Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Quote of the Day

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Steve Green has a post up requesting advice on science fiction to read. He’s received a number of good suggestions, many of which I’ve read. I was particularly taken by a recommendation for H. Beam Piper, who is one of my favorite authors. That comment included a link to his author section on Project Gutenberg, and, in particular, Rebel Raider, from which comes the following. I thought the quote was particularly timely. I could have limited it to just the last sentence, but I felt the context was worth it.

In this last, his best selling-point was a recent act of the Confederate States Congress called the Scott Partisan Ranger Law. This piece of legislation was, in effect, an extension of the principles of prize law and privateering to land warfare. It authorized the formation of independent cavalry companies, to be considered part of the armed forces of the Confederacy, their members to serve without pay and mount themselves, in return for which they were to be entitled to keep any spoil of war captured from the enemy. The terms “enemy” and “spoil of war” were defined so liberally as to cover almost anything not the property of the government or citizens of the Confederacy. There were provisions, also, entitling partisan companies to draw on the Confederate government for arms and ammunition and permitting them to turn in and receive payment for any spoil which they did not wish to keep for themselves.

The law had met with considerable opposition from the Confederate military authorities, who claimed that it would attract men and horses away from the regular service and into ineffective freebooting. There is no doubt that a number of independent companies organized under the Scott Law accomplished nothing of military value. Some degenerated into mere bandit gangs, full of deserters from both sides, and terrible only to the unfortunate Confederate citizens living within their range of operations. On the other hand, as Mosby was to demonstrate, a properly employed partisan company could be of considerable use.

It was the provision about booty, however, which appealed to Mosby. As he intended operating in the Union rear, where the richest plunder could be found, he hoped that the prospect would attract numerous recruits. The countryside contained many men capable of bearing arms who had remained at home to look after their farms but who would be more than willing to ride with him now and then in hope of securing a new horse for farm work, or some needed harness, or food and blankets for their families. The regular Mosby Men called them the “Conglomerates,” and Mosby himself once said that they resembled the Democrat party, being “held together only by the cohesive power of public plunder.”

Note: I updated the post to make it clearer that Rebel Raider is history, not fiction. Piper was a history buff – in the introduction to one of his books (a collection of short stories, I believe, although it’s not handy for me to check), Jerry Pournelle states that Piper knew both the grand sweep of history, as well as many of the obscure stories.

One of those timeless messages

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Message to Garcia

A Message to Garcia is a standard topic in leadership courses, at least in the ones I attended back in the 1970s. Lt. Rowan is held up as someone to emulate, although the assistance he received sometimes left him with so little control over his situation that he was concerned about where he was being taken.

I’d never read Rowan’s description of his trip, so that was interesting, and re-reading Hubbard’s essay was also interesting – I picked up on his examples about grammar and punctuation this time, partly because I had just read an essay on that topic, and partly because I’ve written about that particular topic myself.

A professional of thesis sample

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

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I had not known

Monday, December 14th, 2009

that Abebooks keeps a list of weird books. Well, the UK site does, anyway. I actually own copies of this one (although mine isn’t signed) and this one, and I’ve seen a stack of this one in a discount bookstore and in a museum hosting a Franklin exhibit.

I think my daughter would want a copy of this one.

I own other strange books: among them, I have copies of Der Wizard in Ozzenland, a book on the black death to go with the torture book, a cookbook that contains a chapter on cannibalism, and an inscribed copy of The Mason Williams Reading Matter.

Just things to keep busy with on cold winter nights.

Update: And, speaking of weird books, and things with which to keep busy, here’s an article about a horror story you can buy.

Truth in Advertising?

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

I have the annoying habit of not moving photos from my camera to my computer in a timely basis. As a result, when I import the photos into iPhoto, and it asks for an event or roll name, I usually don’t provide one, since there are normally a half-dozen or more “events” represented among the photos.

In any case, this particular photo dates from a trip to a discount bookstore about a month ago. I just thought it was an interesting category for the book to be filed under.

Obama Book for Sale

No JATO required

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

I was watching a recorded episode of Mythbusters this evening (the one where they ran cars over a cliff to see if they’d explode the way they do in Hollywood movies). I don’t think it’s unexpected that the cars didn’t explode unless they were made to explode – I think we all know that Hollywood tends to go for spectacle when given a choice.

It reminded me of something I read years ago, probably back in the 1970s. Japanese-built cars were starting to make significant inroads into the US market, and the article suggested that one reason was the perceived quality of the cars as evidenced in the movies. Specifically, he talked about stereotypical chase scenes along a cliff.

In the American movies, the hero would exit the car just before it burst through the guardrail and exploded into flame in mid-air. In the Japanese movies, the hero would exit the car just before it burst through the guardrail and tumbled down the the side of the hill/mountain. When the hero caught up to the car at the bottom of the slope, he’d push it back onto its wheels if he had to, then hop back in and drive away, usually to continue the pursuit.

Is it any wonder Japanese cars acquired a reputation for being built well?

Miscellany 3

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

I’m by no means a full-blown birther, but I have always felt that there were things to be concerned about. That said, this is an interesting newspaper headline from 2004 for someone to have found. I wish I could remember who to credit for the link I followed to get there.

Ever wonder why spouts drip once you’ve finished pouring? Cyril Duez not only knows, he knows what to do about it.

I think I’ve posted a link to this clock before, but it’s worth another.

When my family moved to Del Rio, Texas in the early 1970s, I used to joke that the thing I liked best about the move was the fact that Del Rio was (at the time) about 150 miles from the nearest McDonald’s. That’s no longer the case, but Reykjavik now has similar appeal, albeit for regrettable reasons.

I have a set of Lionel trains in the garage – my mother told me that my father bought them as a present for my first Christmas, although it was years before I actually got to play with them. I’m glad this train setup wasn’t available then; I doubt I could keep from losing it even now.

Advice from Dear Abby’s predecessors.

Breaking news: Whiskey found in Antarctica.

Want to be an author? In case you want to get started during the upcoming Nanowrimo, here are two useful links for you.

This appears to be an interesting site.

Time for some funnies

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

I’ve mentioned before that I like snarky reviews. How can you not like book reviews that contain lines such as:

We imagine that Meyer’s editor had to cross out the “DUN DUN DUN” in the original manuscript.

And this tale of GPS from a directionally-challenged woman made me laugh, particularly this question from her husband: “How long do you have to be missing before I can start dating again?”

Tinkle, tinkle, little star?

It makes sense to me

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

A little while ago, I wrote about parts of the Voynich manuscript being available on line. I just ran into the XKCD comic related to the Voynich manuscript, and it’s certainly an amusing comment on it.

Miscellany 2

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Gerard Vanderleun has a marvelous advertisement from Johnny Walker on his site. The video is over five minutes in length, and it, and Gerard’s comments, are well worth the time.

Technology marches on, and as usual, technology in service of selling things often advances most rapidly. After all, website advertisements had to show up before adblockers could be developed.

Want to read faster? The video at the link describes a method of decoupling your speech center, which is useful because vocalizing as you read will limit your reading speed to the fastest you can imagine speaking. Follow the link beneath it, though, because there’s more good information there.

Better thinking through chemistry. I can’t vouch for accuracy, or even worth, but it’s the sort of thing I find interesting to read and think about. It’s another avenue for personal improvement, but not one I’ve really investigated. There’s another avenue I’m not even going to consider, no matter how desirable it may become in the near future, until I have adequate assurances that I can’t be hacked. With reference to the link above about flash cookies, isn’t it reasonable to assume that even something like computer implants to improve your vision will be hijacked to present advertisements as soon as they start becoming prevalent? I found the first article a few links down into this site, which has some interesting articles. So far, I’ve particularly enjoyed Signs That You’re A Bad Programmer.

Forbes Magazine has ranked West Point as the number one college in the country. The Air Force Academy ranked seventh, and Navy came in at thirtieth. Back when I attended Navy, we took it more or less as an article of faith that we, and Air Force, were better academically than Army because all West Point instructors were active-duty military, while Navy and Air Force had a mix of active-duty military and civilian instructors. I have no idea if that’s still the case. One factor in the rankings, apparently, is the site, which many people consider to be a “sour-grapes” site.

Gaius has some interesting numbers about the size of the National Health Service in Britain. Apparently, it employs about 2% of the British populace, and is either the third or the fifth largest employer in the world. This is the model of efficiency being held up as something to emulate?

More news from across the pond: More than thirty people are injured in a collision on a roller coaster. This, of course, demonstrates the moral bankruptcy of capitalism, given that there could not have been a collision if the operators had only waited until one car was back in the station before starting the next one. Or maybe it’s because the first car wouldn’t have stopped if essential maintenance had been performed. Then again, it’s the first such accident in 86 years – that’s not a bad safety record.

Staying with British news, Dennis the Menace is now taking after his American counterpart, in that he is no longer an antisocial bully. I’m not sure how I feel about this – one the one hand, it removes a role model, as far as making a change today removes 58 years of presence. On the other, it’s a stifling of free expression, not that there is anything like our Constitutional guarantee of free speech over in England.

The British newspapers have their share of silly articles to distract people, too. Here’s an example: a composite picture of the ideal pet, comprised of “49 per cent dog, 35 per cent cat, nine per cent horse and seven per cent rabbit.” I’ve seen this sort of thing before, but it was done better. Perhaps more honestly, it appealed to me more. Back in 1978, I got to take some leave in England after one of my patrols. I picked up a copy of a newspaper which had an article describing the ideal woman as envisioned by a group of men and women. I don’t remember if it was a celebrity “team,” or just some of their reporters/columnists. They chose the legs from one woman, torso from another, and so one, and had at least one composited photo published in the article. I believe they also had photos of the “source material.” As I said, I found it much more appealing.