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: (Me 2)
I went to Westville, The Home Soil, for the weekend. Westville is in Vermilion County, IL, and the economic engine of the county is Danville, Il. In reading the Sunday papers at home, the lead articles were the closure of the oldest indoor swimming pool in the state (built 1911) and the planned closure of a Danville school building built in 1922.

These are symptoms of a larger problem. Danville's population and economy peaked in the 1920s, during the same period Joe Cannon, Danville's Congressman, was Speaker of the House. The city was at the junction of the main north-south and east-west rail lines, which brought great economic activity. As rail declined, so did Danville, and now the population is falling dramatically. At the same time, infrastructure built in the 1920s and designed for a century of use is hitting the end of its useful life.

This is not unique to Danville. In America, we worship small towns, yet we don't live in them. (Your Correspondent being Exhibit Number 100 Million.)
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I went downstate for the Labor Day weekend, and much fun was had, including a reunion with my high school class (30 years!).

I did not stay to see the annual Labor Day parade, perhaps fortunately, because at the start of the parade somebody accidentally ran over 9 people watching said parade. None of the injuries were life-threatening, but the parade was delayed for an hour.

In other news, last night I finished The Dark Forest, Book 2 of the "Three Body Problem" trilogy. I'm of mixed opinion on the book, and I'll have more thoughts anon.

Lastly, [livejournal.com profile] kevin_standlee is on fire regarding the Hugos that were. He notes (and I agree with) that The Hugo-haters Doth Protest Too Much, that a civil society requires good losers and has ideas on Hugo award categories to replace. Good stuff all.

Boxing Day

Dec. 26th, 2014 10:44 am
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Today is Boxing Day, AKA the day after Christmas. I am downstate at my parents house, where a very nice Christmas Eve and Christmas was had. We're now in the cleanup phase, in which things like the Christmas glasses and plates get restowed for the year. My favorite local winey, Sleepy Creek Vineyards, is closed today, but re-opens tomorrow. I'm back in Chicago Monday, but not at work, so wit and wisdom may be slim in these parts.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
In America, we fetishize small towns. But we don't live in them, a fact that my most recent trip home to Westville made clear.

While downstate, I read the local newspapers, and saw that several high schools in Vermilion county had signed cooperative agreements so they had enough players to field a football team. When I was driving home along Illinois Route 49, during a holiday Monday with good weather, you could have shot scenes for a zombie apocalypse movie right in the middle of town. They were that empty.

Meanwhile, the nearest "big city" of Champaign, IL (with its sister city of Urbana, total population is around 120,000) was holding a bond referendum to expand their high schools, both running 150% of capacity. The trend was obvious - people were moving out of the small towns and to larger cities. (Says the guy who moved out of the small town in 1985 and hasn't moved back.)
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I'm back from Westville, where I watched the 104th marching of the Labor Day Parade. It was a typical small-town parade, so the real purpose of attending was to see family. I did, and spent most of Sunday moving PCs and helping my dad install a new computer desk for my mother.

Today is busy, being work, Rotary and this evening my monthly writer's workshop. Despite good intentions, I wrote not one word on my novel while in Europe, so this meeting will be me handing out criticism.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
I went south to The Olde Sod for the weekend. The primary purpose was to install Dad's new Windows 8.1 PC, including migrating data and installing a real Start button.

After the PC was made fully operational, we attended a performance of the Danville Symphony Orchestra. Mom and Dad have season tickets, and Saturday night was a scheduled performance. The featured performer was a guy named Robert Bonfiglio, and billed as the "Paganini of the harmonica."

I was doubtful until the guy started playing. He was really impressive, both with classical tunes (Stephen Foster) and blues. Robert was also a bit of a character, with a humorous performing style. Overall, an interesting evening and a relaxing weekend.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
I am in charge of our annual fundraiser at Carriage Greens in lovely downtown Darien. (Come on down - $30 a head to sample food from 10 restaurants.) I will, thusly, be busy tonight. Tonight it's also supposed to snow, which will undoubtedly make tomorrow's commute interesting. So, in the calm before the storm, two thoughts:

Ukraine

Like this fellow says: The revolution in Ukraine was a Ukrainian revolution, one completely separate from the United States. It is the worst kind of national self-centeredness to focus on our actions in this situation. The US was and is a bystander, whose actions were largely irrelevant. That irrelevancy includes what happened afterwards, notably the Russian intervention. If America had guessed ahead of time what was about to happen, it would have likely made no difference. It’s a not a major foreign policy miscalculation, despite Walt, when we have no ability, before or after, to influence events in any substantial way.

Wednesday

My sister is in town, and so we're going out to dinner Wednesday. One of my friends recommended a fish place. My sister reminded me that she lives in Southern California and can get all the fish she wants. So steak it is.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
I'm downstate with the parents. Dad and I just got back from the American Legion. Prices went up (finally - they were losing money) and so two mixed drinks cost $6 (total, not each).

At any rate, we have one family gathering tonight and another tomorrow, so, I'm signing off and wishing those who celebrate a Merry Christmas.
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 [livejournal.com 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: (Me)
Westville

I ended up with more keyboard time then I expected, most of which was used to write the climax of my space-opera WIP Pamelas Ghosts. (Go me!) Here in downstate Illinois, we didn't have as much rain as they did in Chicago, and what we did have came late in the evenings, so it didn't interfere with daytime plans, but it was damned hot. The weather has broken just in time for the parade.

Hugos and Worldcon

In other news, I see John Scalzi won a best novel Hugo (link goes to the whole list). As I predicted, the novel race was between Redshirts and 2312. Neither were top on my list, but at least the winning novel had a plot and action. I checked, and a certain dudebro had no comment on Scalzi's win. I suspect that won't hold.

Poor Seanan McGuire had to be a bit upset - five nominations and only one win, that in the fancast category. I think her best shot had been in the novella category, but there she seems to have cannibalized herself by having two entries. Still, she's young and a prodigious writer, so we'll be seeing her name again.

I also see that Spokane won the 2015 Worldcon slot, and that Montreal is bidding for 2017. Looks like I'll be in Spokane in two years, and my snapshot preference for 2017 is Montreal. I'm also hopeful that KC gets the 2016 nod - the Concom are good people and downtown KC is a good spot for a con. (Airport sucks, but you can't have everything!)
chris_gerrib: (Me)
We're due to get into the upper 90s today, so no thinking, just linking.

A) A reminder that small towns are not all Mayberry RFD - small-town judge spends 4 years trying to frame his lover's husband. Also, county judge dies of cocaine overdose during coke party with fellow judges. They bought their drugs from the county probation officer with the knowledge of the county's chief judge. Moral of the story - small government is not inherently better or worse than big government.

B) There's not much to say: food stamps saved my life and made me a productive, tax-paying citizen.

C) A reminder that, in war, the enemy gets a vote too, or, sometimes you do have to destroy the enemy's army to win.

D) Why did nearly all ancient societies think women were inferior? Answer: back in the day, child-rearing and housekeeping were full-time jobs, and it made sense.

ETA: E) This Armored Lady Won the Longsword Competition.

samantha-swords-1

Wind?

Aug. 13th, 2013 10:49 am
chris_gerrib: (Me)
With my grandmother's illness and death, I've made several trips to Central Illinois over the past few weeks. The drive there and back is not especially scenic, consisting mostly of corn and soybean fields. In order to at least look at different fields, I've varied my trips to include taking Illinois 49 for part of the way.

Illinois 49 runs through western Vermilion County, passing through the not-even-a-wide-spot-on-the-road town of Hope, south of Rankin. Hope is at the southern end of the California Ridge Wind Farm, a 200 megawatt collection of giant wind turbines. (For those not of Central Illinois, the "ridge" in question is really just a gentle swelling of land maybe 100 feet above the plain.)

I personally find the wind turbines pretty, and visually soothing. At least some of the locals don't, and several homes sprout signs of varying degrees of professionalism advertising FairWindEnergy.org, a web site detailing the problems of living near a wind turbine. This site seems to want the turbines to be sited farther away from houses, claiming evils from ice chunks flung from turbine blades (possible, I guess) to infrasonic harm to humans (???).

Now, having driven through the area, it's as close as Central Illinois gets to being uninhabited. Nor do any of the turbines look especially close to one of the handful of houses, and my understanding is that the actual property owners are renting out the land that the turbines sit on. But then I don't have a dog in this fight - I just drive through the area.

The whole concept is proof that no matter what one wants to do, somebody else will object to it.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
News

My grandmother, Mary Mackovic, died on Tuesday. The funeral will be Monday. She was 91, and came down with acute leukemia a few weeks ago.

Links, some with comments

A) One of the reasons I am in favor of "Obamacare" is that I am sick and tired of seeing people have to pass the hat to raise money for treatments.

B) On the subject of health care, one of the reasons American health care is expensive is plain-ole price gouging. See this article. The tl;dr version: man needs hip replacement. List price for the artificial joint in the US is $13,000, plus $65,000 in hospital charges. He flies to Belgium, goes to a private for-profit hospital, and pays in total $13,660, including air fare to Brussels! The artificial joint was made in Warsaw, Indiana, and in Belgium costs $3,000. BTW, that price is regulated by the government.

C) In lighter news, one of the reasons the Concorde jet is no longer flying is cost. Another is safety. As this article points out, the plan in the event of cabin pressure failure was to let the passengers pass out.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
It's supposed to snow, and my evening event got cancelled, so have some links.

1) You may have heard of natural nuclear reactors, several of which formed on Earth. Well, in yet another example that "everything is bigger on Mars" it appears that Mars had a natural reactor (PDF). Except Mars' reactor was bigger and underwent "explosive disassembly," (that's scientist-speak for "shit blew up real good!") scattering radioactive fallout over the Martian surface. (hat tip [livejournal.com profile] jaylake)

2) There's a reason I don't live in Vermillion County, Illinois, the county of my birth - it's tied for last place as the least wealthy area in America.

3) One shouldn't take lessons about reality from popular fiction, but this article about the Jedi way of war is interesting. To shorter it: there is a difference between a soldier and a warrior. The Jedi were warriors, and so made lousy soldiers.

3b) From a footnote above, something I personally found very useful: Curse of expertise describes how experts often grossly underestimate the time and effort required by novices to acquire skills they possess, particularly when these skills involve large amounts of tacit knowledge the expert assumes they have.

4) Also from [livejournal.com profile] jaylake, Four conservative myths about poverty in America.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
So, I had a great time at Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention. Thanks to the persuasion (liquid and otherwise) of the inimitable Dave O'Neill ([livejournal.com profile] daveon), I'm planning to go to Loncon 3, the 2014 Worldcon in London.

In truth, part of going to London in 2014 is that I get to write off a whole bunch of expenses as "business" while going someplace I want to go. It's also why I'm not planning to go to the 2013 Worldcon in San Antonio. Texas in August does not appeal to me.

I'm also not particularly a fan of SF conventions over Labor Day. Due to the parade, Labor Day weekend has become "old home day" for former natives of Westville, IL. Texas in 2013 is also over Labor Day. As is more importantly Dragon*Con.

Now, one can argue over who claimed Labor Day first, but the bottom line is that Dragon*Con will draw 20,000+ people, while Worldcon will be lucky to break 6,000. More importantly, all of "the kids" (here defined as "don't wear bifocals") go to Dragon*Con. So, going against Dragon*Con means writing off the kids, and forcing artists to decide which venue to attend.

I mention this because there are 2.5 bids for Worldcon in 2015. (I say "2.5" because I hear there's a Finnish bid for 2015 but it's not listed anywhere.) The two bids are Orlando and Spokane. At first blush, neither is particularly appealing. I mean, Orlando in summer? And what's in Spokane?

But here's the thing. First, Orlando is another Labor Day event. Much like Chicago, they had to go with that weekend or get priced out of their venue. So, to Jeff Duntemann's ([livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann) point, now we get to get our teeth kicked in again by Dragon*Con.

Spokane, on the other hand, does have some advantages. First, Southwest Airlines (and others) do fly in. (Southwest would make me change planes, but they'd get me there.) Second, it's not Labor Day. Third, and personally, Spokane is 5 hours from Glacier National Park and 5 hours (the other way, alas) from Mt. Rainier Park. It's also eight hours from Yellowstone. In short, for me, flying into Spokane and using it as a base to drive to various national parks looks like a viable option. And I get home for Labor Day.

Looks like I should be a Friend of Spokane in 2015!
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I had my first session with my personal trainer yesterday. (She looks and acts like Central Casting's idea of a personal trainer.) Today, though, muscles I forgot I had are reminding me that they exist. [insert witty and/or funny transition here] Have some links:

1) In an attempt to get one step ahead of Internet bank fraud, IBM is offering a PC-on-a-stick.

2) I am not a cat person, so I read with amusement how your cat is making you crazy. There's a wonderful SF story or two in there.

3) Apparently, the current clown-car-crop of Republicans found biofuel funny. Well, the US Air Force dares you to laugh at their biofuel. It really is sad how stupid the current political debate has gotten.

4) A quick reminder of the costs of war and why we shouldn't be in a hurry to get in one.

5) A reminder - I will be down in Westville tomorrow signing books at our lovely new library.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I found that I had nothing to say yesterday, so I said nothing. I don't have a whole lot to talk about today either, so this is mostly a "watch this space" post. I'll be having my launch party at Capricon Friday, and I just finished hand-correcting 35 pre-release copies of the book to sell. Also, I just booked a signing back at the Home Soil, specifically the Westville Public Library for Saturday, March 10 from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I decided to enjoy the recent Thanksgiving holiday by not spending a lot of time on the computer, thus no posting. I wasn't able to completely stay off computers - my parents get their Internet from New Wave Communications, and so I had to help Mom get her iPhone talking to New Wave's email. This task was complicated by New Wave's truly horrible instructions, including mis-spelled server names, and a general assumption that iPhone users were starting from a clean slate. At any rate, the code was cracked.

I was also able, between turkey and various family gatherings, able to go shooting with my Dad. He recently won a Taurus Judge, which was included in the shooting. I've never fired a less-practical gun in my life.

The Judge is a revolver chambered for 410 shotgun or .45 Colt ammunition. Dad's gun has a two-inch barrel, which means it's useless at distance, but with a 2.5 inch chamber the gun as a whole is too long for easy concealment. Firing shotgun slugs, the gun's recoil is such that getting off a second shot in less time than a geological epoch is simply not possible. If you actually want a small-frame .45 revolver, surely one could find something smaller than the Judge.

Having said that, Taurus seems to be selling a ton of Judges, including the so-called Public Defender, and even shorter-barrel version of the Judge. I personally think the Judge is an example of hype over substance.

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