Names for the Rolling Stone

In Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones, there’s discussion of what to name the ship the family is purchasing, and a list of suggested names is assembled.

I realized some time ago that Susan B. Anthony being the only real name of a historical person might mean something; specifically, that the feminist content (Hazel’s rant about the glass ceiling for example) is not an accident.

This also lead me to thinking about the other names more, eventually. (At least two others are definite references to historic people, but not their actual names).

So, here are the names, and what I’ve found out about them.

Dauntless

A common naval ship name (Royal Navy and American), and also in Doc Smith’s Lensman universe.

Jabberwock

The Jabberwock is a fearsome and fictional beast from Lewis Carroll. It was in Through the Looking Glass.

H. M. S. Pinafore

Title of (and ship in) one of the “big three” Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.

The Clunker

I don’t know any particular history for this name. It obviously suggests they don’t have high expectations of their ship.

Star Wagon

Again, I know no particular history for this. This seems much more optimistic than The Clunker.

Go-Devil

Again, I don’t know the reference. There’s a piece of oil pipeline equipment, a logging sled, an infantry regiment (60th Infantry Regiment starting in 1942), and a brand of outdoor equipment, none of which look especially relevant. It does suggest aggressive forward movement, which fits.

Onward

Another name suggesting aggressive forward movement; Out far, and onward yet!” (from Rhysling / Heinlein’s poem The Green Hills of Earth).

Icarus

Reference to early human flight, but with a tragic outcome. But they’re heading away from the sun, so maybe they’ll be safe.

Susan B. Anthony

Important feminist and suffragist.

Iron Duke

A nickname for Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (probably most famous for winning the battle of Waterloo, which was the turning point in the Napoleonic wars).

Morning Star

Nickname for the planet Venus, and also for Lucifer.

Tumbleweed

Blows around at random in the wide open spaces, I guess.

Oom Paul

Nickname for Stephanus Johannes Paulus “Paul” Kruger, a 19th century South African politician. Seems strange that anybody in the family would want to name their ship after him, all things considered.

(This one I had to have pointed out to me, in a private Facebook group).

Viking

Yet more wanderers, though these often returned home (though they did sometimes colonize).

The Same Hazel?

People have wondered, and debated, for decades whether the Hazel in Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress could be the same as the Hazel Meade Stone who is the grandmother in The Rolling Stones.

Later on, Heinlein has said that they are, both in his later World As Myth works (which I personally don’t consider a definitive answer; when he brings back old characters they never feel like themselves, which leaves me doubting everything else he says about the older works also), and in private letters to people (no, not me; I never wrote to him).

TRS was published about 15 years before TMiaHM. So, if they are the same character, Heinlein decided when he wrote TMiaHM to build things so that Hazel Meade could become Hazel Meade Stone.

I’ll refer to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as ‘TMiaHM’, and The Rolling Stones as ‘TRS’, for brevity.

I have just happened to read those two books, at the same time, this last week, so I have opinions. (I should probably say that I think TMiaHM is Heinlein’s best book, and that TRS is probably the book of his that I’ve re-read the most times, which means dozens.)

In TMiaHM, the character Hazel Meade is a young girl, 13 at the start, living at Cradle Roll Crêche. She was transported as an infant, and then lost her father and mother on Luna. Manny first notices her at the meeting where he meets Wyoming Knott; she’s rolled in a ball, on a ballistic trajectory to hit the knees of one of the Warden’s police at the door to the hall when the raid happens. Her parents may both have been under sentence for subversion, but it’s not certain.

She turns up throughout the book, sometimes a bit gratuitously (Manny notices her in the crowd after their mission to Earth, for example). She does play an important role as captain of the Baker Street Irregulars, and she is adopted into Manny’s family.

It’s noted in TMiaHM that Slim Lemke Stone is courting her, prepared to “opt” her when she’s willing. Later Manny reports “Slim got Hazel to change name to Stone, two kids and she studied engineering.” So her becoming Hazel Meade Stone by name and by profession is pretty clear. (That paragraph goes on to say “All those new free-fall drugs and nowadays earthworms stay three or four years and go home unchanged. And those other drugs that do almost as much for us; some kids go Earthside to school now.”)

She does sign their declaration of independence; Manny signs right below her (and she hadn’t been able to write when his family adopted her). She claims to have written free speech into the Lunar charter herself, and that’s not contradicted by anything I’ve noticed in TMiaHM.

So, what’s the problem? Seems clear-cut pretty much.

The problem is that Hazel Meade Stone’s story as told in TRS isn’t fully compatible with this. Now, she’s definitely a bit of a tall-tale teller; early on there’s this bit:

“Don’t try to bring me up, Roger. At ninety-five my habits are fairly well set.”

“Ninety-five indeed! Last week you were eighty-five.”

“It’s been a hard week.”

So, maybe it’s entirely a matter of her being an unreliable narrator in the book where she speaks directly to us a lot. (Right near the end, she says to Roger “I finished with you when you were in short pants. You’ve been bringing me up ever since.”)

At the end of TMiaHM Manny says she and Slim had two kids (so Roger has a sibling; never mentioned in TRS) and she studied engineering. Manny doesn’t say she went to Earth to study, and he does discuss the drugs to help with gravity changes in that very paragraph; that’s quite a bit like saying she didn’t go to earth to study, to my mind. It does at least set a rough limit on the length of one trip to Earth, no more than 3 or 4 years (the drugs for high gravity work less well than the ones for low gravity, and earthworms visit Luna for 3-4 years without harm).

There are problems, though. In TRS, when Roger is discussing baseball with the twins, Castor says

“But you grew up in a one-g field; you’ve got a distorted notion of physics.”

Which seems to say Roger Stone grew up on Earth, was old enough to play baseball there. That’s clearly more than 3 years.

This seems to suggest that Hazel Meade Stone spent more time on earth than the drugs would have allowed, at least in one trip. (Yes, they could have been apart some of his childhood; but there is no slightest suggestion in either book that they were.) And if Roger spent his childhood bouncing back and forth from Luna to Earth and back, it doesn’t really make sense to say he grew up in a one-g field.

At another point, Hazel claims to have been a lawyer in Idaho at one point.

“Who’s not a lawyer?”

“You aren’t.”

“Of course I am!”

“When and where? Be specific.”

“Years and years ago, back in Idahobefore you were born. I just never got around to mentioning it.”

Her son looked her over. “Hazel, it occurs to me that the records in Idaho are conveniently far away.”

“None of your sass, boy. Anyway, the courthouse burned down.”

“I thought as much.”

Roger doesn’t claim this is obviously impossible, only that he thinks it’s unlikely. So maybe she did spend an extended period on Earth.

But to study engineering, and law, to professional levels (she’s worked as both, she claims, and Roger confirms the engineering), while raising two kids, on a planet where you weigh 6 times what you’re used to, is getting on towards super-human. Particularly if you have to do it in 3-year stints.

More likely that she’s never actually been a lawyer. But why Idaho? Well, hard to check for one thing. But if she hadn’t spent a lot of time on Earth, it would be an obvious lie, and Roger’s reaction feels more like “possible tall tale” than “obvious lie”.

Another possibility is that Manny understates the power of the drugs. But…why would Heinlein have him do that?

TMiaHM starts in 2075, the revolution succeeds in 2076. The framing story around that, though, is not dated. Manny says he isn’t 100 yet (discussing going out to Asteroids, right at the end). We know his birthday is Bastille Day, but what year? Best I and others have managed as of this instant is we all think he’s 40 plus or minus quite a few years, i.e. not very certain. So, “not 100 yet” means fewer than 60 years later. Up to 60 years is a wide window, doesn’t really constrain Hazel’s story much.

I’m finding the “grew up in a one-g field” moment the bit that’s hard to get past. That’s clearly the story as known to his family, and it seems unlikely that it’s a lie (and with his mother living with them, she’d know).

They might well be intended to be the same; perhaps Heinlein forgot or couldn’t find a way around that one bit. I do think it’s that one bit that made it completely clear to me that they weren’t actually the same character, not from the same universe anyway. Heinlein does that a lot; tripedal martians with similar characteristics occur in Double Star, Red Planet, The Rolling Stones, and Stranger in a Strange Land. He recycles aspects of his world-building a lot in stories that clearly aren’t actually part of the same universe.

Words Over Windows

Words Over Windows icon

The photo project that has eaten my life since June has reached completion! Or at least, has reached the point where I’m launching it publicly.

This is the same project that I was previously showing a proof gallery of in this blog.

In the final form, I’ve got 150 photos of what was written, drawn, and painted on the plywood (and OSB) panels used to protect windows in the immediate aftermath of the killing of George Floyd on 25-May-2020, and of the memorials at 38th and Chicago.

The project name has settled down to being “Words Over Windows”, and the images can be seen on the project’s web site, purchased as a book (through Amazon), or bought as individual prints (through the web site).

First time I’ve tried anything like this—turning a project around this fast, doing my own photo book, offering prints publicly via the web.

Of course I’d appreciate anything readers could do to spread the word about this!

Reading Order for Lensman Series

That is, the Lensman series by Edward E. “Doc” Smith; the one my license plate is from.

I wrote this originally elsewhere, but it’s so long, and represents things I’ve been thinking through for decades, I decided to record it here to keep it around.

So. My thoughts on the best reading order:

You can’t win. (Also the first law of thermodynamics; but I digress.)

They were written and published in the magazines, as has been explained, as Galactic Patrol through Children of the Lens. Original publication order is nearly always a reasonable choice for anything famous—that order is how it earned its fame, so it can’t be a horrible choice.

I personally love a few things in Triplanetary all to bits (Rome and WWII), and rather dislike the actual story Triplanetary. And it’s certainly not an introduction to the real series. Plus it gives away in the first introduction all the secrets that were kept through the original 4 books, and gradually released to great effect.

First Lensman is a huge favorite of mine—largely because I love watching him back-fill all sorts of things given us in the basic 4-book series without explanation. That might be okay as a starting point also, or people might wonder why time was being spent on where weird names came from.

(Those two were assembled and published starting in 1950, when the series was first published in books, the Fantasy Press hardcovers.)

The versions of the basic 4 books have been revised to also give away the things that were kept secrets in the magazine versions—so you can’t have the experience of reading them as people really first read them, without tracking down the magazines (hint: the issues with Lensman novels in them are kind of expensive).

(And The Vortex Blaster as published in book form at least is solidly set in the Lensman universe, but is not fully compatible with it and it’s not a Lensman story. I love it all to pieces too, for its own reasons, though.)

So—my recommended approach is to read Galactic Patrol, Gray Lensman, Second Stage Lensmen, Children of the Lens, Triplanetary, and First Lensman. And The Vortex Blaster. But every possible reading order has some points against it.

Photoshop DIFF Action

Followup to earlier post. I found some errors eventually, and have I think improved it some.

I have a bit of a fetish for “lossless editing”working on a photo in such a way that I don’t change the initial set of bits that I imported. I think as you get more experienced it becomes less important; being sure you’ve got something the way you want it means you don’t care whether it’s easy to change later. But, for me, I edit incrementally, taking a while to see the flaws in older edits (especially when I’m editing a bunch of photos that will be displayed together), so it’s very useful to be able to very easily change my mind about things I’ve already done.

So, I use adjustment layers a lot, and adjustment layers with layer masks (which, I say again, are dodging and burning died and gone to heaven!), and then do a lot of pixel fixing writing onto a separate layer.

But there are a few tools, or a few situations maybe, when that’s not the best option. Keeping an entire clean copy of the base layer meets my criteria, but it kind of doubles the file size (layers that are mostly transparent compress pretty well, so my multi-layer files are mostly not that much larger than the base).

So, here’s what I do:

  1. Duplicate the base layer (shortcut: CTRL-j). My process expects the mode of this layer to be “normal”.
  2. Select this new layer
  3. Do the editing that has to be done in the context of all the pixels
  4. Usually, I keep this for a while, until I’ve printed or put the picture on the web or whatever the plan was
  5. Select your edit layer, and run my magic diff script. This deletes every pixel in the edit layer which is the same as is rendered by the stack of layers under it.

So, how does this version of the diff script work? I’m glad you asked!

Listing of diff action
The DIFF Action
  1. Set mode of edit layer to “difference”. This shows the differences between the current layer and the stack under it.
  2. Select all
  3. Copy Merged. This copies the full detailed differences.
  4. Select none
  5. Set mode of edit back to “normal” on this layer
  6. Create new pixel layer
  7. Paste (puts the differences here)
  8. Threshold, level=1. This reduces the difference map to black-and-white, with every unchanged pixel black and every changed pixel white.
  9. Select all
  10. Copy
  11. Delete layer (same one we created above, that was scratch workspace)
  12. (We are now on the original edit layer again)
  13. Set quick mask mode
  14. Paste
  15. Exit quick mask mode. The B&W change mask we made is now a selection.
  16. Add layer mask. The current selection will be put in as that mask. So now we have the edit layer, with a layer mask selecting only the changed pixels on this layer.
  17. Apply layer mask. This deletes all the pixels blocked by the layer mask, and then deletes the layer mask itself. Thus making this layer take a lot fewer bits to store!