Hugh Hewitt has a blog entry on 11/28 &29 that asks what books you have read more than once. I sent a list, but I guess it didn’t fit his criteria. But that post is why I blogged the reviews yesterday.

This last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a celebration of the four Sundays before Christmas. My church celebrates neither Christmas nor Advent. But I want to.

Since I teach a 3rd grade class, I am going to teach next week on David the King, the assigned lesson, and Jesus, son of David, the Advent lesson. Jesus as King? I don’t know. But I want to do something which reminds me/them of the coming celebration of the birth of the Saviour of the world.

I feel like there should be some Latin phrase here, ending the brief post, but I don’t know one.

# Plan B – I have two copies.

(Coming back to this later, I realize the title may be too subtle a joke even for me to get. Oy veh.)

This is the fourth book in this world, the third about Miri and Val Con. In it they are safe, temporarily, and go to find her family, a family she has never heard of and who have never heard of her. While on their planet, she finds the family she knows and loves, her old unit the Gyrfalks, and heads out to see them. The idyllic walk into the sunset is disturbed by the screams of war machines. She and Val Con end up directing her family’s fight against the invading enemy.

Into this fight fly Shan and Priscilla, searching for Val Con, and injured by the BAD bad guys. Then they find the mathematical equation which shows them they are dead, unless they can effect a patch to their ship while stationery over an invaded world and under the guns of the enemy… It gets worse from there.

Edger and Sheather are looking for their brother and sister and hope to find them among the mercenaries. In their ponderous way they are always one step behind the others looking for them.

Nova finds Miri’s friend and takes her to rescue Miri. That is, Nova goes to find Val Con and Liz goes to find Miri. On their way they receive word that those they seek are under attack. Nova and Liz go for help, but help is denied them, most regrettably, until it is discovered that they all have the same objective.

A surprise main character in this book is mentioned in a short paragraph in Carpe Diem; his name is Nelirikk Explorer and who he is you will have to read to find out.

Plan B by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee

-reviewed for a disappearing website.

# Carpe Diem- and the book

Then the bad guys, the real bad guys, the guys masquerading as good guys who want to kill everyone different and take over all the worlds, trace Miri and Val Con to this tiny planet. They send an agent to turn Val Con or kill him.

Someone gets killed, someone gets hurt, someone gets lost, someone gets found… What is going to happen next?

The morality in this book is fairly high. They don’t shoot at anyone not shooting at them. They aren’t sleeping around.

Carpe Diem by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee

-reviewed for a disappearing website

# Agent of Change

This is a great book and I loved it. It is in print again, in an omnibus. I now have two copies, and since it has been out of print for years, you can imagine how hard that was to manage.

The main characters are Val Con, an interstellar spy/CIA type, who is a master of disguise and music and Miri, an ex-mercenary who is on the run from the interstellar Mafia for bodyguarding her boss. Val Con is an ever- changing face in this book as he hides and unmasks himself again and again to Miri. Miri is a tiny, tough, skilled fighter. But she can’t beat Val Con. For quite a while the question is, will she have to? Then, will she want to?

The characters are great. They are fun, interesting, and intriguing people. How did Val Con come to be related to a turtle? Why does Miri not like the idea of one of her family treasures actually being a treasure? Is Val Con crazy? What does it mean to be crazy?

Val Con and Miri are running from the bad guys. Unfortunately, not all of the bad guys think they are bad guys. Some of the bad guys are the interstellar Mafia. They seem to know who they are. But some of the bad guys are police, who begin chasing Val Con and Miri from prejudice. Word spreads that they murder babies, etcetera. It’s not true, but it makes the police angle understandable. And, by the end of this book, they are also running from the Barbarian Invaders of this sci-fi world, the feared Yxtrang.

There is no religion per se in this book. Morality is based on family, more than anything else. There is some lying. There is no sleeping around. They are soldiers/spies so there is some bloodshed. Most of that stems from those chasing them. Some of the people chasing them probably deserve to be shot. Some may not.

Agent of Change by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee

reviewed for a disappearing website

# Faith

This is an attempt to respond to Reactuate’s post about Faith. Which was somewhat a response to Mrs. DuToit’s post about atheism.

My husband is going through a period of spiritual reawakening. This means that his beliefs are being taken out and spring cleaned.

It is an interesting position to be in. I am grateful he is doing it. It always inspires more thought on my part.

This week at college where I teach we read two articles on the question of God. The editors of the book don’t believe in God, so the ten page essay which argues for God is poorly written, hard to read, and has some ridiculous arguments. One reason for believing which the author gave was that famous people believed. I found the reasoning poor. There were some points which had more validity than others, but overall I was unimpressed. Of course, the article which was against God basically argued that famous people didn’t believe in God. (Perhaps the same people on a different day?) Many of the quotes could be taken as other than a profession of atheism.

After reading the articles in class, and hearing my discussion of the arguments in the articles, my students asked what “good” reasons would be. I told them that I didn’t know. (One of those “I’ll know them when I see them?” No. But if I tell them what good arguments are, then those are the only ones I will get and I will miss out on the best arguments the students themselves have.)

Then the students asked me what I believe and why. I had actually been thinking about what I would have written if I had been the one assigned the essay. (Always a good plan if you are going to give out an assignment.)

I told them that I came up with three basic reasons why I believe in God.

The first is that I was taught to believe in God. They rolled their eyes at that one. But as my husband reminded me, if you aren’t taught something, how do you know it? Math is still true, even though you have to be taught math.

The second reason for believing is that the Bible is historically accurate. (The Bible is not a history book. I make no arguments that the entire history of the universe, or even the people in it, are contained within its pages. What I am saying is that no historical fact recorded in the Bible has been proven to be false.) For centuries people have doubted the Bible because historical things in the Bible weren’t seen in archaeology or known in history. Yet time and again, those arguments were muted, because the book is accurate. The archaeologists have found records mentioning Hittites. They have uncovered proof that the Phonecians offered child sacrifices. And so on.

My third reason for believing in God is that he has shown himself in my life. As a child of the modern world, I have difficulty discussing this. It is against my rationalistic upbringing. But it is true. God has answered my prayers in miraculous ways. For example, my brother lived for six weeks even though he was only able to drink 24 drops of fluid each day. God kept him alive. And God has blessed my life in other less obvious ways. But God’s presence in my life is a fact in my life. I have heard him speaking and seen him work.

# Coming out of the Closet

Well, that’s what he called it. My husband thought I should tell who I am. But what do I care if I tell who I am? No one but my husband reads this since I moved it, and he knows who I am.

So, in case you care, I am Reactuate’s wife.

My husband says that the boys and I are addicted to the web. While I am willing to admit that for the boys, I stand my ground and shout NO to the accusation when it is placed against me.

However, it might be true. It’s where I get my news and see what is going on in the world. Yes, I know it is skewed, but it’s skewed in a direction which I am interested in. Yes, sometimes I have to do fact-checks, even on reliable folks. That’s okay, too. I’ve been known to say something stupid/wrong sometimes.

I’ve spent the last three hours, pretty much, surfing the net.

In my defense, I only spent 20 minutes doing it yesterday and I’d been mostly without the net for over a week at that point.

# Strengthen the Good

Something to do with all those books I’m piling up because I can’t resist buying them, but then it turns out I have multiple copies. Strengthen the Good (as in, don’t just fight evil but also…) is a website to promote positive micro-charities.

The most recent one is asking for books in English for a school in a country behind the Iron Curtain. (I know it’s not up any more, but it left a significant mark.)

I may have to send a box of books somewhere besides Iraq to the soldiers. A different sort of book, though, more literature, less light reading. Don’t think I’ll send any Hagar the Horrible to the school.

# Recent Posts

The posts written on vacation were actually written into letters. I just pulled them out for my site because I wanted to remember them. Here they are in one place and I don’t have to search to remember what was going on on our vacation.

The letters are/were/will be sent to armed forces personnel serving overseas. God bless them every one.

# Beginning the Vacation Trip

Written 11/20/04

As I begin to write this, I am sitting at an Exxon station in La Grange, Texas. My family and I are on our second vacation which doesnï¿½t consist entirely of visiting family. We borrowed my folks RV and we are going to Austin, where we used to live, to visit friends.

My folks bought the RV, which actually isnï¿½t too big. Itï¿½s about two feet wider than a big pickup and about three feet longer. It will sleep two reasonably well. (The problem with that is that there are four of us. Weï¿½re hoping the boys will be able to sleep inside our friendï¿½s house. Obviously itï¿½s plenty for my folks.) They took it on a trip of the MidWest/Western US this fall. They went to Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming. They visited the Black Mountains, Jackson Hole, and Mt. Rushmore. Then they went to Yellowstone and stayed there a few days. Then they traveled down to Flagstaff, AZ and went to the Grand Canyon. Theyï¿½ve been many times, because my mom grew up in Flagstaff and thatï¿½s where my dad went to college. But this time they went to the opposite side. They loved it because it was much less commercial than the one they normally visit. After that they went to Phoenix where my momï¿½s best friend lives. Mom stayed there for two weeks and Dad flew home. Mom hired her best friendï¿½s son to drive her back to Texas. Then Mom and Dad showed him around Texas some, taking him to Galveston and San Antonio, before putting him on a plane back home.

My folks had planned to go to the East Coast this fall, too, but they didnï¿½t manage it. Too many health problems. Theyï¿½ve been home trying to get well. Hopefully theyï¿½ll be well by Christmas because we are all supposed to be out in North Carolina for Christmas. One of my sisters and my only brother both live with their spouses just outside of Durham. My brother said that if Mom and Dad canï¿½t get out, that heï¿½ll fly to Texas to visit. But weï¿½ve already got plane tickets to NC, so weï¿½ll be out there whether he is or not. One of my best friends has moved to NC, to Charlotte, and Iï¿½m hoping to borrow my sisterï¿½s car and get out there to see her. She said sheï¿½d meet me half way, so I wonï¿½t get to see the family, but maybe we could have a fun day antiquing or something.

Weï¿½re going to be in Austin for three days. Tonight weï¿½re having dinner with friends my husband Ron met through work. Theyï¿½re a fun couple. They have three kids, much younger than ours. Then weï¿½re going to another friendï¿½s house to park the RV. Her eldest was born on the same day as my youngest and they were best friends when we lived in Austin. Theyï¿½ve grown very different since then, but they still enjoy each otherï¿½s company. Tomorrow weï¿½re going to our old church, Hope Chapel. We are really looking forward to that. In the four years weï¿½ve been in our new area we havenï¿½t been able to find a church as good. Weï¿½ve settled down at one for the duration, but itï¿½s nowhere near the best church weï¿½ve ever been to. Our favorite restaurant in Austin is Chuyï¿½s, but we have those in Houston now, too, and we generally go once a week, even though the nearest one is 45 minutes from our house. Weï¿½re mostly just going to visit friends. Since we lived in Austin four and a half years, we have a lot of friends there.

The hardest part of moving from anywhere is usually leaving your friends. My move from Austin was a little easier because my two best friends moved soon after I did. One moved the next week, so I knew she was going. The other found out six months later that she was moving. Oneï¿½s in NC, as I said. The other is in Dallas. But sheï¿½ll be in Austin this weekend and Iï¿½ll see her at church tomorrow and meet her for lunch on Monday.

# Greatgrandparents-in-law on Vacation

Written 11/25/04

We come here for days and spend about four hours with my grandparents-in-law. They’re great people in their late 80s. Pappa Wiley will be 88 in February. He’s a reader. He also likes to get on forums and email folks who are interested in a certain kind of Christianity. Of course, like most people, he is sure he is right. I don’t argue with him anymore. I just listen. I used to think he wanted to argue, but he doesn’t. He wants to inform you and for you to be persuaded. So, I listen and I don’t offer any alternatives for whatever he’s saying. He’s an incredible man, though, with a coherent belief system that he lives by conscientiously. He was born before the Depression, but into a poor family where the Depression had been around for years before it hit the rest of the world.

Yesterday his nephew came to town and talked with them while we were still there visiting. Pappa was telling Joe about trying to build a boat and how he found a bunch of pieces of wood, but he still needed a big piece for the middle. He found one: his sister-in-law May’s dough board. He took it and hooked the boat together with old wire he’d found. He said he paddled across the river and that was the last he ever saw of May’s dough board. What he didn’t tell us was how he got back across the river. He did tell us he never confessed to the confiscation of May’s board.

Grama Willene will turn 86 next month. She was telling me family stories. You know, I always wanted to have a big extended family, but mine doesn’t keep in touch much. We had a reunion two years ago and had cousins much removed come and tell pieces of family history I think I would rather not have known. I guess part of the way you get those family stories is by making the effort to keep up with your extended family. I can barely keep up with my siblings.

# Another Day of Vacation

Written 11/24/04

My in-laws live in Arkansas, the Northwest corner, up by Fayetteville. That’s where we are this Thanksgiving holiday. My in-laws grew up in Springdale, which is where the grandparents-in-law still live. Well, my father-in-law’s parents are still here. My mother-in-law’s parents are both dead now, but she was the baby in her family. Her sister still lives here and never left. My in-laws, however, left when they were young and moved to Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas.

My mother-in-law has been an invalid since I have known her. She has a really bad back and has had so many surgeries, they should have put a zipper in. In the last few years she and her sister, who recently retired because of a disability, have been making blankets for the people who can’t get out of their houses from their church. I think they’ve made one for everyone. Now my grandmother-in-law is also a semi-invalid. An old ankle injury required two surgeries this year and the first one was extreme enough that she ended up in a wheelchair for four months. She really needs a second knee replacement, which she was supposed to have in February, but now she is a bit afraid of the surgery, because of the ankle stuff.

Normally when we get here in late Thanksgiving, the hilly mountains here are covered in brown leafless trees. This year, however, there are banks of flame colored somethings. I think they’re the beginnings of trees, but they’re small like bushes. Then there are orange and scarlet and gold trees. The Bradford pear trees are gorgeous and were a favorite when people began planting trees in the area to replace trees that were cut for either houses or farms. There are lots of them around and they range from green through red and then a dark purply color. It’s beautiful. There was a gorgeous picture in yesterday’s paper. I hope I remember to cut it out.

When we got here, the boys were thrilled to be here. Because the neighbor’s wi-fi reaches to Grampa’s living room. They sat in the living room for hours working on their computer stuff. But then, at nine, for some reason the wi-fi quit working. It didn’t start again the next day. The boys were sad. Grampa called Charlie, next door, and left a message asking him to turn it back on. It was broken, though. So he couldn’t turn it back on. Drats. We went to Starbucks, but they don’t have wi-fi either. There’s a family community center that has it, but they’re closed for the holidays, too. They won’t be open till Friday.

We are all sitting in my in-laws’ living room watching Emeril on the Food channel. This one is a USO type show somewhere. He’s in a hangar cooking and fixing a Thanksgiving Day meal for 2,000 servicemen. They’re not all Air Force. Some are Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. It’s at McGuire AFB. This must be in New Jersey because Miss New Jersey, Vanessa Baker, just served the biscuit “leftovers” to the head of the base. She was wearing a long sparkly dress and looked good. (Well, duh. She is Miss New Jersey.)

Trace Atkins is there to sing. He’s the Country Western singer who sings that song about “every light in the house is on.” My mom-in-law said, “CW is always depressing.” But I don’t think so. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s encouraging. It’s like that song “Live Like You Were Dying.” It says, “I went skydiving. I went Rocky Mountain climbing. I went 2 point 7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu.” It basically encourages you to make the most of the time you have and do what you were putting off. I appreciate that. I love that Randy Travis song about “I’m going to love you forever. Forever and ever amen. As long as old men sit and talk about the weather, as long as old women sit and talk about old men.”

Emeril made a smoked turkey jambalaya. Then he made sweet potato and bacon biscuits. Right now he’s making a dessert, with sponge cake, vanilla pudding, chocolate sauce, confectioners sugar, and some big heaps of frosting or whipped cream. It’s making me hungry and I’ve already eaten. Apparently this is Boston crème pie. Or some form of it. My mom-in-law says it’s not. Some guys are there from Fort Dix, too. It’s over now. He cooked for the whole 2000 guys. “A special thanks to all of you in the military. You make us proud to be Americans.”

Amen to that one.

# Thoughts from Vacation

Written 11/22/04

I am here in the hill country of Texas visiting friends and having a family vacation. It has been raining the whole time we have been here. But this morning it is not just raining. The streets are flooding and there is a tornado watch. Since we’re in an RV, the lightest kind of trailer there is, that was a bit of a negative. However, so far there haven’t been any tornadoes where we are. Hopefully there won’t be either. The ditches though, I think they call them arroyos around here, are overly full. If someone fell in one of those, they would drown. The current is incredibly swift. I hope the rain calms down before they actually flood out onto the streets.

I am quietly sitting on the bed in the RV. My boys are in the back sitting quietly as well. The reason for all this quietly sitting is that my husband is on the phone right now having an interview for a job. This is his third interview with this company. But this interview is the technical interview, where the head computer programmer guy talks to Ron to find out if Ron actually knows anything about programming. Since he’s been doing it for eleven years, I would think they could figure that out just from the resume, but apparently not. I hope this interview goes well. He’s not very happy at his present job. His boss has recently taken to cussing the guys out. Well, the interview was very short. It doesn’t look like the technical guy thinks they need another programmer. So it probably won’t work out. Don’t know why they’re trying to hire someone if the tech guy doesn’t want him. He’s going to be the new guy’s boss, if there is a new guy.

An RV is fun, because you have plenty of space and you have an on board toilet and you can lay down in a regular sized bed while the thing is moving. But it’s also a pain because you plan to stay in it, not with someone, and then you can’t just go back to their house to hang out. So you sit in a parking lot at a mall and run the generator. It’s also a bit disconcerting when you want to go to the bathroom, because the door opens, but you can’t sit on the pot and close the door. So there you are showing off to God and everybody. I’m glad my folks got an RV. Now we can use it! It is fun to travel in. Makes staying at Grama’s a lot more flexible cause we can go sleep in it instead of sleeping with our teenage sons in one room.

We are going to our regular hang out, the bookstore. The problem with going there for me is I always have too many books I want to buy. My eldest tends to read them there. He doesn’t re-read books, so once he’s read it, he’s done. I think that I will want to re-read them if they’re good, so I buy them. That’s probably why we have ten bookshelves in our house full of books.

The bookstore was fun. I found a book I wanted to buy, but I wasn’t watching the time. My husband had to call and tell me we were going to be late to our next appointment. So I didn’t have time to purchase the book. We actually made it to our appointment with five minutes to spare. I had forgotten how much smaller Austin is than Houston. Plus, when we lived here, we did most things on the north side, so when we go visiting, that’s where we do that too.

# Yellow Ribbons DO Mean Something

Written 11/19/04

Tonight I went to WalMart to get some stuff and I noticed that the three cars between me and the door all had “support the troops” ribbons on them. I read a blog where a commenter said, Why do they put those on their cars? It isn”t supporting the troops. He’s right. The ribbon doesn’t. But every time I see one, I pray for their safety and for their families. And I have one on my car and that’s not the sum total of my support for the troops. Anyway, his rip annoyed me. Probably because I have one of those “useless” ribbons on my car. Oh well.

What else do I do?

pray

write letters (65 so far)

send packages (25 plus 8 to go out tomorrow)

act as a clearing house for a group to send packages

Blackfive posted a similar comment on his blog 11/30/04. Those yellow ribbons are symbols, but they are part of the support too. I don’t think he should get his panties in a wad because he thinks the \$5 for the ribbon could be better spent elsewhere. (Plus, mine was free. And my mom bought hers for \$1.)

# Favorite Authors and Buying Books

Written 11/20/04

I enjoy reading. My favorite kinds of books are sci fi and fantasy. I have several authors who I read all or most of what they put out, even if it’s not in a genre I typically read in.

My favorite authors are Elizabeth Moon, David Weber, Sharon Miller and Steve Lee, and Christopher Stasheff.

Moon writes both sci fi and fantasy. My husband adores her fantasy, but won’t read her sci fi.

David Weber writes both, too. He even made up a new race to go with elves, dwarves, and halflings. I really like them. My husband says he’s too long winded and spends too much time telling you stuff. That’s true. But when I re-read the books, I skip those sections. And his stories are fun.

Miller and Lee write a series about a universe where the worlds are rebuilding after being almost totally destroyed about 2000 years before. The main characters are a scout (the best of the best militarily), a mercenary, an interstellar trader, and a psychic. There’s also a giant turtle, who’s really into art, and his extended clan. As far as I know, Miller and Lee haven’t written any fantasy that is book length, though they do have some short stories that are.

I prefer Stasheff’s fantasy stuff to his sci fi, although I like and own the full sets of all of his works to date.

You know, I had not realized before writing this that all my favorite authors write in both genres. Cool. I like learning new stuff. ï¿½

I told my husband and he said he didn’t know Miller and Lee wrote fantasy. He’s never read their short stories, although he loves their novels.

Miller and Lee wrote three books a long time ago; Conflict of Honors, Agent of Change, and Carpe Diem. When they were first published the publishing house didn’t do much to promote them and the series didn’t sell well. So they weren’t reprinted. Eventually the rights to the books reverted back to Miller and Lee. When they got on the internet and started a presence there, they found that there were lots of friends of Liad, their world. So they had the books printed again.

My husband and I bought two copies of each of them. My brother did as well. The books did well enough that Ace, a national publishing house, reprinted them as well as the two prequels. And there are two follow up books. I love every one of them. They are well written and fascinating. That series is just spectacular.

I went to a book sale and bought a bunch of sci fi and fantasy books for one of the contact groups that got on anysoldier.com and said that they wanted books. Since I like reading so much, I couldn’t bear to think of people wanting books to read and not having any. I also bought my favorite mystery authors books and a few other famous authors. I have enough for three reasonably sized boxes. That particular unit has 300 people, so I figure someone will want those kinds of books.

Written 11/22/04

I’ve been reading a book by Robert Fulghum. He’s the guy who wrote the books Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and It Was On Fire When I Laid Down On It. I think this book is called Uh-Oh. I like that title. His work is very much stream of conscious essays. He wrote about being in Thailand and watching the lightning bugs (also known as fireflies). He said there were so many that they lit up the night like an overdraped Christmas tree. He also said that the bugs were all synchronized. They’d blink on-off-on at the same speed. He wrote some questions that he thought while he watched the bugs. He wondered if they had any control over the lighting feature. He wondered if they ever attracted any small moths with the lights. And he wondered what kind of pants people would wear if we had rear ends that lit up as an attraction technique. I thought that last was an interesting idea. I guess our behinds would be uncovered more than covered.

Are you old enough to remember that phase when some of the younger movie stars and the more gutsy women were wearing jeans with the behinds cut out? They were covered with a see through material like cheap raincoats are made out of. For a while there were pictures in every magazine I picked up. It made for some interesting reading.

# RED

They have discovered what made Pompeii’s red so much more red than any other reds. YEAH. This article discusses the fact that cinnabar, mercury sulfide, is the red that most reds came from. Then it looks at the fact that the non-fading red is actually two sizes of cinnabar mixed together. (I got there via cranky professor. He got it from Mirabilis.ca and sent me on to Cronaca for great history in the news.)

I love this. It is one of my favorite stories from history. Because coloring ability was lost several times over the course of history. It is a major point in my novel. Or it was a major starting point in my novel. It hasn’t actually shown up at all, but it is what the grandmother is afraid will happen.

I love history.

# Any Soldier

I am the coordinator for the homeschoolers in my area in our attempt to help out the soldiers. We are collecting things to package up and send to Iraq and Afghanistan. So far we have sent 10 boxes to one unit of 52 people. We have also sent Christmas cards for each member of the unit.

We are looking for a way not just to support the troops but to be involved in their lives.

So I thought we would “adopt” a unit or three and send them stuff regularly.

We ended up with our original unit which is in Afghanistan and another unit of 30 in Kwost, Afghanistan. The third group is 17 guys who have been in Iraq since the beginning of the fighting last year. This is their third tour of duty in Iraq. They are in Baghdad. They want letters especially.

I bought books to send overseas. One unit of 300 people requested books. So I figure I will send that box to them.

There is another unit of 93 folks who requested letters. I am figuring that I will write letters to them as well.

Is it cheating to write one letter three times? I guess not. I can send the same basic letter to folks in three different units.

We need to pray for these folks regularly.