MT VOID 11/25/11 -- Vol. 30, No. 22, Whole Number 1677

MT VOID 11/25/11 -- Vol. 30, No. 22, Whole Number 1677

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/25/11 -- Vol. 30, No. 22, Whole Number 1677

Table of Contents

      Heckle: Mark Leeper, Jekyll: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to


Tinyurl broke at making the URL given in the 11/18/11 issue of the MT VOID for "More Number Fun Related to 11/11/11", and that short URL does not work. The correct link unfortunately is impossible to give in the MT VOID, because it uses a special character not available in ASCII:

(This is undoubtedly why tinyurl broke.)

The best way to find this is to Google "11/11/11 11:11:11" with "Lederman".

Thanks to Andre Kuzniarek for catching this! [-ecl]

Also in response to Mark's comment in the same issue on the puzzle (where he said, " The latter did not really solve the problem so much as handed it off to Wolfram which will do automatic conversion of decimals to fractions."), Andre writes:

More specifically, Wolfram Alpha--which is a free web service not to be confused with Wolfram Mathematica which is commercial software. Again, not trying to shill for something that costs money. W|A is free and kind of fun, especially for exploring numbers. [-ak]

Comments on the Psychic Discussion (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

We have had a number of people comment on the article in the 11/18/11 issue of the MT VOID about the premonition of a building- destroying level event that would make headlines. The responses are below with the letters of comment.

As I said in the article, I do not believe in psychic powers. I do believe in collecting data whether it fits into my world-view or not. So far I have an interesting and unlikely coincidence and that is all. And you readers do not have even that since you were told about it when it was entirely in the past, prediction and apparent fulfillment. Ideal (if that is the word) would be if the timing were right that I could let people know in time and then there was a fulfillment that goes beyond the likelihood of coincidence. This last prediction I heard in what would have been in time to say something in the MT VOID. At least that would prove that I was not trying to be deceptive. I do believe in ESP, but I would have to be convinced it occurs in humans. Animals clearly seem to have some senses that we do not. There are species of cave lizards who have no sight. To them our sight would be ESP. But horses seem to be very skittish before earthquakes. They must have some sense we do not or perhaps one of the senses they share with us is more attuned and sensitive. So I think (at least in an uninteresting sense) ESP exists. I believe in UFOs. I don't believe they have anything to do with alien life forms. One simply does not have the resources to identify all flying objects so some are unidentified. I do believe aliens exist. I find it very unlikely that any aliens are within a light-year of earth.

I do not believe in psychic powers. But I am willing to collect data. They say that the most exciting words to a scientist are not "Eureka!" but "That's odd." Here I have stumbled onto something odd. [-mrl]

Google's Tribute to Stanislaw Lem:

(at least as of 11/23/11)

What isn't clear is that it is interactive, and clicking on it gets you a five-minute cartoon! shows the full cartoon.

See also


Saran Wrap in Space (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

If I were Morbius on Planet Altair IV and I discovered in the archeological study a standard diapensor of plastic food wrap like we have on Earth, I would have concluded that the Krell had more than two hands. [-mrl]

Another Mathematics Puzzle (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

We have had some fun with mathematics puzzles in recent weeks. Someone I know was having a 47th birthday and I wanted to show him some interesting fact about the number 47. I discovered an interesting property.

4, 7, 11, 18, 29, 47

If we split up the 4 and the 7 of 47 and treat the two resulting digits as the first two members of an integer sequence in which each subsequent number is the sum of the two numbers to its left (i.e. like the Fibonacci sequence), it comes back to 47. Find all integers from 10 to 99 that have the same property. Extra credit if you can write a publishable explanation of how you did it. I used a fact I knew about the Fibonacci sequence that might not quite be common knowledge, but readers can use any approach they want. Let's say you should not use Wolfram, though I am at a loss as to how you might use it. [-mrl]

My Thanksgiving Tradition (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Our general Thanksgiving tradition is to get together at the house of some close friends of ours and sit down to what is probably the best meal of the year. There is a spread of traditional foods. (The stuffing is the star of the show. I really like that stuffing.) After dinner we watch a film I provide of my recent acquisitions. Generally that is not a film that they will have seen and so I can give them an opportunity to see something new. The only film that stands out at the moment for this year as a major film is CONTAGION. It has a star-power cast, is a major film, it is fairly accurate scientifically, and it is a compelling film. In the film there is a disease that is spread by being close to other people--more or less like we just will have done. Or you can get it from eating meat--more or less like we just will have done. You get the disease and you start coughing and looking terrible (or as bad as Gwyneth Paltrow ever looks) and then you die miserably and you are thrown in a big trench because there is no time or facilities for all the people dying. Okay, maybe CONTAGION does not quite make it a perfect film for showing at a festive Thanksgiving.

My hostess-to-be suggests that movies are not a traditional part of Thanksgiving. And it strikes me she is at least half right. Norman Rockwell does not have a movie going on the television in his famous painting of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. But you know for me it is a tradition. When I was growing up all there was to watch on television was what was being broadcast at that precise moment from the local television stations. And the TV stations would save their most interesting family movies for Thanksgiving. The other candidate holiday was Christmas, but most of the country was Christian, which means what they wanted to be seeing was thirty-seven different adaptations and variations of Charles Dickens's A CHRISTMAS CAROL, interrupted only by a showing or two of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. You will note this was still before the advent of A CHRISTMAS STORY, which has grabbed a big chunk of Christmas watching. Of course for one group of people, there is a Christmas holiday tradition of seeing a movie. Jews get a little sick of these wonderful, wonderful, joyous Christmas movies and a common Jewish tradition is to go out for Chinese food and/or to see a movie. But I am digressing. There are a lot of films I remember just because I saw them the day of Thanksgiving or the night before.

Maybe the second time I saw KING KONG--for those years it is redundant to note it was the 1933 version--it was the late movie the night before Thanksgiving. That now always seems like the right time to see KING KONG.

Then there is ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, which I first saw one year with the smell of roasting turkey wafting through the house.

One Thanksgiving we returned from going out to dinner someplace to find on the Thursday Night Movie the film JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. So that is a Thanksgiving film for me.

I don't know where I picked up this tradition, but after visiting my sister in Long Island, we drove a two-hour route home and at about 10 PM or later I would put in THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS.

So that is it. At Thanksgiving the night before my thoughts are of KING KONG, the early afternoon it is ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, in the evening it is JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, and in the late evening it is THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS. We must have our traditions. Of course rare is the Thanksgiving I see any of these films. And I doubt I would watch more than one in any year. But I still think of these films each Thanksgiving. "It is a custom ... More honor'd in the breach than the observance."

These days the films I see at Thanksgiving have been THE BLIND SIDE and HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 1. I guess that makes them Thanksgiving films also, but they do not have the same panache. I probably like CONTAGION more than either of these films. But perhaps it is just not right for this particular moment. I do not want to become the man who came to dinner. Say now there is an idea for a film. [-mrl]

Comments on the Psychic Discussion (letters of comment by Tom Russell and John Purcell):

We have had a number of people comment on the article in the 11/18/11 issue of the MT VOID about the premonition of a building- destroying level event that would make headlines.

Tom Russell wrote:

It seems earthquakes happen all the time, "big ones" maybe every week or so.

Not enough time for fun this week to do your puzzles. I still plan to work on them. [-tlr]

Mark responds:

Of course that is true. But events that fit this particular description have to be both big and have to endanger people. Four days after the description arrived an event was the #1 story in Google News. There has been nothing that large in the interim. I genuinely do not believe in the supernatural. I am trying to look at this claim objectively. If the observation seems significant to me I don't want to reject it because of my preconceived ideas. [-mrl]

John Purcell wrote:

As for the psychic section of this issue, I remember trying this sort of thing with my best friend in high school. Steve and I thought that we could transmit playing card information from across a room, so one Saturday afternoon we wasted a few hours staring at cards and each other, more or less guessing at which playing card the other was staring at. I don't even think we hit 20% accuracy. Empirical nonsense marches on!

Other than that, I don't believe in ESP, ghosts, aliens, or other unexplainable phenomena. Unless I experience something personally, I remain a skeptic. Dreams are weird, that's true. My wife sometimes has premonitions--or so she claims--in her dreams, but they never come to pass. Sign me up as a member of the Anti- Psychic Friends Network. My philosophy is along the lines of what George Carlin proposed years ago: I experience vuja de--the feeling that I have never been here before! [-jp]

[See my comments at the beginning of this issue. -mrl]

THE FLOODED EARTH: OUR FUTURE IN A WORLD WITHOUT ICE CAPS by Peter D. Ward (copyright 2011) (book review by Dale L. Skran, Jr.):

There is a considerable overlap between "serious" books on climate change and science fiction, as climate change is all about predicting the future. FLOODED EARTH takes this a bit further by including a series of fictional scenarios that are far more detailed than is typical of those found in books that include little fictional scenarios. Some are auto-biographical and some are Mad-Maxish, but they combine to drive home the point that global warming is really bad and will *wipe us out*. Well, maybe not all of us, but six out of seven billion, so who's counting? Mr. Ward is the opposite of the reasonable, balanced authors of the two previous global warming volumes I have reviewed here. He is an advocate of what he calls the "Medea Hypothesis" which proposes that most of the past major extinctions are due to volcanic driven global warming causing an eruption of hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere leading to mass death.

FLOODED EARTH reminds me of the classic POPULATION BOMB from the 1970s, which also contained some fictional scenarios of future disaster. These just-so stories clearly did not occur as predicted, and frankly, seem more silly than anything else when read today. It is hard to evaluate the scientific content of Ward's hypothesis since he gives very little idea of the evidence for or against it, except perhaps in his footnotes. As he tells the tale, everyone who is against him is lazy, cowardly, or mendacious, points made throughout the book by snitty little stories that have no real content except to make fun of or insult people Ward disagrees with.

One thing is certain, Ward is obsessed with global warming. The idea that human-caused warming might be putting off the upcoming Ice Age and preventing my house from being covered by a mile high glacier is not on his radar. It is hard to see this position as anything but political. Ice ages, we can deduce, are okay since they mostly hurt rich white folks who live in the north, while global warming is bad since it will make rich white folks who live in the north even richer while hurting poor brown folks who live near the equator near the equator. In any case, as even Ward would probably admit, the horse is out of the barn, and we're going to get quite a bit of warming and sea level rise no matter what is done to control carbon emissions. I plan to focus on reviewing Ward's science fiction, rather than his science. I don't recommend the book as a source of authoritative facts on climate change since Ward is clearly a minority advocate of an extreme position.

Ward opens with a vignette set in Miami in 2120 C.E. assuming a ten-foot [three-meter] rise in sea level. Most of south Florida has been abandoned to a Mad-Maxian existence. The general assumption is that the inhabitants of Miami stood around and watched the water rise until it was too late to do anything about it, like move north. As will become a theme, Ward's little scenarios never focus on any sort of rational response to sea level rise, but instead project a dystopian and simple-minded response to disaster.

Next we are treated to an actual incident that occurred on James Ross Island, Antarctica, in March 2009, when Ward and some companions encountered an usually powerful storm. Ward is a decent writer, and the store is readable, but boils down to--the ice is melting. This chapter makes the good point that it's not just the three-foot, or ten-foot sea level rise you have to worry about-- it's the new worst case--three extra feet plus high tide plus storm surge in a bad storm. Still, Ward seems to do a glass empty exercise--see, the oceans might rise *ten feet* in 100 years!!!!! But 100 years is a long time to deal with an ocean rise of ten feet. Just recall for a minute everything that has changed from 1911 to 2011! To achieve his flooded Miami disaster, it would need to rise ten feet in under ten years, more likely in just a few years.

Next Ward journeys to Athabasca region, Canada, circa 2030 C.E., to show rapacious technological man ripping up the tar sands and poisoning the Earth while pumping vast amounts of carbon into the air. It may or may not be a good idea to mine the Canadian tar sands, but we can only assume from the vast destruction Ward describes that the environmental movement has somehow been wiped out by an asteroid strike, since little is done to mitigate the impact of the mining operations.

Ward moves from Canada to El Kef, Tunisia, 2060 C.E., to describe the horrible conditions in over-heated and over-populated Tunisia as atmospheric carbon dioxide reaches 500ppm. This is possibly the worst chapter in the book as Ward reprises the ground first treaded by THE POPULATION BOMB, beating the toscins that there are *too many people*, and even worse, they all want to be *rich* and live like *Americans*!!!! He focuses on a whole planet of Third- Worlders buying cars and burning coal, and in the process heating things up. Everything else I read reports that population growth is rapidly decelerating, even in the Third World, and that, even by Ward's statistics, some European countries will face extinction by low birth rate long before global warming floods them. Italy, for example, had about 1.3 births per woman in 2009, well below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman. Doing a little math, you can see that if this trend continues, Italy (assuming no immigration) will depopulate by roughly 90% in 4 generations, or about 100 years. This rate of depopulation will be catastrophic, with a graying mass of the elderly supported by an ever-dwindling population of young workers. Clearly, this is not going to happen. Rome will not sit empty for long. Either the Italian birth rate will rise, or a tide of immigrants will transform the country into something new, perhaps North Tunisia, with St. Peter's refurbished as a mosque.

Since Ward is mainly concerned with drawing as dark a picture as possible, the words "nuclear power" appear only once or twice in the book, although nuclear reactors are the most likely way to maintain anything like a modern civilization while avoiding increasing carbon production. This solution can't be considered in detail, since it would interfere with the draconian regime Ward envisions will be needed to tame our evil Western Ways and restore the Earth by ending industrial civilization based on oil and coal, but more anon. It is fairly obvious that the Third World's demand for mobility could be met by nuclear power plants and electric cars, especially over a hundred-year time frame, but, hey, why ruin a good scare story?

Next we move to the Northern Sacramento Valley, 2135 C.E.. The general theme of this vignette is how a rising sea level will ruin agriculture in California. Ward then spends a good bit of time looking at whether rising carbon dioxide will make agriculture more productive. He concludes that it will, but that there are not likely to be any net gains considering all the changes, positive and negative, that will take place. The major issue I have with this chapter is that it gives no weight at all to any effort to create salt-tolerant crops via genetic engineering, something that seems highly possible, given an abundance of existing salt-tolerant plants. I just visited an island in the Caribbean where I found trees growing well right in the salt-saturated beach next to the ocean. Ward even helpfully provides a list of salt tolerant plants, including sugar beets and rye, but just assumes that farmers will apparently make no effort to adapt to changing conditions.

Now we move forward in time to 2215 C.E. in Greenland, following a Russian geologist as he surreptitiously searches for uranium ore revealed by the melting ice cap. This is followed by a glimpse of Antarctica in 2515, with carbon dioxide stabilized at 1500ppm. The main character is an engineer involved in covering Antarctica with topsoil from the American Midwest so that crops could be grown. The chapter concerns the mechanics of the melting of the polar ice caps, concluding with a 200-foot sea level rise.

A step backward in time takes us to the Netherlands, March 2200, for a ringside seat as three million people die in a massive flood as the dikes are finally overtopped by the rising sea. The following chapter focuses on areas such as Venice, Florida, New Orleans, and the Netherlands that are certain to sink under rising seas in most scenarios. Ward also gives consideration to areas that will surely benefit from a warmed world, including Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Russia.

The next chapter, "Extinction," opens with a tour of an Australian reef in 2045 C.E., transition to a tour of the Devonian Canning Barrier Reef during the same year. This tour serves to introduce Ward's theory that 365 million years ago a mass extinction was created by a bloom of bacteria that flooded the earth with hydrogen sulfide. This is certainly an interesting and dramatic theory, but the dogmatic presentation is less than convincing. If Ward is correct, one wonders why the scientific community, which is strongly pre-disposed to support evidence of the dangers of global warming, has not rushed to endorse his views. In any case, Ward is worried that by blowing carbon into the atmosphere, we are artificially bringing about a new mass extinction. I'm concerned that he thinks there have been three or four other mass extinctions due to hydrogen sulfide initiated by natural causes, perhaps volcanism. If true, this is just more evidence that the Earth is a very unstable and unsafe place for technological civilizations. First Ice Ages and now Deadly Hydrogen Sulfide!!! For a more balanced perspective than Ward's, check out the Wikipedia article "Extinction Event". I found this article more scary than Ward's book--it makes the message crystal clear--the Earth is quite unstable, and most species go extinct after a pretty short run, geologically speaking.

In Chapter 8, "Stopping Catastrophic Sea Level Rise", Ward offers a vision of a 3200 C.E. where humanity has created a vast array of orbiting solar mirrors to cool the Earth, an Earth now much impoverished by strict regulations on the usage of carbon based fuels. This chapter is very selective and unsystematic in its survey of solutions to global warming. On one hand we are asked to believe that an array of large mirrors can be built in space, and on the other hand there is essentially no discussion of nuclear power. Although mention is made of Freeman Dyson's proposal for "carbon fixing" trees, zero weight is given to genetic engineering as part of the solution, although it seems crashingly obvious that this would be the most effective and easiest solution. Ward does, however, trot out a wide variety of fairly silly geo-engineering schemes to poke holes in.

Chapter 8, the final chapter, concludes with gusto, first showing us the Bangladesh-India border in 2400 C.E., with a sea-level rise of twenty-four feet, as the entire population tries to walk into India to escape the rising water. This does not end well. An even further in the future vignette shows us Seattle in 5515 C.E., with a drowned Space Needle being the least of the problems. A global sea level rise of 240 feet has brought about a hydrogen sulfide disaster, and six billion out of seven billion people have died. Humanity has fallen back to a pre-technological civilization mainly living on yams and corn, lacking any concentrated power sources.

Although Ward avoids purely political statements for the most part, we can only wonder what he means when he says things like, "I am not referring to our political freedoms, although those too will have to be infringed upon to enact the necessary changes," on page 202. Does he envision rounding up climate change denialists and putting them in prison? It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Ward has much more radical views than he gives full voice to in this book.

Ward ignores the real problem with the global warming issue-- requests for great changes require great evidence, not scare tactics. He actually weakens his case by trying to frighten the reader with the hydrogen sulfide disaster. The question we all ought to be asking is this--why do all the "solutions" to global warming seem to originate from the "Luddite Left" and have a not- so-hidden agenda of restoring humanity to living in grass huts and riding horses? In any case, your time is better spent reading DEEP FUTURE by Curt Stager or COMING CLIMATE CRISIS? by Claire L. Parkinson. [-dls]

THE DESCENDANTS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: This is an amiable comedy-drama directed and co-written by Alexander Payne. Matt King (played by George Clooney) has at least three problems all at once. His wife is in a coma after a boating accident, his two daughters are rebelling against him, and he has to decide to whom to sell a sizable family estate of Hawaiian land. Matt finds himself searching for a man from his wife's past whom he has never met. Along the way he hopes to reunite his family. As with his previous film SIDEWAYS, Payne leaves the watcher wondering where the film is going. Well-acted and touching with a mild eye for human foibles, this is one of the better-written films of the year. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

Matt King is from one of the great old Euro (Haole) families of the Hawaiian Islands. His family was granted large stretches of now very valuable Kauai land. Generations ago Hawaiian royalty made the grant when one of King's white ancestors married a Hawaiian queen. The law has now changed and says that the family has seven years to sell the land. Matt's task is to decide to whom. All over Hawaii, locals are anxious over Matt's upcoming decision. But Matt has a lot more on his mind. Just a few days earlier Matt's wife Elizabeth fell off a boat in a Waikiki boat race. She struck her head leaving her in a coma. Matt also has to make decisions about her and her future. And to add a little spice to these heavy decisions, his two daughters, aged 17 and 10, both unhappy and unpleasant, are making his life more difficult. Matt never has had time to be with his family. Now as the only parent, he has to make time to be with his two resentful daughters. He soon realizes his daughter Alexandra knew more about his wife than he did himself. The film is by turns sad, touching, and funny. Matt finds he will have to search for a man he has never met but who is an important piece of Elizabeth's life.

Payne gives us the expected lush views of Hawaii plastered over by native songs (though luckily not the "Hawaiian War Chant"). Clooney's character is supposed to be at least in small part native Hawaiian. But apparently that heritage is well diluted--we all know George Clooney does not look particularly Hawaiian. This is not a memorable role because it is not flamboyant or greatly comic. But he does play the role perfectly, giving us the impression that this is the real George Clooney showing through the character. Some of the faces we see in the film are familiar, even if they are not pivotal roles. Beau Bridges is little used playing one of the cousins concerned about the sale and the usually mild-mannered Robert Forster plays Elizabeth's abraded and abrasive father. Just as Clooney allowed himself to be upstaged by young Anna Kendrick in UP IN THE AIR, here he affords the same courtesy to Shailene Woodley in a memorable if not star-making role as the rebellious daughter Alexandra. Her sister Scottie, ten years old, seems a little bewildered and starting to be troublesome. Nick Krause plays Alexandra's friend Sid who just seems to hang around, even on plane flights, giving a vibe like Keanu Reeves in PARENTHOOD.

THE DESCENDANTS seems like too old-fashioned and simple a story to get much attention. That was just about exactly what I thought about Payne's SIDEWAYS, so we know about how reliable that instinct is. I rate THE DESCENDANTS a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


Words (letters of comment by Morris Keesan and Kip Williams):

In response to Evelyn's comments on words in the 11/11/11 issue of the MT VOID, Morris Keesan writes:

And in my dialect of American English, a dialect which contains many Yiddish (or, as Leo Rosten would have it, "Yinglish") words, this relationship is covered by the term "mishpacha". I've never felt the need to refer specifically to "in-law's in-law". [-mk]

Evelyn replies:

I actually ran into this problem recently when I referred to my sister-in-law's mother-in-law (or maybe it was Mark's brother-in- law's mother), and had someone ask, "Isn't that just your mother?" If I had said my concunado's mother, that would have been somewhat less ambiguous. [-ecl]

And Kip Williams writes:

"Friolero" has a concise English adjective equivalent: nesh. I always thought I was nesh, but it turns out I'm whatever its opposite is when compared to my daughter. She's super-nesh. [-kw]

Evelyn replies:

And when Kip says English, he means English, not American. "Nesh" is apparently used almost exclusively in the part of England that is east of the northern part of Wales. (Wikipedia has the details.) [-ecl]

THE WINDS OF DUNE (letter of comment by Joe Karpierz):

In response to Todd V. Ehrenfels's comment on Bronso of Ix in THE WINDS OF DUNE in the 11/18/11 issue of the MT VOID, Joe Karpierz writes:

All I can say is, "Oops." I missed that completely. My fault for not going back and checking more thoroughly. Thanks for catching me in my mistake. The lesson learned here is never write a book review when sleep-deprived. Thanks again. [-jak]

Evelyn notes:

Todd wrote. "Bronso of Ix appears briefly in the original DUNE MESSIAH." I think Joe is too hard on himself if he is expected to remember every name ever mentioned in the "Dune" saga, currently at sixteen novels. [-ecl]

PROJECT NIM (letter of comment by Kip Williams):

In response to Mark's review of PROJECT NIM in the 11/18/11 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

There's a book on the same topic (more than one, actually) that I Read recently, NIM CHIMPSKY: THE CHIMP WHO WOULD BE HUMAN. Indeed, it made me feel keenly for this simian and his fate, even as I was aware that he was a menace to those around him. It is downright science-fictional to read of someone who was elevated partway to humanity in a way that left him mostly unable to be with people, and unable to go back to what he was. As you no doubt know, there's a pretty interesting cast of humans going in and out of Nim's life as well.

The writer seemed uncertain whether communication was going on between Nim and the people around him, but it seems clear enough that when he made certain signs, he expected certain responses. He asked for things, he asked for answers, and most of the people in his life ended up turning away from him. His last years, I was happy to see, weren't as bad as I had first imagined. This may be cold comfort in light of his expectations, but I know what people are capable of. At least it seems he had somebody around who cared, and some companionship of his own species. We should all be so lucky, I suppose.

Evelyn notes:

There seem to be some elements of FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON in Nim's story. [-ecl]

THE STORY OF ONE HUNDRED GREAT COMPOSERS (letters of comment by Kip Williams and Tim Bateman):

In response to Evelyn's comments on THE STORY OF ONE HUNDRED GREAT COMPOSERS in 11/11/11 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

I have THE STORY OF ONE HUNDRED GREAT COMPOSERS, though I've so far resisted the temptation to carry it everywhere. I suppose its usefulness in bringing a capsule of a composer's life to me has been supplanted by the GROVE'S DICTIONARY set Dad gave me, which in turn is supplanted by the internet, but it still seems useful in its small way, and dang it, it's so compact. I don't recall it being a wartime edition, but that may be why it's the size it is (half of octavo? 16vo?).

Wartime editions, though, are often a lovely size. I found one of my beloved BOOK OF A THOUSAND SONGS, and it's shot from the same plates at a reduced size from the cumbersome original, on paper that's not quite as thick. Now, that one I actually carried around in my backpack for a few years. (Note to self: As time permits, get back to the Thousand Songs project. As time permits.)

Evelyn adds:

Half of an octavo (usually seen abbreviated as 8vo) is a decimo- sexto or sixteenmo (16mo). As an aside, when I first started seeing "8vo" in book descriptions, I found myself wondering how all these books could have been issued in eight-volume sets! [-ecl]

And in response to Evelyn's response on the topic in the 11/18/11 issue, Tim Bateman writes:

Just a very quick response to the 100 COMPOSERS item. Yes, CSM is Company Sergeant Major. I think I assumed that the book was British in origin because you mentioned that it was produced to wartime rationing standards. I had actually forgotten that there was any rationing of paper in the United States.

Something that has only just occurred to me writing this, which I should have mentioned last time around: the dimensions of the book may be designed to fit into a soldier's pocket.

I wish I had the time to congratulate Mark on his excellent piece on psychics, or rather to give a detailed response rather than congratulate him and say that his position is probably a lot the same as mine. [-tb]

Evelyn adds:

In the United States during World War II, we had "Armed Services Editions" of books, designed to fit in soldier's shirt pocket. Information on these marvelous books may be found at and (Note that the buttons to cycle through the pages at the latter are broken; you have to adjust the URL by hand.) Quite a bit of fantasy was included. [-ecl]

Mathematics, TREE OF LIFE, THE WINDS OF DUNE (letter of comment by John Purcell):

John Purcell writes:

Two cups of coffee have now been quaffed, so before I do some writing on the next "Askance" I think I shall wing off a quick loc to you folks. [-jp]

In response to the Mark's comments on decimal patterns in the 11/11/11 issue of the MT VOID, John writes:

Thank you so much (not) for the mathematics lesson. My eyes always glaze over whenever I see long strings of equations and numbers like this. Now, my son, who is a whiz at these things, would have no trouble understanding the numbers. In fact, he probably wouldn't even read what you wrote and go straight into the equations after given the basic instructions of what to solve for. Kid is damned good at that kind of thing, and he certainly didn't get that from his parent's genes. [-jp]

In response to the link about number fun with 11/11/11 in the 11/18/11 issue, John writes:

As for the 11/11/11 fun, that I can get into. One of my students had a cousin who turned 11 years old that day. How cool, eh? I asked her if her cousin did anything particularly exciting at 11:11 AM that day. She had no idea, but thought that would have been a great time to start the birthday party. Tough to do, though, when you're in school at that time. [-jp]

In response to Mark's review of TREE OF LIFE in the same issue, John writes:

That movie TREE OF LIFE sounds so interesting to me; it's one that I might actually have to rent some day and watch. The premise is suitably philosophical and sweeping, and I have always liked Terrence Malick's films. Your review may be as cryptic and disjointed as the movie, but that's all right. After all, consider the source. [-jp]

And in response to Joe Karpierz's review of THE WINDS OF DUNE in the 11/11/11 issue, John writes:

I haven't read any of the DUNE novels past CHILDREN OF DUNE. Are any of the ensuing books even worth reading?

So I think I shall end this now. Many thanks for the issue, and now it's onto my fanzine for a bit before doing some chores. Such is a Saturday, tra la. [-jp]

[See John's comment on the psychic discussion elsewhere in this issue.]

This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

This week we watched a BBC production of a political thriller about a politician who thinks he is above the people. The people are clamoring for subsidized grain because there is a shortage due to a recent troop build-up, but he dismisses this as wanting too much of a "nanny state" on their part. All his opponents do the usual thing, mingling with the people, bragging about their military service, begging for the crowd's approval, but he thinks this is pandering and when forced into it, does it very poorly. He rails against making everything into sound bites and special pleadings, but only manages to antagonize so many people that eventually they turn on him, and he goes over to the opposition. After he starts helping them make gains, his original party starts to wish they hadn't driven him out, and eventually his family convinces him to change his affiliation back. At this, the opposition has had enough of these flip-flops and completely destroys him with accusations and slurs.

And the name of this thriller? CORIOLANUS by William Shakespeare (ISBN 978-0-451-52843-8). [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          The traditional mathematician recognizes and 
          appreciates mathematical elegance when he sees it.  
          I propose to go one step further, and to consider 
          elegance an essential ingredient of mathematics: 
          if it is clumsy, it is not mathematics. 
                                          --Edsger Dijkstra