Putin Keeps Hand on Gas Valve

The Wall Street Journal reports, “Ukraine and Russia resolved their natural-gas feud on Thursday in a hard-fought deal that averts the threat of gas shortages in Europe this winter.”

The “European Union, which relies on Russia for more than a third of its gas imports, half of which is piped through Ukraine. Unless Ukraine paid for its gas supplies upfront, Russia had said it wouldn’t reopen taps it shut off in June, a move that threatened to leave many homes in Ukraine and parts of Europe without enough heat this winter.”

But that doesn’t mean what you think.

“The short-term gas deal underscores the close economic ties that bind Europe, Russia and Ukraine despite the conflict in Ukraine.” It may also reflect that American and European sanctions against the novo Soviet Union–oops, I mean Russia–are starting to hurt.

So, the deal may mean that Putin is waiting until it gets cold before cutting the flow.


The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (Four Stars)

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

(Four Stars out of Five)

A delightful mash up of ancient and recent fairy tale motifs. Fairyland follows twelve-year-old September as she is whisked from her Nebraska home (perhaps during the 1940s) to the wonderful and treacherous land of fairy.

Many borrowings from previous tales makes the story an Easter Egg hunters delight. It’ll probably appreciated more by the parent who reads it than by the child to whom it is read, at first. I love the storyteller’s voice.

Certain to be a classic in its own right.

Ana Juan’s illustrations capture just the right feel.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss (Four Stars)

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

(Four Stars out of Five)

Well-conceived and executed “short” story about Auri. Rothfuss calls it “a thirty-thousand-word vignette.” (If you don’t know who Auri is, maybe you should read The Name of the Wind first.) Slow Regard takes you inside Auri’s mind for a week of life in and out of the Underthing.

This is Rothfuss, so saying that he didn’t quite get Auri right is like finding errors in the Bible, but she comes off more OCD and less fey than in the main corpus.

In his afterword Rothfuss notes how Auri speaks to the brokenness in all of us. She does. Since brokenness is our natural state and Rothfuss represents the inner man so well, this story should connect with many readers. Glad he ignored his inner critic and published it.

Suggest you read it through fast the first time. Don’t stop to look up unfamiliar words or think about allusions. Immerse yourself in the story and enjoy. Let subsequent readings satisfy your curiosity about the richness of Rothfuss’s text.

Loved Nate Taylor’s illustrations except those of Auri herself. Hard to capture the nimbus of her hair in sharp contrasts of pen and ink.

Anyone else would get five stars for this, but Rothfuss is not any storyteller. He is the sage of the age.

America’s Space Program the Biggest Loser?

photo: universityherald.com

photo: universityherald.com

Orbital Sciences may not survive the spectacular lose of its launch last night, but they may not be the biggest loser

The bigger question is whether America will wake up and see that our current access to orbit is made—and unmade—in Russia.

Using surplus Soviet booster engines is a sure path to disaster, but we painted ourselves into this corner years ago.

The Kinshield Legacy by K. C. May (3 Stars)

The Kinshield Legacy by K. C. May

(Four Stars out of Five)

A classic fantasy of the old school: medieval technology and culture, external attack by demonic forces, magic as much a problem as a solution, too-good-to-be-true protagonist who is so superficially flawed that even he overlooks himself as a hero. All those, plus the women warriors that so many now demand and at least an attempt to break out of the LOTR elves, orcs and dwarfs alternate races rut. The warrant knights are a fresh twist on knights errant.

Lots of characters with lots of back stories. Yet May stayed focused on the task at hand.

What’s not to like? Continue reading

Why Russia and China Build New Submarines

Russian Typhoon 3. By Bellona Foundation?CP\M at en.wikipedia [see page for license], from Wikimedia Commons

Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and FoxNews detail how both Russia and China are researching and expanding their nuclear-powered submarines numbers and capabilities. Meanwhile the American submarine force stagnant. Should we worry?

You bet.

Long-range, highly-capable submarines are a wild card Continue reading

Politics Makes Varied Ebola Policies

Virginia’s governor elects to only “monitor” returning health workers from countries with Ebola outbreaks. Is loyal politics is good health care?

Ebola’s contact-only infection vector argues in McAuliffe’s favor. Hope he’s right.

On the other hand, the Army quarantines returning soldiers (until the Commander-in-Chief overrules them).

A Call to Duty by Dave Weber & Timothy Zahn (3 Stars)

A Call to Duty by Dave Weber & Timothy Zahn

(Three Stars out of Five)

A first glance this book, and the whole Honorverse: Manticore Ascendent series, looks like a cynical attempt to milk more cash out of the Weber’s space opera stables. But A Call to Duty rises above its antecedents to bring the science fiction reader close to a hard science fiction tale of coming of age in the (then) galactic backwater of Manticore.

One can only assume Continue reading

Best of Show at Windemere Art Gallery

Ashland Winter2 smrMy watercolor “Ashland Winter” (detail at left) was selected Best in Show at Lee Artists Association’s fall show.

It represents a steam passenger locomotive such as served Ashland, Virginia into the 1950s. Featured also is the 1923 Ashland train station. Ashland is one of the last “railroad towns,” with the AMTRAK and CSX main lines right through the middle of town.

Ashland Train Day is Saturday, November 1, 2014.

I’m happy that family and friends like my paintings, but it’s nice to have an impartial outside expert select one of them. LAA’s Fall into Art show will be on display at Windemere Art Gallery in Mechanicsville, Virginia through November 15. Come by.

What’s Blood got to Do with Anything?

Excerpt from Living in the Spirit, pages 27-31

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. Romans 3:22-25

Simply and scripturally, Jesus died in our place. We’ve already established that we’re all sinners, unfit for any mercy from our creator. As unrepentant sinners we’re also unfit to even seek forgiveness. But that same creator set in motion the means of our justification, our sanctification and our glorification before we drew our first breath.

Starting in Genesis, nearly every holy moment of the Old Testament is sealed with blood. Why blood? Continue reading