Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Just who IS the Tool in the Technological Age?

   Those that know me are aware of the fact that I’m kinda ‘Old School’ in most of the things I undertake. I guess this comes from being an ‘Old Dog’, a member of Gen-WTF. As such, I tend to regard technological ‘advances’ with a healthy dose of skepticism.

   I mean, c’mon. How many versions of the i-phone or i-pad are still remaining to be released? Couldn’t they make one to last more than 6 months?

   It’s not that I don’t use and enjoy technology, I do, but I tend to treat it in the way it’s meant to be regarded, as a helpful TOOL, rather than intertwining my life around it.

   (By the way, GAMERS should quit reading right now!)

   Let me give you some true-life examples of what I’m referring to…

   I was spending some time with my nephew one day not long ago, a 13-year-old that rarely goes outside other than to catch the schoolbus, and I suggested to him we should get a little exercise by playing some baseball. I had a couple gloves in the car and was delighted to hear his enthusiastic cheers as I went out to get them…

   Then imagine my horror when I came back in and he had set up a baseball game on his PS-3.

   Okay, here’s another example, one that’s a bit more frightening…

   I had the opportunity a few months back to get in some ‘stick time’ (flying hours) on a Gulfstream G-550, one of the most advanced business jets currently in service. My check pilot was a 28-year-old whiz kid that was busy the entire time expounding the virtues of the ‘glass cockpit’, the LCD digital displays that replace the more traditional dials and gauges on the instrument panel. It had auto-everything, and I'm certain that the avionics alone cost well over a half million dollars.

   Now I’ve logged enough hours in various aircraft types over the years that all these technological ‘advances’ don’t really affect me, and I know that there are several redundant safety measures built in to (hopefully) prevent any catastrophic failures. However, I also know that 'feces occurs', and I said Alan Shepard’s prayer (Please, God, don’t let me fuck up) as I taxied toward the runway.

   Takeoff was uneventful, and I turned on a westerly heading, climbing to level 150 (15 thousand feet), then sat back to enjoy the moment. I mean, here I was flying a Gulfstream, the pinnacle of aviation technology, and I was handling it as well as someone that had years on the stick. But considering that it’s ‘Fly by Wire’, that really isn’t a major accomplishment.

   After a couple hours, we found ourselves heading back, and I was on left base to enter traffic, when the LCD display for the inclinometer, or ‘artificial horizon’, went dark. I cycled the buttons, but the result was ‘No Joy’. My check pilot began to furiously check the breaker panel, hoping to find the problem, but nothing he did could resolve the issue. “What are we going to do?” he asked me, as if I held the answer. “Declare an emergency?”

   We were (thankfully) on VFR, Visual Flight Rules, and I had most of the other instruments still functional, and I had a good, clear visual of the runway threshold, so I took a grease pen and made a line on the windscreen to act as a reference point, allowing me to visualize if I were climbing or descending. I ‘went dirty’, dropping my gear and flaps, and within 20 minutes we were back on the ramp, my undies unsoiled, but my pucker factor up in the red zone.

   “That was a cool trick,” the check pilot told me as the tech weenies swarmed into the cockpit to find the offending problem. “Where’d you learn that?”

   “When’s the last time you were in a real airplane?” I asked him.

   “Ten years maybe,” he said with a look of contrition. "But shit like that rarely happens." 

   And this guy is gonna be a commercial pilot? Not on any flight I'm on!

   Technology can always fail. Usually, it’s something no worse than losing a paper you’ve been working on, or refusing to let you see ‘Avatar’ on Blu-ray. But every so often, because so many of us have become dependent on it, the failure has the potential to be devastating, and hopefully, most of us still know the ‘old-fashioned way’ of doing things.

   So, learn more about how things were done before all the technological ‘advances’ came into being and made us dependent on it for most aspects of our daily lives. Write a letter to a friend rather than sending them an e-mail. Go to the library and check out an actual book, rather than reading Snooky’s biography on your Kindle. Get outside and play catch with your child rather than hooking up the Wii to play Res-evil.

   But most importantly, learn to use technology as it was meant to be; a helpful tool, not a lifestyle.

   Sic vis Pacem, parabellum (or is that visual enhancement?)

   Wiley (Coyote)


Friday, March 2, 2012

"Is that a real fire?"

   People that know me personally know that there are 4 things I enjoy doing more than anything else; writing, flying, shooting, and Civil War reenacting, and the order varies according to the mood I’m in at any given time.

   Flying and shooting are my ‘de-stressors’, as well as a couple of the things I’ve done for so long that they’ve just become a part of my personality.

   Writing, well, it’s what I DO, my job as it were, but it’s a job I enjoy.

   Which leaves us with Civil War Reenacting.

   Okay, admittedly, up here in frozen New England, it’s kinda hard to explain to people why I, a Southerner by birth, want to relive the 1860s and sleep in a canvas tent, cook over an open fire, then go out and ‘play army’ with a bunch of guys (and gals) in what is still to this day the single most controversial period of our nation’s history.

   I do it because of that, the HISTORY.

   There are a myriad of myths and misconceptions about the Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression, as we Southern folk say), and I’m not going to belabor them here. Suffice it to say that 2 armies went into the conflict, and one nation emerged.

   I’ve been in the hobby for over 20 years, portraying members of both the Union and Confederate armies, and I have to say, that it’s one of the most entertaining aspects of my life, not just for the public, but for us, the reenactors.

   I first got into the hobby after doing my time in the military, and I think it helped me to become reacquainted with civilian life.

   But that’s another story.

   At a typical reenactment, most of us arrive on Friday afternoon, events in New England conveniently scheduled for the weekend, and go about setting up camp. After the tents are pitched, the fires lit, and the vehicles out of camp, I often venture over to the Federal side of the battlefield to see friends I’ve missed since the last time we did this.

   After a beer or 2 (or 6), I return to camp, stagger into my tent (okay, USUALLY my tent), and try to discover some well-deserved sleep.

   Saturday morning comes early for me, as I am in charge of ‘Morning Gun’, the cannon that fires at 6am, alerting the armies to the fact it’s time to get up and get ready, usually setting off a few car alarms during the process as well. Then it’s a quick breakfast, roll call, morning report, and then drill, drill, drill, all of this right before the public arrives…

   Then the fun begins.

   First, I have to endure the fake ‘Southern’ accents some of my unit’s members try to incorporate into their respective characters, not easy considering that many of them are from Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. And while I have managed to no longer need an interpreter to understand those thick Boston accents, it’s all I can do at times not to ask “What the heck did you just say, sir?”

   After we ‘De-FARB’ the camp, hiding or removing non-period-correct items, the public makes its way in, usually beginning over at the Federal side of the battlefield, then a few of them come over to check out ‘us Rebels’.

   Okay, I’m learning that most Yankees don’t really know squat about the Civil War. I’m hearing stuff like “These Southerners came up here and tried to take over the country, and we sent them back home.”

   Wrong... on several counts.

   Then there are the questions. “Is that a real cannon?”, “Is that wool hot?”, “Were you in the Civil War?”, “Why were so many battles fought at National Parks?”, and my all-time favorite…

   “Is that fire real?”

  Suffice it to say that, at times, the smartass in me emerges, and begins to have a little fun at the expense of the poor college graduate with a degree in underwater basket-weaving asking any of the aforementioned, and I’m usually pretty convincing, often letting them know that “The National Parks had lots of open spaces, perfect for battle, and the commanders of the armies decided to fight there.”, or “Yes, I was one of the youngest men to fight in the Battle of Sharpsburg.”, or even “No, the fire is battery-operated. Looks pretty real, don’t it?”

   I guess the point, if there is one, that I’m trying to make is that the average citizen has become alarmingly out of touch with American history and the way that many people went about their daily lives 150 years ago. Not really that long a period, considering that the average college grad knows more about the 2000-year history of Darfur than they do about their next door neighbors.

   The so-called ‘educational’ system in the U.S., under the control of the Department of Education, a government bureaucracy that I had the fortune to grow up without, has manipulated and censored so much of this country’s history that it is small wonder that many people don’t realize that the War began as a political issue, and, as is so often the case, young men had to fight, and die, for the benefit of the politicians.

   640, 000 dead.

   640,000 young men who simply took up arms to fight for what they believed, ON BOTH SIDES. And that’s not counting civilian dead, the numbers of which may never be known. The fact that the War occurred cannot be disguised, nor should it be politicized with perceived causes and after-effects. It happened. It shouldn’t have, but it did.

   So, if you have the opportunity to go to a reenactment at some point this year, or the next 3, brush up a little bit on your history. Not that found in texts, but the real history. Visit your local museum. Or scan the web for articles. Once you wade through the politics and mythology, you might find a few little-known, fascinating tidbits that you can arm yourself with before you come into my camp and I tell you about how the Union had developed an air-cooling system for their uniforms, and we Rebels were trying to capture this technology.

   Sic vis Pacem, parabellum, (or is that sick of this weather?)

   Wiley (Coyote)

   To learn more, please visit the unit’s website:

The‘battery-powered’ campfire

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Divided we are Failing

   February is ‘Black History Month’, and I’m surprised that some PC-overdosed, self-righteous individual out there isn’t screaming for it to be called ‘African-American History Month’.

   And what about ‘Hispanic-American History Month’?

   How long before we must also endure ‘Asian-American’, or ‘Middle-Eastern-American’, or even ‘Other-Race-American’? (God knows we’ll never have ‘European-American’)

   Do you see where I’m going with this? No? Okay, then let me be just a tad more obvious.

   Some brilliant individual once stated that “United we stand, but divided we fall.” (Aesop originally said in in one of his fables, but Patrick Henry was the person most Americans attribute it to, but that’s not the point.)

   In the original woodcut that the now-famous Gadsden (Don’t Tread on Me) Flag borrowed from, Benjamin Franklin depicted a snake severed into several parts, these parts representing the various colonies. Franklin was trying to tell the people that they had to put aside their individuality and form together as a WHOLE, with the diverse issues of the people of the individual colonies secondary to the issue that was most important…


   And yet everywhere we look nowadays, some group is out screaming for its recognition as a separate part, rather than becoming a part of the whole. The whole, in this case, being our country...

   Diversity is NOT always a good thing. Not back in Franklin’s time, and most assuredly, NOT in our world today.

   I’m certain that a few people reading this are screaming “White Racist Slave-monger” by now, but nothing could be further from the truth.

   Diversity has created a chasm within our country among the average AMERICAN citizens. Why must we draw attention to pointless, superficial differences, when we are all, first and foremost, AMERICANS?

   Why, rather than calling ourselves African , Hispanic, Asian, or European, drawing attention to our differences, can we not simply take pride in being called AMERICANS?

   “Divide and Conquer.” Ever heard that? That was said by Julius Caesar as he prepared to cross the Rubicon and enter Rome, changing it from a Republic into an Empire. Caesar divided the people from the Senate on issues and ended up conquering Rome in mere days.

   But that could never happen here, right?

   Are you sure it hasn’t already?

   At the time of this writing, Americans, ALL Americans, are more heavily split over socio-economic issues than any time in our county’s history, and many of the edumacated, degree-heavy, pontificators of theorems continue to exacerbate the problem by insisting that we must “Envelope our individual and cultural diversities and cling to them, remaining true to our native heritage, and never allowing ourselves to become indoctrinated into the masses and losing our grip on our true culture.”

   What a crock of shit.

   I’m not going the belabor the issues of unfair hiring practices and quotas in this blog, nor am I going to call attention to the purposeful incitement of racial tensions, many brought about by some of the well-known civil rights groups (the ACLU being the biggest inciter of these) in our country.

   I’m also not going to share my disgust over the foreign flags flying over people’s homes or businesses, or the language barriers that have resulted by those that refuse to learn to communicate with fellow Americans.
   And I'm certainly NOT going to go off on illegal immigrants.

   Rather I’m going to tell you a story…

   There once was a cook, a great cook, who was about to share his latest creation with the rest of the world. A stew. A stew unlike any others ever before, one that combined ingredients from all over the world.

   He set about preparing his stew, but a man that liked salt came to him and said “You need more salt. The salt brings out flavors.”

   So, wanting to please the man, he added more salt.

   “You need more pepper,” Another told him, one that liked pepper, so, again, wanting to please the man, he added more pepper.

   “More celery,” one said. “More meat,” said another. “No, the basil overwhelms the thyme, add more.” And so it went, on and on, the cook making certain that each ingredient stood out.

   The time came to present the stew before all the world, and people lined up to taste this fabulous creation.

   And each of them spat the stew out of their mouths onto the ground, saying that it was “Too salty,” or “Too much pepper,” or even “Not enough basil.”

   The cook’s reputation was ruined, so he went home and opened up a tire dealership, vowing to never again cook. His wife left him, the bank foreclosed on his home, and he ended up hustling blowjobs on the streetcorner before finally dying from an overdose of heroin and his body was run over by a garbage truck.

   Do you get it yet? If so, let me know.

   If you disagree with my observations, well, that’s your right, as an AMERICAN.

   Sic vis Pacem, Parabellum (or is that Pac-Man?)

   Wiley (Coyote)


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Query Hell, or the problem with getting Published

Today is an anniversary of sorts.

   Yeah, it’s not really one the average person would take note of. Just myself.

   Today marks one full year since I began the Query Process for my novel.

   “Who cares?”  you must be thinking. “Who cares that you’ve been sending out queries for a year?”

   I do.

   And now I find myself in that place that all new writers (and a few veterans) find themselves, the dreaded ‘Query Hell’.

   What is ‘Query Hell’ the non-writers out there might ask? Well, it’s the place your query goes and never receives a response. You wait the appropriate number of weeks (or months), then send out a nice reminder to the agent or agency you’ve queried, and guess what?

   No response.

   I realize that most literary agents are busy with their regular, money-making clients. I do. But if you state in the LMP or other sources that you are “actively seeking new authors”, then maybe you should actually respond to said query.

   Even another rejection is better than not knowing.

   Yes, for one full year now I’ve been busy, not only with revisions and (extreme) editing, but with the creation of selective queries to ‘hook’ experienced literary agents into sitting up and taking notice.

   And of the queries I’ve sent out, less than ¼ of them have been acknowledged, the majority of those being rejections, with one request for a full manuscript (that ended up being a rejection).

   Of those rejections, more than 75% were in the form of a ‘Standard Form Rejection Letter’ which basically states (to me, anyway) that the agent or representative has neither time nor desire to look over any new work.

   And the result of this? Many talented writers become disgusted and distrustful of the traditional method of becoming published, and seek out ‘Vanity’ or ‘Self-publishing’ alternatives, that greatly reduce the quality of the ‘literary’ works available on the shelves of the (now-defunct) bookstores.

   Then you hear agents rant about the fact that they can’t find any new talent out there. Small wonder.

   Maybe said agents should check their ‘In Box’ for submissions? Naw, too demanding. Hard to check e-mails on the laptop when you’re busy bitching about the ‘lack of new talent’ while downing your third martini in a bar on an extended lunch because you have no new clients to represent.

   If I sound a little harsh, it’s because I’ve actually taken the time to go to New York and observe some of the daily practices of a few of the ‘Guardians of the Publishing Gates’.  A few that I talked to were very understanding, and even went so far as to state that they have no control over what the agency they represent puts on its website regarding queries from new authors.

   But the vast majority, over 30 that I spoke to, said that they were not seeking new clients unless those clients had a history of being published.

   So, in order to get represented, you have to have been previously published.

   But in order to be published, you must be represented.


   With this type of attitude toward new talent, it’s small wonder that many people either give up, or take the self-publishing or vanity route, allowing their works to be hashed-out without the benefit of editing or some form of support, which is an agent’s job, after all.

   The result is a glut of senseless, hard to follow, overdone genres that permeate the bookshelves and brings down the quality of literature.

   I mean, seriously, how many more effing ‘vampire’-genre books must the public endure?

   And who is to blame?

   Agents and Literary Agencies unwilling to give new writers a look.

   If you are an agent reading this, don’t expect an apology on my part, rather, do a couple of things that benefit not only the writers out there, but yourself as well.

   The first step is to start looking at what is in your In Box. The next great money-maker might just be sitting in there.

   Next, you need to RESPOND!

   Okay, maybe the query describes something so abysmal that you would never even think of considering it. Still, your duty is to respond to the author. Even if it IS a rejection in the form letter-style many agents like to use, at least give the writer some closure so that they can move on. It might even inspire them to revise that ‘Vampire meets girl, becomes president and saves world from Global-Warming’-genre and pound out something along the lines of a literary masterpiece…

   But you’ll never know unless you check your In Box.

   Sic vis Pacem, Parabellum (or is that para undies?)

Wiley (Coyote)

Monday, January 2, 2012

I'm Tired of the New Year

Happy New Year everyone. Welcome 2012. Time to set about to fulfill all those New Year’s resolutions we made a few weeks back…

Yeah, I ain’t feelin’ it. I guess because this year’s outlook is obscured by so much other impending crap. Crap that seems to constantly rise up and smack us in the nutz every chance it gets, in order to remind us that “It’s a New Year. This is what has to happen.” Yeah, I’m tired of hearing that.

I’m certain that most of you are aware that the Presidential campaign kicks off this year. What? You thought all the ads and debates and mudslinging meant it had already started? Moron. That’s just the preliminaries. Wait until it gets REALLY ugly…and it will.

Politics…everywhere we turn. In everything we do. The ‘Big Government’ we were warned about in our youth (Gen-WTF, remember?) has come to life and is feeding off of the fears of every man, woman, and illegitimate child in this country. More government overseers to make certain we abide by the rules set down to ‘Make our lives better.’ Simply because we will no longer take responsibility for our own actions.

This year will see the end of incandescent light bulbs in several states. You know, those energy-wasting bulbs that use a tungsten filament to provide illumination? Gone. Fortunately, they are being replaced with low-power-use fluorescent lighting that uses toxic mercury vapor  to provide an irritating, headache-creating light that will use less energy (although the bulbs cost 5 times as much) and if broken, require a HAZ-MAT team from Wichita to come in and properly dispose of them.


Some of the foods we used to enjoy are gone as well, again, due to government “Watching over us.” Those tasty fries you used to get still contain some degree of potato, but the taste has been removed “For your own good” by political lackeys with nothing better to do than control our lives. No more salt, no more lard to fry them in. Oh no! Now all fries must be cooked in a chemical substitute that reduces the fat content (while upping the amount of cancer-causing, untested, non-natural petroleum by-products swimming through our systems).

All because we refuse to take responsibility for our actions.

Smoking…ah geez, lighten up (or rather, light up). Yes, I admit it…I’m a smoker. But soon, I will no longer be able to smoke in my car as I drive along the highly-congested Interstate at a bristling 5 mph. And if that ain’t bad enough, before long I won’t even be able to light up in my yard, due to fire regulations, or even in my own house on the chance that non-smokers might come (uninvited) into my home and run the risk of being exposed to ‘second-hand’ smoke.

Unemployment? Don’t go there. Too depressing. UNLESS you happen to be a heavy contributor to the president’s campaign coffers, in which case your company will be awarded several contracts using taxpayer dollars, after all, they don’t need it, …then go bankrupt, leaving nothing more than an ‘Oops, sorry…he he,” for the media to pounce on. And the taxpayer? Screw you, pal. You have NO say in where your tax money goes, even if it does pay for trips to Antiqua.

Diversity…enough already. We already give some type of tribute to every single group or individual out there with their own private agenda that feels they have to be recognized due to their differences, rather than as a person making contributions for the good of us ALL. Isn’t it time we drop the frakin’ “Me, me, me” bullcaca and MAYBE pull together and act as ONE? MAYBE our nation could stand UNITED once more?

I’m tired of criminals having more rights than the people they prey on. I’m tired of corruption in both Law Enforcement and in the Judicial system. No, I don’t believe we all need to have fully-automatic weapons, but we EACH have the right to defend ourselves and our property from those who feel that they are entitled to take it by any means.

Entitlements. Everywhere you look, there’s another group with their hand out saying “You are supposed to give to me. I’m entitled to a share of what you make.” Frak You! And the BIGGEST offenders? The GOVERNMENT.

I’m tired of a bunch of inept clowns telling me how to both discipline and raise my kids. I’m sorry, I raised mine to have MANNERS and ETHICS, two things seriously lacking in the upbringing of today’s hopeless generation. I’m tired of seeing 12 year-old thugs walking the street, doing as they will to anyone, without any fear of retaliation, protected by the law because they’re not ‘Adults’.

I’m tired of political cronies trying their damnedest to frighten their ‘constituency’ by threatening government shut-down, or higher taxes, because they can’t agree to pass a bill WITHOUT attaching some unrelated bit of legislation on as an ‘agent provocateur’. We (stupidly, it turns out) elected these out-of-touch morons to speak for US, but the language they use can’t be understood by anyone, not even themselves.

I’m tired of seeing our military placed into excessive danger and no longer able to do the job they’re sent to do because of politically-inspired ‘Rules of Engagement’. A soldier’s job is to kill the enemy. It’s that simple. Forget all that ‘Hearts and Minds’ bullcaca. War is offensive. Brutal. And maybe if we start grabbing them by the short and curlies, those ‘Hearts and Minds’ of theirs might just follow along.

I’m tired of college graduates bellyaching about the fact they can’t find a high-level position in a company, with a starting salary at 75K, despite the fact their ‘Major’ was Underwater Basket-Weaving. And yet, people look over the Technical schools and Vocational Education institutions and turn their noses up and scoff “They couldn’t afford a REAL education.” SCREW YOU! (And did those students pay for that education all on their own, or did mommy and daddy regularly go without so that their kid could have it better than they did?) Not everyone NEEDS college. Some people are content to do the best they can, day after day, making a good living WITHOUT the ‘benefit’ of ‘Higher Education’.

Yup, the New Year is here, and it’s already looking pretty dismal. In fact, the Mayans (remember them from one of my previous blogs?) predicted that the year 2012 was the end. Maybe they saw the future of Big government and Entitlement in the heart of the sacrifice they had just butchered and said “Hey! Stop that calendar thing you’re doing at 2012. The world’s going to hell. It won’t matter.”

So, if this truly IS the final year, let’s do something about it. Turn off the computer, go outside, and look around. Maybe say ‘hi’ to a neighbor, or put out some food for that dog or cat that wanders the neighborhood. Do SOMETHING other than sitting around waiting for it to happen and bitching about it.

Get involved with your community. Take note of the things that need to be done and DO THEM. Don’t depend on your local or state government. Become self-sufficient. Put government back where it belongs; as a SERVANT, not a HINDRANCE.

Sic vis Pacem, Parabellum (or is that pair of panties?),

Wiley (Coyote)