MT VOID 11/29/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 22, Whole Number 1782

MT VOID 11/29/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 22, Whole Number 1782

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/29/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 22, Whole Number 1782

Table of Contents

      Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, Co-Editor: 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

Correction on Anniversaries (letter of comment by Paul Dormer):

In response to Evelyn's comment on the (supposed) anniversary of the death of George Orwell in the 11/22/13 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:

Not even close. Died 21 January 1950, according to Wikipedia.

I think you are confusing him with Aldous Huxley, author of BRAVE NEW WORLD. :-)

Incidentally, there were a number of other anniversaries last week, and as far as the BBC seemed to be concerned, only two really mattered.

Of course, it was the 50th anniversary of the first episode of "Doctor Who" on Saturday, and there were a number of programmes dedicated to that, not only the 50th anniversary special.

But Friday would also have been the 100th birthday of the composer Benjamin Britten (born on St. Cecilia's day, and she was the patron saint of musicians). For most of Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the bulk of the output on BBC Radio 3 was either music by Britten, or performed by Britten, or people who knew Britten talking about him.

And last week was the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg address, and there was a documentary about this on BBC Radio 4.

Evelyn responds:

Ooops! [-ecl]

The Howard, George, and Gardner Show:

"Howard Waldrop, George R. R. Martin, and Gardner Dozois tell wild tales about their adventures in science fiction fandom. Recorded at Capclave 2013 on October 12, 2013."

Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Filmes, Lectures, etc. (NJ):

[Note the changed book for December.]

December 5: SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, Old Bridge Public Library, 6:30PM
December 12: THE IRON GIANT (film) and THE IRON GIANT by Ted Hughes 
	(book), Middletown Public Library, 5:30PM, discussion after 
	the film
December 19: THE EERIE SILENCE by Paul Davies, Old Bridge (NJ) 
	Public Library, 7PM (note that this is the *third* Thursday!)
January 23, 2014: THE RAPTURE OF THE NERDS by Cory Doctorow and 
	Charles Stross, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
February 27: THE MOON AND SIXPENCE by W. Somerset Maugham, 
	Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:

The Bill Clinton Diet (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I was reading how President Bill Clinton had a touch of heart trouble and has given up meat, fish, and all dairy products. He is a strict vegetarian now. And he says he is now enjoying his food as much as ever. More. But he also has a much healthier lifestyle by not eating meat. That really proves it can be done. I found the whole article very inspirational. If he can do it, I can do it. I want to make myself rich enough to afford chefs who can make those dull, boring vegetables enjoyable. [-mrl]

My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for December (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Looking at the films that TCM is running in December there is not a lot to recommend that the reader would not be likely already to know about. One does come to mind. In a few previous months I have skipped over Fritz Lang's THE TESTAMENT Of DR. MABUSE assuming that it is more crime film than horror film. I tend to have the most to say about fantastic films. However I probably should mention it.

One of the most important filmmakers in Germany between the world wars was Fritz Lang, whose films included DR MABUSE THE GAMBLER, SEIGFRIED, METROPOLIS, WOMAN ON THE MOON, and M. Being Jewish he had to flee Germany to stay alive. His final German film was a sequel to two films not previously related. He took Commissioner Lohmann, the detective from M, and pitted him against (well sort of against) Lang's great super-criminal Dr. Mabuse. The original actors play both: Lohmann by Otto Wernicke and Mabuse by the great Rudolf Klein-Rogge.

It seems that Mabuse was captured after a long and dangerous pursuit in DR. MABUSE THE GAMBLER. At this point Mabuse had crossed the line from genius to madness. Years later the still mad Mabuse is now in an insane asylum where he plans fiendishly ingenious crimes, but can do no damage from the asylum. (Yeah. Right.) Somehow a new crime wave begins that bears the unmistakable stamp of the Mabuse genius. Can Mabuse be reaching out from his confines and from his madness and still be leveraging awesome, evil power? Can the detective who solved the child murder case find what is behind this new terrifying crime wave?

This was the same year as KING KONG. Lang's first sound film had been M and this was his second sound film. Lang was still playing with the possibilities of sound. An early scene takes place in a factory where the din from a printer drowns the characters and the viewer in incoherent noise. He tries for this effect again later in a scene in which two young lovers are trapped in a room.

Like DRACULA two years earlier this film was shot in two languages, German and French. Lang claimed later that the evil of Mabuse was intended to be a warning of the evil of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis did use some of the same tactics that Mabuse used in TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE. [Friday, December 6, 6:00 AM]

Neil Simon is probably best known for writing whimsical plays that have some autobiography in them. Once in a while his humorous talents take him in other directions. They did that when he decided to lampoon the entire popular genre of detective fiction. He had all the most popular detectives and has them thinly disguised in his MURDER BY DEATH. It should have been very funny with his skill for comedy. Somehow humor is very subjective and I never found MURDER BY DEATH all that funny. Perhaps it is because I just am not that much of a fan of detective stories. The film was very successful though, so Simon did THE CHEAP DETECTIVE, a follow up laughing at the Humphrey Bogart films CASABLANCA and THE MALTESE FALCON. Maybe it is because I am a film buff, but for me it was like striking the mother lode. Simon just has one funny joke after another. The film tells both stories somehow tied together in an overhand knot set in MALTESE FALCON's San Francisco. So how can you set CASABLANCA in San Francisco? By pure chutzpah and because there was nobody to tell him not to. Peter Falk is the Bogart-like title character and it is a great piece of casting. Simon runs out of funny maybe two-thirds the way through, but it still is okay. The film has a huge cast: Peter Falk, Ann-Margret, Eileen Brennan, Sid Caesar, Stockard Channing, James Coco, Dom DeLuise, Louise Fletcher, John Houseman, Madeline Kahn, Fernando Lamas, Marsha Mason, Phil Silvers, Abe Vigoda, Paul Williams, Nicol Williamson, James Cromwell, Scatman Crothers, David Ogden Stiers, and Vic Tayback. Looks like everyone wanted to be in it. [Monday, December 30, 11:30 PM]

This is the time of year when you have your choice of 37 different adaptations of Charles Dickens A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I am sick of them. SICK do you hear? There really is only one I can recommend and it is playing on TCM in December. Most are just not faithful to the quality of Dickens movies like David Lean's GREAT EXPECTATIONS. One really does have that literary feel, however, and tells the story about as well as it can be told. For me the only version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL that I would watch would be 1951's SCROOGE (which usually plays under the title A CHRISTMAS CAROL). This is the one with Alistair Sim as Scrooge. The scenes intended to be frightening do have some frisson. The Sim version is the best. Accept no substitutes. (I have been told that the George C. Scott version is nearly as good. I doubt it, but it would be dishonest not to mention it.) [Thursday, December 19, 10 PM]

Best film of the month? Well, I am a John Steinbeck fan. I would pick Elia Kazan's EAST OF EDEN. [Tuesday, December 31, 5:15 AM]


Notes and Comparisons of THE HAUNTING and THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):




VAMPIRE JOURNALS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

Ted Nicolaou is probably one of the most under-appreciated horror film directors. He is American-born (though his name is Romanian) and he sets his films and shoots them in Romania. Each film seems to feature an attractive American woman menaced by vampires, but she is not an interesting character. The vampires are the central characters.

Nicolaou is best known for his series of films, the "Subspecies" films. He was heavily influenced by the makeup and camerawork of films like NOSFERATU. He frequently uses a low light so the vampires cast giant shadows. But his plotting is more like that of Anne Rice. Most vampire films are about humans when they are confronted with vampires. Nicolaou's films are more about what is happening in the sub-culture of vampires. The most interesting characters in a Nicolaou film are the vampires and their plots.

Nicolaou makes his films in color, but subdues the colors so as not to detract from the mood. The films cannot be taken literally since the viewer can immediately tell who is and is not a vampire. The vampires are all pasty-faced and on close-up show longer incisors. Some vampires are still attractive, generally the good ones and some most of the bad ones are made repulsive looking, much like Orlock in NOSFERATU. His film went directly to cable as far as I can tell, but they were a good cut above other films that showed on cable. VAMPIRE JOURNALS is probably a little better plotted than his "Subspecies" films but it is the same world and character cross-over from the this film and the "Subspecies" films. Rating: high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10 [-mrl]

IRON MAN 3 (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

I have pretty much stopped buying tickets to comic book superhero films. I still have enough science fiction interest to rent them from NetFlix, but the stories are just not very rewarding. For a while IRON MAN was okay. Here was a superhero who did not derive his powers from an alien home planet, from being bitten by just the right spider, from going through radiation. Tony Stark earned his powers through genius. But he does not act like a genius and he wins his battles by having technology he somehow created show up like the cavalry in a nick of time. His suit has all kinds of seemingly magical powers like the pieces fly together to reconstruct themselves in an idea seemingly borrowed from IRON GIANT. With all this magical technology he still wins his battles by bruit force. And if a character the audience likes is killed, well that is your mistake. There is always some high-tech way to save the day. IRON MAN 3 did have one or two nice twists, but nothing resolves itself intelligently. Today's audiences want the special effects first and any engaging ideas they can do without. Some of the repartee is amusing, but that is not enough to keep a two-hour-plus film going. Rating: low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10 [-mrl]

THIS AMERICAN JOURNEY (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Two men set off to drive across the United States to film interviews with the people they find, asking them what they think of the United States and its future. The men wanted a feel for what the economic collapse was doing to the country. The result is a multi-faceted view of the American people today. This is an innocent project: as a rarity among documentaries, it seems to have no axe to grind. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

Most films that people go to a theater to see are story films, but year-by-year we seem to be seeing more and more documentaries being made. Most of those are presenting a political argument for some kind of change or other. THIS AMERICAN JOURNEY is different. The filmmakers set out not to convince anyone of anything. They simply wanted to see the United States and tell their viewer what they found along the way.

THIS AMERICAN JOURNEY is directed by Paul Blackthorne and filmed by Mister Basquali. They were born in Britain and Australia, respectively. Both came to the United States as children and were excited about their new country. Now they are adults and the country's economy seems to be faltering. They want to understand how the United States is changing and what the country actually is today. Perhaps they also want to recapture that childhood excitement of being part of the United States. Much of their goal was to gauge the mood of the people. This is as good-natured a documentary as you are likely to find.

Their questioning is not systematic like a polling company would be. Different people they ask different questions, usually based on their impressions of the person. They may ask one person to tell them about his religion, and someone else they will ask about gun control. Sometimes they comment on what they have been told and sometimes they just let the filming speak for itself. Their style is not to ask the same query of each person but instead to try to form a mosaic view of facets of the country. Most attitudes are at worst cautiously upbeat and the speaker is identified with a picture and a first name in the closing credits. One small group from Memphis never does have their names given at the end. They are openly racist, though they claim not to be. Everyone else is shown in a positive light or at worst they walk by the camera without any attention given. But there are people with extreme views of their religion and others who have opposite points of view. If they were brought together they might get along, but both want to be shown and heard in the film.

While they started with four legs in the car, they finished with eight. They are joined by Bodhi, a puppy they found wandering in a motel parking lot and adopted. Bodhi just gives the narrative a little more sunshine.

In the end there is no summary and no simple takeaway. Blackthorne and Basquali just find more reason to be glad that this is their adoptive country. There is a warm feeling for the strengths of the country. I rate this good-natured documentary a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. THIS AMERICAN JOURNEY is out on DVD and on Video on Demand (Hulu and Amazon Instant) and from

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


ENERGY FOR FUTURE PRESIDENTS by Richard A. Muller (book review by Dale L. Skran, Jr.):

You don't have to watch THE BIG BANG THEORY to know that physicists have a bit of a reputation for a particular kind of intellectual arrogance, namely that as physicists they have the really important insights into the issues at hand. This bias is on display as physicist Richard A. Muller dishes out advice on energy to future presidents. However, this should not be taken as an adverse review of ENERGY FOR FUTURE PRESIDENTS.

ENERGY FOR FUTURE PRESIDENTS fairly brims with up-to-date information (published 2012) and well thought out insights you won't find in the average newspaper or magazine article. In fact, books on energy written much before this are pretty much useless since they don't take into account the recent boom in natural gas production. Given all the anxiety over "running out of oil" since the 1970s the real future we live in is way down the expectation curve. The USA has or soon will regain its position as the #1 world energy producer due to a massive increase in natural gas production. In fact, one basic message of ENERGY FOR FUTURE PRESIDENTS is that there simply is NO ENERGY CRISIS--really! We may have a lack of oil in the US, and we may have a climate change problem, and so on, but there is no lack of energy to be had in the short, medium, or long terms.

Muller is perhaps most famous for the independent research he conducted that verified the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates of the rise in global temperatures. For many years Muller was viewed as a climate skeptic who kept raising troubling questions about how the IPCC measured temperature increases. To satisfy himself, he organized a team and conducted an independent and much more careful analysis, concluding in the end that (a) the temperature rise was real and (b) the rise in temperature matched the rise in carbon dioxide very closely. This, however, is where Muller parts company with the eco-bandwagon.

Muller is an unreformed advocate for nuclear power, and spends a good bit of the book on his research showing that the damage done by radiation in the Fukushima incident has been greatly exaggerated for political purposes. Although Muller's points about radiation are well founded, his optimism bias toward both fission and fusion power seems overly strong, especially in comparison to competing technologies like Space Solar Power. The contrast between Muller's rosy view of the prospects for fusion power, the basic operation of which has yet to be demonstrated even in a laboratory experiment, and his complete neglect of Space Solar Power, for which the main issues are economic and not scientific, is telling.

Muller skewers bio-fuels, the hydrogen economy, fuel cells, geothermal power, tidal power, and wave power, concluding that each is unlikely to contribute much to our energy future. When he opens his cannons of skepticism on electric cars and battery technology, he suddenly becomes quite pessimistic about the future evolution of energy storage for reasons that are not clearly described in the book. Also, his extreme pessimism about power from algae seems especially inapt, as he has no professional expertise in biology, botany, or algae farming. Paradoxically, when discussing energy storage for large-scale solar thermal systems, Mueller becomes an optimist again, confident that sodium-sulfur batteries can be made to operate at lower and safer temperatures than is currently the case.

An electric car skeptic, Mueller retreads the hoary accusation that electric cars are useless as long as coal is used to generate electricity, ignoring the virtuous circle that can result as coal plants are retired and coal-sourced electricity replaced by nuclear, solar, wind, and natural gas produced electricity. If the cost of current batteries drops by half, or if the lifetime doubles, Mueller's argument against cost of electric car batteries would be obviated. A lot of people are betting against Mueller, including Elon Musk.

Perhaps the most important point in EFFP is that the US is no longer the source of most carbon emissions, and that there can be no climate change solution that is not led by China and India. Environmentalists make much of how the "rich" Americans are pigs in carbon dioxide per capita, which is true, but it is the absolute amount of carbon dioxide that warms the world. Viewed from this perspective, the complete impoverishment of every American will have little effect on the temperature rise. Thus, the real solution to climate change is global, not local (!), and must be cheap enough to offer an alternative to coal in places like China and India. Mueller thinks solar power, installed at dirt cheap wages by third-world workers, may be the answer. There may be other solutions, but Mueller's point is a fundamental one that must be addressed.

ENERGY FOR FUTURE PRESIDENTS is easy to read, and well worth your time. Just don't buy into everything Mueller says! In particular, Mueller is most accurate in presenting the current situation. Once he tries his hand at technology extrapolation, he becomes a much less reliable guide. [-dls]


Martin Gardner is perhaps best known for his long-running mathematical games column in Scientific American, but I am more a fan of this philosophical speculations and humorous debunking of pseudo-science. Thus, when HOCUS POCUS became available, I ordered and read it with great alacrity.

HOCUS POCUS has a rushed, thin feeling, as though it were more an outline for an autobiography, or perhaps cobbled together from notes or interview transcripts rather than being carefully polished. HOCUS POCUS is also more an intellectual autobiography and an homage to various friends than any kind of examination of Martin Gardner. Here and there little personal glimpses appear-- Gardner had the unworldly child's fascination with blue humor, and a streak of cruelty that showed mainly in practical jokes. However, in the main this is a bloodless book, with little insight into Gardner himself. His family members are sketched in, but aside from a few fond childhood portraits of relatives, they seem mere ghosts in this book.

These negatives aside, HOCUS POCUS is a must read for the true Gardner fan. I learned a lot about his involvement with magic. From this book, it would appear that Gardner should be regarded as one of the major amateur magicians of his time, and a true master of "small scale" or "table top" magic, who invented a number of amazing illusions. For a man who did not major in mathematics, and apparently had trouble with calculus, Gardner seems to have known most of the great mathematicians of his time, and co-authored papers with many. Apparently, if you study math from great mathematicians for 25 years you end up learning something! He has an Erdos number of 2, meaning that he had co-authored a paper with someone who had co- authored a paper with Erdos. To learn more about Paul Erdos, perhaps the most prolific mathematician of the 20th century, check out THE MAN WHO LOVED ONLY NUMBERS by Paul Hoffman.

Gardner elaborates a bit on the philosophical speculations he best laid out in THE WHYS OF A PHILOSOPHICAL SCRIVENER, perhaps my favorite Gardner book. Although I don't agree with all of Gardner's positions, I admire his courage and honesty in taking on the big issues and being willing to admit the limitations of his beliefs. Gardner is too much a "Mysterian" for my taste, and far too willing to believe that consciousness will never be understood scientifically. Still, the idea that we may never fundamentally be able to answer some questions ought to be on the table.

Gardner led an amazing life, and seemingly met, studied under, or worked with most of the intellectual leaders of the 20th century. Just one example--his English teacher in college was--drum roll-- Thornton Wilder!!! Gardner was a special kind of writer--a journalist for intellectuals, who reported on "the good stuff' that he found interesting. Gardner deserves enormous credit for his courageous efforts to combat pseudo-science and dangerous malarkey in books like FADS AND FALLACIES IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE and SCIENCE: GOOD, BAD, AND BOGUS. He also deserves credit for his little known but brave and patriotic service in the United States Navy during WWII, in which he served on the USS Pope during the Battle of the Atlantic, dropping depth charges on German U-Boats.

HOCUS POCUS is missing both an index and a bibliography. Fortunately you can find a pretty complete Martin Gardner bibliography in Wikipedia. It will be a long time before we see another like him. [-dls]

A PLANET OF VIRUSES by Carl Zimmer (book review by Greg Frederick):

The following is a review of the science book titled A PLANET OF VIRUSES by Carl Zimmer. The title is a very appropriate one for this book. Deep underground in the Earth, under a mile thick layer of Antarctic ice and in almost any environment on this planet viruses exist. It is estimated that there are fifteen viruses per each creature (big and even the very small) in the world"s oceans. Though we are still in the early stages of virology humankind has witnessed the effects of viruses for centuries. Marine viruses are very powerful and infectious; they infect 10 trillion ocean microbe hosts every second. After scientists surveyed some of the oceans they found 1.8 million types of viral genes and only 10 percent of them matched any known viruses.

Viruses are very simple entities that consist typically of only a few genes and a protein shell covering them. They need a host cell to invade so they can insert their genetic material into the genetic material of the host to then have that cell produce more of the virus. The common cold virus which infects many people each year is known to scientist"s as a rhinovirus. It is difficult to cure because though the core genes of this virus do not change some of the other genes change quickly causing the surface of the protein shell to change shape. Our bodies create antibodies to fight a cold we just had but if the next cold is from a rhinovirus with a changed protein shell surface our antibodies cannot attach to the new shell and therefore cannot fight this new cold virus. Rhinoviruses infect a small number of cells but we feel bad due to our body"s immune cells near to the infection that cause inflammation, swelling and soreness.

The virus that causes many more problems for us is the influenza virus. It enters the nose or throat and invades the mucous cells and other cells lining these areas. These cells are destroyed and in healthy individuals our bodies mount a defense which counteracts this virus and the illness can be finished in a week or so. But in some individuals who are not as healthy, the flu virus opens up a pathway for infectious diseases to act along. Some of these can be fatal for that person. In 1918 a very dangerous version of the flu killed an estimated 50 million people. The origin of the influenza virus is now known to be from birds. Birds can contain all known human flu viruses. Birds can carry these viruses without getting sick because they carry the virus in their gut and do not get infected airways as we do. The flu virus is not very good at replicating its genetic material so when it replicates the genes acquire new mutations easily. Occasionally these mutations create a change in the virus which will benefit that strain of virus. Such mutations allowed the flu virus to jump from a bird host to a human host. We then can be infected.

When the human genome was studied it was discovered that virus genes make up about 8 percent of human DNA. Viruses have been influencing our environments and us for many, many years. This book is a short but clear, concise, and good source of information about an important subject. [-gf]

Jewish Food (letters of comments by Fred Lerner and Wendy):

In response to Mark's comments on Jewish food in the 11/22/13 issue of the MT VOID, Fred Lerner writes:

You are committing the common error of visiting upon Jewry as a whole the sins of the Ashkenazim. You'll find in Sephardic Jewish cuisine a wide range of tastes and materials unknown to our East European ancestors. As my late friend Ed Slavinsky explained to me, what Americans think of as "Jewish cooking" is really East European peasant cuisine modified to make it kosher. You won't find too many gourmet Polish restaurants in America, for the same reason that you won't find too many gourmet Polish-Jewish restaurants--and those you will find in places like Chicago base their appeal as much on nostalgia as gastronomy. I've been to a few Lithuanian-American restaurants with Ed Meskys, and their cuisine is even more dire.

Sheryl and I use several Sephardic cookbooks in our kosher kitchen, and are very pleased with the results. THE CLASSIC CUISINE OF THE ITALIAN JEWS by Edda Servi Machlin not only offers many tasty recipes, but also describes the history of Jewish cuisine in Italy. (Did you know that the Jews introduced the artichoke to Italy?) I've seen books on Greek, Syrian, and Moroccan Jewish cookery, but haven't yet used them. And someday I want to explore the cuisine of Bokharan and other Central Asian Jewish communities--which I understand can be done in certain parts of Queens. [-fl]

Mark replies:

Sephardic????? My gosh. You're right. I don't think I have ever had Sephardic cuisine. There were times when I couldn't. They allow rice in their Kosher for Passover dishes while that is not considered KfP for Ashkenazi.

So where were you when I was growing up and I needed you? [-mrl]

Fred responds:

When I was growing up I didn't know from Sephardic cuisine. It wasn't until we got married and I agreed that we would keep a kosher kitchen that I began to explore alternatives to Ashkenazic cuisine.

Given your location, you would be better placed than I to explore Sephardic and Mizrahi kosher restaurants and markets. This observation is subject to revision if I get a chance to see what Montreal has to offer. [-fl]

And Wendy [a.k.a. voxwoman] writes:

Jewish food: I want to disagree with your premise, but I find I can't. I'm one of the rare people who actually *likes* gefilte fish (although it has to be the all whitefish kind and served with a generous portion of horseradish). And even though you can find matzoh ball soup in a lot of restaurants these days, it's not nearly as good as what my mother used to make. I remember my mother threatening us with strange sounding Jewish food, that she'd then not make for us, so I don't know what kasha varshiskis is (or even if I've spelled it properly). And I'm not sure of any other ethnic group that considers cow tongue a delicacy. Since I'll never convince the rest of my family to even try it, I can't cook it anymore, and that's something I miss. The tongue you get at the deli is also not up to my mother's standards.

Naming the states: If I am asked to name all 50 states, I have to sing the song "Fifty Nifty United States" in my head. I had to sing that song in the 4th-grade glee club. The bridge section of the song is a recitation of all 50 states, in alphabetical order. It was reinforced in my memory when my daughter also had to learn the song for school. [-w]

Mark replies:

On the gefilte, I will take the generous portion of horseradish. Hold the fish!

My mother used to make matzo balls with less fat. That made them a little more chewy than restaurants do. The difference is like comparing a bagel to a slice of Wonder Bread. I prefer food that fights back a little. Did I mention I liked horseradish?

My mother made kasha varnishkes once so we could see what it was. Kids don't have to eat kasha varnishkes to know they would not like it, they can just look it up on Wikipedia. That will warn you away right there. Wikipedia is better than kasha varnishkes. On my order, hold the kes. Hold the kasha. I will drink the varnish.

Tongue? My mother did make tongue. It was in a subtle tomato sauce rather than pickled. All kidding aside it is the most delicate and tender meat I have ever eaten. I know it was no picnic to make but that is one meat that has gotten a bad rap. But over rice is was terrific.

Mexicans eat tongue. I don't know if it is a delicacy but where I am we can get Tacos Lengua fairly commonly. It is good. [-mrl]

Game of the States Puzzle (letters of comment by Steve Milton, Keith F. Lynch, and Jim Susky):

In response to the "Games of the States" puzzle in the 11/15/13 issue of the MT VOID, Steve Milton had sent this succinct solution:

The answer is 100%. The 42nd state is New York. It must be traversed to hit the 6 New England states none of which border 8 other states. [-smm]

Keith Lynch wrote a program to calculate all the paths; the description and results are too long to include here. See [-ecl]

In response to Mark's and Evelyn's comments on "Game of the States" in the 11/22/13 issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:

My method was the same as Evelyn's--to draw a map.

One could try the same thing with nations. I suspect Africa would have the most "holes" for me.

When I play trivia games with the kids, my son is fond of saying "that's easy"--my retort is: "It's easy if you know the answer."

"Figuring out" trivia answers seems to be mostly fruitless--if you don't get the answer quickly most times you never will.

My mother (born 1924) came from an era when BA's and MA's in Education were still required to know something--content was not yet shoved over by teaching "methods" and "theories". She was good at "Arts and Literature" in Trivial Pursuit--better than me, anyway. She got her MA during the Eisenhower administration and kept going because every increment meant a raise. Anyway she taught math and studied chemistry and French as a "post-Master".

Perhaps one reason I can pull 60-odd elements is that I found Mom's CRC something-or-other--thick with onion skin pages--it was about chemistry and had a then up-to-date periodic table (including trans-uranic elements up to 103 give or take). I knew "Rutherfordium" before I knew why Rutherford was famous.

You might surprise yourself with you own element list.

As for movies I remember a 1970s Western which was set in a mining town called (by the locals) Molly Be Damned. [-js]

Evelyn replies:

I tried the "name the elements" challenge and got 63. [-ecl]

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

THINKING IN NUMBERS: ON LIFE, LOVE, MEANING, AND MATH by Daniel Tammet (ISBN 978-0-316-18737-4) is a collection of essays dealing with numbers (though not necessarily mathematics). However, unlike most such books, it is not a book of pre-existing essays, but rather a collection of essays either written expressly for this book, or written and stuck in a drawer until there were enough to make into a book.

One of the essays, "Counting to Four in Icelandic", is in large part about one of my particular fascinations, number classifiers. For example, in English we say "two sheets of paper" or "five pieces of fruit", not "two papers" or "five fruits" (or if we say the latter, it means something else.) This is rare in English, but in some other languages it is pervasive.

Another essay, "A Novelist's Calculus", is of interest to history (and alternate history) fans. For example, he quotes Tolstoy as writing, "The movement of humanity, arising it does from innumerable arbitrary human wills, is continuous. To understand the laws of this continuous movement is the aim of history. ... only by taking infinitesimally small units for observation ... and attaining to the art of integrating them (that is, finding the sum of these infinitesimals) can we hope to arrive at the laws of history."

Later Tolstoy says, "Kings are the slaves of history. The unconscious swarmlike life of mankind uses every moment of a king's life as an instrument for its purposes." This is not even the "Tide of History" theory--it is more a "Random Brownian Motion" theory. No matter all the reasons put forward why Napoleon did what he did (often contradictory). The truth is that by the time Napoleon's commands filtered down, most were of necessity ignored or modified, and the actual outcome less attributable to him than to the cumulative effects of random events. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          You have to be deviant if you're going to do 
          anything new.
                                          --David Lee

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