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EMT 2/05/23 | Main | Criminal Justice And Guns: Should Felons Be Barred From Gun Ownership?
February 05, 2023

Sunday Morning Book Thread - 02-05-2023 ["Perfessor" Squirrel]

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>Welcome to the prestigious, internationally acclaimed, stately, and illustrious Sunday Morning Book Thread! The place where all readers are welcome, regardless of whatever guilty pleasure we feel like reading (my go-to guide for a lot of my writing questions). Here is where we can discuss, argue, bicker, quibble, consider, debate, confabulate, converse, and jaw about our latest fancy in reading material, even if it's nothing more than the lost chronicles of the Empire of Lemuria. As always, pants are required, especially if you are wearing these pants...(In honor of the "Red Zeppelin" flying over the country this past week)

So relax, find yourself a warm kitty (or warm puppy--I won't judge) to curl up in your lap, enjoy your Crunch Berry cereal while you can still afford it, and dive into a new book. What are YOU reading this fine morning?


PIC NOTE

When I go searching for library pics, I sometimes search for specific types of libraries. In this case, I went searching for "scientific library" and this was one of the first images that popped up. It's from a very nice house in Gölitz, Germany, located on the German/Polish border. The home was turned into museum for displaying various examples of Baroque culture/artifacts, including the scientific library pictured above.

ADVENTURES WITH CHATGPT

ChatGPT, a supposed "artificial intelligence" writing assistant of some kind, has been making huge waves in my industry (instructional design in higher education) because people are freaking out about the potential for students to use and abuse this technology for writing papers and otherwise cheating on assignments. Well, I decided to experiment with it a bit and see what it could to do help me write the content for a Sunday Morning Book Thread. The results are shown below:

"Perfessor" Squirrel: Write a review of Kenneth C. Flint's novel Riders of the Sidhe.

ChatGPT: I recently read Kenneth C. Flint's novel Riders of the Sidhe and was thoroughly impressed with this thrilling tale of adventure and fantasy. Flint brings the world of Irish mythology to life with his vivid descriptions of the supernatural creatures that inhabit it, and his depiction of the legendary hero Lugh Lamfada is particularly noteworthy.

The story follows Lugh as he sets out on a quest to defeat the evil giant Balor of the Evil Eye, and Flint does a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of this ancient myth. The action is fast-paced and engaging, and the characters are well-developed and likable. The plot is well-crafted and full of twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the book.

One of the things I appreciated most about Riders of the Sidhe was the way in which Flint incorporated elements of Celtic folklore and mythology into the story. He does an excellent job of weaving these legends into the narrative, and the result is a rich and immersive tale that transports the reader to another world.

In conclusion, I would highly recommend Riders of the Sidhe to fans of fantasy and adventure novels, as well as to anyone interested in the world of Irish mythology. Flint has created a memorable and enjoyable read, and I look forward to reading more from him in the future.

Comments: Note that I did *not* ask ChatGPT to write a positive review. To me, a review should include both positive and negative aspects of the author/story. Then give an overall impression of whether or not the story would be worth the reader investing time/energy into the story. Most of you Morons do that every week when you write your own reviews in the comments. Also note the lack of detail provided by ChatGPT with respect to any of the elements of the story such as the plot, characters, setting, or conflict. WHY is the depiction of Lugh Lamfada noteworthy? HOW does Flint incorporate elements of Celtic mythology into the story? WHAT twists and turns can we expect, without giving away too much of the story? A good reviewer would be able to answer these questions to give the readers a basic sense of the story without giving away key plot points or the resolution.

As a follow-up questions, I asked ChatGPT to write something negative about the story, since it didn't bother to do so in its initial review. It responded that it is just an AI program and therefore doesn't have opinions or pass judgement on subjects. Of course, that's given away as a lie because it didn't specify that in its answer to my original prompt. It then scoured the internet to find out what criticisms *others* have written about the story and listed a few of them. Although the criticisms were valid, there are counterarguments that could be made as part of a discussion. ChatGPT didn't bother to address these, though I also didn't ask it to.

I find ChatGPT to be a very clever device, but like all devices created by humans, it's subject to the same biases of its human creators. It can only do what it is told and no more. It is NOT capable of creativity, but can simulate it to a small degree using the entire publicly available internet as a resource. What is somewhat disturbing is that the blandness of its responses mirror the way stories were created in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. In that novel, people were kept entertained through bland, boring, uncreative stories that were designed to keep the populace "entertained" without actually stimulating creative thinking. It's a nightmare dystopia novel on many, many levels, and we--as a society--are quickly bringing some of the more disturbing elements to fruition.

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BOOKS BY MORONS

We have something a little different in the Books By Morons category today:

larry-and-the-mascots.jpg Hello, Perfessor! I wondered if I might request a notice for one of my books. Here's the info (cover attached):

Larry and the Mascots: A Novel [Amazon Link - PS]

When Larry gets thrown from the roof of his dormitory, little does he realize that his troubles are just beginning. Surviving this encounter due to the help of an advertising character--Whitewall, a pitchman for tires who is actually made of tires--Larry discovers that a group of advertising mascots have come to life. There's Mitts, a flying oven mitt; Captain Freshy, a homicidal pirate who sells canned tuna; Sweety the Sugar Fairy, who glazes children's cereal; Mushy MacClown, a sad clown on packages of marshmallows; and others--some of whom are up to something sinister. Who are they? What do they want? And why did one of them steal his crummy laptop? What Larry discovers is a conspiracy that springs from the actions of one of the school's greatest patrons--one that ultimately threatens the lives of the students on campus, and perhaps even the entire nation. Larry and the Mascots is an intriguing adventure, full of action, heart, interesting characters, and cartoon characters, and is part of a complete breakfast.

Thank you, learned Sciuridae!

-Fred

++++++++++

MORON RECOMMENDATIONS

So yesterday I read Destination Unknown by the great Dame Agatha Christie, a spy story originally from 1955 dealing with the Mysterious Disappearances of Top Scientists from the Free World ... and if I were to write a word about what makes this book not only ROCKIN' fun, but astonishingly relevant to Our Times, I'd end up spoiling at least two of the twists! So just read the freaking thing. It's free on Hoopla if your public library has any sense.

Posted by: werewife, princess of Delray Beach at January 29, 2023 09:08 AM (SPNTN)

Comment: I went looking for this book in the library in which I work (but do not work for). Didn't find it in general circulation (we don't have a lot of Agatha Christie books), though I did manage to find an ebook version available through this library. It does sound like a compelling premise that could be the foundation for a number of entertaining stories. All of the top scientists are missing? Why? Was it aliens? Did they discover something that revolutionizes technology or society? Who would want to eliminate or sequester them? Are they being used by the WEF to implement a sinister agenda? I could see other authors having fun with this premise, such as Tim Powers or F. Paul Wilson.

+++++

Reading Is Atheism Dead?, the most recent book by Eric Metaxas. It's about how the Old and New Testament are increasingly being shown to be historical rather than mythical by modern archeology, as well as how science is showing that the Erf's circumstance and the universe's laws are finely tuned to a miraculous extent that allows life to exist.

Very interesting.

Posted by: Sharkman at January 29, 2023 09:11 AM (szJck)

Comment: The Anthropic Principle hypothesizes that observations in the universe can only happen if it is capable of supporting intelligent life. In other words, the universe we see is finely tuned for the existence of life, though scientists who support this principle don't seem to have any easy answer as to *why* this is the case. As for me, the more I look into the nature and origins of the universe writ large, the more I can see the handiwork of God behind it all. The miracles described in the Bible are entirely within the realm of probability, though statistically insignificant on a grand scale. That's what makes them miracles. I read a book last year (Civilization One) that explored the idea of a Megalithic Yard that cropped up again and again in ancient civilizations as a frighteningly accurate measuring tool based on observations of the celestial realm. Almost as if ancient people could peer into the mind of God...

+++++

Someone mentioned the late David McCullough the other day, which reminded me of his excellent book, The Path Between the Seas. This is the story of the Panama Canal, from the original conception of transforming global shipping, through the French failed attempt that caused an economic crisis there, and through the ultimately successful American project. Ferdinand De Lesseps had successfully built the Suez Canal in the desert, but the jungle and its diseases beat him, and he left in failure. The book also details Teddy Roosevelt's gunboat diplomacy that created the country of Panama out of a portion of Columbia. McCullough was an author who could bring history to life. If you want to learn about the history of the canal, this is the book.

Posted by: Thomas Paine at January 29, 2023 09:25 AM (VyrlG)

Comment: The construction of the Panama Canal really is an engineering marvel. It's interesting that all that separates the Caribbean Sea (and by extension the Atlantic Ocean) and the Pacific Ocean is a small, narrow isthmus. Last week featured an extended discussion in the comments about the Panama Canal. Also, for all our supposed engineering capability in the 21st century, it seems impossible to build a proper road connecting Panama to Colombia. The geography is just that much of a nightmare to make it work.

+++++

I finished the novel The Disappearance of Joseph Mengele by Olivier Guez. It's a quick read. Although Guez based his novel on fact, he invents dialog and meetings in a few places. I know that Mengele's victims mourned the fact that he never faced them in a courtroom, but I couldn't help thinking the punishment he actually received was worse than the one he fled from. He ended up living in a Sao Paulo slum, in a multi-racial country he hated, lonely, sick, and fretting about the Mossad day and night (and the Mossad, which was busy in the Middle East, wasn't even looking for him at that point). The haughty Angel of Death became so lonely in exile he asked his cleaning lady to move in with him (and she refused because she was a good Catholic and wanted marriage - he was too fearful of registering at the city hall). He developed severe stomach pains due to a hairball because he was such a wreck he chewed on his mustache. As a reader, I found myself getting happier and happier as his life grew more and more miserable. Now we know that movies like The Boys From Brazil were completely off the mark. He was a pathetic mess when he died.

Posted by: Donna&&&&&&&&V at January 29, 2023 11:45 AM (HabA/)

Comment: Would Mengele have been hanged for his crimes? Or would he have been able to spend the remainder of his life in prison? In a way, I guess he *did* live in a prison made by his own fears of being tracked down and executed for his crimes. Fear can be just as much of a prison as any construction of walls and bars. In the end, he still faced God's judgement, I suppose, like we all must in the end.

More Moron-recommended reading material can be found HERE! (620 Moron-recommended books so far!)

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WHAT I'VE ACQUIRED THIS PAST WEEK

  • Otherland: City of Golden Shadow by Tad Williams -- This is the hardcover version to replace my well-worn paperback. As it's a Tad Williams novel, it's quite lengthy, but very, very good science fiction. The premise is bizarrely relevant in today's world. Remember, science fiction is a WARNING for us, not a blueprint!

WHAT I'VE BEEN READING THIS PAST WEEK:

  • Master of the Sidhe by Kenneth C. Flint -- Concluding the saga of one of Ireland's greatest heroes, the final confrontation between Lugh Lamfada and Balor of the Evil Eye.
  • Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett -- A talking key threatens to upend society.
  • Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett -- The sequel to Foundryside.

That's about all I have for this week. Thank you for all of your kind words regarding the Sunday Morning Book Thread. This is a very special place. You are very special people (in all the best ways!). The kindness, generosity, and wisdom of the Moron Horde knows no bounds. Let's keep reading!

If you have any suggestions for improvement, reading recommendations, or discussion topics that you'd like to see on the Sunday Morning Book Thread, you can send them to perfessor dot squirrel at-sign gmail dot com. Your feedback is always appreciated! You can also take a virtual tour of OUR library at libib.com/u/perfessorsquirrel. Since I added sections for AoSHQ, I now consider it OUR library, rather than my own personal fiefdom...

PREVIOUS SUNDAY MORNING BOOK THREAD - 01-29-23 (NOTE: Do NOT comment on old threads!)

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