Dumbness or aging?

Please untwist thy matronly lingerie. I speak only of myself.

If any of you younger folks would like to speak of a situation when you forgot something that was once spectacularly obvious and automatic, this would be most welcome. I need it.

The secret weapon that revolutionized my motoring experience is the combination of the Ipod and a stereo to which I can connect it. It is not my way to be an automatic adopter of new technology. If it were, by now I would probably have forsaken my truck, which is older than every traditional college undergrad today (except for a few who went on LDS missions, and next year, they fall off the scale as well). If it were, I would not have a flip cell phone with rudimentary Internet capacity. If it were, I would use that Internet capacity and install ‘apps.’ If it were, I’d dump my landline. You get the idea.

When I found out that I could load all my music onto the computer, that became worthwhile. When I found out that I could load it all into a device smaller than a pack of cigarettes, that became worthwhile. When I found out I could use that as my motoring music source, it was finally time to replace the failing factory AM/FM radio and speakers in my truck with a real stereo and speakers that did not, on inspection, resemble papier-mâché projects. That was about six years ago.

I don’t much interact with my Ipod. I rarely get around to updating the music library, because to do that, I’ll have to figure out how to get MediaMonkey to do so. Itunes? It’s malware. What I do is dial up a playlist through the stereo’s knobs and buttons, start it, and forget about it for months. Every so often it locks up, I reboot it, figure out which playlist I want for the next few months, and interact with it only to change the volume or pause it when I’m at a drive-through window.

Today I thought it was done for. ‘No Device’ on the stereo faceplace. I disconnected the Ipod, rebooted it, and could not navigate it. Could not scroll through menus. The center button seemed to work, and the back button, but if you can’t scroll through a menu, you can’t do much.

I stressed. I rebooted it many times. I agonized. I wondered what it would take to get a new one (now that I have tunes in my truck, I can’t go back). I found out that all the new ones have far less storage. I thought of taking it to the Apple store. I decided to let the battery run down all the way, reboot it, recharge it, and try again.

Losing patience with the slow erosion of the battery, I picked it up and tried to use it. No longer stressed and irritated, my hands remembered. On this device, one scrolls by running a finger clockwise or counterclockwise around the circular thing. It was fine; I had just forgotten, cognitively, how to operate it. But when I was resigned and unrattled, my mind dredged up the proper operation. The only problem was that I don’t touch the thing often enough to keep its functions in my active memory.

Now I’m trying to figure out whether this makes me a technoboob, or a budding Forgetful Old Person. (I plan to decline all the bullshit laudatory titles like ‘Honored Citizen,’ ‘Senior Citizen,’ and all that. A part of me can’t wait to be a good-tipping, easy-to-please old person dining out, being kind to waitstaff. And if anyone points out the ‘senior menu,’ my plan is to smile and say quietly to the waitress, “Actually, ma’am, the truth is that most old people dining out are pains in the ass: entitled, stingy, and crabby. We should be charged more, not less, so I will be glad to order off the normal menu.” I grew up with a parent and grandparent who were abominable restaurant customers, and once I was old enough to stop imitating their bad behaviors, I went the other direction.)

So what’s the verdict? Does the above digression pretty much speak for itself? Technoboob or codger-in-the-making?

Flytember in Flydaho

If you ever read William Golding’s famous novelized Survivor variant, and yearned to be the lord or lady of the common housefly, now is the time and here is your place.

For some reason, every September, all the fly eggs in Boise hatch, and they are on everything. There is almost nothing you can do to keep them out of the house. They harass animals without mercy. Are you going to a fast food restaurant where the door necessarily gets opened hundreds of times a day, and there’s a drive-through window? Just bring your own fly swatter.

We went through this last year. As luck would have it, it began just as I arrived. I wanted anti-aircraft cannon. I kept a fly swatter right by my recliner. I spent hours hunting down the little bastards.

Since I have a fundamental hatred of flies, this is not a fun time for me. This year I bought an electric flyswatter; looks like a mini tennis racket. I soon realized why not everyone owns one of these: it’s hard and heavy, thus you cannot swing it anywhere that you might break something (window, TV, lamp, mirror). If you are good enough to swing it through the air and nail them, you will kill them, which you could have done anyway with a badminton racket covered in screening or cheesecloth, or even a small towel doubled up. I dislike them enough that I am finding excuses to use the electric one on them.

If we were staying, and I would be anticipating another autumn of this fly-ridden situation, I would be gearing up and experimenting with the fine art of fly slaying. As it is, I’m just hoping that September in Portland will be less disgusting.

In the meantime, I wish I had a small army of frogs.

On patrol with my weed killer tank

I did something dumb related to property maintenance. This is nothing new.

This is not as dumb as some of the things I have done, most of which have related to irrigation. Simply put, I made too much weed killer. I have a 4-gallon backpack spray tank, and earlier this summer, I made a full batch. The thing is a bastard; difficult to get into, nozzle tends to clog just as you get all rigged up, feels cold on your back so you can’t help wondering if it’s leaking toxic chemicals down your spine.

What was I thinking? I didn’t need four gallons of weed killer even then. Now it was almost September, and I didn’t need three gallons now. But what do you do?

You can’t just dump it out in the street. Good lord.

You can’t throw it into the dumpster. That’s unconscionable.

You can, I suppose, figure out where is the waste dump around here–information you otherwise would never have needed to mess with–and then probably learn that there are a whole bunch of requirements and you’ll have to come back. Well-deserved for bad planning? Sure. Are you going to do that, if you have a better option? Not so much.

So you plan to use it. Problem: on what? There is enough in this tank to kill your whole yard about eight times over. Might be enough to kill a tree. Every weed on the perimeter, you will slay. Okay, that used up an eighth of it. What’s next?

I donated it to the neighborhood.

Of course, my spray tank pump was on the fritz, and I had to spend a fussy half hour fixing it first. After, of course, getting rigged up in the thing. But I won that round, and went to work.

After assuring that every pertinent weed on my property had been well and truly hosed down, I went on weed patrol. I checked with my neighbors: any weeds you want killed? Here I had hope, because I have neighbors who rent, who would lose a lawn maintenance contest with a platoon of gophers, and who were sure to have a back yard full of enormous weeds. “Wow! Thank you!” No problem, kids. But I still had half a tank. Argh.

Then I remembered all the times I had gone for walks along my street, and all the times I had thought to myself: this is what you get in return for minimal property taxes. All these weeds have been bursting out of the sidewalks and pavement all summer. The city is obviously not going to do a damn thing about them; this is Idaho. I suppose the homeowners are probably supposed to, but it’s clear that they will not, and equally clear the city will not make them. Of course, it is just as clear that if I do it myself, I might slightly improve the look of my immediate neighborhood at selling time, and absolutely no one will care so long as I don’t hit a yard.

Out went Weed Patrolman. If it looked weedish, and wasn’t on private property, it got a hosing. If anyone noticed me, they probably either thought I was OCD or nuts, but no police showed up. And at least this way, the stuff got used for its intended purpose.

If I had any guts, I’d send the City of Boise an invoice for labor and materials.

With my luck, they’d send a SWAT team out in an armored car. Because, you know, the government was basically just giving them away.

If you consider Amazon an evil empire, pay slightly more

I often read very disturbing accounts of how Amazon treats its warehouse employees. I am already acquainted with the comic opera that is Amazon customer service. (Although if you write an articulate letter to Mr. Bezos, and have a valid concern, I must say that you get connected to very intelligent and diligent people who have the power to throw lightning bolts.) I am aware how difficult it is for anyone but Amazon to make money selling through Amazon. Amazon uses really nasty little pricing tactics to beat out the independent sellers who sell through it. Some say that Amazon has become worse than Walmart.

If so, it has also become more useful than Walmart. It has become a way that, without:

  • patronizing Walmart;
  • wandering a building the size of Liechtenstein;
  • watching simian children who really just need corporal punishment in liberal measure;
  • stepping over bodily wastes and those who collapsed after discharging them;
  • meeting the vacant stare of a Walbot;
  • being ‘greeted;’
  • viewing the gluteal creases, lateral mammary declines, pre-gluteal tattoos advertising coital attitudes, dorsal corpulence, evidence of recent and disappointing commode use attempts, ochre jellies, green slimes, black puddings, grey oozes, and the rest of the D&D Monster Manual,

I can:

  • Hunt up an old hockey guide from the 1970s and check now and then to see if someone sells one for a reasonable price.
  • Go shopping for cyan Samsung CLP-300 toner, ant baits, BioClean, the most recent DVD season of Boardwalk Empire, and a Sahaptin/English dictionary–and find them, and buy them.
  • Maintain a list of all the stuff I might someday buy, and on a whim, throw an item into an order. Maintain another, private list of all the stuff I regularly buy, but don’t want people to know about, and at need, reach right into there and buy this or that.
  • Read what other people think about a product, filter out reactions that are ignorant or douchey, and form an impression of whether I myself would be satisfied.
  • Browse books beyond the temporal limits of the waking day, at will.

You’ve got to admit the appeal. If it’s just books, sure, there are other booksellers. But it’s hard to find a one-stop shop that automatically carries the air filters, sports team t-shirts, new thriller, MP3 album, and blender on your shopping list. This way, you do not have to create logins at jimsfilterempire.com, licensedgreed.com, Powell’s (wait, you already have one there), Itunes (where you will let the Apple iCamel’s iNose under too many of your tents), and damemixalot.com. You do not have to take your chances with their service or lack thereof.

Would I prefer to buy all of the above at local stores, paying local merchants? Sure. And if I would like to spend seven hours on the phone speaking with underpaid people whose own best interests are served by just pretending to go check, then telling me they don’t carry what I want, or four gallons of gas and two miles of walking in futile effort to see for myself if I can find even one of them, I can do that. But local retailers generally don’t pay people enough to give a damn, cannot possibly be certain to carry the thing I need, and are often owned (at least, in Boise, which is a very entrepreneurial place) by sociopaths who just couldn’t get along with anyone else long enough to hold a job. And will pepper their establishments with political and/or religious references. Not always, just often enough to turn one off.

It ends up with going to Amazon. Knowing full well that one is helping to fund the sweatshop business model. So if that’s what’s going to happen, how to salvage any sense of social responsibility?

For me, it’s about convenience rather than price. Here’s one thing you can do. Amazon will still get paid, but it will not reward their tactics.

Suppose you’re browsing for more than books, which means you can’t just shop at Powell’s. You’re buying a USB cable, nipple cream, a book for your husband, a stuffed animal, polyhedra dice, the last version of Quicken that didn’t suck, and a Halloween costume (child size) of a Uighur insurgent. Your odds are excellent at Amazon.

In fact, it is very likely that you will have many shopping options for some products. Amazon itself will be one of them. Take a close look at the pricing. The minimum freight charge for any order is $3.99. Notice how, in so many cases, Amazon offers the item for $3.97 or so more, in the assumption that you’ll buy enough to get free shipping. Examples:

  • The lowest-priced seller for the book lists it for $5.00. Amazon lists it for $8.97, but it’s eligible for free shipping. $8.99 vs. $8.97.
  • You can get the Quicken for $45.00. Amazon has it for $48.95, so it gets free shipping without having to buy anything else. $48.99 vs. $48.95.
  • Just to get rid of it, hoping to make a little money on the freight overage, the seller lists the book for $0.01. So do five other sellers. Amazon’s price? $3.98, just buy enough other stuff for free shipping. $4.00 vs. $3.98.

You see the trend. Any time you see Amazon’s price just shy of $4 higher than one of their independent sellers, that’s what is happening. Since Amazon will combine it all into a shipment, and has significant freight negotiation leverage, their freight cost assures them a better margin than it appears. Freight out is often a profit center, the one you never really consider.

So if you want to feel better about it, just pay the other guy what will work out to be a nickel to a dollar more. That’s all you have to do. Sure, Amazon will still get its cut, but your order will not be packaged by a suffering, footsore individual whose pick quota was just increased from 75 per hour to 100. You’ll support an independent who probably also has a retail operation. You still won’t have create one more login. And you won’t be rewarding that devilish pricing tactic.

If our call was really important to automated phone systems…

…they would operate something like this.

–Thank you for calling Feculent, the world leader in male bovine waste processing and distribution.

  • For English, please hold your horses.
  • Para continuar en Español, oprima ocho.
  • To hurl racial slurs at us, press nine, and leave your slur at the tone.

–Welcome to Feculent. We are committed to getting you off the phone as cheaply as possible. Please, seriously, no joke, listen to all the following options before making your selection.

1) To stab zero repeatedly until you get a human, please press one.

  • Your approximate wait time is measured in weeks. Please hold. All calls are answered in the order received.

2) To accuse us of shocking maternal relationships and prostitution, press two.

  • For haiku format, press one, and leave your message after the tone.
  • For rap format, press two, then dis us after the tone.
  • For incoherent rage, please press three, and fulminate after the tone.

3) To explain why you shouldn’t have to pay your bill, or why you didn’t, press three.

  • If you’re a deadbeat, press one.
  • If you are a flake, press two.
  • If you’re an honest person who simply would like a minor consideration based upon years of faithful patronage, press three, and our Universal Loathing Technicians will be with you shortly.

4) To fire us, press four.

  • If you are really calling to beat us up for a better price, press one.
  • If you just want us to drop dead, press two.

5) To order new product, or to hear more about our products and services, press five.

  • To convince us you’re serious, press one.
  • If you just thought that was a good joke, press two.

6) If you are a bored, lonely senior citizen with a wandering mind, and just want to talk someone’s ear off, press six.

  • If you are harmless, press one.
  • If you are a perv, press two, and our Pervert Task Force will help you.

7) If you plan to just demand to speak to a manager, and do not yet realize that you will just be handed to another random person who will play the role, press seven.

  • If you are relatively calm, press one.
  • If you are close to a stroke, press two, and our system will dial 911 for you.

8) If you have no sense of logic, and would like to be connected to someone who can only repeat the same phrases until you hang up in frustration, press eight.

  • For someone with a heavy Indian accent, press one.
  • For a heavy Filipino accent, please press two.
  • For an Idaho accent, please press the potato key.

9) If you are calling with any sort of positive message at all, press nine to be connected to a representative who will change your mind.

  • If you have already changed your mind, press one.
  • If you are a Pollyanna who really believes it will matter to us, press two. Someone will be with you shortly.

#) To hear all that crap one more time, press pound.

Spiking the ball

In my line of work, there are some unwritten rules of good behavior.

  • One must always do one’s best work within the parameters assigned.
  • One must not review books in which one has had a hand.
  • One must always remember that it’s the author’s book. It was the editor’s job to make the author look as good as possible, and s/he got paid to do so.
  • One must not go to review comment sections in any way that could remotely upstage or embarrass the author.
  • One must accept that invisibility is praise. It’s like officiating a sporting event: if your work is excellent, it goes unnoticed.

I don’t think I’ll be breaking the rules if I do a little endzone celebration here, because I did something I feel pretty good about.

As blog regulars know, the e-book Shadows by Terry Schott was published about a week ago. Terry’s genre is dystopian contemporary science fiction, and he has a significant following. He engaged my editing services on this newest book. Before I got to work, I took a look at the reviews of his previous works. They were mostly very positive, and the only nagging complaint was that a few reviewers remarked upon the ‘editing.’ We’ve been over the ways in which that can be a shortsighted review comment, but I did take note of them. Terry didn’t need me in order to get people to like his stories better. The best service I could offer him was to make the ‘editing’ remarks go away.

Sixteen reviews in, and it’s clear that his fans love the story.

Not a one, so far, mentions the editing. That means that not only did those reviewers have no issues with it that they cared to mention, none so far even noticed much of a change. And if there are potential purchasers on the fence, ones who would be put off by adverse commentary about editing, it may hearten them that the reviews make no such mention. They may attribute it to the author’s strides, or to some unknown factor.

I smile, invisibly, with fierce satisfaction.

Newly published: Shadows, by Terry Schott–and a free offer

This contemporary SF e-book has been published. I was copy editor.

Shawn Inmon, for whom I’ve done steady work over the past couple of years, was kind enough to refer Terry to me. Most of the referrals I receive involve unpublished authors, which was not Terry’s case. His current (and the subject) project was kicking off a new series, having concluded another after something like seven books.

When the author is previously published, that must inform editorial decisionmaking. Terry made clear that his previous editing experiences hadn’t been what he’d hoped for. It seemed illogical to propose to duplicate their undesired efforts. What I did was look up Terry’s body of work and find out what readers liked and didn’t like about it.

Most of his reviews were favorable. Those that were critical mostly blamed the ‘editing.’ When I read that, my ‘you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about’ hackles usually go up. There is no way to know if the editing is at fault, for close on a dozen reasons, and the comment in a review shows ignorance of the process. At the same time, take it however I might wish, I had to absorb the feedback in terms of its true meaning. ‘It needs an editor’ is reviewer-blurt for ‘I found errors and they shouldn’t be in a finished book.’

Damn right they shouldn’t. No argument. However, most people liked the books, which meant that Terry had something to lose. What if I talked him into making some significant changes to his approach, and the reviews came back tepid? Picture it: “I used to like these stories, but now, not so much. The writing has improved in terms of less errors, but the story isn’t as good, and that was what I cared about.” That, dear reader, is what goes under the hammer every time an established author engages a new literary witch doctor. It would be one thing if previous books had been met with a wave of launched javelins. These had not. I might be entirely capable of talking Terry out of pleasing his audience.

In my world, that is the rough equivalent of an arsonist firefighter.

No one hires me hoping to alienate his or her reader base.

So I proposed to Terry: how about I limit this to copy editing, so that we address the unhappy minority’s biggest complaint, without depriving your happy majority of what it loves? He liked the idea, and I got to work. The story is set in Ontario, although the Canadianness isn’t really emphasized. This was an orthography factor for my work, because Canadian English has subtle differences from US English. I am not sure Terry anticipated that I would know that, but after brief conference, we agreed to conform the ms to Canadian orthography.

The result is a modern game-related SF/thriller that comes into clarity much as does an image when one increases the resolution. At, say, 80 x 50, one would see a lot of squares. Bump it to 160 x 100, more detail; 320 x 200, still more, and so on until the plot and backdrop come into full focus. If that is your genre, you may very much enjoy the milieu Terry has created.

===

There’s more than one new project out there in the genre. I’ve known Mike Lee Davis, aka Studio Dongo, since he was Sloucho back at Epinions. A good guy who was one of the best writers at the site, he’s also writing contemporary/conspiracy SF these days. He is currently promoting Vanishing in a Puff of Logic, a gaming story, whose Amazon blurb reads:

Vanishing in a Puff of Logic is the story of one neurotic gamer’s attempt to win at Nethack while tripping on shrooms.

On a slightly deeper level, the story is about that same gamer’s desire to triumph as a female elven wizard who is, literally, naked.

And on an even deeper level . . .

Let’s face it. There is no even deeper level.

If you get the impression that Mike’s pretty down-to-earth, capable of surprises, and has a sense of humor about his work and himself, you’re correct. His book is free today and tomorrow, August 11 and August 12, and if you check him out, I think you’ll like what you see.

Stuff most of you did not know about well-known historical events

This isn’t a debunking piece, but a tidbits piece. I combed my brain to think of small stuff that might make events more interesting.

The Nazi German battleship Bismarck was not only not the mightiest battleship of World War II, it was far from the heaviest-armed. The British had a couple of heavies that outgunned her a bit (HMS Rodney, HMS Nelson), and so did the US Navy even before the Iowa-class superbattleships went to war. Japan’s Yamato, which was on Bismarck‘s side, outgunned it handily. Bismarck, however, was itself a superbattleship in that it could take far more punishment than a typical WWII battlewagon, on a par with the Yamato (Japan built two; Musashi was the other) and Iowa classes. The major powers built only eight superbattleships during the war: four for the US, two for Germany, two for Japan (they laid down a third, but converted it to a heavy fleet carrier).

When the Royal Navy was hunting Bismarck in 1941 (and its sister ship Tirpitz, which never did much), the problem was that battleship guns of the day could beat on Bismarck all day without sinking it–which is about what happened. Of course, once the Royal Navy hammered her guns and propulsion out of action, Bismarck was doomed.

Why didn’t the B-25s that made up Doolittle’s 1942 Tokyo raid return to their carrier? For one thing, they could take off from a carrier but could not land on one, which made their mission a one-way run requiring balls of titanium. Dockside equipment had to winch the planes aboard at San Francisco. For another, their host–the carrier USS Hornet–had to get so close to Japan in order to launch the B-25s that its escorts sank a Japanese picket trawler whose job was to make sure no one got that close to Japan without some sort of warning. That was dangerous on a grand strategic level, because the USN could not afford to lose a single carrier. Thus, as soon as the last B-25 began to climb away, Hornet‘s task force was getting the hell out of there.

Despite their reputation, German WWII tanks were not all that superior to those of the Allies. France, Britain and the Soviet Union all had tanks that were all but impervious to their German adversaries of the time: the French Char B1 bis, the British Matilda II, and the Soviet KV-1 and T-34. By the time German armor met the US Army, the German tanks had better weaponry and range, which was good for the Germans, because they were a) outnumbered, b) prone in some cases to mechanical trouble, c) running out of fuel, and d) subject to death by rocket attack from the Army Air Force.

Why, then, the mystique surrounding the Panzers? For one thing, the Germans pioneered armor/close air support tactics and audacious mobile warfare leadership, which compensated for some deficiencies. (“No, I can’t blow up your tank. But Uncle Stuka can.”) For another, in the US, history is told mainly from a US perspective, and the short version there is that the early US Sherman and Lee tanks were in serious trouble against the German models they faced. Given that the German crews also had far more experience, to us, their performance seemed badass. To the British and Soviets, who had fought and beaten German armor, the latter seemed quite mortal (though deserving healthy respect).

To those unfamiliar with black powder weaponry, Revolutionary (1775-83), Napoleonic (1805-15) and US Civil War (1861-65) weaponry looks pretty similar: muzzle-loading muskets, right? The first two were indeed fought with similar weapons, mainly smoothbore muskets (which were unlikely to hurt anyone farther away than fifty yards). In the Civil War, both sides’ main weapon was the rifled musket, which could hurt someone two hundred yards away and more.

If you think about how armies closed to engage, the situation is explained. Napoleonic armies, when in range to take fire, were a long field goal away from engaging with cold steel. Civil War armies could bang away at the oncoming enemy starting two football fields away. This subtle but key modernization affected tactics throughout the war.

Why didn’t World War I planes break the trench deadlock with bombing? There were not enough aircraft, nor could they carry enough bombs to make a difference. Arguably the highest use of WWI warplanes was to gain aerial reconnaissance information–an art in its infancy–or deny the same to the enemy. Okay, why didn’t tanks break it? To a degree, they did, but the tanks were a) few, b) slower than a walking infantryman, and c) not very reliable. Fun fact: the British had ‘male’ and ‘female’ tanks. The female tank had a vulva surrounded with coiled wire, the better to attract the male tank to mount her, and wore a steel brassiere for comfort.

Okay, okay. The he-tank had a long gun, and the she-tank just had machine guns.

Did the British really march and fight in bright red rows in the Revolutionary War? When the terrain was suitable, yes–but that was a strength, not a weakness. If you leave it up to every individual soldier to fire, military science has learned, a minority have any potential to harm the enemy, and they shoot where they feel like. The European system incorporated this realization, and made sure that nearly everyone did everything at once, which meant that everyone shot, in the same direction, with said direction being chosen by a senior sergeant or officer (who was likely to know where the volley was most needed). In any case, a lot of the Revolution pitted colonial militia against Loyalist militia, where neither side had a significant tactical advantage.

Could the United States have won the Vietnam War? Let’s ask what it would have taken. War ends when one side gives up; thus it would have required the North Vietnamese, and their Viet Cong allies in the south, to give up. The Revolutionary War had something in common with Vietnam (which is why Ho Chi Minh, who was not a fool, took some time to study George Washington): like the colonials, the Communists could only lose if they decided they could fight no more. In Vietnam, the US, South Vietnamese, and their allies killed and wounded well over a million soldiers, guerrillas and civilians–at least one person in twenty. Would it have taken two in twenty? Five in twenty? That approaches the proportion of death that occurred shortly after the war under Pol Pot in Cambodia; would we really have wished to go down in history as a parallel to his kind? Even then, would the Viet Cong have given up?

What if the US-led forces had launched a conventional invasion of North Vietnam, even taken Hanoi? Would China have intervened, as it did in Korea when the UN got too close to its border? Would there have been a nuclear crisis? A fair answer, in my view: “Perhaps we could have…but would it have been worth the cost?” Too many hypotheticals complicate the answer, which is why people are still arguing about it.

Is there any chance at all that Hitler got away to South America? Nope. The NKVD sifted his bunker with all the thoroughness you’d expect of Stalin’s secret police, and went so far as to confirm Hitler’s dental work with his dentist. Stalin found it advantageous to raise doubt in the Allies about the issue after the war. Our best evidence is that most of what the NKVD dug up from the Führerbunker was quietly buried at a Soviet Air Force base at Magdeburg, East Germany, where it sat until the base’s 1970 handover to the East German Air Force. Before the handover, the KGB leadership ordered the remains exhumed, incinerated, crushed, and chucked into a river. There is no credible evidence to suggest that this account is false, nor any reason to doubt it, revealed as it was shortly after the collapse of the USSR.

In any case, even had Hitler escaped, it is unlikely he would have lived much longer. He was a mess by 1945, thanks to a combination of stress, deteriorating sanity, the effects of the 1944 assassination attempt, and quack drug prescriptions such as meth. Yes, meth.

How come the Japanese kicked the crap out of the Anglo-Dutch-Americans at first in WWII? The Dutch had little to fight with (though that little acquitted itself well). The Anglo-Americans were tactically and strategically surprised at the outset, and very much underestimated the Japanese on all levels. It took the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor (a strategic failure, in hindsight), occupying the Dutch East Indies with its oil wealth, and grabbing the Philippines (humiliating the Americans in Asian eyes, which was an idea with political currency in the time and region) for the Allies to learn that their Japanese adversary was brave, well-equipped, highly motivated, and committed to winning or dying.

Gods only know how it might have gone if the Japanese had imagined that dumb foreigners could break some of their naval codes, or if the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy had cooperated better. By the way, had the Anglo-Americans shown their erstwhile WWI ally Japan a little more respect, there might not have been a war at all. Of course, that would have meant letting Japan do as it wished in China, and what Japan wished to do was loot China’s resources and crush opposition without mercy. Considering that the West had done that in Africa and Asia without much remorse, the Japanese didn’t understand why they couldn’t join the colonial exploitation club.

World War II didn’t start on December 7, 1941. That’s just when the US made its entry official (we had been leaning to the Allies for over two years). It could be argued that it began on September 1, 1939, except that the Asian conflict at that point was Japan vs. China, with no direct connection to the European war. The Japanese full-dress invasion of China began July 7, 1937, when Japanese troops left Manchuria (which they had grabbed in 1931) to invade the rest of China. So you can argue that it began in 1941, or 1939, or 1937, or 1931 depending on perspective and your definition of a global war. Of course, go that far back, and you can argue that WWII was a resumption of WWI after a mismanaged intermission.

When it comes to the root cause of the Civil War, there aren’t many objective commentators. While the Confederacy talked big about ‘states’ rights,’ the primary right in question was to continue slavery, and to extend it into new states. If all new states became free states, Southern leaders could see that they would begin to lose sooner rather than later in both Congressional houses. And while the Union made plenty of noise about slavery, hardly anyone in the North would have willingly gone to war to eradicate human bondage. To the Union, the war was an insurrection to be suppressed, representing the transition from a loose association of self-governing states (the original vision, which the Confederacy more closely resembled) to a strong Federalized power.

For the United States’ first seventy-five years or so, the available money was inconsistent enough in value to bring to mind Bitcoins. We did not mint nearly enough coinage for commerce, so foreign silver circulated in large amounts that didn’t always match up to round-number $US conversions. Banknotes were just that, paper money issued by a bank, tending to decrease in value as the bill traveled farther from the issuing bank. And if the bank went bust (and before the FDIC, more banks did), so did its money.

You probably know that Columbus didn’t ‘discover America,’ because in the first place it was already fully discovered by the Native Americans who populated it, and in the second, there is unimpeachable evidence at least of previous Norse visits, and reasonable suspicion of others. It’s pretty simple: the American continental mass blocked all sea travel from the Arctic ice sheet to a point several hundred miles from Antarctica, which means if anyone traveled by sea and sailed in the right direction, and survived long enough, he would hit the Americas. Survival was the main problem, since ships could run short of fresh water on long voyages. Inability to determine longitude was the other. In 1492, a European sailing vessel knew exactly how far north or south it was, but not exactly how far east or west.

Okay, what did Columbus actually do? He first landed, we believe, in the Bahamas. We have no evidence he ever set foot on the future territory of the fifty United States (though he did in Puerto Rico, and at least spotted the Virgin Islands). He did land in America, but it was Central America, and only on his fourth voyage. He didn’t initiate the Transatlantic slave trade, but did enslave, rape and torture Natives. The idea of naming anything after him, especially a religious fraternal order or a celebratory day, is disgusting.

The golden age of piracy, as we see it in the Western world, didn’t really last very long; one might date it from 1650-1730 CE. It has a fair analogy to the gold rushes of the American West, in that very few actually practicing piracy got wealthy, but a lot of people got wealthy off piracy without ever turning pirate. Why? All that stolen swag was either money or goods. Pirates could spend the money with merchants. Merchants could buy the goods at criminally cheap prices and resell them for great profit. A very, very few pirates themselves retired wealthy. It’s also important to distinguish between privateers, who were legal pirates in a sense provided they preyed only upon certain powers’ shipping, and pirates, who had no legal sanction.

If a World War II country deserves to be remembered for a never-quit attitude, it’s Poland. The first Western country to have its territory subdued by warfare rather than diplomatic bullying, Poles showed up on land, sea and air for nearly every Allied campaign for the duration of the war. They also kept up an obstinate resistance on home soil in spite of one the most ruthless and protracted occupations of the war. A Polish destroyer helped chase the Bismarck to its fate. Poles fought in the snow at Narvik, flew in the Battle of Britain, defended the Maginot Line, fought the Afrika Korps in the Western Desert, stormed Monte Cassino when other highly regarded troops could not, and jumped in with three Allied airborne divisions in Operation Market-Garden.

The War of 1812 had elements of Revolutionary War Round 2, but like the Revolutionary War, was to some degree a sideshow of a greater conflict. In the Western world at that time, the central power struggle was France vs. Britain, the classic land power vs. the classic naval power. The colonies (later states) were never Britain’s biggest worry. That worry was the potential for the stars to align enabling France to invade Britain in force; whether due to a weather event that broke the Royal Navy’s screen, or some mistake by an admiral, this was necessarily uppermost in British strategic thought. As hard as it may be for us to accept, we just weren’t that important in the grand scheme of things–except, of course, to ourselves.

Hitler’s SS (Schutzstaffel) was not just an elite, brutal striking force (nor was all of it elite or brutal). It more resembled a megacorporation with a military arm, and that arm was not of universally high fighting ability, nor did all of it commit atrocities. The SS recruited over a dozen divisions that were not even of Germanic background, plus many smaller units; some fought well, while some were semi-useless or even mutinous. Some units (of various backgrounds) were guilty of systematic atrocities, while others have no documented record of war crimes.

In World War I, why didn’t they just blow up all that wire and trenching with artillery, and break the stalemate? They tried, and it did not work. WWI artillery of the day, assuming it struck precisely where it should, didn’t clear a usable path through barbed wire. It would have an impact on the trenches just by landing near them, but only direct hits had potential to clean out a small local section of trench defense, which could be reinforced quickly enough. The trench systems were several levels deep, with connecting trenching, so it wasn’t just a matter of getting lucky enough to take out one whole sector of the front.

World War II came home to the United States in more ways than just a few Japanese balloon incendiaries and crap-your-pants shelling from submarine deck guns. Very shortly after the US entered the war, German submarines entered a very productive period of sinking our tonnage. Our anti-submarine capability and tactics were awful at first, leading to many sinkings within sight of US shores. The government, not unreasonably, kept the magnitude of this from the public. The British and Canadians, with a vested interest in getting our warmaking means across the Atlantic, tried to recommend better tactics. Our pigheadedness cost thousands of American mariners’ lives.

The country that could have decided World War II in Europe: Turkey. Except for the pro forma war declaration near the end, the Turkish Republic remained neutral, with not a single Turkish soldier dying in combat. Let us imagine that Turkey had joined the Axis in early 1942: immediately the Soviet flank is turned in the Caucasus, the British flank is turned in the Near East with probable loss of Egypt, Germany and Italy grab the Caucasian oil fields–and most likely those in Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula as well. The Suez closes to Allied shipping. A disaster of the first magnitude.

Or, let’s suppose Turkey joined the Allies at that same time. Right when he could least spare it, Hitler would have to scrape up a force to hold Bulgaria and Greece, and even if he brought enough muscle to drive the Turks from Thrace, he’d still have Istanbul to control and an angry Turkey bristling from the Asian side of the Sea of Marmara. The Soviet Caucasus front would acquire more depth; Turkish troops might tip the balance in North Africa, or at least free up the Commonwealth garrisons in Palestine, Syria and Iraq. Even granting that Turkey would not welcome Soviet troops on its soil except in the gravest extreme, there is no reasonable scenario that imagines the Axis conquering an Allied (mountainous, rugged, obstinately defended) Turkey while watching the French coastline, trying to conquer Egypt, keeping many subject populations suppressed, and fully engaged in the USSR. Turkish airbases would have made it very practical for the Allies to bomb the Ploesti oil facilities in Axis-aligned Romania. There are reasons Churchill had as a key geopolitical goal the persuasion of Turkish President İsmet İnönü to enter the war as an Ally, well beyond the urgency to keep him from entering the Axis.

The Roman Empire did and did not last a thousand years. Let’s sort this out once and for all. For its first 250 years, Rome was a kingdom, ruled for the last century of that monarchy by kings of Etruscan heritage. (Etruria is modern Tuscany, where you go in search of dolce vita and Chianti after reading too much Frances Mayes.) For its next 500 years, Rome had a republican form of government. It did not consolidate the rule of the Italian peninsula until the second half of this period, and did not begin to show imperial ambitions until the last 200 years, mostly as a result of wars to the knife with Carthage. In the Republic’s last century, when Rome had become master of most of the Mediterranean, civil war began to tear apart the fabric of republican government.

The question of when Rome transitioned from republic to empire is not so clear-cut as people usually make it out to be. Julius Caesar was never Emperor of Rome, though he seized as much power over the state as he could grasp. After his famed assassination, and some more civil war, Octavian (who became Augustus, the name by which history remembers him) was voted power much like Caesar’s, but still went through the republican motions. So did his son Tiberius, to a degree, though it began to be polite fiction in his day. That gets us from 45 BCE (Caesar’s primacy) to 37 CE, when Gaius (you know him as Caligula) ceased any pretense of republicanism–a span of eighty-two years.

The Empire began to crack into halves around 300 CE, and by 363 its division seemed irreparable. Within just a bit more than a century, the Western Empire found itself overrun by mostly Germanic peoples, but the Eastern Empire survived and became what we know as the Byzantine Empire, dominated more by Greek culture than Roman. The last Byzantine bastion, Byzantium itself, fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 CE. Whether it was still much of an empire in 1400 is a fair question, since Byzantium had been in decline for two centuries, but at least in that form, the Roman Empire did last for well over a millennium. At what point it ceased to deserve the label ‘Roman’ is as valid a question as when Byzantium deteriorated into a mere city-state with some hinterland. However, there is no valid doubt that Byzantium was the unbroken successor government to the Eastern Roman Empire.

Ancient Sparta’s military prowess was directed more inward than outward. The Spartan city-state depended upon helots–slaves–for its economic viability. Much like antebellum Virginia, a major slave revolt sent chills up and down spines. The Spartan army had the primary duty of making sure the helots didn’t rebel. Admire Sparta if you wish for its toughness, but do remember that its society was morally on a level with the harshest examples, even stereotypes, of plantation slavery in US history.

The fiction writing advice most people are too tactful to give you

If you always dreamed of writing fiction, okay. Great, I like fiction.

Then do not do some things, and do other things. I feel like going with the don’ts first.

Please, DO NOT:

–Keep tweaking it forever. At some point, your book needs to be done. It’s done when it’s ready for copy editing, then proofreading, then typesetting, then publication. If you get back the edited and proofread ms, and then go back to work on it, you undid its doneness. Tweak it for decades if you wish, but just don’t ever call it done until you can think of nothing more to do yourself that will improve it.

–Show people your work as you write it. “Because I just want to see if I’m on the right track.” No, you should not. I believe that you should create, and keep it to yourself, and start showing it around when you’re done. I believe that serializing the chapters to your friends will wear them down, whereupon they will eye-glaze and begin to avoid you.

–Worry too much about your grammar and punctuation problems as you create. Just know that you have them, that a competent editor will address them and teach you what you did wrong, and that you’ll improve. They are the least of your worries, because a great story told awkwardly can be fixed, while an insipid story told eloquently is just well-written insipidity.

–Mistake your self-editing for what a professional editor would do, because it is not. Of course you will modify, edit, change, fix, rip out, add to your own work. Excellent; improve it all you can. But understand that it’s different than what I, or someone like me, will do.

–Ask people like me for advice, then ignore it. The reason I’ve come to dislike the phrase “I want to pick your brain” is not because I’m unwilling to help. It’s because, quite often, the person asking plans to heed only those reactions that confirm his or her pre-existing notions and plans. You could get that from your personal cheerleaders. Pretty much all writers have them, and they serve valuable purposes, one of which is to tell you that all your ideas and plans and adverbs are excellent.

Seriously. Have a heart. If you are just looking for confirmation, and will ignore anything else, why go to an objective source? Just ask your personal cheerleaders, like your mom and your spouse and so on, who are guaranteed to endorse everything you need them to. “But that won’t mean anything!” Of course it won’t. But if it’s really all you seek, go where you will find it, without self-deception.

–Get needy. A needy author is irritating to those close to him or her. A needy author needs praise. He or she asks for critique and claims to want honesty, but deep down, wants only honest praise. People run like hell from needy authors, so this is bad for you. It’s one thing for me; I get paid to deal with writers’ emotions, at least to some degree, including neediness. (I mostly ignore it.) People who do not get paid to put up with neediness should not have to: friends, co-workers, family, corporations.

–Use your personal cheerleaders as your ‘first readers.’ Anyone who would never say to you “I’m sorry, I can’t even get through this; it’s terrible” is not objective enough to be classified as a first reader. Sure, your first readers mainly like your work, but if they’d never criticize a thing you did, they are no help to you, because their praise means nothing. My wife can be a first reader for me, because she is willing to say things like: “This makes no damn sense at all.” “I don’t get it. How was this Höss guy different from Hess?” She’s not a personal cheerleader. She likes my good writing, and doesn’t like my bad writing. She is the one who will intercept my worst tendencies.

–Use the term ‘beta readers.’ Beta is a term that applies to programming and electronics. To apply it to literature is to fart in church (or in a dignified museum of natural history, if you revere that instead). They are early readers, or first readers.

–Start out with something semi-autobiographical, a common shortcut. I see a great deal of this; it may account for over half the first-time fiction I see. It poses a number of problems:

  • We all think our lives have been very interesting. In reality, your life is mostly interesting and exciting to you and your mother. That’s one sale. You will need rather more. Okay, your spouse. Still only one sale, since  your spouse gets to read it on your computer.
  • Your editor will view your work as fiction, but you may reject worthwhile changes because your knowledge of the real persons will conflict. “No. I–I mean, he–would never say that.” The first time your editor refers to your protag as if he were just another character, it will likely impact you. And when your editor points out that what you have the main character doing is idiotic, you may take it personally.
  • You could find that you are too sensitive and defensive about the content, especially if the semi-autobiography covers traumatic events in your life. You may give them words that don’t make a good story. “But I have a right to say that! Those are my feelings! She hurt me bad! That’s why I wrote this! Damn it, I get the final say and I say it stays!” You’re too close to it. Negative reviews might sting you more than they should. You may tend to take any form of rejection too personally–as a rejection/invalidation of your personal story, rather than a fictional tale. That’s tough, because rejection is going to be part of the experience, and reviewers just don’t give a shit.
  • It isn’t as creative as original fiction. When you write semi-autobiographical fiction, you still haven’t really conceived a story. You’ve only lifted a real one and spiced it up. What if it succeeds, and you then have to come up with something new? You will not have proven to your own satisfaction that you can.

–Let that discourage you from incorporating aspects of life you know. It’s okay to write about a fictional molested child and draw upon your own experience of molestation, for example. Just give yourself some distance from the child: gender, background, personality, whatever, so that if someone criticizes the character, it’s not an invalidation of your personal experience. It’s fine to write your autobiography, even, though this is advice on fiction writing, thus only selectively germane.

–Accept Oxford’s lamentable ruling that ‘literally’ can now mean ‘very.’ No. No. No. We needed that word, one that helped us separate exaggeration from reality, and Oxford has surrendered to barbarism. In my eyes, the institution has forfeited its moral authority over the English language, used its prestige for evil. I need to retrain myself to refer to ‘the comma formerly known as Oxford.’

 

However, please DO:

–Read Stephen King’s On Writing. I am a non-fan of King’s fiction. In fact, I can’t get through a page and a half of it. Doesn’t matter. His level of success dictates that anything he has to say about the craft of fiction deserves attention and consideration. If you’re writing fiction and have not read this, now’s the time. If you read the whole thing, sniff “Sorry, that’s just not my creative process,” and disregard it all, never ask me for free advice on writing again, because I tried and you blew me off, which means my guidance can not benefit you.

–Answer this self-honestly: is it a vanity book or a commercial book? Unless you’re willing to develop a getting-published plan beyond ‘luck out with agents and New York,’ and a marketing plan beyond ‘wait for my genius to be discovered,’ it’s a vanity book. Just accept that and give yourself permission for it, if it’s the truth. Of course marketing is icky. So is diapering. Just think of marketing your work as changing your baby’s diapers, and that if you refuse to market your work, you leave it laying there in a soiled condition. Also, the soiling won’t stop just because you decide not to market it. It’ll just get deeper until you change the diaper or stop feeding the baby.

–Check out a writers’ group or two. It’s a great way to learn how not to handle yourself (that is not a typo), and you might even find one that you like.

Invest time and energy in grasping how the opposite sex tends to think, feel, and approach life. There are those who insist that gender identity is an artificial construct, a set of chains supplied by a small-minded society. While they might be right, in the meantime, you have readers who are of both genders, are comfortable with that identity, and know when characters don’t ring true.

I do not think this is more difficult for either gender, because it is my opinion that most people don’t exert an honest, compassionate effort to understand how and why the other side thinks. They may just fall back on stereotypes, comfortable perceptions with bases in reality but which cannot safely be assumed. If you’re a man, your female characters will not be credible until you learn to see the world through feminine eyes. If you’re a woman, you’ll have the same issue with male characters until you remedy it. There is no expectation that you change your own world view, but you will create and storytell better characters when you can extend yourself far enough to perceive opposite-sex actions as reasonable and rational given the acting character’s perspective.

–Read some writers’ message boards. They’ll show you all the self-assured, egotistical, bon mot-dropping pretension I hope you’ll choose to avoid. You might even meet some down-to-earth fellow travelers who are more interested in writing than in showing off wit, or talking about how cool it would be to write.

–Decide whether your approach will be plotted or situational, and go with it. In general, fiction is either planned out (Dean Koontz, I am convinced, uses a bracketing system like the Final Four) or flows like a good D&D game, with the story unfolding based upon how the characters would behave (King’s method). Either can work well, so it’s a matter of what best flows your creative process while avoiding the tar pit of contrivance.

–Write something daily. If your day sucked and you cannot bear to write, just do one sentence that introduces a misfortune for a character, then call it a day. Break her nail. Spill his coffee. Have him almost throw up while brushing his teeth, like I do each and every morning. Take it out on your imaginary people. If you cannot even manage that, write “Today sucked and I cannot bear to write.” Tomorrow, you can delete it and write something more pertinent. Thus, there is no excuse for not writing at least one sentence. Today, one day after drafting this, I had a day of infuriated non-writing frustration. I nearly went to this very spot and took my own advice. 90% of the time, when I sit down to do that, I come up with something more worthwhile.

–Your research. If you are putting fiction into a historical backdrop–what we might call Michenering–great, but research it well enough to give your milieu the ring of reality. Going to tell the story of a Roman legionary in Caesar’s army as it invested Vercingetorix at Alesia? (Someone do it. I want to read that.) Know the full story of the campaign and battle, the various Gallic tribes opposing Caesar, how legions were organized, how they camped, how legionaries were equipped, what sorts of men actually comprised Roman legions of the period, and how battle unfolded in the era. If you know all this, you will get the details right, and your writing will feel informed and authentic. (And I will buy that book.) “No way! I don’t want to read about all that! I just wanted to write about some Romans!” Then don’t. Not if you aren’t willing to do a little work. Go back and write what you do know.

–Be cheerful, unless your entire personality and motif involve Poeish, dystopian gloom. Laugh at yourself a little without cruel mockery. You ripped out a part that introduced a character, then realized later that you did this, orphaning later references? Laugh at how that would have looked to the reader, fix it, and move on. You wrote something that could have been a Damnyouautocorrect moment? Let yourself laugh. Take the process seriously, but not without light moments. It’s writing a story, not planning a lethal injection or having an intervention for a meth addict. Work out your humor muscles. “A mandrill of below average literacy would reject that sentence.” “That joke would silence a pack of hyenas.” “If I publish that paragraph, a reviewer will think I wrote the ms in old crayolas.” “Archaic construction much? I can see the review now: ‘Must surely have read better in the original Sumerian cuneiform.'”

–Overcome bad habits. Too many adverbs, too many ellipses, too many em dashes, too many italic emphases, too many exclamation points, too much tell and not enough show, all the new writer addictions. This is a work in progress, so get started. If all those are your style, then your style has room for improvement. Doing it wrong doesn’t make you a gutsy avant-garde rebel; it makes readers put down your book.

–Read the infamous Village Voice blog entry by Josh Olson titled ‘I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script.’ This is a concentrated summary of what first-time writers need to understand goes on in many literary professionals’ minds. It will help you understand why your author friend doesn’t want to read your ms. She can’t win; from the moment you bring it up, all her choices are unpleasant, and further infuriating her, she knows that she will come off as the ogre in a situation she did not instigate. It’s somewhat different than asking your friend the plumber to come over and look at your toilet tank on the weekend, because you aren’t asking the plumber to evaluate your months of work and perhaps tell you it’s a mess. Also, you will probably make the plumber lasagna or cookies or something, whereas you won’t do that (or anything else nice) for the literary professional. And if she does it and gives you helpful feedback, she opens herself to the possibility that you might rewrite it and expect her to look at it again. And again. It’s not as bad as asking her to read your child’s work and critique it–the ultimate lose/lose–but it’s close.

In case you were wondering, no, that article is not a neat summary of what goes on in my mind every time I’m asked. For one thing, I don’t read or edit screenplays. For another, I’m nicer (and it works to my detriment). But have I ever, at one time or another, had most of the thoughts he describes? Yeah. Honestly, I have. I think the worst time was when I went to interview to volunteer at my local library, and the guy made clear early on that the library had no use for me unless I wanted to baby-sit. But it wasn’t pointless for him, because his reason for inviting me in was so he could pitch me his autobiography. (“But it’ll be a really interesting story!” “Okay. Where’s your nonfiction book proposal?” “I don’t have one, but it’ll be a really interesting story!” “When you come up with one, let me know.” “Yeah, but it’ll be a really interesting story!”) Of course, his vision was that I should ghost it for a share of royalties. He saw absolutely nothing strange about what he’d done, nothing impositional. He heard the word ‘writer’ and his brain cramped up.

There are, of course, fictional forms to which some of this guidance may not apply. That’s okay. You decide.

And if this blog entry makes me sound like Sauron, please consider that I devoted three hours of my life to writing and finishing a bit of pro bono work meant mostly to help people I’ll never meet.

Is the relationship a jail or a resort?

My wife recently posted something about toxic relationships. Since she and I have both experienced those, we know a bit about why people don’t just leave them.

As I thought about the difference, I recognized that in broad terms, there are two ways to maintain a relationship. I think some people commingle the two. The paths are simple: one can either make it perilous, cumbersome, or guilt-fraught to leave, or one can give a partner incentives to stay because life is better.

In other terms, one can run a relationship as a jail, or as a resort. Some relationship jails are humane enough, just hard to escape from. Others are places of constant, brutal interrogation. I know people who, if their partner transgressed against them, would never leave the relationship–and not out of fear. “And miss the ability to punish him/her for years?”

If one manages one’s side of the relationship like a resort, giving him or her reasons to stay, one is a partner.

If one manages it like a jail, presenting mostly barriers to escape, one is a prison warden. And if the reason for confinement is to inflict suffering, one is also a terrorist.

Then again, the same could apply to much of life.

If a parent assures filial devotion through kindness, wisdom, support and gratitude for past sacrifice, that’s a parent.

If a parent commands filial devotion through browbeating, passive aggression, fear of disapproval, withdrawal of affection, and/or threat of disinheritance, that’s not a parent. That’s a jailer and and a terrorist.

If a supervisor retains employees through competitive pay, a positive environment, quality leadership and personal growth potential, the workplace is a resort.

If a supervisor keeps them through fear of starvation, gaslighting, constant dicking over, and changing expectations on the fly, the workplace is a jail. The supervisor isn’t a manager, but a terrorist.

If police spend most of their energy in the primary role of preventing harm to people who generally do the right thing, and helping them when they have problems, they are resort security.

If police are mostly occupied with reasons to catch right-doers in the occasional wrong, they are jailers. If the purpose is to intimidate, they are also terrorists. If the purpose is revenue, they are organized criminals. If the purpose is their personal gratification, they are sadists.

If a soldier points a weapon at your enemies, and blocks their path to reach you, s/he is your defender.

If a soldier points his or her weapon at you, to compel your obedience or submission, s/he is your jailer.

If government spends most of its energy figuring out ways to empower and help people, it is resort management, inspiring voluntary compliance for the common good.

If government spends most of its time inventing new reasons why people can’t go here, do this, have that, it’s a prison warden. If it does so mainly through bullying and fear, it engages in terrorism. Its minions who take pleasure in this are sadists.

Maybe if one spends a portion of one’s life in a virtual jail under intimidation and terror, it’s easier to accept that jail, intimidation, and terror are just normal life, the eternal state of humanity.

Maybe if we’re going to fight against terrorism, we should begin with our families, homes, workplaces, streets, and highways.

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