"Nat Geo, History, or Discovery channel had a very nicely done program on Zheng He's fleets."
Avoid the book '1421: The Year China Discovered the World' by Gavin Menzies, it's 'facts' are mostly very suspect.
"So, there's jade in New Zealand?"
Yes, a form of nephrite jade the Maori call 'pounamu', from South Island, which they call 'Te Wahi Pounamu' among other names.
"The stand-off space wars you describe sound oh so much more likely than the Star Wars kind."
When reading accounts of space combat most people inevitably 'see' it as portrayed in Star Wars, Star Trek or Battlestar. It's interesting that the original ST gave the most realistic display of engagements at a distance because of a limited budget.
Thomas' battles are quick and violent, because of the acceleration and range of many of the weapons.
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