Saturday, July 4, 2020

Remember 4th of July Parades?

Evanston, Illinois. 1957. Another window into Old America.

Aaron Tippin - Where The Stars And Stripes And The Eagle Fly

I posted this more than ten years back.  With the anti-American nonsense going around, it's still relevant - maybe more relevant than it was then.  

Happy Birthday, America.  It's time to take our country back

Originally posted July 4, 2009.

Aaron Tippin - Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly

It's no secret that Country Music has a deep patriotic streak. Some people interpret this as jingoistic and even racist.

Some people don't know what they're talking about sometimes.

A different way to look at this is that a deep love of country can be precisely like a deep love of family: you may not like everything your family does, but you love them anyway.

Aaron Tippin is a Working Man's country singer, with songs like Working Man's PhD and You've Got to Stand For Something. His songs reflect his blue collar background - when he first moved to Nashville as a songwriter, he paid his bills by working nights at the Aluminum plant.

He wrote Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly immediately after 9/11. Not only did it go to the top of the country charts, it peaked at #40 on the Billboard Hot 100. Simple music score, direct lyrics speaking love of country. Not a bad thing for this July 4th celebration.

Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly (Songwriters: Kenny Beard, Casey Beathard, Aaron Tippin)
Well if you ask me where I come from
Here's what I tell everyone
I was born by God's dear grace
In an extraordinary place
Where the stars and stripes and the eagle fly

It's a big ol' land with countless dreams
Happiness ain't out of reach
Hard work pays off the way it should
Yeah, I've seen enough to know that we've got it good
Where the stars and stripes and the eagle fly

There's a lady that stands in a harbor
For what we believe
And there's a bell that still echoes
The price that it cost to be free

I pledge allegiance to this flag
And if that bothers you, well that's too bad
But if you got pride and you're proud you do
Hey, we could use some more like me and you
Where the stars and stripes and the eagle fly

Yes there's a lady that stands in a harbor
For what we believe
And there's a bell that still echoes
The price that it cost to be free

No, it ain't the only place on earth
But it's the only place that I prefer
To love my wife and raise my kids
Hey, the same way that my daddy did
Where the stars and stripes and the eagle fly

Where the stars and stripes and the eagle fly

Friday, July 3, 2020

Happy birthday to The Queen Of The World

If y'all want to shoot off some fireworks in celebration, why that would be just fine.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Schwinn II

I knew there was a picture. I found it. It is the only picture I have of that bike.

Here's your humble scribe astride his trusty Schwinn and his sister by the swings in the background, maybe 1964. It was all corn fields and country roads laid out in grid squares. As soon as I could ride well enough that my mother trusted me, I was free.

"Learn to ride a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live." --Mark Twain

Wednesday, July 1, 2020


This one is so obvious I'm wondering how I missed it. Try to buy a bicycle. Bike shop, Walmart, Academy Sports, anywhere you go, it's all empty racks. Because bicycles come from the Far East now, or at least they did until March of 2020. Now they don't come from anywhere. You cannot buy a bicycle in the United States tomorrow.

Bicycles used to come from Chicago. A million bikes a year. Not the only bike on the market, but the dominant player. Schwinn. From the first bike a child wanted, to the bombproof, guaranteed for life frames of the cruisers and ten speeds, to top of the line racing frames, Schwinn made them all.

I had one like this in the mid 1960s. My dad gave five dollars to a neighbor. The bike had been ridden by all 8 of their kids before me. I rode it until I bought a 3 speed Raleigh when I was a teenager. It went to someone after me. For all I know it's still in a garage in Illinois.

Schwinn was dominant enough to come out with tire and rim sizes that were unique. Very close to the 26 x 1.75, the Schwinn 26 x 1 3/4 had a slightly different bead diameter. It fit the Schwinn rim. They did this with a couple of other sizes too. If you needed a tire for a Schwinn bike, you went to the Schwinn dealer.

If you had a Schwinn dealership, you would be the only one in town, it was an exclusive. I went to Schwinn's mechanic school in Atlanta not to long before the end and got the certificate. Learned to lace up wheels, rebuild 3 speed hubs, and a few other things I hadn't picked up yet.

The factory got outdated, labor costs went up, and the competition got better. By the 1970s, bikes were being made in Japan. Lightweight road bikes that beat Schwinn on price and features. When the Japanese bikes got too pricy, bikes started to come from India, and then from China.

There was a strike at the Chicago plant in 1980. Schwinn responded by moving production out of Chicago to Greenville Mississippi. They started losing money. They sold off the racing bike line and the Paramount name. Then in 2001 declared bankruptcy. Everything that was left was sold to GT bicycles.

Up until the pandemic, you could still buy a bicycle with the Schwinn nameplate on it. It looked like every other bike made in China. They aren't bad bicycles, they make a range from department store bikes on up to fairly high end bikes sold in bicycle shops. But they aren't Chicago Schwinns. And since they aren't made here, they are subject to the same supply chain pressure as computers, phones, appliances, and the rest.

If you're old enough, you remember Schwinns. The looks, the colors, it was part of the background of every American childhood in the 1950s and 1960s. I've got two of them in the basement.

Here's a real nice example of what they looked like at their peak. Everything on that bike was made in America.

Oxford Uni Boffins find drug effective against serious WuFlu cases

This sounds very promising:

In the trial, led by a team from Oxford University, about 2,000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone and compared with more than 4,000 who were not. 

For patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40% to 28%. 

For patients needing oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25% to 20%.

Chief investigator Prof Peter Horby said: "This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality - and it reduces it significantly. It's a major breakthrough."

Lead researcher Prof Martin Landray said the findings suggested one life could be saved for:

  • every eight patients on a ventilator
  • every 20-25 treated with oxygen

"There is a clear, clear benefit," he said.

"The treatment is up to 10 days of dexamethasone and it costs about £5 per patient. 

"So essentially it costs £35 to save a life. 

"This is a drug that is globally available."

When appropriate, hospital patients should now be given it without delay, Prof Landray said.

But people should not go out and buy it to take at home. 

Dexamethasone does not appear to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus who do not need help with their breathing.

6000 patients in the trial is a good sample size.

Happy Canada Day!

To our readers to the North, let me pass on our best wishes to America's greatest friend.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Wind River

If you have not seen this movie, you are in for a treat. It takes place on the Wind River Reservation in winter. The location, the characters, the accurate use of firearms, everything about it, makes it a movie you should not miss.

Here's the trailer. Most of the movie is slower than the trailer shows, it builds up, but the violence is always there, just under the surface.

I expect some of you have already seen it. I saw it a couple of years ago. The sense of loss and grief it portrayed was honest and resonated with me deeply. It came up in conversation yesterday and I thought I would share it. If you're self isolating, this will help pass an evening. And it has the best advice I've heard in a movie.

Monday, June 29, 2020

The problem isn't the Democrats, and the solution isn't the Republicans

There's a reason I call the GOP the "Stupid Party".  For example, they keep trying to destroy the Internet economy:
On Tuesday, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced yet another bill attempting to poke holes in data encryption, called the Lawful Access To Encrypted Data Act. This bill follows previous US efforts to weaken encryption, including March's proposed EARN IT Act and demands made by US Attorney General William Barr in his 2019 keynote address at the International Conference on Cyber Security.
Sigh.  Here we go again.  I posted about this when Barr first flapped his gums last year:
There are very few things that make me distrust our Law Enforcement community more than the persistent proposal that we destroy encryption.  The mathematics of cryptography is subtle and really easy to screw up in unpredictable ways.   It's impossible to predict, but it's entirely possible that a backdoor that lets the Government read your email could also let them write emails.  The Russians and the Chinese would have a field day with this once the secret inevitably leaks - allowing them to forge incriminating emails about politicians to undermine trust in our political system or forge bogus financial transactions to wreak havoc with the economy.  Among other things.

Quite frankly, this is a glaring example of why the Swamp needs to be drained.
Security guru Robert Graham wrote about this at the same time:
The tl;dr version of this blog post is this:

  • Their claims of mounting crime are unsubstantiated, based on emotional anecdotes rather than statistics. We live in a Golden Age of Surveillance where, if any balancing is to be done in the privacy vs. security tradeoff, it should be in favor of more privacy.
  • But we aren't talking about tradeoff with privacy, but other rights. In particular, it's every much as important to protect the rights of political dissidents to keep some communications private (encryption) as it is to allow them to make other communications public (free speech). In addition, there is no solution to their "going dark" problem that doesn't restrict the freedom to run arbitrary software of the user's choice on their computers/phones.
  • Thirdly, there is the problem of technical feasibility. We don't know how to make backdoors available for law enforcement access that doesn't enormously reduce security for users.
That last point is what I was talking about.  This is Congress saying that "Pi should equal 3 because reasons".  Yeah, well I want a unicorn that pees 87 octane into my tank - and I really want a Congress that isn't filled to the brim with fools.

Think about what this will do - security will be weakened in hard to anticipate ways.  How will this enable Internet-based financial fraud?  How will it make it easier for Bad Guys to, say, get into your Internet bank account? How will this enable Nation State Actors to forge seemingly legitimate "evidence" of scandal against sitting Congress critters?

You ask the folks who proposed this bill and you get a blank-eyed stare.  Dumb, uncomprehending stares from dumb, uncomprehending people.

"This is a full-frontal assault on encryption and on Americans' privacy and security, just when the shift to living much of our lives online from home means we can least afford it," said Riana Pfefferkorn, associate director of surveillance and cybersecurity at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, in an email to The Register.

"The bill unambiguously contains the long-dreaded backdoor mandate for devices and online services alike, from cloud storage to email to apps, such as end-to-end encrypted messaging apps."
So how good a job does the Fed.Gov do keeping cyber secrets?  Remember Edward Snowden?  Remember how the CIA's elite cyber hacking force couldn't protect its own Top Secret hacking tools?  Oh, and the Police don't do any better:
Hundreds of thousands of potentially sensitive files from police departments across the United States were leaked online last week. The collection, dubbed “BlueLeaks” and made searchable online, stems from a security breach at a Texas web design and hosting company that maintains a number of state law enforcement data-sharing portals.
So the Organs Of The State want the ability to decrypt anything, any time, anywhere.  They don't even stop to think that the secret mechanisms that they will require to do so will be public knowledge in about ten seconds.  They have absolutely no idea what the impact to the Internet economy will be.

Philosopher Kings.

Never mind that in today's Cancel Culture this doesn't remotely pass the Jews In The Attic test.

Like I said, Eric Holder never proposed this.  Bob Barr did.
Imagine, if you will, that I am an idiot.  Then imagine that I am also a Congressman.  But alas, I repeat myself.
- Mark Twain

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Rodgers and Hammerstein - Oklahoma!

Richard Rogers was born on this day in 1902.  He went on to write an amazing body of work (with Lorenz Hart and then Oscar Hammerstein): Carousel, South Pacific, The King And I, The Sound Of Music, and (of course) his first collaboration with Hammerstein, Oklahoma!  Here is an abbreviated list of his songs:

With Hart:
Blue Moon
Isn't It Romantic?
My Funny Valentine
The Lady Is A Tramp 

With Hammerstein:
Oh What A Beautiful Morning
You'll Never Walk Alone
Some Enchanted Evening
Bali Hai
My Favorite Things
Getting To Know You

He also wrote twelve themes that Robert Russell Bennet used for the score to Victory At Sea.  Astonishingly, he only won one Oscar and two Grammy, although he regularly cleaned up at the Tonys.

Looking at this musical legacy it's plausible to call him the greatest American composer of all time.

The Queen Of The World is a Kentucky Girl but lived for years in Oklahoma.  Since Rodgers never wrote a song called Kentucky! today's song choice was easy.