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For the first time in months, I'm having a slow day at work. This is mostly because I'm either waiting for people to get back to me or waiting until Saturday to make some network changes. Since I have a bit of time, and I can't see that I talked about this, two deep thoughts.

Statues of Confederate Generals

The South is littered with statues of Confederate generals, politicians, and "Soldiers of the Lost Cause." These statues were built, as Virginian and US General George Thomas said, "as a species of political cant" to cover the crime of treason with a "counterfeit varnish of patriotism." They were also erected in the period 1880 to 1920, when the Southern whites had regained political control in the South and instituted Jim Crow. They were specifically intended to remind the blacks who was back in charge.

This is why there are no statues of Confederate General James Longstreet, Lee's long-time #2. After the war, Longstreet became a Republican and worked to help freed blacks. In fact, Longstreet became the Benedict Arnold of the Lost Cause movement. This movement attempted to paint the Confederacy as noble, and ended up accusing Longstreet of throwing the battle of Gettysburg. In short, the statues are no more "historic" than those of Lenin and Stalin which used to line the streets of communist countries.

Fetishism of the Military

Here I steal a bit from Josh Marshall, who notes that many of the people opposed to the take a knee protests are insulting the troops. One of the reasons the Founding Fathers were against a large standing military (such as we have now) is that they could be used to suppress democracy.

Now, the American Revolution was a case where the British standing army was used forcefully against democracy, but we're seeing how it can be used in an indirect way. Protests that take place as public events where the flag is displayed are deliberately misinterpreted as against the flag and therefore against anybody who fought for it. The symbol becomes more important than the reality of a constitutional right. It's no accident that a lot of military veterans are speaking out in favor of the protests. We value the real, not the symbolic.

What ties the statues and kneeling together is the attempt to paper over reality. The statues paper over the reality that the Civil War was fought so that rich people could keep their slaves, and the kneeling controversy attempts to paper over perceived police injustices.

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For The Record (Trump) Again

For the record:

1) Donald Trump, private citizen, can express whatever opinion he wants. President of the United States Donald J. Trump cannot call for people to be fired for public speech. It's unconstitutional. He took an oath to defend and protect the Constitution and faithfully execute the laws. That includes the law allowing for NFL players to peaceably petition for redress of grievances.

2) It is amazing that a protest involving neo-Nazis and murder-by-car leads to Trump saying "good people on both sides" but a protest involving not standing yields "fire the SOBs."

3) It is sad that, as this kerfuffle continues, the Republican Party manfully struggles yet again to take away health insurance from millions of Americans.

4) It is also sad that, as this kerfuffle continues, 3.5 million US citizens are without power and many are still flooded out of their houses and businesses.

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I watched the third episode of the new TV series The Orville on DVR-delay. The plot was that two members of an all-male species reproduce and their offspring is a female. They immediately want "corrective" surgery, which the human ship's doctor won't do. Complications ensue.

What I first liked about the episode was that they twice dodged the Hollywood ending. (I won't give away such ending, but if you watch the episode you'll recognize it.) The second thing I liked about the episode, something I didn't immediately realize, was that the first two episodes had been laying the groundwork for this one. Everybody's reactions were within the established character arcs, something that was a switch from the usual "somebody suddenly gets smart" approach to characters. Overall, I saw much to like in this episode.

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Orville and Weekend Updates

On Saturday, I had a dinner party. It was one I had sold in a Rotary auction as a fundraising item. One of my fellow Rotarians, Joan Wayman, brought the dessert and I cooked the ribeyes. The event went over well.

On Sunday, I did a bit of writing and then watched this week's episode of The Orville. The show is still trying to find itself. I like a lot of Seth McFarlane's worldbuilding in this series. So far, humans don't have transporters and there are two enemy races, one of which is so much more powerful that the Planetary Union is willing to write off a ship's captain and XO rather than attempt a rescue. I also find a lot of the crew interactions more entertaining then typical. There's a "we're real people" feel to them, if a bit less military-like then one would expect from a fleet. Lastly, the ending of this episode really saved it.

Having said that, I still struggled with much of the plot. The green Lieutenant was too green, the ex-married couple fell back into the old ways too easily and were too passive. In short, this episode again felt more like a live-action cartoon than a live show.

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Generation Ships and Lithuania

One of the panels I wanted to see but missed at this year's Worldcon was entitled "The Ethics of Generation Ships." The panel description ran to the effect of: "was it ethical for people to consign their children and grandchildren to a voyage they had no choice in?"

I have thoughts, or rather a thought. My great-grandfather was born in Lithuania, and at the age of 14 decided to remain in America. I recently went back and visited Lithuania. As a practical matter, there is no way I could live there. I don't speak the language, I'm not wealthy enough to not require a job, and I'm culturally distant from Lithuanians.

Was it unethical for my great-grandfather to stay in America?

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I am alive

I am in fact alive, just finding myself not having a lot to say. There is nothing particular I wish to add to my previous remarks on 9/11, so I won't. I'll confine myself to lighter topics.

Specifically, The Orville, FOX's new SF series. I watched it last night (on DVR-delay, of course) and found it, well, odd. There were more than a few humorous moments, but this was not a comedy. It was more like a live-action cartoon than anything I've seen recently. I'll give it a few episodes.

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Dreamers

Comes news today that President Trump plans to repeal Obama's protection of illegal aliens brought here as children, AKA "dreamers." Also comes news is that Trump will delay action on this for six months. I find this the most nakedly political, albeit heartless, action of the Trump presidency.

I start with the assumption that Trump really couldn't care less if these people stay or go. He's just not empathetic enough to get worked over people not likely to give him money. His whole tough on illegals stance was a pander to a section of the Republican base and an applause line at his rallies, not an actual policy desire.

By this point in his presidency, even an idiot could see that whatever action Trump took on the dreamers would be criticized by Congress. Kick 'em out, Trump's heartless. Let the stay, Trump is usurping authority. But my taking action and starting a countdown clock, Trump forces Congress to put up or shut up.

Even better, from Trump's point of view, he's set up a "Xanatos Gambit" (warning - link leads to TvTropes) in which no matter what Congress does, Trump wins. Congress does nothing - Trump pleases his base and Congress can't criticize. Congress acts - any bad consequences are on them and Trump gets to campaign against Congress.

Now, in truth, it's much easier to set up a Xanatos Gambit if you really don't give a damn what the outcome of an event is. Since Trump cares little about outcomes and much about being seen to win, expect more of these.

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Flim-Flam Men

One of the things I find frankly appalling about the current state of American conservationism is their willingness to follow obvious flim-flam men. For example, David Clarke, the (just-resigned) sheriff of Milwaukee County. I can't find it at the moment, but there was a nice article by the State's Attorney of Milwaukee County noting how, under Clarke, the sheriff's office had withdrawn into doing little more than guarding the county courthouse. (This was made possible by the fact that Milwaukee County has only a couple of square miles of unincorporated terrority, mostly on or along one Interstate.)

Another example is the "minister" Joel Osteen of recent Twitter fame. The man, who is personally rich, had to be shamed into opening his church for the refugees of storm-flooded Houston. (Since when does a Christian minister get rich while being a minister?)

These men and others are clearly flim-flam artists, all talk and no cattle. Yet modern conservatives hold them up as examples and invite them to their conventions. Why?

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Monday Thoughts

Thoughts on a Monday:

The Pardoning of Joe Arpaio

Sad, immoral, but not unexpected. Trump rewards personal loyalty above all else, and Arpaio has been nothing but loyal. The fact that 99% of the tin-pot dictators of the world also reward loyalty above all else is left for the consideration of the reader.

Houston

Two thoughts:

1) I'm sure Houston could have done something better to allow for floodwaters to drain. Having said that, I doubt anybody could have engineered their way out of the four or five feet of rainwater the city's going to get.

2) It's easy for people like me to pick up and evacuate if need be. Simply put, I have spare cash and a reliable vehicle. But if you don't have a several hundred dollars immediately to hand (Motel 6 costs $50+ per night) then you maybe can't leave.

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The Appeal of Trump

From somewhere else on the Internet, I give you this article about Donald Trump. Key takeaways:

1) Is Trump a racist? Probably, because he's not very smart and that's the default setting of not-smart people.

2) Does he really care about Confederate statues? No, but he's upset that people expect him to care about them (or anything other than himself) so he'll take a contrary opinion out of spite.

3) Trump's core beliefs are: "Give Donald Trump Your Money and Donald Trump Should Really Be on Television More." He is, in short, completely self-focused.

4) Trump's attraction to his allies is largely that of having the ability to not care about anybody else.

Go read the whole thing.

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Collision!

Comes news today of yet another collision between a US Navy ship and a merchant vessel. One wonders why, especially since, after the first collision, everybody in the Navy involved in ship driving would huddle up and say "we need to get smarter."

Here's a thought - Russian GPS spoofing. Apparently already done on large scale in central Moscow, there was a recent incident in the Black Sea where 20+ merchant ships were fed badly erroneous data into their GPS system. Like, "you're actually at the airport" erroneous data.

Now, Yours Truly learned to navigate ships back when GPS was new, and so we'd check GPS for accuracy against other navigational means, but there are large numbers of people (military and civilian) operating ships and planes strictly on GPS. This spoofing appears to have gone from the plot of a James Bond movie to real life. Yippee.

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Mass Hysteria Bubble

Over on his blog, Scott Adams insists I am in a mass hysteria bubble. Perhaps obviously, I disagree. Scott makes many statements, and herewith I take issue with two.

1) Scott says of Trump [choice 3 of 4]: A mentally unstable racist clown with conman skills (mostly just lying) eviscerated the Republican primary field and won the presidency. He keeps doing crazy, impulsive racist stuff. But for some reason, the economy is going well, jobs are looking good, North Korea blinked, ISIS is on the ropes, and the Supreme Court got a qualified judge. It was mostly luck.

I say, except for:
- The economy was doing well before Trump, and jobs were going up. In fact, Trump's signature job "save" at the Indiana Carrier plant proved to be a lie (plant's closing anyway).
- North Korea hasn't blinked. They were threatening this week to drop missiles near Guam.
- ISIS in Iraq was on the ropes before Trump. This "on the ropes" organization has also just this week staged attacks in Spain and Finland.
- The Supreme Court got a judge because Mitch McConnell blocked Obama's nominee.

2) Scott says of Trump (and this his Scott's preferred answer) [choice 4 of 4]: The guy who didn’t offer to be your moral leader didn’t offer any moral leadership, just law and order, applied equally. His critics cleverly and predictably framed it as being soft on Nazis.

I say, except for:
There was no violence on both sides. The right committed murder and assault, the left defended themselves.

Methinks I know who suffers from a mass hysteria bubble, and it ain't me.

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Thursday

I'm back home in the USA and back in the saddle at work. The past few days have involved:

1) Waiting for Air France to deliver my luggage. When I had to clear customs and take a bus an mile at de Gaulle airport to catch my second flight, I had suspicions my bag would be MIA. What was irritating was, when it didn't show, there was an Air France agent standing at the luggage carousel with a clipboard with my name on it. They knew my luggage didn't make it, but made me wait to ask about it! Not happy.

2) Got the first real American steak in 19 days. It was delicious.

3) Got the first real American hamburger in 19 days. It was also delicious. The place I visited for the burger, Shanahan's, also installed a piano bar. I sat and partook for a while.

Now home and thence to my first personal training session in three weeks.

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Travel Update

I'm writing this in Helsinki airport, specifically in the Air France Business Class lounge. It's another nice place with help-yourself food and drink. Herewith, various random thoughts.

Vilnius, Lithuania and Roads

After my trip to The Olde Sod (Rietavas, for those not following along) I drove to Vilnius, the historical capital. It's just over 100 kilometers from Kaunas, or a bit over an hour. Well, until I had my Griswold-esque "European Vacation" and got completely lost trying to find my hotel. I succeeded on the third try, only to find the hotel had no elevator. Fortunately for my overweight bag, they got me a room on the first floor. Small room, but with functional air conditioning and nice bed.

Vilnius is (to my view) nearly impossible to drive in. I can understand the old town being a snake pit of roads, but one would have thought that in the modern parts somebody would have imposed a grid. Nope. Snake pit all the way. Also disconcerting is that the main expressway, once it hits town, becomes (with little warning) a regular street. Nor are any of these streets (modern or historical) well-marked. Fortunately I got set of good directions on how to get out of town, although for a minute or two, as I drove through a residential area, I was concerned I had missed a turn.

Helsinki

Having no reason to attempt to drive in Helsinki, I didn't. I don't think it would have been any easier, and my hotel does not appear to have parking. I stayed in the Hotel Arthur which proudly notes that it was founded in 1907 and expanded in 1957. Except for light bulbs, they haven't changed a thing since. I kept expecting to see a couple of torpedoes from Chicago, snap-brim fedoras and pinstripe suits, step out of the woodwork and ventilate somebody. But it was clean, safe, cheap and well-located, so it met my needs.

I found the Finns a very helpful, friendly and just nice people, who went out of their way to make tourists feel welcome. On my last night here, I ended up hanging out with a group of them at a bar near my hotel. Two of them were staying at my hotel, and explained that part of the building was designated as the YMCA, and so signed (in Finnish, of course).

I was getting tourist-ed out, so I did not visit any of the local tourist spots. I went to the convention, and most of my sight-seeing was looking out the tram window. I note that Finnish cuisine is rather boring, consisting of potatoes, fish, sausages and root vegetables. It's boring enough that it can be hard to find a traditional Finnish restaurant in Helsinki. For example, last night I ate at a Mexican restaurant. (Pretty good, actually.) I did a lot of my drinking and some eating at Sori Brewing, an Estonian micro-brewery. (Try the Baltic Porter.)

Well, today is travel and tomorrow is back to reality.

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Adventures in the Lithuanian Countryside

I am back fromm my adventures in the countryside, where I drove out to Rietavas, Lithuania and Laukava, Lithuania, ancestral homes of Clan Gerrib. Herewith is a long report.

First, getting there was interesting. Kaunas is a city of 300,000, with an airport to match. An airport in which the main terminal is getting rebuilt. The rental car place is in a temporary hanger, and was unmanned when I arrived at 9:30 AM. I called the service number, somebody was sent, and about an hour later my Mazda 3 and handheld GPS were on the road.

There's a modern 4-lane road between Kaunas and Klaipėda, Lithuania's seaport. Rietavas, a town of 3500 or so, is about 15 kilometers north of that road on a two-lane blacktop. Overall, I found the countryside (and the roads) reminded me of Indiana - long flat stretches broken up with sets of low rolling hills. The Motorway was okay, albeit not entirely limited access, and the back roads were "Indiana standard" winding and poorly-paved.

I got to Rietavas and ducked into City Hall to use the toilet, then toured the church, an ornate Romanesque Revival pile. I couldn't find the cemetary, so I had lunch at the only place in town, a roadside gas / food / motel (apparently some kind of Lithuanian chain) then headed to Laukava, which was 21 kilometers away on another indifferent blacktop 2-laner.

There were five or six named hamlets in between, none of which seemed worth stopping at. Laukava was even smaller than Rietavas, with only one business in town, a mini-mart. The church was in poor shape, although when I arrived construction workers were doing their thing. An older man, possibly the priest in civilian clothes, was there when I arrived. He had no English and I no Lithuanian, but he broke out their monstrance to show me, which was a nice gesture.

I then headed back to town. My GPS let me down - I missed a turn and instead of auto-recalculating it said "off route" and stopped. I had to manually kickstart the thing to redirect me, which it eventually did. In any event, I made it, and photos to follow.

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Kaunas Lithuania

I'm sitting here in the hotel bar at Kaunas confusing the waitresses. (I think that when a Lithuanian orders vodka he does so like an American with bourbon - ice or neat.) Anyway, I've toured the highly walkable city of Kaunas, the Pittsburgh of Lithuania.

I say Pittsburgh because the city is at a river junction (two, not three rivers) and because of location it's been a trade and military hub since people moved into the area. Also because it's between two rivers, the streets tend to flow parallel to the river, making a hash of a grid system.

Kaunas is a very walkable city. They took two semi-major streets and made them pedestrian only, and said streets flow into the very car-unfriendly Old Town. My hotel is a block from the eastern (modern) end of that walkway, which is about a kilometer long. I've walked it both ways.

The old town is quaint and old, and I've visited all of the sites to see. Unlike Pittsburgh, Kaunas was a capital at various points in its history, but it largely retained its "down home" feel.

Getting here was a bit interesting. First, I messed up my ticket, buying something from Lufthansa that didn't allow me to check baggage. 100 Euro later, I'm in business. Then the flight from Frankfurt to Kaunas involved two buses - one in Frankfurt taking us to the ass end of the tarmac to walk up the stairs to the jet and another bus in Kaunas taking us to a temporary terminal in a tent. All the while, I'm stuck in the middle of an Italian tour group. (Read, a bunch of pushy retirees who speak no relevant languages and insist in talking loudly enough to prevent one from hearing any announcements.)

At Kaunas, my hotel had a taxi waiting for me. The driver, a kid in his early twenties, got me to the hotel, although I was amused at his musical tastes - American Top 40 via a local FM station.

I had dinner at the "Zalias Ratas" restaurant in Kaunas Lithuania. First, please note grammar cops - in Lithuanian, one uses quotes where in English we would use italics.

In any event, one walks down a very unpromising alley to a little wooden house sandwiched between various more modern buildings. Inside, its cozy and rustic, but, per Travelocity and my stomach, it's the best traditional food in town. It's also damn cheap - I ate and drank for 20 Euros. You have to know to look for it, but it's worth it.

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Written in Hamburg Airport, posted in Frankfurt's due to the vagaries of Wi-Fi while traveling. Having said that, herewith are my thoughts on The Cruise That Was.

Business Class


After my literally painful flight to Loncon 2014, I decided to splurge on business class flights across the Atlantic. I am here to tell you it’s expensive, but worth every penny. I flew KLM (which is owned now by Air France) into Amsterdam. First place, business class has a separate, faster, check-in line. Then, one gets to sit in the Business Class lounge while waiting. Said lounge at O’Hare is small, but comes with good seats, free pour-your-own drinks and a decent snack selection.

Then on the plane, drinks are free, the seats are comfortable and have massive leg room, and finally lay completely flat! For the first time ever, I slept on a plane! Let me tell you, that four-hour nap does wonders for fighting jet lag. It allowed me to stay up until 10 PM, which meant that I was 90% over jet lag when we boarded the ship.

In Amsterdam, KLM’s hub and a place I had several hour’s layover, the lounge is massive and the food and drink plentiful. Having said that, several people including a pair of native Dutch folks took the train from Amsterdam to Kiel. Given the amount of sitting around time I had, a train might have been cheaper and just as timely. Oh well, live and learn.

The pre-ship hotel and the ship

The night before the cruise, we all stayed at the Hotel Atlantic in Kiel. Some of that time was used for orientation and related administrative tasks, including outlining the ship boarding process. The Hotel Atlantic is a very typical European hotel – small lobby and small rooms. Like many European hotels, the room lights don’t work unless you put a room key in a slot on the wall. (Actually, we discovered on the ship, which did the same thing in their cabins, that any appropriately-sized piece of cardboard works as well.) Being a German hotel, the water service in our meeting rooms was bottled water, half of which were carbonated and strong-tasting mineral water.

We sailed on the MSC Fantasia, visiting the Baltic Sea ports of Kiel (departure / arrival), Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallin Estonia and St. Petersburg Russia in that order. I was struck by a number of things. MSC is a European line, and service levels are lower than what you’ll see on Royal Caribbean. Some of this is staffing – it was rare to see all bars open and those that were tended to be short-staffed. The casino never had staff to use more than 50% of their tables. (Oh, BTW, I made over 150 Euros on this trip at the casino.)

The ports were also “interesting.” At Kiel when we left we were docked in town, as we were in Tallin. In Copenhagen, Stockholm and St. Petersburg, we were docked at some distance from the tourist sites at what felt like temporary or seasonal installations. Since the Americans at St. Petersburg couldn’t leave the ship unless on an excursion, this was less of an issue, but at the other sites, it was a pain. Lastly, we debarked at a different terminal in Kiel (the ferry terminal) and the process took place in tents.

Actually, a word on the debarkation “process.” We had the yellow debark group, which was supposed to leave at 9:15. Due to issues with luggage offloading, we didn’t leave until 10. Then, our “process” for getting our luggage was that it was assembled in a tight square and everybody was cut loose to go find their stuff. The mildest term for the “process” would be “group grope.”

Excursions

I signed up for three ship-based excursions. I was generally underwhelmed. All three were whirlwind in nature, and I have taken to referring to the St. Petersburg “walking tour” as the “Saint Pete Deathmarch.” Stopping was verboten. I visited the Vasa Museum in Stockholm (famous sunken ship, raised in the 1950s). All the signs were in English, it was well-laid out, and what she should have done was just say “meet back at place X at time Y, have fun.” Instead I was dismayed to see that the tour guide insisted on marching us through the museum.

At Tallin, I took part in a writing date. One of our instructors led a herd of us into the old town to a very quaint local coffeehouse where we had coffee and wrote. One was then on one’s own to get lunch and/or back to the ship. It was relaxing and much more enjoyable.

Health

Prior to departure, I was fighting my allergies and resultant cough. Said cough was persistently not getting any better, so I finally broke down and saw the ship’s doctor. I was not surprised to get diagnosed with bronchitis. (It happens with me.) I don’t know if it is European medicine or shipboard medicine but the treatment was two ten-minute sessions over as many days with a nebulizer breathing a cortisone concoction. The diagnosing doctor, an Italian woman in her mid-30s, said that “you’re from America and they believe in Z-packs” so she gave me a packet of same. The nurses, all Croatian and fifty-ish, were very helpful. I did have to pay for the treatment, so I will be sending it into my travel insurance.

Writing, Classes and Social

We had two full days at sea, and most of my organized excursions were back in the early afternoon. Thus, I got 5,155 words done on two separate books, facilitated in part by a conversation where I got unstuck and a critique of my older but yet unpublished SF novel. There were several classes which I found useful, and several “writing prompts” sessions which I completely ignored. Although 5,000 words is a very solid week for me, especially since I took the St. Petersburg day off and didn’t even fire up the laptop, several writers turned in 10,000+ word-count weeks.

One of those massive word-crankers was Alexander “Xander” Hacker, my roommate. Due to the fact that I’ve got another week on the Continent, I decided to take a roommate and cut costs. Xander is a nice kid, early 20s, clean-cut Mormon type. He had one irritating trait, namely he didn’t really even attempt to shift his body clock to European time, which meant he was crashed out at times I was up and wanted to move about the cabin and vice versa. Fortunately, I can sleep with a light on so we made it work.

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burglary myths

In my inbox, presented without comment:

Have you ever been duped by a burglary myth? There are plenty out there, and it could happen to anyone. But to truly outsmart burglars, you have to arm yourself with the facts. Read on to find out the truth behind 4 of the most common burglary myths.

MYTH: Most burglaries occur at night

FACT:
The majority of burglaries take place between 10AM and 3PM, while you’re at work

MYTH: Most burglars pick locks or use high-tech equipment to get in

FACT:
According to the DOJ, burglars most frequently enter through an open or unlocked door or window

MYTH: Most burglars have little to no experience breaking into homes

FACT:
According to a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 82% of burglars are repeat offenders

MYTH: Burglars don’t target gated or restricted-access communities

FACT:
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, homes in gated and restricted communities have nearly the same burglary rates as homes with direct outside access

Take care,

Dave
SimpliSafe Home Security
1-888-957-4675

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Weekly Update, or Many Marching Morons

I've been away from this blog for a while. Once you get out of the habit of posting, you're out of the habit. Herewith, various thoughts.

1) Writing: I have committed writing again, adding nearly 4,000 words to the mystery novel. Based on the comments at my critique session, they were generally good words. More (hopefully) to follow.

2) Marching Morons, Gun Division: Comes news that a Minneapolis cop shot a crime victim through the car door of his squad car. Moreover, the cop was in the passenger side and the victim was talking to his partner through the driver's side window. It seems like the cop had his gun out and finger on the trigger way too soon. Unfortunately, that's called "involuntary manslaughter."

3) Marching Morons, Politics Division: After months of assurances by Donald Trump that nobody from his campaign met with the Russians, we hear that his son, son-in-law and then campaign manager took a meeting with the Russians. Words fail me.

4) Marching Morons, health care division: the wealthy comedian Scott Adams has, in the wake of the failure of the Republican party to repeal Obamacare, been pedaling various solutions to American health care. Conspicuously they all seem to have been conceived in a vacuum, and are completely unaware of the fact that the rest of the world cracked this code a long time ago.

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Travel Thoughts, Reading

It speaks ill of my current schedule that I look forward to long airline flights in order to read a book. Having said that, herewith are my thoughts on two short books (novellas) that I read flying back from Puerto Rico.

Breathe

The first book, Breathe by Douglas Van Belle, was pressed in my hands by a rather urgent fellow at last year's Worldcon in Kansas City. I now know that the fellow was the author, and the book was self-published. It languished in my to-be-read pile for some time, finally surfacing. I found the book merely okay.

The plot is this - a dozen or so construction types are building a habitat on Ganymede to support a larger follow-on group. Karl, the group's mechanic, highly socially inept, attempts to engineer a small disaster so he can get some alone time with Zoey, a woman he's smitten with. Karl's disaster gets way out of hand, two people die immediately and the rest are trapped in shelters running out of oxygen. Karl then tries to engineer their way out. His efforts lead to the humans being hunted by a swarm of killer robots.

The science in this book is hard, and the characters are more-or-less believable. (Some of the men are a bit wonky.) The real problem is that the last two-thirds of the book is a bloodbath, and nothing in the marketing or first third gives any warning of this.

All Systems Red The Murderbot Diaries

Martha Well's novella All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries has, like Breathe, murderous AI robots. Ironically, despite the title, All Systems Red is a much less blood-thirsty book. In this novella, the narrator, the titular Murderbot, is a security robot that has hacked its own governor and is self-aware. He also just wants to watch TV.

Unfortunately, he's been assigned a security gig with a survey team on a planet, and when the planet and other teams start trying to kill his charges, he has to actually do his job. Which he does in an entertaining manner. I was also taken with the ending, that's a bit of a twist.

Much has been said about the death of conventional publishing. These two novellas are the clearest case I've seen in a while for the need for conventional publishing.

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