Oh, OK . . .

The NY Dolls version . . .
Speaking of Courageous Cat . . .

A few tenuous moments with the sax, but in the end, even Mr. Frog would approve.
Snow storm dialogue

Her: But isn't it pretty when the sun comes through the clouds?

Him: (clearing snow-laden impeller from snowblower) Define pretty.
Final score

Thirty-four inches, three driveways, three (???) gallons of gas, two shovels, two India pale ales, one Maxx robusto, one La Floridita Premier robusto.
Saturday morning cartoons . . .

. . . Spanish style.

Future Marine Recon member . . .

And during the height of the storm, Joe's kid was out helping clear and move one of the cars so we could make a gas run.

In gym shorts, of course.
Beer and shoveling snow . . .

Two great American pastimes that go together.

(Thirty-four inches and counting. Took something in the area of eight hours to dig out.)
Fun with Telemarketers

Me: Hello.
Telemarketing Type: Hello, Mister DeeFulicious. I am calling –
Me: Did you know that your company entered a false number on the calling ID system?
Telemarketing Type: Well, sir, we are a non-profit organization –
Me: That’s a violation of the law. Do you know you could be held personally responsible?
T: Uh –
M: You could be sued. Do you own a house?
T: I do, but –
M: I feel really sorry for you. Your employer is putting you at risk like that. I’d never sue but maybe the next person would sue. You’d lose your house, your car –
T: I don’t have a car.
M: Well thank God for that.
T: Our charity helps Native Americans –
M: That’s why you’re calling from India?
T: Sir?
M: You know, I’m just about to blow something up in Delhi*.
T: Our charity is non-profit.
M: And illegal.
T: No sir.
M: Well, it’s breaking the law. Would you give money to a criminal?
T: I have to go, sir. Good day.

Next up on Torture a Telemarketer Today: The phone is answered by a psychotic madman sure that the twenty-five heads of lettuce in the bathtub with him are plotting to kill him.

* It'll be in the next Rogue Warrior. Maybe.

A foot and climbing . . .

Now I know what the low setting on the snow blower is for.

Never fear - the flamethrower is prepped for the morning. There's nothing like a little napalm with your coffee, especially at 30 below.
It's snowing . . . again

Work called on account of snowballs.
Life imitating fiction, except it's not . . .

The most interesting thing about Israel serving justice to the Hamas criminal in Dubai is how many people they sent in country to get him. Twenty-four have been identified - and you know that means there had to have been more.

You could never do that in fiction - too many people to handle in a scene.

The story so far bear some similarities to the plot of Soul of the Assassin, the last First Team book I did with Larry Bond before we started Red Dragon. Two differences, though - our guys weren't caught on video, and they had much better food.

And Ferg got to dance in that one, too. I think.

Read the latest on the case, here.

“For 2010,” Ms. Braly said, “we expect hospital inpatient and outpatient costs in California to grow by over 10 percent, driven primarily by hospital reimbursement rates. Additionally, we expect pharmacy costs in California to grow by over 13 percent.”

Which is obviously why Ms. Braly's company, WellPoint, needed to raise rates 39 percent. (And no, you don't add 10 plus 13. But if you did, you'd still be a bit short of explaining the rate hike, eh?)

She did a lot of whining to congress today about older people costing health care more - without of course mentioning that those people are primarily covered by Medicare.

Oh, and then she had the gall to say that rising costs of health insurance mean that less people can afford individual policies . . . which means that those who are left, have to pay more. Because of the actuary tables.

Uh, here's a suggestion: rather than segregating individual policies from employer policies (and breaking those down according to group size), put them all in the same risk pool.

Oh beans, then we won't be able to make - what is that? Twenty-three percent overhead and profit?

Is it worse that WellPoint's roots lie in the nonprofit world, or does that explain why they're gouging now?

They're just vultures.
Why writers don't do book covers

So my editor, obviously campaigning for editor of the year, decided to ask if I had any ideas for a cover on the next Whiplash.

Shocked, I mean, gratified by the question, I fired up one of my drawing programs to supplement my descriptions with a crude sketch.

Even the damn program rebelled, however, coughing up the above and then unceremoniously crashing, taking the computer with it.

This is why publishers don't ask writers for input - they're afraid the result will be a worldwide power blackout.
Call him what he was - a murderer

What do you call a psychotic killer who flies an airplane into a building?

I call him - Joseph Stack - a terrorist or a would-be mass murderer. But because the psycho wrote that he was doing it in the name of taxation, some people are calling him a hero.

Get real.

Stack flew his Pipe into a Federal building Thursday in Texas, claiming that he was doing it to change government. A flood of stories appeared right after the news of the crash claiming that he had "a point" about the particular code of the tax law he cited in his suicidal ramble. They quieted a bit, but then today a new wave of "he's a hero" washed over the media, partly as a result of his daughter's saying that.

I guess it's understandable that his daughter wants to think well of her dad. But the rest of us shouldn't.

The initial stories showed how pathetically misinformed journalists are when it comes to a) the tax code and b) just about anything economic in this country. Many reporters brayed about the unfairness of the code section he cited - a change decades old that removed one excuse companies used to classify programmers as non-employees.

In other words, companies like IBM and Microsoft had to treat the programmers they hired like every other employee they hired, paying taxes, benefits, etc.

I'm not saying that the programmers didn't continue to get screwed. But it wasn't the tax law that screwed them.

Even if journalists didn't know the tax laws, there were plenty of things about the story that indicated the guy was - well not a hero, and not downtrodden regular guy caught in the grip of grinding poverty brought on by a faceless bureaucracy. By his own admission he'd been involved in a tax scam, and had failed to report considerable income even after that. He owned a plane and a house . . . which he set on fire before he set off to change the world by attacking an IRS office that tries to make sure companies aren't screwing around with people's pensions.

Some hero.

But it was the government that had somehow persecuted him.

People drink the Kool Aid without even knowing who made it.
Everybody knows . . .

Iran may be working on secretly developing a nuclear warhead for a missile, the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency said Thursday in a draft report.

So what happens next?

(CNN story here.)
With our wings behind our backs . . .


American and NATO military leaders — worried by Taliban propaganda claiming that air strikes have killed an inordinate number of civilians, and persuaded by “hearts and minds” enthusiasts that the key to winning the war is the Afghan population’s goodwill — have largely relinquished the strategic advantage of American air dominance.

This has been a problem for about a year now, but it's potentially critical as thing ratchet up. There was a story in a recent Wired; the excerpt above comes from the Times, here.
An infatuation with . . . the vice president?

The story:

Man infatuated with U.S. VP breaches 2010 security

Forget about the security issues. Isn't this just wrong on so many levels?

(Story here.)
You think it's cold where you live . . .

Readers send the coolest pictures . . .
Tommy College

Tommy College got his name and a lot of his money running a diploma mill in the 1990s, just as the Internet got big. He left when competition became too fierce.

"I got a visit from these Libyans one day, and that steered me to greener pastures," he says.

He did some odds jobs in Vegas and then in Morocco. Now he makes a living smuggling flowers in Europe.

He was in town last week and we had some beers. He had plans to make money off the Greek debt crisis that I couldn't quite follow, so I pushed the conversation back to smuggling.

"You ever think of running guns instead of daisies?"

"I don't do daisies."

"You know what I mean."

"You mean become an arms dealer like your friend B*****?"

I shrugged. I wasn't really thinking about B*****, just trying to change the conversation.

"Not enough money in it," said Tommy College. "Let's get another round."
Boys and their toys . . .

They call it the joker. The Marines use it to grab and dispose of roadside bombs and the like.
I want one.
A big catch

The Taliban's top military commander was captured several days ago in Karachi, Pakistan, in a secret joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence forces, according to American government officials.

Full story here.

And yes, Karachi is Pakistan's largest city. The Taliban and al Qaeda operate with impunity there. Or have....
No more penis enhancers?

Months and months of blocking spam senders has finally whittled down the email on the website to a somewhat manageable level. I haven't had an unsolicited offer to enlarge a body part in over a week.

I should feel as I've won a major battle. And yet I feel somehow strangely . . . empty.

It'll pass, I'm sure.

Of course, now the filters are now refusing to allow many readers to get through. Always something to work on.
Saturday morning cartoons . . .

Don't you just love those days . . .

When you feel like you're in a Three Stooges sketch, trying to hang wallpaper with Curly?
The future of missile defense

A U.S. high-powered airborne laser weapon shot down a ballistic missile in a test Thursday . . . the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said.
Story from Reuters here.
Pink mist

Hell yeah, it snowed . . .

That's about midday. As good an excuse for an Excalibur as any . . .
What Brown can do for you . . .

Middle of a blizzard, who comes knocking at the door?

UPS guy, with a box of beer.

Go, Brown!
Coming soon to an infantry squad
near you . . .

The Army's new grenade launcher - the next must-have accessory.

(Full story here, among other places.)

Other writer: Check out these directions I got with my copy edit:

"Do not write notes to the copy editor on the ms. The manuscript is not going back to the copy editor. This is not a dialogue between author and copy editor . . . ."

Me: Wow. Does this mean I can't write "F*** yourself" on the copy edit any more?

Other writer: Kind of takes the fun out of it.

Me: Why bother going over the copy edit then?

Other writer: My point exactly.

Me: Well, the managing editor will see it, and know what you think of the copy editor's job.

Other writer: Which will just encourage him to assign him to you again.

Me: Point taken.
You want to talk about security issues at airports?

A body was found inside a wheel well of a Delta Airlines plane after it landed in Tokyo from New York Monday . . .
Getting tough . . .

. . . . but not really.

SHANGHAI – China on Monday heralded a major bust of computer hackers to underscore its pledge to help enhance global online security, with state media saying had shut what they called the country's largest distributor of tools used in malicious Internet attacks.

Three people were arrested on suspicion of making hacking tools available online, the state-run Xinhua news agency said. Their business, known as Black Hawk Safety Net, operated through the now-shuttered Web site www.3800cc.com and generated around $1 million in income from its over 12,000 subscribers, the report said.

Obviously we're meant to think this is in reaction to the uproar over hacking/spying into Google and other U.S. companies. But the arrests were actually made back in November, and it's highly unlikely that these guys - slimers though they may be - had anything to do with them.

The Wall Street Journal story does put it into some perspective here. (You may need a subscription.)
It's just a matter of time . . .

News item:

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the nation’s atomic energy agency on Sunday to begin producing a special form of uranium that can be used to power a medical reactor in Tehran, but that could also move the country much closer to possessing fuel usable in nuclear weapons.

(NY Times story here.)

Why is he doing this now? Because he figures one of two things will happen:

a) Either a, Iran will get go ahead and make its bomb, or

b) Israel and-or the U.S. will attack to stop it.

Either way, his regime will be strengthened.

At least, that's the way he sees it.

I'd figure on an attack within the next six months.
If you need to measure how crazy things have become . . .

Here's the headline:

Goldman bows on CEO's pay

So what does that mean, exactly?

That besides his base pay of $600,000, the CEO will get only $9 million.

Only $9 million.

That's how out of whack things are.

From the Wall Street Journal:

People familiar with the situation said Goldman's board, which met Friday afternoon, wanted to demonstrate moderation on executive pay. Directors deliberated for weeks, hoping to find a middle ground between the popular anger over eye-popping Wall Street compensation and the board's belief that top employees deserve to be paid fairly. During the discussions, Goldman directors and executives began using the word "restraint," these people said.
Story here (subscription needed)
The latest on Amazon.com

From Publisher's Weekly

In an update on the status of negotiations between Macmillan and Amazon, Macmillan CEO John Sargent said he hoped it would be back to business as usual soon. Though he didn't indicate when the buy button on Macmillan titles would be restored on Amazon, he said "things have moved far enough that hopefully this is the last time I will be writing to you on this subject" and that, despite appearances, "Amazon has been working very, very hard and always in good faith to find a way forward with us." Buy buttons were not restored as of Friday morning, though they could be back before the weekend.
Amazon bs continues

. . . more strike back:

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has removed all links to Amazon from their website . . .

Our authors depend on people buying their books and since a significant percentage of them publish through Macmillan or its subsidiaries, we would prefer to send traffic to stores where the books can actually be purchased," the SFWA's site explained, adding that many of its member authors' sales were affected by the Macmillan takedown.

. . . And no, they still won't sell my books.

Warning signs . . .

So my agent has taken to signing his emails "cheers."

Should I worry?
Art lovers can breathe
a (heavy) sigh of relief . . .

News item:
(L.A.) - Health officials will not force actors to use condoms when making pornographic films, despite the urging of activist groups hoping to stop the spread of AIDS among porn industry workers.
For the opposition . . .

Today's question: Can Mongoose and Junior grab one of these geometric suckers and make it out alive?

(Yes, I know the Tamil Tigers were defeated in 2009. You'll have to read the next Rogue Warrior to get the connection . . . assuming the bit makes it to the final draft . . . never a sure thing. In the meantime, imagine one of those speedsters in your bathtub. That's pretty much the scene in a nutshell.)
Amazon still sucks

And you still can't buy (many of) my books from their website.

What's really interesting is the view, admittedly a minority, that they're somehow doing this to help consumers.

There's an easy way to lower prices - cut out Amazon.

Which is one of the things they're worried about.
Somethings just speak for themselves

Iran sends worms into space

. . . The scientific arena is where we could defeat the [West's] domination," said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who boasted [of] the launch on state television on Wednesday...

Then there's this:

Iran on Thursday executed two men accused of involvement in an armed anti-government group, as the public prosecutor announced that new death sentences have been issued against opposition activists involved in protests over June's disputed presidential election.
Trouble in JSF land . . .

From today's news . . .

On Monday [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates singled out the military's largest-ever aircraft development program -- the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter -- for stinging criticism. In an unusual move, Gates said he was removing the current program manager and replacing him with an as yet unnamed three-star general and withholding more than half a billion dollars in award fees from Lockheed Martin, which builds the aircraft....

Gates said a review of the fighter over the past several months made it "clear there were more problems than we were aware of."

Hopefully, that gets someone's attention. One thing you have to say for Gates - he is not afraid to knock heads together.

Tomorrow's tank today . . .

Drop the size by about a fifth, lose the men and add next generation armor, and you're looking at the utv* of 2020.

* UTV = unmanned terrestrial vehicle, formerly known as a tank.
Amazon.com sucks

At the moment, you can't buy many of my books from the Amazon website.*

No wait, that's not true - you can buy a book, but only if you buy it used - or supposedly used - which means that neither I nor my publisher will be paid for it.

Amazon has removed the "buy now" buttons from all books published by Macmillan, which includes Tor and St. Martin's, who publish Rogue Warrior and St. Martin's. They claim it's because they want the right to set very low discounts on ebooks, but what's really going on here is a power move by Amazon in an attempt to control the ebook market. Their idea is to use low priced ebooks to encourage the purchase of Kindle. Kind of the razor and blade theory backwards.

Amazon, by the way, gets a cut of all sales on its site, whether they're used or not. So they're still making money even when they're trying to squeeze publishers, and through them, writers.

Thanks, guys.

Not that it will matter to them, but I've deleted the links to their site. B&Ns and the locals remain.

Shotgun's new toy . . .

He uses it as a pistol, of course.

. . . in the next Rogue Warrior installment.