“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Friday, August 12, 2016

Farewell, partner.

To add to the challenges I've had to face this year, this week I had to put my retired dog down. Unexpected, due to an injury and infection, and something I wasn't ready for.

He was boneheaded and stubborn, more interested in play than sitting still, as happy to chew on a tree branch as a dog toy.

He loved riding in the truck, and would pout if I left for someplace without him - because he knew we were supposed to be together to do stuff.

He did the heavy lifting for the pair of us, great at doing his job and finding stuff. Because of his nose we had numerous weapons recovered from crime scenes, we kept kids and dignitaries safe at public events, and he loved every minute of it. I just had to trust him and let him work, and know when he was ready for a play break.

He never once cared about the siren when we were driving fast to a call at work - but, at the house, the slightest hint of a firetruck be heard, and he would howl until it was long out of range.

He listened to more of my rants and rambles than I could count, doing his best to get his head up by my arm, or to sneak a treat as we drove around town.

It's tough to write this. To say enough about how much I appreciated working with him. How poorly I let him know it.

I'm glad he got to spend the past few months just being a dog, playing with the kids, hanging out in the sun, running around as he wanted to. He earned it. I'm glad we got to go on one last ride together, and that I was with him at the end.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The time I made people spew their drinks...

Once I was at a conference up in the Capitol region, one of those multi-organization day long things. The sort of thing where most of the participants knew a few of the others, so breaks ended up being rotating cliques of introductions and catching up on stories. No different from the rest, I had run into some peers from various places and enjoyed the opportunity to make some new friends.

So, partway through the morning a gent I served in the Navy with brought over two other guys and introduced them by first name, along with the typical "They work down at XYZ... (name changed to protect a reference to an information gathering government organization). Knowing my friend well enough, and figuring we were all similar in outlook, I couldn't resist the opportunity.

"So, do you guys recruit based on first name, or do you make them change it after?"

This was met with a slightly confused look from the pair, as one of them asked "What are you talking about?" Even my friend appeared kind of lost as I set the hook on my bait.

"Well, in twenty years of running into you guys around the world, I've noticed every single one of you has the same first name. Whether it's Boston, Bangkok, or Baghdad. It's always "Just".

"Just?" - the same guy again. But I saw my teammate starting to grin with comprehension.

"Yeah, "Just." "Just Mike." "Just Dave." Everybody is named "Just."

Of course, by this point they had caught where I was going, but it was too late. Our little group, as well as the ones close enough to catch it, were all openly laughing and a few had spit their drinks as a result.

It's one of those tales that still makes me smile - because if you've met the community, you completely get it.

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Vignette

A portion of this is real, a portion is fiction - I shall leave it to the reader to decide which.

My first essay into posting writing of this sort - constructive criticism would be appreciated.


Musings on a Spanish day

Despite the history of these lands, there is a peace to the Mediterranean sun on a warm afternoon. Whether in Greece, Malta, Italy, or Spain, where I find myself these days on the balcony of an apartment in a small town, there is something about summer days here which lead one to reflection, to a quiet drink, looking over the waters and placing life in perspective. Twenty years ago I would have considered this a short break, somewhat boring, perhaps a chance to re-charge, but eagerly awaiting the next phone call and trip to the airport for a new job. These days? I'm happy sipping my wine, musing over the years, and ignoring the outside world for a time.

I'm not in the Game anymore, but I still watch the bits that show about town, and see the players and catch the hints of what is going on behind the scenes. It's funny how many of us gravitate to the places where it's warm. With the exception of some of the Russians, and the Viking-blood, it seems no one hangs out in the cold by choice. Go to Berlin? Few of the retired guys there. Valletta in June? You can't swing a cat without hitting a guy who used to have a different name.

Which brings to mind six cold months I spent in Oslo long ago, waiting for a meeting or a warm day, neither of which ever came. I think it was that one that made me finally swear off skiing as a recreational pursuit.

That's a story for another time, though. Here I can sit, I can ponder, I can reflect on what happened through the years. I can see the old players, like me, wandering about getting a meal or a drink; or the newer members of the club, in town trying to ferret out that tidbit of data from a random "this guy might know."

It makes me laugh now, seeing the varied molds in their early genesis. The former military, all confidence and awareness, placing themselves just so as they check out the opposition. The academics, recruited from some college and following the tradecraft checklist they so recently memorized, because that's how it's done. Even the rare "grey man," barely noticed in the landscape as he or she drifts in and out like a stage hand, making a change in the background while the audience is focused elsewhere. I try to note these particularly, knowing their identity may be valuable to my own safety down the road. And, I can laugh at it all, because it seems only yesterday I was one myself, sure in the knowledge that I was serving the right cause, and every day was a new step towards victory.

The waiter brings me another tinto, and I reflect more on the years, the changes to the world and our place in it. I wonder how many of the tourists here really catch the currents beneath? How many of them pick up a hint, the hairs on the back of their neck telling them something is going on that they aren't catching as they enjoy their two weeks holiday and let's not forget to tip the maid tomorrow?

The end of the cold war was a huge shift. So many former workers on either side, now looking for a paycheck and some form of relevance. Ronin got it close, with the shift in the shadow game, but the aftershocks continued far past that decade. Much of what we did moving from the pages of fiction, or things only discussed in closed inquiries, to the subject of news feeds and 140-character speculation on what "really" happened.

Then, with the "Global War on Terror," we had a boom - at least on the western side. From famine to feast overnight, so many of us back in the game as "private contractors," with bigger paychecks and seeing some real results. Only to watch the administrations piss it away because they didn't comprehend the end game. The Reds (even decades after the Wall came down, I still think of them that way) had their own struggles, but equal opportunities with the rise of organized crime, and then the return of the Bear wearing a new skin. But it was a solid decade of real work, and fewer bean-counters fussing over your expense report at the end of the day; I think for a lot of us it was the most rewarding time we had in our semblance of a career path.
The other benefit of these lands is the scenery. The beaches are beautiful, and the women who walk them so nonchalant in their own appeal. Even an old man can sit in the sun and smile and wish. But I digress...

Nowadays it seems it's all private companies. Some of it is corporate espionage, a mixture of prestige and one business trying to get past the other in the competition of data, predictions and insider trading. Most of it is honestly just another front, a way for a government to play the same old games without worrying about legislative inquiries or unwanted revelations. For every Snowden or Manning, there are a hundred more secrets that will never see the light of day, another small group of people who will read a news story and laugh to themselves because the true background will never hit the press.
From the few who know, in those private conversations in a dark corner or late-night walk, I always get asked about the wet-work, the bloody side of the business. Sure, the violence has a place. There are nights where a knife flashes in a brief light, or a muffled gunshot ends a problem and shifts the game ever so slightly. The sort of thing attributed to "a robbery gone bad" or criminals fighting amongst themselves. But just as often the move comes from a new asset revealed or seduced, from a compromised pawn who never knows his place, or from the quiet tumble of a network collapsing to cover one loss. We spend far more time with a subtle nod of the head acknowledging a win in a cafe than we ever do at a funeral in the rain.
There are worse ways to retire, worse things than enjoying the sun and an occasional conversation with an old friend or foe. Worse fates than being a "he used to" in the conversations and nods of a younger generation.

But I can't deny it would be nice to have the phone ring once more, to hear a voice saying "We need a favor, there's no one else we trust for this one." Maybe, just one more time, to do more than watch the Game...

Monday, May 30, 2016


A tough post to write, and it will be going through several drafts, just so you, as the end-reader, know...

As some of you know, I had a bit of surgery late last year. All went well, but as a result, I'm not able to return to my duties as a bomb guy, or as a cop. Which, means an unplanned and unforeseen early medical retirement.

Before we go further, this isn't a "woe is me" whiny post. Just a few thoughts connected with it all.

Because, if you walk the path I've chosen, it happens sooner or later. I've seen and talked with enough similar guys from the military and law enforcement over the years to know that. Sure, you think "That won't be me." But, one day it is.

Whether it's age, or health, or just the time to move on.

You're not the one to go through the door first anymore. You aren't even in the stack. You've gone from being in the top 1% of your community to "someone who used to work here", all in the space of a few hours.

You go from "What new thing do I need to make my gear easier for the job?" to "What can I get rid of out of these years of crap?"

Instead of carrying the phone everywhere, waiting for that next call-out, you're looking at your inbox and wishing someone would just say hi.

You'll see the news story and smile a bit guessing at the backstory. Or resist the urge to rant on something online, because you know better but figure it's not worth the energy.

The hardest part? You're no longer in "the club." Sure, folks will still talk with you. Grab lunch. Share a joke. But, you're not the same anymore. You don't get to go into those closed rooms and prep for the next mission. You don't get the rush of a "holy crap this is real" callout where what you're doing affects who goes home alive. You aren't "one of the guys" anymore so much as "you remember when?" And, it can be tough. I'm still processing a lot of it, so I can't even fully write that part yet.

Again, I'm not whining. I've had a hell of a run over the past few decades. I've visited places, good and bad, that I never imagined growing up. I've met people I trust with my life. I've learned who I am in ways I never would have otherwise. I've challenged myself, failed, succeeded, and grown from both. Most importantly, I feel I've made a difference - I can honestly say there are people alive today because of choices I made, and that is a great gift to have.

I suppose it would have been "easier" had this been in the plans - the normal "In "xx" months I'm retiring," do a transition and so on. Unfortunately, that's not how things worked out. Also, unfortunately, I didn't even get the transition really - it went from a "You're coming back to work on this day," to "Sorry, you'll just have to use sick time til the paperwork goes through," in the space of an email. Which led to far too much time to think.

The good parts? I've had a few months to just be. I honestly don't know when that happened last, and it has helped me put some stuff in perspective. I've gotten more time at home, without those extra duties or call-outs, and have been more a part of my kid's days than ever before. And, I've gotten to reflect - on the issues, both internal and external to the job, which let me know it's not a bad change.

So - I'm officially "retired" from being a cop. Looking for work (some possibilities on the horizon, but that's a different stress) and for the first time in almost 3 decades not really sure where things are going. I'm not in a financial position to just sit at home, nor will my character and drive allow me to.

I'm not hanging up my hat here, despite the infrequent writing. In fact, perhaps this will let me write more, since I'm not "obligated" to be silent on some of the things as much.

It's just time to find the next challenge and figure out where I can thrive.

If the past is any indication, it will be an interesting trip...

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Digression

One of my hobbies is building model kits - and, frequently becoming over-involved with them and taking far too much time :D In general I work with modern aircraft or vehicles connected with SOF stuff from my experiences, but I do digress at times into a few classics that have a warm place in my heart.

Anyway, I've had some free time recently, I managed to finish a diorama off one of these digressions. The base was a Toyota Hilux truck - the Third World workhorse that a number of us wish they'd import, because the things run forever and carry more than the U.S. version Tacoma. I added on a bunch of aftermarket details, as well as scratch-built accessories.

The scene? Somewhat post-apocalyptic, but open to interpretation. Our "hero" in his truck, loaded with what things he has left. A broken-down road on the edge of somewhere. An old woman in the ruins of a house with her dog and a few grenades. I'll let you figure out what you think is best for the rest.

Pictures could have been better - I'm new at sharing these, so will work to improve if there's any interest. Or any questions on particulars for fellow model-geeks.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Could use some good thoughts

Bigger post coming soon, with some transitions in the works.

But until then, I could use prayers, good thoughts, and all that other stuff til things get figured out.

More to come. Thanks.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Two different approaches

One of those "topics I don't rant on" much lately has been the growing prevalence in society, particularly in the college student ranks, of "I must be protected from words and ideas that hurt or challenge me." Whether it is Internet censorship of conflicting views, the establishment of "safe spaces" where one needn't face differing ideas, or even the trend of hounding people out of jobs who are not in line with the appropriate group think, it all makes me fear the direction of our world. I know it isn't representative of everyone or everything - but when you see this much of academia and the media doing everything they can to avoid offense it can only lead to bad things down the road.

That's not what I want to see in our future though... and there are other things that give me hope.

One of the news stories I read this week involved young Yazidi women who had escaped or been rescued from their captors in the Islamic State. As opposed to facing words or ideas which they didn't like, these women have faced evils and horrors beyond description and which no one should ever have to deal with. Any sane and decent person could easily forgive them for hiding from society, for seeking a safe space and avoiding conflict and the threat of ever being harmed again.

Instead these women have gone to their fellow Iraqis and Kurds, have sought the opportunity to not only remain in their world, but to go forth and challenge their demons in battle, to serve alongside their countrymen in a fight for their nation against the greatest threat of our time. These women warriors are doing their best to ensure others don't suffer the same fate through actions, not words; and with the full knowledge many of them will die in the cause of freedom.

I'm not saying violence is the only answer by any means - and I have had the privilege and honor of meeting a number of people in life who are doing incredible things to change the world through peaceful means. But it is inspiring to know that where there are people afraid to even consider the idea of facing things which make them uncomfortable, there are still those souls who will stand at the gate when the enemy is near.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Things I hate re-learning

As some folks know, I have a severe case of arthritis which is (typically) well-managed by medication. Severe, as in without modern medication I wouldn't be able to work most likely. But, thanks to modern science I normally don't have to deal with more than moderate pain, some immune system issues, and remembering certain limits on my activities.

I say this, because as part of the surgery I had late last year, I've had to be off my arthritis medication for the recovery period. And, in the last week, it has definitely taken a toll on me... I'd forgotten exactly how debilitating this can be, in terms of the pain, the limits on my endurance and daily activities, and all the other things that come with it.

Not bringing this all up to gripe... more I think an appreciation of what science and medicine can do for us. Within my own lifetime my prognosis for this disease would have been pain management at best, and even that would have limitations. Yet nowadays I'm looking at dealing with six weeks of what is really an inconvenience in the big scheme of things, and then being back on track.

All in all I'm pretty lucky.