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Introduction to the Warbots Series

I first discovered the Warbots series in 1988 when there were only two books on the market. As someone who would eventually become a physicist my brain was always intrigued by topics such as this, even when presented fictionally. I thought long and hard about it the contents of the series. At the time it seemed like it was impossible. Nevertheless, G. Harry Stine hooked me in and made me surrender to each of the twelve books that would ultimately make up the series.

He did it by bringing to light in a page-turner kind of way several topics we now take for granted.

Would the military ever really allow itself to become dependent upon robots? I thought it would never happen. Robots were simple things at this point in time, banks still had tellers, and we all used dial up computer modems and the internet was just about to be born, Amazon didn’t even exist.

Artificial Intelligence was not a new topic, but mostly it was something we saw in movies, and used to scare us. The Hal-9000 decided that it knew best, Terminators came back in time to kill, and our imaginations ran wild.

That was then.

This is now.

We do indeed depend upon robots, only we call them drones.

Some of them are even armed.

There is even a murmur of a human (at least for Americans) free battlefield.

Would it surprise you to learn that the drones flying around the Middle East today are flown by pilots near Las Vegas? It is true.

Would it surprise you to learn that object recognition, and facial recognition are now common commodity items for the AI community? Probably not. Those technologies are now off the shelf.

When these books were written they were speculative, but dang if G. Harry Stine didn’t get close to what is going on now, thirty years later.

But wait, there’s more!

What about these Middle East terrorists who were dumb enough to take on a massively superior military? Surely no one would be that dumb, using weapons so many generations behind those of the United States that they couldn’t possibly win a war. Or would they?

Yes, he got that one right also. He gave us a fictional version of something close to what we see today. In my opinion he’s still half a generation in front of where we are now, and in time he may be proven absolutely correct. Only time will tell.

I wanted to read these books again as a potential influence for some of my own writing, and when I found out I couldn’t get new copies of these books (as mine were long gone) I was upset. I wanted to read them again. I poured into my favorite used book websites and found they were actually even hard to find there. So, I went on a quest. To find out who had the rights. It took a bit of work, but I found it. Bill Stine, the son of G. Harry, who has followed his father into the model rocketry world, was the answer, and thankfully supportive.

I am proud to be part of getting these books back out on the market, and I want to thank Bill Stine for allowing it.

I think the contents of these books will stick in reader’s brains and if they don’t they will certainly make you think. I hope you enjoy them as much today as I did 30 years ago.

The book can now be found on Amazon at the following link – Warbots Book 1.

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Independent Consultant, the untold side (a short)

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So I spent a few years working as an independent consultant focused primarily with younger startup companies. I have a number of people saying “wow so much per hour why would you leave that.” Either that or they said “wow startups that is always exciting.”  Well…there are a lot of reasons to do it, and others to leave it.

  1. Your time off is not ever yours. You always take the call, try to close the next deal or want that client to speak for long enough to get that next billable hour. If that is a little league game, or a soccer game for your kid, you still take it.
  2. You put up with interesting notions from clients. I had one who they and I agreed on a price per hour, and a number of hours per week maximum. End of the week, turn in my bill to the CEO of this 25 employee company, he draws a line through the total, divides it in half and says here, we’ll pay you this much this week, and maybe next time I can pay the rest. When I asked about next week’s hours he said, yeah that might take us a while but we really need you to keep helping.  I didn’t.
  3. You say lots of problems with number 2 can be solved with a retainer. Ok let’s talk about that. I charged this one company a retainer equal to 30 days of the hours to be spent on the project. At the end of those 30 days we had agreed that I would then bill out every two weeks but after the work is completed. Ok no problem. After burning through the retainer and the next two weeks I presented a bill. The owner of the company said, oh yeah…I have been meaning to talk to you. You are going to have to start taking your salary in equity. Which was never discussed….ever.
  4. I have had more than one company hand me a paper check that bounced.
  5. More companies than I can count insist that I invest personal assets before I can draw a consultant check, but only after agreeing to paying me for my time.
  6. I found one company I was helping the owner try to figure out why they weren’t turning profit. Well it turned out the CEO was using company credit cards at “gentlemen’s clubs” every weekend.

Yes, startups can be exciting. They can also be looney tunes. Be careful if you tread in that world.

 

Lee Child, Jack Reacher, The Midnight Line

I have been working my way through the Jack Reacher books of late. It has become almost an obsession in ways to the point where my six year old asked me, “Daddy, you finished a Lee Child Book! What are you going to read next?”

lee childI said, “Lee Child has more books, so probably another one.”

Six year old, “AHHHHH, NO! WHY SO MANY!”

Well, the long and short of it is typically they are very good.

For those of you that don’t know Jack Reacher is a retired MP, a really good one who was an investigator for the military. That is a shockingly hard police job because these are guys who are trained to be killers, and trained to keep secrets. But applying those skills to the civilian sector makes him hard to beat.

He is also the ultimate drifter. He grew up on military bases all over the world, then his own career kept him moving around and when he got out he is restless and can’t stand still.

I get it, as a vet and someone who moved often as a kid I get the feeling.

But this book, while entertaining, was possibly the weakest of the Reacher stories. If you are going to start anywhere with these book start at the earlier ones, they are much better.

I know…GHASP! Lee Child works in your genre you silly author, and he sells more books than you therefore he must be better!

Yes, he is a great writer. His books are usually awesome, and I learn a lot about story structure from reading his work. I think I am a better writer because I read his stuff, but this storyline just seemed highly contrived and really more boring than most.

For me, a good mystery/action thriller requires a bad guy that is the hopeful match for our hero (whomever that hero is from James Bond to Captain Frank Banner in my book The Last World War Volume 1 (Ok shameless plug admittedly), you have to have a bad guy that seems like he might beat your hero. If you don’t have that it’s kind of like that Star Wars movie when we were all introduced to Jar Jar Binks.

That being said, enjoy all the other Lee Child books, but if you skip this one don’t feel bad. But, if you are on road trip, and its around it will fill your day.

 

Military Killer Robots

Being a veteran makes you think about certain things a little different than some people. I’m not sure it matters if you are military veteran or a first responder you see the world from a different angle.

drone-firingSure, we see the news, we hear about some injustice and the war drums start to beat the calls for invasion start (we don’t call it that anymore we say send the military).

But if you are the one that has to go, you think about it differently. Especially after your time is up. Send the military takes a different meaning. You think about it longer because you know that when you go down range someone else is there who may not like you very much.

Until now. Send in the robots….drones.

We love these things. We can send people around the world to keep the peace and never be in harms way. We can blow up a guy on a scooter in Africa or the Middle East while our guy is sitting in a chair outside Las Vegas who goes out to dinner later that day win or lose.

The only question is, philosophically should we? Is this the right thing to do. Should we turn war into a video game.

What happens when the other side uses nothing but drones. Will we get to the point where all sides of warfare are no longer human its all robots? Will it just be the side with the best tech team that wins?

Or will it go one step further.

I’m not really a philosopher but it is a question that I think about more often than I’d like to admit.

Concussions, the NFL, and a new book showing how the crisis has evolved, and how it can be fixed

When I first met Jay Saldi I had no idea he was once a professional football player, much less a team captain from Super Bowl XII. It was long after he left the NFL, and it was a business meeting for a marketing project on this startup company that has long since gone away.

Concusstitution Kindle flattened

It turns out Jay wasn’t just an NFL player, he was one of the guys on the Dallas Cowboys when they earned the name America’s Team, and a hell of a nice guy. He played back when the Cowboys were the team, you know the one, the one that everyone wants to beat. Roger Staubach was the Quarterback and Tom Landry was the coach.

I am now and have been for many years a scientist. My PhD is in Physics, and I spent a fair number of years working on Army projects, specifically how to prevent traumatic brain injury in soldiers.

A book on Concussions in Football seemed like the thing to do at the time.

We didn’t want to be like the laundry list of others showing up on the market. You know the ones, the books that say, “Concussions bad, ban everything.” Or the other type that is out there, “I knew concussions were bad, now let me tell you my life story down to what my nanny used to tell me about running when I was 4.”

We wanted to write one that is going to help you make up your mind about the sport. Concusstitution is that book.

In this book we give a history of the sport, we discuss how brain injuries happen (geared for the layperson), we even show how, and when injuries are most likely to occur in the sport. We went so far as to talk to former players and figure out how they avoided injuries if at all possible.

We even examined the field for potential impact to injuries.

In short, we didn’t make the book about us, we made it about Football, and how Football has evolved, as well as how your head may (or may not) suffer an injury as a result of playing.

We hope you enjoy Concusstitution, Welcome to Football!

 

Upcoming 2020 election, politics and myths

Is anyone else disturbed that the 2020 election for President of the United States was somehow officially kicked off in 2018? Thanks to Elizabeth Warren and her oh so early announcement (that surprised no one).

That means that for 2 years I have to listen to “the founding father said,” and then “what I meant by that was,” and then of course “I misspoke” and on and on and on.

There will be myths created about people’s experience, there will be opportunistic statements about the contribution of one person or another. Then, of course, one side will carry around pocket Constitutions ready to pound us over the head, and the other side will pretend that document doesn’t really matter.

There will be discussion of walls, and how they are the only possible way we won’t all die in the near future. There will be discussion of the evils of cars and fossil fuels right before someone steps on a private plane to rush off and burn tons of the stuff.

I started thinking about how far back this myth thing goes and I found this book.

DSCF1069I look forward to reading some of the myths that got us all started. It is going to be a informative read.

I’m sure there will be a few posts about these myths as I go along through this one. Happy 2019, let’s not forget this year is election free (at a federal level) and feel free to live your lives without fear of whatever topic some politician seems intent to bludgeon you over the head with.

Law Enforcement, Donuts and Most Hilarious News Story Ever

Ok, we all know the cliche. Never get between a cop and a donut shop. Could it be because law enforcement work strange hours and the need the coffee or is because donuts are delicious, and cops are human.

I’m not sure but this officer had the opportunity to get the picture of his career, and dangnabit, he took it. This is hilarious.

https://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/cops-grieve-krispy-kreme-doughnuts-lost-in-nye-truck-fire-no-words

Lee Child, Jack Reacher – Personal

Lee Child PersonalI have been reading through the Jack Reacher novels recently.  I know, where have I been. I ask myself the same thing.

Lee Child is a great writer, a little formulaic but dang…It’s a good formula and it works.

Jack Reacher, in my opinion is a little like a cross between James Bond and Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes in that he connect clues no one else can, and that thing with his clothes.

I read a lot of mystery/thrillers. I have since I was in my teens, and I’m later into my 40s now. This one was an exciting thriller, I couldn’t figure it out. It kept me turning pages looking for that next clue.

In the end the clue was so cleverly hidden I totally missed it. I was surprised at the end, but when the reveal happened I finally connected the dots. Mr. Child you confused me. Hat tip to you sir.

 

Concussions, the NFL, and the American Public

To say Football is popular in the United States is almost the same as saying oxygen is popular for those who enjoy life. It is what many of us do in the Fall. It has a long history, is has had its challenges but it is the most popular sport around in this part of the word. I freely admit I live in Texas (Dallas to be specific) and we are basically football central, but still, it is hugely popular.

Concussions have been a problem for the league. Players have suffered from them since the dawn of the game. Athletes have suffered from concussions long before football existed on this planet. Look at how long boxing has been around if you want to understand just how long that injury has been present in sports.

Many books, and at least one movie have focused on this topic. I, and my co-author, wanted to take a different approach. We didn’t want to set out to write a book to blame someone, we didn’t want to write a book that tells our life story as some of the other concussion books do, no we wanted to be different.

What we did was we wrote a book that explains the foundation of the sport. We show how it originated, where it started, how far the safety aspect of the sport has come, and yes, where there is still room for improvement.

We did our homework. We researched the sport as far back as it goes (mid 1800s), and even looked into the sports that had influence on the formation of American Football which go all the way back to the Greeks and Romans.

We then reached out to a series of former players, coaches and other notables still involved with the league at various levels. We spoke to, and have included interviews with:

  • Jim McMahon
  • Howard Richards
  • Randy White
  • Bob Ward
  • Roger Staubach

We looked at any method a concussion can occur. I think you will find this book informative, and I hope that you will find it informative enough that you can make a decision about involvement with the sport from a position of information rather than fear. A wise man once said, we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

Our book, Concusstitution: Welcome to Football can be found on Amazon.com and I hope you enjoy!

Concusstitution Kindle flattened

 

Hannibal Rising – Lecter Prequel

hannibal risingThomas Harris has achieved what many authors dream of. Not just literary success, although that is certainly a desire, but he created a character that is now internationally recognized the instant the name Hannibal Lecter is said aloud.

I have read the entire series of books, and enjoyed every one of them. The movies are also something to be watched and allow them to induce nightmares. Anthony Hopkins does a serial killer like no one else.

I watched the Prequal again recently, and although it was hated by many critics I have to say it is a nice film. The challenge with it is that it isn’t Anthony Hopkins level acting, but it is very rare to find that quality actor.

The only real issue I ever had with this book was that the reason Hannibal did the creepy things he did were unknown. Sometimes that is better. Knowing why Hannibal is the monster he is almost makes us feel sorry for him at first. When I initially read the book, that was certainly how I felt. Now as I watch this again I don’t think I feel sorry for Hannibal. Maybe it is my age, but I now see that perhaps there is a potential Hannibal in everyone…Perhaps a victim of circumstance. He wasn’t a monster, he was transformed into a monster by life experience.

It makes me want to ensure my children’s life experience forms them to be good people. It makes me think carefully about the decisions I make to impact others. I don’t want to push someone, or influence someone into awakening their inner demon. You never know when someone is one little nudge away from breaking.