Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Writers Wanted: Fifth Estate magazine

The next edition of Fifth Estate will continue as an Anarchist Review of Books. The issue will also include essays, fiction, and poetry. If you're interested in contributing, Fifth Estate's deadline for submissions is July 1 with a publication date of August 1. Review their Writer’s Guidelines and consider submitting something!

Quotes of Note: "The Murray Leinster Megapack" by Murray Leinster

Quotes of note from The Murray Leinster Megapack by Murray Leinster:

(I'm reading this collection of short stories on my Kindle, so page numbers are suspect.)

"Only a man attempting to advance in the scale of civilization tries to explain everything that he sees." (6 percent)

"[E]ducation is simply training in thought, in efficient and effective thinking." (7 percent)

"Even in the high civilization of ages before, few men had really used their brains. The great majority of people had depended upon machines and their leaders to think for them." (7 percent)

"What was near was important, and what was distant could be ignored. Only the imminent required attention... ." (7 percent)

"[M]ost strange things meant danger." (7 percent)

"[T]he advancement of a people from a state of savagery and continual warfare to civilization and continual peace is not made by the elimination of the causes of strife, but by the addition of new objects and ideals, in defense of which people will offer battle." (11 percent)

"Always, to a savage, the unexplained is dangerous." (13 percent)

Book Review: "Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin" by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin by Terrance Dicks (Target, 1977)

This 1977 Target book is a novelization of the four-episode Doctor Who serial “The Deadly Assassin,” which originally aired Oct. 30 to Nov. 20, 1976. I just love these slim little volumes. At about 120 pages, they’re perfect for reading in one or two evenings, and I recommend reading them after you see the original episodes, if you’re able to read and watch in close proximity. I read this one evening seeking inspiration for a drabble (a 100-word fan fiction story) I wrote and submitted for an online challenge; I have not yet seen the television serial.

As a novelization, I’d presume it’s the expected linear retelling of the original teleplay by Robert Holmes. (I haven’t seen the episodes yet, but the Target adaptations don’t tend to ever stray too far from the source material.) The storyline occurs following “The Hand of Fear,” at the end of which, the fourth Doctor takes his companion Sarah Jane Smith back home. In fact, that makes the serial notable. Reportedly, “The Deadly Assassin” is the only original Doctor Who story not to include a companion. Tom Baker thought he could carry the show on his own, and this was a pilot of sorts for a solo Doctor. In the end, producers determined that companions were necessary. Regardless, the story works well without one.

At the end of “The Hand of Fear,” the Doctor is summoned back to Gallifrey. There, he has visions of the assassination of the President on Resignation Day, and he sets out to ensure that that does not occur. However, despite his assistance during the Omega crisis, law enforcement still considers him a criminal and tries to stop his interference—taking him for an assassin himself! The book explores the assassination plot, political intrigue among the Time Lords and one of the Doctor’s most formidable opponents, and the resolution of the crime investigation.

It’s a fun read, shades of The Manchurian Candidate and The Dead Zone. Dicks works in some useful Time Lords back story, including a description of their social hierarchy; a reference to another Target book, The Three Doctors; details of the biological nature of the Time Lords’ telepathy; brief technical details for the Matrix; and a description of what happened after the Master died. That might not be as much additional exposition as readers received in Glen A. Larson and Roger Hill’s Knight Rider novelization, but the additional detail is welcome and helpful.

Perhaps worth reading after you watch the serial. It’s best not to know what’s going to happen—or how—and I have high hopes for the visualization of the Master. The cover art suggests an approach akin to the Phantom of the Opera.

Daily Headlines for May 18, 2022

Cluttercore: What’s really behind Gen Z’s revolt against minimalism?
Blame the Victorians.

The Untold Story of the White House’s Weirdly Hip Record Collection
Jimmy Carter’s grandson is unlocking its mysteries

A neuroscientist on the shifts in our media use and the effect on our brains A psychiatrist and Harvard Medical faculty member on the gradual erosion of human connection to our digital lives.

How ad-supported streaming will be used to track you The boom in streaming TV ads presents new opportunities for data mining, even as other platforms crack down.

Why the Texas social media law just became a big headache for Big Tech Short of ‘going nuclear’ and shutting off service to Texans, Big Social may soon be fighting off scores of lawsuits enabled by HB 20 in Texas.

Indy Record Label EMPIRE Taps In-Game Ads To Promote Babyface Ray’s New Album

Inside the race for a car battery that charges fast — and won’t catch fire Amid rising gas prices and climate change, car giants are in a fierce contest to perfect the solid-state battery, long viewed as a ‘holy grail’ for electric vehicles

Why the heck does big tech think human-level AI will emerge from binary systems? It must suck to be a classical intelligence in a quantum universe

3 ways to manage the stress of being ‘results oriented’ Focusing on outcomes is great but being too “results-oriented” can just as easily get in the way of our work.

3 ‘creator’ soft skills that can get you hired Creators have tapped into a key skillset that is increasingly transcending social media platforms.

5 mistakes companies make when they rush to hire Companies are under pressure to address the talent crisis. But rushing to hire can be problematic.

How to write a script for a job interview that feels authentic If you’re interviewing, you need a script—but you also need to deliver it without sounding phony. Here’s how.

TechScape: How Musk and crypto bros get away with it In this week’s newsletter: Just like Donald Trump’s political rise, Tesla’s CEO and firms like Tether win by simply not playing by the same rules as everyone else

The workplace, redefined by women of color

I’m a Black entrepreneur. Here’s how I advocate for inclusion at work The founder and CEO of Culture With Us explains the simple principles she’s built into her business.

Without local expertise, Big Tech will keep failing the Global South Tech giants cast a long shadow

Future of Work: ‘The office as we know it is over,’ Airbnb CEO says Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky believes the future of work may mean the death of the office in its current form

Is there hope for digital health startups post-Roe?

5 construction tech investors analyze 2022 trends and opportunities

Apple Pauses Plans to Go From Two Days to Three Days a Week in the Office
The iPhone maker had been gradually increasing the number of days in the office as it rolled out its hybrid work plans

Netflix cancels a slew of animated projects amid attempts to save money Netflix appears to be trying to save money, but it says these decisions are creative, not financial.

Domino’s and ‘Stranger Things’ want you to order pizza with telekinetic powers It’s not supernatural, but the pizza chain is using face recognition and eye-tracking tech to make customers feel like they have mind control.

Social maps app Zenly rolls out its own maps

Glean aims to help employees surface info across sprawling enterprise systems

Prolonged grief disorder: Helpful diagnosis or harmful stigma?A newly added diagnosis in the manual of mental disorders has stirred a debate over what it means to grieve, and what tools we need to cope with loss.

‘Fossil fuels are a dead end’: UN Secretary-General outlines how to avoid climate disaster
To have a chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoiding the worst climate impacts, the world needs to transform global energy systems now.

The crypto collapse is a good thing for the climate
Is crypto's loss climates gain?

Crypto crash unlikely to reduce its climate impact, expert says
Enormous energy consumption has barely reduced despite $1tn being wiped off the sector

This company crushes old roads—and rebuilds them to store carbon
For stabilizing roads, Carbon Crusher ditches bitumen, a byproduct of crude oil, for lignin, sourced from trees.

A rocket scientist designed a solution for your moldy strawberries
A California-based startup is pioneering a new solution to sad greens: a thermodynamic sticker that captures condensation inside your produce box.

For All Mankind sets its alternate timeline sights on Mars in S3 trailer
"There is a primal urge in all of us to explore."

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Quotes of Note: H. Beam Piper, "Little Fuzzy" II

Quotes of note from Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper:

(Page numbers gleaned from the 1983 eighth printing of the Ace mass-market paperback.)

"Anything that talks and builds a fire is a sapient being, yes. That's the law. But that doesn't mean that anything that doesn't isn't." (p. 36) 

"The less he had to do with the government, the better... ." (p. 71) 

Book Review: "Dark Sojourns" by Beth H. Adams

Dark Sojourns by Beth H. Adams (Secret Pleasures, 2002)

This 2002 Dark Shadows gen novella published by Secret Pleasures Press “is intended for entertainment of the fans of Dark Shadows, and is not intended to infringe on copyrights and trademarks held by others.” I believe I ordered it from Agent with Style about a decade ago. Agent with Style—once a wonderful source for hard copies of fan fiction—seems to have stopped operating in 2015 (their domain name expired in 2020). Regardless, I finally got around to reading Adams’s 138-page novella, which is well written, well printed, and spiral bound with a couple of pieces of photo collage artwork. As fan fiction goes, it’s relatively clean reading—well edited—and I only remember a couple typographical errors.

Barnabas Collins and Willie Loomis have left Collinsport, Maine, moving down the east coast eventually to Augusta, Georgia, where they meet their neighbor, a friendly single mother who works as a plastic surgeon. The novella is largely a love story, perhaps presaging that of Twilight, with Collins and Loomis becoming fond of the mother and her 5-year-old daughter. (Collins finally expresses his appreciation for Loomis’s caretaking and service.) Collins and the mother eventually fall in love. But Collins is torn: between his need for human blood and love for a woman, and between Anjelique’s witch curse and the hope that if he commits “an act of selfless love,” Josette will be returned to him.

On one level, the premise of the novella seems to be that the only bad thing about Dark Shadows is that Collins is a vampire. What if he weren’t? I’m not sure he’d even be interesting were that the case. Moreso, however, it’s the story of a love reclaimed and reunited. The idea of a reincarnated Josette, of Collins finally being able to find love after 400 years are very human desires and tensions worth exploring, even if their resolution effectively ends what turned out to be the best part of the television program. After all, Dan Curtis’s creation admittedly plagues the writer still.

Adams populates the story with several other interesting characters, including a coworker named Ty and his grandmother, Mignon, who practices “a bit of voodoo.” There are also several notable scenes. In one, Collins saves his new love from an attacker in a parking lot. In another, she confronts him about slaking his thirst on young prostitutes even though he’d promised not to do so. Most husbands aren’t guilty of such a severe betrayal, but its parallel to spousal infidelity resonated. And the surgeon channels her inner Victor Frankenstein as she tries to save Collins from himself and his dark desires, too.

A fun read—and better than most fan fiction I’ve encountered online.

Daily Headlines for May 17, 2022

If Roe v. Wade falls, personal data could be used against people seeking abortions
If abortion becomes illegal, digital surveillance could take an even darker turn

The ‘E-Pimps’ of OnlyFans
Clever marketers have figured out how easy it is to simulate online intimacy at scale, ventriloquizing alluring models with cheap, offshore labor.

nWay soft launches Power Rangers: Morphin Legends

How fears of electromagnetic radiation spawned a snake-oil industry
The products target people who think they have electromagnetic hypersensitivity

A creator-led internet, built on blockchain

Introducing the 2022 State of Crypto Report

Exactly how to think about every skill you’ve ever built and showcase it in a job search
Transferable skills come from life and career experiences, but they can become part of your personal brand with a little bit of framing.

Considering professional development? Maybe prioritize this instead
Getting that next promotion may be a matter of focusing on personal development over professional.

Ditch the annual review and do this for your employees instead
The CEO of Shiftsmart finds that this process frees up manager time, empowers employees, and identifies successes and growth opportunities in real-time.

Don’t force your employees back to the office. Do this instead
A Gartner survey of over 3,500 knowledge workers offers some interesting insights about what employees see as meaningful work.

We’re in the age of hybrid working: How to make it work for your team
How can businesses find the right mix between office and home?

Why the 9-to-5 schedule has lost its place in the workplace
The idea of a causal relationship between time and output is feeling increasingly outdated.

5 pieces of advice to help early stage founders navigate the months ahead
If you haven’t prioritized building trust with your investors, now is a good time to start.

Exclusive: John Deere closes in on fully autonomous farming with its latest AI acquisition
Some driverless vehicles work harder than others

China’s video game market is projected to grow despite government restrictions

Hopper CEO on Super-App Ambitions and Becoming an Everything Startup

New filing reveals the full story behind Musk’s bid to buy Twitter

‘It was designed to piss us off’: Goop’s fake luxury diaper aimed to turn rage into tax awareness
Created by ad agency Mother LA, the stunt was orchestrated to gain attention to advocacy organization Baby2Baby and the diaper tax issue.

Pushing Buttons: What the EA-Fifa split means for fans
In this week’s newsletter: Predictably, this breakup of a thirty-year deal isn’t about fans at all - it’s just about money

The Walking Dead creator Skybound Entertainment raises funding for expansion

Today’s top design innovators have it all wrong. Here’s how to think bigger
If we’re serious about tackling the world’s thorniest problems, we won’t just need good design. We need to expand the very way we think.

The 10,000 hour rule won’t make you a coding expert, but it’s a good start
It's time to get typing

How many preventable COVID deaths happened in your state? This map will tell you
A new interactive dashboard from Brown University quantifies a depressing failure of public policy, messaging, logistics, and individual behavior.

There’s a hidden, huge source of emissions companies are ignoring: their banking
Companies haven’t been focused on their financial footprints, but a new report highlights how their cash and investments fund fossil fuels, adding to their total emissions.

See the cutting-edge tech turning government buildings into lean, green machines
The federal government has 300,000 buildings, and they’re massive energy hogs. New tech being piloted could slash their carbon footprint.

How classical music can save your life—or at least be a meaningful part of it
At the height of her career, WQXR’s creative director, Clemency Burton-Hill, suffered a traumatic brain injury. She credits music with bringing her back to life.

Heartstopper’s Yasmin Finney is joining Doctor Who as ‘another Rose’
Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary is going to be very interesting

Chris Hemsworth runs an unsettling futuristic prison in Spiderhead’s first trailer
The film hits Netflix in June

The Boys’ first season 3 trailer has Homelander doing damage control
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a murderous psychopath

Apple TV+’s ‘For All Mankind’ season three trailer drops, teasing a space race to Mars

For All Mankind season 3 is set in the ’90s but seems focused on a very 2020s space race
What if billionaires joined the space race a few decades early

Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers is the sound of Disney laughing at its own met humor
The film stars John Mulaney and Andy Samberg

DeviantArt is expanding its system for flagging stolen NFT art
It’s offering access to non-DeviantArt artists

DeviantArt can now notify anyone whose art’s been used in NFTs without permission
You can upload 10 images for free

Monday, May 16, 2022

Quotes of Note: H. Beam Piper, "Little Fuzzy" I

Quotes of note from Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper:

(Page numbers gleaned from the 1983 eighth printing of the Ace mass-market paperback.)

"Was a time, not so long ago, when he took his abilities for granted. Now he was getting old enough to have to verify them." (p. 7) 

"If you don't like the facts, you ignore them, and if you need facts, dream up some you do like... ." (p. 15) 

"Take a drink because you pity yourself, and then the drink pities you and has a drink, and then two good drinks get together and that calls for drinks all around." (p. 28)

Daily Headlines for May 16, 2022

13 people were shot and 10 died when an attacker went on a rampage at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

What do military strategists and landscape designers have in common? More than you might think.

In the increasingly lifelike worlds of VR, users are experiencing hate speech and sexual harassment. How should these lawless spaces be governed?

A number of websites include keyloggers that covertly snag your keyboard inputs.

As big platforms field criticism for mental health and safety problems, teens are opting for simpler social media. But parents should still be on guard.

Forget your water-cooled PC — this one runs on pond scum

Thank god, the super rich can soon travel by AirYacht

Apple is no longer the most valuable company, Meta took a $230bn hit, Amazon reported its first loss since 2015, but a slump ‘is a big question mark’

The rules of the game are changing for venture-backed startups.

Federal judge finds U.S. sanctions laws apply to $10 million in Bitcoin sent by American citizen to a country blacklisted by Washington

'I have a bad feeling about this' are actually words to live by

Companies requiring in-person work are facing pushback. Those with looser policies find that flexibility makes recruitment easier. ‘I will find somewhere else to work.’

Tech giants signal a changing approach to adding workers after years of rapid growth

A strict set of rules is not an ideal launching point for a cohesive relationship.

Most managers have no clue what their employees really think of them. So how do you find out if you are accidentally being a bad boss? And how can you improve? We find out on this week’s episode of ‘The New Way We Work.’

Investors are not yet won over by the metaverse, but if Zuckerberg succeeds in selling his dream it could revive the company

Some House and Senate candidates in states from Arizona to Wisconsin have begun selling NFTs; ‘It was a bit of an experiment’

Insurance is one of the major barriers to abortion care in the U.S. That’s intentional
Abortion advocates say insurance is being used as a tool to block abortion access for millions of Americans, and they’re calling on companies and states to do more.

Medication abortion is a critical healthcare tool, but providers already face challenges with increasing restrictions, and patients have to contend with high cost and logistical hurdles.

Planning a trip to the Andromeda Galaxy? Not so fast.

After scouring the internet for free content sites, I found that all roads lead to one spot. Bring your library card.

The new series will be even more ‘cinematic in scope’

The third season will premiere on June 10, four days after WWDC kicks off.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

This Week's Watching: Doctor Who, "The Mind Robber" III

This afternoon, I finished watching Doctor Who, "The Mind Robber," while eating lunch and folding laundry. It is available in full on Dailymotion, as well as on DVD.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Book Review: "The Shadow" by James Patterson and Brian Sitts

The Shadow by James Patterson and Brian Sitts (Arrow, 2021)

I was slow to learn about Conde Nast’s plans to revive and revitalize the classic pulp and old-time radio hero, the Shadow, and when I learned that James Patterson had been tapped to pen the new titles—this is the first of an intended series—I was perplexed and skeptical. Patterson’s an extremely prolific writer and best-selling author who now mostly plots thrillers and young adult books, primarily working with co-writers. Despite his potential sales appeal to readers, he would not have been on my short list of authors to put pen to paper in place of Walter B. Gibson writing as Maxwell Grant. Maybe Andrew Vachss, Max Allan Collins (who had a hand in several Dick Tracy books), or Paul Di Filippo. Perhaps even the recently departed Mike Resnick. But Patterson?

My skepticism was well placed. There’s very little of the original Shadow in this book, at least very little of Gibson’s tenor and tone, pulp stylism, or the characteristics that made the supernatural vigilante hero so popular originally. Much of that has been jettisoned to reassert the Shadow for a new, modern audience, particularly a young adult readership. In fact, the Shadow is largely eclipsed by a distant teenage relative, Maddy Gomes, who is developing supernatural powers of her own. This might very well be a YA novel.

The opening of the book is as close as we come to the original pulps and radio show. It’s set in 1937 New York City, and Lamont Cranston is about to propose to Margo Lane. They are poisoned, and Cranston rushes the two to a hidden laboratory for treatment. Fast forward to 2087 and a dystopian police state of a city, a global government, and the still-alive Shiwan Khan as world president, oppressing the populace and planning a new, ever cruel approach to world domination.

Most of the book involves Cranston’s revival, rediscovery of his powers, search for Lane, and assessment of the threat posed by Khan. In parallel, we learn more about the state of the world, the lives of teenage Gomes and her grandmother, and their lineage. Not only does Gomes discover and develop her own powers, similar to Cranston’s, but he develops new powers that were never addressed in the original stories. 

Those are occasionally referred to, with commentary on Gomes’s appreciation for the old magazines and radio program. ”Inspired by me, obviously,” Cranston says. “But I never dressed like that. Never even owned a hat. Never carried that ridiculous gun. I guess they had to jazz things up to goose their sales.” That was humorous at first but soon became irritating, as though Patterson was trying to disavow himself of—and distance himself from—the original. 

In a May 2021 Forces of Geek review, Steven Thompson wrote, “[I]f you absolutely felt the need to use the Shadow, why go out of your way to change him so much that he really isn’t recognizable as the Shadow any longer? Only a few of the names are the same by the end of the book. Change those and you have all new characters.” Ain’t that the truth! Not only is this more a Maddy Gomes book than a Shadow book—a teenage heroine for a teenage readership—the Shadow we do get is largely divergent and almost unrecognizable from the original. That might meet the perceived needs of new, younger readers and retain copyright, but it doesn’t serve older, long-time fans.

Conde Nast hopes for additional titles in the series, and for films to spring from the books, as well. Additionally, Patterson has been tapped for a Doc Savage novel expected by the end of the year, with a sequel already scheduled for next year. Unfortunately, if this novel is any indication, my hopes for those are low. Will I still read them? At least the first Doc Savage. To be honest, we’re better off returning to the paperback reprints and pulp reprints, such as those published by Sanctum Books.

Daily Headlines for May 13, 2022

Taking his advice was like ‘chewing broken glass’: the short life of dating guru Kevin Samuels
The self-styled expert was quick to criticize Black women in the relationship sphere – and sympathy over his death was in short supply

Musk doesn’t own Twitter yet, but conservatives are racking up followers
Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump Jr. and Republican lawmakers are seeing their follower counts spike, while Democrats’ are on the decline

US secretly issued subpoena to access Guardian reporter’s phone records
Newspaper decries ‘egregious’ move by DoJ to obtain details of Stephanie Kirchgaessner as part of investigation into media leaks

The Nintendo Switch has now outsold the PS4 in the US
And Elden Ring is the best-selling game in the last 12 months

Sea Change
Google and Meta’s new subsea cables mark a tectonic shift in how the internet works, and who controls it.

Tech employees face another tough week of cross-stage layoffs

8 words you should never use to describe yourself in an interview (and what to say instead)
Stuffing your résumé and LinkedIn profile with generic buzzwords can be off-putting to potential employers, but it’s far worse when you recite them during an interview.

5 recruiting mistakes that may be adding to resignations
When there is a talent shortage, you have to be extra careful in your approach to hiring.

One key way to prevent employee burnout? Addressing toxic clients
The root cause may stem from the intensity of this type of demand.

Most DEI programs are missing out on large part of the population
DEI programs can not focus on just the 4.5% of the world’s population that lives within U.S. borders. This is how to globalize your company’s efforts.

Conservative parents take aim at library apps meant to expand access to books
Campaigns that started with criticizing school board members and librarians have turned their attention to tech companies such as OverDrive and Epic, which operated for years without drawing much controversy.

How free school meals can lead to lower grocery bills and healthier food purchases at home
When families save money by spending less on groceries, the savings may result in changes to the quality of their households’ diet.

Millions of plastic COVID-19 tests end up in landfills. This biodegradable test could be a game-changer
No more plastic waste. No more nose swabs.

The next frontier of psychedelic therapy could be your couch
Ketamine therapy pioneer Field Trip is partnering with telehealth company Nue Life to bring psychedelic treatments into the home.

Check out the hilarious new teaser for Apple TV+ animated adventure 'Luck'
Apple TV+ has shared a new teaser for a fun animated adventure movie called Luck.

Nick Cave is all he has to give
Nick Cave’s new survey at Chicago’s MCA offers the public his literal corpus of work.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Quotes of Note: Lloyd Biggle, Jr., "The Light That Never Was" III

Quotes of note from The Light That Never Was by Lloyd Biggle, Jr.:

(Page numbers gleaned from the 1973 DAW mass-market paperback.)

"Being an artist is something else. It's kind of like a state of mind. The moment an artist stops trying to do his best work in every painting, the moment he takes a shortcut because the painting is only going to be sold to or tourist who doesn't know any better, he stops being an artist. The moment he tries to please his customers instead of himself. he starts being a fraud." (p. 84) 

"[M]y reputation as an artist was more a guarantee of quality than his reputation as a dealer was a guarantee of sales... ." (p. 84) 

"[A] large number of artists would borrow a man's toenails right off his feet if they thought of a use for them." (p. 86) 

"Isn't it funny the way things look different from what they really are?" (p. 86) 

"Artists beg and borrow, but no matter how broke they are, they don't steal." (p. 87) 

"[P]overty was tolerable only when one was unaccustomed to anything else." (p. 89) 

"Rumors can start about anything... ." (p. 92) 

"Rumors are usually slanted to someone's disadvantage, and the reverse of the slant will point unerringly at the author. A rumor that's true, though, is a rumor with a devilishly awkward kink in it. It points everywhere and nowhere." (p. 93) 

"There's more mold than greatness in ... traditions." (p. 94) 

"Even a great mathematician feels the need of some physical labor for his health's sake... ." (p. 100) 

"A person who performs all kinds of contortions is highly conspicuous." (p. 106) 

"Serious artists judge other artists only on the basis of how well they paint... ." (p. 109) 

"Everything was perfect, and ... that could only mean that something was very, very wrong." (p. 110) 

"We are all guilty." (p. 115) 

"Every life is a monument to all life... . ... Every life is a destroyer of life. Each race, each species, must answer to those it has tormented before it accuses its own tormentors." (p. 115) 

"[E]very life, no matter how minute, how humble, how loathsome in appearance or habits, every life is a monument to all life." (p. 115) 

"Artists create, and those who devote their lives to creation are slower to destroy." (p. 115) 

"If there's no warning, a dozen men with explosives could do a horrible amount of damage." (p. 126) 

"Artists aren't thieves. ... [B]ut there's nothing to prevent thieves from dressing like artists... ." (p. 131) 

"I am suspicious of obvious conclusions." (p. 134) 

"Those who read the message remember it long after the display has been removed." (p. 134) 

"The correct question was why men hate, because someone assuredly had hated enough to wantonly destroy, but the answer to that lay in the provinces of medicine and philosophy." (p. 135) 

"[C]rises sometimes jolted the most prosaic painter into heroic leaps of imagination." (p. 137) 

"When people are dwarfed to insignificance, isn't it better to omit them?" (p. 146) 

"Few artists are men of action... ." (p. 149) 

"A plausible lie can be much more convincing than the truth." (p. 149) 

"Maybe that's what's wrong with this world... . ... Everyone is suspect." (p. 150) 

"[A]ll ... art needs a collision with reality." (p. 157) 

"[O]ne art lesson she had learned well concerned the inutility of arguments about art... ." (p. 159) 

"[T]he artists said I painted almost as ineptly as a critic." (p. 159) 

"Every life is a monument to all life... ." (p. 162) 

"It's the market place that determines value... ." (p. 169) 

"My valuations aren't based upon what someone else paid, but upon what I'm willing to pay." (p. 169) 

Book Review: "Ringworld" by Larry Niven

Ringworld by Larry Niven (Ballantine, 1970)

For the life of me, I don’t know how I could possibly go for so long without reading this novel. As a fan of Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama and subsequent novels—and recently enjoying Jack McDevitt’s The Engines of God—I thoroughly appreciate science fiction novels that focus on mysterious constructs, ancient alien artifacts, and the remnants of once-grand alien civilizations. This book has all of that in spades! The first of four Ringworld novels, Ringworld is also adjacent to Niven’s Known Space stories, as represented in about ​​a dozen novels and short story collections, as well as the shared-world Man-Kzin Wars anthologies. The Nebula, Hugo, and Locus award-winning novel also catalyzed five Fleet of Worlds prequel and sequel novels by Niven and Edward M. Lerner. This, then, is the book that kicked it all off.

The basic idea of the story is that four characters—200-year-old human Louis Wu, cowardly two-headed puppeteer Nessus, extremely lucky young human Teela Brown, and savage kzin diplomat Speaker-to-Animals—travel through space to examine a mysterious construct encountered by the fleeing race of puppeteers. The construct is a ring 93 million miles in radius, 600 million miles long, rotating at 770 miles/second around a sun at the center. 

While the ring itself, with its shadow squares, ghost wire, outer walls, ostensibly impervious surface and other mysterious features, is fascinating in and of itself, the land inside its outer walls facing the sun, its inhabitants, primitive societies and religions (to paraphrase, “Every contact is First Contact”), the architectural and infrastructural remains of once proud cities—including floating castles—also bear exploration as the four characters strive to learn what they can about Ringworld’s past, present, and future, as well as the alien race that built it but mysteriously disappeared, abandoning the Ringworld and leaving its mechanisms to decay.

But the real reason to read the book is the characters. Each of the four protagonists, including their back stories—even racial histories—bring an equal importance to the novel. It is, in fact, their relationships and interactions, the shifting alliances, mood swings, and fluctuating spirit of collaboration and camaraderie that make the book such an interesting read. These are characters to return to, even Prill and Seeker, introduced relatively late in the book.

A new favorite, and there’s more to explore between the other Ringworld, Fleet of Worlds, Known Space, and Man-Kzin Wars books. What a wonderful, wonderful book. It’s understandable that the novel received so much recognition when it first came out. It remains a thoughtful, innovative, and compelling work.

Daily Headlines for May 12, 2022

Is panic buying contributing to the baby formula shortage?
The FDA says more formula was purchased in April than in the month before the recall.

Why advertising won the streaming wars
Netflix and other streamers have surrendered to ads—and consumers really don’t mind.

How Twitter lost the celebs
Elon Musk was right that Twitter’s most popular accounts have gone quieter over the years. Hollywood insiders explain what happened — and why Musk’s ownership might only make it worse.

The YouTubers are not okay
Prominent YouTubers keep quitting the platform and then coming back. Call it the result of YouTube brain.

We have played the lost Duke Nukem Forever build from 2001
It's unreal, baby. As in, Unreal Engine 1.0. Yet despite obvious issues, it's OK-ish.

Rainbow Six Extraction’s Nightmare Fog will have you shooting at hallucinations

Revealed: How Apple's iconic iPod design nearly didn't make it
"Colleagues questioned the stainless-steel case and molded body, and challenged Ive's vision for engraving Apple's logo on its rear rather than on its front."

Why the office may trigger this invisible workplace annoyance
This is one reason why some people rather work from home indefinitely.

Here’s what your avatar’s first day of work will be like
Welcome to your virtual office in the metaverse

How the term ‘work-life balance’ is changing for the youngest group of workers
After starting their careers and job searches remotely, young workers have a different perspective on the term.

How to Make Talent Scouts Work for You

3 ways to show frontline employees they matter
Your company can prevent ongoing churn by turning to some of these basic techniques.

How activist shareholders are making the business case for abortion access
Rhia Ventures’s Shelley Alpern explains how the nonprofit is encouraging companies to look at the ways abortion restrictions will impact their employees—and their bottom line.

Stock market update: Mentions of ‘Russia’ and ‘Ukraine’ are skyrocketing in earnings reports
According to a new analysis of almost 1,400 earnings releases, terms like ‘COVID’ and ‘pandemic’ are decreasing as executives shift focus onto Russia.

Elon Musk praises Chinese workers for ‘burning the 3am oil’ – here’s what that really looks like
Tesla’s massive Shanghai ‘Giga-factory’ pushes its workers to the limit to meet production targets amid an ongoing pandemic lockdown

Fanhouse was built by creators, for creators (and they mean it)

Car bans won’t solve air pollution for everyone
It takes more than kicking out ICE cars to solve the problem of air-pollution

This is the first picture of the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way
The center of our galactic home

Netflix’s Resident Evil invites you to New Raccoon City
The Umbrella Corporation’s back at it again

You can love AI-generated art, even if it isn’t technically ‘creative’
It depends on the presentation

This robot’s paintings showed at the Venice Biennale, but are they actually art?
Art never exists in isolation. It always needs someone to give it ‘art’ status. That goes for work created by AIs, too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

This Week's Watching: Doctor Who, "The Mind Robber" II

Last night, I watched the second episode of Doctor Who, "The Mind Robber." It is available in full on Dailymotion.

Book Review: "Midnight at the Well of Souls" by Jack L. Chalker

Midnight at the Well of Souls by Jack L. Chalker (Del Rey, 1977)

Fellow Neffer and avid Chalker fan Patsy Williams recommended I read Midnight at the Well of Souls, the first of five books in Chalker’s Saga of the Well of Souls. I am sure glad I did. The novel reminded me more of Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld series than Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama or Larry Niven’s Ringworld, though they’re all slightly adjacent, similar to the hexagonal ecosystems that compose the world explored by the protagonists. Chalker’s book is a little more outre, occasionally downright bizarre, reminding me of some of the looser countercultural sf written in the ’60s. And it’s largely a morality tale, albeit a light-hearted and far from heavy-handed one, offering some advice and insight on human nature, the purpose of human existence, as well as some speculative cosmology and theology.

Spacer Nathan Brazil—a heroic character with depth whom I’d love to read more about if there ever was one—diverts his route to respond to an emergency signal, finding evidence of a vicious slaughter of those populating a scientific outpost. Once there, he and other passengers are drawn through a mysterious portal to what seems to be a distant planet or pocket universe. There, they pass through another portal, transformed into another form—various alien races—and assigned to an appropriate subsection of the world, each with a climate and features appropriate for its respective alien race.

Brazil proceeds to track down two of the people sent to the world—one evil and one who might be misguided—who are interested in using mathematics to unlock the secrets of the Well of Souls and gain what they expect and imagine to be unlimited power—the power of a god. The group ends up reconvening, and they learn more than they bargained for once they reach the Well: about the world they’ve been exploring, about the nature of reality, about the purpose of life itself, and the intended role of love. That’s where the moral aspect comes into play, and you can sample some of the ideas communicated by Chalker in select quotes posted in my blog at It’s thought-provoking stuff.

While the scientific and technological aspects of the book are slightly prone to hand waving, the philosophical elements of the book are compelling. So are Chalker’s various alien races, ecosystems, and societies that populate the world around the Well of Souls. There’s plenty more of that world to explore, should the need arise. Chalker also incorporates some narrative aspects addressing the nature of addiction and the abuse of others, and sex plays a fun and functional role in the story.

So thank you, Patsy, for the recommendation! Chalker is an author I’ll return to. As my friend Stevyn “Iron Feather” Prothero said online when he learned I was reading Chalker, “He created many interesting universes. Fascinating series. I recently discovered he wrote follow-up books about some of those characters and worlds. Great stuff. Enjoy.” I most certainly will.

Daily Headlines for May 11, 2022

200 years after the Victorians ruined maternity wear, Rihanna is taking it back
In the 19th century, pregnancy was seen as something to be hidden, and maternity wear reflected that. Rihanna is doing exactly the opposite.

Federal judge says Twitter is not a website during Texas tech law appeal
"Your clients are internet providers," Judge Edith Jones told the lawyer for the plaintiffs, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association. "They are not websites."

Trek to Yomi review – a tropey but reverent tribute to Japanese cinema
This grainy, gore-soaked katana caper slowly morphs into a compelling meditation on vengeance

This is what may happen when we merge the human brain and computers
Will it change us?

UiPath CEO Daniel Dines thinks automation can fight the great resignation
Uber, Facebook, and Spotify already use UiPath software

These are the 2 key times to demonstrate your leadership potential in meetings
The founder of On Point Speaking notes that humans like to be told what to expect and what to do. Parameters and rules allow you to be the leader who takes the time to set them.

The secret of my success as an entrepreneur: I’m 60
Experience, judgment, and battle-tested expertise are underrated assets in the startup world. And the more you’ve got, the better. 

We asked tech execs (and other smart folks) what advice they’d give to their younger selves
It's the next best thing to time travel

3 disabled workers share how ‘returning to normal’ makes work inaccessible
One in four Americans has a disability. So employers risk losing out if they don’t consider how a return to office affects disabled workers.

People are quitting jobs they just started. Here’s what managers can do
Over half of employees who joined new companies in the past six months are eyeing the exits, according to new data from Lattice.

Tech layoffs don’t happen to companies, they happen to people
Founders couldn’t have prepped for a pandemic, but should’ve prepped for a pull back

The case for a 4-day work week

How to grow your D2C business — 4 tips from a successful founder
D2C market growth is on the rise... here's how to take part

Chicken Soup To Acquire DVD Kiosk Merchant Redbox In $375 million Deal For Sagging SPAC

What the Great Resignation means for new grads
Here’s what the class of 2022 should know as they look for their first post-college gigs.

These school buses double as mobile preschools in remote areas
Just years after the program started in 2017, preschool enrollment in Uzbekistan has jumped from 27% to 67%.

What Doctor Strange 2's multitude of cameos could mean for the MCU's future
First comes the multiverse, then come the incursions

The year’s most exciting immersive art experience has just opened. But no one will see it
Yes, visual art can exist without explicitly being seen. Just check out ‘Dreamachine,’ a trippy new immersive installation in London.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

This Week's Watching: Doctor Who, "The Mind Robber" I

So far this week, I've watched the first episode of Doctor Who, "The Mind Robber," on VHS. There are five parts to the serial, and they originally aired Sept. 14 to Oct. 12, 1968—and featured the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton. 

VeritaserumUK created a fun teaser trailer for the serial as though it were a movie:


You can watch the full first episode courtesy of Dailymotion.

Quotes of Note: Lloyd Biggle, Jr., "The Light That Never Was" II

Quotes of note from The Light That Never Was by Lloyd Biggle, Jr.:

(Page numbers gleaned from the 1973 DAW mass-market paperback.)

"[T]he word 'efficiently' is used in many contexts, but in none of them does it actually mean 'efficiently.'" (p. 52) 

"The likes of us aren't safe unless we go where everyone else is at least as disreputable as we are." (p. 55) 

"[N]ever willingly credit... anyone with stupidity." (p. 63) 

"The Sornorians are badly underestimating what's required to take something away from a household of artists." (pp. 65-66) 

"[A]n attorney ... [will] participate in illegal activities. ... All they ask is some advance notice so they can figure out ways of doing illegal things legally." (p. 68) 

"Age does not corrupt the spirit... ." (p. 69) 

"Knowledge of the law has unexpected uses and applications throughout one's life." (p. 70) 

"If you offer an artist money, he doesn't consider that he's doing you a favor." (p. 72-73) 

"For a non-artist, an artist's costume would be a rather good disguise." (p. 77) 

"[F]ew of the young people cared to inherit the laborious poverty of their parents." (p. 78) 

"[A] thriving tourist world attracted operators dedicated to instant profits... ." (p. 79) 

"[T]here was no better investment in the galaxy than a painting by a young artist who would become great. The problem was to select the right young artist... ." (p. 80)

Book Review: "Knight Rider" by Glen A. Larson and Roger Hill

Knight Rider by Glen A. Larson and Roger Hill (Pinnacle, 1983)

While recovering after a medical procedure earlier this year, I began to rewatch early episodes of the 1982 television series Knight Rider. A passing mention of artificial intelligence while discussing the Knight Industries Two Thousand vehicle and the pilot’s setting in Silicon Valley made me realize that perhaps Knight Rider was… science fiction—something that had eluded my preteen self when originally watching the program. Now that we’re more firmly in a time of smart cars, collision detection, and other technological developments, I thought it’d be worth learning more about the science behind the TV show.

So I read the first Knight Rider tie-in novel, credited to the series’ creator and producer Larson—who also had a hand in Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries—but written by Hill, a former journalist from Los Angeles and author of three previous novels.

The novelization is largely a straight-forward retelling of the pilot episode, though the book does include additional detail on the science fiction elements of Knight Rider. Knight Industries had previously perfected a use of plastics. There’s a reference to Burke and Hare, as well as a mention of Asimov’s Laws of Robotics. Hill also expands on Wilton Knight’s political viewpoints, which are downright Randian.

And the car itself? The “most expensive car in the world” has a “finish bonded into the molecular structure of the car body itself.” It’s not fiberglass, but a “new substance altogether. An alloy only space technology could produce.” KITT is faster, safer, and stronger than any other car. The car is virtually indestructible. “It is hydrogen-fueled and totally fuel efficient. The microprocessors that control its functions make it impossible for the vehicle to be involved in any sort of mishap or collision … unless specifically ordered to by its pilot.”

But most importantly, the car thinks. “Dr. Miles and I took pains to program KITT’s machine personality for maximum interface value with the pilot-program driver… . As the seat and dashboard are customized to your physical shape, so is the ‘personality’ of the microprocessor in conformity to your psychological profile.” The car learns.

The book is an interesting expansion on the ideas behind the show. Michael Haenlein and Andreas Kaplan’s “A Brief History of Artificial Intelligence” ( suggests that early AI efforts date back to the 1940s and Asimov’s story “Runaround.” ELIZA was created in the mid-’60s, and investment waned in the 1970s and 1980s, not to reemerge seriously until the ’90s and more recently.

Pretty progressive ideas for the early 1980s! (This review was previously published in slightly different form in the LASFAPA apazine Faculae & Filigree #11.)