What I Learned at Mount Vernon

Toward the end of the eighteenth century, a rebellion arose in America. It was provoked by the imposition of a tax on a beverage. George Washington was the most important single individual involved.

Washington put down the rebellion with a show of armed force. It was 1794, so he was President Washington at the time. I wasn’t aware of the whiskey rebellion until today.

We spent an interesting day at Mount Vernon. One of our party wanted to go down onto the sand near the wharf. That was not permitted. I had to break the news that we do not have freedom of beach.

Nevertheless, she persisted

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. Tor is marking the day with a festival of flash fiction, in the form of stories inspired by the phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted”.

I’m about to read the contribution of Catherynne M. Valente: The Ordinary Woman and the Unquiet Emperor. I’m looking forward to the other contributions.

I hope that the day goes well for you.

Seven Surrenders on the Seventh

My most eagerly awaited book of 2017 is Seven Surrenders, by Ada Palmer. It is the sequel to my favorite book of 2016, Too Like the Lightning. 7S will be published on the 7th (of March, 2017). So it’s just a few hours away as I edit this post.

What does the title Seven Surrenders mean? I suspect that it means that each of the seven Hives in some sense surrenders. But if so, to whom? To Bridger, the remarkable kid we met early in TLtL? And why, and how, and…

Or the number seven might refer to days of the week. The narrator, Mycroft Canner, tells us toward the end of TLtL that it takes two books (presumably TLtL and 7S) to tell a seven-day story. TLtL covered Monday to Friday. I expect 7S to describe a wild weekend!

These books make me want to write as well as to read:

Future Countries in Favorite Fiction

The world currently consists of about two hundred countries: sovereign states, most of which are members of the United Nations (UN). They tend to be durable entities with rather stable borders.

The world of the future isn’t divided up in this way. At least not according to a couple of recent novels I enjoyed very much. I refer to:

Continue reading “Future Countries in Favorite Fiction”

Favorite Photo: Path in the Snow

Of the photos I’ve taken, this is my favorite. Well, I might like some kid photos even more, but such photos don’t go on this public site.

The path winds through the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. I used to live near there. That winter was particularly photogenic, as this online album shows.

I see that I took it with a Canon digital camera, which has a far lower resolution than the phone with which I currently take photos. You can click on the image to see the full 1600×1200 photo! I’ll get another camera sometime, when the technology/price combination is right.

Presidents’ Day Was Literally Fine

On Presidents’ Day, we took advantage of the free admission to visit Great Falls Park in Virginia. In previous years, I might have been grumpy about the crowds drawn by the fine weather. The photo (or at least the full-size version of it) shows that the Maryland side was also popular, so we certainly wouldn’t have avoided the crowds by taking our walk on that side.

This year, I was uncharacteristically happy to be among a crowd. It was good to see so many people enjoying and appreciating the National Parks. The Park system is one of the many great things about the USA.

Reading Matters: Fiction and Links

Reading matters a lot to me. This post is about some current fiction and about some related websites.

A Conjuring of Light is the just-published novel by V.E. Schwab. It’s a fantasy set in Londons: yes, there is more than one London, and there is travel between them, and there is magic. Like many fantasy novels, it’s part of a series. The Kindle edition of the first novel in the series is currently on sale, and the cover illustration is wonderful, so a graphical link to that book seems in order.

I’m looking forward to Seven Surrenders, by Ada Palmer. It’s a sequel to Too Like the Lightning, my favorite novel of 2016. I recommend you sample the first few pages of TLtL (follow the link and look inside the book). If you like the the narrator’s voice, and the way in which he “gazes back” to the 18th century from the 25th, you’ll probably love the novel (or novels, since I don’t think that the forthcoming one will disappoint).

Now for those reading-related websites.

  • Goodreads, where I keep track of my reading, write the occasional review, and see what other people are reading.
  • Tor.com, “a site for science fiction, fantasy, and all the things that interest SF and fantasy readers”. Tor is a publisher, but the site tries to engage interest, rather than to sell books directly. And it often gives books away!
  • Amazon. Yes, those links above are affiliate links, and I’d love to cover my hosting costs from such links. But if you get the books elsewhere, that’s great, because books are great, and so are bookstores and libraries.

#rosesarered #hamilton

Hamilton’s read
For dropping some knowledge.
Smelliest dropping?
Electoral College!

Valentine’s day approaches, and “Roses are red”-like poems are everywhere. Everything’s been coming up Hamilton in my mind for a while now. Above is my best combination of the two things. Note: Hamilton described the Electoral College as “at least excellent” in Federalist Paper 68.

I’ll spare you most of the others, except:

Roses are red,
Like Hamilton’s blood.
A. Burr, you spilled it!
Your legacy’s crud.

Any other Hamiltonian Valentine poems?

Bruce's "Badlands" Blasts Bad Boss

Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America. What songs are appropriate to this state of affairs? I’m sure I’m not the first to nominate Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands”.

“Badlands” is far from new. It was on Bruce’s 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town. Here’s a live performance from that year.

Why is “Badlands” so relevant, almost 40 years later? Here are just a few of the reasons.

Other reasons that should also be on the list? Other songs appropriate to the moment? That’s what Comments are for!

Sports in which you can lose despite scoring more points

I challenge you to name a sport that meets each of the following conditions.

  1. It has a scoring system involving points.
  2. Points are good: they help you win. So strokes in golf are not points in this sense. You win golf with fewer of them, rather than with more of them.
  3. It is possible to lose while scoring more points than the other player (or other team).

I used an example of such a sport in a writing project. I’ll identify the sport, and say a little more about the project, in a paragraph or two. So, if you want to accept the challenge, stop reading now. If you’ve arrived via the Facebook discussion I started with a rather looser version of the challenge, welcome!

In this post, I will:

  • Identify the sport I had in mind.
  • Identify a few rather similar sports that also meet conditions 1-3 above.
  • Explain how one of these similar sports meets the conditions.
  • Identify a few sports that meet the conditions, but which I regard as edge cases rather than as good answers.
  • Tell you what my favorite answer is, explain why it’s wrong, and explain how it fits in to the writing project.

OK, you had fair warning: you should have stopped reading a while ago if you accepted the challenge. The sport I had in mind is: tennis. Several other racquet sports meet the conditions in much the same way. I’ll explain in terms of badminton, since it has a simpler scoring system than tennis. I could also have used squash or table tennis or…

Two people, Ackroyd and Belushi, agreed to play badminton. Per the scoring rules of badminton, their match consisted of the best of three games, each game being to 21 points (with some exceptions, none of which arose for A and B).

B won the first game easily, 21-8. But A was better built for the long haul, and won the second game 21-19. He won the third and deciding game by the same score.

So A won the three-game match: he won two of the three games. But B scored more points: 59 to 50.

Here are some edge cases. One is freestyle wrestling (currently an Olympic sport, as are all the sports mentioned in this post). Craig Massey pointed out (on Facebook) that it meets the conditions. My explanation differs a little from his…

Belushi, smarting from his defeat on the badminton court, challenged Ackroyd to a freestyle wresting match. A accepted. B was quickly ahead, taking A down with a throw of grand amplitude, thus scoring 5 points. B then hit A with a steel chair. B was immediately disqualified–much to his surprise, since he’d seen several wrestling matches involving unpunished chair shots. Thus A was declared the winner, even though B scored more points. Several other combat sports, including boxing, are similar edge cases.

Limited overs cricket meets the conditions, due to the Duckworth-Lewis method But I’m not going to explain it here. This is a post, not a book, and it’s already rather long.

My favorite answer to the challenge is: the Electoral College process by which the President of the USA is elected. It’s not a correct answer, since it doesn’t meet “condition zero”: it’s not a sport. Well, I don’t think it is, but feel free to argue otherwise.

But my favorite answer does meet conditions 1-3, as the 2016 election illustrates. Hilary Clinton scored more points (won the popular vote) but lost the match (the Presidential election).

That brings us to the writing project referred to above. The premise is that American politics is actually a show, spread across multiple media: TV, Twitter, etc. It has distinct episodes. Here’s a quote from the current draft.

In recent episodes, the Democrats have done little more than bleat about the Electoral College system. It is as if they are neighbors and tennis opponents of the Republican protagonists. The Democrats just lost a match, because the Republicans won more sets. The Democrats remark that they won most of the points, and thus the Republicans didn’t really beat them.

That paragraph doesn’t work well. I thought that a different sports analogy might improve it. That gave me the idea of issuing the challenge, first on Facebook, then here.

The challenge turned out to be interesting in its own right. Even if it doesn’t end up affecting the quoted description of the Democrats, it’ll have been worth it, for me at least. I hope that this has been interesting for you, too, since you made it to the end of this post–which is open for comments, by the way!