Monday, December 31, 2012

Out with the old, in with the new (year) . . .

2012's been a pretty lousy year in many ways, hasn't it?  I suspect most of us are pretty glad to see it receding into the history books.

I'm frankly amazed that the world's largest economies escaped implosion, largely through 'kicking the can down the road' by massive printing of fiat money by central banks and extending debt repayment terms in one way or another.  In the USA, both major political parties are, as far as I'm concerned, guilty of massive fraud against and theft from the American public.  Karl Denninger agrees.  I won't say any more about that, because I've said it often enough over the past year.

I'm also astonished that we've managed to avoid a major war.  In December last year I issued a 'war warning', predicting that unrest and turmoil in several regions of the world was likely to lead to a shooting war during the year ahead.  I'm very pleased to have been proved wrong in the larger sense, although limited hostilities have, indeed, broken out in several of the places I mentioned.  Some of them were indistinguishable from a full-scale war (e.g. Gaza and Syria), but they weren't officially declared wars, so I guess my prediction wasn't entirely correct.  Nevertheless, the tensions I identified a year ago remain in existence, and in some cases have intensified.  I therefore consider my 'war warning' to be as valid for 2013 as it was for 2012.  We'll see . . .

2013 looks dismal as far as the government of this country is concerned.  We're about to go over the so-called 'fiscal cliff', largely because our politicians in Washington don't give a damn about the citizens of this country who'll be disadvantaged by it.  They care only for their party political machinations.  The Left wants to see the Cloward-Piven strategy (already well under way) implemented even further;  the Right wants to frustrate the Left and regain power, no matter what it takes;  and both sides are ignoring what voters want and pandering to those who fund them, pressure groups, and the like.  It's a sickening display, and those who voted to perpetuate this stench in the nostrils of integrity deserve all they're going to get out from it.

I don't know what 2013 holds for us.  I don't expect there to be much (if any) good news.  However, I promise that no matter what, I'll call it as I see it, and try to be honest in my interpretation of what's going on.  I know this has alienated some readers over the past couple of years, who've felt that I'm too negative about certain issues.  To them I can only say, let's see who's right when the dust settles.

To all my readers;  I wish you the happiest possible 2013, with God's blessings in abundance and the love of family and friends.  May the events of the year, whatever they may be, not deprive you of those good things.


Lessons learned the hard way

Courtesy of a link provided by Australian reader Snoggeramus, we learn of a young man who nearly died as the result of his own stupidity.  Maimed for life, he's now trying to prevent others from making the same sort of mistakes.

MAKING a bomb out of a small barbecue gas bottle seemed like harmless fun for Matt Lewis and his friends.

. . .

But as Mr Lewis gave the bomb a quick shake before tossing it on the ground, it detonated sooner than expected, throwing him and one of his friends into the air.

"I remember spinning through the air and landing face down on the ground," he says of the incident in August last year.

"I said, 'My legs, my legs' and told my mate who bought the chemicals that it wasn't his fault. I tried to get up, but my legs were in pretty bad shape so I couldn't move."

Mr Lewis did not know at the time, but his friends and family were confronted with the sort of horror seen in wars.

His legs were hanging by threads above his knees. Most of his fingers had also been torn apart and shrapnel from the gas bottle had lodged in his chest and face.

. . .

Despite losing many litres of blood and fighting life-threatening infections, Mr Lewis pulled through more than a dozen major operations to rebuild his body. Before amputating both of his legs above the knees, surgeons tried to salvage what remained of his big toes to create fingers on his mangled hands. They also sliced skin from his legs to patch up the end of his stumps where his legs had been amputated. Only some of it worked.

. . .

After spending eight months in hospital, including four months in a rehabilitation facility to learn how to sit up again and live in his new body, Mr Lewis now gets around in a wheelchair and teaches young people about the dangers of taking risks.

He is one of several presenters in the Royal Melbourne Hospital's PARTY (Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth) program, which tries to teach teenagers aged 15 to 18 about the potential consequences of such incidents for them and their loved ones.

Once a fortnight, the hospital walks a group of students through its trauma, intensive care and rehabilitation units to show them the reality for people such as Mr Lewis who spend months trying to learn how to do simple things again.

"We set the scene so they understand what happens if you bang your brain, that it's not quite like on television where you fall unconscious, wake up and keep going," Professor Judson said.

"We don't really stress death because kids are invincible and don't really understand death … but if you show them what it would be like at their stage of life to live with a disability, that is very powerful."

Kellie Liersch, the hospital's trauma education co-ordinator, said the sights, sounds and smells of an intensive care unit can be particularly confronting for the uninitiated.

"We get a lot of fainters. A lot of people find it overwhelming," she said.

There's more at the link.

Good for Mr. Lewis for trying to use the consequences of his bad choices to do as much good as possible.  It's too late to help him, but he may save many others from harm.

His story reminds me of my late father, who believed in the 'School of Hard Knocks' as a great motivator.  When I wanted a motorcycle, at the tender age of about 15, he didn't say 'no' immediately.  Instead, he took me to visit the Acute Spinal Cord Injury Unit, then based at Conradie Hospital in Cape Town.  (That hospital has since been closed, and the unit transferred to Groote Schuur Hospital.)  This was a specialist unit where spinal injuries causing paraplegia and quadriplegia were treated.

Many of the patients had been injured in motorcycle accidents, and some were willing to describe what had happened.  Some of the nurses showed me some very gory and disturbing pictures of what their patients had looked like, before they were scraped up from the asphalt and put back together into something resembling a human being once more.  (Nowadays, particularly in the USA, they'd never be allowed to do that due to patient privacy laws;  but back then, that wasn't nearly as much of a factor.)

I learned from those young men, and the nurses, that I really wasn't ready or able to control a large, powerful motorcycle.  I rode one later in life, but always carefully, after what I saw at Conradie Hospital.  I had only one (very minor) accident, which was entirely my own fault.  I came away from it uninjured, and learned from it.  Some years later, when I moved to a city with much heavier traffic, I reluctantly sold my motorcycle, as it was far too dangerous to ride it in traffic that neither looked for nor cared about those on less than four wheels.

I'm very glad I didn't have to do the same thing as Mr. Lewis, and use myself as a living example of what not to do!


Orwell warned us about these bureaucratic clowns

I have little respect for director Oliver Stone, and (normally) no time at all for his politics;  but for once I was forced to agree with him when he warned, last week, that the USA was becoming an Orwellian state.  Nothing could make this clearer than an attempt by the US government to squash a lawsuit by using secret evidence that it refused to make available to the plaintiff.

A federal judge in California has rejected the Obama administration's effort to use secret arguments and evidence to defeat a lawsuit relating to the so-called no-fly list designed to keep suspected terrorists off of airline flights.

. . .

"Here the government seeks to affirmatively use allegedly privileged information to dispose of the case entirely without ever revealing to the other side what its secret evidence might be," [U.S. District Court Judge William] Alsup wrote in an order filed last week (and posted here). "Only in the rarest of circumstances should a district judge, in his or her discretion, receive ex parte argument and evidence in secret from only one side aimed at winning or ending a case over the objection of the other side. Here, the government has not justified its sweeping proposal."

"It has gone so far as even to redact from its table of authorities some of the reported caselaw on which it relies! This is too hard to swallow," Alsup wrote.

Alsup seemed particularly exercised by what he said was the Justice Department's proposal that it would hang on to the confidential materials, which he added would not be officially filed with the court.

There's more at the link.

So much for 'the most transparent administration in the history of our country' - and we're stuck with four more years of this sort of shenanigans . . .


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Close calls don't come much closer than this!

This video clip shows a Tupolev Tu-204 aircraft of Russian airline Red Wings sliding off a runway at Moscow's Vnukovo airport, and crashing into a road embankment.  Pieces of the aircraft fly onto the road, hitting several vehicles, including the one whose dash camera captured the accident.

Four out of twelve crew members aboard the aircraft were killed.  Mercifully, there were no passengers aboard, otherwise the death toll might have been much higher.

That won't buff out . . .


Home again

Miss D. and I made it back safely from a very pleasant weekend with Brigid.  Much good food was consumed, much intoxicating drink was imbibed, and many stories were told.  You can read more about some of the fun and games here.  (Also, many shoes and other items of clothing were stolen by a certain four-legged bandit, to be retrieved with considerable effort and much laughter.)

It's back to the grindstone tomorrow.  I've just finished the sixth overhaul of an 84,000-word manuscript.  Come the New Year it'll be sent out to a few volunteer beta readers for their comments while I polish a sequel of similar length.  I hope both will be ready to launch as e-books within a few months, and later (if the demand is there) in dead tree versions as well.  Hopefully they'll be the first two books in a series.  Keep your fingers crossed that my ambitions can be matched or exceeded by both productivity and quality!

I'll put up just a couple of posts tonight before I head for some much-needed sleep.  Look for more tomorrow morning.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

The best of Sign Language 2012

We've looked at pictures from the Telegraph's weekly Sign Language contest in these pages before.  The newspaper has just published its selection of the best pictures taken by its readers in 2012 of weird and wacky signs from around the world.  Here are a few examples.

There are many more at the link.  Amusing stuff.


More politicians who just don't get it

Readers will recall our 'Around The Blogs - A Newtown Massacre Special Edition' post last weekend, which rounded up many thought-provoking and insightful perspectives on that tragedy.  Amongst other areas of comment, several bloggers pointed out blatant hypocrisy on the part of some politicians and commentators arguing for greater gun control.  (No surprise there, of course . . . )

I ran across a couple of other examples over the past few days.  First, apropos the calls for gun control, how about these two stories?

Gun control would have done nothing to prevent or minimize these tragedies.  Those calling for it should stop ranting how it will reduce murders and violent crime.  It won't.  It never has, not in the whole of history.  Those who can't obtain guns will use other weapons.  That's reality.

Second, the compassion fascists are at it again:

That's all very well, provided that aid to the poor actually reaches the poor!  The history of First World poverty relief aid to the Third World is a dismal one of racketeering, corruption, crime and dishonesty.  Third World dictators have amassed fortunes measured in the tens, hundreds and even thousands of millions of dollars, thanks to foreign aid donated without oversight and monitoring.  Taxpayers in the UK (and the US, and other First World nations) are understandably getting fed up with seeing their hard-earned money thrown away in this fashion.

Distrust all simple, facile appeals to emotion.  They're usually ignoring or leaving out at least some of the facts.


Of pee, pools and purity

It seems swimmer Michael Phelps is making waves by admitting that many competitive swimmers pee in the pool.  The Telegraph reports:

It may not be what everybody wants to hear but the swimming star Michael Phelps was right when he said it was OK to relieve yourself in the pool, claim scientists.

Phelps, the most successful Olympian ever, caused ripples of concern during London 2012 when he admitted that many swimmers “pee in the pool” especially during long training sessions.

But he said that it was OK as the chlorine killed any germs.

The revelation may have been slightly distasteful but now scientists have confirmed that at least his facts are right.

Sense About Science (SAS), a charity which aims to dispel commonly held myths, especially those promulgated by celebrities, congratulated him on being scientifically correct.

Stuart Jones, biochemist, said: “In fact Michael, urine is essentially sterile so there isn’t actually anything to kill in the first place.

“Urine is largely just salts and water with moderate amounts of protein and DNA breakdown products.

“Chlorine just prevents bacteria from growing in the pool.

“So you’re basically right, peeing in a swimming pool, even if all swimmers do it simultaneously, has very little impact on the composition of the pool water itself.

“An Olympic size pool contains over 2 millions litres of water and a single urination is somewhere in the region of 0.2 litres.

“To have any significant effect on the overall composition of the pool water you’d need a serious amount of peeing!”

There's more at the link.

The article reminded me of emergency medical training in the South African armed forces. We were flabberghasted to be informed that if anyone was struck in the eyes by snake venom (freely sprayed by the rinkhals if one got too close), and no water was immediately available to flush them out, their comrades should simply pee in their eyes to get the venom out as quickly as possible. We were assured that 'urine from an undiseased bladder is sterile'. A few disgusted soldiers informed their patrol-mates (somewhat emphatically) that anyone peeing in their eyes would rapidly develop diseases where their bladder used to be - after it had been removed with a blunt, rusty bayonet!


Friday, December 28, 2012

What's this nasty cold white stuff on the ground?

Miss D. and I made it to Brigid's place safely.  On the way up, the divide between snow-free and snow-on-the-ground was pretty sharp, taking place within a matter of a couple of miles.  I thought it must be due to the passage of a tightly-defined snow front, dumping snow up the road but missing down-the-road completely.  However, Miss D. (who spent almost a decade in the Frozen North) tells me it's more an indication of ground temperature.  Be that as it may, the dirty slush on the roads got interesting at times . . . particularly when trying to walk across it in parking lots, in shoes not designed for the purpose!  This former African boy still comes over all weird when confronted by large volumes of water that don't flow anywhere - and no crocodiles, nogal!

We raided a meadery on the way here.  Seven bottles arrived at Brigid's, but one's already dead, and I'm not sure how many will survive to take home with us.  Talking's thirsty work!  Tomorrow afternoon the ladies will return there for a convivial mead-tasting (where I'm sure the exchanges of confidences about their menfolk will worsen as the level of the mead gets lower).

We're all planning to raid a local bookstore, meet another blogger for lunch, and do whatever else takes our fancy.  Miss D. and I will head for home on Sunday after an all-too-brief visit, but even a couple of days with good friends are a lot better than none!


Thursday, December 27, 2012


Miss D. and I are heading north, to visit Brigid and other bloggers and friends over the weekend.  Looks like the snow and ice have moved through up there, so we'll hopefully arrive to find clear roads.  It'll be a lot colder than we're used to, but a few glasses bottles of mead should take care of that problem!

Posting will be light, but I'll try to put something up from time to time.  Normal service will resume on Monday.

Have a good weekend, y'all.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A cartoon steampunk serial?

Something interesting just popped up on YouTube.

The Sky High City of SteamPuff - Episode 1

Welcome to the SKY HIGH CITY OF STEAMPUFF, a floating clockwork continent lost amidst the clouds, where anything and everything is driven by the power of steam. But when brilliant steam-smith Hephaestus Von Toot is kidnapped by an unseen foe, it's up to his son Victor (and his squadron of steam-powered friends) to not only track him down, but defeat the powerful forces that would threaten to drop his city from the sky.

I recommend watching this in full-screen mode.

Looks like some nifty animation, enough steampunk to satisfy the small boy in any of us, and prospects for an interesting series. It may be worth keeping an eye open for the next episode.


Deceptive marketing tactics, revisited

A few days ago I asked my readers to comment on the online marketing practices of a number of related firearms and ammunition vendors.  The discussion became quite interesting, both in Comments and in offline e-mails.

Readers' reactions seem clearly split along age-related lines.  Those who are older, and were probably brought up with ethical and moral guidelines similar to those I learned at my parents' knees, seem to either side with my position, or at least be willing to consider it.  Those who are younger, and who grew up in an age of "If it feels good, do it!", are less worried by and more supportive of the business practices of the companies under discussion.

For myself, I think a comment by Murphy's Law encapsulates my concerns admirably:

If a seller is less than honest about one thing, what else are they less than honest about?


Go read the original post and its comment thread, and see what you think.


Hot food on a cold night

It's pretty frigid out there, what with the passage of the same storm that's got Tam, Roberta, Brigid and friends snowed in further North.  Miss D. was hungry, Oleg was on the way over, and supper needed to be made.  Hey - it's just after Christmas!  What about Cajun-seasoned spicy turkey and bean soup?

It couldn't be simpler.  This is the very quick-and-easy bachelor-kitchen variety.  You can make it more complex and interesting by frying onions, celery and bell peppers as a foundation, and using fresh ingredients;  but that takes much longer.  This is for when you're in a hurry and very hungry.  It'll feed three to four people with a couple of bowls apiece.  Use a large saucepan;  I suggest 4-5 quarts, to allow room for stirring.

  • 1-2 pounds leftover turkey or chicken, cut into small pieces (I think more is better)
  • 2 tins white/haricot/navy beans, drained
  • 1 tin sliced or diced carrots, drained (I prefer sliced, but YMMV)
  • 1 tin peas, drained (or, if you don't like peas, try any other canned green vegetable for bulk and color - I've used green beans and okra with success)
  • 2-3 cups chicken or turkey stock, to taste

Dump everything into a saucepan and heat, stirring now and again.  When it's hot, add:

  • Black pepper to taste (I like ground Tellicherry pepper)
  • Salt to taste
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Dried onion flakes to taste (not too many!  Alternatively, fry a diced fresh onion in the saucepan before adding the other ingredients)
  • A little paprika for color and flavor
  • Your favorite Cajun seasoning to taste (I use Tony Chachere's, but there are many alternatives)
  • Hot sauce to taste (you can use any brand you wish, but I like the more complex flavor of Cholula.  If you haven't tried it yet, your tastebuds will thank you.  No, they're not paying me to recommend their product - I just like the stuff.)

I make it fairly hot and spicy, but others like it milder.  I suggest adding small amounts of seasoning, tasting the result, then adding more until you're comfortable with it.

The soup will be ready to eat in 10-15 minutes.  Warms you inside and out, body and soul.  Yummy!


Lifesaving goes high-tech

As a former associate of the National Sea Rescue Institute in South Africa, I've long taken an interest in shore-based life-saving boats and small craft.  The wild waters off South Africa (home of some of the world's largest and most dangerous 'rogue waves' on and around the Agulhas Bank) were - and still are - possibly the greatest test of seaworthiness outside a full-blown hurricane (which they frequently resemble).  One's life-saving boats had to be able to stand up to them, otherwise one would soon need rescuing oneself!

I was therefore interested to read of a new and revolutionary lifeboat design about to be deployed by Britain's Royal National Lifeboat Institution.  The RNLI's Shannon class lifeboat is currently undergoing final pre-production testing, and will begin its lifesaving duties next year.  The Telegraph reports:

Cocking opens the throttles on the twin 650bhp Scania turbodiesels and spins the impellers up to full power. The Shannon, the newest, lightest and fastest all-weather lifeboat in the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) fleet roars in approval, but goes absolutely nowhere. Around the hull you can see water being thrown in every direction, yet the twin Hamilton water jets are merely fastening the Shannon's hull deeper in the water. With a flick of helm and the "bucket" controls, Cocking drives the boat almost imperceptibly sideways and backwards through the water, while the engines howl. This would be impossible with a conventional, propeller-driven craft.

It's that incredible manoeuvrability that makes the Shannon so special and allows the RNLI to predict with confidence that the 50 examples it plans to build in the next decade (replacing its old Mersey-class vessels) will in their time rescue more than 56,000 people and save more than 1,500 lives.

The Shannon came from a hull design by a young RNLI naval architect, Peter Eyre. Very much a lunchtime project, his radical hull shape was accepted and tested in tanks at Gosport and in open water. Eyre had done his homework, putting the lessons of the previous Severn, Trent and Tamar-class lifeboats into his high-bow design. He even went out with the crews.

"You can't start to design a lifeboat without knowing what it's going to go through," he said. He has the dubious distinction of being the first man to be seasick on the Shannon. His design was a good one, though, showing 70 per cent fewer slams in rough seas than the experimental hull design, 53 per cent less traverse movement and a third less vertical movement. As a fast and manoeuvrable, but stable, working platform, Eyre's design was the best.

"You probably wouldn't be starting with water-jet propulsion if all you wanted was straight-line speed up to 25 knots," says Brook. They are less efficient than more conventional ducted propellers at lower speeds, but they do several clever things. They separate power from steering, so you can have the engines giving everything while the clever buckets on the water-jet outlets divert thrust equally fore and aft. They also offer the chance to drive at full speed at a lee shore in a gale and simply fly up the sand or shingle out of harm's way.

Cocking tells a tale of an early trial of the flying lifeboat. "We'd got the all-clear and steamed in," he says. "The beach had been cleared but they'd missed this fella walking his dog. It was perfectly safe, but you should have seen his face when 18 tons of lifeboat flew up the beach."

There's more at the link.  Here's a video clip showing the new design's high-speed beaching abilities.  Its waterjets are tucked well out of the way, allowing it to 'surf the sand' in remarkable fashion.

Here's another showing the new design undergoing capsize testing. Note how the waterjets are carefully placed out of the way of obstacles, and the keel extends well beneath the hull and waterjets to protect them from beach sand during landing.

There are many more video clips of the new design's trials on YouTube.

Congratulations to all concerned in bringing the Shannon class to its present state of development. I wish I'd been able to use something similar in my younger, more active days!

If any of my UK readers are feeling generous in this post-Christmas season, the RNLI is still about £1.2 million short of its fund-raising goal to begin production of the Shannons.  It's a cause I strongly support, from my own experience;  and I hope you will too.


"The modern joys of Christmas past"

That's the title of an article in the Telegraph, illustrating how medieval Christmas traditions have carried over into our modern celebrations of the season.  Here's a brief excerpt.

The western Church adopted December 25 as the official date for Christ’s birth in the fourth century and the term “Cristes Messe” crops up in Old English two decades before 1066.

By the high Middle Ages it is very clear that Christmas was a thriving popular holiday, which had sucked up plenty of pagan, pre-Christian traditions, bound them together with the story of the Nativity and come up with a festival of hymns and games, worship and gluttony, which still endures today, when virtually every other Christian feast day except Easter has slipped into obscurity.

If we want to get back to our roots, therefore, and be rid of modern abomination, then we should look to the Middle Ages, where much of the ritual seems remarkably familiar.

There's more at the link.  Interesting and sometimes amusing reading.


Monday, December 24, 2012

A happy, holy and blessed Christmas to you all

If you're looking for deep thoughts this Christmas, I think I'll let my article from December 2008 stand alone.  That's colored my Christmases ever since, as you can imagine!  It's a hell of a way to learn the meaning of the season, in the midst of death and destruction and bloodshed . . . but there are many whose Christmas this year will be like that, including our own service personnel in various parts of the world.  Let's be grateful for them, and for our own peaceful Christmas, and give thanks.

"Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you."


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Are gunbloggers being used to support deception?

One of the principles that was drummed into me by my parents was that 'voluntary association implies approval".  Let me reiterate that at greater length, because it's important:  if one voluntarily associates with a particular group, or cause, or political party, or whatever, this necessarily implies that one approves of it.  (This doesn't apply to involuntary association, of course.  One usually can't choose one's siblings, or one's comrades in arms during military service, or one's fellow employees.  If one doesn't have a choice whether or not to associate with them, one can't automatically be assumed to like or support them.)

One can think of many examples of how this applies in everyday life.  For example, if one repeatedly attends religious services led by, and listens to sermons preached by, Fred Phelps or Jeremiah Wright or Louis Farrakhan, one may be assumed to endorse and support their perspectives.  If one shops only at stores or Web sites endorsed by lifestyle advocates such as The Happy Hippie or Greener Spots, one may be assumed to endorse the latters' perspective on the environment and conservation, and their business practices.

This brings me to an issue that's reared its ugly head in these pages before.  Back in July last year, Linoge, blogging at Walls Of The City, undertook an excellent piece of investigation which revealed that several apparently independent Internet ammunition retailers were, in fact, one and the same corporation, operating under different identities without acknowledging or revealing this.  A follow-up investigation revealed that there were no less than six Web sites involved.  I wrote about this at the time, here and here.

Linoge summed up my own misgivings about this situation in this passage from his second article.

"I do not mind any of these companies being 'drop shippers' – in truth, being an industrial engineer, the concept of drop shipping appeals to me greatly on a variety of levels. As I tried to explain in the previous post, my bone of contention with Lucky Gunner is that they operate multiple, separate, disjoint storefronts as if they were competitors, and do not make the fact that they are all the same company publicly known anywhere – I, personally, find this to be rather misleading, manipulative, and deceptive."

I couldn't agree more!  It astonished me at the time that some of my friends in the blogosphere tried to defend Lucky Gunner and its associated Web sites as merely using a legitimate commercial technique to boost sales.  Let's look at some dictionary definitions of the terms Linoge uses above.

1.  to lead or guide wrongly; lead astray.
2.  to lead into error of conduct, thought, or judgment.

1.  to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner: to manipulate people's feelings.

1.  to mislead by a false appearance or statement.
4.  to mislead or falsely persuade others; practice deceit: an engaging manner that easily deceives.

I agree with Linoge's use of those terms.  That's why, to this day, I won't do business with, or recommend to others, any of the companies or Web sites he identified as being involved in such practices, namely:

  • Military Ballistics Industries

Unfortunately, I've noticed recently that some bloggers whose work I otherwise like and respect are voluntarily associating themselves with these companies and/or Web sites.  If 'voluntary association implies approval', then I submit that by doing so, they are approving such practices as well.  Perhaps they weren't aware of past controversy, or they may have additional information that persuades them that the company(ies) concerned are, indeed, legitimate, honest and upright outfits.  (I should point out that using bloggers to garner publicity was an explicit marketing objective of these companies/Web sites, as identified by Linoge in his first investigative article.)

I'm very unhappy to see this.  I hope the bloggers concerned, and any others who are tempted to do likewise, will reconsider their alliance with a company or companies who, to this day, have not responded to the concerns identified by Linoge last year.  Instead, they've continued to employ commercial tactics that I, for one, find ethically questionable to the point of being unacceptable.  I also hope that those who share my concerns about this will make that clear to the companies involved.

I'd like to throw this open to comments from readers.  Do you think that I - and Linoge, and others who are concerned by such business practices - are being unfair?  Are we entitled to expect and require honesty, openness and integrity from those with whom we do business?  Or are we hopelessly out of touch with the times?  Please let us know your views in Comments.


EDITED TO ADD:  A follow-up post may be found here.

Around the blogs - a Newtown Massacre special edition

Following the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut ten days ago, I'd like to dedicate this 'Around The Blogs' issue to discussion of the aftermath by and among bloggers.  Needless to say, most of their effort has been taken up with responding to hysteria and panic-mongering by politicians and the media.

# # #

Standing head and shoulders above all the other comments and opinions I've read is Larry Correia's masterful article 'An opinion on gun control'.  It's one of the best pieces I've ever read on the subject, and I recommend it unreservedly.  Here's just one quote out of a very long and eminently readable piece.

"... here is the nail in the coffin for Gun Free Zones. Over the last fifty years, with only one single exception (Gabby Giffords), every single mass shooting event with more than four casualties has taken place in a place where guns were supposedly not allowed."

Go read the whole thingYou can't afford not to.  Thanks, Larry, for a hell of a piece of writing, and an important public service. You did good, brother.

# # #

Second only to Larry's article is an excellent piece by 'Kontra' titled 'Why Not Renew the 'Assault Weapons' Ban? Well, I’ll Tell You...'.  The author goes into detail about why the various elements of the previous assault weapons ban, and those proposed after the Newtown shooting, are essentially meaningless.  It's an important education in the facts of the matter, and I recommend it very highly.

# # #

Several articles highlight the essential hypocrisy of many responses to the Newtown tragedy.

  • Referring to President Obama's public weeping over the dead children of Newtown, David McElroy asks 'Where are Obama’s tears when he’s the one killing innocent children?'  He points out that the President has issued orders for drone strikes against alleged 'enemies' of the USA (who've not been charged, tried, or found guilty of any offense) that have killed '500 to 900' innocent civilians (including children), as well as those considered 'guilty'.
  • Karl Denninger describes 'Obama's Hypocrisy Problem On Guns'.  He points out:  "Up until all of these people in political office disband their police forces, their Secret Service details, throw down their own arms, armored cars, body armor and other defensive means of interdicting assault they have nothing -- not even a moral argument -- behind them in their demand that you disarm and become an intentional victim -- no matter who you are."
  • CenTexTim makes two excellent points.  First, the NRA's call for more armed officers in schools has been vilified by the media;  yet the same media supported a Justice Department program to place armed police in schools after the Columbine shootings in 1999.  Second, the media has been largely silent about the Obama administration's slashing of funding for school safety programs.  Media hypocrisy, anyone?
  • Roberta X points out:  "27 people, most of them children, are murdered in a picturesque little whitebread Connecticut town and the media and politicians are all over it, with plenty of emoting and shrill cries to 'do something'.  In Chicago, over 30 people, most of them young adults and most of them nonwhite, are murdered and it's 'a typical month'."

# # #

Rev. Donald Sensing brings us his Advent sermon after the Newtown shootings.  It's powerful stuff for those of us who are Christians.  Here's a very brief excerpt.

Researchers say that each week American children converse with their parents for about 40 minutes but watch television about 1,500 minutes. The average teenager spends nine hundred hours in school per year and fifteen hundred hours watching television. These hours do not include the time kids may spend listening to  heavy metal or “gangsta” rap, which glorifies killing cops and raping women, or playing computer games both violent and occultic, or watching violent movies on video or in theaters.

. . .

Whose voice are our kids listening to? The massacres at Sandy Hook and other schools didn't happen for no reason. We cannot pretend they are unconnected to our culture. We have to raise our voices as Christian disciples, calling to our children and our nation, offering voices of life, of hope, of peace. We have to raise our voices in judgment against death dealers who promote violence and breed despair, especially in our children.

Go read the whole thing.  Recommended.

# # #

Say Uncle points out that adding more gun control laws to the existing body of legislation won't do anything to prevent more such tragedies.

A 20 year-old had a couple of handguns (illegal). And, depending on the press report, had an assault weapon (illegal), automatic rifle (illegal), or machine gun (illegal). Shot his mom in the face (illegal). Stole his mom’s vehicle (illegal). Transported the gun in the vehicle (illegal) within 1,000 feet of a school (illegal). Carried it onto school property (illegal). Broke and entered (illegal). Carried a gun in a school (illegal). Discharged a firearm (illegal). Shot at people (illegal). Killed some people (illegal). Killed himself (not sure if illegal).

And I’m sure broke other laws I’m not aware of. But, you know, one more gun law ought to do it. Right?

He's right, of course . . . but too many aren't interested in facts - only in feelings.  More fools they.

# # #

The Blue Review describes itself as 'a journal of popular scholarship published by the Boise State University College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs'.  It's not the sort of Web site I'd normally choose to visit, but I was led to an outstanding blog article there by a woman whose son exhibits destructive mental tendencies not unlike those that appear to have driven the Newtown murderer.  She says simply 'I am Adam Lanza's mother'.

Right before we turned into his school parking lot, he said, “Look, Mom, I’m really sorry. Can I have video games back today?”

“No way,” I told him. “You cannot act the way you acted this morning and think you can get your electronic privileges back that quickly.”

His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of calculated rage. “Then I’m going to kill myself,” he said. “I’m going to jump out of this car right now and kill myself.”

That was it. After the knife incident, I told him that if he ever said those words again, I would take him straight to the mental hospital, no ifs, ands, or buts. I did not respond, except to pull the car into the opposite lane, turning left instead of right.

“Where are you taking me?” he said, suddenly worried. “Where are we going?”

“You know where we are going,” I replied.

“No! You can’t do that to me! You’re sending me to hell! You’re sending me straight to hell!”

I pulled up in front of the hospital, frantically waving for one of the clinicians who happened to be standing outside. “Call the police,” I said. “Hurry.”

Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and hitting. I hugged him close so he couldn’t escape from the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed his elbows into my rib cage. I’m still stronger than he is, but I won’t be for much longer.

The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork—“Were there any difficulties with... at what age did your child... were there any problems with... has your child ever experienced... does your child have...”

There's more at the linkVery important reading, IMHO, and highly recommended.  I'd like to thank Liza Long for having the courage to share so intimate and traumatic a burden with us.  Perhaps only by vicariously sharing her experiences can we understand what it's like to have to live with this problem.

# # #

Matthew of 'Straight Forward In A Crooked World' responds to an accusatory e-mail accusing him of having blood on his hands because he's a member of the NRA.

I own chainsaws, I am not to blame for the deforestation of the rain forests.

I own a car, I am not to blame for the drunk drivers of this world.

I hunt wild game, I am not blame for those who slaughter wild dolphins in Taiji.

More at the link.  He's right, of course - not that his accuser is likely to be mollified by facts . . .

# # #

My friend Matt G., who's a police officer, shares his thoughts on violence, including this one:

If guns are the problem, why is my life not steeped in violence? Even though I literally am dispatched to every call involving violence in my jurisdiction for half of every other day, I have seen very little in the way of gun violence in the last 12 years of service. I've never been shot at. I've never shot at anyone. I've never arrested anyone for intentionally shooting at another person (true story!). I've only a handful of times arrested people for pointing guns at others. This is in Texas, where private ownership of firearms is almost unrestricted...

More at the link.  Good stuff.

# # #

Blackfive makes some very important points concerning mental health and gun control.  Thought-provoking.

# # #

Sarah Hoyt brings her own school experience as a student and mother to the debate.

I remember the bad ideas in the wake of Columbine.  I’m afraid what they will be now.  School shootings aren’t that common, but they are, of course, horrible and attention grabbers.  And because the media amplifies them, they seem to be MORE common.

Which means people hungry for power love to use them to get the ability to pound all those square pegs into round holes, and to make all those goats into sheep.

It won’t help, but it will give them power.  And you see, in the end, that’s what it is.

More at the link.  Highly recommended reading.

# # #

Patrick, one of the contributors to Popehat, examines the First Amendment in the same terms that are currently being applied to the Second Amendment by those wanting to impose more gun control.  It's a very interesting and illuminating approach.  Recommended.

# # #

Borepatch points out that the logical result of calls for 'more police in schools' is an endless turning of the official screw.

We've seen this game before, played out by the TSA: terrorists take guns onto planes and so we have metal detectors.  Then they put bombs in suitcases and so all our luggage gets X-Ray'ed.  Then they take bombs in their shoes and we have to take our shoes off in security.  Then they use liquids and mothers can't take bottles of breast milk.

It's a stupid game and we should stop playing.  There literally is no end, either to the TSA's idiocy or to Wayne LaPierre's.  Actually I just lied - there is an end, and it's called a Police State.  No thanks.

More at the link.

# # #

Finally, although they're not blogs, I recommend two newspaper opinion pieces dealing with this tragedy.

Both articles are very sober, pertinent analyses.

# # #

That's all for this week.  More from the blogosphere in the New Year.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Getting in the mood for Christmas

This will help.

The performers are Blackmore's Night.  This is from their 2006 album Winter Carols.


This won't please the Israeli Air Force . . .

The ferociously effective Israeli Air force has developed an international reputation over many years for exploiting any and every weakness in an opponent's armory in order to accomplish its mission(s).  This includes jamming, spoofing and rendering useless enemy air defense systems and technology, most famously in recent years in Operation Orchard, the 2007 air strike that destroyed a North Korean-built nuclear reactor in Syria.  It's alleged that more recently, Israeli aircraft attacked a weapons convoy in the Sudan in 2009, and destroyed a weapons storage facility there in October this year.  However, that nation has few air defenses, so one assumes that massive electronic countermeasures weren't required for those operations.

I'm therefore sure that the Israeli Air Force is carefully studying a report of a new radar system that's allegedly impervious to jamming.  MIT's Technology Review reports:

Physicists have exploited the quantum properties of photons to create the first imaging system that is unjammable.

. . .

... their idea is to use polarised photons to detect and image objects. Reflected photons can of course be used to build up an image of the object. But an adversary could intercept these photons and resend them in a way that disguises the object’s shape or makes it look as if it is elsewhere.

However, such a process would always change the quantum properties of the photons such as their polarisation. And so it should always be possible to detect such interference. “In order to jam our imaging system, the object must disturb the delicate quantum state of the imaging photons, thus introducing statistical errors that reveal its activity,” say Malik and co.

That’s more or less exactly how quantum key distribution for cryptography works. The idea here is that any eavesdropper would change the quantum properties of the key and so reveal his or her presence. The only difference in the quantum imaging scenario is that the “message” is sent and received by the same person.

 Malik and co have tested their idea by bouncing photons off an aeroplane-shaped target and measuring the polarisation error rate in the return signal. Without any eavesdropping the system easily imaged the aeroplane.

But when an adversary intercepted the photons and modified them to send back an image of a bird, the interference was easy to spot, say Malik and co.

There's more at the link.  The full research paper on which the MIT report is based may be found here (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format), but don't bother trying to make sense of it unless you're of the genus eggheadus.

I'm very interested to read of this development.  I'd imagine, around about now, some Israeli scientists are being tasked to come up with a way to interfere with quantum-propertied photons and nullify this discovery.  Given the way Iran's been carrying on lately, perhaps Israel has already succeeded in converting Persian quantums into tantrums?


So much for the 5th Amendment!

Looks like our Congresscritters and Senators are trying to ride roughshod - yet again - over the Constitution.  Mother Jones reports:

In a closed-door negotiation, top Republican and Democratic lawmakers have killed a ban on detaining American citizens without trial.

The Senate approved the ban, a bipartisan effort led by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), as an amendment to the 2013 defense spending bill in a vote last month. But once the House and Senate met to negotiate the differences between their versions of the bill, the ban was scrapped.

There's more at the link.  Note, too, that unlike some conservatives might expect, it was a Democratic Party Senator who opposed this unconstitutional measure (which violates the due process clause of the 5th Amendment wholesale).  Another Democrat and two Republicans thought it was just peachy.

Every elected representative in Congress and the Senate must take an oath of office.  It reads:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Since each and every Congresscritter and Senator who has voted for and will vote for this measure is or will be in active violation of his or her oath of office, can we please impeach the whole bloody lot of them?


Friday, December 21, 2012

A musical start to the weekend

Courtesy of a reader's e-mail, here's 'a brief history of rock 'n roll' in the form of 100 famous guitar riffs, all run together into a single piece of music.  It's strangely fascinating.

I think the guitarist, Alex Chadwick, had a lot of fun with that. You can learn more here.


The worst Christmas gifts?

The Telegraph has a fun image gallery of the worst Christmas gifts of 2012.  Here are a couple to whet your appetite.

Do you have to blow it to get the soap out?

Seven of the ten 'grubs' contain a toffee filling . . . but three taste like tripe!
Reminds me of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans!

There are more at the link.  Fun viewing for us, but not such fun for the recipient, I guess!


Remembering the 'lost ones' this Christmas

Cal Thomas has a moving article about a missionary couple who are trying to help the prostitutes of Bangkok break out of what is all too often their literal enslavement.  Here's an excerpt.

Prostitution has been illegal in Thailand since 1960, but the Thailand Government Public Health Department estimates there are 75,000 prostitutes in the country. Some nongovernment organizations put the figure much higher. "Sexual tourists" come here, their visits set up by travel agents, as if they were booking people for a cruise or a trip to the beach. The newspapers constantly rail against corrupt officials who tolerate the sex trade and turn a blind eye to exploited women.

Into this den of iniquity have come Bonita and Roy Thompson, two Christian missionaries. Eight years ago they gave up careers as California educators to come to a place where they make less money and receive little notice.

Their payment comes in the lives of those girls they are able to save from a life of prostitution. Their ministry is called Home of New Beginnings (

At a Christmas party they give annually for the "bar girls," more than 200 prostitutes show up to play games like musical chairs and to hear a message from a former prostitute who tells her story of redemption, offering them a new life if they will only trust God.

A few respond. One is called "Nim," not her real name. Nim says she was abandoned by her mother and later sold by an opportunistic "auntie" to a couple who needed her to care for their aging parents. Nim says her work proved unsatisfactory and she was sold again to a bar where she was forced into prostitution.

When the Thompsons rescued her they took her to a doctor who estimated her age at 11 or 12. She had no formal schooling, but they tutored her and she is now in a regular school. Nim recently received a "character pin" from the oldest daughter of Thailand's king in recognition of her changed life and academic success.

The rescued girls live in housing run by the Thompsons. They receive an allowance that partially compensates them for lost earnings. Many send portions of their allowances to family, which they used to do with their income from prostitution.

"One of our girls," says Bonita, "is in her senior year at a university, studying chemical engineering. She is currently interning with a company that expects to hire her upon graduation. Another is in her senior year in textile design and has been selected by one of the top designers in Thailand to work with him on a project."

There's more at the link.

This Christmas, let's remember that millions of people are literally enslaved - bought and sold as chattels, forced into prostitution, exploited in sweatshops and factories.  For them, Christmas Day is just another to endure, rather than a special celebration.

Spare a thought and a prayer for them, if you would . . . and perhaps something more concrete, if you know a charity you trust to help them.  I recommend the Salvation Army from personal experience.  Your help may make this a merrier Christmas for someone.


An excellent perspective on school security

I'm not exactly a cheerleader for the news media's accuracy, impartiality and objectivity, but I have to make an exception for this ABC News Nightline segment on school security.  It's very 'fair and balanced' - in fact, Fox News, which (in)famously uses that slogan, could learn some lessons from this report.  It's not long, and well worth watching.

Full marks to Nightline for some very good reporting.  I wish the same objectivity and fairness had been displayed by the rest of the news media over the Connecticut school shootings . . .


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Doofus Of The Day #669

Today's winner comes from Australia.  A tip o' the hat to reader Snoggeramus for sending me the link.

An employee on his first day of work inadvertently contributed to a superior having his fingers chopped off.

. . .

The supervisor, who had almost 20 years' experience in the workplace, was a safety and health representative and regularly trained new employees.

Despite the supervisor's awareness of instructions for the use of the machine, he raised the machine's finger guards and reached in with bare hands to dislodge a piece of metal that had become wedged.

As a result of a misunderstanding between the supervisor and the worker being trained, the worker depressed the foot pedal while the supervisor's hand was in the press.

The ram came down, trapping the supervisor's right hand and severing his index and middle fingers.

There's more at the link.

Despite how it might first appear, the award doesn't go to the man who actually did the cutting;  it goes to the supervisor, who put himself at risk despite knowing better!  Talk about asking for trouble . . .


A noteworthy retirement

It seems amazing to find a modern First World air force still flying a biplane . . . but until December 14th, the Polish Air Force was still operating the Antonov An-2 utility aircraft.  It had done so since 1951.

The Antonovs were finally retired at a ceremony attended by the commanding officer of Poland's Air Force, Lieutenant-General Lech Majewski.

However, the An-2 soldiers on elsewhere.  The Russian, Chinese and North Korean air forces still operate it, and there may be others.  Despite the fact that we live in an age of supersonic stealthy jets,  the military utility of fabric-covered twin-winged prop-jobs is not yet over.  I suspect many World War I fliers are looking down and nodding in amused approval . . .


Washington is fiddling while America burns

Clearly, President Obama, Congress and the Senate have been imbibing far too much of the post-election spirit(s) . . . either that, or they've been taking lessons from the late, unlamented Emperor Nero.  They're squabbling and pointing fingers over the 'fiscal cliff', sequestration, taxes, and blame - but not one of them are saying a single word about the true magnitude of the problem, or telling Americans how perilously close we are to economic collapse.

The facts are stark, inescapable, and speak for themselves.  We've looked at them several times before in these pages.  For tonight's discussion, I'll limit myself to just one statement of the problem:  an article that we've referenced before, from Bloomberg last August.

The fiscal gap is the present value difference between projected future spending and revenue. It captures all government liabilities, whether they are official obligations to service Treasury bonds or unofficial commitments, such as paying for food stamps or buying drones.

. . .

The U.S. fiscal gap, calculated (by us) using the Congressional Budget Office’s realistic long-term budget forecast -- the Alternative Fiscal Scenario -- is now $222 trillion. Last year, it was $211 trillion. The $11 trillion difference -- this year’s true federal deficit -- is 10 times larger than the official deficit and roughly as large as the entire stock of official debt in public hands.

. . .

Part of the fiscal gap’s growth reflects changes in policy, such as the Bush and Obama tax cuts, the introduction of Medicare Part D, and the expansion of defense spending. Part reflects “natural” growth of existing programs, including growth in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates. And part reflects the demographic time bomb U.S. politicians are blithely ignoring.

. . .

Closing the gap using taxes requires an immediate and permanent 64 percent increase in all federal taxes. Alternatively, the U.S. needs to cut, immediately and permanently, all federal purchases and transfer payments, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, by 40 percent.

There's more at the link.  Bold print is my emphasis.  The article is essential reading, IMHO.

Raising taxes, about which President Obama goes on and on ad nauseam, won't - can't - solve the problem, Chris Cox and Bill Archer made this clear last month in the Wall Street Journal.

When the accrued expenses of the government's entitlement programs are counted, it becomes clear that to collect enough tax revenue just to avoid going deeper into debt would require over $8 trillion in tax collections annually. That is the total of the average annual accrued liabilities of just the two largest entitlement programs, plus the annual cash deficit.

Nothing like that $8 trillion amount is available for the IRS to target. According to the most recent tax data, all individuals filing tax returns in America and earning more than $66,193 per year have a total adjusted gross income of $5.1 trillion. In 2006, when corporate taxable income peaked before the recession, all corporations in the U.S. had total income for tax purposes of $1.6 trillion. That comes to $6.7 trillion available to tax from these individuals and corporations under existing tax laws.

In short, if the government confiscated the entire adjusted gross income of these American taxpayers, plus all of the corporate taxable income in the year before the recession, it wouldn't be nearly enough to fund the over $8 trillion per year in the growth of U.S. liabilities. Some public officials and pundits claim we can dig our way out through tax increases on upper-income earners, or even all taxpayers. In reality, that would amount to bailing out the Pacific Ocean with a teaspoon. Only by addressing these unsustainable spending commitments can the nation's debt and deficit problems be solved.

Again, more at the link;  and again, bold print is my emphasis.

The real issue - one that few politicians are prepared to tackle head-on for fear of endangering their own re-election - is spending.  As John Stossel points out:

Ludicrous, irresponsible spending is why we're in trouble. As columnist Ron Hart points out, Bill Clinton's balanced budget spent $1.7 trillion. "Adjusted for inflation," he writes, "our federal government would (have) a $200 billion surplus. But instead of increasing government spending in line with normal inflation, under Bush and Obama we are spending $3.8 trillion today. Democrats, who believe we have a 'revenue' problem instead of a 'spending' problem, must also think they have a bartender problem, not a drinking problem."

The media obsess about tax rates, but spending is more important. As Milton Friedman taught us, spending is a far more accurate gauge of the government burden. If government spends a dollar, that dollar is taxed away from someone. If it's borrowed, it's removed from productive use, setting the stage for higher taxes later. If the government prints more dollars to fund spending, our purchasing power falls. Transferring purchasing power from the people to the government via inflation is a form of taxation.

If Republicans and Democrats reach a deal, the tax increases will be real -- but spending "cuts" probably illusions. If they actually happen, they will only be reductions in already planned increases. The Wall Street Journal notes that when the two parties talk about cutting spending by $4 trillion over a decade, "those numbers have no real meaning because they are conjured in the wilderness of mirrors that is the federal budget process. Since 1974, Capitol Hill's 'baseline' has automatically increased spending every year according to Congressional Budget Office projections ... . Tax and spending changes are then measured off that inflated baseline."

Given our growing debt, can't they even slow the growth of government to the rate of inflation? Or inflation plus 1 percent? Or even inflation plus 2 percent? That might balance the budget within a decade.

But the spenders won't even give me that. They want more. Always more.

More at the link.

I think one can probably count on one's fingers and thumbs the politicians in Congress and the Senate who understand the size, scope and scale of the problem, and are willing to take the pruning shears to the national budget to fix it.  Unfortunately, that makes them rather less than 2% of our elected representatives in Washington D.C.  There are too few of them to influence the thundering herd of trough-feeding, pork-addicted, self-interested spendthrifts who run things there.

I can't put it more plainly than this:


It cannot be otherwise any longer.  The debt has grown too large to be paid.  Either we must repudiate the debt, which will destroy the 'full faith and credit' of the United States;  or we must deliberately inflate our currency, so that we pay off these unpayable trillions of 'old-dollar' debt with inflated, almost worthless 'new-dollars'.  This will not technically amount to a default . . . but try telling that to creditors who are paid off with worthless currency!  One or the other, or both, of these solutions is inevitable;  and either or both of them will end up destroying our economy as it presently exists.

We face inevitable collapse.  It may not happen immediately, or even in the short term:  the Fed is creating tens of billions of dollars every month out of thin air, with nothing of any value backing it, in a desperate attempt to postpone the inevitable.  However, mathematics is inexorable, and facts remain facts no matter how often, or how long, one refuses to look at them.  We're going down, folks;  and when we do, the rest of the industrialized world is going down with us.  It's going to take at least a generation, maybe longer, to recover from this crash.

And all because the feckless politicians in Washington (and, to be fair, those in other First World capitals as well) refuse to face facts and do what's necessary.

When it happens, those same politicians will come back to their constituencies and try to explain that it's all someone else's fault, they had nothing to do with it, and voters should re-elect them so that they can fix it.  When they do, I expect the sales of tar, feathers and rails to greatly increase - at least, I hope they will!  (If their constituents are really mad, there's always the next step, which for obvious reasons I'll leave to their and your imagination.)


The unluckiest man in the world?

Yes, I know this is an advertisement for a soda, but it still made me laugh out loud.

A tip o' the hat to reader Snoggeramus for forwarding the link.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

More high-speed motorcycle action

I hope you're not getting bored with the series of videos I've been putting up about the Isle of Man TT race this year, but I find them fascinating.  Here's another I just found dealing with this year's race.  It gives me cold shivers to watch the chances these idiots racers take!


Guess where the cocktail came from?

I'd always believed the cocktail to be a uniquely American invention, dating back a couple of centuries.  However, according to the Telegraph, that's not the case.

Until recently, the earliest-known use of the word "cocktail" in print that referenced drink was from 1806 in an upstate New York newspaper. Then, in 2005, it was discovered in a Vermont newspaper from 1803. In 2010 we found the word used in the March 20, 1798, edition of The Morning Post and Gazetteer, a long-defunct London newspaper. The paper had reported on March 16 that the landlord of the Axe & Gate tavern at the corner of Downing and Whitehall, on winning a share of a lottery, returned to his establishment and erased his regulars’ tabs with a mop “in a transport of joy”. Four days later the paper ran a satirical article listing who owed for what drinks in the heart of British politics. A certain Mr Rose (while writing letters upon the reform of public offices) owed for “gin and bitters”. Another owed for 35 nips of “glue”, “commonly called Burton ale, to make the members of the neutrality stick together”.

Toward the bottom, William Pitt the younger owed for “L’huile de Venus”, “perfait [sic] amour”, and a less French drink: "'cock-tail' (vulgarly called ginger)."

Exactly what this implied is open to conjecture. The most common use of the term “cocktail” at the time was in reference to a horse with its tail cut short to indicate it was of mixed breed. One colic remedy found in veterinary manuals from the period blended water, oats, gin and ginger.

Gingering was a technique employed by horse traders to fetch higher prices for their cocktails. A horse with a spring in its step, wide-open eyes and, most importantly, tail held high would sell for more. A well-placed thumb of peeled ginger produced the desired effect, at least until the horse was sold. Considering Pitt had recently doubled the price of the paper with a tax (the masthead read "price 3d, taxed by Mr. Pitt 3d, total 6d.") the newspaper’s editor could have been suggesting either one.

. . .

In 1869, the first British book containing cocktail recipes was published: William Terrington's Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks. Reaching back to that first use of the word cocktail, his first recipe was for a Gin Cocktail made with brandy or gin, ginger syrup, aromatic bitters, and a splash of water.

There's more at the link.

I'm not too sure I'm comfortable with a link between horses and cocktails.  After all, there's a well-known saying that weak, watery beer should be 'poured back into the horse'.  If they start doing the same with cocktails, I'm outta here!