Initial Transmission After Arrival, from the First Automated Spacecraft from the Pluto/Charon System, “Wizonn Shore,” to Visit the Mysterious Planet Earth, Surrounded by Its Atmosphere of High-Pressure Nitrogen (and Toxic Oxygen) High-Temperature Vapors

[Source: This is the lead story in the most recent issue of The Charon Space Central Daily, published electronically every 6th or 7th Earth day, since Pluto’s day lasts almost as long as our week. I simply translated it into English, after I intercepted the transmission, so that at least some other humans can read it.]

Earth is the most massive of the inner rocky planets, with the mass of 459 plutos, according to the most accurate measurements relayed so far by Wizonn Shore, in recent days, on the robotic spacecraft’s approach to the giant rocky world. Earth’s radius, 5.5 times that of Pluto, gives it a volume of about 160 plutos, so it is almost three times as dense as either of our homeworlds. Its surface area, as the largest rocky body in the solar system, is almost 23 times greater than that of Pluto and Charon combined. However, as this chart shows, much of Earth’s surface is covered with deadly oceans, utterly useless for any form of life as it evolved in the Pluto / Charon system. These enormous accumulations of liquid dihydrogen monoxide are the largest yet discovered anywhere, so incredibly hot (averaging ~300 kelvins) that, at Earth’s high atmospheric pressure, that compound exists as a freely-flowing, highly-reactive liquid covering over 70% of earth’s surface, except for rare areas where it is frozen, mostly near the poles and/or at the top of Earth’s taller mountains. Unfortunately, 300 kelvins is about seven times what natives of Pluto, Charon, or our colonies are used to, in terms of temperatures above absolute zero, so Earth is believed by most scientists to hold no potential for colonization.

It was this high temperature that prevented exploration of the inner solar system’s rocky planets — until recent developments in high-temperature adaptive technology made it possible for us to begin our exploration of the inner solar system, breaking the previously-inviolable heat-barrier at the asteroid belt, and sending our now more heat-resistant spacecraft into the previously “forbidden” region — first, Mars, which has been studied already with two separate mission; and now, finally, Earth. The exploration of Venus and Mercury by robot craft, however, at least for now, awaits further improvements in heat-resistant materials science.

 

The first surface-reconnaissance rover, similar to those used on Mars, was sent to a place with relatively low large-alien population density, as estimated by artificial light-output from different parts of the land surface, during Earth’s night. However, of course, its landing position had to be somewhere in the 29.2% of Earth’s surface not covered with oceans — for a rover landing in liquid dihydrogen monoxide would instantly be destroyed, as it sank to ever-more-crushing pressures in a hot liquid often called, on decoded Earth voice-transmissions, “water.” On both Pluto and Charon, in all laboratory experiments, this dangerous “water” has quickly rendered inert any electronic components — of anything — to which it is exposed. (Indeed, this, as well as the numerous deaths which resulted, was the reason that such “water” experiments have largely been abandoned, except by Earth-colonization advocates who have, a few admit, no good answers to the questions about Earth already being inhabited, nor how to deal with the toxic oxygen gas making up nearly one-fifth of Earth’s atmosphere.)

Despite the care given to choosing a landing-spot, this was still the first and only image sent before our spacecraft’s first rover was unexpectedly deactivated, for unknown reasons. These reasons are suspected to be related to the strange, pink alien creature dominating the image, although that is, at this point, speculation.

With data transmissions from the first landing probe ceased, Pluto/Charon’s automated spacecraft Wizonn Shore, launched from Charon eight years ago, continues to take pictures, from Earth-orbit, as fast as it can, while waiting on instructions from Charon Space Central regarding when to risk launching a second landing rover. Transmission of the images taken from orbit is a secondary priority to actually taking the pictures, as is happening now, so our news services do not yet have images of Earth of any higher resolutions than those already sent as Wizonn Shore approached Earth over the last few weeks.

While there has been some speculation in the press that the alien pictured in the one image sent from Earth might be the dominant species on Earth, that is not supported by visual transmissions decoded in the radio part of the electromagnetic spectrum, most of which depict the activity of a relatively hairless biped which compensates for its nudity, for reasons unknown, by covering itself with “clothes,” the buying and selling of which is, judging from the transmissions we have decoded so far, a major activity for Earth’s bipedal inhabitants.

It is these mysterious bipeds, and their activity as observed by our own devices, which all of Pluto, Charon, and our colonies on the outer moons are waiting to see images of, as taken by Wizonn Shore. Will it match what they beam out in all directions, using radio waves, with what seems to be careless abandon — or will the “as seen on TV” version of Earth prove to be an elaborate deception, on the part of Earth’s inhabitants?

Of course, the computers processing these images do not care about our collective frustration, and so we continue to wait. Might “clothes” be adopted only at a certain age by Earth’s dominant bipeds? Might that single, naked, pink-skinned alien, photographed by our short-lived landing-rover, simply be an immature form of the same species? At this time, those questions, and more, remain open.

Free the Frozen People!

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After seeing this sign in a local grocery store, I carefully searched the entire frozen food section, but I could find neither the frozen Mexican, nor the frozen Asian. Since they were gone, but the sign indicates they were there at one point, I concluded that the experiment was over, and hoped they had thawed out both experimental test subjects, found them still healthy after a few days in cryogenic suspended animation, and sent them home, each with a fat check to compensate them for the huge risk they just took.

However, even with compensation and signed consent forms, I still have certain ethical reservations about scientists performing this sort of experiment on actual human beings. Why not freeze, thaw, refreeze, and rethaw mice, instead? Is PETA really that scary?

Are they still doing these experiments, in my town or elsewhere? If so . . . free the frozen people!

There is one last thing about this whole thing which I just can’t figure out, though, and that’s this: why were they storing their frozen, experimental, human test subjects in the middle of a central Arkansas grocery store in the first place?

Orcus and Vanth

There’s a binary dwarf-planet-candidate / large satellite pair, way out in the outer solar system, called Orcus and Vanth. Much like the “double dwarf planet” Pluto/Charon, and the other satellites in that system, Orcus and Vanth orbit the sun in a 3:2 resonance with Neptune, and this orbit crosses that of Neptune, as well. The Orcus/Vanth binary system is sometimes referred to as the “anti-Pluto,” because, unlike most “plutinos” (as such distant objects, in orbital resonance with Neptune, are called), Orcus and Vanth have a strange — and, so far, unexplained — relationship with the Pluto/Charon system. When Pluto and Charon are closest to the sun (perihelion), Orcus and Vanth are at their furthest from the sun (aphelion), and vice-versa. So far as I have been able to determine, this is not true for any other known plutinos. For more on the real Orcus and Vanth, please check this Wikipedia page.

Those are the scientific facts, as we know them . . . and now, it’s time for some silliness. On Facebook, recently, I mentioned that “Orcus” and “Vanth” really would make good names for comic book characters, but that I couldn’t decide what they should look like, nor what powers they should have. A discussion with some of my friends followed, and, together, we decided that Orcus should be a tough fighter-type, while “Vanth” sounded like a name for some sort of spell-caster. It didn’t take long before I decided I should visit one of the numerous create-your-own-comic-book-character websites, and go ahead and make quasi-anthropomorphized images of Orcus and Vanth — the characters, not the outer solar-system objects.

I used a website called Hero Machine for this diversionwhich you can find here. First, I created an image for a character named Orcus.

orcus

Unfortunately, I didn’t discover (until it was too late) that this website allows the user to change the background . . . and I didn’t want to re-make Orcus, so I went ahead and created an image of his companion, Vanth, instead.

vanth

I don’t have the time, nor the artistic talent, to write and illustrate actual comic book stories featuring this pair of characters . . . but perhaps someone will read this, and decide they want to take on such a project. That’s fine with me . . . but I want credit (in writing, each issue) for creating them, and, if the endeavor makes any money, I want at least 20% of the profits, and that’s if I have nothing more to do with creating Orcus and Vanth stories, beyond what is posted here. If I do have additional involvement, of course, we’ll need to carefully negotiate the terms of a contractual agreement. I consider 20% fair for simply creating images of this pair of characters, but actually co-creating stories would be something else altogether.

By the way, although Orcus certainly looks scarier, Vanth is actually the more formidable of the pair. She just pretends to play the “side-kick” role, in order to preserve the element of surprise, for situations when, during their adventures, Orcus finds himself in over his head, and Vanth then needs to really cut loose with the full extent of her abilities.

“That’s Not Fair!” — A Response to This Common Phrase

Gamora-Classic_(High_Res)

Source of quote: Guardians Team-Up #6.

Source of image: http://avengersalliance.wikia.com/wiki/Gamora/Gallery

Firstflight, Lastflight (an illustrated short story)

Making show never did prize me when soberfied, but that undescribed me that day, and, for that mistake, payment was failsafely, fullwise, and painly made. Tranqued with Euphenol, selfbought at the official dispensing-machine on Convenience Corner, right after worktime, methought melooked mighty brave strolling wrongway homewise on my hands, feet toepointed at the otherseyes, down a steel walkway crowded with those farmore sensehaving, so neither of my LifeLine© MagnetShoes touched metal, but as soon as Unitility’s gravsynths fritzed surprising, I felt notimpressive, floating rapidly away from the crowd.

Weightlessness bit me mid-handspring, and sent me flying, but I was too headspun to realize predicamental situation until my homehalf of our Megalopolis already could be seen in entireness, several deathfalls away. Soon my home fragment of ShatteredEarth looked only littlemuch bigger than neighbor skyrocks, and the cities otherfolk in othercities had built on them, as our own beforefolk had built Megalopolis. Wheezing suddenly brought meself realizing: the thinning air would set me freesome if Unitility’s repairs took much longer. Time passed, and bleakness grew as hope thinned. I watched Megalopolis, overcrowded skyrock of ours, rotate in the . . . or was it me rotating? I couldn’t figure out how to tell, and this added “headache” to growing problemlist.

Augmented Convex hull

My bubble of air biggifying as it bled away spacewise I could see, for this bubble was debrislittered, spaced evenish out here, but more crowded nearer our skyrock — paper, waterblobs, cloudpuffs, disoriented pigeons, half-eaten McFood left behind — but no other people out in the thinning bubble, just my sad self, now far away from safeness anykind. Apparently Euphenol overleaped me earlier, and, thus obliviated, I ended up the only fool I could see with sufficient maltimed stupidity to fall off the world. Most got away in shuttles , justvisible and receding to vanishment, or simply stayed inside the cubicles in our towers to safely outwait events, while a few on the surface I could only barelysee, with muchwise squinting. Each flailed arms, but all safely stuck to home skyrock by safety magnets at their feet. Unitility blackouts never lasted overlong, especially for gravservice; they’d likely live, not being me that day, for the air stayed thicker nearer to our skyrock, leaking only slowly from its insulasafed towers.

Luck having clearwise left me, my flightpath then entered the last raincloud in the thinning Megalopolis atmosphere, and instantly drenched I startled, from ends of my floating hair to toestips, moisture entering even my feetboots with their nowuseless safetymagnets that seemednow mocking me. It was frigid inside the cloud, and I watched in sockhorror as the water on my hand start freezing, ice spreading over my skin and standardissue clothiform, at about a centimeters per heartbeat, from multiple locations. Even though I wasn’t speaking, mouthchatter quicklike so bad made me fear teethcracks from the constantlike repeated impactstrikings. Remembering last dental torture-session determined me not to endure that level of pain while in my likely lastseconds, so clenched my teeth together determined, hardwise, to stopchatter, and this worked. At least one thing was on path, myway, now.

Not long, though. Leaving the cloud on the otherside, pressuregrowing inside me forced mouth fullopen, and more air than I knew I had speedily left, from both lungbottoms, up allway. I could hear bubbling from somewhere inside, wondered what and exactly where it was, then deciding not to know indeed was the better. Dental painmemories were now distanced as new pain eclipsed it hereandnow, from the vacuum conditions approaching. Newpain competed with growing dizzisorientation from samecause. Closed my eyes, notwishing seeing.

Suddenrealizing closing eyes seriously mistaken, started vomitmuch, then realized eyes were frozenshut while finishing uneating afterlunch’s, then lunch’s, then wakefast’s McFood. Panicked clawing at eyes quickly got one open partwise. It was enough permitting seeing, but liking what seen not happened. Big, bulging silver eye was growing towards me full of quickness, already filling most all of what I could see. It had iris lavished every color everseen and some hadn’t before, and the pupil, while small, clearly pointed in no other direction than me. Could an eye that large see all people? Surely, but at that moment its focus was clearly on me, leaving others forgotten for what moments remained of my consciousness. I shook my head, and the illusion was shattered; I thensaw what it had morphed from, which was the thing we still called the Moon, full bright now. Why did we still call it the Moon, I wondered, since the known pieces of ShatteredEarth now orbited it, not otherway aroundwise?

Coldifying broke as sudden heat grew backside my head, diverting focus from the Moon and all the skyrocks closeful enough to seeing. Turning around freefalling not close to easy, but I did it — was by swimming-motions against what air remained, making seen the heatsource: the Sunstar, unaffected by lastcentury’s Earthshatter. Sunstar then grewsize, as fading consciousness sent hallucinavision back myway, until the morphing orb grew even larger than my previous Moon-based vision of One Big Eye staring at onlyme. As I thought these weirdthoughts, the sun started changing its appearance, growing eyes everyway around.

Snub Dodeca

Feelinglike unexpectedly challenged, but voiceless with breathloss, I could but headshout at what I saw, but did so loudlymuch, enough to deafen a t’path, had one unlucked near: Die! Die! Die! I can stare anyone down! For a moment, triumph filled me as my headshouting seemlyworked — the sun greyed out, and then vanished altogether. I saw nothingness! The Sunstar itself was defeated!

No, idiot, you just selfblinded, staring at the Sunstar!  This thought, my most rational of allday, made me attempt screamreacting, but the mere wisps of air remaining were not enough to allow sonics from my effort. All I selfgained was an increase in the bodywide painstabbings, to levels I never knew everhappened.

In the darkness, another eye appeared, like the ones I had seen on the Sunstar, but based on nothing but rememberings now, since I could see nothingcept. There were changing swirlsparks everywhere within it, timed precisely with the growing pounding from within my skull and chest. Panic didn’t happen, but only because of the dizzycalm which sometimes happens from lackoxy. I got lost wondering what a headpop might feel like. Would I just puff away, like a candleblown, or would I painfully feel the bursting of each nerve and blood vessel? Detachment was now extreme, muchso that I carednot which. The eye got nearmuch, so that I should have been able to reachtouch the pupil, but my arms weren’t listening to brainorders to move. I fell then, tumbling, into eyecenter, a pupil far wider than my own height.

My contactmoment with its cornea’s thickslime covering provoked a spasm of the entire eye, scaring me to new levels. Meter-thick eyelids rushed toward me from twindirections opposite. My last heartbeat was deafening, in literality — I heard nothing more. Time remained for only a silent finalthought. What a way to lose a staring contest: death by Sunblink —

# # #

[The images above were made with Stella 4d, available here. Geometer’s Sketchpad and MS-Paint were also used, as well as a background image, which I altered, from this website.]

A Short Short Story, Set In an Alternate Universe

QE2 and Patrick Stewart

Having run out of appeals, the famous actor bravely stood ready, as Queen Elizabeth II readied her ceremonial sword. Suddenly, a high-pitched voice from the gallery cried out, “Please, Your Majesty! Your Highness, please — anyone but Patrick Stewart! Spare him, and I will die in his place!”

Her heart moved by this young fan’s simple plea, the Queen slowly put down her sword. She carried out no executions that day, to the relief of millions of fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation, from all around the world. However, for the rest of his life, anyone who wanted to see Patrick Stewart had to visit the Tower of London to do so, during the limited hours of visitation permitted for guests of the prisoners there.

[Image credit:  see this website.]

On Life, and Death, in the Marvel Comics Universe

o death

To write this, I did a lot of research, and had much help from friends. One of them, Craig Deaton, gave permission for his name to be used, but the others have not. I am grateful to them all.

This is a compilation of three lists, for purposes of comparison and analysis, and concerns life, death, being “unkilled,” then “re-killed” after being unkilled, and then, sometimes, being “re-unkilled,” and so on. In other words, the topic here is bad writing, and a terribly overused plot device. To (try to) keep this simple, I’m limiting this survey to the primary Marvel Comics universe, in which Earth is called, for reasons I do not understand, Earth-616. I started this yesterday, by simply posting some questions on Facebook, and watched, with growing amazement, as the information started pouring in.

The shortest of these lists includes only comic book characters who are currently dead, but whom I have high confidence Marvel will unkill, before too long.

  1. Wolverine, a/k/a James “Logan” Howlett
  2. Uatu, a/k/a The Watcher
  3. Charles Xavier, a/k/a Professor X

At least two of these characters (Wolverine and Professor X) have been killed, and then resurrrected, before, and I will be shocked if this process is not repeated, again (and again, and again, and again…).

The next list includes characters who have been killed, have actually remained dead, so far, and whose resurrections I do not (at least not fully) expect.

  1. The Abomination
  2. The Ancient One (associated with Dr. Strange)
  3. Hector Ayala, the Black, Hispanic, male version of the White Tiger, killed after Matt Murdock failed to secure his acquittal on a murder charge, of which Ayala was innocent
  4. Blink, of the X-Men
  5. Daken, son of Wolverine
  6. Jean DeWolf, a police detective who used to work with Spider-Man
  7. Dr. Doom’s mother
  8. Leland Drummond, a corrupt FBI man involved in “outing” Daredevil’s secret identity
  9. Richard Fisk, son of the Kingpin (Wilson Fisk)
  10. Flashback, a little-known mutant killed in a weird time-travel scenario created by his own superpowers
  11. Bill Foster, a/k/a Goliath, a/k/a Black Goliath
  12. Adolf Hitler, a/k/a Hate Monger (brought back from the dead, and then re-killed)
  13. Karen Page, the primary love interest of Matt Murdock’s (Daredevil’s) life
  14. Mar-Vell, a Kree warrior who went by the name “Captain Marvel”
  15. Microbe, of the New Warriors
  16. “Battlin’ Jack” Murdock, best-known as Daredevil’s father
  17. Namorita, of the New Warriors
  18. Night Thrasher, of the New Warriors
  19. Scott Perkins, a police officer whom Hector Ayala (see above) was falsely convicted of killing, despite Matt Murdock’s best efforts, as his lawyer, to secure Ayala’s acquittal
  20. Pyro, one of many foes of the X-Men, who was killed, brought back as a zombie, and then killed again
  21. Spider-Man’s father
  22. Spider-Man’s mother
  23. Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben
  24. Gwen Stacy, former girlfriend of Spider-Man
  25. Katherine Anne Summers, the mother of the mutants Cyclops, Havok, and Vulcan
  26. Turbo (the original one)
  27. The chain of unnamed criminals who first got Daredevil’s secret identity from Karen Page to Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of crime, and were then ordered killed by Fisk
  28. Numerous unnamed people who lack superpowers, and also lack connections to superheroes who are neither Daredevil, nor Spider-Man
  29. The unnamed woman whom Daredevil’s wife Milla, under the influence of mind control, pushed in front of an oncoming subway train, leading to Milla’s institutionalization
  30. At least one person affected by the Wendigo curse (killed by the Red Hulk)

What can we learn from the list above? Well, for one thing, characters in the Marvel Universe who have no superpowers should stay far away from both Daredevil and Spider-Man.

The last list, and easily the longest, includes characters who have recovered from death at least once, and are currently alive in this fictional universe — one where death obviously “has a very loose grip,” as one of my friends on Facebook phrased it.

  1. Bucky Barnes / The Winter Soldier, and, briefly, Captain America
  2. Bullseye
  3. Cannonball
  4. Captain America / Steve Rogers
  5. Colossus, of the X-Men
  6. Cyclops / Scott Summers, of the X-Men
  7. Cypher / Doug Ramsey, of the New Mutants
  8. Daredevil / Matt Murdock
  9. Darwin, of the X-Men
  10. Dead Girl (except that she’s still sort of dead, being, after all, Dead Girl)
  11. Elektra
  12. Firebrand
  13. Vanessa Fisk, estranged wife of Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin
  14. Galactus
  15. Jean Grey (not exactly the same as Phoenix)
  16. The Grim Reaper (brother of Wonder Man)
  17. Havok / Alex Summers
  18. Hawkeye / Clint Barton / Ronin
  19. The Human Torch (original android version)
  20. Loki, Norse God of Mischief
  21. Longshot, of the X-Men
  22. Moira McTaggert, friend of the X-Men
  23. Mockingbird, ex-wife of Hawkeye
  24. Mysterio / Quintin Beck
  25. Nightcrawler, of the X-Men
  26. The Owl / Leland Owlsley
  27. Petra, of the X-Men
  28. Phoenix (not exactly the same as Jean Grey)
  29. Agent Preston
  30. Kathryn “Kitty” Pryde, of the X-Men
  31. Madelyne Pryor, estranged wife of Cyclops / Scott Summers
  32. Psylocke, of the X-Men
  33. The Punisher / Frank Castle
  34. The Red Skull
  35. Rogue, of the X-Men
  36. The Sentry
  37. Speed, of the Young Avengers
  38. Spider-Man / Peter Parker
  39. Spider-Man’s Aunt May
  40. Spider-Man’s clone
  41. Storm / Ororo Munroe, of the X-Men
  42. Hope Summers, of the X-Men
  43. Sway, of the X-Men
  44. Tarot
  45. The Thing / Benjamin Grimm
  46. Thunderbird, of the X-Men
  47. Toro, the original (android) version of the Human Torch
  48. Trickshot
  49. The Vision
  50. Vulcan, of the X-Men (brother of Cyclops and Havok)
  51. Wiccan, of the Young Avengers
  52. Wonder Man
  53. Wong, associated with Dr. Strange
  54. Zzzax

It is clear that the most effective way to cheat death, in the Marvel Universe, is simply to be one of the X-Men. Are there more characters who should be on this list? Yes, but we all got tired after several hours of this, and moved on to other things.

Seriously, though, Marvel needs to stop doing this.

However . . . they won’t.

The Five Fictional Characters Who Have Most Strongly Influenced My Life

These five fictional characters have strongly influenced me, and I will always be grateful to the brilliant people who created them. I am presenting them in chronological order — using the time when this influence started, rather than their date of creation.

#1: Snoopy

Snoopy2

When I was very young — before my memory-record begins, actually — I was given Peanuts books. They were simply left in my possession, as far as I know; no explanation was necessary. The antics of Snoopy, in particular, were extremely entertaining to the little-kid version of me. Since I could see Snoopy dancing around, playing baseball, typing, irritating Lucy, etc., I wanted to understand what was actually going on with all this activity — and this provided the necessary motivation for me to teach myself how to read. There wasn’t any other way for me to tell what was going on in these comic strips!

The fact that I learned to read in this manner led to some very funny moments, due to the fact that the number of words whose meaning I understood, generally from context, exceeded the number of words I knew how to pronounce — and, no doubt, still does. Once, in elementary school, I was laughed at by an entire class, after saying something about the “Eeffel Tower” (yes, that’s how I pronounced it). I also remember pronouncing the “b” in “doubt,” much to the amusement of my parents. Even in graduate school, I made a history professor groan in agony when I made a reference to the Weimar Republic — and pronounced the “W” as it is pronounced in English, rather than German.

#2: Mr. Spock

Spock

A scientist aboard a starship, exploring the galaxy, who uses logic to try to understand two things:  the nature of the universe (much of which he understood), and the behavior of illogical humans (something which confuses me to this day, just as it often confounded him). The first person I remember seeing on television had pointed ears, and there were several of them in that episode, “Amok Time.” In other episodes, of course, few Vulcans other than Mr. Spock appeared, and I always found him, to use one of his favorite words, “fascinating.” He influenced me in several ways, and still does, to this day. I am grateful to the creators of this character for inspiring my passion for science, ability to use logic, appreciation of diversity, and strong desire to maintain control of my emotions.

#3: Matt Murdock / Daredevil

daredevil

I may not have red hair, but I share many other characteristics with Daredevil — and I mean the character from comic books, not that disappointing B-movie (which deserves no further mention). Other than amplified senses — which I experience (unpleasantly) when I get migraines — Daredevil has no superpowers, yet he faces, and does battle with, super-powered villains, and usually wins. He is also a study in contradictions: a lapsed Catholic, who spends a lot of time dressed in a devil costume; a lawyer, with a second “career” as a costumed vigilante; and a blind man, who nonetheless perceives the world around him more clearly than anyone else. Matt Murdock has inspired me to respect the concept of justice, has influenced me to study what laws I need to understand, and, most importantly, has shown me, by example, how to face down those who would do harm to those I care about — and do it, as Daredevil does, without fear. I have also developed my “never give up” attitude, toward my adversaries (bullies, mostly), with inspiration from this character.

Matt Murdock and I have also had very rocky histories when it comes to romantic relationships. I have (finally) found happiness in this aspect of life, and am writing this next to my beloved, sleeping wife. Unfortunately, the writers of Daredevil, while they will let Matt Murdock enjoy temporary happiness in relationships with women, will never allow him to keep it.

#4: Data

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Data is amazing to me:  a sentient android, and an artificial person. He actually had to go on trial to assert his rights to personhood, and, with the aid of Captain Picard, won the case. He has a lightning-speed calculator, built right in to his positronic brain, which far exceeds the abilities of my own, not-too-shabby mental calculator. I have long had the ambition to gain the ability to reprogram my own brain’s “software,” and have written, on this blog, about how I finally gained that ability, after working on developing it for roughly thirty years. Data, of course, had this ability from the moment he was activated, but, unlike me, he does not have to sleep for it to work.

Despite his claim to experience no emotions, Data often expressed a feeling of being perpetually alone, for there was no one else like him anywhere — until he met his brother, another android, who turned out to be malicious. That feeling of being unlike everyone else is quite familiar to me.

Both Data, and Mr. Spock, display many characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome, and my study of these two characters helped me figure out that I am, myself, an “Aspie” — our nickname for ourselves.

#5: Calvin

Calvin_by_Watterson

When I am playing (and, yes, I play a lot, especially with mathematics), and someone asks me why I, an adult, am playing, I have a standard reply: “Because I’m six.” This is a reference to Calvin, who was six years old during the entire ten-year run of Calvin and Hobbes, the best comic strip ever created. I read it from the first day it appeared in newspapers, and have the boxed set of the complete collection of these comic strips only a meter away, as I write this. Calvin is a six-year old prodigy, as one can tell from his expansive vocabulary, but is prone to making social errors, due to a lack of understanding of social conventions — and both of these things mirror my own life. (I grew up, literally, in science laboratories, unsupervised for hours at a time, designing and conducting my own experiments, and that sort of thing simply doesn’t happen without having profound effects on a child’s development — but, then again, why would I want to be normal?) Calvin, like myself, found elementary school boring in the extreme, and so he slipped, frequently, into his own inner life of fantasy. The fact that, being socially isolated (no siblings, and no friends, other than his stuffed tiger), he is usually alone, never stopped Calvin from having fun. Just like Calvin, I can have unlimited fun, in solitude — because I choose to be this way. Some adults lose the child within them, but, thanks to Calvin’s inspiration, that will never happen to me. I’m actually 46 years old now — so I’m pretty sure that, if I was ever going to lose the ability to have fun, it would have happened already.

To those brilliant people who invented these five characters: thank you.

Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009

censorship

The best ways to celebrate Banned Books Week (which is going on now) are to read/buy/give away banned books, and/or donate money to libraries which deliberately put banned books in the circulating collection, as all good libraries do.

I’ve color-coded the list below. Books in red, I have read in their entirety. Books in blue, I have read some of, but have not (yet) finished. Also, now that I know they’re on this list, I’m likely to add some of the books in black, which I have not yet read, to my “books-to-read” list. There are few things I hate as much as censorship.

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling

2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell

5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou

7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz

8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman

9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers

12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris

13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey

14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

16. Forever, by Judy Blume

17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous

19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

20. King and King, by Linda de Haan

21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

22. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar

23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry

24. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak

25. Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan

26. Beloved, by Toni Morrison

27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier

28. Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson

29. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney

30. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier

31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones

32. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya

33. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson

34. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler

35. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison

36. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

37. It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris

38. Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles

39. Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane

40. Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank

41. Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher

42. The Fighting Ground, by Avi

43. Blubber, by Judy Blume

44. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher

45. Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly

46. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby: The First Graphic Novel by George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the creators of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey

48. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez

49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey

50. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

51. Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan

52. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson

53. You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco

54. The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole

55. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green

56. When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester

57. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause

58. Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going

59. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes

60. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

61. Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle

62. The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard

63. The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney

64. Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park

65. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien

66. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor

67. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham

68. Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez

69. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

70. Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen

71. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park

72. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison

73. What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras

74. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

75. Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry

76. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving

77. Crazy: A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert

78. The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein

79. The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss

80. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck

81. Black Boy, by Richard Wright

82. Deal With It!, by Esther Drill

83. Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds

84. So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins

85. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher

86. Cut, by Patricia McCormick

87. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume

88. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

89. Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger

90. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle

91. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George

92. The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar

93. Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard

94. Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine

95. Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix

96. Grendel, by John Gardner

97. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende

98. I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte

99. Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume

100. America: A Novel, by E.R. Frank

Source:  http://www.ala.org/bbooks/top-100-bannedchallenged-books-2000-2009

Finally, what I am reading, myself, during Banned Books Week is Sam Harris’s latest, Waking Up. It’s a safe bet that all books by Sam Harris are banned in quite a few places.

Important Safety Guidelines from Your Gravity Company, GravCorp, Inc.

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Please read these safety guidelines carefully. Also, we recommend displaying them prominently, securely fastened to the sturdiest wall in your home, in the event that your gravitational service is ever shut off for non-payment of your GravCorp gravity bill.

Because your friends at GravCorp care about you and your family’s safety, GravCorp will never shut your gravity off abrupty, but does so gradually, over the 24-hour period following the end of the shut-off date (prominently printed in red, bold type) on your gravity shut-off notice. It is best to evacuate early during this period. [Tip:  when you notice that you weigh noticeably less than you did the day before, that is your signal to leave.] We are not responsible for anything that happens if you fail to heed this advice, but we do have some safety guidelines to help those who, through no fault of ours, fail to leave their homes in a timely manner.

Once gravity shut-off is complete, if you are still inside your home, follow these safety rules carefully:

1. Be certain to keep moving at all times. Stationary humans have been known to die from lack of oxygen in the absence of gravity, due to the buildup of a spherical cloud of exhaled carbon dioxide, centered in the region of their mouths and noses. If you still have electrical service while your gravity is shut off, however, you can also avoid this danger by turning on all the electric fans in your home, such as the ceiling fan in the picture above. 

2. Should you choose to go outside, exercise extreme caution to avoid serious accidents (most of which are likely to be fatal). If you still have telephone or Internet service, we recommend paying your past due GravCorp account balance (plus the $135 reconnect fee) by phone or Internet, from inside your home.

3. Keep all liquids inside containers, for inhalation of even part of a floating ball of water, or other liquid, can cause death by drowning.  [Tip:  don’t forget to seal all toilets — both bowl and tank — using approved, waterproof sealing methods and materials.]

4. Act quickly to pay your past due bill, plus the $135 reconnect fee, or have a pressure suit on and pressurized, for the air above you is already beginning to escape into space.

5. Remain calm, do not panic, and consider setting up automatic bank drafts to pay your gravity bill, effortlessly, each month. It’s convenient, safe, and saves you money on postage. (An annual $3.14 convenience fee will be charged to your GravCorp account, on or near July 1st each year, for this optional service.)

 

[Image credit:  The picture above was found at http://www.thedistractionnetwork.com/going-to-bed/.]