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It's Always Something

I arrived at my house last night to find that my garage door opener no longer opens the garage door. The motor runs but the chain doesn't move. Since the door can be opened manually, it's not a broken spring, but rather something in the opener. Were I a Heinlein-ian Competent Man, I'd pop the cover on the opener and replace the failed gear. I'm not, so I'm going to replace the opener and hire somebody to do the work.

Parenthetically, did you know that modern (last 20 years) garage doors do not have handles on them? To open manually, one must hold onto a hinge with one hand and pull down on the emergency lever with the other until you get the door up enough to get your hand underneath the door. It takes a bit of grip strength to do this, and it was performed by me last night in the rain. At least my door has a manual lock on the inside, but that comes with it's own set of challenges.

Busy Today, So Have Some Links

Like the label on the tin says.

1) A very stunning image of Daphnis, a tiny moon in Saturn's rings.

2) A very interesting article about why England left the European Union. From the article: " it doesn’t want to be just another member of a team."

3) Don't get you hopes up about this very pretty drawing of a flying car.

Outlander, Brexit and Trump

I just finished reading the novel Outlander. In it, a British woman from 1945, a recently-discharged Army nurse, is magically transported back to Scotland of 1743. Adventures ensue, she hooks up with a hunky Scottish guy, nearly gets burnt as a witch, then has the opportunity to go back to her time and her husband - and doesn't.

That was at about the 3/4ths point of the book, and that's where I set it down. Mine is obviously a minority viewpoint - the book and its seven sequels and various tie-ins hit all the bestseller lists and the series is now on TV, so a whole lot of somebodies liked the story.

In fairness, Outlander is well-written and unstinting on the Badde Olde Dayes, but I think the author (and her character) fall victim to nostalgia. Tying this into Brexit and Trump, supporters of both are audibly nostalgic for The Good Old Days that will be brought back.

Two problems. First, the Good Old Days weren't good! Well, unless you were a straight white Protestant male. Second, much of what made the Good Old Days good for those WASPs were things like strong unions, regulation, and in the case of the USA, the fact that the rest of the world had just gotten the snot bombed out of them, leaving the USA untouched. So, it's a nostalgia for a time that Never Was and can't be again.

Lessons Learned

I apologize for yesterday's radio silence. In the AM I was busy doing disaster recovery testing at work, and in the afternoon I cranked out 1500 words on a short story. Here, in order to fill some space, some lessons learned.

1) I no longer need a tire air pressure gauge - my car has tire air pressure sensors.

2) Meat thermometers only work if you take the meat being tested out of the oven.

3) A five-pound boneless rib roast for five adults yields at least a pound of leftovers. (Good thing I like rib roast.)

4) If you have a 41-inch waist, you need to buy 40-inch pants with expandable waistlines. They don't make 41-inch waists, and 42s fall off.

5) the cocktail whiskey old fashioned is a dangerously mild-tasting drink.

Life Is Stranger Than Art

There's a type of story where, if the characters involved would have just talked to each other, the problem(s) would have been resolved. I hate those types of stories. Then yesterday In Real Life I resolved a situation in which, had the people involved just talked to each other, my help would not have been needed.

Life is not the same as fiction.


On The Election That Was

Because it has been on my mind, herewith are some thoughts on the election. I intend to go from facts to theories about the facts to recommendations.


Looking at the voting data, it appears that Clinton lost the election because in many states, rural areas that had voted Republican in 2008 and 2012 60/40 went Republican in 2016 70/30 or 80/20. What did not happen was:

1) minority turnout being significantly repressed. Minorities came out in typical numbers.
2) New voters were not generated. Voter registration was not radically higher nationwide. Where it was higher was in a few states like Texas and that helped Democrats.

This is borderline between a fact and a theory, but it sure looks like about 20% of the rural (white, working-class) electorate, after voting twice for a black man, voted against a white woman.


There are undoubtedly various sexist and racist people out there who refused to vote for Clinton. However, it appears that they didn't vote for Obama. It also appears that there is a significant bloc of voters that are persuadable. It's my contention that's the group to focus on. Call them the "Obama 20%."

More Theories and Recommendations

Based as somebody who grew up in a small town, with a grandfather and two uncles who were coal miners, I have a theory as to why the Obama 20% went Trump. It's two-pronged.

First is economics. Again from experience, in a small town, when the factory closes, the impact is worse than a tornado. At least after a tornado, the National Guard is sent to clean up. I think I have a better chance of building a starship than Trump has of fixing the small-town job problem, but I know Clinton's plan of educating workers won't fly. When small-town voters hear "educating workers" they think of me - somebody who got a college degree and moved the hell out of Dodge. That might be what has to happen, but it means even more hollowed-out towns.

Second is foreign policy. Clinton called for a no-fly zone in Syria. As somebody who spent five years in the Navy to get out of a small town, small towns have borne a disproportionate share of America's recent wars. Clinton's foreign policy of injecting ourselves into another war did not sell well. Here Obama's (and Trump's) idea of staying out of Syria sold much better.


On economics, free trade is dead. The sooner everybody buries it the better. I do think coal is not coming back, but we need to talk about softening that blow. On foreign policy, a little less war would be nice.

Neither Forbidden nor thoughtful

I purchased and read Forbidden Thoughts, the much-hyped book from Sad Puppies Central Command. For the most part, I found it neither forbidden nor thoughtful. Rather, it was heavy-handed to the point of immobility, (mostly) poorly-written and consistently poorly edited. A couple of stories saved this book from the shame of a one-star review, but only barely.

There were several non-fiction articles in the book, all but the introduction being recycled blog postings from the Big Three of Sad Puppydom, Tom Kratman, Larry Correia and Brad R. Torgersen. The postings were heavy-handed diatribes when written, and age has done them no favors. Yiannopoulos phoned in a semi-original introduction, but his idea that Science Fiction is under attack by the Evil Left is unoriginal and remains unsupported by such trifles as fact.

On the fiction side, most of the short stories take a favorite right-wing strawman, dial it to 15, then use it to beat the reader vigorously about the head and shoulders. Chief offender was “At the Edge of Detachment” by A. M. Freeman. There, a parent can have their child killed up to the age of 13 – an “allegory” of abortion. Other stories were similarly ham-fisted, and most were unreadable.

Having said that, there were a couple of readable short stories. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, so be it. Notable shorts:

World Ablaze by Jane Lebak – for some reason, Catholics are being persecuted and arrested by the State. If you can swallow that, the story works fairly nicely.

Amazon Gambit by Vox Day – here, the author sets up an all-female military unit that, For Reasons, must fight a primitive enemy hand-to-hand. They win, although it takes a male officer to show the Poor Girls what is needed.

Test of the Prophet by L. Jagi Lamplighter – This story, if given a decent editor, would be commercially viable in any market. A woman born and raised in Pakistan, who moved to America and became a US Marine, needs to go back to Pakistan because her beloved cousin has gotten himself mixed up in the Taliban. We learn (almost too late – a good editor would have frontloaded this) that the woman can see ghosts. We learn (in an entertaining but 10% too long and talky) section that one of the things said ghosts have been up to is inserting errors into every religion’s doctrine. Again, not bad at all.

So, no, I really don’t recommend Forbidden Thoughts, especially if one wants, you know, actually forbidden thoughts.

Capricon Con Schedule 2017

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

ETA: Reading Birch B Thursday 7:30 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.)

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?

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.

Mari Brighe
Lady Nhytefall
Chris Gerrib

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?

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?

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


Hugos, and my eligibility thereof

Nominations for the 2016 Hugo Awards are now being accepted. Thanks to me (and others) sitting in two years of business meetings, there will be six finalists in each category. Thanks to the sitting Worldcon committee, we will be able to vote on the proposed "Best Series" Hugo.

Herewith are my eligible works:

Best Novel

Definitely eligible: The Night Watch, book 3 of my Pirates Series.

Arguably eligible: The Mars Run. It was originally released in 2008 but extensively reworked for 2016. If we get hit by an asteroid the book gets nominated, I'll let the Hugo Administrator make the call. If given a choice between this and The Night Watch, I will withdraw The Mars Run.

I am not eligible for Best Series, as the total word-count for my three books is 180,000, under the 240,000 word cap.

Fan Writer

I suppose this blog makes me eligible for Fan Writer. It's your call.


Friday Follies, New Year Edition

I hang out a lot with other writers, and in that company the fact that I've written a few books is not particularly noteworthy. But this past week, two "regular people" (a co-worker and my personal trainer's wife) both became aware of my writing habit. They both then expressed surprise, thought it was a big deal, and in one case promised to Buy My Books. (Thanks!)

In order to ease into the new year, herewith are a few links of interest:

1) Heart attack, cardiac arrest, and heart failure are often used interchangeably, but they’re distinct entities.

2) This article based on a book argues that blacks became concentrated in urban areas due to white action in the form of "sundown towns." (Blacks passing through had to be out by sundown.) Although this obviously happened, I also suspect there was a lot of assimilation. There are many Americans who claim "Indian" blood, but that was really "black" blood.

3) Max Gladstone liked Rogue One, but thought it could be better.

4) This Giant Furry Dog Playing With A Kid Will Make Your Day.
The Internet continues to provide things to point at and ridicule blog posts to discuss. In my Navy days, it would have been called a "target-rich environment."

Today's target is a blog posting over at Wile E. Coyote, SuperGenius (Just ask him, he'll tell you) site. Reacting to a news article that the US sent small numbers of troops to NATO-ally Lithuania, an act that should be no more controversial then sending troops to Arizona, he is concerned that the neo-cons are trying to "goad" Russia into war. Ignoring the fact that sending troops to an ally is in no way goading, herewith was my response (Google the facts yourself, I'm not doing your research for you):

the US is under Article 5 obligated to treat an attack on one member nation as an attack on the US and "assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force."

We are also obligated to "consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened."

In short, by law, if Lithuania feels threatened, we're required to listen to them, and if they get attacked by nuclear, conventional or unconventional means we're required to defend them. And Lithuania feels threatened enough to re-institute the military draft in 2015.

Our other options are 1) kick the Baltic States out of NATO (which actually requires NATO approval) or 2) withdraw from NATO, which requires a 1-year notice.

What Obama is hoping to do is to suggest to Putin that taking these states won't be as easy as rolling into Crimea was. Aiding him in this effort is the great reduction in the size of the post Cold War Russian Army.

The Western Military District, responsible for the initial attack, has three "Armies" but these "Armies" are each of ~2 division equivalent. (The Russian Army is moving from a divisional to a brigade equivalent, and for example 6th Guard Army is by brigade but 1st Tank is still in 2 divisions.)

Putin doesn't have a million men to send, he's got more like 400,000, of which the approximately 80,000 airborne troops are at NATO standard. The rest are 2-year conscripts.
Global Warming Sealioning

Scott Adams continues his global warming sealioning, asking what if climate change causes more CO2?. Herewith a response:

We can tell what the sources of CO2 are by looking at the isotopes of CO2 in the atmosphere. This article gives the details. It also notes that we can look at history to see how much CO2 should be in the atmosphere (about 500 ppm vs. the current 400 ppm) so we can see how much faster we're dumping CO2 into the air then it's being absorbed.

It's also worth noting that we can trace most high-CO2 periods in the past to specific volcanic eruptions. In short, warming doesn't cause CO2 levels to rise, CO2 levels cause temperature to rise.

Finally, the difference between now and the last Ice Age is about 4 degrees Celsius. (XKCD had a nice graphical representation of this.) It doesn't take a massive change in average temperature to produce a wild swing in climate.

The Death of Coal

The headline says it all: Solar Could Beat Coal to Become the Cheapest Power on Earth.

New Years Thoughts


I note that LiveJournal's servers (and thus the host for this) have moved to Mother Russia. I see several people migrating off as a result. When I get a Roun Toit, I'll probably set up my Wordpress site and use this as a mirror. I find that I'm in no rush to accomplish that.


I attended the inaugural Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat (on a boat). This year's edition involves a cruise in the Baltics, which is by far the easiest way to see St. Petersburg Russia. It is also shockingly handy to Worldcon 75 in Finland and my dad's family Old Soil, Lithuania.

Over the past few days, I've booked the Writer's Workshop cruise, the hotel in Helsinki and flights to Hamburg for cruise and from Helsinki to Chicago. It hurt me right in the wallet but I booked business class for both flights. Yeah, it's three times the money but damn do economy seats hurt my ass for 7 to 9 hours. I have never been able to sleep on a plane, so this is an experiment.

I've set up travel insurance, so I can recover what I can't cancel if I have to. I've not yet booked the Hamburg to Lithuania leg. I'm having problems finding a flight that doesn't dump me in Lithuania at midnight or later. This is in part due to me not getting off of the ship until after 10 AM.

Due to Lithuania being on Russian-gauge rail, trains are a problem. I looked into driving, but it's 844 miles or 13 hours to drive. Also, German car rental places won't let me drive their car into Poland or Lithuania, so that means renting a car in Poland plus cross-border fees.

I'm going to double-check Air Baltic, but it looks like the most viable alternative is to walk on a ferry in Kiel (cruise ship port) and walk off in Lithuania. I'm also reading that due to the rail network in country, renting a car is preferred.

Sealioning Climate Change

Scott Adams, the cartoonist behind Dilbert, has developed an interesting tick. This first manifested itself with him predicting with 99% certainty that Trump would win the election. The tick manifests itself as him just spit-balling and finding the liberal side of an argument unconvincing and/or unpersuasive. He then spends an inordinate amount of time detailing why said argument is flawed while protesting that he's really for the liberal side.

Some Internet denizens define that as Sea-Lioning, or specific, pervasive form of aggressive cluelessness, that masquerades as a sincere desire to understand. However one defines it, I find it irritating. The most recent example is "The Illusion of Knowledge" in which Adams argues that no non-scientist can evaluate the claims of climate science because BOTH sides look 100% convincing to the under-informed.

My immediate response was not printable in a family newspaper. My more reasoned response is below:

The problem with the the "unknowable" argument becomes clear if you substitute "medicine" or "electricity" for "climate change." How can a lay person evaluate the effectiveness of a medical treatment or the safety of a wiring system? They can't - they have to rely on experts.

The question then becomes which experts to trust. This starts with motive. We generally assume that our doctors aren't trying to kill us and our electricians aren't trying to burn our houses down, so we take their advice. Killing patients (besides being illegal) is costly (dead people don't need a doctor) and electricians who botch up wiring get sued. So when our doctor says "stop smoking" we assume we're getting sound advice.

People who argue against man-made climate change have to demonstrate a motive and a reward for climatologists to lie. They haven't. The fossil fuel industry is glad to fund climate studies that support burning their products, just like tobacco was glad to fund studies showing the safety of smoking. In both cases, arguing against Big Industry gets the scientists making the argument a lot of grief for little reward.

Ruger LCR

I discussed this on Facebook but not here, so I'll do a bit of recycling. Over Thanksgiving, I bought a Ruger LCR pistol. The "LCR" stands for "Light Carry Revolver" and it is exactly what the label promises, a light revolver. It's aluminum frame and I got the hammerless version, so it will fit neatly in and come out of a pocket.

Over the Christmas Holiday That Was I took it out to the local range and fired it. The gun does in fact go bang and it's as accurate as any weapon with a 2 inch barrel has a right to be. 90% of self-defense shooting is inside 25 feet, and at that range any misses will be due to operator error, not the gun.

I will say it's not a pleasant gun to shoot. Recoil, even with standard target loads, is unpleasant, and I shot a few +P hollow-point rounds through the weapon (Article on what +P means). That really caused the gun to bite back! Having said that, I bought this gun as a "use in case of emergency" weapon, and for the limited amount of practice-firing I do I can handle the recoil.

In short, a useful addition to my collection.


We Don't Need No Stinkin' Facts

Elkhart Indiana, a city economically saved by Obama, doesn't like him. The majority of voters think their sub-4% unemployment rate is despite Obama, not because of him.

Now, it's damn tempting to say "racist" and move on. We can't and shouldn't. We (liberals, progressives, whatever label you want) can't write off Elkhart. We can, however, keep hitting them with the facts, and we can and should work to make the race as close as possible. A 40/60 vote in Elkhart means Dems can win in Indiana. A 20/80 vote means they can't.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Article in reference


Passengers and The Cold Equations

I went to see the new movie Passengers last night. I think this movie will go down as the modern version of "The Cold Equations." In both those stories, thanks to massive authorial manipulation, a man and a "girl" (alas, apt in both cases) are faced with life-or-death situations and great moral problems. Neither of them solve their problems in entirely likable ways.

here there be spoilersCollapse )

Two Cups of Coffee Day

On work days, I usually only drink one cup of coffee. Today is not one of those days. I think this is largely because, after a brief flurry of AM help desk calls, things are quiet at work. Not many people are here, and judging by the (lack of) traffic this morning, most people have started their holiday. Mine officially starts tomorrow, but don't expect much wit or wisdom to be forthcoming.


Two Links for a Wednesday

These would both be a lot funnier if they weren't true.

1) I’m not Sith, I’m Alt-Jedi, clarifies Darth Vader.

2) The truth about the McDonald's hot coffee lawsuit:

Rogue One

Speaking of great disturbances in the Force, on Friday I took in the new Star Wars movie Rogue One. It's really, really good. It's amazing how one could take a throwaway line from one movie ("Many Bothans died getting us this information" ETA: the Bothans died finding out the second Death Star. I regret the error.) and create this much action.

Like everybody says, this is dark movie, with a fairly dark ending. There were kids in the audience at my showing, but it's not targeted at them at all. It's a straight-up war movie, with the grit and the body-count to go with that.

The visuals were spectacular with two exceptions - the CGI additions of the late Peter Cushing and a young Carrie Fisher. They were both just a bit off visually and in Cushing's case vocally as well. I think I would have skipped Fisher and had Cushing just appear in holograms. Other than that, I really enjoyed the movie.


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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