NerdGuy #33: Making Choices

(This post will have some minor spoilers for Miranda Chase #8, White Top.)

Please note that the following is written by a white, hetero male of the Baby Boomer cohort who has been happily married to a woman for almost a quarter of a century and looks forward to at least that much more of the same. Any offense to any group or individual is wholly unintended. My goal is rather to inform about a wider view I have learned and found supported by research.


Before we go on todays’ main topic (autism and sexuality), I’d like to take a moment to discuss this briefly due to its relevance to what comes below.

The MeToo movement has finally exploded into the news and is starting to weave its way into the fabric of our culture. My comment? About freaking time.

As my fans know, I’ve always been about writing amazing women. Some are kick-ass take-no-prisoners types (Yes, Emily Beale, Kate Stark, and Holly Harper, I’m talking about you). But others are the quiet heroine. The ones who operate from a place of understated brilliance (Miranda Chase, and Perrin Williams in my Where Dreams series to name but two.)

So the MeToo train? I was already on it years ago and I’m cheering ever moment of it. The theory that our society should treat women as people strikes me as kind of a “Duh!”—it is in the top 3 themes of every story I’ve ever written.

There is a history here you don’t want to get me started on right back to the Paul’s original writings and then the Council of Nicea in 325 AD when approximately 300 male bishops redrafted the Bible by choosing what books to include. The conclave of all men, among other crimes, did their best to remove women from almost all significant roles (right down to recasting the woman that a growing body of evidence said could well have been married to Jesus, instead naming her a whore). [Note: modern religious scholars have cast out ancient writings speaking of their marriage as forgeries… Is that truth or are they protecting their beliefs? I’m not in a place to judge but, based on past history, I find it hard not to reach certain conclusions regarding institutional bias.)

Let me just say that as a white hetero male, I find these and other actions to be a horrific reflection on my gender. (I really want a third primary gender: women, decent men, and the rest of the bigoted, misogynistic, abusive male jerks.) As I said, don’t get me started.

But there is another battle that’s been going on a long time and may have an even higher hill to climb.

Gender Choice

And this is what I want to delve into a little today. Some have expressed surprise, even shock at a choice Miranda makes at the end of White Top. Here’s a bit of the nerding out that I did when she came up with the idea.

Gender Identification

I’m a Boomer, born at the end of the 1950s. My social and sexual mores were formed through the lens of the “wild” ’60s and the “conservative” backlash and disaffection of the ’70s.

So, I did some research. Based on a Gallup poll of 15,000 individuals, Statista created this summary chart.

LGBTQ chartA Millennial (born 1981-1996) is 7x more likely to identify as LGBTQ+ than people of my Boomer generation (1946-1964). Gen Z the number jumps to 12x (that’s 1 in 6 people).

Are these changes in our population or a change in our population pressures? (I’ll get to this in a moment.)

Yet here I am writing almost strictly hetero relationships. That statistic got me thinking and led me to write Brenda in Wild Fire (Firehawks #5) and Tricky Dog Gals (White House Protection Force stories #5).

Autism and Societal Pressures

To say that I did a lot of research to create Miranda Chase as a believable person on the autism spectrum would be an understatement. My kid has been an autism researcher and therapist for over a decade. And she was bringing books and discussions on the subject into the house well before that.

And one fact (of kajillions) was tucked away in my writer brain waiting for White Top. One of the common challenges faced by an autistic is the inability to understand “social norms.” The nuances of “correct” ways to be, behave, when to speak and when not to—and so many more—can completely elude the autistic. They may learn by rote how they’re “supposed” to behave in a public setting, but it is not something they can understand.

Along with this comes another challenge, unless it’s an advantage. Their inability to perceive social norms will make them less likely to conform their thinking to those norms. An individual on the autism spectrum will spend a great deal of time asking “Why?” Why is it done this way? Why do people do that and not this? And a common response to the answer will be, “But that doesn’t make any sense.” Societal constructs are, in that sense, false. They are rules we neurotypicals (those not on the spectrum) have created to run our society.

The more I’ve learned about people on the spectrum, the more I’ve come to truly understand that it’s not necessarily because they have some deficiency. In many ways, I think they have an increased range of view uninhibited by society’s imposed expectations. An autistic person may actually be far more rational as this Science Direct paper suggests.

Autism and Sexual Identification

Then the question arises: Is sexual identification a fact or a norm imposed by society?

Studies on this question are mostly lacking. Here’s one that states 15-35% of non-intellectually handicapped (ie. are sufficiently cogent to make their own reliable choices) identify as LGB. In the same article, a psychologist states that the likelihood of someone with autism not identifying as hetero is 2-3x more likely than the normal population.

Playing with the numbers

Above I noted that 9% of Millennials, Miranda Chase’s cohort, are likely to identify as non-hetero. If those with autism, are 2-3x more likely to identify that way, that says that 18-27% of them do so. That is in keeping with the 15-35% statistic. For Gen Z autistics those numbers become 32-48% (a third to a half) of the entire population. (versus 2.6-3.9% for us Boomers).

Where Is This Going For Me?

I don’t really know. I’m not going to suddenly “flip over” and become a major non-hetero writer. It’s not who I am. But am I going to be listening more to my characters when they suggest that they aren’t like me, as Miranda Chase did in her very quiet way? I’d have to say the answer is yes.

Why is it yes? I’m the author, I’m in control, right? Not completely. An author has to respect the integrity of the character. Making them behave in ways that aren’t true to them can “break” the character, making them unbelievable or untrustworthy within the scope of the story.

Is Miranda suddenly lesbian or bi-sexual? No. Miranda is a woman with autism, who doesn’t understand societal norms, and is instead making choices based upon who she likes and wants to be with. That strikes me as a pretty glorious way to be. She is, for lack of a better word, herself.

I hope, as an author, that my characters in the future will have a greater ability to make a choice of their own without my “boomer societal norms” being imposed on them—in any area of their thinking.

Is it a truth or a societal norm that “Women have no souls” as was argued in 575? Or that: “Women should remain at home, sit still, keep house and bear and bring up children… If a woman grows weary and at last dies from child bearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing – she is there to do it.’” (Martin Luther)

Is it a truth or a societal norm that we must live within the hetero bounds of the gender we were born with?

You know my answer. Look at the evidence and make yours.

White Top

White Top

Miranda Chase—the heroine you didn’t expect. Fighting the battles no one else could win.

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The Great Chase -tabletop game

After more than ten months of work, The Great Chase tabletop card game is finally ready. And we funded on Kickstarter in just 25 hours. Now the fun can begin!

Become a Character

The Great Chase Tabletop GameFace the Challenges

The Great Chase tabletop game
Blue training, and three levels of difficulty.

The Game

Based on the novels, in fact, actually invented by the characters in Raider (I honestly didn’t see it coming until the characters brought it back in Chinook!)

  • Cooperative Play (Team vs. Game rather than Player vs. Player) – Just like Miranda’s team
  • Solo to 6 players – great for a round of solitaire or a full-on gaming night (makes a cool present for the gamer in your family as well–we plan to deliver well before Christmas)
  • Training deck built in + 3 levels of difficulty (there’s also a rule book and access to a video tutorial)
  • Become the characters! (Though you don’t have to have read the books to enjoy the game.)

The Kickstarter

Unfamiliar with Kickstarter? Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform. This means that though we’ve designed the game, we couldn’t afford to manufacture it without having the funding in place. (Think of it as pre-ordering the game, just like pre-ordering a book, except we need the money up front.) You choose how much you want to donate, for which we offer various rewards (a copy of the game, free stories, books, etc), then we use those funds to produce the game and deliver a copy to you as soon as it’s ready.

The Great News!

We funded! Whoo-hoo! We can manufacture the core game.

Now the question becomes how much more can we do?

The more pre-orders we get, the more wonderful options (called Stretch Goals) we can offer. These include game upgrades, short stories, books, audiobooks, short stories, more game upgrades, be a character in a story (whoops, already all gone) or novel (still available at this moment)…

So CLICK HERE to check it all out. (The game isn’t available anywhere else.)

Do yourself a favor…Challenge the Game!

The Great Chase tabletop game

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Happy New Release Day: White Top!

Miranda Chase #8 has arrived!

White Top

White Top

Miranda Chase—the heroine you didn’t expect. Fighting the battles no one else could win.

Order Now!
About the Book

When a political conspiracy targets the White House’s aircraft—only the nation’s #1 air-crash investigators can save the country.

The White Top helicopters of HMX-1 are known by a much more familiar name: Marine One. The S-92A, the newest helicopter in the HMX fleet, enters service after years of testing.

When their perfect safety record lies shattered across the National Mall, Miranda Chase and her team of NTSB crash investigators go in. They must discover if it was an accident, a declaration of war, or something even worse.

Other Books in "Miranda Chase novels"
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


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NerdGuy Friday #32: Airliner Oxygen Masks

a political action-adventure technothriller…that we hope we never, ever see!

In creating my latest novel, I spent a lot of time learning about emergency air generation systems. And they are both fascinatingly complex and relievingly simple. As to why their relevant in a Miranda Chase novel about the Marine Corps helicopters that transport the President and Vice President…well, that would be telling.

Regular breathing air for almost all aircraft is very simple. The outside air is gathered from the jet air intake, cooled appropriately, compressed up to standard atmospheric pressure (at 7,000′ rather than Sea Level, mostly to ease the strain on the hull), and fed into the cabin (and, conveniently for the crew, the lower pressure keeps us passengers a little sleepy).

Emergency air systems are a little bit different.

Two Types of Systems


Airline pilots have a very simple solution, a special mask with a direct connection to an oxygen tank is close to hand. If you check out our old friend the Airbus Cockpit viewer, first encountered in NerdGuy #28, and look at the arms of the pilot’s and copilot’s seats, you’ll see that the outer arm is much larger than the inboard one. It also has a nice fat button that’s easy to find. Don’t waste your time looking in the pilot’s personal glove box…it’s out of view right behind there under a protective flap.

Here’s a much better view of one beside the observer pilot’s jump seat. These should easily last long enough to get down safely…if that’s going to happen. If you want to see one deploy, check out this incredibly tedious video (jump to 2:50).


The flight attendants will have access to similar portable systems so that they can give help around the cabin.


Having airliners carrying around great canisters of oxygen for all of the passengers is prohibitive for a couple of reasons: weight and constant maintenance being the two major concerns. Also, three of the four emergency oxygen system fires listed in Wikipedia were caused by canister-based failures. The infamous fourth, the 1996 crash of ValuJet 592, was due to improper handling of oxygen generators. So, a different solution had to be found, and it was: chemistry.

Not for Long

An emergency air generation system rarely needs to get you down to landing. It’s main purpose is to last for the decent from cruising altitude (35-45,000′) down to safe breathing altitude (below 10,000′). Under normal conditions, this would take about ten minutes. Rapid descent probably under four. Emergency dive…yeah, that’s more Hollywood than reality unless it’s going to end very badly.

The normal oxygen generator system on an airliner runs for 15 minutes, which is plenty of time under almost any circumstances. The extremely rare exceptions were due to pilot failure: HERE and HERE if you want to see the animated videos (warning, while informative, these chronicle air crashes). Bottom line: They’re very, very safe.

A Simple Chemical Reaction

2 Sodium Chlorate NaClO3 –> 2 NaCl (table salt) + 3 O2 (good stuff for breathing)

There’s a catch. To make the reaction happen, it needs a trigger–heat. So, in order to create an intensely flammable gas that we need to survive, we must apply heat, about 600 deg C (1,112 deg F). Spooked yet? Don’t worry, there is a heat shield. But you can also see in this diagram that there’s a firing mechanism.

Well, the designers were worried, too. They didn’t want a lot of unneeded oxygen floating about the cabin.

Next time you’re on a plane, listen carefully to the instructions about donning the oxygen mask, every word in all of those announcements has meaning.

“Pull the mask toward you.” 

In doing this, you pull on a little trigger that ignites the hot chemical reaction to drive the breakdown of sodium perchlorate into salt and oxygen. And if it’s an empty row, the masks just dangle there, and no oxygen is generated. Why? Because no one was sitting there to follow that simple direction, “Pull the mask toward you.”

If there’s a cabin depressurization event or you’re in a smoky cabin and you feel like you’re choking, grabbing that mask may be your only chance. It will safely provide good, fresh oxygen. It’s just weird that it is also burning a very hot little chemical reaction just over your head.

Suddenly need emergency oxygen while on a submarine, spaceship, or the International Space Station? It will probably come from one of THESE (pdf). The exact same thing as on an airliner, except its big enough to fill the entire volume for thirty minutes, instead of just your little airline face mask.

And if you ever wanted an understanding of what it means when something says Mil Spec, like why is military specified grade so important?

Guess what. You can shoot these and they still work.

And if you want to find out why NerdGuy went there? Check out White Top. Releases Tuesday 6/22 in ebook, print, and audio.

White Top

White Top

Miranda Chase—the heroine you didn’t expect. Fighting the battles no one else could win.

More info →
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