Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Economy news

Several very worthwhile articles about debt and the economy have been published recently.  Here's a roundup.

1.  John Mauldin's latest 'Thoughts From The Frontline' newsletter continues his analysis of debt and what it's doing to the world economy (hint:  nothing good).  A brief excerpt:

I believe the fundamental imbalances we are seeing in the world ... are the result of the massive increases in global debt and misunderstandings about the use and consequences of debt. Too much of the wrong kind of debt is going to be the central cause of the next investment crisis.

. . .

... high levels of debt are the reason for slowed growth in the developed world, a point we have highlighted for years in our research. There is a point at which too much debt simply sucks the life out of an economy.

There's much more at the link.  Indispensable reading to understand our biggest single financial problem today, as a nation, as businesses and as individuals.

2.  I've written often about the threat of automation to many (if not most) of the jobs people do today.  That threat is even more dangerous in third world countries and economies, which don't have the social 'safety nets' that most first world societies have put in place over the past three-quarters of a century.  Walter Russell Mead examines this problem.

Some call it “The Second Machine Age,” some call it “post-Fordism,” and some herald the emerging “information economy.” But no matter what you call the coming change, the march of technology will require a fundamental reorganization of how human capital is deployed in the economy, and nobody quite knows how to prepare for it. Latin America is especially vulnerable, and while the region’s economic leaders are officially optimistic, there’s also an unmistakable note of fear.

. . .

Latin America never really managed to develop a successful and inclusive social and economic system in the age of the blue model—the “First Machine Age” when industrialization supported armies of well-paid manufacturing workers and clerical employees ... Now, a new industrial revolution is challenging the blue model Fordist utopias of the First World—and Latin America faces changes for which it is poorly prepared.

Again, more at the link.  Sobering reading.  (The same problem is now hitting Wall Street investment firms, which gives me a certain amount of schadenfreude.)

3.  CNN reports that the US economy is showing cracks.

The U.S. job market had its best year of gains last year since 1999, and economic activity hit a whopping 5% in the third quarter -- the best quarter since 2003.

Three months later, the U.S. economy is looking a little tired. It's losing momentum in puzzling ways. Hiring is still strong, but experts are starting to scale back their growth forecasts.

Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen summed it up well in a speech Friday: "If underlying conditions had truly returned to normal, the economy should be booming."

Economists say there are two main problems: Workers' wages aren't growing much, if at all. As a result, Americans aren't going out and spending much. On top of that, many foreign economies are slowing down, which puts pressure on the U.S.

The question going forward is whether we're just in a blip or a bigger shift is taking place.

More at the link.

I think the answer is simple.  First, the employment figures are bogus (we've discussed this problem before at length).  Second, the US consumer is tapped out, still paying off a heavy debt burden (again, much discussed here) and earning much less thanks to Obamacare, which has penalized businesses for employing full-time staff.  It's noteworthy that most of the jobs created over the past two to three years have been part-time positions (meaning 30 hours or less per week - usually less).  That means workers have less money, and with the vast number of unemployed seeking jobs, it's harder than ever to find two jobs to make up the slack.  It's not hard to understand.

4. The Guardian points out the danger - and increasing likelihood - of a debt-fueled crash in the world economy.

Ann Pettifor of Prime Economics, who foreshadowed the credit crunch in her 2003 book The Coming First World Debt Crisis, says: “We’re going to have another financial crisis. Brazil’s already in great trouble with the strength of the dollar; I dread to think what’s happening in South Africa; then there’s Malaysia. We’re back to where we were, and that for me is really frightening.”

Since the aftershocks of the global financial crisis of 2008 died away, the world’s policymakers have spent countless hours rewriting the banking rulebook and rethinking monetary policy. But next to nothing has been done about the question of what to do about countries that can’t repay their debts, or how to stop them getting into trouble in the first place.

More at the link.

Folks, the economic fundamentals have not changed.  All we've done for years is papered over the cracks with endless billions upon billions of dollars of newly-minted money, which has not been backed up by added value in the economy or any assets to underpin it.  Sooner or later those pigeons are going to come home to roost.  When you get sources across the economic spectrum begin to point that out . . . it's time to listen.


Seven brides for seven (Georgian) brothers?

For some reason, this lively rendition of a Georgian folk song reminds me irresistibly of the dance scene in the 1950's musical 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers'.  The music is utterly different, but the country 'moves' and the sheer joie de vivre of the participants is eerily similar.  See what you think.  Watch it in full-screen mode to get the full impact of the scenery, which is lovely.

I thoroughly enjoyed that, even though I didn't understand a word of it.  Can anyone point me to the lyrics and/or an English translation of them?

(And if you haven't yet seen 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers', it's high time you did!)


Doofus Of The Day #827

Today's award goes to the member(s) of the firefighting team at Manchester Airport in the UK who pressed the wrong button.

A passenger jet was left stranded on the runway after firemen giving it a good luck salute accidentally sprayed it with foam instead of water.

The Virgin Atlantic flight was to have been the first service from Manchester Airport to Atlanta, Georgia, so fire crews planned to give the Airbus A330-300 a send-off with their water cannons before passengers boarded.

However, someone aboard the fire tenders, which were ready to spray a giant arch of water over the top of the passenger jet, mistakenly switched the hoses to jet out fire-suppressing foam.

It clogged up the jet engines and turbine blades. Dripping with foam, the aircraft was grounded and forced to undergo a safety check.

. . .

Passengers were being put up at hotels overnight and told to report for a replacement flight at 9.30am on Tuesday.

There's more at the link.

That's going to cost well into six figures, perhaps even seven, to strip and check all the affected parts.  Methinks the Manchester Airport Fire Department is about to get a mammoth bill . . .


Monday, March 30, 2015

The man's got his priorities straight . . .

According to Wirecutter, "He's good. Real good."


Doofus Of The Day #826

Courtesy of a link at Maddened Fowl, today's award goes to a man in Dayton, Ohio.

A man said he accidentally shot himself when a gun he bought on the street jammed.

. . .

He told police it happened in a creek area off Norris Drive, according to the report.

The man reported he went there to test fire a gun he had bought from a man named “Crack Head Dave,” according to the report.

There's more at the link.

Y'know, when your friendly neighborhood firearms supplier is named 'Crack Head Dave', I think we've identified the real problem right there . . .


Screaming 9mm. and .308 ammo deal at Walmart

Those of you who shoot those calibers, call your local Walmart ASAP.  I was doing some other shopping there an hour ago when I happened past the Sporting Goods department (funny how I find myself at the ammo locker so often, isn't it?).  They were unpacking Perfecta brand 9mm. 115gr. ball and .308 147gr. ball ammo at the ridiculously low price of $6.94 per box (of 50 and 20 rounds, respectively).  I haven't seen prices that low for those cartridges in years.  (To put it in perspective, that's 14c per round for 9mm. and 35c per round for .308. It's hard to reload for the same price per round today, if you use jacketed bullets.)

Needless to say, I bought as much as I could afford.  The staff hadn't even finished unpacking the stuff yet, and they laughed that I was ruining their efforts to set up a display of it.  Too bad - by the time I'd paid for mine, two other shoppers had come by, done a double-take as they saw the price on the shelf, and reached for their wallets.

I predict this is going to fly off the shelves.  My local Walmart had several cases of each caliber, and I'll be surprised if they last until this evening.  If you shoot 9mm. or .308, grab some while you can (and check whether other calibers are available at your local store).  Perfecta is decent ammo - see here and here for just two threads reviewing it.  It appears to be made by Fiocchi in Italy.  For practice and plinking, I'd say it's as good as anything else - and it's brass-cased, so you can reload it.


Politically correct post-colonial idiots

I was infuriated to read about protests by students in Cape Town, South Africa, that have led to the removal of a statue of Cecil John Rhodes, imperialist, pioneer, visionary, mining magnate and former Prime Minister of the Cape Colony.

Yahoo! News reports:

A bucketload of human excrement flung at a statue has toppled a symbol of British imperialism in South Africa, marking the emergence of a new generation of black protest against white oppression.

The senate of the University of Cape Town (UCT) on Friday bowed to student demands that a brooding bronze statue of colonialist Cecil John Rhodes should be removed from the campus.

UCT, the oldest university in South Africa and regularly ranked as the best on the continent, was built on land donated by Rhodes, a mining magnate who died in 1902.

Many of the students involved in the protests never lived under the injustices of white minority rule, but say they still experience racial discrimination 21 years after the end of apartheid.

The large statue of a notoriously racist Rhodes gazing across an Africa that he coveted for the British empire made them feel alienated on a campus still dominated by white staff, they said.

. . .

One white letter writer probably spoke for many when he suggested in the Cape Times that the student who threw the excrement at Rhodes should leave UCT and attend a university established by "his own ancestors".

But students have dismissed the argument that Rhodes should be honoured for donating land for the campus, saying he stole it from black Africans in the first place.

There's more at the link.

Those closing paragraphs say a mouthful.  I endorse wholeheartedly the views of the letter writer in the Cape Times, and I reject with contempt the students' response.  After all, the history of Black tribes in South Africa, dating back long before the arrival of white settlers, is one of continual internecine warfare, atrocities against other tribes, and forcible occupation of their lands - until the occupiers were in turn driven out by stronger foes.  To complain that whites dispossessed blacks of their land is to ignore the reality that far more blacks were historically dispossessed of their lands by other blacks over many centuries, just as Native American tribes forcibly took over each others' territories for centuries before European colonists arrived in North America.  It's been that way all over the world since the beginning of the human race.

(For that matter, where do you think most of the black slaves imported to North America came from?  The majority of them - probably the vast majority - were enslaved by other blacks in West Africa before they were sold to slave traders who brought them to America.  Slavery isn't only the fault of the whites.)

A different, more radical perspective on the protests is provided by Equal Times:

On the surface the campaign has been successful, with UCT agreeing to remove the statue, but students continue to occupy the university’ administrative offices with a list of demands that include: reducing the “extortionate” tuition fees; paying all UCT workers a living minimum wage; implementing “a curriculum which critically centres Africa and the subalter”; and recognising that “ the history of those who built our university – enslaved and working class black people – has been erased through institutional culture”.

. . .

UCT Student Representative Council (SRC) president Ramabina Mahapa has been quoted in the media as saying that “black people can’t be proud at UCT, because UCT doesn’t speak positively about [our] image.”

According to Mahapa,“through its use of symbols, such as the monument to Rhodes, the university is discriminating against black people.”

. . .

The “continuing whiteness of UCT,” as 2008 report of the Ministerial Committee described it, strengthens the sense of racial belonging for whites at UCT, while at the same time, it alienates and ‘others’ blacks.

Again, more at the link.

If I had the chance to talk to these student radicals at UCT, this is what I'd say to them:

You have not earned the right to criticize one who achieved so much in his lifetime - particularly not one who, even in the context of imperialist racism that every single European nation practiced in the 19th century, could say things like, "I could never accept the position that we should disqualify a human being on account of his color".

You have not earned that right because you have not achieved anything to set against, and be measured against, his achievements.  His example inspired more than one generation, and was remembered long after his death by both black and white Africans.  What example have you set by which to be remembered?  Flinging excrement at statues?

It doesn't matter what color your skin is, or what your background might be, or what your aspirations are.  What matters is what you achieve - and don't tell me that the lack of things of which you feel 'deprived' holds you back from achieving.  That's politically correct claptrap.  Good men and women in every nation, of every tribe, ethnicity, language, creed and color, have achieved great things after beginning in absolute poverty with nothing and no-one to help them.  They earned the right to criticize others on the basis that they proved themselves by their deeds.  You have not - at least, not yet.  When you have, come and talk to me again.  Until then, shut up.

The Rhodes Scholarships that Cecil John Rhodes founded have educated many of the world's leaders, including US Presidents.  His philanthropy is visible in the grounds on which your university stands, which he donated, and in Rhodes University in Grahamstown.  You apparently see no contradiction between deriving personal benefit from his generosity, and throwing excrement at his statue.  Shame on you.

I'd say that to them . . . but I don't suppose it would do much good.  I guess it's a good thing I left South Africa when I did, because if I was still living in Cape Town (my birthplace) I'd have no hesitation in telling these jackasses what I thought of them.  Nowadays, that might not be survivable in what Alan Paton called 'the beloved country'.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Of books, the writing life, and Westerns

It's been just over 40 days since the publication of my latest novel, 'Stand Against The Storm'.  It's exceeded all my expectations, thanks to your support in buying it and spreading the word about it - even though it was the most difficult novel to write that I've yet experienced.  It seems that all the hard work has paid off, which is very gratifying.  That success means that Miss D. will soon be able to afford to leave her day job and help me with marketing and administration, whilst simultaneously setting up her own consultancy business as a marketing analyst and adviser to other independent authors.  She has a real gift in the area of data analysis, definition of target markets, keyword selection, etc.  I think she'll do very well at it.  She already has several indie authors who've said they plan to hire her, so I'm excited for her prospects.  I think in a year or so she'll be well established.

I'm almost finished the second novel in the Laredo Trilogy, sequel to 'War To The Knife'.  This one will be called 'Forge A New Blade', and the third book of the trilogy (hopefully coming out in November) will be 'Knife To The Hilt'.  I've completed 85,000 of my target 100,000 words, and it should be completed within the next ten days.  After that it'll go out to a few beta readers for their impressions and comments, then I'll edit it before publication in May.  The fifth book in the Maxwell Saga, as yet untitled, will separate Laredo 2 and Laredo 3.  It's scheduled for August.

I'm also beginning a new project, which may or may not see the light of day - but it's a lot of fun.  You see, I've always liked good Westerns.  I'm not talking about the modern thinly-disguised pornography and beat-'em-up violent sort of books that one finds far too often;  I mean quality work like Louis L'Amour, Harry Combs, the earlier writers like Zane Grey and so on.  Therefore, I'm trying to write one.

I suppose I have a natural affinity for Westerns because South Africa had its own version of 'Western' history - except that there, it was more 'Eastern'.  The USA expanded to the west;  South Africa expanded to the east.  The 'Great Trek' of the 1830's approximated what was happening in the USA at the time, movement westward into the Great Plains that would eventually reach the Pacific.  The USA had its Civil War, where South Africa had its Boer Wars.  The Indian Wars here were matched by the Xhosa Wars and conflicts between Boers and Sotho, Swazi, Zulu and other tribes.  The frontier experience in both nations was pretty similar.  Therefore, as a youngster, I read accounts of pioneers in Africa and those in the American West and instantly recognized the similarities.

I'm trying to write a worthy Western in the classic sense.  I'll have to adhere to some of the myths of the genre, of course.  No-one would read (or believe) a Western in which very few people died, even though in reality considerably fewer violent deaths occurred in the 'Wild West' than happened during the same period in Eastern cities.  No-one would believe a Western where conflict between cowboys and Indians was rare - but in reality it really was rare, most clashes involving the military rather than civilians.  History's a funny thing.  The reality so seldom coincides with the myth.  To quote from the famous Western movie 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance';  "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

However, I'm also going to strive for historical accuracy in terms of dates and technical details.  Nobody in 1865 is going to wield a Single Action Army revolver or a Winchester .44-40 rifle, both of which were first manufactured in 1873 and not widely distributed for a couple of years after that date.  When I talk about my protagonist's journey westwards in 1865-66, the railroad will not have reached across the continent - it won't even be a third of the way across Kansas yet.  Denver will still be an overgrown, raucous mining camp, not some sort of Eastern metropolis magically transplanted into the Rockies.  My comments about Native American tribal culture will be historically accurate, not the stereotypical nonsense so often written.  I'm going to write this book as well as I possibly can, even if I don't publish it, because I think that sort of accuracy is long overdue in the genre.

It may never see the light of day, but I'll have a lot of fun with it as light relief in between working on my science fiction books.  If I do decide to publish it, I'll probably write three or four novels in the series first, then bring them out at short intervals, perhaps using a pseudonym.  Would you be interested in reading a Western of that sort?  If so, please let me know.  If there's sufficient interest . . . we'll see.

Thanks again for all your support.  You've been great!


Another hungry sealion - and a few pelicans

Following the video I put up a couple of days ago about an enterprising (and hungry) sealion, I found this one filmed off the coast of Mexico.  Looks like some of these animals have gotten more than casually acquainted with tourists.

Why bother to hunt fish when tourists will do it for you?


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sounds like a good life, well lived

The obituary of an Alaska man caused me to smile.  It begins:

Captain Donald Alexander Malcolm Jr., 60, died Feb. 28, 2015, nestled in the bosom of his family, while smoking, drinking whiskey and telling lies. He died from complications resulting from being stubborn, refusing to go to the doctor, and raising hell for six decades. Stomach cancer also played a minor role in his demise.

There's more at the link.  Read the comments below it as well.  They're worth it.

Sounds like Mr. Malcolm lived a good life and lived it well.  We need more like him, and we're diminished by their loss. May he rest in peace.


I think he's done this before

I have no idea of the backstory to this video, but Dude 1 is talking on a cellphone when Dude 2 charges him with a baseball bat.  Dude 1 has some very effective moves.

Nice chokehold.  Dude 2 was out cold.  I suspect Dude 1 had done this (or something like this) before.

(Dude 2 is also fortunate he didn't try that on someone carrying a gun.  Under those circumstances, a baseball bat is a potentially lethal weapon any way you look at it, so such an attack would have justified a rather stronger response, IMHO.)


Shooting blankety-blanks?

Courtesy of a link at Maddened Fowl, we learn that no less than five Americans have shot themselves in the unmentionables over the past few years.

Personally, I'm sure there have been more than five cases.  Ever since the advent of the Glock pistol with its 'safe action' system, followed by a host of imitators as soon as its patent protection ran out, I've been aware of the potential for accidental discharges from firearms so equipped.  Without an external safety, there's nothing stopping the trigger from being depressed accidentally if something gets into the trigger guard.  Those of us who carry pistols in our pockets on occasion know that danger very well.  Most of us compensate by using a pocket holster that covers the trigger, or a firearm with a long double-action trigger pull that can't be easily discharged (e.g. a Smith & Wesson J-frame revolver).  However, many who haven't thought things through don't take such precautions.

During my service as a prison chaplain, I can recall at least three inmates who were nicknamed 'Stumpy' for reasons that should be obvious in the light of the above.  All three carried Glock pistols in their waistbands or their pockets without the added security of a decent holster.  All three suffered the consequences (literally).  The teasing to which they were subjected by their fellow inmates must have made their term of incarceration immeasurably more unpleasant . . . not to mention their (lack of) prospects (in the sexual sense at least, and most likely in others as well) when they were discharged.

Please, dear readers, if you pocket- or waistband-carry a firearm, make sure you use a holster that covers the trigger?  Pretty please?  I'd rather have your interest peaked, not sadly foreshortened.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Opportunist fisher

This made me laugh.

Cheeky, isn't he?


In Memoriam: John Renbourn

One of the seminal figures of the English folk-rock and folk-jazz music revival of the 1960's and 1970's and founder of the group Pentangle, John Renbourn, has died.  The Telegraph writes:

John Renbourn, who has died aged 70, was an innovative acoustic guitarist whose pioneering finger style not only provided great impetus to the 1960s folk scene but also influenced rock guitarists such as Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. His informal 1966 album Bert & John, with Bert Jansch, was a landmark in the development of the British folk movement and remains a highly influential work in the field of folk music accompaniment.

Yet Renbourn’s mastery of a wide variety of styles, including classical, medieval, jazz, blues and world music, and his eagerness to explore fresh techniques, endeared him to musicians from a variety of genres.

There's more at the link.

There are so many musical examples of John Renbourn's work that it's almost impossible for me to choose just one.  I've therefore chosen a simple melody, made famous by Simon & Garfunkel.  Here's an instrumental rendition of 'Scarborough Fair'.

Timeless and lovely.  May he rest in peace.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Welcoming a newborn elephant

I was delighted to see video of a newborn baby elephant taking its first steps at the Londolozi Private Game Reserve in South Africa.  I know Londolozi well - or rather, I used to back when I still lived in that country.  I've seen this elephant behavior before on several occasions.  You can read about the event here.

I suggest watching the video in full-screen mode.

Another thing:  if you see elephant behavior like that - the tightly clustering females, I mean - get the hell out of their way!  They're being very maternal and loving towards the baby . . . and that means they're absolutely deadly to anything and anyone they consider might represent any threat at all.  I've personally seen a lion about fifteen feet across and one inch thick in the Kruger National Park.  According to the ranger with us, it had probably decided it was going to snack on a little Mtoto (baby elephant) - and Mtoto's mommy had decided it wasn't.  Guess who won?


Remembering "A Man in Full"

I've frequently mentioned in these pages the name of the late, great Jeff Cooper, one of the most important figures in firearms theory and practice since World War II.  A DVD presentation about his life is titled 'Jeff Cooper: A Man in Full'. That's a pretty good summation of who and what he was. I had the privilege of meeting him in South Africa many years ago, and never forgot what I learned from him. It helped to keep me alive on more than one occasion.

In the NRA magazine 'American Rifleman' there's a regular feature called 'Throwback Thursdays'.  The latest is an article dating back to 1993 about Jeff Cooper by the late, equally legendary firearms writer Finn Aagaard, a fellow African whom I also held in high regard.  Here's an excerpt.

Cooper has written that "Man fights with his mind. His hands and his weapons are simply extensions of his will...” He says that of the 50 or so of his students who have been involved in lethal confrontations, not one student claimed to have saved his life by his dexterity or his marksmanship, but rather by his mindset.

He defines the combat mindset as “...that state of mind which ensures victory in a gunfight. It is composed of awareness, anticipation, concentration and coolness. Above all, its essence is self-control. Dexterity and marksmanship are prerequisite to confidence, and confidence is prerequisite to self-control.”

Cooper wrote about this new doctrine of practical pistolcraft, and presently he was being asked to teach it, mostly overseas. Working with the “good guys” in hot spots in Latin America, Europe and Africa, he evolved simple and effective ways of teaching the modern technique.

. . .

A man of many parts is Jeff Cooper, apart from being the guru of the combat pistol, warrior (as all true men are at bottom), Marine officer, spook, swordsman, bon vivant, historian, scholar, adjunct professor of police science, connoisseur of fast cars, expert rifleman and big game hunter, adventurer (“peril — not variety — is the true spice of life”), philosopher, NRA director, a superb writer and author with a wonderful command of the language, father and grandfather, husband to one of the most gracious, charming and delightful of ladies (doubt not her core of steel, though — else how could she have managed Jeff for more than 50 years?), a seeker of excellence whose creed is Honor, Duty, Country, a man with a great gusto for life, and, perhaps above all, a teacher.

. . .

... he is truly the father of the modern technique of the pistol. Others helped evolve it — and it continues to evolve — but he put it all together, promoted it, and taught it. No one since Samuel Colt has had a greater impact on practical pistolcraft than Jeff Cooper.

There's more at the link.

I have most of Col. Cooper's books in my permanent collection.  If you haven't read them yet, you're in for a treat.  His volumes of memoir and personal philosophy, listed below, are my favorites.  Click on a book title to be taken to its page at Amazon.com.

All are highly recommended reading.


A father gives his daughter to her husband

I laughed out loud at parts of this . . . and found it touching, too.

I think she's lucky in her father.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

An icy view of the solar eclipse

The recent solar eclipse was filmed by a Polish research station on Spitsbergen, a Norwegian island above the Arctic Circle.  It makes very interesting viewing from the 'land of the midnight sun'.  I recommend watching it in full-screen mode.

Interesting . . . but cold!


"The man who invented the obstacle course"

That's the title of an interesting article over at Defense Media Network.  It points out, correctly, that the obstacle course or assault course was actually a well-established concept in foreign armies, but was introduced to the US armed forces early in World War II.  Here's an excerpt.

When World War II started in Europe in September 1939, the United States was the 17th largest military power. Its army, containing just 190,000 troops, was effectively a constabulary force. By February 1941, all that had changed. Thanks to the recently passed conscription law, the number of recruits had ballooned almost ten-fold, with millions more to come. The American military had experienced such crash-program increases before, in the Civil War and World War I. And as before, the draftees entering service were raw material. Before they could be shipped out to the new and expanding training centers being prepared for them, they had to be shaped up. While all base and camp commanders had that problem, it was particularly acute for Lt. Col. William M. Hoge.

. . .

Hoge’s most vexing problem [at Fort Belvoir] was how to provide proper military outdoor physical exercise training. Because he was located on a peninsula, he couldn’t expand. Space was at a premium.

It was while trying to figure out a solution one day to the physical fitness problem that he recalled one of his subordinates, Paul W. Thompson, had spent a year in Germany as an attachĂ©. Calling Thompson into his office, Hoge asked him, “What in the hell do the Germans do to get exercise for their men? They have much less area than we have.” Thompson told him about specially designed fields filled with a variety of trenches and constructions that the men had to overcome through climbing, crawling, swinging, hopping, and jumping.

Hoge brought in the officer responsible for physical training and the three drew up a blueprint for the Army’s first obstacle course. In an interview conducted years later, Hoge recalled, “It wasn’t as big as a city block from beginning to end, but you did all these things in a short space. You’d run, climb walls, jump over ditches, crawl through pipes, walk on logs over running streams. I don’t know what all we didn’t try. We put everything we could in that space.”

. . .

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall soon heard about Hoge’s creation and came down to see it for himself. Impressed, he promptly ordered every base and camp to build them.

There's more at the link, including many photographs.

I have bitter, twisted memories of obstacle courses.  The worst is when I spent several months at a particular establishment where weekly run-throughs, carrying telephone poles, truck tires, duffel bags (colloquially known as balsaks) filled with sand, and sundry other impedimenta were part of the routine.  I ended up spending a full forty days in hospital as a result of an infection.  Needless to say, after so long in bed I lost a lot of my physical conditioning.  Not only did that base deny me the sick leave the hospital had ordered, but I was made to participate in a fitness contest over the obstacle course that very weekend.  Teams were penalized for every time one of their members couldn't complete an evolution, or get over an obstacle in the specified time, or anything like that.  Thanks to my weakened condition, I amassed over thirty penalty points for my team - some of whom had placed bets on the result, and beat me up that night for 'making them lose'.

(I filed charges over that, including over the [illegal] denial of my hospital-authorized sick leave.  I was threatened with all sorts of dire consequences for daring to 'buck the system', but I had the documentation to prove my case.  In the end I was transferred to a much nicer unit, the charges were allowed to lapse, and those responsible for the screw-up received 'administrative reprimands', whatever that meant . . . not a lot, I suspect.  The staff at that base looked after its own.)

Anyway, I was interested to read how the obstacle course came to the US Army.  I wonder how many veterans have longed to pee on General Hoge's grave because of that?


Doofus Of The Day #825

Today's award goes to four constables of the Jharkhand police force in India.

An embarrassed Jharkhand police on Saturday suspended four constables after it emerged that they had taken along a convicted prisoner to a redlight area in neighbouring West Bengal, a top official said, exposing gaping holes in prison security.

On Friday, the police personnel had escorted the prisoner, serving a seven-year prison term for murder, for a health check-up at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi, around 200 km from the Koderma jail.

However, instead of returning to Koderma, the constables took the prisoner to a redlight area at Kulti in Asansol, a border township in West Bengal.

Asansol is around 230 km from Ranchi, a three-hour drive by road.

Jail sources their act came to light only after a team of Asansol police raided the red light area and arrested the policemen, who carried arms, but sported civil dress.

. . .

The prisoner, identified as Baiju Yadav, returned to the prison on Friday night and told authorities that he was “forcibly” taken to the red light area, jail sources said.

The four police personnel, who are said to have been drunk at the time of the raid, are in custody of Asansol police.

There's more at the link.

I've heard of sleeping on the job . . . but never sleeping around on the job!  Did they 'treat' the prisoner to the services of one of the ladies of negotiable virtue, as well as themselves?


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A World War II bomber pilot tells his story

Last week, during a Reddit 'Ask Me Anything' thread, former B17 pilot Carl Estersohn answered questions from readers about what it was like to fly and fight during World War II.  Here's a brief series of excerpts.

IKingJeremy: How did you and your fellow airmen keep their spirits up during war?

CarlEstersohn: We drank a lot of beer, hahaha! We would go to London every 3-4 days... we'd go to the dance halls, dance with the pretty girls, and that's about all we could do, because London was at war, and they were being bombed, and it wasn't really that safe a place, but we managed to survive.

hurtsdonut: That's amazing, dancing while being bombed.

CarlEstersohn: Yeah, well, we didn't have a choice! If we wanted to go to London to be entertained, that was the only place we could go. And everything wasn't really available, it was wartime, there were a lot of restrictions - there were no restaurants, there were taxis available but they were few & far between, difficult to get, there were a lot of Americans over there waiting for the invasion, and a lot of the guys that were flying were going - and that's what took up the limited stuff. They were very good to us. We were made to enjoy English beer, which was quite a feat! That's all there was. There was very little food. They had eating clubs, here and there throughout London. If you belonged to one, you could get some chicken or maybe steak - I think they were cooking horsemeat steaks at that time. They were pretty good, hahah!

. . .

kinglyryan: What was your worst experience in WWII, and what was your best?

CarlEstersohn: My worst experience and my BEST experience?

Well, my worst experience was when I got shot down during one of my raids, and landed in Belgium, which fortunately was in Allied hands. The Allied armies had pushed their way up through France, and up into Belgium, on their way to Holland, so I was not made a prisoner of war. And myself and my crew got back to our base in England, and we managed to fly all together 35 missions.

My best experience during the war, that's kinda tough, I'd say my last mission was probably my best because that was knowing that I wasn't going to be subjected to enemy action anymore, and I took over somebody's job as a planning officer, to send missions out, and brief the other guys as to where they were going and where they were supposed to do.

I was still an officer. I didn't have a title, I was just Lieutenant Estersohn. And later I became a captain, and I went home on a troop ship, just about the same time as the armistice was declared in the German theater of war. First week in May 1945. And I got home, became a civilian, and went back to school.

. . .

Sercos: How did your experiences during the war change you as a human being? Would you say that overall it was for better or for worse?

CarlEstersohn: I would say, overall, it was for the better.

It gave me a chance to get my priorities straight.

It gave me a chance to look at so-called "crises" with a different outlook, different expectation and different way of handling it.

I don't mean to say that war is a good thing, in ANY respect.

But it does affect you. I think that any person that's been at war, or any kind of skirmishes, can say the same thing. It changes your values.

. . .

MethMachine: Did the war change your outlook on life? If so, how?

Thanks for your service, and for doing this AMA!

CarlEstersohn: You're welcome!

And of course, absolutely. You come to realize that all the things you thought were so important are not really, because life is what's important, and without it, there's nothing. So you understand that... whatever problems you have are minuscule compared to having to go out and fight a war.

Which very people realize today. Very few people experience.

But that's about the story, your outlook on life, it sure does change.

Priorities change. Your values change.

There's much more at the link.

Sobering, thought-provoking stuff.  My war was years later and on another continent, but I learned many of the same lessons.  Thanks for your service, Mr. Estersohn.


I want this as a watch band

As soon as I saw the promotional material for the forthcoming Leatherman Tread multitool, I couldn't help but imagine:  what would this be like as a watchband?

My next thought was:  how many heart attacks would it give TSA inspectors if you tried to carry it through their checkpoints at the airport?  Just mention 'multitool' in their hearing and it's good enough for an X-rated pat-down.


EDITED TO ADD: A commenter informs me that it is, indeed, available as a watch: but at an estimated price of $500-$600, that's too rich for my blood.

A stunt for the ages

I was intrigued to read about this stunt performed by Buster Keaton in the 1928 silent movie 'Steamboat Bill Jr.'

According to the book 'Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase' by Marion Meade:

As he stood in the studio street waiting for a building to crash on him, he noticed that some of the electricians and extras were praying. The window was just big enough to give two inches of clearance on either side. Keaton drove a nail in the ground to mark his position. When the moment came and the house front came down, he froze. The open window hit him exactly as planned. Afterwards, he would call the stunt one of his greatest thrills. He said later that he did not care whether he lived or died: "I was mad at the time, or I never would have done the thing."



Monday, March 23, 2015

Big Brother and your money

Simon Black brings us a disturbing warning about possible capital controls in America.

You tell the teller that you’d like to withdraw $5,000 from your account. She hesitates nervously and wants to know why.

You try to politely let her know that that’s none of the bank’s business as it’s your money.

The teller disappears for a few minutes, leaving you waiting.

When she returns she tells you that you can collect your money in a few days as they don’t have it on hand at the moment.

Slightly irritated because of the inconvenience, you head home.

But as you pull into your driveway later there’s an unexpected surprise waiting for you: two police officers would like to have a word with you about your intended withdrawal earlier . . .

. . .

Federal regulations in the Land of the Free REQUIRE banks to file ‘suspicious activity reports’ or SARs on their customers. And it’s not optional.

Banks have minimum quotas of SARs they need to fill out and submit to the federal government.

If they don’t file enough SARs, they can be fined. They can lose their banking charter. And yes, bank executives and directors can even be imprisoned for noncompliance.

. . .

According to the handbook for the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council, banks are required to file a SAR with respect to:

“Transactions conducted or attempted by, at, or through the bank (or an affiliate) and aggregating $5,000 or more…”

It’s utterly obscene. According to the Justice Department, going to the bank and withdrawing $5,000 should potentially prompt a banker to rat you out to the police.

There’s something else about this that I want to point out, though: this may be a very early form of capital controls in the Land of the Free.

There's more at the link.

Note that money deemed suspicious can be seized under asset forfeiture rules without any criminal conviction, leaving you to fight in court (at great legal expense) to get your money back.  It's a well-known tactic by Federal, State and local jurisdictions.  Even airport travelers are now being targeted.  It treats normal precautions such as keeping a store of ready cash on hand (which I've recommended before) as suspicious or even criminal activity - which is ludicrous.

Land of the Free, indeed!


Ralph Peters nails it

"Why our prep-school diplomats fail against Putin and ISIS":

We are led by men and women educated to believe in the irresistible authority of their own words. When they encounter others who use words solely to deflect and defraud, or, worse, when their opposite numbers ignore words completely and revel in ferocious violence, our best and brightest go into an intellectual stall and keep repeating the same empty phrases (in increasingly tortured tones):

“Violence never solves anything.” “There’s no military solution.” “War is never the answer.” “Only a negotiated solution can resolve this crisis.” “It isn’t about religion.”

Or the latest and lamest: “We need to have strategic patience,” and “Terrorists need jobs.”

Every one of those statements is, demonstrably, nonsense most — or all — of the time. But the end result of very expensive educations is a Manchurian Candidate effect that kicks in whenever the core convictions of the old regime are questioned. So we find ourselves with leaders who would rather defend platitudes than defend their country.

And negotiations become the opium of the chattering classes.

Once-great universities have turned into political indoctrination centers worthy of the high Stalinist Era or the age of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Their aims may be more benign, but their unwillingness to consider alternative worldviews is every bit as rigid. Students in the social sciences at Harvard or Yale today are cadets being groomed to serve a soft-Socialist form of government conceived not in the streets, but in the very same classrooms. It’s a self-licking ice-cream cone. And graduates leave campus brilliantly prepared for everything except reality.

There's more at the link.



Sunday, March 22, 2015

Not flushed with success

I have to wince in sympathy with New York City's sanitation workers.  The New York Times reports:

In recent years, the intersection of evolving hygienic sensibilities and aggressive industry marketing has fueled the product’s rise. Wet wipes, long used for baby care, have grown popular with adults.

Some of the products are branded as “flushable” — a characterization contested by wastewater officials and plaintiffs bringing class-action lawsuits against wipes manufacturers for upending their plumbing.

Often, the wipes combine with other materials, like congealed grease, to create a sort of superknot.

. . .

The city has spent more than $18 million in the past five years on wipe-related equipment problems, officials said. The volume of materials extracted from screening machines at the city’s wastewater treatment plants has more than doubled since 2008, an increase attributed largely to the wipes.

Removal is an unpleasant task. The dank clusters, graying and impenetrable, gain mass like demon snowballs as they travel. Pumps clog. Gears falter. Then, there is the final blow, wrought by an intake of sewage that overwhelmed a portion of a north Brooklyn treatment plant.

“Odor control,” a sign there reads. But on a recent afternoon, the second word had disappeared behind a wayward splotch: It was a used wipe, etched with a heavenly cloud design.

. . .

The consummate cautionary tale is that of London, where in 2013 a collection of wipes, congealed cooking oil and other materials totaled 15 tons, according to Thames Water, the utility company that removed it. It was known, like some previous occurrences, as the fatberg. “We reckon it has to be the biggest such berg in British history,” Gordon Hailwood, an official with Thames Water, said at the time.

There's more at the link.  Here's a video of London's 'fatberg'.

When one considers that most of us have that sort of disgusting goo not far beneath our feet in the cities where we live, it gives one a new appreciation for sanitation workers.


Lies and cultural memes, exposed

Back in December last year I wrote an article titled 'When lies become cultural memes'.  I addressed the chants of "Hands up! Don't shoot!" and "I can't breathe!" being employed by demonstrators, and pointed out that they were manifestly, undoubtedly false.  They were lies.  I asked:

Am I wrong to insist that the truth is important?  Am I so far out of touch with modern society that I find it morally wrong to demonstrate over something I know to be an untruth?  I have no problem with drawing attention to the very real racial tensions in our society.  They're undeniable.  However, to do so while parroting lies seems to me to taint one's cause with dishonesty.  Can't the demonstrators see this?  Or is it that they no longer care about what's factually true or false, but only about their feelings on the subject?

There's more at the link.

Now the Washington Post, to my surprise, has come down firmly on my side of the argument - even though the newspaper has probably never heard of me or my earlier article.

Catchy phrases like “Hands up, don’t shoot,” “Black lives matter,” “an unarmed black person is killed every 28 hours” (which we have fact checked) have resulted from protests over the deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner. They are emotional messages spread easily, like the “We are 99 percent” mantra of Occupy Wall Street.

We care about facts, how they’re used and the context in which the facts are portrayed.

. . .

Investigators have overwhelmingly rejected witness accounts that Brown had his hands up in a surrender before being shot execution-style. The DOJ has concluded Wilson did not know whether Brown was armed, acted out of self-defense and was justified in killing Brown. The majority of witnesses told federal investigators that the initial claims that Brown’s hands were up were not accurate. “Hands up, don’t shoot” did not happen in Brown’s killing, and it is a characterization that deserves Four Pinocchios. Politicians should step carefully if they try to highlight this expression in the future.

Again, more at the link.

Well, at least one mainstream news outlet has chosen to come down on the side of fact.  Now, what about the others?  I somehow don't think it would be wise to hold my breath in anticipation . . .


The F-35 boondoggle, redux

I've said for several years that the F-35 Lightning II aircraft program is nothing more or less than a boondoggle, and should be terminated at once.  Here are some of my previous articles about it.

Now the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has produced one of the most sweeping condemnations of the program I've ever read.  Its introduction reads:

Inside-the-Beltway wisdom holds that the $1.4 trillion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program is too big to cancel and on the road to recovery. But the latest report from the Defense Department’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) provides a litany of reasons that conventional wisdom should be considered politically driven propaganda. The press has already reported flawed software that hinders the ability of the plane to employ weapons, communicate information, and detect threats; maintenance problems so severe that the F-35 has an “overdependence” on contractor maintainers and “unacceptable workarounds” (behind paywall) and is only able to fly twice a week; and a high-rate, premature production schedule that ignores whether the program has demonstrated essential combat capabilities or proven it’s safe to fly. All of these problems are increasing costs and risks to the program. Yet rather than slow down production to focus resources on fixing these critical problems, Congress used the year-end continuing resolution omnibus appropriations bill—termed the “cromnibus”—to add 4 additional planes to the 34 Department of Defense (DoD) budgeted for Fiscal Year 2015. The original FY2016 plan significantly increased the buy to 55, and now the program office is further accelerating its purchase of these troubled planes to buy 57 instead.

At some point, the inherent flaws and escalating costs of a program become so great that even a system with massive political buy-in reaches a tipping point. The problems described in the DOT&E report show that the F-35 has reached a stage where it is now obvious that the never-ending stream of partial fixes, software patches, and ad hoc workarounds are inadequate to deliver combat-worthy, survivable, and readily employable aircraft. This year’s DOT&E report also demonstrates that in an effort to maintain the political momentum of the F-35, its program office is not beneath misrepresenting critically important characteristics of the system.

In sum, the old problems are not going away, new issues are arising, and some problems may be getting worse.

There's much more at the link.

The F-35 program is the biggest boondoggle I've ever heard of.  It's long gone time it was axed.  Unfortunately, our spineless politicians have been bought off with jobs at companies in their district (Lockheed Martin has taken great care to spread the work on the project through as many congressional districts as possible).  The 'fix' is in, and we, the taxpayers of America, are the ones who are being shafted.  Is there no-one who'll stand up and call this turkey what it really is, and kill it before it's too late?


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Drone + fireworks = fun!

I can so see dozens of these things flying around the neighborhood next Fourth of July . . .


Doofus Of The Day #824

Ye Gods and little fishes . . . An instant Doofus Award to everyone who pays to participate in this.

I suspect none of them have read First Corinthians, Chapter 13, verse 11:

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

(A tip o' the hat to reader P. B. for forwarding the link.)


Friday, March 20, 2015

A dying doctor talks about life and meaning

Dr. Paul Kalanithi died recently after battling cancer.  He spoke of his experience as a patient, and a man dying, before the end.  Here's a brief excerpt.

Time for me is double-edged: Every day brings me further from the low of my last cancer relapse, but every day also brings me closer to the next cancer recurrence — and eventually, death. Perhaps later than I think, but certainly sooner than I desire. There are, I imagine, two responses to that realization. The most obvious might be an impulse to frantic activity: to “live life to its fullest,” to travel, to dine, to achieve a host of neglected ambitions. Part of the cruelty of cancer, though, is not only that it limits your time, it also limits your energy, vastly reducing the amount you can squeeze into a day. It is a tired hare who now races. But even if I had the energy, I prefer a more tortoiselike approach. I plod, I ponder, some days I simply persist.

Everyone succumbs to finitude. I suspect I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past. The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed.

There's more at the link.

In this video clip, Dr. Kalanithi reflects on time and what it means.

May he rest in peace . . . and may the rest of us learn from his experience.


Shake dat booty!

Apparently Arizona Wildcats basketball player Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is well-known for his so-called 'shimmy' prior to shooting.  It seems a young fan has taken this to heart.

Isn't he just too cute for words?


Thursday, March 19, 2015

More automation coming to a job near you - maybe your own

I've written often about the danger to many current jobs posed by automation, artificial intelligence and robotics.  Here are just a few of my previous articles.

Now the Financial Times warns that it's getting closer and closer to reality.

Meet Sawyer. It is the newest robot on the block designed to speed up automation in factories by taking on tasks that once relied on humans’ manual dexterity and good eyesight.

The machine is one of two new “collaborative” robots, or co-bots, launched this week that are part of a new generation of affordable lightweight robots that are unlocking new markets and applications beyond automotive and semiconductor manufacturing, where robots have been a mainstay for decades.

Robot companies have been rushing to develop co-bots, which can work side-by-side with employees rather than behind a safety cage, as they look to capitalise on a growing trend by manufacturers to turn to technology to compete amid rising wage costs and labour shortages.

Dan Kara, robotics practice director at ABI Research, believes the latest models will help boost the number of collaborative robots being used in factories. “The dexterity of the new generation of co-operative robots is improving . . . and they have the added advantage of working safely and effectively in workspaces occupied by humans,” says Mr Kara.

Lightweight collaborative robots are cheaper, more dexterous, easier to move between tasks and do not require specialist programming skills. Many of them can be taught new moves by simply taking the robot arm and moving it to show it what to do.

Sawyer will be marketed for $29,000, compared with a six figure sum for an industrial robot. Universal Robots sells its flexible, lightweight robot arms for between €20,000 to €30,000.

This has helped make automation more accessible for small and medium-sized businesses that previously could not afford the expensive heavyweight traditional industrial robots or did not consider them economical for smaller production volumes or contract manufacturing.

There's more at the link.  It's sobering reading.

Folks, I can't warn too strongly:  anywhere between six and seven out of every ten jobs that exist today are in serious danger of being automated out from under those who work in them.  Be aware of that potential in your field of work;  try to plan ahead when you see the signs;  and look for any and every opportunity to expand your skills or cross-train in more areas, so that you become indispensable and can't be replaced by a robot.  If worst comes to worst, change career fields and start over - only do it now, while you still have time, and beat the rush when everyone else tries to do it at the last minute.


Mad Mike knocks one out of the park

Author and friend Michael Z. Williamson takes on a vegan activist, with hilarious results.



How not to deliver new cars . . .

A fleet of brand new Ford cars were reduced to a pile of rubble after their transporter driver's lorry became wedged under a low bridge.

The driver was attempting to take a short-cut to avoid queuing traffic when he collided with a 4.4m (14.5ft) high bridge near Long Itchington, Warks.

The top tier of five brand new Ford Focus cars were virtually flattened in the crash which happened at 8.30am on March 13 when the driver, from Merseyside, drove under the Snowford Hill railway.

One motorist who witnessed the crash said: "It was like watching it in slow motion.

"It's a long road and it was pretty obvious the transporter was too high for the bridge but it kept going and suddenly there was a crunch and all these new cars got wrecked.

"The driver wasn't hurt but he looked as white as a sheet, he was no doubt trying to think of how he was going to explain it to his bosses at Ford."

There's more at the link, including more pictures.

I'd say the driver probably took a shortcut to end his career as well as his cargo . . .


Doofus Of The Day #823

Today's award goes to what's described as a 'major black rap star'.  I've never heard of her before, so if she's a 'major' star, what's a 'minor' one?  Anyway, here's how she won today's prize.

Azealia Banks posted a series of tweets claiming that Blacks and Jews are magical. She said white “Aryans” have no magic and oppress blacks and Jews out of jealously. She called on black people to harness their magical powers to kill white people.

. . .

Some of her tweets from January 12th, 2014:

“black people are naturally born SEERS, DIVINERS, WITCHES AND WIZARDS.”

“we have REAL supernatural powers, and the sooner we ALL learn to cultivate them and access the them, the sooner we can REALLY fix shit.”

“Seriously, once all YALL black people learn how to kill+sicken people without actually touching them the sooner we really get from under … Whiteys foot…. Yall niggas think I’m playing.”

There's more at the link.

I'm mildly curious to know how many people she's succeeded in "kill+sicken"-ing herself.  I rather suspect the only way she'll succeed is to make them listen ad nauseam to her songs.  I'm not afraid of that.  I have earplugs if necessary, and I'll trust my Beethoven or Bach (or BTO, for that matter) to break her Banks - no witchcraft necessary!


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Stupid dumbasses getting what they deserve

Go bulls!

Macho idiots getting their come-uppance. What's not to like?  The only problem is, taxpayers' money helps pay for their medical bills.  How about making it illegal for anyone to pay their bills except themselves?  If they can't pay, they can do without medical care.  Works for me!


Handguns: Don't fall for the hype

I'm more than a little amused by all the hype over Glock's much-rumored announcement to be made on March 20th.  It's widely speculated that the company will launch a single-stack 9mm. pistol, to be known as the Glock 43.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I like Glocks.  I have more Glock pistols in my gun safe than any other make or model of handgun.  I'll almost certainly buy at least one Glock 43 in due course.  However, I just can't get excited over yet another 9mm. pistol, no matter whether or not it has the Austrian seal of 'perfection' on it.  There are lots and lots of good handguns out there for you to choose from.  Many of them offer features as good as or better than the new G43 is rumored to do, at a much lower price.

If I were buying a value-for-money personal protection handgun right now, and wanted it chambered in 9mm. Parabellum, my choice would be pretty simple.  I'd buy a Ruger SR9c.

It's a little larger than the G43 is rumored to be, but it's also a couple of hundred dollars cheaper (CDNN Sports was advertising them just last month for $359.99 and $369.99, depending on finish, and still has the full-size SR9 at that price).  Some don't like the SR series pistols, but I do (and Tamara recently reviewed the SR9's cheaper clone, the 9E, and found it to her liking).  I've had one SR9 and four SR9c's pass through my hands so far.  They've been uniformly well made, reliable and dependable, shooting every kind of ammo I put through them without a bobble.  What's more, the SR9c comes with ten rounds on tap in the compact magazine, and a full 17 rounds when a full-size SR9 magazine is used, fitted with a sleeve to match its shape to the grip, as in the illustration below.

With the smaller magazine it's very concealable, and with the larger one it's got the same capacity as its full-size brother, the SR9.  You can get two-packs of 17-round SR9 magazines for pretty decent prices if you shop around (currently under $20 per magazine), and the magazine adapter sleeves are about $10.  Used SR9c's can be had in my area for $350-$375 if you shop around and buy privately, and there are those screaming deals at CDNN for new guns (although you'll have to pay shipping and transfer fees on top of their prices, and wait for them to get more in stock).  I find the SR9c probably the easiest-to-shoot compact 9mm. pistol on the market today, so I certainly won't worry about getting onto a months-long waiting list to buy a G43.

Don't believe the hype when it comes to the latest models of pistols (or anything else).  A good, serviceable base model from almost any reputable, reliable manufacturer will serve you well. You don't need bells and whistles, or to spend twice as much.  If you want to, go ahead;  but I'd rather spend that money on ammunition, training and accessories like extra magazines, night sights, holsters, or a laser sight (something I regard as almost essential on a defensive pistol these days, given my physical restrictions and limitations).

I'm giving the SR9c (and its larger-caliber brother, the SR40c) to disabled shooters as fast as I can find them.  If you want quality and reliability on a budget, I recommend them for your consideration as well.  (No, I'm not getting compensated in any way for recommending them.  I just appreciate good weapons and good deals when I find them, and spread the word.)