Monday, December 29, 2014

The Science of Lucid Dreaming

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Dangerous Life of American Diplomats - In the Words of Those Who've Served

In the Line of Fire: American Diplomats in the Trenches Paperback – December 24, 2014

Edited by Ambassador (retired) Charles Ray

It’s probably no exaggeration to say that most Americans know very little about what American diplomats really do. Except for the occasional tragedy, such as the attack on the American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya in 2013, resulting in the deaths of four Americans (including the ambassador), people don’t realized just how hazardous the life of a diplomat can be – thanks in large part to the highly distorted images in popular media that often show diplomats as dilettantes more interested in attending cocktail receptions than doing ‘real’ work.
     In this book, edited by yours truly, you’ll find stories from those who have served in diplomatic positions overseas – stories of events that often never made the headlines in the U.S., but are all too common occurrences in a diplomat’s life.

     Included are the names from the Memorial Plaques in the diplomatic lobby of the U.S. Department of State that list the names of over 200 Americans who, over the past 200-plus years have given their lives in the service to their country abroad, and who have often been unheralded except by their immediate family and colleagues. These essays represent those who serve silently – giving voice to their valor and dedication as they, in the words of one of the writers, ‘do what we’re paid to do.’

Click on the image below to get your copy now.  Also available in Kindle version.

Which Tea Party is it?

When King George III and the British Parliament levied a series of taxes on the American colonies after the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1863, American merchants protested that the they were being taxed but had no representation in the legislative body doing the taxing. One thing led to another, and, according to historical accounts, a group of some 200 Bostonians (some dressed as Native Americans) boarded three cargo ships in Boston Harbor and dumped their cargos of tea into the harbor. This incident inflamed tensions and led eventually to war and American independence. The term ‘Tea Party’ to describe the incident, however, was not used until the 1880s.
Fast forward to the late 20th and early 21st century and a political movement arises in the U.S. that is opposed to federal tax policy – which is quickly taken over by political opportunists and turned into a retrogressive force that seems hell bent on taking the country back in time. As you might imagine, some students of history object to this confederation of dunces appropriating a revered symbol of the country’s independence from tyranny to represent what is their own form of tyranny.

I would point out, though, that the Boston Tea Party is not the only Tea Party that could be an appropriate symbol for this group. In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter hosts a tea party for a collection of wackos, and somewhere in that book is a phrase where a character says, ‘things mean what I want them to mean.’ Does that sound familiar? I like to think that this is a much better exemplar of what the Tea Party now stands for than the resistance to external tyranny represented by the Boston do. What do you think?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What's Wrong With American Diplomacy?

Often, American diplomatic efforts - though quite often successful - are derided as being 'a day late, a dollar short, and too loud for the audience.' Our diplomatic service (the U.S. Foreign Service) attracts the best and brightest, but along the way, despite their intelligence and dedication, they fall into a rut. Ever wonder why? I spent 30 years in the Foreign Service, and quite often wondered why we seemed to spend so much time trying to push ropes up hills. Here, in an article written in the 1990s, a Foreign Service junior officer (using a pen name for obvious reasons0 breaks the code.

After reading this - which, by the way, is right on the money, you'll find yourself wondering how we ever succeed at anything.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Defining Lines of Authority

This is an article in 'Armed Forces Journal' February 2009 issue about the problems of defining the lines of authority for American government organizations abroad, in particular, defining the authority of American ambassadors. Given the current debate over presidential nominees for the post of ambassador, this is highly relevant.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

C.M. Skiera's Blog: Book Review: Techniques of the Selling Writer

C.M. Skiera's Blog: Book Review: Techniques of the Selling Writer: Although Dwight V. Swain's  Techniques of the Selling Writer is older than I am (which is pretty darn old), it stands the test of time ...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I've Just Got to Have a Pair of Bickering Birds

A wall is just a wall, but a wall with a piece of art on display is a work of art in and of itself. A great painting or photo on a bare wall converts a blank space into a haven of repose.
Now that I’m fully engaged in writing and publishing – what was my pastime to engage my creative energies while I worked for the federal government is now my day job – I've turned my attention to making my home office look inviting and be a place that inspires my creative impulses. 

That long, lonely walk from the master bedroom, down the hallway to my office on the left is bare. When I was working outside the house every day; more often than not out of town or out of the country; my wife and I had paid little attention to the décor of our home’s second floor. Heck, we only saw it twice a day – when we got up in the morning and on our way to bed at night. Now, I see it all day long, and that bareness is depressing.
Thank goodness I decided to monetize my blog, and one of the advertisers I feature just happens to be Getty Images. by Getty Images offers a collection of stunning framed photos that are guaranteed to enhance the walls of any room or office. Just the thing, I thought, to spruce up my home office. So, I went browsing on the site to find something. I immediately ran into a problem. There are so many great photos it’s hard to choose. I finally did, though. As a photographer, I love taking pictures of birds and animals. I’m currently in the process of documenting the birds of Maryland, so I thought, what better to decorate my office’s entrance area than a photo of a bird or flock of birds.
And, I found just what I was looking for – Bickering Birds – a photo of two birds on a limb that look like they’re engaged in a heated debate. With three different sizes to choose from and five different surfaces (canvas, paper, acrylic, aluminum, and birchwood), along with a tasteful black frame, it’s a steal at $200. And, then I learned that I can save 20% off that using the coupon code BLOG20, which applies to anything ordered from Now, you just can’t beat that with a stick. Birds aren’t the only thing they offer photos of landscapes, sports, news, animals, travel and entertainment.

What’s that? You’ve no more time to read, you have to go shopping for photos. Well, by all means. You can go directly to