In Flight

Hearing a jet passing overhead

I looked up into the gathering dusk

A hummingbird hovered by a tree

Drawing my attention and holding my eye

Until the jet’s sounds faded

And the hummingbird was gone

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A Bit in the System

I was reflecting on my Air Force command and control past today. 

We’d begun moving into the small computer age back in the early 1980s. The Air Force — and the Defense Department — were being cautious. Locally, we realized that much of the repetitive, manual entries we did on logs, messages, and grease boards, along with the phone calls used to relay information, could be done via computers. We began visualizing and flow-charting the entire process. Military Airlift Command (MAC), which had operational control over us, said, no. Don’t. Stop.

At my next assignment, with Tactical Air Command (TAC), a young major had begun computerizing the mission flows. He was manually doing it himself. Watching him, I began asking questions about why he wasn’t doing this and that, which led to me taking over what he was doing. He and I had a lot of fun working on that. Five years and two assignments later, I was in Europe with a small flying unit. They had begun using computers to do some of the stuff I’d wanted to do. As soon as I saw it, I maneuvered to get involved.

They were happy as hell to let me. Controlled by the J-4 and J-5 Directorates of JCS, with input and oversight from the National Reconnaissance Organization (NRO) and NSA, USAFE didn’t care what I did. Locally, several officers were being advised that small computers were the future and were starting to take computer programming classes, but most weren’t familiar with them, so the commander and DO told me, “Go for it.”

So I did. By the time that I left four years later, other offices in my unit had enlisted my help, as did other units on base, asking me to share all the stuff I’d done with my small computers to automate and correlate information. My trend to incorporate computers continued with my next assignments with Space Command.

This all came to mind via “60 Minutes” and Crucible last night. “60 Minutes” featured a segment on Artificial Intelligent (AI). Crucible, a James Rollins thriller that I’m reading, features Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) as part of the plot. I ended up thinking back to the MAC days and how and what robots could do. With scenes from WarGames flashing through my head, I visualized all those messages, reports, and phone calls associated with mission profiles, aircraft configurations and repairs, and mission execution, and how computers and robots could augment or replace humans.

It’s intriguing to think about. After a twenty years-plus career, I’ve been out of the military for over twenty years. They may have come to grips with many of the ideas I considered and the inherent obstacles.

Somehow, I doubt it. The military has always lagged behind for much of that, preferring to spend their annual funds to modernize weapon systems, if possible. You never know, though; those in charge have now grown up with computers as part of the digital age. My thinking would probably amuse them because they’ve gone so far past that. Oh, to be a bit in the system and overhear what’s going on.

Well, actually, I guess that’s what I was: a bit in the system.

Bamfloofzled

Bamfloofzled (floofinition) – Being outsmarted or tricked by an animal or animals working in concert.

In use: “As the dog made a noise in a kitchen, Nancy set her plate of food down and went to see had happened. The cat immediately jumped up, seized food in her mouth and dashed off to share it with the dog. Returning, Nancy saw her missing food and sighed. Yes, she’d been bamfloofzled.”

Monday’s Theme Music

I know multiple versions of today’s song, but a little background to coming to it.

I dreamed of ear wax and getting rid of this morning. That apparently opened a direct channel to the mid-sixties in my head (that’s the 1960s, boys and girls, in case, you know, you were wondering…) because I was channeling sixties music this morning. Some early Beatles, Beach Boys, Lovin’ Spoonful, Richie Valens, Little Rascals, Monkees, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Supremes, Dave Clark 5, Stevie Wonder… Whole songs didn’t playing. A snippet would begin, I’d identify it, and the stream moved onto another song.  You can see from the list that it was mostly American pop, with a little Motown thrown in.

After a bit of this, “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” settled into the stream. Although I enjoy the Sex Pistols’ version, in keeping with the stream, I chose the Monkee’s 1966 version. You should watch the video just for a taste of 1960s TV pop America.

The song’s sentiment, though, resonates, which is probably why the stream settled on it: “You’re tryin’ to make your mark in society, you’re using all the tricks that you used on me.” I like that declaration: I know what you did, and we’re done.

The Direction Dream

It was funny, to me. 

Dreamed I got ear wax out of my ear (where else, right?), about a quarter-inch diameter ball of it. Said to self, “Self, my, that’s a lot of ear wax.” Then I ran around looking for somewhere to dispose of it. I was in a hurry to catch a train (or a bus – it seemed like a moving target).

The ball of ear wax kept growing. I continued to notice that, show it to others, and say, “That’s a lot of ear wax.” I realized that I was often saying that to myself in the dream, and laughed.

Meanwhile…the dream filled with people, family, friends, previous co-workers, and strangers. Some night of something had just ended. We were looking around and rejoicing that we’d come out well. Everything was in good shape. I finally disposed of the ear wax, which was basketball sized. In a weird epiphany in the dream, I saw that the ear wax was my past.

Someone noticed some vomit on the floor. The scene became a little CSI oriented. Questions were asked about who and when. The consensus was a cat had puked but the identity remained a mystery. The bigger mystery was, who is going to clean it up.

Somehow that was handled. Leaping forward, I was well-dressed and ready to travel. Had shiny black shoes on, and briefcase in my hand. But the area was chaos. No one knew where to go. Separating and isolating myself from others, I scanned the situation and decided on a direction.

I headed that way. Others wanted to know where I was going. “Out of here,” was my reply. “I know the way out. Come with me, if you need to leave.”

Others said, “Can I come with you?”

Amused, I shrugged. “Sure, but I’m moving fast.”

Dressed in a suit and overcoat, suitcase in one hand, briefcase in the other, I took off, walking fast through the crowd. Others, a knot of eight people followed me. As I dodged others, I kept looking ahead and refining where I was going. Fewer people were around. At this point, I was on a train station platform. Others behind me said, “Where are we? Do you know where you’re going?”

I smiled, because I knew where I was, and where I was going. It was all very affirming. My last thought was, I’m leaving the past.

Dream ended.

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