November 16th, 2013



There's a meme going around Facebook, someone tags you with a number N and then you write about N Things (or Fun Facts) You May Not Know About Me. While I haven't been specifically targeted, I'm willing to play along. The most common number seems to be N = 7.

Seven things about me you may not know...

(1) I was married in January 1984 by a Cook County judge who never saw us. We were ushered into his chambers and he asked if we minded that he was eating lunch. No problem. Also, he was blind. So he never did see us and his clerk lined up the template so he could sign the marriage certificate.

We went to a 1984 party that night. We were all supposed to have secrets -- ours was that we were married.

When we were making arrangements for a public ceremony at the University of Chicago's Bond Chapel in October, our parents were mad at us that we had been married already.

(2) I was in the Cub Scouts for a couple of years, but the Pack I was in was corrupt from the leaders on down. The last straw was the Pinewood Derby race, where I had the only legal car. Everyone else cheerfully cheated. Naturally I lost. The leadership ignored my complaints -- after all, their sons won.

(3) I once sat within a few inches of a train going by at nearly a hundred miles an hour. Sat on the stairs leading from a high level to the low level platform at Mamaroneck NY, leaning against the railing to take a photograph. An Amtrak train heading southbound to New York, led by a GG-1, was on the outside local track rather than an inside express track.

I am assuming that I was in junior high at the time, so it would have been my Asahi Pentax Spotmatic I was shooting the train with, probably with the 50mm f1.4 normal lens on Agfachrome. The bow wave of air from the speeding locomotive blasted a hail of smaller ballast stones in front of it, and the air knocked over my briefcase standing on the low level platform.

As I recall the slide I shot wasn't very good -- shutter speed wasn't high enough on that gray day with ASA 64 film and reaction time on my part missed the "perfect" framing -- the black GG-1 was too close and blurred and underexposed.

(4) I once drove from Champaign IL to Kissimmee FL straight through in 24 hours. It was -14°F in Champaign and 25°F in Florida. The last hours were rough.

That trip was also the only time I tried Chicken McNuggets. They were brand new and it was just before 11pm in Nashville and we wanted a snack.

(5) I once rode up in an elevator with Gordon Lightfoot. A very polite young man, he was a young singer in the early 1960s, unknown in the States and was filming a Canadian television special on location in the restaurant in either the Seagram Tower or the Skylon Tower, Niagara Falls ON Canada.

While we ate lunch, he kept doing takes of "the river flows by the window" with the Niagara River and the Niagara Falls behind him. At one point the director called for a break and told Gordon to relax. He immediately lay down on the floor, pretending to go to sleep. The crew broke up laughing.

We asked our waitress who this guy was and she breathlessly replied, "That's Gordon Lightfoot!"

My mother located his records and we've been fans ever since.

(6) I spent New Year's 1979 with relatives in Texas, then flew back to Northwestern. But Chicago had been socked by the great blizzard and was just reopening. Our Braniff DC-9 had been delayed and we spent two hours in a holding pattern. When it was finally our turn, we were landing, passed over the threshold, seconds away from touchdown when the pilot went to full throttle, retracted the landing gear and executed a climbing turn where I could look down the wing at the control tower, which we cleared by only a few hundred feet. "Sorry about that." Turned out that due to the sub-zero temperatures, planes waiting for a gate were kept moving in a daisy chain that had to cross the active runways. One flight got stuck on some ice and couldn't clear the runway. Our runway.

We landed half an hour later and got a gate over an hour later at 1:12 am. My luggage had been sent on the earlier flight, but there were mountains of unclaimed bags -- when my bag got to me at the dorm two days later, it was destroyed.

We were too late for the shuttle bus to Evanston, so I split a cab with a couple of other people. Off the meter. Cabbie took fifty bucks from each of us.

Chicago never fully dug out of that blizzard, causing Chicago Mayor Bland Bilandic to lose his reelection bid to Jane Byrne. Later my sister Wendy came up and visited. We saw the Paul Newman flick Quintet at Water Tower Place -- totally appropriate for the Blizzard of '79. (grin)

(7) I had to write the theory chapter of my doctoral dissertation twice. The first one was destroyed by Herbie the Wonder Cat. She had been slowly dying of liver failure and was on antibiotics to cut down on the load on her liver. Periodically we'd have to change drugs when one got ineffective and the ammonia levels would rise and she had seizures.

When she looked a little woggly, I told her not to go behind the computer desk. But she did, had a seizure and managed to unplug the power strip from the wall. I had worked on the equations all day on our 4.77 MHz IBM Personal Computer using a program called ChiWriter -- a very laborious process in 1989.

And I hadn't saved the file all afternoon. Poof.

It was two weeks before I could bear to tackle the theory chapter again. And I still loved Herbie the Wonder Cat. I also enabled autosave on a timer...

Dr. Phil

Seven Score And Ten Years Ago

The World Will Little Note, Nor Long Remember...

I suppose I'm jumping the gun by three days, but I've been struck the last few days by the significance of this.

On Thursday 19 November 1863, the President of a beleaguered United States of America -- or at least the northern portion -- spoke at the dedication of the cemetery for the 1-3 July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg.

The Gettysburg Address
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

from the Canonical Bliss version
Ten sentences. Minor remarks compared to the main dedication speech by the Honorable Edward Everett

That we may have a photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg is getting some scholarly debate.

Ken Burns, of the legendary Civil War documentary series, has apparently shot a video of the reading of The Gettysburg Address for the 150th anniversary, read by the five living Presidents (Jimmy Carter, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama), various news personalities and celebrities. Actually, the video I've seen is a mashup cut of various people reading The Gettysburg Address for a new Ken Burns PBS documentary:
THE ADDRESS, a 90-minute feature length documentary by Ken Burns, will air on PBS in the spring of 2014. The film tells the story of a tiny school in Putney Vermont, the Greenwood School, where each year the students are encouraged to practice, memorize, and recite the Gettysburg Address. In its exploration of the Greenwood School, the film also unlocks the history, context and importance of President Lincoln’s most powerful address.
Rachel Maddow, who is one of the participants, was amused by the headline Taylor Swift and All 5 Living Presidents Recite Gettysburg Address -- ABC News (blog), naming it The Best New Thing In The World. One hesitates to suggest which reading of the personalities involved is the more significant...

We Regret The Error

Via Jay Lake, the Harrisburg Patriot & Union newspaper retracts their original editorial comment:
"We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them, and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of."
In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln’s speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error.

Better late than never, it is a class act on their part. In their defense, I will reiterate that Lincoln's brief remarks were not considered the oration of the day at the time.

Let our quibbles detract not from the significance of Gettysburg or the healing derived from one man's magnificent utterances on our history.

Dr. Phil

Another Market Passing

Over on Facebook, Jeffrey Ford reports he's been told that Electric Velocipede is closing. EV was one of those unique magazines, that like Lady Churchill' s Rosebud Wristlet (Small Beer Press), is hard to categorize. I'm pretty sure I submitted stories there, in the hope that they might be considered special enough to appear there. Alas, twas not to be.

I never had a subscription, but the couple of print copies I have were outstanding. And they managed a long run. Starting in 2001, EV published issues 1-22 in print until 2011, and survived online from issues 23-27 in 2013. A dozen years is amazing, given the number of small markets that I have noted coming and going since 2002. And getting good reviews and a Hugo? Exceptional.

The Electric Velocipede website hasn't confirmed this, so maybe I'm guilty of spreading rumors -- I would hate to give a signal boost to an error and if EV intends to survive or some new owner steps in, I will rejoice -- but I wanted to celebrate their work. And mourn their loss.

Sometimes it seems that all the SF/F/H markets are going away. That's not true, though I tend to comment on this blog more about passing than tenuous creations. But to read stories -- or even more mercenary, to have markets to sell stories to -- requires support by readers. Something we tend to forget in an age of so much free Internet content.

Dr. Phil