Review: The East Witch

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Posted on : 4/09/2021 05:10:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

The East WitchThe East Witch by Cedar Sanderson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Only was able to manage a few chapters with such a cardboard main character. I was interested in experiencing this author's work. They may have other works that are great. This one...not so much.  Dorothy Parker came-a-callin'!

View all my reviews

A Lincoln Cavalryman - Edwin Savacool

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Posted on : 3/26/2021 08:48:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

 A Lincoln Cavalryman - Edwin Savacool

There was some research of Captain Edwin Savacool required for my post on American soldiers associated with Jackson County (MI) that have received the Congressional Medal of Honor.  He started as a private in a cavalry company that was formed in Marshall, Michigan.  He was initially denied enlistment due to his small stature.  Savacool's fellow soldiers conspired to hide his presence in the unit until it was too late.  Their officers eventually relented and he remained with the company that was eventually formed into a brigade known as The Lincoln Cavalry.  

Below is an excerpt from a 19th-century book on The Lincoln Cavalry.

You will note that the term "fac simile" is used to describe the money that the Union soldiers used when they were in the Confederacy.  This was counterfeit scrip printed by the Union to devalue the southern currency.  As an enlisted soldier, Edwin Savacool became a talented scout who would range ahead of his unit obtaining intelligence about Confederate units.  He used the fac simile scrip to purchase food and supplies from southerners as it was deemed easier than simply taking those goods from the Southerners.  

You may note that in the passage below that they purchased a young slave boy using the fac simile script, brought him back to the unit, and then set him free.

It should also be noted that the passage that follows comes from the 19th century.  Language is used that might offend those immature enough to recognize it for what it is; a sign of the times from which this passage comes rather than an excuse to insult and dismiss old-fashioned people for using old-fashioned language during an old-fashioned time.

As a final note, it would seem that much of Edwin Savacool's time as a scout was spent dressed in Confederate grey.  He would approach through guile and then take prisoner members of the Confederate forces.  At one point, Edwin Savacool dressed as a Confederate postal carrier; collecting and delivering the mail as a means of gathering useful intelligence.

Such behavior by modern military forces is frowned upon by the Geneva Conventions.  Such actions can get someone dead in a hurry.  I suppose the same could be said during the Civil War.  The primary difference being that the official stance of our modern military leadership is officially far less accepting of such behavior than was the case 150 years ago.

The following passage comes from "The bravest five hundred of '61. Their noble deeds described by themselves, together with an account of some gallant exploits of our soldiers in Indian warfare. How the medal of honor was won" by Theophilus Rodenbough that was published in 1891.  I accessed an electronic copy that is maintained by the Cornell University Library via Archive.org.

The following excerpt is from pages 272 to 280.  The wound received at Soldier's Creek would take Edwin Savacool's life a few weeks later.  The details of his actions at Soldier's Creek are regrettably thin.

[The preceding has been modestly edited for clarity.]

The following text has been edited in a couple of spots where the OCR software severely mistranslated some text but is otherwise unchanged from the original.

------------------------

" The regiment reported for duty to General Franklin the day after the battle of Bull Run. Their first collision with the enemy occurred during a reconnoissance made by Capt. Boyd's troop near Pohick Church, Va. Although the ' Lincolns ' retained possession of the field, they lost one — Private Jacob Erwin — killed. It is claimed that he ' was the first cavalryman killed in defense of the Union, and this the first charge made by volunteer cavalry in the war, on the Federal side.' " 

The regiment, although designated the " First N. Y. (Lincoln) Cavalry " was not, especially, representative of the Empire State, comprising companies from New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan, with a personnel of every nationality on the face of the globe, of which perhaps fifty per cent, were Americans. 

Passing over the service of this body of horse under McClellan on the Peninsula, Milroy in the Shenandoah Valley, and Meade in Pennsylvania, during which it made a reputation on both sides of the line for great efficiency in partisan warfare and invaluable service in procuring information of the enemy's movements, the Lincoln cavalrymen returned to the Valley once more, to become a thorn in the side of the Confederacy. Major Stevenson says of them in concluding his stirring record : 

" During their term of service they had marched thousands of miles; had killed and wounded hundreds of the enemy; and had captured about 4,000 prisoners, 3,000 horses, 400 wagons, 4 cannons, 1,000 muskets, 2,000 revolvers and 700 sabres." 

Where all were brave it is difficult to pick out one deserving especial notice. Yet such an one there was, and one or two incidents in his career will serve to illustrate the character of the service and the sort of mettle required from a " Lincoln cavalryman." Again we quote from the regimental history : 

" After being in the ' valley ' awhile, our men became so familiar with every road and path that we dispensed with the citizens, and organized a band of scouts from the men of our regiment. We had a. number of brave fellows to whom adventure and danger were a pleasant excitement, and we soon had a body of the best scouts in the army. The principal men among them were Savacool, Atkins and Vosburg, of Company K ; Peavy and Valentine, of Company B ; and Forkey, Dunn and the Goubleman brothers, of Company D. On one occasion a party of these men went clear down to North Carolina- They had plenty of Confederate money, which they procured from Philadelphia, in sheets, for a trifling sum; the words ^ fac simile,' printed at the bottom of each note, so that it could easily be cut off. This money was pronounced genuine by the cashier of the bank at Winchester, and passed current everywhere in Rebeldom. The boys always had plenty of poultry, eggs, butter, milk, etc., when on scout, without the trouble of taking them. They bought them, and were always welcomed by the inhabitants. 

" On the trip to North Carolina, the boys brought back a lot of fine horses and a negro whom they had purchased from his master for three thousand dollars "fac simile.' The poor darkey was astonished when he found himself in the camp of the Yankees, a free man. 


" Savacool went through the valley as a mail carrier, collecting letters at all the houses, and much information was obtained in this way. On. one of his trips he met Gilmer's battalion, and could not hide, so he boldly faced the music. He had captured many of these men, and was afraid some of them would recognize him. Gilmor quizzed him closely, but his suspicions were allayed by Savacool taking a letter from his pouch addressed to Gilmor himself. It was from a lady in Winchester, and he was so well pleased with the contents that he gave Savacool a pull at his canteen of apple-jack. He then informed Savacool that they were on their way to burn the bridge of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad over Back Creek. 

" Savacool had no sooner got away from them than he made a detour, and rode for Martinsburg with all haste to inform Colonel McReynolds of what he had heard. Captain R. G. Prendergast was immediately sent to Back Creek Valley with one hundred men to look after the bridge-burners. Fifty of the men were from our regiment, and fifty from the Twelfth Pennsylvania Cavalry under Captain Henry. 

" Prendergast, learning that the party were concealed in a piece of woods, disposed of his men so as to cut off retreat, and then charged into the ambush, capturing Captain Blackford and his lieutenant, and thirty men with all their arms, besides thirty-six horses with their equipments complete. 

" On our way up the Valley, Sergeant Edwin F. Savacool of Company K, of our regiment, was in the extreme advance, as he usually was, dressed in a full suit of Confederate gray, and ' roped in ' several prisoners. 

" Between Berry ville and Millwood he found a fine horse with full set of military equipments, tied to a fence, and his rider up a tree picking persimmons. He hailed the ' Johnny ' and told him he had better get down, as the Yankees were coming up the road from Berryville. 

" The fellow showed great alacrity in descending from the tree, but when he attempted to get his horse, Savacool pointed his revolver at him and informed him that he was a prisoner. ' That's bad,' said the Johnny, heaving a sigh, and at once handed over his arms and accoutrements. Savacool turned his prisoner over to the first men who came up, and passed on ahead as before. 

" On arriving at the Shenandoah River, near Front Royal, he learned from a negro that young Baylor, of Mosby's gang, was at his mother's house, on the point of land between the forks of the river, which meet at that place- It was known as Richards' Farm House, Mrs. Baylor having married Mr. Richards. As Savacool entered, with cocked revolver, the inmates were much surprised, as they thought he was a Confederate soldier, on account of his clothing. 

" While the old lady was talking to him, her son edged up and made a spring for his throat, at the same time grasping the pistol with one of his hands. Savacool pulled the. trigger, causing the hammer to come down on Baylor's thumb, and he let go his hold and jumped behind his mother. She then begged Savacool not to shoot him, which he promised not to do, provided he would quietly surrender. This Baylor agreed to do, and Savacool took a seat, pistol in hand, to await the arrival of our troops. 

" The old lady got up on a chair and began to rummage the shelves of a closet, and Savacool noticed her putting something behind her as she turned to get down. His suspicions were aroused, and he told her to show her hands. She did not obey, but kept backing towards her son, and Savacool told her to halt or he would blow her son's brains out. 

" She then burst into tears, and begged him not to kill them, as she produced a small revolver from behind her back. At that moment we rode up, and Baylor was placed under guard ; his mother begging of us to treat him kindly. If I am not mistaken he slipped away from the guard that night at Strasburg, and made his escape. 

" Edwin F. Savacool was, in many respects, one of the best, if not the very best soldier in our regiment. If any man ever possessed a ' heart that knew no fear,' that man was Savacool. His modesty was equal to his courage, and it was a long time before his merits were properly recognized. 

" He enlisted as a private in the first one hundred cavalry that left New York, and was transferred to the New York Lincoln Cavalry. He was promoted to a lieutenancy, in 1864, for his daring conduct in capturing, single-handed, the notorious Blackford, and for other daring deeds was soon promoted to a captaincy. He brought into camp, in two years and five months, single-handed, 72 prisoners. Within five months he had five horses shot under him. On the day before he was wounded the horse, which he rode, received seven balls. 

" His services, and the severe wound he had just received won for him a commission ; and the colonel presented him with a costly pair of shoulder straps, in the presence of General McClellan, at our re-enlistment reception in New York, after overwhelming the poor fellow with praise, which confused and frightened Him more than ' grim-visaged war ' had ever done. 

" On another occasion. Sergeant Charles N. Warren, of Company K, and a man named Hogan, were in advance of the advance guard, dressed in Confederate gray. On entering Newtown they went into a house and inquired if any of their men (meaning Confederates) were in town. 'What do you belong to?' said the lady of the house. 'We belong to Gilmor's battalion,' was the reply. She then informed them that Captain Blackford and half a dozen of his men were around the corner, in ' Aunt Mary's,' getting supper. This was a little inn kept by a widow lady, who went by the above name. 

" On hearing this, Warren rode back to meet the column, and told Sergeant Savacool, who was that day in command of his company, and these two, accompanied by several others, set out at a gallop to look after Blackford. (This is the same Blackford who was captured in Back Creek Valley with his company, in the previous September; but had escaped from Fort McHenry a short time afterwards.) 

" The approaching horses were heard by Blackford and his men, and they got out of the back door into the garden, and hid among the currant bushes. On entering the house Savacool inquired where Blackford and his men were, and ' Aunt Mary ' stoutly denied having seen them. 

" Savacool and his men then passed through the house into the garden, and began a search. The 'Johnnies' were concealed in the farther end ; but fearing discovery, they broke cover, jumped over the garden fence, and made for the pines. Our men gave chase, firing at them and commanding them to surrender. Blackford was on top of the fence, and shouted, ' I surrender,' and the soldiers advanced to take him ; but the moment they lowered their pistols he leaped from the fence and ran for his life. Warren had captured one of the Johnnies, and was taking him back to the house, while Savacool pursued Blackford, each firing at the other as rapidly as they could. At length Blackford was hit, and then he turned on his pursuer like a stag at bay. Savacool stopped also, and both took deliberate aim, each at the other. Both fired and both fell together. 

" Warren was just returning, after having delivered his prisoner, and on reaching Savacool he found he had been shot in the thigh, and seriously though not dangerously wounded. Blackford called for help, and Warren ran to him and gave him a drink from his canteen ; but he was mortally wounded and died in a very few minutes. 

" By this time many of our men had reached the scene of this fatal duel, and Blackford's body was carried up to 'Aunt Mary's' and laid upon the table from which he had eaten his supper about fifteen minutes before. Such is War." 

On the morning of April 6, 1865, Lee's columns were discovered at Sailor's Creek, on a road leading directly to Burk's Station, on the Danville Railroad, which point they still hoped to make ; but the Sixth Corps, under General Wright, was ready to dispute the way, and a battle was begun by the enemy in order to force a passage. 

At this battle Custer's division again covered itself with glory. The First New York (Lincoln) Cavalry were the first to enter the enemy's lines, and in so doing the brave and intrepid Captain Edwin F. Savacool was seriously wounded at the moment he snatched the first Confederate battle flag from the hands of its bearer. 

Want of space prevents us from dwelling upon this soldier's service on this day, for which a Medal of Honor was conferred. Suffice it to say that as private, sergeant, lieutenant or captain, he had always done his whole duty. He was foremost in every action, inspiring his men with enthusiasm to follow where it was possible for soldiers to go. 

In his simplicity, manliness, and straightforwardness; in his discreet but fearless bravery, that won for him the admiration even of his enemies; in his large heart, with an intense hatred of the Rebellion, yet so full of generous impulses and fervent love of country, we recognize the character of a true hero and patriot.

Medal of Honor - Jackson, Michigan

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Posted on : 3/25/2021 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

On this year's Medal of Honor Day, I'd like to present the men with a relationship to Jackson County that have received our nation's highest military honor.  Some were born here.  Others came here after their respective conflicts had ended.

Should you follow the links to their respective profiles, you will find dramatically different actions that qualified each man performed that led to their being awarded the Medal of Honor.  I find the actions of SSgt James Bondsteel to be of particular note.

Jackson County (MI) Medal of Honor Monument

Jackson County (MI) Medal of Honor Monument - Detail

Jackson County veterans dedicated our Medal of Honor monument almost a decade ago on Veteran's Day of 2011.  At the time, Blackman Township was looking to rename the former Holiday Inn Drive due to the fact that the Holiday Inn structure had been sold and renamed with the new Holiday Inn being located a few miles away.  The decision to rename the road as Bondsteel Drive was not universally well-received.  One business located on the road objected and on the day of the dedication refused to allow veterans to use their parking lot for the half-hour ceremony.

The four men currently honored on the monument are:

William H. Withington

William H. Withington led one of the first contingents of volunteers to respond to Abraham Lincoln's call for units to serve in the Civil War.  Capt. Withington fought at the First Battle of Bull Run where he saved a fallen Union general and was taken captive.  After being released in a prisoner exchange, Withington returned to Michigan and enlisted in the 17th Michigan Infantry as a Colonel and fought in three major Civil War battles.  He received the Medal of Honor for his actions at Bull Run.

Withington is of particular note in Jackson's history.  He was an industrialist that formed and ran many companies.  The most significant company would eventually be named the Sparton Corporation after Withington and later company executive William Sparks.  The company left Jackson in 2009.

Withington is honored in the area by the city's football field (Withington Community Stadium) as well as a city park that is home to the county's veterans memorial (Withington Park).

Frederick A. Lyon

As a Corporal in the US Army, Federick Lyon halted an ambulance that was part of a general Confederate retreat from the battle of Cedar Creek.  The ambulance happened to be transporting Confederate General Stephen Ramseur and two other officers.  He and a fellow soldier took the group along with the regimental colors prisoner and returned them to the Union side.

Edwin F. Savacool

Captain Savacool fought in the last major battle of the Civil War at Sailor's Creek, VA.  He was one of many who captured the battle colors (and thus the command) of Confederate Units on that day.  He was wounded during the fighting and died nearly two months later.  The Jackson native was originally interred in Marshall, MI but his remains were later relocated to Detroit.  You can read more about Captain Savacool's interesting history here.

James Bondsteel

SSgt Bondsteel was serving with Company A, 2nd Bn, 2nd Infantry, 1st Infantry Div in Vietnam when his unit was called to support another unit that was under fire from an NVA battalion.  During the action, SSgt Bondsteel personally destroyed ten enemy bunkers and one machine gun emplacement.  He was wounded during the four-hour action yet still came to the aid of a wounded officer.  SSgt. Bondsteel refused medical treatment and continued to organize and lead his unit until they were properly relieved.

After the service, Jim Bondsteel became a counselor for the Veterans Administration.  He was killed in a logging truck accident in Alaska where his remains were interred.  He is honored with a memorial at the Alaska Veterans Memorial in the Denali State Park and with the naming of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo.

Alaska Veterans Memorial Marker

His life was recalled in a 2018 article in the Hillsdale (MI) Daily News.  He is also remembered on a personal website.

Physicality - Men and Women

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Posted on : 3/16/2021 06:00:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

When I served in the Corps back in the day, one of my friends was roughly 5'-6 to 5'-8 and weighed 140-150 lbs.  Another friend who was over 6'-0 had to be in the 220 lbs range.  Neither (to the best of my knowledge) was the second incarnation of Bruce Lee, but they were tough enough.

Put them in a ring and who would you put money on?  

There is a recurring debate about the differences between men and women.  Differences that are driven by biology, genetics, science.  The latest iteration of the debate was kicked off by a Tucker Carlson rant about the military services creating uniforms (including flight suits) for pregnant service members and plans to alter hairstyles for women.

For the record, I don't care about those changes.  I wouldn't want a pilot to be in a dogfight performing high g maneuvers in an F-35 and 8 months pregnant.  It wouldn't be safe for anyone.  Take the same pilot several months later and the situation wouldn't be safe for just one person; the idiot that took their plane off the runway to engage a US pilot - any US pilot - flying our best fighter in the first place.  And hair is just hair.  A hairstyle is fine as long as it doesn't interfere with mission accomplishment.  Women have wanted to wear ponytails and/or braids in uniform for a long while.  Keep it neat, clean, and out of the way and it's fine.

I served with many women who were outstanding Marines.  Tucker's rant was poorly aimed at best.

So what does physical capability have to do with uniform/hair regulations?  Nothing.

But debates over uniforms and hairstyles (and a couple of other topics) inevitably wander into the physical capabilities of men relative to the same capabilities of women.

There is a difference that some people do not want to acknowledge  They will deflect the issue by pointing out women at the upper end of the bell curve such as Rhonda Rousey or Gina Carano.  Again, for the record, I wouldn't have wanted to climb into the ring with either of those women when I was in my prime.  They are indeed at the top end of the bell curve of physical fitness for women.  They individually outclass the majority of men in both physical fitness and fighting ability/preparation.

Let's start with some basics; average height and weight.  Men are, on average, taller and heavier than women.  That gives an advantage in most physical competitions.  The following was taken from the ever-questionable Wikipedia on 16 March 2021.  Note that in every country, the average for men is greater than the average for women.  

Average Human Body Weight - Men vs. Women - Click to Embiggen


Average Human Height - Men vs. Women - Click to Embiggen

Those basic differences create an advantage for men.  A longer arm reach makes it easier to get at an opponent while keeping yourself out of range.  Longer legs create a longer stride for greater speed.  There are other physiological differences such as the impact of testosterone on muscle development.  If I were a doctor or a physiology major, I could list several biological differences between men and women that impact their relative performance in physical competitions, but I'm not either one of those.

What I can do is point you towards measurements of the peak physical performance of men and women.  Judge for yourself.  In almost every category, the record for peak performance is held by a man.  In weight lifting competitions where there are weight classes, the nearest comparison between men and women always shows the man is, pound for pound, able to lift more weight.

[I was looking at swimming data a couple of years ago and did note that there was one category where the top competitor was a woman.  I couldn't find that category recently.  It is certainly possible for a woman to be the best on the planet in a straight physical competition.  Where that is the case, it is an exception that illustrates the rule.]

Again, all of these are from the ever questionable Wikipedia.  Go have a look.

A straight comparison cannot be made in every category in the above competitions.  For example, in speed skating, the men have a 5k relay while the women have a 3k relay.  If you adjust the times/distances to account for the difference, the men were faster over the same distance in almost every category even though they had to perform over a longer distance in actual competition.

I added the "almost" because I didn't check every category with a competitive differential and there probably is one where the women were faster/stronger over a shorter distance.  

A case in point would be Serena Williams.  Let's face it, she is the creme de la creme of women's tennis.  She and her sister dominate the sport and have dominated it for decades.  But even she knows that there is a difference between men's and women's tennis.  Andy Murray once challenged her to a match.  Ms. Williams declined.

“If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose 6-0, 6-0 in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes. No, it’s true. It’s a completely different sport. The men are a lot faster and they serve harder, they hit harder, it’s just a different game.”

Why would she say such a thing?  Well she, and her sister had some experience playing against men.  In 1998, they played a set against Karsten Braasch who was, at the time, ranked roughly 200 in men's tennis.  He beat Serena 6-1 and then beat Venus 6-2.  Serena finished the 1998 WTA season ranked 20th in the world.  Venus finished the season ranked 5th.

I am well aware that my personal tennis game sucks.  Don't bother going there.

The larger point is that while the bell curve of the physical performance of women largely overlaps the bell curve for men, it is not the same curve.  The average of the performance curve for men is somewhat above that for women.  The top-end tail of the curve for men generally extends beyond the same tail for women.  Those non-trivial differences are driven by biology, genetics, science.

Physical differences do not make men smarter, more moral, better leaders, or otherwise more qualified than women.  But there is a documented differential in physical performance between men and women just the same.

There are times where that difference might mean the difference between life and death.  

The US Army recently created a gender-neutral combat fitness test.  The result was that 10% of male US Army soldiers failed the test while 65% of female US Army soldiers failed the test.  A passing score is 360 out of 600 points.  The average score for female soldiers was roughly 100 points below the average for male soldiers.  As the results from the test impact promotion eligibility, the US Army is now reconsidering whether or not to have different scales/tests for men and women.

The point?

Men and women are different.  

Biologically.

Genetically.

Measurably.

Scientifically.

Documented.

Most of the world understands this truth.  This post is for those occasions when I run into the rare person that has a tough time accepting this reality.

Review: The Sword of Kaigen

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Posted on : 3/05/2021 04:43:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

The Sword of KaigenThe Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story takes place in a decidedly Asian setting. Character names frequently evoke a Japanese culture.

The story centers around an influential family that runs part of an empire. Their clan, the Matsura, has long been known for their fighting prowess. However, they are also quite provincial; preferring to stay close to their mountain and quietly run things.

Young Mamoru is trying to be worthy of his family's reputation by learning their fighting style. His mother, Misaki, had gone away to school at a modern university where she learned to fight. Women were not considered worthy to fight among the Matsura clan. His father is aloof and emotionally remote. Living his life in fulfillment of the role he plays rather than in the enjoyment of his family.

Eventually, conflict comes to their mountain and all of the Matsura must fight. When the battle is won by the narrowest of margins, the Empire comes to wipe away any evidence of the battle. Families are denied the right to mourn as their tradition dictates.

What changes await the Matsura clan at the end of this conflict? Who lives? Who dies? And who learns something new about themselves as well as those around them?

This book offers a number of contrasts; rural vs. urban, men vs. women, old vs. young, individual achievement vs. government policies, tradition vs. change. Just as in real life, there are no easy answers with simple solutions.

This book is a tour de force piece of fantasy fiction. It was the 2020 winner of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off and establishes M.L. Wang as a force to be reckoned with in genre literature. Miss this book at your own peril.

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Review: Wolfwinter

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Posted on : 3/05/2021 03:48:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

WolfwinterWolfwinter by Lela E. Buis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked up this book because a story by Lela Buis is included in the collection. All of the stories were entertaining if not precisely the most memorable. If you like werewolf stories, then this book is for you.

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Review: Hazardous Imaginings: The Mondo Book of Politically Incorrect Science Fiction

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Posted on : 3/05/2021 03:42:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Hazardous Imaginings: The Mondo Book of Politically Incorrect Science FictionHazardous Imaginings: The Mondo Book of Politically Incorrect Science Fiction by Andrew Fox
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is billed as being the intellectual child of Harlan Ellison's "Dangerous Visions". I dropped out after the fourth story.

Essentially, the author was looking for an opportunity to say outrageous things for the purpose of saying outrageous things rather than to provoke readers to consider different perspectives.

Things started going decidedly downhill when the fourth story suggested that Christopher Columbus sailed west across the Atlantic to prove the world was round. Not quite. People had known that the world was round for centuries at that point. What was unknown what the planet looked like west of west where it finally meets the east.

It went on from there to set down a contorted storyline where the Jews end up loving Hitler.

See what I mean about being outrageous for the purpose of being outrageous.

The other stories that I read were decent, but not great. Mark this one as a collection with a lot of potential that didn't quite pan out.

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Socialists Blink - Again

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Posted on : 2/18/2021 11:32:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Venezuela has been mired in a death spiral created by socialist policies for decades.  This is not a rhetorical death spiral.  Socialist policies have taken what was one of the great economic success stories in the world and a beacon for Central and South American nations and turned it into a poverty-ravaged nation.  Malnutrition and poor healthcare have resulted in the deaths of thousands upon thousands of Venezuelans.

This result has always been perfectly predictable.

And now the government of Venezuela is taking a step back.  They are turning towards privatization of their economy to help their nation recover from Chavista politics. Now a change made today can always be unmade in the future.  The future for Venezuela could certainly be bright if they aggressively stepped back towards free markets.

This is just the latest example of how the solution to economic issues is free-market capitalism.  Sweden started the move away from socialist madness in the late 1980s and has been bounding forward ever since.  Lady Thatcher crucially set the UK free from such nonsense back then as well.  France recently tried to tax the super-rich only to watch those folks take their money and their economic activity elsewhere.  

Vietnam is a booming free-market economy even though the communists retain control of the government.  India gradually stepped away from an overly regulated system and towards free-markets.  China has made a similar shift away from a centralized economy over the last few decades.  The result of this global shift towards capitalism has been a reduction in the incidence of extreme poverty.

Nothing has done more to lift people out of poverty than free markets.

Welcome to the club, Venezuealans.  We hope you are here to stay.

Reflections Of A Former Dittohead - Rush Limbaugh RIP

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Posted on : 2/18/2021 11:30:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

July of 1988.  Running down the I-5 in California from MCB Camp Pendleton to MCAS El Toro in a little government-owned pickup truck.  Air conditioning?  Well, the windows roll down.  Radio?  AM only.

That was fine by me as I liked local AM radio stations.  I would listen to the local NPR call-in programs on my runs to El Toro.  A few years later I would be listening to Larry King's late-night radio program while working my second job delivering pizzas for Dominos.

At this point, I was a young Sergeant of Marines making a monthly (give or take) run to El Toro for office supplies*.  I had figured out years earlier that my life was going to depend on the wise actions of the United States Congress.  I had also figured out that the Democrats running the US House and who were periodically in charge of the US Senate were bereft of wisdom.

News reports that praised the latest national programs were frustrating for their lack of consideration for why past national programs had failed.  Equally frustrating was reporting on initiatives that were at best band-aids and at the worst created "unexpected consequences" that could have been predicted by anyone with a lick of common sense.  Such consequences caused problems greater than the initial initiative was intended to solve.  

Problems that would require yet another national program.  Predictably.  You can't just have Congresscritters sitting around doing nothing, can you?  [Spoiler - Sí se puede!]

In a sea of AM radio programming that ignorantly advocated for government action, Rush was a surprising breath of fresh air.  I was hooked.  I was a week 1 dittohead.

Fortunately, my various jobs allowed me time to listen to Rush while I was working.  I listened.  I also read.  A lot.  Ask my family.  My original blog was filled with things that I had researched to get the facts to support my positions.  Sometimes my positions changed as a result.

Rush suggested at one point that you have to listen to his show for months in order to understand it.  I would go a little further and suggest that you had to listen to his show for at least a couple of years to understand him.

Listening for just a day or a week isn't nearly enough.  Rush would gently roll a stink bomb down the aisle and then spend days or weeks riffing off of it to make a larger point.

He endorsed Bill Clinton for President in 1992.

For about 5 minutes.

He then denied that he had ever endorsed Mr. Clinton when he came back from the break.  He pointed out that whatever was said, it was in the past and had nothing to do with the current moment.  Rush had crystallized Bill Clinton's character, or lack thereof, in those few minutes.

But you had to listen to his show for months to understand that Rush's message was larger than a 5-minute gag.

Years of listening were needed to get through the showman front that Rush projected during his show.  You had to catch those moments when he would set aside the bravado and the persona and speak from his heart.  He truly wished every person to have the opportunity to experience themselves at their greatest abilities.  He understood that the most important part of that equation was the individual.  No government program is ever going to turn an underachiever into a success if that individual is unwilling to do the work that creates success.  No government program will deny success to an individual that is willing to put in the work to create success; although an awful lot of elected Democrats would like to try.

One of the better examples was his inspiration for Dan's Bake Sale.  Back in the day, Rush had a newsletter.  It cost $24 per year.  I didn't subscribe.  This guy "Dan" calls from Fort Collins, CO.  He says that he can't afford it, and would Rush just give him a subscription.

At the time, schools were holding bake sales for the ostensible purpose of raising money to fund schools.  Bill Clinton clucked his tongue over the tragedy of schools holding bake sales.  Eventually, some of the proceeds from those bake sales were sent to Bill Clinton because "Bill Clinton will fund schools".  Spoiler - Mr. Clinton kept the money and school funding wasn't changed.

Rush handed Dan a golden ticket.  He said "hold a bake sale" suggesting that he could raise enough money to purchase a subscription.  Essentially, do the work to earn the money and the subscription will be worth all that much more to you.

Dan from Fort Collins did just that.  And dittoheads jumped in.  With that kind of national exposure, everyone that was close to Fort Collins, and a great many who were not, wanted to participate.  Restauranteurs from New Orleans called Dan to see about setting up a booth so they could sell food.  The event exploded.

Dan sold out of cookies in no time flat.  He purchased his subscription.  And tens of thousands of people had a great day in Fort Collins, CO.  Imagine if Dan had stopped worrying about just selling cookies.  

Being handed a golden ticket is not a guarantee of success.  It is an opportunity.  What happens after that is up to the individual.

A second example would be the current Fox News personality, Tammy Bruce.  Tammy started out in radio broadcasting as a left-leaning feminist.  She was told that Rush was an awful person.  Then she met him and found out who he really was.  Her story is worth reading.

I stopped being a regular listener in roughly 2002 for a couple of reasons.  His bits didn't always land well.  A few years earlier he had done a bit about the dog that lived in the Whitehouse.  Chelsea Clinton's photo was used in the bit.  While few things were off-limits to Rush, this one should have been.  There were other examples.

By 2002 it was apparent that Rush was unwilling to pursue the fiscal conservativism that he had been preaching for roughly 15 years when Republicans had the majority in the House and Senate as well as a Republican as President.  The GOP in Congress was attempting to spend money like drunken sailors on shore leave.  Apologies to my Squiddly Diddly friends.  (Less than a decade later, Democrat politicians said "hold my beer".)  Rush elected not to criticize political friends over issues that he would regularly criticize politicians on the left.

Rush didn't hold the feet of elected Republicans to the fire.  We didn't get a balanced budget.  We didn't get any meaningful reduction in the number of federal agencies, departments, and assorted conclaves.

If he was unwilling to advocate for the same principles when his allies were in office and positioned to actually achieve those objectives, then perhaps my time was better spent elsewhere.  I have only listened to his show a few times a year since that time.

I've listened a little more frequently over the last year.  Rush announced that he had stage 4 lung cancer last January.  Every show might be his last.

I just happened to catch a show where he was in the studio just after Christmas.

Roughly half the nation is feeling hurt, bemoaning the coming Biden Presidency, caught up in all of the conflict raised in the wake of the election.

Rush reached for confidence.  He spoke of his love for America.  He expressed humble gratitude for the opportunities that he has received by living in a nation that stands for individual liberty.  He supported perseverance and opposed violent "revolution".

Rush happily advocated for doing the difficult work needed to foster an American vision of liberty that is rooted in our Constitution.  Making such a vision a reality would be sweeter for having done the right work rather than taking destructive shortcuts.

Rush Limbaugh knew that death walked but a few paces behind and chose to cheerfully encourage the rest of us to be better people in pursuit of better ends.

He long ago set my inquisitive mind free from the constraints imposed by media bias and popular culture.  This opportunity to consider all of the political options was his gift to me.  I hope when I die that others will not see that as a wasted opportunity.

Fair winds and following seas, Rush.  



*Those damned asterisks.  In the 1980s, there was no such thing as the Internet.  Military organizations couldn't just go to an office supply store for pens, paper, tape, etc.  A central organization bought such stuff and units were tasked with sending someone to get what was needed.  Office supplies were kept in a locked area to prevent pilfering.  It was my part-time job as an expediter.

Now the astute observer would note that MCB Camp Pendleton is located at the north end of San Diego County in California and that MCAS El Toro was (formerly) located near Irvine, California.  It was roughly a 45-60 minute drive from my command location to the El Toro office supply "store".  Why wouldn't I just go to the "store" on Camp Pendleton?

That would make too much sense.  The problem was that I was in the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.  All of our funding flowed through the 3rd MAW.  Thus we were required to shop at the 3rd MAW office supply store.  The stores on Camp Pendleton were operated by the 1st Marine Division or by the base.  Wing units were not a part of either organization.

If you want to know why I mistrust the efficacy of government programs, I can only point to my experiences in the world's finest fighting force; the United States Marine Corps.  Congress mandates that the Corps operate according to rules that make Calvinball seem to make sense.  

And the American military is the most effective part of the US government!

Another Quilt for Shelly

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Posted on : 2/03/2021 10:15:00 PM | By : Dann | In :

There is an old bit of folklore that suggests that a cardinal visiting your yard is a loved one visiting from heaven.  My beloved bride likes that bit of folklore.

Personally, I've got questions.  Given that the range of the cardinal runs from the great plains states to the east coast and then south into parts of Mexico, what happens to all those people in the western United States?  Don't they get visitors from heaven? 

Range map of the Cardinalis cardinalis lineages.
Approximate distributions of mainland and island C. cardinalis lineages. An image of a male C. cardinalis igneus is shown.
Figure 1.  Range map of the Cardinalis cardinalis lineages.
Approximate distributions of mainland and island C. cardinalis lineages. An image of a male C. cardinalis igneus is shown.

I'll have to work on that later.  In the meantime, I found this fabric panel of cardinals in a winter forest at Mo's Needle and Thread in Portland, MI.  We love Mo and we love her store.  She conspired with me to get the panel into our bag without Shelly seeing it.

I already had a couple of cardinal themed fabrics in my stash along with some other wintry looking items.  Late last fall I finally had some time to work on building that panel into a quilt.  I didn't really have a pattern to follow so I just decided to wing it.  

Pun intended.

The plan was to make a series of 2" x 2" finished squares.  But I'm not big on single piecing when using strips is so much easier.  I made a bunch of 2 1/2" wide strips and sewed them together.  I then cut that assembly into 2 1/2" wide strips that ended up being a series of blocks.  On a couple of strips, I took one block off the end of a strip and added it to the other end; sort of like you do with a bargello quilt pattern.  I then arranged the block strips so that they were visually pleasing.

I added some half-square triangles and a couple of strips to make the corner pieces and then added a border strip.  Voila!  A complete top!

Click to embiggen

A closer view.  Click to embiggen

Corner detail.  Click to embiggen

Blocks.  Click to embiggen

As I was pulling fabrics out of the trunks, I was a bit surprised to see that I had actually purchased that panel a second time.  Must be Shelly and her cardinals were weighing on my mind.  I'm going with that interpretation.

Cardinal detail.  Click to...ah hell....you know.

Then things got just a little dicey.  I like using a cotton backing for my quilts.  Cotton is dimensionally stable.  My beloved bride always wants the back to be soft and cuddly.  She found some minky material that also had...you guessed it...cardinals.  The only problem is that minky will stretch when you are quilting everything together.

Over on Reddit, one of the contributors posted about using spray adhesive to stick stretchy materials to a layer of linen to keep them from stretching.  So I did that.  And the minky material was stretchy no more!

Lots more cardinals on the back!  Don't make me say it again.

I then took the top, batting, and back out to Sue Walz in Grass Lake.  She is The Village Quilter.  Her long arm set up will take the largest of quilts.  The pattern that she used is a feather pattern.  I figured that birds and feathers went together somehow.  Sue always does great work on the quilts that I bring her.

I almost forgot the most important part.  Here is a photo of the new quilt owner and her little helper.

Ella and Shelly.  I think they are both the cutest.


Hugo 2021 - Nomination Pool

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Posted on : 2/03/2021 02:51:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

It's that time of year when genre readers nominate their favorite works for the annual Hugo Awards.  My nominees follow.  Updates to be made as circumstances require.  I have one or two other properties that I might nominate for the Dramatic Presentation (Long) category.

If you love science fiction/fantasy works and want to see the best of those works be acknowledged, then please participate.  You can purchase a membership at the Discon III website.  Supporting members still get a chance to vote on this year's finalists and will be eligible to nominate for the 2022 awards.  Members generally get access to a great range of fiction in the voter's packets.

As always, please don't nominate anything that you haven't personally experienced.  

Novel

The Last Campaign - Martin L. Shoemaker - 47North
Scarlet Odyssey - C.T. Rwiz - 47North

Short Story

I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter  — by ISABEL FALL — Clarkesworld Jan. 2020
Martial Arts Master - by Alan Baxter - Twitter

Novella

The Weight of the Air, The Weight of the World by T.R. Napper - from Neon Leviathan ~23,000 words

Dramatic Presentation (Long)

Locke & Key - Netflix
Warrior Nun - Netflix
October Faction - Netflix
Dracula - Netflix
The Mandolorian - Disney+ *

Editor - Short Fiction

Adrian Collins

Editor - Long Fiction

Adrian Collins

Semiprozine

Cirsova
Grimdark Magazine

Graphic Novel/Comic

XKCD

Fancast

Sincast by CinemaSins
The Disney Story Origins Podcast

Series

Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
The Empires Corps by Christopher Nuttall


* In light of Disney Studios' canceling of Gina Carano, I feel disinclined to support their products.  I am uncomfortable with the larger changes to our society over the last 20 years.  Where once tolerance for diversity was perceived as a laudable benefit to advancing the human condition, we are no longer able to appreciate a diversity of opinion.

With respect to Science Fiction/Fantasy, I would prefer to appreciate a diversity of works while largely ignoring the personal behaviors of creators.  Ms. Carano's statements might be worthy of a critical response.  They are unworthy of terminating a creative relationship.

Should The Mandolorian make it to the final round, it would surely go below "no award" on my ballot.