A Snippet: The Beasts of Trevanta

Another snippet from my ongoing work, the sequel to The Hordes of Chanakra:

“Bvaykoo.” Mosho took a long drink from his tankard. “Kaw, you call yourself?”

Kreg inclined his head.

“Stupid name,” Mosho said. “You speak Chanakranon well, but your words carry the sound of Aerioch and…something else, I do not recognize.”

Kreg opened his mouth to protest but Mosho held up a hand.

“Do not deny it.  I traveled much before old Pfane took me on as his guard master.”

“Pfane?” Kreg sipped his own drink, a rather sour beer.

“The cavern master.  You have not met him nor are you likely to.”  Mosho waved his hand in dismissal and took another drink. “It does not matter.  I do not know why you pretend to be from Chanakra nor do I care.  Serve well and you can have a good life in my company.”

Mosho downed the rest of his drink.  His eyes narrowed as he stared at Kreg.

“Betray me and I will spill your guts and leave you for the buzzards.”

Kreg nodded. “I understand.”

“Good.” Mosho clapped him on the shoulder. “Take your ease.  A silver ney will let you tumble a likely wench.” He pointed at the larger moon, rising in the East. “Return to the caravan by the time Shüdhae–” Mosho used the Chanakranon name of the larger moon. “–reaches zenith.  Or not.  You have stood your watch.  If you choose to keep company in the town, be back by dawn, ready to ride.”

Kreg nodded again and took another drink from his tankard.  Mosho clapped him on the shoulder one more time and then turned to return his empty tankard before departing.

Kreg suppressed a smile as he raised his tankard to his lips and drained it.  Every time he had started a new job he had received the same speech from his boss.  Less talk of gutting, perhaps, but other dire consequences.

His smile vanished.

Every time but one.  Neither Kaila nor Marek had ever issued threats of what would happen if he did not meet their standards.  They had simply assumed he would and in doing so had created in him a better man than he had ever dreamed of being.

Kreg returned the tankard as he had seen Mosho do.  When he turned away, he felt a slight tug at his belt.  His hand swooped almost of its own accord and closed on a bony wrist.  He hauled the wrist forward and up.

The urchin attached to the wrist could not have been more than ten years old.  Boy or girl, Kreg did not know.  Neither the short cropped hair nor the baggy tunic and trousers offered any hint.

Kreg looked to the left and right but no one seemed to be paying any attention to him and his catch.

Kreg lifted the wrist in his hand until the urchin stood on tiptoe.

“Picking pouches?” Kreg said. “What do they do with pickpouches in this town?”

“Please, sir,” the urchin said. “My sister is sick.  The herbwoman, she say, bring silver or she do nuthin.”

“Mm, hm,” Kreg said. “How stupid do you think I am, kid?”

“Milord is wise, I am sure.”

“Sick sister, huh?” Kreg lifted a little higher.  One of the urchin’s toes barely touched the ground.  The other kicked futilely in an attempt to find purchase. “I don’t suppose you’d show me this sister?”

“Show you, milord?”

“Show me.” Kreg lowered his hand then released the wrist but, before the urchin could even begin to move, Kreg’s hand darted out and twisted into the back of his collar.

“Show me.”

The Poor Get Poorer?

People of a certain political persuasion say that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.  Let’s take a look at that.

Imagine if you could go back 100 years.  You’d have to live life 100 years ago but you would have the wealth of the richest American of the day.  As it happened, Forbes created its first “Rich List” in 1918, 100 years ago, and listed John D. Rockefeller as far and away the richest American with a net worth of $1.2 billion then (roughly equivalent to $21 billion today).  Number two on the list was Henry Frick at $221 million.

So, Rockefeller’s $1.2 billion but in 1918 instead of today.  Would this be a trade you would make?

For the vast majority of us you’d be a fool to take that deal.

Consider:  I’m diabetic not insulin dependent (thankfully) but still diabetic as are a lot of Americans.  Insulin to treat diabetes was not invented yet.  So diabetes meant an agonizing death.

I have cholesterol issues–diet doesn’t touch it.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  If not treated, that’s a quick route to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and an early death.  Medication to control cholesterol was still decades away.

Well, if we can’t control cholesterol perhaps we could control the high blood pressure resulting from the failure?  Nope.  Sorry.  It was an “essential malady” and not a treatable condiction.

Now, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones and diet and exercise can prevent these issues, or push them back as far as they can be for me with modern medicine, but are you really willing to gamble your life on that?

Wealth doesn’t do you a lot of good if you are left immobile from a stroke, or dead from a heart attack.

But, hey, with the wealth of Rockefeller  you could spend money on fancy, and fast, cars, right?

The Indy 500 was not held in 1918 (or in 1917 for that matter) because of World War I.  But if we peek ahead at 1919 we can get a look at what some of the fastest cars in the world could do and…

The winning car averaged just a hair over 88 miles per hour.  The cheapest beater I have ever owned (and I’ve owned some dogs) would have blown that car away, and do so with more comfort, more luxury than the fanciest Touring Car (air conditioning!).

And speaking of automobiles and medicine, a modern ambulance had more ability to keep you alive–saving only actual surgery–than even the hospitals of 1918.  And the only thing the ambulance would actually need to compete with those hospitals on surgery would be a surgeon and anesthesiologist–both of whom would be far, far more capable than the surgeons and anesthesiologists of 1918.

But…you could travel to exotic places with Rockefeller’s wealth in 1918.  Well, I’ll give you that one if you don’t mind taking forever.  You couldn’t hop in your car for a road trip down to Disney World (leaving aside that Disney World didn’t exist).  The modern network of highways with fuel stations every few miles did not yet exist.  Okay, there were a few airlines in operation but they were small and limited in operation.  Perhaps their expense wouldn’t matter with the wealth of Rockefeller at your beck and call, but there just aren’t that many places you can go by air.  Transoceanic flights don’t exist (Lindbergh is still years in the future) and neither do transcontinental.  The big thing in aviation at this time is “air mail”.  And that’s still chancy with things getting lost when the planes crash. (Look at that again and maybe think twice about that air travel.)

Train or ship, that’s pretty much your only option for long distance travel at any kind of speed at all, and those take days where in the modern day we travel in hours.

And if you want to just relax at home and maybe listen to music?  No Radio stations.  First commercial broadcast is still years away.  You can go out to listen to a live performance–in a public venue with neither adequate heat nor air conditioning (I’ll get to that shortly).  Or perhaps you can listen to a device like this:

If you’re lucky, you might actually have a couple dozen records.

I’ll take MP3’s on my cell phone, thank you very much.

Individual rooms in your house are probably heated with wood or coal burning stoves.  The first patent for central heating isn’t for another year and forced air central heating isn’t for another 17.

Air conditioning?  Yes, it’s been invented.  You, having the wealth of Rockefeller might have one of the early gigantic “air conditioners” that were just appearing but they really didn’t start getting into homes for another decade.

Well, I could go on and on and on, there’s so much available to the poor today that all Rockefeller’s wealth could not have bought him 100 years ago.

This is without going into the computer technology revolution, portable computers, and cell phones that contain within them more computing power than existed in the world as recently as a few decades ago.

Even many if not most of today’s poor in American know wealth that the John D. Rockefeller of 100 years ago could not even have dreamed that, if you were to describe it to him, would just be so much noise because the concepts were just too alien to the time.

The poor of today, far from getting “poorer” compared to the poor of times past, know wealth beyond the dreams of Midas.

Feeding the Active Writer: Creamy Chicken-Broccoli Soup

Most soups have a lot of carbs, whether from potatoes, noodles, or rice, or from cornstarch of flour used as a thickener.  This one is quite low in carbs.  It’s not low in fat, don’t get me wrong.  The result here is a thick, rich soup to warm you up on a cold day.


  • 1 1/2 lb chicken breast meat, cut into 1/2″ cubes.
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Garlic, finely minced, to taste. (For me, that’s a lot.  For others, not so much.)
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (about 4 oz).
  • about 1 lb broccoli florets

In a skillet brown the chicken in the oil. You may need to do the chicken in several batches. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside

Briefly saute the garlic in the skillet and add it to the chicken.

In a large saucepan bring the heavy cream to a low boil.

Stir in the cheese until melted.

Add the chicken and garlic to the saucepan.

Cook covered over low heat, stirring frequently, until the chicken is cooked through (about 5-10 minutes)

Add the broccoli and continue to cook another five minutes or until the broccoli is tender just tender.

Serve warm.


Fifty-One Years Ago Today: The Apollo 1 Fire

It was 1967, the race to the moon was in full swing.  Project Gemini with record breaking altitude and endurance feats, orbital missions as long as two weeks and altitudes as high as 873 miles.  They had managed to have one spacecraft rendezvous and dock with another.

Next up was Apollo.  A larger spacecraft holding three rather than two men intended to carry its crew to the moon.

The chosen commander for the first Apollo mission was veteran astronaut Virgil “Gus Grissom” who had flown in the second Mercury mission and commanded the first Gemini mission.  With him were other veteran Edward White, first American to “walk” in space, and newcomer Roger Chaffee.

During early preparation the crew expressed concern about the amount of flammables in the cabin.  Joseph Shea, the program office manager gave the order to remove flammables but did not supervise the removal personally.  In addition more than 700 changes were made to the spacecraft after its arrival at KFC.  Eventually, this work was completed and the craft was given an altitude chamber test with the backup crew (actually a new backup crew after a shakeup in planned operations:  Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham) who pronounced themselves satisfied with the spacecraft and its performance

Ground tests were being conducted during preparation for the planned flight.  On January 27, 1967 the three astronauts were in the capsule for “plugs out” test, where the spacecraft, now sitting atop its Saturn IB launch vehicle, would be checked out on internal power disconnected from the ground umbilicals.

Early in the test, Grissom complained of an odor of sour buttermilk in his suit.  No casue was ever determined for this odor nor was any connection between it and the eventual fire.  During the countdown, the crew experienced communications problems and the countdown was held while those were sorted out.

At just before 6:31 AM the voltage in AC Bus 2 increased momentarily.  Nine seconds later one of the astronauts, some listeners think Grissom, said “Hey!” or “Fire!”  Two more seconds of scuffling then someone (most listeners think Chaffee) said “We’ve (or I’ve) got a fire in the cockpit.”  A few more seconds then another shout of their being a bad fire and they were getting out which ended in a cry of pain.

The fire would have burned all the more fiercely because of the pure oxygen atmosphere of the Apollo spacecraft.

It took five minutes for pad workers to open the hatches to get to the interior of the spacecraft.  By that time it was far too late.  So thick was the smoke that they could not see the astronauts even though the pane lights still shone.  When the smoke cleared, they found the bodies.

In Capsule Twelve, three men were dead.

Grissom had removed his restraints and was lying on the floor of the spacecraft.  White’s restraints were burned through and he had tried to open the hatch.  Chaffee remained strapped into his seat.

Large strands of melted nylon “welded” the astronauts into place.  It took 90 minutes to remove their bodies.

An entire string of factors led to this tragic accident.

  • An ignition source most probably related to “vulnerable wiring carrying spacecraft power” and “vulnerable plumbing carrying a combustible and corrosive coolant”
  • pure oxygen atmosphere at higher than atmospheric pressure
  • cabin sealed with a hatch cover which could not be quickly removed at high pressure
  • An extensive distribution of combustible materials in the cabin
  • Inadequate emergency preparedness (rescue or medical assistance, and crew escape)

Normally, I try to end these with something pithy or clever, but I don’t really have anything for this one except to wish godspeed and fair seas to fallen heroes.  And they were heroes.  They knew they were engaging in a risky endeavor where they faced death.

So, let these two songs express my feelings on the matter:

On This Day: The Black Brandt Rocket Scare

On January 25, 1995 the world almost had a nuclear war.

In 1995, the Cold War was over, ended for all practical purposes with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The threat of a global nuclear war was much reduced.  The world breathed a collective sigh of relief.  Yet that relief proved to be premature.

Although the Soviet Union was no more, Russia and the US retained considerable mistrust of each other.

It was in this environment that Norway launched a scientific sounding rocket on a high, suborbital path to study the Aurora Borealis over the island of Svalbard.

Although Norway had previously announced the flight to over 30 other countries, including Russia, this information was not passed on to the Russian radar technicians.  When the technicians picked up the rocket on radar, flying in the “corridor” that stretched from Minuteman III missile sites to the Russian Capital of Moscow, their immediate impression was that this was an early stage precursor of a US missile attack on Russia.

The rocket, on radar, looked very like a Trident SLBM.  One possibility was that this initial missile was intended to create an EMP to confuse and blind Russian radars and open the way for a more massive attack to follow.

To add to the confusion, the Black Brandt XII, on stage separation, appeared on radar to resemble the separation of MIRVs (Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles) from their carrier in a ballistic missile.

For whatever reason, perhaps equipment difficulties, perhaps simple operator error, the Russian technicians did not immediately detect that the rocket was headed out to sea and not toward Russia.  Of the ten minutes they had to determine whether to launch a retaliatory strike (A Trident Missile from submarines in the Barents Sea could reach mainland Russia in ten minutes), eight were spent determining the trajectory.

An alert was passed up the Russian chain of command, all the way to then President Boris Yeltsin.  For the first time ever he activated his “nuclear keys” in preparation for launching a nuclear retaliation.  Submarine commanders were given the order to stand by and prepare to launch.

Before the final button (metaphorical–the process is more complicated) could be pushed, word reached the decision makers that the rocket was headed on a safe trajectory and was not a threat to Russia.  In the end, the alert was rescinded.

This represents the only known time so far that any nuclear power has activated it’s “nuclear briefcase” in preparation for launching an attack.

Well, that didn’t last.

The “shutdown”, which had so many people in a panic, lasted three days.

It was ridiculous to begin with.  “Deal with DACA*” they screamed, insisting it be dealt with in the spending bill or they’d vote against it and shut down the government.  Well, the Republicans said “no” and the Democrats voted against it and shut down the government.

Even before the final vote was held, the Democrats’ media machine was in action, shifting the blame to the Republicans.  Attempting to shift the blame.  The big argument that I saw was “Republicans have control of the House, the Senate, and the White House, of course they are responsible for this.”

Only that argument didn’t have “legs”. While the talking heads at the major news media might not mention it there were entirely too many people in alternative media pointing out that in the Senate it would take 60 to pass the bill, but only 41 to stop it.  44 Democrats voted against it.  There was nothing except giving in to Democrat demands that the Republicans could do to pass the bill.

There was no immediate hurry to deal with DACA.  There’s time before it expires for Congress to debate and pass a bill on it.  They could have passed this bill and taken up DACA separately.  Instead, 44 Democrats decided to hold government employees, military men and women, and American citizens hostage to their demands for special consideration for non-citizens in this country illegally.

Back in 2013 there was another government shutdown.  Again, the Democrats and the major news media blamed the Republicans for it–with a far easier “sell” than on this one.  They gloated about how they’d made the Republicans look foolish, and taken them down a peg politically.

In 2014 the Republicans not only kept control of the House but took control of the Senate.

The big polls might have been saying one thing but folk who didn’t want to believe them simply looked at them and remarked that these are the same polling organizations that gave Hillary a 98% chance of winning the Presidency, usually with a large electoral college victory (so they weren’t just looking at the popular vote).

So the Democrats came up with a “compromise”–“we’ll pass a continuing resolution if you’re agree to take up DACA as a separate issue”–which the Republicans were willing to do from the start.  But it let them at least claim to have “won” something from their showboating.

I had friends who were going to be materially harmed by the shutdown if it continued.  I certainly winced over that and looked for ways I could help.  But for the shutdown itself, I was kicking back with snacks to watch.

Never interrupt your opponent when he’s making an unforced error.  Gloat, yes, but don’t interrupt.

*Oh, I’ve come to the conclusion that “DACA” actually stands for “Democrats against Citizens of America”.  This shutdown was the clincher.  Prioritizing non-citizens illegally in this country (whether it was of their own choosing or not does not change that) over US citizens and especially those who have pledged their lives in the nation’s service tells me that it is not America and Americans that are uppermost in their concerns.

A personal anecdote

A comment on today’s post over on Mad Genius Club reminded me of a little anecdote.

When I attended the University of Akron, I was the only person to ever be exempted from both the required English courses for a bachelors in the College of Arts & Sciences. First step was to take the second course, with the idea that if I did that and passed with a good enough grade I would get “back credit” towards the degree requirement.

The first assignment was to write a piece about the Declaration of Independance and whether or not it was still relevant. Listening to the other students talk about their pieces I silently screamed in the back of my head, “I’ve got to get out of here!”

As a result, I took my then published material–a few stories sold to Analog and the late Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine (this was before certain information about Ms. Bradley came to light), an article sold to The World & I, and another sold to High Technology Careers–to the department chair and basically got an agreement that “yep, you’re English comp skills are good enough that this course would be redundant. Then he realized that I was doing the “take the second course in the hope of not needing to take the first” approach. He was a little flummoxed by that but in the end went ahead and rolled with it giving me the check marks on the “what’s needed for a degree” for both English comp courses without having to take the courses.

People in the past had been exempted from one or the other of those two courses. I was the first, the only so far as I know, to be exempted from both.