The View from Entropy Hall (Online Archive) - From Ed Meskys - RR2 Box 63 - 322 Whitter Hwy - Center Harbor NH 03226
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Issue #17

The View From Entropy Hall #17 for APA-Q 413, 18 October 1997, from Ed Meskys, RR #2 Box 63, (322 Whittier Hwy Mbo), Center Harbor NH 03226-9708, [email protected], 603-253-6207. Text online at: and as email list.


ENTROPY #14 was the last one to be sent out to my e-mail list. Brian, who does this for me, is having a minor problem with his software and has stopped for the moment. He IS still putting it up on the web page.

He is using Internet News and Mail in Windows95. The program has no way to maintain two different mailing lists and requires that the list be IN the program on the hard disk. He cannot send the program to look at a list on the floppy drive. Since this is a bloated W95 program he does not have the space to put it on his hard drive twice, once with his mailing list and once with mine. He is afraid that in transferring his list to floppy and then installing mine, and then doing the reverse at the end of the run, he will goof some day and lose his list. He plans to get a second hard drive or upgrade from his 486 to a Pentium with a larger drive, and when he does he will install the program twice and resume sending out ENTROPY.

I am using DOS 5.0 though I have the disks to upgrade to 6.22. I am using a 386DX20 with 8 meg of RAM and am not ready to go on to Windows for two reasons. It would not fit on my machine, and screen reading software for Windows is still far from perfected. My wife has a 486SX20 with 4 meg and has W4WG 3.1 on her machine. The program is for W95 so she cannot run it either.

My hard drive has 320 meg partitioned into C, D, & E, and about 250 meg are still empty. Can anyone suggest DOS based software I could use to send ENTROPY out myself?



Currently this is the only Tolkien fanzine, other than the Mythopoeic Society ones, that I get and read. I just finished the Summer 1997 ish. Most issues start off with a piece of Tolkien fan fiction, this one taking place a few years after LotR. The stories are usually good and in the spirit of Tolkien's world. In this one Merry and Pippin hear from Eomer and Gimli two contradictory stories about how the Rohirrim had acquired some Dwarvish treasures a thousand years earlier. Both the humans and dwarves accuse the other side of duplicity and stubbornness in a conflict over a dragon's hoard, reminiscent of the squabbling after the death of Smaug. The hobbits are left wondering where the truth lay.

The only article thish was on the role of mercy in the LotR. It was rounded out by some poetry. It is only a small zine, 16 quarto pages saddle stapled. It costs $10 a year from Phil Helms, P O Box 373, Highland MI 48357-0373.

>San Antonio

Sandy, Todd, and I were in San Antonio for Worldcon and stayed on for three extra days to explore the city. The city is on the San Antonio River which struck me more like a creek. It snakes its way through the city about one floor below street level and is fairly narrow. It was probably only about 20 or 30 feet wide and did not interrupt the street pattern. When I think of a river in a city I think of the East and Harlem rivers in NY or the Charles in Boston. This was more like the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. There were sidewalks, shops, and restaurants along its banks so it acted like a separate pedestrian level permitting the avoidance of street crossings. It was like the arcades in Philadelphia stretching from City Hall to Suburban Station, but was all open to the sky except where it crossed under streets.

During the con we ate in our room or at chain fast food places like Hooters and Champions, but on Monday night we did eat at an English pub "Mad Dogs" on this River Walk. Wednesday we ate at a local lunch place for workers where all three of us had chicken mole. I had had this before but it was the first time for Todd and Sandy to have this sauce made from chocolate and chili peppers. Our last night in town we took the advice of a local bus driver and ate at the Jail House Cafe. It was at the western end of Commerce Street (the con hotels were at the other end) just past the rail yards and across from the county police and jail. We tried their specialty, "chicken fried steak." a tough cut of beef is beaten to a pulp, like a Swiss Steak, dipped in batter, and deep fat fried. It is served covered with a heavy gravy. Does wonderful things for your cholesterol, but we enjoyed trying for the first time this Texan specialty. The restaurant bragged about its large portions. Sandy and I barely managed our "deputy cut" and Todd couldn't finish his "sherrif cut." We wanted water while waiting for the meal and it was brought in full quart glasses. The waitress bragged it was the only size of glass they had in the house. Their menu bragged of their large margueritas and had a cartoon of one being delivered in a hand-truck. I wondered if that too was a full quart. Would hate to see someone drink one and drive afterwards. They had four Mexican beers on the menu. Besides the usual Dos Eques and Corona, they had Bohemian and Tekata which were new to me. These were delivered in bottles or cans with a 8 or so oz mug for pouring into. Well, they still hadn't fibbed about the only size glass. These were not glasses but mugs. For desert the waitress suggested a "cinnamon bun" but we were too full. We decided to take it to have in our room in the morning before leaving for the airport and were flabbergasted when we saw it. She was right when she said one would be enough for the three of us. It was a regular breakfast sticky bun but was a foot in diameter and four inches thick.

I wanted to try Bob's Smoke House which Moshe Feder had recommended for "southern barbecue" and some Tex-Mex food, but time just didn't permit.

We did several museums. The three of us did the Institute of Texas Culture and Sandy and I did the Witte while Todd did the two art museums.

The Texas Culture did for local lifestyle over the period since colonization what the Herd in Phoenix did for local Amerind culture. There were dioramas of street scenes with a number of clusters of people in each. By pushing a button you could hear in Spanish or English what each knot of people was saying. The actors who did the Spanish dialogue were animated but those reading the English translations were flat and spoke in a slow, hesitant, monotone. I am very puzzled as to why the museum did it this way.

One gallery was devoted to two dozen or so peoples who contributed to local culture. Aside from the expected Spanish there were displays about Germans, Poles, French, and many other cultures. One was a quite obscure people from the German/Polish/Czech fronteer. The placque said they were variously called "Wends," "Sorbs," and "Lusatians." About ten years ago I had met a lady who said her family was from that area but have forgotten what she said they called themselves. Like the Herd Museum this one had live exhibits, where a person would explain what he/she was doing and answer questions. We missed the post office exhibit but had long chats with the man at the trail chuckwagon and the woman with the spinning wheel. He talked about the cattle drives to move the surplus animals to the railheads in Kansas and Louisiana for two decades after the Slaveholders' Rebellion until the railroads were extended into Texas. The driver/cook was usually an older, disabled cowboy who acted as doctor, father-confessor, farrier, and tack repairman for the young kids (mostly teenagers) doing the cattle driving. He said few books or movies gave a true picture of this life, but the one exception was both the book and TV movie LONESOME DOVE. Sandy and I had seen spinning exhibits at country fairs and other museums but here we had a good chance to talk with the lady. She explained the natural dyes used by the pioneer Texans, including insects imported from Spain. Also for the first time I got to feel a wheel in use and understand just how it did work with the two alternating actions of twirling the fibres together and then when the arm could extend no further reeling it up onto the spool. I understand that on other days different exhibits had live participants.

In order to tour the four missions outside the city center we took the Gray Line. The original intent was to build them seven miles apart, one day's walk. Two were on opposite sides of the originally uncrossable river and were only a short distance apart. Two are still in active use as parish churches and the other two are in bad repair.

The Witte was a natural history and science museum but also had some cultural materials. A lady curator with the unusual name of Michael Hayden (I am not sure of the spelling of her surname) gave Sandy and me a personal tour of the exhibit of the San Antonio "Fiesta." This is a week-long celebration in April, like but without the drunken rowdyness of Mardi Gras and without any religious connotations. It celebrates Texan independence from Mexico. From her explanation I have a much better understanding of what happened. Texas was largely uninhabited and the Mexican government was generous with land grants to both Mexicans and Gringos in order to develop the area. Then a new dictator took over the country and tried to regiment the lives of the settlers. Hispanics were among the first to sign the Texan declaration of independence, and were among the defenders who died in the Alamo. Unfortunately the myth has grown up that the war was Mexican against American, resulting in what she called the "Alamo Syndrome." Today many don't WANT to remember the Mexicans who joined in the fight for independence. A plaque honoring them in the Alamo was taken down "for refurbishing" and never replaced. Also, the battle was of little importance by itself, but did delay the Mexican army long enough to allow Sam Houston to group the forces he would use a month later to totally defeat them.

The Fiesta involves elaborate costumed parades with "queens" and their courts. Originally it was limited to the old established white families and the costumes cost many thousands of dollars to prepare. A number of these were on display. Since then separate black and Hispanic parades were added. Since mannikins for displaying the costumes were only available in Caucasian tints the museum staff colored all of them gold, whichever costume was displayed. There was a lot of information to absorb in a short time and I am hazy about some of the details. Sandy said that if there was an "elder hostel" to study Fiesta she would like to come back for it. I agree, but would also like a couple of days on my own to further explore Texan food. The hostels are complete packages with cafeteria meals at the campus or resort.

In connection with the "Alamo Syndrome" I asked about the role of Mexico's banning of slavery in the rebellion. She admitted it was a factor but tried to downplay it.

We had also gone to the "Eyemax" movie about the Alamo and toured what little was left of the old mission.

We also learned about the important role of the five Air Force bases in the life of the city. Only one of these has a large civil workforce, mechanics who maintain aircraft for the whole air force. Since workers have been hired for a generation without regard to race or ethnicity, many Hispanics had good jobs, joined the middle class, and sent their children to college, guaranteeing continued upward mobility. Unfortunately this is the one base in the San Antonio area which will be lost in the next round of closures.

The Whitte museum had an expected, rather small, dinosaur exhibit and several excellent ecological exhibits. In the back yard was a lunch counter, 3 or 4 old pioneer buildings moved and set up for viewing from outside through glassed in doorways, and a children's interactive science museum called "the Tree House."

Since Peter Donahue had a letter in a recent BRAILLE MONITOR I got in touch with him before coming to San Antonio and he and his wife Mary invited us to dinner one night. They are both blind and he is a full-time Amway rep while she is an operator for a small long-distance phone company. He is a computer expert and had demos of talking Windows computers at a local trade show, and both have had pieces in the MONITOR. He tried to get some other local NFB leaders over to meet us but they had other obligations. Paul did the spaghetti and meatballs while Mary did the salads. It was a successful evening and I will try to contact local Federationists when I vacation in other cities.


>COMMENTS ON APA-Q 411 and 412

Blancmange (Mark Blackman). You mentioned dropping in on the SFWA suite. I thought that was limited to members and guests. I only went once, about five years ago as the guest of Jacqueline Lichtenberg. How welcoming are they to uninvited drop-ins? I usually crash the publishers' parties late at night when they seem to not care who comes in. [] You mentioned voting in the NASFIC election. While I only made three of the eight overseas worldcons (Loncon II, den Haag, & Glasgow) and do not plan on Aussiecon III, I have never been to a NASFIC. Are you planning to go? Did you vote for the winner? [] You said the last elevated line in Manhattan was torn down before WWII and sold to Japan as scrap metal. That was the 8th Ave. El. The West Side Highway was built at the same time and I read in histories that there were jokes about them only moving the old El. Also I read that later people complained that we sold Japan the metal which they made into bullets to shoot at US soldiers. However the 3rd Ave. El lasted well into the '50s. Also there was one tiny bit of the 8th Ave. El in Manhattan connecting the Polo Grounds with another El in the Bronx. When I was exploring the NY subway system in the mid '50s I rode on it. It was only about 4 stations long and actually went underground for a bit as it penetrated a hill in the Bronx. Maps still listed it as an El. Sort of like how the west side IRT subway comes above ground for one station at 125th St. to cross a valley but is still mapped as a subway. Anyhow, when I first rode the 3rd Ave. El it went all the way to Brooklyn Bridge. Then when they rebuilt the approaches to the bridge it got cut back one station to Chatham Square. Shortly before I started exploring the system the extension from Chatham Sq. to South Ferry was torn down. []

DAGON (John Boardman). I liked your comments in Q411 on JERSEY FLATS where you said that our record exploring the solar system should be much better than it had been in the Americas as we will find no life, intelligent or otherwise, to exploit. As you say, we NEED the excitement of human exploration. I hope this series of small Mars missions will pave the way for an eventual manned mission. I have on order Robinson's colored Mars series from the talking book library and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of RED MARS. The September LOCUS had a very long interview of him, mainly on his new novel ANTARCTICA. Here he says that human colonization on that continent could be good preparation for Mars. In the novel he speculates about near-future events which could lead to the abrogation of the Antarctic Treaty and lead to mining camps and even settlements. However he says that if we DO find living bacteria on Mars we must give them their freedom to exist and not terraform the planet. I cannot go along with this. We should preserve them in sealed environments both to learn now what we can about parallel evolution, and to have samples around to answer possible future questions. But abandoning the only planet where we might some day be able to set up a viable colony to allow these bacteria expire naturally as the atmosphere continues to bleed away is a ridiculous extension of the environmentalist movement. [] I have read and enjoyed the novel which I assume marked the beginnings of "steam punk," THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE. In an alternate world where Babbage DID complete his mechanical computer society had taken many strange turns. Unfortunately I am not sufficiently erudite in political science, history, or literature to understand the reasons behind some of these changes. Persons of noble lineage were hunted down and exterminated with a few exceptions. Why? Of the major poets of the period, Byron, Shelley, Keats, one (I forgot which but not Byron) had been executed. Why? However the new vocabulary that came with the computer was imaginative and innovative. I had been under the impression that "steam punk" was limited to Babbage timelines but from what you say it applies to any speculation of additional technological advance in that period. [] I am not sure I want to read GRUNT by Mary Gentle which you reviewed thish. I do NOT like explicit descriptions of violence and it would probably disgust me. However I am very interested to learn of the book's existance and its connection with Tolkien's Middle-earth. If Mary Stewart and Ian McDowell could make Mordred the hero of fantasy novels, someone was bound to do so with Orcs. From your review it is interesting as a satire on the military mind, but is it an interesting story on its own? Or is it just a vehicle for propaganda? Anyhow, when I finally do my Tolkien issue of NIEKAS I think I will want to include this piece. Do you save your computer files? or do you wipe them after the APA comes out? If you still have the file for this DAGON could you please excerpt as a separate file this review and give it to me on disk? It would save a lot of retyping and hunting for transcription errors. [] You commented that many of the frontier "bad men" were former Confederate soldiers who couldn't settle down after the war. Why just Confederate? Wouldn't war make social misfits out of some soldiers of any army? [] There had been discussion among APAQers about when the Jewish people became a distinct people from the rest of humanity. Was Noah a Jew making all humanity technically Jewish? Did it start with Abraham? or when? The latest issue (Sept 97) of the JBI [JEWISH BRAILLE INSTITUTE] VOICE answered the question. In an article on Jewish holy days it said that Shevuot [spelling?] is the anniversary of Moshe receiving the Torah from YHVH on the mountain. "...on Passover Israel received its physical freedom from Egyptian bondage but Shevuot represents spiritual freedom. And since Moses delivered the Sinaietic revelation to his people the Torah has been the ethical basis of Jewish is the sacred event during which the Jewish people received their charter as a nation." [] You said Europe had no feline larger than the "European wild cat." I thought that in classical times there was a "European lion" which went extinct back then. Well, that would be before medieval times, wouldn't it? Was I right in my memory? What was it like and how big was it? And just when did it go extinct? [] Your ongoing discussion of newspaper comic strips and mentioning that a DC paper carries a rare strip as part of its very large comics section reminds me. I remember reading some 20 years ago that some minor Pennsylvania newspaper carried more Sunday comics than any other US paper, but I don't remember which one. I wonder if this is still true. [] Don't know whether you or Mark is responsible for franking through SCIENTIFIC TRUTH IN PRODUCT WARNING LABELS, but I loved it!

How To... (Don del Grande). As for the NFB and GOOD AND EVIL, we wrote to and picketed the sponsors. While at Lipton they came out to our members and said they dropped their sponsorship starting immediately. We petitioned the network to drop the show immediately and they never showed three filmed episodes, and communicated to the NFB about it. It gave our leadership the impression that we helped get it off the air faster than it would have gone anyhow, but we could have been wrong. [] Speaking of the COMPLETE DIRECTORY TO PRIME TIME NETWORK AND CABLE TV SHOWS, perhaps you could help me remember a show which I never saw. I believe it was in the fall of 1958, but could have been a year earlier or later. I never saw it because I was taking graduate courses and all were scheduled at night. In 1957 as a senior I took one, and then took many others during the next three years while working on an MS. It was a near-future SF show about the beginnings of manned space flight. This was before Gargarin but after Sputnik. One show featured a space walk or EVA, years be- fore the words were invented, and the NY TIMES had an editorial blasting the credibility of the show, asking how someone could possibly leave a space ship travelling at 18,000 miles an hour!!! It was NOT an intellectual highpoint for the TIMES. [] The NFB feels that we blind do not need the world changed to accomodate us with "pathfinder tiles" across open spaces, bumps on platform edges, beeping trafic lights, knurled doorknobs on stairway entrances, beeping doorways on subway trains, etc. Rather, money should be spent on training to improve our travel skills. It is a matter of access to employment, and reaction against special housing with so many tactile markers that they treat the residents as retarded. We have had employers reluctant to hire blind workers because their buildings are not marked with all these tactile markers and they are afraid we could not find our way to the bathroom, will fall down a flight of stairs, or walk into an operating machine. After a few minutes of orientation to the place of work a blind person competant at cane or dog guide use would have no problems within a place of work, but try to convince the personnel director. And public markers help propagate this image of helplessness. Then there are stories about housing built for incompetant blind elderly. Stories talk about guide ropes, different textured floors in the kitchen and bathroom so you would know where you are, protective guardrails around the stovetop, etc. After living in a place for a day you would whether you are in the living room or bathroom without special markers! This kind of coddling has made some Federationists oversensitive to special markers of ANY kind, and again these news stories to not help the blind person trying to get a job or rent a normal apartment. On the other hand, there might be a very complex intersection with a complex light pattern where an audible signal might help. But in that case we say it should be connected to the pedestrian pacifier button and beep only when the "walk" light comes on. [] Agreed that the joke Marc Maurer quoted about swinging the guide dog in his letter is a dumb one but obviously he couldn't think of a better example on the spot. [] I knew of the 1960 re-definition of the meter, but had missed the 1983 re-redefinition. [] sPEAKING OF THE SUPERCONDUCTING SUPERCOLLIDOR, i GUESS YOU COULD CALL ITS CANCELLATION THE "PLIGHT OF THE OHMLESS."

QUAINT SUFF! (John mALAY). You mentioned "reported vision problems" for Jack Vance. For some time now I have seen in newszines that he has major vision problems and is using a talking computer, something like mine, set up by a local fan who is a computer expert. I had written to his wife Norma about my experiences with such computers and giving some advice on other sources of information and equipment. (There are about a dozen talking software packages on the market and a sighted computer person might not be aware of all of them and their various advantages.) Norma had answered me but asked for no further details. She also visited the NIEKAS table at Con Francisco and chatted. I did not learn until after the con that Jack himself was set up at a table to talk with any fen who wanted to visit with him, so did not get to see him. I had met him at the Andersons' home in the '60s when I lived in the Bay Area.

WITHIN REASON (Brian Thurston). Were you to circulate your zine widely fen would jump all over you for improper use of language. SF fen do NOT like the term "scifi" even though it was invented by one of the first fans ever, Forry Ackerman. Readers and writers reject the term and prefer to say "esseff." Fen mock the term by pronouncing it "skiffy." The Timebinders listserve ([email protected]) have been discussing this word a lot lately, plus other words of fanspeak. Anyhow, Forry (aka Forest J. or "4e") intented it in the '50s as a short way of saying "science fiction" and used it in anology to the then current "hifi" for high fidelity records. He has a lot of friends in the Hollywood film world and they all adopted the term, and from there it went to the general public via press releases. In the fannish mind it became associated with bad SF movies like the "Sea Slug That Ate Philadelphia" and negative attitudes towards SF in the outside, mundane, world. It is considered acceptable by media fen so Bjo Trimble called her newszine on the media scifi spotlight. [] Your use of "Trekkie" would get you in similar trouble with media fen. They look on the term as a putdown, just like print SF fen regard "scifi," and prefer "Trekker." Your discussion of the TREK movies reminds me. In #4 when Kirk is in 20th- century San Francisco he does not understand what money is. Some form of exchange must still be in use in his period. NEXT GENERATION has a scene of the crew playing cards for money. Also, since Kirk had made so many trips into the past, sometimes staying a long time (as in "City on the Edge of Forever") he should have learned about it.

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