Since I'm now using the city library, I decided to take up Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series again, which I was introduced to in San Diego by a member of my gaming circle. And on the third page, I read the lines ". . . Including me and Abigail. Or, as [his mentor] insists it should be, including Abigail and I."

Now, the latter usage has a biting-on-foil effect for me all by itself: it's obviously "including me" rather than "including I," and including other names in the list doesn't change the grammar.

But also, Peter's mentor is purported to be around a century old, and to come from an educated, probably upper middle class background. Shouldn't he have grown up speaking standard English, or at least have been taught it by teachers who actually understood its syntax? It jars me to see him portrayed as someone from, likely, a lower middle class background with pretentions to education that he doesn't know enough to bring off. Or, alternatively, it jars me to see Peter, purportedly a bright young man, perhaps knowing that his mentor would correct his grammar but not paying close enough attention to remember the actual preferred usage. Shouldn't a developing mage be more careful than that?

And of course I know that the real situation is that Ben Aaronovitch is linguistically ignorant. And while that doesn't mean he can't tell a good story, the medium of story is language, and it puts me off a bit to see him getting the language wrong—and making a point of saying that his wrong usage is the more correct one!

an unexpected discovery

In my latest visit to the University of Kansas library, one of the books I took out was Tolkien's Cosmology, by Sam McBride. On page 87, I happened to notice the name "Stoddard." My first thought was to wonder who this Tolkienian scholar was who shared my name! Then I looked closely, recognized the points being made (an analysis of the functions of two of the Three Rings, Nenya and Vilya), and checked the bibliography—and McBride was indeed citing my article "Simbelmynë," published 2010 in Mythlore. And I find that I haven't been cited often enough in the scholarly literature (though this isn't the first time) to be blasé about finding someone referring to me. . . .

error detected

I'm reading A Hop, Skip and a Jump, the fourth volume in Mackey Chandler's Family Law series, and mostly I'm finding it enjoyable and interesting. But I just read the following passage:

Born looked very skeptical. "A rotating frame of reference which accelerates a mass around a fixed point is not truly gravitational."

But that's wrong! According to general relativity, inertial and gravitational mass are the same, and the effects of gravitation on pulling an object to the floor are identical to the effects of inertia in causing it to stay on the floor of a rotating space station—which I believe is explained by saying that inertia is a long-range effect of the gravity of distant objects.

Up to now I had been thinking that Chandler's scientific passages seemed fairly sound, but after this one, I feel less trusting.

in an alternate universe

In the early Silver Age, DC Comics began publishing superheroes who were new versions of characters from the Golden Age, in a process masterminded by Julius Schwartz. This started out with the Flash (Barry Allen) in 1956, followed by Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) in 1959, the Atom (Ray Palmer, named for a science fiction magazine editor) in 1961, and Hawkman and Hawkgirl (Katar Hol and Shayera Thal/Carter and Shiera Hall) also in 1961. The whole thing got derailed when Schwartz and Gardner Fox came up with the story "Flash of Two Worlds," in which the Silver Age and Golden Age Flashes met, followed by the first crossover of the Silver Age Justice League and Golden Age Justice Society in 1963, which grew into the whole DC multiverse; apparently no one wanted to make up new versions of the Golden Age heroes when they could just tell new stories about the originals.

But I've thought for some time that it would have been interesting to see Silver Age versions of more of the Golden Age heroes. What might the DC universe have looked like if it hadn't become a multiverse, and if the original characters hadn't been brought out of retirement?

Schwartz's treatment had a different feel than the older stories. His background was in science fiction, and he wanted science fictional rationales for his characters' powers. It would be an exaggeration to say that his treatment was realistic; but its fantastic elements were justified by appeals to scientific speculation, where the older character's abilities were magical as often as not, and their writers cared a lot less about either continuity or plausibility. This meant that Schwartz's legacy characters often had to be transformed from the originals:

(1) The original Flash actually gained his super-speed in a lab accident, which fit the sfnal formula; the new one gained his in a different lab accident.

(2) The original Green Lantern and Hawkman/Hawkgirl had magical origins and powers (a magical lantern found in China, and the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince and the woman he loved, respectively); the new Green Lantern was given a ring created by incredibly advanced aliens and appointed an interstellar policeman, and the new Hawkman and Hawkgirl were police officers from a planet of Polaris using advanced technology.

(3) The original Atom had no powers at all, but had trained himself to amazing fitness despite being 5'1"; the new one had invented a device that could shrink him, initially to 6" tall and later to subatomic sizes.

So that provides at least three formulae for creating Silver Age analogs. Let's try them on the other original members of the Justice Society.

The original Dr. Fate was Earth's greatest sorcerer, granted his powers by ancient relics found in a Mesopotamia tomb; he had a few abilities in himself (telekinesis and flight, for example), he got more from various artifacts, and he could do all sorts of things through elaborate rituals. Probably the best approach would be to have his artifacts be scientific (either alien, or relics of a lost advanced civilization), and to have his elaborate "rituals" turn into scientific procedures. The Helm of Fate could give him enhanced mental abilities (intellectual and psychic) and store the memories for former wearers; the Amulet of Anubis could turn into an energy weapon; the Orb of Nabu could be a device for scanning and communicating. Perhaps his mission could be to protect the current civilization from the forces of conflict and disorder that had destroyed the former one.

The original Hourman had developed a pill, "Miraclo," that boosted his strength, speed, and durability for an hour. This fits the scientific model well enough to be easy to adapt. The original formula of "I have to test this on myself before I risk giving it to anyone else" would fit well enough also.

The original Sandman had no powers, but had invented a gas gun that put criminals to sleep. That's a little low-end for the Silver Age, but I'm not sure coming up with superpowers would be an improvement. Marvel's villainous Sandman could turn his body into sentient sand, but DC wasn't doing body modification that early on, particularly for heroes; and the other meaning of "sandman," the one that goes with sleep and dreams, seems to be addressed by the original concept. Maybe he could be linked to early research on REM sleep, with an electromagnetic device that let him induce sleep?

The original Spectre was a murdered policeman whose soul became an embodiment of the wrath of God, which seems way too supernatural! I think I'd look for a character with psychic abilities rather than magical ones, perhaps with a main theme of astral projection; that would work with invisibility, insubstantiality, flight, and perhaps telekinesis or the ability to appear to evildoers. Maybe instead of dying the character could have been left in an apparent coma by his attackers. Marvel was having the early Dr. Strange do astral projection, so the idea could have been made acceptable.


Quite some years ago now, during the Sad Puppies controversy in science fiction fandom, I saw some people denouncing Theodore Beale ("Vox Day"). Rather than take their word for what they said, I looked up his blog, and found that at least some of the views they attributed to him were drastically different from what he was actually saying. His views and mine haven't much in common—I'm a hard core libertarian, and he's not libertarian at all and doesn't seem to have much use for libertarians—but I've continued to look at his blog from time to time, to find out what he actually has to say at first hand. This wasn't any problem, as I just needed to type "Vox Day" into the search bar for Duck Duck Go, and the link for his blog would be the first or second thing that came up.

That is, it used to be. A week or so ago, I tried that, and found links for a number of articles about him, including the Wikipedia entry, but not the link to his actual blog, "Vox Popoli." That seems still to be the case.

This put me on the alert, so I checked a different blog, "Instapundit," produced by Glenn Reynolds, a law professor who's something of a libertarian, something of a conservative, and something of a technophile (and a science fiction fan!)—two out of three of which I share with him. And guess what? That one doesn't come up either!

I was able to find both blogs by more indirect searches, and now I've added them to my bookmarks, so I can go there directly when I feel like it. But I have to say I'm not happy with Duck Duck Go. I don't want them limiting my access to sites classified as "right wing"; in fact I don't want them limiting my access to any sites. And it looks suspiciously like that's what they're doing. I want them to do a neutral search and let me decide for myself if a site, or a blog, or a document is what I want to look at. I'm concerned that they may have decided to stop serving the needs and interests of anyone who has the wrong political views—and I've spent a lifetime having the wrong political views!

more about art

(1) It turned out that both of the Ace Hardware stores in Lawrence were out of monkey hooks. I was able to buy them in larger quantities from Amazon, so I've put up more art.

(2) Several more pieces are going up once they come back from the framers: black and white images of Omaha the Cat Dancer and of Katchoo and Francine from Strangers in Paradise; a color poster for Batton Lash's Wolff and Byrd; a color print titled "See Exotic R'lyeh"; and a print of a Franz Marc painting (in early cubist style) of a fox, which C bought lately. The first, second, and fourth will go in the hallway; the other two will be in C's studio.

(3) I'm thinking about which of two pieces of palaeobiological art to buy for my office wall, both by Emily Willoughby, an artist I discovered while I was working on GURPS Furries (I was doing a cartoon velocirapter, partly as a tribute to Taz): a scene of a Dakotaraptor running all out across a desert, or one of a Velociraptor in the process of springing at a small early mammal.

well, that was a surprise

C had several small boxes stacked in the bedroom behind her nightstand. Today we decided to open them and figure out what to do with the contents. And in the last one I opened were a small power supply and two speakers! They used to be on my desk when we lived in Riverside, but I couldn't find them when we unpacked at the first apartment here in Lawrence; I thought we had lost the speakers in the move, and we bought new ones. Now it turns out we had the old ones . . . I wonder how they managed to hide from us for nearly a year?

on the walls

I just used the last of our first batch of monkey hooks, putting up our clock and calendar adjacent to C's desk. By my count we have at least 14 more pieces to put up, so there's another trip to Ace Hardware in our future.

it's an adventure

An old ironic comment says that an adventure is someone else having a difficult time comfortably far away. Our just accomplished move to a new apartment was an adventure in itself and accompanied by a couple more.

The background is that Kansas is experiencing an "Arctic front": Cold air from the far north has given us many days with subfreezing high temperatures, and even chillier lows. The coming week is supposed to be harsher, with four days when the highs will be lower than 10°F (-12°C) and the nights will be down to 0°F (-18°C) or lower. There isn't that much snow, but the air is bitter; exposed ears and fingers quickly become painful.

Our movers spent one day packing all our small possessions into boxes, and the next day loading everything onto a truck, driving seven miles, and then bringing it into the new apartment. Fortunately I had a floor plan, which required only a small revision in the placement of bookshelves (we have a dozen sets, one of which holds our video collection and another of which has a shelf for our "natural curiosities"). But things became difficult when the movers discovered that the lift at the rear of their truck had stopped working, making it not street legal. They called in a second truck, loaded the things that weren't already loaded onto it, unloaded them at the other end—hoping that the first truck could be put back in working order—and finally went back and transferred the rest of our things onto the second truck and brought it over. As a result, the move took until dinnertime rather than until early afternoon. On the other hand, they did an excellent job on everything that was under their control, and the fee was less than half what I had expected, which I partially made up for by adding on a large tip that they had well earned.

Then we had to go out for dinner, kibble, and a few groceries. We tried a new place that seemed promising, called Fresh Mediterranean; they turned out not to be good, and we won't go back. And at the supermarket, when C tried to start the car to come home, the battery was dead. Fortunately Geico was able to get someone out to help us in less than half an hour. He recommended driving around for half an hour more to recharge the battery, but C felt unsafe driving snowy unfamiliar streets at night, so we sat in our parking lot for an hour with the engine running (and discovered that her car told her how long it had been running!). We were relieved that the car started again this morning, and we went out and did a few more errands.

However, in the course of the night, our cat Macavity cried at us around 2 AM, and then fell silent—and he didn't come out to eat in the morning. We looked all over the apartment for him, and even went aside and walked around the building, thinking he might have gotten out. Then we searched again after we got back, and we seriously thinking he had contrived to go outside and freeze. But I made one lest check and found him in a kitchen cabinet, one of the floor-level ones, on a shelf that we didn't know was there and hadn't looked at on previous searches. So we were hugely relieved that Macavity was merely offended by the disruption of his life.

And so far, all of the difficult times have turned out better than we feared they might. Now we just have to get through the kind of weather that led us to exclude several interesting states from our search for a new home.