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Maskirovka

Well, we are at 18 months and counting of “2 weeks to flatten the curve”. According to the CDC, there have been 39,831,318 cases in the United States, with 644,848 of those cases resulting in death. That means that roughly 1.6% of the people diagnosed with Covid-19 have died from it.

There are 332,712,704 people living in the United States. That means that a little over 8.35% of our population has been diagnosed with Covid-19, and .19% of that population has died from the disease.

That is, of course, a broad average across the entire population. As we have seen, the elderly and infirm have been gravely impacted by this disease. The risk of death from this disease goes up dramatically if the infected person is older, immunocompromised, or has other comorbidities such as lung problems.

In order to stem that tide, first the Trump, and then the Biden, administrations, with the assistance of the various states, instituted broad economic and social measures. These included closing businesses and schools, restricting gatherings and travel, and the enforcement of social-distancing and mask usage.

Of course, nothing happens without consequences. If you shutter a huge chunk of the economy to prevent spread of a virus, the people who depend on the paychecks that economy produces need help. And so, we have seen an unprecedented level of emergency spending.

We have seen schools adapt, some better than others, to a reality in which students cannot congregate. My son’s school did a good job of at least getting the kids exposed to their coursework and enforcing homework, but it’s a small school that was already known for academic rigor. We are only now starting to see the impact of a year or more of remote learning has had on students from larger school districts that were already in trouble before this all started.

The impacts from all of these actions and reactions will ripple through our economy and society for years. In the short term, we are limping along. Things aren’t as bad now as they were a year ago, but they aren’t even close to how good they were two years ago.

We have also seen a litany of public shaming of those who don’t toe the line when it comes to social restrictions, accompanied with private hypocracy on the part of our social, economic, and political betters.

Governors who lock down their states have been caught enjoying a night out with their friends, family, and donors. Politicians who restrict travel within their own state have taken it upon themselves to travel to their vacation homes.

When protesters gather for one cause, they are berated. When protesters gather for another cause, their complaints are deemed worthy, and their lack of social distancing and masks are shrugged off.

When a group of people gather in a remote town to enjoy their hobby, they are labelled as super-spreaders in the national media. When a former president holds a birthday bash in a small community and invites a large number of people from around the world, nary a disapproving eyebrow is raised.

Meanwhile, American families are suffering because the economy is sluggish, at best, and the value of what money they can make is decreasing every day.

Covid-19, in all of its variants, is a serious disease. To some portions of our population, it is a deadly disease. Steps to prevent its spread, done in a prudent manner, are necessary. I am vaccinated against the disease, and even if it’s only as effective as the flu shot I get every year, it’s better than nothing. Masks are not a panacea, but if you feel that you should wear one, please do.

All Americans should take the steps they can to prevent the spread of this virus.

But the government telling us that we have to get our shots and we have to wear a mask and we can’t gather together and we have to follow instructions because they know better and you’ll have to get more shots and you have to do this because they said so is not going to fly with a large number of our fellow citizens.

We have spent the last three generations telling ourselves that the government has no business telling us how we should live or what we should do with our bodies. Is it any surprise that after 50 years of telling The Man he can’t tell us what to do, ex cathedra dictates from the CDC and Washington are being ignored, if not actively defied?

If those in power want us to do as they wish, they need to not only switch from coersion to persuasion, they also need to follow their own rules. Either their rules are law, or they are guidelines. Either they mean something, or they mean nothing. If you want the country to forgo large public gatherings, quit supporting them when they benefit your side. If you want people to stop holding large family gatherings, cancel your own first. If wearing a mask is important, you better be the most anally retentive mask wearer on earth before you waggle a finger at us during one of your daily news conferences.

In other words, the first people to follow these rules need to be the people promulgating and enforcing them. Either they mean something, or they mean nothing, and the first indicator that they mean nothing is when we see a governor, senator, or anyone else telling us what to do, who doesn’t follow their own rules.

Today’s Earworm

Thought for the Day

Musings

  • Note to self – When your wife asks if you think she’s pretty, do not answer: “Were I not a married man, I would take you in a manly fashion” unless she’s as big a geek as you.
  • Asked at the dinner table – What’s the difference between a hormone and a pheremone?
    • DaddyBear’s Answer – A hormone makes it so you can grow a mustache.  A pheremone makes you not care if she has a mustache.
  • I’m not saying that putting the strawberry beds together wasn’t hard, but when you’ve slapped boards together to make dirt-holding containers in which to grow a cup and a half of produce every year as often as I have, it comes pretty easy.
  • The blackberry frame I put up, apparently, resembles a gallows.  Hey, you build what you know.
  • You know you’ve married the right woman when she agrees that a used bourbon barrel would make a good addition to our patio furniture.
  • Went to the big gun store this weekend, and they actually had a lot of ammunition.  An ammo can of .308 was as much as a decent rifle in .308 used to cost, but hey, there’s ammo.
  • One good thing about all the work to remove movies and books that some find problematic is that it motivates me to check to see if I already own a physical copy of it and correct the situation if I don’t.

Today’s Earworm

Musings

  • I should know better than to let Irish Woman loose in a farm supply store with a well-stocked seed display.
    • Apparently “Let’s start small” means I’m going to be creating at least half a dozen raised beds to accommodate her ‘small’ garden.
    • Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, summer squash, herb garden, strawberry bed, blackberry and raspberry canes, and six blueberry bushes in planters made from whiskey barrels.
  • Irish Woman should know better than to tell me to go away in a farm supply store with a semi-stocked gun counter.
  • There were no modern sporting rifles to be had, but there were some AR-pattern shotguns, a few hunting rifles, and a very nice Ruger American in .22LR.  They also had quite a few pistols under the glass.
    • There was low-end buckshot, some slugs, and some bird shot.  A small stack of .22 was present, but was dwindling as I looked at it.  No centerfire rifle or handgun ammunition at all, although the nice lady working the counter said that they’d gotten some and had it bought in the first hour of being open that morning.
    • There were also cases of MagPul AR and AK magazines, which surprised me
  • I had a nice internal conversation while standing at said counter.
    • Note to self – That .22 bolt action uses the same magazines as my 10/22.
    • Note to self – Boo turns 13 in a couple of months.
    • Note to self – A boy needs a rifle all his own
  • So, to go with his Mossberg 20 gauge, Boo now has a .22 bolt action.  I think that’s a good start.
  • Note to self – Dogs do not care that you were up until 4 AM working.  5 AM is time to go out and read the newspaper, and 7 AM is breakfast o’clock.
    • I was letting Irish Woman sleep in this weekend.  Poor thing got her second Covid19 shot, and it’s made her a bit puny.
    • I’ve been a bit of a grouchy zombie all day, but that’s been par for the course around here.
  • We got between 4 and 6 inches of snow on top of about 2 inches of ice over the past week or so.  I was the weirdo in the neighborhood who was out shoveling while it was still coming down.
    • Better to move a little snow 2 or 3 times than to move a lot of snow once.

Review – Showdown on the River

J.L. Curtis has started what I hope is a new western series. It’s a great beginning that starts fast and never stops.

Rio Bell is leading a cattle drive up the Goodnight Loving Trail to Fort Laramie. It’s his first time as trail boss, but with trusted hands and hard work, he expects to be back in Texas by late September though fire, flood, or rustlers bar the way!

He didn’t count on a range war.

They didn’t account for the Rio Kid…

And he sure as hell didn’t count on the girl showing up!

Curtis is one of his generation’s best storytellers, and his talent really shows in Showdown on the River.  The author fills the wide open spaces of the American West with bigger-than-life characters.  We have cowboys, mountain men, bad men, and a fiery frontier woman who isn’t afraid of anything. If you enjoyed the glory days of Western dime novels, you’ve met all of these people before, but Curtis puts his own twist on them and makes them even more human.

Showdown on the River follows a cattle drive from Texas to the Mountain West, then follows Rio, the main character, as he stumbles into a range war.  Rio has a dark past, and Curtis does a great job of showing the bad things that can happen when a good man is pushed to violence.  The plot starts at a brisk pace and gradually picks up steam before going full tilt through the final act.  Along the way, we meet and get to know Rio and his cowboys, along with a bunch of cantankerous mountain men.  Curtis throws in a strong-willed, beautiful woman, giving Rio one more thing on his mind as he tries to survive doing the right thing.

Showdown on the River is a quick read, especially after the book’s midpoint.  Once the table is set, Curtis treats us to one great plot sequence after another.  He keeps the reader’s attention throughout by including enough historical detail to be interesting, but without delving too deeply.

I’d definitely recommend Showdown on the River if you’re a fan of old-fashioned spurs-and-six-guns Westerns.  If you’ve never tried the genre before, this would be a great place to start.

Today’s Earworm

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Audiobook Review – The Vikings and Their Enemies

If you’re looking for an excellent overview of European culture and warfare during the Viking era, The Vikings and Their Enemies – Warfare in Northern Europe, 750-1100 by Philip Line is an excellent resource.

A fresh account of some of history’s greatest warriors. The Vikings had an extraordinary and far-reaching historical impact. From the eighth to the 11th centuries, they ranged across Europe – raiding, exploring, and colonizing – and their presence was felt as far away as Russia and Byzantium. They are most famous as warriors, yet perhaps their talent for warfare is too little understood.

Philip Line, in this scholarly and highly interesting study of the Viking age, uses original documentary sources – the chronicles, sagas, and poetry – and the latest archaeological evidence to describe how the Vikings and their enemies in northern Europe organized for war. His graphic examination gives an up-to-date interpretation of the Vikings’ approach to violence and their fighting methods that will be fascinating listening for anyone who is keen to understand how they operated and achieved so much in medieval Europe. He explores the practicalities of waging war in the Viking age, including compelling accounts of the nature of campaigns and raids and detailed accounts of Viking-age battles on land and sea, using all the available evidence to give an insight into the experience of combat. Throughout this fascinating book, Philip Line seeks to dispel common myths about the Vikings and misconceptions about their approach to warfare.

The Vikings and Their Enemies is a well-organized, thorough treatise on the culture, technology, and military art of the Viking era.  A good general knowledge of the history and geography of the 9th and 10th Century is probably necessary for the reader to be able to follow both the narrative history and the discussions of the Frankish, Anglo-Saxon, and Scandinavian cultures of that time.  Even with that, I found myself occasionally having to check the map file included with the audiobook and looking at other information sources to fill holes in my knowledge.

Robert Fass’ reading was clear and easy to follow.  He was able to keep my attention throughout the book, even when the material became rather dry and detailed.

For someone who has had a life-long interest in the Vikings and European history in general, this was a key addition to my bookshelf.

Review – The East Witch

Cedar Sanderson returns to Underhill in The East Witch:

Anna’s rescue training kicked in when she tripped over the injured elf. Getting him home? No problem. Getting herself home again? That’s going to be a little more complicated.

Trapped Underhill, in the land of the fae, Anna has to remember everything she knows about fairy tales. Not the sweet happy ones: the stories where Baba Yaga boils you alive and giants grind your bones for bread. Her skills as a hunter and her good manners might be all that keep her alive. At least, if she can keep the Wild Hunt at bay!

Fans of the other books in this series are in for a treat, and so are new readers. 

Mrs. Sanderson uses her exquisite talent for painting settings and characters to good work when she introduces us to Anna and her companions as she tries to find her way home.  I quickly became entranced by the adventures, paced just right, that she and Ivan, the elf, go through as they try to navigate the treacherous and twisty byways of Underhill.

Along the way, they meet and befriend everything from giants to magical carp to Baba Yaga herself.  All of the main characters are well fleshed out, and the author has me hooked enough to hope that they reappear in future stories so I can learn more about them.

Like I said, the story is well paced.  Where necessary, the author slows down to let us get to know the characters and the world they live in, but when the story calls for action, I found myself reading as fast as I could to find out what happens next.

While The East Witch is part of a series, it is enough of a stand-alone story that a new reader could pick it up and be able to enjoy it just as it is. Readers who enjoyed the other Underhill stories will find this one as easy to slip into as a warm sleeping bag on a cold night.

If you’re looking for a good book to curl up with in front of the fire, The East Witch should be on your short list.

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