Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Book of Barkley


Our dear friend Brigid lost her beloved black Labrador retriever, Barkley, earlier this year.  They'd been together for a long time, and I know it was a difficult period for her.  Rather than sit down and mope, she sat down and wrote:  and the result is now available.




She's produced a rich tapestry of tribute to a dog who wasn't a pet so much as a friend.  Barkley (whom Miss D. and myself both knew, meeting him on several occasions when we visited Brigid) was full of everything fun and good in a dog.  My first encounter with him was when he cheerfully stole a shoe out of my overnight bag and disappeared into the living-room, daring me to chase him and retrieve it.  He did the same to Miss D.'s unmentionables and anything else that was left lying around - his idea of fun was a vigorous game of "catch me if you can!"

If you love animals - dogs or others - this is a wonderfully warm, loving, gently grieving farewell to one who was part of Brigid's heart and hearth for many years.  She was - and we were - privileged to share his life.  I hope he has a special place in the afterlife, ready to greet her when she crosses the river (although knowing Barkley he'll upset her boat before it's touched ground, and dump her in the water while wagging and barking like mad!).

It's available in print and as a Kindle e-book through Amazon.com (the two listings will probably be unified into a single one within the next couple of days).  If you're looking for a good read, here's one I can unreservedly recommend.

Peter

Don't kill Sean Bean!


I had to smile at the news that fans of Sean Bean, the British actor, have launched a Twitter campaign to persuade the producers of his latest TV show not to kill him.  The Telegraph reports:

Sean Bean has appeared in blockbuster films and TV shows as well as small independent movies, but he rarely comes out of them unscathed. Having been run off a cliff by rampaging cows, shot in the neck with a grappling hook, beheaded and quartered by horses in his 31-year acting career, the Sheffield-born actor hasn’t had much luck cheating death.

. . .

Now, after a tongue-in-cheek plea by fans, the producers of Bean’s latest TV series Legends have launched #DontKillSeanBean on social media in order to try to keep Bean alive in his new show. The campaign has already gone viral after launching over the weekend, with T-shirts supporting the hashtag appearing at San Diego Comic-Con. Tricia Melton, a marketing executive at TNT, said: “Sean laughed out loud when we first talked to him about it and is 100 per cent behind not getting killed in Legends. He’s got a great sense of humour and is enjoying the fun the fans are having.”

There's more at the link.

Here's a compilation of the "best" deaths (21 of them) suffered by Sean Bean.  Not safe for work, and a bit gruesome to view around kids.





Yeah . . . after all that, it'd be nice if they left him alive for once!

Peter

Monday, July 28, 2014

Music for the mind and soul


As regular readers will know, I'm a big fan of Mike Oldfield's music.  Here are three tracks from his 2008 orchestral performance "Music Of The Spheres".  It draws heavily upon his original masterpiece, "Tubular Bells", and its sequels for inspiration, with some of its themes readily recognizable as reworked versions of the originals (hence my irreverent nickname for "Spheres" - "Tubular Balls"!)

I highly recommend taking the time to listen to these if you need to relax and unwind.  Here's the opening track, "Harbinger".





From the middle of the work, here's "On My Heart".





And here's the penultimate track, "Empyrean".





The entire album's on YouTube, if you're interested. Also, here's an interview with Mike, interspersed with video of the inaugural live performance in Spain.





Lovely stuff!

Peter

Time for Facebook to reconsider its "community standards"?


From Facebook:




Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

If your enterprise's "community standards" are such that they don't find that page unacceptable, perhaps you need a better set of community standards?  Yesterday, if not sooner?

Peter

Want to know where the "poor children" are going?


If you'd like to know where all the "children" streaming across our southern border are being sent by the authorities, Numbers USA has a very informative map.  Click over there to see whether your state and/or city is among the targeted areas.

Considering the nature of some of those "children", I expect crime statistics in those areas to show a significant upward trend starting right about now . . .




Peter

A traffic hazard with a difference!


It is to laugh . . . The Austrian Times reports on an incident in Vienna.

Motorist Michael Kienast told local media: "I was behind two guys who had a fender bender because the motorists in front took their eyes off the road to glance up at the view. The young woman was obviously keen on getting some sun in a place where it doesn't usually shine.



"I heard the guy who was rear-ended shout to the motorist who had hit him: 'Didn't you look where you were supposed to be going?'

"The driver who hit him said: 'Sorry, I was distracted,' and pointed up to the window where the woman was lying. The guy who was hit then said: 'Oh, right, I see what you mean'."

Several cars were blocking the road before police arrived but by then she had disappeared inside and closed the windows.

There's more at the link.

I wonder if the insurance companies involved will sue her for causing a distraction?




Peter

"A sudden and acute failure of the victim selection process"


That's how my friend and teacher Massad Ayoob would doubtless describe the thought (?) processes of the hapless criminals in this case.





Oops!




Peter

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Around The Blogs 2014-07-27


Let's start tonight's roundup with two powerful images inspired by or related to the court declaration that Washington D.C.'s absolute ban on carrying firearms outside the home is unconstitutional.

CenTexTim applauds the decision, and offers this informative graphic:




Blue has his own take on the liberal logic behind D.C.'s gun ban:




Quite so . . . I don't think!

# # #

I hadn't previously heard of the Community Link Integrated Transit of Tucson in Arizona.  Apparently it's a new streetcar service.  The Lonely Libertarian points out that someone clearly forgot to imagine how that name would appear as an abbreviation . . .  Unfortunately it turns out to be a hoax story:  but full marks to the man who thought of it!




# # #

Michael Stephen Fuchs writes an open letter to Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com concerning that company's policies towards independent authors, and thanks him for all he's done for us.  I concur, and gladly associate myself with his letter.  (The link he provides to an article in the Guardian is incorrect - here's the correct link.)

# # #

Francis Porretto has two interesting articles this week.  In the first he considers the concept of freedom, and notes:

"It often seems as if the original American conception of freedom -- the absence of coercion or constraint from all matters that don't involve aggression or fraud -- has given way to a welfarist conception, in which what the individual is supposed to prize most highly is "freedom from want:" i.e., the absence of significant unsatisfied desires for material things ... the original conception of freedom has been displaced by the Marxist conception of freedom as 'an absence of tension or conflict'."

In the second article he offers some thoughts on the place occupied by sex in the life of a properly bonded couple.  I'm not sure I entirely agree with all his perspectives on the matter, but he certainly makes one think.  Both articles are recommended reading.

# # #


Mr. B. has some serious concerns about President Obama's current actions.

"At first I thought it was incompetence or naivete that led to the terrible things he did/has done to our country. No more. I am coming to believe that his actions and the actions of his supporters are a series of actions which indicate that there is a plan to harm both the country as a whole and the citizens upon which its strength resides. Now, I wonder if he was, in fact, placed where he is by our adversaries to facilitate damaging our country and economy."

I'm wondering much the same thing right now . . . and it has nothing to do with the President's party affiliations.  George W. Bush severely damaged this country with his post-9/11 security legislation, interminable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and overall neglect of the fundamentals of good government.  Instead of resolving those issues, the Obama administration has made them exponentially worse.  We're going to have our work cut out for us to repair the damage that's been done to this country in the opening years of the new millennium . . .




# # #

Daddybear links to a news report about a Florida auto dealership that appears to regard its customers with contempt, even when they obtain a DMV injunction against it.  Based on that report, I can only suggest that my Florida readers take their auto business elsewhere, and advise their friends and relatives to do the same.

# # #

The Bearded Backyarder points out that the so-called 'children' flooding across our southern border aren't always what the mainstream media portray them to be.

# # #

Have you ever heard of "Amish pornography"?  I hadn't either, until MSgt. B. decided to introduce us to the concept.




# # #

Charles Hugh Smith has four articles in a series on the US economy and the failure of our politicians to do their job in managing it.  All four are highly recommended reading.  In sequence, they are:




Corroborating his pessimism, Monty Pelerin points out that economic laws are not optional, and that our government has been ignoring them at its - and our - peril.  He concludes:

The smoke and mirrors obfuscating true economic conditions for five years has been deliberate. The economy has not recovered. It has been made more distorted and imbalanced by the futile attempts to pretend that all is well. Government has more smoke and mirrors left. Yet, even the political class now seem to sense that they are playing out the clock without altering the ultimate conclusion. When your time frame is limited to the next election, longer-term consequences of current policies are ignored.

The economic piper will be paid. All that has been accomplished by these actions is a deferral of the correction and the creation of a bigger debt upon which the piper will collect.

. . .

A collapse is coming. It is unavoidable and will be worse than it should have been as a result of political duplicity.

Regretfully, I'm forced to agree with him.  It's not going to be pretty.

# # #

Old blogbuddy AEPilotJim has a new moral patch.  If you can't translate it, invert it . . .




# # #

Karl Denninger has three excellent articles dealing with internet security (or the lack thereof) and why we should be very, very worried about the news this past week.  In the first, he points out that the so-called 'Internet of things' is dangerous, and concludes:  "... given the lack of care (and outright insertion of code that has no reasonable proper purpose, such as the recent IOS disclosures) you'd have to be nuts to allow devices like that in your home and office."

In the second article, and in the second half of the third article, he goes into detail about revelations that Apple has deliberately built 'backdoors' into its signature operating systems, and points out that they pose a completely unacceptable risk of penetration of any level of computer security.  I couldn't agree more - in fact, if I were a corporation dependent on Internet and communications security, I'd be suing Apple right now for flagrant and deliberate violations of my security systems.

Anyone with any security-consciousness concerning their Internet activities and computer privacy needs to read these articles carefully, taking notes as they do so.  It's that serious.

# # #

Contributor ASM286 over at Borepatch's place reminds us of a treasure-trove of back issues of Guns magazine, now available online.  As Old NFO pointed out in a comment, it's a real time-sink.  Since they span the year in which I was born, I guess that makes me a back issue too . . .

# # #

Dan Gordon, an officer in the Israeli Defense Forces, reminds his readers 'Why We Fight'.  It's a powerful and emotional piece.  Recommended reading.

# # #

Last but not least, Wirecutter warns us about something we should never say to a pregnant woman.




# # #

That's all for this week.  More soon!

Peter

The most prolific writer of Westerns you've never heard of?


I read a couple of days ago that J. T. Edson, a very well-known (outside the USA) author of Westerns, has died.  His books were a big part of my younger days, and the news of his death brought back many memories of them.

Most Americans have never heard of J. T. Edson, being more familiar with Westerns by authors such as Louis L'Amour:  yet Edson wrote over 130 of his trademark short novels and sold tens of millions of copies of them.  He lived in Melton Mowbray in England, occasionally visiting the USA but never living here.  He was almost entirely devoid of any personal Western or associated background.  He once famously said, "I’ve never even been on a horse. I’ve seen those things, and they look highly dangerous at both ends and bloody uncomfortable in the middle."

Despite this seeming handicap, he immersed himself in Western movies from the 1950's onwards, and surrounded himself with replica firearms, research materials and the like.  At his peak he was publishing up to half a dozen novels every year.  Whilst they never sold in large quantities in the USA, they were extremely popular in England and several Commonwealth countries, including South Africa where I encountered them.  Along with Louis L'Amour's Westerns, Edson's books were common in military camps and similar settings, and I understand they were popular among British servicemen as well.  I can remember many nights spent reading two or three of his books, consuming them rapidly, many of them already familiar, then turning to another one to while away the hours spent on radio watch.  In due course the copies floating around military camps became so dirty and dog-eared that they probably represented a major health hazard;  yet they were still passed around until they fell apart at last.  I recall that one of his books, 'Apache Rampage', was a source of great frustration to me because several individual pages were missing from the only available copy when I first read it.  It took me several years to locate another, more complete copy and 'fill in the blanks' in my memory of the story.

Edson isn't the only non-American author to be a prolific producer of Westerns.  Fellow Englishman Terry Harknett has written well over a hundred under pseudonyms such as George G. Gilman (the 'Edge' and 'Adam Steele' series) and several others.  Again, I haven't often come across them in the USA, but they're very widely read overseas.  I'm living here now, and I've traveled widely across much of what was once the Old West;  so who knows?  Perhaps I'll try my hand at a Western series one of these days, just for the heck of it.  I must have read many hundreds of them in my time, and I'm not hampered by political correctness, so it might be a fun challenge.

Peter

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Internet-powered investigators?


In our Internet-connected generation, it's amazing to see what can be done by private citizens determined to ferret out the truth.  The shooting down of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine is the latest example.  Mashable reports:

On Tuesday, U.S. intelligence officials admitted that while it's true that Russia has been arming pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine for months, no proof exists that the Buk SA-11 surface-to-air missile launcher, which Washington says took down the plane, was Russian.

. . .

But a group of citizen journalists led by Eliot Higgins, who is better know by his online alias "Brown Moses," has had plenty of Perry Mason moments in the last few days.

Higgins, with the help of some of his Twitter followers, was able to pinpoint the location of a Buk launcher while it was being transported through Snizhne, a pro-Russian rebel-held town in Ukraine near the Russian border, based on a video circulating on YouTube.

. . .

The next day, Aric Toler, a longtime follower of Higgins, identified the exact location of a photograph of the Buk launcher in Torez, another town in Eastern Ukraine, using only open source information like the name of a store shown in the picture, and other unrelated YouTube videos filmed in the area.

. . .

Toler and Higgins were able to establish that the photograph was shot around 11:40 a.m. local time, using an online tool called Suncalc, which lets you calculate the position of the sun based of the time of day and location. That would prove that the launcher was in the area before the MH17 crash. (Higgins told Mashable that he checked the tool's accuracy by taking pictures of his garden at different times of the day to see if the shadows matched the ones on the site.)

Another crowdsourced analysis that Higgins assembled on Tuesday offers strong proof that a video published by the Ukrainian government shows the Buk launcher being moved from Ukraine to Russia through rebel-held towns. In the video, the launcher seems to be missing a missile.

The Russian government rebuffed the video, claiming it had actually been filmed in the town of Krasnoarmeisk, which under the control of the Ukrainian military. However, thanks to other open source intelligence analysis, it turns out the town is not actually Krasnoarmeisk but the rebel-held Luhansk, just 30 miles from the Russian border.

There's much more at the link.  Intriguing and highly recommended reading.

Peter

It seems coffee is actually good for you


I was intrigued to read an analysis of coffee by Patrick Cox, including an historical overview and some very interesting health information.  Here's an excerpt from the first part of the article.

Serious historians have proposed that the introduction of coffee into the Western diet contributed significantly to both the Enlightenment and its offshoot, the American Revolution. The idea is not such a stretch.

Given the lack of modern water purification and plumbing technologies, beer was routinely consumed in Great Britain in the 1700s to prevent water-borne diseases. Though alcohol at the concentrations common in beer may not always kill pathogens, it does keep them from growing in beer that has been boiled during the brewing process.

When coffee came onto the British scene in the 1500s, it provided a popular and alternative way to take water safely. As with tea, pathogens were killed during the brewing process. Coffee, however, is often viewed as the disreputable cousin of tea, which is widely regarded as healthful. Coffee usually has higher caffeine levels and that difference may have quite profound implications.

In those days, coffee was much more expensive and few people had experience brewing the stuff. Coffeehouses sprang up in response, but they didn’t normally sell individual cups. Rather, they charged an entry fee, after which java flowed freely. The result was that hyperactive groups of coffee drinkers began to pop up in place of semi-sedated beer drinkers.

Students and merchants found these establishments pleasant places to study, do business, and talk. Lacking Wi-Fi connections, merchants who tracked current events and their impact on business would announce major news to the entire assemblage. Naturally, a lot of discussions turned to politics and philosophy. Arguments took place and movements were born.

Just as contemporary politicians would like to regulate political speech, especially on the Internet, British royalty took a dim view of the free and often antiauthoritarian ideas associated with coffee and coffeehouses. In 1675, “A proclamation for the suppression of coffee-houses” was issued by King Charles II.

. . .

Many efforts all over the world have been made to stamp out the demon bean. Though such efforts have failed, coffee is part of our lives and our culture.

Edward Lloyd opened his coffeehouse “The Angel” in 1650. The Oxford hangout of merchants and shippers eventually morphed into Lloyd’s of London, the best-known insurance company in the world. In Scotland, the tenets of the Enlightenment were worked out in coffeehouses where works by Adam Smith and Spinoza were passed around.

Daniel Webster called the Boston coffeehouse, Green Dragon Tavern, “headquarters of the Revolution.” Open from 1697 to 1832, it played a role in the birth of America and was frequented by the likes of John Adams, James Otis, and Paul Revere who met there to conspire. The New York Stock Exchange and the Bank of New York were first coffeehouses.

There's more at the link, including an analysis of the health benefits of coffee, which the author describes as "the primary source of antioxidants in the American diet and ... the single-most important food item available in most grocery stores".  He provides some impressive medical opinions to back up his claims, including an opinion that coffee helps prevent or mitigate Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

It's a bit late for a cup of coffee now, but tomorrow morning . . .

Peter

Not all Chinese chainsaws are equal


A few weeks ago I put up a video comparison between a 'brand-name' chainsaw and a Chinese knock-off that found the latter to be a pretty useful tool.  Unfortunately, it looks like not all Chinese chainsaws can make the same claim.  The Telegraph reports:

Nearly 1,000 chainsaws imported from China with a host of faults have been seized at one of Britain's main borders.

. . .

They were found to have three crucial faults, including a failure of the chain brake test, which measures the force needed to move the handle.

Trading standards officers also said that when the engine was running the brake failed to work, regardless of how hard it was activated.

Tests showed that although the engine kill switch worked, it took longer than anticipated. Normally, it should stop immediately, but tests found it took about five seconds.

There's more at the link.

I did a bit more research.  The offending chainsaws are sold under the brands Powerhaus and Kraftwelle (the latter even offers a German web site to suggest that they're made there):  but despite their use of German-sounding names, all are made in China.  In 2010 the European Union issued a safety warning and product recall about them.  Looks like nothing's improved since then . . .

I guess it all boils down to "buyer beware":  do your due diligence and check carefully on any product before you buy it.  I won't be buying one of these!

Peter

What if the Soviet Union hadn't collapsed?


Would the ethnic violence in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics still be a problem if the Soviet Union had not collapsed?  British historian Tim Stanley suggests not.





I have to agree with his analysis.  If you look at the deliberate Soviet oppression of nationalist and religious sentiment in republics like Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia, Ukraine and many others in its portfolio of ethnic groups, what we're seeing today is just more of the same.

Peter