April 18, 2006

Heinlein Biography

Check out this detailed biographical sketch of Robert Heinlein, whose centennial will take place on the somewhat magical date of 07/07/07.

I like this introductory paragraph:

Heinlein is a principal builder of my own mind and spirit. Like many another, I think of him as my "intellectual father." The complexities of his actual life, the weaving together of his interests and activities, frame for me a context to his written words, distinct from the words themselves. Those words stand on their own, to be sure, but I view Heinlein's life as an "and I really meant it," worth studying for his example of a self continuously under construction. I corresponded briefly with him on two occasions and met him only once, in 1976, but he is a living influence on my daily life. For me, this sketch is a form of grokking together. I hope this biographical sketch will supply the needs of other of Heinlein's "children."

Heinlein is a unifying theme for this blog, and was my first libertarian influence, preceding Ayn Rand and exceeding her in importance to my way of thinking and living.

Early on in the study of literature, my teachers drilled into me that the "voice" of the protagonist should not be confused with the author's own voice. That's not the case with RAH, and you can hear quite a bit of his own voice speaking through his characters. Reading this biography, you can also see that in many ways he lived the life of those characters.

Hat tip: SFSignal.

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April 17, 2006

Cannibal Blogger

Wow. Just read through most of the blog of accused murderer/rapist/would-be-cannibal Kevin Underwood. You know those films of Hitler being tender and "normal" with his dog? That's kind of the impression you get from this blog.

Underwood's victim was 10-year-old Jamie Rose Bolin (picture found here):


Reading his entries, you can tell that Kevin is frequently depressed and definitely has issues, but he doesn't really seem on the verge of this kind of sociopathic outbreak. You can also see that he has moments of great optimism. It also seems like he had a supportive family.

Except that his mom didn't seem to understand his mental state very well:

I told my mom, and told her about my social anxiety problem, and that I was going to drop out of college and start going to a psychiatrist. She didn't really understand my problem, and still doesn't (whenever I try to talk about how shy I am around people, her answer is, "Just stop, don't be that way."), but she was supportive anyway.

Wonder if she has any regrets now?

Was this guy ill, or just plain evil? Read through the blog and say that he was evil. I'm more inclined to say mentally ill, based on his writing. What was the psychotic break? What triggered this?

Not that his illness should excuse his behavior. I think he should be put down like a rabid dog. The time for psychiatric care is BEFORE the murder takes place, not after. I don't have much sympathy for "mentally ill" killers getting treatment for life when they have killed other human beings. They should be euthanized.

Too bad this guy didn't have more consistent treatment. It seems like a better social network and some regular medication might have prevented this horror from taking place.

That poor girl's father. I cannot even begin to imagine the horror he is living through.

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April 16, 2006

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (IL-28 "Beagle")

This week's entry is the first Russian jet bomber, the Ilyushin IL-28 (nicknamed the "Beagle" in NATO jargon):




(Images found here and here).

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April 13, 2006

Thin Wall

One of my all-time favorite bands, Ultravox, with a fine specimen of early-1980s New Wave:

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April 11, 2006

World's Greatest Blog Posting Ever


(The comments are classic, too).

(Via Catallarchy).

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Your Reading Assignment Tonight

Via The Officer's Club, read this amazing story about WWII B-17 bomber pilot Glenn Rojohn.

Update: Note that The Officer's Club has moved and changed their name to Op-For. Adjust your links accordingly.

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Birthdays Galore

I meant to congratulate Buckethead on his new arrival (a baby daughter) a week and a half ago. This, in addition to RP's new boy child (previously noted here).

And April continues to be a fertile month: my younger sister gave birth to a son last Friday and some close family friends welcomed their first child, a son, on Sunday.

This on the heels of my wife's 40th birthday last Tuesday and my impending (38th) birthday day-after-tomorrow.

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April 06, 2006

Congratulations, RP!

Go over to Random Pensees and drop RP a note of congratulations on the birth of Boy Child prime. The little guy missed sharing a birthday with my lovely wife by just a few hours.

Wishing them all the best.

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Dan Simmons - Must Read

Several years ago my older sister passed along a couple of Dan Simmons' books, Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. She highly recommended them, but I had a lot of trouble enjoying them. Not really my kind of Sci Fi, at least at that point in time.

So I approached this speculative piece by Dan Simmons with a fair amount of skepticism. But I am really glad I took the 10 minutes to read this.

Premise: a time traveler from the future drops in on Dan and describes the world of the future, dominated by Islam. He compares the West of the present to the Athenians before Syracuse (and explains the analogy for those without a grounding in classical history). Here's an early excerpt to whet your appetite:

I tried to relax. "What do you want to talk about?" I said.

"The Century War," said the Time Traveler.

I blinked and tried to remember some history. "You mean the Hundred Year War? Fifteenth Century? Fourteenth? Sometime around there. Between . . . France and England? Henry V? Kenneth Branagh? Or was it . . ."

"I mean the Century War with Islam," interrupted the Time Traveler. "Your future. Everyone's." He was no longer smiling. Without asking, or offering to pour me any, he stood, refilled his Scotch glass, and sat again. He said, "It was important to me to come back to this time early on in the struggle. Even if only to remind myself of how unspeakably blind you all were."

"You mean the War on Terrorism," I said.

"I mean the Long War with Islam," he said. "The Century War. And it's not over yet where I come from. Not close to being over."

"You can't have a war with Islam," I said. "You can't go to war against a religion. Radical Islam, maybe. Jihadism. Some extremists. But not a . . . the . . . religion itself. The vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceloving people who wish us no harm. I mean . . . I mean . . . the very word 'Islam' means 'Peace.'"

"So you kept telling yourselves," said the Time Traveler. His voice was very low but there was a strange and almost frightening edge to it. "But the 'peace' in 'Islam' means 'Submission.' You'll find that out soon enough"

Great, I was thinking. Of all the time travelers in all the gin joints in all the world, I get this racist, xenophobic, right-wing asshole.

"After Nine-eleven, we're fighting terrorism," I began, "not . . ."

He waved me into silence.

"You were a philosophy major or minor at that podunk little college you went to long ago," said the Time Traveler. "Do you remember what Category Error is?"

It rang a bell. But I was too irritated at hearing my alma mater being called a "podunk little college" to be able to concentrate fully.

"I'll tell you what it is," said the Time Traveler. "In philosophy and formal logic, and it has its equivalents in science and business management, Category Error is the term for having stated or defined a problem so poorly that it becomes impossible to solve that problem, through dialectic or any other means."

I waited. Finally I said firmly, "You can't go to war with a religion. Or, I mean . . . sure, you could . . . the Crusades and all that . . . but it would be wrong."

The Time Traveler sipped his Scotch and looked at me. He said, "Let me give you an analogy . . ."

God, I hated and distrusted analogies. I said nothing.

"Let's imagine," said the Time Traveler, "that on December eighth, Nineteen forty-one, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke before a joint session of Congress and asked them to declare war on aviation."

"That's absurd," I said.

It takes a few unpredictable turns after this. Query: what do you think the "three words" are?

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April 02, 2006

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (SAAB 37 Viggen)

Swedish planes are a lot sexier than their cars, if not their women. The Saab 37 Viggen is no exception, although I think it looks better from the top or bottom than in profile:

Saab 37 Takeoff.jpg


Saab AJSH-37 Viggen.jpg

Images found here and here.

(Incidentally, the word viggen means thunderbolt, particularly one issued from Thor's warhammer, Mjölner).

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April 01, 2006

Heinlein Quote of the Month (April 2006)

This one seems relevant, given last week's news on the study examining the efficacy of intercessory prayer:

The most preposterous notion that H. Sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.

Lazarus Long in Time Enough For Love.

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