MT VOID 03/11/16 -- Vol. 34, No. 36, Whole Number 1901

MT VOID 03/11/16 -- Vol. 34, No. 36, Whole Number 1901

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 03/11/16 -- Vol. 34, No. 36, Whole Number 1901

Table of Contents

      Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, mleeper@optonline.net Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, eleeper@optonline.net Back issues at http://leepers.us/mtvoid/back_issues.htm All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to mtvoid-subscribe@yahoogroups.com To unsubscribe, send mail to mtvoid-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com

One Gizmo I Can Do Without (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I was watching the 2006 CASINO ROYALE. James Bond's car has a defibrillator. That is an interesting idea for a doohickey under the right conditions. But what I am wondering is how often it can be useful in the field. You cannot administer it to yourself. How would you react if someone came up to you and said, "Excuse me. I have just swallowed poison and am nearly dying. Are you qualified to use the defibrillator I have installed in my car?" [-mrl]


Comments on Fukushima Daiichi Plus Five (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

On March 12 we pass the fifth anniversary of an influential and future-shaping event. This is the fifth anniversary of the earthquake that did damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant, both directly by shaking the plant and indirectly by causing a record-breaking tsunami. The Japanese people themselves had been traumatized by previous nuclear events. They had been intentionally attacked with two nuclear bombs during World War II. And very radioactive fallout contaminated fish had been sold across the country following the Lucky Dragon incident when a fishing boat strayed too near a site that had recently been used for a nuclear test.

More recently the Japanese people had been easing up on their fears of the dangers of nuclear power when the Fukushima failure happened. More than 500 people were killed by the nuclear failure. That was small compared to the 15,000 people who died that day as a direct or indirect result of the earthquake. But it was a lesson that nuclear systems are complex and that increases the likelihood of what normally would look like a low-probability scenario.

What happened to the Fukushima plant was an unlikely event. It is a little hard to tell the lesson of it being so unlikely. We can tell ourselves that it took an earthquake and a tsunami together to do this much damage. Does it say to us that what happened five years ago would not be likely to happen again? Or is it a warning that low-probability events do and will happen and they can have disastrous consequences. In a lot of ways we were very lucky in some ways when actions were taken to repair the Fukushima failure and that is not a comforting thought. There are few countries in the world as prepared to handle a nuclear incident a Japan is. What if something similar had happened in North Korea? How about Pakistan? Next time--and there will almost certainly be a next time--we could easily not be as lucky.

Lest we feel that we now know the toll of Fukushima, be reminded that Fukushima is still an on-going catastrophe. The damage has not and probably will never be repaired. Those in charge have merely made a truce with disaster. We are still cooling the reactors with water and then disposing of volumes of radioactive contaminated water. Radioactive water used to cool the reactors is still kept in tanks in the plant is still a threat. These tanks will contaminate seawater if dumped in the sea, or will leak into the environment when the tanks get old.

So what might we do to prevent future similar nuclear failures? It would look like this is one place where government regulation would be absolutely an ironclad requirement, but it is not clear that government regulators will see all the problems in the design of anything so dangerous as nuclear power plants. That will lessen the threat, but not eliminate it.

In some senses we are already held captive by the efficiency of nuclear power. It has the problem of its own virtues. We can try going to use of more wind power or more solar power. But it is hard to imagine whole cities getting their power from wind turbines or solar panels. A nuclear power plant is a small, compact energy generator that delivers a wallop of useable energy.

So what is to be done? Nobody can know for sure. We still have not answered the questions raised by the Fukushima Daiichi incident. [-mrl]


A COUNTRY CALLED HOME (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Ellie, an aspiring twenty-six-year-old furniture designer, is asked back to the Texas town where she grew up and where her alcoholic father made her life miserable. Her father has had a serious stroke and this may be her last chance to see him alive. She returns home and finds the town worse than she expected. She befriends an androgynous cowboy singer and we see the town through their eyes and explore unfinished business Ellie had with her father. The story is minor and a little slow to develop, but there are humorous highlights. The film touches on aging, fidelity, and father-daughter relationships. Anna Axter directs a screenplay she co-wrote with Jim Beggarly. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

Neither Ellie (played by Imogen Poots) nor her brother has much use for their alcoholic father. But now he has had a bad stroke and Ellie feels responsible to go back to Texas and see him and, if it becomes necessary, to attend his funeral. Home is a small town in Texas where not too surprisingly nobody particularly liked Ellie's father. Then again there is a definite shortage of likeable people in this town. And most of the people have known Ellie's father, and it was not to their benefit. Many of the characters have quirks that fail to be amusing. Eliie does find a comrade as wounded as herself and builds a relationship on that. Her friend is Reno (Mackenzie Davis), an aspiring singer=songwriter whom most people in town think is male, but it seem a moot point. It does not matter a lot because among either gender his audience seems less willing to applaud than to try to bounce beer bottles off Reno's head. Ellie must decide if she wants possible popularity in the town or a friendship of Reno that would turn people off. It takes her several microseconds her to make that decision.

The pacing of this film is slow, following the model of classic small-town-in-Texas films like THE LAST PICTURE SHOW. People living in Texas seem to be unrushed. The film tries to achieve a bit of Texas soul by having guitar music oppressively push aside the story telling. I hope the funeral was intended to be funny. I would hate to think it was unintentional.

The centerpiece of the film has got to be Imogen Poots who has had supporting roles to this point. I do not believe she has had starring roles before. Poots is something of a surprise. She has attractive eyes that tell very well what she is thinking. Apparently Poots is British but is absolutely believable as a Texas-raised girl.

There is not a lot in the plot that is surprising or even original. There is some wit and there is a not too unrealistic look at strained family relationships. I rate the film a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. A COUNTRY CALLED HOME is currently playing in theaters, VOD and iTunes.

Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3953626/combined

What others are saying: http://tinyurl.com/void-rt-country

[-mrl]


DARK MATTER AND THE DINOSAURS: THE ASTOUNDING INTERCONNECTEDNESS OF THE UNIVERSE by Lisa Randall (book review by Greg Fredrick):

The author presents us with her theory that Dark Matter may interact with itself to form a disk at the mid-plane of our galaxy. Dark Matter also forms a halo around our galaxy. Dark Matter is the seed material which attracts normal matter to it and helps to form a galaxy for example. Our solar system oscillates up and down thru the mid-plane or thickness direction of the Milky Way galaxy disk as it rotates around the galactic center. Dr. Randall believes that the presumed 32 million year period of comet (or meteor) impacts on the Earth could be caused by gravitational effects induced by this Dark Matter disk as our solar system travels thru it. Comet material in the Oort Cloud is loosely held there by our Sun but can be rather easily dislodged by this Dark Matter disk. Then the comet material would be either ejected from our solar system or travel to the inner part of our solar system increasing the chances for an impact on the Earth. Dr. Randall's theory is suggesting that the dinosaurs were wiped out by one such impact. The reader must keep in mind that this theory is still just that an unproven but interesting theory. This is an intriguing book covering a new idea in science. [-gf]


Digital Backlash (letter of comment by Peter Rubinstein):

In response to Peter Trei's comments on digital backlash in the 03/04/16 issue of the MT VOID, Peter Rubinstein writes:

[Peter T. writes,] "It isn't ironic. It's silly, unless they're going to equip thousands of theatres with new 35 mm projectors, and train an army of projectionists."

It's both, isn't it? [-pr]


The Discontents of Travel (letter of comment by Paul Dormer):

In response to Evelyn's comments on the discontents of travel in the 03/04/16 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:

I find these days that I don't so much dislike travelling as dislike preparing to travel. And it's not just flying. Since the channel tunnel opened, I don't think I've flown anywhere in mainland Europe, but I still have exactly the same anxiety when I'm preparing for a long journey. As it happened, despite all that anxiety, when I set off for Archipelacon in Finland last year, I still managed to leave things behind, including a power socket adaptor and my toothpaste.

As it happens, I'm 1.9m tall so I've never fitted that well into aircraft seats. But once I'm on the plane, or on the train, I find most of my anxieties disappear and at that point I start to enjoy travelling. [-pd]

Evelyn responds:

Well, at least the toothpaste you can buy at your destination. Power socket adapters are tougher, because what you can buy in Finland is probably mostly adapters to convert a Finnish plug to a UK one, while what you want is the other way around. The good news is that many (most?) hotels that cater to international travelers will have adapters you can borrow.

See http://leepers.us/mtvoid/2012/VOID0217.htm#adapters for a (mildly) humorous description of trying to buy (and use) adapters in South Africa. (It's more humorous if you are not the person trying to do it.) [-ecl]


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

Well, I finally finished THE BIG BOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES STORIES edited by Otto Penzler (ISBN 978-1-101-87261-1)--789 pages of Sherlock Holmes (and Sherlock Holmes-ish) stories. (The "Sherlock Holmes-ish)" addition is because some of these stories are humorous parodies with Herlock Shomes, Sheerluck Coombs, and so on. I probably enjoyed these at one point, but now I usually just find them irritating and here I just skipped over them.)

Even without these, however, there are more than enough stories included here to keep a Sherlock Holmes fan occupied for a long time. Unfortunately, one of the things keeping one occupied with the trade paperback edition is trying to figure out how to hold it open. At over two pounds, and with over-wide dimensions about seven by nine inches, the softcover edition has a tendency to flop around if held at the spine (as I tend to do), and to just be too heavy to hold even when held at the outer edges. I ended up reading this lying on my stomach in bed with the book lying on the bed.

I also found the page headers (with the current story title) to be done in a typeface that was extremely difficult to read when the book was at the right distance for me to read the text.

These complaints about the physical book aside, though, I have to say that the reader gets a lot of bang for the buck in this volume: 82 stories covering over a hundred years of writing. Some may be familiar to the average reader but most will not. This is highly recommended for Sherlock Holmes fans. [-ecl]


                                          Mark Leeper
                                          mleeper@optonline.net
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