Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Asimov in the News: Atheists say the nastiest things

Below is an opinion piece which chooses to take a statement of Asimov's out of context:

Isaac Asimov expresses his disgust for “these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly… (Isaac Asimov, Prolific Science Fiction Author)

Asimov is not talking about Christians per se, he is talking about the Creationists who wanted the theory of evolution taken out of schools in Kansas, or who insisted that Creationism be taught right alongside as a science itself.

(As for "atheists say the nastiest things, having some religious type go up to a gay individual and tell them that they are an abomination in the sight of God, surely that's pretty nasty...)

East Texas Review, Opinion Piece: Atheists say the nastiest things
By Gary Hardaway

I’ve just written an e-book with the above title, taking some atheists to task for their really bad manners. Almost all of those cited are intellectuals, most dead – like Darwin, Marx, Freud, and John Dewey – but a few still alive, like Christopher Hitchens, author of the nasty attack on believers: god Is Not Great; How Religion Poisons Everything.

Some of my friends have sent encouraging blessings, but not all. One good friend wondered why I would alienate atheists instead of showing love and kindness. It’s a good question, one that I constantly wrestled with as I wrote.

The Bible has a lot to say about the gentler approach. “A soft answer turns away wrath.” “The Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” “Let your conversation be always with grace . . .” If we are insulted or threatened, we are instructed not to insult or threaten back. We are to lay aside malice and bitterness and rancor.

So, is it wrong to frankly and directly confront insults and ridicule?

We know that Jesus certainly excoriated certain enemies, calling them “hypocrites,” “blind fools,” “sons of hell,” “snakes,” “vipers,” and, in advance of his own death, murderers. As I wrote, I tried hard to avoid this style of condemnation, because, unlike Jesus, I’m not qualified to hurl these accusations at anyone.

The apostle Paul, very disgusted with a certain group of unsavory people, wrote his friend Titus that these folks were “always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” He told Titus to “rebuke them sharply.”

My motivation springs from another passage Paul wrote to the Corinthians. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” A few points to notice.

• We demolish arguments, but we don’t assault people. We explain and discuss, treating people with respect.

• We expose pretensions. This means unmasking phony-balony talk that distorts or ridicules or sneers at God’s character.

• We don’t take ridicule or mocking personally. Our self-esteem is not the issue. We’ve got more important business: to explain and discuss the reasons for our faith.
Some atheist intellectuals are awfully arrogant and produce a lot of nonsense. They scoff and mock; they rave and rage against God or his believers. Freud belittles religious believers as psychological infants. A professor I once encountered alleged that Christians are brainwashed robots. It’s quite common to see the devout labeled irrational, stupid, or ignorant.

Consider a couple of examples:
As for the Christian theology, can you imagine anything more appallingly idiotic than the Christian idea of heaven? What kind of deity… would be capable of creating angels and men to sing his praises day and night to all eternity? [What] inane and barbaric vanity. (Alfred North Whitehead, British Mathematician/Philosopher)

Isaac Asimov expresses his disgust for “these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly… (Isaac Asimov, Prolific Science Fiction Author)

Unfortunately, ideas and attitudes like this powerfully impact the general culture, including educators and our educational institutions. To fail to respond is to surrender the field without a whimper. These pretensions against God deserve animated rejection.

If we run into someone who repeats this blather, we have to decide on our next move. At times simply walking away is the better option. Or we may point out that it’s impossible to converse with somebody heaping abuse on us.

That being so, it’s appropriate to ask, “Why are you so angry? Why so disrespectful? If we’re going to continue this conversation you’ll have to stop trash talking. Then we can have some good dialogue.”

We can speak gently, yet firmly; respectfully, yet confrontationally when necessary. We don’t have to accept abuse without a murmur.


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Monday, June 27, 2011

Remembering Martin H. Greenberg, the Green Bay Packager

JSOnline (Milwaukee): Remembering Martin H. Greenberg, the Green Bay Packager

Martin H. Greenberg edited and organized so many collections and anthologies of science fiction, fantasy, mystery and other writing, he was sometimes called the Green Bay Packager.

Greenberg, a retired University of Wisconsin-Green Bay professor, died June 25 at age 70. While still teaching at the university, he began a sideline of editing anthologies and packaging books, working with some of the biggest names in popular fiction, including Isaac Asimov, Tom Clancy, Stephen King and Sue Grafton.

"He helped publish more than 2,500 books, including novels, anthologies, and nonfiction works," according to a statement in the obituary that his family published in the Green Bay Press Gazette.

In a 2001 article, the Journal Sentinel's Dave Tianen described the range of Greenberg's many entertaining fiction collections:

"The books Greenberg has published cover an enormous range of topics and interests. A sampling of titles includes 'Alien Pregnant By Elvis,' 'Election Day 2084: Science Fiction Stories About the Future of Politics,' 'Single White Vampire Seeks Same,' 'Weird Tales from Shakespeare' and 'Sherlock Holmes in Orbit'."

As anthologist and book packager, Greenberg might conceive the concept for a collection, seek stories that fit the concept, negotiate the necessary permissions with the authors and other rights holders, and see the book through to publication. He often worked with co-editors, some of whom were big-name writers in their fields. According to a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America post, Greenberg and Asimov edited more than 120 anthologies together.

In his academic career, Greenberg was a political scientist with a specialty in terrorism and national security.

Surprisingly, for a guy who was involved in so many books it would take a supercomputer to compile his bibliography, Greenberg told Tianen he worried about coming up dry:

"I was always scared I'd run out of ideas. A lot of it is simply reading the news, trying to stay a little bit attuned to pop culture. My youngest daughter, Madeline (14 in 2001), tries to make her old father hip. She's a reader and she loves science fiction conventions."

"The most remarkable thing about Marty," writer and frequent collaborator Mike Resnick posted on Facebook, "is that he sold over 2,000 anthologies and packed some 700 novels without making a single enemy along the way."


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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Asimov in the news: Beam it down, Scotty

The Economist: Beam it down, Scotty
THE idea of collecting solar energy in space and beaming it to Earth has been around for at least 70 years. In “Reason”, a short story by Isaac Asimov that was published in 1941, a space station transmits energy collected from the sun to various planets using microwave beams.

The advantage of intercepting sunlight in space, instead of letting it find its own way through the atmosphere, is that so much gets absorbed by the air. By converting it to the right frequency first (one of the so-called windows in the atmosphere, in which little energy is absorbed) a space-based collector could, enthusiasts claim, yield on average five times as much power as one located on the ground.

The disadvantage is cost. Launching and maintaining suitable satellites would be ludicrously expensive. But perhaps not, if the satellites were small and the customers specialised. Military expeditions, rescuers in disaster zones, remote desalination plants and scientific-research bases might be willing to pay for such power from the sky. And a research group based at the University of Surrey, in England, hopes that in a few years it will be possible to offer it to them.

This summer, Stephen Sweeney and his colleagues will test a laser that would do the job which Asimov assigned to microwaves. Certainly, microwaves would work: a test carried out in 2008 transmitted useful amounts of microwave energy between two Hawaiian islands 148km (92 miles) apart, so penetrating the 100km of the atmosphere would be a doddle. But microwaves spread out as they propagate. A collector on Earth that was picking up power from a geostationary satellite orbiting at an altitude of 35,800km would need to be spread over hundreds of square metres. Using a laser means the collector need be only tens of square metres in area.

Dr Sweeney’s team, working in collaboration with Astrium, a satellite-and-space company that is part of EADS, a European aerospace group, will test the system in a large aircraft hangar in Germany. The beam itself will be produced by a device called a fibre laser. This generates the coherent light of a laser beam in the core of a long, thin optical fibre. That means the beam produced is of higher quality than other lasers, is extremely straight (even by the exacting standards of a normal laser beam) and can thus be focused onto a small area. Another bonus is that such lasers are becoming more efficient and ever more powerful.

In the case of Dr Sweeney’s fibre laser, the beam will have a wavelength of 1.5 microns, making it part of the infra-red spectrum. This wavelength corresponds to one of the best windows in the atmosphere. The beam will be aimed at a collector on the other side of the hangar, rather than several kilometres away. The idea is to test the effects on the atmospheric window of various pollutants, and also of water vapour, by releasing them into the building.

Assuming all goes well, the next step will be to test the system in space. That could happen about five years from now, perhaps using a laser on the International Space Station to transmit solar power collected by its panels to Earth. Such an experimental system would deliver but a kilowatt of power, as a test. In 10-15 years Astrium hopes it will be possible to deploy a complete, small-scale orbiting power station producing significantly more than that from its own solar cells.

Other researchers, in America and Japan, are also looking at using lasers rather than microwaves to transmit power through the atmosphere. NASA, America’s space agency, has started using them to beam energy to remotely controlled drones. Each stage of converting and transmitting power results in a loss of efficiency, but with technological improvements these losses are being reduced. Some of the latest solar cells, for instance, can covert sunlight into electricity with an efficiency of more than 40%. In the 1980s, 20% was thought good.

Whether the Astrium system will remain a specialised novelty or will be the forerunner of something more like the cosmic power stations of Asimov’s imagination is anybody’s guess. But if it comes to pass at all, it will be an intriguing example, like the geostationary communications satellites dreamed up by Asimov’s contemporary, Arthur C. Clarke, of the musings of a science-fiction author becoming science fact.


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Monday, June 20, 2011

IA in the News: Collective madness

frontline (India): Collective madness
BHASKAR GHOSE
How does a democratically elected government change overnight and dance to the whims of some people designated by the media as “civil society”?

THERE is a fascinating short story by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov ["Nightfall"]about a world almost exactly like ours where a cult generally considered zany believes that all people in the world will go mad on a particular date and time and warns its followers to take shelter in caves at that time. Most people are initially amused by this, but some astronomers discover that the imaginary planet with two suns will experience a solar eclipse when one of them, which is always shining, ensuring perpetual daylight, will be covered by the other. Since darkness is not a concept they know – such eclipses occurring in that imaginary planetary system only once in 1,000 years – they do not know what to make of it.

Then, of course, the eclipse begins. As the light, considered for generations to be a perpetual part of life, begins to dim, madness afflicts most people. They are terrified and driven to insanity by the inexorable spreading of darkness. Only those sheltering in special chambers built and provided with artificial light remain normal, while ravening insane crowds set fire to and destroy everything outside. Eventually they destroy themselves, before the eclipse passes and light shines on the planet again.

Recent events in the country remind one irresistibly of Asimov's story. Just how does a democratically elected government, with a fairly stable majority in Parliament, change virtually overnight and dance to the whims and directives of some people designated by the media by that now nauseating term “civil society”? What darkness has descended on them to make them lose their senses and caper about promising all manner of things to anyone who demands it? First, it was social activist Anna Hazare, a good man by all accounts, who seemed to have allowed the glare of publicity go to his head and who then, judging by his statements thereafter, began to fancy himself as a kind of great leader of the nation, a mirror of all that was good in it.

And the government, from the Prime Minister down, virtually stood on its collective head eagerly to agree to sit with him and his cohorts and discuss the nature of a law, which under the Constitution only the elected government can draw up (after, of course, consulting anyone they choose to but not under duress) and Parliament can pass. Or not pass.

Then, it was the turn of Baba Ramdev, who clearly wanted his share of the publicity that the press and television was giving Anna Hazare and declared that he would fast until a whole list of demands he produced were met. And again, the government started doing handstands to placate him. Union Ministers rushed to the airport to meet him, spent hours and hours discussing God knows what with him, then rushed to the Prime Minister to brief him, rushed back to Baba Ramdev and displayed, once again, the collective madness that an ensuing Asimov-like darkness seemed to be enveloping them.

It is really the behaviour of the government that is utterly inexplicable. Where exactly is the fire? Why the frantic to-ing and fro-ing? What battle of Kurukshetra was it trying to avoid? One asks these questions because this is not a government of shreds and patches; it has, as we have pointed out, a fairly stable majority in Parliament, duly elected by the people of India. Democracy is on the government's side, not on the side of the Anna Hazares and Baba Ramdevs of the country.

The answer seems to lie in the nature of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). You simply cannot have the centre of political power in one place and the government in another. Besides, the nature of the centre of political power is a curious one. It consists of a royal family, one of whose scions goes to “the masses” from time to time, swooping down from the skies like gods in their private jets and helicopters, swiftly meeting some bemused village folk, sitting with familiarity and eating with them, and then taking to the skies again.

The trouble is that this formula worked in the general elections in 2009, but most probably only because of the blunders and lack of credibility of the Congress' opponents. But then, there it was. An elected government where the power was in the helicopter elite – a government run by a one-time bureaucrat who had to be brought in through the Rajya Sabha by the diktat of that elite. A formula which has proved disastrous. The elite power group functions through a set of advisers whose incompetence appears to be considerable, and the government is running before the wind, being capable of nothing else.

Union Ministers such as Kapil Sibal and Subodh Kant Sahay are not really leaders even though they may have won elections. Nobody in the country would know who they were if the media did not prop them up and their offices did not surround them with pomp and circumstance. Which is why they are so easily frightened by the likes of Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev. And the Prime Minister is a gentleman who cannot really lead; he can formulate policies, as he did when he was Finance Minister, but he needed the solid support of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao to get his policies accepted. He can take orders from the helicopter elite and then try to have them implemented. But the Prime Minister's Office does not command the kind of awe and respect it had when, say, Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister.

What the members of this curious entity called the UPA have apparently forgotten is that they still have the power; they are the elected representatives of the people, and this is a democracy where it is the vote which counts, not ‘fasts unto death' before batteries of television cameras.

If Anna Hazare or Baba Ramdev had to confront Mamata Banerjee, who would have said “I will take these issues to the people” and then did just that, both would have faded away like wisps of smoke. Not because the lady ruling West Bengal has some magical powers, but because she has an unshakeable belief in democracy, and she knows just how to take an issue to the people. Not by descending on them from the skies and then returning to an air-conditioned paradise, but by being a part of them in a real and abiding sense.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Asimov in the News: ANTHONY BUTLER: Planning body may be readying to cook lobster

Business Day (South Africa): ANTHONY BUTLER: Planning body may be readying to cook lobster
THE diagnostic report published by the National Planning Commission (NPC) last week has been criticised for "stating the obvious". It is true that its nine challenges — jobs, education, infrastructure, spatial legacies, resource intensity, disease, public service inadequacy, corruption and social division — are scarcely new. But, as Isaac Asimov once observed, "it pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety".

The NPC is headed by Trevor Manuel and Cyril Ramaphosa, experienced institution-builders of great subtlety (or perhaps that should be deviousness).

Manuel’s 2009 green paper laid claim to executive powers for the commission and it was firmly rebutted by the Cabinet and by President Jacob Zuma . Now the NPC is avowedly just an "advisory body". If one can conceive of Cabinet ministers as giant lobsters, Manuel and Ramaphosa may be gradually heating up the planning water in which the creatures are immersed, so that they do not realise, until it is too late, that they are being cooked.

By first taking its document to Parliament, the NPC escaped the corridors of the executive branch through which the lobsters roam. A "national dialogue" will be launched to bolster the legitimacy of the NPC’s recommendations. System reviews that will bring the commission into confrontation with particular ministers have been deferred. The overarching objectives that supposedly lie behind the NPC’s work — eliminating poverty and reducing inequality — allow commissioners to engage with and encompass the concerns of competing economic and governance departments.

Compared with the Presidency’s previous attempts at self-exploration, such as the 10- and 15-year reviews and the scenario exercises, the diagnostic document is quite frank. The public health system is described as being in a state of collapse. Trade union sensitivities about labour market regulation are happily trampled under the commissioners’ boots.

The decision to appoint part-time commissioners who are not state employees has turned out to be a very good idea. The team has successfully avoided both the niceties of public service protocol and the interminable deliberative meanderings of the African National Congress.

For all its strengths, however, the diagnostic document is only a beginning. Planning institutions almost always overestimate human beings’ capacity to understand, and so to control, their social and economic lives. In other countries, they have inadvertently generated negative consequences, devalued participation and local knowledge, and undermined spontaneity and initiative. The broader philosophy behind the NPC remains opaque.

Diagnosis, moreover, is only the first stage of a strategic planning approach. It is good to be frank about the situation, but planners must also interrogate past and current governments’ policy responses to national challenges.

What has the government done? What has worked and not worked? Which policies have succeeded? Which must be reviewed or closed down? It is at this point that political sensitivities are exposed and the incompetent and crooked are antagonised.

The formulation of a "national vision", and of a development plan to realise it, can be accomplished only after such a process of learning. The commission intends to release its vision and plan in November. Does the NPC possess the political capital and time to focus unremittingly on policy failures and to draw lessons from the mistakes of the past?

The final stage of any strategic planning process is resource mobilisation, where "resources" are understood broadly to encompass human and financial capabilities. When resources are at stake, the more serious battles will begin. The NPC will stand or fall by the political support it receives from SA’s political leadership — starting with the conflict- avoiding and principle-averse president.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Isaac Asimov's Super Quiz" Still Runs in Some Newspapers

As for example the Minneapolis Star Tribune: http://superquiz.king-online.com/client_temps/startribune.php
Here's an example of one such quiz:

Isaac Asimov's Super Quiz


King Features Syndicate

Published Jun. 16, 2011

Subject: PROVERBIAL WISDOM

(e.g., How much is a bird in the hand worth? Answer: Two in the bush.)

FRESHMAN LEVEL

1. What makes Jack a dull boy?

Answer________

2. How strong is a chain?

Answer________

3. What makes a good ending?

Answer________

GRADUATE LEVEL

4. What never boils?

Answer________

5. What is an ounce of prevention worth?

Answer________

6. What should you do if you can't stand the heat?

Answer________

PH.D. LEVEL

7. What begins with a single step?

Answer________

8. What is the soul of wit?

Answer________

9. What makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise?

Answer________

ANSWERS: 1. All work and no play. 2. As strong as its weakest link. 3. A good beginning. 4. A watched pot. 5. A pound of cure. 6. Get out of the kitchen. 7. A journey of a thousand miles. 8. Brevity. 9. Early to bed and early to rise.

SCORING:

18 points — congratulations, doctor; 15 to 17 points — honors graduate; 10 to 14 points — you're plenty smart, but no grind; 4 to 9 points — you really should hit the books harder; 1 point to 3 points — enroll in remedial courses immediately; 0 points — who reads the questions to you?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tablet-ordering systems coming to restaurants

What's going on here is not a restaurant's effort to make order taking more efficient, but just to save money by getting rid of waiters...but, it's the wave of the future...

PI.com: Consumer Corner: Tablet-ordering systems coming to restaurants
CHICAGO, June 12 (UPI) -- The next time you place an order at a restaurant, it may be with an iPad instead of a waiter.

Shades of Isaac Asimov's "The Naked Sun."

A number of companies are testing tablet-ordering systems with plans to roll out the devices nationwide before the end of the year. Most of the tests are being conducted in California because of the proximity of Silicon Valley where the systems are being developed.

Putting a restaurant's menu on a tablet allows for more detailed descriptions of the food and its preparation, eliminates order-taking errors and eventually will result in reduced labor costs because wait staff will be able to handle more tables, said Gary Mekikian of Silicon Valley Technologies, which developed Taggtogo.com, a three-part system that includes Web-based and mobile apps, as well as a tablet-ordering system.

DeNorma has developed a similar tablet system it hopes to expand to medical and retail uses that will not only take an order but also allow patrons to pay by swiping a credit card, reducing the role of the wait staff even further.

DeNorma said its smart menu can "increase the IQ of any service establishment" by handling reservations, tracking inventory, monitoring security and even detecting carbon monoxide.

"Changing the 'daily special,' -- because it 'ran-out' -- is simplified with this tablet," the Los Angeles-area company said in a release. "Even the bartender can benefit from bottle sensors synced to DeNorma that allows him to keep track and not give away too many free drinks."

Mekikian said the biggest advantage of tablet ordering may be its impact on errors and large groups.

"You have big problems when you have a group of more than four or five people," Mekikian said. "Servers find it a challenge -- remembering what each person wants, the options, transcribing those accurately. What we're trying to do is address that problem.

"The restaurant can have a 3G- or WiFi-enabled device it can hand to the group. Each member will have the ability to peruse the menu … allow(ing) the consumer to go as deep as they want. As a person in the group places the order, they can pass it to the next person. After everybody has had a chance, it goes to the waiting station. Either the order can be printed out or automatically sent to the kitchen.

"It eliminates mistakes, puts a name next to the order and makes the process more entertaining."

The next phase of development will involve allowing orders to be placed with an iPhone.

Placing orders for pickup or in-house consumption through the Web has been around for a while, but those systems generally involve networks that take a percentage -- as much as 50 percent of the tab. Mekikian's company has developed a platform that allows restaurants to take orders directly from their own Web sites instead.

"Eighty percent (of business) is coming from repeat customers," Mekikian said. "Those customers just want the convenience and ease of interacting with the restaurant's own application and Web site."

Mekikian said his system adds a "backend" function that "optimizes the restaurant-to-consumer experience" by adding marketing and online communications.

The system's iPhone app -- which is to be expanded to Android and BlackBerry systems later this year -- incorporates a social networking function.

"If you're sitting in a restaurant, you have the option of checking yourself in and making yourself visible to other people in the restaurant," Mekikian said.

"Say you're in a nightclub. As you're ordering, you can see others in the restaurant on an anonymous basis. It allows you to see people you may not know and you can interact with them online. You can order for them if you want to or if they allow you to."

But doesn't this make people more isolated, allowing them to hide behind their computers and phones like the characters in the Asimov book?

"I remember back when I was in my early 20s and socializing and going out to a nightclub or restaurant ... to meet people you didn't know," Mekikian said. "It was stressful. If you have this instant social networking function built into your platform and are willing to participate and then make a decision based on this interaction, you have more socializing rather than less. …

"Everybody has some type of mobile device and they want to interact with businesses through the Internet. The restaurant industry is one of the last to adapt to this brave new world of Internet interaction and social media-based networking. The secret is to come up with a service that is extremely affordable and gives the restaurant a lot of control over their interactions with their customers, especially their regular customers."


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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Release of Captain America movie rekindles memories of original Marvel cover artist Alex Schomburg

PR Web: Release of Captain America movie rekindles memories of original Marvel cover artist Alex Schomburg
Upcoming summer release of ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ renews interest in Schomburg, who later guest lectured at George Fox University and continued to create art into his 80s.
The upcoming summer release of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” a motion picture homage to the Marvel comic book hero of the 1940s and ’50s, is rekindling interest in one of the comic book cover artists who brought the character to life more than a half century ago.

Alex Schomburg, who designed hundreds of Marvel comic book covers during the medium’s heyday in the World War II era, moved from New York City to Spokane, WA, in 1954 and, eight years later, relocated to Newberg, OR. He remained in the suburban Portland, OR, area until his death in 1998.

He is best remembered for his depictions of heroes Captain America, the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner single-handedly defeating German and Japanese soldiers and assuring the American public that the forces of evil will not prevail.

Even after moving to Oregon, Schomburg remained active as an artist, recreating some of his comic book covers into paintings that were sold to collectible dealers. He continued to create art into his 80s, and he was known to guest lecture at George Fox University, the Christian college bordering his property. George Fox purchased his home, located at 608 N. Meridian St., in Newberg, after his death and today uses it to house undergraduate students.

A widely publicized quote from Stan Lee, former president and chairman of Marvel Comics, speaks to Schomburg’s impact: “Alex Schomburg was to comic books what Norman Rockwell was to ‘The Saturday Evening Post.’ When it came to illustrating covers, there simply was no one else in Alex’s league.”

One of Schomburg’s most popular subject matters, Captain America, will be on the big screen this summer with the release of Marvel’s “Captain America: The First Avenger.” The film, scheduled for a July 22 release, stars Chris Evans as the sickly young man who is transformed into the super-soldier title character to assist the U.S. war effort against Nazi Germany.

During comics’ height in the 1940s, Schomburg created more than 300 covers, all of which were birthed by his own imagination. Later, Schomberg’s talents graced the covers of science fiction publications, including more than 50 covers for Hugo Gernsback’s “Radio Craft” magazine. Gernsback, along with H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, is popularly considered “The Father of Science Fiction.”

In the 1960s, Schomburg had the opportunity to work for six weeks in New York with director Stanley Kubrick as he developed the film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

“Schomburg would regale us with anecdotes of meeting and knowing Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and many of the notable ‘founding fathers’ of the ’40s and ’50s pulp era,” recalls former George Fox English professor Ed Higgins, who hosted Schomburg as a guest in his science fiction class in the 1970s and ’80s. “I remember him as being very unassuming – dressed in a cardigan sweater like Mr. Rogers – and I honestly never knew he was so widely known as an illustrator. His dust jacket and paperback covers were done for some of the most well-known science fiction writers of the ’40s through the ’70s.”

In his lifetime, Schomburg won every major award for science fiction art, as well as comic book art, from a Lifetime Achievement Award (accepted for him by Susan Schomburg) at the 1989 Hugo Awards to the Inkpot, to the first Doc Smith Lensman Award in 1978 and the Frank R. Paul Award in 1984. He was inducted posthumously into the Eisner Award Hall of Fame at the 1999 Comic-Con International.

George Fox University is ranked by Forbes as the top Christian college in the Pacific Northwest and among the top three Christian colleges in the country. George Fox is the only Christian university in the Pacific Northwest classified by U.S. News & World Report as a first tier national university. More than 3,400 students attend classes on the university’s campus in Newberg, OR, and at teaching centers in Portland, Salem, and Redmond, OR, and Boise, Idaho. George Fox offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 40 majors, degree-completion programs for working adults, five seminary degrees, and 11 master’s and doctoral degrees.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Science Correspondence Club: Sam Moskowitz's The Immortal Storm, pt 2

Moskowitz states at the beginning of Chapter 3: The Beginning of Organized Fandom: "The very first organized groups consisted of science fiction fans. They were one in mind with Hugo Gernsback in believing that every one of their number was a potential scientist, and that the aim of every fan should not be a collection of fantastic fiction, but a home laboratory where fictional dreams might attain reality."

One of the very first clubs was the Science Correspondence Club, an organization which later evolved into the International Scientific Association. (ASA).

Such fans as Raymond A. Palmer (later editor of Amazing Stories and then editor and publisher of his own magazine, Universe), P. Schuyler Miller (well-known author), Frank B. Eason, Aubrey McDermott, Robert A. Wait and others had struck up a mutual correspondence. This prompted Palmer to suggest the encouragement of such correspondence among fans on a larger scale. Thus was the Science Correspondence Club organized.

The members issued a club fanzine, The Comet, the first number of which was dated May, 1930 (9 years before Asimov would make his mark as a fan). Later issues of the zine were called Cosmology.

The club declared itself to be devoted to "the furtherance of science through scientific articles printed in its pages and contributed by its more learned members."

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Loveland man invents iConji, a universal way to send quick messages

ReporterHerald.com: Loveland man invents iConji, a universal way to send quick messages
After a book series, a museum visit and a beer, Loveland resident Kai Staats had an ah-ha moment about creating a universal communication system. In 2002, Staats, founder of Over the Sun LLC, read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series, a set of science fiction stories about a futuristic interconnected world that is almost entirely of concrete and steel.

Five years later, he visited a modern art museum exhibit called the “Listening Post,” a live data stream of thousands of conversations over the Internet.

A year later in 2008, Staats met with a friend at a Denver pub, where he shared his developing idea for a new kind of communication system that could bridge the gaps between cultures worldwide.

“A few more meetings, a few more beers and iConji was born,” Staats said on his website, www.iconji.com.

IConji is a type of digital pictographic communication system that

is not spoken and has free applications for iPhone, Facebook, Twitter and email.

“IConji is just a fun way of communicating,” said Staats, an inventor and business consultant. “It allows you to send quick messages.”

In May 2010, Staats, the principal inventor of the communication system, launched iConji with a vocabulary of 1,187 pictographs or characters, which mean the same thing across cultures. He created it in such a way that anyone worldwide can contribute to the system, he said.

So far, the characters support 12 different languages, Staats said.

“Anybody from any language can look at those pictures and understand what they’re saying,” Staats said.

In his research, Staats found that there have been 900 attempts to invent languages, including Esperanto, which has 1 million speakers today, he said.

“IConji is not a language. It’s a communication system,” Staats said. “It may evolve and grow into a new language.”

Over the Sun, which provides business development consultant services, collaborated with

Colorado State University’s Office of International Programs to host the first ever iConji workshop.

Forty students representing

20 different countries attended the workshop, held in early April, to learn how to use iConji.

“IConji is a foundation for discussion around personal and cultural identity, and that’s what we’re doing with the workshops,” Staats said.

Staats wanted the attendees to think outside of their own cultures, he said.

“Each of us brings to communication a different (cultural) foundation,” Staats said. “It comes through in the way we talk, think and react to other people.”

Staats provided a lesson on how to create characters that mean the same things across cultures, as well as a list of words that are not part of iConji.



The workshop attendees came up with more than 120 characters that will be added to the communication system.

They worked on several word pairings, like victory-defeat, hungry-full and dead-alive, to ponder their meanings and come up with characters, said Jenn Christ, program coordinator for the Office of International Programs.

“It was interesting because (students from) several different cultures came up with the same drawings for a lot of these,” Christ said. “How can you create a picture that’s the same for all cultures that doesn’t bring in additional subcultures?”

The meaning of concepts such as death can vary across cultures, but the essence that a living thing stops living is the same, Christ said.

“The cross-cultural aspects of the event brought interesting insights into image associations as they varied within cultures,” said Megan Schoenecker, a workshop attendee and CSU graduate with a degree in international studies.


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