Friday, October 19, 2018

Your feel-good story of the week


A pizzeria in Michigan shows real dedication.

When Julie and Rich Morgan lived in Battle Creek 25 years ago, Rich would always bring home Steve’s Pizza for dinner each payday, even though money was tight. The couple has since relocated to Indianapolis, but those pizzas – the taste and the memories – have stuck with them.

In fact, the Morgans had planned to visit Battle Creek and Steve’s Pizza for a weekend getaway. But after a trip to the emergency room, their plans changed; Rich is now home with hospice care as his battle with cancer comes to a close, Julie said in a Facebook post.

Knowing how much that pizzeria meant to the couple, Julie’s dad called Steve’s Pizza to see if someone could send a card or text to cheer them up. But Dalton Shaffer, a manager, had a different idea.

“Well, what kind of pizza do they like?” Shaffer asked Julie Morgan’s father, according to MLive.com.

Her father quickly sought to clarify that he was calling from Indianapolis – nearly 200 miles away and in a different state. Shaffer, 18, said he understood and promised to make the special delivery of two 16-inch pepperoni and mushroom pizzas as soon as he closed the restaurant just after 10 p.m.

“And so, while Rich and I slept, at 2:30 a.m., Dalton rolled into our driveway, left the car running and delivered two extra special pizzas to my waiting family,” Julie said. “He told them we were in his prayers, and offered to help in any way he could.”

Julie said Shaffer also refused an offer from the family to put him up in a hotel. He also immediately left, she said, so he could make it home in time for work in the morning.

. . .

In all, Shaffer traveled about 450 miles round-trip to make the delivery. But here’s what makes it even more “epic:” Steve’s Pizza doesn’t even offer delivery services.

There's more at the link.

That's amazing customer service, to put it mildly!  I live about a thousand miles from Battle Creek, so I can't show my appreciation by buying anything from Steve's Pizza there:  but I hope any of my readers who are within "eating distance" will do so, as a gesture of thanks.  I think they deserve it.

Peter

Doofus Of The Day #1,029


Today's award goes to the Bruce Rock Police Force in Australia.  A tip o' the hat to reader Snoggeramus for sending me the link.

Police officers in Western Australia have been mocked after they posted a picture online showing off huge bags of marijuana they "seized", but people were quick to point out a glaring issue.

The Bruce Rock Police Force shared the picture on their Twitter account...

. . .

"Can I send you my address? I have some garden clippings I need to get rid of and I can't be bothered fetching the green bin," one user wrote.

"Putting Jim's mowing out of business if you keep this up," another said.

One added: "This is the dumbest thing on the whole internet. This is embarrassing for Australia."

Others suggested that the bags were just filled with the unwanted left overs from product that they either already sold or moved.

"Police have estimated the value of the haul in excess of seven dollars fifty," one person said.

There's more at the link.

Yes, looking at the photograph the cops posted, it's fairly obvious that isn't marijuana:




Either a cop didn't know what he was looking at, or some drug pusher figured he had really stupid clients, who wouldn't recognize that he wasn't selling them what he promised.  Either way, I'd like to see any court convict anyone on a narcotics charge for selling those clippings!  Maybe they could get them for fraudulent misrepresentation?

Peter

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Fauxcahontas again


The blog memes - and the hits - just keep coming for Senator Warren.  I've long since lost count of how many there are out there.  Here's my latest favorite:




Aesop has his own collection over at his blog.  Click over there for some punny fun.

How on earth Senator Warren ever expects to be taken seriously again, I just can't imagine.  She's not only painted herself into a wacky, lunatic-fringe corner, she's pulled it in after her and padlocked the corners together.

Oh, well . . . at least she's provided some much-needed light-hearted (not to mention light-skinned) entertainment to an American political scene usually lacking that commodity.  Her fame may not be Indian, but it's undyin', for sure!




Peter

A terrifying example of why loose loads make for dangerous roads


Having driven a pickup for most of my years in the USA, and covered tens of thousands of miles in them (and similar vehicles) in Africa prior to that, I've got a fair old collection of horror stories that I've seen, encountered and experienced.  Cargo improperly loaded, loads improperly secured, things coming loose under the stress of travel and falling off, sometimes hitting other vehicles . . . there are any number of examples.

The latest comes from Florida.  Click the image for a larger view.




A news report adds more details.

A driver in Florida is lucky to be alive after a large piece of plywood ended up impaled in her vehicle's windshield.

The Brevard County Fire Rescue said in a Facebook post the incident took place on Interstate 95 in Rockledge, located about 20 miles south of Titusville on the state's Atlantic Coast.

. . .

The plywood board was much wider than the vehicle and was hanging off either end of the car.

The driver, identified by Florida Today as 35-year-old Rebecca Burgman, had minor injuries but refused treatment at the scene.

There's more at the link.

Ms. Burgman is a very, very lucky lady.




Peter

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Some amazing wildlife photographs


Britain's world-famous Natural History Museum has just released the results of its 2018 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.  There are some spectacular images.  Here are just two, to whet your appetite.  Click each one for a much larger view.

The winner in the category "Animals in their Environment", from Spain, is Cristobal Serrano with a drone-captured overhead picture of crabeater seals on an ice floe.  (Oddly enough, despite their name, they don't eat crabs!)




Highly commended in the category "Animal Portraits", here's a lioness captured by Isak Pretorius of South Africa.




There are many more photographs at the link.  Highly recommended viewing.

Peter

Well, she is a flocking politician . . .


Sent in by several readers, origin unknown.  Is this the best Senator Warren DNA fiasco meme yet?




Indeed.  She's certainly goosing her image . . . and is that a tribal headband I see around the left leg?




Peter

Oops!


A brand-new container ship, the CMA CGM Mumbai, delivered from the shipyard in May this year, had an embarrassing steering failure at the port of Mumbai the other day.  It left a mark.





Fortunately, the collision was at very low speed, but even so, it'll take a while to repair the quayside and replace the ship's stem post.  Embarrassing, that, particularly with a brand-new vessel.

Peter

"Choking On the Salt of Debt"


That's the title of a very thought-provoking article at Acting Man.  We've spoken about the perils of debt, and the damage it's doing to our economy, on several occasions.  This article puts a new perspective on the problem, and highlights how bad it's become.  I only have space to quote a few paragraphs from the author's extensive treatment of the subject, which you should read in full.

Debt based stimulus is both sustaining and killing the economy at the same time.  No doubt, this is a ridiculous situation.  Here we will look to California’s San Joaquin Valley for parallels...

. . .

In the San Joaquin Valley, vast irrigation networks convey water thousands of miles to make the desert bloom.  But as surface water is conveyed along the open California aqueduct, it both evaporates and collects mineral deposits. The combination of these factors concentrates the water’s salt content.  Then, as it is applied to irrigation, the residual salts collect in the soil.

After decades of this, along with the over-application of fertilizer through mechanized fertigation systems, the salt in the soil has built up so that it strangles the roots of the plants.  To combat this, over-watering is required, because the irrigation water – while salty – is fresher than the salt encrusted soil. By applying excess irrigation water, the soils around the plants are temporarily freshened up so that crops can grow.

Yet, at the same time, this over-watering accelerates the mass quantity of salt being applied to the soil.  There is no outlet for the salt to flush to; the valley is the basin’s terminus.  Thus, in this grand paradox, the relative freshness of the excess water that is keeping the farmland alive is, at the same time, the source of the salt that is killing it.

. . .

So, too, goes the U.S. economy.  After nearly a decade of rapidly expanding its balance sheet, and pumping cheap credit and excess liquidity into financial markets, the Fed has produced a similar paradox.  They must keep expanding the money base to keep the economy afloat... but in doing so they are ultimately killing it.  [Click the image for a larger view.]



This, in short, is why it doesn’t matter if the Fed raises the federal funds rate or cuts the federal funds rate, or if Uncle Sam borrows more or borrows less.  At this point, there is no way out.  The present financial order, like the salty crop fields in the San Joaquin Valley, is doomed to choke on the salt of debt.

Only several lifetimes – or more – of fallow conditions will restore economic growth and fertility to the country.  The demise of the San Joaquin Valley as an agricultural region, however, will be indefinite.

There's more at the linkHighly recommended reading.

I've said it before:  debt is killing us, as a nation, as a society, and as individuals.  It has short- and long-term consequences for everyone and everything.  The truly frightening thing is, none of our elected political leaders, irrespective of their party affiliation, appear to be serious about doing anything about it.  They just carry on spending more and more money we haven't got, adding more digits to the already un-repayable national debt, and never turning off the tap.  They don't believe they can do that without being thrown out of office by those who've become dependent on the "debt tap" to pay for their way of life.  They're probably right in that . . . but their approach is still cowardly.

"The salt of debt".  An interesting way to put it . . . and, given the example of the San Joaquin Valley, a very appropriate one.

Peter

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Senate DNA one-upmanship


Full marks to Senator Orrin Hatch for his response to Senator Elizabeth Warren's DNA faux pas:




What?  No velociraptor genes - the better to chase the faux-Native American ones Senator Warren apparently still doesn't possess?




Peter

A good reason to buy an elephant gun?


If Stephan Pastis is right, anyway . . .




(Click the image for a larger view at the cartoon's Web site.)




Peter

The future of city business districts in an Internet age?


The Atlantic has some ideas.

These days, walking through parts of Manhattan feels like occupying two worlds at the same time. In a theoretical universe, you are standing in the nation’s capital of business, commerce, and culture. In the physical universe, the stores are closed, the lights are off, and the windows are plastered with for-lease signs ... A rich ghost town sounds like a capitalist paradox. So what the heck is going on?

. . .

There are at least three interlinked causes. First, the rent, as you may have heard, is too damn high ... commercial rents have ascended to an altitude where small businesses cannot breathe. Some of the city’s richest zip codes have become victims of their own affluence.

Second, the pain of soaring rents is exacerbated by the growth of online shopping ... it is no coincidence that New York storefront vacancy is climbing just as warehousing vacancy in the U.S. has officially reached an all-century low: A lot of goods are moving from storefronts to warehouses, where they are placed in little brown boxes rather than big brown bags ... Online shopping has digitized a particular kind of business—mostly durable, nonperishable, and tradable goods—that one used to seek out in department stores or similar establishments. Their disappearance has opened up huge swaths of real estate.

. . .

[Third,] Many landlords don’t want to offer short-term leases to pop-up stores if they think a richer, longer-term deal is forthcoming from a national brand with money to burn, like a bank branch or retail chain. The upshot is a stubborn market imbalance: The fastest-growing online retailers are looking to experiment with short-term leases, but the landlords are holding out for long-term tenants.

New York’s problems today are an omen for the future of cities. Most people don’t live downtown because they love drifting off to the endearing sounds of honking cars and hollering investment bankers. Rather, they want access to urban activity, diversity, and charm—the quirky bars, the curious antique shops, the family restaurant that’s been there for generations—and the best way to buy that access is to own a bedroom in the heart of the city.

What happens when cities become too expensive to afford any semblance of that boisterous diversity? ... what’s the point of paying New York prices to live in a neighborhood that’s just biding its time to become “everywhere else”?

There's more at the link. Thought-provoking and recommended reading.

The author raises a very important point.  There are more than a few cities, particularly in the so-called "rust belt", where the local economy has been in the doldrums for years, thanks to the decline in US industrial production.  One can buy a very nice three- or four-bedroom house in such cities for well below $50,000 - ten to twenty times less than many currently-booming major cities.  I know some people who have deliberately chosen to move to such locations, because their money goes so much further there.  They live in nicer houses, can buy goods and services more cheaply, and send their children to better, less burdened local schools (often private schools).  The Internet means they can work from home, or at least run a small business with access to major markets without actually having to live in or near those markets.  That's been a life-changer for them.

Of course, this also begs the question of the reliability and sustainability of the Internet as a primary backbone of commerce and industry.  If anything - weather, natural disaster, war, hacking, whatever - takes down the Internet for an extended period, or even limits access to it, those relying on it to earn their daily bread will be in for a nasty time.  Being among them now, as a writer who self-publishes some of his work, I can't help but think about that from time to time.  There's nothing I can do about it, but it's still something to keep in mind, and against which to have contingency plans, if possible.

Peter

Monday, October 15, 2018

Heh


Courtesy of IOTWReport:




And both views are at home in a Warren.




Peter

Cute - and bitey!


Found on Gab, this caracal kitten:




I've handled caracal kittens in an animal rescue center in South Africa.  They're very kittenish and playful, but when they use their claws and/or teeth, you know all about it!

Here are a couple of 6-week-old caracal kittens at an Oregon zoo.





Peter

Another interesting military application for drones


Last year, I wrote about the early days of mine detecting vehicles in Rhodesia and South Africa, of which I had a certain amount of personal experience.  They progressed from looking for metallic land mines, to using ground-penetrating radar to look for the holes dug to take them (which allowed them to look for plastic or wood mines as well).

Now the same approach appears to offer promise when adapted to small, low-cost drone aircraft.

Most civilized nations ban the use of landmines because they kill indiscriminately, and for years after they are planted. However, they are still used in many places around the world, and people are still left trying to find better ways to find and remove them. This group is looking at an interesting new approach: using ground-penetrating radar from a drone [PDF link].



The idea is that you send out a radio signal, which penetrates into the ground and bounces off any objects in there. By analyzing the reflected signal, so the theory goes, you can see objects underground. Of course, it gets a bit more complicated than that (especially when signals get reflected by the surface and other objects), but it’s a well-established technique even though this is the first time we’ve seen it mounted on a drone. It’s a great idea: the drone allows you to have the transmitting and receiving antennas separated with both mounted on pole extensions, meaning that the radio platform can move. Combined with a pre-planned flight, and we’re looking at a system that can fly over an area, scan what is under the ground, and store the data for analysis.

. . .

The trials on the device look promising: the team was able to detect several metal objects in a number of different soil types.

There's more at the link, and at the linked report (although that's much more technical).  Very interesting reading.

This is potentially very useful indeed.  Such drones can be carried by almost every vehicle in a convoy, if necessary, as their low cost will make them essentially a convenient spare part.  They can inspect, not just the road surface, but the shoulders of the road, pull-off points, parking and rest areas, and so on.  They can be far more effective than a surface-vehicle-mounted detection system, which can only detect objects over or near which it drives (to possibly detrimental effect if it sets them off).  Being airborne, they are much less subject to the risk of explosion - although an inevitable countermeasure is likely to involve setting up extended tilt fuses using the thinnest, lightest materials possible, in an effort to blow up a drone as it passes over a mine.  I've already seen some that used a transparent drinking straw filled with typical local surface dirt, which was very difficult to see in time to avoid it while driving at speed over an unpaved road.  I daresay a higher-tech solution will be along shortly.

In my days in uniform, we'd probably have done just about anything, up to and including assault and maiming, to get our hands on something like this.  I'm sure US forces in Afghanistan and other operational areas will do the same today.  Kudos to the experimenters.  Now, how soon can this be perfected and put into operation?

Peter

Doofus Of The Day #1,028


Today's award goes to the Belgian Air Force mechanic who destroyed one of his country's F-16 fighters.

A Belgian mechanic destroyed a multi-million pound fighter jet after he accidentally fired a Vulcan cannon while carrying out repairs at an air force base.

The £15m plane quickly caught fired and exploded, according to Belgian broadcaster RTL.



The mechanic was working with a colleague on two F-16s in a hangar near the control tower.



It is understood that the third jet, which they inadvertently destroyed after firing the cannon, was just out of their line of sight.



Both mechanics were injured during the incident, which occurred on Thursday at the Florennes air base, 60 miles south of Brussels.

That won't buff out . . .




Peter