1776

As I have mentioned before, for entertainment purposes I have taken online quizzes on “What Founding Father are you?” First one I took gave a result John Adams.  At the time, I didn’t know much about John Adams.  Vice President under Washington.  Second President.  That was about it.

Sad commentary on the American school system that.

My first real introduction to John Adams as a person was through the character portrayed in the musical 1776, which I still find delightful.  So, here it is for your entertainment and education:

A snippet

Still working on the editing pass through Shiva’s Whisper.  Here’s another snippet


Sheshak brooded in the quarters the humans assigned to him.  He had a proper chair, at least and the sleeping platform would hold him should he decide to sleep–thank the humans for that, but everything else, everything, was wrong.  The light was too dim and red.  The air too thick, rich, and chill.  Two deep breaths and his head would swim.  And the smell, like rotten kalaka.  Humans found the scent pleasant but only years of experience with strangers kept Sheshak from expressing revolt.

He returned his attention to the reader before him, the Book of Jekat, by Shekha the Old.

“There are beings who hunt, and beings who are hunted,” Shekha had written. “The ones who are hunted are prey, the lawful prey of the Eres.  So, too, are those who hunt if the Eres is strong enough, swift enough, clever enough to hunt them.  These are the lawful prey of the Eres, for the Eres truly are those who hunt.

“But the Eres are more than just those who hunt.  They are those who know.  They are those who feel.  They are those who think.

“Eres are not lawful prey of Eres.  Eres do not hunt Eres.  Eres may challenge Eres, but challenge is not hunt.”

Sheshak looked up from the reader.  This he knew from birth.  It lay at the heart of The Way.  Eres do not hunt Eres.

“As a youngling,” Shekha continued, “my Pack Leader told me of the Great Hunt, a hunt across the stars where we would find prey worthy of our mettle.  The Rela with their ferocity, the Deli-sha with their strength, and the Humans with their cunning.”

Sheshak touched tongue to teeth in agreement at those words.  He had heard them in the last Great Hunt.  He still heard them from some.  He sat back and pondered them for a moment.  As leader now of his own pack, the task of guiding them into the future fell to him.  His friendship with Tanaka called in one direction, but the call of blood… He had to be sure.  He read on.

“One day I met the human who would make prey of Eres, the human Yamada.  We had penned him, made him prey in many hunts.  He survived them all.  In time his pack, or as close as humans come to one, recovered him.  Our paths were fated to cross when the ship on which I served took the human ship that carried him.  We sought to hunt the humans.  Instead they hunted us.

“At the last, Yamada stood before me, neither springing as hunter or fleeing as prey.  He spoke to me the words of Jekat.”

Jekat, Sheshak thought.  The “not prey”, but not hunter, exactly either.  They hunt but it is not… Ah, humans were so difficult to comprehend.  He skipped ahead, knowing what he needed to read.

“The humans held me in their pens,” Shekha wrote. “Neither hunting more permitting me to hunt.  I had time to think and I realized, the humans were those that know, those that feel, those that think.  The humans were not lawful prey of Eres.  Once I realized that, it was but a small leap to the Rela and the Deli’sha.  None of those who know, who feel, who think are lawful prey of the Eres.

“It may be that challenge is lawful, but challenge is not hunt.

“This is the way of Jekat.”

“The way of–”

Before Sheshak could complete the sentence, the annunciator buzzer on his door sounded. He shut down the reader and pressed the control that opened the door.

The human female, Coll, stood outside his door.  Sheshak thought he saw wariness in her posture and expression.  Or maybe not.  Human expressions were difficult.

“Captain needs to see you,” she said.

Sheshak rose from the chair. “I follow.”

History

While I had been studying economics a lot recently I decided to make a shift to history.  I’m taking a biographical approach to history, focusing more on individuals and their lives rather than dates and events.  The latter certainly has it’s place but at the moment I want to see more about the people.

I’m starting with John Adams.  I developed an interest in him when I took an online quiz “which founding father are you.” I got “John Adams.” (Other times I’ve taken similar quizzes and usually get either John Adams or Patrick Henry.) I didn’t know much about John Adams at the time except that he was the second US President and a Federalist.  That was pretty much it.  Then I saw the Musical 1776.  The character of John Adams intrigued me. “You’re obnoxious and disliked, John.”

So far I’m only into the first chapter of McCullough’s biography (on audible during my daily commute and other drives) and, yeah, I’m seeing some similarities which would explain those “quiz” results (if they need explanation–they’re generally silly and worthy of no more than entertainment value), mostly in that we share some of the same weaknesses.

The audio book is long, about 30 hours.  As I note, I’m not far into it yet but so far it’s both entertaining and informative.  If you prefer to read rather than listen, it’s available in print and on Kindle.  (The cover image below is for the print edition, click on it to get the book in any of the available formats.)

Breathing

I’m in favor of it.

About 15 years ago, well before I was with my current doctor (the reason for the change is a story in itself), I had a sleep study done. The reason for this was that I spent entirely too much time fighting to stay awake during the day.

The result of the study was that while I did not have apnea (then), I did get blood oxygen desaturation while sleeping. They put me on overnight oxygen (2 l/m) and we rented an oxygen concentrator with a co-pay after insurance of something on the order of $35-40/month

This improved matters but I still struggled to stay awake. So next up, a Multiple Sleep Latency test. I went in the night before. They hooked me up to all their sensors, along with oxygen, to ensure that I get a good night’s sleep. (Like I’m going to sleep well with all those wires hanging off me, but okay.) Then over the course of the day they had me lie down for several brief naps at specific times. The idea was to see whether I slept during them or if I stayed awake.  I slept through every one of the naps. Diagnosis “hypersomnia” (which I tag in my own head as “narcolepsy lite”). Prescribed Provigil to assist in that.

More time passes and that provigil was expensive. I eventually stopped taking it and went back to caffeine to fight off the daytime sleepies.  Can’t stand coffee.  Don’t particularly care for tea.  So I drank, and drink, a lot of caffeinated diet soda.

Years passed. My then wife, now Ex, was getting snippy about the ongoing cost of the oxygen concentrator rental. She wanted to know if it was really necessary. So I had another overnight blood O2 test (home test this time) without the oxygen and I was okay. Oxygen concentrator cancelled.

This brings us to last year. Thanks in part to some of the stuff I’ve heard from friends on social media I approached my doctor about getting another sleep study done. This time they used a home unit and, yep, apnea. Got a CPAP.

As of now my sleep still isn’t as restful as I think it should be–as indicated by the difficulty in getting up in the morning even when I have what should be an adequate amount of sleep time. So I’m talking to my doctor about the possibility that I might need both the CPAP and oxygen. Since I needed oxygen before with no apnea, perhaps I need oxygen even with the apnea corrected by the CPAP. I had some difficulty trying to explain the concern to the doctor–they seemed to have some kind of blind spot about my specific issue:  since I had the blood desaturation problem without apnea I’m concerned that I may still have a blood desaturation problem with apnea corrected.

I think I got it through to them now and they’re looking to see how to get insurance to cover it.

I hope they do.  I’m kind of in favor of this “breathing” thing and would like to continue it.

The Child is the Father to the Man.

I am a member of a minority.  It’s not a minority based on skin color, sexual preference, or fine parsing of gender vs. sex.  It’s not a minority that’s considered “oppressed” and, therefore in need of “protection” by law (although believe me, we certainly have been the target of bullying).

Different subgroups of this minority go by many names:  nerds, geeks, “basket cases,” and misfits among others.  We’re the group that author Sarah A. Hoyt calls “Odds.”  In any large group you’ll generally find us off on our own.  We’re the ones nobody pays attention to, or if attention is paid, we’re the ones being teased (if being kind) or outright bullied (if not).

From no later than first grade I never fit in with the crowd around me.  Add in that I was generally smaller and weaker than my peers (matured late–something I have discussed elsewhere) this meant I was usually picked on and bullied.  My interests were radically different from most of those around me. (I was into space travel, which led me to Science Fiction.  Later that led to fantasy and role playing games.  Yes, I played DnD.) Because I was smaller and weaker and not terribly coordinated and was thus mocked for my lack of sports ability in school, I actively loathed anything to do with sports.

I had maybe five people total over the 13 years of public school who I could honestly call “friend”. (One of the people bullying me was my 2nd grade teacher which, in the end, led to my repeating 2nd grade.  I’d “failed” math and English.  Physicist and professional writer.  I “failed” math and English.)

It was bad.

Growing up only helped a little.  My military career?  Don’t get me started.  (Or go read where I wrote about it elsewhere).  Even college, in the hard sciences didn’t help much.  One of my professors told me “You’re going to have to give up that science fiction stuff if you want to be treated seriously as a scientist.” Considering that I knew several working scientists who were also science fiction writers of some repute, this was…odd.  That he was wrong didn’t change that this was criticism directed at me because I “didn’t fit in” the conventional mold.

The result of all this is massive issues with insecurity that I still struggle with to this day, particularly in social interactions.  Social cues that other people are socialized to learn from a young age?  I never learned them.  And trying to figure them out now?  They’re just confusing–like trying to learn Mandarin from a teacher that only speaks French from a textbook written in Swahili.

And so, I was and remain an odd and one thing social animals such as humans dislike is the “odd” that sticks out.

But an interesting thing about “odds.”  The occasional outlier, an “odd,” persists in existing in all sorts of social animals.  Because, you see, in times of stress that “odd” becomes vital to the survival of the band.  When there’s a drought and food is scarce it’s the odd that, in desperation, tries that berry nobody’s ever tried before (maybe it’s new to the area–seeds brought from the next valley over by birds.  Or whatever).  Maybe the odd just finds the berry to be poisonous and just succeeds in finding a quicker way to die than starvation.  Or maybe the odd has found a new food source for the band.  When a large predator starts munching on the band it’s the odd that first throws a rock at it.  Maybe that just draws the attention of the predator so the odd gets munched first.  Or maybe… Odds do things that nobody else does.  And that leads to them finding answers nobody else finds.

Odds, always rare, usually despised, but important to the long term success and survival of the group when conditions change.  And conditions always change.  And so odds matter.  Society needs odds.

And none of that, not one bit of it, helps when I, an odd, try to deal with “normal” society.

A Late Thanksgiving Dinner

My daughter and I were invited to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving so I did my own thanksgiving cooking today.  Unlike previous times, I didn’t stuff the Turkey.  Instead I cooked the stuffing separately.  I also didn’t do as much with sides as usual.   Just enough to have a nice meal.

So, here’s what we had:

Unstuffed bacon-basted roast turkey.

This one involves a little more prep time than a “standard” unstuffed turkey but you really save effort with the lack of any need to get into the oven and baste the bird.

  • 1 turkey, about 16 lbs.
  • 2 lb bacon

Preheat the oven to 325.  Place the turkey on a rack inside a roasting pan.

Weave most of 1 lb of bacon into a mat.  Spread the bacon mat over the turkey breast. Use the remaining bacon to cover the drumsticks, thighs, and wings.  Don’t stint in using the bacon.  When in doubt, add more.

Put in the oven and cook until the breast meat is 180 (about 4-5 hours).

Really.  It’s that simple.  As the bacon cooks, it’s juices baste the turkey keeping the skin from drying out excessively.  And when you’re done, the bacon itself is an added treat.

Low-carb sausage stuffing.

This is the “regular” recipe.  I upsized it and ended up using enough sausage compared to the other ingredients that it ended up more a meat dish than “stuffing” as a side.

  • 1 lb pork sausage.
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 cup diced portobello mushroom caps
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 Tbsp chicken bouillon powder (or to taste).

In a large skillet crumble and cook the sausage until no longer pink.  Using a slotted spatula remove the sausage to a large mixing bowl leaving the drippings behind.

Cook the onion in the sausage drippings until tender.  Better to leave it a little underdone at this stage.  Transfer the onion to the mixing bowl.

Add the other ingredients to the bowl.  The bouillon powder is to give a “poultry” taste that the stuffing would normally get from being cooked inside the bird.  Mix together well.

Place in a two quart casserole pan.  Put in the oven with the turkey for its last hour of cooking.

Carb-free gravy

This one is ridiculously easy.

  • 1 14 oz can chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp Xantham gum
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pour the chicken stock into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce heat to low and whisk in the xantham gum.  Depending on how thick you like your gravy you may need to adjust the amount of xantham gum for desired thickness.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Port Wine Cranberry Sauce (Sugar Free).

Store had a two lb bag of cranberries available and my daughter and I both love this stuff so I made a whole bunch

  • 2 lb cranberries
  • 2 cup Spenda or similar sweetener
  • 1 cup port wine
  • 1 cup water

Mix all the ingredients into a large saucepan.

Bring to boil over high heat.

Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes to soften the cranberries.

“If it saves just one life…”

Sorry, I got busy yesterday and didn’t get a post up.

The title quote is an argument, along with its close relative “if we don’t do this, people will die” that gets crammed down our throats in order to pass some policy to either pick our pockets or restrict out freedoms.  Don’t you want to save lives?  How heartless can you be?

The problem, of course, is that they never talk about the cost.  This is very much a “the seen vs. the unseen” situation.  Like I brought up elsewhere, that’s a popular argument in the gun control debate.  If banning guns just saves one life… However, what they don’t look at is how many lives banning guns would cost–the crime averted, that never happened, because a person was armed even if the gun was never fired.

When somebody makes a “security” or a “safety” proposal and someone objects to the cost people are suddenly, “how dare you talk about crass economics when people’s lives are at stake!  Any amount of money is worth it to keep people safe.  If it saves just one life…”

Except nobody, given a choice actually acts that way.  Consider anyone who buys a car.  If they were really worried about safety, they’d want a car with an automatic fire suppression system such as that used in Formula One race cars installed.  They’d want a NASCAR qualified roll cage, a five point harness with arm and head restraints.  They’d make sure they wear a Snell certified helmet (current certification) and a flame retardant nomex suit every time they got in that car.  And that’s not even the end of it.  One could add armoring including bullet resistant windows, extra reinforcement against collisions, safety-wiring (another racing trick) every fastener in the car so nothing can possibly shake loose, and so on and so on.  And you can’t blame the auto manufacturers for not providing that safety equipment in the cars they sell.  It’s all available aftermarket if someone thinks his or her own life is worth “any cost.”  Almost nobody does that on the car they drive to and from work and the grocery store.  And anyone who did would be looked at as a kook.

Or look at health.  Yes, people want to be healthy, but how many people keep a year’s supply of bandages on hand, medications against any conceivable malady that might strike, ensure that there are always at least three EMT qualified people at any gathering they attend, make sure that they, themselves are EMT qualified?

There comes a point where people decide that they are safe enough, they are healthy enough, their various risks are low enough that putting more into getting that much more is just not worth it.

Thus, “anything is worth it if it saves just one life” is simply not a valid argument when people don’t even act like that when it’s their own life.

But the failure of that argument does not stop there.  When you’re dealing with scarce resources that have alternative uses, the resources you spend on that are no longer available for doing other things.  While spending resources on this or that can save lives, there’s another thing that can save lives:  prosperity.  People tend to live longer, with better health, in prosperous nations than in poor nations.  Prosperous nations have more hospitals.  The hospitals are better equipped.  They have better transportation and emergency services to get the sick or injured to care more quickly.  They generally have better supplies of food and water.  They have better sanitation.  In cases of natural disasters that same transportation that can get sick and injured to care can also be used to bring relief supplies to the stricken.  And so on and so on and so on.

There are studies that purport to show that X millions of dollars of national income equates to Y lives saved.  The exact numbers are not really my purpose here, just the idea that prosperity also saves lives.

The thing to remember is there are no absolute solutions.  There are only tradeoffs.  And what is “obvious” about a proposal is often only the smallest part of the actual effects.  Like an iceberg, most of the threat lies hidden.

Since we do not live in a perfect world, people will die no matter what we do.  The emotion-laden “cause” which seeks to prevent some people from dying will, almost certainly, lead to other people dying.  And, particularly, “that will hurt the economy” is a valid answer to “if it saves one life” because prosperity also saves lives.

And if you hurt the economy, then people will die.