Monday, September 30, 2019

The decline and revival of portrait painting

The Roman Empire fell hard when it fell.  Populations suffered big declines and art pretty much disappeared in the west for centuries.  Portrait painting was basically lost for a thousand years.  What's interesting is that portrait painting was a big, big deal in ancient Rome.  We don't know much of it because all but a handful of Roman portraits were lost.  I mean, two thousand years is a long time for a perishable object to survive, especially when waves of barbarians come through on periodic sacking raids.

YARGB points to a remarkable collection of Roman portraits, the Fayum Mummy portraits:
These are examples of Fayuum Mummy portraits. They're paintings, from the Hellenistic era Egypt, that were attached to mummies and are meant to depict the deceased. However, from the above link:
On first inspection the Fayum mummy portrait paintings look like true-life depictions of actual individuals, but closer analysis reveals that the 'individual' features are sometimes no more than repetitive, formulaic renderings. In other words, quite a few of the portraits appear to have been created from a small number of facial templates, disguised by the use of different fashions, hairstyles and beards.
Regardless, they are still the only extent collection of portraits we have of more common people of antiquity, rather than the kings and generals we usually see in ancient art. That said, it was still only the very upper crust of society that could afford them.
He has a collection of these that you can go look at, dating roughly the first century AD to the third century.  Egypt's dry climate preserved them in a way that wasn't there in rainier climes.  The level of expertise ranges from so-so to excellent, and it entirely disappeared with the Empire.

Here's another one that YARGB does not have.  My opinion is that this was the greatest portrait (that we know of) for 1500 years, faded by 1900 years.  It dates from around the reign of Emperor Claudius, or possibly Nero.

Clearly she was from a wealthy family.  She died young, a fate shared by the great and the common.  You have to fast forward to the Renaissance for similar workmanship.  Here's one by Robert Campin in the Netherlands around 1430:

I find the Roman one more realistic - less formalized, or formalized in a less obvious way.  That may just be because Roman formalization techniques have been lost over time, while early Flemish formalization techniques are (relatively) fresh.  Interestingly, there are very few portrait examples much before 1430, and an explosion soon after.  The Renaissance really did come about all of a sudden.

Ironically, when Campin painted this portrait the Roman Empire still existed, although as a vastly shrunken ghost of its former self.  By 1430 the Empire was pretty much limited to Constantinople and areas around that.  It would be gone in another two decades.  Roman aristocrats fleeing the Turks would settle in Italy, taking their books with them.  Those books - of the ancient masters like Virgil, Horace, and Cicero - will further ignite the Renaissance and lead to today's modern world.

At the intersection of stupid gun laws and stupid drug laws

Pregnant Mom Kills Home Invader in Justified Shooting, Now Going To Prison For the Gun She Used:
Do convicted felons have the constitutional right to defend themselves with a firearm? The answer to the question, in most U.S. states is a resounding no. Those who do, like Arkansas native Krissy Noble, face years in prison, all for choosing to protect their lives and the lives of their loved ones with a firearm.

Noble was cleared of all wrongdoing in the Dec. 7th shooting death of Dylan Stancoff, who attacked her in her own home. Noble was pregnant at the time of the shooting when Stancoff, calling himself Cameron White, stopped by her home and asked to speak to Noble’s husband who was not home at the time. Saying he was a friend from the military, Stancoff left but returned later, pushed himself into Noble’s home, attempted to cover her mouth to prevent her from screaming, and began to struggle with the mother-to-be.

Noble escaped briefly and retrieved a .40 caliber handgun, fired three shots, and killed her attacker. But because Noble pleaded guilty (before the shooting in 2017) to felony possession of marijuana, she now faces six years in prison, all for the crime of using her husband’s handgun, a gun she successfully used to defend herself and the life of her unborn baby.
The term "anarcho-tyranny" describes a situation where the Organs Of The State refuse to control criminals (hence, the anarchy) by puts strict controls on the law abiding (hence, the tyranny).  Sure, it's hard to control criminals and easy to control the law abiding, but that's hardly a justification.

It's hard to think of a group with a stronger claim on society's protection than expecting mothers, and yet the police failed her.  No doubt that is because the woman lived in a rural area, but her moral claim on protection stands.  The State is making things worse - adding to their moral failure - by prosecuting her for using not her firearm, but her husband's firearm to defend herself and her unborn baby.

The State is effectively saying that not only do they have no moral duty to protect these two people, but that Mrs. Noble has no legal authority to protect herself and her baby - and that the state will imprison her for 5 years if she does.

Let that sink in.

All because she was busted with some pot once.  What a miserable failure of the stupid War On Drugs.  Future generations will judge us by our works, and the judging will be harsh.  Fair, but harsh.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Shanah Tovah

To our jewish readers, may we wish you many pleasant and good years!

Jacques-Martin Hotteterre - Suite for Flute and Continuo in C minor

Flute music can be traced to Jacques-Martin Hotteterre.  The flute was a very old instrument, far pre-dating him.  His family had been making high quality flutes for generations.  But nobody had created a systematic training manual for aspiring flautists until Hotteterre.

He acquired a reputation as a virtuoso at quite a young age, and by his 30s was employed by the King of France himself as Jouëur de Fluste de la musique de chambre.  This post gave him high visibility in the court, and he tutored a great many children of the great nobles.  He wrote down his ideas in what became the first published flute instruction manual, L'Art de préluder sur la flûte traversière.

Hotteterre continued as court musician for years, living to a ripe old age.  Today is his birthday.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

USS Texas in the fight of its life

It survived both World Wars, but corrosion is a deadlier foe:
Battleship Texas BB35 is a New York-class battleship that has the distinction of having served in both World War I and World War II. The 104-year-old ship is facing possibly its toughest battle as it fights a two front war against time and budgetary constraints. 
The aging battleship is currently closed to the public as it undergoes repairs. Corrosion has caused leaks in the hull of the last remaining WWI dreadnought. Officials have stated that they are pumping 300,000 gallons of water out of the hull every day.
That's a lot of water.

Steve Earle - Copperhead Road

What do you get when you mix bluegrass and heavy metal?  Rolling Stone called it "Power Twang" after Steve Earle released his 1988 album "Copperhead Road".  This was the title track, named after the goings on that happened on a a Johnson County, TN road.  The road now is called "Copperhead Hollow Road" because the county was tired of replacing stolen street signs.

As with all Steve Earle songs he puts a lie to the phrase that all a song needs is "three chords and the truth".  Earle's irrepressible creativity can't be contained in only three chords.

Copperhead Road (Songwriter: Steve Earle):
Well my name's John Lee Pettimore
Same as my daddy and his daddy before
You hardly ever saw Grandaddy down here
He only come to town about twice a year
He'd buy a hundred pound of yeast and some copper line
Everybody knew that he made moonshine

Now the revenue man wanted Grandaddy bad
He headed up the holler with everything he had
It's before my time but I've been told
He never came back from Copperhead Road

Now Daddy ran the whiskey in a big block Dodge
Bought it at an auction at the Mason's Lodge
Johnson County Sheriff painted on the side
Just shot a coat of primer then he looked inside
Well him and my uncle tore that engine down
I still remember that rumblin' sound

Then the sheriff came around in the middle of the night
Heard mama cryin', knew something wasn't right
He was headed down to Knoxville with the weekly load
You could smell the whiskey burnin' down Copperhead Road

I volunteered for the Army on my birthday
They draft the white trash first, 'round here anyway
I done two tours of duty in Vietnam
And I came home with a brand new plan
I take the seed from Colombia and Mexico
I just plant it up the holler down Copperhead Road

And now the D.E.A.'s got a chopper in the air
I wake up screaming like I'm back over there
I learned a thing or two from Charlie don't you know
You better stay away from Copperhead Road

Copperhead Road
Copperhead Road
Copperhead Road

Friday, September 27, 2019

Mess with the bull ...

Get the horns.  From ten years ago, a post that says you really, really do not want to mess with a building full of veterans.

Valley Falls, NY: Bad place to burn a flag

The local VFW didn't like this fellow burning their flag.

The young man was given three choices: get turned over to the police, go one-on-one in a fight with a seasoned war veteran, or be duct-taped to a flagpole for six hours with a sign around his neck identifying his alleged crime: flag burning.
The young man in question seemingly was turned down at the bar, because he didn't have an ID. Angry, he cut down the Post's flag and set fire to it.

Then he found out the meaning of "a building full of Veterans".

Now before someone starts singing about the young man's First Amendment rights, let me point out two things:

1. He stole their property and destroyed it. They caught him, and gave him the choice of going to jail for theft.

2. As Trace Adkins puts it in his song Fightin' Words, Son, the First Amendment protects you from the Government. Not from me.

Hat tip: From My Position ... On The Way.

Jacques Chirac, dead at 86

Dwight has the obit.  This is what I remember, as it captured the essence of the Franco-American relationship at the time.  The playful scoundrel that you can't quite bring yourself to get mad at, and the long suffering friend who at the end of the day doesn't get mad at the scoundrel.

Requiescat in pace.

Free online University course on Hadrian's Wall

This is pretty cool:
This six week course offers a comprehensive introduction to Hadrian’s Wall and its people and raises fascinating issues concerning colonisation, cultural transformation, immigration, integration and imperialism. We will explore life in the region before the construction of the Wall, the arrival of the Roman army and its impact on the local population. Detailed case studies will consider the different features of the Wall and its surroundings, considering the way in which the frontier system evolved throughout the Roman period. The changing face of both the Roman army and indigenous populations is richly illuminated through archaeological finds and reconstructions. To appreciate the range and character of native people, soldiers’ families, slaves, merchants and migrants, we will examine their homes, dress, diet, rituals and religious beliefs.
It's free, and open to everyone:
This course is intended for anyone with an interest in the archaeology or history of the Roman Empire. It focuses on the most heavily fortified Roman frontier, located in what is now northern England. It does not require any reading before you start, or previous experience of studying these subjects.
It's taught by a professor at Newcastle University in the UK.  If you have an interest in archaeology (*cough* Tim *cough*) then check it out.

The rant of the day

It's over at Aesop's, so get on over there.  Here's a taste:
Anybody who thinks that you should be open-carrying AR-15s at the food court is a fuckwit.
Unless there are Zombies and ninja assassins there, 24/7/365.
No? Then fuckwit. Period. Full stop. 
That says nothing about whether you should be allowed to, or whether the Second Amendment is a good thing or a bad thing.
The "But huh second amendment" types are hurting the team.  Aesop points out that people are used to seeing open carry pistols, because every cop in the land carries like that.  But when was the last time you saw a cop carry an AR-15?  Even though they can, they don't.

But there are guys who want to play "Operator LARP".  They make a lot of people nervous.  Heck, they'd probably make me nervous.  The only thing they're "normalizing" is the idea that there should be more restrictions on gun owners.

So pretty please stop that nonsense.  And I'm entirely with Aesop on the 2A:
I think I'm on damned fine ground that the Second Amendment said "arms" because the whole damned arsenal was up for ownership, not just pistols and rifles.
I think that means crew-served weapons, artillery in actual fact, and tanks, airplanes, and battleships too. (If you can feed it, you can keep it.) Otherwise the sections concerning Letters of Marque would have been pointless.

And if some guy had a frigate, and permission from Uncle Sugar to do it, and was selling spots to hunt pirates in any of a dozen worldwide trouble spots, you and I know the sign-up list of spots would be sold out in 30 minutes, with lines around the block.

Pirates would be more endangered than rhinos if we went there. And we should have, long ago.

And if anyone suggested that at an NRA meeting, the pussified leadership there would shit their pants. (The crowd of the membership would likely put you on the Board of Directors by vocal acclaim, in contrast.)
I'm making a new post tag, "Operator LARP" because I expect we'll see more of this idiocy in the future.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Blogroll update

If you haven't been following IMAO, then you're missing out.  Frank J has a group of bloggers who are pretty darn funny, like this more or less random musing about guns and Canadians:
Canada has guns? 
Heh.  Glen Filthie could not be reached for comment.  Not sure he'd apologize ...

But added to the blogroll.

Maybe it's time for some "Common Sense" abortion control

Notice how whenever there's a shooting by some lunatic that we're inundated by calls for new gun control laws restricting normal Americans?  Every.  Single.  Time.

This happens because there's no downside for the Democrats.  Game Theory tells us that in situations like this (where one side is motivated to a goal and the other side passively watches what happens) that the motivated side will ultimately prevail.  Game Theory also tells us that a "tit-for-tat" strategy of pushback - a pushback for each time the other side pushes - will result in a stable outcome.

OK, then.  Let's think about how to push back against the Democrats in a way that will get their attention.  And let's use the gun control template - somebody does something horrifying and so we propose a law restricting the rights of the majority of the country.

We've just seen stories briefly pop up in the press - before being pushed out of sight as so, so not helpful to the narrative - of an abortionist who kept thousands of dead babies and baby parts in his garage:
There’s something sick in America’s abortion industry. What else would account for a doctor who collected thousands of dead babies in some kind of twisted hobby that he hid from his allegedly unsuspecting wife
Two thousand two hundred and forty-six fetuses were found “medically preserved” in Ulrich Klopfer’s garage last week after he died on Sept. 3. And now the attorneys general of Illinois and Indiana are investigating how the human remains got from Klopfer’s network of Indiana abortion clinics to his rural Illinois home and what laws might have been violated.
"Sick" doesn't begin to describe this.  Taking the Gun Control approach, we need extensive registration and inspection of all abortion facilities to prevent a recurrence of this.  We need to act now!  I mean, do it for the children ...

Also, we've seen eye-witness reports of infanticide after abortion:
On Tuesday, nurse Jill Stanek described her experience in caring for a baby who survived an attempted abortion. Doctors in that case followed exactly the kind of infanticide practice Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) so infamously described in a radio interview this past January.


"Governor Northam was right. That is exactly what happens. I know because I cared for a dying baby who was on the other side of that decision," Stanek said.
Again, taking the Gun Control approach, we need to require that all abortions be performed at a Hospital where care is available for babies in this situation.  Sure it will massively raise the cost of abortion, but you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, amirite?

Or we could take a more traditional approach.  The ancient Romans knew how to deal with infanticide. The Proconsul Tiberius Julius Secundus - governor of the province of Africa - learned that the priests of Baal had survived from the Carthaginian era and were still sacrificing infants to that deity.  Tertullian describes his response:
In Africa infants used to be sacrificed to Saturn*, and quite openly down to the proconsulship of Tiberius, who took the priests themselves and on the very trees of their temple, under whose shadow their crimes had been committed, hung them alive like votive offerings on crosses.  And the soldiers of my own country** are witnesses to it, who served the proconsul in that very task.
Taking the Roman approach, we would have firing squads at the abortion clinics.  I'm sure that a little thought would come up with a bunch more "common sense" abortion control proposals, so think away.

The point here is a tit-for-tat game.  It will put the Democrats on notice that they can expect pushback, and that the ratchet is not one-way (or if it is then there are other one-way ratchets that they will not enjoy so much).

Will any of this happen?  Not a chance.  The Republican party is a fetid mix of lies, stupidity, and cowardice in equal measure.  But a guy can dream, can't he?

* The Romans would often give the name of the equivalent Roman god when describing the gods of other peoples.

** Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus was a native of the city of Carthage, by this time a Roman possession for 250 years or so.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

You think our political system is messed up?

Britain's is in crisis.  88% of people polled think that Parliament should be dissolved and new elections held to allow a real vote on how to BREXIT, but the Remainders are doing everything (including rubbishing the UK unwritten constitution) to prevent BREXIT.  Tempers are running high:

The Deep State is dug in like a tick over there, and simply don't give a damn about democracy or the voters.  It's instructive to watch, and to compare with our anonymous "whistleblowers" and non-impeachment impeachment.  This is a global rebellion against a common Imperial Ruling Class.

Ice water in his veins

Dwight has a great obituary of a true flying hero who landed a plane that couldn't be landed and saved a lot of lives.  My favorite bit was this:
Sioux City Approach: United two thirty-two heavy, the wind’s currently three six zero at one one three sixty at eleven. You’re cleared to land on any runway …

Captain: [Laughter] Roger. [Laughter] You want to be particular and make it a runway, huh?
It's poignant that he went to his grave regretting that he didn't save everyone on board.  Rest in peace.

He also has the obit for a doctor who treated both JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald.


On this day in 1911, the first shovel of dirt was turned over at the site where Fenway Park was to be built.  To put that in perspective, the RMS Titanic was under construction in Belfast, North Ireland.

Baseball has many great quotes, but one of my favorites is about Fenway.  In the 1978 pennant race the (damn) Yankees beat the Sox.  In the interviews after the game Reggie Jackson said "They told me we needed an insurance run so I hot one to the Prudential building."

And no mention of Fenway is complete without this musical interlude:

Hat tip: The Queen Of The World

Family is an anchor to the past

Dick emails in response to my recent post about the recent death of the son of a Confederate veteran:
The background photo of Calvin Crane’s father is a dead (sorry) ringer for my great-grandfather. Although my relative was born in 1861 the ‘stache and garb are pretty much the same as when great-grandpa was about 30 or so. I have a similarly-framed photo of him that really looks like the one of Mr. Crane, Sr.

I was fortunate to know great-grandpa as he lived to within a month of his 100th birthday, when I was seventeen. He had served as “town marshal” of his small hometown in Missouri, and I have his little nickle-plated .32 revolver from that adventure, but no tales of “serious” use thereof.

It has recently occurred to me that I find myself in the middle of six generations of our family. If my grandchildren “get with the program” it would be seven generations. Something to ponder.
Something to ponder indeed.  I find myself in the middle of five generations of people I know/knew personally.  Grandpa was in The War To End All Wars, and one of my most cherished possessions was a letter he wrote to me just three weeks before he died.  I married into grandkids (The Queen Of The World's side).  All these memories are carried around in me, memories of people covering over a century of time (1899-2019).  I doubt I'll see Dick's seven generations but have hopes for six.

Family anchors us in our place in time.  I'd have to imagine what life would have been like in the first decade of the 20th Century, except I know what life was like (well, to an extent) for Grandpa growing up on the family farm in Kansas.

It's said that the Past is a foreign country, because people behave differently there.  That's not true for family, at least those you remember.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The "Knock Out Game" comes to Castle Borepatch

Well, not Castle Borepatch itself, but within its shadow.  Some "youths" killed a guy at the Frederick County (MD) Fair.  A group surrounded him, one distracted him by asking for a dollar, and the hero of the group cold cocked him from behind.  While he was lying on the ground, another "youth" spit on him.

They flew him to the shock and trauma center in Baltimore where he died.  He was 59 years old.  The local newspaper has been giving this pretty good coverage.  There was a video of the incident posted to snapchat but it looks like it has been scrubbed from the 'net.  This local TV coverage is decent.

The kids involved are 15 and 16, but the District Attorney says that they will be charged with manslaughter and tried as adults.

This all happened ten miles from Castle Borepatch, in a nice middle class town in broad daylight.

The coverage has been evolving over the last 3 or 4 days.  The initial shock led to the media reporting things in plain language, but now there are more and more weasel words as the story gets massaged to fit the narrative.  Both the stories and the District Attorney have started saying that this wasn't a hate crime, even though we know that a group of white teenagers attacking a black man would be described as precisely that.  And despite the video showing one kid spitting on the man when he was on the ground.

Initially there was a lot of talk about the "knockout game", but that's been swept down the memory hole.  It's not The Narrative to talk about how groups of black teens target whites to sucker punch them, although this is why The Queen Of The World and I have not been to Baltimore's inner harbor - it's just not safe.

And Maryland is a "May Issue" State, and the police won't give carry licenses unless you're politically well connected.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Now that's good eating

From ten years ago, a culinary adventure of the humorous kind.

It's not what it sounds like

Flintshire County Council has been forced to swallow dick following its ill-considered decision to rename Spotted Dick as "Spotted Richard" - a rebrand it ordered following juvenile comments from sniggering staff.
According to the BBC, the powers that be pulled Spotted Dick from the menu after "several immature comments from a few customers" at its HQ in Mold. 
Cue a furious backlash from dick lovers, including Flintshire councellor Klaus Armstrong-Braun, who'd slammed the rebrand as "ludicrous" and triumphed to the BBC: "It's a great victory for Spotted Dick and for everyone who makes it."
I was going to post all sorts of security goodness, political snark, and Deep Thinking, but really, who can resist Spotted Dick?

For American readers, Spotted Dick is an English desert. The spots are currents. Quite tasty actually, especially as the name sort of lowers expectations.

The last son of a Confederate veteran has passed on

Via Brock Townsend, this is pretty amazing:
Calvin Crane, a Roanoke man who died Sunday at 102, was believed to have been the last living son of a Confederate veteran in the United States


Gerald Via, a member of the Fincastle Rifles Camp 1326 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, confirmed that Crane was the last known living son of a Confederate soldier.

Calvin Crane led a life notable for reasons other than his Confederate kinship. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, earning two Bronze Stars for valor as he fought in North Africa and Europe with the 1st Armored Division. After the war, he moved to Roanoke to work for an uncle in the dry-cleaning business before joining the maintenance department of Roanoke’s main post office.

“He was the kindest gentleman you’d ever meet,” Via said. “He was a wonderful person. I didn’t even know he had been in World War II or earned the Bronze Stars. It was nothing he talked about.”
There are apparently five living daughters of Confederate soldiers, four living daughters of Union soldiers, and two living sons of Union soldiers.  And don't forget the two living grandsons of President #10, John Tyler.

Rest in peace, Mr. Crane.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Busy now

Back later.  Hey, at least I'm not trying to fix this:

Well, I don't own a boat anymore, but he's absolutely doing it wrong.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Mary Chapin Carpenter - I Feel Lucky

I posted yesterday that the world is a much better place than we're told.  No song captures this feeling like this one.

As the 1980s turned into the 1990s, no country singer was a bigger star than Mary Chapin Carpenter.  Her albums were enormous - four top 20 hits in 1989, four more in 1990, seven in 1992, six in 1994 and six more in 1996.  Her albums were both musically interesting and a huge commercial success: Gold (1989), Platinum (1990), 4x Platinum (1992), 2x Platinum (1994).  Grammy awards in 1992, 1993, 1994, and two in 1995.

And then she was gone, at least from the airwaves.  She continued to put out albums, but none got much  attention after 1996 or so.  Her music was never cut from the typical Nashville run with the herd cloth, but maybe she'd made enough money to write the sort of music she wanted to, rather than the type that sold.

But this song is just fun.  Enjoy.

I Feel Lucky (Songwriters: Mary Chapin Carpenter, John Jennings):
Well I woke up this morning stumbled out of my rack
I opened up the paper to the page in the back
It only took a minute for my finger to find
My daily dose of destiny, under my sign
My eyes just about popped out of my head
It said "the stars are stacked against you girl, get back in bed"

I feel lucky,
I feel lucky, yeah
No Professor Doom gonna stand in my way
Mmmmm, I feel lucky today

Well I strolled down to the corner, gave my numbers to the clerk
The pot's eleven million so I called in sick to work
I bought a pack of Camels, a burrito and a Barq's
Crossed against the light, made a beeline for the park
The sky began to thunder, wind began to moan
I heard a voice above me saying, "girl, you better get back home"

But I feel lucky, oh oh oh,
I feel lucky, yeah
No tropical depression gonna steal my sun away
Mmmmm, I feel lucky today

Now eleven million later, I was sitting at the bar
I'd bought the house a double, and the waitress a new car
Dwight Yoakam's in the corner, trying to catch my eye
Lyle Lovett's right beside me with his hand upon my thigh
The moral of this story, it's simple but it's true
Hey the stars might lie, but the numbers never do

I feel lucky, oh oh oh,
I feel lucky, yeah
Hey Dwight, hey Lyle, boys, you don't have to fight
Hot dog, I'm feeling lucky tonight

I feel lucky, brrrrr,
I feel lucky, yeah
Think I'll flip a coin, I'm a winner either way
Mmmmmm, I feel lucky today

Friday, September 20, 2019

Things are getting a whole lot better

This is a great video from Reason magazine.

What's not brought out in this video is that this is a global phenomenon - world poverty is at a record low, India has finished bringing electricity to its entire 1.2 Billion population, and hunger and famine is nearly gone.

Of course, there's still plenty bad, and Reason covers it, too.  Interestingly, it's almost all caused by politics and government.  But it's beautiful Indian Summer* and it's a good weekend for appreciating that everything's amazing.  So be happy.

Hat tip: American Digest.

* No complaints about "Cultural Appropriation", please - I'm indian (feather, not dot).  Liberal palefaces like Elizabeth Warren can go pound sand with my complements.

So what product does the TSA produce?

Travel delays.  I posted this ten years ago and precisely nothing has changed.

The TSA's Maginot Line

Philip Greenspun discussed the Fed.Gov in general, and the TSA in particular, marveling at the sheer cost of all the uselessness:
In “TSA: Taxes Spent Absurdly”, Becky Akers asks “How do you turn an industry that costs $700 million annually into one that eats $6 billion?” The answer turns out to be “Nationalize it, as Congress did airport screening after Sept. 11, 2001.” She goes on to note that “The TSA’s nearly 50,000 screeners have delayed, frustrated and harassed passengers at airport checkpoints from Maine to Hawaii. What they haven’t done after eight years and $48 billion is catch a single terrorist.” 
Akers is certainly understating the cost of aviation security imposed after 9/11. At our little airport there is a state trooper employed to fingerprint student pilots. An average Massachusetts State Trooper, including pension, is paid over $200,000 per year. A couple of airport employees help with background checks, security education, and issuing badges. Until a student or renter gets a badge, which takes at least four weeks, the customer must be escorted by a flight school employee at a cost of perhaps $25 per hour. The customer who does a thorough pre-flight inspection of an airplane may take all of the profit out of the rental.
It all reminds me of this:

After World War I, the French were understandably nervous about a rematch. They built a hideously expensive set of fortifications from the Swiss border all the way to Belgium. Called the "Maginot Line", it was state-of-the-art for Trench Warfare. Unfortunately, les Boscheweren't interested in Trench Warfare, and France fell in 6 weeks as the Blitzkreig bypassed it.

The TSA spends truckloads of cash at every airport in the land - including, as Professor Greenspun points out, small, commercial ones. This is what they do. Their product is slowing passengers down. High-visibility security kabuki. Of course they haven't caught any terrorists. The terrorists are targeting other targets.

There are two things that have improved air safety since 9/11: real locks on the cockpit doors, and passengers who know they have to fight back. Nothing else has made any difference (with the possible exception of Air Marshalls, but they haven't stopped anyone so far). You may not have noticed, but baggage screening still isn't what it should be, and that problem would be solved if the TSA weren't allocating all their resources elsewhere.

Sort of like the French building forts instead of armored divisions.

None of this poor prioritization should come as a surprise. In other news, we hear that the California government is introducing new TV energy standards:
Energy regulators on Friday moved forward with a plan that could ban the sale of the most power-hungry televisions from California retail stores.The California Energy Commission released what it hopes will be the nation's first energy-efficiency requirements for the flat-screen TVs. A final vote on the regulation is expected in November.
What's wrong with this picture? California is broke. But they still have enough money to issue new regulations that will make things more expensive. And this isn't the first time.

My budget at work periodically gets cut, as business gets better or worse. These cuts force me to prioritize. If you're clever, you can do anything - you just can't do everything. Cut government 10% across the board, and you'd make a good down payment on health care, you know? Plus you'd do 10% less damage to the economy, with higher employment and tax levels that result.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Avast, me hearties!


What a fellow Texan thinks of Bobby O'Rourke

Interestingly, Beto looks like Bobby but he drives like Teddy.

Hat tip to The Queen Of The World.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The largest battle in the ancient world

On this day in 324 AD, the Battle of Chrysopolis was fought in a Roman civil war between the rival emperors Licinius (who controlled the eastern half of the Empire) and Constantine the Great (who controlled the western half).

It was a winner-take-all deal, and had essentially all the troops in the Empire on hand.  While ancient sources are notoriously inaccurate on army sizes - the chronicles tell us that Licinius had 170,000 men and Constantine 130,000 - we know that both the Rhein and Danube defensive limes had been stripped by Constantine, and the eastern legions all collected by Licinius.  We know this because there was no raiding into an undefended Empire by the barbarian tribes in the west, or by the Persian Empire in the east.

The reason is that both the barbarians and the Persians had been hired as mercenaries by the two rival Emperors, and so rather than raiding were being paid to fight for an Augustus.  Like I said, it was a winner-take-all deal, and neither Constantine nor Licinius were of a mind to not bring every sword in their field of influence to the party.

Of course, Constantine won, which is why we call him "Constantine the Great".  He went on to establish the christian religion in the Empire, which is why he is know as "Saint Constantine" in the Eastern Orthodox liturgy; indeed, he is counted there as "equal to the Apostles".

But it was a bloody day, with more men at arms gathered in a single place until likely Napoleon's day.  The Romans were excellent at organizing, and determined as all get out.

Red Flag gun laws aim to disarm rural America

So says Colorado Congressman:

Short and to the point, about why Democrats voted down an amendment to target gang members.

And so we see that Red Flag laws are stupid and useless, if they're not also malicious:
FEBRUARY 25, 2018
THEY CAN’T EVEN GET PEOPLE TO COMPLY IN CONNECTICUT: What Will Gun Controllers Do When Americans Ignore an ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban?
But since the point of gun control is to humiliate and grind down flyover people and demonstrate that the Ruling Class is ultimately the, well, Ruling Class — not to control crime — the appearance of submission is probably enough. Plus, a seldom enforced and often ignored law is ideal if you want to be able to target troublesome individuals later.
hat tip: Brock Townsend.

Exploding in a shower of radioactive clowns

Lawrence has a good summary of the New York Times story on Brett Kavanaugh.  Err, no fair peeking at the post title to see how it ends.

He covers the bases quite nicely.  Really the only question left is "why did they think they could get away with it?"  I think it boils down to the poison that the media has fed to the Democrats has now infected them.

UPDATE 18 September 2019 09:50: Two very old posts of mine are pertinent here:


Biased Media makes Democrats stupid

That last one is interesting.  Doing a Google search for " Biased Media makes Democrats stupid" does not include this post in the search results.  The same search on Duckduckgo has it as the #1 search result.  Bias is making Google stupid, too.

Monday, September 16, 2019


And one for desert, too:


Yes, yes, a million times yes.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Bruno Walter conducting Gustav Mahler - Das Leid Von Der Erde

Sunday music has focused on composers, but the 20th century in particular should focus on conductors. Partly this is because classical music written in the 20th century is so bad, but partly it is a reflection of the explosion of symphony orchestras and the spread of "mid brow" culture in the post war period in particular.  Leonard Bernstein is perhaps the most famous of these conductors, but most important is without doubt Bruno Walter.

Born on this day in 1876, his name was originally Buno Schlesinger.  His musical education soon focused him on his main interest, conducting.  As the choral director at the Hamburg opera he met Gustav Mahler and ended up becoming close to him for the rest of Mahler's life.  Not only was Walter present when Mahler died, but Mahler's widow asked Walter to conduct the premier performance of the yet-to-be-performed Das Leid Von Der Erde.

But Walter's jewish background was a serious hinderance as the Nazis came to power, and Walter ended up in the United States.  His reputation was such that he conducted - and recorded -all the most important orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles symphonies.  His influence was most felt in the music he selected for performance.

His recordings were mostly done before stereo was available but are generally considered superior to the later stereo versions.  This recording of Das Leid Von Der Erde is famous despite the older technology used in its creation.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

So Bob O'Rourke says he's going to confiscate all the AR-15s

Oooooooh kaaaaaaay.  Solid plan.

Neil Diamond - Porcupine Pie

There's not much to say about this song, other than it's a not-very-country nonsense song from 1972.  But it's fun.

Porcupine Pie (Songwriter: Neil Diamond)
Porcupine Pie, Porcupine Pie, Porcupine PieVanilla Soup, a double scoop please.... No
Maybe I won't, maybe I will, maybe I'll havethe tutti fruit, with fruity blue cheese
Ah but Porcupine Pie, Porcupine Pie, Porcupine Piedon't let it get on your jeans
And though it sounds a little strange butyou gotta eat it with gloves or your hands will turn green
Ah but porcupine pie, porcupine pie, porcupine pieweaves its way through my dreams
I do believe I'm gonna try some andleave enough room for dessert, the chicken ripple ice cream.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Understanding liberals

So the Democrats had a debate last night, yadda yadda.  Rather than delving into particulars, it's important to keep sight of the forrest, rather than the trees.  This post from ten years ago explains how:

Nothing I could write would improve on that sentence, part 4

The Czar of Muscovy* looks at Thomas Freedman's wistful "Now why can't our Government act like Philosopher Kings like the Chinese" Op-Ed, and dissects it. It's well worth your time in an intellectual well-balanced-dinner sort of way, but he ends with this delicious morsel for desert
The Czar has said before that if you really want to understand liberals, progressives, the news media, and Hollywood, it helps to learn about how spoiled high school freshmen girls think.

I'd ask what's with all that liberal yearning-for-a-strongman thing, but it's already been explained. At length.

* Not a fake Czar like in the Obama Administration, but rather in an Internet Pseudonym sort of way. All in all, much more respectable and credible, if you ask me.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Eighteen years of futility

ASM826 posted a moving tribute but I find I find that words for that day mostly fail me.  And so here are some pictures to remember that day.

They call him the Falling Man.  He's not the only one they got a picture of.

There's a reason that we call these men "heroes".  343 firemen and 71 police ran into the building to save people, but never came out.  Rest in peace.

I found this very moving from back then, but some folks complained that it endangered birds.  Same planet, different worlds.

Looking back after 18 years, I think this was George W. Bush's greatest moment:

The follow-through lightening campaign driving the Taliban from power was the pinnacle of his presidency, but it was all down hill from there.  18 years later, we're still in Afghanistan, because Bush flinched from what it would take to "nation build" there.  Publius Cornelius Tacitus is probably the easiest of the Roman historians to read.  Son-in-law to the governor of Britannia, he recorded a speech of a vanquished chieftain:
To us who dwell on the uttermost confines of the earth and of freedom, this remote sanctuary of Britain's glory has up to this time been a defence. Now, however, the furthest limits of Britain are thrown open, and the unknown always passes for the marvellous. But there are no tribes beyond us, nothing indeed but waves and rocks, and the yet more terrible Romans, from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission ... To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a desert and call it peace.
- Tacitus, Agricola ch. 30
The Romans would have known how to deal with the Taliban, and would have made the Taliban's lands a peaceful desert.  America did not. Bush got us into that mess, and rather than pulling out in 2002 with the message that there's more of that where it came from if you don't behave, Bush dithered with a foreign policy that has led to thousands of American dead and tens of thousands of maimed.  He didn't even go after Osama, holed up under the protection of the Pakistani military.  Obama did, in probably the only positive even of his tenure.  Tacitus would have approved.

But we're still in the Middle East.  We're still hated there.  "Nation building" has been a failure, as has pinprick bombing.  People complain that turning on some lights to commemorate the World Trade Center towers will harm birds, while Dover Air Force Base continues to receive flag-draped coffins.

Nothing symbolizes for me the utter incompetence of both parties than the last eighteen years.  The dead from 9/11 deserve better, as do we all.

UPDATE 11 September 2019 16:56: Well, it has shown us who are friends are, and aren't.  That's a plus.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Happy Palindrome week!

This is cool:

Shamelessly stolen from Gorges Smythe.

Cool business strategy, bro

Bill de Blasio commands the tides not to rise

Image via Wikipedia
There was a day when the Vikings ruled England.  King Ethelred the Unready was defeated and overthrown by a Viking prince, Canute son of Sven Forkbeard.  Yes, I know that this sounds like something out of Game Of Thrones.  Stick with me.

Perhaps unsurprisingly compared with his feckless predecessor, Canute was one of the most effective kings in English history.  His reputation was such that he was able to get his daughter married to the man who would later become Holy Roman Emperor.  Not bad for a "barbarous" Dane.

Such a ruler attracts the flatterers that naturally gravitate to a powerful royal court.  The chronicles tell us that King Canute had his throne erected on the shore of the sea, and commanded the tides not to rise. Of course it did and the king admonished his courtiers, telling them to put not their faith in the commands of mortal men.

Alas for the degraded age in which we live, with politicians so much less wise than Canute.  Miguel posts about how New Your City Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to ban robots:
What he is talking about is increasing the costs of doing business.  That makes America less competitive on the global market.  Which in turn will harm American businesses.
To try and save some jobs from being lost to robots, he is going to cost America many more jobs when companies can’t be cost-competitive and go under.
True, but what he is really doing is commanding the tides not to rise.  You see, New York State passed a law raising the minimum wage to $15/hour:
As part of the 2016-17 State Budget, Governor Cuomo signed legislation enacting a statewide $15 minimum wage plan that will lift the earnings of more than 2.1 million New Yorkers, in all industries across the state.
Well, businesses do what businesses do when the cost of one of the factors of production rises - they look for substitutes that are cheaper (hence, robots).  Oops, unemployment goes up!  Dang, the tide is coming in and everyone's feet are going to get all wet and their shoes will be ruined!

But have no fear, gentle reader!  Mayor de Blasio is on the scene to command the tide not to rise!  All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds!


You'd think that these morons would learn from the past, but you'd think wrong.

A simple cure for Ransomware?

We've seen a rash of ransomware attacks against small towns.  This is malware that encrypts all the files on the computer and demands a ransom for a key to decrypt them.  Most recently we saw a bunch of towns in Texas succumbing to the attack.  But not all towns submit:
The City of New Bedford, in Massachusetts, has found a way to deal with ransomware without paying: shoring up defenses, restoring from backups, and rebuilding systems.

The attack on the American city's systems was identified on July 5, after employees noticed unusual network activity upon returning from the July 4th holiday, Mayor Jon Mitchell explained in a press conference on Wednesday.

"We haven't seen any interruption in municipal services at all," said Mitchell.

The city's Management Information Systems (MIS) staff identified the presence of the file-scrambling RYUK nasty, a sophisticated form of ransomware, and through prompt action managed to limit its impact.


Unwilling to pay $5.3m, Mitchel said he made a counter-offer of $400,000, based on cyber-insurance proceeds available to the city. The cyber-crim declined and the city continued negotiating, buying the IT staff the time needed to bolster defenses and restore files from backups, to the extent possible.
Good on them.  A good data backup strategy cures a multitude of security sins.  You can find ASM826's and my recommendations here.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Saying goodbye to a horse

The Czar of Muscovy movingly posts about a friend who had to say goodbye to a much loved horse.  Anyone who has every had a dog will recognize the moment.

Some day, I will have to do this with Wolfgang, when he is in a constant pain that will never end.  Not looking forward to that day.

Why there will be no gun control bills passed this year

The reason is that Donald Trump wants to get re-elected:
... reports suggest that Trump’s internal polling is highlighting the danger of proceeding with gun control measures, measures it should be noted that target the law-abiding and would not stop criminals from committing gun-related crimes.
As President Donald Trump has mulled acting on gun control legislation in the wake of a string of mass shootings, data gathered by the president’s campaign showed that supporting any gun control measures would pose a problem for him politically going into the 2020 election season, according to sources familiar with the results.
To paraphrase Dr. Johnson, when a man knows he is to run for election in a year it concentrates his mind wonderfully.

"Public Safety" means anyone can get the key to your business

The problem with many (perhaps most) laws is that the people who write them cannot think through all the consequences of their law/regulation.  As a result, the world is awash with examples where a law had exactly the opposite result of what was intended.  A great example of this is the Superfund law.  It made all parties to a polluted site individually responsible for 100% of the cleanup, even if they were actually only the cause of a trivial amount of the pollution.  This made each Superfund case essentially a death sentence to all companies involved, and so the strategy has been to stonewall each case as much as possible.  This has led to a lot of Superfund sites remaining polluted, which was precisely the opposite of what the original intent was.

Another example is how towns sometimes mandate that businesses have a box containing a key to their building.  The fire department has a master key that opens all the boxes, and they can use the key in the box to get into the business to put the fire out.  No need to break down the door, just unlock it.  Simple, right?

Well, not so fast.  It seems that all these boxes have the same master key (world-wide, not just in the town) and it's possible to 3D print this key if you have one of the boxes.  Like, if the company sells you one.


Don't try this at home, kids.


Sunday, September 8, 2019

Richard Strauss - "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde

Dad loved opera and introduced me to a great deal of it, but most notable was this piece.  He and Mom took me to the local symphony 18 months or so before he died, where they played this.  I'm not a big opera fan like they were, but I think that this is the most hauntingly lovely music ever written.

It is more poignant for me because this is Dad's birthday, and Strauss died on this same day.  In my mind, they are linked together.

But this piece is very interesting, musically speaking.  As Beethoven announced the beginning of the romantic era, this was its end - and the start of the modern era.  He wrote what is perhaps the culmination of the operatic tradition.

The story of Tristan and Isolde is very old, one of the Troubadour ballads from the High Middle Ages. Tristan is a knight, sent to bring Isolde as a bride to King Mark. Caught at sea in a storm, they drink a love potion, thinking it was a sea sickness cure, and fall madly in love with each other. The love is doomed, and in Gottfried of Strassburg's twelfth century version of the story, one of the travelers with them says, "Tristan, you have drunk your death."

Their doomed love is brought to life by Wagner in his opera, not least because of how he scored the work, and especially the finale here. Liebestod means "Love's death", and it is the Romeo and Juliet simultaneous death scene. Wagner revolutionized opera by his use of harmonic suspension, a repeated refusal to complete unfinished themes. This refusal builds tension which is only released at the final, lyrical completion. This particular scene is striking in how you hear the suspension from the very beginning of the video, and how it allows a very subdued final chord to be magnificent. It takes a full six minutes to reach the "aha" moment where the theme resolves, which makes the resolution even more sweet.

Mom and Dad took me to hear this (they had season tickets to the Symphony). I'd never heard it before, and it led to a memorable chat with Dad about Gottfried von Strassburg, Schopenhauer, inflection points in music, and how they're all bound up in this music. I sure miss those.

Happy birthday, Dad.  I sure miss you.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Dream Rovers - Dear Superstar

Image via Wikipedia
There's something about country music that goes beyond "americanness", and sometimes takes it far beyond our shores to places that you might not expect.  I never expected to hear country music from Iran, or watch a country music video that was filmed in Tehran, much less one about a topic controversial to the Mullahs.  But here we are.

Dream Rovers is an Iranian country music band.  Founded by university students Erfan Rezayatbakhsh (elf) and Ahmad Motevassel, their unexpected group sings country music from a long way away from Nashville.  This song was inspired by watching an Iranian television documentary about female genital mutilation.  When Erfan changed the channel, there was a Taylor Swift music video.  Inspired, he wrote a song about a letter to a country music superstar reminding her that she lives a very, very different life than some of her fans.

This song reminds me of just how little I know about Iran and the Iranian people.  What little I do know is pretty one dimensional, because I found it so surprising that a group could record this at what is ground zero for the Iranian revolution.  What's more, this was written on the heels of the massive pr0-democracy protests in Tehran in 2009, and the hard government crackdown then.

This video only has 41,000 views, and that's a shame.  The world is a much more complicated place than we can imagine.

A simplified STEN gun?

It's hard to imagine that - you can see and read about the gun in my recent range report.  But T-Bolt found a simplified STEN.  Who'd have thunk it?

Friday, September 6, 2019

I hadn't known that the U.S.S Missouri was shot at by an Iraqi missile in 1991

I also hadn't known that there is a blog called WW2 after WW2.  There's a detailed post about the missiles used by the Iraqis and how they shot at (and missed) the Mighty Mo during Gulf War I.

I know some of you will dig this kind of stuff, so you're welcome.

Security wasn't an afterthought

It wasn't thought of at all:
An estimated 600,000 GPS trackers for monitoring the location of kids, seniors, and pets contain vulnerabilities that open users up to a host of creepy attacks, researchers from security firm Avast have found. 
Researchers at Avast Threat Labs found that ID numbers assigned to each device were based on its International Mobile Equipment Identity, or IMEI. Even worse, during manufacturing, devices were assigned precisely the same default password of 123456. The design allowed the researchers to find more than 600,000 devices actively being used in the wild with that password. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the devices transmitted all data in plaintext using commands that were easy to reverse engineer.
[My emphasis]

And the punchline is that since everything is unencrypted and the password is, well, what an idiot would use for a luggage combination, an attacker can change GPS coordinates and all sorts of stuff.

Bah.  Dad (a history professor) used to like to say that history repeats itself because nobody listens the first time.