MT VOID 12/07/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 23, Whole Number 1731

MT VOID 12/07/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 23, Whole Number 1731

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
12/07/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 23, Whole Number 1731

Table of Contents

      Jack: Mark Leeper, Jill: 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

Health Crisis (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I went to the minimally invasive surgery center but they would not let me in. [-mrl]

Rod Serling's "Christmas Carol" (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

A CAROL FOR ANOTHER CHRISTMAS, a television adaptation of the Dickens classic by Rod Serling, will be on Turner Classic Movies Sunday, December 16, 8:00 PM, and Saturday, December 22, 4:15 PM (both EST). This has never been shown on television since its original broadcast in 1964 and is not available on home video. [- ecl]

Storm Diary, Part 4 (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

[I am continuing my account of how Evelyn and I fared in Hurricane Sandy. It is Thursday November 1. The storm really hit four days earlier, lat Monday and early Tuesday. We lost power 3:38 PM on Monday. It has not even been three full days we have had no power.]

As our friend had told us on the phone, there is a local McDonalds that has lucked out on the patchwork game of who does or does not have power. This McDonalds does. There is a long line of people just anxious to order hot food. But the food is not the big attraction. They have a big playground with a plastic slide. There were two kids playing on it. Only two. This is not the big attraction either.

There is also a little corner where you can plug in a PC and where you can get Wi-Fi. There is a mob of people there trying to run PCs and plug in cell phones and iPods to charge them. That is the big attraction to us. We both go through our email and send out other email. I assume that any restaurant or other building that has power and Wi-Fi has a similar mob scene.

I think they would get more business if they renamed the place The Electronald McDonald House.

Town water is being pumped with gasoline generators and there may be a shortage. We are trying to conserve water several ways including avoiding flushing the toilet when possible. I won't go into the decision criteria for when it is or is not possible to flush. Leave me some privacy.

I think everything in our freezer has thawed. There is still some cool in the refrigerator, but not much.

I write until sundown and then we listen to cassettes of plays recorded off the BBC. In a lot of cultures when the sun goes down there is not a lot left to do. They get a lot of sleep I guess. Particularly with it being late autumn there is not a lot to do when the sun goes down. I am getting almost as much sleep as our backyard squirrels do. Of course with my CPAP not working it is restless sleep.


Since the morning after the storm the Jersey Central Power and Light has been making the same statement. "We expect most of the power outages to be fixed in the next seven days. What has not been fixed will mostly be fixed in the seven days after that." Basically what he is saying is the outages have a half-life of less than 168 hours. The outages decay like a radioactive isotope. And having determined that and said it, they are making no more on-the- record estimates.

They had a representative of the JCP&L power company on the radio. I knew exactly what the gist of the conversation would be. This is the gist:

Interviewer: Can listeners get any information about when their power will return?

Power Ranger: No.

The rest of the discussion was variations on that theme. The interviewer went on to enumerate reasons listeners would want or need to get information when the power would be restored. Can they get any useful information? Quoth the Power Ranger: No.

If communities near your house are getting their electricity turned on can you take this as a sign that your power will be back soon? Quoth the Power Ranger: No.

I should be clear about this. I recognize that scheduling a problem like this. I can see the power company's point of view. On the other hand their stonewalling has a large cost to the community. There are mile-long queues of people trying to get into gas stations. They have to prepare for a worst-case scenario because they cannot rule it out. Information that they cannot guarantee is true could still save a lot in societal costs.

JCP&L is stonewalling the public on when power will be restored any place specific. I can see their point of view. Estimating return time is complex and repairing power should take precedence to reporting progress. But it is frustrating to sit in cold, dark houses and not know how long the ordeal will last.

From there shortly after noon we went to McDonalds for dessert and Wi-Fi.

It is now 57 degrees in the house and I have taken to wearing gloves when I am not writing.

Today was the day we were supposed to send out our newsletter, the MT VOID. We sent it out yesterday. Ironically, my editorial concerned the likely negative effects of Global Warming. At the time I wrote it not long ago the best example I could give was the corn shortage due to the drought. We had so little computer and power time yesterday we sent the editorial out as it was. Here we have a tropical storm that did something like 50 billion dollars in damages. The size of the storm was very likely the result of Global Warming. I could have made that editorial extremely timely. Sadly I could not do it because there just was not enough computer time.

Maybe I can put a follow-up into the VOID, though at the moment I don't know if we can even put out an issue.

I think from this point on our refrigerator is now effectively a thick-walled cabinet.

For lunch we go to the local Outback and have a solid hot meal. Even the bread is warm. After that we go to McDonalds where 12 to 15 appliances are plugged into one little outlet as people come, many bringing multi-plugs and power strips, coming to take advantage of (sort of) free electricity and Wi-Fi. I am a little ashamed to say that though we bought meals yesterday, today we got only a large coffee and a small hot fudge sundae. The sundae was comfort food. We are not having a lot of comforts.

So far McDonalds and Governor Chris Christie deserve my thanks. Christie I never used to like. In Hurricane Irene fourteen months ago he seemed more interested in getting national coverage than on helping his state. Somebody clued him in that that was a mistake. He seems to be working closely with Barack Obama in a spirit of what us old-timers called bi-partisanship. He somehow seems more interested in helping his state and tracking its problems than in carrying a GOP banner. [P.S. This policy did not go well with him later. His name is not very popular among local Republicans. They consider him a traitor for putting the welfare of the state before party politics. And that is pretty much just what he did. Four days later there were a lot of voters who credited Obama for having people who knew what they were doing in FEMA. This could have been another scandal like FEMA had with Katrina.]

After lunch and checking our email we shopped for an iPod charger to plug in a cigarette lighter. [P.S. We got one at a dollar store. It did not work.]

This week we got USPS mail just on Wednesday and Friday.


I had the last of the cold pizza for breakfast. Evelyn pointed out that a local theater was showing a new science fiction film, CLOUD ATLAS. Part of what makes it sound good is that it is 165 minutes long in a warm building. It is across the parking lot from a Costco. We decide to have lunch at Costco.

Costco is dropping its membership requirement for a few days. Anybody can come in, warm up, shop if they want. We did some shopping and we each got a hot dog and we shared a berry yogurt sundae. The cinema has a new movie for five dollars. That has nothing to do with the storm, but they are dropping prices. They also include a free bag of popcorn. So between Costco and the movie we had two (big) hot dogs, a sundae, and a first run movie with popcorn. Total price $14.98 for two. Costco also had a free recharging station for electronics. It was a great excuse to get out of the house. It made the day a lot better.

I will not review CLOUD ATLAS without Internet connection. It really is a film you have to see multiple times before it all gels.

Returning to the cold house I worked on review that may never be completed.

For dinner we had bag of (once) frozen vegetables. They had not spoiled noticeably. We listened to radio plays we have on cassette.

At about 8 PM there was a call that was a recorded message from the mayor saying that there had been progress in restoring power during the day and more places will have power restored tomorrow, but other areas will not get power until Wednesday. (This was a Saturday.)

They are trying to figure out how to set up polls for Tuesday's election.

This is the sixth night without power. The days are not too bad, but the nights are cold and boring. And tomorrow they start an hour earlier.

There are people working outside right in front of our house. Sadly, whatever they are doing, it does not restore power. I would be happy if they would just get our house going, even if the rest of the neighborhood is dark. Let me worry about the Maple Street monsters.

It is 57 degrees in the house and 34 outside. I think I need to go to sleep in a shirt and pants just to stay warm in the night.

There is something of a conflict between Governor Christie and JCP&L (Jersey Central Power and Light, who are delivering neither power nor light.) JCP&L is resisting giving out any useful information as to when power will be returning to certain areas. All they are saying is that most of the household that are out now will have power back in a week and most of what is left will have power back in the next week. Of course, there is a big difference between 98% and 51% though either could be meant by his "most". Yesterday Christie was saying that he wanted to get a map of the area with estimates when power would return.

It is true that time spent putting together reports would slow down repairs. But it is also true that the uncertainty is costly to the customers. If I know I will have power back in 24 to 72 hours I probably do not have to go out and stock up on groceries. I can leave the groceries on the store shelf for people who will not have power in the next ten days. Uncertainty breeds wastage, long queues, crime, and bad tempers. Avoiding those problems might be better than getting the power back a day or two sooner.

As it is the most affected counties are going on gasoline rationing. If the last digit in your license plate even, you can get gas on even days of the month. Otherwise you can get it on odd days. No-digit is considered an odd.

I am planning to have the final chapter of this log next week. One problem. I have just this day received word today, 37 days after the storm, that we are being advised to reduce water consumption. This is because of damage done by the storm to the sewage treatment system. I guess Sandy will be with us for a long time. I am not sure how final the next chapter can be. [-mrl]

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN--PART 2 (film review by Dale L. Skran, Jr.):

Let me begin by saying that I have neither read any of the "Twilight" books nor seen BREAKING DAWN--PART 1, although I have seen the earlier films in this series. Thusly, I can't say whether this film does a good job of putting the books on screen, or even if it does a good job of being PART 2. However, I can report that it is an entertaining end to the series, and that, as many have noted, after a somewhat slow start has a bang-up ending full of surprises.

Some critics appear unhappy with the slow start and the many finale scenes. For those expecting "Indiana Jones" action from the second one, you will surely be disappointed, but in ancient times movies set the stage for the conclusion rather than stringing one improbable chase after another together to make up the bulk of the movie. The first part of the movie deals mainly with Bella adjusting to her new-found powers as a vampire, and with the many consequences of being a vampire, including the ever-present "What do I tell dad?" This section is in the fine tradition of many super-hero comics, and especially both of the Spiderman movies, where a lot of time is spent trying to convey the sense of wonder associated with being a vampire/super-hero.

Another unhappiness of the critics lies in the many finale scenes, but for some reason I didn't find them as cloying or as silly as the many endings of, say, LORD OF THE RINGS. Part of that is surely that they move briskly along, keeping the movie under two hours. Finally, some hostile critics complained about the general lack of emoting by the cast, and especially the stars. This is worth a bit more attention, but to my view, the actors were entirely within character. Not every hero/heroine meets fate weeping and gnashing her teeth. There is also a bit more to this, which I'll expand on later.

The second part of the movie deals with the discovery by the Volturi (the overlords of the vampire world) that Bella has apparently sired a child-vampire, a serious (read--fatal) violation of their laws, and hence to the usual gathering of allies by the Cullens family and finally to a confrontation with the Volturi. This is fun to watch, and I'm not going to ruin it by putting any spoilers in the review. One thing I liked about the movie is just about the point where you think the plot is going to veer into a comic book or vampire cliché it goes off in a new direction that makes a lot of sense in the context of the story. This happens several times, and helps to create a powerful and unexpected ending.

Those expecting a profound, adult tale on the level of, say, GAME OF THRONES will be disappointed. BREAKING DAWN is profound to its teenage audience; adults already know most of what the characters discover about themselves. The entire TWILIGHT series can be best understood as two things--a celebration of the transhuman existence and as an X-men comic book. It is also, of course, a story of chaste love where vampirism is, as always, a stand-in for actual sex.

As an X-Men comic, TWILIGHT celebrates the family of odd-balls (the Cullens) who are brought together by a charismatic leader who is also a doctor, Carlisle Cullen (aka Professor X). They live in a super-modern house in a beautiful isolated area, and are threatened by the outside world and others of their own kind. An earlier film in the series contains the ultimate X-men homage--vampires using their powers to play baseball. BREAKING DAWN introduces several new characters, including on the Cullens' side a vampire that mimics Lightning Lass of the DC Legion of Superheroes, another that controls the four elements, and a third that can create realistic illusions. Finally, Bella Swan comes into her own as a vampire, finding that (for some reason I didn't catch) she is now the strongest of the Cullen clan, and also can project a field of protection against other vampire's powers (this has been hinted at in earlier movies). Bella is now so strong that she can smash a huge rock into pieces with her fists, and is so invulnerable (or ultra-fast healing) that her hands seem unscathed after doing so. I speculate that rather like GLADIATOR in the Marvel universe, Bella is the strongest because her will is the strongest, and not due to any physical process. This is also suggested by the high level of self-control she has as a new vampire.

One strength of the comic book aspects of the plot is that the strongest player on each side has the least showy power. The leader of the Volturi, Aro, has a kind of contact telepathy that allows him to sense if others are lying, and in turn, makes him the most dangerous of liars. Alice Cullen has the power to see the future, or perhaps, possible futures. Aro is surely dangerous, but it is hard to beat someone who can see the future.

There is another aspect of TWILIGHT worthy of comment. In the early vampire stories, the vampire was a dirty and wretched creature, sleeping in a coffin and lusting after blood. To the extent the vampire was seductive that quality was a stand-in for the corrupting power of sex. The years have been kind to the fictional vampire, turning him from zero to hero. And yet there are still different visions of vampirism. In BEING HUMAN, the message is that although the vampire may be handsome, kind, loving, great in bed, intelligent, strong, and so on, at the core, he is still a blood-sucking monster. Of course, the deeper message of BEING HUMAN is that at the core, we all have a little bit--or not so little--of the monster inside ourselves. In VAMPIRE DIARIES, vampires have all those idealized good qualities, but their emotions are out of control, causing them to careen from love to hate and back, and leading to a kind of eternal, tragic restlessness that may in some cases be tempered by centuries of experience. In BUFFY, a soul-less vampire is just a daemon inhabiting a human body, utterly with hope for redemption (the exceptional case of Spike not included).

The vampires of TWILIGHT are more akin to elves, idealized and perfect, although still prey to the lust for blood. The idea that they glitter in the sunlight is surely a reference to elves, or even angels. And Bella is the most perfect, most idealized of them all as a vampire. Her strength and invulnerability are nearly limitless--we see her climbing a bare cliff so fast she seems to be flying, running so fast she can leap hundreds of feet, and falling what seems to be many 100s of feet without apparent harm. Vampires don't need to sleep, but their lust is virtually unlimited, and their appreciation for human pleasures undimmed. She has total control, much more so than even the Cullens family, and turns aside from human blood to hunt a puma. Her sometimes limited range of emotion is a reflection of her new state. Although she is hyper- aware of every sound and texture around her, she no long reacts emotionally like a human. In some ways she resembles Commander Data of NEXT GENERATION learning to be human. She so rapidly adapts to being a vampire that pretending to be human is a struggle.

As a vampire, Bella has everything she would never have as a human woman. She will have, forever, a perfect body perfectly healthy, and more then perfect--superhuman. She has the joys of motherhood without the tedium of child-rearing. She can look forward to being with Edward for, if not an eternity, something approaching that. This is the idealized life of a fifteen-year old--forever young, forever healthy, forever happy, forever superhuman, forever sex, and forever free of adult responsibility. It also happens to pretty much be the transhumanist manifesto, except for the last item.

Sometimes one goes to the movies to learn more about the human condition. Sometimes you see yourself reflected on the screen. In this case, I see on the screen the reflection of the collective unconscious of a new generation. Once books and screens reflected a fear, even dread, of the future, whether in the form of vampires, Frankenstein's monster, the Wolfman, giant ants, or atomic parasites. Today we live in that future. Some of our fears have been realized (atomic weapons), but not all, or even most of them. Today new books and screens reflect a collective hope of a different kind of future, one without compromise or limitation. It is a juvenile hope that no doubt will never completely be realized. But landing on the moon was once such a hope, so I think you should hold back on the laughing just a bit.

BREAKING DAWN is rated PG-13. There are some fairly graphic battle violence scenes--tearing off heads and such. The sex scenes are soft focus and not very explicit. Recommended for those who like this sort of thing, including fans of the TWILIGHT series. Surprisingly entertaining and self-contained for the final movie of a long series. Rated +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-dls]

ANNA KARENINA (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Joe Wright brings Count Leo Tolstoy's oft-filmed tragedy ANNA KARENINA to the screen with an adaptation written by Tom Stoppard. In spite of some unusual touches that should have brightened things up a bit, this version is tedious and feels overly long. The acting is wooden in a way that shuts the viewer out of the action. Stoppard's touches serve only to pull the viewer away from the story and act as a distraction. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10

In BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, Keira Knightley was a promising new talent with an attractive smile. It was clear that director Joe Wright was entranced by that smile. When he directed her in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE she gave a big smile showing off her teeth in virtually every scene in which she was not sad or angry. If there was no good reason for her not to smile, she did. Sadly, this was not the same thing as acting. But deep acting was not required for that role. Now Joe Wright has directed Keira Knightley in a new version of ANNA KARENINA and both are paying the price for Knightley's deficits. In fact, there is very little emotive acting where it is needed in the tragic ANNA KARENINA. But Wright was unlucky to release his film while Terence Davies' THE DEEP BLUE SEA was still in recent memory. That film, based on the play by Terence Rattigan, has a plot that is very much parallel to that of ANNA KARENINA but starred Rachel Weisz. Seeing both films emphasizes the gulf between the acting abilities of the two women.

In 19th century Tsarist Russia, Anna Karenina (played by Knightley) is in a comfortable but dull marriage to Karenin (Jude Law), a stodgy public official. When asked to help save her brother's marriage, Anna goes to Moscow to help counsel her sister-in-law. Her brother Stiva has had an affair, and the stable Anna is trusted to set things back to right. On the way to Moscow she meets Countess Vronsky who tells her of the Countess's son, Count Vronsky. Anna meets Vronsky at the end of her trip. The count cuts a striking figure in his military uniform. Anna is immediately attracted to somewhat disreputable count. Soon it would appear that Stiva is not the only member of the family who has a wandering eye. Once she has been with Vronsky Anna does not want to go back to Karenin.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who plays Count Vronsky, emotes less than Knightley, but since the story is her tragedy his acting is less important. There are good actors aplenty in this film, but Joe Wright seems not to be the director to be able to coax affecting performances. Kelly Macdonald is certainly a fine actress, and she was able to doff her Irish enunciation for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. Wright allows her to use a strong Irish accent throughout.

All this makes it hard enough for the viewer to lose himself in the tragedy. But Stoppard gives the story the conceit that it is really a stage play being performed. One moment actors will seem to be in the real surroundings and the next they will be standing on a stage or exiting backstage. In an otherwise realistic looking bedroom there will suddenly be footlights along the floor. Anna will be at home and rip open the curtains. Oddly, the nature outside seems to be rushing past her window. When the camera returns to Anna she is inside a train car. These gimmicky segues are there to be admired but are counter-productive distraction. If the drama were doing its job these cute artistic touches would be clever. Wright is having enough trouble telling the story without them.

It is hard to condemn a movie that when it works beguiles the eye with 19th century Russian splendor. The characters are so cold and distant--figuratively as well as literally--that Wright needs to do all he can to hold the audience's emotions. He just did manage. On a modest budget THE DEEP BLUE SEA told much the same story and made it compelling. ANNA KARENINA threw some glitz at the story, but did not make this viewer care. I rate ANNA KARENINA a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10 and recommend you try one of the other 25 screen versions listed in the IMDB.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


REDSHIRTS by John Scalzi (copyright 2012, Tor, $24.99, 317pp, ISBN 978-0-7653-1699-8) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

If you've been around this field any length of time at all, you know what a redshirt is. Just in case you don't. It's that character on the TV show that you've never seen before; he's the extra guy on the away mission, and he's the guy you know is going to get killed not long after you meet him (or her, of course). As most of you know, the term redshirt comes from Star Trek. The extras going with the main party on the away mission invariably wore red shirts. And they invariably didn't make it back to the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Our story opens with a bunch of new crew members receiving assignments to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, the flagship of the fleet. Andrew Dahl, Maia Duvall, Jimmy Hanson, Finn, and Hester, all of various backgrounds, are traveling to the Intrepid at the beginning of the novel to begin their assignment on the most prestigious ship in the fleet. And almost immediately, they begin to notice some very strange things going on.

For example, the rest of the crew seems to instinctively know that they need to disappear when one of the high ranking officers is nearby--Captain Abernathy, Science Office Q'eeng, Chief Engineer Paul West, and Lieutenant Kerensky, just to name four--looking for low ranking crew members for away missions. It always seems that said higher-ranking crew members survive the missions, no matter what the alien dangers, but the low-ranking members do not. Lieutenant Kerensky always seems to be the one to get the worst of every away mission, but he seems to heal quickly--quickly enough to be able to take part in the next away mission. And then there's the Box, which seems to be the way of solving all the nasty problems no one knows how to solve. Dahl is taking notice of all this, and he doesn't like what he's seeing. Something is rotten here.

At which time he meets Jenkins, the super programmer who is working behind the scenes to help his fellow crewmates out with the away mission issue. It seems Jenkins has put together tracking devices to help the poor schmucks avoid getting killed on away missions. Jenkins is a recluse, having lost his wife on a, you guessed it, away mission. He lives in the cargo tunnels of the Intrepid, and only comes out when he wants to. He's kept track of other data. Like all damage on the ship happens between decks 6 and 12. Intrepid loses the most crew members of any ship in the fleet. Jenkins has this crackpot theory that they are actually acting out the parts of the crew on a science fiction televsion show from back in the early 21st Century. He's tracked when what he calls "the Narrative" is in effect. Just about every one thinks it's a crazy theory--every one except Dahl.

And then the real story begins, as everyone begins to accept Jenkins theory and realize that their lives are not their own.

What starts out as a comedic tale of everyone's favorite extra characters turns into something a whole lot more. It turns into a touching story of human relationships and people caring for each other enough to risk their lives to make the craziness stop. It's a wonderful story about teamwork, friendship, and caring human beings--oddly enough, just like on Star Trek 40+ years ago, but with a twist. And in my opinion, John Scalzi is the perfect person to handle this story. He treats the subject with care, and it's clear that he loves the subject matter.

There's a lot more I can say about REDSHIRTS, but I don't want to spoil any more of it than I probably already have. What I will say is that you must run out and read this book. All of it. The novel proper, and the three Codas that follow. You'll be glad you did. [-jak]

Storm Diary (letter of comment by Wendy Sheridan):

In response to Mark's comments about Sandy in several previous issues of the MT VOID, Wendy Sheridan writes:

As a fellow denizen of Central New Jersey, I am busy catching up on my former activities after Superstorm Sandy. We in our section of Rahway were without power for eleven days, and have had intermittent outages ever since (the most recent was this past Wednesday from the snowstorm). Our electricity is supplied by the Seawarren substation, which apparently was submerged during the storm and is being held together with spit, bailing wire and duct tape.

We don't like camping without an RV, and after Irene, purchased a propane-fueled generator that sat idle for a year and has become my favorite piece of technology. We were able to power up our refrigerator, microwave and modem--we are one of the holdouts that still uses DSL for Internet access--so we were the only people on the block with Internet and the first with electricity.

We decided on propane because I don't like dealing with gasoline even to run my lawnmower; not thinking of the unintended consequences of a large-scale power outage and the scarcity of gasoline that would ensue. Our house is located in Rahway, near the center of town (and the train station). I consider us semi-urban: urban with trees. Also to our benefit, is that the propane filling station is two blocks away, and they had a generator so were able to fill our BBQ-sized tanks, which would operate the generator for 22.5 hours per tank.

During the storm itself, I watched our 75-foot pine tree fall over, missing our garage by a couple of feet and landing on three cars in the parking area for the condos next door to our house. This happened around 3:30 in the afternoon.

Since we had power, I ran an extension cord out the front door for the neighbors to charge their cell phones and other devices. We also have a Franklin stove, so we were able to stay warm when the temperature dropped to near freezing during the second week. The local garden center was able to deliver a half-cord of firewood the Wednesday after the storm, and we burned through most of it by the time power was restored. We usually burn a cord or so for the entire winter. We did not have a supply of batteries and by the time we noticed, it was too late to get them, but we did have some rechargeable LED flashlights that we could charge off a generator circuit. Also, being Wiccans, we had a large supply of candles-- which are now almost depleted.

I ended up posting daily updates on Facebook for my friends who are out of the area--and after the first week, the "new normal" was getting tiresome, depressing, and repetitive. So eventually, I posted this storm update before the nor'easter of the week after Sandy (which I think you'd appreciate):

Science Officer's Log, Day 8. We are still running on auxiliary power. The Chief Engineer thinks maybe we'll have the warp engines back online sometime today, but the attack from the Sand'ees damaged quite a lot of the ship and repair crews have been working ceaselessly for the past 8 days.

The shift in duties has become routine and wearying. Keeping the alternate life support systems functional takes up much of our time now. Much of the ship's life support has been restored, but we are still under general quarters rules.

We are fortunate that the Captain chose to leave the low- and medium- tech systems in place. Otherwise we would not be here to warn people of the coming invasion.

This prompted one of my other friends, who is the super for an apartment complex that had a tree take out an exterior wall in a tenant's apartment to post this comment:

NCC 7-11 Life support up and running but scanners are down and communications are intermittent. We are still dealing with a breach in the hull. Crews working today and tomorrow to get it sealed before the coming invasion. [-ws]

Mark responds:

My suggestion to the Science Officer is to stay on alert. This is becoming a hostile corner of the galaxy [-mrl].

Ibid (letter of comment by Fred Lerner):

In response to Evelyn's comments about PYRAMIDS in the 11/30/12 issue of the MT VOID, Fred Lerner writes:

When I was about ten years old I read Ernest Gruening's THE STATE OF ALASKA, a history of the place, and not knowing any better I looked at every footnote. Seeing all of the citations to "Ibid." I took this to be some sort of marvelous encyclopaedia. My reading was eclectic even then, and it also included WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES, from which I learned of another marvelous reference work, the JUNIOR WOODCHUCK'S HANDBOOK. If I could obtain a copy of each of these, I thought, I'd have all the reference library I'd ever need.

Some years later, when the WHOLE EARTH CATALOG appeared, I considered it a reasonable substitute for the JUNIOR WOODCHUCK'S HANDBOOK. And with the World Wide Web at my fingertips, I've got something that can fill in for "Ibid." Now all I need is more time... [-fl]

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

GETTING INTO GUINNESS: ONE MAN'S LONGEST, FASTEST, HIGHEST JOURNEY INSIDE THE WORLD'S MOST FAMOUS RECORD BOOK by Larry Olmsted (ISBN 978-0-06-137348-0) is about more than just Olmstead attempts to set records acknowledged by Guinness (the record-keeping company, not the brewery--Olmsted makes the distinction in his introduction). Olmsted covers the history of the book, which has undergone several name changes, ownership changes, and (distressingly) content changes.

THE GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS, later GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS, and currently THE GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS, started as a way to settle pub arguments in Britain, answering such questions as "what is the fastest game bird in Europe?" or "what language has the fewest irregular verbs?" Over time, though, it became more and more "commercial" (i.e., pandering), dropping many of the classic superlatives to add such "records" as "largest sports salary" and "fastest time to place six eggs in egg-cups using the feet". As Miles Kington said in "The Independent", "If you want to settle a pub argument in 2004, you'd be crazy to go to GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS. Actually, you'd be crazy to go to it at all, unless you wanted to know who have the largest ice-lolly stick collection in the world, or the most Pepsi cans from around the world. But I have never been in a pub conversation in which someone said, 'I wonder who has got the most yo-yos in a private collection,' or "What's the most Smarties eaten by someone using chopsticks in three minutes?"

There was even a word coined for these sorts of records: Guinnessport (coined by Jerry Kirshenbaum in "Sports Illustrated" in 1979).

Because they needed to make room for all these "records", the classic ones were dropped from the book. So as Miles Kington also said, "I have been through the new, gold-plated GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS 2005 as carefully as I can, and can find no information on who was the first to swim the Channel. Or the fastest. Or the youngest. Or anything about swimming the Channel at all. I have also been unable to find any information on the deepest well in England, or indeed much about that sort of thing at all. ... Nor is there anything about Scotland's highest tree. Or Ireland's oldest church. Or Parliamentary majorities. Or even, I think, rail crashes. With the partial exception of weight-lifting, not a single one of the questions playfully raised by Lord Iveagh in 1956 can be answered by the book known as 'Guinness World Records 2005.'"

Two notes: Lord Iveagh asked the questions that inspired the first GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS. And you will not see the youngest person to swim the Channel because Guinness now has banned all athletic records for the "youngest" for health and safety reasons. Actually, they have banned a lot of records for those reasons--but many of them have somehow crept back in. In 1996 they claimed all eating records were removed. In 2000 the book still included most watches eaten. In 2006, they accepted and promoted the fastest time to eat a 12-inch pizza. In 2008 they included a record for most sausages swallowed whole in one minute, after previously ruling speed-eating of pancakes too dangerous to include.

And since he first contacted them about this book, Olmsted himself has had all his requests for record-setting attempts refused, even in pre-existing categories. (To set a "Guinness record", one must get prior approval.)

There may also be a bit of sloppiness in the research. Olmsted recounts the story of someone who transported some flammable material to Manhattan to be used to make the world's largest fondue. The only way legally to carry hazardous material into Manhattan was the George Washington Bridge, but apparently the driver did not know this and (according to Olmsted) tried first the Holland Tunnel and then the Midtown Tunnel, before finally getting (presumably illegally) in via the Lincoln Tunnel. The problem with this is that the Holland Tunnel, Lincoln Tunnel, and George Washington Bridge are the three ways to get to Manhattan from New Jersey (the mainland), while the Midtown Tunnel comes in from Queens and to get to it from the New Jersey end of the Holland Tunnel, the driver would have to drive south to the Goethals Bridge or to the Outerbridge Crossing to Staten Island, then take the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to Brooklyn and then drive past the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel (renamed the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel in 2010, but no one uses that name) to get to the Midtown Tunnel (actually the Queens- Midtown Tunnel). (Theoretically, he could also get onto Staten Island via the Bayonne Bridge, but that involves taking local roads for a lot of the way.) [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          The further a mathematical theory is developed, 
          the more harmoniously and uniformly does its 
          construction proceed, and unsuspected relations 
          are disclosed between hitherto separated branches 
          of the science. 
                                          --David Hilbert 

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