Had enough stress for one day?

Pandemics. Mutating pandemics. Never ending campaigns followed by never ending counting. Rioting in the streets. Have a great idea for surviving (on our own terms, of course) in these stressful times? I thought I’d host a series of posts, and to get things started I’ve asked my wife for her ideas. For years, she used to walk off stress — miles a day. Since 2014, and a series of surgeries on her foot, however, she’s had to try other tactics. Please post your ideas in the comments, or if you need more room, send me a draft post.

For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.
– Lily Tomlin

My first step towards relaxing was to avoid anything which might cause stress. I started by thinking about what caused stress in my life. I began, as many of you did, by getting off social media. Another step I took was to reduce contact with certain family members and acquaintances who were causing me more stress than they were worth. Continue reading


My mom, Mildred Fern Ware Richards (1920 – 2020) recently passed away from complications of COVID-19. Although she became a centenarian, she did suffer from increasing dementia in her later years.  Other than her age, she had no known underlying conditions.

Here’s how we prefer to remember her, and how I think she would like for us to.  This picture is, I believe, from a New Years Eve party, 1959-1960, in Bayreuth, Germany. Dad was the commander of the 1st Recon Squadron, Second Armored Cavalry Regiment, then based at the nearby village of Bindlach.

LTC and Mrs G. C. Richards, Jr.

Here’s her obit:


Stay safe out there.

Ultra violence – the book

Back earlier this year, author Ian Michael serialized his new novel, Ultra Violence (Tales from Venus, Book 1), on the Famous Maximus web site.

His book is now out on Amazon, and if you’re at all a fan of alternative universe fiction — think Charles Stross or J. D. Horn (doesn’t have to be sci fi) — take a look at Michael’s new book. In coming years, you can say you helped discover him. Here’s the link: https://amzn.to/2VQP23p

Here’s my Amazon review:


This is a satisfying first novel in the alternative universe genre. The key to making such stories successful is that the alternative universe has to be logically consistent, given its ground rules, and all the characters must behave according to those rules. Otherwise, the author can dig themselves out of any predicament with a bit of magic. And after a while, who cares?

So imagine a universe pretty much like our own up until the mid 20th century. It’s somewhat more technologically advanced than ours, though. There are the same two political blocs, one in the East centered on the Soviet Union and Chinese, and one in the West around NATO. Each bloc has staked out and colonized one of the two nearest planets. The East went to Mars and the West to Venus. After suitable terraforming, citizens of each bloc stream to their respective colonies: “Terrans grew tired of their hellish lives in overcrowded, crime-ridden hive cities. They flooded to the other two planets, building powerful nations in their own right.”

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An Orientation for IOHAI

Unlike “agility,” Boyd did define “orientation,” in Organic Design for Command and Control (1987).

Before giving his definition, he offered a preliminary thought, on page 13:

Orientation, seen as a result, represents images, views, or impressions of the world shaped by genetic heritage, cultural tradition, previous experiences, unfolding circumstances and the processes of analyses and synthesis. (Emphasis in original)

Sharp eyed readers will note that by adding “analyses and synthesis,” I’ve brought the definition up to his final version in The Essence of Winning and Losing (1996). I think what Boyd is doing here is trying to ease readers into his definition, which, as we shall see shortly is complex. He’s going to define it as a process, which suggests inputs and outputs. In the representation above, he’s describing the outputs. 

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How Boyd finally got to the OODA loop

Chick Spinney, one of John Boyd’s closest associates, has revised his flow diagram depicting how Boyd’s strategic thinking evolved from his days flying F-86s in Korea in 1953 until his death in 1997.

Spinney Evolution of Boyds Ideas

In this chart, “ODA” is “orient-decide-act,” not “observe-decide-act.” As Chuck recalls, Boyd added “observation” in 1975, about the time he retired from the Air Force. “LWF” is the Air Force’s Lightweight Fighter program, which culminated in the flyoff between the YF-16 and YF-17 in 1974.

Note that Patterns of Conflict is about operating inside the OODA loop and says virtually nothing about the OODA loop itself. The only place Boyd develops — and draws — the OODA loop is in The Essence of Winning and Losing, 1996.

Chuck also highlights how Boyd returns to “Scientific/Philosophical Foundation Efforts” with Conceptual Spiral in 1992. Interesting to compare the two, the effects of 16 years of intense effort.

All of Boyd’s works, and a PDF of the above diagram, are available from our Articles page. I might also modestly recommend my “Origins of John Boyd’s Discourse,” which illustrates some of the domains Boyd investigated (e.g., evolution, complexity, Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, etc.) as he moved along Chuck’s progression.

Sir John Richard Boyd?

Unlikely because he was a US citizen, and then he died in March 1997.  However, he has been enormously influential in British politics over the last several years.

In particular, he has been a significant source of ideas and inspiration for Dominic Cummings.  Readers who are not citizens of the UK may not recognize Mr. Cummings. He ran the successful Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum and now holds the position of chief advisor to Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the UK.

Although I was unaware of the fact, Cummings’ interest in Boyd has been well documented in the British press.  For example:

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Peeringly deeply

De rerum natura.

Here’s Boyd’s definition of “insight” again:

Ability to peer into and discern the inner nature or workings of things. 

My first reaction when I read this was “Yawn.” I mean, who wouldn’t want the talent to “peer into and discern the inner nature or workings of things”? And in fact, up until it suddenly appeared in slide 144, Boyd hadn’t attached much importance to it. Just to give one indication, he began Patterns of Conflict with “key qualities that permit one to shape and adapt to an ever- changing environment.” Interestingly, “insight” isn’t among them. Why in the world would insight suddenly deserve a place among the five ingredients needed for vitality and growth (in other words, for life)?

Boyd thought long and hard about every line in his briefings, and bounced them off his colleagues in the Pentagon, at happy hour, and by phone. So there’s probably more here than is obvious on first encounter. For example, Boyd defines insight as an an “ability,” so can we develop it or is it innate? Is it a black art hidden to all but an initiated few, or it it something we can all improve? What’s so special about it?

We might get some idea of what Boyd had mind, and why he thought it merited inclusion in the “Theme for Vitality and Growth,” by looking at how he himself had used it. Continue reading


My co-editor, Chuck Spinney, and I have updated page 144 of Patterns of Conflict, the “Theme for Vitality and Growth.” The last full edition of Patterns carries a date of December 1986. Even after he quit issuing new editions of the briefing, however, Boyd continued to evolve these ideas, and in 1989, he changed page 144 in a major way.

Here is page 144 in the 1986 edition:

PatternsOfConflict IIAH 144 JPEG.001

What Boyd did was replace “adaptability” with “agility” and add “orientation.” IOHAI. Unfortunately, he did not produce a new edition of Patterns with a revised page 144, so we are left with the problem of definitions for the two new terms.


He replaced “adaptability” with “agility” because if all you do is adapt, you’re in “perpetual catch-up mode,” as he explained in a conversation we had in 1992. The other side has the initiative. This will not do. Continue reading

Addendum: Reading suggestions

Speaking of mumbling, you may not have caught my short list of reading suggestions. They were:

  • The Art of Action, by Stephen Bungay
  • Turn the Ship Around, by L. David Marquet
  • The Mary Russell novels, by Laurie R. King (in fact, anything by Ms. King). Start with the first, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice
  • The Laundry Files novels, by Charles Stross. Again, start with the first, The Atrocity Archive. The reference to OODA loops is in The Apocalypse Codex, p. 160.  Here’s my blog entry: https://slightlyeastofnew.com/2016/12/11/the-magic-of-the-ooda-loop/

New interview

At: https://www.oodaloop.com/archive/2020/08/28/oodacast-chet-richards-on-john-boyd-and-applying-ooda-principles-to-the-business-world/?

I don’t know about you, but I find it vary painful to watch myself, particularly if I’m trying to speak extemporaneously.  For one thing, it’s too late to shout “Look at the green dot at the top of the screen!” Not to mention “Don’t talk so fast!” and “Quit mumbling!”

It gives you great respect for editors and for people who do this sort of thing well, like my two co-hosts, Matt Devost and Bob Gourley of OODA loop.

A couple of small corrections. When I was talking about my programs at the Pentagon, they included the F-14, F-15, Lightweight Fighter, and A-10, not the F-18 (which grew out of the LWF program several years after I left)*. And the magazine streaming service is Apple News+ not Amazon News+, which doesn’t exist, although I do stream music through Amazon Music Unlimited.

Skimming back over it, though, I think you’ll enjoy it. Probably not as bad as I first imagined, thanks again to my co-hosts.

*  I may have actually said “A-10.” I also had the F-5E. So much going on — it was a great time to be part of tactical air.