Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Monday, March 16, 2015

Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity, by Diannna Anderson

Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian PurityDamaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity by Dianna Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wished I could have read this book when I was in ninth grade (which was over 50 years ago).

I approached this book as something of an outsider.  I left the church and Christianity, indeed 50 years ago, over shame and guilt about sexuality.  I was forced to go to Lutheran Catechism.  Sex and purity was mentioned but not hammered into our heads like the evangelical purity culture.  But none the less there was a tremendous emphasis on SIN!  SIN!   SIN!.   Unlike the narrator in Grapes of Wrath who said after a traveling preacher had attempted to save his soul:

 "Wisht I knowed what all the sins was, so I could do ’em."


I really had no desire to do any of the sins except that one that a young lad wants to do with a young lady.  I was pretty good on the 10 commandments.  Well most of them anyhow, but I burnt (as St Paul said) with a desire for loving sexual union with a woman.  I was also pathologically shy so the actual chances of me committing such a sin was almost nil,  but the Lutherans had me covered on that.  Yes, there are three ways to sin, by: thought, word, and deed.   The deeds (other than those of a solitary nature...which will also earn you a free trip across the River Styx) I was good on.  Even by word I didn't do too bad. There was no use of a pimply faced, skinny, awkward  dwebe like me making any claims of getting laid...I had a red V painted on my forehead.  To even remark on the desire to do so would start a bunch of stories...everyone in 8th and 9th grades was getting laid except me.  I knew it was 99% bullshit but still these guys were convincing bullshitters because they had the muscles to back up their claims against 98 pound weakling doubters like me.

That leaves thought.  Oh my yes, I entertained many an impure thought and after a time quit asking for forgiveness.   Repent and promise that I would not do that again?  Hell I was lusting in church.   I remember of praying about it...nothing, well that is because I was not genuine or some how not good enough.

Then one day I got pissed off and said enough.   I didn't feel this way when I was 9 years old.  Prior to puberty, girls were fascinating but I wasn't damning myself to hell over them. I couldn't help the eroticism that burned within me.  I didn't ask for it, and I was sick and tired of feeling guilt and shame over it...especially considering I wasn't even getting laid.  I quit the church and have never since asked for forgiveness of my many impure thoughts.

That was child's play compared to the situation that Anderson describes.   I have to admire her courage to stand up against her culture and protest.  She makes some excellent points in the book especially about God not shaming us.  I was a little disappointed in the later chapters which seemed a bit general, diaphanous, and repetitious.  She wants us to do a lot of "honoring."  It got trite after a while.   Never the less, this was a very good book and one that I think would be helpful to those who have endured the difficulties and shame of the purity culture.


View all my reviews

Links:

For those who actually want to read a review of the book instead of my tales of personal, teenage, marinated in sin, sexual angst,  here is an excellent article:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/christian-feminist/386609/

Here is the article written by the author noted in the above article:

http://www.thefrisky.com/2014-09-09/girl-talk-what-losing-my-virginity-taught-me-about-faith/

Author's website and blog:  http://diannaeanderson.net/blog 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Pi Moment 3/14/15 9:26:53 And No Google Doodle! Heresy!

The Pi Day 2010 Google Doodle
Image Credit:  Google
Pi = 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510...

Today is the most accurate Pi Day we will have in this century.  3/14/15 and Google chooses to ignore the day.  Some people's children!  As such, in honor of the day I dragged out the Doodle from 2010 which as far as I know was no great shakes of a day for Pi, so why a Doodle in 2010 but not in 2015 when it is really cool.  But what is really cool today is that if you measure time with a 12 hour clock (verses 24 hour clock),  you will have two very accurate Pi moments, seconds actually:

3/14/15 9:26:53  AM & PM

It doesn't work with a 24 hour clock because technically the morning is 3 14 15 09 26 53 and the evening would be 3 14 15 21 26 53.  Of course we are also dropping the 20 in 2015.  We feel justified in do so, simply because we are alive right now and we want to celebrate the day and to hell the inconvenient 2000 years that throws the number out of whack.  This alludes to the fact that while we may take pride that we are witness to a once a century event, we should mourn that we missed the really big Pi Day which would have been

 March 14, 1592 with Pi seconds at 6:53:58.  

That one was pretty big.  The next time you will be able to do that is March 14, 15926 (13,911 years from now, alas).  But take heart that Pi Day will only have Pi minutes, not Pi seconds:

3/14/15926 5:35

The next digit is 8.  The biggest second you can have is 59 (60 if you cheat).  So looking at the string of numbers we will not be able to have another Pi second (with a full year like what happened in 1592) until:

March 14, 1,592,653,589,793 2:38:46

That is a whopping 1.59 trillion years into the future.  My guess is no one will be around to notice.  Anyhow can you see what I mean about mourning the loss of 1592?  It was a great year for Pi.  I wonder did anyone notice?

EDIT 3/15/15:  Taking a second look at this I just realized that there is a slight flaw in my logic.  I am accepting single digit hours, but not minutes or seconds.   But doing an image search of digital watches, I find that unless in 24 hour format, most watches display  h:mm:ss for single digit hours and hh:mm:ss for 10 thru 12.   None display single digit minutes or seconds.  The single digit minutes and seconds are always preceded by a zero. So going by standard time format my claim still holds true.

EDIT 3/20/15, ERROR CORRECTION On the date 1.59 trillion date, incredibly I somehow missed a digit in the original post and had a date 159 billion years in the future.  How exactly I did that when I copied an pasted the number is beyond me.  In any event the date has been corrected.  It was only 1.433 trillion year error.

Another thing that should be noted is that once you can get the digits of Pi to line up to a second in the 12 hour digital clock format  _h:mm:ss format, then the remainder of your Pi moment is simply a decimal fraction that theoretically will go out to an infinite number of digits.  So to tell exactly what time our Pi moment occurred we would need a clock with an infinite number of digits.  However, in a practical sense,  our universe has a limit on how short you can slice time.  It is known as Planck Time and represents the time it takes light in a vacuum to travel one Planck length.  In some circles it is known as a jiffy.    1 jiffy = 1 Planck Time = 5.39 X 10^-44 second.  Hence any digits finer than a jiffy are meaningless.  Think of a jiffy being the fastest tick in time allowed in our universe.  So our moment has to be a bit slower or it is literally out of this world.  So our real Pi moment has to be at least equal to or a bazzilionth of a second longer than longer than 1 plank time.   To put that in context, think of having a stop watch that could measure microseconds (millionths of a second).  So you could see an event, start the watch, see a second event and stop the watch.  So theoretically you could tell how many microseconds the event lasted.   The only problem is that the response time of your nervous system probably limits the accuracy to hundreds of a second.  So if your event took 0.215,435 seconds, all you can say is that it took about .21 seconds.  The 5,435 microseconds would be meaningless accuracy.  

Image Credit: Wikipedia
"Pi pie2" by GJ - Pi_pie2.jpg. Licensed under
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/
File:Pi_pie2.jpg#/media/File:Pi_pie2.jpg

So what exactly is Pi?  It is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter which always works out to 3.14159....   So roll a toy wheel, 1 inch in diameter, exactly one revolution and the center of that wheel would move 3.14159... inches across the floor.  Roll any wheel of any size and it will always roll 3.14159 times the length of the diameter.  There is a cute animated graphic of this at Wikipedia. To me, being somewhat of a mathematical nit wit, that seems very odd.  But the circumference of any circle is always Pi times the diameter.  Very convenient but also very odd.  

Pi has another very odd property.  You can never quite calculate the exact value of Pi.  It is irrational and the decimal value goes forever in a non-repeating sequence. 

In my working life, I used Pi probably twice a day in some calculation or other on a slow day.  Round things seem to be favored in the industry in which I worked.   Here is a trick that I used quite often.  I was responsible for a bunch of facilities with miles of pipe.  Repairs or modifications required ordering new pipe.  Measuring pipe diameters of installed pipe is a bit tricky.  If it is small diameter you can use calipers, but as the diameter increases soon the jaws of the caliper no longer reach the sides of  the pipe.  You can eyeball it but there is a much simple way.  Use a flexible tape or just a piece of string to measure the circumference of the pipe and then divide the length by Pi.  Voila! Pipe size?  Not quite!  Pipe sizes in North America below 14 inch pipe are weird.  You must consult a nominal pipe size table such as this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominal_Pipe_Size

For example you measure a pipe and the circumference is, what a coincidence, 3.14 inches.  You do the math and  that yields a diameter of about 1 inch.  Common sense would dictate you have 1 inch pipe. Wrong!  Looking at the table at the above site yields that the nominal pipe size of 3/4 inch has an actual outer diameter of 1.05 inches.  One inch nominal pipe is actually 1.32 inches in diameter. 

All you ever wanted to know about pipe but were afraid to ask.  

Have a Happy Pi Day and a Pi moment this evening.  

LINKS:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pi

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pi_Day




EDIT 3/20/15:  The Internet never fails to delight.  Have you ever wondered what is the one millionth digit of Pi after the decimal point?  Burning question I know.  Well now you can find out at:

ONE MILLION DIGITS OF PI at Pi Day.Org


After holding the page down button for several minutes, I watched 999,999 digits go whizzing by and as a public service,  the answer to the question (in case you are ever on Jeopardy),  the millionth digit after the decimal point in Pi?

What is 1 Alec.


Here are the first and last lines of Pi taken out to one million decimal places:



3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582... lots and lots of digits...

346460422090106105779458151 ...and that’s one million digits of Pi after the decimal point!


According to Wikipedia, as of October 2014 Pi has been calculated out to 13,300,000,000,000 decimal places.





    

  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Virtual Alert

My good Blogger friend Alicia published a post about her brothers being in the Marine Corps and having rifles.

Blogger, Titere con Bonete, My Stupid Little Brothers

Being a veteran (USAF) I touched an M-16 not quite as often as a crescent wrench or soldering iron, but yeah I shot an M-16.  So I felt the need to comment, which turned rather lengthy and I figured what hell I am going to publish it at my blog too.



A real M-16
Image Credit: Wikipedia, "M16A1 brimob" by User:Dragunova - Personal photo.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:M16A1_brimob.jpg#/media/File:M16A1_brimob.jpg


I was in the Air Force and of course we are bigger on airplanes than rifles. So while I didn't have a rifle, I did have about 100 F-4 Phantoms that I worked on.  

My contact with rifles was somewhat laughable. Once a year I had to qualify with a M-16 (on the grounds of what now is Victorville Federal Penitentiary), so I touched an M-16 all of four times in my service career.  

At my base in California, I was on the alert roster which I qualified for by principally being not married. We were the forward tactical warriors (well that might be a tad strong term for an airplane repairman) who could at a moment's notice run out to the flight line with our tool boxes and duffle bags ready to go and board a C-130 and fly to any trouble spot in the world, commandeer a hunk of straight highway, and convert it into a operational tactical fighter base within 72 hours. Wow! I would have liked to see that happen. Well that was the theory anyhow. From a practical stand point it meant that once a year always on a Saturday morning, the siren would go off on the base at 0500 and we would muster to the pre-arranged rallying areas on the flight line. Here we would be issued an "M-16" and assigned a C-130 tail number that we were to fly out on. 
A Virtual M-16

The weapon was sort of a virtual M-16, actually it was a piece of oak tag with a number and a string on it, and you dare not lose it. If you lost this piece of paper, it was the equivalent of losing your weapon and you would be punished for it. Yet curiously we were not allowed to tie the tag on to our uniform (the equivalent of carrying an actual rifle with a should strap). That would be cheating and a violation of the uniform. So you folded the paper M-16 and put in in your fatigue shirt's pocket...which thoughtfully had a button specifically designed to help you retain your virtual M-16. When ordered "airman present your weapon for inspection" you unbuttoned your shirt pocket and gave the inquiring zebra the piece of paper. But also don't forget and let the bastard walk off with it. That would get you in trouble too. As valuable as this training is, it seemed to me that the Air Force could have afforded to buy some Daisy air rifles and just made sure they didn't give us any BBs. We would have shot our eyes out. 

So we would then commence waiting for the C-130s to land. The base logistic folks would drive all the equipment for fixing the aircraft out to the loading locations with fork trucks. Each 130 would carry so much equipment and so many troops. So we would wait and wait and wait and then wait some more. At some point a bagged lunch was provided, we were not allowed to leave. Then suddenly a zebra with a bull horn would call out a tail number. All the guys with that tail number would march out with their tool box and duffle bags (and of course their M-16) to the aircraft which would be sitting next to the equipment that it was supposed to take. 


A Real C-130  (perhaps a bit newer)
Image Credit:  Wikipedia

The aircraft were difficult to see, because they were virtual too. We had no idea that they had landed and were being refueled and loaded while we were waiting. So you would march out to a bunch of palleted equipment and check in with the crew chief of the C-130. He was real but an actor. Crew chiefs tend to be sergeants or staff sergeants (3 or 4 stripes) these guys were zebras and super zebras (6 to 8 stripes) chosen for their prickliness--yes the things on cactus and whatever else comes to mind. You had to check in with them, show your dog tags--military ID, open your tool box (it better have tools in it) and they would kick your duffle bag and it better be heavy and not filled with fluffed up newspapers. You also had to present your M-16 for inspection. They being super zebras would also take an opportunity to check your uniform, haircut, beard, shoe shine, and general espirit de corps (of which I thoroughly lacked--excuse me while I gag on the chicken shit...not to mention that the base laundry didn't always get the crease through the star on the chevrons on your sleeve--sometimes missing the chevrons altogether which would elicit a comment from the zebra which I parried back by showing the laundry ticket safety pinned to the inside of my shirt. That put them in a bit of a quandary, the base laundry employed moonlighting NCOs and we peasants were encouraged to use it. A lot guys didn't want to spend the money and the laundry was a bit heavy on the starch. I hated ironing, to me it was a bargain, and I loved when one of these many striped idiots commented on my creases and I could flash the laundry tag at them.)  


The sleeve crease was supposed to
split the star. 

Then we would mill around for an hour or so, then get ordered back to the rallying points. After all the virtual C-130s were loaded and crewed by the make believe crew chiefs, the virtual planes would all virtually take off to the wild blue yonder. Then around 1300 to 1500 hours the siren would sound again, just a short blast this time. We would check in again at our rallying point, surrender our weapons, and leave. The zebras would all head over to the NCO club and make up for lost time--nobody got drunk on the night before an alert, and life went on. It was a boring long day, ah but we demonstrated we were ready.  




Fleet Of Tactical Air Command virtual C-130s transporting
 the valorous 35th TAC Fighter Wing on Alert 1972.
Image Credit: Wikipedia

Theoretically, no one was supposed to know about the alerts. They were supposed to be a surprise. It could be real, you could theoretically be flying out. The entire base knew about it at least a day in advance. Your shop chief got you clued in that you will have your ass on the flight line at 0500 in the morning and you will not be a source of embarrassment to him...(be sober, shaved, have your dog tags and ID, have real tools in your tool box and real clothes in your duffle bag, and don't lose your weapon).


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sunk Cost Fallacy

I enjoy when I am reading a book and I learn something serendipitously.   I especially like when it is something that labels and defines an experience that we all have and perhaps even suspect that we are deluding ourselves but never quite examine in the full light of conscious inquiry.
Image Credit: Amazon.com

Most of us have had the experience of engaging in the consumption of something beyond our desire because we have paid for it, cannot get our money back, and feel obligated to get our money's worth...eating too much at a restaurant, watching a crappy movie to its end, or finishing a lousy book for example.

I am reading The Rosie Affect: A Novel  by Graeme Simsion, which is not a lousy book, and I ran across this passage:

Sonia was an accountant. She would understand the logic of decision making. I took Rosie’s spreadsheet from my pocket and gave it to her. She held it with one hand while steadying the baby with the other. I was impressed with her proficiency after such a short period.
“My God, you guys are both nuts,” she said. “Which is why you should be together.” She looked at the spreadsheet for a few more seconds. “What’s this about already purchased the air ticket?”
 “Rosie’s ticket was nonrefundable . She felt obliged not to waste the investment. It was obviously a factor in her decision to go home.” 
“You’d break up over the price of an air ticket? Anyway, she’s wrong. It’s the sunk-cost fallacy. You don’t take nonrecoupable costs into account in making investment decisions. What’s gone is gone.”

Simsion, Graeme (2014-12-30). The Rosie Effect: A Novel (Don Tillman Book 2) (p. 300). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

So I wondered, gee is there really such a thing as a sunk cost fallacy.  Indeed there is and here is an excellent description of it as it affects normal people in normal life (rather than an economic consideration for business that is described in Wikipedia). 

Lifehack.org, How the sunk cost fallacy makes you act stupid, Michael Davidson

I have a good example of sunk cost fallacy that happened to me about 15 years ago.  I bought a digital watch that changed the display mode by rotating the bezel around the dial.  That seemed cool, instead of punching little buttons to get the various modes, you twisted the bezel one direction or the other.  Another plus for this watch (not the one in the photo below) was that it had rather large digits so I could see the time without my glasses which are only needed for reading.  My wife, who is rarely with me when I shop for watches, said "Don't buy that. You will be unhappy with that mode ring." Fateful words, I didn't listen.  


Not my watch but similar.  Note the arrows on the bezel. 

I bought the watch and yes I could easily see what time it was at a glance, those big digits were easy to see. The watch was really cool, it had all these modes, one of which was the time. The only trouble was that the ring constantly got bumped and if there was 5 modes, that meant at best, a glance at my watch yielded the current time only on 20% of the glances.  So I would be at a boring meeting and I would casually sneak a  look at my watch and 80% of the time I would see Th 3-12,  or LAP 8 - 20:17:39, or 99:99:59.999, or ALM 05:50 AM and every once in a while the time. After the end of my first day with the watch, I thought maybe my wife is right, this watch could be a PIA.  Ahhh you will get used to it. Give it a chance.  

By the time I had it for 3 months, "this f---ing watch is driving me crazy." Then I thought of an elaborate plan. We had a product at work that with the test fixturing installed weighed 48 tons. I was going to set the watch on the floor and have the techs set the test article on the watch with the crane. Meanwhile I had to wait for this product to come to our department, we only built a few of these monsters every year.  We had plenty of  10 ton or 20 ton units, but I wanted to destroy that damned watch with the big guy.   Insanely due to sunk cost fallacy, I continued to use the watch while waiting for this humongous product to show up in our department.   May as well get my money's worth while waiting to destroy it. 


Again not my watch, but mine sort of looked like this. 

One day I looked at the watch and it said 63:37:12.107...108...109 changing every millisecond. I procured a ziplock bag and borrowed a 4 pound rawhide mallet from one of the techs. I put the watch in a vice and beat the f--- out of it with that mallet. Like Ralphy Parker during the Scot Farkus incident, "I have since heard of people under extreme duress speaking in strange tongues. I became conscious that a steady torrent of obscenities and swearing of all kinds was pouring out of me as I screamed"* at the top of my lungs while swinging away at the watch with Garland's finest rawhide mallet. After several minutes of beating and swearing, I collected the remains of the watch put them in the bag, and calmly returned the mallet to the tech. I stopped on the way home from work and bought the watch my wife wanted me to buy, the digits were smaller but the modes were set with tiny buttons. I returned home and handed her the bag of shattered watch parts and said "you were right." 

Every now an again we will have a discussion in which we have divergent opinions. My wife will disappear for a moment and return with a zip lock bag with a bunch of shattered black plastic and tiny circuit boards and shake it at me. End of argument, she wins.  

The lesson: do not arm a woman with a physical example of your sunk cost fallacy. 

Garland Model 31004
Image Credit.  MSC.Direct


For those readers with an interest in tools, the mallet of choice for an operation like this is a Garland Model 31004 it is available at MSC Industrial Supply Company:



It has a 4 pound head weight, 2" rawhide faces (dipped in some sort of adhesive making it very tough and resilient),  a 14 inch hickory handle, and (at the time I was buying them) made in the USA.    What I like about this hammer is that you can get a tremendous amount of impact force with very little glancing.  Behind the replaceable rawhide faces is a solid steel mass.   You have very good control over the hammer especially after some use and the rawhide ends begin to mushroom.   As a result it is a very safe hammer for applying heavy shock to an object, and I found the hammer to deliver little return impact to your hands and arms.   I could do more work with a 4 pound rawhide mallet than I could with sledge hammer which requires a lot of strength and good control.  Another thing I like about these hammers, the head attachment to the handle is very durable.  I have never seen a loose head in the many units we had at work.  The only disadvantage I encountered with this hammer is that after a while the ends mushroom which actually makes the hammer more stable and less given to glancing, but the rawhide will pulverize with each blow and leave particulate on the work surface.  For applications requiring a high level of cleanliness, this hammer is ill-advised.  Also you will note that the hammer is fairly pricey.  Alas, being retired,  I no longer have access to one. 

BTW, Amazon also carries Garland hammers and mallets, but I doubt that you can buy The Rosie Effect at MSC.   

For smashing watches that have pissed you off, this hammer is highly recommended.   Generally when I get into one of these endeavors, I am by definition rather angry and anger is always a poor time to pursue any task, but especially one that involves striking with a hammer.  Due to the inherent safety of this hammer mostly from its resistance to glancing, and the non-marring quality of the ends, it is highly recommend for the smashing of watches in your vice.  Remember, always wear approved eye protection when using a hammer. 

I must offer a caveat.  I highly recommend not smashing your watch.  All digital and most analogue watches have a battery, which is often lithium or some other toxic material.   If you simply must smash the watch, please remove and properly dispose of the battery prior to smashing it.

IMAGE CREDITS:

Cover, The Rosie Effect:

Timex watch with rotating bezel mode selector:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Literary Geography

Google Street View camera car
Image Credit:  Google

I love geography, maps, and books.  I also love Google Maps, especially the satellite and Street Views.  Google constantly has a fleet of camera cars (and walkers with back pack units, small push trolleys for museum interiors, trikes, snow mobiles, but mostly cars) driving about taking simultaneous photos in all directions every so many feet.  I haven't seen a specification of how far apart each photo is taken, and I would suspect that it depends on the visual information density of the surroundings. Hence I would expect that Manhattan would have far more photos per mile than a rural region.  Google then stitches the images together giving an almost seamless 360 degree view of the world at that spot and a view that will move right on down the road.  It appears seamless, but I have found that given the luck of the draw, a sign or detail that I am interested in is usually caught on the border in-between two images.  You click on the sign to read it, and you can only see it from a distant shot.  You click on it again and you blast past it and must turn around again to only see it in the distance from the other side.  Again I would imagine that Google regulates the distance between shots with the density of information.  If you are driving through a cornfield, there is a good chance that the address on a mailbox may be too distant to read, in contrast to being able to read the storefronts of every business on Main Street.  Despite the occasional frustration, it is truly an amazing application.
Pegman is the little orange guy
standing on the zoom slider.
Image Credit: Google Maps

Because I am old and cranky, I refuse to download the New Google Maps.  I did try it, and I didn't like it, so old coot that I am, I can address only the old version of Google Maps.  To activate Street View, you need to grab Pegman.  Pegman sits on top of the zoom slider.  When you grab him with your mouse all the streets that have street view content turn dark blue.  You will want to zoom in first to ensure a good placement.  So grab Pegman and drag him to the street you want to view.  The map will drop into Street View and you will see Pegman in the lower right corner sitting on a green disk with a pointer on a small section the map.  Now Pegman shows you where you are at and the direction you are facing.

I have only seen a Google Street View car once.  With old age and increasing decrepitude, I have taken to driving my leaf and grass clippings up to the compost pile on top of the cliff that is my back yard.  Unfortunately I block the one lane alley while dumping my cans, but there is seldom a car.  In the summer of 2013, I was dumping some grass and I look...there is the damned Google car waiting behind me.   My fat ass made the world wide web for about a month, and then curiously I was edited out.  I magically was in only one frame, a month later gone.  Google beautifies the world.  Alas--my 15 minutes of fame.

Google Maps Street View of Pittsburgh from the inbound portal of the Fort Pitt Tunnel.
Pegman is in the right hand corner looking north east.
Image Credit: Google Maps.

Anyhow my purpose here with Literary Geography is to show some instances in fiction where the author provides accurate descriptions of real places.  It sounds like a Jeopardy category.

For two hundred dollars in Literary Geography, how does Lisbeth Salander escape from Carl-Magnus Lundin?

What is she steals his motorcycle, Alex.

Ohhhhhh, noooooaaaahhhhh, sooorry!  She runs up the steps to the upper Lundagatan.

Saved By The Steps

Our first Literary Geography lesson is from The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson.  Through out the Millennium Trilogy, Larsson provides detailed descriptions of the scenes of various Stockholm streets.  In the following excerpt, a member of a motorcycle gang has been hired to kidnap the heroine Lisbeth Salander:

Blomkvist saw Salander lash out with her fist. At the instant she struck her attacker she dropped to the ground and rolled beneath the car. 
Seconds later Salander was up on the other side of the car, ready for fight or flight. She met the enemy’s gaze across the hood and decided on the latter option. Blood was pouring from his cheek. Before he even managed to focus on her she was away across Lundagatan, running towards Högalid Church. 
Blomkvist stood paralyzed, his mouth agape, when the attacker suddenly dashed after Salander. He looked like a tank chasing a toy car. Salander took the steps to upper Lundagatan two at a time. At the top of the stairs she glanced over her shoulder and saw her pursuer reaching the first step. He was fast. She noticed the piles of boards and sand where the local authority had dug up the street.
Larsson, Stieg; Reg Keeland (2009-07-20). The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium Trilogy) (pp. 152-153). Vintage. Kindle Edition. 
You can see this place with the steps and Högalid Church in the distance.  Go to Google Maps and copy and paste the following coordinates into the search bar:

59 19.085 N 18 2.649 E

I prefer the coordinates because it gives more accurate results, but you can also search:

49 Lundagatan Stockholm Sweden

The spot will be marked by a red balloon and possibly a green arrow.   Zoom in so that you have easy mouse access to the street.  Now grab Pegman on top of the slider and drag him so that he is slightly east of the balloon or arrow head.  Google Maps will drop into Street View.  Now look at Pegman in the lower right corner.  Grab the photo with your mouse and rotate it so the the Pegman faces west.  You should see the red balloon icons, a white painted crosswalk on the street, the spire of Hogalid Church in the distance and the steps that Salander took two at a time to the right.

Salander ran up these steps from the lower Lundagaten to the upper.
Högalid Church is in the distance.  Pegman is looking WNW and is about
 to trip over the red marker balloon. Image Credit:  Google Maps.  


Our next visit will be Salander's new swanky apartment building from the same book:

Blomkvist looked at the attached documentation for the purchase of an apartment in a building at Fiskargatan 9 in Mosebacke. 
Then he almost choked on his coffee. The price paid was twenty-five million kronor, and the deal was concluded with two payments a year apart.
Larsson, Stieg; Reg Keeland (2009-07-20). The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium Trilogy) (p. 451). Vintage. Kindle Edition. 
Using the method above, copy and paste the following coordinates into Google Maps:

59 19.080 N 18 4.600 E


Slander's swanky new digs at 9 Fiskargatan.
Image Credit: Google Maps

Number 9
Image Credit: Google Maps


Plop old Pegman down near the green arrowhead and rotate the resulting image until you see the building with the red balloon.  If you move about and look over the doorway, you will see a 9.









Death By Tide

In her book The Wheel of Fortune, Susan Howatch describes in detail through the book a natural formation that plays a huge role in the book:

The Worm’s Head is Gower’s most striking claim to fame. It is an extension of the south arm of the bay; the cliffs beyond the village of Rhossili slope steeply to sea level and there, across the tidal causeway of rocks known as the Shipway, a long narrow spur of land arches its way far out into the sea. It has all the allure of a semi-island and all the glamour of a myth. “Worm” is an old word for dragon, and with a little imagination one can look at this unusual land formation and see a monster thrashing its way into the Bristol Channel. 
The Mansel Talbots of Penrice who owned the land kept sheep on the Worm’s Head, and it had been on his way to inspect this flock that Owain Bryn-Davies had met his death in the tidal trap of the Shipway. Bryn-Davies, born and bred in the Welshery of northeast Gower, had misjudged the dangers awaiting those unfamiliar with the landscape in the southwest. 
Howatch, Susan (2012-10-09). The Wheel of Fortune (Kindle Locations 1524-1530). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition. 

There are no streets on the Worm's Head but while reading Howatch's blow by blow description of a psycho-thrilling weird walk out on the Worm's Head, I followed along with Google Maps satellite view.  It was uncanny.  I could tell exactly where the characters were in their walk.

To find this one, type in Rhossili United Kingdom.  Find the red balloon in the village of Rhossili and then pan the map to the west.  You should see the Worm's Head about a half of mile west of the village.  Click on Satellite View in the upper right corner.  You can zoom into 3/4 of an inch of photo = 20 feet.  You can easily see the foot paths and rock formations.  The shadow in the water on the western end gives a hint to how high this formation stands above the surface of the sea.

The Worm's Head Rhossili UK in Google Maps Satellite View
Image Credit: Google Maps



CAUTION SPOILERS BELOW FOR THE BOOK THE MARTIAN !!!! 

 I have added some white space, if you haven't read the book yet skip the following.  The images below contain spoilers of sorts.   


































Maps of  Mark Watney's Road Trips

Poor Mark Watney is literally in a world of shit.  If you don't like my description, don't read the book, Mark's language is considerably worse than mine.  Mark is one of six astronauts on a manned mission to Mars called Ares 3.  A storm brews up that threatens to destroy their ascent vehicle.  The mission is aborted by Houston and they are ordered to leave immediately.  In the walk from the living module, the Hab, to the ascent vehicle, Mark is stuck with a sharp piece of the antenna array used to communicate to Earth.  His suit is punctured and Watney is killed by the sudden depressurization.  The wind threatens to topple the ascent vehicle and they take off just in the nick of time and leave Mark behind.  Miraculously Mark wakes up some period of time later.  The wind blew him faced down on the puncture and his weight resealed the suit, the suit re-pressurized itself, again just in the nick of time.  Long and short, Mark is marooned on Mars with a finite amount of food and no way to communicate with his crew or Earth.  That is a summary of the first chapter.

Now here comes the spoiler parts.  Read no further.

Mark is a very clever botanist / mechanical engineer and he starts growing potatoes in the Hab which other than losing its antenna is otherwise fully functional.  Mark starts planning and he decides the only way he is going to get off this planet is to do a road trip to the next mission's, Ares 4, landing site which has a fully functional MAV (Mars ascent vehicle) already in place.  The trouble with MAVs is that it is a row boat for getting off the surface Mars.  Then you have get on board an interplanetary steamer to make it back to Earth. The story goes from there.

When you read books on a Kindle. They automatically open to the beginning of the text on your first read, not the cover.  So you never have to page through the beginning pages of the book.  I usually page backwards to check for forward, illustrations, maps and so forth, but in this book failed to do so.  The whole time I read the book, different craters and canyons were named and I was thinking I wished I had a map.  Little did I realize that the book has a map at Kindle location 27, before the table of contents.  Its a crappy map but still better than nothing.   I thought several times that I should go to the NASA website and see if I could find these features mentioned in the book.  I distinctly remember thinking ugh too lazy, I am spoiled by the convenience of Google Maps.

The other day I opened Google earth, it is Google Maps running on diesel.  It has far more features than Google Maps, but I have always found it clunky to use, and I don't like the surface imagery...it looks too "computer gamish" to me.  It does has some nice features though, namely pin point latitude and longitude readouts, and a cool ruler for measuring distances.   Plus you can save place marks, look at GPS tracks, and a dozen other things that I am too lazy to fool with.  It is a wonderful piece of software, but for me Google Maps does the trick most of the time without all the brouhaha and better imagery (in my opinion).  Anyhow I opened it up looking for some coordinates here on Earth when I happened to notice a button on the tool bar with Saturn on it.  What's this?  Low and behold there is a Google Mars, a Google Moon, and a Google Sky all embedded in Google earth.  Now we are talking.

So I fire up Google Mars although the application is still called Google earth.  I want to see where the Hab is located.  I type in Acidalia Planitia.  Google Earth takes me to a place that doesn't quite jive with the crappy map in the book.   So I search in the book for Acidalia Planitia and I find this excerpt.  It is Mindy Parks, Mars imaging specialist reviewing incoming satellite images from Mars:

A flicker on her screen announced that another set of images was ready for dispatch. She checked the name on the work order. Venkat Kapoor.
She posted the data directly to internal servers and composed an e-mail to Dr. Kapoor. As she entered the latitude and longitude of the image, she recognized the numbers.
31.2° N, 28.5 ° W… Acidalia Planitia… Ares 3?”
Out of curiosity, she brought up the first of the seventeen images.
As she’d suspected, it was the Ares 3 site. She’d heard they were going to image it . Slightly ashamed of herself, she scoured the image for any sign of Mark Watney’s dead body. After a minute of fruitless searching, she was simultaneously relieved and disappointed.
Weir, Andy (2014-02-11). The Martian: A Novel (pp. 52-53). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 
From a story aspect, this is a little ridiculous.  It has been 5 weeks since the weather aborted a manned Mars mission costing 197 gazzillion dollars and resulting in a crew fatality in which the body has been left behind, and NASA is just now getting around to have a look with all their Martian satellites.   Hmmm.  The NASA of the future must not have the CYA (cover your ass) mentality that it has now.  I drift from my mission.  But now we have something to work with to locate the Hab.  Copy and paste    31.2° N, 28.5 ° W into the Mars search bar and voila.  We have a location.   Apparently the Acidalia Planitia is the Martian equivalent to the Great Plains, it is not very specific, but the coordinates zooms you in to a specific spot.  When Google Mars zooms, it zooms like it does for Google earth which is too much for the imagery.  It goes way beyond the resolution of the satellite imagery and you get a screen full of mashed pumpkin.  Zoom back out until the image makes some sense.  While you are at it put a place mark with the push pin icon, so you don't lose your place.  BTW you don't have to put in the little degree symbols if you are typing in coordinates, although don't forget the letters.

Anyhow our marooned hero makes two road trips in his rovers.  The first is an 800 km trip to the US Pathfinder site (an actual NASA mission).  Along the way Mindy tracking his progress reports that he is at  28.9 N  29.6 W.  Search those coordinates and you get another point on Mark's first road trip.  He reports seeing Hamelin Crater.  Another point plus you can search Pathfinder to find his destination.  So Mark's first road trip looks like this.

Mark's first road trip to the Pathfinder site.
Non-annotated Image Credit:  Google earth.  

All the orange square brouhaha over in Mawrth Vallis is not my doing.  It indicates further detailed images of specific features.  I couldn't figure out an easy way of getting rid of them, like some sort of layer control.  My annotations are the red place markers and yellow line.  So the story proceeds and our hero makes a second road trip to the location of the next Mars mission, Ares 4, with the hopes of hot wiring a ride back home...it is a bit more complex than that but let's concentrate on the road trip.  The next mission is located in the Schiaparelli Crater.  The crater is real and you can search it.

Schiaparelli Crater.  Red pins are my place marks.
Non-annotated Image Credit:  Google earth.

You will notice that it has a small unnamed crater on its north western corner.  This second crater and wind erosion has provided Mark with an entrance ramp down into the Schiaparelli Crater.  So that is the end destination of a 3200 km road trip.  Watney goes through the canyons of Mawrth Vallis, and into the "Watney Triangle" defined by the Rutherford, Trouvelot, and Marth craters (all real).  He gets diverted by a potentially deadly dust storm at Marth Crater and must detour due south.  He then heads east to Schiaparelli, overturns the rover on the entrance ramp, recovers and arrives to Ares 4 and his ticket home, if he can strip of the excess weight and add more fuel to meet the flyby of the Hermes mother ship (the slow boat to Earth).  So I searched all those places and plotted a probable course for Marks trip:

Mark Watney's second road trip denoted in blue.
Non-annotated Image Credit:  Google earth.
I enjoyed this book immensely and I had even more fun tracing Mark's fictional trip across Mars.  Does he make it off Mars?  You will have to read the book and find out for yourself.


Edit 11/16/2014:  

Per a request from a member of my book club I have included an image showing Watney's Triangle.


The Watney Triangle
Non-annotated Image Credit:  Google earth.
Here is the text defining the triangle from the book:

I’m in the middle of a bunch of craters that form a triangle. I’m calling it the Watney Triangle because after what I’ve been through, stuff on Mars should be named after me.

Trouvelot, Becquerel, and Marth form the points of the triangle, with five other major craters along the sides. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem at all, but with my extremely rough navigation, I could easily end up at the lip of one of them and have to backtrack.

After Marth, I’ll be out of the Watney Triangle (yeah, I’m liking that name more and more). Then I can beeline toward Schiaparelli with impunity. There’ll still be plenty of craters in the way, but they’re comparatively small, and going around them won’t cost much time. 
Weir, Andy (2014-02-11). The Martian: A Novel (p. 293). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.



I would assume the Watney Triangle is defined by the centers of Trouvelot, Becquerel, and Marth craters at the the vertices.  I drew the triangle somewhat larger to not obscure the crater images and place mark names.  The blue line is Watney's route. 


LINKS



Thursday, October 30, 2014

How To Live

THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY is full of people who are full of themselves. A half-hour’s trawl through the online ocean of blogs, tweets, tubes, spaces, faces, pages, and pods brings up thousands of individuals fascinated by their own personalities and shouting for attention. They go on about themselves; they diarize, and chat, and upload photographs of everything they do. Uninhibitedly extrovert, they also look inward as never before. Even as bloggers and networkers delve into their private experience, they communicate with their fellow humans in a shared festival of the self.
Some optimists have tried to make this global meeting of minds the basis for a new approach to international relations. The historian Theodore Zeldin has founded a site called “The Oxford Muse,” which encourages people to put together brief self-portraits in words, describing their everyday lives and the things they have learned. They upload these for other people to read and respond to. For Zeldin, shared self-revelation is the best way to develop trust and cooperation around the planet, replacing national stereotypes with real people. The great adventure of our epoch, he says, is “to discover who inhabits the world, one individual at a time....”
By describing what makes them different from anyone else, the contributors reveal what they share with everyone else: the experience of being human. This idea—writing about oneself to create a mirror in which other people recognize their own humanity—has not existed forever. It had to be invented. And, unlike many cultural inventions, it can be traced to a single person: Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, a nobleman, government official, and winegrower who lived in the Périgord area of southwestern France from 1533 to 1592.
Bakewell, Sarah (2010-10-19). How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (Kindle Locations 75-99). Other Press. Kindle Edition. 
Image Credit: Amazon.com


I almost fell out of the chair laughing at the self reflection presented in the first paragraph from the introduction of Sarah Bakewell's How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer.  After the initial laugh, I felt somewhat admonished.  Indeed what is my blog but a festival of self?  Perhaps it is time to tear this down and become respectably reticent.  But as I read on, I found that I am simply presenting self in the fine tradition of the inventor of the essay--Montaigne.  

I haven't read this book yet, only started it, but I was so amused with the opening quote that I thought I at least have to point to my dear readers that this book is on the Kindle Daily Deal for $1.99.  Alas because it is a Daily Deal, it will only be on sale for today, October 30, 2014 at that price.   Amazon further sweetens the deal, if you buy the Kindle edition, you can get the Audible version for 99 cents (which is Whispersynched to the Kindle edition and you can do "immersion reading" on devices that support it, predominantly Kindle-Fire Tablets-the current Kindle e-readers do not have audio).  If you do buy both, be sure to buy the Kindle version first.  Otherwise you will be charged the full price for the Audible version.  I am not sure but you may want to restrict your Audible purchase to the Amazon website rather than using Audible's website to ensure you get the 99 cent price after buying the Kindle edition.  Audible has Apps that you can download for a variety of devices here:

https://www.audible.com/mt/Apps?ie=UTF8&pf_rd_r=0PYZMTSEVKJ824632HEB&pf_rd_m=A2ZO8JX97D5MN9&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_i=130420102&pf_rd_p=1838769382&pf_rd_s=footer-3


Again the Kindle version is only available today at the reduced price of $1.99.  Available here:

http://www.amazon.com/How-Live-Montaigne-Question-Attempts-ebook/dp/B003E8AK4Q/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top  


One thing about Kindles, they are cash registers for Amazon.  Good God!  My blog is turning into an Amazon advertisement.  No I am not getting paid.  How dumb is that?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Several Short Book Reviews

Soul to TakeSoul to Take by Helen  Bateman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have often read in my flakey New Age readings that Souls between lives sort of "hang out" with the prospective new parents immediately before and during a pregnancy.  Well here is an excellent short novel that speculates on the Soul observing and possibly choosing parents.

Bateman has wonderful character development and she has provided an interesting contrast between the lives of the prospective couples and the Soul's last few incarnations.  Bateman wisely avoids getting caught up in any kind of technical details about how all this works.  With her excellent writing skills, Bateman packs a lot of story in a compact and concise package.

Being a New Age flake, this story nicely coincides with my particular beliefs, but I don't believe that you need to be a flake to enjoy this well written novel.  Excellent debut novel!   I will be looking forward to reading more from this author.


View all my reviews





My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Actually not a bad story.  She just took way too long to tell it and the book ends in a bit of a cliff hanger, thus ensuring the reader will read the rest of the series.   I get cranky when authors do that, so my 3.5 stars rounded down to 3 stars.  I knew it was a series before I started reading it and I also knew that I probably would not read any additional books in the series.  The book was one of our book club selections and I read it to see what the big whoop was about.  As I predicted before starting the book, I have no interest in reading the rest of the series.  



My rating: 3 of 5 stars
 I am not sure what to make of this book.  I think it would have been more convincing if it had been either written in third person or the author had been a woman.  Coelho writing in a woman’s first person voice just came off less than true to me.

I tried to be sympathetic to the protagonist but she resisted my best efforts.  She has a wonderful life and is seemingly willing to throw it away because she is bored.  Perhaps we should feel sorry for her because she does not have one negative thing in her enchanted life to occupy her and life, marriage, career, success, extreme wealth, security, and happy healthy normal children are, well boring--although she loves her husband, her life, and her children.  OK this happens.  To alleviate her boredom she finds herself unwittingly drawn into an affair with an old high school lover, gently at first.

Caution Spoiler:

He treats her like an appliance, which she seems to alternately hate and like. Then she gets into a snark fest with her lover’s wife and decides that she has to destroy this woman for being haughty and having the audacity to be concerned about her husband. The protagonist spends 5000 francs on cocaine to plant in the woman’s desk. My sympathy for her goes out the window.

She then has a sort of confession to her husband who makes it easy for her and indicates that he loves her and if there is anything to forgive, she is forgiven. OK all should be well, if her husband can forgive her, I can too. But then a week after this confession of sorts, she has one last wild and wooly tumble in the hay with her lover because she needs closure. Goodbye to all sympathy. 

The book closes with a loving discussion of the love of love that will survive in the universe for all time after all the humans are long gone. It should have restored my sympathy to the protagonist but instead, sort of reminded me of Nicholson Baker’s mystical orgasmic spheres that float through all eternity in his book Vox.




It was not a bad book but it could have been a lot better.