Archive for August 27th, 2014

Tunnel in the Sky

August 27, 2014

I am beginning to think that a selection of Robert Heinlein’s juvenile science fiction books should be required reading in every Middle School class. Even though the science in these stories is outdated, in some cases badly so, and the social mores reflect the period in which they were published, the 1950’s, although that may not actually be a bad thing, I think the young reader can still learn a lot from Heinlein’s stories. They may not be able to learn much about science or space travel. Events have overtaken Mr. Heinlein in that respect. They will, however, learn quite a lot about virtues that will never go out of date. They will learn from Heinlein’s heroes the importance of self-reliance, honor, courage and rational thinking. They will learn that doing the right thing, even at the risk of their lives is better in the long run. Reading Heinlein may even help young readers to resist the politically correct brain washing and mediocrity they are exposed to in our public schools. I can imagine one of Heinlein’s older, wiser instructors telling a contemporary student that the universe does not care about his fragile self-esteem and that it does not hand out ribbons just for showing up.

Tunnel in the Sky, published in 1955, is typical of Heinlein’s juveniles.

It features a strong, intelligent young man, Rod Walker, as the protagonist. Rod wants to join the movement to colonize other planets, accessed through gateways that transport travelers instantly across the galaxy. In order to be a colonist, Rod must take and pass a class on survival taught by the famous explorer “Deacon” Matson. For the final exam, the class, along with similar classes from other schools, is to be dropped on an uninhabited planet for ten to fourteen days. Whoever manages to survive passes. Unfortunately, something disrupts the gate and the students are stranded. They must manage to survive for far longer than they had expected.

 

Tunnel in the Sky

Tunnel in the Sky (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This may be Heinlein’s response to Lord of the Flies published the previous year. Unlike the younger children in William Golding’s tale, the high school and college age youths do not descend into savagery. They build a colony with a government. They attempt to recreate modern technology as much as possible and by the time they are rescued they have begun to smelt iron and to domesticate the native plants and animals. The young colonists do have trouble with students who refuse to do their share of the work and with dangerous animals, but they manage to overcome their difficulties. After their settlement is destroyed and their first mayor is killed by migrating animals, Rod becomes the new mayor. There is some talk of moving to a safer location that Rod had discovered earlier but he refuses to consider it, stating that they are men and they will not be moved by a bunch of dumb animals. Instead, they develop ways to defend their settlement by the time of the next migration.

I should say something about Heinlein’s supposed racism in this book. At the beginning of the story, Rod visits a gateway to watch pioneers going out to colonize new planets. First, there is a long line of Asians, poverty-stricken refugees being forced by their authoritarian government to travel to a new world. They are followed by proud pioneers from North America. I do not believe that Heinlein intended to make any sort of statement about the relative merits of Asians and Americans but was extrapolating a likely future based on circumstances at the time of publication. In 1955, most of Asia was desperately poor and overcrowded and it seemed likely to remain so for generations. I should note that it is hinted throughout the book that Rod is African-American, though at the time of publication Heinlein was unable to say so outright.

I enjoyed reading Tunnel in the Sky when I was in fifth grade and enjoyed it no less rereading it as an adult. Robert Heinlein knew how to keep his readers interested.

 

 

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Manbearpig

August 27, 2014

I feel privileged today. Al Gore has sent me an e-mail asking me to help him track down and kill manbearpig.

Dear friend —

Folks like you know what I believe: We have no more important priority than confronting and solving the climate crisis.

Luckily, we have a President who has taken up that task with both determination and seriousness of purpose, and it’s amazing what a difference that can make.

In June, President Obama empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to cut carbon pollution, a move which will help reduce dangerous CO2 from power plants by 30 percent in 2030. On top of that, he has established new fuel economy standards that reduce CO2 levels and will save us all money at the pump. With the Recovery Act, he made the single biggest investment in clean energy in the United States, ever. All these steps will have a lasting impact on the planet our children and grandchildren inherit — and they wouldn’t have happened without your support.

If you stand with President Obama, add your name to support Democrats working with him to address climate change.

As Bob Dylan sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” We’re seeing real, important progress in the fight against the climate crisis — and it’s coming not a moment too soon.

But you and I both know there are still a lot of deniers out there. The time for leadership in the face of this threat has not passed. If ever there were a moment to send leaders to Washington who make climate legislation their top priority, this is it.

Support Democrats, and tell Congress to address climate change:

http://my.democrats.org/Act-on-Climate

Thanks,

Al Gore

It is really too bad that there are so many deniers out there so refuse to take the former vice-president serial. What does he have to do to convince the deniers? Present actual empirical evidence for what he claims?

If you want to know why I am one of those deniers who cannot take Mr. Gore or the other climate alarmists very serial, it is because they do not act in a particularly honest manner. They do not simply state facts. The try to generate panic by exaggeration and misdirection. They try to bully people who disagree with them and fantasize about blowing such people up.

Carbon dioxide is not, in any way dangerous nor is it pollution. Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring substance in the Earth’s atmosphere that is absolutely necessary for life on this planet. The Earth’s climate is not at a delicate equilibrium that can easily be disturbed by human activity. The Earth’s climate has changed drastically over the eons and will continue to change long after we are gone.

Another reason I cannot take people like Al Gore very serial is the hypocrisy of their position. Despite what Gore says, cutting “carbon pollution” from power plants and imposing stricter fuel standards will increase the cost of energy in this country. This won’t affect Al Gore. He has no intention of giving up his mansion or jetting around the world to spread the message about manbearpig . It will hurt the rest of us.

Well, since manbearpig has been spotted in southern Indiana, I guess I should get with Mr. Gore and help track it down. Maybe I can get a nobel prize too.

Manbearpig

Manbearpig


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