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petronius's Journal
petronius's Journal
June 19, 2013

Two different stories of disastrous futures: Rahul Kanakia, Ken Liu

The Ships That Stir Upon The Shore, by Rahul Kanakia

The refugees drove west in a creaking convoy. Most of the cars were almost out of fuel. Many were on the verge of breaking down. The shoulders of the highway were littered with stopped and wrecked cars.

Only a few of those whose cars had failed--those with fuel to trade or young children to tug on the heartstrings of some brave bachelor--had seen rescue. The engorged sun and ambient radiation made short work of the rest. Once their cooling systems failed, they either sweated away their lives within a few hours or accumulated a lethal dose of radiation when they stepped outside to attempt repairs.

But that was the price they paid for being foolish and unprepared. Roger Deryn had spent his life on this highway, and he'd never come within a mile of death. Roger was prepared for everything. And that's why Roger was the one who was headed east, fast and cool, to turn a profit off the slowly-failing dome that these poor folks were fleeing.

--- Snip ---


Disturbing story; climate changes but people don't.

But on the other hand...

Mono no aware, by Ken Liu

The world is shaped like the kanji for umbrella, only written so poorly, like my handwriting, that all the parts are out of proportion.

My father would be greatly ashamed at the childish way I still form my characters. Indeed, I can barely write many of them anymore. My formal schooling back in Japan ceased when I was only eight.

Yet for present purposes, this badly drawn character will do.

The canopy up there is the solar sail. Even that distorted kanji can only give you a hint of its vast size. A hundred times thinner than rice paper, the spinning disc fans out a thousand kilometers into space like a giant kite intent on catching every passing photon. It literally blocks out the sky.

--- Snip ---

June 18, 2013

I support shall-issue CCW with a comprehensive training requirement

That requirement should address practical skills in firearms-handling, the legal ramifications of self-defense in all forms, and conflict management/avoidance techniques. I also think there should be no arbitrary or excessive fees to create a barrier to receiving a permit, nor any other requirements intended to discourage applicants - the regulation should be stringent but focused solely on valid questions of qualification...

June 17, 2013

It certainly seems that the modern application is not what Franklin meant

in 1755. Rather than being about the danger of oppressive/repressive (however the user defines those terms) laws aimed at individual civil rights, Franklin was concerned about the collective right of the people to self-govern (and protect themselves), versus the behind-the-scenes power of the wealthy. Perhaps a more modern translation would be "beware the 1%!". Or in other words, it was less about the king's laws and more about the king's friends.

That said, I don't think it's necessarily wrong to re-use or reapply a well-turned phrase or pithy quote. What would be an error would be to conclude that Franklin himself would support the modern application of the words; that on the basis of the quote he'd be saying "Fuck the NSA!" or "Down with gun control!" or "Hells yeah, I'll text while driving!" or whatever other 'essential liberty' is on the chopping block.

Maybe a better way of using that phrase currently would be to preface it: "As Benjamin Franklin once said in a completely different context, those who would..."

June 17, 2013

Sarah Grey: The Ballad of Marisol Brook

Her name, this time, is Marisol Lysium Brook. The media, long bored with the minutiae of her death, occupies itself by speculating which stars will grace the guest list at her reconstruction gala.

Marisol is the name she etched into the Hollywood concrete, beside her thin palm prints. Both lie beneath the tread of tourists, under a golden star, not far from the sea where the ashes of her first body sailed away on Pacific winds. The name, as she has insisted in countless interviews, praises the sea and sun, the golden sunshine and silver waves. She is a sun-kissed daughter of the California coast.

Brook is the name of her husband, Oliver, the esteemed director and father of her only child, a solitary young man named Peter with a bent mouth and sad eyes. Upon Marisol’s death, alone, in the dark sea beneath a sailboat a half-mile off Catalina, Peter checked himself into the linen embrace of Blackwood Recovery Center, burrowed amongst Vermont evergreens, intent on trading his cocaine addiction for yoga and raw produce.

Lysium is the primary subsidiary of Conti Cosmetics Milan. For twenty years, it has specialized in cream eye shadows and high-gloss lipsticks in a spectrum to boggle the eyes, a stunning array of light-bending metallics designed to glitter like shattered glass beneath throbbing dance club lights.

Lysium, through a quiet sea of shell corporations, has sponsored Marisol’s reconstruction. In return, she carries its name, along with a contractual obligation to serve as its otherwise uncompensated spokeswoman for ten years. Marisol, reborn from cells and brine, belongs to Lysium.

--- Snip ---


A nice, darkish, tale of technology to bring people back from the dead, who 'owns' the once-but-no-longer deceased, and what do they own of themselves...
June 15, 2013

That's why I'm less supportive of public funds being used, and why this article

caught my attention.

My feeling on privately-funded 'buybacks' is neutral to positive: I think it's good that people are encouraged to dispose of an unwanted (and maybe improperly-stored) forearm, I like that money goes into the pockets of people who may need it, and I think they provide an opportunity for a positive interaction between police and the community.

On the other hand, I feel a bit badly for people who may dispose of a valuable firearm for a pittance, but much more importantly it's clear that the overall benefits of buybacks are extremely limited and it's almost certain that a better return on investment - in terms of lives saved, safety increased, health improved - could be obtained by directing the money elsewhere.

So, while I'm far from outraged about it (at worst, neutral), I think the event described in the OP is an inefficient use of funds which could be better used otherwise.

I would say that I'm actively disapprove of destroying the guns, as that seems to be motivated entirely for politics and appearance. The entire benefit of the buyback has already accrued once the firearms are sold by the owner who doesn't want them - destroying them (if they could be profitably transferred instead to someone who will want and keep them properly) is nothing but a waste of public property...

June 6, 2013

Part of it is the scenery - I love the desert, and it's a visually stunning movie. Also,

the score is excellent. Plus, there are many bits of fun, quotable, entertaining dialogue (much of it from and between Ali and Auda). But I think the two aspects I like the most are the evolution of Ali: as he goes from a confident leader, to hero-worshiper, to disillusioned comrade, to childlike student, to political aspirant, and then sees it crash down again in Damascus. And the cynicism of it all, with Allenby, Dryden, and Faisal manipulating in the background, eventually shuffling Lawrence off stage. It's a mythic film, but it really questions the construction of myth and heroes, particularly through the character of Bentley.

It's also an epic film, but the characters really drive it. And it always strikes me that the characters who know who and what they are, and are satisfied with that or just don't care (Allenby, Auda, Brighton, Dryden) are generally happy. But those who dream (Lawrence, Ali) get hosed.

Also, of course, camels are just very very cool...

June 5, 2013

Current CA law with regard to firearm storage looks like this:

25100. (a) Except as provided in Section 25105, a person commits
the crime of "criminal storage of a firearm of the first degree" if
all of the following conditions are satisfied:
(1) The person keeps any loaded firearm within any premises that
are under the person's custody or control.
(2) The person knows or reasonably should know that a child is
likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the
child's parent or legal guardian.
(3) The child obtains access to the firearm and thereby causes
death or great bodily injury to the child or any other person.
(b) Except as provided in Section 25105, a person commits the
crime of "criminal storage of a firearm of the second degree" if all
of the following conditions are satisfied:
(1) The person keeps any loaded firearm within any premises that
are under the person's custody or control.
(2) The person knows or reasonably should know that a child is
likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the
child's parent or legal guardian.
(3) The child obtains access to the firearm and thereby causes
injury, other than great bodily injury, to the child or any other
person, or carries the firearm either to a public place or in
violation of Section 417.

25105. Section 25100 does not apply whenever any of the following
(a) The child obtains the firearm as a result of an illegal entry
to any premises by any person.
(b) The firearm is kept in a locked container or in a location
that a reasonable person would believe to be secure.
(c) The firearm is carried on the person or within close enough
proximity thereto that the individual can readily retrieve and use
the firearm as if carried on the person.
(d) The firearm is locked with a locking device, as defined in
Section 16860, which has rendered the firearm inoperable.
(e) The person is a peace officer or a member of the Armed Forces
or the National Guard and the child obtains the firearm during, or
incidental to, the performance of the person's duties.
(f) The child obtains, or obtains and discharges, the firearm in a
lawful act of self-defense or defense of another person.
(g) The person who keeps a loaded firearm on premises that are
under the person's custody or control has no reasonable expectation,
based on objective facts and circumstances, that a child is likely to
be present on the premises.


Assuming that the gun owner was a family member of the girl, and chose to keep the gun in the garage - which seem like likely guesses - I think the only reason not to file charges would be 25105b or 25105d. If there was some sort of un-reported locking container or device that the children broke...
June 4, 2013

Cordwainer Smith (Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger): The Game of Rat and Dragon

Pinlighting is a hell of a way to earn a living. Underhill was furious as he closed the door behind himself. It didn't make much sense to wear a uniform and look like a soldier if people didn't appreciate what you did.

He sat down in his chair, laid his head back in the headrest and pulled the helmet down over his forehead.

As he waited for the pin-set to warm up, he remembered the girl in the outer corridor. She had looked at it, then looked at him scornfully.

"Meow." That was all she had said. Yet it had cut him like a knife.

--- Snip ---


One of my all-time favorites (and not just because I'm a cat person). Linebarger seems like a really interesting person - godson of Sun Yat-sen and an early expert in psychological warfare, his far-future Instrumentality of Mankind is a complex and fascinating reality...

(Another favorite from him is Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons.)

June 2, 2013

Leonard Richardson: Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs

"I want to buy a gun," said the Thymomenoraptor. He moved his foreclaw along the glass case of pistols, counting them off: one, two, three, four. "That one." He tapped the case; the glass squeaked.

"Why would a dinosaur need a gun?" asked the shop owner.


The owner's gaze dropped to the three-inch claw that had chipped his display case.

"These are killing claws," said the dinosaur, whose name was Tark. "For sheep, or cows. I merely want to disable an attacker with a precision shot to the leg or other uh, limbal region."

"Uh-huh," the owner said. "Or maybe you figure humans shoot each other all the time, but if someone turns up ripped in half the cops are gonna start lookin' for dinosaurs."

Tark carefully pounded the counter. "There used to be a time," he said, "when gun dealers would actually sell people guns! A time . . . called America. I miss that time."

--- Snip ---


If that excerpt doesn't fully explain how awesome this story is, then you won't like this story...
June 1, 2013

Damien Walters Grintalis: Always, They Whisper

She was not a monster, nor did Perseus cut off her head. The whole Athena and shield bit? Bullshit. Perseus was a self-absorbed fool who barely had the strength to lift a sword over his shoulder, let alone swing it hard enough to sever sinew and bone.

As far as the rest of her story, the snakes and stone might be true, but not in the way you think. It’s always easy to paint a villain; harder to scrape below the gilt to find the real.

--- Snip ---


As an editor describes it in an interview with the author, it's a collision between harassment, sexual assault, and the plight of Medusa...

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