Why some people still smoke . . .


The tobacco hornworm or Manduca sexta chases away its predators by its nasty nicotine breath, a new study has revealed. The bug uses a nifty trick to convert some of its food into a cloud of poisonous compound that repels its enemies.


Works on humans, too.

Drone touching . . . or not


The Federal Aviation Administration on Monday said it had selected sites in a handful of states to test unmanned aircraft systems, a crucial step in the integration of drones into the national airspace.
The FAA selected teams based in Virginia, Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota and Texas. Several teams included other states in their bids, meaning drone testing will also take place in Hawaii, Oregon and New Jersey.
Each test site will be responsible for testing drones in a different context. Nevada, for instance, will do much of the research on unmanned vehicles’ impact on air traffic control. North Dakota will test the data links between drones and their controllers. New York will test the sense-and-avoid technologies crucial for keeping drones away from people and other aircraft. . . .

. . . because in New York we're sensitive about touching, especially where drones are concerned.


What downsizing feels like . . . 

. . . at least one ex-employee could find the humor ... the company didn't, and "suspended" him a few hours before laying him off. Kind of shows why they couldn't make the stores work in the first place, actually.

Benghazi redux, review, revise . . .

The NYT takes a shot at Benghazi:

Yet as the militiamen snacked on Twinkie-style cakes with their American guests, they also gushed about their gratitude for President Obama’s support in their uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. They emphasized that they wanted to build a partnership with the United States, especially in the form of more investment. They specifically asked for Benghazi outlets of McDonald’s and KFC.
The diplomat, David McFarland, a former congressional aide who had never before met with a Libyan militia leader, left feeling agitated, according to colleagues. But the meeting did not shake his faith in the prospects for deeper involvement in Libya. 


You get the feeling that the story about the murder of the Americans there will be onion-like in its layers and Rorschach-like in its interpretations . . . and that the full story will ultimately never be revealed.

Maybe it can only be told in fiction. Where's Graham Greene when you need him?
Thanks . . .

. . . to everyone for making "Hog Noel" one of the top five free books in its categories this past week.

Unfortunately, we now have to charge for the story. It's set at the lowest price we're allowed, 99 cents. Hopefully, you think it's worth it.

It's here if you haven't read it.

Iraq continues to boil . . .

Iraqi forces have arrested an MP, killing his brother and five of his guards during a raid on his home in the western city of Ramadi.
Ahmed al-Awlani, a member of the Sunni community, had backed protests against the mainly Shia government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and was reportedly wanted on terrorism charges.
Police said Mr Awlani's guards opened fire as officers arrived to detain him.
Another 18 people were wounded in the ensuing skirmish, an official said.
BBC story.

We think of the war as over, but in fact there is more sectarian violence in Iraq than when the U.S. pulled out. On the one hand, al Qaeda extremists are targeting anyone working with the government, and recently staged some prominent attacks in Baghdad. On the other hand, the Shiite-dominated government is widely viewed by Sunnis (and some Shiites) as being a puppet of Iran. It all makes for a bloody mess.

What's interesting in this "arrest" - besides the possible unconstitutionality of it - is the fact that it took place in Ramadi, a city that saw a great deal of fighting during the American occupation. (We touch on a small part of the battle in American Sniper.) Ramadi was immediately declared a success of American kumbaya policy* - more a pr a statement than something factual.

Nation-building was mostly bullshit; the heavy lifting was done by American bullets and bombs. Once the Americans left, the fighting resumed and will undoubtedly continue to escalate.

* After the folk song where everyone joins hands around the fire and lives happily ever after.

If you like the movie . . .

. . . A Christmas Story (the tale of Jean Shepherd's childhood Christmas), you'll want to check out this article by Donald Fagen.


 . . .Long before A Christmas Story was made, [Jean] Shepherd did a nightly radio broadcast on WOR out of Manhattan that enthralled a generation of alienated young people within range of the station's powerful transmitter. Including me: I was a spy for Jean Shepherd.

Story on Slate.

Wishing all a merry Christmas . . .

. . .  may peace and happiness be under your tree and in your lives this year.
Merry Christmas!

This one stars A-Bomb, and it's free for as long as I'm allowed to give it away at Amazon.

Kalashnikov dies


Mikhail Kalashnikov, the former Red Army sergeant behind one of the world’s most omnipresent weapons — the AK-47 and its variants and copies, used by national armies, terrorists, drug gangs, bank robbers, revolutionaries and jihadists — died Dec. 23 at a hospital in Izhevsk, Russia. He was 94.


Without doubt, the AK was and remains the most important rifle made after World War II. Admired, criticized, copied, but never quite duplicated.

James Ferro, not . . .

My wife brought up a good point about the Hogs series - why are the short stories, which were never published and in fact only recently written, credited by "Jim DeFelice writing as James Ferro"?

Pseudonyms die hard, I guess.

Free - but not yet

A new Hogs Christmas story is offered on Kindle here. But don't get it today - it's free from Christmas Eve through Saturday. (The regular price is 99 cents.)

I'd prefer it was free forever, but Amazon won't let me do that.

Coming soon . . .

. . .  to a Kindle near you - a free Hogs Christmas story.

Unfortunately, the way our arrangement with Amazon works, the story can only be offered free for a very limited time - five days. After that, we have to charge for it, and it has to be offered for sale for a total of ninety days or something along those lines. We will set the price as low as is allowed.

Look for it early next week - I'll post when it's up.
Questions . . .

. . . and a few answers.

Ethan Jones is kindly hosting a Q & A with me this week at his site:


Check out the site: there are a lot more interesting things going on over there than my babbling.

Most of the questions have to do with the Rogue Warrior series, but there are a couple on writing in general. One question I wasn't asked but often am about Rogue: Which is my favorite book? The answer is easy - the original nonfiction memoir, which Dick wrote with John Weisman.

At the moment, though, the most relevant is Dictator's Ransom, which is about North Korea and the problems of succession . . . as the father of ST6 would say, was it fiction or prediction?

Lone Survivor

The 60 Minutes interview, part 1.

Part 2.

The movie depicting the battle will open just after Christmas.

Jail's too good for him


John Donald Cody, who operated under the pseudonym Commander Bobby Thompson, was fined more than $6 million in addition to the prison sentence for overseeing a bogus charity called the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, which preyed on people's sympathy for American military veterans at a time of war.
The charges of theft, fraud, money laundering and the use of false identities stemmed from Cody's stewardship of the organization, which raised millions, but when examined by authorities, offered little proof that money was used to assist veterans.

In North Korea, things get crazier


SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said on Friday that Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of its leader Kim Jong-un and considered his mentor, was executed for trying to mobilize the military to stage a coup.

Purge to follow. The only question is what follows that.

Even the Chinese are worried. Meanwhile, Dennis Rodman will visit in a week.

Cookies, my precious . . .

Iran's nuclear missile program isn't on hold

Delivering monkeys . . .

. . . or nukes?


TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran will launch its 7th research rocket called Kavoshgar (Explorer) into space by the end of the next week, Deputy Defense Minister and Head of Iran's Aerospace Organization General Mehdi Farahi announced on Tuesday.
“Kavoshgar 7 will be launched next week as the next part of the plan to send living creatures into space,” Farahi said in Kish Island today.
Story. (The photo there is of a much less capable rocket.)

That's a new word for it


19-Year-Old Will Lose His Virginity in Front of a Crowd for the Sake of Art

Although it may be significant that he's 19, still a virgin, and willing to admit it . . .

'Early' King

An interview with Stephen King when he was still relatively young - and had "only" ten best-sellers.

A knock on NOCs . . .


Twelve years after the CIA began a major push to get its operatives out of embassy cubicles and into foreign universities, businesses and other local perches to collect intelligence on terrorists and rogue nations, the effort has been a disappointment, current and former U.S. officials say. Along with other parts of the CIA, the budget of the so-called Global Deployment Initiative, which covers the NOC program, is now being cut.
"It was a colossal flop," a former senior CIA official said in sentiments echoed by a dozen former colleagues, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a classified program.



What Boeing wants

Boeing has decided to move production of one of its newest aircraft production out of Washington, and is looking for a "friendly" state to locate in. Here's how they define friendly:

Among the “desired incentives” sought by Boeing, the biggest items are these:
• “Site at no cost, or very low cost, to project.”
• “Facilities at no cost, or significantly reduced cost.”
• “Infrastructure improvements provided by the location.”
Additional incentives it lists include:
• Assistance in recruiting, evaluating and training employees.
• A low tax structure, with “corporate income tax, franchise tax, property tax, sales/use tax, business license/gross receipts tax, and excise taxes to be significantly reduced.”
• “Accelerated permitting for site development, facility construction, and environmental permitting.”
Other factors that will be “significant” when Boeing makes its choice early next year include:
• Low overall cost of doing business, “including local wages, utility rates, logistics costs, real estate occupancy costs, construction costs, applicable tax structure obligations.”
• The quality, cost and productivity of the available workforce.
• Predictability of utilities pricing and government regulation.

Basically, the world's leading manufacturer of aircraft is looking for a deal similar to what Russian oligarchs get from Russia. Actually, a little better.

Why don't they ask for a baseball stadium and call it a day?

HOGS 6 now an ebook . . .

Book 6 in the Hogs series, now available on Kindle here. We're working on the Nook edition . . .

Beware of blast

Today's project . . .

When the tough gotta get where the tough gotta go.

Will zeppelins fly again?

Watch out, UPS . . .

Amazon's drones may be OK for delivering a book or a pair of gloves, but how do you deliver a big Cat dozer to Siberia?

Robin Young of Amur Minerals Corp wants to dig for nickel and copper in Siberia where forbidding winters and poor roads make it tough to haul in equipment. His best option: fly it in with zeppelins.

Iran bobs and weaves . . .


 TEHRAN: Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehihas said Tehran will never abandon the Arak heavy water reactor, considering it a "red line" in talks with world powers, media reported on Sunday.
"Your actions and words show you don't want us to have the Arak heavy water reactor which means you want to deprive us of our rights,"Salehi was quoted as saying by the website of state broadcaster IRIB.
"But you should know that it is a red line which we will never cross, likewise enrichment" of uranium.Arak is of concern because, in theory, it could provide the Islamic republic with plutonium - an alternative to highly enriched uranium used for a nuclear bomb.

Story. (It's been interesting to see the coverage in Indian newspapers, which has much more intensive than American or European.)