Friday, June 29, 2007

Big Bang

"You have one hundred and forty kilos of antimatter sitting around on my planet????"

"I thought it would come in handy,'" the doctor said lamely.

(General Horner and Dr. Castanuelo, in Hell's Faire by John Ringo)

Found this at this site.

Title: E. E.
Lyric: Duane Elms, © 08/03/83
Tune: Henry, © New Riders of the Purple Sage

There was a man we all grew up with, each in our own way.
E.E. Smith wrote stories where the hero saved the day.
Space opera was a fantasy that we all understood,
And E.E. wrote the lines the way that only E.E. could.

And there were blinding flashes everywhere and deafening reports,
Coruscating energies and glib macho retorts.
Planets smashing planets and an antimatter sphere,
With Lensmen on the warpath, bad guys tend to disappear.

Old E.E. wrote of Spacehounds and of brawny men and bold,
Of monumental intellects and fearsome biting cold,
Of Evil that for evil's sake pursued a deadly plan,
Until the good guys caught them and wiped out the entire clan.

And there were tractor beams and pressor beams and adamantine shields,
And rays of all description and gigantic battlefields.
Fleets of ships so big you couldn't fit them in a sky,
And monsters everywhere with whom we don't see eye to eye.

Well QX friends, old Doc is in that happy hunting ground,
With all his friends and heroes out there Skylarking around.
The Kinnisons and Seatons sit and talk about old times,
And swap tales of adventure with the old Galaxy Primes.

And there are galaxies colliding, but we're firing on all jets.
It looks like we're outnumbered here, and no one's taking bets.
Titanic rods of force flare out against hard driven screens,
The galaxy was just to small for Doc's colossal schemes.
On Reading (An Ongoing Series)

No man—no human, masculine, natural man—ever sells a book. Men have been known in moments of thoughtlessness, or compelled by temporary necessity, to rob, to equivocate, to do murder, to commit what they should not, to "wince and relent and refrain" from what they should: these things, howbeit regrettable, are common to humanity, and may happen to any of us. But amateur bookselling is foul and unnatural; and it is noteworthy that our language, so capable of particularity, contains no distinctive name for the crime. Fortunately it is hardly known to exist: the face of the public being set against it as a flint—and the trade giving such wretched prices.

Kenneth Grahame, "Non Libri Sed Liberi", Pagan Papers (essays)
Hope Eyrie (Leslie Fish)

Worlds grow old and suns grow cold
And death we never can doubt.
Time's cold wind, wailing down the past,
Reminds us that all flesh is grass
And history's lamps blow out.


But the Eagle has landed; tell your children when.
Time won't drive us down to dust again.

Cycles turn while the far stars burn,
And people and planets age.
Life's crown passes to younger lands,
Time sweeps the dust of hope from her hands
And turns another page.


But we who feel the weight of the wheel
When winter falls over our world
Can hope for tomorrow and raise our eyes
To a silver moon in the open skies
and a single flag unfurled.

CHORUS For the...

We know well what Life can tell:
If you would not perish, then grow.
And today our fragile flesh and steel
Has laid our hands on a vaster wheel
With all of the stars to know.

CHORUS That the...

From all who tried out of history's tide,
A salute to the team that won.
And the old Earth smiles at her children's reach,
The wave that carried us up the beach
To reach for the shining sun.

CHORUS And the...
The Quest for Iscandar

We're off to outer space
We're leaving Mother Earth
To save the human race
Our Star Blazers

Searching for a distant star
Heading off to Iscandar
Leaving all we love behind
Who knows what danger we'll find?

We must be strong and brave
Our home we've got to save
If we don't in just one year
Mother Earth will disappear

Fighting with the Gamilons
We won't stop until we've won
Then we'll return and when we arrive
The Earth will survive
With our Star Blazers

We're off in outer space
Protecting Mother Earth
To save the human race
Our Star Blazers

Danger lurking everywhere
But we know we've got to dare
Evil men with evil schemes
They can't destroy all our dreams

We must be strong and brave
Our home we've got to save
We must make the fighting cease
So Mother Earth will be at peace

Through all the fire and the smoke
We will never give up hope
If we can win the Earth will survive
We'll keep peace alive
With our Star Blazers
Barrayar Jokes

I've lost the attribution to this one sorry...

How many Betans does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

(all together now) "They don't screw in lightbulbs! They screw in the Orb!"


You know you've read too much Bujold when…

...and your pain meds aren't working as they're supposed to when you lie awake at night and horrible Quaddie jokes float in your mind... like the one that Quaddies are the only people who'll never vote with their feet...


You mean like the one that goes:

"A young Dendarii man came home all excited and told his Pa about the girl he had just met and was planning to marry. How beutiful and intelligent and sweet she was. 'And, best of all, Pa, she's a virgin.'

Pa is quiet a minute and then says, 'Well, son, if her own family won't have nothin' to do with her, you might want to reconsider..."


Remember, you can take all the "hillbilly" jokes and turn them into Dendarii jokes. You saw the one in Memory "What do you call a hill girl who can outrun her brothers? A virgin." So it's not like we have to completely start from scratch. There was also "You can't count to 12 without taking off your shoes" was also there.


What do you call a Barrayaran headed for the backcountry with a load of sheep?

A matchmaker.


There were three Komarrans caught in a broken lift tube for several hours. When they came out, they were all smiling and happy and said "We've made a fortune today!" They had traded the shares in their pockets among themselves.


Jacksonian and his family were taking a ride over Dendarii gorge, and the father got so nervous he fussed incessantly. At last his Barrayaran pilot said "If you don't say a word the rest of the flight, I'll refund your fare." When they landed, the Jacksonian wiped his forehead and said "It was hard not to speak when my wife fell out of the aircar."


Barrayaran children's chant.
"Ceta slave, you're just an it.
Ceta, Eta, load of ****."


How did the Grand Canyon on Earth occur?
A Jacksonian dropped a penny down a gopher hole.


How do you drive a Barrayaran crazy?
Put him in a round room and tell him there's a bottle of hooch in the corner.


How do you drive a Betan crazy?
You mean you need to bother?


(Barrayaran) What do you call five thousand Cetagandan ghem crucified by the side of the road?
Emperor Ezar's Highway Beautification project.


Why do the Barrayaran Secret Police go around in threes?
One to read, one to write, and the other to keep an eye on those dangerous intellectuals.


How do you know that the "Harry Potter" books did not take place on Barrayar?
They all can read and write and Hermione's a virgin.


Why don't Barrayarans go to hell?
Satan says they smell too bad.


Why don't Betans go to hell?
They do—they just think it's the surface of their homeworld.


Why don't Komarrans go to hell?
Satan got swindled on shares once too often, so they're barred.


Why don't Cetagandan ghem and haut go to hell?
They do-—they just have their own, special, exclusive hell, where the punishment is to spend eternity mingling with common people.


Why don't the Dendarii go to hell?
They do...they just keep doing daring escapes.


How do you know Blackadder's not a Barrayaran?
He's too nice to Baldrick.


How do you know Blackadder's not a Cetagandan?
No Cetagandan would do an "uplift-from-turnip" as bad as Baldrick turned out.


How do you know Blackadder's not a Jacksonian?
He'd have traded Baldrick in on something more useful, like a sump pump.


Why did the Barrayarrans send dozens of shiploads of sheep home from Escobar?
War brides for the troops...


What have you got when you have a hundred ghem buried up to their necks in
A need for more sh*t.


Q: How does a Dendarii hillman tell he's caught himself a mutant?
A: The mutant can count to 12 without taking off his shoes.


Q: How many Barryarans does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None, their whole planet glows in the dark.


Lightbulb jokes...As in "How many xxx does it take to screw in a..."

The Barrayaran doesn't need to, because he glows in the dark. The Betans
can't figure out whether to screw the bulb, the socket, or both at once.
And it takes fifty thousand Komarrans and bankrupts their planet, because
their lightbulb socket is in orbit.


And the Cetegandans only need one person to actually screw in the
lightbulb. But the ceremony requires four ghem-electritians and takes
over a week to do properly.


How many Quaddies does it take to change a light bulb?
Not only does it take just one quaddie, he or she can change two at once!

But only in a zero-g environment. Otherwise, two additional people are
needed to lift him up the ladder.


And the Jacksonians only need one person but he doesn't replace light
bulbs unless paid in advance.

Alternate by borrowing:
Jacksonians don't change light bulbs, they change the standard to dark.


Other alternate Jacksonian punchlines:
"Twelve. You got a problem with that?"
"One, but it'll cost ya!"

And another alternate for the Betans:
"Depends on how many you can fit in there!


Another Betan: "one but only if the vote to replace passes"

For Komarr, "one but only if the shareholders have approved it"

For Barrayar, "one but only after his superior orders it"
or (for those with a real anti-Barrayar mindset) "Two, one to replace
the bulb, one to execute the previous bulb"


Addition to previous Betan:

But the lightbulb has to WANT to change and there's all sorts of
therapy too...


Don't worry, by the time the lightbulb gets through Betan therapy, it
will have wanted to change.

Common Sense

"You wouldn't feel at home in anything that didn't have a navigational system and a lot of nasty firepower, Ilia."

"'Sounds like a reasonable definition of common sense to me."

Alastair Reynolds, Revelation Space
Family Matters

"You see, some people have an evil twin. I am not so lucky. What I have is an idiot twin."

Miles Vorkosogian (as written by Lois McMaster Bujold)
Big Bang

"You have one hundred and forty kilos of antimatter sitting around on my planet????"

"I thought it would come in handy,'" the doctor said lamely.

(General Horner and Dr. Castanuelo, in Hell's Faire by John Ringo)
Blade Runner

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe...attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion...I watched C-beams glittering in the dark at Tannhauser Gate...All those moments will be rain. Time to die."

"Roy Batty", Replicant (Rutger Hauer), Blade Runner

About ten minutes into Blade Runner, I reeled out of the theater in complete despair over its visual brilliance and its similarity to the "look" of Neuromancer, my [then] largely unwritten first novel. Not only had I been beaten to the semiotic punch, but this damned movie looked better than the images in my head! With time, as I got over that, I started to take a certain delight in the way the film began to affect the way the world looked. Club fashions, at first, then rock videos, finally even architecture. Amazing! A science fiction movie affecting reality! Years later, I was having lunch with Ridley, and when the conversation turned to inspiration, we were both very clear about our debt to the Metal Hurlant [the original Heavy Metal magazine] school of the '70s—Moebius and the others. But it was also obvious that Scott understood the importance of information density to perceptual overload. When Blade Runner works best, it induces a lyrical sort of information sickness, that quintessentially postmodern cocktail of ecstasy and dread. It was cyberpunk was supposed to be all about.

William Gibson, Details magazine interview, 1992.
Television Review

"I'd see a comment like, 'This show is more inteligent than most,' and my first reaction would be, 'This viewer's a genius,' and my second reaction would be, 'Wouldn't a genius spell intelligent correctly?"

(Neil Scovell)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

One Person's Opinion

Got this in the mail. The message header says that it was transmitted on Thursday, January 1, 1970 (retroactive internet?). I thought you all would be interested.

Spelling, punctation, etc., as it was in the original.

Martian Balogny and wasted MONEY

Why do we persist in EXPLORING a DEAD Planet who's entire civilization MOVED to Earth about 25000 years ago after Nemisis moved OUT of the Earth's vicinity and BACK to Aphelion FAR beyond the 10th or 11th planet! We spent, unknown to the Majority, right at 30 years ON MARS ( Program Alternative Three) with the participation of 6 Nations and a MURDEROUS SHAMEFUL situation with many hundreds of young SLAVES that were KIDNAPPED and taken to the "RESORT" on the Moon ( just beyond the visible rim) where they were neutered and Brain Washed before the final trip to MARS aboard the G.E/Avro Saucers ( 3 each) that traveled a tad over 900,000 mph. The "colony" fally became independent and shot down surveilance Satellites sent to find out what was Going on. Eventually in 1991 they refurbed PHOBOS, an OLD SPace ship similar to our OWN Moon, and doubt with the help of the Galactic Fed'n who've been IN our skies since 1884. The CRIMES committed by the 6 participants in this charade will probably never come to light but the Fed'n are aware in SPADES.

(Another story). Early July in 2011 will see a MAJOR "Turning Point" and many who are now "tagged" will be removed from this Planet! Oddly enough they are recognizeable by certain "implants" known to those who have payed attention! MARS holds NOTHING of value except possible Mineral Deposits, but MINING them is many years away if at all?? I see it as a waste of MONEY and time. MARS is essentially a DEAD ISSUE! B-0b1
There is no lie more lewd
than truth misconstrued. -- B-0b1

Hoookaaaayyy then!
The Avengers

"The Avengers is about a man in a bowler hat and a woman who flings men over her shoulder."

(Patrick Macnee, on his hit television show)
Star Wars!

"...Attack of the Clones is an intelligent, well-considered, complex, and artful piece of work that keeps being mysteriously interrupted by actual human actors wandering into the screen and speaking terrible lines of dialogue."

(Patricia Nielsen Hayden)
Lone Gunmen

Frohike: "It's gibberish!"

Byers: "No, it's Linux."

(The Lone Gunmen, in the episode Planet of the Frohikes)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Between Darkness and Light

"Who am I? I am Susan Ivanova, Commander. Daughter of Andre and Sophie Ivanova. I am the Right Hand of Vengence and the boot that is going to kick your sorry ass all the way back to Earth, sweetheart. I am Death Incarnate, and the last living thing you are ever going to see. God sent me."

(Babylon 5)
Speed Kills

Amphetamines, however, can definitely facilitate macrame."

(William Gibson)

"You fertility deities are worse than Marxists," he said. "You think that's all that goes on between people."

(Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light, 1971.)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

On Reading (An Ongoing Series)

"Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired (by passionate devotion to them) produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can peradventure read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity...we cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access, reassurance."

(A.E. Newton)

"He had been given patience, a weapon against which even the Klingons had no defense."

(John M. Ford, The Final Reflection)
Waking Dream

"He thinks he's awake, it's a common delusion."

("Jame" in P.C. Hodgell's fantasy novel Godstalk)
On Reading (An Ongoing Series)

"I am not exaggerating when I say that to a true collector the acquisition
of an old book is a rebirth."

(Walter Benjamin, 1892-1940, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections)
Home Remedies

1. If you are choking on an ice cube, don't panic. Simply pour a cup of boiling water down your throat and presto. The blockage will be almost instantly removed.

2. Clumsy? Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

3. Avoid arguments with the women in your life about lifting the toilet seat by simply using the sink.

4. For high blood pressure sufferers: simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure in your veins. Remember to use a timer.

5. A mouse trap, placed on top of your alarm clock, will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep after you hit the snooze button.

6. If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives, then you will be afraid to cough.

7. Have a bad toothache? Smash your thumb with a hammer and you will forget about the toothache.

Sometimes, we just need to remember what the rules of life really are:

You only need two tools: WD-40 and Duct Tape.

If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40.

If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.


Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.

Never pass up an opportunity to go to the bathroom.

If you woke up breathing, congratulations! You get another chance.

And finally, be really nice to your family and friends; you never know when you might need them to empty your bedpan.

The Original Monty Python SPAM Skit

From the second series of "Monty Python's Flying Circus"

Transcribed 9/17/87 from "Monty Python's Previous Record" by Jonathan Partington

Scene: A cafe. One table is occupied by a group of Vikings with horned helmets on. A man and his wife enter.

Man (Eric Idle): You sit here, dear.

Wife (Graham Chapman in drag): All right.

Man (to Waitress): Morning!

Waitress (Terry Jones, in drag as a bit of a rat-bag): Morning!

Man: Well, what've you got?

Waitress: Well, there's egg and bacon; egg sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg bacon sausage and spam; spam bacon sausage and spam; spam egg spam spam bacon and spam; spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam;

Vikings (starting to chant): Spam spam spam spam...

Waitress: ...spam spam spam egg and spam; spam spam spam spam spam spam baked beans spam spam spam...

Vikings (singing): Spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam!

Waitress: ...or Lobster Thermidor a Crevette with a mornay sauce served in a Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and spam.

Wife: Have you got anything without spam?

Waitress: Well, there's spam egg sausage and spam, that's not got much spam in it.

Wife: I don't want ANY spam!

Man: Why can't she have egg bacon spam and sausage?

Wife: THAT'S got spam in it!

Man: Hasn't got as much spam in it as spam egg sausage and spam, has it?

Vikings: Spam spam spam spam (crescendo through next few lines)

Wife: Could you do the egg bacon spam and sausage without the spam then?

Waitress: Eewwww!

Wife: What do you mean 'Eewwww'? I don't like spam!

Vikings: Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!

Waitress: Shut up!

Vikings: Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!

Waitress: Shut up! (Vikings stop) Bloody Vikings! You can't have egg bacon spam and sausage without the spam.

Wife (shrieks): I don't like spam!

Man: Sshh, dear, don't cause a fuss. I'll have your spam. I love it. I'm having spam spam spam spam spam spam spam baked beans spam spam spam and spam!

Vikings (singing): Spam spam spam spam. Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!

Waitress: Shut up!! Baked beans are off.

Man: Well could I have her spam instead of the baked beans then?

Waitress: You mean spam spam spam spam spam spam... (but it is too late and the Vikings drown her words)

Vikings (singing elaborately): Spam spam spam spam. Lovely spam! Wonderful spam! Spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam. Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Spam spam spam spam!
Shepherd Book and the Good Word

Zoe: "Isn't the Bible kinda specific about killin'?"

Book: "Yes, but it is somewhat fuzzy in the area of kneecaps."

Those Orbiting Mind-Control Lasers...

...can now pinpoint you a bit better, these days...
Corporate Horses

Your financers buy you a horse.

You learn how to ride a horse and train the horse and breed it's offspring to take you to interesting places.

After a great trip on the third generation horse, your financers cut the travel budget and tell you to get into the trucking business so...

You kill the horse off and get an elephant. The security department keeps talking about how the elephant needs to be able to not only go forward but also go sideways quite a bit, so you cross-breed it with a crab.

You work the elephant to death and you can't convince the finance guys to fund more than a subsistence diet.

A new CEO comes in and says "we need to start going to interesting places again, and by the way, the finance guys are going to cut your budget.

Your animal handlers tell you that you better start trying to clone a horse. Meanwhile the elephant keeps taking more and more frequent sick days.

(Author unknown.)
Space Cows


You have one cow.
The cow just runs around in circles in the field.
You miss your old cow.
You can't rely on any other farmers (because farming is just too hard).
You retire your cow, dig up your old cows bones and wrap it in new leather

Alt Space

You have fifty cow designs.
Any one of your cows would put out 50 times the milk of government cows!
If only you had money...

(Apologies to Space Pragmatisim's Dan Schrimpsher who wrote it first. And with apologies to Jon Goff at Selenian Boondocks, which is where it appears I got it first. And I was reminded of the second, because Mark Whittington at Curmudgeon's Corner jostled my memory cells a bit.)
Career Choices

Ratz: "Now, some night, you get maybe too artistic, you wind up in the clinic tanks, spare parts."

(William Gibson, Neuromancer, 1984)

It is by caffeine alone that I set my mind in motion.

It is by the beans of Java that my thoughts acquire speed.

My hands begin to shake. The shakes are a warning.

It is by caffeine alone that I set my mind in motion.

(Author lost, alas!)
Decisions, Decisions

"Your act was unwise," I exclaimed "as you see by the outcome."

He solemnly eyed me.

"When choosing the course of my action," said he, "I had not the outcome to guide me."

(Ambrose Bierce)
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Or, at least, one-tenth of the cabin trunks were full of vivid and often painful and uncomfortable memories of her past life; the other nine-tenths were full of penguins, which suprised her. Insofar as she recognized at all that she was dreaming, she realized she must be exploring her own subconscious mind. She had heard it said that humans are supposed to use only about a tenth of their brains, and that no one was very clear what the other nine tenths were for, but she certainly never heard it suggested that they were used for storing penguins.

(Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul)

In later years it is stifled and gagged—buried deep, a green turf at the head of it, and on its heart a stone; but it lives, it breathes, it lurks, it will up and out when 'tis looked for least. That stockbroker, some brief summers gone, who was missed from his wonted place one settling-day! a goodly portly man, i' faith: and had a villa and a steam launch at Surbiton: and was versed in the esoteric humours of the House. Who could have thought that the Hunter lay hid in him? Yet, after many weeks, they found him in a wild nook of Hampshire. Ragged, sun-burnt, the nocturnal haystack calling aloud from his frayed and weather-stained duds, his trousers tucked, he was tickling trout with godless native urchins; and when they would have won him to himself with honied whispers of American Rails, he answered but with babble of green fields. He is back in his wonted corner now: quite cured, apparently, and tractable. And yet—let the sun shine too wantonly in Throgmorton Street, let an errant zephyr, quick with the warm South, fan but his cheek too wooingly on his way to the station; and will he not once more snap his chain and away? Ay, truly: and next time he will not be caught.

(Kenneth Grahame, "Orion", Pagan Papers)

"It has spaceships, a bank heist, Interplanetary cannibal zombies, geishas, ruthless government operatives, and a hot psychic kung fu fighting chick, how could you possibly have been bored!"

(A fan's reaction to a non-fan's dislike of Serenity.)

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain't comin' back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can't take the sky from me
There's no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can't take the sky from me...

(Main Title Theme for Firefly, written by Joss Whedon, performed by Sonny Rhodes)
On Reading (An Ongoing Series)

I was by no means the only reader of books on board the Neversink. Several other sailors were diligent readers, though their studies did not lie in the way of belles-lettres. Their favourite authors were such as you may find at the book-stalls around Fulton Market; they were slightly physiological in their nature.

(White Jacket, Herman Melville)

Doctors don't seem to realize that most of us are perfectly content not having to visualize ourselves as animated bags of skin filled with obscene glop.

(Joe Haldeman, The Forever War)
Suspension of Disbelief

Seen on a mailing list I'm on...

Ken Burnside:

Agreed 100% on the Whiney Doomed Angstman aspect.

The other thing that boggled my mind when reading it was that the enemy ships (which were presented as Overwhelming and Unbeatable) were spacegoing fish that spat acid.

Which utterly and completely blew my suspension of disbelief out the airlock.

Rick Robinson:

Only out the airlock? Mine would fly off at relativistic velocities. Does suspension of disbelief have a mass? If so, there's the ultimate operatic space drive for you. :)


If you have a cricket ball in each hand, what have you got?

Total control over a very large cricket.

(Author lost in the mists of time, alas.)
Don't Know Much About...Education

"It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulations, stands mainly in need of freedom."

(Albert Einstein)
The Music of Humor

"A band, like a golf course, is only as good as its weakest link."

--Peter Schickele, "PDQ Bach: Music for an Awful Lot of Winds & Percussion" [featuring the Turtle Mountain Naval Base Tactical Wind Ensemble]
Mostly Harmless

"Anything that happens, happens. Anything that, in happening, causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen. Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen again, happens again. It doesn't necessarily do it in chronological order, though."

—Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless
The Final Frontier

"The author regrets that he is unable to reconcile himself to the thoughtful point of view you have expressed. However, it must be kept in mind that being raised in different cultures and different places can result in such differences of viewpoint between individuals. The author is from planet Earth."

—Author Unknown
Easy Travel to Other Planets (An Ongoing Series)

Can we travel to other planets? Will the expense (or the transit times or the awful aching black) overwhelm us? Charles Stross considers the concept of interplanetary and interstellar travel and colonization.

This has (naturally!) generated a lot of talk among fans of space travel, science fiction, etc. Here's an excellent entry from Centauri Dreams, Paul Glister's site. Check out his book!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


"I've worked in the private sector before; they expect results!"

(Dr. Ray Stantz, Ghostbusters)
The Romance of the Rail

For myself, I probably stand alone in owning to a sentimental weakness for the night-piercing whistle—judiciously remote, as some men love the skirl of the pipes. In the days when streets were less wearily familiar than now, or ever the golden cord was quite loosed that led back to relinquished fields and wider skies, I have lain awake on stifling summer nights, thinking of luckier friends by moor and stream, and listening for the whistles from certain railway stations, veritable "horns of Elf-land, faintly blowing." Then, a ghostly passenger, I have taken my seat in a phantom train, and sped up, up, through the map, rehearsing the journey bit by bit: through the furnace-lit Midlands, and on till the grey glimmer of dawn showed stone walls in place of hedges, and masses looming up on either side; till the bright sun shone upon brown leaping streams and purple heather, and the clear, sharp northern air streamed in through the windows..."We are only the children who might have been," murmured Lamb's dream babes to him; and for the sake of those dream-journeys, the journeys that might have been, I still hail with a certain affection the call of the engine in the night...

(Kenneth Grahame, "The Romance of the Rail", Pagan Papers)
On Reading (An Ongoing Series)

How beautiful to a genuine lover of reading are the sullied leaves and worn-out appearance, nay the very odour (beyond Russia) if we would not forget kind feelings in fastidiousness, of an old "Circulating library" Tom Jones or Vicar of Wakefield. How they speak of the thousand thumbs that have turned over their pages with delight.

(Charles Lamb, Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading)
On Reading (An Ongoing Series)

"Reading stimulates the young and diverts the old, increases ones satisfaction when things are going well and when they are going badly provides refuge and solace. It is a delight in the home, it can be fitted with public life, throughout the night, on journeys and in the country, it is a companion which never lets me down."

(Cicero, 64 BC)

"My career is about as promising as a Civil War leg wound."

(Warren Zevon)
Career Path

"Oh, good! I was hoping to add theft, endangerment, and insanity to my list of things I did today."

(Agent Pleakley, Lilo and Stitch)
The Game of Thrones

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends," Ser Jorah told her. "It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace." He gave a shrug. "They never are."

(George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones, the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.)
The Vast Wasteland

"Oh, great altar of passive entertainment bestow upon me thy discordant images at such speed as to render linear thought impossible."

(Calvin in front of the TV, Calvin & Hobbes)
Rough Men

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

(George Orwell)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Teahouse on the Tracks

One of my favorite authors, a proponent of the "new space opera", is blogging.
Hats Off!

Mr. Wizard, the man who made science fun, is now doing experiments on a different plane.
The Saga Edition

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I discovered a science fiction roleplaying game called Traveller. A little black box, three booklets. You provided pen, paper, dice and imagination. What fun we had during college with that! Traveller evolved into various editions, died, was brought back, died again, was brought back again. I drifted in and out.

Some time later another company brought out a science fiction roleplaying game based on Star Wars. I bought some of the modules, but never really used it. That game eventually faded, but that franchise went out to be run by the uber-gaming company...which also et the franchise fail.

They've now brought out The Saga Edition of the Star Wars roleplaying game. Is there still room for pencil and paper games in a world of many flavors of computer games? Here's a review that looks at the current edition.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Killing of the Quantum Cat

Following up on this posting, I present Schrodinger's Cat!
Ansible! Ansible!

Ladies and gentlemen, rest easy. The newest issue of Dave Langford's Ansible has been posted.

Charles McGrath calls Philip K. Dick `A Prince of Pulp, Legit at Last' and adds a little whitewash: `... "The Man in the High Castle," his most sustained and most assured attempt at mainstream respectability, and it's barely a sci-fi book at all but, rather, what we would now call a "counterfactual" ...' (New York Times, 6 May) [PB]

...and many other gems...

The late Dr. Robert Forward pioneered the idea of using tethers in space for all sorts of things such as propulsion. NASA and JAXA are working together on an experiment to explore some of these ideas.


Night after night they played there in the great cabin with the stern-windows open and the ship's wake flowing away and away in the darkness. Few things gave them more joy; and although they were as unlike in nationality, education, religion, appearance and habit of mind as two men could well be, they were wholly at one when it came to improvising, working out variations on a theme, handing them to and fro, conversing with violin and 'cello; though this was a language in which Jack was somewhat more articulate than his friend, wittier, more original and indeed more learned. They were alike in their musical tastes, in their reasonably high degree of amateur skill, and in their untiring relish.

(The Far Side of the World, Patrick O'Brian)

Now, I didn't even know gout was still a problem these days, but apparently I can kill two birds with one stone and just drink more coffee.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Sherlock Holmes's Prayers

The prayers of the world's greatest consulting detective...

[1] Grant me, O spirit of Reason, matter for Deduction, Intuition, and Analysis; plenty of three-pipe problems, that I may avoid the cowardice of seven percent cocaine, or at least substitute something a little special in white wines.

[2] Grant me newspapers, telegrams, and the grind of carriage wheels against the kerb; the meditative breakfast at morning; the unexpected client in the night-time. And, occasionally, the alerting word grotesque.

[3] Strengthen me not to astonish the good Watson merely for theatrical pleasure; yet always to be impatient of Unmitigated Bleat; and of Guessing, which rots the logical faculty.

[4] If in hours of dullness neither the Turkish bath nor mediaeval charters, nor my scrapbooks nor my fiddle avail to soothe, turn my attention to the infallible reactions of chemistry—or to that rational and edifying insect the Bee.

[5] Remind me that there is a season of forgiveness for misfortune; but never for the incredible imbecility of bunglers(from LeCoq to Lestrade).

[6] In all the joys of action let me not forget the intellectual achievements of lethargy; to wit, Mycroft; and, slightly less to wit, Moriarty.

[7] Burden me not with unrelated facts, but encourage the habit of synthetic observation, collating the distinctions between the various. As the hand of the lithotyper is to that of the cork-cutter, so are the types of the Morning Mercury to those of the Yorkshire Post.

[8] Remember, 0 spirit, to Segregate the Queen. Viz., the fair sex is Watson's department. For me, the Mind is All. But one confession in remembrance: the pistol-shot initials on the sitting-room wall were not what Watson thought. In the name of that Gracious Lady my favorite letters were the last two. I was writing not VR but IA. The Baker Street Underground shook my aim.

[9] Hold fast the doctrine: When all impossibles are eliminated, what remains, however improbable, must be the Truth.

[10] Then, O spirit, be the Game Afoot!

S.H. [by Christopher Morley (Haverford College '12)]

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Fifteen Quotes from Brian Greene

A clear night sky and a little instruction allows anyone to soar in mind and imagination to the farthest reaches of an enormous universe in which we are but a speck. And there is nothing more exhilarating and humbling than that.

A unified theory would put us at the doorstep of a vast universe of things that we could finally explore with precision.

As the astounding vastness of the universe becomes obscured, there is a throwback to a vision of a universe that essentially amounts to earth, or one's country, or state or city. Perspective becomes myopic.

How can a speck of a universe be physically identical to the great expanse we view in the heavens above?

I have long thought that anyone who does not regularly—or ever—gaze up and see the wonder and glory of a dark night sky filled with countless stars loses a sense of their fundamental connectedness to the universe.

I've spent something like 17 years working on a theory for which there is essentially no direct experimental support.

If the theory turns out to be right, that will be tremendously thick and tasty icing on the cake.

No matter how hard you try to teach your cat general relativity, you're going to fail.

Physicists are more like avant-garde composers, willing to bend traditional rules...Mathematicians are more like classical composers.

Science proceeds along a zig-zag path toward what we hope will be ultimate truth, a path that began with humanity's earliest attempts to fathom the cosmos and whose end we cannot predict.

Sometimes attaining the deepest familiarity with a question is our best substitute for actually having the answer.

The boldness of asking deep questions may require unforeseen flexibility if we are to accept the answers.

We can certainly go further than cats, but why should it be that our brains are somehow so suited to the universe that our brains will be able to understand the deepest workings?

We might be the holographic image of a two-dimensional structure.

When I give this talk to a physics audience, I remove the quotes from my "Theorem".

From here.

(Various quotes from Quatermass episodes. Written by Nigel Kneale.)

A specialist tends to see everything in his own light.

All that "flying objects" business. Very fashionable. Quite de riguer for a bit, to have a nodding acquaintance with a few little green men.

An an operation designed to discover some unknown truth. It is also a risk.

Coincidence: A breeder of false theories.

Crazy people are the ones that often have a better understanding of really unusual things.

Crazy people have a bit of kid about them.

Evil is always something else's good.

If you're after a wild beast, you don't chase it all over the landscape—you bring it to you. You bait a trap for it.

If you're Jewish, you think old.

If you're not a fool, you must the whole world of spirits.

If you've got to break it to the world, tell the the bald truth.

If you want funny things to happen, leave it to the government.

It's possible, you see, not to be aware—if you're old enough, and selfish enough.

It's the final nightmare when you wake from it and find that it still goes on.

Memoirs are an indulgence.

Old astronauts never die.

Out here, a million light-years from Earth, there's work to do.

People don't believe nothing's happened no more unless they seen it on the telly!

Rockets make holes in the skin of the world.

Sick people can take very strange fancies.

Stop trying to know things.

The mad are sane!!!

There's no harm in the belief. If people want to believe the Moon is made of green cheese, there's no harm in that either.

Think small, think in picoseconds.

This is no longer the unexpected. When the conditions are known, action can be taken.

This is the way the world ends...Hardly even a whimper. Just like a missed appointment. No time for courage or sacrifice. Nothing grand like that. Not even for a proper booze-up.

We've got to express our views. We're men, not mechanical computers.

What can there be concerning outer space but ignorance?

When there was less government about, things were better.

Women's screams—that's a real alarm signal.

You got to look after your brain.
Starship Trooper!

How To Survive Your Stint In Federal Service

(...thanks to the film version of Starship Troopers for being so bad that it inspired...and thanks to the members of The Traveller Mailing List for coming up with the list years ago...)

Twenty useful tips brought to you by Gen. Paul Verhoven, C in C...

20. The enemy can drop driveless asteroids on your cities from over 1000 light years distance-presumably at FTL speeds-without resorting to any visible technology. Therefore, assume they're just stupid Bugs incapable of rational thought;

19. When piloting the ship, don't strap yourself in. When the ship is hit, you'll look cool flying through the air into the viewport;

18. Artillery? Only wussies need artillery.

17. Ignore those plasma bolts the mindless Bugs are firing at your ship-they're just "random light";

16. Be ready to shoot your buddies at a moments notice; they'll thank you for it;

15. Rest assured that, in the future, even the chicks are pumped on testosterone;

14. Remember: football is actually vital combat training;

13. Make the escape pods really hard to get to. It adds dramatic tension when you have to run an obstacle course to reach them;

12. Join the Psychic Friends Network and learn to mind-meld with a mongoose. It just might come in handy;

11. Watch out for those asteroids-their gravity is such that they'll drag your coffee out of its cup at a thousand clicks. (Must be made of neutronium!);

10. Never miss an opportunity to show off your breasts;

9. Power armor? Who needs power armor? (The Feds decided to spend the money on computer animated Bug simulations or something. Sorry...);

8. Before your mission starts, suck your brain out with a straw. You'll save the Bugs the trouble, and you'll be able to sit back and enjoy the ride;

7. Embrace Fascism. The uniforms look cool;

6. Let the new recruit pilot the ship out of the space dock, even though it's her first time at the controls. Computer guidance is for wussies. (Besides, that's the way it's done at Star Fleet, so it must be right);

5. Never do anything original. Only do things heroes of sci-fi action movies have done before;

4. Air support? Only wussies need air support;

3. Leave your copy of Heinlein's book at home. It won't help you here;

2. Always fly your ships in very tight battle formation, no more than 20m apart. It looks cool and you'll get lots of chances to test your piloting skills;

1. Look cute in a uniform.

Just follow these simple instructions and you'll survive your term in Federal Service. Then you'll qualify to be a Citizen. You'll have the right to vote, and a license to have children! Yes, it's a glorious world here in the future, where all the decisions-and all the babies-are made exclusively by steroid-pumped multiple amputees suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and likely to go postal at the sight of cockroaches!

C'mon everybody, sing the Anthem...."Wooo-hooo!"

(I regret to say that I have long ago lost the name of the author of this hilarious gem!)
Tourist Season

Eliza: "We missed you, Jack, where have you been?"

Jack: "Running an errend—meeting some locals—partaking of their rich traditions. Can we get out of Germany now, please?"

(Neal Stephenson, The Baroque Cycle, Part One: Quicksilver)
Business Plan

"One day, Pinky, A MOUSE shall rule, and it is the humans who will be forced to endure these humiliating diversions!"

"You mean like Orlando, Brain?"

(Pinky and the Brain)
Career Move

"Have agreed to carry Ring to Mordor. In hindsight, probably a bad move."

(The Very Secret Diary of Frodo Baggins)
Somewhere in No Man's Land

George: "If we do happen to step on a mine, Sir, what do we do?"

Blackadder: "Normal procedure, Lieutenant, is to jump 200 feet in the air and scatter oneself over a wide area."

(Black Adder 4)
Rules of Combat


1. Bring a weapon. Preferably, bring at least two. Bring all of your friends who have weapons. Bring their friends who have weapons.

2. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive.

3. Only hits count. Close doesn't count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss.

4. If your shooting stance is good, you're probably not moving fast enough, nor using cover correctly.

5. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral and diagonal movement are preferred.)

6. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a big weapon and a friend with a big weapon.

7. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived and who didn't.

8. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and running.

9. Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting is more dependent on "pucker factor" than the inherent accuracy of the weapon.

10. Use a weapon that works EVERY TIME. "All skill is in vain when an Angel pisses in the flintlock of your musket."

11. Someday someone may kill you with your own weapon, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.

12. In combat, there are no rules, always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.

13. Have a plan.

14. Have a back-up plan, because the first one won't work.

15. Use cover or concealment as much as possible. The visible target should be in FRONT of YOUR weapon.

16. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.

17. Don't drop your guard.

18. Always tactical load and threat scan 360 degrees.

19. Watch their hands. Hands kill. (In God we trust. Everyone else, keep your hands where I can see them).

20. Decide to be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.

21. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get.

22. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.

23. Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everyone you meet.

24. Your number one Option for Personal Security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.

25. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with a ".4".


1. See USMC Rules for combat.

2. Add 60 to 90 days.

3. Hope the Marines already destroyed all meaningful resistance.


1. Spend three weeks getting somewhere.

2. Adopt an aggressive offshore posture.

3. Send in the Marines.

4. Drink coffee.

5. Bring back the Marines.

Air Force

1. Kiss the spouse good-bye.

2. Drive to the flight line.

3. Fly to target area, drop bombs, fly back.

4. Pop in at the club for a couple with the guys.

5. Go home, BBQ some burgers and drink some more beer.

Friday, June 01, 2007


"People have a funny habit of taking as 'natural' whatever they are used to—but there hasn't been any 'natural' environment, the way they mean it, since men climbed down out of trees."

"Wherever Man has mass and energy to work with and enough savy to know how to manipulate them, he can create any environment he needs."

Robert A. Heinlein, Farmer in the Sky, 1951. Sample chapters now available here.