NAVY LASER GUN tests well

Laser weapons have been in development for decades. There are several problems to overcome before they become widely useful. These include a need for ruggedness, a large-enough power supply, and absorption of the laser pulses by dust, water vapor, and so on.

One project seems to have mostly solved these, based upon a recent series of tests. Details are in the December 11th issue of Defense News. To read it click the following image.

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Jennifer Lawrence’s HANGING TREE surprisingly touching

I’m not a fan of the Hunger Games books or films. But I am a fan of Jennifer Lawrence. She is often goofy and scatter-shot in interviews, and on the set is relaxed and jokes with everyone.

But when the director calls Action an almost Jekyll-Hyde-like switch takes place. She’s no longer goofy Jen but whoever her character is, totally immersed in the action. This is partly why she’s been nominated for an Oscar three times and won once, gotten five Screen Actors Guild noms and two wins, two BAFTA noms and one win, and been nominated and won numerous other awards, including those of critics. She’s received 201 award nominations and won 117 of them – so far.

I stumbled on the following video of a song she sings in Mockingjay Part 1. To my surprise I began to tear up. By the end I was near to weeping. Not because she has a great voice. It’s only passable. But because of the emotion she invested in the song. THIS is the mark of a powerful actor.

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THE STAR WOMAN Chapter 4 available

I’ve finished the first Wonder Woman Rethought book, The Star Woman. I’ve now turned to writing another book in a different series. Once I’m near finishing it and have something solid to announce, I’ll announce it and provide a chapter or three.

Meanwhile I’m also writing submissions to agents for Star Woman. Most are similar but every agent is different and each wants a slightly different submission package. Some, for instance, want only a short query. Others want that plus a synopsis, or query + synopsis + a 5/10/50 page excerpt. Once I have the first ten packages I’ll send them off. If I fail to get interest, I’ll repeat for another ten agents.

Interested readers may not see a published book for up to two years, so to keep you interested (I hope!) I’ve posted a fourth chapter. In it Annalisa King begins operations in the field, killing and scaring the piss out of bad guys. Read Chapter 4 – Ranger by clicking the image.

Book Cover for web site resized

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Angelina Jolie’s MALEFICENT is phenomenally good

I finally saw Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent, which grossed $758 million worldwide. It had all the things boys stereotypically like (fighting) and girls supposedly like (emotion, a love story) – though of course I loved both, being a boy AND a girl at heart!

Jolie’s performance is both powerful and nuanced. She gets to chew the scenery but also to subtly show her character’s evolution from a woman full of hate to one who’s grown beyond it.

To top it off the tech credits were phenomenally good: visuals, sound, editing, etc. Definitely worth watching it on a very big screen, either in theaters or at home.

You can rent it from Redbox in either Blu-ray or DVD. Or you can stream it, from Amazon and other vendors.

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Sweden’s GRIPEN jet fighter poised for future wars

Sweden’s JAS 39 Gripen may be one of the bigger players in future military aviation, despite it being from a small country with a jet fighter that is smaller and has less performance at the top end of the fighter military regime. This was underlined recently by its win of a contract to supply Brazil the latest Gripen, Saab’s largest order so far.

This is partly because the nature of the world as well as the nature of the Gripen. Despite some disturbing facts and trends, the world overall is growing richer. Smaller nations are becoming more advanced and able to buy more weapons. Their needs are different from those of large countries such as the U.S., China, and Russia. They need something which is “lean and mean.”

They do not need long range in their fighters. Their most dangerous competitors are near and close to their “weight” in military sophistication. So they need a smaller vehicle with less cost, not only in initial cost but ongoing cost in fuel, maintenance, and training. They need a craft simpler to fly and to support on the ground. For one factor in keeping a military force effective is training and practice in its use. This is why many countries such as Iran’s and N. Korea’s aerial forces are paper tigers.

The Gripen itself is a product more advanced than might seem at first glance. Much of its “muscle” is in superior electronics, a sometimes deciding factor on any battlefield on land, sea, and in the air. Its design is sophisticated, with much thought put into ergonomics: ease and efficiency of operation. It is versatile, with a single- and a double-cockpit configuration, able to contest air space, able to support ground troops and sea vessels, and act as a trainer.

The following video gives you some idea of the capabilities of the Gripen. For more detail on the strategic, tactical, economical, and political considerations behind the Gripen sale see a discussion in StrategyPage.com.

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MILITARY NGOs: future face of war

In the “future history” background of my series Confederation Tales (and its subset Shapechanger Tales) each human world goes through a stage when wars evolve from large military actions into smaller actions. Those newer wars are waged by the military cousins of charitable NGOs (non-governmental organizations).

Some of these military NGOs are various terrorist groups. Others are semi-official and partly secret forces like Russia’s “rebels” in Ukraine, or Iran’s official but often covertly operating Quds force. Yet another are private military companies: mercenaries.

The following video is a bit long at 14 minutes, but both entertaining and informative. If you’re interested in military fiction (or near-future military) you’ll probably enjoy it.

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BEGIN AGAIN, delightful indie film

I avoid most independent films. Too often they are pretentious or poorly made. But taking a risk on them sometimes turns up gems like this one.

I nearly quit watching after the first few minutes because Mark Ruffalo’s character was so unlikable. Only later did I come to understand and care for him. Keira Knightley was a revelation. Not only can she act but she can sing.

In addition to the engaging intertwined stories, we also see how the creative and ensemble process works, both when it works poorly and when it works well. I’d actually like to buy the fictional musical album which Ruffalo and Knightley create in the movie.

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Revolutionary approach to fusion power?

A recent Aviation Week story has this headline: Skunk Works Reveals Compact Fusion Reactor Details.

Unfortunately it seems from the story that Lockheed Martin released very few details, and that the news release is mostly a way of getting partners in furthering their research. It sounds more like an advertising pitch than a true report.

The most important difference in their approach to igniting and sustaining fusion seems to be the containment field they’ve adopted. It is spherical rather than donut shaped, the approach most of the other fusion-power research projects.

Still, this is only the first report of their work. If the Skunk Works project pans out, the world five and ten years from now will be a very different place. It is worth keeping our eyes on developments at Lockheed Martin in the next few years.

Lockheed Martin workers on Skunk Works fusion reactor
Credit: Eric Schulzinger/Lockheed Martin

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FAUX-FUTURISTIC dances: shuffle and techno

This video feels very futuristic to me for some reason, as if hundreds of years from now the two dances on it would be popular among young people – and they might well be. Athletic movement to rhythmic sounds has probably existed since humans came into being, examples including African dances to drums, Cossack sword dances, and so on.

The first dance style is the shuffle, created in Melbourne in the early ’80s as a variation of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk. You slide your feet backward a few inches before putting your weight on them. After a few steps you pivot in the opposite direction and slide-walk a few more feet. You add various decorations such as stomps, kicks, and spins.

The second dance is the techno, usually called by the copyrighted term Tecktonik. Created in the early 2000s in France, its main movement is the hands, often holding glowsticks in nightclubs and raves held in fields or gymnasiums. The legs do half-squats or quarter-squats, and the upper body does various sways.

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HATSUNE MIKU, virtual pop star

I was amazed by the singer on a recent David Letterman show, having tuned in at the last minute and being completely unprepared for the sight. She was a virtual person, anime style, called Hatsune Miku.

I watched first trying to figure out how it was done. Then I was caught by the music and the dancing. It had an almost hypnotic effect.

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