Who says I can't have a little fun . . .

. . . at my own expense?

This is from the rejected trailer series for our latest Rogue Warrior; as you can tell if you watch the promo patch at the end, it was done before the book came out in the fall.

It never made it to full production; I guess you can see why.

Happy April Fool's - it takes one to know one . . .
IBM - always on the cutting edge . . .

They do this so well, they want to patent it:

IBM drops patent application for out-sourcing

The same day the Times Herald-Record reported IBM had applied to patent a computerized system to help businesses outsource offshore jobs while maximizing government tax breaks, Big Blue did an about-face.

The application "was filed in error and will be withdrawn," IBM spokesman Steve Malkiewicz said Monday.

IBM's filing with the U.S. patent office describes a "method and system for strategic global resource sourcing," weighing such goals as "50 percent of resources in China by 2010" against such factors as labor costs, infrastructure and the "minimum head count to qualify for incentives."

Full story here. Note that they dropped the patent application - not plans to outsource or help others do it.

IBM was once one of the best companies in the U.S. to work for. Now it's the leader in figuring out how to screw Americans, whether they're employees or simply taxpayers.
Speaking of Deep Black

Why not a shameless plug?

Unfortunately, book one is difficult to find - unless you order the hardcover, which is actually a UK edition, though you can get it in the states.

You can order Jihad, which is one of my favorites, here.

Actually, they're all my favorite.
Deep Black in the news . . .


Vast Spy System Loots Computers in 103 Countries
TORONTO — A vast electronic spying operation has infiltrated computers and has stolen documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, Canadian researchers have concluded.

The story goes on to describe the high degree of control the educated virus has over the computers it infects. The Times story is here.

The operation is undoubted Chinese, though there are others around.

If you're looking for a partial description of how it works, check out the first Deep Black book I wrote.

After developing the series, it was always somewhat amusing to get notes from readers who thought the technology was pure fantasy.
Planning for success

Overheard at the other end of the bar:

Writer One: We're having a big meeting on publicity and the launch for my new book next week.

Writer Two: Why bother? Publishers really have only two plans: A) Throw the book out there and hope it sells, B) Wonder why the hell they bought this book in the first place.

Writer One (taking a long hit from her drink): Maybe I'll get a good lunch out of it.
Lessons in caffeine

Memo to self:

Drank two pots of coffee yesterday. Couldn't sleep.

Try three today.
Everything is new again . . .

What is this song thirty years old?

The auto plant in Mawah is now an empty office building . . .
Past perfect

Used to help explain when something happened, or to put it succinctly: to distinguish one past from another . . .

Unless you're the copy editor from hell, apparently. Then everything happened at the same time.

F@#$#ing hell . . .
If the banking thing doesn't work out . .

There's always singing for your supper . . .
The bonuses are just a symbol

For all the so-called analysis replacing reporting on facts these days, there have been few if any stories that actually point out why the matter of bonuses for AIG, et al, are such a hot issue.

People are reacting to the vast difference in wealth the bonuses represent, and inequity in society and power. Much of that inequity was glossed over or unacknowledged during flush times, when it could be said - if not quite proven - that the vast amounts of money "awarded" to a small fraction of the population was due primarily to success in the marketplace, etc. But the recession - and dwindling balance sheets - has exploded that myth, showing pretty decisively that in most cases there's a rather large disconnect between reward and risk, reward and achievement, etc.

The anger shouldn't be particularly surprising. Anyone who follows baseball knows that the disgust at players' outsize salaries is pretty much a given. Ironically, at least in their case the connections between pay and achievement are pretty transparent - you can look up the batting average or see the home runs.

The question is, what happens to this anger? A really smart politician can channel into something extremely destructive: see Europe during the 1920s and 1930s.

I'm not smart enough to know what the solution is. Retroactively selective tax laws are a bad idea on too many levels to even consider. And socialistic wage ceilings are worse. Part of the answer is surely a moral attitude that acknowledges that greed is bad . . . but how that translates into the real world where us sinners live is an open question.
Copy edit hell

I got a manuscript back today that has been mauled - there's no other way to put it - by a copy editor from hell.

It's not the changes for no reason that piss me off - it's the words changed for no reason that change the sense and/or introduce errors that kill me. And so far, we're averaging three of those changes for every ten pages.

The question is - will I resort to physical violence before I finish reading the edit, or after?
You can't do this with CD covers

. . . or with CoverFlow on the iPod
They get, all right . . .

Sometime during the next week, Goldman Sachs is going to make headlines by paying back the federal money it was loaned to help it through the financial meltdown. It'll be a supposedly feel good moment, with a lot of emphasis on the firm's financial health and how the taxpayers picked up a quick five percent interest on the dough.

There's a lot more to the story, though. Most importantly, the people who run Goldman don't want to function under the scrutiny of the public, and don't want to have to limit their pay to something less than obscene. (Thirty million for the boss seems pretty obscene to me.)

The attitude on all Street - and beyond - remains: we'll take whatever we can, until things sour, then you can rescue us. But if you want to impose rules that will keep us from screwing you in the future, you're shit out of luck.

They get it - and so do we. Unfortunately, what we get is the shaft.
Oh, those French

From the news:

French protest by reading Nicolas Sarkozy's least favourite book

On the eve of national strikes, the French have found a new way to show their dislike of Nicolas Sarkozy: by reading a 17th century tale of thwarted love that the president has said he hates.

If he doesn't shape up, they'll start drinking his least favorite wine . . .
I want one . . .

Another crock of crap

The IRS yesterday announced new "rules" which will allow victims of Ponzi schemes to immediately deduct nearly all of their losses this year.

They didn't say it was for Madoff victims, though that's pretty clear.

So basically, if you had tons of money but were exceptionally stupid/greedy/and foolish . . . you get a tax break. But if you only lost half your kid's college fund or retirement because the index fund in your 519 or 401k went down, you're shit out luck and have to play by the rules.


Oh wait, the people who were screwed by Madoff weren't just stupid/greedy/and foolish -- they were also a hell of a lot richer than the middle class people who are depending on 401ks and the like to fund their retirement.

And forget about working stiffs who are lucky if their retirement plans include a few lottery tickets.

I'm not saying that victims of Madoff - and every other ripoff - don't deserve sympathy. And yes, I realize that the tax breaks will in no way compensate for the real loss of the money.

What I am saying is that changing the rules for them is just one more sign of the vast inequality that is the real heart of what's killing this country.

Two questions:

1) What right does the IRS - as opposed to congress - have to change the regulations?

2) Where's the "change"?
Of Starfighters and fiction

One of the difficulties for a fiction writer, especially in a thriller genre, is the constant need to come up with situations that are plausible if not entirely true to life.

Like getting Starfighters to Moscow ten years after the last one has flown.

The trick is not so much being able to bend reality or even being able to fig leaf a solution; the problem is more one of generating an emotion in the reader that allows you to get away with stretching the story. Because after all, a reader who wants to see a Starfighter in Moscow won't particularly care how you accomplished it.

This is a tricky thing to try to explain, even to editors, especially ones who either don't read the genre at all - and thus don't know the readers - or are deaf to emotional tones. (And yes, there are editors like that. In fact, you tend to run into the problem more with editors than readers, since the latter often self-select out and know what to expect. They also tend to be more forgiving.)

We're all deaf to some things, and we all draw the line on believability in different places, depending on what we know, what we think we know - and most importantly, how we feel.

How much a fig leaf do those Starfighters need? Probably depends on whether you've seen one rush by you in the night . . .
Today's problem

Get four of these to Moscow.
On newspapers . . .

I can't say it better than Dvorak . . .


And they won't be published on paper, either, but that's another story . . .
Knowing where you stand . . .

Friend (?): What do you think it means that all my friends are on anti-depressants?

Me: I'm not.

Friend (?): What's your point?
The middle doesn't hold

I've avoided writing about the fiasco with my Yankee seats, since there's really no way to do it without sounding either spoiled or cranky, or both. My partners and I had great seats, now we don't.

We'll suck it up.

One thing about the process really bothers me, however. In attempting to maximize the $$ and heighten the experience for the rich, the new stadium segregates the well-heeled-and-hosed from the merely-raped rabble. What's galling is not so much the fact that seats which cost about sixty bucks last season - an outrageous price in itself -- are now going for $350 (and up). It's the advertising of the separate entrances and all the other crap that go with those special opportunities to be hosed.

I suppose I should just be my usual cynical self about it all, though it's a little harder to laugh at the fools paying that money when I suspect that they or their corporations got taxpayer handouts (which means I'm really paying the money, and they should be laughing). But the segregation is just one more reminder of what's happened not to Yankee Stadium, or even just New York, but the country in general. Money flexes its muscles as never before.

Ironic that we're in the middle of a depression?

Presented as a public service . . .

Personally, I just slam the neck against something hard and break off the top of the bottle. But some people don't like glass shards and blood in their beer.
Guilotine the m-f-ers

A.I.G. to Pay $100 Million in Bonuses After Huge Bailout

WASHINGTON — Despite being bailed out with more than $170 billion from the Treasury and Federal Reserve, the American International Group is preparing to pay about $100 million in bonuses to executives in the same business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year.

Supposedly, the administration tried to get them to reduce the bonuses but was persuaded that AIG was contractually obligated.

That's crap shit.

Time for Obama to man up. These people did damage to the world financial system that terrorists can't even dream of.

Try them for treason. Then cut their heads off.
China's navy

Why are we interested in China's submarine fleet?

The ballistic-missile carrying Jin Class - Type 094 - is one reason.

The Han Class (091) and its replacements are another.

True, most analysts still consider China mainly a regional naval power - but it's an awful big (and important) region, no?
No man is an island . . .

But is he a country?

DUI defendant claims that he's his own country

EASTON, Pa. (AP) -- A man accused of driving drunk said Pennsylvania courts have no jurisdiction over him because he's his own country. After seeing the paperwork that 44-year-old Scott Allan Witmer filed with the court claiming sovereignty, a Northampton County judge said Tuesday he cannot be released from jail until he gets a mental exam.

Witmer, who represented himself, said he believes police lack jurisdiction to pull him over. As he said in court: "I live inside myself, not in Pennsylvania." He said there is no victim in the crime and asked to go to trial.

Defense attorney James Connell, Witmer's standby counsel, said a challenge to the traffic stop would need to be filed as a pretrial motion.

If this defense works, there will be a boom in international lawyers . . .

We're drinking the African coffee today, boys . . . stand back.
Rocket science dreams

I spent part of the day talking to a rocket scientist for some background on a book I'm writing. Actually, I mostly listened while he talked . . .

I won't bore anyone with the technical stuff - I'll save that for the book - but one of the things that struck me was how relatively inexpensive space travel could become if some of his (and others') ideas are followed up on . . . for far less than we're spending on bailing out the car industry, we can get a dependable family of boosters on line, making possible things like an orbiting solar energy generator that would radically change the energy equation for years to come.

Among his many points was the difficulty of getting taxpayers to fund the programs. Basically, he believes it's doable if we capture people's imaginations with a dream - like a program to land men (and women) on Mars.

Doable within a decade?

Even before.

Maybe dreaming is the real solution to our current economic problems, and a lot else . . .
What the Chinese are up to

So why does the U.S. Navy have not one but (at least) two spy ships near Hainan Island?

Because it's a major port for Chinese submarines . . . which begs the question of what the Chinese are trying to hide.

Hint: they're said to have been working on expanding the base area recently.
Le shelf-thing

Dogboy called the other night and got me on the cellphone in the car.

"How good's your French?" he asked.


"Better than mine?"


"Can you come over? We're putting together this wooden shelf thing we got from Pottery Barn and the only instructions they sent are in French."

"Since when do you follow directions?" I asked, but he'd already hung up.

Curious to see Pottery Barn's Double-wide Collection up close, I headed up. When I got there, Dogboy was outside in front of the barbecue pit, roasting homemade Italian venison sausages.

Said barbecue pit consisting of a fifty-gallon drum, rusted to a fine sheen. Nice fire, though.

I had a couple sausages, then asked about the wooden shelf-thing.

"Ah, that's not a problem now," he told me.

"You got it up yourself?"

He glanced down at the fire. "It's all taken care of," he said.
And you wonder why medical costs are rising?

MADRID, Spain (March 6) -- Spanish police arrested a man arriving at Barcelona's airport from Chile after determining that the cast on his fractured left leg was made of cocaine, the Interior Ministry said in a statement Friday.
Talk about air rage . . .

So the AP has a story that Ryanair* is considering putting pay toilets in its 737s.


* Ryanair flies short-haul routes all throughout Europe. If you haven't flown it yet, you will . . . assuming you're in Europe.

Very old-school . . .
What we're drinking now

Smutty-Nose Robust Porter.

But really, would you want a 'non-robust' porter?
Man sports

Monday night's watch-wrestling night at Dogboy's so I went over to catch Raw. Five minutes before the show starts, someone mentions MMA (mixed martial arts), and there's a big debate about the various nuances - a difficult word to say after several beers. Then Old Mike (as opposed to Mike 2 and Biker Mike, whose name isn't Mike but is called Mike . . .) starts in on Ali-Frazier, because boxing is the only real man sport, except they don't box like that any more.

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Tommy asked.

Everybody stared at him. He did the next beer run for penance.
Happy birthday

With kisses . . .
Speaking of Rod Serling . . .

Most people realize that besides being the host of Twilight Zone, he was a gifted screenwriter. What they don't know is that he was also a decorated war hero who served in Pacific during World War II. He was a paratrooper and what they called a combat demolition specialist - the guy on the team who blows things up.

I sure wish my dream was a recurring one . . .
Iran and its nuke

Yesterday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said that Iran has enough fissile material to build a nuclear weapon. A few hours later, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that Iran isn't close to having a nuke.

So who's right?

Technically, both - but you have to suspect that Gates' timeline is very short. Just having the material doesn't mean you can use it for a bomb. But as far as we know, no country that has enough bomb material has stopped itself from going to the next step. There are certainly a host of technical difficulties involved in transforming the material into a bomb. But all of those difficulties have been overcome before.

One of the reasons that Gates says there's still time to stop the program is the fact that, if you're Iran, you're not going to test a weapon as soon as you have enough material for one bomb. You're going to make sure you have two or three - or five or six - just in case the rest of the world decides it doesn't like the results of your test.

Maybe my imagination just isn't very powerful, but I have a hard time seeing why Iran would abandon the program now.
Dreaming of Rod Serling

So I have this dream where Rod Serling stands at the foot of my bed and says, "It's not my fault your story didn't end right."

And it's so spooky I bolt upright in bed. I see Rod Serling standing there.

"It's not my fault your story sucked," he says.

Then I wake up, really wake up. And I'm relieved to see that he's not there.

But someone is walking down the hall toward the bedroom.

It's Rod Serling. He has a six-pack with him. It's a side of Rod Serling I never knew. He gives me a beer, then sits down at the edge of the bed and tells me how the story should end. It's brilliant. I thank him.

Then I wake up, and spend the rest of the day trying to remember what he told me.
These things happen . . .


EAST FISHKILL — Covered in red paint and carrying the head and leg of a dead deer, a man roamed an interstate median Thursday, state police said.
A state trooper spotted 19-year-old Jesse Carlson of Hopewell Junction about 11:25 a.m. Thursday on a stretch of Interstate 84 in the Town of East Fishkill.
Police said Carlson couldn’t give a reasonable explanation for walking on the highway, being covered in the red paint or having the deer parts.
It’s against the law to walk on a controlled-access highway, so police arrested Carlson for that and added charges of disorderly conduct and possession of graffiti instruments.
He was issued an appearance ticket for a March 12 date in town court.

Note that it's not against the law to carry deer parts, or to be painted red . . . I was worried about that when I saw the headline.