Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What do you get with laundry hot from the dryer?

You get cats, that's what!

For once, Ashbutt (rear) and Kili (front) aren't arguing.  They're just enjoying the warmth.


A black police officer has some words for Black Lives Matter

They aren't words they're going to want to hear.

I watched and lived through the crime that took place in the hood. My own black people killing others over nothing. Crack heads and heroin addicts lined the lobby of my building as I shuffled around them to make my way to our 1 bedroom apartment with 6 of us living inside.

I used to be woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of gun fire, only to look outside and see that it was 2 African Americans shooting at each other.

It never sat right with me. I wanted to help my community and stop watching the blood of African Americans spilled on the street at the hands of a fellow black man. I became a cop because black lives in my community, along with ALL lives, mattered to me, and wanted to help stop the bloodshed.

. . .

I almost lost my life on this job, and every call, every stop, every moment that I had this uniform on, was another possibility for me to almost lose my life again. I was a target in the very community I swore to protect, the very community I wanted to help. As a matter of fact, they hated my very presence. They called me “Uncle Tom”, and “wanna be white boy”, and I couldn’t understand why.

My own fellow black men and women attacking me, wishing for my death, wishing for the death of my family. I was so confused, so torn, I couldn’t understand why my own black people would turn against me, when every time they called... I was there.

Every time someone died... I was there. Every time they were going through one of the worst moments in their lives... I was there. So why was I the enemy? I dove deep into that question... Why was I the enemy? Then my realization became clearer.

. . .

All of my realizations came to this conclusion.

Black Lives do not matter to most black people. Only the lives that make the national news matter to them. Only the lives that are taken at the hands of cops or white people, matter.

The other thousands of lives lost, the other black souls that I along with every cop, have seen taken at the hands of other blacks, do not matter. Their deaths are unnoticed, accepted as the “norm”, and swept underneath the rug by the very people who claim and post “black lives matter”.

. . .

I realized that some of these people, who say Black Lives Matter, are full of hate and racism. Hate for cops, because of the false narrative that more black people are targeted and killed. Racism against white people, for a tragedy that began 100’s of years ago, when most of the white people today weren’t even born yet.

. . .

I realized the African American community refuses to look within to solve its major issues, and instead makes excuses and looks outside for solutions. I realized that a lot of people in the African American community lead with hate, instead of love.

Division instead of Unity. Turmoil and rioting, instead of Peace. I realized that they have become the very entity that they claim they are fighting against.

There's much more at the linkHighly recommended reading.


The tongue-in-cheek history of ejection seats

Reader M. J. sent me the link to this video.  It looks to date from the 1950's or early 1960's, and provides a comic look at the development of the first ejection seats.  It's a bit hokey by today's standards, but it's still a lot of fun for aviation enthusiasts.

I think I met that test pilot (or his near relation) back in South Africa, while working on another aviation project . . . I remember the scowl, and the bad language!


As predicted, the used car market seems to be shaking out

Back in April, I linked to an article that predicted a major decline in used car prices - perhaps as much as 50% over the next couple of years.  A few months later, I linked to other sources that pointed to the US auto industry as a whole being in serious trouble, largely because of pricing issues.

I'm now seeing those predictions play out in reality.  Miss D. and I have been considering replacing one of our older vehicles.  Due to the astronomical prices demanded for new vehicles, we've ruled out buying one, and are looking at relatively recent-model used cars.  During our search, I got to know several sales people well enough to ask for information "off the record".  They told me that many dealers are having serious problems reselling the used cars they've taken on trade for new vehicles.  Their customers demand what they see as "fair value" for their trade-ins, but that fair value is based on what they paid when they bought them - not what the market is pricing them at now.  If the dealers don't offer that "fair value", the customer turns around and walks out the door, going to the next dealer down the road.  Sooner or later (usually sooner), a dealer desperate to sell his new stock will offer them something close to what they want.  However, that dealer will then have to re-sell the traded-in unit . . . and may not be able to get back what he paid for it, due to declining used car prices caused by a glut of off-lease vehicles flooding the market (as noted earlier).  That means the dealer has to recover his loss on the traded-in vehicle by marking up - or giving lower discounts on - the prices of his new cars. That makes them even more unaffordable to the average purchaser, so he has to offer better trade-in values to persuade customers to buy them.  Talk about a vicious circle!

This also means that there are tremendous bargains to be had right now in sectors of the used car market that are less popular with the average buyer.  For example, some used full-size cars (or, at least, what's called "full-size" today - which is not what it was!) can be had at extraordinarily low prices right now, compared to smaller vehicles that are perceived (not always correctly) as more economical, or the more fashionable SUV's and pickups.  Miss D. and I are actively considering one large car that's amazed us with its drop in value.  This model sold new in 2016 for a list price (MSRP) of approximately $40,000 for a top-of-the-line edition.  Because it was a sedan, and therefore less "fashionable", the manufacturer had to offer some serious incentives to buyers (at times up to 20% of MSRP) to move it.  Then came the glut of off-lease cars, most of which were smaller and (allegedly) more economical, and therefore more popular with less informed buyers.  That meant dealers could charge a higher price for the smaller vehicles, and make a larger profit per unit, than they could on larger, more expensive, less popular models.  The inevitable result was a dramatic decline in the value of the bigger model, so that (at the dealer we're using at present) five examples from the 2016 model year are available for less than $15,000 - under three-eighths of their new MSRP just a year ago!  That's astonishing in anyone's language, but very good news for us.  Prices on the five range from under $12,000 for a base model, to a couple of thousand more for versions with all the bells and whistles, including every computerized electronic convenience we could want (and some we don't).

It seems that more "fashionable" used vehicles, such as SUV's and economical town cars, have been holding their unit value better than large sedans;  but even those classes of vehicle are now showing increasing downward pressure on prices.  Just this year, I've seen declines of up to 20% in the used prices of some less popular, smaller SUV models in local markets.  (I've been following them, due to our need to replace a vehicle.)  There are lots of them on the market, in part because rental car companies bought them by the thousands to cater for their customers' preferences.  They have to turn over their fleets before they lose too much value, so they're forced to put them on the market before they get too old.  They compensate for the declining value of their used vehicles by increasing their rental rates.  One way or the other, we, their customers, pay for it.

Be that as it may, Miss D. and I aren't complaining.  It looks like we'll be able to get what we want at a very much lower price than we'd have had to pay even last year.  What's more, all the depreciation in market values has already been priced into it.  We plan to keep it for the longer term, so we won't worry about any further decline in its value (which is, in any event, unlikely to be anywhere near as great as what it's already lost).

I don't know if these trends hold up across the country, but they certainly seem to be true for cities within a couple of hundred miles of our home.  If you're prepared to be flexible in your requirements and shop around, working with a trustworthy dealer (they are out there, if you look carefully), and wait for the right deal to come along, there may be some outstanding bargains to be had right now.


Monday, October 30, 2017

The most successfully crowd-funded comic book in history?

Some weeks ago, a crowdfunding venture was launched to start Alt*Hero, a comic that would embody the old-style values of that medium and eschew the politically correct line being hewed to by most of the formerly mainstream media companies in that market.

It's not before time.  As just two examples of just how ridiculous the SJW takeover of comics has become, consider these.  (Click the first image for a larger view.)

All that politically correct posturing in comic books?  Ye Gods and little fishes . . . !  (It's also killing their sales, as a Marvel Comics VP admitted recently, and as observers are noting.)

Clearly, there are many who are as fed up with political correctness as I am.  Alt*Hero, with an initial goal of $25,000, was fully funded in a mere four hours after it was announced.  That's got to be some kind of record in itself!  Since then, new stretch goals have been added, and they've been met and beaten every time.  When the fundraiser closed at midnight last night, it had been oversubscribed by no less than 978%, for a total amount raised of $244,565.00.  I'm no fan of comic books, and never have been, but I couldn't resist being one of the backers on this one.  The project's originator is understandably very happy with the response, and the wider level of support it implies.

I think this bodes very well for the future.  If explicitly and specifically non-SJW and anti-SJW projects like this can be so stunningly successful, it's clear that a groundswell of resistance and rejection is brewing against the socially smug prima donnas who have for so long tried to tell us what to think, what to buy, and what to enjoy.  H. L. Mencken defined puritanism as "The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."  I suspect that SJW's are the modern heirs of puritanism - and I hope and trust they're going to experience a lot of that haunting fear, as Alt*Hero takes root and grows.  The rest of us will just be happy to read something worthwhile!

If you'd like to see several sample pages from the Alt*Hero project, click over to the crowdfunding project and scroll down to view them.  The fundraiser is now closed, so don't worry - no-one's going to be dinging you for money.


Rock 'n roll - air travel edition

There were extremely dangerous wind shear and crosswind conditions at the airport of Salzburg, Austria yesterday.  This flight nearly came a cropper as it touched down, saved only by the quick reactions of the pilots, who took off again at once - and headed back to their airport of origin, rather than try to land again.  I can't say I blame them!

First, how it looked to observers.

Next, how it looked from inside the plane.  There's no sound on this video, so don't adjust your computer's volume.

Time for everyone aboard to change their underwear, I'd say!


Goodbye to the Hotel California?

I'm sure readers are aware of the efforts of 'Yes California' and other parties to have California secede from the United States.  In the light of that state's increasingly frenzied, illogical, irrational liberalism, many in the US wish they'd do it . . . but don't predict a successful separation.

That's what gave rise to a new anthology put together by J. L. Curtis, better known to many as blogger Old NFO.

The blurb reads:

When California declares independence, their dreams of socialist diversity become nightmares for many from the high Sierras to the Central Valley. Follow the lives of those who must decide whether to stand their ground, or flee!
  • In San Diego, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Group One finds his hands tied by red tape, even as protesters storm the base and attack dependents.
  • In Los Angeles, an airline mechanic must beg, borrow, or bribe to get his family on the plane out before the last flight out.
  • Elsewhere, a couple seeks out the new underground railroad after being forced to confess to crimes they didn't commit.
  • In the new state of Jefferson, farmers must defend themselves against carpetbaggers and border raiders.
  • And in the high Sierras, a woman must make the decision to walk out alone...
Featuring all-new stories set after Calexit from JL Curtis, Bob Poole, Cedar Sanderson, Tom Rogneby, Alma Boykin, B Opperman, L B Johnson, Eaton Rapids Joe, Lawdog, and Kimball O'Hara.

Many of the contributors are my friends and fellow writers.  I'm very glad they were able to collaborate on this project.  (Yes, I was invited, but I'm so swamped by other work at present that I simply couldn't come up with a project worth submitting.  It wasn't so much writer's block as writer's overload!)  I've read the pre-publication drafts of many of the stories, and they're good.  Highly recommended reading.

Amazon.com hasn't linked the editions at the time of writing, so you'll find them at these links:

Within a day or two, the first link should get you to both editions.



Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunday morning music

Let's have a classical interlude once more.  I don't know whether many of my readers are familiar with the basset horn.  It's a member of the clarinet family, but in a lower range, and has some similarity to the later saxophone.  Early models can look rather strange and primitive, like this one.

A number of classical composers wrote music for the basset horn, including Mozart, Stamitz, Mendelssohn and Richard Strauss.  Here's Graham Evans with the Orchestra Corda Spiritus, conducted by Stephen Wu, playing the Basset Horn Concerto in F by Alessandro Rolla.  You'll note that Mr. Evans' instrument is rather more modern than the one shown above!

I like the basset horn.  It's an interesting variation on the higher-pitched clarinet.  You'll find a number of pieces for it on YouTube.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Evolution in action!

From Stephan Pastis' strip, Pearls Before Swine, yesterday.  Click the image to be taken to a larger version at the cartoon's Web site.

I resemble that remark . . .


Doofus Of The Day #982

Today's award goes to a wannabe holdup artist in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

. . . two employees noticed something familiar about the robber’s voice and facial features “visible through the holes” in his ski mask.

“Cleveland, is that you?” one of the employees asked, according to East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's police records of the Oct. 3 incident.

“No, it’s not me” Cleveland Willis, 28, the suspected robber replied, according to police records.

Willis worked for the KFC for “several months” with the same coworkers he’s suspected of robbing. He was also seen seen driving away from the crime scene in a silver Nissan Altima, the same car he used to go to work in . . .

There's more at the link.

Genius!  Sheer criminal genius!  I look forward to hearing about the reactions of his fellow felons behind bars when they hear about his masterly (?) planning . . .


And it took scientists to figure this out?

I'm a bit mind-boggled by a headline in the Telegraph:

Since when were scientists needed to figure this out?  Haven't we known this since oh, about half an hour after red wine was invented?  For that matter, why not just say "alcohol" and be done with it?

Of course, it's actually a serious study, and it does point out that "while red wine appears to be helpful, white wine, beer and spirits were not linked to higher fertility" . . . but the opportunity to poke fun at the scientists was irresistible!  I wonder how many of us were sparked (you should pardon the expression) by one or both of our parents having an extra glass or two of wine, or something else suitably intoxicating?  I suspect it might be more than we'd think . . .


Friday, October 27, 2017

Self-Defense Gun Owner Insurance Programs - are they any good?

Miss D. and I recently took a Texas concealed handgun license class.  While it was in progress, the instructors allowed a representative for Texas Law Shield to make a sales pitch for that company's insurance product.  I was angry about that - we, the students, had already paid for the class time, so there's no way it could be called ethical for the instructors to allow a salesperson to make a pitch like that on our dime - but there was nothing I could do about it.  I was also aware of a 2015 class action lawsuit affecting Texas Law Shield, which makes me hesitant to buy into their program.  (If anyone has an update on the current status of that lawsuit, please let us know in Comments - I haven't been able to locate anything through a quick Internet search.)

A variety of similar insurance products are available to gun owners.  You'll find a chart comparing them here.  It was last updated only a few days ago, so the information it contains should be current.

I think the basic idea is sound, but I've no idea how well such programs work in practice.  I'm therefore opening the floor to you, dear readers.  Do you have any personal experience with these programs, either as a subscriber, or as one who needed their services after a defensive shooting?  If so, I'd love to hear about it.  Please tell us what happened in Comments, and in particular let us know whether you've been satisfied with the level of service offered by the insurance program you chose.  I think all of us would benefit by learning more about them before making a decision as to where to spend our hard-earned money.



"Dave the Period Fairy"

There's an amusing and touching article at Bustle about an unsung hero.  Briefly, while on a hike, a woman found her period had started unexpectedly early, and she had nothing with her to cope with the problem.  However, a male hiker, "Dave", had the necessary supplies in his pack, based on his prior experience with others in that situation.  Her gratitude for his help, and his tactful way of offering it, was overwhelming.  I recommend you read the article for yourself.

It reminded me of a factor we seldom think about in our emergency preparations.  In all our emphasis on food, water, clothing, transportation, defensive armament, etc., we all too often ignore the realities of personal hygiene.  It's not just soap, or toothpaste, or deodorant (although all those are important);  it's also feminine hygiene - sanitary towels, tampons, panty liners, etc.  I've made sure to have a decent supply of them in my emergency supplies at home, but I hadn't thought to put some in our vehicle packs until I read that article.  I'm in the process of remedying that defect, right now!

It's an error that men, in particular, are prone to make.  All too often, we take it upon ourselves to plan and/or make and/or supervise our family's emergency preparations.  In doing so, we're unconsciously conditioned by our own, masculine priorities - and that might lead to some serious complications further down the road (particularly if there's more than one woman in our families!).  We can lose sight of needs we don't personally experience.  Furthermore, we forget the enormous value such supplies may have as trading material.  You can bet there'll be other men in a bug-out situation who've forgotten to pack them.  In their (urgent!) desire to provide for the needs of their female companions (and avoid the consequences of their neglect), they may be willing to trade for it with a great deal of stuff that we need, and/or can use later.  That's not to be sneezed at.

Just a thought, inspired by that article.  Go read it, and plan accordingly.


A friend could really use our help, please

Some members of our Blogorado "family", including yours truly, have come together to raise funds for our host's daughter-in-law, who recently suffered a stroke.  We'll let Farmgirl tell the story.

My sister in law, Andrea (everyone calls her Andi) suffered a stroke in mid August. Unfortunately, it wasn't diagnosed correctly for two weeks, delaying treatment ... she's lost strength and mobility in her left arm and leg. She's facing a year to 18 months of physical therapy to get back to full function.

Andi is an artistic soul. She creates beautiful metal artwork for their business, and she plays the guitar in her free time with her mother to relax. She says that's the hardest thing about this whole situation- she can't chord, and hasn't been able to play the guitar since it happened.

Andi has not been able to afford health insurance, because she and my brother own a business. Unfortunately the business makes too much money for them to get assistance with health insurance, but not enough for them to be able to afford health insurance and raising two boys ... Andi needs to begin physical therapy as soon as possible in order to have the best outcome, and without health insurance she has to pay the full cost of every session.

There's more at the link, which is a GoFundMe project set up to raise funds for Andi's treatment.  It includes a recent update, with good news about Andi's progress.

A group of us, including (but not limited to) Old NFO, Lawdog, Phlegmmy, aepilotjim, Alma BoykinMiss D. and myself, have decided to add an incentive to the fund-raiser.  Some of us have donated several of our guns, and pooled them as prizes.  Others have donated a few non-gun prizes, for those who'd prefer them.

Old NFO tells the tale at his blog - please click over there to read all the details.  In brief, we're going to allocate one "entry" to the prize drawing for every $10 you donate to help Andi, with a multiplier for larger donations.

Here are the ‘rules’ $10 per chance, $50/6 chances, $100/12 chances, etc. Make your donation to the Go Fund Me above, and copy your donation receipt to 4anditherapy@gmail.com. This will count as your entry into the raffle. If you have already donated, we will accept prior donations to the Go Fund Me.

The raffle will run from now through the end of November, with the drawing to be held 1 December via a random drawing program. First number gets their choice, second gets their choice, etc.

Again, more at the link.  You'll find details of the prizes at the link, too.  There are some sweet choices among them, enough to make my mouth water!

I'll be very grateful if you'll please support this fundraiser.  Andi is a lovely person, and her kids are a delight.  The family could really use our help, particularly in these hard times;  and with the added incentive of a free gun or other prize (possibly more, if your donation 'earns' you more than one 'ticket' and your name is drawn more than once), you've got even more reason(s) to join in.

Thanks in advance, friends.  Let's help give Andi and her family a much merrier Christmas than would otherwise be the case!


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Isn't it nice when bad things happen to bad people?

A would-be robber in Ohio learned the hard way on Monday that a clumsily wielded box-cutter is no match for a well-placed fist.

Full marks to the clerk for guts and quick reactions.  I hope his employers show their appreciation in tangible terms.

"We can do this the easy way or the hard way."  Uh-huh.  Hard way it is, sucka!


An excellent perspective on "identity politics"

City Journal has an outstanding article on identity politics and how it's affecting our current political debate, with specific reference to the Democratic Party.  Here's an excerpt.

Identity politics rejects the model of traditional give-and-take politics, presupposing instead that the most important thing about us is that we are white, black, male, female, straight, gay, and so on. Within the identity-politics world, we do not need to give reasons—identity is its own reason and justification. Because identity politics supposes that we are our identities, politics does not consist in the speech, argument, and persuasion of normal politics but instead, in the calculation of resource redistribution based on identity—what in Democratic parlance is called “social justice.” The irony of identity politics is that it does not see itself as political; it supposes that we live in a post-political age, that social justice can be managed by the state, and that those who oppose identity politics are the ones “being political.” What speech does attend this post-political age consists in shaming those who do not accept the idea of identity politics—as on our college campuses. In the 1960s, college students across the country fought so that repressed ideas would receive a fair hearing. These days, college students fight to repress all ideas except one: identity politics.

. . .

When identity politics provides the lens through which one sees the world, changing the perspective is regarded as self-blinding ... Identity politics can’t self-correct; it can only double-down. Here is the strangeness of our current moment. Untreated, diseases don’t heal; they metastasize.

. . .

Identity pertains not simply to the kind of person that we are. People have been sorted (and self-sorted) into kinds throughout history. Identity is different. First, it carries a determination about guilt or innocence that nothing can appreciably alter. Its guilt is guilt without atonement; its innocence is innocence without fault. No redemption is possible, but only a schema of never-ending debts and payments. Second, this schema is made possible because identity politics is, tacitly or expressly, a relationship—something quite different from sorting (and self-sorting) by kinds. In the identity-politics world, the further your distance from the epicenter of guilt, the more debt points you receive. What is the epicenter of guilt? Being a white male heterosexual. (Throw in “Christian,” and the already-unpayable debt mounts still higher.) The debt points are not real currency, but they offer something that mere money cannot: a sense of moral superiority ... This is the stuff of religion, not normal politics.

Thus, the strange drama of the 2016 presidential campaign: a progressive white woman candidate who promises to double-down on identity politics and who calls those who would chart another course “deplorables.” The righteous white woman gives; nonwhite people and other injured groups, made pure by entering the revival tent of identity politics, receive. Anyone not in on this debt-point dispensation and reception is the wrong kind of white person—Donald Trump and those who voted for him, for instance. They are to be regarded not as mere political opponents but as defendants awaiting the judgment of a religious tribunal.

There's more at the link.  Very informative and thought-provoking, and well worth reading in full.

I confess to being very tired of identity politics.  I think Robert Heinlein summed it up rather well, in the words of his most famous fictional character, Lazarus Long:

This sad little lizard told me that he was a brontosaurus on his mother's side. I did not laugh; people who boast of ancestry often have little else to sustain them. Humoring them costs nothing and adds to happiness in a world in which happiness is always in short supply.

Unfortunately, the last sentence needs to be deleted for modern readers.  Humoring identity politics costs a great deal, and always adds to unhappiness for everyone else.



From Scott Adams yesterday.  Click the image to see a larger version of the cartoon on its Web page.

Isn't innocence cute?


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A reminder about "computer vision syndrome"

I've been reminded to take care of my eyes, and not overstrain them when using the computer - which I do for several hours every day, being a writer.  A New York Times article last year shed light on the subject.

... computer vision syndrome ... can affect anyone who spends three or more hours a day in front of computer monitors, and the population at risk is potentially huge.

Worldwide, up to 70 million workers are at risk for computer vision syndrome, and those numbers are only likely to grow. In a report about the condition written by eye care specialists in Nigeria and Botswana and published in Medical Practice and Reviews, the authors detail an expanding list of professionals at risk — accountants, architects, bankers, engineers, flight controllers, graphic artists, journalists, academicians, secretaries and students — all of whom “cannot work without the help of computer.”

And that’s not counting the millions of children and adolescents who spend many hours a day playing computer games.

Studies have indicated 70 percent to 90 percent of people who use computers extensively, whether for work or play, have one or more symptoms of computer vision syndrome. The effects of prolonged computer use are not just vision-related. Complaints include neurological symptoms like chronic headaches and musculoskeletal problems like neck and back pain ... eye symptoms, low back pain, tension headache and psychosocial stress.

Still, the most common computer-related complaint involves the eyes, which can develop blurred or double vision as well as burning, itching, dryness and redness, all of which can interfere with work performance.

There's much more at the link, including a more detailed analysis of risks and effects, and ways to help undo the damage they cause.  Recommended reading.

Interestingly, I'm finding that strength training is helping me to overcome one problem associated with computer vision syndrome.  I was developing a very pronounced "hunchback" type of hump behind my neck, caused by craning forward to see text on a computer screen through tired eyes.  Weight training has helped to straighten my neck and improve my posture, so that in three months the "hump" is more than half gone.  I reckon in another few months, it'll have disappeared entirely - a serendipitous side effect of a completely unrelated health decision.


About drones and terrorists - it's happening right now

A few weeks ago, I repeated warnings from several quarters that terrorists had used, and were planning to use, hobby-style drones as weapons of terror.

My article was debunked by some who thought the idea wholly far-fetched.  One such response may be found here.

Well, guess what?  Mexican drug cartels are doing it right now!

The hobby drone referred to at that link, the 3DR Solo Quadcopter, costs only $199 from online retailers such as Amazon.com.  It can carry a payload of 1.1 pounds, according to its user manual - and Mexican drug cartels were obviously using that capability to the full.

Sorry.  Hobbyist drones CAN be "weaponized".  ISIS has done it in the Middle East, and now Mexican drug cartels are doing it.

I rest my case.


Issues with smaller handguns

I said some years ago:

... smaller handguns are more difficult to shoot well than larger handguns. A good example may be found in the Glock handgun series. The Glock 17 is a full-size handgun; the Glock 19 is a compact version; the Glock 26 is a sub-compact, highly concealable version; and the Glock 34 is an extra-long-slide competition version, with the same frame and grip as the Glock 17.

. . .

Obviously, one's hand can grasp the full-size grip of the G17 or G34 better than the slightly shorter grip of the G19, and any of those three better than the severely abbreviated grip of the G26. That, plus the longer sight radius of the larger models, makes it easier to shoot them more accurately than the small G26. On the other hand, the latter's shorter grip and slide make it much easier to conceal than its larger siblings. If concealment is a priority, one has to live with the disadvantages of smaller size.

There's more at the link, including photographic comparisons.

The size factor in handgun controllability is very real.  During our recent Blogorado weekend, I had with me several revolvers, including two snubnose versions, one in steel, one in a much lighter material.  Several shooters tried them.  The universal finding, without exception, was that the small snubbies were much more difficult to aim (due to their diminutive sights), and control in rapid fire (due to the greater recoil transferred to the shooter's hand), than larger, heavier, full-size revolvers or pistols.  I'd go so far as to say that shooters were only half as good with the snubbies as they were with larger handguns ("good" meaning the ability to rapidly and consistently hit their targets).  The lighter snubby also proved slower and more difficult to control in rapid fire (i.e. recovering from recoil, getting the sights back on target, and firing another round) than the heavier, steel gun, because the former moved more under recoil.  Effective range was halved compared to full-size guns;  to get good results, the shooters had to be within 5-7 yards of their targets.  Longer ranges degraded shooter performance very noticeably with the small guns.

That lesson applies to small pistols, too.  Tamara has just addressed the subject for Shooting Illustrated.

So, ... what are the downsides to carrying one of these handy single-stack 9mms?

Well, for starters, they’re harder to shoot well than their larger kin, and for numerous reasons. The shorter sight radius is one, but probably the least significant. More importantly, the stubby, small-diameter grips of these guns generally mean a two-finger grip with the dominant hand and the support hand is unable to provide as much clamping force as it would on a larger gun. With less grip on the gun, small errors in trigger-finger placement can be dramatically magnified.

. . .

The small grip on a single-stack 9mm also affects recoil control, obviously, as do the lighter weight and shorter barrel. Multi-shot strings are going to be noticeably slower because of this. I’ve seen shooters turn in amazing performances with little guns like these, but much like the J-frame revolver, a mini-nine is not an easy gun to run well without a lot of practice.

. . .

In reality, the [Glock 43] is a lot closer, capability-wise, to a J-frame revolver or a pocket .380 ACP, and that is going to drive my tactics and decision making. In a scenario such as one with a lunatic in a movie theater or mall, the little G43 can’t engage from ranges where I’d be perfectly comfortable making a shot with a G17. They may both say “Glock 9x19” on the slide, but the gulf in capability between duty size and pocket size is broader than some people realize. The armed citizen who carries a single-stack 9mm owes it to him or herself to know exactly what can or cannot be done with it.

There's more at the linkHighly recommended reading.

I entirely agree with Tamara.  I, too, pocket-carry a small single-stack pistol on occasion (either a "micro"-sized Ruger LCP, or the somewhat larger Springfield XDS in 9mm. or .45).  I don't like the recoil of the LCP at all - despite its low-powered round, its diminutive size and weight make it a handful to control.  The XDS is, in my hands, very ergonomic, much more so than its competitors (although others prefer them - it's all about how the gun fits you).  However, I'm under no illusions that the relatively small XDS will be as easy to handle in a gunfight as a larger handgun, such as a Glock 17 or 19.  As with snubbie revolvers, with the XDS I'll need to be closer to my target to be sure of my shot, due to the greater difficulty in handling and controlling the smaller, lighter weapon.  I might take a head-shot at 15 yards, if I had to, with a full-size handgun;  but I wouldn't be nearly as confident with a pocket model.  Half that range would be more like it.  (Yes, I used to make such shots on paper targets at double those ranges, without difficulty;  but age catches up with one's eyes and reflexes . . . )

That factor also explains why I like a pocket pistol in .45 ACP, as opposed to 9mm.  Sure, the .45 recoils more, and is harder to control;  but in that size of pistol, so is the 9mm., compared to a full-size gun.  If I know I'm going to be slower in recovery from a shot, and slower to make a second accurate shot, why not hit my target the first time with a bigger, heavier round that may do more damage?  That way, I may not need a second shot quite as badly!  Yes, I know that in terms of modern ammunition, the performance of .45's and 9's is relatively close;  but there's still the factor of bullet momentum (scroll down at the link to find the relevant section), which favors the .45, plus the fact that the technology making 9mm. bullets more effective does precisely the same for those in the .45.  To my mind, if I know I'm going to experience controllability problems with a smaller pistol, I'd rather fire a round that will do the most harm on the other end, giving me more time to regain control and be ready with a follow-up round.  YMMV, of course.

If you choose to carry a small handgun as your primary weapon, you should be aware that you need to practice more often with it than a larger weapon would require.  Without such practice, your skills with it will deteriorate more quickly, because of its inherent control issues.  I'm not knocking small handguns in the least.  They have a very valuable place in our battery.  However, we shouldn't be blind to the skill and consistent training needed to use them effectively.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Doofus Of The Day #981

Today's award goes to a moonbat professor who can't think straight.

A math education professor at the University of Illinois argued in a newly published book that algebraic and geometry skills perpetuate “unearned privilege” among whites.

Rochelle Gutierrez, a professor at the University of Illinois, made the claim in a new anthology for math teachers, arguing that teachers must be aware of the “politics that mathematics brings” in society.

“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” Gutierrez argued.

Gutierrez also worries that algebra and geometry perpetuate privilege, fretting that “curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans."

Math also helps actively perpetuate white privilege too, since the way our economy places a premium on math skills gives math a form of “unearned privilege” for math professors, who are disproportionately white ... she also worries that evaluations of math skills can perpetuate discrimination against minorities, especially if they do worse than their white counterparts.

“If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, adding that there are so many minorities who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”

There's more at the link.

I have news for the professor:
  1. Mathematics is a hard science.  It doesn't care whether the person doing it is black, white, or puce with purple spots - if they're not mathematically competent, they'll fail.  Period.
  2. Algebra and geometry have nothing to do with "privilege", and everything to do with numeracy.
  3. Mathematics, in its modern form, as far as the Western world is concerned, WAS "largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans", despite SJW claims to the contrary.  Sure, they may have got it from somewhere else, too, but it's where we got it from.  Political correctness is no substitute for a knowledge of history.
  4. If one is not mathematically capable, one WILL always be inferior in ability to those who are.  That's got nothing to do with the color of one's skin, either.  It's a simple fact of life.  I, for example, am no more than competent in basic mathematics.  I acknowledge that makes my abilities inferior to those who can handle advanced elements of that science.  So what?  I can handle what mathematics I need, and I have my own set of abilities, some of which they probably don't have.  It balances out, in the end.

As Robert A. Heinlein famously observed:

"Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best, he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear his shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house."

That may sound harsh, but it's not far from the truth.  Show me the nation, or society, or culture that has not mastered mathematics, yet has still thrived.  I have news for you . . . there aren't any.


Can dyslexia be cured - or, at least, treated?

An article in the Telegraph suggests that it can.

A duo of French scientists say they may have found a physiological cause for dyslexia hidden in tiny light-receptor cells in the human eye which can apparently be righted.

. . .

In the new study, Ropars and colleague Albert le Floch spotted a major difference between the arrangement of cones between the eyes of dyslexic and non-dyslexic people enrolled in an experiment.

In non-dyslexic people, the blue cone-free spot in one eye - the dominant one, was round and in the other eye unevenly shaped.

In dyslexic people, both eyes have the same, round spot, which translates into neither eye being dominant, they found.

"The lack of asymmetry might be the biological and anatomical basis of reading and spelling disabilities," said the study authors.

Dyslexic people make so-called "mirror errors" in reading, for example confusing the letters "b" and "d".

"For dyslexic students their two eyes are equivalent and their brain has to successively rely on the two slightly different versions of a given visual scene," the duo added.

The team used an LED lamp, flashing so fast that it is invisible to the naked eye, to "cancel" one of the images in the brains of dyslexic trial participants while reading.

In initial experiments, dyslexic study participants called it the "magic lamp," said Ropars, but further tests are required to confirm the technique really works.

There's more at the link.

That's potentially a very important discovery.  Dyslexia affects about one in ten people.  If it can be treated, or nullified, those people would have a far easier time learning at school, and working in their chosen profession.  It would revolutionize their lives.

I hope funding will be found to push this research further forward.  It might impact hundreds of millions of people.



I found this picture over at Wirecutter's place, and it made me laugh out loud:  so I had to steal borrow it to show you, too.

Given his enthusiasm for classic American cars, I think Old NFO is going to have a hernia when he sees that . . .


Monday, October 23, 2017

This is the gulf. They just don't get it.

On Saturday I said that the gulf between Gen. John Kelly and his detractors was just "too wide to bridge".  Yesterday the Wall Street Journal republished an account by Gen. Kelly of the death of two Marines.  I think it amply illustrates the breadth and depth of that gulf.

You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: “let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” The two Marines had about five seconds left to live.

. . .

In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty—into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight—for you. 

There's more at the link.  You should read it all.

I'll let the late President Reagan sum it up.  He was speaking of Marines, but his words apply to all US servicemen at a time like this.

And that's what Gen. Kelly's detractors cannot and will never understand - because they don't know the meaning of sacrifice, and have never put anyone else's lives ahead of their own in that ultimately self-sacrificial way.


Your warm-and-fuzzy news of the day

Since I'm rather fond of cats, this news gave me a warm fuzzy feeling.

Philadelphia's Animal Care and Control Team established the [Working Cats] program about four years ago to place unadoptable cats — the biters and the skittish, the swatters and the ones that won't use a litter box — into jobs as mousers at barns or stables.

The shelter recently expanded the program to move cats that were less-than-ideal pets into urban jobs at places like factories and warehouses as a sort of green pest control. The animals are microchipped, vaccinated and free of charge.

. . .

At Bella Vista Beer Distributors, mice were gnawing on bags of chips overnight, leaving a mess and forcing staffers to throw out about 15 bags a day, owner Jordan Fetfatzes said.

They tried exterminators, but nothing worked. An employee found ACCT's program online, and Fetfatzes eventually decided on Gary, a white male with one blue eye and one green that had "behavioral issues." Gary wasn't accustomed to people and would hiss from the crate. At first, Gary would stay in the office and would only go into the warehouse after hours.

As the weeks passed, he warmed up to workers and customers, and has transformed into a sweet, playful mascot with free rein of the store.

"My only complaint is sometimes he gets in the way of a transaction," said Fetfatzes, who describes himself as a "dog guy" who's turned in to a cat lover thanks to Gary.

Neighborhood kids come in just to say hi to him, and he loves to play soccer with a worker who balls up cash register tape and kicks it around as Gary bats at it.

As for the mice, they vanished, seemingly repelled by Gary's scent, Fetfatzes said.

"You're not only saving your business money, you are helping save the life of an unwanted pet," he said. "And in this case, we made a friend."

There's more at the link.

Feral cats - particularly urban ones - live pretty miserably, a lot of the time.  It's nice to see them get a second chance at a better life.

If your local animal shelter or control office doesn't have a program like this, why not send them a link to the article, and suggest that they consider establishing their own version?


"But it wasn't my fault! I'm not responsible!"

Courtesy of a link at globular-worming-debunking blog Watt's Up With That?, I came across a very interesting article on how we (humans in general) tend to avoid taking responsibility for words and/or actions that have proved harmful or negative.  It's worth reading the whole article.  To whet your appetite, here's a list of ten excuses often used.  How many of them have you heard before - or used yourself?

1. Delegate the matter to someone else internally - diffuse it, distance yourself from it - and do everything to avoid an internal and especially an independent review.

2. Avoid, reword, or repackage, the issues - obfuscate the facts, or at least talk tentatively or vaguely about some mistakes in the past and that you or someone could probably have done a better job on … but go no further; rationalise and/or disguise any culpability.

3. Focus on minor or “other” things so as to look like you are focusing on the central things, punctuating it all with the language of transparency and accountability.

4. Appeal to your integrity and to acting with the highest standards, without demonstrating either.

5. Point out your past track record. Highlight anything positive that you are doing or contributing to now.

6. Ask and assume that people should trust you without verification. Offer some general assurances that you have or will be looking into the matter and all is okay.

7. State that you are under attack or at least that you are not being treated fairly or that people just don’t understand.

8. Mention other peoples’ (alleged) problems, question their motives and credibility; dress someone else in your own dirty clothes, especially if they are noisome question-askers or whistleblowers.

9. Prop up the old boys’ leadership club, reshuffle the leadership deck if necessary yet without changing leaders or their power or how they can cover for each other in the name of “loyalty” and on behalf of the “greater good”. Try to hold out until the dust settles and the “uncomfortable” stuff hopefully goes away.

10. So in short, don’t really do anything with real transparency and accountability; rather, maintain your self-interests, lifestyle, affiliations, and allusions of moral congruity, even if it means recalibrating your conscience - essentially, acting corruptly via complicity, cover-ups, and cowardice.

There's more at the link.

I know I've done some of those things - hopefully not too often!  It's sobering (and uncomfortable) to realize that we're guilty of many of them without realizing or thinking about it.  They're almost knee-jerk reactions rather than rational responses.

It's also worth remembering those ten points, because we're going to run into them in all sorts of situations in almost every walk of life.

  • Customer service problem?  Watch the vendor use them to make excuses.
  • Politician caught lying?  Watch the weasel duck and dive!
  • Problems in our relationship with our spouse?  Why, it's all your fault, darling!  (Yeah.  Right.)

Food for thought.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Morning Music

Just because I'm in the mood, how about a few of Flanders & Swann's animal songs?

Let's start with the gnu.

Then there's the wild boar.

The wompom may be animal, vegetable or mineral, but as a fictional whatsit, I think we can include it in this morning's selection.

And, of course, their most famous animal song - the hippopotamus. I particularly like the Russian translation in the middle.

Ah, that warms the cockles of this formerly African boy's heart . . .


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sounds logical!

Yesterday's "Pearls Before Swine" cartoon, by Stephan Pastis.  Click the image to see a larger version at the cartoon's Web page.


The Gen. Kelly controversy: the gulf is just too wide to bridge

To set the scene, I'm sure most of my readers are aware of Gen. John Kelly's remarks to journalists on October 19th, following the controversy over President Trump's alleged remarks to the mother of an Army serviceman killed in Niger.  In order to remove any possibility of misunderstanding, here's a video of every word he had to say.  I highly recommend watching it in full, if you haven't heard or read his speech already.

Speaking as a combat veteran, albeit in a different country's armed forces, I endorse what Gen. Kelly said.  I've buried enough of my comrades in arms to understand his words very personally, at gut level as well as intellectually.  (See here for just one example from my own experience.)

I thought that was a profound statement from an honorable man.  However, those on the progressive side of the fence seem to view it as anything but that.  For example, here's Masha Gessen in the New Yorker.

Consider this nightmare scenario: a military coup. You don’t have to strain your imagination—all you have to do is watch Thursday’s White House press briefing, in which the chief of staff, John Kelly, defended President Trump’s phone call to a military widow, Myeshia Johnson. The press briefing could serve as a preview of what a military coup in this country would look like, for it was in the logic of such a coup that Kelly advanced his four arguments.

. . .

Fallen soldiers, Kelly said, join “the best one per cent this country produces.” Here, the chief of staff again reminded his audience of its ignorance: “Most of you, as Americans, don’t know them. Many of you don’t know anyone who knows any of them. But they are the very best this country produces.”

The one-per-cent figure is puzzling. The number of people currently serving in the military, both on active duty and in the reserves, is not even one per cent of all Americans. The number of veterans in the population is far higher: more than seven per cent. But, later in the speech, when Kelly described his own distress after hearing the criticism of Trump’s phone call, the general said that he had gone to “walk among the finest men and women on this earth. And you can always find them because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery.” So, by “the best” Americans, Kelly had meant dead Americans—specifically, fallen soldiers.

The number of Americans killed in all the wars this nation has ever fought is indeed equal to roughly one per cent of all Americans alive today. This makes for questionable math and disturbing logic. It is in totalitarian societies, which demand complete mobilization, that dying for one’s country becomes the ultimate badge of honor.

There's more at the link.

Ms. Gessen's personal history makes it clear that she's been shaped and formed by so many influences that are antithetical to our American way of life, and to the patriotism that's evolved in this country over generations, that she's literally incapable of understanding where Gen. Kelly was coming from, and how his words resonate with those of us who share his perspective.  (See, for example, her reactions to President Trump's election - they speak volumes.)

We see something similar in the reactions of Rep. Frederica Wilson, who proclaimed with a laugh that she'd become a "rock star" after Gen. Kelly criticized her earlier statement.  The fact that she can dismiss, and even be amused by, such heartfelt, sincere reactions, demonstrates that she truly doesn't understand the enormity of the reaction she's stirred up.  Of course, I doubt she cares about that reaction, anyway.  Those of us who feel that way are not her constituency and are never likely to vote for her.  She knows that - so why should she care?  Personally, I tend to agree with Karl Denninger's view of her.  I regard her as despicable.

However, that points to a wider problem.  In general (and subject to all the usual caveats about generalizations), the entire progressive/far-left-wing element of American society appears incapable of understanding Gen. Kelly's words.  That's been amply demonstrated by the response of the pundits across liberal media to his words.  They've been so brainwashed by the influences to which they've chosen to expose themselves that, in listening to him, all some of them can hear is the threat of a military coup d'état, as Ms. Gessen claims in her article.  Others dismiss Gen. Kelly's reactions as those of a "Trump supporter" rather than a military man whose own son became a casualty of war.  They don't see the military as a wholesome, or even a necessary, element in society.  Instead, they see it as a threat to their utopian dreams, a collection of knuckle-dragging conservatives (the latter word being, in their vocabulary, a pejorative) having no value whatsoever, collectively or individually.

I don't know how one can ever get Ms. Gessen, or those of her ilk, to understand where Gen. Kelly was coming from, or the real, heartfelt, genuine perspectives he was expressing in his words.  She, and they, are incapable of understanding that.  The gulf between where they are, and where we are, is just too great to bridge.

What, then, is the answer?  I don't know.  All I do know is, if anyone disrespects my fallen comrades to my face, in the way that Ms. Gessen has just disrespected Gen. Kelly and his fallen son, I won't accept responsibility for my actions.  They're likely to be a very direct expression of my . . . ah . . . displeasure.


Am I a prophet, or what? - used car edition

After Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, flooding hundreds of thousands of vehicles in the process, I wrote:

[After Hurricane Katrina in 2005] Tens of thousands of Louisiana vehicles were 'exported' to other states, and sold there by their owners on the original title, with no mention made of flood damage.  In many cases, owners insisted that they'd evacuated in their vehicles, which had therefore not been flooded at all.  Only after time had passed did the inevitable damage show up . . . and by then the previous owners were long gone.

. . .

I can only advise my readers to be very, very careful when buying any used vehicle coming out of Texas for the next few months.  It's not just private sales, either.  Entire vehicle dealerships have been flooded, and they may not be fully insured.  They're in a position to have quick repairs done, then ship their inventory to other dealers for resale, thereby avoiding having to take the loss.

Get an in-depth report on any Texas-sourced vehicle from Carfax or similar sources, and look for any insurance payout linked to its VIN.  You might be buying a soggy lemon.

There's more at the link.

To my complete lack of surprise, the National Insurance Crime Bureau has just issued the following video clip and press release.

Flooded vehicles have finally stopped arriving at the Royal Purple Raceway east of Houston. Some 23,000 now await processing and retitling to be auctioned off for parts or to be scrapped. That is just one of several insurance industry salvage locations where more than 422,000 insured vehicles damaged by Harvey have been taken for processing ... In addition, more than 215,000 claims have been filed following damage to vehicles from Hurricane Irma in Florida.

. . .

The VIN numbers are entered into the NICB’s VINCheck database, which is free to the public and will indicate the vehicle has been damaged and branded. They are also entered into the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS).

Unfortunately, owners of even more vehicles no longer carry comprehensive coverage that covers flood damage and those vehicles are not part of the system. The owner should request a new branded title, but that may not happen. In fact, many flooded vehicles that weren’t insured will be cleaned up and sold with no indication of any damage.

Some unscrupulous buyers will also buy a branded vehicle, clean it up, and take it to another state where they will obtain a “clean” title and sell it with no warning that it has been flooded.

Anyone looking to buy a vehicle in the weeks and months ahead should be on the lookout for hidden flood damage. Here are some tips.

    1. Check vehicle carpeting for water damage
    2. Check for rust on screws or other metallic items
    3. Inspect upholstery and seat belts for water stains
    4. Remove spare tire and inspect area for water damage
    5. Check the engine compartment for mud or indicators of submergence
    6. Check under the dashboard for mud or moisture
    7. Inspect headlights and taillights for signs of water
    8. Check the operation of electrical components
    9. Check for mold or a musty odor

Again, more at the link.

Please note:  those 637,000 vehicles are only the ones that were comprehensively insured - which includes flood damage - and were therefore declared a total loss by insurers.  The figure does not include vehicles that weren't comprehensively insured.  Those will be disposed of by their owners, many of them by any means necessary - even illegal or dishonest ones.

If, during the next year, you buy any used vehicle, you need to be automatically suspicious of its origins.  Follow the above checklist to minimize the risk of problems - and even if the vehicle passes the checklist, I suggest you have it checked out by a qualified, competent mechanic, just in case.  The odds of a rip-off are very, very high right now.  Many people didn't have comprehensive insurance on their vehicles, and they can't afford to lose the money they had tied up in them - so they'll look to sell you their problem, take your money, and use it to buy a replacement vehicle that works.  What's more, they may sell or trade-in their flood-damaged vehicle to a dealer in part exchange for something better, without telling the dealer.  Will the dealer do the honest thing, and take it off his lot once he realizes he's accepted a lemon in trade?  Or will he decide he can't afford the loss, and look to sell it to the next gullible customer, at a profit, rooking them even harder than he was rooked himself?  Given the reputation of used car dealers . . . decide for yourself.

As always, caveat emptor.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Well, that was tiring . . . but satisfying

A few days ago I wrote about shopping for gym equipment to expand the strength training I can do at home, over and above the "heavy" weight training that Miss D. and I do at Mark Rippetoe's gymnasium three times per week.  I couldn't buy "professional grade" equipment - that can be very expensive indeed - but I've bought the best "consumer grade" gear I could afford.

I've just finished unboxing and offloading 325 pounds of weight plates in different sizes from the back of my truck.  They're now in my garage, joining a curl bar, two short dumbbell bars, clamps to hold the plates on the bars, and a weight rack to keep everything together.  Over the next few days, I'll rearrange my study to make space to store everything in there.

I'm planning to use this home equipment in between writing sessions.  I'll set an alarm on my computer, to force myself to take a break every half-hour or so (to avoid my eyes becoming over-strained, or sitting so long in one position that I cramp up).  I'll get up, walk around, make a cup of tea, and do other things for five or ten minutes before sitting down again.  My idea is that I'll have the two dumbbells and the curl bar set up, ready to use, with the same weight of plates that I'm currently using at the gym.  I'll do a "set", or a few sets, of dumbbell and/or curl bar exercises during every break.  I hope to do a lot of the simpler exercises at home, perhaps up to a couple of dozen times every day.  That'll let me concentrate on the more demanding ones - squatsdeadlifts, overhead press, bench press and so on - at the gym.  Hopefully, I'll make progress more quickly like that.

After three months of strength training, two to three times every week, Miss D. and I are very, very impressed with the difference it's made to our bodies.  Neither of us is feeling any less pain from our past injuries - I'm afraid nerve damage is permanent, so that's a given - but we're able to move more freely, get up and down from chairs or bed much more quickly and with fewer complications, and accomplish more when working.  The improvement in our stance and body posture has attracted approving comments from our friends.  Overall, I'd say strength training has already become a life-changer for us.  We expect to be doing it for years to come.  If you're considering it, but aren't sure whether it's for you, we highly recommend the Starting Strength program in particular.

We'll never be able to lift the weights that younger, stronger athletes can, but if we reach even half their level, we'll be very pleased with our progress.  Depending on the exercise, I'm already lifting five to seven times more weight than I could manage when I began strength training.  Color me happy!


A real-life post-apocalyptic dystopia in Puerto Rico

Regardless of who's responsible for aid not reaching the people of Puerto Rico, it's very instructive to look at what's happening there and learn from it as we consider our own preparations for emergencies.  We may not have it as bad as they do . . . but we can't guarantee that.  Health care, in particular, is critically important - and critically lacking.

Melted medications. Surgical procedures conducted in sweltering 95-degree heat. Malfunctioning X-ray machines.

This is the reality doctors in Puerto Rico are facing almost four weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

"We're practicing disaster medicine in real life," said Dr. William Kotler, a senior resident in emergency medicine with Florida Hospital in Orlando, who spent two weeks volunteering on the island earlier this month. "We improvise if we have to, with very little resources."

. . .

The physicians have been visiting up to three towns a day, providing care and distributing supplies.

The teams have brought with them dozens of boxes of catheters, insulin, IV antibiotics, portable ultrasounds, X-ray machines and other critical medical supplies. Florida Hospital has been flying in additional supplies to the island every three days since the first medical team arrived.

"Just this [past] weekend, we flew in nearly 2,000 pounds of supplies," said the hospital's spokeswoman Samantha Kearns O'Lenick.
The physicians said they're concerned Puerto Rico could be headed toward a full-blown health crisis.

. . .

Dr. Raul Hernandez, an internist based in San Juan, is bracing for an outbreak -- possibly deaths -- from waterborne diseases. He said Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease spread through the urine of an infected animals such as rodents, is becoming a growing concern.

Due to a lack of safe drinking water, people are drinking from whatever water sources they can find -- rivers, creeks, he said. If that water contains urine from an infected rat, disease will spread, he said.

So far, at least two deaths have been attributed to Leptospirosis.

Hernandez is also worried about his geriatric patients. He has been unable to contact several of them and worries whether his diabetic patients have insulin that hasn't spoiled in the heat and proper nutrition, given the food shortages. He's also concerned his patients won't be able to get prescriptions at pharmacies.

Dr. Miguel Acevedo led the second team of emergency physicians from Florida Hospital ... "They say it could take six to nine months for power to be restored fully in Puerto Rico. No hospital can plan to survive on generators for that long," he said ... What doctors are dealing with in Puerto Rico is a "Mad Max kind of situation," said Acevedo.

"The reality here is post-apocalyptic," he said. "You can't understand the seriousness of it unless you see it."

There's more at the link, and also in this article, which goes into far more than the health care situation.  It describes destroyed homes, flattened farms, lack of electricity, potable water, food, sanitation, etc.  (A similar situation appears to be affecting the Dominican Republic as well.)

I've heard many people say that things could never get that bad in the continental United States - that things are so much better organized here that we'd soon sort things out.  I'm not so sure.  If we had two or three major natural disasters occurring days or weeks apart - for example, "the big one" (earthquake) in California, a hurricane on the Gulf Coast, another on the Atlantic coast, and perhaps a volcanic eruption along the Ring of Fire where it crosses Washington state or Alaska (which might very easily be triggered by a major earthquake in California) - the demand for aid from all the affected areas would simply overwhelm our resources, which are not unlimited.

As far as health goes, remember that many of us (including yours truly) are dependent on daily doses of medication to maintain our health.  Many of us have suffered previous conditions that might recur under the stress of a disaster (e.g. heart problems, mobility issues, etc.).  If health care isn't available for us, those conditions might just kill us - even if health care was not strictly rationed during the emergency, being provided to those considered to have the best chance of survival, while the rest of us, older and/or sicker than "average", would be left to our own devices.  That's not something to take lightly - because it's happened before in this countryRemember what happened after Hurricane Katrina?

After reading those articles, I'm going to adjust my own emergency preparations to ensure that I have more supplies of health care essentials, at least 90 days' supply of prescription medications, and more potable water than I think I need.  You never know . . .