Swimming in rivers of opaque ink

These days I’m getting that feeling at the back of the skull that the news and what I see in everyday life just don’t fit. Part of it might be that we’re just not getting decent information about things that might affect us.

Look, presumably there was a time in the past of our breed where each person could get the information they needed through their senses. Maybe. I mean, you still had to sort of trust (or not) the kid who came running into the village and said there was a lion/tiger/beast of prey outside. Because when you saw the animal with your own eyes it would be too late.

However those were limited circumstances. I very much doubt grandma M’Ogg read the morning paper to see how the berry crop was doing. No, she’d go out to her favorite berry patch, and if the berries were blooming, she’d drag them home. (And depending on whether she knew how to dry them/preserve them everyone ate until they had the runs, of course.)

Those days are far behind us. Which is a very good thing if you think about it, because that method of gathering food – and data – could support maybe a million humans across the world. And it might have been worse than that, since we know from our genetics that at some point human population went down to maybe 100 individuals.

So, we’re not going to mourn them, but we can complain about these extensions of our sensory organs that we call the press.

Because the problem is when the kid came into the village screaming there was a tiger outside, presumably you knew the kid and how trustworthy he was. Or not.

But with the press all most people have is “is everyone saying more or less the same” and “is this a big, mainstream news?”

And then they follow that. Because if everyone is saying it, monkey sense says it’s likely to be true. Which might have been right, at some time. Not sure about that, since I keep hearing about corruption of the press as far back as the early twentieth century. Maybe the industrial model of concentrated newssources was a bad idea to begin with. It gave us too few sources and all of them likely to know each other and want the other to think well of them.

But we know that in the age of Jourlolistism they actually confer behind the scenes to make the news fit, regardless of their merit or lack thereof. They decide what news to promote and what news to bury, and how to slant the news they tell, all without any attention to how credible those news are, but mostly to what they want to be true.

This is a problem, because if people don’t know the truth they make bad decisions at the low-level of grandma M’Ogg picking berries. If grandma M’Ogg has to rely on the paper to tell her where the berries are, and the paper, who wants to hide the fact that Big Chief’s prayer didn’t make the berries multiply, says that while the bushes near the village are stripped of berries because the tigers have turned vegetarian, but the bushes three miles away are loaded down with berries, Grandma is going to hike three miles, and even if she doesn’t collapse because of her bad hip, she might get eaten by the non vegetarian tiger.

Arguably this is what happened in 12. Employment and other economic statistics were fudged or outright fabricated (another rogue employee. I bet you his disk drive is unreadable, too.) and so even smart people thought we were on the verge of an up turn, the administration’s policies were working, and we should give it another try. I’m not saying that was enough for them to win, but it was enough to allow them to cheat to victory.

I’ve talked about this in the past. It’s a serious problem, of course. It’s not just that nobody knows anything, but that the things they think they know just aren’t so.

For instance, after predicting that our economy was going to come roaring – roaring – out the gate this second quarter, they are reporting growth of 4%. Which is just enough to put us in positive territory after the minus 3.9 of last time. The zero edge guys aren’t impressed, though and – whatever you think – They’re usually on target for economics.

Also, I’m not seeing the effects of this er… roar on my sales.

No one is, I think. Talking to other indies, this is not QUITE the Summer of Death, but it’s pretty bad. Most of us have seen our income from indie cut in half. Lately, if I want to shake the coin tree, I have to do something in the way of a sale. I don’t mind that, but it shows something: most people are at the limit of what they can afford.

And I just made a killing-buy at the grocery store because a pile of ground beef was at discount to 2.70, which is less than half the normal price. Think what you will, but in the really good times, the discount shelf is lean, because people buy it out very fast. Instead it was piled there and I got enough for meatloaves and meatballs and all sorts of dishes for a month or so.

But it goes beyond that. I’m not seeing the signs of a roaring economy around us. Limping maybe.

The plural of anecdote isn’t data, granted, but most people I know are hoping to make it one more month on groceries and one more year on a car (me. D*mn it. Almost cost us 1k for repairs, but I was afraid the ball joint was going to give while on the highway) that should have been replaced five years ago. Most of us are hanging by the fingernails and those are starting to bleed.

The indie stuff came through for me this last trimester in the sense of taking my fat out of the fire (yes, yes, I need to have the sequels to Witchfinder – well the first one – out in August sometime. That has settled into “The Haunted Air” as a title and involves Michael and a young lady who is called Albinia but goes by Al. Think of it as Have Spacesuit with fantasy and their being closer in age, and you’re not far wrong.)

Perhaps the people I know are just exceptionally bad at finances. I don’t think so. Not all the people I know. But there we are.

My friend Charlie says that it’s not that, it’s that the “growth” was people buying the car that wouldn’t limp another year, the fridge that quit, whatever.

This is possibly a part of it. I’m not putting it past the rest being “just made up out of clear air.”

I’ve noticed an odd trend in the spam I get. It used to be “you won a million” or “you won a free dinner at Ruth’s Chris.” Now it’s stuff like “You have just been hired by google.” (Since when is a job the dream prize?) and “you won a free dinner at Applebys” – like these normal everyday things (well, six years ago, we used to have dinner at applebys about twice a month, when I was too busy or whatever. Now, only in emergencies or we’re caught out of the house at 8 or 9 pm. BUT if you order carefully, it’s still not a dream dinner, or crazy expensive.) Spammers make their living hooking the marks, and they seem to think the marks are all running tight and lean. Which would dispute the booming economy. Even the “qualified/limited booming.”

The problem with this beyond affecting our personal decisions, is that it affects the people who make decisions on how to deform the economy with laws and regulations.

The problem is that even if they influence the media that gives them data points, they don’t get the news from elsewhere. Not in a convenient format.

I’m not making much sense. Let me try to explain. Someone who works in foreign affairs for the administration might get the raw data on that – before it’s either buried or spun by the press – and know that it’s a real mess and that Al Qaeda is a danger again. A big one.

They might be able to make sensible decisions on that – maybe. But the chances are that they don’t get the up-to-the-minute news on Russia and for that they believe what they read in the papers and the smart people in the magazines. Yeah, sure, they know that the journalists spin the bullshit for them, but they don’t think about it while evaluating those other news. And hey, all the smart people agree…

Then there’s the various areas of the economy. Mostly they drink their own ink. They believe what the papers tell them, even though they influence the papers.

And there is enough ink flowing to drown all of the administration and all of the intellectuals catering to the administration with analysis and opinion.

You see, each person might know what he’s saying is the end product of a bull’s digestion — or at least that it’s inflated/spun/glossified (totally a word) — but he or she won’t know that his/her colleagues are doing the same to EVERY single, small, specialized bit of information.

Everyone knows it’s real hard to see through a fog of ink, even if you’re the one operating the ink-hose. It’s much harder to remember that the ink is just ink if you’re not directly operating the ink-hose and it’s your buddies in journalism doing you a favor.

At which point, nobody knows anything, but everyone thinks he does.

And we go Forward! Off the cliff.

 

Repeat After Me: You Can’t Legislate the Economy

Why is it that our elected – coff – representatives think they can legislate paradise?

Yesterday we got a brochure from Colorado House Representative Pete Lee. Last time he was campaigning he came by here and did his best to convince us that he adored Heinlein. If he did, he must have read the braile print with his nose, or something, because clearly he’s missing something to an understanding of how societies and economies work – and understanding Heinlein had.

Or perhaps he read only early Heinlein, back when the man was young and a Shavian socialist. Perhaps he thinks all goodness flows from government and that government must take action to do things or we’ll all starve in the dark.

But even that makes absolutely no sense with the accomplishments he’s bragging of: the signal ones being that he voted more money for schools and that he has helped create legislation that ensures jobs won’t leave Colorado.

We’ll leave the first one alone, for now. What kind of an idiot allows him or herself to be bribed with his or her own money? No, seriously. So, we pay property taxes for the schools, and he gave more of our money to the schools. Yay?

Seriously. This country already spends more on education than any other land at any other time. He goes on to bleat about teacher to student ratio and blah blah blah.

There’s another ratio he should have looked into. Administrator to teacher. The more money you give to schools the more they grow administrators, like poisonous mushrooms after a rain. And administrators are sort of like politicians. The more you have, the more trouble they create.

But beyond that, look guys, I had great teacher to student ratio, relatively, through elementary, because my class was only 12. Unfortunately, since that was considered a ridiculously small work load for a teacher, they brought another class in for the teacher to teach. When I was in first grade, I shared a classroom with the fourth graders, then next year, after they graduated (school only went to fourth grade) I shared one with first graders, and so on. The class after us got first graders brought in when we were fourth graders.

So in the same classroom, we had a teacher teaching two completely different classes.

Also we only went to school in the morning or the afternoon (in my case, usually morning) and the classes repeated in the afternoon. Four hours, overloaded classroom.

Everyone learned to read and their multiplication tables. Even the kid who was educable mentally retarded.

Later on, when I went to middle and highschool, I THINK the smallest form (you were put in a form and had all your classes with them) we had was 42. We had classes in the attic amid broken furniture; in the cafeteria as they were setting up for lunch, and on one signal occasion the art room (for a whole year. Even though we didn’t have an art class. Central planning, eh?)

All of us learned, despite the awful teacher to student ratio and the whimsical accommodations. In a time when properties are losing their value, is it really the best idea in the world to increase property taxes in order to give more money to schools, so they can have two fewer students per class or whatever?

But this is actually the minor folly. The major folly – and the thing he is most especially proud of – is that he passed an anti-outsourcing law. Colorado firms won’t be sending jobs to India or China, why no sireeh Bob.

That sound you hear is my head hitting the desk. It’s a pity because I liked the desk. You’ll know when I go on a rampage because you’ll hear news of a woman with a branding iron marking all politicians on the forehead. It will say “You can’t legislate the economy. You can only deform it.” It will be written backwards so they can read it in the mirror.

You’d think it was obvious, right?

Younger son came downstairs while I was reading this bucket of fail and I told him, “Rejoice, oh, son, Pete Lee has made sure that no jobs will get outsourced from Colorado to India.”

He said “you’re joking, right?” And I showed him the dread paper.

He snorted. “Yeah, because it’s so hard to have a sub-corporation set up somewhere else, and have the outsourcing take place there. Or if that’s too much trouble, and it’s a family corp, to just relocate to another state – which will then get the supervisory jobs, too. Well done, there, you representative.”

I won’t say “from out the mouth of babes” because son is obviously a dude, but you get what I mean. If even number two son who understands machines better than people gets it, why can’t politicians?

Of course, if it were just my district representative in CO I wouldn’t be half as exercised. But we also have a president who has mandated punitive taxes for companies based in the states and doing business abroad or even foreign companies that do any business with the US and who has tried his best to curtail outsourcing. And we won’t get into the funnies that the congresscritters get up to.

Again, you can’t legislate the economy, you can only deform it. If something is occurring because of a strong economic (or other) pressure, it will continue occurring after you make it illegal. It will just occur… illegally.

Take hiring of illegals. It occurs because mandated minimum wage is too high (yes, of course they want to raise it. They think they can legislate economic facts.) “Define too high” you say, since other countries have a much higher minimum wage.

Simply put, minimum wage is “all the traffic can bear.” While it is possible for countries that don’t have a huge open border to a poorer country, and which have a less complex tax structure, and more generous welfare benefits to mandate a higher minimum wage and get it obeyed without massive non-compliance issues, they are still paying for it. Money is going to pay too much for work that isn’t worth that much, and therefore shorting companies of R & D money or innovation money. Which means their standard of life will not be what it could be. But that’s the problem of the squid farms on Mars. You know, we spent money on welfare, so we missed out on squid farms on Mars. It seems not to exist, because you can’t prove the wonders of squid farms. The normal person never knows what they missed. And yet, the cost is still there because, duh, you can’t legislate the economy.

But when you are a country like we are, with a massive open border and a very poor/unstable country next door, oh, yeah, and punitive taxes and regulations that make the margin companies operate from tiny, what you get is illegal workers working for far less than the minimum wage. And it’s no use at all punishing the business owners. Most of them aren’t greedy monopoly figures in top hats. They’re farmers, restaurant owners, small manufactory owners, whose choice is something like “hire illegals or go under.”

Of course before going under they’re going to hire illegals, particularly since – because the problem is everywhere – there are so many of them that even with the best possible enforcement it’s not going to be very good.

(OF course, the politicians solution for this is to legalize the illegals, which… makes no sense, since then they’d have to get minimum wage. Never mind.)

It’s the same thing with outsourcing. A lot of the companies that outsourced tech support to India and China and heaven knows where, are bringing it back to the states. Why? Well, it turns out other cultures don’t have the same rules, or the same performance standards. So the higher salaries of American workers are worth it.

BUT some companies still outsource. Why? Because they’re just starting out, or they’re in trouble, and all they can afford is foreign labor.

Legislate against that? Well, they’ll either hire a company in another state, which in turn hires abroad, or come up with some other dodge. Because people don’t let their businesses die because the law tells them to. Instead they get creative. Most of that creativity makes things harder to deal with and fix, but it’s what happens.

Sometimes I wonder why politicians don’t, instead, spend time legislating the weather. It would have just as much effect, but fewer drawbacks.

Instead they legislate the economy… and we all pay for their illusions.

The War Between Men And Women

I’m sorry to say I do not now, nor have I ever considered men superior to women – or to be more exact, since I don’t judge men or women as a whole – while I’ve met some men I consider my superiors, most men like most women aren’t. In fact, I’d say more than half the men and women I meet are less competent than I at most tasks. (Unless the task involves memorizing actors’ names and resumes, in which case some kindergarten classes outstrip me.)

Which brings another level of distinctions: some men (some women too) are better than I at some things. I’ve met two people in my entire life who were better than I at everything. One was a woman.

Men in general are better than I am at some things. I know that going in. Most men are going to be stronger than I. This was a hard lesson to learn for the kid who grew up fighting guys in the playground. When we hit puberty, even though I was bigger than most Portuguese men, I had to switch to being cunning and low-minded. I still won the fights, but mostly because I have no governor. Once I’m fighting, I’ll pluck your eyes out and eat them in front of you. (I don’t think I’ve ever done that, but you get what I mean.) And I will spy any opportunity to get under your guard, twist around, trip you. I’ve bitten someone and removed flesh in a fight (which is not as easy as it sounds. He deserved it, btw. He ambushed my friends and I on our way from school in a lonely area. I don’t think – he was our age, so maybe 14? – he meant to do more than grope us, but he picked the wrong person to grope. My friends had run. I THINK – I could be wrong – they meant to be chased and caught. But the idiot had to fixate on me.) This is not easy, unless you’ve sharpened your teeth or had steel blades installed or something. But I was desperate. Still I’m aware that a large enough man, or more than one large man with as few brakes as I have could easily subdue me.

In that sense, yeah, okay, men are superior. And there’s the correlation: they can usually do heavier work than I can, though I have yet to throw in the towel. Because I don’t.

Intellectually? There things are more nebulous. We know males tend to cluster more at both ends of the spectrum – idiot and genius – while women clump in the middle. By statistical distribution, there will be more men superior to me than women. (I don’t cluster in the middle.) But in my life, I’ve met one man and one woman who fit that, universally.

I’ve met plenty of men who are better than I at spatial visualization, but honestly, I don’t know if that’s because they were born that way or because they have jobs that demand that. And I know now that if I’d stuck with math and used a few simple tricks, I could have overcome my tendency to transpose digits in calculations, absent which (some teachers graded around it) I was always one of the best students in anything math related. (I thought physics was candy.)

So, I’m not afraid of men.

This is important to remember, because most women these days are taught to believe men have magical powers. This comes at the same time we teach them that they are superior to men, so it’s no wonder so many teenage girls are on prescription meds. What’s amazing is that some of them function at all and that so many get married (even though our marriage rate per population is at its lowest ever.)

And right now you’re looking at me and wondering why I think that most women believe men have magical powers. Haven’t I seen the commercials portraying dad as a dufos? Haven’t I heard all about how making jokes about beating a man is all right? Haven’t I seen how ridiculously biased our courts are? Don’t I know that men are treated very badly in our schools, since it’s considered all right for all the learning to be geared to “female style” which is quite different?

Sure I have. I’ve actually talked about some of these problems. And I had to fight like h*ll for school not to destroy the boys (and teach them most of the stuff at home.)

This treatment of males would be considered a social outrage if the genders were reversed.

So why isn’t it?

Let’s get past the stupid-sh*t feminist “now it’s their turn” as though in some bizarre way the men in the States today were responsible for any woman hurt hundreds of years ago (Are women of today responsible for everyone hurt by women centuries ago, too?) or in other countries to which they’ve never been.

That’s such patent and blatant idiocy that even the women saying it don’t believe it. Oh, some of them have personal reasons to be afraid of men (with women the personal is political. Always. It’s one of the ways we tend to be different.)   But most of them just are afraid because they’ve been taught to be afraid. And if you look closely you’ll see the spittle-flecked fear behind the crazy gloating.

If you dig down below all their excuses and protestations, you’ll get that its okay to do this to men because men are stronger and smarter than women anyway. And if you are ever in a group of al women, a situation I find myself in more than (to paraphrase) “a just G-d would allow” you’ll hear the strange idea come up that if we don’t keep the men in line, they’ll just “take over.”

Some of this is natural, of course. There has been suspicion between the genders as long as there have been genders. If you go back far enough to sources in ancient Greece, you hear the same crazy fear that women with their mysterious and powerful ways will take over. Some of this is the same competition for reproductive advantage that goes on, inarticulate, in the animal world. This is what causes praying mantises to eat the male, and what causes the male of many species to use himself as a sort of perma-plug to ensure his sperm is the only one fertilizing the eggs. (Biology has always been fascinating. At eight I was sent to my room without dinner for using the word “Sperm” in front of guests. I still have no idea why this was bad. I was describing the mating habits of fish.)

But we are thinking animals, and so we complicate things. And right now the theories on why men have dominated (some parts of) society for a very long time are causing real trouble between men and women. And they’re stupid.

The theory, I guess, (no one ever explains why they believe this) is that if you give men an inch, they’ll Burka all over you.

Missing from this is the idea that men had already started giving women rights they REALLY HAD NO REASON to and to which they could have held given a wish to do so before the present era.

I’m not going to go into the whys and wherefores. Some theories involve the Virgin Mary. But the belief that women were at least as human as men, and sometimes special, has suffused western society since at least the early middle ages. (And some parts and some periods of Greece and Rome had versions of equality.) Read up on the traditions of chivalry.

Does this mean women were equal? Oh, hell no.

Remember that thing I said, about reproductive advantage and angling there to?

Since the caves (at least) women and men have had a simple pact. He made use of his stronger muscles to bring home mammoth (or whatever) and in return her children would all be his. Most of the most oppressive rules of society and most of the abuses against women come from this: ensuring the children are his. This is part of the reason in the Arab world and in more traditional societies, the grandmother is ALWAYS the enforcer of female “good behavior.” She too wants to make sure the kids are her son’s.

This is why though women were treated better in the western world than in other places, they weren’t “equal” to men. They still had to somehow allow men to be reassured about the kids being theirs. Also, women died early. And as many children were required as possible, because they too died early.

So, the amazing advances in terms of females working outside the house and having equality with men in most public arenas? Safe birth and safe, reliable contraceptives. Also, the ability to determine paternity.

So men don’t have superpowers any more than we do. What they do have is greater physical strength and – supposedly – by statistics, a few more geniuses (and a few more morons.)

And yet, most women still act like men are some sort of a big threat. Yesterday here in the comments (quoting someone) someone brought up the canard that women these days are still taught to be deferential to males.

Really? When? Where? Outside the Arab world or third world hell holes?

One of the other commenters pointed out that no, women are in fact taught never to take men’s opinion or advice REGARDLESS of their validity. I, myself, experienced this when I was first married. If my husband went along with something I wanted to do, his female relatives thought this right and just. But if I went along with something he wanted to do, I got told that I was acting like a “submissive Latin wife.” (Yes, they had met me. I know. I have nothing.)

This disturbed me enough that I used to cut contact with any female friend/relative who lectured me on these lines, because I viewed it as unwarranted interference in how I chose to run my marriage.

Look, yeah, I do most of the house work – but that’s more a function of feminist-shaming than of my husband’s patriarchal oppression. Because my fellow females were sneeringly dismissive of my attempts to stay home and make it in writing (my husband never was. He’d say things like, “Well, didn’t you write a thousand words today. You worked. Let’s just grab burgers) and because I was young and stupid, I fell in the habit of justifying my “laziness” by doing a bunch of things around the house, and unfortunately families crystalize around patterns. Though the worst trouble is the fact that both Dan and I are working (At least) three jobs a piece, which means a lot of stuff goes undone, period.

I don’t know any woman who was taught that she should defer to males’ opinions. Well, not any woman under sixty.

The “good behavior” modeled in movies is the woman who gets in the guys’ face and screams even when they know better. This is not conducive to survival outside a playwright’s rigged universe, but these are still called “strong women.”

So, let’s put that to rest, as well as the myth that men will just come over and take our mojo and put us in burkas.

You want to be equal? Be equal. Stop running around hectoring other women on how to behave, even if this is an instinctual behavior. You want to be strong? Be strong? You want to be self-sufficient? Be self sufficient.

You don’t have to ignore everything men say or scream at them. The penis doesn’t give them magical powers. Just because you took their opinion on how to (say) lay flooring on the porch (because, say, they do this for a living) it doesn’t mean they’re going to take control of your mind and rule over you. And it doesn’t make you a “Stepford wife” to take your husband’s opinion on which neighborhood to live in, if he has good justifications for his choice and you think they make sense.

It makes you a smart human being, who knows that men don’t have magical-penis-powers and that technology allows us unprecedented equality. And who wants to keep it that way by treating everyone – male and female – as individuals, each to be evaluated on his own merits. (Sane women also aren’t afraid of the patterns of indo-European languages, or feel a need to fight them. Since men have no magical powers, they won’t be able to seize control of your mind because you used “his” instead of the clunky “his or hers.” Sane women have more important things to worry about like the societies where forced female circumcision takes place, or the infanticide of female babies in China.)

Set yourself free. The boogeyman you fear is in your mind.

 

 

 

 

Keep Calm and Have a Plan to Kill Everyone in the Room – Cedar Sanderson

well-armed-ladyKeep Calm, and Have a Plan to Kill Everyone in the Room – Cedar Sanderson I am a weapon. When the time comes to strike, the tool I happen to use is not the weapon, the squishy gray stuff between my ears is. In aid of keeping my weapon sharp, I have done various training and thought exercises over the years, and I know that in order to be ready to defend myself and others, I occasionally need to refresh this. Like, as the truism above states, playing a mental game of situational awareness. Locate yourself in the room. Where is the entrance? The exit? How else could danger come (the windows?) and how can you escape. Standing and doing battle may not be the optimal choice, depending on what is coming at you. But most important, be aware of your surroundings. Out for a walk? Walk straight, with head up and eyes moving, rather than looking down at your feet or grocery list or book…And if you are listening to music, go with only one earbud in, not both, so you can hear your surroundings. This awareness is vital to planning the next move. Not long ago I was performing at a party in a bad part of a nearby city. Now, I’m all sweetness and light at these things. But partway through the party I became aware that there was a situation, and I immediately started preparing for what might happen next. Best case scenario, which is ultimately what did occur, was that the cops came, all settled down, and there was no escalation. Worst case would have been for the teenage boy who was chased down the street being accused of theft to have returned with armed re-enforcements, a not unlikely situation in that area. Me? I planned to stuff the little kids under the sturdy picnic tables I was set up next to, where they would be out of the line of fire, and either join them, or stand guard over them. All I could do. Even had I been carrying (and I’m not saying I wasn’t) I wouldn’t have done anything to draw fire on them.

Not everyone wants to use a gun as their tool when the time comes. Some are uncomfortable with them, for whatever reason. But as a 5’2” female, I know that a force-multiplier is essential. I haven’t the training to use a sword, nor is carrying one every day a reasonable option. I always have a blade on me, but I’d rather not have an attacker that close-in thankyouverymuch. The firearm is a very good option, but again, it’s not always available. So… what else can you use as your tool, when you are being the weapon.

Walk with me through my (ok, this isn’t all real, but if you’re thinking about breaking in, know that it’s a very bad idea at Chez Sanderson) house… Behind the front door is a battleaxe. It’s lighter than the double-bitted axe I once used to fell trees and split firewood, but you aren’t a green spruce trunk. Also in this area are various garden tools like shovels, and a bamboo Bo which belongs to my beloved and I need lessons with…

A little further, you made it into my kitchen. Boy, are you in trouble now. A knife block with my favorite 10” santuko I keep razor sharp, my 12” cast iron skillet (bonus if it’s hot and full of grease) – these are just the beginning. Made it past that? I’m sitting in the office. I have a firearm within arm’s reach, and also a coffee carafe that is usually at least half-full of near-boiling liquid (don’t make me waste my caffeine). Bedroom? Well, to begin with there’s a shotgun…

What about outside the house? Sarah pointed out when we were talking about this post that she has defended herself with shoes and dictionaries. I often wear hardened teak hair-sticks, and yes, you can fly with them… I checked with a TSA agent once (didn’t mention I was thinking of it as a weapon). Anything loose and heavy can become a projectile. What matters is: did you think of it beforehand? Because you most likely will not have the time to think when the attack comes.

The human brain is a funny thing. We react to situations often without concious through, acting on patterns formed before we were aware, as an adult, of what we should do. Some of us reacted to bullies with fists and feet, others crumbled under the onslaught. Look at your own patterns, and if you need to change them, set out to reform bad habits into good ones. Like looking around the room and making a plan for what you would do if it hit the fan with little or no warning.

I may be little, soft, and feminine, but mess with me and mine, and I will mess you up. It doesn’t matter what tool I choose, I am the weapon, and I will have no qualms about using it on you. The myth of the weak, helpless female is more busted than anything Jamie and Adam have ever taken on. Stop acting like a twit and trying to make everyone else take care of you, instead of being responsible for yourself. If there’s a threat, deal with it.

I’m not advocating a violent response to every situation. If, for instance, I am being hit on at a convention by a male I’m not interested in, I can choose one of several options. I can simply smile faintly and move away until I am out of his radius. If he follows, then I remain in a public place, preferably making my way to a group of friendly faces (I do not foolishly put myself in a situation where I am outnumbered and alone). At this point I can clearly and calmly inform him I’m not interested. If I must escalate, that he is making an ass of himself. Frankly, I’ve never gotten to this point, however, any rational person will then disengage. If he’s not rational, then and only then do you need to resort to violence should he lay hands on you. He’s not harassing you, child, if all he’s done is look at you in the way you don’t care for.

There are situations where it becomes very difficult to protect oneself. I have been in them, including the party I mentioned above, where to do so might have meant endangering little ones. I won’t do that. Sometimes we must choose what is best for a situation based on others, not ourself. But in order to be able to make that choice, you have to know beforehand what you would do. Protect the women and children? Yes. Protect those who refuse to protect themselves? I don’t know…

So. Make a plan. Practice the plan, with lots of thought, and involve your family and anyone who lives with you. Make it into a game, to help little ones get into it without teaching them undue fear. Prepare, and may the boogieman never come through your door. But if he does, be ready to open fire with your weapon.

A place for everything, and everything in its place — Dorothy Grant

*This author hasn’t exactly gone fishing, but it’s her anniversary and she’s gone off for a writing weekend with her sweetie.  Deal.  She’ll be back on Monday.
Also, an  announcement Witchfinder is on Sale on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for 2.99 electronic through noon on Monday.  It’s 2.99, so less than a half but a little more than 1/3 the price.  Please share the news as much as you can.  Much appreciated.*

A place for everything, and everything in its place — Dorothy Grant

For over a hundred years, his system has made it possible for people who are not experts on a single library’s particular collection to easily track down the area of the library with the general subject (history), the aisles with the more specific subject (American history), and get to the shelf with the Spanish-American War books. This is awesome. As an indie publisher, you want to know this if you want your book to end up in a library.Bookstores, though, found problems with the Dewey Decimal Code, in part because it has the inborn design view of a 1800’s American librarian, and doesn’t play well with fiction. They have mostly adapted the BISAC, Book Industry Standards and Communications. You’ll want to know BISAC, because that’s how you’re going to categorize your book for sale.https://www.bisg.org/complete-bisac-subject-headings-2013-edition is the page with all the categories. You’ll be using those for Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and itunes. When you hear the phrase cross-genre, these are the original genres, the categories that made publishers look at a book and go “Bookstores won’t know where to shelve it, so I won’t buy it.”And then there’s Amazon. Amazon took a look at BISAC, and says, “Well, that’s neat. But the customers who want to read about ninjas in space won’t know where to find it, and what if they want epic fantasy instead of adventure fantasy?” So they promptly went and created a whole bunch more categories, and sub categories, and sub-sub categories, and tickyboxes on the side of the page so you could say you wanted romance that only included men with kilts, or pirates in pantaloons, thank you.

Amazon is still creating categories. They love creating categories. They just made “short reads”, and are plunking fiction in sorted by the amount of time it takes the average reader to read ‘em.

This is important. Every categorization system before Amazon’s was made to shelve a physical book. They are exclusive, as putting a book in one category prevents it from being put in any other category. Amazon’s is inclusive, designed to put your book in all the places a customer might look for it. It’s the difference between filing paperwork and tagging a photo on flickr. This is as different a worldview as Dewey’s was in his day.

Just as tagging a photo requires, commonly recognized labels to create a populated cloud of photos under that label, and #hashtags on twitter work because people #recognize them as a #commontrend, so Amazon has “keywords.” You only get to pick two categories when you initially publish, so the keywords you enter will unlock the subcategories for you.

For Example, War To The Knife (Laredo War Trilogy Book 1)‘s main categories are:
FICTION > Science Fiction > Space Opera
FICTION > Science Fiction > Military

However, it’s present in all the following categories:

Books > Literature & Fiction
Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Adventure
Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Military
Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Space Opera
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Colonization
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Galactic Empire
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Military > Space Fleet
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Military > Space Marine
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Space Opera

We did that by putting in the following keywords: “Fleet, Marine, Space, Action, republic, Colonization, Starship”

But how did we know what keywords to put in? We went to the KDP help pages: they have lists. https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A200PDGPEIQX41

Note they have keywords for characters. Well, if you browse from the kindle ebook section of amazon, clicking on science fiction and fantasy, then on fantasy, you’ll see subgenres of fantasy on the left side of the screen. Scrolling further down, you’ll see tickboxes with specific characters. Did you want pirates? Clicky the tickybox, and anyone who put “pirate” in as a keyword will pop up, even if their title says “raiders” and their book description says “the dread scourge of the high seas”, but never once uses the word pirate.

Yes, that last sentence does indeed mean that keywords are not the only way to get in these categories and characters; putting the words in your book title and your book’s blurb will also do so… but NOT as reliably as a keyword. Also, “Swept Away ROMANCE KILTS TIME TRAVEL SCARED SHEEP by Ina Godda DaVida ” just looks tacky, and will drive readers away.

What about the book Description? Death of a Musketeer (Musketeers Mysteries Book 1) is in:
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Mystery > Historical
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Mystery > Private Investigators

But there’s no good way to specify which period in history you want your historical mystery, or which city. So, the book blurb does it for the search engine.

“April in Paris 1625. D’Artagnan, and his new friends who hide their true identities under the assumed names of Athos, Porthos and Aramis, discover the corpse of a beautiful woman who looks like the Queen of France.
Suspecting an intrigue of Cardinal Richelieu’s and fearing the murder will go unpunished they start investigating. But the enterprise will be fraught with danger, traps from the Cardinal, duels with guards and plotting from the king himself.”

Yep, there you have Musketeer (in the title), Paris, D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, Aramis, Queen, France, Cardinal, Richelieu, duels, king. That’s some search engine optimization right there.

What will this do for you? First off, it’ll put the book where the readers are looking for it. If your wild elven pirates are fighting the dwarven navies, no matter what terms you used, it’ll pop up in the search when a reader is looking for a good pirate tale. If you’re not on a top-100 list this is your best shot besides showing up in also-boughts at coming to a reader’s attention.

Speaking of those top-100 lists, there are 162,352 stories in Science Fiction & Fantasy right now. There are 1802 in steampunk. If you’ve written a post-apocalyptic steampunk adventure, your chances of getting on the top-100 list are weighing against 1802 others in steampunk, and 6,452 in post-apocalyptic. That’s a whole lot easier than competing against the multimillion dollar media campaign for George RR Martin, or against the several-decade rolling franchises of Star Trek and Star Wars. And once you get on those top-100 lists, by being visible, it’s a lot easier to capture browser’s attention and stay visible.

On the other paw, this also tells you the size of the market. There are 24,090 historical romances in ebook. Clearly, your PA-steampunk adventure isn’t going to have the same popularity as Say, Outlander: A Novel (#2 in the historical romances, #74 in the entire 2-million-plus kindle store, as I type). In fact, Shadowdance: The Darkest London Series: Book 4 is #2 in steampunk and #3,704 in kindle store as I type this.

Caveat: Your book should go in all the places it belongs, but don’t stick it in places that have more traffic, but it doesn’t belong. Chick lit about shoes and metrosexuals does not belong in historical romance. Quest fantasy does not belong in hard science fiction. You will get ticked off customers, one-star reviews, and refunds all saying “not what I expected/wanted!” Don’t piss off the readers, who are the people you want to help you pay for food.
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Our Education System is going to be Our Downfall – Amanda Green

*Sarah has gone on a canoodling writing weekend for her anniversary.  She’ll be back Monday.  Please, don’t burn down the blog in her absence.  Also, decorating it in Hello Kitty Theme will NOT (repeat NOT) be appreciated.

Also, an  announcement Witchfinder is on Sale on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for 2.99 electronic through noon on Monday.  It’s 2.99, so less than a half but a little more than 1/3 the price.  Please share the news as much as you can.  Much appreciated.*

Our Education System is going to be Our Downfall – Amanda Green

 

Our current education system is, in all too many situations, a joke. From revisionist history to students being told they can’t wear t-shirts with the American flag on it on certain days because it might upset other members of the school population, it has become clear that there is more importance being placed on turning out a generation of Stepford students than in teaching students to think outside the box.

One of the pet whipping horses and, in my opinion at least, rightly so is the Common Core curriculum that many districts across the country have adopted. If you have spent any time on Facebook the last month or so, you’ve seen an image of what looks like a pretty simple math problem on it. The top of the image shows how most of us were taught to solve the problem. The bottom of the image is, frankly, a bunch of gobbled-goop.

commoncoremathsm

Now, I don’t know about you, but the top method makes a great deal more sense to me. The one article I found defending the bottom method stated that the Common Core method was better because students didn’t understand why they answered the way they did in the top method. Sorry, but that doesn’t fly, not if the students were taught how to add and subtract and not just told to memorize the tables.

A quick look at the two problems shows a difference right off the bat. In the top, you have the problem and the answer. The bottom shows, supposedly, the methodology for getting to the answer. So, the issue is skewed right off the bat – and by both sides of the equation. The side disliking Common Core didn’t show the methodology in the top example to illustrate how easy it is to solve the problem in the first place. In other words, if it is that easy, why do you need all the gobbled-goop?

As for the Common Core proponents, they will show the methodology in order to explain why it works but they won’t show the methodology on the top because, duh, it is a more streamlined process.

But that is just one example of the issues with not only Common Core but the education system in general. Another come from an assignment handed out to eight graders in Rialto, California this past May.

The assignment asked students to discuss whether the Holocaust “was an actual event in history,” or whether it was “merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain,” the San Bernadino Sun reports.

More specifically, the students were given three sources they could use to justify their position. Frankly, I hesitate to use the term “sources” since they were given handouts and those were all they could use. These so-called sources were About.com, History.com and “Holocaust denial site BibleBelievers.org.au”.

Really reliable and accurate, much less in-depth sources the students were given. Right?

Making matters worse, when concerned parents and the media contacted the school district about the assignment, administrators said that no student had argued against the existence of the Holocaust as an actual event. Funny though, when the Sun got hold of hundreds of papers turned in for the assignment, it found at least 50 students who argued that the Holocaust was a lie. One student justified their position that the Holocaust was a lie because one of the sources said it had been exaggerated.

Needless to say, the community as a whole was outraged, and rightly so, over the assignment. Not only were the students not being taught about the horrors of the Holocaust and all those who lost their lives as a result, they were being given good grades for arguing against its existence.

After the fact, the district has pulled the assignment from the curriculum and it is “being revised.” The episode – and I have to wonder if, by that, they mean the publicizing of the assignment – is now viewed as a bad mark for the district. Whether this was, as the Anti-Defamation League put it, a misguided attempt to help students learn critical thinking or not, it was a badly thought out assignment. Worse, it was an assignment approved of by those in the district in charge of curriculum. If that isn’t a cause for worry, I don’t know what is.

Take into account the fact that the district also said “the assignment is merely to teach students to evaluate the quality of evidence made by advocates or opponents of an issue.”

If that were the case, why choose sites like About.com as one of the so-called sources? It is about as reliable on most things as Wikipedia. There is no real requirement, as far as I know, for any sort of special knowledge or training to answer a question. Then there is History.com. You know them. They’re the internet side of the History Channel, home to such historically accurate shows as Vikings. (yes, the snark meter is on high right now.) And the final “source” was from a Holocaust denier site – the only one you could really say advocates or opposes this particular issue.

Worse, this is the sort of thing that is happening more and more often in our schools. Quick internet searches will reveal where curriculum guides are rewriting our Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, to meet the agenda of whatever the group’s political agenda might be. You will find reports, along with images to support them, of districts handing out worksheets claiming that the Second Amendment allows people to own only certain types of guns and only if they register them.

Some of the alleged attempts are more subtle than others. There is a text book in which the Second Amendment reads, according to sources, that “The people have a right to keep and bear arms in a state militia.” The actual phrasing of the Second Amendment is, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

So what is Common Core? It is a Washington DC based non-profit organization (yeah, yeah, I laughed too). Its mission statement reads as follows:

Common Core seeks to ensure that all students, regardless of their circumstance, receive a content-rich education in the full range of the liberal arts and sciences, including English, mathematics, history, the arts, science, and foreign languages. We work with teachers and scholars to create instructional materials, conduct research, and promote policies that support a comprehensive and high-quality education in America’s public schools.

Here are some examples of what different Common Core worksheets look like.

Now, like Common Core or not – and I don’t – there still has to be some sort of understanding that our education system is to educate and not indoctrinate. We have to stop worrying about teaching to the lowest common denominator and we have to give our teachers back the ability to adapt curricula to meet the needs of each and every student without having to spend weeks or months justifying it to the powers that be. We need to challenge our students, all of them, and give them back the joy of learning.

Frankly, I don’t give a flying rat’s behind if a kid can explain to me why 32 – 20 = 12. If he has been taught properly, he will understand the process. My concern is that he not be so intimidated or turned off by a complicated process for something that is really very easy to do. I was one of those kids who was hit during school with multiple changes in how math was taught. As a result, I hated math. Each change in the process made everything much more complicated than it needed to be. You have to teach the basics first and build from there. Not start on the 14th floor.

But what really concerns me is what we are doing to our kids when it comes to history and government classes. Yes, the victors write the history books. It’s been that way for time immemorial. This need our education system seems to have to go back now and rewrite history so it conforms to the current definition of politically correct is going to lead to our downfall if it isn’t stopped soon. The quote, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it,” will come into play. We already have students who have never heard of the Korean War and who don’t understand the origins of the World Wars. Others have been taught that the only reason our country fought a civil war was because of slavery. Those are just a few of the examples.

It is time we, as parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends, started paying attention to what our younger generations are being taught. It is time to tell our school boards that they need to get their acts together and start focusing on teaching and not on mandating policies that keep teachers from being anything more than glorified babysitters. It is time to tell our government, especially the federal government, to quit mandating policies for our local districts that make no frigging sense and only serve to lower our education standards.

In other words, it is time to start giving a damn and letting our voices be heard.

 

 

 

We Are the Field

*First, an announcement Witchfinder is on Sale on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for 2.99 electronic through noon on Monday.  It’s 2.99, so less than a half but a little more than 1/3 the price.  Please share the news as much as you can.  Much appreciated.*

 

My Eyes on Twiter TM (he can identify himself if he wants to) informs me that the usual suspects were blathering last week about how it was really bad that we not only wanted to publish to our little niche, but we also wanted to “take over the field.”

So who is “We”? Well, the think it’s the “conservative” writers, and given the brilliant understanding they have of our side this means mostly – they think – killjoys with an agenda of “do not trespass.” This was obvious since the conversation then went on to say that the dangerous ones on our side were people like me and Larry and Ringo who “pretend to be moderates” and therefore might “attract a following.”

First of all on the “pretend” – no, thank you, I’m quite done pretending, and I wasn’t very good at it to begin with.

Second of all on the “moderate” – I am offended. Since when is someone who wants to hang the komissars from lampposts using their own guts as ropes a moderate?

Oh, yeah, sorry, I forgot. I’m a “moderate” because I don’t fit the view of “conservatives” (which for these purposes is everyone not to the left of Lenin) shown on tv, books and movies for the last forty years or so. You know, someone who is a cross between the SNL “church lady” and Sam the Eagle from the Muppets, and who folds like a cheap lawn chair at the first sign of opposition, or even the first cliché thrown at them by a “smart” liberal. You know, things like “War hurts children and other small things” and “We’re all naked under our clothes.”

Once you understand that this is what the left thinks the “opposition” is (poor things, their control of the media and entertainment has done them a very great disservice) is, you start understanding why they’re such hidebound, cliché-ridden fanatics.

You see, they think the choice is between two sets of beliefs, both monolithic, whole and undigested. Part of the reason they believe this, of course, is that the left has always, either by reason of policy or on their own, cracked down pretty hard on “deviationism” and insisted on “party discipline.”

This is something the communists brought with them, and it allowed them to pivot over say the Hitler-Stalin pact. But it also means that for people to consider themselves on the left, they must believe three thousand contradictory things before breakfast and lunch and dinner.

Some of the minor ones include:

The idea that we should be free to do what we want to with our bodies, but that we all “belong” to the government, who can order us to stop eating unhealthy food, or NOT exercising. (Why they don’t realize this will eventually, given enough governmental power, extend to things like abortion or gay sex is beyond me. It not only requires them to believe that government will self-restrain, it also requires them to ignore the history of China and the Soviet Union and Cuba.)

The idea that women are the exact same as men, or perhaps more able, but at the same time they need protection at all times, and men can talk them into anything with their “superior” male minds.

The idea that every culture is the same but ours is uniquely bad.

The only way they can believe this is because they’ve gotten used to the idea that their beliefs come into a block – that if you believe in one part of the agenda you have to believe in all of it.

This is also what keeps them in line and from even considering conservative agendas. For them to accept, say, the idea of fiscal responsibility, they think they’d have to stop talking to all their gay friends, stop making off color jokes, or whatever the hell they think conservatives are.

In that light, of course I’m “pretending” to be a dangerous “moderate” who might seduce people over into accepting my dangerous agenda and believing in the constitution and disbelieving in Marx. According to what these poor bunnies have been taught, this means they’ll need to dress modestly, go to church every Sunday, support racial segregation, etc. etc. – ie. An agenda that no conservative has supported in totality EVER.

So, I’m here to inform them that it’s not like that. They really need to get past their binary view of the world. Most – not all, but most. There are some who are on this side simply as knee jerk rejection of everything the liberals say. Which can get bad because most of what the liberals say is internally contradictory – of us are on this side because we didn’t get our beliefs ready-made off the shelf.

We couldn’t, see, because tv, radio, movies, news, books, didn’t present anything we believe in as a coherent wholesale agenda. Instead they presented us with two alternatives, one pushed as right and the other as wrong, and both internally contradictory, laughably incoherent, and out of touch with reality.

This means when we saw all the cracks in the agenda being shown as “right” (I believe for me that started when I saw how they reported things I’d been present at. And there was no resemblance) we started examining positions and beliefs by themselves, individually, testing them against reality and choosing what to believe in and what not to believe in.

And eventually we arrived to a set of beliefs we’re okay with. Some we might not be as attached to as others. And some are not for public consumption. Oh, and our politics and religion might not have anything to do with one another, except in the sense that sincerely held religious beliefs will influence politics, but that doesn’t mean even that is taken wholesale. Look, I’m sincerely religious, and I hold myself to a set of beliefs and behaviors that I believe move me towards salvation. This doesn’t mean that I believe everyone should be forced to do the same. I know this is hard to believe, but my Mormon friends don’t think coffee should be outlawed (which is why they’re still my friends.) And my gay (conservative) friends don’t believe churches should be forced to marry them. (Most of them would prefer to get government out of marriage, too, but that’s something else.)

It is possible to be pro-freedom and not religious at all, in fact. Or to be religious but to be rigorous with oneself but not with others. For instance, my religious beliefs are very much anti-group-relationships but I don’t think people should be punished for this (they might be their own punishment!) and in fact I’m reliably informed that some of my friends are in those. They’re still my friends. (And not to the left of Lenin.)

It is this flexibility that allowed us for years to read what the publishers put out, despite the fact that most of it was not only steeped in the vilest Marxism, but also spent quite a bit of time denigrating things we believed in, like fiscal responsibility or gun ownership. We even enjoyed some of it. You see, I can say that Terry Pratchett was one of the best writers (in any field) ever, while thinking his views on guns and monetary policy – were it not for the fact they are standard European views and therefore part of his environment – are crazy enough that people proclaiming them should have to wear tinfoil on their heads as a warning.

They can’t. Because their beliefs are a monolith of fail that they can’t examine without falling apart, they can’t even read Heinlein. In the middle of the free love and group marriage, they might come across a paragraph about fiscal responsibility or lack of respect for government, and then their brittle façade would crack.

This is why one of the usual suspects was giving thanks on Twitter for the fact that her bookstore refused to stock “right wing” science fiction, so she was never exposed to “fascist” ideas. (Yes, this is the East German, who manages to be completely oblivious to what “fascist” really means, and thinks libertarian fits there. Because, you know, “Achtung, vi vill take over the vorld and leave you RUTHLESSLY alone.” [Cackles at the thought of the screams of outrage at fake German accent.]) Because you see, ideas are a sort of contamination. If you read the wrong ideas, you might find yourself agreeing with some of them, and then, no matter how minor your agreement, you are forever corrupted. You are no longer “one of the good people.” The thought crime no matter how momentary will cast you into outer darkness.

Is it any wonder that under them most of science fiction has become about as daring as the Baptist Single Woman’s Social? (Probably less. Some of my friends are Baptist.) Is it any wonder to be accepted as a “progressive writer of science fiction” you have to “speak truth to power” (circa the imaginary fifties that live only in progressives’ heads) in exactly the same way everyone else does, and be forever afraid of putting a foot wrong or having a wrong thought, lest you’re thrown out?

To the scaredy ( and conformist) cats on the other side of the political fence, I bring good news and bad news.

The good news is that most of us do not want to “take over” the field. You see, most of us – not being a monolithic block – would have trouble organizing our way out of a paper bag. A lot of us still read people well to the left of us. Heck, to a lot of the right in sf/f, I am well to the left. To others I’m unimaginably right. Oh, and sometimes I’m both to the same person.

Not having a rigid set of beliefs, if we tried to take over, the Federalists would get in a fight with the Nationalists, the Nationalists would beat the One-Worlder-Libertarians over the head, and the anarchists would denounce all of us.

So, no, we’re not stealing your trick of proclaiming a platform and demanding everyone follow it.

The bad news is that we don’t need to take over the field. We’re already here. Science fiction has always attracted people who like to turn ideas over in their minds, think on them, sometimes try their flavor. Sometimes these ideas are dangerous enough that the rest of society thinks we’re nuts. Sometimes we are nuts.

You – the academic Marxists, the rigid thinkers – have managed to run most of the Odds – in the sense of people that don’t fit on either dies from official fandom, and from publishing houses, and from official publishing circles, mostly by pointing your finger and screaming about thought-crimes.

But with indie, that tactic won’t work. We’ll still get out there. We’ll still publish. And yep, we’ll still “contaminate” new generations with dangerous thoughts and ways of looking at life. Ways that shatter your conformist, block-think.

Dangerous visions, you could call it.

We’re here, we’re diverse in thought. And we ain’t going anywhere. Get used to it.

So I finally got the zazzle store fixed

Also I realized how ill I must have been last year, because it would take me forever to get a product up.

Anyway, this is not today’s post, as such, just something to hold you while I write it.  Also, I thought those of you not the in facebook diner might want to see these because… funny.

First up, designs by older son:

I Ate At The George T-ShirtDid you visit beautiful Goldport Colorado and stop for pancakes at the funny diner on Fairfax with the neon dragon flipping pancakes on the sign?  Buy one of the souvenir t-shirts to remember the special moment.  No, of course the waitress didn’t just growl at you!

I Wasn't Eaten At The George T-ShirtDid you visit beautiful Goldport Colorado and stop for pancakes at the funny diner on Fairfax with the neon dragon flipping pancakes on the sign?  Are you fairly sure the waitress growled at you?  Did the proprietor look a little… dragonny?  Well, buy this t-shirt to proclaim your good fortune.

The next three are by our very own Shadow Dancer (Thank you!)  Available for all your t-shirt illustration needs.  (I hope.  I didn’t ask her.)

carpethecarpEat, drink and be carped, for tomorrow we die.

getcarpedAchievement unlocked! 

borntobehunIs your poor child destined to be one of us?  Proclaim it proudly!

Then there are a couple of designs by Chris Muir (THANK YOU!)

superwriterYeah… I know.  But it is a great drawing for a t-shirt.

And for those of you following the evilness of the evil league:

now with more evilAvailable in t-shirt and Mug

Yes, there will be others: quotes from books, writers t-shirts and funny hun-joke t-shirts — but they will come in a trickle over time and I’ll try to remember to tell you about them!  I only got this done yesterday because I was on three hours of sleep (Curse you Jagi Lamplighter for keeping me up all night reading!) and needed to “work” but words were beyond me.

Invaded by Aliens

It is a cliché of bad science fiction – as in what I tell all my newbies not to do – to start a story with characters telling themselves/each other things they already know.

“As you know, Bob, we were invaded by aliens in 1939,” has become a catch phrase in my family, as in when someone is telling us things we already know. You know, something like younger son will say, “In case you didn’t notice, the economy sucks” and I say “As you know, Bob, we were invaded by Aliens in 1939.

Now, while I don’t believe we’ve been invaded by aliens, it occurred to me that this was a great story starter. But then I realized that (though I don’t believe we’ve been invaded by aliens,) the resulting world is as close as it can be to ours, and in many ways makes more sense than ours. Or, as a vocal woman once said, “At this point, really, what difference does it make?”

 

“As you now, Bob, were invaded by aliens in 1939, and since then they’ve been doing their best to destroy humanity. But because they’re cunningly disguised, most people aren’t aware of it and think the culture has gone inexplicably bad.”

 

-Our entertainment and culture vilifies the very concept of humanity.

-Our entertainment and culture vilifies the concept of “good” meaning benefiting most of humanity.

- Our entertainment and culture vilifies the concept of success and successful people are viewed not as role models but as evil villains.

- Our entertainment/culture/education holds up to ridicule and opprobrium the human cultures that have made the most humans happy/healthy and wealthy, while glorifying cultures where women are held as chattels and anyone different (mouthy women, original thinkers, gay people) are at best hanged from cranes, and at worst tortured in inventive ways.

- Successful Western countries are ASSUMED to “deserve” being swamped by third world immigrants and made into hell holes like the ones the immigrants came from.

-TV programs exhibit “extinction lust” fantasizing about a world without humans.

- “Environmentalists” loudly equate men and rats in their scale of priority and think human population should be reduced to one tenth what it is.  They refuse any solutions that don’t involve extreme population reduction and return to a short, brutish and nasty standard of life for all humans.

- To this end, a vocal and poisonous belief called “feminism” has been propagated, to keep the human males and females from making more humans.

IN THE UNITED STATES IN PARTICULAR:

  • Our elites vilify the United States compared to anyone else. Yes, even evil pirates, rapacious fascists like China, corruptocrats like Putin and the unholy mess that’s the Middle East other than Israel. Faced with that bucket of fail, our president went around… apologizing for the US.
  • We routinely help our enemies and stab our allies in the back, or as someone said “changed sides on the war on terror.”
  • While the world falls apart around us, the most important thing in the world for our elites is to subdue their own populace, be it by ridiculous environmental regulations, gun regulations, hectoring on diet (according to disproven principles,) and targeted economic war – IRS, EPA, and various banking regulations – of which the problems made for old coin dealers are the drop of water in this bucket of scary that makes my hair stand on end. You figure out why.
  • While the world falls apart around us, our cultural elites, blithely blind to what is going on in countries where women, gays and minorities truly are oppressed (as in dead-oppressed) blather on about the future being queer and about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, how to eliminate the tyranny of bi-gender assumption from fiction, games, and other creative culture outlets.
  • While anyone who behaves like these “elites” (I prefer aristos. It’s more… accurate) is told that they’re brave and “speaking truth to power” while reaping all the rewards possible by the society that supports them (and doing their best to tear it down) anyone pointing out the suicidal folly of this behavior is called… “a conformist” and “unoriginal” and “scared” or a “sell out” while, in fact having to swim against the cultural current, because the main current is supporting the suicide-encouraging ones.

 

I don’t believe we’ve been invaded by aliens. But do look around.

If we had been, how could you tell the difference?

At this point, really, what difference does it make?

 

One American Looks at Nationalism – Alma Boykin

*My apologies to Alma and everyone for being so late putting this up.  The reason is I was going to write a post today and save this one for this weekend, when I kidnap husband for Anniversary celebrations.  Unfortunately I REALLY need to go finish painting the porch and I got so late writing post for MGC — partly because husband and I had to talk about something else, while I was writing — and I want to get out there before it’s too hot to be outside and working.  Sorry Alma and everyone.  BUT otoh this post is apropos my post yesterday*

One American Looks at Nationalism – Alma Boykin

 

I don’t “get” nationalism, not really. I grew up in the United States, and we don’t “do” nationalism. We do patriotism, much to the dismay and occasional despair of the Anointed, those who dream of one world government, peace in our time, equalization of poverty, and a free-range organic soy chicken in every pot. (Or free pot for every chicken, depending on where they live.) There are some sectional differences that flare up, mostly as proxies for something else (modern economic situation, mostly). But that strange thing called “nationalism” doesn’t apply to Americans, and I suspect it doesn’t apply to Aussies, New Zealanders, or Canadians, either.

Why not? Because the U.S. is a state (political) without nations in it (excluding American Indians, for reasons you’ll see). A state based on an idea and not on past glories and victimhood.

As I learned in college, a nation and a state can be totally separate animals. And since 1800, nations within states tended to generate uneasy politics, often because of economics as well as claims of cultural supremacy. Until the Long Nineteenth Century (1789-1914), states often contained multiple nations. “Nation” meant a group of people from the same region who often spoke the same language and may have claimed a single ancestor or ancestral group, like the Bohemians and Princess Libuse, or the Magyars who descended from a princess impregnated by an eagle. But the states, like what became France, or the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (as opposed to Charlemagne’s version), or the Grand Duchy of Poland-Lithuania, or Spain, contained multiple nations, all of who paid taxes and service to the monarch. The state included nations, but most nations did not have their own state.

Then along came a couple of philosophers, Napoleon, and the Romantics, and trouble ensued. Trouble, that is, if you were a monarchy or republic with unhappy nations inside your borders; or if you belonged to a nation that wanted its own state, or at least official recognition as being co-equal with other nations in the state, because “Glorious ancestors! Our noble patrimony! A majority share of the national budget!” The early ideal of universal brotherhood shifted during the 1830s into the desire for recognition of these magical nations—and their “ancient” (occasionally mythical) borders.

During that long century, nationalists in Europe dug for evidence that could tie their ancestors, mythical or otherwise, to a large chunk of territory. The Romanians, for example, claimed descent from the Romans and looked back to the Roman Empire as well as later Slavic tribes in order to demand ownership of Transylvania, even though large numbers of German and Magyar-speaking peoples lived there for hundreds of years, and the Magyar/Hungarians had controlled the region for centuries. “Doesn’t matter, the Romans were there first, so it should be Romanian.” Farther into the Balkans, the Albanians and others claim descent from the Illyrians, a pre-Roman tribe, and assert that their presence dates back thousands, if not tens of thousands of years. You can see that this might not end well.

This came to mind because I’ve been giving myself headaches trying to understand Eastern and Central Europe recently, a topic I tend to approach from an American’s view. As a result, I read about the plight of the poor, oppressed Hungarian nobility and gentry and my mental eyebrows started to rise. The mental monologue goes something like this: “Let’s see, you beat up the peasants, you abandoned your king at the first battle of Mohaçs so you could go loot the churches and run his Habsburg wife out of the country while the Turks took over a third of Great Hungary, you played all sides against each other, you beat up on the Slavs around you and tried to eradicate their culture after 1850 while shutting them out of the government, but you are the victims. Riiiight. While bragging about how great you were before 1444, and of the glories of the magnificent Hungarian kingdom. Pardon me if I have some trouble taking all this at face value.”

You see, I’d read much of this twenty years ago, but with different names. Rebecca West’s book, Black Lamb, Grey Falcon is a history of the Serbs as victims. Their last czar, after a vision from the Lord, chose a heavenly kingdom over an Earthly one and got himself and his troops slaughtered at the Battle of the Field of Blackbirds (Kosovo Polje) in 1389. As West described it, the Serbs, the last defenders of Christendom, suffered as martyrs under the Turks and the Habsburgs for centuries after that, and so on and so forth. The book is well written and very persuasive—if you don’t know much about the area, especially if you forget what happened in the Balkans between 1989 and the rise of Wahabism there. I suspect if I went looking, especially in foreign-language sources, I’d find works written in a similar spirit about the Poles, Romanians, Bulgarians, and Bohemians. And do not get me started on Stanislav Kirschbaum’s A History of Slovakia. He writes well, but his bias shows in neon lights with sparklers around it.

To an outsider from a country that doesn’t have a sense of nationalism, all this sounds a little silly. You can’t claim borders or rest on achievements that vanished centuries ago. OK, so his ancestors spoke Bohemian and hers spoke German. Big whoop. Have your ethnic parties, like Americans of Irish ancestry have in March or the folks down in Fredericksburg do every October, and get on with life. Except the burden of history (and Marxist economics) weighs too heavily for that.

Americans don’t have that history. We don’t have 1500-year-old castles and monasteries. Neither do we have fights over slices of the economic pie disguised as claims of ancient ancestors. Because that’s what a lot of nationalism since 1848 has become: demands for chunks of what generations of Marxists have declared are limited government resources (because all comes from the government) based on borders and people that disappeared 1000 years ago. Add in the desire to avenge wrongs committed 500 years ago and rediscovered or reemphasized and turned into rallying points by politicians (see the Battle of Kosovo, above), and a couple of Marxists claiming that since your ancestors were oppressed, you should get an extra share of the “pie” and be allowed, if not encouraged, to pay back old economic wrongs by, oh, driving out the Saxons, Catholics, and/or Jews, and you get an unholy mess that leaves Americans wondering why the h-ll these people can’t take a deep breath and go get real lives.

To those of us who grew up in places and times without Marxist economic ideas draped in ethnic flags, the claims of nationalism sounds foolish at best and dangerously parochial at worst (see the anti-Semitic spasms of the Hungarian Jobbiks and the Russian National Unity Party, Pamyat). As a historian, I understand nationalism intellectually when I read about it, but I don’t “get” it. I don’t feel especially loyal to any of my ancestors’ birthplaces. There are cultures I identify with and some that I find repulsive, but I can’t imagine basing all my political and economic and cultural dreams on, oh, say, bringing back the days of King Brian Boru or Fredrik Barbarossa. As a fiction writer, I can imagine how some characters think about their volk, but it’s a prickly mental sensation, like wearing an itchy wool suit on a hot, humid day. It doesn’t fit and I just don’t get it.