Thursday, April 30, 2015

A grim reminder, courtesy of the Baltimore riots

Courtesy of The Bearded Backyarder:

I've written previously about this issue.  If you don't keep adequate stocks of ammunition on hand, then when the proverbial brown substance hits the rotary air impeller (as it did in Baltimore over the past week or so), you may not be able to buy what you need.  At that point, it's probably also too late to ask friends and family to 'fix you up'.  They're going to want to keep their stocks intact for their own use - and I don't blame them.


"The teddy bear that went to war"

There's a moving story in the Telegraph.  Here's an excerpt.

He is barely five inches high, with a stern little mouth and rather worn ears and paws – a scruffy little teddy bear that you would not give a second glance in a charity shop. He doesn’t even have a name.

But he has become quite an internet sensation, thanks to his owner, Jean Mellows, writing a letter to The Telegraph.

In full, the letter said:

“I was interested to read about the teddy bear that accompanied a Battle of Britain pilot as I too have a little bear, with my maiden name tape sewn on it, which I gave to my fiancĂ© to take with him on his operations over Germany during the Second World War.

“He was a Mosquito nightfighter pilot and flew 50 ops accompanied by my bear, and together they won the DFC [Distinguished Flying Cross].

“We were married for 50 years but now, sadly, I just have the bear.”

With three sentences of perfect prose, Mrs Mellows had ensured readers of The Telegraph letters page were wiping their eyes over breakfast, clearing their throats and asking for the marmalade to be passed. Within 48 hours of its publication at the end of last week, her letter had been shared hundreds of times on social media, with many wanting to know more about the bear, the DFC – and Mrs Mellows.

There's more at the link.

The reaction to Mrs. Mellows' letter was so profound that the Telegraph sent a reporter to interview her about her wartime love story and the fifty-year marriage that followed.  It's something that will be familiar to those of that generation - my own parents had a similar experience - but today we take it far too much for granted.  It's worth reading for those who place a premium on the higher qualities of the human spirit.  Veterans in particular will find much with which to identify.


Holy cow!

I've come across lots of accidents in my time, but never one like this.  It happened on Monday in Louisiana.

Here's video of the falling trucks, taken by a car's dash camera.

I'm glad I wasn't in a car beneath that elevated railway overpass at the time.  It would have been a sure cure for constipation - whether I was constipated or not!



Yesterday my latest book, 'Stand Against the Storm', received its 100th reader review on

76 of the reviews have been 5-star and 22 4-star, with only 1 3-star and 1 2-star.  It took 71 days to accumulate 100 reviews, the fastest response to any of my books so far, and containing by far the highest proportion of positive comments.  Thank you very much to all of you who've contributed reviews, and who've supported Miss D. and myself by buying my books.  There aren't enough words to tell you how much I appreciate you all.

I find the success of 'Stand Against the Storm' particularly gratifying because it was so difficult to write.  It looks like all the hard work and skull sweat paid off, even though at the time I sometimes felt as if I'd never get there.  It just goes to prove, once again, that perseverance pays off.

I've sent out the beta draft of Volume 2 of the Laredo War trilogy, 'Forge a New Blade', to beta readers, and will be working hard to incorporate their final suggestions and amendments over the next few weeks.

Look for it to be published about three weeks from now.  The fifth volume of the Maxwell Saga will follow (God willing) in August, and the final volume of the Laredo War trilogy, 'Knife to the Hilt', in November.

Meanwhile, there's a potentially exciting development on the horizon.  If it works out, it won't replace my self-published books (present and future), but be in addition to them.  Keep your fingers crossed for me, and watch this space.  That sort of thing takes a lot of time to develop, but perhaps in a year or so there may be good news.

Back to work . . .


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Quote of the day

Received via e-mail:

"We cannot tolerate the proliferation of this paperwork any longer. It is useless to fight the forms. We must kill the people producing them."
- Attributed to Vladimir Kabaidze, Director of the Ivanovo Machine Works near Moscow, in a speech before the annual Communist Party Congress, 1936.

Methinks the man had a point . . . it would certainly curb the growth of bureaucracy and Big Government if the bureaucrats were pruned back like that!


When SWAT teams meet their (literary) match . . .

I've written before about the clash centered around the Hugo Awards between conservative/libertarian/'traditional' science fiction and fantasy authors and fans, and those of the more liberal/progressive/politically correct faction that have come to be known as 'Social Justice Warriors' or SJW's.  Some of the latter have apparently threatened to 'swat' their 'opponents', as they see them;  in other words, make false calls to the police alleging that a crime is in progress, in the hope that a SWAT team will descend, fully armed, and arrest those they don't like.  This is a known phenomenon - and a very dangerous situation for all concerned.

Fellow author and blogger Declan Finn couldn't resist the thought:  what if some of the most gun-savvy and military-experienced authors, most hated by the SJW's, had unexpected visits from SWAT teams?  He took the ball and ran with it in two articles (so far).  Here's an excerpt, in which retired US Army Lieutenant-Colonel and novelist Tom Kratman is 'raided'.

[SWAT navigates the mine field, crawls under the barbed wire, and slips past the mysteriously bloodstained crosses lining the walkway]

[ SWAT is about to breach the door with enough C4 to blow open a bunker]

[Tom Kratman, the Grant Strategikon himself, dressed like George Patton, using the voice of a drill Sargent meets George C. Scott ] TEN-HUT

[The SWAT members with military training immediately snapped to.  The few non-veteran members look confused, until TK gets in their face.]  I SAID TEN-HUT.

[The last of SWAT complies. TK drifts up and down the line, inspecting all of them.]  I have never seen such an underequipped, slip-shod entry. Where are your wire clippers! Where are your sappers! Where are your sniper teams! My wife could have taken you out a dozen times by now!

[TK stops and turns, and waves off in one direction.]  Hi honey, I love you!

[TK turns back to the SWAT team] Who trained you people? John Scalzi? Kurds?

[Junior SWAT member stammers]  Buu-u-u-ut, aren't the Kurds supposed to be the good fighters--

[TK] SILENCE, FOOL. Drop and give me fifty. You there, drop your equipment on this man so he knows how to do a REAL push up!

[TK continues inspection] As I was saying, I have never seen a more pathetic attempt at entry. How appalled am I, Sergeant Major?"

[A non-com appears at TK's elbow, also in full uniform, but wearing more guns than the entire SWAT team put together.] Ve-ry Sir.

[TK] Alright. It ap-pears that the only way I'm ever going to get a decent SWATting is to train you myself. Every man, fall back to the FOB. We're going to do this again, and again, and a-gain, until we get it right.  In this second run through, I'm going to use my defenses.  On the third try, I will be using live ammunition.  AM I UNDER-STTOOOOOOODDDD?



There's more in the first and second articles.  Very funny, particularly to those of us who know the individuals concerned.  Go read, and enjoy!


It's all in the mold . . .

My wife and I thoroughly enjoy cheese of many varieties, so this report pleases us no end.

Scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark investigated the fact that the French tend to lead long and healthy lives while consuming diets high in saturated fats.

Though most explanations of this phenomenon, known as the 'French Paradox', focus on wine consumed and lifestyle, this new Danish research points to a simpler answer.

. . .

Hanne Bertram, a food scientist at Aarhus University in Denmark, compared urine and fecal samples from 15 men whose diets either contained cheese or milk, or ate a diet with butter but no other dairy products.

Bertram found that those who ate cheese had higher levels of butyric acid, a compound which has been been linked to reduced obesity and higher metabolism. The higher butyrate levels were linked to a reduction in cholesterol.

This, Bertram says, "suggests a role for gut microbes and further shore up the connection between cheese and the French paradox."

This, admittedly small, study isn't the only research to link cheese consumption to the French Paradox.

In 2012, research suggested it was specifically Roquefort cheese that helped guard against cardiovascular disease, leading to good health and longevity.

Dr Ivan Petyaev and Dr Yuriy Bashmakov said the cheese, known for its mould and green veins, had specific anti-inflammatory properties that contributed to the occurence of the French Paradox.

There's more at the link.

Miss D. enjoys blue cheese far more than I, so she can have the Roquefort.  I'll have more red wine with my Brie and Camembert to make up the difference.  That way we'll both live forever!


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore: a perspective

An awful lot has been said and written about the current riots in Baltimore.  Unfortunately, all too often what's been said comes from a particular perspective, rather than a birds-eye view of the whole very complex situation.  Furthermore, much of it has been inflammatory, with the speaker(s) unable or even unwilling to give credence to any viewpoint except his/her/their own.  I'd like to try to give a more balanced perspective.

First, let's be absolutely clear that I'm not soft on crime - and crime, not protest, is what we're dealing with here.  If anyone wants to burn vehicles, loot stores, stick a knife into firefighters' hoses while they try to do their jobs, throw stones at cops, and so on - deal with him with whatever level of severity is required to make him stop.  At the very least, arrest him;  if he resists, make him stop resisting by any and all lawful means available;  if he won't submit to lawful arrest and poses a danger to arresting officers or to the public in general, use whatever force is required - up to and including lethal force - to end the danger.  That's it.  No further discussion required.  In the same way, if owners of businesses or homes or vehicles or whatever find that police protection is not available - or that a damned fool mayor "gave those who wished to destroy, space to do that" - they should be allowed and encouraged to use legitimate force, up to and including lethal force if necessary, to defend their own property and/or lives and/or families.  Again, no further discussion required.

However, let it also be noted for the record that there really aren't many rioters and looters in Baltimore compared to the overall population of its inner city.  I'll be surprised if there are more than one to two thousand of them.  The real problem is that the others in the inner city don't act to stop them, not because they can't, but because they don't see any point to doing so.  The relationship between police and inner-city residents in Baltimore is, to say the least, fraught with tension, distrust and violence, and has been for many years.  In that sense, Baltimore is Ferguson writ larger - and more than Ferguson;  it's a microcosm of the social and economic ills that have affected this country for the past half-century.

The Executive Vice-President of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, Mr. John Angelos, put out a series of Twitter statements that set out the problem very clearly.  CBS put them together into a single text, which I'll quote in full because I think it's important.

... the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela, and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, an ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importance of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ball game irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

Words of wisdom that I can't help but endorse.  I believe he's right.

There's also the question of police attitudes towards those they're sworn to "serve and protect".  Regrettably, in many cases those attitudes have become negative, hardened and entrenched.  I've written about the problem before.  The investigation into Mr. Gray's death is still ongoing, but prima facie it looks extremely bad for the Baltimore police.  I don't see how they can avoid charges of murder in this case.  It appears to be yet another example of police overreach that's become all too common across the country.  As fellow blogger Earthbound Misfit puts it:

The Baltimore cops killed a man whose sole crime was not wanting to talk to them. They denied him medical attention, then they not only tuned him up a little in the back of a paddy wagon, they crushed his larynx and snapped his spine.

And people aren't happy with being beaten by the cops and yes, they don't believe that they'll get a fair shake from the justice system. Because they don't. When the cops don't act according to the rule of law, only a fool would expect that the people on the other side of the batons, the tasers, and the guns will respect the rule of law. Too many people, including cops, seem to confuse the meaning of the words "respect" and "fear".

. . .

Yes, a lot of what goes on in any riot is opportunism and hooliganism. Yet, one should not lose sight of how well the ground was prepared for it.

There's more at the link - and again, I can't help but endorse what she says.  I think she's right.

More and more voices are making the point that the police function in the United States is broken.  It needs to be fixed, otherwise we're going to have more Fergusons, more Baltimores.  Here are just a few articles I found today.

Karl Denninger:
... it appears that from the standpoint of the cops it no longer mattered if you ... "arrest" that person under dubious circumstances that the cops will not disclose, shackle that person and throw them in a police van unrestrained (that is, no seat belt), causing in some form or fashion subsequent to arrest an injury so severe that this individual's spinal cord is virtually severed and he dies.

You couldn't get away with treating a dog this way; you'd go to prison for animal cruelty.  But it's all ok in this case, right, and only "suspensions" (and paid ones at that) are warranted while what facially looks to be yet another whitewashed "investigation" is conducted.  Nobody is sitting in the dock cooling their heels as would be the case if you had committed the same assault upon a dog, never mind that if anyone not in a magical blue costume had done that to another human they'd be facing at least manslaughter charges.

Does this mean that people ought to burn the city to the ground?  No.  But at what point do the citizens of this country come to the conclusion that this is not an isolated incident or rare thing; it is instead a pattern of intentional contempt for human decency and the protections allegedly afforded under the Constitution, petitioning for redress has failed, suing for money doesn't bring back the dead and the intentional destruction of people without cause, ending in their death by those in magical blue costumes must stop?

These events in Baltimore are not isolated.  There is myriad evidence this sort of lawless conduct is not only endemic it facially appears to be formal and national policy.

The American Conservative:
Only a handful of conservatives have much to say about what policing ought to be like (although there is some hope that a Right On Crime approach will continue to find success in practice and support among voters.) Mostly, it seems like conservatives would rather go back to the era of  “zero tolerance” policing under Martin O’Malley, when up to 100,000 arrests in a city of 636,000 people were made, precipitating a successful lawsuit from the NAACP and the ACLU.  Despite costing billions of dollars and thousands of lives, decades after declaring a War on Drugs, it’s fairly safe to say that drugs are winning or have won. (Baltimore, to its credit, has put great effort into a less punitive drug court system that addresses some of this reality.) Conservatives also generally underestimate the degree to which police brutality is systemic, not anecdotal and have yet to commit to any program that holds police accountable. One of my patients who lives in the neighborhood showed me scars from his encounters with the police and described them as a “necessary evil” to keep drug dealers in check—often through stealing drugs or money from them. Stories of corruption are just frequent enough to make any police encounter a roll of the dice—everyone acknowledges that there are good cops who care about justice and will treat you fairly, but you never know if it’s one of them pulling you over.

From blogger Badtux the Snarky Penguin (language alert - much profanity):
Nonviolence worked for MLK Jr. because he had white allies, white allies who’d seen that apartheid and second class citizenship was wrong, white allies who were plentiful enough to get **** done at the national political level. But the black population of Baltimore — what allies do they got? Not the cops, the cops consider the black population of Baltimore to be porch monkeys, niggers, apes, whatever slur you want to talk about. Not the politicians, they’ve known about “black dog” runs for a long time, the city’s been sued over them dozens of times over the past two decades and paid out millions to people injured this way, the politicians don’t give a ****. What about the voters in Baltimore? You mean the same voters who keep putting those politicians who don’t give a **** into office? Yeah right. What about the Department of Justice? Suuuure, pull the other one, right?

So why *not* burn **** down? Will it distract people from the fact that cops in Baltimore can murder black men with impunity? But ****, people *already* don’t give a **** about the fact that cops in Baltimore can murder black men with impunity, so how can you make them care *less*?

Unless and until we address those realities, we're going to have more Fergusons and more Baltimores.  Where will the next one happen?  Your guess is as good as mine.  I can only hope it won't be in my area, or any area through which I'm passing at the time.


A few snippets on the economy

These are worthwhile articles to read for yourself.  Follow the links to read them in full.

Captain Capitalism:  "What 'Six Figures' Means Today".

As a returning WWII vet, if you made "six figures" [i.e. $100,000] in 1947, you were boss.  It would be like making $743,000 today.

If you were a baby boomer, making "six figures" during Ford's administration, you were pulling down the equivalent of $300,000 today.

But sadly, with the effects of inflation, compound/exponential math, today's young "go getters" and "business leaders," "six figures" really doesn't mean anything anymore as it is now an obsolete metric of success, wealth, and income.  You only make $67,700.

In 1 in 5 Families in U.S., No One Works

In 19.9 percent of American families in 2014, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), no one in the family worked.

A family, as defined by the BLS, is a “group of two or more persons residing together who are related by birth, marriage, or adoption.  In 2014, there were 80,889,000 families in the United States,  and in 16,057,000 of those families, or 19.9 percent, no one had a job.

Seven rules that can permanently fix your personal finances

The author writes from a British perspective, but his advice is perfectly sound for Americans too.  Some good ideas there.

If you wanted to know how big the Chinese economy is getting, here are some articles to make you think:

Food for thought, all of them.


Monday, April 27, 2015

A law I wish we had in the USA

Canada's just passed one of the most sensible laws I can think of.

Thankfully, regulatory transparency got a considerable boost Thursday when the Red Tape Reduction Act (C-21) received Royal Assent and became law. Minister Tony Clement, who has championed the bill, can be proud that Canada is now the first country in the world to require that for every new regulation introduced one of equivalent burden must be removed.

C-21, has been operating as policy for several years already, which means that the costs of new rules must be quantified and equal or greater costs removed. It essentially caps the cost of rules coming directly from regulations. Government rules can also come from legislation and policy so the one-for-one rule is not a cap on the cost of all government rules. Still, it is a very good start.

Why is this so important? Regulation, both necessary and unnecessary (red tape), are a huge hidden tax on all Canadians. The latest estimate from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business suggests that regulation costs $37 billion a year.

. . .

Prime Minister Harper calls red tape a “silent killer of jobs.” He’s right. One of the disturbing findings from CFIB’s recent report is that one in four of today’s business owners would not advise their kids to go into business given the current burden of complying with government rules. But discouraging businesses from starting is just the beginning of red tape’s negative impacts. Red tape wastes valuable time that could be spent doing any number of other things like serving customers, learning new skills, or enjoying family. For consumers, it increases prices and reduces choices.

Red tape’s most destructive impact is that it undermines the relationship between government and its citizens. Struggling with confusing language, getting put on hold for excessive periods of time, getting bad compliance advice from government agents or running up against a dumb, costly rule shakes one’s faith that the taxes we pay are working for us not against us.

There's more at the link.

I'd love to see such a law passed in the USA as well - but going further than the Canadian one.  I'd like the US law to mandate that two older regulations should be abolished for every new one introduced.  We need to do more than merely maintain regulations at their present level;  we need to begin reducing their burden on our society.

Now, who among our politicians will start the ball rolling?  Of the current crop of Presidential candidates, I suspect Scott Walker's the most likely prospect.  How about it, Mr. Walker?  Put that in your platform and I think you'll gain an awful lot of support.


When MMA just won't do it for you any more . . .

If you're tired of being used as a punchbag in Mixed Martial Arts, or feel the need for more pain in your life, here's just the sport for you:  Full Contact Medieval Combat.

The eminent historian and BBC broadcaster Tom Holland sums up full contact medieval combat during his visit to the 2014 IMCF World Championships at Castillo Belmonte, Spain, for BBC’s “Making History” show.

“The action was a whole dimension away from the staged minuet of battle re-enactments.
It was a bit like rugby – only played in full armor.
It was a bit like ice hockey – only with swords and maces.
It was a bit like boxing – only with any form of contact, up to and including smacking your opponent around the head with a pole-axe – permitted.
It was violent, it was intense, it was viscerally a sport.
Thirty seconds in and I knew I loved it.”

The sport began to take shape 15 years ago in Eastern Europe, where medieval re-enactors looked to find a way to truly re-live medieval combat. It is a revival of the medieval tournament fighting that was used to train and hone the skills of knights in the Middle Ages.

. . .

For team fighting and dueling, the fighters wear up to 35 kgs of fully authentic medieval armor and wield authentic weapons with rounded edges. Certain shapes of weapon are also prohibited for the sake of safety.

In keeping with all martial arts there are referees and rules for the sake of safety.

There's more at the link.

The 2015 World Championships will be held this coming weekend at Malbork in Poland.  Here's a promotional video clip.

Looks a bit brutal for my taste.  I think I'll pass.


This is kinda scary to watch

Here are some General Motors crash tests from the 1960's.  Note how the almost complete absence of modern safety features - airbags, seatbelts, etc. - means that the crash test dummies are exposed to the full force of the impact.

I'm rather glad things have improved since then!


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lipstick on a pig???

I like Glock pistols.  I own more Glock pistols than any other brand... but why in the name of all that's shooty would someone do this to it?  (Click to embiggen.)

A Glock's a $500 pistol, dammit.  Why doll the thing up, cut bits and pieces off it, plate others, and up the price to - wait for it - $3,775?

Oh, well.  I suppose the old proverb had it right:  "A fool and his money are soon parted".  However, I suspect there aren't many people foolish enough to pay that much for that gun . . .  Certainly, if I had the money to spare, I can think of any number of things I'd buy instead of that monstrosity!


When the law is an ass

This infuriates me.

Welcome to the Garden State. Just leave your guns at the border, please. Local news outlets are reporting on a court case which has recently come to a close wherein a citizen, identified only as Z.L., had applied for a gun permit in 2013. Keep in mind that this is not a permit to carry… just to be able to purchase and own a gun. He was turned down because the background investigation revealed that he had been arrested on a domestic violence charge fifteen years earlier. But he was acquitted on the charge, so we should be able to clear this one up fairly quickly, right? Well, not in New Jersey, folks.

. . .

The case of Z.L. should serve as a warning of precisely how far off the constitutional beam things have gone in New Jersey and how badly they can go in other states with similarly unconstitutional views on the subject. Keep in mind that one of the bedrock principles of American justice is that every citizen is innocent until proven guilty. Simply being accused of something is not sufficient grounds for any sort of punishment and when you are found not culpable by a jury of your peers the matter is closed. Whatever incident spurred the action is no longer fodder to be held over your head at a later date. But in New Jersey, simply having an accusation raised against you – no matter how specious it may be – can be used as the rationale to punish you later if you seek to exercise your fundamental rights.

There's more at the link.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

What do you do when corrupt politicians pass laws that enable this sort of blind bureaucratic stupidity?  The man was acquitted, for heaven's sake!  He's never been found guilty of any criminal offense, as far as I can tell - so why is he being denied his constitutional rights?

This needs to go to the Supreme Court.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind . . .

. . . literally!


A toddler's brain

A few years ago the blog Sipping Lemonade published this great schematic of a toddler's brain.  Having met more than a few of that species, I think it's pretty accurate.

To add to the comedy, a couple of weeks later the author published this schematic of the brain of the mother of a toddler.  Great fun!


"The Disintegration of the World"

That's the title of an unsettling but insightful article in The Atlantic.  It examines how geopolitics and changes in and around the world - political, military, social and cultural - are affecting business and commerce.  If you work in the business world or draw a salary from it or anything related to it, this affects you.  Here are the opening two paragraphs.

Leon Trotsky is not often invoked as a management guru, but a line frequently attributed to him would surely resonate with many business leaders today. “You may not be interested in war,” the Bolshevik revolutionary is said to have warned, “but war is interested in you.” War, or at least geopolitics, is figuring more and more prominently in the thinking and fortunes of large businesses.

Of course, multinational companies such as Shell and GE have long cultivated an expertise in geopolitics. But the intensity of concern over global instability is much higher now than in any recent period. In 2013, the private-equity colossus KKR named the retired general and CIA director David Petraeus as the chairman of its global institute, which informs the firm’s investment decisions. Earlier this year, Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6, Britain’s CIA, became the chairman of Macro Advisory Partners, a firm that advises businesses and governments on geopolitics. Both appointments are high-profile examples of a much wider trend: an increasing number of corporations are hiring political scientists, starting their board meetings with geopolitical briefings, and seeking the advice of former diplomats, spymasters, and military leaders.“The last three years have definitely been a wake-up call for business on geopolitics,” Dominic Barton, the managing director of McKinsey, told me. “I’ve not seen anything like it. Since the Second World War, I don’t think you’ve seen such volatility.” Most businesses haven’t pulled back meaningfully from globalized operation, Barton said. “But they are thinking, Gosh, what’s next?”

There's much more at the link.  Here's one of the graphics accompanying the article.  Click the image for a larger view.

Highly recommended reading.


Friday, April 24, 2015


Courtesy of BC:


Doofus Of The Day #831

Today's award goes to the US Environmental Protection Agency, which appears to be arguing against itself before the US Congress.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified today before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on EPA’s proposed carbon standards for existing power plants. Describing the goal of the proposed rule under Section 111 (d) of the Clean Air Act, McCarthy exclaimed:

“The great thing about this [111(d)] proposal is that it really is an investment opportunity. This is not about pollution control. It’s about increased efficiency at our plants, no matter where you want to invest. It’s about investments in renewables and clean energy.”

But in previous testimony last month before the House Energy and Power Subcommittee, one of McCarthy’s top deputies at EPA, Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Janet McCabe had a much different description of the rule. She testified:

“Chairman Upton, this is not an energy plan. This is a rule done within the four corners of 111(d) that looks to the best system of emission reduction to reduce emission… The rule is a pollution control rule, as EPA has traditionally done under section 111(d).”

There's more at the link.

When the agency contradicts itself so blatantly, why should anyone believe a word the EPA says about anything?


Too cute for words!

Yes, this is the Internet, and you're about to watch a cute (very tiny) kitten video.  What did you expect?

All together, now:  Awwww!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

How humanity discovered cheese?

Mother Jones has an interesting article about how humans might first have learned about the nutritional value of cheese.

Kindstedt, author of the book Cheese and Culture, explained that about a thousand years before traces of cheese-making show up in the archaeological record, humans began growing crops ... for the first thousand years, toddlers and babies were the only ones consuming the milk. Human adults were uniformly lactose-intolerant, says Kindstedt. What's more, he told us that "we know from some exciting archaeo-genetic and genomic modeling that the capacity to tolerate lactose into adulthood didn't develop until about 5500 B.C."—which is at least a thousand years after the development of cheese.

... we now know that the real dawn of cheese came about 8,500 years ago, with two simultaneous developments in human history. First, by then, over-intensive agricultural practices had depleted the soil, leading to the first human-created environmental disaster. As a result, Neolithic humans began herding goats and sheep more intensely, as those animals could survive on marginal lands unfit for crops. And secondly, humans invented pottery: the original practical milk-collection containers.

In the warm environment of the Fertile Crescent region, Kinstedt explained, any milk not used immediately and instead left to stand in those newly invented containers "would have very quickly, in a matter of hours, coagulated [due to the heat and the natural lactic acid bacteria in the milk]. And at some point, probably some adventurous adult tried some of the solid material and found that they could tolerate it a lot more of it than they could milk." That's because about 80 percent of the lactose drains off with the whey, leaving a digestible and, likely, rather delicious fresh cheese.

With the discovery of cheese, suddenly those early humans could add dairy to their diets. Cheese made an entirely new source of nutrients and calories available for adults, and, as a result, dairying took off in a major way. What this meant, says Kindstedt, is that "children and newborns would be exposed to milk frequently, which ultimately through random mutations selected for children who could tolerate lactose later into adulthood."

There's more at the link.

It's fascinating to study the archaeological record like that and work out how a human population that was almost uniformly lactose-intolerant made the switch to become lactose-tolerant, leading to the consumption of gallons of milk per person in today's world (for those who can afford it).  I learned a lot from this article, and I'm going to read the book to learn more.


Satisfying my inner railway geek

If you don't like railways and trains, skip this post.  For the rest of us, here's a mammoth rail-laying machine that stirs my inner geek.

I've never seen one that large before.  Does anyone know where this beast operates?


War, refugees and lingerie

From my own experiences working with refugees in Africa, I know how some needs are often overlooked by the big aid organizations, which focus on food, shelter and the like.  However, the little things are sometimes very important, as this article in the Telegraph illustrates.

My first 12 days [in Arsal, Lebanon] are spent distributing clothing, school text books, hospital operating gowns, water tanks and heating oil for schools and hospitals. All this while trying to avoid detection by the camp ‘roosters’ - informants who report on us directly to the militants.

We’re doing our best, with limited resources. But I meet misery every day; all day. A 9-year-old girl badly burnt in shelling with no money for medication. Destitute families about to be evicted from their filthy storeroom. No access to drinking water.

. . .

Then, suddenly, a whole new need opens up in front of me.

After almost two weeks here, I’m taken aside by a woman who manages one of the refugee camps.

She has a request. She seems desperate. But I can’t make out what she’s asking for.

My interpreter is a young, handsome Syrian student - a strict Muslim and one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. But now – as this Syrian woman pleads with me - he looks mortified. He can’t seem to form the words.

Frantic now, the woman ushers me to the back of the tent and picks up a grubby white bra and a sanitary towel.

I understand. Every woman here needs underwear. There’s plenty of donated soap and toothpaste - but no knickers. No sanitary protection. Imagine coping with your period using rags. How would you wash and dry them in three feet of snow, or summer temperatures of 95 degrees when water is so scarce? How do you do this discreetly in camp life?

I decide we have to help. I’m a woman too and - although far removed from what they have to cope with - I instantly grasp how hard it must be.

I jump in a van but alone, running the gauntlet of Hezbollah checkpoints, and take the one hour trip down to the town of Baalbeck with $800 from EDA in my pocket.

My heart begins to sink as I enter the haberdashery shop.

How to do this? How do I buy this much underwear? How do I shop in Arabic with no interpreter?

A bold attack, I decide, is the only way. I grab a handful of knickers and bras and wave them madly above my head.

At first, people back away in fear at this crazy western woman.

I refuse to be cowed – it’s too late to back off now – I briefly wonder if they have lunatic asylums in Lebanon. Waving the underwear around my head, I shout: ‘more knickers – I need more knickers!’

There's more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.

The problem of menstrual cycles is even worse in some parts of Africa where women are considered 'unclean' during their periods.  Worse still, there are men who look for young girls who have just entered puberty.  Their embarrassment at dealing with an unfamiliar period, particularly in a culture where it's taboo to discuss it or show that it's going on, marks them out as targets for those who believe that sleeping with a virgin will cure venereal disease, even AIDS.  Needless to say, they don't bother to seduce them - they just rape them.

Most Western feminists have no idea what real feminine oppression is all about.  None whatsoever.  I'm proud to have done my small part in rescuing at least some women from that burden, for however long I could . . . but I don't suppose that matters at all to the SJW's.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It's been a long day

The beta draft of 'Forge A New Blade', Volume 2 of the Laredo War trilogy and sequel to 'War To The Knife', is finished.  Tomorrow I'll post it for beta readers to view and comment, and start my own editing and review process while waiting for their feedback.  Two to three weeks from now and it should be ready to go.

There's a great sense of satisfaction in completing a manuscript like this.  The beta draft isn't nearly as polished and presentable as it will be after editing;  I know I'm going to find many rough patches that need fixing up, and loose ends that need to be tied off.  Still, that's all part of the process.  I'm getting faster and better at it with every book.  Looks like practice really does make . . . well, if not perfect, at least better.

Miss D. and I are planning to take off for a bit of a vacation after the book's published in mid-May.  I know I'll be pretty tired and worn out by then, and so will she.  We're thinking of heading up to Indy to see Brigid, Tamara, Roberta, Mad Mike and other friends, then cut across to Ohio to see Miss D.'s family, Cedar and others.  Sounds like it'll be a pleasant road trip.

I'm too tired to put up more blog posts tonight.  See y'all in the morning.


An AMAZING body paint illusion

This is one of the most astonishing body paint illusions I've ever seen.  It's not entirely safe for work - the ladies are, obviously, almost nude but for paint - but they don't show anything desperately revealing, so I think it's safe to put the video on this blog.  However, if you're at work you might want to save it until you get home.  Watch in full-screen mode for the best results.

I simply don't have the kind of 'visual mind' it takes to conceptualize something like that and transform it into 'living art'. Amazing!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Even more windy!

Earlier today I posted a video clip of a tornado in Illinois that went over the top of a man in a pickup truck who sheltered beneath an overpass.  He was lucky to escape injury, if nothing worse.

Following that video, an anonymous reader sent me a link to this clip of a light car meeting a hurricane-force wind in Okinawa.

Suddenly I see yet another advantage to large, heavy American pickup trucks like the one I drive . . .


Not appetizing?

I had to laugh at an article in Good online magazine.

Middle Earth Organics is known for their organic pasta sauces, each label featuring a famous Italian painting. While this would normally be an NBD, the painting they chose for their Tomato and Porcini Mushroom Sauce has been stirring up controversy online.

The woman in the painting above is not staring with intense concentration at a pot of delicious, simmering sugo.

The image, as Middle Earth Organics would know if anyone had done ANY research whatsoever, is Judith Beheading Holofernes, a 1598 painting by Caravaggio. Judith, seen above, is not making an al dente delight. Judith is cutting off some dude’s head.

There's more at the link.

If you look at the full version of Caravaggio's painting, it's definitely gruesome.  I must admit, though:  the expression on Judith's face does resemble those I've seen on several cooks' faces as they concoct an interesting recipe . . .



Filmed in Illinois on April 9th this year.

As many commenters on YouTube pointed out, the worst place to wait out a tornado is underneath a bridge, because air is sucked through the gap like a funnel.  It can pick up vehicles and toss them as if they were made of paper.  That man got lucky.


Private sellers and the absence of logic

I've run into adamant, intractable private sellers on three different occasions in recent weeks, and I'm finding their mental attitude almost incomprehensible.  In each case the seller argued along the lines that he'd paid X for the article in question, and therefore he wanted to recover as much of that price as possible.  The fact that the same article could be bought, brand-new, for a significantly lower price was irrelevant as far as he was concerned.

One of the sellers posted in a repeat advertisement (the fourth for the same item, after he'd turned down at least three fair-market-price offers, including one from me):

No lowball offers.  Don't tell me what it's worth or what you can get one for.  I know what I paid and I won't give it away.

I just can't understand that attitude.  In each case I provided links to current retail prices for new versions of the same items, to illustrate that they were lower than what the seller was asking for a used one, and that I wasn't trying to low-ball the seller but wanted to buy it at a fair price.  In each case, the response was cold, almost contemptuous.  It seemed to be, "Don't confuse me with the facts - my mind is made up!"  In one particular incident, the seller tried to con me into a manifestly unfair trade (to his advantage, not mine), and wouldn't accept that fairness has to apply both ways.  He, too, is still trying to sell his item, and has re-listed it for what I think is the fifth or sixth time (despite assuring me he wasn't going to accept my final offer "because he had a better one from someone else", which clearly he didn't).

I'm seeing this crop up in more and more areas of the market right now, including housing and vehicles.  Actual market values are ignored as sellers demand unrealistic, unreasonably high prices.  Some of them are just plain greedy.  Others seem to be conflating the price they paid for something with an emotional investment in it. They're trying to recoup that emotional investment, rather than the item's actual present monetary worth.  I can understand someone who needs cash wanting to get the best possible price, but the market sets that price, not the individual.  If he demands too much, he'll get nothing at all.  (On the other hand, those asking fair and reasonable prices seem to be getting them.  If it's something I really want, I don't even haggle - I just buy the thing outright before someone else gets in ahead of me.)

How about you, readers?  Have you run into this sort of irrational attitude in your dealings with private sellers?  Do you find it's becoming more widespread?  Let us know in Comments.

(Shakes head in bewilderment, walks off to seek coffee . . . )


Monday, April 20, 2015

Quote of the day

This article made me laugh out loud.  Money quote:

It’s hard [to] muster raw sexual energy when you think foreplay consists of sobbing to your life partner about how you can’t bear the weight of your undeserved phallocentric privilege.

Er . . . quite so.


Pollsters trying to cover their backsides?

I note with cynicism the latest Pew poll that indicates support for gun rights has 'flipped'.

For most of the 1990s and the subsequent decade, a substantial majority of Americans believed it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun owners’ rights. But in December 2014, the balance of opinion flipped: For the first time, more Americans say that protecting gun rights is more important than controlling gun ownership, 52% to 46%.

. . .

Over the past 25 years or so, there has been a divergence between American perceptions about crime and actual crime rates. And those who worried about crime had favored stricter gun control; now, they tend to desire keeping the laws as they are or loosening gun control. In short, we are at a moment when most Americans believe crime rates are rising and when most believe gun ownership – not gun control – makes people safer.

In the 1990s, the rate of violent crimes plummeted by more than half nationwide. Public perceptions tracked right along, with the share saying there was more crime in the U.S. over the past year falling from 87% in 1993 to just 41% by 2001.

In the new century, however, there’s been a disconnect. A majority of Americans (63%) said in a Gallup survey last year that crime was on the rise, despite crime statistics holding near 20-year lows.

. . .

And among the public at large, the latest Gallup survey finds that 63% of Americans now say having a gun in the home makes it a safer place compared with 30% who say it makes a home more dangerous. Fifteen years ago, more said the presence of a gun made a home more dangerous (51%) than safer (35%).

There's more at the link.

In the first place, I don't believe that polls have accurately measured public support for gun control at all.  Just look at NICS background checks on firearms sales over the past couple of decades (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format).  Do that many background checks each year (which exclude most private sales) indicate declining support for firearms ownership?  I don't think so . . . and over the past decade the figures have been on a solid upward trajectory.  I can only presume that pollsters were asking questions of the wrong people - perhaps East Coast liberals who didn't own many guns and weren't interested in doing so.  In the circles in which I move, that's hardly the case!

Pew speculates that there's a 'disconnect' between declining crime statistics and public perceptions of the reality of crime.  Again, I don't believe this - rather, I believe the statistics are rigged.  Revelations about police departments under-reporting crime for political reasons are legion.  Check them for yourself.   I think many urban dwellers have woken up to this reality (probably through increased personal exposure to crime, or having a friend or relative become a crime victim).  They no longer believe the statistics, and are arming themselves accordingly.

I regard this latest Pew poll as a fairly transparent attempt by the pollsters to correct a long-standing statistical 'skewing' in their polling.  I'm inclined to think that 'skewing' was deliberate on their part, to support a partisan political agenda.  Others may be more charitable.


It's time for some more wingsuit flying

It's been a while since we saw some good base jumping and wingsuit flying - not to mention proximity flying, where participants try to fly as close as possible to the terrain without actually hitting it.  Here's a video with all three elements at once.  For once, the music's not bad, either.  Watch it in full-screen mode for the best perspective.

The only time I've seen trees go past above my head like that was aboard South African Air Force helicopters in a combat zone.  It was pretty sphincter-tightening then, and I daresay it had the same effect on the jumper in this video too . . .


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mad Mike tells us how it's done

Friend, fellow author and fellow blogger Michael Z. Williamson has a new book out.  As a former African boy, love that cover!

I recommend it, as I do all Mike's books:  but one of the most interesting aspects of his latest is an article he wrote for Baen Books, his publisher, about the research that went into it.  Here's an excerpt.

While the market for action adventure is bigger than for hard SF, I've always been a fan of the science-oriented story. The limitations of reality, combined with speculations within them, is a rewarding challenge.

Of course, I didn't realize when I started writing A Long Time Until Now that there hasn't been much research about Paleolithic Central Asia. I also had an almost impossible time finding knowledgeable people to talk to. In fact, even with introductions from friends in other sciences, I didn't hear back at all from most of the scholars I was referred to.

I sought professional papers on the subject. They're sparse. Still, I read what there was, and quite a bit on other parts of Eurasia.

. . .

I may have read most of the scholarly papers on that location and era, which tells you how few there are. Other parts of the world have been studied extensively. Large chunks of Asia are still wilderness, as far as prehistoric study goes.

So then I had to fake it, which frustrated and concerned me. This is supposed to be hard science fiction, not fantasy. Then I realized that if we don't know what happened at given times and places, I can't be expected to be exact. So I did the best I could based on the nearest cultures and environments to that timeframe and location.

Next, I started experimenting. I learned or refreshed quite a few skills while writing this. I made fire by friction with a firebow and fire plow. I tried several types of bugs, and prefer them cooked. Emily Baehr brought a bag of weeds (that's plural, okay?) and showed me how to find an entire salad's worth of greens in temperate biomes, even in residential lawns. I used primitive weapons to bag a few targets. I use bows regularly, and have thrown spears. I tried atl-atls and slings. I knapped some bottle glass.

Then I developed several recipes that will appear in my next collection of stories and articles. How do you cook a tasty meal with minimal spices and no cooking utensils? Well, it turns out you can create quite a few spices and seasonings from plants in the carrot family.

There are a lot of edible plants and quite a few spices in the Apiaceae family. In fact, almost all edible plants come from about six families, and do so in the last 7000 years or so. Before that, there's some evidence of rice and wheat, and occasional possible evidence of fruit domestication (versus actual agriculture).

However, it's obvious from the evidence that vegetarianism is just a modern ideal. No matter how many believers bleat about it being "natural," it not only wasn't natural then, it was a complete myth. There just aren't plants in the temperate or boreal latitudes that you can gather for enough protein, fat and calories to stay alive. Even if you could, you won't find them in December. This is a world nothing like our own. No domesticated grains, no herded animals. Even modern "wild" berries are usually contaminated, and sweeter, because of cross-pollination with domestic breeds. I've had vegetarians insist we were mostly vegetarian at the time, but they're unable to name the plant species we allegedly derived our calories from, especially fat. I'll save you time: There are almost none. Gathering non-fruit comestibles is a net calorie loss and a waste of time.

Most of the Paleo diet people won't be happy either. There was a lot of meat, but most of it was stringy and lean. Humans need fat for brain development and to maintain the skin, among other organs. When you can't get gorged, winter-ready animals with a layer of fat to eat, you wind up eating brains, livers and kidneys. They also provide salt, minerals and flavor. Hunter gatherers cherish the organ meats for nutrition. You'll want a lot of fatty fish, too.

After a week of this diet, I was ready to kill someone for some french fries or a peanut butter sandwich.

There's much more at the link.  Recommended reading for all those interested in the craft, art and science of writing.

Kudos to Mike for taking his writing seriously enough to physically practice and perform the activities he was describing.  Not many writers take things to such lengths of realism.


I'd rather not get bitten by that . . .

A few days ago I showed a video clip of a sperm whale filmed by a remotely operated vehicle almost 2,000 feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico.  Courtesy of a reader who saw it and sent me the link to this video, here's a six-gill shark filmed off Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands at a depth of well over 3,000 feet.

That thing's a monster!  Good thing they don't come to the surface, or they might give the Great White shark a run for its money.


Saturday, April 18, 2015


Almost finished the beta draft of the sequel to 'War To The Knife'.  Look for this one in mid-May.

It's been tricky to make it work, because I've had to cover the process of a small resistance group rebuilding their off-planet resources from scratch, developing a fleet presence with warships and the mercenary crews necessary to operate and fight them, and beginning to take the war back to the enemy.  It covers almost eighteen months in time and moves between several planets.  The third volume of the Laredo War trilogy, 'Knife To The Hilt', scheduled for publication in November, will describe the final resolution of the conflict between Laredo and Bactria.

I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I have writing it.


A bad week for professional hunters in Zimbabwe

The job of a professional hunter (formerly known as a 'white hunter') in Africa is difficult.  He has to shepherd parties of foreign hunters around a landscape that's usually foreign to them, in the midst of animals who regard humans as lower on the food chain than they are, in pursuit of individual beasts who are often more than capable of expressing their displeasure in physical terms.  If a visitor wounds an animal, it's the professional hunter's job to track it down and kill it.  If the wounded animal is a dangerous one, that makes the job even more important, as a wounded predator becomes very dangerous to all human beings if its injuries mean it can no longer hunt or forage as normal.  It takes out its pain and suffering on those animals who are least able to defend themselves.  In Africa, that usually means tribesmen.

This week two professional hunters in Zimbabwe ran out the odds on their success.  The first was tracking a wounded Cape buffalo, with tragic results.  (EDITED TO ADD:  I'm sorry - this report dates from 2012.  It was republished after the report below it, which obviously drew attention to the earlier one.  Apologies for the confusion.)

A British man working as a professional hunter on a private game reserve in Zimbabwe has been killed by a wounded buffalo he was trying to shoot.

Owain Lewis, 67, had been tracking the animal for three days to finish it off after it was shot and injured by a visiting American hunter he was escorting.

Paul Smith, the owner of Chifuti Safaris in the lower Zambezi Valley, said Mr Lewis was "very tough and experienced" but had been caught unawares when the buffalo charged from the undergrowth and tossed him in the air.

"It turned on him and attacked him and unfortunately the apprentice hunter with him could not shoot the animal as Owen's body was in the way," he said.

"It was a very tough fight. Owain's neck was broken but the apprentice did manage to kill the buffalo.

"We are very shocked. This is the first time we have had an incident like this."

There's more at the link.  Buffalo are renowned as being among the most dangerous animals in the world.  I'm afraid Mr. Lewis met one such animal too many.

Only a couple of days later, another professional hunter working for the same company had a fatal encounter with an elephant.

A young bull elephant killed professional hunter Ian Gibson early on Wednesday as he tracked a lion for an American client in a rugged part of north-east Zimbabwe.

Mr Gibson, 55, one of Zimbabwe's best known big game hunters, died scouting for prey in the Zambezi Valley after a young bull elephant charged, then knelt on him and crushed him to death.

"We don't yet know the full details of how 'Gibbo' as we called him, died, as the American client and the trackers are still too traumatised to give us full details," said Paul Smith, managing director of Chifuti Safaris' which employed Mr Gibson for the hunt.

. . .

Mr Gibson's trackers said the young bull had been in a musth period, which means it was producing much more testosterone then usual.

"We know 'Gibbo' shot it once, from about 10 yards away, with a 458 [rifle]. He would never have fired unless he had no alternative. He was a hunter, yes, but he was also a magnificent wildlife photographer and conservationist.

"He was so experienced and this is a most unexpected tragedy."

Again, more at the link.

I know that part of Zimbabwe from when it was still Rhodesia, and the 'game' to be hunted there frequently shot back with AK-47's.  It's wild and rugged and utterly beautiful for those who know the African bush . . . and full of things with teeth, claws, horns, tusks and hooves, none of which hold humans in high regard.

It's terribly sad for one safari company to lose two hunters in the space of a few days like this, but it's not unprecedented.  As the old saying goes, "In Africa, everything bites";  and, as old hands there will tell you repeatedly, "Africa always wins in the end".  I'm here to tell you that it usually does.

May the dead men rest in peace.


The Beatles - wrestling with octopi???

I had to laugh at an article in the Los Angeles Times, recalling what critics said about the Beatles during their first tour of the USA in 1964.  For example:

William F. Buckley Jr. - Boston Globe

An estimable critic writing for National Review, after seeing Presley writhe his way through one of Ed Sullivan's shows ... suggested that future entertainers would have to wrestle with live octopuses in order to entertain a mass American audience. The Beatles don't in fact do this, but how one wishes they did! And how this one wishes the octopus would win...

The Beatles are not merely awful; I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are god awful. They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music, even as the imposter popes went down in history as "anti-popes".

There are many more reviews at the link.  Good for a giggle through the lens of music history.


Historic World War II aircraft carrier rediscovered

The sunken wreck of the USS Independence, lead ship of the class of light carriers named for her, has been found 2,600 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean near the Farallon Islands.

The Independence and her sister ships were a stopgap measure to help swell the numbers of US aircraft carriers at the beginning of the Pacific War.  By mid-1942 the US Navy had very few operational aircraft carriers, and the majority of the new Essex class of fleet carriers (CV's) would not enter service until 1944 or later.  Something had to be done to provide more carriers in a hurry.  They had to be fast enough to operate alongside existing and forthcoming CV's and battleships in task forces.  The answer was to convert nine hulls originally designed as Cleveland class light cruisers.  One of them, originally to have been completed as the cruiser USS Amsterdam, became USS Independence, first of the so-called 'light aircraft carriers' or CVL's.  She's shown below during her wartime service.

The CVL's were very successful stopgaps indeed.  They operated fewer aircraft than the big fleet carriers (their design capacity was 30, but they frequently carried up to 20% more;  CV's carried up to 100).  However, they could be built much faster than the bigger carriers, since they were smaller and their hulls were already under construction when the decision was taken to convert them.  Independence was commissioned in January 1943, only a month after USS Essex, the name ship of the new class of fleet carriers.  All nine CVL's were commissioned during 1943, whereas most of the Essex class came online during 1944 and later.  As a result, for most of 1944 and well into 1945 many carrier task groups comprised two (later three) CV's and two (later one) CVL's.  An interesting and entertaining account of life and combat aboard another CVL, USS Belleau Wood, may be found in the book 'Paddles!', which I highly recommend.

(Former President George H. W. Bush served aboard another CVL, USS San Jacinto, from whose deck he flew the mission on which he was shot down during September 1944.)

Independence had an active wartime career, taking part in many of the major battles of the Pacific War from 1943-45 and suffering severe damage from a torpedo hit in November 1943.  She was repaired and rejoined the Fleet in time for the assault on the Palau Islands in August 1944.  However, by the end of the war there were enough CV's to replace all the CVL's, and the latters' limited aircraft capacity meant that they were uneconomical to operate.  Most were soon decommissioned.

Independence was used as a target in the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests of 1946, known as Operation Crossroads.  Her sturdy construction meant that she survived both atomic blasts, despite severe damage to her flight deck and exposure to high concentrations of radiation.  She's shown below moored at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard near San Francisco after the tests, where she was used as a radiation laboratory and study ship for decontamination procedures.

The US Navy eventually decided that her high levels of radioactivity made it necessary to dispose of her.  She was scuttled off the Farallon Islands in 1951 after being loaded with several hundred barrels of additional radioactive waste generated by Operation Crossroads.  This has been a source of controversy ever since, with some alleging that the sinking (and subsequent dumping of additional nuclear waste in the area) resulted in radioactive contamination of the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found traces of the ship during an earlier exploration of the refuge, and mounted an expedition last month to survey the wreck using underwater remotely operated vehicles.

Resting in 2,600 feet of water off California's Farallon Islands, the carrier is "amazingly intact," said NOAA scientists, with its hull and flight deck clearly visible, and what appears to be a plane in the carrier's hangar bay.

. . .

"After 64 years on the seafloor, Independence sits on the bottom as if ready to launch its planes," said James Delgado, chief scientist on the Independence mission and maritime heritage director for NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. "This ship fought a long, hard war in the Pacific and after the war was subjected to two atomic blasts that ripped through the ship. It is a reminder of the industrial might and skill of the "greatest generation' that sent not only this ship, but their loved ones to war."

. . .

Scientists and technicians on the sanctuary vessel R/V Fulmar followed the AUV as it glided 150 feet above the wreck and successfully surveyed the carrier's nearly intact hull. The survey determined that Independence is upright, slightly listing to starboard, with much of its flight deck intact, and with gaping holes leading to the hangar decks that once housed the carrier's aircraft.

There's more at the link.

Here's an image of the ship as she was during World War II, and as she is today.  Click it for a larger view.

More and much larger images may be found here, and are available for download.

I'm glad Independence has been relocated.  She and her sister CVL's had a proud record during World War II.  They, and those who served aboard them, deserve to be remembered.