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Post-election thoughts

Although I'd have been happier if the Democrats had won a few more seats, maybe even picking up a Senate seat or two, I am pleased to see that they performed as well as the polling predicted. Winning the House is a big deal and a positive development.

In the meantime, I am struck by how much the Sad Puppies affair was a preview in miniature of the Trump era. Then and now, we had triumphant Angry White Males proclaiming their perpetual victory, then when said victory proved illusive, claiming fraud, trickery or general bad conduct. In both cases, the losers then, rather then re-evaluating their position in light of reality, decided to angrily stomp off with promises to be back but with more anger. I remain amazed by the strength of the reality-blocking field employed by some groups.

In the Sad Puppies book, the Revenge of the Sad Puppies proved to be a fizzle, not a firecracker. The jury is yet out on Trump, but at least in my heart hope springs eternal. One of the keys to what success was obtained by both Puppies and Trump was to be underestimated and/or unsuspected by their opponents. Once bitten twice shy seems to be more than just an old saying.

Onward and upward.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/712202.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Attack the Block!

Thanks to the magic of pay-per-view, I recently watched the science fiction movie Attack the Block. It came out in 2011, but didn't hang around the movie-plexes for very long. I watched it and found it very enjoyable, but I think I understand why it wasn't as big of a hit as it could have been.

I'll address the popularity aspect of it first. The movie is very British. The lead characters are almost entirely London teens or 20-somethings, and they all speak in heavy accents with London slang. Understanding what they say was a challenge. Also, the block in question is what in America we call public housing and so it's a bit urban for some viewers.

Having said that, it's a really good movie. I found all the characters interesting and well-played. The plot was (for an alien invasion movie) believable and gripping. It really was well worth watching.

Seeing it now in 2018, seven years after it came out and eight years after it was made was also fun. It was the debut of John Boyega, now of Star Wars fame and an early role for the 13th Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker. I recommend checking it out if you haven't.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/712130.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Windycon Schedule

It can be told - I will be at Windycon, to be held November 9-11 at the lovely Westin in Lombard, IL. Herewith is my schedule:

The Reluctant Hero - Friday, 11-09-2018 - 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm - Muller Grand Ballroom H
Katnis Everdeen, Flynn, Mr Limpet, etc. They didn't want to be heroes but they are. The role of the reluctant hero.

Wakanda Forever - Friday, 11-09-2018 - 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm - Lilac C
a discussion of African American cinema

ESP in Fiction - Friday, 11-09-2018 - 10:00 pm to 11:00 pm - Lilac C
Why are we so fascinated by the possibility? Do we want to be more than human?

Writers Workshop Section 2 - Saturday, 11-10-2018 - 9:00 am to 12:00 pm - ISFiC - Room 1612

2pm Reading - Saturday, 11-10-2018 - 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm - 1631 (Reading Room)
2pm Betty Ann Hull 2:30pm Chris Gerrib


Animal Type Casting - Saturday, 11-10-2018 - 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm - Lilac B
Hollywood and Authors type cast all the time. Why are reptiles almost always the villain? A discussion about different animals and how they are type cast.

Shaken Not Stirred - The Mystique of the British Spy - Sunday, 11-11-2018 - 11:00 am to 12:00 pm - Muller Grand Ballroom H
James Bond, Simon Templar, etc. why do we find these men so attractive?

Earth is Toast, Where Do I Go? - Sunday, 11-11-2018 - 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm - Muller Grand Ballroom G
The Earth is ending what SciFi/Fantasy world would you want to live in and why?

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/711825.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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It's Alive! Alive I Tell You!

My writers' group has just released our very first anthology, The Tangled Web. It's alive for sale anywhere finer books are sold. If they don't have it for sale, they don't sell finer books.

Actually, the book is available from various sources here. Buy one, buy many!

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/711650.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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I'm Certified! (More so)

I just passed my ECBA certification, which means I'm a Level 1 Certified Business Analyst. Go me!

I found this course of study more difficult than ITIL, largely because of unfamiliar terminology. In Business Analysis, we elict requirements which are then modeled, verified and validated. "Verified" and "Validated" are different things with different meanings, which can be confusing. (Trust me. I got a few more gray hairs studying for this exam.)

Having said that, what I really got out of this course is an understanding of something that had been a mystery to me, namely the dreaded Project Nope. That's the one where, as you're getting ready to roll out a solution, the client / customer said "Nope! That's not what I wanted!"

I've always been baffled by how that happens. Now I know, or at least know one place to look. The requirements for the solution have not been validated. Nobody looked to see if Feature X actually solved Business Problem Y. Now, it's entirely possible other steps prior to that validation didn't happen, but had the validation been attempted it would have become clear that there was a disconnect between what we're looking to build and what we're looking to solve.

Again, as a project manager for mumble-many years, I had an instinctive understanding that one needs to actually make sure the solution addresses the problem. What I didn't have until today was the language to say "this is what wasn't done" in a manner that could easily be acted on. You learn every day.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/711293.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Walking Shadow

I've met the author of Walking Shadow at various Chicago-area events and finally got around to buying his book. The novel is set in a future Chicago, after some undefined event that wrecked the economy and rendered travel for tourism expensive and rare. It's narrated by Benny, who seems to be a bog-standard welfare bum living in a one-room welfare apartment.

Benny's only problem is that he went to Forget Me and had some memories wiped. The check bounced, and now Forget Me wants their money or they'll share his memories with the police. Since Benny doesn't want to go to jail, he needs to figure out what he forgot and fast.

The novel is a new noir, in which our hero works with hot dames, shady characters and crooked cops. Oh, and a street bum that the old Benny used to kick a lot. It proved to be an entertaining read and left me wanting more from this world. My only irritation was that Benny kept using slang nicknames for city streets, which as a Chicagoan meant I had to puzzle out what streets were being referenced.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/711111.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Murder on Mars!

No, I'm not obsessed with Mars. I can stop thinking about the Red Planet any time I want to. (Clears throat.) Since that day hasn't come yet, I'd like to talk about this article How Will Police Solve Murders on Mars?

I found a lot of the article spot-on, but there was a big red (orange?) flag for me. The author said that Martian police won't have guns because the risk of shooting holes in their station is too high. Er, not really.

First, there are such things as frangible bullets. These are projectiles made from compressed copper powder. When they strike something harder then them (like metal) they break into tiny pieces. They are still lethal, just not as likely to penetrate.

Second, let's think about a bullet hole. A big bullet hole from a large-caliber handgun is less than half-an-inch in diameter. Even for a small pressure vessel, it's going to take a while for enough air to leak out to cause a problem. Also, pressure vessels, especially those on the ground where weight isn't as big of an issue, can be (and probably would be) made self-sealable. After all, it would really suck if an errant screwdriver could depressurize your hab.

Finally, let's think about what you need for your hypothetical Mars habitat. Mars has much higher levels of surface radiation and very extreme temperatures. As it happens, the best way to protect yourself from both is with dirt. Basically, pile some dirt on top of the hab and it will insulate you from both radiation and temperature. Said dirt will also absorb bullets and minimize if not stop leakage.

Now, to be fair, your typical hab will probably have a lot of stuff in it that doesn't react well to bullets. But depressurization is probably low on the list of problems with going all O.K. Corral on Mars.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/710884.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

WIOA Wow!

I've been managing projects my entire professional life. In the Navy, I managed repair and operational projects. In both my civilian jobs, I managed and implemented every flavor of IT infrastructure project you can do, as well as some facilities projects. Specifically, four new branch builds, a corporate headquarters build-out and move, and two gut-level branch remodels.

However, I never got a Project Management Professional certification. My first company wanted me to get technical certifications and my second company didn't place much value in certifications. They just wanted the job to get done. In my current career search, I've discovered that a lack of certifications is a problem. Simply put, many Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) packages screen my resume out.

So, getting a certificate would be helpful. Fortunately, I've found out about a program called Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This is a Federally-funded program to get money to pay for career training. I've started the pipeline, and so far it appears I'll get the funding I need to get this certification (and others) in the near future. It appears to be a straight-forward program, and one of the best-kept secrets around.

If this is something you might want, visit https://www.illinoisworknet.com/WIOA for details.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/710505.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Transcription - a novel

Some time ago, actually during my visit to San Francisco, I discovered the English author Kate Atkinson. She's a literary writer, and is not terribly prolific. When I saw she came out with a new novel, I bought it.

The novel is called Transcription and it's a work of historical fiction. During WWII, the British government was very concerned that homegrown groups of Nazis and their sympathizers would cause problems. They came up with a devious solution, namely having MI5 agents pretend to be German agents. The locals would go to these fake agents, pass their information on, and it would never get to Germany.

As part of this program, various meeting places were set up and bugged. The conversations therein where recorded and transcribed for official records. That's where the fiction starts. Kate imagines Juliet Armstrong, an 18-year-old Londoner, getting hired to be the typist for one of these operations. This being fiction, things happen. Things that are hard to describe without being spoilers, so I shan't.

This being Kate Atkinson, things happen in three different time periods. There's a brief section set in 1981 followed by sections set in 1940 and 1950. The 1950 sections are perhaps the most interesting. Here, Juliet, now a mid-level functionary in the BBC, finds herself being threatened by somebody from her past.

Kate is most definitely a British writer, which shows in her wonderful prose. She's also a keen observer of the human condition, and very good at creating the aura of a time period. For example, 1950 Juliet gets a book on Mediterranean cooking. Alas, the only olive oil she can find comes in a small jar at the drugstore for softening ear wax!

In any event, this book is highly recommended.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/710285.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Two Book Reviews

To prevent this blog from being all Kavanaugh, all the time, herewith are two reviews of books I've read.

The Art of Raising Hell

I grew up in one town north of and one decade later than the author. As a result, I recognize most of the settings described in the book, which for me made it part of the fun. Your mileage may vary.

Regarding the book itself, I found it interesting but a bit flawed. The narrator, Newbie Johnson, is going through high school in Bunsen Creek and has an older friend, Lonny Nack. Lonny is the hell-raiser of the title, and we get to see him raise quite a bit of hell. (Streaking, that 1970s fad, is just one example.) Most of the story is just events in Newbie's and Lonny's life. There's a subplot about a small-town businessmen gone bad, but that feels tacked on. Overall, I liked it - 4 out of 5 stars.

A Memory Called Empire

I recently acquired an advanced reader's copy of this book. I assume that (in part) I was given said book to generate some buzz about it. Consider this my buzz. Preorder this book! The plot is simple yet convoluted. In the far future, an empire with Roman elements rules most of humanity. One small part not under the empire, the space station Lsel, needs to send a new ambassador to the planet-city capital. Why they need to send an new ambassador is not defined.

While this is going on, we are seeing hints of an alien invasion brewing. We are also privy to a lot of palace intrigue, as it proves that the previous ambassador was a favorite of the Emperor. Our young replacement ambassador finds herself way in the deep end without a life vest.

I found this book literally impossible to put down. I read it in one long gulp. Five stars.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/709956.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Sad

At this hour, it looks like the Senate will move to confirm Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. They may get one Democratic vote but it will be otherwise party line. This despite the fact that Kavanaugh is a liar and clearly not of a judicial temperament. This is a shame.

When, eventually, the Democrats regain control of government and either impeach Kavanaugh or pack the court to nullify him, I expect the same group of Republicans to whine at high volume about the violation of norms. That will be a shame. When one engages in naked partisanship, one should expect to get called on it.

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Government Service

I had to go to the VA today. I've volunteered for their Million Veteran Program. It's a large-scale health study and I needed to provide a one-time blood sample. While I was there I got my annual flu shot.

It's fashionable in certain circles to complain about poor service from government agencies, but so far I've gotten nothing but good service from the VA. My local VA center, Hines, has a parking problem (which required Congress to spend money to fix) and some of the facilities are a bit dated (ditto). However, the place is clean, well-maintained and the employees are helpful.

For example, yes they have a parking problem. So they have shuttle carts roaming the parking lot to pick up patients. So as to not have a parade of people coming in just to get a two-minute flu shot, they set up a mobile unit in the parking lot. I was in-and-out in 30 minutes all told.

Government service can be good. I've seen it.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/709457.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Getting Back in the Saddle

I've found that various frustrations in real life have led to a lack of postings. These frustrations are two-fold, first the glacial pace of job-hunting and second the ongoing dumpster fire of politics. I'll speak a bit of the later and conclude on a more positive note.

The Current Dumpster Fire - Kavanaugh

I remain amazed that anybody supports the nomination of Kavanaugh to any court. Yelling at and attacking people who are interviewing you for a job should be disqualifying. At this point, it's also clear that he lied about his drinking problem in high school and college.

Having said that, I understand why he still has support. Republicans have been trained to not think critically and to assume that any questioning of them or theirs is mere partisanship. Thus, many Republicans firmly believe that Ford is lying, even though not a shred of evidence exists to support that. Again, lacking the ability to think critically, their counter-arguments to those in the Reality-Based Community is merely to repeat the same assertions more loudly. This leads me at least to be greatly irritated.

A More Positive Note

I was a backer for a Kickstarted science fiction anthology Unidentified Funny Objects 7. As one might suspect, the book is a collection of humorous short science fiction and fantasy stories. I didn't find any of them laugh-out-loud funny, but with one exception they were humorous and enjoyable. Highly recommended.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/709240.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Sad Puppy Kavanaugh

I had a minor role in the Affair of the Sad Puppies, and I see many parallels between that affair and the current brouhaha over Brett Kavanaugh.

In the Sad Puppies, we had a group of individuals who claimed that because unspecified conspiracies had occurred, they were allowed to have a very public conspiracy. We (the non-Puppies) were also told that we had to follow the rules, including a that was made up specifically by the Puppies for us. This was the "rule" that we couldn't vote No Award in a category.

When, as I and many others did, it was pointed out that the Puppies were violating the social norms of the organization, we were told to suck it up and called names. There was a huge amount of high-handedness coming from the Puppies such that some people who were ideologically aligned with the group walked away.

In the end, people (like me) came out from the woodwork to fight and block the Puppies. This yielded more crying from the Puppies, this time arguing that we were unfairly attacking them.

As I said at the top of this post, I see the same pattern with Trump in general and the Kavanaugh nomination in particular. In this case, the special "rule" being used by the Republicans is that idea that once a hearing is held on a subject, no more hearings can be held even if new information surfaces. To state such a rule is to highlight the absurdity of it.

In any event, the Republicans had better hope that the Supreme Court does not overturn Roe V. Wade. Although much short-term damage will be done, in the long term they will get rolled by a large majority. Simply put and as they discovered with Obamacare, taking a right away from the American people is the best way to get millions of them to come out of the woodwork in opposition.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/708992.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

In Fairness...

In fairness to Comcast, having grumbled about my slow Internet, they did get out last night and fix it. Also as part of the fixing, I got a new TV box and a $70/month reduction in my bill. Go me!

In other news, I read and devoured Mary Robinette Kowal's latest novel, The Fated Sky. It's book 2 of her "punchcard punk" universe, in which a large asteroid forces man to accelerate the space race in the early 1950s. In this edition, Elma York, our "Lady Astronaut" goes to Mars. It's a wonderful book, but you'll never look at a donut or rice the same way again. In even better news, Mary signed a six-figure deal with Tor to produce three more books in the same universe. Yeah team!

Finally, I backed a Kickstarter project for Unidentified Funny Objects 7, an anthology of humorous SF. My ebook came today. More on that anon.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/708820.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Grumble...

I've been fighting Comcast with regards to my intermittent lack-of-internet as of late. I've finally convinced them that the problem is with the wire, not my (now brand-new) modem. So now I get to wait for them to come out. Oh joy.

Over the weekend, I saw an article about the restfulness of taking sabbaticals. Since I'm unemployed and de-facto on a sabbatical, I can confirm the validity of the article. I'm to the point now that I miss going to work.

In my now-actually copious free time, I've been watching the Kavanaugh confirmation mess. As a child of the 1980s, I can confirm that sexual assault, even when blind drunk, was not okay back them. I'll go out on a limb a little here and say that, given the details of the allegations, if he at least admitted it and apologized profusely *AND* this was a one-time thing I'd be willing to give him a pass. Since he seems unwilling to do any of the above, no pass for him from me.

That's all for this update - more when events warrant it.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/708408.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

9/11 Anniversary

Today is the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Here in Chicago at least, the weather is the same as it was that day - cool with a cloudless blue sky.

There are kids today starting college who have no memory of the attack, and no experience living in a world where 9/11 was a thing. Actually, there are kids graduating college for whom the 9/11 attacks are their earliest memory.

I find it worth asking this question - how much of our response to 9/11 was necessary? Iraq, an attack sold in part as a "prevent another 9/11," was clearly not needed. (Yes, at the time, I was for the Iraq war. I was wrong.)

Other questions worth asking are do we still need to be in Afghanistan? Is whatever we're doing in Syria needed? Given the extreme aversion to thinking shown by the current ruling party in Washington, none of these questions are being asked.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/708250.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Writing program-related activities

As mentioned more than once on this blog, I write books. I've got three of them available for sale at Amazon in paper and electronic format.

Like most writers, I struggle with marketing. It's actually a problem with publishing as a whole. With over 200,000 new titles coming out a year, getting attention for any one book is a problem. As it happens, I'm attending the 2018 edition of the Writing Excuses Workshop (sorry, registration is closed) in a few weeks. It's a cruise and a workshop!

I've just gotten another chunk of my schedule, which is a breakout section entitled "The Business of Writing." Hopefully from this and other activities I can get some useful marketing tips.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/708010.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

This seems legit!

An email I received today which seems totally legit to me:

We came across your resume on a job board, and we wanted to contact you regarding a job opportunity at our company.
We feel that your qualities and skills are in line with being a suitable applicant for this position.

Job Type: Home-based;
Compensation: up to $2500/month;
Prompt Start: You will start working immediately; No Investments: You do not need to make any investments to start with this position!

The position will be taking about 2-3 hrs of your time per day. Flexible Schedule.

Job Requirements:
- General knowledge of Adobe Acrobat Reader and Microsoft Office applications;
- Consistent Internet access;
- Access to printer and scanner;
- Must be accurate and attentive to details.

Duties:
Goods will be sent to your residential address.
You will have to to examine the merchandise, repack it, take pictures, make detailed reports, and reship the items to the customer.

If you wish to discuss this opportunity further, please reply to this address and HR representative will reach out to you as soon as we are able.

If the described job is not interesting to you, please do not respond to this email.


This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/707799.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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I'm Back

I'm back from my downstate vacation. While I was downstate, the John McCain funeral was in the news. Various Trump supporters wondered since when did funerals become a venue for political attacks on the President?

I'd like to know since when did singing the virtues of patriotism, sacrifice, honor and dignity become a political attack on the President of the United States?

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/707423.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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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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