A Whole Raft of Books – Free Range Oyster

A Whole Raft of Books – Free Range Oyster

Ladies and gentlemen of Hoyt’s Horde of Huns, we bring you another stack of books! We’ve some interesting submissions this week: an anthology edited by one of our frequent promo posters, omnibus editions of Karen Myers’ Hounds of Annwn as well as her latest novel, and some great adventure stories from TK Naliaka. On those last, I want to add my personal recommendation. I worked on the first two as editor, and have read the third. They were a lot of fun, exciting and occasionally poignant. So go check out some of these authors, support your fellow Huns, and always, always leave a review. We’ve had reports of trolls spamming 1-star reviews on some of the Huns’ books, and the only counter to that is more honest reviews. As always, future entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster

Clothier, Code Monkey, Word Polisher, and Faithful Servant of the Hunnic Horde


Quantum Zoo

Jack the Ripper arrives for one last murder, while a dinosaur – out of place and out of time – bridges the gap between two poignant lovers in the wonderfully atmospheric England of Hugo- and Nebula-nominated Bridget McKenna.

From a haunted old zoo filled with ghosts to a dying starship on its way to a new home – humanity’s final gasp, Quantum Zoo presents a dozen compelling stories featuring a dozen exotic and unusual menageries.

Edited by promo regular J.M. Ney-Grimm

Karen Myers

Broken Devices

The Chained Adept Book 3


The largest city in the world has just discovered its missing wizards. It seems the Kigali empire has ignited a panic that threatens internal ruin and the only chained wizard it knows that’s still alive is Penrys.

The living wizards and the dead are not her people, not unless she makes them so. All they have in common is a heavy chain and a dead past – the lives that were stolen from them are beyond recall.

What remains are unanswered questions about who made them this way. And why. And what Penrys plans to do to find out.

The Hounds of Annwn Bundle (Books 1-2)

A Virginian in Elfland

To Carry the Horn – Book 1 of The Hounds of Annwn


George Talbot Traherne is just doing his job on a fine autumn morning, keeping the hounds together for the huntsman of the Rowanton Hunt in Virginia along the Blue Ridge Mountain. Doesn’t pay to get distracted by a white stag in unfamiliar territory, though. Next thing you know, you might find yourself… somewhere else.

The land is the same but not the people. Their huntsman has just been murdered, and George is tapped for the job. It’s an emergency – the Wild Hunt is only two weeks away, and if it doesn’t happen on schedule, the antlered god Cernunnos will take the realm from its ruler Gwyn ap Nudd and find someone who can mete out justice with the Hounds of Hell in his place.

The Ways of Winter – Book 2 of The Hounds of Annwn


It’s the dead of winter and George Talbot Traherne, the new human huntsman for the Wild Hunt, is in trouble. The damage in Gwyn ap Nudd’s domain reveals the deadly powers of a dangerous foe who has mastered an unstoppable weapon and threatens the fae dominions in both the new and the old worlds.

Secure in his unbreachable stronghold, the enemy holds hostages and has no compunction about using them in deadly experiments with newly discovered way-technology. Only George has a chance to reach him in time to prevent the loss of thousands of lives, even if it costs him everything.

The Hounds of Annwn Bundle (Books 3-5)

A Virginian in Elfland

King of the May – Book 3 of The Hounds of Annwn


George Talbot Traherne, the human huntsman for the Wild Hunt, had hoped to settle into a quiet life with his new family, but it was not to be. Gwyn ap Nudd, Prince of Annwn, has plans to secure his domain in the new world from the overbearing interference of his father Lludd, the King of Britain.

The security of George’s family is bound to that of his overlord, and he vows to help. But when he and his companions stand against Lludd and his allies at court, disaster overturns all their plans and even threatens the Hounds of Annwn themselves.

Bound into the Blood – Book 4 of The Hounds of Annwn


George Talbot Traherne, the human huntsman for the Wild Hunt, is preparing for the birth of his child by exploring the family papers about his parents and their deaths. When his improved relationship with his patron, the antlered god Cernunnos, is jeopardized by an unexpected opposition, he finds he must choose between loyalty to family and loyalty to a god.

Tales of Annwn – A Story Collection from The Hounds of Annwn

Five short stories: The Call, Under the Bough, Night Hunt, Cariad, and The Empty Hills

T.K. Naliaka

In Time of Peril

The Decaturs Book 1

Raised most of his life in the challenging world of West Africa, young Chris Decatur is in the United States for college, leaving behind dunes, nomads, and baobabs for the quiet halls of academia. Studying the American Revolution, Chris and his classmates embark on a reenactment trip to Upstate New York and New England. A week of hiking and learning, accompanied by a few reenactment volunteers and Chris’s knowledgeable father, Robert, should be an entertaining excursion. But even the backwoods are no refuge from the dangers of the world. The group stumbles on a terrorist plot in the works and the students are taken hostage as a mysterious plan unfurls. Chris’s unique background places him in the forefront in an ordeal of brutal fighters, uncooperative classmates, deadly threats and a battle of wits against ruthless foes, as Robert Decatur risks everything in a daring pursuit to rescue his son from the hands of evil.

A Difficult Damsel to Rescue

The Decaturs Book 2

SWAT officer Enrique Vargas was smitten with exotic Chlotilde Decatur from the first glance. Helping to save her brother’s life got his foot in the door, but the tough young cop faces new challenges when it comes to courting the irrepressible daughter of the Decatur family, in this sequel to In Time of Peril. When their first date ends with a brutal shooting, the young couple’s courtship is off to a perilous start. As specters from both their families’ pasts assail them, Chloe and Enrique must lean on each other and their loved ones to survive. Love, danger, and betrayal carry them from American western prairies, through the Straits of Florida and ultimately to the wild west, lawless desert frontier of the African Sahel, where dark promises will be fulfilled. Joining the Decatur family can be a dangerous proposition, but when those who they count as their own are threatened, they rally from across the globe to defend!

Between Dunes and Hard Places

The Decaturs Book 3

As Chris Decatur does hard time, his younger brother Daniel is hard beset on multiple fronts: calving season, interminable fence repairs, dangers of court testimony and the unexpected extended family duty of properly chaperoning Enrique Vargas’s gorgeous sister. Daniel finds an excellent solution to his troubles..… fleeing… as far from Wyoming as is possible on the planet: Hindustan, India. But with two families reeling from a brutal and vengeful attack, Daniel becomes the stumbling block to their enemies, but in the process inadvertently places himself in deeper peril when he steps where a long-set snare lies waiting for him. A fresh and fast-paced action-romance adventure for all ages across three continents with an engaging cast of international characters.

Iron Mixed with Sand, Salt without Memory

The Decaturs Book 4

The trail to the fate of three missing contractors leads Chris and Djibi into dangerous territory, but when their job is done, a simple exit for them is not in the cards. Rounded up with a group of villagers by a brutal and cruel militia leader, Chris and his fellow captives are forced to dig underground caves in ancient salt deposits. Desperate to escape before they are worked to death, they see no way out. Have the Decaturs taken on more hazards than they can handle as they search for a lost needle in the haystack of the massive expanses of the harshly beautiful yet rebel-infested West African Sahel?

The Inevitable Guilt

Years back, when an obscure film maker of a you tube video got arrested for …well, objectively for being a perfect scape goat.

I watched my husband and his sister go the full rounds with Dan saying “If they arrested him for anything, it was for making a movie against Islam, and do you want to set that precedent” and her saying “Well, he was violating his parole which required him to not post on the net.”

Even though we tried to make her see that without the need for a scapegoat, he’d never have been arrested for a “parole violation” she told us it was fair that he be arrested.  After all, if he weren’t a criminal, he wouldn’t have been arrested.

Yesterday Larry posted — sorry I was/am out of the country till next week and therefore don’t know the details — about police called to an incident where someone decided an autistic kid was trying to commit suicide.  The policeman didn’t shoot the kid (though he tried) but shot the caretaker.

Most people — including policemen — agree this man really screwed the pooch (and you’re talking to someone who thinks police are under attack at the front of a race war because the left needs a scapegoat.)  But even on Larry’s thread there was the inevitable “it’s all his fault.”  In this case it was “he wouldn’t have been shot if he’d run away.

Since what he’d done instead of running away was to lie down on the ground, hands up, as the police ORDERED, this is not a valid objection.

But some people feel a strong need to blame victims of authority/violence that might also hit them.  It’s a little incantation to convince themselves they’re safe.  (Look to the whole left and blaming victims of islamic violence, for further examples.)

It is comforting and helpful, psychologically,to think that the guy who just got kicked in the nads did something to deserve it.

And I’ll say that in the vast majority of run ins with police that turn violent, yeah, someone did something to bring it about.  Most of the time someone is arrested, yeah, they did something to bring this about.  Were it no so, then all criminals would be — as the left pretends -= angel.

Yet the police and the government of which they are instrument, are necessary but dangerous tools.  It is necessary, when humans live together, to have sheep dogs that control the wolves.

To imagine that when a sheep dog goes crazy and goes after a lamb, though, it was the lamb’s fault for looking particularly vulpine, is to give permission to tyranny.

In every tyranny in the world, the victims are blamed.  Under communism you were often called crazy and sent to a madhouse instead of to prison, but it comes to the same.  There was always a justification. “He caused panic by speaking against the government.”or “He was spreading despondency” or “He was really evil and one dayy when he chewed gum, he just threw the wrapper on the sidewalk.

Even in petty tyrannies like the SJWs, where you don’t lose your life, only your livelihood, people can be attacked for writing a respectful article about sf/f female writers and editors.  But it’s okay, they had it coming. They used the word “ladies.”

Stay alert.  Remember this.  Do not let yourselves be manipulated into piling in on the side of tyrants because victims aren’t perfect.

No one is perfect.  This is no justification for using disproportionate force against them.

Stay awake.



The Writer In Portugal

It’s not right to say I’ve got nothing done.  In fact, I’ve done a ton of research and my dad has given me enough books that it will make our weight going back um… problematic.  The problem is that I haven’t written at all.  Part of this is due to the fact we spent a week (give or take) sleeping.  Note to self, coming here straight from Liberty con might not be the best idea.

I don’t know why the flight across the ocean is so frigging tiring, I know the last time I did two in 10 days it nearly killed me, so I’m going to assume there is some inherent physical factor to it.  The truth is all of us, even kids, pretty much slept 16 hours a day for five days.  Which left very little time to do anything more interesting.

The last three days we’ve gone on the train to downtown Porto, where we have generally poked around places I used to hang out in (most changed beyond recognition) and scouted places to kill monsters.

Today, literally between the last paragraph and this, dad took me to a “military museum” which is actually a gun museum.

We interrupt this program to note that the writer got to see and fondle a Lewis Light Machine Gun.  More importantly, it was the gun dad trained with in the army, so he was giving me all sorts of insight into it, and why he preferred it to the others available.  Mwahahah…. I mean, it was very useful.

As for the rest of the museum, d*mn but I wish I had had Larry Correia with me.  (His visit to Portugal MUST happen.)  Half the museum is detailed military miniatures, the rest is guns, some incredibly obscure and strange and some frankensteined from pieces in Portugal.  I had a very fun two hours, and honestly could have spent two days there.  (And for idiots reading this who’ll call me ammo sexual f*ck off.  Fascinating history and ingenuity there.)

Anyway, the research she is beautiful, and the opening to Guardian came to me in a dream, but d*mn it, I still haven’t finished Darkship Revenge.  You must all keep fingers crossed that we have a good flight home (10 hours) with spacious enough seats (we’re in economy plus on the way back) that I can ACTUALLY bring out the laptop and type.

Until then, I’m going to go research more stuff.

(I think I frightened my dad a little, as his little girl was never interested in guns before.  See what hanging out in Baen company does to you?)

Well, I’m off to visit a port wine cellar (yes, they give you samples at the end.)

Be good until I return.

Becoming American – Kate Paulk

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Becoming American – Kate Paulk

What feels like an eternity ago I started a journey that has involved a lot of money, multiple panic attacks, quite a lot doubt, and at least one complete meltdown. The first stage of that journey ended at about 10:15 am on July 20th, when I became a citizen of the United States of America.

I say “about” because I’m not sure exactly what time it was: despite the bureaucratic persnicketiness I’d battled in the past, actually becoming a citizen is remarkably simple (Qualifying to become one, on the other hand…)

The procedure went a little like this: around 8:30 in the morning the not quite twenty of us becoming citizens gathered outside Berks County Courthouse Courtroom 5A (http://www.co.berks.pa.us/Dept/Courts/Admin/Pages/Courtroom5A.aspx) with friends and family. Soon after we were ushered into the courtroom, where soon-to-be citizens were asked to sit on the right, and friends and family to the left.

The atmosphere was friendly and cheerful while the final round of paperwork (a short form confirming that we hadn’t done anything to render us not of good character to become a citizen in the time since our naturalization interviews) was dealt with and everyone had the chance to check over their naturalization certificates and make sure there weren’t any mistakes, as well as to sign the certificate. Mine had no mistakes, but I’m not so sure about the resting bitch face photo on it. It’s recognizably me, which is the important bit, but my vanity is a little miffed I wound up with such an ugly picture. Oh, well.

We were also told how the ceremony would progress, reminded (several times) that during the ceremony photography wasn’t permitted but photos before and after were allowed, and that a group photo would be taken and mailed to us all. It was all very friendly and low-key.

At close to exactly ten am, the presiding judge entered the courtroom and the ceremony started. There were a few short introductory remarks from the president of the local county Bar Association welcoming everyone and especially those of us taking citizenship, then the pleasant elderly gentleman from Immigration (with a mouthful of a title) formally moved that the oath be administered.

When the judge gave his assent, he called the names of our nations of origin. Me being from Australia, I was the first one listed. Some of the others were from (I don’t remember all the countries: there are just what I do remember) Italy, Romania, Mexico, Vietnam, Philippines… Quite the diverse collection of origins. Each of us stood as our original nation was named.

We were asked to raise our right hands, then the judge read the Oath of Allegiance (in “Do you…” form rather than the “I…” form on our printouts) At the end, all of us said, “I do, so help me God.”

That was the moment I became a citizen of the United States of America.

It wasn’t the multiple forms I’d signed, or the signature that went on my certificate, but giving the Oath of Allegiance – an old-fashioned, purely verbal action on my part.

The local high school’s US Marine Corps JROTC Color Guard presented the colors once we’d given the oath (and did it very well, too), then a music student with a lovely sweet soprano sang the National Anthem – which is when my eyes started to leak, because it hit me right then that this was my National Anthem now, and it went from being a nice song if rather difficult to sing well to meaning something (meaning rather a lot, as it happens).

After that, we new citizens gave the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time, then the first speaker gave his remarks.

And that cemented quite a few things: he spoke about how we’d gone from being tenants to being homeowners, and that like a home, a nation like the USA needs a certain amount of maintenance or it will fall apart. That maintenance consists of such things as voting in all the elections – and that local elections are more important than the presidential race, because the local officials are the ones who run your courts, your schools, your towns; it consists of jury duty, and being part of your community, and all the many little things that make for good citizenship across the full spectrum of life.

The judge’s remarks were just as focused on the responsibilities that go with citizenship as the rights it confers. He pointed out that we weren’t expected to abandon the culture and traditions of our respective homelands, but to meld them into the culture and traditions of our surrounding community, to integrate ourselves and our distinctive traits into the larger whole to help make the USA a better nation – and that this is the spirit of E Pluribus Unum.

The judge also made a rather strong comment that it’s a bad thing to sit around with your hands out waiting for someone to do things for you: instead look to President Kennedy’s famous remarks “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

After all of this, it was almost an anticlimax to be called out to collect my certificate and a collection of other bits and pieces (including a passport application form). Almost.

I’m still processing the thing, but it was a pleasant surprise to have such a traditional (in all the good ways) ceremony and so much emphasis on the duties that go with citizenship and exercising one’s rights, and on the need for all citizens to fulfill those duties for the nation to remain healthy. To be told outright that to be a citizen of a nation like the USA is hard work, because too many people seem to have forgotten this – a nation that is ruled by “We, the people” must be maintained by “We, the people” or it becomes corrupt and slides back to a tyranny where a few people control things and everyone else is expected to do as they’re told.

I’m up for the job. I just can’t do it all on my own: the other two hundred million or so of you are going to have to help.

Talking Real Loud

If most of my Portuguese relatives (instead of one or two) read this blog, I’d be in even more trouble than I am.

The one or two who read the blog get really upset at my America-Pride posts, and even more upset at the USAian short stories.  (Shrugs.)  So much the worse.

I do understand their taking offense, to an extent.  After all I grew up Portuguese and that I love the US and rally to it seems like an insult to them.

It is not an insult, it is what I am, sort of an inner compulsion of the soul.  If my kids should go to say Australia and write endless posts and stories about how much they love it, I’d hope to be able to only sulk a little bit.

But weirdly I think if my dad could read my blog (he doesn’t speak/read English) he would understand, precisely because he is a Portuguese patriot, while the family members getting burned are mostly tres internationale, tres chic, tres moderne, and think patriotism itself is something slightly gauche that belongs in the nineteenth century in a scent of mothballs and a cloud of kids named after kings.

So when I’m publicly patriotic, what I’m doing is worse than insisting on wearing pettycoats and ankle length skirts, which could at least be charmingly eccentric.

Because you see they know, because six generations have learned this now, that patriotism kills.  This was the lesson they took from world war I and, because world war two dressed socialism in funny German outfits, it didn’t shake them.  It never occurred to them that people go to war for many reasons, one of them being that they think they can win, which might or might not be fed by exaggerated pride in their country, but that no one has gone to war UNPROVOKED just because they love their country.

I can’t even imagine the mechanics of that “we love our homeland, it has beautiful fields, let’s go invade next door and kick their ass”  WHAT?

What happens rather is that when a nation attacks for whatever reason, patriotism and national pride allow a nation to defend itself.

I was thinking about this because Julie Pascal (I THINK on facebook) made a comment  about pride and bragging on your homeland being a good thing. It builds confidence and certainty, it gives you something to fight from.  She says she’s not sure a land where its people don’t brag about it might be able to survive.

We used to teach the kids stories about their country and their ancestors (real, or at least theoretically so — more often — in Europe, and ideological in the US.  We taught them patriotism by degrees.

Was the story about Washington and the cherry tree a lie? Perhaps so, but in the grand scheme of things does it matter? It taught them virtues we want associated with the country. Teach them not only what is admirable about our land, but what we want to be admirable about our land. If they believe men of their land are strong and true and lay down their lives for the weak, it will help them to be so.  Virtue is not easy, and taking a good run up to it, and feeling we naturally should do it, helps.

In the same way courage is hard, and you can’t ask people to lay down their lives for something they’ve been taught to despise.

Patriotism never caused wars.  (Not even German Patriotism.  Their desire for a warm water port and markets for their wears did.)  Patriotism is the white blood cells of the culture, the defensive mechanism of the territory.

Imagine — this is easy for me, since I’m a guest in someone else’s house right now — that you live in a really nice house.  It cost you a lot of money.  It took you years to work up to buying it, and it is the house you always dreamed of.  You clean it every day, polish the woodwork, clean the windows.

Now imagine your no-good cousin and his five ill-taught brats come to visit.  Those kids are trumping up and down your polished hardwood floors in steel-toed boots.  Your cousin is sleeping on your leather sofa, slopping beer onto it.  Your no good cousin-in-law has burned something indescribable on the stove.

You’re gonna get mad.  You’re gonna ask them to shape up or ship out.

Now imagine you’re living in a tar paper shack.  It’s objectively a lot more fragile than your big dream house.  But you don’t like it, don’t want to live there, and don’t think it’s a big deal when the kids are poking holes in the walls, and your no-good cousin is spilling beer on your third hand sofa. So you let them.  And come winter you’re going to be mighty cold int hat tar paper shack with the holes in the wall..

Or to make the comparison fairer, take the home we just bought.  It’s a suburban house.  In fact, it’s a d*mn nice suburban house, rather fortunate about its location.  Because we took 25 years working up to it, starting with a starter house of 800 sq feet which we couldn’t sell at the price we bought it.

Sure our new house needs a bit of work.  Sure, in the fullness of time we’ll change the counters to granite, we’ll put wood on the floor instead of the rather ratty carpets on it now, we’ll give it a good painting.

BUT as it is right now it is the best d*mn house we’ve ever owned.  (We didn’t live in Victorians because we wanted to, but because they were usually cheap enough/in bad shape enough when we bought them that we could afford them and the neighborhood was better than the house.  This also means after years of fixing and improving we sold them at a nice profit, allowing us to work up the scale.)

Anyway, imagine instead of making our slow way up, we had made our way precipitously down. Suppose we’d lost a house twice the size and fixed up top of the line and up to the minute.

Then take the same no-good-cousin in law on the wrong side of the blanket as visitor.  You can see how, right now, we’d defend our place tooth and nail, right?  If it were our “make do” and “any place to crash” house?  Not so much.

Same with countries.  If you think your country is the best thing since sliced bread, and that your culture is the best thing that ever happened to mankind, you’ll defend it.  You’ll fight for it.  Long before time comes to fight physically, you’ll have taught any visitor or anyone moving in that your place is something special and that, being so privileged as to be admitted to it, they should be on their best behavior so they can have their kids live in that special place too.

The problem with this war we’re fighting, this attrition and invasion offensive is that the perfect defense for it is the nineteenth century kind of patriotism.  That same patriotism our upper classes have spent a century removing, under the amiable impression they were preventing war.

If France and Germany and yeah, us too, still believed that their country, in itself, was a value, something to care for, something to be proud of, we wouldn’t be in the pickle we’re in.  Terrorists would know that people who love their country would respond to outrages with overwhelming force.  Terrorists might never have started because those of them in the west would have imbibed the message of how wonderful the west was, and they’d have mental tools to shut down the crazy uncle at the back of their head, telling them that their birth-land was best and that their birth religion gives them dominion over every other human.

So I’m sorry if it offends the delicate sentiments (lilac-scented feelings)of any citizen of a lesser country reading this, but the US at least still has vestiges of its white blood cells.  We still fought back when attacked.  Meanwhile the Europeans wring their hands and wish that something would happen to make these nasty people stop attacking them.  Not that they mean to imply that the nasty people are any nastier then them, of course, or that they shouldn’t be attacked, but really….

What they need to do instead is take a hint, and start bragging on their country and loving it, just like we do love ours.  And we too need to start pouring on the bragging, even more than what we feel (if that is possible) to counter decades of public school blame-America-first teachers.  We need to walk really proud, and talk really loud again.  We need to talk about how we’re faster than a jackrabbit, and braver than a mountain lion, how our cowboy boots are seven league boots, and how when an American spits in the ocean it causes a tsunami.

We need to teach the kids to love their homeland.  And to stop frigging apologizing.  In the history of man, there is no nation who ever had nothing to apologize for, but ours has less than most. And even those lands — I’m looking at you Germany — who have a lot to apologize for, have more good than evil in their ancestry.  Start honing the good by praising it and teaching it, and make that evil a foot note.

Walk real proud, talk real loud again.

Or die, and leave the world to nations mired in darkness and evil who never yet apologize for anything and who brag of their hatred for you, when they have nothing else to brag on.

It’s that simple.

And to my little adopted sister, Kate Paulk: if ever there was a time I didn’t want to be out of the country, and I wanted to be there to support you, it was today.  But since I can’t, have a good naturalization ceremony and welcome home to this fractious family that is the best thing to ever happen to G-d’s green land.

Happy naturalization day.  We’ll throw you a shindig later.

Brexit & British Party Politics – Francis Turner

Brexit & British Party Politics – Francis Turner

One unexpected outcome to the Brexit vote has been the way that it has exposed gaping fissures inside three major political parties. It hasn’t yet cracked the regional parties, the Liberal Democrats or the Greens but the fissures it has exposed are fascinating and suggest a fundamental realignment of voters to parties in the coming months.

Pre Brexit Status

The 2015 general election should have been a sign that things were in flux. In Scotland the SNP wiped out the Labour and Liberal parties (the Tories had already been more or less wiped out in previous elections). In England and Wales the Labour party lost some seats, but the major casualty were the Liberals. Nationwide (i.e. including Scotland) the liberals fell from 57 seats to 8. More critically in that election the UKIP share of votes cast was over 12% making them the third most popular overall although that failed to translate into seats and in fact they lost one of the two seats they had gained during the previous parliament. UKIP votes appeared to be significant in a number of former Labour seats and the result was that the Conservatives won those seats from the Labour party. As part of the fallout from the general election, the Labour party chose a far left long-term backbencher, Jeremy Corbyn, as its new leader and UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage tried to resign but was convinced to stay, however UKIP has experienced all sort of growing pains and remains a party in flux.

In the local elections and in the elections to the various devolved bodies of Scotland and Wales in May 2016 there were more changes. In the Scottish Parliament, the Conservatives staged a recovery, doubling the number of MSPs and displacing Labour as the second most popular party while the Greens overtook the Liberals to become the fourth largest party. In Wales UKIP went from 0 to seven seats, mostly from the Liberals and Conservatives although their votes came from everywhere. In the local elections UKIP almost doubled its number of councillors, gained mostly at the expense of the conservatives and the Liberals also strengthened.

At the start of June you could see that the Liberal democrats and all other the minor parties except UKIP were solidly in the Remain camp although there was some wavering in the Ulster Unionists. The Labour party had most of its officials and MPs on the Remain side, but there were a handful of MPs who broke for Leave. The Conservatives were split roughly equally between Leave and Remain, with I believe more officials and activists on the Leave side but more MPs on the Remain. UKIP was of course 100% for Leave.

The vote

Although the vote itself was a single national number, counting was broken down by constituency so it is possible to see where MPs had different opinions to their electorate. In (almost?) all cases where there were differences the MPs were on the Remain side while the voters were on the Leave side. In general in the referendum Leave won most of England and Wales and was also ahead in a couple of Northern Ireland constituencies. In Scotland Remain won heavily and Remain also took Northern Ireland, but not as convincingly. Those regional wins were cancelled out by the far greater population of England and Wales which voted to Leave. Turnout was very high, and interestingly, generally higher in areas which voted to leave. An analysis by Matt Singh at Bloomberg suggests that the higher than expected turnout was a result of Leave supporters that don’t often vote actually doing so this time:

[… T]he net impact of the 2.8 million extra votes was entirely to the benefit of the Brexiters.

Many models, like ours, were based on the assumption that turnout was likely to be similar to last year’s general election and on the fact that past increases in turnout, such as during the 1980s, the 2000s and at the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, were relatively evenly split in terms of how the additional voters cast their ballots.

This time, however, turnout increased with an unprecedented skew. The Number Cruncher Politics central projection of 52.7 percent “remain” and 47.3 percent “leave” would have equated to remain gaining 16.2 million votes and “leave” 14.5 million among existing 2015 voters. Using the same samples, but with a likely voter screen that reflects the actual turnout pattern, gives “remain” 16.1 million, “leave” 17.4 million – the exact result.

This suggests that Brexiters won by mobilizing millions of supporters who never normally vote, whereas the “remain” side got almost no net benefit. Any new “remain” voters were offset by others not showing up.

If this level of enthusiasm can be maintained it is likely to have a significant impact in the general election where turnout in some, “safe” seats can be quite low. The question of course is where they will go.

Post vote leadership struggles


The first thing that happened was that the Conservative prime-minister, David Cameron, announced his resignation, and after some to-ing and fro-ing about having a party wide election from the top two candidates as voted on by MPs the top candidate in the MP election ended up PM anyway after her rival announced that she wasn’t going to continue. The last few weeks of wheeling, dealing and back-stabbing inside the party reads like something out of a novel with Boris Johnson, the public leader of the Leave campaign and presumed successor being abruptly disavowed by his fellow Leave campaigner Michael Gove, who decided to stand for leader himself after a blistering attack on Mr Johnson’s competence. This act of betrayal was not that popular within the party so, even though his philosophy was popular he struggled in the brief campaign and ended up third behind Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom. Gove provided the intellectual thought behind Leave but he in addition to his knifing of Johnson he is disliked in the country as a whole for his attacks on various special interests, particularly teachers.

May campaigned for Remain and Leadsom for Leave, though in the fairly recent past she was a remainer. Either way both claimed that they would implement the result of the referendum. Leadsom ended up crashing and burning on an ill-considered comment about having children making one more interested in the future. However despite that gaffe, which so far as I can tell was more an issue of the coverup being worse than the crime, Leadsom probably still has a future as a senior minister. Prior to this Leadsom was less well known, but this appears to be in large part because she had a major falling out with the Chancellor George Osborne (who campaigned strongly for Remain and might have been PM if Remain had won, but is now completely out of the running for anything senior) that meant that he insisted she be sidelined for a considerable time.

May is interesting. She shows a lot of loyalty to underlings but can be extremely abrasive to those who might have been thought to be allies and to hold grudges against those who aren’t on her side. She also bears the baggage of being home secretary during the period that immigration has run rampant, despite promises to curb it. Despite obvious comparisons with Lady Thatcher, May is not really a Thatcherite politically being all in favor of some kind of “compassionate conservatism” if not quite that of David Cameron. In addition she seems to be all in favour of using the state to spy on everyone and control what they are doing.

Her cabinet choices have been fascinating. Boris Johnson (as knifed by Gove) has been made Foreign Minister which is interesting since Johnson has made any number of incendiary comments about foreign governments and rulers in his various journalistic endeavors. Most recently he provided an amusing limerick about the Turkish president:

There was a young fellow from Ankara

Who was a terrific wankerer

Till he sowed his wild oats

With the help of a goat

But he didn’t even stop to thankera.

In addition to Johnson, May has appointed “Leave” camaigners as minister for International Trade (Lima Fox) and for Brexit (David Davis) which suggests that she won’t be seeking to fudge the Brexit negotiations so that Britain doesn’t actually leave. Apart from that she’s done a reasonable job of balancing the various Tory factions in her ministerial appointments (though unsurprisingly most senior posts have gone to her allies) and the party as a whole seems mostly content with the outcome. All in all it seems like the Tories are likely to remain the party in power because the Brexit reaction has been handled swiftly, decisively and without an excess of rancour.



The Labour party has taken the Brexit vote hard. While a handful of Labour MPs campaigned for Leave the rank and file membership was heavily on the Remain side and the leadership also campaigned for Remain. However the leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and his second in command – shadow-chancellor John McDonnell – have historically been fervent Leavers and their lacklustre campaigning for Remain looks to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as the majority of Labour MPs are concerned. As a result the Labour party will also have a leadership contest fairly soon, although Corbyn is not going to go willingly, despite losing a vote of no confidence by Labour MPs. The Labour party is also facing a big anti-semitism problem, something that Mr Corbyn has not handled well, in part because he’s got a considerable history of associating with unsavoury anti-semites himself, and this is certainly another factor in the campaigns to overthrow him.

Corbyn’s election was pretty controversial anyway. He’s been on the far left of the party for ever and his election was due to a lot of newly joined party members voting for him despite the fact that the MPs and party establishment mostly hate him. His subsequent performance as leader of the opposition has been uninspiring to put it mildly. His debating skills are probably worse than Obama’s and hence at Prime Minister’s Question time he gets the stuffing beaten out of him by David Cameron on a weekly basis (Cameron OTOH was probably one of the better debaters in recent years so we’ll see how he stands up to Mrs May). And when that is combined with the anti-semitism and the poor election results it isn’t surprising that people want him out.

The question for the future is whether the Labour party can unify itself. A lot of Labour activists seem keen on Corbyn and his Bernie Sander’s like policies. On the other hand most MPs are much less radical and the traditional working class support for Labour seems to be even more conservative (with a small c) than the MPs and certainly did not back Remain. This does not seem to have sunk into the various leadership contenders and activists. The activists are still backing Corbyn and in fact have been extremely unpleasant to MPs and party members that they consider to be disloyal. Moreover the corbynites seem unclear on the concept of governing, let alone that of winning national elections. It seems they’d prefer to pose, lose and organize protests rather than actually run things. This may be a first for a political party (or faction of one) and it doesn’t bode well.


UKIP’s charismatic leader Nigel Farage has also announced his resignation. Mind you he did this before and was convinced to stay but this time it seems that he really means it. Farage has been the driving force in UKIP for almost all of its two decades of existence and hence the change of leadership is likely to be critical to the continued success of the party. Having said that, Farage has been seen as quite divisive within the party so his resignation may well turn out to be a net positive. Now that the party has achieved its original goal of getting the UK to leave the EU the question is whether it can survive, and indeed whether it should. All that will depend on its political policies going forward.

UKIP’s policies – beyond the obvious one of leaving the EU – have not been very fixed. In 2010 UKIP were very much a libertarian leaning party. De-regulation, free markets and the like were a big part of their manifesto. In last year’s election these points were generally still there but the emphasis had changed to immigration and other more populist issues. UKIP, as a party with no more than 20 years of history, has also attracted members who aren’t the smooth identikit professional politicians of the major parties. In a number of cases this has resulted in them being publicly embarrassed by having statements they make publicised and mocked. The fact that the UK media generally, and the BBC in particular, have loathed UKIP has not helped them.

Before it’s big break out UKIP was the home of disaffected Tories. There was a strong correlation between Euroskepticism and loyalty to the Thatcherite traditions so many of the original UKIP supporters tended towards small government positions. However as the party has grown it has attracted others who are not of that tradition. Given that the Tories are in power and implementing Brexit, it seems likely that some (most?) Euroskeptic Tories will return to the Conservative fold leaving UKIP with the rest of the malcontents. Since UKIP is a new party, with few well known faces, it’s hard to judge who will likely end up leader and this has been exacerbated by the fact that a number of apparent front-runners have unilaterally declared that they won’t run while others appear to be being ruled out for various technical reasons. However the Guido Fawkes blog suggests that the likely front runner is another MEP – Steven Woolfe (and I know next to nothing about him)

Putting it together

There seem are multiple political strands in England and Wales and neither UKIP, Labour nor the Conservatives are currently monolithically one particular strand. This means that the alignments between voters and parties could change significantly as parties vie for particular groups of voters.

It seems likely that the Labour party is going to move into solid SJW/guardianista territory with all the sneering condescension to the great unwashed that that implies. Individual Labour MPs may manage to maintain their local base in working class areas but the party as a whole is going to move away from its historic roots as the overwhelming new activists are of the new sneering classes not the traditional working ones. This change of roles makes the Liberals even more irrelevant as they will be nearly indistinguishable from this sort of Labour party and hence probably means that the Liberals are finally killed off. Although they’ve failed to die a few times before in the last century so they may still manage to hang on. It may also mean that the Green party folks rejoin the Labour party since there will be no real difference between their platforms except one of emphasis on which innumerate policy is more important.

So where do the working class go? The Scottish ones have joined the SNP. The Welsh ones may join Plaid Cymru, but there’s no clear refuge in England as they probably aren’t going to go Tory. At the same time UKIP is busy trying to find a new rationale and a distinctive political voice. It seems likely to me that UKIP will continue to dump its more Thatcherite policies and become a more working class based party that absorbs the voters that the Labour party has abandoned.

We have about four years until the next scheduled election and an unscheduled one will only occur if the Tories split which I think is unlikely. The Tory MPs aren’t stupid and can do sums as well as anyone so they have to realize that the longer they can avoid an election the longer they have to cement a successful Brexit, hence I predict that the tories are going to rally around May until or unless the Brexit process goes titsup.com. This means that UKIP has about four years to entice the working class labour voters over to their corner. That’s plenty of time for the Labour party to make it’s new SJW focus clear.

The only problem is that the small government crowd are almost certainly going to lose their party as UKIP is almost certainly not going to keep the libertarian policies it had, and the chances are really high that the Tories won’t roll far in that direction either.

Je Suis So Tired of this Sh*t

Lately I’ve found myself growling at the tv.  This is part of the reason that, in the US I watch almost no TV.  Okay, okay, I confess, it’s because at one time I threw a house slipper at the TV and Dan decided he should stop watching it when I was around, because next time I might throw a snow-boot.

But that was campaign speeches. This is the news.

My parents have, as many older people who live in a house with no one young, developed the habit of always having the tv on in the background. Possibly to compensate for no longer having teens tromping up and down the stairs on their steel-toed boots.

I’m willing to take any number of Brazilian soap operas (though some day I might write “little known things about how life works according to Brazilian soap operas” post.) I’m even willing to take commercials for the Communist Party’s shinding, called Party Forward.  (Forward being a slogan of the communist party throughout every land. Just as a point of information for ya’ll.)

It’ s the news that get to me.  And we’ll roll our eyes over Trump telling foreign journalists he’s fit to rule (RULE?  Mr. Trump, these are my middle fingers) because he has German blood (yeah, that) which is annoying but not, really, the end of the world, or nothing we hadn’t heard in his unguarded moments.  (I was just hoping we’d have a president who loves America for what she is and doesn’t wish to fundamentally transform her.)

What is getting to me, and gets me muttering and snarling at the TV is the mayor of Nice talking about the amazing outpouring of “help” and how people marched together, shoulder to shoulder, in solidarity and–

And I start growling “And what the hell does that DO?”

Fortunately I found my dad has evolved in past years, to mostly agree with me even on crazy stuff, so he’s right along with me, snarling.

Here’s the thing, I have lots of sympathy for the victims, and yes, I think we need to unite and do something.  But the something is not marching together or mourning together, or wearing a ribbon for this, saying a prayer for that, lighting a candle for the other thing.

My friend, Dave Freer has a post on facebook about his view:

I try not to talk about politics here on my page. But… Nice.
Je suis sick of all this shit.

Seriously, we were all Charlie Hebdo, we were all Bataclan/Paris, we were all Orlando…

We put flags on facebook profiles, we lit candles, we prayed.
And they simply do it again. And again.

In Nice, again, an Islamic fanatic targeted random people (who are non-combatants, children, and possibly of any religion or nation). They were not shields for any weapon, nor were they even necessarily foes. It was intended to terrorize, to kill and to maim. To intimidate, to lead towards a future the fanatics believe they will win.
I weep for the victims.


We need to accept that there is a problem. That Je suis talk and candles are not fixing it. Repeating the gestures may do no harm, but it has not stopped the problem recurring. And it’s like a pressure-cooker with an inadequate steam valve. These are little spurts of nasty steam. We either take the heat off – or it will blow. And, if like me, you (or parents or parents parents even) were migrants – we need to realize who will get burned. It has happened before, and will happen again – those who are different, who are new, who have not become a part of the mainstream – even the innocent – will be punished.

I am Australian. I was born elsewhere, Australia took me in, has given me –and my wife and kids a place to live, to be safe, to thrive. I love this country and its people for this. They owe me nothing, they gave me a chance: I owe them everything. I do my best to show that love: to fit into the culture, the language, the way people dress, to learn the songs, the poetry and the history. To volunteer, to help out – to pay back and to pay forward.

And that is all I would like to say to migrants, of any kind anywhere and everywhere. If the country you find yourself in is where you wish to be, work hard at loving it, its people and its ways, and at showing that. If you cannot bring yourself to love it more than you love your old ways… then leave peacefully and by your own choosing and move to somewhere that you can love, while you have the choice.

Don’t talk about ‘je suis’. Talk is cheap and easy to disbelieve. Do things that people can see, feel and understand. That way they will know ‘you are one of us’. Tomorrow I am  going to go out and do just that.

Yesterday my parents took me and my family to a restaurant they love, where they serve traditional food, including roast cabrito, one of my very favorite American foods, but cumbersome to make in their kitchen particularly in the heat of summer.

Our entry with gigantic men — my dad was considered a giant here at six feet, and my sons and nephew all top that — called attention, and it didn’t escape the keen senses of our server that we were speaking English.  So, she said “You live abroad” and my dad said “my daughter, son in law and grandsons do.”

She asked me “England?”  I said “United States.”

She said, with a smile, “Which one do you like better? There or here?”

Now, I know there are polite lies, but there are things I don’t lie about.  I said, “There.” She asked again, looking disbelieving and I gave the same answer again.

After the order and things were settled, she started asking questions, starting with, “Why don’t the young men speak Portuguese? How can they return if they don’t.”

My dad said, “she’s been there 30 years.  There’s no plans of returning.”

 And the waitress looked shocked, staring at me, “you weren’t being sarcastic when you said there?”

I said, “no.”

She looks confused examines Dan and says, “Is your husband foreign?”  I said “yes” and she said “Oh, so that’s why you don’t want to return.”

And my mom said, “Oh, no.  She’s the one who’d never let any of them return.  she’s more patriotic for them than he is.”

And I thought “Hot damn, mom gets it.”

Here’s the thing: acculturation is not easy.  As much as I was in love with American ideals, getting used to the way people do things every day; getting used to the way people interact, when I came from a highly formal gender/class divided society; getting used to the food; learning the history; learning the popular culture; learning why and how and when things were done — all that was massively difficult.  Not intellectually but at a baseline, gut level.  It was important and difficult, and sometimes I felt as if I were being mentally torn about.  There weren’t many days the first five years that I wasn’t homesick to the point of pain for the familiar sights and the big city I’d left behind, while I was stuck in Rock Hill South Carolina.  (And yes, part of that is that I am and will always be a city girl.)

If there were any way to avoid acculturating while reaping the benefits of being American, I’d have done it.  But I wanted to BE American and so I put myself through untold pain.

And this was me, immigrating from a at worst second and a half world country.

Immigrants from the Middle East to the west face a much larger hurdle.  Their ways are far more different than they encounter.  Their religion AND THEIR CULTURE promotes a sense of superiority, which is nonetheless negated by everything around them.  And no one asks them to fit in, and everyone tells them they should hold on to their oh, so precious culture.

The amazing thing is not that they kill.  The amazing thing is that the streets aren’t awash in blood.

I still think it’s easier to deal with the problem where it is, instead of allowing millions of third worlders into the first world, to replace the kids the boomers refused to have.

BUT if you must let them — or some of them — in, it’s important to remember this: you should make it more uncomfortable and painful for them NOT to acculturate.  Fit in, pitch in or get out.  And don’t let the door hit you on your multi-culti tail. Most of the countries you come from are richer in natural resources than the first world, and no, the first world isn’t rich because it steals those resources.  That’s a fairy tale for elderly Marxist spinsters.

The first world is rich because of a culture that encourages work, respect for private property, respect for other’s choices in matters of religion and private life.

And unlike what those elderly Marxist spinsters told you, culture isn’t hereditary.  You can learn it and unlearn it.  Sure, it hurts but at the end of it you’ll be a productive member of the most productive parts of the world, whose inventions have transformed the globe and raised most people above abject poverty in historical terms.

Learn.  Change.  Or get the hell out and back to your mud-wallow.

And if the Western world wants to survive it will learn to shout this in the face of all incoming “refugees.”

Or die.

That’s the choice, ribbons, marches, and petty solidarity have no place in it.



Counting Your Chickens

I have a bad habit, nay a handicap that has been a problem for my professional life, and blighted some of my social life as well.

When I was a wee little writer, knee high to a folio, I’d published five or six short stories and had a novel in the laborious process of being produced, and I would go to conventions and not say much (at least career pertinent.  People have tried to calculate the energy needed to keep me from SPEAKING altogether, short of near-death illness and it might approximate the energy necessary to ignite a small universe) and would try to keep a low profile, because what the heck did I have to promote yet?  And what could I think of my achievements?

I’m not very far off that now.  I prefer to state what I’ve done, mention the latest book if it warrants mention, or needs push to sell (if you haven’t bought Through Fire, I’d appreciate it if you do, because that screwed up release is hurting it) but I don’t actually brag about my attainments.  What attainments?  I’m a chick who has written almost three dozen books and who manages to make a modest living of doing what she likes best.  It’s not like I’ve saved lives, cured cancer, single handedly managed a moon shot, or even discovered a minor species of insect in a far off jungle.  I don’t even, unlike Stephanie Osborn, have no deep knowledge of important subjects, I can’t make computers do my will like my husband and Kate Paulk can.  And even my kids have more useful knowledge than I do.

I’m me, I write books, and bless you all, they allow to live.

I can’t imagine getting up on a panel podium and going “I’m the best thing sliced bread WITH butter!”

I am not.  I am metaphorically speaking just someone who tells lies for money, and not nearly as good as Clifford Simak, much less Robert A. Heinlein, whose sandals I’m not fit to untie.

To be fair, this bad habit of mine is shared by such people as Kevin J. Anderson, David Weber, or most of the rest of the Baen stable, to include Correia and Ringo.  They get up there, with mega bestsellers behind them, and what they want to talk about is their stories and this cool story they’re working on, or else something or other they saw or lived that shaped them.

Why is this a bad habit?  Well, early on in my career I saw people with one or two stories published — and sometimes with none — who could get on a panel and project “I am the very model of a successful writer.”  I once had a friend of mine, with two published books and a stalled career, do this to me when I had ten books out and two series going.  Somehow in talking, at a party, she projected — likely intentionally, but possibly not — that she was the established writer and I was the has been.

This talent has numerous advantages.  People tend to treat you as you present yourself.  One of the reliable ways to get publicity backing out of ny publishing is to act as though you’re already a success.

I can’t do that.

I wish I were able to, because I suspect there is more success down that path.

On the other hand there are risks too.

You knew I was working up to tell this story.  When I arrived here was two days after Portugal, a creditable underdog, won the European soccer championship.  Which was fine, as I understand the streets were clogged with people celebrating and one couldn’t go anywhere.

Notably, I’ve seen more Portuguese flags everywhere than I’ve seen in my whole time growing up here.  This seems to have revived the national pride which was low even prior to EU.

It was only 24 after my arrival that my dad told me the story of the epic soccer match which took place in Portugal.

Apparently, the French team arrived in specially painted buses, bearing the French flag and underneath the words Champions of Europe.

They were so sure of their victory they had their buses painted both for the victorious turn about Paris afterwards, and for the trip out.

That would have been fine had they won.  As it happens, they lost.  Which means their braggadocio turned to bitter tears after the game, even while on the field.

Now, mind you, arriving with the boast on the side of the bus probably did intimidate the local team and make it more likely they would lose.  Which would be fine, if the French had been able to carry it through.

So, this embarrassing issue of my not being able to brag might cost me, but at least I’ll never know the humiliation of bragging with nothing to back it.

Also there is a lot to say for the fact that we’ve become a culture of bragging and appearance and not actual accomplishments.  And I prefer accomplishments.

But I still wish that institutions — and publishers — in general could distinguish between ability to brag and ability to do.

Yet all in all, it will save me from bragging of what I can’t deliver.

It could be worse.


Here, Spot! C’mere, Spot! By Stephanie Osborn

Here, Spot! C’mere, Spot!

By Stephanie Osborn

Written July 4, 2016


A late Happy Independence Day to you all! As I write this, it IS Independence Day. Casa Osborn plans on some good summertime food, and maybe fireworks this evening, if the weather cooperates (storms are expected) and we can fight through the crowds to the display.

So…I’m back, folks. And I’m talking more about the Sun. It’s time for an update, because some slightly unusual stuff has been happening.

According to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (and per my own observations), the Sun has been unusually quiet for over a month now. In June, there were two periods of zero observed sunspots — a short one of four days that ran from the 3rd through the 6th, and another that started on the 23rd and is continuing (total of 11 days and counting).

More, though the STEREO spacecraft were lagging badly, there seemed to be no real activity on the solar far side, either. The problem is that the two STEREO craft have to be angled to view the far side, in order to get telemetry from them. So there are periods of time when we simply can’t get data from them because they’re BEHIND the Sun as viewed from Earth, and intervals on either side of THAT when we might get data downloaded once in every week. So for this current batch of spotless days, we had a farside image from June 24th, and one from July 2nd, and that was all we had to work with. But of the 3 spot groups STEREO saw on the 24th, none have rotated around to the near side — and the longest interval expected for that was 11 days. It’s the 11th day, and no spots have rotated around. I think it’s safe to say that we went a good part of those 11 days with no sunspots, anywhere on the solar photosphere.

That does seem to be changing, as of last night…maybe. (For whatever it’s worth, astronomical days are counted as beginning at midnight in Greenwich, England. Except it isn’t actually measured at Greenwich anymore; it uses an atomic clock set to what is now called UTC, or Universal Time Coordinated. At any rate, that places it at around 6pm the evening before in the Central time zone.) As of 1:58am CDT 4 July 2016, there is one sunspot group on the farside, another possibly forming, and a teeny-tiny spot group forming near the equator on the nearside, pushing toward the western limb of the solar disk. Boulder has still not given it an official spot number, however, and the Boulder sunspot number (one of two sunspot counts, and the only one that hasn’t been tweaked to try to eliminate certain “inconvenient” periods) still rests at 0. If it holds up and doesn’t immediately deteriorate again, then it’ll get an official group number, and the Boulder number might just go up.

I am thinking it may well be a done deal, however, that the next solar minimum is gonna come early, and be deep. And possibly longish. Will it go into an extended minimum? Well, it’s not supposed to…not yet. Let’s get back to that shortly.

Many of you may have heard of the relatively new model for solar activity, dubbed the double-dynamo model.[1] Since the Sun is a giant ball of rotating plasma — charged particles — this effectively constitutes a current loop. A coil of electrified wire without the wire, if you will. And those generate magnetic fields. Hey presto, the Sun has a magnetic field, and it is, very loosely, bipolar — a bar magnet. But where it gets complicated is that the Sun IS a big ball of plasma — it isn’t a rigid body. Instead, each individual ion is obeying Kepler’s Laws of orbital motion[2], if we neglect the effects of collisions between ions — of which there are many, so it isn’t negligible by any means. This additional effect would dump us into the realm of magnetohydrodynamics, but is not that pertinent to our current discussion, so I’m not going to unduly complicate the thing and give y’all a headache. Kepler’s Laws are:

  1. The orbit of a planet is an ellipse with the Sun at one of the two foci. (A circle is a special case of an ellipse, where the foci merge.)
  2. A line segment joining a planet and the Sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time.
  3. The square of the orbital period of an orbiting body is proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit.

Now, what that boils down to, for our purposes here, is that the different parts of the Sun do NOT all rotate at the same rate. Unlike Earth, a rigid body all of whose parts sweep out the same angular velocity, the Sun…doesn’t. The volumes around the core rotate at a different speed than the photosphere; the polar regions rotate at a different speed than the equatorial regions. So if we look at the magnetic field lines being generated by that bar magnet, we see a couple things happening. One, that bar magnet can get really, I mean REALLY, distorted. And two, the field lines have a tendency to wrap up and up and up, over and over again, around and around the rotational axis. Over a period of time they can get tightly compressed in some areas, and then magnetic reconnection can occur — the field lines snap and then reattach someplace else. This generates literal but invisible kinks, snarls, and knots in the magnetic field. When these reach the “surface,” or photosphere, they form sunspots. When the reconnects occur in the photosphere, we see flares.

This is a rather complex dynamo model.[3] And it predicted solar activity…to a point. But recently researchers proposed a double dynamo[4] — one dynamo “located” in the lower regions of the convective layer (the Sun’s “mantle”), and another a little way below the photosphere. More, while they have almost exactly the same period of variation, they don’t have QUITE the same period, and this causes them to go “out of phase” periodically. The model predicts extended minima as a result (which the old, single dynamo model did not). There is support for it in the magnetic data obtained from the Sun by the various space-based solar observing platforms.

The data indicate that we may be in a downward swing from an extended maximum. According to Wikipedia (which in this case lists numerous legitimate astronomy technical journals to support the statement, and I am quite familiar with all of said journals), “Sunspot numbers over the past 11,400 years have been reconstructed using Carbon-14-based dendroclimatology. The level of solar activity beginning in the 1940s is exceptional — the last period of similar magnitude occurred around 9,000 years ago (during the warm Boreal period). The Sun was at a similarly high level of magnetic activity for only ~10% of the past 11,400 years. Almost all earlier high-activity periods were shorter than the present episode.”[5]

We’re also currently on the downward swing from Solar Max toward minimum in Solar Cycle 24. “The [double-dynamo] model predicts that the magnetic wave pairs will become increasingly offset during Cycle 25, which peaks in 2022. Then during Cycle 26, which covers the decade from 2030-2040, the two waves will become exactly out of synch, cancelling one another out. This will cause a significant reduction in solar activity. ‘In cycle 26, the two waves exactly mirror each other, peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun. We predict that this will lead to the properties of a “Maunder minimum”,’ says Zharkova.”[6]

But the current cycle is starting to diverge even from the 97+%-accurate double-dynamo model; though the model indicates a reduced number, it doesn’t predict a minimum until around 2018-19. But we are already dropping well below all predicted values. The 10.7cm radio flux curve is also slightly below predicted, indicating that at least in some frequencies, solar output is below norms.[7] This could mean a much steeper descent to an earlier Solar Min than forecast… or the Sun could hiccup, and spots will appear again. But the fact that the solar nearside was spotless from June 3-6 (4 days) and again from June 23-July 2 (11 days and counting as I annotate this)[8] is certainly significant. It also yields a mean sunspot number for the entire month of June of just over 16.

[Monthly and yearly sunspot averages: “monthly average” is the mean of the daily means; “yearly average” is the mean of the monthly means.[9]]

What all this means is anybody’s guess and probably watching and waiting is the best thing. However, Dr. J. K. Woosley and I are not convinced that the Sun has only two dynamos; this would not completely account for the complexity seen in the extended sunspot/solar activity record, which extends back (one way and another) for nearly 1000 years. Notable are the nearly back-to-back-to-back extended minima of the Wolf, Spörer, Maunder, and Dalton Minima.

There is decent evidence for additional extended or “Grand” minima, going back many millennia,[10] as I already mentioned. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Homeric ~950BC-800BC (possibly continued until as late as 720BC; possibly two overlapping extended minima)
    • delta ~410yr or 330yr
  • Unnamed 1 ~390BC-330BC
    • delta ~980yr
  • Unnamed 2 ~650-720AD
    • delta ~320yr
  • Oort ~1040-1080AD
    • delta ~200yr
  • Wolf ~1280-1350AD
    • delta ~110yr
  • Spörer ~1460-1550AD
    • delta ~95yr
  • Maunder ~1645-1715AD
    • delta ~75yr
  • Dalton ~1790-1830AD
    • delta to present ~186yr
    • delta from Dalton to double-dynamo forecast minimum ~210yr

These “Grand” or extended minima can be traced back past 9100BC using various means, for more than 11,000 years of data.[11]

My consideration, upon studying that list: Shouldn’t only 2 dynamos produce much more regular spacing of extended minima?

I turned to my resident physics expert consultant and sometime beta reader, Dr. J. K. Woosley again. (He and I go all the way back to grad school together, where we worked in the joint Astronomy & Physics Department; we are old and dear friends, adoptive siblings of a sort. And while I do have a degree in physics, sometimes I want a different set of brain cells than mine to corroborate — or disprove — my conclusions. He’s good for that.) So I sent him the double-dynamo paper — not because he hadn’t already read it, but because I suspected he’d need to refresh his memory, and I had it to hand so he didn’t have to hunt for it. And I sent him the papers on the paleoastronomical reconstructions of extended minima…and I asked him for a quick-scan opinion. In other words, “Don’t spend a ton of time running calculations; just give me your educated opinion.” And he replied the next day. (I’m used to most of my replies being the next day; not infrequently I send the queries at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning! So okay, it’s NOT the next day for the respondent, but it is for me!)

“At the level of a quick skim (all I can afford today), the occurrence of all three extended minima in the last millennium, combined with a current highest-ever solar maximum, do not seem to me to be supported by a two cycle model. I think a three cycle model is the minimum that would be supported, and if I recall correctly, 5 could be supported. Conversely, everything before the Maunder minimum is based on climatological surrogates for sunspot activity (e.g. trapped carbon-14). Determining solar activity trends based on modulation of C-14 production by increased cosmic ray flux during extended minima requires a number of assumptions.[12] Untangling the bias of those assumptions is more than a day’s work for a non-expert.”[13]

Now, all that said, there is evidently no obvious magnetic data to support even one additional dynamo in the model. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there, though — if it has a long enough period, it may be difficult to recognize, for instance. And the current double-dynamo model still misses out on a good 3% of the observations, and doesn’t fully account for the irregularity of the extended minima occurrences.

So my overall conclusion is this: I believe we have not yet managed to fully model the Sun sufficient to accurately predict all of its cyclic behavior. I think that there is at least one additional dynamo hidden in there someplace. And that, in turn, is going to affect the start/stop times of the next extended minimum. To go back to one of the statements I made early in this article, and to which I promised to return: are we about to go into an extended minimum? To this question, I say, “Possibly.” If indeed there are additional dynamos, the onset of the next extended minimum may not wait fifteen more years to start. It is certain that the last three sunspot cycles have been diminishing in intensity; if this trend continues, it may start sooner. If the Sun continues flatlining, as it has in the last month, it may start REALLY soon.

What does that mean for us on Earth? Well, historically and prehistorically, there is a correlation between solar activity and worldwide climate. Solar activity goes up, worldwide temps tend to go up. Solar activity goes down, worldwide temps tend to go down. Slap multiple minima running for half a millennium only a century or less apart, worldwide temps tend to go down a lot. Now, correlation does not necessarily imply causation. But it doesn’t disprove it, either. As I pointed out the last time I visited Sarah’s blog, there are a LOT of very interesting coupling mechanisms between our atmosphere and what’s going on in space, attached to a lot of very complex equilibrium cycles, and we are nowhere close to having modeled all of that yet.

So let me end by saying that I’m not the only astronomer to be thinking about this. One popular science blog specifically asked one of the double-dynamo researchers her opinion on the hyperbolic statements made by the media upon the news release of the model.

“‘We didn’t mention anything about the weather change, but I would have to agree that possibly you can expect it,’ she informed IFLScience…Zharkova compared the Maunder Minimum with the one that her team predicted to occur around 15 years into the future. The next minimum will likely be a little bit shorter than the one in the 17th century, only lasting a maximum of three solar cycles (around 30 years).

“The conditions during this next predicted minimum will still be chilly: ‘It will be cold, but it will not be this ice age when everything is freezing like in the Hollywood films,’ Zharkova chuckled.”[14]

My recommendation? Maybe start stocking up on firewood and long underwear.

It can’t hurt.

~Stephanie Osborn



[1] https://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/2680-irregular-heartbeat-of-the-sun-driven-by-double-dynamo

[2] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kepler%27s_laws_of_planetary_motion for more information.

[3] http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/dynamo.shtml

[4] ApJ: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/0004-637X/795/1/46;jsessionid=7E411F44E9D9A2D14C663CC35E4829AF.c1.iopscience.cld.iop.org


[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cycle#Cycle_history ; you can go to Wikipedia to obtain the nearly-half-dozen technical article links upon which this statement was based.

[6] http://astronomynow.com/2015/07/09/royal-astronomical-societys-national-astronomy-meeting-2015-report-4/

[7] http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/solar-cycle-progression

[8] ftp://ftp.swpc.noaa.gov/pub/indices/DSD.txt

[9] http://www.sws.bom.gov.au/Educational/2/3/6

[10] A&Ap: http://cc.oulu.fi/~usoskin/personal/aa7704-07.pdf

[11] http://cc.oulu.fi/~usoskin/personal/aa7704-07.pdf

[12] http://bit.ly/29jWrPX (Sorry for the bitly link, guys; the original wrapped through four full lines!)

[13] Dr. J. K. Woosley, personal communiqué

[14] http://www.iflscience.com/environment/mini-ice-age-not-reason-ignore-global-warming/

I Must Say This

I must be allowed to get it off my chest.  I know it’s not … precisely true, but it captures the essence of how I feel whenever I’m abroad.

We’re the king sized, bad assed kings and queens of creation, and I realized last night that I was pulling all my movements, speaking lower than normal because I was afraid of breaking… well… everything.  In fact, I’m afraid of denting the country if I stomp my feet, I’m afraid of causing a riot if I work up to a really good yelling fit, I’m afraid of crushing everything I touch without meaning to.

I realized this morning most of that is a psychic impression, so to put it.  I just came from a con, where I can be the most myself, because I’m among my people who get the eccentricities and quirks of an Odd, and I plunged straight into a society in which no one is allowed to be Odd, and in which I must — in vain, largely — try to pass.

So I woke up with PJ O’Rourke’s rant running through my head, and I’m having a hard time not translating and shouting, so I’m posting here to allay the need.

“I was having dinner…in London…when eventually he got, as the Europeans always do, to the part about “Your country’s never been invaded.” And so I said, “Let me tell you who those bad guys are. They’re us. WE BE BAD. We’re the baddest-assed sons of bitches that ever jogged in Reeboks. We’re three-quarters grizzly bear and two-thirds car wreck and descended from a stock market crash on our mother’s side. You take your Germany, France, and Spain, roll them all together and it wouldn’t give us room to park our cars. We’re the big boys, Jack, the original, giant, economy-sized, new and improved butt kickers of all time. When we snort coke in Houston, people lose their hats in Cap d’Antibes. And we’ve got an American Express card credit limit higher than your piss-ant metric numbers go. You say our country’s never been invaded? You’re right, little buddy. Because I’d like to see the needle-dicked foreigners who’d have the guts to try. We drink napalm to get our hearts started in the morning. A rape and a mugging is our way of saying ‘Cheerio.’ Hell can’t hold our sock-hops.
We walk taller, talk louder, spit further, fuck longer and buy more things than you know the names of. I’d rather be a junkie in a New York City jail than king, queen, and jack of all Europeans. We eat little countries like this for breakfast and shit them out before lunch.”

P J O’Rourke

And that’s about it.