Monkey-brained Musings

Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Reading List

Instructions: Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien*
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov*
3. Dune, Frank Herbert

4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin*
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson

7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley *
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe*
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.*

13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman

25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling *
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams*

28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice*
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley*
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick

34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson*

44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock

48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer


Monday, November 20, 2006
Everybody Talks About the Weather,
but Nobody Does Anything About It

A scientist has pointed out a major flaw in the State Water Plan: the 50-year plan doesn't make any allowances for climate change. As reported by the Express-News, Gerald North, a geosciences professor at A&M, indicates that climate change could undermine the assumptions supporting the Plan's efforts to develop, manage, and conserve Texas' water resources and ensure that we have water for the future.

"This is something that we should think about and worry about," said Gerald North, who holds the Harold J. Haynes Endowed Chair in Geosciences at Texas A&M University. "They completely neglected this whole thing. It is really troubling."

North, who made his remarks during a conference hosted by the Texas State University's Rivers Systems Institute, was referring to the Texas Water Development Board's recently adopted state water plan.

The plan, approved by the Water Development Board on Tuesday, lists 4,500 proposed projects and strategies to meet an estimated 8.8 million acre-feet shortfall by the year 2060. That shortfall is slightly less than half the state's current available water supply.

The shortfall could be even greater when global warming is taken into account, North said, spelling trouble for thirsty communities, industries and ecosystems.

Computer estimates vary, but North said they indicate a warming trend in Texas of roughly 4 to 9 degrees by the end of the century. And although annual rainfall predictions are even less reliable, North said it's unlikely there will be much more rain as the climate changes — possibly less.

The hotter temperatures would increase evaporation "exponentially," North said, which could devastate the state's rivers and cause many of them to dry up before reaching the Gulf of Mexico.

. . .

North acknowledges that for many years he was "cautious" about the uncertainties of global warming science, which prompted some leading skeptics, including Rush Limbaugh, to quote him. There's now little doubt among the scientific community that the threat is real, North said.

"I'm not a zealot who is out there hugging trees," he said "But things have changed over the past 10 years."

Also, the Plan continues to ignore any role for wetlands in conserving water flows and water quality.

But hey, God is watching out for us. I guess that we now have faith-based Pollyanaism to go along with the do nothing approach of faith-based nihilism.

In his column on Sunday, David Brooks pointed out a path away from partisan arguments about the truth. In his tribute to Milton Friedman, he noted that:

His passing is sad for many reasons. One is that from the 1940s to the mid-1990s, American political life was shaped by a series of landmark books: "Witness," "The Vital Center," "Capitalism and Freedom," "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," "Losing Ground," "The Closing of the American Mind." Then in the 1990s, those big books stopped coming. . . .

The big books stopped coming partly because the distinction between intellectual movements and political parties broke down. Friedman was never interested in partisan politics but was deeply engaged in policy. Today, team loyalty has taken over the wonk's world, so there are invisible boundaries that mark politically useful, and therefore socially acceptable, thought.

Let us hope that we can again look beyond team loyalty and engage in honest discussions about policy.


Sunday, November 12, 2006
Election Reflections

Well, that turned better than I thought. Clearly we have a lot more work to do in Texas, but I am encouraged that the overall message from this election is "Basta!"

I spent election day outside a polling place in a Methodist church on West Lynn. It was heartening to watch and talk to the voters going to and from the polls, sometimes with their children and dogs. The election of a Democratic Congress and a larger Democratic delegation in the Texas House is a restoration of the checks and balances that are critical for our government and our society. The election has restored my faith in our constitution which has been so tattered over the last six years.

The large winning percentages for the Austin bonds were heartening, particularly with the parks bonds getting the most votes at 73 percent. The Austin bonds were part of a national trend of voters suppport for specific funding measures, particularly for the environment and the arts. After years of conservative funding cutbacks by the federal and state overnments, voters and local groups have seen the need for direct action in support of our cultural and natural patrimony.

In Texas, the good news is tempered by the realization of the work that needs to be done, particularly for the statewide races. The narrow margins in the Third Court of Appeals races show that Democratic candidates can win. It is encouraging that Bastrop joined Travis County in supporting the judicial candidates, but it is a mystery that they didn't win Hays County in what was otherwise a great day for Democrats there.

In CD 10, Ted Ankrum turned in one of the best showings against any incumbent and demonstrated that the district can be competitive for the Democrats. But the challenge is still the Harris County portion of the district. McCaul pulled 71 percent of the vote there. A Democrat can win the district if the Republican can be kept to 65 percent or less.

The key for CD 10 and for the judicial candidates will be to build up the local Democratic organizations in each of the counties and particularly in Tomball.


The scattered musings of Jeb Boyt, Austin Texas. A collection of the random bits that scamper through my monkey brain. This blog is my personal record. The opinions expressed here are my own and are in no way associated with any employer, board, commission, organization, or other entity that I may be affiliated with. So there.

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