Saturday, April 30, 2016

Before and after the kill

Courtesy of American Digest, we find these two compilations of great one-liners before and after a kill in the movies.

I wish I'd thought of some of those . . .


Not all Norwegian F-16 pilots are doofi

After a Norwegian fighter pilot earned our Doofus Of The Day award yesterday, reader S. K. (himself a former USAF F-16 pilot) e-mailed me with the link to this article.

Quick-thinking medical staff in Norway saved a patient's life by calling in an F-16 fighter jet to whisk life saving medical equipment from one hospital to another, media reports said on Friday.

. . .

Staff [in Trondheim] contacted the air force on April 4th for help in transporting the equipment - a request that came in just as two F-16 fighter jets were getting ready to take off from an airbase near Trondheim, the reports said.

. . .

In a stroke of good luck, one of the fighter jets was equipped with an external hold that allowed it to transport equipment. The machine was loaded onto the aircraft, which made for Bodo at top speed.

"Usually we cover that distance in 35 minutes," air squadron head Borge Kleppe told Norwegian daily Verdens Gang.

"But given the special nature of the cargo, the pilot stepped on it and arrived at the destination less than 25 minutes later," he added.

There's more at the link.

S. K. said in his e-mail:

"Figured I'd help 'pile on' the Norwegians.  They are some of the best F16 pilots I have had the pleasure of training."

That was some very fast flying, and the patient's life was saved.  Kudos to the pilots concerned.


Moonbats doing their moonbattish thing

It's hard to describe just how nauseating this is.

Students at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst set a new high for hysteria Monday night at an event featuring Christina Hoff Sommers, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Steven Crowder.

The event was intended to be a forum and discussion about the use of political correctness on campus, but degenerated into a shouting match as protesters sought to drown out the speakers with cries of “hate speech” and, less imaginatively, “**** you.”

One of the protesters took it upon herself to pass out literature expressing her concern for the “triggering” event, claiming the speakers “all demonstrate either that you don’t give a **** about people’s trauma and pain and think it’s funny to thrust people into states of panic and distress OR that you fundamentally do not understand what a trigger is, what it means to be triggered, and what a trigger warning is meant to prevent.”

. . .

The speakers were constantly interrupted throughout the event by shouts from the audience to “go home” or that “we don’t want you here,” with some of the most enthusiastic hollering coming from the very protester Campus Reform had attempted to speak with before the event.

When the protester attempts to interrupt Yiannopoulos at the beginning of the video, Hoff Sommers tells her to “calm down, young lady.” Paying no heed, the protester responds with an impassioned “**** you! **** you!”

Later on, the young lady begins loudly asserting that “hate speech is not welcome here” and demanding that the speakers “keep your hate speech off this campus,” all while insisting that she is the true embodiment of free speech.

“Stop talking to us like children!” she demands at another point.

“Then stop acting like a child,” Hoff Sommers responds coolly.

There's more at the link.  Here's a short video highlighting some of the moonbattery.

If you'd like to watch the whole event, the video (an hour and a half long) is available here.

This sort of nonsense is absolutely typical of the moonbat - a.k.a. the liberal/progressive extremist (emphasis on 'extreme').  They may talk about 'human rights', but they actively seek to deny those rights to anyone with whom they disagree.  For example, 'free speech' means it's free to them, but denied to their ideological opponents.  It's fascist totalitarianism under another guise.

Contrast that with those honorable leftists who aren't afraid to be up-front about their opinions, and their opposition to those of others, but do so in a relatively polite manner and are open to debate.  They aren't likely to change, but they're willing to give respect in return for it.  Fortunately, there are a number of people like that on the 'other side', which makes it possible to have a reasoned exchange of views instead of the blind, impassioned, visceral, emotional rejection demonstrated by the protestors in the video exchange above.

Based on the above, I can only wonder . . . is it safe to be near a moonbat during the full moon period?


Friday, April 29, 2016

Looks like Target may be in a spot of bother

As most readers will know by now, political correctness and I don't exactly get along.  I was outraged by Target Stores' decision to allow people to use its restrooms based on their gender self-identification, rather than the chromosomal or biological reality.  I've said before that I regard such insanity as an open invitation to sex offenders, deviates and the mentally ill to target (you should pardon the expression) the 'normal' among us, particularly children.

Seems I was right.

Here are the top twenty sex crime reports from Target’s stores across the nation.

04/2016 – Police have arrested a man accused of exposing himself to a 9-year-old boy in the bathroom of a Target store in Cedar Park in February. Roel Anthony Vasquez, 27, was charged March 24 with indecency with a child by exposure. No one at the store could identify who he was when the incident occurred, so police asked for help from the public by releasing pictures of the suspect from store surveillance video in March.

04/2016 – MIDWEST CITY, Okla. – The District Attorney in Oklahoma County has filed a misdemeanor charge against a man accused of stalking women at a metro Target store. Cody Stephens, 21, lives in Midwest City, not too far from the Target store where he is accused of stalking women.

10/2015 – SOUTH BEND – South Bend police are looking for a man who performed a sexual act Monday afternoon at a Target department store at 1400 E. Ireland Road, according to our news partner ABC57. A 16-year-old girl was shopping at the department store when a man approached her from behind and performed a sexual act on himself at about 2 p.m., police said. The man got away, and police are still looking for him.

There are many more at the link.  Read them and weep - or become incandescent with rage, which is probably a better response.

The American Family Association's petition and call to boycott Target has now exceeded one million signatures.  I'm not a particular fan of the AFA, but that seems like a good start.  I haven't signed it, but I'm in;  and I hope my readers are as well.


A series of explosive miscalculations

It's been an interesting week for aficionados of loud bangs.

First off, a Taliban suicide bomber offed himself and a bunch of terrorist colleagues.

A Taliban suicide bomber accidentally killed himself and eight fellow militants after triggering his explosives vest by mistake.

The jihadist fighters had been ordered to carry out an attack in Kunduz city, Afghanistan, but all died before their got there.

However, one of the militants detonated his vest shortly after leaving a Taliban base in Dasht-e-Archi, triggering everyone else's explosives, the Afghan Interior Ministry said.

I wonder if he qualified for his 72 virgins if he screwed up that badly?

Next, a dumbass in Baltimore learned that his fake suicide bomb vest was, indeed, dangerous - to him.

Finally, an instructor at 'a federal law enforcement agency' (unspecified) thought he'd loaded his shotgun, for demonstration purposes, with dummy rounds.  He hadn't.

The firearms instructor brought an ammo can full of clear dummy rounds with him.  Spoiler Alert: Almost all of them were dummy rounds.

The instructor loaded his Remington 870 shotgun from the ammo can and began to demonstrate its operation. There was a loud noise and a hole appeared in the wall in front of the shotgun.

I hope the instructor took a moment to talk about shotgun penetration in residential walls.  This was a teachable moment. None of the pellets made it to the class full of students across the hall.  Anything other than bird shot would have probably produced casualties.

There's more at the link.  It's well worth reading in full, to get the author's safety suggestions and re-examine your own firearm handling and demonstration practices in the light of what could have been a very nasty incident indeed.


Doofus Of The Day #903

Today's award goes to the pilot of a Norwegian Air Force F-16.

Two F-16s were taking part in a mock attack on the uninhabited island of Tarva off Norway's west coast when one of them opened fire with its M61 Vulcan cannon, which is capable of firing up to 100 rounds a second.

A hail of bullets hit the tower in the incident, which happened on the night of April 12, but the officers inside were not injured.

In a similar incident in 2009, F-16s fired in error on the same tower, with at least one round piercing the structure, but again no-one was injured.

There's more at the link.

After two such incidents, if I were a Norwegian Air Force officer, I'd regard a posting to that tower as the exact opposite of career-enhancing . . . more like an invitation to play Russian roulette at one hundred rounds per second!

(Of course, the US Air Force isn't immune from similar accidents . . . )


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fred: The establishment is "Putrefaction most foul"

Fred Reed's latest column is a masterpiece.  Here's an excerpt.

Donald Trump’s campaign reveals the establishment for what it is, a swamp of corruption  as fetid as those of Latin America. It is better entertainment than Vaudeville. The frantic scramble to rig the primaries, change the rules, and thwart the voters–anything to defend their cozy entanglement of political tapeworms–makes absurd any pretense of democracy.

. . .

But it does make sense. The Republicans try desperately to ditch the only Republican candidate who could win the Presidency because... Hillary is one of them. Because, as every sentient being has by now noticed, the Republicans and Democrats are members of the same corrupt club of blood-sucking parasites, the action arm of the corporations, Wall Street, the Israeli lobby, and those who want the US to control the world at any cost–except, of course, to them. They are panicked at the rise of someone who might put first the interests of America. Better Hillary, a fellow parasite, than Trump, who isn’t.

. . .

Will  the two parties succeed in blocking the Donald? Might they even resort to the Martin Luther King solution? My powers of political prognostication would be under zero if they could figure out how to get there.

. . .

The corruption is adroitly hidden, yes, or disguised as something else. Yet it is there. Consider the subprime disaster. To believe that it was an accident, or a cyclical downturn, or other artifact of econobabble, one has to believe that bankers, realtors, and Wall Street do not understand mortgages, credit, or defaults. You have to believe that officials of the Treasury, who slide back and forth between Wall Street and government like the motion of the tides, had no idea what was going on.

At the top, America is as corrupt as Mexico but American corruption is far more efficient. Among the white middle class, the rot is less. But within the clubhouse of insiders,  at the level of the anointed, of the Adelsons and Epsteins and Clintons and Bushes, there is putrefaction most foul.

It is cleverly done, and seldom involves anything so sordid as open bribery. Yet the results are everywhere. Men who knew exactly what they were doing engineered the student-loan bubble. Yet it is legal, like so many scams. Huge military contracts for things not needed, the near-control of Mid-Eastern policy by Israel, poor medical care at high prices, the deliberate gutting of American industry so that corporations can enrich themselves in China–all of this is legal. You pay Congress and it makes legal anything you want.

. . .

Corruption has come to be the purpose of government, and the Club battens on it.

. . .

Of course Trump also is a billionaire,but he is a turncoat, a class traitor, the Benedict Arnold of billionaires. He addresses the issues that the Insiders want to remain unaddressed. He is indeed dangerous. He threatens the endless (immensely profitable) wars, the endless (immensely profitable) shipping of American jobs to China, the endless (immensely profitable) importation of cheap Mexican labor. He threatens the sacred rice bowls.

It is why he must be stopped.

There's more at the link.  Go read the whole thing.  It's well worth your time.

As I've said several times before, I'm neither in favor of nor opposed to Mr. Trump as a Presidential candidate.  Some of what he's said sounds excellent.  Some things in his track record don't square with what he's currently saying, and I'm not sure whether that's political dissimulation or a genuine change of heart.  The jury's out on that.  Nevertheless, I think Fred Reed has put his finger on the pulse of precisely why the establishment - which, as I've pointed out earlier, is nothing more or less than the wealthy class in America - is so united in its opposition to him.

This is also going to be problematic if Mr. Trump is elected President.  What if the establishment - which has long since bought control of Congress and the Senate - ensures that his policy proposals are never enacted into law?  Will he do an Obama and try to rule by executive fiat, without legislation authorizing his measures?  Or will he respect the Constitution, but be forced into a public relations presidency, telling the American people what he would like to achieve but never being able to actually do so?  Your guess is as good as mine.

It would be very nice if the American people would 'throw the rascals out' and elect Congressional representatives and Senators who were genuinely committed to representing their constituents, rather than the establishment . . . but I suspect that would take a home-grown version of 1789 to achieve - and I don't want to endure the inevitable consequences of such an upheaval.


A tank-buster for maritime patrol?

I was surprised to learn of an unusual maritime patrol aircraft currently deployed to the Philippines.  The Washington Post reports:

The situation in the South China Sea has grown even more complex over the past week, with A-10 attack planes flying maritime patrols over a coral reef chain known as Scarborough Shoal. It’s less than 150 miles to the west of the Philippines, and considered a site where Beijing may carry out “land reclamation” and continue its military expansion in the region this year, prompting concern from the United States and its partners in the region.

The A-10 might seem like an unlikely plane for the mission, though. The heavily armored twin-engine “Warthog” has been in service since the 1970s, and was designed for close-air support, in which combat aircraft assist ground troops by attacking enemy tanks, vehicles and positions. There is none of that around Scarborough Shoal, and the plane is considered more vulnerable than other American military planes against surface-to-air missiles.

. . .

Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a spokesman for Air Forces Pacific, said Wednesday that the A-10 has excellent loiter capabilities and maneuverability at low air speeds and altitude that are “necessary for conducting the air contingent’s air and maritime domain awareness and personnel recovery missions.”

There's more at the link.

It's an interesting choice for many reasons.  The A-10 might also be pretty capable at maritime interdiction, if - if - it could get through the layers of modern air defenses carried by most navies.  Its 30mm. cannon should be more than capable of turning the average frigate or destroyer into a colander, and it can carry up to 8 tons of bombs and missiles.  If it can get close enough without being shot down, I'd hate to be on the receiving end.


Fake transgender criminal report

I'm afraid I was taken in by a false news report about a transgender criminal taking pictures of young girls in a ladies' restroom.  I've deleted my post about it.

If you'd like to know more, see here.

My apologies for the confusion.


Not your average Starbucks

I've been amused by an article in the Telegraph titled 'Ordering Coffee in Italy:  The 10 Commandments'.  Here's an excerpt.

I once met an Italian who didn't drink coffee. He made light of the fact, but you could see that he was tired of having to explain his disability every time some new acquaintance uttered the standard Italian greeting: "Prendiamo un caffè?" ("Fancy a coffee?"). His breezy but faintly passive-aggressive manner concealed, I suspect, deep pools of self-doubt and underground lakes of wounded masculine pride. Vegetarians develop the same nonchalant yet haunted look when travelling in places like Mongolia, where meat comes with a side-dish of meat. But this Italian guy wasn't a visitor, he was local. He was the Mongolian vegetarian.

Coffee is so much a part of Italian culture that the idea of not drinking it is as foreign as the idea of having to explain its rituals. These rituals are set in stone and not always easy for outsiders to understand.

. . .

2. Keep it simple

Thou shalt not muck around with coffee. Requesting a mint frappuccino in Italy is like asking for a single malt whisky and lemonade with a swizzle stick in a Glasgow pub. There are but one or two regional exceptions to this rule that have met with the blessing of the general coffee synod. In Naples, thou mayst order un caffè alla nocciola – a frothy espresso with hazelnut cream. In Milan thou can impress the locals by asking for un marocchino, a sort of upside-down cappuccino, served in a small glass which is first sprinkled with cocoa powder, then hit with a blob of frothed milk, then spiked with a shot of espresso.

. . .

9. The permitted drinks

Thou shall be allowed the following variations, and these only, from the Holy Trinity of caffè, cappuccino and caffé latte: caffè macchiato or latte macchiato – an espresso with a dash of milk or a hot milk with a dash of coffee (remember, mornings only); caffè corretto: the Italian builder's early morning pick-me-up, an espresso "corrected" with a slug of brandy or grappa; and caffè freddo or cappuccino freddo (iced espresso or cappuccino) – but beware, this usually comes pre-sugared. Thou mayst also ask for un caffè lungo or un caffè ristretto if thou desirest more or less water in thine espresso.

There's more at the link.

I can't help but wonder whether the average Starbucks barista would understand most of the terms in #9 above.  They might in one of the 'Little Italy' ethnic concentrations around the country, but elsewhere . . . ?  I think the Tennessee version of caffè corretto would probably involve moonshine!  As for "asking for a single malt whisky and lemonade with a swizzle stick in a Glasgow pub" . . . I think, if you did that, you'd be lucky to escape with your life.  Not a good idea - but I'd pay to watch you try it.

Of course, Scotland has some other rather strange mixtures to offer the discerning drinker - like this one. (Lyrics here, if you need them, but be warned - they're rude!)

Wikipedia says of Hamish Imlach:  "He had his biggest hit in the late 1960s with "Cod Liver Oil and the Orange Juice," a scurrilous and hilarious take on the American gospel standard "Virgin Mary Had a Little Baby" written by Ron Clark and Carl MacDougall. The song was for a time banned by the BBC as it was assumed to be full of double meanings, but at one point became the most requested song on British Forces Radio."

Aye, weel . . .


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"The wages of smug is Trump"

There's an outstanding article at Vox in which the author castigates his liberal ilk for turning a blind eye to the real reason why Donald Trump's popularity is so great.  I think his analysis of what plagues the liberal/progressive side of politics and society in the USA (those who he calls "the smug") is spot on.  Here's a brief excerpt from a very long article - one you really need to read in full.

If the smug style can be reduced to a single sentence, it's, Why are [the poor] voting against their own self-interest?

But no party these past decades has effectively represented the interests of these dispossessed. Only one has made a point of openly disdaining them too.

Abandoned and without any party willing to champion their interests, people cling to candidates who, at the very least, are willing to represent their moral convictions. The smug style resents them for it, and they resent the smug in turn.

. . .

Few opinion makers fraternize with the impoverished — or even with anyone from the downscale, uncool, Trump-loving white working class. Few editors and legislators and Silicon Valley heroes have dinner with the lovely couple on food stamps down the road, much less those scraping by in Indiana.

. . .

I would be less troubled if I did not believe that the smug style has captured an enormous section of American liberalism. If I believed that its politics, as practiced by its supporters, extended beyond this line of thought. If this were an exception.

But even as many have come around to the notion that Trump is the prohibitive favorite for his party's nomination, the smug interpretation has been predictable: We only underestimated how hateful, how stupid, the Republican base can be.

Trump capturing the nomination will not dispel the smug style; if anything, it will redouble it. Faced with the prospect of an election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the smug will reach a fever pitch: six straight months of a sure thing, an opportunity to mock and scoff and ask, How could anybody vote for this guy? until a morning in November when they ask, What the **** happened?

. . .

The smug style resists empathy for the unknowing. It denies the possibility of a politics whereby those who do not share knowing culture, who do not like the right things or know the Good Facts or recognize the intellectual bankruptcy of their own ideas can be worked with, in spite of these differences, toward a common goal.

It is this attitude that has driven the dispossessed into the arms of a candidate who shares their fury. It is this attitude that may deliver him the White House, a "serious" threat, a threat to be mocked and called out and hated, but not to be taken seriously.

The wages of smug is Trump.

There's much more at the linkHighly recommended reading.

I'm reminded of the attitude of the British administration in India in the run-up to 1857, or the Russian nobility before 1917, or the French aristocracy prior to 1789.  It can be summed up in the infamous phrase, "Let them eat cake!"  There was a massive dissociation between what the upper crust thought motivated the lower castes and classes, and their real thoughts, desires and aspirations;  between the (lack of) understanding of the former and the reality experienced by the latter.  That same dissociation is visible today between the 'establishment' on both sides of the political divide and the broad mass of the electorate, and between liberals and progressives on the one hand, and the broad mass of struggling-to-make-ends-meet, un- and under-employed America on the other.

It's not going to be pretty when reality sets in.


How special interests are controlling 'the message'

Here's a fascinating talk by Sharyl Attkisson, the journalist who uncovered the Fast and Furious ATF scandal.  It's particularly relevant in the current election cycle, where special interests are trying to persuade us that their candidate or party or point of view is worth our vote.  Highly recommended viewing.

Ms. Attkisson's mainstream media career was derailed by political pressure on her employer, CBS, but she appears to be doing just fine on her own.  Kudos to her.


Drugs, metabolism, weight, and health

I've had a rocky road health-wise since a workplace injury in 2004 led to permanent partial disability, and medical retirement with a fused spine and damaged sciatic nerve.  To deal with the resulting 24/7/365 pain, I was prescribed multiple drugs that helped, but also 'zombified' me to a certain extent.  If I took the quantities prescribed, I found I not only couldn't think creatively - I actually underwent a change in personality.  I tapered off the dosage until I found a balance between pain control and feeling like a human being again, and stayed with that.

In 2009 I suffered a heart attack, likely due at least in part to the aftereffects of my 2004 injury, and underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery.  The cardiologist prescribed a different set of drugs for that, including one that, while it helped my heart, also had the effect of causing severe, uncontrollable weight gain.  (Later, another doctor would tell me, "You can almost watch a patient on [that drug] expand sideways.")  I ended up putting on well over 100 pounds in the course of a year.  Diet and exercise - the latter limited by my earlier injury - did almost nothing to help.  Only terminating my prescription for that drug stopped the weight gain.

It took a thoughtful, dedicated physician in Nashville to isolate the problem.  By then, thanks to multiple drug interactions, my metabolism was pretty much shot.  With his help I went through my prescriptions and cut out more than half of them, including all daily pain management medication (although I kept a supply for bad pain days).  I now take each day only those drugs essential to my heart and circulatory health, and I've learned to live with a higher level of pain.  Unfortunately, my metabolism has not 'reset'.  I'm still carrying around that extra weight, and find it almost impossible to get it off.  (For example, my wife helped me stick to a 1,200-calorie-per-day restricted diet.  Guess what?  I gained three pounds in the first week - and I wasn't cheating!  Scratch that option . . . )

I've slowly but surely come to the conclusion that if I don't get rid of the pounds, they're going to get rid of me.  They're adding to the load on my heart, bringing me to the point of being pre-diabetic with serious (and worsening) insulin resistance and showing most of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, and putting additional strain on my injured spine and damaged nerve.  I've got to do something drastic, or face death within the next year or two.  It's as simple as that.  The risks involved in doing something are more than offset by the risks if I do nothing.

It seems the best alternative short of bariatric surgery is to try water fasting.  I've been encouraged by the work of Dr. Jason Fung in Canada, among others, which has produced remarkable results in some (but not all) people, and I've read extensively on the benefits and dangers of fasting.  (A good introduction to the subject may be found here, if you're interested.)  I'm aware of the real risks involved in so drastic a diet, but since bariatric surgery results in equally serious risks, I think they're acceptable under the circumstances (particularly given the alternative if I do nothing).  If fasting helps to not only lose pounds, but also reset my metabolism, as it's claimed to do, then so much the better.

I've been preparing for this step for some time, with the invaluable help of my wife, Miss D., who's been very supportive.  I've just undergone the most extensive series of blood tests I've ever had in my life, to analyze just about every aspect of my metabolic, digestive and circulatory health and provide me with a baseline of where I am now.  (To my amazement and indignation, my medical insurance is quite happy to cover the tens of thousands of dollars it will cost for bariatric surgery - but it won't cover blood tests to help me fast!  I have to cover those costs myself.  Oh, well . . . gotta sell more books, I guess!)

I hope that today will be the last day I eat solid food for at least the next 30 days.  This initial period will show me what my body will tolerate.  There are a number of options.

  • If I can make it for as long as 30 days without eating, I'll re-evaluate at that point, with more blood tests and medical consultation.  If I can continue, great;  otherwise I'll eat for a while, then tackle another 30-day fast.
  • If my body proves incapable of handling that long a fast, I'll find out what it can handle, then work at fasting for that length of time (say, a week to ten days), interspersed with roughly equal periods of (light) eating.
  • If blood tests and other indicators show that fasting is making other problems worse, I'll have to re-evaluate the whole thing, of course.  However, given the success others have had with this approach, I'll hope for the best.

I'm telling you all this, not in order to solicit sympathy, but to help other readers who are suffering similar problems.  I'm aware of at least a dozen of you who are facing the same sort of problem.  I hope I'll succeed in tackling mine, and if I do, I hope that'll encourage you to tackle yours.  For the rest of my readers:  I hope this will help you realize that there are people who are not sick because they're fat - they're fat because they're sick.  There's a big difference.  I've seen and experienced some of the contempt directed at fat people, and it hurts - particularly when one isn't this way out of choice.  Please keep that in mind when you see someone who's obese.  They may have problems about which you know nothing.  As Scout reported Atticus Finch's words in 'To Kill a Mockingbird':  "One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them".  I've often wished some of those making the rudest, most dismissive comments could spend a few days in mine.  I don't think they'd enjoy the experience.

Tomorrow morning it's cold turkey - or, rather, no cold turkey for me!  I'll be grateful for your prayers and good wishes over the next few months.  If this works, I hope to be a considerably slimmer, healthier, happier me by this time next year.  I'll let you know how it goes.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Doofus Of The Day #902

Today's award goes to a newly unemployed weatherman in Hungary.

It must have seemed like a great idea at the time – spicing up a report about incoming windy weather by letting rip a massive farting sound.

Sadly, bosses at the Hungarian TV2 channel didn’t see the funny side.

Szilard Horvath was rapidly fired after his ‘enhanced’ broadcast – which he improvised himself, without asking his bosses – and the clip was deleted.

A somewhat – ahem – deflated Horvath wrote on Facebook ... ‘It’s turned out I can’t do the weather on TV2 anymore… I need to find work.’

There's more at the link.

Sounds like he should be on CNN.  Don't they have a section called 'Breaking Wind News'?


Some nice footage of Russia's new strike bomber

The former Soviet Union began developing a successor to the Sukhoi Su-24 strike aircraft (which was its attempt to counter the US F-111) in the 1980's.  Thanks to the collapse of the Soviet Union and budgetary and other constraints in Russia, which took over the development, the new Su-34 limped along slowly in development.  The first production aircraft only entered service in the 2005-2007 time frame.  A handful of the aircraft saw combat over Syria last year and earlier this year.

The Su-34 is based on the very successful Su-27/30/35 family of fighter aircraft, but with a two-seat side-by-side cockpit and significant structural modifications to suit it for the bomber/strike role.  It can carry up to 13 tons of external stores and ordnance over a combat radius of 600-700 miles, and reach a maximum speed of about Mach 1.8 or thereabouts (Russia hasn't been very forthcoming about its performance).

Here's an interesting video from Russia of two Su-34's tasked with bombing ice buildup along the Sukhona River last week, to break it up and enable the spring thaw to proceed more quickly.  They aren't carrying much ordnance, which allows us to get a good look at their lines.  They certainly show a sprightly take-off performance.  Watch in full-screen mode for best results.

Their Achilles heel is likely to be their engines, as always with Russian military planes - they're unlikely to achieve more than a few hundred hours without needing a major (i.e. factory) overhaul.  The Su-35, latest generation of the fighter family from which the Su-34 is derived, has a service lifetime of only some 4,000-5,000 flying hours, so I'd assume the Su-34 has a similar limitation.  That's not a lot in comparison to some Western airframes.  Still, it's likely to be a very good performer despite those limitations.

(I can't help smiling at the sight of the Su-34's nose and cockpit. For some reason it reminds me irresistibly of a duck-billed platypus!)


The madness of New York City housing prices

I found it hard to believe this report when I first read it - but it seems it's genuine.

The Brooklyn housing market is so hot, a slick realtor is asking half a million dollars for a glorified tool shed in Gravesend.

The faded yellow 1-bedroom “home” at 86 Bay 47th Street is a measly 12 by 26 feet and is built with aluminum siding, like some backyard sheds.

. . .

“It’s a legal, single-family home. It’s a teeny tiny house, the smallest one I’ve ever sold. There’s also partially finished basement, ” Mussolino of Ben Bay Realty told The Post.

He added, “It used to be a flop house for pets, mostly pit bulls. So it needs some work.”

The lot, which is 20 by 97 feet total, sits a couple blocks from Coney Island Creek, one of the Big Apple’s most polluted waterways.

There's more at the link, including a picture of the 'home' in question.

A 12'x26' house, on less than one-twentieth of an acre of land, for half a million dollars???  With a floor area of about 300 square feet, that's smaller than quite a few travel trailers I've seen on the roads!


Monday, April 25, 2016

Full-auto snowball fire?

Since the video I just put up (see the post below) has already vanished, courtesy of the BBC, here's another one.  This is what happens when mischievous boys have too much time on their hands . . . and access to a hardware store.

Looks like fun!


Not your average soliloquy

EDITED TO ADD:  I'm sorry - the BBC appears to have yanked the video less than half an hour after I linked it here.  *Sigh*

David Tennant, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ian McKellen, Judi Dench and others have far too much fun with the Bard.


The insanity of debt in the lives of ordinary Americans

I've written many times before about the impact of debt on nations, companies and individuals.  It's probably the single most economically devastating factor impacting most of us today.

Now an article in the Atlantic looks at debt's impact on the typical US resident, with vignettes from the author's own life and experience to illustrate the extent of the problem.  Here's a very brief extract from a very long article, to set the scene.

Financial impotence goes by other names: financial fragility, financial insecurity, financial distress. But whatever you call it, the evidence strongly indicates that either a sizable minority or a slim majority of Americans are on thin ice financially ... A ... study conducted by Annamaria Lusardi of George Washington University, Peter Tufano of Oxford, and Daniel Schneider, then of Princeton, asked individuals whether they could “come up with” $2,000 within 30 days for an unanticipated expense. They found that slightly more than one-quarter could not, and another 19 percent could do so only if they pawned possessions or took out payday loans. The conclusion: Nearly half of American adults are “financially fragile” and “living very close to the financial edge.”

. . .

Median net worth has declined steeply in the past generation—down 85.3 percent from 1983 to 2013 for the bottom income quintile, down 63.5 percent for the second-lowest quintile, and down 25.8 percent for the third, or middle, quintile. According to research funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, the inflation-adjusted net worth of the typical household, one at the median point of wealth distribution, was $87,992 in 2003. By 2013, it had declined to $54,500, a 38 percent drop. And though the bursting of the housing bubble in 2008 certainly contributed to the drop, the decline for the lower quintiles began long before the recession—as early as the mid-1980s, Wolff says.

. . .

With the rise of credit, in particular, many Americans didn’t feel as much need to save. And put simply, when debt goes up, savings go down ... The personal savings rate peaked at 13.3 percent in 1971 before falling to 2.6 percent in 2005. As of last year, the figure stood at 5.1 percent, and according to McClary, nearly 30 percent of American adults don’t save any of their income for retirement. When you combine high debt with low savings, what you get is a large swath of the population that can’t afford a financial emergency.

So who is at fault? Some economists say that although banks may have been pushing credit, people nonetheless chose to run up debt; to save too little; to leave no cushion for emergencies, much less retirement. “If you want to have financial security,” says Brad Klontz, “it is 100 percent on you.”

. . .

In a 2010 report titled “Middle Class in America,” the U.S. Commerce Department defined that class less by its position on the economic scale than by its aspirations: homeownership, a car for each adult, health security, a college education for each child, retirement security, and a family vacation each year ... A 2014 analysis by USA Today concluded that the American dream, defined by factors that generally corresponded to the Commerce Department’s middle-class benchmarks, would require an income of just more than $130,000 a year for an average family of four. Median family income in 2014 was roughly half that.

. . .

In effect, economics comes down to a great Bruce Eric Kaplan New Yorker cartoon that was captioned: “We thought it was a rough patch, but it turned out to be our life.”

There's much more at the link.  Informative reading, albeit not much fun.

The thing I found most depressing about the article was the author's open acknowledgment that his own choices had landed him in difficulties - yet he did not express regret for those choices.  Instead, he justified them on the basis of the demands of the lifestyle he had chosen, or the pressures of society, and so on.  He even spoke (without apparent regret) of drawing on his parents' generosity to fund his children's education, with consequences I can only describe as tragic.  (Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.)

And then, on top of it all, came the biggest shock, though one not unanticipated: college. Because I made too much money for the girls to get more than meager scholarships, but too little money to afford to pay for their educations in full, and because—another choice—we believed they had earned the right to attend good universities, universities of their choice, we found ourselves in a financial vortex ... In the end, my parents wound up covering most of the cost of the girls’ educations. We couldn’t have done it any other way. Although I don’t have any regrets about that choice ... paying that tariff meant there would be no inheritance when my parents passed on. It meant that we had depleted not only our own small savings, but my parents’ as well.

As I read those words, I could hardly believe my eyes.  Why would his parents turn into enablers for an education their grandchildren could not afford, to such an extent that they impoverished themselves?  That seemed - and still seems - insane to me.  Why does he have no regrets, even when he openly admits to depleting his parents' savings?  What about the impact on them?  Has he no shame at all?  And what's this nonsense about a 'right to attend good universities'?  One has no 'right' whatsoever to anything of the sort!  That's a choice one makes, not a law of nature!

(A personal aside:  when I left home, I was on my own, and I knew it.  My father was on the point of retirement, and my parents would need his pension to support themselves.  They didn't have the money to send me to university, but I didn't resent that in the least.  It was up to me, with occasional assistance from them when they had a bit extra and could afford it.  In fourteen years of part-time and distance education, studying at two universities while living in three different cities, I got a general Bachelors degree, then a post-graduate management diploma, then a Masters degree in management from the top business school in South Africa.  I paid for them out of my own pocket, and spent many weary hours over and above my work day studying hard to earn them.  I didn't go into debt, and I didn't have to impoverish my parents to get them.  What's more, I did that during a period of rolling civil unrest, armed conflict and social upheaval, about which I've written elsewhere.  My available study time was frequently interrupted by other demands, including military service and humanitarian relief efforts - hence the many years it took me to earn my degrees.)

The choices the author made seem incomprehensible to me.  Surely one's starting point for life choices should be what's realistic, rather than what one aspires to?  (That doesn't prevent one aspiring to a great deal - it simply means that one begins with one's foot on the first rung of the ladder, and plans to step on each rung on the way up.  Very few of us have the good fortune to be able to jump up several rungs at a time, although that can happen.)  Unfortunately for the author of this article, he didn't - and he openly admits it.

Choice, often in the face of ignorance, is certainly part of the story. Take me. I plead guilty. I am a financial illiterate, or worse—an ignoramus. I don’t offer that as an excuse, just as a fact. I made choices without thinking through the financial implications—in part because I didn’t know about those implications, and in part because I assumed I would always overcome any adversity, should it arrive ... We all make those sorts of choices, and they obviously affect, even determine, our bottom line. But, without getting too metaphysical about it, these are the choices that define who we are. We don’t make them with our financial well-being in mind, though maybe we should. We make them with our lives in mind. The alternative is to be another person.

. . .

In retrospect, of course, my problem was simple: too little income, too many expenses.

That's precisely the problem.  The author chose to be the person he became, even though he couldn't afford to be that person.  That's not logical, nor is it laudable.  It's insane!  To 'follow your dreams' when those dreams are utterly impractical is to set yourself up for failure.  Dreams are great, and I fully support having them;  but you can't live on them.  You've got to earn them, and that means building a solid foundation for real life before you can indulge in them.

I don't have a problem with someone choosing to live in a slum, and live off the simplest, cheapest foods, and get their clothing from thrift stores and flea markets, in order to save every penny to study for their dreams.  That's a temporary choice they're making, an investment in their own future.  However, when it comes to the 'starving artists' of this world, those who live like that in pursuit of a dream that isn't so much an investment as a delusion . . . they're on their own - or they should be.  They wouldn't agree, of course.  'Starving artists' are the sort of people who agitate for the establishment of a National Endowment for the Arts, or something similar, and legislatively confiscate the money of taxpayers like you and I to support people like them - whether or not we like or support their so-called 'art'.  Like hell!  Let them earn their living, not steal it from me!

I'd like to offer Miss D. and myself as an example of practical, realistic living.  We aren't wealthy, not by any stretch of the imagination;  but we try to be responsible in our earning and our spending.  When we married, we made it a top priority, overriding everything else, to pay off the debts each of us brought into our life together.  In five years we not only succeeded in doing that, we also built up a financial reserve that provided the deposit for the home we've just bought together in Texas.  (Part of our reason for moving here was that house prices are significantly lower than where we were before.  Our present home would have cost us between 50% and 100% more in even the less costly suburbs of our former city.  It was financially prudent and realistic to make the move, which helped to support our other reasons such as friends, climate, etc.  Without that, we might not have done so.)  Our reserve also covered unexpected medical expenses and loss of income for me last year and earlier this year, when my earning capacity was drastically reduced.  We're on our way back to full liquidity now, by dint of not spending money like water, watching our outflows carefully, and exercising basic financial discipline.  We choose to live within our limited means, and we thank God for them every day.

I think we're hardly unique in living like that.  I think many of you, dear readers, live the same way.  We use common sense.  Unfortunately, it seems common sense isn't very common in the circles described by the author of the above article.  They're living beyond their means to follow their dreams delusions, rather than building the future one step at a time before actually taking that step.  I think their ancestors would look at them in . . . I don't know . . . disgust?  Depression?  Disbelief?  It wasn't that long ago that people expressed sound common sense in maxims by which most people lived:

I could go on, but why bother?  We, as a society, appear to have lost sight of the real truth underlying those maxims.  We don't want to hear or know that truth, because it gets in the way of our aspirations;  so we disregard it.  Unfortunately, that's landed us in our current economic mess.  As the author concludes:

Money may change everything, as Cyndi Lauper sang. But lack of money definitely ruins everything. Financial impotence casts a pall of misery. It keeps you up at night and makes you not want to get up in the morning. It forces you to recede from the world. It eats at your sense of self-worth, your confidence, your energy, and, worst of all, your hope. It is ruinous to relationships, turning spouses against each other in tirades of calumny and recrimination, and even children against parents ... To fail—which, by many economic standards, a very large number of Americans do—may constitute our great secret national pain, one that is deep and abiding. We are impotent.

Uh-huh.  Folly meets reality . . . and reality wins, every time.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Yes, this is the unacceptable face of capitalism

I've said for many years that there's an unacceptable side to capitalism - when business, otherwise laissez-faire, tries to use regulation to boost itself but impede everyone else, and refuses to 'share the wealth' by treating others just as fairly as it demands to be treated itself.  In his latest column, Fred Reed sums it up very neatly.

To understand the arguments of capitalists against the minimum wage, follow the money. In all the thickets of pious reasoning about the merits of capitalism and the market, and of freedom of contract, and of allowing this marvelous mechanism to work its magic, and of what Adam Smith said, the key is the dollar. The rest is fraud. Carefully ignored is the question that will be crucial in coming decades: What to do about an ever-increasing number of people for whom there is no work.

There is of course much hypocrisy in the theoretical edifice. For example, businessmen argue that the minimum wage constitutes intolerable interference by the government in the conduct of business—meanwhile sending armies of lobbyists to Washington to make the government interfere in the conduct of business. In fact capitalists have no objection to federal meddling. They just want it to be such meddling as puts more money in their pockets. Nothing more. Ever.

In like fashion they say that they want to protect the worker’s freedom—yes, his freedom, such is the capitalist’s benevolence, the worker’s freedom–to sell his labor at a mutually agreed price. Curiously, in practice this means the employer’s freedom to push wages as close to starvation as he can get away with. This miraculous congruence of high principle with low profit is among the wonders of the universe.

A capitalist will similarly object to zoning on grounds of protecting property rights–it’s his land, and he can do with it as he likes—but if you buy the lot next to his house and build a hog-rendering plant, he will shriek for... zoning.

In every case, without exception, his high principles will lead to more in his pocket. He will be against a minimum wage because, he says, it prevents young blacks from entering the job market and learning its ways. You can just tell he is deeply concerned about young blacks. He probably wakes up in the middle of the night, worrying about them. He doesn’t, however, hire any. Purely incidentally, not having a minimum wage saves him... money. And if he were truly concerned about young blacks, might he not express this concern by—paying them a living wage?


The quest for cheap labor has perhaps caused less misery than war—itself a most profitable business, war—but it is neck and neck. Businessmen imported blacks as slaves to have cheap labor, with disastrous results continuing to this day. Businessmen encourage illegal immigration from the Latin lands so as to have cheap labor. They sent America’s factories to China to have cheap labor.  And now they peer with wet lips and avid gaze at... robots.

These will drudge away day and night, making no demands, never unionizing,, needing no retirement or medical benefits. Actually, though, capitalists want robots because capitalists care about freedom and want to help young blacks.

A cynic might see this as intellectual scaffolding for social Darwinism and unaccountability–see, it’s all due to the workings of the market. and the capitalist is only a bystander  But no. It is about freedom., and justice, and all.

There's much more at the link.  Highly recommended reading. Fred gets it said.


This one's for Old NFO

Old NFO's daughter and grandson are visiting him at present.  I sent him this picture this morning.

He replied: "That's [my grandson] in a nutshell!"

I suspect it was him, too, in his younger years - to say nothing of yours truly . . .


Don't take them to the airport . . .

. . . because the TSA has no sense of humor about earbuds like these.

I can just see some unthinking teenager waltzing up to the passenger checkpoint wearing those things, and being profoundly butthurt when chaos ensues.


Saturday, April 23, 2016


Courtesy of Preachers and Horse Thieves, two pictures that had me laughing out loud.

There are more at the link.  Enjoy!


I'm on a folk music jag . . .

. . . so I thought I'd share some of my current listening pleasures with you.

Let's start with a slow one.  This is Steeleye Span with the classic 'The Elf Knight', which goes way back to pre-medieval times.  (The lyrics are here, if you need them.)

Fairport Convention is another English folk rock group, contemporaries of Steeleye Span.  Here's their performance of the nineteenth-century 'Seventeen Come Sunday'.  (Lyrics here.)

Here's Steeleye Span again with the classic 'Sir James the Rose'.  They rock this one!  (Lyrics here.)

Finally, here's Fairport Convention with a modern composition by Ralph McTell that's profoundly moving;  'Red and Gold'.  (Lyrics here.)

I hope you enjoyed them as much as I do.


Doofus Of The Day #901

Today's award goes to the US Army servicemen who were supposed to prepare vehicles for an air drop in Germany.

During a recent training exercise in Hohenfels, Germany, this month, soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade practiced launching equipment from the rear of C-130 transport aircraft. Somehow, during the course of the drops, three Humvees managed to lose their parachutes, hurtling to the ground at high velocity.

. . .

According to the Army Times, the April 11 exercise involved dropping 150 supply bundles. During the course of the drop, three Humvees slipped their parachute rigging and fell hundreds of feet to the ground. No one was hurt, and the Army has begun an investigation into what went wrong.

There's more at the link.

Here's how it went.  Language alert - as one might expect from soldiers, some of the comments are a bit rude.

From Twitter user WTF Nation, here's how one of the former Humvees looked after landing.

That won't buff out . . .


Friday, April 22, 2016

Errr . . . oops? In Russian?

A friend sent me the link to this video clip.  It seems to be a compilation of fails, self-inflicted injuries and various and sundry pratfalls.  It's a bit painful to watch at times, but it's also got some laugh-out-loud moments.  Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.  (LANGUAGE ALERT:  There are a few rude words in some of the scenes.)

I could nominate multiple people from that video for Doofus Of The Day awards . . .


Fancy a real shipping bargain?

I've written (and warned) about international cargo shipping for some years, most recently in January.  I said at the time:  "People, if you ever needed one single sign that would point out an impending economic recession, this is it."  Back in 2014 I wrote:  "the international shipping of containers and bulk cargo is a harbinger of world economic conditions."

Roost, meet chickens.  Chickens, roost.  The Telegraph reports:

A heavily indebted shipping firm has been forced to sell off its fleet for as little as $1 a piece as the global shipping crisis takes its toll.

Goldenport Holdings said on Friday that it would sell six of its eight vessels for a token consideration of $1 each, while it would look for the best price it can get on its two remaining ships. The company will also delist from the London Stock Exchange after its debt pile spiralled “significantly higher” than the value of its fleet.

. . .

The global shipping market has been violently shaken by the Chinese economic slowdown after a rapid debt-fuelled expansion in the early years of this decade.

The world’s shipping fleet doubled from 2010 to 2013 even as demand for shipped commodities dwindled. Loss-making vessels have nonetheless stubbornly remained in the market, accepting tenders well below their cost base, in order to pay down the minimum interest on crippling bank loans.

These so-called ‘zombie vessels’ have forced freight rates lower still, plunging the market into crisis.

There's more at the link.

That's one dollar apiece for ships that originally cost tens of millions of dollars.  Quite a bargain . . . but probably only as scrap metal, because they couldn't earn their keep on international trade routes before, and it's unlikely they'll be able to do so for some considerable time.

People, I've warned for years that our economic unfolding is proceeding and will continue to proceed, whether we like it or not.  Back in 2013 I noted that the long, slow economic decline was speeding up.  Since then that's come to pass, and it's happening faster and faster, right in front of our eyes - if we have wisdom enough to use them.  Just this morning I reported on a pension fund that's applied to drastically cut its payments to members - in the example quoted, by more than half.  Last week we learned that one of the biggest healthcare insurers is pulling out of Obamacare, citing losses amounting to almost a billion dollars.  Last month I highlighted more economic factors that were of profound concern.  The month before that I reported on GDP's "lies, damned lies and statistics".

I've been doing that sort of thing for months, until I'm sure some readers became fed up with the subject.  Sadly, economic reality will proceed whether we like it or not.  That's what led to this morning's announcement by that shipping company.  We're in trouble, and it's getting worse by the day.  Read the signs all around you, and get ready for it as best you can.


Wood pron

I really like finely figured, well-grained pieces of wood.  I've admired them for years in rifle stocks, cabinetry, dashboards, and so on.  (Ever driven in a Rolls-Royce, where they not only make their own veneer, they also retain part of the log so that if your car is involved in an accident, they can recreate your veneer in exactly the same grain and detail?)

As you can imagine, I was very interested to discover a hardwood company offering pictures of precisely such woods, in their newly-cut, unpolished state.  Talk about beauty in the raw!  Here are a few examples out of scores on their Web site, most reduced in size to fit here.

Spalted Beech

Circassian Walnut Burl

Quartersawn Steamed London Plane Tree ('Lacewood')

Brown Oak Burl

Curly Quartersawn Old Growth Redwood

Aren't they absolutely beautiful?  There are many more at the link.  Go down the sidebar menu, clicking on every page, to see lots of them.  Drool-inducing viewing for those who like finely grained and detailed wood.


About that pension crisis . . . it just landed

I've been warning for years (as have many others) that US pension funds, both government- and private-sector, are generally woefully underfunded and unlikely to be able to meet their commitments to their members.  My most recent article about it was only eleven days ago.

Guess what?

More than a quarter of a million active and retired truckers and their families could soon see their pension benefits severely cut — even though their pension fund is still years away from running out of money.

Within the next few weeks, the Treasury Department is expected to announce a crucial decision on whether it will approve reductions to one of the country’s largest multi-employer pension plans.

The potential cuts are possible under legislation passed by Congress in 2014 that for the first time allowed financially distressed multi-employer plans to reduce benefits for retirees if it would improve the solvency of the fund. The law weakened federal protections that for more than 40 years shielded one of the last remaining pillars that workers could rely on for financial security in retirement.

. . .

Consumer advocates watching the case say the move could encourage dozens of other pension plans across the country that are facing financial struggles to make similar cuts.

“This is going to be a national crisis for hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions, of retirees and their families,” said Karen Friedman, executive vice president of the Pension Rights Center.

. . .

Ava Miller, 64, and her husband, Ed Northrup, 68, could see their combined monthly pension income cut to about $3,000 from the nearly $7,000 they receive now, according to a letter they received from Central States in October.

There's more at the link.

This is the first of many such developments.  I guarantee it.  What's more, calls for a government bailout of the pension funds have already been made by Bernie Sanders, and will doubtless grow more strident from trades unions and others whose members are threatened by such developments.

The bailouts are fiscally irresponsible and mathematically impossible, of course.  There isn't enough money in the USA - or anywhere else, for that matter - to pay out the ludicrous sums involved.  After all, we've seen calls for government bailouts of almost anything and everything;  from the banks, to pension funds, to insolvent states and cities, to Flint, MI's water system, and so on.  Where will it end?  It won't, according to liberal and progressive political pressure groups.  They see the government as the answer to everything and the solution to all problems.  The fact that the government can only be that if it takes more and more of our hard-earned money in taxes . . . why should they bother?  Most of the people they represent don't pay taxes!  We're paying for them - and that's just fine by them!

Meanwhile, if you're dependent on a pension right now, I very strongly suggest the following.

  • Minimize your outflows.  Try to economize.  Don't buy fancy new cars or homes, furniture or fripperies.  Concentrate on essentials.
  • Try to build up a nest-egg in cash to the best of your ability.  I'd strongly suggest keeping a few months' expenditure in cash, at home or somewhere safe, as we've discussed earlier.  If the government wants to shut down the banks to preserve civil order (or whatever other fancy excuse they come up with), you might be glad of that.
  • Look for sources of additional income.  I know a growing number of people who are supplementing their income by buying and selling on eBay, Etsy and other such outlets.  I know three or four book-lovers who've converted their interest into a money-making venture, shopping in thrift stores and garage sales to buy books that are of interest to others, then selling them via for as little as one cent apiece.  Amazon allows a standard shipping fee of $3.99, so that means a single sale nets $4.00.  After deducting Amazon's commission and postage costs, they can make $1 to $1.50 per book - and spread over several dozen or several score books each month, even a small operator can make a few hundred dollars every month to supplement other income.

Tough times are ahead, my friends, especially for those relying on pensions.  Prepare for them.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

In Memoriam: Prince

Rock musician and legend Prince has died at the age of 57.

I didn't always like his music, but I had to respect him as one of the most innovative and talented musicians of his generation.  He'll leave a gap that I don't think will be filled for some time.

To honor his memory, here he is at his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.  He appears with Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and others in a performance of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".  His guitar solo (from about 3m. 29s. onward) is one of the all-time greats of its kind, IMHO.

May he rest in peace.


OK, pilots, what's going on here?

Reader Glen W. sent me the link to this video, and says "I'm clueless about this".  So am I!  Can anyone explain what the pilot's doing?

I'm glad I wasn't on board at the time . . .


EDITED TO ADD: OK, Irish found the story. Thanks, buddy!

It wasn't a war crime after all

I was very interested to learn that the famous photograph of South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a prisoner was not, in fact, what it's long been reported as being.  FStoppers reports:

This gruesome photograph [below] became pivotal anti-war propaganda that drastically shaped public opinion. The horrific frozen frame depicts a baptismal moment of unwavering distinction, a moment in a time that could not be undone, an elevated wartime tension that could not be unraveled. In this sense, the photograph was successful. It was shocking and characteristic in its ability to drive the anti war movement, protesting against brutality of the Vietnam conflict. But, what you can't see, is enough to change your perspective completely.

Despite assumable context, the "victim" in the photo, is not a civilian. The man being executed is Viet Cong prisoner Nguyễn Văn Lém (also known as Captain Bay Lop). Van Lem, or Bay Lop, was an assassin, the leader of a VC death squad who was targeting South Vietnamese officials. Early on the morning of the photograph, Bay Lop had led a unit of VC tanks to attack the Armor Camp in Go Vap. After taking control of the camp, Bay Lop arrested Lt.Col Tuan along with his family. In an effort to gain intelligence from Tuan, Bay Lop tortured, and eventually executed, Tuan. Bay Lop then went on to kill all the members of Tuan's family, to include his 80-year-old mother. Captain Bay Lop was then captured near a mass grave of 34 innocent civilian bodies, leaving little doubt to his involvement in the atrocity. Upon proudly admitting his participation in the horrific war crime, Bay Lop was brought in and promptly executed with the .38 side arm in front of AP photographer Eddie Adams.

. . .

While war is violent and horrific, the actions carried out by Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, were reasonably just. Adams later said in an article in Time, "The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera."

There's much more information at the link.  Interesting and highly recommended reading for military history buffs.


So that's where they came from!

I've enjoyed Eggs Benedict for as long as I can remember, but I've never known where the name (or the recipe) originated.  Thanks to Atlas Obscura, all is now revealed.

The most important thing to know about eggs Benedict is that they have nothing to do with the famed traitor Benedict Arnold.

In fact, some give credit for the dish to Pope Benedict XIII, who ruled the Vatican from 1724 to 1730, and was put on a strict eggs and toast diet while there–dressed in a lemon-based sauce, at his request. But it wasn’t eggs Benedict, exactly, and that pope’s ultimate legacy was sartorial, not culinary: he forbade the wearing of wigs by the cardinals.

Pushing aside stories of traitors and popes, it seems the real source of eggs Benedict was New York City in the Gilded Age, an era when rich people were starting to party in public instead of private homes, in plain view of commoners who also liked staying out late and spending money in restaurants.

There's more at the link.

There look to have been two possible claimants to fame, although I understand neither can be confirmed with 100% accuracy.  Still, the location and approximate era of the invention of Eggs Benedict seems to have been nailed down with reasonable certainty.

(By the way, there are many interesting variations on Eggs Benedict.  Wikipedia helpfully provides a list.  I think I'm going to take it as a personal challenge to sample every one of them!)