Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"Psychic Spiral, "by Amie Gibbons and Country Music

Good day to you, friends and family out there in Internet Land!

I'm gonna give you links to a couple of Hank Williams, Senior, songs to listen to, in order to give you some background for certain parts of this post, and one Stephen Stills song, which I heard coming straight out of CS&N. I think David Crosby and Graham Nash are actually singing on this version, but I'm pretty sure it's off the "Stephen Stills" album.
Please note: every one of these songs was chosen because they present such a distorted view of human romantic/sexual intimacy that they would be LETHAL if they were selected as a life theme!
I'm working HARD to keep my Amazon book reviews short and relevant today (and hopefully in the future), and using the blog to make my philosophical points. I had started the Amazon review, and discovered I had wandered into Meaningful Dialogue Mode, and shifted gears. I whacked all of the good stuff out of the review, but it's included here. This has (almost) all of the review content, but read and vote 'helpful' on the review anyway, okay? And the link to the review is NOT included here, because Amazon is dragging it's heels in posting the review, and I have First Day At School paperwork waiting on me for Kenneth and Alicia.

Here's my one sentence summary:

This book is about the dangers of time travel, and George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' is about livestock.

It is absolutely true that there is a Bad Problem that must be resolved, and Ariana Ryder and her traveling band of Vampires, Lovers, Dimwits, and Familiars must devote all of their efforts to save each other and the universe. That's the framework that permits the painfully insightful  lesson in the human condition to be provided to the audience as a story. In addition, there are LOTS of cute scenes of Ariana's pet flying carpet, Pyro, zooming about, making coffee and scrambling eggs. We haven't had nearly enough words about Pyro in the previous volumes in the series, so these are very welcome.


....one reviewer flipped out, calling the material 'filthy.' By that, I am sure they mean pornography, and passed that verdict because of the explicit sex scenes included in the narrative. I believe they missed the point of what is actually an exposition of the consequences of unrestrained behavior.

I want to be very clear about this: I am not a fan of sexually explicit movies and books, or strip clubs, comedy routines, etc. For me, sex is a participatory sport only, to be engaged in with complete abandon, IN PRIVACY, and the allure of substitutions of words on paper or images on a screen is completely lost on me.  A couple of years ago, I discovered that some literary genres DEMAND the inclusion of at least one explicit scene, or the audience feels cheated. I just skip that part, and let the rest of the story determine whether it's a book I can recommend, or not.

In previous books, Ariana, the psychic lawyer FBI agent, has fantasized about sex with some characters, and fulfilled those fantasies with others. When I see what is going on, I accept that this is a necessary part of character development, and skip pages, to resume the story when the throbbing whatever has moved away from center stage.

However, in THIS book, the explicit sexual scenes are actually the EXACT opposite of pornography. The are not designed to titillate, but to provide the essential setting to bring home (rather brutally) the destructive consequences of irresponsible sexual behavior.

In my Papa Pat Rambles blog post of 7/6/18,   I discuss that group of interactions that we approximate with the term 'love,' drawing the distinction between emotion and commitment.  Here, Gibbons makes the point PAINFULLY clear that basing our actions strictly on our EMOTIONAL condition will bring disaster, if not tempered with rational thought and informed commitment.

She uses (at least) three characters to make this point. One, Annabeth, or AB, is a physician who has had a disastrous series of interactions with a partner who has consistently failed to regard her welfare in the relationship. AB feels torn by the conflicting EMOTIONS that she feels, but is unable to put  them in the proper perspective; her feelings are real, but nothing to build a future with.

This is the easiest problem for the observer to identify, and the reader may be tempted to reach into the book and intervene on her behalf. It's a pattern that results in people remaining in physically abusive relationships for years, murmuring "but I LOVE him/her" and "he/she will change THIS time, I know they will!"

The idea that emotions belong in the driver's seat is an utterly bogus notion, and yet it sells a LOT of records, movies, books, as well as toothpaste and tacos. Actually, as I was writing the previous sentence, I was also listening to Hank Williams, Sr, singing "I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You." Well, baloney. You sure as can help your BEHAVIOR, it if you do, your emotional fixation will change, and you can go on with the business of running your life the way you want to..

The second character to make the point that King Feelings is a monster is the MC, Ariana. In the past, she has allowed her physical and emotional attraction to her boss and the Old Vampire Carvi to dominate much of her thought life. She has made progress in this area, but even though she is in a committed relationship with Young Vampire Quill, she allows her thought life to wander where it will. In the crisis scene, she even permits/encourages some sexual play (part physical, part psychic) with multiple partners. 

I had to skip a LOT of pages during this interaction, and IF THE SCENE STOPPED RIGHT THERE, it WOULD have qualified as porn. However, that scene ONLY serves as a set-up to what follows, which is an intense feeling of self-loathing and regret, and NONE of those involved think it was the right choice to make.  It is as explicit about the potentially lethal consequences of unrestrained submission to an emotional fixation as anything I have seen in literature, and it accurately describes the sense of self-betrayal that follows indulgence. It's actually more dangerous than a hangover from over-indulging in alcohol, because usually the hangover doesn't make you want to immediately get drunk again, whereas the feelings of guilt and shame over an emotionally-driven behavior binge is precisely what drives people into seeking chemical relief or oblivion.

The third example is that of the  Old Vampire. Here, for once, we see that it IS possible for rational thought and commitment to prevail over emotion. Without completely writing a spoiler, I can't go further, though, so you are gonna have to read the book.

I think Gibbons has been exceedingly brave in writing this installment in the series, and that's why I gave the book five stars on my Amazon review. She has described with near-perfect accuracy the excruciating consequences of involvement with a narcissistic person, completely detailing the turmoil in which the victim is left.
She has also taken the playful, girlish infatuation of the MC demonstrated in the first of the series, and showed precisely where the failure to rein in those impulses can go. In doing so, she has made it impossible (I believe) for the heroine to continue ignore her own responsibility in the way her life is unfolding.
I applaud her for doing so; at the same time, I'm wondering: "How in the heck is she going to write her way out of THIS?"

Peace be upon your household.

Taking the kids to school: 30 years of it.

Taken under duress, after I had to threaten to kiss them on the lips if they didn't smile.
And this was the best I could get

Thirty years ago, I took my first-born son, Jordan, to Coal Mountain Elementary School for his first day of kindergarten in Mrs. Debby Mehl's classroom.
Yesterday, he took HIS first-born son, Heath, to meet his kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Bentley, at Cherokee Charter Academy.
In a few minutes, I'm gonna be taking Kenneth and Alicia Ann for Open House at Mill Creek Middle School, where he will be in the 8th grade and she will be in the 7th grade.

So, after thirty years and two generations of taking kids to school, what is the most important preparation I made, in order to handle the physical and emotional stresses of the day?

I drilled another hole in my belt, so my pants wouldn't fall down. Seems that despite dropping down recently from a 44 inch to a 42 inch waist (from a peak of a 50 inch waist in 2012), my mass distribution continues to shift.

And I just didn't think that a brand new pair of Levi's 501 jeans, crumpled on top of my brand new Converse All-Stars, was gonna bless anyone. Actually, it wasn't the CLOTHING that I thought might be a problem; it was the sight of my narrow butt in nothing but boxers that would make the poor first impression.

So, new hole in the belt, and a pair of suspenders worn under my shirt for good measure, and I think we are good to go.

Out the door; gonna take pictures to complete the post.
(And my pant's stayed up the whole time!)

This is Kenneth with his home room teacher, Mrs. Tucker.

This is Alicia, with her home room teacher, Mrs. Coryell.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

If Only I Could...:"Bite Sized" by Holly Chism


Here's the link to my Amazon review of Holly Chism's "Bite Sized: Liquid Diet Chronicles Book 1," and,  since I mention it as a factor in writing what I'm writing right now,  here's the link to my review of Sarah Hoyt's "So Little and So Light."

I wish I could say that the occasion for writing THIS blog post was solely due to my virtuous decision to allow my Amazon reviews to be the absolute epitome of succinct word-smithing; that I had resolved to return to a much, much earlier program of limiting those reviews to ONLY select phrases which would inform the public of the core characteristics of the book, and to reserve my COMMENTARY on the book to this blog.

That WAS a good plan, by the way, and I did my best to follow it for quite some time. Alas, the same circumstances that kept me away from book reviews, also kept me away from blogging, and in this renaissance of writing I'm currently experiencing, I allowed my expression to only find one, undifferentiated outlet. And that's why a couple of my last book reviews went so long, in particular, my review of Sarah A. Hoyt's latest collection of short stories "So Little and So Light." I have not yet reached the point where the review actually was longer than the material reviewed, but I'd be willing to bet that a couple of stories in that volume had reviews that were a measurable percentage of the original content.

Alas, I say again. For no such pure motivation drove me with this particular post; deadline pressure, of a modest and self-inflicted nature, had me turn out the review on Chism's "Bite Sized" before I allowed the little tickle in my thinking to speak to me. And so, the day after Amazon published the review I wrote, you get The Rest Of The Story! (kettle drums, horns, and the music from a blues harp).

For those of you who haven't yet read the review (and why not, may I ask?) "Bite Sized" tells the story of a Vampire Hero named Meg. She APPEARS to be young. Her aging process stopped when she was turned into a vampire, and she was  a diminutive (5' 0") 28 year old at that time. That was 20 years ago, which would place her in the middle-aged category for humans, if she had continued along that aging line. However, she is a mere BABE in the world of vampires. She may have some suspicions of this, but has never had an encounter with a vampire, except for the one who turned her.

Let us speak of that turning, and I will TRY to avoid spoilers, although some might leak out. However, in order to make the point for this blog post, I have to give SOME backstory. I think all of this is covered in the first chapter of the book, but please: if you hate SPOILERS then BEWARE.

Meg was raped and murdered by a renegade vampire (there are such things), but in the course of the attack, she fought back ferociously. It the process, she inadvertently acquired enough Vampire Juice (tm) to effect her own transformation into the Undead. Upon her awakening, she retained all of her human ethics, and did NOT go on a mindless spree of human sucking.

Instead, she managed, by dint of hard work and suffering, to (ONE) find a way to live at peace with those around her, and (TWO) make the world a safer place for all by limiting her dinner choices to rapists.

Those actually present themselves in two different packages: her preferred source is the brutal, attack thug, who means to cause maximum pain and suffering on his victims before killing them. The book opens with just such an opportunity, and it's really a rather viscerally delightful experience to observe her using her small, non-threatening stature to stop an attack right after it begins, and then proceed to liberate the targeted individual, and take down the rapist.
With this class of rapist, Meg has absolutely no problem of draining them of life. She enjoys the process, and while most of that enjoyment is decidedly culinary, there is also the aspect of righteous justice, colored by a bit of vengeance, in the experience.
Here, we wish to express our proud gratitude to the author, for nobly avoiding the temptation to provide the Vampire Hero with the neologism Meg-A- Bites.  We trust this will perhaps protect her from incoming carp on other occasions when she might be tempted to step closer to the line, which the nature of her character does NOT preclude, in the slightest.
It is unfortunate for her new diet that such violent rapes are not so easily discovered, at least not frequently enough to keep her need for human blood satisfied. She has, in the past, increased the likelihood of finding candidates by strolling through poorly lit regions of the city, where her gender and size mark her as an easy target for a predator.  These are her favorite meals, but again, even when shooting over a baited field, so to speak, are not enough for her to survive.


She therefore has arranged her hunt to include more snack items, and this is accomplished by attending drunken parties held at the local college campus. Either from her experience during the time when she was fully human, or from her vampire days, she has learned that a certain percentage of young college age women are likely to drink too much, and will wind up in the hands of the certain proportion of college age men who are depraved enough to take advantage of their unconscious state to rape them, such acts being lumped into the nastily-named category of 'date-rape.' (Personal observation: nobody ever talks about date-murder, date-robbery, date-stabbings, because the adjective doesn't exist. Neither should it for rape, but I digress.)
When she discovers one of those rather predictable events (via her disguise as a Hot Young Chick), she has a different method. She uses her vampire powers to suggest to the young ladies that they had better make some choices that don't involve getting smashed at a frat party, and she recommends to the young men that there are much better methods of sexual activity than to rape comatose women.
And then, she sucks a small amount of blood from the erstwhile rapist; not enough to cause them damage, but enough to sustain her for a bit.

She has observed over the course of the years that in some cases, she has been able to use those vampiric hypnosis sessions to change the behavior of both young men and women, which is an outcome devoutly to be desired. In some cases, it has required MULTIPLE sessions, but she has held tightly to her decision only to to apply Meg-A-Bites (sorry!) to the vilest type of predator, and refuses to deprive determined idiots of their right to choose. She still monitors them, however, and is quick to intervene to protect both the intent rapist and the intended target from the consequences of their choices.

And, here we have the source of the first part of title of this blog post: "If Only I Could..."

I would not willingly exchange my life for any other, and I doubt that most of us who have raised families and weathered storms would do so. Certainly, at times of crisis, we wish things could be different, but the wise realize that people make choices, and that choices have consequences that were not intended. So, I sit in this chair, with the new false teeth in my mouth and the delicious meal that I can't eat at my side, and I would not change ONE THING that has made me the person that I am today. And yet. If Only I Could,,,

If Only I Could ...be the Vampire Hero that Meg is.
If Only I Could protect the young from that particular consequence of foolish, ignorant behavior.
If Only I Could deprive the brutal rapist the opportunity to complete one more attack.
If Only I Could bring justice to the person who set about to destroy my life to satisfy their own lust.

If Only I Could: would I be willing to make the sacrifices that Meg was FORCED to make, if I could become Vampire Hero?

It's a trick question.

It implies that the only way for goodness to prevail is for a superhero to appear, and that's just not true. YES, it is a delicious feeling to see the wicked smashed into a pulp at the hands of (insert favorite hero here). It is even more gratifying to see the outcome of Meg's restraint, as her hypnotic vampire powers persuade young people to stop behaving foolishly. We ALL get that part, right?

BUT, it is NOT her status as an Immortal Vampire (tm) that turned Meg into the agent for change. It gave her TOOLS, certainly, but it was the choices she made BEFORE she was turned, as well as those she has made afterward, that have made her a Hero. It was her CHOICES, not her POWERS, that have made her great.

And: we all can make choices. None of us have super powers, but we all have power, and some sort of tools to express it. Despite what Chairman Mao said, power does NOT come from the barrel of a gun. Look at how long the Soviet Union lasted: despite holding all the guns, it collapsed. Communist China is doomed as well, as is ANY repressive state. Power comes from the heart, the soul, the nature, and so much of that is a product of our choosing.

And the tools? Well, writing comes to mind, since I am writing ABOUT writing at the moment. With the appropriate caveats, the pen IS mightier than the sword. The MOST powerful tool of war ever devised (to my knowledge), the fusion bomb, has NEVER been used in war; it was and is restrained by the power of words, and thoughts, and written agreements.

There ARE no superheroes. Forget it. They are not going to come to our rescue, and save the day for Truth, Justice, and The American Way. And that is NOT a bad thing!

If there WERE superheroes, we'd leave it all up to them. We could reject the call on our lives to fix things. Fixing things seems like an impossible task, but it really isn't. It boils down to two sentences, one a philosophical foundation, the other the exact methodology. Are you ready to read those two sentences?
Here they are:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Do the next right thing.

That's it. That's the secret. That's how we heal the damage we bear, and how we heal the damage done to others, and how we prevent damage in the future. It's all in our individual hands.

Listen, there is nothing wrong with wishing you had super-powers so you could strike back against the forces of evil in this world, as long as you WRITE ABOUT IT! Your wishing cannot make you invulnerable, but your words can inspire others; encourage them; let them know that they are not the only ones who are facing pain, grief, and loss! Share your experience, strength, and hope! Comfort others with the same comfort you have been given!

And do the other things as well. Feed your kids. Smile at someone. Do a good job at work. Wash the clothes.

And in the process, you will find that you have become a hero.

Peace be on your household.  

Thursday, July 26, 2018

"So Little and So Light," by Sarah A. Hoyt


Greetings, friends and welcome to this utterly recycled blog post!

Circumstances have kept me away from reading, reviewing, and blogging for an astounding amount of time. Not involved in those circumstances was  the DELIGHTFUL few days I spent with my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, at Neptune Beach in Jacksonville, FL. 
Looks like I may be back in the swing of things, though, as I have finally cleaned out almost all of the reviews I owed (one exception! Celia Hayes' "Adelverien Trilogy"), and I'm churning through a new list.

After starting on that new list, I saw that Sarah A. Hoyt had this new collection of short stories, and I rescheduled everything to read & review it before anyone else could. READING it fast was pretty easy; There were TWO stories that made me stop and process, but the rest of them went down like a smoothie. REVIEWING, on the other hand, took more time. As I have pointed out before, it's very difficult for me to write reviews of short story collections. I require myself to give justice to the author's work, so I can't just review the book as a whole; I have to review each story. However, many short stories have a punch, which can be revealed in one sentence, if you aren't careful. In fact, I can recall some introductions, inserted by editors, which completely revealed the punchline of the story. I recall Isaac Asimov complaining about John Campbell doing that to some of his work. So, I have to be careful in what I say. Which often means that I wind up reading the stories at least three times before my review goes out.

It's a burden I am GREATLY willing to bear, so please don't hear this as a complaint. I LOVE my job! I get to spend my day reading the greatest authors in America and influence them in profound ways; I am DEFINITELY changing the way that literature will be taught at every level for the next century. And I get PAID to do it!
Well, actually... I don't get paid. Ummm. I actually pay for the privilege.
And the influence-the-authors part? Not so much.
Having an impact on the way literature will be taught? No, I made that up.
I DO get to read some pretty great authors, though, and that's good enough for me.

And USUALLY, my reviews, if not succinct, do represent the message and the story the author meant to give to us. At least, that's what they have told me. However, this review went WAY past not-succinct, to the point of being an essay on life, the universe, and everything. I couldn't stop myself. I had to EXPLAIN things.
And there were quite a few stories that needed to be reviewed, and SOME of them demanded of me that I wax lyrical; or, if not lyrical, then wax on.
It's a weakness.
However, after reading a comment from a reader about how frappen long the review is, I decided it was time to turn the weakness into an asset, and I just copied the review, and turned it into a blog post. I added the PRELIMINARY COMMENTS so that no one would feel short-changed, at paying two prices for the same material. Sure, I know these are provided FREE, except in the MOST valuable coin of all, which is the time you spend, reading. But, what follows is merely the Amazon reviews. Anything I change will be so noted. I do plan on inserting some links to other material, which Amazon really doesn't like in reviews.


In the past, I have had some mild struggles with the 5-star system used in reviewing Amazon products. Much of that has revolved around the fact that the star ratings are described as being ENTIRELY subjective, from the 1-star "I Hated It" to the 5-star "I Loved It."

I get it. I really do. I just ordered school supplies for my two middle-schoolers yesterday, and when the pencils arrive on time, they will get a 5-star review; they don't NEED anything else said. A 5-star system is perfectly adequate, even superfluous, for the majority of Amazon products.

In order to express anything about the artistic content, opening up of genres, life-transforming insights, the reviewer MUST write a review. That's how I justified giving "Snow In Her Eyes," an excellent, well-executed, appropriately intricate supernatural mystery, written by a favorite author, a 1-star review a year or so ago. In the course of the review, I explained that while it was a top-quality work, with well-written characters, and a compelling storyline, it violated one of my basic rules about things I read and watch. You should look it up.

Needlessly pedantic of me, you say? Guilty as charged. I have no defense, except that I HATED that excellent bit of writing. And so, I assigned it a single star, and then explained why, and even wrote a blog post (Papa Pat Rambles, 8/4/17) to expand on my reasons. But I maintain it is a limitation of the rating system.

The five stars I assign here are another limitation of the rating system. I need stars to tell you about how the first story took my breath away, how it almost made me hope to be placed inside THAT reality; how one story gave me so much to think about as ONE possibility for the way civilization as we know it could end; how beautiful the cover is. Butterfly wings on a cat? I once had a cat named Butterfly. My current Feline-In-Residence has recently shown signs that perhaps she is not long from earning her own wings. Our existence itself is expressed in the title: so little, and so light.

Sigh. Some things cannot be described, they must be experienced. This book is one of them. Nevertheless, here are my signposts to brilliance. And as I must do whenever I review story collections, I try VERY hard to communicate the essence of each story, without spoilers.

Wait Until The War Is Over. Eurydice's father is lost in the grip of Alzheimer's Disease. She didn't even know how bad things were, until her mother died; then, she had to abandon a career job and a potential mate to be a caretaker. But her father's dementia takes a strange form; he believes they are fighting against an alien invasion. She can't stay, but she can't leave. My commentary: When I read this, I thought that this story was so PERSONAL to me, that it likely would not have mass appeal. As it happens, my beloved mother, who lead me to discover the love of books and the love of learning, and who knew ALL of the answers in every subject as I struggled to drag my attention deficit disorder through school memorization, has been gripped by the same disease, and I was drawn into this story to the point of wondering if I could be transported there by closing my eyes, crossing my fingers, and saying 'there's no place like home.' I would be interested to know if this story has a similar impact on an adult child who does NOT have a parent in similar circumstances.

Only The Lonely. In a far-distant future, dating is difficult. It's REALLY difficult if there is a chance that a first date might result in something other than the usual choices of romance, temporary diversion, or utter boredom: something along the lines of oblivion.

Lost. They say that old grannies used to scare their children with stories about how the fairies might come along and steal them from their beds, leaving something other-than-human in exchange. Well, I have two sisters, and I can testify that there are times when I would not have been able to affirm that we shared ANY sort of common parentage. They are both angels, though. And, in this story, we discover a different sort of sibling alienation and affirmation.

Neptune's Orphans. Set in the universe of the Good Men, three products of genetic experimentation have to trust to their enemies to protect them from their friends. No way, THAT'S gonna work out. Only chance they have, though.

After the Sabines. I had to stop for a bit after devouring this story. There is SO much here, so vividly portrayed, that I'm a bit, just a tiny bit, absolutely flummoxed by the fact that Hoyt manages to compress it all into these few pages. The title points us to the incident celebrated lasciviously in Renaissance art as the 'Rape of the Sabines.' It actually describes an event in Roman history/myth in which the Roman men took Sabine wives, although there seems to be considerable disagreement as to whether this was an act of force (as was depicted in sculpture and painting), or enthusiastic negotiating, somewhat against the will of the grizzled old village elders. Next, Hoyt very accurately describes the population bomb that the Chinese created for themselves with their 'One Child' policy. As it happens, they have DOOMED their culture, and there is no fix for it; UNLESS they attempt something along the lines of this story. Finally, Hoyt has stated elsewhere that she entered the United States as a young, nubile, brilliant Portuguese woman, promptly acquiring the man of her dreams by her exotic pronunciation of that most romantic of terms, "Moose and Squirrel." As a person who has personally experienced a radical shift in cultures due to a marriage, she is uniquely suited to write this story. You have LOTS of different emotional options to choose from as you read this one, from a rage great enough to advocate a nuclear war, all the way to hope for the future. Don't stint yourself; choose more than one. You can always swap out for something different later.

The Serpent's Tail. Within a very few paragraphs, I discovered that this was an adaptation of the story of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. Then I discovered it wasn't. Then I discovered I really didn't know WHAT sort of morality tale this was, and finally concluded that it might not be one. It's intriguing a story as you will find, though.

Spinning Away. At one point, the most trusted man in America was Walter Cronkite, I believe with good reason. He stayed at the helm of the CBS news desk through the absolute worst times the United States has experienced since the Civil War, and reported on what he saw, and what he thought it meant. In the last five or six years of his run, investigative journalism into the Watergate Crisis created a new image for news media. That was followed by the worst of schlock journalism, and today, we have fake news. In this story, Hoyt portrays an alternative next step in the evolution of the media representative: professional reporters who hide their identity, but maintain a massive influence nonetheless, with an audience consisting of "about ninety percent of the adult population on Earth." Laina is one of those journalists, and people are trying to kill her.

The Private Wound. Hoyt has spent a LOT of time in researching and writing about history, and can spot anachronisms in a person writing about Shakespeare from two continents away. This is one of her strengths; she can stick a small change into the actual events, and predict what is likely to result. She does this by understanding her characters, and the forces that affected them. We don't really know if she has archaeo-telepathy or not,but she might; at any rate, she describes events as interpreted by someone, even if that ISN'T the actual reigning monarch. As far as I'm concerned, though, I accept it, because she IS after all, an authentic authority of such things, whereas I'm just a guy who knows how to read and google. This story gives us an alternative for Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen of England and Ireland from 1558-1603.

Super Lamb Banana. The Beatles, in the form of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ring Starr, only existed as a group from 1962-1970. However, their influence on music and perhaps society can still be identified today, and some of their music is much easier to retrieve, for those of us of a certain age, from the brain, than it is from the Internet (mostly due to licensing issues, but have an earworm: "you say you want a revolution, well, you know..."). This story posits John Lennon in a variety of alternative existences, in roles from street bum to happy grandfather.

To Learn To Forget. In one of the earliest stories I read involving humans receiving treatment to give more-or-less eternal life, "Invariant," by John R. Pierce (Astounding, 1944, but I know I read in is some collection), the author presents the argument that the price for eternal life is amnesia. Here, Hoyt suggests an alternative, and likely more terrifying, consequence of the technology.

Things Remembered. What will be the role of the human investigator when CSI techniques are pervasive, and include such things as robot lizards that lift fingerprints and automatically look for a match?

The Bombs Bursting In Air. Another story set in the Good Men universe, this describes an investigator who is expecting destruction, and experiences personal challenges to her faith instead. It's not a strictly cerebral bit, and I think you would have to know the story of the Good Men to appreciate the thinking part of it; however, stuff gets blown up, which is intensely satisfying in itself.

On a Far Distant Shore. Also set in the universe of the Good Men, this one will rip your heart. Raise to believe in the faith of the Usaians, she became a beancounter for a Good Man. But there is just something about a bit of colored cloth that resonates, even in the heart of the disenchanted.

So Little and So Light. This is a time-traveler story, and includes the the common theme that you can/can't disrupt the timestream, so don't try/you should try. Included are some VERY interesting scenes of possible critical turning points. Ummm... I REALLY can't tell you what is at the heart of the story, because it would be a spoiler.

Devour this book, as I did. Hang on to it, because you are going to want to go back and savor the flavors over time, and to store the memories in your heart, where you can reach them, again and again.

Peace be on your house.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Reloading; or Hazardous Material Storage Devices; or, Poking Face Book

In addition to reading and reviewing; being husband, father, and grandfather to a proliferating number of individuals (I wonder if we qualify as an invasive species?); and riding and providing an old-age rest home for motorcycles; I also enjoy owning and operating a number of firearms.

Let me explain that a bit: I'm not a gun nut, if such a thing really exists outside Hollywood. I AM a firm supporter of the Bill of Rights, although I really don't give much attention to the Third Amendment. The Second Amendment, however, gives me CONSTITUTIONAL and LEGAL justification to do what I want to do anyway, which is to own and operate firearms. In my case, I tend not to think of it in terms of the Second Amendment when I purchase a firearm, as much as I think how grateful I am to be married to my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, who overcame a lifetime of distaste for guns because of her love for me.

Here's the thing, though: the pleasure of owning and operating firearms is both constricted by circumstances and expense. Unless I am actually down at the range shooting, my enjoyment of firearms is restricted to carrying one, and the comfort of my concealed carry holster (I carry a Browning Hi-Power, using the n82 tactical full size) means I don't really notice it. Therefore, I'm not walking around full of delight at being a gun owner, right? I'm just...a guy, see?

But when I DO go to the range, it used to get expensive, really fast. Like most people with good sense, I started with a .22; first, a plinker, then an economy target pistol . That wasn't very expensive at all; at the time, .22LR was everywhere and cheap. However, I soon desired to move up to something more beefy, and I went with the poor man's pistol in .45 ACP.

I LOVED that big clunky gun. It ate everything I fed it, and it hit everything I pointed it at. However, even though I'd gotten the pistol itself for amazing low money (I think it was $139 in 2002), the cost of operating it was adding up. At the time, a box of 50 rounds of range ammo cost me around $20, and since I was a novice, I had to run through a LOT of ammo to gain proficiency. Supporting a family of five on a school counselor's salary meant that those $20 bills were rather precious.

So, I started reloading.

My local gun store (now sadly defunct) was running a special on Lee equipment at the time, and for the not inconsiderable sum of $199 (I think), they got me set up with what I would need to reload for .45 ACP. After that, my only cost was for bullets, powder, and primers, and when I started casting my own lead bullets from wheelweights, I discovered it cost me less than three cents per round (no amortization of equipment, and figuring my labor at $0).

I've been doing that now for about 15 years, and I've added other calibers. I now load for 7.62x25 Tokarev, 9 mm, .40 S&W, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, ,44 Magnum, .30 carbine, and .30-06. Adding each caliber cost me less than $50.

During the Bad Years, I had to give it up. My health and the treatment made me unable to cope with the intricacies, and I had no energy, yada, yada, yada. In fact, it's really only been in this past calendar year that I've gotten organized about getting into production. I DID try, a couple of years ago when it looked like we were going to get into Cowboy Action Shooting as a family activity, but that didn't pan out. This January, however, I acquired a Zastava M57 pistol, followed a couple of months later by the PPS-43C submachine gun, and both of those shoot the hard-to-find and somewhat expensive 7.62x25 Tokarev round.

NOTE: The PPS-43C shoots in semi-auto mode only, and the folding shoulder stock is permanently welded into the folded position, and so it is legally imported as a pistol. The modifications were necessary to prevent it from being classified as a short-barreled rife, which requires a $200 tax stamp to make legal.

The NEXT thing that happened was that I discovered how to make key rings and zipper pulls out of inert ammo, and make them look GOOD! So I asked my daughter if she would consider selling them on her internet store, and we are in process of setting that up now.

But, I needed a LITTLE bit of help with some reloading technique, what with being rusty, so I joined a couple of Facebook groups. And I discovered something:

Facebook has a hissy fit if they think you are engaged in evil bad unapproved nasty sales of wicked, wicked boom-booms!

Now, I absolutely get that they don't want to be complicit in facilitating the illegal transfer of firearms across state lines. There are procedures for doing that, and they should be followed. You have to have the firearm SENT from a Federal Firearm License Holder, TO a Federal Firearm License holder, and you have to be able to show to the receiving FFL that you are, in fact, legally able to purchase and possess that particular firearm in your locality. GOT THAT. IT'S THE LAW. IT'S ALSO COMMON PROCEDURE!!!

But Facebook took it one or two or three steps further. They banned ALL sales of firearm-RELATED items from pages devoted to reloading and discussing firearms, and backed that up by slamming shut the door on some pages that they found to be unworthy.

And that's aggravating.

So, I decided to test the limits of Facebook's policies, a bit. I 'm gonna make the following post on a page I set up a couple of years ago; I was going to use it for reviews, but decided not to fool with it. It's still alive, though.

And I'm gonna see if I can get away with offering 9 mm brass as 'Metal Storage Containers.' If they kill that page, no great loss. I hope they don't come after my regular page, though. If they don't kill it, I'll push a little bit more. I will NOT do anything against the law; anything will ONLY be metal, no primers, no powder.

Anyway, what follows is the post on Reviewing with Papa Pat. It's live, as of 2:35 PM. Wonder how long it will last?

I'm reviewing (and selling) storage devices.

Review first.

These are small storage devices, designed primarily for storage and transport of small amounts of hazardous material. (None of the hazardous material will be reviewed, since it requires special handling!)

The storage devices are constructed of non-sparking brass, which actually gives them several different properties that are desirable for other applications. Although brass tarnishes rather easily, it is also easy to clean, and can be brought to a high luster, suitable especially for jewelry applications.

In the original configuration, for storage and transport of hazardous materials, a special fitting is placed on one end of the container, that permits rapid emptying under special circumstances. The fitting seals the bottom of the container, and prevents leakage as a secondary function.

Lids for the storage container are available in an amazing variety of configurations, and these have, in fact, often become more of a focus of interest than the storage container themselves.

They are primarily a single-use item, but under certain conditions may be collected and recycled. This requires special equipment and training, but for those who wish to pursue a sustainable, Earth-friendly lifestyle, it is an attractive option.

Those who wish, however, may purchase commercially available lids; in fact, when the need to transport hazardous material is pressing, the storage containers are available commercially with the fittings and lids pre-installed. However, even under these circumstances, the storage containers themselves remain the most durable aspect of the entire system.

The containers are usually designated by using either English or metric measurements of the diameter of the primary aperture of the container. The nomenclature of a few units also references the length of the container, in order to distinguish them from containers with the same lid diameter. This can be quite confusing for the novice, as there seems to be a near infinite variety of storage containers available, but most users will soon determine which aperture fits their own needs to safely transport hazardous materials. There are a few enthusiasts who go in the other direction, and enjoy collecting the widest possible variety of containers and contents, even to the point of specializing in obsolete forms.

As stated earlier, the non-sparking properties necessary for the safe transport of hazardous materials resulted in the selection of brass as the first choice for container construction. It is also a somewhat malleable metal, therefore resulting in a tight seal both in the bottom fitting and for the lid.

The storage containers I have for sale at this time will hold up to 0.862 cc of hazardous material, although some of that capacity should be reserved for the proper seating of the lid. The main aperture is 9.01 mm in diameter. Length of the container is 19.15 mm.

Peace be on your household.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Answers to the Biggest Questions Will Be Found Here

It occurs to me, that at the age of 65, I may not have enough time left to distribute all the wisdom I have collected so far, much less that wisdom I'm going to be accumulating in the future.

So, since this blog is my storehouse of wisdom, I'm making this post here to answer questions, and make comments. I will continue to post on other things, book reviews, moments of significance, and so forth. This post, however,  will be an ongoing work; people ask questions in the comments, and I answer them, and the post grows. As long as there is something you want to know, you can ask. If I DON'T know, I'll tell you. I might even be wrong in my answers, but I doubt that will happen often. I was born with a first-class brain, and I stuffed it full of all kinds of things, and came up with some interesting conclusions.

So, to give you a taste of the sort of wisdom I plan to put out for you, free of charge, I address a BIG ONE up front. That way, you will see there is no bait and switch. NOTE: Since I AM a male, I'm gonna likely use mostly examples of males making the poor choices, since I personally made the same choices. However, the same truths apply to females as well. So, here's the first topic:

LOVE. To be specific, I am going to talk about romance, falling in love, happily ever after love, love at first sight; that sort of thing.
Understand this: I don't believe in it. Most people, when they think of this kind of love, are really combining two processes into one, and labeling that combination "love." The problem comes because the two processes aren't given nearly equal weights. In fact, the first process CAN be given full control in the love affair, and the second is essentially ignored.

The first of these two processes is a combination of physical and emotional reactions, that CAN be mistaken for 'love at first sight,' but is really just attraction. We HAVE to have this process, because the continuation of the human race depends on it. As far as I can tell, it's universal, and it is very powerful. And, if you don't understand the process, then you tend to belief, that if you can be united with this person, you will be happy forever, and that is the ONLY way to be happy forever. And, if you are NOT united with this person, you are doomed to a forlorn life of misery. Unfortunately, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you BELIEVE that Betty Sue is the only girl for you, and she breaks up with you after the senior prom because you are going to different colleges, then it is quite likely that you will hold an idealized version of Betty Sue in your head FOREVER, and no other woman will ever be able to meet that standard. (And, if after 30 years go by, you and Betty Sue meet for the first time since the break-up, you will find the real Betty Sue can't possibly match up with the Betty Sue in your head.)
Attraction is wonderful, marvelous, intense, and fulfilling. It's also manipulated by people who want you to buy a product. They have a vested interest in you believing that ATTRACTION = LOVE because they can get you to buy their product that way. Why? It is in the nature of the attraction process that it is temporary; the intense feelings fade. But, companies have successfully persuaded intelligent people that if they demonstrate the RIGHT products to their love, the attraction will last.

It won't, though.

And that's why most relationships stumble. They didn't progress into the SECOND process, after attraction, and that is: COMMITMENT. This is not the starry-eyed "I'll love you forever, my darling!" that is uttered in the midst of a spasm of attraction. That's not really commitment; it's just another attraction given flowery words.
Commitment is cold-blooded. It is an investment. And it can be limited, and SHOULD be limited, for the most part. I have a LOT of friends that I would do something for; I have a few, I would do MUCH for; only one I would do anything for. And it can grow, and develop new commitments, as you both  agree to face things together. Without commitment, a true 'marriage,' in the sense of joining souls together, just doesn't exist.

It's those two things together that constitute LOVE. If you understand that, then you watch in wonder at the goofy scenes in movies, where the hero and heroine struggled to find the words to express themselves. BOSH! Shut up, you fools! Why not just admit you are attracted to each other, and then get along with the work you have been given to do? Such an admission would be quite clarifying to the relationship.

Well, there is a bit more to write, but I grow weary, and I need to sleep. Hopefully, I will finish this tomorrow.