The Spaewife: A snippet

This is sort-of historical fantasy, a short set in iron age Scandinavia.


The Norns speak to me. Not the great Norns, not Verthandi, Urd, and Skuld. No, I have never been to Urd’s Well, not even in vision. The lesser Norns speak to me, the Norns that follow each man, woman and child and dictate their fate.

The Norns speak to me and they tell me terrible things. I give thanks to the gods that I do not understand most of the things they tell me, for what I do understand is awful enough.

“I brought you here,” the Foul One said, “to tell your futures for me.”

“Where are my children?” I said.

The Foul One’s Norn stood impassive behind him. Although having the form of a woman, as all Norns do, she also resembled the man who was her charge.

The Foul One grinned. “They are safe. I have given them to the keeping of a family that owes homage to me. They will remain safe so long as you do as I bid.”

I drew myself upright. “They will remain safe? As you claimed Sveinna would remain safe if I came with you? You lied.”

The Foul One spread his hands. “Your man–Sveinna you said–would have come for you. And he would have died. The end result would be the same.”

“Sveinna was not a liar,” I said to him. “You are. And now you say my children will be safe? How do I know you do not lie now?”

The Foul One chuckled. “You do not. But you do know this. If you do not do as I bid, I will most certainly kill them. And they shall be three days dying. Or perhaps they are already dead. You would…” He paused. “You do not know. You would not fear so if you did. You have not foreseen their future.”

I sighed. My children’s Norns had not told me of their fate. And I thanked the gods that they had not. For while I had fear, I also had hope. “The Norns speak to me as they will,” I said. “I cannot command them.”

“For your sake,” the Foul One’s voice was soft, almost mild, “and for the sake of your children, you will find a way.” His voice returned to a normal level. “Now tell me, what is the manner of my eventual death?”

I looked past him to his Norn. She laughed but said nothing. I could not direct my anger at her. Frustrated at my true target, I instead spat in the Foul One’s face.

He reached up with his right hand to wipe away the spittle. Then his hand moved in a blur. Pain burst against my right cheek and the next thing I knew I lay face down on the floor. More pain as the toe of the Foul One’s boot collided with my side, just below the ribs. The next kick hit me in the hip. The Foul One reached down and twisted his left hand in my hair, hauling me bodily back to my feet.

He rammed his right fist into my stomach and released my hair. I fell to my hand and knees retching. I spat bile, mixed with blood from where my teeth had cut lips and cheek.

My blood marked the floor.

Again, the Foul One twisted his hand in my hair and hauled me upright. But no more blows fell. “You will answer the question.”

I shifted my eyes from him to his Norn and prepared to endure whatever torments he offered if she did not speak.

“Seventy summers he will see,” the Norn said, “And yet, with a blade in hand will he die.”
I repeated the Norn’s words. The Foul One released me and I fell, to huddle on the floor.

“Behold!” he said. “Seventy summers, then death in battle. A long, full life followed by Valhalla! It is prophesied!”

I wept. Vengeance forever denied me. He would live and I, and my children, what of us?


$2.99 in the Kindle Store

A young mother hears the Norns. They tell her of terrible things to come. When Ulfarr wants her gift of prophesy to serve him, he takes her and steals away her children. Can the young mother escape from Ulfarr’s clutches and save her children from him? Only the Norns know.

Congressional shooting

While practicing for a charity baseball game, GOP congressmen came under fire from a would-be assassin today.  The shooter, identified by police as James Hodkinson of Belleville, IL was injured when Capitol Police providing security at the event returned fire and is reported to have since died of his injuries.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was critically injured in the attack.  As of this writing he has left surgery and remains in critical condition.  Three others also received gunshot injuries:  a capitol police officer, a congressional staffer, and a lobbyist.  Another congressmen and a second capitol police officer suffered ankle injuries in the event. (Earlier reports erroneously listed the second officer’s injuries as being from gunshot.)

Hodkinson appears to have been an advocate of far-left policies and a Bernie Sanders supporter who had specifically singled out Representative Scalise in one of his online diatribes.

It’s disturbing enough to see someone using attempted assassination in this fashion, particularly since it gives every appearance of being an escalation of the violence we have already seen from the ironically named “Antifa” (claiming to be “anti fascist” while engaging in blatantly fascist tactics?) and other groups.

Far worse, however is the responses people have been making to the attack.  From assorted Twitter and Facebook posts:

“So Rep Steve Scalise who once spoke at a white supremacist event hosted by David Duke (google it) was SHOT today in Alexandria”

“If the shooter has a serious health condition then is taking potshots at the GOP house leadership considered self defense?”

“Before you start dropping to your knees to pray for @SteveScalise remember that he’s a racist piece of shit and hateful bigot”

“Alexandria is the direct result of Scalise’s votes and teabagging beliefs. Love Karma.  This is what you vote for trumpsters.”

“Rep Scalise got exactly what he votes for.  Bummer.  Or karma.  Either way good for him.”

“Well the KKK fucker deserved it”

“@SteveScalise was shot in the hip in #AlexandriaVa. It’s as if karma literally bit him in the ass.”

“I don’t care nothing about that shooting in Alexander Virginia oh well karma my people are gunned down all the time by race soldiers”

“Leftist celebrating the shooting.”

“Just heard u were shot today.  To bad u are not dead. Now if only 150 more of u repugnants get it.  They might drain the swamp.”

Fortunately, the reactions are not all bad.

“Our prayers go out for a full recovery of Rep. Scalise, the congressional aids and police who were injured.  We’ve got to stop the violence” Bernie Sanders

“We are pulling for your @SteveScalise.  My heart is with you, the Capitol Police, and everyone who was on the scene.” Chris Murphy

“Unspeakable evil. Pray that Rep Scalise, police officers and everyone else will be okay.” Claire McCaskill.

“This morning, the U.S. Congress suffered a despicable and cowardly attack.  My thoughts and prayers are with Whip Steve Scalise and the others wounded, Capitol Police and staff, and their families. We are profoundly grateful for the heroism of the Capitol Police, whose bravery under fire undoubtedly saved countless lives.  On days like today, there are no Democrats or Republicans, only Americans united in our hopes and prayers for the wounded.” Nancy Pelosi

This is promising, but the others are disturbing.  When coupled with the violence of groups like Antifa they suggest that the US has become polarized to a dangerous extent.  While there have always been some few who were willing to use violence to achieve political goals they have generally been the extreme fringe despised by both sides of the conventional political spectrum.

But what we’re seeing now is more acceptance of the violence.  Oh, few enough are actually engaged in it but we’re seeing more justification of it, more excuses for it, more “they deserved it” about the victims, and more overall acceptance of it.

I fear that if this continues we will soon reach a tipping point, and the results of that will be something nobody wants.  Those who think they can achieve their goals that way will be sadly disillusioned.  The rest of us?  The rest of us can just hope to ride it out, survive, as best we can.

As for me, I simply pray that somewhere down at Urd’s Well the Norns can find within them a tiny drop of pity.

On Belief Redux

This is a somewhat updated version of my earlier On Belief post.
From time to time people make the statement “You can believe what you want.”  This is not the first time I have encountered that idea but it caused me to stop and think.
A classic example of this is Pascal’s Wager:  If you believe in God and are wrong, you lose nothing, but if you don’t believe and are wrong, you end up in Hell.  Thus, to be safe, it is best to believe.  Implicit in that is that one can simply choose whether or not to believe.
Can people really simply choose to believe, or not believe, something?  Or put another way are there really people who can do that because I cannot.I cannot simply decide that, today, I am going to believe in invisible purple unicorns (and you “invisible pink unicorn” types are heretics), nor tomorrow that the purple unicorns have pink polka dots.  I cannot simply choose to believe that the Apollo shots, the Russian robotic sample return missions, and everything else were hoaxes and the Moon really is made of green cheese (despite appearances where a “white cheese” such as Parmesan would be a better fit).  And I cannot simply choose to believe that I’ve got an invisible friend in the sky who made everything and is controlling everything.
Is it a matter of practice?  Do I have to be like the White Queen and work my way up to “believe seven impossible things before breakfast”?  In any case, I can’t just choose to believe something.  I have to be convinced–evidence, logic, a good story, something.

One of the things that one has to understand about me is that I am a scientist both by profession and by inclination.  As a result, I take the position that there is an underlying reality to the Universe and that my job is to try as best I can to learn/understand what that reality might be.  Science, religion, philosophy, Zen Buddhism, all are approaches to attempt to comprehend that underlying reality.  These approaches may be better or worse at moving toward that comprehension (I submit that no one ever has, or probably ever will, completely obtain that comprehension).  They may be closer or wider of the mark.  But the goal is moving toward that comprehension.

Different people, at different times, may have seen parts of that underlying reality.  Others might have been mistaken by what they thought was that underlying reality.  To me, Asatru (More on this later) is the idea that the Germanic/Norse people saw a bit of that underlying reality a bit more clearly than others such that the Germanic/Norse deities are at least a partial description of real powers in the Universe (or possibly a “meta-Universe” of which our observable Universe is but a part).  I do not know if this is so or not.  It might be true, or might not.  But am willing to entertain the idea and explore it seeing if I can find evidence to support it–as I have done with other ideas in the past.

It’s possible that the underlying reality is, in some manner, shaped by our beliefs (I don’t say it’s likely, but it’s possible).  It’s also possible that that underlying reality is supremely indifferent to what or how we believe.  Either way, it is what it is and we seek to find that “what is”.  I find, for the most part, that I approach from the perspective of science (look for patterns, try to determine a “rule” for the pattern, compute what must happen or must not happen if the rule is true, look to see if it does or does not. Boiled down to “how do we know if we’re wrong” and then go look) because I have found it very effective at sorting wheat from chaff as it were.  OTOH, I’ve encountered things that I cannot explain with my current understanding of science and so recognize that there are things that my current understanding of the world, obtained through science, is far from complete.

As Shakespeare put into the mouth of Hamlet, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio.” That, of course, does not mean that any particular fancy one might come up with is one of those “things” and, in fact,  that’s not the way to bet.  As big as the Universe is, it is only (so far as we can tell) one but the possible “might be’s” are endless.  There are simply more ways to be wrong than there are to be right.  Still, our knowledge, both as a species and as individuals, of the way the Universe is is incomplete and we do well to remember that.

One example of the “incomplete” nature of my, personal, understanding comes from my training in the Martial Arts.  Over the years I have studied several martial arts.  One of them was “Togakure-Ryu Ninjutsu” as popularized in the US by Stephen K. Hayes. (I know.  I know.  It was a passing phase, okay.  And not without its benefits even so.)

One part of that training was various “sensitivity drills” designed to open us up to “energies” (quotes because these “energies” do not meet the definition of energy that I know as a physicist) beyond those accessible to our normal senses.  One day, we did a particular drill which involved standing in a circle, about 20 feet across facing away from the center.  One member of the group would stand in the center holding a wooden “training pistol.” He would point the pistol at one of the people at random in the circle and focus his attention on that person as if he meant to attack him.  We were supposed to “feel” the intent and, when we felt it, pivot to face the person in the center.

During the course of the exercise I felt “twitchy” and would jerk my shoulders as if I were about to turn but then I’d go back to my original position.  Then, after several minutes, without any conscious intent on my part I found myself facing the center and there the person was, pointing the wooden gun right at me.

I’m well aware of the kinds of things where a person might pick up on something without realizing it:  seeing a reflection, feeling air pressure from the motion or breath of the person involved, hearing movement, that sort of thing.  There were no reflective objects in the training area.  At a distance of 10 feet I don’t think I would have felt any slight breeze from his motion or his breath, certainly not to the extent of being able to discriminate between his pointing at me or at the next person over.  “Targets” weren’t chosen in sequence so I couldn’t just spot the person next to me turning and know that I’m next.

Was there something that simply cued my physical senses at a “subconscious level” telling me that that was the time to turn?  I don’t know.  I’ve eliminated the obvious ones but who knows what might have been there that I don’t know about.  Or could it have been something else, something that goes beyond, sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell?  I don’t know.

Now, many of my beliefs, the ones that make up “me”, were formed when I was very young.  I believe that falling down hurts because I’ve fallen down a lot and, sure enough, it hurt.  But a lot of my beliefs aren’t so prosaic.  I believe many of the things I believe simply because that’s the way I was brought up in my “formative years” and taught whether by precept or by example, that that’s the way things are, taught by people I had reason to trust (teachers at school, parents, and so forth).  These beliefs are not always logical.  They are not always well supported by evidence.  And the experience may simply be that they’re the ways I saw and I didn’t see other ways.There is a certain reasonableness in believing what one is taught from youth.  Parents, teachers, and to a lesser extent peers, are all people one has reason to trust to some extent.  When all, or even most, of them tell you a thing over the course of years it is natural, it is reasonable, to believe it.  It is not always right, but it is reasonable.  Without new evidence or argument of some sort it appears far less reasonable to pick up a new belief.  If one decides that one cannot accept, cannot believe in, the God with which one was raised, it is not reasonable to simply decide, arbitrarily, that one is going to believe in a flying spaghetti monster, at least it is not for me.  And so I look for experience, evidence, and argument and logic before accepting new beliefs.

An example is religion.  I was raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormon).  Now, the Church has many beliefs but one of the ones that was endemic to my teaching (whether official Church doctrine or not) was Young Earth Creationism, well, slightly modified Young Earth Creationism since one of the Church’s scriptural books “The Pearl of Great Price” contains a description of a planet “Kolob” described as being nearest to “heaven” and for which a single day was 1000 Earth years.  So the “six days” of Creation could have been 6000 years.  However, as I started learning more about science, particularly geology and biology, I learned of a huge body of evidence that the Earth was far older than what I had been taught.

One small piece of that body of evidence was the existence of what geologists call angular unconformities.  This is a case where rock layers, originally horizontal and flat, had been bent or tilted by geologic forces, partially weathered away, and then new layers of sediment laid on top of it to be gradually compressed into rock(1).  This process, to occur naturally, would take a long time indeed, far too long to happen were the Earth only a few thousand years old.

And so, once I started questioning my previously unexamined belief in Young Earth Creationism, I started looking at the totality of my belief in the LDS religion and I soon found that I just didn’t believe it any more.  Too much contradicted the evidence that was available to me.

That did not, however, mean that I was simply going to grab onto any other belief that came my way.  Nor was I going to exclude the possibility of things beyond my understanding, things that could include a “God” or “Gods.” Loss of belief in something does not automatically mean belief in its opposite.  It did, however, put me in a position to consider different beliefs.  I looked at Wicca for a while.  While I do not doubt that many are sincere in their beliefs, I did not find the evidence to support those beliefs compelling.  Nor did I find the idea of reincarnation particularly appealing when I look at the world, do the numbers, and figure the odds of being reborn to a situation better than my current one.  That does not mean it isn’t true–“appealing” and “true” have no necessary relationship–but appealing or not, I did not find the evidence as presented to be compelling.

I looked at Buddhism, Shinto, Hinduism, and various neo-Pagans.  I also looked at various forms of Christianity.  Oh, and I took a brief look at Islam.  I found none of them particularly convincing.  And so my agnosticism remains.

People have tried to present me with what they saw as evidence.  I have had fundamentalist Christians who have invited me to their Church to see people speaking in tongues and the like which, they believed, would convince me of the reality of their version of the Christian God.  They did not appreciate that I could point them to studies on “religious ecstasy” which showed similar effects in a wide variety of contexts and, since it is not limited to their religion is therefore not strong evidence for any particular religious belief.  Others have pointed me to people who have “died and come back” (technically a “near death experience”), but I can point to the work of Dr. Susan Blackmore and others on the neuroscience involved and how the typical “near death” effects can be shown to stem from the biological structure of the brain.

And so my agnosticism remains.

I continued to search in part because humans have a need within them–whether evolutionary or otherwise–for ritual and symbolism.  I did not find anything I could truly believe in but, I did find one form of religion immensely appealing:  Asatru.  As part of my exploration, I read Diane Paxson’s “Essential Asatru” and Greg Shelter’s “Living Asatru” (I have since lost my copy of Shelter’s book and would dearly love to have both of those as ebooks).  One of the things I found most compelling is the idea that “wyrd” is something you build out of accumulated “orlogg.” In short, sin and punishment are not there because of some arbitrary “God says so” but rather are simply the natural result of the accumulation of ones actions.  I also found the “Nine Noble Virtues” which strike me as a far better model for a “good life” than the Ten Commandments (half of which amount to “stroke God’s ego.”) Oh, and it became clear from my readings that these gods, if they did exist, were supremely indifferent to whether or not anyone believed in them.  They didn’t care what you believed.  They only cared what you did.  If a non-believer is looking for a source for ritual and symbolism, what better than in a religion where the gods don’t care whether you believe?

These and other reasons made Asatru very appealing to me.  While being appealing is not, in itself, enough to be convincing for me, it was enough for me to see about giving the practice a chance.  Perhaps, if I gave the religion a chance, the Gods, if they exist, would see fit to provide me with evidence that would convince.

One chance for that came when one of our dogs, a six-month-old puppy, was very sick and was not expected to live much longer.  You have to understand, I am very much a “dog person.” While I’m fond enough of cats, my worship of the canine stops short of idolatry…barely.  Dogs aren’t just “pets” to me they are “furkids” (picked up that term from our regular pet sitter).  My daughter (eight years old at the time of the events–five years ago as of this writing) also loves our dogs dearly.  Now, add to that that we had only shortly before these events lost an old and beloved family pet (who I truly hope is awaiting me at “Rainbow Bridge”) and you see that this was a very traumatic event for our family.  I decided to make an effort.  I purchased a four lb “Engineers Mallet” (similar, in my conception, to what Mjolnir would be) carved Thor’s name into it in Elder Furthank, anointed it with some of my own blood, and sacrificed it into a large nearby body of water asking Thor, if he existed, to “hold his hammer between Trunks and harm” and to intercede with Eir, who Snorri described as the best of physicians among the Gods to grant Trunks healing.  I also offered a bottle of Guinness (Paxson said that “Stout” was a good offering for Thor) to Thor to that end.

Time passed.  Much to the surprise of everyone, including the vet, Trunks perked up and seemed to be healthy and happy.  A couple of months later, the vet said that the ultrasound techs were curious about what had happened since Trunks seemed to be doing so well.  They offered to do a follow-up ultrasound for free and the vet agreed.

The follow up ultrasound was completely normal.  The large internal abscess was gone.  The kidney irregularities were gone.  The spots on the spleen were gone.  I had a perfectly healthy young dog.

Did Thor intercede?  I do not know.  Human and animal bodies are complicated things and seeming miracles can happen from entirely natural causes.  On the other hand, I found the bottle (which I had left on the front porch, behind the railing) in the same place but empty.  Maybe somebody came along and drank it the put the bottle back.  My daughter said that maybe Thor accepted the offering and came and drank it.  I offered another bottle as thanks on the possibility that maybe Thor is real and had accepted the first offering.  That one was found later, in the same place, about half empty.

And five years later, a dog that we truly believed we were on a “death watch” for is still with us, healthy, happy, and active.

So it could be.  By itself, it’s not enough for me to truly believe.  There are other possibilities (including that I’m underestimating how long it would take for the drink to evaporate).  But it’s a start and enough for me to continue my exploration of Asatru.  Who knows, perhaps in time, bits and pieces will come together enough until I find that I truly believe and am no longer simply exploring.

One of my core beliefs is that there is an underlying truth to the Universe. At some level, what is, is, and what is not, is not. Anything else is chaos. And as a scientist I want to know and understand as much as I can of that underlying truth. If part of that truth is that Odin and Thor (by whatever name) are real beings, than I want to know that. If there is something more to human “being” than electrochemical reactions in the complex neurological structure of the brain, I want to know that.

And if none of that is true. Well, while I might be less happy with that knowledge, I still want to know. My quest is for “truth”, whatever it might be. I’m willing to entertain possibilities outside the “conventional” (see above) but in the end, I want to know what is.

Belief is not the same thing as proof. However, even belief, at least for me, has to have something behind it beyond just blind speculation. I don’t believe in invisible pink unicorns or flying spaghetti monsters. I do believe in “dark matter” even though I haven’t observed it and the evidence is rather abstract and mathematical. I don’t need proof to believe, but I do need something to go on.


On the subject of Asatru I have this short you might enjoy:

$2.99 in the Kindle Store

A young mother hears the Norns. They tell her of terrible things to come. When Ulfarr wants her gift of prophesy to serve him, he takes her and steals away her children. Can the young mother escape from Ulfarr’s clutches and save her children from him? Only the Norns know.

What is “Sexy”

I’m going to be talking about my own idiosynchrosies here.  But feel free to give different views in the comments (although keep it reasonably clean).

A couple of days ago, this picture was shared where I saw it on FaceBook (and which I shared):

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For those who don’t “get it” the “What I find sexy” is good “trigger control”.  It comes from Col. Jeff Cooper’s four rules for safe gun handling:

  1. Treat every gun with the respect due a loaded gun.
  2. Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to shoot.
  4. Be sure of your target and what’s behind it.

Almost all gun accidents could be avoided by simply following those four rules every time you handle a firearm.  The thing is that actors and models when handling firearms either on screen or in front of the camera are all the time breaking those rules.  So, a posed picture with the model with her finger ostentatiously not on the trigger is something of a surprise.

A lot of my friends have a strong interest in guns so this inspired some discussion.  A few went “the butt”.  And some went “why not both”.

The discussion got me to thinking, and talking a bit, about what is “sexy” to me.  And this is going to get kind of personal but some candid talk may be of benefit to some other writers out there.

There are two aspects.  One is the “titillation” aspect.  The other is the aesthetic.

For the aesthetic, I’m just not that impressed by the amount of skin exposed or exposing “taboo” areas.  It’s too easy.  Okay, the girl in the picture up there has a bare butt.  So?  The Internet is full of bare butts.  I can see all the bare butts I ever want at no more cost than a few mouse clicks.

Not that I have anything against bare butts, but with all of those out there for all the world to see, they just aren’t anything special to me.  And yes, that applies to breasts and other body parts as well.

This is not to say that a good artist, using pose, framing, light, focus etc. can’t make some truly beautiful art featuring partially or fully nude figures, but that’s not just a matter of bare skin but of creating an overall image of which bare skin is only a part.

For the most part, though, when it comes to a “sexy” aesthetic (beyond pure titillation which I’ll discuss below), I find well crafted and presented fashion to be much more alluring.  Take, for instance this:

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Very little exposed skin and yet I find that one hot picture.  Some might note the tight pants and claim that it’s the next thing to nude but, well, there’s this:

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Again, for me very alluring.  Very sexy.

Then there’s the titilation aspect of “sexy”.  For me it can be complicated.  Allow me to make a bit of an analogy.

Some years back, my daughter was wont to point out Miatas when we were out driving.  I own a Miata and used to drive autocross and they were uncommon enough that she found it interesting to spot them. (She was young.)  When the Miatas were in various colors I would tell her that white Miatas were better.  (Mine is white.) Eventually she asked me why and I said that a car I can drive (like mine) is better than one that I can’t (someone else’s).  I was making the “bird in the hand” point to her but the idea goes beyond that.

Now, this doesn’t mean that the woman I sleep with (my incredibly hot wife–yes, you can envy me the hotness of my wife.  How do I know she’s hot?  I’ve had straight women tell me “Your wife is hot!”) is the only person I find sexy just that…well, you can figure it out.

The big difference between “sexy” and “cars” is that it’s not actually “driving” that’s the issue but rather whether I can “sustain the fantasy.” And that’s where my own interests are rather idiosyncratic (no, not that way you pervert).

Allow me another analogy.  When it comes to things that look approximately like people, there’s a hypothesis that the closer they get to looking like a real person the more attractive they are–to a point.  Then, at a certain point, they start looking weird and evoke feelings of repulsion or disgust, which continues as they get closer to looking like a real person.  Then, as it gets even closer it starts looking attractive again.

For me, the ability to sustain the fantasy is like that.  It’s why strippers never really did much for me.  It’s too “close” to sustain the fantasy.  I own a mirror and I know what my bank balance is.  I am neither buff nor particularly good looking (I don’t stop clocks, I’m no great shakes either), nor wealthy, nor powerful, nor famous.  Nor am I particularly good at social interaction. (Ya think?) There is simply no way that one of those women up on that stage is going to end up in my bed even if I wanted them there (and mostly I don’t) and that knowledge is enough to break the fantasy.  Put a little bit more distance, a little bit less reality and that allows me to sustain the fantasy.

Individually either of those, the aesthetic and the titillation can be a pleasant diversion.  Combine them, however, and you can create something powerful indeed.  And add in the third element of someone you’re actually involved with and….

In any case, it takes a lot more than a bare butt to do that.

 

Feeding the Active Writer: Queso Chicken

This dish requires a bit more preparation than most of my “feeding the active writer” dishes, but I think the results are well worth it.

Ingredients:

  • 4-4 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1/2 to 1″ cubes.
  • 1 16 Oz jar salsa.
  • 1 8 Oz bag shredded “Mexican” cheese.
  • about 2 Tbsp cup Parmesan cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Grease a 2 quart casserole dish.

In a large skillet brown the chicken cubes and transfer them to the casserole.

In a mixing bowl combine the salsa and shredded cheese.  Add it to the casserole dish, squeezing it down into the chicken.

Bake uncovered for 40-50 minutes.

Top with the Parmesan cheese.

Serves about 6.  Enjoy

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Adam West: RIP

(Sorry about no post yesterday.  I just wasn’t feeling well and went to bed early.)

Well, I learned today that Adam West has lost his fight with Leukemia and headed for that Bat Cave in the sky.

West was one of a number of iconic actors that filled my childhood.  The cast of Batman, the cast of Star Trek, John Steed and Emma Peel, Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin, Daniel Boone and Taramingo, a few others.  So many of them are gone now.

When the Batman TV show was on the air I was young.  I didn’t get the camp and humor.  I didn’t have the experience to see how utterly ridiculous the series was.  To me it was real, superhero drama.

As I got older, and caught the show in reruns, that view changed of course.  I still loved it.  Not everything has to be treated with utmost seriousness and we’re allowed to let our hair down and have a little fun sometimes.

I’ve seen a lot of folk turn up their noses at the 60’s Batman series but a good argument can be made that without that show we would never have what came after, not the 80’s Michael Keaton Batman, not Not Chris Nolan’s, and not the Batman of the current DCU.  Nor would we have had some of the best small-screen Batman stories ever:  the continuity that started with Batman The Animated Adventures and continued through Justice League Unlimited (with a side trip into Batman Beyond).

In  addition to the 60’s TV show, West also gave us a less campy, albeit still quite juvenile presentation of Batman in the various 70’s cartoons.

Another memory I have of Adam West was a Thanksgiving special presentation of Mystery Science Theater 3000 dubbed “Turkey Day” where Adam West served as a guest host.  If I remember correctly he part of a “wrapper” around the usual MST3K format, introducing and doing little bits around commercial breaks.  The movie in question that I specifically remember was “Zombie Nightmare” which also featured Adam West as Capt. Tom Churchman.  A really bad movie (well?  It was on MST3K so that follows) but I found it interesting in that it was a return to the pre-Romero idea of Zombies–someone brought back from the dead using Voodoo with enormous strength and being nearly impossible to re-kill. (As opposed to shambling hordes that aren’t all that hard to rekill, just numerous.)

Looking at West’s IMDB page it looks like he had fairly steady work if not a lot of it, at least a couple of roles each year since the production of Batman, many of them in Batman related projects, including various animated series and in many cases playing “himself”.

So it is with sadness that I bid farewell to the Caped Crusader, who showed me that no matter how dark things look now, the good guys will win Next Week.

Same Bat-Time.  Same Bat-Channel.

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Blaming the customer

Lately I’ve been seeing some posts “blaming” millennials for this or that business tanking.  However, that’s not now it works.  Once upon a time companies made money making bustles.  Then fashions changed and look, nary a bustle manufacturer in sight.  Oh, there are a few out there, mainly folk supporting period re-enactors, but it’s a small niche rather than a common fashion.

Robert Heinlein’s first published story “Lifeline” explored this issue.  In the story a man invented a means of determining just how long a person would live.  The idea was that people were continuous in four-dimensional space time and he could send a signal along that line which would echo back from the point of their death which could be read and would tell exactly how far in the future that would be.

Insurance companies, particularly life insurance, immediately objected.  This machine made them obsolete.  Worse, a person could simply not buy life insurance until shortly before the machine said they would die then buy large policies which would then pay out with little in the way of premiums paid into it.  They’d have to shut down business or go bankrupt. (There is in fact, an analogy here with certain issues related to health insurance.)

In the story the insurance companies, and others, sued to have the invention suppressed.  However, the court was having none of it, to wit:

There has grown in the minds of certain groups in this country the idea that just because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with guaranteeing such a profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is supported by neither statute or common law. Neither corporations or individuals have the right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.

The story is rather fanciful, as science fiction stories often are, and the technology is unlikely to ever actually be developed, but it describes issues that businesses, and individuals, must deal with every day in a changing world.

As one person, tired of millennials being blamed for businesses failing put it:

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Look, some of what this person says may be short sighted and based on rather limited experience, but he’s got a point.

If you are not producing a product that people want at a price they are willing to pay, then that’s on you.  Doesn’t matter if you were successful last year, or last week.  Fashions change.  Technology changes.  Alternatives for whatever benefit people got from your product become available.  New competitors arise selling at a lower price.  Whatever.

And it doesn’t matter what you’re “selling”, whether it’s widgets of some kind, a particular skill you have, or “sweat of your brow” labor.  The fact that you were able to sell it before at a certain price is no guarantee that you will be able to sell it at that price today.

In the end, it’s on you.  It does no good to complain about the buyers not wanting your product, or not wanting to pay your prices.   It does no good to complain that someone out there is selling a cheaper version of your product.  It’s on you.

It’s on you to find a way to make your product more attractive.  It’s on you to make your product more competitive on price.  Or it’s on you to find a new product that people are willing to pay for.

So stop whining about people not buying your product and go look for something they will buy.