A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Feasts of December (4)

Ten years after the advent of TOF came the appearance of the fourth Flynnbro, to wit: Sean, born this day of December, thus overloading the parental generosity with the third round of birthdays plus Christmas within eight days. In case it is not obvious, Sean is the farthest to the right in this photograph:
In the then-and-now comparison, Sean lurks in the left foreground in the next snapshot taken a few weeks ago, in which Seanbro was channeling a Civil War general. Actually, he was doing that no-shave November thingie and is now as clean shaven as his wife could desire. Personally, TOF thinks he rocked the beard, but his opinion was not solicited.

Tabclearing Day

An Unbelievable Item Found on the Web

"Text messages between FBI investigators, include one in which an agent said he could “smell” the Trump supporters at Walmart."
Now, what is unbelievable about this text is not that the FBI investigator shows clear prior bias about the subject of an investigation, but that he admits to having entered a Walmart at some point and mixed with people who were not graduates of Northeastern Establishment universities! Who would've thunk it! Imagine the cooties he might have acquired from the Great Unwashed proletarians!

Watch That First Step, It's a Doozy!

Chaos Manor reprints Jerry Pournelle's blog posts on SSTO. Much of this was background fodder for TOF's Firestar series.

Once and Future Power Source

A new paper, Nuclear Power Learning and Deployment Rates: Disruption and Global Benefits Forgone, finds that nuclear power could now be around 10% of current cost, and have avoided up to 10 million deaths and 164 Gt CO2 between 1980 and 2015, if not for disruption to progress in the late 1960s and rapidly escalating costs since.

A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight

We've been having a lot of wildfires lately. Or at least better publicized ones.

"A pronounced decrease in fire frequency occurred at the time of Euro-American settlement, coinciding approximately with the arrival of railroads, intensive livestock grazing, removal of many Native American populations, and subsequently organized and mechanized fire fighting by government agencies."
“Multiscale perspectives of fire, climate and humans in western North America and the Jemez Mountains, USA” by Thomas W. Swetnam et al. in Phil Trans B, 5 June 2016.

Two reasons suggested for recent (since 1980s) increases: habitat preservation laws preventing the clearance of brushwood (a.k.a. "tinder") from around houses, esp. in CA.; and second, increases in houses in scenic yet problematical sites.

Could Rome Have Had an Industrial Revolution?

The short answer of course is No. A longer answer, given in an alternate history novel, is yes because if it were no, there would be no novel.
Dale locates her Roman Industrial Revolution in the early and mid-2nd century BCE, before the large-scale influx of slaves from the conquests of Greece, Carthage, and Gaul. The Middle Republic provides a window in which, she argues, it is plausible to imagine a machine-based culture taking root. In the world Dale envisions, an industrialized Roman empire then follows a British-style path towards a constitutional monarchy (under Augustus).

The technological development path, she describes, sees the Romans push ahead in medicine and biology. In this scenario, Rome benefits from a technology trajectory that takes place in the absence of Christianity with its prohibition on dissecting human bodies. A point of tension in the novel is the Roman occupier’s sanguine building of an abortion clinic in Jerusalem, simply because this is what Romans have at home; they do not — and did not — consider abortion wrong. Here I want to ask: What do these reflections tell us about the possibilities of economic growth in the premodern world?
How you can have a "machine-based culture" along the British model before developing a metallurgy capable of steam boilers is an intriguing thought-experiment. And it was not the massive influx of slaves from the Punic and Gallic wars that shifted the ancient world to the use of muscle power as a source of energy. It had always been that way. If not slaves, then animals. It was the early Middle Ages that saw the shift to mechanical power.

It was the pagan Romans, not the Christians, who had the horror of touching dead bodies and maintained a special college of priests for the sole purpose of ritually touching the dead to free the body for the undertakers. The Christians never had the prohibition mentioned, save to the extent that many of them were themselves Romans to begin with. The medical schools of the Middle Ages  began doing medical dissections and noticed that Galen had gotten things wrong -- because Galen had gotten his anatomy from dissecting pigs.

The idea that the Romans had abortion clinics is absurd. The storied sexual liberties of the Romans applied only to Those Who Could Not Say No -- slaves, lower class women, young boys. Women of their own class were another matter, and were subject to a pretty rigorous control of their sexual lives. Abortion in that day and age was rather risky to the mother, and not used lightly. However, as a form of genocide directed against inferior races, as envisioned by Sanger and others in the Modern Age, it is imaginable, were it not for the nature of Imperial Law. (see next Item.)

Don't Make Me Tell You Twice!

"The Roman Empire was still rather ramshackle in its administration of laws compared to later states. Laws of this kind usually began as a suggestio: a report or statement of a situation needing attention. Officials in the Imperial consistory would then meet and frame a response and, if this response was acceptable to various counsellors and advisers, it would be submitted to the emperor for approval. It would then be distributed to the praetorian prefects, who often added amendments and additions, and then distributed by them to regional governors, who in turn could add to it or amend it to fit local conditions. Finally, it was up to these local officials to see the edict implemented and to enforce it as much as they could. This all meant that what began as a statement of the emperor’s desire could get watered down as it passed down the administrative chain and could also be largely unenforced if the local prefect or diocesan governor was not enthusiastic about the decree. And even if he was, many of these broad statements were very difficult to enforce with any uniformity. As a result, what various laws and decrees said and what actually happened on the ground were often two very different things. The fact that some laws of this kind had to be repeated several or even many times shows that subsequent emperors recognised that previous decrees had gone essentially unenforced and there was often little they could do about this."
-- Tim O'Neil History for Atheists.

Why do we always imagine pre-modern states as having all the moxie and wherewithal of our modern scientific states?

Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Why some discussions are lost before they are engaged.

Rule Number One

Keith Burgess-Jackson offers six items of sound advice, each both prudential and moral. Here is #1:
Don't touch a woman without her specific consent. Consent, to be consent, must be informed. Don't resort to trickery, subterfuge, dissimulation, or manipulation (including getting her drunk or high).
The Maverick Philosopher would add a qualification: ...unless she is your wife and you have a loving relationship. (And if you don't share a loving relationship, why are you still married to her?)

The Usual Suspects had much to say about the Veep when he said he would not dine alone with a woman not his wife, offering all sorts of misogynistic reasons for such a policy. The one reason never proffered was that the woman could not then come back years later claiming she had been harassed or touched.

TOF is also struck by the thought that if only men had comported themselves in accordance with the precepts of Christian morality that were abandoned in the 1960s, many of the movers and shakers in Hollywood and politics could have saved themselves considerable obloquy when the inevitable counter-revolution came about and the sexual Robespierres got sent to their own guillotines.

Buy everyone will notice that no one -- accuser or accused -- can think of any words more severe in description than "inappropriate" to describe behaviors like sexual harassment or sexual assault or even rape.

Edward Skidelsky wrote in "Words that Think for Us" (Prospect Magazine 18 Nov 2009) that modern society avoids explicit moral language.  Words like "improper and indecent" have been replaced by words like “inappropriate” and “unacceptable.” "An affair between a teacher and a pupil that was once improper is now inappropriate."

But improper and indecent express moral judgements, while inappropriate and unacceptable suggest the breach of some social convention. Such “non-judgemental” forms of speech are tailored to a society wary of explicit moral language.  Skidelsky writes that liberals "seek only adherence to rules of the game, not agreement on fundamentals. What was once an offense against decency must be recast as something akin to a faux pas."

"But this new, neutralised language does not spell any increase in freedom. When I call your action indecent, I state a fact that can be controverted. When I call it inappropriate, I invoke an institutional context—one which, by implication, I know better than you. ... This is what makes the new idiom so sinister. Calling your action indecent appeals to you as a human being; calling it inappropriate asserts official power."

And note, too: "As liberal pluralists, we seek only adherence to rules of the game, not agreement on fundamentals."  Note how this rejects the Western idea of conscience (synderesis) and hearkens back to the old non-Western definition of good behavior as adherence to statutes promulgated by the Father-figure in the palace. 

Lest We Forget

AIDS is still around. New Diagnoses in 2016 per the CDC
Note: MSM means men having sex with men. These are not always gay or bisexual men. Men in prison being an example.

Nota Bene: This is not a "How To" manual

On Evil

Yale Beats Up on Itself for Not Beating Up on Itself Enough.

The Manhattan Contrarian has noted some intriguing email. 
Yale has long championed its commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, to building a faculty and student body that respect the multicultural reality of the world around us and a community where everyone feels valued and welcomed. But while these beliefs are laudable, they have not always translated into meaningful and lasting policy and action. In late 2015, students of color and their allies voiced their frustration that inequity on campus and a lack of focus by the administration on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) meant the university was falling far short of its ideals.
-- Yale DEI Report
 The best they can come up with is a claim that there has been a "lack of focus" -- on the very issues as to which Yale has for decades been demonstrably not only focused, but obsessed.

And the recommendations do flow, and flow, and flow.  Like: 
  •     Commit to becoming a leader in DEI in the eld of higher education!
  •     Engage young alumni and alumni of color!
  •     Promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in all levels of AYA leadership!
  •     Build a bridge between current and future alumni in tackling DEI issues!
  •     Build infrastructure to continue to champion and implement DEI work!
Anyone familiar with management boilerplate and blatherskath will recognize these bullet points as being full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. None of them are stated in terms that can even be objectively verified to determine whether they have been achieved or even to measure whether progress has been made. Yale will "engage" young alumni of color! She will "build a bridge"! Before you suspect that the latter will involve structural engineering, simmer down. Nothing so difficult will ever sully the mind of people who engage in such projects.

The Contrarian notes that "there doesn't seem to be anything in that list that they weren't already doing and talking about endlessly for the last 50 years." Faithful Reader may be forgiven for a moment's doubt in supposing that a renewed commitment to talking about it some more is going to change anything.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Feasts of December (3)

December 20

70 Years in the Making!

Two crazy kids preparing for the vital task of producing TOF
Getting an early start on reading
Getting an early partner for hijinx
Even back then TOF favored suspenders
And then there were three brothers, all duded up for Easter

With four brothers, we had to line up to make a proper head count
Let alone with five

Okay, sometimes we didn't line up
TOF in High School was skinnier than today
As editor of the HS Literary Magazine, TOF published his own stories!
(Yes, we wore jackets and ties to school. It was a professional job, after all.)
TOF portrayed Mayor Shinn in The Music Man
before HS plays became professionalized.
And Sweet Sharon graciously accompanied him to the prom.
Then came college at LaSalle in Philadelphia, a 60 mile trip
accomplished in a '54 Packard Clipper called "The Beast"
TOF artistically contemplates a burning candle in his dorm room
Sweet Sharon graciously came to Philly for the Caisson Ball.
 There follows a span of time for which photographs have not been digitized. After the Beast bit the dust, getting back and forth proved problematical and TOF told Sweet Sharon that she should date other guys rather than sit around waiting to see if TOF would make it back. Eventually, TOF heard that she had been wed to another. Although TOF dated casually afterward, it was not until years afterward that he found another who was her equal.

After graduating with a BA in mathematics TOF proceeded to Milwaukee where he studied for a Masters in mathematics at Marquette University under J. Douglas Harris. While there, TOF lived in a sort of urban commune, one of the communards becoming the inspiration for The O'Neil in the Irish Pub stories and the Irish Pub we frequented becoming fictionalized as the setting thereto. The commune, somewhat modified as to its inhabitants, is currently undergoing rehearsals as the setting for The Shipwrecks of Time.

His work in General Topology led TOF to write a Masters thesis entitled "Universal Range Spaces and Function Space Topologies," a real wowser for which he expects the movie rights to be bought Real Soon Now. It was, however, published in a real, live mathematics journal. Woo hoo.

He had begun dating a girl named Maria, a native of Austria, and it seemed to be going somewhere, save she was probably not going to Colorado when TOF graduated and left town. Then two of the communards brought a coworker to dinner one day and although it is a cliche to say so, when she sat across the High Table from TOF and TOF looked into her smile, he just knew that she was the One. Her name was Margie. There were only two minor difficulties. TOF was already seeing Maria and Margie was already seeing Rich Old Elliot.

But difficulties are for overcoming, and upon graduation from Marquette, with a spanking new Masters degree and a Graduate assistantship waiting at Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, the newlyweds climbed in the back of a friend's van, surrounded by boxes of books and records in the approved 60s fashion and heighed for the Rocky Mountains. Despite predictions by those bemused at the suddenness of it all, they are still at it, 46 years later.
The Incomparable Marge (l) and TOF (r) in 1972,
the Era of Big Hair and Funky Jackets. TOF also had plaid
bell bottoms and paisley shirts and the Marge had a bright
yellow pants suit with flowers up the side. Boomer Rule!

 After that, one thing followed another:
One thing (l) and another (r)

Yes, it's true. TOF had a beard for a time. And a lambs fur chapik.
Clearly he was influenced by the Russians.
Or by the Amish, or something. Taken in the mountains near Golden, CO

 Following a PhD interlude best passed over in silence, TOF spent eleven years as a quality engineer and applied statistician at Coors Container Company in Golden CO, engaged in problem-solving, experimental design, and other such activities. Again, there are few digitized photographs of this era. Following this, his head was hunted by STAT-A-MATRIX, a consulting and training firm then in Edison NJ, and for whom he engaged with various clients on sundry continents, including the Panama Canal Authority, ITC (Chennai, India), Reckitt-Benckiser (Johannesburg, Chartres, Australia, Hull), IAEA Safeguards (Vienna), NASA, et al. on quality management systems, statistical analysis, quality improvement, etc.
TOF the consultant, in the ITC Compound outside Chennai, TN, India
Much of what TOF observed in Chennai wound up as the Terran Corner
of Jehovah in the January Dancer
 Already while working at Coors, TOF had begun selling stories to Analog Science Fiction, the first one being "Slan Libh," (Nov 1984)

TOF the writer. Stan Schmidt (l) then editor of Analog and
Ian Randal Strock, then assistant editor

Sometimes TOF gets the cover story!

TOF accepting the Theodore Sturgeon Award for best
short fiction of the year
  But TOF has also written a number of novels:

TOF, shortly after seizing the Iron Throne for House Flynn

TOF, aggressively writing at Lunacon
TOF reading at the Battle of the Books, Bethlehem Public Library
Photo by Sweet Sharon
TOF the Moosehead

Sweet Sharon at 50th HS Reunion

The traditional line-up, the four surviving brothers

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Feasts of December (2)

December 17

Dennis (l.) muscling in.
Note, we are both clutching books from earliest days

Among the Birthdays of December is that of Dennis Harry Flynn, brother of Michael Francis Flynn, who is the son of Joseph Francis Flynn, the son of Francis Thomas Flynn, the son of Daniel Joseph Flynn, the son of John Thomas Flynn, the son of Martin Flynn of Loughrea, Ireland in the County Galway, descended of the O'Flynns of the Sil Maelruain. He was born 362 days after TOF and with him in their storied youths wrote great SF classics in pencil in Spiral Notebooks, lavishly illustrated with colored Magic Markers, whose volatile organic vapors infected our brains.

Every year on 17 December, he would make much of being the same age as me. Then three days later, I would pull ahead once more. Had he lived, he would have just turned 69 a few days ago.

But I have written about this topic before, in fact earlier this year, and the story can be found here.

Dennis Harry Flynn, 1948-1964

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Feasts of December

December 16

Dennis M. Flynn, appropriately wary,
held in place by the Incomparable Marge
December is the Month of Birthdays at Rath ui Fhloinn. Among them is that of Son of TOF, the co-author of "Laminated Moose Zombies and Other Road Maintenance Problems," to wit: Dennis Michael Flynn, son of Michael Francis Flynn, who is the son of Joseph Francis Flynn, the son of Francis Thomas Flynn, the son of Daniel Joseph Flynn, the son of John Thomas Flynn, the son of Martin Flynn of Loughrea, Ireland in the County Galway, descended of the O'Flynns of the Sil Maelruain.

He's living up in Alaska these days.
and is a captain is Star Fleet under Jean-Luc Picard

where he is a member of the Ancient and Honorable Order of Bunny Ears

and is now a lean, mean exercising machine
Happy Birthday to you!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Factoids on Parade

The Armies of the Homeless

"States have inadequate plans to address the worsening and often-overlooked problem,"
 – Associated Press (10 Mar 2009)
"These kids are the innocent victims, yet it seems somehow or other they get left out,"
– Dr. Ellen Bassuk, National Center on Family Homelessness.
The report estimates 1.5 million children experienced homelessness at least once that year (2005-2006)

Living Conditions of Homeless Children 2005-2006
  • 56% “Doubled Up”
  • 7% in Hotels, (incl. motels, trailer parks and camping grounds)
  • 24% Shelters, (incl. “transitional housing”)
    Emergency shelter: 29,949 units (46%)
    Transitional housing: 35,799 units (54%)
  • 3% Unsheltered (incl. "abandoned in hospitals," "primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings," "living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations.")
  • 10% Unknown
"Doubled up" means that the family is staying with friends or relatives because they cannot afford their own place. This may not match the picture in your head of "homeless," which may accord more with the living in shelters or unsheltered. But the latter would not allow a figure of "1.5 million children." Are people in transitional housing actually homeless? It depends on what you mean by "homeless."

By the definition used by the National Center on Family Homelessness, TOF was homeless for the first five years of his life on earth, since we were staying with my mother's parents (and uncles and some cousins) two houses up the street. Pere had elected to use his GI Bill money to build a house and the Government had elected to drag its feet for as long as possible. In any case, there we were, doubled up. We did not feel especially homeless as I recollect. Not with Big Mom running the show.

But this illustrates the hazards of Counting Things. If the Definitions are elastic enough, they may include things that the reader would consider as covered. Typically, we will think of the Worst Case scenario when the definition may include many Milder Case scenarios.

In a survey of TV violence back in the 60s, special “watchers” reviewed tapes of shows and counted the number of violent incidents. That's gotta be scientificalistic! The most violent show on TV that year was…..
Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In

If that show does not strike you as especially violent, well, you may be defining violent differently than the special watchers.

"3.9 million women living in a couple with a man were physically abused last year"
--Washington Post (15 July 1993)

This figure came from the 1993 Commonwealth Fund telephone survey of 2500 women, which used questions from the 1975/1985 Straus & Gelles Surveys, which asked respondents

In the past year, has your spouse/partner:
  1. Insulted or swore at you
  2. Stomped out of the room, house, etc.
  3. Threatened to hit you/throw something
  4. Threw, smashed, hit, or kicked something
  5. Threw something at you
  6. Pushed, grabbed, shoved or slapped you
  7. Kicked, bit, or hit you with a fist or object
  8. Beat you up
  9. Choked you
  10. Threatened you with a knife or gun
  11. Used a knife or gun on you
So what counts as being "physically abused"? Being sworn at or insulted may be abusive, but it is not physically abusive. (And who is to say it is not worse to crush the spirit than the body?) But otoh, having a weapon used on you clearly is physical. So where would you draw the line and say beyond this is physical abuse, below this is not?

It's not easy. A can push B simply in passing, on the way out the door, because A's intent is to cool off before exploding in genuine violence. Or A can grab B by the arm because B is swinging a frying pan at A's head. Details can matter. It's not clear to TOF that the numbered scale is actually a scale at all. No. 5 can be more serious than #6, imho, depending on what is thrown: e.g., a spitball v. a dinner plate. 

For the purpose of the survey report, the line was drawn between #5 and #6. Is that where you would have drawn it? None of the 2500 respondents reported #8 through #11. This does not mean no women suffered those degrees of abuse. It means no one in the survey reported them. Which might only mean they are sufficiently rare that a sample of 2500 did not happen to pick up any examples. 5% reported #6 and 3.4% reported #7. These added up to more than the 3.9 million mentioned in the headline, so we assume that some women reported both #6 and #7.

In any case, was #6 or #7 what you thought of when you read the phrase "were physically abused"?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

At the Eleventh Hour

... of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the guns in Europe fell silent at last. The United States built a wall inscribed with the names of servicemen killed or missing in the nine years' war in Vietnam. In three-and-a-half years, the Allies in WW1 suffered deaths amounting to 103 Vietnam walls. That's just over 2.5 Vietnam walls every month.

Harry Singley, TOF's grandfather
Today is the 99th anniversary of the Armistice, an event nearly forgotten today. A letter written by Sgt. Harry Singley, 304th Engineers, describes the day:

First day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive
26 Sept. 1918
"It was on Sept. 26 when the big drive started in the Argonne Forest and I saw all kinds of things that I never witnessed before.  We started out on the night of the 25th.  At 9 o'clock we commenced a tank road and worked our way almost to the German's front line trenches.  At 2:30 one of the greatest of all barrages was opened.  It was said that between 3500 and 4000 guns, some of them of very large calibre, went off at that hour just like clock work.  We worked on this road under shell fire until about 3:45 and then went back until the infantry went over the top at 5 o'clock.  We followed with the tanks.  That is the way the Americans started and kept pounding and pushing ahead until the great day on Nov. 11.  ...

Harry Singley, 304th Engineers,
Rainbow Division
It was some life.  I am proud that I went through it, for nobody on the Hill [i.e., Fountain Hill, PA] will have anything on me...  I was a little with sneezing or tear gas.  It made me sick but I remained with the company for I did not like to leave my detachment at any time for if something would happen, I thought, there would be plenty of help.  I felt much better in a few days.  A small piece of shrapnel splinter hit me below the knee.  Otherwise I was lucky. ..."

"Somebody will wake up soon when the boys get back to the States..."

General Order
General Headquarters, A. E. F.
No. 203 France, November 12, 1918

The enemy has capitulated. It is fitting that I address myself in thanks directly to the officers and soldiers of the American Expeditionary Forces, who by their heroic efforts have made possible this glorious result.

Our Armies, hurriedly raised and hastily trained, met a veteran enemy, and by courage, discipline and skill always defeated him. Without complaint you have endured incessant toil, privation and danger. You have seen many of your comrades make the Supreme Sacrifice that freedom may live.

I thank you for your patience and courage with which you have endured. I congratulate you upon the splendid fruits of victory, which your heroism and the blood of our gallant dead are now presenting to our nation. Your deeds will live forever on the most glorious pages of America's history.

Those things you have done. There remains now a harder task which will test your soldierly qualities to the utmost. Success in this and little note will be taken and few praises sung; fail, and the light of your glorious achievements of the past will be sadly dimmed.

But you will not fail. Every natural tendency may urge towards relaxation in discipline, in conduct, in appearance, in everything that marks the soldier. Yet you will remember that each officer and EACH SOLDIER IS THE REPRESENTATIVE IN EUROPE OF HIS PEOPLE and that his brilliant deeds of yesterday permit no action of today to pass unnoticed by friend or foe.

You will meet this test as gallantly as you met the test of the battlefield. Sustained by your high ideals and inspired by the heroic part you have played, you will carry back to your people the proud consciousness of a new Americanism born of sacrifice.


John J. Pershing,
General, Commander-in-Chief.

by Siegfried Sassoon

When you are standing at your hero's grave,
Or near some homeless village where he died,
Remember, through your heart's rekindling pride,
The German soldiers who were loyal and brave.

Men fought like brutes; and hideous things were done:
And you have nourished hatred, harsh and blind.
But in that Golgotha perhaps you'll find
The mothers of the men who killed your son.

November, 1918.
h/t Brandon Watson

TECHNICALLY, it was only an armistice, and 21 years later, they had to do it all over again; this time with massive civilian casualties. In between, as our friend Fabio pointed out once before, more people were killed in battle than in the years of the Great War itself. Think only of the Reds and Whites in Russia, of the Greeks and Turks in Anatolia, of the Polish-Soviet conflict, and a host of smaller conflicts, such as in Ireland.

Since then, Armistice Day has been expanded to include all veterans of all wars. As he has generally done on Veteran's day, TOF appends here a short account of veterans in my own and in the Incomparable Marge's families.
TOF in uniform, Artillery ROTC, Caisson Ball 1965
with his then secret weapon
TOF himself is not a veteran.  The closest he got was two years of Artillery ROTC in which he achieved the alleged rank of staff sergeant (so he knows how to call down fire on your location.  You have been warned.) But he was classified 4F by a wise military. This was at the height of the Vietnam War, toward which TOF had expressed opposition, though unlike other opponents, it was LBJ's inept micromanagement that irritated him, along with Sec. McNamara's weird obsession with corporate-like numbers crunching. He never imagined, as others did, that the victory of Ho Chi Minh would be rainbows and fluffy bunnies, rather than re-education camps and boat people.

Ballad of the Artillery ROTC

They made him a second lieutenant
They gave him two bars made of gold.
They made him a forward observer.
He lived to be ten seconds old. 

Your mother swims after troop ships.
So let's have another verse
That's worse than any other verse
And waltz me around again, Willie. 

Whoa, What's This?

adam amateur theology aphorisms Aquinas argument from motion Aristotelianism art atheism autumn of the modern ages books brains breaking news captive dreams cartoon charts chieftain clannafhloinn comix commentary counterattack crusades culcha dogheads easton stuff economics eifelheim evolution factoids on parade fake news fallen angels Feeders fir trees in lungs firestar flicks floods flynncestry flynnstuff forecasts forest of time fun facts gandersauce gimlet eye global warming glvwg headlines henchmen high frontier history home front how to lie with statistics humor hush-hush hypatia in the house of submission irish Iron Shirts irrationalism january dancer jihad journeyman kabuki kool letter lion's mouth lunacon maps mayerling medieval metrology miscellany modern mythology moose zombies music new years nexus odds odds and ends paleofuture passing of the modern age philosophy philosophy math poetry politics psyched out! public service quality quiet sun quote of the day razor's edge redefinition of marriage religio reviews river of stars scandal science science marches on scientism scrivening shipwrecks of time shroud skiffy skiffy in the news skools slipping masks some people will believe anything stats stories stranger things the auld curmudgeon the madness continues the new fascism the spiral arm the writing life thomism thread o' years tofspot topology untergang des abendlandes untergang des morgenlandes up jim river video clips vignettes war on science we get letters we're all gonna die whimsy words at play xmas you can't make this stuff up