June 29, 2007

The Jacket / Project Gutenberg

Thanks to The Primate Brow for putting me on to a great book about time travel, The Jacket (The Star-Rover) written by Jack London and published in 1915.

All my life I have had an awareness of other times and places. I have been aware of other persons in me. ­Oh, and trust me, so have you, my reader that is to be. Read back into your childhood, and this sense of awareness I speak of will be remembered as an experience of your childhood. You were then not fixed, not crystallized. You were plastic, a soul in flux, a consciousness and an identity in the process of forming-- ­ay, of forming and forgetting.

You have forgotten much, my reader, and yet, as you read these lines, you remember dimly the hazy vistas of other times and places into which your child eyes peered.


It is time that I introduce myself. I am neither fool nor lunatic. I want you to know that, in order that you will believe the things I shall tell you. I am Darrell Standing. Some few of you who read this will know me immediately. But to the majority, who are bound to be strangers, let me exposit myself. Eight years ago I was Professor of Agronomics in the College of Agriculture of the University of California. Eight years ago the sleepy little university town of Berkeley was shocked by the murder of Professor Haskell in one of the laboratories of the Mining Building. Darrell Standing was the murderer.

I am Darrell Standing. I was caught red-handed. Now the right and the wrong of this affair with Professor Haskell I shall not discuss. It was purely a private matter. The point is, that in a surge of anger, obsessed by that catastrophic red wrath that has cursed me down the ages, I killed my fellow professor. The court records show that I did; and, for once, I agree with the court records.

Darrell is put in a restraining device, The Jacket, at San Quentin and it induces a trance in which he can travel through space and time.


This book is available for free, through the internet, thanks to Project Gutenberg. You can download it, reformat it, read it on the screen, print it out, whatever you like.

Click here to download The Jacket from Project Gutenberg.

Project Gutenberg is the world's oldest digital library, started in 1971 by Michael Hart who began by typing in hundreds of public domain books. Later came volunteer typophiles, and then scanners. Currently there are over 100,000 books in the collection. Here are the top 20 downloads from June 28, 2007:

1. Manual of Surgery by Alexander Miles and Alexis Thomson (678)
2. Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period by Paul Lacroix (426)
3. Jokes For All Occasions by Anonymous (397)
4. Searchlights on Health by B. G. Jefferis and J. L. Nichols (333)
5. The People's Common Sense Medical Adviser in Plain English by Ray Vaughn Pierce (288)
6. Woman as Decoration by Emily Burbank (282)
7. Kamasutra by Vatsyayana (281)
8. The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce (257)
9. Our Day by William Ambrose Spicer (253)
10. Illustrated History of Furniture by Frederick Litchfield (238)
11. The Practice and Science of Drawing by Harold Speed (224)
12. The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci — Complete by Leonardo da Vinci (220)
13. The Bontoc Igorot by Albert Ernest Jenks (216)
14. The Real Mother Goose (212)
15. Amusements in Mathematics by Henry Ernest Dudeney (206)
16. The Mafulu by Robert Wood Williamson (202)
17. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (201)
18. History of the United States by Charles A. Beard and Mary Ritter Beard (199)
19. Ulysses by James Joyce (198)
20. Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great - Volume 01 by Elbert Hubbard (190)

June 26, 2007


Food for thought.

Cost of a barrel

Cost of buying a barrel of light sweet crude oil, in dollars. Oil is amazing stuff. It can be light, sweet and crude, all at the same time.

Cost of a dollar

Cost of buying a dollar, in Euros.

June 25, 2007

The Pope on Cars

I really liked the Pope's Driver's Ten Commandments.

1. You shall not kill.

2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.

5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

7. Support the families of accident victims.

8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

10. Feel responsible toward others.

June 13, 2007

Dinner conversation

Every year I help organize a conference in the beginning of June. It takes some effort, hence the blogging gap. The meeting went really well this year.
Saturday night I was eating dinner. There happened to be a lot of women at the table including a Professor from a leading California University, and another man, a Danish salesman. The Professor had a lot of interesting things to say, like when they advertise a faculty position only 10% of the applicants are women, although over half of their students are female. She said that the women applicants are all good, but that a third of the male applicants can be thrown out right away. No chance at all. The women are better at self-selecting.
The salesman on my left nudged me with his elbow. 'Smart men know when to keep their mouths shut,' he said.
The Professor said how most women scientists are married to men who are scientists, whereas male scientists tend to have mates outside of science. Thus the famous 'two body problem': its nearly impossible to find one faculty position in your field, much less two, so the story goes. But the professor said this was a myth. She and her husband had no trouble finding jobs at the same university.
The salesman told me that what the women scientists should do was marry bricklayers. I poured some more wine into his glass.
The Professor said how all of the older men in her department had been really supportive when she was on maternity leave and had two children. They were old enough to have daughters her age, who perhaps had chosen not to go into science, who may also have been dealing with the problems of career and family. They also thought kids were cute. I really liked hearing this.
The salesman told me how easy it was to spot breast implants. True story!
The professor continued saying how the good men today spent time with their kids, did the dishes, and how maybe the older men in her department regretted that they had missed this stage in thier own children's lives.
The salesman told me how he would only clean his side of the windshield, not his wife's, so when it rained she couldn't see out. The dissonance was killing me.
So anyway, I can tell you that I was really glad to hear some positive news from the equality front. Its tough for anyone to have a career, but most likely more so if you are a woman with a family. And who wouldn't want to work in a balanced workplace?


It was a good day today because I got to shout at a gang of teenagers. This is one of the few pleasures still open to folks like me. Here's how it went down. I was riding my bike back from the store with a load of groceries, milk, potatos, bananas. I heard a sharp wooden crack from the playground and so I circled back and stopped my bike at the end of a path, watching the sandy clearing. It didn't take long for a teenage boy to say 'My turn!'. He climbed onto the platform above the slide, crossed the rope bridge and kicked the plank wall, hard. I stepped forward. 'What the hell do you think you're doing?' I said in English. He turned and looked at me. 'My kids play here' I said. He gathered his wits and figured out how to say something in English, 'I'm a kid too, I'm playing.' I turned to his buddies on the bench who were having fun watching their pal fend off the nutty foreigner. Perfect Swedish: 'You all think this is funny, kicking apart playground equipment?' That threw them off balance. A moment passed and the teenager climbed off the tower and said he was sorry. I got on my bike and rode away.

Those teenagers tick me off. It's not just that I don't want my kids to fall over the railing and land on a nail, not just that, it's that teenagers today need to think about what they are doing and channel their hormones to a higher purpose-- girls say, music or parties, or overturning the world order. The Primate Brow got me thinking along these lines. Today's teens are the lost generation.

June 03, 2007


This figure shows the official monthly average temperature where we live, blue line on top, and the average monthly temperature 1961 to 1990. We didn't have much of a winter this year-- normal September temperatures lasted into December. Spring was a month early. Statistically there is a greater chance of a room full of monkeys with computers creating Pong then there is of this being natural variation.

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