Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mike Williamson and his fans have some fun

Novelist Michael Z. Williamson and his fans have put together a great list of responses to an emergency.  Some of them are side-splitting.  A few examples:

A man is drowning 50 feet from shore.

  • A Green laments that the man will die and deserves it since he's polluting the water.  Then the Green will demand the lake be off limits so further drownings don't hurt aquatic animals.
  • The EPA will agree with the Greens and fine the man's family, then declare the lake a wetland and refuse to allow removal of anything, including his remains.
  • A homeopath will grab a tube of the water, dilute it 1:10,000 and sell it as a cure for drowning.
  • Greenpeace will insist the man has "Water privilege" and he should be grateful to live in a nation where it's possible to drown.
  • Eventually some decent person who will strip off, dive in and rescue the guy. Once ashore, they'll find their wallet, watch, and cellphone stolen, and get arrested for indecent exposure.  Then the state will sue them for not being licensed for water rescue.
  • His Congressman will introduce "The Safe Parks and Ponds Act" which will cost $5 billion, result in three agencies writing five different safety standards that are resolved after 7 lawsuits reach the Federal courts, but the rider ban on home-farming of turnips will remain.
  • North Korea issues a statement condemning the drowning as a Capitalist propaganda ploy and claims that every year, a thousand thousand North Koreans drown far more skillfully.

There are many more at the link.  Enjoy!


Happy dance!

My latest novel, 'Stand Against The Storm', continues to climb the charts at  It's now at #2 in the 'Hot New Releases in Space Opera Science Fiction' list.

It's also at #4 in the same list for military science fiction, and at #7 in science fiction overall.  Those are the highest rankings I've ever had in 'Hot New Releases'.

Thank you all very much for your support.  Color me happy!


Strange that one so young sounds so evil

I had to smile at this video of a Russian baby who's learned to deliver a really evil laugh.

I can't imagine what it's going to sound like as he grows up!


Friday, February 27, 2015

A Japanese carrier pilot in World War II

The good people at Vintage Wings of Canada have published an excerpt from an e-book by Jūzõ Mori, a Japanese torpedo bomber pilot who fought in China and the Pacific before and during World War II.  Its English translation is titled 'The Miraculous Torpedo Squadron'.

The Vintage Wings article is an excerpt describing how he bombed Midway Island during the eponymous battle.  Here's part of it.

On we went, our engines purring contentedly. After about fifty minutes the island of Midway began to take shape on the horizon ahead of us. The Zeros dropped their external fuel tanks to ready themselves for action. Suddenly, one of the dive-bombers in front of me burst into flames and fell from formation. An enemy fighter had nailed him. Shit! They were up there waiting for us! Six of the Zeros behind us immediately shot to the front of the formation. In another ten minutes we would be over the island. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a vicious dogfight underway, but we kept right on going.

Looking over my shoulder I could see that Hosoda had a death-grip on his 7.7mm machine gun, ready to ward off enemy fighters.

“Here comes a Grumman!” he yelled. I looked back to see flame spitting from the fighter’s six guns. It looked like the leading edge of his wing was on fire. The Grumman seemed like a very small machine to be crossing swords with our imposing and stately attack planes. We tightened up our formation so as to be able to better concentrate our fire. Then all we could do was wait for the Zeros to come to our rescue. For some reason, none of them did. Hell, we still had to carry out our attack. If we got shot down now it would all be for nothing.

Suddenly a Grumman appeared in front of our formation. Crap, now we’re done for, was all I could think. They knew we didn’t have any forward-firing guns, so they made frontal attacks. When they couldn’t knock us down from the front they came at us from below. Before I knew it there was another one shooting at me from the left. Damn, I hated their guts but I had to give them credit, they came to fight. Now we’re finished, was all I could think.

That thought had no sooner formed than a Zero flashed over the top of us like a bullet. Yaré! Go get ’em!

Nakajima B5N 'Kate' torpedo bomber, the type flown by Jūzõ Mori

We now peeled off in our dive. There was a lot of anti-aircraft fire coming up at us but the shells were all exploding away from us. You’re never going to hit us with that lousy shooting, I thought.

At the center of the island was a single runway running east and west. To its right, on the island’s north side, were three hangars; to the left was a lot of greenery that looked like a pine forest. That’s where the AA emplacements seemed to be, as I could see the flash of gunfire between the trees.

Our six planes in the third section dove down from the east side of the island from an altitude of 12,000’. The dive bombers were dropping their 500-pounders on the hangars, causing huge fires to erupt.

Ichiro Tada, the rear gunner in the flight leader’s plane, raised his right hand straight up in the air. We were on our bomb run. It seemed to be taking forever but we only had about ten seconds to go before release.


On the signal from the lead plane we all released our bombs at once. Freed of the heavy load the engine suddenly began to run more easily. Looking down to see how we did I could see the first four bombs detonate in quick succession right on the runway. Number five went into the pine forest next to the runway, as did six and seven. Nuts, I thought, they missed. Just then a huge explosion erupted from the forest and all the AA fire stopped. Luck of the draw — sometimes you screw up and it works out in your favor.

There's more at the link.

The book looks interesting enough that I've bought my own copy.  It promises to provide a new perspective on Japanese carrier operations during the Second World War.


Ye Gods and little fishes . . . !!!

The French edition of The Local reports:

Truck driver Noël Jamet, 48, is better known in farming circles as "Nono". But he's better known still for dressing up in pink, strapping on pig ears and a pig-nose, and then using a microphone to do pig noises to the best of his ability.

And judging by his six consecutive titles, he's an expert.

This year, he walked onto the stage at the Agricultural Fair (Salon de l’Agriculture) at the Porte de Versailles in Paris and told the crowd: "I'll give you a good show - here comes the birth of a pig, breastfeeding, and then its death".

There's more at the link.  For your artistic and cultural edification, here's the 'performance'.

Verily, the mind doth boggle . . .


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Of students, their grades, and their just deserts

Courtesy of a link provided by CenTexTim, we find an article titled 'Dear Student: No, I Won’t Change the Grade You Deserve'.  It begins like this.

... plenty of professors have told me that when many of their students get to college, they lug into the classroom a sense of academic entitlement—a belief that their papers and exams should be graded on how hard they’ve worked, not how well they’ve mastered the material. When they don’t receive the grades they think they deserve, many take the matter up with the graders.

When that happens, one thing becomes clear: Their feelings about the quality of their work often don’t match the reality of their performance. Instead of seeing their grades as a reflection of how well they interpreted or executed their assignments, some students will come to a different conclusion: The assignment was too difficult. Or my professor doesn’t get me.

The author goes on to quote letters written to students by a number of professors, explaining (in astonishingly polite ways) why they aren't going to revise their grades.  Here's just one example out of many.

Dear Student Who Must Be Out Of Their Mind:

I hope all is well with you. Are you, by any chance, related to the student who failed my class and asked that I give them an A because they “liked the class so much?” I’m just asking because this question you’ve posed is just as silly as that one.

Pursuant to the detailed rubric provided for the assignment that we reviewed in class, the work you did on this paper was questionable. What you turned in was riddled with grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and formatting inconsistencies. Your paper didn’t respond to the prompts for the assignment at all and didn’t even reference the provided course content, let alone go beyond it in any meaningful way. The grade you received is reflective of the fact that what I got was a mash-up of poorly constructed sentences and last minute fooleywang.

And for real, I need you to focus less on the grade and more on the learning. Here’s the thing: had you focused on learning and on effectively completing the assignment, you would have gotten an A. Instead, you’re out here so focused on the grade that your submitted work was well below my expectations and your abilities.

Get your shit together. Please and thank you.


Dr. “I know you didn’t just come to me with this foolishness” Amin

There's more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.  Entertaining, but simultaneously infuriating!

I'm afraid I'm completely out of touch with this sort of attitude.  I can't even begin to understand it.  I completed four university qualifications;  three degrees and a post-graduate certificate.  Every one was paid for out of my own pocket;  every one was completed through distance education and part-time study (because I couldn't afford to study full-time);  and every one required that I submit a certain number of assignments and projects for every course and module.  If my grades weren't up to scratch, I didn't even get to sit the examination, much less pass that subject!

Where the hell do students come from today with this "I'm entitled!" bull?  If I'd tried any of that nonsense, I wouldn't have had to worry about my professors.  My own father would have taken the time, trouble and expense to travel to wherever I was, just so he could save them the trouble of kicking my backside back into line!  Seems to me someone should motivate a lot more fathers to do likewise . . .


Another identity crisis?

Following the canine chicken, here's a husky/baby cross (well, that's what it sounds like!).

All together, now:  Awwwww!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Debt, explained in detail

We've often spoken in these pages about the problem of debt in our modern economy.  Now, in his latest weekly 'Thoughts From The Frontline' newsletter (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format), John Mauldin goes into a great deal of detail about debt;  what it is, what's good about it, what's bad about it, and what it means for us as individuals and as a nation.  Here are some of the highlights.

Debt is at the center of every major macroeconomic issue facing the world today, not just in Europe and Japan but also in the US, China, and the emerging markets. Debt (which must include future entitlement promises) is a conundrum not just for governments; it is also significantly impacting corporations and individuals.

. . .

Debt is future consumption brought forward ... It is hard for me to overemphasize how important that proposition is. If you borrow money to purchase something today, that money will have to be paid back over time and will not be available for other purchases. Debt moves future consumption into the present. Sometimes this is a good thing, and sometimes it is merely stealing from the future.

. . .

Debt is future consumption brought forward into the present, but a corollary is that debt is also future consumption denied. If you will have to pay both principal and interest on debt in the future, then you are setting aside and spending money on debt service that is no longer available for current consumption.

. . .

To put it in personal terms, if your real income drops 25%, then whatever debt service you’re carrying will be a correspondingly larger portion of your income.

. . .

Too much debt will become an ever larger drag on the US economy, just as it already is in Japan and Europe.

. . .

Debt, when used properly, can overcome obstacles to productivity and bring on a warm day of sunshine, fostering life and growth everywhere. But if debt increases too much, just like a massive dying star it can collapse upon itself, explode like a supernova, and become a black hole instead, sucking in all the life around it.

Without a massive increase in debt, present-day China would have been impossible. Clearly that debt has improved the life of its citizens. But in recent years China has used debt to maintain a strange new form of growth and is increasingly using debt to build and consume, heading toward an ever less productive outcome. As in many other places in the world, each new dollar of debt is producing less in terms of GDP growth.

There has been a massive explosion of global debt since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2007. Normally, after a banking and financial crisis, one would expect a period of deleveraging and a reduction of debt. This time is truly different.

There's much more at the link.  Essential reading if you want to understand the dangers of our current economic situation.

The discussion will continue next week in the next edition of 'Thoughts From The Frontline'.  I'll keep my eyes open for it, and bring you the highlights.



I found this over at Wirecutter's place.  It made me laugh, so I looked around until I found a larger, clearer image.  Click it to embiggenate.

So much for 'special snowflakes'!  If I lived in an office cubicle, I'd hang that on the partition . . .


Hot 5.56x45mm ammo deal

I know some readers, like myself, aren't afraid to spend money on premium defensive ammunition for 'social use'.  This isn't practice ammo, it's intended for saving your life when the proverbial brown substance hits the rotary air impeller and you need to rely on it in the worst way.

Such ammo can be very expensive indeed. I've seen it offered for well over a dollar a round, sometimes approaching two dollars a round. Therefore, when I find a good deal I jump on it.  I've just come across such a deal from Beck Ammunition in Texas.  They've found themselves with an overstock of 5.56x45mm ammo loaded with the bonded 64gr. Nosler bullet. As far as I'm aware, that's the same bullet used in the current standard-issue FBI load.

As most experienced shooters will know, Nosler bullets have a very high reputation indeed.  This particular 64gr. bullet uses bonded construction, meaning that the jacket is secured to the interior metal in such a way that they won't separate.  It's optimum for barrier penetration (e.g. auto glass, car bodies, walls and doors, etc.) and, for hunting, deep penetration into tissue and bone, while still offering acceptable expansion on contact with flesh.  For law enforcement, that offers the best of both worlds;  and for serious civilian users, the same consideration applies.

Beck Ammunition is offering their overstock at what I think is the very reasonable price of $10.95 for a box of 20 rounds.  (Nosler's own version of this round lists for $28/20.)  Beck's products are recommended by some law enforcement officers of my acquaintance, who've assured me that the quality is as good as that of any big-name manufacturer.  I've therefore gone ahead and bought a plentiful supply of this stuff.  I thought you folks might be interested in getting some while the getting's good, given the current brouhaha about 5.56mm. ammunition.

NOTE 1:  There was a slight problem during the online ordering process.  I found the 'shopping cart' charged me more than double the listed price for the ammo.  I contacted Robyn, who confirmed that the advertised price was correct, and took my order over the phone to get around that difficulty.  If you have any problem, call her at (817) 219-7976 and do likewise.  She's very helpful.

NOTE 2:  I'm not being compensated for this recommendation in any way, either financially or in kind.  I just want to share a good deal with my readers while it's still available.


You folks rock!

I'm very grateful to all of you for your help and support in making the launch of my latest book, 'Stand Against The Storm', a success.

I'd expected relatively slow sales at first, because it's been nine months since the publication of my previous book.  Most 'indie' authors find that their sales numbers depend at least in part on their visibility in the market, so if there's a long gap between launches, that tends to impact how many people will look for their next book.

It seems I needn't have worried. As of the time of writing, 'Stand Against The Storm' ranks #671 of all the paid books available in the Kindle Store (which offers well over 2,000,000 volumes in all).

That's the highest sales rank I've ever achieved with any book, and it appears to be still climbing at this time.  Naturally, I'm over the moon about it.  The book's currently at #5 on the 'Hot New Releases' list for the military sci-fi genre, and at #3 on the same list for space opera sci-fi.  Those numbers are particularly pleasing in the light of the long-drawn-out process of writing this book, and all the difficulties and delays I experienced.  They make it all worthwhile!  Initial reviews of the book (20 of them so far) have also been very positive.

What's even more encouraging is that most of the circulation is taking place in the form of sales.  I'd been wondering what impact Amazon's relatively new $9.99-per-month subscription library service, Kindle Unlimited, would have on my sales.  It pays substantially less to an author per 'borrow' than for a sale, so if it had dominated among my readers, it would have led me to reconsider participating in the Kindle Select program (which offers several benefits, but carries with it automatic enrollment of your book in KU).  However, at the time of writing 'borrows' of the new book are running at about 25% of sales volume, or 4 sales for every 'borrow'.  Even though it reduces my income, I think I can support that ratio in the interests of gaining readers and market visibility, hoping that will translate into higher sales in future.  However, if the ratio of loans to sales grows any higher, I may have to change that approach.  After all, authors like myself depend on sales for our daily bread, so we can't afford to lose too many!  We'll see what happens.

If current trends continue, 'Stand Against The Storm' will move more than 1,000 copies in its first week on the market - the best performance of any of my books so far.  For this genre, and as an independent author, that's just amazing!  Thank you all very much for your support.  I couldn't have done this without you;  or, to put it another way, we did this together.  You rock!

I'm already a third of the way into the second volume of the Laredo Trilogy, 'Forge A New Blade'.  It's flowing nicely.  Look for it in May.  The fifth volume of the Maxwell Saga, as yet unnamed, will hopefully be ready in August, and the third and final volume of the Laredo Trilogy, 'Knife To The Hilt', in November, if I can keep up the pace.  I do have to stop now and again to eat, sleep and tell my wife I love her, you know - and not necessarily in that order of importance!


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Doofus Of The Day #817

Today's award goes to an Australian school for an unthinking, uncaring and utterly inappropriate memorial.  An inquiry into a child-molesting teacher was told:

Mr Ashton said he was deeply confused by the attitude at the school where all were expected to pay tribute to an art teacher Bruce Barrett who had died young.

Mr Ashton said Barrett was a "notorious molester" but the school put up memorial gates at the back entrance to the Wahroonga school in his honour and bearing the inscription: "He touched us all".

There's more at the link.  A tip o' the hat to Australian reader Snoggeramus for providing it.

I can only hope that whoever was responsible for this gets fired as soon as possible . . . but I suspect they won't.  Bureaucrats are forever.


When justice and the Police State collide

The Washington Post has a very interesting analysis of how police surveillance overreach led to the collapse of a criminal case and the perpetrators getting off with a far lighter sentence than they'd normally have received.

The case against Tadrae McKenzie looked like an easy win for prosecutors. He and two buddies robbed a small-time pot dealer of $130 worth of weed using BB guns. Under Florida law, that was robbery with a deadly weapon, with a sentence of at least four years in prison.

But before trial, his defense team detected investigators’ use of a secret surveillance tool, one that raises significant privacy concerns. In an unprecedented move, a state judge ordered the police to show the device — a cell-tower simulator sometimes called a StingRay — to the attorneys.

Rather than show the equipment, the state offered McKenzie a plea bargain.

Today, 20-year-old McKenzie is serving six months’ probation ­ after pleading guilty to a second-degree misdemeanor. He got, as one civil liberties advocate said, the deal of the century.

There's more at the link.

I'm sorry that a criminal seems to have 'gotten away' with his crime;  but I totally support the outcome.  If police are allowed to hide evidence like this, the administration of justice becomes less than transparent, and the rule of law breaks down.

We have GOT to find a way to rein in this sort of prosecutorial and law enforcement overreach.


Identity crisis?

Sounds like this dog's been a victim of fowl play.


Monday, February 23, 2015

New tsunami footage from Japan

Readers will remember the Japanese tsunami disaster of 2011.  Here's newly discovered footage, showing the catastrophe from ground level.  I wonder how many of those pictured actually survived?

Note the speed at which everything happened. A dry, normal suburban street was transformed into a disaster area in a matter of seconds. Very few people escaped from such locations, because they couldn't run faster than the water could rise.


Medical advice you can use

Shamelessly borrowed from CenTexTim:

Here's an interview from a Japanese doctor who is an expert on healthy eating.

Q: Doctor, I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?
A: Heart only good for so many beats, and that it... Don't waste on exercise. Everything wear out eventually. Speeding up heart not make you live longer; it like saying you extend life of car by driving faster. Want to live longer? Take nap.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?
A: Oh no. Wine made from fruit. Fruit very good. Brandy distilled wine, that mean they take water out of fruity bit so you get even more of goodness that way. Beer also made of grain. Grain good too. Bottom up!

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
A: Can't think of one, sorry. My philosophy: No pain... good!

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU NOT LISTENING! Food fried in vegetable oil. How getting more vegetable be bad?

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: You crazy?!? HEL-LO-O!! Cocoa bean! Another vegetable! It best feel-good food around!

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming good for figure, explain whale to me.

Q: Is getting in shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! 'Round' is shape!

There's more useful (?) medical advice at the link.


It's not worth a war over Ukraine

I'm getting sick and tired of neocons arguing that we need to arm Ukraine, and train its troops, and confront Russian nationalism/imperialism/whateverism.  They're trying to play us for suckers.

Consider these realities.  First, Christopher Booker:

Over Ukraine, I cannot recall any issue in my lifetime when the leaders of the West have got it so hopelessly wrong. We are treated to babyish comparisons of President Putin to Hitler or Stalin; we are also told that this crisis has only been brought about by Russia’s “expansionism”. But there was only one real trigger for this crisis – the urge of the EU continually to advance its borders and to expand its own empire, right into the heartland of Russian national identity: a “Europe” stretching, as David Cameron once hubristically put it, “from the Atlantic to the Urals”.

The “expansionism” that was the trouble was not Putin’s desire to welcome the Russians of Crimea back into the country to which they had formerly belonged; or to assist the Russians of eastern Ukraine in their determination not to be dragged by the corrupt government in Kiev they despised into the EU and Nato. It was that of an organisation founded on the naive belief that it could somehow abolish nationalism, but which finally ran up against an ineradicable sense of nationalism that could not simply be streamrollered out of existence. We poked the bear and it responded accordingly.

Next, Chris Martenson lays it on the line.

As I’ve written previously, the West, especially the US, was instrumental in toppling the democratically elected president of Ukraine back in February 2014. US officials were caught on tape plotting the coup, and then immediately supported the hastily installed and extremist officials that now occupy the Kiev leadership positions.

In short, the crisis in Ukraine was not the result of Russia’s actions, but the West’s. Had the prior president, Yanukovych, not been overthrown, it’s highly unlikely that Ukraine would be embroiled in a nasty civil war. Relations between Russia and the West would be in far better repair.

Russia, quite predictably and understandably, became alarmed at the rise of fascism and Nazi-sympathetic powers on its border. Remember the repeated statements by Kiev officials recommending extermination of the Russian speakers who make up the majority living in eastern Ukraine? Were a parallel situation happening in Canada, for example, I would fully expect the US to be similarly and seriously interested and involved in the outcome.

The only people seemingly surprised by this predictable Russian reaction toward protecting its people and border interests are the neocons at the US State Department who instigated the conflict in the first place. In my experience, these are dangerous people principally because they seem to lack perspective and humility.

There's more at the link.  It's well worth reading.

I submit the following points.

  1. The US has no vital strategic interest in Ukraine worth defending with the blood of our troops.
  2. There is no possibility whatsoever of the USA sustaining a major expeditionary war so far from our bases, and so near to our potential enemy's, and with such fragile lines of communication.
  3. Russia is not Iraq or Afghanistan. We could destabilize the former with horse-riding Special Forces operators and bombing raids.  We could conquer the latter with lightning strikes and a 'Thunder Run'.  We cannot do likewise to the world's second-largest military power.

All those urging active, armed US intervention in Ukraine are seeking to drag this country into a war we can't win.  We allow them to do so at our mortal peril.


A musical interlude

Just because I feel like some good guitar work, here's Mark Knopfler with 'Dream of the Drowned Submariner' from his album 'Privateering'.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

It seems I'm an evil man . . .

. . . at least, Captain Tightpants thinks so.

In this case, I can only plead guilty.


Sometimes you just get lucky . . .

Here's your feel-good story of the day.

You can read a report about it here.

Nothing like that has ever happened to me . . . yet . . . but I live in hope!


Ambulance Driver tells it like it is

My fellow blogger and meatspace buddy Ambulance Driver has a hell of a post up at his blog.  It's not for the queasy or faint-hearted.  It deals with the reality of death and destruction that EMS professionals must face every day.  I've faced a little of that myself, as a volunteer with St. John Ambulance in South Africa during my younger years, but nothing like the professionals have to cope with every day.

If you're prepared to face reality, go read it . . . and then, if you have teenage kids of your own or friends who have them, get them to read it as well.  You may have to clean up their vomit afterwards, but I think it'll be worth it.

Thanks, AD.  That must have been hell for you to write, but I hope you've opened some eyes by doing so.  As for those who died . . . may their sins be forgiven them, and their souls rest in peace, and their families find what comfort they may.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Frozen Jeep

A couple of people sent me this picture of an 'ice sculpture' of the front of a frozen Jeep.

At first I thought it was Photoshopped, but I decided to do a little digging.  One Internet search later, I found this report from North Carolina.

The ice sculpture was discovered in the visitor's parking lot at Vidant Medical Center Tuesday afternoon.

. . .

Terry Costakis said he believes that the Jeep owner left their vehicle running, warming up the engine. The imprint was then left after they backed out of the parking space. The ice was attached to the curb.

There's more at the link.  Comments from the woman who took the picture may be found here.

How cool is that?


Wild ride!

Watch as this skier near Banff, Canada, triggers an avalanche and rides it down.  I recommend watching it in full-screen mode.  There's no sound.

That must have been a white-knuckle and brown-trouser experience . . .


Friday, February 20, 2015

Detective fiction fans, rejoice!

A long-lost Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has been rediscovered.  The Telegraph reports:

An historian has unearthed the first unseen Sherlock Holmes story in more than 80 years that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote to help save a town bridge.

Walter Elliot, 80, found the 1,300-word tale starring the famous detective in a collection of short stories written for a local bazaar.

The wooden bridge in the Scottish town of Selkirk was destroyed by the great flood of 1902 and locals organised a three-day event to raise funds for a new one in 1904.

As part of the event, organisers sold a collection of short stories by locals called The Book o' the Brig.

The famed author, who loved visiting Selkirk and the surrounding area, contributed a tale before opening the final day.

Mr Elliot has now unearthed a copy of the book and spotted his story "Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, by deduction, the Brig Bazaar".

There's more at the link.

Since the story's long out of copyright, the Telegraph republished it.  Here it is in full.

'We've had enough of old romancists and the men of travel,' said the Editor, as he blue-pencilled his copy, and made arrangements for the great Saturday edition of the Bazaar Book. 'We want something up-to-date. Why not have a word from "Sherlock Holmes"?'

Editors have only to speak and it is done, at least, they think so. 'Sherlock Holmes!' As well talk of interviewing the Man in the Moon. But it does not do to tell Editors all that you think. I had no objections whatever, I assured the Editor, to buttonhole 'Sherlock Holmes,' but to do so I should have to go to London.

'London!' scornfully sniffed the Great Man. 'And you profess to be a journalist? Have you never heard of the telegraph, the telephone, or the phonograh? Go to London! And are you not aware that all journalists are supposed to be qualified members of the Institute of Fiction, and to be qualified to make use of the Faculty of Imagination? By the use of the latter men have been interviewed, who were hundreds of miles away; some have been "interviewed" without either knowledge or consent. See that you have a topical article ready for the press for Saturday. Good day'.'

I was dismissed and had to find copy by hook or by crook. Well, the Faculty of Imagination might be worth a trial.

The familiar house in Sloan Street met my bewildered gaze. The door was shut, the blinds drawn. I entered; doors are no barrier to one who uses the Faculty of Imagination. The soft light from an electric bulb flooded the room. 'Sherlock Holmes' sits by the side of the table; Dr Watson is on his feet about to leave for the night. Sherlock Holmes, as has lately been shown by a prominent journal, is a pronounced Free Trader. Dr Watson is a mild Protectionist, who would take his gruelling behind a Martello tower, as Lord Goschen wittily put it, but not 'lying down!' The twain had just finished a stiff argument on Fiscal policy. Holmes loq,-

'And when shall I see you again, Watson? The inquiry into the "Mysteries of the Secret Cabinet" will be continued in Edinburgh on Saturday. Do you mind a run down to Scotland? You would get some capital data which you might turn to good account later.'

'I am very sorry,' replied Dr Watson, 'I should have liked to have gone with you, but a prior engagement prevents me. I will, however, have the pleasure of being in kindly Scottish company that day. I, also, am going to Scotland.'

'Ah! Then you are going to the Border country at that time?'

'How do you know that?'

'My dear Watson, it's all a matter of deduction.'

'Will you explain?'

'Well, when a man becomes absorbed in a certain theme, the murder will out some day. In many discussions you and I have on the fiscal question from time to time I have not failed to notice that you have taken up an attitude antagonistic to a certain school of thought, and on several occasions you have commented on the passing of "so-called' reforms, as you describe them, which you say were not the result of a spontaneous movement from or by the people, but solely due to the pressure of the Manchester School of politicians appealing to the mob. One of these allusions you made a peculiar reference to "Huz an' Mainchester" who had "turned the world upside down." The word "Huz" stuck to me, but after consulting many authors without learning anything as to the source of the word, I one day in reading a provincial paper noticed the same expression, which the writer said was descriptive of the way Hawick people looked at the progress of Reform. "Huz an' Mainchester' led the way. So, thought I, Watson has a knowledge of Hawick. I was still further confirmed in this idea by hearing you in several absent moments crooning a weird song of the Norwegian God Thor. Again I made enquires, and writing to a friend in the South country I procured a copy of "Teribus." So, I reasoned, so - there's something in the air! What attraction has Hawick for Watson?'

'Wonderful,' Watson said, 'and -- '

'Yes, and when you characterised the action of the German Government in seeking to hamper Canadian trade by raising her tariff wall against her, as a case of "Sour Plums," and again in a drawing room asked a mutual lady friend to sing you that fine old song, "Braw, braw lads," I was curious enough to look up the old ballad, and finding it had reference to a small town near to Hawick, I began to see a ray of daylight. Hawick had a place in your mind; likewise so had Galashiels - so much was apparent. The question to be decided was why?'

'So far so good. And -- '

'Later still the plot deepened. Why, when I was retailing to you the steps that led up to the arrest of the Norwood builder by the impression of his thumb, I found a very great surprise that you were not listening at all to my reasoning, but were lilting a very sweet - a very sweet tune, Watson - "The Flowers of the Forest;" then I in turn consulted an authority on the subject, and found that that lovely if tragic song had a special reference to Selkirk. And you remember, Watson, how very enthusiastic you grew all of a sudden on the subject of Common-Ridings, and how much you studied the history of James IV., with special reference to Flodden Field. All these things speak, Watson, to the orderly brain of a thinker. Hawick, Galashiels, and Selkirk. What did the combination mean? I felt I must solve the problem, Watson; so that night when you left me, after we had discussed the "Tragedy of a Divided House," I ordered in a ton of tobacco, wrapped my cloak about me, and spent the night in thought. When you came round in the morning the problem was solved. I could not on the accumulative evidence but come to the conclusion that you contemplated another Parliamentary contest. Watson, you have the Border Burghs in your eye!'

'In my heart, Holmes,' said Watson.

'And where do you travel to on Saturday, Watson?'

'I am going to Selkirk; I have an engagement there to open a Bazaar.'

'Is it in aide of a Bridge, Watson?'

'Yes,' replied Watson in surprise; 'but how do you know? I have never mentioned the matter to you.'

'By word, no; but by your action you have revealed the bent of your mind.'


'Let me explain. A week ago you came round to my rooms and asked for a look at "Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome." (You know I admire Macaulay's works, and have a full set.) That volume, after a casual look at, you took with you. When you returned it a day or two later I noticed it was marked with a slip of paper at the "Lay of Horatius," and I detected a faint pencil mark on the slip noting that the closing stanza was very appropriate. As you know, Watson, the lay is all descriptive of the keeping of a bridge. Let me remind you how nicely you would perorate -

When the goodman mends his armour

And trims his helmet's plume,

When the goodwife's shuttle merrily

Goes flashing through the loom,

With weeping and with laughter.

Still the story told -

How well Horatius kept the bridge,

In the brave days of old.

Could I, being mortal, help thinking you were bent on some such exploit yourself?'

'Very true!'

'Well, goodbye, Watson; shall be glad of your company after Saturday. Remember Horatius' words when you go to Border Burghs :- "How can man die better than facing fearful odds." But there, these words are only illustrations. Safe journey, and success to the Brig!'

Fun stuff for fans of the Great Detective.


Doofus Of The Day #816

An instant Super-Doofus award goes to the 'expert' appointed by Mayor de Blasio to 'reform' the New York City Police Department.  The NY Post reports:

Michael Julian, who was appointed deputy commissioner of training in November, lasted just two months on the job before his ridiculed proposals got him transferred out, the sources said.

. . .

Julian explained to skeptical cops that officers should pop [breath] mints in their mouth when they feel the need to curse, police sources said.

It was a follow-up to his demands when he took the job that officers need to stop using foul language.

He insisted the mints would help them quit cursing the way a smoker kicks the habit — by giving them a few seconds to focus on something else when they feel the urge, according to police sources.

The mints were never handed out, and a week later, he was reassigned as deputy chief of personnel, the sources said.

Another of Julian’s mocked suggestions came the day a grand jury decided not to indict Garner “chokehold” cop Daniel Pantaleo.

Julian suggested that officers spray unruly protesters who link arms with baby oil to help get them apart, the sources said.

. . .

He said the cops could wear rubber gloves so they would still be able to grip the slippery suspects.

There's more at the link.

When I read extracts from that article to Miss D., she assumed I was reading from The Onion, and was staggered to find out the report was real.  I think I'll forward a copy to my buddy Lawdog.  I want to hear his reaction (and his language!) to being told to use baby oil on rioting protesters.

I suggest that Mr. Julian (who's still employed by NYPD) should be issued a special badge.  Instead of reading 'Police', it'll say 'MOONBAT!!!'



Courtesy of The Lonely Libertarian:


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Meet Michael Z. Williamson

I'm thinking it's high time I introduced my readers to more of the very interesting people who've come into my life over time.  Some I've already described in my reminiscences of South Africa (Mike, Inyati, Fanyana, Flynn and others).  However, some of my American friends have been just as memorable.  Over time, I'll introduce some of them in these pages.

Author Michael Z. Williamson is one such person.  Miss D. and I regard him as not just a fellow author, but a friend. We've hosted him as he passed through our area, and look forward to doing so again.  He's uniquely his own man;  living life on his terms, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.  As he says in his bio:

My hobbies are much what I do for a living and a few other things: reading, writing, historical re-enactments, forging blades, throwing myself out of aircraft, hiking, Karate, Kung Fu, shooting, archery, fine liquors, fine food, traveling and ranting at the political, social and moral state of the world.

That makes him pretty much a Renaissance man in my book.  He's a whole lot of fun.

One way he makes a living is to sell high-quality hand-made knives, swords and other Sharp Pointy Things.  He sometimes has some breathtakingly lovely examples.  I bought one for Miss D. at LibertyCon last year, a long slender firestorm Damascus blade so beautifully patterned that she's reserved it to wear with her Con outfit of corset, medieval blouse and skirt.  It currently lives on the nightstand next to our bed.  His current selection of knives for sale is tempting me with items like these (click the images for a larger view):

They are all, of course, one-of-a-kind blades, not mass-produced.  Each one is unique.  I think I'm going to have to lock my wallet and credit card away for a few days . . . (wipes drool from chin).

He also modifies existing blades for new purposes.  I love this two-foot-long Swiss Army 1914 Pioneer bayonet, converted to fit a modern US AR15/M16 rifle.

It was famously pictured on his daughter's pink AR15 when Morrigan was only eight years old, towering high over her head.  It drove the anti-gunners to foaming fits of frustration, much to the delight of the rest of us.  (Now in her mid-teens, Morrigan's favorite personal protection is a long-barreled S&W .45 revolver.  Mike doesn't worry much about her boyfriends . . . )

The most important thing Mike does, as far as many of us are concerned, is write books.  His novel 'Freehold' has become an enduring modern SF classic, with fans all over the world - so much so that a 10th anniversary signed limited hardcover edition was issued by Baen and sold out within a matter of weeks.  (Yes, Miss D. and I got ours.  No, you can't have it!)  He's written many other books, all of which can be bought through his Web site or from

His latest offering isn't fiction, but what he calls 'Wisdom From My Internet'.  It's a collection of his classic snark, wit and humor from his social media - blog, Facebook, Livejournal, Twitter and so on.  Here are a few examples.

Paralegals are not airborne lawyers.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail was not a Vietconga line.

A well hung jury is not composed of male gigolos.

There isn't a series about NSA called 'Game of Phones'.

As a legal immigrant who came here with a Visa, I want to know why illegals are getting American Express.

"Dad, they taught us in school that Che Guevara was a freedom fighter. Is that true?"
"Yes, he fought against freedom at every opportunity."

I support permissive laws to restrictive ones. Therefore, instead of a ban on texting while driving, I support a law allowing the injured party to shove your iPhone up your ass.

The Israeli martial art is Krav Maga, not Jew Jitsu.  Nor is there a form for Japanese schoolgirls called Krav Manga.

The Israel Defense Force's battle cry is not "Torah! Torah! Torah!"

There are many more quips and essays, but you'll have to buy the book to read them.  They illustrate why Mike names his blog 'The Sacred Cow Slaughterhouse'.

All in all, Miss D. and I are honored to call Mike our friend.  We hope you enjoy his books as much as we do (not to mention his Sharp Pointy Things).


Doofus Of The Day #815

Today's award goes to a newly deceased criminal in Columbus, Ohio.

Police said a home intruder died at the Mount Carmel West after he was shot and killed by a homeowner.

Authorities said it happened on North Guilford Avenue in the Franklinton neighborhood.

Sgt. Dave Sicilian said the unidentified man broke into a back door, was chased by a person inside then jumped out of a second floor window, before crawling across the street and breaking into a second home.

. . .

The woman's son said he bought her a handgun last week for self-defense.

There's more at the link.

Y'know, he'd just been chased out of an upper window of one home, and he'd had to crawl across the street to get away (presumably because he'd been injured in the process). He then tried to break into a second home.  I'm thinking this guy was a statistic waiting to happen.  In this case, he happened.  Terminally.

(And I bet Mom was grateful to her son for his very timely gift!  I see cookies in his future . . . )


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

'Stand Against The Storm' is published!

At long last, the fourth volume in the Maxwell Saga, 'Stand Against The Storm', is published.  Click on the link, or on the image below, to be taken to the Kindle edition's page on

The print edition has been published by CreateSpace.  You can order it there right away, but it isn't yet listed on - they use different computer systems, so there are sometimes a few delays.

I hope you enjoy this book.  A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into it!  Now for the second volume of the Laredo Trilogy, which is already about 10% written.


Of washing clothes and political correctness

Sarah Hoyt has a magnificent rant about buying a washer, dealing with a 'greenie' PC salesperson, and what it implies.  It's great reading, as are the well over 400 comments so far on that post.

Go read it, and enjoy!  It drives home, yet again, the truth of C. S. Lewis' famous quotation:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.


Whose job is it to stop ISIS/ISIL?

I don't normally pay overmuch attention to Pat Buchanan's columns, but in two recent essays for Taki's Magazine he's hit the nail squarely on the head.  Both concern ISIS/ISIL and the terrorism threat it poses.

The first is titled 'Whose job is it to kill ISIS?'  Here's an excerpt.

There are reasons why Sunni nations like Turkey and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have not committed more openly and decisively to the war on ISIS, and instead prod the Americans to send their troops to eradicate the Islamic State.

To many Sunni nations, Assad and the Shia Crescent of Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut are the greater threat. Indeed, until recently, as Joe Biden pointed out last October, the Turks, Saudis and United Arab Emirates were providing clandestine aid to ISIS.

. . .

Critics argue that after making his commitment to “degrade and defeat” the Islamic State, President Obama has provided neither a war strategy nor the military resources to carry it out. And they are right.

But this is just another case of the president drawing a red line he should never have drawn. While U.S. air power can hold back the advance of ISIS and “degrade,” i.e., contain, ISIS, the destruction of ISIS is going to require scores of thousands of troops.

Though the Iraqi army, Shia militias and Kurds may be able to provide those troops to retake Mosul, neither the Turks nor any other Arab nation has volunteered the troops to defeat ISIS in Syria.

And if the Turks and Sunni Arabs are unwilling to put boots on the ground in Syria, why should we? Why should America, half a world away, have to provide those troops rather than nations that are more immediately threatened and have armies near at hand?

Why is defeating 30,000 ISIS jihadists our job, and not theirs?

There's more at the link.

The second article is 'The Ultimate Enemy of ISIS'.

North of Syria, along 500 miles of border, sits a Turkish army of half a million with 3,000 tanks that could cross over and annihilate ISIS in a month. Former Secretary of State James Baker suggests that the U.S. offer air, logistics and intelligence support, if the Turks will go in and snuff out ISIS.

But not only have the Turks not done so, for a time they looked the other way as jihadists crossed their border to join ISIS.

If the Islamic State, as Ankara’s inaction testifies, is not viewed as a threat to Turkey’s vital interests, how can it be a threat to ours?

. . .

Everyone in the Middle East, it appears, wants the United States to fight their wars for them. But as they look out for their interests first, it is time we started looking out for ours first.

Foremost among those interests would be to avoid another $1 trillion war, with thousands of U.S. dead and tens of thousands of wounded, and a situation, after a decade of fighting, as exists today in Afghanistan and Iraq, where those we leave behind in power cannot hold their own against the enemies we defeated for them.

. . .

The Islamic State has plugged into the most powerful currents of the Middle East. It is anti-American, anti-Zionist, anti-West, Islamic and militantly Islamist. It promises to overthrow the old order of Sykes-Picot, to tear up the artificial borders the West imposed on the Arabs, and to produce a new unity, a new dispensation where the Quran is law and Allah rules and all Sunnis are united in one home whence all infidels—Jews, Shia, Christians—have been driven out. Hateful as it is, ISIS has a vision.

Hezbollah, Iran, Assad, the Houthi rebels, all Shiites, understand this.

They know they are in a fight to the death. And they fight.

But it is the Sunni Arabs, the royals on the Arabian Peninsula and the sheiks on the Gulf, to whom this should be a fire bell in the night.

For ISIS is out to dethrone these perceived royal puppets of a detested America and to reclaim rightful custody of Mecca and Medina.

Again, more at the link.

Mr. Buchanan makes some unarguable points.  The question is, what can we do to motivate the Sunni Arab nations to take up arms against ISIS?  For decades the USA has offered itself as their 'security blanket', and demonstrated this in the First and Second Gulf Wars, the 'Tanker War' and numerous smaller conflicts.  In doing so, the US sold them military equipment and helped to train their armies . . . but there's no guarantee that their armies will do any better than the one we trained in Iraq, which collapsed like a wet paper bag when ISIS struck it.

Right now the Sunni Arab states probably believe they can manipulate the USA into doing the heavy lifting for them yet again.  Are they right?  Do we have the guts to resist such manipulation?  If we don't give in to it, what will be the consequences for the Middle East - not to mention the world's oil supply?  And how do we prevent other players we'd rather not have active in the Middle East - namely, China and Russia - from filling the void we'll leave by our absence?

I don't pretend to have all the answers, but there are an awful lot of questions out there.  Mr. Buchanan distils them into two very cogent articles.  Recommended reading.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Staring economic reality in the face

David Stockman has given a podcast-format interview to Chris Martenson.  I happen to think it's a very important discussion of our present economic situation, but one part in particular struck me as very profound.  I'll quote it in full from the transcript of the interview.  Please take the time to read it in full.  It really is that important.  Stockman says:

I think the central bank-driven global boom of the last two decades is over. Perhaps it started in 1994 when the Greenspan Fed lost its nerve in the face of that little bond market hiccup and over on the other side of the Pacific, Mr. Deng said, you know, “To be rich is glorious,” and the great China construction and debt boom got underway.

We are now through that, we’re done with that. We’re in the crackup phase. And I think there are four big characteristics of that, which are going to basically shape the way the economy and the markets unfold as we go forward. I think you’re going to see increasing desperation and extreme central bank financial repression because they have gotten themselves painted so deep into the corner that they are lost, they are desperate. And so one, you know, almost week by week, we have another central bank – this week, it was Sweden – lowering their money market rates into negative territory. You know, obviously, the Swiss Bank is already there, Denmark’s Bank is there, the EC is there on the deposit rate, the Bank of Japan’s there. All of the central banks of the world now are desperately driving interest rates into negative territory. And I believe that they’re lost. They are in a race to the bottom whether they acknowledge it or not. You know, the central bank of China can’t sit still much longer when the RMB has appreciated something like 30% against the Japanese yet because of the massive bubble – or monetary expansion – that’s being created there.

So that’s the first thing going on. Central banks out of control in a race to the bottom, sliding by the seat of their pants, making up really incoherent theories as they go. Everybody’s talking about deflation and 2% inflation targets as being some magic elixir. There isn’t a shred of proof anywhere that economies grow better over time at 2% than .8%. It is just made up. So I think that’s the first thing.

The second thing is increasing market disorder and volatility. In the last three months, the stock market has behaved like a drunken sailor but it’s really just a bunch of robots and day traders that are trading chart points until somebody can figure out what is happening directionally in the world. They just keep trading it back to 2090, it bounces off, it takes a dive, they trade it back-up. It has nothing to do with information or incoming data about the real world. We have today the 10-year German bond trading at 29.5 basis points. Well, the German economy’s been reasonably strong, fueled by the Chinese boom. But that export boom is over. The Chinese economy is faltering. Germany is going to soon have its own problems. But clearly, 29 basis points on a 10-year is irrational, even in the case of Germany, to say nothing of the 160 available today on the 10-year for Spain and Italy. Both of those countries are in deep, deep fiscal decline. There is no obvious way for them to dig out of the debt trap that they’re in. It’s going to get worse over time. There’s huge risk in those bonds, especially because there’s no guarantee that the EU will remain intact or the euro will survive. Why in the world would anybody in their right mind be owning Italian debt at 160 other than the fact that they’re front running the massive purchases that Draghi has promised and now the Germans have acquiesced to over the next year or two.

But that only kicks the can down the road. One of these days, the central banks are going to falter and the market is going to reset violently to prices that reflect the true risk on all this sovereign debt and the pretty cloudy outlook that’s ahead for the world market.

We now have something like four trillion worth of sovereign debt spread over Japanese issues, the major European countries that are trading at negative yields. Obviously, that is one, irrational, and second, completely unsustainable. And yet, it’s another characteristic of what I call these disorderly markets.

Thirdly, mal-investment is now coming home to roost. It will be driving a huge deflation of commodity and industrial prices worldwide. You can see that in iron ore, now barely holding $60 from a peak of $200. Obviously, it’s the whole oil patch that we talked about. Look at the Baltic Dry Index. That is a measure, one, of faltering demand for shipments and two, massive overbuilding of bulk carrier capacity as a result of this central bank driven boom that we’ve had in the last 10 to 20 years.

So that is going to be ripping through the financial system, the global economy, in ways that we’ve never before experienced. And so therefore, in ways that are hard to predict what all the ramifications and cascading effects will be. But clearly, it’s something that we haven’t seen in modern times or ever before—the degree of over investment, excess capacity, and everything from iron ore mines to dry bulk carriers, aluminum plants, steel mills, and on down the line.

And then, finally, clearly, demand has run smack up against peak debt, and I think that’s the right word for it. We had a tremendous study come out in the last week or so from McKinsey, who do a pretty good job of trying to calculate and track and tote up the amount of credit outstanding, public and private, in the world. We’re now at the 200 trillion threshold. That’s up from only about 140 trillion at the time of the crisis. So we’ve had a 60 trillion expansion worldwide of debt just since 2008. During that same period, though, the GDP of the world saw a little more than 15 trillion from 55 or mid-50s, roughly, to 70 trillion.

So we’ve generated, because of central bank money printing and all of this unprecedented monetary stimulus, we’ve generated something like 60 trillion of new debt in the world and have barely gotten 15, 17 billion of new GDP for all of that effort. And I think that is a measure of why the fundamental era is changing. That the boom is over and the crackup is under way when you see that kind of minimal yield from the vast amount of new debt that has been generated.

Now I’d only wrap this up by calling attention to the fact that within that global total of 200 trillion, the numbers from China are even more startling. At the time of the crisis, let’s go back to 2000, China had two trillion of credit outstanding. It’s now 28 trillion. So we’ve had just massive 14X growth in 14 years. There’s nothing like that in recorded history nor is there any plausible reason to believe that an economy, which is basically under a command and control system that is run from the top down through the party cadres, could possibly create 26 trillion in new debt in that period of time without massive inefficiencies in waste and mistakes everywhere within the system, especially since they have no markets. They have no feedback mechanisms. It all comes cascading down from the top and everybody lies to the next party above them. And I think the system is irrationally out of control.

In any event, my point was that at the time of the 2008 crisis, China had allegedly – if you believe their numbers, which no one really should – but as reported, they had five trillion worth of GDP;  it’s now ten trillion. So they’ve gained five of GDP. Their debt at the time of the crisis was seven trillion, now it’s 28. So the debt is up more than 20 trillion and the GDP is up five. These are extreme, unsustainable deformations, if I can use that word, that just scream out, “Danger ahead. Mayhem has happened.” And the unwinding of this and the resolution of this is not going to be pretty.

There's more at the link.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.  (If you'd prefer to listen to the interview rather than watch it, you'll find it here.)

This is exactly, summarized in a nutshell, what I and many others have been fearing and speaking about for years.  The entire structure of the world economy today can be compared to a financial house of cards.  It's so delicately balanced that any blow or push might collapse it.  It won't just affect one card out of the whole;  they're all so interconnected and mutually supporting that if one goes, the rest must inevitably follow sooner or later.

As just one symptom of the irrationality of the stock market today, consider the grilled cheese truck company that's worth over $100 million according to its stock valuation.  That's about as ridiculous a thing as I've ever heard of . . . but there are investors willing to pay that price for what is, at best, a lunch counter concession.  It's so over the top that 'ridiculous' is actually far too mild a word.  It's insane.  I'll be darned if I trust any market where such unbelievable valuations are attached to a business with less than one hundredth of that sum in actual assets.

Keep your head down, your larder stocked and your powder dry.  I foresee grim times ahead.  The only question is how far ahead . . . and I'm not going to bet on that at all.


A perfect job for this cold weather

With everything around our home still frozen solid after yesterday's ice storm, I was amused to read about a job offer from the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust.  The Telegraph reports:

It is freezing, smelly, and you may be gone some time. Applicants to run the world’s most southerly post office have been warned about the harsh realities of the life they would endure in the Antarctic.

The successful candidates will spend five months on Goudier, an island “the size of a football pitch” just off the Antarctic peninsula, sorting the mail at Port Lockroy, a former British scientific base.

Port Lockroy base in 1962 (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Jane Cooper, 37, from Gloucestershire, worked as postmistress the season before last and said it was the “opportunity of a lifetime”.

But there were downsides. “If you slice spam really thinly, fry it and close your eyes, you can just about convince yourself it is bacon,” she said. “There is a lot of wishful thinking involved.”

There's more at the link.

The UKAHT describes the location and the position in these terms:

Port Lockroy, Base ‘A’, is a British historic base situated on the tiny Goudier Island off the Antarctic Peninsula. It was established in 1944 and operated as a British Research station until it closed in 1962. The abandoned base was designated a Historic Site and Monument under the Antarctic Treaty and in 1996 restored as a ‘living’ museum. It is visited each Austral summer by approximately 18,000 ship-borne visitors amounting to one to two ship visits per day. During the short summer period approximately 70,000 items of mail are cancelled by hand before input into the British postal system. Goudier Island is also home to 2,000 Gentoo penguins that nest all around the building and staff continue to monitor the colony’s breeding success.

. . .

Do you possess the following attributes?
  • Adaptability to different situations – Are you happy not to shower for up to a month, live in close proximity to three people and 2,000 smelly penguins for five months?
As well as being passionate about the Antarctic. You need to be:
  • Personable – do you value getting on with others? Can you live and work with just three others for five months and be friendly and cooperative throughout?
  • Positive – can you enthuse to visitors when it is -5C° and blowing a blizzard as well as cook supper cheerfully after a long cold day and very little sleep?

I daresay one can dress for the cold;  but I suspect Miss D. would look upon me with a jaundiced eye if I didn't shower for a month.  That's a relationship-breaker, right there . . .