Star Wars Episode IV, the novel

I just finished reading this book. It is very closely hewn to the movie’s screenplay! This is not a criticism I assure you. There are a couple of points though…….

Such as in the prologue, where Chancellor Palpatine becomes the emperor, but then is captured by the bureaucracy and becomes portrayed as out of touch and kept isolated. Certainly nothing you would expect of a Sith Lord!

Meanwhile Darth Vader is portrayed as a Sith Lord with no hint of an Anikin Skywalker, nor being a former Jedi Knight…….

All that being said, I greatly enjoyed reading the book! But it is clear that this novelization was done without expectation that there would be a prequel! But very few expected at the time that this movie would eventually make the “Greatest” list.

I am greatly looking forward to beginning my reading of The Empire Strikes Back Episode V layer on this evening.

from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

The Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster cocktail©

  1. Take the juice from one bottle of that Ol’ Janx Spirit.
  2. Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V (Oh, that Santragian seawater! Oh, those Santragian fish!)
  3. Allow three cubes of Arcturian Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzine is lost).
  4. Allow four liters of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it, in honor of all those happy hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia.
  5. Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qalactin Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heavy odors of the dark Qalactin Zones, subtle, sweet, and mystic.
  6. Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger.  Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian Suns deep into the heart of the drink.
  7. Sprinkle Zamphuor.
  8. Add an olive.
  9. Drink…but…very carefully…

This effect of this drink have been described as “like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon, wrapped ’round a large gold brick’.”

Another version of the recipe:
  • 1.5 shots 151 Proof Rum
  • 1/4 shot Tequila
  • 1/4 shot Gin
  • 2/3 shot of Triple Sec
  • 1 shot of Blue Curaçao
  • 1 dash Bitters
  • 1 dash Grenadine

Have I tried one?

No, I have not, quite frankly it sounds like a ‘scary’ combination of liquor.

Where I found the recipe

I got this cocktail out of my 1987 Leather Bound Edition of “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.  One of my favorite and much loved books in my collection, a book that I treasure and that I hope will find an appreciative home after I have gone.

Beginning of my methodology book.

The Methodology of Lieutenant Columbo

by Paul D. Dute, © 2018

Warning: this book contains Spoilers.


Introduction

Columbo always gets his suspect.

Detective Inspector Lieutenant Columbo always got his ‘murderer’ in the end.  All of us faithful fans have seen it over and over again.  Occasionally there is a bump in the road, as in the “Last Salute to the Commodore“, where the prime suspect is himself murdered in the course of the investigation.  And then there was “Fallen Lady“, where Columbo identifies the murderer, but faces a difficult conundrum in that the murderer is unable to recall they had committed the murder in the first place.

As viewers, we also are not spared the occasional bump in the road ourselves.  In the series, we the viewers, behind out “fourth wall”, are used to seeing the murders committed.  The fun of the show is in trying to puzzle out what clues it is that Columbo sees, and whether Columbo will be able to see through the “wriggling” of the killer.  The killer trying to confuse the inspector and to lead him astray from the facts of the case.  We ask ourselves, will Columbo see through all of the sand thrown in his face, will Columbo be able to prove his case?

In the aforesaid mentioned “Last Salute to the Commodore“, we never actually see the murder.  There is an obviously dead body on the floor, and we see Robert Vaughn seemingly cleaning up the crime scene and disposing of the body.  But was he the murderer?  As viewers we are certainly supposed to assume so, but later on Robert Vaughn himself is murdered.  Was he murdered as an act of revenge?  Was there an accomplice to the earlier murder who then murdered Robert Vaughn to keep him silent?  Or was Robert Vaughn never the murderer, but was cleaning up the scene because he, Vaughn, thought someone close to him was the actual murderer?  As viewers there was only one thing that we knew for sure:  In the end Columbo would figure it all out.

Another episode with a macabre twist was [“Twins Episode].  Here we clearly see Martin Landau murder his uncle.  But later on we find out the Martin Landau was one half of a set of twins.  How can we know which twin “did it”?  Again, we could only be certain that Columbo would get it all sorted out by the end.

There must be some methodology to the actions of Lieutenant Columbo.  One of his adversaries said it best:

“You know Columbo, you’re almost likable in a shabby sort of way.  Maybe it’s the way you come slouching in here with your shop-worn bag of tricks.  The humility, the seeming absentmindedness, the homey anecdotes about the family….  Yeah, you know, Lieutenant Columbo fumbling and stumbling along, but it’s always the jugular that he’s after.  And I imagine that, more often than not, he’s successful” – Ransom for a Dead Man.

However Columbo is never just stumbling along.  He is focused on the moment, always looking for that something, that anything that is a piece of evidence, a little piece of the puzzle that will lead him to the truth.  But it cannot be random, there must be a method to this Columbo “madness”.  It is this methodology that I want to explore in the next Chapter.

Book Recommendation

I have a Problem

There are some books that I can highly recommend. this includes a book that I intend to talk about later on in this essay. The problem in my recommendation for this particular book is that there is not necessarily any one certain thing that I can point to that makes this a recommendable book, it is kind of complicated.

There is, for example, a book such as Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. I have always loved this book since it sparked a new wave of “Realism” in late 18th and early 19th century English literature. Instead of a florid style of writing and the stilted language of the British nobility that filled the pages of English literature,  Jane Austen brought a simple story of the middle class problems with a family consisting of too many daughters and no sons. It was a story written in simple direct language and a clear direct manner.

In many ways it was such a ‘breath’ of fresh air that was complemented with the writing style of Charles Dickens. It was the Dickens massive collection of writings that burst the limits of the English literary circles that had been so confined. Bringing literature to the entire nation of Great Britain, indeed his popularity spread to the Americas as well. He brought a concern for the plight of the lower classes to the fore and he touched the lives of millions.

Yet, it was Jane Austen who really led the way for Dickens, and it seems only mildly strange that Jane Austen never intended to start a revolution in literature, she didn’t even intend to publish her stories. She wanted to write a stories to amuse her younger nieces. That is why the stories were written so simply, yet so clearly, and with great irony! In her lifetime they were published anonymously and she derived little income. Yet her influence in the world of literature was to become very large after her death, just as Dickens was to have a huge influence on the world of literature while he still lived. The style of “Realism” was to be their legacy.

This makes it very easy to recommend the books of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens to young readers. Even though the details of the works are clearly dated, the style is infectious and is still enjoyable even now in the 21st century.


What is My Problem?

My problem is that there are also books that I have found most enjoyable, but without the clear cut reasons for recommendation that I could offer for “Pride and Prejudice”, or “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby”.

The book that I want to recommend is “The Soul of a New Machine” by Tracy Kidder and published in 1981. The new machine of the book is the Data General Eclipse MV/8000.  And the book details the high pressure world of a computer engineering team racing to design and build a new machine from the ground up in a blistering race of time.

Data General had gotten itself into a pickle. They needed a new computer to compete with the VAX computer from DEC that had begun the race to enter the new 32 bit minicomputer market.

The senior designers for Data General were assigned the “sexy’ job of the designing the new generation computer that would put Data General into the race. They were being sent to the new Data General Research center in North Carolina. There to begin the “Fountainhead Project” that would bring the laurels to the company.

In the meantime, the remaining computer designers in Data General would stay in the corporate headquarters in Westborough, Mass and were given the more humble job of improving existing Data General products, such as the 16 bit Eagle minicomputer.

When the “Fountainhead Project” ran into difficulties and delays, Data General faced the prospect of falling behind the “hated” Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)!

While inside the basements of Data General, the “humble” team, headed by computer engineer Tom West, decided to begin a project in semi-secret that could become a backup plan in case the fancy machine foundered. In that case, his project, code named “Super Eagle” could save the day for Data General. With his lieutenants, Tom West decided to take the Eagle and using a bit of stealth turn it into a 32 bit machine without top management being the wiser.

However, to complete this semi-secret project in time to be able to save the company, West had to take great risks. He decided to rely on new computer chips that had not proven themselves, and that had uncertain prospects for mass production. He had his middle level managers bring on promising college graduates (who had never designed anything so complicated before), but would be youngsters who would would work all their waking hours feverishly to get in on the ground floor of a new machine. In their world it was called playing “Pong”; if you played and won, you would get to build the next machine!

Another huge risk that West took was in allowing Tracy Kidder into the lab to observe everything and to document the race against time to take silicon, plastic, wires and put them together in a coherent pattern that could handle the new micro-code that they had to write at the same time as the circuits that would accept the micro-code were being wired together. Tracy Kidder was also there at the frantic debugging sessions as the hand wired circuits were brought to life, the micro-code would be inserted and bring the “Soul” of their new Eagle computer to become real.

What results is a riveting story of engineers bringing to life a computer, admittedly a bit of a “kludge”, but nonetheless under budget and on time to rescue the fortunes of Data General when the “Fountainhead Project” did indeed falter and fail.

At the end of the book, I could let out a great sigh of relief, and I felt that I had indeed watched a team of dedicated young engineers breath a “Soul” into their New Machine! I can indeed highly recommend this book as a behind the scenes look of a high tech “arms race”, exciting all the way down to the last page even for non-techies!

The Man Who Invented Christmas

I have just finished watching the movie about Charles Dickens and the writing of “A Christmas Carol” in 1843.  As an inveterate fan of Charles Dickens I have wanted to watch this movie ever since it came out last summer.  Sadly for me, it was not shown in South Jersey!  I’ve no reason why that is so, but it was never at the Regal theaters in my area.  So I was disappointed in my inability to see the movie at Christmastime.

However, it has finally be released for rental, and on Monday I rented it from the Google Movie library, and decided to watch it on Saturday, today.  After accomplishing my errands and runs today, I settled down at 1600, and started playing the movie on my Chromebook.

I was impressed with the movie although at times it was very dark.  But then Dickens had a very dark childhood with the arrest of his father for debt, and it took all of his talents for writing to raise him to the success that he enjoyed in the early nineteenth century.  He had a writers block around 1841 and experienced a loss of confidence.

He determined to write a book about Christmas as he envisioned.  A “Christmas Feast” had devolved from the 4th century into a celebration of revelry and drunkeness after Charlemagne was crowned emperor on Christmas Day 800 A.D..  Indeed by the 17th century the Puritans banned the celebration of Christmas as disreputable.

Dickens and other writers of the early nineteenth century wanted to reinvent the holiday by emphasizing Christmas as a time for family, religion, gift giving, and social reconciliation as opposed to the revelry that had been common historically.

Dickens later claimed that his characters sometimes contributed more to his writing than he himself did.  And in this movie that is certainly true as Scrooge comes to life and leads Dickens into writing the story.  Other characters of “A Christmas Carol” also come to life and interact with Dickens imagination, and finally lead Dickens into ending the book on a happy note as Scrooge himself realizes that Charles Dickens and himself had a similar natures and he appeals to Dickens that he wants to live and change his ways, to keep Christmas in his heart forever forward, and with that Dickens can finally complete the book and get it to the publisher in time to make delivery to the bookshops and be available to the public on December 19, 1843.

It did have an immediate effect on the way that Christmas was celebrated in Great Britain, and eventually the customs would spread throughout the British Empire, and also to Britain’s erstwhile colonies.  I really enjoyed the movie!

For many years I have made it a practice to read the “A Christmas Carol” every year right after Thanksgiving, and I am thinking of adding the practice of watching this movie during the season.  Just as I make it a practice to watch “A Miracle on 34th Street” as well as “Scrooge” the 1951 Alistair Sim version every year.