In Which I Visit a Museum

From Jim Macdonald’s blog: a museum visit, in which we see, among other things, a submarine.

Madhouse Manor

And there see a submarine.

Some years ago, for reasons that matter not to our story, I was driving around northern New Jersey when I saw something by the side of the road.  “By golly,” I said, “that looks like a Holland submarine!”  I pulled over and walked to it.  It was!  Holland boat #2, Fenian Ram.  The precursor of all modern submarines.  In the US Navy, USS Holland (AKA Holland boat #6) was SS-1.

I never saw it again though I looked for it every time I passed through the region.  Then, thanks to the Miracle of the Internet, I decided to search for it and to my joy found that it was now in a more congenial place than rusting away by roadside: Fenian Ram was now an exhibit at the Paterson Museum.

Then I had to wait the opportunity to visit: I’m not in the…

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Free Magic Show: Boston

More magic from Jim Macdonald.

Madhouse Manor

Jim Macdonald, Magician

BEST OF BOSTON

The SAM Assembly 9“Best of Boston” contest will be held Wednesday, April 10th at the Puppet Showplace Theater, 32 Station St., Brookline, at 7:30 PM.  There is no charge for this performance.

Note that the starting time is a bit earlier than usual  because we have eight contestants participating, and we plan to finish voting and present the awards by 9:30.  Contestants include (not necessarily in this order):

 

  • Joseph Caulfield (Lord BlackSword)
  • James D. Macdonald
  • Scott Galbraith
  • Mike Lee
  • Kevin Butler
  • Eddie Gardner
  • Duncan Miller
  • Markus Steelgrave

Each contestant will present an 8-12 minute routine of their choice.

Each audience member will receive a ballot and can vote for up to three
contestants.  The top three vote recipients will be the contest winners.

Duncan Miller
Secretary, SAM Assembly #9

For my part, I intend to present “Pure Jennie, the Moonshiner’s Daughter; or, The Vexations…

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It’s Vaudeville!

More magical entertainment from my spouse and co-author:

Madhouse Manor

It's Vaudeville 9th of March, 2019 7:00 pm

This coming Saturday, March 9th, I will have the honor of appearing in the Kearsarge Conservatory of the Performing Arts (KCPA) Scholarship Fundraiser — Vaudeville Performance

Saturday, March 9th, 7:00-9:00 pm

Warner Town Hall, 5 East Main St, Warner, NH 03278

Info: kcpastudiocalendar@gmail.com

http://www.nhperformingarts.org/

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Peeve of the Day (or, Not Just Grammar Makes Me Peevish)

There’s a special kind of irritation I feel whenever somebody starts trying — earnestly and urgently — to tell me about some New! Amazing! and Probably Subversive! thing that I already know. It’s a combination of “I will not be manipulated by emotional argument, dammit!” and “You mean you only just now heard about that?” and “Stop being on my side, you’re annoying me!”, with the exact proportions varying by subject matter.

Scientific theories mostly just get the middle, or “I thought everybody knew that” reaction. I remember being mildly surprised, for example, the first time — back in the eighties, I think it would have been — that I saw plate tectonics described in the popular press as a new and until-recently controversial geologic theory, because everybody I knew had known about plate tectonics for ages. Granted, I spent my high school years back in Texas attending meetings and field trips of the local rockhound club with the rest of my family, and the local rockhound club had more than one professional oil-field geologist in its ranks . . . but when you’re that age, what your parents and your parents’ friends know is pretty much your personal definition of “common knowledge.”

I had the same reaction, with a bit more annoyance and grouchy resentment, after first encountering the East Coast wiccan/new age/alternative spirituality community. It’s hard, for example, to take Robert Grave’s The White Goddess seriously as any kind of revelation when you read it for the first time back in high school because your father recommended it to you. (And when your opinion back then was the same as it is now — that the book is an interesting account of how Robert Graves wrote poetry, but as far as sober or even drunken historical or anthropological fact goes, it’s rubbish.)

And politics . . . I realize, for example, that for some people, the massacre at Wounded Knee is one of those shocking things that their schoolteachers never taught them about. But I was able to put together a class report on the incident in junior high from books in my family’s library, a couple of years before Dee Brown and later Russell Means put a national spotlight on it (for a little while, at least.)

None of this stuff was secret. My parents weren’t political activists or students of esoterica — they were a civil engineer and a school librarian, and the closest either of them got to alternative religions was Episcopalianism and (in my father’s case) Freemasonry. They just happened to have inquiring minds and a lot of books and a willingness to let me could read anything on the bookshelves that I was able to reach.

So it tends to annoy me when people carry on as though any of this was new.

As my mother’s aunt said to her on that subject, “Mildred, I never did understand why you had to go and join that foreign church.”

PseudoScience

Over at Jim Macdonald’s blog, there’s a book review that y’all might find interesting.

Madhouse Manor

The UniversityThe Pseudoscience Warsy of Chicago gives away free e-books.  Every month there’s a new one, and they’re all swell.  This month’s freebie, I think, is one that folks who follow my blog may really like: The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe by Michael B. Gordin.

I remember reading Velikovsky back when I was in fourth or fifth grade.  My dad had copies of Ages in Chaos, Earth in Upheaval (both in paperback) and Worlds in Collision in hardcover.  I loved those books.  They were Grand Theories of Everything, in engaging prose, and filled with footnotes to obscure sources.  Then something occurred to me: “Hey, wait a minute,” I said to myself. “This guy literally can’t tell the difference between a carbohydrate and a hydrocarbon.”  (I had a chemistry set and I knew how to use it.  Yes, I was the…

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Questions I Have Asked My Cats, to No Avail

Me: Why, O Cat, when I have gone to the trouble of providing you with a perfectly cromulent catbox and high-quality kitty litter, do you nevertheless persist in using, instead, the floor directly adjacent to same?

Cat: Meow. (If you really understood me, you wouldn’t have to ask.)

Me: Why, O Cat, when I have gone to the trouble of acquiring for you a warm, high-sided, fleece-lined cat bed, which last winter pleased you entirely, do you this winter insist on once again ignoring it in favor of sleeping draped across my forearms while I’m trying to type?

Cat: Meow. (That was last year. Now it’s this year. Get with the program, human.)

Me: Why, O Cat, do you complain vociferously if you do not get your daily ration of wet cat food along with your dry, and then ignore it until it dries out from the winter cold?

Cat: Meow. (Have you considered microwaving it? You don’t eat your food cold, do you?)

And so it goes. I tell myself that they are transitioning from middle-aged cats to older cats, and getting crotchety in their later years.

Reposting for a Friend

Old-timers who remember SFF-Net may remember Robert W. Glaub, who was a regular poster there and later on Making Light.  He was also a long-time worker for the Federal government, which has — in accordance with unhallowed tradition — repaid him in his recent retirement by shafting him big-time.  The following message is reposted from his Facebook group at his request:

I need help. The government says they overpaid me and emptied out my bank account. I have no money for food or insulin. Plus since I declared bankruptcy my credit union will close down my account on Friday. So if you can send me what you can to my PayPal account by Thursday, that would be a big help. rwglaub@yahoo.com.

Civic Duty, Accomplished

Jim Macdonald and my brother and I went out at 9:30 this morning and voted. (Pencil and paper ballots, marked in curtained booths and stuffed into a big wooden box. We’re a small, small town.) The folks at the polling place said there had been a high turnout so far.

The only hard decision on the ballot was for our district’s state senator. The incumbent, a Democrat, has been accused of domestic violence; the challenger, a Republican, is . . . well, is a Republican; and not voting at all might as well be voting for the Republican. So no matter which way a non-Republican of conscience votes, at least one set of personal principles is going to get outraged.

This is why secret ballots are a good thing.

Autumn, At Last

The local trees are showing color, and I’ve changed my header image accordingly.

At least one weather site is predicting that this year will be one of the best for fall colors in the northeast (though not in other parts of the country), so if you’ve always wanted to do a leaf-peeping vacation, this might be the year to do it.

(People will probably tell you that the colors were better last year, and that they peaked last week anyway, but we always say that, so don’t let it worry you.  It’s just a thing we do, because life in the north country is all about managing one’s expectations.)

Dammit, We Thought of It First

President Trump, in his infinite fatuity, has decided to call for a United States Space Force.

This peeves me no end. We came up with the idea of a Space Force years ago, in our novel The Price of the Stars, and now people reading our books are going to think we’re echoing That Man in the White House.

Of course, the difference between our Space Force and Trump’s is that ours is science fiction — if not outright fantasy — and Trump wants his to become fact. Or, at least purports to want it to become fact. But I could be wrong. Maybe he just wants a Hugo award.

(Good luck with that. Science fiction fans have already demonstrated that they have more sense than to buy that sort of nonsense.)