Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
03/22/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 38, Whole Number 2059

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Free SF Anthology about the Future of Solar Power
        Measles (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE FATE OF ROME by Kyle Harper (book review
                by Gregory Frederick)
        What Is Good-Looking? (letters of comment by Kevin R
                and Keith F. Lynch)
        Dilbert (letter of comment by Jim Susky)
        This Week's Reading (book sales) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Free SF Anthology about the Future of Solar Power

THE WEIGHT OF LIGHT has four stories by Brenda Cooper, Andrew Dana
Hudson, Corey S. Pressman, Cat Rambo, as well as a dozen essays.

Available in multiple formats:


TOPIC: Measles (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

(This comment was written February 27.  Things might have changed
by the time you read it.  In fact, I sure hope they did.)  There is
an old public service message that says if you think that education
is expensive, try ignorance.  I see that the problem is that the
cost is not directed at just one person, the ignorant one.  Someone
infected by the measles is forcing infection on people who have
fully cooperated with established procedures.

Now we can see that happening in Texas right now.  The focal point
is the conflict for science vs. ignorance in Arlington, Texas.
Republican Texas State Representative Bill Zedler is fighting for
his constituents' right to choose.  Normally that would make him a
good guy.  The question is what do they have a right to choose.
What they are choosing is to allow parents and caregivers the right
for their constituents to op out of getting their childhood
vaccinations, in specific their anti-measles vaccination.  Zedler
is telling his constituents that our healthcare system is so good
that we do not have to worry about diseases like measles because
they have what he calls "antibiotics and stuff like that."

Zedler says that our medicine is strong enough that nobody would
die of measles in the United States.  He says we have antibiotics
and "things like that" to fight the disease.  Measles is a viral
and virulent disease.  The treatment for it is roughly the same
anywhere in the world.  If you say that sounds like it is sitting
around and not doing much, you are absolutely right.  The current
treatment prescribes not much to do.  It is to wait the disease out
and see what happens.  If your kids show signs of the disease, well
good luck to you.

Zedler suggests we can fight the disease with antibiotics.  Sadly,
antibiotics are essentially useless for fighting viruses.  There
are vaccines that can be used prior to exposure.  Once a victim is
exposed there is nothing that can be done but wait and hope.  And
the prevention is a vaccine anyway so people of Zedler's persuasion
would have to be vaccinated in any case or face the full strength
of the disease.

Children all over the country are being put at risk in part by
Zedler's ignorance of the difference between what diseases can and
cannot treated at all effectively.  As of this writing there have
been six outbreaks of measles in the United States.

There is significant risk that children who are not vaccinated will
get the measles and pass it along to other children.  Measles is
highly contagious.  Currently the numbers of children is relatively
small, but Zedler's legislation could easily cause a great deal
more deaths.  It may well be that Zedler will get pressure from
other Republicans who are concerned about the welfare of their
children, but I am not expecting that to happen.  [-mrl]


by Kyle Harper (book review by Gregory Frederick)

This recent history book looks at the Roman Empire and its
development thru the years.  But particularly it studies this great
civilization's long struggle as it was affected by disease, climate
change and war.  The Romans had health problems for many years, due
to sanitation issues and a population density which aided the
spread of communicable diseases in their cities.  Romans had public
baths and toilets, but soap and toilet paper were non-existent and
untreated human waste from public toilets in Rome went into a storm
sewer system that would empty into a river.

Records exist for only certain regions of the empire, but we do
know that the Romans in Britain only attained a height of 5' 4" for
men and 5' 1" or 2" for women and in Roman Egypt females lived to
around 27 years of age and males till around 26 years.  They would
grow taller and be a bit healthier in Britain soon after the fall
of the Roman Empire there.  The diseases that plagued them as part
of the closer connected Empire and at times more densely populated
cities disappeared.

Around 144 A.D. a major plague came to the city of Rome.  This was
probably smallpox and though it killed a significant percentage of
the population the Roman Empire would survive it.  From 200 BC to
150 A.D. a period of climate called the Roman Climate Optimum
occurred.  This was a period of warm, wet and stable climate
conditions across the Mediterranean that allowed for improved
farming crop yields that helped the Empire to grow.  But from 450
A.D. to 700 A.D. the climate turned much worse; this period is
called the late Antique Little Ice Age caused by volcanic activity
that released dust into the atmosphere that blocked some of the
Sun's radiation and lowered the average temperature.

When in 541 A.D. the bubonic plague arrived and stayed for about
two hundred years what was left of the Roman Empire which was
mostly concentrated around Greece, Asia Minor and North Africa was
decimated.  This Eastern Roman Empire was fighting major battles
with Persia and then had the bubonic plague killing millions and
the climate turned bad.

And all this occurred just before the rise of Islam.  This major
force from Arabia would capture much of the Eastern Roman Empire
which would never fully recover from these effects.  This well
written book is a great essay on the major disease and
environmental conditions that influenced this once great empire.


TOPIC: What Is Good-Looking? (letters of comment by Kevin R and
Keith F. Lynch)

In response to Mark's comments on James Bond in the 03/15/19 issue
of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:

I'm no expert on what women consider to be "good-looking" in a man,
and personal charisma, talent and wealth have been known to bias
the judges.

The "Lewis" series, spun off from "Morse," had Laurence Fox as Det.
Sgt. Hathaway.  He's also played Palmerston on "Victoria."

Here's his wiki page:

and Google images:

In real life, he was attractive enough to wed Billie Piper!

This may be his talent, charm, etc having more to do with it than
his "unconventional good looks," as it were.  He can sing a bit,

Male actors who veer a bit from looking like George Clooney or Jon
Hamm aren't tagged "ugly," but "rugged" or "interesting."  Humphrey
Bogart and Spencer Tracy got to be cast against beautiful women,
and audiences bought it.  Maybe they just "acted" so as to convince
the audiences that these babes would give them the time of day?

Keith F. Lynch responds:

It breaks my suspension of disbelief when any male smoker attracts
a beautiful woman, or when any female smoker attracts a wealthy or
powerful man.

As usual, I'm just ahead of my time.  The idea that smoking is a
marker, not for glamour, sophistication, and attractiveness, but
for being disgusting, ugly, sickly, and foul smelling became
mainstream only with the Simpsons and Malcolm in the Middle.


TOPIC: Dilbert (letter of comment by Jim Susky)

Thanks for the Dilbert reference in MT VOID last week

This is one of Scott Adams' best strips, which hits a lot of points
in "our-verse" (though some may focus on it's apparent allusion to

Adams' best work was done while he was still at Pac Bell.  In the
mid-90's his new supervisor took up his standing offer to leave.
Since then his consistent brilliance (in the Dilbert strip) has
regrettably tarnished.

The current Wikipedia entry on him touches on his very cogent (if
cynical) 2016 assessment of the current POTUS--a truncated version
of which made the national news.  This suggests that his best work
does not make it into the strip.

The entry also makes reference to "The Dilbert Blog," which I will
soon peruse.

Thanks again for the Dilbert reference.  [-js]


TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

Well, it's spring book sale season again and last weekend was the
Bryn Mawr book sale, held at the Princeton Day School.

Over the last couple of years, the size of this sale had been
decreasing, but it seems to have come roaring back, with all the
tables full of books.  That may mean people are getting rid of more
books, but the number of people also seemed up from last year, and
parking was almost impossible.

Media prices were lower this year, as many people move away from
physical media.  The result was that all DVDs--even multi-DVD sets-
-were only $1.  So we got six of the seven boxed sets of THE
SOPRANOS for a total of $6.  Even buying the seventh set on-line,
we will end up getting the entire six-season series (plus extras)
for under $25.  N ow that's an offer you can't refuse.

We also got a dozen movies, two boxed sets of FOYLE'S WAR, and two
Teaching Company courses (C. S. Lewis and economics) so before I
even got to the books, I had a full duffle *and* a half-full
shopping bag.

But I did get some books (although I will admit to not looking at
as many areas as I have in past years).  They had a huge science
fiction section, with a lot of good stuff that we already had.  I
didn't even look at general fiction, or mysteries, or history, or
literary classics, all of which I usually at least peruse.

My "prize" find was an edition in the original Spanish of Jaime
Alazraki's "Prosa narrativa de Jorge Luis Borges" (1968).  Most of
the rest of what I bought were also lit crit, but in English: a
book about Herman Melville, yet another study by Leslie A. Fiedler
on Jews in American literature (apparently his specialty, though he
also did a small book about Olaf Stapledon), and collections of
essays by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Neal Stephenson, and Edmund

By this point I had filled the shopping bag as well, so there was
very little room to add more books, and my back was starting to
bother me.  (Could it possibly have had something to do with
carrying a duffel and a bag full of books and DVDs?)  I looked
through the philosophy--there was a lot, but I found nothing for
me.  There was such a large religion section that I didn't even

Check-out was very confused.  When I got into line, there were two
lines, one for cash and one for credit cards, and both long.  Then
they changed (or clarified?) it--everyone should start in the cash
line, where one of the five cashiers would total up your purchases.
Then you could either pay in cash there, or get into the (now much
shorter) credit card line to pay the one cashier there.  One big
advantage is that you could wait until you knew the total before
committing to cash or credit card.

The main problem, of course, is way more people than they can
handle, both in parking, and in checking out.  Unless they add more
volunteers, or direct people to more distant lots, things will not
improve.  (A lot they had several years ago has been converted into
a playground, which hasn't helped.)  But given what a great deal
books are here, people will continue to put up with this.

Two weeks from now is the Cherry Hill Friends of the Library book
sale.  We combine this with a trip to Second Time Books in Mount
Laurel, where we hope to sell enough books to at least result in no
net increase in book volume in the house because of the sales.


                                           Mark Leeper

           Delay is the deadliest form of denial.
                                           --C. Northcote Parkinson