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Today’s Earworm

This is the 200th anniversary of the first performance of this song. It’s always been one of my favorites.

Irish Woman and I wish all of you a Merry Christmas.

Today’s Earworm

Review – Against a Rising Tide

Alma Boykin closes her “The Powers” series with an excellent story of family, honor, and duty in “Against a Rising Tide“.

The World War has ended. The battles rage on.

Five years after the end of the World War, men, Half-Dragons and True-Dragons labor to repair the damage. The English and French insist on punishing the nations of the Habsburg Confederation and Germany, while nationalists and Communists threaten to tear the alliance and the Houses apart from within. As chaos swirls and tensions rise, István Eszterházy and Archduke Rudolph von Habsburg struggle to preserve order, and to preserve both Houses and Powers. Worse, an old enemy from the war stalks István, intent on revenge.

But true danger lurks to the east. The forces that destroyed Galicia threaten to devour all of the Powers and Houses, killing the very soil of the land as they do. As another war rages, István and Rudolph must hide the secret of the Powers from forces more terrible than the Mongols and ottomans combined.

Against a Rising Tide continues the story of Istvan Esterhazy, a nobleman leading a family that boasts dragons in its bloodline. After the defeat and dismemberment of the First World War, the Houses of the Empire are hard-pressed to adapt to a new world. Boykin adds a thread of tension throughout this story, which ratchets up the pace and keeps the reader riveted.

While taking us through the political and social upheaval of the 1920’s and ’30’s, Boykin paints a vivid depticion of a man trying to preserve what he can while living in the real world. In the end, this is a story of humanity in an ever-more dehumanizing world.

I had to take this story in small bites so that I could chew it over and think about what it was telling me. I definitely recommend this entire series to folks who are interested in this period of history and want a story that appeals on many levels.

Today’s Earworm

Saint Joseph and the Donkey

A Christmas thought

DaddyBear's Den

As we sat down to our Christmas Eve feast tonight, it occurred to me that things are pretty good.  We’re all home, everyone is healthy, and it’s a pretty normal evening for us.  It could be a lot more difficult for us.

Imagine that you’re a simple tradesman, who’s been told to walk 80 miles to the city of your ancestors.  With you, you take your young, very pregnant wife.  Luckily, you have your trusty donkey, so she doesn’t have to walk the whole way.  Once you get there, there’s no place to stay, so you end up in someone’s stable.  Of course, after four or five days on the road, she goes into labor.

So now, you’re in a barn, with a young woman going through her first labor, and you’re alone.  Somehow, you get both her and the baby through the labor alive.  Then strangers start showing up…

View original post 114 more words

Review – Lab Gremlins

Cedar Sanderson’s new short work, Lab Gremlins, is a fun tale of someone discovering that the world is stranger, more wonderful, and more terrifying than he thought it was.

All Steven wanted was a lab job to get experience. His boss acted like a mad scientist, but that wasn’t the problem. No, the problem started with disappearances around the lab, and then it really escalated. Steven finds himself scrambling to cope with gremlins, chemical spills, and much worse things when the government agents show up… because they are recruiting and don’t take no for an answer!

Lab Gremlins is a fun, short read that introduces us to Steven, an every-man lab technician who chances upon the rabbit hole and gets dragged down into its depths. Sanderson is a master story-teller, and wastes no time in intricately painting both her characters and the world they inhabit.

News Roundup

  • From the “Creative Writing” Department – A German journalist has run into a rough patch lately after it was discovered that he has a rather disturbing habit of making crap up. For instance, in an article in which he wrote about Fergus Falls, Minnesota, he only got the name of the town and its population right. Everything else in his reportage was as fanciful as Barack Obama’s resume. Apparently, the only way that I can find precious time to work on my fiction is to get a job as a professional reporter.
  • From the “Pretty Lights” Department – Denizens of the Bay Area were treated to a display of bright lights and smoke trails in their sky the other morning when a meteor plowed through the atmosphere above their city. While the usual panic over celestial events occurred, as is traditional, this reporter also heard many folks comment on how this was further proof of collusion between the Trump administration and alien forces beyond our ken.
  • From the “Own Two Feet” Department – The Trump administration has announced new rules that restrict the circumstances under which an able bodied adult with no dependants can receive SNAP benefits, commonly referred to as “Food Stamps”. While the program is normally used to help the elderly and families with children, almost four million able-bodied Americans with no dependants get their daily bread using the mandatory charitable contributions of the taxpayer. Almost three million of these do not work at all. The move is expected to save the taxpayer $15 billion over the next decade. The usual suspects are keening about the injustice of expecting able-bodied folks to provide for themselves. As for me, I just keep going into work every day and magically collecting money from my employer every few weeks.
  • From the “Pitchfork and Torch” Department – Scores of flights into and out of Gatwick Airport in Great Britain were either diverted or delayed after drones were spotted too close to the airfield. There are no reports yet of extra-legal defenestration of assbags with remote control helicopters, but I’m sure they’re in the works.
  • From the “Horse Race” Department – The Washington, D.C., city council has approved legal sports betting, which is expected to provide $92 million a year for the city. I look forward to seeing the handicappers’ reports on such things as how long a committee meeting will go before one of the Congresscritters asks an intelligent question, how much alcohol will be consumed during caucus meetings, and the specific shade of red Congressional leadership turns when told that they have to actually do some work every so often.
  • From the “Kimchi Kab” Department – South Korean taxi drivers are going on strike today to protest a new ride sharing service. Most impacted will be folks just trying to get back to post before curfew at Camp Red Cloud. Stand by for a blizzard of demotions and extra duty as bleary-eyed soldiers schlep their way home in the early morning light of the Land of the Morning Calm.
  • From the “Pernicious Poultry” Department – A British parrot has used its owner’s Alexa device to order treats such as ice cream and watermelon, as well as light bulbs and a kite. The bird has a previous record of using profanity in front of visitors, so it has something in common with your devoted writer. The parrot has been slapped with an Anti-Social Behavior citation and will have to do several hundred hours of community service at a government call center over the holidays. In unrelated news, efficiency and customer satisfaction with government call centers is expected to rise over the holidays.

Book Review – Vaguely Familiar and Oddly Familiar

Alma Boykin returns to her Familiar Tales world with “Vaguely Familiar“, and Oddly Familiar, a pair of fun rides with Lelia Chan and her familiar, Tay the Lemur.

First, the blurb from Vaguely Familiar:

When stone calls to stone, Familiars and mages must answer.

Lelia Chan’s and Tay’s chance discovery of a fragment of a blood-soaked knife leads them deeper into what it means to be a shadow mage and her Familiar. Meanwhile, Morgana Lorraine heads west, looking for answers (and really good bacon), leaving Officer Jamie Macbeth to deal with the Off Ramp of Doom and his mother-in-law’s ongoing displeasure. But the stone won’t stay quiet.

Could the Off Ramp and the stone be connected? As the stone’s call grows stronger, Lelia and friends race to find an answer to an evil that won’t go quietly.

And Oddly Familiar:

Ah, October, when the ghosts, and spirits walk, and the Off Ramp of Doom falls quiet. Too quiet…

Lelia Chan and her Familiar, Tay, continue learning about magic and what mages do. When a customer drops a strange silver disk in Belle, Book, and Blacklight, it starts a chain of events that pull Lelia deeper into shadow magic. André Lestrange and Rodney return to help sort out the off-ramp. Someone else returns, someone who wants to open doors best left closed. Lelia and Company have their hands and paws full dealing with the forces of darkness and bad jokes.

Evil walks on All Hallows Eve. It’s up to Lelia and Tay to send it back where it belongs. Or else.

Boykin brings a wry sense of humor, a collection of rich settings and characters, and a deft hand at story telling to bring these tales to life. Lelia is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters to learn about, but the other mages are just as well fleshed out and enjoyable. The interaction between the mages and their familiars is at times touching, but also adds a good dose of humor to what could easily have been intense, dark stories.

Both Vaguely Familiar and Oddly Familiar are quick reads, and went very well with a couple of evenings in front of a fire. While the stories dealt with adult themes, they were appropriate for teenagers and adults alike.

I’m really looking forward to seeing where the author takes this world.

Musings

  • There’s nothing like the Christmas season to make me ask myself why I didn’t become a hermit.
  • The meaning of true love is a wife who gets up an hour early so that she can make her husband breakfast before he goes into work.
  • We’ve reached that time of year where Irish Woman cannot work her frustrations out by digging in the dirt, so she’s filling her days with crafts and home improvement projects.
  • For crafts, she and Boo decided that only losers buy Christmas gifts for school friends and teachers. Instead, this year they made dragon eggs out of foam cores, about a thousand thumbtacks, and irridescent metallic paints.
  • Her latest home improvement effort used a 12 foot section of countertop, left over from our kitchen remodel, and a half dozen kitchen cabinets in the family room.
    • Why do we have a 12 foot piece of leftover countertop, you ask? Well, it has to do with my wife having a lot more confidence in my ability to accurately and cleanly cut 45 degree miters in laminate countertop than I do.
    • Did y’all know that if you spend several hundred dollars for a custom-built, non-mitred 12 foot piece of laminate counter top, you’re not allowed to take it back for a refund? Yeah, neither did I.
  • There is a certain amount of satisfaction found in taking an old couch out of the basement after ripping it apart with a sharp knife and a reciprocating saw.
    • Irish Woman was going to do it with an old steak knife and a pry bar. I’d be lying if I denied that I considered letting her do it her way.
    • Yes, my garbage collectors hate my guts. Why do you ask?

Coming Soon

A wave of new movies is about to break at your local movie palace, so I thought I’d let you know what’s coming.

  • Top Gun: Maverick – After barely surviving the Tailhook scandal, and the messy divorce that followed it, Maverick fights to get back into the cockpit after almost 30 years of meteorology duty on Diego Garcia.
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet – An innocent 8 bit graphic and his underage sidekick find themselves enmeshed in the hive of scum and villainy that is the Internet.  Not recommended for children or pregnant women.
  • Aquaman – The prodigal son returns to find that his ancient kingdom is being menaced by Republicans, overfishing, and a vast continent of Chinese plastic garbage.
  • BumbleBee – Return with us to the glory days of transforming cars, 1987.   The robot in question tries hard to win the heart of a young woman who befriends him, not knowing that he was a generation early if he wanted to find a woman who could fall in love with a machine.
  • Mary Poppins Returns –  No.  Just, no.  I can’t even.  What did I do to Disney to make them hurt me like this?
  • Jacob’s Ladder – A haunting tale packed with tension and a twist ending that we’ve already seen before.
  • Dumbo – I wonder what they’re going to do with the crows in this one.  In other news, I’m going to be taken to see this on date night, so I’ll need to pack along a box of tissues.
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