Days of Yore

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10 Years Ago

The penultimate issue of Science Fiction Five-Yearly celebrated its "semi-centennial" with song parodies by Kip Williams, Trek-style technobabble from Sir Arthur C. Clarke, and a paper from Dr. Greg Benford analyzing the style of scientific papers: "The scientist is, by his reliance on the passive voice, hobbled, leading to sentences like this one, in which the subject, a lumpy noun, is acted upon by pallid adjectives and wan verbs, all without ever saying exactly who the action is done by, so that the sentences get longer and longer as you read and never seem to end, even when there is clearly nothing more to say in the sentence, at which point the reader sometimes gets a meager little semicolon; this gives him a rest, so that he can go on and read another long phrase without really learning anything more, because the writer's hand has kept on moving even though his brain is disengaged."

100 Years Ago

Roald Amundsen struck out across Antarctica on October 20, 1911. His party became the first humans (as far as we know) to reach the South Pole on December 14th, and were back at their ship on January 25th.

Robert Scott's party set out on November 1, reaching the pole and finding a note from Amundsen there on January 18th. Struggling back as the weather became worse and worse, the remains of his expedition camped for the last time on March 16th or 17th. They were found in November, along with their diaries and a bag of inexplicable geological samples: you couldn't possibly find coal or tropical fossils in the coldest place in the world...

1000 Years Ago

1011 saw the death of Emperor Ichijō of Japan. His successor was Sanjō, who lasted until 1016, when health issues and perhaps personal differences caused the regent Fujiwara Michinaga, the real ruler, to have him abdicate. In his dotage he found time for poetry, with a sample appearing in the famous (Ogara) Hyakunin-Isshu:

Kokoro ni mo
Arade uki yo ni
Yowa no tsuki kana.
(Translation by Yone Noguchi:
In spite of myself, I am
Lingering in this world:
Ah, what longing
For the midnight moon!)

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