JT's Blog

Things that interest me, things that happened to me, things that I like, even some things that I don't like...

Dramatizing Asimov's Foundation

The front cover of my copy of Isaac Asimov's The Foundation Trilogy which I got from the Science Fiction Book Club when I was 13

For years several different producers, writers, and directors have attempted to bring Isaac Asimov's sprawling Foundation series to the TV screen, and all those efforts have faltered, so I was delighted to hear that Apple had actually green-lighted a production with David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman as showrunners.

So this raises lots of questions in my mind. For example, are they going to adapt the entire series or just the Trilogy?

Asimov's Foundation series began life as a series of eight novelettes and novellas published during the 1940s in the pulp science fiction magazine Astounding Science Fiction. When Gnome Press gathered them into three volumes in the early 1950s, Asimov added a ninth, the story that opens the first book, to give the series a proper starting point.

Then in the 1960s Doubleday acquired the rights and published the three books as one volume, and it's been known as The Foundation Trilogy ever since. When I was 13 and joined the Science Fiction Book Club, one of my initial books was The Foundation Trilogy.

Much later in the early 1980s Asimov published a sequel, Foundation's Edge, which did so well for the publisher that Asimov was cajoled into writing still more, which he did by writing several prequels and trying (not very successfully, in my opinion) to tie in his Robot Series with his Foundation Series.

Anyway for me Asimov's Foundation Series is basically The Foundation Trilogy (which I have now read, by my recent estimate, at least eight times) and maybe Foundation's Edge.

Astounding Science Fiction for August 1944 featuring The Big and the Little, the third published Foundation story

Now I have no idea what the producers and writers of the forthcoming Foundation series have in mind, but with Robyn Asimov (Isaac's daughter) signed on as an executive producer I have high hopes that whatever they do they will at least be faithful to the spirit of Asimov's work.

Recall that the original stories were written in the 40s, before there were computers, so even though the series takes place tens of thousands of years in the future, there are no computers in the stories. When the characters need to perform complex calculations to navigate their spaceships from one star system to another, they do so manually with the assistance of calculators, a process that can take days. When they want to purchase tickets for an interstellar trip, they insert cash into a vending machine and receive change, credit cards not having been invented yet, let alone hand held devices like iPhones. You get the idea. The technology in the stories is seriously out of date. So whatever the showrunners do, they're going to have to make a lot of changes.

Not only will they have to decide whether to dramatize all the stories in the series or just the Trilogy, but another challenge will be the vast timescale and changing casts of characters. The stories of the Trilogy alone take place over a nearly 400 year period, and most of the stories feature completely different sets of characters.

Back in the 70s, the BBC did an eight part radio serial based on the Trilogy and they kept it very true to the stories. That worked well for radio, but I'm not sure it would work for today's TV audience.

Anyway, here's what I would do. The final story introduces Arkady Darell, the fourteen year old daughter of Dr. Toran Darell; the Darells, father and daughter, are actually descendants of the leading characters of a previous story. When we meet Arkady, she is writing a paper for school which goes on to recap the events of the preceding stories for those coming in late.

So my proposal is to make Arkady and her father the main characters of the series and greatly expand their story, during the course of which she would be researching the history of the Foundation and the role that her ancestors played in it. So the preceding stories could be told as flashbacks, with Arkady acting as narrator and interjecting some sharp commentary from time to time.

I would stick primarily to the Trilogy, in that I would end the series where the Trilogy ends, but I might incorporate some material from the prequels (it's been awhile since I read them and I have little memory of them).

So that's my framing device for the series. Of course, that still leaves a lot of work to be done.

The One With the Phoebe Buffay Salad

JT: Today I'm pleased to turn over my blog to my very special guest, Phoebe Buffay, to give her recipe for a salad. Phoebe, take it away!

Phoebe Buffay

Phoebe Buffay: Thanks, JT. Blog. What a silly word. Blog. Rhymes with clog. Or flog. Could you flog a blog into a clog? Say, I could write a song about that. [Singing] I'll flog this blog into this pesky clog...

JT: Uh, Phoebe. Salads?

Phoebe: Oh, right. Salads. Being a vegetarian, as I am, salads are very dear to my heart, because what's the main ingredient in salads? That's right. Vegetables!

So you want to start with the basics—a nice bed of lettuce. Just about any kind of lettuce will do, but not iceberg lettuce. No, no, no. Never iceberg lettuce. We wouldn't want to run the risk of a shipwreck, now would we? What? Haven't you ever seen Titanic?

Scallion, NOT spring onion

I also like to use baby spinach. Monica tells me that baby spinach is not really lettuce, but—who cares?!

Now once you have your basic bed of lettuce, you want to start adding more vegetables. I like to chop up some carrots and mushrooms and radishes and scallions. And while we're on the subject of scallions, I'd just like to say I lament this recent trend to call them spring onions. They are not onions, spring or any other kind. They're scallions! Get with the program, people!

Oh, pardon me. I guess I got carried away there.

Pronounced BAH-zil

Anyway, after I've added the chopped up vegetables, I season the salad with some chopped fresh basil. That's pronounced BAH-zil, as in Basil Rathbone or Basil Fawlty. Not, and this is important, not BAY-zil. BAY-zil reminds me of Baywatch. Sorry, Joey.

Now I add the salt and extra virgin olive oil and then I begin to toss the salad. This is the part I like. Tossing the salad. You should try it sometime.

Once the vegetables are nicely coated with the olive oil, then and only then, can you add some chopped up tomato. If you add the tomato earlier, its juices will give you a soggy salad, and believe me, there's nothing worse than a soggy salad. Well, actually, I can think of some worse things...but never mind!

The Phoebe Buffay Salad

Now some people like to use vinegar, but I'm in sort of a citrusy mood right now, so I like to take a lime, slice it in half, and squeeze the juice out that lime. Hey, do you know why British soldiers are called limeys? Well, neither do I, but I think it has something to do with limes.

Toss the salad again to really blend those juices, then transfer to a plate. For the finishing touch I like to add an avocado, but be careful when you put it under the knife. You don't want to get avocado hand, or you might get some unwelcome blood in your salad. Heh-heh.

And that's my salad.

JT: Thank you,  Phoebs. I think we all learned something today...

Phoebe: [reaching for her guitar] And now for some music. [singing] Smelly Cat, Smelly cat what are they feeding you? Smelly Cat, smelly cat it's not your fault...

My First Pet Rabbit—A Tale of Betrayal

I'm not exactly sure just when to date this, other than it had to be sometime before 1957. My best guess is either 1955 or '56, so I would have been six or seven. And I'm not sure where I got the white rabbit, but I probably won it as a prize at the Easter egg hunt at Richland, because although we were still living on my grandfather's farm just outside Womelsdorf, we had relatives in Richland and spent a lot of time there.


What I do recall is that my pet rabbit was kept in a cage in the barn with the cows. The farm was pretty large and had two barns; the one for the cows was near the house where my grandparents lived. That was really the main barn, and in addition to housing the cows, it had two silos, an open barnyard, and just generally had a warm and inviting feel. In fact, my grandfather's brother Miles, who helped out on the farm and had been living there since his wife died shortly before I was born, even slept in the main barn alongside the cows on a bed of straw during the warmer months.

Across the meadow was the house where we lived, and the other barn was adjacent to our house. It did not have a warm and inviting feel because that's where the steers lived. Steers, unlike cows, were not especially gentle creatures. So that barnyard was closed off. The pigpen also opened into that barnyard.

So my pet rabbit's cage was kept in the cows' barn. And that might be what led to the crisis. Or perhaps my being six or seven and not yet having developed a sense of responsibility. For whatever reason, the barn wasn't close enough to my house or I just plain wasn't responsible enough, I was accused of not feeding and caring for my pet rabbit on a regular enough basis.

While the charge was probably true enough, the penalty was much too severe.

For one day I came back from grocery shopping with my mother and went running to the barn to check on my pet rabbit only find Miles skinning the carcass of the dead animal. I had been given no advance warning that this might happen, and I was heartbroken. Well, heartbroken and angry. But of course, I had no recourse.

That evening I dined at my grandparents' house, as I often did in those days, as my grandmother usually made a big feast every evening for all the farm hands and one more little mouth to feed was no problem.

It was at the conclusion of supper that my grandmother informed me that the chicken that I had just eaten was, in fact, my pet rabbit.

So I learned a valuable lesson at an early age: Trust No One.

Joe Bonafiglia

Joe Bonafiglia died on June 6, though I didn't find out about it until nine days later when Barb sent me a somewhat cryptic note on Facebook. I was completely taken aback by the news.

He was only 55.

 Joe Bonafiglia

Joe Bonafiglia

The thought that he might die before me was something that had never entered my mind. Even now, several weeks later, I can barely wrap my mind around that fact that I'll never see him again.

Anyway a couple days after learning of his death, I wrote a condolence letter to Joanne, his widow. Not having her current address, I mailed it to the funeral home after getting assurances that they would forward it to her, which I trust they did.

I planned to use that letter as the basis for a much longer post here on my blog, but after thinking it over, I've decided to just publish it as is, brevity being the soul of you-know-what. Here it is.

Dear Joanne,

I first heard about Joe’s passing on Friday, and I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t.

It seems like only yesterday that Joe and I were working in Subsistence and discussing the latest episodes of St. Elsewhere and Moonlighting, but that was over 30 years ago. We worked in different areas then, but we shared a common goal of moving the Directorate kicking and screaming into the modern age of personal computing.

I recall the day he first showed me a dBase program, and I offhandedly remarked that it was a shame it didn’t provide any feedback to let the user know which fields had already been edited. The very next day he came back with a solution—a totally unexpected solution. That was Joe.

Later when we moved to OTIS, I was nominally his boss, although really it was more like a partnership of equals. Joe was absolutely indispensable in our efforts to expand personal computing at the center and later join those computers into a local area network.

Given how large a factor Joe has been in my life, it’s hard to believe we only worked together for about five years. In later years we kept in touch only sporadically, something that I now regret. I always thought there was plenty of time, but now time has run out.

I miss Joe’s upbeat disposition, his strong sense of right and wrong (though I don’t necessarily always agree with him)—damn it, I just miss him!

My sincerest sympathies to you and your family. I can’t tell you how saddened I am. The world is truly a sadder and a poorer place without Joe Bonafiglia.


Water, Water, Everywhere, But Not a Drop in My Place

This morning I woke up and there was no water coming out of the tap. To make sure that it was not just my apartment, I went down to the vacant third floor apartment and found that it too had no water.

When I went out for my morning walk there were Philadelphia Water Department workers on Juniper Street and I asked one of them if he knew why I had no water. "Broken main," he tersely replied.

Seeing I wasn't going to get anything more out of him, I continued southward, but when I returned, I saw there was a police tape blocking access to 13th Street at Locust. So I went to investigate.

And I found a lot of water. And firemen. I asked one of the firemen what was going on, and he had no idea, but when I asked if this was why I had no water, he said, "Very likely."

13th and St. James

13th and Walnut

13th and Walnut

13th and Walnut

13th and Juniper

13th and Juniper

How America Got Its Name

Some time in elementary school, I guess, one of my teachers told the story that went something like this:

A fellow named Amerigo Vespucci drew a map of the known world which included the newly discovered continents of the New World. Someone began referring to those new continents as Amerigo's land, and the Latinized version of his name caught on.

Some variation of that story was pretty much all I remember from my school history classes, and while it's not exactly wrong, the full tale is much richer and a lot more interesting. As it happens, I've been rereading George R. Stewart's wonderful 1975 book Names On the Globe, and he devotes a good chunk of a chapter to relating that story. (Sadly the book is long since out of print, but used copies are still readily available.)

I had thought I could retell the tale, but Stewart does such a great job, and since his book is out of print, I've decided to publish his version here:

With such reasonable possibilities eliminated, anyone would hesitate to advance an altogether fantastic one—that is, that the magnificent and world-famous name America came into existence from the brainstorm of a German pedant who had never crossed the ocean, and probably had never even seen it. Yet the written record is so conclusive that scholars have had no recourse but to reject all the reasonable ideas and to accept the fantastic one.

We know little enough about him. He was, in 1490, a student at the University of Freiburg, and he lived on into the next century. Obviously he would have studied Latin, and apparently he was an enthusiast for the Greek studies, which were popular at the time. If there is a single fact of which we can be certain, it is that he was one of those individuals under the fascination of names. We can see as much in his manipulation of his own name, which was Martin Waldseemüller, the family-name to be translated as “forest-lake-miller.” He set out to put this into Greek, as some scholars did in those times. The result must have been something like the repugnant and impractical hyl-lakko-mylo-os. But, for his own ends, he ingeniously manipulated this monstrosity, and, as the custom was, Latinized it. He got then, finally, Hylacomylus. Obviously, such a man is not to be trusted with a name.

At this point we must turn to that other character of this fantasy, a Florentine who usually spelled his name America Vespucci—Latinized as Americus (or Albericus) Vesputius. He was what has been called, somewhat enigmatically, a “controversial” figure, which means, in this case, that his stories of voyages across the Atlantic have been assailed as fabrications, especially by the highly respected early Spanish historians Las Casas and Herrera. Later investigators, however, have defended him. On the whole, we can conclude that he had really voyaged to what was the northeastern coast of South America. As a result, he took the position, as more and more people were beginning to do, that Columbus was wrong; that this was not India, but a new continent.

 Names On the Globe by George R. Stewart

Names On the Globe by George R. Stewart

In 1503 or the following year he published, under the name Albericus Vesputius, a Latin pamphlet, its title Mundus Novus. In it he stated his belief about those regions—“They may be called a New World, for there was no knowledge of them among our ancestors, and it is a wholly new thing to all who now hear of it.” Here was the idea! Here, the declaration of the entity! We need not be concerned with later works, some of them dubious, which are ascribed to him.

Exit, now, Amer(r)igo or Americus or Albericus, and whether or not he was a faker makes not the slightest difference in the outcome.

Back to Hylacomylus. By the year 1507 he had done well for himself, in a provincial way. He was a member of what we might now call a scholarly institute, a “think-tank,” in the town of St. Dié in Lorraine, under the patronage of the local duke. The time was the burgeoning Renaissance; Greek studies were in vogue; one of the “fellows” had a printing press; even in far-inland Lorraine there was interest in the amazing discoveries of strange lands.

By this time the star of Columbus had sunk low and grown dim. His idea of the Indies was not convincing. He himself had lost favor at court. Was not Vespucci a better guide?

In any case, the little institute at St. Dié decided to reprint one of the Florentine’s pamphlets, with a map, the title to be Cosmographiae Introductio. Who should be chosen to write the preface to the volume? No other than one of the members who was beginning to establish himself as a geographer—that is, Waldseemüller/Hylacomylus. Rarely have the need and the man arrived at a more fitting union.

Written in Latin, his pertinent statement may be translated thus:

Now, indeed, these parts [the three “older” continents] have been broadly explored, and a fourth part has been found by Americus Vesputius, as will be shown later. I do not see why anyone should rightfully object to calling this part for Americus (its discoverer, a man of intelligence) to wit, Amerige, that is, Land of Americus, or America—since both Europe and Asia got their names from women.

At this point in history a great name is, we may say, struggling to be born. But just what form will it take? The first suggestion is for Amerige. In the name-obsessed mind of Hylacomylus this spelling had some justification because of the Italian form Amerigo. More definitely, however, it is to be analyzed as Ameri-ge, with the Greek word for land thus fused with the Italian personal name. In fact, the actual spelling in the text is Amerigen, the form of a Greek accusative case.

The other suggestion is America—a name destined for greatness far beyond any imagining of its creator. Its origin is simple, since it is merely a Latin feminine form, derived from the already established Americus. By analogy with the other continents, as also from the usual Latin practice of having names of islands and countries in the feminine, that gender was the natural one. In this original text America takes second place (or may, indeed, be taken as a mere explanation of Amerige), but it seems to have been its creator’s final choice, or else he yielded to pressure from others. In any case, on the map which he published the name stood as America.

The outcome can only be viewed as both amazing and fortunate. In itself the one form may seem as good as the other. But the -a ending was unambiguous in pronunciation, drawing strength from thousands of established names. The -e ending was much less familiar, and would have resulted in countless difficulties in being passed from one language to another.

But America had still other advantages. To anyone, it actually looked like the name of a continent. Europe, Asia, Africa—each begins with a vowel and ends with one. If we take the Latin form, all of them end in a. Africa and America share the syllables -rica. The new name slid easily into its place.

Moreover, it was an easily slidable unit—euphonic, with its m, its r, and its plentiful vowels. Either an orator or a poet could use it readily—as many thousands of both have done. It comprised only common sounds, used in all European languages.

Another advantage (for people of the Renaissance, if not for moderns) existed in the analogy which the original passage notes—that is, that no one can well raise objections, “since both Europe and Asia got their names from women.” Here, weighted with the tremendous authority of the ancient Greeks, was the justification for naming a continent after an individual. The author was proposing, apparently, that with two continents named for women, no one can well object to having one named for a man.

Also of importance was that America was, from the beginning, essentially a proper noun, without meaning, since its association with a particular person was easily ignored or forgotten, and did not, in any case, constitute a valid “meaning.” There was no call for translation; in fact, translation would have been unwarranted. Here lay the great weakness of such a name as Newfoundland—that it demanded translation, and thus failed to be international. But America, from the beginning, was international.

The greatest point in favor of the new name, however, was merely that it filled a need. The preconceptions of Columbus were going by the board. An entity—and among the greatest of earthly entities—was appearing among men. They must have a name for it. By great good luck a German pedant, living in an out-of-the-way town, produced a name which was at once practical, universal, and beautiful.

The pamphlet had fairly wide circulation—the map, probably, with it. In a few years the name was established. Hylacomylus must have thought that he had loosed a whirlwind.

If any distinction is to be made, we must admit that the name was applied first to the southern continent, and it is thus placed on the map of 1507. Later voyagers and explorers by land outlined a second narrowly connected land-mass. The use, for it, of another name would have been advisable, but this time luck did not serve, and no ingenious namer turned up with an idea. So we have the cumbersome North America and South America.

In one way, however, the northern continent has stolen the name. With the establishment of the first independent nation of the Americas, its government and people, by common practice rather than by any definite action, began to use United States of America. Some voices were raised that it should really be United States of North America, but that substitute was too long, and was not, in itself, wholly accurate, since the new nation did not include all, or even most, of the northern continent.

A worse situation arose when common usage began to consider that America was sufficient in itself, and that “American” was all that was needed for an adjective or for a citizen of that country. By the time, about half a century later, when other nations arose in the Americas, the situation was so well established that nothing, practically, could be done about it, in spite of some protests, both from inside and from outside.

In naming-history, America thus began with great good fortune, but in the end suffered a certain blunting of that success.

Its fantastic story, however, may serve as another example of the difficulties associated with the elucidation of many of the great names.

Excerpted from Book III Namers at Work, Chapter 18 Half the World, Names On the Globe by George R. Stewart

The One Where I Get a Baby Sister

I'm sometimes asked how I can remember so much in these tales from my early life, but the truth is I only recall a few specific events, and I fill in the rest with generalized memories or things that I learned long after the fact. So for example, this post is based on two specific memories of events plus my vivid recollection of my grandfather's farm, both his house and the house where we lived.

I think this was taken two days after my sister was born

So our kitchen had a niche under the stairs leading up to the second floor, and in this niche was our telephone. By the way, at this time our telephone did not have a dial, one had to ask an operator to place even a local call, and we were on a party line where the telephone rang in a distinctive way if the incoming call was for us. The pre-school me was not able to master the intricacies of the distinctive ring (I think it was something like one quick ring if it was the the other party, two quick rings if it was for us), so I was not able to perform phone answering duties, even if I was right next to it when it rang.

Anyway the first event that I recall occurred when I was in the phone niche. Something, I no longer recall just what, but perhaps it was one of my old baby bibs, got me to thinking, and I blurted out, "I'd like to have a little brother."

My mother and father were sitting at the kitchen table, and I distinctly remember my mother giving my father a look, sort of a smile, but something else as well. In light of what happened later, I used to think that maybe I had given them an idea, but now thinking back on it, I tend to believe she was already pregnant and was just smiling at the thought. In those days it would have been unusual to explain pregnancy to a pre-schooler—especially in our family. Remember, those were the days when I Love Lucy couldn't even use the word pregnant on TV.

No, I don't recall this photo being taken

The second memory is from several months later. I had spent the night sleeping at my grandparents' house, and my aunt Jane came to deliver the news. Now I don't specifically recall what happened the night before, but I can infer that something happened that caused my father to take my mother to the hospital and send me to my grandparents' house, which was just across the meadow, so I could have walked there myself.

Anyway I can recall Jane's news practically verbatim: "When your mother got there, the hospital was fresh out of babies."

Many years later I learned that my mother had had a miscarriage. In fact, it was her second one; she had had a miscarriage a few years before she had me.

So I hear you ask, what about your baby sister? Well, she was born in what was probably the following year, the middle of August 1954, just a few weeks before I started Kindergarten. And I have no memories surrounding her birth. Or of my mother's pregnancy. Or of the first few years of her life. I have some pictures from those years, but no specific memories.

Oh, I know some stories. Like she used to turn off the TV when I was watching it and then run away, but I don't recall them. I just know them because they've been retold in my family from time to time.

Isn't memory a funny thing?

The One Where I Went Through the Wringer

My earliest memory is not exactly a pleasant one.

It was probably March of 1952 and I was about a month shy of my third birthday. We were living in a house on N. Front Street in Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania, we being my parents and me. My father was at work on his father's farm about a mile or so outside of town, and my mother was doing laundry in the room in the rear of the house.

On waking up that morning, I came downstairs and sat in a chair in the middle room looking at a book of some sort, when my mother went outside to hang up a load of wash in the back yard.

A wringer-style washing machine, not exactly like the one had but similar.

Somehow I must have gotten it into my head to be helpful, because I put down the book and went into the rear room where the wringer washing machine was agitating away with a fresh load of wash. I must have pushed a step stool up to the washer because otherwise there was no way I could have done what I did next, which was to pull a garment out of the washer and push it into the wringer.

Alas, when I did that, the fingers of my right hand got caught in the wringer as well. And as the wringer did its thing, it pulled my arm along until it had pulled it past the elbow, where it really couldn't go any farther, and meanwhile I was screaming my little head off...

Well, my mother heard me screaming and came tearing inside where she did one of the smartest things she ever did. If you look at the picture of a wringer washing machine, you'll see a bar on top of the wringer. That's the release, and that's what my mother yanked, and that's what set me free. The doctor later told us that many people's first instinct is to try to pull the arm out, and that can lead to serious damage, so kudos to my mother.

I definitely would have needed a step stool to reach into it.

Anyway, the next thing was to get me to a doctor. Since my father had taken the car to work, my mother called my aunt Irene (my father's sister), who drove up in her Nash and took us to Womelsdorf's Dr. Light (I believe that was his name; he was not our regular doctor but he was the nearest). He put my arm in a sling and recommended applying cocoa butter to the affected area, that area being just above my elbow where my arm had suffered the most; it left a scar, a scar that remains to this day, although it has faded a bit over the years.

I believe I had to use the sling on my arm for about six weeks, and truth to tell, I actually felt sort of proud wearing it. During those six weeks, I had my third birthday, and we moved to the other house on my grandfather's farm, where we lived for about five years.

But this story does have a coda.

Sometime later, I'm not sure just when, but probably not more than a few weeks, my aunt and uncle Jane and Allen were visiting us, and I think I was showing them the basement of our farmhouse. That's where the wringer washing machine now resided. And it just happened to be doing a load of laundry. And for some misbegotten reason I decided I needed to demonstrate to them how I had caught my arm in the wringer. I had pushed the step stool up to the washer before they knew what was happening. Happily, they stopped me in time.

Cue the clown music.

My IQ Test

The one and only IQ test I've ever taken was in 9th grade when I was 14.

I don't specifically remember taking the test itself, but I'm pretty sure it was a multiple choice test, and if there is one thing that I've always been good at doing, it's taking multiple choice tests.

Now I don't put much stock in the concept of IQ. It's a number, but what does it really mean? Can answering a bunch of multiple choice questions really tell us anything meaningful about a person's "intelligence"?

Maybe, to a very limited extent. But it probably tells us more about that person's education and other opportunities than any innate abilities.

Anyway after our 9th grade class took the Stanford-Binet IQ test, each of us had a private session with Miss Webber, one of our school's guidance counselors.

The decision had been made not to give out our actual IQ results, but instead to tell us generally where on the hypothetical IQ line our results would put us. This was probably a good idea. Even just knowing that some of us were "average", some were "above average", etc., set off some less than gentle ribbing, although I don't recall it getting out of hand.

In retrospect I wonder what Miss Webber told the kids who had scored "below average"? Let alone "way below average"?

Anyway I looked forward to my sit-down with Miss Webber, she being a faculty member whom I really liked. She informed me that my score had put me in the "high superior" category. This did not surprise me, although I was not exactly sure just what "high superior" meant.

You see, I was always considered one of the "brains" of our class. So of course I expected to do well on the IQ test. Plus at age 14 I had not yet come to realize just how foolish I'm actually capable of being, so I probably had a somewhat inflated sense of my own intellect.

As I said, this was the only IQ test I've ever taken and I genuinely don't know what my score was, nor do I have a clear idea of what Miss Webber meant by "high superior", but from that day on there has been a number that has stuck in my head, a number that would put me comfortably within the membership requirements for Mensa, an organization I have no particular interest in joining.

Because as Miss Webber was talking to me, she had a notebook open on her desk in front of her, a notebook that had the names and scores of all the kids in our class. It was to this notebook that she referred when she looked up my score. She made no special effort to hide this notebook from my eyes, although it was far enough away that she may have thought I could not read it.

But I saw something. I saw a number. And that number has stuck in my mind all these many years. Did I really see my IQ score? I don't know and I never will. Even if the number I saw was my IQ at age 14, I'm certain that were I to take a comparable test today, I would not achieve anywhere near the same result.

Which is why I have no plans to ever take another such test.

The iPhone X's Face ID

Within just a few minutes of use I could tell that the new iPhone X's Face ID was far and away superior to the old unreliable (for me anyway) Touch ID.

Touch ID was extremely fussy in its initial incarnation and a bit slow. Even in its second generation which everyone seemed to rave about, it was sensitive to the slightest bit of moisture on my finger from sweat or from having just washed my hands. And I also had the opposite problem of dry hands. Yes, the second generation did work better and it worked well enough, but I was always conscious of it, always aware of having to wipe my hand first or if my thumb was feeling especially dry to remember to use my index finger--the point being that I always had to think about it, and with all that, it still failed about one time in maybe ten attempts.

Not with Face ID.

It. Just. Works!

It took mere seconds to train the system, and after that it has recognized my face without glasses, with any of my computer, reading, or distance glasses, with my cap or a combination of cap and glasses. It. Just. Works. Which is what I used to expect from Apple.

 Face ID recognizes any of these variations of my face with and without glasses and caps.

Face ID recognizes any of these variations of my face with and without glasses and caps.

On the other hand, if I make a face, it's not having it.

 These attempts to make a face don't get past Face ID.

These attempts to make a face don't get past Face ID.

For me the most important thing is that I've only been using the iPhone X for a few hours and already I'm not even thinking about Face ID. I'm not thinking about unlocking the phone. It. Just. Works.

Thank you, Apple!