February 28, 2020

Freeman Dyson



94 years is a long time. Mr. Dyson did not waste that time. Wikipedia provides a partial overview of his discoveries and concepts, as well as this non-comprehensive list of just the things that were named for him.

Dyson, being a contrarian, was a true scientist, challenging orthodoxies whenever they came up. 

There is an excellent interview with him from a year and a half ago here.  

Thank you Freeman Dyson.

Godspeed.

UPDATE:

Issac Arthur has a fine tribute to this great man.


Mr. Arthur also links to a Ted Talk and interview with Professor Dyson.

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December 31, 2019

2019 Gives Us Another Kick In the Gut on Its Way Out

Syd Mead just died.



The visionary artist and futurist (perhaps ironically, best known for the art direction of Blade Runner) who's generally optimistic aesthetic defined "the future" for a generation has just passed away.


Support his family by buying is art here.
Screw 2019.

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November 06, 2019

Robert Mitchell Jr.

There are people who storm enemy held positions, climb distant mountains, cure diseases, invent wonders, or are lauded as celebrities and "influencers". The praises of those sorts of people are sung constantly.

There are other metrics for a consequential life.

Robert Mitchell Jr. was never married and his visible achievements consisted of a comic book store.

However, known to his friends as "Bob!" he touched myriad lives and was a remarkable force for good. In 1990, Bob worked as a clerk at a store called World's Best Comics, which was teetering on the edge of oblivion during the comic market collapse of the early '90s. He bought out the senior owner when it looked like the store was going to go under and because of his astute sense of the market and his willingness to live on a shelf behind the new release rack he pulled the store through what was a bloodbath in the local market. 85% of the comic stores in Southeastern Virginia went out of business in the early 90's. Bob diversified and became a local institution.

Bob wasn't just better than most at business though, he was a better than average person. Bob would give you the shirt off his back, and in many cases he literally did.

Bob gave support, advice, sometimes a place to stay, and frequently a reference to literally dozens of young men who got hit by the buzzsaw of life and just needed a few days or weeks to get on their feet. Some of those people went on to great things. A few of them work now in Hollywood or in the video game industry. Inevitably, some of those people took advantage of him. Indeed, some of them so resented the fact that they owed him everything that they turned on Bob, in two cases, trying to get him arrested. And yet in spite of it all, Bob continued to do little these bits of charity here and there.

Bob lacked tack and did not dress elegantly, but he was a true gentleman. Bob was, my father aside, the most honest person I ever met. He ALWAYS kept his word. He was, superficialities notwithstanding, a real gentleman.

For several years, he had made an annual pilgimage to Japan to  get anime and Manga related goods for his store. These were not readily available in the U.S. in the '90s. Along the way, he had learned all the tricks for budget travel in Japan. I would never have gone to Japan had Bob not acted as a tour guide in 2007. I am not the only person he did this for. At least a dozen people, many of whom he hardly knew, were shown the ropes of the dirt cheap Japan tour, some of whom have parlayed that into their own careers. The memory cards with the pictures of that 2007 trip and most of my pictures from the days when I worked part-time at his shop were destroyed when my house as taken out by a tree a few years later. Neither Bob nor myself was particularly sentimental and I now realize that this picture, from that above-lined post, may be the only picture I have of him. 


At the HIJNS Mikasa

More importantly, than his services as halfway house and travel agent, Bob helped me to appreciate what friendship is.

In 1993-4 I was at my absolute darkest hour. Basically everyone in the local fan community had turned on me because, well, there was drama. I did something that was unpopular in the circles of local anime, SF and comic book fandom. I still think I was correct but I was seen as violating fan solidarity.  The point is that this controversy, over night, changed my social credit rating in the local community from "cosmo guy" to "pariah" and further resulted in my own business venture exploding in my face; landing me in what was to me at the time, inconceivable debt, Bob remained my friend.

It was not easy to run a comic store in this area at that time, and remain my friend.

When basically everyone else in the local fandom stopped talking to me, Bob would talk.

When I was homeless, and living in my car, Bob took me in for several months. Because of Bob's help, I was able to get out from under that debt and never file for bankruptcy. About 8 years ago, when my new circle of IRL friends I'd had a decade or more began giving me "The quiz", Bob did not put his finger to the wind and see which way it was blowing before doing a cost benefit analysis on our friendship. Bob was my friend. He was one of the last of my local IRL friends.

I never adequately thanked him.

Now I never will.

Robert Mitchell Jr. was found dead in his shop this morning by his clerk.

There had been a health scare earlier this year, but he had been improving. This was quite unexpected.

This tragedy will get no coverage beyond a few obituaries, but something of great consequence has been lost. Bob, was a fine man and a remarkably positive influence on innumerable people especially here over the last 40 years.

He will be missed more than he imagined.

I am numb.

Godspeed Bob.

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December 01, 2018

On Bush



There are lots of memorials being written today of the late George H. W. Bush who was the last of the old-school presidents, being a patrician gentleman of considerable skill competence and civic mindedness. He was a bomber pilot, oilman, Civil servant, diplomat, intel specialist, the guy who convinced his boss (Nixon) to resign, and arguably the most successful one term president in U.S. History. 

And in that latter capacity, he saved the world. 

Regan's defense buildup and hardball diplomacy had pushed the U.S.S.R. to the brink, without firing a shot outside of a few Proxy fought spoiling actions in Central America. However, after the Berlin Wall fell, with the Soviet Union on the verge of collapse, there was the real danger that the Commissars might lash out due to spite or fear. Russia had at that time, a tad over 40,000 nuclear warheads aimed at the West

Bush did not back them into a corner, and reassured the Russians that we were not going to drive them into the dirt. There was no war. Bush (and Gorbachev and Thatcher) kept the whole thing from going to worms as it very well could have.

He also won the Gulf War, brought the country out of recession, started a big push to launch manned expeditions through the solar system (later cancelled by his successor, aside from the space station) and tried, with some success to re-invigorate the American tradition of voluntary associations (see his thousand points of light speech).

Certainly there were mistakes, and policies of his that can be debated, but now is not the time, for George H. W. Bush was a man who dedicated his life to the service of his nation and through his steady hand and calm demeanor saved the world when it when it was on the brink.

Fair winds and following seas sir.
Thank you.

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November 12, 2018

Stan Lee 1922-2018 (UPDATED)

95 is a long life by any measure and Stan Lee led a full life to boot, but none of that lessens the sadness at his passing


His contributions to American comic books are being remembered in many places today but they are perhaps still not fully appreciated by many. 

The Comics Code derailed the development of the medium in America and probably knocked it back decades. Stan Lee's reinvention of the superhero genre almost certainly saved the medium in this country.

His legacy is indeed profound, but he was also a gentleman. Back when I was in comics retail, everyone I talked to who knew him considered him to be a singularly fine man. 

Finally, there is a cool anecdote from his early years... He became the editor of what became Marvel in 1941(at 19!), but the next year, he took military leave to join the Army during WW2. He served in a Signal Corps unit repairing electronics and as a lineman...he also wrote manuals and training comics, serving alongside Frank Capra and Dr, Seuss.

So today, the last of the Howling Commandoes has left this mortal coil. 

Stan Lee gave us our childhoods and dreams to aspire too. He was a man of consequence, without whom the world would be a lesser place. He will be dearly missed.


EXCELSIOR!


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March 14, 2018

The Universe Just Got a Bit Dimmer



Five and a half decades after being being told he would be dead in two years, Stephen Hawking expired in his sleep this morning at 79. Long confined to a wheelchair by his terrible disease this unlikely but undeniable badass divided his time between keeping death at bay through sheer force of will and making tremendous strides in expanding mankind's knowledge of how the universe works. 

This obituary seems to have gotten short shrift as the news today is cluttered with stories of domestic politics, international crises, celebrity asshattery, and the fact that it is snowing in New England in March. However, (if we don't blow it all up) the contributions of this man will be celebrated and studied long after all the other news of the day has faded into the dusts of time. 

Fair winds and following seas Dr. Hawking.
Few have fought so hard and so long against the twin darknesses of death and ignorance.
Thank you sir. 

UPDATE: Issac Arthur has an overview of Hawking's discoveries, rather more in depth than I'm capable of.

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September 08, 2017

Jerry Pournelle Has Passed Away

Word is that Jerry Pournelle has passed away quietly at his home. 

Few have had as big an influence on Science Fiction as Dr. Jerry Pournelle. Best known as a fiction author he was also a veteran who fought in the Korean war and an engineer of some repute. He worked in the government developing advanced defense technologies in various capacities during the Cold War , he was tasked as well with various strategic studies and was very involved in civil defense issues as well. After Civil Defense was placed on the back burner by the government in favor of a more top down approach exemplified by F.E.M.A. , he helped to start the preparedness movement in the 1970's. (It should be noted that many of his views on civil defense have been spectacularly vindicated in recent weeks by the response to Harvey.)

With the late Max Hunter, he helped develop the DC-X a vtovl rocket test rig for a proposed re-useable spacecraft. It was, unfortunately, cancelled despite a succsessful test run.

Dr. Pournelle received numerous awards for fiction and nonfiction work, including the  Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award for a lifetime achievement in promoting the goal of a free spacefaring society. It was well earned as making humanity a multiplanet society was a passion for him as was individual liberty.

I have read nothing of his, that was not enjoyable, inspiring or both. If you have not read his books, then you need to start with A Mote in God's Eye.

He left unfinished several works including an update of his earlier The Strategy of Technology, a nonfiction policy oriented essay which I particularly recommend.


I did not know Dr. Pournelle, however the dozen times or so that I interacted with him,  he was a perfect gentleman, respectful, professional and kind. 

His life was long and has to be judged successful. He went above and beyond though. His daughter is an archeologist and his son is a naval officer and in addition to blessing the world with such worthy progeny, he gave joy to millions through his prodigious quantities of fiction and hope for humanities future through his vision and wisdom.

May we be worthy of his legacy. 

We have truly lost one of the greats. 



UPDATE: Sarah Hoyt remembers Dr. Pournelle..
There is a silence after a giant falls.  We’re all concussed by the sudden loss.

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June 17, 2017

Stephen Furst Has Passed Beyond the Rim


Everyone is talking about his roll as Flounder, which was indeed legendary, but this is where he really shined.

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June 05, 2017

A Cracking Good Fellow Has Left Us

Peter Salis, the voice of Wallace and Gromit, had passed away. He was 96.


Here is a clip from The Wrong Trousers.

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May 10, 2017

Bob Owens Has Passed On


Bob Owens was always an important voice on the right side of the blogosphere, having started blogging at the now defunct Confederate Yankee around late 2003. He was a major figure in the early years of blogging. his most recent blog, Bearing Arms, was a clarion voice in support of the second amendment and  a source of advice on gun related legal matters. His passing was completely unexpected. The manner of his passing far more so. 


There is a Go-Fund-Me page for his wife and two daughters here




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December 09, 2016

Sic Itur Ad Astra

War hero, test pilot, senator and the first American to orbit the Earth; John Glenn has passed away at 95.




95 is a ripe old age and he certainly lived a full life. It is terrible, however, to loose such a storied and august individual. 


What is, in some ways, more terrible still, is that, so many years after his pioneering flight,  he did not have the option of an off-planet hospice. With Senator Glenn, the last of the Mercury astronauts has passed, and we are rapidly approaching a point where no living person will have walked on the moon; a rather retrograde development.

 The total number of people off planet now is six

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October 24, 2016

Steven DenBeste 1952-2016

Steven DenBeste has passed away.



I just received word from Steven's brother, graciously thanking me for making the welfare call to the police and confirming that what many of us feared had indeed come to pass.  I did not inquire as to specifics, but Steven had been in very poor health of late, having had a stroke just under four years ago.



Steven was brilliant, a former engineer with a crackerjack mind. His old blog, U.S.S. Clueless was tremendously important in the early days of the 'blogosphere'. It is hard to overstate the importance of U.S.S. Clueless and the brilliance of his analysis. Sadly, that site went down this past week as well, when Steven's server failed. That site was immensely influential to many of us, and I am far from the only person he inspired to blog or helped along.

Bill Whittle once described Steven as 
..brilliant, insightful, inspiring and ALWAYS RIGHT.

Bill, like so many others, was positively impacted by Steven's writings and inspired to do his own. Mr. Whittle also described Steven as one of the most gentle people he had known.

Some years ago, due to declining health and vicious internet trolling, Steven started Chizumatic to focus on less consequential topics, but he continued to be inspirational and influential in his new bailiwick. 

Pete describes it thus:
 Named after a character in Mahoromatic, Chizumatic was one of the oldest anime blogs.......

.....From the beginning, Chizumatic offered a strong editorial voice for the most competent direction and the cutest girls, as well as an excellent understanding of the classical blogging, which Steven brought with him from the political arena. Explanations and WMG were another hallmark. Did you think too that the crow in Haibane Renmei represented Rakka’s dog? We aren’t getting such insights anymore and animeblogging has become poorer for that.
 
 

Steven DenBeste had an overwhelmingly positive influence on the world despite his physical frailty, one out of all proportion to his resources. The world today is undeniably a better place for his having lived, but it is a bit dimmer today with his loss.

He will be sorely missed.

UPDATE:
Others, far more talented and eloquent than I have opined on this sad turn of events. 
Rand Simberg, Dustbury, Aziz, Bill Quick, Neo-Neocon, J.C. Carlton, Ed Driscoll, Ace of Spades, Jim Geraghty, Wonderduck, Suburban Banshee, Paterrico, Cold Fury, and Pixy has a whole other set of links. Sarah Hoyt, being a professional author, summed it up pithily
We shall not see his like again.

It looks like most of the U.S.S. Clueless archives have been saved and others in the comments to this post are working on additional backups. 

Thank you for all you did Steven DenBeste. 

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April 25, 2016

Douglas Holmes Talton: November 19, 1924 - April 14 2016

Uncle Doug spent many his formative years in the crushing poverty that characterized Smithfield North Carolina during the depression era. in 1943 he enlisted in the Navy and received his baptism of fire as a landing craft coxwain at an obscure location known as Omaha Beach where, after the constructive total loss of his first command,  he had an unlikely meeting with his brother John before chaos intervened and he found himself running ammunition to the troops with the landing parties from the battleship Texas. He subsequently served in the Pacific and was one of the first Americans to land in Japan after the surrender. He later was present at tests Able and Baker, where he suffered radiation poisoning. In the following years he served in China during the tumultuous retreat of the Nationalists to Formosa, saw combat in Korea, and as a cryptographer, served in stations as diverse as Japan, England, Italy, and the South Pacific test range where he was present at several Pacific nuclear tests. 

   Retiring in 1964, he served as an analyst for NATO and later in the Merchant Marine. Later still, he captained numerous passenger vessels and private yachts. 
   He was in remarkable health despite his years, but a bit over a week ago he went into the hospital for a simple gall bladder removal and never woke up from the operation. He is survived by his wife, three daughters, five grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
   He definitely did his bit.
    
   The things he, his brothers, and many of his day saw and did were nothing short of epic. The loss of their experience is a tragedy beyond words and their shoes are unlikely to be soon filled. 

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July 13, 2015

Satou Iwata 1959-2015

The president of Nintendo, Satou Iwata has died. 


Iwata was a rarity in the gaming industry: a corporate president whose background was in game programming. He joined the Tokyo-based developer HAL Laboratory fresh out of college in the early 80s, and immediately began working as a programmer, helping to create classic games like Balloon Fight and the Kirby’s Dream Land series for Nintendo.

Iwata not only came up through the ranks from the production end, he also oversaw a vast improvement in the companies fortunes. His background meant that he was also able to integrate the creators input much more smoothly with the corporate decision making process, which probably helped Nintendo immensely. 



He brought a lot of people joy through his efforts and will be missed.  
He was only 55.


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June 12, 2015

Another Great One Passes

As many of you know, Christopher Lee died on June seventh. An exceptional actor who generally played villains, and he was remarkably active into his 90's. Indeed, her started a new career as a heavy metal musician at 88. 


He served with distiction in World War 2 and after the war, hunted Nazi war criminals before starting his august acting career. Cdr. Salamander has much more on that and points us to Christopher Lee's impressively long entry over at Badass of the Week
He's also a 6'5" tall world champion fencer, speaks six languages, does all of his own stunts, has participated in more on-screen sword fights than any actor in history, served for five years defending democracy from global fascism as a British Commando blowing the shit out of Nazi asses in World War II, and became the oldest person to ever record lead vocals on a heavy metal track when, at the age of 88, he wrote, performed on, and released a progressive symphonic power metal EP about the life of Charlemagne ...


Pic Via Bryan Adams/Instagram


A true renaissance man has passed. May he rest in peace. He certainly earned it. 




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March 12, 2015

Terry Pratchett 1948-2015

Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series quietly passed away this morning, having fought a battle with early onset Alzheimers, which, in a manner of speaking, he won.  You see, he succeeded in completing his last novel The Sheppherds Crown shortly before his passing. It will be published posthumously. 




Pratchett leaves behind a vast body of work that has brought and will continue to bring joy to millions. He also had a fossil sea turtle named in his honor and a greenhouse full of carnivorous plants, because he was just that awesome a person. 

A great man has passed, but in both his work and his life, he inspired many of the great people to come. 

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February 27, 2015

Damn


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February 06, 2015

On This Day In Sports History

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Another One Taken Too Young

Origa, whose haunting voice graced such productions as Turn A Gundam, Final Fantasty XIII-2  Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society, Fantastic Children, and Princess Arete.  passed away  from heart failure in Kanagawa on the 17th. She was only 44.




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February 02, 2015

Monty Oum (June 22, 1981 – February 1, 2015)

Monty Oum has passed away. The creator of  RWBY and Dead Fantasy  died yesterday of a severe allergic reaction he had during a routine surgery. He was only 33.


Oum, who became a renowned 3d animator, was entirely self taught. He got his start doing you tube videos initially using sprites hacked from Final Fantasy and DOA, he quickly improved his skills and began rendering his own characters. After stints at both Midway and Namco, doing combat choreography, he moved to Rooster Teeth where he worked on Red V Blue and put together RWBY, which was an ambitious concept for a staff of 15 people. Oum pulled it off! RWBY was one of Crunchyroll's top rated series when it premiered and this little show developed a solid fan following in the US as well as (perhaps surprisingly) Japan.

Monty and his team learned the quirks of their medium as they went along.  In some ways, their experience was like the early filmmakers and they continuously improved their craft through the first two seasons despite having their production disrupted at one point by floods. 

Monty Oum broke considerable ground in proving that a tiny group of creators can use the internet and CGI to bypass the usual entertainment gatekeepers and produce a real hit. His series was not without faults, but it remained engaging, fun and entertaining. Many of us were eagerly looking forward to the next season. 

Monty Oum, leaves behind a wife and family, but also a legacy of innovation and art. He accomplished more in 33 years than most of us do in a lifetime, and he did it with style. The world is a bit darker today for his passing, but remains more enjoyable for his having lived. 

There is a donation link for his family here.


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