Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Roadside America

I was camped in Tomoka State Park in Florida for the past several days. It's a nice park, good buffers between sites, lots of things to do, close to the beach, and great park amenities like washer/driers, power in the sites, and nice shower houses.

The park is also the site of the statue of Chief Tomokie. It's a kitschy 1955 rendition of a statue commemorating Chief Tomokie, a local chief that drank from a sacred spring, was killed by a maiden, and then avenged by his braves. It was made from concrete mixed with brick dust and reinforced with bamboo. A big deal at the time, the Florida Symphony Orchestra played at the opening. A reflecting pool was dug in front of the artwork.

Here's the earliest picture I could find. The Chief is still holding a spear, the water is flowing from the goblet, all the other figures are still holding their bows and arrows, and the reflecting pool is present.



 As best as I can determine from exhaustive research 20 minutes with Google and reading some of the better results, there's no truth to the legend, the name is meaningless, and every member of the local indigenous people was dead by 1700.

It's typical roadside Americana. Made for tourists in the post-war travel boom in the years before the interstate highways streamlined travel and eliminated most of the roadside attractions along with the towns and motels.

It's in ruins. Money set aside twenty years ago to stabilize and repair the work were vetoed by the governor. The park filled in the reflecting pool and put up a fence to keep people out from under the chunks of material that look ready to fall. Most of the secondary figures are gone. The accompanying museum of the artist's other work has been closed. Here's a couple of the pictures I took.



Less a monument to a Native American than a reflection of a time in America that I can remember, it deserves to be preserved. Roadside America had this to say.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Busy

Will be busy for a bit. Everything's good but bloggy no goody.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

ATF flouts 5th Amendment

I guess that chewing at the Second isn't enough:
A US judge gave the cops permission to force people's fingers onto seized iPhones to see who could unlock them, a newly unsealed search warrant has revealed. 
Specifically, Judge Judith Dein, of the federal district court of Massachusetts, gave agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) the right to press Robert Brito-Pina's fingers on any iPhone found in his apartment in Boston. The bloke was suspected to be trafficking guns, hence the application for a search warrant. In fact, anyone nabbed at the property would be forced to use their fingers to unlock any cellphones seized at the home, according to the court filing.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Heck, why not let them waterboard everyone?

This is why you should never use your fingerprint (or face) to unlock your phone:
What is notable about the warrant, surfaced this week by Law360, is that law enforcement is drawing a clear distinction between forcing someone to place their fingers on a phone to unlock it and forcing them to give officers the passcode to unlock it. The first is physical; the second is mental, and brings with it both Fourth and Fifth Amendment issues.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

737 Max incidents hit Boeing's bottom line

Boeing misses its 1Q earnings target:
Following the multiple Boeing 737 MAX crashes, analysts were very closely watching what Boeing would report for its Q1 earnings, and more importantly what it would forecast for the rest of the year. Moments ago Boeing did not disappoint, or rather it did, when it reported an across the board miss with both revenues and EPS coming in far below expectations and profits tumbled, while as a result of the limbo left in the aftermath of the 737 MAX fiasco, the company announced it would suspend it annual forecast while putting its stock buyback on indefinite hold.
The lack of guidance on future earnings is really interesting.  The implication is that they don't yet know the scope of their safety fixes or how they will be received by their customers.

Apple facial recognition goes haywire, teen gets wrongly accused of shoplifting

Apple is being sued for $1B:
Ousmane Bah, 18, filed suit against Cook & Co this week after he was falsely identified as a shoplifter by, it is claimed, a facial recognition system Apple is apparently using in its stores. 
Bah was wrongly accused by the cops of nicking gear from Apple's posh shops across the US East Coast, even in cities he claims never to have visited, due to Apple's technology incorrectly fingering him as the culprit, we're told. 
The teen's legal complaint [PDF] states that last year the college student received a letter out of the blue summoning him to a Boston court on an allegation of theft. He was accused of stealing multiple Apple Pencils – a $99 tool used for the iPad Pro – from an Apple Store in the Massachusetts city, adding up to over $1,200 in swag. 
At the time of the alleged crime, on May 31, 2018, Bah was attending his senior prom in Manhattan, and had never even been to Boston before.
Worse, the photo included in his arrest warrant doesn't look like him.  Facial recognition has been plagued with errors, particularly with non-caucasians.  I don't know exactly why this is, but it has been a persistent complaint for several years.  Apple is said to use facial recognition in its stores to detect shoplifting.  When Bah had been (incorrectly) identified as a shoplifter in one store, the store personnel took his driver's permit and used his name and address information to update their database.  His permit did not have a photo on it, and so now someone else's picture is associated with him.

And now Bah has an arrest record and Apple is defending itself against an enormous lawsuit.  Hey, at least their software didn't kill anyone.

This is why I won't get into a self-driving car.  The code was written by snotty programmers who think they know way more than they actually do about how the world works.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Socialist religion in one picture


It's funny because it's true.

I don't think that I want to fly on a Boeing 737 Max

There is a great analysis of the 737 Max failures at IEEE:
The engines on the original 737 had a fan diameter (that of the intake blades on the engine) of just 100 centimeters (40 inches); those planned for the 737 Max have 176 cm. That’s a centerline difference of well over 30 cm (a foot), and you couldn’t “ovalize” the intake enough to hang the new engines beneath the wing without scraping the ground.
The solution was to extend the engine up and well in front of the wing. However, doing so also meant that the centerline of the engine’s thrust changed. Now, when the pilots applied power to the engine, the aircraft would have a significant propensity to “pitch up,” or raise its nose.
Larger engines were critical to the design, because that's how you get efficiency (read: lowest fuel cost).  The old airframe (fuselage and wings) were critical to the design because if you do a major change to the plane then the FAA certification is no longer valid and you need to (very expensively) re-certify the plane.
In the 737 Max, the engine nacelles themselves can, at high angles of attack, work as a wing and produce lift. And the lift they produce is well ahead of the wing’s center of lift, meaning the nacelles will cause the 737 Max at a high angle of attack to go to a higher angle of attack. This is aerodynamic malpractice of the worst kind.
This is really, really bad.  Consider a plane that is about to stall.  One approach (especially with large, powerful engines) is to apply power to increase air speed.  On the 737 Max, this will cause the nose to pitch up and bring on the stall.  The design is inherently unstable in this situation.
Let’s review what the MCAS does: It pushes the nose of the plane down when the system thinks the plane might exceed its angle-of-attack limits; it does so to avoid an aerodynamic stall. Boeing put MCAS into the 737 Max because the larger engines and their placement make a stall more likely in a 737 Max than in previous 737 models.
When MCAS senses that the angle of attack is too high, it commands the aircraft’s trim system (the system that makes the plane go up or down) to lower the nose. It also does something else: Indirectly, via something Boeing calls the “Elevator Feel Computer,” it pushes the pilot’s control columns (the things the pilots pull or push on to raise or lower the aircraft’s nose) downward.
This sounds sensible, although kludgy.  The problem is that the Elevator Feel Computer has a really powerful actuator; pilots will struggle to overcome it and push the nose down.  It seems that this wasn't a bug, but a feature of the design.  But here's the crux of the problem:
In the 737 Max, only one of the flight management computers is active at a time—either the pilot’s computer or the copilot’s computer. And the active computer takes inputs only from the sensors on its own side of the aircraft.
When the two computers disagree, the solution for the humans in the cockpit is 
to look across the control panel to see
 what the other instruments are saying and then sort it out. In the Boeing system, the flight
 management computer does not “look 
across” at the other instruments. It 
believes only the instruments on its side. It doesn’t go old-school. It’s modern. It’s software.
This means is that if a particular angle-of-attack sensor goes haywire—which happens all the time in a machine that alternates from one extreme environment to another, vibrating and shaking all the way—the flight management computer just believes it.
There's no redundancy.  Let me elaborate on that:

There's no redundancy.
There's no redundancy.
There's no redundancy.
There's no redundancy.


Holy cow, this is the dumbest design I've ever heard of, and I'm not even an aeronautical engineer.  This smells of "we found this out late in testing and had outsourced software developers write us some code in a hurry to fix it".  I don't know if that's how things happened but I've seen this more than once or twice in my career.
It gets even worse. There are several other instruments that can be used to determine things like angle of attack, either directly or indirectly, such as the pitot tubes, the artificial horizons, etc. All of these things would be cross-checked by a human pilot to quickly diagnose a faulty angle-of-attack sensor.
In a pinch, a human pilot could just look out the windshield to confirm visually and directly that, no, the aircraft is not pitched up dangerously. That’s the ultimate check and should go directly to the pilot’s ultimate sovereignty. Unfortunately, the current implementation of MCAS denies that sovereignty. It denies the pilots the ability to respond to what’s before their own eyes.
Like someone with narcissistic personality disorder, MCAS gaslights the pilots. And it turns out badly for everyone. “Raise the nose, HAL.” “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
There's no redundancy.
There's no redundancy.
There's no redundancy.
There's no redundancy.
So Boeing produced a dynamically unstable airframe, the 737 Max. That is big strike No. 1. Boeing then tried to mask the 737’s dynamic instability with a software system. Big strike No. 2. Finally, the software relied on systems known for their propensity to fail (angle-of-attack indicators) and did not appear to include even rudimentary provisions to cross-check the outputs of the angle-of-attack sensor against other sensors, or even the other angle-of-attack sensor. Big strike No. 3.
None of the above should have passed muster. None of the above should have passed the “OK” pencil of the most junior engineering staff, much less a DER.
That’s not a big strike. That’s a political, social, economic, and technical sin.
This is a long and detailed article and I've only excerpted key bits.  You should really read the whole thing because the situation is simply horrifying.  Boeing has destroyed their reputation.

I've written many, many, many times about design issues in Airbus' flight control software,, where the pilots become confused or the software freaks out and people die.  I always liked flying Boeing because their reputation that "the pilot is always in charge" was my strong preference - my whole career has been dealing with software failure, and my imagination is too active to ever be comfortable on an Airbus plane.

Well that has all changed after 737 Max.  It's not just that the pilot can't fly the plane now, it's this:
That’s because the major selling point of the 737 Max is that it is just a 737, and any pilot who has flown other 737s can fly a 737 Max without expensive training, without recertification, without another type of rating. Airlines—Southwest is a prominent example—tend to go for one “standard” airplane. They want to have one airplane that all their pilots can fly because that makes both pilots and airplanes fungible, maximizing flexibility and minimizing costs.
It all comes down to money, and in this case, MCAS was the way for both Boeing and its customers to keep the money flowing in the right direction. The necessity to insist that the 737 Max was no different in flying characteristics, no different in systems, from any other 737 was the key to the 737 Max’s fleet fungibility. That’s probably also the reason why the documentation about the MCAS system was kept on the down-low.
And so the pilots on the fatal flights couldn't figure out how to get out of the situation because Boeing intentionally did not tell them.  Allegedly.  This one will have to go through the courts but this very well may end up being the most expensive design mistake in history.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Get ready for "Earth Day"

Just remember that the predictions made on Earth Day have been wrong - actually spectacularly wrong - for 50 years:
“By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate … that there won’t be any more crude oil,” ecologist Kenneth Watt warned around the time of the first Earth Day event. “You’ll drive up to the pump and say, ‘Fill ’er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, ‘I am very sorry, there isn’t any.'” Watt also warned of global cooling and nitrogen buildup rendering all of the planet’s land unusable.
None of it happened.  Instead, here's what we got that was the exact opposite of the predictions:

  • The USA is set to become the world's biggest oil producer
  • The EPA reports emissions of the 6 pollutants they track (ozone, carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulates) have dropped by an aggregate 77% since 1970.
  • World hunger has dropped precipitously, to the point where just two countries now experience persistent hunger and malnutrition.  Those countries are North Korea and Venezuela, and their situations have nothing to do with climate change.
  • For the first time ever there are less than a billion people worldwide who do not have access to electricity.
Along the way we've heard predictions shift from catastrophic global cooling to catastrophic global warming.  None of the predictions have come true.  

But there's good money in being an environmentalist, shaking down gullible liberals for "green" contributions.  I mean cash, of course.  So expect to hear more of this sort of nonsense this upcoming Earth Day.  The Usual Suspects® have to keep the gravy train coming.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Handel's "Messiah": the music that might not have been

While we usually hear The Messiah played around Christmas, Handel originally wrote it (and it was first performed) for Easter.  But the music very well might never have been written at all.  You see, the young Handel was a bit of a hot head and got into a duel in 1704:
Scholars speculate that [Johann] Mattheson requested Handel to fill in as conductor while Mattheson sang. After Mattheson performed his part on stage he went to return to the conductor’s seat at the harpsichord. But Handel would not move.
Johann Mattheson
It’s said that the two argued over who should be in the conductor’s seat – Mattheson, being the composer, wanted control, yet Handel refused to leave the post. Mattheson suggested that the two take their quarrel outside. And so, right outside of the theater, the hot-headed young composers drew their swords and conducted, instead, a duel. A detailed account of the duel cannot be found, yet one prevailing report suggests that Handel was nearly killed by a sword thrust from Mattheson. The thrust went right for his heart, but, thankfully, ran into a large metal button on his coat, which prevented Handel’s death. As the duel came to a close, the two composers miraculously reconciled and became life-long friends. They maintained correspondence even after Handel moved to London to live out the rest of his stellar career.
That might have been it for Herr Handel, 38 years before his masterpiece.  And even then, it was claimed that is wasn't even his masterpiece.  Handel wrote the entire score in just 24 days, while staying at the grand country estate of a patron, Charles Jennens.  Jennens liked to dabble in the arts, and adapted the text of the Bible for the piece.  He said in a letter to a friend that Handel wrote some "pretty music" for "his" (Jennens') piece.  All righty, then.

But the Spirit must have moved Handel, because there is more triumph in a single word - the Amen chorus - than in just about any music I know.  The finale (about 6:30 into this recording) precisely captures that feeling of awe, and triumph, and joy to be in this world that I remember from those Easter Sundays years ago.



Worthy Is The Lamb (Revelations 5:12 - 14, music by George Frederic Handel)

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain,
and hath redeemed us to God by his blood,
to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour,
and glory, and blessing. 

Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him
that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.

Amen

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Eric Church - Like Jesus Does

Out of the crooked timber that is Man, nothing straight was ever built.
- Immanuel Kant
Bless me, Father, for I have been a Dumb Ass.  It's happened over and over again, throughout all my years on Planet Earth.  I fear that this will continue throughout the rest of my days.

But I'm lucky that I have The Queen Of The World.  No matter what the next Dumbassery, she is there as this world's manifestation of the gift of Grace for me.  She is the Lighthouse that always provides me a beacon in the dark.  It's quite amazing, really.
But she carries me, when my sins make me heavy,
And she loves me like Jesus does.
Easter is an old, old holy day.  It dates back to when christianity was just a tiny group of believers in a vast and unfriendly Roman Empire.  And yet it took over that empire despite the long odds.  I think that the reason is that from the very beginning, the story told by the christian church was about Grace.

None of us is as strong as we would like; all of us need that Grace to keep us from sinking, at least from time to time.  That gift of Grace took the Roman Empire by storm, and is one that I see here today.  The Queen Of The World shows it to me.  It's the gift she gives not when I deserve it, but when I don't deserve it.  And therein lies its power.
Yeah, she knows the man I ain't,
She forgives me when I can't
That's a precious gift to me.  It is in those moments that the spirit of Easter surrounds me.  It may even be that I'm a Dumb Ass as much as I am because I like that moment of Grace from her.  In a sense, it's always Easter here at Castle Borepatch, thanks to The Queen Of The World.
Always thought she'd give up on me one day,
Wash her hands of me, leave me staring down some runway,
Yeah, I thank God each night, and twice on Sunday,
That she loves me like Jesus does.
This Easter weekend you are as lucky as I am.  Well you don't have The Queen Of The World so you're not quite as lucky as I am, but you have that gift of Grace.  That gift doesn't give up on you some day because you've been a Dumb Ass once too many times.  That gift carries you when you when your sins make you heavy.  That gift forgives you when you can't.  We're surrounded by Grace, if we'll just open our eyes. Songs like this tell us some of the places to look, if we dare.

Dare.


She Loves Me Like Jesus Does (Songwriters: Casey Beathard, Monty Criswell)
I'm a long gone Waylon song on vinyl, 
I'm a backroad sinner at a tent revival, 
She believes in me like she believes her bible, 
And loves me like Jesus does.

I'm a lead foot leaning on a suped up Chevy, 
I'm a good ol' boy, drinking whiskey and rye on the levee, 
But she carries me, when my sins make me heavy, 
And she loves me like Jesus does.

All the crazy in my dreams, 
Both my broken wings, 
Every single piece of everything I am, 
Yeah, she knows the man I ain't, 
She forgives me when I can't, 
That devil man, he don't stand a chance, 
Cause she loves me like Jesus does.

Always thought she'd give up on me one day, 
Wash her hands of me, leave me staring down some runway, 
But, I thank God each night, and twice on Sunday, 
That she loves me like Jesus does.

All the crazy in my dreams, 
And both my broken wings, 
Every single piece of who I am, 
Yeah, she knows the man I ain't, 
She forgives me when I can't, 
And the devil man, no, he don't have a prayer. 
Cause she loves me like Jesus does

Yeah, she knows the man I ain't, 
She forgives me when I can't, 
That devil man, he don't stand a chance, 
Cause she loves me like Jesus does.

I'm a long gone Waylon song on vinyl
I'm a lucky man.  The Queen Of The World is there to give me that gift of Grace when I need it.  Even when I don't deserve it - especially when I don't deserve it.  She reminds me of what this weekend is all about.  That's a neat trick, right there.
Grace is something you can never get but can only be given. There's no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth.  
... 
A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by grace. There's nothing you have to do. There's nothing you have to do. There's nothing you have to do. 
... 
There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can only be yours if you'll reach out and take it.
- Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC's of Faith

Friday, April 19, 2019

April 19th, 1775

British Regulars marched out from Boston to confiscate the powder, shot, and weapons stored at Concord. Recognizing that this action made it "now or never", the Colonials formed up on the village green. They were not Americans. They were British subjects committing treason. They are only heroes in hindsight.

Their actions that day became the spark that lead to the Revolution.

I always take this day to remember one man. Samuel Whittemore, State Hero of Massachusetts. Born in 1696. Served in a Massachusetts Regiment in King George's War in the 1740s. On the 19th of April, 1775, he was 80 years old.

Upon hearing of the events of the day, he loaded his muskets and two French pistols he had kept from his prior service and went to intercept the retreating British. He shot one with the musket and another with the first pistol, with decisive result. He wounded a third with the last pistol. Then he drew a sword and attacked.

The rest of the British detachment shot him in the face, bayoneted him several times, and left him for dead. When he was found, he was trying to reload. He survived this, lived another 18 years, dying at the age of 98, a citizen of the United States.




"Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war let it begin here." --Captain John Paarker, on Lexington Green, April 19, 1775.

The wilderness of Faith

To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. But this is the first and great commandment nonetheless. Even in the wilderness - especially in the wilderness - you shall love Him.
- Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember
Good Friday is when the early community of the Apostles first entered the wilderness of faith.  Scattered and in hiding, their world was shattered into a million shards.  For most of them, it would not be the last time.

What we know now - and what in later times they knew better than we - is that the Wilderness is where the first and great commandment is found.  Saint Peter ended his days in the Rome of Nero, on the cross.  It was an agonizing end - an end the Romans fully intended to be agonizing - and the first of many persecutions that christians would suffer in that empire.  But Peter knew - he had seen - what is found in the Wilderness.  It is the Faith that conquers the world.

The love for equals is a human thing--of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing--the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing--to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy--love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured's love for the torturer. This is God's love. It conquers the world.
- Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

Why can't the government provide healthcare and the "Green New Deal"?

You can learn everything you need to know about the counter-productiveness of handing power to the government by reading this:  Canadian woman fined for not holding escalator handrail finally gets case before Supreme Court:
A Canadian woman fined for failing to hold on to an escalator handrail in 2009 has finally reached the Supreme Court in her search for justice. 
Bela Kosoian was using the subway in Laval near Montreal in 2009 when a police officer told her to respect a warning sign, in French, saying "Caution, hold the handrail", CTV News reported
She argued with the officer that the pictogram was advice rather than the law, but the officer promptly handcuffed her, detained her for half an hour and slapped her with a $100 fine for failing to take advantage of escalator safety features and a further $320 for refusing to identify herself. 
Kosoian was acquitted in 2012 but decided to sue the police and transport authority. She lost twice in Quebec before the Supreme Court of Canada took up the case.
[blink] [blink]

So some jack-booted fascist thug got all Respect mah authoritah on her, and the redress requires the Supreme damn Court.  No doubt the Police Officer is still on the force, if he hasn't since retired on a hefty pension.  There was almost certainly no unpleasant consequences for his use of handcuffs and detainment over a trifle.

Apply that exact calculus to the public school system, or the Veteran's Affairs Department, or to just about everything government does.  Heck, even the military which is about the best we can point to for government actually doing what it is supposed to.  The book Embrace The Suck captures the failure of everything government from the point of view of the Grunts.

And remember, the military's goal is a lot easier than the goals of any of the rest of the Fed.Gov.  The other departments have to try to build something that works, while the military has to kill people and break their stuff.  Dangerous, sure.  But a lot easier to understand and accomplish.

And to return to the original point of this rant: even if the Green New Deal weren't a wasteland of bone headed and counter productive boondoggles, the government couldn't implement it anyway.  The people who would need to do it are too busy handcuffing hardened criminals like Ms. Kosoian for the dastardly crime of ignoring their Betters.

This post is tagged with the labels fascists, police state, and government cockups because, well, you know.

UPDATE 19 April 2019 14:31: Of course, Sal the Agorist has something apropos:




Thursday, April 18, 2019

Tolkien in the news

J. R. R. Tolkien was famous as an author, but his day job was as a professor at Oxford.  He was one of the world experts on the epic poem Beowulf, and W. H. Auden wrote him a letter later in life saying how thrilling his Beowulf recitation and lectures were.


Tolkien firmly believed that Beowulf had been written by a single person, but this was controversial at the time.  Now a new study has backed the old Oxford Don up on that:
The epic poem Beowulf is the most famous surviving work of Old English literature. For decades, scholars have hotly debated both when the poem was composed and whether it was the work of a single anonymous author ("the Beowulf poet"). Lord of the Rings' scribe J.R.R. Tolkien was among those who famously championed the single-author stance. Now researchers at Harvard University have conducted a statistical analysis and concluded that there was very likely just one author, further bolstering Tolkien's case. They published their findings in a recent paper in Nature Human Behavior.
Statistical analysis of meter, punctuation, word choice, and letter combinations suggest a single author.

In other Tolkien news, someone has made a film; not about his stories, but about the author himself:



Opens mid-May.

Who knew that Keanu Reeves started a motorcycle company?

Via #2 Son we find Arch Motorcycles, a custom bike shop founded by Reeves.  They look like bikes for young men with money.  Still, it's an interesting view into the non-Harley biking world: these are very different bikes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

And Since The Range Wasn't Enough

We went axe throwing at Stumpy's. Not a bad way to spend an hour. I now want to get a couple of traditional tomahawks and try this outside at longer distances.

It was just like this not like this:

Around the blogs

Here are a bunch of pages that are worth your while today.

Google is evil.  Comrade Misfit points out how to keep them from collecting (and selling, or giving to the police and/or the TV News) your location data.

Tacitus has been blogging for 8 years, and muses on how the blogosphere has changed over that time.  Not sure how I found his blog, but I've been linking to him for most of that time.  ER doctor, Battlebot coach, and amateur archaeologist who sometimes goes spelunking in old beer caves, there's always something interesting over there.

This is the smartest analysis of the Julian Assange case that I've seen.

I don't follow basket ball very much, but Old NFO has something that shows that greatness of the soul is sometimes best measured off the court, by the number of lives you touch.  Highly, highly recommended.

Everyone has to do something


Found by the Queen Of The World, who knows dogs.  And shoes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The miracle of Cathedral architecture

We don't often think of Cathedrals like Paris' Notre Dame as being high tech, but the architecture that exploded on the scene around 1100 AD was a game changer - one that wasn't really eclipsed until the steel and concrete skyscraper 800 years later.  This scene from the great series The Ascent Of Man sums this up in a very digestible manner.*



Quite frankly, the strength of the design is possibly the reason that Notre Dame still stands, damaged but unconquered.

* The 1970s was perhaps the golden age of educational television, with this series and Kenneth Clark's Civilization as perhaps the pinnacle of TV where you could expect to actually learn something more than how to rap.  The music here is awful - the 1970s intellectual soundtrack par excellence - but the scene still presents the story efficiently and entertainingly.

Shooting Offhand

The steel plate is 100 yards downrange. There are other shooters on other ranges so it's not always clear that Borepatch is hitting the plate with every shot.

In re: Notre Dame

Everyone has seen the views of the Cathedral from outside - it is a wonder of the world, after all.  But it was not built to be a magnificent resting place for the eye.  It was built as a church, by people who used it for worship.

Like this:



I find this much more poignant than the sweeping vistas of the Cathedral in its glory, or the terrible fire devouring the spire.  This is why it was built.

French authorities say this fire was an accident.  We need to take them at their word until more information is available.  But keep in mind the news that has been swept down the memory hole.  Notre Dame was targeted by ISIS two years ago.  And last year saw two French churches desecrated each day, every day for the entire year.

But time will tell how it happened.  For now, we know what happened, which was a tragedy.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Oh no! There's a man chick with a gun!

The Queen Of The World and I visited ASM826 and Mrs. ASM826 over the weekend.  Not only are they terrific hosts, but ASM826 is an excellent shooting instructor.  He helped TQOTW get lead on steel target in a jiffy.


While she's not a new shooter, she hasn't been a frequent shooter and so the "New Shooter Smile" seemed to apply.  The "I Hit The Steel" smile was definitely there, too.  She has a pretty good idea of which guns she'd like Santa to bring.

Later we went to the local Pirate Fest which seemed a lot like a Ren Faire brought to the down town.


Just a random group of revelers.  Later we threw hatchets which was a lot more fun than I had anticipated.  TQOTW joked that we brought her on a "guy's weekend".

Man, it was a lot of fun.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Visit With Borepatch

Borepatch and the Queen came to visit for the weekend. I expect this will result in several posts by both of us over the coming days. I won't spoil anything, but it was a great weekend.

In a conversation about practice and skill development, I remembered making this little video. I'm posting this for him as he didn't remember it.

I was shooting USPSA regularly back then and this was the result.

Friday, April 12, 2019

What Assange was indicted for

Robert Graham explains.

I'm not so sure that passwords had to be longer than 10 characters back in 2010, but really don't know.  Good explanation of the technical details.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Regarding Julian Assange

I posted this at the end of 2013, calling the picture the "picture of the year".  I reproduce the entire post here on the occasion of l'affair Assange.

Offered without comment on l'affair Snowden, as it needs none.


Other than pointing out that Snowden is on the run, and General Clapper (who perjured himself before Congress) is still invited to the Right Sort of parties.

#burnittotheground

Via some dudes in Germany, who understand what the Stasi was.

The CDC gets blowback on draconian anti-opiod guidelines

In 2016, the CDC published new guidance for doctors on pain medication.  This has resulted in increased difficulty in getting medication by people suffering from chronic pain, and in some cases had led to "cold turkey" withdrawal of the medications - a cruel and quite frankly medically dangerous practice.

Last month saw a letter to the CDC, a letter that documented hundreds of patients suffering the adverse consequences of the CDC's guidance.  The letter was signed by hundreds of doctors and nurses.  And suddenly the CDC is stumbling all over itself to "clarify" their 2016 guidance:
Acknowledging the suffering caused by "misinterpretation" of the opioid prescribing guidelines it published in 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday sought to clarify that it never recommended imposing involuntary dose reductions on chronic pain patients. In a letter to physicians who had objected to that widespread practice, CDC Director Robert Redfield emphasized that his agency "does not endorse mandated or abrupt dose reduction or discontinuation, as these actions can result in patient harm." Redfield described several steps the CDC is taking to research the impact of its guidelines and correct misunderstandings that have led to abrupt withdrawal, undertreated pain, denial of care, and in some cases suicide.
"I have seen many patients harmed by widespread misapplication of the Guideline," said Stefan Kertesz, a University of Alabama at Birmingham pain and addiction specialist who helped organize a March 6 letter on the subject that was signed by hundreds of health professionals. Kertesz welcomed the CDC's response, which came the same day that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about the risks of involuntary or fast opioid tapering.
It seems that a bunch of folks are giving the CDC attaboys for this.  My take is different.


The people at the CDC (and also it seems at the FDA) who wrote this guidance should be horsewhipped in the public square, and then denied pain medication.  The Reason post linked above contains story after story from people forced to live in agony.  Here's a sample quote from a patient:
"You don't know me, you don't walk in my shoes, you don't have my nerve damage, and you don't have to live with the thought of will today be the day that I kill myself because I can't take the pain anymore"
And the CDC's answer?  "Oops, my bad":
Redfield said the CDC is communicating with providers and health systems to "clarify the content" of its advice, to "emphasize the importance of developing policies consistent with the Guideline's intent," and to "highlight recommendations within the Guideline, including tapering guidance, options for non-opioid treatments for chronic pain, and communicating with patients."
Let's break that down, shall we?  Here's the translation from bureauticrese to English:
the CDC is communicating with providers and health systems to "clarify the content" of its advice 
Our guidance was crappy and too vague, almost certainly because we were covering our ass with politicians breathing down our necks on this "War On Drugs" nonsense and we were a bunch of pussies that caved to the pressure. 
to "emphasize the importance of developing policies consistent with the Guideline's intent" 
It may be vague but we're still pussies worried about those damn politicians.  But we're sorry we got caught and really really want this to get out of the public eye. 
and to "highlight recommendations within the Guideline, including tapering guidance, options for non-opioid treatments for chronic pain, and communicating with patients." 
Holy cow we're still pussies and are afraid of losing our jobs because the Politicians really really want their War On Drugs. 
The Government is a stumbling, bumbling idiot that crushes everything it touches.  Remember, kids: it's not "Government Healthcare" or even "Socialized Healthcare".  It's "Politicized Healthcare" and we're seeing it right now, before our very eyes.  Just wait until that's the only thing left to us and the Politicians really start yanking the levers.

Jerks.

Florida about to issue the 2 millionth concealed carry permit

It seems that folks are high fiving the benchmark, although the media is appalled.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The last of the Doolittle Raiders passes on

Lt. Col. Dick Cole - Jimmy Doolittle's co-pilot and the last of the Doolittle Raiders has passed on at age 103.  Dwight has a good tribute.

A couple years back when The Queen Of The World and I were in Ohio seeing her Dad, we took a couple hours to visit the Air Force Museum in Dayton.  They had the bottle of Cognac which had been presented to the raiders by the city of Tuscon on display there.  It was for a toast by the group but it had never been opened.  It felt eerie, knowing that the final toast was finally nigh.  All of the silver goblets are now turned face down.

.

Ave atque vale - hail and farewell.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

K9s for Warriors

Michael emails to point me to this very interesting article about a group that is fighting the war against PTSD with rescue dogs:
K9s For Warriors is a BBB accredited charity organization located in Ponte Vedra, Florida, that has been pairing rescue dogs with traumatized soldiers since 2011. The dogs are trained to be service dogs, specifically performing tasks to quiet the symptoms of war trauma disabilities in soldiers. 
“The skillsets our dogs learn help these warriors with anxiety, isolation, depression, and nightmares,” says Shari Duval, the founder of K9s For Warriors. “So, the warriors can function again in public.”
Specifically, the dogs are trained to deal with symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or military sexual trauma (MST), as a result of military service on or after 9/11.
This is a long article that goes into some depth on the problems of PTSD.  The Queen Of The World tells a story about someone she knew who came back from Vietnam and couldn't sit with his back to a door.  The use of the service dog to address this problem is creative:
Many soldiers with PTSD do not like people coming up from behind them. In the field, soldiers say to one another,“I got your back” or “I got your 6.” The cover command does just that. The service dog literally becomes the warrior’s sixth sense, by sitting and facing the opposite way the warrior is facing. When someone approaches from behind, the dog wags its tail.
I quite like the fact that there are scientific studies under way that are validating the effectiveness of dogs as a non-pharmaceutical treatment:
K9s For Warriors recently partnered with Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine on a pilot study testing the effectiveness of service dogs as a complementary treatment for military members and veterans who suffer from PTSD. Dr. Maggie O'Haire, assistant professor of human-animal interaction, along with Kerri E. Rodriguez, research assistant, conducted the study and published the findings earlier this year.
The study had a total of 141 participants from the K9s For Warriors’ program or individuals on the program’s waiting list. Half of the program's participants had service dogs; the other half did not.
The study found that PTSD symptoms were significantly lower in veterans with service dogs, demonstrating that service dogs are associated with lower PTSD symptoms among war veterans. “The initial findings showed lower depression, lower PTSD symptoms, lower levels of anxiety, and lower absenteeism from work due to health issues,” says Dr. O'Haire.
... 
Dr. O’Haire is partnering again with K9s For Warriors on a more extensive study funded by NIH. The findings will be published in 2019.
The VA is also running a Congressionally-mandated PTSD service dog study that will be completed in 2019. A total of 180 veterans have received either a service dog or an emotional support dog as part of the study. According to a VA spokesperson, after peer reviews, the VA will submit the study and results to the National Academy of Sciences for review, as required by the authorizing legislation (Section 1077 of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act).
While there is a place for medications, they seem to be a very blunt instrument for PTSD.  So far, this group has placed 850 dogs with 450 veterans.

A life's work

That guy really hated communism.

Monday, April 8, 2019

The only thing dumber than a self-driving car is a self-driving tank

Peter has a post discussing what size gun for small armored vehicles, which has a lot of interesting stuff if that's your bag, Baby.  But he has a very interesting question:
In future warfare, as far as front-line combat is concerned, does infantry still have a role on the battlefield?  Is combat going to develop into a slugging match between vehicles, and possibly between unmanned systems or artificial-intelligence autonomous weapons systems?
No.

Nobody is going to put much faith into autonomous weapons systems for a long, long time.  The reason is that failure modes are much more complex than for autonomous automobiles, and are susceptible to enemy subversion.  We're actually already seeing some of this for self-driving cars, where security researchers were successful in tricking a Tesla to move into the oncoming traffic lane by putting some stickers on the road surface.  Srlsy.

So far self-driving cars have been learning (mostly successfully) to avoid obstacles on well defined roadways.  Results have been decently impressive although nowhere near good enough for me to trust my life to one of these things.  I've posted about many of the failures here, and this really boils down to a case of underestimating how difficult the problem is combined with a generous dose of Gee-Wizz marketing.  Essentially this is a problem space where rapid progress is made until the solution is 80% complete, at which point the people working the problem realize that they're facing the next 80%.

And remember, this is for driving on well marked roads with lanes painted on the surface and signposts to give a lot of clues about what's coming next.  No imagine a vehicle that has to navigate off-road, avoid obstacles, avoid damaging property owned by friendlies, all while searching for and identifying potential targets.

Remember, the targets will be actively trying to trick the vehicle's sensors and AI algorithms.  As they say, this will be a target rich environment.  I predict that the first time that a Red Team takes on one of these vehicles it will all be over very quickly.  The AI needs to do a lot more than identify obstacles on a well defined roadway, it needs to do off-road navigation while figuring out whether it is being tricked or not.

The situation is very similar to the difference between getting a web site up and running, and getting one running that is hard to hack.  The first case is just getting functionality to work as designed, the second involves ensuring that the functionality cannot be bent by clever stratagem to do something that the designer doesn't want done.

Good luck with that - this is an entirely new field, with entirely new compromise possibilities.  Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a site where plains indians hunted bison by tricking them and driving them off a cliff.  Bison are about a billion times smarter than even the best AI, and this was a viable hunting strategy nonetheless.  Is it possible to confuse a self-driving tank to drive off a cliff?  I for one wouldn't bet big money that you couldn't.

This is not a self-driving Wikipedia

And so back to Peter's question.  Yes, infantry has a place on the battlefield of tomorrow.  Quite frankly one of their uses might be to override a confused AI that is about to drive over a cliff.  Infantry will be smarter than tanks for a long, long time.

UPDATE 10 APRIL 2019 17:23: Lawrence has a very interesting take on this.  I think he's right.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Anton Eberl - Symphony in E-flat major, Op.33

Image von der Wik
On this day in 1805, Beethoven's great Third Symphony debuted at a concert in Vienna.  It was one of several compositions by several composers, and the definite consensus is that his symphony didn't win first prize.  This one did, and it shows how fleeting fame can be.

Anton Ebert was one of the most renown composers at the turn of the 19th century.  Friends with both Mozart and Beethoven, his music has distinct flavors of both.  Actually, it's quite a trick to bring out hints of both in the very same piece of music, but that's exactly what Ebert did here.  The Vienna crowd loved it, and I quite like it myself.  Ebert caught scarlet fever and died young and so we lost all of the music he might have composed - but at the time he was more famous than Beethoven.  And then he was forgotten for 200 years.

He seems to be making something of a comeback in the last years.  Good.  After all, his music was confused with Mozart's and he was better than Beethoven, at least for a while.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Netflix at it's Best

The Highwaymen. Story of the Texas Rangers and Bonnie and Clyde. Might not be absolutely historically accurate but it's well told.


Update: I've a fair bit of reading this afternoon. You have pick your sources and overlap the material to make a portrait of Frank Hamer. There's a lot of differing views. There's only one fact I want to post. He had a son named Billy Beckham Hamer. Billy joined the Marines and was killed in combat on Iwo Jima. They are buried side by side.

Bill Anderson - Old Army Hat

I complain a lot about the over-produced New Nashville music that isn't much more than rap with a banjo.  As it turns out, real country music is still being produced, although it may be mostly by the old warhorses.  Whisperin' Bill Anderson is one of those.

Anderson is one of the most prolific country artists of all time: 36 of his songs have reached the Top Ten, and his songs have been recorded by many other artists (including Conway Twitty, Roy Clark, George Straight, and Brad Paisley).  He's been in the Grand Ole Opry since 1961.

But he still writes songs like they used to.  This is a new song that sounds old.  In 2013 Anderson ran across a story about an old World War II vet who put all his army gear away when he came back, except for his army hat which he wore in memory of his buddies that never made it back.  He never talked about the war but when he heard they'd built a memorial to it on the National Mall he asked his grandson to take him.  He thought it needed to be a song:
“It’s based on a true story. I met the son of the man that it actually happened to.” tells Whispering Bill Anderson. “In the song we took a few liberties and referred to the old soldier as my Grandfather. But, actually he was the father to a friend of mine and it really happened. He took his Dad up to Washington, to the Memorial and told his Dad not to wear that old Army hat that he wore around all the time. His Dad said ‘I’m going to wear it if I want too.’ So he wore it up there and they were just totally blown away by the response that they got; how many people stopped him on the street; and thanked him and even saluted him and all this kind of thing.”
This is old school country music, still being made in Nashville.



Old Army Hat (Songwriters: Walt Aldridge, Bill Anderson)
He came home to Tennessee a young man at the end of forty-fiveOnly one of seven men in his platoon that made it back aliveHe must have seen some tough timesBut he never talked too much about all of thatPut his pictures and his memories in the cedar chestEverything but his old army hat 
By the time I graduated the winds of change had blown across our landThey were burning flags and draft cardsWhen they bothered to take some kind of standAnd we used to laugh at grandpaLike he was some old relic from the past'Cause he never left the house less he was wearingThat funny looking worn out army hat 
Every eye was on him anytime that he went anywhereThey whispered and they pointedBut you could tell that grandpa didn't careI ain't weaning this for them he said it's a whole lot more than thatFor my buddies who gave everything the least that I can doIs keep on wearing this old army hat 
He called me up one morning said he'd seen it on the news on his tvThey've opened up a monument to World War II in Washington D.CI ain't getting any youngerAnd I wish someone would take me to see thatI couldn't help but think their gonna laugh at you up thereIf you show up in that silly army hat 
Two strangers both saluted as grandpa walked up to the monumentOne said thank you soldier for a job well done the other said amenAnd a young boy said sir my daddy went to war and never made it backWould you take a picture standing here beside meAnd maybe let me wear your army hat 
Every eye was on him and there was not a dry one in the crowdThey whispered and they pointedAnd grandpa stood up extra tall and proudHe said son just keep itWhen the young boy tried his best to give it backYou're a brave little soldier son and every soldier needsHis very own authentic army hat 
For your daddy who gave every thing the least that I can doIs pass on this old worn out army hat


Friday, April 5, 2019

Twitter bans French Government in order to comply with french "Fake News" law

This is delicious:
A social media campaign from the French government has been blocked by Twitter - because of the government's own anti-fake-news law.
Since December, France requires online political campaigns to declare who paid for them, and how much was spent.
But now Twitter has rejected a government voter registration campaign.
The company could not find a solution to obey the letter of the new law, officials said – and opted to avoid the potential problem altogether.
LOL.  The French.Gov is, of course, beaucoup fâché at this whole countretemps - the idea that a vaguely-worded law might actually be used against them!  Why it's nothing short of lèse-majesté.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of Statist Pricks.  This post is tagged "statist pricks" because, well, you know.

Is that a sword in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

The Washington DC cherry trees were originally a gift to the United States from Japan, and the Cherry Blossom Festival has a strong Japan theme.  As The Queen Of The World and I wandered past the pavilions, there was this display of swordsmanship.


I wonder if they could even do this sport in the UK, with their silly knife laws.

A day off

The lack of posting yesterday was because I took a day off from work and the Queen Of The World and I went into Washington DC to see the cherry blossoms.  It had been maybe 30 years since I had last seen them, and she had never been, and so we went.  The weather was perfect.  As you can imagine, it's spectacular.


As you can imagine, it was also packed.  We also stopped by Arlington to see her Dad.  One of the nice things about being in the DC area is that we can see him.


We'll get down next month for the Rolling Thunder ride, which she hasn't been on before but is looking forward to.