On Not Being A Sheep

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I confess I probably should take no credit in not following the herd. It is, in fact, more difficult for me to follow it. Witness my struggles in 2016. It took rational arguments from two very different perspectives for me to join the majority of the right.  And occasionally….

BUT now that Das Bild, that notorious American right wing periodical (coff) says thatthe lockdown was a huge mistake, you might ask why I’ve been screaming it and “just protect the vulnerable” since this insanity begun.

Well, part of it was that I’ve watched the wheels come off an economy far smaller and less intricate than the US’s and I really didn’t want to live through that nonsense again. When the unofficial unemployment rate trolls the 80% mark (I don’t remember what shenanigans they were using to make it — I think — 30% and the only thing that functions is the black market, it’s not so much that people die of famine on the streets (considering Portugal is fertile enough a small backyard can feed the family and most people have or have family who has livestock, that would be a feat) but that the simple business of living takes way too much time. Stuff like finding the place that might be selling this or that requires following a network of rumors.  We’re kind of experiencing that right now in Colorado, trying to find out what’s open and what’s not.  It’s horrendously familiar.

Having seen the wheels come off, and knowing what the US economy means to the world, and how the US getting sniffles means a killing chill to everyone else, I was not convinced that even had the Xi disease been as lethal as the stupid model said, and set to kill a million people (out of a population of 300 million) it might be the lesser cost. Yes, go ahead, it’s callous and I want people to die, as all the trolls say.  Or perhaps, since I tend to think instead of emote, I look at a very bad situation, realize the choices are death and somewhat less death, maybe, and think that the “less death, maybe” is on the side of not destroying the economy.  Because, you see, unlike the left, I do understand what the economy is. It is not an artifact of capitalism, and without it, we’d each lie under our perfect Rousseaunian tree and wait for ripe fruit to fall in our mouths. Communist countries have an economy, too. (Though the functioning part is usually the black market.  The official economy is a way to starve on the installment plan.) What we call “the economy” is not Wall Street, (which is what these children of privilege think it is) but the sum total of the transactions that make it possible for people to buy food, cleaners, maintain their houses, get medical care, and everything beyond living in a tree and pelting other monkey troops with fruit.  (And even that is probably an economy. Biologists speak of the mechanism that allows an animal to eat as “making its living.”)

As bad as a million deaths would be (one in 300 people, and at the time we did not know it would be mostly the very elderly) for the economy, it was better than interrupting the supply chain for food. Or even than destroying the most productive years of the generation now in their twenties and thirties, due to a lack of jobs.  My brother and older cousin came out of college at the height of the Portuguese economic confusion and there were no jobs. My cousin found a job that suited her and was happy in her career, but she never really used her degree, which would both have paid better and I presume — since she chose it — have given her great satisfaction.  My brother eventually found a job, but it is safe to say he never found a career, or felt in any way useful, and retired early. There are probably millions like them and some of them might have made significant contributions to their field.  I have a son graduating with two engineering degrees, and the field went from his actively being headhunted to radio silence complete. If he doesn’t use his skills long enough — if we take long enough to recover — his skills will be outdated and likely valueless.

Now you might say that influenced my thought and darn tooting it did. As one of the vulnerable, since my lungs are never …. reliable, I thought from the beginning that if I had to die, well, my work is mostly done.  Yes, you maniacs will miss out on a dozen or more novels (hopefully a lot more, we’ll see. There’s other medical issues in play, as when are they not with me?) but since I expect to be forgotten ten minutes after my death, I don’t think my staying alive is more important than what my son might do in his entire career.

Anyway, that was my thought. I couldn’t prove it with numbers — though, ooh, boy, are we getting the numbers — but even stopping for two weeks seemed insane to me.  I know what stoppages of partial regions for weather or illness cost us, and stopping the whole country was insane.

But more than that, I wondered why we were doing this all in a rush and following a completely unproven strategy, rather than actually taking a few days and working through “Who is most at risk” and then protecting THOSE people.  I mean, if we were going to confine the healthy with the sick, shouldn’t we know which of the healthy were likely to become sick, first?

Then there was the way the whole “Social distancing” made no sense.  I mean they were treating every place, every group, every culture and subculture as exactly the same thing.  And hell, having lived in three states in the US and having friends in a lot of other places, I KNOW that cultures are very different.  And living “structure” is very different.  I might have mentioned this, but every time we fly East (mostly for the annual trek to Liberty Con) every time I hit my first Eastern airport (either Charlotte or Atlanta) I start humming under my breath “don’t stand so close to me.”  Going to New York City as we do once every three years or so, whether we plan to or not (Something tends to come up.) is even more so, with bells on.  And in Portugal I think my family must think I’ve gone nuts, as I spend most of my time there stepping back hurriedly from someone five inches from my face. Beyond that NYC has elevators and subways, and…. I don’t think most people who live there drive as such. So to anyone who knows the virus theory of disease, NYC would seem like it would be a hot spot, while the rest of the country not so much. I mean, in Colorado our normal way of standing and talking to friends on the street is three feet apart. Three feet is enough for ANY VIRUS to drop to the ground, absent it coming from a sudden sneeze. And in a sneeze, btw, the virus travels far more than six feet. So the entire six feet nonsense? Sounded just like that, nonsense. Possibly because it is.

Our first introduction to this, in Colorado, btw, was during our normal Saturday trip to the botanic gardens in Denver.  (We don’t always go there, but it’s there, the zoo or a museum, because memberships to those stretch our entertainment dollar, and I’m not much on movies anyway. I’d go to a drive in, supposing we still had a functioning one, if husband wanted to watch the movie, because I could crochet or read and intermittently “watch” as I do at home, but theaters are not convenient for that.) They’d changed from their normal admission, which involves someone getting a “ticket” from a machine in the atrium (member tickets are free) to you have to buy a ticket, because they only allowed fifty people  — FIFTY — over however many acres.  And they had a trailer with a few young women processing the ticket.  Which means, practically, instead of you waltzing right in and not doing more than handing the ticket to the volunteer, you stood in line to be allowed in.  If this doesn’t ring your alarms, then CERTAINLY the idea that fifty people being allowed into an open air space spreading over acres and acres, while the grocery stores were wide open will.

BUT only a couple of days later, the gardens closed, as did the zoo. There was no time to see if this new policy would work, just panic closing.

Because the despicable Jared Polis tried to make this as painful as possible for Coloradans he hates — since he knows it was vote by mail fraud that elected him, also closed parks I shouldn’t be surprised he’s keeping the now financially desperate zoo and gardens closed through their highest grossing season, and is making incoherent noises about opening them with only fifty people allowed, because apparently that wasn’t good enough before, but it’s totes great now. (Jared, you’ll look ridiculous in the Hugo Boss uniform. You’ve got fat as f*ck. Give up the dream.) He’ll probably be ecstatic if all our fun stuff goes bankrupt and has to close. It’s not good for the peons to have fun.

And before the usual idiots say I’m willing to sacrifice lives for my fun, the truth is we KNOW now the chances of your catching this out of doors, or in any situation you’re not shut in with someone infected and sneezing (the myth of asymptomatic spreaders appears to be just that, a myth.) WE KNOW THIS NOW.  The fact that he hasn’t reopened outdoor institution, and/or said we’ll re-open on x day means he’s not doing this for any “science” but to prolong the pain and stroke his…. sense of power to our misery.

I found out, btw, drive in theaters, at least in other states (and I suspect in CO if we have any left) were also closed. Which makes no sense at all. Because if you just tell people to tune in their radio to the transmission (which is what they did last time we went to one… 15? years ago) what transmission can there be?

But there were other incoherences. If the illness was so dangerous that parks and museums (the Denver art museum is MASSIVE. We normally don’t come within 5 feet of anyone, except when buying tickets. When we have a membership, we sail right in. And they could have gone to “buy tickets online”) had to be closed, how come grocery stores, Walmart and Home Depot weren’t?

Sure, they WERE and are essential businesses, and note I’m not saying they should be closed. BUT if the virus were really that dangerous, how could you keep them open, whether or not you made the isles one way and marked those stupid places to stand on the floor?  IF the pandemic were really as virulent and lethal as we were told, if it was so virulent that the entire botanic gardens COULD only have 50 people in it at a time (apparently it’s exactly like a party with 50 people.) IF weddings had to cancelled, funerals could not be held, parks had to be roped off with yellow caution tape, etc, etc, ad nauseum, shouldn’t the essential businesses have become delivery only?

ALSO if the virus was that dangerous, how come homeless weren’t taken somewhere and quarantined for their protection? How come they were congregating everywhere in massive groups in our deserted city and NOT DROPPING LIKE FLIES. (And yes, I have friends who work ERs. There was no increase in frequent fliers dying.)

Honestly, to me it looked like a combination of LARPing and an attempt to plan the economy and tell us what was important and NOT ALLOW WHAT POLITICIANS THOUGHT UNIMPORTANT TO EXIST.  This gross violation of our most basic constitutional rights seemed far MORE dangerous than any pandemic. Even one that killed 10% of the population. Because once you allow your rights to be stripped away, you’re not getting them back, as we have proof daily.

I have had idiots tell me that fat Jared’s orders are “the law” as if he were the emperor or something. (Don’t get fitted for a crown, either, Jared. It makes your face look rounder.) I can’t begin to tell you how incoherent that makes me. It’s not the law, and it is unconstitutional. And if I were that restaurant owner in Castle Rock, he’d be getting his fat ass sued PERSONALLY for violating my civil rights. (Fortunately in places other than my beloved — and occupied — state, courts and law officers are coming to their senses.)

So, now that we know that as Das Bild put it, this was possibly the greatest criminal insanity the West ever committed upon itself (And I would like to know how much of that is the culpability of our media, who is in Xi’s pay. And how much their utter abysmal ignorance of biology, which led them to propagate nonsense about the virus hanging midair, outdoors, for hours and not to laugh out loud at the idea that you were safer at home from a virus that, like all Coronas (yes, including the beer, you joker) dies in the sun.) NOW that we know that opening does not in fact bring a huge death toll, what are we doing?

Well, people — most sane, normal people — are sick to death of this, and there is a seething anger everywhere.  But the politicians are trying to hang on to just a little bit more glory, and telling us that restaurants, maybe — thank you Fat Jared — might open in May, but at a third capacity, and we have to be very careful…. Because, you know, the virus, which kills mostly New Yorkers (who live in much more crowded conditions than anyone else in this country) and nursing home patients, is suddenly going to hang out in street corners and kill elementary school kids. (If I see one more kiddie in a mask, I’m going to lose my sh*t. How uninformed are those parents?)  As anyone who has ever run a restaurant knows, that means he wants to really, really, really kill our restaurants, and the tourist trade that is 30% of Colorado’s economy.

And the Fat F*ck postures and preens and talks about how he’ll decide to re-open, maybe, perhaps, if only we behave like good boys and girls and “social distance” (i.e. pandemic LARP for his fantasies.) and wear masks.

Even though while there might be some benefit to wearing masks that are N-95 there is NO known medical benefit to a bandana tied over your face, or really any sane reason for a normal, non-sick person to wear a mask. No, they don’t wear them all the time in Asia. They wear them in public transport and close situations, while they THINK THEY MIGHT BE SICK. Not all the time, and not by order of government.  But, oh, you have to wear them, or Fat F*ck Jared won’t let you out. He’s not done trying out his Hugo Boss Uniform in front of the mirror and smirking for the cameras.

To put this in perspective, my favorite charity stores have opened — yay — since we are so massively wealthy (ah!) most of our clothes and furniture — unless it’s an item so rare that we need to have it made or buy it specialty — come from there.  So, let me say with authority that most of the clothes aren’t washed, and that I clean every piece of furniture we get there, because if they clean its not to my standards.

But they’re open. HOWEVER the botanic gardens, which are outdoors, and where people walk more than six feet apart? Totally need to be closed.

Oh, and church? Very dangerous (and you could say I’m having a crisis of faith over the leadership of my church having gone along with this complete insanity) and though some are re-opening now (not ours) they require masks and social distancing.  Look, we don’t go to a mega church, which MAYBE would be dangerous. The service we normally attend the only person within six feet of me is my husband. And honestly, as long as you make sure no one who is coughing and hacking distributes communion, it’s probably not a big deal even in mega churches.

So, what caused me to smell a rat and turn away from the bleating flock heading home to hide under their beds from the scary scary bad cold?

Inconsistencies, panic and outright crazy decisions. I’ve lived under regimes that ruled arbitrarily enough to know that if a regime won’t bother to even TRY to get your buy in, and if they react with no consistency or sense, doing things like curfews, and papers for traveling (it’s a bad precedent and you’ll regret it if Trump loses in November. His election is now more essential than ever, or the “climate crisis” will make the virus LARPing look like a walk in the parks we’ll only wish we had then) while crowding everyone into the five stores that are allowed to stay open in your area of town?

They’re totalitarians, drunk on power, and using their position for petty revenge — such as Fat Jared’s on Weld county — and however bad the crisis, what they’re doing is only making it worse.

So, in the future, and it might be much nearer than we hope, if this election is stolen thanks to insanity and vote by mail fraud pay attention. If what the media and the authorities are telling you makes no sense, the restrictions are arbitrary, and they seem to be enjoying their power way too much (ah, the smirk, Jared. You couldn’t get rid of it, if you tried) they’re lying to you. And you should resist with everything in your power.  And that goes double if you’re a policeman blocking the way to the capitol so we can’t give Fat F*ck a piece of our minds.  Befehl ist Befehl is not a defense, particularly not in America. Don’t find out too late.

So, now you know why I went the other way.  And you?
Well, I recommend massive resistance. It’s time for it. Olly olly oxen free.  It might not yet be too late.  These news gave me great joy, not because I EVER want to take a cruise in my life (water, people, aaaaaack) but because it means most people really aren’t buying this bullshit. They’re going along with the mask cosplay so as not to listen to the karens. But most common, normal human beings have had enough.

So if we open NOW we might yet recover, and quickly.

And Jared, a word to the wise — no, no, not avoid carbs, though that wouldn’t hurt you either — at this point, you might think prolonging the cosplay will allow you to pretend this really was veddy veddy serious.  Or perhaps you’re afraid that if you cave and just open up, your buddy Newsom won’t like you anymore. BUT the truth is, the more random shit you pile on now, while we look at states that opened back up, and states that never closed and fail to see bodies pile up?  The more we see your ass. The more we know you’re just on a power trip.  Judging from overheard conversations, I suspect the tipping point is very, very close.

How sure are you  that you have the fraud sewn up? I mean, you do know that Trump is not Pierre Delecto, to whom we reported massive fraud and who went ahead and conceded, anyway, right?  You do know the sewer at the top is getting the lid blown off it, and who knows what will come out?

Perhaps you want the people of this state to not OUTRIGHT hate you, Jared.  Great state Colorado, you know, full of the milk of human kindness.  We are, for instance, the state that invented and USED the self-hanging machine, to expedite executions.

Get out of the self-hanging machine, Jared. Step out of it. You still can. Say that due to studying the figures from other states, you see science tells us we can just open up.  And then stay off the cameras, and listen to a fellow-fatty: the camera makes you look even fatter. Skip briefings and hit the gym.  And can the crocodile tears. It just makes us giggle when you cry, and makes us want to make you cry again.

Open up the jail doors, Jared. Because if you don’t we’ll open them ourselves.

Military commanders and sane people (which you’re not one of. Either of those) know that you don’t give an order you know won’t be obeyed.

People are humoring you now — sort of — though the number wearing their masks UNDER their noses should tell you something. If you had two brain cells to rub together.

But it won’t last.  It will look better if you let go of your Hugo Boss dreams and just tell us to go back to normal. Then the economy of the state will take off, and we’ll even let you preen. Hell, we’ll try not to roll our eyes in front of you.

But destroy the state economy and you’re done.  One way or the other, Jared. You’re done. Even if we have to clean the voter rolls. Which would destroy your party in this state for a generation.

Turn off the cameras and let us go back to work. You can wear the uniform and the shiny boots in those bespoke clubs.  And we won’t even care.

But you make no sense. And your tyrannical nonsense is killing the state we love. And that — like your love for carbs — is enough of that.

 

 

 

 

 

The Precious Child

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As a civilization, the West has probably the lowest sustained childbearing rate of any civilization  in history.  Even Rome in the Empire had a low fertility rate only among the uppermost crust of society.  (And for much the same reason our fertility is so low — well, except for contraceptives. —  Rewards, advancement and the ability to ensure a comfortable life accompanied a low number of children, instead, as throughout most of history, the opposite.)

I’m discounting in this case China, where the rate of child bearing was imposed from above and Japan which suffers from “the defeated country’s disease” which tends to lead to adopting the culture of the victor at least as much as possible, and limiting the number of children.

I am speaking of a lot of individual decisions leading to a very low birthrate.  I will add only that part of it might be the fact we were propagandized with a fake “population crisis” for about the same time we’ve had the ability to artificially limit our number of offspring.  (And perhaps if nothing else, this latest debacle will teach us everything about how crisis are manufactured.  Well, either that or we’re not to last long.)

I do not know how long our society can subsist with this low a rate of childbearing, particularly as a large percentage of those born is born to people who have neither the skills nor the mindset to raise them as productive citizens, since they are themselves wards of the state.

While I disagree with a close friend on this bespeaking genetic disaster — mostly because I don’t believe genetics relates that directly to intelligence and behavior.  While there is undeniably a linkage between genetics and genius, or genetics and imbecility, I think there’s a lot of room in the muddled middle, and also that geniuses and morons are not those who drive civilization. The middle is. And the middle is mostly shaped and bent by culture. In this case we’re getting more of what we pay for — I agree it’s not optimal for maintaining civilization and that it does speak doom without a change in culture.

But more importantly, our lack of children is twisting the way we do raise the ones we have and — itself — bending the culture in some ways which will, by themselves, kill it.

Look, some of the fact we don’t consider our children disposable creates good changes.

Take my paternal grandfather. He had a series of issues (which he passed on larger or smaller degrees) which I now know from watching my younger son, means he almost certainly had sensory issues.  In elementary school, this leads to slowness in writing, an atrocious handwriting, and absent exercises to ameliorate it, issues reading. It makes sense too because grandad was the youngest of a bunch of brothers, so likely born when his parents were in their mid to late thirties. It is my guess that if they had kept going the next child would have been full blow autistic.

Well, my great grandparents who had sons in university looked at their youngest son and said “I guess he’s not smart enough. Let’s apprentice him to a carpenter.”

Now, from talking to grandad I can tell you he was probably as smart as younger son. And as he grew he overcame most of his issues (as did I, only girls overcome them earlier. And also failing at school was not an option, as my parents only had two children.) as most children with those issues do.  And he wasn’t unhappy as a carpenter.

However, faced with the same issues in younger son, who almost managed to fail sixth grade (though there was bullying and other issues involved) I looked at it and said, “Oh, H*ll no” or something like, and we pushed and prodded until I found a specialist who diagnosed his issues and who could create an apparatus to allow him to hear normally.  As for the writing and reading, I trained him until he could do it with no problems.

All of which are good things because, though we’d have been fine had he chosen to be a carpenter or a mechanic, I wanted him to be able to do what he wanted to.  A little awkwardness remains, particularly in group situations, which I know — and he knows — he has to work through, as it’s hard to follow a group conversation when all the sounds come at you at once.  (He has discarded the hearing filter, though they do make them for adults, but he would prefer not to wear it now….)

However there is another side to this.

I was reading a book on the regency (Our Tempestuous Day: A History of Regency England by Carolly Erickson)  and she was largely sensible and not particularly West-hating (though somewhat, but you have to look for it, which is good in the liberal arts.)

It was only when we reached the talk about how children were brought up that made me want to beat her on the head repeatedly, hoping some fossilized sense would fall into her brain.

Though the book was written in the eighties (or early nineties), it already showed signs of “all too precious child” and “let’s protect them into ninnies.”

Now, I’m not going to defend things like the practice of chimney sweeps of using tiny kids to clean chimneys until the kids ran away or died.  I’ll just say not only was it a cruel age, but that the absence of technology to do certain chores means that societies often resort to unpalatable means to accomplish them.  I have in the past said there is a correlation between lack of industrialization and slavery, and I stand by it. In the same way a society that has no other means of cleaning the only source of heat they have — and one which can cause great fires if not cleaned — does lead to a lot of what a more comfortable society will call atrocities.

As for small children working in the mills, I will only say that those same children were employed in farms in worse ways.

I’ll also say that we know from diaries of people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries  and before that very small children were capable of working in ways we can’t imagine even our pre-teens being.

For instance six year olds were often entrusted with pasturing the family’s flocks or looking after livestock.

Even in intellectual attainment children far surpassed our children.  And this with worse nutrition and health care.

And this is where the book made me want to beat the author, who thought it was cruel and horrible that upperclass children were taught intellectual attainments “beyond their years” by being taught Greek, Latin and made to memorize a lot of things so they had the equivalent of a college education by the time of ten or twelve.

Look, while I did not get taught Greek and Latin, I grew up in a traditional society where I was made to memorize very long poems and learn pretty much everything they thought an adult should know by 10 (This because most people didn’t go past fourth grade.)  And I can tell you not only didn’t it destroy me, but there is now reason to believe that memorizing things in childhood trains your memory, the same as running around trains your muscles.  While the poetry memorized in childhood might be pointless, it trains you to learn the records and craft of your occupation later on.

And this, I think, is the worst part of our almost-childless society.

You see, if you learn enough history, you eventually learn about some set of royals that had only one, late conceived child.  That child, both as a child and as an adult is largely useless. Often it all comes to a bad end because of him.

And that’s the issue.  We’ve got so few children that each of them is “the all too precious child.” I.e. the only one on whom all hopes and dreams of the adults around him/her rest.

This leads us to mollycoddle the poor child and at the same time drive him/her insane by expecting only great things.  Look no further, either for the watering down of our education the A for existing, or the helicopter parents.  Or for that matter for the proliferation of useless degrees, so that the all too precious child can earn one, no matter how unsuited he or she is to academic learning.

Also look no further for the origin of the stories we hear about twenty somethings who constantly need “mental health days” and can’t be criticized.

We’re raising a generation of “end of royal line” kids.  And while some escape (my own, I think) it takes great effort both on the part of the parents, and the part of the kid, who needs to be a stubborn cuss (thank heavens) to break away from such a pattern.

Worse yet, the fact that each of us has one of two children on whom the hopes of all generations still living (and we have very long lives these days) rest, has made us a civilization of wusses.

I’ve said before that the reason that Europe hasn’t gone jackboots (an arguably good thing, perhaps) yet is that they are too old.  But it’s not just that. It’s that they don’t want to risk the dwindling number of children and grandchildren each family has.

When you have seven children, you can contemplate losing one or two to war, or some sort of difficult service with equanimity.  You’ll still hurt, of course — as who doesn’t — but it is not a killing blow to the parent who has lost his only chance at progeny outliving him.

To risk losing your only child, or one of your two children is something quite different.

Every time I see a tiny kid in a mask (which not only isn’t needed as healthy people under 20 don’t die of Winnie the Flu, but also will have the deleterious effect of cutting airflow) I’m reminded of to what extent our current panic was instigated by the media highlighting the very few deaths of under-20s of this illness — all of which are either of very ill under-20s OR even outright lies, as in children who died of abuse but who tested positive being said to die of Chinese lung rot — and how that drove people to kill the economy, and keeps them terrified.

They are holding us hostage over the fear of losing our children and young people. A very powerful fear because we have so few of them.

It is the same fear that has halted — more or less — manned space exploration, as no one is willing to risk human life, even in a very needed endeavor.  Safety First might be a great motto for kindergarten. It is not a great motto for a space program.

In the same way, young humans are born with the need to risk themselves, to try new things, to make an effort at going beyond the safe confines. It is part of who we are and what drives us as a species.

I think it is that drive being continually thwarted that creates a lot of the oikophobia amid our young.  If the most dangerous thing they can do is “activism” and glorifying cultures they know nothing about, as well as a lot of sexual and psychological nonsense, well, that’s what they’ll do.

It is easy to say “Have three children. Have four” and that is indeed the cure for what hails us as a society. I bet if we did that, it would in fact cure a lot of our porblems, including, maybe, some we’re not aware of having.

But pulling up out of the nose dive is more than “just pull back on the controls and the plane will right itself.”

In fact, because we have so few children and protect them so much, it takes longer to attain maturity, which means they marry later, which in turn, in the inescapable logic of biology, means they’ll have fewer children.

Sure, our reproductive technology gets better every year, and maybe we’ll get lucky.

But the solution is not going to be instant or easy.

Teach your children well.  And teach them we need more children.  Not only is the earth not overpopulated, but we’ll never get to space this way.

Sure. If this goes on some other culture will populate the Earth and take over, but it might be one that will never reach for space, or minimize human misery as much as we have.

Be not afraid. And try to teach your children as if they weren’t the only and all too precious child.

And if anyone tries to tell you that they can’t learn that much before ten or that teaching them is cruel, beat the person with an umbrella.
What the children of the past could learn is not a measure of cruelty. It’s a measure of how much we’ve infantilized our own offspring.

Evolution doesn’t work that fast.  What the nineteenth century was capable of, we are also.

We just need to stop babying ourselves, and our babies.

 

 

 

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and Book Promo

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FROM DAVE FREER:  The Shaman of Karres (Witches of Karres Book 4)

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Captain Pausert just can’t catch a break!

First, he became the mortal enemy of his fiancée, his home planet, the Empire—and even the Worm World, the darkest threat to mankind in all of space. All because he helped rescue three slave children from their masters. Of course, these three young women were the universally feared Witches of Karres—but how was he to know that?!

And after he defeated the Worm World (with the help of the witches, of course), the Empress herself had sent him on a secret mission to stop a nanite plague that was raging across the galaxy. But an enemy had somehow convinced the Imperial Fleet that he was actually a wanted criminal, so after a battle leaving his ship in urgent need of repairs, Pausert and the witches of Karres joined an interstellar traveling circus in order to save the galaxy.

Now Pausert and the witches of Karres roam the spaceways again, this time dealing with a slaver-culture that somehow makes slaves happy to be in servitude, and a quest for a long-lost alien pet, during which the youngest witch, The Leewit, begins to come to her full powers as a healer—and of course generates chaos in her wake.

For Pausert, it’s all in a day’s work. But would it be too much to ask for a vacation?

FROM Z. M. RENICK:  Red Lights on Silver Mountain Road (The Seelie Court Book 1)

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Emma Greer became a deputy in order to help people, so when a friend suspects that his brother’s fatal crash on Silver Mountain Road was no accident, she’s eager to come to his aid. Trouble is, Emma doesn’t believe that the accident was arranged or even that it would be humanly possible for it to have been so. But she soon learns that what’s humanly possible is only the beginning of what can happen on Silver Mountain Road. Creatures unlike any Emma has ever imagined lurk along its shoulders, and an ancient evil has discovered a new way of committing murder. Emma must find a way to vanquish that evil, or she might become its next victim.

FROM MARY CATELLI:  Over the Sea, To Me.

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A novelette retelling an old ballad.

A castle of marvels, by the sea — full of goblins and sprites. Many young knights come in search of adventures, and leave in search of something less adventurous.

A knight brave enough to face it could even woo the Lady Isobel there, but when Sir Beichan and she catch the attention of her father, the castle has horrors as well as wonders, enough to hold him prisoner. Winning freedom may only separate them, unless its marvels can be used to unite them, over the sea.

EDITED BY DOUG IRVIN:  Space Force: Building The Legacy.

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Tenere Altum. Hold The High Ground.

These are the stories of the first 100 years of the United States Space Force created by then U.S. President Donald J. Trump. Within this new anthology of military sci-fi short stories you will find stories of service and incredible sacrifice. Stories of the one sacrificing a few to save the many, and of the one sacrificing himself for all.

But mostly these are tales of the men and women to come, who will patrol the harsh, cold blackness of space. Those that willingly place themselves in harm’s way to protect a solitary blue marble and all that call it home.

Tenere Altum!

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

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: Sand

 

Witch’s Daughter – Installment 6

*For the previous chapters, please go here. These are posted first draft, as the brain dictates to the fingers which are remarkably stupid. Eventually it will be cleaned up and fixed just before page is made secret/taken down and the book is published. At that time I will take lists of typos or volunteers to proof read. For now, it’s written in a hurry, usually an hour before it goes up. And, let me remind you, it’s free – SAH*

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Strangers In the Night

Al wasn’t sure where she was, but to her Michael’s voice–

No, Lord Michael’s, she had to remember she was consorting with the highest levels of nobility in the land. Mostly she had to remember because she wasn’t sure what the rules were and she despised situations where she had no idea what was expected of her. It was the type of situation in which she did something that made Mother scream at her, or worse, put watchers on her.

Lord Michael’s voice seemed to come from an entire world altogether.  For a moment she wondered if she’d got stuck in the in-betweener and his voice was coming at her from one of the real worlds.

Was that what happened when people got lost in the in-betweener?

Then she realized she was most uncomfortable. There was something poking her in the back, and something else covering her eyes.  She could feel rough leaves on her forehead. And of course, this was not the sort of thing that should happen in the in betweener, where nothing existed but yourself.  She drew a deep breath and it came in scented of pine.  Moving her arms, and hands, she felt fairly sure she was laying on a pine branch.  A pine branch that was wider than her body, and–

“Al?” Somehow a Lord’s voice shouldn’t sound that tremulous, should it? They were trained from infancy to know exactly what to do, right?

“I think I’m on a tree,” she managed.  She cleared her throat, “It’s just really dark.”

“Oh,” he said, and she could tell his voice was somewhere beneath her.  She thought he chuckled, though he tried to make it sound like he’d just cleared his throat.

Al sat up and felt for the branch she was lying on, and then towards the trunk. “I’m not sure I can get down,  without seeing the branches,” she said, and her own voice trembled, which made her feel like a fool.

“Um,” he said, which wasn’t exactly informative. Or the sort of speech one expected from a high nobleman.

And then there was a long, long silence.

“Mich–  Er…. Lord Michael?” she asked.

And then there was light.  It was a ball of it, climbing, climbing.  By its light, Albinia saw that she was up a very tall and ancient pine tree. “I think,” she said.  “The branches are close enough for me to climb down.”

He didn’t answer.  She could see him far below, a small figure, his face a pale oval looking up at her.

Right. She was going to have to climb down, and the distance seemed as high as the tower where her room was in her father’s house.  But this time she didn’t have a rope ladder made of old sheets.

For a moment she considered asking if someone who had the kind power where he could conjure a big light out of nowhere with so little effort, and keep it shining and stable, couldn’t somehow float her down.  But then she took a deep breath. No. She’d be damned if she’d ask his help and catch herself at his mercy. She didn’t even know him very well.

So, fighting an inner certainty that she was about to lose her footing and crash down, she slowly slung herself off the branch, searching with her feet for the branch below her.  She found it, solid, under her foot, let go of the top branch, and sat on that one, before she managed to swing herself from that one, holding on to it with her hands, while her feet looked for the next branch.

There was a dangerous moment, after several hundreds of branches — okay, probably dozens, but it felt like hundreds — when she couldn’t quite reach the branch below with her feet, and then she heard Lord Michael’s voice, “Pardon me, I’m going to touch your ah, limbs,” and then his hands clasping around her ankles.

She screamed, but his hand guided her foot to the limb, while her hands groped around for a hold, and then found the trunk, and looking down, she realized she was at head level with Lord Michael.  He let go of her ankles, as though he’d been burned.

Well, it was shocking, but she didn’t think her legs were actually on fire.  She managed another branch down, and then she jumped, falling on what felt like springy moss.

And Lord Michael was reaching out with a hand, as though offering her balance.

He let got of the energy that kept the light going.  She could feel him withdrawing his power and she said, in a shaky voice, “I thank you. I know that must have taken a lot of power.” In fact, she was starting to wonder if he needed her virtue at all.

“It’s not the power,” he said, and his voice sounded tight. “I’m afraid someone will find us by the light. We can’t be sure everyone in this forest is friendly.”

Just like that, out of the dark forest, they heard the sound of a howling wolf.

*Sorry it’s short. I finally sat down at 11 pm to write this chapter, but I didn’t want to fail you again.  Yes, I’m well, but I’m trying to prepare two flower beds for planting, and my hoe broke, so we had to buy a new one, and…. you know… like that. ALL day.
I’ll now go to bed. Goodnight all – SAH*

 

 

 

Nails, Pencils, and Chains by Vicki

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Nails, Pencils, and Chains by Vicki


For want of a nail, a shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe, a horse was lost;
For want of a horse, a rider was lost;
For want of a rider, a message was lost;
For want of a message, a battle was lost;
For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost;
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Wikipedia says that
proverb
is many centuries old. It’s usually repeated as a
cautionary tale. Do all your tasks well, keep everything clean and
neat and well-maintained, don’t get sloppy, or bad things will happen.
But it can also be read another way: a little problem that no one
noticed, that very few people even could have noticed, leads to a big
problem for everyone.

That’s a metaphor for coronavirus, of course: a tiny particle causing
a worldwide disaster. But it’s also a metaphor for any other
obscure or invisible problem with a big future impact.

Hold that thought; we’ll come back to it.

Leonard Read wrote a marvelous little
essay  entitled, “I, Pencil” which explains that nobody on this planet knows
how to make a pencil. Such a simple thing, an ordinary yellow Number
2 pencil, and nobody knows how to make it? Indeed, as the essay
explains, it’s true. Someone knows how to select the right tree for
the wood body of the pencil, and then chop it down and haul it to the
mill. Someone else knows how to saw the tree into planks of the right
size to make pencils from, and then cure them so they lie straight.
Another someone knows how to find the right plant to tap for the
rubber to make the eraser. Another someone knows how to find the ore
to make the steel to make the sheet metal to make the little clip that
holds the eraser on the end of the pencil, but by the time you
actually get that clip you’ve gone through several more someones.
Another chain of someones mines the clay and graphite, mixes them
together, extrudes them into little rods and bakes them in a kiln to
make the pencil leads. Yet another someone knows how to mix all the
chemicals to make the yellow paint, and a bunch more someones know how
to make all those chemicals.

Someone knows how to drive all the trucks that bring all these parts
to the pencil factory, and someone else knows how to schedule them so
the right parts arrive at the right times in the right numbers. And
finally, someone knows how to run the machine that puts all these
parts together and pushes out finished pencils. This is all
simplified, of course — there are thousands of people involved, if
not millions — but you get the idea. Everybody involved knows his
little piece of the process, but nobody actually knows everything it
takes to make a pencil.

Leonard Read wrote this essay to explain how a centrally planned
economy could not possibly work: if no one even knew how to make a
pencil, then certainly no one knew how to make all the goods and
services for an entire society. My point is slightly different: there
are “horseshoe nails” all through the supply chain, and it’s
impossible to know where they all are.

The “supply chain” is the name that’s been given to the whole system
of industrial production. For every product on the shelf in a store,
there’s a long chain of inputs and processes required to make it.
This is a bit misleading, because it’s not just a linear chain. For
any given product, it’s more like a funnel. For the economy as a
whole, it’s a web. You can think of a certain bolt as an end product,
with a supply chain that produced it. But that bolt is itself part of
the supply chain for thousands of other products, from golf carts to
gene sequencers.

The supply chain handles small disruptions all the time. If one
distributor can’t ship bolts when you need them, you can call another
distributor with a different stocking strategy. If nobody has those
particular bolts, perhaps you can use a longer bolt, or one made of
stainless steel rather than galvanized. Someone may have an emergency
stock that they’ll let you have for a price. It may cost more, but it
may be worth it to you. If it’s not worth it, you’ll just have to
wait until the right bolts are in stock again.

Larger disruptions are harder to handle. Sometimes these are caused
by supply constraints. When OPEC restricted shipments of crude oil in
the early 1970’s, it caused a worldwide economic slowdown. A few
years ago, floods in Thailand wrecked most of the world’s factories
that produced disk drives for computers, and sales of new computers
basically halted for months.

Other disruptions are caused by changes in demand. Many American
readers will be aware of recent shortages of personal weapons and
ammunition. The production rates for these items are relatively
constant, but fluctuations in demand due to various events have caused
dramatic changes in availability. More recently, the worldwide demand
for N95 masks and similar medical supplies rose drastically almost
overnight, causing global shortages.

Factories are marvelously efficient at mass production, but factories
take years to build. Even minor changes take months. If someone with
a spare injection molding machine had decided in February to start
making N95 masks, the molding dies to make the masks might be ready
right about now. And those dies themselves are a product with their
own complex supply chain required to make them. The molding machine
will eventually need spare parts, each of which has it own supply
chain. The trucks that bring the raw materials and take away the
finished masks need their own spare parts, each with its own supply
chain. Without all of that and more, the masks won’t get made.

What concerns me is the complex, overlapping, interlocking, unknowable
nature of the supply chain. It’s robust, up to a certain point, but
if enough links are broken, the whole chain will fall apart. And,
just like nobody knows how to make a pencil, nobody knows which links
are critical. To mix metaphors, those links in the supply chain are
the horseshoe nails.

There are a lot of jobs that have been deemed “essential” in the
current situation, and a lot more that have been deemed
“non-essential.” Some of those non-essential jobs are in factories,
which are shut down and not making more stuff. Any stuff we’re using
from those factories is coming from inventory.

Ever since we started practicing “just-in-time” and “lean production”,
inventories have been thin. We’re burning through them now. Nobody
knows when we’ll run out of something that’s absolutely essential for
something else, which in turn is key to making something everyone
needs, five or ten links down the chain. Nobody knows because nobody
can know. It’s the pencil problem. And because it takes time to
start up each factory in the chain, by the time anyone notices the
missing horseshoe nail, it will be too late. The whole supply chain
will crash, like a human body going into shock, and more people will
die than would ever have died of Wuhan fever.

It turns out that, on a long enough timescale, almost every legal job
that touches “stuff” is essential, and that timescale is not as long
as some politicians seem to think. Most of the jobs that touch money
are essential, too, because stuff doesn’t move without matching moves
of money. Most of the rest are essential as well, if only for the
mental health of the workers in the first two categories. People are
people, not molding machines.

The authorities who are making decisions about “essential jobs” don’t
understand this. The doctors may have the best available
understanding of the effects of the virus, and the best will in the
world, but they also have tunnel vision. Their recommendations show
how to keep the most people from dying of coronavirus, but don’t take
into account that their recommendations could cause more people to die
from something else. The politicians giving the orders generally
don’t understand the pencil problem, much less the problem of
horseshoe nails in the supply chain. And if things don’t change
before the inventories start running out, the missing horseshoe nails
might end up being the nails in our coffins.

 

Homesick

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I want to go home.

For two months and counting we’ve been in this strange vacation in a not very comfortable place.  That’s fine. I’ve gone on vacation to places where life isn’t every easy even if you have plenty of money. That’s okay. BUT not forever.

I miss my country where I don’t have to worry about going to the grocery store and finding it stripped of basic items. Where I don’t have to worry about whether or not there will be meat this fall. Or enough to feed my family, no matter how much money we make.

I miss my country where morality police don’t stand around making sure the right body parts are always covered and can’t scold you and shame you for not following the irrational precepts of their religion.

I miss my country, where no petty bureaucrat or (probably crookedly) elected politician can tell me I can’t work, I can’t shop, I can’t live my life as it very well pleases me.

I miss my country where cancer screenings, heart surgery and other blessings of modern medicine aren’t “non-essential” and can be withheld at the mercy of some bureaucrat whose increasingly more insane commands are completely divorced from scientific reality, but he wants to make sure you jump when he says “frog” before he lets you have a little more of your life back.

I want to go home where my fellow citizens had stopped believing anything the MSM said, the same MSM they now believe with gaping jaws and credulous eyes.

I’m tired of this. This country is much like every country in the world.

And I know — none better — what you’ll say about my complaints. It’s the same thing Americans have been told by Europeans (and never mind Africans or Asians)  for decades “You’re soft” “You’re pampered” “You’re not willing to forego your comfort for the greater good.”

Well, damn right I’m not.

You see, in this weird nightmare country, as in the rest of the world, the self-proclaimed “elite” don’t have to endure any of these things. Nor do they. They don’t wear masks while shopping and risk asthma attacks or asphyxia. They don’t postpone their medical procedures. Hell, they don’t postpone their haircuts, their trysts, their travel. Because they’re the ones who dictate, not the ones who are dictated to.

In my visit to France, I found myself in a first class carriage from Nice to Paris, which yes, costs a lot, and where we were put in a compartment where the air conditioning was broken. Six hours, in blazing sun. The windows didn’t open, and the temperature rapidly climbed to the hundreds. A thing for which the remedy was to hand out bottles of water.

Our protests were met with “yeah, it’s been broken for a while, but we haven’t got around to fixing it. No, there are no other seats.”

Finally, in desperation, husband and I looked at each other and went one to each end of the carriage and held the doors open, so the temperature wasn’t in killing range.

Later on at the airport, where they singled me out for interviewing (no, I have no idea why) the gentleman interviewing me asked how I’d enjoyed the ride and I told him. He said it had been broken for years, and he was always afraid of being put in that carriage, and “I wish you’d write to them. They might listen to tourists more.”

This is France a thoroughly western, first-world country, but they endure this type of sh*t as thought they were peasants beholden to feudal Lords, from whom all goodness comes.

Look, I’d endure this crap if there were any expectation of its being temporary. A vacation is a vacation.  I’d endure it if it served some purpose.  If we were in a real war, and it were necessary to save our paper or whatever, in order to fuel the war effort, sure.

But this “Battle against Winnie the Flu” is basically just for show. None of it makes sense.  You’re magically protected if you wear a mask which doesn’t really stop anything but droplets.  (Don’t get close enough to strangers to be sneezed on.  It’s not that far. Also most people cover their mouths.)  The outside is magically dangerous (despite the virus not surviving sunlight) and therefore you’re “safer at home.”  It’s very, very dangerous to go to a hobby store, but a crowded grocery store is magically safe.

Yes, I know we’re being propagandized by the MSM, and that people who believe it are acting like sheep, but dear Lord, at which point do they realize there are no bodies piled on the streets and that what they’re being told is a load of mumbo jumbo?

Is it going to take years, as it did for the climate hysteria to be discredited?

Because I don’t know if I can tolerate this bizarre vacation for years.

The whole point of the US is that the individual, the common as dirt, foot in the muck working person is as worthy of respect and comfort as those in administrative capacities.

The point of the US is that there are no commoners, there are no elites. We’re all Americans, from whose consent the government derives their authority.

I don’t remember consenting to have my civil rights stripped away. Did you?

I did not consent to being the same as the rest of the world and having to submit to irrational dictates. Did you?

They say we can’t go home again.  That this is the “new normal”and we have to get used to it.

I say they’re full of shit.

I want to go home. There is no other place in the world like my home, and I did not consent to have it destroyed in the name of fighting what amounts to a perhaps slightly more lethal cold virus.

I say we need to push the morality police’s nose in.

Olly olly oxen free.  Be not afraid.

Build under, build over, build around.

Ignore the busies are their irrational orders.  We’re Americans, and we don’t consent to being ordered around like cattle.

Talk some spine into the fainting violets.  And show them by example too.

Keep the candle burning in the window.  Let us get back home.

Unlocking

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Olly Olly, Oxen Free. It’s time to get back to life.

Yesterday I came across a stupid — well, it is — post about how the economy unlocked, but people still aren’t going out.

I also keep seeing how Colorado is just like Georgia, so why aren’t democrats mad at Colorado’s Polis for unlocking?

Well, mostly because he hasn’t.  The big difference here, apparently, is that some “non essential” businesses are now open for pick up. There are some that aren’t opening at all, because what is the point? Take clothing, for instance. Sure. I can shop for pick up. If I’m buying t-shirts or jeans. I know the brands that fit me, and the size.  BUT that’s about it. And I’m not in need of jeans right now.

The museums and zoo and botanic gardens remain closed, as do — officially — parks. This even though NOT ONLY can’t you really catch a virus (well, you can, freaky stuff happens all the time) outside in moving air, but UV seems to kill it. But hey, our governor, who has the scientific education of a slug thinks that you’re safer at home. Which in turn means he’s doing everything possible to disincentivize your going out. He’s already said, for instance, that he’ll only consider the next phase of unlocking if everyone wears a mask all the time: so for the first time in this insanity, I’m seeing people jogging or walking in splendid isolation, wearing masks.

And because I find that submission vile and despicable — because there’s no sane reason to wear a mask while alone, and the cloth masks are only useful to prevent YOU sneezing on people. Since I’m not sneezing — my allergies always manifest more in a tight chest and stuffy nose — I’m perfectly safe around others.

But I’ve been staying in more. I don’t want to deal with Karens screaming about masks, and I am afraid of getting to the grocery store and being told I can’t go in without a mask. So I stay put.

The point is: THIS ISN’T UNLOCKING.

Unlocking and getting back to life is just that.  And I’d respect the hell out of a politician who had the nerve to do it. He doesn’t seem to exist. But just the nerve to say “You know, this was a massive over reaction, America. You’re not at any risk. Turn off CNN and get back to work.”

Because the idea that we need to open gradually is insane.  We’re well past flattening any potential curve. WHY are governors still deciding what opens and when?
Why are the elected jackasses, who have no clue what people do for a living, or where money comes from, telling us who gets to earn a living?

AND why are they trusting “experts” who haven’t worked a real job outside of politics in years?

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? And what right do they have to choose who gets to work and who gets to eat?

What part of the bill of rights is written in disappearing ink?  What part of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is written in Martian? WHAT are they failing to get?

It’s time to set yourselves free. Not one here, one there. Just…. set yourself free.
Demonstrations?  Sure. Wouldn’t hurt.
BUT it is important to go out and do things. Even if you’re not very sure what to do. Even if you don’t NEED to do something right away.  We don’t need to go out.

But I’m tired of the bait and switch. I’m tired of their pretending they opened up and it’s us who arent’ interested in being out.

Safer at home?  No, governor Polis. Either scientifically, mentally or politically, none of us safer at home.  Like the ridiculous saying on our highway signs “stay home. Save a life” it’s not just not true that we’re safer at home, it’s contrary to the truth.

The business of America is business.  The business of humanity if interaction.

Sure, we can hide under our beds till we die of starvation, and totally avoid Winnie the Flu. BUT then who will grow the food you eat?

From today on I’m going out every day, even if all I do is buy a pack of gum at the convenience store.

Because it’s time we got out of the house and went back to work and fun and normal. Not the new normal. JUST NORMAl.

Come out, come out, wherever you are.

The end of the world has been grossly exaggerated. It looks uncommonly like the common cold. The experts were wrong again, and the authoritarians are seeking to take advantage again.

It’s time to ignore them and get back to life.

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Like Us Yet A Blast From the Past, October 2013

*It is important in times of trouble to remember who we are and what it means. To remember that the world ain’t seen nothing like us yet, and though this might destroy many nations, it won’t destroy us. At least not if we — the few, the Odd, the USAians — work like hell at it.
On another note, sorry the post is so late. Allergies have been playing havoc with me, not improved by the fact that I’m spending a lot of time outside and around plants. So I took benadryl, which knocks me out cold.  Also, whoever sent me a post and I never answered, please send again. I’ve now lost TWO of them I know I received.My email does something that hides them, I swear. So, have pity on the ditsy writer and send again? -SAH*

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Like Us Yet A Blast From the Past, October 2013

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Like Us Yet A Blast From the Past, October 2013

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It is a truism from psychology classes that you can’t stand at the window and watch yourself go by.  You also can’t grow up in a country and see it as outsiders see it.  And outsiders can’t see it as insiders see it.

If you ever see me standing somewhere and shaking my head and saying “Americans!” it’s not that I suddenly see myself as separate from you.  Or rather, it is, but it’s more that I see myself separate from and part of, which means I don’t fit anywhere.  The part of me that feels separate from the rest of you, though, is the girl who grew up overseas with an idea of America that you don’t see and probably can’t share.  The part that then came here, and adapted her notions, and figured out how you guys see yourselves.

In metaphorical terms, I’m the American that stands at the window and watches America go by. The caveat is that I grew up in a very particular time and place, and though I did see a lot of Europe and had a lot of European and anglosphere friends, I know next to nothing about Asia (though I had Japanese friends too.)  Still as far as I know though we share one or two traits with other nations, we’re the only ones who have all of them.

And I don’t mean some individuals in other nations don’t have these traits, or that some here don’t lack them (boy, I could tell you!) but that in general our culture has these traits and theirs doesn’t.  And that makes all the difference.

So I thought I’d hold the mirror up to you, because you guys keep trying to fit yourselves into roles that just aren’t there. “We’re Rome!”  or “We’re Carthage” or even “We’re the British Empire!”  (Which – Francis is right – is the closest and yet not a perfect fit.  In nation terms, the British take their laws as seriously as we do, but they’re more flexible.  In schoolroom terms, the British might be “in the spectrum” but they’re not full on Aspergers.)

No, we’re none of those.  By the Grace of G-d or the amazing concatenation of chance and self-selection, we’re something quite new in the history of the world.  And if there was something like us before – pre-history perhaps? – it is long since vanished from memory.

I’m going to list in no particular order the things that still strike the me-that-grew-up-elsewhere as amazing and wonderful about our country.  And yet I’m sure I’ll forget a dozen or so of them.  Maybe perhaps just enough of this will explain my view that while I think collapse is inevitable, I don’t think we can predict how it will turn out or what comes next.  The future is unwritten and being the special nation we are, it’s up to us to write it.

[BTW, I’m too lazy to look for it right now, but there’s a Facebook meme that encapsulates what I am: I’m an Apocaliptimist.  I believe everything is going to sh*t but I still think we’ll be all right through it all and it might turn out for the best. (The difference between me and the Libertarians who, like communists, expect their system to emerge spontaneously from the chaos, is that I think we’ll need to work like heck through the dark times to make sure we’re all right at the end.)]

So, here it is what I see when I stand at the window and watch America go by:

-We’re playful.  No, I don’t mean just that we have a sense of humor.  That too – and I was fully appreciative of the British humor before I came here, but the British humor has a back bite and a bit of the dour irony that American humor might have or not – but that’s not all.  We’re playful even when not making an outright joke.  For instance, the first thing that hit me about the High School I attended in the States for 12th grade was that someone had labeled the corridors in hand lettered signs.  For instance, the math/computer area was labeled Nerd Alley.  And the teachers let it stay up.  And no one thought this hurt the dignity of the school/education.  In fact, I’m almost sure they had the school’s unofficial approval.

Then there’s the senior prank I took part in, where we kidnapped the secretary’s stuffed bulldog collection, and asked for $5 in unmarked pennies.  My counselor called me and very seriously counseled me to give up my accomplices and talked about my making this an international incident.

Right now you’re going “Standard kid stuff.”  And shaking your head and going “and?” – And nothing.  Those are perfectly normal pranks.

Yeah, they are, in the states.  Don’t even try to do it anywhere else.

-We spontaneously organize in clubs and associations.  I think we’re losing this now, because everyone is so infernally busy.  (But the structure is still there.  It would take more than a generation to erase.) It’s impossible to have a club in America – even our writers’ group – without rules that everyone takes very seriously indeed.  In other countries – maybe excepting England – this is reserved for associations that are “official” and “important.”  Here, if you form a club to give crumbs to ducklings in the park, within three months it will be run according  to Robert’s rules of order, (Which I’ve told the older kid should be the name of his blog) with motions and chairs and who knows what.

This is absolutely needed because

-We don’t take orders well.  Any of us, really.  When I came to the US I kept seeing this sign in every work place “The problem in this place is all chiefs no Indians.”  I suppose it is politically incorrect now, so you no longer see it.  BUT it baffled me.  It wasn’t just that these people were saying that their workplace was unorganized, or that they had issues taking orders, but that they were BRAGGING about it in posters and cross stitch pictures. … and that they were right.

Portugal is famously unorganized.  My kids have various colorful expressions for the way things are done in Portugal.  Let’s just say they’re convinced that most people drive with a part of their anatomy no one should use. But it’s different.  The average Portuguese recognizes his “betters” and assumes that someone else has the right to lead them.  They just exhibit a sullen “make me” attitude.  In the States, we just don’t see why anyone else should be in charge.  We don’t recognize social superiors, and we barely recognize technical superiors.  The forlorn cries for us to respect “the office” of this and that when we can’t respect the current *sshat are a measure of how little inclined we are to do that.  In other countries the President or the Premier or whatever is “Important” and you DO respect the office and it rubs off on the person, no matter how much you hate the current clown.

The flip side of this is that we’re all of us forever looking at what we can do.  (There are exceptions, of course.  I’m not talking individuals, I’m talking the American character as opposed to other nations.)  If you face a mess, you don’t sit around waiting for orders to fix it.  You don’t even wait for other people to “buy in.”  You roll up your sleeves and start fixing what you can reach.

This is why that sign in the seventies was a brag.  It was was “We’re all trying to do the best we can, and we’re so good at that we can barely coordinate with which other.”  There is no other country where I can visualize “An army of one” making sense.

-This “We fix it” thing is why Americans open their purses and their hearts to help the less fortunate, whether it’s the person with too many kittens to feed down the block, or the victims of the tsunami across the world, in numbers the rest of the world doesn’t even come close to matching.

It’s not just that we’re well off or generous.  Yeah, we’re that, but we also feel that it’s our duty, dang it.  We don’t wait for the organization or the go-varmint or someone else to do.  We’re an army of one, moving in our own uncoordinated way, and moving mountains without even noticing.

And that’s also because most of us at some time were in need and got help, and know better than to wait for officialdom.

I was never more proud than when science fiction forgot its petty inanities and closed ranks to help Dave Wolverton’s kid.  Because that’s what we do.  We’re Americans.  We fix, we help, we move on, and we don’t keep score of who helped whom, and who didn’t.  You need help we’re there, a mob with a purpose.

– We are flexible.  No, this is important.  We change, and the society allows us to change.  The sense of humor, the organization, the initiative, all of it adds up to us saying “just because I’ve always been like that, doesn’t mean I’ll be like that tomorrow.  And society doesn’t try to keep us in our appointed pigeon hole.

And this is probably why you can become an American.  Most other nationalities, while you can naturalize, you’ll never “really” be whatever they are.

Here?  Despite the idiots running around hyphenating themselves, you can be an American no matter how funny you look or how strange you sound.  (Trust me.  I know whence I speak.)

And people will be offended at the idea that you wouldn’t be able to become a real American.

Part of the unappreciated thing by all – PARTICULARLY progressives – is that for all its flaws America is the least racist, homophobic, sexist and any other discriminatory thing you can think of.  If you’re an American you are an American, no questions asked.  (And all the Americans who think otherwise only think so because they’ve only seen the rest of the world on their best behavior.  Listen to them in unguarded moments, in their native language, and the picture is quite different.  I wish we could get our oikophobic co-citizens to understand that they really shouldn’t take what people say of their own country at face value.  This is why they think we are the worst in the world – because we engage in self-critique, even more than the Europeans.)

-And this is why we have a positive craze for self-improvement.  This can get outright silly with New Age stuff and cleansing your aura, but it also means that most of us aspire to being life long learners, even those who aren’t.

Yes, in other countries people go for adult education or learning this or that, but it’s usually very focused, very serious.  Here, it’s not unusual to find that someone is taking some very serious subject on the side, in their spare time, just for fun.

For years I belonged to the History Book Club, where my royalty checks should just be made over every month.  (My husband said.)  I don’t now, because I can poke around Amazon till I find things.  But that sort of thing, the History Book Club and the Science Book Club, and the Mathematics Book Club, and heaven knows what flourishes in America more than anywhere else in the world.

I remember when my brother rather condescendingly told me about a book on Chinese History he’d just discovered and offered to send it to me “since you won’t have that in America.”  Ah.  I’d read it five years before, through the History Book Club.

This is why despite the fact that our secondary education (and primary too, for that matter) suck rotten eggs, we continue to have an educated populace.  It’s also why finding out someone “only” has a high school education means nothing.  My plumber is an expert on the civil war and its weapons.

In the same way that there are second acts in American lives, there are second and third and fourth careers, and a continuing education, and structures to support that, and the fact that no one finds it weird that a computer programmer is “really” a medieval sword expert and a weekend blacksmith.

This makes us uniquely adapted to this world of fast-changing technology, because none of us (okay, again, I’m talking the culture not individuals.  We won’t discuss Wisconsin teachers) regards a job as a sinecure or education as the hoops to jump through for the sinecure.  No, we regard jobs as things you do for a while, and learning as the way to get another/different job.

Which is good, because

– The future comes from America.  Yes, yes, I know Verne, Wells and all that “invented” science fiction, but the only nation in which it was popularized as a genre, and not an entertainment of intellectuals bent on social critique – the only place it could be so – is America.

Some countries – most countries – are shackled to the past, either in embrace or in denial, and sometimes in both.

Portugal is a tiny country trying to swim through time against the pull of the huge cement sack of history tied to its middle.  They can’t do this and that because it’s never been done, or they have to do this because they did that before.  I get the same sense about all the other countries I know well enough.

But not America.  Oh, no.  Not us.

Americans seem to have come here to make things better, and therefore, the future is always better than the past (Yes I realize this makes the glitterati not really American.  What you thought they were?)

Americans are mad in love with the future.  We’re adult enough to know sometimes there are (d*mnably) rough patches, but by and large “every day, in every way, we’re getting better and better.”  And just wait till we finish tinkering and cajoling and inventing tomorrow.

Come and give me a hand.  We’ll come out of this collapse thing better than ever, stronger than ever.  The future?  Man, is it going to be snazzy, and new, and completely unexpected.

Boy, are you going to love it!

You ain’t seen nothing like us yet!

Hitting the Wall

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Yesterday in a private group we were talking about how it’s people under forty, particularly women who are terrified of becoming ill and dying with Winnie the Flu.

This is an almost complete mismatch with those the virus is likely to actually kill, since I believe (haven’t looked recently, so it might be a few percentage points off but surely within the margin of error) something like 98% of all people who even have to be hospitalized — or show any symptoms beyond a mild cold — are over sixty and something like 80% are over 80.  And all of them — though there might be a freak case or two here and there, hard to tell because reporting and tallying of deaths has been such a mess, mostly due to the perverse incentive of federal money , who are under 20.  But freak cases happen with anything. People have died I’m sure of being pecked by a sparrow.  Life isn’t safe nor precise, and we’re not promised a certain amount of years on this Earth, and certainly not immortality, barring a new heaven and a new Earth.

However over the weekend more than one report reached me of people saying their friends/acquaintances in their 30s and 40s have just realized they or someone they love might die. (Of Winnie the Flu they think, which is fairly ridiculous unless their friends are over 80.)  This was explained with their not knowing anyone who had died, unless they were very old.  Which I suppose is possible, though strange, since in our own family, in the last ten years we’ve been buffeted by the death of friends and acquaintances ranging from their thirties to their fifties.  In fact younger son lost a beloved mentor of his first robotics team who cannot have been much over forty when son was in his first year of college.

Maybe most people live such halcyon lives?  Older son did report, back when he worked transport in hospitals while in high school that there were any number of people over 100 admitted.  I remember when 100 was cause to be on national news and get phone calls from politicians. But it’s apparently…. well, not common, but not abnormal. Kind of like 80 used to be when I was little. (I saw my first 80+ year old when I was 14.) And of course by the time you’re 100 your closest relatives are also very aged, and because of how spread out our society is, your grandchildren and great grandchildren might never have been very close to you.

So perhaps we are lacking memento mori. It used to be everywhere.  There is a post around here somewhere about how far we’ve come from death, by isolating it in hospitals or nursing homes, sanitizing it, making it something expected and not terrible.  It’s like our loved ones reach a certain point in time, and go on a long journey, and we won’t see them again.

Quite unlike sitting by the bed, waiting for the rattle and the last breath. Or the duty that every woman in the village had performed by the time they were my age (and many might still) many times at that, of washing the dead and dressing them in the clothes you think they’d want to wear at the resurrection. (It was so firmly believed in, as a corporeal and physical event, I remember a family being mortified because — due to illness — they couldn’t DRESS their beloved mother in one of her skirts, so they cut the skirt open in the back and laid it over her for the viewing.  But, they said “She’s going to be mortified when she stands up and her skirt falls off.”)

And that was in the mid 20th century, already, itself, an halcyon time of plenty and lack of terrors. Because in the eighteenth century, upper crust young women included at least 3 baby shrouds in their trousseaus for the babies they expected they’d lose in infancy.

All of man’s civilization is arguably fueled by knowledge that though our minds can comprehend the universe, our time is brief.  I’ve studied history ranging back thousands of years, and have dreamed of the future (mostly in other people’s books, some in mine) but the truth is, my allotted time is likely less than a century: an eye blink.

We’re all like that which fuels urgency, a desire to be getting on with it, and possibly an attempt to live the best life we can.

It also puts things in perspective. We know none of us are going to live forever. Or even close to forever. So when say someone decides to stop the entire economy and risk a global famine so we can escape a –…. what is the last calculation, now we know that this was probably here since November and a lot more people are infected? (And yes, I know, doubts are cast on each of  the studies, and yet across the world those keep corroborating each other.) — 0.02% chance of dying? we say no. We say to hell with that and the horse it rode in on, and the little dog who ran alongside it.  We always knew we were here a short time. Let us leave behind a functional world for others, one in which new brides don’t sew and store up baby shrouds.

But the young and frankly stunted — not all of the young, obviously, hence the qualification — don’t understand that. They’d never confronted their own mortality, and therefore now run in fear, because a virus can KILL them, oh the horror.

Well, cupcake, it always could. You just didn’t have a media dedicated 24-7 to telling you about it with enhanced doom porn.  (When even Dr. Birx (ah) says that a lot more people have been infected than we thought — which means that the denominator goes way up and the mortality way down — the mainstream media is still screaming about a second and third wave, and oh, the devastation. Btw, Germany opened up and no signs of a third wave. As in at all.)

The fact is that all this might have been exacerbated by our psychopathic-tendencies-enhancing education with its emphasis on self esteem and individual whim.

Individual whim? you say. But I thought you were an individualist.

Of course I am. I also am a realist. I know what humans are — jumped up Savannah apes, or if you prefer, made from the common clay of the Earth. Comes to the same — and that because we live only a blink but can compass eternity with our minds, we must belong to something larger than us, something that lasts…. well, longer than us.

This used to be fulfilled by religion, but even those who are religious have trouble living for eternity in a world that is now largely a-religious.

Then it was fulfilled by nationality, but the internationalists hated that idea and cast their sins onto nationalism, as though a scapegoat, and sent it into the desert. All over the western world, children are raised to hate the land of their birth.

Then there is ideology, but the thin gruel of Marxism, forever disproven in practice, keeps hunting for more unlikely “classes” to protect, thereby fragmenting society, destroying families and generally making a lot of very unhappy people.

Unhappy people who are terrified of dying. And who understand self-actuated life at the level of obeying daily-changing whims and desires.  Which in turn makes them more unhappy and more terrified of dying.

I guess some defects are self-correcting, and we’re hastening to either a final downfall of a hollow and ridiculous ideology (Marx really was a total dumbass, you know? BUT really good at narrative. I wish he’d devoted himself, openly, to science fiction instead.)

Or…. I don’t know. Some time of darkness from which civilization might arise again.  What we know for sure is that if they succeed in taking the West down, they won’t erect paradise. But what’s more, they won’t hold power for long.

You see, even dystopian communist societies like Cuba or Venezuela survive only because we made such abundance upon the world, that the tyrants can keep just enough food flowing to stay in power….

Well, we’re about to hit the wall on that. Even the mainstream is starting to clear its throat about food shortages, which have apparently become obvious to a bunch of people.

I don’t think we’ll die in the US (or not directly. I mean, if I have to subsist on rice and potatoes, I WILL become very fat and diabetic and die of that. I once gained weight on 800 cals a day because the diet was all carbs. Don’t ask. Like Russian peasants I was malnourished and enormous.) But the rest of the world is going to hit the wall fast.

What happens?  I don’t know.

I know our society has been distorted by fear of dying, coupled with having so few children that each of them is essential and we refuse to let them risk themselves (something that has affected everything including the military and space exploration) and that we cosset and protect them way too long.

So what happens when we have that, and then the wheels come off and we have to get back to struggling for our daily bread.

I don’t know. As a society we’re about to find out. The only thing I can promise you is that we’re looking forward to interesting times.

 

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and Book Promo

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Book Promo

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. I ALSO WISH TO REMIND OUR READERS THAT IF THEY WANT TO TIP THE BLOGGER WITHOUT SPENDING EXTRA MONEY, CLICKING TO AMAZON THROUGH ONE OF THE BOOK LINKS ON THE RIGHT, WILL GIVE US SOME AMOUNT OF MONEY FOR PURCHASES MADE IN THE NEXT 24HOURS, OR UNTIL YOU CLICK ANOTHER ASSOCIATE’S LINK. PLEASE CONSIDER CLICKING THROUGH ONE OF THOSE LINKS BEFORE SEARCHING FOR THAT SHED, BIG SCREEN TV, GAMING COMPUTER OR CONSERVATORY YOU WISH TO BUY. That helps defray my time cost of about 2 hours a day on the blog, time probably better spent on fiction. ;)*

FROM PETER GRANT:  King’s Champion

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After decades of peace, war is threatening the Kingdom of Avranche. Its old foes are stirring, in a new alliance with darker powers. Black wings bring death and torture in the night.

Owain, former King’s Champion, hears rumors of sorcery. Visiting the grave of his sword brother, he stumbles into a deadly raid, and uncovers coded orders for a larger plot.

The kingdom’s enemies know Owain is now their greatest danger. He must race against time to find and deal with them… before they deal with him!

MEL DUNAY:   Marrying A Monster (The Jaiya Series Book 1.

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New, professionally edited edition!

Journey to the country of Jaiya, in a world not quite like ours. Here, humans ride trains, drive cars, and use cell phones, but they share their world with insect people and trollfolk, and stranger things lurk in the shadows…

As a favor to her parents, Rina agrees to come back to her hometown and take part in an old local custom: a symbolic marriage between the town’s women and the Mountain King, a mythical guardian spirit no one really believes in. But the Mountain King really exists: a monstrous being that feeds on fear and suffering. Rina’s only hope for survival may be Vipin, the dashing scholar hunting the Mountain King, but Vipin is hiding a few secrets of his own…

Note: Rina and another character are friends with or related to a few characters from the later books in the Jaiya series, but Monster is meant as a standalone with a “happily ever after” ending. The romance is on the sweet side, but there is some violence due to the main characters’ encounters with monsters and criminals.

FROM MARY CATELLI:  The Maze, the Manor, and the Unicorn.

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A short story of banishment and magical intrigues.

Cecily had been a lady-in-waiting. Exiled to Clearwater — for her health — after she angered Queen Blanche, she has nothing to do but wait.

Until an ambassador is sent there, for his health, and Cecily finds that the court intrigues reach farther than she had known they could.

ANNA FERREIRA:  As She Was No Horsewoman: A Pride & Prejudice Sequel.

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Elizabeth has never learnt to ride a horse. Darcy thinks this a grave oversight in her education, and with the help of a little mare named Rose, sets out to teach his wife the art of horsemanship. Poor Elizabeth had no idea what she was getting herself into…

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

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: questionable