A soldier’s dream

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Well everyone, we could talk about Kim Jong Crazy getting the H-bomb. Nope. We could discuss the flooding in Houston. Nope, it’s been covered everywhere by almost everybody. We could talk about how the 173rd Airborne isn’t ready for peer-on-peer combat, according to internal Army documents. Nah, not going there, either.

No, I’m going to discuss chickens. Or rather, what chickens mean for an old soldier trying to come to terms with normal life.

Some six years ago I got back from my last tour and everything was crazy. Lots of drinking, confusion, and bad stuff. I won’t get into details, but it was rough. Add onto that the stress of going through the Army Medical Board, and times were tough. I threw myself into projects on the old house I bought years ago. My family has done a lot of fine-tuning on this old homestead.

Of course, in the midst of all of this, I wrote books, too, and eventually retired.

The whole time I’ve been looking for peace, and I have stayed in contact with other guys who were on my advisor team. One of them was Pete the Ranger, for some of his tales look through older posts below and in the archive.

Well, one day this spring my wife had the idea that we needed chickens for the eggs. I took the idea and ran with it- sometimes I go overboard. That was the case this time. I built them a fancy chicken house and enclosed a part of the lawn. We built perches, feeders, special laying boxes, the works.

The other day I ate my first omelet from their eggs, it was hands-down the most expensive omelet I have ever eaten.

The omelet was delicious.

But my flock was missing something. I was raised on a farm, and one of the things I always enjoyed was seeing a rooster going about his business and crowing. Yeah, I like hearing a rooster crow. It drives some people nuts. I don’t know why, but hey, everyone has their thing.

Well, I’m not the only one who has picked up some animals since returning to the ‘States. Pete the Ranger did too. His collection dwarfs mine, and his son is huge into chickens. So I texted Pete and asked if he had a spare rooster. He did. I got in my car and made a road-trip to his house to see his menagerie.

We used to live in the villages in Afghanistan on tiny combat outposts. The two of us saw a lot of Afghan rural life and it rubbed off on us. When I came home, I felt naked for years because I had no walls around my house with an AK by every window. Well, guys on the team have had a penchant for collecting animals, I guess I’m no different.

Pete took it to new levels. He even bought a donkey. As I stood in his lawn looking at various beasts and drinking a cold one, the clucking of the chickens and the sight of the sad-looking donkey really took me back. Took me back to the dusty villages along those mountain rivers.

Funny how you can collect the sights and smells of a deadly dangerous place, and you can later transform them into an inner peace.

Pete and I have sub-consciously done just that. We came home and created a soldier’s dream. I didn’t think of it until I sat down to type this blurb.

His son gave me a fine looking Easter Egger rooster, my kids named him Texas.

I think I’ll privately call him ‘Stan.

Hell ants

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As if the people down in Houston don’t have enough to worry about, here is a new threat. Floating stinking colonies of fire ants. I read about this in an article I came across.

I hate fire ants.

I mean, I hate fire ants. Really. My deep loathing comes from several episodes in the American South during my tenure with the Army.

Once upon a time, I attended a rigorous course of instruction known as Officer Candidate School. It was the Army’s desire that I became an officer and a gentleman, and in order to achieve that lofty goal I had to endure months of sheer hell. A favorite activity of our instructors was to have us assume the push-up position (the “front leaning rest”) until muscle failure. You couldn’t get up no matter what, and heaven help you if you were the first one to quit.

So for long minutes we would hold that body position in full gear with sweat burning in our eyes. Arms trembling, we would refuse to quit.

And so there I was on that fateful day, in a field somewhere surrounded by my peers. My rifle lay across my hands, I was looking at the feet of the soldier in front of me.

My arms were burning, of course. My neck ached. Actually, pretty much everything hurt. And then I noticed something odd.

My hands were burning, too. The burn spread up my arms, and across my chest.

And that’s when I saw them on my rifle. Fire ants, lots of them. I was being stung all over, the little bastards were everywhere. I couldn’t help it, I yelled hoarsely.

An instructor came over. He laughed at me.

“Having trouble there, Candidate?”

“Sir, Officer Candidate Lambright. Sir, there’s fire ants all over me!”

“Well, get the hell up and brush yourself off, Candidate! There’s discipline, and then there’s stupid! Fix yourself and then go see the medics, son.” He paused and spoke to the others. “All right, Candidates, get up. There’s a fire ant nest in this field, looks like I’ll have to smoke y’all somewhere else next time.”

Thanks, buddy, I thought.

I hate fire ants.

 

 

Eclipse

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The big news in the ‘States yesterday was the solar eclipse, of course. Everybody I knew took some time to look at it. Where I live we had 84% obscuration, so at its height the air here took on a strange dark tint. It was really cool. Not as spectacular as further south, but well worth taking a few minutes and appreciating nature’s wonders.

The somewhat blurry image above was taken by my daughter with her iPod. She made her own shoebox viewer, it worked better than my idea of using a welding hood. The next time an eclipse will be visible here will be in 2099, so I can pretty safely say I won’t be around to see it. Awesome.

You all know I keep my eye out for developments in science and tech, along with military themes. An article that caught my eye was about a woman who is still drawing a pension from the Civil War. Amazing. Goes to show you how long the reverberations from a conflict can last- as we all saw on painful display in Charlottesville this past week.

My grandmother lived to be very old. She had lots of stories, and I loved to sit and listen as she told about her childhood. She rode in horse wagons to school, and she lived to see things like the iPhone7. Amazing all that happened in the span of her life. This ties into the paragraph above because I was curious if she had any memory of the Civil War, as related to her by family.

It was last May that I asked her, shortly before she passed. Her mind was still sharp, although she’d reached nearly a century and lay on her deathbed.

“Grandma, do you remember any stories about the Civil War?”

She closed her eyes. I thought maybe she’d fall asleep again. After a moment, she opened those ancient blue eyes and spoke with a quaver.

“Yes. My great-uncle told me about Andersonville Prison, he was captured in the war. He said it was awful.”

I sat there in awe. In 2016, I was hearing second-hand about a conflict that ended in 1865. If I hadn’t taken the time to ask, I would have never known. In our busy, electronic-dream filled realities, it’s easy to forget the past. If you are fortunate enough to have family or friends that have witnessed history, talk to them. I worked for an elderly gentleman once who met with Kaiser Wilhelm II in his youth. That’s a story that was almost lost in time as well.

But I listened, and I remember. If you hear and remember such stories, then they are never truly lost. Maybe one day my daughter will tell of the eclipse of 2017, and the memory will be passed along as my possible descendants watch the eclipse of 2099.

Storytelling is one of humanity’s oldest characteristics. If you’ve got a good one, share it.

You never know who is listening.

Update

Well, summer here in the northern hemisphere is fading fast. After a kind of frustrating season where it seemed I spun my wheels more than usual, some things are starting to come together.

Last week I attended my yearly ‘Con in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was a lot of fun and I met some pretty cool people. As a bonus, I sold some paperbacks and generally kicked back and did the whole literary thing.

Right now I’m working a new writing project. I’m spending a lot of time at the computer banging away on the keys of my Apple. When this project comes to fruition, it’s going to be pretty flippin’ cool. I’m excited about it, and I think that helps with the writing, a lot. It’s science fiction, of course, and it takes place in a whole new universe.

As far as I am concerned, Paul Thompson’s tale is completed for now. As interesting as it was to write, it’s time to move on to other stuff, cool stuff.

I’m busy executing that as we speak.

Wow, this whole writing thing has been a complete surprise. A pleasant surprise. If you would have asked me six years ago at my lousy firebase in nowheresville what my opinion was in regard to a retirement spent writing, I would have laughed in your face while cleaning my weapon. I didn’t think I’d make it home, let alone author three books and counting.

Well, I guess the joke’s on me, and I’m glad to laugh along.

I’ve got fresh batteries in my keyboard, and a head full of dangerous ideas.

Stay tuned. Jason.

A killer comes home

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This article caught my interest. I’m a sucker for old equipment that has a history, and this tank has a real story. By all means, read the snippet I linked above.

Not that I love tanks- I was never a tanker. I always preferred to trust my own two feet on the battlefield.

However, for some reason this story reminds me of the old BOLO books. Forgotten relics until someone needs them or remembers them. Those books were some of the first sci-fi I read, I still like them.

Anyhow, off to a sci-fi ‘con this weekend.

Chipped

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Many times I get caught by surprise by technological developments, but I really shouldn’t be. So when I read an article about a company that plans on implanting chips in their employees I was surprised as I haven’t been tracking developments in this field. Apparently, with the implanted chips, the company can track when an employee enters or leaves the building. Also, the chipped employees can gain access to restricted areas, log into computers automatically and pay for snacks in the break room. It all sounds good, dandy, and semi-magical. For now, the implantation of chips is strictly voluntary.

For now.

However, it doesn’t take a lot of thought to see the downsides of chip implants in people. A simple Google search and an article on Wikipedia reveals some of the darker implications. For instance, the chips can be hacked. Think a little further and it takes identity theft to a whole new level. What about privacy concerns? Also, something I had forgotten, but the Wikipedia articles addresses, is the religious angle. Such an identity chip could be construed as “the mark of the beast,” and the universal application of government ID chips would create an instant religious underclass among devout Christians.

As technology advances, these type of human-machine interfaces will become more common. People will resist intrusive implants, however. Will the acceptance of implants create a class of Luddites, modern day Amish who refuse the chip? Probably.

I’ll bet certain jobs will become unavailable for those who refuse implants of one sort or another. For example, John Birmingham in his Axis of Time trilogy describes soldiers in the near future as having implants that do a range of tasks, from contraception to pain management. I don’t believe it was explicitly stated in his novels, but I’ll bet a base function of the implants was to retain passwords and a service record- much like the implants the company mentioned in the article above wants to try.

As such implants become available (and I think they will), you can forget a job with the DOD if you are unwilling to accept such body mods. The Department of Defense will adapt whatever measures are necessary to maintain a military edge. Count on it. By way of example, I carried a bulky GPS tracker, a personal beacon, medical supplies, etc. that could be eliminated by such implants. Less weight in supplies means more ammo, more capability for the infantry soldier. Someone with stars on their shoulders is thinking about this right now, take it to the bank.

The simple chip, followed by major implants, are part of the tsunami of human-machine mods which are on the horizon.

Science fiction has been converted to prophesy.

The Engagement at Arzangan, September 28th, 2011

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I creep upon a village, with murder in my heart.

I hear footfalls all around me, my soldiers spread apart.

 

Morning mist surrounds us, the Kush fields drip with fear.

My stomach churns with anguish, each sound screams in my ear.

 

The village walls loom closer, a rampart must be cleared.

The gravel drags across my chest, my breath is fast with fear.

 

At last the wall confronts us, soldiers go left and right.

A dog’s shrill bark sounds out, before the morning light.

 

A foreign scream resounds, Allahu Akbar fills the night.

His Kalashnikov spits death, the bullets strike and smite.

 

A balance has been broken- the firefight screams out.

I shoot at moving shadows, my medic hears a shout.

 

RPGs boom with vengeance, machine guns chase the dead.

Bullets seek my life, leaves fall from overhead.

 

I run the line with gunfire, the soldiers shoot with glee.

Finally the fight is over, it’s oh-five thirty-three.

 

I walk with my commander, we look upon the dead.

Screaming are the wounded, smoldering is a head.

 

My work here is finished, the prisoners are rounded up.

My Afghans want to kill them- praying, I hold them up.

 

Over by the village wall, a woman shrieks and wails.

A girl with emerald clothing knows what death entails.

 

Lord, spare me the horror, this disease known far and wide.

Beneath the chest of every man,

A killer lurks inside.

Climate

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So I’ve been doing a little travelling lately. I’ve been hanging out somewhere in western Europe. I’ve spent years of my life here in the past, and it’s always striking how things change when I return.

One of the big things I’ve noticed over here is the sheer number of power windmills and solar panels on people’s roofs. Governments over here are pretty serious about renewable energy sources, green energy is heavily subsidized and energy use is taxed to the gills.

So I was pretty interested about an article I came across today about a possible re-entry into a “solar minimum,” and its possible impact upon the Earth’s climate.

Look, I’m not going to wade into the debate over “climate change.” Not going to happen. I will, however, state that the Earth’s climate has changed quite frequently over geologic time, and it will change again one way or the other. After all, it’s pretty tough to debate that the Ice Age never happened, or that the Earth wasn’t considerably warmer when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. The debate you hear now is like monks in the middle ages arguing over how many angels can dance upon the head of a pin.

Our climate will change in the future. You can take it to the bank. The argument is over how much humans impact or drive the degree of change, and what consequences that entails for national and international energy policy.

Another cool article on this subject by the US Geologic Service talks a little about emissions from volcanoes, and the relative impact of natural CO2 vs. man made sources. Interesting reading, and the USGS is a gold standard for scientific inquiry.

You guys are pretty smart, you can draw your own conclusions.

FYI, a pretty good solar panel kit at Harbor Freight costs 189 bucks, US. I use one myself, they are easy to install and you see similar Chinese rigs in various places in the world. Not enough (by a long shot) to power a house, but you can do a fair bit with one of these kits, certainly enough for a small outbuilding.

I dunno, I kinda like the idea of generating my own power. Better than handing over huge wads of cash to my electric company. What’ll be really cool is when the price of solar and storage drops enough that it’ll be economically feasible for everyone to be their own little power company.

That day will be fine.

 

 

 

Summer strikes

Hey everyone. I’ve never ran a blog in the summer before, so I’m discovering right now that it can be challenging to run a blog while traveling, working, etc. So no, I have not disappeared, just juggling a few balls at the moment.

In any case, I came across an article that touches upon an earlier blog post of mine, the USAF and their need to acquire a suitable dedicated close air support platform. It seems that the Air Force is seriously considering a new aircraft for the CAS mission, and in my opinion it can’t come too soon.

Read the article, it’s pretty good and you’ll come away a bit more informed.

Recon is a good thing

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As those of you who have been following my blog for a while know, I’m a little bit hung up on the possibility of humans crossing interstellar space and checking out new worlds. My books revolve around the premise of a future interstellar civilization that may have escaped the Earth, but humans can’t escape their natures, for better or for worse.

So I was pretty excited to come across a really cool idea (and accompanying article) on the internet espoused by no less a figure than Stephen Hawking.

It’s pretty cool. What his team wants to do is to create a bunch of micro-probes with solar sails, and dispatch them across interstellar distances to check out nearby star systems. The spacecraft his group is working on would take about 20 years to reach Proxima B (about 4.5 ly). Once the small fleet of spacecraft get there, they would shoot back data via a laser link to earth and scientists could give the data a look over.

I think this is an awesome idea on several different levels. Let me lay out why.

First, such a project would give people actual experience building interstellar capable craft, albeit very small ones. You have to start somewhere, and why begin with manned spacecraft? You have to do a proof of concept sooner or later.

Second, powerful telescopes etc. are great, but nothing beats getting a spaceship up close and personal with stars, systems, and planets. As any old soldier can tell you, nothing beats having “eyes” on the objective.

Third, we can dispatch a lot of these types of probes to several objectives. From each we will learn something different, and these types of missions will not break the bank.

Which brings me to my final point. If we can check out ten different systems, and we learn more about interstellar travel from each mission, then we can choose a final contestant for actual manned travel at the lowest possible cost. It’s a brilliant idea.

And think of the possible reward- if there are worlds out there capable of sustaining human colonization then humanity could gain a new home. Our basket of eggs is looking a little precarious right now, it would be nice to have options.

I am encouraged that some of our best minds are giving this serious thought and effort. It beats people sitting around and watching TV, moaning about how the world is going to hell. Maybe it is going to hell, but not everyone is going down quietly.

Good for you, Mr. Hawking.