Sledgehammer's Cycles

Sledgehammer's Cycles
Sledgehammer's Performance and Custom Cycles

Saturday, June 30, 2012

How to annoy people

In Skyrim, anyway.



This moment of humor has been brought to you by #2 Son.

Excuses, excuses

I'm late getting posts up.  Incredibly busy week at work, and the Missus and kids got back Thursday from a trip to New England.  Work and family are cutting into my blogging time ...

And so here's something that made be grin, as I get my blogging shoes back on:


Heh.

That was fun

Thanks to Alan, Breda, JayG, and Weerd for inviting me on the Squirrel Report.  It was a lot of fun - heck, drink and talk for two hours? - while we ranged over topics from the ObamaCare Supreme Court decision to Eric Holder's contempt of Congress situation to the security (or lack thereof) of security in pilotless drones.

It was a huge amount of fun, and you can listen in here.  If you're not listening in (and calling in, and hanging out in the chat room) every Thursday evening, you're missing out.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Adieu, Minitel

It was trente glorieuses:
Many years ago, long before the birth of the web, there was a time when France was the happening-est place in the digital universe.

What the TGV was to train travel, the Pompidou Centre to art, and the Ariane project to rocketry, in the early 1980s the Minitel was to the world of telecommunications.

...

And so on Saturday, exactly 30 years after it was launched, the Minitel is bowing out. After that, the little beige box will answer no more.
25 million users.  Pretty cool considering what you had for processing and telecom capabilities in 1980 - 1200 bps download and 75 bps upload (!).  The "killer app" was that France Telecom didn't have to print millions of phone directories, because they were all online.

Essentially, it was the largest bulletin board system (BBS) ever created.  I once installed a linux Minitel client, just because I could (and for the retro chic of it all).

Of course, it was nothing but retro chic.  The 'Net has been a far better search engine than Minitel for perhaps half of this 30 years.  Rather than move its subscribers to the newer, better, faster, cheaper Internet, France dumped billions of francs into the system because it was French, and not created by those cowboy anglophones.  That was a very French solution, but it seems enough is finally enough.

Me, I blame George W. Bush.

A note about the weather

The southeast if baking under a mass of desert air with is unusually hot and dry.  It actually feels like Austin here - the thermometer in the Jeep read 100° on the drive home yesterday (at 18:30!).

To any readers in the southeast, if you have elderly family or friends, this would be a good weekend to check up on them.  People die when it gets oppressively hot, especially senior citizens.

Now this fellow would make a good President

I must say that I like the cut of this chap's jib.



He'd massacre that Obama fellow this year.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Guilty pleasure

I have to say that I like this song - it takes me back to a time before mi vida became loca.  It was a good place, for a while.

What a disaster for the Democratic Party

Today is (ahem) "oversubscribed" at work, but while I usually don't post from work I left a slot for initial thoughts (so you're atypically getting this in real time).  The SCOTUS Obamacare decision is an utter catastrophe for the Democratic Party.  I'm actually almost speechless in admiration at how Chief Justice Roberts played this one.

Time prevents a complete update now, but here are first impressions:

1. This morning's post was spot on, even more so than I had though when I queued it up last night.  This is a political issue, and the SCOTUS forced the issue.  The intellectual ju-jitsu that Roberts just did to Nancy Pelosi is crystalline in its beauty.  Her approach was to go so big that the court would shy away from the issue.  By leaving the law in place as a tax, the Democrats are left with none of the benefits and all of the political cost of this decision.  Own it, Nancy.

2.  Americans really don't mind taxes when someone else pays them, but they hate taxes when they have to pay.  They hate it with the fire of a thousand suns, and while this may be hypocritical of them (give me benefits but don't tax me), that's how the American people roll.  This is now declared - as a matter of law - that this is a tax increase on the Middle Class.  And a whopping huge one at that.  Own it, Nancy.

3. Did you forget that Obamacare raided Medicare to the tune of a half trillion dollars?  The Democrats are now forced to acknowledge  that their philosophy is to tax poorer young people and the elderly (via reduced benefits) to implement their philosophy.  I gotcher Class Warfare right here, in the Majority Opinion.  Own it, Nancy.

4. The Insurance companies are screwed, and simply will not survive if the law is not repealed.  Remember how "if you like your health plan, you'll be able to keep it?"  Fuggetiboutit. The only things left standing in 5 years will be Medicare and Medicade (bankrupt, of course).  Most people liked their existing health plans, and now will find themselves in the Progressive Utopia of Single Payer.  They unsurprisingly, will hate this.  Own it, Nancy.

5. Up and coming Progressive pols have had to propose bigger and bigger programs to make their name and fame.  As with all systems, the big gains are at the beginning, and so with Progressive entitlements.  Now we're very far down that path, and the Democrats are holding a "great victory" that has an astronomic price tag that cannot be ignored.  All future Progressive proposals will be viewed with a lot more skepticism by the voters.  Future Progressive pols have just been unwittingly screwed by the Democratic Party.  Own it, Nancy.

Damn, I'm a jolly fellow.  More tomorrow, but right now today's oversubscribed.

Massive risk of financial corruption in climate science?

The push is on for hundreds of billions of dollars to be spent on climate change "mitigations", and naturally where money flows, corruption follows.


Long, but worth while:
We have previously discussed sources of bias in the IPCC, including groupthink, noble/Nobel cause ‘corruption’, green politics, etc.  But these kinds of biases pale in the face of the potential for scientific corruption associated with billions of dollars at stake for the developing world in the various UN climate funds.  They dynamic of the whole thing has changed with the prospect of these funds
I am particularly concerned about WG II, which has a large membership from the developing world.  Apart from torquing of the entire enterprise by the Bureau, what kind of pressure might the participating scientists be under from their governments (esp those ranking very high on the corruption index) to make their country look the neediest for these funds, by cherry picking or even ‘cooking’ data, or otherwise torquing the the Reports?  This is made easy by much of the information cited by WG II is not peer reviewed.
.
And lets not forget WG III, where specific projects and technologies may benefit participants in terms of people providing or developing the technologies, and those benefitting from projects in their countries.
But fear not, gentle reader.  The UN in on the job, and will ensure the same level of accounting rigor in the IPCC process as in the rest of the UN.

A prediction on today's Supreme Court Obamacare ruling

It won't change anything.  The issue was, and will remain, political (note: I'm assuming that the Supremes will strike down the mandate but rule that it is severable, i.e. the rest of the statute stands).

And so politics will continue around this.  Actually, things will be more urgent, since without the huge amount of money from the (typically young and healthy) uninsured, the costs will explode.  Also, the Insurance companies will find that their cunning plan to collude with Big Government to get 30 Million more customers forced into their plans will be facing bankruptcy, sooner rather than later.  Asshats.  Watch their stocks all tank (maybe 25% drop) in the minutes after the ruling is announced.

Now, I could very well be wrong here, and the SCOTUS could rule that Congress was free to include a severability clause (and in fact did so in a draft; the clause was removed before the final bill).  But I don't get the feeling that there isn't a majority willing to play wise King Solomon.

And so to the politics.  Mitt Romney has been rather loudly saying he'll repeal the bill.  Of course, he can't (Congress is the only one who can repeal a law, unless you use the new Obama rules - which Romney won't).  The Republicans need to win back the Senate, which is plausible.  But they also need to win a filibuster-proof majority, which is vanishingly unlikely.

And so politics will be intense all through 2013 as the Democrats scramble to keep what's left of Obamacare via filibuster, and Republicans seek wobbly Democrats up for re-election in 2014 to peel off from the herd.  The Main Stream Media will be going insane, and the Eurozone will be shedding member states, GDP, and jobs.  I expect to see the half trillion "taken from Medicare" play a big role in that election.

That last will hit us pretty hard, and so the question is whose message will prevail: Democrats wailing that it's all Romney's fault, or Romney pointing out what a disaster the Democrat's "accomplishments" have become.

And so, today is not the end.  It's not even the beginning of the end.  With Romney and the GOP establishment, it's perhaps not even the end of the beginning.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Interlude, without snark

I realize that I've been more than a little sarcastic today, and so here's a relaxation filled with awesome, the title track from George Benson's 1976 album Breezin'.  I have this on vinyl from the 1970s.  That man can play.  Err, both of them.



Ten Grammys, including one for this.  That his collaboration with Chet Atkins didn't win one is a crime.

A Modest (Scientific) Proposal*

He either fears his fate too much,
or his rewards are small,
who dares not put it to the test
to win - or lose - it all.
- James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose
Perhaps the greatest loss from this excessively bureaucratized and regulated world is a loss of nerve.  The Conventional Wisdom is nothing if not conventional, and today's Organization Man finds a cushy position by not rocking the conventional wisdom's boat.

This actually explains 90% of Sturgeon's Law ("90% of everything is crap.").  I would add Borepatch's Corollary, which is large infusions of Government cash and/or regulatory oversight raises this to 99%.

Offered as proof points, the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Q. E. D.

The Fed.Gov has spent something like $90 Billion over the last 25 years on Global Warming research.  90% (per Sturgeon) or 99% (per Borepatch) is crap.  After all, who would upend the gravy train that funded his job?

And so, the lamentably pitiful state of climate science these days.  It's astonishingly weak, and shows no signs of getting stronger - after all, who wants to upset the apple cart that pays for his research lab?

I actually have a serious proposal that would greatly strengthen the state of climate science: Allocate $20M a year for 5 years to scientists who can falsify the current thinking on Global Warming.

This is actually a no-lose proposition for the current scientific community.  Consider: It's possible that nobody can falsify the current consensus view with its fiddled data, lousy model predictions, "divergence problem" ("hide the decline") and all the other stuff that I've so richly mocked here.  If so, imagine what a shot in the arm this would be to Greenpeace.  The other possibility is that the new scientific Young Turks rip the lousy science to shreds, hanging the bleeding carcases of bad statistical algorithms from the castle gates.

And that last option is a spectacular win, because scientists will do what they've always done - improve the theories, the research techniques, and execution.  Climate science, freed from the dead hand of an ossified consensus, will leap forward.

Srlsy, there's no downside to this.  Maybe a Progressive or two should climb on the bandwagon.  What, do you fear your scientific fate too much?  Montrose didn't, and is remembered in song, over beer and fine whiskey:



* Aretae tells me that I'm really not allowed to use this in a post that doesn't advocate for braised baby shank on the menu.

Catastrophic Global Warming!!!1!eleventy!

Man, that's got to be some kind of record!


See?  It's all out fault: we burn coal (releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gases) to make electricity, which power computers, where fat fingered typists enter record heat levels into weather forecasts!  See?  Coal fired electric plants cause global warmening!!

Actually, that's not surprising.  Everything causes global warming ...



(Man, I love that video)

Enjoy the mockery, Progs!

Payback

Good Chess players think 5 moves ahead; the best Chess players think a dozen moves ahead.  A lesser Chess player will find himself quickly over-matched by a better one, as he falls into his opponent's trap.  He will take poisoned bait, thinking himself ever so clever, when he doesn't see the set-up to Check Mate.

The Left is in full frontal Tribal Mode, trying to prop up Their Guy and saying that it's no big deal that the President acts without (or against) Congress by choosing which laws to enforce and which not to.  In this, they are only demonstrating for the eleven hundredth time that they are playing Checkers, not Chess.

Obama won the 2008 election.  King him.

Color me unimpressed with the intellectual horsepower on display.  Perhaps it's because I work in Internet Security and so I have to think about what the Bad Guys will try to do, but the Progressives need to spend more time thinking about the rules of the game that they are proposing, and how those rules will play out.

Consider the proposition that they are laying out, that the President can decide, for political gain, to ignore presumptively Constitutional statutes duly enacted by both houses of Congress and signed into law.  But for whatever reason, he doesn't like it, and so he can direct one of the Executive Branch Agencies not to enforce it.  If that's the new rule, how will that play out?

Because Mitt Romney will be President on January 20, 2013.  I think that this is a Very Bad Thing Indeed, but that is irrelevant as Mussolini could beat Obama this year.  But back to our game: using this new game of "I don't like it and so I will prevent the Executive Branch from enforcing it", which laws are beloved of Liberals and would give them the vapors if President Mittens didn't enforce them?

Offered for your approval, is the Borepatch list of payback is a bitch, biatches statutes:

The Endangered Species Act, which has gutted the American timber industry and killed towns across the Pacific Northwest.  If a company had eight years in which to clear cut every acre of old growth forest in the land (subsequently sending the profits overseas where a different Administration couldn't get them), how would the Lefties like that?

The statutes creating OSHA and the EPA.  These agencies have done more to kill American industry and send industrial jobs overseas than anything in this Republic's history.  What if a Republican president simply locked the buildings and fired the employees?  Drill here, drill now, drill where you want.  Why not add in the Departments of Education and Energy while we're at it?  Remember, this is eliminating all the headcount and stopping the paychecks.  Because he doesn't agree with the statutes.

CAFE standards.  Suppose President Romney lowered the fleet mileage-per-gallon targets to 3 MPG?

The National Endowment For The Arts, and the Corporation For Public Broadcasting.  What if President Romney told whichever agency not to cut the check?  Forget defunding them, just don't pay.

Civil Rights.  What if the President forbade the Justice Department from enforcing the Civil Rights Act, busing, consent decrees, etc.  I actually think that this is an entirely different country than it was 45 years ago, and probably nothing would change.  Probably.  This is actually very similar to the attitude of the current President regarding the Arizona immigration law.

Don't pay localities that have public employee unions.  This might actually be the best argument to keep the Department of Education intact.   Want education grants?  Got a union?  Sorry, Charlie.

This is all a thought experiment, of course, but we can predict two things with certainty:

1. Progressives across the land will die in large numbers as they have aneurisms.

2. Other than reliably Democratic constituencies (environmentalists, African Americans, unions, SWPL urban yuppies) nobody in the country will notice, or care.  It will make precisely zero impact to Joe Everyman - he may in fact notice that his life improves as hiring picks up smartly.

And here's the kicker: the hypothetical Republican President won't lose a single vote, because the people who hate these actions wouldn't vote for him anyway.  People who like these actions will vote for him no matter what, but the middle could very well make this a winning strategy, as they see their lives improve after the dead weight of Progressive policies are suddenly removed from the economy.

And dig this: if the economy really takes off - say, growing at 5%, or 6%, or 8% a year, this may turn into a permanent majority.

Really, why on earth do I have to be the one to tell the Lefties that they're playing checkers?  If their opponents were truly as ruthless as they make out, they should have figured this out for themselves.  But they haven't, and so I consider them not to be smarter and better educated than me.  I consider them idiots.

Q. E. D.

This list only scratches the surface.  Remember, Obama sent the American Military into combat in Libya without Congressional authorization.  Leave a comment about what a truly ruthless Republican President could do using the new Progressive® Approved Rules™.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The greatest blues song of all time.

Not many did it better than Muddy Waters.  Sonny Boy Williamson owned it.

Deal alert

A coworker just turned me on to Monoprice.com.  They have what look like really good deals:
  • 10' HDMI cable for $4
  • 7' Cat-5 Ethernet cable for $1
  • Wireless 802.1N router for $18
  • HDMI splitter for $23

He says he's had good experience with them.  I've never tried them out, but think I probably will.

Mac Fanbois: use a PC when shopping online

Man, I never thought I'd type those words.  And only do it at sites that you know (i.e. where the risk of malware is low).  But the shopping sites know what computer you use, and jack up the prices for shoppers using Macs:
In a finding that many have subliminally known about for years, but never been actually proven, yet is still quite shocking, the WSJ is reporting that tourism portal Orbitz "has found that people who use Apple Inc.'s Mac computers spend as much as 30% more a night on hotels, so the online travel agency is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see.
Of course, I have my own opinion on Orbitz.

But if it isn't them, it will be someone else.  You see, I see you:

Your disloyal browser is selling you out, and vendors are starting to figure out that since Mac Fanbois shell out the yuppie bucks for their computers, they'll shell out more for things like Hotels.  Well, Orbitz seems to, at any rate.

Note to Mac users: if you run a VMWare image on your Mac that has a Windows container, and use that to shop, I betcha that stupid Orbitz would give you a better price - because they're too stupid to figure out your cunning plan.  But then, you're too smart to use Orbitz, right?

Note to Orbitz marketing droids: you sure bough yourself a bunch of bad PR here.  And with me.  That's a gift that will keep on giving.  Love and kisses, Borepatch.

Cheesecake

Blogbrother PISSED does it (hey, I have to get my traffic up somehow, right?), so here you go.  From the 20 Hottest Conservative New Media Women, these two stood out:

Jenny Erikson:


Kristina Ribali, the Blonde Momshell (I love that name):


Awesome.  Oh yeah, they have Gov. Palin, too.  Go on over, it's entirely safe for work (ah well, there goes my traffic ...).

Looking at this and thinking on what these smart, fearless women do, I recalled a post from the early days of this blog, Princesses, Cowgirls, and Sarah Palin.  In it, I quote something from Virginia Postrel, which I think sums up a lot of these Conservative women:
I expected the [Cowgirl Hall of Fame] museum to be stupid. It wasn't. In stark contrast to the ridiculous Women's Museum in Dallas, which (the one time I visited it) featured a strange combination of populist kitsch and social-constructionist feminist dogma, the Cowgirl Museum showcased women of no-nonsense character, pioneer (and pioneering) achievement, physical daring, and unapologetic femininity.
These women are breaking new ground in the New Media.  They entirely lack the ridiculous Feminist kitsch of so many traditional, Leftie women talking heads.  The women here look comfortable with guns and all that implies - they are pleasant to look at but dangerous to touch.

No-nonsense character, pioneer (and pioneering) achievement, physical daring, and unapologetic femininity.

And so there you have it.  There's something attractive for you.  But I always dug smart chicks.  Smart chicks in high heeled boots, with machine guns.


Postscript: If you search the Borepatch archives for "Hot young housewives" you will find this (entirely safe for work) bit of mockery.  Sadly, you can imagine the Google search strings that brought disappointed visitors to this blog.  Heh.

Turing Spam Test

I got my first targeted comment spam yesterday, from "Theresa" peddling crossbows.  Theresa, if I've been unfair to you, please send me an email.

This is a bit worrying, because the most dangerous malware is served up via targeted spam.  "Phishing" is where the Bad Guys craft a plausible message to send to their intended victim, designed to lure him into doing a clicky-clicky that he otherwise wouldn't.  A spammer that bothered to figure out that this was a place that talked about, say, shooting could leave comments that were plausibly on-topic enough to get past someone 's BS filter.

In this case, Theresa's comment to this post (where I had posted a number of landscape photos) led with a great opening line:
Pretty place.
Yes it is.  And you can actually hunt there, even though it's inside Roswell city limits.  You just have to use a bow, not a gun.  And that's what she was ostensibly selling (I didn't click through the link, and removed the comment because you shouldn't follow spam links any more than I).

It's a crazy 'net out there, and it's plausible that the first place that we'll see the Turing Test in action is in spam.  There's a lot of money to be made on the Black Hat side, and talent follows money.  For sure there's a ton more money than you see in Computer Science departments.

And so a word to the wise, to both bloggers and readers: be wary.  Let's stay safe out there.  Trust, but verify.

And once again to "Theresa" - if I've unfairly traduced your intent, please send me an email so I can verify.

Monday, June 25, 2012

2,528

Whine, whine, whine about blogger burnout.  Complain, complain, complain that you're "feeling stale".  Tell everyone how hard it is to come up with good, solid, postworthy topics.

That's the last six months here.  And in celebration of this, err, burnout, take a guess how much blather I put up here for today's wordcount?

(no fair peaking at the post title)

Man, I sure can be an idiot sometimes.  A wordy idiot.

In Soviet Russia, future climate is known. Is past climate that always changes.

The CIA considered the Soviet Union an economic power when it was actually an economic wreck.
- New York Times editorial, October 22, 1995

The most spectacular Intelligence failure of the Cold War was the failure to recognize the impending collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1989, and the Soviet Union in 1991.  The CIA certainly reported on plenty of problems as the 1980s wound on towards International Socialism's rendezvous with destiny - as highlighted in this self-serving and mostly missing-the-point analysis from the CIA on its own reporting.  This analysis is entirely unsatisfactory, because it completely fails to account for how the USSR was ranked third or forth on the list of the largest World economies.

That wasn't just wrong, it was spectacularly wrong, and had enormous policy implications all throughout the 1980s.  All Western policy makers who used the CIA's analysis as the basis for policy found that they were equally (and equally spectacularly) wrong.

So how did the CIA get into this position?  By being very good at collecting data, but not so good at collecting the right data.  As near as we can tell from unclassified reports, the Agency had a decent grasp of the summary economic data as presented to the Central Committee.  The problem was that the data was bogus.

The Soviet economy was regimented, a rigid command and control system where those at the top set the direction and goals, and those in the factories tried to execute to the 5 year plan.  Factory managers who didn't execute to plan had troubles, and so there was a built in incentive to cheat.  Corners were cut, output was trimmed to where the plan was met with sub-standard, shoddy goods.  Or the numbers were simply made up, and the fraudulent data was sent up the chain.

Further massaging was done in mid level bureaus, because nobody wanted to be the guy who brought the bad news.  Essentially, the data deteriorated its way up the chain to the top, and nobody was very interested in double checking to see if the data as reported matched what had originally been collected.  You see, it wasn't in anyone's interest to do so, and it was very much in everyone's interest not to do so.

We hear that the science of global warming is settled, that we have incontrovertible proof that mankind is catastrophically ruining the climate.  We read this in the newspaper every day, and hear it daily on the nightly news.  We have Top Men working the problem, and the guys in the White Lab Coats have made their pronouncement.

OK, then.  But I've been wondering for a while if anyone has taken that data that has popped out the top of the Climate Model food chain and compared it to the original data that was fed into the system at the lowest level.  After all, if the since is settled, those two data sets - the ones at the beginning and the end - should agree very closely, right?  I mean, this was the mistake that the CIA made, and we don't want to do that.  Right?  So is anyone making this sort of comparison?

Yes, but it's not somebody from the scientific "consensus" establishment.  Interestingly, the data have been changed.

All of the major climate data bases - the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (HADCRUT), NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISTemp), and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climactic Data Center (NCDC) - all take the bulk of their data from a single original source: the Global Historical Climate Network.  This was the earliest compilation of temperature records from all over the world, dating back more than a century for most of the world and several centuries for Europe in particular.  Most of the later data sets can be matched to GHCN by things like Station Identifiers.  Probably there is 70% overlap from GHCN data, possibly much more.

Something interesting happened to GHCN: it has been changed not just once, but twice.  The latest and greatest is GHCN version 3, and it's important to understand that the data is different between the versions.  It's not just that stations have been added or removed, but it appears that data for a particular station at a particular date and time has been changed.

Let me just emphasize that point.  Sometime in the last decade or so, someone picked some older temperatures (say, for Alice Springs, Australia on January 3, 1919) and changed the data.

If you now have visions of a faceless apparatchik in GOSPLAN modifying production figures before giving a report to the CC/CPSU, then you 're not the only one.  Perhaps this is harmless, although I know of literally no other field in science where it is considered acceptable to change data after it was recorded.  But hey, that's just me, and you know what a beastly Denier I am.

So the question we should ask - to be scientific - is how does GHCN v1 differ from GHCN v3?  If both largely agree and report warming over the 20th Century, then perhaps the science really is settled.  After all, it's a truism that "the scientist proposes and Nature disposes."  The data don't lie.  So how close are the data sets?

Not very:
What is found is a degree of “shift” of the input data of roughly the same order of scale as the reputed Global Warming.

The inevitable conclusion of this is that we are depending on the various climate codes to be nearly 100% perfect in removing this warming shift, of being insensitive to it, for the assertions about global warming to be real.

Simple changes of composition of the GHCN data set between Version 1 and Version 3 can account for the observed “Global Warming”; and the assertion that those biases in the adjustments are valid, or are adequately removed via the various codes are just that: Assertions.
Emphasis is mine.  Let me say this plainly: ALL of the 20th Century's observed warming is accounted for in changes to the GHCN database between version 1 and version 3.  All of it.  And remember, all the other databases get most of their data from GHCNv3.  If someone hadn't changed the database, we wouldn't be talking about this whole Thermageddon thing.

This is very important stuff, and is hard to excerpt the linked analysis.  If you RTWT, you will understand more about climate science than 99% of anyone you are likely to ever meet.

I've been suspicious about this for quite some time, but I've now seen enough that makes me question our ability to even understand what's going on.  Rather than the science being settled, the science has been fixed (not as in corrected, but as the fix being in).  Even the Russians say that the data are fishy.


My opinion now is that we simply cannot know whether the climate is warming or cooling, because the data has been so manipulated as to be no longer reliable. 
And so back to the sudden collapse of the Communist bloc.  The data had been fixed, to the point where even the finest analysts in the Free World couldn't see what was coming.  In defense of the CIA, it's unlikely that the Central Committee saw it coming, either.  It's a sobering realization that GOSPLAN did not fix itself, and that the scientific establishment is unlikely to, either.

Four years of blogging

Four years ago, I put up my first post.  It wasn't very good, but I put up better ones, and within a couple months had found my blogging voice.  Posts from September and October 2008 sound remarkably like posts today.

When I started blogging, I had no idea what to expect.  Somewhat arrogantly, I wanted to get a million hits in the first four years.  Well, that didn't happen.  It's not the hits.  It's not even being "the Mighty Borepatch" (I giggle when people call me that).  I didn't understand what the real rewards of blogging are. 

I do now.  Almost 200 of you have me in your RSS feed.  You've collectively left almost 20,000 comments here (!).  But more importantly, you have been there to share the good times and the griefs over the last four years.

Most recently, I found myself nearly a thousand miles from my family for a year, but I wasn't alone in that little apartment in Austin.  You guys kept stopping by, even when I didn't offer you so much as a beer.  And I don't even think I've said "thanks".

I don't think I have the words to say what this has meant to me.

And this is the realization I've had, on blogger burnout.  It's said "I do this for me, not for you", but I'm not sure that's right for me.  I think I'm a little better at answering comments than I used to be, although not as good as you deserve.  I shall try better, because this is what I've found the rewarding part of blogging.

I've met a bunch of you, and hopefully will meet a bunch more.  Because it's finding other people who are good company.  People who you can learn all sorts of things from (shooting and reloading for starts; thanks Mark).  People who share the good times and the bad, who come back even after the goofy dispatches from Planet Borepatch.

I'm grateful, more than I know how say.

Of course, that didn't stop me from putting up a thousand words.  This is the Mighty (wordy) Borepatch, after all.

Weeping from the saddle

The most annoying thing about the Intellectual "Elite" is that they're ignorant of history.  You'd think that history would thrive in the Ivy League liberal arts, but I guess not.  Because this is a Full Service blog, let me offer up a history lesson to Progressives who find themselves unexpectedly washed up on these shores of Al Gore's Internet.

Image source
Clovis was a barbarian, a violent man in a violent time.  He was a two bit punk, as people would  have said back when, but got outstanding PR from the only literate people of the day (the church fathers) when he converted to Christianity.  But it was his violent nature that made his Franks successful in establishing the Frankish kingdom and the Merovingian dynasty (after Clovis' son, Merovich).

But the trouble with monarchies is well known - outstanding Kings are sires to Adequate Kings, who sire incompetents.  Gradually the Merovingian Kings became less competent, and came to rely more and more on their chief military advisers, the Mayors of the Palace.

Image source
But the Kings were a mystical figure to the masses, Christ's Vicar on Earth, and the personification of the hopes of the polity.  And so even Kings who were clearly not competent were expected to lead the Army against their foes.  Even Kings like Sigebert III.

Most of what we know of Sigebert comes from the Chronicle of Fredegar, one of the earliest surviving records of the barbarian ages that immediately followed the fall of Rome.  Sigebert ascended to the throne of Austrasia at the age of only ten, and was immediately pushed to attack the neighboring Thuringians.  He knew nothing of leading an army, and indeed the invasion was a disaster.  His army was crushed, and routed from the field of battle.

Fredegar tells us that Sigebert, watching his army flee, wept from his saddle.  He had no idea what to do, or how to live up to the expectations of his people.

We're seeing this today, in our own land.  A novice with excellent PR was invested as Christ's Vicar on Earth in the election of 2008.  Never having done anything, and not knowing how to get anything done, he was carried along with his general Pelosi in an attempt to conquer more territory for the Realm.  It hasn't turned out like his subjects expected.  This week will see the Supreme Court either strike down entirely or rip the guts from the signature achievement of his reign.  His strength is waning, forces are in disarray, and all of his acts seem to be making the situation worse.

Even his later day Fredegar (the Washington Post's Dana Milbank) sees the rout:
It has been a Junius Horribilis for President Obama.


Job growth has stalled, the Democrats have been humiliated in Wisconsin, the attorney general is facing a contempt-of-Congress citation, talks with Pakistan have broken down, Bill Clinton is contradicting Obama, Mitt Romney is outraising him, Democrats and Republicans alike are complaining about a “cascade” of national-security leaks from his administration, and he is now on record as saying that the “private sector is doing fine.”

Could it get any worse?
Milbank goes on to describe the rout in gory detail.  No mention of the Fast & Furious scandal, which is just bring new barbarian forces to the battle.  Looking at the Teleprompter In Chief, there is no sense of leadership, no sense that he has a plan that could possibly work, no hope of anything but continued loss.  Sitting in his saddle, all he can do is blame George W. Bush.

But yeah, it can get worse, as even the New York Times sees the unmistakeable weakness:
The Hope and Change that media shamelessly sold to the nation in 2008 is starting to reach a point of solemn desperation.

Perfectly exemplifying this Tuesday was New York Times columnist Frank Bruni who minutes after President Obama finished his press conference at the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, told CNN's Piers Morgan, "He doesn’t seem in command” (video follows with transcript and commentary)

I see an Ed Muskie moment coming, if not from Obama himself, from any number of his demoralized supporters.

The Ivy League types, of course, are entirely cow-eyed in their ignorance of any of this.  After all, it's been the "End of History" for a these two decades now, so they didn't bother with those classes.  Clearly from their handling of the Economy, they skipped math as well ("Math is hard!!!").  Ignorance and arrogance, combined in equal measure.

And so, the sharks are circling.  New prospective Mayors of the Palace are stirring.  Mitt Romney wants to take over the Kingdom from the outside; Bill Clinton is maneuvering to put his Wife on the throne of Clovis.  It's not long since the coronation of King Barack, and already he's increasingly alone.


Sigebert has gone down in history as St. Sigebert, a patron of those church fathers who gave such good PR to his house.  I predict something similar for Obama, after the crushing defeat that is coming his way in November.  Watching his army routed before him and having no ideas about what to do about it, he will become a political Church Father, being beatified by an increasingly irrelevant Main Stream Media.  Dana Milbank's chronicles of St. Barack will gather dust.  Nobody will be interested in reading them for ages.  Instead, they will look to see who will play Pepin the Short, able to win on the political field of battle.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Appleseed After Action Report

It's been two weeks since #2 Son and I went to the Appleseed shoot.  I've held off posting (much) because I wanted to digest the experience.  Here are those impressions.

Friendly, family experience

This is no exaggeration.  There were several family groups, and not just fathers bringing sons.  Daughters were well represented, as were some girlfriends and wives.  The good folks from the Revolutionary War Veteran's Association, who organized the training event were friendly and patient to the extreme.  Feedback and coaching was entirely positive - there was no yelling, with a single exception that I'll describe shortly.

One data point does not guarantee that my experience is the same as the other hundreds of training events nationwide, but my strong impression is that women and children ten and older will feel comfortable at Appleseed.  For potential lady shooters who are still unconvinced, there are Ladyseed events designed specifically for women.

It's worth pointing out that the Appleseed folks feel so strongly that women and Middle School age children should shoot that they can attend the event free of charge.

This is your heritage

Appleseed was formed to preserve the American heritage of marksmanship, and the day alternates between rifle instruction and practice, and history lessons.  The history is the story of the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.  This particularly appealed to me: Dad was a history professor, I had a love of history on my own, and when we were in Massachusetts we lived in the town next to Concord.

But that explains why I liked the history.  So why did #2 Son like it?  I think that it was the instructors, one of whom was younger than he (16).  The Appleseed instructors are all volunteers, and are not only versed on rifle instruction, but on the history as well.  The presentation had times where it felt memorized (particularly with the younger instructors), but the older ones gave a series of talks that would not be out of place in a High School history class, and all the instructors had a clear love and respect for the story.  Heritage, indeed.

Safety, safety, safety

I've taken the family shooting a fair number of times, and I've liked to think of myself as a safety Nazi.  The Appleseed line safety monitors put me to shame.  The only time anyone raised their voice was when someone was not observing the entire protocol that keeps everyone safe.  People forget, and the line safety monitors were there to remind everyone.

The Appleseed safety rules are somewhat different from Jeff Cooper's Four Rules, but they were clearly described, consistently enforced, and very, very effective.  I never once felt at risk, even with more than a dozen live firearms in use.

See the improvement

The first time that you shoot, it's at a peculiar target.  This is mine (click to see a larger version).

At the top, the target is printed with the only rule that matters for a Rifleman: Hits count.  The rifle makes a fine noise, but the point of Appleseed is to teach you how to hit, repeatedly.

The target has four quasi man-shaped red targets, each smaller than the last.  The largest is mathematically designed such that when you place the target paper at a distance of 25 yards, the largest appears the same size as a standard U.S. Army Basic Training target placed at 100 yards.  The next one is equivalent of the standard target at 200 yards, the third equivalent to 300 yards, and the smallest reflects the standard Army target at 400 yards.  This reduced size target lets Appleseed train people with long distance marksmanship skills on a 25 yard range.

The tiny rectangular target represents the target used by Ethan Allan, who formed a rifle company in 1775.  Unlike the smooth bore muskets used by the British regulars and American militias, this group used the Pennsylvania long rifles.  So many volunteers showed up that he had to set up a marksmanship test to select only the best shots.  He set up a wooden shingle at (if I remember correctly) 150 yards, the first rifleman's target in the Republic's history.  The small red rectangle at 25 yards is the equivalent of that shingle.

Hitting, and hitting repeatedly is the goal.  The first time you shoot the goal is to set a baseline for your incoming rifle skills.  The goal is to get three hits out of three shots on each of the five red targets. 

Checkpoint: My incoming marksmanship

In a word, lousy.  Perhaps "inconsistent" is a better description - remember, only hits count.  When we collected targets, the instructors asked for a show of hands for who had hit the small rectangular target three times.  No hands.  The 400 yard target?  Maybe a couple.  The 300 yard target? Few.  200?  A bunch.  The largest target, the 100 yard one?  Most.

Me, I had zero targets with three hits.  None.  [Big sigh.]

The Lessons

At this point, the Appleseed instructors began in earnest.  The instructors are well versed with U.S. Army rifle marksmanship training doctrine.  They teach the shooting positions: prone, sitting, and standing.  They teach the sight picture, how to accurately line up your rifle on target using the sights.  They teach how to "zero" your rifle, making sure that it's not shooting to left or right, or higher or lower.  They teach the use of the shooting sling - using the sling used for carrying the rifle as an aid to much more accurate shooting.  They teach how to control your breathing to increase your accuracy.  They teach you how to squeeze the trigger to increase your accuracy.  They teach reloading.

Most importantly, they teach the mental concentration that helps you forget your previous misses, ignore upcoming shots that you will have to take, and focus only on the shot that you're taking at the moment.  As Napoleon said, the mental is to the physical as three is to one.

Does it work?

That takes all day, until late into the afternoon.  At around four o'clock we each put up the qualification target, the one that is shot for score, under time pressure.  Here's mine (click to see a larger version).

It uses the same size targets as the first one we shot that day.  There are four flights of shooting, corresponding to 100, 200, 300, and 400 yards.  Each flight uses ten rounds contained in two magazines (you have to reload once on each flight).  Each round except for the last is timed, with a 60 second time limit for all ten rounds.  You can take as much time as you like on the last flight.

Hits are scored - the closer you are to the center of that target, the more points you get.  All targets are identical, other than size (in other words, you can score the same number of points on each target, except that the smallest targets count double.

Qualifying

The points all add up to a score.  210 counts as "qualifying" as a rifleman - this score corresponds to the "Expert" qualification at Basic Training shooting qualification.  Dad was a reluctant warrior, but was proud to the end of his days that he - a city boy - earned his Expert badge.  That's what I was going for that day.

I didn't get it, although I did better than I thought.  189, which is equivalent of "Sharpshooter" at Basic Training.  I intend to go back to get my "Rifleman" patch - Appleseed gives you 90 days where you can go back and try again without paying again.

Lessons Learned

1. Equipment fails.  I got military sights for #2 Son's Ruger 10/22 rifle specifically for him to use in this shoot, and the magazine release lever pin broke, making the entire rifle hors de combat.  The Appleseed folks came prepared with extra rifles.

2. Adapt and improvise.  #2 Son wanted to use his 30 caliber SKS, rather than the Ruger.  OK, I had brought a bunch of ammunition for it, and it's sights aren't that bad.  But it was designed for mid 20th Century Soviet conscripts - soldiers who were considerable smaller than #2 Son's strapping 16 year old size.  The stock was too short for him to get a good site picture repeatedly, under timed trials.  We Duct Taped a rolled up T-Shirt to the buttstock, which made the rifle much easier for him to shoot.

3. Bring an attitude willing to learn.  The instructors are the very picture of patience.  Actually when you consider that they are all volunteer instructors, it's nothing short of astonishing.  But even this patience will not prevail against someone obstinately determined to keep using his bad habits.  Me, I'm delighted to ditch my bad habits, and believe that I did so - at least for many of them.

4.  Appleseed is my kind of group.  The combination of history, technical learning and practice, and (perhaps) the opportunity to volunteer myself and help train future riflemen (and riflewomen) is a very seductive idea.  First, though, I have to qualify myself.

5. Who would have figured that I'd prefer shooting sitting rather than prone?  Hits count, but prone is actually pretty uncomfortable.  I was surprised at just how uncomfortable it was, and how well I shot from the sitting position.

Recommendation

If you haven't gone before, this will make you a better shot (unless you're already an expert).  If you haven't taken your family, you'll find that this makes quite a fun family outing.  The lovely and is-already-plenty-dangerous-thanks-very-much Mrs. Borepatch didn't come, but she looked at me with those eyes that still know how to shine as I headed out with #2 Son.  That look made me think that she thought I was being a good father, and that was worth the price of admission (for me; #2 Son was free because he was under 16).

And on the drive home, he said "Thanks for bringing me here, Dad."

So there you have it - there's a sex appeal here (and ladies, if you don't think that your man won't look at you with those eyes that still know how to shine when you're on the firing line, you're very much mistaken indeed).  If you have kids, this will let you spend time with them in a way that means something.

Because this is your heritage, and theirs.  It is a perhaps uniquely American experience, that's ours by birthright.  The Appleseed instruction is on target, in all the ways that count.

During that summer which may never have been at all

I took Ivan the Terrier for a walk to the old Mill dam this morning.

Photo copyright Borepatch.  Click to enbiggify.

Afternoon would be too hot.  Most of June was delightfully not-at-all-like-June-in-Georgia, but now we're back to, well, about what you'd expect.  He's not a young dog, and a black dog in the hot Georgia sun is just not right.

This park, at the Roswell Mill didn't exist when we lived here the first time.  The town dropped some serious money into the trails, making this one of the nicest places to walk in the area.  The trails go up and down Vickery Creek, down almost all the way to the Chattahooche where there are more great trails along the river.

Photo copyright Borepatch

I've always liked to walk, and a dog is a good reason to get out.  In Maine Jack and I saw otters; there were beavers in a pond in Massachusetts.  We had a heron hang out in our back yard here in our first house, a decade ago (as we like to joke, at our "house in Georgia").  I'd terraced the backyard hill with dry stacked stone, and put in a waterfall and a pond.  The heron was helping himself to our fish.

#1 Son would get mad at this, and let Ivan the Terrier out to chase the heron off.  Ivan didn't chase this one - he's twelve years old now, and the bird was on the other side of the river.  Besides, he wasn't after our fish.

A quiet morning walk doesn't just carry you across the local landscape, it takes you across the landscape of memory, to places long past which we can only visit in our dreams.  Jack has been gone these twenty years now, but I still hear his deep throated bark, outraged at the swimming otter's insolence.  #1 Son hasn't been eight years old for ever and ever, but I still hear his child's voice rising with outrage that the bird is back at the pond.  I hear the frustration in the voice of young #2 Son, asking where the beaver is, knowing he is about to be delighted when he finally catches a glimpse of it.

Ivan the Terrier loves these walks.  The chance to sniff around, to catch new smells and sights from a place that's not his yard keeps him mentally sharp.  The walk through old but cherished memories is good for me, too.  Even if the path is crowded with Jack and some small children.

Photo copyright Borepatch
The past is never dead. It's not even past.
- William Faulkner

Quote of the Day - Dread and Powerful edition

The Czar of Muscovy somewhat disbelievingly casts his gimlet eye upon the "Donate to Barack Obama's re-election campaign instead of getting wedding presents" fiasco, and discloses how said campaign was conceived:
The President sits back in his chair and sighs, slowly. “Let me get this straight. We started a webpage for people to snitch on anyone spreading material that made me look bad. That blew up in our faces. We then tried a Twitter account asking various questions about what people love about me. What people like about Obamacare. Why they should vote for me in the fall. I understand we got about 12 serious answers, and about ten million jerk comments that made me look like a jackass. We tried to wow them with a promise that we would support gay marriage only if it does not actually happen. I recall that was bad for me. Then we promised a bunch of illegal alien kids an opportunity to work in the worst unemployment mess in decades. This makes me look like a chump to anyone who can do simple math.”

The men in the room nod their heads eagerly.
This is clearly intelligence collected by a Gormogon deep cover operative in the West Wing.  Not particularly surprising - I mean, what good is a centuries old world wide conspiracy if you don't have deep cover operatives in the West Wing.

Thanks for sharing, Czar!

Georg PhilippTelemann - Trumpet Concerto in D

I played trumpet from fourth grade through High School, and a little into College.  I think this is one reason that I like Baroque music so much - there's a ton of great trumpet music found there.  The community of composers was surprisingly small then, and most knew each other (sort of like the Scientific committees of correspondence knew each other in that community).  Tellemann was close friends with Johann Sebastian Bach, and was in fact C. P. E. Bach's godfather.

Sadly, his personal life was quite unhappy.  His first wife died soon after the wedding, his second wife left him, and his oldest son died, leaving him to raise his grandson.  Despite this, he was perhaps the most prolific Baroque composer, writing more than 3,000 works.  Well respected in his day, on his death his post as musical director for all of Hamburg's churches was assumed by his godson, C. P. E. Bach.  It was a small community, after all.



There's a purity of sound in these trumpet pieces, one that my skill, alas, was never quite up to playing.  This is from the Kentucky Baroque Trumpets, who have a DVD with more.

And because it's a glorious Sunday morning, here's a bunch more great Baroque trumpet music.



The Purcell was the recessional music at our wedding (brass quartet, thanks for asking).  It was spectacular.  And I expect a few of you will recognize the Mouret.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Musings on fatherhood

The whole crew is up in Massachusetts visiting friends, and so I'm hanging out here with Ivan the Terrier and Crash the Ubercat.  It's a bit strange to be here without the family for an extended time, what with being back from Austin and everything.  It does make the heart grow fonder, and as you all know I'm a bit of a sentimental old fool.  And so here are some of my finer moments:

Ramsgate, England.  Spring 1997.
#1 Son and #2 Son, with the lovely and somewhat-out-of-focus Mrs. Borepatch in the background.  Too bad, too - she sure is pretty.  The kids obviously take after her.

#1 Son, 1993.
#1 Son liked playing peek-a-boo.  He had a great curiosity then, that's stuck with him to this day.  Mrs. Borepatch had her wits about her that day, having the presence of mind to grab the camera and capture a memory.

#2 Son, 2008
#2 Son has always been my shooting buddy.  #1 Son will come once in a while, but mostly because he knows I like it.  Or because he thinks that automatic weapons will be on offer.  #2 Son just likes to shoot.  I need to get me one of these sweet Winchesters, and go shooting with him.  I mean, it's on The List and everything.

Of course, none of this cool fatherhood thing would be possible by myself.

Automatic weapons are the New Black ...
Sigh.  I'm a lucky man, but will feel a little luckier when they're all back home.

Your cunning plan

It's encrypted or something.


Infocus makes projectors which are widely used in the corporate world by people making PowerPoint presentations.  So who better to run a contest for the Worst PowerPoint Slide?

I must confess that some of my slides are (ahem) a bit wordy [pauses for shocked cries of "No!" to die down].  But this one boggles the mind.  Actually, the others do, too.

Badass

The Victoria Cross is (to those of my fellow colonials who do not speak the Queen's English), the British equivalent of the American Medal of Honor.  It is only awarded in recognition of acts of conspicuous valour "in the face of the enemy".  Unsurprisingly, most of the medals are given to the recently deceased.  As the saying goes, there are old Marines, and bold Marines, but not a lot of old, bold Marines.  And so with VC awardees.

Captain Charles Hazlitt Upham was awarded the VC twice.

The first was in Crete in 1941.  He led his platoon, and being a "lead from the front" type of officer personally destroyed several machine gun nests with grenades.  But this part is what struck me as badass:
When his platoon was ordered to retire he sent it back under the platoon Sergeant and he went back to warn other troops that they were being cut off. When he came out himself he was fired on by two Germans. He fell and shammed dead, then crawled into a position and having the use of only one arm rested his rifle in the fork of a tree and as the Germans came forward he killed them both. The second to fall actually hit the muzzle of the rifle as he fell.
Since he almost certainly was using a bolt action Enfield, he had to shoot and cock the rifle one handed.  And still greased Fritz.

The second VC award (technically the "bar" - seems a bit disrespectful, sort of like saying ibid) was in Africa fighting Rommel.  This is the bit where he dialed badass up to eleven:
Captain Upham, during the engagement, himself destroyed a German tank and several guns and vehicles with grenades and although he was shot through the elbow by a machine gun bullet and had his arm broken, he went on again to a forward position and brought back some of his men who had become isolated. He continued to dominate the situation until his men had beaten off a violent enemy counter-attack and consolidated the vital position which they had won under his inspiring leadership.
But this is the part where the story gets good.  Badly wounded in the action against the tanks, Upham was captured by the Bosche.  Sent to a hospital in Italy, he tried to escape so many times that he was sent to the maximum security POW prison in Colditz Castle.  There he tried to escape when he was transported on a truck (he jumped from the truck, breaking his ankle), another time when he was being transported on a train (jumping from the train and knocking himself out), and a third time when he went over the fence in broad daylight.  Caught between the inner and outer fence, he found himself staring down the barrel of a guard's pistol.  The guard announced he was going to shoot Upham.

And so Upham lit himself a cigarette and stared the guard down.

Placed in solitary confinement after all this, he tried to escape again, running through the guard's barracks and out the main gate.  Soon recaptured, the guard in the machine gun post overlooking the exercise yard was asked why he didn't shoot Upham down.  The guard replied that he respected the Captain too much to do that.

And here is where the story gets really good (no, we're not done yet).  When the Allies liberated Colditz, most of the prisoners headed home to see their families.  Not Upham, who broke into a German armory to arm himself, and go out hunting Germans.

Wow.  I believe that this qualifies Cpt. Upham as the most badass man who ever lived.  Only two other men have been awarded the Victoria Cross twice, and neither of them were combat soldiers (both were doctors).  Astonishingly, nineteen men have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice.

But back to Upham, because this is where the story gets really, really good.  He married a pretty nurse in 1945 and returned to his native New Zealand where his fellow countrymen were, as you can imagine, pretty thrilled by his exploits.  They raised £10,000 (perhaps a half million dollars in today's money) to buy him a farm.

He turned it down.

Instead, he used the money to set up a scholarship for the children of war veterans.

It seems that he lived a quiet life until the end of his days in 1994, his only apparent quirk was that he wouldn't allow a German to set foot on his farm.  At his death, he had simultaneous funerals - one in Christchurch, and one in London's St. Martin-In-The-Fields (attended by the Royal Family).

Holy cow, what a man.

Justin Townes Earle - Wanderin'

The kids are all right.

Justin Townes Earle is Steve Earle's son, but it wasn't an easy road.  His dad split when he was two.  Justin got into drugs early.  He almost got tossed out of bands because he was a hard core user.  It wasn't the years, but the miles, and those miles weren't paved.

But like Johnny Cash he turned that around.  He started writing music, and has produced some fine music that is a long, long way from your over produced, over packaged Country Pop.  His 2010 album Harlem River Blues had this song, and a bunch of others ranging from rockabilly to blues to folk and most places in between.  It's easy to write something simplistic, it's a lot harder to write something simple.



Wanderin' (Songwriter: Justin Townes Earle)
Well I'm just a lonely traveler and I don't know where I'm bound.
Though, that if I keep on moving then I know that I'll be found.
I'll climb high atop a mountain, call for he who holds the crown,
But until that day, keep on wanderin'

Well now, when the soul wanders there are things a man must see.
There are trials he must know and there are troubles he must meet.
He must stare in the eyes of evil and know that he is free.
'Til the good lord calls, keep on wanderin'

Now, my father was a traveler and my mama stayed at home.
And she cried the day that he walked out and left us on our alone.
But now I'm older than he was when I was born and I don't know,
Which way is home so I'm wanderin'

Yes, oh lord, I've seen your oceans, I've seen your mountains high.
I've been lost inside your cities, I've seen the underside.
Yeah, I know the troubles that plague a troubled mind,
But they can't catch me I'm a wanderin'

No they can't catch me I'm a wanderin'

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bassology

If Willie Dixon can't make you want to get up and dance, there's nothing I can do for you.

Dramatic Spam comment is dramatic

I laughed out loud at this spam comment:

Meanwhile, Snake-eyes and Shipwreck, along with their pets (Timber the wolf and Polly the parrot, respectively) split off from the rest of the team and are pursued by Cobra agents [spam link redacted]

Awesome.

What Hitler could have learned from Robert E. Lee

It's generally accepted that the Confederacy had the finer fighting army in the War Between The States, but that the massive manufacturing (and population) advantage of the Union simply wore the South down.  Once Lincoln found the right generals and strategy, the end was over determined.  It didn't matter if you had better officers and soldiers if they didn't have enough food and ammunition, and were outnumbered.  At least, it didn't matter in the long run.

Well, Hitler could have learned something about this from Bobby Lee.  There's a very interesting page at Wikipedia that breaks down the arms production and compares production by the Axis powers to that of the Allies.  It gives you information like this:

Click to enbiggify

It doesn't matter if you have better tanks when you're out produced 4.5:1.  And arguably, the T-34 was the best tank of the war, especially in its up-gunned 85mm version.  Reading this list is astounding, and makes you wonder what Adolf was thinking, because it sure wasn't about the material.

Detailed reading if you, like me, are a nerd.

What to do about corrupt institutions?

Bruce Charlton brings teh smart about how you reform the regulatory agencies.  You don't, you kill them:
Instead of trying to change to old corrupt office or school, you set-up a new and non-corrupt office or school next door/ nearby; with a new Head, who is in charge of a (mostly) new leadership team and with (mostly) new staff.

Then close-down the corrupt office or school.
The one thing I would add is from last night's post at Zero Hedge: power will devolve from the center because the Internet has destroyed the information gatekeeping capabilities that the power elite used to rely on.  The very act of devolving authority will make replacement agencies smaller and, since they are closer to the citizen who can presumably move to a different polity if things do not function properly (*cough* California *cough*), presumably more responsive.

I expect this will take a generation, but this is precisely what will replace the moribund Progressive vision.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The death of centralized power

I posted about this a couple days ago, but this brilliant post at Zero Hedge lays out why:
The primary "news" narrative may be the failure of the euro, but the master narrative is much, much bigger: centralization has failed. The failure of Europe's "ultimate centralization project" is but a symptom of a global failure of centralization.

Though many look at China's command-economy as proof that the model of Elite-controlled centralization is a roaring success, let's check in on China's stability and distribution of prosperity in 2021 before declaring centralization an enduring success. The pressure cooker is already hissing and the flame is being turned up every day.

What's the key driver of this master narrative? Technology, specifically, the Internet. Gatekeepers and centralized authority are no match for decentralized knowledge and decision-making. Once a people don't need to rely on a centralized authority to tell them what to do, the centralized authority becomes a costly impediment, a tax on the entire society and economy.
RTWT.  The dinosaurs sniff a change on the breeze, and roar their defiance.

Thanks

Many thanks to everyone who left a comment or sent an email, and especially to life long friend 2cents for his post.  My older brother's prognosis is about as good as it is likely to be with cancer, and he's in good spirits.  I'm told that is a big part of the outcome.

But I remember Dad being in good spirits, too.  Not happy.

We interrupt this blog ...

... for this special announcement.

Cancer sucks.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Freddie King

Freedie, with Albert and B.B., were Blues' "Three Kings".  B.B. King is the only one still alive, but this song is probably the most recognizable of any from a blues great.



Mostly, they died too young.

The inevitable failure of central economic planning

How many computer programs do you use?  If you're like most people, you have a few that you use all the time (Microsoft Office stuff, web browser, email), and a large number of once-in-a-while ones (look at all the clutter in the "All Programs" menu).  It's actually more complicated than that, because the number of executable files that those programs contain probably numbers in the thousands, likely in the tens of thousands.

From a security perspective, it's the file that's important.  A security technology that goes back to the 1990s was the personal firewall, which watched which executable was trying to connect to the network - after all, the interesting malware was the malware that "phoned home".  Blocking all but the few known programs that wanted to connect to the network was a decent step forward for security.

But it doesn't always work right.  I saw this, on my corporate laptop:


That's Microsoft's personal firewall asking me if it's OK if Microsoft's Outlook email connects to the network. Dude, it's email.  Yeah, it needs the 'net.  And it's your email app.

I say this not to mock Microsoft who, I must say, has been doing a very good job with security for a number of years now.  Rather, it's to point out the mind numbing complexity of a system as simple as personal firewalling, which is about as mature a technology as you're going to find in security these days.  Even something that's been ticked off the "To Do" list for a dozen years goes Tango Uniform sometimes.

The assumption that you know how the system is working is a seductive one.  I say this from personal experience - I'm one of those guys in security who's brought groundbreaking technology (VPN, vulnerability scanning, and Intrusion Detection) to the market several times in my career.  I (somewhat immodestly) point this out not to brag, but to say that we screwed it up every single time.

Sure, each was an advance, but we didn't understand the way computers work. Any of the times.  I've worked with scary smart people - the kind of folks who leave smart prints on the carpet when they walk by, and we never understood things as well as we thought.  And it was just a few thousand executable files.

Imagine the national economy: thousands of markets, millions of companies, hundreds of millions of consumers.  Look at the stock exchanges and the billions of transactions every day.  Look at all the new products and brands introduced every year, and how most of them fail miserably.

And yet we keep getting snotty nosed Ivy League liberal arts majors telling us that they know just how to run things.  All they need are the reins of power - to be used lightly, of course - and all will be made to work Properly.

The intellectual arrogance of my younger self and my compatriots was breathtaking, but was nothing like this.  I look at the people who say that the Stimulus was "too small to really increase aggregate demand", and I think about Microsoft's personal firewall not understanding that the new Outlook executable just downloaded in the latest Patch Tuesday is, well, Microsoft Outlook.

No wonder that central economic planning is a miserable failure everywhere it's tried.  The Economy isn't just bigger than central planning's practitioners imagine, it's bigger than they can possibly imagine.

I'm a bit more humble now, after my past successes. That's an odd statement, but it's absolutely true.  I've learned from past efforts that tried to get things right, and only partially succeeded.  Strange how we don't get a similar attitude from our Intellectual Betters who do not lack for examples of planning failures.

Maybe that's why I don't think that they're very smart.  A bit harsh to say, but true.  Just because you found something doesn't mean it's yours.

True dat


The lovely and knows-the-difference-between-these-oranges Mrs. Borepatch could not be reached for comment.  Well, she could be, but she was laughing so hard that she started hiccuping.

TheOnesDay® No. 19

The Obama campaign seems to be filled with leakers.  Word is that they've been stung that they're not talking about his record, or about the economy.  This new campaign ad seems to be targeted at addressing those.



You know, when I started this a year and a half ago, it was about puncturing the bubble of pretension.  Now it seems like kicking the puppy.  Oh well, I'm sure that the Einsteins behind the Wisconsin recall elections can put their enormous IQs to work for TheOne himself.  We can hope, anyway.

Guilty pleasure

I like Katie Perry.  There, I said it.

Don't know anything about her music (not even that song).  I'm talking about her.  She's very funny, and very likeable.



I first saw her a couple years ago on Graham Norton (not at all a guilty pleasure, and highly recommended if your cable provider gives you BBC America).  She was funny and likeable then, and is just as much so now.

Despite myself, she's very entertaining.

No more waltzing Matilda for me

Forty years ago when 2cents and I were growing up, the town Dads were World War II veterans.  The Independence Day parades had the Boy Scouts, and the town Dads, and the old veterans who were all from the Great War.  I remember as a boy looking at the old Doughboys and thinking just how long ago it all had been.

Well 2cents writes about the last reunion of the 5th Armored Division Association in Bangor, Maine.  Those town Dads are mostly gone now, and the few who remain are too few - and too old - to meet again.

I remember those parades, and thinking how long ago all that was.  I remember hearing this song in Barstan's Pub, 2cents and me singing along (helped by the Jameson's).  It seems a long time ago, but only yesterday.

I wonder if it seems that way to those veterans.