Stars End S3E22

“There is Something to be Said About a Podcast That Makes One Smile”

This is the city, Eos, Aurora.   It’s the city of the dawn on the planet of the dawn.  It’s the largest and most important city on the oldest and most important Spacer World.  Mostly, good things happen in Eos, the Robotics Institute is in Eos as is the planetary government.  Sometimes bad things happen; things that require a lot of discussion.  Was the victim even alive?  Was this even a crime?  Questions that need answers.  When that happens, I go to work.  I carry a badge.

Friday, October 30.  It was windy in Eos.  We were working the day watch out of the roboticide division.  Our host is Han Fastolfe.  My partner’s Daneel Olivaw.  My name is Baley.

Join us as we get into the meat of The Robots of Dawn.  Baley starts to learn the details of the case, and Fastolfe performs some experiments on Baley.  Plus the return of an old friend, the wackiest trip to the lavatory in all of the Asimov canon, and the Great and Glorious Az tries his hand at writing romance.  As always, you’ve read it, we talk about it, and fun will be had.

Stars End S3E21

“The Podcast Has a Notoriously Short Memory”

Obligatory Star Trek reference loading…

Do you know what a “teaser” is? You probably do, but just in case I’ll tell you anyway.

A teaser is the bit of a teevee episode that precedes the opening. Nothing much happens in a teaser except to set up the action and hopefully grab your attention. A wedding on the Enterprise is interrupted by a red alert. A landing party beams down to Cestus III to find the outpost destroyed. Chekov screams in terror because he’s been startled by an inexplicably elderly couple. You get the idea.

And boy, does the Great and Glorious Az have a teaser for you! A quick 126 pages of astral viewing, etymology, rhetoric, and a description of a government official that made Joseph’s wife, Joanne, groan in faux outrage. That’s the first three chapters of The Robots of Dawn and not a whole hell of a lot happens.

We talk about it, you listen to us. A splendid time will be had by all. Hopefully.

Also, a spoiler warning. If you’re new to the podcast and haven’t finished the novel yet, you might want to read ahead before listening to the episode. Or not. It’s up to you.

Stars End S3E20

“A Small Podcast Yet to the Humans Involved Astonishingly Large”

We didn’t set out to do it, but we did it.

What, you might ask?  We’ve created an episode that’s an excellent jumping-on point for anyone who’s been itching to try the podcast, but doesn’t know where to start.

How?  Well to start with, we’re talking about a short story.  You don’t need to read the books or watch the shows we talk about to enjoy the podcast, but we certainly understand if want to!  We’re talking about “Mirror Image” from Robot Visions, in which Lije Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw help to solve a dispute between two mathematicians.  It’s about 19 pages long, a comfortable, digestible chunk.

And?  And we have guests!  Episodes are better with guests and we’re joined by two charming mathematicians, Coleen and Charlie Jacobson, long-time science fiction readers and friends of Joseph from Elmira College.  They’ll help us decide if the off-screen mathematicians are true-to-life!  On a personal note, if you remember Joseph from EC you might enjoy hearing from half of what he calls, the “Mathematics Faculty Classic” that existed from 2012 to 2014.

So, if you’re a regular listener, settle in for another excellent episode.  If you’re new to the podcast, buckle up!  You’re in for a fun ride!  Let’s go!

Two notes on the Featured Image: The background is some board work from 2016 when Joseph taught Geometry from Charlie’s notes. In the foreground are two images of Paul Erdös, one at age 20 and one much later in his life, drawn by LeUyen Pham from The Boy Who Loved Math. Erdös is famous for being one of the most prolific mathematicians of all time and for having a multitude of collaborators.

Simultaneously published at…

Stars End S3E19

“We Must Teach Ourselves to Face the Podcast”

I learned something today.

Did you know that when Elements are named to honor cities the Latin names for the cities are used rather than the common names? The funny thing is that this is true even if the city has no Latin name. This is how we get the name for holmium, which is named after Stockholm or rather after “Holmia” which is the Latin name for Stockholm that the chemist made up.

This is from the essay “Names! Names! Names!” by the good doctor. It’s all about naming elements and, although I haven’t quite finished it yet, I’m pretty sure it covers all hundred or so that were known at the time.

If you’re curious, here are the names of the other elements

The essay appeared in the December 1956 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, the very same issue as our final installment of The Naked Sun. This led John W. Campbell to declare Asimov a “two-headed author.” Isaac’s predilection for non-fiction was starting to show.

Being trained as a chemist, Asimov gives us a ton of Asenion names to enjoy in this final section! There’s GlaDIEah Delmarre, Klorissa Cantero, Jothan Leebig, Corwin Attlebish, and Anselmo Quemot. And who could forget Benzadril Copperbottom? In this final section, which corresponds to chapters 13 to 18 in the book, Baley survives the assassination attempt, gets his portrait done, almost strolls to his death, and solves the case! Of course, we talk about it all. Join us for the setting of The Naked Sun!

Simultaneously published at…

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E21

Happy Star Trek Day! It’s been busy, but I didn’t want to let the day roll around to midnight without posting something. So here’s another installment of my Voyager Rewatch. It’s nice that we have an outstanding episode for Star Trek Day, one of my favorites from Season 4.

I might post something else apropos in a day or so, but the start of it is way back in my Twitter feed and the more you tweet the harder it is to find something filed in reverse chronological order.

In an interesting bit of synergy, I realized that today is also the fourth anniversary of this blog. If you’re interested in my first post, you can find it here, “All in Color for Forty Dimes.” That’s a glorious start to a deluge of nonsense with occasional insights here and there.

So, without further ado, “The Omega Directive!” Let’s go!

My #StarTrekVoyager rewatch S4E21 “The Omega Directive.”

There’s an actual funny moment over a kal-toh game. That’s a good sign after some mediocre episodes. This looked like it would be a Seven-heavy episode; then it went sideways. There’s a real sense of mystery. Nothing is dumb so far.

“The omega phenomenon” has been detected within 1.2 light-years. “All other priorities have been rescinded.” Janeway’s locked in her ready room… the crew are being given puzzling orders on a “need to know” basis… so far, this is excellent.

The Borg know about the “Omega Molecule,” and of course, Seven and Janeway have radically different ideas about what to do. Turns out the kal-toh game in the teaser was a nice bit of foreshadowing. There’s a powerful scene between Janeway & Chakotay. As we’ll see, this needs everybody.

Okay, the technobabble explanation is dumb but can be ignored. The stakes are high, and tension rises. “For the duration of this mission, the Prime Directive is rescinded.” This is like Genesis. Later: “The Final Frontier has some boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed.”

Seven designates a crewman as “3 of 10.” Chilling, but it doesn’t play out as I expected. Another powerful scene with Seven and a survivor. Another perspective on the crisis: his people need the energy from the Omega molecule to survive.

Ahhh! Blue light!

Seven has a perspective on Omega from her time as a Borg. She views it as perfect with almost religious fervor. But she follows Janeway’s lead anyway. That’s real development. The climax is exciting and well done. But the spiritual stuff at the end is too simplistic and abrupt, marring an otherwise Great episode.

Nonetheless, this one is an exemplar. It’s a good story and depends on Voyager’s journey through the Delta Quadrant. The show needs more episodes like this and fewer things that seem like rejected TNG scripts.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

#StarTrek #StarTrekVoyager

Images used under the fair use doctrine.

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E05

My #StarTrekVoyager rewatch S4E05 “Revulsion”

This is the episode that derailed me last year. The entire thread disappeared into the aether and It was so bad that I couldn’t revisit it too soon. Now though, here we go!

A short teaser. A hologram hides a body, cleans up a crime scene & sends a distress call.

A testimonial for Tuvok: fake laughter at unfunny stories. Annoying. But Tuvok gets promoted; like he hadn’t already worn the rank pins for lieutenant commander for a bunch of episodes. Why is the Vulcan the only funny one?

Then Paris and Torres are cringy. “You must have been suffering from oxygen deprivation to say you loved me!” Ugh!

In other tedious bits of bookkeeping Voyager finally gets the distress signal. The Doctor is ecstatic to meet another hologram. It’s obvious that Dejaren, who calls himself an isomorph, is dangerously unstable.

They hit us over the head with it. Our away team spends too much time talking about how dangerous the isomorph is then the doctor teaches the homicidal hologram how to control the ship. Genius!

“Spectrum” though is a great name for a holographic goldfish. That’s the high point.

The show is trying to do a bit of horror that doesn’t work very well.

The B story with Seven and Kim is mildly amusing at the end but not nearly worth the trouble of getting there. Janeway and Neelix disappear less than 8 minutes into the episode. The rest is a bunch of scenes cut together with only two cast members. Occasionally three. The episode seems designed to give some people a week off. It might have been preferable to give everyone a week off including the audience.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

#StarTrek #StarTrekVoyager

Images used under the fair use doctrine.

Stars End S3E18

“There is no Podcast Without a Podcaster”

First British Edition Cover

You know what? Solaria is weird.

Looking back over our podcast, it turns out that a lot of Asimov’s work is weird. Solaria may not be Mycogen-weird, but it’s pretty weird.

Last time we were introduced to the extreme isolation of Solarians and the preponderance of robots. Those were weird. And that seeing vs. viewing thing? That was weird too.

This time? Murder attempts where only Asenion robots are present? Weird. Fetuses grown in vats? Weird. Child farming? Weird. A plot to make the entire Galaxy like Solaria? Weird. And there’s lots more!

So, what do we learn this time? Solaria is weird. But don’t take my word for it, listen to the episode and you can see for yourself! Let’s go!

Simultaneously published at…

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E20

My #StarTrekVoyager rewatch S4E20 Vis à Vis

The holodeck is getting tiresome; we watch Paris play auto mechanic as the Doctor berates him about his duties in Sickbay. Tom is being a pain in the ass and there’s nothing about how the ship was torn apart over the last two episodes.

The alien ship is powered by a “coaxial warp drive.” Paris says it can allow a ship to travel huge distances instantaneously but I think it’s about free cable. But keeping with the mechanic motif, Paris has a technobabbley way to save the alien ship. Also the budget must be improving because the alien has more latex on his forehead than usual.

Tom’s also being a misanthrope again. Why not go back to that well? The coaxial drive “draws in subatomic particles and reconfigures their internal geometries.” It’s like they’re not even trying.

Now Tom’s being an ass to B’Elanna. Was there any clue about this coming? Because it seems like bad writing. Practically halfway through the episode and I realize the alien is Bulldog from Frazier. This was a too slow build to something that is essentially “Face Off.”

But Vis à Vis literally means “Face to Face” so no surprise there. I suppose that Tom being an ass created the opportunity for “Tom” to move around Voyager undetected, but it all feels awkward and false.

This might have been slightly more interesting if “Tom” had switched bodies with Janeway while they were in the same room together. Huh. That’s what happened but it’s still not very interesting. That’s it. Everyone gets back in their own bodies and Tom makes up with B’Elanna. Everything is reset to normal with no consequences. Again. Meh.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

#StarTrek #StarTrekVoyager

Images used under the fair use doctrine.

Next Time on Stars End

Last Sunday we recorded our latest episode as we continued to bask in The Naked Sun.

In this episode, we talk about the middle section of Asimov’s novel as published in the November 1956 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.

That corresponds to chapters 7 through 12 in the book.

There’s less hype this time except for the presence of part one in the October issue; Part two was not mentioned in Campbell’s Things to Come and wasn’t on the issue’s cover. Who is James H. Schmitz by the way? I don’t know!

But that doesn’t mean that nothing happened in this installment!

We see the aftermath of the assassination attempt of Hannis Gruer and learn what constitutes “sociology” on Solaria. We meet Gruer’s stand-in as Head of Security and watch as Baley gets to go walkabout across the planet. We also learn an uncomfortable amount about Solarian childrearing and witness a second, seemingly impossible assassination attempt on this world so filled with three-laws robots!

Here’s John W. Campbell’s blurb that precedes this installment!

Second of Three Parts. Lije Baley was investigating a murder. Usually, an alibi proves physical impossibility; on robot-dominated Solaria, a different question arose. Is a robot’s conditioning “physical” or “psychological” impossibility? And is there any such thing as “psychological impossibility”? And if it exists for robots, does it for humans…?

Astounding Science Fiction November 1956

The illustrations this time are again by H. R. Van Dongen.

The available scans were not great, but I cleaned up the images as much as possible. If I keep this up, I may need to learn a lot more about that process.

Season 3, Episode 19: coming soon to anywhere the finest podcasts are sold!

Resources

  • Asimov, Isaac. “The Naked Sun, part 2” Astounding Science Fiction, November 1956, pp. 96-151.
  • Asimov, Isaac. The Naked Sun, ©1956, 1957, 1983, Bantum Spectra

Simultaneously published at…

National Woman’s Party Flag

Today is the 102nd anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment when the United States officially recognized women’s right to vote. In August we usually do something to commemorate this. We flew a “19th Amendment Victory Flag” in 2019 and 2020. The story about how the amendment finally passed is mind-boggling. Women’s suffrage is unequivocally righteous yet its passage came down to a single vote in a single state. It’s a great story which you can find in our 2019 article, 19th Amendment Victory Flag.

This year, because of recent events, we wanted something broader, so we’re flying the flag of the National Woman’s Party, as a way to not merely recognize suffrage but to stand for all rights for all women. The NWP was founded in 1913 during the final push to achieve suffrage and has been fighting for women’s rights ever since.

The flag is a gold, white and purple horizontal tri-color; those are the official colors of the NWP. The meanings of the colors were explained in the Suffragist in December 1913.

“Purple is the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to a cause. White, the emblem of purity, symbolizes the quality of our purpose; and gold, the color of light and life, is as the torch that guides our purpose, pure and unswerving.”

The Victory Flag incidentally is quite similar, it’s merely the NWP flag with 36 stars added for the thirty-six states that approved the amendment.

But for the main part of this article, we want to go back a bit farther than that and simultaneously closer to the present.

In 1872, Susan B. Anthony voted illegally; she was arrested and fined $100.

On the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, she was granted a pardon in what can only be described as a cynical attempt to court the women’s vote. The pardon was rejected by Deborah L. Hughes, President & CEO of The National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House. She wrote,

Anthony wrote in her diary in 1873 that her trial for voting was “The greatest outrage History ever witnessed.”  She was not allowed to speak as a witness in her own defense, because she was a woman. At the conclusion of arguments, Judge Hunt dismissed the jury and pronounced her guilty.  She was outraged to be denied a trial by jury. She proclaimed, “I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.” To pay would have been to validate the proceedings. To pardon Susan B. Anthony does the same.

She was right. If you’ve violated an unjust law, you don’t accept a pardon. Accepting a pardon acknowledges wrongdoing. Scream it from the rooftops, put it on your resume, or have t-shirts printed up but don’t accept a pardon.

Here’s what Susan B. Anthony said at the time.

Is it a Crime for a U.S. Citizen to Vote?

Friends and fellow citizens: I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus doing, I not only committed no crime but, instead, simply exercised my citizen’s rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any State to deny. 

Our democratic-republican government is based on the idea of the natural right of every individual member thereof to a voice and a vote in making and executing the laws. We assert the province of government to be to secure the people in the enjoyment of their inalienable rights. We throw to the winds the old dogma that governments can give rights. No one denies that before governments were organized each individual possessed the right to protect his own life, liberty, and property. When 100 to 1,000,000 people enter into a free government, they do not barter away their natural rights; they simply pledge themselves to protect each other in the enjoyment of them through prescribed judicial and legislative tribunals. They agree to abandon the methods of brute force in the adjustment of their differences and adopt those of civilization.  

Nor can you find a word in any of the grand documents left us by the fathers that assumes for government the power to create or to confer rights. The Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the constitutions of the several States and the organic laws of the Territories, all alike propose to protect the people in the exercise of their God-given rights. Not one of them pretends to bestow rights.

“All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Here is no shadow of government authority over rights, or exclusion of any class from their full and equal enjoyment. Here is pronounced the right of all men, and “consequently,” as the Quaker preacher said, “of all women,” to a voice in the government. And here, in this first paragraph of the Declaration, is the assertion of the natural right of all to the ballot; for how can “the consent of the governed” be given, if the right to vote be denied? The women, dissatisfied as they are with this form of government, that enforces taxation without representation – that compels them to obey laws to which they have never given their consent – that imprisons and hangs them without a trial by a jury of their peers – that robs them, in marriage, of the custody of their own persons, wages and children – are this half of the people who are left wholly at the mercy of the other half, in direct violation of the spirit and the letter of the declarations of the framers of this government, every one of which was based on the immutable principles of equal rights to all. By these declarations, kings, popes, priests, aristocrats, all were alike dethroned and placed on a common level, politically, with the lowliest born subject or serf. By them, too, men. as such, were deprived of their divine right to rule and placed on a political level with women. By the practice of these declarations all class and caste distinctions would be abolished, and slave, serf, plebeian, wife, woman, all alike rise from their subject position to the broader platform of equality.

The preamble of the Federal Constitution says: 

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people – women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government – the ballot.

The early journals of Congress show that, when the committee reported to that body the original articles of confederation, the very first one which became the subject of discussion was that respecting the equality of suffrage . . . 

James Madison said:

Under every view of the subject, it seems indispensable that the mass of the citizens should not be without a voice in making the laws which they are to obey, and in choosing the magistrates who are to administer them . . . Let it be remembered, finally, that it has ever been the pride and the boast of America that the rights for which she contended were the rights of human nature. 

These assertions by the framers of the United States Constitution of the equal and natural right of all the people to a voice in the government, have been affirmed and reaffirmed by the leading statesmen of the nation throughout the entire history of our government. Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania, said in 1866:

I have made up my mind that the elective franchise is one of the inalienable rights meant to be secured by the Declaration of Independence.” . . .

Charles Sumner, in his brave protests against the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, insisted that so soon as by the Thirteenth Amendment the slaves became free men, the original powers of the United States Constitution guaranteed to them equal rights – the right to vote and to be voted for . . . 

The preamble of the constitution of the State of New York declares the same purposes. It says: “We the people of the State of New York, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings, do establish this constitution.” Here is not the slightest intimation either of receiving freedom from the United States Constitution or of the State’s conferring the blessings of liberty upon the people; and the same is true of every other State constitution. Each and all declare rights God-given, and that to secure the people in the enjoyment of their inalienable rights is their one and only object in ordaining and establishing government. All of the State constitutions are equally emphatic in their recognition of the ballot as the means of securing the people in the enjoyment of these rights . . . 

I submit that in the view of the explicit assertions of the equal right of the whole people, both in the preamble and previous article of the constitution, this omission of the adjective “female” should not be construed into a denial; but instead should be considered as of no effect . . . No barriers whatever stand today between women and the exercise of their right to vote save those of precedent and prejudice, which refuse to expunge the word “male” from the constitution.

. . . When, in 1871, I asked that senator to declare the power of the United States Constitution to protect women in their right to vote – as he had done for black men – he handed me a copy of all his speeches during that reconstruction period, and said:

Put “sex” where I have “race” or “color,” and you have here the best and strongest argument I can make for woman. There is not a doubt but women have the constitutional right to vote, and I will never vote for a Sixteenth Amendment to guarantee it to them. I voted for both the Fourteenth and Fifteenth under protest; would have insisted that the power of the original Constitution to protect all citizens in the equal enjoyment of their rights should have been vindicated through the courts. But the newly-made freedmen had neither the intelligence, wealth nor time to await that slow process. Women do possess all these in an eminent degree, and I insist that they shall appeal to the courts, and through them establish the powers of our American magna charta to protect every citizen of the republic.

But, friends, when in accordance with Senator Sumner’s counsel I went to the ballot box last November, and exercised my citizen’s right to vote, the courts did not wait for me to appeal to them – they appealed to me, and indicted me on the charge of having voted illegally. Putting sex where he did color, Senator Sumner would have said:

Qualifications can be in their nature permanent or insurmountable. Sex can not be a qualification any more than size, race, color or previous condition of servitude. A permanent or insurmountable qualification is equivalent to a deprivation of the suffrage. In other words, it is the tyranny of taxation without representation, against which our Revolutionary mothers, as well as fathers, rebelled.

For any State to make sex a qualification, which must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people, is to pass a bill of attainder, an ex post facto law, and is, therefore, a violation of the supreme law of the land. By it, the blessings of liberty are forever withheld from women and their female posterity. For them, this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. For them this government is not a democracy; it is not a republic. It is the most odious aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe. An oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor; an oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant; or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters of every household; which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects – carries discord and rebellion into every home of the nation. This most odious aristocracy exists, too, in the face of Section 4, Article IV, which says: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in the Union a republican form of government.” . . . 

It is urged that the use of the masculine pronouns he, his and him in all the constitutions and laws, is proof that only men were meant to be included in their provisions. If you insist on this version of the letter of the law, we shall insist that you be consistent and accept the other horn of the dilemma, which would compel you to exempt women from taxation for the support of the government and from penalties for the violation of laws. There is no she or her or hers in the tax laws, and this is equally true of all the criminal laws.

Take for example the civil rights law which I am charged with having violated; not only are all the pronouns in it masculine, but everybody knows that it was intended expressly to hinder the rebel men from voting. It reads, “If any person shall knowingly vote without his having a lawful right.” . . . I insist if government officials may thus manipulate the pronouns to tax, fine, imprison and hang women, it is their duty to thus change them in order to protect us in our right to vote . . .

Though the words persons, people, inhabitants, electors, citizens, are all used indiscriminately in the national and state constitutions, there was always a conflict of opinion, prior to the war, as to whether they were synonymous terms, but whatever room there was for doubt, under the old regime, the adoption of the Fourteenth amendment settled that question forever in its first sentence:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States, and of the State wherein they reside.

The second settles the equal status of all citizens:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law, or deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? I scarcely believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens, and no State has a right to make any new law or to enforce any old law, which shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several States is today null and void, precisely as is everyone against negroes.

References: