chris_gerrib: (Default)
Various Southern cities are taking down statues commemorating Confederate war heroes. These statues were largely erected by white Southerners from 1890 to 1920, and were explicitly intended to send a signal to the local black population that Whites Were In Charge. They were also intended to hide the fact that the Civil War was fought by the South to protect slavery.

In any event, the statues are finally coming down. Various groups of whites are protesting the removal, and some of them have been heard chanting "Russia is our friend" at these protests. One sees this "Russia is our friend" concept a lot among the Alt-Right and Trump supporters (for whatever difference there is between the two groups). The question is why? Why did we go from a Cold War fear of the Ruskies to "Russia is our friend?"

There are a variety of reasons for this. The simplest is that Russia is ethnically mostly white - even most of the non-Russian peoples in the country are "white" by American standards. The Russian government has obviously done a lot with Twitter-bots and other social media creations to pump themselves up. But I think the biggest reason is Putin.

The American right, and right-wings in general, have always been fond of authoritarians. After all, the original "right wing" were the (absolute monarch) King's supporters in the French Estates General. Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford were both quite okay with Nazi Germany, not changing their minds until very late in the game. As I noted elsewhere, The antebellum South was organized, directed and structured to the benefit of white men, preferably those of property.

This is why the Alt-Right and Trump supporters not only aren't upset with Trump's collusion with Russia, but confused as to why anybody else is upset. We should be working with Russia. (Actually, if and when Russia extracts their collective heads from their asses, they should be natural allies with the US.)

The problem with authoritarians is this - it really matters who's the kicker and who's the kick-ee. By their very nature, authoritarian regimes end up with everybody, even members of the secret police (and there's always a secret police) being scared of their shadows. Anybody can be turned in by anybody for anything, true or not. Authoritarian regimes end up collapsing, because loyalty trumps (pun intended) competency, and the collapse is messy and bloody.

But for a while, while your side is the kicker, authoritarianism feels good. Unfortunately, the good feelings never last.
chris_gerrib: (Pirates of Mars)
For the first time since March 29th, I've written fiction! On Tuesday, I attended a writing jam with my writer's group and actually put words on computer!
chris_gerrib: (Pirates of Mars)
Thought #1 - my car's GPS

When I bought my car, it came with a GPS system via the XM Radio. I really don't want to become one of those people who can't get to the grocery store without using the GPS, so I resisted using it. I have slowly started to warm to the system, largely because I found a display mode that shows me not just the next turn but the next three turns.

Thought #2 - car sunroof

Also when I bought my car, it came with a sunroof. I didn't look for that feature, it just happened to be on the vehicle that otherwise had the features I wanted. I have also found this useful, in that on a warm day one can pop the roof and get a breeze in the vehicle.

Thought #3 - other drivers

I've noticed a lot more rude drivers the past few days. For example, the "older" (my age) guy driving a Corvette who stood on his horn the instant the light turned green. Or the two (2) (!!) drivers who cut me off this AM. I blame it on Trump.
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Here we go, blogging for the third day in a row. Alas, I'm talking about alternate realities, and not in a good way.

In most realities, the lead news story is that President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because 1) Comey did not show sufficient loyalty to Trump and/or 2) Trump wants to ice the Russia investigation. In the Faux News / alt-right "reality," the lead story is an allegation that Hilary Clinton asked a government to help one of the donors of the Clinton Foundation.

Now, mind you, the help requested was for a man running a microloan bank and his donations were to a not-for-profit foundation, not the Clintons personally. Despite this, Faux News was arguing that this is a "clear criminal violation." Sorry, Charlie, not so.

For the record - it is perfectly consistent to want Comey to be fired for interfering in an election and not want him to be fired to stop an investigation.
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Somehow, in the process of writing, I became a lucid dreamer. I recognize that I'm dreaming, and edit my dreams on the fly to make more sense. I should say "sense" because I'm still asleep, and so my logic can be a bit wonky.

For example: Last night I was dreaming that I was riding a horse shirtless on a tropical beach. You know, like they do in all those Sandals commercials. My conscious mind jumped in with "if you do that, you'll get redder than a ripe tomato in an hour." That was lucid point #1. Lucid point #2 occurred immediately thereafter, when I said to myself "hey, this is a dream! I can decide not to get red. I can also decide to loose 20 pounds!" Thus mollified, I rode the beach in peace for a while.

Lucid dreaming - it's not just for breakfast any more.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Sadly, many people in this world seem to not want to look at facts. Here's an interesting example.

There was a recent article in NRA’s Shooting Illustrated website entitled Pros and Cons of Concealed-Carry Revolvers. In it, the author noted that for most self-defense and concealed carry applications, Ye Olde Five or Six Shot revolver was more than adequate. This proved very controversial.

Then this shooting expert and author ran the numbers. The article is well worth reading, if only for the humorous summary of incidents. But the meat of the article was simple, and is reproduced here:

Number of shots fired
Average 1.43
Median 2.00
Mode 2.00
Max 2.00

There's the data. The produced a storm of arguments about Ninjas, Drug Addicts, Them Crazy People, and Invasion from Planet Nine. In short, no facts, much speculation.

Facts matter.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
You might be busy if you look forward to an airplane flight in economy because it gives you time to read a book. I have recently found myself in just such a situation, and I read two books. Herewith are thoughts.

Book #1 Cold Welcome: Vatta's Peace

The latest space opera from Elizabeth Moon and start of a new series, this book takes off with Kylara Vatta, hero, returning to her home world. Rather than getting a hero's welcome, her shuttle is sabotaged and she is marooned on an "uninhabited" and frozen continent. Although it carries forward characters from the Vatta's War series, it's completely free-standing. It's also a fascinating tale of survival and intrigue. I have to admit I felt the books' end was a bit "to be continued" but that may just be me. Highly recommended.

Book #2 At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic

Continuing the cold theme (doubly ironic in that I was flying to and from 90-degree hot and humid Orlando Florida), this book promises much and delivers little. The promise is to be a riveting story of a murder in a remote village in Canada's arctic Hudson Bay region. It's not very riveting. The murders which take place in 1941 are mundane, caused by a couple of local Inuit people who get a twisted idea of Christianity. This fairly straightforward tale is randomly interspersed with memories of the author's visit to the region just before, during and after 9/11. It left me cold.
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I was flying back from a business trip to Orlando today, so I didn't see much news. I did note that the GOP, in a squeaker of a vote, repealed Obamacare. I'll just note the hypocrisy of "read the bill" (which they didn't) and "jam through without debate" (ditto) and the complete lack of bipartisan support for this bill (which supposedly made Obamacare bad). I will note that I think the Republicans have shot themselves in the foot, much like the Sad Puppies did with the Hugo affair.

So, in the Sad Puppies affair, a bunch of maximalists jammed through a slate of nominees. Many people (including Yours Truly) came out of the woodwork to put the kibosh on this. Trump and the GOP have jammed through something that will prove to be unpopular and unworkable. People have been coming out of the woodwork against Trump since the day he won the election, and this will continue.

In general, when maximalists gain control of a situation, anti-maximalists come out of the woodwork to oppose them. In the Civil War, when Southerners, upset that the North wouldn't allow them to expand slavery (see South Carolina's declaration of secession), left the Union and tried to take the Navy and coastal forts on the way out, people came out of the woodwork in opposition.

Being a maximalist generates maximal resistance.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I wrote earlier this month that I was a bit stuck on the writing front. I have now gotten somewhat unstuck. Part of what makes mysteries work is that multiple characters need to have Something They Want Hidden. For one of the characters, that's the fact that they killed Colonel Mustard in the drawing room with a candlestick (or whatever works for your story).

For the other characters, this hidden thing doesn't have to be a murder. It doesn't even have to be illegal per se, just something that they don't want revealed. It can help even more if that thing which must be hidden also gives them some combination of motive, means and opportunity to kill Colonel Mustard. (Access to the candlestick and a dislike of Mustard's long-winded stories of the Army in India, for example.)

I have come across just such a motivator. Stolen Valor. For those not clicking through, "stolen valor" is when somebody falsely claims to have been a hero in the military. So, in my WIP, I have a character who is something of a lady's man. Well, what if part of his shtick is "I was a Green Beret in Vietnam" or some such lie?

In my story, the first dead body we find is that of a military veteran. Maybe my vet, suspicious, has done some digging and found out that Mister Green Beret never really served? Even better, in my case, we find that one of his (underage) ex-girlfriends was killed and buried under a shed. Maybe she got rummaging around in his stuff and found something incriminating?

Now I just have to find the time to write all this stuff!
chris_gerrib: (Pirates of Mars)
Natalie Luhrs waxes eloquently on the subject of empathy. It's well worth a read.

What struck me is her somewhat off-handed tie-in to the Sad Puppies affair. One of the things which struck me is the inability of professional writers to exhibit empathy. I was (and remain) struck by the idea that people who make money telling stories (Brad Torgersen, Larry Corriea) couldn't grasp that people want to see themselves in the stories they consume.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
With apologies to the very good movie of the same name.

The Good

My Rotary club's annual fundraiser is in the bag bank. It appears like we made significantly more money than last year. I hesitate to say more as we're still waiting for final numbers.

The Bad

On CNN in the lobby this morning, I see that Trump had the entire US Senate over to the White House for a briefing on North Korea. One presumes they were told that the Norks were This Close to building atomic bombs. Interested parties should read this well-written piece on that other budding nuclear power, Iraq: Operation Desert Snipe Hunt.

The Ugly

Also on CNN and various other sources, the GOP is taking another stab at repealing Obamacare. Notable is that they exempt themselves from some of the deleterious side effects.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I've written before of flying cars. Over at File 770, they have a nice little roundup of various current attempts to crack the problem. It's beginning to look like the mechanical problems are solvable. The issues of turbulence and traffic are lagging behind.

In other news, my Rotary club's annual fundraiser is tomorrow. You can go here to participate from anywhere in the world.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I've fallen off the wagon of daily posts here. This week the main reason was my getting sick on Wednesday, which put the whole week in a tailspin. In any event, I shall try to do better.

Since they've accumulated, have some links:

1) My radio interview is up for a re-run. Visit The Author's Show.

2) An interesting two-part history of one of the most popular cartridges in history, the .38 special. Part 1 and Part 2.

3) Cora Buhlert on false memories.

4) Some pretty pictures: Equihen Plage: The Village of Inverted Boat Houses.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
One of the advantages of going to science fiction conventions is that you learn of books you'd never otherwise hear of. In this case, the book was Little Green Men - Attack!, which is a (mostly) humorous collection of short stories featuring, well, little green men.

I learned of the anthology when Martin Shoemaker read his short story "Meet the Landlord." In it, humans have colonized Mars and 30-some years after that "Martians" show up looking for back rent. It was hilarious. Most of the stories were funny, although in "First Million Contacts" the joke was on the humans. In every anthology, there's a story that's the exception to the rule, which in this case was Steven H. Silver's "Big White Men - Attack!" in which the green dust kicked up by Armstrong an Aldrin on the moon isn't dust at all.

This is the third anthology that I've read which was assembled by Bryan Thomas Schmidt, and I've enjoyed them all. Schmidt is becoming a mark of quality for me, and I recommend his stuff.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I recently had the opportunity to read Alex Wells' debut novel Hunger Makes The Wolf. It was a really great read.

On my radio interview (rebroadcasting April 21-23) I said what I liked about science fiction was the classic theme of the Western, namely, take some ordinary people, drop them in the middle of nowhere, and hand them an extraordinary problem. With science fiction as opposed to Westerns, that "nowhere" can be a lot of different places.

With Hunger Makes the Wolf, Wells does the Western thing but more literally. His story is set on Tanegawa’s World, a dry and dusty mining colony, described with a geologist's eye. (Wells' day job is as a geologist, and I met Wells at Worldcon.) Hob Ravani, a young woman and orphan, has become a member of the Ghost Wolves, a band of mercenaries / outlaws. Hob also has "witchiness" which in her case manifests itself in the ability to make fire.

This witchiness, we learn, has an unknown but presumably scientific explanation, tied into peculiarities of the planet she's on. Peculiarities which may have something to do with The Weathermen, the "humans" who enable Transrift, the company with a monopoly on FTL travel, to do what they do. Needless to say, the company is up to no good, and has been for some time.

Wells' characters are realistic if hard-bitten, and the whole thing left me waiting for the sequel. Highly recommended.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard that on Sunday, United Airlines had police forcibly remove a passenger from their airplane for the crime of sitting in a seat the airline wanted to give to one of their employees. I have thoughts.

Thought #1

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the man who refused to give up his seat had a colored past. People who weren't a bit "colored" would have, by the time the cops came down the aisle, just gotten up. Having said that, our habit of victim-blaming is problematic at best.

Thought #2

Via that scientific method known as "dinking around" I found this article about how airline deregulation is killing both the airline business and American cities. It's well worth a read. As pointed out in Facebook, efficiency and redundancy are opposites - an efficient system has no redundancy.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
My radio interview on The Author Show is live! Click here then on my name to listen to it!

//Does happy Snoopy dance!//
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Hackers are the new pirates, in more ways than one. First, a history lesson.

From the European discovery of the New World until 1713 (when a treaty was signed) all Spanish-held territories could only trade with Spain on Spanish ships. The other European powers weren't happy about it, but for the most part they lacked the firepower to go toe-to-toe with the Spanish. Even Britain's vaunted Royal Navy wasn't up to the task until the early 1700s, when Spain's military had weakened.

Lacking the ability to directly attack Spain, the other European powers landed on pirates. They allowed criminals (pirates) the ability to operate in their ports, sometimes with a legal fig leaf of a "Letter of Marque" making them privateers, sometimes not, as long as they attacked Spain. This was even more beneficial to the host country in that pirates were self-funding and successful pirates were an economic stimulus. (Somebody had to drink all that rum.)

Now, we see nations such as Russia allowing hackers to operate inside their borders as long as the target of the activity is directed at foreigners. Not only does Russia allow these hackers to operate, but if and when said hacker gets politically or militarily useful information, Russian intelligence will grab it and run with it. This may include monkeying with US elections.

There is nothing new under the sun.
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Shifting My Flag

In Navy-speak, "shifting your flag" means that an Admiral is moving his (or now her) headquarters from one ship to another. I have appropriated that term to note that my default long-form blog platform is now Dreamwidth. Please visit me at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/.

Radio

I have a radio interview coming up on April 12. It will be up for 24 hours at this link.

Profile

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