Monday, December 29, 2014

Added to my bookshelf ... "Futures Near and Far

More than once I have added a book to my shelf after reading one of Lisa Hura's reviews on the "When Falls the Coliseum" blog. "Sure would be neat to do something like that," I thought ... so here we go ...

We all have our reasons for reading science fiction. Me? I have at least a couple, and I found them both - well, eventually, at least - in Dave Smeds' collection of short stories, Futures Near and Far. The title is appropriate, really, since some of the futures Smeds presents are far-off indeed, while others are quite near ... maybe a little TOO near for comfort.

When I read science fiction, I look forward to a chance to sit back and speculate on "what if?" Where might future developments in science and technology take us, and will we better for the direction and the distance S&T takes us into the future? Smeds' stories offered plenty upon which to speculate upon the first point, with a look at a variety of possible developments ... though with a particular emphasis on nanotechnology.

As for the second (the "we") part, though, I found myself less-than-encouraged by the people who populate these speculative futures. By book's end, however, Smeds' words had me thinking that humans will probably be a mixed bag then (as they are now) ... and that in the end, things will be alright ... that the violent beatings our world will take from extreme cage fighters and callous corporate lawyers will be more than offset by a mother's love, by the support of a dedicated sensei, and by the awakened spirit of an interstellar homesteader, among others.

If only we could dispense with the introductions to the stories! Some are short, some are long, and none seem to contribute much to the story that is to follow. Don't get me wrong ... introductions CAN be useful, and add to the enjoyment of the story ... Arthur Clarke proved that in Tales from the White Hart, and Isaac Asimov did as well in his HUGO Award Anthologies. Such is NOT the case in Futures Near and Far. But in the end, that is a small thing, really ... and I highly recommend the stories themselves.

One more thing ... Two of Smeds' stories, which revolve around the future of martial arts and artists, their practice and competition, get high marks from my son, who has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do ... sugo ha shasim nida! 

ADDED NOTE: Futures Near and Far was added to my virtual bookshelf as a free Early Reviewers Copy from

Thursday, December 25, 2014

THE Christmas tradition ... Luke transcribed it, Linus shared it, I believe it

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2
King James Version (KJV)

And now a word from ...

White House Image
• Weekly Address: Happy Holidays from the President and First Lady

Ezra Mechaber

WASHINGTON, D.C. In this week's address, the President and First Lady wished Americans a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and thanked our brave troops for their service ... The President and First Lady asked everyone to take some time this holiday season to visit and find out how to give back to the men and women in uniform who have given so much for all of us.

"Our family will join millions across the country in celebrating the birth of Jesus – the birth not just of a baby in a manger, but of a message that has changed the world: to reach out to the sick; the hungry; the troubled; and above all else, to love one another as we would be loved ourselves ..."

Read the full text of the President and First Lady's message, and watch a video ...

BBC Image
• Queen's Christmas speech emphasises reconciliation

Staff Report
BBC News

LONDON, ENGLAND The Queen has used her Christmas Day broadcast to highlight the importance of reconciliation between people.

She spoke of the impact of the Scottish independence referendum, and also paid tribute to the moment German and British soldiers put down their weapons and met on Christmas Day 1914.

"Sometimes it seems reconciliation stands little chance... but the Christmas truce reminds us peace and goodwill have lasting power," she said ...

... The Queen described how the life of Jesus Christ was an "inspiration and an anchor in my life".

"Christ's example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none," she said ...

Read the rest of this BBC report and watch a video of the Queen's message ...

Vatican Photo
• Pope condemns religious violence in Christmas address

Staff Report
BBC News

VATICAN CITY Pope Francis has denounced the "brutal persecution" of religious and ethnic minorities, in his traditional Christmas Day address.

In his second "Urbi et Orbi" - to the city and the world - Christmas message, the pontiff highlighted the plight of victims of conflict in Syria and Iraq.

"Too many people are being held hostage or massacred" in Nigeria, he added.

Pope Francis also urged dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians and condemned Taliban attacks in Pakistan.

Tens of thousands of people turned out on St Peter's Square to hear the Argentine Pope deliver his annual message ...

Read the rest of this BBC report ...
Read the full text of the Pope's message, and watch a video ...

However you mark this day, a very Merry Christmas! May this find you and yours happy and healthy, this holiday season and in the new year to come!