SPLINTERED a vivid quest through Wonderland

Just finished a novel I found delightful: Splintered by A. G. Howard. It’s yet another book inspired by the Alice novels of Lewis Carroll, birth name Charles Dodgson.

The writing is vividly evocative of Wonderland’s rainbow colors and the darkness often hiding at the edges of the beauty. The familiar characters and situations of the Alice books are given a fresh perspective and interesting twists which turn the familiar strangeness of Wonderland even stranger.

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, and others. (Click on image to read first few chapters.)

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IZOMBIE a fun new show

The first episode of iZombie has arrived. If the show remains true to its beginning I think it will be a success – at least for me. It was interesting, fun, and sometimes funny.

I especially enjoyed the scene where the main character goes all zombie badass on a bad guy. It’s not a good idea to shoot a zombie with a pistol. You REALLY need an elephant gun or a flamethrower!

The show is on the CW on Tuesdays. I downloaded it from Amazon and watched it on a notebook hooked to my bigscreen TV. I don’t mind paying a couple of bucks to avoid commercial breaks.

It’s also available on Hulu (but not Netflix) and Shomi (the new Canadian streaming service).

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LINDSEY STIRLING joy in music & dance

Got some bad news a few days ago. May need heart surgery. Takes a few days to absorb, accept, and adapt to the necessity.

Lady friend helped with perspective and other good advice. So too did the following and several other videos from phenomenal musician, composer, dancer, and performance artist Lindsey Stirling. (CDs available on Amazon and elsewhere.)

Hope it lightens your days too.

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Latest BATTLEFIELD intel system being deployed

Battlefield C3I is short for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence. At NASA and Boeing I worked on several such projects. The systems keep getting both bigger (larger overall systems) and smaller (more miniaturized parts). They also have become faster and more efficient. And more flexible.

The latest systems include smartphones which can be worn on their arms. Thus soldiers are in constant contact with their comrades and their commands via satellite links. Being deployed now is the latest development: the Joint-Battle Command Platform.

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Oscar-winning BIG HERO 6 now available for rent

I just rented and watched Big Hero 6 from Redbox (for $2.00). I could also have downloaded it from Amazon’s Instant Video library ($4.99) or streamed it from Disney Movies on Demand ($4.99).

I enjoyed it a lot. For one thing, it’s visually spectacular. But I enjoyed even more for the story and the characters.

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MID-LEVEL tech support of intel & special forces

The Air Force loves super-advanced new technology. (As do I.) But in modern and near-future conflicts sometimes lower-level solutions are more effective and cost less.

Such are two military aircraft long used by USAF for ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance). These both use turboprop engines, which might be called MID-LEVEL technology: higher than the older (low-tech) reciprocating engines but lower than the latest high-performance (high-tech) jet engines. These two aircraft and their cousins are also piloted by onboard crews (low-tech) rather than remotely (high-tech).

These aircraft are the MC-12 and the U-28, twin- and single-engine aircraft. They are used by (among other organizations) the USAF ISR group. They have more onboard cargo capacity for electronic equipment, are as much as twice as fast as the larger UAVs and can fly higher. They are also more versatile, for they can be used to quickly and unobtrusively deliver a small team of special forces to back-country roads. They can also pick them up, perhaps along with a high-value spy, captured or defecting terrorist, or rescued humanitarian.

For more info on each aircraft, click their images.

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BERSA clone of Walther PPK

Have you been watching “Marvel’s Agent Carter“? I have, though I hate commercial interruptions and so watch it a bit later either by DVR or by streaming from Amazon’s Instant Video. (It shows up on AMZ and Hulu and so on about six hours later.)

If you’re a gun fan you may have noticed that the pistol she wields is the same that the first movie James Bond carried: the Walther PPK. This week I found out that I can get one in California, though only as a clone. The Argentinean company Bersa sells a model approved by the CA DOJ. (Though you have to search for Firestorm, not Bersa, on the Approved list.)

By most accounts the Firestorm is a well-made machine. It is marketed under the umbrella brand Thunder, which includes several other Bersa-made weapons. The Firestorm is relatively inexpensive for a well-made semi-auto, retailing anywhere from $300 to $400. (Fees in California make it anywhere from $105 to $135 more expensive before tax.)

Click the image below to see a representative YouTube review of the .380 model.

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KINGSMAN a fun spy spoof opens soon

Kingsman: the Secret Service is a spy spoof which opens in the U. S. on Friday, the 13th. It should be great fun – if you can reduce your brain to the mental age of the average 14-year old! (I suggest healthy & environmentally friendly drugs of some sort, but beer or wine should also work.)

Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass, X-Men First Class), based on a Mark Millar comic, starring Colin Firth. This is all you really need to know.

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A-10 WARTHOG under attack again

The U. S. Air Force, in which I served as a Chinese linguist and intel specialist in the early ’60s, is dominated at the highest levels by former fighter pilots. In the AF culture even mil transport and close-air-support pilots are looked down upon – even though their courage is tested by deadly fire much more often than that of the high-flying fighter jocks.

This is why the AF is yet again seeking to kill the A-10 “Warthog” program with the strategy of death by a thousand cuts. They want to rob the A-10 to pay the F-35, a program which continues to balloon in cost.

There is certainly a need for the F-35 and its cousins to counter the advanced fighters of China and Russia. But current and near-future wars are more likely to be small-force and insurgent actions by IS, Boko Haram, and (less likely but still possible) Iran and North Korea. In such conflicts we need the A-10, specifically designed for CAS and proven in combat to be very effective.

To find out more about this issue and its key players click the following photo.

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Quiet revolution in AFRICA

Some of the most revolutionary inventions are very simple. Such a one is soap, which some historians of science have said has saved more lives than all other medical advances combined.

Some inventions are not even visible, which makes it hard to recognize them when they crop up. Such a one is the village-based savings and loan association. Or more simply: microbank.

The basic facts hide the revolutionary nature of microbanks. They are made up of a few dozen people, their vault may be a cigar box, and their largest amount is usually only a very few hundred dollars. Their rules of operation are few and their officers rarely spend more than an hour or two a month working at their job.

Yet their effects are massive. Their simplicity means they can be easily understood and they can be quickly put into effect. Their small overhead makes them very efficient. They are quietly but inexorably spreading in Africa, and they may spread to other disadvantaged countries.

For more info click the image below.

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