Mens sana in corpore sano

lush fields

That’s Latin for “A healthy mind in a healthy body.” It’s literally all the Latin I can remember from a semester’s worth in junior high.

I was a terrible student.

What does this have to do with the image above, a lush June hayfield with an amazing view over this area’s rolling hills?

It’s part of my view when I go for my early morning stroll along a rural road. Few vehicles that early, I have it mostly to myself. You have to get movement in; it’s the only thing that really helps in this year of disease and strife.

Healthy body, healthier mind.

Of course, physical activity doesn’t solve all problems, it just helps out. Another thing I’m doing is reading, right now I’m stuck into a two-book series, “Britain’s War” by Daniel Todman. Very good reading, and it is really fleshing out my understanding of the role England and the British Empire played in World War Two. I could review these books when I’m done, but I don’t know if I could do them justice. So far I can recommend them; other non-fiction books I was impressed by in the past were “The Pity of War” and “War of the World” by Niall Ferguson.

I think it’s important to have a grasp of the world wars in order to understand the situation we find ourselves in today. (And as an aside, it really helps when writing books.)

Ignorance, however, abounds.

This is clearly on display right now here in the US. We are going through civil strife as a direct result of the US Civil War and the Jim Crow era.

When I stand back and look at this, my jaw wants to fall open. The Civil War ended 155 years ago. Some say it was about “state’s rights.” Yes, it was. The right of states to elect to be “free” or “slave-holding.” It’s very simple, and a historical fact. Those who say the war did not have slavery at its roots are being disingenuous about the history.

A personal vignette as to what Jim Crow looked like, and you tell me if this is right or fair. If this is the way you would treat a fellow human.

After World War Two, my Grandma married my Grandpa. I guess they were in Texas for a while, sometime in the late forties. My Grandma, a freckled young redhead, went into Killeen to shop. She walked down a sidewalk, a black man walked toward her. She thought nothing of it. He passed her. No big deal.

In the Jim Crow south, it was.

A group of local toughs saw what happened. They grabbed the man and beat him to a pulp in front of my horrified Grandma.

She said “What in heaven’s name did you do that for?”

One of the toughs answered. “This (expletive) should have made way for a white woman.”

My Grandma didn’t know what to say. What did they want, to be thanked?

One of them muttered “Yankee” and they walked away. The beaten black man eventually got up. My Grandma, shaken, left.

This. This was Jim Crow. As a direct result of the Civil War and World War Two, my Grandma witnessed it.

I read about history. I listen when the old people tell me how it was when they were young, and life was still fresh. The “good old days” weren’t, and things were never black or white.

So yeah, in between bursts of writing I try to exercise the body and mind. The body with lots of walking, the mind with books.

This is how I’m trying to cope with a mind-bendingly bad 2020.

I count partial success as a victory.


A very good article


So I have been busy exploring and reading the new and improved author’s webpage for John Birmingham. It’s full of cool stuff such as this article called “The Role of Military SF in Technological Innovation.”

This is really worth a read; it is something I’ve thought a lot about over the years. Especially when I wrote my original trilogy in which I imagined a future where everyone was paired up with their own wearable AI called a “halo,” and then I hear about Mr. Musk’s Neuralink project which runs in the same direction.

Now, I seriously doubt that any of his team have ever read my books, but it pleased me to see that our thoughts ran in tandem, independent development.

I do think sci-fi drives scientific developments.

This could be good, or this could be bad.

Check out Birmingham’s article and you’ll see what I mean.

Cool stuff!

The Atom Bomb Saved My Life


My grandfather, seen above in 1945, was no hero. He was a thirty-five year old draftee who did his best to keep his head down while the world went positively mad around him. In the summer of 1945 he found himself on a troopship headed for the inevitable invasion of Japan. His luck, or so he thought, had run out. But then Hiroshima and Nagasaki were incinerated in turn, and the massive invasion was called off. The war was over.

He died in a car collision instead, decades later.

As coincidence would have it, this was the fate of both my grandfathers.

Operation Downfall, the aptly named invasion of Japan, would have probably killed or maimed at least one of them. Maybe both; then you wouldn’t be reading this. As it was, one ended up in Japan with the occupation forces, and the other had the surreal experience of watching his Liberty ship turn around outside of Pearl Harbor and head back to San Francisco.

Both men eventually made it home and fathered a series of children, eventually those kids had kids and I came along.

But it didn’t have to happen that way.

The Manhattan Project could have ended in failure, and Japan would have had to be taken the old hard way. One million projected Allied casualties were expected and who knows how many Japanese. People forget that hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians died via conventional bombing; their losses would have been horrific if the invasion would have taken place.

It was very bad, a crowning horror atop a decade of genocidal killing. The atomic bomb killed in a blink, at least for the fortunate. Others died slowly of radiation poisoning, others died of infected burns or wounds that wouldn’t heal. To this day there are many who suffer; war is hell, its scars last as long as those who remember still live.

The important part was ending the Second World War quickly.

The atom bomb did that, in dramatic fashion.

I’d make the argument that nothing short of a miracle would have made the Japanese quit; the atom bomb was no miracle but it sure seemed that way at the time. It was a weapon so bad that it has never been used since, and I pray it never will again.

I have my doubts. The old ones, the ones who watched the cities burn, are dying. Few of us these days know war; it is kept carefully hidden behind the volunteers who keep our societies safe. This leads most of us into a false sense of security.

People imagine that we can’t be bestial, or that our ancestors were somehow flawed or displayed poor judgement by employing The Bomb.

Wrong on all counts.

Modern people are just as capable of being murderous, racist, or misled. People have not changed in the slightest; I fear that the simple lessons our grandparents knew are fading away.

What are these lessons.

  1. Bad things can happen to anyone. That means you.
  2. Violence does solve problems, if imperfectly.
  3. Some people just like to watch the world burn.
  4. Swords can cut their owners.
  5. Fights always end. But maybe not how you wanted it.

There are many of these.

The Atomic Bomb saved the lives of a couple of random draftees; those draftees were my grandfathers. All that has happened since August of 1945 is a direct result of the use of The Bomb, both on a micro and macro level.

The US and the Soviets never fought because of the bomb. Who knows how many lived from that alone?

Sometimes great evil is what is required to extinguish an even greater evil. Seventy-five years later, I find myself thinking this over.

We can quantify how many died because of the twin blasts. 225,000 people probably died  as a direct result of the assault. That’s a stupendous, horrifying number.

How many lived?

That cannot be quantified, only guessed at.

It’s a lot.






Beta testing

39 stories

So a friend of mine recently hooked me up with a link; it appears that Elon Musk’s Starlink is now accepting applications to beta test his satellite internet service by the end of the year. I will absolutely do this if selected; my current provider is the worst and they think they’ve got me over a barrel with their stupid monopoly.

Haha. This is why Mr. Musk is doing this. He knows there are millions upon millions of potential customers in underserved areas (like mine). In lots of out-of-the-way spots on this planet there are plenty of customers who will NEVER get fiber optic or traditional infrastructure upgrades; it simply isn’t profitable.

Yeah, I volunteered, and if you live in an internet dark spot you should, too. There’s already some 500 of the mini satellites up there, and the number will keep on growing over the next few years. There is little doubt that I will be a subscriber to his service, and when economically feasible I’ll probably drive a Tesla, too.

It does seem at times that I’m an uncritical cheerleader for Mr. Musk and his plans. I’m actually a bit wary of this; I do realize that he spouts crazy man stuff from time to time and his goals are often over-ambitious. The negatives must be put into context, however.

Space X and Elon Musk deliver. Period.

This is why this is exciting to me. Over the course of my life I have heard mealy-mouthed and empty promises about space exploration over and over again. I have watched any number of promising projects scrapped, and not once in my entire life have I seen a human step foot on another planet, even one as close as the moon. And I’m not young anymore.

It is ridiculous that we haven’t been able to duplicate what we did in the late sixties in space.

Elon Musk agrees, and he’s really trying to make the world a better place, as opposed to hookers and beer like his fellow billionaires. So say what you want about him, one day there will probably be statues of the guy on Mars. Unlike the founder of certain social media sites.

Also in space news (which is dominated by Space X. Sorry not sorry.) is an article that I lost, it was on a news website. It’s a shame because it was pretty good; namely, Space X is looking to develop super sea-borne launch pads for Starship.

This is a good idea. As many of you may have seen from previous posts here, or in the news, a lot of Space X’s prototypes of this ship have blown up. Now, imagine a full size (39 stories) and fueled prototype blowing on the launch pad, or crashing back to Earth. It would be a disaster that would significantly slow or halt the progress being made.

It is much better to do these tests and launches out at sea.

This is challenging, though. A thought that crosses my mind are the Mulberry harbors of WW2. These were partially successful, but the sea is a force to be reckoned with. A violent storm could easily wreck a launch structure, it doesn’t matter how massive or well-designed it is.

I wonder how they will pull this off.

Because if anyone can, it’s Space X. I am paying close attention, and of course if anything new pops up I will let you all know.

Amazing stuff.

Stories Vs. Porn


Occasionally there is a need for sex or violence in the given narrative that you are writing. These scenes can be fraught; what is the dividing line between titillation and storytelling? Today I’m going to give my two cents on this topic.


printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.

I’d add that explicit violence can serve as a sort of porn as well.

Alright, when dealing with extremes in human behavior, I prefer to use a light touch. What do I mean by this. Well, sometimes the allusion is more powerful than a stark description of a given course of events; I’m a believer in allowing the reader to use their own imagination to fill in the blanks. When I get specific, there’s a reason to be graphic.

A lot of what I write is military science fiction so I tend to deal more with violence and death than romance and sex, but the latter topic does come up from time to time. In both cases I try to be careful.

In the case of violence I do my best to relate the action as realistically as possible, without embellishment or glorification. I think there’s more impact to your work this way, I think the reader tires of umpteen scenes of blood splashing all over the place. This is violence porn.

A great example of porn literature was a series that was a common sight at garage sales when I was a kid. I won’t name the series of books but I read a few of them and it was one mob hit after another, whole platoons of innocents being gunned down and then the righteous revenge of the good-guy serial killer who took revenge.

With relish, every possible way to die was explored, the relentless and mysteriously immune protagonist killed, and killed, and killed some more. And oh yeah, he always got the girl, and this was described in depth as well.

It was a classic case of crossing Mars and Eros, with every bullet tracked and every orgasm chronicled.

There IS a market for this type of thing, and whoever wrote the series probably made a boatload of money and retired early.

Well, maybe I’m a puritan, but this ain’t my cup of tea.

First, it’s probably pretty unhealthy to want to watch all this dying mixed in with sex. I wonder if they found a bunch of these at some real serial killer’s house.

Second, it’s bad storytelling. Why. Allow me to explain. Come up with a formula (each book was pretty much the same). Drape a change of scenery upon it. There are two red buttons. One says KILLING, and the other says SEX. Mash them over and over again in the story until the reader has either thrown the book away, or they are salivating for more. The author doesn’t care, because he made his buck.

Finally, this stuff is straight-up porn. The story is a veneer, the violence and the sex are not plot points, they are THE point. There’s a difference. There’s no story to be had, and there is close to zero realism. The protagonist is robot-like, his sexual conquests are cartoonish, objectified dolls, and his devilish victims are bad-guy cardboard cut-outs.

Porn, as opposed to a story.

Of course, the novels I’ve described above are themselves a cartoon and an extreme. They have been out of print for many years (I hope), but frequently during the course of writing my own material I wonder if I’ve gone too far with some scenes, or what the proper balance should be when writing a disturbing or tough passage.

Lately there was a discussion I was a part of involving the beta read of a friend’s book; some bad guys were about to be hung and there was a small debate as to whether to show the hanging or not.

I sided with the author that it wasn’t necessary; enough violence had been depicted earlier in the scene and showing the act of hanging would have been too much. Titillation versus storytelling. In the end it was enough to show the gallows to the reader and leave it at that; they could fill in the blanks.

In my own work recently there was a sex scene; there was dialogue between the two characters of a sexual nature. Specifically they discussed whether the male should use protection in the form of a condom; I included this bit of dialogue to illustrate that the man chose not to because he could have cared less about the woman for reasons that were clear in the passage.

So, specific sexual talk or acts for a reason, and violence with a purpose. In my opinion, this is what separates an adult themed story from porn.

It’s kind of like an old-fashioned farm. Everything has to have a purpose, or it gets cut. When it comes to human extremes, this holds doubly.

That’s my two cents.



The Oath


The image above is me administering the US Military Oath of Enlistment to a prospective soldier.

I want to discuss this oath, this basic step, because a lot of people misunderstand the role of the US Military in society. So here goes.

First, the oath of enlistment in its present day form.

I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).

Now I’m going to tear it apart and reveal exactly why a lot of military leaders this week have been hesitant to summon the Regular military to US cities to suppress lawful demonstrations.

First, “I will support and defend…” This refers to the obligation, freely assumed by members of the military, to defend the entire US Constitution against those who would seek to deny its specific rights to fellow citizens or attempt to conquer from without. Some examples would be lawful conflict against Nazis in World War Two, or suppression of the Klu Klux Klan during Reconstruction. The Nazis because they sought to overthrow our system of government, the KKK because they sought to deny the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens.

“I will bear true faith…” This means that you follow the Constitution to the letter and the spirit, and that you are loyal to the Constitution before all else. It’s why this clause is written before the following clause, which authorizes lawful authority to command.

“That I will obey the orders of the President… officers…” A military member is required to follow the orders of the President and officers, commissioned and non-commissioned. The clause means what it says. However, there is an important caveat; and this is raised in the next clause.

“According to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice…” This body of written regulation and law is first subject to the Constitution. A military member may not circumvent the Constitution. After the Constitution follows regulations and the UCMJ, which are partially subject to international treaties (ex: the Geneva Convention). This clause, within regulation, recognizes the difference between illegal and legal orders. This is a concept which was fleshed out by the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-47; i.e. it is why it is never a sufficient defense to say “I was just following orders” in the course of atrocities, etc.

“So help me God.” The capping clause that acknowledges the supremacy of a deity over the laws and actions of man.

There you go. A nutshell class in why every service member in the United States serves as a guarantor of the freedoms enumerated in the US Constitution, and why they must follow orders, but only legal orders given in the spirit of the US Constitution.

By the way, National Guard personnel have a slightly different oath in which they recognize the command authority of a given state’s governor. Look it up, it’s much the same; also, National Guard personnel are frequently summoned to active duty and they function under Title 10 exactly like regulars. Sometimes people get confused by this, but it’s really simple.

So there you have it, the reason why every US trooper is obligated by law to uphold the Constitution.

If a servicemember acts to deny his or her fellow citizen their Constitutional rights, then they have gone against the base principle that they committed themselves to on their first day of service.

The US oath of enlistment.

It is specifically designed to ensure and lawfully oblige each member of the armed services to protect the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens; with their lives if necessary.

No matter who is in charge.

Space post


It’s been a while since I wrote some stuff down re: space developments on these pages, so today we’ll talk over some of the latest.

First and foremost is what Space X has pulled off, again. Elon Musk and co make the miraculous seem mundane; witness how we’ve gotten used to how Space X recovers rockets. Real holy crap stuff; if you watch the Youtube videos you’d think it was fake. It’s not.

Last night Space X punched yet another Starlink mission up into low Earth orbit, the adds more mini-satellites to the proposed internet constellation. One of these days I’m going to be an internet customer of his; rural US internet is pretty bad.

And this doesn’t even touch on the Demo 2 mission less than a week ago. Once again the US is lofting astronauts heavenward; it’s about darn time. This time around its even better because a private company is doing the deed.

Why is this better? Because one of NASA’s perennial handicaps is funding shifts with political changes in focus. Space programs are by definition long-term projects. How is it possible to maintain continuity when every two or four years funding changes? Short answer? It’s not.

This is where Space X reigns supreme. One person, Mr. Musk, determines what gets funded. The goal remains the same, it’s not a moving target.

Over the past decade, Mr. Musk has demonstrated that he is serious about space exploration. Look around. If it wasn’t for his vision and drive we’d be stuck with the cash-cow military industrial complex and half-hearted efforts from other billionaires.

Let’s face it, we are not going to space with “737 MAX” Boeing.

Barring any horrible unforeseen events, we will get to space with Mr. Musk.

He is working hard on the development of his next-gen rocket,the Starship. Even though he keeps blowing the darn thing up.

In other news, scientists are refining exoplanet discoveries, including one around Proxima B, out neighboring star. I remember a time when planets around distant stars were theory, not fact. These days there seems to be a discovery per week; the darn things are everywhere. This is excellent; when the day comes that we gain interstellar capability there will be no shortage of star systems to explore.

Of course, there is a lot that needs to happen before we become a multi-planetary civilization, let alone an interstellar one.

But as I judge things from my rural retreat, I see the potential. Even though it’s tough to look past the 1968ish turmoil down here. Real tough.

We have a lot of work to do, both here in the dirt and up in the heavens.

I remain optimistic.