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The Walking Dead

I mentioned previously that I had stopped following the TV series The Walking Dead. At the time, I had stated that I was getting tired of the endlessness of the series. Well, last night, I watched an episode of the show, largely because of Alicia Witt who was guest-starring. That made clear why I'm largely done with the show.

Simply put, Rick's crew are no longer "the good guys" in any real sense of the word. They'll kill anybody who gets in their way without blinking. This means I have nobody to root for, and I don't like entertainments without at least a marginal "good guy."

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Non-April Fools Thoughts

I am not a fan of April Fools. Most such jokes hit me before I'm fully caffeinated. Trust me - very few things amuse me before caffeine. Herewith, a few (I hope) non-foolish thoughts.

Rabid Puppies

The nominating phase of Hugo voting is over, so now we await the counting. Wile E. Coyote, Super-Genius At Large over on his site is crowing about victory. Of course, said "victory" (if it happens, given that the fat lady has not sang yet) requires him to celebrate both Ancillary Mercy and Seveneves. The former is the latest in a series of books that assign everybody to the female gender and the later is a book in which seven female astronauts become the sole survivors of humanity. Bottom line - if you define victory broadly enough, you can always win.

Land Ownership in the American West

Until Donald Trump's latest shoot-foot-then-put-in-mouth incident, much buzz was heard on various conservative sites to the effect of "the Federal government owns too much land in teh west." Hello, Homestead Acts, anybody? We spent a century trying to give that land away and couldn't. The simple fact is that most of the land in states like Utah and Arizona is worthless. It costs more money in terms of providing water than one can get out of the land by grazing. So, since we couldn't give the land away, even to the states, the government manages it.

ETA - because I'm feeling my oats a bit:

Coming Up For Air

Life has been a bit hectic this week due to work and Rotary commitments, and so postings have been light.

I note that Donald Trump, in a case of a stopped clock being right twice a day, said something about abortion. He said that if abortion is a criminal act, then the woman getting the abortion is a criminal. Now, to be clear, I'm in favor of a woman's right to choose and against the whole idea of criminalizing abortion. However, I can't fault Trump's logic.

If abortion is a criminal act, then the woman getting the abortion is a criminal. Anti-abortion politicians, aware that saying that would make them look even more jerkish than they do now, go through great mental gymnastics to not say that. Trump, who hasn't done much research on this (or other) issues merely stated what should be obvious.

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Mindless Entertainment

The past couple of days have been a bit stressful due to work and Rotary commitments. I was planning to do some editing last night, but found that my git-up-and-go had gotten up and left. So I ended up watching White House Down, a marginally-believable movie that required few brain cells. Much Stuff Got Blown Up Real Good, and many allegedly smart people did dumb things, but in the end, Good Triumphed.

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The Home Soil

I went to Westville, The Home Soil, for the weekend. Westville is in Vermilion County, IL, and the economic engine of the county is Danville, Il. In reading the Sunday papers at home, the lead articles were the closure of the oldest indoor swimming pool in the state (built 1911) and the planned closure of a Danville school building built in 1922.

These are symptoms of a larger problem. Danville's population and economy peaked in the 1920s, during the same period Joe Cannon, Danville's Congressman, was Speaker of the House. The city was at the junction of the main north-south and east-west rail lines, which brought great economic activity. As rail declined, so did Danville, and now the population is falling dramatically. At the same time, infrastructure built in the 1920s and designed for a century of use is hitting the end of its useful life.

This is not unique to Danville. In America, we worship small towns, yet we don't live in them. (Your Correspondent being Exhibit Number 100 Million.)

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Three For Good Friday

Three thoughts on this Good Friday-shortened work week:

1) Ryan Bundy, one of the dudes who took over the Federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, sends a letter. It's typical libertarian BS - no rules at all for me.

2) Part one of a two-fer from Gin and Tacos: Donald Trump and his supporters are absolutely right about one thing when it comes to immigration. Ed, the proprietor, points out that economically, America wants cheap immigrant labor while politically we want to keep immigrants out. Harsh laws poorly enforced accomplish both goals.

3) Part two of the two-fer: The story of Frank Woodall AKA Mary Johnson. In 1908, a woman living as a man got stopped for a health inspection at Ellis Island. When asked why, Frank said, "Women have a hard time in this world."

Link Salad, Rainy Day Thursday Edition

Like the label on the tin says:

A) A very long but fascinating read on Obama's foreign policy.

B) Related to the above - there are reasons these terrorist attacks keep happening in Europe.

C) The breaking news story consumer handbook.

D) A piece of Britain: the shipping forecast.

E) My review of Jeff Duntemann's new novel Ten Gentle Opportunities. You should buy it today!

I hesitate to take too many political lessons from the Star Wars series of movies. Having said that, I find the quote above very much on point. After this week's bomb attacks in Brussels, various Republican pants-wetters candidates for President were calling for "law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized" or waterboarding suspects.

This may be perhaps obvious, but I think such ideas are both un-American and counterproductive. The gist of the Tarkin quote is that the more one creates an "us vs. them" environment, the more likely it is that "them" will either cooperate with "our" enemies or at least not cooperate with us. We see this today in the inner cities, where police overreach makes people, even crime victims, reluctant to cooperate with the police. What is needed is intelligent action, not stupid panic.

ETA: Wise words from an immigrant living in Brussels.

ETA #2: What she said about the stupidity of expecting Obama to run home because of the attack in Belgium.

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The Golden Rule, or I'm Tired

So, over at Mad Genius Club, Dave Freer had thoughts on Sad Puppies 4. Thoughts I responded to (in part) by quoting various people who asked to be pulled from their list, including Cat Valente who changed her mind and decided to stay on the list.

This prompted a lively discussion about turning down awards, of which the following is a typical sentiment: It’s about fear that their fellow tribe members will turn on them for not supporting the tribe vociferously enough. In other words, reprisals.

To which I responded:

Or we could just take people at their word. (I know, what a novel concept.)

It’s the Golden Rule, people – if you want to be taken at your word for your motivations, then you need to take others at their word for their motivations.

*** end response ***

Discussion and Amplification of Above

I'm tired - tired of being called a CHORF, a SJW, a liar, somebody being paid off by Tor (Christ, I haven't even scored a free bookmark from Tor) or a little guy that does what he's told. Respect is a two-way street. If you want my respect, show me some, or at least pretend to.

Now, I've cast my nominating votes, and I intend to evaluate whatever makes the final Hugo list on the merits regardless of how it got there, but fair warning - my patience is shot.

Sad Puppies 4, Continued

So I said Friday that Sad Puppies 4 is so far this is everything Sad Puppies 3 was not, namely open and transparent. Unfortunately, the leadership has not made as clean a break from the past as one would have liked.

Specifically, several people, on finding out that they were on the SP4 reading list, asked to be taken off. One person (John Scalzi) had very publicly recused himself from the Hugos well prior to the list being generated. Rather than acting like adults and graciously saying "okay, we'll pull you," the SP4 principals issued various pissy blog posts about how wrong these requests were.

This frankly baffles me. Generally speaking, if you nominate somebody for an award and they say "no thanks" the polite, normal and human response would be "okay, no problem, we'll nominate something else." One might add "but we really liked your stuff, you should reconsider." Anything else is simply being rude.

Further, suggesting that turning down an award nomination is "insulting to your fans" is baffling. I suppose their are cultures in which one must accept any gift offered, but I didn't think we lived in one.

Lastly, saying "but he did X" doesn't cut it either. Two wrongs don't make a right and never did.

Sad Puppies 4

So, after much Sturm und Drang, the Sad Puppies have released this year's recommended list. A few thoughts.

1) Kate Paulk released a Google spreadsheet she used to tabulate the votes. It was noticeable how few people participated. For example, for Campbell award, 43 votes were cast. Best novel looks more popular, with 133 works nominated, but still, for this round the Sads don't seem to have a huge number of people.

2) Along the lines above, the distribution looks very "normal." Lots of stuff getting 1 or 2 votes, with the #10 novel, Ancillary Mercy, getting 9 votes.

3) Going by the works nominated, very little of the top tens jump out at me as controversial. The closest we get to controversy is nominating seemingly everybody at Baen for Best Editor Long Form. Well, that and nominating a Scalzi novella (he recused himself this year).

In short, so far this is everything Sad Puppies 3 was not, namely open and transparent.

Random Update

I seem to have fixed one of my rants from yesterday, namely activating my Bank of America credit card. It merely took another 15 minutes of insipid hold music. We'll see if I fixed rant #2 about Walgreens.

In other news, John Scalzi is on fire about the current Presidential primaries. I voted in the Democratic primary here, as we had a contested Senate race. Although I'm not in Cook County, I note with some pleasure that Anita Alvarez, the incumbent State's Attorney, will be out of a job come November.

Lastly, we're getting fast and furious in trying to book people for my club's annual fundraiser, A Taste of Route 66. Interested parties can bid without attending, including such items as making Yours Truly cook for them or becoming a character in one of my books. Bid early, bid often.

Rants, Customer Service, Lack Thereof

Rant #1 - I take prescription drugs, which I *try* to buy via Walgreens online. For some reason, the online people don't seem to understand that I have insurance and thus want me to pay full retail for the drug.

Rant #2 - I have a credit card through Bank of America. I tried to us it at the Charleston SC airport. They flagged all transactions (including the denied ones) as fraudulent, and I have been unable to convince the online system that they're not fraud. I have also been unable to speak to a human about this.

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Plutocracy

I read Linda Nagata's fairly new book The Trials today. Linda's book is set in a future USA in which various rich people, collectively known as dragons, have subverted democracy and rule the US. Chuck Gannon uses multi-national corporations as a conduit for his Big Bad in his "Fire" trilogy. It sounds far-fetched.

But then comes word that the recent scandal about poor care at the US Veteran's Administration was created largely out of whole cloth by a pair of rich conservatives for personal gain. Sometimes science fiction becomes science fact.

Various Thoughts, Vacation Edition

I'm on vacation, not in a coma, so I do have thoughts. Herewith are a few:

1) Comes news that a woman in Texas who made at least a side job of being armed and talking about it got shot in the back by her 4-year-old with her own gun. (Google it if you need to.) Here is Land Gerrib, 4-year-olds and guns do not mix, full stop.

2) Hilton Head Island is pretty. It's also nuts to drive in. Whomever laid out the roads has a near-vampiric allergy to right angles, and they don't believe in streetlights, even at major intersections. Add to that the local signage laws are "small and discreet" and that 90% of what you're looking for is in a shopping mall, finding stuff is Right Hard. (as opposed to Left hard, or whatever.)

3) I am not good at just "hanging out." I had a 30-minute argument with myself before I gave myself permission to do what most people do on vacation, namely hang out at the pool and read a book. I've also rode a bike up and down the beach, done some editing, caught a movie and relaxed.

Riding a Bike

They say you never forget how to ride a bike. This does not mean, however, you can't get a bit rusty at riding, as I discovered yesterday while riding my rental bike down the beach at Hilton Head. It was a bit chilly yesterday (mid-60s, with a light onshore wind). It's marginally warmer today, but tomorrow and the rest of the week promise 70s, so I'm skipping the bike ride.

On the flight down, I read and enjoyed Tim Akers' new book, The Pagan Night. I'm not an epic fantasy reader, but I found this version of epic fantasy enjoyable. The cover is somewhat more blood-thirsty then the book, which has a fair bit of 2 religions in it. Well worth the read.

Since I'm on vacation, I think I'll catch a movie this afternoon.

Trumped

Two thoughts on Donald Trump.

Thought #1

As found elsewhere: Donald Trump’s rivals and Fox News’ debate moderators laid out a clear and factual case on Thursday that Trump’s policies were unworkable; that he regularly shifted his positions; and that he had engaged in business practices he routinely denounces on the campaign trail.

Trump, in turn, bragged about the size of his penis and promised to force Americans to commit war crimes. He remains the odds on favorite to win the Republican nomination.


Thought #2

Trump isn't a businessman. He's a real estate developer, which is a beast unto itself. Real estate developers tend to look at every act as a deal to be negotiated. It's been jokingly said that developers go to the grocery store and when the cashier tells them their total is X, the developer says, "no, make that X minus 20% or you can put all this stuff back on the shelves."

As part of this deal mentality, developers will scarf up any benefit offered. They may be personally against a specific subsidy, but if it gets the deal done or improves the bottom line, sign them up. Lastly, they tend to be supremely self-confident. They need to be - getting a parcel of land developed is not an easy task.

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"Of Their Times"

Science fiction fans like to argue, or at least to gather and passionately discuss their opinions on science fiction and the creation thereof. One of the many arguments is that some of the important pioneers of the field were racist, sexist or otherwise problematic to modern eyes. The immediate counterargument ("Pavlovian" in the words of one writer) is that so-and-so was "a man of his times."

Well, jimhines has an interesting article the gist of which is not so fast. It's well worth reading in full. Two quick notes from the article:

1) Mister Rogers (of TV fame) was born in 1928. One of the co-founders of the modern KKK was born in 1924. The were both men of the same time.
2) Quote: Keep in mind that recognizing and talking about the problematic attitudes and writing of historical figures is not the same as OMG ERASE THEM FROM THE CANON AND BURN THEIR WORKS AND STRIKE THEIR NAMES FROM THE HISTORY OF THE GENRE!

My semi-original contribution to the debate is this: Donald Trump was born in 1946. Joe Biden was born in 1942. They are both "men of their times" but one would be hard-pressed to confuse the two.

Not Really Surprising

Chicago was supposed to get hit with another winter storm. So far, the storm's been underwhelming. Our mild winter got me to thinking about global warming.

One of the received truths of those who argue against man-caused global warming is that "in the 1970s we were worried about a new ice age." Well, as james_nicoll helpfully notes: The team’s survey of major journal papers published between 1965 and 1979 found that only seven articles predicted that global average temperature would continue to cool. During the same period, 44 journal papers indicated that the average temperature would rise and 20 were neutral or made no climate predictions..

Shorter = no, there was no fear of a new ice age.

Determining Need

A few weeks ago, the science fiction editor David Hartwell died suddenly. I may have said hi to Hartwell at a con, but certainly no meeting of substance. In any event, Hartwell's wife, Kathryn Cramer, posted a request that, in lieu of flowers, people send money to the rural hospital Hartwell died in to buy the hospital a ventilator. (They didn't have one, although the lack of one was not medically significant in Hartwell's case.) Feeling generous, I sent a few bucks.

Over the weekend I got a letter from the hospital. Turns out that the reason the hospital doesn't have a ventilator is staffing, not cash to buy the machine. The hospital talked to Cramer and all of these donations are now going to support the emergency room.

In Rotary, when we do an international grant, we insist that somebody do a community needs assessment before we write the check. This sometimes feels awkward, in that the typical Third World town frequently "needs" everything. However, it's important to determine what the community needs and more importantly what they can (and will) use.

Cramer's request sits as a case in point. Fortunately, everything worked out in the end.

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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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