30APR2018 – Quote of the Day

I know, I know.  It’s almost May, but enjoy it anyway.

 

STAVE II:  THE FIRST OF THE THREE SPIRITS

“The school is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A
solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.”

Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed.

They left the high-road, by a well-remembered lane, and
soon approached a mansion of dull red brick, with a little
weathercock-surmounted cupola, on the roof, and a bell
hanging in it. It was a large house, but one of broken
fortunes; for the spacious offices were little used, their walls
were damp and mossy, their windows broken, and their
gates decayed. Fowls clucked and strutted in the stables;
and the coach-houses and sheds were over-run with grass.
Nor was it more retentive of its ancient state, within; for
entering the dreary hall, and glancing through the open
doors of many rooms, they found them poorly furnished,
cold, and vast. There was an earthy savour in the air, a
chilly bareness in the place, which associated itself somehow
with too much getting up by candle-light, and not too
much to eat.

They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a
door at the back of the house. It opened before them, and
disclosed a long, bare, melancholy room, made barer still by
lines of plain deal forms and desks. At one of these a lonely
boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down
upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he
used to be.

Not a latent echo in the house, not a squeak and scuffle
from the mice behind the panelling, not a drip from the
half-thawed water-spout in the dull yard behind, not a sigh among
the leafless boughs of one despondent poplar, not the idle
swinging of an empty store-house door, no, not a clicking in
the fire, but fell upon the heart of Scrooge with a softening
influence, and gave a freer passage to his tears.

The Spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his
younger self, intent upon his reading. Suddenly a man, in
foreign garments: wonderfully real and distinct to look at:
stood outside the window, with an axe stuck in his belt, and
leading by the bridle an ass laden with wood.

“Why, it’s Ali Baba!” Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. “It’s
dear old honest Ali Baba! Yes, yes, I know! One Christmas
time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone,
he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy! And
Valentine,” said Scrooge, “and his wild brother, Orson; there
they go! And what’s his name, who was put down in his
drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus; don’t you see him!
And the Sultan’s Groom turned upside down by the Genii;
there he is upon his head! Serve him right. I’m glad of it.
What business had he to be married to the Princess!”

To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his nature
on such subjects, in a most extraordinary voice between
laughing and crying; and to see his heightened and excited
face; would have been a surprise to his business friends in
the city, indeed.

“There’s the Parrot!” cried Scrooge. “Green body and
yellow tail, with a thing like a lettuce growing out of the
top of his head; there he is! Poor Robin Crusoe, he called
him, when he came home again after sailing round the
island. ‘Poor Robin Crusoe, where have you been, Robin
Crusoe?’  The man thought he was dreaming, but he wasn’t.
It was the Parrot, you know. There goes Friday, running
for his life to the little creek! Halloa! Hoop! Halloo!”

Then, with a rapidity of transition very foreign to his
usual character, he said, in pity for his former self, “Poor
boy!” and cried again.

“I wish,” Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his
pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his
cuff: “but it’s too late now.”

“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy
singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should
like to have given him something: that’s all.”

The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand:
saying as it did so, “Let us see another Christmas!”

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

IN PROSE
BEING
A Ghost Story of Christmas

by Charles Dickens

 

 

 

29APR2018 – Quote of the Day

I have always thought Treasure Island is the quintessential adventure story for boys.  The film versions  are also good fun but reading the story I find can almost make me feel twelve years old again.  Well maybe fourteen anyway.  Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

3

The Black Spot

ABOUT noon I stopped at the captain's door with some cooling drinks
and medicines. He was lying very much as we had left him, only a little
higher, and he seemed both weak and excited.

“Jim,” he said, “you're the only one here that's worth anything, and you
know I've been always good to you. Never a month but I've given you a
silver fourpenny for yourself. And now you see, mate, I'm pretty low,
and deserted by all; and Jim, you'll bring me one noggin of rum, now,
won't you, matey?”

“The doctor--” I began.

But he broke in cursing the doctor, in a feeble voice but heartily.
“Doctors is all swabs,” he said; “and that doctor there, why, what do
he know about seafaring men? I been in places hot as pitch, and mates
dropping round with Yellow Jack, and the blessed land a-heaving like the
sea with earthquakes--what to the doctor know of lands like that?--and I
lived on rum, I tell you. It's been meat and drink, and man and wife,
to me; and if I'm not to have my rum now I'm a poor old hulk on a lee
shore, my blood'll be on you, Jim, and that doctor swab”; and he ran on
again for a while with curses. “Look, Jim, how my fingers fidges,”
 he continued in the pleading tone. “I can't keep 'em still, not I. I
haven't had a drop this blessed day. That doctor's a fool, I tell you.
If I don't have a drain o' rum, Jim, I'll have the horrors; I seen some
on 'em already. I seen old Flint in the corner there, behind you; as
plain as print, I seen him; and if I get the horrors, I'm a man that
has lived rough, and I'll raise Cain. Your doctor hisself said one glass
wouldn't hurt me. I'll give you a golden guinea for a noggin, Jim.”

He was growing more and more excited, and this alarmed me for my father,
who was very low that day and needed quiet; besides, I was reassured by
the doctor's words, now quoted to me, and rather offended by the offer
of a bribe.

“I want none of your money,” said I, “but what you owe my father. I'll
get you one glass, and no more.”

When I brought it to him, he seized it greedily and drank it out.

“Aye, aye,” said he, “that's some better, sure enough. And now, matey,
did that doctor say how long I was to lie here in this old berth?”

“A week at least,” said I.

“Thunder!” he cried. “A week! I can't do that; they'd have the black
spot on me by then. The lubbers is going about to get the wind of me
this blessed moment; lubbers as couldn't keep what they got, and want to
nail what is another's. Is that seamanly behaviour, now, I want to know?
But I'm a saving soul. I never wasted good money of mine, nor lost it
neither; and I'll trick 'em again. I'm not afraid on 'em. I'll shake out
another reef, matey, and daddle 'em again.”

As he was thus speaking, he had risen from bed with great difficulty,
holding to my shoulder with a grip that almost made me cry out, and
moving his legs like so much dead weight. His words, spirited as they
were in meaning, contrasted sadly with the weakness of the voice in
which they were uttered. He paused when he had got into a sitting
position on the edge.

“That doctor's done me,” he murmured. “My ears is singing. Lay me back.”

Before I could do much to help him he had fallen back again to his
former place, where he lay for a while silent.

“Jim,” he said at length, “you saw that seafaring man today?”

“Black Dog?” I asked.

“Ah! Black Dog,” says he. “HE'S a bad un; but there's worse that put him
on. Now, if I can't get away nohow, and they tip me the black spot, mind
you, it's my old sea-chest they're after; you get on a horse--you can,
can't you? Well, then, you get on a horse, and go to--well, yes,
I will!--to that eternal doctor swab, and tell him to pipe all
hands--magistrates and sich--and he'll lay 'em aboard at the Admiral
Benbow--all old Flint's crew, man and boy, all on 'em that's left. I was
first mate, I was, old Flint's first mate, and I'm the on'y one as knows
the place. He gave it me at Savannah, when he lay a-dying, like as if I
was to now, you see. But you won't peach unless they get the black spot
on me, or unless you see that Black Dog again or a seafaring man with
one leg, Jim--him above all.”

“But what is the black spot, captain?” I asked.

“That's a summons, mate. I'll tell you if they get that. But you keep
your weather-eye open, Jim, and I'll share with you equals, upon my
honour.”

Sony A7 III – A Camera Review – Part 1

Helebore flower

 

I’ve had the camera for about a week.  I went out today to get some first impressions.  The first thing I notice is the difference between the A7S and the A7 III is the autofocus.  It’s night and day.  I used center point AF.  Whatever I pointed at was instantaneously in perfect focus.  No hunting, no off-focus just dead on crystal clear.  Now granted, this is in bright day light.  But if you’ve ever shot the A7S you know that even under these conditions the photo had a more than even chance of being at least slightly out of focus.  I took it as standard operating procedure that magnified manual focus was absolutely necessary for guaranteed perfect focus.  Of course, think of what that means for a moving subject.  It meant you couldn’t get the shot.  So, the A7 III is a revelation.

The next thing I noticed was how convenient it was to have the viewfinder stay in magnified mode after autofocusing a view.  Now I can make sure that if the scene is ultra-crowded with competing focus targets that the right one was selected.  Or if something has moved I can re-focus without having to re-engage the magnify steps.  This is especially nice for macro work or distant objects.

The next thing was an item I noticed while inspecting the images on the computer.  The 24-mp files are amazingly croppable.  This contrasts with the 12-mp A7S files.  I’ve attached an extreme crop of a flower.  The focus was excellent and the crop has tons of detail.

And finally, looking at the images on the computer they seem to have a very nice look to them.  Of course, the A7S produced nice files too but these look very rich.

These are just my first thoughts.  Later on I’ll review the various functions on the camera and how they work or don’t work for my shooting needs.  But right now I have to say that except for extreme low light or star photography I can’t imagine using the A7S instead of the A7 III.

Majipoor Chronicles by Robert Silverberg – A Science Fiction Review

Previously I reviewed the first book of this series Lord Valentine’s Castle.  And since I liked that volume I went ahead and bought the other two volumes.  Majipoor Chronicles is constructed as a bridge between the first and third volumes and also serves to fill in as much of the backstory of Majipoor as it can.  One of the minor characters from the first book uses a machine that can record and replay the experiences of a person’s life so that another can virtually relive them as if it were his own life unfolding.  Using this plot device, we are served up a series of short stories varying between twenty and fifty pages in length.  Themes and characters vary.  Some are personal accounts of ordinary people living through the history of this planet.  All the primary characters are humans but the stories sometimes are primarily concerning human/non-human interaction.  Some of the stories involve characters who are major historical figures in the Majipoor world.  And some of the stories shed a light on the unusual place that dreams play in Majipoor life.  And finally, the last story is directly about the hero of the first book, Lord Valentine.

My first comment on the book is that it absolutely cannot be read with first reading Lord Valentine’s Castle.  Without first walking through Majipoor with Valentine on his journey of discovery I think the details and logic of Majipoor life would seem random and confusing.  Without some grounding in the structure of their ruling system and the relations between the sentient species some of the stories would be especially confusing.

The second thing that I want to discuss is the vintage of these books.  They were written at the end of the nineteen seventies and into the nineteen eighties.  During that period science fiction authors were heavily invested in introducing sex as a major component of their stories.  Silverberg was no exception.  So, in addition to normal sexual matters he highlights the oddity of the male protagonist who experiences these mind recordings experiencing sex from the point of view of one of his female subjects.  And in one story at an all woman’s school the fact that two of the women were in an intimate setting has one character wondering if it was an attempted sexual advance.  I think the character more or less says the “Seinfeldian” line, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”  And later on, there is a sex scene involving a woman and two brothers.  Of course, by today’s standards these are extremely tame but at the time these were boundary testing.  The more bizarre sexual situation involves two human characters in separate stories that engage in sex with non-humans.  In fact, the really odd one has a young woman actually initiating sex with an unemotional, fairly uninterested but polite lizard man who the female character is nursing back to health from a leg injury.  This one was a bit much for me.  I have to admit that my tolerance human woman / lizard man sex is extremely limited.  So that facet of the stories is not entirely to my satisfaction.  As far as his description of normal male female sexuality I thought that was fairly done.  And of course, the adult nature of the books would exclude recommending them to very young people.

Putting aside this second point, which is restricted to a small part of the overall book, I enjoyed the writing and I found several of the stories very original.  Silverberg has a fertile imagination and writes his characters in an interesting and sympathetic manner.  I especially liked the stories that advanced the historical knowledge of Majipoor.  My favorite was the war story, “The Time of the Burning.”  It directly addresses the human colonization of Majipoor and the impact this had on the aboriginal population.  But overall I see Majipoor Chronicles as an interlude between Lord Valentine’s Castle and Valentine Pontifex, the third book of the series.  It’s merely a snack between the main courses.  If you’re reading the series then you must read it because there are a few plot points that would be missed with out it but overall it is more of a background enhancer for the Majipoor world building effort.  Now on to Valentine Pontifex!

28APR2018 – Quote of the Day

There hasn’t been frost in almost a week and the grass is growing, flowers are blooming bees are buzzing, spring, renewal, all that crap.  Always loved Debbie Reynold’s voice on this song.  Very pretty.

 

The autumn days grow short and cold
Its Christmas time again
The snows of winter slowly melt
The days grow short and then
He turns the seasons around
And so she changes her gown
Mother Earth and Father Time
How very special are we
For just a moment to be
Part of life’s….eternal….rhyme
 Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman  lyrics from song “Mother Earth and Father Time,” motion picture Charlotte’s Web (1973)

27APR2018 – Quote of the Day

“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

by Fanny Fern in ‘Willis Parton’ (c. 1872),

I can’t confirm that this is truly universal but Camera Girl knew this saying before we met.  Before our first outing she invited me over for breakfast and prepared ham steak and used the fat to deep fry eggs and home fried potatoes.  Being from a large family where you had to battle for every last scrap of food this was definitely unfair.  I never stood a chance of escaping her web.  And here I am forty three years later.  Life is cruel.  So if a woman is interested in feeding you take that as a good sign.