Starman Jones

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Another book down on the "Reread Heinlein Novels" project. A mere thirteen left to go! Wish me luck. (I think I read this one just once before, probably sixty years ago, out of some library. Remembered quite a bit of it, not everything.)

This is one of Heinlein's juveniles, originally published in 1953. It tells the story of young Max Jones, who has big dreams of interstellar travel, emulating his late uncle, an "astrogator" in charge of delicately setting the course for the big spaceships. But Max is stuck on his family farm in the Ozarks, dealing with his slatternly stepmother and her brand new loutish husband. When things turn physically abusive, Max heads out for the local spaceport on his very long-shot quest. He meets a seeming hobo, Sam, who provides sage advice, and also robs him of his valuable astrogation textbooks.

Max persists, and through a series of unlikely events, winds up on a starship, in one of the lowliest jobs. But in a series of even more unlikely events, his talent is recognized, he and the ship (and a comely maiden) are cast into deadly peril, and… well, it's a great yarn.

The current edition from Baen Books has an intro from Heinlein's biographer, the late William H. Patterson, Jr. He observes that Heinlein's juvenile works are explicitly modeled after the (even older) Horatio Alger stories, of young boys growing up out of hardship, and prevailing by grit and talent. And there's also an Afterword by Michael Z. Williamson, which notes the enduring value of the book. It's not the technical details, which are absurd to modern readers. (For example, the plot hinges on astrogation being a high-stress "priesthood" occupation demanding massive computers, but also detailed and delicate paper computation. Dude, buy a PC.) But it's really a book about growing up, something that never gets old.

I'm glad the book, like all Heinlein's novels, remains in print. But sadly it lacks Clifford Geary's imaginative illustrations I remember from that long-ago library book; instead we get a generic spaceship landed on a barren planetscape on the cover, something that doesn't actually happen in the book. (You can get a taste of the Geary pics here.)

URLs du Jour


  • Pretty simple Article I stuff. Michael Ramirez says that SCOTUS is Putting a leash on the federal bureaucracy. [SCOTUS leashes the EPA]

    Hoping this becomes a habit.

  • Examples abound. And since Jason Brennan is a university professor, and that university is located in Washington, D. C., he probably has those examples hit him in the face every day:

    I'm kind of a fan. I've I've read some of his books (reported here, here, and here) and he's a graduate of the Universty Near Here.

  • You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps. I think I first saw that on a poster fifty or sixty years ago. And it doesn't have that much to do with Freddie deBoer's article: My Brief Brief Against "Mental Illness is Just Capitalism, Man, the System".

    Someday I will do this long-form and with a lot of sources and such, but I’m writing at the moment out of considerable annoyance. In short, I am so sick and tired of being told by leftists that our mental illness problems (my mental illness problem) are the fault of capitalism, or perhaps some such vague and useless thing as “the system.” Sometimes they say this specifically about suicide as well. I would like to ask compassionate people to stop doing this, and I have the following questions and complaints.

    1. Capitalism is fairly young, while mental illness is not. There are all manner of mental disorders with etiologies strikingly similar to those of modern diseases described in texts from antiquity. How would capitalism cause mental illness thousands of years prior to its birth?

    2. There is no simplistic relationship between the generosity of a country’s social safety net and its rates of mental illness and suicide. The Netherlands, a very generous social state and one that has invested a great deal of money and energy into modern psychiatric services, nevertheless suffers from high rates of mental illness. The Nordic social democratic model not only does not prevent suicidality, it is in fact associated with slightly higher than average rates. The USSR, supposedly home to an alternative economic system, had disturbingly high rates of mental illness. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has some of the highest suicide rates in the world. Meanwhile the advantages that more redistributive states might enjoy in mental wellness are hopelessly confounded by their overall status as wealthy and technologically advanced countries. If the problem is capitalism, why do various approaches to the market economy and attempts to ameliorate its ills not produce stable and significant advantages in mental wellness?

    That's just the first two of ten points deBoer uses to rebut this shoddy slur against capitalism.

    As far as I know, deBoer remains a self-admitted Marxist. He has every reason to yield to very human biases to blame capitalism for… well, everything, including mental illness. But he's resisted that, and good for him. But I have to wonder how long he can continue living in the Marxist camp?

  • "The dog ate our meeting notes" would have been a better excuse. Robby Soave has the story: Oregon Health Officials Delayed a Meeting Because 'Urgency Is a White Supremacy Value'.

    The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is a government agency that coordinates medical care and social well-being in the Beaver State. During the pandemic, OHA was responsible for coordinating Oregon's vaccination drive and disseminating information about COVID-19—both vital tasks.

    The agency's office for equity and inclusion, however, prefers not to rush the business of government. In fact, the office's program manager delayed a meeting with partner organizations on the stated grounds that "urgency is a white supremacy value."

    In an email obtained by Reason, Regional Health Equity Coalition Program Manager Danielle Droppers informed the community that a scheduled conversation between OHA officials and relevant members of the public would not take place as planned.

    "Thank you for your interest in attending the community conversation between Regional Health Equity Coalitions (RHECs) and Community Advisory Councils (CACs) to discuss the Community Investment Collaboratives (CICs)," wrote Droppers. "We recognize that urgency is a white supremacy value that can get in the way of more intentional and thoughtful work, and we want to attend to this dynamic. Therefore, we will reach out at a later date to reschedule."

    COVID is killing an average of 5 Oregonians each day, but they're probably all white supremacists, so no biggie.

    Ms. Droppers referenced a website detailing White Supremacy Culture. And it's not just urgency! The site provides a handy illustration you state bureaucrats can tack up on your cubicle wall and consult any time you need an excuse for your lousy job performance:

    [Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture]

    You're welcome.

  • And yet demands to inhibit this hate speech are absent. Kyle Smith points out The Democrats Hate Guns, Not Crime.

    Perhaps we’re nearing a rapprochement with our friends on the left about what is now the No. 1 concern among the key voting group of Latinos. Yes, Democrats twist themselves into knots when the subject is crime, violent crime, or criminals. But the Dems are finally coming around to the idea that there is at least a problem with “gun violence.”

    That’s the spirit. Darn those guns! They should all be locked up and given hefty prison sentences.

    But this is progress. True, I think most Americans understand guns to be built into the equation when it comes to violent crime. People don’t greatly fear being attacked with slingshots or blow darts. Still, if it will make Democrats happy to frame our very disturbing crime problem as “gun violence,” I will go along. Ordinarily, Democrats have as much difficulty saying the word “criminal” as Fonzie had when he tried and failed to admit he was wrong. We’ll be happy to reframe criminals as “people involved with the perpetration of gun violence” if Democrats will agree to put such people in prison for appropriate periods of time. The interest they show in doing this is limited.

    Kyle notes the good old days when Joe Biden boasted of a bill he championed containing “60 new death penalties,” “70 enhanced penalties,” “100,000 cops,” and “125,000 new state prison cells”. Nowadays… well, you're not going to hear that language out of him in 2022.

Last Modified 2022-07-03 9:29 AM EDT