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Thursday Update

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A Right Not To Be Mocked

John C. Wright is still ranting about Bristol Palin. Apparently, even if a woman starts a drunken fight, finding humor in that fact is unacceptable, and pointing out that she started said fight is a distraction. I suppose pointing out that she could have gotten her nose broken for her instead of just unceremoniously hauled out of the place is beyond the pale.

In any event, Wright seeks a right not to be mocked. He's not prepared to extend that right to anybody who disagrees with him.

Two Items of Good News

Item #1 - Last night, my Rotary club, working with various volunteers including the local Girl Scouts, packed over 750 meals for our backpack program. This program sends Darien school-kids home with food on the weekend - food they otherwise wouldn't have. It's a shame that's needed in Darien, but we're doing something about it.

Item #2 - two of my dinner companions last night.

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Yesterday was consumed by locusts

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... and today isn't looking much better. More wit and wisdom when the locusts leave.

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Posting A Day Early

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I'll be on the road tomorrow, so have my thoughts today.

John C. Wright is upset at great length (so what else is new) about some snarky comments aimed at Bristol Palin after Palin's recent drunken brawl in Alaska. (This ADN article has a nice summary of the brawl.)

Basically, Bristol ended up punching a guy in the face repeatedly. This is not what her taped statement to police says (surprise, surprise), but even her statement is damning enough. Bristol says her sister Willow comes to Bristol in their limo and says she was pushed. Per police, all this is going down at 10:30 PM, and booze was involved.

Now, I reply to Mr. Wright that normal people would, in Bristol's situation, either pile on into the limo and leave and/or call the cops who get paid to deal with this crap. I also point out that Anchorage PD disagrees with Bristol's statement.

Wright's reply? You are despicable vermin for saying such a thing. How can you stand to live with yourself you dickless and lifeless little toad? How did you dare sign your name to this?

I have to say I've been called worse by better. I also have to say I find both the Palin and Wright response amusing. See, normal people, after they've sobered up from doing something stupid, say things like "gee, that was stupid of me." But people who nurture a strong sense of victim-hood can't do that, and so we get these spittle-flecked rants.

At any rate, I am reminded of Gerrib's Law of Bar Brawls. "Your best weapon in a bar brawl is your hat. Put it on and leave, preferably before fists and bottles fly."

Friday Update

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I was planning to be on the road this morning heading to more of our locations, but things came up so I'm at Oak Brook. For your perusal, two links and a cartoon.

Link #1 - 10 things food banks need but don't ask for.

Link #2 - My Rotary club helping children.

A powerful cartoon (click here to see source)

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Roadshow Edition

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On Blackstone, public accommodation and conservatives

I'm doing a lot of driving between branches for the day job, hence my lack of posting. In any event, yesterday's entry seems to have pushed a few buttons. My points in sharing the Blackstone quote were two:

1) The idea that "public accommodations" means all of the public is very old.
2) Conservatives who argue that businesses have a private right of association are arguing for a new right, not "conserving" an old one.

On Asteroids as Islands

I found myself looking at Tristan da Cunha, the most remote island in the world, and St. Helena, the second-most remote island. I could see human-colonized asteroids (and moons, and even planets) as sometimes falling into similar situations.

Gamergate, an Epic Rant

Former NFL player and current gamer Chris Kluwe has an epic rant on why Gamergaters piss him off. There is much adult language therein, but also much truth. The tl;dr version? We [gamers] won. Over 100 million Americans play games, so of course there are going to be games you don't like. Get over it.

Blackstone, That Well-Known Trotskyite

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Various libertarians have assured me that private businesses, like private individuals, have a right to not do business with people they don't like for whatever reason.

Well, William Blackstone, the 18th-century person who codified English common law, begs to disagree. Money quote:

[I]f an inn-keeper, or other victualler, hangs out a sign and opens his house for travelers, it is an implied engagement to entertain all persons who travel that way; and upon this universal assumpsit an action on the case will lie against him for damages, if he without good reason refuses to admit a traveler.

You see, Jim Crow and "private association" was a radical idea imposed after the fall of slavery.

Not A Writing Workshop Kinda Guy, But...

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I'm not a big writing workshop kind of guy. In fact, the only workshops I've ever attended were either critique groups at a con or informal groups like my current one. No Taos Toolbox / Clarion etc. for me.

Until now. I've been a fan of Mary Robinette Kowal since her first short stories came out. Now, I learn that, with her Writing Excuses group, she's doing a writers workshop / cruise.

I've just signed up. From September 20-27, I shall be bouncing around the Caribbean (been there, done that, got the t-shirt) on Independence of the Seas for the 2015 Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat.

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Ebola and Banks

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A late post today, because this morning I was conducting disaster recovery testing for my bank. I find that very ironic, considering the current flap over Ebola. I also find myself in deep agreement with the comment that resiliency and the ability to handle outlier events is not efficient from a bottom line perspective of a single entity with profit as its primary focus.

In the case of my bank (the entity I'm responsible for) disaster recovery training means maintaining 40 or so computers and phones in various back rooms, waiting for a once-a-year test. Although these spare machines aren't primo, they are (and have to be) serviceable, as do the spaces we're reserving. But we do it, in large part because our regulators insist that we have a DR plan and that we test it.

Apparently regulators are not making sure hospitals are testing their plans, as evidenced by the Charlie Foxtrot in Texas.

Military Thursday

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Found via the author Chris Hernandez, here are some articles of military interest. First, Chris's three-part personal report on the French military's (highly effective) fighting skills in Afghanistan (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). For those not clicking through, Chris found the French both willing and able to fight. Second, Chris has an article based on a female Danish infantryman (her words). The article led Chris (a former infantryman himself) to say Females in the Infantry? Er…Yes, actually.

All of the articles are well worth the read, but I found a few common threads between them. The militaries profiled (French and Danish):

1) Recognize that men and women will have sex. Birth control, to include morning-after pills, are readily available in both militaries. Thus, despite the sex, women being evacuated for pregnancies are rare.

2) Have in general a more relaxed attitude with regards to sex. This is somewhat a European thing, but allows the telling of mild sexual jokes and the like. As a French officer told Chris, the only rule about sex is "be smart."

3) Booze is available to troops. Again, the rule is "drink smart."

4) Europeans have fewer vehicles, which yields more physically fit troops.

In short, an interesting series of articles.

Two Thoughts On A Rainy Day

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Thought #1 - Ebola

The writer Elizabeth Moon is dead-on (pardon the pun) about Ebola and the US response thereto. Her six lessons are:

1) A stitch in time saves nine. the time to prepare is before the excrement hits the air-moving unit.
2) Hubris kills. Incorrectly thinking you're ready can be worse then not being ready.
3) Privatisation is no guarantee of quality performance. In this case, the fragmented US system means some hospitals are good to go and others are clueless.
4) Fear is faster than facts.
5) Change takes time. People need training and gear, both of which need time to develop.
6) Everything is connected to everything else. As she says, "There is no bunker deep enough, no ivory tower high enough, no wall stout enough, or weapons system powerful enough to keep what happens "there" from affecting life "here."

Thought #2 - Gamergate and Subtractive Masculinity

Over on Obsidian Wings, Doctor Science talks about subtractive masculinity. This is the idea that one defines a characteristic (masculine, in this case) by the actions of some other group. For example, saying "girls don't shoot guns, I do, therefore I'm a man." There's an obvious problem with that, namely that the guys have no control over what the girls do.

The tie-in to gamergate is this - a certain subset of gamers define their masculinity by what women don't do. Except women do play (and develop and review) video games. This threatens them, and since they are powerless to actually stop women from being involved in games, they react by making threats.

Threatening somebody is a sign of inherent weakness, which makes those issuing threats even madder. (Something I noticed in the Navy - Admirals don't yell. They don't have to - because of their power, people make an effort to listen to admirals.) To be clear, threats followed by action can have some power, but it's not nearly as powerful as just doing something.

Swamped

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I'm back from the lovely Holiday Home Camp in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. While there, I was a volunteer running our Rotary district's RYLA program in conjunction with OWLS (Outdoor Wisconsin Leadership School). I finished working on RYLA at 2:30 on Monday, and then got stuck in rush-hour traffic back in Chicago, so I got nothing done over the weekend.

Now I'm back at work, it's a 4-day week, we have a new hire, and I am presenting to the Board. Yippee!

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A Crack In Everything

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ACrackinEverything-195x300 (1)

Title: A Crack in Everything
Author: Ruth Frances Long
Genre: fantasy
Price: $8.97 (ebook) / $8.55 (paperback)
Publisher: The O’Brien Press
ISBN: 978-1-84717-635-6
Point of Sale: publisher’s website

I recently attended Shamrokon, the 2014 European SF convention, held in Dublin Ireland. While I was there, Ruth Frances Long held a launch party for her novel A Crack in Everything. Unfortunately for her, most people attending were just interested in the cupcakes, but she did sell me a copy of her book. I’ve finished that book and greatly enjoyed it.

Isabel “Izzy” Gregory is a typical Irish teenager, living in Dundrum, a southern suburb of Dublin. She does have a minor problem with electronics – it’s not infrequent that she touches an electronic device and it explodes – but other than that she’s solidly normal. Or so she thinks. While out and about in downtown Dublin, Izzy comes across an angel, a fae, and discovers that there’s a whole other city – Dubh Linn –interweaved into the city that humans see. Izzy also discovers that some of the stories she was told as a child are real, and other concepts, such as angels being good, are not entirely accurate.

The story then becomes one of Izzy trying to figure out how to survive and use powers she didn’t know she had, while the fae Jinx, a werewolf-like being, has to figure out how to deal with Izzy and the various backroom deals and double-crosses of his world. I have to admit I had a problem keeping all the various non-humans straight, which I think was in part intentional.

Dublin, the real city, plays a key supporting role in the story, and at several points I found myself digging out my tourist map of the city to see where the events were happening. Having seen the city and then reading the book greatly improved my overall experience, but I think it would be enjoyable even if you never get to Dublin.

I highly recommend A Crack in Everything. O’Brien is an Irish publisher, so my best recommendation for US purchasers is to buy direct from the publisher. It appears to be the only way to get the ebook, while Amazon can get you the paperback.

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"You're All Just Writing Fantasy!"

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"You're all just writing fantasy!" said one of the members of my writer's group last night. She said this, slightly frustrated, because I was trying to come up with a "realistic" force-field / anti-meteor shield to protect my ships which were running around at a significant fraction of the speed of light. Needless to say, she didn't feel that I needed to sweat those details.

I countered with John Scalzi's flying snowman theorem, which is the idea that, for every person, they have a different "thing" which is a Bridge Too Far on the Road of Suspension of Disbelief. (In Mrs. Scalzi's case, this was when Frosty the Snowman took to the air.) John's point was that, in the context of the story, flying made sense.

My point was (and is) that in the context of my story, in which I am trying to be as scientifically accurate as possible, a "realistic" anti-meteor shield made sense. Now, I suspect that many of the readers of the story won't give a flying fig about the force field. A few will, including me. And since at the moment nobody's paying me for the story, my voice is the one that counts.

Thus endeth the sermon...

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Leave The Gun, Take The Links*

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* With apologies to The Godfather. (The quote? "Leave the gun. Take the canoli.")

A) From cop and pro-gun advocate Chris Hernandez, a mostly tactical and partially ideological argument against open carry. From the same guy, healing the rift between police and the public.

B) Via Crossroads blog, an interesting documentation of the fact that slaves and free blacks did fight for the Confederacy. Not by any means a majority of blacks fought for the South, but some did.

C) No, Virginia, Antarctic ice is NOT growing or expanding. It is in fact declining, as is Arctic ice.

Two Monday Links

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A) From Canada, this sad story of cyber-stalking and the police unwillingness to respond to it. In this case, the stalker tried to get somebody to rape his victim.

B) An interesting reflection on Robert Heinlein and how he went from a left-wing New Dealer in the 1930s and 1940s to flirting with the John Birch Society in the late 1950s and supporting Barry Goldwater in the 1960s. I'm not sure I agree with everything in it, so this is "presented for your consideration."

Dreary Friday

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Winter is coming, or so the weather tells me - it's mid-50s and raining in Chicago. The boss took us out to Gibson's last night, and we sat outside under a canopy while the rains came. Dinner was great but I think I overdid it a bit - I have a bit of indigestion today. Otherwise, no news to report. Wit and wisdom to resume Monday.

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Day Of Humps, or Secret Service Follies

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Yesterday afternoon was busy at work - we closed a branch and had to be out of the space by the end of the day. It was a small facility, rented and had few customers, so we were able to clear out with minimal hassle (I was the last guy out the door at 6:15) but still, I find myself slightly dragging today.

Secret Service Follies

Unless you've been under a rock, you've heard that some mentally-addled person jumped the White House fence and got into the building. The Usual Suspects are baying about "bad management" in the Secret Service. Here's the real fact - the only way to prevent this from happening is having a red line. Anybody gets past the red line they get sniped from the roof and/or shot from a guard.

Had that happened, had the Secret Service just shot the nut, those same Usual Suspects would be baying about "Imperial Presidency" and "oppression." In short, the Secret Service can't win the PR battle.

Fear Itself, Follow-on Thoughts

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Two links related to yesterday's post:

1) The post's headline says it all: US Air Travel Snarled by One Guy Not a Terrorist. Somehow, this contractor is able to walk into a secure building carrying a gas can and torch 23 of 29 computers needed for air-traffic control. Also somehow, the FAA doesn't have backups immediately available.

2) Another article that carries a lot in the headline: When the Next Terrorist Attack Comes, Will We Be Capable of Keeping Our Heads?. Well, probably no. 41% of Americans are worried that they or somebody in their family will be a victim of a terrorist. Based on statistics here in the Land of Reality, they should be more worried about being hit by a falling piano.

Actually, considering that, since 9/11, 49 Americans have been killed by terrorists while over 200,000 were murdered by other Americans, we should be more worried about our next-door neighbor than some terrorist. Even adding the 3,000 killed on 9/11 just barely bumps terrorism up in the same neighborhood as killed by lightening strikes.

America, get a grip on yourself.

Fear Itself

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A famous President once said "all we have to fear is fear itself." Given some current events, I expect he's rolling over in his grave.

Unless you've been under a rock, you've heard of 5-time looser Alton Nolen and his beheading rampage. Unless you've been under a bigger rock, you've heard that were bombing ISIS (aka ISIL) in Iraq and Syria.

Now, I have no doubt that ISIS, or some of the people in it, want to destroy America. I have some doubt as to exactly what Nolen wanted (he had more than a few screws loose) but let's give him the benefit of the doubt and decide that he wanted to destroy America. Fine. There are many a five-year-old who wants to run off and join the circus. But we don't worry much about that, because said five-year-olds lack the resources to do so.

Thus unto ISIS and the late* Mr. Nolen. They are simply unable to cause more than (relative to a nation of 300 million) minor problems. Yet we (or at least some portion of we) treat them with the same concern we handled the Soviet Union, a nation that cold literally bomb us into a (radioactive) Stone Age. So why do we do this?

Although I do think some people are exploiting this fear to sell stuff, by and large this fear is sincerely held. I think there are several reasons for the fear. First, there's a simple lack of perspective. People don't know or understand what "the terrorists" are or aren't capable of. Second, and I think more importantly, within living memory the US has always had a significant enemy - first Germany and Japan, then the USSR. It's a simple paradigm, and in a way comforting, so we cling to it. But then so is Linus's security blanket.

* I am advised in comments that Nolen is still among the living. Your Correspondent regrets the mistake, although he suspects that Nolen will not survive the Oklahoma legal system.

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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