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.


Beneath the Surface

Heat, humidity, and the long day induced weariness. Sitting on a bench in city hall’s shadow, he looked across the plaza. The crowds were thinning. Most of the holiday action was drifting into the restaurants or up into the park proper.

A middle-aged blonde woman danced with a child on the plaza stones. Each was dressed in purple and white clothes, and laughed, twirling their clothes as they spun around.

Deeply inhaling to swallow sad memories, he smiled. Sean’s passing had ripped his marriage apart. After the divorce, he’d remarried, but he’d never had another child. There’d been two, but both were gone. Sean was the end. He missed the laughter and movement that a child brought to a scene.


“Dance, mommy, dance,” Laurel shouted. Laughing, Melany recalled her childhood dance lessons and pretended to be a ballerina. After applauding, Laurel mimicked her movements.

Melany caught a glimpse of the man on the edge of her vision. Sitting on a bench, he looked like he might be drunk. She didn’t like the way he stared at them, like a predator. 

Pretending she was out of breath, she collected Laurel. “Come on, honey. We’d better go find the others and get something to eat. Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?”

“Yes, I am hungry.” Laurel took her hand and began marching away with giant steps.  “Come on, walk like this.”

Giving the man one final dirty look over her shoulder, Melany followed her daughter to safety as the man finally looked away.

Sunday’s Theme Music

Ah, 5150, the album that ignited the Van Halen wars: who is better, David Lee Roth, or Sammy Hagar?

I didn’t care. 5150 (1986) was a rockin’ album. I listened to it enough that when I hear song from it even in me head, the rest of the album continues in sequence.

Of course, I always mess around with lyrics, and that’s how “Why Can’t This Be Love”  entered my mental stream. I was looking for something to eat. While plucking at some melon pieces and thinking about what to have for lunch, I asked myself, “Why can’t this be lunch?”


Thursday’s Theme Music

Gonna tell you a story. About a kitty I know. When it comes to loving, she steals the show. Ain’t exactly pretty, ain’t exactly small.

Well, she was small of body, but big of mind, and HUGE of will.

Anyway, back to the theme music. Going with AC/DC. “Whole Lotta Rosie”. 1977. You either know it, or you don’t. That’s how stuff usually works.

You may not know this, but I was born in 1956, so 1977 was part of my extended childhood. Truthfully, my extended childhood will probably end within a few years. I’m holding on, but all good things must end.

Go in for more work in Peckerville today. Wish me luck. Cheers

Wednesday’s Theme Music

Hump day. It’s become embedded in me.

I don’t work nine to five. I write seven on seven, breaking for some sickness, some holidays. Mostly I write, following the words the muses strew along the paths, trying to connect the story that I glimpse.

Though I don’t work Monday through Friday, the weekend remains the week’s end, and Wednesday remains the middle, the hump that I gotta get over. All psycho, innit? Yeah, a marriage of mental, physical, and emotional energy that started when we were in school in the U.S., and then carried on through employment.

I’m going to get through it with a little Dire Straits, cause I’m doing the “Walk of Life” (1985). It’s a good walking song to stream. “Here comes Johnny singing oldies, goldies, bebob a lula, baby, what I say?”

The video is a fun look back at sports and hairstyles…


Tuesday’s Theme Music

Today’s music is owed to a cat. I opened a new can, put it in his bowl, and set it down in front of it. He took a step toward it, bent his head, sniffed it, looked up at me, and meowed.

“Looks fine to me,” I said. “Whatcha see is whatcha get.”

That naturally triggered the 1971 Dramatics’ song, “Whatchat See Is Whatcha Get”.

I gave another cat the rejected food. The other cat wolfed it down and then washed itself. The first cat, Boo, found kibble in the always there kibble bow.

Thinking about the song, I thought that it’s not only effective for telling the cat this is his breakfast choice this morning, but can hold to our politics with Trump. What you see, an ignorant, self-absorbed person and known cheat with a first-graders’ maturity level, and nursery-school knowledge of history and the U.S. Constitution, is what you get. That seems fine with the Trumpettes, but the rest of us are not pleased.

The song’s first words:

Some people are made of plastic
And you know some people are made of wood
Some people have hearts of stone
Some people are up to no good

h/t to Genius.com

Yes, I think that’s apropos for Trump and the Trumpettes.


Sunday’s Theme Music

Was walking and streaming to myself (of course, but who else could I be streaming to?), “No more speed, I’m almost there. Gotta keep cool now, gotta take care. Last car to pass, here I gooo. And the line of cars go down real slow, whoa. Radio’s playing that forgotten song. Brenda Lee’s coming on strong. And the newsman sang his theme song.”

Yes, it’s Golden Earring’s 1973 hit, “Radar Love”, at least how I remember it. I was pushing myself to get to nine miles for the day and reflecting on it all. Blueberry pickin’ at 6:30, the writing day at 9:30 (with forlorn results), drinks with a friend at three, then the final walking to reach nine miles. Mixed bag, you know?

The blueberries weren’t as fine and ripe this year. We came home with an ounce over eight pounds, which cost us $18.25. Long drop from those heady days of eighteen pounds for $36.

Meeting with FX was fun. He’s an established actor, most recently seen as a judge in On the Basis of Sex. After talking life and politics for a bit, we shifted to books and writing, and then movies we’d not like to seen remade, like Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. I also don’t want to see The African Queen remade, Twelve Angry Men, or Bridge On the River Kwai. I don’t think they can touch the Godfather series, but who knows what lurks in the minds of Hollywood producers?



I make them now,

so far my brain hasn’t forgotten how.

Time shoots by in a quickening blast

and I recall with fondness a nebulous past.

Starry-eyed and glittery mind, I used to look ahead.

Now, sometimes, it’s wearying getting out of bed.

My oceans of thoughts seem dark but calm,

a prelude, or harbinger, of a once-remembered song.

I seek comfort, I seek reminders, I seek the past,

even though I know, like the future,

it never lasts.



The Story

Called Mom today to wish her happy birthday. I was born sixty-three years ago, today, if the records and Mom’s memory are accepted. I accept both, especially Mom’s memory. I wished her a happy birthday because she did all the work. I’m not lyin’, I don’t remember any of it. It was barely like I was there.

“Wasn’t I overdue?”

“Yes, eight days,” she answered.

“Oh, eight days. That’s nothing.”

“After nine months, it feel likes eight years.”


I woke up with pain. I knew it was time and woke your father up. “The baby’s coming. We need to go to the hospital now.”

I was already dressing. He got up slowly. While he dressed, I went down to the car. Our apartment was on the third floor. There wasn’t an elevator. I knew it would take me time to get down those three flights of stairs.

I was down in the car, and hard labor had begun. I wasn’t surprised. You sister took just three hours. I was in enormous pain because it was all happening so fast. I was wondering, what’s taking your father so long and kept blowing the horn, shouting, “Come on.”

He finally came down. I said, “What were you doing?”

He said, “I was combing my hair.” I could’ve killed him. No jury would have convicted me, if there was a woman on it.

He started driving, came up to a stop sign and started to stop. I said, “Do not stop.”

A motorcycle cop pulled us over right after that. Your father told him that I was in hard labor. The cop said, “Follow me.” He turned on his sirens. We blew through every red light and stop sign.

When we arrived at the Fort Belvoir hospital, the nurse came out to meet us. She said, “Oh my God, you’re in labor. You should have come in as soon as it started.”

I said, “I did. I got here as soon as I could.”

She said, “Let me get a wheel chair.”

I started labor right at six in the morning. You were born at seven twenty-four.

After giving birth, I was taken to the maternity ward. There were seventeen beds, all with women who’d just given birth. A major came in. She said, “All you ladies who gave birth yesterday need to do your exercises.” This was a military hospital, remember. They didn’t coddle you. They were military, and they treated you like you were in the military. Visitors and flowers, candy, all that wasn’t allowed, because they worried about germs and infections, and they began exercising you right away.

Well, I’d just given birth, so I didn’t exercise. The major said to me, “You. Why aren’t you exercising?”

I said, “I just gave birth four hours ago.”

“Do your exercises. Now.” So I did.

The next day, we dragged our iron beds down the hall to another ward, where we were discharged. You were thirty-two hours old when I took you home.

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