Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for March 2012

Just Reviewed Michaele Jordan’s “Mirror Maze” at SBR

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Folks, if you are looking for an exceptional dark fantasy by a new and major talent, look no further than Michaele Jordan’s MIRROR MAZEMIRROR MAZE is an excellent Victorian-era “erotic romance” that combines historical accuracy, romantic depth, excellent characterizations, and a superb plot into one highly compelling narrative.  This is Jordan’s debut novel, and you’d never know it by her skill.

This is really great stuff, so go read my review, available here  – then go grab a copy of her book, MIRROR MAZE.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 17, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Posted in Book reviews

UAB Fires Coach Mike Davis

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Competitive sports are all about one thing, and one thing only: “What have you done for me lately?”  Otherwise, 2011′s Conference USA’s Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year, Mike Davis, would not be looking for a job.

The Associated Press (according to Yahoo Sports) is reporting that University of Alabama-Birmingham has fired their head coach – Mike Davis — despite UAB winning 20 games last season and going to the NCAA tournament for the first time in UAB’s history.  But here seems to be the reason why, according to AP sports writer John Zenor:

A heavily depleted UAB team fell to 15-16 last season and lost six of its first seven games. The Blazers posted the same record in Davis’s first season, but followed that up with 23 victories to start the program’s first four-year run of 20-win seasons.

Zenor goes on to say that UAB returned only two starters from its 2010-11 squad; no other returning player averaged more than 3.9 points per game.  This makes it sound as if Davis was in a no-win scenario; he had a predominantly young team with little experience, and he knew he’d have a down year.  That UAB went 15-16 — one game below .500 — is a credit to Davis under the circumstances.

But Davis’s firing is odd in another sense; it seems that Davis is very well-known in Alabama.  Also from Zenor’s article (referenced above):

Davis, a Fayette, Ala., native, was the state’s Mr. Basketball and then played for the University of Alabama, where he was known for his tough, scrappy defense.

And then, this is the second time Davis has been fired by a major university for what seems to be questionable reasons; he famously took over at Indiana University after Bobby Knight, and spent six years as IU’s head coach under incredibly trying circumstances.

Davis had one year remaining on his $625,000 a year contract; his record as UAB’s head coach stands at 122 wins and 73 losses, which shows that overall, he was an outstanding coach for UAB.

I am sure Davis will find another job, but I have to say that UAB’s decision here doesn’t make much sense.  I doubt anyone would’ve done any better than Davis did with the players he had, and most would’ve done a great deal worse.

With regards to UAB’s perplexing decision, the only thing that comes to mind is the truism that “coaches are hired, only to be fired.”  And considering all Davis did for UAB’s basketball program, that is just not right.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Periodic State of the Elfyverse (2012 Version)

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Folks, I just realized I hadn’t given a status update regarding the Elfyverse in a while — for shame.  So, here we go:

ELFY is complete, hasn’t found an agent, and while I’ve had a few nibbles, most want me to split the book sight unseen as it’s 240,000 words long.  That just doesn’t feel right; if someone read it and felt there were good split points, that would be different.  But not reading it, then saying it should be split three ways (that’s what I’ve heard; two, I could almost see)?  Why should I do this if someone isn’t willing to read a synopsis, much less the first chapter or two of ELFY, before they say it must be split?  (I know it’s not the ideal length for a debut author to get a book over, that’s for sure.  But I do want someone to know what they’re dealing with before he or she tells me the “only way to go.”)  By the way, if you’re wondering what ELFY is about, please go here and read more about it.

Now, the sequel to ELFY, AN ELFY ABROAD, will definitely need to be split as it’s grown to a humongous 320,000 words.  (Yikes!)  But I do see a good split point halfway through, there . . . also, the final edit obviously hasn’t been done as I haven’t completed the work yet.  (I’ve known about where I’m going for the last year and a half, but it’s proven to be quite elusive.  I don’t get a chance to talk writing much with anyone these days, much less someone who completely understands what I’m trying to do; that doesn’t help.)

Anyway, the good news there is that I’ve written about ten thousand words into EA since the last time I mentioned anything about the Elfyverse (when was that?  November of ’11, I think; a bit before my friend Jeff died).

As for KEISHA’S VOW, which is an ELFY prequel set in 1954, I’ve written a new chapter there and am at work on the next one.  KV now stands at about 50,000 words, plus some deleted scenes.

Now, in case anyone here was waiting for a CHANGING FACES update (more about CF is available here) – a non-Elfyverse urban fantasy, which I was working on in November (I had to put it aside for a while after my friend Jeff died quite suddenly) — I’ve written a couple thousand new words there in the New Year (how odd that sounds to write in March!).  I’ve also planned out the next chapter, and believe I have an ending that just might work.  Things are looking up in that quarter.

Novellas?  I have one in progress; it’s called “The Gift,” and it’s a spiritual romance/urban fantasy.  I have looked at it, realized it needs to be restructured, but can’t figure out what would serve me best.  So aside from planning, not much has been done there since November of ’11.  But I’ll keep working at it.

Short stories?  I have a few in the works, but nothing that I’ve started since January 1, 2012, is anywhere near completion.

Otherwise, I do intend to enter the Writers of the Future contest again if at all possible; the next quarter’s deadline is March 31 (end of this month).  (I guess this is my way of saying I haven’t given up on short story writing, even though I find it much, much more difficult than writing a novel or even writing a poem.)

That’s about it; still writing and working away, as per usual.  (And you?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 15, 2012 at 9:47 pm

WI Recall Election Dates Set

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Folks, it’s official: the 2012 Wisconsin recall elections have been set on the calendar for May 8, 2012 and June 5, 2012, the dates the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) wanted.  The Senate elections are likely to all take place on May 8 unless the Wisconsin Republicans again run “fake Democrats” to primary the Democratic candidates in the four Senate races up for grabs, as they did in 2011.  All four Senators being recalled are Republicans; two of the four being recalled are Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and my own state Senator, Racine’s Van Wanggaard.  

The recall petitions that were turned in to recall Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch haven’t yet been certified by the GAB, so it is unclear at this time whether or not Walker and Kleefisch will be among those who will have to run in elections on one or the other of these dates.  There will definitely be a Democratic primary — a real one this time — for the gubernatorial contest, as there are three Democrats who have declared they’re running for Governor: former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Democratic state Senator Kathleen Vinehout, and Secretary of State Douglas LaFollette.  That would mean, tentatively, that it’s likely Walker will have to defend his seat on June 5.  (It’s possible that Kleefisch may have to defend her seat sooner than Walker, which will be really interesting.)

Now, let’s take a moment to consider the difference between 2011 and 2012 with regards to the recalls.

In the 2011 drive to recall the Republican Eight, recall petitions had to be delivered no later than April; elections were set for June, July and August.  Two Republican Senators, Mary Lazich and Glenn Grothman, were not recalled; signatures were not able to be filed against them.

In the six other recall elections pertaining to the original Republican Eight, most were artificially delayed by the Republican maneuver of entering “fake Democrats” into the primaries against the real Democrats running against them.  This tactic allowed the Rs to raise more money, as under Wisconsin law, any incumbent may raise unlimited money to defend his (or her) seat.  This sizable monetary advantage helped four of the six who were recalled, as they retained their seats.  Only Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse) and Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) ended up losing their seats (to Democratic challengers Jennifer Shilling and Jessica King, respectively).

In 2012, the Republican incumbents have had nearly a year to raise money, and since November 15, 2011, have been able to raise unlimited amounts of money to defend their seats.  This has given them a significant advantage over their 2011 brethren.  This huge monetary advantage is one reason why I wish the GAB had prioritized the Senate elections. **

There’s no excuse for the elections to have been set so far after the petitions were hand-carried in on January 15, 2011.  The GAB surely could’ve set the Senate recall elections earlier, as they worked far more speedily last year to schedule nine Senate recall elections (the three Dems who were recalled and had to stand for new elections were retained); this time, they only had four to deal with.  So why the delay?

At any rate, the recalls have been scheduled, at least for the state Senate; we’re now on the clock.  Keep watching this space, as I’ll give you whatever updates I can as soon as I receive them.

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** I am well aware that over 900,000 signatures, the revised and corrected total, were turned in to recall Walker, and over 800,000 to recall Lt. Gov. Kleefisch.  The four Senators, between them, amassed around 65,000 signatures to force their recall elections.  That’s why I used the term “prioritized.”  (Hold your fire.) 

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 15, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Tuesday Election News: Romney Finishes 3rd in Alabama, Mississippi

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Folks, you’re going to hear much in the next 24 to 48 hours about Rick Santorum, because Santorum won both Alabama and Mississippi this evening.  While that is correct, the real news is that Mitt Romney, despite spending an enormous amount of money, finished third in both contests.  (Newt Gingrich finished second.) 

You must keep this very simple fact in mind in upcoming days, because assuredly Santorum and Romney are going to attempt to frame this narrative to benefit themselves. 

The fact is that Romney finished third, which proves that Romney is extremely unpopular with Republican voters.  (This makes me wonder just who’s going to vote for the guy if Romney does, indeed, get to the general election against the current President of the United States, Barack Obama.)  There is absolutely no argument left for Romney to position himself as a moderate except to run on his record — and if he does that, he’s going to alienate even more conservative voters than he already has.

What’s odd about all this is that Romney views himself as an “inevitable” candidate; some of his campaign staff and surrogates have even hinted that Romney believes his candidacy to be “divinely inspired.”  Yet finishing third after spending such a huge amount of money is not the way an “inevitable candidate” is supposed to win, something Gingrich pointed out in his concession speech tonight. 

This points out that, at least for the moment, Gingrich has his pulse on what’s really going on with the Republican voters.  Neither Santorum, nor especially Romney’s people — as Romney did not make a speech this evening at all — are going to say this, but it’s the plain, flat truth: between them, Santorum and Gingrich won over 60% of the vote (closer to 70% in Alabama), and that shows that around 2/3 of the Republican voters in these states really do not want Romney as their nominee

This is the real story: how many people are going out to vote in the Republican primaries and caucuses solely to vote against Romney in some way, shape or form.  Any other story, up to and including the fact that Santorum won (providing he doesn’t acknowledge this “inevitable” point), is nothing less than an incredibly distorted framing of the narrative.

Just Reviewed “Why Nations Fail” at SBR

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Folks, if you love history, political science, or economics — or if you’re a writer who wants to understand these subjects in a new and totally different way (which is the main reason I picked up the book in the first place) — you need to read WHY NATIONS FAIL by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, which I reviewed tonight at Shiny Book Review.  Here’s the link:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/why-nations-fail-excellent-in-every-way/

WHY NATIONS FAIL discusses why some nations succeed, and why others fail — and it all comes down to one thing: politics.

You see, if a country has an “inclusive” economy — this is one like the United States, South Korea, or the United Kingdom — it fosters innovation and growth.  It also allows for something called “creative destruction” — which means some businesses will fail when newer ones come along (like the printing press, which greatly improved world literacy, but also put out of business many scribes and rag-paper makers) and this shouldn’t be impeded because the net gain is far more than the net loss.

But if a country has an “extractive” economy — like North Korea, or the former Soviet Union, or contemporary China — none of that happens, or at most, very little of it does.  Those countries are run by elites, for elites.  They don’t care about having a middle class, though one may arise anyway (the inclusive economies definitely want a middle class and foster one through progressive policies of taxation and legislation); they mostly care about perpetuating themselves and making the most money they can in the process.

Really, you owe it to yourself to first read my review, and then go grab WHY NATIONS FAIL as soon as it comes out on March 20, 2012, as my review barely scratches the surface of this interesting and important book.   (So what’s stopping you?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 10, 2012 at 11:15 pm

WI GAB Agrees 4 Senate Recalls Should Go Forward

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Folks, there was one story tonight that demanded my attention: the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board has agreed that there were more than enough valid signatures submitted to recall Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and State Senators Terry Moulton, Pam Galloway, and Racine’s own Van Wanggaard.  All four are Republican legislators, and all four will face recall elections in the coming months (the current GAB estimate is May).

Here’s a link to the story:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/gab-chief-seeks-recall-votes-on-may-15-june-12-b54gkqe-142086263.html

But these figures are what should concern you, to wit: how many recall signatures were actually struck by the GAB after the Republicans challenged them?

The Committee to Recall Scott Fitzgerald submitted “about” 20,735 petitions to recall him; 16742 were required.  The GAB recommended that 867 signatures be struck, which leaves more than enough signatures to recall him.  (Note that the 867 signatures to be struck is less than 5% of the total signatures, which is considered to be a good percentage; this means the recall petitioners, all volunteers, did their best to make sure recall petitions were only signed by people who were eligible to sign.)

The Committee to Recall Van Wanggaard submitted 23,712 signatures; 15,353 were required.  The GAB said 643 should be struck, including 11 signatures that apparently were gathered fraudulently by a well-known Racine Republican, Mark Demet (he’s not named in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article, but the Racine Journal-Times has talked about the problems with Demet here); those latter signatures have been challenged by the Racine County Sheriff’s Department and charges have been filed against Demet.   Obviously, there are more than enough signatures to recall Van Wanggaard and the recall will go forward.  (And look at the percentage, again, of the signatures that were struck; here we’re talking about something like 3% of the total were invalid.  Obviously the Rs were hoping for more invalid signatures than this.)

The Committee to Recall Pam Galloway submitted 21,022 signatures to recall her; 15647 were needed.  The GAB said 1,658 should be struck.  More than enough signatures remain to force a valid recall election (and once again, this is under 10% of the total, which is an excellent percentage).

The Committee to Recall Terry Moulton submitted 20,907 signatures; 14,958 were needed.  The GAB said that 1,212 signatures should be struck, which leaves more than enough valid signatures to force a recall election (again, under 10% of the signatures were declared invalid).

So the first hurdle has been crossed; let the Senatorial recalls begin!

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 9, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Editing this Week; Waiting for Federal Judges’ Ruling in Redistricting Case

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Happy Friday, everyone.

This week I’ve spent a lot of time editing, which is why I haven’t blogged overmuch. Plus, I’ve been awaiting the three-judge federal panel from the United States District Court to rule on the Wisconsin redistricting case all week, but so far, they haven’t made a ruling.

This, quite frankly, is puzzling. The three-judge Federal panel needs to file their ruling within ten days of the end of testimony — but testimony ended on February 24, 2012 and it’s now March 9, 2012. (Perhaps the “ten days” includes next Monday, and that’s why there’s been no ruling as of yet?)

So that’s about it — just editing, doing a bit of writing here and there, and waiting for the judges to make up their mind — a typical Friday here in Wisconsin, at least for me.

Enjoy your weekend, folks.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 9, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Two Japanese Scientists Invent “Stop Talking” Device

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Two Japanese scientists have invented a device that will make people stop talking in their tracks.  It sounds like science fiction (hence my “SFnal” tag), but it actually is quite a simple thing: human beings cannot handle hearing their voice with a few milliseconds delay while continuing to speak — if this happens, human beings stop talking.  (Psychologists have known this for years.)  Now, these two scientists (Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada) have invented a gun that after pointed at a speaker will actually stop someone speaking in his or her tracks without physical discomfort.

Here’s a link:

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/27620/

The ethical implications of this are appalling, though the scientists believe the use of their invention could be benign; they envision the gun being pointed at people who insist on talking on their cell phones in a library (or perhaps in the office) rather than this gun being used, en masse, to stop peaceful protestors from speaking their minds by the powers that be.

Maybe it’s just me, but I believe this technology is incredibly dangerous.  It has the potential to completely silence dissidents, forever; it makes George Orwell’s restrictive society envisioned in his book 1984 look paltry by comparison.  Because what one group of politicians thinks is “right” and “just” speech would be hated by another group of politicians; this has the potential to cause massive unrest that would be totally unable to ever be relieved, unless this technology is somehow countered.

While this invention was probably going to come about sooner or later, I wish for the sake of humanity that it hadn’t happened now; there are protests going on all over the world in favor of peace and financial equality that could end up being prematurely silenced. 

Worse yet, now that this invention has been made public, every military branch in every country in the world has to want this technology, as it would obviously aid them in their work.  And an unscrupulous country’s military getting this technology before everyone else would be a deadly scenario that even Andrew Krepinevich (he of SEVEN DEADLY SCENARIOS fame, a book I reviewed a while back at Shiny Book Review) would have reason to fear.

Now that this technology has been made public, my hope is that other scientists will be working on a way to counter, or at least minimize, the damage this technology could easily cause.  What one technology gives, another technology can take away, and in this case, this is definitely a technology I believe should be countered as soon as possible for everyone’s sake.

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Note: the reason I tagged this with “framing narrative” is because the scientists’ reason for narrative framing is simple: they want to make money off this device, so they’re emphasizing the more benign purposes for which such a device could be used.  My view is much more along the “realpolitik” line — what is such a device likely to be used for, and why?

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Limbaugh Issues Weak Apology; Blames Rhetoric on the Democrats

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Folks, the Rush Limbaugh story continues to have legs; while Limbaugh has issued a rather weak apology, he also blamed the Democrats for making this a “political issue” last Friday (something I somehow missed in the ensuing firestorm)** and hasn’t backed down from that stance one iota even though advertisers are deserting Limbaugh en masse.  (Tonight’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC show said that twelve different advertisers have now deserted Limbaugh, and the Rachel Maddow show said that two channels have said publicly they will drop Limbaugh due to this.)

The Los Angeles Times discusses Limbaugh’s written apology, which was originally issued on his Web site, here; a relevant quote from Limbaugh’s statement follows:

For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week,” Limbaugh wrote in a statement posted to his website. “In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.”

Oh, would those wrong words be “slut” and “prostitute,” words that never needed to be said?  Or are they the words you still haven’t explicitly taken back asking for pornographic videos of Ms. Fluke having sex?  (Limbaugh said on his radio show Monday, March 5, 2012, that he’s sorry for calling her the former, but never mentioned the latter.)

Continuing on in Limbaugh’s written statement, he continued to mis-state the initial issue, saying that he personally believes no one should have to pay for anyone else’s sexual behavior.  That was never at issue; what was at issue was whether or not insurers should cover contraception in the same way they cover, say, Viagra.  (Speaking of that, why is it that women aren’t up in arms that their insurers are “forced” to include Viagra as an essential medication, considering it’s not something any woman will ever be able to use?  Is it because we’re not stupid?)

Today on his radio show, Limbaugh explicitly apologized to Sandra Fluke, again, but still didn’t apologize for those terrible comments he made about wanting to watch videos of Ms. Fluke having sex with the contraception the insurer must now carry; to my mind, that makes Limbaugh’s apology extremely weak and unworthy at absolute best.

Ms. Fluke, after reading Limbaugh’s apology, said on ABC’s “The View” this morning that she does not accept Limbaugh’s apology; she believes that Limbaugh apologized only because his advertisers are angry with him, and due to the pressure being put on him by various groups.  (A sensible reaction.)

However, many conservative groups are angry now and are striking at “liberals” — that is, anyone but them — who have made mistakes in the past.  This mostly means they’re yelling at Ed Schultz, the MSNBC host who called Laura Ingraham a nasty name on his syndicated radio show last year (I wrote about that here); however, Schultz accepted a week-long unpaid suspension, apologized for nine minutes on the air, apologized directly to Laura Ingraham, and talked about how embarrassed he was, considering he’s a husband and a father, to have ever mischaracterized any woman in that way — which was the right reaction.

When you contrast Schultz’s behavior, which was genuinely repentant, with Limbaugh’s, there is no comparison.

As for the Republican Presidential nominees, their comments on Limbaugh’s bad behavior (last week on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, he repeatedly attacked Sandra Fluke) leave much to be desired except for one man: Ron Paul.  Paul is the only candidate to say flat-out that what Limbaugh said was wrong; he even called it “crude,” and intimated that no reasonable man would say such a thing.  This makes sense to me; what doesn’t make sense is Mitt Romney’s reaction (accepting Limbaugh’s weak apology for the use of two words, “slut” and “prostitute,” to mischaracterize Sandra Fluke), or Rick Santorum’s reaction (trying to turn the issue to the Democrats’ supposed politicization of contraception, the same way Limbaugh is), or Newt Gingrich’s reaction, which more or less was to give Limbaugh an “attaboy.”  (For such a smart man, Gingrich’s reactions are enough to perplex a saint.)

So there you have it; Limbaugh has apologized, but it’s weak.  The R Presidential candidates, with the sole exception of Ron Paul, don’t seem to have enough sense to come in out of the rain (as women are half the electorate, don’t you think any male candidate would say, “While I applaud free speech, there are some things that shouldn’t be said by sane, smart people, and this was one of them,” rather than behave the way they are right now?).  And Sandra Fluke, who two weeks ago was someone most of us wouldn’t have been able to pick out of a crowd if our lives depended on it, is our newest unwitting celebrity.

Bottom line is this: Limbaugh’s apology is not enough.  He needs to be fired — since Don Imus was fired due to his inappropriate comments (which weren’t anywhere near as bad, or as lengthy — one occurrence versus several days worth of occurrences — as what Limbaugh had to say), Limbaugh should also be fired. 

This story will not go away until he is.

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** Can we please, please, take it as read that this issue isn’t such a big deal because of the Democrats, the “liberals,” or anything other than Rush Limbaugh stirring up a hornet’s nest?  Thank you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 5, 2012 at 10:55 pm

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