Book Review #17

Dark Matter

It is no paradox that I like to read stories about paradoxes. In my list of books read in 2016, I included several time-travel novels. More recently, my Book Review #16 – The Whenabouts of Burr, was not really about time travel, but a voyage across parallel, but slightly different versions of Earth.

I recently read another alternate Earth novel. It was

The book: Dark Matter

The author: Blake Crouch

The review: This book is also about alternate Earths/Universes. The narrator is a man who might have been a great physicist, married to a woman who might have been a great artist. Instead, he is a university science professor, and she runs a graphic design studio out of their home, as they raise a beloved 10-year-old son.

He is kidnapped by Himself from a parallel existence, who never married or had a family, but instead invented/designed a device to make this transposition possible. He is thrust into the other’s frenetic life, while the imposter takes over his peaceful existence.

The ‘Burr’ book makes inter-dimensional travel possible by an electronic device that limits which realities are available. It is largely a discussion about social and political alternatives – USA vs. Russia vs. China – disguised in a roman a cléf.

This book is about infinity, quantum entanglement, and the definitions of ‘reality.’ The device is mostly an elevator-car-sized sensory deprivation chamber, because quantum theory says that merely observing an action, changes the outcome. Essentially, the traveller becomes Schrödinger’s cat. He got some help from a biologist friend who developed a serum that shuts down the section of the brain that accepts the remaining input.

Instead of electronic controls, where you end up when you open the door is controlled by the psyche, the subconscious. You go where you unconsciously want or feel to go. It takes him several months, in and out of the box, to train his mind to return to where he started from.

Just when the reader thinks that it is “Happily Ever After” time, the writer throws another curve-ball at reality. While there is only one ‘his world’, and ‘his wife’, and ‘his son’ to return to, decisions that he made during the months that he was gone, caused other versions of him to split off, and 110 of them return, most of them ready to kill to get the prize. How do you surprise, outthink, and win out over yourself??

I found that this was a great, thought-provoking Science Fiction novel, about something that may become science fact in the all-too-near future. What are you reading? 😕

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’19 A To Z Challenge – A

AtoZ2019Letter A

 

Life is moving too fast! I want to get off; I’m feeling woozy.

Logrithmic Scale

Humans used bows and arrows for thousands of years, then someone invented the crossbow. We used that for a couple of centuries, and someone invented the musket. That was used for over a hundred years, till someone invented the rifle. After less than a century, someone developed the repeating, lever action rifle. About fifty years later, the automatic rifle came into being.

Don’t like the idea of killing and maiming?? Let’s talk about recorded communication.

For eons, we scratched things into pottery or soft rocks. Then, some genius carved up a goose feather and dipped it into a dark liquid, and wrote on vellum (Scraped lamb-skin). We did that for a millennium, till paper was developed. Then later, someone created the reloadable fountain pen. A half century later, technology allowed Lazlo Biro to produce the first workable ball-point pen.

The typewriter was created, and Mark Twain was the first author to compose a novel, using one. He disliked the experience so much, that he tried to give it away – 8 times. Each time, it was returned to him. 75 years later, the first word processors became available, and in half that time, they’ve become quicker, more efficient, smarter…. and almost indispensable.

Isaac Newton said that he accomplished what he did, “Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants.” What I’m saying – the point I’m trying to make is that, as we progress, the progress comes faster and faster. Once, we had millennia, centuries, decades to get used to the idea of our basic world changing. Now, changes come in years, months, weeks!

Author Alvin Toffler invented the term “Future Shock,” the future is the way of life. The only constant, is change. Many of us have a hard time keeping up. Not only does the constant, rapid change keep us mentally off-balance – shocked – but it produces a related condition.

Alterity-
Alterity is a noun that means otherness; specifically: the quality or state of being radically alien to the conscious self or a particular cultural orientation.

Alterity is related to the verb alter, which can mean to change something, into something other – something different. It’s also cousin to the adjective alter – as in alter-ego. Batman is Bruce Wayne’s radically different alter-ego.

The Canadian band, imaginatively named The Band, says that Life Is A Carnival. It often has me spun. Why don’t you spin back again in a couple of days??  😀

 

WOW #43

Igloo

Coming soon to a vocabulary near you, that ‘Only In Canada You Say?’, hot, trending, soon to be on everyone’s lips, word,

Goosfraba

EH??! WTF! Goose barf? – are Canadian birds getting sick? No, no, silly, it’s an Eskimo word…. Oops, that’s become very un-PC. They can get quite upset (hard to tell under all those furs) and smack you with a slab of whale blubber…. It’s a word that the Inuit use to quiet and calm down their children.

Polar Bear

It’s also a word that the Inuit use during sex. Google would not tell me what it means, or how it’s used. I can only imagine. “Take it easy, Nanook. Don’t be gettin’ too jiggy with it. You’ll wake the polar bear.”

Because it is used in a calming manner, it has been adopted in the anger management sector, at least in Canada, and the north-eastern United States. So, the next time you complete your community service hours, and head off for your court-mandated counseling, be prepared to get slapped with a chunk of seal meat go bilingual, with a soothing word from a group of people who are the epitome of cool. 😎

Typical Politician

Bardish

I recently met an atypical politician, or at least that’s what she claimed. She was pleased that she was introduced, not as a local politician, but rather as ‘our elected representative.’ She claims that she and her government want to do things a little differently.

Bardish Chagger PC MP is a Canadian politician who is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Waterloo. She is the current Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the former Minister of Small Business and Tourism.

While she may want to change things, it was evident early that she has many of the earmarks of the ‘Typical Politician.’ She attended a recent brunch meeting of the local Free Thinkers group. She was to talk to them about the separation of Church and State.

She was born here in Ontario. I have heard her disparaged as a (Muslim) Paki. I thought that she was a (Hindu) Indian, until she showed up with a male Sikh aide. A member videotaped the meeting for posterity. Used to many media scrums, she quickly clipped on the mic-pack herself.

When she arrived, she went around two large tables, shaking hands and speaking to about 25 members individually. Before beginning her talk, she slyly mentioned that she would take any questions and answer any concerns that anyone had. An hour and a half later, we’d talked about everything except Church and State. The moderator had to butt in, and present her with two specific concerns, and let her get back to him about them later.

While not a ‘prepared speech,’ she probably had a good mental picture of what she wished to present. She’s quite intelligent, and well-spoken, with no hesitations in speech, or ‘ums’ or ‘ahs’. She and her aide made a good team. She stood up front, and dealt with the crowd, and their concerns. He hovered, almost unnoticed in the background with his Smart phone, making sure he noted each question, and getting people’s names, and contact information, and assuring that they had hers.

She told us that young Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau was trying to decentralize the office. She said that no-one entered his chamber, only to be told, “This is the way we’re going to do it.” Rather, she said, he was grooming people like her to be assistant PMs or perhaps the next Prime Minister. She was encouraged to approach him with a proposed plan of action. I gave her a line that a company President once gave me, “Don’t come to me with a problem. Come to me with a solution.” She said that she liked the sentiment, would use it herself, and probably pass it on the Prime Minister.

Before she began her little speech at 10:30 AM, she told us that an aunt had died, and she would have to leave by 11:30 – 11:40 at the latest – to pay her respects. At 12:10, she was still going back around the tables, shaking hands and currying favor like a typical politician. She had a dead body to deal with, but she was still glad-handing her way out of this room full of intelligent, knowledgeable, influential voters.

Niagara bridge

The problem with wanting to do things differently, is that there are some jobs that just have to be done ‘that way’. If you promise people that you will walk a tightrope over Niagara Falls, it is quicker, easier and safer to get in a car, and drive across the bridge. You have to change people’s expectations.

The makeup of Trudeau’s cabinet is 50% female, a figure which he is proud of. I was amazed that so many women would be fool enough to want to play, what is still, essentially, an Old (White) Boys game. I can only hope that the inclusion of women and minorities in Government can make Canada a kinder, gentler, fairer place to live, and we can send all our fence-builders down to the States, to work for Trump, but I cynically wait for proof. 😳

***

Shortly after I composed this, she put her shapely foot in her mouth. A member of the Opposition ambushed her as she left the Chamber, and demanded to know what she and her Government were doing about the spate of opioid deaths. His riding had had 38 such fatalities in the last year.

Apparently without thinking, she said, “Oh, that’s not bad.” Now, any deaths are to be mourned or prevented. What she meant was that, the average per riding is between 60 and 70. The Waterloo Region riding had 73 in that same period, but she had to backpedal quickly, as the political-points game was played.

***

Canada also has a too big to fail transportation company which does considerable sales overseas. Canada has laws against bribes and kickbacks, but this company operates in places where that’s the expected way to do business.

Our handsome young, trust-fund Prime Minister’s female Attorney General caught wind of these nefarious dealings, and started an investigation. He, and several of his senior staff, urged her to quietly sweep it under the rug, but she persisted. The PM had her removed from her post, and slapped with a non-disclosure writ, but it reached the media,

Rats immediately began deserting the sinking ship. Another woman resigned her post as Finance Minister in a fit of ethics, further damaging the PM’s vaunted 50% female Cabinet makeup. The PM’s senior secretary, supposedly the brains behind the throne, has also resigned. It appears that he, like the women, wants to be out of the range of shrapnel, when this thing explodes.

It seems that, the more they promise to do new things, in new ways, the more we get stuck with the same old post turtles. Typical!   😯

Book Review #16

The Whenabouts of Burr

I just got back from a short time travel trip.

I recently visited the website of a female author. She has written 5 or 6 Young-Adult Sci-Fi books, all centered on Mars – ‘The Tunnel on Mars, A Ranch on Mars, Subduing Mars, etc.’  The post I read was her book-review of Time And Again, a seminal time-travel novel.

I told her that I was also fascinated with time travel stories. I showed a bunch of them in my post of books read in 2016. I remembered a somewhat different time-travel book, and suggested it to her. Later, I went back in time, dug it out of my hoard of old Sci-Fi books, reread it, and decided to do a book review of it.

The Book: The Whenabouts Of Burr (1975)

The Author: Michael Kurland

The review: The time travel in this book isn’t – quite. It’s a story about parallel Universes, and alternate Earths, created by different choices at significant historical nexus points, like the Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton duel. Like a deck of cards skewed sideways, each reality is just over nine hours from its neighbors. The more levels you travel through, the further back in time you go.

It’s a great device for the author to make sociological comments – a fun game of “What If”. In some levels, Burr lives, but becomes an exiled political outlaw. Some levels have benevolent, supportive democracies, others have restrictive tyrannies. On some worlds, Europeans did not reach the Americas, and the natives have developed their own civilizations.

The sharpest social comment/warning comes from the author’s description of Prime Time, the world which originally developed the Temporal Translation Technology. The people have become like professional Victorian tourists, slumming, and gaily gadding about the alternate words, observing. The entire society has become effete and static. There is no interest, or challenge, nor further research or advancement through struggle, because they now steal/import all discoveries and new technology from the other ‘Earths.’

Published only a little over 40 years ago, it’s not as old as many of my books. It was a fun re-read, and a warning reminder of how Western society may be going. I got back in time to publish this post, and I’ll move forward, to have another ready in a couple of days. See you then. 😀

2018 List Of Books Read

I read a book, once….  Others, I’ve read more than once.

My GP sees me so seldom that she forgets who I am, because my “yearly” physicals are often 18 to 24 months apart.  I continue to accrue a lengthening list of medical specialists for myself, the wife, and the daughter.  Because of this (and normal physical deterioration), available free time for reading diminishes.

Next year, instead of a list of books that I managed to read, I may just put up a list of all the medical appointments I had to drive to.  This past year’s list is down to 21 books – I think.  I’m too tired to check.  Someone add them up, and get back to me.  These are the ones that I managed to get through.

Eric Flint/Griffin Barber – 1636: Mission To The Mughals

Mission to the Mughals

This series was interesting Sci-Fi when it started out.  I’m done with it.  Now it’s just a 700 page excuse to publish a little political history of India around the time of building the Taj Mahal.

Chris Ryan – Stand By, Stand By – Zero Option – Greed

Stand by, Stand by

Zero Option

Greed

A very British men’s action series.  Not bad if you’re into that sort of thing.

Gregg Loomis – The Cathar Secret

The Cathar Secret

More suspense and plot development than any of the above.  A good way to waste an afternoon.

Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child – The Pharaoh Key

The Pharaoh Key

A suspense/action tale good enough to sink your eyeteeth into, but not deep enough to need to munch your molars.

Tom Clancy’s Commander In Chief

Commander In Chief

Tom Clancy is long dead, but his ghost writers continue to grind out the pot-boilers and royalties.

Michael Kurland – The Whenabouts Of Burr

The Whenabouts of Burr

This is a re-read from 1975.  I was reminded of it because of a conversation with a lady author who said that she liked time-travel Sci-Fi, as I do.  It’s actually more of an alternate universe/history story, with minor temporal displacement.  I’ll publish a review on it soon.

Blake Crouch – Dark Matter

Dark Matter

This one is another alternate universe story like the above, but with no time travel.  I’ll publish a review on it also, in a couple of months, to compare the viewpoints and construction.

Steve Berry – The Columbus Affair

The Columbus Affair

Christopher Columbus and his navigator were both secret Jews, escaping the Inquisition…. and they hid the Temple Treasure in the New World??!  Okay, you’ve got my attention and interest.

Isaac Asimov – The Rest Of The Robots

The Rest Of The Robots

I thought that I had read every Asimov story in the Foundation series, about robots.  Turns out that I was wrong.  This book was published in 1964.  It contains 8 short stories, and two novellas about the positronic predecessor to Star Trek’s Data character.  I was able to purchase a Kindle version, and wallow in classic Asimov.

E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith – Imperial Stars

Imperial Stars

This is another Sci-Fi re-read.  This is the first in a series of 12 books.  In 1976, after the death of Doc Smith, his younger author friend, Stephen Goldin took notes, and drafts, and conversations/discussions with Doc, and assembled the story line as he felt Doc would have.  Performers from the interstellar Imperial Circus are used like James Bond, as intelligence gatherers and executioners.  Goldin has his own books, but he did well with this lot.  They still have Doc Smith’s feel to them.

E. C. Tubb – The Temple Of Truth – The Return – Child Of Earth

The Temple of Truth

The Return

Child of Earth

I read the first 27 books of this never-ending series years ago, but ‘life’ caused me to give it up.  When I heard that another author like Stephen Goldin above, had brought it to a post-mortem culmination after Tubb’s death, I bought the final 7.  I read four of them in 2017, and the final three last year.

James Rollins – The 6th Extinction – The Kill Switch

The 6th Extinction

The Kill Switch

A couple more rollicking-good men’s action books.  ‘The Kill Switch’ is the first of a series within a series, where the hero, introduced in a previous book, is an ex-Army, now-paramilitary, who has brought along his K9 partner, which the Government was just going to destroy.

Clive Cussler – Lost Empire

Lost Empire

All the old, well-known authors are increasingly, farming out the sub-series.  Grant Blackwood, who wrote this one for Cussler, also wrote Kill Switch, above, for James Rollins.

David Ignatius – The Quantum Spy

The Quantum Spy

One of the new type of secret agent books.  As you might guess, while there is lots of travel, suspense and physical action, much of the plot revolves around the World Wide Web, hacking, and code-breaking.

Nan Yielding – Things I Never Learned In Sunday School

Things I never Learned in Sunday School

The very-Christian wife of an author decided to do some research to prove the inerrancy of the Bible.  Along the way she turned up so many mistakes, contradictions and unprovable claims, that she turned herself into an Atheist.  I ran into her blog-site one night, and she was pleased that I had read her book, and gave it a recommendation.

James S. A. Corey – Caliban’s War

Caliban's War

This is the second book of a grand Sci-Fi series, recommended to me by my buddy BrainRants.  It is/was available as a series on SYFY, which I can’t access.  Even if you’ve seen some/all of it, I still suggest that you try the books.

Smitty’s Loose Change #9

Chalice

Morality is doing what is right, regardless of what you are told.

Religion is doing what you are told, regardless of what is right.

In the past we had chalices of wood and priests of gold.

Now we have chalices of gold, and priests of wood.

It is far better to have a religion without a church, than a church without a religion.

When religion is used to pander to political whims, it must forego the high moral ground, and become debased by worldly political demands.  The thrust should not be, but often is, directed at the creation of new political institutions and establishing political arrangements.

***

I decided to reward myself with a cup of coffee after a long, hard week.
Then I realized that it’s Tuesday.  Morning!

***

I’ve found a couple of inventive ways to irritate telemarketers, who call at inopportune times (are there ever any opportune times?)  I’ve placed the phone on my stomach, while reclining in my easy chair, after a platter of nachos.  I’ve laid it, face-up, beside a cat who was loudly demanding to be fed.

The son and grandson, third and fourth generations of this weirdly delightful (and delightfully weird) family, have outpaced even me.  One day, the son was in the computer room after coming home from work.  He was standing beside the scanner/printer/fax machine, when the phone rang.  When it rings, the fax machine wakes up. Is it for me?

He said ‘Hello’ into the phone, and got that second of dead air, then it opened to a boiler-room of 50 Pakis babbling in the background.  He immediately jabbed the ‘Send Fax’ button.  SCREEEE-AWWW, SCREECH-SCREECH.  If the fax noise hadn’t drowned it out, he might have learned what the Urdu word for ‘Fuck’ was.

Even more technological, the grandson’s smart-phone shows who’s calling.  When he pulls it from his pocket and looks at the screen, it shows ‘Duct-Cleaner,’ so he answers, “Rogers’ Duct-Cleaning Services, how may we help you?”  “Uhhh….never mind.”

***

I recently found a small advertising flyer, hand-delivered to my mailbox.  It was from a new real-estate company, offering 1% commission sales.  “And you don’t pay until you sell.”  All I could think was, “Margaret, I’ve got a great idea.  Let’s not sell the house….but we’ll give these nice people several thousand dollars, just because they put a postcard in our mailbox.”

***

Clarity

Forest fire update:  Parry Sound 33 inches closer to Highway 69

I wasn’t sure just how a forest fire could move an entire small city almost a meter (yard), so I succumbed to the click bait.  It seems that, a forest fire, identified as “Parry Sound, number 33,” slowly burns (inches) closer to Highway 69.  One little # number sign, or even a comma, would have made that much clearer.

Punctuation

***

That’s about all the stuff that runs screaming through my head, that the court order allows me to tell you at this time.  Arncha glad?   😆