MT VOID 06/18/99 (Vol. 17, Number 51)

MT VOID 06/18/99 (Vol. 17, Number 51)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 06/18/99 -- Vol. 17, No. 51

Table of Contents

Outside events: The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-447-3652 for details.

Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper, 732-817-5619,
Factotum: Evelyn Leeper, 732-332-6218,
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell,
HO Chair Emeritus: John Jetzt,
HO Librarian Emeritus: Nick Sauer,
Back issues at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.


The sequel to BABYLON 5 has begun. CRUSADE runs on TNT Wednesday nights at 10pm EDT and is repeated Monday nights at 11pm EDT. It is too early to tell, but this one may be a disappointment. It looks like a variation on STAR TREK: VOYAGER, but done with J. Michael Straczynski's hard-edged dialog, but using it before he has established the characters just makes it sound melodramatic. "Just so we're clear--once we go this is my command. I'll do whatever's necessary. If that means turning the entire galaxy upside-down and shaking its pockets to see what falls out, that's what I'll do. I'm not subtle, I'm not pretty, and I'll piss off a lot of people along the way. But I'll get the job done." Wow! [-mrl]


A formatting problem last week caused the following sentence in Mark Leeper's article on museums to be truncated:

You would be surprised how many museums and national parks have souvenir shops selling things labeled like .79 cents. It is not 79 cents or $.79, but .79 cents.

In Joe Karpierz's review of DARWINIA last week, the sentence, "Turns out that our Guilford Law is the real Guilford Law" should have read, "Turns out that our Guilford Law is *NOT* the real Guilford Law." [-jk]


They are talking on the radio about a new law REQUIRING a teenager to get permission from a parent to get an abortion. I wanted just to say I think these blanket laws are absurd. I think at least the males should be exempted. What's the point of forcing them to get permission they will never use? [-mrl]


Last week I was discussing the old and not very good dinosaur exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History and how they knowingly spread misinformation about dinosaurs.

Well, finally the dinosaur halls opened again, but getting back to the museum was not my top priority. I finally went back a few weeks ago and several years later. Hey, man, the snit is OVER. If you have not been to a museum since you were a kid, you should realize that the computer has forever changed museums. And is it ever for the better! You have corporations whose job it is to design new exhibits and in the age of the computer, do they ever do a good job! It is a whole new ballgame. You used to see specimens placed there and a few paragraphs about them. Everyone who was interested read the same paragraphs. And if you went to another museum you saw basically the same exhibit, just with different specimens.

Computers these days make what is conceivably thousands of times the amount of information available to the visitor and the visitor can choose what information interests him or her. So if you want to just gawk at the specimens, you can still do that. But if you want to learn something there is a wealth of information at your fingertips. This exhibit has had a marvelously creative idea that I would suspect other museums would want to copy. The whole fourth floor is devoted to vertebrate evolution. The ordering is not by years but by what are called clades. Let me see if I can explain this. You have the whole tree of vertebrate life and every vertebrate is on it someplace. There are branches of the tree. The first major branching is animals with jaws versus ones that did not have them. The next is having four appendages, and so forth. Well they start by showing you specimens of creatures with and without jaws. Then they follow the jaw-line (so to speak) and next show you specimens with jaws but not four legs, versus ones that did not. Evelyn was talking about how useful having four legs were and I agreed, "Oh, yeah. Four legs good." And with each bifurcation the museum explores what evolved on one or on both sub- trees coming out of the bifurcation. Every few feet they have a computer terminal that allows you to see pictures of the animals on both sides of the evolution and, if you want, to give a little lecture on the breakdown. And at the same terminals you can pick "Tour" and have a little movie of a museum guide pointing to the various specimens and telling you why they are interesting. Oh, at one time you probably could rent a tape and get a one-size-fits-all tour. But this had more information and it was about just the subjects that interested you. And it was free to anyone in the gallery.

Most terminals seemed to be working too, which is impressive. You get the kids coming along and they do not care what the terminal is saying about science. They just want to hit a button and see the computer do something. Anything. So they come along and are convinced that the computer has a scheduling algorithm that increases the priority of an action based on how hard the button was pushed. If you drive the button four inches into the base, that will be considered to be a really high-priority button press. A doting father comes along, sees his kid bashing the controls and holding up Evelyn's and my education, and he says how these kids are really smarter than we ever were. I look at the father. I look at the kid. I look at the father. I look at the kid. I suppress the urge to say "Speak for yourself." This kid should be in a computer game arcade and not a science museum, but that is not the museum's fault.

Anyway, since I wrote a previous editorial complaining about the American Museum of Natural History, I felt I should update it and say all is now forgiven. They do have a really good exhibit, if that kid did not destroy it after I left. [-mrl]

                                   Mark Leeper
                                   HO 1K-644 732-817-5619

Quote of the Week:

     To knock a thing down, especially if it is cocked
     at an arrogant angle, is a deep delight of the blood.
                                   -- George Santayana