I Will Try For Another Post Later

I will try to write another post later, but it might be very late.

Miranda cat has grown very thin and for the last two weeks has diarrhea and can’t seem to control it at all.  I thought it was hyperthyroidism, which hits every cat who lives long enough, sooner or later.

Marshall is moving out this weekend, so we asked him to take her in to the vet, so he could take medication with him (she’s very attached to him and if he moved out, of course she’d need to go or she’d stop eating) and she could be all right for another year or three.

Well, it cost a lot of money to tell us she didn’t have thyroid issues.  It cost a lot more to find out what she did have.  The bill is close to a thousand, now, and some more expenses are necessarily still involved, and not the kind we wish to pay for.

Miranda cat has stomach cancer which has metastasized to the liver.  I feel like the worst of cat people, as in the moves and all we didn’t notice how bad she’d gotten, until these last two weeks, because it’s impossible not to note running your carpet cleaner three times a day.

Because of her condition — our fault not noticing sooner — chemo would just kill her.  We had two choices: euthanasia or keeping doped out of her tiny head till she goes naturally in a matter of two, three weeks.

We’d take box two, though giving Miranda meds would aggravate both of us.  She’s never taken them well.  But Marsh is moving out.  We’re not going to send her with him in this state, and it would be bad at any rate to make her endure yet another move now.

So it’s box one, which I hate, and which I’m sure she’ll resent as much as our Dejah Toris did.

I’m getting tired of sending inmates to the rainbow bridge.

Miranda was the only cat we ever bought.  She was my “yay, I’m published” gift almost sixteen years ago.  I picked her out of a litter of Cornish Rexes and a litter of Sphynxes because (it was January, in CO) she climbed up my overcoat, got close to my face and said “Meeee.”

Of course she, then, immediately adopted my younger son, and made it her job to bring him up right.

One of the last things we sent Mrs. Heinlein was a library-bag with a picture of Miranda painted by older son.

She’s been boss cat since Pixie died, no matter what the boy cats think, and able to hold her own with them though she never weighed much more than five pounds and the boy cats are in the fifteen to sixteen pounds.  She was a brave hunter of wasps, terrorizer of boy cats, and indefatigable warmer of laps.  And we’re taking her on her final trip.  And until I looked for a picture of her to put on Facebook, I had forgotten how beautiful she used to be, even five years ago.


Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part VII: The Carrington Event By Stephanie Osborn

Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part VII: The Carrington Event

By Stephanie Osborn


“Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

Rocket Scientist and Novelist


In August of 1859, during historic Solar Cycle 10, something very strange began to happen. The Sun, as it neared solar max, grew unusually active. It produced prolific numbers of sunspots and flares, some of which were visible to the naked eye. This continued through the end of the month, until, just before noon on September 1, British astronomer Richard Carrington, just 33 and already acknowledged as one of England’s premier solar astronomers, observed an incredibly brilliant solar flare — a flare that was easily visible to the naked eye. In later times, this single flare became known as The Carrington Super-Flare. In his own words from his scientific records:

“…Within the area of the great north group [of sunspots]…two patches of intensely bright and white light broke out…My first impression was that by some chance a ray of light had penetrated a hole in the [projection] screen…for the brilliancy was fully equal to that of direct sun-light; but by at once interrupting the current observation, and causing the image to move by turning the R.A. [right ascension, an astronomical coordinate akin to longitude] handle, I saw I was an unprepared witness to a very different affair…The instant of the first outburst was not 15 seconds different from 11h 18m Greenwich mean time, and 11h 23m was taken for the time of disappearance [from the telescope’s view]. In this lapse of 5 minutes, the two patches of light traversed a space of about 35,000 miles…”



British amateur astronomer Richard Hodgeson also observed it; Balfour Steward at the Kew Observatory noted a “crochet” effect on the observatory’s magnetometer. (A “crochet” is also sometimes called a Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance, or SID. It is when a solar event produces an abnormally high plasma density — remember, plasma is like the stuff in your fluorescent lights — in one layer of the ionosphere. This in turn creates literal electric currents running through the ionosphere, which magnetometers pick up. It creates something of an invisible lacy pattern in the atmosphere, hence, I suppose, the term “crochet.”)



And all of the previous flares and coronal mass ejections had fairly effectively cleared the interplanetary medium between the Sun and Earth.

The enormous coronal mass ejection produced by the super-flare slammed into Earth in only 17 hours.

The resulting effects lasted several days.

What kind of effects?

Worldwide aurorae for starters. These aurorae were most noted in the Caribbean, where they had never been seen before. Colorado gold miners, awakened by the brightening skies, got up and began cooking their breakfasts, because they thought it was dawn. In Europe and the northeastern United States, newspapers could be read by the light of the aurorae.

Speaking of newspapers…

On September 2, 1859, just past midnight, campers awoke to an “auroral light, so bright that one could easily read common print. Some of the party insisted that it was daylight and began the preparation of breakfast.”

~Rocky Mountain News

“A brilliant display of Northern lights was witnessed from 8 o’clock to half-past 9 last night. The glare in the northern sky, previous to defining itself into the well-known features of the Aurora Borealis was sufficiently vivid to call out some of the fire companies. “

~The Evening Star, Washington DC

“Aurora Borealis” – Early this morning, between twelve and one, a most brilliant display of the above phenomenon was observed extending from the western hemisphere to the north-west, north and north-east, and reaching to the zenith. The appearance in the west was that of a large fire, but in the north and north-east it was of a violet colour, and with great brilliancy. This beautiful display lasted for about an hour, and then gradually died away, leaving a serene and unclouded autumnal sky.

~The London Daily News

“The eastern sky appeared of a blood red color. It seemed brightest exactly in the east, as though the full moon, or rather the sun, were about to rise. It extended almost to the zenith. The whole island [Sullivan Island] was illuminated. The sea reflected the phenomenon, and no one could look at it without thinking of the passage in the Bible which says, ‘the sea was turned to blood.’ The shells on the beach, reflecting light, resembled coals of fire.”

~Charleston (SC) Mercury



“Those who happened to be out late on Thursday night had an opportunity of witnessing another magnificent display of the auroral lights. The phenomenon was very similar to the display on Sunday night, though at times the light was, if possible, more brilliant, and the prismatic hues more varied and gorgeous. The light appeared to cover the whole firmament, apparently like a luminous cloud, through which the stars of the larger magnitude indistinctly shone. The light was greater than that of the moon at its full, but had an indescribable softness and delicacy that seemed to envelop everything upon which it rested. Between 12 and 1 o’clock, when the display was at its full brilliancy, the quiet streets of the city resting under this strange light, presented a beautiful as well as singular appearance.”

~ The Baltimore American and Commercial Advisor


Those dealing in the business of telegraphy did not think so highly of the display. The incredibly intense event, a maximal G5 and S5 by any definition, created induced currents in telegraph wires that were simply impossible to control. Lines and pylons threw sparks, telegraph batteries were blown, telegraphers received severe shocks, and telegraph “flimsy” paper burst into flames.



And yet some telegraph systems continued to function, despite having no batteries to power them. The induced current was simply that strong.

“BOSTON: There was another display of the Aurora last night, so brilliant that at about one o’clock ordinary print could be read by the light. The effect continued through this forenoon, considerably affecting the working of the telegraph lines. The auroral currents from east to west were so regular that the operators on the Eastern lines were able to hold communication and transmit messages over the line between this city and Portland, the usual batteries being discontinued from the wire. The same effects were exhibited upon the Cape Cod and other lines.”

~The New York Times, 3 September 1859

Modern astronomers and solar scientists estimate the naked-eye flare which Richard Carrington observed to be around an X100.

This was the Carrington Event, often called a superflare, the most powerful solar/geomagnetic storm ever to occur in recorded history. It was before the advent of electricity, or electronics, or integrated grids and networks, save for telegraph systems, with which it wreaked havoc.

Imagine what effect it would have today.

According to History.com, “Ice core samples have determined that the Carrington Event was twice as big as any other solar storm in the last 500 years. What would be the impact of a similar storm today? According to a 2008 report from the National Academy of Sciences, it could cause “extensive social and economic disruptions” due to its impact on power grids, satellite communications and GPS systems. The potential price tag? Between $1 trillion and $2 trillion.”

Dibs on the story.

~Stephanie Osborn


Comet Tales blog/Osborn Cosmic Weather Report: http://stephanie-osborn.blogspot.com/

The Weather Out There Is Frightful: https://www.amazon.com/Weather-Out-There-Frightful-ebook/dp/B008JA00D0/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&qid=1473999553&sr=8-16&keywords=stephanie+osborn#nav-subnav

Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival: https://www.amazon.com/Case-Displaced-Detective-Arrival/dp/1606191896/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1473999553&sr=8-3&keywords=stephanie+osborn


We Aren’t (Even) Mostly Dead – A Blast From the Past from March 2013

*I was going to write about how you shouldn’t be depressed at our appalling candidates, because they’re all appalling, and we ain’t dead yet, then I remembered I had written about it before.  Isn’t that lucky? I’m working on Darkship Revenge and rather not take my head out of fiction just now.- SAH*

We Aren’t (Even) Mostly Dead – A Blast From the Past from March 2013

I am, by nature, a depressive.  This means that left to its own devices, what passes for my mind (it’s not much of one, but it suits my simple purposes) automatically picks out the darker tones of a painting, the darker notes of a melody, the worst possible signs in the surroundings.

You could blame it on my infant sleep being rocked to Fados, G-d’s way of keeping Portuguese from being irrationally exuberant (He has Brazilians for that) but there are signs this is innate and hereditary.  Some studies have shown it, and besides depression seems to run in dad’s maternal side.

I am aware of this, though, and I compensate.  It’s like when your car’s alignment is slightly off, and “pulls” to one side and you know it, you can compensate and still drive fine.  However, like the car pulling, it still trends a bit to that side, and ends up having to be given a sharp pull now and then.  So, most of the time I trend pessimistic, with occasional corrections that come with the tone of a two by four to the back of the head.

But even in the corrections… well, let’s put it this way – I’m lucky if I reach “normal.”  I’m the person who starts worrying about being broke when the reserve account dips below two month’s wages.  I’m the person who worries about a potential job loss six months ahead of time (unfortunately this time probably right.)  I’m the person who worries about the potential laydown on a book the day I deliver it.  I worry about the kids’ finals the day they enroll (even for the kid who tests well, I become terrified he will have a bad day.  Even though in 21 years it’s only happened once.)  And I think this is the first time in my career – partly because I’ve cut back to Baen and Indie – that I don’t feel like I’m running scared and standing at the edge of an abyss, which – of course – makes me feel like everything is about to go wrong, and makes me run scared again.

Taking that into account I wanted to let you know that even I – and I “pull” depressive most of the time – don’t think that the USA is dead.  Or lost.  Or hopeless.  Hell, we aren’t even close.

I don’t remember which Republican it was during the campaign (it might very well have been Romney) who was pounded by the right for saying that the fundamentals of the country were all right.

I’m not sure what he (whoever he was) meant, and of course if by fundamentals he meant the structures, the regulations and the convoluted mess of payola by the government we got ourselves into, he was wrong.

But if he was talking about the fundamental fundamentals, he was okay.  The American people are all right.

Yes, I know – I can hear you – shouting “Sarah, how can you say that?”  And “Sarah, do you read what you wrote two days ago?  Can’t you see our school system is collapsing?  How can we survive that?  How can we survive massive voter fraud?  How can we survive regulations that keep us starved of energy?”

Sometimes… you need a collapse.  If you’re having a fever dream, sometimes you need to fall off the bed and wake up.

No, I’m not ADVOCATING for a collapse, certainly not in the sense that both communists and large L Libertarians want it because both believe their preferred form of government will arise “spontaneously” out of it.

Heck, I don’t even believe my preferred form of government will arise spontaneously under ANY circumstances.  Within that too, I don’t even believe in one form of government in all circumstances, or everywhere, or in every association of humans.  For instance, it might interest you to know that this household is a dictatorship.  My husband and I are joint dictators, each with absolute power over SOME areas of the household.  (Though in a conflict of power and by mutual agreement, he wins, since I – voluntarily – promised to obey him in our wedding ceremony.  I did this because I know myself, and that was the only thing that would make me knuckle under.  And as for the necessity of knuckling under, in an emergency or an extreme situation, having SOMEONE make a decision is better than having two people argue over it.  No matter how bad the decision.  That vow of obedience saved my life in the one circumstance it was called up.)

It might also interest you to know that in Portugal I voted Monarchist.  Now, look, I don’t need you to tell me: the chances of Portugal restoring monarchy are about as high as of the US going pure Libertarian.

It was a quixotic vote, partly motivated by the fact that at the time the “right wing” by which you should read “not explicitly militant socialist” parties managed to hit me wrong on both fronts, economic and social.  They wanted to legislate Catholic rules of conduct, and they wanted to … well… legislate liberation theology in the form of soft socialism, too.  It was in fact like very young people here voting Libertarian because they don’t want to sully themselves and/or because they think we’re doomed either way otherwise.

However, I wouldn’t vote monarchist HERE, not even as a protest vote.  That is because the scale of the country, the fractured cultural nature of the states (if you think CA and CO are the same, even with us being part Californicated, you’ve never lived in both; and I’ve experienced greater culture shock visiting my inlaws in Ohio than visiting my family in Portugal.) but also because the United States is not FUNDAMENTALLY monarchist.  (No more than humanity is fundamentally monarchist.)

Portugal is a very odd country, culturally, both more law abiding than the US in some things, and incredibly more lawless in others.  It comes in part from a fractured European identity.  Being a very small country, it develops crushes on bigger/more important ones, and it hasn’t yet decided if it wants to be France or Germany when it grows up.  (England seems to be somewhat out of style as a model.)  It swerves between a passion for order and the certainty it can’t obtain it.  In theory Portuguese police are respected, for instance.  In fact, you don’t call them to the scene of an accident, because whoever pays the most graft is considered the aggrieved party.  In the same way, Portuguese heartily back laws, but each individual has a serene certainty the laws and regulations don’t apply to them.  (Even small ones, like what direction you should drive on the highway.)  It was the first country in Europe to forbid child labor and most of my generation in the village was taken out of school at ten to work in the textile mills.

It was my understanding of the country when I lived there – and I still feel that way, but I’m now a foreigner so my opinion is not really valid – that the only type of authority Portuguese were likely to recognize was tribal/familial.  So, a king fit that slot and might at least get the police to be a little cleaner.

Culture, you see, is a … tricky thing.  You’re going to tell me the culture in the US has changed too much.  We have too many immigrants.  We’re not teaching the kids the fundamentals of what it is to be American we—

Respectfully: bullsh*t.  I know it’s bullsh*t at a gut level, because my depressive self agrees with you, and my depressive self has a 100% wrong record.  (Ask my husband how often my career has been going to “for sure going to end.”  Yes, I’ve been right about his losing a job sometimes, but not about living under the bridge, in a box.  Okay, we came close twice, but hey, didn’t hit it.)  Another reason I know it’s bullsh*t is the Times headline about Obama’s second inaugural “fundamentally transforming America forever.”  (Oh, yeah, you and whose army, bucko?)  Which given the Times Magazine record for being right, makes me fully assured.

But the real reason I know it’s right is that I live here.

Yes, our education is beyond screwed up.  BUT here’s the thing, fundamentally they’re not transforming anything.  Fundamentally, the US is descended from or populated by people who said “I can’t take this anymore” and moved.  That is a completely different stock from those who stayed.

Even the Mexican immigrants who are simply walking over the border, are different from the ones who stay.  (In fact, our economy has caused a wave of returning immigrants who ARE fundamentally transforming Mexico – and good for them.)

I don’t think most Americans – or most colonials in general – FULLY realize how different.  The tendency of humans is to clan: to stay near family and childhood friends.  It’s also territorial.  You cleave to familiar landscapes.  The only way to get masses of people to move, normally, is famine or war.

Most of us and most of our ancestors (with exceptions) moved long before it got to that point.  That it wasn’t to that point is attested to by the fact that most of our/our ancestors’ relatives stayed behind.

I come from a country of immigrants.  I know the difference.  My own family – grandma stayed, granddad spent his entire working life abroad and only came back because grandma refused to move – splits half and half into those who leave and those who stay.

Those who leave are the ones who are willing to take responsibility for their own well being, their own future.  They are naturally more of the striver type.  They “contrive.”  And they are less likely to obey rules (which in Portugal, means they’re frighteningly unhinged.  Yes, I’m one who left.  What of it?)  But when they break rules, it tends to be purposeful and in the service of improving their own and the conditions of those who depend on them.

That is where we come from and who we are, and this is why we are so often called “ungovernable.”  It is also the only thing that explains stuff like my colleagues who are to the left of Lenin everywhere BUT their private life, where they are entrepreneurs who minimize their taxes and strive to make the most possible money.  Or the fact that we are DIY capital of the world. (My parents are still very puzzled I can paint and refinish stuff and don’t call in “experts.”) Or that we’re still functioning despite our incredibly screwed up institutions.

I’ve said before and I’ll say again – NONE of our large institutions, public or private is working.  What is happening in the publishing industry is a mirror of everything else, from large corporations to the government, to our teaching.

Part of this is (probably) intentional in that all of the commanding heights of power were taken by the hard left over the last sixty years or so.  (Some were taken later.)  As was the culture which made hard left the “accepted opinions to have.”  That accounts for none of them functioning.  But what makes their failure more obvious is that the technology is “fundamentally transforming America” and the world, in ways they didn’t anticipate, and can’t figure out how to fight.

Look, I’ll be honest.  If they’d managed this complete a control of press, government and every cultural and financial institution thirty years ago, they’d have succeeded in holding it for fifty years or so (or forty, in their crowing after the election!)

But it’s not thirty years ago.  When I tell us to build under, I’m only telling us to continue what tech and the American spirit has already started.  When the news got to the point that people were fleeing it in droves, blogs were there.  (No.  This is not universal.  I have yet to find a Portuguese equivalent to Instapundit.  The respect for credentials, you know?)

In Greece, in Spain, in Portugal, the people are demonstrating for more benes.  Here we’re demonstrating to be left alone.  (For those abroad, the tea parties were not racist – they were economic.  In fact, in my local ones the majority race was Hispanic, as should be, given the composition of the electorate.  In the same way the Occupy Wall Street movement was not grassroots.  To the extent it wasn’t paid for – wanna bet? – it was formed by the children of the upper class.)

When the publishing industry got THAT bad, people found ways to escape.  Yes, the means were at hand, but the impetus came from how closed shop and ideologically driven the industry had gotten, and how it served neither writers nor readers anymore.  Because logically, yeah, writers would prefer not to have to worry about all that icky marketing stuff.  BUT once they were doing it because their traditional publishers weren’t, well… the step was small.

I told you before and I tell you again, education is on the way there.  I sympathize with my friend Dave Freer’s statements about how a country should guarantee education for all and provide it free or easy or…

However, right now our country isn’t doing that.  Saying that to end the Federal Education programs is to make sure some kids go without adequate education simply means you don’t know that schools in America have become.  Even if you consider sort-of-reading and reciting shibboleths by rote adequate education, places like Chicago, Detroit, and most other big cities are failing spectacularly at that PARTICULARLY for those kids at risk.  Right now, abolishing national education might result in a net gain. Oh, sure the kids with completely DISCONNECTED parents might never learn to read or write enough to survive in the world, but the truth is they’re not learning that now either.

AT LEAST it would release the kids (mostly minority, mostly poor) whose parents are desperately trying to put them in private/charter/other programs and who are being held captive in the horrible schools.

Yes, to an extent I agree with Dave that we should have something available and at least strong encouragement for the kids from the least promising backgrounds to learn the basics.  We don’t have that now.  And we’ll never have it in the sense Dave sees it – I know what he’s seeing, because I know about the Great British Education project that extended halfway across the world and is responsible for India’s current flourishing.

It’s impossible in the US due to the NATURE of the people in the US.  It might seem odd to say that the States are more different than Great Britain and India in the nineteenth century.  It would also be wrong.  We have a common language and a lot of similar ways of living, and our citizens move between states (even if some of us would like a moratorium on Californians.  Any minute now, please?) BUT we’re more different where it counts – in how we view the future and the aims of education.  And in holding on rather stubbornly to our differences.

My husband studied history in Maryland (his family having moved there from Connecticut when he was two) through fourth grade.  When his family moved to Ohio he had to re-study history, because he’d learned it in “the south” and their version was different, Ohio said.

We don’t all believe alike, so having a system that molds everyone to a common ground (beyond reading, writing and arithmetic) isn’t going to happen.  It just isn’t.  It’s not happening now.

Yes, if you throw education to local control and a patchwork of charters, religious schools, homeschooling, charity schools and what have you, you will have kids who don’t learn at all.  And?  This is different from what is now happening, why?

But can we provide a system-of-last resort the kids are supposed to attend if they don’t attend anything else?  Probably.  It will be unholy expensive, (but think of what we’ll save on the other kids) not very efficient and something to be avoided at all costs, but probably better than what we have now.

However – however – even with our utterly failing system, I’m not despairing of our youth.  For the same reason that even with our failing news, I’m not despairing of knowing what’s going on.

Americans are strivers.  We contrive.

I’ve already seen this – particularly with boys – with friends’ kids.  They come out of school appallingly educated.  And then they learn.  Now, they might learn only in their area of interest or they might learn strange stuff, but once the kids realize they need to know something to get somewhere, they set about to learn it.

It’s probably a shock to you but our system of libraries was unique to the US.  I went nuts on it, when I was first here: not just the free books, but SERIOUS books on the shelves.  Why, you could learn anything! NOWHERE else in the world was it thought necessary to provide specialized history books for public consumption, free of charge AND without having to prove you could understand it/had the prerequisites to understand it.  The last is the most telling.

Yes, I know of the state of the libraries.  But part of the reason for that now, is that the net has taken over.  People CAN use the net to surf for porn and watch videos of kittens.  All of us do some of the later.  (Hey, keep your hands off my videos of surprised kittens!) But what is amazing is how often most people – even kids – use it to learn.

I’ve seen even functionally illiterate kids improve over time.

What we are losing, of course, is the bottom of the economic range.  In that vein — How broken are our schools?  Dan and I, in a moment of quixotic spirit, called our local inner city school and offered to provide their “disadvantaged” students with computers. At the time Dan’s employer was getting rid of something like a hundred computers about two years old, fully functional because they were upgrading.  Giving them to students who didn’t otherwise have access would give the kids access to at least learning to use a computer and eventually to the net.  The school wouldn’t let us.  Why not?  The computers were PCs and NOT brand new.

That is diminishing, though, as computers becomes old tech that trickles down.  You can find computers on craigs for under fifty dollars. (We, ourselves, are downstream buyers, though not that far.)

We’re also losing the top range.  The people who go to elite colleges and are thoroughly indoctrinated to the point of being unable to think.  They are probably never going to be able to make up their educational deficiencies.  And that’s too bad.

HOWEVER the vast majority of people, once the “collapse” – by which I mean the system getting so bad that its not being there would be better – starts, start working on alternatives for themselves and for others.

We’re American.  We do for ourselves.

It’s already happened in news and in books.  It’s underway in cinema, though it’s the very early rumblings of change.  It’s underway in a big way in education.

Yes, I do believe our voting system is also broken and rigged – it’s the way the politicians act that gives THAT game away – but once that becomes obvious, something will be done about it too.

I’m not so sanguine on national defense.  I do think we need a federal government for that, and its not being there is going to cost us a city or maybe two.  But I also know that our country has the largest available army of combat-ready veterans and volunteers, practiced with guns that (possibly) the world has ever seen. And we’re Americans.  We’ll contrive.  Maybe not well enough not to lose anything, but well enough to survive.  And to come back.

This is the thing: the people now in control are very confident in the truth of the stuff they were taught – even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

They will careen forward bringing the new tech and the old “progressive” ways into conflict more and more.

The old “progressive” ways never worked anywhere.  But the new tech makes their failure more obvious.  They can’t say “this is the best we have and it still doesn’t work.”  We all know it’s not the best we have, and a cat high on catnip could do better.  (And yes, I do mean in all positions of power.)

It’s possible our leaders are so desperately bad, because that’s NOT where power is anymore.

We’re Americans.  We’ll manage it.

The Titanic of the blue state might have crashed, and yep, the Europeans (bless their hearts) are floating atop the grand piano and acting all superior.

But we are Americans, fergadssake.  The grand piano isn’t good enough, and those d*mn bureaucrats provided two few lifeboats.

Which is why, in the time left, a few of us are building a paddle boat out of the deck chairs, the bandstand, the chimney stack and the dining room chandelier.

Come on and lend a hand, or at least get out of the way.

We’re Americans.  We’ll survive this.  And what’s more, we’ll do it big and splashy.  American style.

Rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated.

UPDATE: for writers, I put a post up about diagramming novels, at Mad Genius Club.

on the day I originally published this, but I put in a post about breaking into publication today.  The Velveteen Writer.

Those Ineffective Agitprops by Nicki Kenyon

Those Ineffective Agitprops

By Nicki Kenyon

A few days ago, Sarah discussed the effectiveness of Soviet psychological warfare. I discussed it myself in September on this blog, when I recalled my experiences in Soviet Russia, brainwashed from nursery school to worship Lenin and Marx and the almighty Soviet State. I recalled that all the privations, including the lack of food and hot water, getting beaten up as a child for being a Jew, and even having surgery without anesthesia were all considered normal. Suffering was normal. Everyone suffered, and no one thought life could be different. They were taught to believe that the worst was the best – that suffering was a blessing – that right was left.

The Soviets were masters of brainwashing. Their propaganda machine resonated deeply with its own populace back then and today with spoiled, sheltered Snowflakes who have never experienced the living hell of having no food, of bathing in dirty water that had already been used by other family members, of walking into a store with empty shelves.

Recently a friend ran into just that type of creature, who insisted on bloviating about the good ole days of the USSR and insisted that the bread lines were caused by those spoiled Russian grannies who insisted on having fresh bread every day.


As someone who actually STOOD in those bread lines for our family’s ration of bread, I had to wonder where these ideas are coming from!

No, the lines were certainly NOT caused by those spoiled Russian grandmothers, who insisted on having fresh bread to eat every day. Hell, when I was stationed in Germany with the Army, German families got fresh bread every day, and I can’t remember a single line! In and out in a few seconds. Not that hard.

Fact is stores got produce on certain days. Everyone knew when those days were coming, and lines formed early to ensure that you got your meager ration of milk and bread. When everyone goes shopping on the one day the store has food – the day it arrives at the stores – lines result, and products run out quickly.

Why is it that Marxists have a problem comprehending that? Could it be that Soviet propaganda, as well as Russian PR efforts today, are still their most effective endeavors – more so than military modernization work, and more so than Putin’s political machinations.

Is it willful ignorance? No, it’s Russian skill.

The Russians don’t make a whole lot of mistakes in the agitprop and brainwashing arena. They indoctrinated generations of young people into worshipping suffering, and compared to their subtle campaigns abroad, the efforts against their own populace were positively hamhanded!

Today’s propaganda efforts are subtle and gradual. From drafting new history books that whitewashed tyranny – both past and present – to positive Russian messages through media outlets such as RT and Sputnik, to the nearly inconspicuous and dignified repatriation of the body of Russian nationalist philosopher Ivan Ilyin, the Russians continue to excel at indoctrination and propaganda. Is it any wonder they are spending billions to purchase media outlets in neighboring countries to spread their message?

Note how eagerly American Marxists fall for Russia’s victim routine.

No, Russians say, they never invaded Crimea! Crimea wanted to separate from Ukraine! There were no little green men, and they certainly weren’t Russian! That’s just a Western ploy to discredit Russia and keep Russia down, because the United States can’t stand to see a successful, sovereign Russia. Oh, and by the way, the US was responsible for manipulating oil prices to ensure that the ensuing sanctions to punish Russia for its actions in Crimea would hurt more!

No, Russia says, life was so much better in the past! There was law and order. There was nationalism. There was love of country and patriotism. All lived for everyone else. We need to turn inwards, says Russia. Do you see how much the West hates us? They impose economic sanctions. They lie about is. They want to cause us economic ruin and steal our resources. Time to look inward and turn away from the evil West.

Notice how well those messages resonate with Western socialists. The suffering of the Soviet Union was caused by greed – the communist boogieman – how silly of them to want fresh bread! That’s just greedy!

Couple Soviet and subsequent Russian propaganda efforts with the ever pliant and willing academic community that is wide open to the nationalist and Marxist ideologies that are creeping back into the Russian culture, and you have the most effective PR campaign in the world – both during the Cold War and today.


A Vast Wasteland of Prosperity

Yesterday my husband threatened to drown himself in the shower, if I didn’t stop ranting about the stupid things people believe about history. It’s not that he disagreed, mind you, but that he thought it was too much to endure a graduate-level lecture with side-excursions into various examples he’d never heard about before even getting his pants on in the morning.

I sympathize.  It’s been a long time since I became aware that when that darn, mobile soap box finds me and gets under my feet, I get really really fast-talking and sometimes drop details.

Weirdly, this fit wasn’t prompted by the commenter who came back to an old post yesterday to lecture us about how stupid it is to expect dem poo’ peoplez to be able to retool and find new jobs, once technology dispossesses them of the old ones.  Weirdly, it started because he was telling me about a TV show and something said in the TV show.  (Beginning of digression. I watch second hand TV.  Whenever you guys see a reference or a quote to popular culture, I acquired it by listening to Dan talk about it.  At least most of the time.  No, I don’t know why I don’t watch TV.  What’s worse, I find most of the people who say “Oh, I don’t watch TV” are the sort of prigs who are bragging of their moral superiority.  I’m not morally superior, and my inability to sit still in front of a television, unless I am ill or engaged in some complex project that involves most of my head and hands, is almost as my dad thought a “handicap”.  It isolates me from the culture.  But it is also true.  I think it’s because I never “got used” to watching TV, like some people don’t get used to reading for pleasure.  Most of the time I was growing up, Portugal had two channels, and one only operated on the weekends and evenings. End of digression.) Dan, as he puts it, watches TV so I don’t have to.

Anyway, he was telling me about how terrible conditions were after WWI, and I started pointing out they weren’t.  Not really.  Sure, some people (a lot of domestic servants) were displaced.  Sure, immediately after, a lot of men came back and found their jobs were gone.  Veterans went around the country side, selling booklets and stuff.  You see this in Agatha Christie.

Unspoken is the fact that a lot of these Veterans were actually not quite right in the head, not that you can blame them after the trench war.  BUT even in Britain, which did itself no favors by prolonging the same kind of rationing, etc, it had had during the war, the economy recovered.

Again, if you read Christie, who was unaware of writing history, since she wrote these books contemporary to the events, you see a lot of new houses being built, of factories being started.  Sure, the old families and the old houses never quite recovered.  But that wasn’t because of the economy.  It was because of punitive taxation.  If you had a death in the family, the estate would be lost.

“But Sarah,” you’ll say.  “That’s why the economy recovered and they were able to live better.”

Really?  You’re going to go with that?

I know that was the theory back then, and we really can’t hold it against them, I think, but no, the state doesn’t “invest” in the economy.  Or “ease transition.”

Mostly what the state does is create more and more bureaucracy.  Of course to the extent that that pays a salary to some people it does SOMETHING (I found out, and was shocked at the racism of it, that this is part of the reason democrats support the endless growth of the state.  They think there are a number of people — specifically black people — who cannot adapt to new tech, and therefore must be employed by the state, ad infinitum, in a sort of work fare program.)  I suspect though, having seen the make-work and endless nonsense of bureaucracy in three countries, what it does do is retard the growth of the economy by removing capital from useful purposes.  Oh, and retarding the prosperity of the employees, not to mention their mental health, by keeping them chained to ultimately meaningless work they know it’s meaningless.  A lot of those people are in the position of soviet citizens.  They pretend to work and we pretend to pay them.

Without the galumphing bureaucracy, these people would have shifted and adapted.

How do I know that?  Because they’re human and I’m human.  Yeah, okay, there are differences in IQ range, but you know what they are not that pronounced amid the whole species.  Oh, sure, our dumber friends annoy us, but they’re still smarter than any other thing this planet has ever seen.

And our species thrives on change and strife.  Our species are cunning apes, who keep finding new ways of doing things.  Which drive progress, which shatters the status quo, which in turn causes people who were forced to change to look for more cunning ways of doing things, which…

Yeah, I saw the arguments of our visiting Luddite.  I have also read people who say we were much better before the invention of agriculture.  But what I know is that before the invention of agriculture we lived as individuals maybe 30 years, and as a species occupied certain zones of the globe, and lived in family groups of maybe 15.  There was a total number of us of maybe a million.  Maybe.  Now we cover the face of the earth and as individuals we’re healthier and more longer lived than we’ve ever been.

And while I sympathize with my fellow libertarians who think agriculture brought in a tiered society, I’d like to say poppycock.  With raspberries on top.  It’s not that you don’t get history (archeology is uncertain, and confused at that level.  Agriculture brought greater prosperity, and that made some tombs much less equal than others.  Also, the tombs we tend to find form the nomadic period are all chieftains or their equivalent) what you don’t get is human nature.  You’re engaging in the same form of fallacy the leftists engage in “Humans were perfect, and then an event–”  Bullshit.  I’m human, they were human. I know exactly their degree of perfection.  And as for thinking some kind of egalitarianism prevailed pre agriculture, those of you who think family-bands are egalitarian have never lived in a family with a tyrannical matriarch (or patriarch.)  It can be (not my family, we were never that organized) like a miniature totalitarian regime but even closer and more in your face.

Yeah, yeah, paleolithic diet and people were so much healthier and stuffs.  (Rolls eyes.)  While some of our metabolisms don’t seem to have caught up with agriculture (almost everyone I know who has issues with carbs has a relatively near ancestor from a nomad/hunting culture. Say no more than six generations off.) and while I myself eat very low carb for health reasons, the whole idea that people became LESS healthy with agriculture is a little mad.

Sure, and if you looked at graves from the village, from the time mom was a kid and my time, you’d find modern medicine, vaccinations and antibiotics had wreaked devastation on a healthy population.  This is because people died younger/less battered in her time.  Also infants tend to sort of vanish into the soil, so you wouldn’t get the great culling that happened before 3 years of age.  Only the strong survived.  In my generation, OTOH almost everyone survived, including the halting, the lame and those with chronic conditions.

Yeah, okay, so no progress comes without a cost.  Sure, some things will get worse, if only for a little while.  Yes, I read Christie (as I said.  One of the amazing things about mysteries, because grounded in the quotidian, is that they are a good record of how life really was, not how historians interpret it) and I read a lot about “pre war” (first) quality.  And it’s true there was a quality never again encountered except now, at high end craftsman created threads and clothes and furniture.

But the industry of the time would never have supplied the masses of humanity that progress allowed to live and thrive.

So, technological progress causes some losses, sometimes for a while.

What it causes, mostly, is disruption.  And the older you get the more you feel all disruption is for the worst, and the world is coming apart.  And if the progress happens too fast (say the first 50 years) people have trouble adjusting their MENTAL PICTURE of the world and some depart reality altogether and when this happens, (the last time I can think of is the industrial revolution, which more or less opened with the blood of the French revolution and closed with WWI.  If it has closed) it ends in blood.

Yeah, it’s scary out there, and things are shaking loose.  But a lot of the things that are shaking loose are undoing the mass-industrial-entertainment-news complex, and the idea that one size fits all.  Some of what is shaking lose is the inability for any of us to reach a mass audience without intermediary “gate keepers” who have long been taken over by the long march of Marxists (speaking of people who have left reality far behind.)

Technological progress — or even change — hurts.  But so does iodine.  It still allows us to live better and longer than our ancestors.

And the one thing you can count on is that we, cunning apes that we are, will continue engaging in it, and adapting to it, and fighting over it.

Those people who are all concerned about you losing your way in this heartless society?  Those who try to cushion you and put you in a safe space?

They’re not your friends.  They’re afraid of what you do if you and your creativity were fully unleashed.  They have achieved a certain domination over their society but are afraid if anything more happens they’ll lose it.

It’s not you, but them, they seek to help.

Ignore them and build.  Build under, build over, build around.  Anticipate technology.  Build technology.  And ignore them.  It’s the only way to deal with them.



Welcome to the Sunday Vignettes! – by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘nother Mike

*I’m trying to do this thing, to increase visibility for the promos.  You should look at the post just below this for the promo.*

Welcome to the Sunday Vignettes! – by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘nother Mike

We hope you will enjoy these, and join in. Luke, Mary Catelli, and ‘nother Mike had this idea that it would be fun for everyone if we ran a regular scheduled vignette session. We asked the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess and she agreed to let us try it.

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it!  For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is alchemy.

Hot Promo Coming Through – Free Range Oyster

Hot Promo Coming Through – Free Range Oyster

Happy Saturday, y’all! Autumn has arrived at last, and we have two weeks in a row with a bumper crop of books. Two of our recent guest posters have new releases out, and we’ve several other new books for you to peruse. I’m off to battle bagunça trolls, so have a great weekend and don’t forget to rate and review books! As always, future promo post entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster
Wordsmith, Code Monkey, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer

Alma Boykin

Forcing the Spring

Colplatschki Chronicles Book 9

In NovRodi, danger lurks without the walls. And within.

Pjtor Adamson Svendborg, co-heir to the Empire of NovRodi, survives his best friend’s murder to grow up in the shadow of his ambitious half-sister. But more danger rides outside the walls of the cities, danger that threatens to undo all that the Svendborgs and their followers clawed back from the Great Fires.

To free his people and reclaim that which is his, Pjtor must look outside NovRodi for help, to the men of the Sea Republics. But not all those in the court and Church agree. And Pjtor’s impetuous nature leads him into grave danger indeed.

Stephanie Osborn

Fear in the French Quarter

Displaced Detective

Fear in the French Quarter revolves around a jaunt by no less than Sherlock Holmes himself – brought to the modern day from an alternate universe’s Victorian era by his continuum parallel, who is now his wife, Dr. Skye Chadwick-Holmes – to famed New Orleans for both business and pleasure. There, the detective couple investigates ghostly apparitions, strange disappearances, mystic phenomena, and challenge threats to the very universe they call home.

It was supposed to be a working holiday for Skye and Sherlock, along with their friend, the modern day version of Doctor Watson – some federal training that also gave them the chance to explore New Orleans, as the ghosts of the French Quarter become exponentially more active. When the couple uncovers an imminently catastrophic cause, whose epicenter lies squarely in the middle of Le Vieux Carré, they must race against time to stop it before the whole thing breaks wide open – and more than one universe is destroyed.

David L. Burkhead

The Hordes of Chanakra

Knights of Aerioch

Pulled into an alternate world mired in the middle ages, Kreg finds allies in Kaila, a rough swordmistress, and her wizardly father. He’s also found their foes – an unending horde pouring forth from the small nation next door.

Now, he’s in a race against time to find the true source, before everything he cares about ends in fire and death!


Science Fiction by Scientists

This anthology contains fourteen intriguing stories by active research scientists and other writers trained in science.

Science is at the heart of real science fiction, which is more than just westerns with ray guns or fantasy with spaceships. The people who do science and love science best are scientists. Scientists like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Fred Hoyle wrote some of the legendary tales of golden age science fiction. Today there is a new generation of scientists writing science fiction informed with the expertise of their fields, from astrophysics to computer science, biochemistry to rocket science, quantum physics to genetics, speculating about what is possible in our universe. Here lies the sense of wonder only science can deliver. All the stories in this volume are supplemented by afterwords commenting on the science underlying each story.

Includes stories by Stephanie Osborn, Tedd Roberts, and Les Johnson

Now available for preorder

Enigma Front: Burnt

CAUTION: Don’t burn your fingers turning the pages of this action-packed volume!

From elemental wizardry gone wickedly wrong to devilish deeds and futures up in flames, these twenty one stories set the pages ablaze exploring the myriad ways of getting singed, fried and outright incinerated. Read stories by established, award-winning authors, as well as newly ignited lights in the creative universe.

Flames, acid, radiation, steam, broken hearts and broken deals…


Includes the story Ember by Christopher Chupik

Kal Spriggs

The Sacred Stars

The Shadow Space Chronicles Book 4

You can never go home.

Alannis Giovanni has followed in her family’s footsteps and joined the United Colonies Fleet. As a bare Ensign, she’s been assigned to the Fleet’s newest, most powerful cruiser, the Constellation, on it’s maiden voyage: a simple show-the-flag mission that should be good for her to learn what it is to be an officer.

But things are never simple. At their most distant port, they come across allies in need. The Ghornath species are in search of their origins and an array of enemies are trying to stop them. The crew of the Constellation will have to face pirates, aliens, and uncover a ten thousand-year-old secret in order not just to save their allies, but to thwart a threat that might well catch the rest of the Fleet off-guard.

These battles will test Alannis, force her to grow and become the officer that her position and blood demand of her… yet the greatest threat may be one she is the least prepared to face.

J.M. Ney-Grimm


Prince Kellor, cursed by the troll-witch Mandine to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of his beast form. Pain wracks his body. Unpredictable rages blur his mind. And straight thinking proves elusive, confusing his search for the loopholes that every curse possesses.

His curse turns on the choices of his childhood friend Elle. She once shared Kellor’s idyllic rambles through the wilderlands. She now loves all things musical. Might Kellor persuade her to neglect her own dreams to confront his lethal nightmare? Should he?

But no troll-witch permits her prey to escape with ease. The illusory loopholes in Mandine’s curse all twist back to its entombing heart.

J.M. Ney-Grimm tells a lyrical Beauty and the Beast tale, rife with moments of shining glory, dark magnificence, and unexpected significance. The fate of an empire, a people, and a world unfurls from Kellor’s deeds and Elle’s choices.

Also available from these fine booksellers:

Edward Willett

Flames of Nevyana

Blue Fire is both blessing and curse.

A gift from the gods, its mystical light and energy powers and protects the land of Nevyana, but it also divides her people into three distinct groups. In the wrong hands, it becomes a formidable weapon. When sacred objects for channelling Blue Fire are stolen, sworn enemies Petra, Amlinn, and Jin set out to find them, and their paths converge on a collision course with the truth. Can they bridge the centuries old division between their communities? Or will their search for the truth and the explosive power of Blue Fire signal the end of Nevyana?

Dark Fate 6 – an almost harmless diversion.

*FIRST AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, THIS IS NOT CANON.  THIS IS COMPLETELY UNSANCTIONED (okay, not completely.  Larry said I could do this for you guys without his ripping my head off and beating me to death with it) MHI FANFIC.
Good, now that we got that out of the way, why am I doing this?  Both Grant and Fado Negro (Portuguese Monster Hunters) have minuscule parts in Guardian, the MHI book I’m collaborating with Larry Correia on.  However, obviously the Portugal of Monster Hunter is not the real Portugal (Really, no arcane creatures come stumbling out of the undergrowth there.  If there were arcane creatures, the country would be chock-a-block in them, when you take in account the continuous human occupation since… well, forever.)  And this story gives me more of an opportunity to firm the world building.  (Yes, it would be MUCH easier to do this with a notebook and noting things down, but that’s not how my mind works, d*mn it.)
Okay, that’s the rational excuse.  The real reason is that d*mn Grant Jefferson won’t leave me alone.  (Always had a thing for men from Patrician New England families.  Ask my husband.)  So I’m torturing him.  Also Guardian won’t come out until I do this more or less at same time (I’ve sent the first chapter to Larry, and after I clear a bunch of minor cr*p in my way, I’ll be sending him probably the first ten chapters by the end of the week.  [Yay, Mr. Trashbags.  Oops, did I say that?])
Will this ever be a book?  Don’t know.  First Guardian will get delivered.  Then, this being finished, I throw it at Larry.  And then it’s his SOLE DECISION. (Which means, don’t you monkeys hassle him.)  It’s his world and his character.  I’m just grateful he lets me play in it in Guardian and here for your amusement.*

First chapter is here.

Second Chapter is here

Third Chapter is here

Fourth Chapter is here

Chapter 5 is here.


I might someday be able to overcome my distaste of elevators, but that isn’t going to happen for the elevator I had to take at the back of that Portuguese deli.

Okay, imagine an iron cage, of the sort that was put in as an elevator in the nineteenth century of so; the kind that used to have a uniformed buy just to operate the controls.  Then imagine that the uniformed man was done away with, and instead we had a bunch of obvious gears and stuff in a corner, all of it operated by a push button panel that I swear looked a hundred years old, though it certainly couldn’t be.

It was square.  It had three black buttons on it.  The buttons might at some time have had numbers on them, but they had long since been rubbed away.

Franks had said first floor, so I licked my lips, looked at the instructions, looked at the panel and pressed the middle button.  The panel sparked.

For a while nothing happened, and I was reaching for the metal door to open it, when the whole structure gave a looooooong groan and hobbled.

By which I mean it shook side to side.

I looked up and could see what looked like a much too flimsy chain holding it up, threaded into a really large gear.

Right.  There had to be stairs in this place.  And for that matter, why wasn’t the elevator resting on the floor, here, on the ground floor.  And also–

I reached for the door.

The groan deafened me and then, like an arthritic man, groaning and moaning, the elevator started lurching upstairs.

The sequence went something like this: groan; shudder from side to side; groan; shudder.  Each groan took up about fifteen inches up, which means the first lurch made it impossible for me to get out of there easily.

In an iron cage, being pulled up, I realized I was the perfect target for shooters from the bottom floor, or the floor I was going to for that matter.

I resisted the impulse to lay flat on the floor of the elevator.  For one, because I really do try not to look crazier than I am.  For another, because the floor of the elevator was also metal, the kind of metal grates they put over manholes in Manhattan, you know, the kind smoke streams out of?  And through the openings between metal slats, I could see another level, where it seemed to me like people — or perhaps things — were moving around in the darkness.

So instead of lying flat on the elevator floor, I tried to restrain my footprint to… well… my footprint.

I squeezed near the far wall of the elevator, against the bars there, because those at least backed to a solid — okay, plaster and crumbling — but without holes.  And I put my hand in my pocket, where I kept the glock I’d rescued from my luggage.  No, I’m not saying ow I got it into my luggage and through customs with no questions, even though I wasn’t using my official passport to travel.  It’s none of your business.  And besides, I might need to use it again.

But nothing blasting-worth made it into my field of vision.  In fact, nothing happened beyond the creak and lurch, and it seemed like forever between floors, until suddenly it gave a creak-shudder, like a great beat dying and I realized we were level with the time-corroded floorboards of the first floor.

As I reached for the door, the elevator gave a great groan and lurched upward again.  Oh, no way in hell was I going to go up at the mercy of some crazy, ancient contraption.

I grabbed the door — a sort of sliding gate really — shoved it to the side, and jumped out, which was scarier than it should be, because the elevator was too small for the hole, and there was this space I might have fallen down, into the endless darkness beyond.

I managed to land on my feet on floorboards that creaked and groaned as much as the elevator.  But I was very glad I managed to land on my feet, because as I looked up, I was being coolly appraised by a young woman in a black-skirt-suit.

She was much shorter than I.  Must have been all of five foot nothing.  And it looked like she was wearing at least a one-inch heel too, on her impeccable black pumps.

Her hair was dark and curly, her face was olive and pointed, and her dark eyes were profoundly amused.

She looked me up and down, and said “Grant Jefferson?”

I wanted to say “if you’re Fado Negro, I don’t think much of your death elevator.”  Or perhaps “Woman, surely you have stairs somewhere.”

But she looked so amused, as though the elevator were an elaborate prank — and it might very well be — that all I could say was “Yes, Ma’am.”

“Good,” she said.  She extended her hand, and I shook it.  A little, hard, cool hand.  “We’re all waiting for you.  I don’t mind saying we’re in a hell of a pickle, and it’s about time you Americans showed up.”

The Thrill of Discovery- Alma Boykin

The Thrill of Discovery- Alma Boykin


I had not thought about how long its been since I delved into something really new until a few weeks ago, when I started reading a monograph on a very new-to-me topic. My hands and my mind actually started to tingle, there’s no better way to describe it, as I dove into new information. Every sentence was learning, challenging what I had been taught, complicating things as the best histories tend to do. Anyone watching would probably think me a bit touched in the head as I underlined, side-lined, made arrows to especially important points or pieces of data, and grinned as I though about how much this will improve my teaching on this topic.

Reading outside my usual field is normal. Reading something totally new to me is not so normal, or I should so common. I read to learn more about what I already know. It is comfortable, entertaining, and to be absolutely honest, does not require as many brain cells or as close attention. And it goes faster, although page count isn’t as important as it was when I had to read two monographs and a handful of articles per week.

Why am I even reading this monograph? Because it fills a hole and complicates my knowledge. I hadn’t realized just how long its been since that happened, until I got that happy itchy excited “oh wow this is so neat!” feeling.

Archival research can generate a similar “thrill of the hunt.” You read, chase leads, slog through documents, force yourself to keep going through yet another round of zoning-permit change requests and turn the page once more to find . . . exactly that little nugget of data that locks everything else into place and proves or disproves that which you were trying to prove or challenge. Those nuggets, or the occasional surprise windfall or “What on earth?”* moment are the reward for digging, the proof that your effort has and will continue to pay off. You meet the challenge and master it.

Despite what some activists keep propounding, humans are not herbivores. We are not able to talk to plants. We did not live our entire existence as a species browsing on fruit and nuts with the occasional carrion chaser until some eeevil male/spirit/monotheistic impulse/capitalist introduced poor, weak victims to fire-charred mammoth tenderloin. We can be relatively content with browsing, especially if that browsing includes lots of really juicy blackberries or wild strawberries that were hiding in a large patch of clover on a mist-damp hillside that smelled of new-mown hay and clouds and— Ahem. Sorry. Memory dump. Where was I? Oh yes, humans are omnivores who hunted as well as scavenged. We have not always been the top of the food chain (still aren’t in some areas. Africa, India, parts of North America). And the pleasure of pursuit and capture remains with many of us, just sublimated.

Our minds have not changed that much, either. The excitement of tracking knowledge lures so many of us on, especially difficult knowledge. Do you think the serpent in the garden would have been as successful if he’d lured Eve to the Tree of the Presence of Good and Evil? Or the Tree of Three Foods Guaranteed to Keep Your Husband’s Cholesterol Low? Nope, she’d probably have called for Adam to come and bring a large snake-stick with him. The serpent offered her knowledge. The different groups lumped together as Gnostics all argued that people needed additional, restricted knowledge in order to escape this vale of tears. How many books and stories are premised on the lure of forbidden knowledge, of “Things No Man Should Know!!!”? Besides the entire Lovecraft canon, I mean. All the Faust stories, a fair amount of fantasy, including the Earthsea books and Tamora Pierce’s third and fourth Song of the Lioness novels, those are just the titles that come quickly to mind. We hunt knowledge.

Knowledge does not mean wisdom, but it often helps build wisdom. I suspect that is why I get the shivery excited feeling when I read things that counter the traditional historical narrative or apparent general knowledge. The human condition is an endlessly fascinating topic to study, trying to sort out how and why and just what did happen, in an effort to better understand then and today. The more I learn, the richer the world seems to be and the better I can assemble the pieces to give my students and readers that richness. It may be a tidbit about language, such as “this alien species has an inflected language, but it is also based on caste and sex, so that vocal pitch and upward or downward inflection informs the listener of the speaker’s sex and birth-rank.” So what do humans do when presented with an alien who looks one way but literally sounds like a very different person? What does an alien do when something causes her voice to change, illness or accident? The ambassador suddenly has the voice of an untouchable – how does this complicate the story?

Or in this case, certain African tribal groups in what is now Ghana not only actively encouraged the slave trade, but they controlled the Europeans who tried to manage it. And the first Europeans in the area discouraged the slave trade because they wanted gold and ivory, not people. The native Africans called the shots for a hundred fifty years or so. Boy oh boy does that upset a lot of conventional apple carts about “agency” and Europeans’ place in the long-practiced system of slavery in west Africa, at least in this region.

How about Spain’s colonies in the New World being much closer to the Medieval mind-set than the Early Modern approach of the people north of the Rio Grade and east of the Mississippi? Instead of being settled by people who assumed responsibility for their own actions and the events of the world (within limits), the dominant mental world remained that of a system where everything depended on those in power, up to and including the Almighty. And if that becomes entrenched and absorbed into the general bulk of culture, that ninety percent that lurks below the surface, what are the odds that a society of laws and of personal responsibility, of individual rights and freedoms, is going to grow and flourish? Probably a bit longer than in that strip north of the Rio Grande and east of the Mississippi River.

That is the kind of thing that makes my eyes light up, and makes me grin at my books and annotate margins with strange and obscure notes and cryptic abbreviations. And I fear it is the kind of thing we are choking out of the younger set, both by presenting everything as “set and settled,” and by discouraging curiosity and the thrill of the intellectual hunt. Hunting is hard. Learning what you don’t know so you can start filling in the spaces is tedious and requires a large dose of humility (or being hit firmly with the cluebat. BTDT got the skull lump.)

Most people are content with knowing what they know, and learning only what they need for survival. That’s fine. That’s normal. Society needs a lot of normal people doing normal things before it can support Odds like academics.

People read in their comfort zone. I do it too. Why do I have a gazillion books about the Habsburg Empire and central Europe? Because I know a lot already, so I don’t work as hard on the new stuff.

But when that little tease of the chance for new knowledge floats by, when the prints of that long-sought animal come into view, ah the thrill of the chase! The excitement of the hunt! Squirrell!!


*I really do need to go back and find that enormous city commission minute about the search for the sick cow and the owner’s attempts to hide it, and write an article based on it. The story is just too good to let slip into obscurity.

Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part VI: Solar-Earth DefCon Levels By Stephanie Osborn

*Sorry, I had this scheduled to go this morning and in a brilliant move scheduled it for 7 pm.  Sorry Stephanie.  And yes, I can totally hear you say “Bless your heart.”-SAH*

Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part VI: Solar-Earth DefCon Levels

By Stephanie Osborn


“Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

Rocket Scientist and Novelist

As I told you last time, NOAA has a scale of geomagnetic activity that ranges from G0 to G5, where G0 is quiescent, and G5 is the worst geomagnetic storm around. Now, we’ve already talked a little bit about what geomagnetic storms do…

“No, we didn’t,” you say?

Ah, but we did. Back when I told you about all the effects that Coronal Mass Ejections can have. (Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part 4.) Because those sorts of things are what cause the geomagnetic storms.

But probably the best way I can tell you about the effects is simply to quote from NOAA’s scale itself (which can be found here: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/NOAAscales/#GeomagneticStorms).


As I mentioned last week, a G0 is the normal, quiescent geomagnetic field. This holds until the Kp index reaches 5, and then we begin minor geomagnetic storming, with the scale hitting G1. According to NOAA, “Power systems: weak power grid fluctuations can occur. Spacecraft operations: minor impact on satellite operations possible. Other systems: migratory animals are affected at this and higher levels; aurora is commonly visible at high latitudes (northern Michigan and Maine).” These are fairly frequent, with on average close to 2000 per 11-year solar cycle.

At Kp=6, G2 is considered a moderate storm. “Power systems: high-latitude power systems may experience voltage alarms, long-duration storms may cause transformer damage. Spacecraft operations: corrective actions to orientation may be required by ground control; possible changes in drag affect orbit predictions. Other systems: HF radio propagation can fade at higher latitudes, and aurora has been seen as low as New York and Idaho (typically 55° geomagnetic lat.).” These are a little less frequent than G1, but still occur at a rate of about 600 every solar cycle.

When Kp=7, G3 is a strong geomagnetic storm. “Power systems: voltage corrections may be required, false alarms triggered on some protection devices. Spacecraft operations: surface charging [static electricity buildup; this can lead to arcing] may occur on satellite components, drag may increase on low-Earth-orbit satellites, and corrections may be needed for orientation problems. Other systems: intermittent satellite navigation and low-frequency radio navigation problems may occur, HF radio may be intermittent, and aurora has been seen as low as Illinois and Oregon (typically 50° geomagnetic lat.).” These are less frequent still, with on average 200 per solar cycle. Also, as the geomagnetic storms increase in strength, their likelihood of occurrence tends to concentrate around solar maximum, though this is not a hard and fast rule.

At Kp=8, G4 is a severe geomagnetic storm. “Power systems: possible widespread voltage control problems and some protective systems will mistakenly trip out key assets from the grid. Spacecraft operations: may experience surface charging and tracking problems, corrections may be needed for orientation problems. Other systems: induced pipeline currents affect preventive measures, HF radio propagation sporadic, satellite navigation degraded for hours, low-frequency radio navigation disrupted, and aurora has been seen as low as Alabama and northern California (typically 45° geomagnetic lat.). These are rarer still, with only about 100 seen per solar cycle.

And then there’s the big boys. Kp=9 means a G5 extreme geomagnetic storm. “Power systems:  widespread voltage control problems and protective system problems can occur, some grid systems may experience complete collapse or blackouts. Transformers may experience damage. Spacecraft operations: may experience extensive surface charging, problems with orientation, uplink/downlink and tracking satellites. Other systems: pipeline currents can reach hundreds of amps, HF (high frequency) radio propagation may be impossible in many areas for one to two days, satellite navigation may be degraded for days, low-frequency radio navigation can be out for hours, and aurora has been seen as low as Florida and southern Texas (typically 40° geomagnetic lat.).” These are the rarest of all, but still occur on average 4 per solar cycle. And yes, that honkin’ big one we had in 2003 was one of these.

By the way, this also affects our astronauts. Per Australia’s ABC News, “Astronauts aboard the space shuttle Atlantis were aloft during a solar storm in October 1989, and ‘reported burning in their eyes, a reaction of their retinas to the solar particles,’ according to the book Storms from the Sun: The Emerging Science of Space Weather, by Michael J. Carlowicz & Ramon E. Lopez. [https://books.google.com.au/books?id=RJO_IsMDiccC&q=1882&hl=en#v=onepage&q=1989&f=false]

“‘The crew was ordered to go to the “storm shelter” in the farthest interior of the shuttle, the most shielded position. But even when hunkered down inside the spacecraft, some astronauts reported seeing flashes of light even with their eyes closed,’ the book notes, adding that if the astronauts had been on a deep-space mission or working on the Moon, there was a 10 per cent chance they would have died.”

Somewhat related to the geomagnetic storm index is the radio blackout index. This tells us the specific effects of a flare on radio communications. However, these are caused, not from the impact of a CME, but from the x-rays produced by the originating flare! So instead of taking hours to days for the effects to reach us, we feel the effects only 8.3 minutes after the flare occurs — at the same time we SEE the flare. Consequently, the strength of the comm effects can provide us an early warning to later geomagnetic effects.


An R1 radio blackout is considered minor. “HF Radio: Weak or minor degradation of HF (high frequency) radio communication on sunlit side, occasional loss of radio contact. Navigation: Low-frequency navigation signals degraded for brief intervals.” They occur on average 2,000 times per solar cycle.

An R2 radio blackout is “moderate.”  “HF Radio: Limited blackout of HF radio communication on sunlit side, loss of radio contact for tens of minutes. Navigation: Degradation of low-frequency navigation signals for tens of minutes.” We get approximately 350 of these per solar cycle.

An R3 radio blackout is starting to get serious; it’s “strong.” “HF Radio: Wide area blackout of HF radio communication, loss of radio contact for about an hour on sunlit side of Earth. Navigation: Low-frequency navigation signals degraded for about an hour.” They happen 175 times per solar cycle.

Then we have an R4 Severe radio blackout. “HF Radio: HF radio communication blackout on most of the sunlit side of Earth for one to two hours. HF radio contact lost during this time. Navigation: Outages of low-frequency navigation signals cause increased error in positioning for one to two hours. Minor disruptions of satellite navigation possible on the sunlit side of Earth.” Fortunately, they only occur, on average, about 8 times in any given solar cycle.

And then there is the gut-buster. It’s an R5 Extreme radio blackout. This one can be bad, folks. “HF Radio: Complete HF radio blackout on the entire sunlit side of the Earth lasting for a number of hours. This results in no HF radio contact with mariners and en route aviators in this sector. Navigation: Low-frequency navigation signals used by maritime and general aviation systems experience outages on the sunlit side of the Earth for many hours, causing loss in positioning. Increased satellite navigation errors in positioning for several hours on the sunlit side of Earth, which may spread into the night side.” Fortunately, we get one or less of these per solar cycle.

But stop and think for a few minutes about the potential ramifications of one of these. An ENTIRE HEMISPHERE is without radio communications for entire blocks of time. ALL SHIPS AT SEA are out of comm with land, and each other. ALL AIRCRAFT are unable to communicate with each other and all flight controllers. Worse, THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THEY ARE. Navigational systems have been hosed — yes, I’m talking GPS here — and they are now relying on eyeballs and dead reckoning to get from point A to point B.

Also realize that the largest ever in modern record-keeping was caused by a solar flare on Nov. 4, 2003, associated with the same solar activity that produced the Halloween Geomag Storm of 2003. This one was so strong, it actually pegged the measurement meters, and was originally believed to be “only” an X28…until further analysis revealed its true strength: X45. The last time we had one of these (that I’m aware of) was in 2006, but it was only an X9 and the blackouts lasted about 10 minutes.

But for the 2003 flares (it was really a series, and therein lies another danger — these things rarely pop off just once and then shut up), GPS was still a relative novelty in the civilian world, and this was before GPS was standardly included on everything from cars to cell phones. Given that our naval forces have stopped using, or even teaching, celestial navigation, and that we have, at any given time, thousands of commercial airline passengers IN THE AIR, this has the potential to be catastrophic beyond belief.

Now, while all of this stuff is going on in the geomagnetic field, what’s happening in space? Hard radiation, and lots of it, that’s what. After all, that’s basically what’s causing the disturbance in the geomagnetic field.

And of course NOAA has another scale that relates to that, called the solar storm scale, and represented by — you guessed it — the letter S.

There’s not a direct correlation that I’ve ever been able to find between the G scale and the S scale, because the S scale is determined by the number of protons of a given energy that passes through, say a square meter in a second. This number is called the proton flux. (In the case of the S scale, the energy of the protons must be greater than or equal to 10MeV, where MeV is mega-electron-volts. An electron volt is very tiny, only 1.6×10-19 joules. So an MeV is an energy of 1.6×10-12 joules. It’s not big, but when you’re talking about something as small as a proton, it’s plenty big enough.)


So at S1, our proton flux is 10 protons per second per steradian per square centimeter. (This is not a very big area. The bigger the number of protons passing through, the bigger the radiation dose.) An S1 is a minor solar storm. According to NOAA, the effects are as follows, “Biological: none. Satellite operations: none. Other systems: minor impacts on HF radio in the polar regions.” This happens a lot, but not quite as often as a G1 — an S1 occurs about 50 times per solar cycle.

An S2 is a moderate solar storm. It requires a proton flux of 100, and occurs half as often as an S1. Effects: “Biological: passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to elevated radiation risk. Satellite operations: infrequent single-event upsets possible. [A single-event upset, or SEU, is when the bit of a computer is accidentally reset to its opposite condition by a proton or electron impact.] Other systems: small effects on HF propagation through the polar regions and navigation at polar cap locations possibly affected.”

S3 is a little stronger still; it’s a “strong” solar storm, with a proton flux of 1000. (Note that the solar storm scale is a logarithmic scale like the Richter scale, with each step of the scale having 10x greater proton flux than the previous.) Only 10 of these typically occur per solar cycle, but they aren’t pleasant. “Biological: radiation hazard avoidance recommended for astronauts on EVA; passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to radiation risk. Satellite operations: single-event upsets, noise in imaging systems, and slight reduction of efficiency in solar panel are likely. Other systems: degraded HF radio propagation through the polar regions and navigation position errors likely.”

Stepping up to an S4, a severe solar storm, we have a proton flux of 10,000. They are pretty rare, with only about 3 per solar cycle occurring. “Biological: unavoidable radiation hazard to astronauts on EVA; passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to radiation risk.  Satellite operations: may experience memory device problems and noise on imaging systems; star-tracker problems may cause orientation problems, and solar panel efficiency can be degraded. Other systems: blackout of HF radio communications through the polar regions and increased navigation errors over several days are likely.”

And finally the granddaddy of solar storms, the S5, the extreme storm. It has a proton flux of 100,000 protons per second per steradian per square centimeter. Simply put, a flood of 100,000 protons is striking every square centimeter (less than half an inch each way), every second. These are very rare, and may or may not occur in any given solar cycle. But they can be devastating. “Biological: unavoidable high radiation hazard to astronauts on EVA (extra-vehicular activity); passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to radiation risk. Satellite operations: satellites may be rendered useless, memory impacts can cause loss of control, may cause serious noise in image data, star-trackers may be unable to locate sources; permanent damage to solar panels possible. Other systems: complete blackout of HF (high frequency) communications possible through the polar regions, and position errors make navigation operations extremely difficult.”

We’re fortunate those don’t occur very often at all. In fact, there have been only 6 in the last century and a half, most of which were in the latter half of the 20th Century: 1972, 1989, 2000, 2003, and 2009.

But even the typical description of a G5 or S5 doesn’t match the strongest geomagnetic storm in history. The Carrington Event tops the charts by all measures.

~Stephanie Osborn


Comet Tales blog/Osborn Cosmic Weather Report: http://stephanie-osborn.blogspot.com/

The Weather Out There Is Frightful: https://www.amazon.com/Weather-Out-There-Frightful-ebook/dp/B008JA00D0/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&qid=1473999553&sr=8-16&keywords=stephanie+osborn#nav-subnav

Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival: https://www.amazon.com/Case-Displaced-Detective-Arrival/dp/1606191896/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1473999553&sr=8-3&keywords=stephanie+osborn