Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Morals by St. Basil

“That he who is drawn into sin against his will should understand that, because he was voluntarily mastered by another sin committed previously, he is now, as a consequence of this first sin, led into another against his will.”

Morals, Rule 23, by St. Basil the Great (330-70)

An intriguing view of addiction and addictive behaviors I had not previously considered. And one, I might add, that’s extremely unpopular in 21st-century America’s religion of Therapeutic Moralistic Deism.

“That the Christian should not fear nor be distressed in difficult circumstances, and thus be distracted from his trust in God; but he should take courage as if the Lord were at hand directing his affairs and strengthening him against all his adversaries and as if the Holy Spirit were instructing him even as to the very replies he should make to his foes.”

Morals, Rule 63, by St. Basil the Great

How enlightening! How sublime! How fleeting! Intellectually I know this, yet at the slightest sighting of dark clouds on the horizon, how quickly this slips from my fingertips and I slip into despair. This is something to memorize, something to recite during the long dark nights and just before job interviews and when I approach parents of my daughter’s friends and as I hold a manuscript in my hands and hesitate before hitting the SEND button.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Conservative Racism?

I have a dilemma. Could you help me out with this question?

What can a conservative white man legitimately protest today without being labeled a racist?

The partisan passage of the Health Care Bill?

Yes ____ No ____

Out-of-control spending and the ballooning federal deficit?

Yes ____ No ____

Proposed amnesty for illegal immigrants?

Yes ____ No ____

The Cap and Trade Bill?

Yes ____ No ____

Mismanagement of the country's economy?

Yes ____ No ____

The administration's desire to try KSM in downtown Manhattan civilian court?

Yes ____ No ____

The administration's hardline stance toward Israel?

Yes ____ No ____

Pay Czars - in the United States of America?

Yes ____ No ____

Media bias re: the Tea Party protests versus any single protest by the Left during the George W. Bush presidency?

Yes ____ No ____

Liberals' overly liberal use of accusations of racism?

Yes ____ No ____

I'm honestly quite confused. Any help will be appreciated.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Is This Lazy?

Okay, is this pathetically lazy, or do I have any grounds for denial here?

My wife is busting me over the fact that, well, last week, while she was away at her sales conference, I, uh, well, here, let me explain.

It was late at night. I was tired. A full day of watching the two little ones, feeding and bathing them, getting them in bed, cleaning up the tornado-like mess my house becomes on a daily basis, feeding myself, doing a little work at the writing desk, then going up three flights to lay in bed and read some books. I’m tired, okay? So I noticed I was seriously beginning to hurt myself with my toenails. They were like mini-sabers. Talons. I think I was starting to slice five little holes in whatever pair of socks I was wearing that day.

So I went in to the bathroom and cut them. I did one foot and, like I mentioned, I was tired. I decided to cut the other foot’s toenails the next morning.

I forgot. That was six days ago, and I still haven’t remembered to cut them. I’m actually lopsided when I walk. It’s starting to hurt the lower lumbar of my spine. Anyway, when I mentioned this to my wife, she laughed so hard no noise was coming out of her mouth. In fact, she stopped breathing, and was playfully slapping me in her hysterical fit of humorful hysterics.

“Oh my God,” she exclaimed when she finally could catch her breath. “You are so lazy!”

“I am not!” I protested. “I’m just tired, and forgetful.”

I nursing a wounded ego here, friends. Maybe I’ll get to that other foot later today ….

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Well, my new SF book is starting off promising:

Read this in the first couple of pages of James Blish’s A Case of Conscience. The setting: a two-man station on the jungle planet of Lithia. Here’s part of a discussion between the biologist, who happens to be a Jesuit, and the physicist, working to decide whether the planet would be a suitable port of call for Earth, without damaging either world.

“Well, don’t forget that Lithia is my first extra-solar planet,” Ruiz-Sanchez said. “I think I’d find any new habitable world fascinating. The infinite mutability of life forms, and the cunning inherent in each of them … It’s all amazing, and quite delightful.”

“Why shouldn’t that be sufficient?” Cleaver said. “Why do you have to have the God bit, too? It doesn’t make sense.”

“On the contrary. It’s what gives everything else meaning,” Ruiz-Sanchez said. “Belief and science aren’t mutually exclusive – quite the contrary. But if you place scientific standards first, and exclude belief, admit nothing that’s not proven, then what you have is a series of empty gestures. For me, biology is an act of religion, because I know that all creatures are God’s – each new planet, with all its manifestations, is an affirmation of God’s power.”

Now all that remains to be seen, er, actually, read, is whether the book stays true to this premise or works to undermine it …

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Conservative Battle Plan

Okay, here goes. It’s my first attempt at a battle plan, so forgive the amateurisms and any glaring mistakes you find.


Yes, it is a war.

A war of ideas, and whichever side wins, your life and your lifestyle, as well as those of your family and friends, will be profoundly and intimately affected.

What is victory? The implementation of Conservative political ideals into law and practice in the United States of America in tandem with the decline and ultimate elimination of Big Government Liberalism.

How are the battles won? First at the ballot box. Second, with the consistent application of Conservative ideals in the governance of this country, be it the passage and implementation of Conservative legislation or the guidance of the government by the Executive Branch or the appointment of conservative judges to the Supreme Court.

Let’s define some terms here.

A “win” in an election is when our candidate gets 51% of the vote and the opposition gets 49%.

A “victory” is when our candidate gets 60% or more of the vote. It’s overwhelming and the will of the people cannot be questioned or thrown into doubt by the opposition.

To achieve victory at the ballot box, we need massive victories in every election cycle at all levels of government.

How do we achieve these massive electoral victories?

Simple. We need to accomplish three things:
1. We need to increase the numbers of conservatives and get them to vote
2. We need to win over increasing numbers of independents
3. We need to marginalize the number of liberals voting

How can this be done?

Let’s consider two levels of engagement.

At the Individual Level

1. Right now, while you are reading this, go to

to find your Representative’s contact information. Then go to

to find your Senator’s contact information.

Put their office phone numbers and email addresses on your refrigerator. Put another copy by your phone. Make copies to give to your like-minded neighbors. Do it now.

2. Contact your Representative and/or Senator every time a controversial piece of legislation comes up to a vote and well before every election. Call them frequently. Be polite, clear, concise, and uncompromising. If your Representative and/or Senator is Conservative, offer them support and encouragement to stand firm. If your Representative and/or Senator is a Liberal, tell them you do not want them to vote in favor of more Big Government, and if they do, you will work tirelessly to see them lose their next election. (Print out all electronic correspondence with your elected officials and save in a safe place. Take detailed notes when calling.)

3. Donate $20 to the Conservative candidate in every House, Senate, and Presidential election. $20 is not too much of a sacrifice. There are 300 million American citizens. If half vote, and a third of that are Conservatives, and only 1 percent of those donate $20 to their local candidate, we’ve raised $10 million. Think of how many television commercials, billboards, flyers, newspapers ads, banners, etc, that would buy. Be part of the 1 percent! Better yet, help it to grow to 10 and 20 percent!

4. If you have a friend or a relative overseas in the military, make sure his ballot is counted! Most of the armed forces personnel tend towards the Conservative cause. Encourage them to get their ballots in early.

5. If you have teenagers consider getting a subscription to a Conservative magazine such as National Review, and conveniently leave it around the house for them to leaf through. Watch television with them and challenge with them all the Liberal ideology they will be exposed to. Do not take the indoctrination passively. Fight back intelligently.

6. And speaking of indoctrination, if you have children in college, send that magazine subscription to their dorm! Do your research before selecting a college; you want your children educated, not indoctrinated. Colleges are islands of near-complete Liberalism. Some are worse than others. Talk to people; do research on the Internet. Make sure the son or daughter you send still has your values and ideals when they come home four years later.

7. Don’t forget to educate yourself! Frequent conservative websites. Get yourself subscriptions to National Review or Weekly Standard. Read biographies of great conservative leaders, such as Ronald Reagan. Reading Hannity and O’Reilly and Beck is okay, but feast on the most nutritional food out there: familiarize yourself with the Constitution (have you ever read it?). Learn what’s in the Bill of Rights. Read the Federalist Papers, or at least some reputable summary version. If you’re adventurous, read some books authored by the founders of conservatism: Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk and Friedrich von Hayek. William Buckley is always a profitable read.

8. Argue with your opponents logically, rationally, and calmly. A key component to Liberalism is emotion. Take emotion out of the equation (especially your own!) Keep asking a liberal to defend his propositions, logically, rationally. Eventually, you’ll wind up at some indefensible point, and you’ve won.

9. Hit your opponents in the pocket book. What are the more-or-less accepted bastions of Liberalism today? The major network news, the major newspapers, Hollywood, television. Refuse to patronize them. That’s it. Don’t watch ABC, NBC, or CBS news. It’s all slanted to the left. Don’t subscribe to the New York Times. Don’t buy tickets to anti-American or anti-Conservative movies. And watch TV, and if you see anything offensive to you as a Conservative, let them hear about it! (Just Google “Contact XYZ” and you should reach a contact page for the applicable network. Again, keep all documentation.)

At the National Level

To achieve massive electoral victories, we need to tackle three areas.
- A large-scale effort at public education and awareness
- More effective candidates for public office
- Active engagement with the opposition

Step 1: Create a non-profit group in full cooperation with conservative political leadership.

This group will do all the leg work. It will have a board of directors, a team of constitutional lawyers, and grass-root level workers and managers. It should have an inspirational name, like “Freedom Forever Foundation” or something; not anything inflammatory like “Take Back America” or any such thing.

Make it a point to accept donations no larger than, say, $100. This will fight against the inevitable slur of being in the pocket of Big Business, Big Oil, Big Whatever. The organization must be as transparent as the Obama Administration is not.

Step 2: We must make a public Declaration of Principles.

It should be 10 clear, specific, bullet-point objective-principles of 21st century Conservatism. The basic ideas will be less government intrusion, fiscal responsibility in government, phasing out entitlements, non-violence, etc. We will follow it up with a 5,000 word explanation and expansion of the 10 principles, and will reference the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers, as well as the ideas of Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, Friedrich von Hayek, William F. Buckley, and any applicable Founding Fathers. It must be easily understandable and user-friendly, as it is meant for wide-scale public consideration and consumption.

Ultimately, it must define us, and define us well, so we do not let our opponents define us.

The group will post it on their website and in a coordinated effort with TV, talk radio, dead tree, and online outlets, it work tirelessly to get the message out to the public.

All Conservative candidates must know this and publicly sign it (or else explain why they do not – I’m thinking of the acronym RINO here …).

Step 3: Educate the public on what Conservatism and Liberalism really are.

We should coordinate with FOX News (and any other news stations willing), conservative periodicals such as National Review, Weekly Standard, etc, daily newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal, and major conservative websites to get the message out to the public.

We need to establish and maintain a proud and prominent presence on college campus. Conservatism is the cutting-edge, honest, intellectually rigorous political philosophy; don’t allow it to be labeled otherwise. That should be the appeal to college students.

We must fight the indoctrination taking place in our grade schools and high schools. That’s what those staff lawyers will primarily be for. Publicize and stop any incidents of one-sided brainwashing of young children.

We should work with conservative and independent filmmakers to get out short videos to flood the Internet with: both anti-Obama and anti-Big Government Liberal, as well as pro-Conservative.

Step 4: Quality candidates and quality campaigns

All our candidates must be charismatic. They must be intelligent, optimistic, upbeat, happy, have a great sense of humor and be willing to use it. They must know how to speak clearly and debate effectively. They must physically appeal to voters. None of us are pure and stainless, but our candidates must be vetted properly – there must be no last-minute October surprise skeletons in the closet. And if any candidate is lacking in these skills or traits, he or she must be willing to put in the effort to cultivate charisma and appeal.

We must surpass the opposition’s Get-Out-The-Vote campaigns, but we must never sacrifice principles or do anything illegal.

Every Conservative voter must be encouraged to share the Declaration and to convince friends and family who might not normally vote to get to the polls. This is ultimately a “managed” grass-roots campaign.

We must hold more, more, and even more Town Hall meetings. Big Government Liberals hate them.

Step 5: We must always be forward-thinking and anticipatory.

We must anticipate the attacks of our opponents. The first thing that will happen is that our message will be distorted. The second thing will be that our character will be disparaged. We must address the higher standard / double standard applied to conservatives. We must prepare for tangential slurs such as being labeled racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. We must accept our motives will be falsely represented (“They want to turn the US into a theocracy!”). We must have clear and concise rebuttals immediately at hand whenever such false accusations arise. We must accept, welcome, and recruit men and women of all ethnicity and orientations. This is political freedom movement; not a movement espousing any morality.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Hey, I want to do a short li’l post explaining my disgust-resignation (disgustination? resigust?). I have three points I want to mention.

First, I remember a time about three or four years ago when my wife and I were discussing politics. Everyone in the media seemed to be ready to anoint Hillary as the first woman president. Rainbows and puppies and butterflies as we actualized the Age of Aquarius. Now, not to be too hyperbolic, but there’s something about her that scared us. She’s ice cold, a dormant volcano with a lotta pressure built up underneath, and much more liberal and less pragmatic than her husband ever was. So we decided that, if Hillary was the nominee, we’d volunteer our time to fight against her campaign. I’d lick stamps, and the wife would chat up undecideds on the phone. Anyone but Hillary was our rallying cry.

Then, I had my two surgeries and the wife got pregnant. Our second daughter was born six weeks before the election, so all those plans were shelved.

In the meantime, BHO came along, and the media dropped Hill like a hot potato. Blackness trumped womanhood in degree of victimology, so he became their anointed. And when he was elected a few months later, this thought kept creeping back into my mind:

Be careful what you wish for …

I now see the wisdom in that warning.

Next, I keep thinking about what’s called the Hegelian Two-Step. I don’t know who coined the phrase, but I see it every now and then on them internets. Most of us who aren’t philosophy majors know Hegel only for his idea of the dialectic: There’s a thesis, followed by a movement in the opposite direction, the antithesis, culminating in a smaller lurch back towards the center, called the synthesis. It’s how History progresses, evolves.

The Hegelian Two-Step goes something like this: There’s a sharp implementation of liberal ideas, followed by an opposing conservative movement. Yet the synthesis, the corrective, centering movement, never completely returns fully to the center. Normally, you’d expect, oh, say, one step left, two steps right, one step left to return to true center. However, the Hegelian Two-Step is one step left, two steps right, and one-and-a-half centering steps left. History inevitably and incrementally moves leftward.


This leads me to my final item. John Derbyshire over at The Corner on National Review came up with a great image a few days ago, just after Health Care “Reform” passed. To paraphrase, he’s convinced that Western Civilization is like the Titanic, only taking his lifetime to sink (he’s in his mid-60s). This Health Care sham is not the ice berg; it’s just another hatch breaking under the pressure of the relentless, creeping icewater. Drinks and food are still coming up from the galley, and the band is still playing, and some people are still lounging in deck chairs oblivious to the fact that the ship is still sinking.

I hate it, but I have to agree.


You know what I want?

What I really, really want?

I want to work for a decent company and make enough to pay my bills. Pay my mortgage, the utilities, food and clothes, pay off some bad credit card debt. Put a little bit into a retirement and a college savings account. With enough left over every year for a modest vacation. I’d continue to blog and do my websites, write my novels and short stories, at night, and publish a few things here and there before I die.

That’s all.

Is that asking too much?

Right now no one is hiring. You can’t get a job unless you can bring in money, serious money, into the company. There’s a nationwide hiring freeze. BHO has been president for fourteen long months and has done absolutely nothing to alleviate this. Absolutely nothing! If you don’t believe so, prove to me otherwise.

So that’s why I’m disgusted, resigned, and depressed. But I’m also getting something else, and that’s: fired up.

Tomorrow I want to give it the old “college try.” Sure, why not? The title of tomorrow’s post will be “A Conservative Battle Plan.”

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Health Care II

What do I think should have been done?

What do I think can be done if and when we repeal this garbage legislation?

First and foremost, the solution should not be government based. As in most economic-based problems and initiatives, government needs to get out of the way. It’s just a speed bump whose size depends on how badly your elected leaders wish to meddle in your affairs. Regulate, by all means, and protect the little guy. That’s fine. We have more than enough laws currently on the books that are not enforced. But the answer cannot be centered about the government.

So what can be done?

Since I find this whole issue tiresome but feel obligated to comment in light of yesterday’s post, let me just list three items I’ve heard and read about that make intuitive and reasonable sense to me.

1) Allow consumers to buy health insurance over state lines. From what I understand, this is one of the main reasons auto insurance is so competitive and thus relatively cheaply priced. Also, not subject to crazy State mandates.

2) Allow consumers to pick the particulars of their insurance policy. If you don’t expect to have gender reassignment surgery, why pay for it? If you don’t expect to need mental health treatment, why pay for it? If you’re a single man, why be forced to have pregnancy coverage? You get the idea.

3) Put caps on punitive damages for cases brought by ambulance chasers. Maybe establish some type of “loser pays” caveat to discourage frivolous lawsuits. Many of which are settled out of court because it’s cheaper, but it only raises everyone’s costs in the long term.

There. That’s it. What’s the downside of these three points, exactly? Why not implement them? Surely premiums would go down, resulting in affordable health care for individuals and families and for employers to offer their workers. That’s the goal, isn’t it?

Isn’t it?

The solution is consumer-driven free-market capitalism. Sure, there will be abuses, so that’s why the government takes the role of police officer, making sure everyone plays nice. It does not become the main player. Just open up any Economics 101 text book and read about monopolies. That’s exactly what Obamacare is directed toward: government monopoly. If you don’t think so, I ask you to address my twenty points in yesterday’s post. I challenge you to convince me differently.

(Thought experiment: Consider any founding father – Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Madison, Washington – and ask yourself, “Would this man prefer Obamacare or a free-market capitalist solution to the health care crisis?” I would love to have a journalist with a spine and a full set of balls ask the President this question, and enjoy watching him hem and haw and filibuster and enthusiastically go off on tangents and, finally, get exasperated over the Mean Question and play the victim card … )

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Obligatory Health Care Post

We all know that our current system of health care is unsustainable in the long run. Smart people from all sides of the political spectrum tell us so. That’s not debatable. The debate is on how precisely to reform it. That is where Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, fundamentally part ways. And as with all things political, there is the inherent confusion, obfuscation, and purposeful fuzzy thinking.

Work with me as I try to clarify my thinking here.

First, what about this whole “it’s a right!” issue? Liberals – though not all and not exclusively – believe health care a right. This is a fuzzy statement.

No one in the country, even the illegal immigrant, even the poorest of the poor huddling masses, is denied medical treatment. What’s left out is a very important adjective:


So it’s affordable health care that we all want. But is that a “right”?

I’ve listened to conservative talk show hosts who do not believe affordable health care is a right. They say coy and inflammatory things like, “Is there a right to a luxury hotel room?” They say more thought-provoking things like “Is there a right to education?” “Is there a right to transportation?” “To housing?” How about, “Do we have a right to food?”

These are difficult questions. Difficult because, no, I don’t think we have a right to be educated or a right to be provided transportation or housing. There is no “right” to food or affordable health care. The only “rights” we have are those enumerated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. Can bear guns, can speak freely, etc. Affordable health care ain’t there.

To me, though, just saying that there is no “right” to affordable health care is not a satisfactory answer.

This is what it says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 2288:

Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.

Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance.

Now I know we are trending toward an officially secular nation. But we were undeniably founded on Judeo-Christian values. So though those items in the last sentence above are not “rights” per se granted to us by our founding documents, they are a shining example for us to live up to as a society. A bulls-eye for an enlightened nation to aim. Catholics, who make up a quarter of the United States population, are bound by this. Non-Catholic Christians should have no problem with CCC 2288. Atheists may have difficulty justifying why exactly we should provide attainment to these things, but if you want to be a card-carrying member of the human race, I think you need to sign on to this.

And no, this societal benchmark to provide affordable health care does not include abortion. Abortion has nothing to do with health, or life. It has everything to do with death. Death of a unique individual, unique because he or she does not share the same DNA as his or her mother. As far as the right to affordable health care involving such morally ambiguous or psychologically shaky procedures as gender reassignment surgery or breast enlargement or viagra, I don’t know. My heart says no but my head hurts too much right now to know how to logically defend the position. But that’s not the subject of this post. Affordable health care definitely, and obviously, I guess, includes preventive care, life-saving operations, cancer treatment, pediatric care, trauma, etc.

By the way, when I had my surgical procedures to correct my atrial fibrillation, each procedure cost my insurance company one year of my salary. This was a five-hour procedure under general anaesthesia and an overnight hospital stay. I had two such procedures. I have not tallied up all the bills from my 20-day hospital stay last February, but I have no doubt it was close to three years of my salary. Since we live paycheck to paycheck, basically, yes, we would have been bankrupted had there not been health care insurance. Even so, the whole ordeal cost me about $6,000 out of pocket.

When the Little One fell at her daycare center, blogged about here, our insurance company was billed $3,500 for those twenty stitches. For that we paid $0 out of pocket.

Go figure. It’s like deciphering the tax code.

Now, here’s the gist of this post. Just as I think almost everyone would agree with everything I said above, I think you’ll all agree with this distinction: There are morally beneficial and morally detrimental ways to go about making health care affordable.

That being said, I do not believe this Obama-Pelosi-Reid monstrosity is morally defensible.


Do you want my reasons alphabetically or in ranking of importance? Never mind. I’m gonna give them to you in stream-of-consciousness order.

1) It adds to the deficit and thus the impending financial instability of the United States.

2) Everyone’s premiums will go up, because, well, we now have the government’s hand in it. And with no profit motive to sharpen and focus it, it will bloat and meander and expand and inevitably go up in cost.

3) Any bill that has a provision to hire more IRS agents to help enforce it is a bill we do not want. This alone should terrify any normal citizen.

4) There’s no incentive for businesses to provide health care insurance for their employees. The public option will swell as employers drop health insurance benefits and insurance companies gradually go out of business. From what I’ve heard (and I’m willing to grant that all information about this bill is ideologically slanted because, well, see #7 and #12), the fine businesses will incur will be substantially less than the cost of providing health insurance.

5) Doctor’s are scared of this bill. They spend a lot of money over an eight-year education to become doctors. Now the government will have a say in how and how much they get paid. Take basic human self-interest and basic economic theory, and you know what? There will be less doctors as the years go by. As a result, lines will be longer, waiting will be longer, and quality of care will decline.

6) What the hell are student loans doing in this bill?

7) Why is this bill 2,000 pages long? Forget about the merits or drawbacks to Romney’s Massachusetts plan. This bill, at least in the early days, was touted as based on that plan because “it worked.” Romney’s plan was 70 pages long. Why the extra 1,930 pages?

8) As a corollary to #2 and #4 – my wife’s company takes out roughly $200 a week for her family health insurance coverage. That’s about $800 a month. When I was working, my company offered a family plan to our employees which it (my company, that is) was billed about $1700 a month. So a year or two from now when the wife’s company drops health care benefits and we’re forced to go on the public option, do you think we’ll still pay $800 a month or closer to $1700 a month? Or more?

9) The government has no business mandating its citizens to purchase any certain specific products, in this case, a health insurance policy. This is the constitutional argument many of the states attorney generals will be looking into.

10) This thing was bulldozed through over the will of the people. Every other large-scale legislation that remade American society has had bipartisan support. This does not.

11) Abortion funding is provided for in this bill. A portion of my family’s tax dollars will now go towards killing babies.

12) Obama’s administration was supposed to set new standards for transparency. If Pelosi does not even know what’s in the bill she twisted arms and bribed representatives to get passed, how is Joe Citizen? And how “transparent” is a 2,000 page bill, anyway? It takes me six weeks to read a 1,000 page George R. R. Martin novel, and that’s enjoyable! It would take me about four months to wade through this piece of sh*t, and that’s only if I managed to keep myself from drinking again.

13) Taxes will go through the roof. This is to be expected with a Democrat in the White House, but how much more so with an activist Democrat at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? And how, again, do high taxes stimulate the economy and provide jobs?

14) I fail to believe Big Government is the answer to any domestic sociological problem. I challenge you to name one initiative that has been successful. Government always underestimates the cost, always grows, succumbs to mission creep, and needs more and more taxation to sustain itself, and cannibalizes private industry to thrive.

15) It will do absolutely nothing to lessen the unemployment problem. No one’s hiring right now, because no one’s sure what the hell new regulations and penalties and expenses every new hire will bring. If you owned a small business and had five people working for you, and you were lucky enough to be busy, would you honestly take on three new workers right now, or just ask your existing employees to work a little harder and maybe pay them a little more or give them a good bonus? Hmm?

16) As a corollary to #3, say goodbye to a little bit more of your privacy.

17) Death panels! Yes, the name is intended to be over-the-top. But you can bet your behind there’s gonna be a bunch of twerps in suits and ties with big rubber stamps – a red X and a green check mark – going over your requests for the latest lab tests and procedures. And what will be their criteria? Cold, simple cost-benefit analysis. The cost of the test / procedure against the benefit you bring as an economic entity. What else would it be? Tell me I’m wrong, please.

18) And just what is the rationale for allowing “children” to stay on parent’s policies until the age of 26? Normally, while they are still at college they can remain on their parent’s policies with a letter from the school registrar as proof. Is there such a high demand of college graduates to need to stay on Mom and Dad’s insurance? Are we nannying our children into helplessness? Or is it because with the stagnant economy they won’t find a job for a year or two or three after graduating, and thus can’t get health coverage? Yeah, that’s probably that’s the reason.

19) Insurance companies can’t deny applicants with pre-existing conditions … so, why even buy insurance until you actually need it, since they can’t deny you. Doesn’t make sense, unless you actually want insurance companies to go out of business.

20) And why oh why oh why with a real unemployment rate of 17%, if not higher, over the past year, if not longer, why has this been the focus of our President, his administration, the Senate, and the House of Representatives? So much time, money, and effort wasted while real Americans – American workers and American employers – are seriously hurting out there, and this is Obama’s laser-like focus? Seriously? That alone, that defiant and haughty disconnect with reality, is sufficient reason to throw his hopey changey butt out of office in November of 2012.

So, no, this piece of garbage legislation is no cause for celebration. It will harm our economy, harm our pocketbooks, and ultimately harm our health. It contains too many morally detrimental elements. This thing needs to be repealed, and everyone who voted for it needs to be thrown out of office as soon as possible.

Again, please: If you think I am incorrect or ill-informed or just way off base on any points brought up in this post, please help me out. Honestly, I’d like to understand this strange thinking that led to this disastrous bill.

Tomorrow I’ll post on what I think should be done. (It will be about a third the length of this post.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


… and resignation …


“A democracy can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury.”

- Alexander Fraser Tyler, The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic

I believe we passed this tipping point Tyler writes about. I think it most likely began during FDR’s New Deal, solidified under LBJ’s Great Society, and is reaching culmination in Obama’s Hope and Change.

How do you possibly fight against such a slippery slope?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Involuntary Electrokinesis

Hi. I just realized something about myself during my 35-minute walk last night.

I suffer from IEK, Involuntary Electrokinesis. I am an involuntary electrokineticist.

Has this ever happened to you? Ever walk under a streetlight, and just as you’re under it, it goes off? No? Yes?

Ever happen to you every time you go out walking?

I can remember noticing my involuntary electrokineticism as far back as 1991, when me and two buddies rented a house just off the New Jersey Turnpike. I was out biking during a fitness phase and as I was pedaling over Route 80 the streetlight went out, exactly as I passed beneath it. That was odd, I thought, and forgot about it, until it happened a couple of days later.

Now don’t get me wrong. My ability (talent?) lies dormant for weeks and months at a time. But the more I’m out at night doing the walkin’ or, in an earlier life, the runnin’ or the bikin’, the more I notice my strange influence on mercury halogen lighting fixtures. Years passed and I entered a more sedentary form of middle age, welcoming it a little too enthusiastically, I suppose, and I quite forgot about this phenomenon until last night. I strolled past this chiropractor’s office, and as soon as I glanced over to my right to check the building out, the light over his parking lot went out. It couldn’t have been a timer, I don’t think, because this was about 8:40 pm.

The frustrating part about it all is that I can’t control it. So I don’t think I can work this into some sort of superhero gig.

I wrote an outline way back way back about this kid, Elmo, who had IEK. This was before the Elmo-the-Sesame-Street-character, too, because the kid was Japanese, the son of a wealthy industrialist. But not too bright, though, since some unsavory types manage to kidnap him. They mail their demands to the old man, who refuses to pay. So as they enter the tiny hidden room where Elmo is bound to a chair, ready to execute him (or maybe just mail a finger or two to dad), the kid looks up and all the lights go out in the building.

Unlike Elmo, I cannot control the flow of electricity. But one day, perhaps …

Sunday, March 21, 2010

When We Wandered

Off The Path Of Greatness






There are other dates I considered adding, but I think historians, both professional as well as armchair, need at least a 25-year buffer to retain at least the appearance of impartiality. So, sometime after the year 2033, I’ll decide whether to officially add 3/20/2003 and 11/4/2008 to the list. By the way, I wish to add neither. Currently, the first date does not seem to be heading there for a dishonored spot, but as for the second …

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Storm of Swords

Do you like to read?

Do you enjoy fantasy novels?

Do you enjoy fantasy novels anchored in a world so realistic you almost think you’ve picked up some gripping historical fiction?

On the other hand, do you also like a bit of “old-school” fantasy elements, like, oh, a dragon or two, or a wee bit of sorcery, things like that?

Does the prospect of wandering through a rich tapestry of lands and kingdoms, each with living histories, intriguing cultures and customs, mythologies and religions, entice you?

When you see a map or two on the first page of a novel, do you pause and study it for minutes at a time, and dog-ear the page for future reference?

Are you fascinated by the minds and motivations of kings and lords, both evil and good, as well as those of peasants and grunt foot soldiers, who often have some nasty choices to make for mere survival’s sake?

Do you fancy yourself a student of warfare, particularly of the medieval variety, or would you like to be?

Are regular trips through the emotional wringer – cliffhangers and the promise of vengeance for injustices done to characters you quickly come to love – a sweet addictive element to your reading?

Do you find appeal with stories and tales entrenched in that “age of heroes”, where men are authentically men and women are authentically women?

And do you harbor perhaps a slightly more than wistful wish to be completely transported into and spend a lengthy time in such a vivid world … at least 3,000 pages-worth?

Well, if you answered YES to ALL these questions, I have one imperative for you:

Go out and start reading George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

But if you answered YES to ALL the above questions, you probably already have.

This series starts with A Game of Thrones and continues with A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords. I’ve been reading them since the beginning of this past October. I just finished A Storm of Swords yesterday, and I’ll take a break for a week or two, and then start the fourth entry, A Feast of Crows, in early April.

This is the best series I’ve read since I read Tolkien thirty years ago.

Friday, March 19, 2010


One more, and I’ll lay off the poetry for a while. One more ’cause it’s late at night and I’m feeling kinda blue.

Also, very busy with the girls and polishing up my novels.

Also, the wife is flying out next week for her annual sales trip, so there’s all that to deal with.

Also, also, also …

Ah, heck! I’ve had enough alsos in my life.

Here’s Tennyson’s St. Simeon Stylites, a brutally vivid poem about that guy who spent 30 or 40 years on top of a pillar, naked to the elements, in some highly original form of self-flagellation. What can I say; it resonated with me!

Altho' I be the basest of mankind,
From scalp to sole one slough and crust of sin,
Unfit for earth, unfit for heaven, scarce meet
For troops of devils, mad with blasphemy,
I will not cease to grasp the hope I hold
Of saintdom, and to clamour, morn and sob,
Battering the gates of heaven with storms of prayer,
Have mercy, Lord, and take away my sin.
Let this avail, just, dreadful, mighty God,
This not be all in vain that thrice ten years,
Thrice multiplied by superhuman pangs,
In hungers and in thirsts, fevers and cold,
In coughs, aches, stitches, ulcerous throes and cramps,
A sign betwixt the meadow and the cloud,
Patient on this tall pillar I have borne
Rain, wind, frost, heat, hail, damp, and sleet, and snow;
And I had hoped that ere this period closed
Thou wouldst have caught me up into Thy rest,
Denying not these weather-beaten limbs
The meed of saints, the white robe and the palm.
O take the meaning, Lord: I do not breathe,
Not whisper, any murmur of complaint.
Pain heap'd ten-hundred-fold to this, were still
Less burthen, by ten-hundred-fold, to bear,
Than were those lead-like tons of sin, that crush'd
My spirit flat before thee.

And it goes on for three or four more pages, a poetic Jobian verbal joust with the Almighty, and I’m not sure quite what it all means.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Had A Dream

All right. Let’s get a moderate tempo going, say, 75 beats per minute.

The drummer should line the interiors of his kit with tinfoil.

Two lazy yet heavy half-note power chord Cs, then some meandering D arpeggios, all played on a Gibson SG doubleneck.

I had a dream

People won’t you listen now

Those C chords again, those arpeggios again.

Crazy dream

Oh, you don’t know what you’re missing now

Wait – you don’t want to know what you’re missing. At least in my head. You see, I’m having a recurring dream lately. And no, it’s not the blob monster or the old standby where I’m an actor in a movie doing a scene where I’m gonna get shot to death.

I think we all have variations of this particular dream I had last night. I’ve certainly dreamed a bunch of ’em over the years. But the past month or so I’ve had three or four of these babies, and I’d be concerned except for one thing.

I appear to be in control of me in my dream.

What’s the dream? It’s those old high school or college dreams you may also have. Some people say they’re naked in those dreams, but not me. It’s always a variation of … uh oh, final exams, and wait! Didn’t I drop that class? No! I didn’t! How can I possibly study all that calculus or statistics or English Lit or you name it! I’m gonna fail, ’cause I never did any homework or study! And I’m paying for these classes! Ahhh!

The past two times I dreamed this stressful dream, I simply said to myself, “LE, don’t worry. This is just a dream, and you don’t have to take that final exam. Move on.” In my dream I’d simply wander through another segue into a different theatre of subconscious cinema.

Last night there was a twist in the set-up. I was in college, but it was the first day of class, not the last. The teacher, some free-spirit type you might see on teevee or at your local community college, was pairing us up while loudly going through the syllabus. Apparently, by the end of the semester, we all would have to go up on stage, one at a time, and sing a line from some song to our classmates. There would be no exceptions. “Because,” she said, and this was the bizarre part, “if you can’t sing a simple short line from a song in front of all your peers, how can you expect to witness for Jesus to strangers?”

You know what the initials WTF stand for? Well, the neurochemical equivalent rebounded through my brain and bloodstream that moment.

This had all the trappings of a nightmare for me. Not a monster nightmare, or one of those “someone’s in the room with me!” nightmares, but an equally stressful terror, a modern-day-man’s nightmare, one sure to lead to a bad night’s sleep and a grumpy, moody morrow.

For me, this new twist was probably the psychic residue from all those times I said to my wife, “Man, those auditions on American Idol. Brutal. I could never do that!” Plus the fact that my subconscious was guilting me over confessing Jesus in public, well, this has all the makings enlarging that little ball of omnipresent stress that’s causing me to grind the tips off all my molars in my sleep.

But now Dream Me is in charge of his own destiny!

I stood up in this auditorium and confronted this ditz who had all the power over me due to that easy-to-abuse teacher-student relationship, and flat out said that I’m not gonna do it. Shocked, she started cajoling me, then threatening me, then belittling me in front of the class, but I just turned my back on her, waved my had dismissively, and walked out. Into the next segue of my REM excursions. And I didn’t give it another thought, but when I woke up, that was the dream I remembered, and I was pleased with myself.

Am I somehow becoming a lucid dreamer without putting any iota of effort forth?

Any little song that you know
Anything that’s small
Has to grow …

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Alfred and Arthur

How about some real poetry, eh? Here’s the end section of Tennyson’s Morte d’Arthur. Now, I am by no means an expert on poetry, but I have read my fair share. When Tennyson is good, it truly connects with me. Shivers up the spine, a shake of the head, glorious frustration, that sort of thing. A hint of a bolder (better?) world. A craving for that glimpse of the lost age, the Age of Heroes. How can a man possibly write like that? Envoy and ambassador from such an Age or merely a mortal gifted with some special sight?

Here ended Hall, and our last light, that long
Had wink’d and threaten’d darkness, flared and fell:
At which the Parson, sent to sleep with sound,
And waked with silence, grunted ‘Good!’ but we
Sat rapt: it was the tone with which he read –
Perhaps some modern touches here and there
Redeem’d it from the charge of nothingness –
Or else we loved the man, and prized his work;
I know not: but we sitting, as I said,
The cock crew loud; as at that time of year
The lusty bird takes every hour for dawn:
Then Francis, muttering, like a man ill-used
‘There now – that’s nothing!’ drew a little back
And drove his heel into the smoulder’d log,
That sent a blast of sparkles up the flue:
And so to bed; where yet in sleep I seem’d
To sail with Arthur under looming shores,
Point after point; till on to dawn, when dreams
Begin to feel the truth and stir of day,
To me, methought, who waited with a crowd,
There came a bark that, blowing forward, bore
King Arthur, like a modern gentleman
Of stateliest port; and all the people cried,
‘Arthur is come again: he cannot die.’
Then those that stood upon the hills behind
Repeated – ‘Come again, and thrice as fair;’
And, further inland, voices echo’d – ‘Come
With all good things, and war shall be no more.’
At this a hundred bells began to peal,
That with the sound I woke, and heard indeed

The clear church-bells ring in the Christmas-morn.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Ballad of Leroy and Knick

I had a cat as a little boy
His name was, honestly, Leroy
Spots of brown on long white hair
Auburn tail straight up in the air
A big fat water balloon of belly
Unchanged litter box foul and smelly
Little pink pads dotting under his paws
Fought on his back as he had no front claws
His greeting made you say, “Wow!
What an incredibly high-pitched meow!”
Our front windowsill his throne
Gnawed all day on a chicken bone
Dined on tender vittles at night
His obese body a magnificent sight
Bathing in the sun his only goal
Quenched his thirst from the toilet bowl
As older kids we’d often think
Let’s try to get Leroy to drink
Zambuca in his water dish
Budweiser mixed with tuna fish
But he ran off in a kinda slow flash
Tagged with a blue magic marker moustache
“I have an idea,” said my mother,
“Let’s bring Leroy to meet his brother!”
Fortunately the trip was not too far
Still car-sick Leroy peed the car
We thought we’d see brothers-in-arms
We saw instead some serious harm

My uncle had a cat named Knick
Whose uncouth habits made us sick
Long white hair with patches of brown
Occasional clumps of poop hung down
With some scissors we’d trim that turd
In gratitude he left us a dead bird
Tail cut in half in some accident foul
His meow a throaty growl
Around Grandpa’s legs he’d shed and pace
He licked the sweat off uncle’s face
In uncle’s sneaker he buried his head
Hid under a couch and we thought he was dead
Dragged his rump along the floor
To scratch an itch and maybe more
Paws perpetually a dirty gray
Prowled all night and slept all day
A neighbor’s dog nearly ended poor Knick
Till he ran through the garage door real quick
Compared to Leroy he wasn’t as fat
But, man, he was a really gross cat

So one early Spring Sunday
We drove to uncle’s house to play
Pee-stained Leroy in the backseat
We thought it would be an awesome treat
To reunite the two brothers cat
What could be more kumbaya than that?
They took one look at each other
Does a cat know the concept of “brother”?
In hindsight it wasn’t in their heart
For they tried to tear each other apart
Leroy clawed my mother’s arm
To try to give his brother harm
We all knew he was no match for Knick
This needed to be ended quick
We hauled Leroy back in the car
Knick howling from the yard afar
We drove back home and we all felt a little bitter
A cat has no brother once outside of the litter


Dedicated to the Little One …

Monday, March 15, 2010

Second Order

Ordered a second batch of used books over the weekend. I am very, very hopped up! Admittedly, I am a recent convert to the idea of buying used books online. What appeals most to me is the hunt. The thrill of the chase! (Says the bookworm as if he’s on safari with Hemingway.) I enjoy shelves and shelves of old, used books, hunting out titles and authors, stealing upon unexpected finds at bargain prices. A lot of the stuff I’m into is long out-of-print, and over the years I’ve gotten used to this process of seeking out. But lately I’ve been somewhat disappointed in my used books stores (four of which I frequent fairly regularly). I’m seeing the same old titles over and over again.

So, two months ago I bit the bullet and went to an online used book distributor. I hunted up a couple of out-of-prints from my youth and a couple I came upon in my writing and reading research. None disappointed. I have one left on deck, one which I’ll get to once I’ve finished the George R. R. Martin book, which should be in about a week or ten days.

We’ve been subjugated to seriously high winds and heavy rains all weekend up here. Power has been sporadic. Massive trees are laying across the roads. Fighting cabin fever, I decided that it was time for a second batch of books, so I waited until the gales subsided and went down to the writing office to place my order. In a few days I should have …

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann.

Found it online for a good price … heard it’s a big, difficult novel with promises of philosophical weirdity. Other than that, know nothing about it. Looking forward to the challenge.

Flying Saucers by Carl Jung.

Did a post on this a few days back, here.

Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson.

Always been on my radar, never could find it. Written a century ago (I think), dramatizing the second coming of Jesus amidst a world conquered by communism. Again, I think. Should be interesting, to say the least, to see how that touchy topic’s handled.

Moreau’s Other Island by Brian Aldiss

Tried to score this one for ages. Simply hooked by the title alone. Aldiss is a great writer who never disappoints, yet somehow I never quite got into him. His collection of short stories, Who Can Replace A Man, was tremendously influential on me, being one of the mysterious half-dozen novels of my father’s I found hidden away in a dining room hutch.

Introduction to the Theory of Relativity by Peter Bergmann

All the general-public physics books say the same things over and over. It’s all history of the book’s topic and how the book’s topic relates to Einstein, with nary an equation ’cause we don’t want to scare off our dumb readership. Well, I’m not looking for a textbook, per se, I still have a couple from my college days, but I’m looking for something a bit meatier and substantial. Though I do believe Einstein wrote the intro to this book; Bergmann being a very close student-turned-colleague.

Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church by H. W. Crocker III

Again, this has been on my radar for a while. Read part of it when I borrowed it from the library as a new book maybe seven or eight years ago, and thought, gee, this is a book I’d like to buy and take my time through. Well, that time is now. It seems for every pro-Catholic Church book out on the library shelves there are four or five (or six or seven) anti-Church books. Why is that, I wonder? Crocker’s book is very much pro-Church, and I’m looking forward to it.

When does that postman get here, dammit? …

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Pi Day!

I’m having a nerdgasm, for today is Pi Day!

You may think π is just some thing you learned about circles way back in high school algebra. However, π is a tool the Ancient One used to craft this whole crazy thing we call Objective Reality, much like a carpenter uses various tools to build, say, a house. I liken π to a nail, because just as, in a house, you’ll find nails holding the 2x4 framework together, holding the sheetrock onto the framework, the shingles on the roof, the window frames, the stairs, you name it, π pops up all over the place in the physical universe. Not only in the inherent traits of circles and spheres, but in

- Einstein’s cosmological constant of General Relativity
- Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle of Quantum Mechanics
- Coulomb’s law describing the electric force
- the permeability of magnetism in free space
- numerous probability and statistical functions that are beyond me
- Kepler’s Third Law of planetary motion
- Euler’s Identity (a.k.a. the most beautiful equation in mathematics)

to name but a few.

Tradition in the LE household on Pi Day is to memorize out to 20 digits. Well, let me rephrase that. On Pi Day LE memorizes π while the wife and children make fun of him. But no matter, my inner nerd cannot be contained on March 14th! And the reason why it’s an annual event is because I memorize out twenty digits, remember it for a day or two, then promptly forget it.

3.14159 26535 89793 23846 ...

As you may or may not know, π is an irrational and transcendental number. This means it cannot be expressed as a fraction or as the solution to an algebraic equations. Practically, that means that the numbers to the right of the decimal go on and on and on and, presumably, will never cease doing so. π has been calculated out to over a trillion digits via supercomputers (although only 700 or so digits via the human mind and pencil and paper, done in the late 19th century).

No pattern has been detected within those trillion digits. I have heard that Carl Sagan postulated a deep coded message within π in his novel Contact. I read the book in the mid-90s but don’t remember much about that. It is a neat idea, though.

Well, I know you were sleeping through it this morning, so when 3:14 rolls around this afternoon, join me in a celebratory piece of pie, okay?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Quote Muy Mysterioso

Who said –

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”


“... one of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought.”

? ? ?

Both of these quotes connect with me on a very deep level. Both deserve their own post, which I may do early next week if I have a sufficiency of time and a worst-case bout of verbosity. Yeah, ya know, that might not be a bad exercise, come to think of it!

HINT: This person also said,

“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”

And I personally find this person quite frustrating to reconcile in my mind.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Donnie Darko

Watched Donnie Darko last night. My verdict? Extremely weird. Megaweird. Not weird in a Tim Burton-Johnny Depp kinda way, but weird in a dark, foreboding, something-real-bad-is-gonna-happen-any-minute way. The plot is almost indescribable. Or rather, I don’t see how I can do it any justice in a 750-word post. If you know me, and know the types of movies I like, and you like them, you’ll like this. If you don’t know me, but liked The Box, for instance, check this one out.

So in lieu of a full-blown and spoiler-laden review, here are

25 Things I Liked And / Or Noted About Donnie Darko:

1. Doomsday prophecy in the first five minutes
2. A nightmare-inducing six-foot bunny
3. Time travel
4. Book #1 – The Philosophy of Time Travel (wish that was a real book!)
5. Spontaneously falling jet engines (wait – not so spontaneous!)
6. Parallel universes
7. Book #2 – Watership Down
8. Seth Rogen playing a switch-blade carrying school bully
9. Author #1 mention – Graham Greene
10. The movie takes place in 1988, when I was just past Donnie’s age
11. Hypnosis is creepy
12. Is this real or am I imagining it???
13. The Patrick Swayze swish shots on his motivational tape
14. Nothing as menacing as storm clouds reaching down to your house
15. Donnie’s mother is a great actress
16. “Grandma Death” waiting for the letter that has yet to come
17. Author #2 mention – Stephen Hawking
18. Drew Barrymore can’t act her way out of a paper bag, but she gets movies like this made
19. We all have those water aliens from The Abyss protruding from our chests
20. Donnie takes Gretchen to see Evil Dead at the movies
21. That poor fat Chinese girl takes so much abuse throughout the flick
22. Donnie’s affinity for axes, butcher knives, gasoline cans, and firearms
23. A fat man in a red jogging suit smoking a cigarette – weeeeeird
24. “Cellar Door” … it’s a clue! (and by J. R. R. Tolkien, future Me learns)
25. I think me and my friends had animated discussions about the sexual habits of Smurfs … also sometime circa 1988.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Atoms and Evil

A collection of 13 short stories by Robert Bloch, © 1962

Grade: B+

Thirteen stories, ranging from macabre, Poe-like tales to 1950s Golden Age SF. My favorite, “Edifice Complex” is a perfect little horrorfest that would be quite at home in a Stephen King collection. Plenty of anachronisms, more charming than distracting, mostly manifested in the mid-century slang spewed by the men and women of the future. Robots like the ones we watched on Lost in Space and Forbidden Planet. An extremely literal race of alien beings. One story featured a conspiracy so paranoid it makes Invasion of the Body Snatchers seem a heart-warming tale about gardening.

I always get the sense reading these types of stories of, say, oh, Humphrey Bogart or Edward G. Robinson mixed in with some type of live-action Jetsons. But I don’t mind that. In fact, it’s enjoyable. It’s pure escapist. Even the stories that are dark and end badly for the protagonists, there’s an inherent innocence about them. None of the jaded hipness so prevalent in modern-day tales. That old roll-up-your-sleeves-and-build-a-rocket-ship-in-your-attic attitude that we had as a nation just a few decades back is woven into every story, as important as nouns, verbs, and adjectives.

But the best part of Bloch’s stories is the M. Night Shyamalan factor. Every work in this collection has a twist ending, a sucker punch that comes in the last paragraph or two. Sometimes you see it coming, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes the payoff gives you goosebumps, sometimes you merely nod and say, “Well done, Mr. Bloch! Well done, sir!” I looked forward to each and every entry in this collection and was a little sad when I finished the last. It’s works like this that make me want to seek out back issues from Astounding Stories and the other great “pulp” magazines from the 40s, 50s, and 60s.

In addition to “Edifice Complex” I also liked “Change of Heart” (a creepy one about an elderly watchmaker and his sickly but beautiful daughter), “Block that Metaphor” (you really, really have to watch what you say and how you say it around some species of aliens), “You Got to Have Brains” (an unappreciated eccentric genius builds a rocket powered by a unique fuel), and “You Could Be Wrong” (you never know who among your closest friends is an automaton).

Mr. Bloch (1917 - 1994), in addition to numerous books and dozens of short stories, also wrote a couple of teleplays for Star Trek: The Original Series. However, he is probably best known as the writer of Psycho, the source material for Hitchcock’s most famous achievement (the rights of which Hitchcock bought via blind bid for $9500). I think I’ll put Psycho, the novel, on the massive To Buy list. It should be very interesting to compare Bloch’s vision to Hitch’s.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Dragon

“The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.”

- St. Cyril of Jerusalem, instructing catechumens.


Two Questions.

1) What is the dragon, to you?

2) Where are you on the road?

Personal questions, yes, and I am asking them only in a rhetorical fashion. But here’s the twist: I am not interested, really, in my dragons or yours, or where we are along the road.

What I am interested in, here, today, are the dragons of my characters. Just from the past week’s posts: What is Dennis Jannings’ dragon? Reginald Browne’s? The dragons of Scoba and Nestor Rennie? Do they see the dragon in the distance, or just up ahead? Is the dragon upon them, or have they successfully negotiated its jaws? How about Mar-Shadda? Believe it or not, he is not the dragon of the story. If I spent a little time, as little as ten or fifteen minutes, pondering these questions, how would I rewrite those posts / short stories? Would there be something to expand upon?

Dragons, ultimately, are tools. I now finally understand this.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Koan: Sphere

“What would an inverted sphere look like?” my Zen master asked me at our third meeting. Ah, the koan, I realized.

Immediately I set to work on it, and just as quickly came upon a slew of dead ends. But I kept at it.

Finally, I imagined a normal basketball. It has that tiny black rubber air hole, right? Where you put the needle from the pump in to inflate it. What if you were able to reach in, grab the insides of the basketball, and pull them out through the air hole? And then reinflate it. Voilà! Inverted sphere.

My Zen master slapped the side of my face with his cane. Back to the drawing board.

Then I thought a little more about what a sphere is. An idealized sphere, a Platonic sphere. It seemed to me there are four components to a sphere: Its center, its surface, its interior and its exterior. What makes it a sphere is that every line in every conceivable infinite direction outward from the center reaches a point on the surface in the same amount of distance. But how to invert it?

Could this have something to do with the curvature of space? Let’s see. If you drew a triangle on the side of a flat, stretched out sheet of rubber, all three angles would add to 180 degrees. But if you made that flat, stretched out sheet of rubber the side of a massive balloon and inflated it, well, then, the sides of the three angles would add to something greater than 180 degrees. Positive curvature, I’m told. Similarly, if you drew a triangle on the inside of a balloon, those angles would add to something less, due to the negative curvature. I wondered: could you warp spacetime sufficiently enough to invert a sphere?

That triangle on the side of the balloon … let’s grow it, eh? In my mind’s eye I watched it expand until – until what? If you imagine a triangle where each side is bowing outward, eventually you’ll have a circle – 360 degrees. You’ve doubled it, degree-wise. Does this mean it occupies one complete hemisphere of a sphere? Half a sphere? My mind seemed to stall, like a clutch thrown into a gear way too high for the current revving of its engine. But what do you expect – I haven’t slept in days, I need a drink, and all this rice farming is making me go –

To me, inversion meant something opposite, not something doubled, or tripled, or integer-multiplied. The inverse of X is not 2X, but – X. So if curvature was involved, it would have to be of a negative direction. The inside of the balloon. But how to extrapolate it out to three-dimensions?

As I pondered all this distraction, my mind wandered back to the definition of the O Perfect Sphere. Those rays, in particular, extending from the center outward towards infinity. To invert a sphere you’d have to have those outward-directed lines from the center converge upon a new center. Yet this center could not be in one particular region beyond the sphere – it had to be in all regions in all directions at once! And the old center would cease to exist, right? What would happen to the surface? The old surface would be annihilated, but instantaneously recreated as the sphere flip-flopped into inversion.

Hold it! If the sphere is a star, does not such an inversion lead to a black hole, where rays of light (the lines extending outward from the sphere’s center) cannot overcome gravity and are bent 180 degrees backward ( – X instead of X)? And might an inverted sphere not really be a sphere at all, but a hole in realtime ourspace? A bottomless infinite well into Somewhere Else? These wormholes those physicists are always yammering about?

My Zen master happened to be walking by as I was in such intense thought, weeding in the tomato garden. He asked me how I was coming along, and I explained my ruminations to him.

He kneed me in the groin, and I doubled over in agony.

“The sphere is not a star,” he said. “It is you.”

My master reached down and helped me up. And I was enlightened.

Monday, March 8, 2010


From “Egghead,” by Robert Bloch, © 1955

“Well, I suppose I’d better quit school before they call a hearing and throw me out. After that, I guess I’ll have to find a job on my own. My father’ll be pretty sore.”

“What sort of a job?”

I thought about it for a moment. “Factory or manual labor. If I try for anything better, they’ll check up on my record here. But maybe that won’t be too bad. I mean, it’s just five or six hours a day, and I’ll have security.”

“Security.” Surprisingly enough, it was the Junior Prom Queen who spoke. “I thought you were the one who made that remark about not liking French fries with your hamburgers.”

“What’s that got to do with it?”

“Everything. Do you know how the average worker lives?”

“Well – ”

“Take an ordinary job and you’ll be a prisoner for life, in a world of French fries, surrounded by the faceless mob that eats, drinks, dresses, talks and acts on the basis of conditioned reflexes. You’ll live in a prefabricated house with a prefabricated wife and a bunch of prefabricated kids. You were taking a Junior Exec course, weren’t you? Then you must have studied Depth Motivation Technique. What did you think you were learning that stuff for? In order to use in on consumers against consumers; and who are they? Manual workers, factory workers, the army of conformists and conformity-worshippers you’re rebelling against. And now you think you’ll find a solution by joining their ranks? Don’t be ridiculous!”

“Then what should I do?” I asked.

“ … We know that the history of this nation is a history of constant rebellion. It was political rebellion which won our freedom, social rebellion which expanded our frontiers, intellectual rebellion which resulted in invention and progress. Only in recent years have we fallen into the error of orientating our philosophy around an expanding economy, dependent upon a constant and complacent consumerdom. Only in recent years has it come to be a shameful thing to be ‘different’ – and individuality is equated with antisocial attitudes.”

Hmmmm. The short story describes how a group of “eggheads” is going to infiltrate this über-consumeristic American society of the far-flung future of 1978, as industrialists, senators, bankers, preachers, journalists, etc, with one mission: to bring it down. Kinda like the plot of Atlas Shrugged, if it had been written by Ralph Nader.

Rebel LE like! Practical LE say, Remember Who song!

Meet the new boss … same as the old boss …

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ethics Quest

Been drawn a lot towards “Ethics” lately. In the past it’s always been a subject I avoided. And pretty much my mind is settled on a lot of ethical issues, at least the big questions: abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, economic systems. But I’ve just realized that a major part of Ethics – the central aspect of it, really; those “big issues” are just practical examples of this central aspect in action – is

How should one live?

I’ve struggled with this question, I suppose, all throughout my life. By fits and starts I’ve come to accept the Catholic worldview. It has supra-naturally made itself known to me. It makes sense to me intellectually and feels right emotionally after all these long and sometimes painful years. But, truth be told, there is something vaguely unsatisfying about it to me still.

Specifically, and forgive me, I am most likely speaking from ignorance here, it seems Catholicism orients a very passive stance to the world. You are called to be in the world, not of the world, and to me that smacks of a passive attitude. Let what happens happen, just rely on Christ and stay in communion with Him. Yes, do what you can, as long as you’ve spent time in quiet prayer, but ultimately keep your eyes on the next world. Part of me can affirm and understand this, but part of me finds this unacceptable. I think I’m looking for something more active. Maybe not aggressive, but certainly more assertive.

I have read that Catholicism is somewhat feminine in nature, whereas the majority of Protestant denominations are more masculine. To oversimplify, and because this is not the real subject of this post, the reasoning is that part and parcel of the Catholic rite is to be a receptacle for the grace of Christ. Protestants, much more often than Catholics, go out an evangelize – an active outgrowth of their faith. When is the last time a Catholic “witnessed” to you? Yet it is often a central ingredient to the spiritual lives of our Protestant brothers and sisters.

Lately I’ve been reading Greek philosophy. I kinda skimmed through a book that summarizes Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (I do have a copy of this work from the Great Books series, and its close to 300 densely packed pages … I just don’t have the time or patience to go through this source material). All well and good. I first studied it in Philosophy 101 (taught by a moonlighting mailman!) at St. Pete’s around 1989. I can appreciate Aristotle’s avowed goal of human activity being happiness. Not so sure of the whole “virtue is the mean between two vices.” But I do like the ideals of ancient Greece. Courage. Valor. Strength. Discipline. Attainment. You know: Shpartah!

But reading the Nicomachean Ethics as a self-help book is like reading a manual on swimming strokes and then jumping into a pool. Somewhat lacking.

About two or three weeks ago, I jumped to Epictetus. Stoicism. A little better. If I did have leisure time I’d read it more thoroughly, as well as Marcus Aurelius. However, a dozen or so pages in the idea that it, too, was passive crept into my mind. True, there seemed to be more individual effort to be made than in Christianity. I’m thinking of the call to keep your passions in check and the almost superhuman effort involved in this. Seems to me a more difficult, more “manly” thing than praying when the going gets rough. But then again, I have a hard time doing both. It took three weeks in a hospital to get me to pray regularly.

Every two or three years a desire to read Nietzsche bubbles to the surface. I actually have a big ol’ book of four of his works, as well as two fairly unbiased interpretations of his thought. But the whole “anti-Christ” “anti-values” aspect turns me off. I understand where he’s going, but I think he goes too far. Perhaps in the near future I’ll do a post about him. I am by no means an expert, but I read him a lot, particularly about ten years ago down in Maryland, so I think I understand the attraction to him. But I think ultimately he does not satisfy. (Though the phrase “herd mentality” pops into my mind several times a week, usually when out on the road mingling with my fellow man.)

What am I looking for? Not sure. Something unusual. Something different. Something that will wake me from my dogmatic slumbers. Something that’s going to smack me behind the head and growl at me, like Lemmy from Motorhead or some demented sergeant from the French Foreign Legion, “get up and stand, you bastard! Shake the cobwebs outta your head! You’re wastin’ your time, so get off your duff and make your way in this sh*thole of a world!”

Does any of this make sense?

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I’m going to start off by stating something that is not Politically Correct.

Sometimes, you can tell a book by its cover.

I’m not talking about books – I’m talking about people. And yes, I know, we shouldn’t judge based on outward appearances. We’re all guilty of doing so to varying degrees at varying times in varying situations. By blatantly not getting past a person’s outward-ness, yes, we run the risk of coming out poorer for it. Also to varying degrees.

But people do telegraph their opinions and stances by how they consciously choose to appear.

Consider this:

There’s a knock at your door. Before opening it, you pull aside the curtain on a side window to see who’s there. How would you react, and what would you think, in the following two circumstances:

A. You see a well-groomed, clean-shaved man in a business suit, a briefcase at his side.

B. You see a man with long hair, facial scruff, a jacket with lots of big colorful buttons on it, and a clipboard in his hand.

Me, I wouldn’t answer the door for either of them. But I think you’re a fool or a coward if you don’t admit you can tell the politics of each before you even speak with them.

Yesterday, exhausted after a long day of cleaning the house and taking care of the two little ones, I take a shower at 6 pm. My oldest suddenly comes bounding up the stairs: “Daddy, there’s a man knocking at the front door!”

Quickly I get dressed and run downstairs. Unfortunately, I don’t have a curtained side window, so I open the door. What’s facing me is not quite fully A and not quite fully B, but it’s a heckuva lot closer to B than A. My hackles raise with my defenses, and my immediate thought is, How do I get out of this gracefully?

I spent seven months working in Manhattan about eight years ago, so I’m used to being rudely interrupted from my daily activity by someone promoting some agenda that’s almost always against my core values. Usually when hurrying to catch a NJ Transit train. But all that was a long time ago, and apart from one John Kerry supporter and a Jehovah’s Witness, nobody’s come up onto my doorstep to waste my time.

Except this fool.

I open the storm door about a eighteen inches, eyebrows raised in a noncommittal yet inquisitive sort of way, and he begins his spiel. Oh, great. He’s shilling for some environmental group, and has a clipboard with names and addresses on it. I’m not really paying attention to what he’s saying as my mind is automatically trying to figure out what he’s gonna want from me. Besides my precious, oh-so-precious and rare time.

How do I tell him tactfully that ninety-nine percent of all environmental groups I know of have political agendas completely opposite to my beliefs?

How do I tell him that I think the global warming phenomenon is scare-mongering based on either incomplete science (at best) or incorrect science (at worst), hijacked by anti-free market and anti-traditional-values ideologues?

How do I tell him that government over-regulation in the environment is probably responsible for a lot of overpriced products out there?

How do I tell him that pending government regulation – and the possibility of further regulation – in the gray area of “environment” is undoubtedly helping to extend this recession?

How do I tell him that I kinda believe journalists and writers I’ve heard interviewed, who quip, “Environmentalists are like watermelons – green on the outside, and red on the inside”?

How do I tell him that, yes, I believe we should drill in ANWR – I’ve seen actual pictures of it and it looks like lunarscape – and that, yes, I do believe we should go ahead with limited and cautious expansion of nuclear power?

But I say none of this. Heat from my house is escaping out into the cold. (Why doesn’t my visitor decry this waste of energy?) My bare feet are starting to freeze, and I have the two little ones hovering about my legs like curious monkeys. I cut to the chase and bluntly ask, “What do you want from me?”

Oh, he just wants to jawbone with me over what their organization does and is planning to do. And he starts, but I interrupt: “Do you want me to sign a petition?” I point to his clipboard.

“These aren’t signatures. These are printed names.”

“Well, I see names and addresses. Do you want me to sign that?”

“These aren’t signatures.”

Yeah, dummy, I can see that. Obviously he’s going through my town having my neighbors print their names and addresses on his clipboard. I have to end this. So I say what I say when I have the misfortune to be trapped by a telemarketer. “Listen, I don’t give out any information about myself – ”

“So you don’t care?”

What? What’s this guy’s angle? Is he trying to insult me, or guilt me, or what? ’Cuz he sure isn’t trying to befriend me, which, as Abraham Lincoln famously said, is the best way to win someone to your cause.

I actually say – and I’m impressed how fast it rolled off my normally reticent tongue, “It’s not that I don’t care. I just don’t know a thing about your organization, and I’m not going to print my name on your paper there as if I agree with you guys.” Hey, man, I’m thinking, just because I’m hungry doesn’t mean I want to eat an old shoe. (I love that line!) I care about the environment, but I don’t think wrecking American society is the way to keep it safe.

He tells me their website.

“All right, I’ll check it out. Thanks.” I shut the door in his face.

Later, I did go online and checked them out. And you know what? Everything I assumed earlier about them turned out to be true. They have an endorsements page on their site, and out of thirty-six races from last year, all but three were democrats. If you want substantiating links, email me through this website.

Probably won’t get another unwanted visitor until sometime in the fall of 2012. Hope it’s some college kid trying to persuade me to vote Obama …

Friday, March 5, 2010


“A toast,” Jannings announced. “To the Tesseract! To the granting of any with I desire!”

Browne paused, eyeing the professor as he drained the flute of champagne. With a shrug he turned his attention to his tankard of Akkadian beer. “What should we wish for?”

The archaeologist grinned and leaned back so far his chair squawked out in warning. Jannings ignored it and planted his dust-caked boots squarely on the cluttered desk. Caressing the champagne glass with weather-worn hands, he absently catalogued the uncountable artifacts in the cramped room. Cast-iron shelving reached right to the high ceiling, a moderately alphabetized storage system for over a hundred crates of all sizes, each in turn storing bones, relics, clay pottery, metal tools centuries old, scrolls and cuneiform tablets. Game trophies mounted whenever a patch of bare wall exposed itself. Tools stacked and piled beneath the dead animals, mud-caked from the digs: picks, shovels, brushes, axes, torches, rope, even a shotgun. But then one object caught his eye.

A carving of Ra-Phaneron made out of ivory, circa 2100 BC. Second rack directly above Dr. Browne’s seated bulk. Of itself, worthless. Perhaps a few shekels from a gullible tourist. But – and this is important, he thought – but what it could represent! What if they found such a statue, only of solid gold. Such priceless objects had been found, and not only just according to legend. Indeed, it was the driving impetus for many in the valley, and it preyed on his particular human weakness.

Regardless, he had the Tesseract, and that turned his weakness to strength.

“My dear Doctor Browne, I should think of nothing less than complete and total wealth. The only question is, in what form is it to be most desired?”

“Jannings, you’re absolutely decadent,” Browne chortled, pouring himself a second mug from the cask of ale, Jannings last remark no doubt swimming through his head as the alcohol swam through his bloodstream.

The lanky archaeologist giggled, imagining lifting the old fat man’s eyelids and finding only pound signs, and polished off his glass. “I’m dead serious, Reginald. This is my ticket. I want to be wealthy beyond my wildest dreams.”

Browne’s flushed cheeks fell into an odd, uncertain sort of smile, “You mean, we want to be wealthy. The Tesseract will grant only one wish, and we made a pact we’d be in full agreement on that wish.”

“You don’t want wealth? What else is there? Women? Wealth will get you that, Reg. Knowledge? This type of money would buy you lots of free leisure time to study anything.”

Browne paused, dancing about the bait, then bit. The booze made him do that; why else would he of such lineage be sweating out a daily existence here in the desert? He cleared his throat and asked, softly, “How about salvation, Dennis?”

“Salvation?” Jannings snorted. “Listen to you. Must I tell you again? You did nothing wrong.” His vibrant blue eyes icily evaluated his companion. “Did you hit your head on a brick in the tunnel, or something?” He leaned over the desk and poured Browne a – third? fourth? – tankard of ale. “Drink up. I’m not used to a sober Doctor Browne, and I don’t think I like what I hear.”

Browne fidgeted and fished out some meat snagged about his canine tooth. “Well, it’s all nonsense, anyway. Isn’t it, Dennis? Let’s just sell it to Hoskins in Baghdad. He’d give us, what, two, three hundred pounds for it?”

Jannings sat silent, his stare now on something that was not in the room with the two.

“Doctor Jannings, it’s all nonsense, anyway. Of course – ”

The archaeologist snapped to. “What’s that you’re jabbering about, Browne?”

“The Tesseract. Nonsense. The myths, that is.”

“Oh, yes. The myths.” Jannings leapt to his feet. “Now? Now, Browne? We’re having this talk, now?”

“Surely you don’t take the myths seriously!”

“Shadrick did. As did you. Certainly last night in the tunnels – ”

Browne’s rosy jowls purpled. “But Shadrick’s dead! And his death had nothing to do whatsoever with the Tesseract!”

Jannings cocked an eyebrow. “Indeed?”

The old fat man said nothing. Any trace of smile disappeared, and beneath those heavy cheeks Jannings thought he saw – surprisingly – a clenched jaw. Then, Browne’s rheumy eyes widened, that fat mouth flopped open, and his big bulk began heaving up and down.

“So you don’t take the myths seriously, do you, Reg?” Jannings hovered over the older man, who was now clutching his chest and audibly wheezing. “Well I want you to remember something, and quickly while you still have time.”

Browne tried to speak but failed.

“Shadrick didn’t believe the myths either.”

“Jannings …”

The skinny archaeologist wandered over to a certain metal rack and rummaged through a boxed-in crate. Moments later he withdrew a small, fist-sized object wrapped in yellowed gauze. He slowly and unselfconsciously embraced it, then kissed it.

Browne fell to the floor, squeezing his left shoulder and hyperventilating. He watched Janning, incredulous, and thought: the Tesseract!

Jannings turned and fell to his haunches. “Oh, there were myths, all right. But the most important one was wrong. Do you know what that one was?”

The old fat man merely winced in pain.

“You don’t get one wish – you get three!” Jannings laughed. “So, I still get my fabulous wealth. And we no longer have to worry about Shadrick’s crude extortion plots.” The archaeologist sprawled forward on his belly on the floor, put his face right up to Browne’s as if examining a new cuneiform find or the mummified remains of a grave robber trapped by its own greed.

“Can you guess my third wish?” Jannings whispered.

Browne’s eyes widened in realization.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I, Scoba

How it happened, exactly, I don’t quite know. As a matter of fact, it’s a bit embarrassing. Normally, I have a sixth sense for things like this. Or at least a redundant secondary bus overlap ether redundancy circuit. As a Scoba-make pseudopod eftyelship, I’m fast, stealthy, and used best for things you don’t know about – or don’t want to know about. But you knew that.

We came in fast to Farron-space, and intended to get out just as fast. My owner, one Nestor Rennie, late out of Cambodia, New Earth, near Nearfar but far from even the saddest-sack tertiary galactic trade route, Ren had to make a pick up. Odd that it was at a Science Outpost, but, hey, so be it; I trust Ren and he trusts me.

Symbiosis: man and machine.

Problem is, as is always the case coming in fast to any system’s-space, you tend to attract attention of an unwanted nature. But we’re aware of that; I’m aware of that. I’m a Scoba, right? We have measures to avoid detection. Indeed, we were coming off a semi-lucrative Vess run (not the hard stuff they execute others for – this was soft metals for some very grateful, very wealthy buyers). You know what going into Vess is like. Kind of like a blind Gaagan mega-millipede trying to negotiate its way through a flasshock minefield. And no one in Vess Imperial Enforcement knew we were ever there.

The first thing that materialized on the holoscreen was a Farron Destroyer. “Crikey!” Ren cried (he was an Old Earth archaeohistorian in a previous life, and a daffadowndilly Australiophile, or so he told me), “Full fathom five! Full fathom five, Scobes!”

But, truth be told, it was no use. They had our protoshadow long before we dropped in to ourspace. Locked and targeted. Wisely, I counseled we go to the cover stories. Every stealth jack o’ trades has a dozen; Ren has six hundred and forty-two on file. I scanned the libraries and suggested three as most probable on the Reality Index.

Half-a-minute in realtime ourspace, Ren decided on Scenario #299: my master was now Gerhoovius Von Zaylzbarga, a wandering Bectoit preacher, pursuing a life-wide mission questing for new converts. Farron was a highly conservative system, very law-and-order, very legalistic, and though it did ascribe to a liberal death penalty policy, it was fairly proud of its tolerance of thousands of galactic-wide belief systems – so long as the believers followed the rules.

Ren tapped his forehead, his right then left temples, then in alternating sequence from the top center of his head down to his neck. Activating his psychotropic training, purchased so long ago at so great a never-quite-forgotten cost.

“Unidentified Scoba! Unidentified Scoba! Shut down your engines and broadcast your registry codes immediately!” The metallic voice, tinny though authoritative through my two-dozen speakers, repeated itself twice, then gave me a sixty-second window to comply.

“Send ’em 299,” Ren mumbled, frantically scavenging my innards for anything incriminating. While I transmitted the “Von Zaylzbarga” backstory coordinates, my boss gathered up maps, books, ID chits and any personal artifacts traceable to a Nestor Rennie. Seamlessly, I caused my skin along the underside of the main physio-locomotive panels to part. Within was a Stasi box, better known to the general public as a “now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t” box. Unless that Farron Destroyer was armed with Vess Sighters – highly doubtful, due to the cold distrust between the two systems – those personal items would be undetectable once sealed up.

You could almost guarantee a multi-frequency scan in situations like these. Less likely, but still possible, would be an actual boarding and inspection, following a forced docking.

Whatever can happen will happen, in some form or another. That was this Scoba’s motto.

Several minutes passed in silence as I monitored my inertia and angular momentum and Ren became a Bectoit preacher. Then, a different voice on the transmission: same tinny timbre, put a slightly higher pitch. “Scoba A2297-11K4J-MM432: Scoba A2297-11K4J-MM432: There, ah, appears to be, ah, a discrepancy with your Registry.”

Ren cocked an eyebrow. I did the equivalent with a needle on my Mood Meter, located adjacent to the Chronosphere and above the Yaw, Pitch, and Roll Tri-Three-Sixties.

“Everything appears in order on our side, Brothers,” Ren – rather, Gerhoovius – replied, bending the transmittal mike closer to his mouth. “Could you elaborate?”

I scrambled the signal and again, inexplicably, there was that long patch of silence as we drifted. Seventy thousand four hundred kilometers in nine minutes. Hmmm. I made a note to squabble the retro flaps to bring down the inertial momentum. Permission pending, as the Destroyer’s thousand canon were presently sighting us.

And you’ll never guess what happened next. “Scoba A2297-11K4J-MM432: Proceed to Science Outpost 771664 – ” the Destroyer’s C&C brain relayed me the coordinates – “and land immediately. Contact 771664’s C&C for detailed landing authorization instructions.” Again, the message was broadcast twice, following which I sent acknowledgment.

Ren flashed me a wide-eyed look of pleasant surprise. A military escort to our original destination! What could be safer! Yet – what could be more dangerous, if my master wanted to smuggle out what he came for. And once my master sets his mind on a score, we get it, or we go down in flames trying.