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21-30 April 2003

30 AprGone!
30 AprGoing, going...
29 AprArt of Alien Worlds
29 AprDeconstructing The Fellowship of the Ring
27 AprHow Would You Move Mount Fuji?
27 AprLegal issues II: SAF Property
27 AprUnusual Input II
27 AprBid for street signs III
27 AprParody: Ye Newe York Times
27 AprWorrying Implications of the Infectious Diseases Act amendments
25 AprBeefing up the law; My State-Issued Thermometer
24 AprNo more Mr. Nice Guy
24 AprLegal issues II
23 AprWar/Political Blogs
23 AprUnusual Input
23 AprUN sanctions on Iraq
21 AprMars and astrogeology

Gone!

30 April 2003 8:16 PM SGT (link)

I won! *cackle*

Going, going...

30 April 2003 7:52 PM SGT (link)

Folks used to eBay would know this anxious part of waiting for the bid to come through. I am so close to owning the road sign now (last post). Just wait & hope nothing surprising happens...

Art of Alien Worlds

29 April 2003 11:55 PM SGT (link)

Space.com has an article, Alien Worlds through Artists' Eyes, with nice pictures, about artistic impressions of alien worlds. There are those of recently discovered extrasolar planets by Lynette Cook, for instance, and a very nice one of Jupiter and some of its bigger moons as viewed through space from its moon - more like captured asteroid - Amalthea, the view of the immense planet peeking out from the jagged rocks and boulders. If mankind ever gets to land on the Jovian moons someone should try to get the real view from there for a lark - one of the most extravagant things one could do with one's money and time. Meanwhile, I'll try to find the picture online.

Space art is the only real interest I have in art in general, I think - I suppose I like the way it neatly straddles the "two cultures" divide of the sciences and the humanities. While a space artist undoubtedly has to have some artistic talent to be a space artist, he/she must also have a sense of the astronomy - how a planet/star/the cosmos would look like from one of its moons at a certain time; astro-geology and geochemistry: what colour would the sky be? What kind of landscape would a visitor see - sand dunes, mountains, deep crevices, craters etc.?; and above all, I would argue, imagination, the ability to let the audience to the art piece feel as if they were actually there.

Update: I haven't found the Jupiter/Amalthea picture yet, but in the Chesley Bonestell site (Gallery) you should also look at "Saturn Seen From Titan", for something of what I was talking about. Also, the Chesley Bonestell Gallery. Some more resources on space art at here, SpaceArt.org, The Art of Mark A. Garlick, David A. Hardy's AstroArt pages, Space.com's own Image Galleries and Solar Voyager.

Deconstructing The Fellowship of the Ring

29 April 2003 11:10 PM SGT (link)

Saw this on Instapundit. This parody got me laughing out loud! - do read it, especially if you're a fan of the books or the movies:

Chomsky: The film opens with Galadriel speaking. "The world has changed," she tells us, "I can feel it in the water." She's actually stealing a line from the non-human Treebeard. He says this to Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers, the novel. Already we can see who is going to be privileged by this narrative and who is not.

Zinn: Of course. "The world has changed." I would argue that the main thing one learns when one watches this film is that the world hasn't changed. Not at all.

Chomsky: We should examine carefully what's being established here in the prologue. For one, the point is clearly made that the "master ring," the so-called "one ring to rule them all," is actually a rather elaborate justification for preemptive war on Mordor...

- Unused audio commentary by Howard Zinn & Noam Chomsky, for The Fellowship of the Ring

How Would You Move Mount Fuji?

27 April 2003 11:35 PM SGT (link)

OK today on the blog seems like the bad times in Hollywood where everything coming out is a sequel, so I'm ending it with this, another inspirational book along the lines of What Should I Do with My Life? that I've talked about.

The Slashdot review to How Would You Move Mount Fuji? rates it highly. I can't really describe the book because I haven't read it, so I'll just reproduce the blurb here. It's intriguing enough; I'll read it when I get the chance.

"Why are manhole covers round?" "How many gas stations are there in the United States?" "How would you design a remote control for venetian blinds?" "What company is famous for interview questions like those?" You might not know the answer to the first three questions, but you probably know the last one...

- Slashdot review to How Would You Move Mount Fuji?

Microsoft's interview process is a notoriously grueling sequence of brain-busting questions that separate the most creative thinkers from the merely brilliant. So effective is their technique that other leading corporations--from the high-tech industry to consulting and financial services--are modeling their own hiring practices on Bill Gates' unique approach. How Would You Move Mount Fuji? reveals for the first time more than 35 of Microsoft's puzzles and riddles.

- Amazon.com, How Would You Move Mount Fuji? Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle - How the World's Smartest Company Selects the Most Creative Thinkers

Legal issues II: SAF Property

27 April 2003 10:53 PM SGT (link)

I'm reading a introductory book on linguistics, Language: The Basics by R. L. Trask, and he has a fascinating account of the difficulty of the study of semantics, or what words mean when we use them. It's much too long, and besides, far too entertaining to extract from, so I recommend reading the book (it's in Chapter 3). "What is the meaning of the word dog?" - his thought experiment goes into the subtleties of the problems with that simple question.

It's in the light of this that I'm considering again the question that seems to me to be the heart of the problem I talked about earlier (Legal questions): what is property? I'm wondering whether there are Singapore law dictionaries or encyclopaedias for this purpose of checking these things, but for now I have what's in the dictionary (I've chosen the relevant definitions):

property (n)

  1.  
    1. Something owned; a possession.
    2. A piece of real estate: has a swimming pool on the property.
    3. Something tangible or intangible to which its owner has legal title: properties such as copyrights and trademarks.
    4. Possessions considered as a group.
  2. The right of ownership; title.

- The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

Sigh, so as in 1c, it comes back to the law again. & as the SAF Act says, this question is important, because it turns out that we have big commitments towards SAF property:

Singapore Armed Forces Act, Chapter 295

Damage to, and loss of, Singapore Armed Forces property, etc.

42. --(1) Every person subject to military law who -

(a) wilfully damages or destroys or causes the loss of, or is concerned in the wilful damage, destruction or loss of, any Singapore Armed Forces property, or any property belonging to a person subject to military law; or
(b) by wilful neglect causes or allows damage to, or the loss of, any Singapore Armed Forces property or property so belonging,

shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction by a subordinate military court to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or any less punishment authorised by this Act.

(2) Every person subject to military law who -

(a) by any negligent act or omission causes or allows damage to, or the loss of, any Singapore Armed Forces property; or
(b) is guilty of any wilful or negligent act or omission which is likely to cause damage to, or the loss of, any such property,

shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction by a subordinate military court to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or any less punishment authorised by this Act.

(3) Where such property consists of arms, or is an aircraft, a vessel or a vehicle, such person shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction by a subordinate military court to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or any less punishment authorised by this Act.

...

Misapplication and waste of Singapore Armed Forces property

44. Every person subject to military law who misapplies or wastefully expends any Singapore Armed Forces property shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction by a subordinate military court to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or any less punishment authorised by this Act.

- The Singapore Armed Forces Act

From my layman's perspective, for doing any of the following, you could be headed to the SAF slammer for anything not exceeding 3 years:

And for less than 2 years:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this seems to be a breathtakingly wide-ranging piece of legislation! - all the more pointing out the big pot of legal hot soup we could all be in just because of that pithy label. This is getting to be totally farcical.

Unusual Input II

27 April 2003 10:43 PM SGT (link)

My last post talked about this series of reviews of unusual input devices by ExtremeTech, and the one used by Jodie Foster in Contact they promised. Well I can't really remember the device in the movie, sadly, but I'm intrigued by the DataHand System, where you basically wiggle your fingers and thumbs to type. Talk about a steep learning curve. The price is cool too.

Bid for street signs III

27 April 2003 10:41 PM SGT (link)

Sumiko Tan gets into the game: Buy a memory, bid for a road sign (ST). Reminder: the bidding ends on Wednesday, 30 April, 8pm. I wanted to bid for my 2nd home's road sign, but apparently the condo & semi-detached house owners have driven it up to a whopping $180: way over my budget. So, I'm settling for my present home's road sign, hoping the HDB heartlanders here don't get a sudden impulse for charity, heh heh.

Parody of Ye Newe York Times

27 April 2003 10:30 PM SGT (link)

This is funny: Parody: Ye Newe York Times reports on postwar difficulties following victory at Yorktown (Weekly Standard).

Worrying Implications of the Infectious Diseases Act amendments

27 April 2003 10:15 PM SGT (link)

It's Forum-writing time again. Those of you who read my last post on the amendments to the Infectious Diseases Act can skip this one - I just reorganised the argument.

Dear Sir,
I am greatly disappointed by the report of Parliament passing the amendments to the Infectious Diseases Act ("Tough new laws get firm backing", 26 Apr 2003). I feel that in the midst of the tough situation we are currently facing, and reports of home quarantine violators, our MPs have allowed their emotions, and eagerness to toughen the law, to override important concerns regarding the harm the amendments could do.

I was particularly disturbed by MP Dr. Michael Lim's comments that he was in favour of "more draconian measures" to deal with quarantine breakers. Already the amendments to the bill allow the Ministry of Health, *by itself*, to arrest and fine first-offence home quarantine violators $5,000, and only after subsequent offences refer them to the courts. I feel it is extremely dangerous to forgo judicial oversight of these proceedings, allowing MOH to be both judge and executor of the law. It is hard to believe that any accused violator can be treated impartially and in accordance with our legal system and Constitution under these circumstances. Will the accused have the customary rights to legal defence or appeal, should MOH make a mistake in finding the accused of violating the quarantine, or if there are mitigating circumstances? While I am in favour of clamping down on home quarantine violators, I do not believe private courts and summary justice is consistent with the spirit of the law and fairness to all.

Instead of yet more "draconian measures", and in order to maintain the integrity of our justice system and rights of Singaporeans, I feel it is necessary for court officials to be present when any home quarantine violator is arrested or fined by the MOH. This is so that a neutral party is present to ensure that any punishment meted out is proportional and the money from fines managed properly.

In short, curbing the spread of SARS is very important, but so are the legal rights of Singaporeans, and the statutory limits to the powers of government bodies. If we allow these to be compromised lightly, we will most certainly suffer the consequences later on.

Regards,
Lin Ziyuan.

Beefing up the law; My State-Issued Thermometer

25 April 2003 11:17 PM SGT (link)

I realise the situation is acute and if irresponsible, irrational people aren't deterred from harming themselves and others, it will just get worse. Read the second reading speech to the Infectious Diseases (Amendment) Bill by Mr. Lim Hng Kiang, Minister for Health - it tells you all about the harsh new measures that have been passed, mostly to deal with these "black sheep" that endanger the community.

More reports here:

Amidst the emotional appeals by Dr. Tan Cheng Bock, in self-quarantine after being exposed to a SARS patient, and other MPs (worth reading), I saw Dr. Michael Lim's comments, and it made me worried again, as I was yesterday:

MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, Dr Michael Lim said:..."The problem of SARS has taken a large toll on the healthcare workers. Despite the strain on our healhcare workers, I must assure that the healthcare workers are in full support of the government's measures. And we even welcome even more draconian measures to break this cycle of infection."

- Channel NewsAsia, MPs support changes to Infectious Diseases Act, some share emotional experiences

The thing I was worried about was, as I said in the message board to clarify my post, the danger of injustice if the Ministry of Health, important a role it has to play, gets to decide by itself who broke quarantines & summarily fine them $5,000 for the initial offence. I'm not questioning their integrity or fact-finding methods, I'm just raising the possibility that they may be wrong, or that there may be mitigating circumstances on the part of the person being quarantined: things courts are supposed to do impartially & do quite well. Are we talking private courts here, or will there be judicial officials present? What's going to happen to the money? Unfortunately it seems nobody asked & nothing was said about this in today's passing of the bill. As emotional and distressed as we and our representatives in Parliament get, it's not comforting to know that they're prepared to do anything, even though it may or may not have any effect, to assuage our fears, but may result in problems later on. How can "draconian measures" be welcomed easily!

It may not be the most appropriate thing to mention, as it's a humorous scene, but the exchange came to mind. It's much funnier performed by Tom Cruise & Demi Moore.

Kaffee: You ever talk to a client of mine without permission, I'll have you disbarred. Friends?
Galloway: I had authorization.
Kaffee: From who?
Galloway: Ginny Miller. Louden's aunt on his mother's side.
Kaffee: You got authorization from Aunt Ginny?
Galloway: It's perfectly within my boundaries.
Kaffee: Does Aunt Ginny have a barn? Maybe we could hold the trial there. I'll sew the costumes and maybe Uncle Goober can be the judge.

- A Few Good Men

1: I suppose it's inevitable that of all the people who have had close calls with SARS the Lee family should be reported on (because everyone's more interested in them: it's a vicious cycle), and of course there have been stories on SARS victims & those who have battled the disease successfully. Just pointing it out to make sure we don't just blindly let this phenomenon pass.

My SAF-Issued Thermometer

Now I can make sure I don't go to work & call for help if I have a fever, by checking my thermometer, even though a 38oC temperature doesn't exactly leave you in that great a condition to go to work (I've had my share of fevers & my temperature was never that high). So why the SAF-issued thermometers? A confidence measure, an ass-covering measure, & a result of the doofuses who had fevers & ventured out anyway. I'll bet you ten thermometers they wouldn't have changed their minds even if they had thermometers: it's their mindsets that need checking. To me it's reminiscent of the time when schools were shut down mere hours after the first deaths from SARS occurred - were we kidding ourselves that SARS couldn't kill, & when it did, gasp, save the children, right now! You got it: confidence measure, ass-covering measure.

Still it's not really my place to judge whether Precaution A is good or Precaution B paranoid - I'm neither an M.D. nor a clairvoyant. But if it's a transparently useless measure, or now, one with potentially draconian results, that's different.

Oh, & a gross-out trivium: the thermometer can do auxiliary (ear), oral (under the tongue) and rectal (um, you know...) measurements. What I'm wondering is why anyone would go for the rectal measurement: would both the tongue and armpit be unavailable? Strange. Maybe there's some medical reason for this.

No more Mr. Nice Guy

24 April 2003 12:23 AM SGT (link)

Fighting SARS Together

On Saturday, I appealed to Singaporeans to exercise personal responsibility in our fight against SARS. Only when you follow faithfully all the rules, procedures and recommendations we have put in place to contain the outbreak, will we win the fight. You must all play your part to ensure that there are no holes in our ring-fence against SARS.

Unfortunately, there are still some Singaporeans who do not follow the advice given by our health officials. Some are irresponsible. Others are irrational because of their fear of SARS. Whatever the reasons, they pose a danger to themselves and to the wider community...

- PM Goh's letter to Singaporeans, Fighting SARS Together

...Parliament, at its sitting tomorrow, will push through amendments to the Infectious Diseases Act - in double quick time - to allow the authorities to fine anyone who has breached home quarantine orders without having to charge him in court.

Jail terms also await those who defy the quarantine order repeatedly.

These changes will be speeded through Parliament using a special provision of the Constitution which allows for a piece of urgent legislation to be passed in one sitting, instead of the usual two...

- Straits Times, Time for tough action on Sars

Right on, PM! Reading about the two incidents of individuals who recklessly put themselves and those around them in danger, and the 14 (at least) who have broken their home quarantine, is a sobering experience. I mean, the guy who worked at the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, and single-handedly visited a GP, a polyclinic and two sinsehs before going to Changi General Hospital, where he was finally transferred to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, exemplified a deep state of denial: what was he thinking?! Now possibly more than 2,000 people will have to be quarantined because of his actions. Please, people, Tan Tock Seng Hospital is not a morgue - more people have successfully conquered SARS and got discharged than those who succumbed, safeguards against intra-hospital infection have been effective, and doctor-/hospital-hopping isn't exactly going to get rid of that fever. Normally one's free to be selfish and irrational, but not in such a dangerous situation.

While in principle I'm in favour of beefing up the laws on home quarantines, to deter people from wantonly violating them, I have some worries about allowing MOH to fine anyone who violates the quarantine without having to charge them in court first. Is MOH going to be running a private fine collection for their own purse? Who will supervise the fine collection as the courts are supervised now? What about due process - the burden on MOH to prove that the accused did indeed wilfully violate the quarantine? I hope this becomes clearer in the Parliament debate.

Legal issues II

24 April 2003 12:10 AM SGT (link)

This idea was bounced around work, and I'm told, elsewhere too - that those who are medically-unfit only because of severe myopia (like yours truly) be offered upgrades after getting LASIK or equivalent treatments. This is presumably for the people who are not content to be mere "clerks and drivers" and/or who want to become officers. My version of this suggestion was a co-payment scheme, extremely congenial, a win-win solution for both SAF and garang serviceman. But again, another hypothetical scenario: can the government force NSFs to undergo LASIK or such operations, in order to get them to be combat-fit? Or more generally, if operations to correct deficiencies or problems with other parts of the body, such as the limbs, become prevalent and relatively affordable, and concomitantly, the birth rate drops and the SAF is hard-pressed for fit soldiers - can they do so then? This is all very Orwellian, I realise, but who knows, maybe some weird but legally acceptable reading of the Enlistment Act or the laws on the books allows this. Let me be the first to announce my dead-body opposition to this - it's one thing to be compelled as a male citizen to serve your nation, and another to go under the knife for it.

War/Political Blogs

23 April 2003 11:17 PM SGT (link)

The Princeton Alumni Weekly has an article on freelance journalist-cum-political pundit Joshua Marshall and his blog talkingpointsmemo.com, mentioning his most notable success of keeping the Trent Lott story alive and eventually resulting in him resigning his post of Majority Leader in the Senate (and recently another Republican senator made extremist comments, this time about gays - see the print- and web-summary Santorum's Stumble in the Washington Post.)

The war on Iraq has been a watershed event for me in that I discovered and enjoyed reading many warblogs - blogs that extensively covered the events as articles appeared online, everywhere from CNN to Al-Jazeera to the Ha'aretz to our own Straits Times, and even as embedded journalists reported from Iraq. These were created by politics enthusiasts, journalists, law students, engineers etc., and everyone had such a good time contributing their unique insights, sharing good links, and poking fun at al-Sahaf :-). Now that events in Iraq are winding down - though the struggle isn't over - most of these blogs have gone back to general political coverage, or turning to North Korea (the Command Post, for instance) and other topics of concern.

That doesn't mean they aren't worth reading anymore - in fact, in the future, I expect warblogs to play an even greater and more varied role in how we perceive the events as they unfold. So I'm putting links to my favourite war/political blogs in the Links page, and I'll update them when I find others.

Unusual Input

23 April 2003 11:05 PM SGT (link)

ExtremeTech is running a series of articles this week on unconventional keyboards, or more generally, input devices - A Week of Wacky Input Devices - because according to them some aren't really keyboards. They also included this juicy bit:

...Note: one of the devices tested did actually make an appearance as the controls for a space ship in the movie Contact (starring Jodie Foster).

- ExtremeTech, A Week of Wacky Input Devices

I'm embarrassed to say that I can't remember what that was - it's been too long, although Contact to me is a show that I liked more the more times I watched it. Anyway check out today's keyboard that's partially vertical.

UN sanctions on Iraq

23 April 2003 8:34 PM SGT (link)

Earlier in the week conservative-minded commentators like William Safire (Follow the money, New York Times) and Charles Krauthammer (Lift the Sanctions Now, Washington Post) were slamming France and Russia for opposing lifting UN sanctions on Iraq, advocated by Bush to aid economic recovery. Krauthammer's "ultimatum diplomacy" is harsh but telling of the mood in the US these days:

...During the 1990s, when Hussein was concealing his weapons of mass destruction, the Russians did everything they could to lift sanctions. Indeed, in 1999 Russia refused to support the resolution renewing weapons inspections. It showed not the slightest concern about these WMDs when they were controlled by Hussein, a man who invaded two neighboring countries, attacked two others and used chemical weapons to kill tens of thousands of innocents. But now that Iraq is run not by a local mass murderer but by an American president, Russia has acquired a sudden concern about Iraq's WMDs -- and wants to keep sanctions imposed, and the Iraqi economy starved, until those concerns are satisfied.

Russia's breathtaking cynicism is matched by France's. The French, however, are more subtle. The WMD pretense is simply too transparent. The French speak instead of clarifying "modalities" before ending the embargo. "Modalities" is French for "payoff."...

...[W]e should go to the Security Council and submit a one-line resolution: "Whereas the sanctions were imposed on the regime of Saddam Hussein; whereas that regime is no more; whereas sanctions are now needlessly preventing Iraq's economic recovery; the sanctions are hereby abolished."

No "modalities." No negotiations. No deals. Dare France and Russia to veto.

If they do, if they dare so naked a display of cynicism, we then simply declare that the Security Council has demonstrated its utter bankruptcy and forfeited all moral authority -- transcending mere uselessness and becoming now an agent of harm, deliberately standing in the way of the reconstruction of a suffering and now innocent country.

We then ostentatiously stand up, walk out and declare the sanctions dead. We then open the oil spigots and rebuild Iraq.

It is the right thing to do. It is the only thing to do.

- Charles Krauthammer, Lift the Sanctions Now, Washington Post

However, in the latest news, France Meets U.S. Halfway on Iraq Sanctions Lift by supporting the immediate suspension of the sanctions, but:

...France's U.N. ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, said the U.N. oil-for-food program, which collects Iraq's oil revenues, should be kept under U.N. control for the time being but adjusted to Iraq's current needs.

"We should immediately suspend the sanctions," de la Sabliere said. "And about the oil-for-food program, we think there should be some adjustment to the program with a view to phasing out this program."

- France Meets U.S. Halfway on Iraq Sanctions Lift, Washington Post

That sounds reasonable, especially with regard to how the funds from the oil-for-food programme is being managed (General Tommy Franks has derided it as "oil-for-palaces"). I personally believe that the US should seek to demonstrate its belief that the UN still has a role in peacekeeping and disarmament efforts by allowing UN inspectors into Iraq (Row over hunt for Iraq's WMD): this will have the huge benefit of independent verification when the WMDs are found. Perhaps then an agreement on lifting sanctions can be reached.

Mars and astrogeology

21 April 2003 12:02 AM SGT (link)

These days I'm reading a fascinating book, Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World, which touches on how humans have explored Mars through the lenses of history, geology and cartography, and the personalities behind efforts from studying the 4km-wide Meteor Crater in Arizona to building the robotic probes that orbit Mars. I haven't finished the book yet, so that's all I'll say about it for now.

I can't say I have a burning interest in geology or the intricacies of planet/moon formation or the rocks and chemistry behind Mars. However, while I read more, go to SolarViews - Titania and scroll down to the "Polar Stereographic Map of Titania" taken by Voyager 2 as it passed by this, the largest moon of Uranus, in 1985-6. I've copied the small version of the map below. (Incidentally, all of Uranus's moons are named after Shakespearean characters - the two largest ones, and the first to be discovered - Oberon and Titania - are named after the fairy king and queen in A Midsummer Night's Dream.)

Titania Polar Stereographic MapSurely this would be clearer and circular (as viewed from the south pole) if Voyager 2 had had better footage of Titania, but that's the point: this precious map was made out of the merest fleeting glimpses of the only man-made object ever to visit the Uranian system. I guess I picked up the Mars book, and paid special attention to these partial, mostly blurry maps of satellites like Uranus's when I come across them, because I'm impressed and inspired by maps: they almost come with the message: we know this place, we've mapped it, even given names to craters and geological features big and small. So when such maps are incomplete, it's almost like in the old days where people didn't know what was on the other end of the Atlantic (from Europe's side) and drew in monsters or other creatures; more sedate cartographers simply left them blank, I suppose, and this is what has been done with Titania. In time to come geologists will have a growing, immense and grand new mission on their hands: the explanation of processes that have shaped whole moons and planets (somehow the geo- prefix seems dated). Who knows what lies out there, what lands to explore, what mysteries to decipher!

This is not to say that I have a particular interest in the Uranian system (I just chose it for the incomplete maps of its satellites), or that I don't realise these are mostly dead, freezing, barren rocks in space. I'm talking about the sense of adventure and discovery that seems to be an essential part of the human spirit, as well as the fact that much of our solar system remains unexplored, that mapping rocks can be paths to understanding bigger systems as a whole. While people used to think Venus and Mars had thick rainforest and canal-building civilisations respectively, and now we know Venus is scorching with a runaway greenhouse effect and whatever life there could have been on Mars is probably dead, other mysteries abound (the book devotes some chapters to various theories regarding the formation of the Martian geological features, a fascinating if esoteric subject); the quest of exploration and understanding doesn't have to die because the places don't fulfil one's expectations.

Plus there's my own personal quirk to have complete maps of everything, from mere barren rocks to great planets - call it the jigsaw-puzzle complex: Who would want to leave one unfinished when the pieces are within your grasp?

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