Wednesday, December 30, 2009


In the Spring of 1998, I was watching an interview with noted SF author, Harlan Ellison about the process of  writing. He has this little gimmick where he sits in the window of a book store and customers drop off story ideas. He then busily types away, producing a story based on that idea within a few hours. The idea is that a writer writes, and there is no excuse for him or her to do otherwise.  I was shamed, and sat down with an image in my head (a guy maneuvering a small spacecraft in low earth orbit, while listening to Mozart), and started typing what I was determined would be a short story which would be completed within a week.

Two years later, I put the last period at the end of a 90-something page noveloid which, as it turns out, was precisely too long to publish as a short, and too short to publish as a novel. In the process of researching it, I'd read Bob Zubrin's excellent The Case For Mars, as well as a host of other books and articles, learned a lot of cool stuff, and got mixed up in the private spaceflight advocacy community. So, not wasted effort...but I was a bit bummed that only a couple of people got to read the story.

So, I've decided to post it on line and link to it here, broken up into six parts (which I'll make available approximately every week). Because I can.  Of course, in the highly unlikely event that I get a chance to publish it "for real," I'll be yanking it from here in a hot minute.

Also, I'm a rank neophyte when it comes to hosting files on the Web, and categorically refuse to pay a cent to do it. So, I'm trying a free file hosting service from Microsoft. This may change if anyone's got a better idea (...). It's in PDF format, so you'll need Adobe Reader to read it (is there anyone who doesn't have that on their machine?).

Anyway, here it is. Hope you enjoy.

Night Music, Part One

UPDATE: Not unexpectedly, the Microsoft "Skydrive" annoyed me one too many times (i.e., once) by deleting my files. I have moved the file to a free account. The link takes you to a shared folder which I will populate with the parts of the story as I make them available.

UPDATE 2: Since posting these, I have taken the step of self-publishing Night Music for the Kindle platform. Since it is now for sale ($3.00 US), it seemed a mite counterproductive to keep it up here for free (hence the now-broken links). But hey, if you read the rest of this blog, you'll see that the idea of being a Capitalist is not exactly alien to me! Hope you'll have a look at the sample, and, if you like what you see, download the Whole Thing. Here's a link to a suite of free Kindle reading apps for those who don't have a Kindle reader, but do have a smart phone, tablet, PC/MAC, or Blackberry.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fight Fire with Cool

Via Instapundit, this outrageously gnarly firefighting recon vehicle just overloaded my Kool buffers. Practical or not (and it appears to be very much so, for certain specific applications), something this bad-ass simply needs to be photographed bounding out of some arboreal conflagration in a shower of sparks. James Cameron, take note.

Never Let Waste Go To a Crisis

Nice little piece by Nina Easton in (of all places!) Time Magazine. In it, Easton notes that, despite historical precedents which would incline one to believe the contrary, the current shambles which is the American economy has, by and large not driven vast numbers of people to seek succor at the teat of vastly increased government spending programs.
"Audacity" was a catchy campaign theme, but it's less attractive as a governing principle. The all-important swing voters who decide elections are nervous about dramatic expansions of the Federal Government--even and especially in this time of economic distress. As it turns out, this financial crisis was not the call to bold action that White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said shouldn't "go to waste." Quite the opposite: if he doesn't want his presidency to be held hostage by a string of nail-biter votes in Congress, Obama needs to recognize that he overestimated the public's appetite for taxpayer-funded solutions.
 I do think Easton is onto something here. Where the New Deal and the Great Society gained quite durable (if debatably healthsome) traction by offering the promise of remedies for the common American in difficult times, the ambitious Obama agenda of pumping up government and injecting it into greater swathes of the private sector have little to offer the man/woman on the street. Quite the contrary, as Americans witness the grim spectacle of  a lumbering jobless recovery, logarithmically expanding debts and deficits, and the "promise" of inflated taxation to provide vaporware revenues in a steadily deflating currency, the thinking which underlies these practices has been losing market share rather than gaining it.

This is a point to be considered very seriously by any Democrats who hope to hold onto their majority in the upcoming midterms.  These are precisely the circumstances under which one would expect desperate people to look to their government to swoop in and solve their problems. The fact that there is a far smaller-than-anticipated appetite for such top-down solutions presents an opportunity for the Democratic party to read some pretty stark tea leaves (pun intentional) and swing toward the center as it was forced to do after its rout in 1994. However, I have no particularly strong sense that the Obama-Pelosi-Reid axis possesses the canny pragmatism which typified their Clintonian forebears.

Similarly, I hope that Republicans, reflecting on the party's loss of focus after the "Contract With America," will look very carefully at the calls for a "big tent" approach which would have them compromise too strenuously on matters of leaner government and fiscal conservatism. While the idea of an ideological "Purity test" makes me uneasy as a goal state for the GOP, the fact of its proposal can and should serve as an important call to action for a party which has ceded far too much political territory to the centralizing, tax-and-spend philosophies of its adversaries.

While the Tea Partiers and Libertarians may push the envelope a mite too far for my tastes (and they surely do), they offer unmistakable evidence that a continued blurring of the lines between the Republican and Democratic parties will not be tolerated. Rather than the "civil war" and "fracturing" of the GOP which so many Liberals so gleefully declare, I see this as a healthy dialogue taking place within the ranks of those for whom free markets and free people can offer a legitimate alternative to the central planning. It is a conversation which will, it is hoped, delineate the degree to which the GOP chooses to stake its claim to a true and valid antithesis to the thesis that government-controlled "fairness" is a viable organizing framework for a liberal, mercantile republic.

If Easton's observations are as on-target as I suspect that they are, then there is fertile ground in the American electorate for the synthesis which could emerge from this process.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Obama's speech at West Point, and the politically calculated half-measures it proposed, are the occasion for the latest spot-on post by "Doctor Zero" over at Hot Air. Counterinsurgency is a Long Game, a dogged demonstration of dedication and integrity which is meant to woo a population from the camp of our foes to the circle of our friends. The President's dismal delineation of time-tables and "exit strategies" (Gods! How I have come to detest that phrase) signals the very antithesis of COIN's spirit. His short-changing of troop levels and characteristically naive reliance on NATO commitments (oxymoron spoken here) to make up the difference is nothing short of a declaration that victory (perish the thought that he should ever utter that word) is a long shot against which to hedge, rather than an unconditional prerequisite for joining the fight.

But, as Doctor Zero articulates with the usual blistering clarity, such is the monotonic tenor of the Obama presidency:
Every moment of the “historic” Obama presidency has been wrapped in the rhetoric of failure and decline. A nation slipping into endless debt, to buy off the social concerns of the moment, cannot help but feel helpless and doomed… because it wouldn’t be so quick to mortgage a future it believed in. To accept the leadership of Barack Obama, either in Afghanistan or at home, is to accept that triumph is a fantasy, and achievement is a relic of the past, so the only rational course is carefully managed decline.
 Indeed. Whether it is the ham-handed intrusion of government into the auto industry and banking system, or  the on-going attempt to effect a fateful phagocytosis of the health insurance market, this administration has broadcast with unerring consistency the message that the proper management of our lives and resources are so far beyond the ken of the "average" citizen that nothing short of Central Planning stands the faintest chance of achieving the goals of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Doctor Zero quite rightly makes the analogy between the confidence and vigor of a civilian population, and the morale of a military force. Per Obama, both are in need of careful control from the top, so as to achieve the ultimate goal of an orderly and placid mediocrity. Try as I have (and I have tried mightily!), I can find no evidence that he believes this Nation can or should aspire to anything higher.

Needless to say, I disagree. And, as should be abundantly clear by now, I have officially abandoned the effort to give this administration the benefit of the doubt.

A properly resourced and inspired COIN force can achieve wonders, once it has shown itself willing and able to accept elevated risk, and to "walk the walk" for the sake of a host nation's population. An under-resourced and ambivalent COIN force sends the message to would-be insurgents and collaborators that they had best keep their powder dry, against the day of their inevitable abandonment.

So it goes with a people and their president. Tell us, in a host of ways, that we are ineffectual and in need of paternalistic control, and you offer us a choice: bow low before the beneficent State and accept its putative boons, or be moved by the affront to reclaim our dignity and repudiate your condescension. This American "insurgency" has taken the form of Tea Parties, raucous town hall meetings, and a rapidly growing grass-roots movement, self-organizing around the reclaiming of the muscular and pragmatic optimism which lies at the heart of the American consciousness. I live in hope (the real kind) that this insurgency will triumph at home....and in dread that its dark counterpart will do the same in the shadow of the Hindu Kush.