Friday, March 29, 2013

Seven Blunders

The Seven Blunders of the World is a list that Mahatma Gandhi gave to his grandson Arun Gandhi on their final day together, not long before his assassination. The seven blunders are:

1. Pleasure without conscience.
2. Wealth without work.
3. Knowledge without character.
4. Commerce without morality.
5. Science without humanity.
6. Worship without sacrifice.
7. Politics without principle.

Also referred to as "impediments to virtue." Have I posted this before? If not, I should have.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Seeing Clear

TCS lost w/o glasses.
I couldn't find my glasses this morning and so stumbled about while making coffee and toast. I managed to turn on the radio so I wasn't completely senseless, although you can never be certain our media is relaying the truth. As the coffee percolated, I thought about how my situation (sans glasses, half-blind) was similar to that of your average American citizen. That is, walking about my mundane life, minding my own business, and oblivious to what is going on around me. I mean, I couldn't see, I was partially blind, I couldn't make out fine details of anything. For me, the worst of it was that I couldn't read.

Well, there was no discernment of anything. If you can't see your way, then you are essentially stumbling through life, or, in my case, my morning coffee ritual.

As a nation of people, Americans are being led as if we are blind. We are told what to do, what to believe, and how to act. We are told what is good for us and what is bad for us. We're told what is right and what is wrong. The words come from a media that has prostituted itself and is sold to the highest bidder -- to the globalist cabal, monied interests, and our corporate masters.

Take a seat -- let somebody else drive.
Americans allow themselves to be led because it's easier, just like it's easier to ride rather than to drive. I can put up my feet, have a soda, and talk to my friends in the back of the bus while somebody else drives. Plus, I don't have to be bothered with pesky notions about right and wrong. I don't have to remember the directions. Somebody else takes care of that.

What is hard in life is the narrower way. A life of discipline and the pursuit of truth often butts up against false ideologies, pop science and pop politics, as well as outright lies propped up as truth.

C'mon, is a caption really needed here?
I know a guy who claims he is pursuing truth. He's big on proclaiming his love for everyone and also believes he is privy to the secrets of the universe, including the nature of man. He likes to carry on about questions of social equality and is forever on the liberal, progressive end of any debate. He smokes a lot of pot, which I don't begrudge him because the world is so crazy these days, people are searching for a way out, if not just for an hour or so. The thing is, his act is all about his libido. The whole routine he's adopted is a way to pick up girls. Really. That is, as far as I can see. Of course, I could be wrong, but I don't think I am.

Such is the way of the world. For those of you who may be looking for a way out of the rat-trap thinking imposed on us by the powers that be, I urge you to adopt discipline, bolster your faith with the wisdom of the ages, and stop relying on others to furnish your needs.

I found my glasses and it was great being able to see again. When I put them on my face, I was reminded that it's just like the saying goes: the truth will set you free. Too bad we can't put vision correction on our society's current view of things. While rose-colored glasses look nice, they really don't help you see anything.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Reading for Weight Loss

We all know reading is good for the mind, but you may wonder if there is any benefit for the body as well. Well, we do burn calories while reading, so maybe reading about diets can get things started.

The more you weigh, the more calories you burn. It takes more energy to circulate blood and perform basic physiological functions when you have greater mass.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a 140 pound person burns about 50 calories per hour while reading lying down. A 160 pound person burns 67 calories lying down to read.

Sitting up while reading burns even more calories. The 140 pound person burns 67 calories while sitting and reading and the 180 pound person burns 86 calories while sitting and reading.

The calories you burn while reading are expended on basic metabolic and maintenance processes more than on the reading, per se. Even a riveting page turner doesn't demand much exertion. The more muscle mass you have, the greater your metabolism. Work out between reading sessions and you'll burn even more. Or, chew calorie-free gum while you read and chew off another 11 calories per hour.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"You take the blue pill -- the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill and stay in wonderland and find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes."

Olympus Has Fallen -- Review

I went to the movies yesterday and saw Olympus Has Fallen, an action-adventure flick with a plot concerning a terroristic takeover of the White House and, subsequently, the United States. The terrorists were a group of dedicated North Koreans bent on the destruction of the entire US, and I do mean the entire US. The bad guys planned on forcing computer codes from the president and captured cabinet members that would cause all the nukes sitting in underground bunkers across the US to explode. Well, there were enough technical holes in the story to sink the Titanic, but who cares when the action is coming hot and heavy and the popcorn is fresh.

Gerard Butler
The plot was very much like one of Bruce Willis' Die Hard movies where the lone, honor-stained, law enforcement officer finds himself in the middle of a dicey situation. Against all odds, he prevails after killing dozens of terrorists in gruesome, cold-blooded fashion. Our hero, Treasury Agent Mike Banning, is played by Gerard Butler.

And so the president (not Obama, rather some white guy played by Aaron Eckhart) is held hostage in the fortified basement of the White House while time ticks away in a nuclear countdown. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? The truth is, there's not much new here, just another 120 minute action theater experience that avoids the pitfalls of logic by simply ignoring them.

Stern-faced Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman plays the Speaker of the House who gains the mantle of the presidency as Aaron Eckhart is held hostage and the VP is eliminated. There is the inevitable moment when Freeman is informed he is the man and he shows how intelligent he is by immediately issuing a series of orders which all sound quite reasonable. The thing is, when the terrorists begin making their demands, Morgan Freeman, as acting President, rolls over without question and gives in to every demand, no matter how ludicrous. His actions bring on a scene where he is forced to silence a general who doesn't agree. Black man tells white man to shut up and white man obeys under a stern gaze. I'm seeing this particular scene played out in lots of movies these days. Since Olympus Has Fallen is directed by a black guy, I guess we have to put up with the psyops. If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry about it, but what it amounts to is a subtle injection of racism into the flick. Can't we all just get along? No, apparently not.

Anyway, if I had to give the movie a score on a five star system, I'd have to go with a three. Why did I choose to watch Olympus Has Fallen? I wanted to get out of the house and there wasn't a science fiction flick playing. I could have chosen Burt Wonderstone, a comedy about magicians, but I guess I was a sucker for the Olympus Has Fallen movie trailer. Olympus Has Fallen is a Die Hard clone shoot 'em up with murder and mayhem, rated R for bullets, blades, and blood.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Among The Stars

Among The Stars, the thrilling sequel to the Harry Irons Trilogy, is now available in hard copy! A real, hold-in-your-hands book! Go here and order a dozen copies for family and friends! Ebook version still available here. Keep reading, my friends!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Unhappy? Try this.


Room 8

Room 8
Room 8 (1947–1968) was a neighborhood cat who wandered into a classroom in 1952 at Elysian Heights Elementary School in Echo Park, California. He lived in the school during the school year and then disappeared for the summer, returning when classes started again. This pattern continued without interruption until the mid-1960s.

News cameras would arrive at the school at the beginning of the year waiting for the cat's return; he became famous and would receive up to 100 letters a day addressed to him at the school. Eventually, he was featured in a documentary called Big Cat, Little Cat and a children's book, A Cat Called Room 8. Look magazine ran a three-page Room 8 feature by photographer Richard Hewett in November 1962, titled "Room 8: The School Cat". Leo Kottke wrote an instrumental called "Room 8" that was included in his 1971 album, Mudlark.

As he got older, Room 8 was injured in a cat fight and suffered from feline pneumonia, so a family near the school volunteered to take him in. The school's janitor would find him at the end of the school day and carry him across the street.

His obituary in the Los Angeles Times rivaled that of major political figures, running three columns with a photograph. The cat was so famous that his obituary ran in papers as far away as Hartford, Connecticut. The students raised the funds for his gravestone.[1] He is buried at the Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park in Calabasas, California.

Elysian Heights Elementary School has a wall mural on the outside of the school that features Room 8, and the teachers read his book to each new class. Room 8's paw prints are immortalized in cement on the sidewalk outside the school.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Minerva's Soul

Minerva's Soul is the third book in the Harry Irons science fiction trilogy. Cooper's Press is happy to announce the release of the hard copy version. Check it out here. Kindle users go here.

Harry and friends have fled the Earth authorities so that they may find a cure for Harry's kitzloc infection in the sands of the Great Wahabi, located on the planet Mirabel -- home of the inscrutable kitzloc.

Follow Harry as he seeks to save himself while unraveling mysteries of the universe.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Invisibility Cloak

British Columbia company HyperStealth Biotechnology showed a functioning prototype of its new fabric to the U.S. and Canadian military this year. The material, called Quantum Stealth, bends light waves around the wearer without the use of batteries, mirrors, or cameras. It blocks the subject from being seen by visual means but also keeps them hidden from thermal scans and infrared.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Ides of March

The phrase, "Beware the Ides of March" was uttered as a warning to Julius Caesar (July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC). As it turned out, for students of history and Shakespeare, Caesar was assassinated in Rome on the steps of the Roman senate building on the 15th of March by his political enemies. "Ides," of course, refers to the middle of March.

Ides of March was also a pop band some forty years ago that sounded a lot like Chicago or Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Here's Ides of March #1 song from 1970, "Vehicle":

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Voynich Manuscript

Written in Central Europe at the end of the 15th or during the 16th century, the origin, language, and date of the Voynich Manuscript—named after the Polish-American antiquarian bookseller, Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912—are still being debated as vigorously as its puzzling drawings and undeciphered text. Described as a magical or scientific text, nearly every page contains botanical, figurative, and scientific drawings of a provincial but lively character, drawn in ink with vibrant washes in various shades of green, brown, yellow, blue, and red.

Based on the subject matter of the drawings, the contents of the manuscript falls into six sections: 1) botanicals containing drawings of 113 unidentified plant species; 2) astronomical and astrological drawings including astral charts with radiating circles, suns and moons, Zodiac symbols such as fish (Pisces), a bull (Taurus), and an archer (Sagittarius), nude females emerging from pipes or chimneys, and courtly figures; 3) a biological section containing a myriad of drawings of miniature female nudes, most with swelled abdomens, immersed or wading in fluids and oddly interacting with interconnecting tubes and capsules; 4) an elaborate array of nine cosmological medallions, many drawn across several folded folios and depicting possible geographical forms; 5) pharmaceutical drawings of over 100 different species of medicinal herbs and roots portrayed with jars or vessels in red, blue, or green, and 6) continuous pages of text, possibly recipes, with star-like flowers marking each entry in the margins.

Like its contents, the history of ownership of the Voynich manuscript is contested and filled with some gaps. The codex belonged to Emperor Rudolph II of Germany (Holy Roman Emperor, 1576-1612), who purchased it for 600 gold ducats and believed that it was the work of Roger Bacon. It is very likely that Emperor Rudolph acquired the manuscript from the English astrologer John Dee (1527-1608). Dee apparently owned the manuscript along with a number of other Roger Bacon manuscripts. In addition, Dee stated that he had 630 ducats in October 1586, and his son noted that Dee, while in Bohemia, owned "a booke...containing nothing butt Hieroglyphicks, which booke his father bestowed much time upon: but I could not heare that hee could make it out." Emperor Rudolph seems to have given the manuscript to Jacobus Horcicky de Tepenecz (d. 1622), an exchange based on the inscription visible only with ultraviolet light on folio 1r which reads: "Jacobi de Tepenecz." Johannes Marcus Marci of Cronland presented the book to Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680) in 1666. In 1912, Wilfred M. Voynich purchased the manuscript from the Jesuit College at Frascati near Rome. In 1969, the codex was given to the Beinecke Library by H. P. Kraus, who had purchased it from the estate of Ethel Voynich, Wilfrid Voynich's widow.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Gathering Storm

I used to think it would be impossible to stage a military or hostile takeover of the United States. Since then, I've revised my views.

President Obama has clearly taken a number of actions that when added together indicates his plans for a military takeover of the United States.

Obama is "hollowing out" the military by replacing male leadership with female leadership. The muslim-sympathetic president has shackled chaplains from preaching Christianity to the troops and by not allowing them to have Bibles in some areas in the Middle East. Obama also requires his top military leaders to be willing to shoot American citizens.

The Department of Homeland Security has stockpiled millions of weapons and billions of rounds ammunition. Why? The action is unprecedented in American history and has no purpose or basis other than to use the munitions against the American people.

The public relations campaign for gun control has only one purpose and that is to disarm the American people. There are more guns in private ownership than there are people in the US. That would make a hostile takeover more difficult, costly and time consuming. Attorney General Eric Holder, however, has already put gun owners on notice, comparing them to "smokers" and saying the America public needs to be "brainwashed" against firearms. One gets the notion that the administration uses media manipulation (e.g., "brainwashing") on a common basis.

One of the problems with firearms in the hands of the public is that the government doesn’t know where they are. That’s why they are pushing for complete gun registration and background checks for everyone who owns a firearm, regardless of how they got it. Under Obamacare, doctors and medical staffers are asked to gather information on their patients as to whether or not they own a gun.

Under the National Defense Authorization Act, the federal government has the legal right to indefinitely detain anyone deemed dangerous to the country. Authorities do not have to produce any evidence, nor do they have to obtain a warrant, and they most definitely do not have to give the right to an attorney. All the government has to do is say you are a threat and that could be the last anyone sees of you for a long time.

Obama has also issued an executive order that gives him total control over all means of communication for any reason. The executive order includes all television, radio, cable, internet and cell phone communications.

Additionally, Obama is placing drones in the skies over America. Attorney General Eric Holder maintains that the drones are legal, and that Obama also has the right to use them against American citizens.

The stage is set for a hostile takeover of the United States. All that is required is for a state of emergency (mostly likely prompted by a forced economic collapse or another "red flag" event) to be declared, allowing the government to control all forms of communication. At that point, military and DHS personnel will round up everyone who opposes the government and then indefinitely detain them under the National Defense Authorization Act. Resistors will be dealt with by lethal force.

If there was a threat from another nation, military spending would not be slashed while stockpiling millions of weapons and ammunition. America is Obama's target, not Iran, Syria, China, North Korea or al-Qaeda.

Some folks say all this will happen prior to the 2016 election. Throughout history, other socialist nations have witnessed the rise of tyrants -- all starting with a leader who decides to outlaw guns.

EDIT: The Southern Poverty Law Center sent a letter earlier this week to Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urging the government to establish a task force to investigate the supposed domestic terror threat posed by the likes of Alex JonesWe Are Change, Oath Keepers, the Constitution Party, the Tyranny Response Team and thousands of other Americans outside of the orbit of the establishment.

The letter sent by the president and CEO of the SPLC, J. Richard Cohen, begins by reminding Holder and Napolitano that the organization “wrote Attorney General Janet Reno about the growing threat of domestic terrorism” prior to the Oklahoma City bombing in October, 1994.

“Today, we write to express similar concerns.  In the last four years, we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of conspiracy-minded, antigovernment groups as well as in the number of domestic terrorist plots.” Today’s “ominous threats,” Cohen warns, come from citizens concerned about federal government attacks on the Second Amendment. “Because of the looming dangers, we urge you to establish an interagency task force to assess the adequacy of the resources devoted to responding to the growing threat of non-Islamic domestic terrorism.”

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Yuja Wang

A Lesson in Synchrony

The video is four minutes and five seconds but interesting in regard to conformity, communication, influence, and medium (in this case, the supporting platform -- you'll know what I mean if you watch the video.)

Go here for article.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

13 Days of Glory: Battle for the Alamo

The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas
Not much more can be said about the 1836 battle for the Alamo that has not been previously stated. However, the story needs to be re-told on occasion, so that we may remind ourselves not only of the great sacrifices others have made, but also as a way to illustrate the sort of fortitude sometimes required to change the world. We should never forget the men of the Alamo.

In late February and early March of 1836, Colonel William B. Travis, James Bowie, Davy Crockett, and 185 other Texan volunteers defended an old Spanish mission for 13 days against a superior force led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna. The Texans perished in a full assault on March 6th.

Located in San Antonio, Texas, the Alamo was originally a Catholic mission founded in 1724. Called Misión San Antonio de Valero, construction of its iconic facade began in 1744 and the keystone over the front doorway is inscribed with the year 1758. Built from blocks of locally-quarried limestone, construction of its iconic facade was begun on May 8th in 1744. In the beginning, the Alamo was designed to have two bell towers and a domed roof. Everything but the outer walls of the building collapsed during construction so the towers and vaulted roof were never completed. It was used as a church until 1793 when Spain closed the mission and handed the surrounding land over to the native Indians. Spanish soldiers from Alamo de Parras in Coahuila, called the old mission the Alamo, or in English, “cottonwood,” after their home. During Mexico’s long struggle for independence from Spain, the Alamo was occupied by Spanish soldiers, revolutionary fighters, and Mexican soldiers. By March of 1836, the building and its surrounding grounds had been transformed into a fort where 188 soldiers of the Texas Revolution manned its walls against a two thousand man army from Mexico led by General Santa Anna.

Col. William Barret Travis
In the early hours of February 23, 1836, residents began fleeing San Antonio de Béxar, in the face of 1500 soldiers from Santa Anna’s advance guard. Colonel William Travis ordered a soldier to the San Fernando church bell tower as a lookout. Not long afterwards, scouts reported Mexican troops a mile and a half from town. The Texians gathered inside the walls of the Alamo after scrounging for food in the abandoned houses of San Antonio. Several members of the garrison who had been living in town brought their families with them when they reported to the Alamo.

The Mexican troops came into the city and subsequently surrounded the fort. Colonel James Bowie and Travis had agreed to a joint command over the Texians, but were still at odds. When the Mexican troops raised a red flag signifying no mercy for the rebellious Texans, Travis ordered a single round fired from the Alamo's largest cannon. Albert Martin and Green Jameson were sent as emissaries to speak with Mexican Colonels Juan Almonte and José Bartres. Almonte reported that the Texians asked for an honorable surrender but were told any surrender must be unconditional. Bowie and Travis responded by firing the cannon again.

Mexican soldiers positioned cannons about 1,000 feet from the walls both to the south and the east and moved them closer every night, firing more than 200 shots the first week of the siege. When possible, the Texans recovered the cannonballs and often shot them back at the Mexican lines.

Lt. Col. James Bowie
On February 24, Colonel Bowie grew too ill to lead and Travis took sole command. Later that afternoon, the first Mexican soldier was killed, apparently by cannon fire. The next day, a force of Mexican soldiers took positions in shacks close to the Alamo walls, but the shacks were burned by the Texans and the Mexicans retreated. No Texans were injured in the skirmish but two Mexican soldiers were killed and four were reported wounded.

Temperatures dropped the following day, adding to the discomfort.

By then, Travis was sending out couriers with letters asking for reinforcements. Among these letters was one in particular that is succinct but shows the state of mind of the Texan defenders:

To the People of Texas; All Americans in the World:
Fellow citizens & compatriots—I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna—I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken—I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch—The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily; will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country—Victory or Death.
William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. comdt
P.S. The Lord is on our side—When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn—We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.

Ninety miles away, in Gonzales, Colonel James Fannin attempted to reinforce the Alamo defenders with a force of 320 men and four cannons, but the effort stalled. After being outnumbered and surrendering to Mexican forces at the Battle of Coleto Creek, Fannin and most of his men were executed on March 27 at Goliad, Texas. Fannin was the last to be executed. He was taken to a courtyard before the chapel in Goliad, blindfolded, and placed in a chair because he could not stand because of a leg wound received in battle. The Texas Army Colonel asked that his personal effects be sent to his family and to be shot in his heart rather than his face. Additionally, Fannin asked for a Christian burial. None of his requests were granted and his body was burned along with the soldiers under his command. Fannin was 32 years old.

On March 3, 1,000 additional Mexican troops marched into Béxar, prompting Travis to send a party of three men, including Davy Crockett, to search for Fannin. The scouting party found a group of Texans camped 20 miles from San Antonio. Prior to dawn on March 4, a portion of the group broke through Mexican lines and entered the Alamo.

Gen. Santa Anna
The day after the Mexican reinforcements arrived, Santa Anna unveiled his assault plan. Some senior officers wanted to wait for two 12-pound cannons expected to arrive on March 7. Later that night, a member of Bowie’s extended family, Juana Navarro Alsbury asked Santa Anna to allow the Texans to surrender. It is speculated that the request only served to strengthen Santa Anna’s resolve. The next morning, the Mexican General told his staff the attack would occur early in the morning on March 6. Santa Anna arranged for Mexican troops from Béxar to be excused from the fight so they would not be forced to encounter their own families on the battlefield.

A story repeated often enough to hold legitimacy is that on March 5, Travis spoke plainly to his men about the coming attack. Using his sword, he drew a line in the sand and asked for anyone willing to die to cross and stand with him. As the story goes, only one man declined. According to official records, the last Texan to leave was courier James Allen.

To the relief of the Texans, the Mexican cannons ceased their bombardment on the Alamo at 10 p.m. on March 5. It was, however, a clever ploy by Santa Anna. After being bombarded for eleven days, the relieved Texans fell asleep -- for many, it was the first sleep they had since entering the fort. While the Texans slept, the Mexicans made their preparations.

Mexican troops were divided into four columns, each commanded by Colonels Cos, Duque, Romero and Morales. The experienced soldiers were placed on the outside in order to control the less-experienced troops in the middle. 400 were kept in reserve while 500 Mexican cavalry were distributed around the Alamo to catch any soldiers, whether Mexican or Texan, running from the field of battle.

At 5:30 in the morning of March 6, the Mexicans crept forward. The first casualties of the battle were three Texan guards killed while they slept at their posts outside the walls. When Mexican soldiers began to shout, "¡Viva Santa Anna!" and buglers blew the call to battle, the Texans were roused to the fight. Those few not involved went to the church sacristy. It is purported that Travis shouted out, "Come on boys, the Mexicans are upon us and we'll give them hell!"

Without proper munitions, the Texans filled their cannon with any sort of metal -- door hinges, nails, and chopped-up horseshoes. According to the diary of Jose Enrique de la Peña, "a single cannon volley did away with half the company of chasseurs [light infantrymen] from Toluca.”

Under withering fire, the Mexican front ranks wavered but were pushed forward by those behind. The Texans had to lean over the walls to fire and so it was with Travis as he became one of the first to die, killed while firing his shotgun into the soldiers below. Even with the element of surprise on their side, no Mexican was able to breach the walls in that first attack. They withdrew and, at the urging of their officers, launched a second attack. It too was repelled.

The third attack exposed weaknesses in the northern wall. General Juan Amador was one of the first to climb the 12 foot wall. At his urging, the men in his command followed. Amador managed to find and open a hidden gate which allowed Mexican soldiers to fairly pour into the fort. By then, the west wall had been breached as well. The Texans rushed from the north wall as Texan gunners on the southern side faced their cannon to the north and fired into the melee. This action allowed Mexican soldiers to climb the southern walls. They killed the Texan gunners and captured the 18-pounder cannon. On the eastern wall, Colonel Romero's men began to pour through.

The remaining Texans retreated to the barracks and chapel. Those unable to make it to the barracks ran toward the San Antonio River. The cavalry that had been stationed at positions around the Alamo killed them all after a brief fight. Another group of Texans ran to the east. As the Mexican cavalry bore down on that group, Almaron Dickinson and his artillery crew fired their cannon into the cavalry. At the most, it only gave the escaping Texans only a few more seconds of life.

The last Texans in the courtyard were Crockett and his men, who defended a low wall before the front door of the church. Unable to reload quickly enough, they turned their rifles into clubs and used knives in close fighting. As the Mexicans overwhelmed them a few managed to escape into the church.

Now in control of the Texans’ cannon, Mexican soldiers blasted open the doors of the barracks. Each time, Santa Anna’s men would fire a volley into the opened room, then charge inside.

Jim Bowie was in one of those rooms. There are various accounts of his exact death, but it is generally agreed that in the end, the Louisiana knife-fighter took a number of Mexican lives before he was overwhelmed.

Almaron Dickinson
The last to die fighting were 11 Texans inside the chapel. They had pulled the two 12-pounder cannon into the chapel and waited until a blast from the captured 18-pounder cannon opened a path into the church. As Mexican soldiers poured inside, Dickinson's men fired into the group. After a brief, bloody fight, Dickinson, Gregorio Esparza and James Bonham were killed.

The son of Texan Anthony Wolf was also killed in the church. One man, Brigido Guerrero, convinced the soldiers he was a prisoner and was spared.

As is so often the case after such an intense battle, Mexican soldiers continued to shoot and bayonet bodies. The officers were unable to stop their troops, even when the buglers blew a retreat and for minutes after the battle was over, the carnage continued.

Davy Crockett
Most accounts claim between five and seven Texans surrendered and were summarily executed. Some say David Crockett was among that handful of men, but to this day, historians still disagree on how Crockett died.

Captain Almaron Dickinson’s wife, Susanna, and their infant daughter, Angelina, were spared by Santa Anna. The Mexican General even offered to adopt the child, but Mrs. Dickinson refused. Instead, she was given a blanket and two silver pesos, then sent to Gonzales, ostensibly to spread fear among the rebellious Texans about the Mexican Army. Travis’ slave, Joe, was also spared and accompanied Mrs. Dickinson to Gonzales.

Alamo Expert Phil Collins
Mexican casualties have been estimated to be between 400 to 600 -- a third of the force involved in the final attack. It is said Henry Warnell did escape from the battle although he died months later from wounds received at the Battle of San Jacinto or possibly from wounds received during his escape from the Alamo.

Deceased Mexican soldiers were buried honorably at Campo Santo, a local cemetery.

The bodies of the Texans were burned in a pile, except for Gregorio Esparza, whose brother Francisco, an officer in Santa Anna's army, gained permission to bury Gregorio.

Nearly a year later, in February of 1837, Juan Seguin returned to the scene of the battle and retrieved ashes from the site of the immolation. He placed the ashes in a simple coffin which was inscribed with the names of Travis, Crockett, and Bowie. An article in the Telegraph and Texas Register, dated March 28, 1837, stated that Seguín buried the coffin in an unmarked spot in a peach tree grove near the Alamo. Seguín himself claimed he took the coffin to the San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, the same church where Bowie married Ursula de Veramendi and the same church where Santa Anna ordered the red flag of “no quarter” to be flown from the bell tower so the Texans would know his intent.

The mission was severely damaged during the battle. Rebuilt by the U.S. Army in 1850, the building was bought by the state of Texas in 1905 and later given to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, who presently maintain the property as a public monument and shrine.

Stolen Worlds

Now available in paperback!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Black Holes Aren't

By the most accurate definition, there are fourteen known black holes. The closest, Cygnus-1, is 8,000 light years away.

Black holes only absorb things that cross their event horizon, so it's difficult to imagine one gobbling up the universe. That scenario would be science fiction.

A black hole could suck up another, smaller black hole, but only if they were in close proximity. It's also possible for black holes to collide and merge. The old belief was that you can't see a black hole because they absorb light; however, a more recent consensus is that indeed, they are visible; the smaller, the brighter. Here is a more detailed explanation of the phenomena.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Just because you consider yourself the smartest person in the room
doesn't mean your opinions are always correct (or justified).

-- Thomas C. Stone

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein
Robert Anson Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was an American science fiction writer. Often called the "dean of science fiction writers", he was one of the most influential and controversial authors of the genre in his time. He set a standard for scientific and engineering plausibility, and helped to raise the genre's standards of literary quality.

He was one of the first science fiction writers to break into mainstream magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. He was one of the best-selling science fiction novelists for many decades. He, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke are known as the "Big Three" of science fiction.

Heinlein, a notable writer of science fiction short stories, was one of a group of writers who came to prominence under the editorship of John W. Campbell, Jr. in his Astounding Science Fiction magazine—though Heinlein denied that Campbell influenced his writing to any great degree.

Within the framework of his science fiction stories, Heinlein repeatedly addressed certain social themes: the importance of individual liberty and self-reliance, the obligation individuals owe to their societies, the influence of organized religion on culture and government, and the tendency of society to repress nonconformist thought. He also examined the relationship between physical and emotional love, explored various unorthodox family structures, and speculated on the influence of space travel on human cultural practices. His approach to these themes led to wildly divergent opinions on what views were being expounded via his fiction.

Heinlein won Hugo Awards for four of his novels; in addition, fifty years after publication, three of his works were awarded "Retro Hugos"—awards given retrospectively for years in which Hugo Awards had not been awarded. He also won the first Grand Master Award, given by the Science Fiction Writers of America, for his lifetime achievement. In his fiction Heinlein coined words that have become part of the English language, including "grok" and "waldo", and popularized the terms "TANSTAAFL" and space marine.

The novels in Heinlein's "juvenile series" are not related to each other by character or setting; the later novels are not sequels to the earlier ones. The first, Rocket Ship Galileo, is about an effort to reach the Moon. The next few (through Farmer in the Sky) use interplanetary travel within the solar system. The next few (Starman Jones through Time for the Stars) explore various versions of the early phase of interstellar travel. In the next novel (Citizen of the Galaxy), interstellar travel is well-established and easy for humans, and the central problem is one of the maintenance of law and order in the galaxy. The protagonist of the next and last Scribner's juvenile, Have Space Suit—Will Travel, travels to the Lesser Magellanic Cloud and interacts with an intergalactic civilization. The last book submitted to Scribner's, Starship Troopers, portrays an interstellar war between mankind and several other species. The juvenile series novels are:

Rocket Ship Galileo, 1947
Space Cadet, 1948
Red Planet, 1949
Between Planets, 1951
The Rolling Stones aka Space Family Stone, 1952
Farmer in the Sky, 1953
Starman Jones, 1953
The Star Beast, 1954
Tunnel in the Sky, 1955
Time for the Stars, 1956
Citizen of the Galaxy, 1957
Have Space Suit—Will Travel, 1958
Starship Troopers, 1959

Heinlein used topical materials throughout his juvenile series, but in 1959, his Starship Troopers was considered by the Scribner's editorial staff to be too controversial for their prestige line, and they rejected it; Heinlein found another publisher, feeling himself released from the constraints of writing novels for children, and he began to write "my own stuff, my own way", and he wrote a series of challenging books that redrew the boundaries of science fiction, including his best-known work, Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966).

From 1961 (Stranger in a Strange Land) to 1973 (Time Enough for Love), Heinlein explored some of his most important themes, such as individualism, libertarianism, and free expression of physical and emotional love. Three novels from this period, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and Time Enough for Love, won the Libertarian Futurist Society's Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, designed to honor classic libertarian fiction.

Jeff Riggenbach described The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as "unquestionably one of the three or four most influential libertarian novels of the last century" in the Mises Daily.

Heinlein published 32 novels, 59 short stories, and 16 collections during his life. Four films, two television series, several episodes of a radio series, and a board game have been derived more or less directly from his work. He wrote a screenplay for one of the films. Heinlein edited an anthology of other writers' SF short stories.

Heinlein's most well-known novel is A Stranger in a Strange Land, the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human raised from infancy by Martians, who returned to Earth in early adulthood with seemingly magical powers.

The novel explores his interaction with—and the eventual transformation of—Earth culture. The title is an allusion to the phrase in the Biblical Book of Exodus 2:22. According to Heinlein, the novel's working title was "The Heretic". Several later editions of the book have promoted it as "The most famous Science Fiction Novel ever written." However, if you're looking to sample Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land may not be the most representative.

Great Heinlein books that are not A Stranger in a Strange Land:

The Star Beast (1954)

This was actually written as a novel for young adults but it works well enough that adults can enjoy it too. This was my first introduction to Heinlein at an early age and if you’re looking for an easy window into his worlds this might be the book for you. It’s the story of a boy named John Thomas who has a pet alien, brought into his family by a spacefaring ancestor. The pet on the other hand, thinks it’s the one keeping humans and as it grows to adulthood (and reaches a prodigous size), John learns it’s not just some puppy but an intelligent creature from a powerful race of spacefaring aliens… who want him back.

Tunnel in the Sky (1955)

Tunnel in the Sky is kind of like Heinlein’s Lord of the Flies. A group of students are sent to an alien planet to practice their survival skills. They’re only supposed to be there ten days but no one ever comes to pick them up. They band together to form a community and the book follows one student who eventually becomes their leader, helping them all survive in a harsh and deadly environment. Years pass and things eventually go from bad to worse when they discover a species of viciously deadly aliens threatening to wipe them all out.

Starship Troopers (1959)

Yes this 1959 Hugo Award winner is the book that weird Paul Veerhoven movie from the 90s is based on. But the book has so very little in common with the film they made out of it, it’s almost a completely different thing. Starship Troopers is hard-edged, military science fiction about a young soldier named Johnny Rico, thrust into the midst of a war with an alien race of bugs. He’s a member of the mobile infantry, ground troopers who fight in power armor. In addition to telling a damn good war story, the book contains some pretty savvy political and military themes. Using Rico Heinlein examines all sorts of social ills, while still telling a great science fiction tale.

The Door into Summer (1957)

This is the story of an independent thinking engineer and inventor (Heinlein’s favorite type of character) named Dan Boone who builds a robotics company, only to be betrayed by his partners and stuck in cold sleep. He wakes up decades later and tries to rebuild his life in a strange future. Along the way Dan rises and falls again, ends up at a nudist colony, and eventually gives up and goes back into cold sleep again. It’s a complex story about innovation and invention and corporate intrigue. It handles some of Heinlein’s pet topics, tackling issues of sexual freedom and oh yeah, lots of time travel. But it does all of that while still telling a great story. For me this is Heinlein at his best, but you may not want to tackle this one until you’ve fortified yourself with some of his simpler works first.

Farnham’s Freehold (1965)

Farnham is the cold war era tale of a family hiding inside a bomb shelter when nuclear war breaks out. It’s brilliant, particularly early on as Heinlein describes his little group of people, huddled inside their shelter while the world shakes around them. Eventually they leave the bomb shelter, to discover they’ve somehow been transported… somewhere else. Alone in a hostile environment without any of the technology they’re used to, the group tries to form a community and survive, only to discover a place where white men are slaves and the world they knew is buried and gone forever.

Robert Heinlein died at home in his sleep in 1988.

Three nonfiction books and two poems have been published posthumously. One novel was published posthumously in 2003; another, written by Spider Robinson based on a sketchy outline by Heinlein, was published in September 2006. Four collections have been published posthumously.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fermi's Paradox

Fermi's Paradox is the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilization and humanity's lack of contact with, or evidence for, such civilizations. The basic points of the argument, made by physicists Enrico Fermi and Michael H. Hart, are:

The Sun is a young star. There are billions of stars in the galaxy that are billions of years older.

Some of these stars likely have Earth-like planets which, if the Earth is typical, may develop intelligent life.

Presumably, some of these civilizations will develop interstellar travel, a technology Earth is investigating even now.

At any practical pace of interstellar travel, the galaxy can be completely colonized in just a few tens of millions of years.

According to this line of reasoning, the Earth should have already been colonized, or at least visited. Some say we have been visited, but that's still not the same as seeing and interacting with beings who traveled between the stars with motivations similar to ours. Furthermore, no confirmed signs of intelligence have been spotted, either in our galaxy or the more than 80 billion other galaxies of the observable universe. Hence Fermi's question "Where is everybody?"