Nemesis

[Amazon Link]

Back in (gulp!) 2004, I put Isaac Asimov's non-collaborative science fiction novels on my cybernetic to-be-read pile. Nemesis is the penultimate book in that sequence. It was written in 1989, I bought my paperback copy (according to Amazon's flawless memory) back in 2015. And it finally percolated into my current reading.

The story: a few hundred years hence, mankind has split in twain: the still-earthbound billions, and spacefarers who inhabit "settlements", large space stations floating around the solar system. An astronomer on "Rotor" (one of the settlements) discovers a red dwarf only a couple light years away, heretofore hidden by an interstellar dust cloud. Instead of announcing this discovery to humanity, the folks in charge of Rotor decide to use a mumbo-jumbo technology called "hyper-assist" to leave Sol and hop over, secretly, to Nemesis.

Once there, there are more surprises: Nemesis is orbited by a Jupiter-like gas giant planet, which is (in turn) orbited by a moon they name Erythro. Erythro holds a strange fascination for Marlene, the astronomer's daughter; Marlene also has a near-ESP talent for analyzing people's facial microtwitches to discover what they are really thinking, behind their words.

Meanwhile, back on Terra, Marlene's biological father becomes caught up in the effort to discover what's happened to Rotor. And (oh, yeah), it turns out that Nemesis is on course to visit the solar system, and its approach will wobble Earth's orbit just enough to render it uninhabitable. Whoa.

It all sounds complicated, but each new plot twist is pretty well spelled out. As usual with Asimov, a lot of the book is just people talking to each other (with invariably stilted dialog). But he seems to be doing that a lot less here than he did in earlier books. The characters are not-quite-believable, also par for the Asimovian course.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed myself.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-30

Returning to our regularly-scheduled programming:

Proverbs 25:8 is a strange one:

8 What you have seen with your eyes
   do not bring hastily to court,
  for what will you do in the end
    if your neighbor puts you to shame?

I don't know… I am picturing, maybe, an ancient Israel episode of Judge Judy? "Woe be unto him that pisseth on his judge's leg, and swear that it raineth."

Today's Getty image: the dog knows he's seen something, but is about to be put to shame by his neighbor/nemesis, the cat.

■ Jonathan Haidt has a good roundup of the recent imbroglio at Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington: The blasphemy case against Bret Weinstein, and its four lessons for professors. In case you're unaware:

For several years, Evergreen has held a “day of absence” in which students, staff, and faculty of color are invited to stay away from campus and take part in discussions about racism and other intersectional issues, organized by the school’s Director of First Peoples Multicultural Advising Services, Rashida Love. But this year, the event was inverted; people of color were invited to stay on campus while all white people were urged to stay away from campus. White professors were asked to not teach their classes. White students were asked to not attend their classes.

Biology prof Weinstein (who's white) objected, and let Director Love know that he intended to remain on campus and teach his class. At that point, the brown stuff hit the twirly thing; see Haidt's article for the smelly details. He also fits this episode into the context of similar heresies at Yale, Duke, Middlebury, Berkeley, Claremont McKenna, … .

Four lessons are offered to professors, and here's number one:

1) Never object to a diversity policy publicly. It is no longer permitted. You may voice concerns in a private conversation, but if you do it in a public way, you are inviting a visit from a mob or punishment from an administrator.

As always, you are encouraged to peruse the entire article.

Comment: The campus Social Justice Warriors love to pose as victims. Actually, they are much more often aggressors, hoaxers, and demagogues. They inflate any perceived infraction against their theology into "action", leveraging their faux fury into power-play "demands".

■ Kurt Schlicter at Town Hall has a much-noted column: Liberals Are Shocked To Find We’re Starting To Hate Them Right Back. I.e., "we" conservatives—at least some of "us"—are starting to play by the coarse and sometimes violent rules leftists (Schlicter says "liberals") have used for years.

But it's not just "liberals" that earn Schlicter's scorn:

Cue the boring moralizing and sanctimonious whimpering of the femmy, bow-tied, submissive branch of conservatism whose obsolete members were shocked to find themselves left behind by the masses to whom these geeks’ sinecures were not the most important objective of the movement. This is where they sniff, “We’re better than that,” and one has to ask ,“Who’s we?” Because, by nature, people are not better than that. They are not designed to sit back and take it while they are abused, condescended to, and told by a classless ruling class that there are now two sets of rules and – guess what? –the old rules are only going to be enforced against them.

Um. Take that, George F. Will, National Review, et. al.

But here's the thing: if I have to pick a tribe, I'm picking one that is "better than that".

■ Ilya Shapiro writes at Cato about the Fourth Circuit's decision overturning Trump's "travel ban": Courts Shouldn’t Join the #Resistance.

Last week’s travel-ban ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is a travesty. Not because the underlying policy is anything to write home about. As I wrote when the second executive order came out in March, “[r]efugees generally aren’t a security threat, for example, and it’s unclear whether vetting or visa-issuing procedures in the six remaining targeted countries represent the biggest weakness in our border defenses or ability to prevent terrorism on American soil.” But the judiciary simply can’t substitute its own policy judgment for that of our elected representatives, no matter how well-informed judges may be or how misguided they think our political leaders may be.

Shapiro doesn't like the travel ban. But he likes much less judges who make specious arguments to impose their political judgments. His final paragraph is a take-home:

They told me that if Trump won the presidency, the rule of law would suffer. They were right.

■ KDW@NR muses on the recent DUI woes of Tiger Woods, and the historical ones of Allen Iverson. Yes, they may be schmucks, but they're Schmucks Like Us.

We love a celebrity comeuppance. This is in part an ugly species of envy: Why should Tiger Woods get to live like a Roman emperor just for being really good at a game that is, after all, the very definition of a trivial pursuit? And how good an actor do you really need to be to star in Pirates of the Caribbean? How many hundreds of millions of dollars should someone get just for being pretty? There is something in our puritanical national soul that is satisfied by the fact that those who fly higher have farther to fall. These episodes bring out something ignoble in us. But it isn’t just celebrities, of course: The high and mighty are just the ones we talk about. An astonishing share of lottery winners go broke, and it isn’t because people with low character or weak wills are just lucky with the numbers. People like Tiger Woods and Allen Iverson, who win life’s lottery, often have the same bad luck in the end: the bad luck of being human.

KDW is, as usual, wise about this stuff.