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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 02/09/18 -- Vol. 36, No. 32, Whole Number 2001
Table of Contents
John W. Campbell's Map (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
The "Straight Dope" bulletin boards have the following posting from a contributor who goes by the nom d'plume Exapno Mapcase:
"Every older f&sf buff knows about Cleve Cartmill's story 'Deadline,' published in the March 1944 Astounding Science Fiction. The details about making an atomic bomb spooked the Office of Censorship, which launched an investigation. Everybody they talked to insisted that the details were thoroughly public and had been for years so no further action was taken.
"Here's the point I can't pin down. Supposedly, Campbell later bragged that he already knew that an atomic project was being conducted because so many of his subscribers had filed a change of address to Los Alamos, NM. And they did read Astounding at Los Alamos: Edward Teller says so.
"But the story has all the earmarks of an urban legend. Nobody at Los Alamos had a mailing address there. Nobody was supposed to even mention the name Los Alamos. They used a mail box number in Santa Fe. Sometimes, therefore, the story changes to includes Oak Ridge, TN, and Hanford, WA, the uranium processing site. Sometimes a detail is added that Campbell had a map of subscribers with pins marking their location. The map was visible when the FBI came to talk to him, even. Since Astounding probably had 100,000 subscribers, this too is beyond belief."
Wiki has this tidbit, but it's unsourced. In fact, it's unsourced everywhere I find it.
I heard this story attributed to John W. Campbell years ago. It is probably just an urban legend. However, something like that has happened in real life. The dots being tracked were not science fiction subscribers but Fitbit users including those at secret military base'.
As CNN reports:
"The US Central Command says it's in the process of refining its privacy policies after it was reported that a fitness tracking app that maps people's exercise habits could pose security risks for security forces around the world.
"Strava, which bills itself as 'the social network for athletes' and allows its users to share their running routes, released a newly updated global heatmap last November. But experts and keen observers have recently realized its potential to reveal location patterns of security forces working out at military bases in remote locations.
"Defense Secretary James Mattis has been made aware of the issue and the DoD is reviewing policy regarding smartphones and wearable devices," Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said on Monday.
"We take these matters seriously and we are reviewing the situation to determine if any additional training or guidance is required, and if any additional policy must be developed to ensure the continued safety of DoD personnel at home and abroad," Manning said."
Campbell probably did not have the data or the data processing capability to make his map and draw his conclusions, but we live in a very different world technologically. Data crunching has become much cheaper and more powerful, but a lot less private. The ground rules have changed. What was really hard for a few people 75 years ago is now easy for private citizens to do. It is a new ballgame out there. And some of the "bad guys" are very smart and very tech-powerful. That is a very scary thought. The battle may no long be to the side with the biggest guns.
ENTANGLEMENT (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: This is a pleasant but forgettable relationship film suggested by (inaccurately applied) laws of physics. Ben is a poor, woebegone soul who finds a woman who is his exact opposite and somehow the two are forever connected. Ben's life can find its center only if he finds this theoretical woman. Scripter Jason Filiatrault has an ear for clever, amusing dialog. And director Jason James does well at getting pleasant performances from his actors, but the film gets its biggest contribution from the little pieces of scientific fantasy that creep in at the edges of the story. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. It always gets my goat when someone says that if you look at an object you automatically change it. To justify that conclusion they say it is because of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. One can see stars that have gone out of existence centuries ago. But that interpretation is popular pseudoscience. ENTANGLEMENT is a pleasant comedy-drama about two people who are entangled in the same way that quantum particles can be forever entangled.
After a marriage that imploded, Ben Layten (played by Thomas Middleditch) is so disturbed that he cannot find a reason for his life that he simply wants to end it all. The only support he gets is cute but sarcastic talk from his cute, but sarcastic neighbor Tabby (Diana Bang). He tries multiple ways to commit suicide, but is unable to succeed. Then he discovers that his "almost-sister,"- -the baby his parents would have adopted had his mother not gotten pregnant with him--is still living nearby. He and his almost- sister, Hanna (Jess Weixler), are entangled like quantum particles. Each takes a pop-Science interpretation of his/her life. Ben has mapped his world-line on his living room wall, tracking where he changed universes by making some major decision. Hanna feels the same connection, forever bound to Ben. Hanna and Ben open their hearts to each other and form a platonic but science-based friendship. Hanna is in all ways Ben's opposite, a free soul who criminally cheats in life, picks locks, and steals wallets in a way that is almost endearing. On the other hand the well-meaning neighbor Tabby helps Ben get by honestly and may well seem like a better choice for Ben. She certainly thinks she would be.
Middleditch plays his part as if in the hazy half-sleep that has taken over and runs his life. He constantly looks like he is half asleep. Weixler contrasts his performance with a quick sharpness. Her Hanna lives by aphorisms like "everything happens for a reason," frequently science-based. The audience might be s step ahead of the script in expecting what is coming.
This is a pleasant little comedy-drama with maybe a little cosmic feeling, about as much as The Big Bang theory has. I rate ENTNGLEMENT a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. Don't expect the science to be at all accurate.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3534294/reference
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/entanglement_2018
Immortal Naked Mole Rats!!! (comments by Dale Skran):
I have a great idea of an SF story. A secretive corporation named "Calico" hires a Dr. Bufferstein and sets her up with a laboratory housing 3,000 naked mole rates. These rather ugly little critters you may have seen at a zoo are natives of the Horn of Africa and Kenya, so until recently little was known about them. Dr. Bufferstein is a refugee from the violent African nation of Zimbabwe, and has devoted her life to the study of these odd little buggers.
After working with the rats for 15 years, she started to notice something quite odd about them--they weren't dying. Well, they do die, but not faster and faster as they get older like we do. They die at the same rate no matter how old they are. These are pretty weird animals after all--there is one fertile female per colony, for example, they can live 18 minutes without oxygen, and they rarely get cancer. But the not dying part is really weird. And unlike Hydras they don't achieve immortality by aging in reverse.
Anyway, in my story Calico is dedicated to discovering the secret of immortality and funded by some of the richest people in the world, so they provide Dr. Bufferstein with all the funding she needs so she can just work and never has to fill out any grant applications. By the way, this is so unlikely you can be sure the story is made up, since as everyone knows, scientists spend 75% of their time filling out grant applications.
I haven't figured out where this story goes. Does the good doctor figure out the secret of aging, only to have Jeff Bezos steal it and become ruler of the world? Or do we all become immortal, and the population expands until mass warfare over resources destroys the Earth? Or does Elon Musk settle Mars and lead the way as an immortal human race colonizes first the solar system, and then the galaxy?
In any case, I have good news. You, yes, YOU, can figure out for yourself how this story is going to end, because [SPOILER ALERT] every fact I have mentioned except one (scientists don't spend 75% of their time filling out grant applications, they just FEEL LIKE THEY DO!) is 100% true.
Naked mole rats just more or less don't age. They aren't true immortals, but they are different than you or I. And that is very interesting indeed. And Calico is owned by Alphabet, which used to be called Google. You may have heard of them. Welcome to the 21st century! Stay tuned. [-dls]
THE MT VOID Issue 2000 (letters of comment by Jay Carter, Sam Long, and others):
Mike Glyer featured THE MT VOID's 2000th issue (02/02/18) in "File 770" at:
with comments by Mike Glyer and Bill Higgins, and letters of comment by Kip Williams, Gregory Benford, and others. THE MT VOID's appearance in rec.arts.sf.fandom also got congratulations from people, including Peter Trei.
Mark also had a comment there as well: "If you are going to start a fanzine one thing you should have that we did not have is an exit strategy." [-mrl]
Jay Carter writes:
Just want to say, Congratulations on 2000 issues. Not sure what my first issue was, but I started my subscription when AT&T acquired NCR back in 1991. Here's hoping you have a few issues left in you (at least 1000). [-jc]
Sam Long writes:
Two thousand! That's quite something. Keep 'em coming: I enjoy every ish.
Ah, wait: The Muse has whispered in my ear:
One fannish pleasure unalloyed
Is reading Leepers' M T VOID.
Mashed Potatoes (letters of comment by Jim Susky, Kevin R, and Keith F. Lynch):
In response to Mark's comments on mashed potatoes in the 02/02/18 issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:
Today I read your 1999 epistle on mashed potatoes (reprinted 2/2/2018).
I will reserve comment on mashed potatoes made of any but whole potatoes--peeled and not (more below on that "issue")
That said, I will admit that I've enjoyed the pot roast at Denny's (where our Toastmasters Club meets) which comes with mashed potatoes and gravy--both of which may well come out of a bag before they're reconstituted.
I definitely enjoy the mashed potatoes, which comes with chicken- fried steak at a local steak joint, made from beef tenderloin and served on Fridays as a "special". Interesting that the Denny's pot roast and the Friday Special are both 13 bucks.
My mother made "smooth" mashed potatoes--with butter, milk, and a little salt. We too had a "potato masher"--actually two. One type was a round piece of steel with square holes punched in it and a yoke/handle. The other consisted of a thick tube bent into several "ess" shapes terminated on a yoke/handle.
Given that my father, while still alive, was an avid garden hobbyist, who maintained one acre each of strawberries and potatoes, we had no lack of practice.
According to mom, one didn't mash "new potatoes"--harvested small months before 'first frost'--which came (still comes) in September in Anchorage. "New" spuds were boiled and served whole or halved with salt and sometimes a little dill.
I never imagined any other way until I married and the wife declared smooth (mature) mashed spuds to be "gluey". You may call me anything you want so long as you don't call me "late for dinner", so this declaration caused no marital controversy.
(I suppose one may achieve smooth and stop before you get "glue".)
(this reminds me a bit of the instructions on a Krusteaz bag of pancake mix--"do not overmix")
Lumps or not, mashed potatoes is always a big hit around these parts. And we now use half-and-half which seems to make the mash mo' betta.
Finally, I'm reminded of a scene on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
The gang was at dinner, accompanied by Ted Baxter's girlfriend Georgette, who commented on how nice and smooth the home-cooked mashed potatoes were.
Punchline was that you first had to peel them to get them like that. [-js]
Kevin R writes:
Congratulations on your bimillenial ish!
The subject of mashed potato is near and dear to my heart. My mother made them often. (Well, we are an Irish-American family,) and, while, as a working woman she did resort to a mix from time to time, her "made from scratch" version was always appreciated, as are my sister's, when I visit her for holiday dinners.
I have learned to make my own. It is the only defense against the sub-standard product. I acquired a potato masher, and learned to wield it.
Some rice their potatoes in furtherance of smoothness. I haven't gone that far. I start with boiled potatoes. Yukon Golds seem to make for the best mash, but Eastern 'taters from Maine, Quebec or other parts of the Northeast are fine. I grew up on Long Island potatoes, but so few of those fields are farms any longer, or have been converted to growing vinifera grapes or something else more profitable that they are hard to find. Some are being used to make artisanal/craft vodka!
Ricing isn't a choice if you leave the skins on before mashing, and make what are known as "dirty mashed potatoes." Those prove their authenticity by having bits of peel in them, while the masher tries to make the spuds without lumps. I usually use the masher, add my dairy products: butter and milk, but sometimes I substitute some light sour cream for the milk. If one is out of milk, the sour cream can totally replace it.
"It isn't really possible to get light and airy mashed potatoes with a masher, but you can achieve a silky texture. To do this, you will have to be methodical while using a potato masher. You need to master a simultaneous motion of pressing and twisting while you make sure you are mashing all around the edges of the pot, not missing any areas. Be sure your potatoes are fully cooked and, if need be, add a bit of liquid to move along the process." [- https://tinyurl.com/void-riced-potatoes]
I will usually whip my mashed potatoes with a whisk after they have been mashed, to make them smooth. They should be stiff enough that placing a scoop of them on the plate, one should be able to depress the top with a spoon, and ladle gravy into the "bowl of the volcano," without the "lava" escaping onto the hillside, until it is disturbed by a fork.
I am trying to avoid eating too much processed food. I'm no "health food nut." I eat meat and don't worry about GMO crops. I do worry about too much sodium and try to keep my fat level down. I find that home made mashed potatoes, with restraint used in adding dairy and salt are a treat, with fiber (my skin-on version especially) and nutrients like Vitamin C and potassium. I avoid frying them, but roasting them with carrots in the pan underneath my poultry rack when making chicken or other fowl is a go-to, also.
On lazier days, wrapping a baking pratie in plastic wrap and steaming it in the microwave does the trick.
If you're roasting them, try lemon potatoes: Cut a pound of potatoes into wedges; toss with 2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp oregano, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Spread the wedges in a 8x8x2-inch deep pan. Pour 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth over the potatoes and roast at 400 degrees for an hour. [-ecl]
Keith F. Lynch writes:
I've never understood why anyone, except perhaps people without teeth, prefers their food mashed. If I want a potato, I'll eat a potato. [-kfl]
My guess is that children start out eating mashed potatoes and it becomes comfort food, so that even after they are grown, they like them. (Most people who eat potatoes mashed also eat them baked or fried.) I serve mashed potatoes with things that have a gravy or sauce that they can sop up. [-ecl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
THE GREAT DETECTIVE: THE AMAZING RISE AND IMMORTAL LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by Zach Dundas (ISBN 978-0-544-21404-0) is a contrast to FROM HOLMES TO SHERLOCK (by Mattias Bostrom, reviewed in the 12/08/17 issue of the MT VOID). The latter covers the history of Sherlock Holmes, while the former concentrates more on Dundas's experience relating to Sherlock Holmes. Among other things, we find out that Dundas and Bostrom became friends at an early age as Sherlockian pen pals. It is not as scholarly as Bostom's book, but certainly enjoyable in its own right.
THE HOUSE OF UNEXPECTED SISTERS by Alexander McCall Smith (ISBN 978-1-101-87137-9) is the 18th book in the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" ("N1LDA") series. While it is okay, the series is definitely getting weaker and more repetitive.
For example, McCall Smith writes, "Anybody in any employment in Botswana was expected to engage somebody to help in the house. There was nothing extravagant about this; it was, in fact, a form of sharing: if you had a job, you had money, and money needed to be spread around. The people who helped in the house were often paid a pittance and expected to work long hours, but they were desperate for any job and were pleased to take on what came their way." But McCall Smith is quick to add that Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi do not take advantage of people this way, and always pay them a decent wage and treat them well.
This is a reasonable philosophy, but McCall Smith wrote about it back in book two or three of the "N1LDA" series. In short, he is starting to repeat himself even more than with his long descriptions of the landscape, Mma Ramotswe's reminiscences of her father, Mma Makutsi's 97%, and Violet Sephotho. Really, I am so sick of Violet Sephotho always being the villain. In the first few books in the "N1LDA" series, Mma Ramotswe solved important mysteries, even crimes. Now, she is reduced to figuring out why someone fired a sales clerk, and resolving some personal issues of her own.
It's true that Agatha Christie was very repetitive in her works, and even Conan Doyle used a lot of the same ideas in "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty", "The Adventure of the Second Stain", and "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet". But somehow I am finding it less appealing in the "N1LDA" series. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: He directed rehearsals with all the airy deftness of a rheumatic deacon producing Macbeth for a church social. --Noel Coward (of J. R. Crawford, attrib.)Tweet
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