Taxes, Life, and Consultancy

The last few weeks have been jammed, with one thing after another, some better than others. Doing taxes (mostly, getting a year’s financial records caught up so that I could do our taxes) took a big slug of time. In my new model for life, it had to be done not by an April 15th deadline, but by the deadline of submitting all the application materials for my daughter’s college financial aid. Ironically, in the midst of this, I needed to bring said daughter home for a week of enforced rest. She bonked her head real good on a lighting fixture at the theater where she works, and got a concussion. Being a college kid, she of course wasn’t resting as needed for recovery. So home she came.

The day we drove her back to school (a 3 1/2 hour drive each way) was the day we had torrential downpours throughout the northeast—so we got on our way for the return trip home just in time to avoid flooding roads, and then drove for 3 1/2 hours through the hardest pounding rain I’ve seen in a long time. Made it okay, though.

That segued right into preparing for one of my most unusual trips (from which I’ve just returned). I flew to D.C. and joined a handful of other SF writers for a 2-day meeting with people from the defense department, or technically the Joint Services Small Arms Program (JSSAP), brainstorming futuristic notions of how we might better prepare our soldiers for future combat. Now, I am not a military type at all, and there I was with a group consisting of military thinktank guys, ex-servicemen, and a few representatives of actual arms manufacturers. It was extremely interesting and educational, and I hope I contributed some useful ideas. Mostly I focused on nonlethal weapons and information systems and nanotech possibilities, because I think our people in the field ought to have more choices than doing nothing, or pulling a trigger and killing someone. (That’s greatly simplifying, of course, but the fundamental image is a 19-year-old kid with an M16, kicking down a door and making a split-second decision about whether the person on the other side is a threat or not.) We had some very interesting discussions (although the bureaucratic mode kicked in once in a while, such as when we “affinitized” our ideas, then went for—what was it?—a “Plenary Consensus on Affinity Grouping of Concepts”).

Following that meeting, most of us SF writers went on to meet with people from the Department of Homeland Security, who were eager to solicit our thoughts on how to anticipate threats in the future, and how to avoid them and/or adapt to them. That again was extremely educational, and I hope we got a start at useful brainstorming with them. They’re a lot smarter than most of the public probably thinks they are. And they’re interested in continuing to work with us.

And so I came home, where younger daughter was there to greet me, but wife was not. No, nothing bad had happened; we just missed each other, as she’d flown to London this morning to help her mom deal with some family business. You do what you have to, to get affordable air fares, right?

Anyway, I came back encouraged as much as anything else by the fact that there are some decision-makers in Washington who actually think science fiction writers have some useful thoughts to contribute. That alone was worth the trip.

“Whenever I have endured or accomplished some difficult task — such as watching television, going out socially or sleeping — I always look forward to rewarding myself with the small pleasure of getting back to my typewriter and writing something.” —Isaac Asimov

0 Responses

  1. Anonymous
    | Reply

    What exactly is “Plenary Consensus on Affinity Grouping of Concepts” supposed to mean? And if it means “share what you came up with with the group,” why didn’t they just say that?


  2. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    Well, erm, this is the government, after all. “Plenary” means the big group, while the little groups were called “breakout groups.” And yes, if you insist on eschewing obfuscation, then “share what you came up with” is a pretty good translation. But then…that would be dangerously clear, wouldn’t it?

    Anyway, aren’t you supposed to be doing calculus, or sleeping, or something? Not cruising the web? 🙂

    (I was just about to cruise the web myself, to find out how to put the Scooba I just bought on ebay back together again.)

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