BOOK REVIEW: Time Travel

Time Travel
James Gleick
Pantheon Books
Copyright 2016 by the author

If you were looking for someone who could explain all the ins and outs and forwards and sideways of time travel, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better writer than James Gleick. He’s previously tackled topics like chaos theory and the life and work of Richard Feynman. So a history of the idea of time travel seems like a natural subject for him to present to the average intelligent reader.

Gleick starts by taking us back in time to when H.G. Wells was penning “The Time Machine”. He discusses early drafts of the novel, and mentions some of the problems that reviewers noted – what happens if solid objects are in the space the Traveler is passing through, for one, and how do you account for the fact that the earth is both rotating and moving through space (the latter is one that time travelers always seem to forget).

From there, he moves forward in time through physicists treating time mathematically as a dimension, philosophers grappling with the concept of time, and even lexicographers trying to simply come up with a definition of the term that doesn’t wind up spinning in circles: “Time is what clocks measure”; “A clock is a device for measuring the passage of time.”[1]

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Investigations, Indictments, and Impeachment

There was a brief bit of excitement as the first round of indictments came out of Robert Muller’s investigation a few days ago. Some on The Left started doing a happy dance, hoping that this was just the beginning, and the dragnet would very shortly close in around the president and force the start of the impeachment process.

Well, it’s not that simple. There’s still a lot more to do and uncover, and even then it might not be enough for an impeachment. Sure, Trump’s sympathies (such as they are) are pro-Russia. But that, in and of itself, isn’t a crime. One would need direct evidence that he conspired with Russia. Or that members of his campaign team did, and he knew about it and did nothing.

Given his recent panic over the investigation, it seems as if things are hitting close to home. Perhaps he really does have something to worry about, or he’s so insecure that he cannot handle any challenge to his authority. Either way, there are two things we need to watch out for.

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On the 2017 World Series

Wow.

What a World Series! What can I say? It was an unbelievable set of games, between two amazing teams. All the games were very close and hard-fought. Even the ones that look like blowouts from the final score weren’t. Game 4, that ended with the Dodgers winning 6-2? It was tied at 1 going to the ninth inning. And even Game 7 was tighter than you’d think.

Sure, the Astros scored their five runs early. Yu Darvish is probably already getting blamed for it, but watch the replays. Springer’s leadoff double was fair by inches, and if Cody Bellinger has simply put the ball in his pocket instead of throwing it to El Monte…. Meanwhile, Astros’ starter Lance McCullers must have thought he was playing dodgeball instead of baseball against the Dodgers – he hit four of the thirteen batters he faced. But the Dodgers offense left the population of Burbank on the basepaths, dooming whatever chances they were handed.

Even so, knowing the state of the Astros’ bullpen and the overall strength of the Dodgers’ offense, there was always the hope / worry that Los Angeles would put something together and pull out a win. They didn’t really look dead until the bottom of the ninth.

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Do You Like Scary Movies?

It’s that time of year when film critics and fans trot out their lists of the greatest horror movies of all time. They’re usually pretty good, and one can generally predict which ones will be in the Top Ten.

Brazilian film critic and cinephile Diego Carrera approached the topic from a different perspective. Noting that from their very beginnings, movies tried to shock and startle people, he picked one important “horror” movie for every year from 1895 to 2016:

Careful viewers will note that, strictly speaking, not everything on the list qualifies as Horror. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, for example, is a comedy. But they’ve all got their moments that are at least unsettling.

You are free to disagree with some of the movies Carrera’s included. But keep in mind, it’s based on the YEAR, and isn’t intended to be a list of the “greatest” (even though many of them would be on such a list).

So check it out, and see if there’s something there that you haven’t seen yet….and then check that out!

On Presidential Succession

With “El Presidente” showing more and more signs of his his colossal unsuitability for holding the highest office in the land, commenters in various fora on the the Internet are speculating on what happens when Trump is pushed out, either by impeachment or Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. Many are worried that Mike Pence is just as corrupt as Trump, so he’ll soon be given the boot as well. This leads them to the unpleasant prospect of President Paul Ryan.

While they do get the Presidential Order of Succession correct (President, Vice President, Speaker of the House), they miss one important fact: that order presumes an essentially simultaneous removal of both the president and the VP. As a historical example, when President Reagan was shot, and VP George H.W. Bush was on his way to Washington DC and therefore out of contact for a little while, Speaker Tip O’Neill was technically acting as president for a few hours.

So unless Trump and Pence are both incapacitated at the same time (and for any length of time) through some unbelievable set of circumstances, Paul Ryan isn’t getting anywhere near the Oval Office.

There’s a historical precedent for what happens under the rules currently in force when a president leaves office.

You may recall – I hope – that when Nixon resigned, VP Gerald Ford was inaugurated as President. That left the office of VP vacant. Speaker of the House Carl Albert did NOT automatically become VP. At best, he became ACTING VP – but I don’t see any provision in the rules that allows that to happen.

Section 2 of the 25th Amendment deals with the situation when there’s a vacancy in the office of Vice President:

“Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.”

Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. Ford was inaugurated that same day. On August 20, Ford nominated Nelson Rockefeller – then the governor of New York – to become his VP. Congress debated and discussed the nomination (it took a while; there were a number of financial improprieties in Rockefeller’s career that needed to be clarified), eventually giving their approval. He took the oath of office on December 19.

So if Trump is booted and Pence becomes President, one of his very first acts had better be the nomination of a new VP. Ryan may have something to say about the nomination, but he won’t automatically become VP himself. Even if something happens to put Pence out of commission for a while during the nomination process, Ryan isn’t likely to be more than a temporary placeholder.

Ryan will have even less to say about the process should the Democrats take control of the House in 2018. That will give them the right to pick their own Speaker of the House. So if we Democrats can hold our horses until then (and concentrate on winning Congress), we will be in a great position for dealing with and controlling a President Pence.

Here’s a fun scenario to think about: Given the GOP’s control of Congress, and that they are not likely to turn on one of their own, impeachment / removal doesn’t start until the Democrats win control of both houses of Congress in 2018. Trump is shown the door and asked to hand over his keys in early 2019. Then, President Pence is essentially forced to choose a VP who is liked and approved by Democrats. They browbeat him into nominating Hillary Clinton (who handily wins approval). Then, Pence is told to take a hike….

Movie Review: Battle Beyond the Stars (US, 1980)

Let’s get the big thing out of the way.

BBtS is “The Magnificent Seven IN SPACE!” Or, since TM7 was actually Seven Samurai done as a western, you could say BBtS is “Seven Samurai IN SPACE!!!”

Produced by Roger Corman and his New World Pictures, it’s a typical example of his later work. Take a simple or hackneyed story, but give it as much “bang for the buck” as you can. Typically this involved reusing shots and sets, but it could also mean finding and nurturing young talent or getting established talent who could be had on the cheap.

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Rethinking Columbus

You may recall that a month or so ago, there was a bit of a hubbub in the papers about people wanting to take down or at least relocate certain monuments to Confederate generals and leaders. Has anything come of that, by the way?

Lost even further down in the media coverage were a few proposals to remove statues and other similar proposals to sweep Christopher Columbus under the rug, as it were. I believe that the City of Los Angeles decided to change the name of “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous People’s Day”. In New York City, it was suggested that Columbus Circle be renamed, and the massive monument in the middle of the circle get put someplace where no one would be forced to look at it. A modest statue (a bust, actually) of Columbus in my area was smashed by vandals.

This is all part of an ongoing movement to discredit Columbus at best, and brand him as a genocidal maniac at worst.

Is it at all possible anymore to have a reasonable discussion about him?

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Just Checking…

Back at the end of March, in the introduction to an essay on the validity of the “win” as a worthwhile statistic for pitchers, I tossed out my picks for the six division winners this baseball season:

Now I could use this opportunity to discuss my picks for the Divisional Champions (Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, Indians, Astros), but I really haven’t been paying attention to how Spring Training has been going.

https://pureblather.com/2017/03/28/on-pitchers-wins-ii/

Turns out I was right on all six. It’s not really a big deal; it was pretty obvious at the start of the season that they were the strongest teams (at least on paper) in their divisions. But it’s still kind of nice to go 6-0 in my picks.

I’m NOT going to give any predictions for the World Series; I’ll just note that if it’s Cubs and Indians, that will be the first time since 1977-1978 that there’s been a “rematch” in the W.S.; and if it’s Dodgers and Astros, it will be baseball’s best pitching staff (Dodgers) facing baseball’s best offense (Astros).

 

This is Going to be Great!

We’re heading down to the final weekend of the baseball season, and it’s shaping up to be a great batch of playoffs. The division winners are essentially set, and it’s pretty clear who’s going to be facing each other in the wild-card “play-in” game. And they’re all worth rooting for.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have already reached 100 wins. They haven’t done that since 1974. For a while it looked like they were going to set a record for wins, but they stumbled a bit down the stretch. They’ve righted the ship, and it looks like they’ll have home-field advantage all the way through to the World Series. Which, if they make it, will be their first pennant since 1988.

The Cubs want to be the first team to repeat as World Series Champions since the 1999-2000 New York Yankees. The Washington Nationals are (still) going for the first pennant in franchise history (including their tenure in Montreal). I don’t think they’ll settle for just winning more than one playoff game, though. With three of the best pitchers in the NL (Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez), you can’t blame them. And their “window” is closing; Bryce Harper is nearing free agency….

Over in the American League, the Cleveland Indians certainly want another shot at the World Series to end their drought. They’ve been tearing up the joint this month and a half, and should get 100 wins by the time the season ends. The Astros also have a shot at 100, and how can you not root for Houston?

The Boston Red Sox, meanwhile, would like to remind Yankee and Aaron Judge fans that they actually lead the AL East, as well as having Cy Young candidate Chris “300+ strikeouts ought to count for something, right?” Sale.

Speaking of awards, most of these teams have a solid candidate for some serious hardware. Chris Sale and the Indians’ Corey Kluber are the top choices for AL Cy Young, Max Scherzer of the Nationals and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw to worry about. The Astros’ Jose Altuve is the leading AL MVP candidate. The NL MVP Award field is rather crowded; the Cubs’ Kris Bryant has an outside chance at it.

All the division leaders are loaded with talent. Expect a lot of great, exciting games in October! And however it turns out, it’s pretty much guaranteed that a deserving team will win.