of Philadelphia regarded his impetuous act as being so gauche that they quietly cracked it again, and so it remains today.

  6. (2) I was in a handbell choir for a few months, 50 years ago, and the bells were from Whitechapel Foundry. I am sorry to hear that they’re closing down.

  7. Publishers like Baen and Castalia have cultivated a fanbase that is willing to buy a new author based solely on the publisher – and whether you’re a newcomer to the field or trying to expand into a new market, these are additional sales and market penetration above what we can easily reach. (Note; do research on your publisher. Nobody ever says “Oh, boy, I can’t wait for the next Penguin Putnam release!” So the majors are actually less attractive this way.)

    I would hazard a guess that Penguin Putnam’s average sales number is rather higher than Castalia’s. So as far as sales and market penetration go, I know which way I’d bet.

  8. (2) Rob Hansen has never been willing to accept the copiously documented fact that most British merchants and manufacturers palm off shoddy goods on the American colonists whenever they could manage it. There is exactly zero reason to believe that Whitechapel Bell Foundry gave the same care to the bell intended for a bunch of American colonists that they would have to a bell for customers they respected. The Liberty Bell isn’t even the only example of a crappy bell sold to the colonists; just the most famous. It’s worth noting that the Liberty Bell has a higher percentage of tin in its alloy than is typical of Whitechapel bells of that period, suggesting the Foundry may have used cheap scraps rather than the higher quality materials they more typically used.

    (12) “Life was seeded here by meteors carrying it from elsewhere, is perfectly plausible, and yet is utterly worthless as an answer to the question of how life originated; it just moves the same problem to another (conveniently unknown) location.

    But if we were talking about someone other than that self-important, obnoxious ass Dawkins, I’d point out that we do know that amino acids seem to occur naturally on comets and asteroids. We haven’t fully figured out the how of life getting started, but I suspect that when we do, it’s going to be greeted by a hearty round of head-slapping and cries of “Why didn’t we think of that?”

  9. (10) INDIE OR NOT TO INDIE

    I do not buy Indie for the same reason that I don’t read fan fiction. I have been disappointed too many times. So while I do not wait eagerly for a Baen/Tor/Daw/Whatever, I will check the cover, check the fonts, that they are profesionally done. And if the publisher is known at all, it increases the chance for me to buy the book.

    (12) RIOT BEGINS IN 3, 2, 1…

    I think this text is mostly the failure mode of clever. It usually is when religious people try to use science against atheists. For me it is more strange why people have taken fairy tales and fantasy and turned it to religion. The stories are good enough without that. Each to their own perspective.

  10. Current reading, Borderline by Mishell Baker. Trying to decide if protagonist is being deliberately written as unreliable. Other characters seem to view her as intelligent/clever even though she does several really stupid things. But since this is through her lens maybe it’s good writing and showing how she has an unrealistic view of what’s happening?

    That moment when one needs to decide if they’re annoyed by the character or by the writing.

  11. airboy: I think you are a “special snowflake” for thinking that individuals who do not share your literary tastes are delusional about basic market economics.

    Except that your statement bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to what I actually said.

    There are free online resources which can help you bring your reading comprehension up to competence level. I encourage you to avail yourself of them.

  12. Dawn Incognito: Current reading, Borderline by Mishell Baker. Trying to decide if protagonist is being deliberately written as unreliable.

    One of the defining characteristics of people with Borderline Personality Disorder is that they are unreliable narrators. They will often lie prolifically. It is one of main ways that they manipulate others. (There is some question as to whether it is always deliberate lying, or whether it is often the result of the twisting that their thought processes do to things, making things into something completely different from what they actually are).

  13. Hampus Eckerman says I do not buy Indie for the same reason that I don’t read fan fiction. I have been disappointed too many times. So while I do not wait eagerly for a Baen/Tor/Daw/Whatever, I will check the cover, check the fonts, that they are profesionally done. And if the publisher is known at all, it increases the chance for me to buy the book.

    Indie in itself is not a terribly useful term. Tachyon and Subterranean presses could both be considered such publishers but both have excellent reputations for publishing well edited and designed books from writers worth reading. The problem with Castilla is that it’s not really a legit publisher as it’s largely a vanity press with bad editing and worse design.

    Baen’s quite legit, I just don’t care for most of their offerings. On the other paw, I know a book from Tor or Saga Press, to note but two major publishers I read a lot of books from, will be properly edited, have a design that looks good and will stand a good chance of actually be worth considering by me to be read.

  14. Re 2) In the real world, I work as a warranty administrator, so I imagine the Whitechapel folks telling the colonists about the cracked bell. “Non-warrantable failure. Warranty claim denied!”

  15. Best wishes to Sarah Hoyt: sounds like they’re looking for irregularities (my wife was on a 7 day digital monitor for the same thing following her strokes – found nothing).
    I of course had the wonderful “opportunity” to listen to my heart maintain anything BUT regularity (including some ominous, distressingly long periods of no beat) while having my “widow maker” heart attack. Thank goodness the clot buster they gave me was not the adulterated chinese crap that was making the rounds – and killing people – at the time.

    Funny. During that incident I was in a “foxhole” and not once did I think of calling upon the powers that might be to save me. I counted ceiling tiles. Not even ceiling cat god was up there.

    Dawkins is strident, but I believe it comes from two sources: 1. just being sick and tired of the idiocy often associated with unfounded religious belief (the earth is only 6,000 years old, when jupiter aligns with mars, eating your enemies’ hearts makes you mighty) and not tolerating it for one more second and 2. religious belief in the western world is so deeply ingrained that it often takes shock value to get people to actually think about it.

    I will admit that his personal delivery can be off-putting, but the message is, I think an important one: belief, and operating on belief that is nonsensical at best wastes time, money and resources and damages people, societies and the planet.

  16. @Hampus

    (10) INDIE OR NOT TO INDIE

    I do not buy Indie for the same reason that I don’t read fan fiction. I have been disappointed too many times. So while I do not wait eagerly for a Baen/Tor/Daw/Whatever, I will check the cover, check the fonts, that they are profesionally done. And if the publisher is known at all, it increases the chance for me to buy the book.

    There are some very good indie (i.e. self-published, not small press) books, but when the author is not a known quantity (e.g. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric books) I tend to be careful and sample before I buy. I also co-run a blog dedicated to indie SFF, so I see a lot of indie SFF and inevitably find a few books that intrigue me.

    (12) RIOT BEGINS IN 3, 2, 1…

    I think this text is mostly the failure mode of clever. It usually is when religious people try to use science against atheists. For me it is more strange why people have taken fairy tales and fantasy and turned it to religion. The stories are good enough without that. Each to their own perspective.

    Same here. The stories themselves are pretty good, but why insist that everything had to be 100% true and then build a religion around it?

    Richard Dawkins, on the other hand, is the sort of strident, evangelising atheist who gives atheism a bad name.

  17. Re the Big Bang link–Mike, you gave warning for spoilers, but in the future could you please give warning for auto-play video on a link? Annoying as all heck. (The link, not you.)

    Asteroids–the article mentioned the difficulty of deflecting an asteroid with a few weeks warning, but neglected (I think–I didn’t read it closely) to mention that the more notice we had, the easier it would be to deflect. An asteroid (or any other space debris) isn’t “sucked in” by the Earth’s orbit, it hits the Earth if their orbits happen to intersect. The Earth’s orbit is around 300 million miles in circumference–the Earth is around 8000 miles in diameter. So some part of Earth is passing through a given point in it’s orbit for only 1/37,500th of the year, or only around 14 minutes. So an asteroid’s orbit would only have to be adjusted enough to arrive a maximum of 14 minutes sooner or later to turn a hit into a near miss. (All numbers are rounded and approximate.) A small, sustained nudge over a long time is much more possible than a big, short nudge at the last minute.

  18. (And as the most outspokenly atheist poster here, I might be expected to tackle the “aliens and atheist” item, but having read it, it is such a muddled, tangled mess that it isn’t worth wasting time attempting to untangle it.)

  19. (13) I know a lot of people don’t care about The Big Bang Theory, but I enjoyed the first few seasons and keep hoping it will turn itself around. (There have been a few bright spots.) I must say that the latest episode really wasted the talents of Christopher Lloyd.

  20. (12)how could life arise given the sheer magnitude of its improbability?

    Weak anthropic principle–given that someone is asking this question, the probability of life having arisen is 100%

  21. People may not follow Random Penguins in general but I would be willing to bet the souls of everyone in Atlanta that specific Random Penguin imprints like Del Rey and DAW have vocal fans,

    On a related note, I find that knowing something is from Angry Robot will at least get me to look at the book.

  22. I dunno. At Amazon I worked closely with the books team, and they assured me that it was unheard of for someone to return a book because the publisher wasn’t the one they expected. “Harper-Collins?! I only buy from Houghton Mifflin!” We did get returns when there were multiple editions of the same book (e.g. students taking a class who needed to be sure the page numbers matched up), but that’s because the edition didn’t match, not just the publisher.

    I was surprised to learn that we’d allow returns because the cover picture on the book wasn’t as expected. I had thought that international law prohibited judging a book by its cover. 🙂

  23. @rea

    (12)how could life arise given the sheer magnitude of its improbability?

    Weak anthropic principle–given that someone is asking this question, the probability of life having arisen is 100%

    That also lets them beg the question. There’s no reason to believe that there is a low probability of life arising, given the conditions on the early Earth. The fossil record suggests that life arose almost as soon as the crust cooled. If life arising were a low-probability event, we’d have expected there to have been a long period with no life at all.

    They arrive at the low-probability conclusion through some pathetically weak math. The same math would conclude that a salt crystal is a miracle because of the huge odds against the sodium and chlorine atoms being in perfect alternation.

    What looks to be the low-probability event is multicellular life, since that didn’t appear until about 600 million years ago. My personal bet on the explanation of the Fermi Paradox is that when we explore the galaxy we’ll find all or nearly all the habitable planets have bacterial-analog life in the oceans, oxygen atmospheres, and sterile continents. Just as the Earth was for nearly all of its history.

  24. There is also the error of counting on the probability of life arising on Earth. The real equation is the probability of life arising on any planet–according to this estimate, there are at least 10^24, 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets in the observable section of universe alone–and that estimate was based on the old figure of 200 million galaxies in the observable universe, which is out of date, so you can add another zero to that estimate. That’s more than one quadrillion (thousand million million) planets for each human alive on Earth today. Every one of them with some sort of geological and chemical activity at some point in their history. The dice have to be rolled right on only one of those more than one thousand million million billion worlds for life to appear. (And we don’t know how much bigger the complete universe is than the observable section–could be 10 times larger, could be 10 trillion times larger.)

  25. @Hampus–

    I think this text is mostly the failure mode of clever. It usually is when religious people try to use science against atheists. For me it is more strange why people have taken fairy tales and fantasy and turned it to religion. The stories are good enough without that. Each to their own perspective.

    You do know why religion not only arose, but became so firmly rooted, right? Hint: it’ not because our ancestors were stupid, and it’s not unrelated to the fact that we are typing at each other from different continents.

    @Cora–

    Same here. The stories themselves are pretty good, but why insist that everything had to be 100% true and then build a religion around it?

    Yeah, that’s not how it happened. You’ve got it badly twisted around, and have failed to understand that the populations which survive are the ones with the best rack record over time of producing surviving grandchildren. And we’re way, way better at that than our nearest relatives, or elephants (whom I would argue are at least at the level of homo erectus, inteligence-wise. At least.

    @steve davidson–

    Dawkins is strident, but I believe it comes from two sources: 1. just being sick and tired of the idiocy often associated with unfounded religious belief (the earth is only 6,000 years old, when jupiter aligns with mars, eating your enemies’ hearts makes you mighty) and not tolerating it for one more second and

    Yeah, that’s totally why he wields his contempt and disdain against people who, for instance, against religions people doing real science or teaching the science of evolution in religious schools out of diocesan-approved textbooks that are explicit about why the Bible can’t be used as a science textbook, or are just living our live inoffensively, accepting the scientific conclusions that appear to be accepted by the bulk of the scientists knowledgeable in the area of science they’re talking about.

    In short, he’s an arrogant, obnoxious, self-important ass.

    2. religious belief in the western world is so deeply ingrained that it often takes shock value to get people to actually think about it.

    Yeah, that tends not to actually work with anyone who isn’t easily bullied.

    I will admit that his personal delivery can be off-putting, but the message is, I think an important one: belief, and operating on belief that is nonsensical at best wastes time, money and resources and damages people, societies and the planet.

    Dawkins has no idea what most religious people, other than a politically organized & vocal minority who regard billions of other religious people as heretics or infidels, actually believe, and he’s made it clear that he’s not only uninterested but actively unwilling to find out he’s wrong on that.

    He’s an arrogant, obnoxious, self-important ass who only favorably impresses a subset of other atheists.

    @Cora–

    Richard Dawkins, on the other hand, is the sort of strident, evangelising atheist who gives atheism a bad name.

    Yes, exactly.

  26. 12) Cora: To be fair, the social-connectedness side of organized religion (as distinct from religious belief) can look a lot like other kinds of social connectedness. I know any number of people for whom belonging to a congregation (and acting in concert with them, to, say, do good works) seems more important than the details of the theologies that they are supposed to agree on. To be fair, this is the observation of a very-ex-Catholic hardshell agnostic to whom mainline Protestant churches always looked a bit like social clubs. (Catholics can be such ideological snobs.)

    That said, my first thought about Burfeind’s essay was “What is this village-faithmonger piece doing in The Federalist?” (The half-baked subliterary criticism is its own puzzle.)

  27. You do know why religion not only arose, but became so firmly rooted, right? Hint: it’ not because our ancestors were stupid, and it’s not unrelated to the fact that we are typing at each other from different continents.

    If you have the answer, be sure to tell us. I’ll notify the Nobel Committee for you. Clear a spot on your mantle for a shiny gold necklace.

  28. @JJ:

    I maybe didn’t word that right due to it being late and me reacting to being punched in the face by the book. It’s more a question of how unreliable is this narrator, and in what ways, especially in the context of her telling us how people with BPD process the world.

    Normally I would assume that if a protagonist is a person with a given condition, and they speak authoritatively about that condition, that the information being given is correct. But I’m familiar with DBT and Millie is not relaying these concepts well. Which is so frustrating because it makes sense for the character and the story at hand, but then the layman isn’t necessarily recognizing that she isn’t using her skills very well.

    (Puts on button saying ASK ME ABOUT WISE MIND.)

    Her proclamations about “Borderlines” demonstrate some extreme thinking. Which is maybe supposed to be the point? Is it the character or is it the writing?

    *blinks* oh crap where’d this soapbox come from?

    I gave myself permission to bail on the book if I wasn’t enthralled, but I’m just interested enough to want to see where the story goes.

  29. @ rea

    (12)how could life arise given the sheer magnitude of its improbability?

    Weak anthropic principle–given that someone is asking this question, the probability of life having arisen is 100%

    This. It always boggles me that many people never get around to that point in the argument, much less start with it. It’s like picking up your hand of cards in bridge and exclaiming, “Do you know how astronomical the odds are against me having been dealt this exact hand?”

  30. 2) Rob Hanson used to say that Whitechapel Foundry would be happy to recast the Liberty Bell if the defective bell was returned *in its original packaging*. (In fact, the Philadelphia authorities did try to return the bell after it cracked the first time it was test-rung, but they couldn’t get it back onto the ship. Which makes me wonder how they got it off the ship in the first place.)

    6) Uhuru? Really? (I’m sure it was their typo, not yours.)

  31. @Darren Garrison

    There is also the error of counting on the probability of life arising on Earth. The real equation is the probability of life arising on any planet–according to this estimate, there are at least 10^24, 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets in the observable section of universe alone

    That doesn’t help as much as you’d think it would. Take the salt crystal example. Suppose a grain of salt holds one micromole of salt, so it has about 10^18 atoms. The odds of any binary pattern of Na vs. Cl is 2^(10^18) or about 10^(10^17). This is a number with 100,000,000,000,000,000 zeros in it! Against that, 10^24 is chump change.

    The key point is, chemistry isn’t random. Arguments that assume it is produce absurd conclusions.

  32. (6) I am stunned and appalled that DS9’s “Far Beyond the Stars” didn’t make their best-of list.

    I have a new post up at Obsidian Wings about, intra alia, Mary Sues, fairy tales, and my internalized misogyny.

    liberal japonicus brought up “Doc Savage” in comments. Could any character be *more* over-the-top and overloaded with specialness? What would a female character with a similar boatload of qualities look like, and could she be comparably popular?

  33. @Darren Garrison–

    If you have the answer, be sure to tell us. I’ll notify the Nobel Committee for you. Clear a spot on your mantle for a shiny gold necklace.

    Sadly, no Nobel in my future, because this one isn’t a mystery; it isn’t even hard, and any anthropologist interested in that area will explain it to you. Humans are pattern-recognizing creatures; it’s what we do, and do better, as far as we can tell, than any other animals, including our closest relatives. We’re also social creatures–and in that area, it’s interesting and useful to look at the differences between us and even our closest relatives, the common chimp and the bonobo.

    Religion arose because we needed to understand the world and be able to predict what was going to happen, when we were millennia away from developing the tools we use now. And once religion developed, it proved amazingly successful at enabling sustained and complex cooperation between and among groups who, absent shared religious belief, regarded each other as “other.”

    Chimps have war raids. They don’t have treaty agreements, or either governments or corporations that harness the efforts and resources of people who’ve never met each other.

    @Nancy Sauer–
    Thank you!

    (2) I’ve assumed that “couldn’t get it back on the boat” meant the captain decided there either wasn’t room, or else “wasn’t room,” i.e., too fully loaded with contracted cargo to England, or the captain didn’t want to be bothered.

  34. Lis: That makes sense; if the captain hadn’t planned to be hauling a couple thousand pounds of bell back to England, it could upset his stowing plans significantly. It’s a not-insignificant bit of ballast to deal with.

  35. Very few Christians believe the Earth was created 6,000 years ago. The Bible uses every form of language including poetry, parable, etc….. The beginning of Genesis is beautiful literature. Those of the Christian Faith believe that God created the heavens, Earth, and Man. Most Christians do not attempt to put a specific date on creation.

    Christians believe that God created life. But what is “a day” to God? I have no idea. God may well have communicated the creation in a manner that men could understand given the knowledge base of that time.

    Catholics do not believe God created the earth 6,000 years ago. Nor do Lutherans or United Church of Christ. Some Fundamentalists do – but taking everything in the Bible literally is nuts when Christ used parables as teaching tools.

    Many scientists are active religious including Christians. This includes Engineers, Life Sciences, etc….. You get more atheists in a US College Campus in Liberal Arts than you do in Ag, Sciences, Engineering or Business.

    Militant atheists often argue against “straw Christians” or narrow sects of believers. I’m a scientist. I’m Christian. I know many other active Christians who are scientists.

  36. As someone brings up in comments, Doc Savage had a cousin, Pat Savage, who was the female variant of Doc. Plus she had feminine wiles she used on the opposite sex. Something Doc never seemed to get the hang of.

    There was a modern comic based on Pat. I don’t remember any of the other Fabulous Five getting their own titles, though there were some of the original pulps that focused more on one or two, usually Ham and Monk.

  37. @Doctor Science: What would a female character with a similar boatload of qualities look like, and could she be comparably popular?

    Phryne Fisher. Smart, beautiful, accomplished, successful, fights crime. Not at Doc Savage level, but closer than many.

  38. #15 Now that I have actually had the time ot read the scroll… Wow! im flattered. I have now been featured in more scrolls, than I have published novels!
    Thanks, Mike!

    #6: I guess you can always discuss this stuff, but I miss Chain of Command at the TNG picks (which honorable mentions are the weakest imho)

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