Book Review: Losing Mars

“Losing Mars” by Peter CawdronPeter Cawdron has established himself as the contemporary grandmaster of first contact science fiction. In a series of novels including Anomaly, Xenophobia, Little Green Men, Feedback, and My Sweet Satan, he has explored the first encounter of humans with extraterrestrial life in a variety of scenarios, all with twists and turns that make you question the definition of life and intelligence.

This novel is set on Mars, where a nominally international but strongly NASA-dominated station has been set up by the six-person crew first to land on the red planet. The crew of Shepard station, three married couples, bring a variety of talents to their multi-year mission of exploration: pilot, engineer, physician, and even botanist: Cory Anderson (the narrator) is responsible for the greenhouse which will feed the crew during their mission. They have a fully-fueled Mars Return Vehicle, based upon NASA’s Orion capsule, ready to go, and their ticket back to Earth, the Schiaparelli return stage, waiting in Mars orbit, but orbital mechanics dictates when they can return to Earth, based on the two-year cycle of Earth-Mars transfer opportunities. The crew is acutely aware that the future of Mars exploration rests on their shoulders: failure, whether a tragedy in which they were lost, or even cutting their mission short, might result in “losing Mars” in the same way humanity abandoned the Moon for fifty years after “flags and footprints” visits had accomplished their chest-beating goal.... [Read More]

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Brexit By God

Here’s what I suppose is an editorial from The Sun in ol’ Blighty:

FINALLY, some concrete planning for a clean-break Brexit.
This week the jumped-up bureaucrats at the top of the Brussels tree proved that they simply aren’t interested in negotiating a good deal, for us or for them.... [Read More]

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Christmas Lights.

OK, so I don’t have the fancy, dance to the music, lights, but I did a little something different this year. I decorated my mailbox with numerous multi-color LEDs that I soldered to strips and screwed them to the mailbox. They run off 3 volts so I had to make up a little regulator circuit for them. Then I found out I was exceeding the current for the circuit so I had to make up another. I solved the heat problem with the regulators by attaching them to little copper plates to be cooled by the cooler weather outside.

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Tilden or Blood!

I just finished Vidal’s novel  1876.  Grant, a Republican, was president. Tilden was a Demoncrat who won the popular vote. But after  a terrible agon  like late November  2016, Hayes was given  the victory by one electoral vote.  The Republicans felt this was just,  because in Louisiana and NC, black votes had probably been suppressed, so Tilden’s popular victory there was not legitimate.

During that awful period between the election and the declaration of a winner, people chanted , “Tilden or Blood!”  The Civil War had ended just 12 years before, and here was the clincher: the Union was still occupying the South, there were Federal troops in La and other southern  states.... [Read More]

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It’s Sunday: If This Was a Football Game

Eight Years in four quarters. The first quarter is about to end. The score : Orange Warriors 21,  Nancy Boys 3.

Two Supreme Court Justices confirmed equals one touchdown, tax cuts another, and the economic boom resulting from tax cuts, deregulation and pro-business actions by the administration another.... [Read More]

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This Week’s Book Review – The Valley of Shadows

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.... [Read More]

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Book Review: Stalin, Vol. 1: Paradoxes of Power, 1878–1928

“Stalin: Paradoxes of Power” by Stephen KotkinIn a Levada Center poll in 2017, Russians who responded named Joseph Stalin the “most outstanding person” in world history. Now, you can argue about the meaning of “outstanding”, but it’s pretty remarkable that citizens of a country whose chief of government (albeit several regimes ago) presided over an entirely avoidable famine which killed millions of citizens of his country, ordered purges which executed more than 700,000 people, including senior military leadership, leaving his nation unprepared for the German attack in 1941, which would, until the final victory, claim the lives of around 27 million Soviet citizens, military and civilian, would be considered an “outstanding person” as opposed to a super-villain.

The story of Stalin’s career is even less plausible, and should give pause to those who believe history can be predicted without the contingency of things that “just happen”. Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili (the author uses Roman alphabet transliterations of all individuals’ names in their native languages, which can occasionally be confusing when they later Russified their names) was born in 1878 in the town of Gori in the Caucasus. Gori, part of the territory of Georgia which had long been ruled by the Ottoman Empire, had been seized by Imperial Russia in a series of bloody conflicts ending in the 1860s with complete incorporation of the territory into the Czar’s empire. Ioseb, who was called by the Georgian dimunitive “Sosa” throughout his youth, was the third son born to his parents, but, as both of his older brothers had died not long after birth, was raised as an only child.... [Read More]

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Hush Money, Slush Money Redux

Yesterday the GOP Congress passed, and a GOP president will sign,  legislation abolishing the taxpayer funded slush fund to pay off victims of sexual harassment.

(Will we see headlines! to that effect?  I kinda doubt it. There hasn’t been much coverage so far, but look for pieces slanting it along the lines of  “The Harasser-in-Chief Reluctantly Signs Anti-Hush Money Bill”…)... [Read More]

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Meekly Substandard Exits Stage Centrist

I used to buy the Weekly Standard quite frequently- back in the Nineties. I don’t know if it was because there was nothing much else besides NR, or because I hadn’t matured politically. Back then, it seemed there was only one answer to Democrats, who I saw as barely closeted socialists and leftists, and that was Republicans.

But then I got my wish. G W Bush was elected and we had 8 years of, um, mostly wars, marble- mouthed assertions and shrugs. The son worshiped his father-President and the Presidency itself above all else. Dignity must be maintained at any cost, while the left advanced apace. Bush ( and McCain) gave us Obama. We started to see how chummy the Bushes were with the Clintons. It was strange to me, especially coming from the clan that held the Presidency in such worshipful esteem. I guess it was just the magic of David Copafeel that made it happen.... [Read More]

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142 Years On…

I know I must’ve read Gore Vidal’s 1876  back in 1976, or shortly thereafter.  But   I didn’t know as much history then as I do now; I’m sure all the stuff about the Second Empire and Napoleon III, and the Hayes-Tilden election, was lost on young gorgeous me.

I’m re-reading it now, and finding it very funny and pleasurable.  And quite reassuring.  Plus ça change, after all.... [Read More]

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