Pie again

IMG_8414I think I’m finally figuring out pie crusts. Hadn’t baked a pie since early December, but I tried a couple of new things this time, and… well, take a look. I think it looks better, and it tastes very good, too!

The first picture is fresh from the oven. Can’t wait! But I have to wait. I’ve discovered that if I let it cool, and then put it in the refrigerator over night, the taste and texture are much better starting the next day. So I wait, and I salivate.

IMG_8417The second picture is after I cut the second piece (because the first was a complete mess — tastes great, photographs terribly). The filling is apple and pear with raisins. The crust is my modification of a standard crust, with a hint of cinnamon and brown sugar in it to complement the filling. Now the hard part is keeping myself from eating it all at once. Yum!

Electronic Eye of Argon

Untitled-41212Due to some outrageous formatting in the printed book, there’s no way to produce a standard ebook of Fantastic Books’ The Eye of Argon and the Further Adventure of Grignr the Barbarian. But due to the popularity of the book — and the new Fantastic Books web site — I decided to offer a pdf version of the book. It’s available, as of five minutes ago, for download only from the site, at this link: https://www.fantasticbooks.biz/product-page/the-eye-of-argon-and-the-further-adventures-of-grignr-the-barbarian

Conspiracies and Cryptids

Untitled-89741Multiminded Press Release:

Cryptids? Conspiracies?

Let me ask you a question:

What if it’s all true?

Hitch a ride with some straight-6 witches, with a motorcycle club, on a rocket to the moon… Show up on the back of a sea creature, carried by a bigfoot, in the thrall of a fairy, or maybe on the wings of the children of the night. However you get here, hurry.

Gray Rabbit Publications is pleased to present the first book published under Mutiminded, our newest imprint.

Conspiracies and Cryptids, Volume 1: Everything Is True was edited by Charles Barouch, Jerry Wang, and Sylvia Goldin, and features stories by B.J. Thrower, Eric Avedissian, Marcy Arlin, Robert Dawson, Holly Schofield, James Ryan, Charles Barouch, Greg Cox, and Ef Deal.

Conspiracies and Cryptids, Volume 1: Everything Is True
edited by Charles Barouch, Jerry Wang, and Sylvia Goldin
$13.99, 128 pages (trade paperback), ISBN: 978-1-5154-4796-2

Conspiracies and Cryptids—and all Gray Rabbit books—are distributed via Ingram, and available through all major online retailers and specialty sf shops via direct order from the publisher.

Mensa Convention Weekend

Tomorrow starts my third straight weekend on the road. I’ll be at the first-time-ever Northern New Jersey Mensa Blast! Regional Gathering (in Newark, New Jersey). I’m looking forward to supporting this newest event from the recently reinvigorated group just across the river from here. And I’ll be speaking: Sunday morning I’ll be presenting “Isaac Asimov: A Centennial Celebration (Plus Three)”. Hope to see all you Mensans there!

Science Fiction Convention Weekend

This weekend is Arisia, at the Westin Boston Seaport District in Boston, Massachusetts. As I usually do at conventions, I’ll be on several panels, including:

Friday at 8:30pm: “Our Favorite Fictional Scientists” in Alcott (3W), with Timothy Luz, AJ Odasso, Charity Southworth, and Stephen R. Wilk

Saturday at 5:30pm: “So You Want to Be a Writer?” in Faneuil (3W), with M. Dalto, J.F. Holmes, Jadie Jang, and Amy J. Murphy

Saturday at 8:30pm: “Our Favorite Robots” in Stone (2W), with Michael A. Burstein, Shana Jean Hausman, Timothy Luz, and Danny Miller

Sunday at 1:00pm: “How Much ‘Alien’ is Too Much?” in Marina Ballroom 4 (2E), with Elaine Isaak, Alexander Jablokov, W.A. Thomasson, and Stephen R. Wilk

I’ll also be running the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room, which is open Friday, 5-9pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10am-7pm; and Monday, 10am-2:30pm. And yes, that Friday panel overlaps with the time the dealers’ room closes; I’ll have to figure out that bilocation thing.

Hope to see many of you there!

Labeling: a thought experiment

A thought experiment:

We frequently hear that the dysfunction in the US government is due to extreme partisanship. The few times our elected officials actually work with members of differing parties are hailed as wonderful examples of bipartisanship, rather than simply government as it ought to be.

But how much of that dysfunction, or that outright enmity, is a result of the team colors they all wear for no good reason?

Every time we report on those elected officials, whether on television or in print, it takes the form of Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) or Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Senator John Tyler (W-VA) or Representative John Quincy Adams (D-R – MA). What if we dropped that letter before the state appellation? What if we didn’t bother listing the political party? Does it really matter to us in the news report? Don’t we already know which party they belong to? And if we don’t, does knowing it change our view of the news being reported, of the things being said?

The Super Bowl is a similar label. The owners of that name want the news to report on it as if it were news, but they want entertainment to pay them for the rights to even say it out loud. Perhaps it’s time we started viewing political parties the same way. After all, they’ve paid for their members’ careers, so why should we be giving them free advertising?

Gratuitous George Washington quote on political parties: “Political parties may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

Everybody’s Speaking

I’ve been watching the attempted election of a new Speaker of the House with interest and, I must admit, a little bit of schadenfreude. (I’ll get to the schadenfreude later).

The House’s own web site notes that, of 127 Speaker elections, only 14 times did they require multiple ballots, and that 13 of those occurred before the Civil War. The 14th was in 1923. So now, the site will have to be updated to include the 15th in 2023.

Caroline Linton, for CBS News, has already done some research on those previous multi-ballot elections. Pay particular attention to the election of Howell Cobb, in a non-two-party era.

CobbThe current election is interesting for a few other reasons. One of them — one rarely commented on in the media — is the presidential line of succession. If something dire were to happen to both the President and the Vice President, the next in line to succeed to the presidency is the Speaker of the House. But since there is no Speaker at the moment, the line of succession would move on to the next eligible person, the President pro tempore of the Senate, Patty Murray of Washington. Incidentally, Murray became President pro temp on January 3rd, when the retiring Patrick Leahy left the Senate, and she was elected to the post. She is the first woman to be President pro temp. Following her is the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and on through the Cabinet.

The schadenfreude crops up when I look at the reason we’ve now seen six ballots with no candidate earning a majority of the votes to be Speaker. The Democrats have been united: each ballot, all 212 of them voted for Hakeem Jeffries. No surprises there.

The Republicans, however, have not been nearly so united. Kevin McCarthy — who had been the House minority leader, and was assumed to be the next Speaker — got 203 votes each of the first two ballots, and then 202 on the third (the first ballot saw 10 votes for Biggs, and 9 for others; the second gave 19 to Jordan, and the third, 20 to Jordan). Then the Republicans pulled themselves together enough to adjourn for the night.

They returned on the 4th and again started voting. Again, Jeffries got 212 votes on all three ballots. And on all three ballots, McCarthy was down to 201, with 20 votes for Donalds, and one Representative-elect — Victoria Spratz of Indiana — voting “present”. Again, the Republicans called for an adjournment, though only for three and a half hours.

They reconvened at 8pm, and immediately moved to adjourn for the night. This time, the Democrats made them work for it, demanding a recorded vote. Four Republicans joined the Democrats in voting no, so that the vote to adjourn wound up being a very close thing.

But how did we get here? We got here because the Republicans chose to take short-term power and got into bed with the devil to do it. In this case, the devil was the newly emerging Trumpian party. The Republicans (and the news media, for that matter) have vested interests (different interests, but with the same result) in maintaining the theory that we are in a two-party system. But we aren’t, not really, not anymore.

The Republicans keep talking about the 20 break-away Republicans as just a wing of the party, and McCarthy keeps thinking if he can just give in to enough of their demands, they’ll vote for him. But they’re not interested in compromising with him, in working together. They’re out for their own ends, and those ends come not from fixing the system, but from burning it down.

Among their latest demands, for instance, are for the Republican leadership to butt out of future primaries, giving their extremist brethren even more chance to win their way into the House in the costume of Republicans. It’s time for McCarthy and company to wake up and realize those Trumpians are no longer Republicans, that they’re angling for the long-term growth of their own party, at the expense of the Republican party. It’s time for the true Republicans to realize they’ve lost, and seek a negotiated settlement not with the Trumpians, but with the Democrats.

I bet the Republicans are now regretting forcing out Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, and company.

Convention Weekend, November 2022

philcon_logoNext Friday starts my last scheduled sf convention on the calendar year (though I’m always open to more, if you’ve got any to suggest). This time, it will be, once again, Philcon (at the Doubletree by Hilton in Cherry Hill, New Jersey [that’s the same hotel it’s been at the past bunch of years, but under a new name]).

If you’re looking for me, I’ll be fairly easy to find. I’ll be at the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room Friday (4–7pm), Saturday (10am–6pm), and Sunday (10am–3pm). But I’m also scheduled to be on a bunch of programming. Note especially the first item:

Friday at 9pm in the Grand Ballroom: “The Eye of Argon: The Play” co-starring Keith R.A. DeCandido, Gregory Frost, Peter Prellwitz, Hildy Silverman, Michael A. Ventrella, and Jean Marie Ward. This will also be the official launch of the anthology The Eye of Argon and the Further Adventures of Grignr the Barbarian.

Saturday at 12n in Crystal 2: “Space Colonies ‘Rhyme’ with Space Westerns” with N.E. Lilly, Peter Prellwitz, Tom Purdom, and Kathryn Sullivan.

Saturday at 2pm: “Apocalypse How?!” with Eric Blair, Anton Kukal, Hildy Silverman, and Richard Stout.

Saturday at 3pm: “Flash Fiction Challenge!” with Storm Humbert and Anton Kukal.

Saturday at 8pm: “Foundations of Worldbuilding: Past Political Tensions and Turmoil” with Dee Carter, Storm Humbert, Michael A. Ventrella, and Simone Zelitch.

Sunday at 12n: “Meet the Editors!” with Neil Clarke, Margaret Riley, Ann Stolinsky, and Michael A. Ventrella.

I hope to see many of you there!

The Election of 2022 Was Against Things and People, Not For Them

I’m watching the election returns (and still watching them). One thing I keep hearing is surprise that the predicted “red wave” did not materialize. I think the fact that the pundits expected one is a result of poor polling.

Specifically, I think political polls are too cut-and-dried, too black-or-white, without enough shades of gray. But none of us are so one-dimensional. I answered one phone call this election season which was a poll, and I tried to give them my thoughts. But the poll wasn’t robust enough to properly record them. The first question was “which is the most important issue for you when you’re voting this November.” The problem is, I’m not a one-issue voter, and I’ve a hunch most of us aren’t. But every poll which focused on “the economy/inflation” as the one issue voters would find most important missed the nuances.

Certainly, the economy is one of the issues I considered. But it’s not the only one. I also considered crime, and health care, and national defense, and voters’ rights, and the intrusion of the nanny state, and the environment, and appointments to the federal judiciary, and… well, you get the point. I think about all the ways the government can affect my life (for good or ill), and then I consider the candidates, and I choose those who I think will do the most good and the least bad. Asking me which one issue matters, and then which candidate I’ll vote for to serve that issue, means you’re gathering data that doesn’t reflect reality.

Another failing I saw in this year’s polling was the focus on President Biden’s approval rating, which is indeed quite low. But the polls only considered that, historically, a president with a low approval rating saw the other party win most of the seats in Congress. They didn’t consider that we can think poorly of Joe Biden’s job performance, while at the same time not wanting the Trumpian party candidates to win election and lend any more credence to that grifter.

Unfortunately, that’s the pity of most of our recent elections: very few of us are voting for the candidates; we’re voting against their opponents. I’m going to write directly to both Governor Hochul and Attorney General James, to tell them that my votes for them were not part of any mandate they might consider their elections to be. Rather my votes were against their opponents (well, in the case of James, I do favor certain of her ongoing cases that I fear would have been dropped had her opponent won).

I think that may be the big story no one is telling about the current election cycle: not many of us are truly happy with any of our choices. We’re voting to preserve what we have and improve our lives despite our representatives, not through them.