Wednesday, January 27, 2010

CSFF Blog Tour - North! or Be Eaten, by Andrew Peterson (Part I)

This is part one of what will hopefully be three parts of this month's Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour. The book of the month is North! or Be Eaten, by Andrew Peterson. It is part II of the Wingfeather Saga. The first book in the series is On the Edge of the Dark Sea, and I have not read it yet.

Actually, I haven't finished this one yet, either, as my order from Amazon took longer to get here than I had thought. (And I spent the weekend socializing instead of working being productive.)

This would be a good point to put in an FTC required disclaimer (The requirement of which is ridiculous, as print reviewers don't have to do this.) Anyway:

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I have received no recompense or material from the publisher or any other person or entity.

What I can talk about:

The cover is beautiful - faux leather print, with ornate yellow typeset and a central illustration (in color) which strongly evokes (for this reader) the Golden Compass novels. I don't think this cover is aimed at the Christian Fiction Crowd, (for the extent that there is a CFC) but as a hook for the YA SFF audience, I think it's pretty smart.

(Other works evoked include Left Hand of Darkness and Thirty Days of Night, so make of that what you will.)

The interior is as striking as the cover, if not more so. Peterson uses interior illustrations (which appear to come from Barlowes - the Horned Hound is featured, among other interesting beasties) and short chapters. (As an aunt, I strongly approve of short chapters for reading to the younger set. Ten page chapters strain the throat.) He also uses footnotes, which I completely dig. (Not just on the cover, which has served Bujold's Baen-published Miles novels well, but inside the text as well.)

I will hopefully have more to say tomorrow, after I finish the book. Meanwhile, other members of the tour are listed below - check them out!

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Amy Browning
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Steve and Andrew
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams
KM Wilsher

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Links, Books,


DaTechguy's Blog - Catholic blog, a bit more political than I like, but with some interesting SF commentary also.

Interview with Farah Mendlesohn - who has complied an book of crit on Joanna Russ. Most interesting to me for the commentary on different types of feminism - [those] who have grown up thinking of themselves as equal, and taking the rhetoric for granted, and then slowly realising that they've been sold London Bridge. (Which is...not the conclusion I've come to.)

The Black Hole Case - okay, not life science, but still v. interesting.

Books: (all as of yet unread)

The Book of Genesis, illustrated by R. Crumb.

Between God and Allah: What Christians Can Learn from Muslims - an examination of the points of alinement and divergence between the younger peoples of the Book.

Multicultural Medicine and Health Disparities by Satcher and Pamies


Had the course PT test this morning, and (contrary to what I expected) managed to score over 90% in all three events. Which, honestly, is much easier when you're an old gal.

It can be iffy, meeting a bunch of new people, esp if you're not great with people. So far in my group, there are a couple of people with a Russian language background, a gal who climbs, and a couple of SF geeks. (In amongst a wide spectrum of backgrounds and experiences.) It's actually looking very promising.


The day after Christmas, my family had the tv on a NCIS marathon, which I had been avoiding watching for no particular reason. This evening, I'm on my third hour in a row. Gibbs is particularly interesting, but all the characters have their moments. The action/details are (f'xample, the airborne jump scene had about a 100% deficiency in wind noise and turbulence inside the aircraft.) But so far, I can over look those.

...I really don't need a new show to watch.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Primate Medicine

Two links this morning for mainstream media health:

US response to H1N1 'appropriate' - which I think is correct, if less by design and more by luck. I find it interesting that the death rates for different flu strains are given in the article, but not for the typical 'annual' flu. (The death rates become important when one is trying to figure out how much money to spend on influenza programs, because the money usually has to get cut from something else - and it would be good to know if that something else was a greater or lesser risk than the one you were proposing to fix.)

Norway's response to MRSA - stop prescribing antibotics. I find this interesting for two reasons - firstly, because it shows a reduction in intervention in response to increased disease (which worked) and secondly because the primary influencing factor in human MRSA was demonstrated (overwhelmingly, in multiple regions) to be over-use of antibotics in humans.

(Yes, yes, One World, One Health. Everything that goes into the bioweb touches everything else. But let's hit the lower hanging fruit first, shall we, before harring off to stop animals from getting medical treatment?)

I am curious as to what sort of in-clinic, alternative care or counseling was given patients in lieu of an antibiotic prescription. Sometimes, if a provider (MD, DVM, whatever) declines to prescribe medication, the client/patient seems to take offense, as if the provider doesn't care/isn't trying to make the patient better. 'Tincture of talk' fixes many of these misunderstandings, but not all of them. A provider might easily decide that it is a better use of their time to write the script and go on to the next patient than to spend the time convincing the client to accept the more conservative treatment (which isn't making the provider any money anyway.)

Also of note is the variation in drug approval in different countries across the world. In many places I've visited - specifically Latin America - drugs that are restricted to prescription use only in the USA are available over the counter at pharmacies and animal supply/feed stores.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Normally, I don't make these. (It's like telling someone the story of my latest plot bunny - it kills the damn thing, and I lose interest in actually writing the story.)

But the last year both showed the advantages of steady, incremental progress towards a goal and the low return on 'wishing', so I'm going to give the 'make a list of ideals and see how far I can get' method a try.

My rules for this: No getting worked up over missing a day. No frustration over lack of progress. Keep it simple, keep it sane. This is to help make life more enjoyable, not to make it more miserable.

1. Pray always.
-- Mass weekly
-- Daily Mass once or twice a week?
-- establish a regular (daily?) prayer habit
---- LOH?
---- rosary?
---- scripture reading?
---- other spiritual reading?
---- spiritual journaling?
-- participate in one or more ministries
---- lector? (easiest, perhaps)
---- soup kitchen/homeless support?
---- connect with the local Franciscans

Last year, I did some degree of all of the above (except for ministries - only did lector, and enjoyed that muchly) and found them all fulfilling, but difficult to sustain on a daily basis. So my resolution for this first quarter would focus on finding some combination that works for me.

2. Work out six days of the week.
-- find a workout buddy - or, failing that, a workout calender
-- try a few 5Ks? (one a month?)
-- try a mini-triathlon?

The 'six days a week' is a max - I spent the first three months of last year recovering from a strained ITB, and don't intend to repeat the experience. There are no weight loss resolutions associated with this, as I have realized, post-Airborne, that I could really care less what someone else things about my weight or body shape. I have a different metric now.

3. When I'm at work, work.
-- set calendar and goals
-- explore expertise-broadening opportunities
-- two hours of reading/CE work a week

One of the things I did not do well this past year was keep my head in the game, on the job, on a consistent basis. The new job has a computer nanny system that will help (ie, no checking personal email except during lunch!) I also need to work on staying up-to-date on job skills. (The two hour resolution above might be adjusted, depending on how things work out.)

4. When I'm not at work, play.
-- read for pleasure
-- write as I can
-- utilize the internet as a bridge to other writers/readers
---- do NOT let the internet hack my life
---- tighten my focus back into life science, SFF, faith, and writing
---- use CSFF Blog Tour to connect with other writers
-- create a space for living inside my house, and bring other people into that space
-- find things to do in the community (attend some sort event monthly? writer's group? go fishing?)

5. Stay in touch with family (and friends.)

Not going to talk about this here, including details about who I'm contacting when, but noted for completeness sake.

So. I shan't talk about #5, here, nor much of actual work (although bits of that may make their way here, suitably edited for public consumption.) I want to talk about the others, daily as the opportunity presents itself.

(*considers the coming year with intent*) Going to be interesting, seeing what happens.

An End to Travel; PT; Catholism and Environmentalism

Have arrived, finally, at our destination in Texas. After dumping my things in the lodging room, I went for a walk-about on post. Everything was, more or less, just where it was last time I visited, only with browner grass and much less standing water.

The intervening two and a half years have also significantly changed my perception of "too far to walk". (To be fair to my physical fitness back then, it's also about 60o F less than it was then.) This time, I'm looking forward to wandering about on post, when I can't convince one of my classmates to give me a ride.

Back in my room (20 ft by 19 ft, including bathroom and kitchen area, woot!) I unpacked everything. The next nine weeks will be the longest I have spent anywhere since (*counts on fingers, then toes*) the middle of September.

Speaking of physical fitness:

An article on Fit for Combat by JD Johannes, is here. I know I've read Johannes's blog before, but I can't find it now.

During this class, we're supposed to be following the Crossfit method, about which my traveling companion/classmate is quite enthusiastic. (He's not so impressed with what he's heard of the implementation during this course - he spent his time deployed doing the 'real thing'.)

Me, I'm looking forward to a regular schedule and a gym within easy reach. It's been more than a month since I finished Airborne (and 2 months before that when I took my last PT test) and as I've gone running perhaps four times in that month, I know my physical capability has drifted downward.


Walking about, I found the post chapel (too late for Mass, alas, and they do not have an evening service now as I seem to remember from the last trip.) Picked up a bulletin, schedule, and assorted reading material, including a copy of this week's Our Sunday Visitor. The backpage editorial discussed Pope Benedict's 2010 World Peace message, which was released for the Copenhagen climate summit. The whole message can be found here.

I have the History Channel on behind me, playing Life After People - a fascinating exploration of what the earth would be if all of humanity suddenly left. Three of the films that have caught my attention this winter are Avatar, The Road, and The Book of Eli - each dealing with the end of the world and people's interactions with nature on different levels.

A website that I've linked to before is Catholic Conservation Center.


Two more "Best of" lists for the last year/decade: Ebert's Best Films of the Decade and Time Magazine's best movies, books and theater of the Decade.


The Saint of the Day is The Most Holy Name of Jesus. The concept - the power and magic and salvation embodied in a name - makes me shiver. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Another list of books; Noah's Ark

Still on the road, this time stopping in the great state of Texas.


From Amazon: Top ten editor's picks for 2009 in fantasy/SF - also links to top customer picks.

The editor's picks have less fantasy and far more short story collections.


Via Anchoress - Noah's Ark was Circular.

The ark story is a perpetual favorite among the Christian veterinarians that I know - with the occasional debates over the effects of genetic bottlenecks and how long one could have only two rabbits. (Time typically measured in seconds...) The idea of an ark also shows up repeatedly in SF, although my mind's blanking on all of them except Bulter's Clay's Ark.

The 'circular' ark of the article above reminds me of round buffalo hide boats used by American Indians of the plains for short distance river passage.

Saint of the Day: St Basil and St Gregory

Friday, January 1, 2010

New year... non-resolutions.


Traveling today, for work, and we stopped at a small motel off I-85 in Alabama. The desk clerk just called my room with a recommendation for Chosen Soldier: The makings of a special forces warrior, by Dick Couch.

She read a bit to me, over the phone: I heard the voice of the sovereign master say, "Whom will I send? Who will go on our behalf?" I answered, "Here I am, send me!"


Noted for later reading: Can Farming Save Detroit?


I have seen Avatar. It was the most beautiful, absorbing, action-packed retread of every. single. negative military cliche I have ever sat through - including some I saw for free. (All military vices were on display, and none of the virtues.) Also? Nectar-drinking mind-meld unicorns ponies!.

But beautifully done!

Related: Sane and intelligent thread on the 'white guy saves natives' movie/fiction trope. I think I respect Ta-nehisi Coats most for calling complete rejection of the whole sub-genre 'lazy'.

Staying with the movie theme: Don't forget Sherlock Holmes was one tough hombre - a defense of the new action-focused Sherlock Holmes movie. I've recently been (re)-introduced to the Granada TV series and I agree - Holmes was gifted (or trained) both physically and cerebrally.

I'd also like to point out that, at least in the Granda series (and reportedly in the new movie), Watson is no wuss either. Nor an idiot.


Sometimes staying off the internet is good - when it keeps you from wasting time you didn't have anyway, or when you're trawling around, looking for something to get cranky about.

(More than the time sink, this. I loathe that I use this cool tech for such a petty thing - to search for things to be unhappy about.)

Sometimes it's not so great, when you miss things that would make you smile or think. One good site for that is The Volokh Conspiracy, libertarian-leaning law collective which which also hits on SF-related items more often than you'd think.

Lately, Volokh brought me this piece on a religious freedom/accommodation judicial decision. (Double interest hit - a chicken processing plant vs Muslim workers - farming and faith.) Interesting implications for how the US government determines the limits of expression of religion.

Also via Volokh: Top Ten Pro-Liberty Books - which only includes two or three that I've actually heard of.


The Saint of the Day for today is Mary, Mother of God.

Last week of Advent, I had another of those my god, my God is awesome moments. God-as-Jesus spent about a third of his human life as a child, dependent on his mother, and loving her as fiercely, as jealously, as completely, as helplessly as any young child does the parents who cares for them.

Our love for our parents is not something we come by rationally. In order for Jesus to be fully human, I think, he had to be afflicted by this irrational adoration for a human woman.

Who made Jesus. Who was made by God. Whom God loves, helplessly, completely, fiercely, because that is how God made humanity, Mary, and Jesus.

And through whom, God loves all of humanity.

Just like Jesus loves Mary.

My God? Not afraid to work in circular equations.

My God? Awesome.