Friday, July 31, 2020

Recommended history podcasts

ASM826 posted about the excellent Fall Of Rome podcast.  I heartily second this recommendation, and would point out that Dr. Wyman has another podcast called Tides Of History which includes a lot on the transition from late antiquity to the early modern period - and has started a series on paleolithic humans.  It is wide ranging and eclectic, and if this is your Bag, Baby, then you'll dig it.

Robin Pierson picked up the baton where Duncan left things in 476 AD and is continuing the story of the Roman Empire - the eastern part, anyway) at The History Of Byzantium.  He's up to the First Crusade now.  One thing that I particularly like is that he has summary episodes at the end of every 100 years or so.

Dwight (you do read him every day, don't you?) left a comment pointing to Mike Duncan's excellent The History Of Rome podcast.  It is breezier than The Fall Of Rome (especially after the first 10 or 15 episodes) but takes you from the founding of the Eternal City to the last Emperor in the west.  Duncan's current podcast is Revolutions which covers the great revolutions of modern times, starting with the English Civil War of the 1600s and the American Revolution of the 1700s.  His humor is there just like in The History Of Rome, but in a modern era.  Recommended.

The Fall of Rome Podcast

Back when I used to drive regularly, I would listen to podcasts. One that I particularly enjoyed was the Fall of Rome. The link is to a website where you can listen online. It is also available on podcasting apps such as Castbox. Patrick Wyman is the author. He is a historian that did his research on Rome. It is worth the time to listen to the entire series from the beginning.

After Borepatch's last post, I wanted to make an observation and it comes out of the information in the podcasts. What happens to Rome as it is collapsing is systemic. It has little to do with what is going on in the government directly. The height of Roman power ensured the roads were safe, both from criminals and from outside barbarians. As that power waned, the risk to shipments of goods grew. Trade declined as businessmen decided not to take the risks.

That must have been a last shipment of wine and olive oil to Britain. No one would have known it was the last. But it would have been more dangerous therefore requiring more armed guards, more fines and fees would have been paid to traverse what a few years before had been open roads, and the roads would have been in need of repair.

And when no more trade, people, or military came from Rome, what then?

That collapse of trade around the empire meant the end of movement, the end of news from Rome, the fragmenting of the language that resulted in communication becoming difficult and then impossible, and the isolation that led to the formation of small independent states. There is a tipping point where it was going to become impossible to recover, but it began with the Roman government's inability or unwillingness to keep the roads and cities safe for commerce.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

"Peaceful" protests

Adam Smith famously said that there's a lot of ruin in a country - that it takes a long time to wreck a nation - but he didn't have Twitter.  Sadly, we do.  But history shows what it looks like as the wheels come off, and the Roman Republic was instructive to the Founding Fathers so it it well worth while to look at that slow motion car wreck.  After all, our wreck might be in fast forward (depeche mode) with the help from Twitter.

The Founders intentionally fragmented power, with three branches of Government presumed to be antagonistic to each other and jealous of their powers.  This structure was a result of looking at the structure of the Roman Republic where there was little effective power fragmentation - the Senate granted near supreme power to the Consuls, thinking that since they granted the powers, they were in the driver's seat.  So how'd that turn out for them?

Veni, vidi, vici.  I came, I saw, I conquered. 
- Julius Caesar, the last of the Consuls and the first of the Emperors
But by Caesar's time, the Republic was dead in all but name.  It died at a particular point, when what everyone agreed were sacred Roman political lines - never to be crossed - were crossed.

The Romans called these lines Mos Maiorum, which is fiendishly hard to translate but sort of means "the way things should be done."  Once those lines were crossed it was Open Field running which would only be settled by someone who knew how to score a touchdown without spiking the ball.

Julius Caesar could not not spike the ball, and so was assassinated.  His nephew and heir Octavian could score - repeatedly - without feeling the need to spike the ball and so became the first Emperor.  In between them, there was a lot of bloodletting in Rome.  Octavian learned from all of the violence of his early days growing up in the end of the Republic; he became Caesar Augustus because he figured out how to gather power to himself while keeping the appearance of not gathering power to himself.  That only worked for him because everyone was really, really tired of the violence and murder that had come before.

That came from the collapse of Mos Maiorem.  Once that was gone, it was anything goes.  The Strong do what they can, the Weak do what they must.  Marius (Julius Caesar's Father-In-Law) posted proscription lists - lists of his opponents who were declared Enemies Of The State and who could be killed on sight.  The killers got to keep the proscribed's possessions.  As you'd imagine, a lot of false accusations led to a lot of folks being added to the Proscription Lists.

Marius' mortal enemy Sulla took that rule and did one better on Marius' supporters.  Even Caesar himself went into hiding as a reign of terror seized the Roman elite by the throat.  Fortunately for Marius he was dead, but the streets of the Eternal City ran red with blood.  Sulla wrote his own ferocious epitaph: No friend has ever served me, and no enemy has ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full.  Sulla was the Reckoning for Marius' supporters.

It feels like that's coming here.  It no longer feels like there is a common "us" that both sides recognize.  That's new in American politics.  It's like a line has been crossed; the Mos Maiorum of the early days are held now in contempt.  It's Winner Takes All; The Strong do what they can, the Weak do what they must.  If you get lumped in with The Weak then it sucks to be you.

And so record numbers of Americans find themselves as first time gun owners this year.  Millions of new gun owners - although it must be said that those are rookie numbers.  They'll be higher come the election.  It's a Bad Moon Rising, and no matter who wins the election that's going to accelerate.

Because Mos Maiorum is dead.  The losers in 2016 refused to accept the results of the voter's choice, and that looks fair to repeat when Donald Trump wins by an even bigger margin this coming November.  What is to be done, when rioting in the streets is the New Normal?

What was done in Rome?  Alas, we can read about this in the writings of Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (in the Agricola): 
Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium, atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.
To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire, and where they make a desert, they call it peace.
The Romans didn't screw around.

The Democrats aren't screwing around, either.  If you look at Portland, or Seattle, or Baltimore, or St. Louis - all you can think of is they've made it a desert and the Media is calling it "peaceful protest".  The American public looks on, and many realize this.

So where does this go, come November?  Donald Trump will win without doubt; the Republicans will also retake Congress (remember, 29 Democrats in House districts won by Trump voted to impeach; we shall see how that plays out in the election).

I've written before about Game Theory, a branch of mathematics that tells us much about human behavior.  In particular, Tit-For-Tat is a strategy where you play the opponent's last play against you.  If they cooperate with you, you cooperate with them.  If they oppose you, you oppose them.  Like I said, there are Mathematical proofs that show that this leads to a stable outcome.

That's not what we have today.  What we have is the Democratic Party and the professional Civil Service, and the Media and the Universities doing everything they can think of to overthrow the last election.  But respecting the election results is the Mos Maiorum of the American Republic.  That's gone.

And so Tit-For-Tat (and Cornelius Sulla) says there's a different way.  It's the Reckoning.

This is perhaps a better sense of how half the country is looking on the riots, from the same film:

A third of the country no longer wants Mos Maiorum - the way things have been done - rather, they want The Reckoning.  Another third of the country has already abandoned Mos Maiorum, grasping at any straw - including "peaceful" riots - to get rid of OrangeManBad.  The other third has yet to realize that come the Proscriptions, they will have to choose a side.

If you ever wondered how the Roman Republic turned into the Roman Empire, just open the newspaper.  It seems like the bloodletting has started; if so, it will not end until we have a later day Caesar Augustus who can end the bloodshed.

This Train Wreck would be known to the Founding Fathers, although they might have taken some satisfaction that they got two and a half centuries before the wreck of their plan.  But Twitter has pushed everything into fast forward.  The French call that depeche mode, which brings to mind the greatest cover of American Past ever recorded:

God save this Republic.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

A Report From Idaho

Rural Revolution went shopping and noticed it, too. There are big gaps in what's available. Her commenters follow up with observations from other locations. The supply chain is deeply stressed. I am still seeing it here as well.

What are you seeing in July? Mention your state and a nearby city if you feel comfortable doing so.

Coronavirus data, and some cautious conclusions - and an apology to Aesop

Ignore the hype.  The data are not hype, and the hype is not data.  This is the most important thing to know about the Coronavirus:

This is the weekly US COVID deaths as reported by the CDC.  Even with the shift from "dying from COVID" to "dying with COVID" to "dying in the same Zip code as COVID" (like the Florida buy killed in a motorcycle accident whose fatality is included in the graph here), we see that deaths are way, way down and dropping further.  The data are clear on this.

This is the second most important thing to know about the Coronavirus:

This is the US All Cause Deaths.  You can see the annual spikes during the winter Flu season.  This year is definitely not "just a bad flu season" - deaths are significantly up from two years ago (which was a bad flu season).  The dashed line is all cause deaths minus Coronavirus deaths but again you see the deaths dropping.  The last three dots are most recent reports which are incomplete and which will be adjusted upwards in the future as it can take 8 weeks for all deaths to be reported.

Data are from here, which is worth a read in full.

And this is where I was wrong and Aesop was right - this was not just a bad flu.  The data are crystal clear on that.

However, the data did not justify shutting down the economy.  The data did not justify preventing you from saying goodbye to Grandma on her deathbed.  The data did not justify prohibiting public gatherings at funerals.  The data did not justify shutting down Sunday church.  The data did not justify shutting down the schools.  The data don't justify mandatory mask wearing.  The data don't justify the hype.

The data do justify intelligent measures to protect vulnerable populations.  The data do justify additional health care resources to make sure the hospitals - and their employees - do not get overloaded.  There are probably a couple others that could go here, but I'd be pretty surprised if it's more than a couple others.

But we are not governed by Philosopher Kings, which means that we get the worst of both worlds - we get forced infection of vulnerable populations, we have great stress in the health care system, and we have Autocratic tyranny that would have had the Russian Tsars scribbling notes.

In a younger and more vigorous age of this Republic, the politicians who imposed all this useless misery on the population would have been horsewhipped through the public square.  The data don't say that, but we can figure that out all on our own.

The fundamental flaw of libertarian theory

This is pretty typical for "small l" libertarians: Trump's Visa Wall Against Foreign Students Is Making Other Countries Great Again.
A company that spurned talent it badly needed couldn't thrive. The same is true for a country.

But that isn't stopping the Trump administration from blithely driving foreign students into the open arms of other countries with its ill-advised immigration policies.
[thousands of words on how bad this policy is deleted]

There's a fair amount in the Reason archives about how convoluted our immigration law is, but little on how companies game the system.  For example, US IT staffing biz accused of abusing student visa program now forced to stop advertising only to immigrants:
An American IT staffing'n'consultancy company has been banned from running job ads that say only temporary work visa holders need apply.

In a settlement [PDF] with the US Department of Justice today, ASTA CRS agreed it will make all job postings available to anyone in America, including citizens. The dept pointed out that the job postings were discriminatory because they “specify a preference for non-US citizens who held temporary work visas.”
Huh.  Now why would they have been doing that?
But the most extraordinary claims come in a posting from May 2016, when another former employee is detailed and damning. “Company run by Hyderabad people,” they note (Hyderabad is the tech center of India). “This is a H-1B fraud visa business. They recruit candidates who are in desperate need of jobs, for example, H-1B transfer candidates or foreign students. They train them for month or two in business analysis or QA and then they start to market them. They prepare false resumes with 8-10 years of fake experience [with] companies like Bank of America, Capital One, Goldman Sachs etc ... Once they are able to get a job, the candidate is paid between 25 and 28 per hour," with the agencies involved pocketing the rest.
It's Indentured Servitude.  The workers have few rights, and the employer takes a big chunk of their earnings.  You can't get that with US citizens.  Nothing at Reason about this.  Funny, that.  However you feel about what the level of immigration should be, I think that everyone can agree that bringing in exploited workers with essentially no rights to redress is a Bad Thing.

But it doesn't violate the Non Aggression Principle, so it's all good amirite?

Monday, July 27, 2020

So Baseball has started again

The jerks are taking a knee during the Anthem.  Well, it was a good run as "America's Pass Time" while it lasted.  R.I.P. MLB.

Picture hat tip: The Queen Of The World.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Ammo deal alert

Palmetto State Armory is selling Federal American Eagle .223 REM, case of 1000 rounds for $579.99.  In this modern era of panic buying causing .223 prices to go to 20-something bucks for a case of 20, this seems like a pretty decent price.

Toilet Paper and Paper Towels

The aisle was full. Stacked. Multiple brands. I hadn't seen paper towels in months. Toilet paper had been sporadic but we had never run completely out.

Gail Davies - Jagged Edge of a Broken Heart

A few months back, someone left a comment about this song.  I wish I remembered who left that comment because this is from the day when Country Music sounded like country music.  Even more, her story is really interesting.

She was born into a musical family - her father was Tex Dickerson, and her brother is songwriter Ron Dickerson.  Her son Chris Scruggs is a country musician playing in Marty Stuart's band.  It kind of makes you think of a redneck J. S. Bach and family.

But she was more than a singer, or even a singer-songwriter.  She became country's first female producer in the 1980s.  She scored a Grammy for a duet with Ralph Stanley.  While she didn't write this 1984 hit, she did produce it.

Jagged Edge of a Broken Heart (Songwriters: Walker Igleheart, Mike Joyce)
When I saw you today I just turned away,
Don't wanna see you, don't wanna see you so soon.
'Cause I've tried to pretend, that we were never more than friends.
An' I've been tryin' to keep from cryin', and I've been:

Walkin' on pins and needles,
Ever since you left me, darlin'.
I feel the jagged edge of a broken heart.
Walkin' on pins and needles,
Never gonna hold you, darlin'.
I feel the jagged edge of a broken heart.

So now I'm on my own learnin' how to live alone.
And every night's another shade of blue.
Even now, I see your eyes smilin' as you told your lies.
It's no use tryin', I can't stop cryin': I'm bound to without you.

Walkin' on pins and needles,
Ever since you left me, darlin'.
I feel the jagged edge of a broken heart.

Now I'm afraid to walk in places,
Seein' those familiar faces.
Knowin' you could be there with them:
So afraid that you'd see that I've been,

Walkin' on pins and needles, (Walkin' on pins and needles.)
Ever since you left me, darlin'. (Ever since you left me.)
I feel the jagged edge of a broken heart.
Oh, walkin' on pins and needles, (Walkin' on pins and needles.)
Never gonna hold you, darlin'. (Never gonna hold you.)
I feel the jagged edge of a broken heart.

Friday, July 24, 2020

The oldest wine still being made

The island of Cyprus still makes what seems to be the oldest type of wine that we know about.  Commandaria got its name from the headquarters of the Knights Templar in the 13th century, but the wine was old even then: King Richard the Lionheart (of Crusades and Robin Hood fame) has it at his wedding, but it far pre-dates that.  You have to go way, way back to 800 BC when Hesiod described a wine called Cypriot Manna.

It is a sweet, fortified wine - if you've ever had Port or Icewein then I expect this would be similar.  The grapes are harvested and then left in the sun so that evaporation concentrates the sugars.  Today's Commandaria is aged several years in oak barrels - in ancient times the wine would have been stored in big terra cotta jugs.

I'd like to try this sometime, if only for the history of the thing.

You can read about a more or less recent tasting here.

This looks like a movie I'd like to see

Dan Carlin of Hardcore History has an hour long interview with Hanks about the film, the book, and how Hanks is a big fan of Carlin.  You can get it here.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Internet Movie Firearms Database

I hadn't known it was a thing, but they have a ton of movie firearms on display.  It's searchable, like IBDB.

I was able to look up the custom SIG P232 from RED 2.  The Queen Of The World wants one like this.

Yeah, yeah - Hollywood doesn't portray guns realistically, yadda yadda yadda.  This is a fun site to go wander through.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Congratulations to Aesop

His hit counter just rolled over 7,000,000.  Go leave him some commenty love.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

What Year Is This?

The start of the film says 1953. That can't be right, there are newer cars on the road. The title of the clip say 1957. Maybe. But at 1:09 they pass the Admiral Theater and it's playing The Searchers with John Wayne. That makes it 1956. 

The B-17 that landed without a tail

This is a pretty amazing story, and illustrates why the air crews loved the B-17 for its toughness.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Cooking For A Crowd

A regular part of my life for the last 15 years has been a martial arts camp I attended every summer. From my early days as a white belt when I couldn't figure out how to fall down, up to last summer when I tested for a senior rank, this was something I looked forward to. The final decision, after postponing, has been made. This year it will not happen.

It had always been more than the practice sessions. They are the primary activity in camp taking up 6 to 8 hours a day, but they are not camp itself.

It was the camp infrastructure. A 1930s CCC camp run and rented by the S.C. State Parks. Completely run down, no air conditioning, hardly any electricity outside the main buildings and mess hall, no screens, cold outdoor showers. A perfect camp for an old Boy Scout to feel at home.

It was the people. From all over the country we would gather, all sort of backgrounds, all different ages, from high school to retirees, with a shared love of the art and the camp experience. I have made bonds with with some friends as close as any family.

We brought in all the supplies and cooked all our own meals. And it wasn't hot dogs on a stick. It was a stocked out pantry and walk-in refrigerator. Make what you want for breakfast and lunch, a cup of coffee and bowl of fruit, or a full on western omelet with bacon and grits. Just clean up after.

The evening meals were a full production made by a volunteer crew under the camp cook's leadership. You sign up for a meal and a clean-up once during the week. These pictures are from a Tuesday night, making Mongolian barbeque for a hundred people. Prep out all the components, then cook it a couple of pans at a time and mix it all in big serving trays. Serve with rice.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Glen Campbell & Roy Clark - Ghost Riders in the Sky

Two of the greatest guitarists play one of the old greats.

Friday, July 17, 2020

USS Bonhomme Richard

The fire on the USS Bonhomme Richard is finally out. It burned up through from the lower decks and through most of the upper compartments of the ship. If I had to make a wager, I would say she will never sail again. The hull was laid down in 1995 and she has been operational since 1997. Repairs would be a significant portion of a replacement and you would still have a 25 year old ship.

Here she was, during launches, while forward deployed. It shows what she could do with wind across her decks and short take-off capable aircraft. Not a carrier exactly, but something special in her own right.

Keeping Alexa from snooping on you

This is interesting, both as a potentially useful privacy device but also as a reflection that the market wants a privacy device in the age of Alexa:

As the popularity of Amazon Alexa and other voice assistants grows, so too does the number of ways those assistants both do and can intrude on users' privacy. Examples include hacks that use lasers to surreptitiously unlock connected-doors and start cars, malicious assistant apps that eavesdrop and phish passwords, and discussions that are surreptitiously and routinely monitored by provider employees or are subpoenaed for use in criminal trials. Now, researchers have developed a device that may one day allow users to take back their privacy by warning when these devices are mistakenly or intentionally snooping on nearby people.

LeakyPick is placed in various rooms of a home or office to detect the presence of devices that stream nearby audio to the Internet. By periodically emitting sounds and monitoring subsequent network traffic (it can be configured to send the sounds when users are away), the ~$40 prototype detects the transmission of audio with 94-percent accuracy. The device monitors network traffic and provides an alert whenever the identified devices are streaming ambient sounds.

A few thoughts:
  1. This is a prototype, not a product.  You can't buy it yet.
  2. This is a pretty neat approach.  I posted years back about just how powerful Traffic Analysis is, and how we used it in World War II.
  3. If you want privacy you really shouldn't have one of the Alexa devices listening to you all the time.
But it's kind of cool.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

HHS cuts CDC out of Covid data reporting loop

In news from the war against the Deep State, this is really interesting:

A new directive from the Trump administration has cut the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention out of the loop for data from hospitals treating patients with COVID-19, a move which could have significant effects on what information about the pandemic is made public and how it is presented and used.

It's pretty clear that the White House does not trust the CDC.  They have good reason not to ("Don't wear a mask"/"You have to wear a mask"/"Don't take HCQ"/"Maybe take HCQ").

The instructions also explicitly bar hospitals from reporting to the CDC in addition to HHS: "As of July 15, 2020, hospitals should no longer report the COVID-19 information in this document to the National Healthcare Safety Network site," the document explains, referring to the CDC's system.


In other words, for hospitals to receive federal aid, including access to one of the few known beneficial drugs for treating COVID-19, they will have to comply with the administration's data directive.

Like I said, this is really interesting.  Of course, the Usual Suspects® are complaining.  I guess they haven't caught on how that's not a bug, it's a feature.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

SS United States 2020

The SS United States went in for an overhaul in 1969 and never sailed again. The era of ocean liners was over. The SS America, RMS Queen Mary, and RMS Queen Elizabeth, and SS United States were all retired within a five year period.

The U.S. Navy mothballed her, sealed up the ship, did corrosion control, treated the ship like any warship being held in reserve. In 1978, the decision was made that that the ship was no longer a viable asset and it was sold. That begins a long story.

The first plans was to make her a floating casino. Sold and sold again, it was planned twice to make her a cruise ship. The Navy considered repurchasing her to make a hospital ship but decided on a different ship.

In 1984, the ship's furniture, equipment and fittings were sold to raise money. In 1993 she was towed to the Ukraine where she underwent asbestos abatement. That gutted the interior of the ship and left little hope of refitting. That's probably the point at which any future plans were futile.

Towed to Philadelphia in 1996 and docked, she was sold again in 1997. Once again, plans were made to make her a cruise ship, this time to Hawaii. She was legally elgible because she was U.S. built and could have be U.S. flagged and crewed. That got a full study, she still had a solid hull and it would have been possible. The company picked a different ship.

At this point there is talk of scrapping. There was one last effort to do a million dollar study to restore the ship to service. The conclusion, probably the final conclusion, was that it was not feasible. The dated technology, the ship design, any use that might make a profit, the cost to retrofit, and modern regulatory rules make the clear eyed decision pretty easy.

Here's a walk around of the ship as  it looks today.

A group formed, they want to save the ship, make a museum, refit her, see her sail again, anything but scrap her. The SS United States Conservancy. They might need Bill Gates or maybe Elon Musk. It's costing $60,000 a month just to maintain the hulk of the ship at the dock.

In response to my last post, Paul Dammit!, who writes at Hawsepiper: The Longest Climb, about ships and shipping from an inside view, left me a comment. It's not sentimental, but I think it closes this post.
Every 5 years, some shill starts a Restoration and Rehab company, to either rebuild the ship or copy it. It's too damned small, too damn narrow and the hull design is 3/4 of a century old. It is a pretty piece of our past. So, do we want to spent millions on it to make a museum that nobody wants to visit? I mean, we can. 
Or, we can scan, photograph, and scrap the damn thing, like bringing ol Yeller to stud before spattering his brains all over the barn walls. 
It's still sitting there in Philly, shedding lead paint into the Delaware
River, looking like a dirty armpit, fitting right in, in fact.
A modern ship carries 3x the passengers, has 20% of the fuel cost and doesn't have more rust than Detroit. But some dingus will collect a couple million from fresh rubes every year and pretend like he's getting it back in service. This is... year 20 of that? Rehab number 6? 7? Whatever, you can build a new ship for the amount of donations that this sad tetanus farm has collected. 
--Paul, Damnit!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

SS United States

The last ocean liner. The largest ocean liner ever constructed in the United States. The fastest ocean liner ever put into service, holding the transatlantic records in both directions even today. Conceived as a ship that was purpose built to be converted to a troopship, she was designed and built in partnership with the U.S. Navy and built to Navy specifications.

It was the height of shipbuilding design by William Gibbs and his company. They had been building ships since 1922 and been a major shipbuilder during WWII. Modern, compartmentalized, built without any wood, it was the height of U.S. manufacturing as well.

Forty-five thousand tons, nine hundred and ninety feet long, a service speed of thirty-five knots, and maximum (rated) speed of forty-three knots, four steam turbines, eight boilers, the same power plants used in the U.S. aircraft carriers.

She could carry nineteen hundred passengers and had a crew of nine hundred. And she was beautiful. Outfitted in luxury, it was the way to make a transatlantic crossing. There are collections of photos that capture what she looked like during her years of operation. and a lot of videos converted from home movies and newsreels.

It's passenger jets that brought travel by ocean liner to an end. That's tomorrow's post.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Ol' Remus Has Gone Silent

In HAM radio they call it a silent key. It is an older term, from the days of Morse Code, but it is a gentle way to say that a voice we heard will not be heard again.

Ol Remus who gave us the Woodpile Report is reported as having passed away from cancer just a few weeks after diagnosis. His link goes silent. We are diminished.

Perspective on the Kung Flu

Al Fin has a very interesting chart up:

I want to highlight a few data points from the bottom part of the chart.  A comparison to the Black Death or Smallpox is ridiculous so the interesting stuff in in the bottom two rows.  Specifically Swine Flu (ten years ago, killed twice as many people as the Kung Flu has), the Hong Kong Flu (fifty years ago, killed ten times as many people as the Kung Flu has), and the Asian Flu (sixty years ago, killed ten times as many people as the Kung Flu has).

All of these occurred within my lifetime; the first occurred during the Obama Administration.  There was no panic, no wearing masks everywhere, no closing beaches and churches, no wrecking the economy.

So what changed in ten years?  Hmmmmmm.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Sunday, Puppy Sunday

We have found a great dog park here in Florida, and I take Wolfgang first thing in the morning when it's still cool.  He gets to play with the other pups, but then takes a lot of the day to recover from the heat.  It's not like Maryland, where mornings would be high sixty or low seventy degrees - it's low to mid eighties even early.

There's a good walk in some nearby woods but I think it will be autumn before I start taking him on regular nature walks like you see in the picture above.  I'm not complaining about the heat but I do think that Wolfgang will  be a little more energetic once we're past summer.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Brett Young - In Case You Didn't Know

There aren't many things that can make me sound like a grumpy old codger faster than listening to the new country music.  I'm not a fan.  Blast it all - those dang kids are back on my lawn ...

But The Queen Of The World is the Angel of my Better Nature, and she pointed out this song.  You see, she loves it, and that made me want to listen to it.  It reminds me a lot of the Allison Kraus version of "When You Say Nothing At All".  And suddenly I find that those dang kids only went onto my lawn to mow the grass.  They even bagged the clippings.

Brett Young was an up and coming College baseball pitcher when an injury put that career track on hold.  With time unexpectedly on his hands he took up songwriting.  This was from his first album in 2017, and it went triple platinum.  Clearly, The Queen Of The World and I were not the only fans.

Yeah, the new country music isn't often very good, but when it's good it's very good indeed.

In Case You Didn't Know (Songwriters: Brett Young, Trent Tomlinson, Tyler Reeve, Kyle Schlienger)
I can't count the times
I almost said what's on my mind
But I didn't

Just the other day
I wrote down all the things I'd say
But I couldn't
I just couldn't

Baby I know that you've been wondering
Mmm, so here goes nothing

In case you didn't know
Baby I'm crazy bout you
And I would be lying if I said
That I could live this life without you
Even though I don't tell you all the time
You had my heart a long long time ago
In case you didn't know

The way you look tonight
That second glass of wine
That did it, mmm

There was something bout that kiss
Girl it did me in
Got me thinking
I'm thinking

All of the things that I've been feeling
Mmm, it's time you hear em

In case you didn't know
Baby I'm crazy bout you
And I would be lying if I said
That I could live this life without you
Even though I don't tell you all the time
You had my heart a long long time ago
In case you didn't know

You've got all of me
I belong to you
Yeah, you're my everything

In case you didn't know
I'm crazy bout you
I would be lying if I said
That I could live this life without you
Even though I don't tell you all the time
You had my heart a long long time ago
Yeah, you had my heart a long long time ago, mmm
In case you didn't know, know, know
In case you didn't know

Friday, July 10, 2020

The End of the World

Back when Ted Turner ran a network, he commissioned a video to be shown if and when the world was ending. It apparently featured the Air Force band playing Nearer My God to Thee at a slow tempo. The same song that the band played on the deck of the Titanic. Pretty boring stuff.

John Oliver had something to say about it in 2015 and he created an alternative video to be played at the end of the world. I don't know that we're there yet, but when it comes we might be busy and the internet might be down. So watch it now. It will be the funniest thing you see today.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

It's time to short commercial real estate

One result of the Kung Flu is that companies are learning that their employees are able to work effectively from home, via video conference and messaging/collaboration applications.  We're beginning to see the implications of this for commercial office space:

Fujitsu is to permanently shutter one half of its office real estate in Japan and will ask 80,000 locals to work from home permanently as it redefines work culture internally in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Under the auspices of the Work Life Shift campaign, Fujitsu is to study data of how employees use offices, with a view of giving them more tools and options to work from home, at hubs or be more mobile.

“For employees in Japan, this latest initiative will mark the end of the conventional notion of commuting to and from offices, while simultaneously granting them a higher degree of autonomy based on the principle of trust,” Fujitsu said today.

File this under "Well, duh!"

Fujitsu is fixin' to save a boatload on office rent.  That savings will go 100% to the bottom line.  Probably their employees will be happier, too - the Tokyo subway system is famously crowded, and not having to do 90 minutes each way on that will be a nice bonus for Fujitsu's employees.  It will be a financial bonus, too, since they won't have to buy subway tickets.  It's sure as shootin' Fujitsu won't be the only company that decides to do this.

The losers will be the companies that rent office space.  And the subway system.

Obligatory disclaimer: I work for a company that makes video meeting apps.  It's interesting, having done this for a decade; it's gone from "we're living in the future" to "well duh, everyone wants this".

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Voice of Living History

Stanislaw Aronson is in his late 90s now. He lives in Israel. He was born in Lodz, Poland in 1925. He is the only survivor of his immediate family. The ones that didn't die in Hitler's camps died in Stalin's gulags. Here's a short piece he wrote recently about life, extremism, and lies.

 And a quote, even though you should go RTWT.

Finally, do not ever imagine that your world cannot collapse, as ours did... If disaster comes, you will find that all the myths you once cherished are of no use to you. You will see what it is like to live in a society where morality has collapsed, causing all your assumptions and prejudices to crumble before your eyes.
--Stanislaw Aronson

I got nothing

For someone who posts things as wordy as I do, it's kind of strange that I find that I have nothing to say.

Lots of great blogs on the blogroll, though.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Quote of the Day, Iconoclast edition

The Czar of Muscovy points out something that I think is almost certainly true:
In other words, the people who destroy statues—even back to the ancient days in Egypt or Babylonia—do so to erase their link to the badness. Today, the liberal rioters are trying to erase their party’s involvement with racism by eliminating all the Democrats who supported it. Once you erase the past, you’re free to rewrite it with yourself as the hero. You see that today, with most Americans thinking Republicans were slaveholders, supported the Klan, wrote in Jim Crow laws, and enforced segregation in the South. By doing this slowly, Democrats have completely made up a new history that turns themselves from villains to the heroes.
The word iconoclast is very old, dating back to late antiquity and the eastern portion of the Roman Empire.  It didn't fall in 476 when the last western Emperor was deposed, but remained a going concern for another 1,000 years.  Sure, it was Greek speaking, and Christian (rather than worshiping the old pagan pantheon), but it was Roman in institution and law and they thought of themselves as Roman.

But when Islam united the desert Arabs in the 640s AD, the Romans came within a hair's breadth of losing everything.  Remember, they had been the biggest kids on the block for over 800 years, and then within 10 years or so had lost the richest 75% of their remaining empire to what they could only look at as desert barbarians.  How did this happen?

Their answer was the God Almighty had removed His favor from the Empire due to their sins.  Looking around for a handy sin, they landed on the icons.  Here's an example of one:

This is the oldest surviving icon of Christ Pantokrator (almighty) from St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai.  It dates to the 500s AD, and is only the best known example of widespread icons popularizing christian saints and parables.  To most of us in the west, it's entirely unremarkable (albeit a little exotic).  Here's a western equivalent:

This is Michelangelo's Pieta, in St. Peter's cathedral in Rome.  The only other renaissance art work that comes close in importance (or fame) is Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.  Like I said, this sort of thing is to be seen in nearly every church in the world.

But the ancient Romans, looking around for a handy sin to blame, decided this was idolatry.  You see, they said that people were worshiping these "graven images" in violation of the 4th Commandment.  And so Emperor Leo III more or less outlawed them around 730 AD.

Of course, it wasn't about the Commandment.  That was just the excuse - the Romans were looking for a reason why the Lord had removed His favor from the Empire.  Identifying the statues (and icons) as "The Problem" allowed the Emperor to see who would line up on his side and who would not.  Those who lined up were rewarded; those who didn't were punished.  Bishop Euthymius of Sardis refused to line up and was whipped to death at Christmas of 826 AD on the orders of Emperor Michael II.

And so back to the Czar of Muscovy's comment: Today, the liberal rioters are trying to erase their party’s involvement with racism by eliminating all the Democrats who supported it.  Those statues are Graven Images and an offense to the eye.  How else to explain the pulling down of the statues of Frederick Douglas or Abraham Lincoln?  Because they were Republicans, and their opponents - the supporters of slavery - were Democrats.

Remember, the Romans were looking for an explanation for how they had lost 90% of their empire (first the western half to German barbarians, then 75% of what was left to the Arabs).  People had a gut feel that something had gone terribly wrong, and what used to be a powerhouse was now only hanging on by the skin of its teeth.

Today's Democrats are in the same position, looking for an explanation for how they lost Congress (other than a couple of brief restorations in 2006-2010 and again in 2018).  From 1930 on, they mostly owned the Capitol building.  They also lost the White House, and things look like a Republican landslide is a'comin' in November.  The Democrats have gone - like the Romans of old - from being the biggest Badasses around to being the whipping boy of Donald Trump, George W Bush, Newt Gingrich, and Ronald Reagan.  That's decades of losses - and like the old Roman provinces of Syria and Egypt - the losses include States that were the most productive and useful to the Party.  I mean, Wisconsin voting Republican?  WTF?  Obama was supposed to have turned all this around and established a generation of Democratic rule, but instead the Democratic Party has been decimated across the nation.

And so something has to go - not to explain how this all happened, but to show who's on The Team and who's not.  Line up, get with the program, or pay.

Of course, it didn't help the Romans get their provinces back, and pulling down statues of Ulysses Grant won't help the Democrats keep Minnesota from voting Republican.  On the contrary.  But nobody ever said that Man was a rational animal.  Man is a rationalizing animal coming up with "Just So" stories to explain the Voice of the Thunder or the loss of union votes.  But as Milton wrote, some would rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.

The Re-Elect Donald Trump 2020 campaign looks on at the modern iconoclasts, and thanks them for their support.


Via Chris Lynch, a 4,000 year civilization may have been found off the coast of Cuba.  I've believed for some time that the oldest cities are under the sea.

But the discovery off Cuba was from the same team that discovered the wreck of the U.S.S. Maine, scuttled after being raised from Havana harbor.  That led to El Wik, which led to Harvey Armor:
Harvey armor used a single plate of steel, but re-introduced the benefits of compound armor. The front surface was converted to high carbon steel by "cementing". In this process, the steel plate would be covered with charcoal and heated to approximately 1200 degrees Celsius for two to three weeks. The process increased the carbon content at the face to around 1 percent; the carbon content decreasing gradually from this level with distance into the plate, reaching the original proportion (approximately 0.1–0.2 percent) at a depth of around an inch. After cementing, the plate was chilled first in an oil bath, then in a water bath, before being annealed to toughen the back of the plate. The water bath was later replaced with jets of water to prevent the formation of a layer of steam which would insulate the steel from the cooling effect of the water. The process was further improved by low temperature forging of the plate before the final heat treatment.
I hadn't known that case hardening wasn't just used on nice revolvers but on battleship plate armor as well.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Congratulations to Glen Filthie

The odometer over at his blog just rolled over one million.  Congrats on your (first) megaview!

How Long Would It Take?

If we decided today to build bicycles in the United States, how long would it take? Not just welding up some frames, the whole bike. Cables, derailleurs, brakes, hubs, rims, tires, tubes, seats, pedals, bearings, etc. It couldn't be done in an economically feasible way, so ignore the cost. We don't have the manufacturing base, so you get to start from scratch.

Treat it was a question of national interest. I don't have an answer, but it's not an idle question. The largest specialty bike shop in town, one that has been open for over 50 years, is closing next week. They sold every bike in the store and had been told it might be months before any could be delivered. They couldn't get replacement parts, either. Selling tires and tubes and fixing flats is the bread and butter of any bike shop.

I had a good reason to stop in the local big box store, so I went early yesterday, wearing an N-95 canister style mask, got in and got out. As I was headed back to auto parts, I passed what would be the bicycle area and took this picture.

This is a picture of a collapsed supply chain. It's still early, there's going to be more.

Basically all the worlds computer parts come from the same supply chain that runs from Korea, down through coastal China, over to Taiwan, and down to Malaysia. 
--Thomas Friedman

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Remember 4th of July Parades?

Evanston, Illinois. 1957. Another window into Old America.

Aaron Tippin - Where The Stars And Stripes And The Eagle Fly

I posted this more than ten years back.  With the anti-American nonsense going around, it's still relevant - maybe more relevant than it was then.  

Happy Birthday, America.  It's time to take our country back

Originally posted July 4, 2009.

Aaron Tippin - Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly

It's no secret that Country Music has a deep patriotic streak. Some people interpret this as jingoistic and even racist.

Some people don't know what they're talking about sometimes.

A different way to look at this is that a deep love of country can be precisely like a deep love of family: you may not like everything your family does, but you love them anyway.

Aaron Tippin is a Working Man's country singer, with songs like Working Man's PhD and You've Got to Stand For Something. His songs reflect his blue collar background - when he first moved to Nashville as a songwriter, he paid his bills by working nights at the Aluminum plant.

He wrote Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly immediately after 9/11. Not only did it go to the top of the country charts, it peaked at #40 on the Billboard Hot 100. Simple music score, direct lyrics speaking love of country. Not a bad thing for this July 4th celebration.

Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly (Songwriters: Kenny Beard, Casey Beathard, Aaron Tippin)
Well if you ask me where I come from
Here's what I tell everyone
I was born by God's dear grace
In an extraordinary place
Where the stars and stripes and the eagle fly

It's a big ol' land with countless dreams
Happiness ain't out of reach
Hard work pays off the way it should
Yeah, I've seen enough to know that we've got it good
Where the stars and stripes and the eagle fly

There's a lady that stands in a harbor
For what we believe
And there's a bell that still echoes
The price that it cost to be free

I pledge allegiance to this flag
And if that bothers you, well that's too bad
But if you got pride and you're proud you do
Hey, we could use some more like me and you
Where the stars and stripes and the eagle fly

Yes there's a lady that stands in a harbor
For what we believe
And there's a bell that still echoes
The price that it cost to be free

No, it ain't the only place on earth
But it's the only place that I prefer
To love my wife and raise my kids
Hey, the same way that my daddy did
Where the stars and stripes and the eagle fly

Where the stars and stripes and the eagle fly

Friday, July 3, 2020

Happy birthday to The Queen Of The World

If y'all want to shoot off some fireworks in celebration, why that would be just fine.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Schwinn II

I knew there was a picture. I found it. It is the only picture I have of that bike.

Here's your humble scribe astride his trusty Schwinn and his sister by the swings in the background, maybe 1964. It was all corn fields and country roads laid out in grid squares. As soon as I could ride well enough that my mother trusted me, I was free.

"Learn to ride a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live." --Mark Twain

Wednesday, July 1, 2020


This one is so obvious I'm wondering how I missed it. Try to buy a bicycle. Bike shop, Walmart, Academy Sports, anywhere you go, it's all empty racks. Because bicycles come from the Far East now, or at least they did until March of 2020. Now they don't come from anywhere. You cannot buy a bicycle in the United States tomorrow.

Bicycles used to come from Chicago. A million bikes a year. Not the only bike on the market, but the dominant player. Schwinn. From the first bike a child wanted, to the bombproof, guaranteed for life frames of the cruisers and ten speeds, to top of the line racing frames, Schwinn made them all.

I had one like this in the mid 1960s. My dad gave five dollars to a neighbor. The bike had been ridden by all 8 of their kids before me. I rode it until I bought a 3 speed Raleigh when I was a teenager. It went to someone after me. For all I know it's still in a garage in Illinois.

Schwinn was dominant enough to come out with tire and rim sizes that were unique. Very close to the 26 x 1.75, the Schwinn 26 x 1 3/4 had a slightly different bead diameter. It fit the Schwinn rim. They did this with a couple of other sizes too. If you needed a tire for a Schwinn bike, you went to the Schwinn dealer.

If you had a Schwinn dealership, you would be the only one in town, it was an exclusive. I went to Schwinn's mechanic school in Atlanta not to long before the end and got the certificate. Learned to lace up wheels, rebuild 3 speed hubs, and a few other things I hadn't picked up yet.

The factory got outdated, labor costs went up, and the competition got better. By the 1970s, bikes were being made in Japan. Lightweight road bikes that beat Schwinn on price and features. When the Japanese bikes got too pricy, bikes started to come from India, and then from China.

There was a strike at the Chicago plant in 1980. Schwinn responded by moving production out of Chicago to Greenville Mississippi. They started losing money. They sold off the racing bike line and the Paramount name. Then in 2001 declared bankruptcy. Everything that was left was sold to GT bicycles.

Up until the pandemic, you could still buy a bicycle with the Schwinn nameplate on it. It looked like every other bike made in China. They aren't bad bicycles, they make a range from department store bikes on up to fairly high end bikes sold in bicycle shops. But they aren't Chicago Schwinns. And since they aren't made here, they are subject to the same supply chain pressure as computers, phones, appliances, and the rest.

If you're old enough, you remember Schwinns. The looks, the colors, it was part of the background of every American childhood in the 1950s and 1960s. I've got two of them in the basement.

Here's a real nice example of what they looked like at their peak. Everything on that bike was made in America.

Oxford Uni Boffins find drug effective against serious WuFlu cases

This sounds very promising:

In the trial, led by a team from Oxford University, about 2,000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone and compared with more than 4,000 who were not. 

For patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40% to 28%. 

For patients needing oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25% to 20%.

Chief investigator Prof Peter Horby said: "This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality - and it reduces it significantly. It's a major breakthrough."

Lead researcher Prof Martin Landray said the findings suggested one life could be saved for:

  • every eight patients on a ventilator
  • every 20-25 treated with oxygen

"There is a clear, clear benefit," he said.

"The treatment is up to 10 days of dexamethasone and it costs about £5 per patient. 

"So essentially it costs £35 to save a life. 

"This is a drug that is globally available."

When appropriate, hospital patients should now be given it without delay, Prof Landray said.

But people should not go out and buy it to take at home. 

Dexamethasone does not appear to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus who do not need help with their breathing.

6000 patients in the trial is a good sample size.

Happy Canada Day!

To our readers to the North, let me pass on our best wishes to America's greatest friend.