Friday, February 19, 2010


Dune Author Dynasty

I read "Dune" by Frank Herbert in the late winter or early spring of 1974; a friend had recommended it -- and possibly loaned me his copy.  I later read "God Emperor of Dune," "Children of Dune" (both of which I own) and "Dune Messiah" (borrowed and returned). I haven't read "Chapterhouse: Dune" nor "Heretics of Dune." So when a classmate asked me today if I'd read the "Dune" books, I confidently replied that I'd read three of four, which I supposed to be most of them.  He blithely informed me that there are fourteen, and he was looking for someone who had read them all, preferably in order. Since I'm not familiar with a large part of the opus, I don't know whether "in order" by date of publication would differ from  "in order" by story line, as in the "Star Wars" movies, and other than having read "Dune" first, I'm not sure I read them "in order."

The discrepancy between five or six (my prior estimate, since I didn't believe I'd read them all, but that I'd read the majority) and fourteen intrigued me: how could this be?  So, I consulted LibraryThing to see which works, not necessarily still available, are catalogued as "Dune" books.  Those which I recollected, by Frank Herbert, were (the numbers seem to indicate their place in the "overall timeline of Dune" scheme; the order is that of their publication, if I am not mistaken) :
  • Dune by Frank Herbert    7
  • Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert    9
  • Children of Dune --the third Dune novel, by Frank Herbert    10
  • God Emperor of Dune--the fourth Dune novel, by Frank Herbert    11
  • Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert    12
  • Chapterhouse: Dune --the sixth Dune novel, by Frank Herbert    13
I  found that Frank Herbert's son Brian has continued the series.  In no particular order (just the order LibraryThing served up) :
  • Dune: The Butlerian Jihad by Brian Herbert   
  • Fremen Justice by Brian Herbert
  • Dune: Whipping Mek by Brian Herbert    1.5
  • Dune: The Machine Crusade by Brian Herbert    2
  • Dune: The Faces of Martyr [Legends of Dune #2.5] by Brian Herbert   
  • Dune: The Battle of Corrin by Brian Herbert  
  • Dune: House Atreides by Brian Herbert  
  • House Harkonnen by Brian Herbert
  • House Corrino by Brian Herbert
  • Paul of Dune by Brian Herbert 
  • The Winds of Dune by Brian Herbert
  • The Road to Dune by Brian Herbert 
  • Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert   
  • Hunters of Dune by Brian Herbert   
To anyone who has read even a couple of the books I have read from the early works, it should not be surprising that issue (descendants) continue the work: a central theme is that of family, breeding, destinies and dynasties. It would presumably be hard for his issue to be indifferent to this theme that so clearly Frank Herbert believed important, and believed others also thought important; consequently, Brian Herbert was likely to either be a believer and carry on, or hate it. In the latter case, he could play "indifferent" and ignore his father's opus; carry on, second-degree, producing sequels and prequels that ultimately make ridicule of the central drivers of his father's opus; directly attack his father's "arguments" in some way.

Not having read any of Brian Herbert's books, I must reserve judgment. They may be very good, but if they were so much better as to totally overshadow their predecessors, I hope I would have heard or read about it, and can't believe that they have totally displaced the original six by Frank Herbert as "the Dune books." But there are fourteen of them, the count my classmate mentioned. I hope there has been some mistake.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010


Disappointment with Progress : electronic kitchen timers

Affordable, battery powered electronic timers suitable for use in the kitchen have been around for about forty years, I reckon. Is their becoming stupider and less useful a leading indicater of anything? One should hope not.

Between thirty and forty years ago, we acquired a kitchen timer that was wonderful: digital, small, capable of tracking three timespans simultaneously (and they didn't have to have common start times or common finish times). It stopped functionning so long ago, though, that I can't remember how one knew which of the times had elapsed (a blinking triangle at the bottom of the display, IIRC); however, I recall it as helpful, not obnoxious, and I was sorry to see it "die" so young.

Subsequently, we tried other "similar" timers, but found them so inferior that we used the microwave oven's timer  instead. Our microwave oven --a low-priced model, not a top-of-the-line one-- acquired in the 1985-88 period, had a digital control timer which could also serve as a timer, without using its oven. I don't recall whether that was only when it wasn't cooking, or whether the timer was an auxiliary function available (one track, but better than none) at all times, but I think it was the latter.  It, like the timer it helped replace (as well as cooking and warming stuff) had been sensibly programmed to ring only five times when "time was up."  It lasted quite a while, and had provided very good value-for-money over its years of use. Unfortunately, the maker went out of business. When it went, we had to find another timer.

Over the past ten years, I've tried more than one, all in the "affordable" range, from Ikea or Target or similar retailers. And they all now track only one thing (maybe that's all the majority of purchasers ever used), unlike the Pyrex one from over thirty years ago, and they all, and this is the really questionable "progress",
  • beep not five times, but sixty (a full minute) when time is up;
  • start over timing the same duration if not properly stopped.
I suppose there might be a savings in building devices that are only programmable by minute (not sure, though), but that is a poor explanation because these timers can do things for other than a full minute (or multiple thereof) such as beep only a few times (2 or 3) at five-minute and ten-minute warning beeps: someone decided they should beep for a full minute, then restart timing, if not interrupted. Not progress, in my opinion.

"Time is money" and I'm willing to spend a fair price for a better timer, but I don't know how much I should discount for my time and effort to find it and beat a path to its builder's door. Let's not kid ourselves about how much a kitchen timer is worth : how much better do they get if one pays more? How much more time can they help one save? Haven't we already spent more time than it can be worth to find a better timer?  The potential builders probably have similar (if second-degree) reasoning, and don't see how they can profit from building a better timer people have given up trying to find. Better timers, per se, may not be likely as long as potential producers figure an iPhone app will beat them, and a Carrefour or Walmart or Metro will make market entry prohibitively costly.

Progress in kitchen timers, if people are to continue cooking at home and want them, might be one like the one I had thirty years ago (but longer-lasting); or three like the ones available today, but all capable of stopping beeping when yelled at, even from another room: considerate, voice-deactivated, or both.Identificateurs Technorati : , , , , , ,

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