The byline in The Cowboy Chronicle
is by General US Grant but the text is a plagiaristic reprint of an item circulated anonymously in April decrying a vote on the UN Small Arms Treaty:“. . . In a 53-46 vote, the senate narrowly passed a measure that will stop the United States from entering into the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.
The Statement of Purpose from the bill read:
To uphold Second Amendment rights and prevent the United States from entering into the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.
The U.N. Small Arms Treaty, which has been championed by the Obama Administration, would have effectively placed a global ban on the import and export of small firearms. The ban would have affected all private gun owners in the U.S., and had language that would have implemented an international gun registry on all private guns and ammo.
Astonishingly, 46 of our United States Senators were willing to give away our Constitutional rights to a foreign power.
Here are the 46 senators that voted to give your rights to the U.N.”
There were several other editorials, letters and, of course, the full support of the editorial staff that repeats this call to action.
Except, that’s not what actually happened. According to Snopes
and other primary sources
(such as the Congressional Record
itself) the measure voted upon was not the treaty itself, but a non-binding test amendment expressing opposition to the ATT which was tacked onto an unrelated congressional budget resolution. And, in light of that, it shouldn’t be surprising that the hype over the UN treaty ignores the text
of the actual treaty itself.“The Arms Trade Treaty obligates member states to monitor arms exports and ensure that weapons don't cross existing arms embargoes or end up being used for human-rights abuses, including terrorism. Member states, with the assistance of the U.N., will put into place enforceable, standardized arms import and export regulations (much like those that already exist in the U.S.) and be expected to track the destination of exports to ensure they don't end up in the wrong hands. Ideally, that means limiting the inflow of deadly weapons into places like Syria.”
To use their own words, “The just don’t get it.” For as much as I support a strong Second Amendment, I would do no service to the cause if I were to continuously spread false information. And, with just a few clicks of a mouse, the actual information is readily available to anyone who looks. Either the SASS is spreading ignorant propaganda based on false flyers distributed anonymously or they actually checked their sources and decided to go with the misinformation anyway. That colloquially known as lying.
You cannot support the truth with a lie.
In another editorial letter, Dick Heller opened with “The forceful taking of another’s productivity is called slavery. . . That 'takings' process remains alive and well today but given the political barely-palatable but acceptable label of . . . TAXES.”
No. Slavery is the possession of people by other people. Not just their labor but everything. Slaves are property. They don’t have rights. They don’t have homes. They don’t get paid. And they certainly don’t pay taxes on the wages they never received. You, sir, have misconstrued chattel slavery with being an underpaid employee in a capitalist society.
Doesn’t it bother you that when you use words like “statism” and talk about slavery in terms of production and labor that you are using exactly the same language that Karl Marx used to describe the development of societies. Do you really mean to use the foundational communist arguments just so you can avoid paying taxes?
Taxes are the price we pay for living in a large, distributed society. You could never build a road to allow you to drive your SUV to and from work, and no employer is going to build it for you or their other employees. We saw that in the late 19th century when mining companies built town near their mines to house their employees. They provided company stores for the employees to buy their necessities, including requiring that they pay for the tools they needed to do their jobs. The employers even paid them in script instead of with money so they could ONLY spend what they earned at the company store. It was a vicious cycle of usury and poverty.
Do you like living in the suburbs? The government gave you that with taxes. And, what’s more, at the time those roads were buing built, those taxes weren’t some onerous burden on the working and middle class. It was on the backs of those corporations that would otherwise be keeping its employees on company land, in company homes, being paid in company script which they would give back to the company at the company store.
That’s more like slavery than the piddling little 5.3% federal tax rate you and your middle income neighbors pay.
And what do you get for those taxes? Well, roads, of course. Snow plows that clear those roads. Police to keep big rigs from going to fast and running your SUV off those roads. Firemen. Ambulances. Hospitals that will treat your injuries even if you don’t have insurance. (But that becomes moot now that you have the Affordable Care Act subsidizing your actually getting insurance.) You have health inspectors checking up on restaurants so you don’t have rats shitting in your Big Macs. How about funding those bailouts that kept the automobile companies from going out of business so you can have that shiny new SUV to buy. Schools that will educate the generation that will be running the government when you retire, because you don’t want morons running things when you are trying to cash in on Medicare and Social Security.
Like you, I don’t like the act of paying taxes and I would like to keep more of that money for myself. But I recognize that it is not even remotely close to being slavery and I kind of like all those things that those taxes give me. Like national parks and free flu shots and air traffic controller keeping planes from falling out of the sky. And even though you are a selfish jerk that thinks you could be just fine on your own in the wilderness fending for yourself in the libertarian utopia that parallels modern Somalia, I don’t mind sharing what I have with you because the postal service and milk under $7 a gallon and the Internet keeps you just comfortable enough not to try to overthrow my government with the god and guns that you cling to out of fear and ignorance.
I had never been to Darkover
but since my wife was going and after my “Bobbins Initiative” commentary
, I thought I should put my money where my mouth was and support an established general literary science fiction convention’s steampunk track
Darkover is a long running convention (since the 70s) in Baltimore with attendance not over 500 with its name originating with the Marion Zimmer Bradly series of novels. The name was licensed and apparently that license has run out so this will be the last Darkover con. Next year it will be the same people in the same hotel just with a different name; Chessiecon.
As I mentioned, there was a steampunk track. At least one person recognized me from one of my presentations at the Steampunk World’s Fair
. I also ran into one of the reenactors (Buffalo Hunter) from Old Bedford Village’s Gunfight at the OK Corral
One of the first steampunk programs on the schedule was on spiritualism. This pretty much followed the pattern of every spiritualism or occult panel I have ever seen at any con; Even though all of THESE people are frauds, fakes and charlatans, doesn’t mean that psychic powers aren’t real. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
However, in actuality, it is. The complete lack of evidence for the proposition IS, in fact, evidence against the proposition. Bayes’ theorem explains how. I’m not going to go into it, just watch the video
On Saturday night, the “pith helmet is a symbol of British imperialism and therefore shouldn’t be worn” topic came up. I won’t go into that one either and will just reference my previous exposition on the subject
. That was followed by a discussion that went through homeopathy and the ability of calcified lumps or unusually shaped moles discovered in the foot by a reflexologist to diagnose pregnancy and kidney disease or some other such. A cavalcade of observation bias. After being told numerous anecdotes about how many times the practitioner was able to successfully diagnose some sort of problem, I asked, “So, how many failures? How many times did you say there was a problem and there turned out not to be a problem or how many times did you fail to see a problem that was there?”
“I don’t know.”
And therin lies the flaw in all of these. Without knowing that, you have no idea what is actually going on. You see only the successes, ignore the failures and delude yourself into believing something that is unsupported by evidence. This is how the plural of anecdote is not data.
I suppose I should expect these sorts of woo-ish attitudes from the general populous but Darkover also contains an “esoteric
” track hosted by Ecumenicon and the Order of St. Michael. The presence of faith (belief without evidence or in spite of evidence) is strong. I really need to sit down and build a presentation that recognizes Victorian pseudoscience for what it really was: fake science.
On the real science side (thank you for reality) there was a presentation on telegraphy based on “The Victorian Internet
” by Tom Standage. I should relearn the Morse code. There was also the obligatory introduction to steampunk presentation.
Saturday evening was the promenade, a steampunk costume contest inflicted on random people sitting in the hotel lobby. Most of the weekend I was not in my full kit but for the contest I pulled out the gunleather and sword.
Yea. I won.
Does that sound to be lacking in enthusiasm? Well, it should. It’s not that I have any sort of disdain for costuming or that I have won often enough that another victory doesn’t measure. It’s really that I don’t consider my costume to be all the great or all steampunk. Nearly all of the clothing was purchased from Gentleman’s Emporium
, so there is no creativity or sewing talent involved in that. Even though I built the belt, the gunleather isn’t inspired or anything. The only “steampunk” elements are the goggles and the fact that I am wearing a Japanese katana in a US cavalry saber sheath on a gunfighter costume. I do want to show off a bit and have pride in what I have done but there are other people who deserve costuming awards much more than I do.
One of the presentations on Sunday was about Charles Babbage and his machines. The presenter talked about the mathematical shortcut for calculating polynomials called the Method of Difference
and the realization as how Babbage’s difference engine actually worked hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m not particularly good at math but knowing how these things actually work is fascinating and perhaps when I was in school if I had been taught this, I might have found it enlightening enough to do better instead of failing calculus multiple times.
I bought “The Steampunk Gazette
.” I think it’s one of the most thorough, well organized and attractive of the “What is Steampunk” books out there. I also have met the author, Major Tinker. He came to Pittsburgh in 2010 and joined us in a photo shoot
and I’ve run into him several times subsequently at conventions. I also picked up “The Casebook of Newbury & Hobbes
” by George Mann.
One would think that with all the Dr. Who fans walking around, a fez would not be such a novelty. I need a button that says, “No, I’m not a shriner.”
I return from something of a Thanksgiving vacation to learn that the Program Manager, the new guy who came something less than a year ago with all the latest promises of improvements, is gone. The short email he sent read like everyone knew that he was leaving but, for the most part, few people here at the Help Desk had any interaction with him, he was seldom even in the office and, sending out an email on the Friday after Thanksgiving with any sign of two weeks notice sounds a bit precipitous.
That makes three in a row. The guy before him (the one who presided over my being dicked around after being promised I would be Education Coordinator) was around for a long time but he was forced out amid rumors of sexual discrimination and embezzlement. Oh, and no one with The Bank liked him either. He did not work well with others, apparently. The guy before him (who presided over my first being chopped from training a long time ago) never left his office, never did much of anything, misrepresented himself on his resume and was axed in a short period of time. Only the manager I started with left under "normal" circumstances, giving his two weeks notice and moving on like a professional. All three after him have just. . . gone.
This does not speak well for the next higher level of management that hired them.
The theater company of Pitt at Greensburg has offered up a production of “The Birth of Merlin”
by William Shakespeare and Walter Rowley but with a steampunk twist. I first heard of it from a posting online where the theater arts director was looking for advice on judging a steampunk costume contest. I have never judged a costume contest but I have been judged in contests (and even won a few) so I offered up what I thought would be appropriate criteria for judging.
In judging steampunk costuming I think higher marks should be given for those that present a more science fiction or alternate history aesthetic over simply those that are of the Victorian period. And secondly, as with all costuming, I think higher marks should be given to those costumes that are made in whole or in part over those that have been purchased off the rack. My own costuming tends to be at the lower end of both of those scales. If I wanted to be more steampunk, I would wear my “adventurer” outfit including gunleather, katana and ray gun in the shoulder holster. However, I decided on simply a vest, tailcoat, goggles and Tesla coil fez. Gunleather and sword is awkward for sitting in a college theater seat.
At the contest before the performance there was only one other contestant. She had gone with the interwar period short military-style coat with medals and “glue some gears on it” accessories. Applying my own criteria, she would have won the higher marks for DIY but neither of us particularly put forward a science fiction theme. She won the 1st prize, and rightfully so.
On with the show.“The Birth of Merlin”
is apparently one of the Shakespearian Apocrypha, those attributed to Shakespeare but unable to be confirmed as such. The general scholarly conclusion tends towards this not being Shakespeare’s work and probably not even that of Rowley but likely the work of someone else.
Be that as it may, here is the plot of the story: Prince Uther is missing and his brother King Aurelius meets with an emissary from the recently defeated Saxons. Aurelius falls in love with the beautiful female diplomat and immediately proposes marriage to seal the peace.
Cut to the woods where the very pregnant Joan and her brother are searching for the missing father. Uther shows up searching for a beauteous woman he had dallied with in the forest. Is Uther the father of Joan’s child? He denies it, is found by knights sent by his brother and returns to court. It turns out that the Devil (yes, the Devil himself) is the father of Joan’s child.
Cut back to court. The wedding is over. Uther discovers that his brother’s new wife, the Saxon representative, was the woman he had met in the forest. There is intrigue, betrayal, treason and a falling out between the royal brothers.
Joan’s child is born a full adult. This is Merlin. After some settling of accounts with his devil of a father he enters the political machinations, prophesies a giant rock falling on the Saxon king, sorts things out with the Saxon plot to overthrow the Britons and announces that Uther’s son will be a great king.
OK, that’s an overly simplistic synopsis but you get the picture. The twist is that this is steampunk. The Britons are all in Victorian garb and the villain Saxons are vampires.
I liked the vampire idea. The Saxons are the villains, and that is made clear from square one, so why not make them the living dead? On the minus side, however, I think they may have done the teeth wrong. I noticed that the actors had a difficult time enunciating through the fangs. I might have suggested that the vampire fangs not be on the canines but on the next teeth forward. Firstly, it makes them more visible to the audience but, more importantly, it’s a little easier to be understood.
All the armed characters wore swords. I might have thought that with the steampunk/Victorian era theme there might be more guns and of either traditional or ray-gun varieties. There was not a lot of fighting on display so guards standing around with tesla coil guns and such would have been wholly doable, from a direction point of view, of course. As a practical matter, building guns and gun looking things might not be in the budget. Plywood swords are cheap and easy.
In writing this I just had a geek thought. There are several instances where magic is employed, mostly by someone like Merlin gesturing and causing the other person to freeze. Sonic screwdriver? Too much, I should think, but having the actors employ some sort of technology to effect these otherwise magical actions would suit the steampunk staging.
I don’t have a lot of experience with live Shakespearian theater, most of my recent theater outings have been with the Savoyard's’ Gilbert & Sullivan, so I’m not sure I’m a good judge of theater performance. The main characters seemed comfortable and projected well. Some of the minor characters tended to present a little more hesitatingly which, I would expect, was why they ended up with secondary characters. I already mentioned the issue with the vampire teeth. The Saxon general glowered very well. The other Saxon attendants vamped it up well.
The clown (the unnamed uncle of Merlin) was probably the best performance, not only in terms of character but of performance. General Edoll, the Countess of Chester stole the scenes she was in. In one, Uther and the king’s advisors had realized that the Saxons were conspiring to overthrow Aurelius and acted to convince the king of the threat. When the king branded them as traitors General Edoll, with swords drawn, bellowed for him to essentially STFU.
The crowd went “Ooooooo.”
After the show I got a change to talk to the director and the costume designer. They graciously invited me to join them and the cast and crew at TGIFridays.
is writing a steampunk graphic novel but has unsurprisingly fallen behind on NANOWRIMO. He wouldn’t tell me more.
I learned that the original play had been something on the order of five acts and had been cut down to two.
The cyber Goths that were the narrator and the Devil’s attendants cost $500. Lots of shopping at Hot Topic. There was also a lot of other expensive costuming so that would explain why something like guns were not in the budget.
I almost wore my red vest, tails and red felt fez because I like the color contrast. That would have been the exact same Gentleman’s Emporium vest and matching tails as worn by The Devil. Awkward. Instead I chose the black vest to match the more steampunky black velvet Tesla-coil fez and unintentionally grabbed the frock coat instead of the tails going out the door.
Theater has been picking up steampunk in the last few years. Just this week, Sarah Barnes
on Steampunk Empire posted a questionnaire
about steanmpunk Shakespeare. I recall hearing of “The Tempest”
and Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance”
being steampunked. A search of the internet adds “Richard III”
, “As You Like It.”
, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream"
(which was also interpreted as the film “Wormtooth Nation”
, and “The Sorcerer”
Last week, the Sounds of Steam
podcast with Travis Sivart and Wendy Callahan featured Charlie Stayton and Michael Jankowski speaking on Freemasonry. The general crux of the interview was essentially that the masons are just a bunch of guys who get together to “better themselves.” No big secrets. No vast conspiracies. Just a bunch of guys hanging out on a Friday night.
So much for the mystique of secret societies.
But a few things they talked about rubbed me the wrong way. And it’s not that I didn’t already know these things but to hear how casually they condescended without realizing it made it clear that the masons would never have me and I would never join them.“The only thing you’ve got to believe in to be a mason is some type of great architect or a deity, and the reason for that is that you take an oath. and we believe that unless you have that belief in some type of supreme being, any oath you take doesn’t mean anything. it is a hollow promise.”
“So a man of his word is not worth anything if he’s not believing in a higher being?”
“Not necessarily, a man of his word is very important, but if you take an oath there is always a chance that even a man of his word realizes there is no consequence for that oath, he might just blow it off and disown it.”
Bullshit. If your oath worked, if your fear of consequences worked, then few people would lie in court. Criminals would place their hands on the Bible and, fearing eternal damnation or whatever else their god would mete out as punishment for oath-breaking, confess to their crimes.
Doesn’t happen does it? Instead, they lie their asses off because their fear of consequence has been completely circumvented by their sure and certain knowledge that THEIR personal deity has sanctioned their actions. They believe that their lie is justified by their god or that they will be forgiven the indiscretion.
On a deeper level, if a man of his word keeps that word only because he was fearful of breaking his oath to an invisible sky daddy, is he acting morally? Is he truly a man of his word? If one is compelled out of fear to commit an act of evil, say, for example, someone was holding a gun to your head, are you morally responsible for that evil? Conversely, if you are compelled out of fear to commit an act of goodness, are you morally responsible for that good?
I submit that a man of his word is trusted to be a man of his word, not because he said so and placed his hand on a book, but because he has shown a history of keeping his word.
And while we are on the subject of men, the question came up wondering why women were not permitted to be masons.“Well, one word, we’re a fraternity, were not a sorority, and it’s a tradition.”
Those are two of the weakest arguments I have ever heard and, if that’s all you have, then you are way, way behind the curve.
“We’re a fraternity” is easily changed by using the word “social organization.”
And you need to ask yourself, if you were creating this social organization from scratch, would you exclude women? If not, then why are you continuing such a discriminatory practice? If you can’t think of any good reason other than that you are following tradition, you are sexist.
Oh, sure, they have the Eastern Star sister organization but separate is not equal. Freemasonry in France has decided that women have equal opportunity and equal rights within freemasonry, what’s your excuse?
The idea that the Earth is hollow has a long history that not only follows through advancing scientific theory to a modern understanding of geology but also through an increasingly bizarre and anti-intellectual path into new age foolishness. Of course, like so many other conflicts between myth and science, the 19th Century is the confluence for both those paths.
It begins with the ancient and classical concepts of the underworld. Caves were well known and it should not be surprising that these glimpses into the bowels of the Earth hinted at larger realms even deeper beneath the Earth.
On a visit to southern Italy in 1638, Jesuit scholar Anthanasius Kircher
, hailed as “the last Renaissance man,” was lowered into the crater of Vesuvius, then on the brink of eruption, in order to examine its interior. From this and other studies, Kircher published “Mundus Subterraneus”
in1664 in which he envisioned the Earth being shot through with caverns, some empty, others filled with flames with connections and vents that eventually lead up to the surface to become volcanoes, and other filled with water with the tides being caused by the ocean’s waters moving into and out of these caverns.
In many ways, Kircher’s model was not unlike the way the Earth was assumed to be back to antiquity, merely codified in a more scientific form. This was also the model that persisted across the scientific consensus for the next several centuries until more modern instrumentation began to reveal the Earth beyond what one could observe suspended from a rope in the mouth of an active volcano.
But even observation sometimes does not match with the model. It had been observed that the magnetic poles of the Earth did not match with the geographical poles. Nor did it seem that there were only two poles with the Earth a simple magnet as there were anomalous readings that suggested that there were minor poles. Finally, it was noticed that those magnetic poles were not fixed but were drifting about the Earth.
To explain this, Edmond Halley
, the man whose great mathematical work proved Kepler’s orbital laws and earned him periodic immortality by having a returning comet named after him, postulated in 1692 that the Earth was constructed of concentric shells, 500 miles thick at the surface, with roughly Venus and Mars sized shells within and with a core about the size of Mercury at the center. That each of these shells spun at their own rates and slightly off on the surface shell’s inclination explained the complex magnetic fields.
He also envisioned each of these shells as being separated by a space filled with an atmosphere and insisted that there was some sort of illumination and probably life because God would not let such a space be uselessly lifeless.
Now, one would think that a mathematician would be able to crunch the numbers of orbital mechanics and determine that the Earth could not be hollow because the density of the Earth did not support such a conclusion but you also have to remember that the mass of the Earth had to be calculated based on the orbital interactions of other things, most particularly the Moon. Assume that the Moon is the same density as the Earth (and in the 17th Century one would have no reason to think otherwise) and the ratio of masses would suggest a lighter, and thus possibly hollow, Earth. Well, that is unless you take gravity into account that would tend to crush all those spheres towards a gravitational center and there being no mechanism to account for how the Earth would have formed those distinct concentric spheres.
And here is where the myth of the Hollow Earth began. Even with science in its infancy, the known physics of the 17th Century was sufficient to crush Halley’s concentric shells. Without divine intervention, there was simply no mechanism to account for either the formation of shells or their continuation. This was recognized at the time and even with the support of a great mind like Edmond Halley’s, the Hollow Earth remained a fringe hypothesis
Thomas Burnet’s 1681 book “The Sacred Theory of the Earth”
postulated that the crust of the Earth was a smooth scum that floated and solidified on the surface of a massive sphere of water. The earth spun upright on its axis and, because of that, the tropical sun beat relentlessly down upon the equator. Eventually, the heat grew to the point that the shell cracked and the subterranean ocean spilled forth to inundate the planet.
Yes, literally Noah’s flood. The crust cracked and convulsed creating mountains and valleys, the axis tilted, the floating crust found equilibrium and the flood waters receded. Burnet explained it in scientific terms and attributed the flood to natural forces but used the Biblical narrative as if it were historical fact.
The Hollow Earth theory didn’t really float to the surface again until 1818 when John Cleves Symmes, Jr
. stood on a street corner in St. Lous passing out flyers:“I declare the earth is hollow, and habitable within; containing a number of solid concentrick spheres, one within the other, and that it is open at the poles 12 or 16 degrees; I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the hollow, if the world will support and aid me in the undertaking.”
He sent 500 copies of his pamphlet to philosophical societies, colleges, and governments officials in the US and Europe. In spite of attaching a certificate attesting to his mental soundness, he received no positive replies.
Symmes’ theory was a variation on that of Halley, with the Earth a hollow sphere with concentric spheres within. Unlike Halley, he added convenient 4,000 mile wide holes at each pole to afford access to the interior. Additionally, he added geography on the interior, concave surface of each sphere, complete with oceans and continents and its inhabitants held in place by a combination of gravity and centrifugal force.
The rails had been officially and thoroughly jumped.
Symmes traveled the US, giving lectures on the subject and soliciting funds to mount an expedition but he never had any success, in part because he was a very poor public speaker. His fortunes turned somewhat when he met Jeremiah Reynolds
in 1824. Reynolds was a much better speaker and was much more convincing of not only the proposal that the Earth was hollow but towards mounting an actual polar expedition. In fact, Reynolds began to emphasize the practical knowledge and fame derived from polar exploration over the goal of proving Symmes theory, which led to a falling out between the two.
Reynolds continued his profitable lecture circuit independently of Symmes and was able to convince President John Quincy Addams to outfit an expedition. When Andrew Jackson became president the plan of the previous administration was canceled but Reynolds was undeterred, launching a privately funded expedition in 1829 (the year of Symmes’ death). Reynolds reached the Antarctic coast but was never able to penetrate to the interior to find Symmes’ polar hole.
Symmes had never written anything more than his pamphlets but devotee James McBride compiled Symmes’ thoughts and lectures into the 1826 book “Symmes’ Theory of Concentric Spheres”
. Illustrations in that book had reduced Symmes’ five concentric spheres to only two, reflecting Symmes’ own evolution of the theory. Symmes’ son Americus plagiarized McBrides book, almost word for word (same title as well), but reflected the final form of Symmes’ evolving model, the one we think of today,
a single outer shell with a vast, empty interior and a central sun to light the interior space.
In 1734, Emanuel Swedenborg had offered the Nebular Hypothesis of planetary formation. In this, the stars and planets form from great clouds of dust and gas, coalesced by gravity. With some adjustments, this is not unlike the contemporary model we have today. What followed from this, in Hollow Earth theory, was that the outer crust of the Earth solidified while the interior continued to condense into a central star, ignoring what that would imply to the baked inhabitants of the inner surface.
With most of the Earth explored, mapped or on the verge of discovery, the Hollow Earth became fertile ground for adventure fiction, satire and the new genre of utopian fiction.
Nathaniel Ames wrote a satirical novel in 1820 based on Symmes theories called “Symzonia; Voyage of Discovery.”
Borrowing liberally from “Symzonia”
and lectures of Jeremiah Reynold, Edgar Allan Poe wrote “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pyn”
in 1837. It wasn’t well received and Poe returned to his strength in the short story. It is still unclear why Poe invoked Reynolds with his dying breath.
William F. Lyons wrote the non-fictional “The Hollow Globe”
in 1871 based on information channeled through clairvoyant M.L. Sherman. No reason to give Symmes any credit for an identical model.
In the same year, Edward Bulwer-Lytton published “The Coming Race”
with the inner Earth more like Kircher’s with vast caverns enlarged by the omni-versatile and magical power of the vril
. The first of a string of utopian Hollow Earth novels with a peaceful, perfect society with women as the rulers. However, this is not quite as femenist as it might first appear in that these women plan on invading the surface world and clense it of its inferior society.
For a truly feminist take, Mary Bradley Lanes “Mizora: A Prophesy”
1881 has the perfect blond haired, blue eyed Ayrian women eliminating not only the darker races but the need to men altogether.“Pantaletta: A Romance of Sheheland”
came out the next year and while it pseudonymously written by one Mrs. J Wood, it was the complete opposite of “Mizora”, a comic dystopia with all the gender roles and norms reversed, and transvestitism universally enforced by the rule of law. Apparently some guy was frightened by the prospect of women’s suffrage."The Goddess of Atatabar”
by William Bradshaw was published in 1892. By that time, the American frontier had been filled up and Manifest Destiny had been fulfilled. No matter. The Hollow Earth had plenty more land available for Anglo-saxon imperialist ambitions.
And, of course, there was Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth”
published in 1864. It is the most loved and best remembered of the hundreds of Hollow Earth novels, in no small part because it was Verne writing. I also tend to think it was one of the novels with the fewest pretensions. An adventure for adventure’s sake and not fitting out the Earth’s interior for some overarching political or social message. Professor Otto Lidenbrock and his companions descend into a volcano searching for the vast Kirchian underworld. Along the way, they reveal the entire geological history of the Earth, encounter a few monsters along the way, and make their escape and triumphant return to academe acclaim. And, that’s it. No utopian visions, no advanced civilizations bent on our destruction or wildernesses ripe for conquest, just a scientific travelogue with a few dinosaurs thrown in. This simplicity has allowed Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” to withstand the test of time.
But we’re not done with Hollow Earth theories yet.
In 1869, Cyrus Teed,
an eclectic physician and alchemist, was playing with the medicinal uses of electricity and accidentally electrocuted himself. When he regained consciousness, his said that a goddess had come to him and revealed the true nature of the universe, a new set of scientific and religious ideas he called Koreshanity which included the proposition that the Earth was not a sphere, or even a hollow sphere but a spherical, spinning rocky shell in the void of the beyond and that all of existence existed within this space. Any perceived convexity of this cellular cosmogony
was the result of an optical illusion. The sun was a giant mystical battery at the center. The planets were fragments floating on magnetic winds. The starts and moon were merely refractions.
He and his religious followers set up a commune in Florida and set about proving the concavity of the Earth with a series of poorly constructed wooden t-squares set up along the beach. It shouldn’t be surprising that all their data perfectly confirmed his conclusions.“To know of the Earth’s concavity and its relation to Universal form, is to know God; but to believe in the Earth’s convexity, is to deny God.”
The later half of the 19th Century saw science actually given the tools necessary to determine the inner structure of the Earth. Italian Dilippo Cecchi built the first seismometer in 1875 and a little more than a decade later, the detection of an earthquake in Japan by a seismometer in Germany essentially disproved the idea that the Earth was hollow. Subsequent refinement over next half century had mapped out the true inner structure with a rocky outer crust and various layers of the molten interior.
This sort of drove a wooden stake into the heart of the Hollow Earth theory. It’s last hurrah was Edgar Rice Burroughs 1914 novel “At the Earth’s Core”
and several subsequent Pellucidar
novels. Burroughs didn’t care that science had already disproved the various Hollow Earth theories, he was just writing an adventure story. In some ways, his story was successful in spite of reality and has stood the test of time for the same reasons as Verne. A story endures.
And endures in spite of reality. We are not done with the Hollow Earth yet. There are, to this day, those who still follow Kircher, Symmes and Teed in believing that the world is a hollow sphere. Rumors persist that Admiral Byrd never flew over the north pole in 1947 but instead traveled into Symmes’ hole. The NPIEE (North Pole Inner Earth Expedition) is still attempting to raise the $3.5 million necessary to rent a Russian icebreaker and travel to the north pole to prove Symme’s theory once and for all. The film company that was supposed to be helping fund this disappeared under suspicious circumstances and their Indiegogo
fundraising campaign only raised $2,000, so that doesn’t look like it’s happening any time soon. The Hollow Earth Insider
still publishes, insisting that alien spacecraft emerge from secret government caverns. In fact, their website seems to put forward every Hollow Earth theory imaginable, even when one theory contradicts another. Everything is true.
So, take a deep breath, point your toes, and Google “Hollow Earth” and you will find a vast cavalcade of fiction and pseudocience, bad photoshops and other lies, and even a few links to stories from a time when it was possible that there Earth maybe, possible, might have been, not the way we think of it today.
Adventure awaits in the Hollow Earth.
“Envision the day Obama signs a dictatorial anti-Second Amendment bill into law and the states, as a solid unified majority forcefully respond, “NO! We will not obey!”Colonel Dan
starts off his monthly Libertarian fear mongering on the last page of “The Cowboy Chronicles”
(Vol. 26 No. 11) with this bit of hyperbole and ignorance. I mean, this is Schoolhouse Rock level political science here.
If a bill is being signed into law, the president didn't just pull it out of his ass. It has gone through the legislative process, been voted on, and approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate before it gets to the president's desk to sign. That’s the exact opposite of how dictatorships work.
So, when you start of with a lie, I’m beginning to doubt you really care about truth. Yes, Colonel Dan, I’m calling you a liar and a fear monger because the amount of research you have done, though cherry picked, indicates that you really do know better and are just choosing to lie about how the American political process works. I mean, if you used the word “decree” instead of “bill” you might have some sort of case but then you would have to show a pattern of dictatorial decree by President Obama.“Obama’s National Labor Relations Board appointments being one obvious example. Obama appointed members to that board who he anticipated would be unacceptable to a significant number of Senators. He therefore waited until the Senate went on vacation to appoint them, not in recess, but on vacation., and issued a ludicrous statement that he merely made recess appointments.”
What Colonel Dan fails to mention (choose to conceal) is that the Senate was scheduled to go on recess but used a legally questionable method to pretend that they were still working, (pro forma
sessions where a single senator briefly gavels the Senate into session for a few minutes) knowing that Obama would attempt a recess appointment. It was parliamentary bait and switch. Colonel Dan would have you believe that he has used dictatorial powers but what he doesn’t tell you is that it is still in the courts being decided according to the way our Constitution says it is to be decided. Should the courts decide against the administration, are you really suggesting that Obama will ignore the ruling and send in the military to disband the Supreme Court?“As I’ve always said, when those charged with enforcing the law, ignore the law, there is no law. And that’s exactly what we have right now in this federal government.”
So, yeah. I guess you do believe that.
And the thing is, it was really little different than President Bush had done more than a dozen times. And many presidents before that. I bet you weren’t screaming about the threat of an imperial presidency way back then.
Finally, Colonel Dan gets to the meat of the matter, pulling out state nullification theory, ignoring Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution while, at the same time as claiming they are defending the Constitution and threatening armed revolution to restore Constitutional federalism.
Bullshit. The editors of the “The Cowboy Chronicles” chose to run this States Rights screed alongside articles on Confederate raider and terrorist “Bloody” Bill Anderson and slaving filibuster William Walker, do they really expect us to believe that they, and Colonel Dan, are all about saving America from the dictatorial powers of Barack Hussein Obama?“A generation ago, Americans wouldn’t have given Obama the time of day.”
Yea. And we both know why, don’t we?
My initial expectation was to drive up to Madison on Thursday but, with the situation as it is, it turned out that we could take an extra day and leave on Wednesday. That made the drive not so arduous by our staying with my brother-in-law outside of Chicago and then with only a 2+ hour drive the next day so that we missed absolutely nothing of the con.
As we stopped for gas at an Illinois turnpike rest stop, I noticed the guy getting out of the car to fill his talk behind me had a quite spectacular mustache. I admit that I twirled my own stache to draw attention to it, suspecting that it might be appreciated by another aficionado. I was expecting that he would see me and we would exchange “the manly nod” of acknowledgement. Instead, his wife got out of the car to actually talk to me.
It turned out that they were vendors Steampunk Works
from New Jersey on their way to TeslaCon.
Having dinner with my brother-in-law, we talked about a steampunk revisioning of Captain America. Setting Steve Rogers in the context of the Civil War doesn’t significantly change the character, merely places slave holding confederates in place of Nazis and also gives a lot of opportunity to address both the issues of the day and comment on modern interpretations. I recall a story line where the Red Skull is resurrected by Arnim Zola into the cloned body of Steve Rogers and the Skull thanks Cap for the perfect Aryan body. A very powerful transposition of the blond-haired, blue eyed, all-American hero being also the perfect Nazi body type. A plot line that would not necessarily translate into the American Civil War, though race issues would definitely be at the fore. Perhaps having the super-soldier serum coming from the research of Dr. Henry Jekyll, though not racially based, would add a similar gravitas to the character.
When I checked into the hote at noontime on Thursdayl, one of the desk attendants, Ryan, recognized me from last year. Or rather, he recognized my stache. He had affected an accent. He secretly bundled our wireless access because we had asked about it. He ran up stairs to the room when he forgot to return my credit card at the desk. Good job, Ryan. You are one of the people that help make TeslaCon what it is.
Uncle Hyena gave a presentation on airship physics and I attended to see how other people were covering a topic that I covered in my presentations. He was pretty new to this whole presenting thing and said that he was prepared to have me come up and take over because my mentioning that I also gave such presentations was enough convince him I knew what I was doing. I admit that I have occasionally stepped on the toes of presenters as I have stepped in, knowing more or thinking I knew more than they did. I have moderated that sort of behavior significantly and don't want to take over. I will offer insight when asked and may occasionally challenge misinformation but I don't need to take over their time slot when I often enough have a time slot of my own.
I liked very much that he was able to tell a story of his own experience with an airship. That can make an academic subject like formulas for buoyancy less offputing.
This year's opening ceremony was something less cinematic than last years. Not surprising as it is presenting a diplomatic conference rather than a rocket ship to the moon. I think that may also feed into why the story that ran through the convention had less impact and relevance than in past years. The immersion that TeslaCon has become famous for was a bit light because of it.
Next year we go to the center of the Earth, so this lapse of dramatic narrative will be forgotten.
I stopped in on Lord Bobbins' history of TeslaCon where he brought people up to speed on the narrative threads of previous years. In that he mentioned going to the center of the Earth and going to the Arctic to get there and I asked about the holes at the poles. The way he didn't answer the specifics made me think that he didn't know much of the 19th Century foundations of the hollow Earth theory beyond Doug McClure and Peter Cushing in "At the Earth's Core." I talked to him later in the weekend and confirmed that. He didn't know about Edmond Halley's theory of concentric spheres within the Earth to account for the magnetic pole not being aligned with the rotational pole. He didn't know about John Cleves Symmes convincing President John Quincey Adams to fund an expecition to the pole to find the access to the Earth's interior. He didn't know of Cyrus Teed's cellular cosmology that places us on a concave Earth, with the sun at the center and us living on the interrior surface.
I will need to read up and boil it down so I can bring him quickly up to speed and he can incorperate some of that into next year's narrative. I will also turn it into a full presentation to share with all.
Friday night brought the IAPS Evening of Respite and Reflection, party games, dramatic readings from The Pearl and no alcohol. I supplied two pony kegs of 1919 root beer which has in the past been highly appreciated.
The Prussians showed up with their "Party Pants." Sick and wrong.
After a few hours, with all the food and beverages expended and the attendees scattered, a few of us were sitting around talking about things and stuff. In talking to Ben, I mentioned that I have been going to science fiction conventions of one form or another for almost 30 years now and I have pretty much seen every presentation. Anymore I am more likely to go to a presentation based on who is giving the presentation more than what the presentation is about. Knowing that Oz or Ziggie or von Grelle are going to be giving a presentation gets me in the seat even if I've seen that presentation before because I know, with them involved, it's going to be a good time.
Ben, on behalf of the IAPS, said that they look at it sort of the same way, getting excited when they see ME in the audience.
It's humbling and also strokes my ego because this is the sort of recognition I have come to realize that I have been looking for.
A musical performer is often paid for their performance. People who make things often sell their wares in the dealer's room or on sites like Etsy. Writers will be published. Me? I do presentations and, aside from the polite applause that any presenter will get at the end of their presentation, what recognition can I expect?
Well, at this convention, more so than at any convention before, I had people not only coming up to me in the hallway complimenting me on presentations they had see me do at other conventions (I wasn’t scheduled at TeslaCon until Sunday morning) but, and this is what I really liked, they asked me questions.
In line for opening ceremonies, I talked to some guys about lifting gases and how important it is to know how the "science" in your stories work even if you don't actually include the details of that in the story itself. At the dance on Saturday, I spent a bunch of time talking to someone about airships in a clock-punk story she was writing.
Being engaged. That is my reward. That is the validation that I have done it right. That I have not merely done a presentation but have presented is
such a way as to get people to think. It makes me feel that I have actually earned the moniker of Professor Vitruvius. That I have actually earned what small celebrity I enjoy.
On Saturday afternoon, Lord Bobbins was to give a presentation titled "Defining Steampunk" and, in the lead up to that, he had generated excitement by saying he was going to announce something that had never been done before. He made a big deal about it and, honestly, I was a little dubious about it.
He started off by referencing the definition of steampunk
as written by G. D. Falksen
and posted on Evelyn Kriete
's steampunk facebook page
. Now, there's a lot of animosity in the relationship between the Falksen/Kriete faction and others within the steampunk community. Some of it is, I think, deserved, while much seems more based on simple bitterness and not on any substantive content. The opening of Lord Bobbin's speech seemed much for founded in the latter. Add to that the high minimalist podium and the Congress of Steam banner reminiscent of Soviet iconography, I might have expected Bobbins to pound his shoe on the podium for dramatic effect.
Falksen's definition of steampunk begins with three words: Victorian science fiction. It is overly simplistic, of course, and it is wrong, but not by much. Steampunk is modern science fiction set in a Victorian time. Verne, Wells and Shelly are not steampunk. They were writing science fiction in their own time. It is the modern themes set in the 19th Century context that is the punk in steampunk. This too, is a simplistic definition, and even Falksen's definition admits that by going on for the rest of the page qualifying it by pointing out that Victorian on set out a rough time period and style and is not to imply that only the British Empire qualifies as steampunk or that only the time during the reign of Victoria is steampunk. I tend to describe "modern science fiction set in a Victorian era" as the center of the sandbox that we call steampunk and that you can go very far afield and still call it steampunk.
Lord Bobbins hating on Falksen's definition was that; hating. It honestly wasn't relevant to what he was saying and was there merely to take a dig at a rival. I think it hurt his message.
Lord Bobbins did have some other things to point out that I think were somewhat off the mark. He described steampunk fandom as being unique in that we make it all ourselves and those other fandoms are required to adhere to strictures that are given to them. Star Trek and Star Wars fandoms were held up as specific examples in that, to be part of them you have to have your costume "just right" to be accepted.
I don't know what sort of fandom Lord Bobbins is used to seeing at large but he is wrong. Certainly, cosplay has a large component of accuracy in it. Many cosplayers want to have their costumes look as exactly like those presented in the movies or on television as possible. There are those groups that push for precision and authenticity. But it is not representative of fandom as a whole. My own experience with the Klingon fan groups bears no resemblance to the groups that Lord Bobbins holds up as beholden to Paramount's vision as exacting dopplegangers.
I will say that steampunk is different in that it comes out of an idea of steampunk and a broad variety of inputs rather than a point source like a movie, a television show or a specific literary series and, in that, people tend to come up with their own stories, their own characters. But this is not unique. This is not special. It puts steampunk on one end of a spectrum, not in a class all by itself.
After badmouthing G.D. Falksen, Evilyn Kriete, and science fiction fandom in general, Lord Bobbins finally got to his point that "The definition of steampink is you."
Really. That's it. We define steampunk the way we want to.
This isn't news. I've heard this dozens of times in discussions, panels and presentations at steampunk and general science fiction conventions for years.
Finally, Lord Bobbins got to the meat of the matter and what has, not surprisingly, come to be called "The Bobbins Initiative." Steampunk has been slowing. Even though it has hit the mainstream and everyone seems to know what it is, attendance at steampunk conventions has been slipping. The Airship Ambassador
characterizes it as a plateau. To counter this, Lod Bobbins proposed that, in February, everyone find someone to introduce to steampunk. Then, in June, everyone plus their new friend each bring another new person into steampunk.
Someone in the audience yelled, "Pyramid scheme."
Steampunk is a very young fandom. Even though the word was invented in the 80s, it didn't start getting any traction as a fandom until the turn of the century and has seen the explosion that allows it to have scores of its own specialized conventions only in the past five years. And he's worried about things leveling off? Star Wars fandom has been around for 30+ years. Star Trek for nearly 50 years and you are worried about what has happened in only the last 5 and that things are slowing down?
This has me seeing things from the other side. Long before I was in steampunk fandom, I was in the more general science fiction fandom. That fandom has been around since the 30s and it shows. Science fiction conventions, most especially the big guns like World Con, are run and represented predominantly by old, white men. Science Fiction conventions that have been going on for decades are motering along in a steady state or declining into decrepitude because of the reticence of leadership to adapt, change, and welcome new fans.
In light of that, the Bobbins Initiative seems selfish and short sighted. What I think we really need to do as the new kids on the block is to reach out into the old fandom and give it the life that we have found. Steampunk is probably the most diverse of all the fandoms I have ever encountered; broadly welcoming of different ages, different races, different genders, and different orientations. We need to outreach to the general science fiction fandom to breathe new life into it.
It will be to our benefit as well. I notice that, since people come into steampunk from so many different directions, that a lot of people don't know where steampunk actually comes from. I think it embarrassing to talk to people in the steampunk community and have them quizzically raise their eyebrows when I talk about Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard.
Saving science fiction fandom in general is a much more difficult challenge that just "and they tell two friends, and so on
" membership building exercise that is the Bobbins Initiative.
At the Grand Ball, I didn't dance (no surprise). Instead I spend several hours talking to people. While I talked to this one couple, their daughter came back from a walk around the dance floor collecting bits and pieces that had fallen off of people's costumes. With a piece of wood, she fashioned a sewing needle/knife with which she modified a piece of ribbon, attached a button and made a choker.
You, my dear, have won TeslaCon.
Sunday morning at 9am finally got to the programming I was scheduled for. When I submitted my list, I included a TED-style talk. The expectation was that in an hour tame slot there might be three presentations by different people on different topics. While not everyone can fill an our with stuff, many can come up with an interesting 10 or 15 minute introduction to a topic. But when the program went up, I saw that I had been given an entire time slot. I messaged Lord Bobbins and, when I finally got a hold of him, he explained that was the only way he could schedule things. He expected that I would do my presentation and then fill the rest with Q and A.
That's not how a TED talk works and I find it hard to believe that he couldn't schedule it any other way.
Well, I wasn't about to do a talk and then stand around for 40 minutes trying to stretch it out. Instead I took two of my previous presentations (War of the Worlds and Mystery Airships) and boiled them down into shorter introductory presentations. Having talked for several hours the night before, yelling over the music at the Grand Ball, helped with my impersonation of Orson Welles and I think the whole thing went reasonably well.
I will need to talk to Bobbins about how to manage a proper series of TED talks.
After that, I gave my Victorian Spacecraft presentation.
With things beginning to clear out after the closing ceremonies, people from the Intrigue Factory
came up to me and asked for my critique of their pseudoscience presentation. (Again, I am humbled by by own celebrity.) I had to admit that I noticed it was not as harsh on fake science as I should like or as I would be. This comes from their primarily being theatrically inclined rather than from a science background. They intentionally avoid controversy to be more entertaining.
Pseudo-science is one of my hot button issues. Most especially that pseudo-science that was discredited and disproved in its own day. I still intend to build such a presentation of my own and I am afraid that I will not pull punches. For example, homeopathy was introduced by Samuel Hahnemann in 1807. From the outset, the fledgling scientific community recognized that using lower doses of medicines did not have increasing effect and by 1865, the applications of Avogadro's number had proven that homeopathy could not work. And yet, belief in homeopathy persists to this day. I find that "thinking" to be exceptionally dangerous.
After the hotel had pretty much cleared out and I had hung out in the lobby saying my goodbyes to those leaving, a number of us went to Claddagh for dinner. Even at the end we were making new friends. After that, we spent a few more hours hanging out in the lobby again talking with Mr. Saturday about essentially what I had mentioned earlier concerning the Bobbins Initiative and what can be done to revitalize science fiction fandom.
I've already paid for next year's membership. Half of the available tickets were gone before the close of the convention. The hotel opens up for reservations in a few weeks and I will need to make sure I get signed up in the first few hours of availability before the hotel is booked solid.
Back in July, in my meeting with the new boss
, I was told that they had every intention of trying to do their best to hopefully find more work for me to do because I was already being paid more than what I should be making for my current responsibilities and they wanted to get their money's worth out of me. Probably doing documentation.
Then. . . nothing. Not a peep. Well, there was one meeting I sat in on the next week and the letting me in on the relisting of the Team Lead position that I had interviewed for at the beginning of the year but had apparently gone unfilled for some reason.
Oh, let me digress for a moment. In my application for that position, I gave them an email address, a home phone number and a cell phone number. Can you guess what method they used to try and contact me? That's right, a completely different email address that I don't regularly check up on. Then, when I didn't respond to that email, instead of using one of those other contact methods I had provided them with, they sent another email to thed email address I didn't give them and didn't check, saying that they were going with someone else an to never again bother to apply for this particular position or client site.
There's that commitment to communication again.
Oh, and another thing. They sent out a mandate that everyone is to fill out some intra-corporate profile page and to include things like a photograph of myself (from a URL, thus implying a personal website), my cell phone number, my personal interests and hobbies and all sorts of other things. I am not on call so you don't get my cell phone number. My managers and HR have my home phone, I'm not giving it out to everyone in the company. You are my employer, not my friends, so I'm not sharing my hobbies with all of you. And I am damn well not linking to my personal website. This is all about some sort of corporate culture and a commitment to communication but it's been my experience that you suck at both of those things and this profile is something that will only benefit you and not me.
So, back to the current narrative. . . .
So after nothing happening on the "we need to give you work" front for three months, the site manager comes to me saying that they want to have me start doing hardware calls, that is, instead of talking calls from users I would be taking the tickets produced by those people taking calls and assigning them to second level support.Geis: "Oh, you mean Bill's job?"Site Manager: "Wha? How did you know?"Geis: "Because first thing this morning Bill told me he was leaving."
Her didn't offer much more than that and I didn't bother asking because I am about to be away for a week at a convention and I don't want to be distracted by those details. I intend to do my best in escaping the current world in favor of the con fantasy world. When I come back I expect to learn that there won't be a function change in job title now will there be an increased salary. Just a change in responsibilities and more of the same.
I will, however, be able to put it in my resume in such a way that it looks like a promotion.
But for now, that I've written it down I can much more easily excise it from my mind.
DELL LAPTP/WON'T TYURN ON/155 E BROAD STREET
User says that the p won't turn on.
Usre cannot get itno her pc andhse obnrpuftil
Aside from the raw incomprehensibility of the ticket syntax, this wasn't even the user's actual issue. You see, after the user had finished talking to the Help Desk Analyst, she went to the Help Desk website's ticket database to check up on it. She called the help back and, getting me, explained that her actual issue was with being unable to launch a specific application within a virtual desktop.
These are my coworkers, hired for their technical knowledge and trained to the highest standards to provide the client with quality customer service.
Every quarter, we receive an email from The Bank CEO telling us how well they are doing. I don't usually even open the email but we had a number of calls for users having issues attempting to play the embedded video so I took a look. Net revenues up 39% over the same time last year. Over $3 billion dollars this quarter.
Where does this money go? Not to me. I don't profit a dime. In fact, with tax changes and increased insurance costs I am making what I made 4 years ago. And that not counting for inflation.
The CEO makes hundreds of times what I make. He makes more sitting on his ass all weekend than I make all year. $1000 an hour. And these guys have the nerve to whine about "competitive and regulatory challenges" in a "difficult environment".
I've got a difficult environment to show you right here!
I received a call recently from a user concerning a network issue. The ticket that was opened was lacking a computername and second level support was sending her repeated emails requesting that she provide that information and she wanted the messaging to stop. She said that hers was a "special" location, the first within The Bank to have a completely wireless network. They had a special team working on it and therefore the computername wasn't necessary.
I could only respond with the information that second level support apparently thought differently on the subject and was requesting the information.
This conversation went around and around with her not merely saying that she couldn't supply the information but that she wouldn't because she knew it wasn't necessary and my saying that I could update the ticket to that effect but then support would not advance the ticket given that they were requesting this information.
Then she said that she was going to tell her support person that the Help Desk said that she was crazy. At that point I took real issue, saying that I did not say that, I did not imply that and I would not accept her misrepresenting my statements in such a manner. She said I was yelling at her and I said that I was not yelling, merely requesting, multiple times, for the information that second level support said they needed.
I had been able to tell she was on a cell phone but then I noticed what I felt sure was road noise.
"Are you currently driving?"
She refused to answer, questioning why I would ask that and saying that it wasn't relevant. I explained that distracted driving is dangerous and I would not continue the conversation if she were driving. She continued to refuse to answer the question.
"I have concluded from background road noise and your refusal to answer that you are, in fact, driving. I refuse to endanger your safety by continuing this conversation under those circumstances. Please call back when you have stopped and exited your car."
Recognizing that people like her often exert their self importance by calling back, asking to speak to a manager and demanding retribution, I quickly composed a short synopsis of the conversation and sent it to the Site Manager. To justify my actions, I included some statistics:
"Studies have shown that people talking on their cell phone, even when using hands-free, are distracted to the point where their impairment is comparable to them being legally drunk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimate that over 1.6 million crashes a year are attributable to cell phone use. 3,000 deaths and 416,000 injuries annually can be attributed to distracted driving."
I don't know if the user made the expected call but the next day, the Site Manager responded to me indicating that he supported my decision. My Team Lead also sent me an email saying that he also agreed and that he had added a statement to the Help Desk website indicating that the Help Desk is concerned with people's safety and asking that people refrain from calling while driving. He had cut and pasted my statistics directly into the site.
I was pleased that I wasn't thrown under the bus for hanging up on someone. How important they actually view that policy is debatable because there was no subsequent informing of the rest of the Help Desk concerning cell phone etiquette and our responsibility to the safety of our callers.
Additionally, a week later I am looking at the Help Desk website and the statement that the Team Lead had added is now gone from the site.
The Help Desk cares. . . just not for more than a week.
This weekend was the first annual Steel City Beard and Mustache Competition
sponsored by the Steel City Beard and Mustache Club
with all proceeds to the Animal Rescue League (thus the "Beards for Beasts" title). I have been in similar competitions but always in the steampunk convention contest. This would be my first exposure outside of the genre.
Registration was at Dee’s Café on the South Side and, as it is a smoking establishment, after registration I went outside to wait. Several participants recognized the location for my being there (I am ironically reminded of the cigar store Indian) and a few yelled out of their vehicles to ask me about parking. Sorry, guys. This is the South Side on a Saturday. You’re going to be lucky to find on-street parking within three blocks of Carson Street.
There had been a lot of Facebook promises by those in the local steampunk community to attend but some recent events
have hit pretty hard and, in the end, only two others showed up on event night itself.
After quite a long time of standing around outside, things coalesced to have the parade of beards. With a band at the lead, the assemblage marched down the street the several blocks to the Rex Theater, venue for the competition itself. Pedestrians, drivers and people enjoying happy hour at the bars along the way gaping at the spectacle.
There were a handful of dealers at the Rex. The SCBMC was selling shirts. There was a tobacconist. The Animal Rescue League had a table. I purchased a mustache mug from One Eyed Cat Curiosities and Crafts
There was also a bar. If the two-plus hours of drinking at Dee’s Café hadn’t sufficiently lubricated the crowd, there was a bar at the Rex and opportunity for even more drinking before the competition got under way.
There was tremendous energy when the competition actually got under way. People were having a lot of fun. Most of the competitors were in t-shirts and otherwise casually clothed but a few, such as myself, were dressed up. There were a few kilts, some lederhosen and one Viking in full beer-can armor.
I won third in my category of partial beard-freestyle, which might seem impressive at first but given that there were only half a dozen participants in the category, it's not an impressive placement.
There was a raffle and I bought 20 tickets, putting most of them in the bin to win the basket of hot sauces. My daughter bought two tickets and threw them in the same basket. Just because one has a higher probability of winning does not mean that one will actually win. Yes, she won the hot sauce.
Next time, Gadget. Next time.
In anticipation of going to the Old West Festival
near Cincinnati, I worked on a leather shoulder holster for my Saboteur 66 from Dr. Grordbort's
. I finished it on Thursday and while I recognize the bad stitching and the dye that is much darker than I wanted or expected, it is a passable piece of work revealed as mediocre only on closer inspection.
I found that through the weekend, because it is an obviously plastic toy, kids seem inclined to reach out to touch or even try to pull it from the holster without asking permission. Sorry, kid. I don't mind showing it to you but it being a toy doesn't mean you can just reach out grab it.
I left before 5 in the morning so that I could arrive at opening. It wasn't raining when I left but I drove through quite a bit, clearing just as I arrived. Even though the rain had stopped, there was a lot of water on the ground and the wet apparently suppressed attendance.
Earlier in the year, Anna was at a garage sale and made a posting online about a zeppelin picture she found for $10. She didn't have the space for it anywhere but I agreed to buy it for $10. I mean, how could I pass that up? I agreed that I would pick it up at TeslaCon. In the meantime, I had completely forgotten about it and she contacted me about making the transaction at Old West Fest
I ran into her first thing on arrival but got together later in the day to transfer it from her car to mine. It was then I got a better look at it and was able to confirm that it was, in fact, the Graf Zeppelin and not some other airship. With that confirmation I was able to track down that this was the Graf Zeppelin passing low over Wembley Stadium during the first half of the 1930 F.A. Cup Final. The airship was booed by some of the crowd who thought it might distract the players.
The print is worth $30. The frame perhaps another $60 at least. Not bad for $10.
At the Steampunk Symposium earlier in the year, I spoke with someone about the possibility of "working" the festival. He said I would need to be a Single Action Shooting Society member and, since I was, I thought that might work out. I made mention of that on the festival website but got no response one way or another. I took my real guns just in case.
I found out from the guy running the show that to actually shoot I would need to be a member of their local group, the Big Irons Rangers. I suppose that's for insurance reasons. Even so, on Saturday they were a little short handed and needed people to die in the street during the gunfight. I could totally do that.
I put on my duster so I wouldn't get my nicer clothes muddy and, when the time came, I took a bullet in the gut, pirouetted around twice, and sprawled in the street.
Later, I played the role of deputy during a jail break. I was to stand in front of the jail and get shot. As the scene progressed, I suddenly realized that I needed to perform dialogue. Thankfully, I was informed by the dialogue of countless western films, making it easy to improvise:"We come to see our friend. Heard it was visitor's day."
"No. No visiting today. Come back tomorrow."
"We're just here to see our friend."
"I'm sorry, sir, but there are no visiting hours today. You can take your friend home tomorrow when he's sobered up."
"No, he's going to come home tonight."
"Excuse me, sir. That's close enough. . . Move your hand away from that gun."
"You mean this gun? You should be worried about THAT gun."
At which point I was blasted by the guy with the shotgun approaching from my left. I threw myself against the wall of the jail and slowly crumpled forward in a heap on the boardwalk. (This picture is from the second run on Sunday. The guy had a pistol and said "What are you jaw'n about? Just shoot 'em.")
Before the end of the day, I put on my "dying duster" and was gunned down in the street yet again.
Later, the guy running the scenarios talked at length to me about how some people don't follow direction or can't improvise. I took this as a compliment because if I were one of those people for my performances, he probably wouldn't be talking to me like that. Later he was more direct in complimenting me on the way I threw myself against the wall before going down during the jail break
I won the costume contest. The prize was a certificate and a t-shirt. I won the weapons category in the gadgets contest. Only got a certificate for that.
I've been at this for a long time. I've won plenty of contests and it doesn't matter much to me anymore. Honestly, it didn't really matter much to me in the first place but, with experience, I don't care whether I win or not. Better that someone new get a chance in the spotlight.
At the end of Saturday, a place called Mamma's Grill was recommended. They had a huge menu and their specials were very reasonable. I had an 8oz steak, shrimp, a BBQ chicken breast, potato and a salad for $15.99. I'm used to paying $18 or more just for the steak and shrimp. It's like throwing in the chicken for free.
After that, I drove to the Best Western in Mt. Orab, got a shower and went to bed. I was going to have a long day and then a long drive home so I wanted as much sleep as I could. That didn't work out so well because I slept like crap. A few hours and I'd wake up. Maybe a few more hours of sleep and then awake again.
Well, at least I didn't have to get up early or rush anywhere the next morning.
The ground at the festival had really dried up by Sunday morning and, with the threat of rain long gone, attendance was apparently much improved.
As I was walking past one of the vendors selling heir braiding and face painting, they lept up to attend to what they perceived as a mustache emergency. Apparently the hair spray that I used to style my beard did not meet their standards. They insisted on waxing it.
Now, I've tried a few wax products previously but was unsatisfied with the results. Mostly, I think, I wasn't doing it correctly but had never bothered to spend the time to work it out. The hair spray was good enough. In this case, they used the Clubman natural and I think because it was warmed in the sun it performed better in the application than my previous attempt. Lessons learned.
I didn't participate in either the costume or the gadget contest. There were different people attending Sunday than were there on Saturday but I'd already won stuff that weekend. It didn't seem fair to compete again.
Even as the attendance was much more healthy on Sunday then it was on the soggy Saturday, several people commented on fewer steampunks. Saturday tends to be better days for nearly all convention goers so it shouldn't be surprising if Sunday was lighter
I was, of course, regularly mistaken for someone who worked there. Not surprising as I was costumed, wearing a badge and had been participating in the gunfights. Perhaps I should walk around with the pocket full of toy badges so that I could deputize kids.
I also spent a lot of time explaining what steampunk was. Again, not surprising, but I thought it might be a good idea to attempt to formalize it. I could set up a placard with a sign that says "Ask me about Steampunk" and spend time expounding on this genre of ours. Perhaps I could do a short presentation on stage between other shows as a quick introduction. I momentarily spoke to one of the people running the festival about it and gave him my card. Not sure if he'll respond to me directly.
I was gunned down two more times for the assembled's entertainment. I ended up being a bit sore in the neck and shoulder from the repeated falls.
I'm getting too old for this shit.
In spite of my badmouthing John Wayne
online and being a flaming liberal, I have a good reputation at the cowboy action events with the Logan’s Ferry Regulators
. Steampunk helps, as does my willingness to ham it up a bit when performing the "ready" monologue. Mostly, though, I suspect that this good will is because they don’t know me by my online presence and I tend to stand back when the wingnuts get themselves going.
For as much as the SASS
seems infested with right-wing
, racist misogynist homophobes
, there are still good and generous people (so long as they don’t know you to be a godless, pinko commie liberal). When I started, people loaned me guns when I had only one. When my revolver was jamming, someone offered me use of one of his revolvers. I was offered space on someone’s cart rather than have to carry my guns from stage to stage. Really, I can carry my stuff 30 feet but thanks for the offer.
This match was themed on the movie "Tombstone"
and I watched the film the night before to remind myself of all the one liners and only vaguely historical action. I have a copy of "The Last Gunfight
" by Jeff Guinn sitting around that I haven’t read yet so I should dust it off and go over the differences between the history and the myth of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, more than what you get from Wikipedia. There was some other talk of movies. Someone mentioned "Unforgiven"
and didn’t show much interest in my letting them in on there being a remake of the movie staring Ken Watanabe. "Yurusarezaru mono"
was supposed to have opened in Japan this past weekend.
Given the movie theme, I though that I might try my hand at setting up a match based on "The Valley of Gwangi."
No one I mentioned this to seemed to remember this Ray Harryhausen classic cowboys and dinosaurs film from 1969. I could throw in "The Beast of Hollow Mountain"
, "The Lost World"
, "Tremors 4"
and I seem to recall a Civil War character with a cannon in a "Land of the Lost"
episode. I think it sounds like fun but wonder how to squeeze it into the pistol-pistol-rifle-shotgun 24+ rounds standard format of cowboy action shooting. I would also need big cardboard dinosaurs.
When I mentioned "Valley of Gwangi"
being cowboys and dinosaurs, one shooter mentioned having seen "Cowboys and Aliens"
genre fiction is not entirely unfamiliar to at least one person.
When it got down to shooting, I felt more comfortable than past outings. I’m getting more at ease and less flustered when I make a mistake. Not that I didn’t make any mistakes worthy of flustering. On the second stage I missed a bunch of shotgun targets by essentially shooting over them. Repeatedly. Remember: with the shotgun, aim for the crotch. On the other stages, the targets I missed were all pistol rounds that are easier for me to miss because it’s a 45LC being fired one handed. Remember: a miss is a 5 second penalty and 5 seconds is a long time. Totally worth it to take a few seconds to aim.
I’ve done this several times so one of the questions I have is how to judge my performance. Am I improving? It can be hard to tell with the raw numbers because each stage and match is different. I could compare myself to others but not to my own self in a previous match. Would my faster speed this month represent an improvement or is the stage simply faster?
The idea I’ve hit upon is to compare myself to the top performer going on the assumption that on any given day, the top performer is going to be pushing the maximum. So, at this match, JBH turned in the top total time of 215.06. My match total was 461.95, a little over twice as long as he did (2.14x). Admittedly, this sort of sucks but it is an improvement over the 2.66x ratio of the match before and the 3.14x ratio of the match before that.
Another area of improvement is in penalties. In my first two matches I missed 12 targets out of approximately 150 or so. This match I almost cut that in half.
I broke one of my guns. Well, not exactly broken but on Stage 4 when I was ejecting the empty cartridges from one of my revolvers, the cylinder jammed. At half cock it should rotate for loading and unloading but it was seizing up unless I pulled the hammer back just a little bit more. When pulling the hammer back to shoot it was fine and after Stage 5 it unloaded fine but it continued to have a problem. I pulled the cylinder and tried shaking it and blowing air into it but couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
Once home, I did a thorough cleaning and still couldn’t figure out what was going on until I took my other revolver and compared them side by side. It was then that the problem became surprisingly obvious.
At the back of the frame there is a piece called the hand. When the hammer is pulled back, teeth on the hand engage teeth on the back of the cylinder to rotate it. At half cock it is somewhat disengaged with a coil spring holding it in place preventing it from being rotated backwards. Rotate it forward and the teeth of the cylinder push the hand out of the way, allowing it to rotate for loading and unloading. On my revolved there is a small nick on the hand which, I believe, is allowing the teeth on the cylinder to grab on. Looking at my other revolver (the Charles Daily
model) the hand is beveled to allow the teeth of the cylinder to slide easily.
I haven’t yet but I will need to do a full disassembly so I can get the hand out and file it off to make it identical to the one in my other revolver. I’ll probably take them both apart so that I can have a really good look at the good part in modifying the damaged part properly.
In other systemic failures, I started with using ammunition from Mastercast Bullet Company
. I finished off that box and opened a box of ammo from Black Hills Ammunition
that I had recently gotten from the gun show. I didn’t like it because it seemed to shoot dirty and one of the cases split, jamming in the cylinder when I was trying to clear it. I couldn’t even use the ejector rod it was jammed so tightly. I had to pull the cylinder and drive it down on a dowel to clear it. I have three more boxes of the stuff because ammo has been so difficult to find that I picked up a bunch when I finally found some. At the last PGCA gun show they had Mastercast ammo but because I had the Black Hills on my shelf and didn’t know yet that it sucked. Well, maybe it doesn't suck and I just had a poor lot.
Really, I need to start reloading.
For a moment, and just for a moment, I thought that the collective cowboy action community as represented in "The Cowboy Chronicle
" newsletter, had somehow finally gotten over the "OMG! They are going to take our guns!!!" hyperbole after the re-election of Obama and Sandy Hook and calmed the fuck down. Month after month, some 15 percent of their newsletter was entirely given over to words like "tyranny", "traitors", "draconian", "liberals", "intellectuals", "anti-constitutionalists", "professional ruling class", and "un-American." You would think the jack-booted heirs to Hitler and Stalin were wearing pale blue United Nation berets and goose-stepping door to door to take our guns and the only thing standing in their way were a bunch of middle-aged white guys protecting Jesus and freedom with their century outdated arsenals. There was even a plug for a new patriot screed that is almost exactly that scenario called "Cowboys and Terrorists
" so that those same middle-aged guys can relive the chest thumping patriotism of their "Red Dawn" and "Invasion U.S.A." childhoods.
It’s this sort of nonsense that makes me think my combined interest in both steampunk and shooting has had me fall in with the wrong crowd.
However, this month, as I read "The Cowboy Chronicle", there was page after page of stories about cowboy action events, cowboy history, costuming and, of course, adds for guns and accessories. It was almost as if we were all one, big happy family interested in the common hobby of shooting at steel targets while wearing cowboy clothes. It was refreshing.
The last page, however, resorted to the "liberals destroying America" trope. I think, perhaps, the busy summer of shooting events merely crowded out the jingoism rather than people finally realizing that the insidious evil "Them" really aren’t coming for their guns. I have little doubt that, with the end of the shooting season, the pages will again fill with fear-mongering and ignorance.
Geis: "I finally got the printer setting change to hold. I just had to do it over and over again."
User: "Just like a woman."
Geis: ". . . . . "
I've been thinking of doing another costume (as if I don't already have enough). Something to make my garb a little more steampunk since by typical clothing is generally period wear with added goggles. I am planning on building a new shoulder holster so that I can carry my Dr. Grordbort's Saboteur 66 and I'm carrying a katana with my western wear but I've been thinking of something more. When I was first considering steampunk costuming, I considered an armored arm but there are so many people with such things that I didn't want to be just another copy and, besides, my backstory doesn't quite fit with that.
Then I remembered Ned Kelly.
The short story is that Ned Kelly
was an Austrailian outlaw who, in his final shootout with authorities in 1880, wore armor beaten out of plowshares. The armor is very basic but has steampunk stylistic parallels in the armor worn by the flamethrower guys in "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."
I have done some armor things before when, years ago, I made an Idea Man helmet. That was cardboard and plaster and this armor would be just as easy. Even easier, perhaps, because all the bends are straight. Multiple layers of paint and then dry brushing to make it look like iron. That will probably be the hardest part of the project, making it look like something other than painted cardboard.
Don't know if I'll have the opportunity to complete it by TeslaCon. I have leather-working to accomplish this week and next.
Christian Apologist: "God is God. His will be done, not mine. As Christians, we can only tell folks about God and His love, as well as the result that would take place if one "chooses" to reject His sacrifice for all of us. Like I said, I'm not trying to convince you or anyone of anything concerning God other than to at least get to know Him truly, versus finding reason not to know Him. There are truly eternal ramifications for doing so, but it's your choice."
In an online discussion, this was a Christian’s response to my accusation of homophobia on his part. It’s a pretty common response, "I don’t judge, God does," or "They choose to sin and thus bring God’s judgment upon themselves.” In this particular instance, this particular Christian went on and on about choice and free will and did everything he could do distance himself from his own approval of God’s judgment. So, I decided to take a track and actually work on the concept of free will.
Geis: "I'll start with a question that doesn't need a whole lot of elaboration on your part. A simple yes or no will suffice. Would you agree that one of the defining characteristics of your god is that of omniscience; the knowledge of all that is, all that was and all that will be from before time was time forward to all eternity? Does you god have that power?”
Christian Apologist: "Worship or suffer is a choice, unless you are immortal. Your soul is immortal. You only have this time as a mortal to choose how you will spend eternity. We're going to die and we cant stop that. Our souls will live forever and we can't stop that. Now is your only chance to "choose" or not choose whatever your reasons. I can only tell you that the "God" I know is one of love and has made the way for all of us to avoid eternal punishment, We do have a choice. You may not like the alternatives, but it is what it is. The only way you can have things your way is to keep from dying. As you can't, then you can choose, otherwise you've already made your choice."
Geis: "But you have failed to answer my question. Is your god omniscient? Does he know all that is, was and will be, from the movements of the largest galactic supercluster to the vibration of each quantum particle? Is god all-knowing, yes or no?"
Christian Apologist: "Why?"
You can already see the problem here. He has neatly scripted and apparently well rehearsed answers and when he is challenged, he doesn’t know what to do. A simple question of "Is god omniscient" is confusing, not because he doesn’t have an answer (I already suspected his answer) but because he believes it is so obvious that he can’t understand why I would even ask it except to perhaps trick him into admitting something.
Well, it wasn’t a trick, but it was important. I explained that I wanted to be sure of what he believed because too often I had run into apologists who said "That’s not MY god," or "That’s not what I believe" as a way to discount my argument or to treat me like some sort of ignoramus. I wanted to make sure we were talking about the same thing and using the same agreed upon terms. As much for his ability to argue his side as for mine.
Eventually, he agreed. Yes, his god is omniscient.
I then asked about whether god was omnipotent. And whether god had a plan. He resisted answering those as well, I imagine he was still suspicious, but eventually he agreed that god was all powerful and had a plan for the universe. I didn’t think these two characteristics of god were vitally important to my argument but I wanted to have them established should the counter argument go in a different direction.
Geis: "If god has a plan and is omnipotent then there is no power in the ’verse that can oppose, divert or even delay that plan. If god is omniscient then he is already aware that the plan is going to be successful and is also cognizant of every step and every element of that plan as it progresses to its inevitable and destined conclusion. Therefore, what room is there for free will?
Even if you believe you are making a choice to oppose god’s plan (whether you are even capable of knowing what that plan is), an omniscient god was already aware of your "choice". That apparent choice was already part of the plan before you even thought you were making the choice. We who are doomed were doomed from the outset. Those who are saved are saved by the grace of god whether they like it or not, in spite of the choices they think they are making, before they even existed. This is the nature of being all-knowing.
With an omniscient god, the universe is like a movie. Each frame is known exactly; frame by frame, pixel by pixel, from beginning to end. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the universe is a stage and we are just actors. In fact, we are less than actors because actors perform the script but can deviate from it in their performance with gestures, poses and a thousand different elements of free choice allowed them by the director. With an omniscient god, however, that freedom does not exist. God already know every deviation and has already written it into each frame.
So, which is it? Is your god omniscient or do we have free will? You assert that both are true but that is impossible. For us to have free will, god must be less than omniscient. Destiny or decision. One or the other."
His response was more about choice and that we choose good or evil. For a week of this back and forth he also kept talking about the choice of homosexuality and tried to temper it with the sinful choice of sex out of wedlock to make it seem that he wasn’t a homophobe but, in either case, he seemed far too focused on the sex part. Especially disturbing because in no part of my argument did sex have any role. Sure, his "gay bashing but pretending it was the gays bashing themselves because of their sinful choice" was where the conversation started, but it really had no relevance to my presented argument. And when he wasn’t talking about sex and the gays, he kept going on about the choice that we were making, never addressing the issue of conflict between that and an omniscient god except to say "Because God."
That’s it. Rather than working on an understanding of the fundamental characteristics of god, the believer just says "Because" and believes that is an answer. God can, they assert, make a stone so large that he couldn’t lift it because god the creator can make anything while, at the same time, believing that god could still lift that stone because he is all powerful and there is nothing he cannot do. No, really, these arguments are exactly that, a belief that contradictions such as this simply don’t exist "Because god."
Is this that "Sophisticated Theology" thing I keep hearing about?