Showing posts from February, 2016

February On Medium

Not much to report this month- I decided to accelerate my 'Reinvention' series by combining 'The Personal and The Pipedreams' into one post. I'll be wrapping that up next month- but for now, stop by and check out: The Reinvention: The Personal and The Pipedreams In the short fiction department, I dug deep into the archives and found the perfect story for Valentine's Day (which I feel might be bending my self-imposed rules a little bit, but I was hoping to use February to push forward on Book #3 a bit, but that quickly fell by the wayside.) Anyway- just for Valentine's Day, please check out: The Rose Enjoy! Hopefully I can produce something worth reading in March.

This Week In Vexillology #155

This Week In Vexillology, we're heading back across the Atlantic and down the Caribbean to take a look at the other half of the island of Hispanola, with the flag of the Dominican Republic: Adopted on November 6, 1844 for national and civil usage, the red and blue in the flag are taken from the flag of Haiti, which once controlled the Dominican Republic until it's independence in 1844. A movement known as La Trinitaria  (it's kind of a weird historical parallel, but the three men that formed the movement to win the country of independence found their female counterparts in the Mirabal sisters , whose assassination by Trujillo galvanized opposition to his regime.)  was formed to free the country and succeeded in doing so- the white cross is the symbol of that independence movement. (The Coat of Arms I'll break down in a second- but it only appears on the flag for national and state usage- the regular, every day civil flag doesn't have them.) After independenc

My Vote Project: Schaudenfreude City

Let's just go ahead and say it: Donald Trump, in all likelihood is going to be the Republican nominee for President. I had some hopes for Nevada... Trump didn't seem able to break through that 35% ceiling and the numbers were suggesting that, once the non-Trump vote was able to consolidate somewhat, he'd turn into a pumpkin and we could all go home. And then Nevada happened and blew that idea straight out of the water. Trump break through that 35% ceiling, soaring to 46% and leaving behind Rubio (24%) and Cruz (21%) in second and third place respectively. Carson and Kasich pulled up 4.8% and 3.6% respectively- but no one has any idea what Carson is doing in the race any more and Kasich had written off Nevada and moved on to other things (like Michigan and saying things like this- which should really cause him to reassess his entire campaign.) Anyway- the idea that non-Trump votes will go universally to non-Trump candidates just doesn't hold up, I don't think. (A T

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' --A Review

It took the Missus and I a good month longer than the rest of the known universe- but we did it, we made it to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens , and you know what? This was a movie that lived up to the hype and delivered on everything you could have possibly wanted in a new Star Wars movie. I fully admit that I felt a little bit of trepidation when they announced the new trilogy. The prequels had been... underwhelming (and quickly overshadowed by The Clone Wars , at least in my book.) It seemed like a risky bet- with so much hype, there was a danger that they wouldn't be able to deliver. But with a good screenwriter, a great cast (including many stalwarts from the original trilogy) they delivered a new story, new dangers and left lots of intriguing, unanswered questions for people to ponder as they await the next sequel. (I'm going to assume that everyone has seen this movie by now, but just in case, I'll try and keep it as spoiler-free as possible. But, be warned.) Se

Does Your Campus Have A Food Pantry?

Normally, I don't pay attention to the mass emails that flood my inbox at work, but for whatever reason, this one caught my eye. "University of Iowa Food Pantry Survey" it said, and it was from the University of Iowa Student Government. It was a short email and this is what it said: With the cost of college on the rise, the cost-burden of housing increasing, and wages being outpaced by inflation, poverty and food insecurity is a more pervasive issue on many of our nations college campuses. Campus food pantries look to alleviate this issue of food insecurity faced by you and many of your colleagues and classmates.This is a survey gauge the level of food insecurity University of Iowa students face when attending Iowa to develop a food pantry.    Please take the time to fill out this short and anonymous survey on your experience with food insecurity. It also included a link to the survey (which is here .) Now, this appears to be real. So far, my hard drive has yet to melt

Boozehound Unfiltered: Aberfeldy 12 Year

Whiskey is an expensive vice and I've got a backlog of my own I'm trying to clear out so I can make room for more and that means, on occasion, I conduct judicious raids on the Parental Liquor Cabinet, as my Old Man, sharing in my vice, tends to have a few bottles of his own going. With a potential move on the horizon and the house being inspected by our prospective buyer, the boys, the dogs and I decamped for the Parentals and I went digging- and came up with a bottle of Aberfeldy 12 Year Old single malt. I took to the internet and started learning about Aberfeldy - it's a Highland malt (which is a nice change, as I'm heavy on Islays right now- with an Ardbeg and a Kilchoman in my liquor cabinet) and was founded by John Dewar and sons in 1898. They use Scottish barley, yeast and water- and the water was the interesting part. The distillery uses the waters of the Pitilie Burn which runs nearby and- get this, there are apparently deposits of real live gold in the stream

Why Not A Real Democracy?

Interesting tweetstorm by Clay Shirky on the emergence of third-party candidates and the role of media. (scroll up) — Mark Bao (@markbao) February 18, 2016 So, this floated by me on Twitter a few days back and it's worth following the link and reading the Tweetstorm (there's a more readable summary here )- go and read it, it's only 50 Tweets long, but the interesting question is asks comes at the very end: "Who needs a third party when the existing two parties have become powerless to stop insurgencies from within?" Well, have they? Over my shoulder right now, CNN is eagerly awaiting a Hillary Clinton victory speech after her victory in Nevada. She maintains a lead in South Carolina and has both the money and infrastructure to probably  do better over the long term than Sanders. The ongoing Republican trainwreck has less to do with Trump and more to do with egos- consider New Hampshire: Trump won with 35% of the vote- but if you tak

This Week In Vexillology #154

We're taking a bit of a detour this week in vexillology to take a peek at a couple of geographic oddities, which, like all geographical oddities, continue to fascinate me. (Parenthetical time! I've always had this weird thing about geographical oddities- places like Carter Lake,Iowa or the Kentucky Bend have always fascinated me and the flags we're going to look at this week fall squarely into that category.) For our first flag, I'm going to drop a name you've probably never heard into your life: Transnistria ...  if you've never heard of Transnistria or have no earthly idea where it is, well, you're probably not alone in that. One of those weird, post-Soviet conflict zones (along with Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia) Transnistria is a tiny strip of land between the River Dniester and the eastern border of Moldova with Ukraine. It broke away following a conflict in 1992 and has remained partially free ever since as Moldova has been unable to

Bookshot #86: The Lions of Al-Rassan

There's always been plenty of Guy Gavriel Kaye books around the Parentals' house, but I have never managed to pick one up and actually read it- until now. I don't really know how to categorize The Lions of Al-Rassan , either- it's not fantasy in the traditional sense, so don't expect elves, orcs, dwarves and the like- but it's not straight historical fantasy either, for while the realm of Al-Rassan might bear a resemblance to medieval Spain, it's not quite an exact parallel either. The empire of the ruling Asharites has decayed and the once powerful land of Al-Rassan has crumbled into a series of warring city states and petty kings as the story opens. A shocking act of violence ordered by the increasingly powerful King of Cartada, throws together Rodrigo Belmonte, the most fearsome commander the Jaddites of the north have, the court physician Jehane and the poet and assassin Ammar Ibn Khairan. As the chaos in Al-Rassan grows and the last remnants of the o

This Week In Vexillology #153

Well, this is weird. I get my handy-dandy reference guide out and you know what they have this listed under? Moldavia .  And yet, when you look this shit up on the internet, you find the flag of Moldova.  Hmm, so what's the difference? Well, it appears that the fo'shizzle country that exists today is, in fact, Moldova. The historical region that occupied roughly more of less the space space up until 1859 was called Moldavia. If you notice a similarity to the flag of Romania, that's not a coincidence- the two countries were unified at one point and share strong ties and affinities today. So what's with the whole deal between Romania and Moldova ? Well, it goes back aways to the 19th, where Moldavia, that old historical region was split up. The eastern part got folded into a shiny new Oblast of the Russian Empire- the Oblast of Moldavia and Bessarabia, while the western part joined with Wallachia to form the Kingdom of Romania. Now, after World War I and the

My Political Compass

If there's one thing that this election has thrown into sharp focus, it's debate about what people believe and what it actually means- that's not a bad thing in my book. People can believe whatever they want to believe, but why you believe what you believe is more important than what, to me. Which is why if you haven't taken The Political Compass test, I highly recommend it.  This is where I landed: This seems right to me... I know I'm a cultural libertarian and in general, I'd prefer power be given to individuals rather or regional/state/local organizations than vested in the Federal Government. If I'm convinced of one thing, it's that the more decentralized power is, the freer we all are- and the stronger our communities can be. But weirdly, when I found out what UK Parties I matched up best with based on their last general election, I was closest to their Green Party. And the current general election here at home? Well, again, a surprise... I

N.P.A: Fight The Power

This meme: Pisses me the fuck off. I get tired, oh so very tired of telling people that no, I'm not going to drink the Kool-Aid of the hopelessly corrupt and morally bankrupt two party system.  I'm going to vote for a candidate whose policies and goals match my own beliefs and I could give three shits if they win or not. Yet as soon as Senator Sanders sells out and joins the Establishment he thinks he's going to burn to the ground with his legions of millennial fans, this meme is all up in my Facebook grill pissing me off. Take Bernie's name out and put in Ralph Nader instead. Or Gary Johnson. Or Dr. Jill Stein (who was the only Presidential candidate to get fucking arrested for civil disobedience in 2012 - not that any of you were paying attention. That's right, my candidate got arrested. What do you got?)  The same general idea applies to any 'third' party candidate you can name me. If enough people vote for them, they would win- but will people ac

Pinteresting #1: Super Bowl 50

Hey look, a new feature! This isn't a food blog, but I love to cook. There's sort of an inherent contradiction there that I've been wrestling with for awhile now as my blogging has never really fit into a solid category. I talk about politics, but this isn't a political blog. I review books and movies, but this isn't a review blog. And yeah, I cook too- but this isn't a food blog. When I moved back over to Blogger, I wanted to find a way to fuse some of the incoherence into something resembling an overall tone. Whether this works or not, I don't know- but for now, food, brewing, crafting (if I ever do any), landscaping and the like will find a home in Pinteresting. Hope you enjoy it. Recently, I tried to make Taco Rolls and failed miserable at it- so when I found this recipe for Buffalo Chicken Garbage Bread over on Pinterest , I was intrigued. I knew where I had gone wrong with the Taco Rolls- too much meat, too little patience and the result was...  me

This Week In Vexillology #152

Kosovo kind of burst onto my personal geo-political radar in the late 90s when NATO intervened after inter-ethnic violence in 1998-1999 during the Kosovo War. I remember reading Robert Kaplan's Balkan Ghosts * around that time and being fascinated that a whole nation (in this case, Serbia) could be still so passionate about a battle that happened 700 years ago, but that seemed to be a phenomenon that wasn't uncommon to the Balkans. (I also remember that awfully fun/tense/butt-hole clenching moment when the Russians landed and Pristina Airport before NATO did and there was some question about whether or not NATO would chase them back out of there- NATO wisely, I think, decided no.) Other than the attachment of Serbia to the place- there was an Albanian element in the conflict as well that added to the geopolitical tension at the time, as there were fears Albania would seek to integrate Kosovo into a Greater Albania.  That hasn't happened, as Kosovo remained under UN Ad

What The Hell Is This About #2: Flint

It's another sad reflection on the state of affairs in contemporary America today that I had no earthly idea anything was going on in Flint until a post by Michael Moore calling for the arrest of Michigan Governor Snyder floated by on my Facebook feed. Rachel Maddow seemed to be pretty pissed off about it as well. So what happened? Well, the New York Times has a pretty good timeline of events and the thing that shocked me is that this has been brewing since 2014- when the city of Flint switched their water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in April of that year. Residents began to complain about issues almost immediately after, but the first real warning sign and alarm bell (at least to me) should have come in October 2014 when a local GM Plant stopped using water from the Flint River because it was corrosive to car parts.  Yet people were told that the water still safe for people to drink...which does not compute in my brain even a tiny bit- perhaps if your water sourc

Squawk Box:The Return of The X-Files/The Shannara Chronicles

When I heard the news that The X-Files was coming back for a special, limited six episode run I was genuinely excited. We never really watched television together as a family growing up- my parents were more into us reading books than watching television, but by the time high school rolled around and we were all a little older they sort of relaxed the television rules a little bit and for whatever reason, we all sort of ended up watching The X-Files together. So did it's much bally-hooed return work? Meh.  Kind of is the best I can say so far- the first episode of the new 'season' was both awesome and befuddling at the same time. Awesome, because it really was amazing to see Mulder and Scully back together on television again. It seemed right. Befuddling because the accelerated nature of a six episode arc seemed to force the writers to jam three episodes of conspiracy theory into one. (At least that's what I'm guessing.) The resulting execution was a bit mixe

The Iowa Caucuses 2016

9:55 PM: Let's wrap things up: Here's that Periscope Link to give you a notion of what my precinct was like just before the start of proceedings.  Busy, busy, busy, busy! (And I'm still sort of getting used to Periscope, so if I seem a bit unpolished, my apologies. I'll get better- oh and I also guess the links expire after awhile? So check it out while you can?) Mobile blogging went well and looked good on my phone- but it turned into a gigantic block of text when I got on my computer, so I had to do some clean up.  In general, I'm super happy with tonight. TRUMP DID NOT WIN.  Rubio did MUCH better than expected and Bernie and Hillary are neck a neck for the Democrats.  Good job, Iowa.  I'm heading to bed- but will probably be lurking on Twitter for awhile. 9:25 PM: So, so relieved. Ted Cruz wins Iowa. I'm not really a fan of Cruz- to be honest, he seems like kind of a tool sometimes, but I'd rather tolerate a tool than be embarrassed by