The 1348 Project: Feast, Famine, Climate Change, and Genocide

 

During the pandemic, I started listening to some of the Great Courses on Audible. I went through the history of language, cuisine, and Rome until, inspired by the current pandemic, I spent several months with the Black Death. I figured there might be something to learn about how we were dealing with the present pandemic by looking at the most famous one. Not the first one. The first pandemic was the Plague of Justinian in the 6th century AD. The second was the Great Mortality of 1348, which we now know as the Black Death, and the third was the plague in India and China at the end of the 19th Century.  It was the latter where the likely cause of the Great Mortality was discovered, the bacillus Yersina Pestis, spread primarily by rat fleas. We all know that story, but there are still many mysteries about the Great Mortality, what it was and how it spread. There is still disagreement as to whether Y. Pestis caused the Great Mortality or whether other diseases were involved.

Understanding the response to the Black Death puts a few things in perspective for our current predicament. It moved with astonishing swiftness out of the East and killed 30-60% of Europe. Germ theory did not exist. The medievalers had no idea what hit them or why. Civilization held, miraculously enough. Whatever was left to function, functioned as best it could. Faith in the Church and medicine took a big hit though, as they were helpless to stop it. Governments reacted, trying to stop the dying, but their mandates were largely ineffective. The King of Sweden passed an edict requiring Swedes to fast on Fridays and go to Mass to stop the plague. Didn’t work. Florence forbade selling the clothes of a plague victim. That might have worked some, as fleas lived in clothes.

As plague continued to reoccur, governments tried additional measures. The first boards of health arose from the plague and its aftermath as cities began to think more about hygiene. The word quarantine dates from 1377 during the next wave of plague, as ships were required to anchor for 40 days (quaranta) before they could dock. Governments imposed strict travel restrictions, sometimes on pain of death. Plague houses were established to isolate the victims. If you didn’t isolate, you could be fined, arrested or executed. Plague reoccurred about every 10 years after that first wave until the 1600s. Over time lethality diminished, particularly in places that had already been devastated, although it was still high in the 5-20% range. So maybe some of the government edicts worked; then again, there likely were myriad reasons for the decline in lethality. I suspect governments took credit just the same.

The economic upheaval in its wake was significant. It severely disrupted the feudal system. Laborers were needed to work the manors but they were in very short supply, so those that lived could pretty much name their price and go where they wished. Land was abundant. Shortages of labor fueled technologies to make up for the labor shortage. Inflation raged for decades afterward.

Nothing new under the sun.

The period preceding the Black Death in 1348 provided an interesting arc that fed the plague. Europe was undergoing a prosperous period starting around 1000 AD.  The population roughly doubled between 1000-1300. The early 1200s seem to have been a relatively great time to be alive. Not so the 1300s. The earth did not get the memo that climate only changes when humans drive a lot of cars and raise too many cattle. The Little Ice Age descended in the late 13th/early 14th century, leading to a dramatic collapse in food production as the growing season shortened and the ice sheets advanced in Northern Europe. Starting around 1315, unusual amounts of rain fell leading to conditions that may have exploded rat populations and also hampered food production. By the time plague hit, Europe’s population was enfeebled, perhaps leading to Y. Pestis’ terrible mortality. Some studies have shown that areas harder hit by the plague were also harder hit by the earlier famine.

Like our current contagion, Y. Pestis came from China. I had always thought it came along the trade routes, and so it did. But the Mongols were also busy invading Europe through much of the 13th century. The Mongols were eventually stopped although they made it into Eastern Europe and parts of Western Europe. Their influence on Europe was significant and interactions continued. The plague is thought to have been brought to Europe in 1347 via Genoese soldiers and merchants who were fleeing the Mongol siege of Kaffa, in modern Ukraine. The Mongol army was badly affected by plague and were alleged to have catapulted the bodies of those who died into the city to provoke terror, often cited as the first use of biological warfare, although this is disputed by some. A few years later, at least a third of the European population was dead.

Famine, genocide, and climate change: pretty grim fare for Thanksgiving week, but increasingly these are the themes pushed at holiday time by the woke. Even as I wrote this, some are pushing to change the name of Thanksgiving to a Day of Mourning. But 1348 is a reminder that Europeans are indigenous people too, and they didn’t fare well either in their encounters with foreign peoples. The Mongols didn’t take over Europe, for a variety of reasons, but wholesale death came just the same. Europe’s population didn’t recover for another 300 years.

Plague, war, and weather. In 1348, these were ascribed to divine will or mans’ innate wickedness as part of the human condition. In 2021, these forces are increasingly ascribed to only certain humans and only their innate wickedness. But the Black Death shows clearly the folly of labeling populations as eternal oppressors or the eternally oppressed. If the Mongols had made it to the Americas, the result would likely have been the same for the indigenous populations, regardless of skin pigmentation. Just via different diseases.

Plagues, war, and weather remake the world on a regular basis. I suspect they always will. So it is right that we all give thanks for whatever forces and dumb luck led to us being alive, right here and right now, even if others were not so fortunate.

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Why Bother with Music?

 

A friend sent me this link to a lovely performance of Richard Strauss’ late masterpiece, Four Last Songs. Strauss wrote this at age 84, in 1948. His last large-scale work, these songs were performed and published only after his death the next year.

One of my lifetime best concerts included this piece. The date was February 1, 2003. My first wife and I heard the Cleveland Orchestra at Carnegie Hall that night. Do you remember what happened that day?

We decided at the last moment to attend, after getting a call from my old teacher Felix Kraus, their English horn player. It was a rainy, sleety day in western Massachusetts and the weather got worse as we drove. After it turned into an ice storm, we took the train from Greenwich.

The concert opened with some words from the Orchestra’s music director to commemorate that morning’s disaster, the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia on re-entry. First, there was a Beethoven string quartet played as a string orchestra piece, which was of moderate interest. After the intermission, the show continued with, and I kid you not, Strauss’  tone poem Death and Transfiguration, followed immediately by the Four Last Songs. These performances were electrifying.  I will never forget the rapt stillness of the audience in the second half of this concert.

We went out for coffee with Felix afterward. This was the last time that my first wife and Felix met, she died in December 2004 and he, in December 2006. I would see him twice more, in February and July 2004.

After taking the train to our car in Greenwich, we drove up through the continued storm. It was awful. I remember listening to WCBS as we drove and learning that the streets around the Empire State Building had been closed off because of falling ice. We finally gave up in Waterbury, pulling over and sleeping for a couple of hours in a parking lot before driving home on Sunday morning.

This video brought back that deeply bittersweet memory, especially the violin solo at 12 minutes. I hope you find it moving too.

Music is such a powerful thing. What would we do without it?

Face, Meet Palm

 

The Bulwark outdid itself this weekend. The Bulwark outdoes itself every weekend, but this particular piece deserves a spot in the official Bad Bulwark Takes Hall of Fame. Read it if you dare.

I won’t quote it. Too much work. But I will offer a brief summary: The Kyle Rittenhouse trial failed to reach the outcome desired by the cultural left, so Bruce Schroeder, the judge, should be voted out and replaced. He makes jokes about Asian food! Yeah, yeah, everyone seems to admire him, and they call him “objective” or “no-nonsense” or something. But just look at the outcome! Racism! Racial injustice! White supremacists roaming the streets!

See, it’s pieces like this — penned by a staff writer at the self-styled rockiest-ribbed, conservativiest outlet around — that lead people like me to conclude that no one at The Bulwark cares about conserving anything. Complain about Trump? Okay, fine. I get it. Promote unconstitutional legislation? Call for the abolition of the filibuster? Tell me to “check” my “privilege”? Ask Kenoshans to replace Schroeder with a Chesa Boudin in robes? No, thanks. You belong in the loony bin, just like the rest of the media.

You Got the Analogy Right, But You Came to the Wrong Conclusion

 

Some lefty media person decided to chime in on the Terry McAuliffe gaffe by using a simple analogy. You remember: McAuliffe said that parents should not tell teachers what to teach. The commentator smugly said that teachers were professionals like surgeons and, therefore, parents should not tell teachers what to teach. After all, you would not tell a surgeon how to do surgery. You would leave it up to him or her.

After thinking about this for almost two seconds, I realized that he was partly right. We should treat teachers like surgeons — in a different way. A surgeon may recommend a certain kind of surgery, and you may say “Yes” or “No” to that. But the surgeon does not operate without your permission or perform surgery different from what you want. Of course, that is not really telling him how to do the surgery. It is telling him what surgery he is allowed to perform on you.

In the same way, parents do not tell teachers how to teach but what they may and should teach their children. Most parents want the basics like English, math, and other academic subjects to be taught. That is not what the debate is about. But most parents also do not want their children taught things contrary to their values and beliefs. That is not the role of the teacher or school system to decide. The parents have a right to teach their children moral values.

Sixty years ago, this was not a problem. There was a moral consensus in this country — churches, schools, and parents all taught the same things. We now have a country that is divided on moral issues. Now the LGBTQXYX agenda is often taught along with various forms of critical race theory. How did this happen? It happened because parents trusted the school systems. They might even get involved with the teachers, and they would see what a nice person the teacher was and how hard it is to teach. They are generally hardworking people wanting to help our kids. It’s hard not to want to support them.

But now parents are waking up to the fact that their values are being undermined by these nice people. They mean well. We cannot, however, let our children be subject to these ungodly things. We must resist. We must protect our children. We must do what we have to do to give our children the education they deserve and not be subject to some left-wing agenda.

Many of us left the public school system a long time ago. After our older daughter went through kindergarten in a public school, we decided to homeschool and then get her into a Christian school where my wife was her teacher. Our younger daughter graduated from that Christian high school in 2003. Both of our daughters went to Christian colleges with scholarships to help them. They are now married and have children of their own. Now it is their turn to decide how to educate their children.

If I had my way, we would phase out the public school system and privatize the whole thing with tax credits or vouchers to parents. I want the government out of education. I want parents back in charge.

Hear Him! Hear Him! And See Writer Seawriter.

 

I appeared on “Xtended” (Europe’s premier aerospace Internet radio programme) on Nov. 21, episode 124: “Coastal Command Chapter 3: Battle for the Atlantic.” In it, I discuss the role of the RAF Coastal Command during the Battle of the Atlantic. I wrote a two-part series on the air phase of the Battle of the Atlantic for Osprey a few years back. For those interested in listening, the link is https://aviation-xtended.co.uk/ep-124-coastal-command-chapter-3-battle-for-the-atlantic/.

It was a long, and I thought interesting, discussion (nearly an hour).

Also, for those interested, I appeared on KHOU-TV’s “Great Day Houston” show on Oct. 28 talking about “The Vanished Texas Coast.” That link is here: https://www.khou.com/article/entertainment/television/programs/great-day-houston/the-vanished-texas-coast-with-mark-lardas/285-d1fd035f-4cb8-43f6-b481-9ea9a9e8aa73.

That one is only five minutes.

Member Post

 

Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes, who founded the anti-Trump website ‘The Dispatch’ have decided to quit ‘contributing’ to FoxNews. (Their roles on the network was described as ‘contributors’ so I assume they contributed something. What, I’m not sure.) The NY Times, for reasons we can only speculate, deemed their departures newsworthy.   The ostensible reason for […]

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Member Post

 

What a terrible time you are having! First Kenosha, now Waukesha…I’m just so sorry.  Wanted to let all the Wisconsin Ricochetti know I am holding you in my prayers.  Yours is a lovely state. I had such a wonderful time visiting last year (BC—before COVID). I walked around Madison, drove out the Dells , bought […]

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Member Post

 

Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg have quit Fox News, according to a New York Times article. (Because the NYT is where I go for my conservative media news reports.) They apparently were upset about an upcoming Tucker Carlson special on the “Patriot Purge” about January 6th. How deeply will this change your life? Oh, and […]

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A Bad Idea…

 

Navy Training Command TA-4J Skyhawk

This story describes an incident involving an instructor pilot’s poor judgment that could have resulted in tragedy but didn’t. I was a student Naval Aviator at Naval Air Station Kingsville, TX, when the incident occurred. Its aftermath included everyone being formally briefed about it. The consensus reaction was: “You got to be kidding me!”

The key players were two former Marine F-4 drivers who were Advanced Jet flight instructors flying the TA-4J Skyhawk. Both were within a month of voluntarily leaving the military to pursue their post-military airline careers. They were popular instructors, having served over two years in Kingsville without incident. As a reward for their service and in anticipation of their imminent departure to civilian life, their Commanding Officer approved their request for an Instructor-Only cross country training flight to somewhere on the West Coast. Their assignment was to fly multiple instrument approaches at various military airfields over the course of the weekend. These requests weren’t routinely granted. The benefit for the instructors was the hands-on stick time in the front seat and instrument approach practice they’d get as they alternated turns.

First, some background: During a standard by-the-book takeoff, the pilot pulls back on the stick (“rotates”) at the take-off airspeed, sets the nose 10-degrees above the horizon and when the Rate-of-Climb (ROC) indicator shows a positive climb and the altimeter is increasing, the pilot retracts the landing gear. Due to a slight lag in the indicators, the aircraft are usually 100-200 feet above the ground when the gear is retracted. That’s good because if the engine hiccups prior to that and the runway is long enough, you can theoretically put the plane back on the ground without having to wait for the landing gear to lower and lock again.

But when the Blue Angels do their air shows, they retract the landing gear when the jet is just barely off the ground and then level off and accelerate quickly to a speed that allows them to pull up suddenly into a spectacular vertical climb at the end of the runway. The Blue Angels practice this technique and have perfected it and that’s why their airshows are so fun to watch. Unfortunately for the heroes of this story, the Blues do NOT use the technique ascribed to them below to accomplish their “low transition”! The reasons will soon become obvious to you dear Reader, and they soon became obvious to our soon-to-be-former flight instructors when they tried it!

Doing a Blue Angel-style “low transition” was frowned upon – unless you were flying with the Blue Angels. In fact, they were forbidden during normal flight operations and especially at a Navy training base where students were watching and copying everything.

But flying into an Air Force base was different. It was accepted as Gospel that Air Force pilots were technically skilled by-the-book bureaucrats who couldn’t do anything if it wasn’t described somewhere in a book. (I apologize here to my youngest son, an Air Force pilot, for this unfortunate stereotype. My only excuse is that we were very young and didn’t know any better.) Thus, when a Navy or Marine pilot chanced to grace an Air Force base with their presence, it was thought important to show them some of the finer details of flying that they might be missing. This category would include a Blue-Angels-style takeoff and so that’s where our Marines decided to try this mythical “low transition” technique.

The technique was thought to be the following: After taking the runway and going to full throttle, raise the landing gear handle using the override switch. Then release the brakes and take-off normally but level off just after take-off, low over the runway.

Wait – won’t the landing gear retract, embarrassing one and all? Theoretically no. There is a little switch on the main landing gear that detects when the landing gear struts are fully compressed (due to the weight of the airplane resting firmly on them). The switch prevents the landing gear from retracting when the aircraft is on the ground – which seems like a good idea.

So what does our hero think he’s gaining by raising the landing gear handle? He believes that the weight-on-gear switch will keep the landing gear extended until he rotates the nose and lifts off into the air. At that time, the main landing gear struts decompress as the wing lifts the jet off the ground and the switch indicates that the jet is not “on the ground” so the landing gear can safely retract. Immediately and automatically.

What’s the Override switch and why does he need it? It’s possible that the “weight-on-gear” switch might fail and mistakenly indicate that the aircraft is on the ground when it is actually airborne. If this happens when flying off the carrier, you might wish to retract the landing gear to reduce drag and allow you time to troubleshoot the problem, fly to an airfield ashore, or go get some fuel at the nearest airborne tanker. So the engineers provide an override switch that allows the pilot to raise the landing gear handle (select Retract) even if the weight-on-gear switch says you’re still on the ground. The assumption is that no pilot in their right mind would try to retract the landing gear on the ground and if they are trying to do so while the switch still indicates “on-the-ground”, the switch must be wrong. (If you’re having trouble following this, don’t worry. I’ve skipped a couple of technical details that would explain it all. I’m just trying not to get sidetracked. The story is about What more than How.)

This alleged technique could have produced a major mishap, i.e. “a crash”. It’s a miracle that it didn’t. I have since wondered whether the pilot who tried this might be related to the “Lucky” pilot from my earlier story about the Marine A-4 pilot who survived flying into the water at night. Regardless, his “luck” was well above average.

Everything went as planned up to the moment of liftoff. They hadn’t taken into account that it was a hot summer day in Texas. That meant that the engine wasn’t producing quite as much power as it would in cooler air. Instead of leaping into the air, they staggered, the landing gear retracted, and they settled back onto the runway with the gear up. (Oops…) Luckily, they had two external aluminum drop tanks hanging under the wing and those are what touched the runway.

There was a loud scraping sound as the bottoms of the twin fuel tanks were quickly sanded off and all 600 gallons of jet fuel deposited on the runway. The sudden loss of 4,000 lbs. of fuel (half the fuel load!) meant the jet was suddenly much lighter and miraculously it became airborne again. That shouldn’t have been possible for many reasons. The “how” remains a mystery to me even today! (Fortunately and by design, JP4 jet fuel is not as flammable as gasoline and the aluminum pieces and plumbing inside the drop tanks didn’t produce sufficient sparks to cause a fire or explosion.)

So now our Navy Training Command Skyhawk is airborne and climbing like a rocket. (It’s very light!) There’s no fire. No Emergency indicator lights. Just a loud and annoying noise from the ragged open bottoms of the two drop tanks! What should they do next? They would not be welcome guests at the Air Force base on whose runway they’d dumped 600 gallons of jet fuel. Thinking fast, they remembered a Marine airfield within range of their remaining fuel so they refiled their flight plan airborne for this new destination, keeping a cautious eye on the emergency fire lights and pondering their collective future.

It was a grim picture. They were lucky to be alive and were likely to be grounded and/or discharged from the service as soon as they returned. So they decided to make the best of it. They made lemonade. They did wish they’d seen the face on the Air Force Duty Officer in charge of the airfield when he was told that a Navy jet had just baptized his main runway with 600 gallons of jet fuel and then flown away.

They landed at Marine Air Field XYZ and quickly found the senior Master Gunnery Sargent in charge of Maintenance. They explained the situation – roughly – and asked whether he could have his crew tape up the damaged drop tanks with ordnance tape (a particularly robust and sticky kind of duct tape) so they’d be good enough to fly back to home plate. Marines have a “can-do” attitude and this “Gunny” was no different. It was done as requested and after refueling, the Skyhawk continued on its way – not back to Kingsville, but continuing to their original destination. (That there was a woman of interest at the original destination is just hearsay…)

The two Marines returned Sunday night to Kingsville and upon landing were informed by the Maintenance Officer that the Skipper requested their immediate presence. (The Maintenance Chief was not amused by the two destroyed drop tanks either.) The Skipper had received a phone call from his boss, the Air Wing commander, who in turn had been contacted by an Air Force General in charge of the airfield whose runways had been unexpectedly closed due to the need to clean up a major jet fuel spill, thanks to a Navy Skyhawk suffering an apparently major “fuel leak” on takeoff.

The details of their punishment have been lost from memory but I do recall that they were grounded and never flew again in the military, being discharged fairly quickly afterward. I never heard whether they did in fact go on to fly for the airlines or FedEx as many ex-military pilots do. It’s possible that having learned a major lesson from this incident, they became the safest pilots in the world but I must admit that if I’d ever run into them at an airport, I would have made a careful note of their employer and hesitated, unfairly or not, to book with that company in the future.

On the other hand, maybe you want to fly with a pilot who seems to have such unbelievable good luck!? Not that I’m superstitious….

Member Post

 

I just had a sobering thought on this past Veterans Day on the passage of time and aging. When I enlisted and left for Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, SC, in June of 1968, I was 19 years old and it had been 50 years and 6 months 49 years and 7 months since […]

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It’s All About Control

 

There were some cold winters in the ’60s and ’70s.  The environmentalist movement was just getting started, and it suggested that the smoke from our car exhaust was blotting out the sun, making it colder here on earth.  They demanded that we drive smaller cars, to raise the earth’s temperature.  Then we had some warmer winters in the ’80s, and the environmentalists said that the exhaust from our cars was creating the greenhouse effect, making it warmer here on earth.  They demanded that we drive smaller cars, to lower the earth’s temperature.  Observing such inconsistencies, there were some who began to suspect that this wasn’t about weather, and it wasn’t even about cars.  Some conspiracy theorists even went so far as to suggest that this wasn’t about the environment at all, it’s all about control.

The more you read about our tax code, the more one point becomes absolutely clear:  The American tax code was not written to generate revenue for our government.  If you wanted to raise money to fund government activities, this is not at all how you would do it.  In fact, our tax code is impossible to understand – it makes no sense.  Well, it makes no sense unless you look at it as a means of controlling American citizens, businesses, and industry.  Unless viewed through the lens of control, our tax code makes no sense whatsoever.  Some conspiracy theorists go so far as to suggest that it’s not about taxes or revenue at all, it’s all about control.

We don’t have racism in America like we once did.  Events that would be recognized by, say, Martin Luther King as racist are, thankfully, somewhat rare now.  But from Rodney King to George Zimmerman to George Floyd, whenever something happens that might possibly be portrayed as racist, the left plays it up as a clarion call that we must fundamentally change America.  Some find it unhelpful that the role of racism in all those events is not entirely clear, but that may be a positive.  Because now the left can scream “RACISM!!!” when a white teenager shoots three white criminals in a white town in Wisconsin.  They can use fears of white supremacy to encourage you to vote against black candidates, like Larry Elder and the Virginia lieutenant governor.  Some conspiracy theorists are going so far as to suggest that this isn’t really about racism at all, it’s about control.

There are many more examples, of course.  But it seems clear that when the left talks about the environment, the tax code, racism, or nearly anything else, that they’re really talking about control.  It’s all about gaining control, by any means necessary.

Think of the fiasco along the Mexican border.  If Hispanic immigrants voted 75% for Republicans, do you really think that Democrats would be opening the border, and talking about the rights of people to live wherever they want?  Of course not.

So I’m gradually reaching the conclusion that when dealing with the left, the issue at hand really doesn’t matter.  It was something else yesterday, and it will be something else tomorrow (unless today’s issue helps the left).  We’re not really debating about transsexual wedding cakes.  Leftists don’t care about such things any more than I do.  We’re talking about control.

In much the same way as issues don’t matter, I don’t think that Democrat politicians matter.

Much has been made of President Biden’s mental status.  He may have a degree of dementia of some variety.  I’m not sure – he was never terribly bright, and maybe he’s just getting a bit older.  I don’t know.

But I don’t think Biden’s intelligence matters.  How would things be going differently if one of the other candidates had won the Democrat primary?  The top three in delegates won were Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.  Buttigieg was also up there.  Would anything have changed if one of them had won instead of Biden?

Of course not.  The Democrat candidate was going to win this election.  And their policies would be about the same, and the Democrat Congress would be doing the same thing as they are now.

So if leftist issues don’t matter, and leftist leaders don’t matter, what does matter?

The only way we can stop the metastatic disease of leftism is to never allow these tyrants anywhere near power.  That’s all they want.  They don’t care about the environment, or taxes, or racism, or anything else that matters to you.  All they care about is control.

Remember that when you vote.  You’re not voting about whatever issue is on your mind.  You’re voting about control.  Government control vs individual freedom.

Choose carefully.  While you still can.

Issues of the day, fake compassion, and fear of uncertainty are simply tools used by wanna-be tyrants to gain control of the populace.  You shouldn’t be focused on separate graduation ceremonies for different races at colleges, or Greta Thunberg, or oil pipelines, or whatever the riot-of-the-week is about.  Those are all simply distractions from the left’s real goal.  Don’t be distracted by such things.

You should be focused purely on keeping leftists away from power.

Because we all know where that leads.

As the saying goes:  You can vote your way into socialism.  But you’ll have to shoot your way out.

Annie Oakley Is Back!

 

Well, the title is sort of true. My husband began calling me Annie Oakley after my early performance on the gun range, and my trainer enjoyed calling me Annie just to tease Jerry about my prowess. For some crazy reason, I’ve always had a certain level of skill. So, what’s the big deal for me? I hadn’t been to the gun range since the end of last year, after I received my cancer diagnosis.

Jerry has been very patient with preparing me to shoot again. We also both have concealed carry licenses here in Florida, and more than just the idea of getting ready to shoot the gun again, being prepared for the unexpected, has always made me a little anxious. And I knew I had to deal with the question of carrying all over again.

Since for a period I wasn’t very strong, Jerry took his time coaxing me back into shooting. He suggested eventually that I use the snap caps and just practice taking my weapon, a Glock 42, out of my purse properly. (I did not want to wear my gun on a belt.) You wouldn’t think that was a big deal, but there are so many steps to focus on when you carry: practicing situational awareness, putting my right hand on the gun in my purse, not drawing until I feel there is reason to use the gun, bringing the gun out, racking the gun to put a bullet in the chamber (yes, I know that some people always have one in the chamber), bringing the gun up to my chest and grasping it with both hands, leaning forward, putting my finger on the trigger when I’m prepared to actually shoot, aim, and pull the trigger, bring the gun back to my chest, look around both ways to see if anyone else might be a threat, and put the gun away.

I told you it was complicated.

Anyway, I was not consistent with my practicing, which just validated my reticence. But eventually, I got into a routine for a couple of weeks. We decided it was time to go to the range.

I don’t think the real Annie Oakley would have been such a wuss!

When we drove into the small parking lot of the gun shop, I immediately settled down. I always felt comfortable there, knowing everyone I encountered was in concert with my beliefs about gun ownership and freedom. Jerry removed our guns from the trunk of the car, and he gave me a couple of targets and we headed for the front door.

Another good sign would be if I saw my gun instructor in the shop. He had given us both lessons, educated me on concealed carry, and was delighted to see how well I handled a gun. We are about the same age, but I probably look like the little old lady from Pasadena compared to most women who come in regularly.

As we entered the shop, lo and behold, there was John my instructor, and when he saw us he called out, “Where ya been?” It was so sweet to be recognized. As he came up to us, I told him I’d been sidetracked with cancer, and he said, “Me too!” They’d caught his prostate cancer early and he was doing great. Just one more way to connect with a gun-totin’ person.

So we went out to the range and got out our stuff. The range is small, maybe 10 slots at the most; we stand indoors, but we shoot outdoors. It’s like shooting a gun in your backyard.

Now was the true test: was Annie a flop, or did I still have it?

I actually did pretty well and had a great time.

*     *     *     *     *

Returning to the gun range was a blessing in many ways. First, whatever resistance I had has disappeared. Second, I was thrilled to see that I’d retained some of my skills, including attention to gun safety. Third, during a time where I’ve felt vulnerable and not at full strength, I felt strong and empowered.

It was a good day.

And Annie Oakley is back!

*     *     *     *

I wrote this post in part to encourage those who are unwilling to own guns or carry to reconsider. Conditions in our country may get worse before they get better.

You want to be prepared. So those of you gun owners who have any thoughts on gun ownership, feel free to comment!

RFK Jr. Defames Dr. Fauci (But Truth Is an Absolute Defense)

 

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., has published a new book, The Real Anthony Fauci, that is clearly actionable defamation if untrue. And Kennedy must be angling for a fight. He has published the book which if untrue is libel and is orally stating the same information in as many interviews as he can obtain which is slander. Just this past week he was featured on Tucker Carlson’s evening show as an excerpt from Carlson’s long-form interview in an episode of Tucker Carlson Today. Progressive media are spinning the interview as conspiracy theories and anti-vaxx propaganda, effectively republishing a defamation to Kennedy’s real target audience albeit with their own spin.

It is this last point that I want to emphasize: Robert Kennedy’s targets are the Karens in the progressive movement that have lionized Fauci and are supporting the destruction of liberty. Kennedy’s rhetoric on liberty is refreshing and hopeful for conservatives, libertarians, and classical liberals. His jeremiad is an important tool in persuading or defeating the Karens. Why? Because he accepts the frame of progressivism and demonstrates by statistics (often flawed in my view, but ones routinely relied upon by progressives in policy arguments) that Dr. Fauci is ineffective at best and corrupt at worst. And most importantly, Fauci’s ineffectiveness and/or corruption is not a new phenomenon. It has been a feature of his leadership at the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984.

In one book, RFK Jr does multiple things: (1) debunk the efficacy of the COVID-19 strategy promoted by Fauci, (2) highlights the problem of regulatory capture and expands the definition of Deep State to include big corporations, (3) draws a line under why a Deep State is an existential threat to the Republic, and (4) defines a rallying point for people who agree on a problem while disagreeing on a solution.

Kennedy is in the fight. Naomi Wolf is in the fight. Glenn Greenwald is in the fight. Bill Maher is in the fight. There is help for the Republic. It is in as many people as possible seeing the current alliance of media, academia, corporations, federal employees, and politicians functioning as a Deep State and to understand that centralizing power in this way will enslave us all.

This aggregation of citizens who see the Deep State as the principal problem to be solved opens up some opportunities. The problem with the Tea Party and MAGA is that it was anchored in one political party. Yes, Reagan and Trump were able to pull Democrats in ways that Republicans rarely did, but GOPe is as much a part of the Deep State as Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. The focus has to be on putting people into office who oppose the Deep State regardless of their political affiliation.

When we try to enforce political purity we use the strategy of “primarying” an incumbent. But if we expand the strategy to encompass both parties — not focusing solely on getting voters to shift affiliations — we get two bites at the apple. You work for candidates on both sides of the ballot to pledge to fight the Deep State. We need a new “Contract with America” that is not focused on putting one or the other party in charge of the House and/or Senate. Putting both chambers into the loving embrace of GOPe will not save the Republic. We have seen time and time again that GOPe will respond to the forces forming and guiding the Deep State and will abandon the grassroots once they have regained power.

We need a revolution. And whether Kennedy completely understands the revolution we need, his attack on Fauci and the cabal of unelected actors is exactly the kind of thing that we need to gain numbers in fighting the corruption of the Deep State. We need to set aside some of our disagreements for the duration while we attack the structure that is steadily enslaving us. For example, even if we eliminated all abortions in this country we will have them born into slavery if we do not dismantle the Deep State.

The Bill of Rights is our rallying point. We need to rediscover the outlook of our Founders who saw George III as the despot and demanded liberty. “Either we must hang together or all hang separately.” “Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!” Let us refresh the slogans and create a new Purple revolution that overwhelms the Deep State. Either we do it now, or do it generations in the future after terrible suffering.

Fool About; Find Out

 

Recently in Philly, a guy shot some people who attempted to rob him at gunpoint. Two of the three attackers pointed guns at the man.

Here’s some news twaddle about the event. Can’t wait to hear how this one went down as the facts are developed:

Every hoodlum and thug, political or for gain, should be on notice that this country is tired of taking their guff.

Member Post

 

I read another one this morning, another article about the Kenosha affair and its larger significance. 99.44% bloviation, of course, but that’s ok, I was just waiting for the covfefe anyway. The article was generally positive, but a couple of paragraphs in lay a nasty little stink bomb.  I’ll quote the paragraph without attribution, since […]

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We’re Moving to a Faster Pace

 

Look out, here comes the Master Race! Warning: language, because AUTHENTIC PEOPLE who have THE RAGE always swear.

This fellow went on quite a tear about the Wisconsin case. While you can wave away most of the effervescent fulminations on Twitter, it’s always fun to see what the Verified Voices are saying.

So: second wave. I think he means a global Second Wave, which is lapping at the shores of every nation. Note that that ol’ goose stepper Youngkin is a standard-bearer for the new nightmare.

What seemed to be the big issue towards the end of the VA election? Education, and the rights of the parents vs. the ideology of the state. But since the statists were the good people – they just wanted to teach about history and racism and marginalized sexual identities! – the parents were fascists who wanted sanitized panegyrics to whiteness.

Progs: whiteness is a systemic evil!

Ordinary Americans, perplexed: that seems like a rather racist worldview.

Progs: oh look who’s imagining he’s being persecuted

Same dude:

Perhaps the “American Right” was focused on the self-defense issue, but sure: there were people who did not mourn “Jojo,” as actor Mark Ruffalo called the child rapist, and regarded the violent rioters as, well, violent rioters. This is the peculiar moral inversion of the era: it is meet and right to burn and destroy, but the people who object to the destruction are the shock-troops of fascism. It is noble to deface a building with a painted slogan; the very act of spraying graffiti is sanctified by the rightness of your cause. The only possible explanation for someone preventing you from defacing the building, or washing it off later, is because they disagree with you, and if they do, then voila: they are fascists. It’s really that simple.

A reminder: if Rittenhouse had been killed that night, no one would remember his name. The trial of his killer would not have been national news. (Like Gosnell, a “local story.”) Killing him would have been necessary, Because Fascism.

Why, perhaps it still is.

Another verified genius weighs in, with a reminder.

Should this happen, it will not be a sign that street violence is a terrible thing to countenance, and leads to hideous ends; it’s a sign that the horrible system under which we labor produces injustices that produce lamentable, but understandable, reactions. I mean, if you don’t want judges shot down in the streets, elect better judges, y’know?

Oh by the way he didn’t mean it like that you idiots.

We continue:

One might say that the summer of 2020, with its impotent reactions to criminal destruction of American cities, might, in some tortured sense, be defined as “anarchy.” The left’s defense of destruction For Great Justice, and waving away of the plight of the “victims” might also be construed as a “validation” of “mayhem.”

I mean, it’s not an unreasonable idea, is it?

It is? Sorry. I guess that’s the sort of blinkered foolishness you’d expect from someone who is not making plans to flee:

The left is completely powerless to prevent this, it seems. They have no power. The government, the educational establishment, the media: all weak as Parvo-stricken puppies, unable to muster anything more than a feeble bleat of disapproval. Soon the streets will fill with angry men who want to break store windows and set cars on fire.

No no not those guys, they’re good! We mean the bad ones.

There will be mobs who attack Jews. No no not those guys, they’re angry about colonialism or acting out whiteness doctrines of otherizing, please keep up.

There will be throngs of white men in positions of authority demanding that Asians be suppressed in academic admissions –

What? No, no, that’s different. Please, you’re not conversant in the prismatic subtleties of the intersectional matrix, so maybe sit this one out? Once you’ve done the work, then perhaps you will be alert to the neo-Fascist elements who will restructure society to otherize those who do not have pure blood –

What? No, no, that’s different. That’s a matter of public health. Of course, you should have to show your papers. Point is, America is a lost cause. Soon, very soon, a group of people will try to burn down a city because they saw some tweets about a thing, and there will be a horrifying moment when the authorities prevent it. The nascent subterranean Fascist instinct ignites in the citizens, and they will join the police to prevent the people from smashing the store windows and burning down the legislature building.

When the morning rises and the streets are not twinkling with broken glass – Kristall-not!  –  and the legislature is not a smoldering heap – well, then you’ll know.  The Second Wave of Fascism has crashed on the shores of America, and engulfed us all.

Questioning the President’s Cognition

 

“..we have a commitment … to come to Taiwan’s defense if attacked by Communist China.”

So speaks the title of a recent piece by my long-time and dear friend, Phillip McMath, along with co-author Dr. Pham Liem, retired Professor of Geriatrics at the University of Arkansas Medical Center, which appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette recently. In this discussion, the authors very carefully set up the historical background illustrating the critical importance of each and every word uttered by heads of State, especially the Leader of the Free World, or those who are believed to speak for him. They start by recounting how a few stray words from the then-Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, led to the beginning of the Korean Conflict:

On Jan. 12, 1950, Dean Acheson, Secretary of State in the administration of President Truman, gave a speech to the National Press Club. In it he outlined the “defensive perimeter” of the United States and her Asian allies as running through Japan, the Philippines, and the Ryukyu Islands.

This excluded the Republic of South Korea, where the reaction was one of shock and panic. Six months later, marching through Acheson’s “green light,” Communist North Korea crossed the 38th parallel and attacked the South.

When in October Communist China, supported by the Soviet Union, entered the war, the world barely averted a nuclear catastrophe. In July 1953 the conflict staggered to a stalemate, but nearly 40,000 Americans died, while over a million Korean and Chinese soldiers perished along with at least two million civilians.

As expected, Acheson and his defenders insisted he was misunderstood. Perhaps so, but that misunderstanding had grave consequences.

They then bring the discussion to our current situation, with an obviously and dangerously cognitively impaired person, to this non-medical layman, at least, and apparently to millions of my fellow citizens, occupying the Presidency of the United States. They illustrate, acutely and painfully in my view, how the person who was once jocularly referred to as Good Old Joe, known for gaffes, plagiarism, corruption, and sniffing children’s hair, among other things, is now making statements which are seen as pronouncements of policy, such as those he made about Taiwan on CNN recently:

On Oct. 21, 2021, at a CNN-sponsored town hall, President Biden was asked by Anderson Cooper whether the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s defense if attacked by Communist China. He responded, “Yes, we have a commitment to do that.”

That was not–nor ever has been–American policy. Had Biden just announced a more forceful commitment to defend Taiwan? An alarmed White House immediately executed a walk-back. What was meant, you understand, is that while the Taiwan Relations Act (enacted in 1979) obligates the U.S. to assist Taiwan in case of an attack, it does not mandate a NATO-type commitment to go to war with China.

Instead, our long-standing policy has been and remains one of “strategic ambiguity.” But ambiguities are treacherous and can become more so when one tampers with their vagueness. So the hurried walk-back inadvertently created even greater uncertainty by implying that the U.S. might not defend Taiwan at all. Thus, with a few careless words, the Biden fumble had morphed our Taiwan/China policy into a dangerous muddle.

Equally alarming was the obvious fact that on such a critical point of peace and war the U.S. president did not know his country’s defense policy. Had he not mastered an understanding of the Taiwan Relations Act during his eight years as vice president?

Biden has had a four-decade involvement with China. He has traveled there multiple times. He has known President Xi for over a decade and met with him on several occasions. Did he not grasp how the U.S. defense posture regarding Taiwan was distinguishable from the NATO assurance that an attack on thee is an attack on me? Had he not been refreshed about this distinction as our new president? Was it not anticipated that he would have to articulate this sensitive matter clearly and cogently while the world hung upon his every word?

Wasn’t foreign policy advertised as one of his strong points and his primary responsibility as commander-in-chief of America and leader of the free world?

Everyone agrees that the China threat requires a new and sophisticated strategy. The pressing question: Can this strategy be constructed successfully with this president conjoined as he is with a defense establishment that engineered the Afghanistan disaster?

There follow more details about one of the worst stains on the honor of America, if not the very worst, the Afghanistan disgrace, and a brief summary of his “misstatements” over the last few months, with the authors summing up with one of the best descriptions I have seen of the embarrassments inflicted upon us, some fraught with peril and not at all humorous, by this President:

Churchillian this is not.

This is a most enlightening, if not, to put it mildly, troubling essay about the potential horror which this apparently very ill, very unfit (his medical evaluation of yesterday omitted any mention of any cognitive tests, so we are still without that most important information), very unstable person in the office of the President of the United States can have visited upon us by the loose talk of his addled mind. I cannot recommend it too highly as it is, in my judgment, a very important piece of commentary for our time.

Member Post

 

This is an exchange from a continuing conversation with a group of very liberal (and, by the way, mostly very nice and unusually willing to engage)  ministers. Those of you who are familiar with my Rico-ouvre will note the  uncharacteristic brevity of my reply. Most of my contributions to the conversation are extremely long, detailed […]

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Quote of the Day: Facts

 

“Facts don’t care about your feelings.” – Ben Shapiro

I have used this once before, but if ever there was a quote that summed up this week this is it. We have seen it in the lefty reactions to the Rittenhouse verdict. It is a giant cry of “Don’t confuse me with facts. My feelings tell me he is guilty.”

Of course, he was innocent. Watch the videos, go over the court testimony and the facts are obvious: this was a clear-cut case of self-defense. Yet to many on the left, the facts are irrelevant. It is all about the feelz.

I once had a boss who kept telling me: “You’ve got to understand. It does not matter what the facts are. Perceptions are everything.” We were discussing a Shuttle-related technical issue, one directly connected to safety. I responded, saying. “If your perceptions are the plane is flying straight and level at 10,000 feet and the facts are that you are at 500 feet and spinning in then your perceptions are going to get a reality update within three seconds.” Because it really did not matter what you felt. Facts were going to intrude.

Facts always matter more than feelings — as was demonstrated Friday.

The Shared Basis of Libertarian Free Will and Torah Fundamentalism

 

A Mormon friend called me the other day, and wanted to talk about the concept of redemption. He wanted to better understand the Jewish/Torah point of view on what, especially to Christians, is quite an important topic. After all, what does the end of the world look like? Are there End Days of some kind?

You might think that this is something Jews think about a lot, but if you did think that, you would be wrong. The Torah is focused on what we do in this world. The way we see it, if we always try to do our best, G-d will sort things out in the end.

So the question got me thinking. The Torah itself contains no hint of an afterlife. Similarly, there is no concept of an end to the world, or even end days. Yet the text is very interested in helping us grow in this world. If we want to ask about redemption, it is easily enough done: look at how the text discusses redemption.

We started with the word itself, the word for “redemption” in the text. In Hebrew, the word is based on the root ga-al. It appears in the text no fewer than 37 times.

The vast majority of these examples deal with redeeming an animal that has been promised to be sacrificed, redeeming land from its current owners, and redeeming servants or slaves. In other words, they are all about achieving a degree of freedom, of autonomy, of separation from existing obligations.

The first time G-d uses the phrase, He says to Moses:

Say, therefore, to the Israelite people: I am the LORD. I will free you from the labors of the Egyptians and deliver you from their bondage. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and through extraordinary chastisements.

And indeed, when the Exodus occurs, the people sing:

In Your kindness You lead the people You redeemed;
In Your strength You guide them to Your holy abode.

What is this redemption? The meaning seems clear: in this case, redemption is freedom from slavery. But this is not a freedom merely from something: it is a freedom to something as well. Redemption in the Torah is tightly connected to the concept of free will, with all of its concomitant rights and responsibilities, including suffering (or enjoying) the consequences of our actions.

When the people left Egypt they were like children, still possessing a slave mentality, and much growth ahead of them. This was the most basic redemption, freedom from outright institutional slavery. But, like freed slaves throughout time, the mental and cultural changes to go from slavery to truly being free in one’s own mind can take many generations.

Yet it is clear that this is where the Torah goes. Torah redemption is not about a savior, or celestial angels affecting an end of time. It is instead deeply and profoundly earthy, dealing with buying back a sheep, relationships with servants, land defaults, and even blood feuds (the person with a right to kill someone for a murder is called a “blood-redeemer.”)

Redemption is about daily freedom, including with one’s person and assets. It is about people being able to both have freedom, and possess the maturity to use it wisely.

There is an even-higher state of redemption in the Torah than merely freedom. It is not divine deliverance, but rather divine assistance! This divine assistance is explained the first time the word for redemption is used in the Torah, in the words of Jacob:

And [Jacob] blessed Joseph, saying,
“The God in whose ways my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has been my shepherd from my birth to this day—

The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil—

Bless the lads.
In them may my name be recalled,
And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
And may they be teeming multitudes upon the earth.”

What is this angelic redemption? I think it connects back to Jacob’s life. Jacob took risks and he invested, time and again. Of all of the forefathers, it is Jacob who displayed the most initiative, who made bold choices. Those choices may well have had terrible consequences – Esau or Laban may well have killed him, for example – but those worst-case consequences did not happen. Jacob suffered, to be sure, but it could easily have been much worse.

Instead, Jacob was redeemed from evil. He gained divine favor to allow him to go through life and survive his own mistakes. This is the kind of redemption to which we are told to aspire, not a relationship with G-d in which G-d swoops in like a superhero to save the day, to get us out of jail free, but instead a relationship in which we do our best each and every day, where we work hard and try, and aim to always grow. And when we do that, in good faith and with good intentions, then G-d is involved with our lives, to save us from others and from the worst consequences we would otherwise have brought upon ourselves.

Redemption is thus not an open miracle, but a quiet and supportive partnership. Torah redemption is not a product or the End Days, but an ongoing process in which we are all invited and able to grow closer to one another as adults, making decisions as free men, and able to enjoy the fruits of our labor and appreciate the G-d who has blessed us.

In the ideal Torah society, people have both freedom and the maturity to use it well. This latter piece, maturity, is particularly difficult to attain. Being able to make our own decisions as free men is far beyond the Exodus, merely escape from institutional slavery.  It is a development into partnership with G-d instead of merely servitude to G-d.

Redemption in the Torah can mean freedom from others. But it does not mean freedom from ourselves. On the contrary! The freedom to act and to choose comes with responsibility, consequences, and benefits from those choices. It is quite a lot like modern theories of free will and the role of a free man in a free society.

Redemption also does not mean freedom from G-d. Torah redemption comes with an involvement with G-d throughout the process, throughout our lives. Involving G-d is what separates religious libertarianism from libertinism. In the Torah, redemption leads to freedom and adulthood.

[An @iwe, @kidcoder, and @eliyahumasinter collaboration]

Bob Was There Too

 

I just finished reading Artemis, by Andy Weir. Yes, I know it’s been out for *checks title page* five years? Really? Man, I am slow at this kind of thing. The good part of not staying up-to-the-minute on these things is that I can get the book from the library because nobody else has it out. The bad thing is that nobody cares about what you have to say by then. But sometimes I’m early; sometimes I… hold on, I’m going to need to get a proper hipster beer to fortify me for this next part.

Now that I’m drinking a Triple India Pale Ale double dry hopped with Simcoe, Callista, and Kohatu,* I can tell you that I’ve been a fan of Andy Weir’s for longer than you have. I’ve read his first novel. No, not The Martian, this is the unpublished one called Theft of Pride. You’ve probably never heard of it. He had a download link on his website. No, not his current website; galactanet, the old one where he hosted his webcomic Casey & Andy. Hold on…

Okay, after a swig of Dr. Pepper I think I can break out of the whole hipster milieu and get on with the story. Casey & Andy was a webcomic about mad science. I mean, there was a bunch of other stuff in there, but all the best stuff was about mad science. Occasionally he’d break into a story with some actual continuity, but things like character development were never Andy Weir’s strong point. What he does really, really well is gadgets.

XKCD still has the best summary of this that I’ve ever heard.

I only ever knew about his attempt at a novel because I was reading his webcomic whenever it updated back in the heady days of 2004. Theft of Pride is the story of a sci-fi heist. The greatest jewel thief in the galaxy needs to steal the symbol of an alien race’s pride out from the midst of the most heavily guarded museum in known space. That sort of thing. The heist is pretty cool; there’s a lot of interesting world-building (I suspect that the whole thing started as a homebrew setting for a role-playing game) but all that is stuff that plays to Weir’s strengths. And the man’s writing has its weaknesses.

He borrowed his comic once to explicitly complain about a rejection; not a rejection from a publisher, but from a potential agent for his novel. I don’t know that that novel was exactly Theft of Pride, but the pattern fits. They thought he didn’t have enough characters in his story. “Feel free to edit and resubmit.” But it’s a heist. You can’t just add in characters to a heist; every additional person in a group noticeably weakens it, so your characters have to have good reasons to bring in these extra security risks. When you set out to write a novel that might be possible. When you’ve got it already finished, adding more into that matrix gets very, very difficult. How do you fix that? That’s Bob’s job. Bob was there, too.

[…] I jokingly came up with randomly adding “Bob was there, too” throughout the story.

This spawned a running joke within my group of friends and a fun activity. Take a book you like, open to a random page and read a paragraph. At the end, add “Bob was there, too.” This can be particularly entertaining if you end up reading a paragraph from a sex scene.

It works reasonably well. From that point on Bob showed up as a running gag in the strip. A whole slew of comics would go by with nothing and then, well

Back to Artemis. This is a post about Artemis, did you forget? It’s only been half the post since I’ve mentioned it. It’s an Andy Weir novel, in both the good and the bad sense. In the good sense, it’s got wonderful gadgets. His lunar society is well thought out, the devices that you need to keep society alive and functioning on the moon are logically engineered. The ways to defeat them are also well thought out. The ways to sabotage those devices don’t just seem logical, they seem inevitable. That’s the mark of good craftsmanship.

On the downside, well, Weir still hasn’t figured out how to do people. You can tell why The Martian was his breakout novel, the whole setup of a man lost on Mars forces it to be all gadgets and no person-to-person relationships. It’s not that his main character makes stupid decisions, or speaks crudely, or talks like a total jerk to one and all; those can all be done well. It’s that she jingles when she’s supposed to jangle, and jangles when she’s supposed to jingle. It’s as if Weir is singing slightly out of tune. You can’t blame him; he’s mimicking what he hears as well as he knows how, but it’s a little off-putting, and it makes you start looking for the props. You notice the piano wire holding up the spaceship, and the bit where someone spilled extra glue onto the model.

The opening scene of Artemis has our hero running desperately across the moonscape, her suit punctured and leaking air. It’s a race against time to get her into the airlock before the vacuum kills her. Bob was there, too. There’s a second character out with her, an EVA suit master who’s testing her for admission to that particular guild. His name is Bob. Now that I saw Bob I was watching for him. And Bob… Bob was there, too. He’s a minor character, he keeps showing up in the book, but the whole story could have been written without him. He makes contributions to the plot but those could have been handled with a little reshuffling of the other characters. I think Weir knew this, and I think he named that guy Bob as a hint to us long-term fans** to that effect.

That’s what I mean by the downside. I can see the piano wires. When Captain Kirk fought the Gorn we all saw the guy in a rubber suit, and perhaps even recognized the Vazquez rocks. That’s okay. I wasn’t there for the special effects, I was there for the story. And the story was a pretty neat one. Here I’m going in the opposite direction. Weir’s story can be predictable. His characters remind you that they’re figments on a page, not real people. His lamps have a tendency to burn through his lampshades.

You know what though? None of that matters. I still liked the book a great deal. It doesn’t qualify as one of the great works of the western canon, but it definitely scratches the gadget itch good and hard. I have suspicions about some of his science, but the fact that I do is only because I didn’t stop to repeat the MST3K mantra to myself. If he’s going to tell me that moon cities will have pure oxygen atmospheres at 21% of Earth’s normal pressure then I’m willing to believe him. He’s done his homework. I’m glad I’ve read this book, and I’m looking forward to reading his next book.

In a couple years.


*No, I’m not actually making any of that up. It’s called Code Name Dawson’s Creek, and it’s from the Young Blood Beer Co out of Madison, WI. The can confidently informs me “This tripe IPA is absolutely bursting with dank vibes.” I don’t know what that means either.

**Sorry; got to finish the beer now that I’ve opened it up.