Your four bad ideas for today


Some conspiracy-minded and musically inclined loon — I suppose there are some, since there’s Prussian Blue, a “white nationalist teen pop duo”, which is considerably more horrible than it sounds like — should cover Iron Maiden’s Wrathchild as “Rothschild”.

My mind, a scary place, now open to all.


You are all, I suppose, familiar with the sauna stove: stones heated to function as something to vaporize water against.

With a swift and careless glance at the net, I see some rocks start to melt at plus 600 degrees Celsius.

By personal communication, I hear sauna stoves can generate temperatures of hundreds of degrees even without any tweaking.

Consider the feasibility of a “lava pool stove” for your local sauna. Outline three grisly and two catastrophic accidents likely with such a device. (6 p.)


One of the most common comments about Tolkien’s the Silmarillion is that it’s written like the Bible. (I myself don’t mind; not even if it compares the Saga of the Sacred Jewels to that horrible patchwork book of hatred and fear.)

A fun project for someone with even more free time than myself would be to go all Wellhausen on the Silmarillion then; making hypotheses on the various factions that wrote and edited and collated this fairytale history of the ancient days, and the portions belonging to each, and the erasures, duplications and emendments made.

And no, I don’t mean “What is JRRT and what is CJRT and Guy Gavriel Kay?” — one has the History of the Middle-Earth for that. I mean supposing the existence of the additional fictional element of partisan writers and movers whose not-always-accurate work the Silmarillion as published is supposed to be.

(If that doesn’t quite fit one’s fancy, ask yourself “What did those darned Hobbits misrepresent, omit and get wrong when writing the Red Book that ended becoming the Lord of the Rings? We already know that unreliable Bilbo Baggins lied about the Ring once!” If one can do it when it is justified, as with the Bible, and if one can do it just for fun, as with Sherlockian speculation, surely one can do it with Tolkien, even beyond facile Sauron-and-Orc-defending.)

To start things, I note that in the chapter “Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalie”, one encounters a rather obviously tacked-on sentence (in italics below) from the Fingolfin-Finarfin-idolizing faction, seeking to muddy the pro-Feanorian slant of the original:

In those unhappy things which later came to pass, and in which Feanor was the leader, many saw the effects of this breach within the house of Finwe, judging that if Finwe had endured his loss [of his first wife Miriel] and been content with the fathering of his mighty son [Feanor], the courses of Feanor would have been otherwise, and great evil might have been prevented; for the sorrow and the strife in the house of Finwe is graven in the memory of the Noldorin elves. But the children of Indis [Finwe’s second wife, mother of Fingolfin and Finarfin] were great and glorious, and their children also; and if they had not lived the history of the Eldar would have been diminished.

“One can even, if one so wishes, note the possible addition of the words ‘and their children also’ by the hypothetical ‘Last Redactor’, which this author identifies with the much later historical figure of the Third-Age elven queen Galadriel, who traced her descent from the variously fortunate house of Finarfin and was a fierce supporter of the continued legitimacy of the contra-Feanorian faction of the house of Finwe, especially as far as such legitimacy led to the ascension of Ereinion Gil-Galad and his well-noted support of Galadriel’s own hereditary claim to power.”


Or, unobvious uses of Wikipedia, part deux.

So you like John Scalzi’s work. Go to the Wikipedia page for John Scalzi. Check the links on the side for the corresponding article in different-language Wikipedias — currently Bulgarian, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Finnish (woo!).

Choose the French, just to illustrate the idea. The article tells one a lot of things, most of which one doesn’t understand. Well, actually the article’s all of one sentence plus one list long, but the list’s what one is interested in for the purposes of this exercise.

Namely, one clicks L’Atalante, Scalzi’s French publisher, and scrolls down to the shortlist (helpfully included) of other authors published by the same. (It helps, and spoils, this exercise that one knows in advance that L’Atalante “est spécialisée dans la science-fiction et les romans noirs du futur”, or the like.)

The trick here is that it does not help me to know which English-original sci-fi authors are published by a French house; but it helps me to know that such-and-and French-original sci-fi authors exist!

And yes, I know this is a much more convoluted way to get names than ye olde Google-searche for “French sci-fi”, but this is more fun. And it kind of defeats the purpose of entertainment if you make getting it into a chore. This way even if I end up finding nothing I still have entertained myself.

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