Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Last Naked Barbie

The Last Naked Barbie lies on her side underneath the bookshelf in the bathroom, her head twisted at an angle that would be uncomfortable for a human. For months now, her eyes have been fixed on the same spot of wallpaper, and if I have anything to do with it, that will remain the case for the next many, many years.
She was left there sometime in the past by our dear daughter/grandchild Alicia Ann. Alicia is now half-way through with the fifth grade, and is now much more interested in styling her own hair than she is in arranging Barbie's tresses. So, she probably thinks nothing of the fact that Barbie occupies that particular space on the floor, where she is safe from being trodden upon.
May I insert in here: One would think that parents would learn after the FIRST child not to allow their children to own ANY toys with hard plastic corners? The innumerable times I have been jounced into full wakefulness by a Lego, toy truck, or some other implement of youthful delight and parental pain SHOULD have taught me a lesson. On the other hand, there are always doting uncles, aunts, and grandparents who stand ready to provide artificial foot-destroyers, so it's a moot point, really. Caltrops are a way of life when you have kids. Barbie has protuberances that not only would destroy a real woman's balance, but also destroy a real man's balance when he encounters them in the middle of the night.
But, Alicia is girl number six. My gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa , the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, raised four girls; I raised one; and Alicia is a grand-daughter that we re raising together. The first little girl, Carmen,  went off to kindergarten more than 30 years ago, and Alicia is only five months away from moving up to middle school. And for some reason, the last six grandchildren have been all boys. I don't see any new purchases of Barbies in our foreseeable future, although we do have at least four sets of married children who are capable of presenting us with a little girl.
I'm not making any bets on that, however. I don't want to be utterly maudlin about it; at least I won't have to explain to any more little girls how to make up a field-expedient sanitary napkin when she starts to bleed while Mom is at work. (That's kind of sad, too, though. Is that weird?)
At any rate.
Today is the last day of 2016. In 3 1/2 hours, the two-faced god Janus starts his month, and so I am in a mood to reflect as well as resolve.
And I resolve to reserve The Last Naked Barbie's place underneath the bookcase in my bathroom, to remind me of all the sweet butterfly kisses and bedtime stories I have shared with my little girls over the years.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

All I Want For Christmas: Provide for the poor & Lame Duck Presidential actions

What I REALLY want for Christmas is no presents for me, first of all. Not even ammo,  ALTHOUGH I HAVE BEEN SAYING FOR THE PAST 15 YEARS TO BUY ME AMMO WHEN YOU WANTED TO BUY ME A PRESENT!!! Now, not even ammo.
Nope, I think I want just two things, and I can't rank them, because they are both life-changers. I'll start with what I think is the easiest thing I want; instead of buying me anything, including ammo, spend money on this.
NUMBER 1. Provide food, shelter, clothing, transportation, job training, and health care for someone who has limited access. Now, that can be money, or volunteer work, or donating items. In my opinion, the BEST programs are those that provide job training, along with social support, childcare, and so on. My PERSONAL favorite to recommend is the City of Refuge in Atlanta, which is located in the heart of the city, and provides all kinds of services; they even are staging a fund-raiser fight, between the sweet lady who runs the safe-house and long-term care housing program for survivors of sex trafficking; three rounds between her and whoever dares get into the ring with her.
Another great local organization I have personal experience with is Must Ministries. When I was working with the Cherokee County School System, they often helped families we served, and they do great work.
My own home church also is worthwhile, but I don't want to give a link to what we are doing, since some might find it self-serving. However, If requested, I'll make a link in the comments.

So: That's my number 1 request. Don't get me ANYTHING; instead, make a donation to one of these or other similar organizations.
Note to my children: That doesn't count with respect to pictures of my grandchildren. You can give me all you want of those.

NUMBER 2: This one is way different, because it's not for ME, it's for the entire country. Mr. President, before you leave office, I ask to you to pardon all non-violent drug offenses, de-criminalize marijuana to the fullest extent you can, and commute all death sentences to Life Without Parole. Every dime that is spent on cops filling out paperwork on a marijuana bust is a wasted dime. Every dime spent by a prosecutor on death penalty case, instead of opting for LWOP, is a wasted dime.
LWOP won't actually enhance revenue, just slash expenditures, but if you can decriminalize marijuana, regulate it and tax it, you've just gone a long way toward paying for renewal of our infrastructure, which will create thousands of jobs, and that's a really good thing. It will automatically cut the guts out of a LOT of criminal enterprise, just as the ending of Prohibition did.
And note: this isn't something that is going to provide me with a ticket to dope city. I can't use marijuana, both because of the pain-treatment contract I signed, and because it makes me psychotic. I know that from experiments some 40+ years ago, and do not require additional evidence. Something about my brain chemistry; I'm assuming I'm riding the edge of insanity always anyway, and pot just pushes me over.

So, for those of you with influence in such things, don't wait for the Macy's Day parade. Start writing your checks to various homeless ministries and letters to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue TODAY, and if we all make ourselves heard, we can make a change.

(P.S. Sometime ago, I commented that I felt discounted, because no one ever said "Pat, you are a frappen idiot." I penned this missive in the hope that that I will now unlock that achievement.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Waiting for the Greater to drive out the Lesser

This may not be the thing for you to read if you have just had a birthday, or just heard the baby's heartbeat. Those are times of pure joyous celebration, and this isn't a celebratory post. However, DO save this for later, because at some point you will need it.
I've heard enough doom and gloom about the Presidential Election that even I, who am not a joiner, and not a believer in promises of bread and circuses, have been known to get a grump about the results. I should have known, when the utter inane rhetoric began to irritate me, that something else was in the pipeline that was going to make it look insignificant.
The Greater always drives out the Lesser. You are at work, ands your petty boss makes a petty comment about your performance; then you get a phone call from your husband; they have found a tumor in his neck, and need to do more tests. Suddenly, the greater drives out the lesser. The silly fussiness of your boss reveals itself for what it is, and you just want him to get out of your way so you can punch the time clock and go home.
It's not always bad; at the last minute, a deal on your new house falls through, and you've already enrolled your kids in a new district.Then, out of the blue, a much better house appears on the markey, same school district, and within a week, you have a new place.
There are two things I am NOT saying:
1. "Enjoy it while you can, because disaster is on the way." Nope, nope, nope. That's a destructively pessimistic outlook which would strip you of your ability to enjoy present truth, in favor of torturing you with bad consequences that haven't arrived.
2. "Oh, that's nothing, wait until _____ happens." A LONG time ago I had a boss who simply adored saying this to me in varied circumstances. I do not know why; it was inconsistent with the genuine affection she showed others, and me in particular; it was like this was some sort of verbal spasm that had to pass out of her mouth on certain occasions. She couldn't POSSIBLY know the effect she had on others when that erupted from her mouth; she was too nice to MEAN harm.
Disregard BOTH of these approaches, as they are harmful and untrue. When you are experiencing joy, then hold on to that joy; when you are experiencing pain, it is YOURS to experience, and you dare not deny it, just because there are other theoretical worse outcomes.
But, it is true, that in time, the Greater will drive out the Lesser. This is a good thing; even in the case of a greater trauma coming along. Quickly, we discover how petty our other concerns were, even while realizing they may require a second resolution.
More likely than not, the really great trauma does us the favor of knocking us on our knees, where we can only cry "Father! Abba Father"
Truthfully, it's where we live at all times.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A meditation on Parent Moments: Far Flung, by Laura Montgomery

First, I review; then, I meditate.
Preliminary: You must know that I am writing this with my fat black Manx cat SugarBelly resting in the crook of my left arm. and looking over her shoulder at the keyboard from time to time in anticipation. I believe it's because one of Montgomery's earlier books is "Manx Prize," and SugarBelly thinks it's about her; and, by extension, she thinks every book and story Laura Montgomery writes is about her. I have ceased to argue the point. I think Mark Twain had observations about men and cats which apply. The reason I pass this bit of feline intrusion along is because at some point, SugarBelly will turn around, and start attempting to use the keyboard. Therefore, any unexpected change in point of view should be regarded with suspicion.
The review: Far Flung is a novella-length (53 pages) work painting the picture of a small population of adventurer-engineers who determine that libertarian principles will be better served by forming an independent nation. They acquire a decommissioned mining platform, add to it, and construct huge sea-going island, which they christen New Oregon. Most of the N.O. crew are from the United States, and they have formally renounced their US citizenship prior to declaring a new entity.
They are opposed in this endeavor by factions in the United States, some governmental, others private. The governmental factions are headed by the IRS, which regards the new nation as a fictional construct, designed to free the NO citizens from their tax burden (including prior accumulated debt). Other governmental agencies are interested in nationalizing new technology being pioneered in New Oregon. And finally, in the private sector, families of the relatively young crew/citizens of New Oregon want them to return to the US because of concerns for their safety.
All of this is brought to a head when Venezuela, pretty much acting as a rogue state, decides to annex New Oregon, claiming it has entered waters under their control. Since this is patent lie, provable  by satellite imagery and GPS recordings, it's clear that they are relying on brute force to impose their will, and give a black eye to the US in the process.
Communications have been established between the US government and the crew of New Oregon . As a libertarian state, New Oregon refuses to ask the US for aid, because they can't pay for it, and accepting it would revoke their independent status.
And as a kicker: the Secretary of State for New Oregon is engineer Betha Tenney, the daughter of Navy Captain Adam Tenney, who has been sent as an observer to the negotiations. This permeates the drama of the  "rebels with a cause" narrative with a personal tension, which brings the theoretical home to roost.
Thus endeth the review.
The meditation.
A quick quick bit of family background: My gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA and I have between us 10 children and nine grandchildren, with one grandchild on the way. MY (biological) firstborn son, Jordan has two sons of his own, Heath and Eliott. When Heath was a newborn, March 2013,  Jordan was on active duty in the Georgia Army National Guard, and deployed to Shindand Air Base in Herat Province, Afghanistan.
A bad thing happened.
What with this and that, three years passed.
Last night, Vanessa and I were babysitting six month old Eliot while big brother Heath and Mommy Courtney were at church. Vanessa was moogling a laughing Eliott, and I was faithfully reading "Far Flung" in preparation for the review. And as I'm reading about the anguish Adam Tenney is experiencing, knowing that his daughter is in a situation in which she may be killed, and that she has freely chosen the path that lead her there, and that he is utterly POWERLESS to do anything to help her, Jordan calls me to tell me he's on his way to pick up Eliott. A short time later, he comes in the front door, the same door he's used since 1992; but now, he's using a cane. He eases himself into a seat on the couch, and we chat.
It's been three years since a 155 mm rocket blasted him into a concrete wall in Shindand, smashing his knee and giving him a traumatic brain injury. He has come a LONG way ; he has a long way to go.
After he and Eliott left to rejoin Mommy and Heath at home, I TRIED to return to "Far Flung." I couldn't do it. Reading about Adam Tenney experiencing the same thing I had experienced; and still experience; it was just too much for me.
So, I had a Parent Moment, and I cried.
I briefly raged. See, he had a college degree when he enlisted. His best friend had served two deployments in the Marines, and we have a family history of service including WWI, WWII, Korea & Viet Nam, plus all the non-combat service; so I GOT it that he wanted to serve. BUT he was supposed to be a cannon crew member, he was field artillery, NOT infantry! Not guarding an air base! I didn't rage long, though, because: he is a man I am proud of, and he told me: "I don't like the outcomes, but I'm proud of my decisions." And I can't rage at that. he is an honorable, righteous man, and a good father and husband.
And after I had my Parent Moment, I moved on, and breathed, and did the next right thing, which was to go to sleep.

My nam is SugarBelly Patterson, and I don't approve thsi coz he wasn't scratch my hed. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Surprising your wife, pleasantly; part the second

Dearest friends in internet land,

As you saw when last we met, I was able to get my beard trimmed. I DID find my Leatherman tool, and got the batteries charged on my electric drill.
But, I could not disassemble the Ground Fault Tolerant plug on the air conditioner; the screws holding it together were not something designed to be removed by the consumer.
Ha ha, I thought. They do not know Who They Are Dealing With. One time, I clamped a 5 inch circular saw blade on a router. It didn't turn out well, and somewhere in a neighboring county, there is a circular saw blade embedded in a rafter in the attic.
But, a tool for every job, and now I have a DREMEL!!! with lots of parts. I could cut that plug in two pieces, and THEN we'll see who has a screw loose!
But, I didn't do that. It seems we had an extra air conditioner window unit, which was replaced by a better-sealing window fan during the annual stink bug migration that has been a feature of the area for the past few years.
So, I used my manly muscles to remove the defective window unit and set it on top of a big storage container by my side of the bed, and then re-used my manly muscles (yes, they ARE re-usable!) to place the functioning air conditioning unit in our window, and replaced fasteners and curtain things and stuff, and with a whirr, we were back in the land of air conditioning.
BY THE WAY!!!! A literary acquaintance by the name of Clair Kiernan has written a FABULOUS! post about Atlanta summers on her Facebook page, and if that link worked, and if you are at ALL familiar with the climate in the South, you will appreciate the yock. I, myself, yocked and yocked, and then I read it to my gift-from-God, happy-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, and she yocked as well.
So, manly muscles fatigued, cool air on the way, I retired to my Sunday rest.
Did I mention that Vanessa smiled when she saw my beard was trimmed? She did.
I love it when she smiles.
Something woke me up in the middle of the night. Fortunately, I had my handy flashlight. At least, I had somebody's handy flashlight; might have been Vanessa's. So, I flashed the room. And what did I find? There, creeping along the wall, was a cute little green frog, about the size of my thumb, with sticky pads on his feet, and big bulgy eyes, and a great big mouth! Where did he come from?
Well, as near as I can tell, he had been living in the air conditioner. There's a little clean space amongst the mossy green coating where his (or her; didn't check) tiny little butt had been resting, and waiting for more bugs to come visit.
No, I did NOT shoot the little green frog with any of the assortment of firearms which are always at hand. Instead, I used a MUCH rarer item (a clean hand towel) and wrapped him up and took him outside.
And Vanessa stayed asleep through the whole thing.
But when she did wake up, a bit later, I showed her the video, and she was disturbed. So I gave her a hug and a kiss, and it was alright. But she made me check for snakes. I knew there weren't any, but I checked anyway. And she smiled.
I love it when Vanessa smiles.
Here's the frog. It's a bad picture, captured from the video I took, and blown up using Paint. Precious, right?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

How to trim your beard & surprise your wife pleasantly

I need  know: How many Leatherman (or Gerber) Tool kits you need in an American household before you can find one. I know I have two, and I think there may be as many as six in the house, depending on what the boys took with them when they grew up and moved out; but so far, all I know is that it's a number greater than two.

I suspect it's not just a threshold number. My guess is that there is a predictive algorithm:

Tf = |To * - (.265Cy + .489Ct + .3201Car + .0645Canr)|

Which means Tools found equals the absolute value of Tools owned multiplied by negative values for the number of Children(young) + Children (teen)+ Children (adult, resident) + Children (adult, non-resident).
There is a bit of wiggle room in these figures. You will notice that there is no factor in here for 'Spouse.' That's because whenever I ask her where my whatever is, she hasn't seen it, doesn't know what it is, and she gave it back to me the other day, remember?
This is a hypothetical Spouse, NOT my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after- trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA. She HAS no faults, thank you very much. Why, in fact, yesterday, she told me to plug in the electric drill for some reason, and I said okay, turned and looked at the drill (right next to my file cabinet), and it was fine. So, sometime in the night, someone stumbled over the cords, almost pulling down the printer, and coincidentally unplugging the drill.

Why do you want the drill? You said you were going to trim your beard!

Yesterday afternoon at some point, the ground-fault tolerant plug on our window air conditioner went out, and it's HOT in the bedroom, and even hotter in the bathroom. And the screw holding the head on the rotating fan is just loose enough that the fan slumps, dejectedly, moving air around my feet.

Is that it? You need the multitool to tighten the screw on the fan? How long does it TAKE you to trim your BEARD?

I was getting to that. About a week ago, I gave Kenneth the buzz cut he asked for, and the lad has this amazingly thick, soft, curly hair. When ever he goes out, the people always shout "Amazingly Thick Soft and Curly Hair, Na na na na na na na! He HATES that. So, I really did clean my Wahl trimmer (the industrial version, with the turbocharged diesel engine), but, as I'm about to trim the beard, I notice I missed some.
And to clean it properly, got to remove two little Phillips head screws.
And then I'm gonna tighten the fan.
And then trim my beard, and clean up.
And then see about repair or replace on the air conditioner GFT plug. You don't need all that stuff anyway, just cut the plug off, and stuff the bare wires in the light sockets.

Umm, I'm not gonna do that if I don't have to. The oven is one of those that is either gas or electric, and we use gas, so I think I have a heavy duty cord somewhere.

If I can fix everything needed to trim my beard (Scissors? Who said scissors? Go to the back, you) I will take a before and after picture.  And hope Vanessa smiles.
I LOVE it when Vanessa smiles.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Making baseball interesting and profitable for everyone

I've been a fan of the Atlanta Braves ever since they moved here from Milwaukee. It hasn't always been easy. I got to see some Hall of Fame players, and some that probably SHOULD have been Hall of Fame, but I also remember guys like Mike Lum, the utility infielder; Denis Menke, and of course, Felipe Alou. I got to see Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, and Joe Torre play, and I THINK, (but am not sure) that I also saw them homer, but not back-to-back, which they did on at least one occasion. The one game I was NEVER going to see was the one in which pitcher Tony Cloninger hit two grand slam home runs, because that was played in San Francisco, July 3, 1966, and we lived in Atlanta burbs.
There were some AWFUL years. I've been to games where there were no more than four thousand people in the ball park. On one season opener, the Atlanta Hawks were in the play-offs, and between innings they put that game up on the outfield wookidat-a-tron, and the crowd booed when they switched it off when the game resumed.
I remember looking at their performance once during the 70's and or 80's, and some sports writer was making a point that the team had lost more one run games than any other team in baseball. To be that close, and still lose; it was tough being a fan. And the one time the DID make it to the playoffs during those two decades, they found out in the clubhouse, watching SF Giants slugger Joe Morgan hit a three run homer to knock the Dodgers out of the race, and give the championship to the Braves. By one game.
Oh, yeah, at some point after that, and before they had their hats handed to them in the play-offs, Dale Murphy, the clean-living National League MVP, and center fielder, spoke to every player on the plane, reminding them of a game in which their performance had lead to a Braves victory. And he closed each memory by saying, 'and that's the game that gave us the championship.' What a class act; unfortunately, the talent ran pretty shallow most of those years. Exceptions, to my way of thinking, include Gene Garber, Bruce Benedict, Glenn Hubbard, and Phil Niekro. There were others, but I ain't a sportswriter, and besides: I already made the key point:
The Braves led baseball in the number of games lost by one run.
Now, you wouldn't think a teenage boy would spend THAT much time thinking about baseball, and certainly, by the time I was in my twenties and thirties, all my magical thinking SHOULD have been gone.
But, I just couldn't forget all those games lost by one run, and wish we could have saved some of those where we whaled the stew out of the opposing team. As a LATE example of that. the Braves were the first team to really take the measure of the Baby Bull, Fernando Valenzuela, knocking him out of the box early in the game. If we could somehow BANK those runs....
If we could bank those runs, it would make baseball much more enjoyable, and also increase the budget of 'less-than' teams, which could go to...I dunno...subsidizing the cost of hot dogs?
Here's how it works: The way it is now, teams that are going really well draw a lot of fans, which means increased revenue from ticket sales, advertising, and endorsements. Teams that DON'T do well get fewer bucks, and can't afford to pay for big ticket stars, which means losing more games.
So, we set up a Run Bank. Let's say the Braves beat the Dodgers by 10 runs. At a cost of 1,000,000 per run, they can BANK up to NINE of those runs to be used later. For each one of those runs, half of the money goes to the other team (the Dodgers in this case), 40 % goes into the Worlds Series Fund, 10% goes to the league for admin costs. So, at the end of the year, the Braves see, okay, we won 86 games, lost 74, and banked 200 runs. Out of those 74 games we lost, 43 of them were by one run. So, we add two runs to each of those games, which moves them into the win column. That gives us 117 wins, the most in baseball, so we are in the National League playoffs (forget the division champs; nobody cares, all right?)
BUT, the other guys have banked runs as well, so our 117 wins gets knocked down to 70. No problem, we only used 86 of our 200 banked runs; we have 114 more to go. That's enough to give us the win in 57 cases; we use them all, and we are back up to 127 wins, and in the playoffs, again.
And it only cost us $200,000,000.
A bargain.
The numbers may vary, but it's still a bargain.
The premium will be on high scoring contests, and teams with no hit/no pitch lineups will be as highly sought after as teams with a huge attendance draw; one has a big gate, the other has the potential for adding a lot of runs to the Run Bank.
Don't you think this would be GREAT?
If so, you must LOVE the Hugo voting rules.
(Had ya going there, didn't I?)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Amazon rankings are broken! 9/16/2016

Wow. Amazon's review system is broken.
I just now read the verification of that in the Reviewer Forum. While frequently flavored by spite, calumny, contempt, and mean-spirited attack posts, the forum DOES offer some inside information to outsiders like myself. And here's what I just found out, and why it might be important.
Reviewers are ranked based on the number, timeliness, helpfulness of their reviews, and whether or not they are a 'Verified Purchaser.'  That last means they purchased the product through Amazon; KU loans are excluded from that category. The higher a reviewer is  ranked, the more impact their review will have on a product. A side effect of this system is that top reviewers (the top 10,000) will often be solicited to write reviews for products, and there have been scams associated with the practice, including reviewers selling positive reviews.
On or about July 26, ALL reviewer ranks were frozen. Prior to that, rankings changed daily. I had peaked at 5,559, I believe, then slipped through non-participation to 6,179. And that number did not change, even though I started reviewing again and getting helpful votes.  I finally researched it, after yet another day of unchanged rating, and found it's like that for EVERYBODY.
WHY IT MIGHT BE IMPORTANT (to authors): No one is EXACTLY sure what the algorithm is for determining the rank of books. We DO know that rank is important, because random pickers like to get the highly ranked books. Other than that, sales figures and reviews are used to determine the rankings; a review from a top 100 reviewer is going to mean more than a review from a person who only writes one review, thus putting their name at the bottom of the list with a ranking somewhere in the vicinity of 35,000,000 (my ranking for my review of Amanda'a "Nocturnal Origins"  was 14, 360,604 on 10/28/14). As far as I know, we do not know how Amazon weights reviews vs sales.
BUT: a short freeze evidently happened once before, due to a software glitch, and it got fixed. We are coming up on two months for this freeze, and so far, NOBODY at Amazon has even admitted it's happening.
So I think: we are in for a re-set. I could be wrong, but I think that some of the loopholes in the reviewer system (like pay for review) got too egregious, and so they are going to dump the old system, and implement something new.
In the short term, this might impact book ratings and sales, but in the long term, I think it's gonna be okay. Amazon NEEDS a review system in place in order to run; that isn't the case since July 26, so a fix WILL happen.
Who knows?  Maybe it will take into consideration Kindle Unlimited as some fraction of a verified purchase. That's how it works with money.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Future of Science Fiction and Fantasy. And Stuff.

I've got an idea that people of a different time would have called "the cat's meow." I don't actually know when this time would be, and I'e never heard anyone use that phrase, but I'm sure I read it in a book or perhaps a magazine article or something. The idea is for a new KIND of award for works that fall into the category of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Vampires, Zombies, Monsters and Killing Them, Military Sci Fi, and whatever else we are reading, watching, listening to because we are trapped in this awful reality and really need to escape. Now, I live in Woodstock, GA, Cultural Center of the Universe, so I'm gonna have to have the award near me, at least until it's potty trained. I briefly thought about Dragon Con, which is sort of next door, but hey: I fought that Atlanta traffic for YEARS, since 1969, and I ain't going back there without a struggle. But just a little bit farther away in the opposite direction is Chattanooga, and as we all know, LibertyCon is the coolest EVER, so:
I propose that LibertyCon create a new award, addressing the future of science fiction and fantasy, and whatever else we are reading. I suggest the name "Thiotimoline Award," after the chemical compound which has the property of dissolving BEFORE being added to water. (The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline", Asimov, I., March 1948, J.A.S.F.)
The award would be given annually for the best work in each category (perhaps mirroring the Dragon Awards), but for future works, published, say...oh, I don't know...five years out?
So, at Liberty Con 2017, the Thiotimoline Award would go to the best work published in 2021, five years after the current eligible candidates for awards such as the Dragon, Hugo, Nebula, and John Campbell. I suspect this will rapidly become a highly favored award by Toni Weisskopf at Baen , always a forward-looking publishing house, and perhaps the Big Five (or is it Four? can't remember) publishers as well. For them, it will have the dual benefits of providing authors with manageable yet concrete deadlines, while also making possible a long-term publishing schedule, constructed around an award-winning work.
One category will become particularly popular with the entire F&SF community. "Best New Writer," also doing business as the John Campbell Award among others, is currently appallingly retrospective, looking BACK at newcomers for the previous year, or even from the year before that! Instead of being 'New,' the award as currently construed should really be stamped with an expiration date. The winners of the Thiotimoline Award for Best New Talent are undoubtedly either not in the profession at all at the moment of the award, or have been laboring over fine-tuning a work for an agonizing number of years. Receipt of the award will therefore instantly become the the sort of thing that eager candidates strive for to an unprecedented degree. Imagine the impact this could have had in years past: Michael Crichton would not have had to waste all those years in medical school, for example. 
While the Best New Writer is certain to be the headline award, the others are not without their own allure. On Sunday in the Mad Genius Club, Dorothy Grant wrote a wonderfully informed article about something I didn't understand because I didn't read it, but it at least mentioned in passing (or something) about authors being concerned about shifting their genre. I THINK this means ( I glimpsed some of the comments, but really, y'all, I just ran out of time) that if an author has been writing books about exploding spaceships, but then has an idea for a series about the conflict inherent in a love affair between a hyperintelligent shade of blue and a leopard who shape changes into another leopard, but just in spots, then winning the award for Best Novel would not even be necessary: just showing up on the list of nominations would provide the encouragement needed to take the plunge. "Look! I'm nominated for Best Novella for 'Lilac Summer!'" "Oh, really? What do you suppose THAT's about?" "I have no idea, but it's not about an accountant born without bones falsely imprisoned for making out with his music teacher and conquering the world wearing a power suit! I'm up to number twenty-two in that series! I knew I was ready for a change!"
And then we come to what is likely to be the most pernicious, heinous, malevolent criticism of this precious little white kitten of an idea: Won't fixing a particular outcome five years into the future be deterministic? What about the grandfather paradox? What about freedom of will?
I dunno. Try it; if the universe implodes, it was a bad idea.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Brings the Lightning, by Peter Grant

It would bother me greatly that I am such a fan boy of certain authors (and other people), if it weren't for the fact that I think. Yes, admittedly when I was in the third grade and eight years old, I was a gooey, sick kind of fan boy of Sergeant Rock, but then, it was also 1962 and my father and millions of people who mattered were all veterans of WWII. So, I practiced throwing grenades wit my step-dads sparkplugs for the SAAB he was rebuilding in the garage. He never should have left spark plugs on the kitchen counter, anyway; they look like hand grenades.
But, that was all pre-rational fan boy. I'm more than a half-century older now, and I actually THINK about the people I admire. I'm not going to go on and on about why I would admire Peter apart from his writing, because I think it would sound too much like a third-grader effusing about Sergeant Rock. Read what he has to say himself about where he's been and what he's done and what he thinks, and decide for yourself; I'm not selling memberships in the Peter Grant Fan Club.
But for me, he's one of the minor reasons I don't go to cons; if I were to encounter him in person, I'd make such an ass of myself that it would embarrass everybody in the neighborhood, the two principal embarassees being his insanely talented wife Dorothy and my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA.
He has two (related) space opera series; a profound autobiographical work called "Walls, Wires, Bars, and Souls;" and this new cowboy book.

Yeah, I said cowboy book. It ain't REALLY a cowboy book, but it is about the American West, in the aftermath of the Civil War.More specifically, it's about the choices and fortunes of one Walt Ames, a Confederate soldier discharged after Appomattox, who returns to his Tennessee home to find nothing to keep him.
He does have family, but in the hard-scraped days following the end of the War, there simply isn't enough coming in from the family farm to support another work hand.
And then, he gets to fulfill the fantasy of every teenage boy with a young and good-looking teacher, when he finds Rose Eliot, who taught him the penmanship he used to become a courier, has fallen on hard times, and he gets to provide her with the resources she needs and companionship out West, where she has the offer of a new teaching position.
If this was written by someone else, I suppose there would be a gratuitous sex scene tossed in here, before they had established a new relationship, but Peter has a better feel for frontier morality than that. SPOILER ALERT: they DO get married, and everything is done with propriety, and it takes rather longer than I wanted to; I figured out they would fall for each other quite a few chapters before they realize it.
Anybody who has heard family stories of a major move knows that the process was daunting. Walt has a hoard of gold coins come by honestly (well, by killing the guy who stole them) and that saves him from failure, but it is his skill as an armorer and (literally) a horse trader that makes the move out West a success. Walt also hires a crew of freemen to help manage the baggage train he puts together; to go much further would be to give away the story entirely. I will say that Grant has an excellent ear for dialogue, and does not make the mistake of confusing intelligence and ability with grammatical precision.
I'm looking forward to reading more in this series.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Heinlein is almost always a good answer

I haven't been able to read much recently, so I thought "Why not try Heinlein?"
Last night while waiting for my 14 pound baked potato to microwave (yeah, I know, but it WAS a big one), so I could stuff it with sausage, mayo, red wine vinegar and the rest of a beefsteak tomato (and it was even better than it sounds), I pulled a paperback off the shelf, which turned out to be "The Day After Tomorrow." I was not quite finished with the first chapter (fascinating story about a small group of surviving scientists and technicians who fight against a PanAsian occupation of the US) when the microwave beeped, and my 26 pound potato was cooked perfectly.
Note: before putting it in the microwave, I rubbed garlic olive oil into the skin. We have gone in the past year to coconut oil, mostly, so I had to look twice in order to see the garlic olive oil on the shelf. Why GARLIC olive oil? That, I do not know. Sometimes the women make strange choices when they go to the grocery store. I have just about convinced them not to buy the small size of anything, so I think this 16 ounce container of garlic oil might have been one of them asserting her freedom from the repressive demands of the patriarchy. All I know is pancakes fried in garlic olive oil is a dish that makes me wish Minerva June, our late and lamented black lab, was still with us and roaming around seeking what she could devour. Dogs make a wonderful solution to the disaster of left-overs too small to refrigerate. Cats, on the other hand, won't eat anything, unless it's ice cream out of your bowl.
So, I was close to the end of the first chapter, the microwave beeped and it was time to smash and grab. I smashed the potato, grabbed the sausage from the cast iron skillet, and completed the dish referred to by Mickey, my youngest bio boy, refers to as Gonzales Sue Samen.
ummm... that's because I told him that's what it's called. Actually, I told him it was 'ganz alles zusamen,' meaning 'everything mixed together,' but his name is cuter.
And as I took the food upstairs to devour, I regretted not having all my Heinlein dead-tree books in some electronic format. I try not to take books out of my man cave, because they rarely make it back, and the piles of medications, pocket-fillers, electronics, firearm components, and DVDs on my bedside tables recently hit overflow. Maybe I should build shelves; but if I did, it would restrict our choices when it came time to rearrange furniture.
So, as I set my snack in 'Eat Me' mode, I perused (the Baen website) and pursued ("The Day After Tomorrow"), and found no joy. First I tried "Assignment in Eternity," but i had read it too recently. Same with "Farnham's Freehold," and I wasn't in the mood for "Grumbles from the Grave." I skipped another couple of titles, and then opened "Sixth Column." 
YAHOO! "Sixth Column" is "The Day After Tomorrow!" The back story of the name change is explained in the excellent prologue by William H Patterson, Jr, of no known relation.
And this excellent example of pre-Something Something by Heinlein was enough to keep me occupied until I fell asleep, and then was my companion when I woke up in the middle of the night until I could fall asleep again.
And so I gained another several hours of reading. That's a lovely gift! Which is why I say:

Heinlein is almost always a good answer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Smart adults who were smart kids

This is a riff off comments made by Sarah Hoyt in her blog today; she is returning to her US home after visiting her birthplace in Portugal. During the course of the trip, she gained some insight into her relationship with her mother. Read what she has to say here.

Nothing is as simplistic as I'm about to make it sound, but for a certain segment of the population, I think I'm going to come pretty close. That segment includes bookworms, and I'm reasonably sure that people who read my blog fall into that category. Furthermore, I'm speaking to bookworms who come from a home where there was a good bit of conflict. I don't know how many will relate to that combination, but here it goes anyway:

I'm not sure that high intelligence has much survival value for kids in homes with a lot of conflict, particularly when the conflict is also reflected in society as a whole. Being smart just allows you to see the discrepancy between what is, and what should be, in the way parents (and maybe aunts and uncles) treat you, but provides no true escape when you need it (and that's why we turn to reading).

If you're lucky, possibly as early as 30 or 40 years later, you realize that your parents were just operating with an entirely different set of programming, and they were flat-out wrong in some cases, and it helps to bring closure, THEN.

But from about age six to ten and onward, all the highly intelligent kid knows is that what we are receiving doesn't fit with what we are giving. And that's when we are faced with a conflict that can't be resolved: either there is something wrong with our parents, or there is something wrong with us. And since we depend at an early age on our parents for our very existence, we cannot tolerate the idea that there might be something wrong with THEM; if that's true, then there is NOTHING we can count on for security, and life is too chaotic to for us to survive. Therefore, in order to survive we conclude there is something wrong with us. After all, we did break that glass; our room was messy; we took the candy when we weren't supposed to. And, with this rationalization, early childhood for the highly intelligent child is survivable, until we hit puberty and the realization inevitably erupts that NO, DAMMIT, IT'S NOT ALL OUR FAULT, WE DON'T DESERVE TO BE TREATED THIS WAY.

And that's when our badly programmed but extremely powerful logic machine arrives at the conclusion that our parents, and by extension all authority, are evil. So bleep 'em, we'll find our own bleepin' way, and we don't WANT (we pretend) their approval.

Peace, truth, and reconciliation ONLY comes when we are able to dump the programming that says "Parents know everything and don't make mistakes. Therefore, they treated me the way they did because they are evil."  It is MUCH more difficult to reject the program with parents who cling to their authority, still using  'Because I say so' as a conversational ploy.  It is possible, though; however, with parents who refuse to adapt, sometimes, the only way to end conflict is to terminate the relationship.

This is only ONE type of relationship conflict. Just because you realize all this and resolve that it's going to be different with YOUR kids, you still don't get away without taking a relationship beating. It may be a DIFFERENT beating, but Love and Suffering are two sides of the same coin. 

Anybody who tells you differently is trying to sell you something.

(*Or, I could be totally off-base about this having any application at all beyond my own history.)

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Church Lady and Motorcycle White Boy : Vanessa Goes to Washington

The immediate set-up: On Monday, May 16, my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, was released from her position as a legal parapro at a small legal firm doing business primarily in the Woodstock area. For several days, we contemplated our next move.

Some deep background, and a sort-of real-life fairy tale: Vanessa's first husband gave her seven children, and then abandoned her to raise them as best she could. Using Social Services provided in North Carolina and West Virginia, Vanessa was able to earn her General Equivalency diploma, and continued on to college at West Virginia University. She moved to Georgia in 2001, had her prior coursework accepted for transfer, and became an upper classman at the prestigious Spelman College of Atlanta University. She was selected to serve as one of the Student Delegates to the Democratic National Convention in 2004; with her fellow college students, she traveled by bus to Boston to see John Kerry and John Edwards picked as the Democratic Party candidates for President and Vice-President.
Her plan was to continue to empower others politically; however a family crisis in 2007 required her to choose between her personal goals and the needs of her family. Tragically, at the same time her own mother passed, it became necessary for her to step forward and take in a toddler and an infant. These were her grandchildren; so, she sacrificed her own career and raised them as her own. Her political dreams were placed on hold, and she exchanged her classes at Spelman for the rituals of daycare arrangements while holding down a full-time job as a legal parapro to pay the bills. And that involved getting up every morning, getting two teenage girls off to high school, preparing two children for childcare, and later kindergarten, going to work all day, picking up children, stopping by the grocery store, making dinner, feeding children, making sure papers were signed, doing laundry, repeat; every day, every single day, and collapsing into bed at night. Weekends were time to recuperate, a little, on Saturday, and buy groceries. Sundays were for church, and a big meal for as many of her children as she could persuade to show up. And then collapse into bed again, because Monday morning came earlier and earlier, it seemed.
And that's the way it went, until Christmas of 2010, when a crippled bearded motorcycle white boy showed up at her door, with presents for her children, and a 40 year old high school ring and his Army dog tags for her, and told her that when she asked him to marry her, he would say yes.

Back to the present day: the motorcycle white boy speaks. I get email from the White House; it's what happens automatically if you ever email them about a concern. Sometime I just trash before reading, but I read this one; it announced a search for women of influence to attend The White House Summit "The United State Of Women." (Diana Ross was going to be there!) Since I happen to believe I am married to one tough lady, who has worked hard for everything she got, and raised seven children while doing it, I nominated her, with a smidgen of 'Deep background' included as the reason for the nomination. I didn't hold out much hope, frankly; I knew there were going to be lots of high-powered women who would love to get invited to Washington (it turned out there were more than 10,000 applications during the few days they were open. But, on May 25, I received :

Dear Vanessa Kay,
Congratulations! You are one of the nominees chosen to attend The United State of Women Summit on June 14th here in Washington, DC.

And we registered the same day! The event is going to be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, a few blocks from the White House. There will be lots and lots of Women of Power there, but only ONE will have the title of  "Praying Black Grandmother"  on her name tag.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tomorrow Belongs To Me, with music and pictures

Two long and brilliantly fascinating comments:

1. I was talking with Tobiyah and Jennifer, my intelligent and VERY politically astute young (mid 20's, early 30's) black daughters the other night about the election,

AND I remembered my teen years, particularly 1968, the year I turned 15:

Tet Offensive,

The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr, and Bobby Kennedy,

Chicago Democratic Convention, (although the song was more about the trial of the Chicago Seven)

and later the Kent State shootings.

It seems to me that we didn't HAVE
choices back then, from my perspective.

I voted for George McGovern on an absentee ballot the day they taught us how to fire Claymore mines (FRONT TOWARDS ENEMY) in Basic Training at Ft. Jackson (D-7-2). (He won Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.)

And then I reflected back a few more years to pre-teen years;the Bay of Pigs in 1961, the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and how we were traveling from Texas to Georgia on the old two lane roads, and the miles and miles of military convoys we had to pass.

And remembering movies like "Alas Babylon" (1960) and nightmares that the Russians were coming down the hallway to kill my baby sister, and the 'duck and cover' exercises we had to practice in school, and the 1963 school civil defense school evacuation drills where we had to walk home in groups because you couldn't count on the bus if the bombs dropped.

And I suppose I could add my experience as a young GI in Germany, knowing I was there to stop the tanks from rolling across the Fulda Gap; and walking across Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin in 1975 wearing my uniform and waving to the Soviets and East German troops.

And I concluded that we ain't got nothing now that even comes close to being a problem, compared to then.

2. The second thought followed watching Donald Trump's speech, after he received the endorsement of the NRA (I'm a Life Member), and listening to his rhetoric.

Recently, the last living "Casablanca" actress, Madeleine LeBeau, passed away. When I heard that, I wanted to watch the scene of her crying as she sang "La Marseillaise;" and, after I did, I followed some links. That can sometimes lead to trouble, I know, but in this case, it just gave me occasion to listen to a couple of other WWII era songs, like the German paratrooper song, and the Horst Wessel song, and the apocryphal Hitler Youth song "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" (which isn't from WWII, as it was written for the 1966 Broadway musical "Cabaret"); and then, the thought...

...the thought that I was wishing that I could be patriotic, and feel good about what Donald Trump says, without hearing (in my head) Adolf Hitler using some of the same type of rhetoric to gain leadership of Germany.

(S.A.H. :All we can do is pray and stand ready to defend our ideals.) A worthy addition to end.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Cherokee County GA: COPS LIKE DONUTS!!!

NOTE: This is MY blog, and MY opinion, and I am in NO WAY affiliated with ANY candidate for any office.

There are some times when I wish this blog had about a million subscribers, and this is one of them. It's because we have an election coming up that matters for Cherokee County.
I'm not a native of Cherokee County, but I've been here since 1991, which may make me an adopted son. I've been here for all of Roger Garrison's term of duty as Sheriff, though, and that gives me something to think about: donuts.
Now, cops love donuts. EVERYBODY knows that. And when Roger Garrison first took office all those years ago, he brought donuts with him, and he put them in the break room.
And nobody would eat them.
Evidently, before Roger was elected, the environment was a lot different in the Sheriff's Office. So different, that the deputies were afraid to eat donuts that were left out for them.
It took Roger making a special announcement before anybody helped themselves to that most favored snack of law enforcement everywhere.
It wasn't just a more hospitable environment Roger brought to Cherokee County; he brought in more professionalism, training, and community outreach programs. We now have a first class Sheriff's Department, one we can be proud of.
And Roger is retiring. So, what does he say we need? (From the article in which he announced his retirement; I can't get the link to work)
He says:
1. We need a younger man, who will have the energy and stamina to get the job done.
2. We need a man who has high-level training in law enforcement.
3. We need a man who has a solid grasp of municipal issues, with a graduate degree in administration.
4. We need a man with local roots.

We have some excellent candidates to choose from for Sheriff this year, but for my money there's only one man that meets the criteria set by the man who modernized and professionalized the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, and that is Frank Reynolds. He has my vote, and I hope he has yours as well.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My thanks to the girl at the USO

It's a Friday night in 1972, and I'm a broke 19 year old PFC in downtown San Antonio. There are lots of things to do in San Antonio if you have money, but if you don't options are really limited.
I don't remember how I found the USO, there may have been a fellow medic trainee with me, but find it I did, and it was a great place to go. Not much in terms of privacy, but some really great home made pound cake.
And girls.
Forget the scenes in the WWII movies about the jumpin' band rocking the place; I don't remember there being any music at all.
But there was a girl. neatly attired in a very modest and patched dress, who came up to me, and asked me if I would like to talk. Well, yeah.
I poured my heart out to her, giving her my tale of woe, and she listened respectfully. At that point of my life, I didn't HAVE a plan, I was in the hands of the Army for the next three years, and I just had to deal with it. I felt trapped and pitiful, and I told her all about it.
As for what she was doing? She was there with some other girls from her church, to provide a friendly face to whatever lonesome troops showed up.
And on the next Sunday, she was very surprised and happy when I showed up with a friend at her church service.
And that's the end of the story. After church was over, I rode the bus back to base, and met a different girl, and she was interested in fooling around. So I never saw the girl from the USO again.
But 44 years later, wherever you are, thanks. And if you ever happen to visit San Antonio, and see a pleasant lady about age 63 or so: would you smile at them for me?

Friday, May 6, 2016

My mother did all the work. Congratulate her.

I turned my Facebook off yesterday to avoid the birthday greetings, but a number of people found out how to wish me a Happy Birthday anyway, so thanks. And Moose dropped by the house last night and outed me, so Vanessa and the kids (including the adult kids) found out.
In case I haven't mentioned this in an earlier blog post, I don't care for holidays in general , and holidays in which I figure as a main character particular. There is ONE exception to that, which is January 1. I love that holiday.
Okay, so I'm 63. That's 3x3x7, or 9x7. The number 9 is the first non-prime odd number, and 7 is the perfect number in some numerology systems, but I really can't find any significance in there. 
How many years is 63? One way to look at it is to measure the distance from my birth to now, and count BACKWARDS from my birth that same number of years, we arrive at 1890; in other words, the distance from 1890 to my birth is the same distance from my birth until now. And, if we postulate (just for fun; I believe I've passed the half-way mark) that I have lived exactly half my life, then I will live to see the year 2079.

f f f f f f f f f f f f f
p p p p p p p

l l l l l l l

1890 1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020 2030 2040 2050 2060 2070
(Don't worry about the values in the cells. They are worthless. But 'l' stands for decades I've lived; 'p' represents my life span extended backward; and 'f' represents how long I have if I'm halfway through. See? worthless.)

I don't know what any of that means, or if it has any symbolic value at all. I rather doubt that it does.

So, now, I turned Facebook back on, and lots of people are saying 'sorry for yer belated birthday.'
It's not your error; I took my page down.
Look, I didn't do anything on my birthday. If you MUST honor it, tell my mother., She did all the work.

But thanks, anyway.
And sorry for making you think you forgot. (This is the worst blog post I ever wrote, by the way, in terms of incoherence.)

Friday, April 29, 2016

"Honor From Ashes" and drunken baggage handlers

I want this to be one of the best bits I've written. There's a bit more at stake here than there is with my usual book reviews. And that makes me flinch a little, because I don't believe life is fair, and yet I'm trying to MAKE a situation fair by writing about it. I'm hoping that in the execution of this blog, plus the accompanying Amazon review, I will even the scales for an author; just a bit.

Let me get the drunken baggage handlers out of the way first, shall I?

Unless all your travels have been by your personally owned vehicle, at some point you have handed over your luggage to someone else for safekeeping. Happens at airports, bus stations, train depots, and on the dock of a cruise ship. In exchange for your baggage, you get a little ticket, or a few little tickets, and then your bag goes away. You are no longer in control of what happens to it.

At the end of your journey, you go to claim your baggage. If all goes well, you are out of the station quickly, and off to the place you want to be, with everything you need. That's ONE possible outcome...

...and there are SO many other possibilities! Your luggage might be shipped to Ft. Wayne. Your luggage might be left back at your boarding point. Your luggage might have been diverted, broken open, and looted. It doesn't HAVE to be a function of human error or malice, so my reference to drunken baggage handlers in the title may be a bit over the top; however, if you are stuck in Frankfurt without any clean underwear, you don't really WHY it happened, do you? You just want your items returned.

Here's a parenthetical visual image for you, coming from my own experience: a mountain consisting of hundreds of identical olive-drab duffle bags, with the identification stenciled on in black ink, indistinguishable except at close range. Only had to go through that ONCE, on my deployment to Germany, but it's got to be experienced to be appreciated. I googled for a picture, but all I found were WWII pictures of the 10th Mountain Division returning, and they used light-colored chalk marker to ID those duffle bags easily. How is it that in the quarter century between their return to the States and my arrival at Rhein-Main, we lost the technology of a yellow piece of chalk?
Usually, there are bright and cheerful customer service representatives (depending on the hour) who will commiserate, hand you the forms to complete, and assure you that they will do everything they can to re-unite you with your lost possessions. And you have no alternative but to accept your copy of the form, and toddle off to your hotel/home/whatever, and dream of a fresh, clean, white t-shirt, which, in most cases, does arrive within a short time. (Not always. I have had the unpleasant experience of having my luggage looted, although all they got was my electric shaver.)

But: the customer service reps are not the people who handle yer luggage, bless their hearts. They are merely the people who are responsible for: 1) Keeping you from being so angry at the freight handling that you do economic damage to the company, and 2) Telling someone to find yer luggage and get it to you. They do not find yer luggage, they do not fly yer plane; nor yet do they plump yer pillow and put a bit of chocolate on it so you will have sweet dreams. They do Task #1 and THEN Task #2. They are called 'Customer Service Reps' because the job title 'Company Failure Apologists' didn't receive high numbers at a board meeting. But that's what they are.

So, what does this have to do with a book, specifically with the book "Honor From Ashes" by Sam Schall / Amanda Green?

Well, it's like this: 'Honor From Ashes' is the long awaited third installment in the 'Honor and Duty' series. It was available on pre-order, and I grabbed it up then, mostly because I wasn't paying attention, and was looking forward to it being available on April 18.

But a bad thing happened.

Instead of the third volume appearing when you clicked the icon, the SECOND volume appeared. And it didn't really seem to matter WHAT you did to get the third volume, nothing happened. For a day. Then two days. Then three days. That's not true, actually, because things WERE happening, it's just that the results weren't what they were supposed to be: the second installment kept appearing.

Finally, between a combination of the author writing a letter  to the owner of Amazon and various and sundry fans making a discovery or two, and posting their findings online, we found out the Earth was flat. And that if we deleted the file from our reader, then all of the operating software, reformatted the disc, reinstalled Windows 386 and subsequent upgrades, returned our systems to the store providing all original warranty information, and developed a carbon-neutral lifestyle, we would have tremendously over-reacted, because it just required we contact Amazon using the 'contact us' link, then entered chat mode, a helpful Company Failure Apologist would push the file through to us, and we could read installment three.

In the meantime, though...and, in this case, it turned out to be really MEAN time...there happened to be customers who were NOT happy with their luggage being lost. And they said mean things, prevention of which is the FIRST job of the  CSR/CFA. And, it likely had an impact on sales, a matter of small concern to Amazon, but great concern to Sam Schall/Amanda Green.

(And I'm ALMOST at the point of reviewing the book. I just need to fill in the last bit about why I'm blogging instead of just reviewing.)

Yes, there IS likely to be some economic impact due to the book being lost for a week. HOWEVER, an author cares more for the fans than as just revenue sources. Authors tend to fall in love with their fan base, and desire greatly not to disappoint them (it's a rather sick relationship, actually). And so, when due to circumstances beyond her control, a small element of her fans turned on her, however briefly, it was a bitter experience for Sam / Amanda. And thus, I write this, as a Customer Representative. Not a Customer SERVICE Representative, but as a representative of the customers. And it is my belief that as a group, we understand that our luggage was lost through no evil intent of the author, but that sometimes stuff happens. And that we will continue to fly the friendly skies of Sam Schall / Amanda Green / Ellie Ferguson / Bodacious Werewolf and are, in fact, looking forward to the next flight. Thus endeth the first part. What follows is the Amazon review.

"Honor From Ashes" is the third installment in the "Honor and Duty" series, and it's the payoff punch we have all been waiting for. I am DELIGHTED to say that there really isn't anything substantial left on the table, although there is room for the series to grow.

For reason of life, I did not go back and re-read the first two books in the series, but that really wasn't necessary for a couple of reasons. First of all, The essence of the story is quite vivid: A woman sits in a prison cell, clinging to the hope that she will be rescued and avenged; and then, it happens, and she is restored to command of the Space Marines she loves. That's a remarkable over-simplification, but it's enough for me to tie this third book into the right context. The second reason it wasn't necessary for me to go back is because the author did an excellent job of summarizing the pertinent events in the earlier works, and did so without giving over the first part of the book into a re-hash.

Marine Lt. Col. Ashlyn Shaw has been able to prove she was set up for false charges, and those who were primary agents in the deception are under guard and awaiting trial. Although none have confessed, there is sufficient evidence, coupled with Shaw's testimony, to make the outcome of the cases as sure a thing as it ever gets. However, two items are not resolved satisfactorily. First, the reason behind the frame job hasn't been revealed, and second, Shaw is required to be available as a witness in the trials, and therefore can't be leading her Devil Dogs in  combat.

Wonderful, wonderful character point: Ash HATES the restriction, but doesn't fight against it, because she knows it is her duty. I am SO fracken OVER the alleged hero who can't restrain a thirst for blood vengeance long enough to attend to the non-gory aspects of their job.

The enemies have their hands deep into Shaw's world, but once the head is lopped off, the tentacles are easy to kill. It's rather satisfying to see that happen: convoluted, long-established plots disintegrate, conspirators turn on one another, and the good guys win, and the bad guys lose. Part of the reason for that, frankly, is loyalty. In one system, duty is compelled through coercion; in Shaw's system, personal example and high expectations are linked, and the result is troops who devote themselves to getting the job done and supporting each other.

Top quality work; buy it now!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Offspring for sale on Amazon

After the last episode of family drama, here's something I've thought about: selling my offspring on Amazon. I don't know that it's legal to sell THEM on Amazon, but maybe I could write up a bio of each, include a picture, and sell that.
Then, once I had the product out there, I could review it. And maybe base their birthday present and Christmas gifts on how many stars they had earned.The product would, of course, be subject to updates, as they did more stupid things or more wonderful things, and I would include the updated narrative for no additional cost.
To get over the adult children getting a case of bad attitude because I outed them for doing something stupid, I'd give them a code name, like Jilly Back and Sary Mue.
Maybe I'll start a franchise: Review-Yer-Kids! Include a set of templates. Get Samuel L Jackson to be my Celebrity Spokesperson.
Thinking about ground rules for assigning review stars: as a default condition, GRAND children get a two-star advantage over CHILDREN in the rating. In egregious situations of course, that can be over-written. And with each additional generation, default is to add a star. So great-grands start with three, etc.
And each child gets a half-star for every grandchild. Unless YOU wind up raising the grandchild, in which case the child LOSES one whole star per grandchild.
Hmm. We could be getting into negative numbers...
I'd publish each bio as a pamphlet and sell it through KU. Profits to go to something like the pediatric burn unit at the hospital at UNC-CH or some other for-true children's cause. I guess there has to be a price tag, so say 0.99 per pamphlet.
Second thought, no, too clunky. I'll just lie about it to the kids....or I could invite others to play in my universe, and sell THEIR offspring.