Raised by wolves

Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett is back, reinstated, in C. J. Box’s latest thriller This one’s a breakneck thriller; a week of non-stop action that catches up Joe and nearly everyone around him. C. J. Box is one of the few best-selling authors who is skeptical about overreach by the Federal authorities.  In a conversation between a game warden and two FBI agents, we get this “Are you threatening me?” she [the game warden] asked.  She said it calmly but it felt like shout. “We don’t threaten,” Pollock [an FBI agent] said. “We don’t need to.” “We’re the FBI,” Sandburg … Continue reading Raised by wolves

The War Against Big Brother

Today I begin a series of posts of observations and comments about what I call cyber fascism, the harnessing of ubiquitous information technology to impose political, commercial, and social control over much of the developed and developing world. My first real inkling of the enormity of our situation came as I prepared material for a course I teach in statistical methods, where we discuss the ethics of experiments with human subjects, informed consent, and data protection and privacy.  I quickly learned that despite well-intentioned efforts like The Belmont Report or the ASA’s Ethical Guidelines, the world of data privacy is … Continue reading The War Against Big Brother

Larry the Barbarian

Over at Monster Hunter Nation, Larry Correia puts us hip to a delightful and creative approach to F&SF book covers: incorporating the author as a cover character.  This one of L.C. and wife rocks it: If you’re not tuned into Larry’s worldview, you can get the 2-minute summary by clicking to the adjacent blog entry “Hoon for America: Manatee Party Stickers Now Available.”  And I concur: get off my lawn. Except you kids, you keep the porch pirates and daytime burglars away. Continue reading Larry the Barbarian

His Last Bow

The late Michael Crichton was a colossus among popular novelists, and spun off movies as quick as I make wisecracks:  The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Jurassic Park, etc.  He was also an insightful social commentator, with observations like his Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect. Turns out he left a literary lagniappe in his papers, the historical western novel Dragon Teeth.  (Read the review for a skeptical take on posthumous novels.) The Introduction: As he appears in an early photograph, William Johnson is a handsome young man with a crooked smile and a naive grin.  A study in slouching indifference, he lounges against a … Continue reading His Last Bow

Mrs Sherlock Holmes

Was the nickname given lawyer-detective Grace Humiston when she became prominent in New York’s 1917 Ruth Cruger murder case.  The fascinating story is told in Brad Ricca’s biography Mrs Sherlock Holmes, which is as gripping and surprising as any great detective novel. In an interesting episode, the wife of  suspected murderer Alfredo Cocchi is being questioned Wallstein kept his questions focused on the police activities in the case. … She [Maria Cocchi] silently stuck out her hand and produced a white card.  Wallstein took it and turned it over.  It read: Take care of Alfredo Cocchi.  He’s O. K.  BILLY … Continue reading Mrs Sherlock Holmes

Seven Pillars

Wisdom hath built her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.  –Proverbs 9:1 I just finished Stephen Stigler’s The Seven Pillars of Statistical Wisdom, and I’m daunted–and embarrassed that I waited so long to read it.  Stigler gives us a structure and taxonomy to statistical thinking* that gives us the “big picture” of statistics. Quite a difference from the descriptives-to-inference-to-models approach that most textbook authors follow.  This is making me rethink how I approach my introductory courses, especially those for statistics majors.  I’m starting with a baby step: adding the (inexpensive, paperbound) book as a required reading in my … Continue reading Seven Pillars

Deus ex Machina, on steroids

…is the tagline I’d use to describe Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds’ The Medusa Chronicles, the startling sequel to Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “A Meeting with Medusa.” Baxter and Reynolds are up to their usual tricks of piling wonder atop wonder in their usual over-the-top scenarios, while cleverly maintaining Clarke’s style and tone, AND sneaking in episodes strongly reminiscent of 2001, A Space Odyssey.  An added bonus is the introduction of a “new physics” based on the Mach Principle, which is still puzzling serious researchers today. …local physical laws must be shaped by the large-scale structures of the universe.  … Continue reading Deus ex Machina, on steroids

The Vinyl Detective

If you’re a fan of British TV sci-fi, you’ve probably seen several episodes of Dr Who written by Andrew Cartmel.  Now he’s gone full geek at right angles with a new mystery series, The Vinyl Detective.  Our unlikely hero is a jazz aficionado who ekes out a living buying and selling rare vinyl recordings, and lives in that peculiar subculture of collectors and traders who haunt thrift shops, estate auctions, and jumble sales.  Having dwelt there for a few years myself, Cartmel’s characters and places ring pitch perfect, with plenty of arcane background knowledge–both real and fictional–to back up the … Continue reading The Vinyl Detective

Time for some Doubleplus Ungood Badthink

The Brat Pack of science fiction has concocted a cynical ploy to disturb the genre’s Purity of Essence; they’re giving away e-books. I wasn’t too sure about this until I read John Scalzi’s pithy recommendation. “This is bullshit” exactly sums up my opinion of his latest strawman social-justice snoozer Locked In.  So he’s become my anti-oracle. Continue reading Time for some Doubleplus Ungood Badthink