Thursday, February 22, 2018

It's a dripping world out there


Tuesday's "blue norther", as they call such weather events in northern Texas, left a thick layer of frozen sleet on the ground, and all over local roads.  Driving was very tricky for a while, and most of us stayed firmly at home.

Today, things are warming up (well, to freezing point at least, and hopefully a few degrees above that by this afternoon).  Melting ice is dripping from the eaves of the roof, and the road outside is slush rather than ice.  Hopefully driving will be back to normal by tomorrow.  I have to go out later, but I'm hoping to wait until most of the slush has been pushed off the roads by other traffic.

For those of you caught in this storm, you have my sympathy.  Be careful out there.

Peter

Rockets, space and men: Moonbat Central strikes (out) again


Logic, rational thought and reasoning ability are conspicuous by their absence in this screed.

Frittering away your life savings on a red sports car is so last century. Instead, today’s man who is grappling with the limitations of his mortality spends $90 million on a rocket to launch a $100,000 electric car, helmed by a robot by the name of “Starman,” into space.

. . .

These men ... are not only heavily invested in who can get their rocket into space first, but in colonizing Mars. The desire to colonize — to have unquestioned, unchallenged and automatic access to something, to any type of body, and to use it at will — is a patriarchal one. Indeed, there is no ethical consideration among these billionaires about whether this should be done; rather, the conversation is when it will be done. Because, in the eyes of these intrepid explorers, this is the only way to save humanity.

It is the same instinctual and cultural force that teaches men that everything — and everyone — in their line of vision is theirs for the taking. You know, just like walking up to a woman and grabbing her by the pussy.

It’s there, so just grab it because you can.

The desire to colonize — to have unquestioned, unchallenged and automatic access to something — is a patriarchal one.

. . .

... the impulse to colonize — to colonize lands, to colonize peoples, and, now that we may soon be technologically capable of doing so, colonizing space — has its origins in gendered power structures. Entitlement to power, control, domination and ownership. The presumed right to use and abuse something and then walk away to conquer and colonize something new.

. . .

The raping and pillaging of the Earth, and the environmental chaos that doing so has unleashed, are integral to the process of colonization. And the connection of the treatment of Mother Earth to women is more than symbolic: Study after study has shown that climate change globally affects women more than men ... While men compete over whose rocket is the biggest, women are fighting to stay alive against assaults on their personhood — and their planet.

There's more at the link.

I'm sure it will come as no surprise to learn that the author is "the Editorial and Communications Manager of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University".  Where else would one find inspiration for such drivel?
  • "Colonization as patriarchy" - WTF???  From its earliest days, colonization was all about obtaining resources for the colonial power, not about patriarchy.  It was (and probably will always be) commercial, rather than societal or cultural, in nature.
  • "No ethical consideration" - well, in commercial terms, generally, yes.  In other ways, no.  Don't forget, a primary impulse to the age of colonization was to spread the Christian gospel to the "heathen".  (They may not have wanted it to be spread to them, of course, but nobody asked their opinion.)
  • The origin of colonization was in "gendered power structures"?  Only because society happened to be set up that way at the time - and remember, women in powerful positions (Elizabeth I of England, and before her Isabella I of Castile - sponsor of Christopher Columbus - and others) supported colonization just as strongly.  I doubt whether the gender of those in power had much to do with colonization for economic and/or religious purposes.
  • Equating colonization with sexual assault?  That's pushing it way beyond any rational connection that I can see.  Same goes for climate change and colonization.  This author is making connections between entirely unrelated concepts, and offering no solid, factual, verifiable evidence for doing so.  It's argument from emotion rather than reality.

One wishes that authors such as this would take a couple of courses in Logic.  It's extremely helpful when formulating arguments for or against anything, because it forces one to be rational in one's approach - something that's sadly lacking in the above diatribe.  The author really needs a better understanding of logical fallacies before setting out to argue her case.  Her lack of it shows.

Peter

The moral evil of gun-grabbers


Yes, I'm saying that many (perhaps most) of those seeking to destroy the Second Amendment and confiscate firearms are morally evil.  Why?  Because they're deliberately propagating lies, and promoting an agenda that cannot possibly prevent evil acts such as the Parkland school shooting, while inflicting a different evil on other innocent people.

I've covered the basic arguments before, so I won't waste time doing that again.  Please read the article at that link for more details.  Not only do the anti-gunners refuse to address those points, they actively avoid doing so.  They know that if they do, it'll expose the hollowness of their position, which is not based on logic or fact, but upon emotion and feeling.  CNN's ruthless and cynical exploitation of teenagers to get their point across is a classic example of that.  "Never mind the facts - how do you feel about it?"  I think the best response to that came from a Facebook comment quoted by John Richardson:

Just last week, Congress was calling on Tide to change the design of the Pods so teenagers would stop eating them. This week, teenagers should determine gun policy.

Word.

Now we have members of the mainstream media actually applying pressure to commercial businesses to implement their anti-gun agenda, since they can't persuade lawmakers to do it.  The New York Times opines:

What if the finance industry — credit card companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express; credit card processors like First Data; and banks like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — were to effectively set new rules for the sales of guns in America?

Collectively, they have more leverage over the gun industry than any lawmaker. And it wouldn’t be hard for them to take a stand.

. . .

For example, Visa, which published a 71-page paper in 2016 espousing its “corporate responsibility,” could easily change its terms of service to say that it won’t do business with retailers that sell assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, which make semiautomatic rifles fire faster ... If Mastercard were to do the same, assault weapons would be eliminated from virtually every firearms store in America because otherwise the sellers would be cut off from the credit card system.

There is precedent for credit card issuers to ban the purchase of completely legal products. Just this month, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America banned the use of their cards to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

To be clear: Those three banks won’t let you use your credit card to buy Bitcoin, but they will happily let you use it to buy an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle — the same kind of gun used in mass shootings in Parkland; Newtown, Conn.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Las Vegas; and Sutherland Springs, Tex.

. . .

Is all of this a pipe dream? Maybe, but I spent the last 72 hours calling and emailing a handful of chief executives to discuss these ideas. None wanted to speak on the record, because it’s a hot-button topic. But all applauded the idea and some said they had already been thinking about it. A few, I discovered later, called their peers to begin a conversation.

. . .

None of this is a panacea. But it’s a start. It takes leadership and courage — exactly what these executives say they have. If they don’t want to back up their words with actions, the next time there’s a school shooting that prompts a conversation about gun companies, it should also include the financial complex that supports them.

There's more at the link.

In so many words, the author is proposing that pressure should be applied to companies conducting lawful business to purchase legal products, in an attempt to stop this.  Clearly, he's not in the least worried about the law.  He's concerned only with his perception of what's right and what's wrong, what's good and what's not.  The fact that others disagree with him is neither here nor there.  If he can whip up enough pressure to make it difficult for law-abiding citizens like you and I to pursue our constitutional rights in buying a firearm, he'll do so, because he doesn't give a damn about us, our rights or our opinions.  Ethics?  Morals?  Laws?  They don't enter into it.  Only his feelings count.  He's arrogating to himself the right to impose his views on us, by hook or by crook, whether we like it or not, whether we agree with him or not.  If that's not evil in and of itself, what is?

There have been many articles following the Parkland shooting - far too many to list here.  You may find the following links useful.  I certainly did, and I highly recommend that you follow them all and read what the authors have to say.  It's eye-opening, sometimes mind-blowing.

There's enough meat at those links to give you food for mental digestion for a long time.  Sadly, the mainstream media won't bother to read or discuss such points of view, or the facts that support them.  They're interested only in whipping up popular indignation to further their agenda.

Most Americans are now aware that we live in an essentially surreal political environment.  A concerted team of political reactionaries guides the national conversation from crisis to crisis, all the while demanding further expansions of federal government power and the repudiation of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  A special group of professional complainants has taken over. Let's call it IndigNation.  Its members' sense of "outrage" at every perceived slight and misinterpretation drives them into ever greater commitments to their increasingly autonomous IndigNation.

. . .

At present, IndigNation has as its propaganda focus the deaths of 17 teachers and students in Broward County, Florida.  Their deaths can mean only one thing: more gun control.  IndigNation has had it.  Its members are fed up, and they will not take it anymore!  Rallies will commence, and the media cameras will be turned on, and the minders of social media will allow the narratives to coalesce around the grand theme of gun control.  The killer, Cruz, wore a "Make America Great Again" cap while he practiced with his firearm.  ABC News falsely reported that he was a member of a white nationalist group.  It all fits together for a mob mentality against the injustice of the crime.

IndigNation does not blame the government.  Only political figures seeking to limit the government are a threat and worthy of demise and removal.

. . .

There is no reasonable limit to their rage.  What is wrong in their minds goes beyond reason.  Pure emotion must be unleashed, and what better rhetorical vehicle than "the children"?  They were so innocent, and the Enemy is so guilty.  This is the terminology that escalates and spirals.  "Thoughts and prayers" are a conspiracy against the innocent.  No one should say such things!  People who say Jesus speaks to them are mentally ill.

Again, more at the link.

The greatest danger is that, in the face of such an unrelenting, massive onslaught against fact, right and reason, we shall grow weary of the struggle and simply give up.  I know some who've done that.  They've grown tired of arguing with family and friends, and see themselves as a minority assailed on all sides.  It's easier for them to "go with the flow" and simply give up.  That way lies disaster, both for us and for our society and nation.

As Edmund Burke famously said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing".  In the face of such refusal to acknowledge or deal with law, facts or reality - which is, to my mind, unquestionably a moral and ethical evil - we dare not do nothing.  If we buckle, if we knuckle under, evil will triumph.  Our children, and our children's' children, will curse our memories for that.

Peter

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Brrrr!


Miss D. and I just got back from a chilly (but not unbearably so) Utah, where we attended the LTUE convention over the weekend.  We looked forward to warming up in the more temperate climes we're used to in Texas . . . but the weather gods had other ideas.

Yesterday morning it reached a high of 74 degrees (Fahrenheit, for the benefit of overseas readers) in our area;  then it plummeted by about 40 degrees, over the course of no more than an hour or two.  By last night it was in the low 30's, and this morning it hasn't climbed out of the 20's.  What's more, ice and sleet has been falling steadily for several hours.  The roads are a sheet of white, slippery as heck, and no-one with any sense is going anywhere, by car or on foot.  Fortunately, the moisture is already frozen by the time it reaches ground level, so we aren't seeing any accumulation on power lines or tree limbs, for which we're devoutly grateful.

I suspect we won't be going anywhere for the rest of the day, and perhaps not tomorrow either, until this clears up.  It's real brass monkey weather out there.

Peter

More about that Russian "mercenary" attack in Syria


Last week I wrote about a Russian "mercenary" attack in Syria.  It's described here by USAF Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, in command of USAF Central Command, at a news conference.





It seems that a lot more was going on than was mentioned in that brief, bald official announcement.  John Ringo, well-known military science fiction author and veteran of US service, has his own sources of information.  He wrote on Facebook:

1. Sov... err... Russians built a bridge over the Euphrates which was the designated 'deconfliction line'. Why? Reasons. 'Commite of Nations' or something.

2. 'Hybrid' force of mixed Russian contractors including multiple non-ethnic Russians (Serbs, Kossack, other non Slavics) as well as local Syrian Army 'commandos' attacked across temporary bridge. The 'Russian' side were 'Blackwater' equivalent mercenaries from a company generally called 'Wagner' which is the nom de plume of the boss. (Like if you called Blackwater 'Prince'.)

3. Unit was partially mechanized, battalion strength. (One thing everyone agrees upon is 'about 600-700 personnel.') Had some towed artillery as well as 't-55 and T-72 MBT as well as armored personnel carriers.' (Type unknown.) Full on 'we're taking that position and you're not stopping us' full court press.

4. Unit crossed bridge, arty deployed.

5. Arty opened fire while most of unit was still in approach column formation. (Normal) One portion moved to flanking positions.

5A. Minute the arty opened fire **** GOT REAL REAL QUICK.

6. Reapers took out artillery and most of armor with Hellfire. From the few videos, pretty much before they knew what hit them. There had to be quite a few Reaper drones up or they were feeding guidance to Hellfire from Apaches (see below.)

7. F-15E Eagles came in for clean-up and to check for anti-air defenses.

8. Warthogs showed up just to go BRRRRRRT!

9. AC-130 Spectre started ****ing up their day for the hell of it.

10. To add insult to injury, B-52s which, you know, just HAPPENED to be in the area, just minding our own business, just passing by from Diego Garcia which is a few thousand miles away, on our way to... somewhere... nothing to see here... decided to prove they could drop their entire load as precision guided weapons and just more or less DID A JDAM ARCLIGHT ON THEIR ***. At that point, more or less because CENTCOM said 'Why not? ARCLIGHT is always pretty to watch...'

11. The whole thing being so over it was ridiculous, AH-64 Apaches basically did 'hostile Bomb Damage Assessment' and complained there were no targets left.

12. Oh, and then the Kurds, to just really **** with these guys, released water from a dam upstream and broke their bridge. So they had to ford back with their wounded.

13. Nobody knows how many dead and wounded. Russians are saying 'only 8 Russian citizens' but that doesn't quite cover the whole of who may have been involved. One repeated number is 200 dead (remember, mixed Syrians, Russians and other ethnics) as well as pretty much the rest of the force wounded. (Not to mention pretty thoroughly demoralized.) One Kurd wounded. Probably fell off a stool laughing to tell truth.

There's more at the link.  Worthwhile reading.

Peter

Oops!


It seems modern fighter aircraft are rather sensitive to what you put in their fuel tanks.

According to local media, the fuel used by the German Tornado fleet appears to have been mixed with ‘too much bio-diesel’.

According to news site Frankfurter Allgemeine, this was noticed during a routine check last Monday:

“The tolerance values ​​are minimally exceeded,” said Colonel Kristof Conrath of the Tactical Air Force Squadron 51. “It’s not that the aircraft would fall from the sky. For safety reasons, all tanks of the aircraft must be flushed.”

It is understood that this breakdown is particularly annoying for the Luftwaffe, as training of new Tornado pilots is already three months behind.

There's more at the link.

I didn't know that the Luftwaffe was using biodiesel in its jet aviation fuel - presumably as an additive, just as we're using ethanol as a gasoline additive in the USA.

Automobiles are a bit sensitive to what's in their tanks, too.  My father served in the Royal Air Force during World War II.  At the start of the war in 1939, the RAF began to switch to 100-octane fuel for its high-performance aircraft engines (previously it had used 87-octane).  Gasoline rationing was introduced at about the same time for all civilian vehicles.  He used to tell us stories of how airmen, who couldn't get enough gasoline coupons to make the trip to London and back, would "borrow" a few gallons of 100-octane fuel from the bowser to top up their tanks.  The engines of the time simply couldn't handle the hotter combustion temperatures of the aircraft fuel, and would burn out their valves, leading to drunken airmen stranded by the side of the road in the small hours of the morning, unable to get back to base.  Misuse of "official" fuel was considered a serious offense, so many of them simply accepted the punishment for being late to return from liberty - then proceeded to repair their engines using RAF maintenance facilities as well!  He used to laugh about that.

Peter

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The real problem with guns and crime . . .


. . . is that guns truly aren't the problem.  The anti-gun brigade simply ignore the facts and the statistics, and manipulate victims and their acquaintances to project their own false arguments.

They also ignore a very real problem that's seldom mentioned.

Now that the gun control advocates have had their fifteen minutes of fame, let’s start focusing on the real issues impacting the rise in school shootings since that infamous day in Columbine in 1999. Issue number one that no one in the mainstream media or government wants to acknowledge: fatherlessness. Specifically, the impact of fatherlessness on the boys who grew up to become school shooters.

. . .

As Terry Brennan, co-founder of Leading Women for Shared Parenting, notes:

  • 72 percent of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers; the same for 60 percent of all rapists.
  • 70 percent of juveniles in state institutions grew up in single- or no-parent situations.
  • The number of single-parent households is a good predictor of violent crime in a community, while poverty rate is not.

Yet, despite the growing number of experts, pundits and commentators drawing attention to the impact of fatherlessness on school and community safety, the post-attack discussion inevitably reverts back to gun control. Instead of spending so much as fifteen minutes on fatherlessness we are forced to endure the same salacious headlines, the same provocative tweets, the same tired old memes about the evils of guns as if somehow a cold piece of metal convinced yet another boy to become a mass-murderer. We ignore the lack of adequate mental health services, the failure of law enforcement to effectively intercede, and the sickening impact fatherlessness has on each one of these tragic cases. Why? Because it is easier to ban a hunk of metal than it is to right systemic cultural wrongs.

There's more at the link.

If you look at American society and culture over the past three-quarters of a century, I think there's a lot of evidence to support that view.  After all, when millions of American servicemen came home from World War II and the Korean War, they were all highly trained in the use of firearms, and many had seen combat.  How many mass shooting incidents did they, or their children, perpetrate?  Just about none.  It's only with the breakdown of the nuclear family in the 1960's and beyond, and the astronomical increase in the divorce rate, that we see the emergence of more frequent mass shooting events.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Peter

EDITED TO ADD:  Sebastian offers an excellent analogy as to why gun owners are fed up with those trying to take away our firearms.  Click over there to read it.  It's a good argument.

Apple Mac: lessons learned (so far) and questions


We run Windows 10 on most of Miss D.'s and my computers, except for one creaky 11-year-old laptop on which I've just loaded Linux Mint, to see whether it can be kept going for a year or two longer (doubtful - it's very slow).  I'm about to buy Vellum, a program that offers very easy and attractive pre-publication formatting of books.  Unfortunately, it only runs on Apple's Mac computer series, so I've got to get my hands on one.  The software is good enough that I'm willing to make that outlay - but I can't afford a new, top-of-the line system.  My budget isn't that large.

Several friends advised me to look for a used Macbook or Macbook Pro laptop computer.  However, there are several catches.  The first is that in 2012, Apple changed their manufacturing methods to ensure that users could no longer upgrade things like RAM or hard disks.  You're stuck with what the factory installed when the computer was built.  Oh, there are work-arounds if you send it back to Apple, to be upgraded by their (expensive) technicians using their (expensive) components;  or, if you're handy with a soldering iron and know computer wiring and architecture well, you might even be able to do it yourself.  However, for most of us (including yours truly) these are not cost-effective options.  Therefore, buying an older Mac comes with built-in limitations, unless one buys a pre-2012 model - in which case one is buying hardware that's several generations out of date.

What's even worse, the prices on used Mac computers are ridiculous!  It's as if the sellers think they're made of solid gold.  I can buy a used PC of similar vintage, power and performance for well under half what most sellers of used Apple computers are asking for what they appear to regard as their "precious" systems - something like this:





(Apple's new prices aren't much better, of course.  I reckon I can buy a comparable PC for about 40% less than Apple's price, across their range.)

However, there's a silver lining to the computer cloud.  If one is willing to go with a desktop system, Apple's "miniaturized" Mac Mini is available brand-new in a basic configuration for $499, and in a more powerful, better-equipped form for $699 or $999.




The lower two of those prices are significantly better than a well-equipped, used Macbook of comparable performance would cost me.  The Mac Mini doesn't come with keyboard, mouse or monitor, but it has standard HDMI and USB 3.0 ports that will work with just about anything you can plug into them.  I have a spare monitor and keyboard, so that's not a problem.

Before I make a final decision, I thought I'd ask my readers - at least, those of you who are familiar with Apple Mac computers.  Does my reasoning make sense to you?  Do you think the Mac Mini is worth its price?  If you've used Vellum, do you think it would run well on the Mini platform?  Would it also serve for common everyday tasks such as word processing, writing a blog, and web surfing?  If so, I might use it for more than just Vellum.

Please add your comments to this post, so we can all learn from your experience.  Thanks.

Peter

Monday, February 19, 2018

Thanks for the prayers, and good news


Thank you to everyone who offered prayers for my friend's brother, as requested in my previous post.  It looks as if he has encephalitis, which is not good, but is entirely treatable and curable.  I was very worried that it might have been a stroke or a brain tumor, both of which can produce the same symptoms.

I'm sure he'd rather not have encephalitis at all, but it's a lot better than it might have been.

Peter

Urgent prayer request for a friend


A friend's brother has just experienced sudden, extensive memory loss.  He's being taken to a treatment facility as I write these words.  Of course, there's no diagnosis available right now, but as I'm sure many of you are aware, that can be symptomatic of several ailments, all of them serious.

My friend and his family will be grateful for your prayers, I know.  I'll provide more information as and when I can.

Peter

Safely home - still exhausted


Miss D. and I finally made it home about half past midnight this morning.  We had a long flight, delayed by the arrival of a winter storm in Salt Lake City, which delayed our flight while it was de-iced before takeoff.  There was a bit of weather around Dallas, too, requiring incoming flights to "stack up" and delay their landings while controllers talked them down more slowly than usual.

The weather on the ground was strange.  Our car was parked in the long-term parking garage, but every car inside it was wet, as if it had rained indoors!  The floors were damp and slick, too.  There was a heavy mist, and it had obviously penetrated everything it could.  Driving home was no fun at all, with drifting banks of mist making it hard to see at times.  That didn't stop a lot of drivers going at it full tilt, to the undoubted irritation of the State Police, who were out in force.  I must have seen eight or nine of their vehicles on the road north, pulling over everyone who was driving too fast for the conditions.  I daresay they made a lot of money last night writing traffic citations.

I've got to give a shout-out to Braum's in Decatur, TX.  They were just closing as we arrived, but the manager could see we were tired and hungry, so he let us order a burger and fries apiece, and sit down and eat them, "as long as you don't mind us cleaning up around you!"  We didn't.  That was very good of him.  It gave me energy to drive the last stretch through the mist.  Progress was slow, as I didn't dare drive at the speed limit - vision wasn't good enough.  Still, we made it in the end, and fell into bed, very tired.

I'll post again later this morning when I'm compos mentis once more.

Peter

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday morning music, and homeward bound


It's been an interesting three days at LTUE.  A group of friends and fellow writers gathered at a local rendezvous last night to share good food and good company, as a fitting end to a busy convention.  Since many brought their families, it was interesting to have to avoid rampaging small children while keeping up a conversation - not the usual Con fare!

Miss D. and I will be heading homeward later today.  The only direct flight that still had seats available when I booked, some months ago, is in mid-afternoon, so we'll kill time until then, perhaps visiting with friends once more.  We probably won't get home until late evening.  I'm sure the cats will be ready, first to greet us enthusiastically, then to give us the cold shoulder for abandoning them to a friend's care for a few days.  This seldom meets with their approval.

For today's music, I suppose traveling to (and from) a writers' convention provides suitable themes.








We may sleep in tomorrow morning, what with a long day's travel today, so regular blogging may resume a little later than usual on Monday.

As always, prayers for traveling safety will be greatly appreciated.

Peter