Wednesday, February 22, 2017

They say that there's no such thing as bad PR

This toy maker is going to find out.  German government tells parents who bought this doll to destroy it because it is a security hazard.

I posted about this (and other) toys that listen to your kid back before Christmas.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Belated President's Day - Best and Worst Presidents

I've been running this every year for the last five years.  I was busy bringing the Queen Of The World home from the hospital yesterday, and the day got away from me.  But the topic deserves repeating.

It's not a real President's birthday (Lincoln was the 12th, Washington is the 22nd), but everyone wants a day off, so sorry Abe and George, but we're taking it today.  But in the spirit intended for the holiday, let me offer up Borepatch's bestest and worstest lists for Presidents.

Top Five:

#5: Calvin Coolidge

Nothing To Report is a fine epitaph for a President, in this day of unbridled expansion of Leviathan.

#4. Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson is perhaps the last (and first) President who exercised extra-Constitutional power in a manner that was unambiguously beneficial for the Republic (the Louisiana Purchase).  He repealed Adam's noxious Alien and Sedition Acts and pardoned those convicted under them.

#3. Grover Cleveland. 

He didn't like the pomp and circumstance of the office, and he hated the payoffs so common then and now.  He continually vetoed pork spending (including for veterans of the War Between the States), so much so that he was defeated for re-election, but unusually won a second term later.  This quote is priceless (would that Latter Day Presidents rise so high), on vetoing a farm relief bill: "Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character." 

#2. Ronald Reagan

He at least tried to slow down the growth of Leviathan, the first President to do so in over half a century (see entry #5, above).  He would have reduced it further, except that his opposition to the Soviet fascist state and determination to end it cost boatloads of cash.  It also caused outrage among the home grown fascists in the Media and Universities, but was wildly popular among the general population which was (and hopefully still remains) sane.

#1. George Washington

Could have been King.  Wasn't.  Q.E.D. 

Bottom Five:

#5. John Adams.

There's no way to read the Alien and Sedition Acts as anything other than a blatant violation of the First Amendment.  It's a sad statement that the first violation of a Presidential Oath of Office was with President #2. 

#4. Woodrow Wilson.

Not only did he revive the spirit of Adams' Sedition Acts, he caused a Presidential opponent to be imprisoned under the terms of his grotesque Sedition Act of 1918.  He was Progressivism incarnate: he lied us into war, he jailed the anti-war opposition, he instituted a draft, and he was entirely soft-headed when it came to foreign policy.  The fact that Progressives love him (and hate Donald Trump) says all you need to know about them.

#3 Lyndon Johnson.

An able legislator who was able to get bills passed without having any real idea what they would do once enacted, he is responsible for more Americans living in poverty and despair than any occupant of the White House, and that says a lot.

#2. Franklin Roosevelt.

America's Mussolini - ruling extra-Constitutionally fixing wages and prices, sending Americans off en masse to concentration camps, packing the Supreme Court, and transforming the country into a bunch of takers who would sell their votes for a trifle.  You don't get a better example of fascist than FDR.  At least Mussolini met an honorable end.


#1. Abraham Lincoln.

There's no doubt that the Constitution never would have been ratified if the States hadn't thought they could leave if they needed to.  Lincoln saw to it that 10% of the military-age male population was killed or wounded preventing that in an extra-Constitutional debacle unequaled in the Republic's history.  Along the way, he suspended Habeas Corpus, instituted the first ever draft on these shores, and jailed political opponents as he saw fit.  Needless to say, Progressives adore him.

So happy President's Day.  Thankfully, the recent occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue haven't gotten this bad.  Yet.

Monday, February 20, 2017

It's Presidents Day

When I was a boy, we celebrated President's Day in school. Washington and Lincoln were always highlighted. We would do tracings and cut out relief drawings from black construction paper.
 We learned facts about Presidents, dates, major decisions. It was certainly cleaned up, scandal free, and always with an eye to the Destiny Of The United States as the leader of the Free World. If there were alternative facts, we didn't learn them.

The concept that perhaps the southern States had the right to secede would not have been discussed. The Trail of Tears? The idea that the Louisiana Purchase had no validity because it wasn't French territory to sell? The Banana Wars? Lincoln as The Great Emancipator a tyrant that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people?

There's lots of decisions in the last 240 years that don't stand up to a lot of scrutiny.

This is still the last best hope on the planet. Where else would you want to go?

Happy President's Day.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Holding on to the Past to Move Forward - A Memory of a Dog

It was three years ago, in the last part of February. I had just gotten off duty and was headed on up to Chicago to join my husband of four months for the weekend. It was a 400-mile round trip I made almost every weekend when there was not severe weather over several years before we got married, and then again as I waited for a transfer without sacrificing pay grade so we could finally both work and live in the same city.

How this trip was different was that my dog of 11 years, Barkley, was not making the journey with me, only his collar and leash and a few toys in a box that I could not bear to part with. His remains were in the polished box on my crash pad dresser. I laid my hand on it as I left, imagining warmth that was not there and softly said goodbye, telling him I'd be back soon.

It was a solemn drive and a lonely one. You'd think an animal that slept a lot wouldn't be much company on a long drive but he was. He was the reason I'd stop at the rest stops so he could get a little walk; he was the reason we'd sometimes go through a drive-thru where he would get a kid sized burger, no mustard or pickles, and a soft serve cone. I'd take a point and shoot camera and hold it up without taking my eyes off the road. Many of the pictures continue to make me smile to this day.
One more inch and the Cheez-It's are MINE!

That day, I was fixed in the annealed spot that was his fate and mine as outside the miles of cornfields and the steady thump of late night tires flew past me as if I were frozen to the ground. The drive could have been five minutes, it would have been five hours but I remember thinking that if I would stop, he would somehow appear in the back of the extended cab pickup truck as if there was some quality of the eternal in the hushed journey forward. I did make one stop at a long deserted rest area, and of course, he was not there, There was only that box of dog memories and tears that stained the steering wheel. I sat in the truck motionless as outside of me the farmland stretched away from me, merging into the limitless silence of every loss I'd known.

We've all been there, going on about our lives, happy, with a plan, then suddenly, what was mapped out is literally shredded before us, leaving us to pick up the scraps laid down on the floor and move on, that rewind button nowhere in reach. It can be the biggest moments of our lives, it can be the smallest ones. It can be a relationship ended, or a friendship snubbed. It can be simply a day where nothing went as planned, unforecast weather aloft, a cantankerous crew chief, and you really can't complain, as everyone's looking at you for direction as you're the commander; you simply hunker down to the new challenge, sobered as you look out the cockpit window as you realize your deep dependence upon the invisible.
The key thing is we gather up we have left and look forward. Even more importantly, we do so with a communion of not just saints but of sinners. I remember so many days there after we lost both Barkley and my brother to cancer at the same time when my friends would stop by. They'd talk with cheerfulness of the good things they remembered, we would plan things in the future to look forward to. When they left, with a cheerful wave, it seemed as if they left a bit of themselves with me, some of their stores of strength and hope, renewed affirmation in the promise of life. I realized then just how much I needed them.

I'd always prided myself on being the kind of person that could handle things most people couldn't, so aware of how in those moments when man's bones and flesh are laid upon fate's altar to be torn, there is a moment when that will of bone and flesh to remain alive is almost enough to sustain it. I approached each day with that will, only to find that it took just one act of fate, that neither marked my flesh or my form, to make me as fearful as a child, suddenly left alone.

With my family and friend's help, with their shared stories, memories and laughter, my heart healed. There isn't a day I don't miss my brother, but I feel him close. There are days I still pick up Barkley's collar and tear up but there are as many days as I laugh as I relate a story I never put to paper about Barkley, sharing with the friends that knew and loved him.
For life does indeed go on. As I went for a walk earlier at one of the city parks, I watched Abby Lab jaunt joyfully ahead on the leash with my husband. When she was dumped at a high kill shelter, getting older and very sick, she likely had no happy thoughts of the future, only fear. When she was well again and her foster mom from the Lab rescue organization brought her over to meet me at the Indiana crash pad I wondered if it was too soon, that perhaps I should have waited to get another dog. The foster mom said before she drove over that I was under no obligation, there would be other dogs and she would have a good home with someone soon. But then that gentle dog moved towards me, drifting across the parking lot like shadow, to a stranger. She then leaned lightly against my leg so my hand could caress her head, looking at something only dogs can see off in the distance, vibrating like a released string. I knew then she was at home. Her trust in me indicated that like dogs will often do, she joyfully mistook the world as a place with a doubtless future. Here she would stay, my not wishing to shatter that illusion.
She's been with us almost three years now, and she acts as if her former home, the shelter, that great drive for emergency vet care, was all the memory of someone else.  When she bounds up the step from the yard, she pauses at the back door, as if sensing she had gone to sleep in one place and awoken to another. What is painful to her is only a dream.  When I come home at night, she is laying by the back door of our little 100-year-old Mission bungalow, rising only on the sound of my voice, as if she had laid guardian to all I held dear in my absence, only relinquishing it, these walls, and windows, and memories of dogs gone before, only when I was safely  home.

I will open the door and she will be there dancing around as if I'd been gone for years, and we'll enter the house together, those three years crowded into one moment, one room, one instant of time so full there is no room for tears, but only breath.
Today, I knew that even if cancer had not come into our lives, Barkley would still be gone due to old age. There are some journeys that are inevitable for us all.  Yet as I looked outside, I realized that whatever has happened to me, the world outside was just how we both would remember it. There was motion, there were laughter and tears, there would be new memories and love that ebbed and flowed like the waves upon the lake. As I looked out on the water's surface, the gentle waves swept away vast and drowsy, like a vision of life with a shadowed surface and somber depths. I gave it a defiant smile and ran after the dog, toward a future that sparkled off in the distance like diamonds. - Brigid

Hospital blogging

My posting has been off lately. The Queen of the World had surgery on Friday and is still recovering. I've been at the hospital each day with her, which has really cut into my blogging time. I expect she will be here another day or two.

Thanks to Brigid for showing that blogging isn't dead. You'd never know that waiting for a post from me.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Blogging Is Not Dead

This morning on Facebook - the proclamation on one of my friends posts "Blogging is Dead".

And I look back on a year of blog posts. Hundreds of blog posts. Posts about an old black lab, of firearms, and fun, and more saturated fat than should be allowed by law.

One year.  Such much can happen in a year

For me it was the year 2014. One new grave, surrounded by flags.  One wooden box, bearing in cold air a warmth that can't be replaced.

On each are short simple words that do not begin to carry the weight or the sharpness of their past. Which is why I wrote something longer than a blog post and  placed in the grieving hands of my family.

But as a new author, everyone said "you need to do all of the social media"
I did my first twitter.  It had all the literary grace of Rodan. #Ineedmoreroomforwords

I started Facebook.  It's like the school yard with free ice cream and magic. I am having some fun with it.

But it also leaves me wanting for something---for it does not feel like writing. It's fun, but simply that---fun. To me, it's not flight or mode of combat, words that take on shape and form, Even as I shared in the laughter and offered short comforting thoughts, I missed those long tales that are born from a soul that's an irrepressible retailer of words, a shopkeeper of phrase, an enabler of intent. Facebook is like hanging out with your best friends with beer.  Blogging to me is sipping single malt scotch in front of a typewriter, which is where many of my stories started.

Still, where else can you post a cat with a gun, riding a fire snorting unicorn.
So I'll have my fun on Facebook even as I quietly say into the silent night - Blogging is not dead.

Book #2 was born, out of a blog post that became a chapter, than another, and another. Because I am a writer and my world has too many words.

The year after that, Book #3 rolled out, my first fiction (dialogue.  Ack!!!)

But for now, no book, just blogging.

I sit here now, no music playing, no noise---just the soft breathing of a dog and my thoughts, words almost imperceptible to the senses, hanging on the air to be plucked by my fingers and laid upon this white table.  This computer is my accomplice, guarding me with its quiet accord, bearing with me the seclusion, the mystery. I should probably get up and do some housework, but while the words are still within reach, I am imprisoned by the very freedom of my hands.

I think of the classic writers - would Jane Austin been a hit on Pinterest? Would Hemingway have been popular on Instagram? How many Twitters to win a Pulitzer prize?

Creativity can be short bursts of color and forms and words.

But not in the world that I like to live in.
I am a writer and I have too many words.

I am the run on sentence. I am the "too many commas".  I can't take a morning standing out among broken trees, red and blue lights flashing as words pass over the forest floor like the sound of big guns and make it a quip.  I can't look out upon the hills, the top of one wreathed in billowing smoke, as around me there are shouts and hollers, ringing out like war cries, yet spoken in hushed tones so as not to disturb the dead, and express it with a hashtag.

For words are my truth immense and they are my voice.

Blogging is dead.

It is not dead, it's strings of thoughts that you would have to travel far ahead not to hear, before you outrun the reach of a voice.  You can turn off your modem, but the words still exist.  For they are my words, and though confined to a virtual reality, they are words that exist, in my head and my heart, their tone from the stillness and gloom of a life with a past where my words were my one truth in each passing day.
You can chose to turn away, or turn off and not read.  It does not mean that the words are dead.  For I am a writer, and that is what we do, sharing the nature of that internal silence that follows us down into the depths of our soul and brings up a bucket from a well---one brimming with words that spill over, to quench the thirsty hearts of whispering men.

I will still enjoy my Facebook, it's like waving at a neighbor you like as you pass each other coming out of your drive.

I'll still fail at Twitter and most other forms of social media. I'm just not interested in being connected to the whole world 24 and 7 and I'm perfectly happy being friends with only a few dozen people who realize that friendship is not a button, it is a gift.

I've realized that those that truly care for us don't require constant validation, and if I don't send someone a Facebook "Like" on some un-posted socially acceptable schedule, my true friends will just chuckle and move on. For I am a writer---that solitary person that stood in the corner of the school yard and just looked on at the popular kids. But I always had the words, even when I was too solitary to say them.

I can go weeks and weeks and not talk to people I love. I will continue to be bad at responding to emails. I will love a few of my friends more than I can ever say. There are a dozen of you I would take a bullet for. So, I say it on here, this is the place where I go to tell you the words that I meant to say, to offer a kind touch, or wake you up from some slumbering place where shadows may soon pounce.

It is what it is, a way to capture in words on a screen instead of a page, pages that can be held close in, or telegraphed to the world. It can be whimsy, it can be fun, it can be as disturbed as the mind behind it, or as calm someone one can stare at in wonder, words that reach out like a consoling whisper. It can be as intimate as a kiss or as impersonal as the wind.

It can simply be a piece of bacon and a smile.

Blogging is not dead.

It is alive when the muse fails and the hands stay still in the air with an honest idiocy of objective which made their fruitlessness both profound and poignant. It is alive, when the fingers dance over the keyboard in a frenzy, grappling with ghosts in one final act of common courage.

It is alive when the keyboard is silent and the house stills and the one you treasure more than anything on earth looks up from the smart phone that you will never own and says "I love what you just wrote".
It is alive because it is here my voice has no word count, it can be black and white or filled with color.  It will be stories of battles fought and won, of great mysteries, and simple pleasures. It will be warnings that the younger self will not grasp until the older self  breathes its last. It will be joys and sad caresses, tender words laid out upon the tongue like a wafer, a benediction, a blessing, a self-communion of one, formed of two hands. If you do not read, I will still write as I do not write so you can claim some part of me. But if you come out from beneath that place---that conception of existence we hide under like a tortoise in his shell and listen---the words will draw breath, even after I am gone.

Blogging is not dead.

It breathes as long as I do.  Because I'm a writer and there are so many words.
 - Brigid

Whither NATO?

It seems a reasonable question to ask that if the Europeans don't want to defend themselves then why should we?
If you needed yet another reason to reject the EU as an utterly toxic organisation, here is an absolute corker:
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday that Europe must not cave in to U.S demands to raise military spending, arguing that development and humanitarian aid could also count as security.
No doubt Jean-Claude Juncker feels that NATO should deploy Oxfam, Save the Children & Charlotte Church to Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn in order to deter any Russian incursions into the Baltic states.
Admittedly, a couple percent of GDP turns out to be a lot of money.  It may be that Europeans might want to spend that on something else.  OK, fine.  Maybe us, too.

Quote of the Day - Television edition

A sitcom about a relationship between All-State's Mayhem mascot guy and Progressive's crazy girlfriend Flo would actually be pretty fun to watch.

Friday, February 17, 2017

How sweet - a Valentine's Day gift



The Queen Of The World found this. Got to love her sense of humor.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Start 'em young


Security Smorgasbord, vol 7 no 1

Boy, it's been long time since I've done one of these.

Protecting yourself from phishing attacks in email.  "Phishing" is a technique where a Bad Guy tries to trick someone into giving up information or installing malicious code.  It is usually done via email or social media.  Microsoft has a really good article on how to detect that someone is trying to do this to you.

Google: Android security is pretty darn good, despite what you've heard.They claim to have data and everything.  The claim is that most people who get malware on their Android device did it by downloading something dodgy on purpose:
It also fitted a pattern he had noticed, that there isn't really any complex malware out there in the wild infecting Android devices. Software nasties tend to be sleazy apps, installed by punters, that do unpleasant things in the background, rather than malicious code that silently infects devices via webpages, text messages, and so on. 
“Most of the abuse we get isn’t interesting from a security perspective,” he said. “We see spamming ads for fake antivirus stuff but it’s really basic social engineering. Even if malware is installed it seldom involved privilege escalation, it primarily just downloads other apps.” 
The same thing seems to be happening in Apple's iOS world, too, he said. 
Remember Borepatch's First Law Of Security: "Free Download" is internet-speak for "Open your mouth and close your eyes".

The secret chat app used by Donald Trump's people.  I'm not sure how much I'd trust it, but then again I'm not sure how much I'd trust anything.  Actually, I am pretty sure how much I trust anything (answer: not much).  Still, this does seem to minimize a number of opportunities for Opsec failures.

Life, the Universe, and Everything about security.  The answer means that you don't really understand the question, but there are some of security's Hall Of Famers here talking about it all.

Complicating a cornflake

This is one of the Queen Of The World's favorite expressions: a lot of times the simple way of doing things is best, and "improving" things leads to bad outcomes.

There used to be a perfectly fine coffee machine at work.  It was drip-brew, but made good coffee, made a lot of it, and made it quickly.  Then one day a New And Improved machine showed up.  It was a marvel.

It ground your coffee beans before brewing your cup o' joe.  You could get small, medium, or large, and it would choose the right amount of coffee to bring and water to brew.  You could get espresso, late, french vanilla, or tea.

Sweet, huh?

Except it was slow.  It took a minute to get your cup of sweet, dark caffeine.  That doesn't sound like very long until you think about the line at 0830 as everyone looks for their first hit of the day.  Suddenly it took 5 minutes to get coffee.

And the machine has started breaking all the time - every couple of weeks.  Likely it was spec'ed too light for the amount of people, but it's downer than a Hillary supporter since the election.  This cornflake is too complicated, at least if you have a bunch of people who want coffee.

And so we're back to the perfectly fine drip brew.  Which actually is fine with me, except that it's on the other side of the building.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Don Drysdale - One Love

Here's the hall of fame pitcher with a Valentine's Day song.  He had some hall of fame pipes.  Who knew?



Dedicated to my One true Love, The Queen Of The World (who found this).

Valentine's Day - A Brigid Guest Post


Incoming!

It's that time of year folks, flying cupids (best handled with a Kentucky longrifle), Hallmark cards, and often expected expensive presents.

I appear to have received what appears to be an antique box.

My gift to my husband, otherwise known as Partner in Grime, was wrapped. The bottle of single malt was not for I inherited the wrapping skills of my Dad and Submariner brother.

You could give my Mom a 15-inch scrap of decorative paper and she could gift wrap a Sikorsky in less than 10 minutes. I will carefully lay out the present, cut a swath of paper the size of North Dakota, and when I'm done, there will be a gap in the back held together by a big piece of scotch tape.

I'm not too keen on wasting a lot of money on paper and ribbon either.  I had joked that all we had at the house was Christmas paper, and he suggested I could just draw some cupids on there to avoid spending money on new paper.  I did one better and made my own paper online and printed it out on our copier.
Partner said, "add in a couple Leprechauns and a birthday cake and we'll never have to buy wrapping paper again!" (yes, we have expensive taste in single malt, but we are both notorious cheapskates around the house, DIY'ing most everything.)

It started with a card of course, with a somewhat cryptic message.

Hmmm, it's a copy of the Blaster's Handbook (copyright 1949)

 Apparently, I'm going to need some directions with my "gift"
Time to carefully open the box.

It seems Partner in Grime has Put the BOMB in Bath Bombs!

If you haven't seen one, ladies buy them at the drugstore or from DIY Etsy shops for their bathtime. Made out of baking soda, citric acid, Epsom salts, water, oil and fragrance oil they are usually formed into round balls and make a wonderful fizzy and moisturizing bath. They are also super expensive for what you get. The DIY ones tend to be a bit more crumbly than the store bought but the ingredients are more natural and cost WAY less.

Mine smell like something with lavender/sandalwood and perhaps orange, a restful scent, just toss in the bath water. By the time it was light enough to get a good photo, I'd already tried one out as I telework today, and didn't have to just do a quick shower.   I almost hate to use the other ones up, they just make me smile to look at them.

I would imagine that would be some spouses that would say "that's all you got me, something homemade?  Where's the jewelry, the flowers, the bling?"

Love is much more than what you buy for someone, it's the effort you put into making sure they are happy and cared for.  I look at my Dad who has outlived two wives and two children and think of that every day.

I read somewhere that heartache is to a noble what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it. So true and words my Dad lived by. From Dad I have learned that whatever terrible things may happen to us, there is only one thing that allows them to permanently damage our core self, and that is continued belief in them. Dad's lived these beliefs.
A WWII Vet, that bravely adopted two redheads with my Mom when he was 40, he survived cancer and a small stroke, buried every member of his family but me. He held my hand during 34 hours in natural childbirth, when my daughter's father abandoned me, and swept me away to our rental cabin after I handed her over to her adoptive parents, listening to me cry myself to sleep for weeks. I was a teen, barely out of high school and he never judged, never said he was disappointed in me, never said I told you so, for a choice in first loves that he had warned was going to be a bad one.

He taught me forgiveness and compassion as being more important than possessions.

I was in class in school when Mom suddenly died, but 30 years later I watched him sit a vigil at his second wife's bedside that lasted days, sleeping only in naps in a chair, never letting go of her hand. He was simply there, a constant presence next to her slender, silent form, from which weariness and exertion had yet to depart, holding her, never doubting the actuality of his faith, guarding with sharp and unremitting alertness those minutes that he knows are fleeting.

I watched him as she left us. He touched the streak of white in her hair as lightning cleaved clear air and a gentle rain fell from cloudless skies, as if their moments together, as brief as they may have been, lingered there in a flash of light and tears, though breath itself had ceased.

That is what love is, not things.  I think of all the evenings this week when Partner was down in the basement experimenting with various formulas, trying to make a plan a reality, one he knew would make me laugh out loud, even if it meant no time to relax after a long day in a factory or laboratory, and having to get an extra shower to get the "girly" smell off of his skin so I wouldn't get wise as to what he was doing with essential oil in the wood shop.

I think of that as I pick up the phone to give my Dad another call. For he too will be waking up from his afternoon nap. I can picture him sitting in his recliner in the family room, Bible and coffee mug close at hand, his small frame illuminated by the early afternoon light, framed by ancient glass that bore light and witness to many a happy memory.

I will send photos of my husband's gift to the Walgreens near his house which his nurse will pick up. And tonight when I call him yet again, he will look at them laugh as if he was young again, knowing as I do, it's the care and the time we give one another that mean the most.

Still that Borepatch recommended manicure set would have been cool :-)

But I Thought Independence and Secession?

California, land of the many Trump haters, wealthy and perfectly capable of forming an independent country without any help from the Nazis currently controlling levers of government in Washington D.C. had a weather related crisis this week. They are getting too much rain. It put the second largest dam in the state at risk of a failure at the earthen spillway resulting in a large evacuation.

And what was their fiercely independent response to this crisis? Did they man up? Go full Dunkirk on the situation and get volunteers from the protest groups filling the streets to show their mettle and help move their fellow Californians out of harm's way?

You know not. Gov. Brown sent a letter asking President Trump for emergency assistance with costs of the evacuation.

No word on what the Calexit protesters have been doing during the crisis.


The perfect gift for Valentine's Day

The ladies love manicures.


The death spiral of Washington D.C.'s Metro system

It's ugly, and possibly unrecoverable:
In 2015, fares accounted for $783 million in operating funds, while state and local governments provided $785 million for operations and $430 million for capital improvements (meaning capital replacement; the Silver line was funded out of another budget). In addition, Metro needs to spend about $700 million more a year than it is spending today on maintenance and capital replacement. With 1.8 million households in the region, if all of these state and local funds were instead funded by a dedicated tax, the annual tax would have to average well over $1,000 per household–even more if a Heritage Foundation proposal that the Trump administration zero out federal support to Metro is taken seriously (see p. 130). Will local taxpayers accept that cost when only about 10 percent of commuters take the Metro to work?
Emphasis added by me.

Will local taxpayers step up to this cost when almost nobody takes Metro?  To ask the question is to answer it.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Don Drysdale sings about the Yankees on the Joey Bishop Show

The Queen of the World found this, which is so full of Win that it's in danger of collapsing into a Black Hole of Win.



You're welcome.

Winter. Bah.

Getting itchy for this.


There are more over at I Just Want 2 Ride.

The "Peace Dividend" bites back

The Royal Navy has no operational attack submarines.  All are laid up for maintenance or under construction.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Jan Dussek - Piano Sonata in F-sharp minor ("Elégie Harmonique"), Op. 61

The Czech composer Jan Dussek was also the first musical rock star, as we would recognize it.  He became quite famous for his music and toured all over Europe performing for royalty and the hoi polo.  Good looking (called le beau visage) he was the one who established the norm that the piano was not facing the audience, but rather facing to the side.  It seems that he likes the ladies to admire his profile.

He was also somewhat of a rogue, always in financial trouble, hitting up friends for cash, and even causing the bankruptcies of two admirers who he refused to repay.  Instead, he skipped town.

But he was also charming, becoming the close friend of no less than Prussian Prince Louis Ferdinand.  When Ferdinand lost his life leading his troops against Napoleon in the battle of Saalfeld, Dussek composed this for his memory.  In many ways, his music is ahead of its times, sounding perhaps more like Brahams than the music of his contemporaries.

The last comparison to modern rock stars is that he did not age gracefully.  He became so grossly fat that he could no longer reach the keyboard.  Seeking solace inside a bottle, he died before his time. A rather sad tale that is still with us today.

Jan Dussek was born on this day in 1760.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Knights of the Round Engines - A Home on the Range Guest Post


Brigid from Home on the Range here.  Many of you know I had to take my blog private due to some post election trolls.  I never once mentioned the election, preferring to blog about firearms, planes, whiskey, and labrador retrievers, but there still were trolls., not simply rude but threatening.  So for those few readers I was able to add in to read privately, thanks for stopping.  For others that asked after blogger cut off the number of folks I could add, Borepatch and  ASM826 have kindly offered to let me guest blog here, which I'll try to do a few times a month.  My husband, otherwise known as Partner in Grime and I are well, and Dad is holding his own, with a 97th birthday looming  I'm on the road a lot marketing my third book, so blog time is light, but I appreciate everyone's private notes and kind words - B.
------------------------------------------

Those rotary engines. . . the Le Rhones, the Monos, and the Clergets! They made a sort of crackling hiss, and always the same smell of castor oil spraying backwards The 0il in a fine mist over your leather helmet and your coat. They were delightful to fly, the controls so light, the engines so smooth running. Up among the sunlit cumulus under the blue sky I could loop and rolls and spin my Camel with the pressure of two fingers on the stick besides the button which I used as little as possible. Looping, turn off the petrol by the big plug cock upon the panel just before the bottom of the dive, ease the stick gently back and over you go. The engine dies at the top of the loop; ease the stick fully back and turn the petrol on again so that the engine comes to life five or six seconds later.
- Neville Shute

What always strikes me when I get together with a certain bunch of friends is as all the conversations going on all at once about such varied subjects - Heinlein, Cordwainer Smith, reloading, airplanes, caffeinated beverages, trains, planes and automobiles and scotch eggs.


One discussion was on starting steam engines on trains, and that launched a conversation on  starting round engines on airplanes as they are, shall we say, a bit temperamental.

You hardly see them any more, but those of us who flew them continue to share the wisdom, the collective bits of what I have read or heard I will share here.

The ancients wrote that the great things to be seen are sun, stars, water and clouds. I think they forgot the round engine.


I have a fair amount of experience flying jets and as much fun as I had, I do have to agree - there is absolutely no mystery to a jet engine.  The air travels through it in a straight line and doesn't pick up any of the pungent fragrance of engine oil, hydraulic fluid or pilot sweat.


The rules for the operation of a jet are basic.  When I first had some beginning airmen to teach there was this preprinted poster with the "four forces of flight". Lift. Weight. Thrust. Drag. Each were represented by a drawing of a man.  Someone, of course, drew a dress on Mr. Drag, which now would just get them sent to the corner for "sensitivity training".  But it wasn't all that much harder to teach airmen gas turbine engine technology.  I have kitchen equipment more complicated.

Teaching someone to start one is even easier.  Anyone can start a jet engine. You just need to move a switch from "OFF" to "START" and them remember to move it back to "ON" after a while. Sometimes you don't even have to remember to move it back to "On" as the switch is spring loaded. To start a jet engine you need a couple of fingers.  To start a round engine you need two hands that can move like a hummingbird on crack. The right hand for the primer, energize and engage switches, the left hand being busy with the throttle, magneto then back to the throttle to control the starting RPM and then for the mixture and. . .


Even being ambidextrous and nimble isn't enough start a round engine, you seduce it into motion, which requires skill, finesse, patience, a gentle touch and a fair bit if style. Failing that there are curse words. If that fails there is meditation and celibacy. If the mission is critical you don't let the new guy start the engine. On some planes the pilot isn't even allowed to do it.

Just as you don't want to start a conversation with your wife that starts with "what the hell!" or contains the words 'breast enlargement', 'Oprah',or 'your mother', you do NOT want to start the checklist with the preamble of "this baby always fires right up!".  You've jinxed yourself right there.

You've just got too much working against you.  For starters, there is no computer controlling the fuel/air mixture.  If the mixture is too rich you'll end up with parts of the engine that look like wet charcoal briquettes and then it's NEVER going to start.  If it's too lean it won't start.  The mixture is like being married, giving you new ways every day you can be wrong.

It's been said that jet engines start by whining for a while, then give a delicate girly little "poof"and start whining a wee bit louder. Round engines give a satisfying rattle-rattle, click-click, BANG, more rattles, another BANG, a big manly BELCH, followed by the explosive resonance of of a mechanical FART, more clicks, a bunch of smoke and finally, the serious perfection of low pitched roar. It's the sound that machines should make.

With that would be a shout somewhere from the tarmac of "YES!" flung outward into the air, carried away on the wind like a dropped scrap of paper

As many have said, starting a jet engine is about as 'exciting as turning on your ceiling fan'. Click. Done. The passengers look bored. When you have started his round engine successfully your Crew Chief looks at you as if he'd like to marry you, or at least let you borrow his car. If it's a particular cantankerous bird sometimes the passengers applaud. Successfully start your jet engine and your copilot yawns.

Jet engines don't break or catch fire often enough, which leads to complacency and inattention. Think about it, the round engine could blow an oil seal ring, burst into flame or sputter like a Democrat at a debate, then suddenly quit, at any given moment. Even a perfectly operational round engine at speed looks as if it's going to blow any second now. This helps keep the crew concentrated on the job at all times. You never saw round engine pilots playing on their computer or falling asleep in the cockpit. No sir.

Jet engines don't' have enough control levers or gauges to keep a a pilot busy. There's nothing to fiddle with during really long flights other than the FMS or your lunch. 


Round engines smell like your favorite shop or being in your favorite shop after barbecuing pork. Jet engines smell like a dirty flashlight. At the end of the day in a jet, you smell pretty much like you did when you started. When you go home from flying a round engine, you smell like Kuwait.

But if you are so lucky to have flown one, you will never forget. Those mornings getting to the flight line, the normal edge of nervousness that precedes any mission humming from within you.  The airplane looms into view, that big round engine looking bigger than when you left it as if it grew in the night.


The cockpit is as dark as space as if marooned somewhere in the cosmos, waiting to swallow me up if I screw this up. My uniform shirt is stiff, my hands are ready, time to show this airplane who the boss is, or remain forever still.  We wait for orders, we wait for light, a hesitation in cooling space across which blew the dense oily smell of a radial engine, laying like cold smoke against my tongue, so thick I can taste it.

How well I remember those moments, the small trickling of fear, not a fear that you can't conquer a simple engine, but the feeling we all have when entering a realm that man wasn't intended for.  I think about silent failures, of fire, of flame, the feeling of immortality that is the luxury of youth long having left as one takes on responsibilities not meant for children.


I'll lay my wits against a round engine's smoking passivity and if the stars align right we'll be on our way. We'll be up where the air is fierce and cold, surrounded by all that is familiar, the dials, gauges, switches, each with a mark of human hands and sweat on them. Shadows bow before a waving sun, the chill in the air an intractable summons of fall, cast upon summer skies.  From up ahead, another plane in our group, the spurt of smoke from her, the only sign of movement.

Constantly keeping the instrument in my scan, we're moving forward only by blood and sweat, history and instinct, compassing forever between safety and a horizon unknown. Clouds build in the distance, lightning flashes off to our right, the sky full of promise and danger, vast bodies of water into which we could disappear forever, tall mountains of ice and rock and fluid need. We are aware of little of it and all of it as we wonder just how many hours ahead it will be before gravity and sleep and a cold beer are in our view.

We must have patience, and we do, for we fly round engines.

 - Brigid

Friday, February 10, 2017

Trump's intellectual revolution

Isegoria finds a fascinating article (at Politico, of all places) that paints Steve Bannon as perhaps the most interesting man in Washington, D.C. - at least intellectually:
But if Bannon has been the driving force behind the frenzy of activity in the White House, less attention has been paid to the network of political philosophers who have shaped his thinking and who now enjoy a direct line to the White House.

They are not mainstream thinkers, but their writings help to explain the commotion that has defined the Trump administration’s early days. They include a Lebanese-American author known for his theories about hard-to-predict events; an obscure Silicon Valley computer scientist whose online political tracts herald a “Dark Enlightenment”; and a former Wall Street executive who urged Donald Trump’s election in anonymous manifestos by likening the trajectory of the country to that of a hijacked airplane—and who now works for the National Security Council.
Woah!  Readers not familiar with the concept of the "Dark Enlightenment" (and who are a glutton for punishment) will find this idea explored in a dozen or more posts here over the last 5 or 6 years.  It sets the stage for understanding Politico's article on what is really an intellectual revolution.  I'm kind of stunned to find this at ground zero of the Trump White House.

My take is that this is very, very bad news for the anti-Trump side.  All of the intellectual action for at least a couple of decades has been on the other side from them:
And thus we see described all we need to entirely understand Thomas Friedman's oeuvre: "adequately predictable".  While I disagree with much that is in the book (in this, I clearly benefit from knowing the history of the last 50 years, which Galbraith could not), this is a tour de forcewhich is an absolute pleasure to read.

It's also brought into sharper focus some of the things I've written in the last year, The Long Tail of the Internet and the Election of 2010, and especially The intelligence of the Political Class.  Really, all of the posts containing the line The dinosaurs smell a change in the air, and roar their defiance.  It's really all about a class that has lived comfortable and adequately predictable lives, now struggling in a suddenly unpredictable world.
And who are now finding that this intellectual revolution is at the center of the Trump revolution.

There's a lot to read in all these links, but this is big, big stuff.  I must say that I am more impressed with Donald Trump today than I was yesterday.  He doesn't think small or conventional thoughts, and it doesn't look like he surrounds himself with those that do.

Things I did not know

James Clerk Maxwell is one of the trinity of greatest physicists along with Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein).  I hadn't known that he took the first color photograph in 1861:


He was interested in color, and spent 6 years investigating perception of color, color blindness, and color theory.  His research led to the idea of taking three identical photographs, where each photo was taken through a colored filter.  One was red, one was green, and one was blue.  Maxwell had slides of each made and projected this image at a lecture in 1861.

Maxwell may have been the last great theorist who was also a great tinkerer.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

France Is Building A Wall

Rather than deal with the source of the problem, France is building a wall. It will protect the Eiffel Tower from terrorism. Seems to me a more comprehensive plan to protect the whole country, including the people, would be a better solution.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Boy, they hate Roger Goodell in Boston

LOL.  That's some top shelf mockery, right there.

Don't know that I blame them, given what a crock the "science" behind Deflategate was.

Hat tip: Chris Lynch, who also has a video of the Navy testing the catapults on the U.S.S. Gerald Ford by launching trucks.  That's why we beat the Godless Commies ...

Doofus of the Day

Post title shamelessly stolen from Peter.  "Bored" RAF Pilot sent 187 passengers into a nose dive while playing with his camera:
A bored RAF pilot flying nearly 200 service personnel to Afghanistan sent his passenger jet into a nosedive when a camera he had been playing with jammed the flight controls, a court martial heard.

As the Voyager aircraft plummeted 4,400ft in seconds, passengers were pinned to the ceiling and left thinking they were going to die.

But after Flt Lt Andrew Townshend regained control of the 197ft wingspan aircraft, he allegedly lied in both a technical log and service inquiry and insisted the incident had been caused by a technical fault.
It seems that a number of passengers were injured by flying cargo while they were pinned to the airliner's ceiling.  The co-pilot (who was not in the cockpit at the time) suffered a fractured back.

Flt Lt Townshend is being Court-Marshalled for making the false log entries.  Even though Townshend is certified on Airbus equipment, I rather doubt that he has a promising career waiting for him in commercial aviation after this.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

It's funny because it's true

Found by the Queen Of The World, who finds all the cool stuff.

Congress doing the right thing on privacy

This is a good start:
A bill aimed at modernizing the United States's aging law covering law enforcement access to emails and other stored files passed the House Monday night. 
The current law, known as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, allows law enforcement to access any stored files without a warrant if such material is left on a third-party server for more than 180 days. But that law was passed in 1986 — three years before the invention of the internet — when computer owners did not have the same systems as modern users, such as cloud hosting, webmail and online photo galleries.
The Email Privacy Act, which passed under suspension of the rules Monday, alters the previous rule to universally require warrants for such information.
It's nice to see strong bi-partisan support for the 4th Amendment.  And there's more where that came from:
The House Judiciary Committee wants to help police track terrorists and criminals who hide using encrypted communication tools this Congress, but undermining encryption is a nonstarter, Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said Wednesday.
bipartisan joint report from the Judiciary and Energy and Commerce committees in December urged against any legislative effort to weaken the encryption that protects internet activity from prying eyes but endorsed various workarounds to help the FBI and police officers track terrorists and criminals.
It's a twofer of bi-partisan security sanity from the House of Representatives!  More, please.

25 years ago

I can't believe that this movie is this old.  Released on this day in 1992.



Party on, Garth!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Impossible Odds

"Never tell me the odds." --Han Solo

 

NOAA

NOAA lied massaged the data used alternative facts.

"A high-level whistleblower has told this newspaper that America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) breached its own rules on scientific integrity when it published the sensational but flawed report, aimed at making the maximum possible impact on world leaders including Barack Obama and David Cameron at the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015.
The report claimed that the ‘pause’ or ‘slowdown’ in global warming in the period since 1998 – revealed by UN scientists in 2013 – never existed, and that world temperatures had been rising faster than scientists expected. Launched by NOAA with a public relations fanfare, it was splashed across the world’s media, and cited repeatedly by politicians and policy makers.

But the whistleblower, Dr John Bates, a top NOAA scientist with an impeccable reputation, has shown The Mail on Sunday irrefutable evidence that the paper was based on misleading, ‘unverified’ data.

It was never subjected to NOAA’s rigorous internal evaluation process – which Dr Bates devised. His vehement objections to the publication of the faulty data were overridden by his NOAA superiors in what he describes as a ‘blatant attempt to intensify the impact’ of what became known as the Pausebuster paper.

His disclosures are likely to stiffen President Trump’s determination to enact his pledges to reverse his predecessor’s ‘green’ policies, and to withdraw from the Paris deal"

UPDATE 6 February 2017 09:13: [Borepatch] I've been posting pretty much since I started blogging on the many problems with the climate database data quality.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Wow

Mattlanta and the Falcons are manhandling the Patriots.  Belichick doesn't look like he can out-think or out-plan the Falcons, either.

I didn't see that coming, but it's hard not to like the Cinderella Falcons.

Oh, and the commercials are entirely uninteresting.

UPDATE: Well, that was exciting.  The last half of the fourth quarter showed that experience counted - the Falcons looks to be completely out of gas and the Patriots were brilliant.

Ole Bull - Violin Concerto in A major

Ole Bull was a composer of great renown in how own day.  Robert Schumann considered him the greatest composer of the times, comparing him with Paganini.  Perhaps the founder of Norwegian Romanic music, he was a mentor of the then 15 year old Edvard Grieg.  He made multiple concert tours in the United States, to great popular and critical acclaim.

And yet most people have never heard of him, even though I grew up in Maine and he had a summer home there.  In my defense, it was in Lebanon, Maine which is almost New Hampshire.  That's my excuse, anyway.

If you like the high romantic classical music, this will be a treat.

Happy birthday, Ole Bull, born this day in 1810.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Sad News -- Connie DuToit

 Kim and Connie DuToit were early voices in the blogosphere. Outspoken supporters of gun rights and shooting enthusiasts, it was Kim's website The Other Side of Kim that provoked me to try blogging. When he stopped blogging and took down his archive it was a loss for all of us.

I became aware today of the news that Connie DuToit has died. Here's the email Kim sent out. If you are reading the blogs, yes Kim, we are interested in what happens and want to offer our sincere thoughts and prayers as you move through the coming days and months.
My beloved wife Connie passed away this afternoon at about 3pm, of a pulmonary embolism (blood clot on the lungs), brought on by her cancer. Her passing was sudden, but painless—and if there’s anything to be gained from this, it’s that she was spared a long period of pain from the cancer that was killing her slowly.
She’s survived by me, daughter Wendy (29), son David (26) and stepson Jack (27). Her funeral will probably be on Monday [February] 6, and will be for family only. (We are not given to big events, and would prefer just to keep it quiet.)
I will keep anyone who’s interested up to date on what happens to me, but life goes on, and so will I. Please forgive the mass mailing, but I couldn’t face the thought of writing the same kind of letter to the dozens of people who knew and loved my wife.
Best wishes to all.
Kim

Johnny Cash - I Hung My Head

Americans have a pretty blandly friendly view of The Netherlands: boring landscape, friendly people.  We mostly don't know the dark side of the Dutch:
A Dutch woman doctor who drugged an elderly woman and then asked her family to hold her down as she fought desperately not to be killed did not break the law, according to medical experts citing the country's euthanasia legislation.
Euthanasia is not just legal, but seems to be enthusiastically embraced.  I posted on this once before, in a surprisingly gentle rant about a similar situation in Belgium.  This case is much worse.  It's horrifying:
The doctor secretly placed a soporific in her coffee to calm her, and then had started to give her a lethal injection. 
Yet while injecting the woman she woke up, and fought the doctor. The paperwork showed that the only way the doctor could complete the injection was by getting family members to help restrain her. 
It also revealed that the patient said several times 'I don't want to die' in the days before she was put to death, and that the doctor had not spoken to her about what was planned because she did not want to cause unnecessary extra distress. She also did not tell her about what was in her coffee as it was also likely to cause further disruptions to the planned euthanasia process. 
The Review Committee concluded that the doctor 'has crossed the line' by giving her the first sleeping medicine, and also should have stopped when the woman resisted.
There's simply no way to look at this as other than pre-meditated murder encouraged by the State.  A bureaucratic committee issued a bland "mistakes were made" statement, but it's clear from reading the article that nobody is really very sorry.

I don't want to die.

As I wrote in my gentle rant:
The mentally ill are terribly, terribly vulnerable.  That illness is a scourge on them, and on their families.  I can understand why some would be willing to take drastic measures to put an end to that scourge, even desperate measures.  But there's only one word that describes a State that would not just stand by and let that happen, but which would officially sanction it.

Evil.
On this side of The Pond, I like to think that people would still have a sense of shame.  Johnny Cash sings of this, a man who regrets an impulsive murder that had consequences in a society that still had a sense of justice.



I Hung My Head (Songwriter: Gordon Sumner, aka Sting):
Early one morning
With time to kill
I borrowed Jebb's rifle
And sat on a hill
I saw a lone rider
Crossing the plain
I drew a bead on him
To practice my aim 

My brother's rifle
Went off in my hand
A shot rang out
Across the land
The horse, he kept running
The rider was dead
I hung my head
I hung my head 
I set off running
To wake from the dream
My brother's rifle
Went into the sheen
I kept on running
Into the south lands
That's where they found me
My head in my hands 

The sheriff he asked me
Why had I run
And then it come to me
Just what I had done
And all for no reason
Just one piece of lead
I hung my head
I hung my head 
Here in the court house
The whole town was there
I see the judge
High up in the chair
Explain to the court room
What went through your mind
And we'll ask the jury
What verdict they find 

I felt the power
Of death over life
I orphaned his children
I widowed his wife
I begged their forgiveness
I wish I was dead
I hung my head
I hung my head 
I hung my head
I hung my head 

Early one morning
With time to kill
I see the gallows
Up on a hill
And out in the distance
A trick of the brain
I see a lone rider
Crossing the plain 

And he'd come to fetch me
To see what they'd done
And we'll ride together
To kingdom come
I prayed for God's mercy
'Cause soon I'd be dead
I hung my head
I hung my head 

I hung my head
I hung my head
Hat tip to American Digest for finding this whole disgraceful story.