Advice . . .

From a reader . . .

I've just come across the new Dreamland book - good placement in two different stores - I was very glad to catch up w/the Stockards, but had the plot figured wrong--I thought Teri would take out Stoner with a shot right between the eyes. Maybe next time.....?
Medical math

In my left hand is a bill from the doctor. In my left hand is a copy of the insurance company's processing of a claim for the same service.

The doctor's bill claims they sent the insurance company a bill for $140.

The insurance company, which provides an itemized list of the billed services, says they were billed $73.

The insurance company says they paid $25, because a) the doctor charged $20 for something not covered and b) overcharged for the rest.

The doctor claims he got $47.79. (Not counting the $50 copay for the visit.)

The doctor says I owe $10.46. Why exactly isn't clear, since his math isn't even in the ballpark. ($140 minus $47.79? Or even $73 minus $47.79?)

The insurance company doesn't say I owe anything, but if the $20 charge isn't covered, obviously that would be the likely amount.

So what do I do?

Write a check for $10.46 and go have a beer.

Some people are paying attention. (Check out #4.)

(But is it true more people know the game?)
Rangers at Dieppe

A couple of people have asked about the photo where the Ranger was misidentified as a Canadian. This is it. Ranger Henry is in the middle distance.

For a full explanation and a better picture, you can check out Rangers at Dieppe, available on line at B&N, among others, here. (I got the hint that this might be an American from a Canadian; the full story is in the book.)
Larry's new game

Persian Incursion is a simulation war game that presents a timely what-if: What if Israel tried to take out Iran's nukes? Could it?

The answer: it depends. (But it's definitely doable.)

You can order the game here, among other places.
There is no border there


NATO today denied a report saying that top U.S. military commanders are considering launching elite ground raids into Pakistan to try to capture or kill militants along the border with Afghanistan, and speed up security gains before American troops start pulling out in July 2011.

There have been numerous stories and accounts in all sorts of places explaining a) why this is necessary and b) the fact that, contrary to news accounts . . . well, never mind.

If you're going to deal with the "militants," you have to hit them where they live. Giving them safe haven anywhere, let alone in a place where they've been steadily intermarrying and otherwise integrating into the social fabric, makes exactly zero sense.

Pretending otherwise is ridiculous.

And I'm waiting for someone to show me the thick bright line on the ground between the two countries.
Thanks Texas

Marc, Ben, Jim, and y'all - we appreciate your hospitality.
Bad news for Iran


A test of the United States' only long-range missile defense system failed Wednesday -- the second failure this year in two tries.

The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency said both the intermediate-range ballistic missile target and the long-range interceptor missile launched successfully, radar and sensors worked properly and the "kill vehicle" deployed. But the "kill vehicle" didn't hit the target.

"Program officials will conduct an extensive investigation to determine the cause of the failure to intercept the target," the agency said. "The next flight test will be determined after identification of the cause of the failure."

The less chance of intercepting their missiles, the more chance of an attack.

(CNN story here. Eventually, this WILL work. It's just a question of when "eventually" is . . .)

More on a Dieppe Ranger

I was recently very lucky to be contacted by some of the surviving members of Howard Henry's family.

Readers of Rangers at Dieppe may remember that Henry died on the beach during the attack; I was able to determine that he's the American misidentified as a Canadian in one of the most famous photos of the battle and its aftermath.

The family was kind enough to provide me with some additional information, and help me correct one thing that's wrong in the book. Contrary to what I had thought from my research, Henry was not shipped back to the U.S. after the war, but rather is buried in Normandy.

(If you haven't read the book: Attached as an observer to a Canadian unit, he went out on one of the bloodiest beaches. There's no real indication of when or exactly how he died, but even getting out of the landing craft at that point would have taken an immense amount of courage.)

Interestingly, Herman had been in the cavalry before going to Europe and joining the Rangers. I haven't looked through all the records, but that may make him one of the few original Rangers with that background.

He was T-4 at the time of his death; that would be roughly the equivalent of a sergeant today. You generally got that rank because of a service specialty, but at this point I'm not sure what Henry's was. It wasn't listed in the original records.

I'll post more updates as I get them. (You can go my Rangers at Dieppe website here; I haven't updated it with the new information yet.)
The trouble with tracking . . .

. . . is that you see that the material that absolutely had to be there by Monday 9 a.m. sharp won't be picked up until Wednesday because everyone's taking an extra long weekend.
Taxes and Cliff Lee

In the frenzy over whether Cliff Lee will choose the Yankees or the Rangers, a number of sports reporters have generated stories on how Texas has a huge advantage over NY because of the state and city tax rates.

Hopefully the reporters get someone else to do their taxes.

First of all, in Lee's bracket, the tax professionals do a heck of a lot more than pump in a couple W2s on the return and efile the sucker. Tax planning is an art as well as a science. But just to show how silly the whole process is, let's say for the sake of argument that by playing in New York, Lee will subject himself to state and city taxes at the highest rates - 8.6 percent and 3.65.

That's 12.2 percent. Of course, that's the highest rate, not the actual effective rate, but why quibble?

At $23 million a year - I'm arbitrarily choosing the $140/6 year offer - that would work out to $2.8 mil a year in taxes. Decent money, even for a millionaire. (It's also where most of the first wave of stories stop.)

Except that Lee almost certainly wouldn't live in NYC, so he'd only be taxed on the games that he played here (the rest are taxed by the other cities, just as they would be if he were a Ranger). So slice that bill in half = $1.4 million.

Thing is, he also gets some credit on his federal tax return for paying local taxes, the same as you do. Even a simple return starts to get complicated from this point, but even with generous rounding in the government's favor the bill is down to $1 million per year. That's not even half the amount of extra money he'd pick up in endorsements in NYC over Texas. Even if he didn't want to do those endorsements, do you really feel the Yankees would lose Lee over a million dollars a year?

The truth is, Lee's choice ISN'T going to be about money, let alone taxes. He's getting a boatload no matter what. If he chooses Texas over the Yankees, it's not going to be because the state doesn't have income tax - it's because he wants to play there. And vice versa.

Whichever team he doesn't choose will just have to live with that.
Bea Arthur was a Marine . . .

... and would have made a good drill sergeant as that.

Story here.
A national disgrace


The Senate fell three votes short of mustering enough support to pass a
bill offering health care benefits and compensation to the ill Ground Zero
workers who cleaned up the mess after the 9/11 attacks.

The congressmen opposing this ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Congratulations to the SpaceX Falcon* team on their successful launch.

* One of the models for Helios. Sorta. Kinda. In a way.
Big Brother ponders the future . . .


Computerworld - The retaliatory attacks by pro-WikiLeaks activists are growing in strength as hackers add botnets and thousands of people download an open-source attack tool, security researchers said today.

What lesson do you figure Iran, China, et al, are drawing from this?

And which Western country do you think will be the first to "license" internet channels?

(Full story here.)
A wakeup call


Top Test Scores From Shanghai Stun Educators

The fact that they're stunned is the real news. Maybe in another twenty years they'll actually start addressing the situation with something more than misguided pablum and time-wasting bs.

From the body of the story:

“I know skeptics will want to argue with the results, but we consider them to be accurate and reliable, and we have to see them as a challenge to get better,” he added. “The United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects. We can quibble, or we can face the brutal truth that we’re being out-educated.”

He is Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education. The fact that he actually realizes there's a problem is something, I guess.

Full story is here. Check the graphic out and see how we rank behind places like Poland, Hungary . . .
Christmas spirit . . .

We were up at West Point Sunday, in time to stop in at the West Point Band's holiday concert.

It was a great show. I even got to sing . . . fortunately with a thousand or so other people drowning me out.

'Twas the Night Before Hanukkah* brought the house down - gotta be a first for a Christmas concert.

Who says the Army's not fun?

* By Kenny Ellis, who appeared with the band and the NY Philharmonic Principal Brass Quintet, along with Mst. Sergeant Mary Kay Messenger and Stf. Sgt. Alexis Cole. He did some songs from his CD, Hanukkah Swings. Check his website out here.
Printer problems*

Printer problem in Iraq - Watch more Funny Videos

This is how I'm feeling today . . .

* A classic. HP, HP. . .
Hope for us alll . . .

Star Spangled Banner to Be Sold at Auction -
Missing T makes Star Spangled Banner worth $300,000

. . . One unique feature of the first edition is that it contains a noticeable misspelling. "Carr was in such a hurry to rush this into print that he worked carelessly and misspelled the word patriotic," says Coover, pointing out that Carr listed it as pariotic (see gallery above). "Carr also omitted Francis Scott Key's name as poet."

The typo clinched the copy's authenticity. So you see? I insert all those mistakes so the book will be more valuable . . .
Not even a minor deity?

Her: Is the fact that Caligula thought he was a god a matter of erroneous perception, or a comprehension problem?

Me: Are you saying he wasn't?
China in the middle?


One thing I don't understand when it comes to North Korea - why does anyone in the U.S. want China to mediate?

If they're successful in ending the North Korean-manufactured "crisis", they've strengthened their role as a growing superpower region. And if they're not successful, they've prolonged a crisis that serves their other interests.

From China's perspective, conflict between the two Koreas has been one more stick to use as leverage when dealing with the U.S.: "We may be waging currency war against you, but if you retaliate, North Korea may just blow up Seoul."

The truth is, China doesn't have as much influence over North Korea as seems to be commonly assumed. It can't stop North Korea from attacking the south, let alone change the country's paranoid narcissistic nationalism.

The real solution is for South Korea to prove that North Korea is a paper tiger. The problem is that South Korea is not prepared for an actual war, let alone one where nuclear weapons might be used.

If North Korea continues to back itself a corner, real conflict is inevitable. the miracle is that it hasn't happened yet.

Shout-out . . .

To Fast Earthmover Man, now walking patrols in the pleasant land of Afghanistan.

God speed . . .
The (over) Zen of shaving . . .

It was a slow night at the local philosophy emporium. Down at the other end of the bar, I heard the following conversation:

Guy 1: . . . It was smooth, really, really smooth.
Guy 2: I'll bet.
Bartender (coming over): What, are you talking about sex? This is a family place.
Guy 1: Naw. Shaving.
Bartender: Shaving?
Guy 1: Wet shaving. I just got a new single blade razor, some creme. It's not like regular shaving. It's a whole lather experience . . .
Bartender: No more beer for you tonight.
Must've been a new deputy on that night . . .
Living country music legend Willie Nelson was charged with possession of marijuana after six ounces were discovered aboard his tour bus in Texas, according to a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman.

I guess this would not be a good time to tell my Willie Nelson story.

(News story here.)
The parade

New spot . . . West side of the parade route, close to 50th (walk up from GC) . . . see you there.
Now at your favorite bookseller . . .

He's back . . . but whose side is he on?
Scouting report

Knee held up, arm looked good.

Bring on the annual family football game.
At it again

North Korean shells sett fire to South Korean territory.

Sooner or later there's going to come a point where turning North Korea into a parking lot is just a whole lot easier than dealing with them.
Shocking, just shocking*

Worm Was Perfect for Sabotaging Centrifuges

What a coincidence, no?

Seriously, though, the episode does show the reach of cyberwarfare, which is about as asymmetric as you can get.

Times story here.

*Apologies to Julius Epstein, et al (writers on Casablanca).
This just in . . .

Smoking 3,000 Joints
Is Bad for Your Brain,
Study Finds

Who would've thought?

RW: Domino Theory

So to answer some questions.

First, Dick's website is the best place to catch him:

Second, yes, the rumors are true - Domino Theory is set mostly in India and Pakistan.

There are always a lot of reasons to do things, but a big part of the reason in this case is that's where the flash points are. And if you're going to deal with terrorist threats that affect the U.S. (or Afghanistan), ultimately you have to talk about those countries.

Of course, I really like the food. Some of the music, though . . .
RW update

OK, latest rumor is confirmed - next Rogue Warrior, to be called Domino Theory, will be out in time for Father's Day.

Keep checking Dick's website for further information and better details, coming soon.

For the record: The book is complete. Dick suffered no permanent injuries in its creation.

My (mental & physical) health is always another story . . .
Modest proposals

My personal Yankees ticket agent called yesterday to ask how things were going, see if I wanted an upgrade, and welcome any suggestions for improvements I might have.

At least that's what I heard on the voice mail message he left.

Funny coincidence that he left the message the same day the team announced they were boosting prices*. Naturally, my first suggestion would be that they lower the price of tickets - and make parking free.

Realizing that's not going to happen - and that it's very unlikely that the players will visit my section before the game to share a hot dog (tricky with the oxygen mask they'd have to wear up there) - I scaled back my suggestions for improvements. They now include:

- Install a garlic fries stand behind my seats.

- Add a sausage option to the pizza selections. (Bring back the Stromboli and I'll consider the price hike justified.)

- Give Cousin Brewski cans of Murphy's Stout to hawk in the stands.

- Turn one of the upstairs sections into a cigar smoking zone.

- Stop rearranging the traffic flow and parking lots every homestand.

- Go back to a system where you pay before you park, so it's easier to get out. (Given that they're bumping parking prices beyond what I pay for my seat, this probably isn't going to affect me - I'll be walking to the games. And back.)

- Stop blacking out controversial replays - these are exactly the ones we want to see.

Finally, see if you can do something about the obnoxious Red Sox fans who always sit by us. I don't mind it so much when the Yanks are actually playing Boston, especially since the fans are such bad losers, but it's trying when NY is playing KC.

Especially when the Yankees lose.

Which brings me to a suggestion that I'm sure all fans can agree on: Make sure the home team wins when I'm at the Stadium.

*Allegedly because fans were getting huge markups on StubHub. That's a real joke, as anyone who's tried to sell tickets there can attest.
New helicopter spotted . . .

In an AP story on the cruise to nowhere.

The arrival of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier was met with cheers from passengers who watched a Harrier helicopter drop 50,000 pounds of food and supplies to the ship's deck.

It does conjure an interesting image . . .
11th hour . . .

. . . of the 11th day of the 11th month.

World War I

From the air . . .

The BBC site:

The next Rogue Warrior: Domino Theory.

More details soon . . .
Financial advice

If imminent global economic collapse is what you are hedging against, forget gold and silver; lead is the only metal that will protect you.
The sound of silence

Strange thing happened today - no one called me.

Over the past week or so, I've gotten phone calls from Ed*, Newt, Sarah, Bill and a whole bunch of other old and close friends, all trying to persuade me to save the Union from imminent collapse, and worse.

Obviously they mistook my voting enrollment - NOE (Not Otherwise Enrolled, in NY the only way to be a true independent) - for Wants to be Bothered on the Phone While Working.

Was kind of nice to hear from Ed, though. Haven't seen him since the time at the county fair when the crazy man tried to shake his hand and ended up spitting all over me.

* Ed= Ed Koch, former mayor of NYC.
War as a homecoming parade

The narrator got a bit carried away at the end.

I spotted Brad twice.
Hard day

Writer 1: What's up?
Writer 2: I'm exhausted.
Writer 1: Really? What'd you do today?
Writer 2: I wrote four thousand words.
Writer 1: No wonder you're beat.
Writer 2: I'm beat because they all suck . . .
Utterly irresponsible leak ...

WASHINGTON — American intelligence officials in September intercepted several packages containing books, papers, CDs and other household items shipped to Chicago from Yemen and considered the possibility that the parcels might be a test run for a terrorist attack, two officials said Monday night.
Egos kill.

(Yes, there was more.)

Rogue Warrior

PR types want me to stop being so flip when I talk about upcoming releases.

Huh? I thought that was pretty much my job description.

But to be serious: The next installment in the Rogue Warrior series is finished, and is awaiting publication. At last report, the publisher hadn't set the exact date. Well maybe they had, but if so it's a secret, at least from me.

(I'm not being flip! It's true! It's true! But then again, I'm often the last to know.)

A lot of the story is set in India. The title is Domino Theory . . . or at least it was, since sometimes that stuff changes as we get closer to publication. It's a reference to a serious theory Dick lays out in the book.

No double-entendre intended.
Closeted (??)

Headline in today's Post:

Porn Star's Secret Past

What are we going to find out? That she was a nun?
Not an insignificant development

Chinese Supercomputer Wrests Title From U.S.

A Chinese scientific research center has built the fastest supercomputer ever made, replacing the United States as maker of the swiftest machine, and giving China bragging rights as a technology superpower.

Story here.

(Yes, it's largely symbolic. No, it doesn't lessen its significance.)


Me: What are you reading?
Her: Ugh.
Me: Ugh?
Her: This book. The characters are cliches, the dialogue is absolutely horrible, and the plot is laughable.
Me: Why don't you read something else?
Her: I'm kind of getting into it.
Speaking of war with China . . .

There's a stretch in the part of Red Dragon I'm working on now where these would have been real handy . . .

Now in paperback, at all the best bookstores . . .
Opening day

Wood chopping season opened in earnest over the weekend with red cedar. Still a little green at the core after six months of aging, but the season is young.

The swinging of the axe always raises the important philosophical questions, to wit: What is the proper beer to drink while chopping wood?

I went with Murphy's for opening day. Hard to go wrong with a good stout, even if the afternoon was on the warm side

Next week: Is using a star-shaped splitter cheating?

By request: Townes' version - he looks like he has one foot in the grave already in the video, which makes it all the more haunting, I suppose . . .
The definition of embarassing . . .

Don't you just hate when that happens?
Did I do wrong?

So I'm in the parking garage after the Yankee game Wednesday, and unfortunately chose the wrong lane to park in - a mistake that gained me more than a half-hour of carbon emissions as I waited in line to get out. (They've been changing the patterns in the lot over the past few months, and now they have them perfected - it's almost impossible to get out quickly if you actually spend any time in the Stadium itself. Which I'm sure is why they felt justified in jumping the price to $40.)

Anyway, this guy in a new Mercury Fusion knockoff tries to cut in line. Like he's got a snowball's chance in hell, even though I am in a good mood since the Yanks won.

Out he jumps from his car and gives me this long sob story about having to get out quickly because he has to see his grandfather in the hospital. Now mind you, he's just gotten into his car, which means he hit the bar after the game. That or he got on the train and remembered in Westchester that he had actually driven.

I of course asked where the hospital was. He said on Long Island and even elaborated on the route he was taking.

It was a long and actually amusing sob story, even if it was total bs. In the end, he was so full of bull that I let him in. He was last seen merrily cutting someone else off and heading at a steady snail's pace toward the exit.

Should have I told him that he cut into the wrong line, and that going out that exit would add at least another hour to his trip?

Nah. And I wasn't influenced by the Mets decal on his bumper, either.
I want this instructor . . .

. . . for basically anything I do.

Me: N told me this married woman was hitting on him and asked for advice.
Her: N? Married woman?
Me: Her husband was going away.
Her: She asked you for advice?
Me: That's not so hard to believe. He wanted to know what I would do.
Her: What'd you say?
Me: I said it would depend on what she looked like.
Her: You are so paying for lunch.
The pan goes silent . . .

RIP, Freddy.

(Story, here.)
Really, it was a $5 ticket . . .

Sure, the seat was probably in the restroom, but hey . . .

(AP) SEOUL, South Korea (Oct. 16) -- North Korea's media on Saturday threatened "1,000-fold" military buildup as the United States ruled out lifting sanctions to try to coax Pyongyang into resuming talks aimed at its nuclear weapons programs.
Going Rogue . . .

Bunch of questions about Rogue Warrior in the queue. Some answers, in no particular order:

A: Best place to hook up with Dick is at his website:

A: Yeah, he does.

A: The next book is coming out . . . well, the publisher hasn't said, at least not to us. Soon, though, because we've just finished writing it. And we're working on one after that, and on and on...

A: Speaking of the next book, yes, it's based on stuff that Dick's involved in.

A: No.

A: No.

A: I can't speak for Dick on that.

A: I don't know any secret cheats to the game, outside of the ones you can find anywhere on the web.

A: Of course.

A: I like her, too.

A: I wasn't involved in writing 'One Perfect Op,' but it's a good story and frankly, if Dick endorses it, that's good enough for me. So yes, highly recommended.

A: No comment.

A: Dick's pretty busy, but you should try through his website (see above).

A: I do.

A: My favorite is the first, though I'm always partial to the one we're working on at whatever moment I'm asked.

A: I'm not sure how much I should give away, but the basic setting is India and the U.S., with more of it in India.

A: Heh. It's your funeral.
That's why they play 9 innings . . .

Pictures are worth a thousand words...

(Sorry, gentlemen.)
Sometimes . . .

. . . the vision just doesn't work.
Missing the point

There have been a spate of articles, largely in the financial press, over the last few days about the mortgage lying crisis, how halting mortgages to get things right is bad for the economy, and how everybody oughta just shut the hell up and move on.

The stories miss the point: the banks acted - and are STILL acting - irresponsibly. They operated AND ARE STILL operating as if they are above the law.

Which is why we are here in the first place.

So it DOES matter how these are unwound. More of the same leads to . . . more of the same.

(Even the NYT is starting to catch on. Story here on Burger King bankers.)

Bradley looks ancient in this newsreel - the war aged him about a decade for each year he was in/ I think it had more effect on him than Montgomery or Eisenhower.

In stores next month . . .
Now that they have all our jobs . . .

. . . what will they take next?

China, Angered by Peace Prize, Blocks Celebration

My five dollar seats . . .

So as a fan I have to say that it's great that the Yankees swept the division series on the one hand, but it does mean I don't get to use my five dollar playoff tickets to see Home Game 2 (ALDS Game 4).

Which is kind of a bummer, since it technically renders moot any possible bragging about getting into the playoffs for half the cost of a beer. (Actually even less than that, if you get a draft from the cute Beers of the World girl.)
They're not "flawed" . . .

As in this headline from AP . . .

Up to 40 states plan inquiry into foreclosure data

. . . the mainstream media doesn't really get it: the documents in question aren't "flawed," they're a fraud on the court. They're the equivalent of a witness perjuring himself at a trial.

If you can't get that straight, you really can't understand the depth of the problem.
If you want a good explanation . . .

. . . of what's behind the banks' mortgage foreclosure fraud, read this:

It's not just paperwork.
What I learned from the copy editor

Wiseass is one word.

You'd think I'd know that . . .
Iran's nuke program . . .

. . . making steady progress. Of a sort:

Ali Akbar Salehi blamed a leak in the pool now holding the fuel rods for the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

"A small leak was observed in a pool next to the reactor and was curbed," he said in comments over the weekend that were reported Monday by the official Islamic Republic News Agency. "This leak caused the activities to be delayed for a few days. The leak has been fixed and the core of the reactor is now working properly."

Translation: Not only are their computers riddled with bugs, but they're leaking waste all over the place.

If they keep going like this, the Israelis won't have to blow the reactors up . . . they'll do it themselves.

LA times story here.
What newspapers (used to be) all about

“All I ever wanted to do was to be a journalist, and I didn’t want to leave Ogdensburg,” he explained. . . .

He knows nearly everyone in the city, often introducing people by citing the names of their parents and grandparents. He regularly visits people at St. Joseph’s nursing home. And when people call on Sunday to complain about a missing paper, he often drives out to deliver it in person.

Not only are community newspapers and newspapermen like this a vanishing breed; so are the communities.

Story here.

Hard work

Spent all day working on a love scene . . .

A lot of research. Damn, I love this job.

You Tube comments . . .

Sorry guys, but obvious spam from people posting porno and-or links to porno and the related . . . just have to delete those.

Not that there's anything wrong with that . . .
Edge of War

Coming this fall - Red Dragon #2 . . .

(See any typos? Let me know . . .)
Doctors . . .

So I screwed up my knee. The official diagnosis: Screwed up knee.

Prescription: Don't screw it up more. (Stay off it, more or less, for as long as possible. I.E., no soccer, no workouts, etc.)

Just once I'd like to get a prescription that said: Have more sex.


Aliens have deactivated British and US nuclear missiles, say US military pilots

Aliens have landed, infiltrated British nuclear missile sites and deactivated the weapons, according to US military pilots.


Hiding the truth

In a letter obtained by Fox News, the DIA says national security could be breached if "Operation Dark Heart" is published in its current form. The agency also attempted to block key portions of the book that claim "Able Danger" successfully identified hijacker Mohammed Atta as a threat to the United States before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Story here.

Kinda makes you want to be 4 again, no?

(News item: Sesame Street censors Katy. Story complete with lurid headline here.)
Random WWII moment . . .

My informant said he had lived in contact with German officials close to Hitler and suspected that in remote parts of the cavern, which had been cemented shut by the Germans, there may be new secret weapons. He spoke vaguely about conversations with Germans who hinted at atomic energy and the "bomb that freezes."

- Diary entry, November 12, 1944
Harry C. Butcher
My Three Years with Eisenhower
Woulda shoulda dept. . . .

When D&P were in town last week for Urbanworld, HBO, etc., D kept asking if we were going anywhere we might be mugged.*

These West Coast guys have the wrong idea about New York.

I told him we didn't have time. Today I realized I could have taken him down to Wall Street.

Next time.

*Admittedly, you'd have to be pretty dumb or brave AND heavily armed to rob him. He's a big fellow.


Intelligent Integration Systems Inc. (IISI), a Boston software company, is asking a judge to immediately stop customers, including the CIA, from using proprietary geospatial software that it says another company illegally reverse engineered.

Oh come on - we all know the spooks stole the software from the Russians . . .
Fact repeating fiction . . .

In the news:

A physicist and his wife, who both once worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, were arrested Friday and charged with a criminal conspiracy to help Venezuela build an atom bomb.

Payback was set in Peru, but of course was inspired by Venezuela. (Peru's more interesting.)

Another interesting (only to me) bit of trivia: It was originally called Blowback, and changed for reasons it'll cost you a beer to find out . . .
Speaking of the Battle of Britain . . .

A quick outline of some of the fighters in the early days . . .
A hero, an ace - and a reminder of war's tragedies

RIP John Freeborn, WWII RAF pilot and hero.

The NY Times does an excellent job of giving his story here.
I finally figured out . . .

. . . how to be surrounded by beautiful women - just stand next to a couple of game producers at a film festival.

If I had only known earlier . . .

(Shoutout and thanks to HBO, Urbanworld, and all the other nice folks who snuck me in and said hi, etc.)
More on that . . .

Yes, I understand that it's hard for some to accept that video games are art. But really, there shouldn't be an argument: They passed the threshold when they started involving emotions beyond winning and losing.

This was directly involved with the rise of narrative within the games, though that's not the entire story. Using narrative within the games made it possible to deepen the emotional response and take it into different directions. Even some of the earliest role playing games (admittedly computer based, but still) were on this track.

Incorporating the "real" world into the narrative has been a strategy in art at least since man started drawing on cave walls. Whether the "real" world is contemporary or historic, you're really doing the same thing. (A point that was missed in the NYT story I'm referring to below.)

Yes, the form has a long way to go. Right now, there's too much separation in most games between narration and gameplay, removing the player from the experience and reminding him that he's playing Red Dead Redemption a game, rather than leaving him totally immersed. Check out the number of cut scenes in Red, considered by many one of the best contemporary narrative shooters. The next hurdle will be to find a way to tell the story entirely through continuous gameplay, keeping the player, ever restoring the fourth wall until the end of the experience.

That was one of the ideas that we started with when we were working on Ace. There are a number of limitations, technical and in storytelling. But it will be nailed soon. And then games will get to a whole new level.
Art and the first-person shooter

Chris Suellentrop has an interesting story in Sunday's New York Times Magazine (read it here) about video console war games. The story wrestles around the concept but has trouble closing with the heart of the matter - neither he nor anyone he interviews (at least as presented in the story) can fully articulate what is going on in the games. let alone what the attraction is.

Part of the reason is that the story, and perhaps many of those interviewed, start from a false premise - it and they see the games purely as entertainment, rather than art.

When I write a novel set in Afghanistan - Leopards Kill, for example - no one is confusing their experience of reading the book with living through the reality of the battle. Even if I write a nonfiction book on a war - Rangers at Dieppe, for example - it's very clear that the experience the reader has is related to reading, not war fighting. One certainly gains knowledge and understanding about real events, but the primary goal of the experience has to do with entertainment, emotion, and (with luck) insight into the human condition.

In other words, it's art.

I don't have to spell that out on the cover of the book. There's a long tradition going back beyond Homer that makes that clear.

But if I tell a story within the context of a video console game - as I've just done in Ace Combat - I don't have that long tradition behind me. What I have are people's perceptions that games are only entertainment. Everything else that's important about them is either suspect or completely disregarded, at least in discussions.

Which is kind of ironic, given how many people are actually having that experience every day. In some ways, the problem is as much about the perception of what art is as what video games are.

That will eventually change; Suellentrop's story, in fact, is one sign that it is.

Courtney Hodges as a pinup?

Why would anyone go through and cut out the headshots of historic figures in Charles MacDonald's The Last Offensive (Part of the official history of the U.S. Army in WWII)? From a library book, no less?

An illustrated book report? Or is some kid's bedroom plastered with grainy images of famous (and not-so-famous) generals of WWII?

(The book was also de-mapped, which is annoying as well.)
Will North Korea collapse?

. . . or will riots break out as a new leader is selected this week?

Nah on both counts.

But things will no doubt continue to be "interesting." There's a lot of creative tension (heh) with China, and the outcome of the party meetings that began the other day may only deepen the mysteries of the Hermit Kingdom. Utter chaos, though, is unlikely.

Good primer in New Republic, here.
(Almost) Great books

Toons: I just read this fantastic book on the Battle of the Bulge.
Me: Which one?
Toons [Redacted, to protect the guilty]
Me: That's a terrible book. It totally misreads the documents, caricatures Bradley and the other American generals, fails to analyze the tactical situation, mis-states the sources, and has a large number of factual errors besides. The author claims to have used sources he couldn't possibly have, and uses look-through citations without citing the middle source. Plus the prose is as leaden as instructions for assemble-it-yourself furniture.
Toons:Sure, but it's a great book.
Wrap rage

Finally, an Amazon initiative we can all get behind:

For nearly two years, Amazon has been trying to get manufacturers to adopt “frustration-free packaging” that gets rid of plastic cases and air-bubble wrap — major irritants for consumers and one of Amazon’s biggest sources of customer complaints.

But the frustration persists.

Story here.

Grisham's birth story

. . .during the summer of my 16th year, I found a job with a plumbing contractor. I crawled under houses, into the cramped darkness, with a shovel, to somehow find the buried pipes, to dig until I found the problem, then crawl back out and report what I had found. I vowed to get a desk job. . . .

I'm not sure why the NY Times is running it, but John Grisham talks about how he became a writer here.
World War II, the tabloid version

Sooner or later, anyone who's doing any sort of reading on World War II comes across at least one book by Charles Whiting. The British author was a veritable factory, publishing some 350 works during his lifetime, and a large number were about the war.

Unfortunately, Whiting is not exactly a reliable source. Besides a fairly pronounced prejudice against American generals*, his books have a tendency to slant details in the most dramatic way possible, facts be damned. It's like reading the Sun, with maybe a little more of a slant and a lot less sexy babes. Thus the First Army divisions that were rotated from fighting in the Huertgen Forest area become the "forgotten army" in the Ardennes in Ghost Front, as the title above puts it.

As history, Whiting is unreliable. But he's definitely entertaining. A few lines at random from The Battle of Hurtgen Forest: The Untold Story of a Disastrous Campaign:

A whine. A groan. A sound like a diamond being scratched along a piece of glass. Then the frieghteningly familar, baleful shriek of the German multiple morar was heard. Fingers of black smoke poked their way up into the leaden sky, and suddenly, all was chaos and confusion. The rockets ripped great steaming holes in the earth like the work of gigantic moles. They snapped the trees, flinging their crowns high into the air, and sent huge shards of jagged metal hissing lethally to all sides.
Gotta love it. Just don't necessarily take his word for it.

* Actually, he almost likes Omar Bradley, at least to judge his magazine-article length book on him. But then Brad can be a hard general not to like, even for the British.
Women trouble . . .

JayRoam got me in trouble with Grace, our section guard at the Stadium last night, and so for the foreseeable future I'm going to have to wait for the next at-bat before getting down to my seat, even though it's on the aisle right next to the concourse.

I was already on the outs with the Guinness girl, who discovered that I had left her for the McSorley's Woman. It's only temporary - you need a lighter beer on 100 degree nights - but now I have to worry if she'll take me back.

At least Cousin Brewski understands. Vendor Number 22 was in fine fettle last night, still slinging like he did thirty years ago. (He claims thirty. I think it's probably at least forty, but we'll use his numbers.) Only thing is, the Cuz goes where the money is these days, so we rarely see him.

The complications of a pennant drive . . .
China & Vietnam (cont.)

Problems have flared along the Vietnamese-Chinese border periodically following the 1979 war. A series of You Tube postings taken from Chinese TV broadcasts show portions of the 1984 conflict.

(I have to say, a lot of the English lanugaqge postings in the comments sections on videos relating to the conflict are, uh, a-historic . . .)
China vs. Vietnam

We were working on the new Red Dragon the other day, and I happened to come across a series of videos on the 1979 War between Vietnam and China. That war forms part of the historical basis for the series.

These are from the Vietnamese side, and celebrate David vs. Goliath nature of the conflict. Some of the images are intense.
Red Dragon #2

The second installment in the Red Dragon Rising series will be out this November. The cover image is a bit of a different look for Tor/Forge, which I like. (Not that they asked before releasing it to the world, of course . . .)

In the series, rapid climate change has created a desperate situation for the Chinese, who attempt to solve some of their problems by invading Vietnam. The U.S. president realizes that if they're not stopped, Chinese aggression will lead to a new world war. But the congress and the rest of the country are adamantly opposed to any U.S. involvement....

You can pre-order the book here or here or here. (The last link is to my local bookstore, Merritt Bookstore in Millbrook.)
More on Intel's taxes . . .

And for the record (see the next post below) - yes, the U.S. has a high maximum (aka marginal) corporate tax rate. The thing is, once you actually look at the rules for figuring that tax and calculate things like depreciation and other legitimate deductions, the effective tax rate is right in the middle of the pack for modern industrial countries.

But I guess that's the point. The CEO of Intel wants to make the U.S. a third world country.

Taxes? Intel pays taxes?

Intel CEO Paul Otellini has been getting quite a lot of press lately complaining about the outrageous U.S. corporate tax rates (which have been the same since Intel was making the 386 chip).

Guess he missed this story in Bloomberg last year - or rather, hopes the rest of us did . . .

Red Cell

So now the CIA is using the term? Without the Rogue Warrior's permission?

Heads are gonna roll!

Or maybe we'll just thank 'em for the plug.

(Item: CIA Red Cell Memorandum on Wikileaks. Check it out here.)
The way a book ought to be written . . .

From the acknowledgements to My Three Years with Eisenhower, by Harry Butcher:

Possibly not a single entry was made in the diary without the aid of one or more cigars. These came from a variety of courses including friends at home, such as . . . .

Of course, Butcher goes on to say that he smoked Burns Panatelas, but maybe they were better back then.
Ripley or not

I somehow missed Ripley Underwater when I went on a Patricia Highsmith jag a few years ago.

God, she's good. Only woman I know who can get you rooting for a serial killer.

And no, I'm reading it in English . . .
Pakistan and the Taliban

“We picked up Baradar and the others because they were trying to make a deal without us,” said a Pakistani security official, who, like numerous people interviewed about the operation, spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of relations between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States. “We protect the Taliban. They are dependent on us. We are not going to allow them to make a deal with Karzai and the Indians.”

Full story.