Monday, December 31, 2018

All quiet on the Western Front, 2018 edition

So far, at least.

The New Year's celebration has already begun in Europe (heck, it's already over in Asia).  Cologne has been much in the news for large scale sexual assaults at these events.  There's another such party in that fair Stadt going on right now.

Interestingly, German biker gangs have been mobilizing.  This hasn't been publicized much, and any exuberant "discussions" tonight likely won't be either, as the Press desperately tries to keep all Unapproved® opinions locked firmly in the pressure cooker.  Smart strategy, that.

The question remains: what happens if a significant portion of the population decides that the State will no longer enforce justice impartially, but rather favor particular groups?  Will we see the return to the days of the Hatsfields and McCoys, of the Montagues and the Capulets?  Have we already seen the return to those days?  And is Germany still able to go from zero to jackboots in 5 years?

May you all have a happy and peaceful New Year's celebration.

Who needs a University?

Santa brought me a Go-Pro knockoff for Christmas.  I'd been thinking about mounting one to the dash of the Harley for some motor madness riding shots.  Now I'm reconsidering.

Aesop is in the running for the real Most Interesting Man In The World, and has a must-read post for amateur videographers on how to make a video that isn't terrible.  He writes hilariously but to the point on the subject:
Shakespeare died in 1616. It's a f**king VIDEO. So don't tell me, SHOW me. 
If you don't get this, and TV looks easy to you, trust me when I tell you: it's because you're a retard. GTFO of the Internet forever. 
When Peter Falk tells pre-pubescent Fred Savage in The Princess Bride "Back when I was your age, television was called books", it's witheringly funny. But nota bene, Gentle Reader, that neither consummate director Rob Reiner, nor maestro screenplay author William Goldman then proceeded to give us nothing but Peter Falk droning on from the book for the next two hours. Because it's a frickin' MOVIE!!
Aesop gives you a 5 minute education in how to make a film, and recommends a book for you to read on the subject.  He's been in that business professionally for a long time and so he knows of what he speaks.  If you make (or want to make) videos, you should go read this RIGHT NOW, or bad things will happen to you:
Read it, learn it, live it, love it. Or else die. Of dick cancer. In a pool of hungry crocodiles. With frickin' laser beams on their heads.
It's a funny post and you'll learn a lot, but what really caught my eye was he used an old TV clip from James Burke to illustrate the "don't tell me; SHOW me" rule.  I've blogged before about James Burke who made some of the best TV I remember seeing, although I preferred his "The Day The Universe Changed" to "Connections".  But the clip that Aesop chose was very well chosen indeed to illustrate his point, and the selection put him right up near the top of the "Bloggers I'd like to have a beer with someday" list.

But this got me thinking about the decline of popular culture in the West over the course of my lifetime.  There used to be a thriving genre that was called "Mid-brow": not high brow, not low brow, but which assumed that the viewer was smart and curious and could sit still for longer than 5 minutes without having to take Ritalin.  I grew up with a lot of these on the TV: The Ascent Of Man, Civilization, and Burke's shows.  There's a real education that you can get - for free at the video section of your local library.

I spoke recently with co-blogger and brother-from-another-mother ASM826, and one of the things we chatted about were podcasts which are perhaps the current day's mid-brow infotainment.  I listen to podcasts while walking Wolfgang, and there's quite a lot of blog fodder I get from them that you get subjected to here.  For example, the recent post on why Christmas is on December 25th.

I think I've posted links to some of my favorites before but a fairly involved search isn't turning anything up.  Instead, I'll just post some recommendations again:

The History Of Rome podcast is one of the most listened to history podcasts.   Mike Duncan tells the story of the Eternal City from its founding to its fall in 476AD with a lot of wit.  It's pretty much straight forward narrative, and it takes him a number of episodes to find is podcasting feet, but he takes you through what used to be part of an educated man's education.

The History of Byzantium podcast takes up where Duncan leaves off, covering the history of the eastern half of the Roman Empire that survived another 1000 years after the fall of the west.  Podcaster Robin Pierson is less flamboyant than Duncan but covers the narrative in detail and without getting bogged down.  If all you remember about the Eastern Empire is Gibbon's rather scathing assessment, this will be new and interesting ground for you.

The Fall Of Rome Podcast is the closest to history as taught in a classroom.  Patrick Wyman is a PhD historian and rather than presenting a chronological narrative breaks the subject matter into topics like Just How Messed Up Was The Late Roman Empire?  It allows him to go into depth about just how different the Roman economy was from anything before or after (up until the 1700s, anyway) and just what a catastrophe the fall was for the populations - and how it was worse for some than for others.

Tides Of History is Wyman's current podcast which ranges much more broadly than just Rome.  His episode on how the Black Death led to the freedom of the serfs in Western Europe was particularly interesting, but there's really something there for everyone.

Revolutions is Mike Duncan's current podcast which covers the major political revolutions that have happened since around 1650.  A lot of this is very poorly covered in school - the episodes on the English Civil War are really important to understanding the later episodes on the American Revolution, for example.  The French Revolution is almost always glossed over, but is maybe the most important single event in understanding today's political world.

These, along with the James Burke videos on Youtube will take a while to take in but in the end you'll be better educated than 99% of people today.  And they're free.  Who needs a University when you have all this?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Just how messed up is California?

When I was a wee lad, California shone like a beacon for the rest of the country, attracting people from sea to shining sea.  Those days are long gone as the State has devolved into a wreck of epic proportions.  Here are two vignettes showing just how jacked up the Golden State is.

Item the first: No pets for you!

Rod emails to point out that there is seemingly nothing so mundane as to avoid the all seeing gaze of the California Government:
California will put a muzzle on the retail sales of dogs, cats and rabbits beginning Tuesday, the byproduct of a new law designed to curtail puppy mills and expand pet protections.

The legislation, Assembly Bill 485, says stores can sell the animals only if they come from local rescue groups, shelters and animal control agencies.
This won't effect the upper middle class, of course - they get their pure bred pups directly from "good" breeders.  Instead, it's making it harder for poorer people to get pets for their kids.  The "Progressives" became anti-progressive so gradually that people didn't notice.  This sort of Upper Middle Class SWPL bull hockey is likely the biggest reason for the cratering of the State.

The State's "High Speed Rail" to nowhere project is cut from the same cloth.

Item the second: No pot for you!

California legalized pot with great fanfare, and the State budgeted based on expected large tax revenues from legal pot sales.  The sales (and taxes) are not materializing:
"After voters legalized marijuana two years ago under Proposition 64, state officials estimated in there would be as many as 6,000 cannabis shops licensed in the first few years. But the state Bureau of Cannabis Control has issued just 547 temporary and annual licenses to marijuana retail stores and dispensaries," the Los Angeles Times reported
Welcome to the world of regulations and taxes, potheads. 
Potheads said for years "legalize it." 
Be careful of what you wish for. 
“The cannabis industry is being choked by California’s penchant for over-regulation. It’s impossible to solve all of the problems without a drastic rewrite of the law, which is not in the cards for the foreseeable future,” Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, told the Times.
Not only has the typical California excess and opaque regulation reduced the number of shops by 90%, the State, Local, and Excise taxes raise the price of legal weed above the price of black market weed.  So getting it from Your Guy is not only more convenient but it's less expensive.

And the State wonders why tax revenue is short $150M?  The stupid state can't even sell dope to stoners.

George Frederick Handel - Music for the Royal Fireworks

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve, a date that will see celebrations and festivities around the globe.  These festivities call for top shelf music, and you don't get much more top shelf than this.  King George II commissioned Handel to write this in celebration of the end of the war of Austrian Succession in 1748.  I think that it's pretty funny that the Duke of Montague (who organized the fireworks) told Handel that the King hoped that there would be "no fiddles" - and so Handel scored the piece only for brass.  Handel later re-scored the piece for full orchestra.

The rehearsal in Vauxhall Gardens caused a three hour traffic jam as carriages tried to cross London Bridge to get to the event.

May your New Year be joyous.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Tim McGraw - My Next Thirty Years

New Year's Day is upon us, and the holiday calls us to reflect on our live and make resolutions to improve ourselves in the upcoming year.  If we keep some of the resolutions, that's even better.

You bet there's a Country song for that.  Tim McGraw really needs no introduction, with 25 #1 hits, three Grammys, and more ACM/CMA awards than you can shake a stick at.  This was from his 1999 album A Place In The Sun.

My Next Thirty Years (Songwriter: Phil Vassar):
I think I’ll take a moment, celebrate my age
The ending of an era and the turning of a page
Now it’s time to focus in on where I go from here
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years 
Hey my next thirty years I’m gonna have some fun
Try to forget about all the crazy things I’ve done
Maybe now I’ve conquered all my adolescent fears
And I’ll do it better in my next thirty years 
My next thirty years I’m gonna settle all the scores
Cry a little less, laugh a little more
Find a world of happiness without the hate and fear
Figure out just what I’m doing here
In my next thirty years 
Oh my next thirty years, I’m gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers
Maybe I’ll remember my next thirty years 
My next thirty years will be the best years of my life
Raise a little family and hang out with my wife
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear
Make up for lost time here, in my next thirty years
In my next thirty years

Friday, December 28, 2018

A Tragedy At The Holidays

ChickenMom has lost her son.

It is said that joy shared is increased, and pain shared is lessened.  Please stop by and leave condolences.  One of our community has pain beyond comprehending.

Nobody should have to bury one of their children, especially this time of year.

UK Police losing war with smuggled guns

Shockingly, it seems that Her Majesty's Scepter'd Isle is not so protected by the English Channel as Her Majesty's Government would like:
Police and border officials are struggling to stop a rising supply of illegal firearms being smuggled into Britain, a senior police chief has warned. 
Chief constable Andy Cooke, the national police lead for serious and organised crime, said law enforcement had seen an increased supply of guns over the past year, and feared that it would continue in 2019. 
The Guardian has learned that the situation is so serious that the National Crime Agency has taken the rare step of using its legal powers to direct every single police force to step up the fight against illegal guns.
These are new guns, not existing ones stolen in burglaries.  Some are shipped into the country in packages - the explosion of online shopping has led to new smuggling channels.  Not surprising, as drugs are smuggled by the ton and are available for sale on every street corner.  Of course, this was easily foreseeable - and in fact I blogged about this 8 years ago:
So there was another mass shooting in gun-free Great Britain. To those who think that Yet Another Tweak of the gun control laws will prevent this in the future, to those who believe in their heart of hearts that "Common Sense Gun Control" really is possible, I have one question: 
Which weighs more, a ton of cocaine, or a ton of Glocks?
The more things change, the more things stay the same.

But fear not, the UK Police are on it.  Well, they're on something, at least:
British citizens trying to craft a New Year's resolution for 2019 don't have to worry. Your government is taking care of it. You're going to commit to eating less food. 
It doesn't matter whether you want to or even need to eat less food. Public Health England has decided that growing obesity numbers require all British citizens to eat less food. And they're going to force the matter by controlling the size of just about every single piece of food and prepared available for purchase.
If you follow the first link, you'll read a quote from a police commander complaining that they're too understaffed to catch all the illegal guns coming into the kingdom.  But the second link says that they'll be even more understaffed as their police force will be called on to round up Big Mac scofflaws.

Err, when they're not blockading hospitals to make sure that desperately ill children don't escape the National Health Service:
[The Archbishop of Liverpool] tells us that everything “humanly possible” has been done to help the child, ignoring that the Police hold him hostage in a hospital that intends to starve him to death.  Police that turned away a German Air Ambulance come to take him for treatment far from the shores of Her Majesty's Scepter'd Isle.
But no doubt that one more tweak of the gun laws in Blighty - or on these shores (*cough* ATF Bumpstock Ban *cough*) will solve the problem nicely.

And so the Government can't do basic things that the public expects (provide security) while it busies itself sticking its nose into your business (or killing your kids).  Ah, well.  It's clear that the has no legitimacy:
Things get ugly when the government, as the Chinese say, loses the Mandate of Heaven.  We are seeing political signs pointing to this all over the place: the election of Donald Trump, BREXIT, the waxing of nationalist political parties across Western Europe, the alliance in Italy of left-wing and right-wing nationalist parties.  Everywhere you look the populations are rejecting the existing governments.  Each of the governments are desperately trying to suppress this rejection.  And so the air is going out of the legitimacy balloon. 
But remember, a millennium of expectations do not go softly into that good night.  The deal was that blood feud would be replaced by the State using its monopoly of force to ensure justice.  What happens when a big enough portion of the population thinks that the deal has been broken?  How big does that group need to be? 
I certainly don't have answers to any of these questions, but the answers are not important.  What's important is that the questions can be asked and not be rejected out of hand.
I'm old enough to remember when it was widely thought that the Government was competent, and if it put its mind to it could do amazing things.  That was in the 1960s.  What we've seen since then is a more frequent demonstration that the Government couldn't bring tomorrow in on time.

But hey, some more stupid or useless gun control laws would be awesome, amirite?

How women wrap presents vs. how men wrap presents

I've never seen anyone wrap presents like the Queen Of The World.  When she's done they're simply spectacular.  For example:

And another:

Now I'm not as bad as this next example, but there's a lot of truth in this:

Made us laugh, that did.

The MSM looks like it is collapsing

Their messaging is becoming not just ineffective, but counter productive towards their political goals.  Here are two links that illustrates this.

The Washington Post published a sob story about how awful it was that a second kid dies trying to get into the country.  His father needed money to pay an electricity bill and so borrowed money to pay a smuggler to get him and his son into the US.  The comments at the WaPo web site are scathing:
This is the most liked comment:
This child's siblings in Guatemala are alive and well. The child was dragged to the US using money that could have paid the father's overdue electric bill, which is not a reason to grant asylum.
That is responded to by another well-liked comment:
Thank you. I am liberal myself but I get tired of people who shut off their critical thinking when it comes to brown people. This guy made a spectacularly risky decision, and his child paid the price. It's on his head. This is, of course, on the assumption that the U.S. wasn't negligent in the kid's care - which is certainly possible. Nonetheless it's his father who endangered him.
The second most well liked comment is:
This is human trafficking with children being used as pawns. Our charity is being abused. We're being scammed.
There's a lot more but the message is clear that even Washington Post readers are not buying the message.  You could almost call it a massive outbreak of sanity breaking out among the left.  A second link discusses a Wall Street Journal editorial:
In the words of the WSJ: "[C]an anyone reading those opening two sentences wonder why millions of Americans believe Donald Trump when he tells them that he can’t get a fair shake from the press?" 
I'll just add that I can barely read the news these days (and I absolutely cannot watch it on TV). The negativity toward Trump is so relentless, cluttering up everything. It's crying wolf times a thousand. If anything is worth taking seriously, I'm afraid I won't be able to notice.
The blogger is politically moderate but this seems yet more sanity.  Especially this:  It's crying wolf times a thousand.  These seem like useful links when dealing with liberal family or friends.

There appears to be a law of diminishing returns for liberal press bias.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Have yourself a Tactical Christmas ...

My Stepson sent this bit of awesome Christmas cheer:

Err, the stocking, not the pillow.  It was filled with tactical goodies: paracord and such.  A selection is shown here, which will soon find a place in the Harley:

Shown clockwise from the top: a flashlight with adjustable wide-angle to tight-focus flashlight, a multitool with a boatload of nut drivers, a Swiss Army knife, and a "Monkey" wrench which has different wrench sizes (in the middle).  It also has hooks to wrap earbud cords around and a slot - put a credit card in and it converts to a tripod that you can set your phone on.  If you have a flashlight app on the phone (and hey, who doesn't?) you can prop a flashlight/phone to illuminate your subject while you hold the actual flashlight in your mouth.

Hope your Christmas was equally awesome!

Wolfgang checks his stocking

He hopes you got a frisbee, too!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Follow NORAD's online Santa tracker

This is pretty fun, if little kids are around.

December 24, 1914

104 years ago today, 100,000 soldiers in the trenches of the Western Front stopped shooting each other, at least for a little while.  Instead, moved by the spirit of the season, they met in No Man's Land to exchange greetings and brandy, and to play soccer.  

Image from the Illustrated London News, 9 Jan 1915
The Generals were less than amused, and cracked down in following years.  Captain Sir Iain Colquhoun was Court-marshalled for his participation.  After they convicted him someone recalled that he was related to the British Prime Minister, and so they swept it all under the carpet.

Historians now occupy the field of battle because all the eye witnesses are now long dead.  All that we have are stories from those who remember those witnesses. But we know that December 1914 saw something unique in trench warfare: Christmas showed that basic humanity was still to be found on the Western Front:
All our lives, our family our friends told us it we were crazy.  Couldn't possibly have happened to us.  Then we heard your song on the radio and said "See? See? We were there."

Christmas In The Trenches (Songwriter: John McCutcheon)
My name is Francis Tolliver. I come from Liverpool.
Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school.
To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany to here,
I fought for King and country I love dear.

It was Christmas in the trenches where the frost so bitter hung.
The frozen field of France were still, no Christmas song was sung.
Our families back in England were toasting us that day,
their brave and glorious lads so far away.

I was lyin' with my mess-mates on the cold and rocky ground
when across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound.
Says I "Now listen up me boys", each soldier strained to hear
as one young German voice sang out so clear.

"He's singin' bloddy well you know", my partner says to me.
Soon one by one each German voice joined in in harmony.
The cannons rested silent. The gas cloud rolled no more
as Christmas brought us respite from the war.

As soon as they were finished a reverent pause was spent.
'God rest ye merry, gentlemen' struck up some lads from Kent.
The next they sang was 'Stille Nacht". "Tis 'Silent Night'" says I
and in two toungues one song filled up that sky.

"There's someone commin' towards us" the front-line sentry cried.
All sights were fixed on one lone figure trudging from their side.
His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that plain so bright
as he bravely strode, unarmed, into the night.

Then one by one on either side walked into no-mans-land
with neither gun nor bayonet we met there hand to hand.
We shared some secret brandy and wished each other well
and in a flare-lit soccer game we gave 'em hell.

We traded chocolates, cigarettes and photographs from home
these sons and fathers far away from families of their own.
Young Sanders played his squeeze box and they had a violin
this curious and unlikely band of men.

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more.
With sad farewells we each began to settle back to war.
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night
"whose family have I fixed within my sights?"

It was Christmas in the trenches where the frost so bitter hung.
The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung.
For the walls they'd kept between us to exact the work of war
had been crumbled and were gone for ever more.

My name is Francis Tolliver. In Liverpool I dwell.
Each Christmas come since World War One
I've learned it's lessons well.
That the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame
and on each end of the rifle we're the same.
This Christmas Eve, we would like to wish all our readers the joy of the season.  And we would like you to remember those caught up in the killing fields of Flanders, the Ardennes, Khe Sanh, or Fallujah. And also remember those who still stand post far from home and family tonight.

Why we celebrate Christmas on December 25

A lot of people know that this goes all the way back to the Roman Empire - not surprising when you think that the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion of the Emperors in the 320s AD.  But a lot of people mistakenly think that the date for Christmas was chosen to coincide with the old Roman holiday of Saturnalia, a goofy end of year celebration where slaves were given the opportunity to act as masters for a day (as long as they really didn't try to).  No, it was something different, and more important for the development of the early Church, something that grew out of one of the most difficult times in the Empire's history and came from one of their very greatest Emperors.

The third century AD was a terrible time for the Empire, with a succession of generals usurping the Imperial crown and the empire assaulted by external enemies like the great Persian king Sharpur II.  Things got so bad that the Empire split into three pieces - a "Gallic Empire" in the West comprising Britain, France, and Spain; the rich eastern provinces of Egypt and Syria falling under the domination of Queen Zenobia's oasis city state of Palmyra, and a rump Empire of Italy and Africa.  It was really possible for a moment that the Roman Empire would simply dissolve - the bonds holding it together looked too weak to hold.

A gold coin from Aurelian's reign
But the Empire was saved by emperor Aurelian, who brought the whole thing back together.  A grateful Senate awarded him the title "Restitutor Orbis" - Restorer of the World.  Mike Duncan in his great History Of Rome Podcast describes Aurelian as the Sandy Koufax of Roman Emperors - he didn't have the longest career or the most strikeouts or wins, but while he played he was simply unhittable - Left Hand Of God.  You really should listen to the first couple minutes of this podcast episode as it is Mike Duncan at his very best.

So in five short years Aurelian restored the Roman world.  But he wasn't just one of the best generals in Roman history, he was also a great statesman.  He turned his mind to why the Empire was so fragile; if he could knit it more tightly together he might be able to prevent a repeat breakup.  Aurelian believed that a big problem was that the Empire was a collection of diverse peoples - Gauls and Britons and Egyptians and Syrians who all had different cultures and beliefs.  In short, they had little in common other than the Emperor of the day and everyone had just seen how that had worked out.

And so Aurelian tried to overlay some commonality on his peoples.  Each worshiped their own local gods, but most of these religious systems were fairly flexible.  Aurelian introduced an Empire-wide cult, thinking that having some similarities would help create a common sense of Roman-ness.  Aurelian chose a cult that was popular with the Army since the closest thing that the Empire had to a single common institution throughout the Empire was the Army.

Sol Invictus was popular with the troops, the Unconquered Sun god.  Most parts of the Empire adopted this seamlessly as one of the many gods, although it seems that Aurelian seemed to believe that Sol Invictus was the only god who took many forms which were interpreted as the local deities. This was an emergent idea in the Ancient world and an expression in the chronicles say the one wax takes many moulds.

Aurelian introduced his cult on December 25, 274 AD and it became really the first Empire-wide holiday.   He succeeded in founding a common belief across the Empire, perhaps succeeded more than even he hoped.  Because the idea stuck: Emperor Constantine didn't just introduce Christianity. It's from him that we get the word Sunday, since he decreed that across the Empire the weekly day of rest would be the day of rest - the dies Solis.

And so the early Church had a challenge from a popular cult, but this was also an opportunity for them. Sol Invictus was the first half step towards monotheism and identifying Jesus Christ with the unconquered sun didn't actually turn out to be all that hard for the early Church Fathers.  Indeed, what is Easter if not the celebration of the Unconquered Son?  December 25 stuck in the calendar.  It's been celebrated all the way down through the ages - ever since 274 AD.

It wasn't the silliness of Saturnalia that had to be co-opted, it was the Feast of the Nativity of the Unconquered Son.  May tomorrow's feast day be festive indeed.  You might even want to offer a toast to Aurelian Restitutor Orbis.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Pentatonix - That’s Christmas To Me

Georg Frederick Handel - Hallelujah Chorus in D Major (from The Messiah)

Tomorrow is the Eve of the Feast of the Nativity.  Here at Castle Borepatch the Groaning Board is groaning and the storerooms are bursting with holiday fare - nobody does Christmas like the Queen Of The World.  Indeed, she has transformed the Castle into a Winter Wonderland, and with Christmas music playing amidst all the decorations the place is looking festive indeed.

Because the reason for the season calls for bringing out the best.  Sunday classical music here is no different.  I've posted this before, but there's really nothing more classic for Christmas than this and the holiday demands the best even if it is a repeat.


And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
- Revelation 11:15  
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
- Revelation 19:6

The biggest mistake that Classical Music (as commonly understood) can make is to divorce itself from its audience.  This divorce explains almost all of why modern Classical Music is such a wasteland of ugliness.  In earlier days, Classical composers were Rock Stars, and the audience treated them as such.  That flame, while flickering, is still burning and even showing signs of roaring back.  Handel's "Messiah" shows that.

Image via Wikipedia
It's a myth that everyone stands for the Hallelujah Chorus because the King was so overwhelmed when he heard it that he lept to his feet.  The rest of the audience of course would have scrambled to theirs as well - nobody sat while the King stood, Back In The Day.  It seems that the story isn't true but I must say that the hair on the back of my neck stood up when the audience rose en masse the first time I performed this.  They also sang along to us, claiming this small portion of Handel's master work as theirs.

That continues to this day with the wonderful new tradition of Classical Music "Flash Mobs".  Essentially, this is music swooping down on people who, unsuspecting, are simply living out an ordinary day of their lives.  The People always rise to this occasion, joining with delight the sudden and seemingly random outbreak of culture.  Here's one example, from a shopping mall in Philadelphia, accompanied by the world's largest pipe organ:

Sure, the camera work is bad (it's mostly caught from within the audience), and the sound quality is amateurish (same problem).  Watch the people - caught without practice, or even a script, they join in the singing.  They take a stuffy Symphony Hall performance and make it their own.  They understand - everyone involved understands - that this is our culture.  The result is a performance done for the joy of the doing by both professionals and audience.  I cannot put into words how beautiful I see these social acts of culture.

And although I have not sung this for twenty years, to this day I could do a creditable job on the baritone part from memory - and could do it justice if I had not gotten rid of the script in the move from Camp Borepatch.

This is Classical Music, as it was understood back in the days when composers were Rock Stars.  And quite frankly, some composers - notably Handel - are still rock stars.  Just watch the people there when the organ kicks off and the chorus unloads the first line.  The audience entirely gets what's going on and joins in, with delight.

This is a meditation on the upcoming holiday.  The Lord Messiah was not sent for a small elite, he was sent for everyone - even shopping mall patrons.  The music of this coming holiday is one that everyone is invited to join in.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

I had not thought of that

Seen on reddit/r/The_Donald:

Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash - Jackson

The Queen Of The World and I have started going to our local watering hole for Karaoke Night.  It's surprisingly fun and while there are the expected number of performers with more ego than talent there are also a surprising number of people who are quite good.  Our favorite waitress is one, who absolutely crushes Reba's "Why Haven't I Heard From You".

As it turns out, Johnny Cash's songs are right in my wheel house (err, vocal range).  The QOTW doesn't perform but she likes it when I do.  So that means Johnny Cash as I figure out what else I can do without embarrassing myself.  Last night I did this with the waitress, to general acclaim.

Which is not surprising because it's a fun song.  Johnny and June won a Grammy for this in 1967, and you can see them having a ball singing it with each other.

Jackson (Songwriters: Billy Edd Wheeler, Jerry Leiber)
We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout,
We've been talkin' 'bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out.
I'm goin' to Jackson, I'm gonna mess around,
Yeah, I'm goin' to Jackson,
Look out Jackson town. 
Well, go on down to Jackson; go ahead and wreck your health.
Go play your hand you big-talkin' man, make a big fool of yourself,
You're goin' to Jackson; go comb your hair!
Honey, I'm gonna snowball Jackson.
See if I care. 
When I breeze into that city, people gonna stoop and bow. (Hah!)
All them women gonna make me, teach 'em what they don't know how,
I'm goin' to Jackson, you turn-a loose-a my coat.
'Cos I'm goin' to Jackson.
"Goodbye," that's all she wrote. 
But they'll laugh at you in Jackson, and I'll be dancin' on a Pony Keg.
They'll lead you 'round town like a scalded hound,
With your tail tucked between your legs,
You're goin' to Jackson, you big-talkin' man.
And I'll be waitin' in Jackson, behind my Jaypan Fan, 
Well now, we got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper Sprout,
We've been talkin' 'bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out.
I'm goin' to Jackson, and that's a fact.
Yeah, we're goin' to Jackson, ain't never comin' back.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Things that make you go "Hmmmm ..."

Obama actually didn't do anything to push gun control, other than flap his jaws.  The Republicans?  They've been trying to cozy up to more gun control for years.  I guess they think that they'll get invited to nicer parties or something.  It's a good thing for gun owners that Mitt Romney lost in 2012.

And the NRA is (once again) tits on a bull.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Spirit of Christmas - A Brigid Guest Post

Let the high praises of God be in their mouth and a
two-edged sword in their hand
Psalm 149:6 (KJV)

After a fun day and a late evening practicing with the church Bell Choir for Christmas Day,  I'm getting some Christmas things done around the homestead while listening to Christmas music. Nothing involving Santa's and Grinches and Red Nosed anything, but traditional Christmas music as we sang in church. There are still a couple of them I can sing in Norwegian (but then the cats start to gather on the porch. . . )

I like a traditional Christmas. Not long ago, someone I knew professionally invited me over to their house for Christmas Eve and Day as I didn't really have any plans and I didn't have any family in that part of the country and being new on the job I didn't have leave or money to fly out West for the holidays. There was no music, the plastic tree was put up on Christmas Eve and the kid's presents were ripped open on Christmas Eve in a flurry of paper without as much as a thank you while the adults just had snacks and drank. Christmas day was non stop video games after more presents from Santa. No church, no Christmas Carols, no candles, no special dinner, nothing.

I appreciated the invite but it felt no more like Christmas than July 3rd.

So today, there is music, making more cookies for friends (the one's yesterday all evaporated) and getting some last minute cards prepared.

So which one do I send?

There is no more naughty and nice, EVERYONE is nice - the Politically Correct Christmas Card

DEAR ______ : Please accept with no implied or implicit obligation on your part, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the generally accepted in the calendar year 2011, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country or is the only America in the Western Hemisphere and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes. By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

Or do I just make my own, from the heart?  In memory of  Barkley.

Regarding Syria

Peter has a must-read post that goes in-depth to the war there.  I have nothing to add other than to say read the whole thing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Yeah, but our cunning Government Plan is simply *Spectacular*

Why, it's perfect!  And even if it's not, who would remember?

Oh, wait ...

It's funny because it's true.  And it's actually not funny.  At all.  People should lose their jobs, because what they did made hundreds of people lose their lives.

Question, asked

Thinking about my last post, I wonder why I do not have a post tag for Assholes.  I guess it's because I strive for a PG rating.


A non-racist argument for Immigration Reform

If you're thinking of seeing the new Mary Poppins film, you might want to reconsider.

The film stars Emily Blunt, a British actress in the role made iconic by British actress Julie Andrews.  Miss Blunt became a naturalized American citizen in August 2015.  The very next month, she told the Press that she had perhaps made a terrible mistake:
Emily Blunt said watching the Republican debate made her have second thoughts about becoming an American. 
“I became an American citizen recently,” the actress told The Hollywood Reporter during the Toronto Film Festival. “And that night, we watched the debate and I thought, ‘This was a terrible mistake. What have I done?'”
Alas, to be so suddenly disillusioned.  Personally, I blame the Republic's lax immigration policies for her sad predicament.  If only the bar were set higher, perhaps if potential immigrants had to strive harder and to - dare I say it? - want more desperately to actually become American, then tragedies like Miss Blunt's* might become a thing of the past.

Think I'm exaggerating?  Consider Miss Blunt's story, in her own words:
“I’m not sure I’m entirely thrilled about it,” she said. “People ask me about the whole day. They were like, ‘Oh, it must have been so emotional.’ I was like, ‘It wasn’t! It was sad!’ I like being British.” 
Oh, the horror!  So sad to be forced to become - one almost chokes on the word - American.

[Pauses to let the hisses and howls of disapprobation die down]
“The thing that’s weird is I do get to keep both my British citizenship and this, but you have to renounce her [Queen Elizabeth II.] So, it’s kind of typically American — not to be rude — but I had to renounce her in the room but I don’t actually, technically renounce her.” 
“They were like, ‘Just say it. You don’t have to mean it, but just say it.'”
Not to be rude.  Well done, Miss Blunt!  Lord knows that we don't want any of those types coming to our fair shores.  Oh, wait.  Well good thing that we dumb Yanks don't make you actually mean what you swear to under penalty of perjury.  No bigs.  Whatevs.


So what can we intuit from Miss Blunt's rather bold confession?  I might offer a few ideas, none of which are actually mutually exclusive:

  • Miss Blunt is a liar.  She either meant to actually become an American citizen and lied to a biased Hollywood Press, or she never really wanted to become an American citizen and lied to the US Immigration and Naturalization Service.
  • Miss Blunt is a fool, and more sadly, a fool that never heard that old saying recommending that one keep one's mouth shut to avoid dispelling all doubt on the subject.
  • Miss Blunt is a more or less typical Hollywood starlet, happy to sell her virtue to get the right roles.  Miss Blunt was in the running for a major Motion Picture role at the time (Mary Poppins) and probably suspected that saying the Approved™ (i.e. anti Republican) words in a high profile/high impact ("I regret becoming an American because of those bloody Republicans!") interview would help her land the part.  Which she did.
Personally, I tend towards the argument that she has an easy virtue.  It's hard to believe that she hadn't heard all the coffee mess scuttlebutt about Harvey Weinstein's many sexual assaults, but instead of condemning him, she unloaded on Republicans.

Oooooh kaaaay.  #BeliveAllWomen, sweetie.

And so I find myself strangely uneager to see her new film, even though it has the New Film Smell seems to have been nominated for Best Picture or something.  Since Miss Blunt seems perfectly happy being British (Not That There's Anything Wrong With That™) let me offer her a simple expression that is strangely popular here in the Colonies:
Don't let it hit you in the ass on the way out, sweet cheeks.
And is it now OK to start to question whether the current immigration policies are not only admitting but are actually naturalizing people who do not seem to have any desire at all to become, you know - American?  And let me point out to the Usual Suspects® who are perpetually offended (without seeming to have an IQ that can fog a mirror) - if this attitude is racist, then I'm being racist against a person who is whiter than Mitt Romney in a snowstorm, covered in mayonnaise.

Me, I'm thinking that once Donald Trump builds that wall at the southern border, maybe we should consider some tank traps and minefields at the Atlantic beaches to keep unruly (and snobby) Brits out.  No doubt the Usual Suspects® would call this Nazi atrocity the "Atlantic Wall" or some such nonsense.

Or maybe the Fed.Gov could just make it a little harder to come here and become a fellow citizen of millions of people you detest.  You know - make people prove that they actually don't detest half the country before getting voting rights?

Yeah, yeah - this is crazy talk.  Or something.  But just think of Miss Blunt's personal Hell.  If the Government can save just one millionaire Hollywood starlet, isn't it worth it?  Just one?

Oh, and by the way: Julie Andrews owned the role.  Also, I have absolutely no idea what her politics are.  That makes her not just a better actress but a million times smarter than Miss Blunt.  It would be ungallant of me to wish Blunt to die screaming in a fire, so instead let me just say that alas, we shall not be frequenting her films.  This one or subsequent performances.

So very sad.  Perhaps she would feel better about all this if she moved back to Blighty?

* More properly, she is called Mrs. John Krasinski.  Mr. Krasinski stared in the US version of "The Office".

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Monday, December 17, 2018

NJ Town trying to shut down Christmas Light display


The story in text here:
For 15 years, the Old Bridge resident has put on a massive 70,000 Christmas light show. But, this year, instead of attracting visitors, the display brought out what Tom calls “Holiday Scrooges.”

“I mean, what else can you have? It’s Christmas lights. I mean, who wouldn’t be happy seeing Christmas lights?” asked Apruzzi. 
Well, the Township, for one. Mayor Owen Henry, in a recent statement, said Tom will need to pay up – roughly $2,000 a night. 
“I have always held the same position stating that the show was a go, but with proper safety measures.” 
“I’m not, if you want public safety on the streets, you are going to have to take care of public safety. You are the police. That’s your job,” said Tom.
New Jersey has what may be the highest property taxes in the nation, and Mayor Scrooge wants to bill a homeowner for police work because he put up some lights.  Oooooh kaaaaay.

I remember growing up in a free country.  We stared down the Godless Commies.  Now The Man sends you a bill for police work, police work that hassles everybody.  Bah, humbug.

The new Army uniforms look pretty sharp

Story here.  Now if the Navy would just go back to their old uniforms, we'd really be getting somewhere.

Now that's funny

It's funny because it's true.

Understanding Climate Data made easy

As a full service climate skeptic blog, I chew on a lot of the science so I can present what's going on in an easy to digest manner.  This leads me into the actual temperature data sets pretty regularly which quite frankly is where the action is.  When you actually look at the data it becomes immediately clear that the science is anything but settled.  The planet may be warming, but if so there are some very unexpected things that remain unexplained.  To me, this is the biggest source of skepticism, and it's a skepticism that's entirely justified.

As a starting point, here's a good discussion about temperature measurements.  It's a bit thick going if you're not a science nerd like I am, but let me boil this down for you.  The weather stations that feed data into the climate databases.  For the USA - and actually most of the world, really - this is the Global Climate Historical Network, or GHCN.  You can get you a copy here.

The weather stations daily record two items of primary interest to us:

  • TMax, the highest temperature recorded on each day, and
  • TMin, the lowest temperature recorded on each day.

This actually makes a lot of sense, and there's a ton of analysis of this data which gives us daily average temperature and the like.  So far, so good.

The biggest fly in the ointment (as I've repeatedly complained about) are the adjustments made to the data after it was recorded.  This is done for many reasons: a change in equipment to a model that reads a slightly different temperature, a station movement to a hotter or cooler location, a change in the time of day when the readings were taken, and a bunch of others.  If you're talking about satellite data one of the adjustments is for orbital decay and another is for relativistic effects which is pretty cool.

I won't talk about adjustments here because I've beaten that horse to death.  If you're interested, a starting point is my Layman's Guide to the science of global warming on the right hand sidebar of this blog.  For now we'll just leave it as my opinion is that the most or all of the warming we've seen in the last 100 years are do to adjustments (i.e. it's not in the actual data as recorded from the weather stations) and a bunch of these adjustments are very poorly justified.

So let's talk about data that are not adjusted, namely temperature records.  These by definition are unadjusted TMax and TMin readings.  I'm interested in these because if you're suspicious of the adjustments, you can avoid them entirely by just looking at records.  Wikipedia has an interesting page of record high and low temperatures for each of the 50 US States here.

Now it's Wikipedia, and we've seen over and over again.  But facts are stubborn things, and record high or low temperatures are stubborn facts.  So let's take a look at them, as shown on the Wikipedia page and use this to figure out what we think may be going on regarding global warming.  After all, we're continually told that the world is rapidly warming and that things are a crisis.  You'd expect to see this in new temperature records being set.

Actually, we're not.

In the last 50 years (since 1968), only nine states have set high temperature records.  41 states set high temperature records in the years before that (the records date back to 1888, when Colorado had a record hot day).  The highest recorded temperature in any of the 50 states was set in 1913 in California.

The sneaky thing that Wikipedia does on this page is that if a state tied a record, the latest date is shown.  This adds another 3 states to the last 50 years, but I am not including them in the 9.  The reason is that the proposition that we're testing is that the climate is warming - getting warmer over time.  If it is as warm as it had been then that's not evidence for warming.  Wikipedia is sneaky here, not showing the original  date that the record was set (and I'm too lazy to dig this up) so for our analysis today we are going to ignore these three data points.

So we see 9 states (18% of the total) setting high records in the last 50 years. 41 states (82% of the total) haven't seen record high temperatures in the period we've been told is an accelerating and hotter climate.  You would expect to see a lot more states - another 15 or so setting recent high temperature records.  Weird, huh?  It's almost like if you remove the adjustments to the temperature data, you don't see accelerating warming.

In fact, we may be seeing the opposite.  If you look at record low temperatures you see a lot going on in the most recent years.  15 states have set record low temperatures in the last 50 years (once again ignoring dates listed with an asterisk which tells us the year that the previous low record was tied).  This is only 30% of the total, but that's basically twice as many as set record high temperatures.

So the unadjusted data tell a different story than the adjusted data.  While inconclusive, there's actually more data showing cooling than show warming.  At the very least, the proposition that the climate is unusually warm and getting warmer is not supported.

Now the establishment science story is that average TMin has been increasing over time, while average TMax has not been increasing much (looking at adjusted data).  Left unexplained is how increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases average low temperatures while not increasing average high temperatures.  Also left unexplained is how increasing average low temperatures (without increasing average high temperatures) will lead to ecological disaster.  Maybe it could, but it's not at all obvious how this would happen.

It's also not explained why Urban Heat Island (UHI) doesn't explain the higher average low temperatures (TMin).  UHI is where a weather station that used to be in a nice grassy field is now in the middle of an airport, surrounded by tarmac and blasted with jetwash.  It's surprising just how many weather stations are not sited to accurate data collection norms - only 8% of GCHN stations are accurate withing 1°C.

You'd think that if the science were as settled as everyone tells us that evidence supporting global warming would be falling off the trees and piled on every street corner.  Instead, we see evidence against is kind of everywhere.  Hmmmm.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Man Who Saved Christmas (Music)

OK, Christmas music didn't really need saving (other than when the Puritans ruled England and its American colonies in the mid 1600s and banned Christmas).  But William Sandys put together the first modern collection of Christmas Carols in his 1833 book, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern.  Published just as the Victorian period was getting under way (the Victorians were famously sentimental about Christmas, among other things popularizing the idea of the Christmas Tree), Sandy's book made famous the core of what we recognize as Christmas Carols: God Rest You Merry Gentlemen, The First Noel, I Saw Three Ships, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

Here is a little playlist of Sandys' collection.  Yeah, he didn't really "save" Christmas music, but he sure wrote it all down.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Friday, December 14, 2018

Joe Bonamassa - Christmas Boogie (Just One Little Kiss)

If this doesn't get your toes tapping then we can't be friends anymore.

Not your parents' Christmas music ...

Ten Years Ago on this Blog

Global Warming caused by lousy data

You read in the press about how much the temperature has risen in the last 100 years. There's an interesting story in the data, but the press doesn't know it.

The data has two components: the raw measurements themselves, and a set of adjustments.

Adjustments are made for a bunch of reasons: time of observation adjustments (you didn't take a reading at exactly the same time each day), environmental changes, weather station site relocations, urbanization, etc.

An interesting question is how much of the 20th century's temperature change is due to adjustments? As it turns out, the answer is all of it.

This chart shows the before-adjustment and after-adjustment temperatures for the 20th century, super imposed. All of the warming is due to adjustments, rather than raw data. Almost all of the adjustments are for readings after 1970.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Jody Williams - Lucky Lou

Jody Williams passed away at the beginning of the month.  He was not only a great bluesman, but he led a most unusual life.  He was childhood friends with Bo Diddley who mentored him.  They began by playing guitar on the streets of Chicago.  They got some gigs which led to Williams getting jobs as  a session guitarist at Chess Records.  That's where he met Howlin' Wolf, who hired him for his band.

Through the 1950s and into the '60s Williams was a prominent blues guitarist.  But a 1961 legal dispute between Chess Records and Mickey Baker made him feel "ripped off" - Baker took one of his riffs without credit and Williams got nothing out of the court case.  Feeling disgusted, be got trained as a Xerox technician and had a 25 year career fixing photocopier machines.

But when he retired from Xerox, he felt he needed to do something to keep himself occupied.  His wife suggested that he pick his guitar back up, and did a gig at the 2000 Chicago Blues Festival.  An album deal came out of that, 2002's Return Of A Legend.  He kept performing until his health deteriorated in 2014.

You wonder how much more great music he would have made if the music business weren't, well, the music business.

Rest in peace.

Gary Sinise pays for 1000 Gold Star children to visit Disney World

More than 1,700 Gold Star family members just got back from a trip to Disney World the families called the “Snowball Express”—an official program of the Gary Sinise Foundation. 
The children and spouses of fallen soldiers were loaded into 15 airplanes and treated to an all-expenses paid five-day vacation in Orlando, Florida.
There still are some good people in Hollywood.

UPDATE 13 December 2018 13:28:  Travelers in Nashville's airport spontaneously sing the national anthem when the PA announces that kids are going to Disney World.

How to understand a liberal

When they talk about guns:

Good advice.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

GoFundMe for Earthquake relief

Fellow blogger Rev. Paul has suffered a lot of damage from the recent Anchorage earthquake.  There's a GoFundMe campaign to help him through this.  I know that it's the holiday season and things are tight for a lot of folks, but if you have a little bit to spare you'll be helping out one of our own.

Why Uber's self-driving car killed that woman

It seems that safety wasn't an after thought - it wasn't thought of at all:
On March 19, the world learned that Uber had a serious safety problem when a prototype self-driving car struck and killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona. But signs of Uber's safety problems were evident to company insiders even before the crash. And at least one Uber manager tried to raise the alarm on March 13—just days before Herzberg's death. 
Robbie Miller worked for Google's self-driving car program until 2016, when he left for the self-driving truck startup Otto. Otto was snapped up by Uber later that year, and Miller became an operations manager in Uber's self-driving truck program. 
Miller quit his job at Uber in March 2018 and went on to lidar startup Luminar. Before he left the company he sent an email to Eric Meyhofer, the leader of Uber's self-driving car project, about safety problems at the company. The email, which was obtained by The Information's Amir Efrati, is absolutely scathing.
"A car was damaged nearly every other day in February," Miller said. "We shouldn’t be hitting things every 15,000 miles."
The article beggars belief.  If this is true, then Uber's self-driving program may be done; I don't see how they can credibly regain the public's trust.  This speaks to a deeply untrustworthy corporate culture:
Miller pointed to an incident in November 2017, when an Uber car had a "dangerous behavior" that nearly caused a crash. The driver notified his superiors about the problem, Miller wrote, but the report was ignored. A few days later Miller noticed the report and urged the team to investigate it. 
But Miller says his request was ignored—and when he pressed the issue with "several people" responsible for overseeing the program, they "told me incidents like that happen all of the time." Ultimately, Miller said it was two weeks before "anyone qualified to analyze the logs reviewed them."
Happens all the time.  No biggie.