The Flyer


Mama Army is coming up with some crazy stuff for our combatants- check out this article about the latest ground transportation vehicle for airborne troops- the Flyer.

This type of vehicle was exactly what I had in mind when I wrote my first book- In the Valley. In that book I had Paul Thompson and his merry gang involved in a counterinsurgency on a hostile planet. They rode around in skeletal trucks to save wear on their armored fighting suits- the Flyer is exactly the type of vehicle I had in mind.

No frills, goes anywhere, extended range, and can carry a whole boatload of ordinance and troops. Check out the youtube video here. If you don’t have the time or desire to watch the video, let’s just say that this little buggy can scoot and shoot- there’s even a dude behind a mini-gun (a rotary barrel 7.62 machine gun) in there. Whoa. Talk about lead on target- that’s one machine gun I’ve never played with but I know they are mean, mean machines.

It can ford 30″/.76m of water. It can climb a 60 degree grade. Its payload is higher than its gross vehicular weight, and you can stuff up to nine soldiers in there. True, it doesn’t have much in the way of creature comforts, but it beats the living hell out of walking. And did I mention that it can go up to 95 miles per hour? That’s really moving in a tactical vehicle.

And oh yeah, it can ride inside a CH-47, and is air-droppable.

Something tells me a lot of airborne officers will want one of these when they go to the field with their troops. Why walk when you can ride? Right? Fetch pizzas for your guys in the latest the Army has to offer- why not.

I am totally jealous of this eminently useful toy. I want one in my garage, right now. This thing would be an absolute hoot to drive around some wasteland in.

Put the Flyer on the list for stuff to bring when colonizing distant worlds.



As many of you know, Southwest Airlines just had a major in-flight incident with one fatality. Pilot Tammie Jo Shults is credited with bringing the bird down in relative safety, and saving the lives of the remaining passengers.

It is no joke when a turbine blade lets go, as seems to be the case in this situation. The real wonder is that it doesn’t happen more often- a jet engine is a mass of rotating assemblies, all of which must work perfectly or bad, catastrophic things will happen in the blink of an eye. As the photo above illustrates, the engine “grenaded,” and shrapnel flew everywhere. A chunk hit a window and an unfortunate woman died as the result.

It could have been one hell of a lot worse. But it wasn’t. Why? An ex-fighter jock sat at the controls of the 737, and she immediately acted and got the situation under control. Under  extreme pressure, she dropped the bird to the deck and landed it safely with one dead motor and a compartment full of freaked-out passengers.

The news is full of accounts about her calm demeanor and professionalism.

I’m not surprised by her behavior. I’ve known some of those people, dead-steady professionals who seem to get cooler the worse the situation gets.

I admire such people.

There was the dude who taught me how to clear houses. He learned his trade on the mean streets of Ramadi, he emerged unscathed from a hell hole where many died. I’ll never forget what he told me- “Remember, when you’re going through the house and dudes are dropping from ceilings, shooting from closets, throwing grenades and people are screaming at you from all corners- relax, dude. Take a minute and light a cigarette. Shoot anyone who gets cute, but get on the radio and call for backup. You have time- the defenders don’t.” I don’t know what ended up happening to him, but when he spoke, I listened. His most important lesson was the value of calm. I didn’t forget. Thanks, (name forgotten).

There was another guy who was relaxed, cool as a cucumber. He knew everything about the infantryman’s trade, and was glad to break things down and explain the reasons for everything that was going to happen. Riding or walking next to him, you felt bulletproof, immortal. When we got dipped in shit, I heard his voice on the radio- clipped, calm and professional, and I knew we were going to mess up the bad guys. As we advanced under fire and rugged terrain, his voice propelled me forward, steadied me. He would make sound decisions on the fly while coordinating between hundreds of men and aircraft. At the end of the day, he thought it was no big deal. But it was.

Then there was Matt, the guy who taught me about explosives. Another Iraq veteran, he had spent his tour breaching one structure after the next. Rolling a high-rise? Matt would stay up all night making water-impulse charges, or doorknob-donuts. Attacking a walled compound? Matt would creep up to the walls with a satchel-charge. Think a bomb was in your path? Call Matt. He’d have a look and come up with a solution. I remember Matt well, a regular guy in a field in Missouri. His hands would turn purple if exposed to the cold, he hid this for fear of being ratted out to the medical people. I’d watch his purple hands knead C-4 to make an improvised Bangalore charge, and he would talk. About his close calls, his raids, his life. All in a calm, reminiscing tone, none of it was a big deal. I never served in combat with him, but I couldn’t see him acting any different when the lead was flying.

These people had courage. The real deal. They weren’t pilots, but I can see each of them acting just like Captain Shults. Calm, professional, and doing the right thing at the right moment.

We ask one hell of a lot from our combat servicemen/women. And we should. There are no good excuses when lives are on the line. Sometimes these demands pay highly visible dividends such as in this incident with Captain Shults.

But don’t be amazed when one of the alumni of the school of hard knocks pulls off some shit like this.

Courage and quiet professionalism= people who go home alive.





First off, I would like to apologize to my readers who abhor the thought of eating steaks. If you are one of those people, you might as well stop here.

Ok, for everyone else- I love steaks. I was reminded of this by the latest offering of John Birmingham’s Alien Side Boob; it’s his subscription-only newsletter for those who would like to laugh their butts off reading JB’s distinctive brand of acidic wit.

Today he did a pretty funny bit about preparing steaks.

Lord, I do love me some steaks. Strangely enough some of the best ones around come from a dining chain called Outback- it fancies itself to be a sort of Australian inspired eatery. An Aussie friend says he’ll stop by one of these days, maybe I’ll take him there and he can judge for himself how close to the mark they come. Where I live, I’ll bet a hundred dollars that he’d be the first real Australian that the staff have ever met. Such things amuse me- years ago when I lived in Europe it was always fun to go to American restaurants and see how American they really were- sometimes they were close, but one thing that was never right was the serving size, or free refills.

But I digress.

Have I mentioned that I love a good steak, preferably a ribeye cooked medium?

Years ago, I was indifferent to steaks. Then I spent some time as an advisor to indigenous forces and ate a LOT of their food. I had a months long case of dysentery that only cleared up when I finally returned stateside.

Have any of you seen a meat market in a land chronically short of electricity? Nothing to get you salivating like seeing a sheep carcass hanging in the sun, covered by flies. And right next to it is a kebab stand, where the friendly gentleman (and it’s always a gentleman) will be happy to sell you a heaping portion, redolent of sheep-shit smoke. Yes,  fires are frequently made from dung where wood is a precious commodity. Everything that you eat gets a certain taste to it- impossible to replicate in the West.

Boy did I eat a lot of locally procured food over there. Greens of unknown provenance, spicy cauliflower served in sheep fat, tons of rice dipped by hand from a communal bowl, you name it. Melons. Lots of melons.

But don’t get me wrong- the food was good, and it was the best they had. It wasn’t my host’s fault that my guts weren’t used to their bugs. But I was ever so glad to eventually return home and eat familiar foods.

That’s when the steak binges began. I don’t know why, I don’t know when, but I got back and I had a craving for delicious, slightly crispy steaks. It’s been nearly seven years since I returned and I’m still caught in the thrall of steaks.

Steaks, truly a hallmark of plenty. It’s an amazing world that we in the West inhabit. Food upon demand, good food, excellent food. Food that doesn’t routinely make you sick, clean water, adequate sewage disposal. Electricity. Internet. Safety. So many things to be grateful for, so many things we take for granted.

Maybe that’s it. Steaks as a symbol of the good life.

Because our lives are pretty damn good.


No more monopoly


There are lots of things happening in private spaceflight at the moment, and I couldn’t be happier, except for maybe if someone came up with an FTL drive. However, baby steps are better than no steps, which is where we’d be if we relied upon NASA and the bottom feeders in Congress. LOL, NASA is really making things cook with their Space Launch System, who knows how many billions down the drain and not a single flight. Don’t let anyone kid you, that program exists as a cash cow for major defense contractors and tons of congressional districts.

Thousand dollar hammer, anyone?

Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy is already a proven concept (as opposed to the SLS), and the BFR will probably fly long before NASA does jack with their outdated toy- which will probably be cancelled after all the money burned up in its development. It really is a crying shame and a tremendous waste of resources.

What caught my eye today was something on the space tourism front, namely a successful test flight for Branson’s SpaceShipTwo. I’ve included a link with a good article and a cool video of the nifty little ship flying. It works, and pretty soon people with disposable cash who want to see a black sky should be able to buy a ticket, maybe later this year.

Space tourism will play an important role in getting us out there- after all, who can top saying “Yeah, I’ve been to the moon” at a cocktail party? Make no mistake, the search for new experiences is part of what will drive this current wave of exploration.

I’m kind of hoping that by the time I leave this mortal coil that “yeah, I’ve been to the moon” will no longer be a great one-liner at a party, it’ll be a yawn. Space travel as a routine, industry in the outer reaches of our system- it’s kind of a prerequisite for interstellar travel, which is where this should eventually be heading.

Now that the government monopoly is cracked, we actually have a chance of making this happen.

Good luck, all of you billionaires with a vision.

Beats the hell out of yet another jerk with a fancy yacht.

Signs of the Apocalypse


Been keeping pretty busy these last days. Doing research for latest project, giving that a great deal of thought. Took some time just now to scan the news, and I came across an article about zombie raccoons in Ohio. Seriously.

Whoa, crazy times we live in. You can go through a long, long list of strange and disturbing occurrences, but I had seriously never considered raccoons run amok.

I guess I should have. After reading the article, I realized we’ve had our own run-ins with the zombies. Last year or so, we spotted a ‘coon in the daylight, which is very odd. I told my kids to stay away from it, and we eventually found it quite dead in the doghouse, of all places.

Maybe that was the first sign, a troubling omen.

This could be it. If you are in the mood to participate in the making of a book about the apocalypse, by all means check out John Birmingham’s unnamed end-of-the-world project.

If enough readers suggest it, he may even include zombie raccoons.