The Haunted Courtyard

I don’t closely follow the news out of the ghastly war in Ukraine.

I can’t do it. It’s pretty bad over there, a war to the knife. Killing and fighting on a World War Two scale. Refugees, atrocities, very bad stuff.

However, one can’t escape the news cycle. Not even when I open my email, the information is right there. You can’t ignore it entirely.

This article caught my eye, I had to read it. It was pretty bad. A terrible situation that illustrates what is known as “the prisoner’s dilemma,” a well-known factor in infantry combat.

It’s hard to surrender. Every grunt knows this. When you lay down your arms after battle, anything can happen to you before you are processed and taken to the rear. There are so many factors in the decision to give up. A big one is the reputation of the opposing side. Do they treat their prisoners well? Another is how many people you just killed. Are the other guys going to even consider taking prisoners after you just gunned down their friends? Is someone going to just accept your surrender when you have a smoking machine gun next to you, with a big pile of expended brass beneath it?

I look at some of the commentary in this article, and I shake my head. These people have clearly never been in a fight. They come up with all this lawyerly bullsh*t, and they’ve never spent one day on the line. Hell, they’ve never spent a day in uniform, let alone been in infantry combat.

There was a reason the insurgents took very few prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. We all knew that our chances of living were pretty slim if taken. Most likely, we’d end up on one of those horrible videos where people were tortured and then beheaded. Plus, we usually won our engagements.

I can personally attest that the US Army goes out of its way to treat its captives fairly and humanely.

I’ve seen the process first-hand. I took prisoners after a vicious little firefight on the morning of the 28th of September, 2011. This was not without personal risk. My guys had taken casualties, and emotions ran high. There I stood, in a shitty little field choked with marijuana plants, shrouded by the red smog from a smoke grenade that I tossed into some weeds. Medevac was inbound, and the fight was kind of over. The wounded were screaming and writhing. My medic was a very busy man.

My Afghans wanted to kill my prisoners. I told these dangerous men to f**k off in no uncertain terms. The prisoners were under my care, custody, and control. Things were tense, to say the least. There was still gunfire, 2nd Rifle Company was engaged in clearing the village. It was very, very bad news.

After a couple of chancy moments, it ended up working out all right. The Afghans stood down, my medic saved a couple of guys’ lives, the prisoners were loaded onto an ambulance, and our guys took a bird.

As I read the article, I couldn’t help but to think on that morning. What if one of the wounded or surrendering insurgents had went for a weapon, or had concealed one, as seems to be the case in this episode in Ukraine?

I don’t doubt that none of them would have lived. It would have happened in the blink of an eye. As soon as one of the prisoners morphed into a deadly threat, they would have all been shot.

This could have happened to me. Easily.

War is an atrocity. You are licensed to engage in that most dreadful activity, taking another’s life. In fact, you are encouraged to do so. They give you shiny medals and financial incentives to kill. They train you in such a way as to dehumanize your opponent to make pulling the trigger easier. This starts in the very beginning. The first time you step onto a firing range, the targets have a human silhouette for a reason- they found out in WW2 that the traditional circular targets don’t mentally prepare the shooter for killing people. So, they switched it up, and these days the E-type silhouette is ubiquitous.

Therefore, I think it’s crazy to compare grunts under fire in a bad situation to characters who chuck women down wells and set up torture rooms.

The former is an ugly combat incident, a haunted courtyard that will probably live in the combatant’s dreams for many years to come. The latter is a deliberate policy enacted by sadistic NKVD types who want to relive their grandpa’s dark fantasies of Soviet power.

This. This is why you don’t start a war. Because wars are disgusting. Let’s just face the fact that war means killing, the waste of lives and resources. The biggest butchers aren’t the besmirched and defiled fellows with the well-worn guns. The ones who end up drinking themselves to death. No, the real butchers wear Saville Row suits. They circulate with diplomatic immunity and have fancy yachts. They die of old age in comfy beds, like Josef f**king Stalin. They give a few orders, and millions die.

Why don’t we put those guys on trial? Why don’t they face justice?

Sometimes this happens. Nuremberg. The Hague.

But something tells me Vladimir Putin will never sit before a tribunal, although his sins are legion.

Ultimately, he is to blame. This terrible situation would have never happened if he hadn’t given the order to roll the tanks into a neighboring nation that just wanted to be left alone.

He created a situation where millions with battle rifles and killing implements were unleashed upon each other in a land that has seen more than its share of apocalyptic violence.

This haunted courtyard. The soldiers twisted in unlovely death.

This is on him.

More garbage to carry

Image courtesy Army Times- a Ranger using the new IVAS system, or the Integrated Visual Augmentation System.

Hey all. As you know, a long-standing theme of mine is to take the lessons of the modern battlefield and imagine how all the recent technological developments are going to play out going forward.

Well, I’ve never worn them, so I don’t really know, but I can speculate that the new multi-billion dollar IVAS system, as seen above, really sucks to wear and use. It looks like a rubber squid perched upon the user’s face, and I’ll bet there are real issues with them steaming up or restricting the soldier’s breathing. Plus, how effective are they during inclement conditions?

Yeah, they provide (in theory) data links, thermal and NVG capabilities and targeting info, maybe great navigation aids, but how would they hold up in combat?

Imagine this scenario- you already have about forty kilos of shit you have to carry, plus a weapon, and you have one of these rubber gadgets on your face. It’s hot and steamy, maybe some rain, and now you have to move twenty miles to your objective. These goggles would really suck. Maybe you’d only put them on at the Objective Rally Point (ORP), but still. Weren’t they supposed to be on your face the whole time? Doesn’t this kind of defeat the purpose?

I’d be a lot more impressed with these goggles if they were the size of a beefy pair of GI glasses, like the old BCG’s (Birth Control Glasses). But they are not. They are like the shitty dust goggles we had in the desert, but way worse. Heavier, with annoying cords that can get hung up on branches and stuff, and probably stupid battery packs.

Of course, I am out of the game, so I don’t know. Maybe the guys love these things for their capabilities. But me? On a patrol, I’d travel as light as possible, and these goggles don’t seem to fit the bill very well. Not to mention that the software is made by Microsoft, of all organizations. So, they are guaranteed to be buggy and not particularly user-friendly. Hi-tech gear that crashes when you need it most is a Microsoft hallmark.

As an observer, I’d take a hard pass on this junk until the Army can field something glasses-sized.

But what do I know? I’m just a dummy sitting behind a laptop and speculating. I speculate, though, that this is stupid. We are weighing down a heavily loaded infantryman with more heavy and awkward shit. Who designs this crap? How will it assist the soldier in combat?

As longtime readers know, I am a bit obsessed with the idea of an armored fighting suit (such as I describe in my first trilogy)- a powered, armored exoskeleton augmented by AI that gives the soldier a simple, easy-to-use HUD so he can concentrate on the mission. Something that will look like this:

Yes, this is from the old-school cartoon Robotech. This version of the armored fighting suit was a motorcycle that transformed into body armor, which is a really cool idea, but it’s probably unfeasible. However, the idea of powered armor is not.

Think about it. The soldier dons the powered armor, which has all the cool stuff in those stupid goggles integrated into a simple HUD in the helmet. The soldier can move quickly, he/she is heavily armed, and the soldier is protected in an NBC environment as well. This is the essence of move, shoot, and communicate on the modern battlefield. No need to worry about excessive fatigue because the suit assists you. The suit keeps you at a constant seventy degrees F, so a lot of the suck factor is removed. Your leaders can track you in real-time, and the suit’s AI assists them on the fly.

Right now, I can tell you that all those gadgets can drive you nuts, and you have to carry them with your fallible knees and back. Let me list all of the shit I had to carry in battle.

A PLB, a personnel locator beacon. An IR strobe. A DAGR, a cool little GPS thing that gave me a grid. A Harris or MBITR radio. A VS-17 panel. Seven magazines, plus spares in my ruck. My weapons. Grenades. 40mm grenades of various types. Body armor, a plate carrier on my last tour. Helmet. Medical stuff. Water (CamelBak). Food stuffed here and there. Cigarettes. A little nine-line card as a memory aid. A notebook. Keffiyeh and muffin hat. Maps. Knife. Weapons maintenance stuff. NVG’s. I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, the list goes on.

But you get the idea. You carry a lot of shit.

The powered suit could combine all of those things into one power-augmented package to give the infantryman a decisive edge.

But no. We are wasting the research money on rubber squid things that sit on our guy’s faces. Yes, that is as gross and awkward as that sounds, but imagine you have to wear one of these stupid IVAS gadgets on a long march through the desert, or a steamy jungle, with a bad situation at the end.

Also, let’s consider some recent developments in Ukraine. There is a lot of drone use, plus liberal amounts of artillery being thrown back and forth. The guys are dying on a World War Two scale. Don’t we owe our soldiers maximum protection against flying steel? Isn’t it a matter of time before someone weaponizes drone swarms to overwhelm traditional infantry positions?

What do I mean by drone swarms.

Here’s a great article by The Atlantic. Drone warfare will transform the battlefield as we know it. It’s happening right now.

Here’s a scenario with mini drones, such as seen below.

These drones are cheap, and the Chinese are masters at producing them.

My scenario follows, which I do not believe to be far-fetched.

Alright, a group of traditional infantry dudes is holding a position somewhere. They have these rubber squid things they’re supposed to be wearing, but they don’t because they suck to wear. So most of the expensive goggles are hanging out in their MOLLE larges. It’s raining and shitty. Every now and then, some happy asshole shoots them up with arty or a burst of machine gun fire. The suck factor is huge. Everyone is covered in mud, and the day before, a mortar round landed on someone’s head, so things are tense.

Right around midnight, the guy on sentry duty hears an odd buzzing. It’s the last thing he/she hears.

A cute little drone with thermals drops onto his head. It’s not a very smart drone. It can do only a couple of things well. It flies, it looks for heat, then it lands on the heat source. When it lands, a micro switch initiates a small charge of Semtex. The drone explodes with some degree of violence. So does the sentry’s head. Dozens of other drones seek dudes curled up in their sleeping bags or racked out behind trees.

Scratch one position.

The bad guys roll in and finish whoever is left.

This is going to happen.

Now give these same poor bastards the infantry fighting suit of my imagination. They are dispersed, and they are suited up. The suit masks their thermal signatures, and they are shielded from blast and shrapnel. They cannot be gassed, as the suit acts as an NBC-protected, temperature and cabin-controlled environment. They are in constant communication with command, and an AI controls their positions for optimum interlinking of fires. They are perfectly comfortable in the pouring rain and 40-degree temperatures. Their watch shifts are regulated by the AI, and set by their platoon sergeant. Their suits regulate and report their medical status. The suit makes it easy to stay sharp; everyone can see a god-like view of their sector on the map on their HUD. They control their own drones.

When that same drone swarm comes in, no one cares. Most of the little shits fly on because they can’t get a target lock. The ones that do detect something with their little dumb killer brains land on a few people and detonate harmlessly. Someone swears, her nap disturbed.

But that’s about it.

Completely different outcomes.

You can extend this to ships and aircraft. But that’s really a separate post. Let me say it no longer makes sense to field insanely expensive big-ticket expendable items. Yes, fighter jets and ships are expendable. But we no longer treat them that way. Stupid! Look at the modern battlefield in Ukraine- it’s a graveyard of armored vehicles, aircraft, and ships like the Moskva. All done with relatively cheap smart munitions.

Have we learned nothing from that war?

Guess not.

Too many people are invested in those big-ticket and soon-to-be useless items. The carrier group. The 100 million dollar manned fighter jet. The ultimate tank.

The military-industrial complex is screwing up. They are producing white elephants and rubber face-squids, when they should be drawing lessons from the battlefield and developing weapons for tomorrow’s war which can be seen in broad outlines today.

Simplicity and mobility are what is needed. Not stupid, heavy, and buggy rubber goggles that Joe will jam into his ruck, never to be seen again.

But what the hell do I know. I’m sure some blimpish general in TRADOC knows far more than me, and he’s eying a job with Raytheon when he punches out.

It’s not a matter of money. It’s how the money is spent.

Give our grunts a chance. Not stupid toys.


Welcome to Black Friday week!

This is the absolute best time of the year for large ticket purchases, I’ve been a big fan for a long time.

Something else I like is Apple products. I gave up on PCs long ago; they are just too buggy. I’m forced to use Microsoft products for writing purposes- Word is the industry standard. But that’s the full extent of Microsoft’s reach into my house. If I have my way about it, things will stay that way.

But I digress.

A year or two ago we replaced the family MacBook with an updated MacBook Air. It has the new “Magic Keyboard” (not really new. A refinement on the old keyboard after an experiment that didn’t work) and an M1 chip. The computer has proven to be a real beast- reliable, fast, and extremely capable. It meets all expectations and then some. It’s an amazing machine. However, there is only one, and there are two primary users.

This has created a number of bottlenecks over the last few years. My wife has a lot of work she needs the computer for, and hey, I’m a writer. When we need to use the computer at the same time, as we frequently do, her work takes priority because she actually gets paid for what she does and she always has external deadlines. Mine are internal.

This has been a hassle.

This morning I came across a wonderful story on CNN. Actually, it amounts to an advertisement, but it was a welcome one. Apple is having some significant sales right now, and I clicked on one and took advantage of it.

USD 799 for a clone of the family workhorse. Guys, I couldn’t refuse this deal. Seriously. There is nothing better than an Apple laptop, and to score a very capable machine for much less than a thousand was an offer I couldn’t pass up.

So I didn’t. I clicked on the yellow button, and now that bad boy, my very own dedicated writing laptop, is headed my way.

No more scheduling conflicts. No clutter on my desktop. No kids running off with the machine because they need to print something or worse yet, screenshotting endless websites with good deals on clothes, shoes, or something. No million tabs open. No one closing out my files that I left open for a reason. The list goes on.

Of course, I’ll have to configure my new machine, which is a hassle, but when it’s done it will be mine all mine.

This is amazing in so many regards. I haven’t had my own computer since I left the service (a junky little HP mini laptop that I used to carry in my rucksack. But hey, it worked). So, you can imagine that I’m looking forward to this.


If you are looking to upgrade an old machine, now is the time to do it. I can highly recommend the model that’s on sale on the link- it is very capable, and right now, affordable.


New book

Hey, everybody.

My new alternate history book is out there, ready for the viewing public.

Here’s the back-cover blurb.

“In this World War One alternate history novel by Jason Lambright, Private Bill Strohmeier, a light machine gunner in the 7th King’s Ohio Rifles Battalion, fights to save himself and his friends in the muck and blood of the deadly trenches of France and Belgium. 

Every day could be his last. Each bullet could have his name on it. As the heavens roar and the ground heaves with high explosives, can Bill and others in the 7th Ohio Rifles live and hold out against the Kaiser’s best? 

Does Bill survive this walk in hell?”

If this sort of thing interests you, by all means head on over to Amazon and give it a look.

Here’s the links:

Amazon Australia

Amazon UK

Amazon US

For anyone else, it’s probably on your host nation Beast website as well.

This is pretty cool. Two releases in 2022, after five years of producing not much. Well, I did produce stuff, I simply lacked the means to get it out there. But now I’ve got the secret sauce.

I hope to get two more out there next year and start on another project. Time will tell, but it looks pretty good right now.

Thanks to everyone for dropping by!

Living with the Ford Maverick

Morning, readers.

I thought to do a final segment on the 2022 Ford Maverick, the Swiss Army knife of American-style pickup trucks.

First, let me refresh your memories of exactly what specifications this truck has.

It is a base XL Maverick, meaning the lowest available trim level. Steel wheels, plain black fabric interior. No frills, but IMO still plenty of creature comforts. There is a WiFi hotspot, which gets used quite a bit, a standard eight-inch info-backup screen, seating for five (although better at four), an eight-speed automatic transmission, and Ford’s EcoBoost 2.1L engine. Also, I chose the optional “4k Tow Package” which bumped up my tow rating and gave me an HD transmission and cooling system. Nice to have. Another factory option I chose was the bed extender, a must-have accessory. In addition, I added the bed cubbies, which are great for additional storage, and the tech wizards at the local garage added factory cruise control as well. Standard XL 22 Mavericks don’t have cruise, but it’s easily modded using a new switch and code. I also opted for the factory spray-in bed liner, which turned out to be a very good decision. No scratches yet, pretty tough stuff.

Almost ten months into my ownership and operation of this vehicle, I have yet to find a significant flaw.

Guys, the Maverick has done absolutely everything I have asked of it. Everything. And I’ve used it just like my old half-ton Chevy, with very similar results (except for WAY better fuel economy and parking).

Half ton, you may say, with such a little, unassuming truck?

Yes. This falls within its design parameters. The Maverick can handle well over half of a ton (1000 pounds, or approx 500kg) of cargo. Observe.

This little guy was designed by the factory to hold 1422 pounds, or 645 Kg without exceeding its load restrictions. With two adults and their random crap on board, you have an effective capacity of about 1000 pounds/500 Kg.

I have put this to the test a number of times. Sometimes I’ve pushed it a bit, but I don’t think I’ve ever overdone it. Observe.

This is the day that I needed to haul the necessary supplies to build my woodshed. I had doubts as to whether the Maverick could handle twelve footers (3.65M), but it did. In fact, it hauled the load for about twenty miles along a local highway and rural roads. This was possible because with the tailgate down you have six feet and about seven inches of flat, supported storage. It’s just enough to be able to safely haul twelve-foot lumber. However, I do recommend that you place some shorter weight over the long boards like I did with my roofing materials and ratchet strap the cargo in very carefully. See above.

That’s a lot of weight aft of the rear axle. Not something I’d do every day, but it worked in a pinch. In terms of driving, you could definitely feel it. The front end didn’t hunt, and it wasn’t squirrely, but I knew the weight was there. I kind of pushed it, but it turned out alright with careful driving.

Yeah, I went through a McDonald’s drive-through, too. Maybe not a good idea, but I managed. I really needed that apple fritter.

I’ve also hauled firewood in this monster. I’ve found that the best technique is to NOT use the bed extender (too much weight aft of the axle) but to leave the tailgate up and heap the wood. It drives better for the same amount of weight (about 1000 pounds of logs).

Geez, what have I hauled? So much. A bed full of corn stalks. Mulch. I moved my daughter’s apartment junk. Cat supplies. Feed. Jugs of diesel. Recycling stuff. The list goes on. My lifestyle requires a truck, and the Maverick fits the bill.

Speaking of which, I’d like to devote a whole paragraph to hauling square bales of hay.

The Maverick with bed extender (or just the tailgate down) can definitely fit twenty-two bales of hay without a problem. This matches my old full-sized Chevy! I knew that the Mav could do it in theory, but when I did it in practice it was astonishing, frankly. Six bales per layer, four layers high (for safety I only put four bales on the top layer). I never would have thought when I bought the little truck that it would handle so much hay, but it does. If you do the math (and I did before I loaded it), I never came close to the truck’s weight capacity. 22 bales equals about 880 pounds plus me for a little over 1000 pounds. Too easy, and the Maverick proved it that day. See the first picture.

With all that work, though, wouldn’t the fuel economy suffer?

LOL not so much. The EcoBoost Maverick’s economy is astonishing. Over thousands of miles of rural/city/highway, I averaged a true 33.2 MPG. Highway miles? See below.

34.4 MPG after the Ford garage guys reset my mileage after an oil change (I am a big believer in regularly scheduled maintenance). Immediately thereafter, I went on an eight-hour driving beatdown for my daughter’s cat. Long story. But it was all highway miles, so the mileage shown above is a true reflection of what the Mav gets tooling around highways in Ohio on 87 gas at 70 mph/113 kph.

Pretty damn impressive.

My friend with the hybrid version reports average mileage in the forties. For a truck, this is truly amazing. Many sedans never approach this level of efficiency, let alone a truck, which for good reasons are well-known gas-guzzlers. Not the Mav, it just snores along.

Speaking of which. I don’t think I’ve ever been past quarter pedal in this truck. There is just no need. It has plenty of power as-is, even in these hills carrying close to its rated weight capacity. There simply hasn’t been the need to floor it.

This is a great truck by every single measure. Comfort. Economy. Utility. Power. Adaptability. Handling. Reliability. It’s all there, for far less than 30K USD.

A note on reliability. My truck has had zero issues. None. However, my friend with the hybrid version has had a couple of glitches. Once the vehicle died for no apparent reason (it restarted when he cycled the key), and another time the radio wouldn’t turn off (he did manage to shut it off with some effort). It was pretty minor stuff that didn’t repeat, and maybe a hybrid thing, but I thought to mention it here. Modern cars are half computer, and the Maverick is no exception. This goes doubly so for the hybrid version.

I have 20,000 miles on the clock and I can still highly recommend this truck for the everyday Joe or Jane. This is the truck to get for those who are eco or budget conscious.

Why spend 40K plus on a truck that does less? I can’t see it.


Hey, all.

You may have been wondering what happened to me.

Well, I’m around and I’ve been kind of busy. But now I figured I’d let you know what’s been going on.

One big piece has been my writing. I finally finished the edit of the manuscript for my upcoming alternate history novel, based on the First World War. It was a three-week slam fest to get it done, but now it is done at last and I’ve shot it out to get transcribed into ebook format. I’d like to have it published on Amazon this month; this will be my second published novel this year.

Also, I’ve been preparing for the Northern Hemisphere hell winter. I finally did something that I’ve been putting off for twenty years.

I built a wood shed. See above.

This is great for a couple of different reasons.

First, it made use of some high stumps that I never cut down. I made them the chief supports for the shed. Second, it protects my firewood from attack by the elements. I can’t recall how many times I had to strike the woodpile with a sledgehammer to break apart frozen logs, but it was a lot. No more hassle with tarps, etc. Third, it gives me additional room to store some odds and ends. Finally, and maybe most important, it gives my dog additional space for protection from the elements. She already has a very large run (40 feet by 100), and the woodshed sits in the middle of it.

Personally, I think it’s great. It did, however, cost me an inordinate amount of time to build and a few dollars, including the purchase price of good, dry, and seasoned hardwood. There’s more than enough space for a winter’s worth of wood (I don’t actually burn much. Most of the time my heat pump does the job.) and additional shelter for my dog.

Finally, I feel ready for the winter, and I have a sense of accomplishment with my writing.

Things are looking up.