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17 Mar 1971 / New England Weather

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Spring is nearly here, and in the public interest, I present the following warning, based on a sad personal experience: Don't go around making predictions about the weather.

One day last week, I foolishly said out loud, "Gosh, it must be spring already. The weather is warm, and the snow is all melted..."

Friend of mine” "There'll be snow on the ground by next Monday."

Damned if there wasn't. And usually-reliable sources (people who have lived in this state for years) tell me that winter isn't over until the end of March or "beginning of April, no matter what the calendar says, or what it's like Outside. The only thing I have trouble understanding now is, given the truth of their statements, why anyone would live in this state for years ...

Speaking of Robert Heinlein (you all remember Robert Heinlein, author of such famous novels as The Rolling Stones and Stranger in a Strange Land), and who isn't these days, it’s about time that A Column on Things tackled his current literary triumph, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

I would start off by pointing out that mine is not the only review of this book destined to appear in these pages: others will follow.

Many people seem to me to have been mildly surprised by the political philosophy the book expresses which has resulted in the introduction of the phrase TANSTAAFL (say it tawn'-staw-full) which means "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch") into American usage.

The context of the statement's introduction is one of the characters is speaking with the narrator in a bar. The narrator points out a sign which says "free lunch", and mentions to his guest that "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch"; that in fact everything else is more expensive to make up for the so called "free" extra service.

If it surprises you to hear it from Heinlein, then you haven't been reading his books carefully over the years. They are nearly all filled with characters who are self-reliant, independent, and contemptuous of such concepts as "mass responsibility or mass decision making".

The entire book is an exciting fast paced story, told in a well-written narrative style. It contains all the details of the revolt by the lunar colonies against the tyranny of the Earth-side administration which rules them. The plot revolves around three people and a computer with self-awareness (of some interest to you A.I. hackers), all of whom (including the computer) are developed into interesting individuals during the course of the story.

Heinlein, ever the master of character development, is up to his usual form in this book, and if his political statements are a little less subtle than usual, it hardly matters, because his politics have usually been so subliminal as to be invisible.

 If you want to see what TANSTAAFL really means (and perhaps why some of us find it so strange to see it on a THURSDAY booth in building 10), and gain an insight into libertarian view of future life, read Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

"Why should I subscribe to ERGO when I can get it free almost any place at the Institute?" I have been asked this question more times that I care to count. Mostly by faculty, (who are soon to be the target of an extensive subscriptions drive by all three student papers) but sometimes even by perplexed students. It should be clear that any member of the MIT community is not saving money if he pays for a $3/year institute mail subscription to his office or a $6/year first class mail subscription to his home.

So, it should also be obvious that thrift is not the basis upon which we sell our subscriptions. A subscription is, purely and simply, an expression of support for ERGO, if not for its ideas, then for its right to try to exist.

In short, if you believe in it, now is the time to buy. Not only that, if you just like to read ERGO, our increasing popularity may lead to its fast disappearance in the halls, since we distribute at most one paper for every 2 people in many of our circulation areas.

Starting next week, and continuing there-after, A Column on Things begins a subsection on nearby restaurants.

If you wish to suggest a favorite, write "Hungry Schindler", ERGO, W20-443. And, if you get a chance, stop by our new office and say hello.

Maybe you will even want to say, "I would like to work for you paper.”

We wouldn’t mind that at all.

Submissions are welcome.


10 Mar 1971 /First Squash Game

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I was exposed to squash for the first time during the MIT-Yale match (No, I don't know the results. There is another paper on campus that uses its space for that kind of frivolity. If it's numbers you want, read them.), and found myself most favorably impressed by the sport. The MIT team plays a good game of squash, and the action and movement of the sport make it exciting for me to watch.

If you have never seen the sport before, let me try to describe it for you. Imagine yourself and your opponent entirely enclosed in a room painted kind of blinding white. The only other occupant of the room is a little black ball which the two of you try to hit with your racquets after it has bounced off one of the walls.

But only on the first bounce. Except at the very, uppermost championship levels, the game has no officials or referees; it was explained to me that squash is a "gentlemen's game."

 One can assume from this that either the two players are perfectly honest with one another or that the game is so simple that it is nigh onto impossible to cheat a guy who is standing right next to you and has as good a view of the shot as you do.

In addition, the people who thought up the court included an ingenious

device on the front wall if the shot goes too low, it makes a loud clank when it hits a loosely supported piece of metal flush with the front wall.

You might watch an MIT squash match sometime if you get the chance: ask the athletic department when the next one is, and where. That should cover the ERGO sports department for this issue.

Speaking of sports, I know one very good one, whose name is Tim Phegley. On two prior occasions this year, Tim has sung at the Potluck Coffeehouse (the MIT folk singing-free cider and doughnuts affair now carried live on WTBS Friday nights, starting at 9:30). On the first occasion, I misspelled his name as I explained that I had not stayed to hear him. On the second occasion, I stated that I would review his act, and then didn't.

So now here it is, the non-awaited event of this or any other week: my Tim Phegley review. Phenomenal, in a word. Tim has a good voice, knows how to play guitar, and writes most of his own material. What he sings is blues that are honest and seem to come from the heart. How he managed to become a senior at the institute and maintain a creative soul is beyond me (Ed: your chance is coming Paul.), but clearly he has: more power to him. His repertoire is consistent, so if you like his music, you'll like him. His musical quality is consistent: high. If you get a chance to listen to him, do.

3 Mar 1971/ Looking for New People

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ERGO is on the lookout for new people, as you can tell by the ad elsewhere in this issue (or at least, there is supposed to be, as of Sunday, an ad to attract new ERGO staff members elsewhere in this issue). In particular, I am looking for a literate, semi-regular reviewer of books, to appear on the Finer Things page. Just get in touch with the ERGO office (soon to be in the student center), and give us a sample of your material. As it used to say on our masthead, there is room at the top on ERGO's staff. Just Think! You could be head of ERGO's entire book review department! Turning to sports, (elsewhere in this issue, see an advertisement placed by Lena's Sandwich Shop on Mass. Ave.) there is a sub-eating contest coming up soon, with trophies being offered to the winners, and free tee-shirts to the contestants. Although the contest is only a week old, response from other schools is already coming in, whereas the response of MIT living groups located nearby has been minimal. One group from Emerson claims to have the contestant who "Has the whole thing wrapped up. No one else really needs to bother entering". I for one feel that the M.I. of T. which has more varsity sports than any other university, should certainly be able to field a contestant from any of several living groups. The trophies, by the way, are on display at Lena's. Go over and take a look (the winner's name gets inscribed free on his trophy). As a final note to top off this week's general sweep kind of column, I pluck off a favorite pet peeve of mine which has, through some oversight, not yet been aired in my column MIT's fixation with numbering everything. "212- 56-4708 is going to 26-100 or 6.251 at about 2100," and so on. Everything with a number, and a number for everything. All courses, rooms, subjects. After a bit you get used to it, they tell me; to the point where one even expects or accepts the practice. Just the other day, as I was slaving away on some frivolous project. I said: "Gosh, if I don’t get a move on it, I'll be late for calculus."

 "What?" said one upperclassman. "Why don't you call it by its number?"

"Its just as easy to say the name."

 "So what?"

And I say unto you: "So what?" is the attitude of far too much of the MIT community (as little as there is that could be called an MIT community). People all over this campus express concern, maybe two times during their four years, over the fact that we are all numbered.

"Its more efficient that way," and less human. People don't say "I'm a physics major," (at least not very often) they say "I'm in course 8.”

 Well, as hard as it may seem to believe, there are actually freshmen at the Institute w will give you a puzzled look if you rattle off some not so well-known number, like 17 or 13. Even the classrooms are all efficiently numbered here, so that every student knows about 26-100 or 10-250, or the lobby of building 7. Very damn few people around here call any building by its name, with the possible exception of the Green Building or Walker Memorial. It might change a lot of people's attitudes if they talked about going over to the lobby of the Rogers building, or planned on a class in the Huntington Room, or rushed over to their math class in the Compton Lab lecture hall. Hey You People Out There, don't you feel that the real you is being stifled?

WTBS Highlights

Wednesday: The first live broadcast of the Human Sexuality Lectures: Dr. Margaret Mead on "Trans-cultural views of Sexuality." 7:45 PM

Saturday: Premiere of "WTBS Presents... This week: The Strange story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 9:30 PM

Friday: First live broadcast from the PotLuck Coffeehouse. This week: Tim Phegley.