Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Payback's a bitch, ain't it?

I'm cynically amused by remarks from the President of the European Union, Donald Tusk.

Migrants are being sent to Europe as a campaign of “hybrid warfare” in order to force concessions to its neighbours, EU president Donald Tusk has claimed.

An influx of hundreds of thousands of people is a “weapon” and a “political bargaining chip” used by the EU’s neighbours who want to harm the continent, Mr Tusk said.

He made the incendiary comments as the European Union announced it would give an extra one billion euros in aid, and dangled the offer of visa-free travel, to Turkey as part of a charm offensive to encourage the country to close its borders as a major transit route for migrants.

. . .

... there is mounting frustration in Brussels at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s refusal to seal Turkey’s coasts and border wit Greece. Police have stopped just one in seven of the 350,000 people who have crossed since January on a major transit route for those fleeing Syria for the EU, and European leaders are convinced he could easily do more.

Mr Tusk, the president of the European Council, told MEPs that “many of our neighbours look with satisfaction at our troubles”, and were prepared to extract favours in exchange for halting the flow.

. . .

Under a deal struck in Brussels, the EU said it would “step up” the resettlement of refugees from Turkey and help to reinforce the Turkish coast guard to stop the flow of boats over the sea to Greece.

It has been suggested as many as half a million people could be moved from Turkey, but the document does not specify numbers.

. . .

Turkey says it has so far spent more than 6.5 billion euros on providing support to Syrian refugees, and has demanded more help.

However, the deal also makes clear that Turkey’s long-term goal of visa-free travel for 75 million people to Europe depends on it fixing its border, and hints that refusal would put at risk talks to win full EU membership.

There's more at the link.

Turkey has been trying to gain full membership of the European Union for decades.  Its path to membership has been blocked every time by senior EU states, particularly Germany, where Turkey seems to have been traditionally regarded as an upstart provider of migrant labor that should be content with the occasional carrot tossed to it, and not get 'uppity' about 'pretending to be European'.

How's that working out for you now, EU politicians and bureaucrats?


A beautiful illustration of aircraft wake turbulence

All aircraft leave a trail of wake turbulence behind them as they pass through the air.  Light planes don't leave much at all, but the larger airliners leave so much that following traffic has to be separated from them by several miles to avoid potential problems.  This is known as wake vortex separation.

Here's a fascinating video of Boeing 777 airliners, among the largest in the sky, and the wake vortices and turbulence they produce.  The cloudy, moist air through which they're flying allows condensation to form, revealing air patterns, and their wake disturbs the clouds to show how following aircraft might be affected by downdrafts and other hazards.  Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.



Monday, October 5, 2015

A word to the wise

When enjoying a top-quality Chinese dinner with my wife and Dan and Sarah Hoyt, I must remember:  don't - I repeat, do not - DO NOT!!! - bite into one of those little dark red dried chili peppers that the Sichuan Chinese so thoughtfully include in some of their allegedly 'milder' dishes.

It took my eyes and nose about five minutes to stop running over, and another five minutes before I could converse at least semi-intelligently.



Safely in Colorado

Miss D. and I have made it safely to Colorado.  Over the next few days we'll be visiting her brother, and also author, friend and mentor to both of us, Sarah Hoyt and her family.  Much good food is likely to be consumed by all concerned.

We had a pleasant trip here.  Both of our vehicles are getting on in years, and aren't very comfortable for long trips;  but we pretty much had to drive, because of all we're carrying with us for the Blogorado gathering this coming weekend.  (Just for a start, we have a dozen firearms and something like 10,000 rounds of ammunition.  Try checking that at an airport and see how fast the security people lock you up - to say nothing of the excess baggage charges!)

Accordingly, we rented a 'premium car' from Enterprise.  On a weekly basis, it's surprisingly affordable, and the large, comfortable vehicle made the two-day trip from Tennessee a real pleasure.  Neither of us suffered much from the pains in the back and joints to which we've grown accustomed on earlier trips.  I can see we'll be doing this more often.

I'll post more tonight.  Meanwhile, enjoy yourselves with the blogs in my sidebar.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Larry Correia does it again

Fellow writer, blogger, firearms enthusiast and all-round good guy Larry Correia has published one of his legendary fiskings of the latest example of moonbattery, this one from the New York Times and titled '27 Ways To Be A Modern Man'.  (I think it should more properly have been titled '27 Ways To Be A Crybaby', but that's probably insensitive and politically incorrect.)

Here's an example of Larry at work.

As usual, the original is italics and my comments are in bold.

. . .

Being a modern man today is no different than it was a century ago. It’s all about adhering to principle. Sure, fashion, technology and architecture change over time, as do standards of etiquette, not to mention ways of carrying oneself in the public sphere. But the modern man will take the bits from the past that strike him as relevant and blend them with the stuff of today.

My sons, as you go through life you will learn that libprog rags like the NYT, Slate, and HuffPo usually start their bull**** articles with a paragraph that sounds all sorts of reasonable. Beware. It is a trick.

What follows is one dude’s bizarrely specific pronouncements, which range from preachy but passable, to full turnip. Now, if this jackass had just lived his life according to his own code, real men wouldn’t give a ****, but of course not... This is the New York Times, bastion of bull****, which will not be content unless it is telling you how you’re living your life wrong.

. . .

6. Before the modern man heads off to bed, he makes sure his spouse’s phone and his kids’ electronic devices are charging for the night.

No. That is their problem. If you fail to plug your crap in, and you run out of power tomorrow, then you’ll learn. If your father comes and bails you out every time you make a stupid little mistake, then you will never become accountable for your actions, and then you will grow up and make foolish choices, like becoming a New York Times reporter.

. . .

14. The modern man still jots down his grocery list on a piece of scratch paper. The market is no place for his face to be buried in the phone.

Who cares?

No, really. You write it on a piece of paper, put it on your phone, scribble it on your hand with Sharpie, fly by the seat of your pants buying whatever you feel like, or your wife does the shopping… NOBODY GIVES A ****.

You sensing a trend yet, boys?

This guy is a symptom of a much bigger problem. People like to make themselves feel more important by telling other people that they are having Wrongfun. Judging others makes them feel special.

There's more at the link.

When Larry decides that something or someone needs to be taken down a few pegs, he's without peer.  I'm very glad we're on the same side!


The European "refugee" crisis: an eye-witness perspective

Survival Blog has published a letter from a US visitor to Europe who ran head-on into the wave of refugees coming out of Eastern Europe, desperate to make a better life for themselves in the West (or have one made for them, courtesy of Europe's 'welfare state' mentality).  Here's an excerpt.

Before we left in early September, the American news was full of the Syrians leaving. Let me tell you, our media is lying on this one. Of the hundreds of thousands already in Europe, there are (yes) Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans, North Africans, and Kurds and more. Also our news, BBC, SkyNews etc., always seem to show kids, families, old and handicapped, etc. But the vast majority of people we encountered were men. Young men. Mostly ages 15 to 30. A few families, but near 90% were young, single men. Always in clusters, keeping among themselves. Yet at the borders that were closed, they were all but quiet. Rock and bottles thrown, yelling “Allah Akbar!” Clashing with police and being tear-gassed. Both television reports and newspapers quote them as only wanting a better life, not wanting to be a burden or unlawful. Willing to go anywhere. After a week some news reports stated that the immigrants who made it to Finland were bored! No bars, no cars, cold, and nothing to do–so they left! Early on, entitlement was already rearing its head!

There's much more at the link.  I highly recommend clicking over there to read it all.  It's an almost perfect reflection of what we've got coming over our southern border right now, with the sole exception that (so far, at any rate) we don't have a majority of Muslim illegal aliens.  Whether or not that will change is anyone's guess.


A pink battleship?

I was highly amused to read that the refurbishment of Admiral Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, HMS Victory, has led to some . . . consternation.

Admiral Lord Nelson’s famed flagship HMS Victory has raised eyebrows after being restored to its original colour - a shade some people say is pink.

The new colour has split opinion, with experts at the National Museum of the Royal Navy admitting that the change had met with resistance from those who preferred the old mustard-orange shade.

Conservationists examined 72 layers of paint from an original timber part under a microscope, and discovered the ship Nelson sailed to Trafalgar was actually a terracotta or pink hue.

A spokesman for the museum said that although the majority of the response had been positive, some people had been averse to the change.

“With historic ships they are close to a lot of people’s hearts and people have very clear ideas of what they like and they don’t like, but we were really determined to use historically accurate research,”she said.

The official name for the colour avoids the word pink, instead opting for ‘Victory Hull Ochre’.

The paint was produced by a specialist manufacturer working from information given by conservationists at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Even as the four month restoration project draws to a close, with the finishing touches being put to the 227ft long ship, observers are still unable to agree on the colour of the ship.

The colour is said to vary depending on the light, with HMS Victory appearing more pink on darker days.

. . .

The sides of Victory were varnished bare timber when it launched in 1765, but later in the 18th century captains were allowed to decide what colour to paint their ship.

Richer captains chose ornate shades, but Thomas Masterman Hardy, the captain of HMS Victory, was not well off and opted for pigments supplied free of charge by the Royal Navy.

There's more at the link.

My amusement isn't at the complaints:  it's at the lack of understanding of how our definitions of color have changed over time.  What we call 'pink' today wasn't 'pink' at all a couple of hundred years ago - or even a few decades ago.  Besides, pink has its military uses.  For example, during World War II the Royal Air Force developed a special camouflage shade of pink for its reconnaissance aircraft.  It led some more macho pilots to object to flying pink planes . . . until they found out from experience that it made their aircraft much more difficult to see in poor visibility (i.e. low cloud, haze, light fog, etc.), much less shoot at them with anti-aircraft guns.

HMS Victory's new hull color corresponds more with a light terracotta color, as used in the production of pottery a couple of hundred years ago, than it does to modern pink.  As Wikipedia points out in its definition of the color (and illustrates with examples):

"The iron content [of the clay], reacting with oxygen during firing, gives the fired body a reddish color, though the overall color varies widely across shades of yellow, orange, buff, red, "terracotta", pink, grey or brown.[8] In some contexts, such as Roman figurines, white-colored terracotta is known as pipeclay, as such clays were later preferred for tobacco pipes, normally made of clay until the 19th century."


Friday, October 2, 2015

Blogorado bound

Miss D. and I will be heading out tomorrow for the annual Blogorado gun-blogger rendezvous at a secret hideout in Colorado.  We'll take our time getting there, visiting friends and family;  spend the Columbus Day weekend shooting, eating, drinking and talking far too much with our buddies;  and make our leisurely way homewards via a southern route and visiting more friends.  We're both of us looking forward to it.  I reckon I'm recovered enough from my adventures with kidney stones to be able to enjoy it.

Blogging will continue from the road, but may be less frequent at times, depending on whether or not I have access to the Internet.  I'll put up posts when I can, and probably schedule a few to pop up at times when I know I'll be out of touch.  If you don't find something here to amuse you, please read the blogs in my sidebar.  (A number of their authors will be in Colorado too, I'm afraid!)

Say a prayer for us now and again for traveling mercies.  We'll see you on the road.


Why wasn't the psychologist disbarred?

I was infuriated to read about a woman who deliberately persuaded a (possibly over-gullible) psychologist to blind her.

For most people becoming blind would be a living nightmare - but for Jewel Shuping it was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream.

Jewel has Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), a condition in which able-bodied people believe they are meant to be disabled.

Her need to lose her sight was so strong that in 2006 she decided to blind herself - by having a sympathetic psychologist pour DRAIN CLEANER into her eyes.

According to Jewel, her fascination with blindness began early in childhood.

She said: "When I was young my mother would find me walking in the halls at night, when I was three or four years old.

"By the time I was six I remember that thinking about being blind made me feel comfortable."

As a child she would spend hours staring at the sun, watching sunspots and solar storms, after her mother told her it would damage her eyes.

In her teens she started wearing thick black sunglasses, getting her first white cane aged 18 and becoming fully fluent in braille by the age of 20.

Jewel said: "I was 'blind-simming', which is pretending to be blind, but the idea kept coming up in my head and by the time I was 21 it was a non-stop alarm that was going off."

Determined to make her dream a reality, Jewel found a psychologist willing to help her become blind - an act which she compares to a deaf person wanting to get a cochlear implant.

The psychologist put in numbing eyedrops - acquired by Jewel during a special visit to Canada - and then a couple of drops of drain cleaner in each eye.

Jewel said: "It hurt, let me tell you. My eyes were screaming and I had some drain cleaner going down my cheek burning my skin.

"But all I could think was 'I am going blind, it is going to be okay."

Despite the hospital's attempts to save her vision - against her wishes - they were permanently damaged, although it took around half a year for the damage to take affect.

There's more at the link.

I would have thought any psychologist worthy of the name would have diagnosed and treated her mental disorder, rather than pandered to it.  To deliberately maim someone so clearly misguided and not thinking straight . . . if that's not professional malpractice (to put it mildly), what is?

What infuriates me even more is that she continues to excuse her behavior and justify it.

"If someone were to say that its fundamentally selfish to blind myself, I would say that it’s selfish to refuse treatment to somebody with a disorder.

"This is not a choice, it’s a need based on a disorder of the brain."

No, Ma'am.  It's not a need.  It's a psychosis.  It's a disease.  One doesn't cure a disease, or treat it, by encouraging and/or cultivating and/or giving in to it!


Karl Denninger lays it on the line once more

Regular readers will have seen me quote Karl Denninger very often in articles about business, commerce and economics.  Here's a lengthy interview with him, in which he analyzes the current state of the economy and why he expects it to crumble.  It's long, but very well worth your time to listen to in full.  If you can't do so right away, I suggest you bookmark this article and come back to it when you can.

Words of wisdom.  I'm certainly following his advice.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Oregon college shooting and your security

First of all, forget all the bloviating about "We need stronger gun laws!"  The shooter broke how many laws today?  And do you think he'd have hesitated even for one instant to break a few more, if necessary?  The gun genie is out of the bag.  There are literally hundreds of millions of firearms in circulation in the USA, and no government edict is going to get them out of circulation.  Law-abiding and criminal alike will unite in civil disobedience to any edict attempting to disarm them.  That dog won't hunt.  Period.

Second, if you trust your safety and security to the existence of so-called 'gun free zones', you're insane.  Criminals don't obey laws.  That's what makes them criminals.  The shooter today took firearms into a 'gun free zone' without anything to stop him.  If you're forced to go into or through, study or work in, or are affected by, such 'gun free zones', I can only recommend in the strongest possible terms that you take immediate steps to improve your security.  I can't publicly recommend that you break the law and carry a gun . . . but if I had to live, or work, or study in such a zone, I know what I'd do.

Best of all?  Get the heck out of such zones and never go back.  A university won't allow legal concealed carry of defensive weapons?  Look into online study, with as short a period as possible spent on a physical campus - and ask about security measures to protect students while they're there.  If security is inadequate, complain about it - LOUDLY - and continue to complain until something is done about it.  A store or shopping mall doesn't allow firearms?  Don't shop there.  An employer forbids the carrying of personal weapons in your car on company property?  Start looking for another job with a more understanding employer.  Are you in a job (e.g. pizza delivery driver, etc.) where the risk to your safety from criminals is high, but your employer forbids you to be armed?  Decide for yourself whether you're going to obey your employer, and if possible find a less restrictive job.

This will happen again.  It'll continue to happen as long as bad people continue to exist.  The only sure cure for a deranged gunman trying to kill innocent people is that same gunman, dead on the floor, killed by his intended victims before he could harm them.

That's the way it is.


357 linear feet later . . .

(EDITED TO AMEND:  Not 157 linear feet, as I said earlier, but 357!  I'd forgotten many of my notes were in linear yards, not feet!)

When Miss D. and I moved to Tennessee five years ago, we brought with us a very large library.  It consisted of books I'd boxed up and shipped from South Africa, the accumulation of the first 37 years of my life;  what I'd gathered during my years as a pastor down in Louisiana;  and what she brought from Alaska when she came down to first nurse, then marry me.  Suffice it to say there were a lot of books.  An awful lot - so much so that they had to stay boxed, because we didn't have room (or bookshelves) to unpack them all.  Add to that what we both (mostly me) accumulated during the past five years, and things were clearly out of control.  Something had to be done.

As part of the plan to bring our belongings under control, we deliberately chose to move into a relatively small duplex that didn't have a lot of free space.  All our excess stuff (including most of our books, including all the boxes I hadn't yet unpacked after bringing them from Louisiana) went into a storage unit.  Over time, relatively slowly, we unpacked boxes of books there, decided what to keep, packed up the surplus and drove it to a local used bookstore, then re-packed the 'good stuff' to bring here in due course.

Over the past few weeks, in between battling kidney stones and the after-effects of their treatment (both are equally bad, IMHO!), I got stuck into the last boxes.  This afternoon I finished the final one.  My library has now been reduced to 72 linear feet of bookshelves, tightly packed, and Miss D.'s is down to about ten linear feet in her own bookshelf.  I've got to try to reduce mine a bit more, but that shouldn't be too hard, as I know there are duplicate volumes.  As I start to sort the books into categories, then alphabetically by author, I'll get rid of the duplicates and free up the space they occupy.  Other books will doubtless be turfed out as I reluctantly conclude that they're nice, but not essential.  In particular, anything I can get in e-book format is likely to go.

My best estimate is that I've gotten rid of the equivalent of 275 linear feet of books.  It's been a wrench, because to a bookworm the loss of any volume one's enjoyed is always painful.  On the other hand, it's a vast relief to realize that the appallingly large stack of boxes of books is no more, and everything's (roughly) in its place.

And yes . . . my back hurts.  After moving (sometimes repeatedly) 357 linear feet of books, it's got a right to hurt!


High-speed aluminum overcast, right overhead

Here's a Ukrainian Air Force Ilyushin Il-76 military transport making a fast, very low pass over a group of parked Sukhoi Su-25 strike aircraft. Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

Any lower and they'd have to issue hard hats to the bystanders . . .


The perils of emotional over-sensitivity

The Observer has a very interesting article on the dangers of trying to protect everyone's feelings.

[Ray Bradbury's SF novel 'Fahrenheit 451'] begins with Guy Montag burning a house that contained books. Why? How did it come to be that fireman burned books instead of putting out fires as they always had?

The fireman have been doing it for so long they have no idea. Most of them have never even read a book. Except one fireman—Captain Beatty—who has been around long enough to remember what life was like before. As Montag begins to doubt his profession—going as far as to hide a book in his house—he is subjected to a speech from Beatty. In it Beatty explains that it wasn’t the government that decided that books were a threat. It was his fellow citizens.

“It didn’t come from the government down,” he tells him. “There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no!”

In fact, it was something rather simple—something that should sound very familiar. It was a desire not to offend—of an earnest notion to literally have “everyone made equal.” And it’s at the end of this speech that we get the killer passage:
“You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can’t have our minorities upset and stirred. Ask yourself, What do we want in this country above all? People want to be happy, isn’t that right? … Colored people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book. Serenity, Montag. Peace, Montag. Take your fight outside. Better yet, to the incinerator.”

And before you get offended, let’s clarify what Bradbury means by minorities. He’s not talking about race. He’s talking about it in the same way that Madison and Hamilton did in the Federalist Papers. He’s speaking about small, interested groups who try to force the rest of the majority to adhere to the minority’s set of beliefs.

I don’t mean to cherry pick. I see no need to one to pile on college students as being particularly responsible for the “coddling of the American mind”. (Great piece, read it.) Though I do find it ironic that we require kids to read this book in high school and just a few years (or months) later, they’re leading the charge on exactly the kind of well-intentioned censorship Bradbury was talking about. I don’t mean to say that these examples come close to the kind of overt censorship that every reasonable person dreads. But I do mean to say that they come from the same place—and very alarmingly—ultimately end together in a much worse place.

In the 50th anniversary edition, Bradbury includes a short afterword where he gives his thoughts on current culture. Almost as if he is speaking directly about the events above, he wrote: “There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with lit matches.”

There’s that saying: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. When it comes to censorship, one might say that the road to thought and speech control is paved by people trying to protect other people’s feelings.

It’s important to realize that today, we have a media system paid by the pageview and thus motivated with very real financial incentives to find things to be offended about—because offense and outrage are high-valence traffic triggers. We have another industry of people—some call them Social Justice Warriors—who, despite their sincerity of belief, have also managed to build huge platforms by inventing issues and conflicts which they then ride to prominence and influence. One might call both of these types Rage Profiteers. They get us riled up, they appeal to our notions of fairness and empathy—who likes to see someone else’s feelings hurt?—without any regard for what the consequences are.

Of course, the real and fair solution is much less politically correct but effective. It’s to stop trying to protect people’s feelings. Your feelings are your problem, not mine—and vice versa.

There's much more at the link.  I don't agree with all the author's views, but he poses important questions and makes us think about an important subject.  As far as I'm concerned freedom of speech is just that, freedom, even if it offends me:  but today that position is increasingly under attack from those who used that freedom in the past to popularize opinions and positions that were out of step with 'conventional' views, and who therefore should know better.

Highly recommended reading.