September 20, 2007

Civics quiz

Via the Corner comes this history quiz of 60 questions. Here is my result:


You answered 57 out of 60 correctly — 95.00 %
Average score for this quiz during September: 75.2%
Average score since September 18, 2007: 75.2%

The 3 questions I missed shall remain nameless. In any event, how did you do?

Posted by: Physics Geek at 08:26 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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April 10, 2006

Post of the day

I read Hyperion Cantos a long time ago. A different sort of science fiction, to be sure, but I did enjoy the writing. Anyway, Dan Simmons wrote as frightening a short story as you're likely to read. Lengthy excerpt to whet your appetite for more:


“I came back for my own purposes,” said the Time Traveler, looking around my booklined study. “I chose you to talk to because it was . . . convenient. And I don’t want you to do a goddamned thing. There’s nothing you can do. But relax . . . we’re not going to be talking about personal things. Such as, say, the year, day, and hour of your death. I don’t even know that sort of trivial information, although I could look it up quickly enough. You can release that white-knuckled grip you have on the edge of your desk.”

I tried to relax. “What do you want to talk about?” I said.

“The Century War,” said the Time Traveler.

I blinked and tried to remember some history. “You mean the Hundred Year War? Fifteenth Century? Fourteenth? Sometime around there. Between . . . France and England? Henry V? Kenneth Branagh? Or was it . . .”

“I mean the Century War with Islam,” interrupted the Time Traveler. “Your future. Everyone’s.” He was no longer smiling. Without asking, or offering to pour me any, he stood, refilled his Scotch glass, and sat again. He said, “It was important to me to come back to this time early on in the struggle. Even if only to remind myself of how unspeakably blind you all were.”

“You mean the War on Terrorism,” I said.

“I mean the Long War with Islam,” he said. “The Century War. And it’s not over yet where I come from. Not close to being over.”

“You can’t have a war with Islam,” I said. “You can’t go to war against a religion. Radical Islam, maybe. Jihadism. Some extremists. But not a . . . the . . . religion itself. The vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceloving people who wish us no harm. I mean . . . I mean . . . the very word ‘Islam’ means ‘Peace.’”

“So you kept telling yourselves,” said the Time Traveler. His voice was very low but there was a strange and almost frightening edge to it. “But the ‘peace’ in ‘Islam’ means ‘Submission.’ You’ll find that out soon enough”
...
“Let’s imagine,” said the Time Traveler, “that on December eighth, Nineteen forty-one, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke before a joint session of Congress and asked them to declare war on aviation.”

“That’s absurd,” I said.

“Is it?” asked the Time Traveler. “The American battleships, cruisers, harbor installations, Army barracks, and airfields at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere in Hawaii were all struck by Japanese aircraft. Imagine if the next day Roosevelt had declared war on aviation . . . threatening to wipe it out wherever we found it. Committing all the resources of the United States of America to defeating aviation, so help us God.”

“That’s just stupid,” I said. If I’d ever been afraid of this Time Traveler, I wasn’t now. He was obviously a mental defective.“The planes, the Japanese planes,” I said, “were just a method of attack . . . a means . . . it wasn’t aviation that attacked us at Pearl Harbor, but the Empire of Japan. We declared war on Japan and a few days later its ally, Germany, lived up to its treaty with the Japanese and declared war on us. If we’d declared war on aviation, on goddamned airplanes rather than the empire and ideology that launched them, we’d never have . . .”

I stopped. What had he called it? Category Error. Making the problem unsolvable through your inability – or fear – of defining it correctly.

The Time Traveler was smiling at me from the shadows. It was a small, thin, cold smile – holding no humor in it, I was sure -- but still a smile of sorts. It seemed more sad than gloating as my sudden silence stretched on.

Go there. Now.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 03:15 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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