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Calmer Now

Yesterday was devoured by a crisis at work. In order to catch up and clean up from the crisis, I will not be at Capricon tonight or tomorrow AM. I will make my Friday evening and Saturday events.

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Review of Planetfall by Emma Newman

I've heard a lot of Hugo buzz regarding Emma Newman's novel Planetfall. I recently read it and found it terribly disappointing. Without giving too much away, here's why I didn't like it.

1) Our intrepid astronauts have arrived at an alien planet, and settled at the base of what's clearly an alien organism or colony of same, yet they call the organism the "city of God." Huh?

2) Our intrepid astronauts, when traveling to said alien and uncharted planet, brought exactly one (1) gun - a small pistol illicitly smuggled. Sorry, when *I* travel to an alien planet, I'm bringing a rifle, in case some of the local fauna follow a "bite first, see if it's digestible later" eating strategy.

3) Lastly, the key to the plot is a handful of colonists decide to play let's keep a secret with the bulk of the group. Besides the fact that these things rarely end well, I didn't see a compelling reason for keeping the secret in the first place.

Now, the novel does some things well. The narrator is mentally ill (hoarder and compulsive) which is handled well and slowly revealed. I found the general concept (albeit flawed) interesting enough to stick with the book to the end. But overall, it's an idiot plot and not recommended. It will not be on my Hugo list.

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Tentative Book Release Dates

I just traded emails with my editor / publisher, Cincinnatus Press. Dates are:

April 26 - The Mars Run (re-issue of the 2008 book)

May 10 - Pirates of Mars (re-issue of the 2012 book)

May 24 - The Night Watch (first issuance)

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A Semi-Rant about Militaries in MilSF

So, I just finished reading the latest bit of MilSF from Tanya Huff (andpuff), her book An Ancient Peace. It was an entertaining book, if not especially profound. But the book highlighted a gripe of mine.

My gripe is this - the future militaries of MilSF look an awful lot like the early 21st Century US military. For example:

1) Space Marines are always the unit to conduct landings from spaceship to ground. This is because, in modern warfare, we expect the (oversized relative to other countries') US Marine Corp to do landings. Except MacArthur did three landings in the Pacific and the US Army did six landings (including D-Day!) in Europe with nary a Marine in sight! IMHO, the role of "Space Marine" would be a small-scale force optimized to fight on asteroids and space stations - vacuum and variable Gs being a tricky environment.

2) Everybody has the same military rank system - the US system. Tanya, a Canadian, at least has a slight variation in that she has Master Corporals. (Come to think of it, she was a Master Corporal.) But rank structures evolve and differ by countries! For example, the French Army Major Generals are billets, not ranks. Also, in the old Soviet and current Russian Navy, there is no rank of "Commander." You're either a Lieutenant, a Captain (1st, 2nd or 3rd) or a Captain-Lieutenant.

3) Everybody has an agreed-upon definition of what type of spaceship is what. But in our world, that's largely a function of some 20th-century treaties. Even that is variable - Japan operates several helicopter destroyers that everybody else would call a light aircraft carrier.

4) Battlecruisers! There was a period from about 1910 to 1930 that, due to limitations of steam engines, one could have a ship of battleship* size, speed and firepower but not equivalent armor. These faster but less-protected ships were called "battlecruisers." Then, steam turbines became available, and in ships like the US Iowa-class battleships, you could get speed AND firepower AND armor. In short, the "battlecruiser" was a historical accident, yet MilSF has them zipping around by the gross.

5) Unit organization. In 90% plus of MilSF I've read, the XO of a unit is of a lower rank than the CO. This is generally true in US military units, except in Navy aviation squadrons, where both officers are of the same rank and the XO "fleets up" to the CO spot.

I could go on, but I shan't. I shall end by saying the US military is not the be-all or end-all.




* The word "battleship" prior to the 1880s was used (rarely) as a contraction for "ship of the line of battle" and could refer to any of a number of types of ships.

Militias and Libertarians

Jim Wright, over at Stonekettle Station, has no use for the so-called 'militias' occupying wildlife refuges. Another blog I stumbled across says "They [groups of self-described libertarians] don’t favor liberty because it promotes the widest possible flourishing and self-actualization of human beings. They favor it because it gives local patriarchs and lords of manors a free hand to dominate those under their thumbs, without a nasty state stepping in to interfere. For them, “libertarianism” — a term they pollute every time they utter it with their tongues — is simply a way of constructing the world of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale by contractual means.

I have to say that I find strong links between the "contractual libertarians" and the "militias" of Stonekettle Station. They both spout the language of liberty, but when you get under the hood, you don't see freedom. You see a desire to prevent government from interfering with their activities.

It's at best (with some of the rancher types) the kind of "freedom" that a 15-year-old wants when they demand Daddy's credit card so they can fly to Vegas for the weekend. That's the freedom to do what you want while getting subsidized. At worst, when the militia types rant against Muslims, it's the freedom to engage in racial and religious persecution, while being protected by the state.

These groups keep using the word "freedom." I do not think it means what they think it means.

Have Some Links

I need to clean out some links, so here - now they're your problem!

A) This fascinating site promises to tell you how many people have your last name and where they live. According to the site, only 26 people in the world are named "Gerrib." I suspect that's actually high, as our name is an Anglicized version of an uncommon Lithuanian name.

B) Here's an interesting video about how difficult it is to drive a Model T. Hint - you have three pedals on the floor, none of which control the gas.

C) Of interest to those who've gone down to the sea: This massive, out-of-control cargo ship is about to crash into the coast of France.

D) A very powerful and simple explanation of how slate voting in awards is bad and how to fix it.

Iowa! Vox Day!

Iowa!

I did not stay up for the Iowa caucus results. In truth, my give a damn about this election is, if not busted, seriously dented. In any event, the results are in. Ted Cruz won, Trump is #2, Rubio is a strong #3, Carson's a weak #4, and the rest of the clown car is still stuck in the car.

Vox Day, SuperGenius (tm) (just ask, he'll tell you) thinks that if Trump cuts a deal with Carson the pair of them could still march to victory. Mathematically (i.e., adding the two vote totals) VD is right; however the voters are people, not automatons following game logic. In any event, cutting a deal requires the principals to agree on said deal. We also don't know where the rest of the clown car caucus will land when their particular clown packs his or her bags and goes home.

On the D side, Sanders is right - the results are as close to a tie as you'll get. Since Sanders is more-or-less playing the next round at home, he'll be getting enough oomph to hang around for a while.

Vox Day

In other vaguely-voting-related news, VD has released his wink-nudge-not-a-slate slate for Campbell and Fan Artist. It looks like the Fan Artists are cannon fodder, while VD's "victory plan" for the writers is clearer. To wit:

1) Declare that the voters aren't capable of making an independent judgment and must follow VD's proscribed rule-set.
2) Claim victory for getting Andy Weir on the Campbell final ballot, ignoring the fact that VD's machinations last year kept him from the ballot.
3) Claim hypocrisy when / if Cheah Kai Wai AKA Benjamin Cheah doesn't make the list. (Cheah's Asian, therefore a minority, therefore must be voted in. Except of course the guy lives in Singapore where he's *not* a minority.)
4) If any of the other poor sods on VD's list make the final five, then that's proof of VD's Superior Intellect, and if not it's proof of an Evil SJW Conspiracy of Evil.

It's easy to win at Calvin-ball if you're playing as Calvin.

Fundraising

As mentioned previously, my Rotary club is gearing up for our annual fundraising event, to be held April 5th. Right now we're trying to line up big-ticket items, mostly experiential. Tours, vacations, dinners - the kind of stuff you can't buy at Wal-Mart.

At any fundraising event, their are three groups of people. One group consists of "true believers" who are invested in the cause and need little excuse to give. A second group consists of friends - people who are friends of true believers. They need some excuse to give. The third group is people who are there for the food.

That sounds harsh, and maybe it is, but what I mean are people who are attending because their company wants to support the cause (or be seen supporting it). This can also include people just looking for something to do that night, or really anybody not invested in the cause or the organizers. To get these people to spend money (or at least more money than a raffle ticket) you need stuff they can't buy at Wal-Mart.

Thus endeth the lesson.

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I Need A Vacation!

I feel the need for a vacation, so I started to look for one. Having said that, I've spent a lot of money the past two years on travel (UK / Ireland, Washington State, Writer's Cruise) and I'm looking at another grand for Worldcon in KC this year. Thus I am in the market for inexpensive vacations. I considered a staycation (stay home) but I find these somewhat less restful. It seems like there's always something at home I should be doing. Working with a goal, I hit the travel sites.

Thinking that I might be able to score a last-minute deal, I looked at Hawaii. (Optimism never dies!) The cheapest I could come up with was $1800 for airfare and hotel. Except this was a collection of red-eye flights on three airlines and a 2-star hotel in Oahu. Visiting other islands, upgrading to a rational flight schedule or even a modest step up in hotels put me over two grand. And that's just getting there and having a bed. No ground transport, no food, no tourist stuff, just a room.

Then I looked at a time-share-swapping deal my parents have. Hilton Head SC (admittedly not Oahu but nice) had two-bedroom condos for under $500, Southwest can get me there free on my miles, and I can rent a car for under $200. Plus this is a condo, so I can go to the store and get some provisions and eat breakfast at "home." Lastly, if I get bored, I can drive to Charleston and/or Savannah for the day.

This was not a tough decision, so Hilton Head here I come.

Thoughts on Various Subjects

Herewith, some thoughts on various subjects.

Writing

Elizabeth Bear, a prolific writer, is wise on finding your voice in writing and in life.

Doing Things

For the past decade, I was Fundraising Czar for my Rotary club. The slightly humorous title aside, that meant I was responsible for raising the $25,000 to $35,000 a year our club spent on various charitable projects. This year, I handed that title off to another person. I'm still on his committee, so I get to see how he handles things, which is very differently then I did. There really is more than one way to skin a cat.

Computer Users

As an IT professional, I get irritated when people get errors on their system which they don't read. My irritation is that, having not read the error, they then call me because their system doesn't work. The picture below explains things from the end-user's perspective.

Jamokes, Take Two

I mentioned earlier that the appropriate name for the people who took over the Oregon wildlife refuge was jamokes, not terrorists. Comes news today that one of these jamokes got himself shot dead by police. It's really a shame. The man's death will accomplish nothing except to provide fodder for grifters, who will write up his story and sell it to other jamokes so they can go wave guns at cops.

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Battle of the Bulge - Report from the Front

As part of my ongoing Battle of The Bulge I recently wrote of portion control. For those not clicking through, the gist was I was taking a recipe that feeds 4 and making 3 meals of it.

For two weeks running I've been implementing portion control. Last week, I made a pot roast, which I get three 8-to-10 ounce meals out of. This week I made a hamburger casserole. Again, it feeds four, so I divided it into 4 portions and froze 2 (individual) portions. Also soon to appear on the menu are baked fish. I bought on sale at the store four individual packs of ready-to-bake fish.

More updates from the front as events warrant.
A Thought

It’s always better to practice on a fake hand grenade than a live one.

(Words to live by...)

Interesting Article with a Cool Picture

The F-104 - not quite the right stuff.

Facts Matter

Three facts, which should matter but apparently don't.

Fact #1 - Government is not the only force of oppression.

In Ye Goode Olde Dayes, when workers got uppity about things like getting their pay cut, wealthy individuals hired private "investigators" to shoot workers.

Fact #2 - There is no "pause" in global warming

2015 was by far the hottest year on the historical record, beating the second hottest year, 2014. Oh, and 2010 and 2005 tied as #3 hottest year, warmer than 1997.

Fact #3 - Illegal Immigration is falling significantly

Quote: The total undocumented immigrant population of 10.9 million is the lowest since 2003, says the report from the Center for Migration Studies, a New York think tank. The number of undocumented immigrants has fallen each year since 2008, the report says, driven primarily by a steady decline in illegal migrants from Mexico…

And typical illegal immigrant now is much more likely someone who is 35 or older and has lived in the United States for a decade or more.

Source here.
There's a wonderful piece of dialog which I thought was in the movie Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. Wikipedia tells me the movie starred (and thus the dialog was delivered by) Gert Frobe, I could have sworn it was Curt Jurgens.

In any event, in the movie, set in 1910, Gert, in full Prussian aristocrat mode, walks into a meeting and he apologizes for being late. It seems a horse died in the middle of the street and was blocking traffic. With a straight face, Gert then says "traffic will flow so much better when it's all motorized."

I was reminded of that movie today while driving to work. It snowed here in Chicago, a light and fluffy dusting of maybe half an inch. I was amazed at how cluelessly people drove. For example:

1) Spending 4 blocks sitting in the blind spot of a bus.
2) Driving down a dry road at 15 MPH.
3) Cutting in front of two lanes of left-turn-only traffic to make a left turn. (People, if you miss your turn, go to the next light and make a U-turn!)
4) Pulling out from in a street parking spot, cutting in front of me so you could do a 180 and proceed the opposite way.

Traffic will flow so much better when it's all automated. (said with a smile.)

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A Slow Burn

Last night, I finished reading Lawrence Schoen's new novel Barsk. It was very good, and a classic example of a "slow burn."

When I write SF, my characters are just as likely to shoot you as to shake your hand. Perhaps as a result, the bullets start flying very early on. Barsk opens very differently, with an alien getting on a boat to go to wherever his species goes to die. The alien gets diverted from his trip, which is where things get exciting, but it takes a while.

Now, don't get me wrong - getting to the exciting part is interesting, in part because some of these aliens can talk to the dead - but the story does not start like a typical action story. Towards the end, the stakes become very high indeed - genocide, to be specific - but it's a slow burn.

Highly recommended.

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Cold Comfort

Although today, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is a bank holiday, I'm at work. We have various network maintenance needs that need to be done when people aren't using the network, so we're doing that today. Considering it's sub-zero outside, it's either sit inside at work or sit inside at home.

Since at the moment I'm waiting for stuff to finish rebooting (the story of an IT professional's life) here's a joke.

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Don't Worry About Loosing Weight

Don't worry about loosing weight - you'll eventually find it. Speaking personally, this has always been my experience.

There are a number of causes of this "feature" largely related to eating too much and exercising not enough, but one of the causes is portion control. This Saturday, I make my standard recipe of spaghetti, which I ate with a salad. I had leftovers, so this week I had two meals of spaghetti and salad.

Except my recipe makes enough for 4 people - 4 hungry people. In short, I ate 33% more than 1 serving of spaghetti.

This is in part because I like my recipe, and in part because, when looking at the 3rd spaghetti dinner of the week, a 4th dinner is not that appealing. There is a solution - namely freeze say half of whatever I cook, thus allowing me to eat the other half in a more portion-controlled manner.

I've been reluctant to do this, in part because it's what old people do. Then I noticed the gray hair in the mirror (it's above the size 2X gut). Hello, freezer.

Gunboats

I'm slated to be busy tomorrow, so have tomorrow's thought today:

A pair of USN gunboats (more like "ski boats with a machine gun") strayed into Iranian waters. The Iranians arrested our sailors, and one of them apologized for being in Iranian water while blaming a GPS failure. Various right-wing sources are comparing this to Carter's hostage crisis. Thoughts:

1) If a Cuban or Iranian gunboat strayed into US waters, you'd be damn sure we'd arrest everybody on the boat and haul them to shore.

2) If said boats had fired on our ships during the arrest, you'd be damn sure that an airstrike would be called in and those boats, plus anybody who got in the way, would be sunk.

3) Given the size of the boats, and presuming one of them needed to be towed, thus slowing both ships, the practical result of any armed resistance would be to get the resisting boats sunk and their crew dead.

4) Saying "we're sorry" is the quickest way to end the standoff. Armed resistance is the quickest way to start a war, and nobody on those boats is within a country mile of the paygrade that equals "get to start a war on my say-so."

In short, the right-wingers are pissed because we got treated exactly like we'd treat somebody else.

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Two Thoughts I've Been Saving for a Cold Day

It's cold out, so I'll pull out the two thoughts I've been saving for a cold day.

Thought #1

We were made for these times. Money quote: The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

Thought #2

The Pope's astronomer (I've met him, he's a really nice guy from South Detroit) has no patience for those who claim science and religion are at war.

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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