Book Review: Knight Templar 1120-1312

Knight Templar 1120-1312, by Helen Nicholson, illustrated by Wayne Reynolds

This book is admittedly a very short book and by no means as long as it could have been. Yet although it is a short book and not long at all, there are certainly aspects of this book that hint at much larger realities of interest to many readers when it comes to the Templars. If this book does not provide the full story, it certainly gives enough information that a reader will be able to see what is provided here and read and research further aspects depending on their interests. We have chronologies, narratives, discussions of war and society in the Middle Ages, art history, and even matters of museums and re-enactments. As is often the case in history, the Templars are not dead because they are not entirely in the past, and what will lead a lot of readers into this particular book is a desire to know more about the Templars and to capture something of the mystique that the organization had. And this book is certainly good at what it does. If it is not as thorough a book as I would have preferred it certainly taught me some new things and that is always enough to make a book worth reading if you are into this sort of thing.

This book is a short one at just over 50 pages, but at least the pages are large enough to have a fair amount of information on them. The book begins with an introduction, and then contains a chronology of the history of the Templars. After this comes a look at the recruitment and admission of people into the Templars as well as matters of belief and belonging with the Templars as an organization, discussing matters of faith as well as discipline. Then comes the issue of training as well as appearance and equipment, at which point there is a great deal of art that shows the Templars in action in life and in death. There is a look at living conditions on campaign as well as the experience of battle for templars. After this the author talks about museums and contemporary re-enactment of the Templars, which appears to be somewhat common, and then the book ends with a glossary, bibliography, commentaries on various color plates, as well as an index.

When we look at the templars, it is an obvious thing to ponder why it is that they failed and what is it that they have to offer humanity at present. The author is at pains to comment on the lack of intellectualism in the Templars and their rituals, although she is also at pains to point out that the Templars clearly fit within the Orthodoxy of the times and that the lies spread about them and their practices are not really justified by what we know of their behavior. The author also points out that while the Templars had a high degree of ideals that there were people who came to the Templars under false pretenses, because they found serving as holy soldiers a better fate than being condemned as criminals–apparently, and it is easy to believe, the crusader states found a great deal of manpower from felonious knights who were too violent for home of whom it was thought that sending them to the outremer was the best way to channel such violence for the greater good. It is hard to disagree with that logic, even if it makes for less than ideal religious and moral fervor. This book is likely to be, for many readers, the beginning of longer and deeper searches into Templar history and lore.

Posted in Book Reviews, History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: The Go-Gos

I have pondered the case of the Go-Gos for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for a while. They clearly have a lot of fans–the group has been frequently recommended to me by readers in lists of acts I have not covered yet, and the group was recently named the winner of a poll for the group that is most worthy of induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame over far more successful acts [1]. Yet the group has never been seriously considered for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame despite the fact that they have a few songs who have endured particularly well. Sometimes it is worth considering why and how there is such a wide disconnect between a group which has enduring popular support on the one hand, and songs that have stood the test of time, and the statistics and opinion of the RRHOF nominating committee. Are the Go-Gos a snubbed group? Or is it the fact that the band has maintained at lest some place in the limelight with songs that have endured blind us to the marginality of their case for hall of fame induction over bands that have a much stronger case than they do? Or is it, as it often is, a little bit of both?

The Influence Of The Go-Gos

As a successful all women’s rock & roll group, the Go-Gos can certainly claim a fair degree of influence when it comes to demonstrating the capacity of such groups to have successful careers where the group writes their own material. This is worth what it’s worth, which will depend a great deal on the person (it has not seemed to matter a great deal to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee, alas). The second obvious case for the Go-Gos involves their songs, which have had a modest degree of chart success (more on that below) but which have survived particularly well. To the extent that having songs that have really lasted well even with somewhat modest chart rankings matters, the Go-Gos have done well, and they are a live act that has won a fair degree of support as well, including with at least one well-regarded concert at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. With songs that other bands and artists have covered and a template of all girls rocking that has obviously and successfully been imitated, this is a band that certainly has a case for influencing others.

Why The Go-Gos Belong In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Unlike a great many acts, this particular group is rather thin when it comes to popular albums. Their debut album went multi-platinum but follow-up Vacation was a comedown at gold and none of their other albums has been certified at all. It can certainly be argued that Talk Show should be certified at least gold as well as one of their compilations, and that would give them a better case for induction than they have, but as it stands, two certified albums is a bit thin. Where the band is not thin in terms of its record is in lasting songs, for almost all of their popular singles, “We Got The Beat,” “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “Head Over Heels” have endured as classic pop-rock songs of the 1980’s, a troika of hits that anyone would be happy to have in their discography. In addition to that, “Vacation” was a top ten and “Turn To You” was a top 40 hit [2]. This sort of record is certainly good enough to put the band in consideration for a rock & roll hall nomination, and if the band had released this sort of career in the 1960’s they would have as good a case as the Mamas and the Papas or another group of that stature.

Why The Go-Gos Aren’t In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Ultimately, the Go-Gos have never been considered seriously for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for a variety of reasons–they weren’t around for a long time, they didn’t acquire a huge record of success in album sales, and they had their success in the 80’s, a decade that has dozens of artists with more hit singles and albums than they had that have never been seriously considered for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. If the RRHOF nominating committee has any reluctance nominating a girl group for the Hall of Fame, it’s not like that has to be the only reason why they would be reluctant.

Verdict: While a case can be made for the induction of the Go-Gos, at the same time as a group they have some serious holes in their case. To the extent that their back catalog increases in certifications and their songs are recognized and covered to an even greater degree, this band might rise in the queue in a stacked group of snubbed 80’s acts.



Posted in American History, History, Music History | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Book Review: For All The Tea In China

For All The Tea In China: How England Stole The World’s Favorite Drink And Changed History, by Sarah Rose

This book is written by someone who is probably not an imperialist, but the author points out rather sensibly that the Opium Wars should also be considered as the Tea Wars, since the British efforts to encourage opium consumption from poppy grown in the Indian subcontinent was done in order to pay for the tea consumption that was coming from China, and it makes sense as well that there were competing responses to the tea-opium dynamic as well, in that just as Britain was “stealing” Chinese tea to grow in India, where it ended up growing quite well, eventually, once the British there figured out what they were doing with the samples received by them, so too the Chinese were “stealing” opium to grow for their own supply to suit their addicts. The author also has a lot of classist kind of things to say, looking at class snobbery in China as well as Britain. As someone who enjoys tea, and does not feel as if the movement of plants around the world where they can be brown is something to bemoan, I think this book would have been better if it was written by someone who did not feel it necessary to apologize for empire, but it is not a bad book nonetheless.

This book is about 250 pages long or so and it is divided into nineteen chapters that are mostly organized around particular scenes where the story of the “industrial espionage” conducted by Fortune took place. We begin in the Min River area in 1845. After that there is a look at the East India House and London’s interest in tea matters (2). Chelsea physic Garden shows where Fortune was working when he was called once again to China (3). Then there are a series of chapters that look at the initial efforts by Fortune to investigate where black tea (4) and green tea (5, 6, 7) are grown and raised in China, using some of his connections to gain information about what the China did, and in the process delivering some major benefits to certain areas of China whose tea would end up doing particularly well in the international markets even after tea started being grown elsewhere. The author then examines what happened when the initial batch of samples arrived in Calcutta and was sent up to the mountains to be grown by someone who was not particularly competent at it. This required a second year of efforts where Fortune was able to better ensure the survival of the tea and also to solve a problem of how to send plant samples in a safe way in general that revolutionized the way that plants were transported from one region to another. After an examination of Fortune’s later plant-hunting expeditions, the book ends with a look at the importance of the Enfield rifle in the fate of the East India Company (17) as well as a look at the Victorian love of tea (18) and the story of Fortune’s later life (19), after which the book ends with acknowledgements, notes, and an index.

How was it that China’s tea was stolen? It was not as if it was accomplished in extreme secrecy. Robert Fortune passed himself off as a Chinese mandarin, with a passable accent, and went around collecting samples and seeds, packaged them, and sent them along. Interestingly enough, Fortune had some misfortune in his early efforts, because as important as tea was to England, getting the right conditions to grow tea did not appear to be the highest priority for the English establishment in India, which did not manage things very well at first at all, and it was not until Fortune sent repeated samples. Also of interest is the way that Fortune’s investigation of tea processing demonstrated that green tea and black tea were not different kids of tea plants but rather different ways for the same tea leaves to be processed, and that the green tea processing used for English audiences was toxic, which led to a preference for black tea that remains in British and American tea drinkers (like myself). This book shows that the consequences of actions in the mid-1800’s still linger as an effect of the behavior of individuals, and that is itself worth the price of reading, if you care about the tea in China and anywhere else.

Posted in Book Reviews, History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Lost One: Part Five

Eva found that life on a ship could be surprisingly busy or not. Her parents, of course, did not find themselves with much to do, as they mostly pondered and planned what to do when they arrived on a planet and would be able to take up their work as farmers, which was something that they seemed to look forward to. Eva, on the other hand, had a great deal to do in trying to take care of the baby dinosaur. She found that taking care of a dinosaur was hard work, but that at least the dinosaur did not seem to be a picky eater, being quite fond of plants. What was a problem, though, for Eva was that the dinosaur grew larger rather quickly. She had figured from the size of the egg that the dinosaur would not be exactly small, but she was not prepared for the way that it rapidly grew in size. This presented several problems for Eva, one of which was the problem of concealment, as it was hard to hide an alert and active being that was her size and rapidly growing, besides the question of how such a dinosaur could be fed without others noticing the amount of feed that was missing.

One day Eva went to the place where she had put the dinosaur only to find it looking at her particularly curiously. When she went to feed the dinosaur the dinosaur placed her forehead against Eva’s and held it for several minutes. Eva felt this was a bit strange, to be sure, but it did not take too long before she realized that the dinosaur was doing some sort of bonding that would make their electrical currents and perhaps other aspects coincide with each other. Eventually, Eva felt as if she could feel what the dinosaur was feeling, a certain degree of loneliness and isolation but also a high degree of trust and fondness in her personally. Eva felt glad to be trusted by the little but growing dinosaur and wondered to herself how she would be able to keep the dinosaur safe and if there was some way that she could acquire more food for the dinosaur since it appeared as if it would be impossible to keep the dinosaur’s existence a secret forever.

After bonding with the dinosaur, Eva went to her parents and felt it necessary to explain to them what had happened.

“Mother,” she opened. “I have something to tell you.” She fidgeted a with her hands.

“What is it, dear?” her mother replied.

“When we were leaving the planet, one of the merchants gave an egg to me, and on this ship the egg hatched, and there is some kind of creature who is not growing very large that I have been taking care of since its birth,” she continued.

“Is that where you have been wandering off to there?” her mother asked, a hint of a smile on her face.

“Yes, mother,” Eva said.

“What do you plan on doing with this creature?” her mother asked.

“I do not know,” Eva said. “The creature is a friendly one, but is going to be human-sized before too long, and I’m not sure if it is something that our people would want to be with us.”

“Is it friendly?” her mother asked.

“Very much so,” Eva said. “But I think some people might find it scary.”

“Do you want me to see what it is like?” Eva’s mother helpfully asked.

“Yes,” Eva said. “Let me show you the creature.”

Eva’s mother followed Eva through the ship to the area where the dinosaur was happily observing the cattle nearby. Eva’s mother looked carefully at the dinosaur, who eyed her curiously.

“What sort of creature is this?” Eva’s mother asked.

“I don’t know,” Eva said. “It came in a large egg that we got on the planet, but the person who gave it to me didn’t want to give me very much information about it.”

“I see,” Eva’s mother said, lost in a fair amount of thought. “I think we might have to go to the elders about this. They might better understand what is going on here.”

“Do you think I will get in trouble for this?” Eva asked.

“I don’t see why you would. This creature here is one of God’s children, and is evidently not an unfriendly being.”

Eva and her mother left the area with the cattle and the dinosaur and decided to pay a call to the family of one of the elders, who was surprised as Eva and her family were not thought of as particularly notable within among the simple people.

“I have something to report to you, and I am not sure what to do about it, so I thought it would be worth asking your advice,” Eva’s mother began politely.

“Go on, daughter,” the elder said. “It is wise for you to seek good counsel when you do not understand what needs to be done.”

“Eva, do you wish to explain what happened?” Eva’s mother said, turning to Eva, who was blushing a bit.

Eva explained how it was that she had obtained a large egg that had hatched and described what had happened with the creature, including its bonding with her. The elder looked at her with a degree of interest and concern, and waited politely for her to finish before he replied. When she did finish, he said, “I am not familiar with this sort of creature, but if it is not a hostile creature, it certainly would have no problem being at home within our community. Would you mind if my family and I came to see it with you?”

“Not at all,” Eva’s mother replied.

Eva then led the elder and his family as well as her mother to the area where the dinosaur was happily frolicking and looking curiously at the people who came to see her.

“Is this the creature?” the elder asked.

“Yes, it is,” Eva replied.

“I see,” the elder said. “This is a curious creature indeed, but it does not look to be an unfriendly one. “Our community has certainly never had a creature like this one, but it obviously came from somewhere, and so it seems likely that our hosts may have some idea about what sort of creature it is. Perhaps they might give us some more information.”

“Okay,” Eva said, a bit puzzled as to why none of the adults seemed to know anything about her friend and where it came from. Truly this must be a very strange and rare being.

The elder motioned for Eva and her mother to follow him and his family as he went to talk to the commander of the ship.

The captain seemed surprised to be met with a group of simple people, who tended to keep to themselves and make few demands on his time or attention, which is precisely as he preferred it, seeing as he had been handsomely paid for taking this group of people in labor before they left the refugee camp. “Do you need my assistance with something?” he asked the elder.

“We do indeed,” the elder said. “This little girl,” he pointed to Eva, “obtained an egg of some kind from one of your countrymen before we left the planet and the egg hatched on this ship, and she has been taking care of the creature that was born. It is a strange being, and I have never seen its kind before. We figured that you might have a better idea of what kind of creature it is, as it appears to have formed some kind of bond with this girl and appears not to be hostile.”

The captain pondered within himself how to respond.

“Are you willing to show me this creature?” he asked the elder.

“I am,” the elder said.

The captain called a couple of his crew to follow him and the elder and his family and Eva and her mother back once again to the place where the dinosaur was still happily playing. The dinosaur looked at all of them rather curiously and politely, and the captain and his crew crossed themselves and looked at the elder and the other simple folk rather seriously.

The elder waited a beat and then replied. “Do you know what this creature is?”

The captain said that he did, and told him that it was a korinthidon, a creature normally found in Multipia that was known to bond with friendly people to it but to be incredibly dangerous. At this point the captain paused and thought about something. He pulled up his console and looked it, seeing a message from the authorities of Gorman 3 wondering if he had seen any evidence of the presence of a korinthidon. He felt a heavy weight within him. “Did you say that this little girl here got the egg that this reptile came in on Gorman 3?”

“That’s correct,” the elder said. “She told me that she got the dinosaur egg just before we left the planet from one of the merchants who was near the camp.”

The captain pondered this. “The Multipians appear to be interested in this dinosaur here, and have already sent a mission to Gorman 3 to investigate it,” he said, commenting on the report that he had received. He sighed to himself that he would have to report back to the authorities that although he had not known it before, he had now personally verified that there was a dinosaur on his ship, a dinosaur that, if upset, could sabotage all of the electrical systems and presumably send out a signal that would let the Multipians know exactly where he was.

He thought about this long and hard, wondering if the Multipians were chasing him too, and were using the dinosaur to hone in on his location. If that was the case, he might have to engage with them in diplomacy, and that would be a very dangerous task unless they were in a good mood. He wondered if the Multipians had any fondness for simple folk like this one, as it might be possible to outsource his diplomatic problems to them, and maintain his profits.

“Do you think you would be willing to talk to any Multipians who come our way about your search for a new home as well as regarding the issue of this dinosaur?” the captain asked.

“Certainly,” the elder said. “I do not see why that would be a problem.”

“Good, the captain said,” I have reason to believe that the Multipians may be tracking us and using the dinosaur as a sort of homing device to find us. Since they have not attacked us, I have hope that we may be able to resolve such matters via diplomacy. This is, after all, a system that they have claimed as part of their area of influence, and the Multipians are known to be touchy about such matters.”

The elder figured that this was the way of all empires to make grand claims and be touchy about others infringing on them and did not feel it necessary to either agree with or contradict the captain. At this point, though, the ship found itself in a particularly tricky asteroid belt and it required the captain’s attention. This particular asteroid belt required a lot of stops and a lot of slow moving in order to get through. The captain wondered what would happen when they got to the other side, as they were close to the planet where the simple folk were going to settle, and he had a bad feeling about what he would find when they got there.

For a Gorman smuggler like him, the Multipians were always bad news. Yet he did not think that this was not necessarily the case for everyone. It was often the case that those who did much wrong to others felt as if others were the most wicked sort of people. Those whom we do not wrong we tend to think well of, and think that such people think well of us, even though that is not always the case. But if we want to do evil towards others without thinking ourselves to be bad people we must think that the people we wrong are somehow evil and wicked and deserve the bad treatment that we are giving to them. Humanity is perverse that way, after all.

Posted in NaNoWriMo | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Lost One: Part Four

The scout ship was quite surprised when they saw where the portal the refugee ship took led to, seeing as it went to a neutral zone that existed between the Multipians and the Vallerians, one of the three allies who were signatories to the Treaty of Multi Prime for mutual defense. There was a friendly discussion between Lisbeth and the captain of the ship regarding the neutral zone and the systems that were found in it, which were often left alone and thus would likely be areas that smugglers would feel confident in. As it happened, though, there was a Multipian portal in the area and they decided to take that one and find a spot in the asteroid belt that was most likely to be in the system that the ship was headed to, as it was a system that the ship they were chasing would have to go through if they were going to go into Vallerian territory and had some planets that were capable of being settled with modest effort.

Lisbeth used the time to work on studying the diplomatic aspects of the system and what a neutral system meant, while also making sure to keep in touch with the Vallerians who had interests in the area. The Vallerians had much less settlement close by than the Multipians did, but it was no great problem to point out that a joint condominium of the area would be preferable to leaving it open to exploitation by smugglers that both empires viewed with considerable suspicion. It was by no means easy to see what sort of ship was being sent to the system in the first place. It was guessed that the ship would allow for human cargo as well as the plants and animals that would allow for a successful settlement, and that meant that there would have to be substantial cargo, but it was not known that Gorman 3 had a large amount of ready pioneers to engage in such a settlement effort, seeing as they were known largely as smugglers, and smugglers with a fairly low demographic expansion rate in the first place given the lack of interest that the population of the Gorman system had when it came to agriculture.

As it happened, though, the investigation that had taken place on Gorman 3 revealed that the ship was made up of refugees, and that they appeared to be refugees of the Amish kind. This made Hephizbah’s situation far more interesting, as she was able to comment on reports of what her own family had endured in the escape from old earth and in the difficulties that they had in handling their own shipping and in learning how to travel in space without violating their customs and ways. Lisbeth was fascinated by the stories of how it was that the Amish managed to find a great deal of success because the first emperor had taken their cause and provided them with a safe place to live their lives in peace and a generally high degree of prosperity. Still, that had still been complicated by the hostility that many people showed to the Amish as well as the exploitation that had been involved in their attempt to purchase a ship that they could run for themselves, which proved to be a hazard in deep space that endangered their lives. It was likely, Hephizbah thought, that the Amish in this situation were similarly vulnerable to exploitation, which is why they had been trafficked by the people of the Gorman system, no particularly honorable people in the reputation of the galaxy as a whole. Of course, such people people might not know what to do with a dinosaur, but they were unlikely to have been movers and shakers in smuggling a baby dinosaur with them in the first place.

Meanwhile, despite all of the conversations the people on the ship had, there was not much they had to do for the moment. Their job was a simple and a straightforward one, and that was to wait for the ship to come to them, in a place where it would be possible to board the vessel and ensure that the korinthidon was safe and sound. There were only a few possibilities here, and there were reasonable plans that the small group had when it came time to interact with the ship. Moreover, the Multipians figured that the cargo ship, such as it was, would likely be unaware of what they were about and what they were looking for. This surprise was viewed as being possibly a good thing but also possibly a dangerous thing. No one thought that the Amish themselves were likely to be aggressors against the Multipians, but the behavior of the Gorman shippers was a different matter entirely, and this was where the unpredictability happened, at least in the eyes of the Multipians.

What was of interest, but was more difficult to understand, was that there had been a new arrival, a baby boy dinosaur that was born to a breeding pair on the scout ship that had been born around the time that they left Multi Prime. Watching a young baby dinosaur in action in space was rather entertaining, and the parents did not seem to mind the observation of the human beings. It was usually thought that reptiles were not very loving or attentive as parents, but that was clearly not the case with korinthidons, who learned a great deal from parents as to how to behave and how to communicate. This gave Lisbeth and Hephizbah a certain degree of concern about what would happen to a baby dinosaur who was unable to learn from any other dinosaurs around. This was a situation they had never seen before, and they hoped that the lost one would not suffer too much for being alone for the first few months of life. But they would not know if that was the case or how much it was the case until they got in touch with the dinosaur. And no one knew exactly how long that would take, even as the ship continued to move towards where they were, although stopping seemingly at random along the way and not moving there very quickly at all.

Posted in NaNoWriMo | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Grow Your Own Tea

Grow Your Own Tea: The Complete Guide To Cultivating, Harvesting, And Preparing, by Christine Parks and Susan M. Walcott

One of the more intriguing trends of books in the contemporary age is the encouragement to people to cut out the middleman when it comes to the products and services that they would most appreciate. Now, although I have long enjoyed iced tea on a regular basis, I must admit that the thought of growing it and processing it for myself has never seemed particularly appealing to me. To be sure, I know that such a thing can be done. Moreover, this book makes it very plain that not only large amounts of tea can be grown but that it is being grown very close to where I live. This suggests that the growing of tea is more widespread than it is easy to figure out, and also that what is lacking is not so much the ability to raise tea but the interest in people putting forth a lot of effort to grow and process a plant which can be purchased for low prices at stores. Yet for the true locovore, long supply chains of indifferent qualities of tea bags going to Argentina or India or China when a plant can be grown for oneself is unacceptable, thus a book like this.

This book is about 200 pages long and it is divided into two parts and numerous smaller sections. The book begins with a preface and introduction and then the author discusses a world of tea. The author talks about a brief history of tea, before focusing North America and the British isles, and then discusses the tea plant. The rest of the book then focuses on a basic guide to growing and processing tea. This goes in order from planning and planting, caring for your tea plants, growing tea in pots, harvesting and processing tea, gardening with tea, and more fun with tea. This particular discussion is leavened with plenty of discussion of various tea plantations in the United States that do these things as an encouragement to the would-be tea gardener doing tea as an addition to their garden as a shrub or hedge or devoting more space to it as a major crop. After this the book ends with resources and references, acknowledgements, photo and illustration credits, and an index.

Is it worthwhile to grow your own tea? I am not sure that I am the ideal person to ask. At this stage in life I have yet to find my own acreage or set up my own property with a garden. The question would be, do I drink enough tea to make it worth my while to grow some of my own in the hope of getting more skills in such matters? Yes, yes I do enjoy tea well enough that it would be at least potentially worthwhile to make a tea plant part of my own edibles garden. I am not sure how high tea would rank, but it would rank high enough that even in a modest-sized garden a tea plant that was regularly harvested for tea to turn into sweet southern iced tea would be worth it along with other plants like basil or cabbage or carrots or broccoli or something else of that nature. And that is worthwhile enough. This book demonstrates that tea is grown successfully in the area just outside of Salem and that is certainly close enough that it would be feasible elsewhere in the valley with the right care. Whether or not I am skilled enough at gardening is one thing, this book is certainly designed to appeal to a certain audience.

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Lost One: Part Three

By far, the easier assignment of the two squads of Multipians was the one that was sent to Gorman 3 in a heavily armed cruiser. This is not to say that the task was a pleasant one, but it was at least a straightforward one. The Gorman system was one that the Multipian empire had generally left alone, knowing its population to be unsavory and wanting to deal with it as little as possible. But since a korinthidon had gotten mixed up in its business, it was time for matters to be upped in importance from salutary neglect to a mission to remind the Gorman system that their freedom depended on not getting Multipia riled. And Multipia was at least highly concerned, which did not bode well for the well-being of the smugglers in the Gorman system in their long-term plans at increasing their profits and preserving their freedom.

The cruiser sailed from Multi Prime with an enthusiastic group of security forces that were happy to have an investigative and anti-smuggling remit related to the preservation of the rights of the korinthidons. Quite surprisingly, a few korinthidons decided to join the group as well, which everyone figured would terrify the people at Gorman. To no one’s surprise, it did. The cruiser made a call at Gorman station, after having gone through the portal to that system.

“This is Gorman station, please hail.”

“This is Commander ________ of the _____________, notifying you of our course to Gorman 3.”

“Why notifying? We are no system of yours that you can simply sail through,” the duty officer responded huffily.

“We are responding to a distress call from an infant Korinthidon who was on a ship leaving from Gorman 3. You might not be aware of it, but korinthidons are a charter member of the Multipian alliance, and any kidnapping or murdered korinthidons are a subject of internal police authority for the Multipian Empire,” the commande responded.

There was a bit of a pause at this.

“Is your notification of entry strictly limited to concerns about the well-being of Multipian korinthidons?” the duty officer replied.

“That is correct,” the commander replied. “Once that has been dealt with, we are under orders to return home.”

There was a bit of a pause at this.

“You have permission to investigate Gorman 3 and the matter of the korinthidon, but we will be watching to make sure that you do not exceed this,” the duty officer said.

“Understood,” the commander said, moving his ship on a course away from Gorman station and towards Gorman 3.

The commander and crew had no doubts that the government of Gorman 3, such as it was, would have been warned of their arrival and would no doubt be trying to find a way to either stonewall the investigation or, alternatively, to give them something that would make them want to leave as soon as possible. Either option was in play, and the Multipians were prepared. It did not take them too long, though, to arrive in a serene course to Gorman 3, where the cruiser once again interacted with a station providing notification.

“This is Commander ___________ of the ______________, and we are requesting information relating to a kidapped korinthidon who was tracked on a ship leaving this planet.”

“This is Gorman 3 station,” the duty officer replied. “And ships leave this planet all the time.”

“We are aware of that,” the commander stated. “The ship happened to leave for a portal near your system’s suns and went through that portal __ hours ago.”

There was a bit of a pause.

“We request to know how it is that you could track the ship,” the duty officer replied.

This time it was the commander’s turn to pause as he thought of a proper response. “It is possible for us to track the locations of korinthidons to fairly narrow coordinates,” the commander decided to say after some thought.

“The only ship that meets the timing and coordinates you stated was a ship that was taking refugees to a new home,” the duty officer said.

“Where were the refugees before they left on that ship?” the commander said. “We have reason to believe that while refugees are not the most likely population to engage in smuggling dinosaur eggs from far off systems, that your system has plenty of people who could engage in such business.”

The duty officer did not respond, silently cursing that this was true.

“We therefore request permission to investigate the area where the refugees left in hope of finding out where the korinthidon egg came from. Once we are satisfied with our investigation we will depart from here and return home.”

The duty officer gave them the coordinates for where the refugee camp used to be, and before too long the cruiser had landed in a meadow near the abandoned refugee camp, much to the surprise of the merchants in their stores who were still not finished taking down their stores to move their business to another location.

The merchants eyed each other nervously as the Multipian police officers and the royal korinthidons got out of the cruiser and moved towards them.

“Who are you and why are you threatening us?” an ad hoc spokesman said, coming towards them.

The commander was quick to the point. “We have reason to believe that one of you sold or gave a korintihdon egg that has since hatched to refugeees going on a ship that left from here.”

There was an angry chatter in the cant that was used by the merchants, with some angry accusations and denials about the fact that armed Multipians had suddenly showed up without warning with suspicion that they were involved in such a dangerous trade. The Multipian security forces looked at each other and smiled, while the korinthidons focused their attention on one merchant in particular, who had a guilty look about him.

“I don’t know you,” the merchant said to the staring korinthidons, who titled their head at him.

“But they know you, it seems,” the commander replied.

The merchants looked at him and chattered with him once more in their incomprehensible cant. As the combined glares of the dinosaurs and of his fellow merchants as well as the unpleasant nature of the discussion continued, eventually the merchant confessed to having given a girl a korinthidon egg that was about to hatch. First he said this in his own tongue, and then he said it in common to the Multipians.

“Where did you acquire this egg?” the commander asked him.

The merchant hemmed and hawed.

“Look, based on what you have already said, we can arrest you for trafficking in korinthidons, and let me assure you that the courts will not be happy about that. Our friends here might even get involved.

The dinosaurs looked at the guilty merchant hungrily.

“How did you guys figure out that it came from here anyway?” the merchant asked, to the general interest of his associates.

The security forces explained how it was that the baby korinthidon had cried out, exposing its location, and how it was that this had led them to check out the location here, thanks to some timely information from the authorities of the Gorman system and Gorman 3 in particular.

The merchants looked around at each other seriously. They had always been told that trade in anything involving korinthidons was a bad idea, once they had become aware of the species at all. Now they knew how unwise it was, that it was not just their own planetary authorities that could find them if they harmed a korinthidon, but that angry people and dinosaurs could chase them from halfway across the galaxy, guns blazing, wrecking them and all that they hold dear. All of the people there resolved not to have anything more to do with korinthidons and to tell their family and friends what could happen to them if they messed with such creatures. And that was precisely the point.

Eventually the merchant broke down in the face of being arrested and told the security forces where he had gotten the egg from and who brought it, and they invited him to come with them to have a conversation with them personally. The merchant figured this was an invitation that it was not safe to refuse, and so he sighed and went on their ship freely while they traveled to a location in the nearest city, where the ship remained in the area and a small team landed and surprised the smuggler, bringing him on the ship for a conversation.

“What’s your problem,” the smuggler said.

“How did you acquire a korinthidon egg?”

“How do you think I got it? I stole it.”

“Where did you steal it from?” the commander asked.

“I stole it from Makron 5,” the smuggler said, and the security forces noted this as a place whose security needed to be upgraded, perhaps.

“Why did you do it?” the commander asked.

“My brother is still in slavery for smuggling, and I thought that by taking a korinthidon egg I could take something back,” the smuggler replied.

“Where did your brother smuggle and find himself in trouble,” the commander asked, somehow knowing the answer.

“Maddon Island” was the inevitable answer. “At least that’s what we were told,” the smuggler said.

“It would have been Maddon Island,” one of the officers stated, having been familiar with that situation. “With luck they will be free in a few years.”

“That is small consolation to me,” the smuggler said. “What do you plan on doing to me, though?”

The commander pondered what to do, and figured that it would be worth finding some more information, and so a relatively friendly interrogation happened on the ship, where the smuggler claimed that he had not harmed any adult korinthidons, he just happened to nice an egg that was unattended and quickly grabbed and egg and left, not sure what to do with it. By the time he got to Gorman 3 he was concerned that the egg might bring trouble, so he got rid of it by pretending that it could be a profit opportunity for another merchant he dealt with. He was concerned as well about how it was that he had been discovered, and this was explained to him as well, convincing him also that messing with korinthidons has a bad idea, an even worse idea than he had thought before.

Once the two merchants figured out that the dinosaurs were not going to eat them, they became a lot more cooperative as they recognized that Multipians were not monstrous but were in fact people with whom a deal could be made, even in adverse circumstances. And here, of course, they were looking to save their lives and their freedom. It was well within the rights of the Multipians to lock them up and throw away the key. Yet it did not appear that was going to happen. The commander was weighing the situation carefully. He clearly could, if he wanted to, drag away these merchants, but would that do any good? It did not appear that the baby dinosaur had come to any harm. It was now on a trip into space, to be sure, but if it had ben given to a girl who was anything like the usual sort it was being cared for properly, and hopefully would find out that it was not all alone after all. Yet at the same time not to punish smugglers at all would incentivize this sort of treatment and perhaps lead to great suffering for a great many people.

The commander thought about it and privately asked some of the security officers about what could be done, and one of them came up with a brilliant idea.

“Why don’t you let the authorities of Gorman 3 decide how to punish them?”

There was silence as everyone mulled over what that meant.

“I’m sure that there is at least some sort of legal and moral order here, however unusual it may appear to us,” the officer continued.

This was indeed an acceptable option. The commander went out and told the guilty merchants that he would take them before their own authorities and that he would not presume to punish them himself, seeing as he would be likely to err in one way or another, but that their own people would know better the right balance to strike given the sensitivity of the case. This, of course, proved to be quite a surprise to the authorities when they figured this out. And it was quite instructive for the Multipian observers as well, as the case was laid out along with all of the mitigating factors, including the fact that the little korinthidon appears not to have come to any harm, at least so far as was known. Yet the authorities of Gorman thought it was of particular trouble that the Multipians were there as well. Once they realized that the Multipians interest in Gorman was narrow, namely the protection of their own citizens, whether human or dinosaur or shipeater, for example, as well as the avoidance of anything that would reduce the standard of living among their people or their own tax revenues, the authorities of Gorman were quite willing to figure out a way where the punishment met the crime, and where the two smugglers would be forced to do public service announcements about the korinthidon and about the hazards of smuggling korinthidons or their eggs. The Multipian security forces were happy to play up, in dramatized form, the sort of unpleasantness that could result from having a negative experience with them or with their dinosaurs.

Truly this part of the mission had been a success. If there was not the sort of horrific punishment that an armed cruiser usually entailed, the mission did give the Multipians a better understanding of the Gorman system and its ways as well as the chance to scout the system and better understand its social system and justice system. This was information that could be very useful and it was well worth the cost of an armed cruiser traveling for a few weeks. Such benefits far outweighed the cost of a little bit of gunboat diplomacy, and everyone left Gorman 3 and returned to Multi Prime having sent out a wide variety of reports that would greatly expand the Multipian knowledge of the system and its people and also provide the opportunity for career advancement. If all journeys should be so successful.

Posted in NaNoWriMo | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Stuff Every Tea Lover Should Know

Stuff Every Tea Lover Should Know, by Candace Rose Rardon

In reading a book it is striking to see how exactly people read a book, and for whom a book like this is written. Before I read this book, someone I know took a look at the book and commented that this book had a lot of good information in it, which it does, but that the cover design was a bit lacking (It is rather simple) and that the book could have used some references that connected it to other books that had recipes in them. As a reader, this book struck me as more or less what someone would expect from a basic factbook about tea that does not demand heavy or serious reading and which can be read a little bit at a time if one does not have to return it to the library in a hurry, as was the case for me. This book lets us know that there are many tea lovers, and it does a good job at pitching material to different groups of tea lovers, giving information to educate and amuse a wide variety of tea lovers while also being rather ecumenical in terms of appreciating those who appreciate tea, which is something to appreciate. If tea is the sort of material that encourages snobbery, it is not a snobbery that looks down on other uses of tea, but rather is an common snobbery of a variety of tea lovers.

This book is a short one at about 150 short pages. The book begins with an introduction. After that comes a selection of material on tea basics, including what tea is, highlights from the history of tea, terms every tea lover should know, the anatomy of the tea leaf, how tea is made, caffeine content, tea tasting, loose leaf versus bagged tea, how to store tea, a note about water quality, tea accessories, types of teapots and how to use them, how to prepare tea, and recommended steep times and water temperatures. This is followed by a discussion of various tea families and common varieties, including black, green, white, yellow, oolong, dark teas, as well as tisanes. The next part is the one that is the most interesting part for me, namely the tea traditions around the world, including ceremonies in China, Japan, Korea, Tibet, Russia, Turkey, Iran, India, Pakistan, Morocco, Britain, New Zealand, the American South (my native tea tradition), South America, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, and Taiwan. I was surprised at how many of these traditions I knew. After that, the author talks about tea parties, including how to host high tea, a tea party for children, as well as providing a basic recipe for scones and tea cocktails, after which there are resources and acknowledgements.

It is worthwhile to ponder what it is that people should know about tea. Or rather, it is worthwhile to see what it is that authors believe that tea-drinkers need to know about tea in order to intelligently drink it. When people believe that a food product requires an education it is an interesting thing to see the elements of that education. And to be sure, tea does offer plenty of insight when it comes to education. Tea is not essential for life, but it is a product that many of us (myself included) have a great deal of fondness for and drink in large quantities in a wide variety of forms. Tea can be served hot or cold as well as with a wide variety of processing, and in the form of loose leaf as well as bagged, with various degrees of quality and with effects based on terrain. Tea requires drainage and tends to grow best in subtropical but also highland areas. And while tea came from China originally, it has since spread far and wide, and often is said to include various herbal tisanes as well. The complexity of tea makes it a fit area of study in a similar form to viniculture and other complex cultures.

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged | 2 Comments

The Lost One: Part Two

Eva’s family had lived on Gorman 3 for a long time. They had not meant to. In the beginning, of course, it was simply supposed to be a way station between the horrors of old earth and the possibilities of life on a new earth. But things don’t always work out the way that they were supposed to. It proved to be easy, relatively speaking, to be smuggled from earth to Gorman 3. According to Eva’s family, the trip had taken a few years, a boring and stressful time in which there were fears among the population of simple folk that she was a part of that the forces on earth were chasing them. Perhaps that was what the people transporting them had said to increase the price of their journey. At any rate, Eva was born on Gorman 3, for what it was worth, in a refugee camp for people like her who had been smuggled away from earth and lured away by the promise of freedom and a better life.

Of course, as a refugee, it did not matter that Eva had been born on Gorman 3 while her parents had been born on old earth. She did not have political rights for having been born there. As a refugee, she was one of those stateless people who find themselves being exploited by whoever they happen to be around. And life in the refugee camp was fairly boring. There was not much in the way of schools there, although to be honest Gorman 3 did not appear to be a planet that was overburdened with education, at least to the extent that Eva knew about it. Of course, it must be freely admitted that Eva did not know much about the world outside of the refugee camp. And it was not really her fault. The refugee camp was in a fairly remote area, and the nearest of the cities of the local population were a few hours away by the means of transportation available to her. It seemed as if the purpose of siting refugee camps, at least as Eva could think it, was to keep the refugees away from the local population, unable to know local conditions or blend in with local society, as much as it would be possible for plain folk like her and her family to blend in.

There were other things that she noticed about her life in the refugee camp, now that she came to think about it. During the days, the refugee camps were nearly empty of men, leaving only young people, women, and the elderly around. It was frequently mentioned, every time that the refugees got their monthly rations of basic foods, that refugees were not allowed under any circumstances whatsoever to work in the local economy on Gorman 3. Yet all the same it seemed as if the able bodied men worked anyway. Whether or not they were legally allowed to do so, they were harvesting teak and mahogany trees in the remote river valleys where they lived, and as there were not teak and mahogany buildings or furniture to be found within the refugee camp, she assumed that the logs were going somewhere. They had to be, after all. Even a child like herself knew the value of good wood, since the elderly people in the camp were constantly talking about the times in their youth that they would carve beautiful tables and chairs and other items out of the woods on the old earth. She supposed that in their own planet, if they ever had one of their own, then such things could happen again, where they would be free, whatever that meant.

At any rate, she didn’t want to have to think about that any longer. She had been told that it was the last day they were going to be on the planet, and so it was her job to help get some of the last minute supplies that they needed. She went to the small and informal stores that could be found on the outskirts of the refugee camp. She went to her favorite store, where she managed to purchase some food for the trip with the last credits that she had available with her. At this point, the owner of the shop wanted to talk to her.

“Would you like to help me out, there?” the owner said.

“Sure,” Eva said, enjoying being helpful to adults.

“You’re going to have to keep this a secret from your folks,” the owner added.

This did not trouble her. Perhaps it should have, but she was used to having to keep things secret that she found out about life form her parents, for fear that they would get mad and try to keep her grounded in their cabins. “Sure, that’s no problem,” she said.

“Here’s an egg,” the owner said, handing it over to her. “I would keep it here but it might be a bit of trouble. It will be safer with you, especially in your new home.”

“What kind of egg is it?” she asked, curious.

“It is an egg to a baby dinosaur, and it will likely be a friendly guard to you if you treat it right,” the owner said. “Alas, the dinosaur would likely not find a friendly place here.”

Eva knew enough about life on Gorman 3 to agree that a dinosaur would not find a friendly life. There was a whole host of questions that she wanted to ask, but something told her that she would not get the truth, and would only make the person angry, if she asked about. Where did this egg come from? What kind of dinosaur was it? How had the dinosaur made it to Gorman 3 if it was not at home there, since she had never seen dinosaurs and only vaguely knew what they were? Where were this baby’s children? These and many other questions were inside her head, but she did not feel comfortable asking them, and she lacked confidence she would get an honest answer, so she decided she would find a place for the egg as a makeweight at the bottom of her items, and then include them among her personal effects when they traveled, so that it would not be obvious until she could find somewhere for the egg to be hidden when they arrived on the ship.

When she arrived back to her cabin, her family was getting ready for the shuttle trip to their ship that would take them away from this forsaken place that was filled with corrupt Englishmen. Lacking geography studies, Eva did not know where England was or why Englishmen were so corrupt and so sharp in making deals, but she knew that to be English was definitely a bad thing. At any rate, there was no time to ponder these things, as she had to quickly pack, give her folks the supplies that she had purchased, and then file along with the rest of the people of the refugee camp into various shuttles that were going into space. This was a new experience for her, but for most of the people there was the trudging movement of defeated people who did not have full hope even that this would lead to some sort of success or freedom where the problems of old earth would be left behind forever. These problems had dogged them for so many years that they did not believe that they would ever be free, or could ever be free. They had not even heard rumors of the freedom enjoyed by their brethren in Multipia, and had not even heard of that empire and its ways. All they knew were the people of Gorman 3 and their sharp dealing and tricky practices.

The shuttle trip was not very long, but to Eva it felt very lovely to feel the sense of weightlessness and to see the look of deep space when they docked into the ship, which looked to be some sort of modified cargo ship. The ship was pretty large, and it was divided mostly between the refugees and their herds and crops that would be used to help start out their new life wherever they were going. And she did not know where they were going. Even if she had been told the name of the system, she would not have known where that was or anything else, since no one had ever taught her about the stars or the map of the galaxy and the systems. Once they got to the ships it did not take too long to organize everything, and she was able to find a quiet place near the cows to put the egg where it was in no one’s way and where she could visit it frequently while she was just wandering about the ship as was her fashion.

It as at this point where she became clear that it was good to have a reputation that allowed one to engage in the private investigation of an egg. What sort of egg was it, and how would one take care of it? She did not think any of the people on the ship would have an idea of what to do, and she did not have access to any information on how to take care of dinosaur eggs, but she had found a warm place for the egg and it was soundproofed from people and she hoped for the best. In the meantime, she looked around to find places where she could see the stars. She loved to look at the stars and planets around, and the crew of the ship got used to seeing her be inquisitive and curious, something that marked her as being different from most of her other people, who were not reputed to be a curious people or interested in learning. And Eva found out, much to her surprise, that there were always things going on that needed to be done but that were not being done, and she ended up getting the responsibility for making sure that the animal cargo area where she had placed the egg was alright, and she wanted to make sure that it was alright so that she would not draw attention.

It did not take long until the egg, which was warm and comfortable, started to develop cracks. Eva watched it carefully and thought that it was time for the baby dinosaur to be born. It was. Before too long, under Eva’s curious care, the egg, which had been about the size of a coconut, more or less, was now broken completely, with a small reptile there in its stead. The reptile looked at Eva curiously and looked around, and seeing that it was all alone in the universe, so far as it knew, cried out. Verbally, at least, the cry was not all that big, but Eva could feel in her mind the torment of the baby, and she looked with great sorrow at the suffering little creature that she had unwittingly helped to midwife, before taking up the little dinosaur and holding the dinosaur close to her. She did not know how dinosaurs liked or wanted to take care of each other, but she had helped watch over other little children in the refugee camp, and she knew that a certain degree of warmth and affection was useful, and so it was here. Before too long, the dinosaur appeared to be relatively at peace, and Eva fed it with some food that the dinosaur seemed to happily eat up. And though the dinosaur certainly looked strange to Eva, it did not look at her without a certain spark of personality and friendliness that she recognized as being some sort of kindness.

There was much that Eva did not know. She knew that she did not know much, knew that there was more to life than she had experienced, and had some hope in the future being better for her. Somehow that hope had not drained from her yet. Now she was faced with having to hide the existence of a little dinosaur, one which she had the feeling would likely end up being somewhat large given the size of its egg relative to the eggs of smaller animals. And while she did not know what this dinosaur meant, she knew that it meant she had a friend of sorts in a universe that was rather thin on the ground with friends. And for the moment, it was enough to know that she had a little friend and that she had some sort of task to keep her busy during what promised to be somewhat of a long journey to a new home on a hopefully not settled planet that she and her fellow refugees would be able to settle and enjoy their freedom. It was a lot for a girl to take in.

Posted in NaNoWriMo | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Desert Shield To Desert Storm

Desert Shield to Desert Storm: The Second Gulf War, by Dilip Hiro

One of the more intriguing aspects of this book is the fact that the actual military conflict in Desert Storm takes up a surprisingly little amount of the contents of this boo. The Second Gulf War was admittedly a short war as far as wars go at between a month and a month-and-a-half or so of actual military conflict, and the author spends a great deal of time talking about the prelude to the war as well as the crisis itself, but only a little bit of time on the actual fighting in the Second Gulf War, which, as must be admitted, was a rather one-sided affair. And for all of the criticism of linking the Middle East crisis with the Kuwaiti crisis, this book does precisely that in exploring how it was that Saddam sought to divide his opponents in the coalition by playing to Arab hostility for Israel, which forced the United States to push for neutrality in the Gulf War by Israel while also seeking to provide for its safety and security by dealing with the Scuds. The result is a taut and intriguing picture of the contradictions and tensions inherent in the approach of both Saddam as well as the coalition and the importance of conspiracy and the lack of decisiveness that seems to be heavy in the warfare of the late 20th and early 21st century.

This book is about 450 pages long and is divided into three parts. The book begins with illustrations, abbreviations, maps, a preface, and an introduction. After that, the first two chapters talk about the historical background of the problems between Iraq and Kuwait (I), with a look at the question as to whether they are neighbors or part of one family (1), as well as the prelude to the crisis (2). This leads to the largest section of the book, which discusses the crisis involving the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (II), with a lok at Saddam’s blitzkrieg and Bush’s line in the sand (3), the issue of diplomacy, build-ups, and hostages (4), Bush dealing with the American domestic front (5), the influence of a violent riot in Jerusalem (6) on the politics of the Middle East, the transition between desert shield and desert storm (7), and the countdown to war (8). The book then ends with a discussion of the military solution of the Gulf War (III), namely the air campaign (9), the ground war (10), the aftermath (11), and some conclusions by the author (12). This is followed by an epilogue, notes, four appendices that show a chronology (i), Armed forces of the various combatants (ii), and UN resolutions about Iraq (iii) and the Palestinian issue (iv), as well as a bibliography and index.

In many cases, what a writer gets out of a subject is what he puts into the subject, and this particular book is written by someone who clearly has an interest in the Cold War, which was in its waning stages in this book, as well as in the Middle East. These interests shine as the author talks about the effects of rioting and its quelling on the Temple Mount (where, it appears as usual, that the Palestinians were in the wrong for attacking peaceful Israelis and then whining when they got their deserved punishment) as well as the changing role of the Soviet Union and the nonaligned nations in seeking to carve a way in what was becoming a unipolar world. Also of interest is the author’s knowledge of late Ottoman politics and the way that the British Empire dealt with the states of the Persian Gulf area. The relationship between Iraq and Kuwait has long been a fraught one and this book does a good job in explaining why, something that will likely be of great interest for many readers, who may not know much about the historical context of the border disputes between Kuwait and Iraq.

Posted in Book Reviews, History, Military History | Tagged , | Leave a comment