The Biological Differences Between Men and Women


Posted on : 7/10/2019 04:02:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

I ran across this item that is posted on Reddit.  The graph is from a large scale study of the American public.  The data illustrates the relative strength between men and women in the US.

The Reddit entry, with the study data and description, are here.

Click to embiggen

This was a part of Megan McArdle's longer discussion about the pay of the US Women's National Soccer Team relative to the USMNT.  The thread extends for quite a while, and she makes some great points.

Mostly I'm just saving this for future reference.  The folks in Reddit's Data is Beautiful do an outstanding job of presenting complex information in a manner that is easy for almost everyone to understand.

Review: Revenant Gun


Posted on : 6/28/2019 03:40:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Revenant Gun Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a solid 3-star, DNF review.

I was reading this book for the 2019 Hugo Awards.

This book is a fantasy novel dressed up as MilSF. While there are military related elements involved (as in some sort of space navy), there isn't really much about actual military service. And the "sci-fi" elements involve physics/reality being shaped by local beliefs/customs. That is more fantasy than anything else.

While it is reasonably well written, I just didn't care about any of the characters in the story. I didn't care who won. I didn't care who lost. Whatever the outcome, it was bound to be trouble for everyone else.

The combination of the faux-MilSF story coupled with characters that were not engaging caused me to put this book aside. I have a lengthy TBR pile and need not waste time with something as disinteresting as this was for me.

For the record, this is going in 5th position on my ballot. Definitely below "no award" as it is not up to the standards of past winners.

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Review: Grunt Life


Posted on : 6/28/2019 01:29:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Grunt Life Grunt Life by Weston Ochse
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a solid 3-star review.

I heard about the book via an author panel that was rebroadcast on The Horror Show with Brian Keene Podcast. Weston's perspective as a fellow vet sounded interesting.

The premise of the book is that a shadowy organization is assembling vets to fight a pending alien invasion of earth. All of the vets are troubled to the point of attempting suicide. PTSD is very common. Guilt over the deaths of others (combat, non-combat accidents, etc.) is almost universal.

The shadowy organization "saves" the vets from suicide, provides a cover story (faked suicides being common), and then takes the vets to a facility where they work through their issues. Or they don't.

Those that survive the process are built back up into combat teams. The invasion comes and this private military is deployed.

What the author gets right is the relationships between vets; also the relationship between the vets and those they serve. Those conversations really get to the meat of how vets relate to one another and the rest of the world. The other feature that the author handles very well is PTSD and survivor guilt.

What holds this book back are the lengthy internal monologues, using a single POV when there are so many interesting characters present, devolving into gun porn - military formation porn - and overuse of military jargon, and lastly moralizing about corporate/military vendor profits.

At some point, the detailed description of which type/model weapon is strapped to what piece of armor in which specific configuration is just boring detail that gets in the way of the story being told. People with lots of trigger experience might enjoy seeing the MP5 called an MP5 on successive pages.

The same thing applies to unit configuration/designations.

In terms of interpersonal relationships, internal motivations, and a good sci-fi premise, this book has a lot to offer. It also carries some baggage that can get in the way of the story.

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Review: Spinning Silver


Posted on : 6/07/2019 06:31:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Spinning Silver Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ms. Novik is a fabulous and inventive author.

This could have been just another re-telling of an old faery tale with some sort of modern twist. And to be fair, there are lots of points in the story where you feel like you are revisiting an old faery tale; Rumplestiltskin being the first obvious one.

But those old tales are the bones of the story. Ms. Novik arranges those bones in a way so that when wrapped with the rhetorical meat of the tale, her story is something completely unique.

She utilizes several different POV characters. Most of the story is told through the eyes of about half a dozen characters with another half dozen (or so) that fill in along the way.

There are several characters that act as antagonists along the way. Yet they have their own perspectives in which their actions are revealed as defensible even if they aren't pleasant. Most antagonists get a shot at redemption; most are successful in unique ways.

I read this book as part of preparing for voting for the Hugo Awards (2019). This book will be in first place on my ballot.

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ETA - This is a 5 star review...not 0 stars!!

Review: Trail of Lightning


Posted on : 4/23/2019 04:08:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Trail of Lightning Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a 5-star review. I read this book as part of the 2019 Hugo Awards for the best novel category.

Trail of Lightning offers a unique take on post-apocalyptic tales. The big "what if" is what if the world ends and the gods of the indigenous peoples of the US (and presumably elsewhere) return. How do those people use their folklore to reconnect their gods and their tribal powers? What if that folklore represented what those people could actually do in the years before the Americas were colonized?

The author appears to have done her homework on representing tribal perspectives in a way that seems respectful and authentic.

One facet of her story that rings true is how power is used with an eye towards benefitting the tribal leadership structure rather than serving the broader tribal membership.

The larger narrative was about a tribal monster hunter....ahem....hunting monsters. They had been created by someone with access to a lot of power. She has to chase down the identity of the one creating the monsters. She occasionally runs into gods (demi-gods?) who have their own agenda. And eventually, she has to discover how she had been used (and abused) as a pawn in a larger game.

This book sucked me in and would not let me go. When I start ignoring the world around me in favor of a book, I know I've found a book with a very well told story. This is precisely such a book.

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Review: The Flipside


Posted on : 4/16/2019 03:01:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

The Flipside The Flipside by Jake Bible
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great execution of a fantastic premise. Time travel has burbled up in select locations around the world. If you are in that location at the right time, then you will "flip" back to the age of dinosaurs. Dinos in the same locations "flip" forwards in time to join us.

And while this phenomenon provided interesting research and sightseeing opportunities, what happens when it stops working as predicted? What happens when you get stuck in the past with a bunch of hungry dinos and no idea when reinforcements will arrive?

What if the phenomenon stopped working because someone has found a way to control it to their advantage.

A nice range of characters invested in their own survival. Lots of interesting back stories.

Just a nicely told tale. This is an author to watch in the future.

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On A Monodirectional Discussion


Posted on : 4/15/2019 08:19:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

I was a part of a discussion in an online forum recently.  This was a forum oriented on the SF/F genre.  Conversations can and will run beyond that topic.  Most active participants in that forum tend to lean at least a little to the left.   I am frequently the lone [libertarian/conservative voice. -ed.]

Another participant tossed out a reference to the Koch brothers for their political contributions.  I responded with a reference to George Soros and his political contributions.

The response [to my response -ed] was to implicate that offering George Soros' name was in some way racist or was treading on racist ground.  My conversational partner went on to indicate that they had said that the statement was racist, not that I was racist.

The difference between those two is, in my opinion, diaphanous at best.  From my perspective, the suggestion that a given comment is racist is nearly the same as indicting the commenter racist.

I am not a racist.  There was nothing in my comment to suggest otherwise.  The factual observation that George Soros donates to left-wing causes is not racist in any way.  I objected to the allegation and indicated that I would appreciate a retraction.

A few days later and a robotic Israeli spaceship lander crashed while attempting to land on the moon.  Another individual in the same forum made a "joke" about the moon participating in the BDS movement.  The response from the active participants to this patently racist reference?


I'm not naming the forum nor the participants as a dog pile isn't really what is needed.

The ability to criticize one's ideological compatriots when the cross the line of civility is.

Review: Space Opera


Posted on : 4/14/2019 10:34:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , , , , ,

Space Opera Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a 2-star, DNF, Dorothy Parker review. That is a thoroughly accurate representation of my experience.

Minor spoilers ahead. Nothing that will ruin the plot as this one flew across the room in the fifth chapter.

Read as a part of evaluating the finalists for the 2019 Hugo award for "Best Novel". Selected as my first novel this year at random.

John Scalzi blurbed the book as:

"As if Ziggy Stardust went on a blind date with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, then they got smashed and sang karaoke all night long. Cat Valente is mad and brilliant and no one else would have even thought of this, much less pulled it off."

Surprisingly, I've not bothered to read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. But I've read lots of other humorous and/or off-beat works. They can be fun.

And I enjoy listening to David Bowie along with a lot of other musical oddities. So again, this sounds like it could be fun.

I was already more motivated to write about this book rather than reading it by chapter 3. The first two chapters were filled with the message that humanity is not the sole sentient species in the universe. The other species think their expression of sentience is the gold standard of sentient life. Everyone else is "meat".

And some gratuitous slagging of Enrico Fermi.

Lots of extended exposition that does a lot of "telling" and not very much "showing".

The story does not improve when we begin to meet our erstwhile protagonists in chapter 3. They are rock stars of mediocre wattage that over-imbibe in various mind-altering substances and glam rock style makeup. The lead singer seems inspired by the pastiche of David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. But those two were wholly likable. Little work is done to create a connection between the reader and the protagonists.

Chapter 4 is filled with the "wacky" efforts of one of the afore-mentioned sentient aliens (an Esca) to communicate with every inhabitant of planet the same time.

Essentially, the major sentient life-forms have decided that humanity is sufficiently advanced to be invited to a galactic sing-off where humanity isn't expected to win and will be thoroughly obliterated if they don't manage to be sufficiently entertaining. You see, these major sentient species had an ugly war in the past. And they decided a dance/sing-off was a better method for resolving difference? Put a pin in that for a minute.

The book blurbs suggested that this book was funny. And there were a few amusing moments. Nothing nearly as amusing as the works of Robert and Lynn Aspirin or Piers Anthony.

In chapter 4 there is a passage where the Esca is using familiar mental images (parents, a friendly waitress) to break the news to all of humanity that their collective lives are on the line.

Perhaps because, no matter their luck in life, they knew in their bones that at least they were better than the kid who brought them their steak medium, not medium-rare, and so could cling to the idea that humans were still the ones being served with a smile, the ones who were always right, the ones with a place at the table, not a place at the dishwasher, for a few precious minutes longer.

Hogwash. Most people appreciate waitstaff because we have had that sort of crappy job. We sympathize with the person that has a crap job and still does their best at it...just like we did.

Later on the Esca is defending the intergalactic sing-off with:

We have a responsibility to those who were here already when that chap with fangs and fur turned up pretending to be civilized.

Is the author actively supporting immigration restrictions, colonialism, and mass slaughter of aboriginal peoples?

By the time I made it to chapter 5, I'd had enough. The text heaps derision on the idea of the individual; at one point the Esca indicates that they had a "problem with libertarians", but they eventually pulled it out.

The entire history of the science fiction and fantasy genre is filled with authors illustrating the efforts of individuals to struggle against and hopefully break the efforts of the collective to make the collective's definitions of "acceptable" to be the only acceptable standard for every individual's behavior. If there is a sub-text to the sf/f genre, it is one of extolling the individual above the desires of the collective.

This novel didn't go into the Dorothy Parker bin because of all those nitpicks. The nitpicking was an indication of a book that contained serious flaws. Extensive exposition, protagonists with few features to base a connection, the humor was barely there, and other general editing flaws (i.e. we are told that the Esca refer to themselves as a "choir" only to have a later self-reference be to "the Esca". The editor was either absent or ignored in this book.

Back to that "pin".  The book does have the nut of a good idea worth exploring.  How do we treat less advanced civilizations?  Should we intrude on peoples that do not have a desire for our level of technology and force them to demonstrate an ability to be "civilized" according to our tastes?  It is [Is it] legitimate to shield ourselves from civilizations that might pose a lethal threat?  Interesting ideas coupled with a less than stellar execution.

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