On This Day: 49 years ago, Apollo 11.

49 years ago I watched men from planet Earth first set foot on the moon.  I never dreamed that 3 1/2 years later I would watch the last (for my lifetime most likely).  The great disappointment of the Apollo program is that we didn’t go anywhere with it.

In any case, here’s a transcript of the communications of the Eagle’s terminal approach and landing:

Communicators in the text may be identified according to the following list.

CDR  Commander  Neil A. Armstrong
CMP  Command module pilot   Michael Collins
LMP  Lunar module pilot  Edwin E. ALdrin, Jr.
SC  Unidentifiable crewmember
MS  Multiple (simultaneous) speakers
LCC  Launch Control Center
Mission Control Center:
CC  Capsule Communicator (CAP COMM)
F  Flight Director

Remote Sites:
CT Communications Technician (COMM TECH)
Recovery Forces:
R  Recovery helicopter
AB  Air Boss

A series of three dots (…) is used to designate those portions of the communications that could not be transcribed because of garbling. One dash (-) is used to indicate a speaker’s pause or a self-interruption and subsequent completion of a thought. Two dashes (- -) are used to indicate an interruption by another speaker or a point at which a recording was terminated abruptly.

04 06 28 51 CC
Eagle, Houston. We read you now. You’re GO for PDI. Over.

04 06 28 57 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger. Understand. AELD control circuit breakers. DECA GIMBAL AC – closed?

04 06 29 07 CDR (EAGLE)

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/4 Page 309

04 06 29 08 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 29 23 CC
Eagle, Houston. Your alignment is GO on the AGS. On my Mark, 3 30 until ignition.

04 06 29 29 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 29 33 CC

04 06 29 34 CC
3 30 until ignition.

04 06 29 38 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger. Copy. Thrust translation – four jets – Balance couple – ON. TTCA throttle – MINIMUM. Throttle – AUTO CDR. Prop button – RESET. Prop button. Okay. ABORT/ABORT STAGE – RESET. ATT CONTROL – three of them to MODE CONTROL. 0kay, MODE CONTROL is set. AGS is reading 400 plus 1. Standing by for …

04 06 30 45 LMP (EAGLE)
Hit VERB 77?

04 06 31 04 LMP (EAGLE)
Okay. Sequence camera coming on.

04 06 31 32 CC
Eagle, Houston. If you’d like to try high gain, pitch 212, yaw 37. Over.

04 06 31 45 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger. I think I’ve got you on high gain now.

04 06 31 49 CC

04 06 32 03 LMP (EAGLE)
Say again the angles, though.

04 06 32 05 CC

04 06 32 06 LMP (EAGLE)
I’ll set them in to use them before we yaw around.

04 06 32 08 CC
Roger. Pitch 212, yaw plus 37.

04 06 32 24 LMP (EAGLE)
OMNI’s in.

04 06 33 09 LMP (EAGLE)
… 10 … 10 percent …

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/5 Page 310

04 06 33 41 CC
Columbia, Houston. We’ve lost them. Tell them to go aft OMNI. Over.

04 06 33 51 CMP (COLUMBIA)
They’ve lost you. Use the OMNI’s again.

04 06 34 01 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 34 05 CMP (COLUMBIA)
Say again, Neil?

04 06 34 07 LMP (EAGLE)
I’ll leave it in SLEW. Relay to us. See if they have got me now. I’ve got good signal strength in SLEW.

04 06 34 13 CMP (COLUMBIA)
Okay. You should have him now, Houston.

04 06 34 16 CC
Eagle, we’ve got you now. It’s looking good. Over.

04 06 34 23 CC
Eagle – –

04 06 34 24 LMP (EAGLE)
– – descent looks good.

04 06 34 25 CC
Eagle, Houston. Everything is looking good here. Over.

04 06 34 29 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger. Copy.

04 06 34 34 CC
Eagle, Houston. After yaw around, angles: S band pitch, minus 9, yaw plus 18.

04 06 34 46 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 34 59 LMP (EAGLE)
AGS and PNGS agree very closely.

04 06 35 01 CC

04 06 35 14 LMP (EAGLE)
Beta ARM. Altitudes are a little high.

04 06 35 45 LMP (EAGLE)
Houston. I’m getting a little fluctuation in the AC voltage now.

04 06 35 51 CC

04 06 35 52 LMP (EAGLE)
Could be our meter, maybe, huh?

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/6 Page 311

04 06 35 54 LMP (EAGLE)
Stand by, Looking good to us. You’re still looking good at 3, coming up 3 minutes.

04 06 36 13 LMP (EAGLE)
… real good …. about on.

04 06 36 18 CDR (EAGLE)
Our. position checks downrange show us to be a little long.

04 06 36 21 CC
Roger. Copy.

04 06 36 24 LMP (EAGLE)
AGS has gone about 2 feet per second greater …

04 06 36 36 CDR (EAGLE)
… ought to be … Stand by.,

04 06 36 43 LMP (EAGLE)
Altitude …

04 06 37 00 LMP (EAGLE)
… it’s going to stop.

04 06 37 18 CC
Eagle, Houston. You are GO to continue – –

04 06 37 19 LMP (EAGLE)
… closed … GO … at 4 minutes.

04 06 37 22 CC
Roger. You are GO – You are GO to continue powered descent. You are GO to continue powered des cent.

04 06 37 30 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 37 35 CC
And, Eagle, Houston. We’ve got data dropout. You’re still looking good.

04 06 38 04 LMP (EAGLE)
… PGNS. We got good lock-on. Altitude lights OUT. DELTA-H is minus 2 900.

04 06 38 18 CC
Roger. We copy.

04 06 38 20 LMP (EAGLE)
Got the Earth right out our front window.

04 06 38 23 CDR (EAGLE)
Houston, you’re looking at our DELTA-H?

04 06 38 25 CC
That’s affirmative.

04 06 38 26 CDR (EAGLE)

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/7 Page 312

04 06 38 28 CC
It’s looking good to us. Over.

04 06 38 30 CDR (EAGLE)
It’s a 1202.

04 06 38 32 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 38 48 CDR (EAGLE)
Give us a reading on the 1202 PROGRAM ALARM.

04 06 38 53 CC
Roger. We got – We’re GO on that alarm

04 06 38 59 CDR (EAGLE)
Roger. P30.

04 06 39 01 CC
6 plus 25, throttle down – –

04 06 39 02 LMP (EAGLE)
Looks like about 820 –

04 06 39 03 CC
– – 6 plus 25, throttle down.

04 06 39 06 CDR (EAGLE)
Roger. Copy. 6 plus 25.

04 06 39 14 LMP (EAGLE)
Same alarm, and it appears to come up when we have a 1668 up.

04 06 39 17 CC
Roger. Copy.

04 06 39 23 CC
Eagle, Houston. We’ll monitor your DELTA-H.

04 06 39 24 LMP (EAGLE)
… worked out beautifully.

04 06 39 28 CC

04 06 39 29 LMP (EAGLE)
… looks good now.

04 06 39 30 CC
Roger. DELTA H is looking good to us.

04 06 39 34 LMP (EAGLE)
Ah! Throttle down – –

04 06 39 35 CDR (EAGLE)
Throttle down on time!

04 06 39 36 CC
Roger, We copy throttle down – –

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/8 Page 313

04 06 39 37 LMP (EAGLE)
– – … throttles down. Better than the simulator.

04 06 39 42 CC

04 06 39 48 LMP (EAGLE)
AGS and PGNS look real close.

04 06 40 08 CC
At 7 minutes, you’re looking great to us, Eagle.

04 06 40 13 LMP (EAGLE)
Okay. I’m still on SLEW so we may tend to lose as we gradually pitch over. Let me try AUTO again now and see what happens.

04 06 40 21 CC

04 06 40 23 LMP (EAGLE)
Okay. Looks like it’s holding.

04 06 40 24 CC
Roger. We got good data.

04 06 40 49 CC
Eagle, Houston. It’s descent 2 fuel to MONITOR. Over.

04 06 40 55 CDR (EAGLE)
Going to 2.

04 06 41 01 LMP (EAGLE)
Give us an estimated switchover time please, Houston.

04 06 41 05 CC
Roger. Stand by. You’re looking great at 8 minutes.

04 06 41 10 LMP (EAGLE)
At 7000 –

04 06 41 12 CC
Eagle, you’ve got 30 seconds to P64.

04 06 41 15 LMP (EAGLE)
… Roger.

04 06 41 27 CC
Eagle, Houston. Coming up 8 30; you’re looking great.

04 06 41 35 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 41 37 CC
We copy.

04 06 41 51 CC
Eagle, you’re looking great. Coming up 9 minutes.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/9 Page 314

04 06 42 05 CDR (EAGLE)
Manual attitude control is good.

04 06 42 08 CC
Roger. Copy.

04 06 42 10 CC
Eagle, Houston. You’re GO for landing. Over.

04 06 42 17 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger. Understand. GO for landing. 3000 feet. PROGRAM ALARM.

04 06 42 19 CC

04 06 42 22 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 42 24 CDR (EAGLE)

04 06 42 25 CC
Roger. 1201 alarm. We’re GO. Same type. We’re GO.

04 06 42 31 LMP (EAGLE)
2000 feet. 2000 feet. Into the AGS, 47 degrees.

04 06 42 35 CC

04 06 42 36 LMP (EAGLE)
47 degrees.

04 06 42 41 CC
Eagle, looking great. You’re GO.

04 06 42 58 CC
Roger. 1202. We copy it.

04 06 43 01 LMP (EAGLE)
35 degrees. 35 degrees. 750. Coming down to 23.

04 06 43 07 LMP (EAGLE)
700 feet, 21 down, 33 degrees.

04 06 43 11 LMP (EAGLE)
600 feet, down at 19.

04 06 43 15 LMP (EAGLE)
540 feet, down at – 30. Down at 15.

04 06 43 26 LMP (EAGLE)
At 400 feet, down at 9.

04 06 43 29 LMP (EAGLE)
… forward.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/10 Page 315

04 06 43 32 LMP (EAGLE)
350 feet, down at 4.

04 06 43 35 LMP (EAGLE)
30, … one-half down.

04 06 43 42 LMP (EAGLE)
We’re pegged on horizontal velocity.

04 06 43 46 LMP (EAGLE)
300 feet, down 3 1/2, 47 forward.

04 06 43 51 LMP (EAGLE)
… up.

04 06 43 52 LMP (EAGLE)
On 1 a minute, 1 1/2 down.

04 06 43 57 CDR (EAGLE)

04 06 44 04 LMP (EAGLE)
Watch your shadow out there.

04 06 44 07 LMP (EAGLE)
50, down at 2 1/2, 19 forward.

04 06 44 13 LMP (EAGLE)
Altitude-velocity light.

04 06 44 16 LMP (EAGLE)
3 1/2 down, 220 feet, 13 forward.

04 06 44 23 LMP (EAGLE)
11 forward. Coming down nicely.

04 06 44 24 LMP (EAGLE)
200 feet, 4 1/2 down.

04 06 44 26 LMP (EAGLE)
5 1/2 down.

04 06 44 31 LMP (EAGLE)
160, 6 – 6 1/2 down.

04 06 44 33 LMP (EAGLE)
5 1/2 down, 9 forward. That’s good.

04 06 44 40 LMP (EAGLE)
120 feet.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/11 Page 316

04 06 44 45 LMP (EAGLE)
100 feet, 3 1/2 down, 9 forward. Five percent.

04 06 44 51 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 44 54 LMP (EAGLE)
Okay. 75 feet. There’s looking good. Down a half, 6 forward.

04 06 45 02 CC
60 seconds.

04 06 45 04 LMP (EAGLE)
Lights on. …

04 06 45 08 LMP (EAGLE)
Down 2 1/2. Forward. Forward. Good.

04 06 45 17 LMP (EAGLE)
40 feet, down 2 1/2. Kicking up some dust.

04 06 45 21 LMP (EAGLE)
30 feet, 2 1/2 down. Faint shadow.

04 06 45 25 LMP (EAGLE)
4 forward. 4 forward. Drifting to the right a little. Okay. Down a half.

04 06 45 31 CC
30 seconds.

04 06 45 32 CDR (EAGLE)
Forward drift?

04 06 45 33 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 45 34 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 45 40 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 45 43 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 45 45 LMP (EAGLE)
ACA – out of DETENT.

04 06 45 46 CDR (EAGLE)
Out of DETENT.

04 06 45 47 LMP (EAGLE)

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/12 Page 317

04 06 45 52 LMP (EAGLE)
413 is in.

04 06 45 57 CC
We copy you down, Eagle.

04 06 45 59 CDR (TRANQ)
Houston, Tranquility Base here.

04 06 46 04 CDR (TRANQ)

04 06 46 06 CC
Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.

JULY 1969 AD


A Snippet

I’ve got two main projects that I’m currently working on.  Both are building toward their final climax.  This is a couple of scenes from fairly early in one of them:

For three days, Tanaka had been pursuing the Thisok.  The Great Pack Leader himself had served as Tanaka’s sponsor.

The rules, as explained to him were simple.  He went into the field with nothing more than the traditional bone knife, effectively a short sword for a human.  Nothing else.  No tools, no weapons, no provisions, and no clothes.  Everything he uses in the hunt he must wrest from the wilderness itself.  At the end, he had to return with a tooth taken from a living Thisok, one that still lived to hunt again.

One further rule remained.  No weapon but the bone dagger may pierce the flesh of the Thisok on this hunt.

So in addition to trying to take down the Thisok, Tanaka had to obtain food, ensure his own protection from the elements and other predators, and do it without the natural strength or inborn weaponry of an adult Eres.

He had one advantage.  Humans, unlike either Eres or the Thisok, were cursorial hunters.  That meant that they could pursue a target at a modest pace and keep pursuing it and keep pursuing it for hours, days even.  The target was generally faster, it would run away from the human but would stop shortly thereafter.  Before it had recovered from its sprint, the human would catch up and it would run again.  Over and over, with the target growing progressively more exhausted with each repeat until it collapsed from exhaustion.

That worked so long as the Thisok moved away when he approached.

Tanaka’s whole body ached, but especially his legs.  He had picked up the Thisok’s trail early on the second day of his hunt.  He had been walking constantly since then, pausing only to check sign and ensure he was still on the beast’s trail or to pluck one of the plentiful fruits for its moisture.

So far, his unfamiliar scent had kept the Thisok uncertain, and moving away from him.

Tanaka paused at the edge of a stand of trees.  His vision blurred and he shook his head to clear it.  The neo-provigil, taken as a hedge just before he had begun the hunt, was wearing off and his body begged for him to lie down and sleep.  Somewhere above, lightfliers were circling, tracking his progress.  He could signal them; call this off.

There.  On the field.  He spied the thisok.  It was moving, with a decided stagger, not more than two hundred yards ahead.

“Well, old fellow,” Tanaka murmured, “looks like your as tired as I am.” He looked down.  Yes, the knife was still in his hand.  He had dropped it once before without even realizing it and had had to backtrack an hour to find it.

Every such mistake drained him while giving the thisok opportunity to recover.

The wind shifted, now coming not from behind but to the side.  Tanaka saw an instant change in the thisok’s demeanor.  No longer confused by an unfamiliar scent carried on the breeze, it’s eyes turned toward Tanaka.  It charged.

“Shit!” Tanaks spun and fled back into the trees.  Adrenaline gave his feet wings as he leaped for a low-hanging branch.

Without being quite sure how he got there, he found himself scrambling higher into the tree top just as the thisok broke into the woods.  It leaped, scrabbling at the bole of the tree with its claws but not finding purchase to climb.  Its claws tore long strips from the tree as the beast howled.

Once he was confident that the thisok could not reach him, Tanaka settled down in a crotch of the tree to rest.

When Tanaka opened his eyes, night had fallen.  All three moons graced the sky providing enough light for even Tanaka’s human eyes to see clearly.  The thisok was nowhere to be seen.

While the unintended sleep had restored some of his energy, it had done nothing for the all-pervasive aches.  With slow movement, he climbed down among the three’s branches, hung full length from the lowest branch, then dropped to the ground.  He spotted the bone dagger where he had dropped it in his leap into the tree.  He scooped it up.

He turned in place, letting his gaze sweep the woods around him while also listening, seeking with eyes and ears for any clue that the thisok might be waiting, ready to spring.

No sign of the thisok.  He knelt, examining the torn-up ground.  After shredding the local vegetation, the thisok had apparently headed.

“That way.”

He wet a finger and held it up.  Such weak breeze as there was blew from before him.  He doubted that the thisok would find his scent confusing any more and so thought it best not to be scented.  Tanaka would have to find some other way to keep the beast moving.  And who knew how much effort he had lost by his unintended nap. Crouching low, he advanced in the direction the thisok had gone.

Just outside the copse, the thisok lay still as if it had simply dropped, unable to proceed.  Crouching close enough to see its shallow, ragged breathing, Tanaka thought that was much what had happened.  Its fury at the tree had expended the last of its energy.

Tanaka stood.  After a quick glance to see that there was a climbable tree ready to hand he raised his arms and waved them. “Hey!”

The thisok did not move.  Tanaka stepped forward and repeated his wave and shout.

Holding his breath, Tanaka crept up to the side of the Thisok. The thisok remained unmoving although a low groan rose from its chest.

The thisok, like the terran shark, constantly grew new teeth and shed old ones.  And so it was a simple matter for Tanaka to find a tooth ready to break free and pry it loose with the bone knife.  He picked up the fallen tooth, raised the dagger in salute, and turned and walked away.

A few minutes later he stopped at the hum of a lightflyer approaching.  The lightflyer set down next to him and an Eres stepped out.

“I salute you, Great Pack Leader of Tanaka Pack.”

At that voice, Tanaka felt his eyebrows climbing toward his hairline. “I salute you,” he said in response, “Great Pack Leader of all the Eres.”


Tanaka entered the Great Pack Leader’s office, followed closely by Kaleka.

“I greet you, Great Pack Leader of all the Eres,” Tanaka said.

“I great you, Great Pack Leader among humans.”

Behind him, Tanaka could hear Kaleka shift uncomfortably.  Tanaka understood.  He had not said he bared the throat.

Krashnark paused for a moment, then gestured acknowledgement. “Sit.  I will have refreshments brought.”

“Thank you,” Tanaka said.  He saw a chair designed for humans, not an office chair but a reclining chair more more appropriate to watching grav-soccer on holovision than to office meetings.  He sat and leaned back in the chair.  Kaleka took a position behind him.

Krashnark, from his position behind his work table, looked down at Krashnark. “Rest yourself young one.  All is safe here.”

Kaleka gestured acknowledgement and sat in one of the Eres stool-chairs.

Krashnark turned back to Tanaka. “Are you well enough?”

Tanaka rubbed his right arm. “Sore, if I’m to be honest.  It’s been an intense few days.”

“But worth it, Great Pack Leader,” Krashnark said. “Worth it indeed.”

Tanaka frowned at the repetition, calling him “Great Pack Leader”.

“Worth it?  Sheshak told me why he wanted me to make that hunt.” Tanaka glanced sideways at Kaleka. “Or perhaps there was more to it than that?”

Krashnark made the hissing sound that served as laughter for the Eres. “More?  Indeed.  Tell me, young Kaleka, what did you think of the human’s Hunt.”


“You may speak,” Krashnark said. “I ask for a reason.”

“The human is terrifying,” Kaleka said. “There was no charge, no rending, no trapping.  He just walked.  And when the thisok trotted away from the human, the human walked.  And when the Thisok stopped, the human walked, and approached.  And the thisok trotted away again.  And again the human came, still walking.  And again the thisok departed.  And again the human came.  And again and again and again.  As a youngling, I had nightmares so:  the monster that never quits.  In the end, he walked up to the thisok and took its tooth.  And the thisok raised neither claw nor fang to stop him.”

Krashnark touched tongue to teeth in agreement. “Three times we Eres have gone forth in Great Hunts against the humans and their allies.  Three times, they have driven us back.  This, I think, is why.”

Tanaka spread his hands, a gesture that, by coincidence, in this context meant much the same to Eres and human. “Is that why you asked me to come here, to tell me I’ve become an Eres monster?”

“Not entirely,” Krashnark said. “Hear my words, Great Pack Leader.”

Tanaka tilted his head and waited.

“The Jekat sect say that those who know, who feel, who think, your word…sothont…”


“Yes, sothont.”

Tanaka nodded.  Lacking lips, the Eres could not produce the “f” sound.

“Sothont are not lawful prey to Eres.”

“Are you Jekat then?”

“I am not,” Krashnark said. “As Great Pack Leader to all the Eres, I must be above individual sects.”

“I see,” Tanaka said.

“Sothont are not lawful pray, but all sothont, whether Eres, or Human, or Rela, or others, hunt.  All.”

Tanaka caught his breath.  This could be dangerous territory. “Not all humans hunt,” he said softly.”

“Humans as a type hunt.  That some individuals do not is unimportant.” Krashnark stood and paced behind his desk. “Not all hunters are sothont, but all sothont are hunters.  Or so we thought.”

Tanaka leaned forward waiting.

“Keshak-tal,” Krashnark said. “They were keshak-tal.”

Grass-eaters, Tanaka thought. “Were?”

“Are,” Krashnark said. “They eat only the plants of their homeworld.  Perhaps others too, now.”

“I do not understand.”

“A ranging vessel found their home.  They had been long confined to shipboard and thought to stop for some hunting.  Not all Keshak-tal are meek.  Not all keshak-tal are stupid.  But these… They used tools.  They used fire.  They had steam power.  We think they had electricity.  And they breed.”


“They breed.  Each female gives birth to a litter of four every year.  They have no predators, save each other.”

Tanaka chilled. “That does not sound good.”

“They breed and they fight.  They slaughtered the crew of the Third Fang Ch’chnak.  They took the ship and…”

“Don’t tell me they learned to use it.”

Krashnark stopped and looked straight at Tanaka. “You guess.  They took the ship and they fought other Eres.  And they defeated them and took their ships.”

“I don’t see the problem,” Tanaka said. “A few primitives with stolen ships?”

“They have taken thirty two worlds,” Krashnark said. “Singly, or in small groups, we can defeat them.  But they swarm.  And they are building ships, copies of ours.”

“Wait a minute,” Tanaka said. “How can they be…”

“I do not know.  A few, perhaps in captured yards, but they build thousands.”

“Given what you told me was their starting point, they must be the galaxy champs in fast learning.”

“I do not know.  I only know that they will be here in less than three hundred days and I cannot stop them.”

Kaleka’s chair fell over as Kaleka rose and stumbled backward.  Krashnark rounded his work table and dropped to a low squat in front of Tanaka. “I called you here so I might beg aid of the humans in protecting my people.” He lifted his head high in the air. “I bare the throat, Tanaka, Great Pack Leader among the Humans.  I bare the throat.”

Sometimes You Get the Bear: A Blast from the Past

And sometimes the bear gets you.

You know, I’ve always found that expression a bit annoying.  Wouldn’t it be:  “Sometimes you get the bear.  The bear gets you once“?

Be that as it may, the subject right now is writing, in particular getting stuck.  Most of the writers I know have had the experience of sitting down to work on a project and it just won’t come.  You sit there, staring at the page (screen these days) and the words just don’t want to come.  As I said, most writers I know have had the experience and I suspect most of the others just won’t admit it.  But I could be wrong.

The term for that is “writer’s block.”

I don’t like that term.  For one thing in every other job in the world, there are times when one doesn’t feel motivated, doesn’t feel “inspired,” when the body and mind say “I don’t want to do this.” They don’t get special terms.  There’s no “bricklayer’s block” or “engineer’s block” or “corporate CEO’s” block.  But writers?  Writers get to say “I have writers block” and people nod in sympathy and maybe buy them another beer.

You know.  I think that may explain much of writer’s block.

Seriously, though, there are times when the words come easily, where the story is just there.  You sit, your fingers fly over the keyboard, and words appear on the screen.  Magic.  It’s just about the greatest feeling in the world. (Just about.  I can think of one or two others that are better.)

Then there are other times, times when you sit there and write one word.  Then you sit there and write another word.  Then one more, each word like giving birth to a porcupine . . . breach.

And the thing is, at least in my own writing, there’s no difference I can tell between the results of the “easy” writing and the “squeezed out one agonizing word at a time” writing.  They’re just as likely to be good (as in “saleable”) or just as likely to be dreck.  Some of my published work is one, some the other.

The interesting thing is, writing for me rarely falls between those two.  It’s either one or the other but never, say, a little struggle to find the right words, or anything like that.  No, that’s reserved for editing.

Does the End Justify the Means?

I’ve never liked the expression “the end justifies the means” either in straight or ironic mode because sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. Point out to someone using it ironically that there are cases where it does apply (the means of shooting someone dead is justified by the end of protecting ones family) and they’re “but that’s different” without articulating why it’s different.

The thing that got me thinking about this was the number of times when I was talking about some policy in Realpolitik terms–what might be achievable in the short run even though it falls far short of ideal–somebody will come and look at the “deal making” necessary to get the gain, sneer at the “compromise” and smuggly spout off about “The Ends (not) Justifying the Means”. It’s usually some big-L (Libertarian) type decrying that the policy in question includes a lot of stuff we don’t want–but have to agree to in order to get something we do want and which is actually a net movement in the direction we want to go.

So the way I have generally encountered it is being used in smug sanctimony to dismiss legitimate “you do what you have to, to make the gains you can” and is why we can’t have nice things.

And it’s generally Big-L types (largely because the policies I favor universally push in the “L” direction–I don’t know of anything on a public policy position which is too libertarian).

People who know me know that I lean very libertarian.  But I also have what I think is a realistic appraisal of the world and recognize that’s a minority position so I need to think more in terms of moving in the direction I want rather than magically getting my ideal society.

In my own thinking there’s three tests where (whether you call it “the end justifies the means” or not) doing something that on its own would be bad becomes justifiable in a particular situation or for a particular end:

1) The end must, itself, be something “good”. “The Holodomor was necessary to get rid of the Kulaks and enforce the collectivization of farmland in the Soviet Union” (an argument I’ve actually heard), breaks down once you recognize that “getting rid of the Kulaks” (by starving them to death) and enforced collectivization were themselves evil. Evil cannot justify evil.

2) The means must be necessary to the end. At the very least, one must reasonably believe that said means are necessary. There might be circumstances where I would have to perform emergency surgery on someone (stranded in the wilderness, for instance), but I can’t just cut someone who has an inflamed appendix open when the option of taking them to the hospital is available.  I would include as a special case in this “is the end reasonably achievable by these means”. (No, the “end” of a “fair” society is not reasonably achievable by establishing socialism.  It’s failed every time.  Whatever excuses you give for “that wasn’t real socialism” the fact remains that the attempt failed.  It always does.)

3) The “means” cannot be “bigger” than the good “end” to be achieved–even if we accepted collectivization as a “good” the lives lost in the Holodomor weigh far larger than any “good” accomplished. This one is a bit more complicated in some ways because how do you weigh, for instance, one person killing six attackers in defense of themselves–one life vs. six. But you can’t weigh it like that, or not only like that. Six who threaten the lives of innocents vs. one who does not seems to me a much more justifiable balance. And add in that the six are unlikely to stop with the one, that one isn’t just defending himself but himself and all who come after.

It seems to me the “bad” examples of “the end justifies the means” (the kind of examples used to claim that it does not) fails one or more of these tests.

The thing is, people want a blanket statement like “the end justifies the means” to always be true or always be false. This leads to twisting words around to try to make it fit that desired truth/falseness when the simple truth is that blanket statements are rarely (SWIDT?) always one or the other. The real world is more complicated than that.

If you claim it’s always false, then when you have to do something unpleasant toward a longer term goal (like, say, rise in resistance to a government turned tyrannical), then somebody points out that unpleasantness and ask if you think the ends justify the means, well, then you’re left trying to explain how by using this and so definition of words that you don’t really think the ends justify the means and lose sight of the simpler question: In this case, does it? Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. I think the three tests I gave provide a good start to determining whether a particular case does or does not.

Smoked Beef Brisket: Feeding the Active Writer (Who’s Got a Free Day).

A while back I bought a 30″ charcoal grill with a side smoker.  At the time I thought that certain other problems were near the end and it was on sale ($79, plus free shipping on Amazon Prime) so I treated myself.  And there it sat, with the box not even open since I didn’t have time to do anything with it.

I can’t find the one I got on Amazon now, but this one is close (and on sale now, although not as good a deal as I had before):

(You can click on the link to see the product listing).

Well, I finally pulled the thing out and assembled it.  I found a whole beef brisket at the store–a pretty expensive chunk of meat, but I did the math and, well, it will probably be cheaper over the course of the week than my usual fare.

So today I fired it up.  Hardwood lump charcoal (don’t care for briquettes) and apple wood pieces for smoke and got the fire started.  While the grill was heating, I trimmed the excess fat from the brisket. To season, I mixed equal amounts of coarse ground pepper, coarse kosher salt, and garlic powder in a mixing bowl then put them into a shaker.  I shook the seasoning from about 2 ft above the meat to let the seasoning “spread” and give me a moderate dusting over the entire brisket, flipping it to get both sides..

When I was done preparing the meat, I checked the temperature of the grill–about 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  This was higher than I wanted but despite fiddling with the venting, I wasn’t able to get it lower with the lid closed.  So I decided to proceed.  I put the meat on the grill and…my remote readout leave-in meat thermometer was dead.  Well, it had been quite some time since I’d used it.  So I ran out to the store to pick up a replacement.  Came back.  Temperature in the grill had risen to 325.  Not what I wanted but…not much I could do about it.  However, once it had been running for a couple of hours, the fire burned down enough to get closer to my darget temperature.Note for future.  build a smaller fire to start with.  You can always make it bigger if needed.  This also means that this project is not a “start it, go away, and come back later to see if it’s done” event but something that requires frequent checks to ensure the temperature is where it should be.

In any case, I inserted the thermometer into the thick part of the meat, closed the lid again, and went away to do other things, while coming back frequently to check.

From time to time, I found that it stopped smoking.  When that happens, I open the firebox and drop in a chunk or two of apple wood, then close up so I can get more smoke.

Once the internal temperature of the meat reached 160 I removed it from the smoker and lightly dusted both sides with crushed rosemary:

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It already looks pretty good right there, but we’re not done yet.  I wrapped the piece up in peach butcher paper:

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And placed it back on the grill to continue smoking.  Temperatures somewhere in the 200’s as I didn’t really have better control of it than that.

After about another four hours of cooking, the internal temperature reached 190.  I opened the smoker in preparation for removing the brisket to let it rest  (you can see the leave-in thermometer):

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Let it rest 45 min before unwrapping and slicing.

After resting and unwrapping, we end up with this:

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And sliced:

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I was a bit nervous about cooking to such a high internal temperature–and that was at the thick part of the meat.  The thinner sections would be even higher–because in my past experience that usually left the meat dry and rather tasteless.  But the meat here was tender, juicy and full of beefy goodness.

I served up a couple slices on a low-carb tortilla with a small bowl of low-carb barbecue sauce (several recipes for that elsewhere on this blog) for dipping but truth to tell it didn’t need it.  The meat was more than capable of standing on it’s own.

So, not exactly an “active writer” recipe since it basically took all day (11 hours from first lighting the grill to slicing the meat) but definitely worth the effort and will feed me for some time.


In the Neolithic Age: A Blast from the Past

In another Blog, the subject came up of people who claim “one true way” to write.  That if you want to be a writer, you must write this way and no other.

I answer them with this piece:

In the Neolithic Age
Rudyard Kipling

IN THE Neolithic Age savage warfare did I wage
For food and fame and woolly horses’ pelt.
I was singer to my clan in that dim, red Dawn of Man,
And I sang of all we fought and feared and felt.

Yea, I sang as now I sing, when the Prehistoric spring
Made the piled Biscayan ice-pack split and shove;
And the troll and gnome and dwerg, and the Gods of Cliff and Berg
Were about me and beneath me and above.

But a rival, of Solutré, told the tribe my style was outré
‘Neath a tomahawk, of diorite, he fell
And I left my views on Art, barbed and tanged, below the heart
Of a mammothistic etcher at Grenelle.

Then I stripped them, scalp from skull, and my hunting-dogs fed full,
And their teeth I threaded neatly on a thong;
And I wiped my mouth and said, “It is well that they are dead,
For I know my work is right and theirs was wrong.”

But my Totem saw the shame; from his ridgepole-shrine he came,
And he told me in a vision of the night: —
“There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
“And every single one of them is right!”

   *  *  *  * 

Then the silence closed upon me till They put new clothing on me
Of whiter, weaker flesh and bone more frail;
. And I stepped beneath Time’s finger, once again a tribal singer,
And a minor poet certified by Traill!

Still they skirmish to and fro, men my messmates on the snow
When we headed off the aurochs turn for turn;
When the rich Allobrogenses never kept amanuenses,
And our only plots were piled in lakes at Berne.

Still a cultured Christian age sees us scuffle, squeak, and rage,
Still we pinch and slap and jabber, scratch and dirk;
Still we let our business slide—as we dropped the half-dressed hide—
To show a fellow-savage how to work.

Still the world is wondrous large,—seven seas from marge to marge—
And it holds a vast of various kinds of man;
And the wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Khatmandhu
And the crimes of Clapham chaste in Martaban.

Here’s my wisdom for your use, as I learned it when the moose
And the reindeer roamed where Paris roars to-night:—
“There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,