Elon Musk’s plan


Just so that you all don’t think I’ve become entirely mired in our Earthly concerns, I am monitoring cool space stuff as well. I almost posted about some mumbo-jumbo NASA was talking about how their systems were superior to SpaceX’s, but I eventually decided it wasn’t worth commenting on.

Here is a pretty awesome paper by Elon Musk in which he details his plans for the upcoming Mars adventures.

Check it out, well worth the read.

Problematic immortality


I was glancing through the news this morning, and I clicked on a story about some guy who had a boatload of guns in a hotel room somewhere. Nothing particularly unusual about that over here.

What caught my eye was the large, clunky revolver in the center of the picture- it appears to be a Webley Mk VI, the standard sidearm of British Empire soldiers in the First World War. That pistol is probably a hundred years old, and I would imagine it is perfectly functional. What weird twist of fate caused that weapon, born in England and bloodied in the trenches of Flanders, to end up with a crazy who said he was on a secret government mission?

I gave it some thought.

A firearm, competently maintained, can last for centuries. In those centuries, that same weapon will pass from hand to hand, and it will undoubtably be used for reasons that were not in the original manufacturer’s intent. A good example is an M3a1 Grease Gun we took from the bad guys overseas. I examined it back then, and ran the serial number. The weapon had been made in Detroit in May of 1945. And here it was, on a distant battlefield being used by the other side over sixty years later.

grease gun

We procured some .45 ammo, and it worked as good as the day it was made. We ended up using it as a turret gun, and on one memorable day we armed our interpreter with it. The Grease Gun is an excellent example of a weapon that got passed around like a joint- originally used in WW2, sold to someone, bounced around, and eventually ended up back in the hands of US soldiers. Very, very strange.

Another example of a weapon that came back around to bite its producer is the Kalashnikov, the AK-47. A number that gets thrown around a lot is one hundred million. That is the estimated total of AK-47’s that were built. Personally, I think this number is crap. It’s a lot higher. And no weapon on Earth has killed as many people as the AK, hands down.

The US Army taught me about the AK-47, and its care and feeding. During this training, we learned about the various types of AK’s. Our trainer told us about the very earliest AK model, the Type One. He said we would never encounter it in the field, and that the Type One was the least robust of all the variants.

LOL. Here is a picture of a Type One AK my platoon sergeant carried in Afghanistan. I took a picture of it in my lap so that people would believe me when I told them I had seen such a rare beast in action.

type 1 AK 2

It was one of the very first AKs ever made, hard used, and still perfectly functional nearly seventy years later. Unbelievable.

That’s the problem. Millions upon millions of these military grade weapons are floating around, and no laws will ever stop their movement, use, or sale. They haven’t yet, and the UN keeps trying, to zero avail.

And that’s one type of weapon out of thousands.

Many times I sit and wish for a world with no guns, no war.

My dad used to tell me to shit in one hand, and wish in another, and see which one fills up first. He was right.

Guns are neutral, they can be used for good or evil. I’ve seen it first hand. I’ve used guns in defense of my life. My Grandma was shot during an armed robbery (she lived). The sword cuts both ways.

As S.M. Stirling describes in his books, a world without guns can be scarier than one that has them. Murderers and creeps use them, but so do the innocent. The innocent have a lot easier time defending themselves with a gun.

But I do so wish that lunatics couldn’t get the things. There I go- wishing again. The cold, hard fact is that in the United States alone there are an estimated 300 million firearms in private hands. If all guns were banned in the US tomorrow, and magically all lawful users turned them in (haha), there would still be more than enough available for criminal use into the far distant future. And the average Joe would be defenseless against criminals who would still be heavily armed. A bad situation.

But there is hope. I have racked my brain over this problem and there are concrete, realistic steps that we as a society could take to mitigate the issue.

First, don’t allow crazies to buy guns. This is more difficult than it sounds. Medical privacy laws here in the US are pretty ironclad- it takes a lot for medical providers to share anything with law enforcement, and then it usually happens after a crime has been committed. Unsatisfactory. People who are a clear threat to others should not be able to buy a weapon, at least temporarily. Nicolas Cruz is a good example of someone who could have been prevented from owning a gun, but was not.

Second, make theft of firearms a very serious offense, to the extent that thieves will avoid taking guns because of the penalties involved.

Third, to purchase a firearm, a citizen must have a certified weapons training course/military/police training on record (along with a clean criminal history). A notation on the Driver’s License would be sufficient, and purchasers would have to show such an ID when buying a gun either at a store, or from a private seller. This stipulation will make some people unhappy with me, but tough. It’s crazy that you can buy and operate weapons with zero formal safety training. As my daughter says, you have to jump through hoops to own and drive a car, why not a gun? She’s right. Some will say this creates barriers to firearms ownership- exactly. That’s the intent. If you don’t care enough to be trained, or if you can’t legally own a firearm anyway, then you shouldn’t be able to buy one.

Of course, the above steps will only slow a determined criminal. But I do believe the steps wouldn’t just be some stupid symbolic gesture. They would actually help curb the current problem while allowing responsible, sane citizens to own firearms.

The weapons aren’t going anywhere. They are, for all practical purposes, immortal. They are laying around worldwide. People will have them, one way or another. The only thing that really takes them out of the picture is destruction, or advanced obsolescence. As I have demonstrated, weapons don’t have an expiration date.

The question is, how do we manage a weapon’s problematic immortality?






So I’m working on an exciting project right now, those of you who are on my list know all about it. In preparation for the writing I’m doing, I have sought interviews and impressions from combat veterans. Specifically, I’ve been looking for armor and artillery guys with limited success.

Boy have I opened a can of worms with this. I’ve gotten tales from all sorts of people, in all walks of life.

I have talked with soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen. Most only had one enlistment, and sometimes the drifting sands of time have caused many to forget the nitty-gritty of their old trades.

But some have memories that are as clear as a bell, as ominous as an approaching tornado. Memories and echoes that remain vivid after many decades- as if it all happened yesterday.

I spoke with ordinary guys, career guys, and certified heroes. I have sat with the wounded. Much of what I’ve heard I will not repeat in any form. The pain, the hurt, it is as real and visceral as a punch in the gut.

When writing about war, I owe it to these people to get the facts straight. I owe it to my comrades- and the fallen.

It’s a careful balance, writing to entertain without verging into voyeurism. I try to keep my readers moving through and enjoying the story in my books, while informing them of what exactly we as a society ask of our combat soldiers, men and women.

Sometimes what is asked is too much.

Yeah, not exactly keeping it on the light side today, for that I apologize. I figured I’d give you all a window into the entire writer’s journey. For me, sometimes it leads into the past.

Into a bright and sunny place, unwashed and unshaven, with a cheap cigarette jammed between my lips.

Experiencing and describing these moments is an occupational hazard, one that I have willingly accepted in my latest career.

I need to make sense of echoes.




There’s been way too much of this mass shooting bullshit happening lately. Way too much.

I’m not sure why. Nor do I care. I just want it to stop, it’s too much.

The latest case was an asshole who shot up a veteran’s home in California. What’s more disgraceful was that the shooter was once a soldier- he foreswore his oath and disgraced his uniform.

If I had the opportunity to put a noose around his neck, I would have. This piece of garbage shot three defenseless women who had dedicated their lives to helping veterans in need- his ostensible comrades, brothers and sisters.

I hope he burns slowly in hell.

All the mass shooters are worthless bags of human pus. I guess what I hate most about this loser was that he and I shared the same uniform, we breathed the same dust. We even had overlap time in Afghanistan.

His case makes me want to vomit.

I have special reasons for thinking this.

Number One: He just fed into the perception that people suffering from combat trauma are hair-trigger crazies, time bombs waiting to go off. Asshole, thanks. There are hundreds of thousands of us who do not fit that description at all. We served honorably and took home scenes and situations we’ll never forget. And now we get to get tarred with the same bullshit brush this jackass dipped in a bucket of shit. Fuck you, ex-Specialist Wong.

Number Two: When I go up to the VA for trauma counseling, it’s a special place. A refuge where I can unload about issues I’ve had. I can speak to a professional who really gives a crap about me, and she understands my story and the hangups and issues I’ve encountered. Now this asshole has created a condition where the professionals who treat combat veterans always have to be on edge, wary of those they are trying to help. Thanks, dickhead.

Number Three: I don’t know about piece of garbage ex-Specialist Wong, but my time in hell taught me that life is fleeting, precious. I don’t know much about his case, but I do wonder if he had PTSD issues, or anger issues. If he had an anger problem, this would explain why he was ejected from a PTSD treatment program- they are not the same thing. I never associated anger with combat trauma- what I feel is a deep sorrow. Wong felt zero sorrow when he greased a pregnant woman, and then as a bonus shot two more women. Prick, this is the shit your former enemy, the Taliban, does for fun. You just sank to their level.

Number four through one million: Asshole, we serve to protect civilians. Dickhead, we go through hell so they don’t have to. Fucknut, we swore to defend the United States. Ex-Specialist, you violated every one of these sacred duties. You fell off the sanity tree and hit every lunatic branch on the way down. Your dead ass deserves no sympathy, no memorial, nothing but disgrace.

As I said before, I am really sick of this type of thing.

There is no joy in killing, just emptiness.

Who wants a society where life has no value?

I don’t.

Nihilists like Wong do.

They need to be stopped.


The Roxor


One of my interests is messing around with old vehicles. In high school I drove a car that was 22 years older than me; that inherently unsafe old jalopy was my pride and joy. My dad bought it for 2 or 3 hundred bucks, and he said “if you can drive this car, you can drive anything.” He was pretty much right. That old Chevy had no amenities whatsoever. Standard 3 speed transmission, straight-six motor, crank windows and no seatbelts or turn signals. It gave me a real taste for stripped down, wind in your face driving.

Years later, I bought a hopeless 55 Willys Jeep. Brought it back from the dead and then I blew the motor up on its maiden voyage. It wasn’t the motor’s fault, engines aren’t designed to run in four-foot deep puddles of water. Well, we nursed the Jeep home and it died in my driveway. RIP, Willys.

It’s sat in my garage for the past three years, I haven’t had the money or ambition to put a new engine in it. But I really want to wake it back up. That CJ-5 can go to some crazy places, and it’s amazingly fun to drive. Sheer awesomeness.

So imagine my enthusiasm when I saw a bit about the new Mahindra Roxor. This thing is a clone of the old Willys Jeep- but better. Awesome turbodiesel, standard transmission with two speed transfer case- wow. There’s a lot to love about this buggy. True, right now its off-road only, but that will probably change. The Roxor sticks to what made the original Jeeps so damn handy- bare bones, go anywhere transportation in a compact, easy to maintain package.

This is very much unlike the current offerings of Chrysler-Jeep. I wouldn’t own one.

I would own a Roxor. Read the article and check it out, this is an off-road beast. And it is way cooler than those side-by-side carts that people pay nearly as much money for.

Simply love it.