Saturday, February 28, 2015

Happy dance!

My latest novel, 'Stand Against The Storm', continues to climb the charts at  It's now at #2 in the 'Hot New Releases in Space Opera Science Fiction' list.

It's also at #4 in the same list for military science fiction, and at #7 in science fiction overall.  Those are the highest rankings I've ever had in 'Hot New Releases'.

Thank you all very much for your support.  Color me happy!


Strange that one so young sounds so evil

I had to smile at this video of a Russian baby who's learned to deliver a really evil laugh.

I can't imagine what it's going to sound like as he grows up!


Friday, February 27, 2015

A Japanese carrier pilot in World War II

The good people at Vintage Wings of Canada have published an excerpt from an e-book by Jūzõ Mori, a Japanese torpedo bomber pilot who fought in China and the Pacific before and during World War II.  Its English translation is titled 'The Miraculous Torpedo Squadron'.

The Vintage Wings article is an excerpt describing how he bombed Midway Island during the eponymous battle.  Here's part of it.

On we went, our engines purring contentedly. After about fifty minutes the island of Midway began to take shape on the horizon ahead of us. The Zeros dropped their external fuel tanks to ready themselves for action. Suddenly, one of the dive-bombers in front of me burst into flames and fell from formation. An enemy fighter had nailed him. Shit! They were up there waiting for us! Six of the Zeros behind us immediately shot to the front of the formation. In another ten minutes we would be over the island. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a vicious dogfight underway, but we kept right on going.

Looking over my shoulder I could see that Hosoda had a death-grip on his 7.7mm machine gun, ready to ward off enemy fighters.

“Here comes a Grumman!” he yelled. I looked back to see flame spitting from the fighter’s six guns. It looked like the leading edge of his wing was on fire. The Grumman seemed like a very small machine to be crossing swords with our imposing and stately attack planes. We tightened up our formation so as to be able to better concentrate our fire. Then all we could do was wait for the Zeros to come to our rescue. For some reason, none of them did. Hell, we still had to carry out our attack. If we got shot down now it would all be for nothing.

Suddenly a Grumman appeared in front of our formation. Crap, now we’re done for, was all I could think. They knew we didn’t have any forward-firing guns, so they made frontal attacks. When they couldn’t knock us down from the front they came at us from below. Before I knew it there was another one shooting at me from the left. Damn, I hated their guts but I had to give them credit, they came to fight. Now we’re finished, was all I could think.

That thought had no sooner formed than a Zero flashed over the top of us like a bullet. Yaré! Go get ’em!

Nakajima B5N 'Kate' torpedo bomber, the type flown by Jūzõ Mori

We now peeled off in our dive. There was a lot of anti-aircraft fire coming up at us but the shells were all exploding away from us. You’re never going to hit us with that lousy shooting, I thought.

At the center of the island was a single runway running east and west. To its right, on the island’s north side, were three hangars; to the left was a lot of greenery that looked like a pine forest. That’s where the AA emplacements seemed to be, as I could see the flash of gunfire between the trees.

Our six planes in the third section dove down from the east side of the island from an altitude of 12,000’. The dive bombers were dropping their 500-pounders on the hangars, causing huge fires to erupt.

Ichiro Tada, the rear gunner in the flight leader’s plane, raised his right hand straight up in the air. We were on our bomb run. It seemed to be taking forever but we only had about ten seconds to go before release.


On the signal from the lead plane we all released our bombs at once. Freed of the heavy load the engine suddenly began to run more easily. Looking down to see how we did I could see the first four bombs detonate in quick succession right on the runway. Number five went into the pine forest next to the runway, as did six and seven. Nuts, I thought, they missed. Just then a huge explosion erupted from the forest and all the AA fire stopped. Luck of the draw — sometimes you screw up and it works out in your favor.

There's more at the link.

The book looks interesting enough that I've bought my own copy.  It promises to provide a new perspective on Japanese carrier operations during the Second World War.


Ye Gods and little fishes . . . !!!

The French edition of The Local reports:

Truck driver Noël Jamet, 48, is better known in farming circles as "Nono". But he's better known still for dressing up in pink, strapping on pig ears and a pig-nose, and then using a microphone to do pig noises to the best of his ability.

And judging by his six consecutive titles, he's an expert.

This year, he walked onto the stage at the Agricultural Fair (Salon de l’Agriculture) at the Porte de Versailles in Paris and told the crowd: "I'll give you a good show - here comes the birth of a pig, breastfeeding, and then its death".

There's more at the link.  For your artistic and cultural edification, here's the 'performance'.

Verily, the mind doth boggle . . .


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Of students, their grades, and their just deserts

Courtesy of a link provided by CenTexTim, we find an article titled 'Dear Student: No, I Won’t Change the Grade You Deserve'.  It begins like this.

... plenty of professors have told me that when many of their students get to college, they lug into the classroom a sense of academic entitlement—a belief that their papers and exams should be graded on how hard they’ve worked, not how well they’ve mastered the material. When they don’t receive the grades they think they deserve, many take the matter up with the graders.

When that happens, one thing becomes clear: Their feelings about the quality of their work often don’t match the reality of their performance. Instead of seeing their grades as a reflection of how well they interpreted or executed their assignments, some students will come to a different conclusion: The assignment was too difficult. Or my professor doesn’t get me.

The author goes on to quote letters written to students by a number of professors, explaining (in astonishingly polite ways) why they aren't going to revise their grades.  Here's just one example out of many.

Dear Student Who Must Be Out Of Their Mind:

I hope all is well with you. Are you, by any chance, related to the student who failed my class and asked that I give them an A because they “liked the class so much?” I’m just asking because this question you’ve posed is just as silly as that one.

Pursuant to the detailed rubric provided for the assignment that we reviewed in class, the work you did on this paper was questionable. What you turned in was riddled with grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and formatting inconsistencies. Your paper didn’t respond to the prompts for the assignment at all and didn’t even reference the provided course content, let alone go beyond it in any meaningful way. The grade you received is reflective of the fact that what I got was a mash-up of poorly constructed sentences and last minute fooleywang.

And for real, I need you to focus less on the grade and more on the learning. Here’s the thing: had you focused on learning and on effectively completing the assignment, you would have gotten an A. Instead, you’re out here so focused on the grade that your submitted work was well below my expectations and your abilities.

Get your shit together. Please and thank you.


Dr. “I know you didn’t just come to me with this foolishness” Amin

There's more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.  Entertaining, but simultaneously infuriating!

I'm afraid I'm completely out of touch with this sort of attitude.  I can't even begin to understand it.  I completed four university qualifications;  three degrees and a post-graduate certificate.  Every one was paid for out of my own pocket;  every one was completed through distance education and part-time study (because I couldn't afford to study full-time);  and every one required that I submit a certain number of assignments and projects for every course and module.  If my grades weren't up to scratch, I didn't even get to sit the examination, much less pass that subject!

Where the hell do students come from today with this "I'm entitled!" bull?  If I'd tried any of that nonsense, I wouldn't have had to worry about my professors.  My own father would have taken the time, trouble and expense to travel to wherever I was, just so he could save them the trouble of kicking my backside back into line!  Seems to me someone should motivate a lot more fathers to do likewise . . .


Another identity crisis?

Following the canine chicken, here's a husky/baby cross (well, that's what it sounds like!).

All together, now:  Awwwww!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Debt, explained in detail

We've often spoken in these pages about the problem of debt in our modern economy.  Now, in his latest weekly 'Thoughts From The Frontline' newsletter (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format), John Mauldin goes into a great deal of detail about debt;  what it is, what's good about it, what's bad about it, and what it means for us as individuals and as a nation.  Here are some of the highlights.

Debt is at the center of every major macroeconomic issue facing the world today, not just in Europe and Japan but also in the US, China, and the emerging markets. Debt (which must include future entitlement promises) is a conundrum not just for governments; it is also significantly impacting corporations and individuals.

. . .

Debt is future consumption brought forward ... It is hard for me to overemphasize how important that proposition is. If you borrow money to purchase something today, that money will have to be paid back over time and will not be available for other purchases. Debt moves future consumption into the present. Sometimes this is a good thing, and sometimes it is merely stealing from the future.

. . .

Debt is future consumption brought forward into the present, but a corollary is that debt is also future consumption denied. If you will have to pay both principal and interest on debt in the future, then you are setting aside and spending money on debt service that is no longer available for current consumption.

. . .

To put it in personal terms, if your real income drops 25%, then whatever debt service you’re carrying will be a correspondingly larger portion of your income.

. . .

Too much debt will become an ever larger drag on the US economy, just as it already is in Japan and Europe.

. . .

Debt, when used properly, can overcome obstacles to productivity and bring on a warm day of sunshine, fostering life and growth everywhere. But if debt increases too much, just like a massive dying star it can collapse upon itself, explode like a supernova, and become a black hole instead, sucking in all the life around it.

Without a massive increase in debt, present-day China would have been impossible. Clearly that debt has improved the life of its citizens. But in recent years China has used debt to maintain a strange new form of growth and is increasingly using debt to build and consume, heading toward an ever less productive outcome. As in many other places in the world, each new dollar of debt is producing less in terms of GDP growth.

There has been a massive explosion of global debt since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2007. Normally, after a banking and financial crisis, one would expect a period of deleveraging and a reduction of debt. This time is truly different.

There's much more at the link.  Essential reading if you want to understand the dangers of our current economic situation.

The discussion will continue next week in the next edition of 'Thoughts From The Frontline'.  I'll keep my eyes open for it, and bring you the highlights.



I found this over at Wirecutter's place.  It made me laugh, so I looked around until I found a larger, clearer image.  Click it to embiggenate.

So much for 'special snowflakes'!  If I lived in an office cubicle, I'd hang that on the partition . . .


Hot 5.56x45mm ammo deal

I know some readers, like myself, aren't afraid to spend money on premium defensive ammunition for 'social use'.  This isn't practice ammo, it's intended for saving your life when the proverbial brown substance hits the rotary air impeller and you need to rely on it in the worst way.

Such ammo can be very expensive indeed. I've seen it offered for well over a dollar a round, sometimes approaching two dollars a round. Therefore, when I find a good deal I jump on it.  I've just come across such a deal from Beck Ammunition in Texas.  They've found themselves with an overstock of 5.56x45mm ammo loaded with the bonded 64gr. Nosler bullet. As far as I'm aware, that's the same bullet used in the current standard-issue FBI load.

As most experienced shooters will know, Nosler bullets have a very high reputation indeed.  This particular 64gr. bullet uses bonded construction, meaning that the jacket is secured to the interior metal in such a way that they won't separate.  It's optimum for barrier penetration (e.g. auto glass, car bodies, walls and doors, etc.) and, for hunting, deep penetration into tissue and bone, while still offering acceptable expansion on contact with flesh.  For law enforcement, that offers the best of both worlds;  and for serious civilian users, the same consideration applies.

Beck Ammunition is offering their overstock at what I think is the very reasonable price of $10.95 for a box of 20 rounds.  (Nosler's own version of this round lists for $28/20.)  Beck's products are recommended by some law enforcement officers of my acquaintance, who've assured me that the quality is as good as that of any big-name manufacturer.  I've therefore gone ahead and bought a plentiful supply of this stuff.  I thought you folks might be interested in getting some while the getting's good, given the current brouhaha about 5.56mm. ammunition.

NOTE 1:  There was a slight problem during the online ordering process.  I found the 'shopping cart' charged me more than double the listed price for the ammo.  I contacted Robyn, who confirmed that the advertised price was correct, and took my order over the phone to get around that difficulty.  If you have any problem, call her at (817) 219-7976 and do likewise.  She's very helpful.

NOTE 2:  I'm not being compensated for this recommendation in any way, either financially or in kind.  I just want to share a good deal with my readers while it's still available.


You folks rock!

I'm very grateful to all of you for your help and support in making the launch of my latest book, 'Stand Against The Storm', a success.

I'd expected relatively slow sales at first, because it's been nine months since the publication of my previous book.  Most 'indie' authors find that their sales numbers depend at least in part on their visibility in the market, so if there's a long gap between launches, that tends to impact how many people will look for their next book.

It seems I needn't have worried. As of the time of writing, 'Stand Against The Storm' ranks #671 of all the paid books available in the Kindle Store (which offers well over 2,000,000 volumes in all).

That's the highest sales rank I've ever achieved with any book, and it appears to be still climbing at this time.  Naturally, I'm over the moon about it.  The book's currently at #5 on the 'Hot New Releases' list for the military sci-fi genre, and at #3 on the same list for space opera sci-fi.  Those numbers are particularly pleasing in the light of the long-drawn-out process of writing this book, and all the difficulties and delays I experienced.  They make it all worthwhile!  Initial reviews of the book (20 of them so far) have also been very positive.

What's even more encouraging is that most of the circulation is taking place in the form of sales.  I'd been wondering what impact Amazon's relatively new $9.99-per-month subscription library service, Kindle Unlimited, would have on my sales.  It pays substantially less to an author per 'borrow' than for a sale, so if it had dominated among my readers, it would have led me to reconsider participating in the Kindle Select program (which offers several benefits, but carries with it automatic enrollment of your book in KU).  However, at the time of writing 'borrows' of the new book are running at about 25% of sales volume, or 4 sales for every 'borrow'.  Even though it reduces my income, I think I can support that ratio in the interests of gaining readers and market visibility, hoping that will translate into higher sales in future.  However, if the ratio of loans to sales grows any higher, I may have to change that approach.  After all, authors like myself depend on sales for our daily bread, so we can't afford to lose too many!  We'll see what happens.

If current trends continue, 'Stand Against The Storm' will move more than 1,000 copies in its first week on the market - the best performance of any of my books so far.  For this genre, and as an independent author, that's just amazing!  Thank you all very much for your support.  I couldn't have done this without you;  or, to put it another way, we did this together.  You rock!

I'm already a third of the way into the second volume of the Laredo Trilogy, 'Forge A New Blade'.  It's flowing nicely.  Look for it in May.  The fifth volume of the Maxwell Saga, as yet unnamed, will hopefully be ready in August, and the third and final volume of the Laredo Trilogy, 'Knife To The Hilt', in November, if I can keep up the pace.  I do have to stop now and again to eat, sleep and tell my wife I love her, you know - and not necessarily in that order of importance!


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Doofus Of The Day #817

Today's award goes to an Australian school for an unthinking, uncaring and utterly inappropriate memorial.  An inquiry into a child-molesting teacher was told:

Mr Ashton said he was deeply confused by the attitude at the school where all were expected to pay tribute to an art teacher Bruce Barrett who had died young.

Mr Ashton said Barrett was a "notorious molester" but the school put up memorial gates at the back entrance to the Wahroonga school in his honour and bearing the inscription: "He touched us all".

There's more at the link.  A tip o' the hat to Australian reader Snoggeramus for providing it.

I can only hope that whoever was responsible for this gets fired as soon as possible . . . but I suspect they won't.  Bureaucrats are forever.


When justice and the Police State collide

The Washington Post has a very interesting analysis of how police surveillance overreach led to the collapse of a criminal case and the perpetrators getting off with a far lighter sentence than they'd normally have received.

The case against Tadrae McKenzie looked like an easy win for prosecutors. He and two buddies robbed a small-time pot dealer of $130 worth of weed using BB guns. Under Florida law, that was robbery with a deadly weapon, with a sentence of at least four years in prison.

But before trial, his defense team detected investigators’ use of a secret surveillance tool, one that raises significant privacy concerns. In an unprecedented move, a state judge ordered the police to show the device — a cell-tower simulator sometimes called a StingRay — to the attorneys.

Rather than show the equipment, the state offered McKenzie a plea bargain.

Today, 20-year-old McKenzie is serving six months’ probation ­ after pleading guilty to a second-degree misdemeanor. He got, as one civil liberties advocate said, the deal of the century.

There's more at the link.

I'm sorry that a criminal seems to have 'gotten away' with his crime;  but I totally support the outcome.  If police are allowed to hide evidence like this, the administration of justice becomes less than transparent, and the rule of law breaks down.

We have GOT to find a way to rein in this sort of prosecutorial and law enforcement overreach.


Identity crisis?

Sounds like this dog's been a victim of fowl play.