RT.com is a menace

RT.com (“Russia Today”) is a menace. I see its articles linked every once in a while as though this is a regular news organization. It’s not. It’s a news organization only in the same sense as Radio Moscow was during the Cold War. Russia is a rival power, and no longer an ideological enemy. It’s still propaganda.

Now they’re upset that “German teens enlist in record numbers thanks to social media drive.” By that, they mean 17 year-olds. This isn’t what people used to think of as “child soldiers.”

Germany now has a record number of children registering to join its army following an intensive social media campaign. More than 2,000 soldiers under the age of 18 served in 2017, according to new figures.

Yes, they said “children.”

It’s still pretty common to join the military at 17. In the U.S., you could once be drafted only at 18, but they’d let you join at 17 with parental permission and (in the modern era) a high school diploma. Until recently, once in, you were just like any other recruit.

This changed slightly in 2002 with the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. You can still join the military at 17, but they can’t send you into a war zone until your 18th birthday. It’s not a radical change.

Treaties like this aren’t surprises for proper militaries. Negotiators have military advisors in the loop when a treaty is still being written and debated. Once signed and ratified, the respective military manuals are updated to reflect any changes. If a responsible country doesn’t like a treaty, they either don’t ratify it, or they state their reservations. (Reservations are pretty common in treaties.)

This article at Russia Today eventually admits that Germany has the same policy we do — fully in compliance with the treaties it signed — and yet RT.com pretends this is supposed to be an outrage from medieval times.

The definition of a child soldier used to be a kid under 15. People are forgetting what a mess much of the rest of the world was, and still is. It’s all well and good that we’ve settled on 18 for going into combat, but RT.com is watering down some of the true outrages that exist in the world. That is, after all, their job.

Bank heists are inappropriate uses for Google Street View

Planning a heist has never been easier. This is the 21st century: Just pull up a mapping website like Google Maps with Street View to figure out your getaway route.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Louisiana lawmakers added a legal roadblock in 2010 by making this sort of thing against the law. The Volokh Conspiracy (whose name shouldn’t suggest they were planning such crimes) has found that using these tools for a crime will get you an extra year in the slammer. It’s an extra ten years if this was terrorism.

And for what it’s worth, I haven’t gone back to using Google. I use it as an example here because Mr. Volokh uses that. As I’ve said before, I’m a Bing.com user. This is an important point when Google has been going full Big Brother.

Christmas book deals

Merry Christmas!

As he did last year, writer Christopher Nuttall is giving away books from some of his mil-SF series, but this time there are three freebies: The Empire’s Corps, Ark Royal and now his alt-hist Storm Front.

I won’t be able to read Storm Front until my own Scorched Years is finally out on Amazon. But I will certainly be grabbing it on Christmas Eve.

They will be free from December 24th through 26th. Details at his blog here and again here.

And if you or someone you know hasn’t gotten mine yet: the Kindle edition of One Thousand Years (the first of my series) will be discounted to 99 cents from December 24th through the 26th.

Postscript: December 28

Well, the sale’s over. But on the bright side, these books aren’t all that pricey to begin with. Each of the above is only three bucks.

Or, you can still get mine in paperback for $8.99. And (speaking for mine, as this varies from publisher to publisher) if you get at Amazon.com, even if you bought it a few years ago, they’ll give you the Kindle edition for free.

Details on Amazon’s Matchbook program in a much earlier post.

On paperbacks

I had initially put off doing a paperback edition for The Time Bridge at Orion, thinking that I might try to get it into an anthology elsewhere. But most anthologies are going to have a Kindle edition as well, and that causes issues regarding KindleUnlimited eligibility. (And you should check out KindleUnlimited if you read a lot on Kindle.)

So, The Time Bridge at Orion will get its own paperback edition after all. Naturally, I intend to keep it the same height as the first one, even if (as a novella) it’s thin. The publisher came out with new options, but I’m keeping everything the same simply because I’d like them to fit next to each other on the bookshelf.

As some readers may have noticed, I’ve modified the cover for the Kindle edition of One Thousand Years. It may change again with the upcoming release of Scorched Years, but they will be minor changes.

Near first-editions — for now

The paperback edition of One Thousand Years will stay the same for a while yet. The current one is still unchanged from the first edition. I’m not aware of the publisher changing anything at their end other than a change in the price code. So, if you want a near-first edition, it’s still available for now.

But it’s not technically a first edition. The price code is on the back. It needed to go up an extra buck in order to make it available for special orders at book stores. On the other hand, it’s not much of a collector’s item at this point. I don’t see this going up for auction at Sotheby’s, which is really about the only time the difference of a price code would matter. Maybe in one thousand years….

USS Enterprise returns to home port

No, this isn’t about the new series on CBS (or the carrier decommissioned in 2012). I’m talking about Star Trek Continues, the fan-made series I discussed many times previously. They released their finale last month, and they went out on top.

If you’re new to this, scan my Star Trek posts here.

If you’re a fan of the original series, but not up to watching all eleven episodes of this one, you might still give these last two episodes a shot. It’s not like you need to see the rest in order when you already know the main characters, if not the actors playing them.

This two-episode series finale brings us back to the story of Captain Kirk’s first episode, which was the original show’s second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” In that one, two crewmembers gained super human powers with ambitions to match.

Now, Kirk and the Enterprise must chase a group of idealistic evil-doers seeking to acquire those powers for themselves.

Along the way, Spock calls in assistance from the female Romulan starship captain he betrayed and humiliated in the old episode where they stole a cloaking device. If you remember that episode, you’ll be shocked at the resemblance when you see the actress playing her now. I had to look her up: She’s Amy Rydell, the daughter of Joanne Linville, the actress who played the original.

Fans will like the way the finale ties in the first episode and then ends by setting up for the situation as it stood in the 1979 movie. The Enterprise returns to Earth, and their mission is completed. You might have noticed the poster above shows Kirk wearing the uniform he would have in that movie. He wears it at the end of the second part of this finale, when it is announced that Starfleet has a new uniform. This brings a continuity to the space between the original series and what came after. That’s a nice touch. It shows an appreciation for the fans’ view of the series that was usually missing from the big productions.

Part two is on YouTube here.

Or, you can find all eleven episodes at StarTrekContinues.com.

Book report

I thought I couldn’t be more embarrassed when getting to write this, but now I see that my previous post on this had promised my next book would be ready before Winter. Well, it’s not technically Winter until the 21st, but it’s probably not going to be out the door by then. Expect late in January. I am very sorry. It’s been a rough year.

Scorched Years is the title. It could change up to the last minute. I have several others in mind, but I keep coming back to this one.

I have most of the 3D models I’ll need for the cover. The only ones remaining will be basic shapes I’ll need in the background. I couldn’t work on a cover until I was close to completion. This was out of necessity. I’m too much of a doodler. The book would never be finished if I allowed myself to start on the cover before the proper time.

As said before, WWII comes to a sad end. There is some real history here, including several events that not everyone knows about, although I’m sure that some of you do. But WWII is only the first part of the book. There is also a future, plus some fighting before they even get there.

Star Trek tech

Via Jeb Kinnison, the transporter pad coasters that every Star Trek fan must have:


Available at Amazon.com. They’re cheaper than you’d think. (I’d tell you the price, but Amazon has a nasty habit of changing it after you go there.)

Once at the site, check out the other Trekkian items. I had no idea some of this stuff was out there.

There’s a phaser that functions as a TV remote. It’s based on the specs from the original series, and the power pack pistol grip can come apart like the originals, but it’s a lotta money. The price of that set of transporter coasters looks better and better in comparison.

A Star Trek: TOS Bluetooth Communicator – Cell Phone Handset and Speaker seems a bit overboard — until you really, really need one.

There’s more, of course.

The Mighty Eighth (2014)

A clip from The Mighty Eighth showing what hell it must have been flying on a B-17 mission over Germany during WWII:

One obvious failing, probably mentioned before, is that military aircraft cabins are louder than that today, and were much louder then. I usually wore earplugs on the P-3. A B-17 had to be a lot worse. I don’t know what the filmmakers could have done to make it more realistic without making a movie unwatchable, which is why this is a common failing.

While watching, keep in mind that the crewmembers weren’t just along for the ride. They had to work in this environment — sometimes doing math with slide-rules.

And yes, I came across this while doing research. (YouTube has WWII training videos, too.) The writing continues….

Addendum

Back when I was in the Navy, flying either to or from “on station,” and having gotten tired of the engine noise, I went up to the cockpit and jokingly asked them to turn the volume down. The flight engineer grinned and turned a knob marked “synchronizer.” I was floored because it actually got noticeably quieter. It turns out that this controls the synchronization of the engines. It was stunning and funny, but it wasn’t really of any help. All it did was move the center of the noise further away from the cockpit, probably making it even worse by my seat, and he had to adjust it again anyway.

Still, it’s a lesson not to assume anything.

Stephen Baxter, Ken MacLeod and H. G. Wells

Ken MacLeod speaks with Stephen Baxter on his new book The Massacre of Mankind. The despairing title comes from a phrase in The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. This is the sequel. It’s not the only sequel, as the first book (from 1897) has long since passed into public domain. But it’s the only one authorized by the Wells estate.

I’ll wait on buying it until my own forthcoming book is ready, and then until the price comes down.

The premise of the book is that the martians return after having studied what went wrong the first time. The British have learned a few things, too, with all those martian war machines left by the first invaders. Baxter studied the science that was understood at the time, and remained faithful to that.

The discussion is good listening if you’re an H.G. Wells fan. I’m tempted to say more, but a character in my next book talks about Wells and I don’t want to say anything best left for that.

Baxter also wrote an accompanying novelette, The Martian in the Wood (also available free at Tor.com).

Emergency supplies

Preparing for Hurricane Irma’s approach reminded me of this list of things to pack the event of a nuclear attack:

  1. Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  2. Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  3. Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  4. Flashlight and extra batteries
  5. First aid kit
  6. Whistle to signal for help
  7. Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  8. Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  9. Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  10. Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  11. Local maps

If that looks like your standard list of things you’d need in a more mundane emergency, like a Cat5 hurricane, you’re right. They refer to FEMA, which also has more ideas.

They didn’t say it, but be sure there’s enough food for your pets, too!

tl;dr — The part that might have slipped your mind…

I’m sorry to say that it’s too late for some of this stuff, if you’re in Florida, as the stores have been busy for the last few days. But I’ll add a couple things you can probably still get or do:

  1. Set your refrigerator to max cold
  2. Charge your cell phone
  3. Plastic bags or containers for your personal electronics, including that phone
  4. Reading material that doesn’t need to be plugged in, especially if (like me) you don’t have a Kindle with weeks of battery-life
  5. Cash!

You’ve probably thought of most of this, but cash is an easy one to forget these days.

If you’re in an area that can get flooded, be sure to unplug everything, and move your electronics to where it will stay dry.

Aftermath

We were luckier than most. I’d lost a tree and my internet connection. That was followed by PC problems I just wasn’t ready for. It all coincided with a miserable cold. But like I said, we were luckier than most.