Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

09/04/20 -- Vol. 39, No. 10, Whole Number 2135

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Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, * *

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Eighty Miles (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

The Virtual NASFiC 2020 (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

BIRDMEN by Lawrence Goldstone (book review by Greg Frederick)

Absentee Voting, Classics Illustrated Comics, and THE THREE

MUSKETEERS (1974) (letter of comment by Jim Susky)


SILK) (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Eighty Miles (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

From Mark Leeper's Diary June 26, 1982:

I want to enlist your help in a good cause.  If any of you see

Evelyn, I want you to say to her, "Eighty miles a week."  That's

it.  "Eighty miles a week."  Thanks, I appreciate it.

Well, let me tell you about why you are telling her this.  Evelyn

has certain house responsibilities.  For example, Evelyn's

responsibility is arranging for the driveway to be shoveled and

ending world tyranny.  (But that's another story.) Another of her

responsibilities is setting up the VCRs.  If there is going to be a

program on, she sets up the machine, pops in one of the buffer

tapes, and makes a note as to which tape the program is going on in

a sort of tape-tracking program.  At least 95% of the time this

goes just fine.  Occasionally a recording is just not where she has

said that it was.  Often she updates the program from memory long

after the fact, and she misremembers where she put the program.  So

I came up with a great solution.  An index card with digits "0" to

"9" and a paperclip.  "Just move the paperclip when you put in a

tape and you have a record of what tape you put in," I explained



"It's just one more quick step."


"Uh, no, Buttercup, I just thought this was a better way to do



"But it takes two seconds to move that clip."


"Sorry I said anything."

Now for you to understand the next part, you have to know about THE

CARPET FROM HELL.  We recently got new carpeting in the den.  Now

we don't know a lot about carpets.  I assume many of you out there

already know about THE CARPET FROM HELL, but you didn't tell us.

You see, it looked like a dark carpet, but when the light hits it

right it is almost white.  This makes it an "easy-care" carpet.

With some carpets it is hard to tell when they need cleaning.  THE

CARPET FROM HELL leaves no doubt.  One poppyseed and from thirty

paces the carpet visually calls to you and says, "Hey, Jerk.  Come

over here and get this thing off me."

Then there is speedy recovery.  If I do pushups on THE CARPET in

the morning, I can still read my fingerprints off THE CARPET FROM

HELL that evening.

Now, the exercycle poses a problem since I turn it toward the

television when I use it.  For days afterward you can see just how

I had it turned.  So Evelyn has a solution.  She puts a towel under

the exercycle and a rug on top to hide the towel.  I try to explain

to her that a rug on a carpet goes like a cheeseburger on a bagel.

But as the last straw, when I turn the exercycle she wants me to

rearrange the rug and towel so they stay under the exercycle.  So

next time she tells me I have to rearrange the carpet, I am going

to tell her she has to do the exercycling.  And it's eighty miles a

week I do, so I'll expect her to.  So if you see her, just remind

her it's eighty miles a week.  But she doesn't listen to me.  So I

want her to hear it from you.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: The Virtual NASFiC 2020 (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

[Friday, 08/21] I gave the virtual NASFiC a try (since it's free),

just to see how these things work.  For me, they didn't.

The first problem is not the virtuality part.  It's that even with

only five panels I'm interested in (enough to sit in front of a

screen to watch), there are two at the same time.  (I swear if

there were only two panels I was interested in, they would be at

the same time.)

The other is the realization that while I am not necessarily

impacted, a virtual convention by its very nature excludes Orthodox

Jews an entire day's worth of programming (at least in real time).

I realize nothing can be done about this year's situation, etc.,

but for on-going conventions, this is another "accessibility" issue

to be considered.

After I actually watch a panel, I may have more comments.  :)

[Sunday] And I do.

When I'm at a convention, I am focused on the convention.  When I

am at home, I am thinking about preparing lunch, and doing the

laundry, and a whole bunch of other stuff that has resulted in my

totally forgetting about some of the panels I want to see.  Plus if

I am watching a panel, that ties up the computer, which is in the

room where Mark may want to exercise and watch a movie, or even

watch a different panel.  Just as with virtual learning, when there

are multiple people who want to access a single family computer,

problems can arise.  And this resulted in my not watching any of

the other panels I wanted to see.  I either lost track of the time,

or something was making it inconvenient to watch a panel then.

So my conclusion is that virtual conventions are not for me.  I may

watch a panel from a convention if it is available later on YouTube

or some such, but a large part of the convention is being in the

world of the convention, away from cooking, cleaning, shopping, and

all the other minutiae of mundane life.  For some people, a

"staycation" is possible, but I am apparently not one of them.


After I posted the first part of this, Dorothy J. Heydt asked

whether the problem of time conflicts was true of all conventions.

Well, yes, the worst (best?) I can remember is five conflicting

panels (though I cannot remember which convention this was.  I do

recall that ConFrancisco was so packed that I had no time for lunch

on the three full days.

Regarding the Sabbath panels, Dorothy suggested that they could be

recorded and then the observant could watch them on some other day,

which would also solve the all-the-panels-I-want-to-see-are-at-

the-same-time problem.

Keith F. Lynch, however, noted the problems with that: "I can view

the panels, but can't ask questions of them, nor can I participate

in any of the interactive activities, since those require Discord,

which still demands my exact birthday, allegedly just to prove I'm

over 13.  So I might as well spend my time watching YouTube videos

instead."  Also, he notes that some panelists don't want to be


[I just give a birthday that slightly off.  I'm not lying about my

age, which is all they need anyway (but I do have to remember what

I tell them, since sometimes that turns out to be a security

question as well).]

Keith also observes (correctly), "What would you suggest be done

about that?  Holding cons only during weekdays would prevent people

who work normal business hours from participating."  I didn't say I

had an answer, just that this was yet another issue.

Summarizing, Keith echoes my feelings: "It would also go a long way

toward ending cons as we know them.  Several traditional reasons

for having cons, such as being able to find books that can't be

found anywhere else, and being able to watch movies that can't be

seen anywhere else, are already obsolete.  Speaking only for

myself, a large part of why I go to cons is to interact with other

people, not to passively watch events."

Keith actually attended a fair amount of NASFiC and has posted his

NASFiC report at



[This is one of those issues that divide Evelyn and me.  To the

best of my recall I have been advocating on-line SF conventions

since something like 2005, and over the years since it has became

more advantageous to move programming, huckster rooms, etc. online.




TO CONTROL THE SKIES by Lawrence Goldstone (book review by Greg


This history of technology book is about the early pioneers of

flight.  Most people know that the Wright Brothers invented the

first successful heavier than air flying machine.  But few know

that Samuel Langley was flying steam-powered model airplanes down

the Potomac River in 1896 before the Wright Brothers' first flight

in 1903.  Langley's models were small, unmanned vehicles and the

Wrights had a manned flying machine.  When Langley built a larger

version of his plane and tried to have a man fly it every attempt

was a disaster.  Each of Langley's larger manned plane trials

crashed immediately.  Langley did not understand dynamic balance

and the control that was needed to fly a plane safely.  Also his

plane was too under-powered to fly.  Another early aviator and

inventor, Glenn Curtis is probably not know to most of the public

either.  He created the version of a plane that we all know today.

He used tricycle landing gear, a steering wheel and ailerons (to

turn) in his aircraft and set the stage for the design of most

modern planes even to today.  The Wright Brothers used wing warping

to turn their plane, a sled for landing instead of wheels, and a

drop-weight catapult system to propel their plane along a rail

until it started flying.  Curtis's planes took off flying under

their own power using the wheels to roll along the ground and the

more powerful motor to cause it to lift off into the sky.  The

Wrights and Curtis were locked in a battle for years; the Wrights

patented the technology of flight and tried to make others pay for

the right to built and innovate any new aircraft.  This did not

stop people like Curtis from modifying and inventing new flying

technology though.  If you like to learn about how aircraft

technology was invented this well written and detailed book is for

you.  [-gf]

[At the Stafford Air & Space Museum in Weatherford, Oklahoma, we

learned that the criteria used for "first powered flight of a

heavier-than-air machine" was that it had to raise itself by its

own power, sail forward without reduction of speed, and land at a

point as high as where it started.  It turns out now there is some

debate about whether the Wright Brothers were really the first to

do this.  Gustave Whitehead claimed to flown in 1901 and 1902, and

has eyewitness reports to back that up, but no photographs.

Alberto Santos-Dumont's claim is that the Wright Brothers took off

from a rail or used a catapult for their flights, while his 1906

flight did neither.  -ecl]


TOPIC: Absentee Voting, Classics Illustrated Comics, and THE THREE

MUSKETEERS (1974) (letter of comment by Jim Susky)

In response to Evelyn's comments on absentee voting in the 08/28/20

issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:

Thank you for your timely reminder to vote by mail.

Alaska makes it pretty easy--I first tried it a few years back and

must say that "voting at leisure" has great attractions--especially

for those typically opaque "propositions".

(This year I applied on line and expect the General Election ballot

to arrive in the mail.)

Given viral considerations, 2020 has the potential to be a low-

turnout year--so we can use all the reminders we get.  [-js]

In response to comments on Classics Illustrated Comics in the same

issue of the MT VOID, Jim writes:

Thanks to Kip Williams and R. Looney for the links to Classics

Illustrated Comics (and the "Junior" ones).

I remember Robur's flying machine as well as Verne's cannon, which

shot that "rocket" to the Moon (and back).

Strange coincidence--Classics 001 (The Three Musketeers) was listed

at the top--and we watched last night the tiresome, utterly

disposable 'film treatment' of that novel (recorded from TCM).

Not even a very fetching Raquel Welch could save that film.  [-js]


TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


THE HOUSE OF SILK by Anthony Horowitz.

Agatha Christie is often praised for her plotting, but in A MURDER

IS ANNOUNCED, the plot is totally unbelievable.  Christie favors

mistaken identities, but outdoes herself here, with *three*

instances involving not one, but *two* sets of twins.  There is

also the unlikelihood of the orderly from the Swiss hospital where

he met Miss Blacklock ending up at the hotel in Chipping Cleghorn,

where Miss Blacklock came to live because it was so out of the way.

How likely is it that the blackmailer would agree to help his

victim in some practical joke, even if he is getting paid,

especially when it sounds a bit dodgy to start with?  Isn't it

beyond belief that one twin in disguise would decide to come to try

to tap Miss Blacklock for money, while the other (also in disguise)

would just happen to meet Miss Blacklock's cousin just when he is

going to visit her, supposedly with his sister who can't make it

and so needs a replacement?  And at the end the whole thing is

solved because Miss Marple is brilliant at impersonations.

I *did* say there were spoilers.

And there are also spoilers for THE HOUSE OF SILK, by Anthony

Horowitz, though in this case Horowitz does the spoiling.  The book

is titled "The House of Silk", so when Holmes and Watson go to an

orphanage and discover that it is run by "the Society for the

Improvement of London's Children", the acronym "SILC" leaps out at

us (but not at Holmes, because he and Watson don't hear about the

House of Silk until later.  And Watson's description of the case as

"monstrous" and "shocking" gives modern audiences an idea of what

is going on.  They say the detective should not have information

kept hidden from the reader (though in the original stories Holmes

certainly did), but here the reader has information withheld from

the detective.

Watson is also getting senile.  He writes, "... each and every one

of my chronicles ended with the unmasking or the arrest of a

miscreant."  This is totally wrong; in fact, as early as the third

story ("A Scandal in Bohemia") there is no such unmasking or arrest.

Nor is there one in "The Man with the Twisted Lip" or "The

Adventure of the Yellow Face" or "The Adventure of the Missing

Three-Quarter" or "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier".

Watson's memory must be failing him.  [-ecl]


                     Mark Leeper

* *

          One picture is worth 1,000 denials.

                                          --Ronald Reagan