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IDs, Travel, Guns, and Other Vaguely Constitutional Issues

I am going to start with some opinions about the U.S. Constitution (the document, not the ship) that are based on mostly high school history from the mid-1980s and an additional 40+ years of following news and opinion on various sides.

First, I believe that the 14th, 19th, and 26th amendments together create an implication that all U.S. Citizens over the age of 18 have an inherent right to vote in at least U.S. Federal elections – that is elections for Presidential Electors, members of the U.S. House of Representatives and, because of the 17th amendment, members of the U.S. Senate.

Second, I believe that the 1st amendment’s clause on free assembly creates an implication that all persons in the United States have a right to freely travel. And, that right has been naturally extended as travel technologies have improved.

Third, I am no longer convinced that the 2nd amendment creates an unfettered right for any U.S. Citizen to possess any kind of firearm. However, I still believe that it does set a high bar on the restrictions that can be placed on firearm ownership and possession – a bar that is at least as high as the bar that can be placed on voting and travel.

This leads me to the meat of what I want to write about, and that is a form of hypocrisy from (big surprise) the right wing/conservative elements of the U.S. political spectrum. Many or most of these politicians, political commentators, etc. strongly advocate for few if any restrictions for owning guns. They will even oppose ideas such as requiring insurance or training-based licensing for gun ownership such as what is required for operating a motor vehicle (freedom of travel). And, when it was suggested that people on the “No Fly” list be prevented from buying guns, suddenly they were all up in arms about due process, but had said nothing about due process when these same people were denied freedom of travel (or at least air travel) without any due process.

And that now leads me to RealID and voter ID and gun control. At the moment, we are dealing with a strong push to get every state’s drivers license and and alternate ID compliant with the federal RealID standards. These standards are at best inconvenient for people to meet – often requiring them find their birth certificate, marriage certificate, multiple proofs of residency, social security card or other document to prove that, as well as some pre-existing photo ID.

Then, because there is a looming deadline, the facilities are becoming backed up. I’ve seen first hand or newspaper reports that both California and Illinois are already seeing longer than usual delays because of this, and New Mexico which has had a compliant ID longer, may also soon be hit with some.

And, it is well shown that similar issues exist in places where voting requires a similar ID. (I won’t digress into the arguments, well shown elsewhere, that requiring ID for voting implicitly if not explicitly targets minority, poor, young, and to a lesser extent, urban, voters – making it advantageous to conservatives and doing little if anything to combat voting fraud).

I will argue that if anyone were to propose that someone must posses and show a RealID compliant ID to purchase a firearm, that the same voices that complained about the No Fly list would be just as vocal about how that is unfairly targeting potential gun owners.

But, what I see from this is that these voices see the rights to firearm ownership that are, or possibly are, implied from the 2nd amendment are much more important to them than the rights travel and vote that are implied from the 1st, 14th, 19th, and 26th amendments.

In my opinion none of the rights protected from government restriction by the constitution, except perhaps the freedoms of speech and the press, are more important than any other right.

A More Personal Take on My Issues with The Evangelical Church

My last two posts covered some of my theological, and political, issues with the (white) Evangelical Church at least in the US. But, as I’ve been trying to – and this morning (March 17, 2019) succeeding – get myself back to attending church with at least some regularity, I got thinking about how at least one aspect of the Evangelical Church impacted me, and how I see it impact others. I’m specifically talking about the aspect that gives that portion of the church its name, and in many ways and for many years gave it its identity: its emphasis and and style of evangelism.

As I saw from both the outside and inside, the Evangelical Church, at least in the U.S. at its core is focused around the central ideas that the an individual is only saved if they hear about Christ’s work on the cross, and then make a personal decision to accept that salvation; and that the primary job of any Christian who has been so saved is to attempt to reach out and bring that message to as many others as they can.

I grew up in the Presbyterian tradition, which in the mainstream Presbyterian denominations doesn’t make a big deal about the exact nature of salvation. But many years ago when doing research on the various branches of the larger Presbyterian Church, I came across writings from an Orthodox Presbyterian Church that vehemently condemned the “Armenian Heresy,” which is the belief that is core to American Evangelism. So, while it wasn’t emphasized, my Christian upbringing in fact comes from a tradition that is separate from this idea.

With my eyes open to this, I can look at a traditional Presbyterian worship service, and see evidence that their beliefs tend more towards the idea that salvation is the work of God than anything of man’s doing.

However, starting around the time I got engaged, I started attending various Evangelical churches. For the most part during this time, I had few major issues with the churches. However, one issue continued to bother me to a lesser or greater degree: the fact that while I had believed in God, in Christ, and in the fact that Christ had died for my sins, for as long as I could recall, I had never consciously made the decision to accept Christ in the Evangelical sense. At more than a few points, the pressure caused by being in this environment caused a feeling akin to guilt, which led me to fee that maybe my belief wasn’t enough and that I needed to go ahead and say the salvation prayer. But, that didn’t change anything – either relieving the guilt, nor creating the so-called sense of salvation peace.

Then there is the other part of this. The part I saw more clearly both before and after I was regularly attending Evangelical churches, but still saw at other times. The reverse effect of evangelism.

I’ve known many people who find much of the outward evangelism practiced in this country off-putting. This is true of both the personal evangelism from friends and strangers, and the general evangelism found in advertising and mass outreach.

Telling someone that they are going to be punished because of who they are, or because of what they do, or do not believe, is a very off-putting message to a lot of people. This is even more so to people who have studied disciplines such as science and engineering, so their minds are bent towards analytical thought. Then, the fact that many of the most aggressive purveyors of evangelistic outreach for decades have also been the ones who love to condemn the very people that they think they are trying to save – think Jack Chick and they group who used to show up with yellow signs at Comic-Con International telling us how anyone who reads comics was bound for hell – and you are creating an environment where evangelical outreach is driving people away from all kinds of Christian Churches.

So, between my personal issues where I found that being regularly put into a position of doubting my beliefs based on a model of salvation that I don’t think I ever truly accepted as true, and knowing that that model of salvation was hurting the Church as God’s (or at least one of God’s) outreach to mankind by driving people away from it, I have to suspect that it was only a matter of time before I would reach a point where other factors would make me realize that I could not continue to worship or attend churches built around evangelism.

My Basic Problem with Evangelical Theology and Practices

What I’m writing here may bother some of my friends and family who are or have been part of Evangelical Churches, and still have that as the basis for their Christian theology.  However, this is also key to things that have bothered me at varying levels for years.  And, while the broad support for the Republican agenda and Trump as it shows more and more that it is not an agenda of love, but one of hate and greed that may have been the metaphorical straw that broke the camels back and has led me to want to have nothing to do with American Evangelicalism in any way, what I’m going to write about is a vast majority of what that metaphorical camel was already loaded with.

At least as I understand it, dating back to near the beginning of the protestant reformation, there have been two competing views of salvation that have split the Church.

In the most extreme version, one is the view that those who are going to be saved are elected or predestined and God knows who they are.  Nothing that man can do will impact their salvation.  In this view, the role of the Church is to be there for the saved who have heard the word of God as a place for learning and fellowship, and to provide opportunity for the saved who have not heard the word of God to hear it.

In the most extreme version, the other is the view that the only way to be saved is to explicitly and consciously accept God’s salvation.  And, unless one has made that explicit decision, and made it known to God, they are still unsaved and condemned.  In this view, the role of the Church is to make sure that everyone everywhere hears this message, and as many people as possible make the decision and let God know.

The issue is that in the last twentieth and early twenty-first century, the American Evangelical Church, they practice the most extreme version of this second view.  In their version of Christianity, one is only a Christian if they have at some point when they can recall, have made that decision and said some form of the magic prayer.  Anyone else is condemned to some sort of eternal suffering – which might just be an existence disconnected from God, but that is bad enough (both in my view and theirs).

For someone who spent his first thirty-three years pretty much exclusively in Presbyterian churches, which come out of the first tradition, this was a continual thorn in my side.  I never had that point because it wasn’t a thing growing up.  In my church, my whole denomination and faith tradition, the assumption for the most part was that if you were in the church and believed, you believed.  You didn’t have to know when you were “saved.”  You didn’t have to have explicitly asked God for his gift, he gave it freely.  Confessing sin was something we did regularly – it was part of most services, and something we were encouraged to do as part of our regular prayers.

But, as I look back on it, I see there is more to this idea, and a much worse aspect to it that bothers me, and bothers me more that I’ve been pushed to the point that I’m seeing so much of the American Evangelical movement as broken.  I see this idea as a way that these institutions use to control people.

It starts with the message: “In order to be saved, you need to accept Christ’s salvation by saying this prayer: …”  But, soon it moves into “In order to be part of our church you need to believe …”  This is where these organizations start changing people’s beliefs.  Soon, someone who was spiritually open and seeking, but had been a firm believer in something that the church didn’t like (gay rights, abortion, immigration, Democratic politics, etc.) finds their spiritual needs being met in the church, and then feels like their other beliefs must have been wrong and starts changing them too.

And, given the way that the Evangelical Movement influences people into listening to other Evangelical voices over any non-Evangelical voices, it doesn’t even have to be someone in a specific Church, or even someone who is explicitly speaking in a church role who can push that change in belief.  I’m reasonably convinced that much of the Evangelical Movement’s political power comes from, or at least starts from this ability to influence people.

On the other hand, Churches that work from the idea that salvation is mostly or entirely in God’s hands, concentrate on equipping believers for living the life Christ called us to.  This frees people to use their own facilities to decide many issues.  Yet, quite possibly as a combination of the fact that these churches tend to see social justice (in, perhaps a slightly older sense of the term) as a major part of their mission, and the fact that many people who see themselves as Christian but are politically liberal are pushed away from Evangelical churches, these churches do tend to have a more liberal political bent in their membership.

Now, I confess I’ve not been to church regularly since the summer of 2016.  This was for a number of reasons, but my complete loss of ability to associate with any church (or near-complete ability to associate with any other aspect) that is part of the Evangelical Movement has been part of it.

I suspect that if I could keep from oversleeping (badly) and make it to the church I grew up in, and the one my Mom still attends, at 11:00 am on Sundays, I’d actually be OK.  The three sermons (albeit two were at memorial services – one very short at my Dad’s, and one a bit longer at a long-time family friend’s) I’ver heard there in the last couple of years have been very good.  And I have family and family friends who attend there.  It isn’t the closest Presbyterian church, but it might be a good fit.

Issues and Concerns with the Theology and Practices of the American Evangelical Churches

For many of the last 18 years, I attended or was a member of churches that were part of or could be associated with the American Evangelical movement.  For a lot of that time where I was both spiritually and politically may have kept me from noticing all of these issues and concerns that I now see, they are now very obvious to me.  However, many of them bothered me even then.

At least for much of that time, the churches I was in were not overtly political most of the time.  However, the fact that most or all of the visible and prominent leadership of the American Evangelical movement has seemingly shed the last of its Christian message for one of pure politics, and politics that are opposed to what I can support, and what I believe aligns with the teachings of Christ, I do not foresee my being a regular attendee or member of any church that is part of this movement anytime in the near future.

But politics is far from the only issue I have with the American Evangelical movement – or, I’ll have to admit – the mostly English speaking, white dominated parts of the American Evangelical movement that I’ve been exposed to.  The African/Black and Spanish speaking parts of the American Evangelical Church may have few or none of the features I object to, but I’ve not been exposed to them.

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Life Report/Trip Report

When last I posted way at the other end of this surprisingly long February, I had a job, and a potential house.  Since then, Tara and I have packed up, gone to a convention, moved across two and a half-states, and settled in at my parents’ house until we can get our San Diego house sold.

We actually started packing in late January, with the delivery of a PODS container (hereafter referred to as a/the pod).  It took some effort to get it loaded, largely due to a combination of lack of motivation, and never having the right things to put in it when we needed.  In the end, I suspect it could have had more volume, but was probably about where it needs to be weight wise.  At first, we intended to have the pod picked up while we were at Gallifrey One, but we were far enough behind that we postponed it until the following Tuesday.

Gallifrey One was nice, even if a combination of Tara having to go in for her last day of work in California, and trying to pack a few more things into the POD meant that we didn’t get there until after nearly everything but evening programming was done on Friday.  Comfortingly, most of the people I ran into up there didn’t see any problem with us being at a con less than a week before we were supposed to move.

We knew that we’d need help with the move, so we arranged for Ace Relocation/Allied Van Lines to pack at least some of our stuff and ship everything that wasn’t pre-loaded into the pod.  However, when I was talking to the Ace agent, I probably overestimated the amount we’d have packed, so both our estimate and the work order were short.  As it turns out, this was far from the only time where my communication skills failed.

On Tuesday February 16, the pod was picked up.  While this was happening, Tara and I grabbed lunch and headed over to Poway to pick up a Cruise America 25′ RV that would be our home during the final packing and moving process.  When we got back, we moved a few basics in – including Naga (who we wanted to have time to acclimate before adding the other cats).  We also got as much packing as we could done.

Wednesday morning the packers arrived early, and proceeded to do exactly as little as they could based on what was in their work order.  As a result, not even everything that we’d ask to be professionally packed was packed.  When the truck and loaders arrived, none of us were happy.  Given that Tara and I had crapped out on packing, we ended up contracting to have the loaders do a bunch of the packing (at a premium), which ended up taking the rest of the day Wednesday and into Thursday morning.  Additionally, this resulted in having things packed that shouldn’t have been – the worst being our mid-weight coats, and one of the cat carriers, specifically the more expensive soft one that Pabu needs to be in since she hurts herself on the bars of a regular one.

In retrospect, we should have gone ahead and had the pod picked up on Monday (or Friday), and had the packers there on Tuesday to pack everything.

As it worked out, Tara and I moved into the RV (parked outside our house, hooked up to an extension cord on a circuit that wasn’t rated for the full 30 amps required) on Wednesday night, with Naga.  This was the first (and so far only) time Naga has had us at night without other cats around.  But, she didn’t seem interested in snuggling – just making sandcastles in the middle of the night.

When we originally planned on using the RV, we figured that it would be easy and safe to put a tow dolly on it and pull Tara’s car behind.  However, the RV only has a 2,500 pound tow capacity, which Tara’s fairly light car exceeds on its own.  After a lot of back and forth, I finally it upon a solution during Wednesday night – Tara could fly back to San Diego in a week or so, and then drive her car back for about the same or less than the cost of the tow dolly.  (After a few refinements, Tara improved on the plan to avoid having to stay with anyone in San Diego, and we reduced the cost by using frequent flyer points)

Given the layout and bed size of the RV, Tara and I ended up in separate beds.  She took the bed that could be made out of the dinette, where I slept on the most permanent bed in the back (deciding that the over-cab bed would be better left to the cats).  This worked out since it kept her from needing to climb over me (or visa-versa) at night, and us from being crowded into a bed that probably wouldn’t have fit me anyway.

The rest of the cats joined on Thursday and managed to get along OK – albeit Naga and Pabu sometimes disagreed about who should snuggle with Tara at night, and none of them snuggled with me.

Late Thursday, we headed to drop Tara’s car off with the friends who will be keeping an eye on it, and picking her up at the airport when she flies in.  After that, we stopped at PetCo shortly before closing to get another soft-sided cat carrier, and, at Tara’s suggestion, some training pads to put under the cats in their carriers; as both girls have been known to have accidents when traveling.

It was on Friday that I discovered more communications problems.  First, I thought that we were good for the carpeting people to be in on Friday, but I needed to sign the work order.  So, instead the carpeting was scheduled for Monday and we had to wait for the carpeting guy to drive over with the order to sign.

We did manage to get the cats secured into their carrier, and everything in the RV and my car ready to go on Friday.  But, instead of the 10:30 or earlier I’d hoped for, it was nearly noon when Tara took the RV down to see The Kid, and I took a detour to sneak some of the stuff from the freezer and refrigerator that weren’t worth cramming into the overflowing RV fridge to a dumpster, and then to see The Kid.

After leaving The Kid a bit before 1, I went to find a place to dump the electronics recycling off in El Cajon.  The first place I had an address for turned out to be closed, but I found a second.  However, the route to it was blocked by a major accident investigation, requiring detours both to get to the center, and then to get onto I-8 east after dropping stuff off.  As a result, it was after 2:00 when we stopped for lunch – not in El Centro as I’d expected, or Yuma as my most optimistic plans had hoped, but at the Golden Acorn Casino about half-way between the Alpine and the descent into the Imperial Valley.

It was also at this lunch stop that we discovered that three of the four cats had managed to pee in their carriers, requiring us to replace their pads.  This left us with too few to make it to Albuquerque on our original plan if the trend continued.  So, after a stop near El Centro, I ran ahead to the PetSmart in Yuma to get more pads (and more toys since the one we got seemed to help calm the kitties in transit).  I left word to have Tara meet me at the Pilot travel center towards the eastern edge of town.

However, my memory was very bad.  The travel center I was thinking of was a Love’s center not a Pilot, so Tara went right past it.  However, she found another place to stop before leaving Yuma, and called me so that we could meet up.  It was at this meeting that we determined that it wasn’t a good idea to press on to Coolidge as it was already dark and we were already tired.

So, we located an RV park with an opening less than a mile away, and I drove the RV to the park and got set up for the night.  I hooked up to shore power (for the first time in a real 30 amp circuit using the weird connector) and city water (not that we trusted it that much).  I skipped hooking up the sewer line because the ground connection in the park looked about the same size as the hose we had, and I didn’t think we had any sort of a coupler for that kind of connection.

Saturday morning, I decided that the trip to Coolidge was short enough that it was still worth our time to try to get preview night tickets to Comic-Con.  However, this delayed our departure about an hour from when we could have left.  However, I was also worried because the “black water” tank of the RV was already showing 2/3 full, and I wasn’t sure we wanted to keep going with it that full.  Still not believing I could use the local sewer, we ended up driving about 20 minutes back into Yuma to a gas station where we could dump.  We waited another 20 or 30 minutes for the two RVs ahead of us to finish dumping before we could dump and hit the road.  I let Tara run ahead, and stopped at an Albertson’s to get a gallon of bottled water (I’d been unable to satisfy my nighttime thirsts for anything resembling a reasonable cost with what we could get at gas stations or convenience stores).  I also grabbed some sandwich makings figuring that we wouldn’t want to find a place to eat along the way (Yuma to Coolidge has a paucity of places to eat until one gets to the exit in Casa Grande for Coolidge).

I met up with Tara at the only open rest area along I-8 in Arizona not that long after she got there.  However, it wasn’t quite as open as it should have been: the bathrooms were closed.  It was also hot.  So, we had to fire up the generator in the RV to comfortably have lunch.  When checking things at the rest stop, I discovered that the black water tank still showed 2/3 full.

After lunch, the trip to Coolidge was fairly uneventful (except for a detour due to the exit from Eastbound I-8 to Westbound I-10 in Casa Grande being closed.

We got to Coolidge, and parked into our spot at the RV park where Tara’s parents spend their winters (in a “park model” RV, which is an RV in name only) mid to late afternoon.  Tara’s mom had made us dinner, so we had a nice supper and then turned in for the night.

On Saturday, since it was daylight when we parked, I went ahead and hooked up to the sewer system, opening both valves under the seemingly understandable assumption that that was the way to do it.  Later, I read the fine manual tucked in a nearly hidden compartment in the RV, and discovered that in a park situation like we were in, they still wanted the valves closed until ready to dump.

Sunday morning, we slept a bit later than optimal, and still had to do a bit of packing before hitting the road.  This was slowed down when Tara’s mom insisted on feeding us before we left.  I also chose to take advantage of the city water to attempt to flush whatever was causing the black water tank sensor to read wrong, which both added to our delay in leaving, and resulted in me nearly being trapped in a squatting position (not wanting to put my knee down in the rough gravel of the parking pad).

Since before leaving, I’d been debating the best route from Coolidge to Albuquerque.  Google maps kept insisting that the fastest route was to take US-60 past Qumedo and then cut up to I-40.  I’d been preferring the route up I-17 to I-40 – knowing that the route down south through Demming and Hatch was much longer (even if Google kept claiming it was an OK alternative).  Finally, I (foolishly) decided that we should listen to Google’s advice.

This turned out to be a mistake.  First, there was a lot of construction around Superior Arizona, which slowed us down.  Then, Tara was so worn out by the winding drive down into the Salt River Canyon.  So, we switched vehicles, and I drove the RV up the less winding side of the Salt River Canyon.  Even so, by the time I got to Show Low, I decided that staying on US 60 was not a good idea.  So, I found the alternate route to I-40 at Holbrook (a short hop, albeit one that was a bet westerly).

One thing that did help was that on Sunday, Tara and I finally started taking advantage of the FRS radios we had with us.  (I finally, well after the trip confirmed that we could have been legally using a GMRS band and power off of my recently renewed GMRS license – but I didn’t know that then so our range was somewhat limited).  As long as we were within, more or less, visual distance of one another, we could communicate without phone service or the dangers of driving (a 25′ RV) while trying to use a hand-held phone.

However, it was already getting dark by the time we hit the New Mexico border.   I’d wanted to pull over at the rest area just inside of New Mexico, but they were closed (apparently for the night, as there were plenty of cars parked there, or just leaving, as we passed).  So, Tara suggested the Cracker Barrell in Gallup instead.

We appreciated the meal, and the time off the road, but it further delayed us on an already delayed day.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, albeit dark; and for me driving what I came to think of as a behemoth a bit stressful.  There was the side trip through Grants due to a badly labeled low bridge warning.

Upon arriving in the Albuquerque area, I followed family knowledge rather than Google and took Unser across the West Side.  Even at night, this was an odd trip knowing that the stretch from Paradise to Irving should have been known as Lyons, should haven’t gone passed either road, and the fire station on the west side of the road should have been a county station not a city station (or at least those were the condition when I last lived in Albuquerque and frequented Paradise Hills).

I also gave Tara the radio tour of some of the area – knowing that she was probably as tired as me, so having me make snide or tour guide remarks probably would be at least somewhat appreciated.

We got in late – after 10, and much later than I’d have anticipated or wanted.  (The fact that the clock in the RV was still on Pacific time probably added to me thinking it was earlier than it actually was most of the afternoon).

Monday, we dropped the RV off, and then got signed into both of our storage units – the original 10×30 unit the relocation agent recommended over having the local Allied agent store our stuff, and the 10×10 unit I added to deal with the extra stuff that we ended up hauling due to the movers not getting it.

Tuesday, I borrowed my Dad’s pickup and we took about half of the stuff we’d offloaded to the locker and put it away.  On Wednesday and Thursday we took over a few more loads and continued to organize and recover.

Friday, the movers arrived with our main load.  Due to the manager at the storage place finding an ideally placed unit, it took just two movers to unload and pack the unit (80% of the way from the back to the front, and all the way to the 15′ ceiling for much of that).

Yesterday, we took the last load up to the storage place (putting it in the large unit, since it was closer to the entrance and had room), as well as a few other errands.

Tomorrow, I start my new job – first with an online webinar with anyone else new to the contract, mostly at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, then by spending the afternoon at the badging office.  On Tuesday, Tara flies to San Diego and starts heading back this way with her car.

Life Updates

For the few people who only see my updates from my blog (or LiveJournal which mirrors my blog), here are a couple of updates on my life:

1: I have a new job.  I will be working at and for the Air Force Weapons Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base in (just south of) Albuquerque.  I don’t have a start date yet because they need to finish at least the preliminary security check.  That is in process, but there is still at least one piece of paperwork that needs to be completed and sent back to the contractor I’ll be working for – who are based in Huntsville Alabama.

2: Tara and I have an accepted, but contingent, offer in on a house in the Sandia Heights neighborhood in the Sandia foothills in far northeastern Albuquerque.  We’ll be moving to Albuquerque in a few weeks and living with my parents until we can close the sale of our house here.

3: Speaking of our house here in San Diego: it should be on the market about the time as when we leave town.  We’ve got some minor fixes that need to be done and will be easier done on an empty house.  We also believe that the house will show better without the cats in residence.

Transitions

This morning, I was called into a meeting with my bosses boss.  As soon as he asked for the meeting, I was pretty sure what the meeting was about, and I was right.  I have been given a sixty day notice that my job is being eliminated.  I am getting generous severance package, and Qualcomm is providing outplacement services which I plan on taking full advantage of.

I sent some more job applications out, before seeing advise from the outplacement agency not to start sending applications right away.  However, I’ll wait until I talk to them on Monday before doing anything more.  But, I intend to be as aggressive as I can in looking until I find something.

My hope is that I’ll be able to find something during the next sixty days that I can start in mid-December or early January.  Obviously, I’d prefer something in San Diego, or possibly parts of Orange County where I can fairly easily commute from Rancho Bernardo.  A job that could be 100% telecommuting would be the same as any job in San Diego.  If I have to relocate, we’d probably prefer Albuquerque since there is family there, and we have contacts who have contacts who might know how to deal with The Kid – who would probably have to relocate with us, but not live with us.  The Chicago area (at least as long as we could move back to the Bartlett/Hanover Park area) would be in play, as would Silicon Valley (provided the job was good enough to deal with the cost of living).  I’d consider Seattle, but Tara is less sure since we’d be further from family.

I’ve started reducing expenses – suspended piano lessons, reduced the number of DVDs Netflix will deliver, dropped premium channels, canceling newspaper, etc.

There are a few other things I need to do soon.  I need a new suit since my really nice suit fit about 100 pounds ago.  I’m sure that there are a couple of others, but I cannot think of any.

I’d appreciate prayers/good thoughts.  I’ll accept any job leads that you want to provide (thank you already to Glenn and Susan – I’ve followed up on your leads already).

Musical Updates

For much of the year, and into last year, I have been (was) taking music lessons.  First voice lessons and then piano lessons.  Of the two, the voice lessons have been more successful.  However, those ended in the spring when my instructor moved away and I’ve not resumed them with a new instructor – at least not yet.

I still have three piano lessons scheduled this month, but may put them on hiatus as well to let some other things calm down (mostly some house rearranging and minor remolding – replacing the flooring in two rooms as part of the rearrangement).  Hopefully, once rearranged I’ll be able to set up the keyboard in my new office without it taking up the whole room and may feel like I can practice and resume lessons.

But, overall, I’m thinking that singing is my strength.  So, that is what I should focus on.   I will need to go back to the songs I worked on when I had voice lessons and try them again – recording them and listening back so that I can be sure I’m still on key, pitch, etc.

But, I’d also like to expand my {word I cannot spell well enough to fix with spell check, that means list of works one is able to perform}.  I’ve got a few songs that I have lyrics and accompaniment tracks for that I could work on.  Obviously, most of these are mainstream songs – although thanks to a program that does an OK job at stripping vocals from sufficiently complex tracks (it fails miserably if the track is essentially mono) I have a couple of filk standards (“Mal’s Song” and “Hope Eyrie”) available.

However, I’m running into an odd problem.  Having only recently discovered it, I’m finding Stan Rogers’ “White Squall” a very inviting song to learn to sing.  [It is a bit odd to think that someone from New Mexico enjoys songs about The Great Lakes, many of which are disaster songs – fictional or non-fictional.  On the other hand, I spent many years in the Chicago area, and my dad’s family comes from Grand Haven, Michigan].  But, karaoke-version.com doesn’t have a version.  Nor have I turned any up in my other searches.  And, I cannot strip the version I (currently) have because it is from Apple Music making it a DRMed AA3 and the program needs a non-DRM MP3 to work.

Another thing I’m thinking I should try a bit is song writing.  One idea I have is to take my grandfather’s story about an ancestor who ended up working in Chicago (or Milwaukee) as an operating engineer for a hotel boiler; but would periodically swap jobs with a friend who worked a steamer crossing to Grand Haven.  This song would fit well with “White Squall” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (another song I’m tempted to learn).

One other thing that I’m still tempted to do is pick up and learn (or refine to correct skills) a cajon and/or other hand drum.  At least short-term, I think if (when) I start spending more time in filk circles these might be useful instruments.  Longer run, these might also become what I’d be likely to use should I end up doing more formal performances; relying on either accompaniment tracks or (preferred) someone else providing accompaniment.

Brief 2015 Hugo Award Finalist Reviews

Note: This post was drafted back when I was actually reading through the various Hugo Award Finalists (and then voting on a category by category basis).  It was hidden until after the awards were announced (or should have been announced – I’m counting on the ceremony to start on time and run less than two-and-a-half hours) as I’m part of the 2015 Hugo Awards subcommittee, and I don’t want anyone to accuse me of stacking the deck.

I’ll present the categories in the order I read (or otherwise finish consuming) them; and the works in the order I voted for them.

Best Short Story

“Totaled”

At first, I was having a hard time liking this story.  But, as it went on there was a good balance between ideas and action which makes it stand out in this category.

“Turncoat”

Again, at first I wasn’t liking this story.  It does drag the action out a bit – and it is almost entirely action, with just a few bits of history and a not quite out of context Bible quote.  Having a short story drag its action is a bit of an accomplishment, but not a good one.

No Award

“A Single Samurai”

This story was all action and background.  Now, that isn’t necessary a bad thing, but in this case it resulted in a pretty boring story.  Even if I didn’t read a lot of short stories in 2014, if I’m this bored, it isn’t a Hugo worthy work.

Asside: when I was regularly playing paper and pencil RPGs, I’d often find long, drawn out, combat boring, so I think that my standards aren’t the same as others as to what makes a story boring.

“On a Spiritual Plain”

This story is short, and has one pretty good idea.  But, the execution still results in a story that is almost all idea and little action.  And the action that is there is pretty mundane.

“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”

The part of me that likes when Christian ideas cross with science fiction really wanted to like this one – even if Wright’s screeds about a TV Show predisposed me to dislike his stories.  But it was just talking, and more talking, and even more talking.  And the dialog, or I probably should say “Parliament,” was all philosophy and at the end theology.  Its last sin (a pretty ironic term in this case) was that from the beginning I pretty much knew where it was going to end.

Best Novelette

“The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale”

At first this story was kind of slow, but it was short enough that the initial slow action wasn’t a big drawback.  However, I did, mostly, solve the mystery well before the narrator.  The fact that it is ranking first, tells me that this is a pretty weak field.

“The Day the World Turned Upside Down”

An interesting idea, and well executed.  I think my main issue was dealing with the suspension of disbelief over the interesting idea.  The juxtaposition of the narrator having his world both figuratively turned upside down by the loss of a long-time girlfriend, and then literally being turned upside down is its biggest strength.

I’ll note that this story was translated from, I believe, Dutch.  Yet the setting didn’t feel either particularly European nor particularly American.  I don’t know how much of that is from the original, and how much is how the translator dealt with some of the descriptions.

No Award

“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium”

Not a bad story, but I don’t think it is Hugo worthy.  The idea is interesting, but the execution ends up kind of dull.

“Championship B’tok”

This isn’t a Novelette, this is an outline of the first part of a large series.  After spending much of its time skimming over world building and character development, it just ends.  It leaves character threads hanging, the main action hanging, and just about everything else hanging.

This one also gets special mention for being yet another case of abusing apostrophes to make a language alien.

“The Journeyman: In the Stone House”

This has a similar problem to the last one.  Except being the beginning of an incomplete story, it is the middle of an incomplete story.  Now, the prior story exists, which might help explaining some of what is going on.

But as a stand alone piece, all of the aspects of the story are left lacking.  The worldbuilding is rushed through or implied (I’m guessing that this is a case of a world that has fallen back to being psuedo-medevil), and the main characters are more caricatures – broad outlines.  The secondary characters are even less developed.

My Nominations

For reference, I nominated the following for Best Novelette:

  • The Ghosts of Bourbon Street Seanan McGuire
  • Stingers and Strangers Seanan McGuire
  • Bury Me In Satin Seanan McGuire
  • Snakes and Ladders Seanan McGuire

(Yes, they are all InCrypid stories by Seanan McGuire – but I nominated almost everything I read from last year, at least if it was good.  And I really like these stories)

I’d probably still rank these above just about everything in the above category.

Best Novella

“Flow”

I enjoyed “Flow” a fair amount.  It is a pretty straightforward explorer’s story, with the protagonist learning about parts of his world beyond his original ken, and nearly getting into serious trouble

No Award

Yes, only one novella seemed Hugo Worthy to me.

One Bright Star to Guide Them By

This wasn’t all that bad of a story.  But, as I was reading it, I couldn’t help by see Narnia shining through.  This left me feeling off until a friend summed up what it was quite succinctly: “Bad Narnia Fan Fiction.”

“The Plural of Helen of Troy”

This story was hard to follow – coming from a collection of shared-world stories (I gather based on the title of the collection it comes from).  It is a mish-mash of alternate history, time travel, and paradoxes.  But, instead of being intriguing as this could/should be, it was just confusing.  The stories not-quite back-to-front ordering added to the problems, even if it was necessary to hide the outcome.

“Pale Realms of Shade”

I didn’t finish this story, which means I probably should have left it off my ballot (but it is there at the time of writing).  After reading a not insignificant part of the story, my feeling was that I needed to re-read (re-listen to) Seanan McGuire’s Sparrow Hill Road (one of my Novel nominees) to wash the taste of it out of my brain.

Like the Rose Marshal ghost stories in Sparrow Hill Road, “Pale Realms of Shade” is a ghost story told, in first person, from the perspective of the ghost.  In this case, it was combined with an attempt at a Noir feel and Celtic urban fantasy.  Again, this resulted in a bit of a mish-mash that became unreadable.

Big Boys Don’t Cry

I didn’t finish this story either.  But, it did do something very important for me: it convinced me that I don’t like the type of military SF that is mostly combat.

Best Novel

Note, I didn’t read the excerpt from Skin Game.  Being part of a long-running series that (from what I understand) has a lot of continuity, I didn’t feel that I could enjoy or judge the story.  Also, at the time of this review, I was still reading The Goblin Emperor, but had read enough to make my judgements and cast my ballot.  Plus, I was getting to where I was going to start seeing preliminary results in testing and wanted to minimize my influence.

The Goblin Emperor

I’m enjoying this story a lot.  It is a coming of age story, with a lot of unique elements.  On top of that, the author is doing a good job of revealing a world that is both unlike ours, and unlike your typical fantasy world – even if characters are referred to as “elves” and “goblins.”

If I have any complaint, it is her odd use of older speech forms in the dialog, but not in the text nor the internal monologue.

The Three Body Problem

Again, a very enjoyable story.  There is what I have to conclude is a definite flavor coming from the setting in modern China, but it also resonates with the parts of the world I’m more familiar with.  If anything bothered me significantly, it was some possibly out-of-date information regarding nearby star systems.

The Dark Between the Stars

At first, I was liking this a fair amount.  But, I quickly grew tired and quit listening for two reasons.  First, the information carried over from the author’s previous 7 book series in the same universe seemed to becoming something that was really needed to understand and follow the story.  But, more importantly, the story quickly found itself in a “many lines, all waiting” situation.  Having read (OK, listened to) about 1/3 of the story – around 18-20 chapters, I’d only seen 3 characters having more than one chapter as the PoV character.  On top of that, most of the story lines appeared to be independent, with no indication of how or why they might be interconnected.

Ancillary Sword

I know Ancillary Justice was last year’s Hugo Award winner.  But, I couldn’t get through the first chapter of the excerpt.  Not only did there seem to be a lot of information from the first book that was needed to understand what was going on, it was sounding or feeling like the setup for yet another military SF drudge story.

 

Possible WSFS Proposals

First, a proposal I’m very tempted to tack onto B.1.4:

I move to amend B.1.4 by adding {somewhere} “provided that the Hugo Award Subcommittee of a Worldcon can elect to continue the previous process of counting nominations until one of the following conditions is met:
– A prior Worldcon has used the revised method.
– They have received and accepted (1) pusedo code, programming code, or mathematically rigorous formal specifications for the program to count the nominations, and (2) a set of sample data that contains sample nominations from at least 2/3 of the number of people to cast nominating ballots in the largest category over the last three years.

Second, some year in the future, I’m tempted to make the following motion:

I move to amend the WSFS constitution by making the following changes:

Add:

1.5.x: Members of the immediately preceding Worldcon, or the immediately following Worldcon shall be allowed to purchase a Hugo Award Nominating Membership for no more than a regular supporting membership, and for no more than $20.00 USD or the equivalent in local currency, adjusted upward by inflation as reported by the United States Department of Commerce.  These memberships shall only grant the right to participate in Hugo Award Nominations, and shall grant no other rights.

3.7.1 The Worldcon Committee shall conduct a poll to select the nominees for the final Award voting. Each member of the administering Worldcon granted full voting rights, the immediately preceding Worldcon, or the immediately following Worldcon as of January 31 of the current calendar year and persons with Hugo nominating memberships shall be allowed to make…