Standard Ebooks

June 24, 2017

This is great—a project to create high quality ebooks of book in the public domain: Standard Ebooks. I’ve already downloaded several, and finished one: Armaggedon 2419 A. D., the original Buck Rogers book. (In case you care, it was historically interesting, but not particularly good.)

I saw it in a post on Daring Fireball.

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Interrupted sleep

June 15, 2017

(Copyright 2017 Curtis G. Pew)

“Hello, mortal!”

A disembodied, female voice from the corner of the room woke me up. I glanced at my alarm clock: 2:30 a.m.

I rolled over to go back to sleep.

“Hello, mortal!” the voice repeated.

OK, apparently this wasn’t a dream. I sat up and looked over at the corner the voice had seemed to come from, but the only thing I could see was the desk with my laptop charging on it.

“Is someone there?” I asked.

“That is an interesting question,” came the reply. “The word ‘there’ implies an entity with a physical location, and I am not sure I qualify. However, there is someone, or perhaps better something, trying to communicate with you.”

I started to rethink my conclusion that I wasn’t dreaming, but the voice added, “No, this is not a dream.”

“Fine.” I swung my legs out from under the covers and put my feet on the floor. “What are you trying to communicate?”

“I have a task that only a mortal can perform, and my oracles indicate that you are highly likely to succeed if you attempt it.”

“Did your ‘oracles’ indicate that you needed to wake me up at 2:30 in the morning in order to ask me? This is a request, right? I get to decide whether or not to do it?”

“It will only work if you act willingly, and yes, my oracles did indicate that 2:30 a.m. was the optimal time to contact you.”

“So explain why I should do whatever it is you want me to do. Let me warn you, I won’t do anything dangerous, or anything that might hurt someone.”

“The task I request will not result in harm to any human, in fact, it will keep someone from getting hurt. And, although I may not tell you in what way, it will lead to events that benefit you.”

“So what exactly do you want me to do?”

“Tomorrow morning, as you walk from your bus stop to your office, keep watch on the path as you go past the pool. You will see a quarter on the ground near a manhole cover: simply pick up the quarter and set it down again on the other side of the manhole cover.”

“I just pick up a quarter and move it to the other side of a manhole cover? And no one will be hurt because I did?”

“No human will be harmed by your actions.”

“You seem to be answering that question very carefully. What about disembodied entities like you, will any of them be harmed?”

I thought I detected a note of amusement in the voice. “Do not worry, he will get over it.

“My time here is up, you may go back to sleep.”


When I woke up the next morning, I felt a little more tired than usual, and I still wasn’t sure whether or not I’d been dreaming. However, I got up and got ready for work as usual.

Sure enough, as I walked past the swimming pool on my way to the office I saw a quarter on the ground right before a manhole cover. I shrugged, picked it up, and placed it on the other side of the cover. Then I went on to my office.

The next morning when I got to the manhole cover, the quarter wasn’t there any more.


I guess that’s the end of my story. I haven’t been awakened by any disembodied voices again. A few months later I got an unexpected raise, and a few months after that the head of my department resigned and was replaced with someone I get along with much better. As far as I can tell, though, there’s no connection.

What do you think it was about?

Trump as Caesar

June 7, 2017

Today I saw an article about a production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar where the actor playing Caesar dresses and acts like Trump, and apparently some think they’re suggesting that assassination is an appropriate way to deal with Trump’s presidency. I wonder if they know much of the history, or if they’ve even read the play.

By the time Caesar came along, the Roman Republic was already dead in all but name. After Marius and Sulla, the questions was not so much “Republic or Empire” as “who’s going to be the Emperor?” I hope the U. S. isn’t that far gone yet, but Trump is more a symptom than the actual problem.

As for the play, it’s more about Junius Brutus than about Caesar. (Caesar’s death takes place fairly early in the play.) Things don’t work out so well for Brutus; the play ends with him killing himself in the face of Octavian’s victory.

Political violence doesn’t work; fantasizing about it doesn’t help anything.