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A Stopped Clock...

They say a stopped clock is right twice a day. In this case, the clock that's stopped is Wily E. Coyote, Super-Genius At Large, AKA Vox Day.

Comes news today that two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf were attacked. Both ships are afloat and all crew have been evacuated. This comes on the heels of an attack on four oil tankers in the Gulf a few weeks ago.

In the previous attack, the empty tankers were hit with small bombs placed at the waterline - attacks calculated for maximum visibility and minimum damage. The Saudis and the US were quick to blame Iran for that attack. They are blaming Iran for the latest attack as well.

Mr. Coyote is claiming these attacks are false flags. Although he blames a lot of bad things on false flag attacks, here I think he's right. Where he's wrong is that he's blaming either the US or Israel for the incidents.

Personally I think it's the Saudis. They are glad to fight Iran to the last American. I also think they've taken the measure of our President and found it small. That plus he's currently advised by John Bolton, a man who's never seem a war he didn't like, would suggest it would be easy to get the US to fight Iran.

Elections have consequences.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/726869.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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NASFIC schedule

Herewith is my tentative schedule for NASFIC AKA Spikecon, to be held in Layton Utah (Salt Lake City area) on July 3rd thru July 7th.

Thu Jul 4 7:00:pm
Everything Old Is New Again
Stratus 9

Not every hero has to be young and studly. Not every woman has to be sexy and slim. More books are appearing with characters who are middle aged or even old. What are the dangers in writing these personas? How do you appeal to the younger readers? How do you make life experience a part of solving your plot twists?


Fri Jul 5 3:15:pm
The Changing Face(s) of Space Opera
Meridian E

Space Opera is changing, becoming more inclusive and populated by ever-more-diverse characters. What tropes define space opera? How do you modify or subvert them and still remain in the subgenre? We'll discuss how writers align space opera stories with modern values and expectations while adhering to the spirit of the genre.


Fri Jul 5 7:00:pm
Down the Rabbit Hole
Meridian F

Stories where people are transported to other worlds, parallel dimensions, or into virtual realities are becoming popular again. What is the appeal of this genre? How is this classic of fantasy being made new again?

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/726723.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Firejammer by Jeff Duntemann

I've been a fan of Jeff Duntemann for some years. I read his latest book Firejammer over the past two days. It's really good.

The story is told from the point of view of Vincent Icehall, shuttle pilot assigned to the Tripartisan Economic Combine's ship Richard M. Nixon. They are in the process of negotiating a trade deal with an "unconsolidated" alien race on a world with a really bad volcano problem. Unconsolidated races are ones in which the planet doesn't have one unified government, and our aliens are at roughly an Iron Age civilization. But they are biological chemical factories who eat rocks and excrete a really superior adhesive - something that the Nixon's crew can sell.

Icehall had made friends with one of the aliens in a previous visit, and he renews the friendship. Then, in an action-packed last third of the book, he discovers that these aliens are really different in a number of non-obvious ways. He also discovers that their world's volcano problem is much worse then thought.

Many science fiction readers also read mysteries, and I think they do so for the same reasons. In science fiction, the question isn't WhoDunIt but HowDoesTheWorldWork. Jeff creates a very interesting world with very interesting humans and aliens. Well worth the read.

(Oh, and the title has special significance which you won't get until you read the end.)

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/726347.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Winter Flower by Charles Sheehan-Miles

Charles Sheehan-Miles, America's most criminally-underappreciated writer, gave me an advanced reader's copy of his new novel Winter Flower. I've just finished it and am starting my PR blitz on it.

The novel is the story of the Roberts family. When the book opens, we see Cole Roberts working his butt off managing a Waffle House in rural Alabama. It's a huge comedown from his six-figure job in IT. This is something the author has had some personal experience. We learn quickly that Cole's daughter Brenna disappeared two years ago on the night of her 16th birthday. This triggered a series of events that put Cole on probation and broke and sees his wife drinking wine out of a bottle and their younger son Sam a picked-upon recluse. Then things get worse.

What Charles is very good at is taking ordinary people and throwing them into extraordinary circumstances. That's exactly what he does in Winter Flower. All of his characters are at one point or another in life-threatening situations. They have to deal with them without superpowers or Navy SEAL training. They also have very real and very human frailties and faults which sometimes cause them to make bad decisions. In fact, all four of the Roberts family has made at least one bad decision in the book. But they continue on and try to do the best that they can.

I found the ending of this book surprising and unexpected but very believable. This is also a book with two endings - there's the end of the life-threatening stuff and then a realistic ending dealing with the aftermath. This book is just really damn good!

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/726246.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Infrastructure Week

A few weeks ago, the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate stated publicly that they were willing to meet with and work with President Trump to pass an infrastructure bill. IIRC, the figure $2 trillion in spending was bantered about. This is of course after Trump spent his campaign and the first two years of his term promising a bill to rebuild America was coming out Real Soon Now.

When the talk of the Democrats working with Trump on anything was floated, various pundits stated that giving Trump any sort of political "win" was dangerous. I always found this stance problematic, since we really do need to run the country.

Comes news this morning that Trump cancelled a meeting with Democratic leadership to make a speech in the Rose Garden. The gist of his speech was that Democrats need to choose between “investigation” or “investment”.

Color me unsurprised. Trump is simply not capable of making a deal. His idea of a "deal" is "you do whatever I want." Nor was this a spontaneous outburst - the podium had a sign with anti-Mueller verbiage on it that took at least a few hours to make. So much for "infrastructure week."

The bottom line is that there is no downside to trying to work with Trump on a deal for anything. He'll either get rolled or blow it up. Either way, it's all "good" for certain values of good.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/725778.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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ConQuest KC Schedule

Herewith is my schedule for ConQuest 50, to be held in lovely downtown Kansas City on Memorial Day weekend. (And it really is a lovely downtown.)


The Year in Bad Science
Friday May 24, 2019 5:30pm - 6:30pm Van Horn C

Toxic Tropes
Saturday May 25, 2019 1:00pm - 2:00pm Van Horn C

Go Go Godzilla!
Sunday May 26, 2019 11:30am - 12:30pm Empire A

Just The Facts: GMOs
Sunday May 26, 2019 1:00pm - 2:00pm Empire A

My First Love: Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo or Jar Jar?
Sunday May 26, 2019 2:30pm - 3:30pm Empire B

It looks like I'll be a bit dead on Sunday!

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/725519.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Winter Flower - Preliminary Thoughts

I've been a fan of Charles Sheehan-Miles for years. I have to say, he's the kind of author that hopes to never run into any of his characters in a dark alley. They would not be nice to him!

I'm about 2/3rds of the way through an Advanced Reader's Copy of his new novel Winter Flower. It's the story of the Roberts family, which is having a ton of problems. One of them, the disappearance of their daughter on her sixteenth birthday, they know about all too well.

Other problems are every bit as real but haven't been discovered yet. Things are moving along nicely to the big finale, and I'm looking forward to finishing the book.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/725325.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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I've discussed before the situation where NRA leaders are allegedly fleecing the organization. There's also news that the NRA was offering insurance for gun-owners in case they got in a shoot-out. Allegedly, this scheme was questionable if not another scam. It's also a money-losing operation for the NRA. Finally comes news that a militia leader was extorting members of his 'militia'.

The common thread? All of the people being fleeced are fearful. Science fiction fans are familiar with a quote from the book Dune: "Fear is the mind-killer."

The people being fleeced have turned their minds off.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/724771.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Check Up

I had my annual physical today. Yes I should exercise more, drop a few pounds and eat less, but the good news is that my cholesterol is down significantly. I think that's because I've changed my diet.

When I was working at the bank, I went out for lunch pretty much five days a week. Very occasionally I'd pick up a sandwich and bring it back to work or have something catered in for a meeting, but I never packed a lunch at home and brought it in. Most of the time, I went out to sit-down places. I argued that I needed the mental break.

Maybe I needed the break, but as a result I ate big lunches. Now that I'm bringing in lunches from home to work, I eat a smaller lunch. Like, a regular sandwich instead of a big sub smaller. It appears that change knocked my cholesterol down. It also saves me a few bucks - eating out can be expensive!

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/724555.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Goose!

How many car wrecks are caused by geese? Today while driving to work in left-hand lane, the car in front of me stopped. There was no obvious reason - no traffic in front and nowhere to turn left.

I ended up finding out the reason when the stopped car moved to the right-hand land. There was a goose on road. But I've learned something in my old age.

If you keep driving (slowly enough for the goose to move) the goose will in fact move! Problem solved and no wrecks.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/724423.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Female Friendship

I watched and enjoyed Captain Marvel, as did many other people. (When I just did a Google search for that link, I was offered a list of theatrical showtimes for that movie. Somebody likes it.)

Regarding that movie, I've seen a lot of comments to the effect that Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel was a lesbian, in a relationship with Maria Rambeau (played by Lashana Lynch). I found myself wondering that during the movie.

Here's the thing, though. Popular fiction is full of depictions of close male friendships. Just off the top of my head, these run the gamut from Riggs and Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon all the way back to Laurel and Hardy. It's okay, common even, to see male friendships, but apparently uncommon to see female ones. (And yes, I am Aware of All Internet Traditions, including slash-fic.)

Offered for your consideration.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/724021.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Various Thoughts, Rule of Law Edition

Thoughts on the concept of "Rule of Law."

Thought #1

A judge in Massachusetts was charged with obstruction of justice for letting an illegal immigrant slip out the back door of a courtroom to avoid being arrested by ICE. I understand the concern - if illegals are arrested in courthouses then they are less likely to testify and more likely to be victims of crime. But, we don't get to pick and choose which laws we obey.

Thought #2

Congress has issued subpoenas and requests for information from the President and his staff. Congress is legally allowed to make such requests and the Executive is legally required to comply. This Executive is telling his staff to ignore the law. We don't get to pick and choose which laws we obey.

Thought #3

I would be a lot more comfortable with the actions of the government in Thought #1, above, if they were actually obeying and enforcing all the laws, not just the ones they like. The rule of law requires that we all obey the laws. Selective obedience to the law translates to anarchy.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/723923.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

The Calm Before The Storm

My Rotary club's annual fundraiser, A Taste of Route 66, is tonight at 6 PM. (You can still buy tickets and attend or donate / purchase items online at the link.)

Setup for the event starts in little more than an hour. I'm helping at the event, and I've finished everything I can do in advance for that event. On the day job front, I deliberately kept my calendar clean, so there's not much I need to do. Basically, right now I'm just hanging out.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/723541.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Flim-Flam Men, Part Two

Lost in the hoopla about the Mueller report is another report on (alleged) malfeasance at another conservative institution. In the New Yorker there's a long article about organized looting at the NRA. I am a member of that organization.

Basically, the article alleges that various officers of the organization are also getting paid by the NRA's media relations firm, Ackerman McQueen. For example, Oliver North, current NRA President, is also reported to be receiving a million dollars a year from Ackerman McQueen. This company alone receives 40 million dollars from the NRA per year. It's also alleged that the owners of Ackerman McQueen have created other shell companies to funnel money out of the NRA. It's gotten bad enough that the board of the NRA or a part thereof is suing NRATV, an Ackerman-created entity, just to get contracts so they can figure out how badly they are being looted.

I've written before of the tendency of the American Right to follow obvious flim-flam men. Herewith I present another example, although in this case it appears that the rot has been going on for a while. This rot is also enabled because the NRA no longer spends money on gun safety, it's original mission. 90% of my dues are going to various media and political activities such as NRATV.

This scam is in part coming to light because, as in all games of musical chairs, the music eventually stops. The election of Trump has greatly reduced cash flowing into the NRA, and now that money's tight (coffee is no longer free at NRA headquarters) people are asking where did it go. As Lincoln said, "you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/723242.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Keeping Them Down On The Farm

Dr. Sarah Taber, an agricultural specialist, has up a fascinating Twitter thread on agricultural farm labor. It starts with this note: the first mechanical cotton harvesters were invented in the 1830s. But because slave labor was so cheap, nobody bought them.

Other highlights of the thread:
1) The Great Migration of blacks from the south started in 1916. By the 1940s, (accelerated by the labor demands of WWII) there weren't enough people in the South willing to pick cotton, at least at the rates farmers were willing to pay. Therefore, mechanical cotton pickers became a thing.

2) A key part of the KKK was an attempt to terrorize blacks to stay put and work on the cotton farm. It was economic - an attempt to ensure a cheap labor source.

3) Now, we're seeing the same economic dynamics in fruit and vegetable farming. Immigrants really don't want to pick fruit; they do so because that's the job they can get. As immigrant labor dries up, now mechanical options become viable.

4) We have this myth that outside of the South, farms were mostly family-owned. Not so - in the early 20th century, tenant farm rates were the same nationwide. As tenant farmers moved to cities, mechanization became important. The self-same mechanization and depopulation helped dry up small-town America.

Fascinating stuff.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/723130.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Fail

Yesterday came news that Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen resigned. Apparently this was at least in part over her refusal to disobey the laws and the courts by forcibly separating illegal immigrants from their children. This does not make her a hero. After all, she was fine with the policy until it got stopped by the courts.

But it does highlight two somethings I’ve said before. First, Trump has no morals or principles. Least of all, he does not have the principle of rule of law. This rule is what prevents the US from becoming a banana republic. Simply put, the President does not make the law, he enforces the law.

Second, Trump is incompetent. He had two years of a Republican-controlled Congress, during which he could have changed the laws. But Mister "Art of the Deal" can't seem to cut a deal with, well, anybody. This means he ends up flailing about.

My question is at what point in this process of flailing do people see it for what it is?

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/722699.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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The Light Brigade

Over the weekend, I finished Kameron Hurley's new novel The Light Brigade. I found it very enjoyable although somewhat opaque.

The story is told in first person from the viewpoint of Dietz, a Brazilian and a new recruit to the "army." I put "army" in quotes because this future Earth was nearly ruined in a war and what's left is now ruled by six large corporations. Dietz is a Resident of one of those corporations, which gets him very little in the way of benefits but more than not being affiliated.

Earth, we are told, is at war with a human-settled Mars, and the war is fought by converting humans into light, shooting the light at a location, then reconverting the humans at the destination. Basically war by transporters. In Dietz's case, it appears that the transport system isn't working - he finds he's coming back from different missions than the rest of his platoon. Eventually Dietz figures out he's traveling in time.

This time travel results in a non-linear story, which requires some work on the reader's part. It's worth the effort. The book has been compared to The Forever War which is a fair comparison. Both stories take place in worlds that don't look like they are worth fighting for and much of what is happening is not what it appears to be. The book is definitely one you'll find yourself thinking about afterwards.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/722507.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Public Service Announcement

If you have a minor fender-bender, please move completely off of the road to exchange details. Do not sit in the turning lane of a major intersection during rush hour, especially if you are 10 feet away from a store parking lot. That is all.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/722237.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Mid-week update

Various short notes:

1) I mentioned that I had read and enjoyed Elizabeth Bear's Ancestral Night. What is still sticking with me 3 days later is that Bear has two characters spend a lengthy period debating politics. There are good and sufficient plot reasons for that to happen, so it works. What I remember is that one of the characters is the "modern" equivalent of your typical libertarian. Many of the arguments they have are strongly reminiscent of Internet debates I've had.

2) Here in Illinois, we had a consolidated local election yesterday. One of my friends, Maureen Dunne, won her bid to be on the Board of Trustees of College of DuPage and a badly-needed school bond referendum passed. Finally, most of my candidates won. It was a good night.

3) I had a writing group meeting last night. We lost our room (we don't pay, so when a paying group shows up we get the boot) but it was still a good meeting. In a rarity for me, I submitted a re-write of a scene to the group. It's the novel's climax, so I felt it was important to get right. Generally it appears I did.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/721990.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Ancestral Night

Over the weekend, I read and enjoyed Elizabeth Bear's Ancestral Night. It's a honking big space opera, both in terms of page count and ideas. Set 500+ years in the future, the novel stars Hamley Dz, a human woman and one-third of a space salvage team. She's paired with Connla, a human male, and Singer, the shipmind / AI. The three of them "stumble" upon alien tech that's well-advanced from theirs. They also stumble upon pirates, corrupt bureaucrats, and mysterious aliens.

Bear has created a fascinating and well-crafted world, one that's as different as ours as our era is to Shakespeare's. But one can see the through-line from us to them, and it's an interesting line indeed. There's also a very interesting political and cultural interaction between Dz, our heroine, and the pirate Zenda Farweather. This interaction, while interesting, did run a bit long, which was my sole complaint about the book. Overall, I found it highly entertaining.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/721716.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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