Space Ranger… or something.


Above is the cover of Book 2 of my original trilogy, it kind of touches on today’s topic.

So I’ve been thinking about SpaceX lately and the possible human expansion into space, and the thought drifted into my head about the US’s new Space Force, which seems to still be more of a paper exercise than an actual 5th branch of the US military.

I think how they envision things at the moment is that the Space Force takes over a lot of what the USAF’s old Space Command did, i.e. tracking earthbound threats and keeping an eye on hostile satellites, etc.

I wonder how far they have thought this all through. Because you can take this an awful long way, actually. As in light years-far.

Alright, one thing that is perfectly clear is that we are not going to join up into some type of pan-human Federation anytime soon. Yeah, it would be really cool if we quit killing each other, but it’s not going to happen. We are a homicidal bunch, I don’t think war and violence will ever end.

But let’s not go down that fairly dreary chain of thought.

Instead, let’s take a look at how an infant Space Force might dispatch, uh, Space Rangers or something when potential waves of colonists start hitting Mars. Now, we’re not talking about a force structure as discussed in my first trilogy, a fully-mature Colonial Army. No, we’re talking about something that’s literally never been done before, although it’s been discussed at great length in sci-fi.

What sort of armed force do you actually need on Mars?

My first, knee-jerk reaction is to say you don’t need one. But then my experience with human nature whispers in my ear. Yes, you do need some kind of cop, peacekeeper, Ranger, something.

I can’t even think what you would call such a person, so let’s stick with Ranger and leave out the “Space.” It sounds dorky.

The first colonists would probably be selected from the willing elite, and they would be Earth’s best. At least I think so. But have any of you ever been in a crowd of people and not met at least a few crazies? There would be crazies. Maybe nuts with multi-PHDs, but nuts and crazies nonetheless.

Someone would have to deal with them. Doesn’t it make sense to have the government representation be a multi-tasker and be a Space Force Ranger? I am thinking of their qualifications, these very first space soldiers.

First, they would have to be proficient in low-g to zero-g combat. So there would have to be a school set up for that. This would be entirely new. Also, it might not hurt for at least their leadership to be a full astronaut with rank equivalent to whoever the mission commander would be.

Then you could tick off all the old familiar blocks.

  1. Fully physically qualified
  2. A comprehensive psych board
  3. Ranger thru Delta background, or allied equivalent. The first Rangers would have to be hyper-elite.
  4. Meets same basic criteria as qualified astronauts or colonists
  5. Strong mechanical or medical background

These would be the very basics in my book. And oh yes, be up to leaving on a one-way mission with no prospect of return and being the HMFIC of anything military related while hundreds of millions of kilometers from home.

This would demand a truly unique Ranger, a new breed of soldier and leader. A person who can’t quit, and will retire never seeing blue skies again.

Speaking of retirement, I wonder what an aged Ranger would spend his or her retirement pay on, on distant Mars or elsewhere?

Well, maybe the scenery changes, but my bet is they’ll spend it on beer or spacebrew.

Love to hear your thoughts on this.

The Cowin E7 ACE cans- a review

Cowin E7 ACE

BLUF- Probably not for audiophiles, but good enough for laymen.

Today a bit of a tech review- a pretty remarkable set of bluetooth headphones for cheap.

OK, so I was cruising around Amazon and I saw an ad for an inexpensive wireless pair of headphones. Lemme say that I am not a technofreak. I am also not particularly gifted in the use of new tech, and I have no desire to get the latest and greatest.

It did, however, strike me as practical to get a head set that 1. would conceal my odd musical prefs from my family 2. would sound pretty good to my battered ears 3. would be comfortable and handy.

I do have a lot of experience with wearing headsets, but mostly in aircraft and armored vehicles- those varied from rock hard torture devices to OK to sweaty. Also, every one of them had a long curled cord that easily got tangled in, well, everything. Especially when you were the gunner.

So I didn’t want a cord.

I saw this headset, and I thought “genius!” OK, I’m sure that I’m years behind the power curve, but what the heck, why not do a review?

Alright, first off lemme say these things are stone-ax simple. This is good. I like simplicity. Simply turn your bluetooth on with your device, and set the little switch on the headset to “BT.” The headset will beep, and audio will start to play. Oh yeah, make sure you charge the crazy thing first with the included mini-USB cord. Also simple.

Haven’t tried to use the NC, or Noise Cancelling position yet, but I’m sure it works fine for airplane rides, whenever I get around to flying again (like to Australia in 2022ish).

OK the sound- first, understand that I’m somewhat hearing impaired, so maybe I’m not the best for giving a great review on an object strictly meant for audio connoisseurs. But then again, maybe so ’cause if these things work for me, then they’ll be great for people with regular ears.

The verdict? These cans are as good as the recording- these make it easy to tell between a bad recording and an excellent one. Without the headphones, I can’t tell. With the headphones- wonderful. I can only imagine how good these would be if my high-range wasn’t lopped off.

Comfort, ease of use, sound- these headsets have it. As of right now I can’t speak to long-range durability, but right out of the box they are a winner; I’ve tried them on audiobooks (JB’s Weapons of Choice) and music, and they are great.

So if you’ve got a few spare twenties and need a decent set of cans- go for it, these are nice and they cost a lot less than other ones.

Buy with confidence.

UPDATE: I have an older airco that’s pretty loud. I decided to try the “noise cancelling” feature on it- YES it worked! Most awesome; a real bonus. A few times I had to take off my headphones to make sure there wasn’t a power outage or something- nope, they just worked that good. Nice.

Writing Sample Four…or something.

dutch bike
Some pretty cool projects are gliding around on the horizon, but like everything in 2020, they are being messed with by the fickle finger of fate.
Kind of like the girl in the short below, her story is a tiny piece of a larger puzzle. Who is she? What disaster is she facing? Does she live? Or does she die.
Ans rode her fiets, or sturdy Dutch bicycle, in the direction of Aldi along the main street of Woudenberg. The red brick, inlaid street was mostly deserted on what should have been a bustling, normal shopping day. She had to get some food, her mother’s small store was nearly exhausted. 
She frowned and panted as she leaned into the pedals. Ans couldn’t recall ever having been this tired from a short bike ride; it was a good thing that Woudenberg didn’t have so much as a single hill. No, it was all neat brick houses and small shops. Everything maintained and well-kept; the Dutch would call it netjes. Neat, clean.
So it was all the more shocking when she rode by a store with a shattered glass window, the shards lay in the street and glistened like so many mouths of dying sharks. She made a wide circle around the obstacle and continued to Aldi; as she rode and looked around she was starting to debate the wisdom of venturing out.
Verdomme, though, she needed food. Her weak mother needed food; Ans was already stretching what she had. She looked along the street, she saw an odd shape by the street posts on the right. As she approached, she knew what it was. She smelled corruption, she heard the buzzing of flies.
Jesus, she thought. A person, a child of God, set out on the street like a sack of garbage. She tore her eyes away and held her breath. The smell was overpowering as she rode by. Couldn’t the gemeente workers do something? Bodies in the street in the Netherlands… Ans shook her head. You knew the disaster was very bad to see such sights in one of the world’s richest, most orderly, and heavily populated countries.
She continued to pump away on the pedals. Now that she had seen one body, more seemed to pop up, like poisonous dandelions breaking through the paving stones. All of downtown Woudenberg stank like a charnel house, like an unwashed butcher’s. It was terrible, unimaginable. Up ahead she saw Aldi’s, and she felt like cheering. As she neared the neat little brick store the cheers in her head died.
Died just like the store, apparently. There was more broken glass, and not just from the broken doors. Ans dared not venture further into the little parking lot, some idiot had broken what appeared to be several cases of Schultenbrau beer bottles on the ground.
The treacherous long teeth of the bottle bottoms gleamed at her, the reek of stale beer mingled with human corruption and filth.
Ans wanted to vomit. This couldn’t be happening, she thought. This is Nederland, not some battlefield in a distant and dusty place! But she wasn’t watching some report on EenVandaag. No, she was standing in the parking lot of Aldi, surrounded by disaster.
She heard a bottle clink and skitter. Her head whipped around; a group of young men were approaching. Their movements were jerky, they staggered. Ans frowned. They were high or drunk. One called out.
“Hey girl, wanna fuck?”
The youths laughed, they bayed. One coughed, hard, then he joined in.
What was this, thought Ans. She yelled back.
“Ball sacks! Fuck you!”
The group drew closer. Ans looked around and realized she was all alone in the parking lot. The police weren’t coming. Ever. The leader of the gang spoke and laughed.
“No, you’re the one who’s fucked.”
Stay tuned, readers!

Early Morning Shopping

1942 McCord

OK readers, I’ll confess to a very 2020 weakness. I don’t think I’m alone in this, either. Lots of people are spending a lot of time in front of a screen. Here’s my version.

My sleep patterns are all messed up for various reasons, mostly unseen stressors. Stuff that may be logical, and maybe not. 2020 is a year that feeds into our worst fears, that saps the joy out of almost anything. So what do I do in this time of disease, disaster and strife?

Besides writing, I internet shop late at night/early in the morning. Visit various sites, fill up shopping carts and usually I don’t check out. But sometimes I do, for the oddest of things.

An example is pictured above, a US M1 helmet, manufactured in March 1942.

Why the hell did I buy an antique helmet.

Well, because I could, I guess. But that’s a pretty unsatisfying answer.

There are other reasons.

First, let me say that I am utterly uninterested in relics from my own war. I had plenty of opportunities to collect, and I usually didn’t. I did bring home a thing or two for interested friends, but that was about it. But the rest of it? Junk. Dirty and worthless junk.

I dunno, maybe the stuff from the Greatest Generation (who BTW did not see themselves as such) is cooler, or the negative aura has worn off with time. You’d be surprised how much of the stuff produced in WW2 is still floating around, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if some of it was still in use.

In my earliest service we still had the M1 helmet (see above), the ubiquitous mess kit, the M1911A1 pistol, along with the M3 Grease Gun. All WW2 relics.

grease gun

OK, the Grease Gun stuck around for the longest. The picture above was from 2011, we actually used that little submachine gun in combat, manufactured May 1945. But I digress.

So yeah, my entire life I have had the detritus of the World Wars around me, our hay barn was full of the stuff. Our hay barn? Yeah. The hay barn.

Cars (including a Ford Model A), boxes of various relative’s household goods, and footlockers and duffel bags of USGI equipment.

Of course us boys went through the cool Army stuff, it dated from WW2 to Vietnam. I remember a helmet with a sewn-on chinstrap, frayed from heavy use. The helmet was probably my Grandpa Lambright’s from WW2. Regrettably, it was lost when we moved off the farm.

I remembered that helmet late one night as I rummaged through the internet’s attic.

I had to have its clone, in memory of my long-lost grandfather.

This being 2020, you can get whatever you want on the internet. It’s a question of how much you are willing to pay. Early in the morning, when the dark thoughts steal across the hindbrain, I needed a distraction. I needed to replace my grandpa’s long-lost helmet.

So I struck and got one just like I remembered.

The helmet arrived, refurbished and ready for a war seventy-five years gone.

It has assumed pride of place among the other helmets I’ve accumulated over the years, other lost shards of the World Wars, usually sourced via inheritance or yard sales.

When I look at the old helmet, I wonder how my life would have been different if I would have known my father’s father. Or my mother’s brother, lost in Korea. They are ghosts, vanished in time, with only black and white faded memories remaining. A few pictures in a musty album.

I hold this helmet, this relic, and I shudder.

I see a tracer round as it streaks by, impossibly fast. It nearly took my life.

A few inches to the right and I would have been a ghost, too. Maybe less. For every tracer there are four rounds you don’t see.

When I think of this I want to scream.

But I don’t. Not a sound, not a peep.

Just the sound of the touch pad clicking away.

Internet shopping, again.






The Three Sisters


OK, here we all sit in the midst of this disaster, some of us with greater degrees of misfortune than others. I am cognizant that we’ve been doing a little better than many; this is one of the reasons I’ve been talking about some of the stuff that keeps us busy. What I do seems to help, if you can give some of this a try. Gardening, exercise, and writing, all activities that keep one busy. Work, of course, if you have it. Anything to keep the wheels turning in this amazing year of 2020.

So I’m going to talk a little space news first. SpaceX has been on a real tear as of late, with SN5, the launch of yet another Starlink mission, and let us not forget the successful conclusion to the Demo-2 mission. Real progress is being made; most importantly Mr. Musk and crew have spurred on real competition with other countries and entities. This latest space race is what we’ve needed since the nineteen seventies and it’s what we didn’t have.

That’s the good news.

Bad stuff? Well, I don’t dwell on that but some things must be mentioned. The Corona disaster is the biggest problem, and it’s one that looms over everyone. So no need to go into depth on that; if you want to find out more than you ever wanted to know simply Google “Corona Virus.” Here, I’ll help. Alright, that’s out of the way.

Beirut. Seriously. Who thought it was a good idea to store three KILOTONS of ammonium nitrate in the heart of a city that has had more than its share of grief? Wow. There are tactical nuclear weapons with smaller explosive yields, for heaven’s sake. Ammonium nitrate is no joke.

A story from my past.

So I had to qualify in Army demolitions once upon a time. I had the mission to destroy a road. Fine. Buried five “cratering charges” in a row across the road. A standard “triple nickel.” Five cratering charges, five feet apart, five foot deep. Three fives, right? A triple nickel. Wired everything together with det cord, used C4 as the intiating charges, ran a seriously long shock-tube fuse to a bunker.

A cratering charge is 40lbs (20kg) of ammonium nitrate. So the road was mined with 200 lbs of explosives, plus a little C4 to set things off.

1/30,000th the net explosive weight of the Beirut charge.

When I set it off with a twist and pull of the fuze ignitor, the roadway disappeared in a filthy black mushroom cloud, the explosion was deafening from 500m distance. Inside a bunker.

A large clod of dirt landed on our rucksacks, hundreds of meters away. It flattened them.

When the smoke cleared and we went to look, there was a crater large enough to put a house in.

1/30,000th what went off in Beirut.


But I digress. I prefer to spend the mornings wandering amongst the vegetables, feeling and looking for what is ripe. My favorite part of the garden is the large three sisters patch; Indian corn, climbing beans, and pumpkins. This land’s natives knew what they were doing, for thousands of years they cultivated these three crops in mutually sustaining patches.

ripe corn

The corn takes nitrates from the soil, the beans add nitrates and use the corn as a trellis, and the pumpkins drown out most of the weeds in the patch, plus provide easily stored nutrition for the long winter to come.

I love the Three Sisters. It is the ultimate lazy man’s patch, and its productivity is second to none. We have taken multiple harvests so far, the beans and corn are delicious.

on the cob

Above: Indian corn at its peak freshness for “on-the-cob” eating.

I’m really looking forward to the johnnycakes from the cornmeal harvest this October. There is nothing like peeling back an ear of seasoned Indian corn, each one is different and each one is beautiful. And the smell… one of the staples of my childhood, along with cow shit and fresh-mown hay.

Hey, at least there’s something to look forward to, in this bleak and frightening year.

So if any of you have even a tiny patch of land, try out the Three Sisters next year (or this year, for my friends in Oz). Any variety of corn will do (although I prefer non-GMO heirloom stuff), along with some type of climbing bean and spreading pumpkin.

Gardens. Good for the soul.