Fascinating book. This gives an extensive history of L. Ron Hubbard, the Dianetics Foundation, and the Church of Scientology. It's not a flattering hiFascinating book. This gives an extensive history of L. Ron Hubbard, the Dianetics Foundation, and the Church of Scientology. It's not a flattering history, and the author makes the point that it was extensively fact-checked and made as legally bullet-proof as possible. ...more
So far, so good. Decent story, the characters do sensible things, and the Doctor manages to trap the villain in a satisfying manner. Perfectly fine forSo far, so good. Decent story, the characters do sensible things, and the Doctor manages to trap the villain in a satisfying manner. Perfectly fine for reading while I'm pinned down and not otherwise occupied....more
Harry Dresden was dead. He got better. Then things got really interesting, just in time for his birthday. As the new Winter Knight, he gets to do the WinHarry Dresden was dead. He got better. Then things got really interesting, just in time for his birthday. As the new Winter Knight, he gets to do the Winter Queen's "wet work", and he's been given a nightmare assignment. And just to add to the fun, an island prison for supernatural nasties is about to blow sky-high, destroying Chicago and releasing some very dangerous things to ravage the rest of the world. He gets to stop that from happening. According to Dresden, wizards can live for centuries. In his case, it may just seem like centuries....more
This is the story of a romance between a Rhoda, lady journalist, and Sheldon, a Chasidic rabbi who was turned by Vlad Dracula himself. (The old DragonThis is the story of a romance between a Rhoda, lady journalist, and Sheldon, a Chasidic rabbi who was turned by Vlad Dracula himself. (The old Dragon was quite the anti-Semite and thought it amusing to convert devout Jews into creatures that had to subsist on blood, which is forbidden to observant Jews.)
This reads like a semi-autobiographical wish-fulfilment story. The viewpoint character, Rhoda, has remarkably little trouble in her adventures with a vampire lover. When she proposes that Sheldon turn her mother into a vampire to "cure" her heart disease, he agrees readily enough. So does her mother. A few of her friends are ready and willing to be converted as well, and a group of vampires living in the same retirement community are perfectly willing to help.
For those vampires who have trouble staying off of human blood and confining themselves to animal blood, there are "Bloodaholic Anonymous" groups and rehab clinics nearby. There are even vampire equivalents of Alanon for people who have close connections to vampires. There are, in fact, so many organized groups it's a wonder vampires have managed to stay hidden.
Anton Chekov wrote that if you have a gun hanging on the mantel in the first act, you need to fire it by the end of the third. I count at least three guns hanging on the mantel: the Vampire Authority, never seen or heard from, merely referred to, the "bad vampires", who we never see, and vampire hunters. I was expecting the other shoe to drop and about 70% of the way in one does. But it's a baby shoe, not even bronzed to make it heavier.
It's an interesting idea as far as it goes, but I found it lacking in substance....more
This is a well written book, and despite having been written in the early 90s and based on computer technology of that era (You run programs by typingThis is a well written book, and despite having been written in the early 90s and based on computer technology of that era (You run programs by typing their name in at the DOS prompt. There is no mouse to be seen), the story holds up very well.
The main idea in this story is that with the aid of computers to add precision to magic, magicians have created a parallel magical universe. Spells work, and demons can be summoned and can kill people.
Skye King, the viewpoint character, learns this the hard way when a longstanding friend of his dies just that way. But that's only the start of their interaction. Grant, the dead friend, is now a ghost communicating with King through a computer program. King's mission, should he choose to accept it, is to deal with Merlin Jones, wizard, sysop of Magicnet, and occasional sender of demons.
It's a good romp through Los Angeles like you've never seen it before, and my never see it again. Unless you run the right software, of course....more
Looks really good. It just arrived at the LASFS library, and I'm the first to borrow it. It starts out with tips on putting together a medieval kitcheLooks really good. It just arrived at the LASFS library, and I'm the first to borrow it. It starts out with tips on putting together a medieval kitchen.
(Continued, after reading through it)
One neat feature in the cookbook is that many of the recipes are presented in two styles -- medieval and modern. For example, "Beef and Bacon Pie". The medieval version is a two-crust pie filled with diced bacon, flavored with salt and pepper, red wine vinegar, raisins, prunes, dates, and beef broth. The modern version is a single crust beef pie topped with a bacon lattice, the beef flavored with onion, carrot, potato, salt and pepper, rosemary and/or other savory herbs. (Neither recipe is complete! Buy the book (available on Kindle, too) or go to the authors' blog and hope for the best.) This book is lavishly illustrated, contains a nice variety of recipes, and the medieval/modern pairing is a very nice touch. Strongly recommended....more
I didn't give it the full five stars because I'd actually heard and read most of the points the author made before, while he was preparing the book. NI didn't give it the full five stars because I'd actually heard and read most of the points the author made before, while he was preparing the book. Not his fault. This book sets out to describe what American values are, what the alternatives are, and why American values are the best choice for running any society. Yes, "any". You don't have to give up your national identity to adopt American values; it is sufficient that you adopt the American Trinity to your own nation. The American Trinity is a set of three core values which are stamped on every U.S. coin: Liberty, E Pluribus Unum, In God We Trust.
Liberty is freedom from interference by others. It is the right to swing our fists, so long as we stay clear of others' noses.
In God We Trust: Prager writes:
Since liberty means that the state will be too small to effectively morally constrain each individual, this presents a problem. If, as the Founders believed, people are not basically good, what or who will keep people from acting poorly? .... If inherently flawed people will inevitably abuse power, won’t inherently flawed people inevitably abuse liberty? The answer, of course, is yes. And that is the reason for the second value of the American value system— God."
God in this case is specifically the god of the Hebrew Bible, and particularly the god of Micah 6:8 whose demand is that we "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God". Obviously, some visions of God are less suited as the source of our inalienable rights than others.
E Pluribus Unum -- Out of many, one:
THE MOTTO OF AMERICA, E Pluribus Unum, is rare, if not unique as a governing principle or motto of a country. For good reason: No other nation is made out of as “many” as America is. is. In virtually every society in history, the national or group identity was correlated with its ethnic or racial identity. No other nation calls itself a “nation of immigrants,” as Americans— of all political persuasions— routinely call America.
Americans are a tribe one can join. And once one has joined it, one is as American as any descendant of the Plymouth Colony or Daughter of the American Revolution. A citizen who was naturalized an hour ago is an American, and is considered as much American as one who was born here. There are very few other countries that can make this claim.
Aside from its uniqueness, E Pluribus Unum is one of the reasons America developed so rapidly and achieved a level of prosperity that surpassed every other country. ....unlike the United States, Latin America engaged in what Harrison calls “familism,” discrimination on the basis of blood relationships. People did not trust non-blood relations and therefore gave jobs and opportunities to family members— who, of course, were also members of the same ethnicity and race.
E pluribus unum demanded that Americans treat other Americans as members of the same tribe. That meant, among other things, people have much greater freedom to hire and fire based on merit instead of family or tribal loyalty.
And indeed, any nation can adopt the values of liberty, of national unity over tribal, group, or family loyalty, and of being responsible to a higher power no matter what your status may be in society. You don't have to quit being Chinese or Buddhist to adopt these values. Indeed, adopting them may well make you more Chinese. It would also make them freer, stronger, safer, more prosperous, and better places in which to live. And frankly, I wouldn't mind if the entire world became a great place to live....more
Decent story, aliens mess with the time stream and change the past. In this case, they change the story of Roger Bacon, and the Doctor has to intervenDecent story, aliens mess with the time stream and change the past. In this case, they change the story of Roger Bacon, and the Doctor has to intervene.
But read the afterword. The author spends a great deal of time discussing his research into historical Oxford, and the difficulty in writing believably and understandably about a culture that is, frankly, alien. Medieval England is not like modern England. Attitudes are very different, and the cultural defaults are very different. If you want to describe an alien culture on some distant planet, you could do worse than to base it on medieval England....more