Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hey, that's me!

Babies!!


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Attempting prescience, 2008

ASHC


Can Mitt win against Obama?

The thing is… just about any of them could maybe win against Hillary. Or lose against Hillary. But winning against Obama is more problematic. People *like* Obama.

And is Mitt really that much better than Obama? Would it *matter* who won?

Giuliani or Thompson, as different as they are, could probably win against Obama. Huckabee? Not so much. Not because he’s a former pastor but because he’d be running against Obama’s strong points. Personality and likableness. Giuliani or Thompson would be running against Obama’s weakness, which is his lack of experience and lack of grown-up solutions to real world problems. Talk policy and Rudy or Fred can get into details and application (like them or not) and Obama really *can’t*.

McCain? Maybe he could pull the center away from Obama. Maybe he’d be the best to win against Hillary. Or maybe not.

Every little internet quiz I take comes up Mitt. But I’ll say this. I try to *not* pay attention and… well, it works for Mitt. He’s easier to not pay attention to than any other candidate still running on either side.

I think he’d be easiest to ignore on election day as well.

Check out my new Group Blog gig!

I've been invited, and accepted the invitation, to blog at A Second Hand Conjecture.

I'll probably post copies to this blog of anything I post there, but you should go check out the other authors at ASHC.

A political education

“Your sister thinks Huckabee is great.”

“Mom,” I told the phone, exasperated, “He’s not even Republican!”

My first participation in politics was a proudly worn “I (heart) DRNBGR” button that some son-of-a-Democrat defaced at a high school speech competition. (What gave him the right to wreck my property?) I went with my Mom as an alternate delegate to our local Republican party convention when I was 17. Later that fall I volunteered to work phones to get the vote out.

But even then I recognized that I got my party affiliation from my parents. I recognized that I didn’t know enough to decide between parties. And I couldn’t get answers to simple questions such as, “What’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans?”

The fact that there wasn’t an answer to that question was disturbing to my teenaged understanding of the world. There had to be a difference. So why was it so hard to get an answer to that question?

Even with the harsh rhetoric and hot emotion in politics today that question doesn’t have a distinct or objective answer. Both parties are Statist. Both are tax and spend. Both function on earmarks and pork. Neither doubt the role of government as a social safety net. Democrats are more rush ahead to do good and make a difference in the world. Republicans are more conservative… which simply means that they rush ahead in the same direction slightly slower, getting to the international interventionist party when the liberals are done with that and ready to go home.

When I was in high school no one thought to talk about other political ideas, (with the exception of communism which was still the essential evil in those early Reagan years.) No one mentioned Objectivism or Libertarianism. The idea of third parties never entered in to it. Not even the Green party. I don’t know if the Constitution party existed in the early 1980’s. What other third parties are out there today?

Whenever I suggest that the various efforts to educate young people about politics, in school or on Nickelodeon or wherever, should focus on those myriad third parties as much as the two big ones, or at the very least Libertarians (who sometimes get a few percentages in national elections), most often the response is, “Why? They can’t win.”

The “why” is because viewing government through the conservative-liberal axis of political thought is deceptive and inadequate. It can hardly be called an axis. It’s more like a continuum.

The “why” is because it’s not about who can “win”, it’s about education. It’s about exposing young people to opposing ideas about government and its purpose. It’s about having an informed electorate.

What we’ve got is government run and funded schools teaching government (can you say, “conflict of interest,” I knew you could,) MTV and Linda Ellerby.

Friday, January 18, 2008

WIP, pt 3

Posted here:


"People?"

"Maybe we're in denial, too." Jesse smiled and ran a hand through his hair. "On the way back, though, we decided that "people" was the best word to use."

Angela thought about it. "I think you're right."

People. She could deal with people, no problem.



Thursday, January 17, 2008

Illegal Beings

_Illegal Beings: Human Clones and the Law_ is a book by Kerry Lynn Macintosh. It arrived in the mail today. My daughter is doing a major presentation at school on the issue of cloning and the library didn't have this book available so I bought it since the premise is explicitly that human reproductive cloning should be legal.

I'm probably the only person in the country who believes that the therapeutic cloning of human embryos should be illegal while it should be legal to do reproductive cloning.

It seems like most people are convinced any cloning of humans should be illegal, or else that only therapeutic cloning should be legal, and some few that think both therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning should both be legal.

I haven't started to read the book yet. The title, however, is fascinating to me.

To explain why I should explain that my experience in bio-ethics is primarily based on reading science fiction. Yes, there is a good amount of fundamental Christian upbringing involved in forming my views but my conclusion is essentially, well, what I said... I'm probably the only person in the country who sees no moral reason to limit reproductive cloning and every reason to view therapeutic cloning as, at best, problematic, and worst, outright immoral.

What I have learned from science fiction, as the meta-discussion of human cloning has evolved over a couple of generations from speculation about monsters to non-human status for clones to a present consensus that a clone is a person, is that when it all goes bad it is invariably because viable clumps of human DNA are not given human status.

The discussion of human cloning did not begin with Dolly. It had been going on for decades upon decades. People will point to Frankenstein, who wasn't a clone at all, of course. But science fiction quickly picked up the idea of making copies of people. The copies often had superhuman abilities, or else were zombies. (Heck, dopplegangers and changelings existed in folklore for centuries, now that I think of it.) They shared memories or were telepathic or were simply evil. By the time Heinlein was writing about clones or genetically engineered humans he speculated that they were essentially human but had been legislated into non-personhood. Not people and not citizens. His book _Friday_ was largely an indictment on a culture that viewed these people as Illegal Beings.

A common trait with clones in science fiction was that they were grown in vats to adult size. I think George Lucas went with that classic scenario. But before Dolly, well before Dolly, science fiction authors considered the possibility and what we knew was true about biology. Cherryh designed elaborate systems for producing adult sized people who could actually function, though with severe limitations. It was obvious that an adult grown in a vat would not develop properly.

To make a clone, you would need a womb. And what you'd get out of it was a baby. And that baby would not be like the original.

_Cyteen_ by Cherryh was published in 1988.

_Ethan of Athos_ by Bujold in 1986.

Lois Bujold imagined artificial wombs but clearly saw that raising babies was still the choke point. The labor was the same for any infant and technology would never solve that problem.

She also clearly saw that a human being was a human being. Her enlightened societies gave full human status to any person, cloned or even put together from genetic parts and not looking human at all. Where the product of a lab was property, so were other people. Where clones were grown for parts, a cess-pool of organized crime reigned. And she's not the only author to make those connections. The ethical issue is how should a human be treated. The societies that find a way to give some humans a different legal status than other humans do it across the board.

Biologically a clone is a baby. It doesn't matter at all how you get here. You are an individual human being. A clone is created by a human act just like any other human baby.

Which, frankly, may be why I've read or heard opinions such as "therapeutic cloning of embryos is okay but we shouldn't accept reproductive cloning." It may be that people realize at some level that if we accept that a clone is a real person, it's not so easy anymore to produce a bunch of cloned embryos and destroy them.

(Most therapeutic cloning does not depend on creating a viable embryo. Tissue cloning or even organ cloning (such as recent mouse breasts or rat hearts) uses adult cells and does not depend on creating a viable embryo.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Best comment....

"Politics is less hollywood for ugly people than it is high school for middle-aged narcissists."

By Pogo in response to the video in this post by Ann Althouse.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Uncharted territory...

I've spent the last week not writing. I think I've figured out the main problem. (There were non-main problems such as lack of sleep and brain death, but that's normal stuff.) I had gone ahead with the action (such as it is) and not taken the time, now that the single alien had turned out to have four other survivors in her company, of taking the time to name them. The convoluted referring to individuals with descriptions was... prohibitive. It's just that things happened before they had a chance to point at things and repeat names until everyone figured out who everyone was... but too bad. I went back and *made* them have time.

So I added stuff to scenes or between scenes and messed up continuity. I'll have to do an editing pass eventually. But I think I still need to do a... plumping... pass of what I added and of the last couple of scenes before going forward again.

I still need to work on developing conflict, however. Now that I've introduced alien POV scenes it might be good to think of parallel conflicts on both sides, human and alien, rather than primarily conflict between them, though it would need to be that both sides need to find a satisfactory resolution or it all goes down the crapper. Some decent tension should arise from the fact that, even if they don't know what troubles the other side is having, everyone is essentially helpless if the conflicts they aren't aware of go south. The unseen danger idea.

Or something.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Miss America - Reality

Leaving aside the fact that "Miss America - Reality" is an Oxymoron...

I wanted to watch even though I don't care for reality TV because Miss Utah has been mentioned on the milblogs. So I recorded... I think it was the second episode... and watched it last night. I don't know how she does it at all, frankly. The need to tell the "advisers" they were full of it would overwhelm me.

Miss Utah got "bottom three" because she didn't treat the advice she was given the episode before to glam it up with proper gravitas.

Miss Alaska got "bottom three" because she'd made Indian war... ah... noises when they cut 12 inches off her hair. Oh the horror! Only they didn't tell her that. They just said that she wasn't considerate enough of others. I wonder if it ever occurred to the "advisers" that she may very well *be* Native American. I don't know she's not. Do they know that she's not?

One of those who got "top three", I can't remember who, got chewed out for refusing a make-over when she was specifically told she had a choice. They gave her tops anyway (and gave the other "bottom" to a girl who said she didn't like how she looked without makeup and her hair done) but not before telling her just how *badly* she'd hurt their feelings.

In any case. One episode made it pretty clear just who this "reality" television show is about. It's all about the advisers and their own feelings of importance.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"I remember when cars ran on gasoline."

My daughter at breakfast this morning imagining what she'd someday tell her grandkids.

I have a complete short story up

... in Baen's Universe Slush.

For those who know what that is and how to find it. (If you don't and you want to very badly, ask.)

The title is "Wurm."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Part 2 is up

The next installment of the work in progress.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

civilian casualties...legitimate reason to oppose the war.

How short our memories… Nov 15, 2001… two months after 9-11.

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20011203/cortright

Directly connecting 9-11 to Iraq… (remember that next time “the right” is accused of falsely doing so)

“The grim question of how many people have died in Iraq has sparked heated debate over the years. The controversy dates from 1995, when researchers with a Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) study in Iraq wrote to The Lancet, the journal of the British Medical Society, asserting that sanctions were responsible for the deaths of 567,000 Iraqi children.”

This, before the war… 567,000 children killed by the United States.

It’s bogus and for a variety of reasons. It’s also the main reason for Food for Oil which was immediately diverted to palaces and bank accounts by those who claimed all those children were dying.

Children died of starvation and children died for lack of weapons grade chlorine to purify their water.

Oil wealth meant that regional leaders did not have to take care of the people in their countries.

It really is no more complicated than that.

And 567,000 children… why don’t we remember those charges? Why are the years 1991 to 2000 a complete black-hole?

That number got the press. Later revisions downward didn’t.

“Sanctions opponents place the blame for Iraq’s increased deaths squarely on the United States and the continuing UN sanctions. Certainly the United States bears primary responsibility for the war and unrelenting sanctions.”

But we should have let sanctions work. Remember that. Sanctions were better.

Pointless, but better.

As we know, sanctions put no pressure on Saddam. Sanctions only work if people have a way to hold their government responsible. In an oil financed dictatorship this can not happen. And Saddam got around even direct personal financial impact by selling the children’s deaths to the world and getting Food for Oil out of us bleeding hearts.

War is horrible, but it’s far from the worst possible thing. Not-war is not enough to claim moral righteousness.

Failure to go to war kills people, too.

Resident Evil, on the other hand...

...ROCKED.

WAR - Jet Li and Jason Statham

How much do I wish this movie didn't suck, let me count the ways....

This movie was bad. Not just bad but I'm talking *major* suckage.

I can't blame Li. I can't blame Statham. I love them both.

It was even a good concept, which I will now SPOIL because it makes no difference at all because the movie sucked so badly.

The neat concept is that a hitman is sent after an FBI agent and his family. The hit man kills the wife and child before making sure that the FBI agent is dead. The FBI agent kills the hitman (who was a notorious assassin of the FBI agent's knowledge) and takes the hitman's identity in order to destroy the person who ordered the hit. (Leaving the hitman's body to be mistaken for his own, after he burns the house down.)

But we don't know that.

The dead FBI agent's partner is distraught and goes on a rampage to find the person he knows carried out the hit. Years later his life is rather bleak, his wife left him, and he... finds a clue.

The hitman is in town. The Yakuza and Triads are at the boiling point. There is lots of violence, gun battles and assassinations. The FBI, for reasons incomprehensible, respond to this by shooting *everyone*.

At this point I'm groaning, my husband is disgusted, and I'm saying things like "It wasn't made in the US." My husband is rolling his eyes at me like that was random. I'm like, "No, that's why. It's a foreign movie."

You see, there is one thing in all those rogue cop shows and movies that *must* be there. And that is that the Dirty Harry or whatever character is always in trouble with the boss. *Always*. He's always about to be fired. Or *is* fired. IF the plan was to portray the FBI agent played by Statham as someone who has stepped over the line, they missed putting the line in the movie. It was not at all clear that he was *supposed* to be acting out because of overwhelming guilt and a need for vengeance. We didn't find that out until the very very end and even then it was not apparent. When something isn't even apparent in hindsight in a movie, we've got issues.

Jet Li is the "dead" FBI agent who has gotten plastic surgery in order to impersonate the hitman who was known for changing his appearance. He's orchestrating the war between the Triads and Yakuza, killing them off and getting them to kill each other for ONE thing. He is doing this to that the Yakuza godfather will travel to the United States where he will be accessible and killable because he is the person who ordered the hit and who specifically included "wife and child" in that order.

So, the living FBI agent wants vengeance for his friend. The "dead" FBI agent wants vengeance for his wife and child. Statham's character believes that the assassin he's chasing is to blame but the assassin is actually his friend. (It *is* a really great concept, no?) They meet. They part. No one the wiser.

Now, finally Li's character is alone with the Yakuza lord and just before killing him, the head Yakuza says, "It was Crawford. It was Crawford." Wow, that came out of left field. So Li's character thinks of the telling moments he never noticed before that reinforce the truth that it was his very own friend who arranged to have him killed. I'm thinking, "Don't let someone you know demands the murder of children play with your mind!" Still, thinking, that what will happen is that he choses to trust his old partner.

No.

It was really Crawford. He really set up the family. He says, "I thought they'd just rough you up a little." (Where's a desk, I need to slam my head into it repeatedly.) We're supposed to think, "Oh, that's why he was so out of control" or not, who knows? And then an FBI sniper gets Li's character in his sights and Crawford is redeemed by jumping in front of his old partner and saving his life. But his old partner shoots him anyway.

And everyone lives happily, or not, ever after.

Li drives off in a absolutely fabulous car to continue his life as an assassin and I'm like.... Wow, it's not just a foreign movie, it's a pilot for a foreign television series. (Or movie series... maybe Rogue is supposed to be the Asian Bond or something.)

There were other annoyances. They hardly rate.

This could have been a good movie with just a couple of very fundamental changes. We should have known that Crawford was bought from the very beginning. Had we known that he was bought and that his actions were an attempt to deal with guilt and make up for what he felt personally responsible for the movie itself would have been about his redemption. The gratuitous shooting of everyone by the FBI would still need to be scaled back, but at least it would have been clear that Crawford *was* over the edge and why.

I wanted this movie to be good.

Friday, January 04, 2008

New words...

1238 tonight.

Plus I backed up my stuff off my computer.

And I have passed the point of having 100 manuscript pages of a single project. This is more than I've ever done on one thing before. Whoo Hoo!

Also, if anyone should happen by and anyone should happen to go to the Livejournal page and read the first scene... even if it sucks and you don't want to say so, post a comment there or here to let me know you looked. (Preferably there, so I can find out if the comments go to my e-mail.)

Thanks. :)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Not working...

Essentially, I've sat in front of my computer all day intending to write and have been doing everything but writing. What a waste.

Perhaps what I ought to do is anything else all day and *plan* on starting to write at 9pm or so.

This is so stupid.

New words

829

But not a whole scene, maybe less than half of one. It's the first one from my alien's POV that I've done.

I think it went all right.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

For anyone who wants to see what I'm working on now

It's not the solution I was hoping for but I put the first scene of my WIP up on a livejournal page.

Comments welcome. It's probably the slowest beginning I've done but I tend to rush things. My theory is that I do this because writing is so very much slower than reading.

So... read here if you want to.

I might adjust permissions later.