Nothing is certain anymore. Nothing. Chaos is king and magic is loose in the world. – Robert Heinlein, “Waldo”

I’m astonished how many people have either never read these two novellas, or read them and manged to miss the point.

If you haven’t read them, you really should, if you are any kind of science fiction fan. They are fundamental to the mythology of science fiction. The concepts Heinlein posits have become axiomatic to later writers.

"Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942." Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942

“Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942.” Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942

Many readers — I take this from the reviews I’ve read by people who say they have indeed read the two novellas — apparently don’t see a connection between the stories. They think they are in one volume “to fill up space.” Either they didn’t really read them or they are conceptually challenged, unable to connect two related ideas.

The point is that technology is a based on our belief it will work (see Clarke’s Three Laws). As long as we believe in it, it works, whatever “it” may be. If or when we stop believing, it won’t work. It is all magic. Science is incantation. Witchcraft codified.

When we lose faith in technology, magic becomes the new technology. The difference between one and the other is style, not substance. The stories’ plots are irrelevant. It is all concept.

The best science fiction is concept-driven. Characters and plot usually take a back seat. These two stories have stuck with me for a lifetime. Both are based on a single concept.

We believe in what works — and what works is what we believe.


For the second of my three quotes in three days, I present to you my all-time favorite quote. I use it as a signature line on my email. I try to remember it whenever I think someone is out to get me.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. – Robert Hanlon

This quote has a long, rich history. Despite the attribution, no one can say exactly when or where it originated. Called Hanlon’s razor, it is an aphorism. It suggests a way to eliminate complicated explanations for a phenomenon when a simpler one is available. It suggests before looking for ill-intent, consider the possibility of stupidity.

Stupidity is common. It requires neither forethought nor planning. Anyone can be stupid. No special effort is needed. It is, therefore, the most likely explanation for actions. Why look for other motives? Go with simplicity.


Although the saying is officially named after Robert J. Hanlon, there are a variety of earlier sayings that convey the same idea dating back at least as far as Goethe in 1774.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Three Laws are considered closely related:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The third law, my other favorite, has been incorrectly attributed to many different writers, but it really does belong to Clarke. Really. No matter what else you may have heard. If I ever change my signature line, Clarke’s third law is a strong contender for the position.


I decided to take up the challenge of three quotes in three days. This post has more than one quote, but all attribute to a single source — Eleanor Roosevelt. That’s almost like one quote, right?

I couldn't find Eleanor, but I realized I have her figure in my

I couldn’t find Eleanor, but I have her in my “historical dolls” collection. From Effanbee, 1985

No one nominated me because the bloggers I hang with don’t nominate. Neither do I, so if you find this challenge interesting, consider yourself invited to give it a whirl.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m reading — okay, listening (with Garry) — to the David McCullough biography of Harry Truman. Concurrently (and not coincidentally), we watched (again) Ken Burns’ “The Roosevelts.”

This heavy dose of over-achievers brought me face-to-face with how little I’ve achieved in life. One can only imagine how difficult it was for Eleanor, Franklin, or Teddy’s kids. Their parents were hard acts to follow.

I encountered Eleanor Roosevelt in person in October 1962. In the elevator of Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.

“ Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt

We were both in wheel chairs. I was there to have a tumor removed from my right leg. She was there because she was dying and would be buried less than a month later. I don’t know if I said anything to her.

Eleanor with Franklin D. Roosevelt. By Effanbee, 1985

Eleanor with Franklin D. Roosevelt. By Effanbee, 1985

Probably not. I was suffering from terminally struck dumb. She was the woman in whose footsteps I would have most wanted to follow, if I had unlimited options and an inclination to dedicate my life to public service. Which, even then, I knew I didn’t.

“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

There was never a question in my mind of being her. I loved that she was always on the side of right and justice — and willing to fight for it. And remarkably effective, too. She was the woman who could and did.

Having had this chance encounter, I did not immediately dedicate my life to battling evil on behalf of the greater good. That wasn’t my thing. I thought I could, at the least, do my best to choose rightly if I came to a crossroads and was obliged to make a decision.

Winston Churchill, FDR, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Great moments in history from Effanbee, 1985.

Winston Churchill, FDR, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Great moments in history from Effanbee, 1985.

So I have. Not always as successfully as I would have liked, but not bad — for a non-Roosevelt.

“Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart. Don’t be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

There are people who are larger than life. Not that we think they are. They really are. We can admire them, enjoy them. Be glad they are in our world to fight for us.

Eleanor with Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. World War II historical dolls from Effanbee.

Eleanor with Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. World War II historical dolls from Effanbee.

I never thought I’d be one of those people, nor did I expect to personally know such a person. They are rare enough in the annals of human civilization. My chance and oh-so-brief encounter with Mrs. Roosevelt in the elevator was probably the closest I would ever be to greatness in the largest sense. But it was enough. I am enough.

“ One thing life has taught me: if you are interested, you never have to look for new interests. They come to you. When you are genuinely interested in one thing, it will always lead to something else.” — Eleanor Roosevelt


I must be the world’s worst eavesdropper because I’ve never overheard a conversation that was a game changer.

Maybe it’s because I try hard to not overhear pieces of conversation. So many misunderstandings end up ruining relationships — someone heard a piece of something, and never got the rest of the story. It’s a popular theme in books and movies. It never works out well.


So here I am, older and I haven’t a single bit of stuff to contribute. Nothing overheard. Oh, I’ve overheard strangers. I’ve heard producers trying to pitch a new movie, actors trying to get a role. But nothing about me, nothing from mine. Did I miss something deliciously scandalous?

Mostly, when you eavesdrop, you just hear icky stuff you wish you’d missed. No, thanks.


“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me.”

It’s an old childhood chant, a miserably inadequate defense against bullies and bigots when one is small and powerless. It was oft-repeated, not only by we, the little victims, but by parents, teachers and other wise counselors. It was supposed to comfort us.

It didn’t because we all knew for a certainty it was untrue.

Names can and do hurt. The hurt caused by a cruel name goes deeper than any mere cut or bruise to the body. Psyches heal but slowly. Sometimes they never heal.

Horrible words. Can you still tell me — with a straight face — that names can’t hurt? Will you give me all your arguments that “political correctness” is stupid? That anything which makes it illegal or socially unacceptable to spew hate is too restrictive of free speech? Really? Your free speech? It’s not my free speech. I don’t talk that way and I don’t hang around anyone who does.

Do you actually believe it? Or did you read it as part of some rant on Facebook?

Of course names hurt. They’re intended to hurt. They have no other purpose on earth but to cause pain. These words carry with them the ugliness of generations of haters. It has been argued by otherwise respected bloggers that if a member of a minority (in your opinion) does you wrong, you have every right to strike back any way you can.

I disagree. Racial and ethnic name-calling epithets are never justified. By anything.

hate speech is not free

Is it the word or its intent that hurts so much? Both. Words have power.

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

But wait a minute. I thought words could never hurt me? (Oh yes they can, yes they do.)

Words bring with them the weight of history. A hate word carries the ugliness of everyone who has spoken it. Each time these words fly into the air, their potency is renewed and reinforced.

It’s time to stop forgiving bigots, stop letting them off the hook. Those hate-filled monologues by drugged and drunken celebrities were no mere slips of the tongue. They were not caused by drugs or drink. You could fill me with all the drugs and booze in the world and you’d never hear that from me. Because it’s not in me.

People who talk hate never do so by accident. It isn’t because of their environment, upbringing, or environment. It’s a choice they made. They know exactly what they are saying and why. It isn’t a joke. It isn’t funny. It isn’t okay.

Excuses are not repentance. Don’t give bigots a second chance. Be politically correct. It’s not merely political correctness. It’s also the moral, righteous, decent, civil, and humane way to behave.


Marilyn Armstrong:

This was a silly prompt. Ask a silly question, get a silly answer. I like this one so much, I tried to read it out loud and by the end, was laughing too hard to continuing talking. So, without further ado …

Originally posted on The happy Quitter!:


When I read today’s daily prompt I thought about an oldie but goodie and found it to be the perfect reply:

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Marilyn Armstrong:

Off to various doctors and hospitals today, so I thought a spot of humor might be in order. I got a kick out of this one and maybe so will you!

Originally posted on DCMontreal: Blowing the Whistle on Society:

Irritable Vowel Syndrome – something has to change yventually!

©DCMontreal 2014 ©DCMontreal 2014

 Cause, Meet Effect.

Me DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

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