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Upcoming Events and Links of Note

Upcoming Events

1) Tonight (Friday February 24) at 5 PM CST - Speculative Fiction Cantina podcast!

2) Friday March 10 from 8 to 11 AM CST - Area Technology Experts Discuss Tomorrow’s IT Workforce March 10 at COD’s Tech Talk Live.

3) On Sunday March 19, I will be at the Indian Prairie Public Library for the Local Authors Fair.

4) On Tuesday April 25, my Rotary club will be hosting their Taste of Route 66 fundraiser and restaurant sampling. You can bid without attending, including on a chance to be a character in my novel!

Links of Note

My high school classmate, Mary Maskel-Szymonik, owns a Harley Davidson. She rides same, including in a fundraising drive for Little Angels home for disabled children. I gave and encourage you to give too.

Speculative Fiction Cantina

I will be pontificating about my book and why you should buy it providing entertaining comment on matters science-fictional on the Speculative Fiction Cantina this Friday @ 5 PM CST. Y'all are welcome to attend!

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Taking a Break

I'm taking a break from politics. At some point (like, last week in my case) everything that needs to be said has been said, and repetition does nothing but make people cranky. So, no repetition from me.

I will note that those fine people at NASA have found not one but seven Earth-sized planets. I'll call that a win for science.

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Tuesday Link Salad

Like the label on the tin says:

1) This Friday, S. Evan Townsend will be featuring me on his podcast "Speculative Fiction Cantina." Link when I have it.

2) This Saturday, an interview with me will be on The IndieView.

3) Over the weekend, I read a great book: Warnings Unheeded: Twin Tragedies at Fairchild AFB. The book is written by the Air Force policeman who stopped a mass shooting by killing the shooter with a pistol at 70 yards. It's about how the mass shooter came to be as well as how, a week later, a B-52 practicing for an air show plowed into the ground doing an unsafe maneuver. No spoilers - both events were preceded by many unheeded warnings.

4) On climate change - our memories can be unreliable. I was in Chicago in 1999 and don't remember a particularly warm February.

5) Why don't many racist people think they're racist?. Answer: Because they probably aren't racist. Saying or doing something racist and being a racist is not the same thing.

Capricon Report

I am back from the Con That Was Capricon 37. I had a good time, and now need to buck down and make my final Hugo nominations. A reminder - my latest novel The Night Watch is eminently Hugo-eligible!

In the meantime, here's a picture of me as Captain of the panel "Mighty Space Fleets of War."



(There's a saying - "a man who owns a tuxedo is always looking for excuses to wear it." I now understand that feeling.)

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Protests

So I remember all the way back to 2009 and the Tea Party movement. They held all sorts of protests, none of which convinced me of anything other then that the movement was seriously clueless. Remembering that, I am reflexively leery of anti-Trump protests. On the other hand, the lack of clues I see is in Trump, not (generally) the protesters.

I think the lesson from the Tea Party is that protest needs to convert to candidates and votes. If that happens, good, if not, they are sound and fury signifying nothing.

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

have a funny...

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What Can I Say?

From various news sources today, I see that General Michael Flynn has resigned as National Security Adviser. The proximate cause was that he was sharing information he shouldn't with Russia. He's the third senior Trump adviser to have to quit. (Paul Manafort and Carter Page were the other two.)

I follow the USMC Code of Events: once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is enemy action. Given that Trump can't seem to find a bad word to say about Russia, I think the Marines are onto something. I also note that the only surprise in Flynn's departure was that he actually quit as opposed to brazen it out.

Which leads to the title of the post. What can I say? Trump clearly has no clue when it comes to hiring people, little clue when it comes to running a government, and is in general desperately short of clues. I'd say he's fresh out of clues, but that implies that at one time he had a stock of them - which is not supported by evidence.

We're only three weeks into this roller-coaster ride, folks. Buckle up.

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Caine's Mutiny

Over the weekend I read the latest novel from Chuck Gannon, the book Caine's Mutiny. It's very good, classic space opera that's been updated for our times. I say that but ironically this novel has a number of people who've been hibernating from our 20th Century. It also has aliens, real and "unreal." What follows may be a bit of a spoiler.

There has been throughout SF, going back to the 1890s, a concept of "re-contact." Basically, sometime in our pre-technological past, aliens showed up on Earth and took humans off-planet, and now in the "present" we Earthlings run into our off-planet cousins. It can make for an interesting story, which Gannon is telling here.

Having said that, this book feels like a hinge book in a trilogy. The story is almost complete, but there are several loose ends left dangling and clearly awaiting the next book. I enjoyed this one and wish to tell Dr. Gannon to write faster.

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A Bear of a plot

Elizabeth Bear being wise on plot.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

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I've got nothing today

I've got nothing today - please seek your wit and wisdom elsewhere.

Well, here's SOMETHING:

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Capricon Con Schedule 2017 - Final

Herewith my final schedule for Capricon 37, February 16 -19, 2017:

ETA: Reading Birch B Thursday 6:00 PM

Description: Pirates, Mars, cookies. One of these things is not like the other. Come steal a cookie and listen to Chris Gerrib read from his latest book The Night Watch.

Hugo Awards Nominating Birch A Fri 11:30 AM

Description It's our favorite time of year! Hugo Award nominating is happening now! Join our roundtable discussion for a look back at 2015 and some thoughts on who and what deserves to be nominated this year. (Note: This panel will provide a very brief overview of the process of how to nominate, but the focus is on discussing which works deserve nomination.)

Panelists
Chris Gerrib moderator
Will "scifantasy" Frank
Chris M. Barkley

The Eternal Darkness Willow Fri 5:30 PM

Description How long can a story line stay dark without a bright payoff? When will readers lose all hope and give up?

Panelists
Blake Hausladen
Dora Furlong
Neal F. Litherland (The Literary Mercenary)
Chris Gerrib

Queer Eye for Sci-Fi: Season 3 Birch B Fri 7:00 PM

Description Queer Eye for Sci-Fi returns for Season 3! There is a long and complex history of queerness in science fiction, from queer-coded villains in pulp novels to the more diverse spectrum of characterization in the last decade. Join panelists as they discuss the history of queerness within the genre, both the good and the bad.

Panelists
Mari Brighe
Lady Nhytefall
Chris Gerrib
Dexter Fabi

Writing History Birch B Sat 1:00 PM

Description Historical Fiction. Alternate History. What's the difference? How much history do you need to be historical fiction? How much needs to be changed to be considered alternate history?

Panelists
Steven H Silver
Chris Gerrib
Pat Sayre McCoy
Walt Boyes
Barbara Barnett
Clif Flynt

Mighty Space Fleets of War Birch B Sat 5:30 PM
Description If we were to have a real "Star Wars," what would our space fleets look like, where would they fight, how would they fight, and why would they fight?

Panelists
Chris Gerrib Moderator
Henry Spencer
Jim Plaxco
Uncle Vlad
J.A. Sutherland

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Tuesday Link Salad

Because they go bad:

1) Some historical perspective on our current run of peace in Europe: And yet, when the U.S. was debating entrance into World War I, one state representative rose in his legislature and gave an impassioned speech that, “I was old enough to fight for this Union at 15, and I am young enough to fight again.”

2) Here's an idea - beer caused civilization. I think I'll have a drink.

3) Food for thought: This dog has a guaranteed basic income, and look how eager he is to teach a yoga class anyway.

4) Want to “Take the Oil”? Crunch the Numbers First. Money quote: "In an absolute best-case scenario, where the costs of occupation are minimal and the revenues produced from Iraqi oil exports are maximized, we might break even. In any other, more realistic scenario, the United States loses money."

5) Falklands and Second World War veteran John Vickerson dies, aged 95.

The Space Between Us

Over the weekend, I went to see the new SF movie The Space Between Us. In part, this is based on my theory that if you want more non-reboots or non-comicbook SF movies you have to support the ones that come out with the only thing that counts, money. Also in part, I'm a sucker for Mars.

At any rate, I attended said movie. The cinematography was beautiful, and well, that's probably the best I could say about it. As you can tell from the trailers, the basic plot is a kid is born on the first Mars colony then comes to Earth where he breaks free of his handlers.

What you can't tell is that the kid's birth and existence is kept as a secret for 16 years. This seems highly implausible, as by the time he comes back the Mars colony seems to have grown to 50+ people, many of them scientists shuttling back and forth. Oh, and in this movie, the speed of light is infinite, while space transport in the 16 years from the first colony to the kid's return hasn't changed a lick.

Now, the movie isn't all bad. The ending isn't quite standard Hollywood, and there is a well-played bit of mystery as to who the kid's dad is. This is diluted by our kid being a bit too naive about Earth. (There are TVs in the future.) All in all, okay at best, which is a shame, since the low box office will be used to bash other original SF movies.

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No Trump Thursday, So Let's Talk Armies

In an effort to give Trump a rest, let's talk about another subject of mine - military history. Specifically, why countries build a military. I developed an interest in how a military came to be back when I was in grade school and read (and re-read) a book on how air combat evolved during the First World War. I was (and am) fascinated by the concept of in 4 years going from waving at opposing aircraft to one man shooting down 80 of them.

Then I started reading science fiction, and I noticed that most fictional planets had fairly robust military establishments, which tended to look a lot like either the US military (the good guys) or the Soviet military (the bad guys). At some point, I put the WWI book and these fiction books together, and started to wonder how all these militaries came to be.

The short answer, I discovered, was that a military was built to protect against a specific threat. So, for example, New Zealand, 900 miles from the nearest continent, that being closely-allied Australia, has a tiny military, which just over 11,000 people in it out of a population of 4.7 million. Simply put, they don't need a large military. There is no major threat.

Other nations make a similar decision. Take Mexico, for example. They are the 11th most-populous country in the world, and have the 11th largest economy. They are just ahead of #12, Italy. Yet Mexico spends .677% of its GDP on defense, while Italy spends 1.27 of GDP. Italy, with half Mexico's population, has 350,000 people in the military, vs. Mexico's 280,000. Mexico has three (3) (!!!) fighter aircraft, all ageing F-5s. Italy has 209 fighters.

Here history and strategy play a part. Historically, the Mexican Army has been used to put down internal dissent and support military dictators, from Santa Ana to Porfirio Diaz, so there's a bias against a large military. Second, the chief threat to Mexico is the United States, which since WWII has been the 800 pound guerrilla of militaries as well as an ally. Bottom line - no real reason for a large military.

What I find in most science fiction (John Scalzi and Jack Campbell being notable exceptions) is that the military is the size it is largely for authorial convenience. I also find that it is organized along the principles of whichever military the author is most immediately familiar with.

Trump's Cabinet

More than a few liberals are screaming demanding that the Senate should block all of Trump's appointments. Although tempting, especially in a "payback is a bitch" way, I'm not in favor of that. Simply put, the quickest way to get rid of Trump is the 25th Amendment.

For that to work, the Vice President needs to get the votes of a majority of the Cabinet. Which means you need a Cabinet. Although I'm no fan of Rick "Goodhair" Perry as Secretary of Energy, he was a governor of a state, and I think he wouldn't be down with shooting protesters. I definitely think the Dems should hold up Trump's Supreme Court nominee, again on the "payback is a bitch" theme.

Here's my bottom line - politics requires people to play nice with each other for anything to happen. Violations of that need to be addressed.

ETA: but we're in the minority in the Senate, so we can't win every fight.

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The USA is not an entrepreneurial start-up

I considered titling this post "Scott Adams, the gift that keeps on giving." In this case, Mr. Adams has blessed me with content, specifically replying to Adam's post Is President Trump Doing Management Wrong? Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have thoughts, a reaction to Adam's argument that Trump is engaging in entrepreneurial management:

The United States of America is not a startup. It's a 200+ year old organization. What's at stake is not somebody's job or a profit margin, what's at stake are people's lives.

In this case, there are thousands of customs and border agents who have to enforce this rule at hundreds of ports of entry. You can babble about "entrepreneurial management" all you want to, but these thousands of people are trying to execute a policy on the fly. The average border agent isn't a lawyer, and will face dozens of exceptions. For example, what if the person has a green card? What if the person is a dual national (US and Syrian)? What if they are a dual national of Syria and Canada? What do you do if they were already on the plane when the order was signed? Does the order revoke previously-granted refugee status or only new refugees?

Scott - you used to be an IT professional. Would you roll out a new software package to thousands of end-users without getting some of them to test it? Would you roll out that package without training end-users or at least sending out a clearly-written cheat sheet? Would you buy the package without having the business unit managers at least look at it to see if it will work for them?

In this case, none of that was done. The Director of DHS, the man in charge of the people implementing the order, saw the order after it was signed and it went into immediate effect. All of those questions and I'm sure 20 others had to be decided on the fly by whoever pulled weekend duty at whatever port of entry they came up. In what universe is that a good idea?

Shorter: an entrepreneurial airline needs to make sure it's planes don't crash. That didn't happen here.

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I was at the gym last week with my trainer, and between sets the conversation turned to Trump. The guy at the machine next to me said in regards to the violence in Chicago, "we should just declare martial law in those neighborhoods and go house to house removing guns."

Besides the obvious Constitutional problems, I'm hard-pressed to think of something that would be more effective at unifying that neighborhood; unifying them in shooting at our soldiers. I also suspect the guy would howl bloody murder should that be done in his neighborhood. So was the guy a Fascist?

I think not. As noted in the comment section over on Scott Adam's blog, there is a type of individual we can call an "armchair knee-jerk naive politician." Somebody who, in other words, is stupid enough to think that invading the South Side of Chicago would work or that it could be implemented.

Now, such people look a lot like Fascists, and they tend to support Fascists, because Fascists Get Stuff Done without bothering with process, but they are not actual Fascists. Fascism actually has some overarching ideals, but the Kneejerker doesn't.

I suspect Trump is a Kneejerker. I also suspect that at least some of his advisers are Fascists. We live in interesting times.

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It's Friday - Update, Links and a Thought

Update

I now have a fully-operational Death Star garage door opener. Go me! (No traps, I promise.)

Links

A) Evangelical Experts Oppose Trump’s Plan to Ban Refugees.

B) Paranoia is not just for poor people any more: Doomsday prepping for the super rich.

C) Peter Nowak: Why you will enjoy the open road more in self-driving cars.

Thought

I wouldn't swear these numbers are 100% accurate, but they are in the ballpark.
You know what...
Take my $1.37... I want my PBS.
Take my $.46... I am all for federal funding of art programs.
Take my $.46... I love my museums, colleges, and libraries.
Take my $.11... I support developing minority businesses.
Take my $.66... I am for entrepreneurship and innovation.
Take my $1.60... I want us to export more goods overseas.
Take my $0.43... I would like to see more American manufacturing.
Take my $0.88... I think community policing needs vast improvement.
Take my $1.48... I support programs for women.
Take my $1.55... I believe in due process for all.
Take my $0.48... We need a civil rights division in the justice department.
Take my $0.38... I think we need to defend our Mother Earth.
Take my $0.03... I know more work needs to be done for climate change.
Take my $8.95... because we need more sustainable energy.
Take my $2.71... we should reduce our carbon footprint.
If saving these programs means I'm out $22.36 a year, I'm good with contributing my $.07 a day to save these federal programs.
Vox Day, also known to this blog as Wily E. Coyote, SuperGenius at Large, has repeatedly stated that he is not a Nazi, despite what people say. This is technically true, but misses the larger point. Most people think all Fascists are Nazis. No, much like Xerox machines are a type of copier, Nazis are a type of Fascist. VD is a Fascist.

Fascism was invented in Italy by one Benito Mussolini. Hitler styled himself after Mussolini, which was why Italy, a country that had fought against Germany in WWI, fought with them in WWII. Fascism is not inherently antisemitic - that particular trait was a "feature" of Adolf Hitler's personality. Nor is Fascism massively expansionistic - Mussolini before 1939 only invaded two countries - Albania and Ethiopia - places that lacked an ability to fight back.

So what is Fascism? It is:
1) Authoritarian. There is a Strong Leader and we must follow him.

2) Hyper-patriotic. Not "our country right or wrong" but "our country is never wrong."

3) Intolerant of dissent. Peaceful protests or disagreements are seen as threats.

4) Objectively pro-wealthy. Mussolini and Hitler both enjoyed strong support from the wealthy and aristocratic classes in their countries, largely because they followed policies that enriched said classes. For example, both men abolished independent labor unions, replacing them with unions that were little more than clubs for workers to hang out in.

5) Militaristic. They may not want to use the military (see Mussolini) but damn it they want a big and shiny one.

6) Fearful. In a Fascist regime, there is always some group that is just around the corner and just about ready to overthrow the regime. Paradoxically, this group is also seen as very stupid and easily stopped. (In fairness, this "powerful but stupid" enemy is a useful tool in a lot of situations.)

7) Action without thought. We need to build a wall to keep out Mexicans is action, but doesn't look at the fact that most Mexicans drive or fly across the border.

8) Traditionalism. Whether it's a cult-like worship of the Founding Fathers or surrounding yourself with Roman symbols, Fascists look to the past, and usually to some idealized version thereof.

9) Racist. Although this is more visible in Nazi-ism, Fascists are racists in that they see their race (however they define it) as better than other races. In VD's case, he defines the "American" race as people who came over on the Mayflower.

In any event, if you find yourself calling somebody a Nazi, let me suggest substituting Fascist. It's more accurate and harder to dispute.

For another take, see Umberto Eco's 14 features of Fascism.

Comment Policy

This is the personal blog of Chris Gerrib, and all opinions expressed here are solely his own. Commenters are welcome; however please be polite to me and my other readers. I reserve the right to delete comments that are rude, inappropriate or otherwise objectionable at my sole discretion. The opinions expressed in a comment are not necessarily mine, and if I do not delete a comment that should not be construed as my agreement with the commenter.

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