30 January 2007

Note to Self:

Shoot me in the face if I ever start becoming an inveterate "very sort of..." user. One of my teachers and two Americanist applicants to the department are addicted to this contradictory construction, and while I have no objection to an occasional placeholder, it feels like an especially cumbersome and pedantic one.

In summary, "very sort of" is not an acceptable adjective for me and never will be. It makes me very sort of upset.

La Paz

I'm feeling very much at peace about the grad school thing now. After the initial surprise and feelings of futility, I realized that I was indescribably relieved about this particular situation. Yes, I'd like to teach, and maybe that's in my future. But if not, I'm perfectly fine with that.

It's funny how plans happen. You start making them when your life is in one place, and then you follow them for a long time, regardless of the many, many subtle changes that occur along the way. Sometimes, those changes aggregate into something monstrous that makes your plan painful to carry out, but you stick to it anyway because it's The Plan.

At any rate, I'm happy and peaceful. It's another beautiful day, and I am blessed. :-)

29 January 2007


Well, I'm not going to be a PhD student in the fall after all. Got the letter this morning.

Still reeling a little bit, so I've been off-balance all day. It's shocking how hard it is to teach a class when teaching has suddenly become little more than a way to pay the bills until May.

I went to the graduate student meeting after my classes were done, although now I wonder why I went. Suddenly, I don't really want to be involved too much with these people who are going on further into academics. I don't want to hear about committees and new hires. I just want to get a job and move on with my life.

I'm wondering a lot of things: what went wrong with my application, where I'll be in six months, how I'll find a job with a master's in English, for crying out loud, and how I'm going to manage not teaching for the rest of my life.

Two things remain stable: I am faulty, and I am forgiven. God help me if I lose sight of those facts.

26 January 2007

It sure is a good thing that racism isn't a problem anymore...

... because if it were, then a lot of people would probably be hugely offended by a "Martin Luther King, Jr. Party" thrown by students at a Texas college where white kids dressed up in Aunt Jemima garb, T-shirts that say "I love chicken," and other stereotypical attire.

And of course they used the "my best friend's black" argument. Why wouldn't they?

Update: If that whetted your appetite for more, also check out a similar bash thrown by law students at U. Conn.

25 January 2007

On Problems With ID Rhetoric

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

I'm not as rabidly opposed to -- or supportive of -- the Intelligent Design movement as some of my friends are. In fact, my interest in it has been mostly an academic one, because I'm fascinated with how the group has managed to re-brand creationism for a more post-modern society. I think the world was intelligently designed, but I don't think that can be proven by empirical means, and I don't think my making a fuss about it will change anyone's mind on the matter. Besides, molecular biology (the only field with anything like valid ID scientists in it) isn't my bag, so I can't evaluate their claims very well anyway.

What I can evaluate is the language that they use in support of their agenda, and, quite frankly, it amuses me. A lot. For instance, the infamous Bananas: An Atheist's Worst Nightmare video, starring former child star Kirk Cameron and the Australian founder of the Institute for Creation Research, Ken Ham. It does an excellent job of mocking itself, so I'm not going to say anything more about that.

I would, however, like to comment on this video that someone from my church sent me a link to, claiming that it was "as fantastic as the story it tells."

It's essentially a version -- in a painful form of doggerel -- of the old Watchmaker analogy. Since cells are complex, the argument goes, there must be something that made them complex. A few lines jumped out at me as especially interesting:

"cells of all shapes like blobs filled with fluff" -- Yes, this is how the writer, Dave Hawkins, describes living matter. I guess that's what happens when you're forced to rhyme with "stuff." He is, of course, setting up a strawman so he can later tell us that although it looks simple, it is actually irreduceably complex.

"The marvels we see with a microscope's stare / make a watch look so simple, we dare not compare!" -- The writer correctly observes that these two classes of things (watches and cells) are incomparable ... but then he goes on to ignore this fact: "A cell and its wonders amaze all who see, / And a cell, like a watch, by chance cannot be!" He's glossing over the most important objection to his argument: a cell is not a watch. A cell is a biological entity, and it thus will behave in a way that is quite different from a manmade object like a watch.

One more poke before I let the horse die: "He's the masterful 'watchmaker,' Lord over all!" There was a time when Bible-believing Christians had very significant reasons for avoiding the "watchmaker" epithet for God. They left that for heathens like Ben Franklin. :-)

What am I trying to prove? Nothing. I'm just amused.

24 January 2007

The Ruin

This is one of my favorite Old English poems. This version is from S.A.J. Bradley's Anglo-Saxon Poetry, which is a great little book that contains prose translations of nearly all of the extant poetry in the Old English corpus.

The ellipses in the poem represent spots that are illegible because of damage that the manuscript sustained in a fire. So, in a way, the text itself is also something of a ruin.

The Ruin

Wondrously ornate is the stone of this wall, shattered by fate; the precincts of the city have crumbled and the work of giants is rotting away.

There are tumbled roofs, towers in ruins, high towers rime-frosted, rime on limy mortar, storm-shielding tiling scarred, scored and collapsed, undermined by age. An earthy grasp holds the lordly builders, decayed and gone, the cruel grip of the ground, while a hundred generations of humanity have passed away. Often has this wall, hoary with lichen, stained with red, lasted out one kingdom after another, left upstanding under storms: lofty and broad, it fell. Still the rampart, hewn by men, crumbles away... they were joined together... cruelly sharpened... shone... skilful work ancient structure... a ring with encrustations of soil prompted the mind and drew forth a swift idea. Ingenious in the making of chains, the bold-minded man amazingly bound together the ribs of the wall with cables.

There were bright city buildings, many bathhouses, a wealth of lofty gables, much clamour of the multitude, many a mead-hall filled with human revelry until mighty Fate changed that. Far and wide men fell dead: days of pestilence came and death destroyed the whole mass of those renowned swordsmen. Their fortress became waste places; the city rotted away: those who should repair it, the multitudes, were fallen to the ground. For that reason these courts are collapsing and the wide red roof of vaulted beams is shedding its tiles. The site is fallen into ruin, reduced to heaps, where once many a man blithe of mood and bright with gold, clothed in splendours, proud and flown with wine, gleamed in his war-trappings, and gazed upon treasure, on silver, on chased gems, on wealth, on property, on the precious stone and on this bright citadel of the broad kingdom; and the stone courts were standing and the stream warmly spouted its ample surge and a wall embraced all in its bright bosom
where the baths were, hot at its heart. That was convenient. Then they let pour... the warm streams across the grey stone... until the round pool hotly... where the baths were. Then is... It is a fitting thing how the... city...

22 January 2007

School Has Started

Classes began on Friday, and I'm already far behind. I guess that means it's a good thing that the battery in my Camry died so that I couldn't go to an English department reception tonight. Work for me, yessirree. :-)

The robot class seems to be going well, but we're not in the actual SF yet (I had them read parts of Frankenstein and the Golem legend for today). Comp II is all right, I guess. I get really annoyed by a couple of the kids in there. It's tough to love as I would like to be loved, but I reckon I ought to anyway.

Meanwhile, I've got a bunch of other stuff going on, too:

* Master's exam reading (the exam's in March or April, probably)
* Work at my morning job (about 3 hours/day)
* Old English (Beowulf, actually)
* Linguistics and 2nd Language Acquisition (class hasn't started yet; it's Tu/Th)
* Starting on an editing project for a couple mass comm. professors' book
* Being a hubby
* Trying to follow Jesus more closely

12 January 2007

Pro Tempore

I spent Thursday, the last day of my grandfather's life, driving from Chicago to Kansas. More accurately, my wife drove while I tried to read a book on attitudes regarding correctness in American English. (My driving gives her motion sickness.)

Curiously enough, I was thinking about him before the call came. As Mrs. Luaphacim and I passed the world's largest truck stop (located in western Iowa, somewhere along I-80), I started thinking about all the changes that had occurred in the United States during the past century. Between 1900 and 2000, we went from horse-drawn buggies to the International Space Station, from post cards to nearly instantaneous digital communication over fiberoptic cables. We endured two world wars that, no matter how much I learn about them, will always be more than I can fully comprehend. And my grandfather was an engineer on a boat in the Pacific during the second of those two wars. Our country also underwent a turmoil of shifting, blending regional accents as people moved around in the postwar boom of the '50s.

As we drove past winter-dead cornfields, I considered how plausible it would be to do an ethnolinguistic study of my father's people, starting with Gramps. I'd often noticed the extra-round North Dakota vowels of his boyhood, which always became more prominent when he was upset or in a puckish mood. I was fascinated with how those vowels had been slowly disappearing, year by year, under the slow Mississippi drawl that emanated from his chosen retirement spot in Tupelo.

Surely there was a dissertation in there somewhere... "Abooot time ta Hunker Down and Set a Spay-ull: The Phonological Blends of North Dakotan Retirees to the Gulf Coast." Or maybe "A Study of the Effects of the Southern Drawl Upon the Germanic Peoples of the Upper Midwest." A bloody academic gold mine, no doubt about it.

And then my cell phone rang. It was my mother, who was calling to let me know that the star informant of my imaginary magnum opus might not make it through the night. Well, back to square one with the dissertation topic.

(I have this habit of making dreadfully unfunny jokes at the most awkward of times. It's a habit I've been trying to break, albeit unsuccessfully. I think I do it because I am terrified of pain, especially when it is purely emotional.)

The last time I saw him was three weeks ago. Some friends and I had just gotten back from a week in Ecuador, and we were driving up from Miami to Wichita for Christmas. I got the idea of visiting my grandparents at about three a.m. somewhere in northern Alabama as I drove with nothing to keep me company through the night except for a staicky radio (my friends were resting).

I saw a couple of highway signs for Tupelo, and after doing some quick mental math to figure out when we'd be going through, I realized that we'd be hitting the town right around breakfast time. It was quite convenient; we could stop, go to the bathroom, grab a bite to eat at McDonald's, fill up on gas, and see the grandparents before heading out.

My plan worked perfectly. We stopped by, had a nice chat, and were on our way half an hour later. Grandpa was sick at the time (he had pneumonia, Grandma said) and he couldn't take us all out for breakfast, so he pressed two $20 bills into my hand and said to get ourselves something good to eat. He said he would have taken us out if he hadn't had that terrible cold, so it was only right that he should pay for our breakfast.

That's who my grandfather is -- was. (O cruel, tyrannical past tense!) He was one of the most generous, caring, kind men I've ever met. Even when he had lost 30 pounds, even when he was tired of being sick in bed with pneumonia all day for a week, he was still hospitable to a fault.

A week later, while Mrs. L and I were in Chicago, Mom called me to tell me that the pneumonia was lung cancer. They popped some cysts, drained some fluid, and he had some strokes, but he might recover, they said. I doubted it, quite frankly, and I'm not sure I've ever had a greater wish to be wrong.

They put him in the ground today. I couldn't make it to his funeral, but I know he didn't mind. Dad told me on the phone the day before yesterday how Gramps had responded when Dad couldn't attend his aunt's funeral: "Listen, son: you've got to take care of your family. That's your biggest responsibility right now. That means you need to do your work." Typical Gramps: understanding and supportive even from the grave.

So, today, I'm working on the final drafts of a couple of syllabi and trying not to let my heart get ripped out of my chest by the absence of the generous old man who doesn't live in Tupelo anymore.

10 January 2007

Movie Meme

Here, because I had a couple of minutes to spare, is a list of movies I have seen (mine are the ones with the "x"es). Why The Big Lebowski isn't on here (but Ewoks Caravan Of Courage and Ewoks The Battle For Endor are) is a mystery to me. Thus are the powers of the Internet, I guess.

(It's a Facebook meme, btw.)

( ) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(x) Grease
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean (x2)
(x) Boondock Saints
(x) Fight Club
(x) Starsky and Hutch
(x) Neverending Story
(x) Blazing Saddles
(x) Airplane
Total this section:8/9

(x) The Princess Bride
(x) Anchorman
(x) Napoleon Dynamite
( ) Labyrinth
( ) Saw II
( ) White Noise
( ) White Oleander
( ) Anger Management
(x) 50 First Dates
(x) The Princess Diaries
(x) The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (I have three younger sisters, ok?)
Total this section: 6/11

( ) Scream
( ) Scream 2
( ) Scream 3
( ) Scary Movie
( ) Scary Movie 2
( ) Scary Movie 3
( ) Scary Movie 4
(x) American Pie (on a long bus ride; I tried to ignore it after the first 15 min.)
( ) American Pie 2
( ) American Wedding
( ) American Pie Band Camp
Total this section: 1/11

(x) Harry Potter 1
(x) Harry Potter 2
(x) Harry Potter 3
(x) Harry Potter 4
( ) Resident Evil 1
( ) Resident Evil 2
(x) The Wedding Singer
( ) Little Black Book
(x) The Village
(x) Lilo & Stitch
Total this section: 7/10

(x) Finding Nemo
(x) Finding Neverland
(x) Signs
( ) The Grinch
(x) Texas Chainsaw Massacre
( ) White Chicks
( ) Butterfly Effect
( ) 13 Going on 30
(x) I, Robot
( ) Robots
Total this section: 5/10

(x) Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
(x) Universal Soldier
(x) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
(x) Along Came Polly
( ) Deep Impact
( ) KingPin
( ) Never Been Kissed
(x) Meet The Parents
(x) Meet the Fockers
( ) Eight Crazy Nights
(x) Joe Dirt
Total this section: 8/12

(x) A Cinderella Story
( ) The Terminal
( ) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
(x) Dumb & Dumber
( ) Dumber & Dumberer
( ) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Final Destination 3
( ) Halloween
( ) The Ring
( ) The Ring 2
(x) Surviving Christmas
( ) Flubber
Total this section: 3/13

( ) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
( ) Practical Magic
(x) Chicago
( ) Ghost Ship
( ) From Hell
( ) Hellboy
(x) The Secret Window
(x) I Am Sam
(x) The Whole Nine Yards
(x) The Whole Ten Yards
Total this section: 5/10

( ) The Day After Tomorrow
( ) Child's Play
( ) Seed of Chucky
( ) Bride of Chucky
(x) Ten Things I Hate About You
(x) Just Married (see long bus trip note on American Pie)
( ) Gothika
( ) Nightmare on Elm Street
( ) Sixteen Candles
(x) Remember the Titans
( ) Coach Carter
( ) The Grudge
( ) The Mask
( ) Son Of The Mask
Total this section: 3/14

( ) Bad Boys 2
( ) Joy Ride
( ) Lucky Number Sleven
(x) Ocean's Eleven
(x) Ocean's Twelve
(x) Bourne Identity
( ) Lone Star
( ) Bedazzled
( ) Predator
( ) Predator II
( ) The Fog
( ) Ice Age
( ) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
(x) Curious George
Total this section: 4/14

(x) Independence Day
( ) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
( ) Christine
(x) ET
( ) Children of the Corn
(x) My Boss' Daughter
(x) Maid in Manhattan
( ) Frailty
(x) War of the Worlds
(x) Rush Hour
(x) Rush Hour 2
Total this section: 7/13

( ) Best Bet
( ) She's All That
( ) Calendar Girls
( ) Sideways
( ) Mars Attacks
( ) Event Horizon
(x) Ever After
(x) Wizard of Oz
(x) Forrest Gump
( ) Big Trouble in Little China
(x) The Terminator
(x) The Terminator 2
( ) The Terminator 3
Total this section: 5/13

(x) X-Men
(x) X2
( ) X-3
(x) Spider-Man
(x) Spider-Man 2
( ) Sky High
( ) Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
(x) Catch Me If You Can
(x) The Little Mermaid
(x) Freaky Friday (x2)
( ) Reign of Fire
( ) Equilibrium
( ) The Skulls
(x) Cruel Intentions (bus trip yada yada)
( ) Cruel Intentions 2
( ) The Hot Chick
(x) Shrek
(x) Shrek 2
Total this section: 11/20

( ) Swimfan
(x) Miracle on 34th street
(x) Old School (just a mistake, ok?)
(x) The Notebook
( ) K-Pax
( ) Krippendorf's Tribe
( ) A Walk to Remember
( ) Ice Castles
( ) Boogeyman
( ) The 40-year-old-virgin
Total this section: 3/10

(x) Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring
(x) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers
(x) Lord of the Rings Return Of the King
(x) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
(x) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
(x) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Total this section: 6/6

( ) Baseketball
( ) Hostel
(x) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devils Rejects
( ) Elf
(x) Highlander
( ) Mothman Prophecies
( ) American History X
(x) Three Amigos
Total this section: 3/10

( ) The Jacket
( ) Kung Fu Hustle
( ) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
( ) Monster
(x) Titanic
(x) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
(x) Dawn Of the Dead
( ) Willard
Total this section: 3/9

( ) High Tension
( ) Club Dread
( ) Hulk
(x) Hook
( ) Chronicle Of Narnia The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
(x) 28 days later
( ) Orgazmo
( ) Phantasm
(x) Waterworld
Total this section: 3/9

(x) Kill Bill vol 1
( ) Kill Bill vol 2
( ) Mortal Kombat
( ) Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
( ) Wolf Creek
( ) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) The Hills Have Eyes
( ) I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
( ) The Last House on the Left
( ) Re-Animator
(x) Army of Darkness
Total this section: 2/11

(x) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
(x) Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
( ) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
(x) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
(x) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
(x) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
( ) Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
(x) Ewoks The Battle For Endor
Total this section: 6/8

(x) The Matrix
(x) The Matrix Reloaded
( ) The Matrix Revolutions
( ) Animatrix
( ) Evil Dead
( ) Evil Dead 2
( ) Team America World Police
( ) Red Dragon
( ) Silence of the Lambs
( ) Hannibal
Total this section: 2/10

09 January 2007

Correlation != Causation

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

The honorable Sam Brownback was recently quoted in a Human Events column: "Children raised in married families are three times less likely to repeat a grade in school; five times less likely to have behavioral problems; half as likely to be depressed; three times less likely to use illicit drugs; half as likely to become sexually active as teenagers; and 14 times less likely to suffer abuse from their parents."

This sounds quite impressive, doesn't it? Shouldn't it make everyone want to become all heterosexual and married and awesome?

The problem with this logic is that "married families" of the type that Brownback describes are much less common among some economically disadvantaged groups. This could very well have the effect of skewing these impressive-sounding numbers.

Don't misunderstand; I have no particular objection to marriage (and if I did, I would be an enormous hypocrite). I do have objections to treating marriage as a panacea for all of society's ills. I also have objections to stamping the myth of an ideal, white, middle-class morality onto America as a whole, as Brownback implies should be done. We are a more complicated nation than that, and our solutions to social problems must take our complexity into account.

05 January 2007

Sperm Donors' Rights

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

There's a dispute over reproductive rights in my home state. USA Today has the story:
A case before the Kansas Supreme Court has become a key test of the rights of sperm donors who want to be involved with their offspring over the objection of the children's mothers.

The dispute, which has drawn national attention, involves a single woman, identified in court papers only as S.H., who gave birth to twins in May 2005 after being inseminated with the sperm of a friend, identified as D.H.

After the mother made it clear that she did not intend to share parenting, D.H. sued to establish paternity. He lost in a trial court because of a Kansas law that says the donor of sperm provided for artificial insemination is not the legal father of the child unless the donor and mother agree to it in writing.

The major question in the case is whether requiring such written agreements in cases involving sperm donors known to the mother, not anonymous donors from sperm banks, violates the donor's constitutional rights as a parent. Like Kansas, many states have legal hurdles for donors seeking parental status.

This is a fascinating debate to me because it illustrates something I have long observed: Americans are insane when it comes to biological genealogy.

I'm not using "insane" hyperbolically here. Let's think about the issue at stake: this woman's friend (one can only assume it's "ex-friend" now) let her have some of his sperm (a substance which is quite common, easily replaceable, and readily available through any number of willing, though certainly not as safe, outlets) so she could become pregnant. Nine months later, out pop the twins, and he suddenly demands co-custody? What is he thinking? And why is his reasoning OK at all in this country?

His role is that of a drone. He has no rights. "Donate" comes from a Latin word, "donare," which means to present. The Oxford English Dictionary says "donate" is a transitive verb meaning "To make a donation or gift of; hence, vulgarly (in U.S.), to give, bestow, grant." There is nothing in that definition that implies a return of any kind. He gave her his biological material, and that should be that.

This sounds suspiciously like a role-reversal of the stereotypical girl-gets-pregnant-to-hook-her-man routine. If anything, it's less acceptable this way around, since he did none of the actual work of having the babies.

If he wanted to have children, he should have given his sperm to someone who wanted him as her baby-daddy, not as her biological donor.

03 January 2007

Our New Robot Overlords

I don't know if you read Scientific American -- I normally don't -- but the most recent issue caught my eye the other day. Its cover story is a column by Bill Gates, who predicts the rapid growth of robotic technologies in the near future:
I believe that technologies such as distributed computing, voice and visual recognition, and wireless broadband connectivity will open the door to a new generation of autonomous devices that enable computers to perform tasks in the physical world on our behalf. We may be on the verge of a new era, when the PC will get up off the desktop and allow us to see, hear, touch and manipulate objects in places where we are not physically present.

I'm teaching a class in robot SF this spring, and the texts I am teaching all look forward in some way to the world that Gates is trying to usher in here. From the very first robot story to the most recent ones, that idea of machines working for us in the physical world is the primary driving idea. Because I've got some time to kill, here are some summaries of a few of the things we're reading in the class.

Karel Čapek's R.U.R., the play in which "robot" is first used, envisions robots as tools to help humanity overcome its dependence on inequitable economic systems to survive. The problem, of course, is that the robots develop a consciousness of sorts and grow to resent their roles as the dutiful slaves of humanity. Interestingly, Čapek's robots are biological, rather than mechanical, entities. They are streamlined in their design, and they are initially without souls, but they develop them over time. Ultimately, the robots rise up and destroy alll humans except one, who they impress into developing a way for robots to reproduce. The ending is sort of mystical and pretty stupid: two robots fall in love and become the new Adam and Eve whose task is to repopulate the earth (nice work if you can get it, I guess).

Jack Williamson's Humanoids is terrifying. In it, the robots are self-reproducing and are connected via an alternate physics to a central brain on a remote planet someplace. They all obey a Prime Directive that commands them to protect humans from harm. The problem, of course, is that "harm" is defined very strictly. On each new planet that the humanoids reach, they abolish drinking, smoking, taking showers alone, and other potentially dangerous activities. Essentially, they rob humans of free will. It's a pretty good story; it focuses on the efforts of humans to use psychic abilities to fight the robots, who are virtually immune to all other forms of attack.

Isaac Asimov's three laws of robotics allow humans more free play than Williamson's Prime Directive. The first law still dictates that a robot must not harm a human or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm, but the second law is that a robot must obey a human unless doing so violates the first law. The third law is that a robot must protect itself unless doing so violates the first two laws. Of course, we find in Asimov's collection of robot stories, I Robot, that the three laws are not always quite so clear-cut as they appear at first...

Phillip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? again shows us worker robots who are more or less sentient and who rebel against humanity, but his story is more hard-edged and complex than Capek's moralistic tale. Dick has a way of making you really, really confused at times, and this novel is no exception. The book went on to become the basis of Blade Runner, but in making the film, Ridley Scott was probably influenced just as much by the cyberpunk subgenre of SF as he was by Dick's novel, so the movie's concerns are much different.

Speaking of cyberpunk, Neuromancer by William Gibson is a very interesting novel that does some amazing things with exploring the grafting of technology onto and into humans. Artificial intelligences also play a large role in this novel, and it seems to be one important source for the rash of AI stories that have flooded the SF market since Neuromancer was written.

The concept of "free" labor by machines is a fascinating one, especially when you start to play with the idea of how to prevent these machines from becoming violent or rebellious... one wonders how programmers of Gates's much-vaunted robots will deal with these questions.

(P.S.: p4k ch0013 unf)