17 Mar 1971 / New England Weather
March 17, 1971
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.