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In the not too distant future, when there are still countries like China, Russia, Finland and the United States on Earth, humans have figured out how to build faster than light ships. The ships use the “bubble drive” which basically creates a bubble of hyperspace around the ship that moves forward taking with it all inside. Using the bubble drive, a ship can travel 30 light years in perhaps eight or nine months. With this technology, humans have started sending expeditions to other stars. There are outposts on planets with names like Xanadu, Mu and Atlantis.

In those places, people discovered artifacts of an ancient and very highly developed intelligent race, called the Nelf. The artifacts are estimated to be three to five million years old, are completely indestructible and resistant to human exploration by any means, including high energy weapons. By sheer coincidence, one mummy corpse of a Nelf is found, so humanity can form a picture. Nelf are about the size of a small elephant, with twelve legs. Eight legs are used for walking, spider-like, and four “in the front” are used like arms, each with four fingers.

By accident, humans found Nelf rings, which fit over a human arm above the elbow, and once there, cannot be removed. They eventually figure out that the rings are brain interfaces which open up immense powers through access to Nelf technology.

Nelf Rings is a long book, 750 pages, way too long. Typical for many science fiction novels, it jumps around to different locales and viewpoints, and it does that so much that I found it very hard to keep track of who is who, and what is happening where. There are many different smaller subplots with different characters that seem to have no connection with each other. Each subplot if fully of petty human intrigue that simply gets boring after a while.

The author repeats exposition, sometimes a number of times. For example, Nelf “doors” are activated by touching three points on a surface at the same time. Remember they have four arms. Humans can only do this by using two arms and one knee at the same time. Then a solid surface becomes “liquid” and actually pulls the user through to the other side. For an observer, this looks like the person is stepping into a solid wall. This process of discovery and going through such doors must be described in detail ten different times as the story shifts to different people. I understand that they are different people every time, but I am the reader, I already know how the doors work, so let’s get on with the story.

My estimate is that this book is twice as long as it would need to be to convey the same story. There are even entire subplots that get much attention, but in the end do not contribute to the story at all, other than be entertaining. One such story follows a ship on a mystery planet when somehow the women in the crews get distracted by an aroma they follow, which is so compelling that they actually lick the walls where a certain fungus or lichen grows. This makes them pass out, and when they come to, they are extremely horny. The author describes this as a form of testosterone saturation similar to what happens to adolescent human males, only worse. The subplot gets a surprising amount of coverage in the book, and eventually it fizzles out and we never hear from the all these horny women again. If a reader can figure out why this entire section was even there, I stand to be corrected. It went way over my head.

Another fixation this author seems to have is with female physical beauty. There are surgically enhanced females in this story, who are so perfect, that somehow every male that even comes near them goes stupid, loses his train of thought, or speech, and can’t keep his eyes of them. The author keeps describing them as stunning even in military fatigues or baggy clothes. This is recurring dozens of times in the story. It feels almost like the author is a teenage boy who just discovered girls.

There are numerous subplots that vaguely contribute to the “universe” the writer wanted to create, but overall they were not strong enough to convince me. Many faded out.

I found other structural problems with the book. There is no clear protagonist, no one person to follow and get used to. People come, become important figures for a few pages, and eventually they disappear. I never could identify with anyone, which makes for a dry and text-book-like read.

There was also no end I could discern. Nothing came together in the end, no conflict was resolved, no happily ever after characters rode off into the sunset. The major conflict, namely what would the powers that be on Earth do with the immense capabilities of Nelf technology, never really gets resolved.

It feels like the writer, after pounding out 750 pages, got tired of the book and wrapped it up in a few paragraphs deus-ex-machine style.

Spoiler Alert

We never meet Nelf. They appear to be a highly advanced race that left technology all over the galaxy and disappeared without a trace millions of years ago. We don’t find out anything about them, except what some of their technology can do, we don’t find out where they went, and we never meet one – which would have been cool.

Overall, Nelf Rings is an interesting science fiction speculation that never goes anywhere and that I’ll likely soon forget I ever read.

 

I came across this posting on Facebook today:

Yes, fixing all of Flint’s pipes would eat up only one tenth of one percent of Warren Buffett’s net worth.

What’s the point?

Are these private citizens expected to pay for the damage caused by the governor of Michigan and his incompetent administrators?

It has also been suggested that the federal government should pay for Flint’s pipes. I certainly don’t want my California taxes to go to pay for the negligence of the governor of Michigan and his incompetent administrators!

But while we’re comparing innocent citizens’ net worth with public administration disasters, how about we look at some of our military spending. The U.S. military is planning on buying 2,443 F-35 jets, each at a cost of more than $200 million. Check my blog post to that effect here. My suggestion is we get by with a measly 2,442 F-35 jets and use the $200 million we save to give $55 million to Flint for their pipes.

Then we have $145 left, which should pay for about a year of the Trump family’s vacations and associated security costs.

Win – win – win!

 

A suicidal eccentric American billionaire industrialist accidentally crosses paths with a disembodied alien intelligence he calls Ell.  The two team up.

Through complex space/time machinations he is able to download his 70-year-old self into his 10-year-old body of his youth. Through a large portion of the book we accompany him reliving his life a second time around, trying to make changes to the way it went the first time.

He ends up inventing a time/space travel machine. Eventually he uploads his own identity into a machine and starts becoming a disembodied intelligence himself. Ah, eternal life!

For my taste, there was too much psychobabble about disembodied intelligence, but in the end, I enjoyed reading the book, it was quite well-written, and I must say that it’s required reading for anyone interested in the time travel genre.

Enjoy!

A young Marine gets killed in 2003 in Iraq. His father, Richard “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell), himself a Vietnam Veteran, has to go and meet the plane that brings his son’s casket before he is buried at Arlington Cemetery. But Doc can’t do it alone. He travels and seeks out two buddies from his time in Vietnam, the former Marines Sal (Bryan Cranston), who now runs a bar, and Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), who is a minister. He convinces the two of them to accompany him on his trip.

Along the way, they decide they don’t want the son to be buried at Arlington, but rather in his hometown in New Hampshire. Being forced to be together, they reminisce about shared memories of the war. Each has to confront his own demons of the past, of an experience that has shaped their lives, obviously for the rest of their lives.

The insanity of America that keeps sending its sons and daughters to far-away lands to fight for a cause that means nothing to them, and to die for their country in the name of freedom, which is obviously a sham, came out strong as I watched Last Flag Flying. Don’t we ever learn?

In a time when our leaders seems to have less scruples than ever, when they don’t hesitate to send other people’s sons and daughters into harm’s way for political convenience – and money – it is ever more important for all of us to see deep into the souls of those hapless soldiers when they come back, broken, damaged, or dead.

That’s what Last Flag Standing made me think about.

This is me. I just discovered that Facebook has labeled me “liberal” (red arrow). I never told it what I considered myself to be. It just decided that. I am sure it used this when it sold my information to the Trump Campaign through Cambridge Analytica.

It also knows I have an iPhone 6 Plus (green arrow). Never told it that, either.

And most scary, it knows I am a frequent traveler (purple arrows) and that I just came back from a trip two weeks ago.

What I want to know: What does it know and track that it does NOT tell me on the site?

If you want to check out what it thinks about you, go to:

Account Settings ~ Ads ~ Your Information ~ Your Categories ~ US Politics

Maybe it’s time to get off of Facebook?

Today, when I was looking for file folder tabs in our supply room, I noticed in the very front of one of the shelves stack of three Zip Disks, 100MB, still in the protective shrink-wrap, like new. I am not sure how they got to the front of the supply cabinet, but there they were.

I started the company in 1993, a full twenty-five years ago. Zip Disks were “super floppies” with high capacity, great in the years before Windows 95 even, when we were still working with Windows 3.11 (Windows for Workgroups). They were made by Iomega, and first came out in 1994 with the 100MB version. Later they had larger versions, with 250MB and then even 750MB. The ones on our shelves were the early type, with only 100MB. I still remember buying a zip drive for my main computer, in 1994, when I was the only employee. It felt like heaven to be able to store 100MB on one drive for backup purposes. I imagine I went to the “computer store” and bought a box of the disks just for good measure.

Somehow, through all the years, and the many office moves, and several office managers responsible for the supplies, and hundreds of current and former employees, these three Zip Disks survived, unscathed, in the front of our supply cabinet. Nobody ever thought that they were older than the Internet. Nobody ever thought that our company hasn’t had any working Zip Drives for at least 20 years.

I took this picture.

And then I threw the disks in the trashcan. Good bye, old friends.

Per a Reddit post, GE tries to “punish” customers that post negative reviews. So, courtesy of Reddit, here is my contribution. I have nothing to do with this washer, GE will not be happy, but customer bullying needs to be counter-acted, in my opinion.

I learned that all GE appliances since 2016 are built by the Chinese company Haier. Their reputation for quality is especially poor, even by Chinese standards.

Buy GE. Make America Great Again!

We Are Family!

Photo Credit: Lothar Frosch [click to enlarge]

There are ten siblings in our family. We were all ten of us together in a room for the last time on Christmas Eve 1978. Not once, since then, have all of us been together at the same time. It’s not like “normal” families with a few siblings, who can get together on the holidays. We’re spread over three countries and two continents. There was always at least one of us missing, and that one was mostly myself, due to my living the farthest away.

For the occasion of our dad’s 90th birthday on March 17, 2018, exactly 14,328 days after Christmas Eve 1978, we all got together and here is the picture.

The youngest of us, our brother on the left side, was four years old in 1978. He is now 44. I am the oldest, 5th from the left in the back. I was 22 then. You can do the math.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of being part of this great group of siblings.

 

Quan (Jackie Chan) is a London restaurant owner and British citizen of Chinese descent. His only family left is his teenage daughter. She gets killed in a terrorist attack, presumably by the Northern Ireland resistance movement, when she simply finds herself at the wrong place at the wrong time. When Quan seeks revenge, he comes head to head with a British government official (Pierce Brosnan). Quan, with a history of special forces training and memories of cruelty against him and his family, launches a one-man-army-like attack against a corrupt and complex establishment.

This movie brings to the forefront the complexities of British history as it relates to Northern Ireland and illustrates the senselessness and brutality of terrorism motivated by religion and government.

The story is confusing and the plot difficult to follow, but that may be due to the complexity of the subject matter itself. The best part about the movie is the uncharacteristically subdued performance of Chan, who portrays a humble man who has set his mind to getting justice.

This is the view out of my parents’ living room on March 18, 2018. It’s been icy-cold and snowy. This is not a black and white photograph. It’s in full color. Go figure.

In May of 1940, more than 300,000 British soldiers were surrounded by the Nazis on the French beaches near Dunkirk. There was no way out, and the British Navy didn’t have the ships to come to their rescue. A backstory to this is provided by the movie The Darkest Hour.

In Dunkirk, we follow the frantic lives of just a few men, on the sea, in the air, and trapped on the beach. Through their eyes we see the horror of senseless war and the agony it brings to so many people.

There is little dialog, just a lot of graphic cinematography to tell the story. The haunting score of Hans Zimmer accentuates the relentless action and keeps the heart pounding.

The story at Dunkirk happened almost 80 years ago in World War II, yet now, these images are more important than ever.

Today we have pudgy, entitled men with inherited status and wealth, men who have never served a day in the military in their lives, “lead” us. We allow them to send the sons and daughters of other fathers into “conflicts” overseas to fight for what? For the right of other rich men to plunder the oil, and to support their own self-aggrandized notions of worth and value.

Watch Dunkirk and then ask yourself: How do they expect us to treat them with any respect?


Some time ago I posted this about a disallowed showerhead in my house in California. And several years before that, here is the story about Sorpresa Huevos, also too dangerous to ship to us.

Well, here is another one:

We wanted to get a nice set of fireplace tools for our fireplaces. I went to the local Home Depot and couldn’t find anything. They told me I had to buy them online. Amazon had a nice selection, and when I tried to order, it didn’t allow me to ship it to California. Neither my work nor my home address worked. I figured out that there must be some kind of regulation against fireplace paraphernalia in California. I can only assume that the state wants to discourage the use of fireplaces (and burning of wood), so they figured they’d make it hard or impossible to buy fireplace tools.

I tried to google for answers, but could not find anything.

I ended up having the set shipped to our office in Ohio, and then I picked it up on my next trip there and checked it as luggage.

If only I had asked to have AR-15s shipped to me, I am sure that my constitutional rights for firearms would have ensured delivery. But “fire” arms is a different thing than a dangerous and insidious set of “fire” place tools.

Now there is contraband in my house.

Trump killed the publishing of tax returns by presidential (and other) candidates. I predict that no candidate will ever again publish his or her tax return.

I certainly would not, were I to run for office.

I do not see in religion the mystery of the incarnation so much as the mystery of the social order. It introduces into the thought of heaven an idea of equalization, which saves the rich from being massacred by the poor.

— Napoleon: In His Own Words” (1916)

In English: Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.

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