Thursday, March 31, 2011

So that's who has been setting US policy towards Libya

I did not see that coming:

But it's not going so well, it seems:

Who'd have thought that Gaddafi would be a better ranter than Hitler?

The GOP Leadership and me

So it looks like the GOP leadership is going to compromise with the Democrats, and reduce the budget cuts to $33B, or about 0.9% of the overall FY2010 budget.  Another way of looking at this is that they'll reduce the deficit by about 2.2%.

They say that this is all they can get.  They say it would be irresponsible to shut down the government to do more.  They're clearly scared of how the Democrats would try (with the biased media's connivance) to paint the shutdown as their fault.  They have a bunch of "strategists" who are crafting a cunning plan for victory in the next elections.

The ancient Greek poet Archilochus is best known for his saying the fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing.  The GOP leadership knows many things, about election cycle tactics.

Me, I know one big thing, which is:
Five months after an election victory of historic proportions, the GOP doesn't have the guts to stop the runaway train wreck that is the Federal budget deficit.m  They're content - even after the biggest victory in living memory - to add another trillion dollars a year to the burden that my children will have to bear, and to let the Federal Reserve continue to destroy the value of the dollar. 
There is only one explanation that remotely makes sense about why they would do this.  It's not that they're scared of the media (although they are) or not smart enough to figure out how to get the message out anyway (they probably are).

The Big Thing that I know is that they don't want to cut the budget.  Sure, they want to cut some parts of the budget, but they like cutting government tax code deals to their friends, just like the Democrats.

Here's the Big Thing that I know:

All of them.
Dans ce pays-ci il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres.  (In this country it is useful, now and then, to kill an admiral, to encourage the others.)

- Voltaire, Candide

Hey Stupid Party - watch this:

$400B a year in interest on the debt, in only 3 years.  Not just going to be #1 Son and #2 Son paying for this ...

Via Reason Hit & Run.

In springtime, young men's thoughts will turn to ...


When we lived in the Washington DC suburbs, we read the Washington Post.  I wasn't a big fan of their sports columnist Thomas Boswell, but his Why Time Begins On Opening Day is a must-read for any baseball fan.

Go Sox!

Body armor made from bananas

Brazilian scientists have developed a way of using fibers from bananas, pineapples and other plants to create plastic that is stronger and lighter than the petroleum-based stuff. So-called nanocellulose fibers rival Kevlar in strength but are renewable, and the researchers believe they could be widely used within a couple of years.

“The properties of these plastics are incredible,” Alcides Leão, a researcher at Sao Paulo State University, said in a statement. “They are light, but very strong — 30 percent lighter and three to four times stronger.”
Not to mention yummy, and a great source for your body's daily potassium needs!

But banana armor does have a downside:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bad security juju

It looks like Samsung ships laptops where they've pre-installed keyboard loggers:
While setting up a new Samsung computer laptop with model number R525 in early February 2011, I came across an issue that mirrored what Sony BMG did six years ago.  After the initial set up of the laptop, I installed licensed commercial security software and then ran a full system scan before installing any other software. The scan found two instances of a commercial keylogger called StarLogger installed on the brand new laptop. Files associated with the keylogger were found in a c:\windows\SL directory.

According to a Starlogger description, StarLogger records every keystroke made on your computer on every window, even on password protected boxes.
This is double-plus ungood, from a security perspective.  The fact that a vendor would record your passwords without your knowledge or consent is a huge breach of trust.  So far, the Samsung PR flacks are ducking the issue.

My recommendation is that anyone considering buying one of these reconsider.

Update 31 March 2011 11:17: An anonymous commenter says this is a false alarm.  El Reg adds some detail:
Samsung has issued a brief denial, in which it said the researcher has identified an innocuous directory as the keylogger in error. Its statement says that the researcher's security program "mistook a folder created by Microsoft Live Application for a key logging software, during a virus scan."
If this is an antivirus false positive event, I wonder if Samsung could sue for damage to reputation.

Happiness is a dirty gun

Field stripped, dirty guns.  Actually, cleaning them isn't really so much fun; it just means that you shot them.  Yay, me!

It's actually pretty scary how fast the 1911 gets dirty.  The barrel is grungy on the outside as well as the inside.  The SIG, of course, has a fixed barrel, so the outside is spotless.  The 1911's barrel pivots down into the grungy innards ...

And while the 1911 is pretty easy to take apart, I have to say that the SIG is a marvel of industrial design.  It's dead easy to break down.  The 1911 needs a paperclip (!) to take the slide off - you can see the blue paper clip attached to the recoil spring.  Pretty standard for Rock Island Armory designs, but I wonder if the hole would fill with dirt and mud in hard field use.

Climate Smörgåsbord , vol 2, no 1

I can't believe that it's3 months into the new year, and this is the first of these.  I'm slacking off.

EU Commits Suicide

The EU has just adopted a resolution mandating elimination of cars from cities and a 50% reduction in low-cost flights to southern Europe:

The European Commission on Monday unveiled a "single European transport area" aimed at enforcing "a profound shift in transport patterns for passengers" by 2050.
The plan also envisages an end to cheap holiday flights from Britain to southern Europe with a target that over 50 per cent of all journeys above 186 miles should be by rail.
Top of the EU's list to cut climate change emissions is a target of "zero" for the number of petrol and diesel-driven cars and lorries in the EU's future cities.
Siim Kallas, the EU transport commission, insisted that Brussels directives and new taxation of fuel would be used to force people out of their cars and onto "alternative" means of transport.
Translation: we've tried to convince all y'all; now we're going to make you.

Good luck with that.  What's the over/under on EU breakup happening before 2050?

California Governor cancels drought

This is getting reported kind of all over.  What's not getting reported is why.  The Sierra-Nevada mountains didn't just get record snowfall this winter, they got twice the normal snowfall:
It is called “Miracle March 2011” in the Sierra. At Boreal, near Donner Summit, as of a few days ago, they had received 217 inches this March bringing the seasonal snowfall to 762 inches. The previous record was 662 inches in 1994/95. The recent prolonged storm brought 6-7 feet of snow. The normal for the season is around 400 inches. Their snowbase is between 275 and 375 inches (20-30 feet).

The Snow Water Equivalent is well above normal and bodes well for both agriculture and coastal cities which rely on the melting snow for irrigation and drinking water. There have been battles for decades over how much water the farmers should get to use in the long dry growing season.
The downside?  There will be so much fresh water that there will be enough for even hippies to shower ...

Gallup: US Public doesn't really care about Global Warming

This is me, looking shocked.  Shocked:
With Earth Day about a month away, Americans tell Gallup they worry the most about several water-related risks and issues among nine major environmental issues. They worry least about global warming and loss of open spaces.

Maybe the hysterical shrieking of the last decade - combined with the collapse of all past predictions of higher temperatures in the face of a decade of cooler weather - has something to do with it?  Nah - got to be those Big Oil funded Deniers!  Go take a shower, hippy.

" One in 2000 year flodding event" in Oz story based on fabricated data

This is me, looking shocked.  Again:
EXTREME rainfall so rare it happens on average once every 2000 years has been "invented" by the government operator of a major Queensland dam as part of its explanation for releasing huge volumes of water that caused most of Brisbane's January flood.

The claim by SEQWater in its official report that a "one-in-2000-year" rainfall event occurred over the Wivenhoe Dam at a critical stage on January 11 has been widely reported in the media and cited by senior public servants to justify the near loss of control of the dam at the time.
But no such rainfall event was measured by any rainfall gauges.

Instead, the claim was manufactured by SEQWater after it modelled the rapid rise of levels in the dam, repositioned rainfall data to an area immediately upstream of the dam, and then doubled it.
Look, guys, don't be too hard on them.  All the data supporting Global Warming is dodgy.  All of it.  These guys are just following climate science "Best Practice".  First the sentence, then the trial ...

Boy, it's a good thing that the US public isn't paying much attention to that, or you'd have even less of them worried about Global Warming ...

How the sausage is made

Offered without comment, because none is really needed.

Inspired by Adams, and offered for your approval:

Most stolen from Watts Up With That, 'cause I'm kind of busy.

Tactical Golf Cart

Sure, it's cool.  But can you mount a MA-Deuce on it?  Or a TOW?

Hat tip: Theo Spark.

Lord Kelvin weeps

The Victorian age was the apogee of British scientific achievement.  William Thompson (Baron Kelvin) helped establish the laws of Thermodynamics.  Ernest (Lord) Rutherford discovered the radioactive halflife and pioneered work on the structure of the atom.  Rutherford's student Robert Boyle invented SONAR.  Charles Babbage invented the idea of a programmable computer.

When they look down on Blighty from uber-Scientist heaven, what do they see British science working on?  Cow farts:
The belching of cows causes methane to be produced, one of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Sir Paul McCartney, Lord Stern and a host of other celebrities have even suggested people should eat less meat and dairy to stop the problem.

However feeding cattle linseed can reduce the amount of methane by up to 40 per cent, according to studies presented at the British Society of Animal Science annual conference
Weep for the fall of a once great scientific tradition.

Hat tip: Rick, via email.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy 1911 Day ...

... to me:

It's a Citadel 1911A1-45CS, bought for Buy A Gun Day.  I kind of had my heart set on some flavor of 1911.

The problem with the 1911, of course, is that they're pretty large for concealed carry.  While the Springfield Armory model never failed to make me drool, something in the back of my head kept whispering that it was big - maybe too big to comfortably carry.  And so I found that I kept looking, and looking.

And then one day I stopped in at the local gun store, and they had this.  It's made by Rock Island, so it's on the low end, but it had quite a lot going for it:
  • It's solid.  Steel frame, feels a bit like a tank.  It's 2.2 lbs unloaded, and it's much smaller than a GI spec 1911.
  • Did I mention that it's small?  This has the normal 1911 thinness that I like, but it's also a bit less tall than GI spec and a lot shorter at less than 7½".  The voice in the back of my head whispered that I might indeed carry this.
  • It's stainless, which I prefer over blue (although this isn't a huge deal).
  • It has a good price point (Rock Island).

Sure, it's not a Colt, but you have to start somewhere, and the size and solidity seemed to make it worth taking a chance.  And so I did.

As to accuracy - it's a 1911.  First shot at 8 yards.  Needless to say, it shoots better than I do, although long time readers will know that doesn't say much.

Range Report when I get a chance to give it a real range day, and a good detail strip/cleaning.

Chicks and Guns

Maura writes about her first time at the range:
Hand in hand with these changes has been the sincere desire to break free from chains that bound me. Health concerns. Detrimental bad habits. Hurtful thought patterns. Fear. I’ve made many changes in my life in the past 5 years to better myself. I quit smoking. I’ve lost weight that held me back. I’ve accepted certains truths about myself rather than fight them tooth and nail.

Today is a big step in that direction. Facing a fear that has bound me for years: my fear of guns. 

Today, my husband is going to take me shooting.
Seems she had a good time

Southern Belle used to shoot, but hasn't for quite a while. She wanted to start again, and signed up for a shooting class.  Pretty good shooting there.

Isegoria points to an article on how IPSC shooter Athena Lee got started as a young girl.  McDonald's was involved.  Cool.

The Faux-Elite

David Foster has a quite interesting post at Chicago Boyz musing on why Americans so vocally are rejecting the traditional elite.  This is only one of many reasons that he posits, although it may be the best:
8)There is concern that those providing direction to institutions increasingly bear little of the burden for their own failures. This is especially true of government–particularly the legislature and the courts, where a bad decision will generally have no negative consequences whatsoever for the individuals making it and of those who run the K-12 government schools–but also to a disturbing extent in the business world, especially with regard to those corporations with close ties with government and those in the financial sector.
I would add that they often seem to have a reckless disregard for the results of their efforts, making the whole system open-loop (as opposed to closed-loop).  Feedbacks are what make systems robust, and it seems that the needed feedback for a true technocratic elite system are entirely broken.  The Organs of the State do not self correct.

But read the whole thing, which is good food for thought.  The comments, too, bring Teh Smart, for example:
Michael Kennedy Says:
In the Codevilla essay, he makes clear that the “ruling class” are self appointed and the credentials they use to separate themselves from the rest are increasingly suspect. I submit that I would be very proud of a child of mine who was accepted to Harvard or Yale. I would be more proud of one accepted to MIT or Cal Tech but that is another topic.

I would also be aware that my child would have many classmates who did not get there the way he or she did. What were Obama’s grades at Columbia ? There have been surveys of the knowledge held by seniors at Harvard and even some comparing freshmen and seniors. There has been some discussion over the year about grade inflation at schools like Harvard and some, like Vann Jones, gave the game away by saying how pleased he was to be accepted by Yale Law School because there were no grades.

The credentials of the ruling class are questionable. We see examples of startling gaps in knowledge. Do Austrians speak Austrian ? How do you pronounce corpsman ? Did FDR go on TV in 1929 to reassure the people after the stock market crash ?

Some of this is funny but where did these people get the idea that they are qualified to rule ?
In other words, the system is being gamed to a large extent.  And so, how can you call it an elite?  The situation brings to mind the (likely apocryphal) quote from Gandhi who, when asked what he thought of Western Civilization is said to have replied that would be very nice.

What's going on at Fukushima?

You'll be shocked to hear that the Press aren't reporting it right.  Seems there isn't any crisis at all, but the Press is either too ignorant or too eager for a ZOMGWE'REALLGOINGTODIE!!!!!1!!one!!! story that they're knowingly hyping a big, fat goose egg.

This is me, looking shocked.
If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed.  If you do read the newspaper, you're misinformed.
- Mark Twain

Monday, March 28, 2011


The new Obama Administration seemed determined to "reset" relations with Russia, which they claimed had been damaged by George W. Bush.  In early 2009, Secretary of State Clinton sent her Russian counterpart a "reset" button as a gift, and as an allegory for changed relations.

Except the State Department didn't use the right word:
Russian media have been poking fun at the US secretary of state over a translation error on a gift she presented to her Russian counterpart.

Hillary Clinton gave Sergei Lavrov a mock "reset" button, symbolising US hopes to mend frayed ties with Moscow.

But he said the word the Americans chose, "peregruzka", meant "overloaded" or "overcharged", rather than "reset".
At the time, people put this down as incompetence at State.  Now, it looks eerily prescient, as US-Russian relations are definitely overloaded:
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Monday attacks on forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi amounted to intervention in a civil war and were not backed by the U.N. resolution authorising no-fly zones.

In the latest Russian criticism of military action by the Western-led coalition, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the resolution passed by the U.N. Security Council on March 17 had the sole aim of protecting Libyan civilians.

"And yet there are reports -- and nobody denies them -- of coalition strikes on columns of Gaddafi's forces, reports about support for actions by the armed insurgents," Lavrov said. "There are clear contradictions here."

"We consider that intervention by the coalition in what is essentially an internal civil war is not sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council resolution," Lavrov said when asked about Libya at a news conference with the Kyrgyz foreign minister.
The Russians suspect that Obama played them for a fool, getting their cooperation in the UN Security Council for a very limited - no-fly zone only - effort which Obama then turned into a full on war kinetic military action.

In the future, we can expect this sort of "smart" diplomacy to garner peregruzka cooperation.  Smart.

Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot, or something.

Hat tip: Legal Insurrection.

If only we could get a technocratic elite in charge ...

What's quite remarkable is that the extremely well-educated Progressive Elites are so ignorant of the futility of their vision, as shown by history.  Consider the word mandarin:
1. A member of any of the nine ranks of high public officials in the Chinese Empire.
3. A member of an elite group, especially a person having influence or high status in intellectual or cultural circles.
You could describe the Technocratic Elite as mandarins.  But the term comes from the ancient Chinese empire, because it was run by a technocratic elite of the very well-educated.  So how did that work out for them?

Badly.  David Landes, in his indispensable (but clearly double-plus ungood reactionary Thought Crime) book The Wealth And Poverty Of Nations, spends considerable time on why China squandered a huge technological lead over the West.  His thesis is that it was the sense of self-assured superiority of the mandarin class that doomed it:
Such cultural triumphalism combined with petty downward tyranny made China a reluctant improver and a bad learner.  Improvements would have challenged comfortable orthodoxies and entailed insubordination; the same for imported knowledge and ideas.  In effect, what was there to learn?  This rejection of the foreign was the more anxious for the very arrogance that justified it.  That is the paradox of the superiority complex: it is intrinsically insecure and brittle.  Those who cherish it need it and fear nothing so much as contradiction.  (The French today so trumpet the superiority of their language that they tremble at the prospect of a borrowed word, especially if it comes from English.)
We see this in the reaction to challenges to their orthodoxy, whether from Ronald Reagan, Fox News, the Tea Parties, or Sarah Palin.  In all cases, the rejection of the challenges by the mandarinate was contemptuous, and in every way mirrored the rejection by the Chinese mandarins of western learning.

The current Elite's superiority complex is on display.

But the Elite is also ignorant of how a technocratic system functions over the long-term.  The Middle Kingdom had a huge technological lead over the West: Gunpowder, paper, movable type and printing, mechanical clocks: all were invented in China, and were either lost or became essentially toys there.  Meanwhile, they were all perfected in the West, who leveraged them into world-dominating power.  Why?  Landes again:
And yet the Chinese never learned to make modern guns.  Worse yet, having known and used cannon as early as the thirteenth century, they had let the knowledge and skill slip away.  Their city walls had emplacements for cannon, but no cannon.  Who needed them?  No enemy of China had them.  But China did have enemies, without and within.  No European nation would have been deterred from armament by enemy weakness; when it came to death, Europeans maximized.  European technology was also incremental: each gain led to further gain.  The Chinese record of step-forward, step-back, signaled an entirely different process.
It was a process created by the dynamic of the mandarin class.  It's a fallacy to think that a technological elite will ever have unanimity of opinion; to think that there will always - or ever - be a single technical solution that is self-evidently obvious to everybody.  In the Real World, factions form, and persist.  The political dynamic of gaining and keeping power, of rewarding your friends and punishing your opponents belies the dispassionate technocratic game.  And this explains essentially the entirety of the Chinese step-forward, step-back performance.

Perhaps the best example of this is the disappearance of the astonishing Ming dynasty treasure fleets:
Between 1405 and 1433, the Chinese Ming dynasty sent a series of exploration voyages to southeast Asia, India, and even Africa. While the Portuguese under Prince Henry struggled down the western coast of Africa in their tiny caravels, huge Chinese treasure ships sailed to Calicut and Mogadishu.

And then they were gone, as if they had never existed. Why?

The historian David Landes spends considerable time on this question in his indispensable The Wealth And Poverty Of Nations. The Chinese voyages differed in one critical way from those of Diaz and Columbus: the Chinese voyages were motivated by a desire to glorify the Middle Kingdom, while the European ones were motivated by the desire for filthy lucre:

In the 1430s a new emperor reigned in Peking, one who "knew not Joseph." A new, Confucian crowd completed for influence, mandarins who scorned and distrusted commerce (for them, the only true source of wealth was agriculture) and detested the eunuchs who had planned and carried out the great voyages. For some decades, the two groups vied for influence, the balance shifting now one way, not the other. But fiscality and the higher Chinese morality were on the Confucian side. The maritime campaign had strained the empire's finances and weakened its authority over a population bled white by taxes and corvee levies.


So, after some decades of tugging and hauling, of alternating celebration and commemoration on the one hand, of contumely and repudiation on the other, the decision was taken not only to cease from maritime exploration but to erase the very memory of what had gone before lest later generations be tempted to renew the folly.
But of course, we'd never see that sort of factionalism here, right?  We've advanced so much in learning and wisdom that you'd never see a clash of interests within our Progressive Elite, right?  Oops:
Basically, the SWPLs can’t have it both ways. On one hand they want government run by experts and they want a hiring process that results in experts being hired. On the other hand, they want minorities employed. They’ve squared the circle by hiring experts to do the work (I work with six or seven agencies on a regular basis and our meetings are always all white or white and Asian) and hiring blacks to do make-work. As government positions require more technical expertise – and all the new ones do – they end up requiring that white people occupy the positions. An ironic consequence of government by expert, no? Perhaps I’m the only one laughing at the phenomenon, but I’m doing enough laughing for everyone.
We're laughing, too.  Strange that Progressives hate minorities, but maybe it fits, since they hate poor people, too.

That noise you hear is the sound of Progressives' brains exploding, or would be if they were intellectually honest.  Fortunately for them, many seem to be perfectly comfortable keeping two contradictory thoughts in their heads at the same time.  Or more than two.  That's one impressive intellectual display, right there.  But remember, somewhere in Texas a village is missing its idiot.  Or something.

Note to Progressives: it's good to read.  You might want to add some history to your reading list ...

Quote of the Day - Don't just do something, stand there! edition

This is pretty hard to argue with:
The primary activity of government is to trade for favors with favored insiders to protect against outsiders. Monarchs do it, Republics do it, everyone does it. Only cases we don't see it are cases of benign neglect like Hong Kong, where locals were not allowed to make said deals, and Britain also made no such deals, because they were ignoring the colony. It's worth noting that the clear greatest economic success stories of the past 100 years were both ex-British colonies that were largely ignored politically...effectively rulerless systems ignored from afar.
Of course, this means that the Elite would have to give up regressive policies that transfer wealth from the poor and middle classes to fund cool SWPL stuff like High Speed Rail.  Can't have that.  Excelsior, Progressives!  Rents 'R' us!

Why husbands can never be cool to their wives

I love the way the kid asks her why she's laughing.  The only thing that would make this video better is if he said "Hey, hold mah beer ..." 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Today's Must Read

This is terrifying:

The recent adventure into Libya, or shall I say ‘above Libya,’ is the first time in living memory we’ve seen the will of one man, even an American president, order and carry out an American military mission without even bothering to ask the American congress if it minds his messing about in a foreign country. In essence, one man in one day set in motion the power of the American military without any of the barest of rituals that normally come before. For conservatives to say that he is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief is to miss the point that he is much more a commander now than he was a week ago.

Rituals are important in government as are precedents. In bypassing the rituals, Obama has set a precedent, one that will be repeated next time under an even flimsier pretext. One of the goals in bombing Libya was not just to use military power against some unpopular dictator, but to test if he could use military power -- on a weekend and while out of town -- at will. Conservatives might ask if the Congress will ignore and the military will obey un-Constitutional orders while missing the fact that they just did.
There is much, much more there.  Read it, and think about the ATF gunrunning mess.  Accident or on purpose?  And what motivation would be at work?

I hope he's wrong.  I'm not sure that he is.  But his warning not to misunderestimate Obama sure sounds right.

This seems useful

Isegoria (you do read him every day, right?) ponders the tradeoff we're all forced to make about range time: none of us can get there as often as we'd like (or would like to be able to afford) vs. dry firing simply doesn't offer the same level of practice.

But he found an interesting third way:
Patent lawyer and “practical” shooter Mike Hughes decided to develop an alternative, the SIRT training pistol, a replica Glock with an auto-resetting trigger and a pair of lasers, a red one activated by taking up slack and “prepping” the trigger and a bright green one activated by breaking the shot
More discussion and video at his post.  You'll want to RTWT.


The Obama Administration's foreign policy, explained.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Honor Guard

The Veteran's Cemetery in Santa Fe is beautiful, with well-kept grounds and a spectacular view of the mountains.  The Veterans' Affairs staff there is helpful beyond belief.  But most impressive of all was the Honor Guard.

This must be a tough duty, spending all day, every day welcoming home fallen veterans.  It must take a special sort of personality to be continually surrounded by grieving families, and to take that grief as an inspiration to perfect the ceremony.  The respect they showed - especially to Mom - was very moving.

It's strange, but after months leading up to Dad's death, and three weeks now to process the emotions, that I wasn't ready for the emotions that washed over me when the guard slow-saluted Mom, and then knelt down to present her the flag.
This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service.

The Honor Guard has a hard duty, and one that may seem unimportant.  After all, it's just one more old man leaving his grieving family behind.  The kindness and respect they devoted speaks volumes of them, and the Republic.
This is the final test of a gentleman: his respect for those who can be of no possible service to him.
- William Lyon Phelps

Tim McGraw - Live Like You Were Dying

Funerals are not for the late departed, but for the living.  They teach a terrible - and terribly important - lesson on finality.  The grave's a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace.

The lesson is for those of us left behind.  The lesson says that we will all of us end here one day.  The lesson whispers to us: live.

I was fortunate that Dad lingered so.  It let me visit many times, so much that it became hard to balance normal daily life with the visits.  Ten years from now I won't remember the difficulties, just the visits.  Every day was a gift.

But the lesson whispers to me, that now life goes on.  That every day is still a giftLive.  Like you were dying.

Live Like You Were Dying (Songwriters: Craig Wiseman, Tim Nichols)
He said: "I was in my early forties,
"With a lot of life before me,
"An' a moment came that stopped me on a dime.
"I spent most of the next days,
"Looking at the x-rays,
"An' talking 'bout the options an' talkin’ ‘bout sweet time."
I asked him when it sank in,
That this might really be the real end?
How’s it hit you when you get that kind of news?
Man whatcha do?

An' he said: "I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
"I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
"And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
"And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying."
An' he said: "Some day, I hope you get the chance,
"To live like you were dyin'."

He said "I was finally the husband,
"That most the time I wasn’t.
"An' I became a friend a friend would like to have.
"And all of a sudden goin' fishin’,
"Wasn’t such an imposition,
"And I went three times that year I lost my Dad.
"Well, I finally read the Good Book,
"And I took a good long hard look,
"At what I'd do if I could do it all again,
"And then:

"I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
"I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
"And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
"And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying."
An' he said: "Some day, I hope you get the chance,
"To live like you were dyin'."

Like tomorrow was a gift,
And you got eternity,
To think about what you’d do with it.
An' what did you do with it?
An' what can I do with it?
An' what would I do with it?

"Sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
"I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
"And then I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
"And I watched Blue Eagle as it was flyin'."
An' he said: "Some day, I hope you get the chance,
"To live like you were dyin'."

"To live like you were dyin'."
"To live like you were dyin'."
"To live like you were dyin'."
"To live like you were dyin'."
Like every day is a gift.

(Image source)

I'm not living in the future anymore, it ses

Last night, the WiFi in the hotel worked fine. Now it doesn't.

Posts later from Mom's house.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, March 25, 2011

About the world's oldest joke ...

Rick emails to point out that archaeologists have unearthed the world's oldest joke:
(Reuters) - The world's oldest recorded joke has been traced back to 1900 BC and suggests toilet humor was as popular with the ancients as it is today.
It's a fart joke.  Duh.  Only men knew how to write back then.  Of course it was about farts.

Instructions for cleaning up a broken light bulb

As a public service, offered for my readers.

Cleaning up broken incandescent bulbs: Sweep up the broken glass.  Throw the broken glass away.  Be careful - broken glass is sharp.

Cleaning up broken Compact Fluorescent bulbs:  Read the instructions from the EPA.  Don't forget to read all three pages.  Remember, CFL bulbs contain mercury, so if you're going to break any, remove them from your children's rooms before breaking.

Maybe we can send all our broken CFL bulbs to the members of Congress who voted to ban the perfectly good incandescent ones.  That way, they won't pollute the landfills.

News you can use

Bob at The Drawn Cutlass is back from his blogging hiatus!  This corner of the Intarw3bz was missing some snark while he was gone.  Glad to see him back.

He was one of my daily reads like forever.  If you haven't checked him out,you're likely a little low on your USDA daily recommended snark ...

I need one of these for my secret lair

A totally steampunk door that fits a standard size door frames:

Whether secret lab or undersea lair, our audacious steampunk accoutriments suit the most demanding of environs. Door & Trim fits on a standard 30"x80" interior door, or functions as general wall covering when left as a whole. All are cast in durable .090 ABS plastic with a depth from 1/4" to 1".

Hmmm ... maybe instead of a secret lair, I need a secret undersea lair.

They have a bunch of them, all in the $100 range.  Want.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Overheard on the Jetway

We're boarding our flight at DFW.  The Jetway isn't your usual through-the-door-to-the-plane straight shot.  It's surprisingly twisty and turny.
Me (to #2 Son): This is a maze of twisty passages, all alike.

Me: That's from what may be the oldest computer game.

The guy behind us: "ADVENT".  That was an awesome game.  We used to play it on the VAX.
J. Random Guy at the airport is horning in on our Techno-Geekery.  Wow.


The setting: Flying from Atlanta to Albuquerque, sometime in 1998. I'm flying with the young #1 Son and the very young (2 year old) #2 Son.

In those days, Giants still strode the earth, and airlines fed you. I had children's meals for the kids. The flight attendant brought them first, which was a nice touch.

Ah, hot dogs, I said to myself. Good. They'll eat that. My kids were generally good about what they'd eat, but every now and then something would go off the rails - for example, they'd never touch Mac and cheese. Hot dogs got the Borepatch seal of approval.

Except this time, we hit a long stretch of bumpy air. #2 Son got sick.  On me. Ah, the pleasures of fatherhood.

Of course, I'd checked the suitcases, because I had all I could handle with the stroller, snack bag, and other implements of destruction. Of course I had a change of clothes for him; I just didn't have anything for me. Plus, we changed planes in Dallas.

Good thing they have Golf Shops in DFW terminal. I bought a polo shirt that said "Dallas", which got me to Albuquerque. It was a sad day when the shirt ripped and we threw it away.

The setting: Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport, sometime in 1999. #1 Son has been writing letters to his grandparents all summer. The deal was that I'd take him to the Balloon Festival. We'd ridden the MARTA subway to the airport, which was a mistake - there was construction, a big delay, and we got to the airport after the flight had left.

But this was in the days when Giants strode the earth, and before the airlines were all going bankrupt. The gate agent took one look at him, holding back the tears (plus a glance at my 100,000+ miles the year before). She asked him where he was going, and he said to see Grandpa.

She got us on a late flight, and bumped us up to First Class. It really didn't make much difference to him - he fell asleep pretty quickly - but it was a very nice diving catch by the American Airlines gate agent.

The Setting: Today, sitting next to #2 Son in DFW. It's very odd flying this route to Albuquerque knowing that Dad isn't there to meet me at the airport.

I'm glad to have the company.

On not learning

The biggest problem for people who believe that Ivy League elites are best positioned to run things, because they're like really smart and everything, is that reality keeps intruding.  And the elites keep not learning:
Most American interventions come from two closely related childish fantasies: first, that one side in a tribal war is all good and the other all bad; and second, that the weaker tribe are the “underdogs” and therefore the good guys. Just look at those two ideas and you’ll see that they’re a series of disasters waiting to happen.
Read the whole thing, and weep.

Quote of the Day

Aretae brings teh smart:
Liberal: The right laws can get us good results
Conservative: the right leadership can get us good results
Libertarian: Government activity can't get us good results.

The Brown Truck of Happiness

It came to my house, and dropped off ammo.  With no licensing or permitting by the government.  The air smells of freedom (and flowers).

Steve at asked me several months ago if I'd do a review for them; unfortunately, the last few months have been pretty busy.  Things are settling down some now, although we're off to Dad's funeral.

Look for a review early next week, but if you too live in a Free State (or are duly licensed and permitted by your non-Free State government Overlords), you might go check them out.

In the meantime, posting will be sporadic.  And thanks to Steve for his patience and generosity.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The "Smart" never ends ...

First it was "renewable solar power" modeled on Spain's disastrous boondoggle.

Then it was "Smart Diplomacy" that's fracturing NATO.

Now it's High Speed rail to "keep up with China".  Oops:
China’s massive high-speed rail network is being called unsafe, unprofitable and corrupt.

The Chinese Railways Ministry Chief, Liu Zhijun was in charge of the construction of the railway, spanning almost 8,100 miles across China and reportedly costing $395 billion U.S. dollars.

Liu was fired In February. He’s now behind bars and under investigation for “severe violations of discipline.” During his seven years as chief, he embezzled a personal fortune of $120 billion U.S. dollars.

Corruption is not the only problem plaguing China’s railways. Experts say shoddy materials were used to cut costs. According to a source for the New York Times, the concrete bases for the tracks were so cheaply made, with insufficient hardening agents that the tracks would warp in five years.
Oh, and the tickets are so expensive that the trains are empty.  Boy, you put enough Ivy League grads in positions of power, and things just happen.

Oh yeah, a village in Texas is missing its idiot, or something.  Glad we got rid of all those dim-bulbs and got Top Men on things.

Hat tip: The Antiplanner.

Aires wept

I guess this is what happens when do-we-shoot-or-not decisions get made by bureaucratic infighting.
We are the most powerful nation on earth. No external power, no terrorist organization, can defeat us. But we can defeat ourselves by getting caught in a quagmire.
- George Soros

A Haiku

It's spring in Atlanta, and that means that it's time to visit the Botanical Garden.  I went last weekend, and it was spectacular.

Cumulus petals
all through the yard remind me
that I need Zirtec
The gardens are a lot bigger than when I lived here in the late 1990s.  Their display proves the rule that if you're going to plant tulips, plant them by the battalion, not by the squad.

I must admit, some are a bit frou-frou for my taste, although they are admittedly showy::

Half of Atlanta was there, but I guess there's a reason for that.  Just bring your allergy pills.


There is something dark the the soul.  Compare and contrast:

Part 1: the daughter of the Leipzig burgomaster in April, 1945.

The end of Das tausendjährigen Reiches was hard for Nazi true believers, their families, and those in the path of the Red Army:
This suicidal impulse was not confined to the Nazi elite. Ordinary Germans in untold numbers responded to the prospect of defeat in the same way. At the Berlin Philharmonic’s last performance, which coincidentally but not too surprisingly was Götterdämmerung, the audience was given potassium cyanide pills. In April 1945 there were 3,881 recorded suicides in Berlin, nearly twenty times the figure for March. Untold numbers of victims of rape by the Soviet Red Army also committed suicide, and news of violence and rape further propelled mass suicides in villages all over Germany.
It was a wave of death, washing over the civilian population of Germany.  You might say that it was a mass impulse.

Part 2.  The mob: the flip side of the coin.

In Seattle in 2001, a 26-year-old woman who had recently ended a relationship held up traffic for a little too long as she considered the implications of leaping to her death. As motorists began to back-up on the bridge and become irate, they started yelling “Jump, bitch, jump!” until she did.
You Are Not So Smart looks at why police rope off the areas around someone who might jump; it's not to keep spectators from becoming an impromptu landing pad, it's to keep them out of shouting distance.  The crowd members have a tendency of losing their individuality, at which point the crowd becomes a mob.

Read both, and think especially on this part:
The risk of a spontaneous cheering section goading a person into killing themselves is high when people in a group feel anonymous and are annoyed or angry. It only takes one person to get the crowd going. Those are the three ingredients – anonymity, group size and arousal. If you lose your sense of self, feel the power of a crowd and then get slammed by a powerful cue from the environment – your individuality may evaporate.
Then think on the Internet, and anonymous blog comments.  Let's remember, and keep our humanity.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hey Judge, hold mah beer ...


Time wasters

Everybody knows that Wikipedia is nearly the ultimate time waster.  I also have to give honorable mention to the Jargon File, which some geeks will recognize and the rest should go read.  This is Hacker* ancient lore, and by ancient, I mean really old: I have a printed copy from 1993, and it was up to version 2.9.4 by then.  It's the condensed "Oral Tradition" from the early days of programming.

For example, I used a toss-away line in an earlier post: You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.  This is from the ADVENT computer game, sometimes called Adventure or Colossal Cave.  The game is so old - from the early 1970s - that it ran on Mainframes in FORTRAN.

The Jargon file not only describes the game (as does the Wikipedia page), but puts it into a "hacker lore" context (as the Wikipedia page does not):
This game defined the terse, dryly humorous style since expected in text adventure games, and popularized several tag lines that have become fixtures of hacker-speak: “A huge green fierce snake bars the way!” “I see no X here” (for some noun X). “You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.” “You are in a little maze of twisty passages, all different.” The ‘magic words’ xyzzy and plugh also derive from this game.
(A word to the wise: xyzzy and plugh are exceptionally bad choices for a password ...)

Adapting this to the Gun Control debate, an appropriately hackish reply to suggested new "common sense" laws would be I see no 'common sense' here.  Old graybeard gunnie geeks will smile when they hear this.

Many entries show the love of punning.  For example, everybody's heard of optimal.  Optimal solutions are the ideal towards which we all strive.  Strangely, The Jargon file does not include this, but does offer its antonym:
pessimal: /pes im l/, adj.

[Latin-based antonym for optimal] Maximally bad. “This is a pessimal situation.” Also pessimize vt. To make as bad as possible. These words are the obvious Latin-based antonyms for optimal and optimize, but for some reason they do not appear in most English dictionaries, although ‘pessimize’ is listed in the OED.
There is a great richness of techno-geekery preserved here.  This entry is perhaps richer than some but gives you the exact flavor:

scram switch: n.

[from the nuclear power industry] An emergency-power-off switch (see Big Red Switch), esp. one positioned to be easily hit by evacuating personnel. In general, this is not something you frob lightly; these often initiate expensive events (such as Halon dumps) and are installed in a dinosaur pen for use in case of electrical fire or in case some luckless field servoid should put 120 volts across himself while Easter egging. (See also molly-guard, TMRC.)

Scram” was in origin a backronym for “Safety Cut Rope Axe Man” coined by Enrico Fermi himself. The story goes that in the earliest nuclear power experiments the engineers recognized the possibility that the reactor wouldn't behave exactly as predicted by their mathematical models. Accordingly, they made sure that they had mechanisms in place that would rapidly drop the control rods back into the reactor. One mechanism took the form of ‘scram technicians’. These individuals stood next to the ropes or cables that raised and lowered the control rods. Equipped with axes or cable-cutters, these technicians stood ready for the (literal) ‘scram’ command. If necessary, they would cut the cables, and gravity would expeditiously return the control rods to the reactor, thereby averting yet another kind of core dump.
But to me, the historical value is the best part.  The "don't do this, m'kay?" captured in Scratch Monkey should be required reading for all beginning engineers.

Eric S. Raymond maintained the file for quite a long time; he doesn't appear to be much involved these days, although his Unix Koans of Master Foo are worth your while.

But full warning: if you're an IT geek, this is a time sink of epic proportions.  You're welcome.

* Hacker is used in the original meaning of a clever programmer, not in the popular usage of an Internet Bad Guy.  Note: people thinking of trying out "hacking" in the modern sense need to read Master Foo and the Script Kiddie.  Just sayin'.

The Luftwaffe's Intercontinental bomber

What a magical world Wikipedia is*.  Yesterday's post about the Nazi B-17 led to a German bomber which may have made a test flight to New York City.

Hermann Göring knew in the 1930s that the Luftwaffe might come into conflict with the United States, and this would require a very long range bomber.  He proposed, and Hitler approved, the Amerika project to develop such an airframe.  Ultimately, a handful of Junkers Ju 390 bomber prototypes were built.

This was a much bigger challenge that the US faced with its B-17, or even the longer range B-24.  Neither of those were designed to make the Gandar-Berlin run.  Even the B-29 wasn't up for this, even as advanced as it was.  It took until 1949 and the B-36 before a bomber with true Intercontinental (10,000+ mile range) capability.

And the US had all sorts of experience designing long range aircraft.  The Germans didn't, although this seems to have been a credible effort.  The Ju 390 had a nominal range of 6,000 miles, much better than either the B-17 and B-24, or even the B-29.

The difference is that the Ju 390 was only one of many German "vanity" projects: ingenious ideas that were well executed in prototype form, but never seeing mass production.  By contrast, the US made 12,000 B-17s, 18,000 B-24s, and almost 4000 B-29s.  The Germans built a thousand times fewer of their big bombers.

Ultimately, it's a good thing that Albert Speer never was able to shut down all of the distracting experimental programs.  Had he been able to do so, and focus on large quantities of fewer designs (Panther Tanks, FW-190 fighters, etc), it's likely that the war would have been even longer and more costly.

* A maze of twisty passages, all alike and yet all different.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Luftwaffe's B-17

From the you don't see that every day files, the Germans captured at least one B-17 Flying Fortress.  Operated by the KG 200 special Luftwaffe unit, it was perhaps intended to be used for long range reconnaissance.  Instead, it was flown by its Luftwaffe crew to Spain in 1944 where it (and they) were interned by the Spanish government.

The Germans also captured a B-24 Liberator bomber, which was for some reason flown to join an Allied B-24 raid in February 1945:
On a February 1945 741st BS mission against Vienna, "Before reaching the target, a 'phantom' B-24 joined our formation.…The P-51s [of the Tuskegee Airmen] came in and over the radio…the German phantom pilot said he was from the 55th Wing and got lost. But the 55th Wing wasn't flying that day and the plane had no tail markings. The fighter pilot squadron leader gave him some bursts from his guns and warned the phantom to turn back. He added, 'You will be escorted.' The German pilot replied that he could make it alone. The P-51 pilot said: 'You are going to be escorted whether you want it or not. You're going to have two men on your tail all the way back and don't try to land in Yugoslavia.'…The phantom left with his escort and we heard nothing further from the event."
I must say that this is one of the strangest stories I've ever heard.

Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal...

Elmo  Escariot has an idea that is so filled with Win that it hurts.  But both barrels of a .470 Nitro Express?  That hurts ...

I'm in.  I even own a Tux, although I'd have too shave for the pencil thin mustache look ...
I yearned mightily to enter this fascinating yet repellent city, and besought the bearded man to land me at the stone pier by the huge carven gate Akariel; but he gently denied my wish, saying: "Into Thalarion, the City of a Thousand Wonders, many have passed but none returned. Therein walk only daemons and mad things that are no longer men, and the streets are white with the unburied bones of those who have looked upon the eidolon Lathi, that reigns over the city."
H. P. Lovecraft, The White Ship

Via Kahr40.

An analogy, in four acts

Act 1.  An 18 year old college student experiences freedom for the first time, after living at home.  He goes a little crazy, with all night raves, blowing his textbook budget on beer and fast women, and having a ball.  And then after a couple months, he discovers to his horror that he can't pay the bill.  He calls Dad, who (a) pays his bills and (b) makes him move into the basement so he'll study.  He hates this.

Act 2.  The European Union, having watched the disintegration of the Soviet Empire, cuts their military to the bone, to spend the dough on beer and fast women vote-buying entitlement programs.  After a couple years, they notice hundreds of thousands of Europeans being killed in the Balkans.  They call Dad the United States, who (a) plaster Serbia with JDAMS and (b) stop listening to the EU on all matters pertaining to, err, everything.  They hate this.

Act 3.  The Western Elites, having seen the rise of a "End-of-History" world dominated by a Superpower they think they can control, go all "Security Council" on Iraq in 1991.  After a decade of no-fly zones and Our Boys getting shot at every day (plus 9/11), they realize that they don't actually, you know, control the Superpower.  They scream bloody murder as Dad the Superpower goes all Medieval on Sadaam's butt, (a) with JDAMs, (b) with the 3rd ID and the Marines, and (c) pretty much ignores their ZOMG-IT'S-A-QUAGMIRE-WE'RE-ALL-GONNA-DIEEEEE shrieking until things looks pretty stable.  They hate this.

Act 4.  The Arab League, having blown all their petro-cash like Charlie Sheen, sees one of their own shooting his people down like dogs.  They beg Dad the United States to pleasepleasepleaseplease make the Bad Things stop.  When the U.S. responds with (a) Cruise Missiles and (b) other 'splody stuff they get all "Not like this.  I hate this!" and stamp their feet.  Or something.

[U.S.A. exeunt]

I'm not sure if this is a Comedy, or a Tragedy ....

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In which I find that I am an idiot ...

We've know that for a while - don't think I don't hear you muttering that ...

So I do a blogroll update today, and forget to add Johnnyreb™ from Rebel Yell.  This isn't just FAIL, it's a trifecta of FAIL:

Fail #1: I stole the greatest firearms-related song since the 1812 Overture* from him.

Fail #2: He brings the Smart about whether you should carry with a round in the chamber.

Fail #3: I promised him on Friday that I'd add him to the blogroll, and forgot.

Fortunately, Southern Belle brings news of bigger idiots than me.  Yowzer.  That's stupid.  Thanks, Belle, for returning the spring to my step!

And it goes without saying that you should all be reading both of them.

* The 1812 Overture is scored for artillery and Orchestra.  That's tough to beat.

Ah, the "World's Greatest Debating Society"

So Senator Bingaman (D, N.M.) says that high gas prices aren't the result of either the incredibly slow (read: immobile) permitting process for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, or because of Cap and Trade.  So what makes the gas prices high?
He closed by arguing that only reducing the country’s overall dependence on foreign oil would result in long-term relief at the pump.
Actually, this is not half bad analysis for a Senator.  The Senate, as you will recall from The Devil's Dictionary, is an august body of distinguished gentlemen, charged with high responsibilities and misdemeanors.  So score one for the Senator for having at least a shadow of a clue.

And then he keeps flapping his yap.  The solution to foreign oil?
“First, we need to enable further expansion of our renewable fuel industry, which is currently facing infrastructure and financing constraints,” he said.  “Second, we need to move forward the timeline for market penetration of electric vehicles.  Finally, we need to make sure we use natural gas vehicles in as many applications as make sense based on that technology.”
So let's replace expensive imported petroleum with more expensive "renewable" fuels.  Let's replace expensive imported petroleum with $50,000 electric cars that go 25 miles before they need to be recharged.  The Natural Gas idea isn't bad, but that means he scores a 33%, for not even a Gentleman's D.  It's a flat out F, as in Fail.

What did Senator Dim Bulb leave out of the mix, for reducing imported petroleum?  increasing the number of permits to drill in the Gulf?  Hello?  Bueller?

Sigh.  An energy production chokepoint caused by the Fed.Gov, leading to higher prices (or preventing the mitigation of same; it amounts to the same thing).  The solution: Democratic Party environmental policy!

Senator Bingaman's education clearly did not include The Devil's Dictionary, which would have helped him avoid his current oratorical style:
SOPHISTRY, n. The controversial method of an opponent, distinguished from one's own by superior insincerity and fooling.
His insincerity is superior, at least.

Blogroll updates

Via email, Murphy barks that he has me on his blogroll.  I must confess that I have quite the soft spot in my heart for German Shepherd dogs.  But while my Jack was smart enough to figure out how to open doors, he never quite got the hang of how to get people to toss Mardi Gras beads at you.  I guess I never hard the heart to tell him that he didn't have what it takes ...

Also, I must be getting old.  They say that two things happen when you get old: you start to forget things, and I can't remember what the other is.  Well, I must have forgotten to add Excels At Nothing to the blogroll here.  Nancy's even cooking up springtime with Asparagus in French Rolls, which look completely yummy.  Plus 80 caliber charcoal burners - what's not to like?

I followed a Sitemeter referral back to The Kodiak Files, where the picture he has at the top of his blog makes me drool.  But he's not just a, err, pretty face - he brings good sense (especially for Murphy's Law, above):
We have always considered dogs as part of our family. My dog always goes where ever I go. I have even planned for my dogs in case TSHTF. Dogs are one of the most versatile tools a person can have in a survival situation. Dogs were one of the first domesticated animals and are called Man's best friend for a reason. A good dog can hunt, track, retrieve, carry supplies, they are good company, and can be trained to protect both people and property. In my opinion most dogs more productive than many of the people I know.

That is why I have packed a B.O.B for my dog.
Good advice, right there.  If you have a four footed family member, you'll want to RTWT.

Blogbrother PISSED is now blogging at The Feral Irishman.  He finds cool stuff, like Double Chocolate Vodka (does your Bug Out Bag have one?).  Plus, he beat me to Sonic Charmer's outstanding smackdown of the anti-war left.  The real definition of "an expert" seems to be someone who's five minutes ahead of PISSED.  Not so easy to do, it seems.

And last but not least, many of you have run across Bob Owens of Confederate Yankee.  Bob also runs a shooting-focused blog, Bob's Gun Counter.  Interesting stuff - for example, the old Russian armory at Tula seems to be privately owned now.  Cool.  Thanks for the blogroll, Bob.

Welcome to the Borepatch blogroll, everyone!  And the usual note: if you have a link up to me and I haven't noticed, please send me an email or leave a comment.

I'm afraid I told you so

It seems that everyone's in full-frontal mockery mode about the Usual Suspects' reaction to Obama's "Civilize 'em with a Krag" moment.  I don't have much to add here; I don't think we have any business blowing up Libyan stuff - there's certainly no casus belli that I can see - but it seems pretty obvious that Obama isn't driving events here.  He's reacting to pressure from the Europeans, from the UN, from Hilary Clinton, from everyone.

He's changing his mind again.  I guess there's nothing wrong with changeable opinions, even at the extreme.  Even a Bill Clinton style "my only firm opinion is that what's good for Bill Clinton is what's best to do" gives us a certain amount of predictability.  We (and the rest of the world) can actually make plans about the future based on this.

That's not what we've got here, and I'm kind of sad to say that I told you so a year and a half ago.  It's quite disturbing to revisit this old post and not see anything of import that needs updating.  I sure wish it weren't so.

-------------------- Unready, 2 October 2009 --------------------

The Battle of Maldon is probably the second oldest epic poem in the English language (only Beowulf is older). It tells the tale of Earl Britnoth, who fell in battle against the invading Vikings in 991 AD. The poem is so old that it is in Old English, the still Germanic root of our current language. J.R.R. Tolkein was a scholar of Anglo-Saxon literature, and published a translation of the poem.

A story this old only survives if it speaks to something deep in the soul of the people of the time. What spoke to them was how Britnoth's hearth companions - his bodyguard, his huskarls - fought to the death over their slain lord's body. Despite the victory, the Viking army was so mauled that it sailed for home. People remembered their sacrifice because it stood in stark contrast to the cowardly actions of the king.

The 970s were the high water mark of the Anglo-Saxon empire. King Edgar was overlord - Emperor, really - of lesser kings in a united Britain. The realm was powerful, feared, and so at peace.

Until Ethelred the Unready. Coming to the throne as a boy in 979 when his brother Edward was murdered, he had to rely on advisers to defend his kingdom during the 980s. It was a brutal era, and it didn't take long for predictors to start stalking the weakened kingdom.

Ethelred means "noble counsel", from the root raed (council, advice). The Anglo-Saxons were great lovers of puns, and it was gallows humor that gave his nickname: unraed - "no council" - from which we get Unready.
Ethelred! Ethelred!
Spent his royal life in bed;
one shoe off and one shoe on,
greatly loved by everyone.
Ethelred couldn't make up his mind - he couldn't formulate a plan and stick to it. And so he dithered: strong for a time until he met some minor difficulty, then weak when he could have pressed his enemies and won. They smelled blood, and what had started in the 970s as small plunder raids turned into all out invasions by Viking armies intent on inflicting the maximum damage possible.

They were after Danegeld - a ransom for them to go away. Rather than doing their own plundering, they got Ethelred to do it for them: collect taxes to pay them off. The problem, of course is well known. Once you pay the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane. Ethelred found the price kept rising: 10,000 pounds (992), 16,000 (994), 24,000 (1002), 36,000 (1007), 48,000 (1012). At this point, the Vikings wanted the whole prize, and Ethelred had to flee to France the next year.

His cruelty - such as his order to kill all male Danes in his kingdom in 1002 - was something his people could tolerate; indeed, it was a cruel time. His fecklessness was a different story, because he couldn't provide what all leaders must: victory. He couldn't win. Coming to the throne too young, he never learned how to lead.

We're seeing this today, in the Oval Office. The Obama administration is long on promises, but short on victories. They rammed the "stimulus" through Congress (we can blame the Bush administration for the Bank bailout), but since then their agenda has stalled. Cap and Trade is languishing in committee, unlikely to pass. His Health care plan is a shambles, with five competing plans and a fragmented Democratic party that smells defeat in the 2010 elections. We see the echo of Ethelred here: no mandate to buy insurance (candidate Obama), a mandate that people must buy it (today), a required "public option" (April), no required public option (today).

His foreign policy is a disaster: retreat from the Russians (no missile defense in eastern Europe), no sanctions for Iran (even the French are disgusted), retreat from victory in Afghanistan, unable to convince the International Olympic Committee to pick Chicago.

The more people see him - at home and abroad - the less they fear him. Like Ethelred, he may have a ruthless streak, but in October - what should be the high water mark of his power and influence - he seems unready. He thinks too highly of himself but he doesn't know how to accomplish his goals, he keeps changing his goals, his enemies are increasingly confident, and he surrounds himself with unraed - bad council.

We've seen this story before, and it doesn't end well.
þa wearð afeallen þæs folces ealdor, Æþelredes eorl;
Then was the folk’s prince fallen,
Ethelred’s earl. All saw there,
his hearth-companions, that their lord lay.
Then valiant thegns went forth there,
men undaunted eagerly hastened:
they all wished, then, one of two things—
to leave life or loved one avenge.
Britnoth's headless body was brought back to Ely Cathedral, where he lies to this day. On his tomb is carved BRITHNOTHUS, NORTHUMBRIORUM DUX, PRAELIO CAESUS A DANIS A.D. DCCCCXCI. "Britnoth, Duke of Northumbria. He fell in battle against the Danes in the Year of Our Lord 991".

Sacrificed by a feckless leader. May we fare better.

The right to keep and bear Canon

I was looking at garden statues (don't ask), and in the maze of twisty Intarw3bz passages, I stumbled across this:

It's a Model 1841 12 pounder.  Want.

Alas, it's quite spendy, so it's unlikely that one of these will grace Camp Borepatch anytime soon.  Still, I quite like Mr. Steen's attitude:

OPEN Most days about 9 or 10 Occasionally as early as 7, But SOMEDAYS as late as 12 or 1

WE CLOSE about 5:30 or 6 Occasionally about 4 or 5, But Sometimes as late as 11 or 12

SOMEDAYS and afternoons, we aren't here at all and Lately I've been here just about all the time, except when I'm someplace else. It is always best to call first before you come.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Quote of the Day: Libya intervention edition

Sonic Charmer muses on the Rush To War For Oil™ in Libya by the International Community, and the strange lack of objection from the crowd that issued 8 years of spittle-flecked invective at the USA's foreign adventures.  He writes an open letter to said crowd that is the funniest thing you will read today.

He asks sweetly why all the silence, dudes?  Filled with concern, he slips the knife in:
Is your Dissent being Crushed ™?
But remember, they're all smarter than we are!  Or "Smarter" ...



Double ouch:

Via Theo Spark.

Hogjaw - Gitsum

While there's a lot of discussion about what "the real country music is", pretty much everyone grants "southern rock" honorary membership in the club.  That's a Good Thing, because otherwise country music fans might not hear Hogjaw.  And that'd be a cryin' shame.

Especially if you like shooting your guns. 

Hogjaw does, unapologetically and with what's it to ya? gusto.  Oh, and with some good guitar riffs.  And extra points for filming the Moisin-Nagant at dusk, when the fireball at the muzzle is simply spectacular.

What more do you need?

Gitsum (Songwriters: ??? Dudes, set up a Wikipedia page for Discography)
Some say they wanna take my guns away
They will find to rue that day... yes they will

Blame it on the villain in the street
Truth is they wanna herd us like sheep

Come on, bring it on
Just getting started, I ain't done
Come on, bring it on
Step right up and get yourself some
Come on, bring it on
Seen you before, ain't gonna run
Come on, bring it on
Standin' right here, come get you some

We hold our rights and values dear
Your laws don't mean nuthin to us here

Come on, bring it on
Just getting started, I ain't done
Come on, bring it on
Step right up and get yourself some
Come on, bring it on
Seen you before, ain't gonna run
Come on, bring it on
Standin' right here, come get you some
[ Lyrics from: ]
I remember real clear, years ago in the swamps of South Georgia
Cane pole and Crossman in my hands was all I need to be growed up
Home made ice cream and BBQ and the family on Friday nights
Ten lane ramp on Saturday right before the morning light

There came a time I's old enough and learned about the gun
And every night at suppertime I'd answer to what I'd done
Folks today plum forgot about the way it used to be
Got no respect and no cold steel, just games on TV

And I'll burn in hell before I sell my rights away from me
It's high time we embrace the tool that keeps all men free

Come on and get you some
Come on
Come on and get you some
Come on
Come on and get you some today

Come on and get you some
Come on
Come on and get you some
Come on
Come on and get you some tonight

Image source.  Found at Rebel Yell, who is filled with, err, Rebel-y Youtube-y goodness.