No Television

A reader, responding to my blog post on NPR, asked if I don’t watch WETA-TV (channel 26), the Washington D.C. public television station. The answer is no. For most of my adult life, I have avoided watching television. I don’t own a television set. I found that the time I spent on television was time wasted, but the major reason I avoid television is that I spend so much of my time reading and writing. I can (and occasionally do) watch a TV show via the internet. But for the most part, I’m content to do without.

I don’t miss it. I have a very full life. I now have well over a hundred book reviews in print. I have published six books and 17 short stories. And I regularly do four different presentations with slides. The most popular is the story of the fall of Saigon which I survived escaping under fire after the North Vietnamese invaders were already in the streets of the city. I’ve now done that presentation more than a hundred times, and I’m scheduled to do it again multiple times over the coming weeks and months.

 So I’m quite content to do without television. I suggest that my readers give it a try.

National Public Radio

Yesterday’s blog post on reading the Washington Post might have left the impression that the newspaper is my only source of news. Far from it. When I first get up in the morning, usually between five and six, I turn on National Public Radio (NPR). I have it on all day. I only turn it off on Saturday night when it broadcasts music (“Hot Jazz Saturday Night”) and Sunday night when the “Big Broadcast” takes over—rebroadcasts of old popular programs from many years ago like “Gunsmoke,” “The Jack Benny Show,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Suspense,” “Fibber McGee and Molly,” and “Dragnet.” As a result, I already know the major news before I open my daily Washington Post which arrives around seven in the morning. Thanks to NPR and the Post, I stay well informed without really trying.

I usually listen to WAMU (88.5), the Washington D.C. NPR station. But during fund-raising weeks several times a year, I tune instead to WYPR (88.1), the Baltimore NPR station. But I do pay my share, a monthly payment to WAMU all year long.

I suspect that we Americans fail to realize how fortunate we are in many respects. One of them is the ease of staying up to date thanks to public radio and uncensored newspapers. Thank God for freedom of the press. These days, the only excuse for not being well informed is the desire not to be.

My Daily Washington Post

Every morning I look forward to reading the Washington Post which I subscribe to and is delivered to my house. I have been a Post subscriber for as long as I can remember, probably back to when I first moved to the Washington area when I was in the military and was assigned to the National Security Agency (NSA) in 1960.

The Post is one of America’s half dozen great newspapers. Its closest rival is the New York Times which is a great newspaper but lacks one feature in which the Post excels: comics. Every morning, as soon as my Post is delivered, I can’t wait to submerge myself in the daily news. Because I am an avid listener to National Public Radio, I am already familiar with most of the news stories being reported, so I concentrate my attention on the editorials and op-eds at the end of the first section of the paper. I have my preferred columnists and ones I dislike, so it is for me a feast of reading.

But my favorite part of the paper is the comics. I don’t allow myself to delve into them until I have digested the news and especially the opinion columns. Then I gorge on comic strips, reading each one carefully to absorb the full impact. My favorite is still “Peanuts.” Its author, Charles Schultz, died more than twenty years ago, so the daily strip is all reruns. I don’t recognize any of the strips as repeats, so my enjoyment is complete.

I look forward every morning to the arrival of my daily Post and devouring its news, op-eds, and comics. I have yet to be disappointed.


I did it. When my lung congestion prevented me from weightlifting, I resorted to going for a walk. I traipsed around the pond to the north of my house, a walk of something less than two miles. The problem is that I walk with a slight limp. Some years ago, a surgeon botched knee replacement on my right leg so that I can’t completely straighten that leg. Walking, as a result, is something of an effort. I found that with my restricted breathing I was getting short of breath as I walked along. At length, I stopped for a minute or two until my breathing returned to normal.

Problems notwithstanding, the walk was a success. I’ll do it again.

I had forgotten the loveliness of the walk around the pond. Directly opposite my house on the northern edge of the pond is a park bench facing south toward my house. I sat there for a few minutes, basking in the sun and watching the mallards currently visiting the pond among the water reeds that now almost half fill it.

I am fortunate enough to live in a beautiful place.

Trouble Breathing

Yesterday afternoon, I tried to lift weights as I regularly do every other day. But I was having so much trouble breathing that I gave it up less than half way through. My lungs are still severely congested from the pneumonia I was diagnosed with in December.  My doctor attributes the problem to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) which I have suffered from ever since I had lung cancer and had the upper lobe of my right lung surgically removed something less than ten years ago (I don’t remember the date). That was after the better part of a year in which I was subjected to chemotherapy and radiation. Then I spent more than a year recovering.

I had been a runner. I knew that my lung disease would no longer allow me to run, so I turned to weightlifting, following a routine that lasted more than two hours every other day. The effort often left me breathless and panting. That was fine until my lungs became severely congested starting a few months ago. The problem has gotten much worse.

When I tried to work out yesterday, I found that my lung congestion was so bad that I was gasping for breath. I stopped halfway through the routine because I simply couldn’t breathe.

I’ll have to wait until my doctor finds a cure for my lung congestion or I improve all on my own. Meanwhile, even though I can’t run any more, I can walk. I live in a beautiful part of Columbia, Maryland on a pond or small lake that I can hike around. It looks like I may have to turn to walking as my exercise.

I work hard to maintain my health so that I can live as long as possible. I’m determined to survive past a hundred years old. I watch my diet, drink plenty of water, get plenty of sleep, and stay physically active. I guess I’m at the point of finding out if walking can replace weightlifting as an exercise.

Public Speaking

These days, I am invited more and more often to do readings from my six books and to speak publicly. I haven’t suffered from anything remotely like stage fright within memory. Speaking to crowds of people has always seemed to me like the normal thing to do.

My readings are always from my six published books. My presentations with slides are on the fall of Saigon, the 1967 battle of Dak To in Vietnam’s western highlands, coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI), and fiction craftsmanship for writers.

The Saigon story has always been the most popular. I’ve done it over a hundred times. I tell of my struggle to evacuate my 43 subordinates and their families from Vietnam even though the American Ambassador, Graham Martin, who didn’t believe my warnings of the forthcoming attacks, forbade me from doing so. I sent them all out with phony justifications, everything from fake home leave to phony business travel, but I succeeded in saving them all. That, plus the ambassador’s proscription against evacuation, meant that I had to stay in Saigon until the last minute and escaped under fire after the North Vietnamese invaders were already in the streets of the city. It makes for quite an exciting presentation.

I enjoy telling my stories. I love watching the members of the audience as they become more and more involved. Every once in a while, I stop talking and just watch and listen for a moment. Every eye is on me. No one is moving or speaking. The audience members are enthralled.

So I enjoy my public appearances. And I am assured that my listeners enjoy them, too.

Document Classification

The recent revelations in the press about disclosure of classified material made me review once again the justification for the government hiding information from the public. I hear repeatedly the argument that the government of a free people has no business withholding information from citizens. And that people have a right to know what the government is up to.

The problem is not that citizens might know sensitive information; it’s that enemies of the country might discover what we know and what we do. As I have mentioned before in this blog, during my years of working for the federal government when I was cleared for top secret codeword plus data, I learned of many events never disclosed to the public in which major disasters were averted by U.S. government intervention that prevented action by a foreign enemy. And our continued intelligence success often required that the target of our efforts remain unaware that we were surveilling him. The success of the discipline I worked in, signals intelligence (the intercept and exploitation of another nation’s radio communications), for example, required that the target remain ignorant of our efforts. If the object of our intercept learned that we were successful in exploiting his communications, it was easy for him to change them and foil us.

So the need for classification is both real and urgent. Granted, the American public will never know of the spectacular victories our government has achieved through the exploitation of intelligence data. But our safety and well-being will be protected.

In the same way, we will never know what damage the recent security violati0ns have brought about. Rest assured that the harm was major. And it will take many years to recover.

Miss Me When I’m Gone?

I’m getting on in years and sometimes wonder if anyone will miss me when I die. I have long since outlived all the contemporary relatives I was acquainted with, but I have four children and four grandchildren. Some of the young ones wouldn’t recognize me if they bumped into me on the street. That’s because their parents (my children) are busy and engaged people without much free time to spend on me. We did get together a few months ago when three of my children and all four grandchildren came for a visit. It was a time of celebration for me.

On the other hand, I have half a dozen or so close friends whom I see fairly often. Most of them admire me for my exploits in Vietnam and elsewhere and for my six published books and 17 short stories. Every week I see other members of the Men’s Forum during a meeting at a local 50+ center, and every month I attend a meeting of the American Legion. But the men in these groups know me only slightly. I am also a member of the Phoenix Society, made up of retired employees of the National Security Agency (NSA), but I have yet to meet any fellow members face-to-face.

Then there are my readers, people who have read my books and stories. My sense is that these people, most of whom I have never met, hold me in high regard. The same could be said for the many, many people who have heard my presentations and readings.

So I end up concluding that I will be missed when I die, not so much by my progeny as by others who admire my work. And that, frankly, makes me very proud.


The days, thank God, are finally getting warmer. The daily temperatures now regularly reach the 80s. I’ve written here several times about how I adjusted to warm weather during my years “in-country” (in Vietnam) and never readjusted after my return to “the world” (the U.S.). For me, the best time of year is the summer when I can wear scrubs.

Scrubs are a uniform (shirt and pants) originally known as “surgical greens” (because they were always green in color) but came to be called scrubs because they were always worn in a scrubbed, i.e., surgically clean, environment. According to Wikipedia, “scrubs is the name for the sanitary clothing worn by physicians, nurses, dentists and other workers involved in patient care. Originally designed for use by surgeons and other operating room personnel, who would put them on when sterilizing themselves, or ‘scrubbing in’, before surgery, they are now worn by many hospital personnel.”

I started wearing scrubs in the early 1980s when caring for AIDS patients. My fellow volunteers knew I had a PhD, so they stole several of my scrub shirts and paid a tailor to embroider “Dr. Glenn” on the left-hand breast pocket. They found it hilarious that everyone who saw me assumed I was an MD. I still have that problem today whenever I wear scrubs.

Summer will soon be upon us, and I’ll be resorting to wearing scrubs because they are the coolest clothes I have. That means I’ll be facing once again the problem of being taken for a physician and having to explain that I am not.

One more little wrinkle that makes my life interesting.

April Sadness

My post on Easter reminded me of all the painful memories that go with the month of April for me. April 29, 1975 was the day Saigon, the capitol of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), fell to the invading North Vietnamese. I had spent the entire month of April doing everything possible to get all my 43 subordinates and their families safely out of the country before the North Vietnamese invaders attacked the city. I succeeded, but it meant that I had to stay until the last minute—I escaped under fire after the North Vietnamese invaders were already in the streets of Saigon.

The American Ambassador, Graham Martin, didn’t believe my warnings about the imminent attack on Saigon and refused to call for an evacuation. My concern was the 2,700 South Vietnamese who had worked with me intercepting and exploiting the radio communications of the North Vietnamese. By the time Washington reversed the ambassador’s decision not to evacuate in the early hours of the morning of April 30, it was too late to save those men. They were all either killed or captured by the North Vietnamese. I knew personally so many of those men. They had invited me to their homes where I met their wives and children. To this day, I grieve over their loss.

And then there were those killed on April 4 when a Lockheed C-5A Galaxy, carrying out the first mission of Operation Babylift, crashed at Tan Son Nhat on the northern edge of Saigon. That was the first flight of the president’s effort to evacuate orphans from South Vietnam. I had intended to send my secretary, Suzie, out on that flight, but at the last minute, some unidentifiable impulse urged me not to put her on the plane. So, thank God, I didn’t. I knew several people who died in that crash which also killed numerous orphans.

So April is and remains a sad month for me. I am cheered by its gradually warming days, promising hot weather ahead. But my memories of the tragedies 48 years ago are too prominent for me to enjoy the month.