Collision!

Aug. 21st, 2017 08:29 am
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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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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.

Thursday

Aug. 17th, 2017 04:22 pm
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Over the past few days I had to travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a science fiction convention. Tomorrow (or next blog post) I'll share my thoughts on my in-flight reading material. Today, some random thoughts about the trip, the con, and San Juan.

1) For years, TSA checkpoints have been providing plastic bins into which one dumps your stuff, to include your laptop. At both checkpoints, I got sent through a line where not only did the laptop stay in the bag, but no bins were provided. The contents off one's pockets were to be put in your bag. I had a bit of a problem with that because I have loose change in my pockets and didn't want to scatter it in a large pocket.

2) In the flight over, I had a layover in Orlando. I was amused to see at my gate two teenage girls that had to be Central Casting's idea of "Puerto Rican teenager." Big hair, too much makeup, too tight and too skimpy shorts and tops, all while radiating waves of attitude.

3) The Old Town of San Juan is quaint, but with the heat and humidity I faded fast. I did have a Pina Colada and a nice grouper filet at Barrachina, the birthplace of the Pina Colada.

4) The convention itself was sparsely-attended. Despite a big production about making sure everything would b bilingual, there were hardly any locals present. Pretty much everybody there was from out of town.

5) Speaking of bilingual, apparently I look like a gringo. Everybody started talking to me in English.
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Scott Adams, the gift that keeps on giving, dashed off a blog post on his lunch hour in which he solves the North Korea problem. Like much emanating from the Alt-Right at the moment, his idea is at best half-baked. Scott, like many of the alt-right, is completely unable to understand what the various groups want. So, he makes an assumption about what they want, then follows that assumption down a logical path. But because he hasn't walked in the other guy's shoes, his understanding of their goal is so far out that his proposal makes no sense.

In this particular case, Scott assumes that China wants a peaceful Korean peninsula. Well, they'd like and would take a peaceful region, but what they absolutely don't want is for North Korea to collapse. That would spark a massive refugee problem and other political and economic heartburn. China also doesn't want a well-armed and Western-sponsored nation on it's border. China likes buffer zones. As a bonus, North Korean antics distract the US, giving China a freer hand in the region. This means China can't and won't push too hard on North Korea.

Scott assumes the North Korean leadership is interested in personal financial gain, so his plan gives them time to move their money overseas to hide it. Maybe, but it's entirely possible that the Kim family are psychopaths who just want people to be scared of them. It's also possible that they think Communism is "right" and the current poverty is character-building. Lastly, something is keeping the army from just taking over. Perhaps if one removes the "threat" of invasion from the South, the army will see that as a green light to take over.

At any rate, the failure of the Alt-Right and Trump to understand this is part of a whole. Somebody once said that for every problem there was a solution that was simple, obvious and wrong. The Alt-Right has a platform full of such solutions.
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THE UNANIMOUS
DECLARATION
OF THE
THIRTEEN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
WHEN, in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's GOD entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate, that Governments long established, should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.

HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.

HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

HE has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyranny only.

HE has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.

HE has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.

HE has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining, in the mean Time, exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and Convulsions within.

HE has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

HE has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries.

HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance.

HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the Consent of our Legislatures.

HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

HE has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

FOR quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us:

FOR protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

FOR cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

FOR imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

FOR depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:

FOR abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rule into these Colonies:

FOR taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

FOR suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.

HE has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection, and waging War against us.

HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

HE is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with Circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

HE has constrained our Fellow-Citizens, taken Captive on the high Seas, to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

HE has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes, and Conditions.

IN every Stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every Act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.

NOR have we been wanting in Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them, from Time to Time, of Attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our Connexions and Correspondence. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and of Consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the Rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connexion between them and the State of Great-Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of Right do. And for the Support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of DIVINE PROVIDENCE, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honour.

John Hancock.

GEORGIA, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, Geo. Walton.
NORTH-CAROLINA, Wm. Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn.
SOUTH-CAROLINA, Edward Rutledge, Thos Heyward, junr. Thomas Lynch, junr. Arthur Middleton.
MARYLAND, Samuel Chase, Wm. Paca, Thos. Stone, Charles Carroll, of Carrollton.
VIRGINIA, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Ths. Jefferson, Benja. Harrison, Thos. Nelson, jr. Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton.
PENNSYLVANIA, Robt. Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benja. Franklin, John Morton, Geo. Clymer, Jas. Smith, Geo. Taylor, James Wilson, Geo. Ross.
DELAWARE, Caesar Rodney, Geo. Read.
NEW-YORK, Wm. Floyd, Phil. Livingston, Frank Lewis, Lewis Morris.
NEW-JERSEY, Richd. Stockton, Jno. Witherspoon, Fras. Hopkinson, John Hart, Abra. Clark.
NEW-HAMPSHIRE, Josiah Bartlett, Wm. Whipple, Matthew Thornton.
MASSACHUSETTS-BAY, Saml. Adams, John Adams, Robt. Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry.
RHODE-ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE, &c. Step. Hopkins, William Ellery.
CONNECTICUT, Roger Sherman, Saml. Huntington, Wm. Williams, Oliver Wolcott.

IN CONGRESS, JANUARY 18, 1777.
ORDERED,
THAT an authenticated Copy of the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCY, with the Names of the MEMBERS of CONGRESS, subscribing the same, be sent to each of the UNITED STATES, and that they be desired to have the same put on RECORD.
By Order of CONGRESS,
JOHN HANCOCK, President.
BALTIMORE, in MARYLAND: Printed by MARY KATHARINE GODDARD.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Posted elsewhere, in response to a question on how America can "fix healthcare."

This really isn't rocket science. Most of the rest of the world has figured it out years ago. The solution, in broad strokes, is:

1) Get everybody to pay into the healthcare system, whether via taxes or private insurance. Actually, taxes are cheaper because private insurance has marketing and profit overheads. But everybody is important, in that you don't want some freeloader rolling into an emergency room, especially for something that could have been managed cheaply had they been able to see a doctor sooner.

1a) Everybody in is also important in that, just like auto insurance or homeowner insurance, those that don't file a claim subsidize those that do.

2) Allow the large payers (in our case Medicare / Medicaid) to negotiate pricing. In every other country, they do so, and get meds and equipment at a fraction of the cost. For example, in Belgium, if you need an artificial hip joint, you get the same one you do in the US (both made in a factory in Indiana) but the Belgium one cost $800 and the US one costs $20,000.

3) Pay doctors on performance, not activity. Right now, my doc has every financial incentive to order every test I'll take. Penalize hospitals for things like hospital-based infections. Again, the financial incentive of a hospital is to keep you in. These changes will force the health-care system to get more efficient.

Most of the rest of the world accomplishes this by having a government paid-for (Canada) or government-ran (UK) system that relies on private insurance for supplementary things, like private rooms or other upgrades. In fact, in Canada, they call it Medicare and it works like US medicare except you buy in at birth. I'll say it because somebody will comment on it, but even when Canada has to ship somebody to the US (which they do, at government cost, because it's cheaper than having Canadian specialists) they deliver quality health care at a fraction of the cost.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Guns, Fictional

One of the writers I follow, Tanya Huff, recently released a new book A Peace Divided. It's pseudo Mil-SF, in that the lead characters are ex-military who serve as a SWAT team for the interstellar police. It's an entertaining read.

However, in Huff's fictional world, civilians are completely disarmed. I've had issues with that before, in that a society that can repair toasters can make guns. Here, she's gone to even more extremes - her ex-military types literally do not have the word "pistol" in their vocabulary! All guns are long guns. I like the story, but this I don't buy.

Guns, Real

Readers of this blog know that I recently purchased a Ruger LCR. This "light carry revolver" is, as advertised, light. With full-power .38 ammunition, it's frankly painful to shoot. At my dad's recommendation, I purchased some Hornady Critical Defense bullets. These have lighter recoil and are designed for light carry guns. I shot some last night. My LCR still bounces, but it's gone from painful to unpleasant.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
"Learn Your Craft," or how to show one's ass in public.

I was at a neighborhood restaurant over the weekend, and the lady near me ordered Oysters Rockefeller. They were served with Tabasco sauce, as per the menu. The lady found this highly unacceptable, a manager was called, and when Hollandaise sauce or an (in the mind of the customer) substitute was not immediately available our customer told the manager to "learn your craft."

To the great relief of all concerned, the customer left shortly thereafter. There are times and places where getting in high dungeon over a meal in a restaurant is appropriate. When a menu item is served in a timely manner and exactly as described on the menu is not such an occasion.

Writing

So, I got some fiction writing done today. I added a new scene in which we get some backstory about a major character and some unanswered questions. Go me!

Hugos

I have cast my final votes for all Hugo categories I care to vote in. I'm not a graphic novel guy, so I didn't vote there, and I had no opinions on the fan artist, so no votes.

Politics

Jun. 22nd, 2017 08:41 pm
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Two political thoughts:

1) Trump lied. (Yeah, I know, and water's wet.) Those jobs he "saved" at Carrier before his inauguration? They are leaving.

2) John Scalzi is wise on the lack of benefits of tax cuts to rich people.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Clarification

Some people understood my Friday post to read that I had missed a flight. No, somebody else in line had missed their flight.

Research

So I mentioned that I'm traveling to The Old Soil in August. One of the pre-travel questions I had was "where in Lithuania exactly was the old soil?" Fortunately, my great-uncle Walter went back to Lithuania for a visit circa 1927. This meant he had to formally get naturalized (I don't think my great-grandfather bothered to do that) and get a passport.

In the process of doing this, two (at least) separate government forms were generated, asking Walter where he was born and where his parents (John Gerrib, who had returned to Lithuania) were residing. The answer to the first question (birth) was Laukuva and the second was Rietavas.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Randomness that's accumulated from the Week That Was:

1) If the departure time on your ticket says 9:05 AM, it is 9:04 AM, and you haven't cleared security, there's really no reason to try and jump the security line. The flight has been missed, and you need to go to the airline ticket counter to see about rescheduling. (I let the person in ahead of me anyway, just because.)

2) One of my high school classmates died. (Obituary here). I'm going down to Westville for the day for the visitation.

3) The convention I was attending was held at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC). That collection of buildings is every bit as big as McCormick Place in Chicago, and we had to transit the building the long way every day for our sessions. I got a lot of walking in.

4) Related to #3, the GWCC was on five levels, and our meetings were mostly at the lower-most level. I was struck by how narrow and constricted the escalators were. It was as if nobody had expected to move 40,000 people up and down them at one time. They were congested enough that security people were stationed by the emergency stop buttons. If somebody had tripped coming off the escalator, disaster would have struck.

5) In Atlanta, I took MARTA to and from the airport. It was clean, cheap and at least during reasonable hours safe.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
The Magic of Rotary

I have been spending the afternoons here at the Rotary Convention in Atlanta doing tourist-y stuff. Today’s outing was to the Georgia Aquarium. The trip is worth it, although I was a bit distracted because my iPhone decided to completely die. It had plenty of power but just locked up. As this would be highly inconvenient to say the least, I decided to find an Apple Store and get it fixed.

When I exited the Aquarium, I asked a cab driver to take me to one. $25 later, we pull up to a mall well outside of walking distance to my hotel. This was a tactical error on my part – I should have gone to the hotel and had them at least check for a closer store. But here’s where the magic of Rotary came into being. While I’m in line waiting for a tech to look at the phone, I see a guy wearing a Rotary hat. I say hi, and I discover he’s from Nigeria. I also discover that he’s been taking MARTA (Atlanta’s version of the EL) to the con, and there’s a MARTA station at the mall. Money saved!

Even nicer, when I get to the MARTA station, I’m approached by a couple wearing Rotary gear and, in German-accented English, they ask me where the mall was. (It was behind an office building, and not immediately visible.) So I helped them out. That’s what Rotarians do.

Other Good News

In other good news, it appears that I will be on programming at Worldcon. They’ve sent me a draft schedule which they’ve asked us not to share so I won’t, but that does suggest I’ll get something. Go me!

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