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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.

ConQuest

I've been invited to ConQuest KC, the Memorial Day SF convention in Kansas City. It's going to be held at the Sheraton Crown Center, so it will be a nice venue.

Having said that, I was not planning to attend this con this year. Worldcon is in Kansas City two months later, so I was planning to go somewhere else for Memorial Day. Thus, hive mind, my question - what Memorial Day con do you recommend?

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It's A Monday

After my New Year's Eve adventures in prepaid "fun" and given the time of arrival of the latest snow in Chicago (3 PM Saturday) I stayed in all weekend. I did get some useful stuff done, namely, the latest rewrite of The Mars Run, in which I incorporated all the feedback I got from a Facebook group set up by my new editor, Charles Sheehan-Miles. I also read and enjoyed the 2015 novel SevenEves. Further thoughts below.

Seveneves

As mentioned in other reviews, this is really two books in one. Book 1 is a near-future adventure in which an unknown object, possibly a black hole fragment, destroys Earth's moon, causing the "Hard Rain" of a sizable portion of same on the Earth. Life as we know it will not be possible. The world attempts to create a lifeboat on the International Space Station, but after a few years and many disasters, that population is reduced to eight women, only seven of which can bear children. Of that population, two had made serious efforts to kill the other six. It's not exactly a promising situation.

Book 2 opens 5,000 years later. This seven has expanded to 3 billion, all living in orbital habitats over Earth and speaking a Russian-English hybrid language. (Not, as per some reviews, our version of English, although at least one character, a historian, can read it.) Re-terraforming is well underway, and a group of seven is (rather slowly) formed to investigate various anomalies on the surface.

This truly could have been two stand-alone books, and I imagine there were some discussions on the business viability of same. Stephenson, the author, does tend to wax long on his technical descriptions - I skimmed many of them, finding I didn't need the information - and until the very end there's a lot of characters to keep track of. So, although the book could have been a bit tighter, overall I found it well worth my time.

Capricon Con Schedule

Herewith is my tentative schedule for Capricon, in lovely downtown Wheeling IL February 11-14:

Zeerust How Authors got the Future Wrong - Thursday, 02-11-2016 - 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm - Birch A
Looking back at old Science Fiction and seeing how they got technology wrong, why they missed their mark, and what we did instead.
Dale Cozort
Will Frank (M)
Chris Gerrib
Mark Huston
Michael Lee

Reading: Chris Gerrib - Friday, 02-12-2016 - 10:00 am to 10:30 am - Birch A
Chris Gerrib's first novel, Pirates of Mars, came out from Hadley Rille Books in February, 2012. He admits to being a bit obsessed with Mars, but in a healthy way.


Political Propaganda in SF - Friday, 02-12-2016 - 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm - Birch B

Tim Akers
Amanda Daly
Chris Gerrib
Gail Z Martin
Isabel Schechter

When the Heroes Are Bad Guys - Friday, 02-12-2016 - 8:30 pm to 10:00 pm - Ravinia A
Heroes are not always the traditionally heroic Good Guy. They can also be criminals.
Elizabeth Bear
Phyllis Eisenstein
Chris Gerrib
Scott Lynch

How to Build Your Own Computer - Saturday, 02-13-2016 - 10:00 am to 11:30 am - Botanic Garden B (Special Events - Programming)
Where to find resources and parts for building your own computer.
Chris Dundon (M)
Chris Gerrib
Dave Ifverson
Dave McCarty

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Random Thoughts From Elsewhere

Random Thought #1 - Jamokes

We have a name for the people who took over the Oregon wildlife refuge, and it's not "terrorist" it's "jamoke."

Imagine the grade of sad, stunted halfwit who decks himself out in paramilitary regalia and lethal weaponry to stage a sit-in at what is for all intents and purposes a remote wildlife park’s visitor’s center. "Okay, men, when I kick in the door, you three move on the 74-year-old v0lunteer who shows the birdwatching slideshow to elementary-school field trip groups; if she makes a move, be ready to take her down with force. The rest of us will establish a defensive position behind the cardboard beaver." If bigger goobers than these exist on our planet, you identify them by the bruises from where they poked themselves in the eye while trying to pick their noses.

from the same source (in comments): The solution to disproportionate responses by the government to persons of color is not to call for disproportionate responses by the government to white people. It’s to stop disproportionate responses against persons of color.

Random Thought #2 - "Silencing"

Disagreeing with somebody is not the same as silencing them. Money quote: This whole argument about political correctness turns the concept of “free speech” on it’s head. It basically comes down to this: Conservatives are allowed to exercise their right to free speech. But when liberals do so, it is an attempt to silence the opposition.

2016 Culture Update Plus (True) Snark

Over my vacation, I consumed a fair number of books. Herewith, links to books and my reviews thereof:

1) An anthology of female-written SF which I enjoyed: The Dark Beyond the Stars. Methinks all stories are Hugo-eligible for 2016.

2) I am very much not a fan of Vox Day, but I am a fan of milSF. There Will Be War Vol X. Vox let Jerry Pournelle edit, so there's only one chapter 5.

3) I met the lovely Holly Messinger at a Kansas City con, and bought her book. The Curse of Jacob Tracy is a great read.

A sadly true piece of snark:

First of 2016 - Lingering Items Edition

I had on New Year's Eve an object lesson on why I don't like non-refundable tickets.

So, I went downstate for Christmas. There I had either an allergy flareup or a minor cold. It's frequently hard for me to tell which is which because a cold will trigger an allergy flareup. In any event, the attack followed a typical pattern, which meant by Thursday (New Year's Eve) I was at 75% of my normal self.

Now, had it not been for the (non-refundable) tickets, I would have kept my 75% self home and ordered in a pizza. But I had tickets, so I went to the Westin Itasca for a big New Year's Eve party. The event itself was well-enough ran as far as these events go, and the food was good. Drinks were a bit pricey ($9 wine OR cocktails) but, hey, welcome to the New Year.

However, about 11 PM, my running-at-75%-self ran out of gas, so I went up to my room and slept. The next day (yesterday) I came home and did little. Today, I venture forth to look at tablets and a suit. (One of my old suits just went to Goodwill and another is nearly ready for that Great Closet In The Sky.)

Final Thoughts for 2015

Trivial

I continue to have good luck with weather, having been able to get all my tasks done yesterday while avoiding driving in snow. I'm going to a New Year's Eve party tonight - it's a new to-me venue - so we'll see how successful it is.

Serious

I've stated before that I think the US has a violence problem, not a gun-control problem. I've also stated that this is due to income disparities. Well, Josh Marshall thinks it's a cultural problem.

To over-simplify, 17 of the top 20 countries in the world with high murder rates are in the Americas. Also, US murder rates vary wildly by region. Louisiana is radically higher than anywhere else in the US. Josh's theory is that forced labor created a culture in which one doesn't go to the police. This is because the police aren't very interested in solving problems; rather they are interested in keeping the forced labor situation in place.

In the USA and Caribbean, the forced labor system was slavery, followed in the US by Jim Crow. In South America, the system was encomienda, which was basically serf-driven feudalism. Either way, the police weren't there to help people, they were there to keep them in their place.

Presented as food for thought.

Better to be lucky than good...

For the second time this winter, a major winter storm hits Chicago on a day in which I don't have to leave the house. This fortuitous event is entirely by luck and not skill, thus the title.

In other news, I had a quiet and uneventful holiday downstate. Due to flooding rain, we were unable to shoot, but otherwise I accomplished all I set out to do. I need to:

1) Sort out what clothing is going to Good Will
2) What books are to be donated to the library
3) Review tablet devices and decide on what I want to look at
4) Fix a table lamp (which may require parts, hence defer until tomorrow)

I also plan to get some writing done.

Link Salad, Eve of Christmas Eve Edition

This is the last day of the year at Ye Daye Jobbe for me. So have some links to keep you happy.

A) Christmas dinner in Medieval times was not what we eat now.

B) Iceland has a wonderful Christmas Eve tradition - they give each other books and READ them that night.

C) Of interest to gun people - a quiz of gun knowledge. I got 28 of 30 right.

D) An interesting article about feminism and the latest edition of Star Wars.

E) For the "war on Christmas" set, a picture:

Space!

Comes news today that SpaceX just successfully recovered their first stage, making them the second entity to fly a reusable spaceship to orbit. (NASA's Shuttle was the first, of course.) This event is critical, in that if we are ever to have colonies in space, the cost of getting to orbit has to go down. The only way that happens is if we stop throwing away the spaceship after one mission.

A SciFi Weekend

The Weekend That Was proved to be very science fictional. I DVR-ed the miniseries Childhood's End and the two episodes of The Expanse, so that was Saturday's entertainment. On Sunday, I took in a matinee (and inadvertently 3-D) version of Star Wars. Herewith are my thoughts.

Childhood's End

It has been decades since I read the book, so I can't comment on how closely the miniseries follows the book. The first of the two big changes, making the Overlord's mouthpiece being a Missouri farmer, helped humanize the action. IIRC, Clarke's book was a little more abstract. The other big change, making the human resistance as a thinly-veiled head of Fox News, also worked to the advantage of the show. I think overall the SciFi Channel nailed both the intellectual and emotional content of the book.

The Expanse

I devoured the novel, and am really liking what I am seeing so far. The Belters are belt-like, the tech is fairly realistic, and they are sticking fairly closely to the book. Again, SciFi folks nailed it.

Star Wars

Somebody said that Rey, the young female lead, is the first feminist Star Wars character. It's worth considering, but feminist or no, she's a great character, period. Actually, so is Finn, the escaped stormtrooper. I had some questions about the worldbuilding, and the plot bore more than a passing resemblance to the 1977 original, but overall a very entertaining movie. Go see it, but avoid 3-D. Some of the spaceship shots in particular ended up looking like somebody had hung a large model in the auditorium.

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Research, It's Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

So, I'm writing a mystery novel set in Central Illinois in the summer of 2008. Now, back in Ye Olde Dayes, if I wanted to know what the weather was like back then, I'd have to truck on down to a library. Now I just go to Weather Underground, put in a date and a location, and presto, I have all the data I need. If I want to know what my character was watching on TV, Wikipedia can give me the network broadcast grid. I have to say, I find life here in The Future (tm) wonderful!

That Was Different

My parents were in town for a routine visit. As part of that visit, we went out to Ditka's for dinner. I usually order a CC and 7up as my pre-dinner drink. (Interesting history of Canadian Club whiskey here.)

Last night, I ordered a Sweet Manhattan instead. (Man does not live on Canadian Club alone.) Everywhere else I've ever ordered one of these drinks, it came in a rocks glass over ice. Well, at Ditka's, it came in a martini glass with no ice.

Since the drink is the same alcohol, one would think it would taste the same prepared either way. One would be wrong - the straight-up version tasted both stronger and otherwise different. It was good, just different, although I prefer it over rocks.

Variety is the spice of life.

Adolescent Fascism

Here is Darien, a 17-year-old kid beat a man and fought with cops when they came to arrest him. The teenager called the man a terrorist and told him to go back to his country.

The man was a Sikh, a religion from India that has nothing to do with terrorism or Islam. Our teenager was, well, acting like a teenager. Fortunately, his parents have some money and access to a lawyer, so the kid cut a deal and is being handled as a juvenile.

Many people (including Yours Truly) have noted how adolescent Donald Trump seems to be, and others have linked him to fascism. I suspect that the true correlation is that fascism is a political philosophy created by and for adolescent males.

Many people have noted (PDF at link) that fascism is inherently irrational and contradictory. This is true also of adolescents. Specifically, aspects of fascism such as the rejection of intellectualism, action for actions' sake, intolerance of dissent or difference, and that peculiar concept of the enemies that are at the same time too strong and too weak.

Presented for your consideration.

Rotary Link Salad

Today is my last regular Rotary meeting of the year. In honor of that, have a couple of links.

A) You may have heard of Airbnb, a service that allows you to rent out spare rooms via the Internet. Well, this guy's dad died because of an Airbnb rental, and he notes, " The irony is that amateur innkeepers who couldn’t be trusted with the banal task of photographing and marketing their properties are expected to excel at hospitality’s most important rule: keeping guests safe and alive."

B) An interesting article on how technology drives culture: Friday Food Post: The Economics Behind Grandma's Tuna Casseroles.

C) In the "the globe isn't warming department, really" comes this: The city of Miami Beach floods on such a predictable basis that if, out of curiosity or sheer perversity, a person wants to she can plan a visit to coincide with an inundation.

D) The publisher Angry Robots is having an open submission period.

Lovely Spring We're Having

We're having a lovely spring in Chicago, although the calendar suggests we're in winter. I would actually like a hard freeze, to calm some of my allergies.
Fellow small-press writer Lawrence Schoen, known to many fen as "Klingon Guy," has a book coming out with big-press Tor in late December. Entitled Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard, the book, described as "DUNE meets SIXTH SENSE (with Elephants)," comes out December 29.

Larry is good people, and I've enjoyed some of his other work, so I recommend ordering a copy of his book (click the link above) today.

Personal Neepery

About two weeks ago, we had our first snow in Chicago. So, since my new association doesn't like us to store propane grills in our garages (and it's a massive pain-in-the-ass to get my grill to the garage) I dutifully went out and covered it before the snow hit. Well, the snow melted, and we're expecting 50s today, so the grill is uncovered and in operation. More updates as events warrant.

(Yes, I am tired of the bullshit that passes for politics at the moment.)

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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