Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blog stats

Wrapping up the year.
294 posts here, plus 16 at Ficton, plus 20 at Battle Honors = 327.

"All time" stats, not counting the two sub-blogs:

13029 pageviews. Last year the total was 4369, so my net views for 2011 was 8660, or 23 a day.

Top posts by page views:
  • 245 Classical Values blog
  • 128 Absurd beliefs
  • 123 Stones and scriptures
  • 111 Letter from Australia
  • 103 If I had ten thousand dollars
Top referring sites:
  • 643 Google
  • 574 Bing
  • 119 Blogger
  • 90 Google Philippines
  • 68 Google Canada
Pageviews by country:
  • 8859 USA
  • 567 Australia
  • 401 Canada
  • 384 Russia
  • 294 Germany
  • 230 South Korea
  • 177 UK
  • 132 Ukraine
  • 128 Netherlands
  • 121 Philippines

Important events of 2011

Important to me, that is.

Spellbound

Spellbound is the second book in Larry Correia's Grimnoir series, set in the 1930s era with the addition of superpowered Actives. You need to read Hard Magic first to understand Spellbound. This is nothing to complain about-- see my review or just note that Hard Magic has, in Larry's words:
a teleporting magic ninja fight on top of a flaming pirate dirigible in a world with bear cavalry, gangsters, wizards, and John Browning fighting the magic samurai of Imperial Japan with Tesla super weapons"
so you should want to read it. And if you don't, what's wrong with you?

The Grimnoir are a society of Actives who are trying to protect normals from abusive Actives, and Actives from hostile normals. Jake Sullivan is former solider, former private eye, who looks like a big dumb bruiser. He is now a Knight of the Grimnoir, and an Active Heavy (more formally, a Gravity Spiker). When someone attempts to frame the Grimnoir for an assassination attempt on the President, and when Jake gets a phone call from an enemy he already killed ... well, things get interesting.

Larry's other series is Monster Hunter, and one thing that bugs me about that series is that the protagonist has been granted a one-of-a-kind divine mandate by authorial fiat. (This happens in other successful series, but it bugs me there too). The Grimnoir series doesn't have that problem; Heavy Jake does have super powers, but so do about 1% of the rest of the population. He's better at using them, but only because he's smart and self disciplined.

Buy it in hardback. Read it on nights when you don't have to go to work the next morning.

Amazon

Amazon is awesome. Tom ordered two books for me around Thanksgiving; one arrived here, one arrived somewhere that the delivery service thought was here. Yesterday at 6:45 Tom emailed Amazon to say that the missing book was missing, do we need to order another copy or what? Amazon Customer Service apologized for the mishap (which wasn't their fault to begin with), promised to send a new copy and promised to send it Next Day Air. And it arrived at 10:52 this morning. Can't get better than that.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The idea was interesting, but the execution was lacking. It's an action film, but some of the action just doesn't make sense--it feels too contrived. My Suspenders of Disbelief were overstretched, so to speak. Jekyll was okay but why was Hyde such a nice guy? When did Nemo get to be a martial artist? Why blow up that much of Venice? How did the characters learn to drive cars? Why did the villain go to all that trouble when he had superweapons already? Given who the villain was, why would he say "There will be more like me"? Why did he move to Russia?
Further...in a good film, the characters have to make choices. Am I going to throw in my lot with the Rebellion even though it means I have to take a fighter to the Death Star? Do I want Buttercup bad enough to storm the castle when I can barely move? In this movie, though, each character (except Quatermain) got a couple of lines of token "why I'm fighting" at the beginning, but that was it. Not a lot of agonizing over "why are we doing this? Is this right or wrong?", not enough "I could give up and move to Cleveland but instead I'm going to risk my life to accomplish this."
It felt too busy, particularly during the fight at the Evil Fortress. We have a kind of climactic scene between one hero and the traitor, we have another one with Nemo and Hyde, we have another one with Quatermain...okay, I know you have to show why this character and that character and all are extraordinary, but it was just too much. Build up the climax, make it big and impressive, and be done.
But if you want a campy pseudo-superhero group in 1899 , this may be for you.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The marsh is all golden brown now, with no tinge of green. The moon and Jupiter setting in the west. Earlier, one lone duck was in the water, bobbing under and popping back up.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Josh's expedition

Josh is camping for the week at Wilson's Promontory, which is the cape southeast of Melbourne. I gather spear fishing will be involved.

Tintin

We saw Tintin The Movie tonight. It was enjoyable, although nothing profound; in fact, that was the main problem with it. There wasn't much introspection, and what there was seemed a bit forced; there was no pondering of "why am I risking my life to do this?" There was plenty of action, though: "a few more thugs with guns hunting for our hero", and "yet another chase scene". There were a few inconsistencies or storytelling issues: why did they show Haddock shooting the dam, when it had so little effect? How did the tank get involved? Why did Sir Francis Haddock need to make a mysterious message to tell where the treasure was? But the animation was impressive.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas

Stockings and coffee, then a few presents, then walk the mutt. As I was coming back to the house with Zoe, I saw one of our neighbors arriving. She had departed Virginia Beach last night and driven 300 miles to drop off her daughters with her former husband, then she turned around and drove through the night to get back this morning. Glad I've never had to do that.

Breakfast was eggs and sausage, then the rest of the presents. Notable gifts included a Sarcasm Ball (because I am unable to come up with sarcasm on my own), three scarves (from three different people), four sweaters, plus books including The Empire Strikes Out, Snuff (the latest Discworld book), Spellbound (sequel to Larry Correia's Hard Magic), and A Brief History of the Universe. The big present for me was new struts and tires for the Camry.

Since Diana should be staying off her feet, I made Christmas dinner solo. I considered the house specialty-- beurre d'arachide et confiture -- but decided the occasion called for a little extra effort. The menu:
  • roast turkey breast and gravy
  • mashed potatoes
  • cranberries
  • petite pois
  • steamed carrots
  • stuffing with sausage, onions and mushrooms
  • yeast rolls
  • vanilla roasted pears with raspberries
  • pink moscato
And I managed to get it all ready at the same time.

Post turkey nap, phone calls from friends and relatives, and reading my new books. Nice peaceful Christmas day.







Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

Got up too early because Zoe was feeling frisky. So I got tea, the house properly cleaned, more tea, made a sherry cake, picked up a few things for Christmas dinner, more tea. Diana dropped off gifts with the neighbors, five packages arrived on our doorstep, friends stopped by, and we had our Christmas call with Josh, Gwen and Gwen's mom. Candlelight service at church, with a drive by some of the more elaborately decorated houses on our way home.

For our Christmas Eve gifts, Diana chose the package from Gwen's mom, with several things related to blue wrens; mine was a new frying pan, which bodes well for sausage and eggs tomorrow morning.

Last year we were in the mountains and had snow--lots and lots--and the year before we caught a bit of snow at Tabitha's place, but this year it's about 40° and no snow in sight.

We have the nutcracker soldiers up, the stockings hung, the tree decorated...still feels odd without Josh here.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve Eve

What a week. It's been weird not having Josh home for Christmas--first time since 1989.

And Diana came back from Montreal in a wheelchair, due to a bad knee exacerbated by arthritis. So I've been walking the dog, getting Christmas gifts and prescriptions and groceries, taking the car in for repairs, doing much of the housework, making dinner, and carrying stuff up and down stairs as needed. Oh, and going to work. It's been busy. I have no idea how single parents cope with a regular week, much less all the stuff for Christmas.

But it's all done. Time for a long winter's nap. Not a creature was stirring...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dogs and screens

We've had several conversations with Josh by Skype, and in some of them Josh has said "Hi Zoe!" However, The Mutt doesn't respond. She can certainly hear; drop a bit of bacon on the kitchen floor and she will rush downstairs. And it's not like she doesn't know who Josh is; if he were here, Zoe would be bouncing around and romping with him. So does she just not recognize voices? Do dogs need a smell-o-vision? Does Skype not carry the full frequency audio range, so it doesn't sound real to her? I think I detect the opportunity for a multimillion dollar research grant...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Movies

Watched The Golden Compass and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

I'd heard The Golden Compass is pro-atheist and specifically anti-Catholic. The book may well be, but it didn't come across that strongly in the film, certainly not as blatantly as in V for Vendetta. The Big Evil Organization was apparently intended to be the Church but was actually rather more like your average Communist dictatorship. There is a certain irony to it: the author was preaching atheism because he was afraid the Church might act the way atheistic governments do. And of course there's the alethiometer, which is a mystical device, and only a few people have the esoteric knowledge necessary to use it; this reminds me of Gnosticism, or for that matter our "ruling elites" who "know what's best for us" because they've been to Harvard, or some such.
The film was watchable, once, but not memorable. I ended up feeling that the protagonist was in need of a spanking or two.

The Mummy was the third in the series; instead of taking place in Egypt, this one is set in China, with the terra cotta army, the Great Wall, and Shangri La making an appearance. I was disappointed that Rachel Weisz didn't play Evy this time around, but otherwise it was fine; not a life-changing epic, but a fun movie nonetheless.



Saturday, December 17, 2011

Egg Nests

I attempted to make Egg Nests, although it didn't quite work out as the egg white didn't get stiff enough. I added the salt at the beginning, and a few drops of lime juice, and it got fluffy but not to the point where I could make a mound of it without it spreading out all over. And then I beat in the parmesan instead of folding it in, which didn't help. Eventually I spooned it into a pair of ramekins, added the egg yolks, and put them into the microwave. But I put bacon beside it, so it was fine.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tea Party

On December 16, 1773, a group of Sons of Liberty members dumped crates of tea into Boston Harbor.

In 1811, the New Madrid (Missouri) earthquakes struck, causing parts of the Mississippi to flow backward, awakening people in Pittsburgh and Norfolk, and ringing church bells in Toronto and Boston.

Also, a notable international economist was born in Virginia Beach in 1988.

RIP Christopher Hitchens

Sometimes brilliant, sometimes incoherent, but always, as far as I could tell, fearless.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Words vs Action

“One's feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions
which bring results. ”

Florence Nightingale (1820–1910)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Close Action AAR

A USS Franklin-centric view of yesterday's combat is on Battle Honors.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Storms of Steel

The After Action Report on my first scenario with Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel posted on Battle Honors

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo

Ploughed through 4400 words in the last two days to end up at 30,006 for the month. That isn't 50k, but it is 30k more than I had when I started November.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The East Coast Retreat Dilemma

The East Coast Retreat Dilemma:

If you live on the East Coast, and civilization collapses, where do you go?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

NaNoWriMo

Hit 25K tonight, which bodes not well for hitting 50K by the end of the month! But I am tolerably pleased with the 25k I have.

Thanksgiving in Australia

Thanksgiving is not a purely USA holiday, in that Canada celebrates it (in October, because by late November they're having blizzards and what they're thankful for at that point is that the polar bears haven't broken in); however, Australia does not. So, in the spirit of correcting this obvious oversight, Josh and Gwen made their own Thanksgiving feast. A twelve pound turkey, mashed potatoes, herbed carrots, stuffing, cauliflower au gratin, green bean casserole, sweet corn, rolls, gravy, butterscotch pies, cider and wine. Not sure which relatives were there, but judging from the Skype conversation, it was a great success. The start of a tradition?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Toyota

My Camry rolled over 150,000 miles today

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving

Drove out to my mom and dad's place in the mountains of Virginia, about 300 miles / 500km /5.5 hours. Mom and Dad, Elizabeth and David and their kids (Julia, Jack) and guest Oliver, and Tabitha and Chris and their kids (Ian, Kathleen, Emma, Luke), plus Zoe and two other dogs.
Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, zucchini casserole, carrot souffle, cranberry fruit salad, yeast rolls, black eyed peas, corn on the cob, plus a few other items. There were several desserts, but I concentrated on Tabitha's butterscotch silk pie.
After that, the kids showed off their skills at piano or gymnastics, and then we had a couple of family board games (specifically Qwirkle), and then things quieted down. Later in the evening, you could hear dogs--coyotes?--howling.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Real Rate of Inflation

I was looking around today to see what the real rate of inflation is--not that I don't trust the Government to tell the absolute truth, you understand, but just to check.

Quick introduction at World Net Daily. Longer one at ShadowStats.

Chart at ShadowStats. What the government says now is that it's about 3.5%. If you calculate it the way they did in 1990, the result is about 7%; if you use the 1980 formula, it's 12%.



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Power of the Web

Back in the dark ages--that is to say, when I went to college, early 80's--if you wanted to research something, you went to the library. Maybe you asked a professor or a librarian where to start. Then you went to the card catalog. That was like a database where each record was on a separate, small piece of paper that was not linked to anything else. Then you went and found a book that wasn't quite what you wanted, and either made do with that or looked in the bibliography and hoped you'd find something better. Rinse and repeat.

Want to find out the words to an Egyptian ritual, or how to load a flintlock, or what units were in a battle two hundred years ago? You don't have to spend all day at the library to get the answer. Ten seconds with a search engine, check the top few results, keep moving. We take web searches for granted now, but thirty years ago, twenty years ago, it was magic.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

NaNoWriMo

13181 words. Over a quarter done. Of course, we're over a third into the month, so I have some catching up to do.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Laptop

I've been looking around for a laptop for a while; today I found a $450 Asus that was reduced to an open-box price of $319, so I picked it up. I believe Asus describes it as "Brown Suit" but I prefer "Mocha color". I suspect I'll end up adding some gears and brass filigree to the case and calling it "Professor Babbage's Patent Galvanic Difference Engine".

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Over 9000 !

Did another 1000 words tonight, which puts me over 9000 for the month.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Kickstarter: Schlock Mercenary game

Kickstarter page is here; Howard Taylor talks about it here.

Eggnog season

First eggnog of autumn. Lots of nutmeg. Yum.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Guy Fawkes Day

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
I see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Friday, November 4, 2011

NaNoWriMo

Got over 2000 words written today, which brings me to 4207--a bit behind pace, as I should be at 6670, but I'll make up some of the deficit tomorrow. Our Hero has discovered a mystery...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shark

At work, sometimes I get up and walk around, just to be away from my desk for a couple of minutes; sometimes I walk through the sales floor. One of the sales guys said "Every time you do that, I feel like I'm seeing a shark fin slicing through the water. I get this sudden urge to look around and count my kids and make sure they're all still there."
And that's as it should be. :-)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween

A lot of people wore costumes to work. I said that I was costumed as a human; several people remarked that it wasn't very convincing. Ah, well.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Car Mirror

While I was away in Arizona, not only did Virginia suffer from tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes, it also had a car accident. Involving my car. Most of the damage was to panels, but the driver's side mirror got clipped and was being held on by duct tape--the mount broken in a way that wasn't feasible to epoxy back together. The repair quote was $176.40 for the part, and more for the labor to install it. But we haz teh Interwebz....
  • Watch a video on how to install the mirror. No exotic equipment is required, just Phillips and flat blade screwdrivers and a 10mm wrench.
  • Locate the part for $37 including shipping. It's in black.
  • Determine the official paint color is #931 "Frosted Iris".
  • Find a local paint shop that will mix 931, which Sherwin Williams will. $31 for paint, sprayer, and gloss coat.
  • Mask the new mirror, then paint, paint, paint, glosscoat, glosscoat.
  • Take out three screws to pull back the door interior
  • Pull out the old mirror's electrical connection; unbolt mirror.
  • Install new mirror, insert make electrical connections
  • Test mirror adjustment, remove masking
  • Tight door panel
Did the painting last weekend; got the mirror installed today, during a break in the rain.


Friday, October 28, 2011

NaNoWriMo Pre-Kick-Off Party

At Kelley's Tavern again this year. Saw some of the same people back again this year.

Still need a plot, but hey, I have days and days before NaNoWriMo actually kicks off.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

St Crispin's Day

October 25th is St Crispin's Day, best known for the Battle of Agincourt although the Battle of Balaclava--known for the stand of the Thin Red Line and the Charge of the Light Brigade--was also on this day. The St Crispan's speech from Henry V :

This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors,
And say, "To-morrow is Saint Crispian."
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, "These wounds I had on Crispin's day."
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the King, Bedford, and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon St Crispin's Day.

The Three Musketeers (2011 version)

I can do no better than to quote Howard "Schlock Mercenary" Taylor:

Once we're done scrolling past a neat, toy-soldiers-on-map version of Europe, The Three Musketeers gives us a steampunk scuba diver emerging from the canals of Venice with repeating crossbows.

Okay, so it's going to be THAT kind of movie. I mean, if this is seventeenth-century Italy we can't even call the scuba rig "steampunk" because there aren't any steam engines yet.

Well, at least your expectations have been set. It's going to be THAT kind of movie. This isn't historical fiction by a long shot. It misses the romanticized historical mark by a wide margin as well. What you've got here is full-on, brass-balls to the clockwork-secret-passage-wall alternate history. And if you can make it past the waterproof repeating crossbows, you're in for a real ride.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gnomes of Zurich part 2

As mentioned a couple of years ago, a lot of the world's capital is controlled by surprisingly few investors. Now a new article lists the top companies and explains why so much money flows through so few connections. It's not a plot by the Illuminati. Well, it's not necessarily a plot. Fnord.

Dead Six

Just got Dead Six, by Larry Correia and Mike Kupari.

From Larry's blog, a description of the book:

The plot is big. The action is big, but we kept it plausible. The tactics/equipment stuff is solid. One of my proof readers is a guy that Jack Bauer would hang out with. We did our homework. Considering that we wrote this years ago and put in the Arab Spring, a narcotrafficante revolution in Mexico, and stealth helicopters, none of which (we knew) existed at the time, I’d say we were at least semi-plausible in our brainstorming process. We took some liberties with reality, all authors do, but we tried not to make them stupid liberties.

Also from Larry's blog, a description of his co-author:
This is Mike’s first book, and it is a darn good one that deserves to be read. For those of you who don’t know, Mike is an EOD Technician, currently defusing roadside bombs in Afghanistan. He will still be in Afghanistan, risking his life and being awesome, when his first novel appears in stores. Places like NPR can talk about thriller writer street cred, but Mike plays high-explosive chess against terrorist IEDs before breakfast. Most first time authors are super excited to do their first book signings, but Mike can’t because he’s deployed… Think about that for a second… He can’t do book signings for the really nifty book he wrote because he is too busy DEFUSING MURDER BOMBS.

For most authors, the most exciting part of our day is when we spill Coke Zero on our keyboard. EOD are complete lunatics that do something so absurdly dangerous that complete snake eating warriors look at them and say "F’ that noise, let the dude in the big suit play with the booby trapped death machine."

Mike is humble. You probably won’t ever hear him talk about that kind of thing. Luckily for him, I’m not humble at all. :-)

The Headlight Saga

Generally I prefer to do a repair myself, if I can, instead of paying someone else to do it. There are times when the frustration level makes me reconsider my decision...
A headlight went out on the van. I've changed headlights before, no problem. Undo the locking ring, pull out the bulb, work the bulb out of the socket, then replace it with a new bulb (being careful not to touch the glass) and re-install. So, feeling confident, I pick up a #9004 bulb, come home, and open the hood. And discover that in this van, there's not enough room to get your hand behind the bulb to pull it out. Do you have to remove the whole headlight? I come inside and hit the search engine. Yes, you have to remove the whole flipping headlight.
And to do that, you need a 10mm wrench. I spray WD40 and tried pliers. No good. I try a 3/8" wrench (about 9.5mm) and a 7/16" (about 11mm). No good. We search the tool closest; no metric wrenches. Okay, back to the shop and get a 10mm wrench. With that, the top bolt and two nuts come off; the third nut is not quite inaccessible but I can only turn the wrench through 16° of arc at a time, so it takes approximately 26 hours of hunching over the car to slowly, slowly work the nut off. Mosquitoes gnaw on me. I finally get the assembly off, pull the locking ring back, and get the bulb out of the socket. Put the new bulb in the socket and test it--yes, it works. Put the bulb in the headlight and try to seat the locking ring. It doesn't seat. Push, twist, turn, no luck. Happy mosquitoes. The sun is setting. Okay, let's take the bulb out of the socket and try this one piece at a time. The bulb doesn't seat. Look at the back side of the headlight--there are three little teeth on the ring, and the bulb has notches which should match those teeth. Twist, rotate, push, no good. The mosquitoes have called their cousins and aunts. I compare the new bulb to the old bulb--the notches are almost, but not quite, identical. It is 5:49 pm. I call the parts store. They're closing at 6pm. Yes, the #9004 is the correct bulb, they say. I drive down (in the other car), arriving at 5:56, and go check the bulbs. Here's a Sylvania 9004, here's another brand, here's a third, the notches are the same on all of them. I look at the original bulb again--hark! It's a 9007, not a 9004! Mystery solved. Do I have the receipt for the original? No...but if you'd like to stay open even farther past your quitting time than it is now, I can go back home and get it. Heh. The kid hands me the new bulb and I return to the van. The bulb slides home, the locking ring locks, the socket snaps in place. Test the light, it works. Put the assembly back in place, tighten the nuts, we're done.
Three morals to the story:
  1. You will solve a problem faster by looking at it and figuring it out, rather than by continuing to try to force it when force didn't work the first time.
  2. Use the right tool. In retrospect, I should have gotten 10mm socket wrench instead of a normal wrench; that would have made two of the nuts a lot easier.
  3. Sometimes you should just pay the shop $25 and let them do it.

Melancholy

There is no greater cause of melancholy than idleness. ”

— Robert Burton

Thursday, October 20, 2011

10 Seconds of My 15 Minutes of Fame:

I got mentioned by Professor Reynolds of Instapundit:

UPDATE: Reader Chris DeBoe writes: “Shades of The Peshawar Lancers by SM Stirling, which posits a comet hitting North America and Europe during Victoria’s reign, and the British government relocating to India. And the Great Game still goes on.” Several readers made that connection, which I should have caught. I read that book and it was good — one of several that made my list of recommended alt-history reading.



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Planning Australia

Diana is already planning our trip to Australia. That didn't take long. (Probably not actually going until March 2012 or so).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Thomas the Rhymer

I'm still not sure what to make of Ellen Kushner's Thomas the Rhymer. It's a retelling of the Childe Ballad story: Thomas meets the Queen of the Elves and asks for a kiss; she takes him to the Fairy Lands to be her lover; seven years later he returns to the mortal lands, with the gift of prophecy. He becomes known as True Thomas--he is unable to say anything except the truth.

It is not epic. No battles, not cast of thousands, no clever system of magic, no life or death decisions. Just a few people, interacting with each other, and one of them is the elf queen. It is definitely not a "buy multiple hardback copies", but then again, not many books get that rating. It is well written, lyrical; certainly the author deserves some support, so it comes in above "buy secondhand" or "check library". I'm going to call it "buy paperback" and expect some disagreement.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Across the Pacific

Josh had intended to fly from LA to Sydney on United, but the flight was overbooked and he didn't make it on. So here he is, solo in LAX, having been awake since 5:30am, and it's now 1:30am the following night (all times in US East Coast time, not local) and no plane. A lot of people would have taken a shuttle to the first available hotel and tried again the next day, but Josh is not willing to be stymied by a little detail like "there are no more planes until tomorrow." He checks other options with United--could he go from LAX to San Francisco and then to Sydney, or from LAX to Auckland to Sydney? United has flights but no spaces that he can use with his ticket. Meanwhile, while he deals with United, he has me check with Qantas; Qantas is excellent and they had a few seats but they don't take stand-bys, the cost of a ticket was $2500, and also he'd only have twenty minutes to get his luggage from United and haul it across terminals to Qantas. That won't do. He gets his gear back from United and marches over to Cathay Pacific. Yes, they'd be happy to book him for tomorrow night. "No", Josh says, "I have no interest in waiting till tomorrow night." Josh had the nickname "Bear" before he was large, bulky and furry; now that he is all of the above, he's even more ursine. He digs his fingers into the counter, leaving claw marks like a grizzly, and glowers with bloodshot eyes glowing red. Oh, well, sir, says Cathay Pacific, actually, we have a flight leaving in half an hour.
Josh got on it. Departed 4:30am Friday, arrived at Hong Kong at 7pm Friday night, changed planes and arrived in Sydney at 6:30am Saturday--I'm assuming that's what Gwen's text "THERE HE IS!" meant. :-)

When he got to Hong Kong he opened a chat to let me know he'd made it.
I replied "Yay! I'll alert the media."
Josh: "Make sure you mention how awesome Cathay Pacific is.
Me: "Will do. I'm proud of your determination on getting a flight."
Josh: "Bear. I just clawed at people until one of them handed me a boarding pass."
Me: "I was going to say you remind me of Mile Vorkosigan"--Miles is a character famous for "forward momentum", being totally focused on his mission and not stopping merely because it's impossible. One of Josh's favorite characters, by the way.
Josh: "Bear Miles. Miles Bearkosigan!"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Departed (or: Reasons to Move to Australia)

Took Josh to Fairfax yesterday, with a stop in Fredericksburg for lunch with his grandparents (who had driven five hours to get to Fredburg), then visiting with a couple of his friends--Caroline, the other Josh, and Richard. Richard came by the hotel and Josh and I may have persuaded him to move to Australia also, using arguments such as:

  • "Hot babes, Richard. Hot. Babes."
  • "You can play seven man Diplomacy and you won't lose any friends over it, because they won't be your friends yet." (Richard said "I'd say you're the only person in the world who would make this argument, but I'm sure your dad would make it too." Which I would).
  • "Australia has a labor shortage."
  • "You're in DC, Richard. Number one target in the world. You know how many terrorist plots have gotten foiled in Melbourne? None. Because there aren't any."
  • "Kangaroo. Kangaroo. Tastes delicious and it's good for you."
  • "No one will mistake you for your twin brother any more."
  • "Close Action. With my brilliant tactics and your Kunkel Fail Field, we'll devastate the opposition. We can even tile the floor with blue hexagons to match the Close Action maps. Close Action, Richard. You know you want it."
  • "Did I mention the hot babes?"
  • "You like wine? You think the Australians export the good stuff?"
  • "Snow? Yes, there's snow. Gwen goes skiing in the Alps. The Australian Alps. Yes, they have them."
  • "Melbourne is one of the top three cities in the world to live in. In. The. World, Richard."
  • "You have a cat? You can bring your cat, but you could also get a wombat. There is no cooler pet than a wombat, Richard. None. But bring your cat carrier if you must."
  • "You can go scuba diving with me."
  • "You don't have to go. Making a decision like this is not for everyone. In fact, millions of people have failed at life and been completely blotted out by the tide of history. No pressure."
  • "You want to climb to the top of a bridge? You can do that. You want an opera house? Got one."
  • "People are going to be lining up for the privilege of being my roommate. There will be fistfights. You know this. You need to get your name on the lease now."
  • "The Great Barrier Reef. It's great. It's a reef. It's a barrier. It has glowing fish. Clams. Purple luminescent clams, Richard. How can you say no to purple glowing clams? And China is close by. You can pop over and see the Great Wall, which is like the Great Barrier Reef was before it got water and fish and was pretty."
  • "Basically, I'm not hearing any reason you should stay, except you don't want your parents upset. But you'll be in Australia. Are they going to call you to fuss about it, at three dollars a minute for a phone call? They are not. Come to Australia, Richard. Coooome .... tooooo ..... Australiaaaa ...."
Richard escaped before actually signing anything but he looked like he was seriously considering it.
We got up at 5:30am, got an approximation of breakfast, and took Josh through the rain to Dulles. He was eager to go; Diana and I got a little misty-eyed but held it together.
Right now he's in Los Angeles, waiting for the plane to Sydney.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Packing

We took Josh to El Taco Loco for his last dinner before departure. The owner sat at our table with us for a few minutes, and paid for Joshua's dinner, and told him to look for a good restaurant location in Melbourne.
Three suitcases and the scuba bag are by the front door.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bookstore

Josh and I went to the used book store on Great Neck at First Colonial. After hunting through the shelves for an hour, he had a stack and we went through them together. "I haven't read any of these. This was good. I know I read that one but I don't recall anything about it. That one was fun to read once, I don't know that it's worth reading twice. That one is a classic but I'm certain you can find it in Oz if you want it." Between the two of us, we got about $60 of books. And one more priceless hour together.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Aqua-Pathan

We went to lunch with Tom Paul and his grandmother at Bubba's, just east of the Lesner Bridge on the Lynnhaven Bay. I had the Bubba burger, which is a hamburger plus bacon, cheese and a lump of crabmeat. The crabmeat doesn't add anything that I can tell; the hamburger is cooked "well done" regardless of whether you wanted it medium or medium well. But it had bacon, so that was a good point.
The view out across Lynnhaven Bay is nice, and you get to see boats motoring right past the restaurant. Josh wants a rowboat with four jet engines, giving a nice healthy power-to-weight ratio. He also wants a sailing yacht, although he's willing to have a couple of propellers below the surface. It should be big enough that he can put his rocket-boat on it. And a helicopter, with should be able to carry a motorcycle. He's going for the triphibian approach. One of the vehicles was also supposed to be submersible but I'm not sure whether that was the yacht or the helicopter...

After that we went to the beach and Josh took half an hour on a jet ski. Zooming along, bounding over the waves like he was riding a horse at full gallop. The Aqua Pathan rides again! There were half a dozen other jet skis out there but it was always easy to tell which one was Josh's. "Which one is going fastest?--that's Josh".
There was a pod of dolphins in the Bay, which we couldn't see from the beach, but Josh did.

We played the Salamanca scenario from Command and Colors Napoleonics again, and Josh's Brits beat my French again.


Concentration of Wealth

"I fear a concentration of wealth, regardless of any improvements alleged to happen because of it."

So we're agreed. The government should be deprived of assets and income. I mean, is there a more frightening concentration of wealth than the state itself, with armed force and law to enforce its monopoly?

--Michael Z Williamson

Friday, October 7, 2011

Lepanto

On this day in 1571, Don John of Austria led a contingent of ships from Spain, Venice, Savoy, Genoa, the Knights of Malta and the Papal States-- 208 ships, 23000 soldiers--against a Turkish fleet of 251 ships and 31500 soldiers. Despite being outnumbered and having a dis-unified command--several of of the factions in his fleet were hostile to each other--the Christian fleet defeated the Ottomans, capturing or destroying over 180 ships and freeing over 8000 Christian galley slaves. It was the last significant naval action fought in the Mediterranean between galleys, and marked the beginning of the end of Ottoman expansion.

Wet suit

We got Josh a wet suit today, as a pre-Christmas present--since Christmas will be warm and sunny in Oz, he should be able to use it then.

I understand the Australian contingent is getting some exotic cable deal so Josh can watch real football and feel a little more at home.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Jobs Agenda - By Kevin D. Williamson - The Corner - National Review Online

A Jobs Agenda - By Kevin D. Williamson - The Corner - National Review Online:

"Once you figure out why your cell phone gets better and cheaper every year but your public schools get more expensive and less effective, you can apply that model to answer a great many questions about public policy. Not all of them, but a great many."
and
"I was down at the Occupy Wall Street protest today, and never has the divide between the iPhone world and the politics world been so clear: I saw a bunch of people very well-served by their computers and telephones (very often Apple products) but undeniably shortchanged by our government-run cartel education system. And the tragedy for them — and for us — is that they will spend their energy trying to expand the sphere of the ineffective, hidebound, rent-seeking, unproductive political world, giving the Barney Franks and Tom DeLays an even stronger whip hand over the Steve Jobses and Henry Fords. And they — and we — will be poorer for it."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sheep

I just found out tonight that Gwen's job at the Aussie Bureau of Agricultural research is....

"everything sheep-related."

Yes, I'm serious.

Those of you who are aware of Found Me A Sheep and related activities may now ROFL.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 Preparation

One month till the beginning of National Novel Writing Month. Get ready now.

Close Action: The Happy Return and Cape Henry

Tracy came from Hampton, and Richard from Fairfax, for Josh's last Close Action games before departing for Australia. Battle reports at for The Happy Return and Cape Henry at Battle Honors

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Robert Gutierrez Jr

"I've seen those types of injuries before and time isn't your friend," said Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez Jr. "I thought, I have three minutes before I'm going to die. I've got to do something big. Based on that time frame, I'm going to change the world in three minutes."
With a softball size hole in his back, broken ribs and shoulder, a collapsing lung, and losing five pints of blood, Gutierrez stayed on the radio, calling in close air support. His actions are credited with saving the lives of his team. He survived, and is being awarded the Air Force Cross for "extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dice

In tonight's replay of Bussaco: Ney's Assault, Josh said "This game convinces me that you do black magic on your dice." That probably implies that Josh is a better player than I am, as with the assistance of dice wizardry I won 7:4 (and if Josh had had one more turn, it would have been 7:5), whereas on the previous game, Josh whipped me 7:2.

Shooting

Josh and I got a shooting lesson tonight at A&P Arms. We each fired at 5 yards, 10 yards and 15 yards with a H&K 9mm. Josh had all but two of his rounds within the red circle, and those two were less than an inch out. My fire was a little more widespread; I'm having a hard time with the "left eye dominant" and "focus on the front sight, not the target" part. More practice...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hazards of Intergenerational Discussion

Overheard phone conversation this evening.
Grandmother: Josh, just be sure to take this relationship slowly.
Josh: How long were you dating Granddaddy before he proposed? It was a week, wasn't it? And how long were you engaged?
Grandmother: It was six months. But actually I just found out from your great grandmother that they got engaged three weeks after they met, and married three months later.
Josh: So, what I'm hearing is, you want me to take it slowly, and I've been dating Gwen for longer than you AND Mema were dating AND engaged, combined, total?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Traits

Josh to Diana: "Have you noticed that sometimes when you say something, Dad and I both look at you....both look at each other...both raise an eyebrow...and both look at you again?"


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Note to self

Do not store kayak face up and uncovered when it is going to be raining for five days.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bussaco

The latest battle report is at Battle Honors.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hard Magic

Hard Magic is a new novel by Larry Correia, not part of the Monster Hunter series. Imagine a gritty 1920s detective / four color superhero novel. Add ninjas and pirates. Actually, add teleporting ninjas dueling airship pirates on a burning zeppelin with a ticking bomb that will take out everything from New York to Savannah if it's not stopped...

Need more? Elitist Book Reviews waxed rhapsodic for several paragraphs, and finished:
When all is said and done, Larry Correia's Hard Magic is one of the most entertaining novels we have read. What's more is that it has all the qualties that make us love Epic Fantasy, only in a Raymond Chandler-esque, noir setting.
Buy it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Braces

Diana got braces today. No photos--at least, none today, but she'll have the braces for two years, so there will be plenty of opportunity for photos later. She said it wasn't painful, just uncomfortable and tiring.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Powwow


The Nottoway Indian Tribe had a powwow to which we were invited. As they were going to have Aztec dancers, and Josh is fond of Aztecs, we went. About an hour and a half drive from the beach, in Surry County. It was a contrast with Arizona--what it felt like was that out there, the people were Indians, whereas here, they were dressing up as Indians. Kind of like going to a medieval reenactment event where some people are in tights and tunics, but others are in jeans.

However, there was a Mexican couple there, who were in Aztec (or Aztec-ish) costume and did some dances. There were no obsidian knives,
sacrificial altars, or manifestations of Huitzilpochtli, but I guess you take what you can get.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What Lucky People Do Differently

What Lucky People Do Differently than Unlucky People:

From LifeHacker

Command and Colors

Josh and I had our first game of Command & Colors: Napoleonics today. His French crushed my Brits, 5:0. The After Action Report is at my new wargaming blog, Battle Honors.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Autumn

A cold front came in with rain, accompanied by rain, followed by rain, and taking a short break for rain. I believe we're going to call this the beginning of Autumn.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Muy delicioso

Josh and Tom Paul went to El Taco Loco. TP said the steak was excellent; I pointed out that, being beef, it was moo-y delicioso.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fantasy Football

Dan Wells talks about Fantasy Football the way it should be.

Command

Josh is working for a HVAC company, doing data entry and bookkeeping. The owner wanted new TV commercials, Josh got involved in editing the script, and ended up being the director for the commercials. When Diana asked Josh what he'd liked most about the experience, he said "Having people do what I tell them." She looked a bit taken aback by that response, but I thought it was eminently in character for him.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Jet ski


Josh is rather fond of jet skis. He's planning on jet skiing across the Pacific; his first apartment is likely to be a refrigerator box in an alley, with room to park a jet ski trailer. So we gave him a couple of jet ski rentals as part of his graduation congratulations. Today was the day to use one, as a father-son bonding experience. I bonded as best I could, but he still managed to jink and swerve hard enough to throw me (unintentionally, no doubt--purely accidental, I'm sure) three times. The first couple of times he stopped and I swam back and climbed back aboard. Unfortunately, the third time around, the sharks got me. That did leave Josh free to rev it up for 65mph, though.

Ten Years Later

I remember where I was on 9-11.
I'd worked at AIN Plastics for five years, leaving in March 2001 to join Jubilee Tech and sell linguistic services. My AIN boss, Brian Inman, had  died of lung cancer, leaving a wife and three boys. His funeral had been the day before.
I was at my desk at work. Business had slowed down as the tech bubble popped and there wasn't much for me to do; the company had been laying people off all summer. Josh was in school. Diana and a friend of hers had left early in the morning to go to some pro-life thing in Washington DC; since she was travelling and I wasn't, she had my cell phone.
When the first plane hit, I assumed it was some idiot in a Cessna who'd done something fatally stupid. When the second plane hit, it sounded as if there was only one plane, with confused reports on which tower it hit. When it finally became clear that it really was two planes, two airliners that had been hijacked and deliberately crashed, most of our staff gathered in the lunch room to watch the TV. I went back to my desk and started trying to call Diana. All lines busy. Redial. The news said maybe 50,000 killed. All lines busy. Redial, redial, redial, redial. Meanwhile I was trying to get to CNN.com or any news site, and they were overloaded. Emailed a friend of mine who lived near DC, in case Diana needed to go to ground there; yes, he said. Meanwhile...Norfolk is a major Navy base; whoever launched this attack has to know that our carriers and Marines will going after them. Unless the attackers do something about it first. Radiological attack? That's what I would do. No word of that, but I was sitting there for a long time, wondering if I needed to just go get Josh out of school and head west. Finally, after 45 minutes of continuously hitting redial, I got through to Diana--she was in DC but hadn't gone past the Pentagon, hadn't seen the crash there, she was okay. Eventually it was clear that the only attack was the four planes; it was ultimately a symbolic attack rather than a strategic one.
And I couldn't help think the events of 9-11 would overshadow our loss of Brian.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

GOP Debate

A response I heard: "Some did better than others, but I'd vote for any one on that stage over Obama. Including the sound tech."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Departure set

Josh plans to leave for Australia on Oct 13. Taking some combination of motorcycle and hang glider to get to Los Angeles, and jetskiing from there across the Pacific (pausing in Kiribati for a bacon, lettuce and bacon sandwich).

Monday, September 5, 2011

Indians

We were at the beach tonight, waiting for fireworks (scheduled for 10pm, we arrived at 9pm and left at 10:45, no fireworks to be seen). Josh walked a few blocks farther down the boardwalk and said he'd seen a bunch of Indian ladies, sitting the beach, waiting for the fireworks.
Me: "So, they were a sari lot?"
Josh punched me.
Me: "I suppose that was a pun-jab?"

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Raiding Borders

Now that Borders' "Going out of Business Sale" is actually giving significant discounts, I picked up Hard Magic, Downbelow Station, Thomas the Rhymer, and Grunts, plus spare copies of Mote in God's Eye and The Sharing Knife

Kangatarian

Josh vows to be a kangatarian. Kangaroo steak, kangaroo sausages (KangaBangas). Hasn't found out whether there are kanga-ribs yet.
Kangaroo
Kangaroo
Delicious and
it's good for you

International Bacon Day

Happy International Bacon Day! (The September one. There's another one in February, because bacon is too good for just one holiday).

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Trip to the Moon

In 1902 Le Voyage dans le lune (A Trip to the Moon)--the first science fiction film--was released in France.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Grand Canyon

This was taken at some point along the Grand Canyon's South Rim. There's smoke from a wildfire on the North Rim.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sunset on Bright Angel Trail

I'd gone down the Bright Angel Trail about 600ft vertically, to the boundary between the Coconino Sandstone and the Toroweap Formation, and was coming back up when I took this shot. It is impossible to convey the scale of the Canyon in a photo.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sunset Crater and Wupatki Ruins



Navajo Reservation Road

There were times when you could look out to the horizon in any direction and see nothing moving. No horses, antelope, cows, or sheep. No birds. No people.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Canyon de Chelly



White House ruins. Hike down from the canyon rim to the floor. Depending on how you measure it, it's 1.5 miles of trail, or 600ft elevation, or 2 hours of hiking, or 900 years of history.
Spider Rock. 800 feet tall. The Navajo say Grandmother Spider lives on the taller spire. I realize this looks like a photo of a model--say, a really good terrain set for a wargame--but I assure you, it's the real thing.



Sunday, August 21, 2011

Canyon de Chelly north rim

Anasazi ruins at the cliff base

Painted Desert

The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, east of Holbrook. This photo was taken with no zoom. That raven did not deign to move until I was within two feet of him.

Wigwam Motel, Holbrook


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Phoenix, Winslow, Holbrook

Phoenix was pleasantly warm (106°) and desert-y, with palm trees in the city and cacti outside. Drove north though Payson, Strawberry, and the aptly named Pine--by that elevation the cacti have given way to pine forest, sometimes with no ground cover, sometimes with sage grass or brush.

Stopped at the Standing on the Corner Park in Winslow, which is actually just a wide
sidewalk with a mural, signpost and statue.

Got to Homolovi Ruins at 4:25. It turns out they close at 5pm, but it only took ten minutes to look at the kiva (uncovered basement) and piles of rocks and some potsherds, and there wasn't anything else to see. It was silent there except for the wind. No people, no cars, no planes, no animals. Except the ranger station, no buildings in sight, all the way out to the horizon. Desolate.
Drove to Holbrook, had a Navajo taco with green chiles at Joe and Aggie's Cafe, and slept at the Wigwam Motel.

Operation Bigditch

Up at 4:15am and onto the plane, ready for departure. I don't seem to have been followed. Well, there was the black Mercedes with tinted windows, but I'm sure that was nothing to worry about.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Device

Friday, August 19, 2011

Packing for Arizona

Getting ready to leave for Arizona. I'll be heading for the airport at 5am,
so I suppose I should finish packing the suitcase; thus far I've mostly been
getting the electronics (and their various chargers) ready.

10,000 views

Today we went over 10,000 page views.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Economic Bad Luck part 2

The President has been blaming our economic woes on "a string of bad luck". Not to say that external shocks don't have an impact, but if the main factor in our economy is luck rather than policy, then it will be hard to Mr. Obama to argue that he deserves to stay in office.
And if the main effect on the economy is policy rather than luck, then it will be hard for Mr. Obama to argue that he deserves to stay in office.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Galaxy Tab

We've been looking at getting another netbook, or an e-reader, or something. I've looked at smartphones before but they're too small for me to type anything other than very brief texts. The Galaxy Tab 7" was the right size; it's normally going for $300-400, but Verizon was offering them for $200, or $150 if you got a pre-owned one, or $130 and free FedEx if you bought it online,or $80 if you entered a promotional code that their LiveChat agent would give you. So, we ordered it Sunday, it arrived today, and I've been playing with it for much of the evening.

It's easier to search Amazon for Kindle titles with a regular computer instead of with the mobile version of the web page, but otherwise...yeah, I can see getting used to this.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Packing List

Things to take to Arizona:

  • Rapier
  • Kukri
  • A pair of pistols, with appurtenances
  • Regency waistcoat, tailcoat, ascot
  • Dehydrated jetski ("just add water")
  • MP3 player with plaintive music
  • MRE: Haggis
  • Vegemite
What else? No need to limit it to TSA-approved items.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

On the opinions of critics


On Monster Hunter Nation, Larry Correia talks about being a Campbell Award nominee:
I am the least favored to win by the literary critical types, (in fact, I’ve seen a few places where they have ranked me #6 out of the 5 finalists) but that’s cool, because I am the only author eligible that has had a gnome fight or trailer park elves. (or as one critic pointed out, I am a relentlessly single tone throw back, and another said that if I win it is an insult and a black mark on the entire field of writing.) SWEET!  I’m so unabashadly pulpy and just happy to entertain, and thus offensive, that I make the inteligensia weep bitter blood tears of rage.
Hell, that alone makes writing books worth it. 
Though the gigantic royalty checks full of money from all of my many bestselling novels is pretty sweet too.
 That's the attitude I like.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Time for Choosing

"The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing."
--Ronald Reagan

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Arizona events

These are some of the events listed in the official Arizona Tour Guide:

  • January: Waste Management Phoenix Open.
  • March: Ostrich Festival
  • June: Arizona Crawdad Festival
  • June: Sheep is Life
  • July: Sidewalk Egg Frying Challenge
  • September: Standin' on the Corner Festival
  • October: International Jet Sports Boating Association World Finals
  • November: Desert Shrimp Fest
  • December: The Great Pinecone Drop
I'm not attending any of these, although I hear taking a jetski at full throttle down the Grand Canyon qualifies you to enter the IJSBAWF.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Antimatter belt

A research team reports that they have detected antiprotons contained in the Van Allen magnetic fields.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

El Taco Loco

My department at work did well last month, so our boss took us out to lunch at El Taco Loco in the Hillltop area. It's in the Hilltop East section, off the main road and behind some other shops, so it's not something I'd be likely to stumble across on my own; but what a find! Excellent food and plenty of it. I had a chimichanga and a sopaipilla, which I'd never had before. In this case it's a flour taco, fried, with cinnamon, sugar and honey on it; it comes out something like baklava except baklava is often to rich, and this was not. I told Josh about this place and he immediately headed off for dinner there. His usual praise for a restaurant is a nonchalant "It was all right", but this one earned a repeated "Awesome!", plus a "this is the restaurant I want to take to Australia."

The nature of reality

I understand that you find reality bizarre. This is not reality’s problem, nor mine.
--Eric S Raymond

Friday, August 5, 2011

Economic bad luck

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

--Robert A Heinlein
(hat tip Instapundit)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Green Lantern

This was a forgettable film. Partly because the lead didn't bring much chemistry to the part; it's hard to believe he's actually a hero. Partly because there were no great lines; the best line we heard was actually in the trailer for another movie. Partly because the writers were confused as to who the villain was; was it the giant space octopus, or the guy on earth? And there's a pacing problem; there's the minor fight where he discovers his powers, another incident which is not all that challenging, and then the fight with the huge planet eating monster.

It wasn't a bad film, exactly. We didn't come out  of the theater saying "That was stupid!" or wishing we had our money back. It just wasn't very good.

Clinton

It is a sad state of affairs when our current administration is so awful that they make me remember fondly the honesty and integrity of Bill Clinton… wow.  Yeah, ponder on that for a second.
--Larry Correia

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Glenlivet

I don't usually drink much--a little wine once in a while, that's all. But I saw a sampler of The Glenlivet and figured I'd give it a try. Twelve year old single malt.
80 proof gets your attention, if you're not used to it. I suppose there are complexities to the taste, but if you go from "hm, tastes like fire" to "hm, mah tongue id numb", I'm not quite certain how you'd appreciate them.

Economic Policy

"All bad economic policy is undertaken by people who are very bright, just not quite as bright as they need to be. Take Keynes, for example. Pretty smart guy, got a lot right, but missed a couple of important details and screwed the whole world for the next hundred years."
--Josh

Lie about how we met

A friend of mine had a Facebook posting: Tell the story of how we met, but lie about it. A little creativity is always good, so...
My brother Jonathan, who is 6 years younger than me, came up with the most inventive one thus far:
I wouldn't say we "met": I knew you before you hatched. I watched over you through your six week juvenile stage, and helped you emerge into adulthood. Then we found a suitable host for you. The rest is Chris-tory. 
 Feel free to add your own versions, in Comments.

Friday, July 29, 2011

US Debt

Here's a visualization of the US debt, at Kleptocracy Education. Hat tip: Barbra.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sheep and intelligence tests

According to this article in Animalwise, sheep are "barnyard brainiacs", and perform as well in some intelligence tests as any non-primate. They're just sneaky enough not to show it...

Heinlein's rules of writing

Five Rules of Success in Writing:

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write
  3. You must refrain from re-writing except to editorial order
  4. You must place it on the market.
  5. You must keep it on the market until sold.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

FantaSci 9

On Saturday I attended FantaSci 9, a mini-convention held at the Chesapeake Library.  I'd guess 300 people participated: vendors from comic shops, authors, members of Star Wars, Star Trek and Resident Evil fan clubs, a couple of zombies, and people wandering in. Some of the people looked a bit silly, but some of them were pretty impressive. There was a tall thin black guy who, as Josh put it, did "Sith" very well; the Umbrella Corporation security team looked good and there was an excellent zombie.
There were three tracks of programs and I was there for the writing, so I sat in on "Worldbuilding" and "Craft, Publishing and Promotion"; the "Grab Your Reader on the First Page" one didn't grab me. The Worldbuilding one  was pleasant; Leona Wisoker was cheerful and organized, with handouts, and I enjoyed getting into the worldbuilding mode for a while.
The Craft, Publishing and Promotion panel also had some information. One of the authors said that his sales were at 2000 for the month of April; went to 17,000 in May, when his publisher made that title available as a Kindle download; and was at 18,500 in June. If you have a series, you can put the first ebook at 99 cents, and the rest of them at $2.99. All three authors on the panel said that you have to sell your own books; the publisher may help some but you can't just hand them the manuscript and expect that they'll do all the heavy lifting. I asked about promoting your books, "what did you discover that you had to do, that you hadn't expected when you got started?", and the answers were, basically, "be outgoing." Leona said that she learned to smile at everyone, including kids; Marshall Thomas said that he found that any time someone walks by your table, you talk to them, hand them something, get their attention. If people meet you at a con and like you, they'll be a lot more likely to read your books. They may not buy them while they're at the con, but they'll download them later.
I have to finish this post now so I can read the first chapter of Secret of the Sands.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Borders Books closing

The local Borders is being liquidated. The store was plastered with signs saying EVERYTHING IN THE STORE 40% OFF !! (some items excepted).  I asked where the Self Help section was, but the clerk said that telling me would defeat the purpose, so I looked around the store. The "some items" which were excepted included Science Fiction (10%), Horror (10%), Writing Instruction (10%), History (10%), Travel (10%), Children's (10%), Adult Games (by which they mean Cataan and Risk and that sort of thing) 10%. There was quite a line at the cash register, but I can tell the difference between 40% off and 10% off, so I didn't join the line to buy anything.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Golden Age of Wargaming

Eric S Raymond argues that the Golden Age of Wargaming is not back in the 70s, when we had PanzerBlitz and Squad Leader and Third Reich and whatever SPI was publishing this week-- it's now. He suggests Conflict of Heroes and Command & Colors: Ancients as examples of games which are successors to the old classics. I'm thinking of adding Conflict (the Kursk one) and C&C Napoleonics to my wish list.

Why the budget talks collapsed

The more detailed version is at Keith Hennessey's blog, but the short form is that Obama didn't stick to what he'd agreed to, and Boehner did. Which is hardly a surprise.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Feeling the heat

Temperature was 100° on my deck at 5:30 tonight. Heat index forecast for today was 110 to 120°. Not bad, if you're just standing around, but I'm glad I wasn't on a construction crew.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

You rock

We had a tough project with a short deadline. I emailed the engineer who was working on it to check whether he would be able to get it done in time. He emailed back that he'd just finished it, and on hearing this news, one of my coworkers said "He rocks!"
So I emailed him back to say "Consensus here is, you rock! I'm just mentioning this in case you feel taken for granite."

Never

Never describe something as "impossible" if it has already happened.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Zoe's fan club

It's 9:45pm and I'm walking the mutt past the pool and back. As I return, three teenage girls come out of the pool gate and see Zoe. "Look!" they cry. "It's my favorite dog!"  Zoe has a fan club.

Clarity vs Disinformation

From comments on Armed and Dangerous:

“He is trying on an Orwellian distortion of the past in order to deform the future.”
Not only is that brilliant writing, but it hits at a core dysfunction in current cultural evolution. The two competing behaviors are clarity versus disinformation. Early in our species development, communication was comparatively slow and clarity conferred an evolutionary advantage to a group’s survival probability, e.g. a shout of warning when danger was near. We now live in a world of hyper-fast communication in which information overload can work against clarity. A small, but growing, segment of the population is experimenting with disinformation as a means of achieving parochial advantage.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Marine Corps Reading List

Here's the list from the United States Marine Corps Professional Reading Program. Hat tip to one of the commenters on Armed and Dangerous.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Warded Man

I'd read Howard Taylor's blog post at Schlock Mercenary about The Warded Man, so I decided to give it a try. It's a standard fantasy world, with medieval technology, basically European / American culture. The difference is that demons materialize out of the ground every night and attack anyone who's not in a warded enclosure. Generally the only people who travel any distance are highly paid Messengers, who put wards in a circle on the ground but still sometimes come to a messy end. The book tells of three children who grow up to be young adults, and how they deal with this state of siege. The characters are interesting, and it's a good first novel.
The main problem with it is that the background doesn't feel realistic. There are five cities, of which one is pseudo-Arab and the rest are Generic Fantasy Culture. Each city has one main economic resource--there's the Forest City, the Mining City, etc. The villages are separated by several days travel, which is why the duchy has daring Messengers to travel among them--but why are they spread out so much, other than to make Messengers necessary? In the Middle Ages, settlements were usually separated by half a mile to two miles, and there's no obvious reason that they couldn't be in this setting as well. And if there was a reason for the villages to be spread out, why don't people build warded inns or forts close enough that no one has to sleep on the road? We discover that a ward has to be uncovered to be effective; its power can be blocked if mud gets on it, or even if a leaf falls on it. Aren't any of the demons smart enough to kick some dirt, throw some mud, toss a tree branch?
It's worth checking out of the library, although I don't think I'd buy a copy again.

AAR: Mars vs French Frigates

Josh and I got in a game of Close Action today, using the "Mars vs French Frigates" scenario. One British ship of the line is chasing four French frigates, which turn to give battle. Historically, the French squadron commander wrote off his slowest ship (which Mars captured) and sailed the other three away without fighting.
Remembering what happened in Pourvoyeuse vs East Indiamen, we decided that Josh would take two of the frigates; I'd take the other two; and we'd each write orders for Mars, with a die roll deciding which orders would go into effect each turn. This resulted in less trash-talking than usual, but I think it's the best way to handle this type of scenario.
The problem Mars has in this scenario is that the frigates all together have about twice the firepower and twice the ability to soak up damage. The problem for the frigates is that they have to coordinate well, despite very little ability to communicate. If they can maneuver so they all have clear shots on Mars, the frigates win; if they get in each others' way, Mars can take down one frigate at a time.
The frigates divided into two pairs, with one pair going upwind and the other downwind. Mars jinked upwind,  getting into firing range on turn 3, then sailed through the frigates, and back around, twisting and turning to try to get good shots. On turn 11, Mars turned into the wind but failed to complete the tack, and just sat there, immobile; on turn 13 she still couldn't make the tack--there was only a 4% chance to fail twice, but she did. Since she couldn't move, the frigates closed in, surrounded her and hammered her.
Getting clear firing lines with the frigates was harder than we expected; they got a total of 21 shots in 13 turns, including four on turn 13; when Mars was able to maneuver, the frigates were only getting in 1.7 shots per turn. In contrast, once Mars got in range, there was only one time that she wasn't able to fire.
We were amused to note that in 11 turns when Mars had meaningful maneuver options, Josh and I each gave Mars the identical order three times, and nearly identical orders a couple of times more.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Conquistador

I bought S M Stirling's novel Conquistador, mainly because I loved his The Peshawar Lancers.
The premise is that an invalided soldier from WW2 accidentally creates a portal to a world in which Europeans never made it to the Western Hemisphere. He gathers a few of his former troops, and they secretly colonize the alternate California. There are factions among the colonists, and after a couple of generations, there's some plotting which might reveal the secret of the Portal. Our hero, a game warden, stumbles into this and gets embroiled in the infighting.
As I noted previously, the great thing about Peshawar Lancers was the flavor of his version of Victorian India--the feeling that there is a whole world going on around the character, with a richness of detail. Conquistador doesn't have the same amount of texture. Of course, part of that is because Conquistador largely takes place in a new world, so it's entirely justifiable. I should also point out that "not as much as Peshawar" means "not as much as one of my favorites." I've read a number of fantasy novels which were passable but felt like the history, geography and culture took less than a day to work out. Conquistador doesn't have that problem.
One problem that I did have with it was not its fault. Once I realized the situation was "a limited group of people can travel to another world, and their families control society", I felt some distaste for the book. I eventually realized that this was because the premise is very similar to Family Trade, which I'd read and disliked. If you've read the Stross book, don't let it taint Conquistador, which I found to be much better.

Education

Our school system doesn't do a great job at teaching; part of this is because the subjects aren't as relevant as they could be. Realistically, who needs to know how to diagram a sentence?

Here are some classes I wish we'd had in high school:

  • Home and auto repair and maintenance
  • Nutrition, cooking, and health
  • Economics and behavioral econ
  • Finances, budgeting, and banking
  • Politics and propaganda

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Guns of August Convention

The Old Dominion Military Society is having a gaming convention in Williamsburg Virginia,  August 12-14.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Great Blue Heron

Gunwalker scandal

As Larry Correia (best-selling novelist and former gun shop owner) put it:

As a novelist, if I were to write a thriller in which a federal law enforcement agency knowingly allowed and even encouraged thousands of American guns to cross the border to arm Mexican drug cartels, in an effort to pad their stats to push for more gun control laws, even though innocent Mexican citizens and a US Border Patrol agent were killed in the process, and afterward there would be a huge cover up that went all the way to the President… I know some reviewers would say that my plot was silly, just some naive right-wing fantasy.
Yeah… You got me there. Surely no federal agency would be that stupid. Surely nobody in Washington would arm brutal drug cartels just to push their own politics.
Nope. That’s crazy talk. [...]
This is bigger than Watergate. A crime was committed in Nixon’s administration and he tried to cover it up. The same thing is happening here. But at least in Watergate, nobody got killed.
As The Professor says, read the whole thing.