Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Anybody want to be a first reader?

December 1, 2011

I’ve resurrected my first novel…long-time readers of this blog, all three or four of you! – may remember me excerpting parts of it a couple of years ago, and there may be a possibility of it getting put out where people can actually read it. With a little luck it will be vetted for fitting into S.M. Stirling’s “Drakaverse” canon in the next few months. I could use a couple of people who have better grammar skills than I to help go over it. I also could use a person or two who has read the Draka series, or at least “The Stone Dogs,” to read through it as well.

It’s alternate-universe science fiction. Explaining the Drakaverse would take a couple of thousand words at least, or a couple of hundred thousand. One way to find out is to get the Baen Books ebook called “The Domination,” which has just gone back into print this month. It’s only six bucks for all three books of the Draka trilogy. It’s intriguing but scary alternate history. I decided to tell the story of the early days of the US space program in the Drakaverse, sort of like Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff.” Stirling had already given us a very clear picture of the Draka side of the world.

Updates on other novels: The second novel, a near-future science fiction story about the early days of exploration of other solar systems, is sort of stalled. I know where it’s going, but I decided to go on to something else and I shelved it for a while. 

The “something else” is a story that attempts to combine the Michael Crichton techno-thriller style with cutting-edge quantum physics/string theory. Yeah, that’s what I said. To do it justice, I have to learn a lot about particle physics. So there’s a bit of a learning curve! I’m about 30K words into it and it’s going pretty well.

I have another book sketched out, alternate history/steampunk, but nothing’s actually written yet except notes. 

Anyway, let me know if you might be interested in reading “The Righteous Stuff.” I don’t know when I can get it to you but I would be very interested in what folks think of it.

Oh, and if you are somebody I don’t know personally, please include a little bit of a bio and why I should send it to you to read. Pretty demanding for an unpublished novelist, aren’t I?

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Tom Clancy’s “Dead or Alive” and a question

October 25, 2011

This isn’t a review, exactly. Off and on I’ve been listening to the audiobook version of the Tom Clancy/Grant Blackwood “Dead or Alive,” which kind of got whomped when bin Laden was killed. The ficticious “emir” of the story was obviously supposed to be a surrogate of bin Laden, except more dangerous. I’m not really going to talk about the book, except to say that Lou Diamond Phillips does a good job reading it. It’s a long book and you need a good reader to you’ll never get through it. I was surprised how good he was.

It got me wondering, though, after the recent Kadaffi duck business, where there was video and a lot of pictures, some apparently of his actual death. We have no such documentation for bin Laden. We’re told the government does, and we’re told he was buried at sea. I’m not even sure if the crew of the USS Carl Vinson knows for sure if he was the one buried. How many people actually saw the body?

Maybe he wasn’t killed, but was brought back here and wrung out by the CIA or the FBI. It would be nice if some intel was gleaned from the takedown. I wanted to see the bastard gone as much as any American, but I hope there was more we got out of it than just revenge.

Is the Obama Administration’s intelligence community that clever? Maybe the possibility really didn’t present itself and he had to be killed. Maybe not. I would be perfectly happy believing he was killed in the house and booted off the stern of the Carl Vinson if we got some good intel from the takedown.

Something tells me that only happens in novels.

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Bits ‘n’ Pieces

August 21, 2011

The Target TV commercial with the grade school teacher is brilliant. The one with the music teacher makes me itch.

It was interesting to see the USAF Thunderbirds perform from a different vantage point. Way different from watching them from the flight line at Nellis AFB a couple of years ago. Both are exciting, but being up close doesn’t show you some of the big moves as well…on the other hand, the engine noise from six F-16s at once is pretty cool!

I hadn’t been to Navy Pier for a long time, and there’s a lot more to do than there used to be. I’d love to spend some more time there when I get the chance. If you’re in the Chicago area now or sometime in the future, check it out.

Oh, but bring money…it’s Chicago, friends. It ain’t a bargain. The parking deck alone is $24 for 24 hours.

One thing I was looking forward to at Navy Pier was the Nikola Tesla exhibit. This was the only US stop for the exhibit, brought by the Belgrade Sister Cities Committee and the Chicago Council on Science and Technology. The exhibit is free and is here for one more week. Unfortunately, it’s really small and doesn’t really include much you can’t find in the three or four books that are generally available on Tesla. A couple of building models, a few reproductions of electrical devices, and that’s it. It’s unfortunate, because the Serbian government has a lot of papers and other information about Tesla that is not available in he West. Apparently they didn’t have access to it for the exhibit.

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Need a Sig Line?

March 6, 2011

I found these on the Starship Modeler discussion board…posted by somebody who had them saved since 2003. They may be possibly attributed to Steven Wright. They are still pretty good:

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the
cheese.

I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Borrow money from pessimists – they don’t expect it back.

Half the people you know are below average.

99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.

A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.

All those who believe in psychokinesis, raise my hand.

I almost had a psychic girlfriend but she left me before we met.

OK, so what’s the speed of dark?

How do you tell when you’re out of invisible ink?

If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked
something.

Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.

When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.

Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.

Hard work pays off in the future, laziness pays off now.

I intend to live forever – so far, so good.

If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?

Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.

What happens if you get scared half to death twice?

My mechanic told me, “I couldn’t repair your brakes, so I made your
horn louder.”

Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?

If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.

The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread.

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.

The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.

The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up.

The colder the X-ray table, the more of your body is required to be on it.

Everyone has a photographic memory, some just don’t have film.


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Cantore Jumps!

February 2, 2011

Jim Cantore came to Chicago from the Weather Channel in Atlanta to anchor their coverage of our “bit of weather.” Here he is surprised a bit by the kind of snowfall we get up here in the Midwest.

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“The Empire Strikes Back” in 1950

May 25, 2010

Well, the plot was sure 1950s-style, wasn’t it? Lucas’s folks did some groundbreaking special effects, and he had a grander vision than those that came before. Oh, and John Williams, his secret weapon. Still, this is pretty intriguing:

Don’t know if I could take 1950 3-D, though.

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Pondering what the Arizona immigration law means in the long run

May 24, 2010

Arizona State Flag

This whole stupid flap about the Arizona immigration law made me think about the fact that, silly me,  I thought we were still the United States of America. Unlike every other country I can think of we don’t really have a name; instead we have a description of our political organizations and our location – that’s it.. We still are the “several states,” united for common cause. Our states are situation in North America. That’s it. We don’t have a single country name like France, Germany, Brazil,  or Thailand; we are a group of separate political organizations – the states – who decided in the late 19th century that things would be better for all if we did some things together.

The first set of plans didn’t work out very well. The Articles of Confederation were considered to be too weak. The Constitution under which we now live is a remarkable document. Nothing like it was ever written before. And the men who wrote it were not Frenchmen, nor Germans, not Englishmen, nor any of the learned Europeans who were the “deep thinkers” of the age. They might have influenced the “Yankees,” but the Yankees put it all together. It is truly one of the most remarkable creations of the minds of men.

From the time of the writing of the Constitution to the middle of the 19th century, Americans struggled with a huge moral question – that of slavery. It wasn’t just a question of whether it was moral or not. There were economic issues as well. The southern economy was built on cheap labor making large plantations economically viable.Remember, the labor wasn’t free: slaves had to housed, clothed, and fed.

It’s easy for us to feel superior to Southern slave owners. I’m a middle-aged white guy, but I’ve looked around. Black Americans, Americans of various kinds of Latin descent, Asian Americans, all go to Wal-Mart. All wear athletic shoes. Do they think about the products they buy that are manufactured in Southeast Asia or other places in the world where children are exploited and paid a pittance. We conveniently forget that, do we not? Where is our moral outrage? Are we so superior to the Southern plantation owners of the 19th century?

But if the topic had not been slavery it would have been something else. The country was learning how to live together in the balancing act between the rights of the individual states to control their own destinies and that of the Federal government. The war could have been precipitated by the Mormons in Utah, if they had not decided to become part of the US quite so easily. Texas could have decided to stay independent, or return to independence. The Southern states had economies far differently structured from those of the Northern states. The new states in the west were even more independent than the others. The country could have split into three or four factions.

Lincoln’s decision was to use the moral issue of slavery as a means to impose more Federal control, or vice versa. Which was first? I am no Civil War scholar, and cannot answer that question. The outcome was a much stronger  Federal government. Most everything I have ever read has said that this was a “good thing.” At the time, and as a means to an end, it probably was. However, the Federal government just got bigger, and bigger, and bigger. State militias withered away in favor of a full-time Army.

(By the way, I’m not going to argue the point that we didn’t need a Navy. From the war with the Barbary Pirates and the War of 1812 onward, individual states could not protect themselves from other countries’ navies and pirate groups.)

FDR drove the Federal government right out of control. The programs he instituted began the creation of an entitlement society. More and more over the last 80 years Americans not only thought of themselves more as Americans than as members of particular states, but as people entitled to government largesse. Identification with a country is good, in that it is patriotic; entitlement turns self-respecting people into drones.

Under the Obama Administration, many of the policies our Federal government had tried to adhere to for years were turned upside down. Since this has caused the Democrats to crash in practically every possible poll, the Administration and the Democrat-run Congress are trying to find a way to quickly give  illegal immigrants legal status so they can become registered, Democrat-leaning voters before November 2012.

To do this, the immigration service has to look the other way while they let immigrants in, and do nothing to catch them and send them back home. It doesn’t matter if they are criminals or not. It doesn’t matter if they overload the health care system, the schools, the social services of the border states.

Now the state of Arizona, one of those overloaded states, has taken action since the Federal government has not. The Federal laws should do enough, but Federal officials say that they won’t – they have publicly said that they will not aid in the work that the Arizona law enforcement officials are doing. These Federal officials should be fired immediately, but they won’t be because the Administration is behind them.

Now to the problem I see. What if other states go the same way? Let’s say Texas decides to be next. (They’ve always been kind of a separate entity anyway.) If those two states find it successful, maybe New Mexico could be next. If these three states maintain a unified front on the border and do so successfully over the next, say, 18 months, the Administration is sorely embarrassed. What happens then?

Lots and lots of pressure. All the pressure the Obama Administration can put on those states. There could – worst case scenario – could – be enough pressure for those three states to secede. Yes, I said it – secede. I wouldn’t have believed I would ever say that a year ago. However, in the 18 months Obama has been in office he has destroyed, mangled, or ignored as much of the Constitution and Bill of Rights as possible. We’re on a downhill slope, friends, and I’m afraid we’re heading for a crash at the bottom.

It’s still a states’ rights issue, but the reverse of the 1850s. Now we are trying to preserve the “States” part of “United States” and I’m very afraid it’s going to get very messy. In the 1850s we considered the South “the bad guys” for being the states-rights promoters. Today, it’s the people who believe that the Constitution is about limited control by the Federal government.

By the way, Arizona had passed a law a couple of years ago that they would secede if the US government declared martial law.

Frankly, in our worst-case scenario, I think the states would be successful. I don’t think Obama has the guts to try to do a Civil War-style incursion. (Texas has Fort Hood, and will have more tanks than the US.) Further speculation: Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana – all pretty independent-minded folk. Get a few of those states to go along and you can run the table, south to north, and now the West Coast is separated from the East.

I think the Southeast is still pretty patriotic and conservative, so it could run through Mississippi, Alabama, and maybe Georgia. Maybe even Tennessee and Kentucky. Nebraska and Iowa are a toss-up.

I know, it’s a really outlandish scenario, right? It’s 1999. You’re a time traveler. You travel to 2010. No flying cars, but we’ve been fighting Islamic fundamentalist terrorism for ten years. Now we can’t even call it that. We’ve narrowly escaped more 9/11 events several times at least. The government has bought two car companies, brought Wall Street to its knees, and controls the banks. Dissent is called “racism.” The Administration and the news media turns everything around. It’s done blatantly, so everyone knows, but there is nothing that it seems can be done. Ignoring the will of the people, the Federal government rolls over more rights every day. Judges believe in a “living Constitution,” where the things the Founders wrote are no longer considered valid.

I think that’s a pretty outlandish scenario, and yet we are living it.

I never, ever thought I would consider something like the secession of states in the union being a possibility in my lifetime. I really cannot believe I would be favor of it…but I’m leaning that way.