Flyer for The Kinmar

With LibertyCon coming up, I realized I didn’t have a flyer for my latest work.  So I had to put something together quick.

Here it is.  There’s some aliasing in the text from reducing the scale for use on the Web, but otherwise it’s as created.  Fortunately, I have access to a nice color printer so long as I don’t abuse the privilege.  (50 copies, OK.  5000, not so much):

A very odd place in my head indeed

Recently, there have been some revelations about the late Marion Zimmer Bradley.  These revelations leave me in a very strange place, personally.

I first started writing seriously in the late 80’s and started getting to within “shooting distance” of professional quality in the early 90’s.

Ms. Bradley was one of my “writing mentors” in the latter part of that time. At that stage of my career there were two people who would talk to me–Stan Schmidt at Analog (who had just bought my story “The Future is Now”) and Marion Zimmer Bradley (who had bought my story “Jilka and the Evil Wizard”). It was her anthology series “Sword and Sorceress” that got me to try my hand at shorter fantasy and, in fact, really writing fantasy at all. Oh, I had a novel in progress at the time, but it was really a one-off inspired by, well, reasons.  Everything else I wrote before encountering the Sword & Sorceress series was Science Fiction.

A particularly ironic instance, given later revelations, was a “Middle reader” book I wrote.  Taking advice from a book on writing I’d written, I sought out some “established writers” who would be willing to look at it and write testimonials.  Most of the folk I’d approached either ignored me (and justly so) or set me straight that that was bad advice.  Ms. Bradley was the only one to agree to look at the book.  And, in the end, she wrote a brief “blurb” of the kind that one might put on the cover of a book.

So, in my files, I have a letter from Ms. Bradley offering modest praise of a book that I wrote (and which, to date, has not been published.  A children’s book.

It was Ms. Bradley actually encouraging a lot of my work in Fantasy, that got me writing fantasy. She never ended up buying another story before I returned to school and dropped out of writing much of anything until the past few years. By the time I returned to writing, she was gone and the first wave of stuff about the past (which made it look more like she was deeply in denial, or perhaps “co-dependent” about her then partner’s behavior).  But she’s why I have written, and sold, several fantasy stories.

So, as a writer, I actually owe quite a bit to the late Ms. Bradley.

Now, I don’t know the truth of the allegations about her.  People that I have reason to trust, give them a great deal of credence.  I don’t plan to investigate for myself.  She’s been dead for fifteen years.  For those harmed by her actions I hope they find whatever healing they need to live happy lives of their own.

But I will say this.  If the allegations are true then if she were still alive and tried to do any of the stuff now laid at her feet to my daughter I would kill her with my own hands.

Like I said, a very strange place.

LibertyCon Schedule

My schedule for LibertyCon 27 (That’s a lot of programming!)

Fri     05:00PM     Opening Ceremonies    
Fri     06:00PM     Reading: David Burkhead    
Sat     10:00AM     Autograph Session    
Sat     02:00PM     The Implications of 3-D Printing    
Sat     04:00PM     Autograph Session    
Sat     09:30PM     An Anime Retrospective    
Sat     10:00PM     Perseid Press, Moondream Press and Iron Clad Press Book Launch Parties; IOH and Fictioneers Parties    
Sat     11:00PM     Mad Scientist Roundtable    
Sun     11:00AM     The Story of Anti-Matter: Making It, Using It and Mis-using It    
Sun     12:00PM     War in Space – is it Inevitable?    
Sun     02:00PM     What’s New from Moondream Press    

Feeding the Active Writer(‘s daughter)

A break from low-carb yumminess this week.  Instead we’re going to talk Grilled Cheese Sandwhiches.

My wife claims I make the best grilled cheese sandwiches in the world.

My wife, however, is from Japan and the very first time she ever had a grilled-cheese sandwich it was one of mine so perhaps she’s not the best judge.

My daughter, however, also loves them.

So on to the recipe.

Two slices of bread
Butter or margarine
Grated cheddar cheese

Preheat a non-stick skillet over medium heat until a drop of water dropped onto it sizzles.
Butter two slices of bread heavily.
Place one slice of bread, butter side down on the skillet.
Cover with a thick layer of the grated cheese (the key here is to use a lot of cheese).
Place the other slice of bread butter side up on top.

When the cheese starts to melt, slip a thin-edged spatula under the sandwich and quickly flip it.
Cook about the same amount of time on the other side.
Continue flipping and cooking as necessary until both sides are brown.

Best eaten hot.

Extra bonus recipe:
Donkey Ride to Heaven Bacon Grilled Cheese.

When putting the cheese on the first slice of bread, only put about half as much cheese as normal.  Top with 3-4 strips of cooked bacon (crispy is best).
Top with the remaining cheese.
Finish as with the standard grilled cheese.

You can use other thing as fillers between the half layers of cheese, but, really, if bacon is an option why should you ever want to?

It’s not low fat or low calorie or low carb–well, it might be possible to do it with a low-carb bread, perhaps a flax-meal bread, but I’ve never tried that.  In any case, my daughter loves it.

"Second American Revolution?" I hope not.

Well, I’ve run into the claim that the “Right”, particularly the “tea party” wants a “second American Revolution.”   As usual, they’re interpreting “warnings” (of the “if this goes on” kind) with “endorsements.”

There’s a problem with a “Second American Revolution”.

You know, people always point at the American Civil War as this paragon of “proof” that civil wars cannot unseat the established US government.  However there have been a lot of civil wars in history.  Sometimes the existing government wins.  Sometimes the rebels win.  Sometimes the results are confusing at best.

This worship of the American government as some kind of unstoppable monolith would be amusing if it weren’t so tragic (because it’s leading toward exactly the same kind of disaster I’m warning against).

They aren’t.  Consider, the US military numbers under one and a half million people on active duty.  There are over twenty million military veterans in the civilian population.  There are over 100 million gun owners, with more than 300 million guns between them.  The term for that, even considering the “heavy weapons” of the military (which are of limited use in a civil insurrection–you think a government that ordered the carpet bombing of Des Moines would still be in power by the time the smoke cleared?) and even ignoring that a lot of the military would say “no way in hell”. is “adverse correlation of forces”.

So what are you going to do with that many people?  You’re either going to need a lot of new prisons or a lot of new mass graves.  Either way, the rest of the population is going to notice.  This isn’t China or Russia, which have pretty much always lived under totalitarian regimes and accept it as the status quo.  If strong military action in the Middle East, would, as is often claimed, “create more terrorists”, what makes you think it won’t have exactly the same effect if applied internally in the US?

And then you need to consider that the whole idea of open field battles or even “hiding in the woods” is not how an insurgency would work.  It won’t be some guys hiding in the woods.  It will be some folk going about their daily business then, from time to time, pulling out one of those 300 million firearms (or one of the hundreds of millions of “improvised weapons” that would come up after the fact–guns are easy to make once you know how, as are explosives by the way) setting up somewhere and killing one or two politicians, or soldiers serving the “regime”, or influential backers of the regime, or people working for them.  Some will be caught.  Some won’t.

There’s a book “Fry the Brain” about just that kind of “urban sniping”.  It’s one of the things that was not uncommon in Northern Ireland and a practically daily occurrence in Beirut during the worst of it.  It would be ugly.

Catching the insurgents?  They would not be using electronic media to communicate.  The cat’s out of that bag so the smart ones will know better (and the non-smart ones will either soon learn better or be culled).  Or if they do use electronic communication it will either be one-time pads (unbreakable if they’re truly “one time”) or mixed in with so many false messages that the authorities have to burn up so many resources chasing down all the false leads that they do the insurgents’ jobs for them.

Well, they’d have informants.  But I guarantee that very soon indeed policy among insurgents would soon become “you inform; you die.” Doesn’t matter if they dangled a million dollars in front of you.  Doesn’t matter if you honestly believed the regime was the “good guys”.  Doesn’t matter if they “beat it out of you”.  Doesn’t matter if they threatened your family.  You inform; you die.  And if that doesn’t work to keep the rate of informing down, it will become, “you inform, your family dies.”

It is not moral.  It is not ethical.  But history has shown that in existential wars morals and ethics are among the first casualties.

I am not endorsing this.  Exactly the opposite.  I am pointing these things out because I recognize how truly horrible a general insurgency in the US would be.  I am pointing them out in the hopes that the people pushing us in that direction, people creating the situations such that a very large number of Americans who believe in the Constitution as written and as properly amended (which itself is according to the Constitution), who believe in individual liberty and self determination, will stop pushing things so that that large number of people start believing that the choice is between finally giving up on liberty and this kind of horror.

I desperately want to avoid anything like that because if it gets to that point, then whoever “wins”, the end result will almost certainly bear no resemblance to “liberty.”

Feeding the Active Writer

Ridiculously easy slow cooker roast beef with gravy.

The slow cooker is great for the active person who doesn’t have a lot of time for cooking.  It’s also nice for folk on a budget because even the cheapest (and often toughest) cuts of meat can be fall-apart tender when done in the slow cooker.

The problem is that if you don’t get the cook time exactly right, a lot of the meat’s flavor cooks right out of it.  The solution to that is to use the juices that cook out of the meat as a sauce or gravy which lets you put the flavor back in.

And that brings us to this week’s recipe.

1/2 cup diced onion. (I buy them frozen in bags, pre-diced.)
4-5 lb beef roast–round, chuck, whatever’s on sale.
1 1/2 tbsp xanthum* gum powder.
Hot water as needed.

Put the onions in the bottom of a 4-5 quart slow cooker.
If necessary, cut the beef into pieces to fit into the slow cooker.
Coat the beef with the xanthum gum.
Cook on low 10-12 hours.
When done, transfer the beef to a plate.
Check the thickness of the gravy that remains.  If it’s too thick, whisk in hot water bit by bit until it’s the desired consistency.
Transfer the gravy to a bowl.

And that’s it.  To serve simply cut slices of the beef and spoon some of the gravy over it.  Delicious.

*Xanthum gum is a good thickener for sauces and gravies for people on low-carb diets.  Not only is it lower in carb count for a given amount than flour or starch, less is needed to thicken a given amount of liquid.  Also, it doesn’t thicken as much on cooling so it’s better for things that will be saved and served later.  You might want to wear gloves while handling it simply because it makes a very cloying film if it gets on your hands and requires considerable scrubbing to remove.

I’ll generally make the roast on the weekend and feast all week.

Feeding the active writer

Meatloaf is an old family standby.  The problem with most meatloaf recipes, for folk on a low-carb diet, is that they use bread as a filler and to help the meatloaf hold together.

You can eliminate the bread filler, but that requires something else to bind the loaf together.  If you’re not worried about fat and cholesterol then you can use egg for that purpose.

So today we have a “Mexican meat loaf.”

3 lbs lean ground beef (the leaner, the better).
5 eggs.
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 16 oz jar salsa.
1 cup diced onion
4 oz. chopped green chilis
1 tbsp chili powder.
Optional 2 cups shredded cheese.

Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  It works best if you knead it by hand.
Place the mixture in a 4-6 quart slow cooker.
Cook on low 8-10 hours.
Optional:  Top with the shredded cheese and cook just long enough for the cheese to melt.
Let cool and cut the loaf into portions.  I cut it into eight.

I seal the individual portions into zipper bags and freeze.  I can take one to work with me, put it in a microwave safe bowl along with some frozen vegetables, and heat up a yummy and satisfying lunch.

Maleficent, a review

Went to see Maleficent with the family today.

I tend to have mixed feelings about deconstructions of fairy tales, whether deconstructing the classic versions or the “Disney” version.  Sometimes they’re done very well.  Other times…not.

Maleficent was done very well indeed.

If you’ve seen the trailers, there are certain things you knew going in.  Maleficent at some point had her wings taken from her and the king, “Sleeping Beauty’s” father, was involved in that and thus the reason (or at least a reason) for the curse.  In the movie we see that it goes a lot deeper than that.  One can almost feel that the curse is justified except the baby had nothing to do with what was done to Maleficient.  And this adds some complexity to Maleficent’s character, making her sympathetic but not innocent, wrong but not irredeemable.

The bumbling character of the “good fairies” is a nod to Flora, Fauna, and Meriwether from Disney’s animated “Sleeping Beauty” as is the name of the Princess, Aurora.

Angelina Jolie did a superb job in the roll of Maleficent.  The scenes where she lost her wings and where the curse finally came home to roost were particularly moving.

Speaking of that scene where the curse came home to roost, there may have been a surprise intended there.  If so, well, I called it well in advance.  Well, actually I had two possibilities predicted for how it would play out.  They went with the one that was my first choice.

For those who like actions and big battles and fights, there’s plenty of that in the first and the last parts of the movie.  Not so much in the middle but the character interactions and development more than make up for that.  Some of those scenes might be a little intense for younger viewers.  Parents, use your judgement.

Upshot:  this is another one I will be owning.

The end of physics?

I have heard recently some scientist (sorry, no link) saying that with the Discovery of the Higgs Boson, physical theory is complete.  There’s nothing more to be added to the Standard Model.  We’re done.

Which led me to think about where I’d heard that before.  Oh, that’s right.  When I took Modern Physics back in College, my professor described the state of physics in the late 19th century.  The attitude, he said, was that physical theory was complete.  They could just add a digit or two of precision to physical constants and then we could all go home.

Then two guys by the name of Michelson and Morley, and Hittorf’s discovery of “cathode rays” started a process which turned physics on its ear.  Michelson and Morley weren’t looking for the foundations of new physics.  They were looking to measure the movement of the Earth through the Luminiferous Aether scientists though carried “light waves”.  But what they found was something far more profound.  And the “cathode rays” led to a series of experiments that led to the discovery of the electron and eventually other atomic particles and the “atom” wasn’t so indivisible after all.  Between them, these to branches led to Relativity and Quantum Theory, giving us the Modern Physics.

So, are we on the cusp of the next big revolution in physics?  I think we are.  No telling how long the “hang time” will be at this cusp, but sooner or later (and I really hope sooner) somebody’s going to point at an experimental result and say “what the hell is that?” and we’ll be off with whole new worlds of physical theory to discover.

Feeding the Active Writer

Once again I address the issue of my sweet tooth.  This time with low-carb frosted cupcakes.
For folk who cannot handle artificial sweeteners like sucralose, well, sorry.

Start with the cupcakes themselves:

2 cups flax seed

1 cup sucralose
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 eggs
5 tablespoons flax oil, coconut oil, or olive oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup water
Preheat oven to 350 and get the double boiler (see Frosting) started.
Mix all dry ingredients then add the wet.

Whisk together. 
Spoon into a greased muffin/cupcake pan (or use paper cupcake shells) about 2/3-3/4 full
Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.

While the cupcakes are baking you can work on the frosting.

2 8 oz packages cream cheese
2 cups sucralose
1 tsp vanilla extract
Optional:  food coloring as desired.

soften the cream cheese in a double boiler.  I don’t have a dedicated double boiler so I use a metal mixing bowl set on top of a saucepan partially filled with water.
Stir in the remaining ingredients and mix throughly.

Keep the frosting warm and soft (use the double boiler over low heat) until the cupcakes are cool.  Pile the frosting on top of the cupcakes.
Makes about 12.

Although this is not a “low fat” or “low calorie” food, it has no more than 1-2 grams net carbs per cupcake.  Keep refrigerated until ready to eat.

A truly decadent treat for people who have problems with carbs.

Protip:  Do not eat more than 1-2 per day unless you’re ready to cope with the results of a lot of fiber.