Long Day on the Road

Drove to Asheville today, for a meeting of the Advisory Council of NC State’s Minerals Research Laboratory. The MRL has a long history of innovations in mining and helping companies evaluate and improve their mineral-related exploits, so it was good to see some of their operation and meet some of the key folks.

In addition, I got to chat for awhile this morning with another Industrial Extension Service writer, and then to chat this afternoon with one of my buddies from Orson Scott Card’s 2004 Literary Boot Camp. So it was a full and productive day all around.

What wasn’t so good, however, was turning around and driving back this afternoon. A little over 8 hours of driving for a little over 4 hours of meetings made for a very long day. But I’m home now, so all is well.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

At Least I Wrote Something Today …

… even if it wasn’t much. 😮

Originally I thought that tonight I’d finish the novel chapter I’m working on, but I didn’t make it. I got caught up in one scene, and think I may have overwritten it (by which I mean — at the moment — put in too many extraneous details). But I’ll save that evaluation for another day, because I’m tired and I have a long day of travel and meetings tomorrow.

Which, of course, means I won’t finish the chapter tomorrow, either. 😡

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Paramount Importance of Defense

Some who know me may think I’m referring to the Clemson Tigers in their quest for a first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference title, but no. (The Tigers haven’t been to the ACC finals longer than I’ve been alive, so it was great to see them get that far; and though it would’ve been terrific to see them win, it just wasn’t to be. And not because of their defense.)

No, this post refers to a new Anti-Candidate position posted in the “General Interest” forum area today, the Anti-Candidate Position on Defense:

National defense is the paramount responsibility of the government, the key thing that people cannot do for themselves.

Contrary to the best intentions of diplomats and the most pleasant dreams of optimists, the world remains a dangerous place. So we agree with Sun Tzu — Master Sun — that, in the opening words of The Art of War, “War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied.”

There’s more, of course, and there’s also the overall Anti-Campaign thread.

As one friend wrote us yesterday, “We’ve got quite a candidate/potential candidate field for this election. It’s a shame the United States public doesn’t have anyone it can truly trust and for which to vote. Another barren election-scape….” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have the Anti-Campaign.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

News You Won't See on TV

Read a fantastic article earlier this week on the state of journalism, and how what we see on television (and, so far as I can tell, what we hear on the radio and read in the paper) is often “trivia framed as Truth.”

The article is Journalist-Bites-Reality! by Steve Salerno, and it includes these encouraging facts — indisputable facts — that no television, radio, or newspaper report will tell you outright:

– The current employment rate is 95.3 percent.
– Out of 300 million Americans, roughly 299.999954 million were not murdered today.
– Day after day, some 35,000 commercial flights traverse our skies without incident.
– The vast majority of college students who got drunk last weekend did not rape anyone, or kill themselves or anyone else in a DUI or hazing incident. On Monday, they got up and went to class, bleary-eyed but otherwise okay.

In news, however, everything is a crisis. (I wrote about this phenomenon a few years ago in my Ornery American essay, “The Redemption of the Vietnam War?”) And, thinking along those lines, this excerpt particularly speaks to the phenomenon of concentrating on relatively rare negative incidents to cast aspersions on large, difficult, complex endeavors:

For all its cinema-verité panache, embedded reporting, as exemplified in Iraq and in Nightline’s recent series on “the forgotten war” in Afghanistan, shows only what’s going on in the immediate vicinity of the embedded journalist. It’s not all that useful for yielding an overarching sense of the progress of a war, and might easily be counterproductive: To interpret such field reporting as a valid microcosm is the equivalent of standing in a spot where it’s raining and assuming it’s raining everywhere.

I think, for the sake of my sense of well-being, I will start inverting all the statistics — and maybe some of the stories — I encounter in news reports.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

We All Believe in Magic … Or We Should

The article Magical Thinking by Matthew Hutson (Psychology Today, Mar/Apr 2008) brought to mind my short story, “The Rocket Seamstress.” This passage from the article especially reminded me of Jelena Olenek, the Russian grandmother who is the main character of my story:

People who truly trust in their rituals exhibit a phenomenon known as “illusion of control,” the belief that they have more influence over the world than they actually do. And it’s not a bad delusion to have—a sense of control encourages people to work harder than they might otherwise. In fact, a fully accurate assessment of your powers, a state known as “depressive realism,” haunts people with clinical depression, who in general show less magical thinking.

Jelena’s magic makes the mighty Russian rockets fly, but there is every possibility that her magic is only a personal delusion. From this magazine article, however, we may get the idea that Jelena is mentally healthier than her relatives who don’t believe in her magic or any magic.

“To be totally ‘unmagical’ is very unhealthy,” says Peter Brugger, head of neuropsychology at University Hospital Zurich.

“The Rocket Seamstress” was originally published in Zahir. It’s now available from Anthology Builder.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Congrats to Vandenberg Launch Team

According to Spaceflight Now, “The inaugural launch of an Atlas 5 rocket from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base occurred as scheduled this morning, thundering skyward at 3:02 a.m. local time (6:02 a.m. EDT) carrying a classified national security satellite.”

That’s good news to wake up to. Congratulations to the launch team and the NRO! Keep up the good work, and thanks for keeping us safe and secure.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Read the Oath, Sen. Obama: It Says Protect and Defend

An old boss sent me this link to a brief video of Senator Obama declaring how he would reduce our nation’s readiness. I put a thread in the Space Warfare Forum about one of his comments, but here I’d like to address his naive comments about nuclear weapons.

(First, I find it appalling that he would “institute an independent … board to ensure that the Quadrennial Defense Review is not used to justify unnecessary spending.” In other words, plainly he does not trust the military, even in the person of the Secretary of Defense — whom he would appoint — and other appointees — whom he would appoint — who would oversee the QDR. But, in his defense, there’s no reason he should know much about what the QDR is or how it works, since he hasn’t been in the Senate very long. And by all accounts, considering how little work he accomplished there, he actually wasn’t in the Senate as long as he’s been a Senator.)

Now, the “goal of a world without nuclear weapons.” To use an overworked but still apt analogy, good luck putting that djinn back in the bottle.

As one who actually did grunt work in the field of nonproliferation (on the space technology side), I’m all for halting the spread of nuclear technologies in order to keep tyrants and crackpot ideologues from getting nukes. But what’s this happy horse manure about “hair trigger alert” and deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals? Perhaps it’s a good thing that a career civilian like the Senator doesn’t know about the safeguards in our nuclear command and control system, although it sounds as if he doesn’t believe they exist — or perhaps doesn’t trust them. But it seems almost shameful that someone who wants to be the Commander in Chief should be so unaware of how thin our nuclear arsenal has become over the last few years, as we’ve taken weapon systems offline (e.g., Peacekeeper) and not replaced them, that he would wish to cut it even more.

This is dangerous enough rhetoric, but I shudder to think how dangerous the world would be if he got the chance to put his ideas into action.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Boredom Sets in and We Die

Which of my high school friends came up with that phrase, which we repeated at some point in almost every class? I think it was either Joe or Shawn, but it was so long ago I’ve forgotten the source. How long ago? In those days, many of us carried pocket knives — from Barlow, Boy Scout, and Swiss Army knives to more exotic blades like butterfly knives — to school without fear of reprisal; and not too many years before, an afternoon hunter could keep his shotgun in his locker during the school day.

But enough reminiscing.

What brought to mind that mantra of frustration? I thought of how sharply it contrasts with a Boston Globe article I read yesterday: “The joy of boredom,” by Carolyn Y. Johnson.

As [Richard Ralley, a lecturer in psychology at Edge Hill University in England] studied boredom, it came to make a kind of sense: If people are slogging away at an activity with little reward, they get annoyed and find themselves feeling bored. If something more engaging comes along, they move on. If nothing does, they may be motivated enough to think of something new themselves. The most creative people, he said, are known to have the greatest toleration for long periods of uncertainty and boredom.

The usefulness of boredom, in spurring us to explore new possibilities, makes sense. It seems that a key factor is what we find rewarding. I slogged away for years at writing THE ELEMENTS OF WAR, “with little reward” except my own satisfaction; frankly, it’s brought more than its share of disappointment (q.v. my entry yesterday). But the same is true for most of my writing. The internal reward keeps me going, even if the pursuit becomes difficult (and yes, boring).

Sometimes that internal reward is barely enough; I hope for more. I keep writing and sending out stories, etc., in my arrogant belief that they have worth beyond the confines of my own mind. So far the world mostly disagrees, so I labor — I slog away through the boredom and doubt — to prove the world wrong.

Boredom sets in … and I write.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Beware the Surgeonsoldiers

If I weren’t ill, I would’ve found something else to do than reading so deeply into the classified ads today; but then I wouldn’t have found this gem on p. 14F of today’s News & Observer:

Evolving out of the evolutions (integral to each other) of Democracy (where every voice counts), Philosophy (where every action counts) & Love (where every love counts) .. is the word ‘surgeonsoldier.’

I haven’t quoted the whole thing, and I won’t, for the simple reason that it’s too confusing and convoluted to carry much meaning … which leads me to suspect it may be a code of some sort, intended only for those who know what it means.

This may be paranoia. Or it may be prudence. As my dad says, “Pay your money and take your choice.” I’ll take the latter.

It just seemed odd, so I dug around a little online: I found a similar item from last Sunday in the Google cache of the N&O, and one from 2004 in the classifieds of the East Carolinian. Last week’s N&O item quoted the East Carolinian item, including reference to “The Day … we ‘n 10 milyun [sic] surgeonsoldiers … proceeded to Bagdad [sic].” Today’s is even more cryptic, with its inclusion of a postscript to a mysterious “Report #389 (News Argus 11/05/00).”

What does it mean that “He returned to the mosque accompanied by 10,000 doctors … to begin the warming of the Cold Peace”? I have no idea. I just hope it isn’t what I’m afraid it might be.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather