In the Spirit of the Season (an annual post)

An annual tradition:

If you’re an Atheist or Agnostic who doesn’t like “Merry Christmas.”
If you’re a Christian who doesn’t like “Happy Holidays.”
If you’re a Jew who doesn’t like “Blessed be.”
If you’re a Wiccan who doesn’t like “God Be with you.”
If you’re a Muslim who doesn’t like “May Thor hold his hammer between you and harm.”

I have one thing to say to you: Grow. Up. Take these things in the spirit they are offered, one of well wishing, and leave it at that. And on that note, may I wish you a very merry Christmas and may Thor hold his hammer between you and harm.

Gud Yule, everyone.

The Teacher is Wrong. The book is wrong.

I have a daughter.  She’s bright (in her school’s “high ability” program”.  She’s athletic (swim team for a couple of years now).  And she’s utterly adorable. (Don’t challenge me on that.  Just…don’t.)

Unfortunately, she’s in public school and there’s not a lot I can do about that.  As much as I’d love to homeschool, I’ve got to keep working to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.  And my wife can’t do it because while I bring home the bigger paycheck, it’s at a very small company and my wife’s job does things like provide health insurance. (And with my various problems–I’d say it’s a shame we’ve got to get old, but when you consider the alternative…–we really need that insurance.)

So, she’s in public school.

A couple of years ago she brought back a school report which had an item “The purpose of government is to provide services that individuals can’t pay for.”

What?

So I ask her about it.  She tells me that the example they gave was street cleaning.  Someone has to clean the streets and that’s the purpose of government. (I’ll have a bit to say on this subject somewhat later.)

Again, what?  Yes, to a certain extent that may be a role of government but the role?  Don’t think so.

Obviously, the school and I disagreed on this subject.  This wasn’t a matter of there being an objectively “right” answer but rather presenting something that’s a matter of philosophy and values as though it did have an objective correct answer.

Now, I could have gone into the school and raised a fuss, insist that they teach my philosophy and values on the rest of the class.  Instead, I took the time, generally when driving my daughter to school in the morning, to discuss the issue with her.  I started with the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

 And, so that the purpose of government is to secure our rights and that the basic rights include Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness.

Once she had that, we went on to the Constitution, the three branches of government: Legislature which makes the law, Executive which carries out (executes) the law, and Judicial which tries cases under the law.  We went over the Bill of Rights.

And, so, I made sure that my daughter understood my philosophy of government because that’s my responsibility.

And it’s not just matters of value and philosophy.  The schools, or at least the teachers, have been known to be wrong on matters of fact.  And this is nothing new.  Sometimes it’s outdated information.  For instance, when I was in grade school mountain building was described as being caused as follows:

When it was formed the Earth was much hotter than it is now.  As it cooled it contracted, as cooling things are wont to do.  This caused the crust, the “skin” to wrinkle like a withered apple.  These wrinkles are mountains.

This was at least a decade after plate tectonics had become widely accepted as the cause of such things as mountain building.

Other examples include a fourth grade teacher telling me that all radioactive rocks contain Uranium. (I could see in the book that Uranium was given as an example of something in radioactive rocks, not an exhaustive listing.) And a Sixth grade teacher telling me that the Curies discovered radioactive elements (as in discovering radioactive elements existed rather than the accurate statement that they discovered particular radioactive elements).  And so on.

And sometimes it’s not the teacher.  Sometimes it’s the book.  The encyclopedia I grew up with described stellar evolution thusly:

Stars start as large gas clouds.  They start to contract.  As they contract, they heat. (So far, so good, in an oversimplified way.  But now it goes off the rails) At a certain point they are hot enough to glow as Red Giant stars.  They continue to contract, getting hotter, and proceed through “yellow giant” “white giant” and “blue giant” Eventually contracting to a “blue dwarf”.  Once they reach blue dwarf stage, they gradually start to cool, going back through the spectrum until they reach red dwarf and finally extinguish.

That theory was superseded in the 1920’s.  Yet there it was, presented as Gospel Truth in a respected encyclopedia forty years later and being taught in our schools.

More recently I came across another particularly egregious example where a child got in trouble for correcting a teacher who said that a kilometer was longer than a mile. In the note sent back to the parents, it admitted that the child was right about the kilometer but was wrong for challenging the teacher’s authority.  In this case it wasn’t about right or wrong but about enforcing the hierarchy.  Now, I’m not going to say that this is deliberate, but if you really wanted to enforce a hierarchy, insisting that people claim that something demonstrably and provably wrong is right and to do so from a young age would be the way to do it.  No, I don’t think they put errors in deliberately.  Everybody makes mistakes, even teachers and textbook writers.  But by insisting that these errors be accepted as “right” substitutes submission to authority for reason and learning.

Sometimes the teacher is wrong.  Sometimes the book is wrong.  You, as an individual, have to be ready to question the book, question the teacher, and make sure your children do so as well.

And, now, I’m going to digress a bit on something brought up above simply because I think it’s interesting. I mentioned street cleaning and that I’d have a bit to say on that somewhat later.  Well, it’s somewhat later.

Folk have argued, with some justice, that public good activities such as street cleaning are among the legitimate functions of government.  And, in at least some instances, they make a compelling case.  Michael Z. Williamson in his Libertarian paean Freehold goes into this a bit.  There is a scene involving heavy, road blocking snow.  The libertarian government of Grainne (the eponymous freehold) has no services for things like snow removal.  Thus, it is up to each individual business or property owner to clear the road in front of his own business/property.  And if the guy next door doesn’t do it, well, then it doesn’t get done unless you do it yourself.  The residents of Grainne, almost rabid on the subject of individual liberty, are willing to accept that.  Other folk may not find that an acceptable trade.  One, however, has to be careful with that because Government is Force, including deadly force.  Matters of public sanitation, with the spread of disease and encouragement of vermin, may justify that force.  Other things do not.

And, with all that said, perhaps you will like my story EMT where one of the problems they faced was someone using the excuse of sticking to “the book” when, for the conditions they faced, the book was, indeed, wrong:

An open letter to the President Elect

An open letter:

Dear Mr. Trump,

I have my doubts about your actual motives and beliefs in running for President, how you intend to govern, and what policies you actually favor. Given your history I really don’t believe your campaign rhetoric.

But I could be wrong. I hope you prove me wrong.

Thus, I would like to remind you that your supporters did not elect you to “work with” the Democrats, to engage in “compromises” that essentially mean giving them much (if not most or all) of what they want while conservatives get nothing in return. The people who voted for you don’t want more and bigger government programs. They don’t want to use their tax dollars “more efficiently”. They elected you to get _away_ from those policies.

As you choose advisors (please no more “I listen to myself; I say great things”) I hope you choose actual conservatives and liberty-minded individuals and listen to what they say. You could do worse, much worse, than to pick up a copy of Goldwater’s “The Conscience of a Conservative”.

Oh, and while you’re at it, now that you’re the President Elect, you might want to pick up a copy of the Constitution and read it. I know, I know, you never saw value in it before, but now that you have obtained the highest office in the land, it’s kind of important to your job.

If you do your job right, you will reduce the size and scope of government.  You will reduce its power.  I know, that means you will reduce your power as well, but I’m perhaps you can see that as a small price to pay to secure your place in history as the President who set the US back on a course to liberty.

You stand at the crossroads.  You have the potential to be one of the greatest presidents in history.  You also have the potential to be yet another in a line of Presidents who led the US into serfdom.

The choice is yours.

I pray you make the right one.

When the State corrupts rule of law.

The Washington Post recently had an article about a State drug chemist (responsible for various drug tests) was not only a user of the drugs but had been falsifying drug test results which were instrumental in many peoples convictions and incarceration.

The article asks the question about whether the cases for which she provided evidence should be thrown out.

This shouldn’t even be a question.

(Bear with me for a minute, I’m going somewhere with this.) Some years back there was a column in one of the magazines for fans of comics “The Law is a Ass” by Bob Ingersoll, an attorney and public defender. In that column he dissected use of law in comics and along the way gave introductions to the history and reasons behind many of the things we take for granted in law now.

One of those things was exclusionary rules for evidence. This is actually of far more recent vintage than many people realize. As Bob Ingersoll wrote:
For well over one hundred years, the Fourth Amendment existed without the Exclusionary Rule, the rule which makes evidence taken during an unreasonable search and seizure inadmissible at trial. Basically, the amendment depended on the good faith of the government not to violate it for its enforcement. In much the same way–and with much of the same success–that Blanche DuBois depended on the kindness of strangers. Then, in 1914, the Supreme Court of the United States realized that not everyone scrupulously adhered to the Fourth Amendment. Abuses actually occurred. So did sunsets, but not as often.

The Supreme Court ruled that a right without a means to enforce it is no right at all. To remedy this, it enacted by judicial fiat the Exclusionary Rule, as a means of enforcing the Fourth Amendment.

The Exclusionary Rule says the government cannot be allowed to profit, when it breaks the rules with an unreasonable search, so any evidence seized can not be admitted. To use a somewhat simplistic analogy (I like simplistic analogies. If more law school professors used simplistic analogies, I might have passed a few more courses.), the Exclusionary Rule is like calling back a touchdown pass for a holding penalty. The scoring team would not have achieved its goal, but for the fact that it broke the rules. So, rather than allow it to prosper from cheating, the team is penalized by having the play nullified. The Exclusionary Rule was established to enforce compliance with the Fourth Amendment.

In 1961 the Supreme Court ruled that the Exclusionary Rule was applicable on the states through the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. Now, when state or local police conduct unreasonable searches and seizures, the evidence is not admissible at trial.


And that’s where we are here. These cases need to be thrown out to send a loud and clear message of “don’t do that” to prosecutors. And, yes, prohibition against double jeopardy should fully apply.  they cannot be allowed to succeed, to “benefit” from using such poisonous tactics.

The thing many people forget is that the most important aspect of “rule of law” is not punishing the guilty, but protecting the innocent. When people stop believing that their innocence will protect them from the law, that’s when rule of law collapses. That’s why “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”. That’s why prohibition against double jeopardy. That’s why we have trial by jury in the first place, why we have rules on discovery (where the defense gets to see the prosecution’s evidence), why we have all the procedures in place to protect the accused against the vastly greater might of the State.

And that’s why things like this are so very troubling. What it does to society dwarfs even the horrible injustice to the individual falsely convicted on falsified evidence.  It undermines the very concept of rule of law.

Third Annual Indie Labor Day Sale

Thanks to Amie Gibbons for making this happen this year:

It’s that time of year again. The kiddies are back in school, vacations have been vacationed, the season of burned skin is over, and people are getting back into their usual routines.
And you know what that means.

The Third Annual Indie Author Labor Day Sale!

Whether you are eating pumpkin spice everything or counting the days until Halloween, as the nights cool, you’re going to want to check out the latest sales in Sci Fi, Fantasy and Mystery from your favorite indies.

Enjoy!

gods defenseThe Gods Defense  
By Amie Gibbons
Sale price: $0.99 from 9/3 to 9/6; $2.99 from 9/6 to 9/9.
Blurb: In a world where the gods and magic have returned, enforcing justice just got a lot more hazardous!

Cassandra Berry is a prosecutor with a problem; the Defendant in her latest case is claiming Dionysus made him do it, and if he wins, defendants across the country will be pulling this excuse in every case. In order to get the god to answer a subpoena, she asks Apollo for help.

But divine favors always come with strings attached…

witchfindercoverfinalWitchfinder 
By Sarah Hoyt
$2.99

ON SALE FOR LIMITED TIME ONLY

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.

sword and bloodcoverfinalSword and Blood
by Sarah Hoyt
$2.99

The France of the Musketeers has changed. Decades ago, someone opened a tomb in Eastern Europe, and from that tomb crawled an ancient horror, who in turn woke others of its kind.

Now Paris is beset by vampires, the countryside barren and abandoned. The Cardinal has become a vampire, the church is banned, the king too cowed to fight.

Until now, the three Musketeers, Athos, Porthos and Aramis have stood as a bulwark against the encroaching evil, their swords defending the innocent and helpless.

But last night, in a blood mass, Athos was turned into a Vampire. And a young vampire orphan has just arrived from Gascony: Monsieur D’Artagnan.

Things are about to get… complicated.

This book was originally published under the pen name Sarah Marques.

Sword of Arelionsword of arelion
By Amanda S. Green
Sale price: $$2.99

Blurb: War is coming. The peace and security of the Ardean Imperium is threatened from within and without. The members of the Order of Arelion are sworn to protect the Imperium and enforce the Codes. But the enemy operates in the shadows, corrupting where it can and killing when that fails.
Fallon Mevarel, knight of the Order of Arelion, carried information vital to prevent civil war from breaking out. Cait was nothing, or so she had been told. She was property, to be used and abused until her owner tired of her. What neither Cait nor Fallon knew was that the gods had plans for her, plans that required Fallon to delay his mission.

Plans within plans, plots put in motion long ago, all converge on Cait. She may be destined for greatness, but only if she can stay alive long enough.

Dagger of Elanna, Book 2 of Sword of the Gods, coming October 2016.

Yep! This one's mine. It will be coming out later in the month, and you'll see it again as a link. But the cover for this is a fractal starfield and nebula, bought elements of the spaceship and station. I painted the engine flames, the green element under the title, and that was it... So clean and pretty. For my next project, I'll be working on creating my own spaceships so I'm not stuck buying and altering them.
Jade Star
by Cedar Sanderson
$2.99

Blurb: Jade is determined to die. She is old, and useless, when she points her tiny subspace craft at the cold stars. She wakes up in the care of others who refuse to grant her death, and instead give her a new mission in life.

Jade isn’t happy, and she only gets angrier when she learns that her mysterious new home hides a horrible secret. It’s time for this old lady to kick butt and take names. Aliens, death, destruction… nothing trumps the fierce old woman who is protecting her family.

Big BlueBig Blue 
by David L. Burkhead
Sale price: $2.99

Blurb: When an accidentally detonated nuke from a stolen submarine releases something never before seen, Sea Hawk pilot Lieutenant Steve Pomerantz is sent to investigate. He finds a blue-green monster ten times the size of the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex and seemingly impervious to every weapon in mankind’s arsenal.

Earthquakes in the South Pacific, at a location dubbed as the most remote spot on Earth, raise tsunamis all along the West Coast. Air Force Captain Jamal White, pilot of a C-130 Hercules is pulled off of search and rescue duties to ferry two scientists to investigate. What they find is a new continent arisen from the deep. And on that continent something stirs, bringing terror and madness in its wake.

Two monsters, one from the frozen North Atlantic, one from the remote South Pacific, on a collision course with the survival of mankind hanging in the balance.

Grey Man ChangesThe Grey Man- Changes
By JL Curtis
Sale price: $0.99 from 9/3 to 9/6; $2.99 from 9/6 to 9/9.

Blurb- When Texas Deputy Sheriff John Cronin thwarts the Cartel’s plan to get paid to smuggle Muslims across the border, he becomes the target of the Cartel once again. One try fails, but the cartel isn’t about to give up. With his granddaughter, Jesse, still recovering from her last run-in with the Cartel and now far away with her Marine husband on a military base, Cronin only has to worry about the innocents around him.

One way or another, this old school law man plans to end this cat and mouse game for good. But, this time, the Cartel is playing for keeps; ending this war might just cost the old man his life.
Either way Cronin plans to go out on his feet, fighting tooth and nail.

Empire OneEmpire of the One
By Pam Uphoff
Sale price: $0.99

Blurb: They’d been attacked through a dimensional gate. Now they’ve located the attackers’ world and it’s time for Xen Wolfson to do some hands-on spying. Can he and his fellow spies learn enough to stop an all out war? As “Endi Dewulfe” he infiltrates the High Oner society from the bottom.

tomTOM 
By Dave Freer
Sale price: 9/4 8am-7.59pm -99 cents
9/4 -9/5 8pm-7.59am -$1.99
9/5 8am-7.59pm -$2.99
9/5-9/6 8pm-7.59am $3.99

Blurb: Tom is a cat in trouble. The worst possible kind of trouble: he’s been turned into a human. Transformed by an irascible old magician in need of a famulus — a servant and an assistant, Tom is as good at being a servant as a cat ever is. The assistant part is more to Tom’s taste: he rather fancies impressing the girl cats and terrorizing the other toms by transforming himself into a tiger. But the world of magic, a vanished and cursed princess, and a haunted skull, and a demon in the chamber-pot, to say nothing of conspiring wizards and the wickedest witch in the west, all seem to be out to kill Tom. He is a cat coming to terms with being a boy, dealing with all this. He has a raven and a cheese as. sort of allies. And of course there is the princess.

If you were looking for ‘War and Peace’ this is the wrong book for you. It’s a light-hearted and gently satirical fantasy, full of terrible puns and… cats.

Unproven ConceptAn Unproven Concept
By James Young
Sale price: Countdown sale starts at $.99 on 9/5 and ends at $2.75 on 9/12. Concurrent sale on Amazon.co.uk

Blurb: In the year 3050, First Contact goes horribly wrong when the starliner Titanic is set upon by previously unknown aliens. Outnumbered, outgunned, and with their crippled vessel in a decaying orbit around a gas giant, the Titanic’s crew must choose between saving themselves… or saving Humanity.
“This is a space opera that plays out on a grand scale, and Young conducted it with aplomb.” – Pop Cults, the website of Geek and Alternative Culture.

fenrir rebornFenrir Reborn
By Anita C. Young
Sale price: Free from 9/4 to 9/8.

Blurb: Sindri Modulf has been tested many times throughout his long life, but for every feat he has faced, he has artfully dodged countless more with easy humour and a deadly axe. Those well-honed abilities will prove useless when he is faced with one of the greatest challenges of his life; he must bring back a grief-stricken Seer from the edge of catatonia. Unwilling to let the mind of the most powerful woman in 1000 years be ravaged by Empaths and Telepaths, Sindri does something he hasn’t done for centuries: bare his soul.

Feeding the Active Writer

I know, I’ve been horribly remiss in doing these.  The embarrassing truth is that I’ve got enough recipes that I tend to reuse them a lot rather than finding/coming up with new ones.  Just laziness on my part (but that’s part of that whole “active writer” thing).

Anyway, here’s a new one:

super easy slow cooker chili con carne.

I was going to make a meatloaf but turns out we were out of eggs and I just didn’t feel like running to the store. So I came up with this instead. No beans because it’s low carb. Of course, purists will say that beans have no business in chili anyway. 😉

  • 3-4 lbs of extra lean ground beef.
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
  • 1 14 oz can of diced tomato–_undrained_
  • 2 16 Oz jars of medium salsa (hotter or milder to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp chipotle chili powder (again, to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander.
  • 1/2 Tbsp oregano.

I would normally add about a Tbsp of ground cumin as well but, again, I was out.

Mix the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. I generally find it’s best to get in with your hands and squish it all together.  Rubber/plastic gloves keeps things cleaner.

Pour the mix in a 4 quart slow cooker.

Cook on low 6-8 hours.

Serve topped with cheese or just like it is.

Big Blue now available for sale.

Two monsters on a collision course with the fate of mankind hanging in the balance.

 Big Blue

A stolen submarine and an accidentally detonated nuke in Baffin Bay releases something never seen before, a monster ten times the size of Tyrannosaurus Rex, seemingly impervious to every weapon in mankind’s arsenal.

Dread Shev’kha

Undersea Earthquakes in the remote South Pacific of ever increasing magnitude, generating massive tsunamis. A new continent arises and on that continent something stirs, bringing madness in its wake.

 From the novel:

“Hey, Doc,” Hadfield shouted at him when Damjan arrived. “Soon as we crest this ridge we should see it.”

“Okay,” Damjan said. He looked out through the windshield. Mud covered the ridge in front of them, just like it covered everything else.

The helicopter rose. The crest of the ridge dropped below them. The valley on the far side came into view. On the far slope, leading up to the ridge, something moved.

Damjan’s breath caught in his throat. His mind refused to believe what his eyes told him. The thing, the creature, was immense. A heavy carapace, almost two hundred feet across. Eight long, jointed legs protruded from the sides, like those of some giant spider, stretching another hundred feet to each side. At the front tentacles squirmed from the bottom of a bulbous head. Membranous wings extending from the back of the carapace completed the picture.

Wings? Nothing that big could fly. And even if it could it would need far bigger wings than that. Maybe they helped thermoregulation, like the sail on a Dimetrodon?

“That can’t be real,” Damjan said. “It’s impossible. It should be crushed under its own weight.” He bit down an overwhelming urge to giggle.

The helicopter plummeted, jerking a scream out of Damjan’s throat.

“What the hell?” Hadfield fought the controls. He glanced sideways. “Alex, what the fuck?”

Damjan stumbled in the bucking helicopter. In an instant of calm, he looked at the copilot in the left seat. Alex Keller, the helicopter’s copilot, was shoving hard at the stick, a look of unholy glee on his face.

“Alex, what are you doing?” Hadfield screamed.

“The Dread Lord!” Keller said. He heaved at the stick, causing the helicopter to buck despite Hadfield’s best efforts to keep them stable. “Doom has come. Better. Better to…”