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.
Idiots.

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
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:
nhemissnow1
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!
neavgtemp
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

https://twitter.com/jacknicas/status/1062162154906742784

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.

Traveling

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.




Thursday, November 8, 2018

Lessons of the last election

The Czar of Muscovy muses on the outcome of the vote this week.  As always, your Autocrat is clear, thoughtful, and to the point.  First, the Republicans:
You had a heavy majority and, for once, some mandates. You were supposed to remove and replace Obamacare. But it was too hard, and lots of people were starting to get familiar with it, and messing with it could possibly cost you an election. In fact, you were elected to do hard work, and you definitely lost an election because you didn’t want to do hard work. You were supposed to do immigration reform, but didn’t. You were supposed to cut the size of government, but instead increased it. A lot. You were supposed to reduce regulations, but barely got started. So you were fired. 
Know how you can tell? Because you lost the House. That’s the easiest thing to correct, and the voters seemed to have figured that out. Consider it a two-year probation, because that’s how long you have to fix it. 
Sure, you did cut some regulations, and you did indeed slash taxes and get the economy moving. That’s why you lost only a couple dozen seats and not a bunch. Voters still think Republicans can fix things—just that not all of you seemed to want to. And those guys have been fired.
And then the Democrats:
You aren’t going to change the world with a twenty-odd majority. 
In fact, you should probably ask yourselves if you are superheros or just interim replacements. Your newly appointed roles in the House may be nothing more than temporary help until the permanent hires arrive. You could of course make a strong enough impression that you keep those jobs. But to figure out how to do that, you better look to see why the people your replaced got let go. Not because they were Republicans, but because they were weak. They were culled from the herd. You might want to be a little more strong. 
Of course, you won’t listen.
I think it's more like a ten seat majority, which just underlines the Czar's point.  The problem for the Democrats is that they live in the Media bubble - they think that the American public is much more liberal than they really are.  This is actually the big challenge for the party, to recognize reality as it exists, instead of trying to "shape" that reality.  Their success is tied to offering what the public actually wants, rather than what they think that the public wants.  Quite frankly, this looks like a big hill for them to climb.


The Republican party has had a very difficult last two years, psychology-wise.  They have begun to come around to the view that Donald Trump has offered the voters, rather than the view their establishment donors wanted to serve up.  In the past, the donors had a win-win situation: either the Republicans won and implemented the donor's preferred big government crony capitalism (c.f. George Bush senior or junior), or the Democrats won and implemented the donor's preferred big government crony capitalism (c.f. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama).

Trump changed that dynamic, cutting the donors out and offering something much more palatable to the voters.  This is really all you need to know to understand why Hillary doesn't put her pumps up on the Resolute Desk.

But this change was painful for for the GOP.  It's still not over, as the Czar points out.  A similar change needs to occur in the Democratic party, but it not only hasn't begun yet, but there's nobody obvious to start that ball rolling.

Right now the smart money has to be betting on the Democrats continuing the same game of identity politics, radical socialist red meat for their ideological core base, and quite frankly not very smart handling of the inevitable provocations from Trump.  He excels at leading his opponents to self-destruct, and none of the current Democratic leadership inspires confidence that they will be able to impose the required discipline to keep the party from looking barking mad insane.

So it looks that it's Advantage: Trump.  And will continue to be so as the GOP completes its transformation.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Welcome to MittWorld

Looks like Mittens will assume the coveted "John McCain Sunday Morning Talk Show" spot since he has the election in the bag:
The latest polling in Utah’s senate race has Mitt Romney up by some 36 points over Jenny Wilson, his Democratic opponent. Barring an enormous upset, Mr. Romney will join the United States Senate. This will put him a few checks and balances away from a president — the leader of his party — whom he once called “terribly unfit for office.”
Ah, don't ever change, New York Times.

Of course, a deeper understanding of the soon-to-be-Senator Romney could be had by a quick perusal of the archives.  I'm a little shocked to find that the archives have over a hundred entries on Mitt.  (!!!)

He was my Governor when I lived in the People's Republic of Massachusetts.  Now All Y'all will get a chance to enjoy his governing style, good and hard.    Note to self: Utah doesn't elect Republicans; Utah elects Mormons.  But then, I'm clearly biased, having endorsed Obama over Romney*.

But the future is Mitt-tastic, so there.  Gun control opponents beware.

 I expect that my post tag for him might approach 200 before his career is all and done.

* That was one of my finest rants, althoughI could not predict the rise of Donald Trump back in 2012.  I did hint at the reaction, though:
And rather than a million Tea Partiers taking to the streets, it will be two million, or three. Rather than five or ten corrupt GOP Establishment crooks turned out of office, it will be thirty, or fifty.
And this bit (from that same post) is perhaps the most prescient writing I've posted in this last ten years of blogging:
We f***ed up once, trusting him and the rest of the GOP team. How's that working out? Rebuilding a party that Reagan might actually recognize is what this country needs - and right now, damn it - and Mitt Romney isn't the man to do it. 
Barack Obama is.
You might want to click through and read the whole thing - and the over 60 (!) comments it drew.  Welcome to MittWorld.

Post Hike Thoughts and Review: Part VI

Continuing with the series, let's talk about water treatment. Along most of the trails in the eastern U.S., it isn't hard to find water. But simply drinking from random streams is certain to lead to serious problems. If you were lost, out of water, and the only choice was to drink, of course, drink up, when you find your way out you can see a doctor.

Back in the days of yore, when I began these trips into the woods, I only knew of two options. Boiling and iodine tablets.

There you were, alongside a pristine spring high on a hillside. The water looks cold and would taste wonderful. You fill your canteen. Add two iodine tablets and wait a half an hour. Shake it up, let some run around the cap, and then drink. It's still cool, but it tastes like iodine.

When you make camp for the night, you boil water, rolling boil for 5 minutes. You do enough to fill that canteen again, and a second pot full to use in the morning. It tastes flat, but is safe to drink.

Now there are  microfilter devices and UV sterilization pens.

When the microfilters first came out, they were relatively heavy, bulky, and slow, requiring you to pump water through the filter like a small air pump. The revolution is the Sawyer filter. Last week, the only filters I saw in use were Sawyers in one size or another. 100% market share, which says something about the product  .

Here's their ad:



It's light, easy to use, doesn't flavor the water, and filters fast. I had iodine as a backup, but I won't bother next time. It was easy enough that I filtered all my water, even the water I was planning to boil. *NOTICE: I bought my filter system, I am not receiving anything from anyone for anything I have talked about.

The ultraviolet pens also look simple to use. You collect water and swirl the pen in the water until the light goes out. It's a effective means to kill bacteria in water. I have seen them used on other hikes. I have read they are not as effective in murky water, but I have no experience with them.

The other part of the revolution is the water bladder built into the pack, with a delivery tube that comes out and is always accessible as you hike. No need to stop and fish out a canteen or a water bottle, just bite down on the valve and suck like a straw. I would top off the bladder every morning with filtered water and the two liters of water it held served as my primary drinking water as I hiked.

Again, transformational changes in technology and resultant hiker behavior, all in the last 15 years.

Perspective

The Queen Of The World and I voted today.  There was a large turnout, and long lines which everyone seemed to put up with fairly cheerfully.

But while this is important, it's not everything.  Standing in line I recalled a post exactly ten years ago, And Back In The Real World:

--------------------

It seems that lots of folks are freaking out about who's going to win the election. I want to tell you a story that relates to this.

I live is a very pretty small town in Massachusetts. Our house is a very short walk to the town Common, and right beyond that is one of the prettiest cemeteries I've ever seen. Here's a picture I posted a while back of one of the little alleyways in the graveyard.

I take the dogs (Little One-Eyed Dog and Ivan the Terrier) there for their daily constitutional, because there's a big field just on the other side. Nobody much goes to the cemetery, so we don't bother anyone on our way through.

Nobody goes there much, but last Saturday someone did. As I walked up through the graveyard, I saw a car parked by one of the graves. A middle aged guy was sitting in a folding chair - the kind that you'd take to the Little League game. He'd decked out the grave for Halloween - pumpkins, decorations, even an oil lantern.

He was still there when we took the dogs back, so I didn't intrude. Yesterday he wasn't there, so I stopped to see whose grave it was.

It was his son's. #1 Son was with me, and said in a quiet voice, "He was in my grade." Cancer.

The lantern was still there. Still burning. It was burning today, too.

So while I care about who wins the election tomorrow, I don't care who wins. Not care like that. Whatever happens, the Republic will continue. The flag will still wave from sea to shining sea.

And a good man will still grieve over his son's grave. Instead of worrying about the election, go hug your family.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The tit-for-tat election

Tomorrow we vote (well, those of us in the USA).  I said recently that the polls are no helpful this election.  Everyone uses models to predict the outcome, but who has a model that knows what's happening when early voting is running twice the rate it was in 2014?  So we'll have to wait until tomorrow evening to find out what happened.

I find it really interesting that pollsters have backed WAY off their earlier "Blue Wave" predictions - even Nate Silver even admits that he just doesn't know what's going on.  And like I said in my post last week, the interesting races are in the House, and as Tip O'Neill said all politics is local.  My sense is general, not specific, and national not local.  But I think that the Democrats are going to be majorly disappointed.  The reason is that I think that the decades of Progressive pushing against the middle class - and the increasingly unhinged behavior of Progressives doing it - have led to a tit-for-tat response.

While this is a common term, there's a specific meaning that actually gives me hope for the Republic. I covered what the specifics mean almost 3 years ago in a post Game Theory and the rise of Donald Trump:
Game Theory is a field of mathematics originally developed to try to mathematically derive optimum solutions for card games in the 18th century.  It has developed into a major field of analysis used in computer science and even the design of crypto systems.  Any of you who saw the film "A Beautiful Mind" have at least a passing familiarity with the subject.

You probably even know the most famous example of Game Theory: The Prisoner's Dilemma.  Two prisoners are (separately) offered a deal - rat out the other guy or keep silent.  If they rat and the other guy doesn't, they go free and he gets a long sentence.  If neither of them rat, they both get short sentences.  If they both rat, they both get long sentences.  And most importantly to the prisoner, if he doesn't rat but the other guy does, he gets a long sentence while the other guy walks.

It's a one-time deal, which makes the math simpler.  Real world situations are not so simple, and a variant of the Prisoner's Dilemma has incorporated this.  Tit For Tat is a sequential set of prisoner's dilemma events where the strategy is to play what your opponent played in the previous round.  If your opponent was cooperative, you will be cooperative; if he screwed you, you will screw him back.

What's interesting about Tit For Tat is that mathematical proofs have shown that it leads to the outcome with maximum combined utility.  If your opponent always screws you, you're no worse off playing Tit For Tat, but if your opponent is always cooperative or also plays Tit For Tat then both of you derive the maximum benefit.
The Middle Class has been playing cooperatively for decades, as the Progressives have been pushing and taking advantage of that cooperation.  It's worked very well for Progressives, and very badly for the Middle Class.  As I said in that post (almost a year before the 2016 election) it led to the rise of Donald Trump.

The last two years has been a series of Trump victories where he has shown the Middle Class that you can push back against the Progressives and win.  I believe that this is a fundamental shift in American politics, as the "deplorables" have not only had enough, but have seen that they can win.

Sure, the hard core Democrats hate Donald Trump with the fire of a thousand suns and will turn out heavily to vote against Republicans.  But the rest of their party doesn't seem to feel that way: Blue Collar/Union Democrats are making more money now, Blacks and Hispanics are making more money now, everyone has better employment prospects, Trump's favorability numbers are up.

There's a split between the core of the party and the rest of the party.

At the same time the Republican base has been energized and united - the Kavanaugh hearings in particular seem to have been a huge blunder for the Democrats.  Sure, it energized the Democratic base, but it seems to have united the GOP base against them.

And so we're seeing big turnouts in early voting, and Republicans out voting Democrats pretty much everywhere.  I don't think that any of the election models predicted or planned for this, and so none of the polls or predictions carry any weight.  Like I said, we'll see tomorrow but I think it will be a glum evening for the Democrats.

But I said earlier that this gives me hope for the Republic.  The reason is that tit-for-tat results in a game theory stable outcome.  If Republicans stick to push back, but also keep the Middle Class "we're all  in this together" spirit from the last few decades, game theory suggests that the Democrats may have to adjust to a less confrontational style of politics (if for nothing other than preventing the evaporation of the non-rabid part of their party).  We'll have to see how that plays out.  As I said in my post 3 years ago:
Tit For Tat is essentially a reputational game - get a bad reputation by screwing your opponent and you pay the price.  The mathematics is unmistakeable on that.

The Middle Class finally has an option to play against their opponent.  An opponent who has a deservedly poor reputation.

No wonder Trump's support seems rock solid.  The mathematics is unshakeable.
If the Blue Wave disappears in the face of an enraged GOP base, then the Democrats will have to change their tactics - or keep losing elections.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Post Hike Thoughts and Review: Part V

Moving on to the next chapter in the series, I am going to discuss phones, e-readers, sat-phones, GoPros, and emergency beacons. This, too, is a recent change in hiking culture. In 2005 I had a prepaid phone card. When I hiked through a town, I would find a pay phone and call home to say I was okay and when I thought I might next call.

Now, nearly everyone is carrying a phone. Wi-Fi is in every store and shop. Cell coverage improves every month. There are still places where you have no signal but its shrinking. Battery life is the main limitation. I had my phone in my pack, used it to call and check in every evening when I had a signal. I had to make a conscious choice not to look at news or websites.

I did stop in a town, charge the phone, and look at the weather forecast before hiking into a stretch where I knew I had no easy outs for several days. I used it to find an outfitter when my pack broke. I called a number I found for a shuttle ride. Having it made life easier.

The battery life issue has given rise to solar panels, wind turbines, water turbines, and even hand crank chargers.

Since there no longer any payphones, having at least a simple phone, turned off and stowed, has become a regular piece of hiking equipment. I carry a digital camera too, my choice, but I like taking photos, and that runs on batteries that can be USB charged, too. I may get a small solar panel, I don't know. The last five years I have gotten by with a phone and a portable battery.

This is a controversial topic. To what extent does having what is essentially a mini-computer with you intrude on the experience of being in the wilderness? To what extent is it a convenience or even a safety device making it worth carrying the extra weight?

You also see people carrying satellite emergency beacons. Open a cover, press and hold the button, and you have called the cavalry.

I usually carry a paperback of short stories, read a bit before I fall asleep. I have seen a few people carrying Kindle e-readers for the same purpose.

GoPro wearable cameras are very popular. They are used by vbloggers and videographers to document everything from high adventure to gear reviews.

All of this is new changes to trail culture and what the etiquette will turn out to be is still in flux. I met a vblogger named Triple Nickel Outdoors the last night on the trail. At 5:40 in this video you can see me, the fire I built, and the start of my effort to dry my boots.

Domenico Sarro - Sinfonia from the opera Achille in Sciro

The Real Teatro di San Carlo in Naples is the oldest opera house in the world that is still in use.  It was inaugurated on this day in 1737, and this was the very first music performed there.

View from the Royal box.  Image from Il Wik
Domenico Sarro was one of the most important composers of Neapolitan opera in the 18th century, an era when it enjoyed popularity all over Europe.  His reputation was such that his work was chosen to inaugurate the new opera house, in a command performance before the King.  His relative obscurity today can be chalked up to changing musical tastes (and particularly the fading of both baroque and opera in favor of romantic era symphonies).  But at the time this stood equal to Handel and Bach.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Post Hike Thoughts and Review: Part IV

The ongoing gear review continues with a post on stoves. As Waepnedmann noted in a recent comment, all the cooking can be done on an open fire. That's the starting point. It was my starting point too. When the Senior Patrol Leader gave me two strike anywhere matches, the task was to build a fire, feed it, and get a bed of coals, cook a meal, clean up, and then put the fire out completely. It was a requirement for 2nd Class.

Rules have changed. There are plenty of places where open fires are prohibited or banned due to fire conditions when things are dry and windy. Gathering wood around well used campsites can require hiking some distance to find anything. There's a time factor, too. Getting the fire going to the point of being able to cook and dealing with the fire afterward might add an hour to cooking prep.

Last week, I didn't see anyone cook on a wood fire. There's a lot of modern choices. Pump pressurized white gas was popular for a long time. Now canister stoves, using disposable gas cylinders as a base, have become a popular option. They look something like this:


A recent option is what is known as a beer can stove. It can be pretty simple, or it can involve JB Weld, drilling holes, with a grommet and wire screen. Being a fan of simple, I have tried several of these before settling on a design. I suppose someone is selling a professionally made one.

I made my own, following these instructions. It works great, creates a ring of flames that will boil 2 cups of water in about 5 minutes.


The fuel is marine alcohol that I buy in a hardware store. I carry it in a clearly marked plastic bottle. I used about 20 oz. of fuel in 5 days, boiling water and cooking 2 meals a day in 30 degree weather.

This stove, in some variation or another, is what almost all the hikers I saw were using. The stove is free, can be made in about 15 minutes, and weighs about half of an aluminum soda can. A minimalist solution.