Reality catches up with Deep Black

Actually, it was already there; the public just didn't know. This is about "Flame," probably an Israeli superworm aimed at Iran:

"We entered a dark room in search of something and came out with something else in our hands, something different, something huge and sinister," Vitaly Kamlyuk, a senior antivirus expert at Kaspersky Lab, said in an interview Wednesday.
Kamlyuk said Flame can copy and steal data and audio files, turn on a computer microphone and record all the sounds in its vicinity, take screen shots, read documents and emails, and capture passwords and logins.
The program can communicate with other computers in its radius via the infected computer's Bluetooth capability and locate their whereabouts even without an Internet connection, he said.
"We haven't figured out yet whether it can carry out some destructive actions but we can say with confidence that it is a powerful universal set of tools for cyber espionage," Kamlyuk said.
"Many people still think that cyber warfare is a myth and a fantasy but as we reassemble and study one by one the numerous components and modules of this unique program we see that it is a real weapon of this undeclared war that is already going on."


No bull . . .

I heard the other day that a bill has been introduced in congress to make the bison the national mammal.

Bison are OK - there's a lot to be said for an animal that can be either singular or plural. But maybe we shouldn't rush to judgement. There are other candidates.

Grizzly bears would be toward the top of the list. Of course, they hibernate half the year or so - you'd probably want a full-timer.

Coyotes have too negative a connotation. Same with wolves. Foxes are too small.

What about mountain lions? Wolverines? There's an animal most people don't know, except as sports mascots.

I assume we don't want domesticated animals, but what about the wild mustang? They definitely symbolize rugged America. (The hooved variety, as opposed to the one with wheels. Though the car has its own merits.) And they've got the singular/plural thing going as well.

Dolphins are mammals. Porpoises. We could do worse.

Knowing congress, there'll be hearings and all sorts of debate. I imagine K Street is already lining up its clients . . .
Nanny Mayor strikes again


The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.


Can't smoke, can't drink a lot of soda, soon you won't be able to drive . . . NYC is on its way to becoming a theme park, but what theme?
Getting the book invented properly

(Voyager Books = early ebook company that published Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe, by Douglas Adams, who wrote the words for the promo above. The video is by Gavin Edwards. More info at Brain Pickings and Slate.)
Finally official . . .

. . .  well almost . . .

Books and time

Could the book you read change over time - and your experience change with it?

Item from Publisher's Weekly, an industry magazine:

In development for the last two years by the Medallion Media Group, an independent publisher and entertainment firm, TREEbook is an innovative new e-book format that features an underlying time-triggered reading experience that allows the book to generate multiple story-lines based on individual reading pace and other embedded triggers. Medallion will release a TREEbook-compatible e-reading app in October to be followed in 2013 by an original TREEbook novel, The Julian Year by Gregory Lamberson, published in the format and designed to exploit the story-telling features of the new technology.


The possibilities are intriguing, though the commitment on the part of the author seems pretty daunting. I can't wait to read the first examples - or will my waiting change them in some material way?
What I'm reading

I picked up Loren Estleman's "Gas City" recently, and even if the story of corruption and redemption weren't interesting, I'd read it for Estleman's descriptions and hard-boiled prose.

Plucked at random:

Turnbull, the day man, sat in his platform rocker behind the registration desk, reading a boating magazine with his head tilted to keep cigarette smoke out of his eyes. He'd quit smoking, but his posture hadn't gotten the message.

Iranian bomb material found

'Technical issues' has now become a code word for "oops, you weren't supposed to see that."

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A top Iranian nuclear official said that traces of enriched uranium discovered at an underground bunker came from a "routine technical issue," the country's official IRNA news agency reported Saturday.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Tehran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, was responding to a report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog that said it had found radioactive traces at an Iranian nuclear site. The uranium found had been enriched to a level that is slightly closer to the threshold needed for nuclear weapons than Iran's previous highest-known enrichment grade.
The IAEA said in the confidential report obtained Friday by The Associated Press that it was asking Tehran for a full explanation about the traces. But the report was careful to avoid any suggestion that Iran was intentionally increasing the level of its uranium enrichment.
Tehran said the find was a technical glitch, according to the report. Analysts and diplomats said Iran's version sounded plausible.

(AP story. The reporter is in the running for most credulous of the year, if not the decade.)

One word for that, and it begins with "bull . . ."

There's no reason to believe the lies any more - not that there ever was.

Insult thine enemy . . .

. . . with help from the Bard.
Yankees for sale?

I'm saving my pennies . . .

Rumors are flying in Major League Baseball and New York banking circles that the family that has owned Major League Baseball’s premiere franchise since Cleveland shipbuilder George Steinbrenner purchased the club for $8.8 million in 1973 is exploring the possibility of selling the Yankees.

Read more:

Whose side are they on?

Actually, the answer is obvious.


A Pakistani doctor who helped in the CIA hunt for Osama bin Laden has been convicted of high treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison, according to local government officials.

Story, here and elsewhere.

Spying on people in the name of . . .

. . . what, exactly?

Progress? Maps? Searchability?

Or just sheer nosiness?


After months of negotiation, Johannes Caspar, a German data protection official, forced Google to show him exactly what its Street View cars had been collecting from potentially millions of his fellow citizens. Snippets of e-mails, photographs, passwords, chat messages, postings on Web sites and social networks — all sorts of private Internet communications — were casually scooped up as the specially equipped cars photographed the world’s streets.
“It was one of the biggest violations of data protection laws that we had ever seen,” Mr. Caspar recently recalled about that long-sought viewing in late 2010. “We were very angry.”

NYT story.

Imagine the uproar if the government did this?

Different? Maybe - until the government obtains the information . . . or Google becomes the government.

More test covers

So close . . .

Feedback welcome through the usual channels.
Paris is burning . . .

We happened to be fooling around with Ace Combat: Assault Horizon yesterday, while talking about France. The two aren't really related, except that in one of the very, very early stages of the story development,* the game would have opened with an air battle through the streets of Paris.

Because I've always wanted to fly beneath the Eiffel Tower, like this:

* That mission never got out of the outline stage, which is pretty early. Paris does appear in the on-line version, where you do get to blow it up, I mean, defend it . . .

What would Darby say?


The Army is addressing the specifics of the plan to allow female soldiers to join infantry battalions and – associated with that move – to make the prestigious Ranger School co-ed, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Wednesday.


Note that no official decision has been made yet, though some see allowing women who meet the qualifications into Ranger units as inevitable.
Cover story

Another new cover, but not a new book. Available for Kindle at, at only $2.99 for a limited time.
Wolf Flight

My WWII novella, Wolf Flight, previously only available in hardcover and paperback, is now available on-line at here.

(Yes, it's about airplanes and WW II. No werewolves. Sorry.)

The 'suit'

In a decision that was largely expected, Judge Denise Cote denied motions by Apple and five publishers seeking to dismiss the class action lawsuit brought against them for what the suit contends is fixing e-book prices when they moved to the agency pricing model. . . .
In her decision to let the civil suit move into the discovery phase, Judge Cote wrote that the suit “plausibly alleges that Apple and the Publisher Defendants took part in a conspiracy in restraint of trade, that an object of this conspiracy was to raise prices for eBooks, and that this restraint was unreasonable per se.”

More at PW.

Two really, really bad calls = one bad bounce + one certain suspension.

Tossing the helmet was bush, but I've seen better umpiring at LL games.
Iran's nukes

The press reports progress in negotiations:

VIENNA (AP) —U.N. nuclear negotiators seeking to probe Tehran's nuclear program for signs of secret work on atomic-weapons technology spoke of a good exchange of views Tuesday after talks with Iranian officials, who described the meeting as having made progress.
Neither side elaborated on the substance of their talks. But in another indication that some common ground had been found after more than four years of stalled discussions, both said the talks would resume Monday.

AP story here, among other places.

The most difficult situation for the West to deal with won't be Iran's refusal to shut down the program. It will be much harder to deal with a seemingly compliant Iran that has a secret program frozen some twelve months from completion.
Threat Level Black

Can you judge a book by its cover?

Same book, just a different cover for the Kindle edition; now live at Available for purchase or borrowing here.
Navy ABM system passes test


First ballistic missile intercept for second-generation of Aegis BMD
07:38 GMT, May 15, 2012 KAUAI, Hawaii | The Missile Defense Agency (MDA), U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin team successfully intercepted a ballistic missile target for the first time, using the second generation of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, known as Aegis BMD 4.0.1.
This second-generation system, which was certified in March, introduces the Aegis BMD signal processor to improve target identification capabilities and uses open architecture standards to integrate commercial-off-the-shelf technology

Press release.

Good thing, that - otherwise we'd have to revise the next installment in the Red Dragon series, due out later this year.

Meanwhile, NATO's ABM system tests are proceeding as well.

Older, but not ready for AARP yet . . .

This month marks the 50th birthday of the Incredible Hulk. Time flies, even for a superhero.

More background on the green* one at Comic Vine.

* And gray - see the background piece.
Rogue Warrior plot summary

From a reader:

The Rogue Warrior 'formula' : Bad stuff happens, Dick kicks some ass, more bad stuff happens. Repeat several times.
 Love it.

Pretty much sums it up for me.

Direct from North Korea . . .

Top secret video from the files of the CIA*. Expect this to be a summer replacement hit.

* Cartoon Intelligence Agency

A Rogue Warrior toy. (Actually, we did a little development work on our own, but this real-life UAV was the inspiration.)
Exit Plan

Nice interview with Larry Bond on his and Chris Carlson's  new book, Exit Plan at  Ethan Jones' blog.

Personally, I'd love to hear these guys talk even more about the relationship between games and books; not too many people have their insights and experience.

Jones, by the way, has his own book, Arctic Wargame, due out soon; there's more information on his site.

(Despite the warning on that image, the cover is pretty close to the final version.)
Color me insane . . .

. . . but at least I'm not a serial killer.

Item on organizing books:

People who arrange their books by colour are clearly insane and there really should be some sort of helpline for them. I’d start it myself if I didn’t think they were already beyond help. The same goes for people who don’t have a system at all. A chaotic mess where fiction and non-fiction sit next to each other in a direct violation of order and sense. I have no evidence but I assume that this is the way a serial killer would order their thousands of copies of Catcher in the Rye (although, by default, I suppose that would still be alphabetical. Haven’t really thought it through..)
(Rest of the entry here.)

From Waterstones Oxford Street, a blog for times "when 140 characters isn't enough." (The reference is to Twitter. The blog is a British readers'/writing/etc. site, worth checking if you like books and literature.)

Some day, I will organize my shelves. . . . probably about the time we have a good ap for organizing ebooks.
Bad news for Navy F-35 version

But good news for the F-35B. Potentially.

From Great Britain:

Defense Secretary Philip Hammond told lawmakers Thursday that Britain would no longer purchase F-35c variants of the Lockheed Martin Corp. fighter jet because the cost of modifications to ships needed to accommodate the plane would be about $3.2 billion.
The jet's design -- which does not include vertical take-off and landing -- means aircraft carriers would need to be fitted with catapults and arrester gears.

Read more:

This is the version favored by the U.S. Navy, whose carriers already have the things the Royal Navy doesn't.

Note that they're not dropping the F-35 completely, contrary to some news reports. Instead they want to buy what in the U.S. is often called the Marine Corps version, or the "jump jet" F-35.

The decision makes a lot of sense for Great Britain - assuming that the F-35B can be successfully developed, admittedly a controversial point in some quarters.

Editorial intent

Her: You know, you have a bad habit of using Gees instead of Jeez in all your books.
Me: Gees is acceptable.
Her: But it makes for an easy typo - Geese.
Me: How do you know that's a typo?

Garden Gnomes & NY Yankees???

Tonight is Garden Gnome night at Yankee Stadium . . . go figure.

The last Garden Gnome I "collected" was in Fallout 3. Maybe this one will bring better luck.

Speaking of the Yankees - since when did they stop selling beer in the bleachers at the end of the fifth inning? What's that about anyway? Why isn't it the same as the rest of the stadium?
The F-22 blackouts . . . 

The latest:

The US Air Force will not punish two F-22 Raptor pilots who publicly spoke out about problems with the Lockheed Martin-built aircraft's oxygen system, a senior service official tells Congress. Moreover, the USAF is getting close to solving the mystery behinds a series of hypoxia-like events that have plagued the Raptor fleet.
"We have some recent data that we are starting to believe we are coming to closure on that root cause," says Lt Gen Janet Wolfenbarger, military deputy to the USAF acquisitions chief. "We are realizing that we operate this aircraft differently than we operate any of our other fighter aircraft."


Gee, and all it took were years' worth of incidents and a pair of pilots finally risking their careers to help save lives.

Whatever blame the equipment deserves, the bigger problem is the 'culture' that has perpetuated and extenuated the situation.

Idiots and worse . . .


News report: Would-be bomber was a double-agent

(The headline is from CNN, but you can find the story all over the place.)

Two questions:

1) Why would anyone tell a reporter this?

2) Why would any news organization publish it?

Some things are beyond stupid.

Just to add a comment to the interview below -

I agree that it's absolutely false that editors no longer edit. But on the other hand, not all editors should edit. Plenty do more harm than good.

Personally, I've been blessed with some excellent editors, and I'm privileged to be currently working with some great ones. Which brings me to another point - it's absolutely wrong to equate the length of an edit letter (or email, or conversation) with the quality of the edit. In fact, I think some of the best edits I've ever gotten consisted of a sentence or two. They made me think about the book differently, opening my eyes to things that were there that I wasn't entirely conscious of, or showed me the path to a better construction.

Why this book?

Publisher Ben Shrank on what he looks for in a book:

"A story told in a way I've never heard before."

Full interview, with Amy Einhorn, on the Leonard Lopate Show:

Beta testing

The new cover for Threat Level Black (possibly):

Feedback welcome through the usual channels - the bar especially . . .

Or some measure of it:

An airstrike Sunday killed a top Al Qaeda leader on the FBI's most wanted list for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship, Yemeni officials said. The drone attack was carried out by the CIA, U.S. officials said.
Read more:

Slow in coming, but better late than never

Raptor oxygen . . .

Or lack thereof. . . . Somebody better put the "air" in air force.

Figs no more

Fig Newtons are now only Newtons . . .

 . . . the name change is a part of the brand’s attempt to appear more trendy after years of declining sales. On the Richter scale of hip fruits, from goji berries to antioxidant-filled pomegranates, figs fall somewhere near  laxative-y prunes. The new advertising plan features commercials intended to highlight Newtons’ other fruit flavors. Aimed at baby boomers, the commercials are also  intended to be more cerebral.
Read more:

Fig Newtons as brain food? I for one am outraged - snack food and physics should never mix.

The Empire strikes back . . .

Xbox as an entertainment plan:

Microsoft is planning to launch a $99 Xbox console package with a monthly subscription as early as next week, according to our sources. The software giant will offer the 4GB console with a Kinect sensor at its range of Microsoft Stores in the US, subsidized with a monthly cost of $15. We're told that the two-year subscription will provide access to the Xbox Live Gold service and possibly some additional streaming content from cable providers or sports package providers. Customers who sign-up for the deal will also be covered under a two-year warranty.

The future of flight?

A Boeing project with many possible spinoffs, SUGARVolt probably won't take you to Wichita any time soon - but its sons and daughters may.
Derek Jeter, copyright pirate

And Ford, for that matter.

What? A millionaire and a multi-billion dollar corporation breaking copyright laws?

No, not directly. But when you go to a site that is posting links to pirated versions of my books, an ad for Ford hosted by Derek Jeter comes up. And up and up and up. Ford and Jeter are indirectly paying these people to steal from me.

You'll forgive me for not posting a link.

It's pretty pathetic, actually - the books in question cost $2.99 if you buy them legitimately as ebooks fromAmazon. I get $2 of that - barely enough for a good cup of coffee these days. But since I drink a lot of coffee, I certainly appreciate the money. In a good month, one of these books might earn enough for five or six coffees a week.

I'm extremely grateful to my friends who help support me by buying these book legitimately. They've helped me support my family, albeit in a modest way. I hope I've been able to entertain them a little along the way. I suspect few of them are as well off as Derek, and I'm certainly not, but we've all been able to manage.

Meanwhile, business looks good on the pirate site, which of course claims it's not pirating at all, but merely referring people and facilitating "sharing." In just the few hours that the files had been posted, a three-book set had been downloaded ten times - and I'm sure the Jeter/Ford ad had run at least that many.

Yes, I've filed a complaint with them. I'll report if they ever actually take action. They are of course located out of the U.S., and of course spew complete bs on copyright law, even the international versions.

I'm not the suing kind, but I do have a solution to the problem. If legitimate companies and sports stars are going to support these sites, maybe they'll also support me. Derek, I'd love some seats in the moat*. Doesn't have to be for a full season - a few nights a week will suffice. Ford, I've had my eye on a Taurus SHO...

* To the uninitiated: The "moat" is the area of seats at Yankee Stadium, set off by a concrete wall, very close to the field with access to private clubs behind.

Real Boss Decisions

And you thought your tax season was tough . . .