Friday, 28 June 2013

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1982

Once I had a collection of several years of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. (Once I had a farm in Africa, as someone else said). The subscription was well worth the price. I wish, though, that I had held onto the February 1982 issue. It had two of my favourite stories in it, both of which I would love to read again.

First, there was "The Sgt. Pepper Variations" by Howard Roller and Parke Godwin. A person of limited education and almost no musical skill is trying to interest a music publisher in some original work. Not her original work, exactly. She is a medium who converses with the great composers. They do not stop composing just because their bodies are decomposing. So she asks if the person would like to hear "The Sgt. Pepper Variations" written by "Mr. Bach" to welcome that "nice Mr. Lennon," or the work that Chopin wrote to commemorate the first landings on the moon. Would I? I could almost hear them in my head, the way you can almost remember how your first kiss felt.

Speaking of decomposing composers, here is Monty Python's tribute to them.
The other story was "Understanding Human Nature" by Thomas M. Disch. It turns out that we need only three things to have a fully human life: rewarding work, love, and some connection to a project bigger and longer lasting than ourselves. Building a pyramid, for example. It was a warm, wise story.

And, as it turns out, you can read it on the web here.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Dead Letter Laws, Marijuana, and Bigamy

The basic principle in Western democracies is the rule of law. That means, at minimum, that no-one is above the law; it applies equally to all. More broadly, I think the term implies something about the quality of the law in terms of the consent to, the knowledge of, and the respect for the law by the people it applies to. It is this broader meaning that is endangered by selectively enforced or even unenforced laws.

If the law is selectively enforced, then the statement "That's illegal" can be justly answered with "That depends on whom you know."

If the law is unenforced, which is to say it is a "dead letter," then the statement "That's illegal" can be justly answered with "Who cares?"

In either case, the law is disrespected.

The extent of the problem of unenforced laws in the UK is indicated by a 2012 joint report from the Law Commission for England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission. It recommended that fifty Acts should be "partly repealed" in addition to "817 whole Acts."

Any account of selectively enforced laws in Canada would have to feature its marijuana law. Twelve point six percent of the population between the ages of fifteen and sixty-four used cannabis in 2009. At some point in their lives, 44.5% of Canadians have used it. The law that criminalizes its use, in theory, makes almost half the population into criminals, and any law that is so widely disobeyed, it is fair to say, is widely disrespected. It is loved only by the police who use it to drive up arrest numbers, though few are convicted.

That is not to say that the law can be ignored safely because it can be used selectively. For example, a Canadian who had received a $50 fine for marijuana possession thirty-five years before was denied entry into the United States to watch the Superbowl.

One of the few bits of gold that glint in Ayn Rand's writing is the idea that those in power love to have laws that could, in theory, criminalize much of the population. Those laws could be taken out, dusted off, and used against anyone as convenient.

Marc Emery serves as a good example. He was a political gadfly who, besides co-founding pro-marijuana political parties, sold marijuana seeds. (Not the plant, which would be illegal in Canada, nor the leaves). Canadian authorities had been unable to stop his activities, since the selling of seeds (not plants nor leaves) was legal in Canada, and police raids were ineffective in intimidating him. Accordingly, he was arrested and given to American authorities for trial and conviction. He received a five-year sentence.

Marijuana laws, however, are not the main point of this post. It was inspired by questions I had about bigamy laws in Canada. Certainly, bigamy was regarded as a major crime when I was young, but there have been many immigrants to Canada from the Muslim countries that allow more than one wife. Does Canada let them in and then arrest them? If a Canadian with one wife marries another in a country that allows it and then returns to Canada, would he be arrested then? Could he bring in a second wife and her children under the family reunification provisions of the immigration law?

Turns out that the bigamy law, though still on the books, and constitutionally valid, is a dead letter. There have been no successful bigamy prosecutions in sixty years. In fact, the openly polygamous community of Bountiful, BC, is still in business despite the efforts of successive Attorneys General.

I believe that laws, like those against the use of marijuana and the practice of polygamy, must be either enforced in a fair and general way or completely revoked. Any halfway ground of selective enforcement gives power to authorities to persecute those who, for unrelated reasons, have annoyed the powers that be. Not coincidentally, they bring the law as a whole into disrepute.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Joss Whedon's "Much Ado about Nothing"

Apparently Joss Whedon had a two-month mandatory holiday after he directed the Avengers movie, all $220 million of it. Turns out that he has hosted Shakespeare readings in his home, just for fun. Decided to make a movie of Much Ado about Nothing. He made it in his home, in black and white, with a handheld camera, in twelve days, with his friends (talented friends, though, that he's worked with before) as the actors. Needless to say, it cost almost nothing. Based on this trailer, I must see it.
Opens in Vancouver on June 21.

While I'm on the subject of Joss Whedon, I became a strong fan when I saw this political ad for Mitt Romney during the last American election.

"Of Whom Shall I Be Afraid" by Jim Byrnes, and Taking a Break from Normalcy

The last three days, a line from a song has been on the tip of my mind, so to speak, but I could not remember it well enough to look it up, nor recall where I had heard it. This morning, the line came clearly to mind--"Of whom shall I be afraid"--as well as a singer's name--Jim Byrnes. I checked Youtube and that gave me the rest of the information that had eluded me. I had heard the song on an episode of the Canadian tv show "Sanctuary," specifically in a 2011 episode called "Fugue."

In this episode, one character is only able to communicate through singing. That is, she sings what she wants to say and can only understand what is sung back to her. In one scene, Dr. Magnus is searching through her dead father's old scientific records, looking for a clue to a cure. She feels her father's presence as she works, so he seems to sit beside her and sings this song.

This is an abbreviated and much more intimate version of the actor's own song from his album "House of Refuge." I prefer this version. The line "Of whom shall I be afraid" has a biblical ring, so some checking discovered it in Psalm 27. The song could be said to be a paraphrase of the psalm.

By the way, the title "Fugue" is appropriate in two ways. First, a fugue is a musical form in which different voices develop the theme. That, more or less, describes the episode. Second, a fugue is "a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity." That describes the main character of the episode. Well done, writers!

I suspect that this episode was written so that the actors could display their vocal talents, and provide a bit of a break from the show's usual structure. I think it may have been inspired by the incredible all-singing, all-dancing episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" called "Once More with Feeling" (Season 6, Episode 7, 2001). Here's a sample of my favourite cut, "Sweet's Song," unfortunately without the tap dancing visuals.

And here's a love song from earlier in the show.

 I don't know if all long-running series feel the need to break out of character or break out of the norm, but it seems Star Trek did. How else would you explain the "Mirror Universe" episodes, beginning with "Mirror, Mirror," in which all the characters get to play their evil twins. Star Trek: Enterprise gleefully adopted the same relief from unrelenting niceness, as the opening for the episode "In a Mirror, Darkly" makes clear.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

HMS Queen Elizabeth

I'm not certain why I'm fascinated with the new aircraft carriers being built by and for Britain, but I am. The first of these, HMS Queen Elizabeth will look almost complete this weekend when the aft "island" is attached to the deck. I'd like to make a few points about this project from a viewpoint substantially higher and more general than usual.
Computer graphic of HMS Queen Elizabeth moored beside the British Parliament
First, why is Britain building an aircraft carrier? Britain learned a lasting lesson about the importance of having aircraft carriers when Argentina attacked the Falkland Islands in 1982. Britain would, most likely, have lost the Falklands War if it didn't have the old aircraft carrier HMS Hermes and the smaller one HMS Invincible. I say "most likely" instead of "certainly" because it was recently revealed that President Reagan would have approved the loan of the USS Iwo Jima to Britain if anything had happened to either carrier.

Now HMS Hermes, HMS Invincible, and HMS Ark Royal have been paid off, HMS Illustrious is coming to the end of her life, and the Harrier fighter planes that flew from these ships have been sold to the States, Britain wants replacements for both the ships and the planes.

The next question, of course, is how big the ships should be. Other carriers are in the 20,000 ton range (like the Illustrious), 40,000 ton range (like the French Charles de Gaulle), 60,000 ton range (like the Chinese Liaoning) or 100,000 ton range (the American carriers).

Bigger is better in terms of capability since bigger can carry more planes and use them more efficiently. In addition, planes are getting bigger, too, so a carrier that is just big enough in the start of its career may well be too small for the next generation of planes. That is especially true if the ships are intended to last for fifty or more years.

Bigger is also more economical (if not necessarily cheaper), as anyone who buys laundry detergent in big tubs knows. As Admiral Sir Michael Boyce (later the First Sea Lord and then Chief of the Defence Staff) said "Air is free, and steel is cheap"; the electronic and weapons systems are expensive, but they cost the same on a large ship as a small one. The difference in cost between a larger and smaller ship comes down mostly to labour costs.

The design process for the ships reflects these truisms. Two proposals were made to the Ministry of Defence. One was a large ship with relatively inexpensive electronics and weapons; the other was a smaller one with more expensive electronics and weapons. The Ministry took the larger one as a base, but instructed that it have the more expensive systems from the other design. Of course, it ended up too expensive. The lead designer started to remove this and that, replace this with that, all to get the price back down again. However, he fought to keep the ship's size intact.

(That is really simplified. The full story is on the Navy Matters blog. Be careful, though. Like the taste of a sausage, if you want to enjoy the design of the Queen Elizabeth class, you may not want to know too much about its origins). 

Another aspect to cost is the size of the crew. The sailors need to be paid, and there is a limit to how many the government is willing to hire. Automation has worked wonders here. The Queen Elizabeth Class ships will require about the same number of sailors as the old Invincible Class, despite being three times larger.

Finally, what plane would the ships carry? The trade-off here is that simpler planes demand more complex, expensive ships, while more complex, expensive planes allow simpler, cheaper ships. This is true, at least, for the two planes that Britain considered.

The F35C (the "Carrier" version) has a lower price, longer range, fewer moving parts, and 25% less maintenance cost. On the other hand, it needs large, expensive, heavy catapults for the launch. These add to the expense of the ship, whether the traditional steam catapults or the new electromagnetic ones are chosen.

The F35B (the vertical take off and landing version) is more expensive, shorter range, has more moving parts, and is 25% more expensive to maintain but does without the catapults, reducing the cost of the ship. As a bonus, RAF pilots will be able to land on the ships with less training than they would need for other planes: landing on a moving target so that a hook on the plane catches the arrestor wires on the ship requires special expertise; landing vertically or coming to a short, rolling stop, less so.

A final consideration in determining the size of the ships is the size of your dock. There, Britain was lucky. No. 1 Dock in Rosyth, Scotland, was built in 1907 for the construction of battleships. With a little modification to take the flat bottom of a 65,000 ton aircraft carrier, as opposed to the classic "V" shape of a battleship, Rosyth could handle the construction of the carriers.
No. 1 Dock, Rosyth, being prepared
Construction is well advanced on the first of the carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, and some of the construction blocks are ready for the second ship, HMS Prince of Wales. This Youtube video gives a good look at the final design.

We can now judge how good the choices that shaped their design have been. If we compare the two British ships with the newest American carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, we find quite a few similarities.
Computer graphic of the USS Gerald R. Ford

The combined displacement of the British ships, when fully loaded, is 130,000 tons, so almost a third more than the Gerald R. Ford. They can carry up to thirty-six planes each, or a combination of planes and helicopters, for a combined total about the same as the American ship. Since each British ship carries about 1,600 men, including both the crew and the air component, they require 3,200 together, which is considerably less than the 4,297 on the Gerald R. Ford.

The most important comparison is the overall cost. The two British ships cost about £5.9 billion ($9.2 billion US) for the whole program, whereas the USS Gerald Ford costs $9 billion for the carrier itself or, if the R&D is included, $14 billion.

On the other hand, the British will, most often, be operating only one of their carriers at a time, which may not halve the operating cost for the two ships together, but would certainly reduce it. Over fifty years, that should add up to a lot of savings.

Despite all the debate and backtracking and compromise during the design of the new aircraft carriers, I think the result makes a lot of sense. Britain will be the only nation able to match a single American carrier strike group in power, yet will be able to leave half of that power in port most of the time. Two ships are clearly more survivable in battle than one, as well. The choices of a large ship, a relatively small crew, and the simpler, cheaper ship design allowed by VTOL planes, still meet the Royal Navy's needs for air power, for amphibious landing support, and for humanitarian aid after a natural disaster.

So, in summary, Britain's getting a supercarrier with about the clout of an American one, for about the cost of an American one, only split into two hulls.

By the way, the French were interested in adapting the British design to create their next carrier, the Porte-avions 2 or PA2. The most recent information is that they have decided to go with a different design. It will still be 65,000 or 70,000 tons, and conventionally powered, but have catapults for its Rafale fighter planes, and a single island rather than the unique two-island design on the Queen Elizabeth class. When or if the money will be made available for this, who knows? In the meantime, the design is being proposed to Brazil.
Model of the proposed French carrier
Update: From this page on the "" blog:
Combined the two ships are planned to have an availability of 584 ship days a year (292 per ship), a 6 day interval between docking and a refit interval of 6 months.
Update on costs (4 July 2013). According to Bloomburg, the cost of the USS Gerald R. Ford has gone up 22% in the last five years due to problems with "Technical, design and construction challenges.” The GAO's current estimate of its cost is $12.8 billion but "The Pentagon’s independent cost-estimating office, the Congressional Budget Office and a Navy-commissioned panel project final costs as high as $14.2 billion, the GAO said."

On the other hand, the most recent information I can find on the British carriers is "The NAO is sceptical that overall project costs will remain at the £5.46 billion promised by the MoD, but accepts that rises will be inevitable." That is why the figures quoted in the posting are that they will cost £5.9 billion ($9.2 billion US). I am assuming that "overall project costs" include the R&D and design work.

If we compare $9.2 billion to $14.2 billion, which is a decent guess at the final figures, then the British will be getting roughly the same plane-carrying ability as the Americans for about two-thirds the price. (64.7% of the price).

Update on size (4 August 2013). There's a good article on the Royal Institute of Naval Architects website summarizing the progress to date on building, designing, and even deciding the future ships of the Royal Navy. Its title is, appropriately, "Progress being made but uncertainties remain." One remark that stood out is on the Queen Elizabeth class: 
Work on the circa 70,600tonne ships (an increase of 4,600tonnes over the original estimates) continues and on 14 March 2013 the forward island of Queen Elizabeth was attached to the hull at Babcock International’s yard in Rosyth. She is scheduled to be ‘launched’ next year and fitted out by ‘early 2017’ and will probably now be commissioned in 2017 rather than 2016 as originally envisaged. Trials will also begin in 2017 and she should reach full operational capability in 2020.
I had not heard elsewhere that the displacement had been increased to over 70,000 tonnes.

Update (25 Sept 2013). The Aircraft Carrier Alliance has released new computer graphic images of HMS Queen Elizabeth. Quite nice and detailed. The people in the pictures give the scale of the ships.

"New" novel from John Wyndham

I once bought a boxed set of all seven books by John Wyndham.

Well, there are actually two errors in that sentence. First, John Wyndham was actually not named "John Wyndham" but John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris. Second, they were not all the books written by that gentleman. He wrote others under other names. He even co-wrote a book as a collaboration between John Wyndham (that is, himself) and Lucas Parkes (himself).

The books have much to recommend them. They were written in a clear and understated style which, in several books, contrasts with an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic setting. One of them, The Chrysalids, is one of the few science fiction novels I've read set in Canada (though Newfoundland had, in fact, been part of Canada for only six years when the book was published in 1955).

Several films have been made of his books. The best is the The Village of the Damned (1960), which captures the mood of the book it is based on, The Midwich Cuckoos. Other books of the time had a similar theme (A for Andromeda, for example), but the Wyndham treatment provides interesting characters and a genuine moral dilemma.

It also spun off a movie sequel, Children of the Damned, in 1963.

John Carpenter remade the original film in 1995. Why he thought he could do better, I don't know. His version has won a Golden Raspberry award for the worst remake. Be warned, unless you are a completist fan of John Carpenter, Christopher Reeve, or Kirstie Alley movies.

Other John Wyndham books have been adapted into films or television series: The Day of the Triffids and Chocky among them.

Years after I bought the collection of Wyndham books, a new Wyndham appeared in the bookstores. This was Web (1979). Apparently its publication had been held up for ten years by Wyndham's estate, due to a copyright dispute. The plot and setting are different, but as in Wyndham's short story "Wild Flower" (in The Seeds of Time), a desire for a natural, utopian existence confronts the legacy of atomic technology. In one story, natural mutations provide hope for a better future (as they also do in The Chrysalids); in the other, they create a nightmare and promise a greater nightmare in the future.

Now, I discover that there is another John Wyndham book, Plan for Chaospublished in 2009, forty years after Wyndham's death, by Liverpool University Press and Penguin Books. He wrote it at the same time that he was working on his first "John Wyndham" novel, the The Day of the Triffids. It was unpublished because of the decisions of publishers, not the judgement of the author. Consequently, no book featuring resurgent Nazis and cloning found its audience until 1979, when Ira Levin published The Boys from Brazil. The Wyndham book, however, adds two ingredients that the Levin book does not, Nazi flying saucers and matriarchy. The book was, perhaps, a little ahead of its time, so it sat with his papers until they were sold to the University of Liverpool.

An expanded and corrected introduction to Plan for Chaos is on the Hubub blog. I need to look at it again after I re-read some of the other John Wyndham books, because it makes statements about plot points in them that contradict my memory. To quote the theme song from the tv show Monk again, "I may be wrong (but I don't think so)."

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Decision Taken on Canadian "Joint Support Ship"

After almost a decade of dithering, the Canadian government has finally decided on a design for its new replenishment ships for the Royal Canadian Navy. Citing considerations of "cost and risk," it went with the Berlin Class design over the Cantabria Class. There are good and bad aspects to this decision.

On the plus side, it is getting a proven design, as three of these ships are serving in the German navy. However, it is also firmly closing the book on a much more ambitious, multi-role ship that it once intended to build. That ship would resemble the Dutch Karel Doorman, which will not only supply ships at sea but transport troops and equipment for amphibious landings and serve as a flagship, too. The decision will leave the RCN without the capability to do any of these things except the basic replenishment at sea.

Canadian Joint Support Ship Proposal
Karel Doorman

Instead, the single-minded solution we have chosen is quite similar in size and displacement to the ships it is replacing. It also has the advantages of less maintenance, a smaller crew, and a double hull (which is a legal requirement these days). Its 44-bed hospital is also an improvement.

HMCS Protecteur
FGS Berlin

On the other hand, it actually carries less in the way of supplies than the ships it is replacing. Have a look at some figures.

Karel Doorman
Displacement (tonnes)
Length (m)
Beam (m)
Speed (km/h)
Fuel and water (m^3)
14,232 (ship fuel); 390 (aviation fuel)
10,032 (in total)
8,000 (ship fuel); 1,000 (aviation fuel)
Solid Cargo, including ammunition (tonnes)
1048 (dry cargo); 1250 (ammunition)
365 (including air detachment)
139 (+94)
150 (+150)
Aircraft Carried
3 medium helicopters
2 medium helicopters
2 Chinook helicopters or 6 medium
Landing Craft

2 Landing Craft Vehicle Personel

2 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats

Another concern is the cost. The government has set aside $2.6 billion for the ships, but the Parliamentary Budget Officer has warned that it should set aside $4.1 billion. The government respectfully disagrees. An analyst has predicted that the government may get its ships for the price it wants to pay, but do it by eliminating capabilities. "The issue," he says, "is what you're getting for the money."

In addition, we should compare our $2.6 or $4.1 billion ships to the new British replenishment oilers. They are getting four 37,000-ton oilers built for only £452 million ($712.8 million Canadian). They have achieved this phenomenal value by designing the ships at home but shipping the plans to the Daewoo Shipyard in South Korea to build.

A British MARS Tanker (Tide Class) fuelling a Type 45 Destroyer

I wonder what it would have cost us to say to Daewoo, "Two more of the same, please."

Also for comparison, the Dutch are paying $480 million US for the Karel Doorman. Two at that price would have fit our budget, but some of the building would have to be done overseas. For example, the Dutch are having the hull built in Romania.

Our Defence Minister, Peter MacKay, has explained that we spend "a premium" to build ships in Canada. That is fair enough, but I am staggered by the size of the premium that we have to pay.

I do hope that the Canadian economy benefits from the government's spending on this project and the others in its shipbuilding strategy. I will enjoy seeing the ships being constructed on the North Vancouver waterfront, too. However, there is more at stake than the the economy and even my personal likes: the RCN and "the Canadian Forces as a whole" are putting their future into the hands of Canadian industry. People's lives, as well as livelihoods, depend on how well they respond.

Update 12 October 2013

There's a CBC report stating that the replenishment ships are a higher priority than the replacement for Canada's big Coast Guard ice breaker, the Louis St. Laurent. That means
  1. We have a date for the start of construction of the replenishment ships: construction will start "in late 2016 with a target of having them in service by 2019-20, almost two years later than the last estimate contained in last spring's federal budget."
  2. As for the Louis St-Laurent (the Coast Guard ice breaker), it will have to "remain in service until 2021-22, but it will require as much as $55 million in refits and upgrades to keep going over 10 years." Fortunately, the ship is in good shape at the moment. The year in which her replacement will be ready was not included in the article. 
  3. The Canadian Navy will be without replenishment ships for at least 18 months because the old ships must retire before the new ships are ready.
The article also notes,
Opposition New Democrats were quick on Friday to paint the decision as another procurement failure.

"Let's be clear: these critical shipbuilding projects are facing delays because of the Conservative decision to cancel the Joint Support Ship procurement process in 2008," NDP defence critic Jack Harris said in a statement.

"That restart means that the Canadian navy will now face a two-year gap in resupply capacity, during which time Canada will have to rely on allies for essential resupply capabilities. The Canadian navy's capacity to conduct independent marine operations during this period will be greatly reduced."

A recent report by the parliamentary budget office suggested that had the Conservatives stuck with the original program, the navy would already have its ships, and likely for less money than what they'll eventually pay.

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Free Textbooks Movement

The Free Software Movement has had notable successes that have inspired efforts in other fields. After all, if people can collaboratively create an operating system or a video editor then share it over the internet, could they not do the same for, say, a textbook? And, in fact, a few people have done just that.

Most recently, a Kickstarter funding campaign to professionally design a university textbook in Philosophy achieved its desired result. Clear and Present Thinking can be downloaded as a free pdf file or read on the Internet. A Kindle version is available. There's also an inexpensive version in solid format, suitable for reading in the bath. Read the details on the author's web page. Congratulations to the author, Brendan Myers, for his achievement, and good luck with the next steps: a French translation and an expanded version of the text.

Speaking of French, there's a university-level introductory textbook in French called Liberté by Gretchen Angelo. It comes in both student and instructor editions. Instructors can also get MP3 files to accompany the text.

Liberté is hosted on, a web site that was created to house free university Physics textbooks by Ben Crowell. Light and Matter itself is meant for a one-year introductory course "of the type typically taken by biology majors, or for AP Physics B." Simple Nature is for those who are more comfortable with calculus, so is meant for "engineering and physical science majors, or for AP Physics C." There are also Mechanics, Conceptual PhysicsGeneral Relativity, and Calculus. The PDF's are free downloads, and inexpensive printed copies are available.

Dr. Crowell's been busy.

I'm sure his Calculus book is as readable as his other ones, but there are many on-line recommendations of Sylvanus P. Thompson's Calculus Made Easy, especially the first edition, as the best, or at least the most approachable, calculus textbook ever written. As it was first published in 1910, it has shown remarkable staying power. Project Gutenberg has a freshly typeset edition of the 1914 edition.

For many years, the University of Toronto published a textbook called Representative Poetry. That book is now on-line and extended thanks to its editor, Ian Lancashire. Now at version 6.0, it is "a web anthology of 4,800 poems in English and French by over 700 poets spanning 1400 years."

Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources tries to categorize and link many free and open textbooks, but beware. They are not all at the same level of development and quality. For example, it links to an Art History on-line textbook, Smart History, which has been nominated for an internet award, but it also links to a Paleoanthropology "textbook" that is more an outline than a finished product.

Another "everything but the kitchen sink" site is I could find a useful variety of PDFs on the site. However, an ad blocker is probably warranted.

So, we can see some progress in the provision of free textbooks for universities and colleges, especially for the first year of studies, but what is there for high schools and high schoolers? Since inexpensive textbooks are most important in poorer countries, I would expect worthwhile books to come out of, for example, Africa. In fact, a physicist named Mark Horner created a project called Free High School Science Texts (FHSST). The books are now on the Siyavula web site, are called Everything Maths and Everything Science, and are available for grades 10-12 in English and Afrikaans. The same site has Natural Sciences and Technology workbooks for grades 4 to 6.

For texts to read in English class, as well as in other languages, Project Gutenberg and its Canadian and Australian equivalents are worth a visit. Why buy a copy of Macbeth or "The Devil and Daniel Webster" or 1984 if reading it on your computer or tablet for free is acceptable? All legally, in Canada, I hasten to add.

Finally, just because, I want to mention Basic French for Canadian Schools, a textbook that was published by the Government of Ontario in 1937. It is out of print, but the pages were scanned and collected into a PDF file. It would be wonderful to have someone turn it into text and do the necessary proofreading to make a nice, new edition. Unfortunately, I'm going to be a bit too busy to take on that task for quite a while!