Friday, December 28, 2018

Hot Tea For Sick Papa

Greetings, Internet Friends and Family!

It's that most wonderful time of the year, when we are cooped up with people bringing us gifts, food, and whatever virus they have encountered in the last week or so. 14-year-old Kenneth woke up on Christmas morning with a fever of 102.1, and Papa had it by the next day.

A cold is a virus, and unless you took action before you knew you needed to, there's nothing to do for it but treat the symptoms and wait it out, and try not to infect other people. My gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, has returned to the work place to see if she can spread a little disease there. That's mostly because she has this unbending streak of job loyalty, which won't allow her to take time off.

Not me, though. I did ALMOST go out yesterday to get some things I need, but then ran out of time and energy, and just started another pot of jasmine rice, and took a nap.

Best thing for the sore throat: hot tea. Good stuff to put in it: Lemon. Honey. Whatever. Ginger. It's mostly gonna help by keeping your throat warm and wet.

Now, STARTING OUT with hot tea is never a problem. Everyone knows how to do that. But, I like to drink out of my Papa mug, and it holds A LOT of liquid. And I found myself having to visit the microwave multiple times to reheat the stuff.

Kenneth suggested an insulated cup. Yes that's a good idea, except I don't have one and I don't want to go out and get one. Besides that, it's not my Papa cup.

Many, many moons ago, my coworker/trainer gave me a cute , dainty handmade coffee cup with  a matching lid, which she said would keep my coffee warm. Yeah, that MIGHT work...if I knew where it was and could tolerate having the frilly item in my man cave.

I could do like Steve McQueen does in "Bullitt" and use an immersion heater. Another cord would NEVER present a problem, particularly when attached to a hot piece of, no.

But then I remembered a trick learned in 1972 from a congenial Army mess sergeant: if you want hot coffee, you gotta warm the cup first. A few years later, I took a physics class, and got the basic theory down, and he was right. You can't GET hot coffee if you pour it into a room temperature cup; it's a matter of heat transfer to reach equilibrium.

I expanded that idea today, and realized what I needed: additional hot mass in my cup. Something dense, to act as a heat storage device, like the reverse of the heat sink you use when soldering electrical components.

I may have mentioned that I reload for my firearms. I have LOTS of metal on hand! However, I decided some time ago not to consume lead, put it in my mouth, or make eating utensils out of it or get shot by it. So, the bullets were a no-go.

The solution came when I found decorative rocks: dense, clean, and with life-affirming messages written on them that don't come off in hot liquids. I even used math to figure out some things, but that may bore you, so I'll leave most of that out.

My hot tea life-affirming rocks

I will say that the two rocks, "Courage" and "Persevere," weighed a total of 7.0 ounces, while only displacing 1.8 ounces of fluid.

And, it worked. My cup of lemons, honey, and whatever else I added, stayed hot enough to be a comfortable drink for quite a bit longer than it would otherwise.

This life hack has been brought to you by the Papa Pat and the rest of the Chattahoochee Pattersons, wishing you courage, the ability to persevere, and excellent health.

Peace be on your household.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

"All Made of Hinges," an anthology of Mormon Steampunk

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Not claiming any relationship to the text, though.

Two questions I must address first:
1. Why MORMON Steampunk?
2. Why am I, a non-Mormon, and a member of a high commitment, non-traditional Christian church, reviewing this work?

My response to the two questions.
1. Why MORMON Steampunk?
I have only quotes by the editor, but whether those answer the question, I am not sure. James Wymore, in his introduction, offers these as something that may constitute an answer to 'Why is there an anthology of Mormon steampunk?':
A. Steampunk has always been good to him
B. He is a faithful Mormon
C. He was asked to do it. 

Those work as answers to me, but if you have more questions, direct them elsewhere. I only review, I do not justify. 
A very cursory run through my memory reveals no corresponding volume which is a precise match. Certainly, there are other forms of literature linked with a particular belief system: pure expositions of theology; collections of hymns; children's instructional literature. There may even be such a thing as a particular Baptist expression of art, or a Methodist-inspired school of photography, although I am familiar with neither. Precedent exists at those times when EVERYTHING artistic had to be sponsored by The Church, because no one else had enough money to divert from survival needs. I suppose that Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia" and the Space Trilogy, besides being explicitly Christian works, may also be Protestant Christianity, and thus have some degree of specificity about them, but I wouldn't put them in the same category as "Here I Stand: A Biography of Martin Luther." 

So, while it may not be a customary thing for a work of non-religious literature to be linked to a particular belief system, it is not without precedent.

2. Why am I, a non-Mormon, and a member of a high-commitment non-traditional Christian church, reviewing this work?
I was asked to.

The Reviews.

Mere Pulp, by D. J. Butler. It's my understanding from reading the intro that D J Butler is the other primary mover of this anthology, for which we accord him due accord. He has written some EXCELLENT alternative history, published by Baen, in the "Witchy Eye" series, the last of which, Witchy Winter,  was a finalist for the Dragon Award. The quality of writing extends here, in a plot/subplot/counterplot steampunk detective story, concerning a plot to reanimate the body of Brigham Young and purify/save the Church, and the non-believers can go jump in the lake.

Marching On to Glory, by John M. Olsen. This one is exciting! It also manages to bring in the truth that military leaders frequently do not take into consideration the strengths and limitations of their troops when they make their plans for conquest. It's also a good example of that genre of literature which demonstrates that a prophecy may be fulfilled in more ways than one. Join the troops of the gigantic airship, as they make their way to battle the mechanized monsters of the South, and on the way get a glimpse of what the Eternal City must be like. This one, as others, makes lovely reference to the genius works of John Moses Browning, one of which is strapped to my right hip at the moment.

A Strike To The Heart of the Cannon Lord, by Stephen L. Peck. It doesn't matter whether we are discussing steampunk, magic, Iron Age implements, or antimatter devices, SOME Bozo is going to find a way to make people miserable with it. And some force, even it dwindles down to a Remnant, will defy the Bozo. And someone is bound to fall in love, even in the middle of a war. In this case, the Bozo is the Cannon Lord, and his superior use of steampunk tech have prevailed, up until now. A pitiful handful makes the final assault.

Avenger's Angel, by Elizabeth Mueller.  She's just a poor orphan girl, down to one faithful retainer and the last bit of technology left to her by her father. Alas, whatever shall she do? Well, she can become a bounty hunter, using her feminine wiles to win the confidence of wicked evil-doers, and then clap the bracelets on them, and turn them in for the reward. Lately, though, a tall, dark, and handsome stranger, mysteriously costumed while remaining devastatingly gorgeous, is getting the drop on her, and shooting the bad guys before she can turn them in. Alas, whatever shall she do? (Hint: she isn't gonna quit.)

Ganesh, by Scott E. Tarbet.  It is ingrained into the nature of men under arms, or engaged in some other death-defying career, that when the moment for rest comes about, they talk about what brought them to the place where they are. This is one of those conversations, more engaging than many. That it takes place between a sentient airship and a mecha-man is irrelevant; the best parts are still about fidelity and love. I couldn't say whether this story is most similar to Kipling, Jack London, or O. Henry, but it has that pleasing comfort those stories can bring. 

The Pipes of Columbia, by Jay Barnson.  Premise: the steel of Deseret has properties not found in other metals. In this case, it is the acoustical properties that are of particular value to a miscreant. A lovely lady in distress reaches out for help to a man crushed beyond endurance. And then, we have a very fine detective story. 

Napoleon's Tallest Teamster, by Joe Monson. Dippel's Oil, in this universe, is more than an obsolete animal and insect repellent. It actually acts as a restorative agent, which permits the construction of reanimated men with mechanical enhancements. However, although the substance  may generate activity, it is the actions and ethics of the Teamster that drives the story. The loyalty and determination that drives him is thus entirely his own creation, and may thus commend to his Ultimate Maker, those his earthly maker find him repellent. Nicely based on real events taking place in those years when France was having more difficulty than usual.

Reversals of Fortune, by Amanda Hamblin.  It is in this story that I found my ignorance of Mormon history to strike the hardest. From the descriptions, I get the feeling that these characters represent actual persons; if not, then they are singularly well-drawn. A dark-skinned Methodist girl, on her way to Italy, to work with their advances in steam technology, intercepts a young white girl whom she believes is intent on some sort of sabotage. Two Mormon evangelists look on, and render what assistance they can.

The Machinations of Angels, by Christopher McAfee.  This is a ghost story. There is a moderate amount of Mormon references and steampunk devices, but the essential nature is that of BOO!  What would YOU do if an angel appeared, offering technology thought to be lost forever? We may not be able to count the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin; in fact, COUNTING appears to be one of the last things you will want to do with angels. (Spine-tingle!)

The Best Among Us, by Jace Killian. The details of the story include steampunk elements, such as airships, steam-powered guns, and mechanical legs. However, it's the message of alienation, repentance, and restoration which set this apart.

Strange Pilgrims, by John D. Payne. A house elf and a robot walk into a bar... 
Well, it's not a bar, it's a cargo hold. However, they DO strike up a conversation, just as strangers will sometimes do in a bar. What is the nature of man? It almost always comes down to that, doesn't it?

Tracting Out Cthulhu, by Lee Allred. (Did you ever want to write Cat Hewell Hugh, and then get into an argument about the correct spelling? Never mind.) This installment has the best bad guys, and what might be the best good guys, and the goofiest pun. You'll know the pun when you get to it; it's the name of a robot. The heroes include Japanese schoolgirls, and genius John Moses Browning is respected for his works, one of which I have strapped to my right hip at the moment. The sufficiently advanced steampunk technology is indistinguishable from magic, and a wicked-efficient airship captain spits tobacco. Nasty human bad guys are attempting to restore Cthulhu to power, and their location is hidden, and must be determined by sending Mormon missionaries door-to-door. Help! Help! The world is under attack!

I just went back over the list to see if I could find a favorite, and found it impossible. I MIGHT be able to pick a top five. I even might be able to separate the stories into two groups: stories I will read again, and those I won't. Even that would be twitchy: the story I am MOST likely not to read again is  so well crafted, I think it belongs in a 'Best Of' collection. I just don't LIKE stories in that genre. 

Peace be on your household.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Amazon, Facebook and Privacy Concerns

A person who posts from time to time on a social networking site I'm a member of alerted me to this article on Gizmodo, and this item in the New York Times.

Let me give a tiny summing up, and why it matters:

1. Facebook, Amazon, and other agencies shared user data without permission.
2. They continued to do so after they said they had never done it, and they wouldn't do it again.
3. The resulting data mining led to some invasions of privacy, including
4. Amazon deleting a book review a user submitted, saying she had a relationship with the author.
5. There WAS no relationship between the two; they were both members of some Facebook group(s). In addition, both had attended a conference.

How do you prove a negative? Absence of proof is not proof of absence, and it is VERY difficult to prove that Reviewer A is not friends with Writer B. Rather it is very difficult to prove that Writer B is not receiving inequitable advantage from Reviewer A.

A few years ago, Amazon had some significant problems with for-pay / for-reimbursement reviews. They slammed the door HARD on those companies that recruited reviewers, and wiped out thousands of reviews it found to be tainted.

Actually, that was something that needed to happen. Along with millions of other people, I BUY things from Amazon, and I count on the reviews to tell me what products to stay away from, as well as looking for good values. As a consumer, I really don't want to have to suspect the reviews of being purchased, rather than earned.

It's important to me as a reviewer as well. I have the best job in the world: I read books, and review them. 41 years of employment as everything from a shoe-shine boy to a college Dean of Admissions provided me with a retirement income that meets my needs, so I don't HAVE to generate more cash with my labor. I'm doing what I want to do; even though I make no money from it, though, I still want it to matter. So, yeah, Amazon, go ahead and dump the fraudulent review system. I'm with you! Facebook, some of those frauds used Facebook groups to run their scam. Sure, go ahead and ban them!

I'm not behind you if you are sifting through my internet presence, looking for a reason to clobber me, though.
First, stay out of my business. You have no need to know whether or not I am a member of any organization, or what my belief system is, in order to do your job. Shut up, and do YOUR job.
Second, bite me. I've written over 600 reviews on Amazon over the last several years, and they have all been authentic. If the the things I did on AMAZON present a problem, THEN maybe you need to get a clarification.
Third, stay out of my business and bite me.  How are you going to win my trust back? I didn't give you permission to talk to each other about me. I'm not talking about Homeland Security sifting through stanko-bytes of info, looking for terrorists; they've already disclosed that they do that. I'm talking about CORPORATIONS hooking up to gain money and influence by massaging my keystrokes. Are you the reason I keep getting these robo-callers? Prove to me you're not!

You can't do it, can you? Particularly since you have a track record of being untrustworthy, which is what the two articles cited make abundantly clear.

This is highly relevant to me at this moment, because a couple of weeks ago, one of my reviews was refused. And before I could find out WHY,  speculation happened. Was the review refused because I'm a racist? Because I'm a violent individualist? Or because (gasp) I had prior communication with the author?

That third one is true. (The first are probably true as well. I just don't give a flip about those.) The author and I are both people who have posted on Mad Genius Club, we both are members of a Facebook group, composed of writers and readers (gasp), and the author has responded when I have announced that I have space in my queue for books to review.

Fortunately, my review of Laura Montgomery's book "Like A Continental Soldier" was denied because I had included a picture of a chicken with the review. When you write an Amazon review, they ASK for pictures. And I picked a chicken because a major plot-point in that series is that the planet native vegetation and wildlife don't include an amino acid (IIRC) needed for human life, so humans have to eat an egg every couple of days, and chickens are therefore a HIGHLY valued commodity. However, the Amazon Enforcement Cabal failed to make the connection, and blocked the review.

I'm actually okay with that. It MIGHT have been a nasty in-joke or something.

What I am NOT okay with is that the initial rejection email is generic; just says I violated guidelines. It took a phone chat and a referral to the Amazon Star Chamber to find out that the problem was the chicken picture.

Can we trust Amazon and Facebook and the other offenders to process the data we give them, for the purpose we give it, and not share, and milk the result, looking for collusion?

HEY! WE are not the ones guilty of collusion. YOU ARE.

You should stop.

But, if you aren't going to stop, how about getting a better notification system going? How about the FIRST email to say "Unless you can explain to us why a picture of a chicken is attached to the review, we are taking it down." Is that too much to ask?

If you think it is, Amazon/Facebook/et al, then shut up, mind your own business, bite me, AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO IT RIGHT. That is, after all, your job.

Peace be on your household.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

"Trade Winds," by Sarah A. Hoyt

What follows is a link to the book on Amazon, BUT, if you are running an ad-blocker (as I am) you won't see anything.

For those who can't see it (like me), it's a nice thumbnail of the cover, with a purchase link.
Ad blockers don't like pictures with purchase links, so, if you run your system in the same way I do, you get zip.

I don't like it when I get zip, and I imaging most people don't. There is a way to pause your adblocker, but I also don't like having to do that, and I REALLY don't like trying to provide instructions. But I do not wish for you to be deprived of a link and a picture, just because you run an ad blocker.

Therefore, I will provide for you THIS LINK TO THE BOOK, and a picture of me cuddling my newest granddaughter, Miss Evelyn.
Papa and Miss Evelyn Hart, 11/19/18

Preliminary note to the review: I grabbed this book the INSTANT it was released! No, not really. It was released on September 5, and I got it September 7. But I did read it immediately. 
So, why is the review being published three months later?
Short answer: my reviewer function got messed up. You've all heard of a comedy of errors, right? I suppose there is also a tragedy of errors. What I experienced was more a mediocrity, a BOREDOM of errors. And while that was happening, this book got knocked out of my TBR&R sequence.
But, I'm back now. I think.

Making things up out of whole cloth. I want to talk about the cover first.
Some 50+ years ago, when I was 15, the husband and wife of the family I was living with at the time were experiencing marital discord. So, they sent me to a psychologist. (I learned later, in my own graduate studies, that this response is common enough in dysfunctional family systems that it has a name.) One of the first thing the doc did with me was administer the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), which is allegedly a series of ambiguous pictures for the client to make up stories about. Well, THESE pictures weren't ambiguous in the slightest! Every picture was about a teenage boy murdering people in his house, and getting revenge on all who had harmed him. I wasn't ABOUT to tell THAT to the doc; he'd think I was crazy!

I'm giving you this background so you will take my perception of the cover with a grain of salt.

It's a beautifully executed cover. An attractive woman of indeterminate years (long graying hair, but an unlined face) stands with her head turned away from the cathedral-type window, which appears to be executed in stone. (I'm sure there is a more precise term, but architecture isn't my thing.) Through the window, we see starry skies, and a departing spaceship, shown to be such by the blue exhaust.
The woman is wearing a sky-blue garment; it MAY be a jacket, as there is a hint of darker color at her neckline. On the right shoulder of the jacket is a circular patch, depicting an ancient sailing ship of the longship or birlinn type, single-masted, with three oars visible.

I conclude: she is a naval officer, who has chosen, with regret, to be left behind in port when her ship leaves. I say officer, instead of ordinary seaman, because of the length and condition of her hair; swabbies don't like to have to fool around with the long stuff, because it gets in their way, gets caught in capstans, and who has time to take care of it when yer swabbing decks and chipping paint? Since she is an attractive woman, this MUST be a matter of the heart; physical beauty in literature is never wasted on the uninteresting. The regret is evidenced by the fact that she has turned her head AWAY from the departing ship, and the utter absence of a smile.

And now, the reviews.
Nice intro by Sam Schall. I'd like to see more of those done.

And Your Little Dog, Too. I love that phrase from "The Wizard of Oz," and use it frequently. However, in this story, it sort of applies. An aerospace engineering student with interest in flying saucers picks up an old hitchhiker and his dog on a lonely country road. Nobody gets slashed! However, the old hitchhiker has some interesting ideas about contacting aliens, and he is..strange, somehow. And his little dog, too.

Who Goes Boing? Eccentric genius nerds with high technology at their fingertips and a commanding officer from 'the REAL Army' have to explore a new planet. Cartoons are funny, aren't they? Here, have a cigar. I'll light it for you.

A Cog In Time. Anytime you can hang out with David Drake is a good time. I was appalled when I realized I spent a year living in Chapel Hill and never crossed paths with him. He MAY have been involved with other things, at the time. Or maybe it was another time.

All Who Are Thirsty.  Not nearly old enough to have been an authentic Hippie, but of that genre anyway, she really wanted to bean archaeologist and study ancient cultures. Until the aliens landed. And whereas all of the classics films had them giving us advanced technology, and sometimes eating us, NONE of these BEMs wanted anything except to discover God. They had never HEARD of such a concept until Earth entered their lives. But she's an atheist! Selling crap in a New Age bookstore!

Yearning To Breathe Free. Since it's pretty much determined that humans arose out of Africa, EVERYONE in the United States has ancestors who immigrated here from somewhere else, whether it was a land bridge from Siberia, on a boat or for a fortunate few, on a plane. You think we would have adapted to the problems of immigration by now. Evidently not. These undocumented aliens will get eaten if they are deported, though. Should that matter?

Calling The Mom Squad. Those of us who have actually had to shuttle kids to soccer practice, ballet, scouts, karate, and attend orchestra concerts on the same night we are at a cheerleading function know this: it ain't no picnic being a soccer mom. These particular moms also have to fight dragons, though. Yeah, I'd take the dragon fighting, too, except it's NOT "do this OR do that." It's "do this AND do that." And keep it a secret, too, okay?

On Edge. In what was SUPPOSED to be discovering new ways to deliver packages for Amazon, the geniuses discover how to open up doors to other times and other worlds. Here's a helpful hint for you, should you be working on the same thing: don't be the first guy through the door.

Some Other Pieta. Okay, here's a thought problem for you: what kind of child would a marriage between Adolf Hitler and Mother Teresa produce? That's not what happens in this story, but I would encourage you to consider the ramifications anyway. One other thing: the bad guys have six arms.

Leaving Home.  All across America, you can find little ghost towns that faded away when the railroad came through in the 1880's, or when the Interstate was built in the 1960's. What happens to the junction points in future travel, when you can cross light years in a moment? And then, something better comes along?

Flying. Earth is maybe an okay place to be for most people, but some folks must emigrate or they will die. However, the government controls the entire system of moving off-planet. If YOU were the head of government, would YOU let just anybody move into your bright and shiny new planets?

The Big Ship and The Wise Old Owl. I don't think Robert Heinlein invented the idea of the generation ship, but he sure did more to  popularize it to my generation than anyone else has. I've read several stories using the idea of the generation ship as a basis, and most involve the idea that the people on the ship have forgotten what's really going on. In this variation, nursery rhymes have a special meaning, for those who are able to to hear.

And Not To Yield.  If you are already a fan of Sarah Hoyt, you know about her novels dealing with the society run by the Good Men, who are anything but. This is a story set in that universe. For the novice, this is a story about a revolution against tyranny, when the USA is only a distant memory, repressed by a few who hold ultimate power.

Trade Winds. I LOVE alternate history! In this story, Hannibal won against Rome, and Carthage became the primary cultural influence. Their society was founded on trade, rather than conquest, and civilization has advanced faster and farther. Even so, some people are still treacherous.

At last, at 4:03 Eastern on Tuesday, December 18, 2018, I have completed the assignment I gave myself months ago. I offer my apology to Sarah A Hoyt, who is a Space Princess of some influence, and her fans in the Diner and elsewhere.

Peace be on your household.

Friday, November 30, 2018

"Like a Continental Soldier," by Laura Montgomery

If you DON'T have an ad blocker running, you will see a graphic link to the book next:

Don't  feel left out, in case you DO have an ad blocker running (as I do)! Here is a link to the book for you, after a picture of a chicken:   CHIKENS R GUD FOR U!!!

(Because you ad-free people didn't get a graphic)

A variation on 'In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,' is that brand of lovely escapist literature (and movies) about being in possession of advanced technology among primitives. There are LOTS of ways to make this happen, from time warps via messing around with superstrings, as in the 1632 universe, or Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen,  to landing on a primitive planet, as in a million movies and Twilight Zone episodes, to all of the post-apocalyptic stories, regardless of the nature of the apocalypse.  

Now, while I PERSONALLY would favor being provided with lots of weapons, ammo, and magic healing devices if I were to be dumped in a pre-industrial society, what I prefer in reading is how advanced technology is re-introduced, and it seems a lot of people agree with me. I take the 1632 for evidence of that; not only do we have the BODACIOUSLY large number of novels and nonfiction books published in that universe, there is also the Grantville Gazette, which is, I believe, up to Issue #80. They never thought it would go that high, and I support THAT statement by pointing out that they started by numbering the Gazette with Roman numerals.

And thus, the series that Laura Montgomery has brought us, "Waking Late," is something I enjoy tremendously. She manages to insert time travelers into the story without having to have time travel, which I really appreciate, since I think time travel stories are too full of malarkey to be much fun. Her time travelers are colonists and soldiers who went into long-term suspended animation in order to make a lengthy space passage to a new planet. Unfortunately (details are in the first book), they didn't make it.

At the time of the three books, the descendants of the first people awake have devolved into a ferociously tyrannical monarchy, and most of those who are not rulers are serfs or slaves; they may not be called that, but that is their existence. Labor saving technology has not been introduced, and thus muscle power, either human or human directed, is what brings in the crops.

I speak now as one who was seduced at age 18 by the myth that 'living off the land' was a good thing; it's not. The best thing that science and engineering ever did for us was to free us from back-breaking, continuous labor needed to feed ourselves. While it required legislation to legally free the slaves in this country and others, it is technology that made that a viable alternative.

The society of First Landing, with the brutal monarchy in charge, REQUIRES slave labor to exist. Their ability to control the population is dependent on the absence of the slaves to fight back, and that's what the protagonist Gilead brings. There is minimal use of spaceman technology; only a few communicators exist. So, how is the conflict created and resolved?

This is where we MUST give proper homage to the author, and to her diligence in doing her research. I was fortunate to visit with a gunsmith who specializes in working on antique firearms. He walked me through the evolution, handing me examples of each, from matchlock, to flintlock, to percussion cap rifles. It's the NEXT step that makes the difference, and Montgomery was faithful in her reproduction of the Spencer rifle, introduced in our timeline just before the start of the Civil War. Her account of some of the battles in the book mirror some of the conflicts in that war, when the rebel forces were limited to muskets loaded with ramrods, and the northern troops armed with fast-firing Spencers. The fact that she is a SPACE LAWYER ( although not a lawyer in SP-A-A-CE!), and not any kind of fire-arm expert, makes the reading all the more delicious.

I reviewed this on Amazon as well. The link will be posted down in the comments; 'helpful' votes are appreciated.

Peace be on your household.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Value of Euphemisms

"Dog Bite It!"
That was something my grandmother used to say when she was mildly vexed. It came up mostly in circumstances where I had skinned my knee, bumped my head, etc,

I have a very dim memory of hearing that as well, on occasions calling for an expression of dismay. Maybe it wasn't her saying it. Maybe  it was coming from the radio. Don't recall it that clearly.

"Muscle Shoals!"
That came from my grandfather, on occasions when 'neither "Dog Bite It" nor "Je-HOS-a-phat!" would work. I don't remember the particulars behind this utterance, but when I asked my grandmother about it, she said that there had been a big dam in Muscle Shoals. So, when circumstances arose that he wished to express his displeasure about, instead of saying, you know,  he determined to limit himself to 'Muscle Shoals."


This is an expletive that I shared with my dear friend and co-counselor, Mrs. Catherine Reese Holman, when we encountered the worst situations of grief. As long-service middle school counselors, we spent a LOT of time working with students and families in some truly wretched circumstances. A tabby cat is  a Domestic Short Hair; the acronym is DSH, which also happens to be the acronym for three rude and crude words one hears from those suffering from a lack of vocabulary appropriate for the situation. Miz Catherine was Raised Right, a term perhaps not familiar to people outside the South; among other things, it means you don't use the lips you kiss your mama with, to spew vulgarity.
However, there were times when we were leaving a funeral service, or the house of a good and kind family struck by a fatal illness, or any one of a hundred things that will break the heart of anyone with a lick of compassion, and we NEEDED to have some mechanism to express our anger, grief, and helplessness. And it was on those occasions that we called on the Domestic Short Hair to rescue us: "TABBY!" It helped, a little.

There are a LOT of euphemisms being tossed around today, and I can tell from context that they give no relief at all to the user. They are tossed into conversation the way you toss salt on your grits, automatically, but with far less satisfaction at the result. You have some words which were initially meant to represent potty words; those I don't usually notice. The class I really find myself wincing at are the words used as substitutes for references to the Almighty. Unfortunately, except for geezers like myself, nobody appears to know that "Jeez!" is a euphemism for "Jesus"; that "Gee!" in all it's variations is a substitute for "God"; that "Dang" and "Darn" mean "Damn;" that "Heck" means "Hell." I suppose they have little incentive to learn the origin of the terms, since it's commonplace to find the original word in regular language, and even then, there is no importance attached to them. They have become sounds utterly devoid of content.

Well, I will only do what I can do. I'm going to trot out my creativity, and dig up some phrases I used  way back when, and perhaps I will inspire my children and grandchildren to use words like Papa does:

I hope to kiss a duck!
Shoot me with a washtub!
Turn blue and wear a purple hat!
Dog livers!

Peace be on your household.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Today is Veteran's Day. Welcome Back!

Today is Veteran's Day.

OldNFO has a beautiful moving tribute here.

I wish to honor my grandfather, William Jordan Paulette. He was born on August 3, 1899, and ran away from home to join the Army. I looked for, but cannot find, the only picture I have of him in uniform. His job was to take care of the mules, and the picture is of a squad of young men and a single grizzled sergeant standing at horse stable. Small generic French mutt is included in the photograph.

He landed in France on this day, 100 years ago, the day the Armistice was signed. He told me that when Bill Paulette landed, that was one too many Bills in France, so Kaiser Bill left.

He told me about catching the Spanish Influenza, and going to the hospital. I would have been a child, or at most a teenager, at the time of the conversation, so I had no idea how awful that epidemic was, and so I didn't know the significance of that; but he said he would wake up in the morning, to find that the two boys on either side of him had died in the night, and their bodies had been taken away while he slept.

While he was away, purportedly at risk from warfare, his much-loved older sister Cora was safe at home. She also caught the flu, and died, while he was away.

In a way, the war did kill him, but it took 57 years to do it. It was in the army that he took up the cigarette habit, and my main memory of him is sitting in the porch swing,  smoking unfiltered Pall Malls. He developed emphysema, and had his first heart attack in 1962. He had his second heart attack in March of 1975, while I was in the Army in Germany. Because he was in loco parentis to me (I had no other father for the first five years of my life), the Red Cross arranged for me to fly back on emergency leave, and I spent several days visiting him in the hospital until his condition had stabilized enough that I returned to duty. He had his third heart attack on the first day of spring, March 20, 1975, and he passed that night, with his adored wife Bessie holding his hand, and whispering to him of everyone he loved, while he whispered, 'help me, Bo' (his pet name for her).

He was not the first veteran in my family; I know that one of my multi-great grandfathers, Mr. Norris, was enlisted in an element of the Confederate Army, but I know nothing of his service.

My grandfather was, however, the first link in a chain of service that has extended unbroken to this present day.

Generation Two covered WWII and Korea. My father was in the Army Air Corps during WWII; I have a picture of him taken in 1944 in his uniform, wearing his A1C stripes and his qualification badge as a door gunner for a B17. We still have that badge, a bullet with wings.

My father had four other brothers, two of whom saw service in WWII. My uncle Cecil was a career Navy man; uncle Andrew Lee was a Marine with experience on Okinawa.

Uncle Bill Andy, William Jordan Paulette's only son, was in the Air Force in Korea in the early 1950s. I do not know the dates of his service, but he was born August 21, 1931, so it's conceivable that his time was during the Korean Conflict.

The third generation was the Viet Nam era, and we had several serve, My first cousins Dennis , Uncle Cecil's son, flew helicopters in Viet Nam. Andrew Lee's son Andy, a few years older than me, was drafted and also went to Viet Nam. My brother-in-law, Bob Kimsey, was a generator operator/repairman in the Georgia Army National Guard. I was an Army medic in Germany. My cousin Barry was in Special Forces, but I know nothing else of his duty.

And generation four is represented by my son, SGT Eli Jordan Patterson, US Army (ret) with service in Afghanistan, and my son-in-law Sam Blackstone, US Navy. There are more, including his cousin Ben Tillman, a Citadel graduate like his father, but my son is the only one I have pictures of.

The other day, I watched a documentary, in which retired Army General Petraus said that only 1% of our citizens had served in the military. I have a hard time believing that number is so small, given the folks I have been privileged to be related to.

Be that as it may, to all those named here and the millions more not mentioned: Happy Veteran's Day, and WELCOME BACK!
1922 Bill and Bessie Paulette

The following are the pictures I have of some of the veterans mentioned in this blog. Obviously, not all mentioned are here.

Patterson Boys, 1941
J R Patterson, Sr, 1944

My Basic Training Company, 1972

Better days in uniform, 1975

Papa Pat, Kenneth and Alicia, and
SGT Eli Jordan Patterson, US ARMY (ret) 

Peace be on your household.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Appropriate Fear, plus "Escort Duty" by Tom Rogneby

If you are running an ad blocker, you won't see this:

but you CAN see this: Escort Duty, by Tom Rogneby

This particular work is so different from his other writing, and frankly, from just about anything else I read, that I can't just jump into the review. Got to digress wildly, first.
And besides that, this is something I wanted to say that was too long for a Facebook post. Also, as an experiment, I'm gonna use a naming convention that isn't a part of my tradition today, just to see if it seems right to do so.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."
(Proverbs 9:10, NASB)

There have been times in my life, when I have allowed myself to get sucked into an argument with someone who had either had a bad church experience, or just developed anger on their own hook for some other reason.

They tell me that they reject G-d, or that they reject the G-d of the Old Testament, or they reject something something something, because they want/believe in/need a G-d of love. They tell me that they cannot believe in / accept/ tolerate the idea of a G-d they must fear.

I've never had a good answer for them. Sure, some of them were clearly just being argumentative, but some may have legitimately been struggling with the concept. If you have been abused or neglected by a father figure, it makes it AWFULLY hard to approach a Father G-d under the very best of circumstances. And we very rarely have those circumstances.

Well, this morning, chatting with my soon-to-be-14 year old son Kenneth over the last piece of home made bread, I had a couple of moments of clarity.

Kenneth brought me one himself. He has been my son for just a little over half his life, and before he came to me, he had lived almost his entire life in a house full of women. And I discovered that more often than not, when I told him to do something, he would ignore me, or at best, comply very slowly.

At first, I was surprised; then I was angry. But, before I did something stupid, I allowed my training to take over. HA! All that college DID do something for me besides...whatever else it did...

I realized that, in terms of learning theory, Kenneth had no history of ready compliance, and no history of compliance with a n instruction form a male. He had lived in a house of high energy females, who were busy making sure that people got fed and clothed and had a roof over their heads, and if one of them told him to do something, he could usually ignore it, and they would move on to something else. (I am not assigning any blame; you try being a single parent under those circumstances and tell me what you get.) Once I realized that, the solution was simple.

I sat down with Kenneth, and told him I understood that he wasn't used to the rules of the Patterson House, but now they were in effect. I let him know that he did not have a LOT of people telling him what to do, only Papa Pat and Mom, but that FIRST TIME OBEDIENCE was expected. I knew that was going to be a change for him, but I was going to help him get on track.

I told him that every time he was given an instruction by a valid authority, he was to carry it out right away. If he didn't, he would get a spanking. However, as soon as he could learn first-time obedience, and go for a week without a spanking, he would get a reward. The reward he chose was money, so I taped a dollar bill in a plastic bag to the refrigerator.

I asked Kenneth "How many spankings do you think it will take before you learn first time obedience?"
He thought about it briefly, then replied happily, "About a hundred."
This was rather shocking to me, but I took him at his word, and we went about the program.

It took him two spankings. That's it. That was seven years ago, and I think I have had to spank him twice since then, and now, spankings aren't even a consideration. We talk, we negotiate, we set contracts, we both have expectations to be met. We have gained a huge amount of family wisdom and understanding.
But it started with a bit of fear. And that's the insight that my son Kenneth gave me.

Once I had that, I got the other, much easier part: it doesn't say that the fear of the Lord is is the end of wisdom; it doesn't say that the fear of the Lord is the sum of wisdom; it just says it's the beginning.

So now, if ever I get into one of those discussion /arguments again, at least I'll have SOMETHING to say. Not thinking it's gonna answer all of life's questions (it ain't 42, for one thing), but it might provide food for thought.

And now, for the review of Tom Rogneby's  collection of short stories, "Escort Duty."

I should have known I was in for something unusual when the graphic of the book cover only took up the bottom half of the page in my Kindle Library. Wasn't really expecting THIS, though; six short stories, in WILDLY divergent settings. Admittedly, I already knew Rogneby was a author with an unusual ability to write about different worlds, and make them believable. My first exposure was to his book of the Lost Legion, Via Serica, in 2015. That book was so god, I literally got lost in doing research to supplement my appreciation of the text, so much so that I forgot to write the review until two years later. Bad, Bad Reviewer! No Cookie!

I've also got a huge affection for his Daddy Bear stories. If you haven't discovered the loveliness of a mashup of suburban life and medieval magic, then stop reading this now, and go getTales of the Minivandians. I love the stories for their own sake, BUT I also used them to drown out my screams and whimpers during more than one long session in the dentist's chair, as beautiful women stabbed me in the face with sharp pointy things.

The following is the sum total of my Amazon review:

"Escort Duty," the first and longest of the stories in the collection, could very well have been set in Daddy Bear's universe. It's the story of a powerful and powerfully determined princess, determined to achieve her goal without understanding all the details and sacrifices that have to be made; and it's the story of a not-so-glamorous dude on a horse, who has certain skills and talents, and who has pledged his life to see her safely home. Bad things happen. Will good things come of that?

"Grandma's Kitchen" is the next story, and I still don't know whether to be warmed and comforted at the example of the sweetness of a sanctuary, created by a grandmother's love; or to be horrified at the prospect of a reincarnation to make good the things we did wrong in this life. For some, the concept of reincarnation may not be terrifying but for me? Brrrrr. HOWEVER! This is a fresh take, and Rogneby has the ability to make you feel the warmth of a Grandma's kitchen, whatever it represents.

"Plaza of Pain" is over the top. It's so over the top, it ALMOST aggravated me, until I realized it was deliberately over-stating every cliche of smash-em bop-em love-em shoot-em fiction, and then turning up the amp to 11. And that's when it got FUNNY.

"Sacrifice" is beautifully moving. Rogneby takes a minor liberty with time, altogether excusable, given the cast of characters, and ties together two foundational stories of sacrifice and redemption. This is one you need to spend some time with.

"Victory Garden" is a sad, post-apocalyptic tale of a guy just trying to get by, and they won't let him. Figuratively, they have strapped his hands down and covered him with lice, and now they hit him when he wiggles. The society he describes must have closely resembled that found in the earliest years of the USSR, but is made more poignant because the level of prosperity in the United States didn't require anyone to riot because they were starving. We just did it to ourselves because we could.

"The War," the last selection in the book, concerns the aftermath of a series of terrorist attacks in the United States. It's a very, very unpleasant scenario, but in my opinion, there really isn't anything we currently have in place that will prevent it. The United States is a haven for people who want a better life, and if they can walk into the country, so can bad actors. And we really have been at peace for so long that it seems it will never end, but that's simply not the case. Rogneby merely takes incidents that occur regularly in, for example, Israel, and has them take place here. At best, we repsond in the way he describes.

This was a tough book for me to review, largely because it covers so much ground. Regardless, it's a GREAT read, and I strongly recommend it.

Peace be on your household.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

"Been There, Done That (April #10)" by Mackey Chandler

For those of you without an ad blocker:

And for those with ad blockers running, a link to the book.

And now, it's story time, with Papa Pat! Gather around me, O my best-beloved, and I will share of my treasure of experience, that your life may be long in the land and your refrigerators full of food.

Lo, long, long these many years ago, long before YOUR time, O my best-beloved, when Mr. Carter lived in the White House -
- What's that, Dougie? You remember Mr Carter in the White House? Well, yes you do, Dougie, for you and I are nearly of an age.

Well, back in that day -
-What is it this time, Dougie? You remember Mr Ford and Mr Nixon and Mr Johnson, too? Yes, Dougie, but that isn't the time of which I speak.
-What, Dougie? You remember Mr Kennedy and Mr. Eisenhower? You're PUSHING it, Dougie!  Now unless you need to go to the bathroom, sit over there and don't interrupt me again!

Now, as I was saying, there came a time back in that day when your Papa Pat was appointed as a Youth Shaman, to oversee the spiritual welfare and training of copious youths, ranging from 12 years old to 18 years old. And yea and verily, Papa Pat was sorely perplexed in those time to reach out to the dingbats and knuckleheads with whom he was entrusted. (For, you must know,  O my best beloved, he was not yet Papa Pat in those days, but merely Pat.)

And it came to pass that on one evening he desired greatly to teach them of responsibility and leadership. And he chose Jimmy, the most knuckleheaded dingbat of the group as his demonstrator. 

Papa Pat brought forth a black robe, with the appearance of silk (but it was really paper; he had graduated from college in it); and he bade knuckleheaded dingbat Jimmy to stand forth in front of the group, and he said,

"Jimmy, I am ordaining you as the Head Shaman over all the people. And they shall come to you when they need comfort; and they shall come to you when they need advice; and they shall come to you to perform their weddings and sacred ceremonies and funerals. And in time of war, they shall come to you and ask for your counsel."

And behold, as Papa Pat was saying these things, he took the black robe, and he laid it on Jimmy's shoulders, and he placed Jimmy's arms in the sleeves, and he hung it over Jimmy's frame, and he fastened the robe on Jimmy, and as he was speaking his last words, he knelt down in front of the knuckleheaded dingbat Jimmy, and fastened the hooks of the robe at the bottom,

And he remained kneeling in front of knuckleheaded dingbat Jimmy, and he looked up at Jimmy's face, well aware of the silence that had come over the group, and he saw the slightest hint of tears in Jimmy's eyes.

And, as he continued to kneel, he said to Jimmy, "How did that make you feel?"
And Jimmy replied, in a small voice, "Like I might be worth something, for once."
And then Papa Pat said "And what would you do if someone came to attack your people?"
And young, knuckleheaded dingbat Jimmy tightened his face, and gritted his teeth, and said in a resolute voice, "I'd FIGHT 'em!"

And this, O my best beloved, is the end of that story. No, Dougie, I am not going to tell another today. Now, y'all go someplace else and try to stay out of trouble; I have work to do.

Which is writing the Amazon review for this book, and MOST of what follows is in that review, which can be found here. Vote helpful!

What is the relevance of this (true!) story to Mackey Chandler's excellent work, 'Neither Here Nor There'?
Just this: knuckleheaded dingbats like Jimmy do not, and could not, exist in the society that April and her companions have developed. There is no room for 'spare people.' Young folks, like knuckleheaded dingbat Jimmy, are not shoved into a classroom and expected to behave for 8 hours a day, then released to their own devices until they are compelled to show up again the next morning. Instead, there is PLENTY of meaningful work, and no one cares that they are young. What matters is whether or not they are competent. And they ALWAYS, ALWAYS have a chance to feel like they are worth something. Not just for once, either. Their contributions are vital to the well-running society.

It's NOT like sending kindergartners off to the coal mine; there is plenty of time for recreation, and education isn't neglected, either. However, if someone has a useful contribution to make, they are allowed to make it, and the money is theirs. There are various ways in which their rights may be protected, should a parent decide to take their income for themselves; however, they don't just jump in and rip kiddies from their mothers' arms, either.

It's a good time to be in this world. There is plenty of work to be done; anyone who wants to can find work, but no one has to grind themselves to death just to pay for food and shelter for the day.

Much of this can be attributed to April's own experience. She had a dreadfully hard time being taken seriously when she started out, and whether it was her intent to prevent that sort of foolishness from happening again, that has been the result of her efforts.

Okay, this post has great symbolic value for me. It's NOT a very good review of the book; I only touched upon one CENTRAL aspect of the plot. There is MUCH more going on. HOWEVER! It's the first book review I have been able to write since September 25. and I'm not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the completed.

Peace be on your household.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A Missed Opportunity, and a Resolution

"Bind them on your fingers;
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
And call understanding your intimate friend;"
(Proverbs 7:3-4, NASB)

Unlike the fairy stories, we don't just stumble on a magical device that solves all of our problems. We have to WORK at getting the wisdom and understanding we need when the dragon descends on our village and burns it to the ground. And we have to start LONG before he gets there.

I cannot find my copy of 'The Hobbit' in this catastrophe of a bookcase, laden with everything from textbooks to Torgersen. So, would somebody who can find their copy locate the short speech the archer makes to his arrow, right before he kills Smaug, and post it in the comments? I just want to make the point that his act wasn't a spur-of-the-moment event.

Just part of my reason to love e-books....

Umm, this morning, I was SUPPOSED to meet an obligation to my 13 year-old son Kenneth. However, I was in a good bit of pain last night, and didn't fall asleep until the early morning hours, and so I blew it off. Kenneth is going to be 14 in a week; I don't have THAT many parenting hours left.

Who knows how long he will be agreeable? He is, right now.

This is one of those tough times associated with the otherwise delightful task of being a 65-year-old parent to a middle-schooler. On the whole, it's a decided advantage to have the wisdom and experience I have gathered over three and a half decades of being a parent. Sometimes, though, as was the case this morning, Decrepit shows up and whispers temptation in my ear.

There WAS a solution I didn't take  because I got uppity, though, and refused to give in. That was to take another pain pill; I was well below the limit. I've got this stupid competition going with chronic pain, though, and I demand that I beat it every single time. This time, it cost me one of those hours.

So I resolve: do what I gotta do in order to sleep; and if I can't sleep, then stay awake the next morning. It won't be the first time I've survived a sleepless night, not by a long shot.

I need time with my kids more than I need to sleep in.

Peace be on your household.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

An Open Letter to Middle School Cheerleading Coaches

 With maybe a small edit or two, this is a copy of the email I sent to the cheer coaches for the  Mill Creek Middle School Wildcats, in Woodstock, GA (Cultural Center of the Universe). 
My 12 year-old 7th grade daughter, Alicia Ann, is a cheerleader.

Last night, while I was proud of MANY things in the performance of the cheerleaders at the game, there were two items that turned ME into a cheerleader for your program.

1. The first person I saw when I stepped into the gym last night was a young lady with Down's Syndrome in her cheerleader regalia.  That was good enough for me, right there. I don't know this young lady's name, and I have no idea about her 'cheerleader' skill set (as the parent of a cheerleader, I don't even know what that skill set might be) but I do know this: her life will always include a memory of her role as a cheerleader for the Mill Creek Wildcats. And every cheerleader on that squad will be changed, by having her incorporated by the group.

2. I very QUICKLY noticed that during slack times, the cheerleaders did NOT lollygag around, giggling and whispering to each other. Instead, they stood in a posture I learned to call 'parade rest' in the Army. Two ranks of young ladies, feet shoulder-width apart, arms bent, hands behind their backs; they stood respectfully and watched the game.
I thought their routines were performed with enthusiasm and skill, but NOTHING expressed to me their discipline more than watching them hold their position minute after minute. I realized I wanted to get a picture of this, but alas; I was too slow. They had already started to move into their next routine by the time I could get my phone to take a picture:
Just breaking into the next routine...

As I told Alicia Ann on the way home, the cheerleader-specific skills that she is learning may not matter at all in 10 years. However, the quality of her character, which is being formed by her coaches (among others), WILL matter. You are giving her a great appreciation for accepting people on the basis of who they are, and not for what they can't do; you are instilling in her an appreciation for disciplined behavior that she will never forget, and will always profit by having.

So, after 35 years as a football-baseball-basketball-ballet-scouting-soccer-karate-retired parent, at age 65 I am finally part of #cheerparentlife.  It doesn't hurt as badly as I thought it might. (I must see if I still have the seat-pad for hard bleachers I carried in my truck, though.)

Thanks for giving my Alicia Ann and her team-mates a better perspective on what matters most.

Papa Pat Patterson

And that's it. I sent this to them this morning, in the tiny interval between putting the pot roast into the crock pot, and going out to vote. And suddenly, it's almost 4:00, and I don't know if I am going to have time to bake the bread I promised. I'll give it a try.

Peace be on your household.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Not What I Wanted To Post, but Attacking Writer's Block

"His own iniquities will capture the wicked,
And he will be held with the cords of his sin."
(Proverbs 5:22, NASB)

I wonder if that holds for the semi-wicked?
Does it hold for those who are just making an error in judgement?

Hey, dummy: you are all tied up!

I had a dear, DEAR friend make the statement, a few years back, that if you voted for (fill in the blank) he didn't want to have anything to do with you.

It seems to me that he was restricting himself with that statement. Being tied with cords is very much about being restrained; can you make an argument that my DEAR friend (who is no longer on this earth) was sinning when he made that statement?

Forty-one years ago, I watched another friend-who-is-closer-than-a-brother go through a heart-rending experience of struggling with God. At the end of it, he said to me "God just told me that whatever you do, if you don't do it in love, even if you are right, you are wrong."

That was one of the most significant moments in my life; a moment when I saw God's power at work on another. It gave me great hope; for one thing, it proved to my headstrong 24-year-old self that it wasn't MY job to persuade people of ANYTHING. If they were at all receptive, God would do the persuading.

And I guess as a corollary, if they weren't receptive, I'd just be wasting my time and getting frustrated arguing with them.

So now, I need to do some self-examination. Are there cords tied on me? I'd better ask my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, if she can see any on me; and Uncle Mylon, too, and my sons Jordan and Michael the Moose, and daughter Tobhiyah, and anyone else who is regularly in contact with me. Maybe I'll get a t-Shirt made, patterned after those "How's My Driving?" bumper stickers, that says "How's My Freedom? If You See Any Cords On Me, Contact ______"

Not sure what to put in the blank space there, but if I actually do the shirt, I'll figure something out.

I don't need to look TOO hard; I KNOW I have some restrictions. 

I haven't been able to review anything for over a month, although I HAVE been reading. WHAT CORD IS BINDING ME? There HAS to be something going on, because this is NOT characteristic of me.

I promise you I ain't drinkin', nor gettin' high; ain't smokin', gamblin', or runnin' around with fancy wimmin.

MAYBE the cord that's binding me is fear. When I went through the recovery inventory process, that showed up, over and over, as my character defect. If it IS fear, then the solution may present itself. If it does, then watch this space.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Stopping Violence At The Border?

I don't follow the news. If there is anything I'm missing that would make me a better person, then I apologize, and will consider repenting; but truly, it's a policy I like.

Despite my intentional ignorance,  I discovered there is a caravan of at least 4000 people (some estimate as many as 7200), mostly Hondurans, on the road in southern Mexico.

The walk. They have been on the road for over two weeks, averaging 30 miles per day. They say they are heading for the US border. If they go to McAllen, Texas, which is the closest crossing to where they are now, it's going to take them another month, IF they can maintain the same pace.
If 30 miles per day doesn't sound like much of a challenge, because you drive that to work every day, consider this: that's approximately the same PACE the Army requires for  passing Special Forces assessment: 18 miles in 4 hours, 30 minutes. The Army requires it be accomplished while carrying a 50 pound rucksack, but the point is this: 30 miles per day, for 45 days, is going to kill some people.
They aren't the only group on the road; another 2,000 broke through the border between Guatemala and Mexico on Sunday, and 300 more left San Salvador the same day. Those trips, if completed, are on par with the trip from Honduras.
The 'X' is where they are now; the 'O' is where they are going.
It's a thousand miles.

Why would you do that to yourself if you didn't have to?
Media sources such as The Los Angeles Times  and Associate Press' Sonia Perez D report interviews with members of the caravan, complaining of a high rate of crime, specifically out-of-control violence.
An earlier caravan in April of this year prompted a CNN report of gangs extorting a 'war tax' from civilians, and a US Department of State report issued at that time stated Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world.  The civil environment that supports that is described by the Canadian government as follows:
Demonstrations and strikes occur regularly in cities throughout the country and often result in significant traffic disruptions and minor vandalism. In Tegucigalpa, demonstrations are known to target the National Congress, Central Park, Presidential Palace, United Nations offices and the United States Embassy. Demonstrations often transit along Centroamerica Boulevard, La Paz and Los Próceres avenues, and Suyapa Boulevard.
Anti-corruption demonstrations occasionally take place on Fridays in Tegucigalpa.


These are non-trivial questions.

The easy answer is to point to the narcotics traffic, and let it go at that. They surely do have a great amount of culpability; they have created an entire system, from international, organized crime, all the way down to the extensive street gangs in the cities.

However, that begs the question: Why NOW? The crime problem in Honduras has existed for YEARS. If the only reason for this massive caravan is to escape crime, then what's the reason for this sudden upsurge?

El Niño is one reason. The Central American 'Dry Corridor' is experiencing the worst drought in 10 years. Farmers can usually bring in two crops per year; now, they aren't sure they can get one. That has struck hard at the economy. There are some outlets reporting this as 'climate change,' essentially parroting the World Bank position that human-generated climate change is real, responsible, and reversible. While not consistent with the understanding of the  El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) as a VERY long-term climate influence, it does have the benefit of making for good copy.

And thus we have the first of those receiving benefit from the caravan: those using the plight of the farmers to promote their agenda on 'remediating' climate change.

A bad television interview. Another answer to 'Why Now?' (that appears to me to be somewhat buried) is, at best, an example of very sloppy journalism. Bartolo Fuentes is a former politician and a lifetime human rights activist, a critic of the Honduran government who has devoted himself to help migrants/refugees. He has regularly assisted with previous - small scale!- caravans, including the one last April. Another SMALL caravan was in the works; small, that is, until an interview broadcast on state-aligned television station HCH. An unidentified woman was quoted as saying Fuentes was going organizing a caravan of migrants north,  and pay for their food and transportation. Overnight, the group swelled from 200 to 7000. A repudiation of the report by Fuentes did nothing to change the momentum; the people were going, and that was that.

A second beneficiary of the caravan: a pro-government news organization that wished to embarrass a person who was critical of government policies.

Anybody else?

Those who know more about politics will have to come up with the answer for that. It  does appear to have become a political football, and a factor in the upcoming elections.  Who will ultimately gain from the events? Don't know.

It smells bad, though.

Who's job is it to fix it? That question brings me to my end thought, which has to do with an oath I took on September 7, 1972 ,when I joined the Army, and similar oaths sworn by our elected officials:
"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
Whether it is proper for our nation of immigrants to CHANGE the immigration laws is something we may discuss. However, there is nothing in our CURRENT law that permits immigration-by-walking-across-the-border. There are things that have to happen, and it is needful that our elected officials keep to the letter and spirit of the oath.

People getting shot at the border? No, let's not have that.  Maybe some people need to get shot; from what I've read, that sounds like it ought to be considered as a part of the solution. I just don't think any of those people are marching among the 7,000.

As I pointed out earlier, at the rate they are travelling, it's going to take this group another 30 days to get to Texas. Can we get this thing figured out by then? Please?

Peace be on your household; and on us all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

"Nobody ever said this thing wasn't gonna be semi-tough."

Disclaimer: I hope not to rain on anyone's parade! If you are in one of those wonderful moments when all is going well, I celebrate WITH you, and FOR you! That's GOOD stuff! This post AIN'T about the good times, though, so if you want to stay bouncy, you might want to stop here and come back later when you need it.
In 1972,  Dan Jenkins published a book about professional football, and players, and hangers-on, and it should have been sold with a sweaty sock that had been worn during a game, and then left in a gym bag for a week. (Because the book was rough, gruff, and stinky, you see.)

It was wildly popular (#7 on Sport's Illustrated's 100 Best Sports Books of All Time) with people who loved football and sports in general, and who celebrated a world that was run on testosterone, money, and whiskey. The book had the title 'Semi-Tough.'(FOOTNOTE!)

Then, as now, people used understatement for emphasis.  Today, when people say 'a minute,'  it doesn't mean 60 seconds, it means a LONG time. "I've been working here for a minute" means "I've been working here long enough to know what I'm talking about. Got it?"

So when one of the characters, referring to the path to the Super Bowl, says "Nobody ever said this thing wasn't going to be semi-tough," what he really means is that it's the hardest task any of them have ever faced (or something along those lines).

And that's actually a general life truth.

Earlier today, I read this:
"For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again,
But the wicked stumble in time of calamity."
(Proverbs 24:16, NASB)
Back when I used to listen to the radio, my dial was set on FM 91.9 WCLK, Clark-Atlanta University's public radio station. They are the ONLY local station that still plays good jazz and blues, and they also have some GREAT gospel programs as well.
I listened;
I called in to talk to the DJ's;
I won some stuff on the contests (including tickets to see Ray Charles at Chastain Park!);
I pledged during the annual telethons.

And eventually, I started driving into Atlanta from Woodstock, in my raggedy pick-up truck, as a phone volunteer during the telethons. (Once, I even took Bess and Mick with me, and THEY got to work the phones; they were 11 and 8, respectively, I think. They LOVED it!)

On this particular occasion (maybe 2002?), I showed up a little early (as in, 5:30 AM) one Saturday morning to work the phones for the gospel music program. As I was getting my work area squared away, a couple of precious young college girls showed up, still a bit bleary-eyed at that hour in the morning, also there to work phones for the gospel hour. One of them requested the DJ to play "We Fall Down, But We Get Up" for her.
And I wondered if she had fallen down; college life certainly offers plenty of opportunities for young girls to fall.

This isn't her, but it could be. 
What was she facing that morning? 
Had something happened the night before?
I was not in a position to reach out to her,
but when I hear that song, I remember her.

This isn't me, but it could be.
I hope that EVERY time I fall down, 
I use the opportunity to go to my knees.

'Falling down' DOESN'T mean violating your standards, or bringing harm to someone else. Any of us will fall down if we are hit hard enough. We get sick. People we care about do stupid things. Stuff we depend on breaks. And when enough of that stuff happens, we go down.

I believe that people who read my blog regularly are realists, NOT people who think that somehow they are separated from disaster by an impenetrable wall. My blog wouldn't work well for folks with that particular belief system. When I'm not talking about unreal people doing unreal things (as when I am reviewing books), I'm writing about real people, doing real things, as more real things happen to them.

I'm one of those real people, and one of the ways I work at getting back up again is to write about it in this blog. But please:  don't see this column as a sign that it's nothing but doom and gloom at the Patterson House.  Nobody is being mean to me, and I'm not being mean to anybody. Physically, I AM hurting a bit more than usual, but frankly, that's just background noise.

The chief aggravation I am working through by writing this is that we have been hit pretty hard recently by some large, unexpected bills, and car repairs, WHICH ARE ALL COVERED BY OUR "PRUDENT RESERVE"!
We aren't in danger of losing the house, going without food, paying utilities; none of that stuff.
I just get freaky (more accurately: I fall down) when I have to go to the reserve. I like adding to it, not taking away from it.

Besides that? Well,  I still can't write reviews. So, I fall down. I'm still reading, though, so there's that.

And I just NOW got a phone call from one of my daughters telling me that HER car has broken down, too. Yup: I fall down.

Well, nobody ever said this thing wasn't gonna be semi-tough. While I'm down here, I might as well clean out from underneath my desk, and at some point, I will get back up again.

Peace be on your household.

FOOTNOTE: In 1977, Hollywood took Dan Jenkins' industry-favorite book about football, and made a movie using the same name. For some reason, a decision maker felt the football movie needed  less football, and more talk about actualizing yourself, better life through pyramid power, and the liberation found in wetting your pants in public. Unfortunately, I saw the movie, and will never get those two hours back again. It's my understanding that Jenkins got a small bit of revenge in a 1984 follow-up book, but I haven't read it.