Monday, June 30, 2008


Ansible 252 is up!

There was even a role-playing game that utilized strangely shaped polyhedral dice, minute but over priced models, and rulebooks the size of bibles. This was aimed at pale young men who mumbled self-consciously, washed infrequently, and never got picked for the stone-skimming team—and it was, frankly, a disappointment. (David Bilsborough, A Fire in the North, 2008)
The Space Review

A mixed bag in the current issue of The Space Review. Dwayne A. Day looks at NASA as a...fascist organization (!). Eric R. Hedman takes a hard look at signs of a failing engineering project. Is Ares failing? We shall see! And, Jeff Foust looks at Neil deGrasse Tyson (mentioning a presentation that I saw on television...wish stuff like that could be archived and made available!)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

No Substitute

No matter how you work it, "ground chicken" and "Italian chicken sausage" just doesn't cook up as well as the real thing for a good pot of tomato sauce.
Shadow Boxing London, in that part of it known as Whitehall where the art of government was once practiced and is now imitated; where lies flourish and are admired as if they were prize blooms at the Chelsea Flower Show; and where infirmity of purpose is practiced with a belligerence that might almost make you think great men had come again...

(J.K. Mayo, The Interloper)
Reaching for the Stars

A house with a two-story outhouse? How is such a thing possible?
Cats in Space!

Hmmm...why hasn't there been more coverage of this part of NASA's Phoenix mission?
"Do You Like Lutefisk and Yams?"

When Beowulf collides with Dr. Seuss.

Hark and ware, oh Warrior!
Weird of Sven now hear you.
How good Lars he harried,
pestered him with questions.

Late at meadhall light burned;
Lars did strive to largen
belly with a bowl of
boiled fish his mission.

And some chunks of chicken,
cheese and bread and peasoup,
finally pounds of pancakes
paired with lingon berries.

Smallish snack he snuck while
woozy wife lay snoozing.
When inside there wandered
forth a fellow northman.

Lars did greet him greatly
for he knew the gruesome
tales of host who hasten
travellers forth from doorstep.

Lars did ask his name then.
"I am Sven," he mentioned.
"Sven I am," he stated.
"Do you like lutefisk and yams?"

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Captain Kiesche, Commanding

I have been informed by Mr. David Drake that I will be appearing in the next Lt. Leary novel, commanding a cruiser.

If I die, I hope I do so gloriously, in accordance with the finest traditions of the RCN!!!!

Friday, June 27, 2008


It is difficult to get to work when both roads you can use are blocked off!
Lesson Plan

Graham spent ten days in the cellar after he had been abducted, hobbling around as the people who had kidnapped him had also hamstrung him. The wounds, apparently done with a very dull knife, were starting to fester.

Occasionally he would waken to find some food (some sort of porridge) or some tepid water. He had a pot to pee in, and, taking a cue from a book he had read as a child, diluted the urine to help lessen the smell. The pot was not emptied on a very regular basis. Whoever his captors were, they would only come when he was asleep. He would try to stay awake, to see who had taken him...did they want money? Inevitably, he would drift off.

Trying to hobble around one "day", to work the kinks out, he was startled to hear the door being unlocked. Into the room strode three...creatures. Like something out of a nightmare. Like something out of one of his novels. They were taller than men. Their breath was rank. Their fingers ended in large claws, not neatly trimmed nails. Their eyes were large.

Two of them seized Graham and strung him up with a system of ropes and pulleys from the rafters. The third stood, expectantly.

"Why are you doing this?" Graham asked. "What do you want from me? Do you want money? Let me contact my agent and I will get you money!"

There was no answer. The third reached out and flicked with its claws at Graham's chest. The skin was flayed from his chest, exposing the muscles underneath. Graham screamed.

The third spoke in a guttural voice. "We have read your works of horror with great interest. Alas, you have a very limited knowledge our habits in keeping livestock and feeding. So now is the time to correct the lack of knowledge. Here begins the first lesson!"

The claws flicked out again...and again...and again...

(C) 2008 by Frederick Paul Kiesche III.
A Matter of Size

Our solar system on a t-shirt, using fonts of relative sizes. Neat!
Conflict of Interest

Was it the excessive amount of stimulants (Red Bull) or the excessive amount of depressants (alcohol) that allowed this person to enter into the running for the Darwin Awards?
Everything Old Is New Again

Just when you thought you knew looks like Regulus is a binary star! Time to start rewriting a lot of science fiction stories!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Leary Returns

David Drake; Lt. Leary, Commanding (Baen Books; 2000; ISBN 0-671-57875-8; cover by Stephen Hickman).

(Read the entire book online, or download it, for free!)

Lt. Leary, Commanding is the second volume in Drake's RCN Series. (For an account of how I came to read the first volume, see this previous post, for a note by David Drake on the series, see this link.) Leary is involved in repairing and refitting the ship the ship he (ahem) acquired in With the Lightnings when he is called on to take command and participate in a mission to a neighboring planet. The mission is muddied by political intrigue, both on his planet, on an intermediate planet (where a side adventure resembles the events of the short precursor story, A Grand Tour, which appeared in the Honor Harrington-related collection More Than Honor), and on the planet his mission originally was aiming for. Toss in a cranky fleet commander, a gang of pirates, and a small private war and top it all off with a nice fleet action and you have some of the finest writing that Patrick O'Brian never did.

(Read a second time in 2008, when I started reading the series from end-to-end...)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Sheltering Sky

He had an ordinary face. He seemed an ordinary person. As ordinary as many others who stepped in during the end game. You see many people like this during a disaster; people who step up to lend a hand, without being asked, without being paid, even without being thanked.

It doesn't really matter where the end game came from does it? I'm sure the Russians or the Chinese weren't that stupid. Was Osama that fanatical? Of course, he didn't have it, and he didn't get it from the Syrians, who didn't get it from the Iraqis either. But does it matter?

What matters were the ordinary faces. They kept the crops coming in, as long as they could. They kept delivering supplies, as long as they could. They buried the corpses, first with caskets, then with wooden boxes, and finally with sewn-up sheets...for as long as they could. And they came to the hospitals and makeshift care centers to do what they could. First, for their loved ones. But, then as their loved ones moved on, they stayed behind and did what they could.

I would see him working tirelessly, with mop and bucket, cleaning up the bile and gore that the dying would exude. He would stop and comfort those who needed comfort. I don't know how he did it, but he would come up with small things now and again to bring in some joy; a flower, a cup of coffee (where did he find coffee?), even a family relic such as a picture. Did he sleep? Did he eat? Like many of the others with the ordinary face, he did not seem to need either.

At the end, it was a comfort that he helped me to maintain my dignity as my insides seemingly poured out of me by trying to keep me clean. And, as I lay dying, I was struck by the thought that his clean-shaven face ought to be bearded.

(Copyright 2008 by F.P. Kiesche III. All rights reserved.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Inaction, Redux

To follow up on this posting, the state in which my wife works, but in which we do not reside, finally deigned to issue a refund check.

The problem? It was less than 25% of what it should have been. In fact, it was closer to 5% of what it should have been!

Now for years, either my wife or I have worked in this state. We always pay money at the end of the year to the state we reside in and get money back from the other state. The percentages paid and the percentages refunded have been consistently the same for well over twenty years.

For the past few years my wife has worked in that state, but fewer and fewer days per week. She now averages one day a week working out of state, the rest in our resident state. So we've gotten more back as a refund.

Obviously the tax idiots in that state made a mistake. You would have thought that a change in the tax laws, which would affect more than us, would have caused some notice either in the people who do the returns or the government. I recall more than one occasion when that other state proposed changes for how they tax non-resident works and the amount of sparks that it caused in the halls of government in adjacent states. So I am pretty sure there were no legislative changes!

Now the fun is going to be in getting them to (a) admit they made a mistake; (b) getting them to correct their mistake; and (c) issuing a correct refund. Will we actually see our money before it is time to file 2008 taxes?
The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review, Stephen Ashworth responds to Dwayne A. Day's Knights In Shining Armor.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review, the wallet cringes! Dwayne A. Day continues a look at Moonlight Mile (first review here). Must...resist...temptation...until...current...pile...of...DVD's...has...been...viewed...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Your Government Inaction

So we filed our taxes...early and electronically to be efficient.

Weeks pass, and we get a letter from one of the states we filed with. They're unable to process our form...electronically and will need to do it...manually. Oh yes, they'll be unable to send us our refund electronically and will need to send a check.

O.K. Time passes. Months pass.

So I make a phone call, please Mr. Taxman, what's the status. First they would not talk to me as while it is a joint return, my wife is the one with the out-of-state income. Heh. Well, I sign the form, my name is on the form, my income is considered part of the joint income, I know her SSAN, I can recite endless facts on the form, I have the form in front of me...

So finally they admit (after I've been switched six time and given my name, her name, our respective SSAN's twelve times) they can talk to me. Can they answer my questions?

Not really. The return is still being reviewed. What's the status? It is nearing the end of the process. How much longer? They don't know, but if we don't hear from them in two weeks, call again!

Morons. Pocking morons. Maybe I should charge them the same rate of interest on my refund that they would charge me if I had owed money and hadn't sent it in yet?

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Con from Hades

I would advise against consuming liquids near a keyboard while reading John Ringo's AAR on RavenCon 2006.

Oh my aching sides...
The Space Review

A couple of items in the current issue of The Space Review. Dwayne A. Day looks at space-based solar power. Rober Pearlman reviews the documentary When We Left Earth. And, Eligar Sadeh looks at what the next president will face in terms of space policy.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Between the Blue and the Black

The hardest times come before nautical twilight, so to speak, when you think you see a hint of light. The worst is when the mist hides the grass and the sand.

You try not to sleep in the day, because that is when you can get the most stuff done. You have to move, find salvage, siphon off gas, locate propane, find fresh water sources. At night you'd like to sleep, but there's the touch on the doorknob, the scratching at the windowpane. So you pace, try to read. No more videos, no more radio. Take batteries and other power sources from Home Depot and make them stretch.

Fry the kielbasa, spice it heavily and ignore the fact that it is turning. Scour the neighborhood, ignore the bodies that may not be bodies, watch for other wolves in the walls, rats in the cracks. When do you cross the line? Is killing and eating a dog the line? How about your dog? What happens when you make the decision about people.

When do you cross the line and become what you are trying to avoid?

(With thanks to Vonda N. McIntyre for some words that have haunted me since she first used them. And, yes, I'm still reading too much Neil Gaiman and now I'm thinking about reading too much Tim Powers.)

(Text copyright 2008 by F.P. Kiesche III. All rights reserved.)
Upon Reading Too Much Neil Gaiman

The last time he really truly saw her was the day of graduation from college. And even then you could not really say he saw her well. Her mother was there, and her stepfather, and her mother did not care for her much. As did his parents; they thought he was wasting time with her.

So they kissed for real one final time, and went their separate ways. He went home, was given a celebratory dinner at a local restaurant (the first time he had been ever taken out to dinner by his family), and a few days later, started work.

That did not last long, and eventually he moved back into his family home and looked for work locally. He found a series of night jobs, which allowed him time during the day.

He did see her again, many times, but not really. They even made love and pretended things were good again. They talked of the future, but there was no future, not with her mother and his family. The relationship drifted on for some months until it crashed early the next year. The cycle of abuse on her part, a cycle which happened every three months, like clockwork, was finally too much. When it happened again, one very rainy and cold March day, he broke the cycle.

And never looked back.

(Text copyright 2008 by F.P. Kiesche III. All rights reserved.)

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Space Review

Not much in the current issue of The Space Review during the start of the lazy days of summer. Greg Zsidisin speculates on space and presidential politics. Jeff Foust looks at the "presidential debate on space" (which did not actually involve any presidential candidates).