Country Fried Steak

country fried steak

Hello, everyone. Today’s subject is Veteran’s Day here in the ‘States. I’m not going to go into detail about the day, its traditions, or everything that went on or events that were planned.

Suffice to say that I was asked to attend an event at my alma mater, and I did. It was nice, appropriate. Also, received a few thoughtful texts from friends and family. Those people know better than anyone what has been done overseas in their name.

This 11th of November was a little different in that my own daughter is now in the process of becoming a veteran herself, and I was talked into attending a complimentary lunch given by Texas Roadhouse. For those of you unfamiliar with the restaurant chain, they serve American Western style food for reasonable prices. A nice establishment to eat at.

A lot of places have give-aways or freebies on Veteran’s Day for those who hold a valid VA or military ID. Usually I don’t go around hunting for this stuff, but hey, Texas Roadhouse. Really hard to refuse. I haven’t been there since I went on a diet, and for good reason.

What I had today was a diet-smashing caloric bomb. But wow, was it good. The waitress even refused a tip; this was crazy as she was really hustling. When she disappeared, I left a ten-spot on the table and left before she could protest. Veteran’s Day or not, she deserved it.

The restaurant didn’t give some token meal or a free coffee. No, as you can see from the picture, it was sizable. My mouth sagged open a little when they brought out the breaded steak, my word, it covered the plate. It would have been easy, and still very much appreciated, had Texas Roadhouse given out a small complimentary lunch.

As you can see from the photo above, the lunch was not small. Also, there were fifteen choices of entrees, all of them gratis to the admittedly older crowd.

Well, Texas Roadhouse, here’s one veteran who appreciated your gesture.

Country fried steak, sweet potato and cheesy fries.

My thoughts? What the hell did I ever do to deserve this? I am fortunate. Thanks again, everyone, for your support. Friends and family, comrades, VA workers.

All veterans have yearned for some version of “home.”

Well, you all make home a “home.”

Bless you.



Straight Edge

straight razor1

A definition, from Google:

adjective: straight edge
  1. (especially among fans of hardcore punk music) having an ascetic or abstinent lifestyle.
    “he’s so straightedge that he won’t even take Tylenol when he has a headache”

Alright, readers. Where the Sam Hill am I going with this today? Pretty easy, I guess. This will be one of my random writer’s journey bits, and you all know that those can be a bit crooked, distorted.

So right now I’m in a straight edge phase, going with the punk rocker’s definition above. It’s a phrase I heard from that crowd when I was about twelve, and it’s stuck with me. The definition, not the practice, unfortunately.

I’m walking the walk. Literally. Every day a minimum of 4-5 klicks, zero alcohol, sharply reduced comfort foods, quit any nicotine use.

My only remaining crutch is coffee. That’s it.



Well, I was edging toward the obese, with all of its accompanying health issues. And I really didn’t want to buy new pants. Again. Solved that joke, weighed in this morning at about a hundred kilos. Good. I feel better, the docs at the VA will be pleased.

Also, alcohol was kicking my ass. Again. For reasons I’m not going to get into in a public forum, my stress levels crept up and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have that one extra drink. And then another. The next day the same, but tack on another beer. Before I knew it things were out of hand, and the kind people at the VA pointed that out. So that came to an immediate halt.

Another annoyance was my continued vaping and nicotine use, a straight-up relic of the war. Actually, almost all of this could be pinned onto my combat experiences, but fake-smoking had the clearest link. If you scroll down through this website, you’ll find plenty of images of me lighting up overseas. I smoked two packs a day. Why would I do something so stupid, unhealthy and destructive?

Because I thought I wasn’t coming home, that’s why. So who gave a shit about a few cigarettes.

When I did come home (a minor miracle), I knew I had to stop, but the nicotine addiction was strong. Vaping, say what you will about it, allowed me to slowly reduce my nicotine dosage and weaned me off of the habit. It took eight years, but it happened.

So now I’m straight edge.

No nicotine, no alcohol, no random fast-food trips.

What does this have to do with writing, you may ask. Well, it’s all tied together. Since I started this kick in August I’ve written a few pieces for a friend, and I can actually write without nicotine.

Perhaps you laugh.

It was actually a serious concern of mine. I’ve never written without nicotine and some form of tobacco surrogate nearby, and I was concerned it would affect my performance. Well, I’m glad to say that it hasn’t been an issue so far; this is good.

As for my writing, there is a fair bit of stuff out there right now, unpublished because the stars have not yet properly aligned. An example is mentioned in “The Cruel Stars, Spoiler Thread” by John Birmingham on, it’s one project of a few. This includes the rough draft of an entire alternate-history manuscript.

So there’s some fish frying right now.

A big one is the dead-ass trout of my chemical dependencies, and all the other crap mentioned above.

Now the trick is to maintain. To stay straight-edge.

Easier said than done.



Genetic hand grenade


Long time readers will be familiar with this dog. She is Dixie, her breed is purportedly “Stumpy Tailed Australian Cattle dog,” but I have my doubts. She looks as if she has a healthy dose of mutt in there, too. Probably some Australian Shepherd as well. What a coincidence that a large portion of my reader base comes from Down Under, and I have a dog that may have some dingo lurking in there.

So I was reading the news and I came across a lovely article about a dingo that was rescued, it seems it was attacked and separated from its litter by a large bird. The unlucky/lucky puppy was carried away for lunch, and something distracted the hawk or whatever into dropping it onto a family’s lawn, where it was found.

The authors of the article seemed to believe that purebred dingoes are a rarity, and that may be the case. They certainly seem to interbreed with regular dogs without qualm; so I can imagine that finding a purebred would be pretty tough after 200 odd years of interbreeding.

Pretty cool.

Well, we have wild dogs over here, too, although they are rarely seen. The coyote. They are everywhere, and on still nights it isn’t uncommon to hear their eerie calls and yelps as they chase deer through the forests around here. They are smart and wily as hell; there’s a reason that they flourish while other species wane and disappear.

So yeah, I’m tempted from time to time to do a genetic test on Dixie, just to see what’s in there. I’ll bet her genetics look like mine; purebred, complete and total mutt.

That’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned. Purebreds seem to have no end of trouble and physical maladies, there’s something to be said for genetic diversity. As I watch her antics in the house, I’m thankful for what she is, a playful, healthy and probably happy 18kg ball of wiry energy. A specialty of hers: for no good reason she’ll jump up and run laps around the living room, springing from one piece of furniture to the next. This really cracks me up, it’s so random.

So whoever it was in the distant past who chose to chuck a genetic hand grenade into Dixie’s bloodline, thanks! You really did me a favor.

Maybe Dixie’s not any sort of proper breed, but she’s a fantastic dog.

A reminder

ferry cannon

I’ve posted this picture before. It’s a Civil War graveyard in a village by the Ohio River.

Why am I posting this today.

Well, given the heated political rhetoric being thrown around these days, I have heard a voice or two muttering about civil war, on both sides of this polarized debate.

This is folly. Do these voices think that such a conflict will leave them unscathed?

The US Civil War was our bloodiest conflict by far. An estimated 650,000 Americans died as a direct result of the conflict, a sizable part of the country was razed and ruined, and the bitterness and echoes of the war are felt to this day (see controversy re: Confederate statues, etc.).

Unlike our present wars, which less than 1% of Americans have been involved with, a second US Civil War would lay its dead hand on every soul within this country’s borders.

What, have people been lulled into believing that war is some antiseptic thing fought far away by other people?

I guess the answer is yes; this makes me want to vomit.

Read history, folks. At the first battle of Bull Run, spectators lined up in their finery to view the fighting as if it was some sporting event. This went out of fashion in short order. Why? It really sucks to catch a .58 Minie ball to the face.

Some statistics.

Over fifty thousand casualties at Gettysburg. Twenty-three thousand at Antietam. Eighteen thousand at Cold Harbor. The dreary list stretches on, and no-one really knows for sure how many died. Kind of like Soviet battle statistics, they are loose estimates to the nearest ten-thousand.

This war wouldn’t be carried out by professionals in some far away village. No, it would be fought with a massive conscript force composed of the children of the people who speak with such bland, colorless language of war; it will be fought with the kids and loved ones of those who secretly wish for such a horrid outcome.

It would be fought in their front damn yards, and the kids will die in droves.

Having seen war, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. And I sure as hell don’t want it anywhere near me.

My Grandma used to say “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it at all.”

Wise words from a wise lady.

The motto of the US Army; “This we’ll defend.”

Ask yourself what “This” consists of for you. Then ask yourself if you’d really like to see a Second Civil War. Because then you’d have to step up and defend “this.”

And you might not be able to.

Your children- dead. Your house- burned down. Your family- scattered, bitterly and implacably divided.

You do not want this.





Something to look forward to!

legacy of ghosts cover

BLUF- Ms. Wanstall-Burke is an amazing author; her world-building is second to none. On November 30th, her second book in her debut series launches. There is no doubt that I will buy a copy and devour it.

OK, now that that’s been said, lemme talk a  bit about how excited I am that Alicia is putting some new stuff out there, which is better than I can manage at the moment. About a year ago I reviewed her first book, Blood of Heirs, and as far as I am concerned, she blew the standard for first books out of the water.

Non-stop good stuff, great characters and tension throughout. If she manages the same with Legacy of Ghosts, this will be a great read and an excellent bridge novel for her series.

Let me say again that I’m not much of a fantasy reader, but it doesn’t matter- it’s not the genre, it’s the storyteller. And Alicia can spin a yarn.

Hell yes I will be one of the first in the US who pulls a trigger on this book upon release. I will read it like a tornado through a tinseltown, have a bit of a think, and then a review will go up here and on the Beast.

Alicia Wanstall-Burke is an author that’s worth a read, all.

If you haven’t read no.1 in her series, do so.

No regrets, and a review before St. Nicolaas.


To Hell and Back

afghan boots

The boots pictured above are a pair of Danner Crater Rims, an insanely expensive set of boots that I received gratis via a sightseeing tour in the Hindu Kush. There’s a lot of miles on those clodhoppers.

Why am I talking about boots today.

Well, I guess first off, it’s my site and I can.

Second, everyone needs a good pair of boots. Period.

Finally, boots are really on my mind. It’s a borderline obsession right now.


OK, many of you readers may know my daughter just graduated from US Army Basic Training. Well, an important element of Basic is moving just about everywhere on foot. So boots take on an outsize importance while going through the Army training process; usually the free boots you get from Uncle Sam aren’t the best. OK, let’s be honest. They are low-bidder, “meets standard” crap.

I had the opportunity to look at my daughter’s feet at her graduation, they were torn up pretty bad. It was time to get new, high quality boots, and then expedite shipping them to my daughter at the site of her technical training. She’s going through 68W, combat medic, school. There WILL be ruck-marching, this is where the Army trains the people who provide immediate battlefield care. Good boots ASAP are a must.

It didn’t take long for me to ship good boots in her direction. I fired off a set of Danner Tanicus boots to her, these should serve her well. And I really trust Danners, I have never had a bad experience with them. But they are spendy, I admit.

In this process of shopping for boots for my oldest, I came across a lot of different options that didn’t exist or were different while I was in. And I came across some excellent deals that I decided to share with all of my readers.

Because you should all have good boots. All of you.

And right now, readers, you are in luck because the USAF is switching from their horrible ABU uniform to the sensible Army OCP, or Multicam, uniform. Why is this relevant to all of you for buying boots?

Easy. The old AF uniform boots are in a weird shade of green that is completely incompatible with any other US Military uniform, so 160 dollar boots are being sold for 60 bucks, a full 100 USD off. This is a deal; world class boots by some kickass manufacturers, including my fave, Danner, are being sold brand new for pennies on the dollar.

With deals like this, who cares about the weird green/gray color? Of course, the USAF close-outs don’t help my daughter (who must buy the Army approved shade of Coyote Brown), but they do help the civilian who is looking for a deal on awesome boots.

OK, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Quality boots are a must if you are going to walk any distance at all, whether it be for recreation, exercise and conditioning, or infiltration/exfil. If you buy junk, you’ll regret it. The links I’ve put up here all lead to good footwear. And for sixty USD… a lousy pair at War-Mart costs at least forty.

Do yourself a favor and spend the extra twenty bucks.

You won’t regret it. Promise.



Light Speed… almost.


…Which is one hell of an improvement over where we are right now, in terms of interstellar travel. Sure, I can write books where FTL drives are in common use, and waves of colonists populate a distant human diaspora, but as of now, the laws of physics still apply and my fiction is still fiction.

But it IS possible, given our current technology, to travel at speeds nearing the speed of light. However, no-one has yet come up with a near light-speed drive that could actually be used.

So it was with great interest that I spotted a news article on Fox News, of all places, about a NASA scientist who has theoretically created a near light-speed drive that uses no fuel. Wow. Here’s another link to check out, it goes to a NASA page and there’s an illustrated PDF to look up as well. Seriously cool.

Here is the paper’s abstract, by David Burns, which sums up how this works. It’s much more elegant than any description I could come up with.

“A new concept for in-space propulsion is proposed in which propellant is not ejected from the engine, but instead is captured to create a nearly infinite specific impulse. The engine accelerates ions confined in a loop to moderate relativistic speeds, and then varies their velocity to make slight changes to their mass. The engine then moves ions back and forth along the direction of travel to produce thrust. This in-space engine could be used for long-term satellite station-keeping without refueling. It could also propel spacecraft across interstellar distances, reaching close to the speed of light. The engine has no moving parts other than ions traveling in a vacuum line, trapped inside electric and magnetic fields.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This is a seriously exciting time to observe human exploration in space. If this concept pans out, it realistically opens up interstellar travel for human exploration.

Yeah, you’d have to figure out putting people in hibernation, or sending robot probes, but  systems such as Trappist-1 could be reached within a person’s lifespan.

Right now, we can’t do it.

But maybe soon, we can.

Sharing the burden

Merton Richard Johnson

As long-time readers may know, this is an image of my dead uncle, who was killed in action in Korea in August of 1952.

Why am I posting a picture of him today.

Some things have me a bit riled up, one of which is the sell-out of the Kurds in Northern Syria. Another is a long-held grudge of mine, stirred up by an article I read today. This plays a bit into my uncle’s tale. It also plays into the tale of many in my family; we have followed the colors disproportionately.

Why? An important part of it is pride and tradition.

Another part is poverty. It can’t be denied that in the US military service is a way out for kids that don’t have a lot of funds.

Which comes to my grudge. Why does such a tiny percentage of the population have to go and fight in a mostly oblivious country’s name?

The article was pretty darn good. I don’t agree with all of it, but I do agree in principle. BLUF: A limited, no exemptions draft would probably end our twilight wars and campaigns. Go ahead, give it a read.

My two cents; a limited program of conscription could be just what we need, given the right preconditions.

  1. No stupid exemptions that let wealthy kids skate.
  2. I agree with the author; all conscripts must be combat arms.
  3. An equal opportunity draft; all comers taken.
  4. Medical disqualifications only approved by military docs.

I don’t agree with the author that the proposed draft be elite-only; this has a whiff of score-settling. I think that such a limited conscription should be utterly random, a real bolt out of the blue. And when someone gets the dreaded certified letter in the mail, it is final, barring overwhelming physical or mental disqualifications.

Actually, this subject came up a fair bit while we were overseas on tour no.X. I’ve heard a number of variations on the theme. The conversations would always revolve around how person X was chilling out at college or something while we were in the desert. Sucking sand while most people had no clue what we were doing; or worse, had no idea that Americans were even present in some of those garden spots.

Wars are simply too common. This has to stop. A good first step would be for people to share the load, as opposed to the same groups getting dipped in shit time and time again.

No one wants peace like a soldier. We spread out the load, and more people will share that thought. Everyone talks about equality? Fine. You may have it. If someone presses an M-4 in your hands, don’t bitch.

It’s the price of being a citizen.

If this happened to tens of thousands of kids each year, there would be political consequences. Big consequences. For example, imagine Baron Trump being assigned as a Private to 5th Marines. Or maybe one of Elizabeth Warren’s granddaughters gets jammed into an Abrams with The Big Red One.

(Chuckles). I’ll bet right now, reader, you are thinking “that wouldn’t happen.”

See? That’s the problem.

Because it won’t.





A headline, a disaster

body bag

The image above is something a lot of people have probably never seen before.

It’s a body bag, shiny and black.

Headline today, October 9th, 2019, in the Wall Street Journal.

“Turkey Begins Offensive Against U.S. Ally in Syria”

Think about that.

People who have done the lion’s share of fighting against the bad guys recently just got sold down the river to those who would like to destroy them.

By us.

I wish I was making this up.

Nope, those are the headlines.




My activities


Alright, a quick post today to give you all a feel for what I’ve been up to. Nothing Earth shattering or crazy, just some steady work helping out a friend. Basically I’ve been doing piecework- coming up with many wildly varying scenarios all within an overriding theme.

It’s been fun because I’ve been revisiting a lot of places I’ve been over the years, setting stories within those locales and inventing both male and female characters, situations. So far I’ve done half-dozen odd of them, it’s been a kick.

I try to limit the stories to a given word count, to distill the message within.

In my novels my chapter lengths usually fell around two to three thousand words. For short stories or vignettes this is too long- you need something short but sweet to grab the readers attention, to string them through the ride.

The desired effect is the elusive “can’t be put down” feature of a good read.

Whether that’s true about this patchwork of stories, I don’t know. If they see the light of day remains to be seen. If so, I’ll be sure to put it out to you all in the form of a link or whatever.

So far though, I’ve been fairly satisfied with what’s been saved to my laptop.

Heading into winter, this means progress.