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Sad Puppies
This book will not be to everyone's taste.  Strip away the world-building, steampunk, elves, and goblins, and it's a pretty straightforward Bildungsroman -- a coming-of-age story.  I, however, liked it.

Maia, a young Elf lord with some goblin in him (think mixed-race, including status issues on the elf side of the fence), is woken in the middle of the night to find out that he's Emperor. This is not helped by the fact that after his mother died, he's been shuffled off to be raised in the ass-end of nowhere by a vengeful, bitter drunk who pissed off his Imperial Old Man, back in the day.  Anyway, an airship crash that wipes out Dad, brothers, and everyone else ahead of him in the Imperial succession, drops him in the deep end and he has to learn to swim.

Of course, this being a Bildungsroman, he grows into it. He spends a large chunk of the book playing catch-up on all the stuff he missed out on, during the dysfunctional-upbringing phase. He also shocks a lot of people by being a most un-Imperially decent person. There's stumbling blocks, evil stepmothers (including one who's only a couple years older than him, and a brat), nefarious plots, and adapting to life in the Imperial precincts.

Addison's world-building and level of detail vary with distance from the Palace.  The outer lands are painted with the spare strokes of a Japanese artist working with brush and ink. Immediate surroundings are described in enough detail that you can imagine them, without resorting to info-dumps. The bits and pieces of language are thrown in in such a way that I derived some amusement on the side, deducing grammar and syntax and whatnot. The plot moves along, for all that most of it is happening around Maia and in his head.

This one is most emphatically not about exploding spaceships (well, one airship gets blown up, off-camera), or armored armies clashing with sword and spear, or horse-chases, or whatnot. It's still worthwhile as a coming-of-age story.
I'm actually ranking this one between Butcher's Skin Game and Cixin Liu's Three Body Problem.
Sad Puppies
Killing a couple birds with one stone, herewith my Amazon review:
This is NOT a cheap imitation Bolo story. Indeed, it pokes some holes in that 'verse.
ObDisclaimer: I don't claim to be objective. I know Tom. I've been a character in a couple of his
books (yes, he killed me. Along with a whole PT boat full of other IRL fans.). That said, I'll echo
the other reviewers who are saying, this ain't yer typical Kratman. Some will make a big deal about
this being published by Castalia instead of Baen -- as if, perhaps, this one didn't come up to Baen's
standards. Wrong -- It's because Baen is still printing Laumer's Boloverse stories, and this is
anything but.

Starting with "Honor of the Regiment", Laumer's Bolos are quintessential soldiers. They are imbued
with military virtues, esprit de corps, and all that good stuff. The one question that nobody asks in the
Bolo stories, and indeed, very few readers have asked, is how did they get that way? Tom fires up
the cooker and bakes us a similar universe, with his own brand of not-quite-Bolo cybertanks,
called Rathas. In particular, the viewpoint character in this novella is a female-persona Ratha
named Magnolia aka Maggie. Things start out very similar to a Boloverse story, and then the
black-and-white starts giving way to ever-murkier shades of moral gray. By the end, you find out
how (at least in this universe) a baby AI can be turned into a killing machine. It's vaguely
reminiscent of BF Skinner on meth. It is said that one really doesn't want to watch laws, or
sausage, being made. Training a cybertank AI can be similar.

A spoiler -- Maggie finds redemption in the final sentence.

I got this as part of the Hugo packet, and am reviewing what I read, as voting notes.
21st-Jun-2015 10:31 pm - Wickerman Burn 2015: Complete
So: Home, showered, changed, and relaxing.  Because some stuff didn't happen last night, it happened today. That delayed my breaking of camp, and arrival home. When I called home from I-68 at 1930, A predicted to the minute my arrival at 2200.  Anyway, this Wickerman was a good burn.

I had a bit of last-minute packing panic, because last weekend filled up on me and I couldn't get to the locker till Tuesday, for tent, furniture, and whatnot. Wednesday evening, dinner out and gassing up. One of my MASH crew (Wickerman first-aid volunteers) needed a ride. He packed somewhat light, got a ride to BWI, then took the train to Union Station, 3 blocks from my office. Rolled out of work, hit the road, and arrived at Four Quarters at 2130. Checked in, dropped off the first-aid setup at the designated location, and wound up grabbing what looked like the last available spot in car camping.

Both my passenger, S, and I decided to forget putting up tents in the dark and rain.  and went out-and-about to see what was up. Hung out at the Coffee Dragon a bit, schmoozing, then headed bog-ward.  After muchly  interesting times, I headed up-hill at 0400ish. There being a perfectly good first-aid shelter, where I'd dropped off a cot, I crashed there about 0430. As it happened, my minion was already crashed on Sanctuary's floor cushions.  I awoke at 0700 or so.

Up to the Coffee Dragon, to wake up. Then, back to the car to unload and set up. So, there I am, looking around for a more-level spot than right behind my car, which was badly slanted.  Up-hill a tad, folks in the camp there pointed to a spot. Looked good, I set up, and they adopted me into the camp. Camp Debauchery, I love you. I'd pretty much set up as a solo camp the first two years, and then this year, Boom -- taken in.  Burners -- Radical Inclusion doesn't just mean everyone welcome at the Burn. It also means that within the Burn itself, groups can, and frequently do, incorporate those who fall into their proximity.

Made the noon Ranger meeting, and found the signup sheet for my MASH personnel, as well as hooking up with Thor, my co-lead. We had some of our volunteers make that meeting, and guided them to the paper sheet, since the online Google-doc appears to have been less than user-friendly. A bunch of us then finished setting up MASH. That wound up getting moved around a bit, because Sanctuary had a hexayurt on the same covered stage that we were using.  A digression, here, to explain:  At any given burn, there is a possibility of people suffering sensory overload, or emotional overload, or just having a really bad trip. Sanctuary is a safe and (usually quieter) place to unwind, and reconsolidate headspace.

Got in some hands-on helping, here and there. One of my quirks about crew-chief slots at Pennsic was that frequently, I didn't get to treat anything. I did quite a bit of patching up boo-boos at Wickerman. Hell, my first was applying an Ace bandage at about 0300 on Friday morning.  *** Note to self: re-stock on Ace bandages before this weekend. ***

Friday evening, walked a friend down creekside so she could crash before her midnight-to-0400 Ranger shift. Got to talking with some new arrivals, and then realized (a) it was 2130 (b) I was down creek side and (c) the fireworks were going to start.  Another Four Quarters first-time for me -- there is a somewhat obscure, and rather eroded, path, straight from creekside up to the back of the Standing Stones. One of its nicknames is Heart Attack road, because of length and slant.  I was just coming out of the front side of the Stones, and the first piece went off. WIN. On the other hand, I missed getting video of the first few minutes. I thought the fireworks were whiting-out the camera on my phone. Then, during a gap between bursts, I realized (a) the phone's camera had gotten reversed, and (b) I was recording a selfie-vid of my headlamp.

This year's effigy was also built as a DJ podium. Danced a bit, got some video of the thing in stage mode, and scoped out some of the art. Wound up at about 2300, checking in on MASH, and realizing I might want some Zs. Like, finished drinking a Monster, yawning, and having Thor point out that 2-1/2 hours of sleep in the preceding 40 wasn't all that much. Got back to camp, found a bit of bardic fun going on with a friend helping the festivities,  contributed a song, and crashed.

Saturday during the day, was MASHing, fire-safety briefing, lots and lots of get-togethers with old friends, and making new ones.  The pulled-pork BBQ I'd brought to kick in to whichever dinner I'd be hanging around at, was duly appreciated and consumed at Debauchery's evening feed.  Meanwhile, of course, Tropical Storm >> Tropical Depression >> Tropical Bad Mood Bill was bearing down on us.  Just around dark-ish, the downpours began. We'd gotten some flood warnings, but fortunately Sideling Creek decided to behave itself.  It did, however, put a bit of a kibosh on pyromanic festivities.

You can't keep Burners down, though.  Prediction came through that there would be an hour-and-a-half or so gap in the rain.  The big bell at the Stones was rung, helper-types got together for Burn perimeter, the crowd assembled, and the effigy was torched. It went up most amazingly (gots ta edit the video and get it up ASAP), people danced around the fire, and then everybody hauled ass undercover as we got more of Bill. I told Thor that his namesake was being mean to us.  Not to mention, a few lightning strikes where the flash-to-bang lag was uncomfortably close to zero...

Wound up MASHing and hanging out with Sanctuary till around 0100, then, amazingly, got a second night's sleep in a row at a Burn. Must have been the weather.  Awake around 0700, my friend K-dubz outside my tent, calling "Dexter! I've got your tail!". Then I realized (a) that the foxtail had gone byebye off my hat, and (b) she'd found one. Alas, I had to tell her that it was not my tail.  She took that one off to lost-and-found at the Dragon, and I bade mine farewell. It's probably a wild animal's chew-toy now.

The decision had been made to hold Conclave around 1030, concurrent with the Art Burn. There were a couple of major pieces, including one big wood sculpture that the builders had also configured as a port-a-Temple. They walked around with a box of wood blocks and some Sharpies, and had people write down that which they desired to release. Then, it went into the center of their art piece.  No matches necessary -- the pieces were schlepped over and plopped onto the coals of the Effigy.

Meanwhile, at 1045 we had 6 spotters, no spinners. Finally got a few at around 1100.  Josh the fire-safety guy and I, had talked a bit about spinning. I mentioned that a set of practice poi had caused me flashbacks to the times I'd fought morningstar in Markland, and my unfortunate habit of killing myself with the damn thing. Josh said, "Well, I've got a flaming spear you can try out...".  A. Flaming. Spear.  While we were spotting for the other spinners, he sent someone to camp, who fetched it.

I had never to that point, actually handled or played with a lit fire-toy.  I know how to put them out, and put people out who've lit themselves on fire. I have, however, got a bit of experience playing with spears and polearms and such. Bottom line, my first-ever time handling a burning whatever, was SPINNING IN A CONCLAVE.  Someone asked me later if I was afraid, and I said, "Yes, a bit. Afraid of doing something stupid, or worse, looking dumb."  The questions I actually got afterward, were about what martial art I practiced.

Between drying stuff out, Conclave running late, and packing, and whatnot, I got my stuff loaded and packed up MASH way later than I'd thought. I made it back, though.  A couple of flashes -- I'd gifted Matt the effigy builder a handful of my Frostburn firestarters.  They're actually made of the wood shavings you get from the pet store for gerbil cages, soaked in wax. Best compliment I got all weekend was Matt asking if I'd put thermite in them, from the way they went up.  Another flash -- You might be getting dehydrated if... the half-drunk bottle of Gatorade at the bottom of the MASH trash bag looks appealing :-b.

[DW Original]
Sad Puppies

It's been a while since I actually buried my face in a pile of comics or graphic novels. About all I read in that format are webcomics, so I'm a bit out of touch with comics / graphic novels culture as it stands these days. Still, I can read stuff and decide whether I like it or not. Herewith, the four Graphic Story Nominees:

Ms Marvel, Vol 1:
Watching and listening from the outside, Marvel seems to be doing a lot of reboots these days.  In this case, Ms Marvel gets rebooted as a Pakistani-American teenager, who keeps getting grounded for going out and superheroing.  As "origin stories" go, this one is pretty lame. Girl has crisis, announces that she wishes she could do something. Bunch of Avengers or some such do a supernatural-ish pop-up appearance, and Poof-- you're a superhero. Then, she has to figure out what to do with the damn powers.  The plot is ok, there's some humor as she has some bull-in-a-china-shop moments, but they try way too hard to push all the buttons and check all the boxes. Plus, the entire doc is watermarked with a big "HUGO VOTERS PACKET" stamp that makes the frigging thing all-but-illegible. Meh. I'm going to exercise my voter's prerogative, be a pissy little bitch about the watermark, and put it down near the bottom of the ballot.

Rat Queens, Vol 1:
Now, THIS is more like it.  Warning: Not your childhood's comic book. Not unless your kids were reading Playboy at age 6. D&D Quest-style fantasy, with quests being sabotaged right and left by a Sinister Background Plot(tm). Sex is mostly off-camera, violence is in your face. The Rat Queens are one of several [adventurer bands / criminal gangs / hard to tell which] who get sent on a quest, with the incentive being to get themselves out of trouble. The quest goes from bad, to worse, to "F@#$ this, we're hauling ass back to town". That's when they find that the other groups have been getting screwed over as well.  Interesting, and top choice.

Saga, Vol 3:
There's some continuity puzzles, due to missing backstory.  Still, it's decipherable, more or less. You have bad guys and good guys, only "bad" and "good" depend on which side you're on in an interspecies war. Plot's complicated by the main viewpoint characters being a fugitive couple, their interspeciated kid, and some friends. In other words, BOTH sides want their asses, preferably dead.  The artwork, adult-vs-kid level of story, and the somewhat chaotic plot are reminiscent of reading issues of "Heavy Metal" back during my Army days. Or, maybe, seeing the "Heavy Metal" movie, on acid, during my college days.  Second to Rat Queens

Sex Criminals, Vol 1:
BLARGH. Start with a lame and far-fetched premise: A girl finds out that time stops around her, whenever she has an orgasm. She meets a boyfriend, finds he has the same power. In other words, they get their rocks off, everything around them stops, and they get to play infinite-speed-super-Flash. So, they decide to turn to crime. In an attempt to be "noble", they go to rob the bank that is foreclosing on the library where the girl works. They get interrupted by other orgasm-Flash-powered people who are playing cop, and hilarity ensues.  Bottom of the barrel, saving Ms Marvel from that dismal fate.

[DW Original]
Sad Puppies
So far, I've read two pieces in the Related Works category. ObDisclosure, I read them first because I know the authors.

"Why Science Is Never Settled", by Tedd Roberts aka Speaker to Lab Animals is an excellent breakdown of the reasons why you never take Science on faith. Indeed, scientific inquiry is the exact opposite of faith. There will ALWAYS be new data to turn your pet theory on its ear.  Speaker, himself, is a neuroscientist who has peer-reviewed numerous articles, and of course had many of his own reviewed and published.

There's a quick example of the scientific method at work, involving coffee splashing when creamer is added.  There are some great examples of "settled science" getting turned on its ear, and some juicy bits about scientific misfeasance and malfeasance, plus intellectual feuds.

This is an absolute must-read for both the anti-intellectual science-hater, and the Worshipper of the One True Scientific Faith. Or, you could roll it up and whack them with it.   Were it on Amazon, five stars. This, so far, has my top vote.

For Wisdom From My Internet, by Michael Z Williamson, I will begin with my Amazon review:

ObDisclaimer: I know Mike, so not necessarily an objective review.  I'd seen a lot of this book before it was published, since I get a daily dose of this snark from my Facebook wall. This is NOT a book for the faint of heart, overly-serious, or easily-offended.  If you wade into this thing expecting even a little bit of serious commentary, or even coherent satire, don't say I didn't warn you.

An example:  "The back entrance to an Egyptian monument is NOT called a 'Sphinxter'. #IStandCorrected"

This book is MadMike, being the literary equivalent of a shock-jock. Read at your own risk, and for the sake of your keyboard, swallow all beverages before clicking.

5 Stars.

That said, this one will not get my vote for Best Related Work. Yes, Mike's a friend. Yes, I am thoroughly enjoying the book (I pop it up on the phone when I'm bored or stuck somewhere, and grab a few tidbits).

Here's why it doesn't get the vote:  This book is not just a collection of jokes. It IS a joke. MadMike decided to see if something totally thrown together for shits and giggles would sell. He threw a meg and a half of Facebook snark and whatnot at his editrix, Jessica, and she massaged it into book format. He's been amazed at the sales figures he's gotten.

The Hugo nom was also a joke.  Theodore Beale aka Vox Day, Übertroll of the NetPocalypse, put his Rabid Puppies followers up to nominating this.  Just because it's written by an SFF author, does not make it a related work.  Despite my five-star review, which is actually sincere, this goes to the bottom of the ballot.

Sad Puppies
I have, for years, had people exclaim to me, "What? You've never read any Dresden? You HAVE to!"  Never did.  Since the Hugo packet only included an excerpt, I did the same as with Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Justice.  I checked Skin Game out of the library.  Twelve chapters in, I bought the e-book. It's that good.

Since I've never read the preceding 14 books, I had to guess at some of the backstory.  The way Butcher writes, though, he keeps things integrated well enough that you can keep up.

The clash of different interests, of different worlds, of plots and subplots and ongoing story arcs, is amazing.  You have Seelie and Unseelie Fae. You have Greek gods. You have angels, both Godly and Fallen. You have horrendous demons, and ordinary folk rising to the occasion to become heroes. There is sarcasm and in-jokes a-plenty, including a Monty Python and the Holy Grail joke that falls flat, in the middle of a fight for the actual Grail. There's a sociopathic Bigfoot, and bunches of other supernaturals from half-a-dozen folklores an mythologies.

Oh-- and now I know why my friends want me to name the skull that I got as a Yule giftie, "Bob".

On top of which, the writing is noir-detective, so vernacular and unpretentious. The pacing is such that I lost myself in the book, and when I HAD to put it down, I wanted to get back into it as soon as I could.  Of the three novels I've read so far, I would rate Skin Game first, Three Body Problem second, and Ancillary Sword last.  If I post to Amazon, it'll be 5 stars.
Sad Puppies
A different cup of tea from my usual reading fare.  The initial third or so of the book has you wondering, "Okay, where's the sci-fi? This is about the Cultural Revolution."   Then, it takes off.  For an idea of the pacing, think of the launch of a Saturn V. The first few seconds, the thrust builds, and the rocket barely begins to lift. 3-4 seconds in, it's starting to crank up and clearing the gantry. then, the delta-V starts piling on and it hauls ass for orbit.

Ye Wenjie, the character of whom we see the most, starts off as an innocent victim of the Cultural Revolution, watching her father get beaten to death by Red Guards, for "reactionary" thought like agreeing with the Theory of Relativity.  Over the course of the book, she progresses from politically-suspect tech geek, to evil overlord of a cabal that's planning to hand Earth over to an alien invasion in a few centuries.

Contrast with Wang Miao, whose thing is applied physics, and who is working on nanomaterials. He gets drawn in, via a video game.  The game itself starts off looking like a subplot, and indeed is the first place where some SF-type plot actually kicks in.  As things progress, we find a couple of parallels to Ender's Game, in that things are more real than they seem.

The last third of the book is where the real goodies are.  Beaucoup action, "normal" side of Earth versus the evil cabal, an application of nanothread that had me grinning evilly, and someone dealing with a terrorist who's holding a nuke and a deadman switch, about the way I would have. On top of which, you start "seeing" the aliens who are planning to invade Earth. Quite frankly, they're assholes, and I want to see Humankind kick their asses all the way back to Alpha Centauri, in about 4 centuries.

Yes, it starts off slow, but it's worth plodding through the first bit.  Even better, it's book one of a trilogy. Volume 2 is supposed to be coming along in translation, this month or so.  I'm planning to read this year, with a view toward Hugo noms for next year.

Were I rating this on Amazon, we're talking 4 to 5 stars.

[DW Original]
Sad Puppies
So, I'm reading my way through the Hugo packet. Since Ann Leckie's publisher saw fit to only include sample chapters, I checked this year's nominee and last year's winner out of the library. Due to the vagaries of availability, I read the sequel first.

Ancillary Sword, this year's nominee, gets an "Eh..." from me.  The craftsmanship is good. She does a lot of complex world-building (in retrospect, the heavy lifting was in Justice), and paints a lot of intricate details on culture and society.  You can see the scenery in your mind's eye, from the descriptions. The problem is, that you're halfway through the book before anything actually happens.

At that point, someone gets shot on a space station. The problem is, it doesn't actually advance the plot, because there isn't that much plot going. The shootee / cadaver is an emissary from an alien race, who's got a rather odd viewpoint on the universe, but doesn't materially impinge on the story.  Breq, the protagonist, then has to go through some  elaborate purification and mourning rituals down-planet. Cue up more fancy world-building and culture-smithing. Finally, some more stuff happens, and she relieves another ship captain for corruption. Meh. I mean, this is a book where the smashing of a 3,000 year old tea set by a spoiled brat, gets equal billing with a bomb going off.

What I'm seeing could be one of several things.  Second book of a trilogy, but a worse flop-down / dull backgrounder than the Two Towers, in the Ring Trilogy.  Or, Leckie just wrote a sequel because she had this universe laying around, might as well use it -- except she shot her wad on the first book (see below). This also might possibly be the second novel in a longer series. If so, it serves as an interlude in a story arc, rather than something like a standalone. If / when Ancillary Mercy (yes, the title's that predictable) comes out this year or next, I'll check it out when the library gets a copy. Meanwhile, I finally finished Sword, and the library pinged me to let me know that Ancillary Justice was in.

I can actually see how this book won the Hugo. If I'd been voting last year, I'd have voted for Larry Correia's Warbound, but Ancillary Justice is actually pretty good. The world-building / culture depiction gets sandwiched in between bits of an actual plot. In fact, there's three chronologically different subplots that twine together to create the climax.  Breq, the protagonist, has her interesting points -- like she's not even human. She's the last remaining fragment of a starship AI, and she's pissed at the Lord of the Galactic Empire she belongs to. This gets interesting as the plot goes on, since said Galactic Empire, the Radch (denizens of it being Radchaai), is a bit of totalitarian nastiness along the lines of Imperial-phase Rome, or the Soviet Union.

Also, shooting the Lord of the Radch in the face doesn't do a whole lot of good,  since there are thousands of her. What Breq does succeed at, however, is triggering a civil war between bits of the Lord. Fun and games, indeed.   Incidentally, note that I said "Lord" and "her".  Ms Leckie apparently took seriously, that UK sci-fi editorial a couple-three years ago, calling for "an end to binary gender in SFF".  Radchaai, the language, has only one human pronoun, "she".  There is, in both books, exactly one sentence where, if you don't miss it, Breq mentions that her sidekick in all this is male.  Frankly, the non-binary-gender thing is a gimmick.  Doesn't actually add much to the plot of either Justice or Sword.

In summary, if I bother to post a review to Amazon, Ancillary Justice will get 3-4 stars. Ancillary Sword, 2.

[DW Original]
11th-Apr-2015 10:00 pm - Weighing in on the Hugos
Okay, so I posted a comment over on Mary Robinette Kowal's blog, about Sad Puppies. It got kind of long-winded.   In fact, I decided it might as well be my jump-in, on here.

Some dude named Ian Monroe said, in part:
"I personally have a lot more cynicism about the SP voters, in that it’s not they are ‘new’ to fandom, but they have an interest in fandom. The SP leaders actively hate fandom and I suspect so does the Joe Sad Puppy. However I’d be happy to be proved wrong on this. You are really giving them the benefit of the doubt and I respect that."

Respondit me:
Hi, there.
I think I can qualify as Joe Sad Puppy, since (a) I’m not a leader thereof, but (b) I’ve picked up a supporting membership specifically to join the fray. I’ve also already picked up an attending membership for MidWestCon next year.

I don’t know Brad Torgersen personally, but have known Larry Correia for several years. Vox Day has nothing to do with SP, and decided to tag Rabid Puppies onto the argument for, as near as I can tell, grins and giggles.

I don’t hate “fandom”. As of this spring, I’ve been reading SF/F for fifty years, since I picked up “Red Planet” in first grade. My first exposure to organized fandom was a bunch of us crashing Worldcon, Labor Day weekend before I started college. I started legitimately attending cons about 25 years ago. I’ve volunteered at most of the cons I’ve attended, I’ve attended panels, worked hall tables, cosplayed, done the whole thing. Haven’t been to a Worldcon since 1974, but see above re: this year and next.

So, I’ve been a fan since before a lot of the WorldCon insiders were born, been attending cons for 25 years, been into everything from reading, to Star Trek (original series, thankyouverymuch — watched it on its first run), been a gamer, cosplayed, and have even been red-shirted by authors. For that matter, I’ve actually survived being a character in a John Ringo book. So, any of y’all, TELL me, I dare you, that I’m not a “trufan” or a member of fandom.

I just picked up “Ancillary Sword” from the library, since I’ve heard that Leckie’s publisher doesn’t include e-copies in voter packets. I’ll be blogging my opinions of the works on this year’s ballot, as I read them. I will say that I read the sample chapters available on Amazon for “Ancillary Justice”, and wasn’t impressed. We shall see.

The whole point of Sad Puppies isn’t to get “conservatives” on the ballot. It’s not racism, misogyny, or any of that crap that someone spewed verbatim to half-a-dozen media outlets. Larry’s perception (borne out by the reaction to SP 1 and SP 2, in my opinion) was that there was a lock on the Hugos, in the hands of people who didn’t care about Story. Things were being nominated, not for their quality, but for the demographics of the author — race, sex, identity, and political orientation.

The object of Sad Puppies is to break the lock. I have a bet with myself, as to what this year will do to WorldCon’s membership. Given that the variable costs of electronic materials packets are about zero, I’m thinking that $30 to $35 of that $40 is free money to the Con.

If “Ancillary Sword” is the best novel I read between now and June, I’ll vote for it. It’s got a high bar to top, though. Larry C turned down the nomination for “Monster Hunter: Nemesis”. I read “Nemesis” about 4 months before it came out in hardback, and it’s one of my benchmark books for 2014. I’ll read “Sword”, and everything else on the ballot. May the best book win.

I already know one piece, by a fairly close friend, that I’m not likely to vote for. It’s down-ballot in another category, but I happen to know that the only reason he published it was for laughs. With the exception of a couple of authors whom I know personally, I’m not actually sure what’s on the SP ballot. I haven’t read it. I still consider myself an SP supporter, because the MAJOR principle of Sad Puppyhood is Story Over All.

28th-Dec-2014 03:33 pm - Meditations on Mincemeat

2015's supply of mincemeat pie filling is in the crocks. I've had boil-overs in years past, so I split this batch into both pots. The usual meat content is 3-4 pounds of 70-30 hamburger, because it's damn near impossible to find suet any more, and it needs the fat content. Well, I scored some suet a while back, and it's been sitting in the freezer awaiting this day.  Freed from the need for 70/30 burger, I got a wild hair up. This year's batch only owes its fat content to beef. The rest of it is 3 pounds of ground bison.  Yes. I'm making pie filling out of BUFFALO.  There's an old SCA filk that I can't remember, but has the line in it, "There's raisins in the main dish, and meat in the dessert..." Yep.

Herein the reflection / meditation:  I am surrounded by artistic people. I've never thought of myself, as an artist, though. I have a bunch of skills, but have never felt particularly touchy-feely-expressive about it. Last year's Temple project for Frostburn was a departure for me. I needed to get something out of my head, and for a Burner that frequently expresses itself in Temples.  Others get a vision of a structure, and its beauty. I began with the purpose: Build a structure where people can scribble their mental / emotional / spiritual baggage on the walls, or in a couple of blank notebooks, and then torch it.  From Purpose, I went to Design and Practice. In other words, I engineered it.

This coming February, at Frostburn, we will be in a new venue. One of the hazards is that there's no access to a heated, or heatable, building wherein to park those who might need to be saved from the cold.  I have the beginnings of such a set-up. The issue is insulation and heating. A couple of suggestions from friends, put me on the path. Between now and then, my sewing machine is coming out.  I'll be doing insulated walls for my EZ-Up.  It occurred to me as I was slicing apples, that this too is Art, in its own way.

To go where I have not been, to make what I have not made, to apply skill to problems, to tweak and adjust a design to suit myself: This is my Art. I don't know that I'd actually call myself an Artist(tm).  But things like mincemeat, chili cook-offs, and Ranger/Medic HQs are, I guess, creative.

[DW Original]

Rudyard Kipling

A Song to Mithras

Hymn of the XXX Legion: circa A.D. 350
"On the Great Wall" - Puck of Pook's Hill
Mithras, God of the Morning, our trumpets waken the Wall!
“Rome is above the Nations, but thou art over all!”
Now as the names are answered, and the guards are marched away,
Mithras, also a soldier, give us strength for the day!

Mithras, God of the Noontide, the heather swims in the heat.
Our helmets scorch our foreheads, our sandals burn our feet.
Now in the ungirt hour – now lest we blink and drowse,
Mithras, also a soldier, keep us true to our vows!

Mithras, God of the Sunset, low on the Western main –
Thou descending immortal, immortal to rise again!
Now when the watch is ended, now when the wine is drawn,
Mithras, also a soldier, keep us pure till the dawn!

Mithras, God of the Midnight, here where the great Bull dies,
Look on Thy children in darkness. Oh, take our sacrifice!
Many roads Thou hast fashioned – all of them lead to Light!
Mithras, also a soldier, teach us to die aright.
[DW Original]
4th-Mar-2014 08:01 pm - BURN
Okay, the mental dust has settled somewhat, and I'm going over and recapping my funsie-trip three weekends ago.  This is, for the most part, just highlights. Burns tend to blur in the brain both during, and after.

Did a whole bunch of planning, and worked on the art project I was bringing, several weekends before. Plan A was to rent a Uhaul trailer, snag it early Thursday morning, and then drop back by the house to snag the big stuff.  Looking at the weather forecast for Thursday (that's Feb 13), I cancelled the Uhaul rental on Tuesday afternoon.   Loaded the car (got up at 0600, took 2-1/2 hours to load) on Wednesday morning.  The art project was a bit on the top-heavy side, but I made it.  Did have to pull the firebowl off my roof for the garage -- it tried to take out a sprinkler.

Left work as usual, and at 1830 while on 66, the snow started. About 2 hours earlier than predicted, of course.  Dashed home, snagged  a couple of forgotten items, and hauled ass for Martinsburg.  Checked in at 2100, with a couple inches on the ground already. Slept in until 0730 or so, to have daylight for the trip. Good thing I'd brought the snow shovel and Squeeper -- had to shovel my way from the motel room door, to the car door.  Packed, loaded, and hit the road by about 0800.  The 4-wheel drive got a workout, just leaving the hotel -- about 12-14 inches' worth on the spots that were unplowed, plowed driveway had 6 or 8.

I did not do my usual backroad shortcut thing. 81 to Hagerstown to 70 to Breezewood, in theory. Except for the mile-long backup on 70 due to a semitrailer crash.  Hopped off on US40 to Hancock.  Didn't have any issues with Town Hill, got into Breezewood just fine.  Turnpike was iffy, so went on US30 to get to 99. Plus, I needed to shop for some last-minute stuffs. 99 to 332 to Phillipsburg to Brookville, and I don't think I ever got above 50. 3-1/2 hour trip took more like 7 hours.

Finally, got the big "Welcome Home!" at Gate. Lots of hugs, and scored my cool Frostburn Medic badge. Wandered up to the Barn and snagged a staff radio, announced my presence. Made it up the hill, to where 10-Pint Men were set.  Of course, afternoon was wearing on.  Our host, proprietor of Camp Kevin, had been plowing out roads all over the hill for camps.  He dug out a spot for my tent, and a place to unload the Temple kit, but by that time it was a bit late for a wall tent. I put up my pop-up survival tent, and set my lesser air mattress and sleeping bags inside.  Rather than bother with fancy stuff, I fired up the car, turned on the heat, and scarfed an emergency ration (aka nuke-a-lunch) from my survival supplies.

1900 or so, fed, and stocked with energy drinks and whatnot, trekked up the hill to spend the evening at Habitat for Insanity. You gotta love a place where the space heater is a work of art.  Two 55-gallon drums on their sides, one above the other. Lower drum is a wood stove, upper drum is a heat exchanger. WITH, mind you, auto-engine exhaust manifolds serving as air conduits.   My major activity for the evening was hanging out and schmoozing.   My cousin Bee and her boyfriend made it to camp about 2300, after a hairy trip from Baltimore.  They'd already been up earlier in the week, because he was the Effigy Builder.   Bunches of good music, as well.  I had to make sure the radio was on at midnight, because I had Sober Staff Duty from midnight to 6.

Coming out of Habitat, it was like daylight:  Huge full moon, clear sky full of stars, and the world covered in white and reflecting the moonlight. Wandered a bit, then headed down to camp, set the radio to the zzz frequency, and crashed.  Found out some things, though.  The Survival Pop-Up Pyramid lets in a LOT of snow. It's also a pain to get boots on inside.  My sleeping bags (fleece inside poncho liner inside mummy bag) worked, though. Air mattress let me down, but better than on cold ground. Up and out by 0830, and sat in the car thawing, munching E-rats, and taking notes.

For the tent, I began by setting the dog-screws that I use for stakes. Then, I strung the rope that went to the side-loop carabiners. Assembled the frame, sans legs.  A young lady whom I'd helped with her tent, came over and assisted me in unrolling mine over the frame. Legs up, rope hooked, and ready for Phase 2.  In the spirit of laziness, I figured I'd get the tent up, THEN use the snow shovel to level only those spots that needed it.  Laid out and staked the tarp floor, and moved in.  I got a two-burner tank-top heater last year. This year I brought a full tank, and a partial. I'd also spent $12 or so on a plastic D-battery fan from WalMart.  Best twelve bucks I'd spent in years. At full crank, with the fan on high, I got the tent up to 80 degrees. Useful later on in the weekend for taking a Playa bath when I was feeling grubby.

The Temple construction didn't quite match my original concept drawing. I was a bit off on the math for the number of boards needed. However, it did go up, and did work. Walls were about 6" low, but it worked. Only place that really needed a lot of help, was 4 people to put the roof on.  Had an odd board, which wound up becoming a door-lintel.

The theme, "Vale Lazaretta", was a goodbye and release-of-attachment to the car I'd wrecked in October.  I'd planned on a platform, with a model of the car.  Instead, I tagged the wall with "VALE" and a silhouette.  The "altar" was a tight-laid stack of firewood, with a red cloth over it. On that, I placed a couple of notebooks and a stack of Sharpies. My own piece, I said on page 1 of one of the books.

Didn't get further up-hill than the Temple until about 2000. Meanwhile, the neighbors had set up their camp, and my campmates arrived and set up.  The neighbors fired up generators, and we had Techno and Trance music for the duration.  I've slept through 8-inch howitzers firing over my head. Trance rock next door, meh. I put a trio of battery-operated glowies in the Temple, to attract nighttime attention. Except, of course, some conservation minded soul switched them off. Ah, well. They worked Saturday and Sunday nights.

My fellow Medic, RumRunner (who is in charge of first aid at Playa Del Fuego) arrived Friday. He'd brought his EZ-Up with woodstove for a warm fixed-point first-aid area. TomP, who'd done the logistics-and-planning side of Medical before the Burn, brought chili for the Medics' meet-and-greet on Saturday.

Back to Habitat, till about 0100. Conversation, schmoozing, pizza, bit of ice cream. A guy was doing interesting things with beer floats. I had a float-hold-the-beer-I'm-on-duty-please, aka ice cream by itself. I also got introduced to spiced mangos -- bite sized bits with, I think, Garam Masala.   Swung by Bat Country's new bar, for the one brief bit that I hung out there.  The new bar is more modest in size, but is slot-and-groove construction so it breaks down flat. It's slightly curved, so that when emptied of booze and turned onto its front, it becomes a 4-person see-saw. With a long enough, and flexible enough, propane hose, you can leave the flames turned on and have a FLAMING seesaw.

Our camp eats really well. Norwegian Peasant Stew, meat pies, pizza, breakfast was French toast with bananas foster topping.  Also, medieval Spanish beef.   There was so much food out, that the Brunswick Stew I'd brought didn't get touched.   I donated it to Man Camp on Sunday night, because they were feeding people.

Saturday, the Artillery Mocha coffee bar got lots of play. Hot, caffeinated (or not), people stopped in.  Had one guy come in for a cup of tea. While talking, he asked if I'd ever smoked a certain drug, and I said no. I asked about the effects (he'd done a LOT of it), and he said it was indescribable in words. He then unlimbered his guitar, and played me a piece he'd written to describe it.  Even to my non-drugged brain, the music did convey the feelings he was trying to describe. One of those odd moments that can only happen at a Burn.

I didn't realize that the Miss Frostburn Pageant where I'd been a judge, in 2011, was the first such pageant. Cool stuff. The judges' panel this year was mostly the three previous winners, plus a couple of staff types.  Highlights included a friend who does aerial silk work, doing a trapeze act; a howlingly funny guy competing as Miss Sparkle Pony; and the eventual winner, with a great musical number. I could have lived without the male stripper.

We kept the home fires burning well around camp -- our camp always gets LOTS of wood. We're also good at lighting it. Every year, I save up all the wax from our house candles.  Right before Frostburn, I comine the wax in a double boiler, with those wood shavings they use for litter in rodent cages. Scoop into paper bags, and you get small bricks of accelerant that my campmates call Nuclear Fire Starters.   The constant fire and lots of wood purchase also meant lots of hot dogs, Smores, and things like dutch-oven pizza.  I didn't get any takers for Medieval dancing this year -- maybe next. Had the boombox, had the tunes, it was there if folks had wanted to. The keg of cider was, however, popular with the drinkers.

I didn't realize it was Bee's boyfriend who had conceived and built the Effigy, until I went to help him prime it up with some accelerants.  This year's piece, which he titled the Frostburn Totem, did look like an abstract totem pole. With its agglomeration of rope, burlap, cable spools looking like barrels, and spars, I thought that it was also evocative of the 2013 Burning Man theme, Cargo Cult.  Even more cool, he had guys with a genny / laptop / projector, putting animated totem-pole faces on it, up till the fire conclave.  I took perimeter guard, since that's what I do. Really easy when you've got a big circular plow-zone:  "Hi, come on over, the safe area is this side of the plow drift."  Even cooler, he spun fire in the Conclave, then used his torches to light the Effigy.

Hung out in Habitat for the most part, rest of the evening.  The V-Spot was chilly, Bike Camp was occupied, and the Sweat Lodge would have swallowed me up if I'd gone in. Wound up finishing my gear-up in Man Camp, then off to bed.

0530 Sunday morning, was presented with a test.  CONDITION:  space heater out, tank empty, bladder full. Task: Change tanks and relight burner. Task: Pee  Standard:  Change tank, relight burner, before pissing myself.  Standard:  Jump out back of tent, make yellow snow, get back in front of burner before freezing dick off.  Evaluation:  Tank change and re-light accomplished in <1 minute.  Arrived back in front of burner, after pee mission, with all appendages unfrozen. Grade: Pass.

My radio finally died, so I went to the Barn, to get a fresh one.  Got some pics of Kevin's ZombieTrac -- a Geo Tracker with the wheels replaced by treads.  I also got to play a bit of Riskee Ball with the setup that Totenkitten had put by the barn.   A lot of Ten Pint Men packed out on Sunday, leaving me with one campmate who's Frostburn staff.  Our campmate J left his wooden noggin again. Hopefully this year we'll get it back to him before the last day of Pennsic.

Sunday evening: I was going to close the Temple 3 hours before ignition, to prep for the Burn.  Rather, I broadcast a last call at 1600, then actually started burn prep at 1800.  Three fire lays equidistant around the hexagonal structure.  A nuclear starter at the bottom, then scrap from the temple board cutouts, marinated all day in tiki-torch oil. Finally, a partial bottle of tiki oil mixed with a quart of white gas, and split into the three accelerant containers for inclusion in the three fire lays.  On the fire lay that had been the altar, I placed the notebooks, and envelopes of feelings given to me by some friends.  At 1900, I lit the flares for the Burn.

Back up to Habitat, the highlight of which was singing karaoke in the V-Spot.  I did shots of water rather than Kamikazes, but then I didn't need to do any recreational substances in order to sing some Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin (Paranoid and Black Dog, respectively).

Monday, packing out. Combine ADD with things like defrosting a frozen stew pot, helping others to pack, checking for MOOP, and so foth, and I was one of the last ones out (like, 1700).  I, however, unlike many others, drove out without needing a tow. I also had to deal with a pile  of ice in my driver's seat. I thought, "WTF? I did NOT leave a door or window open in the car last night."  Then, I saw the Monster drink can lying on its side. Pointing at the driver's door. With its top blown off by the freezing beverage.  In all, four cans were sacrificed to the Fire Gods and turned to aluminum oxide.

Gas-and-bladder stop in Brookville, with dinner being a Sheetz sub.  Rolled down 36 to 119 to Greensburg where I'd reserved a motel room. Sleep deprivation kicked in, so I chugged a Monster and a couple of 5-Hour shots on the way.  Checked into the motel, and crashed hard.  Monday morning, up, out, and scrub a last parting shot of Wintry  Mix from the car before heading home.

All in all, a great Burn.

[DW Original]
SCA friends will know of what I speak, others, ping me if you want an explanation:

To:  Board of Directors, SCA, Inc
cc: Various lists

Re:  Proposal to De-Warrant the Chirurgeonate

My Lords and Ladies of the Board of Directors, Greetings!

Those of you who know me personally, can attest to your colleagues that I can be a nasty, cynical, and jaded curmudgeon.  Thus, it will probably come as no surprise that I harbor a sneaking suspicion, that we are being presented with a fait accompli, rather than a request for input.

That said,  I would point out that the Chirurgeonate does not provide, nor has it in the past, "medical services by licensed practitioners".  The Chirurgeonate is a first-aid organization. The upper end of our standard of care is bounded by "Does not require a license to do".  I suspect that the SCA's counsel and insurers may be confused as to the actual scope-of-practice involved.

Nota Bene:  I am not a lawyer, ergo the following may very well be talking through my hat.  I invite correction if I'm wrong.

My major concern with this action is that it will effectively gut the protections we enjoy under the Volunteer Protection Act, in that we would no longer be "officially", for whatever values of "official" one chooses, volunteering for the organization. Good Samaritan Acts apply, primarily, to emergencies. Band-Aids and ankle wraps might not be covered.

Should my cynical suspicions prove correct, I would ask one thing: During the dismantling process, I beg of you to release the heraldry of the Chirurgeonate, to whit the goutte-and-fleam, for use by an unofficial Chirurgeons' Guild.

Yours in Service,

Lord Erich Von Kleinfeld, MC,
(For the moment) Deputy Kingdom Chirurgeon, Atlantia

[DW Original]
11th-Aug-2013 12:54 pm - Pennsic / Big Dub, Redux
Back to a semblance of normalcy, in the Den of Iniquity. The check from Pennsic Exchequer for the black powder run has been deposited, and cleared. My car is back to its normal configuration. Laundry done, tents dried on Monday and gone to the locker, poles / roof bag / other gear, already went after first unload. So, interesting bits from Pennsic:

Once again, I was Land Agent this year. Got to Zero Night, 2200. Tent up, 2215. Trolled in, 2245. Got my golf cart sticker and checked in to Chi Point by 2300. T'was interesting walkding around, and hanging out, and conversing, easing my way back into Pennsic mode. Was NOT, however, majorly amused by the ETOH-fueled domestic dispute (fortunately non-physical) 50 feet from my tent at 0500. Also, it rained. My pop-up pyramid tent is not waterproof.

Land Grab and Setup went smoothly, for certain values of "smoothly". No microbursts, and no tumble-weeding EZ-Ups, for instance, are a plus. I couldn't figure out why I was being bombarded with Hitchhiker jokes, until I paused, looked at Mt Eislinn, mentally translated the Roman XLII, and then groaned mightily. Scored the Beast-n-Boar mug while getting breakfast, prior to Land Grab.

My tent went up well with the new steel frame, but the adjustable pipe brackets kept adjusting themselves flatward, despite my efforts at tightening them. I have plans for that. I discovered a couple of days in, that I was once again camping on top of the Chocolate Pudding Water Feature, aka the spot that wells up and turns to quickmud during the War. This time, however, I did NOT have a dome with a flaky nylon floor. Uber-heavy tarp to the rescue. Next year, possibly some boards and wedges to level up my cot are in order. The Barony switched to Culligan tanks this year. 45 people x 2 weeks =3 tanks, and super-easy to use. Adios, Filter Cow!

Got set up, did a tour of Watch on Saturday night. Helped get some stuff up on Sunday, and did my first shift at Chi Point. Rolled out Monday morning. Now, usually, I get home, and call / email the powdermonger with the order for the cannons. This time, on impulse, I called him from I-79, between 422 and Cranberry. Good thing. He was closed Tuesday. In fact, he was closing up at 1300 THAT DAY, to go on vacation. We will not discuss my driving speeds between Cranberry, PA and Gainesboro, VA. I lost about 15 minutes in a plaza east of Pittsburgh, cursing at the most dysfunctional ATM on the Turnpike. I did, however, get my cash, and sped on. If you need powder, Back Creek Gunshop is the place to go. Jackie Venskosky, the proprietor, had my 20 pounds of assorted powder waiting, and sold it to me, NINE MINUTES before going on vacation.

I need to seriously work on my packing-and-loading speeds. This topic will recur. Of course, it does NOT help to finish a book during the pack-up process, even if it's by mzmadmike. I didn't get out of the house until about 1600 Tuesday, and got back to Pennsic late. During the drive down, I contemplated fixes for the overly-adjustable tent brackets. I thought of hitting up Home Depot for shackles, bolts, and turnbuckles, and bringing a drill. Then, I thought of the fun-n-games of taking down a tent, already full of furniture. Then, it occurred to me that I could simply bring the two seven-foot upright poles, from my wooden pole set. Push them into place, ball-bungy them to the brackets so they wouldn't slip, and Bam! Good to go for the War. I'm reminded of the millions spent by the US to develop zero-gravity pens for space, and the Russian decision to use pencils.

Wednesday, most of my time was spent on camp guard -- that is to say, vegging in camp. I did check out Kafe Merhaba, the successor entity to Your Inner Vagabond. Some of the die-hard YIV fans may have been upset at the change, to one degree or another. I found the place fantastic.

On my way back to camp from a 1600-2000 Chirurgeon shift, I stopped at Lochmere to say hi. Found myself in the midst of their Baronial Birthday party. Got munchies, got some unleaded Badger Brew, and found myself in the most ultimately-epic game of Cards Against Humanity that I'd ever experienced. We went completely through the white deck. I wasn't even in the top three contenders, but did manage to score some delightfully hideous tricks.

Friday was my day for the Medieval Firearms Safety and Handling class. Had an outstanding time -- 15 or so students, and we burned a LOT of powder. I also wound up luring a few of my students into the Gunners' Guild meeting, on Saturday.  Saturday was also the one chance I got, to throw on the Marshall's tabard and inspect armor / weapons for a while.  I caught Master Michael Graham's Barber-Surgeon class, after the Guild meeting. Sat in the back,  I did, and asked evil questions. By the way, I had a perfectly valid excuse reason to miss Opening Ceremonies: 1600-2000 shift as Crew Chief, again, at Chirurgeon's Point.

Sunday, shot our first battles of the War. Heavy went smoothly. Rapier needs to find a replacement for their one guy who knew how to communicate with the guns. This also began the training of new crew -- Always ready to grow the Guild.

This year, I made it to Mardi Gras. I was trying to find merchants to score some beads. Hadn't made it to a party shop, to re-stock. I'd used up the online order I'd gotten a few years ago, last year. I shouldn't have worried. The Gate Keepers at TimberWolfe and FlederMaus were all in need of entertainment. Between Ball of Kerrimuir and Good Ship Venus, I was well-supplied for the evening.

Back in June, at Wickerman, I started learning the rudiments of spotting / safety watching fire-spinners. At Mardi Gras, there were several fire performers. I found myself watching more intently, and thinking about what they were doing. I was also watching from the viewpoint of a potential extinguisher, rather than simply as a spectator. This is, to some extent, similar to the way that being a Marshall changes one's perception of, and interest in, fighting. Of course, the topless lady fire-spinners may have also had something to do with my enhanced attention.

Tuesday was all guns, all the time. Some of us were on the hill for nine hours. I had a couple of crew on morning, and then another crewman in the afternoon. I recall thinking that they really should've put time on the guns in, toward the Volunteer War Point. As it turned out, they did. Most man-hours per area went to the Heralds, of course because they're 24/7. Number two? The GUNS. With nine pieces on the hill, and all hands on deck, the Guild put in 200+ man-hours on Tuesday.

I didn't actually get a Mystic Mail account until Wednesday, and got the minimum time for the good rate. Figured I'd catch up on webcomics, etcetera, when I got back to the World, or at least to Sunday's motel. I did use Mystic Mail to print out the Big Dub ticket on my flashdrive, though.  Did my shopping during the day -- bling for A., and some more goodies from mzmadmike. Scored a neat set of early-period surgical tools, and got a good deal on them. Missed Ansteorra Chili Night for the first time in years, due to Baronial Court and Baronial BBQ Night. Worth it.

Next year, no classes on Thursday or Friday. I missed being on the guns, and it screwed with my pack-out schedule. One bit of unhappiness was self-inflicted. You know that dream you get sometimes of being in college, and being late to class? It's worse if (a) you're the teacher, and (b) it's not a dream. At 0920, I looked at the clock. Thought to myself, "Good, I have a nice, leisurely half-hour to... NO I DON'T. Class was 0900-1100, NOT 1000-1100. I rushed down, set up, and did some mountebankery for a bit. Had about 6-8 people wander in, and did an abbreviated class. That afternoon, had a good turnout for the lecture-discussion version of Evolution of Firearms 1320-1600.  Following was a Mentor's meeting, out of which I ducked early so as to drop the guns in camp.  Then, Chi Point for my last shift.  Went up to Parking, then snagged Munchkin, tools, and powder can from Rod. Made a last visit to the Penn Market for a last hit of CooperCrack V2.x(tm) and a new lantern.

I really did want to boogie out of Pennsic as quickly as possible on Friday. Got up at 0630, started packing, all that good stuff.  I need to sit down, and time out, every bit of packing, etcetera, to find out where I'm losing so much damn time.  Even discounting the locker run, I should have gotten out before 1600.  Got to Four Quarters at 2000 or so, and checked in.  Turned out the Members' area was already full of Ravers, but I got lucky. A fellow member said that the other tent on her platform was open, and the friend who owned it had made it available for homeless 4QF members if needed.  I gratefully accepted, and spent the weekend camped right behind the Coffee Dragon.   BTW, if you want a shower at a big outside event, 2200 is the time to do it.

Sitting in the Coffee Dragon, got to talking with the guy behind the counter, about my age. Mentioned I was just come from Pennsic. Turns out, he's a Laurel from Aethelmearc.  I outed myself by SCA name, and he said, "OMG! You're HIM!".  He said he'd heard of both my fame and my infamy.  Not sure how much of each he'd heard, but he didn't flee the Coffee Dragon in terror.

Unlike a Burn, there was vending at Big Dub. I was still pretty self-sufficient, as I still had Pennsic supplies to nom on.  On Friday, I'd grilled up my remaining meat supply and then chilled it on the remaining ice in my cooler.  That last block, and a bag from the Dragon, kept my cooked stuff cold until I ate it. I did get a burger late at night, in the Starving Artist Cafe.  Of course, lots of coffee was consumed at the Dragon, as well.  Walking around with backpack during the day, my Pennsic habit of loading a Ziploc with a Gunner's lunch carried on.

I'm unlikely to ever become a Dubstep fan.  However, I don't have a problem with it as background noise for whatever other interesting stuff is going on.  4Quarters has an ingenious system for regulating sound volume.  The sound camps in acoustically sensitive areas have their 4QF-supplied power routed through a locked box, connected to a DB meter. The DB Meter, or Darwin Box, is fastened to a tree where it can "hear" the tuns.  Stuff gets too loud, the Darwin box warns. Stays too loud, and it chops power. Bwahahahaha!

I did run into some Burners at the event, particularly among Rangers / Staff / Security.  There's definite differences between Burners and Ravers. This was like being at a Burn, with a majority of attendees being Sparkle Ponies.   I was interested to note something about my home burn, Frostburn.  When I mentioned to other Burners that that was my virgin, and "home" Burn, I frequently got remarks about how hardcore FB is. Thinking of it a different way, some of the stupider behaviors I observed last weekend would have had one result at Frostburn: Those who did them would become MOOP. That is, we'd have had to shovel up their frozen corpses on Monday morning.  Of course, at Wickerman, I was wandering around thinking "Wow! I'm at a Burn, and the environment is not actively trying to kill me!".

Sooo, I was able to hook up with Papa Shok, head Ranger, and arrange a shift. I took 2000-0400, Sat night / Sun morning.  Most of it was uneventful. Then, around 0300, the sleep deprivation kicked in.  Was going to hand in the radio and crash an hour early, when I got a call requesting Ranger presence at one of the stages.  At this event, there were about 3-4 freakouts / bad trips / whatever.  I wound up helping to sit on one, 0300-0430.  While there, I made a note to bring LOTS of gloves next time, as none of us wanted skin contact with this sweaty boy. I also noted to myself that I deeply appreciate the Frostburn policy of Rangers / Medics / Staff being in default headspace while on-duty.

At the beginning of my shift, I digressed a bit to pull some perimeter security on the fireworks display.  Got a little bit of video, shot behind my back as I was facing away from the trailer. Really cool stuff, though, especially when you're close enough to feel the heat and concussion.

Crashed a few hours, then was on from 1000-1500 for Exodus briefings:  "Hi, did you have a good time? Is your stuff ready to load into the car? Good. Make yourself as small as possible on the side of the road, don't block traffic. Need a trashbag? Here. Dumpsters are the big blue ones on the way out. Go well, be safe, come back."

Repeat, for cars coming in to get stuff, for five hours. Doing a bit of service to the Land, feels good.

Thoughts for the future:

I REALLY need to work on streamlining my pack-out process.
Not teaching any classes on Thursday or Friday of War Week next year.
Get the Mystic Mail account earlier in the War.
Save the authenti-spiffies and heavy weaponry on Royal Guard duty, for when the Royals are actually in camp that shift.
If Big Dub is the final weekend of Pennsic next year, will go.

I've got some super-heavy, uber-sticky gasket material for those damn tent brackets.

[DW Original]
Schlock Overkill
My sig line is based on Howard Tayler's Schlock Mercenary comic.  Over on the Schlock Facebook page (, Howard's having a contest.  Post a blurb for your favorite story arc in the Schlockverse, and enter for a chance to win a book. Herewith, my entry:

Schlocktoberfest 2004
Over at Schlock Mercenary (, Howard Tayler often switches to a darker storyline in October.  Good guys get killed, and deeper subjects are dealt with.  Of course, this is military Sci-Fi, so people DO get killed.  My favorite story arc from the Schlock Archives is Schlocktoberfest 2004, at It's part two of the print book, Resident Mad Scientist.

While Tagon's Toughs are taking a vacation, Tagon, Schlock, and Elf find themselves on a secret mission.  People get killed, disabled, and blown up.  Takes some major plot-fixes and deus-ex-machinas (and NOT just Petey) to eventually get things set straight.  What particularly got my attention in this story, though, was the tribute paid to an icon of MilSF, and to the author.  Anyone who cut his MilSF teeth on David Drake's work, needs to read this.
9th-May-2013 10:41 pm - Sports fanboy
BotN, Team USA
This is one of the few times of the year that I turn into a sports fan.  Today was the first of three days, of Battle of the Nations.  I am, of course, rooting for Team USA. The nucleus of the team last year was a bunch of old SCA Dukes.  Since then, the team has grown. I knew a couple of people on last year's team. I've got several friends on this year's team. Since my tax refund arrived in time to help, I pitched in on one friend's fund-raiser.

[DW Original]
1st-May-2013 07:55 am - Tradition
VARF06 First of May (NSFW)
12th-Jan-2013 10:43 pm - A rant on "Assault Weapons".
Something occurred to me -- there's a point that I haven't made in a long time, on this whole gun-ban debate. I keep forgetting to bring it up, because it's buried in my list of reasons to oppose bans. It's like a fish, remembering to argue that water is wet.

Here it is: The entire "assault weapon" issue is a SCAM.  That's right. it's a con job, perpetrated by people who wanted to get traction for banning something, anything, back in the late 1980s and early 90s. 

A strong accusation, you say? Can't be true, you say? Let's look at some history.  After Ronald Reagan and Jim Brady were shot, the Bradys hooked up with what was then Handgun Control, Inc.  They figured that they could ride the wave of emotion over the Reagan and Brady shootings, to ban handguns. The effort fizzled. We note, here, that in the 1930s when the National Firearms Act was being written, early versions wanted to make all handguns into NFA items. That got shot down, RIGHT quick.  Same thing, in the late 80s / early 90s: there was widespread opposition to banning handguns.

So, we get to around 1988 or '89, and the ban-them-all crowd is feeling frustrated. Then, Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center comes up with an idea. Make up a scary new propaganda term, "assault weapon". It doesn't actually have to MEAN anything (and didn't, before it became a legal term-of-art as defined in the 1994-2004 ban). Use the new propaganda phrase, to push for the idea of banning something, ANYthing, just to get something banned.

A quick side note (you may skip if you've heard this): But wait, you say. Isn't an "assault weapon" the same as an assault rifle? No. No, it's not. "Assault RIFLE" is a military and technical term. It means, specifically, a rifle that is a compromise between a submachinegun and a battle rifle.  It is light-weight, magazine-fed, select-fire (means it will go semi / one shot per trigger pull, or full-auto / machinegun), and fires an intermediate-power cartridge. That last part is because battle rifles in .30-06, .308 Winchester, 7.62x54 Russian, or 8mm Mauser are downright painful to fire in full auto. A 7.62x39 (AK and SKS round) is about as powerful as Grandpa's old .30-30 Winchester cartridge. The 5.56x45mm cartridge fired by the M16, is a .223 Winchester, aka a .22 on steroids. So, an assault rifle is a real thing, with a specific set of characteristics, INCLUDING being a machinegun.  "Assault weapons", not so much. Back to the discussion.

When Vice President Biden said, in the primary debates in '08, that he'd written the original "assault weapon" ban, he was in fact correct. But wait, you say. Didn't Dianne Feinstein write the ban?  She wrote the one that PASSED in 1994. Biden's original one basically got laughed out of congress.  Something to do, maybe, with the wording that banned anything with a bayonet lug.  The way Biden (or the clueless dolts on his staff) worded his ban, it would have applied to MUSKETS. Since I was a Civil War target shooter in those years, I got very familiar with that bit of flummery.

So, what's an "assault weapon"? Isn't that a technical term? Nope. It's a Humpty Dumpty phrase. Remember Alice in Wonderland?

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."

"Assault Weapon", then, means whatever the politician using it wants it to mean. Likewise, journalists.  People around me get extremely tired of my ranting at the radio, when some journalist says, "The shooter used an assault rifle..." and I yell "No, he didn't!  It was a semi-auto!". Generally, it means "Scary black rifle that looks military, but is mechanically indistinguishable from that wood-stocked hunting rifle."

But what do you mean, by "scam"? Isn't that a strong phrase? I mean that every single rationale for distinguishing an "assault weapon" from a "sporting rifle" is total and utter bullshit.  Take pistol grips, for example. The Brady bunch will tell you that "A pistol grip [...] facilitates spray-fire from the hip without losing control. A pistol grip also facilitates one-handed shooting." That quote was  copied-and-pasted directly from the Brady website.  It is absolute, total, and utter bullshit. A pistol grip makes it HARDER to shoot from the hip, and if you "spray fire from the hip", you'll waste ammo anyway.  Here's the proof, they really do say that:

Now, as to it being a deliberate con job, let's ask the guy who invented the phrase, Josh Sugarmann:  "Assault weapons [...] are a new topic. The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons -- anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun -- can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons." if you want to read the whole thing. Bring a barf bag. The [...] snip was some side comments that Sugarmann threw in.

Basically, there are two major groups of people who support banning "assault weapons".  Group one is people like Sarah Brady, Dianne Feinstein, Josh Sugarmann, and their ilk. These people HAVE to know what's actually going on. Either that, or they're incompetent to write legislation.

Group two is mostly people who don't actually know enough about guns to see through the BS, but are either scared of guns, or riding a wave of emotion, and have been hoodwinked into supporting bans by the scammers.  People like Carolyn "Shoulder thing that goes up" McCarthy, and most of the Misguided Mommie March, and smaller gun-control orgs, are generally in this category. 

There are a few other sub-groups. Some are even gun owners. For example, there is a sub-species of gun owner out there, frequently called a "Fudd". That's as in Elmer Fudd. A Fudd will preface his remarks with "I'm a gun owner / hunter / sportsman, BUT..."  followed with "Nobody needs an assault weapon for [x-purpose]." The Fudd is a particularly blind sort -- he is willing to throw folks who own black rifles under the bus, as long as he can keep his walnut-stocked Bambi-zapper.

I suspect that this may open some eyes, and will probably piss quite a few people off.  To those who get pissed, I have a challenge. I have several guns that are, and several that aren't, "assault weapons" under the '94-04 definition. Meet me at the range. I'll provide guns, ammo, and instruction. When we're done, you tell me if you think you've been scammed by the banners.

[DW Original]
25th-Dec-2012 08:52 am - Thought of the day

"A Song to Mithras"


Rudyard Kipling

MITHRAS, God of the Morning, our trumpets waken the Wall!
' Rome is above the Nations, but Thou art over all!'
Now as the names are answered, and the guards are marched away,
Mithras, also a soldier, give us strength for the day!

Mithras, God of the Noontide, the heather swims in the heat,
Our helmets scorch our foreheads ; our sandals burn our feet.
Now in the ungirt hour; now ere we blink and drowse,
Mithras, also a soldier, keep us true to our vows !

Mithras, God of the Sunset, low on the Western main,
Thou descending immortal, immortal to rise again !
Now when the watch is ended, now when the wine is drawn,
Mithras, also a soldier, keep us pure till the dawn!

Mithras, God of the Midnight, here where the great bull dies,
Look on Thy children in darkness. Oh take our sacrifice !
Many roads Thou hast fashioned: all of them lead to the Light,
Mithras, also a soldier, teach us to die aright!
[DW Original]
7th-Dec-2012 05:25 am - Been a while...
Let's see... Good time at Pennsic.  A mostly 17th-Century fall -- Jamestown, Henricus, Saint Mary's.  Lots of range time -- the NoVA PinkPistols chapter is heating up.  Also, went up to Four Quarters Farm for Schützenfest in October. Work is, for the most part, mellowing out now that the election's over. This weekend, however, is  our department's turn in the barrel. We get to activate around 300 new VOIP phones, and remove the old PBX ones.  Off-time (a lot of our leave is use-or-lose) will be taken up in large part with getting gear ready for Frostburn. There will also be shooting.
Today is an auspicious day on my annual calendar. Thirty-two years ago, about this time of day, SGT 3fgburner, US Army, got up, and went on-post at Fort Sill for the last time. A few hours later, MR. 3fgburner, civilian, hauled ass off-post to change into civvies. I hung around Oklahoma long enough to ship my stuff home, and make one last SCA event in Ansteorra. By August 1st, I was back in Virginia. A year and a week or two later, I made my first Pennsic.

Fast-forward to now -- I've been neglecting Das Blog for the last 7 months, and should get back into it. Not to mention, this lets me procrastinate just a teensy bit more, before spending the weekend in Pre-Pennsic Prep Panic(tm). To that end, I shall get back into bloggage by simply aggregating my thoughts during the day.

First up: the Colorado theater shooting. Consider my usual blather about gun-free zones, self-defense rights, and so forth to have been said. Now, on to the substance:

I generally suck at emotional-platitude gushing over people I don't know. On the other hand, my google fu is strong. A search for "colorado shooting victims donate", and a little digging to get past the **GAG** Huffington Post link, got me to The second link, Network for Good, takes Paypal and credit cards (with an option to add the service fee so it isn't taken out on the other end). I suck worse at snail-mailing checks, than I do at emotional platitudes.

Next: I've seen a lot of links on FacePlant, to Eagle Scouts sending their medals and patches back to BSA National over their discriminatory policies. I never made it to Eagle. Made Life Scout overseas, then came back Stateside. Making a long story short, I switched to Explorers. Poking around today, I discovered an interesting link.  I had never heard of the Baden-Powell Service Association before.   Looks to me like an interesting bunch. Methinks that rather than try to find my old Life badge and mail it back, I'll fire up the plastic on payday. Then, I'll send the BSA National HQ a copy of my BPSA registration [eeeee-ville grin].

On to SCA stuff: Zero Night is in six days. I'm actually working that day, so will miss the party most likely (I'll either motel-crash on the way, or get there after the party). I have a major and a minor sewing project to do, gear to inventory and pack, stuff to swap in and out of the locker, and cartridges to roll for my gun class.  I should have started last weekend. D'oh.  Still, what gets done will be done, what doesn't isn't essential.
DW Source
1st-May-2012 09:08 am - Can't miss this one.

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18th-Jan-2012 08:44 am(no subject)

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8th-Jan-2012 10:42 pm - First Week Back, survival thereof
Got in to work on time, jumped into my tasks, and promptly got swamped. All the crap that's been hanging fire since late December has come home to roost.  On top of which, when I'm training new users, or on an hour-plus tech call, and they keep assigning me stuff, the backlog piles up.   Speaking of which -- Ma'am, if we're going to be doing a remote hookup to our network, PLEASE get on a machine that isn't older than your students are.


By now, the buzz has gone out that Atlantia and Aethelmearc will be allying against the East and Middle, this Pennsic.  Should be interesting, particularly if all the other kingdoms hook up with the E-M side.  I'm looking forward to this. One of my goals for 2012 is to get back into fighting trim, such as it is.

Also climbing back on the diet wagon -- we'll see how that goes.   Oddly enough, I plan to start eating MORE at breakfast, and let's see what that does to the daytime snacking.   Contribution to  the freezer this weekend was several dinners' worth of the <a href="">chicken curry</a> that we had last night for dinner.

Today was the January PinkShoot. Since nobody else made it, I finally got in some decent trigger time. 225 rounds, from .22 to .45ACP. I am SERIOUSLY out of practice. Been so busy showing others how, I've neglected my own shooting. This will change.

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2nd-Jan-2012 09:36 am - Endings, and Beginnings
Sitting here, noshing breakfast. Forget Wheaties, Mincemeat pie is the way to go. Got maybe 10% of what I'd planned to do this break, accomplished. On the other hand, I did get rested up, and upgraded my computer's OS, twice -- once from 8.x to 11.x, and then from 11.x to 10.x. Home Depot today, to get some lumber for the Canvas Front Porch in prep for Frostburn.

We had a bit of drama, New Year's Eve. Our usual dinner is Beef Fondue.  I had the sirloin cut up, sauces made, and peanut oil in the fondue pot. I plopped it on the burner, with candy / deep fry thermometer to monitor.  Problem was, there was a delay...  Wound up smoking the house, scorching A's fondue pot, and blowing up the thermometer.  This led to me going to two Asian markets in quest of peanut oil (actually found it in the Gaijin section of the second store) at 2000 on New Year's Eve.  Took the big wok and the propane burner out in the back yard, and cooked all the beef at once. Then, brought it back up in a stainless bowl and put in the toaster oven to keep warm until damage control was complete and we could eat. Let's hear it, for Plan B.

Yesterday, got a bit more done.  Made chili, again using the wok in the back yard to brown the meat.  Went shopping for cooking thermometers. Bed, Bath, & Beyond  had a fancy one that looks like it belongs in a lab.  On the off chance that A wouldn't like that one, I also picked up an old-school one, across the street at Giant.  She wanted that one, so the lab thermometer is mine.

I did spend some time last evening, looking around for downloadable MP3s of medieval and Ren dance tunes.  I'm thinking dance practice, somewhere, this spring.

I've  got a coworker who's been wanting to go shooting for ages.  Her New Year's Eve sucked worse than mine (at least my drama was self-inflicted), and Blue Ridge Arsenal was open 1100-1900.  The result was a somewhat happier coworker, after the Zen of shooting worked its magic.  Warmed up on the Mark II, then shot a bit with both revolvers. Then, on to Makarov, CZ82, and Walther. We finished up with the 1911. She REALLY likes the 1911.  Of course, living in Maryland, she has to deal with their gun-suckage if she wants to buy one. At least she's a half-mile east of the DC line...   Anyway,  I generally don't get a first-timer who wants to go through 8 mags of .45ACP on the initial outing. I do believe I've got a convert to the Gospel of John (Moses Browning).

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