Hephaestus's Blog

Ski Hike
January 30, 2015, 13:18
Filed under: Recreation

On Tuesday the 27th, after the day’s blizzard had stopped, my family went for a backcountry ski hike in Sewall Woods, a very small wooded area in our town.

We started from our house; with the snow waist-deep in places, and the roads closed to traffic, we could just walk right across town.

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My dad skiing down our front steps.

From our house we skied over to the elementary school just down the road, and then went up the hill beside it.

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Dad and me in the school parking lot.

We then continued up the hill, and soon reached Sewall Woods.

We entered the woods from the north.

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My sister hiking up into the Woods.

Once we had reached the high point of the area, we stopped and removed our skins to ski down.

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Removing the skins. 

We then skied down the south side of the woods, and then went up again. After we were done with that, we went back down the way we had come.

After we exited the woods, we skied down the hill beside the elementary school, and then proceeded home.

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Skiing down. Fun!

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Trekking through the school grounds on the way home.

Gilbert and Sullivan: A Personal Story
January 20, 2015, 20:36
Filed under: Uncategorized

My fascination with Gilbert and Sullivan‘s comic operas, or G&S as they are affectionately called, began in about April or May 2012. That was when I found the Major-General’s Song from The Pirates of Penzance, via Tom Lehrer’s The Elements song. How I found Lehrer is a story for another time, but suffice it to say that I saw the Major-General’s Song mentioned as the original tune for the Elements in a YouTube video, and was sufficiently curious to do a search to find out what it was. (Curiosity can do wonderful things for you. I wholeheartedly recommend it.) This led me to listening to the Major-General’s Song many times in many different versions. Within a few weeks I had moved on to more of Pirates, facilitated by the many clips from the 1983 movie on YouTube. Soon after that I began to listen to other G&S music as well, starting with H.M.S. Pinafore and then The Mikado. That summer, I attended my first performance of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, a slightly avant-garde Pirates by a group from Chicago. My first “normal” performance was a Mikado by the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert and Sullivan Players. I wrote about that one here.

Since then, I have attended two productions of Pirates and one each of Patience, Utopia, Ltd., IolantheThe Gondoliers, and another Mikado.

While this was how I first began to listen to Gilbert and Sullivan’s music, it was not the first time I heard of G&S. For that, we must go back to 2011. Sometime in that year, I am not certain exactly when, I noticed that Gilbert and Sullivan was mentioned in a book I have on steam locomotives. (There is a type of locomotive known colloquially as the Mikado, and the book says the name is after G&S.) So, wondering what Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado was, I looked it up. To my great surprise, it is a comic opera. But if you got this far in this (somewhat long) post without knowing that, then you should go read the rest.

So, after spending a few hours browsing through the lyrics of a few songs on Wikisource, I then promptly forgot all about G&S, and paid no more attention to it until over half a year later. That was when  the events described above occurred. (See above.)

Word of the Month: Solipsism
January 16, 2015, 10:12
Filed under: Words of the Months

Eytmology: Latin solus, alone, + Latin ipse, self, + -ism.

Definition: The [philosophical] theory that only the self exists, or can be proven to exist. (Random House Unabridged Dictionary)

Not surprisingly, solipsists can be rather depressing to have around. If all that exists is impressions in your own mind, then why do anything at all? Or if no other minds exist, why have any friends? If you do accept that there is a physical world around you, but you believe that no one has any minds at all, then you could get very lonely. On the other hand, those of a certain temperament could decide that everything, or at least everyone, was put there solely for their own enjoyment, and act accordingly. Such people can be hard to get along with.

Solipsism as a philosophical idea is related to the ideas of Descartes, (cogito, ergo sum says nothing about the outside world,) and those of the empiricists. I don’t really have room to go into a comprehensive overview of the subject, but suffice it to say that it isn’t very popular.


In closing, never confuse solipsist with ellipsis. Things could get very confusing…

My Favorite Isaac Asimov Stories
January 5, 2015, 19:25
Filed under: Space stuff

Last Saturday (the 2nd) would have been Isaac Asimov’s 95th birthday*. In honor of this, I present:

My Five Favorite Asimovs



This novel introduced the Galactic Empire** trope. The Foundation trilogy, including Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation, was expanded with four more Asimov novels and three by other authors.


This story, included in the famous anthology/novel*** I, Robot, was the first appearance of Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics.

The Red Queen’s Race(1949)

This one has a very interesting, if not entirely original, stance on time travel. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


An interesting story about creativity and originality.

Take a Match(1972)

A story set on a spaceship in an all-fusion time.


*Asimov’s actual date of birth is uncertain, but he celebrated it on January 2nd, so I think we may as well go with that.

** I do not capitalize “Galactic Empire” as one unit, but as two: “Galactic”, referring to the Galaxy, and “Empire”. Each word merits capitalization on its own.

*** I, Robot is a collection of previously published stories, with material added to connect them into one narrative of Susan Calvin’s career.