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Savage Survival


February 2008

This newsletter may be copied and sent to both friends and enemies with the stipulation that the source www.darrellbain.com is noted and the copyright notice is noted and included as follows:
Bainstorming: Darrell's Monthly Newsletter.
Copyright © February 2008, By Darrell Bain

Responses to subjects brought up by this newsletter are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.

Subjects this month:

Christmas Misadventures, Extension of Life in Writing, Book Reviews, Product Longevity, Newsletter Name Winner, Bain Blunders, Bain Muses, Progress Report, Hurrying Mistakes, Endangered Species Act, Tonto the Strange Dachshund, Is Democracy Sustainable, excerpt from The Original Sex Gates

Christmas Misadventures
This could well go under the Bain Blunders title except the last name isn't Bain, it's Cargill. All this happened to James, our son-in-law, and Colleen our daughter, on the way to visit us FOR THE HOLIDAYS and after they got here and upon returning home.

First, James stopped by to give his mother some medicine about a hundred miles from our place. He had to get it out of his suitcase, which was in his truck. He let the tailgate down, opened the suitcase and got out the medicine and took it inside, leaving the tailgate down. You can probably guess what happened next. He drove off with the tailgate still down. When he finally noticed that both his and Colleen's suitcases were missing, he drove back to the road his mother lives on. They found...four pair of underwear and some crushed medicine bottles and a few other items, all unusable because they had been driven over numerous times. So, there they were on the way to see us, half way here, and no clothes or medicine, which they both needed. They stopped at a Wal-Mart and bought a few things to get them through the trip.

Now bear in mind that this was also going to be a five day working trip for James, along with the visit, of course. He intended to clear some of the land we'd deeded them of overgrown Christmas trees from the time we were still growing them. However, their first day here was spent trying to get new prescriptions for their medicines from their doctors back home, most of whom were on vacation, naturally. In addition, Colleen had suddenly come down with not only a sore throat but a great red blotch covering the back of her mouth. Her first full day here was spent in a round of calling back home to get their doctors to call prescriptions to here and with Betty taking her to a doctor and hurrying to a drug store before it closed fill a prescription for her mouth. She also thought she could also pick up the prescriptions called in from back home. Unfortunately, they hadn't been called in yet and wouldn't be until the next day.

In the meantime James began his work with a rented bobcat (a small bull dozer), but the overgrown Christmas trees soon ate the hydraulic lines of the bobcat and it quit working. James spent the rest of the day trying to get it serviced, but succeeded only in getting some parts to repair it. However, he had to wait for Colleen to get home since she is the mechanical one in the family (his and my idea of repairing anything is to say "help!"). In the meantime, some of my medicines matched James's so I was able to loan him a few critically needed pills.

Colleen got home from the doctor and drug store and promised to fix the bobcat the next day. Alas, that night she woke us up with severe chest pains. Colleen departed in an ambulance about two o'clock in the morning. She was admitted to the hospital but finally the doctors decided it wasn't a heart problem but suggested she might want to see a cardiologist when she got home, what with heart problems running in the family. She came home the night of their second day here and finally managed to get some of their medicine called in from home. In the meantime, I was still sharing some of my medicine with James since we took some of the same kind. When they went to the drugstore to pick up prescriptions called in from home, there was some kind of glitch from them being here instead of there and the insurance wouldn't cover them. Three hundred bucks for replacements was what the drug store wanted to charge. No thank you, not for two days when they'd be back home and could get new prescriptions, and since I could supply James until then!

The next day, assuring us she was feeling fine, the bobcat got repaired, but our old Christmas trees must be tough. They promptly killed the bobcat again and another day was gone.

The following day was spent in a futile attempt to get a repairman out to fix the Bobcat but they were all gone on vacation, too. James gave up on the working vacation, since it was mostly gone anyway. All the other family came, we had an early Christmas dinner, opened presents, and James and Colleen departed for home two days early.

They no sooner got home than Colleen lost her keys when they were Christmas shopping and it only cost $180 to replace the car key, and $7 to replace their post office box key.

James and Colleen say they will remember this trip as fondly as they do that wedding anniversary trip a couple of years ago when they got pooped on by a horse during a romantic carriage ride. I described that one in an earlier newsletter (July 06 if you missed it).

Extension of Life in Writing
A common theme in science fiction is either extended longevity of humans to the tune of several hundred years, or sometimes effective immortality. Why is that? I believe this theme and many others simply reflects the things most people think about sometime during their lives. By the time most science fiction writers reach their peak, they're already at the stage where they can sense their own mortality. The days of youth where it seemed like you'd live forever are gone. The omnipresent fear of death is imbued in the human condition and the older one gets the more of a presence in your life it is, either consciously or unconsciously. Thus we write about ways to escape death in various guises. I've been guilty of it myself in a number of my books, just like many, many other science fiction authors. We can't help reflecting on how we age and eventually die, just as we can't help reflecting on a great number of other subjects. A writer has to be a thinking person, one who delves into what makes humans tick, where the species is going, what trends we see that can be extrapolated and an endless array of other subjects. But the grim reaper is a pretty constant theme. Even youngsters write about it, those who want to see the far future and have no other way to do so than in their creative musings. Did Stanley Weinbaum write The New Man (I think that was the title) after he was diagnosed with melanoma? Probably; it was one of his last books. Trouble with Lichen was one of John Wyndham's last books. I could mention others but I think it's safe to say that science fiction writers will almost always get around to this theme if they live long enough and write enough and have time to see their death approaching. In future newsletters perhaps I'll mention other themes by writers. This one just came to mind today because I feel lousy and hurt and wonder why it has to be that way.

Book Report
Only books which I thoroughly enjoyed are ever mentioned in this report, even though I usually read many more during the month than he ones talked about here.

Michael Crichton's State Of Fear is an intriguing book, as much for the author's statement and an appendix at the end describing how idiotic politicized science can become. His description of the eugenics movement back in the first half of the twentieth century is incredible. I had read bits and pieces about it, but didn't realize the dimensions it acchieved and what an impact it had on society before being discredited. The book is worth reading just for the Author's Statement and that appendix.

I'm still plugging along on The Posleen War series by John Ringo and his co-authors and just finishing up the last book. I've really enjoyed the series. It was a well thought out series and the other authors made good contributions to it. I'll be sorry to finish the last one.

Pretty Boy Floyd By Larry McMurty and Dianna Ossana is a good read, I thought. It captures the gangster's era and the people he associated with well. The writing and dialog are typical McMurty although the voice of his co-author also comes through. Whether or not Pretty Boy Floyd and his wife and girl friends actually felt the way they are described in the book is actually immaterial. It is fiction, after all, but I believe a person could develop as McMurty described the process.

I had a case of the post-Christmas blues and anytime I feel down, I can always revive my spirits by reading Time Trap by Keith Laumar. It is sort of stupid but funny and a perfect read to brighten a day.

It's kind of strange, as many books on Vietnam I've read, that I should just now be getting around to A Rumor of War by John Caputo. However, now that I've read it, I am very glad I did. Regardless of your views on that war, this is a book you shouldn't miss. It is, without doubt, the best book I've read about Vietnam. Besides the utterly realistic sights and sounds of war that he instills in your mind, he shows military bureaucracy in all its absurdity and further, describes the attitudes of Americans of that generation perfectly. It is a book that, if you haven't read yet, you should. He is a writer of almost uncanny talent. Highly recommended.

By the way, in case readers don't know, my own book of Vietnam, Medics Wild, is a fictionalized record of my own experiences there over two years. I went back and read it again, just to get a comparison.

Product Longevity
Our clothes dryer just died--and it was only 27 years old. The man who installed our new one shook his head admirably when we told him the old one's age. "You won't get 27 years out of your new one," he said. "They don't make them like that any more."

We have to agree. Just within the family, we've seen numerous new dryers break down after only a couple of years' service.

One of the toys we keep for grandkids and great grandkids also broke over the holidays. It was a recording of various animal sounds that played when a string was pulled. It was at least 30 years old.

I wonder if digital recordings in toys will last that long? Will our new dryer last as long as the last one? I seriously doubt it. Everything from household appliances to computers to toys seem to be made either disposable or with obsolescence built into them these days.

Newletter Name Winner
I guess we'll wait until my publisher picks a name for the newsletter books, but I received one I'm completely satisfied with, I think. I did promise a book to someone who came up with a good name so I guess I have to announce the winner. And it is...Dianne Campbell. The name she suggested is BAINSTORM or perhaps BAINSTORMING. So, Dianne, if you will send me your address, I'll send you a copy of Savage Survival, my personal favorite of all the books I've written. I'll also pass your suggestion along to my publisher and hope it gets used. Thank you for entering the contest and congratulations.

Bain Blunders
Amy is on my bad granddaughter list. She used the computer last night and I told her to turn it off when she finished. When I started it up this morning, the monitor wouldn't work. I fiddled and faddled and finally called tech support. We were halfway through a bunch of diagnostic questions (each question repeated several times because naturally the tech support has been outsourced and I can't understand the accents and they talk too fast and have to do things one by one from their work sheet regardless of what the problem might be) when I happened to look at the monitor and remembered that a little light I was used to seeing was out. Curious, I touched it and found that it was an on/off button for the monitor. I punched it and voila, there was my picture. I've never heard of turning off a computer by turning the CPU and monitor both off, but then this is my first flat screen monitor, so maybe you're supposed to do it that way. I've only had this computer a year. I think I'll read the instruction manual.

New year's Eve is mine and Betty's anniversary. Our daughter and son-in law were invited over for lobster and champagne. During the afternoon my sciatica began acting up even worse than usual. By the time our guests arrived, I was really hurting and it only got worse. I had to take so many extra pain pills that by the time Rob and Pat left and the real festivities were slated to begin, I wasn't worth shooting. I had to go on the bed and leave Betty up to watch a bowl game by herself and needless to say, nothing else romantic happened that night! Rats and other bad words.

I keep a little space heater in my writing alcove because my feet get so cold. During our recent cold spell, I naturally turned it on to keep them warm until the heat from the vent and also from the Franklin stove penetrated to the area of my feet. I kept wondering why I couldn't get my feet warm even though I had the space heater going full speed. It was our coldest day in a long time so I wrote it off to that and just suffered until the room warmed up. This went on for several days. It wasn't until one morning when I decided to turn the heater on for just a moment that I noticed the setting had somehow gotten turned back so far that it was barely putting out any heat. Don't ask me why I hadn't checked the setting when it was so cold or the few days afterwards. Some days I'm smarter than other days and those obviously weren't any of my smart ones.

Bain Muses
We are a peculiar species. Some animals are our friends. Others are our food.

Our poverty level would be considered riches by half the world's population.

Getting old is only fun for kids and teenagers.

Progress Report
Human By Choice, written with Travis S. "Doc Travis" Taylor has been completed and sent to our publisher, Twilight Times Books. The e-book will appear first and a print version will follow. In Doc's words, this is a "really good and sophisticated book" and I can only agree. We've both put a lot of work into it and sincerely hope you enjoy reading it as soon as it is available.

What with the holidays, I haven't done a lot of writing lately, but I'm back at it again. Presently, I'm working on a novel about a self aware computer, something a bit different than the usual artificial intelligence stories. It's at 40,000 words right now and moving right along, but I may set it aside and work on a sequel to Human By Choice. I'm indecisive right now.

Bark! is scheduled for its print appearance sometimes this month and has the added bonus of Tonto's autobiography to go with it. The publisher and his wife are from England and are planning a visit to the United States in April and promise to come through Texas and drop by. That will be nice. Betty and I haven't heard a melodious British accent since we worked in Saudi Arabia back in 1979!

Laughing All The Way, the sequel to the five star rated Life On Santa Claus Lane may be out again in the e-book version by the time this newsletter is published. If not by then, soon. The print edition should follow fairly quickly.

And at long last, I got off my duff and turned in the second part of Toppers, the collection of hilarious stories and correspondence with William Stafford to my publisher at Twilight Times Books. This second part will be published alone as an e-book and then both parts of Toppers will be put together into a new print edition. I apologize for waiting so long, but other endeavors kept getting in the way.

Mistakes from Hurrying
I'm an impatient type of writer, and one who doesn't care a lot about editing, even as necessary as it is. I'm always in a hurry to get my books on the market. This trait frequently gets me in trouble as readers of Bark! in the e-book version may have noticed. There is a section in it that is a bit inconsistent with the rest of the book. Fortunately, my print editor caught it and in the print version it has been corrected. I just wonder how many e-book readers noticed it!

Endangered Species Act
I was for it at first, mainly because I didn't know how it would play out economically. I suspect, as usual, that bureaucrats turned it into such a boondoggle by trying to enlarge their turf, as always happens with a new government program. Just look how far FEMA has come since it was instigated. Every time wind blows a shingle off a roof or it doesn't rain for a month somewhere it's disaster time, whether it's a real disaster or not.

Personally, I draw the line at having a bureaucrat tell me I can't develop my own land because it might impact a worm or a minnow somewhere. I like fuzzy mammals as well as the next person, but there's something we have to remember: species have been emerging and dying out for a couple of billion years at least. There's no way to stop species extinction, just as there's no way to stop new species emergence. Humans are at the top of the food chain. When it comes to my welfare or the welfare of a black footed ferret or a sparrow of one color or another, I'm going to choose me and my family first, every time. I like the sound of a Hooty owl at night, but not at the expense of not having wood to build houses.

I rather imagine I'll take some flak for these statements, but so be it. Let's take care of our own species first, then worry about the rest of them, and I say this for one simple reason: humans are my species, not a snail darter or a golden frog. If they go extinct, some other species will take their place.

Just look at it in the long term and I think it makes more sense to consider our comfort and welfare first. Sure, we might lose an antibiotic because a rain forest was cut down somewhere, but we'll probably gain another from a bush that's growing where the rain forest was before.

Earth and its species are constantly changing. If we want to do something useful and that would probably enhance our species as well as all the others on earth, let's not pollute so much. Make things to last again (see Product Longevity, above). Recycle where we can. And above all, use biodegradable materials for our disposable objects like plastic glasses and diapers. The ocean is becoming sludged with plastics on a massive scale. Reduce pollution and we'll help every species, not just the ones at risk.

Tonto the Strange Dachshund
This time of year, when we eat supper, Betty's chair is so positioned that the sun gets in her eyes so she usually moves to the other side of the table. One day she forgot and it was a sunny day. We heard Tonto growling and snarling a few feet away. We turned and looked. The motions of her eating was casting shadows on the wall and they were upsetting Tonto. He spent the whole half hour we were eating woofing and snarling and barking and whining and growling at the moving shadows, certain in his feeble little mind that they were intruders in his house. He was frustrated that they wouldn't come off the wall and fight like a real shadow should!

Is Democracy Sustainable?
In theory, yes. In practice, it seems that as soon as it gets to the point where everyone has a vote, politicians do nothing but cater to their wishes, regardless of whether the republic can afford it or not and eventually drives the state into bankruptcy, socialism or a dictatorship, and all of them promise to fix the problems democracy created but they only do worse.

Some equate democracy with capitalism. It's true the two usually go hand in hand, but not necessarily.

Thanks for reading.

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
February 2008

Note: The Sex Gates was originally released as a collaboration with Jeanine Berry. We went on to make it into a trilogy. However, I kept remembering the original version written alone and finally decided to release it. It came out as an e-book first and was well received so I decided to have it also published in print with Double Dragon Books, one of my major publishers. It's available at www.Amazon.com under the title The Original Sex Gates. This original version has a much different ending and ties up all the loose ends in one book. If you liked The Sex Gates, you'll probably like this, too. If you haven't read any of them, this is a good place to start. Here's an excerpt:

Excerpt from The Original Sex Gates

Trevor had all kinds of difficulty getting permission to deorbit and land, especially after popping into earth's orbit so unexpectedly. Coming back down to earth wasn't quite the same as the takeoff; if you weren't careful, the spacecraft could plow into the earth at a speed that would cause a pretty big crater--with the passengers as part of it. When I asked Trevor what the problem was with communication, he replied, "All kinds of turmoil down there. Some gates have disappeared and the ones who had gone through and not come out have reappeared. Changed sex, of course." He chuckled. "I wonder what all those psychopaths are going to feel like being women?"

"Maybe the gates have cured them," Rita the optimist said. I held my tongue. I had gotten no sign at all that the minions of the sex gates were interested in curing us, even though they did repair almost all physical ailments during a passage. But that was just the alien kid playing around. It had been a learning process for the alien offspring and that's all. It could have just as well had the sex gates give us ailments as cure them. The benefits we derived from a passage were purely arbitrary, and becoming Seconders, as we had, was an unexpected and fortuitous (for us) outcome. That's my opinion, anyway.

It took several days, but eventually, we got landing instructions from Edwards with an alternate at the Van Horn private spaceport in West Texas. Why we were routed to either is something I didn't understand; the spacecraft could have landed just as easily at North Houston International, but I guess they still weren't used to bringing in spaceships. However, we were going back to solid land and it didn't matter. As it was, we came down at the Van Horn Spaceport rather than Edwards, a place in far Southwest Texas which used to be almost unpopulated until private space travel came along, mostly offering suborbital and orbital rocket rides to rich thrill seekers. It was expanding by leaps and bounds now, though, with the advent of real space travel. Several companies were gearing up to offer tourist expeditions to other solar systems. Messler was there to greet us, his old cynical smile bigger than ever--but it looked much better on him as a woman, which he was now. He--she, I mean--stepped out of her limousine, displaying most of the sleek length of her lovely legs and stood upright, arms wide open for an embrace. I stepped into them, and as our lips touched, so did our minds. And then I knew what the smile was about. I turned her loose quicker than I would have dropped a live grenade in order to...

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