Sweet and Sour, Food and Fascism

I was going to write about another hero of the First Amendment this week, maybe Ida B. Wells or Oliver Wendell Holmes.  Then the president’s executive order on immigrants and refugees was issued, and before I could set fingers to keyboard, Sally Yates was fired for doing her job. At that point I thought about my friends flooding Facebook with kittens, to distract us from the Kafkaesque political situation.  Maybe I’d just post a few of my favorite cookie recipes.  (If nothing else, it would prevent me from losing my chocolate chocolate-chip cookie recipe again.)  Think about something other than the fact that Trump’s administration seems to being trying to attempt a coup.

But no, that is what the current regime wants us to do.  They want us to give up.  They want outrage fatigue. So I’ll share the sweet, like my cookie recipes, and I’ll rant about the sour, like our president ignoring the U. S. Constitution.  I’ll talk about food, and I’ll talk about fighting 21st century fascism.


Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cookies

1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter (softened)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 cups chocolate chips, M&Ms, etc.

Preheat oven to 350.
Beat butter, sugar, eggs, & vanilla.
Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, & salt in another bowl.
Slowly stir dry ingredients into butter mixture until well blended.
Mix in chocolate chips, M&Ms, chopped nuts, white chocolate chips, or whatever add-in you prefer.
Drop by rounded teaspoons on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 8-10 minutes.
Cool slightly on cookie sheets before transferring to cooling racks.


Who is Sally Yates and What Did She Do?

 

Sally Yates was the Acting Attorney General, until yesterday. She refused to have Department of Justice attorneys defend the executive order banning travelers from seven nations. President Trump fired her, using on of his favorite insults “weak.” He accused her of betraying the nation.

Ironically, when the Senate confirmed Ms. Yates for her position, Senator Jeff Sessions — Trump’s as-yet-unconfirmed nomination for Attorney General — asked her if she would say no to the president if he requested her to do something unconstitutional.  She did so, and she was fired.

“My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts. In addition, I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”


Crackle Cookies

1 box of cake mix, any flavor
1/2 cup shortening
1 tbsp water
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Mix together with spoon.
Batter will be stiff.
Roll into balls.
(Optional) roll balls in sugar.
Place on greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.
Makes two dozen cookies.


What’s an Emolument, and is President Trump Accepting Any?

An emolument is “a salary, fee, or profit from employment or office.” In this context, it refers to a politician accepting baksheesh from a foreign power, a private individual, or a company that wishes to influences him. Article I, Section 9 of the U. S. Constitution states “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Some ethics experts claim that Donald Trump’s many investments and debts overseas create a conflict of interest.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and a United Arab Emirates tourism agency both rent office space in Trump Tower in New York City.  Many foreign diplomats stay at his hotel in Washington, DC, some admittedly hoping to curry favor with him by doing so.  There is some doubt as to whether his lease of the Old Washington Post Office building is even legal, now that he is the president.


Sugar Cookies (My Mom’s Recipe)

  • 1 cup margarine
  • 1 cup margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  1. Cream margarine and sugar.
  2. Add eggs; beat well.
  3. Blend in dry ingredients & vanilla.
  4. Chill dough.
  5. Roll out dough 1/4 ” thick and cut on lightly floured surface.
  6. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet, 8-10 minutes at 400 F.

Kellyanne Conway Doesn’t Understand the First Amendment

Kellyanne Conway complained that journalists who said unkind things about the president hadn’t been fired for their horrible actions. She doesn’t seem to understand that a free press is guaranteed in the U. S. Constitution.  Journalists reporting the news are required to be truthful, not kind.

Thomas Jefferson said, “The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”  Just in case Ms. Conway isn’t familiar with Mr. Jefferson, he was the third president of the United States of America.


My Son’s Favorite Sugar Cookie Recipe

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter (or margarine)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
  2. Beat sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl.
  3. Slowly stir in flour mixture.
  4. Chill 2 hours (or more).
  5. Roll out dough and cut out cookies.
  6. Dough should be ¼” thick.
  7. Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 F on an ungreased baking sheet.

How to Impeach the President

The president can only be impeached and removed from office for “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Here’s a quick and easy explanation. Here’s a somewhat flip explanation. Basically, the House of Representatives votes on whether or not to impeach the president.  The Senate then votes on whether or not to convict him.  It’s a difficult process, especially when the majority of Congress belongs to the same party as the president.  Are his current actions severe enough to warrant impeachment?


 

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Is DJT Ready to be President? IMHO, No!

Today is the last full day of B. H. Obama’s term. Tomorrow, about lunch time, D. J. Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States. In my opinion, DJT is not qualified for the position, and I strongly suspect he will last less than two years before resigning, being impeached, or death. (Irish betting site Paddy Power is giving 8 to 1 odds that DJT won’t last six months in the White House.) However, as of tomorrow, he will be the president, and I will try to respect the office, as little as I trust the man who will hold it. I have friends and relatives who say I’m overreacting. A writing acquaintance thinks he’ll be a good leader. An old high school classmate says I’m unfair in not giving him a chance. I have relatives who admit DJT is imperfect, but still think HRC would have been worse.

I hope they’re right and I’m wrong. For the sake of our future, for the sake of our nation, I hope to high Heaven I’m wrong.

Donald Trump at a political rally in San Jose, CA.

[Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images,  from my  Reagan endorsed over Trump article]

I, personally, am in little danger from DJT. I am too old and too chubby to attract him, and unlikely to ever meet him in person. I’m WASP, so I have less to fear than my African-American, Native American, atheist, Jewish, and Pagan friends. I have pre-existing health conditions, but not nearly as serious as some of my friends, who face death and/or bankruptcy if the Affordable Care Act is repealed without a suitable replacement ready to put in its place. But I have a son who just signed up with Selective Service (couldn’t apply to a state college without proof of doing so) and the man who will be Commander in Chief in approximately 24 hours has a thin skin, a short temper, and an apparent inability to take what he perceives as an insult without responding.

I know we’ve had presidents who were adulterers before, and some of them were good leaders, despite their despicable personal habits. I don’t remember any presidents who were as indiscreet about their infidelity as DJT has been with his three wives.

Donald Trump with third wife, Melania Trump.

[Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images, from my Trump’s feud with Cruz article]

President Grant went bankrupt after his presidency (presidents did not receive a pension at the time), but DJT has had six bankruptcies already. One or two could be understandable, but six, for a successful businessman, seems excessive.

“Like master, like man.” Many of his choices for his administration are unqualified for their posts. Many have conflicts of interest. Many have ungenerous opinions on LGBT civil rights and feminism. Indeed, many of my friends fear a President Pence more than they fear a President Trump.

I find Trump’s “bromance” with Putin troubling. I find the probability of Russian meddling with the American election disgusting.

What concerns me most are his ethics and character. DJT has had hundreds of lawsuits filed against him because of breaking contracts and not paying his bills. Any businessman will face some lawsuits, of course, both as a plaintiff and as a defendant, but DJT has decades of complaints that he has welched on debts and not paid employees and subcontractors what they were owed. His charitable foundation is under investigation for fraud. He made generous donations to state attorney generals who then conveniently dropped investigating the Trump University case, which wound up being settled out of court. He has multiple conflicts of interest, from the North Dakota pipeline to foreign debts. If he’s not an ethical businessman, how can he be an ethical president?

His character is “unpresidented.” He switches opinions like a weather vane, then denies his former statements, even when it’s recorded. He does not seem to know the difference between truth or falsehood, or if he knows, he does not care. Mrs. Clinton said he was too thin-skinned to be commander in chief, and for once, I agree with her. DJT is short-tempered, thin-skinned, and quick to respond (and overreact) to perceived insults. Those who know him claim his attention span is very short. He refuses to read long reports, wanting complex information condensed down to a single page. It is rumored he does not read books. He prefers Twitter over any other method of communication. He has a history of racist and misogynistic comments.

I am not a psychologist, so I cannot say whether he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I can say that he appears very self-centered and mean-spirited.

I am frightened for my country with Donald J. Trump in the White House. I hope I am wrong; I fear I am not.

[Feature Image via Pixabay]

Hidden Figures

Minor Spoilers: proceed at your own risk.

Hidden Figures is the best movie I’ve seen so far this year, and  it deserves to win a few Oscars.

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Hidden Figures tells the story of three African-American women who worked for NASA in the early days of the space program. Taraji P. Henson from Person of Interest and Empire plays Katherine Goble Johnson, a brilliant mathematician. The real Dr. Johnson celebrated her 98th birthday last summer and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.  Octavia Spencer plays Dorothy Vaughn, unofficial supervisor of the “Colored Computers” pool, who has the duties of a supervisor, but neither the pay nor the title.  Janelle Monáe plays Mary Jackson, a mathematician whose supervisor wants her to train to be an engineer … something impossible for a Negress in Virginia in the 1960s.

Hidden Figures is a movie about overcoming prejudice.  Hidden Figures is a love story between a handsome colonel and a beautiful mathematician.  Hidden Figures is a portrait of the problems of working mothers (both single mothers and women with husbands to help them). Hidden Figures is a window into the past, to a time not very long ago, but very different.

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The Colored Computers meet John Glenn.    Dorothy, Katherine, and Mary at a chuch picnic

[Images via Fox 2000]

It’s important as a glimpse into the past:  Mrs. Vaughn being escorted from the public library when she goes into the white section instead of the colored section, white and colored water fountains, segregated busing, segregated bathrooms, dial telephones, a courting couple waiting until they’ve known each other for months before their first kiss, computers being a new, strange, and incredibly bulky thing.  For the modern generation, who’ve gotten working calculators as Happy Meal toys, the lack of electronic computers may be the hardest thing to comprehend.

Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves, The Untouchables) does a great job as Al Harrison, Katherine’s boss, who desegregates the bathrooms when he learns the reason Katherine takes such long breaks is because the nearest Colored Women’s bathroom is in another building, half a mile away.  Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory) plays engineer Paul Stafford, who looks down on Katherine not only because she’s Colored, but because she’s only a computer. Astronaut John Glenn is portrayed by Glen Powell, who looks at Katherine as though he’s fallen in love when she solves a complicated equation in front of him, and when the new IBM computer has problems, he requests that she double-check its math. Mahershala Ali plays Colonel Jim Johnson, the man who falls in love with Katherine, and Aldis Hodge from Leverage plays Mary’s husband, Levi Jackson.

Katherine JohnsonKatherine G. Johnson [Image via NASA]

Hidden Figures is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, and I cannot recommend it too highly. If you’re a parent, you may want to set the stage for your children by explaining some of the background first.  You’ll definitely want to discuss it with them afterwards.  I can’t wait until this comes out on DVD, because I want to own this one, and I’m definitely going to the library to see if they have the book it’s based on, Hidden Figures:  The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by  Margot Lee Shetterly.

 

 

 

Honor Harrington

After being on my read-eventually list for years, I finally got around to reading David Weber‘s Honor Harrington books.  I have now read five of the first six books (haven’t read #5 yet) and am about 100 pages into the seventh book.  They are exceedingly well written and I am hooked.  Weber has a complex social and technological background for his books, and three-dimensional characters.

Honor Harrington, the heroine of the “Honorverse,” is a naval officer for the Star Kingdom of Manticore.  She is human, but a “genie,” i.e., descended from genetically engineered ancestors to better survive living on a planet with slighter higher gravity than Manticore or Old Earth.  Honor is a feature of her character as well as her name: she is intelligent, brave, loyal, patriotic, with a strong sense of duty and justice.

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As a child, Honor was adopted by a treecat, a six-legged creature from her home planet, Sphinx.  She shares an empathic bond with her ‘cat, Nimitz.  Honor believes (correctly) that treecats are far more intelligent than most people give them credit for.  Treecat adoptions are respected in the Star Kingdom of Manticore.  Seven of the last nine monarchs, including the current Queen Elizabeth III, have been adopted by ‘cats.  Therefore, Nimitz accompanies her on her vessels and even attended the academy with her.

David Weber limits the profanity in these books.  Although there is some swearing, including occasional use of a certain four-letter word that rhymes with duck, it is limited to situations and characters where such vocabulary is actually in character.  Unlike the late Tom Clancy, he doesn’t feel the need to drop F-bombs like confetti.

My only complaint with the books thus far is that the Honorverse has certain similarities with the Albion Empire of my own “Captain’s Claim.”  This is not unusual, not even unpredictable.  Weber and I both read the Horatio Hornblower books when we were younger — he even dedicates the first book of the series to C. S. Forester and has Honor reading one of the Hornblower books as pleasure reading in one of the later books.  Both of us watched the Star Wars series of movies, as well as old movies like The Sea Hawk and goodness knows how many other books, TV shows, and movies with space empires.  Elizabeth Moon and Lois McMaster Bujold have also written SF books where  the hero serves in the starfleet of a space empire with a very formal society.  I’m just not looking forward to being accused of copycatting from Mr. Weber, when I’ve been working on Captain’s Claim, off and on, since 1996.

So far I’ve read the first four books in the series, the sixth book, and I’ve started on the seventh.  I’ve been ignoring both housework and ghostwriting in favor of reading these books; they’re hard to put down.  If you like military SF, give David Weber’s Honor Harrington books a try.

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If you like strong women in a western setting, try Juliette Douglas’ Freckled Venom series.

And if you want to buy my western e-book, Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid, I won’t complain.

[Feature Image Galaxy M101: Image Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; IR & UV: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Optical: NASA/STScI]

The Joys of the Slush Pile

Slush pile:  the unsolicited manuscripts received by a publisher, often of dubious quality.

I’m familiar with slush piles from both sides.  As a (very) minor author, I submit stories and poems to them.  As one of the “first readers” for a science fiction magazine, I read through them, attempting to filter the wheat from the chaff.

Four years ago, Patricia Wrede wrote a blog about slush piles in the style of Judith Viorst’s childhood classic, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  I wasn’t able to reblog it, so I’m giving a link so you can read it yourself.  Please do.  It’s hilarious.

Alexandria and the Terrible, Horrible Parody Piece

The stack of manuscripts is two feet tall and even from here I can see that there’s a pile of pink pages in the middle and a smear down the side where somebody spilled coffee down it and I just know it is going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad slush pile.

Wendy Glaas wrote “The Truth about the Slush Pile,” telling of her time as an intern for a literary agency.

I did take my sentinel duties seriously. At first, I imagined unearthing the next National Book Award winner or, at the very least, the next Twilight series. I’d find an unpolished gem for Kate Epstein, head of our agency. I’d make a name for my brilliant editorial and marketing instincts, for finding a fresh new narrative. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for me to discover that slush pile diving is far from glamorous.

Rachelle Gardner explains why writers whose stories never make it out of the slush pile so seldom find out “Why, Oh Why Did I Get Rejected?”  The late Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote an article years ago well worth reading, “Why Did My Story Get Rejected?

The truth about slush piles?  Almost every author spends time there.  There’s no shame to it, so dive right in with the rest of us.  If your story is neatly composed (spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.) and set in the proper format (most publishers prefer Shunn’s manuscript format), you stand a fighting chance.  If it’s misspelled, formatted oddly, or written in purple crayon, you’re reducing your odds of being taken seriously, even if you’re the reincarnation of Ernest Hemingway. Be patient.  The magazine I’m a first reader for currently has over 600 stories in the slush pile, and almost all first readers have “real” jobs, as well as being writers themselves.  Your story may be your top priority, but sorry, it isn’t the slush pile reader’s.  Very few magazines can afford to hire full time slush pile divers; most rely on volunteers, friends, or people doing it for networking opportunities and petty cash. Remember, a perfectly good story may be rejected because it’s not right for that particular publisher.  It may be exactly what another publisher is looking for.  There are other markets.  Re-submit it elsewhere.  Submit it to as many slush piles as necessary.  Persistence is as necessary a quality in a writer as proper proofreading.

Image result for patricia wrede      Related image     Image result for patricia wrede

Read Patricia Wrede’s books.  They’re good.  Really good.

Read my books.  They’re not as good as hers, but I need the money.

Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid (e-book only) western short stories

R is for Renaissance Faire children’s book, a pictoral guide to RenFaires

Sword and Sorceress #30 containing my fantasy story “The Piper’s Wife”

Supernatural Colorado containing my horror story “Thank You, Thad”

Barbarian Crowns containing my fantasy stories “Vixen’s Song” and “Two Princes”

Feature Image: Patricia Wrede (image via Wikipedia by way of Google Images)