Friday, May 22, 2015

The Battle of Berlin, 70 years later

This year is the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in 1945.  The climactic European battle of that war was the Soviet fight to take Berlin, capital of Nazi Germany, in April and May of that year.

The Big Picture, a publication of the Boston Globe, has provided a fascinating series of photographs of scenes from the battle, juxtaposed with the same location photographed from almost the same position 70 years later.  The contrast between utter destruction and modern prosperity is jarring.  Here's just one of them to whet your appetite.  Click the image for a larger view.

There are many more images at the link.  They make fascinating viewing.

It's humbling to think of those who survived all that, then went on to rebuild their countries and establish the prosperity that we take for granted today.


A very fitting recognition of a hero, 75 years later

I was touched to read about one aspect of the Royal Air Force's commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

An RAF Typhoon fighter has been repainted in the Second World War colours of a Battle of Britain hero to mark the 75th anniversary of the crucial clash.

The Eurofighter jet which is usually coloured a drab grey has instead been painted with the camouflage and 249 Squadron identification number of the only Fighter Command pilot awarded a Victoria Cross during the battle.  (It's shown below alongside a WW2 vintage Hurricane fighter of the RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Click the image for a larger view.)

Flt Lt James Brindley Nicolson won Britain’s highest award for battlefield bravery for attacking and shooting down a German fighter even though his own cockpit was on fire.

The repainted Typhoon will fly alongside a WWII Spitfire at air shows across the UK this summer.

There's more at the link.

That's a fine paint job, and one that I think F/Lt. Nicholson would have appreciated.  Unfortunately he was killed near the end of the war, in 1945, in the crash of a B-24 Liberator bomber in the Bay of Bengal.  My late father would have recognized it, too.  He started the war as the equivalent of a Lance-Corporal in the RAF, and was commissioned as an engineer officer shortly after the Battle.  That color scheme would have been very much a part of his life at the time.

May F/Lt. Nicholson, and all those who died in the Battle of Britain, rest in peace.


A "spectacularly honest" job advertisement

The Telegraph reports:

Budding chefs who don’t mind working in a kitchen the size of a closet for “s—t” money can look no further.

A restaurateur has posted a brutally honest job advert seeking a colleague who is “fast, progressive, and not a total p----k” to work alongside him in his new American diner in Glasgow.

Justin Valmassoi, a Michigan-born businessman pulls no punches, warning potential applicants not to waste his time if they think a “good sandwich is a tuna mayo like your gran makes” and stressing that he did not want to receive any CVs filled with anodyne, generic statements.

“If you have one that says you're a "hard-working team player that can also function well alone" and that you "value customer service and punctuality" I will stab myself in the face with a pencil and nobody will get a job,” he writes.

There's more at the link.

The advertisement may be found here.  The following is a short excerpt.

I have no problem working seven days a week, but on the off-chance I break my foot or get third-degree steam burns on my face I need someone who can work unsupervised and still make quality food. It's a breakfast/brunch/lunch place to start, but there are no eggs benedicts. Go on, wrap your head around that and then continue reading. I'll wait.

. . .

I don't care if you're super outgoing or actually mute. I don't care if you've got tattoos. I don't care if you only work in kitchens to get away from your horrible significant other. I don't care about anything other than that you're fast enough not to be in the weeds constantly and you want to be part of something genuine and good. This is a mom-and-pop type restaurant. You can learn a lot. You can have a good degree of freedom. What you cannot do is be a pain in my balls because my life savings is on the line and I have to work with my wife all day so I don't have time for any primadonna bullsh*t.

. . .

If you think I sound like an obnoxious d*ckhead, congratulations. You are observant and will go far in life. Don't let it discourage you, though. I'm only a d*ckhead for the first three years you know me. After that I'm a total sweetheart.

Again, more at the link.

Y'know, on the basis of that advertisement, I'd go and eat there if I lived in the area, just to say "thanks for the laughs" with my wallet!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gangs and the threat they pose

Following the publicity generated by the motorcycle gang clash in Waco, Texas last weekend, Survival Blog has put up a three-part article on gangs that contains some useful information.  Follow these links:

The articles don't go into much detail, but provide a good overview.  For more information, see:

There are many other resources on the Web, not all of which are as good as others.  A quick Internet search will reveal many more links.

I ran into a lot of gangs and gang members during my work as a prison chaplain.  Gangs are probably in your area.  There are few where they aren't.  Forewarned is forearmed.


Fred gets his wookie on

The indomitable Fred Reed responds to recent news that Army ROTC candidates were forced to march in high heels as part of sexual-assault awareness events.  Here's an excerpt.

Dear General,

I see that on your watch the Army is turning into a transvestite marching corps in high heels, a Ziegfeld cross-gendered or bisected gay-bath sexual zoo vacuuming up every sort of erotic loony, not to mention becoming a home for unwed mothers and prostitution rings. I commend you. I have always wanted to be defended by a freak show.

. . .

What I figure, General, is you ought to set an example for the troops by wearing panties and a bra (if you don’t already wear panties: I give you credit for miitary foresight.) A good officer--we had some--doesn't order his men to do anything he himself wouldn't do. Walk a Mile in Her Skivvies, General. (Actually, when I was a hard-charging young Gyrene, we spent a lot of time trying to get into women's skivvies. Now it’s going to be mandatory?)

. . .

Now, General, I speak only for myself as a Marine who carried a rifle in Viet Nam, but others may agree with me. (A “rifle” is one of those awful long thingies (no, not those long thingies) that make boomy noises and stinky smoke and put stains on your cocktail dress that just ruin it.) Outside of Da Nang we used to lie behind sandbags at night with mortars coming in (a “mortar” is one of those gun thingies with a tube—no, a different kind of tube, General—that shoots--never mind) hoping a hit wouldn’t spray a buddy’s guts around. To a man we were thinking, why couldn’t we have a leader like a Pentagon general to give us cute little heels instead of these uncomfy old boots?

There's more at the link.

"Fred Reed".  "Political correctness".  Two phrases not normally encountered in close proximity . . . or in high heels!


That's a tough gun sight!

Last year I put up half a dozen posts concerning the upgrading and refurbishing of AR-15 rifles.  In #6 of that series I talked about sights, including red dot sights.  I mentioned that the most 'value-for-money' optic in the Aimpoint series was at that time its Patrol Rifle Optic, or PRO, shown below.

Now comes proof of the PRO's toughness under extreme conditions.

Paul Riddell ... lost his Minnesota home to a fire one night this past February.

. . .

Aside from all his family’s other possessions, he lost three firearms in the blaze. But, he reports his Aimpoint PRO mounted on a Spikes lower/BCM-EAG lightweight upper frankenrifle somehow survived the fire. That’s it in the inset photo of his rifle above, red dot glowing defiantly. Aimpoint found out about it and already swapped it for a brand new optic and with a plan to display the survivor in its museum.

“Here’s a picture of my AR after it was recovered from my house fire after being exposed to the elements for over a month in late February to mid March,” said Riddell. “The rifle was at the core of the fire.”

He said the rifle sat in the water and ice leftover from the firefighters, exposed to the outside in sub zero Wisconsin winter. Weeks later, Riddell was allowed to look through the wreckage after the fire investigation was complete. He found his melted pile of a rifle covered in ice, rust, ash and mud in the debris. The polymer rifle case it was stored in had fused to sections of the rifle, as well. He pried open the eyepiece cover on the PRO and turned the knob. And, it lit up.

“Had I been willing to trust firing the gun,” said Riddell, ” I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it held zero.”

There's more at the link, including a picture of the damaged rifle and sight.

Kudos to Aimpoint for replacing the fire-damaged sight with a new one - but they'll get their money's worth out of it as an example to potential customers of how tough their products are.  Makes me glad I recently bought a PRO to put on my 'fighting rifle'.


I need your help with a book cover, please

I've had some feedback from readers who don't like the cover of my latest book, 'Forge A New Blade'.  I've taken a look at their criticisms, and I can see their point.  The overall theme fits that of previous covers in the Maxwell series, but doesn't necessarily fit with the first volume of the Laredo War trilogy, 'War To The Knife', the cover of which which showed a battle in space.

I'm therefore looking at alternatives.  Here's the existing cover image, plus one I may use to replace it.  The latter also fits the plot of 'Forge A New Blade' in that it shows three cargo vessels in formation, which would correspond to the three converted merchantmen serving as Armed Merchant Cruisers in the book.

Here's where you come in, readers.  Looking at the two images, which do you prefer?  In particular, if you've already read the book, which fits it better?  Please leave your opinion in Comments.

(This is one of the real advantages of independent publishing. If a cover - or any other element - doesn't work, one can change it very quickly in response to feedback. Mainstream publishers don't have that luxury.)

Thanks very much for your help.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I'd never have thought of doing that!

El Capitan brings us these images of an RV that had an argument with a tree - and lost.

The owner decided to make the best of it . . . and converted it into, of all things, a flatbed truck!

There are more images at the link.

El Capitan is annoyed because he can't afford to go out to Utah, buy it, and drive it back.  Personally, I wouldn't have thought an RV frame/chassis/suspension could stand the stresses that a typical flatbed load would exert, but what do I know?


Wish I'd been in the passenger seat

It seems Lamborghini's Aventador SV recently tackled the Nurburgring as part of development testing for its P Zero Corsa tires.  As Autoblog describes it:

Lambo unveiled its latest Superveloce in Geneva just a couple of months ago, boasting an upgraded version of its free-revving V12, unburdened by 110 pounds of excess weight and fitted with enhanced equipment. The result of all these improvements is 740 horsepower, 509 pound-feet of torque, a 2.8-second 0-62 time, a top speed of 217 miles per hour and a Nordschleife lap time of 6:59.73. No turborchargers, no hybrid assist, no type certification or regulatory loopholes. Just an old-fashioned twelve-cylinder supercar doing what it does best, and trouncing just about everything else in the process.

There's more at the link.

Here's a video of the lap.  I highly recommend watching it in full-screen mode to get a better idea of the speed, particularly over the last long straight stretch (which goes by so fast you forget it's a couple of miles long).

Just listen to that V12 roar!  Music . . .


To Tweet or not to Tweet? That is the question . . .

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The ads and trackers of outrageous Facebook
Or dive into a raging sea of Tweeters,
And by partaking, join them?

(With apologies to William Shakespeare!)

I don't want to go on Facebook.  I've written many times before about how that company's cynical disregard for its users' privacy and security makes it beyond the pale in my book.  However, I come across several articles each day that I like, or which intrigue me, but about which I don't have time to write on this blog.  I also come across books that strike a chord, or YouTube video clips that interest me, or articles on other blogs that catch my eye.  (I used to address the latter in regular "Around The Blogs" articles, but again, those take a lot of time to prepare;  and when I'm working to a book deadline, it's hard to keep them up.)

I'm trying to decide whether to open a Twitter account, where I can provide links to things like that.  Would you be interested in following it?  Is this something you'd find useful or valuable?  Or would I simply be lost in the background noise?  I'd be grateful for your feedback.  Please let me know in Comments what you think.

Thanks in advance.


The war on cash

I'm sure readers have been aware of the growing number of calls from statist economists and financiers to do away with cash altogether.  In recent weeks, they include the following:

The real reason for the onslaught on cash, of course, is the desire by politicians and financiers to exert greater control over their citizens subjects.  Without cash, we can be forced to use our money as they see fit, or - if we don't - they'll confiscate it, tax it, devalue it, or do anything else they please.  With our money reduced to binary ones and zeroes in a computer system, it'll no longer be "our" money at all - it'll be theirs.  The "shadow economy", almost always run on a cash and/or barter basis, will take a heavy hit and be wiped out in many cases, forcing those currently making a living (no matter how precarious) outside the formal economy to be drawn into the latter, or starve.  It's not about the money - it's about control.  It always is.

The last article I cited above provides some very interesting reading to explain why cash is so unpopular with financiers.  Here's an excerpt.

Cash is a MAJOR problem for the Central Banks.

The reason for this concerns the actual structure of the financial system. As I’ve outlined previously, that structure is as follows:

  1. The total currency (actual cash in the form of bills and coins) in the US financial system is a little over $1.36 trillion.
  2. When you include digital money sitting in short-term accounts and long-term accounts then you’re talking about roughly $10 trillion in “money” in the financial system.
  3. In contrast, the money in the US stock market (equity shares in publicly traded companies) is over $20 trillion in size.
  4. The US bond market  (money that has been lent to corporations, municipal Governments, State Governments, and the Federal Government) is almost twice this at $38 trillion.
  5. Total Credit Market Instruments (mortgages, collateralized debt obligations, junk bonds, commercial paper and other digitally-based “money” that is based on debt) is even larger - $58.7 trillion.
  6. Unregulated over the counter derivatives traded between the big banks and corporations is north of $220 trillion.
When looking over these data points, the first thing that jumps out at the viewer is that the vast bulk of “money” in the system is in the form of digital loans or credit (non-physical debt).

Put another way, actual physical money or cash (as in bills or coins you can hold in your hand) comprises less than 1% of the “money” in the financial system.

As far as the Central Banks are concerned, this is a good thing because if investors/depositors were ever to try and convert even a small portion of this “wealth” into actual physical bills, the system would implode (there simply is not enough actual cash).

. . .

In this scenario, when the 2008 Crisis hit, one of the biggest problems for the Central Banks was to stop investors from fleeing digital wealth for the comfort of physical cash. Indeed, the actual “thing” that almost caused the financial system to collapse was when depositors attempted to pull $500 billion out of money market funds ... When all of this happened, the global Central Banks realized that their worst nightmare could in fact become a reality: that if a significant percentage of investors/ depositors ever tried to convert their “wealth” into cash (particularly physical cash) the whole system would implode.

There's more at the link.  You really should click over and read the whole thing.  It makes the situation very clear.

(BTW:  That $1.36 trillion figure for 'total currency in the US financial system' isn't altogether correct.  AFAIK, that's the amount of US currency estimated to be in circulation worldwide.  A great deal of that is squirreled away under mattresses or in hidden 'stashes' by citizens of other countries whose currencies aren't particularly stable, or accumulated by criminals who can't put it in banks for fear that it'll be confiscated.  This is why you see regular news reports (such as this one) of huge amounts of cash being confiscated from criminal gangs.  I'd guess the amount of cash actually circulating inside the borders of the USA is a lot less than $1.36 trillion . . . but no-one knows for sure.)

I hope we can stop the politicians and banksters from outlawing cash, although I'm not sure whether we'll be successful in the longer term.  Until then, I think it's an excellent idea to keep at least one month's expenditure handy in the form of cash;  two months, if you can afford it.  I also recommend stocking up on assets you'll find useful in a "cash crunch", when cash or credit facilities may not be available to buy what you need and you'll have to revert to barter (i.e. swapping what you have for what you need).  Ammunition and firearms are almost always valuable barter items (and can help to defend what you don't want to barter!).  So are tools, hardware supplies, liquor (particularly in the form of readily-tradeable miniatures), essential necessities such as feminine hygiene items, soap, etc., and other goods.  Gold and silver?  I'm not so sure.  I can't use them for my everyday needs, and it's almost impossible to be sure whether they're real or counterfeit.  I might hold some gold and silver as a store of value, but not primarily as a means of exchange.  YMMV, of course.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015


It may be somewhat insensitive, but this image at The Lonely Libertarian's place still made me laugh.


A musical blast from the past

Just because I feel like it, here's Don McLean singing his classic "American Pie" at the Glastonbury Festival in England during 2011.

It seems impossible that I can remember when it was first released - in 1971!!!  That was 44 years ago!  I'm not that old . . . or am I???


Dipsy-doodling down the runway

This video was shot earlier this month from a hillside overlooking the runway of the airport on Madeira, a Portuguese island in the Atlantic Ocean.  Looks like the crosswinds there are extra special . . .

That's when pilots earn their pay, and then some!


Monday, May 18, 2015

So much for armored steel . . .

The US Navy's experimental electromagnetic railgun is well known by now.  There's a new round for it known as the Hyper Velocity Projectile.  You can read about it here, and see it being tested in the second half of the video clip below.  It's guided, and zips along at 5,600 mph (or over 8,200 feet per second - almost three times as fast as a typical M16 rifle round).

Here's a photograph of the damage done to a steel plate by the Hyper Velocity Projectile (one of which is being held by the man on the left) during testing.

Makes it look a bit fragile, doesn't it?


That gets it said

Regular readers will remember I've said for years that neither the Republican nor the Democratic parties are to be trusted.  Both are self-centered organizations prepared to do whatever is necessary to promote their own agendas rather than what the United States really needs.

Blue put it in a nutshell today with this image.

Word. Thanks, Blue.


"Forge a New Blade" is published!

My latest book, "Forge a New Blade", Book 2 of the Laredo War trilogy, is now available at in e-book format.

A print edition will be available later this week - I'll post a link as soon as it's released.

This one has been a lot of fun to write.  I enjoy the Laredo plot arc, and I had a lot of fun making this book work across hundreds of light years and well over a year in time.  It was a big challenge to get the timeline straight, so that events in one place affecting one set of characters were 'balanced' with those at another place, affecting other characters.  I also enjoyed linking the Steve Maxwell series with this trilogy, having the character arcs of my two protagonists intersect in ways that will affect both their futures.  (Look for Maxwell Book 5 in August, and Laredo Book 3 in November, both of which will build on this volume.)

Thanks to everyone for your support this year.  To those of you who are bloggers or on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) I'd be very grateful if you'd please pass the word about this new release.  I'm a lone operator, without the marketing resources of a major press to help me, so I'm totally dependent on the support of my friends and fans.  Thank you very much in advance!