The Land of Second Chances

Snippet to come later today.  For now this blast from the past:

One of the thing I like best about the US is that, more than just about anyplace else in the world, it’s the land of second/third/fourth/morth chances.  The ability to say “I screwed, up, but I can still make things better” and have that mean something is quintessentially American.

It makes sense, in a way.  So many people originally came to America because they were looking for a second chance.  For one reason or another things weren’t working for them “back home” so they came here for a new start in a new home.  This whole “try again” attitude permeates American culture.  It did, anyway.  Lately it seems to be falling by the wayside.

My own life has been driven by a series of bad choices made on my part and new chances to make better choices.

In High School I never learned to study.  I didn’t need to to “get by” and simple unstructured reading in subjects that interested me was enough to get me “good enough” grades in most of my classes.  But I never learned the discipline of sitting down and studying a particular subject, even one that didn’t particularly interest me at the time, until I’d mastered it.  Bad choice on my part.  Also in High School I never took the time to seriously look for work.  Whether I found it or not, I needed to be looking for it..  This resulted in my having very poor work habits by the time I graduated from school.

But the real bad choice I made in that era was only applying for one college.  It was a religious school, run by the religion I was practicing at the time.  When the local clerical leader essentially vetoed my application (because I wore my hair too long–it touched my ears) I had nowhere else to go.

So I went with “second chance” number one.  I joined the military.  Here I made yet another bad decision.  I originally planned to go into electronics, take whichever job had the longest school (thereby getting as much electronics training as possible), and parlay that into college afterwards.  I let the recruiter talk me into switching to another field.  I would prove remarkably unsuited to that field (thus making a military career out of the question) and it was also almost completely devoid of civilian application so I couldn’t turn military training into a decent civilian job.

Still, I could have put my time in the military to good use.  The military was willing to pay 75% of tuition costs in accredited colleges while served.  Also, the “GI Bill” of the day was voluntary—save up to $2700 for college and the government would match it 2:1.  Bad decision on my part was to not take advantage of either of these.  The only “college” I got from my military tour was from my technical training itself.

So, as the end of my enlistment neared, I got to “second chance” number two.  I applied to college again, several colleges this time.  Each of these colleges, however, required recommendations from high school teachers.  I sent the proper forms back home, to my mother, with lists of teachers to contact.  Once again I made the bad decision of putting my future in the hands of one person . . . who failed me.  She never forwarded the forms.

On returning from the military with no job prospects and no college, I ended up in some menial jobs–bussing tables, washing dishes, that sort of thing–and I got to second chance number three.  I tried again to get into college.  Money was tight even for application fees so I applied to only one college, the state university.  I hand carried the forms to the college, met with various people at the college, and got accepted.  The proposed financial aid package would cover my need and all would be well except . . . bad decision:  I had been spending my money, even at the menial job, as fast as it had been coming in.  I had been working at a resort in Virginia at the time (my State of Residence was Ohio).  The job came with a room and cheap meals.  If I had sucked it in for just one summer–banked my paychecks and lived simply for just one summer all would have been well.  But I didn’t think I needed to.  I had the financial aid package that would cover college, including room and board, so I thought everything would be fine and did not plan for the unexpected.  Naturally, something unexpected happened.  I would not receive part of the financial aid until halfway through the semester.  However, the housing arrangements required payment up front.  No one would grant me a short term loan to cover the gap between needing the money and getting the money.  So no college for me that year.

So I went back to menial work yet again, falling deeper into depression.  That’s when I took second chance number four.  My mother had returned to school in Akron and, when the resort job had ended (they closed for the winter) I moved back there.  I was unemployed, selling plasma for cash, and was walking with a cane because of problems with my knees (since improved).  The knee problem, which meant I couldn’t stand on my feet for long at a time, even prevented me from taking most menial jobs.  I was so depressed that I had largely stopped trying but my mother (whose financial situation as a college student was little better than mine) said she would front the application fee if I would just apply at the local university.  I did.  This time I was accepted.  I found housing I could afford based on the financial aid I would actually be receiving.  I entered the University of Akron majoring in physics.

While I was at school, I learned to study.  I learned to talk to people who actually worked in industry about what I needed to be able to get a job and to act on what they said so that when I graduated I would be able to get a good job.  I then acted on that and got the job.  Once I had the job, I got married.  Once I’d been stably employed for a couple of years I then went looking for a house, one I could afford (even though lenders were urging me to take more based on the “ratios” I had at the time) and would be able to continue paying for even if things took a “downturn” down the road.

I’d like to say that I’ve stopped making bad decisions but it would be a lie.  I still make them.  But when I make them, I have to realize that they are my decisions and it’s up to me to make them right.  I cannot rely on other people to make them for me.  They have their own interests at heart and if they also have mine it’s happy chance, not something on which to count.  My choices are my responsibility.  I can take advice or leave it but in the end it’s my choice.

And so I continue to be employed.  I have a wife and family.  I have a house that is not in imminent danger of foreclosure.  And I did it despite the very many bad decisions I made along the way.  And I did it by recognizing that the bad decisions were bad decisions, that they were my bad decisions not anyone else’s, and that I needed to make better decisions if I wanted to move ahead.

***

Everyone likes a “second chance”.  And second chances feature strongly in the second story in my short collection:  FTI:  Beginnings

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Feeding the active writer 2

I am a type 2 (insulin resistant) diabetic.  I also have a major sweet tooth.  Fortunately, for me, I tolerate a number of artificial sweeteners well.  The problem is most sugar free candies use sweeteners that I do not tolerate so well–“sugar alcohols” (xorbitol, malitol, what have you).  Those cause significant stomach problems if I have more than a very small amount.

So if I want sweets, I have to make them myself.  Fortunately, I have a recipe for a low-carb chocolate fudge that’s both tasty and easy to make.

2 8 oz packs of cream cheese
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar equivalent sucralose
1 tsp vanilla extract.

Soften the cream cheese in a double boiler.  I don’t have a dedicated double boiler so what I do is set a large metal mixing bowl on top of a 2 quart saucepan filled about 1/4 with water.

When the cream cheese is very soft add the remaining ingredients.  Mix together with a large spoon or spatula until smooth and uniform.

Transfer the mixture to an 8X8″ baking dish and press it down to an even layer.

Place the dish into a refrigerator and chill for 1-2 hours until just firm.

Cut the fudge into squares.  I generally cut it into 64 pieces (approximately 1X1″ squares).

Place it back into the refrigerator to firm up overnight.

Keep refrigerated until ready to eat.

This is the basic recipe.  For variety, I can add other things during the mixing stage–chopped nuts, unsweetened shredded coconut, peppermint oil.  The base recipe has about 1 gm of carbs per piece.  The extras can add more so use caution.

If you’re not diabetic or otherwise limiting carbs, feel free to use sugar rather than sucralose.  and if sucralose bothers you but other sweeteners do not, you might try experimenting with them.  I found that sucralose works well for me so I haven’t done much experimenting beyond that.

In any case.  Enjoy.

Before the hyphens came

I am not a fan of country music.  Nothing specific wrong with it, just not my cup of tea.  One thing I will give the genre, though, a number of artists have put out some very good patriotic songs.

So, some time back I went on a quest looking for some rock or metal groups doing patriotic stuff.  Some folk over in another forum pointed me at a group called Madison Rising.  My first introduction was their rock version of The Star Spangled Banner.  Now, I’ve had some people criticize it as just another case of people trying to “personalize” the national anthem but I take a different view which I illustrate with two points:

  1. It’s on my “main” playlist to come up in rotation whenever I’m listening to music.
  2. My daughter (just turned 10) asks to hear it from time to time.

If it gets people who otherwise wouldn’t to listen to the song and pay attention to it, that’s a win in my book.

But it’s another of their songs that I want to talk about today:  “Before the hyphens came.”

So here it is:

My 5 A.M. alarm goes off, I’m rolling out of bed
I turn the TV on, to wake up and clear my head
I catch the news, just in time to view another stirring of the pot
Talks of in-equality, what people need, and forgetting what they’ve got
But in these times of opposition, the prejudice runs deep
Dividing us by heritage is all they ever preach
Chorus:
They tell us that they really care
But to them it’s just a game
‘Cause we were all Americans
before the hyphens came
When people cared ‘bout who you were
and less about your name
‘Cause we were all Americans
Before the hyphens came

Somewhere down along the line, someone had the great idea
to divide us up by heritage, and profit from that fear
But growing up a while back, before these racial trends
Whether immigrant, or white or black, we just called each other friends
And if we spoke an extra language, it was just another way
To pledge allegiance to the flag, God bless the USA
Chorus
So don’t listen to those talking heads
There’s one thing they forgot
That this Sweet Land of Liberty
Should be one big Melting Pot
So take away the hyphens
We’ll all be the same
No more lines betweens us
Together we’ll remain
Forget about your color
Forget about your name
No more lines between us
Cause we are all the same
Chorus

Unfortunately, the nostalgia of the song describes an America that never was.  There was never a time where it was generally true that “we were all Americans, before the hyphens came.”

Even so, there is a big difference between now and then.  Back then, they may not have achieved the ideal.  Irish may have hated Italian, Protestant might have hated Catholic.  In a great irony many of the “whites” hated the “indians” (who were here first).  And everyone hated the Mormons.  But “That this Sweet Land of Liberty Should be one big Melting Pot” was the ideal.  It was the goal we strove for.  While individuals may have wallowed in hatred of others, as a nation we recognized that the divisions between individuals were wrong and weakened us.  As Benjamin Franklin put it in his famous cartoon:  Unite or Die:
And people who came to the US came to be Americans.  Becoming a part of the greater culture was a priority.  And when they became part of our greater culture, the brought a little of their own.  To a very great extent, it was true that “This sweet land of Liberty, should be one big melting pot.”
Nowadays, however, that’s changed.  Assimilation is frowned upon.  People come to the US for economic or other advantage with no intention of becoming “Americans” in any cultural sense.  Oh, sure, there’ve always been some, but there’s been a sea change in the numbers and assimilation is actively discouraged.  And reverse assimiliation, if people of “American Culture” adopt things from others it’s called “cultural appropriation” and people get up in arms about it.
All of that is ridiculous and discards everything that makes America America.  Cultural Appropriation?  That is our culture, to take the best of what we see around us and make it our own.  And it starts with the American people deciding, first and foremost, to be American and not some hyphen.
And so I leave with this musical interlude:

Crossbreed Super Tuck holster

What I got: The Super Tuck holster in black cowhide with optional J clips.
For: Taurus PT1911AR, a full size 1911 with an integral Picatinny rail.
Price: $69.75 ( +$15.00 for natural horsehide) $5.00 for the J clips.

First impressions: Nice build quality. Four holes on either side to adjust the holster height and angle. Molded kydex scabbard to hold the gun. The scabbard is form fitting and recesses slightly into the trigger guard for retention. The instructions that come with the holster explain how to use a blow dryer to soften the kydex to adjust retention or one can send the holster back to Crossbreed for adjustment.

One of the problems I had with finding a good holster was the rail on the Taurus 1911. The rail is wider than is typical on other railed 1911s and finding a holster that fit, between cheap “Uncle Mike’s” or “Gunmate” holsters and very high-end custom gunleather was quite difficult. A quick email to Taurus got a prompt response that they were aware of the issues with the Taurus and could provide a holster to fit.

Crossbreed Super Tuck Front (fully broken in after about 6 months wear)

Rear

Wear and use:

I tried several different positions with this holster and gun, from 1:00 to 5:00. For my body size and shape, carries in front tended to pinch when I bend. 3:00 was comfortable but the handgrip on the pistol jutted out and printed badly. Most people probably wouldn’t notice, but I did and really preferred better concealment.

When I wore the holster in the 4-5 o’clock position, however, the situation changed dramatically. The holder was quite comfortable in that position. The gun was held flat against my back and didn’t protrude. Worn with a shirt untucked or tucked between the holster and the pants it didn’t print.

In this early period when I was trying it out I did, however, encounter several problems.

Problem 1:

While the leather completely covers the space between my body and the pistol, the kydex only covers a portion of the gun. The slide and frame extend out from the front of it. As a result, the finish on the gun is subject to wear as one moves and the clothes rub against the pistol. Personally, I don’t consider this a downcheck. A carry firearm is not a show piece. If one is worried about wear or scratches, better to leave that gun in the safe and carry something a bit more utilitarian.

Related to the coverage problem, I had a problem where the edge of the kydex would wear holes in my pants. This was definitely troublesome. Wearing out my pants in short order is not something I want a holster to do.

I contacted Crossbreed about this (one thing I can say about Crossbreed holsters is that, in my experience, they have great customer service) and received this response:

While I certainly understand your concern, to be honest there have only been a handful of folks who have had this issue that I am aware of. The vast majority of our customers do not experience this and we have well over 40,000 holsters delivered to date. To be honest I suspect when this does occur it’s more of an issue with the individual user. Perhaps it’s the angle you carry your holster/gun at or more likely, how tight you wear your pants. I don’t know these as to be certain answers as I personally have never experienced this issue and know no one personally who has. As far as folks who have reported on this issue, it’s less than 6 or 7 that I can think of. Even if it were 10 or 20 folks, out of over 40,000 that is not enough to blame the design of the holster but rather a time to look at each individual situation for the cause. It is easy to think that if it happens to you it must surely be happening to everyone else, but such is definitely not the case.

While that answer could be self-serving, I don’t think it is. To be honest, after the first few weeks of wear the problem went away. It could be that I had been wearing older pants that were really too tight (I’ve gained a few pounds over the years) and the new ones fit properly and therefore don’t rub so hard, or maybe their was a bur or something at the edge of the kydex that smoothed off with wear. In any case, I am not having the problem any more so while this is something to be aware of, I don’t think it’s any more than a break-in problem, at least not for me.

Problem 2:

I would remove the gun from the holster and find the that safety was off. On further investigation this turned out to be a training issue. When reaching back for the gun I was, without noticing it, brushing the ambi safety on the 1911. A simple change in how I reached for the gun corrected this problem. I suspect I would have had the same problem with any holster worn in the same spot unless it actually covered the safety.

Problem 3:

Sometimes on drawing the gun I would see that the magazine was not locked in place. This usually happened when I had been wearing the holstered gun in my car. This was certainly disconcerting and would have been unconscionable in a holster for defensive carry if it were not resolved.

The clue to what was happening was that it happened when I was wearing the holster in my car. The gun and holster were pressed tight against my back in that position and apparently the pressure was enough to depress the magazine release. When I inspected the holster, I discovered that there was a small dent corresponding to the location of the magazine release.

I continued to try the holster for a while and gradually, that problem went away. Still, I was experimenting with a holster and this problem was potentially serious enough that I would not be able to recommend it if it were left unresolved.

I contacted Crossbreed about this issue too. My proposed solution was to drill a hole in the leather where the magazine release rests to relieve the pressure on it. Their response was as follows:

This is a bit more common, we hear of this issue maybe 10% of the time and the solution is very simple. Instead of cutting a hole in the leather, just moisten the back of the holster in the area where the mag button hits. Do this in an area about the size of a quarter, then using your thumb or a blunt tool, form a divot in the front of the holster where the mag button hits. Once this dries it’ll hold it’s shape and prevent the mag button popping issue, this has not ever failed to cure the problem as far as I know. We don’t do this as standard practice because again, it’s not a common problem, however I might add this tip to the instructions we send out with our holsters.

At a 10% occurrence rate, I would certainly recommend that they warn users about this particular problem and provide the correction instructions.

And that’s really been it. The holster is comfortable, comfortable enough that I’ll generally use it when I’m Open Carrying as well as when I conceal–just tuck the shirt behind the holster rather than between it and the pants. It conceals well. Drawing is easy and is facilitated in that you can adjust the height and angle of the holster. Reholstering one-handed is easy, even in the rather awkward position that works best for me. It’s available at a modest price from a company with excellent customer service. Highly recommended.

Survival Test: Snippet Six

Remember that these snippets are very much draft copy.  They include typos, spelling errors, even places where I changed thoughts in mid sentence.  But, if you can get through that, enjoy.

SURVIVAL TEST
by
David L. Burkhead
CHAPTER TWO (Part Three)

William McIntire, head of one of the three independent quality control teams at O’Neill, tapped at the door in front of him. “Petya? Are you there, Petya?”
The lights in the corridor glowed dimly for the nighttime cycle and the air conditioning ran a little cooler. The air freshener smelled different as well. McIntire wondered if anyone else found these attempts to make the construction shack homelike annoying rather than soothing.
“Go away.” The closed door muffled Petya’s voice.
“Come on. Talk to me.”
“I said ‘go away.'”
“Not a chance, Petya. Not until we talk.”
The door slid aside. “And what have we to talk about?”
Petya stood a bare 160 cm tall and weighed maybe sixty kilos. His wore his solid black hair cut short. He looked almost like a doll next to McIntire’s 185 cm and 100 kilos.
“Plenty, I thought,” McIntire said. “I thought we were friends.”
“Friends?” Petya frowned. “Your people attacked mine.”
Pyotr Maktsutov–everyone called him Petya–one of the two junior engineers on McIntire’s team, was doing a co-op year on exchange from the University of Leningrad. McIntire did not know all the details of the deal but he knew that the contract to deliver materiel to Lunaville had some role in it. Part of the deal required Petya to receive actual experience in space. That meant that McIntire’s team had moved from Earth–getting their data by telemetry from the colony–to the construction shack.
McIntire tried to catch Petya’s eyes but Petya avoided him. “Yeah. I saw the same tape. You know that it was an accident. A stupid, insane accident.”
“Accident?” For all his small size, Petya managed to put surprising energy into his voice. “Bozhe moi, do you know how many people died in that accident?”
“A lot.” McIntire kept his voice soft. “Millions, I guess. And yes, I agree that it’s tragic. But it’s not half as tragic as the stupidity going on right now. The leaders of both countries, mine and yours, are being stupid.” He shook his head. “None of this should be happening.”
Petya remained silent.
Down the hall, another door slid open and someone poked their head out to look at McIntire and Petya. “Keep it down out there. Some folk are trying to sleep.”
“Sorry,” McIntire said to the man and turned back to Petya. “Look, I’m not going to stand out here arguing cases. Can I come in?”
One corner of Petya’s mouth twitched. “Have I any choice?”
McIntire grinned. “Not much.”
As Petya stood aside, McIntire stepped into the room. Petya had a room to himself as one of the benefits of the exchange program. Most of the other junior personnel had to share.
“Please sit down,” Petya said.
With both bunk beds folded against the wall, the compartment barely held enough room for the two chairs. An easel and a half-completed charcoal drawing occupied most of the remaining space.
McIntire leaned close to the sketch. It showed O’Neill in a very early stage of construction. The moon hung in the background and the Rock, the large chunk of silicates connected to the construction shack by tether and around which the shack spun to give them the feeling of gravity, hung in the middle. The construction shack itself added balance in the foreground.
“Careful,” Petya said as McIntire leaned closer.
McIntire jerked back. He glanced over his shoulder at Petya.
Petya smiled. “Charcoal smudges easily. I thought you about to touch it.”
“I won’t,” McIntire said. He sat in one of the chairs. “You okay?” he asked.
Petya sank into the other chair. “I am…uncertain. This war has me confused. You, all of you, should be enemy, yet I cannot make myself believe that.”
“We’re none of us the enemy,” McIntire said. “Not you, not me, none of us. We’re just assorted victims. All of us, casualties of a war that’s not our doing.”
Petya sighed. “I…realize that, I think. Is still hard sometimes.”
“I know. You love your country. It’s home to you.”
Petya nodded. “I know how it must look to you, but Russia has changed much since I was small boy. For my parents Russia was hard land to love, yet love it they did. And now?” He shrugged. “You are right. Is my home.”
McIntire sat in silence a long time. Petya was a good kid. The insanity going on back on Earth did not change that. Finally, he said, “I’d like to keep you on my team. Charles agrees with me. That is, if you feel you can still work with us.” He looked up to catch Petya’s eye.
This time Petya did not avoid McIntire’s gaze. “I would like that, I think.”
“Good,” McIntire clapped him on the shoulder, then he turned serious. “There’s one thing you should realize though.”
“Oh?”
McIntire nodded. “There will be some, not many I hope, who will see you as the enemy. I know that this war’s not your fault, or Russia’s fault, any more than it is mine or America’s, but I don’t think some people will be able to see that clearly.”
“I am not sure I understand,” Petya said. “What do you want me to do?”
“Just stay calm,” McIntire said. “Some people are going to try to make your life hell. For the most part you’ll just have to ride it out. It might be good to stick close to me and Charles whenever possible. Folk will be less likely to give you trouble then.”
“I understand.” He grinned. “I was teenager not too long ago. I suppose that people here can be no worse than Murmansk high school”
“Good man.” McIntire rose to leave.

#

“So what’s the extent of our damage?” Jared Arthurs asked. He had collected the C.A.M.P.E.R. research team in the common room, a combination kitchen, lounge, and game room. The entire crew crowded with him. The temperature had dropped since power had gone off and Jared pulled a jacket over his jumpsuit.
“We’ve lost one of the solar collectors Crystal Gibson said. “The other has some power line damage so we’re still on batteries but I think it’s fixable.
“The external rack is gone entirely,” Wade said. Once he had work to do, his fear had almost entirely disappeared. “It probably took the brunt of whatever hit us.”
Jared nodded.
“The machine shop took some light damage, but we can fix it if we have to. Something punched a hole in our waste tank, but escaping water froze and resealed it. Our sewage is safe.”
Jared nodded at Ralph Moulton.
“We’ve lost the external antennas,” Moulton said. “That leaves us out of radio communications with anybody and everybody.”
Jared nodded again. “Anything else?”
Nobody spoke.
“All right,” he said. “Anybody have any thoughts on what to do now?”
“Can’t we use the escape capsule?” Michelle O’Brien asked. “I mean, this is an emergency and the Shuttle won’t be coming to get us. Will it?”
“No,” Jared said, his voice as calm as he could make it. “No, I don’t think we can expect the Shuttle. The missile defenses are shooting at anything that bears even a passing resemblance to a missile. That’s what hit us in the first place.”
“So we abandon ship,” Michelle said.
“Real smart, Shell,” Crystal said. “We come down through the atmosphere in the emergency capsule, blazing for all the world like a reentering warhead. What happens then I leave as an exercise for the student.”
“Oh,” Michelle said quietly.
Jared gave a mental shake of the head that he very carefully kept away from his muscles. These people were not astronauts, they were machinists. A moment later he gave a half smile. Astronauts or not, they were handling this situation very well.
“All right,” Jared said. “We’re out of touch. We have one week’s supplies, two with the emergency stores. We can’t risk attempting to return to Earth with the emergency capsule. Nor can we expect rescue. What have we got to work with?”
“We can get power back,” Crystal said. “With that, the machine shop will operate again. I don’t know what good that will do us though.”
Jared thought for a moment. “With the machine shop working, can we make some new antennas?”
“Easily” Wade said. “We can give you spinnings of optical quality if you want–bodies of rotation on any pattern you care to name.”
“Not optical quality,” Michelle said. “The laser polisher was on the external rack.”
Jared shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. We don’t need optical quality for radio antennas. He paused for a moment. “That will be our first order of business. With antennas and power, we will be back in touch.”
Relief showed on each of the others’ faces. A job, something constructive to do, made them forget for a time their problems.

END CHAPTER TWO

Feeding the active writer.

I grew up to enjoy good food.  For most of my life, however, living at the edge of poverty, if not flat out in poverty, has meant that the only way I could eat good food is if I cooked it myself using very basic ingredients.

Now, money isn’t so much of a problem.  Oh, I still can’t afford to eat out every day or anything like that but I don’t have to watch every penny when I shop for food and can get a little fancier with the ingredients.  No, these days the problem is time.  Who has time to do fancy cooking?

Oh, that and the fact that I’m on a special diet (low carb . . . really low carb) because I’m diabetic and trying to treat mostly with diet.

Two things help resolve this issue:  my slow cooker and my oven.

So here’s what I do.  On the weekends (I still have a five day a week “day job” so weekends) I’ll roast up a pork loin.  I’ll season it different ways to give me some variety–garlic one time; a “rib rub” another; sage, thyme, and oregano a third, and so on.  That roast is my breakfast for the week.  Every morning I carve of a slice or two and heat it up along with a bread substitute (low carb tortillas or flax-meal muffins), and I’m good to go.

Next, I cook up an entree item in the slow cooker, a ragu or a stew or maybe a shredded meat.  I’ve got a lot of recipes that I use for this.  Once it’s cooled, I divide it up into zipper storage bags and freeze them.  I’ll take one of these packages with me to work every day, add some frozen vegetables that I keep in the freezer at work, and heat up a nice, low carb lunch.  By keeping a variety of vegetables I can mix them up to add a little variety to my lunches.  Also, while I make the lunches in batches, by keeping several different things in the freezer at any given time I can have something different each time.

For suppers, I pull out the stops.  It can be a roast or it can be another one of those slow-cooker items.  Keep this one in the refrigerator and I’m good for the week.

The main thing is what to do with leftovers.  By the end of the week the breakfast roast and whatever I have for supper is getting a bit old.  However, I don’t let it go to waste.  I wrap up leftover roast in aluminum foil and toss it into the deep freezer.  In the event we ever get snowed in or some other emergency arises, well, there we are with some emergency food.  Ragus, stews, and the like that I’d made for supper, I bag and they go into the set for lunches.

And that’s how I keep myself fed with a variety of tasty foods without having to spend either a lot of money or a lot of time.

And here’s a recipe to enjoy:

Zero Carb Flax Bread
Ingredients
2 cups flax seed
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 eggs
5 tablespoons flax oil, coconut oil, or olive oil
1/2 cup water
Directions
Mix all dry ingredients then add the wet. Whisk together and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. This recipe can also be made into muffins: divide batter into muffin pans and bake for about 10-15 minutes.
If you like a sweeter bread you can add a bit of the sweetener of your choice, stevia and sucralose work well for this (provided you tolerate them well).
 

A possible end to Sad Puppies

Larry Correia and others have, in the past, made allegations of bias in Hugo nominations.  The award, in the end, is a popularity contest, but popularity among a generally small and self-selected group:  people who buy Worldcon memberships (and not even all of them).

This year, Larry Correia ran his “sad puppies” campaign. To wit:

And a heads up, it is time for Sad Puppies 2: Rainbow Puppy Lighthouse, The Huggening to begin. For those of you who weren’t readers last year, Sad Puppies 1 was my attempt to poke the humorless literati in the eye by getting MHN a Hugo nomination. When all was said and done, my entire slate for every other category got nominated except for me, and I missed the final 5 best novel noms by a handful of votes, with a final tally that would have put me in the top 3 any previous year. Which is quite the achievement, considering my regular reading audience isn’t exactly the WorldCon type.

Note that this wasn’t just Larry asking his fans to vote for his work (as other authors have done in the past without any fuss) but other books they like too.

Along the way, Larry posted the titles he was voting for, his “slate”:

Best Novel
Warbound, the Grimnoir Chronicles – Larry Correia – Baen
A Few Good Men – Sarah Hoyt – Baen
Novella
The Butcher of Khardov – Dan Wells – Skull Island Expeditions
The Chaplain’s Legacy – Brad Torgersen – Analog
Novellete
The Exchange Officers – Brad Torgersen – Analog
Opera Vita Aeterna – Vox Day – The Last Witchking
Best Fanzine
Elitist Book Reviews – Steve Diamond
Graphic Story
Schlock Mercenary – Howard Tayler
Best Editor Long Form
Toni Weisskopf
Best Editor Short Form
Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Campbell Award
Marko Kloos
Frank Chadwick

Of those, I, personally, have read the novels, the graphic story and am familiar with Ms. Weisskopf’s work.  And all of them I consider very much award worthy.  Given that he’s batting 1000 in the ones for which I am familiar, I have no reason to think the rest are any less worthy.

That makes the “slate” nothing more than a list of good works and editors for people to consider and maybe get behind.

As it happens, the campaign was a success. Schlock Mercenary, it turned out, wasn’t eligible and neither was Marko Kloos.

The final list of nominees:

BEST NOVEL (1595 ballots)
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
  • Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK)
  • Parasite by Mira Grant (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
  • Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia (Baen Books)
  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books)
BEST NOVELLA (847 ballots)
  • The Butcher of Khardov by Dan Wells (Privateer Press)
  • “The Chaplains Legacy” by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
  • “Equoid” by Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
  • Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)
  • “Wakulla Springs” by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (Tor.com, 10-2013)
BEST NOVELETTE (728 ballots)
  • “The Exchange Officers” by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
  • “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
  • “Opera Vita Aeterna” by Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)
  • “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” by Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
  • “The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)
BEST SHORT STORY (865 ballots)
  • “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)
  • “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)
  • “Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
  • “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)
Note: category has 4 nominees due to a 5% requirement under Section 3.8.5 of the WSFS constitution.
BEST RELATED WORK (752 ballots)
  • Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It Edited by Sigrid Ellis & Michael Damian Thomas (Mad Norwegian Press)
  • Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary by Justin Landon & Jared Shurin (Jurassic London)
  • “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative” by Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)
  • Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer, with Jeremy Zerfoss (Abrams Image)
  • Writing Excuses Season 8 by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Jordan Sanderson
BEST GRAPHIC STORY (552 ballots)
  • Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colours by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
  • “The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who” written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Jimmy Broxton (Doctor Who Special 2013, IDW)
  • The Meathouse Man adapted from the story by George R.R. Martin and illustrated by Raya Golden (Jet City Comics)
  • Saga, Volume 2 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  • “Time” by Randall Munroe (XKCD)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM) (995 ballots)
  • Frozen screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
  • Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)
  • Iron Man 3 screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
  • Pacific Rim screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (SHORT FORM) (760 ballots)
  • An Adventure in Space and Time written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Television)
  • The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot written and directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” written by Will Pascoe, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)
Note: category has 6 nominees due to a tie for 5th place.
BEST EDITOR – SHORT FORM (656 ballots)
  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Sheila Williams
BEST EDITOR – LONG FORM (632 ballots)
  • Ginjer Buchanan
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Lee Harris
  • Toni Weisskopf
BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST (624 ballots)
  • Galen Dara
  • Julie Dillon
  • Daniel Dos Santos
  • John Harris
  • John Picacio
  • Fiona Staples
Note: category has 6 nominees due to a tie for 5th place.
BEST SEMIPROZINE (411 ballots)
  • Apex Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore, and Michael Damian Thomas
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
  • Interzone edited by Andy Cox
  • Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton, and Stefan Rudnicki
  • Strange Horizons edited by Niall Harrison, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Sonya Taaffe, Abigail Nussbaum, Rebecca Cross, Anaea Lay, and Shane Gavin
BEST FANZINE (478 ballots)
  • The Book Smugglers edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James
  • A Dribble of Ink edited by Aidan Moher
  • Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
  • Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Lynda E. Rucker, Pete Young, Colin Harris, and Helen J. Montgomery
  • Pornokitsch edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin
BEST FANCAST (396 ballots)
  • The Coode Street Podcast Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (presenters) and Andrew Finch (producer)
  • SF Signal Podcast Patrick Hester
  • The Skiffy and Fanty Show Shaun Duke, Jen Zink, Julia Rios, Paul Weimer, David Annandale, Mike Underwood, and Stina Leicht
  • Tea and Jeopardy Emma Newman
  • Verity! Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • The Writer and the Critic Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
Note: category has 7 nominees due to a tie for 5th place.
BEST FAN WRITER (521 ballots)
  • Liz Bourke
  • Kameron Hurley
  • Foz Meadows
  • Abigail Nussbaum
  • Mark Oshiro
BEST FAN ARTIST (316 ballots)
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Mandie Manzano
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles
  • Sarah Webb
JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER (767 ballots)
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2012 or 2013, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).
  • Wesley Chu
  • Max Gladstone *
  • Ramez Naam *
  • Sofia Samatar *
  • Benjanun Sriduangkaew 

I’ve marked the ones from Sad Puppies in Red. (And, Sorry Larry, but I would have given the nod preferentially to Sarah Hoyt’s A Few Good Men over Warbound if I had to choose.)

Of course, as soon as the results come out, so do the accusations of “cheating” and objections that these books made the ballot.

And on what are those objections based?  Are they based on the quality, or presumed lack thereof, of the books and stories?  Of course not.  The people making the objections by and large haven’t even read the works in question.  Nope.  They are based on the politics (or presumed politics since they often get that wrong as well) of the nominees and nominators, or that people not part of the “in crowd” are actually using the rules, as written, to support art that they value rather than that of the “in crowd.”

And thus do the objectors prove, by their very objections, that Larry Correia was right all along.