Category Archives: misc

Rain chains

We had rain chains installed as part of a recent remodel of the front of the house. It rained pretty hard last night and was still raining this morning. This video illustrates some problems with the installation.

It looks like the connection to the gutters isn’t actually feeding the flow onto the chain. This leads to a lot of splashing and erosion around the drain at the bottom.


My one thought on the Hugo Awards

There’s been a bunch of news about turmoil among SciFi authors and fans the past couple of years. See:

I like SciFi but don’t read enough to have an opinion about the relative merits of the nominees proposed by various feuding groups. But I did read Ann Leckie’s first two Ancillary books, and I was surprised to read both Hoyt and Wired focus on Leckie’s pronoun usage.


Ann Leckie’s debut novel Ancillary Justice, whose protagonists do not see gender. Leckie conveys this by using female pronouns throughout.


But quite beyond that the block voting for the clumsy Ancillary “but pronouns” would have won first place if it weren’t Australian Rules) is a blot on the face of our genre and makes me sigh and roll my eyes.

Warning: Spoilers in what follows:

Yes, the Hugo is one reason I bought Ancillary Justice on iBooks. But I enjoyed it enough to finish it and buy the sequel… and finish that too. I’ve also bought and finished one of Hoyt’s books, but it wasn’t one of her Hugo nominees, so it’s probably unfair to compare the failure to grip of a free teaser book with Leckie’s work. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in Leckie’s Ancillary series, and while I noticed the pronouns they struck my as a very minor aspect of the imaginative universe Leckie has constructed. The distributed consciousness of the Ancillaries was much more interesting than the pronouns. So was the fact that the distributed consciousness of the protagonist was an AI implanted in slaves taken from conquered cultures. So was the hierarchical and formal society the characers moved in. So were the mysterious aliens beyond the edge of the empire (or whatever it was called).  Ancillary Justice did not strike me as particularly political or moralizing, unless you think its “social justice warrior” political correctness to construct a universe that includes a particularly horrible form of body-snatching cyborg colonialism along with a decadent and corrupt social structure.

If Ancillary is political at all, it’s tame compared to some of my favorite Heinlein novels: Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Or HG Wells. As Peter Suderman’s Reason piece points out, alternative societies have always been part of SciFi

Political disagreements have been with science fiction for practically as long as there has been science fiction. Seen through a longer lens, what becomes clear is that they are an inherent part of the culture—which is, after all, built around detailed speculation about how society and technology will evolve—and arguably even what has helped it thrive for so long.

Sad news from Indiana Chemistry

A colleague just showed me that my former colleague Dave Giedroc is in this CNN video. While it is usually cool to see that one of your friends was interviewed, in this case it’s for the sad news that one of the victims in the Malaysia Air plane downing was a grad student in Dave’s department.

James Garner, RIP

Just heard that James Garner was found dead in his home at age 86. From the NYT obit:

Alone among westerns of the 1950s, “Maverick,” which made its debut in 1957, was about an antihero. He didn’t much care for horses or guns, and he was motivated by something much less grand than law and order: money. But you rooted for him because he was on the right side of moral issues, he had a natural affinity for the little guy being pushed by the bully, and he was more fun than anyone else.

“If you look at Maverick and Rockford, they’re pretty much the same guy,” Mr. Garner wrote. “One is a gambler and the other a detective, but their attitudes are identical.”

The Rockford Files was one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Garner’s ex-con private eye combined with an outstanding ensemble of peripheral characters and quirky plots from the team of Roy Huggins, Steven Cannell and Juanita Broderick made it a lot of fun. My friend Chip Morris and I used to talk about how Rockford’s appeal reminded us of the Samurai genre (which of course was influenced by Westerns). Garner’s Rockford was reminiscent of Mifune’s ronin from Yojimbo and Sanjuro, without the body count, but with a healthy dose of bushido.

Although Garner was a lifelong Democrat, we thought Rockford had a libertarian feel based on recurring themes of the dangers of out of control government enabling small and large abuses… even where intentions are arguably good. These ranged from the ongoing minor conflicts with Lt Chapman to the 1976 episode So Help Me God about Grand Jury abuse. 1979’s The Battle-Ax and the Exploding Cigar involves the FBI and CIA working against each other in a plot that anticipates the “Fast and Furious” scandal.

The Times compares Garner to Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart in his everyman appeal, and notes that he was one of the few stars to have success in both TV and movies.

Garner served in Korea, where he was wounded twice. Per wikipedia he described his Army role as being a “scrounger”, similar to his character in The Great Escape.