Marko Kloos, Frontlines series

Some of you, who follow these things, might know Marko Kloos from the 2016 Hugo Awards controversies. Kloos was put on a slate without his consent, and he VIGOROUSLY objected to this.

This was brought to my attention last week when a friend recommended Kloos’s books to me. “It’s standard MilSF, like all the MilSF you read twenty years ago, only now with women and gays!”

I was intrigued.

Reader, I loved this series.

It is precisely what it says on the tin. MilSF, now with women and gays. The descriptions of the different space-navy vessels is loving, and repeated in each new book, just in case you haven’t read the others. The color-coding of all the military insignia is detailed and consistent. There is no introspection on the part of any character. Some of the officers are incompetent, others are fantastic. Our largely by-the-book protagonist rises through the ranks through a combination of hard work, following the regs, and being in the wrong place at the right time.

I read all five books in eight days.

If you love MilSF, but wish that there were women and gays in the mix, to have equally glossed-over characterization but GREAT relationships with their sidearms, this is absolutely the series for you.



What Have I Done to Stop Fascism, March 2017

I feel that this last month I really slacked off.

I went to the Take Action MN annual meeting.
I supported the Women’s Strike, though I already had that day off.
I continued my financial donations.
I called my MoC a few times.

In the last month, the GOP pushed Gorsuch through to the Supreme Court. Devin Nunes is under investigation for collusion with Russia. We launched missiles at Syria. There are multiple investigations of the White House underway. The AHCA failed, and the ACA is still for the moment in effect. Bannon was removed from the NSC, though he is still in the White House. Trump is still conducting business at Mar-a-Lago.

It’s all still very distressing.



State Fair knitting, an update

… This whole, “knitting things that I may enter in the Minnesota State Fair” project is going … fine.

It’s fine, fine, everything is fine.


See, the thing is, I, of course, keep making small errors. Or even medium errors. But if I was just knitting for myself, or friends, I would fix these errors on the fly and no-one would notice.

But because I am knitting for the State Fair, for being JUDGED, I am instead frogging everything back and starting again.

This scarf? On the second to last row, I was triple checking my stitch count and dropped six rows of lace. Had to frog the damn thing back about twelve rows and do the last third of the scarf over again.

These mittens? Got a third of the way through, realized I’d mis-read a 4-st LPC as a 4-st LC three times, ripped the mitten back to the cuff, looked at the cuff and noticed my tension was uneven, so I frogged the whole mitten.

I have learned a new-to-me term, however. “In the frog pond,” for those items one does not have the emotional or mental fortitude to face at the moment.

In the frog pond, indeed.



The Mrs Bradley Mysteries

J and I just finished watching the all-too-short series, The Mrs Bradley Mysteries, starring Diana Rigg as a wealthy 1920s-era detective who gives no fucks and delivers sardonic asides directly to the camera.

It was wonderful, and I highly recommend it.

(We came to hear of this from my friend Catherine Lundoff’s Patreon, where she gives Lists of Recommendation of Things. It’s a great idea, and she gives great recs, so I encourage you to support her!)

I was pondering, watching it last night, why it is I adore between-the-wars era mysteries. Phryne Fisher, Peter Wimsey, Poirot, Mrs Bradley, I could probably name more. There’s the settings, yes, but there’s something in the characters I love.

I suspect it’s the Great War.

There is a pervasive sense of loss running through all the mysteries set in this era. A sense of directionlessness, of “I didn’t mean to still be alive yet here we all are,” of “how do I pretend to have a normal life now.” And I love the variety of responses characters have to this. Some hold life more valuable, others, less. Some cling to everything of value with suffocating intensity, others throw their course to the winds.

I particularly love the mysteries written much earlier, not with today’s lens of psychology and understanding of PTSD. There’s practically a code, a hidden language, to describe the way an entire generation of people was wounded.

It’s fascinating.

It led, of course, to a host of things that are delightful to watch in a tv mystery series. Great music, fun clothes, a profound generation gap, massive cultural shifting.

At any rate, I enjoyed The Mrs Bradley Mysteries. If you like Phryne Fisher, I highly recommend it!



High school reading …

This fall K will be entering ninth grade.

High school!

We’ve reviewed the requirements for high school graduation in Minnesota, and J and I are beginning to plan how we will meet those requirements. But the thing we have started tackling *now* is high school reading.

We are very fortunate in that both of our kids are readers. They both enjoy books, and reading, and both read at an educated adult level. But it is a truth that people tend to gravitate towards reading the sort of book they love the MOST in their leisure time. And K, who is rather short of free time due to her extensive Circus Juventas commitments, likes to stick to known genres of books.

J and I, as parents and homeschooling teachers, want the kids to expand their reading horizons. We want them to level up in the type and complexity of books they finish, and we also want them each to read more broadly than their interests will lead.

And, yet, neither of us really got much out of school-assigned books when *we* were in high school. (Well, I did, depending on the class. My love of Walt Whitman stems from that time, and I remember really liking Russian Lit. But in general, no.) So how, then, to get two young teenagers to read more kinds of books in their free time?

We have devised an incentive program.

J and I began by selecting about twenty-five books from our shelves. Fiction and non-fiction, on a variety of topics. We then told the children that, for each book finished, a prize may be claimed upon delivery of a short oral report on the text. The prize bin was stocked with high-value items such as a light saber, a nail decorating kit, rolls of duct tape, stuffed animals, stickers, and other such things found at Goodwill.

As I type, M is reading The Poisoners’s Handbook and K is finishing And Then There Were None.

Both children have multiple books on their High School Reading lists.

It’s a good plan, apparently.


Oh, what books are on this first-round shelf?

The Poisoner’s Handbook, Deborah Blum
And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
March, vols 1-3, John Lewis
Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
Dracula, Bram Stoker
Strong Poison, Dorothy Sayers
The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
The Star Machine, Jeanine Basinger
Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
The Lost City of Z, David Grann
This I Believe, ed Jay Allison
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, Ursula Le Guin
Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie
Rite of Passage, Alexi Panshin
Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking, Vincent Ruggiero
The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins

(This is only a first-round, pulled off our shelves. If this continues, more books by a variety of authors will be selected.)



Not this sort of anger

I like the anger that feels like forward motion a lot more than I like the anger that feels like exhaustion and illness, to be honest.

How much of my anger at coworkers is because I know their politics?
How much exhaustion with normal kid-rearing things is because I can’t stop thinking about the news?
How much insomnia is because the world is so much more frightening?


Still here, still in the fight.



Rec: Thunderstruck, by Erik Larsen

Larsen is the author of a certain sort of history for the popular market. He wrote Devil in the White City, a book that tells the story of the murderer H.H. Holmes set in his context of the Chicago World’s Fair. Thunderstruck is a similar story, and I really enjoyed it.

In Thunderstruck we are told the twin and seemingly-unrelated stories of the invention and rise of Marconi’s wireless telegraphy on the one hand, and a horrifying murder in London on the other. As the lives of the people involved unfold they abruptly and weirdly converge in the middle of the North Atlantic, as the officer of the law races across the ocean to find and catch a killer.

Like Larsen’s other work, I initially thought, “Really? That’s a story? Well, okay, I guess.” And then I was *hooked*. I find Larsen to be a compellingly readable author whose work and pacing drags you along into the lives of people long-dead.

If you like history, true crime, or the history of science, and you want a good tale that keeps you engaged and entertained, I recommend Thunderstruck.