Wednesday, March 20, 2019

"Seattle is dying"

That's the title of an hour-long video special report from KOMO in Seattle.  The station's representative writes:

This show, that we've been working on for several months now, is really the third in a kind of trilogy.

The first was called "There But For the Grace of God..." It explored homelessness from the inside out in 2016.

The second was called, "Demon at the Door." It was about the hellish existence of heroin addiction.

This one is about everyone else.It's about citizens who don't feel safe taking their families into downtown Seattle. It's about parents who won't take their children into the public parks they pay for. It's about filth and degradation all around us. And theft and crime. It's about people who don't feel protected anymore, who don't feel like their voices are being heard.

There's more at the link.

You'll find the first two special reports at the links above.  Here's the latest, third and final program in the series.  It's an hour long, but it's well worth your time - because every city dominated by the hard-left, progressive, socialist wing of US politics is going to end up this way or even worse.  If you don't believe me, do your own internet searches about Portland, OR or San Francisco, CA.  You'll find Seattle has plenty of company.

That's sickening.  All those who helped build Seattle, and who stayed there because of what it was, have been betrayed.  There's no other way to describe it.  The question is, do they have the will to do something about it?  Or will they simply allow the tide of inept, incompetent, glorified socialist progressive dogma to roll over them and submerge them entirely?

I wish I could be more sure that they'll give the right answer to that question . . .


A breath of fresh air (NOT!)

Fellow blogger aepilotjim forwarded a Facebook link to Miss D. and myself last night.  There, we found this:

At first I was sure this was some sort of Internet hoax.  Surely no-one could be as stupid as that?  Lo and behold, an Internet search on "fart rape" soon proved that it was no hoax, as this 2013 report shows.

Top feminist academics that have respectable diverse doctorates from medieval art, 6th century English to Women’s Studies gathered at the University of Toronto meeting center to discuss if human flatulence could be sexist.

Ashleigh Ingle a proud feminist and an anarchist argued that because of patriarchal gender norms women were not allowed to release gas in public because of men’s unreal expectations of women to be clean and feminine. Furthermore she articulated that if a woman was to fart in the presence of a man and the man responded by farting louder than the woman, than that would be rape.

. . .

[The] twitter hash tag #FartRape has started to trend as women are taking control of their own bodies by naming and shaming men guilty of fart rape ... But Ingle argues that it simply isn’t enough, “Don’t tell women to fart louder tell men not to fart so loud” This is clear victim blaming and government should pass laws to make male farts above a certain decibel illegal to make human flatulence equal and not discriminate against women.

Science advocates have argued that because of sexual dimorphism men are larger, need a higher protein intake and thus can relieve more flatulence, but the speakers at the conference were adamant that it was a socially constructed gender norm that oppressed women to the point that they physically do not release equal amounts of gas as men.

There's more at the link.  The comments are also worth reading.

Clearly, it's bizarro-world in feminist circles.  However, the brouhaha appears to have aroused more amusement than hot air (you should pardon the expression).  In another article, I found my favorite comment on the matter.

Sorry all, I just can't stop laughing. I once ate two chili-cheese hot dogs and raped everyone at Sea World.

Perhaps I should have titled this blog post "Air on the G-string"? (With apologies to Bach and Wilhelmj, of course!)


Would somebody please invent a laxative for kidney stones?

I'm very fed up with my body at the moment.

As regular readers will know, I developed my first kidney stone (a milestone I wish I'd never experienced!) back in 2015.  I had two procedures that year, lithotripsy followed by an ureteroscopy, to get rid of it.  It wasn't fun, to put it mildly.  Thereafter, I had a hiatus for a couple of years, but in 2017 another kidney stone formed.  The local urologist was (in my opinion) very unprofessional in his approach, so I refused to proceed with treatment from him.  Fortunately, the problem eased off on its own within a week or two, presumably the result of the stone passing naturally.

Over the past year or so, I've passed three more kidney stones au naturel, as it were.  The pain's been severe enough to be a problem, but not crippling, so they were probably either small stones or fragments off a larger one.  However, about two months ago I was hit with another serious bout of pain, and had to ask my local health care provider to schedule an appointment with a specialist.  I wasn't prepared to trust the local urologist after my earlier experience, so I was referred to UT Southwestern in Dallas, where a very professional professor (there's a nice play on words!) checked me out.  We'd scheduled an ureteroscopy for next week.  However, my body, in a fit of independence, decided to act sooner.  After hanging on to the stone like grim death for weeks, it finally let go of it over the weekend.  My pain levels are now subsiding, and I'm beginning to feel like a human being again.

My question is:  why can't someone invent some sort of laxative for kidney stones?  If we could arrange to pass them at the first sign of trouble, think of how much pain and misery would be saved!  I'm getting fed up with my body doing its own thing and expecting me to put up with it.  On the other hand, I'm getting older, and I'm told I must expect more of that sort of thing as parts begin to wear out.

I think I need an internal organ mechanic.  A kidney rebore, valve grind and top end overhaul sounds like a very good idea right now!


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"To build the cities of the future, we must get out of our cars"

That's the title of a long and thought-provoking article at National Geographic.  The problem with the article, as I see it, is that it prescribes to city-dwellers what they need, what they should want, whether or not they really want it.  It relies on official policy rather than public demand.  Here's a brief excerpt to illustrate my point.

“The problem with urban environments that are auto oriented,” [Calthorpe] said, as we wound our way toward the Bay Bridge, “is that if there’s no choice, if the only way to get around is in a car, lo and behold, people are going to use cars too much. Too much for the climate, too much for people’s pocketbooks, too much for the community in terms of congestion, too much for people’s time. I mean, every way you measure it, it has a negative—no walking is a prescription for obesity. Air quality feeds into respiratory illnesses.”

In Calthorpe’s utopia, in China or America or elsewhere, cities would stop expanding so voraciously, paving over the nature around them; instead they’d find better ways of letting nature into their cores, where it can touch people. They’d grow in dense clusters and small, walkable blocks around a web of rapid transit. These cities of the future would mix things up again: They’d no longer segregate work from home and shopping, as sprawl does now, forcing people into cars to navigate all three; they’d no longer segregate rich from poor, old from young, and white from black, as sprawl does, especially in the United States. Driving less, paving less, city dwellers would heat the air and the planet around them less. That would slow the climate change that threatens, in this century, to make some cities unlivable.

To do all this, in Calthorpe’s view, you don’t really need architectural eye candy or Jetsons technology—although a bit of that can help. You need above all to fix the mistakes and misconceptions of the recent past.

. . .

In 2016 the [Chinese] Communist Party Central Committee and the State Council, the highest organs of the state, issued a decree: From now on Chinese cities were to preserve farmland and their own heritage; have smaller, unfenced blocks and narrower, pedestrian-friendly streets; develop around public transit; and so on. In 2017 the guidelines were translated into a manual for Chinese planners called Emerald Cities. Calthorpe Associates wrote most of it.

There's more at the link.

You see?  Calthorpe's prescription might be made to work in China, where the state controls everything and private citizens have little or no choice in the matter.  However, we live in the United States, where individuals assert their freedom and independence from authority.  How are you going to persuade them to give up that freedom and independence, and submit to greater regimentation of society by the "experts"?  Aren't "experts" the ones who got us into our present urban sprawl mess in the first place?

I distrust any proposal that requires me to surrender my individual liberties, freedoms, rights, etc. in the name of solving society's problems.  America was built around the individual, not the group.  This sort of article focuses almost exclusively on the group, the community as a whole, and expects its individual members to co-operate.  What if they don't want to?  What if some of them prefer a different approach?  Under such plans, they lose.  They'll be forced to comply, whether they want to or not, because their alternatives will be legislated or regulated out of existence.  That's the road that leads to totalitarianism - Big Brother writ large.

I highly recommend reading the article in full, because it makes a very good case for solutions to our present urban problems:  but I also recommend finding alternatives to the solutions it proposes, ones that safeguard our freedoms as well as improving our quality of life.


This bird is the (last) word!

I was mind-boggled to read about a recently retired racing pigeon.

A champion pigeon has been sold for a record €1.25m ($1.42m; £1.07m).

Auction house Pipa called Armando the "best Belgian long-distance pigeon of all time". He's also been dubbed the "Lewis Hamilton of pigeons".

Before this sale, the record was €376,000 (£321,800). However, Pipa says this was beaten within a day of Armando being put up for bids.

The champ, who turns five this year, is now enjoying his retirement and has already fathered a number of chicks.

There's more at the link.

$1.42 million for something that I'm used to thinking of as the source of splatters on my car's paintwork and windshield?  Verily, the mind doth boggle . . .

I hope they keep him safely in Belgium, or somewhere similar.  When dove season opens up in the South, parts of this state sound rather like they're filled with entire batteries of anti-aircraft artillery, going off for hours every day.  I suspect Pipa might become the filling in the world's most expensive pigeon pie!

Oh, well.  In Pipa's honor, what else can I do but play this?


New Zealand, ethics, morality, and reality

When I posted about last week's massacre of Muslims in New Zealand, I wasn't surprised - saddened, yes, but not surprised - to read commenters spouting the usual anti-Muslim drivel.  All over the Internet, there are those pointing fingers, comparing the lack of publicity accorded by the mainstream media to Muslim massacres of Christians to the overwhelming publicity given to the Christchurch shootings - as if two wrongs could somehow make one of them right.  Essentially, they're blaming Islam for what happened to Muslims in Christchurch.  It's been a sickening display, and I'm not the only person who's felt that way.  Here's another blogger's opinion - only one of many I could cite.  (Read the comments there, too, if you can stomach some of them.)

Let me say at once that I have no tolerance for terrorism at all.  I've spent many years of my life fighting it, in many forms, including armed conflict with terrorists (as those of you who've been reading here for a while will know;  if you haven't, try this post for a sample, and follow some of the links provided there).  As far as I'm concerned, no matter what its origin or motivation or expression, terrorism is a crime against humanity, and terrorists have no place in our society.  I've had the opportunity to see to it that some of them didn't, and I have no regrets about that whatsoever.

The trouble is, many of those who have a knee-jerk reaction against Islam in general, and Muslims in particular, have little or no idea what they're talking about.  They've been fed a diet of extremist commentary about Islam, and they parrot off the propaganda they've absorbed like automatons.  If you try to engage them in reasoned discussion, you can't - they simply duck and dive off at a tangent, refusing to actually engage, instead finding new propaganda points to spout.  The New Zealand tragedy has been no exception.

"Fifty Muslims have been killed in New Zealand by a terrorist."

"Well, they shouldn't have been there.  They should go back to their own countries instead of invading ours."

"What's that got to do with fifty of them being murdered?"

"If they hadn't been there, they wouldn't have been murdered!"

"Can't you feel any sorrow or compassion at all for the victims?"

"No, because it's their own fault they were victims.  They shouldn't have been there. Besides, what about all the Christians killed by Muslims all around the world?  Why don't the media ever report those?"

"They do report them.  It's just that most people don't bother to read or watch world news reports - they stay with local news, and read only those internet sources that align with their own interests."

"No, they don't report them!  What about this, or that, or the other incident?"

"I can show you mainstream media reports about all of them."

"Well, those are the exceptions that prove the rule!"

And so on, and so on, ad nauseam.  The same web sites keep churning out their propaganda, and the same idiots keep absorbing it and prattling it as if it were Gospel truth.  None - or, at least, very few - of them have ever actually lived among Muslims, and gotten to know them as individuals.  Those who claim to have done so have often been expatriate workers in Muslim countries, where they lived in ghettos that provided little or no contact with local people except as servants or employees.  That's not enough to understand them.  Some, particularly returned servicemen from "the sandbox", will speak dismissively, even contemptuously, of Middle Eastern and Islamic culture (or what they perceive as the lack thereof).  When I wore uniform, and some people were trying to kill me, I did the same about them and their culture.  It seems to go with the territory when one's fighting a war.  It takes a certain amount of distance (not to mention time) to recover one's perspective.

I'd like to propose a moral and ethical approach to such atrocities that I think can be valid for almost everybody, of any religion or none, of any philosophy of life or none.  It's based on the Golden Rule, or ethic of reciprocity, which is found in every major religion and philosophy in one form or another.  Christians have for centuries paraphrased it as "Do to others as you would have them do to you".  The beauty of this approach is that it governs not just how we act, but also how we react.  If you don't want someone to do something to you, don't do it to others.  If you would react negatively if something was done to you, you should react negatively when it's done to others.  It doesn't matter whether you like them or not, whether you agree with them or not, whether you want them in your country or not.

That puts the New Zealand mosque massacre into perspective.  If it's wrong to shoot innocent Christians, or Westerners, or whatever, then it's automatically also wrong to shoot innocent Muslims.  If one reacts to the murder of members of one group with anger, disgust and vengeful fury, one should feel the same way about the murder of members of another group.  It's a universal standard, one that applies equally to everyone in every situation.  It doesn't give us a cop-out, allowing us to say, "Well, it's their fault it happened to them, because they shouldn't have been there".  No.  If it shouldn't happen to us, it shouldn't happen to them, either.  Forget all the qualifications and excuses and weasel words.  If something is good, it's universally good.  If it's bad, or wrong, or evil, that's all she wrote, across the board.  Simple as that.

The Golden Rule also forces us to examine our own conduct and attitudes.  Everything really does begin with us.  What do I want others to do to me, or not do to me?  Why?  Am I doing them, or not doing them, to others in my own attitudes and actions every day?  If I am/am not, what do I need to change to get to where I need to be?  This does not suggest that we need to become "willing victims", or roll over and play dead, in response to violence directed against us.  It means that we need to find balance, find our own roots, so that we can respond (and, if necessary, defend ourselves) with confidence that we're doing the right thing.  (That's very much the Christian approach, too, for those who espouse that faith.)

The fundamental element in all this is that morality and ethics begin with us - each of us, as individuals.  If we allow others to think for us, or react on our behalf, without considering whether or not they have the right to do so, or are right in their approach . . . we make ourselves complicit in their error.  If we condemn an action when it's done to us, but condone it or make excuses for it when it's done to others, we expose our own shortsightedness and lack of balance.

Animals just react.  Human beings think first.  That's what distinguishes us from animals.  If we abdicate that right, and that responsibility, heaven help us all.


Monday, March 18, 2019

Tactical helicopters and tight landing zones, revisited

Some months ago I looked at Bell's V-280 Valor entry into the US Army's Future Vertical Lift competition.  I noted:

When you consider safe separation distances in a landing zone, combined with the probability of having to perform insertions and extractions in confined terrain (natural or man-made - i.e. urban), I'm not at all sure how well the V-280 design will perform, simply because it's so big.  It may be forced to land and take off in more open spaces, further away from the action.  That will force troops to march further to where they're needed, or fight their way back to their helicopters for extraction.  That'll add time and, probably, casualties to the operation - and that can't be a good thing.

. . .

Sikorsky-Boeing's SB-1 Defiant proposal for the FVL program, on the other hand, has a similar footprint to conventional helicopters, despite being much faster.  It's not flying yet, but here's a promotional video from Sikorsky-Boeing, showing what it will look like.  Note that they're showing it operating in a confined urban environment - perhaps deliberately, to emphasize that it'll be compact enough to be able to work there.

There's more at the link, including videos and other images.

I was reminded of that earlier article when I came across this video clip at The Aviationist.  It shows helicopters from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, exercising in the streets of Los Angeles.  Note the very tight landing zones used by the helicopters.  Even the small MH-6 Little Bird helicopters must require very careful handling to get in and out of such spaces, much less the larger Blackhawks (both types are shown in the video).

The video drives home my earlier concerns.  Landing on streets like that, with wires, tree branches, etc. obstructing access,  is difficult enough even in a small helicopter.  The SB-1 Defiant, with its coaxial main rotor system, should be able to get into far more compact landing zones than the V-280 Valor (as described in the earlier article).  From my own experience with helicopters as a passenger "up the sharp end", I'd say that's a supremely important consideration;  yet the tilt-rotor V-280 is considered a viable contender in the competition.

What say my military and veteran readers?  Am I putting too much emphasis on this tactical consideration, rather than other elements of the competition?  Are there other factors that make the size and accessibility of the landing zone a less important requirement?


An example of American Socialism?

Larry Lambert startled me with this comparison.

If you want to see how socialism works under the American Government, the best place to begin is an Indian reservation. Start with one that doesn't have a massive casino or oil wells. The medical care is on par with what you could expect in almost any clinic in Africa and the lifestyle as people wait for their 'free' government allotment is legendary.

There's more at the link.

Larry also linked to this article for supporting evidence.

Of the top 100 poorest counties in the US, four of the Top 5 and ten of the Top 20 are on indian reservations. In all, 24 counties with high Indian populations made the Top 100 Poorest Counties list based on the 2000 Census.

Living conditions on many Indian reservations are so poor that they are comparable to conditions in Third World countries.

Again, more at the link.

I've never visited a Native American reservation (although I must have driven through many of them in Oklahoma as I sped along I-40 east- or westbound).  I have no personal experience of conditions there.  However, if this is true, I'd love to know why it's true.  Is it some sort of tribal/group or individual Native American problem?  Is it caused by government mismanagement?  Is it anything else, or a combination of several factors?  I have no idea.

I'd like to hear from readers who know more than I.  What caused this, and what (if anything) can be done about it?


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday morning music

Yesterday I came across this track over at IOTWReport.  I'd never heard of David Bromberg:  and, after reading a little about him, I'm fascinated to see a New York Jewish musician and his eclectic band playing bluegrass/southern/whatever so well.  I'm definitely going to have to find more of his music, of which YouTube has a fair selection.

I've already picked up on these interesting tracks, illustrating the wide variety of styles he performs.

It's always fun discovering a new group or performer.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Lucky to be alive

A motorist in Modesto, California is very lucky to be alive after his/her Honda went between a truck and trailer that had overturned.  The towbar flattened the passenger compartment of the car like it was so much tinfoil.  California's Highway Patrol police posted this picture (click it for a larger view):

You can see the truck and trailer, and the towbar, in the background.  Amazingly, there were no serious injuries.

Methinks the Honda driver owes his/her guardian angel a beer!


A surprising relic from World War II

I was surprised to learn that a prototype bridge constructed during World War II is still standing - the oldest example of its type in the world.

Donald Bailey designed his world-famous Bailey Bridge in 1940, using the back of an envelope for the initial sketch.  After development during 1941, it entered service during 1942.  Millions of linear feet of bridge structure were manufactured in the UK, Canada and the USA during the war.  It remains such a simple, effective, easy-to-use design, even compared to more recent developments, that the Bailey bridge is still widely used to this day (and a modernized version is still in production).  General Eisenhower called it "One of the three pieces of equipment that most contributed to our victory in Festung Europa."  (You can read a 1945 article about the effectiveness of the bridge here, and see many photographs of wartime bridges - some of them spectacularly large and/or long - in this article.)

It all started with a prototype installation across Mother Sillers Channel at Stanpit Marsh in southern England in 1940.  That first-ever Bailey Bridge is still standing.  Here's a video description of it, and the development of the bridge.  (Don't let the detour into Middle Eastern history fool you - it's all relevant to the story.)

I have warm fuzzy feelings about the Bailey Bridge, because I drove over several of them in South Africa's Border War operational area.  They were the standard portable bridge used by SA engineers.  They were very effective, and got us into (and out of) our combat zones with no trouble.

I'm pleased to know that the original Bailey Bridge is still standing, and still in use, 79 years after it was erected.  I think that somewhere, Sir Donald Bailey (knighted for his wartime efforts) is smiling down on it with fond affection.