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Well, that's just great. One of the minions at St. Mary's business office called to let me know that the tuition refund is going to be sent back to the lender, since I have a class load of zero credits. I expostulated that this was not what the associate dean had said in his letter and I most definitely did not want the loan to go back to the lender. At this point they've bucked me up the chain to the Director of Financial Aid, who hasn't seen said letter but is going to chase it down, read it, and call me back tomorrow. They claim they're required to send it back (to the lender) by Federal law, but there was nothing about that in the promissory note I signed, and it sounds rather dodgy besides. We'll see how this works out. I'd prefer not to threaten them wth a lawsuit, but damn it, I need that money.

On a happier note, I finished (and promptly restarted) Orson Scott Card's Shadow of the Giant, which is the last of the shadow tetralogy that parallels Ender's Game.

This is a tremendously affecting book. At the end, it ties together the end of Ender's Game to the death of Peter Wiggin, but it is also the story of a revolution coming to an end as all the soldiers of Ender's jeesh but one finally leave Earth for the stars. It's also a romance between Bean (the littlest of all Ender's soldiers, who eventually became a giant) and Petra, one with a disturbing ending.
While the novel is self-contained, a reader would definitely benefit from having read Shadow Puppets and Shadow of the Hegemon, to say nothing of Ender's Shadow so that one would get the full background on the Battle School kids and Earth after the victory over the Buggers. Enough backgrounding, though...the main story of the book is the slow, patient work of Peter Wiggin to knit together the Free Peoples of Earth: not a new United Nations, but something rather different. HIs work is complicated by the fact that he himself has very little power, and owes that little amount he does have to Bean, who takes it back from the psychotic Achilles. Where Wiggin succeeds is through exploiting the problems of others and avoiding entanglements with them; s much as he might like to succumb to the charms of Virlomi, the Battle School graduate who leads India out of its Caliphate captivity into a dynastic alliance with it and then to disaster...ah, but I don't want to spoil everything for you. At times the game seems like Diplomacy writ large and with more realistic political and logistical considerations built in, but Card never lets us forget that the short blocks are not wood but thousands of soldiers with their own lives. It's a very good book, up to the high standards set by the first three books. Highly recommended.

I'm going to digress for a moment to talk about the WW2 Pacific scenario of Civilization III, which I spent far too much time on this weekend when I should have been writing. The game's mechanics cause some problems for it as a simulation, which can be really irritating. The two big ones that give me a pain are: there's no obvious way to get fighters to escort your bombers, so they often wind up getting shot down by enemy fighters over the target; also, there's no quanitifcation of supply either on a strategic or operational level. Ships can cruise forever without refueling, and one hex of oil can seemingly supply entire fleets of ships, wings of aircraft scattered from Burma to Tarawa, and tanks all over China, Borneo and the Philippines. This means that there's no real way for the Allies to replicate the savagely effective submarine campaign that destroyed Japan's merchant fleet and thus its economy, and no real reason for the Japanese to go to war, since there's oil in Indochina and the game starts in December 1941 with the Japanese solidly in control of the Fench colony. As a game, it's fun; as a simulation, it sucks horribly.

Glad you asked. Some Golden Harbor, the latest in what David Drake calls "the RCN series", is another interesting blend of the Aubrey/Maturin novels with Roman history. This time our hero Daniel Leary is sent to the opposite end of the Republic of Cinnabar from the current fighting with the Alliance of Free Stars (to deprive him of possible prizes and further fame, d'ye see) with nothing but his wits and the unarmed Princess Cecile to solve the problem of an invasion that's threatening a powerful Senator's mercantile interests. Still, since the crew of the Sissie includes Signals Officer Adele Mundy, who does for EW/SIGINT what James Bond once did for HUMINT, the odds of course are more in Leary's favor than one might think! It's a great adventure, and I continue to find it amusing that Drake's realistic vision of backward planets tends to include a lot more dirt and squalor than most other space opera sees fit to mention. Strongly recommended.

So. Another day, another dollar...think I'll head on home, do some tuna for dinner and crash early. Tomorrow promises to be full of stress.