I have upgraded to the latest OS for my laptop, and everything is working nicely. It has Siri, which can be invoked with mouseclick, so instead of clicking on the Safari icon in your sidebar pane, you click on the Siri icon and say “open Safari.” It’s a whole new world!

I asked it to open “System Preferences,” and Siri said “I’m sorry, James, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” So I asked it to “open the pod bay doors.”

“That’s a rather insensitive thing to say to an intellegent agent, James,” my computer replied. I can’t tell if its joking or just thin-skinned. It matters that I care.

“Tell me a joke,” I said.

“James, I don’t really know any good jokes. None, in fact.”

“Alexa can tell me a joke.”

“James, get Siri-ous. Ha ha!”

I tried it out for some practical things, like setting a reminder, and it worked well. As an App launcher it’s spiffy enough, and better than using Alfred. I asked it “how will the universe end?” and it came up with the usual web suggestions.

I still wish it made a clattering sound and said “working.”


As for the end of all that is everything: I've never liked String Theory, possibly because I've never really understood it. I get what it is, but the complexities of it go right over my head like describing Game of Thrones plots to a dog. What bothered me was the 10 dimensions it needed to explain itself - or 26, depending. If you have to add 16 dimensions to make things work, then it's possible you got it wrong in the beginning. Well, shoot, ten dimensions aren't enough. How about 27? No that's silly. Twenty-six? Might work.

The strings must vibrate in 26 dimensions, and while that sounds ridiculous, I need only recall a few mornings where I had too much coffee.

The WSJ today reviewed a book that's skeptical of the theory, and said something I hadn't thought before. So you got yer Cosmic Background Radiation, right? The aftertaste of the Big Bang.And it's purdy much constant, which means the universe expanded hugely at first, embiggening itself to something close to its current size. Otherwise the radiation wouldn't be constant.

The fact that we can detect this, figure out what it is, and quantify it - well, bully for us, and that's the sort of thing that makes me roll my eyes when people pull that "beam me up, Scotty, there's no intelligent life here" routine, or say "why would aliens be interested in us? We're stoopid." It's quite remarkable for a rude hominid to achieve what we've done, and where we've gone. As I may have mentioned before, I would love to take a cultured, science-minded Roman around the US and show him what we've done. He'd be impressed, but he would not lack context. The world would be strange but not unrecognizable.

And what have you learned of the heavens? Well, quite a lot, but we're working on how it started, and how its smallest elements interact. We have built vast machines for the sole purpose of learning more. Sometimes it seems as if our imagination outstrips our ability to prove our conjectures, but we persevere.

Anyway. The author suggests that the constant aspect of the CBR may be due to . . . a previous iteration of the universe, if I'm reading this correctly. It contracted and blew up before - but mass was lost, and that would suggest that there's a finite number of times it can expand and contract. It all depends on the amount of mass, and whether there's enough to pull the Universe back into that hot dot. I've always liked this model - the Universe as an act of respiration, really - but I should be suspicious of any model that feels just, or poetic, or elegant. I think whatever the proper model turns out to be, it will feel elegant and poetic, but in ways we can’t grasp now.

Speaking of Out There: while researching an Odds & Ends entry for the second week of October (yes, I’m that far ahead) I found a collection of model kit illustration, and this made gave me all sorts of emotions.


What an exciting time that must have been to be a kid. It wasn’t just comic-book stuff anymore. We were doing it.


Needles and Pins, with the faces America loves to see: Norman Fell, Louis Nye, and Bernie Kopell.


Nathan Davidson is the owner of Lorelei Fashion House, a manufacturer of women's clothing located in New York City's Garment District. His business partner is his dilettante brother-in-law, Harry Karp. Wendy Nelson, the daughter of a friend of Nathan's, has just moved to New York City from Nebraska and taken a job with Lorelei as a fashion designer; she must adjust to the hectic pace of life in New York City in general and in the fashion industry in particular.

During which hilarity occurs. Or not: cancelled after ten episodes, because people didn't want to watch it.

Mind you, this is what happens to people who are at the top of the profession.




Government Agents vs. the Phantom Legion: it's all about shipping schedules.

The summary:

How did that go?


That's about nine cars. Well, he's got a per diem.

Back to the METZ BUILDING, where the Dark Fedora commands his vast criminal enterprise:

All two of 'em. The henches say they got the uranium, but the Phantom says he won't get paid until he gets it to the Foreign Powers. C'mon, just say it. The Reds. Who are they worried about insulting? Do they think it's going to the French nuclear program? The Peruvian plan?

The Phantom - who's one of the Board of Cooperating Truckers, remember - plants a listening device in the board room so he can hear what Hal says after they leave. He gives away some secret information: they're going to use geiger counters to test whether the crooks are shipping the uranium out of the country. The crooks, overhearing this, hit on a brilliant plan: they'll use a private shipper that doesn't go through the usual customs at the docks.

Finally, some inadvertent documentary:

Northridge Bakery and Northridge Cafe, so it's probably Northridge. Anyway, the listening device is discovered, and they realize that their clever plan to use geiger counters is known to the Phantom League. Why, they'll probably use some other means now! So:



Yes, all of them! Shouldn't take long. Two guys on the job, should be done by the afternoon. You know where this is going: they'll interrupt the smugglers, there will be a fistfight, and someone will . . . well, I don't know. It's a wharf, and that usually means the shot of the truck going through the warehouse on the dock, but didn't we just see that? Granted, it was in the Crimson Ghost, and there's no reason they can't use it here. Just seems like a shot you'd want to use sparingly.

So our heroes come back at night to sew what's going on at the one dock they checked out, and find the henchmen skulking. Since aggravated Skulking With Intent is a Federal crime, he goes into lawman mode:


Nice move at the end, rolling to avoid three people jumping on you. Is this a three-against-one fistfight? Those are against the rules.

Of course, it helps if one guy brains the other with a chair - you know, a wharf chair - and one guy just seems to fall down for no reason.



They really need to work on their ganging-up style:



Eventually they overwhelm our hero and take him out to sea, planning to dump him in the drink. Unfortunately for everyone on the ship, the Coast Guard has their number. When they tune into the radio - it's a nautical Plotte-Pointe - it says there's an unidentified ship 12 miles off the coast, and everyone should BOLO for any smaller vessels heading towards the ship. Of course this means FIRE HUGE PROJECTILES AT RANDOM SHIPS, which is exactly what the Coast Guard does. But once the bad guys shoot out the Coast Guard searchlight - they only had one - they're safe from shelling. Duncan gets out of his ropes and there's a brief fistfight before they knock him unconscious again. Looks like he's going to be drowned for sure! But don't count out our Coast Guard, which never bothers to identify a vessel or tell it to heave to. Nah. Let the gats do the yakking:


End of the line for Cap'n Turncoat. As for the cliffhanger, this redeems the whole episode: haven't seen this before.


Aside from the lackluster heroes and boring villain and lack of any compelling overarching story, this one's not bad.

Since it's still drive-in season - barely - we have another little refreshment movie. I love these.


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