chris_gerrib: (Default)
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 I did note that the GOP, in a squeaker of a vote, repealed Obamacare.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: (Me 2)
Stolen from somebody - I just can't remember whom.

I should point out too that "not mission-critical" is not equivalent to "freeloader we are better off without". Maybe a lot of us can't tell the difference?

If the guy who empties the trash cans takes a sick day, he is not mission-critical and the organization does not shut down its other work. That doesn't mean you don't need someone to empty the trash cans. It just means that emptying trash cans is the not primary purpose of the organization.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
(recycled from my Linkedin page):

It's important to understand why a rule exists, so you can decide if it's okay to break it or not.

Case in point: I was out at a local chain restaurant (I won't name it - the name is not important) and eating at the bar as I usually do at that location. Two guys came up and tried to order drinks and the bartender, a long-time and usually very helpful employee, refused them. The manager was called, and after a short discussion the men got their drinks. It turns out that their party had already been given a seat in the restaurant section, and the rules required that they order drinks from their table's waitstaff.

Now, what the bartender (who was upset at getting overruled by the manager) didn't understand was why the rule about order from your server was in place. It was in place simply to prevent people from running a "but Mom said" scam and getting free drinks. (They tell the bartender "put it on the table's tab" and the waiter "I paid at the bar" and the drinks end up on neither tab.)

Now, had the bartender understood why this rule was in place, the fix would be "sure, but you'll have to pay me as you go." As it happens, the men had cash in hand, so that shouldn't have been an issue.

The alternative solution would have been for the rule to be, "if the customer is at a table, anybody else who serves them collects the amount due immediately." Although given that some customers would wonder about that, (they always do) again, explaining why the rule was in place would allow whomever got asked a way to gracefully handle it. ("Sure thing, sir / ma'am, but I can't put it on your tab, you'll have to pay me now.")

The "why" of a rule is as important as the "what" of a rule.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
It started raining here in Chicago at midnight, and it just quit half an hour ago. Since I'm trying to squeeze five days of work into four (or possibly three-and-a-half) days, have some links in lieu of content.

Two Reviews

1) Violence, A Writer's Guide - a critical resource for any writer.

2) Janissaries (The Theogony, #1) by Chris Kennedy. A very entertaining MilSF novel.

Two Items of General Interest

1) My Best Employee Quit, or "I Am A Clueless Boss." Loyalty is a two-way street.

2) This Day in Labor History: July 6, 1924 - the Philippine Scouts go on strike.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
A Thought

It’s always better to practice on a fake hand grenade than a live one.

(Words to live by...)

Interesting Article with a Cool Picture

The F-104 - not quite the right stuff.

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Retired US Army Colonel Tom Kratman is writing a column for Although I don't agree with Kratman's politics, he does have a wealth of knowledge on things military (mostly Army) and has written a number of insightful articles. I found especially interesting his various articles on training and the failures of the US Army to do so effectively. This led to two profound thoughts.

Profound Thought #1

Most militaries are like a high school football team that only plays a game once every eight years. What happens is that people who haven't actually played a game (or fought a war) are training other people who haven't actually played a game or fought. This almost inevitably leads to degraded training. Some militaries are better at delaying this degradation then others, but it happens. If, as happened during the 19th and 20th centuries, one throws in rapid technological change, one ends up with lancers on horseback charging tanks.*

Now, for the Army at least, and to a lesser extent the Air Force and Marines, the past decade or so of war has changed that equation somewhat. To paraphrase Churchill, nothing kicks the cobwebs out of training like getting shot at for real. Having said that, Profound Thought #2 kicks in.

Profound Thought #2

As I've mentioned before, this century is rhyming with the 19th. One of the ways that's happening is our military. Much like the Victorian British Army, we're not actually fighting anybody who is a serious military threat. They can be local problems, and some of them (Afghanistan) are the same enemies, but there is no way in hell an Afghan army is ever going to take Washington DC. This leads to a situation where, to some extent, we don't take our enemies seriously.

In 1854, this led to the Charge of the Light Brigade, a military fuck-up of epic proportions, which instead of getting generals shot became a famous poem. In 2015, this leads to a reliance on drones that couldn't fight off a determined cropduster controlled from lightly-secured office buildings. This isn't a good thing - it's just a thing.

* There's actually significant evidence to suggest that at least in Poland this didn't actually happen.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Years ago, I read a nuclear-war novel about the last ship after the war (not, I think the novel The Last Ship) in which the following was said by a character. "Witch hunters must hunt witches. When they run out of witches, they start hunting people who were merely around witches."

Here's a corollary: "Cold Warriors must keep fighting the Cold War. When they run out of Soviets, they start hunting countries that kinda-sorta look like the Soviet Union."

Specifically, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Cold Warriors started attacking Iraq and North Korea - authoritarian regimes that had some WMDs (at one time) and some willingness to use same. Now, they've moved onto Iran - a country that may develop nuclear weapons someday. The Cold Warriors have gone from existential threat to major pain-in-the-ass to potential pain-in-the-ass.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
My allergies are in an uproar, so I didn't do much of anything over the weekend. But I would like to steal a thought from [ profile] daveon: "The problem with negotiating harshly with people [who have] nothing to lose is they may decide that they have nothing to lose."

I shall use this in a book sooner or later.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
One of my acquaintances from writing and science fiction is a nice guy. He really is, and I like him. But said acquaintance is, if not a professional stirrer of shit, a gifted and prolific amateur. The problem with being a stirrer of shit is that occasionally the shit gets all over the stirrer. It stinks, makes a mess and is generally no fun, but it happens.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I find I have some time, so you (lucky you) get some more wit and wisdom from me.

Thought The First

If a comment thread has devolved into personal barbs aimed at somebody, additional commenting is probably not worth anybody's time. See here, especially #7, #8 and #10.

Thought the Second

Utah found a brilliantly effective solution for homelessness. Money quote: Between shelters, jail stays, ambulances, and hospital visits, caring for one homeless person typically costs the government $20,000 a year. Providing one homeless person with permanent housing, however — as well as a social worker to help them transition into mainstream society — costs the state $8,000. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
There's an old Latin saying, "in vino veritas." Literally, "in wine, truth," and it suggests that things people say when they are drunk are more in line with their real opinions.

I've repeatedly interacted with people on the Internet and been told "they're not like that in person." So, I think a modern version of the old saw is "in Internet, truth."

The mechanism works similarly in both cases. Getting drunk impairs our ability to communicate complex ideas. Writing on the Internet (typically done rapidly) is less effective than interactive speech. Alcohol is chemically a disinhibitor, and the "anonymity" if not distance of the Internet is a virtual disinhibitor.

So, any guesses as how to say "Internet" in Latin?
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I'll be on the road tomorrow, so have my thoughts today.

John C. Wright is upset at great length (so what else is new) about some snarky comments aimed at Bristol Palin after Palin's recent drunken brawl in Alaska. (This ADN article has a nice summary of the brawl.)

Basically, Bristol ended up punching a guy in the face repeatedly. This is not what her taped statement to police says (surprise, surprise), but even her statement is damning enough. Bristol says her sister Willow comes to Bristol in their limo and says she was pushed. Per police, all this is going down at 10:30 PM, and booze was involved.

Now, I reply to Mr. Wright that normal people would, in Bristol's situation, either pile on into the limo and leave and/or call the cops who get paid to deal with this crap. I also point out that Anchorage PD disagrees with Bristol's statement.

Wright's reply? You are despicable vermin for saying such a thing. How can you stand to live with yourself you dickless and lifeless little toad? How did you dare sign your name to this?

I have to say I've been called worse by better. I also have to say I find both the Palin and Wright response amusing. See, normal people, after they've sobered up from doing something stupid, say things like "gee, that was stupid of me." But people who nurture a strong sense of victim-hood can't do that, and so we get these spittle-flecked rants.

At any rate, I am reminded of Gerrib's Law of Bar Brawls. "Your best weapon in a bar brawl is your hat. Put it on and leave, preferably before fists and bottles fly."
chris_gerrib: (Me)

My car is in the shop again. They wanted to look and see if I had a slow Freon leak (I don't), but while waiting for that I noticed a loud whine and some vibration when the car was moving. This proved to be a bad bearing in my right front wheel. They are trying to get the bearing assembly disassembled (if so, a $500 fix) if not, a $800 fix. In the meantime I'm driving a loaner car.

Various Thought #1: Debates

It's hard to have a debate on astronomy if one of the parties says "the Earth is flat and anybody who says otherwise is a lying liar who lies!" (Related thought.)

Various Thought #2: Book Review

I just finished reading the wonderful novel Defenders by Will McIntosh last night. I highly recommend it. Basically, humanity is getting our collective asses kicked by telepathic aliens, so we genetically-engineer humanoid "defenders" to reverse the ass-kicking. The good news is this works, the bad news is the Defenders have ideas of their own.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
I own guns, and fully expect to get my Illinois concealed-carry permit at some convenient time. I doubt I'll actually carry - having gone 47 years without carrying, I see no reason to start now. It's not like suburban DuPage County is a particularly cut-throat place, and if it were, I'd move. (I don't have eyes in the back of my head, after all.)

At any rate, a conservative commentor, David French, posted an emanation stating that people who don't carry guns are: [a] protected class is a dependent class — not economically dependent of course, but dependent on the state in perhaps a more fundamental way (for their very lives) – and like members of other dependent classes, they are terrified of flaws in the state’s protective apparatus. Walled off from gun culture, they read the occasional, aberrant story of (legal) gun-owner stupidity or recklessness and cower in fear of a nonexistent threat..

This led to several liberal sites saying that people who carry guns are playing the movie Tombstone in their minds, waiting for a chance to shoot it out with somebody. Well, not so. I know several people who have carry permits, and they're not anxious to shoot anybody.

Having said that, there are some people who carry guns hoping to use them. For example, Michael Dunn, or the guy who killed a Navy vet because the vet was texting in a movie.

What we have here is a proof of Niven's Law: There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
SFWA Wrap-up

I've discussed on several occasions the petition to not saddle the SFWA Bulletin with an advisory board. As it turns out, the petitioners (to quote SFWA President Gould) "express concerns for something that does not and will not exist:" - an advisory board. I think "sound and fury signifying nothing" is the best summary of this event. Although, it did lead to a very humorous response from one quarter.


Jay Lake riffed on my post about rational thinking. One last thought: facts are like gravity: they get everybody in the end. Call it a Gerrib's Law.

Link Salad

1) Here's an interesting Kickstarter and vaguely linked to the SFWA petition - women destroy science fiction.

2) Here's the first recorded instance of the F-word in English.

3) An open letter from a Death Star architect.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
If your argument starts out "because the Earth is flat..." then the argument fails. It doesn't matter how elegantly structured it is, or how long it is, or what logical consistency the argument has. It fails. The argument is based on a false premise and collapses, much like a building built on sand.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
I'm getting a new refrigerator tomorrow, which means I need to empty my old one out. So, I'll practice by emptying out a few links.

A) From [ profile] jaylake, the Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Political Parties.

B) I've written about my Law of the Totem Poles. (tl;dr version = the person just one step up from the bottom is the most invested in the existing order.) Well, here's another example: Why My Single-Mother Sister Hates Food Stamps.

C) My old high school, Westville, is in talks to consolidate with our old arch-rival Georgetown. Simply put, small rural high schools don't have the funding to offer a competitive education any more.

D) Just for fun - an interview of Larry Bond talking about Tom Clancy.
chris_gerrib: (Pirates of Mars)
The proprietor over at Gin and Tacos notes that Americans say they have political principles but really they don't. For example, we should have free speech, but you shouldn't criticize the government during wartime. Or, everybody deserves a fair trial except that guy everybody knows planted a bomb in a crowd.

It's not really principle that Americans (and people generally) don't like, it's process. Trials are slow and messy affairs, and mostly boring. Allowing free speech means you have to put up with people saying things you don't want to hear. Limits on search and seizure inevitably means some guilty people walk, and are inherently inefficient. After all, the cop's got to stop and get a warrant, and that takes time.

We humans, or at least a majority of us, don't like process. The minority of people that do like it we call "born bureaucrats" and dismiss with a sniff of an uplifted nose. Process just gets in the way.

Now, I came to this thought because I read an article (lost in my filing system) about how superhero movies teach us to wait for a white knight to save us. Well, if you watch those movies, a white knight is needed because the hapless bureaucrats can't handle the situation.

Similarly in fiction. Heroes (even my own in Pirates of Mars) frequently go outside the system to solve the problem. We humans like that because we don't like the system! Humans actually like a strong leader to come forth and say "this is what we're going to do," not "let's form a committee and hash this out." Thus, royalty in fantasy novels. Again, from my own experience, for a while Mars was going to be the Kingdom of Mars - I just couldn't figure out how to plausibly make that happen.

But the sad truth is that humans need process. People are in fact wrongly charged with crimes. A political decision that's good for me isn't good for somebody else, and so we do need to form a committee and hash it out. It's like eating your vegetables - we don't like it but we all have to.
chris_gerrib: (Pirates of Mars)

I'm back from DucKon . The con was poorly-attended, largely due to the date. All the librarians were at the ALA meeting (in downtown Chicago), and there are three big regional cons next weekend, so budget-conscious attendees of those cons stayed home. Still, I had fun and moved some books. It appears that next year DucKon will be back to it's usual early June schedule, so I anticipate more turnout.

A Private Little War

Ironically, I have a trunk novel entitled "A Private War" (it's a mess, and will probably never see the light of day) so when I saw Jason Sheehan's debut novel featured on Scalzi's Big Idea I bought the ebook. It's an interesting read. The setup is that futuristic mercenaries are fighting a war on the cheap, and using replica WWI biplanes to bomb the spear-totting natives. Alas for the mercs, things aren't going to plan. Entertaining but not terribly deep.

My Friend the Mercenary

Moving from fiction to fact, I am 99% finished with James Brabazon's memoir My Friend the Mercenary. It's the true story of Nick du Toit, a South African mercenary famous for a botched coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea. The two men became friends when du Toit was Brabazon's bodyguard while filming a revolution in Liberia. Two thoughts:

1) Brabazon befriended du Toit despite the later's heavy involvement in enforcing South African apartheid. This enforcement consisted of a lot of assassinations and bombings, conducted by du Toit personally. There's a fair body of research that suggests men fight not for patriotism but for their fellow soldiers. Brabazon's memoir supports this conclusion - he's friends with du Toit because of the joint struggle they had in Liberia.

2) The Equatorial Guinea coup was poorly-planned and haphazardly conducted, resulting in its failure. Brabazon is befuddled as to how a professional like du Toit could have dropped the ball so badly. Here I can say I've seen (and been guilty of) this before. Basically, competent people with a history of making things happen decide that, based on their track record / skill set, they can gut their way through a project. Sometimes, this works. Sometimes it fails, and when it does it's usually disastrous. Consider it "Gerrib's law of competency."


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