Monday, December 10, 2018

A Holiday Charity recommendation

I went on a ride with the local HOG chapter yesterday: Toys For Tots, delivering toys to the Salvation Army.  It was pretty nippy.  But I had a very interesting conversation with one of the SA people who explained the vetting process they do when people ask for help.  Almost all of the people who get assistance are working multiple jobs - they just can't make ends meet.

This holiday season, if you're looking for a group to give money to the Salvation Army is one to think about.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Puppini Sisters - Mele Kalikimaka

They seem to be a young group doing Old School music.

No school like the Old School.

Germany: licenses to carry weapons double

It's Deutsche Welt, so it's backed with "violent American cowboy" references but this is pretty interesting:
Germany has issued nearly 600,000 basic weapons licenses, representing an increase of 130 percent since 2014, according to figures published on Friday by Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND), which supplies a number of German dailies with content. In 2014, only 261,332 licenses were in use.
With the license, Germans can carry gas pistols, flare guns and other weapons not intended for deadly use.
Not as good as a Glock, but better than nothing I guess.  Gosh, what might have led to this increase?
The rise has been partially attributed to a growing sense of public insecurity, most notably with an increase in terror attacks on European soil since 2015.
So Germans are rational.  The Polizei doesn't dig it that people don't feel like the Polizei can't protect them:
"We must be careful not to get American conditions in Germany," said Jörg Radek, deputy chairman of police union GdP, referring to rampant gun violence in the US. "There is a danger that weapons will not be used properly and that their owners will endanger themselves."
[insert "Only Ones" reference]

Germany started turning into America so slowly I hadn't noticed.

This is pretty funny

I must say that I don't look anything like the 1911 guy.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Alison Krauss, Yo Yo Ma, Natalie MacMaster, Shane Shanahan & Cristiana Pato- Wexford Carol

As so often is the case, Irish music reminds us of the reason for the season.  I find that the pipes add a deeply mystical touch.  The lyrics below are a little different, trandscribed by William Grattan Flood from a local singer in County Wexford, and published in the Oxford Book Of Carols in 1928.

English lyrics 
Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born. 
The night before that happy tide,
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town.
But mark how all things came to pass
From every door repelled, alas,
As was foretold, their refuge all
Was but a humble ox's stall. 
Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God's angels did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear
Prepare and go, the angels said
To Bethlehem, be not afraid
For there you'll find, this happy morn
A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born. 
With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went the babe to find
And as God's angel had foretold
They did our Saviour Christ behold
Within a manger he was laid
And by his side the virgin maid
Attending on the Lord of Life
Who came on earth to end all strife. 
There were three wise men from afar
Directed by a glorious star
And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay
And when they came unto that place
Where our beloved Messiah lay
They humbly cast them at his feet
With gifts of gold and incense sweet. 
Irish Lyrics 
Ó, tagaig' uile is adhraigí
An leanbh cneasta sa chró 'na luí
Is cuimhnígí ar ghrá an Rí
A thug dár saoradh anocht an Naí.
'S a Mhuire Mháthair i bParrthas Dé,
Ar chlann bhocht Éabha guigh 'nois go caomh,
Is doras an chró ná dún go deo
Go n-adhram' feasta Mac Mhuire Ógh. 
I mBeithil thoir i lár na hoích'
Ba chlos an deascéala d'aoirí,
Go follas don saol ón spéir go binn
Bhí aingle 'canadh ó rinn go rinn.
"Gluaisig' go beo," dúirt Aingeal Dé,
"Go Beithil sall is gheobhaidh sibh É
'Na luí go séimh i mainséar féir,
Siúd É an Meisias a ghráigh an saol."

What is the Republican Party for?

This is a serious question, and I have what seems an answer.  But it diverges pretty sharply from the marketing messages sent out from GOP HQ.  If we look back over the past 8 years at the big picture messaging - why the GOP said that we should vote for them - we see something like this:

2010: We have to repeal Obamacare!  We can't do anything without controlling the House of Representatives!

2014: We have to repeal Obamacare!  We can't do anything without controlling the Senate!

2016: We have to repeal Obamacare!  We can't do anything without controlling the White House!

There's more, of course - run away deficits being one that used to be much discussed.

So what have we seen?  Well, there was a big tax cut.  And Trump has gotten a bunch of Executive Branch regulations killed.  The economy's doing pretty well for a change.  Trump seems to be cutting some trade deals, using tariffs as a big negotiating stick.  And Trump appointed a bunch of judges, at least until GOP Senator Jeff Flake put a stop to confirmations on his way out of the Senate.

Other than the tax cut, it seems like all Trump, all the time.

Other than tax cuts, the GOP seems to be getting in the way: no Obamacare repeal, no immigration rationalization (let alone a wall).  The list seemingly goes on and on.  Flake is putting a hold on new judges to get a bill passed protecting the Muller investigation, for crying out loud.

Remember when the Democrats took over in 2009?  They had an agenda ready to go.  The GOP in 2016?  Err, not so much.

So what's going on?  I believe that the answer lies in Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law Of Bureaucracy:
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people":
First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration. 
Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.
The Iron Law says that the GOP will function to preferentially advance itself, rather than its stated goals.  If you look at the money flowing into its coffers (and more importantly, who is paying that), it becomes clear that the GOP will work towards crony capitalist, big business, globalist goals.

Just like the Democratic Party.

No Obamacare repeal?  Of course not, because Obamacare was only the first step towards European style government provided healthcare.  Big business loved this because it would reduce their bottom line (health insurance benefits are a big annual cost to them).  No wall?  Of course not, because illegal immigrants depress wages, improving their bottom line.

The costs of their policy preferences are somewhat or largely borne by others: if doesn't hurt the big business if 60% of illegals go on welfare.  Sure, taxes go up and government services go down for citizens in these locales, but the company's bottom line improved, didn't it?

You can go on an on with these examples, but it all boils down to how both parties have sold out to global business.  The hypocrisy is as strong on the Democratic Party's side - the idea that they will do anything for the "Little Guy" is a laugh - but that's really a post for another day.  For now, we'll just leave it at this:

Which brings us to Donald Trump who seems more than anything to be a reactionary, trying to roll back the last 30 years by force of will alone.  Looking at how messed up things have become, that's maybe not a bad thing but he's more or less on his own.

None of this looks sustainable to me.  Trump is Trump, but no man lives forever.  He doesn't seem to be remaking the party, and so once he's gone it seems that we'll be back to the march towards immiseration by the Big Government/Crony Capitalist alliance.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Dangerous Work

In the long ago I was a RADAR tech working on F-4J and F-4S fighters. One of the primary deployments we went on every 18 months was a 6 month stint in Iwakuni, Japan. There are always a couple of fighter squadrons in Iwakuni. Nowadays, those are F-18 squadrons.

Fighter squadrons are an interesting unit because the enlisted man fix the aircraft and the officers fly them into combat. And even when it's not combat, it's dangerous work. Those aircraft operate at the edge of human design and human performance limits. We would fix the planes, then suit them up, strap them in, and watch them go. Every time they landed safely was a good day.

Yesterday, an F-18 stationed in Iwakuni collided with a KC-130 refueling tanker and both aircraft went down in the Sea of Japan. As I write this, two survivors have been located and rescued. While the articles aren't saying it yet, I can assume that the survivors are the aircrew of the F-18. They would have had the opportunity to eject.

I expect the aircrew of the KC-130 did not survive. Whatever damage they incurred, the crew would have been trapped in the aircraft as it crashed in the water.

This is what that refueling evolution looks like from the fighter on a clear day in good visibility. Practicing this at night in scattered clouds would make it much more difficult and dangerous.

Semper Fidelis.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Happy Anniversary

Three years ago the Queen Of The World and I got hitched.

I love the cake topper we had:

Although someone pushed it over.  Even at the wedding there was a motorcycle accident.  Man, she sure is pretty.

But it's more than that - she's an extraordinary woman, and I'm lucky to have her.  And not just because she makes the world's best tiramisu. but because she's my pride and joy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018


Seen on reddit/r/The_Donald:

This is funny enough for me to dig up my old post tag from the Obama years ...

The French people bring the French government to its knees

France has been burning, with riots over pretty much the whole country and hundreds of people injured and/or arrested.  The trigger for all of this was a big gasoline tax increase - ostensibly to control "climate change" but really just another big ol' tax on the working population by the limousine liberals.

And so the country went up in flames as tens of thousands of citizens threw up barricades on the Champs-Elysées.  Seriously:

The protesters all wear yellow safety jackets, which in the last year or two were made mandatory for all drivers.  That was just one of many petty tyrannies that seem to have led up to the current explosion.  There are a LOT of protesters in yellow jackets:

All in all, 36,000 people are protesting across France, and over 5,000 in Paris alone.

Fuel tax rises which had led to weeks of violent protests in France have been suspended for six months.
PM Edouard Philippe said that people's anger must be heard, and the measures would not be applied until there had been proper debate with those affected.
The protests have hit major French cities, causing considerable damage for the past three weekends.
The "gilets jaunes" (yellow vest) protests have now grown to reflect more widespread anger at the government.
Three people have died since the unrest began and the resulting violence and vandalism - notably when statues were smashed at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris last Saturday - have been widely condemned.
"Yellow vests" are so called because they have taken to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow clothing that is required to be carried in every vehicle by French law.
As the Lefties like to say, I guess that this is what Democracy looks like.  Remember, Donald Trump was not a cause, he is a symptom of a reaction to an increasingly aloof and disconnected ruling class. That reaction isn't limited to the United States by any means.

UPDATE 4 December 2018 11:21: It looks like this isn't enough to stop the protests.  At this point you have to start wondering if Macron's government can survive.

And this would have made Dad laugh (he was a Professor of French History):

Monday, December 3, 2018

Wolves protecting sheep

Via Claire (by way of Zendo Deb and  Wirecutter) we find this story of biker gangs providing security for refugees from the California fires:
To the world at large, their leather club jackets mark them as something to be feared, but to the evacuees, it means safety and a watchful eye. On one, a sharp knife sits holstered on his jeans next to a walkie talkie clip. On others, tattoos and heavy skull rings rest around fingers that grip boxes and lug medical supplies around the shelter. “What we do best is to stand there and look ugly,” Strausbaugh joked. “We look hard and we are hard, and if pushed we can push back in a way that isn’t pleasant. But we also have a soft spot for the little guys.” 
Between five to 12 men from the various clubs are on patrol at all times. When they heard complaints about cars being broken into, the men adjusted their patrols to include the parking lot and the dirt lot next door. They found used needles next to an area where children were playing and “gently escorted” those people out, Dunbar said. 
“We saw a need and came and filled it,” Dunbar said simply. “Bike clubs are often involved in things like this but they’re not the type of guys to go and blow their own horn.”
This won't come as a surprise to anyone who's been around bikers.  Zendo Deb muses on Thomas Hobbes:
People say that Thomas Hobbes was an unrealistic pessimist. But I think the state of that church/shelter before the bikers reestablished some level of order was exactly described by Hobbes’ State of War.
During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.
Well, until some hard but good men show up.  Men with a realistic view of the world:
For Strausberg, it’s simply a matter of putting the club’s skills where it’s needed most. They’re well aware of their reputation and the way they look to the world, but as he puts it, “We’re like the wolves protecting the lambs. Sometimes it takes a wolf to protect people from the other wolves out there.”
But Claire reminds us that prepping is more than building up stockpiles:
It seems “good citizens” are as unprepared mentally as they were physically.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Harry Burleigh - From The Southland

Image from Ol' Man Wik
There was a wave of nationalism that swept through classical music in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  These compositions used "common" themes and folk music as the basis of serious concert hall orchestral music.  We've seen much of this here, with Edvard Grieg, Jean Sibelius, Percy Granger, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and (of course) Aaron Copeland.  Another American was quite famous in his day, and in fact a pioneer who helped open doors for black classical music performers like Marian Anderson.  He broke down doors, and it's a shame that we never hear his music anymore, as it's quite good and his story is fascinating.

He was born in 1866 into a society undergoing big, big changes.  Despite the endemic racism of the day, his singing talent opened doors as he was pretty quickly recognized as the finest baritone in his native Erie, PA.  This led to numerous soloist jobs, and his success there led him to New York City and the National Conservatory of Music where he studied.  He supported himself as a handyman at the Conservatory, where he sang spirituals in the hallways while working.  This brought him to the attention of the Conservatory's Director, none other than Antonín Dvořák (who - unbelievably as it may sound - has never been featured here on Sunday Classical).  Dvořák knew everybody who was anybody in the music world, and not only included some of the black spiritual melodies in his New World symphony, but was likely instrumental in getting Burleigh a job teaching at the Conservatory.

He was considered for the position of soloist at St. George's Episcopal Church but the congregation balked at hiring a black man (the church was segregated at the time).  It was J. P. Morgan himself who cast the deciding vote to hire Burleigh, who held the position for 52 years.  His annual Palm Sunday performance of Fauré's "The Palms" was a 50 year tradition in New York, and Mayor LaGuardia had him broadcast it from the Mayor's office in 1944.

Along the way he composed quite a lot of good music.  This is a great example, with traditional themes (you very well may recognize some) done in a classical format.  The music starts perhaps nine and a half minutes into the video, but there's a fair amount of background on Burleigh there.

Happy birthday, Harry Burleigh!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Fair Winds and Following Seas

He was a Navy pilot with Torpedo Squadron VT-51 during the Second World War. Later he entered government service. Fair winds and following seas, Lt. Bush.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Elvis Presley and Martina McBride - Blue Christmas

We're pretty close to the time when it won't be easy to tell a manufactured (rather than a filmed) video.  But this is pretty nice.

Don't ever change, NRA

It always feels like you have our backs.

How's this for an idea: before a bump stock ban based on its supposed use in the Las Vegas shooting, how about releasing the results of the investigation into the Las Vegas shooting?  We haven't heard anything about it.  Maybe I'm just suspicious of new gun laws and regulations based on vague handwaving, but we've had quite a lot of that before.

And the NRA's silence on this is pretty telling.  You'd think they could negotiate something in return, but they never seem to do it.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Thurl Ravenscroft - You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch

The Queen Of The World and I watched this a few days ago.  I hadn't known that Ravenscroft was also the voice of Tony the Tiger for over 50 years.  He also did voices at Disneyland, including the Enchanted Tiki Room (which freaked out a very young #2 Son, back in the day), Pirates of the Caribbean, and as a singing bust in the Haunted Mansion.  This is his most famous performance.

Security tips for online shopping

Brian Krebs has a good list.  This is practical advice, and I really don't seen anything to argue with.

Lower sales at Dick's Sporting Goods

It seems that their anti-gun policies are at the heart of the revenue drop:
Sales at Dick's Sporting Goods dropped in the past three months amid backlash against tighter gun-sale restrictions following a mass killing early this year at a Florida high school.
Revenue dipped 4.5 percent to $1.86 billion amid challenges in the company's hunting business during the quarter through Nov. 3. Sales at stores open at least 12 months – a key metric for the retail industry – fell 6.1 percent compared to the prior year.
So Dick's management thought that appealing to Social Justice Warriors instead of hunters would juice their sales.  Seriously:
While Chief Executive Officer Edward Stack previously said the firearms policy brought in new customers and sales were reported as flat in August, Dick's has now warned that "negative reaction" could affect future results.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Democrats' Emily Latella

Christmas Carols

Okay! Thanksgiving is over. Put up the tree, buy a present for someone you love, make some cookies. I offer you the sounds of the season.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Science as practiced today is very sick

"Sick" as in unhealthy.  Something is very wrong in how science is done, and people are talking about it:
According to theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, impaired methodology and groupthink is retarding the discovery of new physics.
The present phase of stagnation in the foundations of physics is not normal
Nothing is moving in the foundations of physics. One experiment after theother is returning null resultsNo new particles, no new dimensions, no new symmetries. Sure, there are some anomalies in the data here and there, and maybe one of them will turn out to be real news. But experimentalists are just poking in the dark. They have no clue where new physics may be to find. And their colleagues in theory development are of no help.
Some have called it a crisis. But I don’t think “crisis” describes the current situation well: Crisis is so optimistic. It raises the impression that theorists realized the error of their ways, that change is on the way, that they are waking up now and will abandon their flawed methodology. But I see no awakening. The self-reflection in the community is zero, zilch, nada, nichts, null. They just keep doing what they’ve been doing for 40 years, blathering about naturalness and multiversesand shifting their “predictions,” once againto the next larger particle collider.
This is a long and detailed discussion which is hard to excerpt.  This bit seems very important as to the institutional rot:
Developing new methodologies is harder than inventing new particles in the dozens, which is why they don’t like to hear my conclusions. Any change will reduce the paper output, and they don’t want this. It’s not institutional pressure that creates this resistance, it’s that scientists themselves don’t want to move their butts.
How long can they go on with this, you ask? How long can they keep on spinning theory-tales?
I am afraid there is nothing that can stop them. They review each other’s papers. They review each other’s grant proposals. And they constantly tell each other that what they are doing is good science. Why should they stop? For them, all is going well. They hold conferences, they publish papers, they discuss their great new ideas. From the inside, it looks like business as usual, just that nothing comes out of it.
This is not a problem that will go away by itself.
As I said, this is hard to excerpt but is really important.  RTWT.

I've been beating the drum of institutional rot in the scientific community for a long time.  This is more than just the chicanery that passes itself off as mainstream Climate Science®, this is describing how the institutions that are supposed to support scientific research are actively hindering it.  Here are a few from the archives:

The Iron Law and the bureaucratization of science.  This post makes the case that scientific discoveries are not appearing faster than they did a century ago, despite the vast increase in the number of people who "do science" for a living.  Long and hard to excerpt but this is the key bit:
The billions of taxpayer dollars being spent on scientific research do not seem to be accelerating the advance of scientific discovery.  Well, not obviously, in any case.  However, they do appear to be stunningly successful in creating and nourishing a scientific bureaucracy (as Lewis points out).  Bureaucracies have particular well understood characteristics, most interesting of which is Pournelle's Iron Law:
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.
Think of the Iron Law, and a representative of each class of people.  Wilhelm Röntgen discovered X-Rays (see the chart above), one of the great scientific advances of the 1890s.  Curtis G. Callan, Jr. of Princeton University is President of the American Physical Society.  Who does the Iron Law predict will gain control of the funding?

I can't believe that scientists today are less brilliant than Röntgen.  With so many more of them working today, something must explain the lack of expected progress.  The Iron Law does just that.  Consider all the potential topics that a brilliant young physicist might choose from.  Some of these might threaten Dr. Callan's position and funding.  The Iron Law predicts that the bureaucracy will respond to stifle this threatening research.  
A couple people left comments to the effect that a century ago there was a lot more low hanging fruit than today.  We've discovered the easy things and what's left is harder.  That's a fair assessment but simply can't explain the lack of ground breaking new discoveries.  Surely we haven't learned 80% of all there is to know about the Universe.  Why then are things going so slowly with all these scientists working on it?  This post dovetails so close with Dr. Hossenfelder's as to be a bit eerie.  And it's from almost 8 years ago.

Soviet Science delves into a specific incident that illustrates this "control from the top" problem in science.  Scientists at CERN got their marching orders telling them what they should NOT talk about:
As with Galileo, we see bad things happening when the State intervenes in a scientific discussion.  Good thing that would never happen in the West.  Oh, wait:

The chief of the world's leading physics lab at CERN in Geneva has prohibited scientists from drawing conclusions from a major experiment. The CLOUD ("Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets") experiment examines the role that energetic particles from deep space play in cloud formation. CLOUD uses CERN's proton synchrotron to examine nucleation.

CERN Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer told Welt Online that the scientists should refrain from drawing conclusions from the latest experiment.

"I have asked the colleagues to present the results clearly, but not to interpret them," reports veteran science editor Nigel Calder on his blog. Why?

Because, Heuer says, "That would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate change debate. One has to make clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters."
If you suspect that scientists are only supposed to enter the "highly political arena of the climate change debate" when they're presenting evidence of Manmade Global Warming, then you're as nasty and suspicious as I am.
The whole brouhaha was about the Svensmark Hypothesis which posits that Cosmic Rays striking the Earth's atmosphere generate aerosols which lead to cloud formation.  This is dangerous to mainstream Climate Science since the number of cosmic rays that hit the atmosphere is controlled by the Sun's magnetic field - a stronger field means fewer strikes and therefore fewer clouds (and a higher temperature).  CERN is involved because as the world's largest cyclotron (what we used to call "Atom Smasher"), it's where the experiment was performed and Svensmark's hypothesis confirmed - cosmic rays striking the atmosphere do indeed lead to aerosol formation.  This clearly threatens the "Carbon Dioxide is the control knob for global temperature" position and so the CERN Director basically told all his people to STFU.  This is another post from 2011 and so this is something that I've been going on about for a long, long time.  RTWT and the post about Svensmark and you'll know more about real climate science that 99% of people.

In Science and the Cold Civil War I give a number of examples showing just how nasty the current situation is, with the "Politics of Personal Destruction" as a key technique to try to keep everyone on the reservation.  This is impossible to excerpt, but you might want to take a shower after reading about the examples.  "Nasty" doesn't even begin to describe the disfunction that is institutional science today.

And I haven't even mentioned Retraction Watch, which publishes retracted scientific papers and other news (did you know that Duke University is about to settle a lawsuit alleging $200M in grant fraud?  I hadn't).  I also haven't talked about the massive crisis in reproduceability that the scientific community is going through.  These two items are effects, not a cause.  The cause it the horrible state of science as practiced today.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Franz Xaver Gruber - Stille Nacht (Silent Night)

Image von der Wik
Now that we're past Thanksgiving, it's now officially Christmas season.  You've heard of today's artist, featured each holiday season.  No, not Hans Gruber, although he's also featured each holiday season.  Yippie kayay ...

No, today we're looking at Franz Gruber, church organist at the German village of Arnsdorf.  200 years ago he composed what may be the most famous Christmas carol of all times, famous in two languages.  The local priest showed him a poem that the priest had written, and Gruber scratched out a tune on a guitar because the organ was broken.  The rest, as they say, is history.

The 1818 Christmas Mass in Arnsdorf was the first time this song was sung.  It is said that the "Christmas Truce" in 1914 began with German and English soldiers singing this to each other across No Man's Land.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Science, explained

By no less than Richard Feynman.

Global Warming "Scientists" could not be reached for comment.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Whence comes the Thanksgiving bounty?

Perry Metzger muses on the Thanksgiving celebration:
It is a fine time to reflect on the bounty that the productivity increases brought by capital accumulation and technological improvements have brought to us. 
The cost of the ingredients of a Thanksgiving feast for ten are now said to cost an average worker their wages for under 2.25 hours of labor. A 16 pound turkey now costs less than what an average worker earns in an hour. 
We live lives of such astonishing wealth that we scarcely notice it. Only a fool would rather be an Emperor in 1600 than a poor person living today. Compared to a king of several centuries ago, poor people in the developed world live in astonishing luxury. In the developed world, we eat fresh vegetables in midwinter, our homes are heated toasty warm in the winter and cooled and dehumidified in the summer, we travel in enormous comfort (no wooden wheeled carriages without shock absorbers for us, and indeed, we can fly to the other side of the world for a quite modest sum of money), our medical care is incomparably better, our beds more comfortable, our entertainment options beyond any ancient potentate’s wildest dreams. This is true even of quite poor people, at least in developed countries. 
Whence comes this bounty?
Read the whole thing, and marvel at the world in which we live.  And ponder the fact that in the last 30 years, a billion people have escaped poverty.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Being thankful

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for a long time.  It's a meditation that we should do more than once a year, but here it is so meditate, damn it!

I'm thankful for The Queen Of The World who is a whirlwind of cooking and decorating energy.  The table is set and the house smells so good that tummies are rumbling.  And tomorrow she'll start Christmas decorating.  It's not for nothing that a neighbor calls her "Martha Stewart".  I love all this, and today's meditation makes me realize how lucky I am to have her in my life.

I'm thankful for Wolfgang, because without him I probably wouldn't get out looking for deer lurking around Castle Borepatch very often.

I'm thankful for my co-bloggers here, ASM826 and Brigid.  They bring a touch of class to what would just be my ravings, and so it's not just me who should be thankful but you as well ...

Lastly, I'm thankful for you, Gentle Reader.  This has become a community, one which we would never have come to know without the amazing magic of the Internet.  It has let us find each other and enrich each other's lives.  A special thanks and shout out here to long time commenter waepnedmann. Last week when the QOTW and I were in California he offered a bolt hole if the fires got dangerously near.  Fortunately it didn't come to that, but his kind and generous offer would never have been possible without this community that has grown up in our little corner of the 'net.  It's an amazing thing to see, and I am very grateful indeed.

Lastly, since it is Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for the greatest Thanksgiving day humor ever broadcast.

And the closing line, of course:

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Tom Lehrer - A Christmas Carol

I know that it's not even Thanksgiving but ASM826 pointed out that the stores are already in a frenzy.  Here's a musical tribute to the corruption of the season by filthy lucre.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Stay Out Of The Stores

I needed batteries, razor blades, and a picture frame so I went to the local department store yesterday.

Thanksgiving is forgotten, they were already in full Christmas mode. It reminded me of this opening movie scene.

There's nothing I need bad enough to go shopping this weekend. I'm going to go out to a state park and go for a hike.

This is a perfect example of how Californians have ruined California

The Bay Area had a haze of smoke hanging over it, and by the end of a week I'd developed a nagging cough.  That's gone now that I'm back on the Right Coast.  It looks like the California government has been de-funding fire prevention for years (Governor Brown vetoed a bill to increase funding just a year or so back), so this seems entirely on point;

I'm so old that I remember when the rest of the country actually believed that California was an example to emulate, not reject with garlic and Holy Water ...

Global Warming causes cold and snowy winters

The Silicon Graybeard posts that the Earth may be headed into a cold spell - a "Grand Solar Minimum" of reduced solar activity that could lead to much colder weather.  It's a long post (hey, if anyone would know about long posts it's me!) and it has some long videos embedded in it, but you should read it all.

Those of you who are gluttons for punishment should also read this old post of mine, What do Occam's Razor, Sunspots, Climate, and Ernst Mach have in common?  It discusses many of the same issues from a historical perspective, but circles back to the science in the end.  Actually, this is one of my best posts on the whole Global Warming thing - it's held up very well over the years.

But back to the matter at hand.  The last decade has seen a huge amount of winter snow in the US Northeast:
NESIS (Photo Courtesy: WeatherBell)
 The last decade stands out like a sore thumb! It has had 29 major impact northeast winter storms with NO previous 10-year period with more than 10 storms! In Boston, 7 out of the last 10 years have produced snowfall above the average 43.7 inches.
2008-09: 65.9″
2009-10: 35.7″
2010-11: 81.0″
2011-12: 9.3″
2012-13: 63.4″
2013-14: 58.9″
2014-15: 110.6″ Greatest On Record Back To 1872
2015-16: 36.1″
2016-17: 47.6″
2017-18: 59.9″
Ah, but the Global Warmers will say - you're just cherry picking the data here.  Despite what the Nightly News thinks, the world is more than just the Acela corridor from Washington DC to Boston.  Except the trend of greater snowfall is across the entire Northern Hemisphere:
NHEMIS snow (Photo Courtesy: WeatherBell)
Additionally, the trend for fall snow across the northern hemisphere has been increasing, defying the forecasts over the last two decades for snows becoming an increasingly rare event.
Warmer temperatures (we're told) can lead to higher moisture content which can lead to bigger snowfalls.  Sadly for the Warmers, the last decade shows that the Northern Hemisphere has been cooling for the last decade:
Interestingly, some scientists have stated that increasing snow is consistent with climate change because warmer air holds more moisture, more water vapor and this can result in more storms with heavy precipitation. The trick, of course, is having sufficient cold air to produce that snow. But note that 93% of the years with more than 60″ of snow in Boston were colder than average years. The reality is cooling, not warming, increases snowfall. Note the graph depicting declining January through March temperatures for 20 years at a rate of 1.5 degrees F. per decade in the Northeast!
Northeast Average Temperature (Photo Courtesy: WeatherBell)
Like I said, SiGraybeard has to work harder to get as wordy as I am.  But the theoretical predictions that his post points to sure seem to be backed up by the last ten years of actual measurements.

And while I'm on the point of measurements, I want to (once again) point out the terrible state of the temperature databases.  The data are repeatedly adjusted, making older temperatures colder than were measured and newer temperatures hotter than were measured.  This allows regular press releases saying "Hottest year EVAH!!" but interestingly, it does not change records.  Records like Boston's record snowfall of 2014-2015.  Or the record hottest day in United States history, set in 1913.  Or temperature records in any of the 50 states:
What don't get changed are the records.  Consider these:
Chicago - 1934
Milwaukee - 1934
New York State - 1926
Boston - 1911
St. Louis - 1954
USA lower 48 states - 1913
In fact, with all of this year after year of the HOTTEST YEAR EVER, no state has set a highest temperature record is more than 20 years.  In fact, most (39 out of 50) state highest temperature records were set quite long ago - over 50 years ago, sometimes as long ago as 1888 (!).

Stop and think about that - if the science were as settled as people say, wouldn't there be at least one state that set an all time high record recently?  What a strange warming that raises average temperatures but not record high temperatures.
What a weird "science" of Global Warming, where the planet keeps heating up but where cold and snow have been increasing for a decade and no new all time high temperature records are getting set. You might almost wonder how settled all this "science" is - after all, if it were really settled, evidence supporting it would be falling off of every tree.

Add in the almost $50 Trillion cost of "Global Warming mitigation" and you might begin to wonder just how solid the field of climate science really is.  Me, I don't wonder much at all, but you know how nasty and suspicious I am.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Gettysburg Address at 153

This is the 153rd anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, one of the most famous speeches in American history.  The great Baltimore newspaperman H. L. Mencken wrote the definitive analysis of that even, back in the 1920s.  Back then, the war was still in living memory, and so he had some perspective that we now lack.  And while the Lincoln hagiography was even then beginning to flower, it had not entirely replaced history as it had been lived.

You can - and should - read his full thoughts here, but this is the key bit:
The Gettysburg speech is at once the shortest and the most famous oration in American history. Put beside it, all the whoopings of the Websters, Sumners and Everetts seem gaudy and silly. It is eloquence brought to a pellucid and almost child-like perfection—the highest emotion reduced to one graceful and irresistible gesture. Nothing else precisely like it is to be found in the whole range of oratory. Lincoln himself never even remotely approached it. It is genuinely stupendous. 
But let us not forget that it is oratory, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it! Put it into the cold words of everyday! The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination — “that government of the people, by the people, for the people,” should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i. e., of the people of the States? The Confederates went into battle an absolutely free people; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision and vote of the rest of the country—and for nearly twenty years that vote was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely any freedom at all. Am I the first American to note the fundamental nonsensicality of the Gettysburg address? If so, I plead my aesthetic joy in it in amelioration of the sacrilege.
I've been pretty clear for quite some time that I think that Lincoln was the worst President in the Republic's history, and the war was a disaster for both North and South.

Catching up

I'm back home at Castle Borepatch, but still digging out from the trip.  Blogging will be back to normal soon, but in the meantime, here's a thief caught on camera.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Democrats finally are honest about gun control

The next two years are fixin' to be fun.

Edward MacDowell - Sea Pieces No.3 “A. D. MDCXX”

MacDowell on a US Postage Stamp
Fame is fleeting, and in this day and age is joined at the hip with taste.  As taste changes, so does fame.  This is perhaps nowhere so easy to see as in musical taste and the strange story of Edward MacDowell.

As with many composers we've seen here, he was a musical prodigy as a child.  At 17, he won a scholarship to the Paris Conservatory, probably the world's premier musical college.  This started a long sojourn in Europe for MacDonald, living in France and Germany.  No less than Franz Liszt introduced him to music publishers.

Returning to the United States, he was invited to be the first music professor at Columbia University.  He was one of the first to be enrolled in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  After his untimely death his face appeared on the postage stamp above.

And yet, few have heard of him (I certainly had not).  I think that this is due to the fickle nature of taste.  You see, MacDonald composed at the end of the Romantic era.  While I love that music, it rapidly faded from fashion as the 20th Century progressed.  As Romantic music faded into the past, so to did MacDowell.

That's a shame.  Today's piece was written to commemorate the Mayflower voyage to Cape Cod.  Quite frankly, it seems perfectly appropriate to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

That was the bit about the Mayflower.  Since it was so short, here's the complete Sea Pieces:

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Where Does Data Go When The Only Copy Is Destroyed?

USAToday has an article today that has some real value. They are calling it a wake-up call.

 If everything you own was destroyed today, where is your data? Your documents? Account numbers? Your pictures of everything from weddings to babies to funerals?

Here's the reality. If you don't have backups, it's not important to you. The more important it is, the better your backups are.

User files on my local hard drive? Once a week onto a portable drive. The scanned archive of 9,000 images that spans everything from tintypes of my great-great-grandparents to recent digital images of my grandson, organized into a genealogical structure, with documents and history? I have backups, off site backups, and three members of my family that live in other states have a very recent copy.

You can get a new car, even a new house, but some things are irreplaceable. It's impossible to ever know it won't be lost, all you can do is make it difficult.

Some of the people I support seem surprised when their computer fails. I don't know why. If your car didn't start, the compressor failed in your freezer, or the light bulb in the bathroom went out, you would expect it. Computers, phones, hard drives, and thumb drives are all man made devices. It's never a question of if, just when.

The time to wonder about your data is not when you are looking at a blank screen, the ripples off the dock where your cell phone just went, or the smoking ash where your house used to be. The time is now. Today. Figure out what's important, what's very important, and what's critical. Back up accordingly.

The little boy on the left is my mother's grandfather.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

One Story From California

He must have come within a couple of degrees of having the truck combust. Vehicles around him were burning. When freed of the traffic jam by a bulldozer, he returned to the town, found others trapped there looking for medical care, and participated in a triage effort at the local hospital until everyone remaining was evacuated.


posting has been the interrupted as I've found myself on the West coast.   It will probably stay interrupted for a while longer.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A century on

One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918, all but one of my close friends were dead.

— J.R.R. Tolkien, forward to The Lord of the Rings 
A hundred years is a long time if the hundred years is the 20th century. The Great War didn't end war, nor did the even bigger cataclysm of 1939. But that didn't end things either - the long, strange twilight conflict of the Cold War had its own body count which is all too easy to forget when standing in the shadows of the twin World Wars.

That's a lot of history to pack into what amounts to a single lifespan. The history is so big as to overwhelm the human. Actually, that's a fitting metaphor of the Great War. But the human story is the one we should try to see. And so imagine yourself in Tolkien's shoes. Every single one of your childhood friends were killed, except for one.

We (justly) scorn the appeasement in the run up to the second war,  But we really don't understand it because we've lost that human perspective. A generation was butchered and damned. A few passed echos of that to us in writing - Tolkien, Hemingway, Robert Graves. The futility of the Western Front is on plain display in A Farewell To Arms.

On this centenary of the silence that fell on Flander's fields, remember Tolkien's mates, all save one butchered. And remember that he carried that to the end of his life. That - multiplied ten million times - was the war.

On The Eleventh Day, At The Eleventh Hour...

For the Fallen

By Laurence Binyon
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, 
England mourns for her dead across the sea. 
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, 
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal 
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres, 
There is music in the midst of desolation 
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young, 
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. 
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted; 
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; 
They sit no more at familiar tables of home; 
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; 
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound, 
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, 
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known 
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, 
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; 
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, 
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Post Hike Closing Thoughts

I have been posting about technology, new gear, and how it changes things.

Now I want to talk about backpacking. The act of deliberately leaving the comforts of modern life for a time with only the gear you can carry. Of choosing the woods and perhaps those companions that also choose the woods.

This is unchanged.

Going up a trail or moving across terrain with a topo map and a compass.

Looking for the next water source.

Setting a shelter.

Building a fire.

Sharing a meal with a friend and having a conversation that you will remember for years.

Meeting another backpacker and having just that one evening to share a camp, perhaps to never meet again.

Hiking up a trail in a cold rain, feet wet, the trail slippery with mud and roots.

Coming out on the summit of an anticipated peak only to find yourself in a fog with ten feet of visibility. And laughing as you hike on.

Coming back and trying to explain what it is that calls you into the woods.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Post Hike Thoughts and Review: Part VII

Next up on the gear review is footwear. When I was starting out I hiked in whatever shoes I had. Since my mother didn't want me wrecking my good school shoes that meant I was in PF Flyers.

It was common knowledge, reinforced by the Scout Handbook, that hiking in canvas sneakers was a guarantee that you would get blisters. However, my shoe size changed with the seasons so my parents weren't buying me hiking boots. The sneakers were cloth, when they got wet, your feet were wet. Cotton shoes, cotton socks, it's a wonder I survived.

Probably the first time I went hiking in boots was after Uncle Sam had issued me a couple of pairs. Rubber soled, unlined leather uppers, vented. Cotton socks. When they got wet, your feet were wet. Still, of all the things I struggled with in boot camp, I did not have trouble with my feet on the hikes. We got the boots wet on purpose and wore them dry. They formed to our feet like an old saddle. I remember those first boots. When I finally had to retire them I found them hard to replace.

All of that is history. There are hiking boots, hiking shoes, trail runners, Gore-Tex lined waterproof boots, Thinsulate lined, Gore-Tex lined winter hiking boots, all in low, mid, and high topped varieties. The problem now is how much do you want to spend and what do you want to wear. Here's a sample of the selections available from REI. I don't even know where to begin. And I suppose that the footwear you'd want for a hike on smooth trails in June would be something different than what I needed in the rocks and mud in Vermont in late October.

Being a traditionalist, I like leather. Being an old guy, I like a lot of ankle support. I also don't like wet feet if I can avoid it. Wet feet and long hikes will lead to foot problems no matter how well your boots fit and how broken in they are. I don't hike enough to justify a selection of more than two pairs.

I have a set of trail shoes. Low top, leather uppers, good tread. They are broken in and I would use them for any sort of day hike with a light knapsack.

And I have a set of all leather, high topped, waterproof, hiking boots. Old style in appearance, they are modern in design, easy to break in, they only downside is the weight. A price I am willing to pay for the comfort of dry feet in (almost!) all conditions. They were finally overwhelmed on my recent hike, leading to hiking with cold, wet feet, and the additional joy of putting damp socks and wet boots on in the morning.

The main alternative is a pair of synthetic lightweight hikers. Then you just hike them wet or dry. They rinse off, dry quickly, and you just ignore the mud and the puddles. That seemed to be what all the cool kids were doing. I have not scratched the surface of this topic. A Google search for best hiking boots, best hiking shoes, and best trail runners leads to a rabbit hole you could spend days in. It's enough to make you give up like a young hiker I met a couple of years ago.

She was hiking in pink Converse Hi-Tops. Several hundred miles into a long section hike the trail name she had been given was Larry Bird.