Christopher Merle

Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, but first I need more coffee.

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Armistice Day

Fun fact: Up until the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, soldiers were still shooting and killing each other until the moment The Great War (aka World War I) ended. Thank’s to the punitive surrender conditions, it helped to lead to the even more devastating World War II.

Today it is known as Veteran’s Day. When that change took place, I don’t know. I’m too lazy to look it up at the moment, but a number of people including Kurt Vonnegut it should still be Armistice Day. Veteran’s Day should be a different holiday. We should be commemorating the end of a war. Veteran’s Day means we need will continue to create new veterans. The best thing we can do for Veteran’s Day is to stop creating veterans.

When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut. 1973


Let That Be Your Last Duncan Idaho

About that title*

After giving it much thought and research, I’ve decided to go ahead and read Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune and that’s it. I’d read up to God Emperor of Dune, didn’t really care for and decided long ago to get rid of all Dune books except Dune. 

I know that Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson wrote a ton of books in the Dune-iverse and never had much interest in reading them. Chapterhouse: Dune ends on a cliffhanger. Frank Herbert had planned to write one more novel, but death intervened. Brian and Kevin wrote a bunch of prequel books and then wrote Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune to finish out the original series. Allegedly based on notes left by Frank Herbert. No one has seen these notes. They may exist but we cannot compare them to what they actually wrote.

I thought, well, okay, they won’t be as good, but they complete the arc, and I’ll read those, just those. But upon reading further commentary, people were saying you need to read the Bulterian Jihad books before reading those two. I thought, wait, what? You shouldn’t have to read any prequel books. Only the first six should be necessary.

Brian and Kevin may be good writers. I saw Kevin as a guest at a local convention and he was interesting and a good panelist. I even bought a graphic novel he collaborated with Neal Peart of Rush on (they’d become good friends before he died). He’s a prolific writer and has lots of fans. Commentary says their writing isn’t as good as Frank’s and they focus on different things. That may or may not be a bad thing. I’m inclined not to read them. There’s a long tradition in fantasy and sf of writers writing in other authors universes or writing in a shared universe or even finishing series the original author wasn’t able to (I’m looking at you George RR Martin). When J Michael Straczynski announced a reboot of Babylon 5, he said you cannot cross the same river twice. You change and the river changes. So even if another author finishes someone else’s series, it won’t be what the original author would have written. It’s probably why Zelanzy’s son hasn’t let anyone else write more Amber books even though Roger had notes for more books in the series. Though I think there are a few authors that could do justice to the series.

Some of the comments were more even handed, suggesting I read Chapterhouse: Dune and then decide if I want to read the BH & KJA books. That others are saying I need to read some prequel books gives me pause before reading them, means they went in a different direction than Frank would have. I thought about just reading some summaries and then reading HoD and SoD. There are some things that end up as cliffhangers and that’s it. I watched a sci fi TV series, Space Island One, whose season 2 finale was a cliffhanger and that was it.

What prompted me to go ahead with the final to Frank books? I recently watched the new Dune (part 1) adaptation and decided to read Dune again and thought about the series and the prequels. I don’t plan to re-read the other Dune books. Of the three adaptations, I think this one is the best. Looking forward to part 2.

*If you are a fan of the original Star Trek and have read God Emperor of Dune, you’ll get the title of this post, though you’ll probably still get it even if you you’ve only read GEoD.

Duocon 2021 (and my language goals)

Duolingo just hosted Duocon (virtually). It’s an event they’ve started doing two years ago. You could think of it as one long infomercial. Duolingo is a great way to get you started learning a language, but you won’t achieve fluency with it if that is your goal. You’ll eventually need to find other material and tutors to get you there.

You can watch all the talks here. Patton Oswalt kicks it off.

So the video at the top is all of Duocon and watching it reminds me so much of the HBO series Silicon Valley’s Pied Piper.

It is interesting. I wasn’t aware of Duolingo’s English Test which actually seems to be a good and affordable service available to the public for foreign students wanting to get into universities that require such a test.

I’ve been watching the full Duocon video a little bit at a time and it’s more impressive, interesting, and enjoyable than I thought it’d be. At the same time it reminds me more and more of Pied Piper from HBO’s Silicon Valley. The most surprising thing is the use of AI for the voices. They use voice actors, but then they manipulate the voices for the characters for the lessons.

What’s interesting they align their lessons with CERF. Their goal is to get people to B2, but if you get to level 5 of a language it’s equivalent to A2.

I started off with German for the first six months and then I added in Russian. A few months ago after I finished the German tree I started Spanish. German keeps adding stories, so I go back to those. Spanish also has stories and podcasts. Russian doesn’t have either feature. I do have some background in all 3 languages. I took 1 year of Spanish and 2 years of German in high school. I have a minor in Russian from college. I am not fluent in any of these languages yet. I’ve forgotten most of my Russian, but I can still read and pronounce it. I’ve been doing Duolingo for 18 months now, but I haven’t done it exclusively. I added in reading, listening, and video material mostly to German. My goal is to be fluent in one language before tackling another. I should say tackling fluency in another language. I probably shouldn’t be juggling three languages.

Here’s a list of languages in chronological order of starting to learn more of and how much I’ve learned if I can quantify it.

Spanish 1 year in high school, Duolingo for 6 months
German2 years in high school, Duolingo for 1.5 years, lots of German language YouTube videos, German graded readers.
Russian3 years in college, Duolingo for 9 months
Japanese1 semester in college
Gaelic4 years of self-study + immersions (and a few weeks of Irish because it’s a closely related language)
French3 months of self-study
Cherokee1 month of self-study + 2 sessions

I’ve decided that I have no real interest wanting to learn more French at this time, but really want to be able to speak German well. Considering how much time I invested in Russian I feel I ought to achieve a level of fluency in it as well, but that could be the sunk cost fallacy. I was going to have an opportunity to speak Russian on our now cancelled 2020 Baltic cruise which is the reason I started using Duolingo along with German. I knew more Russian so I didn’t feel like I had to brush up as much to be a tourist as I did for Germany. There may also be a bit of a sunk cost fallacy in learning Gaelic too, though I am quite proud it was the first language I learned mostly on my own.

I want to speak Spanish better because it’s such a practical language to know living in Tucson and being so close to Mexico (though I don’t want to visit while their murderous drug wars continue). German was and is my first foreign language love. I have German ancestry. I also want to learn Cherokee because I have Cherokee ancestry and I am a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. I want to learn Gaelic because I love Scotland. It’s the one language I actually had a short conversation in.

I won’t start a fourth Duolingo language until I’ve completed the tree of at least one other language. That would be Russian because I’ve done more and it has less material than Spanish.

There are a few other languages I’m interested in. Latin, Greek, and American Sign Language. Here are my current languages I want to learn and in order of importance:


Spanish is probably the most practical of all the languages. The one I’m likely to use most in my daily life or that I could use. I don’t plan to seriously tackle other languages until I’m satisfied with my progress in German.

Hello 2021

2020 has been a heckuva year and 2021 is really a continuation of that year. In three days Joe Biden will be inaugurated as president. He has a lot of work ahead of him. I wasn’t sure we’d even reach this point and after what happened on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC, it almost didn’t. It still might not happen but the odds are growing less and less. We will still have to hold those accountable and defuse the situation. The pandemic is still raging and getting worse despite vaccines being rolled out.  If people would just stay at home as much as possible and wear masks when out, we could get it under control, but thousands are dying every day. And it won’t abate for weeks.


I’ve activated the Gutenberg Editor in WordPress. I’ll be able to switch between it and the Classic Editor (which I prefer), but I know that I’ll need to learn it. It’s very similar to Wagtail’s StreamField editor. You create blocks to build your page. It’s supposed to be more flexible and powerful.

I don’t care. It’s very different and, frankly, a pain in the ass to switch. It’s like going from Word 97 to Word 2003 (I don’t remember the exact names). It required learning Word all over again. This is on a smaller scale but it is a big change.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

Friedrich Nietzsche

It also pisses us off.


Somewhere in the middle of Nowhere, Arizona.
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