Our Veterans!


Much has been written about the “One-percent and the ninety-nine percent” in reference to the wealthiest one-percent of Americans and the rest of us. But there is another one-percent and ninety-nine percent we don’t tend to think about – and that is the one-percent of Americans who volunteer to defend our country and the other ninety-nine percent of us.

We should be grateful to those who willing put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms, but we should also be mindful of the right – and wrong – ways to thank them. Recently, Matt Richtel interviewed Marine Corps veteran Hunter Garth recently back from service in Afghanistan. Here is part of what he has to say:

To some recent vets — by no stretch all of them — the thanks comes across as shallow, disconnected, a reflexive offering from people who, while meaning well, have no clue what soldiers did over there or what motivated them to go, and who would never have gone themselves nor sent their own sons and daughters.

To these vets, thanking soldiers for their service symbolizes the ease of sending a volunteer army to wage war at great distance — physically, spiritually, economically. It raises questions of the meaning of patriotism, shared purpose and, pointedly, what you’re supposed to say to those who put their lives on the line and are uncomfortable about being thanked for it.

We all should be enormously grateful for the sacrifices our veterans – especially our war-wounded – have made. But be thoughtful about how you express that gratitude.

Read more here

The “Job” of Writing

Writing Techniques

Is writing a job – or a calling? For those of you who write, it is a question most of you ask yourselves – often quite frequently. And to help inform your internal dialogue, it’s often good to hear from the pros. In a recent “Bookends” piece in the New York Times, Benjamin Moser and Dana Stevens slug it out.

Benjamin Moser’s opening gambit is: Even the best writing won’t have the immediate, measurable impact of a doctor’s work, or a plumber’s. Dana Stevens takes the opposite tact: Of course a writer is going to lean toward saying writing is a calling — that’s our job. So where is the truth?

For me, writing is nearer to Stevens’ end of the spectrum. It’s a passion and somehow I can’t imagine getting inspiration to take any writing to the next level if I looked at it merely as a way to pay the rent.

But you’ll have to decide for yourself and as a start, you might check out what Benjamin Moser and Dana Stevens have to say in their “Bookends” piece. I’d welcome your thoughts as to where you wind up!

Read more about both sides of this argument here


Artificial Intelligence – Servant or Master!


An iconic film of the last century, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey had as its central theme the issue of autonomy of robots. Few who saw the movie can forget the scene where astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole consider disconnecting HAL’s (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) cognitive circuits when he appears to be mistaken in reporting the presence of a fault in the spacecraft’s communications antenna. They attempt to conceal what they are saying, but are unaware that HAL can read their lips. Faced with the prospect of disconnection, HAL decides to kill the astronauts to protect and continue its programmed directives.

While few today worry that a 21st-century HAL will turn on its masters, the issues involved with fielding increasingly autonomous unmanned systems are complex, challenging, and increasingly contentious. Kubrick’s 1968 movie was prescient. Almost half-a-century later, while we accept advances in other aspects of autonomous vehicle improvements such as propulsion, payload, stealth, speed, endurance, and other attributes, but we are still coming to grips with how much autonomy is enough and how much may be too much.

Recently, Stephen Hawing had this to say: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. 

But does artificial intelligence threaten our species, as the cosmologist Hawking suggested? Is the development of AI like “summoning the demon,” as tech pioneer Elon Musk told an audience at MIT? Will smart machines supersede or even annihilate humankind? It is a pressing issue for many of us today. What do you think?

Read more here a tech-startup pioneer and someone who has studied this issue intensely


Tectonic Shifts!


Step back and think about major tectonic shifts that are – and will continue to – change our world in profound ways. While we all have our opinions, the collective vision of the United States Intelligence Community suggests there are seven of these tectonic shifts. Getting ahead of them may well spell the difference between success and failure for individuals, for businesses, and for governments. These tectonic shifts are:

  • Growth of the Global Middle Class: Middle classes most everywhere in the developing world are poised to expand substantially in terms of both absolute numbers and the percentage of the population that can claim middle-class status during the next 15 to 20 years.
  • Wider Access to Lethal and Disruptive Technologies: A wider spectrum of instruments of war – especially precision-strike capabilities, cyber instruments, and bioterror weaponry – will become readily accessible.
  • Definitive Shift of Economic Power to the East and South: The U.S., European, and Japanese share of global income is projected to fall from 56 percent today to well under half by 2030.
  • Unprecedented and Widespread Aging: Whereas in 2012 only Japan and Germany have matured beyond a median age of 45 years, most European countries, South Korea, and Taiwan will have entered the post-mature age category by 2030.
  • Urbanization: Today’s roughly 50-percent urban population will climb to nearly 60 percent, or 4.9 billion people, in 2030. Africa will gradually replace Asia as the region with the highest urbanization growth rate. Urban centers are estimated to generate 80 percent of economic growth.
  • Food and Water Pressures: Demand for food is expected to rise at least 35 percent by 2030, while demand for water is expected to rise by 40 percent. Nearly half of the world’s population will live in areas experiencing severe water stress.
  • U.S. Energy Independence: With shale gas, the United States will have sufficient natural gas to meet domestic needs and generate potential global exports for decades to come.

Read more about these Tectonic Shifts in this on the in my post on the Defense Media Network website


Cluttered? – Take Heart!


Is clutter – way too much stuff – dominating your life? For many of us it is. For me, that problem used to take care of itself as the Navy moved us every two years so you had to yank all your stuff out of closets, drawers, attics, garages, etc. But if you don’t move, you rarely have to look at most of your stuff so you just keep piling it up.

Now there is a culture – some call it a cult – of tidying up. The high priestess of this movement Japan’s Marie Kondo, author of the de-clutter manifesto and global best-seller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. But some wonder if we’re going too far. What if getting rid of all our stuff changes our life in a way we don’t want it changed? Pamela Druckerman suggests:

Clutter isn’t a new problem, of course. But suddenly, it’s not just irritating — it’s evil. If you’re not living up to your potential, clutter is probably the culprit. Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” the top-ranked book on The New York Times list of self-help books, promises that, once your house is orderly, you can “pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life.”

But the more stuff I shed, the more I realize that we de-clutterers feel besieged by more than just our possessions. We’re also overwhelmed by the intangible detritus of 21st-century life: unreturned emails; unprinted family photos; the ceaseless ticker of other people’s lives on Facebook; the heightened demands of parenting; and the suspicion that we’ll be checking our phones every 15 minutes, forever. I can sit in an empty room, and still get nothing done.

But in spite of growing skepticism about the “cult of tidying up Marie Kondo is undaunted and on a mission to help us de-clutter. Here is how she put it in the Wall Street Journal.

“Keep only the things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest,” she advises. “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t.”

So how far should you go? – It’s a question we all wrestle with…

Read more here from the Wall Street Journal

Read more here from the New York Times


Nora Roberts!

Writing Techniques

Nora Roberts is one of America’s most well-known bestselling authors. She has written more  than 209 romance novels. She writes as J. D. Robb for the In Death series, and has also written under the pseudonyms Jill March and for publications in the U.K. as Sarah Hardesty.

Nora Roberts was the first author to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame.  Her novels had spent a combined 861 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, including 176 weeks in the number-one spot.

Read more about Nora Robert’s writing journey here:


The Mideast – Perpetual Churn


Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes takes the reader on a fast-paced thrill ride through Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and the Greater Middle East.


How many of us really understand the Mideast – even though it dominates today’s headlines and as ISIS/ISIL continues its atrocities in more and more countries.

When we began to do our research and due diligence to conceive and write, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes we started out with scores of scholarly books to consult. We whittled that down to just a dozen key books that helped us understand the conundrum that is the Greater Middle East.

At the very top of that short list was Bernard Lewis classic: The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years. We commend it to anyone who wants to begin to understand this complex region in 2014. Here is what Booklist has to say about this gem:

For more than 50 years, Lewis has strived mightily and successfully to explain the cultures and histories of Middle Eastern peoples to Western readers. The task of writing a political history of the region has already been fulfilled by him and by many others. In his latest work, Lewis has chosen to accentuate the social, economic, and cultural changes that have occurred over 20 centuries. He ranges from seemingly trivial concerns (changes in dress and manners in an Arab coffeehouse) to earth-shaking events (the Mongol conquest of Mesopotamia) in painting a rich, varied, and fascinating portrait of a region that is steeped in traditionalism while often forced by geography and politics to accept change. As always, Lewis is eloquent, incisive, and displays an intuitive grasp of the social dynamics of the culture he describes. Both scholars and general readers with an interest in the Middle East will find this work a delight.

Read more here how “life imitates art” with Out of the Ashes

Missle Defense!


At the heart of Global Trends 2030 are four megatrends that it identifies as the most significant trends that will affect the world looking out over a decade-and-a-half into the future. Previous editions of Global Trends have also identified megatrends, and if there is one part of GT2030 that is the most “mature” and well-developed, it is this mega-trends aspect of the report.

Trends mean just that; extrapolation of things happening today that, if left largely alone, will continue along the path they are on and result in a “tomorrow” that while not “predictable” represents a projection of a future state that is more likely than not. For this edition of Global Trends, four megatrends dominate the landscape. These four megatrends are:

  • Individual Empowerment
  • Diffusion of Power
  • Demographic Patterns
  • Food, Water, and Energy

Read more about these megatrends that dominate our world in my post on the Defense Media Network website:

Megatrends – What are They and What Do They Mean?

No Fear!

The movie “The Imitation Game” credits mathematician Alan Turing with ending World War II two years early and saving 14 million lives. So it might seem strange to say it undersells Turing’s legacy. And yet that’s the case.

It’s true that as the movie depicts, Turing gave the Allies an incredible advantage by cracking the German Enigma code. This allowed England and her allies a degree of visibility into their enemy’s plans that present-day spies can only dream of. But a more comprehensive account of Turing’s work tells us something astonishing: Code-breaking was but a sidebar to Turing’s larger ambitions.

Like Newton and Einstein, Turing strove to understand something fundamental about reality itself. And as the inventor of the mathematical abstraction that enabled all subsequent devices we call “computers,” some of his insights are more relevant today than ever.

At the time, a “computer” was literally a person, working with pencil and paper or perhaps a mechanical calculator as an aid. Mathematicians were interested in whether or not this hypothetical computer-person could, starting from a set of axioms, determine whether any statement in the universe was true or false.

Building on the work of others, Turing realized that the way to answer this question was to replace the human with a “universal” mechanical computer. Turing didn’t need to build such a computer; it was enough to describe it mathematically, which he did.

Read more about how all this started here:


Ann Tyler’s Writing Words of Wisdom

Writing Techniques

Ann Tyler is one of today’s most frequently read and endearing writers. Her followers are legion. She shares her writing secrets as well as what she reads and especially what happens when she reads her own books in a recent piece in the New York Times. Among her words of wisdom:

Who I am today is all because of a picture book that was given me on my fourth birthday: Virginia Lee Burton’s “The Little House.” I remember the first time my mother read it to me — how its message about the irreversible passage of time instantly hit home. From then on, I seem to have had a constant awareness of the fact that nothing lasts forever, and that someday I would miss what I was now taking for granted. That’s a valuable insight to go through life with.

Read more about Ann Tyler’s secrets here: