Thursday, November 30, 2017

Quote of the day

By Robert Stacy McCain, concerning a particularly nutty professor:

University faculties are beginning to resemble a casting call for a remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

True dat.


Shenanigans upon shenanigans . . .

You really need to read the history of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  A bigger partisan political boondoggle would be hard to imagine.

[Senator] Warren, who had hoped to be the CFPB’s first director, led the one-year agency-building process. She chose loyal Democrats to be her senior deputies; they hired like-minded middle managers, who in turn screened lower-level job seekers. It was too risky for interviewers to discuss politics, so mistakes were possible.

. . .

As screening techniques improved, Republicans were more easily identified and rejected. Political discrimination was not necessarily illegal, but attempts to hide it invited prohibited race, gender, religion, and age discrimination. In retrospect, the Office of Enforcement’s hiring process, which was typical for the bureau, violated more laws than a bar-exam hypothetical.

Job seekers interviewed with two pairs of attorneys and most senior managers. All Office of Enforcement employees were invited to attend the weekly hiring meetings, where interviewers summarized the applicants. Any attendee could voice an opinion before each candidate’s verdict was rendered; even a single strong objection was usually fatal. Note taking was strictly forbidden, and interviewers destroyed their records after the meetings ... Clear verbal and non-verbal signals quickly emerged. The most common, “I don’t think he believes in the mission” was code for “he might not be a Democrat.” At one meeting, Kent Markus, a former Clinton-administration lawyer who had joined the bureau as Cordray’s deputy, remarked that an applicant under consideration “sounds like a good liberal to me.” After a few seconds of nervous laughter and eye contact around the room, Markus recognized his slip. “I didn’t say that,” he awkwardly joked. The episode so unnerved one attorney that he never attended another hiring meeting.

. . .

The “us against the world” culture that was exhilarating in a startup became debilitating in a mature agency. Internal policies to minimize record-keeping deprived the CFPB’s enemies of statistics, but limited management tools. External criticism was dismissed as disingenuous, good advice ignored. Problems that could not be acknowledged could not be fixed. Morale and productivity deteriorated. The employees unionized.

There were a few winners, most with political connections, and many more losers. Moderates who objected were marginalized or ostracized.

There's more at the link.

It's well worth your time to read the article in full.  Its revelations are mind-boggling.  They certainly explain why the outgoing head of the bureau tried with might and main to prevent President Trump appointing even a temporary head.  He didn't want his shenanigans coming to light!


Doofus Of The Day #987

Hint:  When deploying a taser . . . shoot straight.

Admittedly, in a hand-to-hand melée, that can be difficult;  but I can't help wondering how many beers that officer had to buy for tasing his own colleague!


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Talk about leaving yourself wide open...

I note CNN has stated, delicate offended nose in air, that it won't attend President Trump's White House party for the news media.

“CNN will not be attending this year's White House Christmas party,” a CNN spokesperson said. “In light of the President's continued attacks on freedom of the press and CNN, we do not feel it is appropriate to celebrate with him as his invited guests. We will send a White House reporting team to the event and report on it if news warrants.”

The President's press secretary promptly responded on Twitter:

Ouch!  I bet someone at CNN is fuming . . .


All you ever wanted to know about the "missionary position", but were afraid to ask

I had to laugh at the explanation offered by the Straight Dope as to why the sexual intercourse so-called "missionary position" got its name.  I won't repeat it here, because this is a family-friendly blog and I don't want to shock those with delicate sensibilities;  but it's not rude, and it's funny.  Click over there to read it for yourself.

It reminded me of one of my more amusing encounters when I first came to the United States, on a seven-month church mission tour in 1996.  I was traveling in clergy attire;  black shoes, socks, trousers and blazer, and a black shirt with a so-called "clergy collar".  I happened to land in Chicago, after traveling from South Africa via Amsterdam.  In those pre-9/11 days, security was more relaxed, but it was still apparently the practice for customs and immigration officials to randomly select a few passengers and interview them more closely about why they had come to the USA.  My name ended up on that list, so along with half a dozen others, I was ushered into an examination room. It held a long wood counter, behind which sat uniformed officers with clipboards and pens.  They fired questions at the interviewees, noting their replies.

I happened to be sent to a position occupied by a young female agent. She began running down the list of questions:  name, address, age, etc.  She didn't look up at me at all, only down at her clipboard as she wrote down my replies.  The crunch came when she asked, "Employer?"  I replied, "Catholic Church."  Without missing a beat, she demanded, "Position?"

I couldn't resist it.  I replied, solemnly, "Missionary."

She looked up angrily, ready to rend me for being a disgusting, sexist pig, only to find me tapping my clergy collar with my forefinger.  I repeated, mildly, but with emphasis, "Missionary."

She blushed scarlet.  Every other agent behind the desk suddenly had a coughing fit, or had to stop what they were doing and lower their heads, shoulders shaking.  Before I knew it, another agent tapped me on the shoulder.  "That's all, padre.  Thank you.  Have a nice visit to the USA."  He ushered me out, as quickly as possible.

I've never forgotten that.  I still giggle at the memory.


What made them think this was a good idea?

Over at Daily Timewaster, I came across this video of two BASE jumpers in wingsuits entering the passenger compartment of a Pilatus PC-6 Porter - in mid-air!

They seem to have enjoyed it, but I couldn't help shuddering at the thought of what would have happened if one of them had run into the propeller, instead of the entrance.  Sliced base-jumper?  Shredded chutist?  Either way, it would have been messy . . .

There's also the question of what might have happened if anything had gone wrong - a sudden wind swirl (not uncommon in the mountains), a problem with the aircraft (particularly a jumper hitting a vital control surface), or whatever.  I think this was a very dangerous stunt from many perspectives.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

That's telling 'em!

It's so nice to see the current head of the FCC using logic, rather than partisan political propaganda, to address the subject of net neutrality (which we discussed in these pages a few days ago).

Ajit Pai laid it on the line as far as true neutrality of expression is concerned.

Pai defended his order to roll back Title II, he said that some Silicon Valley players have been criticizing the plan--he singled out Twitter in particular--as a threat to the open internet, consumer choice and free expression.

Pai countered that it was Twitter that was discriminating on the basis of content, and edge players in general that were the ones discriminating on the basis of viewpoint.

. . .

"As just one of many examples, two months ago, Twitter blocked Rep. Marsha Blackburn [the Republican chair of the House Communications subcommittee who helped overturn FCC broadband privacy rules] from advertising her Senate campaign launch video because it featured a pro-life message. Before that, during the so-called [net neutrality] Day of Action, Twitter warned users that a link to a statement by one company on the topic of Internet regulation “may be unsafe.” And to say the least, the company appears to have a double standard when it comes to suspending or de-verifying conservative users’ accounts as opposed to those of liberal users. This conduct is many things, but it isn’t fighting for an open Internet."

Pai called out others for similar actions, saying Twitter was not an outlier.

"[D]espite all the talk about the fear that broadband providers could decide what Internet content consumers can see, recent experience shows that so-called edge providers are in fact deciding what content they see. These providers routinely block or discriminate against content they don’t like. "

He used as examples an app store barring apps from cigar aficionados as promoting tobacco use, or "streaming services restricting videos from the likes of conservative commentator Dennis Prager on subjects he considers 'important to understanding American values'."

Pai took aim at algorithms for deciding what content web users see or don't, but aren't disclosed. Then there were the "online platforms secretly editing certain users’ comments. And of course, American companies caving to repressive foreign governments’ demands to block certain speech—conduct that would be repugnant to free expression if it occurred within our borders," he added.

He said for all those reasons the edge was a bigger threat to the open net than broadband providers, particularly when it comes to viewpoint discrimination.

There's more at the link.

I couldn't agree more!  Such behavior is the very opposite of "net neutrality".  It's the abuse of its dominant position by a company (or companies - Facebook, Google, etc. are just as bad) to promote one viewpoint while discriminating against another.  They can - and do - argue that since they're private companies, they aren't bound by any constitutional or legal requirements for "equal time" or non-discrimination, and so they can do as they please.  Sure, they can - but then let them shut the hell up about "neutrality" in any way, shape or form.  They don't know the meaning of the word, in any context.

In that light, it's hard to argue with Pai's conclusion.

Pai's decision to seek a full repeal of the rules was praised by the telecommunications trade groups as a boon for broadband investment, but loudly panned by the tech industry and consumer advocacy groups.

In his speech, Pai didn't just attack tech companies. He also went after celebrities like musician Cher and actors George Takei, Mark Ruffalo and Alyssa Milano by name for criticizing the rules.

"These comments are absurd," Pai said after reading off a tweet from Ruffalo claiming the net neutrality repeal would be fuel for authoritarianism. "Getting rid of government authority over the Internet is the exact opposite of authoritarianism."

Again, more at the link.

That's telling 'em!


Thoughts on the current sexual harassment imbroglio

I'm sure many of my readers have been alternately indignant, annoyed and amused by the unending series of accusations of sexual harassment that have come out of Hollywood, Washington D.C., and other hotbeds of power and influence.  Initially, I was cynical about them . . . but I've been thinking a great deal about the subject, trying to analyze my reaction in terms of the time in which I grew up, attitudes during that period, and how things have changed.  I thought you might be interested in the way I see things.  You're free to disagree, of course.  Perhaps we can get a useful discussion going in comments to this post.

In the 1960's and 1970's, the "flower power" generation embraced so-called "free love", aided by the sudden availability of truly effective contraception (i.e. "the pill").  Sex was now largely free of the risk of pregnancy, so that women could indulge in it without fear of conceiving an unwanted child.  Added to this, Hugh Hefner and others of his ilk propagated the idea of sex without love as a physical act devoid of moral or ethical issues, apart from the basic one of consent.  "If it feels good, do it!" became the mantra of a generation, and "situation ethics" largely replaced traditional morality in the popular consciousness.  Conservatives, of course, were outraged, and continue to be so.

The trouble is, there really was a double standard - it was just hidden from view.  The news media simply didn't report many of the scandals that today would blare at us from every outlet.  President John F. Kennedy was sexually promiscuous and an abuser of young women.  Rev. Martin Luther King was a serial adulterer, irrespective of his faith's condemnation of sex outside marriage - although his stature as a secular saint still leads his followers to actively condemn any attempt to report that fact.  I could cite innumerable examples from the period.  Suffice it to say that the rebellion against conventional morality was right when it accused the older generation(s) of hypocrisy.  To a very large extent, they were hypocrites.  They were pointing to the splinters in the younger generation's collective and individual eyes, while ignoring the planks in their own (cf. Matthew 7:1-5).

Growing up in the latter part of that generation, I, too, was exposed to the sexual turmoil of those years.  I was never all that promiscuous, but I certainly wasn't faithful to the Christian norm.  Almost all of us - men and women alike - postured, acted out, and sought to manipulate each other to get what we wanted.  We were no different than any generation before us, I dare say, although we were more free to act on our impulses.  Men wanted sex, and pretended to offer love and commitment to get it.  Women ultimately wanted love and commitment, and offered sex to get it.  In that respect, nothing's changed, even today.

What has changed now is the rise of feminism as a philosophy.  Whilst I believe that radical feminism is as much a disease as men who classify all women as "sluts" or "bitches", I think feminism has had one beneficial effect.  It's helped women realize that intellectually, they're the equals of men, and deserve to be recognized as such.  Sure, they have physical and emotional differences - and vive la difference, say I! - but the other side of their personalities had for too long been dismissed, even denigrated, by too many men.  I'm glad that's changed.

What we're now seeing is a refusal by women to kowtow any longer to men in powerful positions.  From time immemorial, men have used positions of power and influence to dominate women, aided by societies in which the status of women was maintained at an inferior level.  Initially this was, of course, based on physical differences;  men could hunt, gather and fight better than women because of their superior strength, and therefore demanded a superior position in the tribe or society because of that.  As societies moved from muscle dominance to mind dominance, the former retained its grip on culture for a very long time . . . but inevitably, that began to change.  The transformation is still in process.

I still have to fight vestiges of the "old way" in myself.  I was born and raised to a British couple who were raised in pre-World-War-II England, with its social class structure and norms.  My father expected, and demanded, to "wear the pants".  My mother surprised him - perhaps "shocked" would be a better word - by obtaining her doctorate at the same time he earned his, and demanded greater equality at home.  He bitterly resented this, and there were many very loud arguments between them.  We children were caught in the backlash, and our childhood was rather dysfunctional as a result - a fact still reflected in the relatively distant relationships between us as siblings.  I still have an instinctive expectation of "wearing the pants", partly due to my upbringing, partly due to having been born and raised in Africa, where the circumstances of life had led to a patriarchal attitude that still dominates there.  I've tried hard to overcome it, but I recognize that the root attitude is still lurking in my subconscious.  It takes effort to keep it contained.  (My wife helps!  She's American, not African, so we've had long discussions to understand and overcome our cultural differences.)

When I began reading accounts of Harvey Weinstein's peccadilloes in Hollywood, my initial reaction - and, I think, that of many men - was that the women concerned knew what they were letting themselves in for when they tried to break into that world.  The so-called "casting couch" has long been a metaphor for the entertainment industry.  However, I've taught myself to analyze my reactions . . . and I found myself in a quandary.  The fact that the "casting couch" environment exists does not mean that it's right.  I was, effectively, condoning by my tolerance something that my faith regards as gravely sinful.  That put me in an invidious position.  By not taking a stand against sin and wrongdoing, I was, in essence, giving it a free pass.

That's the quandary many men face today.  Too many of us have been raised in the expectation of "wearing the pants", just because we're male.  That no longer applies - and it's right that it shouldn't.  We no longer live in that sort of society.  If we encounter TEOTWAWKI, perhaps it will return . . . but until then, we're going to have to rethink our situation.  What's more, too many of us were raised in an environment where "free love" and "if it feels good, do it!" were the order of the day.  We were expected and encouraged to act on our impulses.  Some men even glory in the so-called "pickup artist" approach, which regards women as targets of opportunity.  However, love isn't free any more, and feeling good is not a reason to do "it".  Things have changed - but our attitudes, in most cases, have not.

I'm not saying that men are exclusively to blame for this situation.  Women, too, have to examine their attitudes and responses.  We've all seen incidents where women level accusations of sexual harassment, even rape, at a man, only to find them disproved when they landed up in court.  Others have not (yet) gone to court, but are dubious by virtue (you should pardon the expression) of a lack of credible and/or verifiable evidence (for example, Roy Moore).  Other women delight in "leading men on", only to scream "Rape!" when the man takes the invitation too far.  Their reaction ignores male psychology and biology.  They expect a man to behave like a woman in such a situation.  He won't - he'll behave like a man.  Some women even glory in flaunting their sexuality at men, but expecting them to still respect them as women (for example, the "slutwalk" phenomenon - contrast that with this, for example).  I have news for them.  If a woman dresses like a whore, most men are going to regard her as one.

We seem to be at a crossroads.  Older forms of sexual morality and social interaction are crumbling in the face of changing societal roles.  New forms have yet to evolve to replace them.  As a result, accusations are being leveled against people (of both sexes) who would angrily deny and reject them on the basis of the older moral and ethical standards in which they were raised.  Weinstein's exploitation of the "casting couch" has a long and storied history in Hollywood, and before that in other forms of entertainment all over the world.  Victorian attitudes towards men and women, hypocritical as they were, were not confined to England, but common in the New World as well.  How can we get past that history, and move on to something better?

I hope the current situation will lead both men and women, and those on all sides of the political equation, to reconsider who we are as human beings;  what our relationships with each other should be;  and where we should go from here.  This is as much a learning opportunity as it is a scandal.  I hope and pray we can use it to best effect.



Received via e-mail, origin unknown:

I'd pay to watch that . . .


Monday, November 27, 2017

It was a windy, wobbly summer . . .

. . . and a lot of aircraft landings showed it!  Here's Flugsnug's collection of some of the windier landings of summer 2017 in Europe.

I'm not surprised some of them went around.  I'm only surprised more pilots didn't decide to do so!


A final reminder: win guns!

I've written several times before about the fundraiser we're holding for Andi, a friend in Colorado who recently suffered a stroke.  You can read more about her here.  Pictures of the guns and other prizes on offer may be seen at Old NFO's blog, here, here, here and here.

Here's Andi with her husband and sons, prior to her stroke.

Donors get 1 ticket for the drawing for every $10 they donate.  $50 gets you 6 tickets, $100 gets you 12, and so on.  The winners will be drawn on December 1st.  The first person drawn picks the prize they want, then the second winner picks a prize from what's left, and so on down the line.  If you get drawn as a winner more than once, you get more than one prize.  Simple and easy.

As I write these words, the fundraiser stands at $15,712 out of a target of $25,000;  in other words, we've raised almost 63% of our target.  That's enough to help Andi pay for a lot of therapy, but it's still far short of what's needed.  May I appeal to you, dear readers, to help a friend in her hour of need?  A stroke is something that can happen to any of us;  and if it does, we'll be grateful for all the help we can get.  Let's "pay it forward" and help Andi, so that if the time comes that we need help, what goes around will come around, so to speak.

Thanks, friends.


Draining the swamp in the State Department

I cackled with glee while reading an article about how terrible, ghastly, horrible and disastrous are the efforts of Secretary of State Tillerson to reform the State Department.  To read some of the plaintive cries of woe, one would think he's an ax murderer, chopping away at the trunk of American democracy.

Mr. Tillerson, a former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, has made no secret of his belief that the State Department is a bloated bureaucracy and that he regards much of the day-to-day diplomacy that lower-level officials conduct as unproductive. Even before Mr. Tillerson was confirmed, his staff fired six of the State Department’s top career diplomats, including Patrick Kennedy, who had been appointed to his position by President George W. Bush. Kristie Kenney, the department’s counselor and one of just five career ambassadors, was summarily fired a few weeks later.

. . .

In the following months, Mr. Tillerson launched a reorganization that he has said will be the most important thing he will do, and he has hired two consulting companies to lead the effort. Since he decided before even arriving at the State Department to slash its budget by 31 percent, many in the department have always seen the reorganization as a smoke screen for drastic cuts.

Mr. Tillerson has frozen most hiring and recently offered a $25,000 buyout in hopes of pushing nearly 2,000 career diplomats and civil servants to leave by October 2018.

His small cadre of aides have fired some diplomats and gotten others to resign by refusing them the assignments they wanted or taking away their duties altogether. Among those fired or sidelined were most of the top African-American and Latino diplomats, as well as many women, difficult losses in a department that has long struggled with diversity.

. . .

The number of those with the department’s top two ranks of career ambassador and career minister — equivalent to four- and three-star generals — will have been cut in half by Dec. 1, from 39 to 19. And of the 431 minister-counselors, who have two-star-equivalent ranks, 369 remain and another 14 have indicated that they will leave soon — an 18 percent drop — according to an accounting provided by the American Foreign Service Association.

The political appointees who normally join the department after a change in administration have not made up for those departures. So far, just 10 of the top 44 political positions in the department have been filled, and for most of the vacancies, Mr. Tillerson has not nominated anyone.

. . .

And the department’s future effectiveness may also be threatened. As more senior officials depart, interest in joining the Foreign Service is dwindling. With fewer prospects for rewarding careers, the number of people taking its entrance exam is on track to drop by 50 percent this year, according to the Foreign Service Association.

“The message from the State Department right now is, ‘We don’t want you,’ and students are hearing that,” said James Goldgeier, former dean of the School of International Service at American University.

There's more at the link.

Note that the criticisms are leveled at the policy of reducing staff and cutting away deadwood.  They're couched in terms of the State Department becoming less effective because of the reduction in staff . . . but there is no evidence that it has actually become less effective.  The business of the US government is continuing unabated.  There appear to be no major crises of diplomatic confidence around the world that are the result of a missing ambassador here or a departing consul there.  One can argue that there's no smoke without fire;  but when no flames become evident, even after months of complaints, is it not fair to suppose that the smoke is being manufactured by something else - perhaps partisan political hostility to the Trump administration in the ranks of the State Department?

The Conservative Treehouse points out:

The condescending DC elites cannot fathom why they are unable to stop Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from cutting the rust out of the enterprise and streamlining the mission.

No-one, repeat NO-ONE, could have pulled off what T-Rex is accomplishing except T-Rex himself; with the full support of President Trump, of course. The former leader of the worlds largest private business, Exxon-Mobil, is now systematically bringing efficiency and effectiveness to the worlds largest public institution, the State Dept.

. . .

Suffice to say, anyone who has followed politics for any substantive amount of time knows the inherent issue with an operational entity, The U.S. State Department. Their entire mission has been at the epicenter of UniParty globalist advocacy.  Heck, selling foreign policy is where the big bucks are made.  Tillerson is now an existential threat to their bank accounts.

If you go back to the larger State Dept. challenge, Secretary Tillerson is essentially in charge of a U.S. Department that is comprised almost exclusively of Kerry/Clinton/Obama/Bush/UniParty/GOPe big “G” Globalists.

These entities, together with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, see themselves as a complete and separate structure of U.S. government.  They also function as a complete and separate ideological structure of government.

When you accept the scope of the challenge, and recognize it is almost impossible to change the participants therein; and further accept these career embeds will work earnestly and diligently to undermine the structure of a Trump administration at every opportunity; perhaps only then can you truly value Tillerson’s skill-set as a leader who knows how to deliver results within MASSIVELY COMPLEX organizations.

Again, more at the link.

Larry Lambert, no stranger to State Department shenanigans, observes with glee:

The minions of the T-Rex start with two questions that are put to State Department drones:  “What is your specific and quantifiable value to the core mission of the United States Department of State; and how do we measure your effectiveness therein? Go ahead and write down your answer. Here's a piece of paper and a cheap pen. I'll wait."

"HOW DARE YOU ASK (you cretin)!!!????" The question is offered in reply with a quivering lower lip.

The truth is that we spend billions/trillions on absolutely nothing, but it's been a place for protected pets for a very long time, many with degrees from Harvard and the Ivy League. Some are Skull-and-Bones Yale people who had an implicit guarantee that they'd be set for life, would be paid a princely fee and wouldn't have to do anything but sit on a committee that deals with interruptions in bird migration patterns or some such. T-Rex doesn't care any more than a Jurassic tyrannosaurus rex would.

. . .

The lack of reasonable answers within the bureaucratic ranks is leading to massive downsizing.

More at the link.

I'm entirely supportive of Secretary Tillerson's efforts.  When I raised my right hand and repeated the Federal oath of law enforcement office, prior to working as a prison chaplain, I took it very seriously.  It was, for me, literally a sacred oath.  I promised to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic".  Since that time, I've used that oath as a yardstick against which to measure every branch, agency and official of the US government.  What is it/he/she/they doing to accomplish that purpose?  For the life of me, I can't see what many of those State Department drones are doing to accomplish it.  Can you, dear reader?

I've had pushback from some liberal acquaintances.  They snort contemptuously that it's not the job of other agencies to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic".  They have other responsibilities.  My response is that there is no other reason for the Federal government to exist.  Everything it does should be either in support of, or in defense of, the constitution.  If it isn't, why is it doing it?  Can anyone answer that?

Meanwhile, I'll continue to take vicarious pleasure in seeing the State Department cut down to size.  I note with approval that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appears to be doing the same thing in her department.  One hopes that other members of President Trump's cabinet are doing likewise.  I can only think the country will be the better for it . . . and our tax dollars will go further.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sunday morning music

This Sunday, let's listen to a composer who was almost completely overshadowed by his successor, and is largely forgotten today:  Gregor Joseph Werner.  He had a difficult relationship with Franz Joseph Haydn, who was initially employed as his deputy, but rapidly supplanted him in the affections of his employer.  According to Wikipedia:

Werner's period of semi-retirement began in 1761 when the Esterházy family hired the 29-year-old composer Joseph Haydn as their Vice-Kapellmeister. The contract by which Haydn was hired shows the family's loyalty to their elderly musical servant by retaining him, at least on a titular basis, in the top post of Kapellmeister. However, after this time Werner's musical duties were limited to church music, and Haydn, 39 years younger than Werner, had the primary duties, with full control over the secular musical events of the household, including the orchestra.

This was a time of changes probably unwelcome to Werner. His longtime patron Paul Anton died in March 1762, succeeded by his younger brother Nikolaus Esterházy. Nikolaus was also a very musical prince, but his interests (Jones) "lay with Haydn and the development of instrumental music." Haydn initially received the same salary (400 florins per year) that Werner had long received, but in June 1762 this was increased to 600.

In addition, Werner had lived to see the kind of music he composed become outmoded. His own work emphasized the contrapuntal textures of the Baroque era, whereas by 1761 the new forms of the Classical period, often with a single melody set over an accompaniment figure, had come to the fore. Jones says, "he had become too old to appreciate the rapidly developing fashion for symphonies, quartets, and keyboard sonatas, genres in which Haydn was already acquiring a name for himself." Werner expressed his distaste by calling Haydn a "G'sanglmacher" (writer of little songs) and "Modehansl" ("fashion follower," literally "little Hans of fashion").

There's more at the link.

Very little of Werner's prolific output has survived.  To whet your appetite, here's his Prelude and fugue for string orchestra in C minor.

YouTube has several of his pieces, but apart from that, his music is often hard to find.  Some may be found in Baroque collections.  Despite their strained relations, Haydn helped to ensure that Werner's music would be remembered.  Wikipedia again:

Haydn himself clearly held Werner in high esteem, whatever their personal difficulties may have been. In his own old age (1804) Haydn published "six introductions and fugues for string quartet, taken from Werner’s oratorios". The title page read that the works were "edited by his successor J. Haydn out of particular esteem towards the famous master."


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Sheer Christmas genius! - family edition

From IOTWReport:

Yeah, that oughtta do it . . .


Remembering a hero of the First World War

I was surprised to read that the medals of the late Vice-Admiral Gordon Campbell have been bought for posterity by one of his descendants.  The Telegraph reports:

Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza paid a world record price for the collection at auction 100 years after the VC [Victoria Cross] was awarded to Vice Admiral Gordon Campbell.

Campbell was captain of the "Q-Ship" Farnborough and successfully destroyed a German submarine U.83 on February 17 1917.

His complete group of 11 medals also included the DSO [Distinguished Service Order] with two bars and France's prestigious Legion d'Honneur Chevalier's badge, and Croix de Guerre, 1914-1918.

The collection, which set a new world auction record for a VC and any group of British medals, will now stay in the UK on public display.

There's more at the link.

Campbell was a remarkable man in a remarkable field of endeavor. Q-ships were merchant vessels that were converted to carry guns and depth charges, and sent out in an attempt to entice German submarines to attack them.  It took great courage for the crews to sit there, waiting to be torpedoed, knowing that they could not take evasive action.  Only when the enemy submarine came to the surface, to finish them off by gunfire, could they drop their own disguise and open fire themselves.  A summary of their operations may be found here.

Campbell was particularly successful as a Q-ship commander, sinking two U-boats in the course of his exploits.  He was awarded the VC and three DSO's (for American readers, that's equivalent to the Medal of Honor and three Navy Crosses), among other medals.  For an excellent short account of his career, including many photographs, see here.

Campbell wrote a very interesting book about his Q-ship exploits, called 'My Mystery Ships'.  An online e-book in HTML format may be found here, and the book may be downloaded free of charge in various formats here, being out of copyright.  I recommend it.


Friday, November 24, 2017

Tongue in cheek, here's one for the conspiracy theorists

Received via e-mail:

Is this a coincidence?

The year was 1947. Some of you will recall that on July 8, 1947, 70 years ago,  numerous witnesses claim that an Unidentified Flying Object, (UFO), with five aliens aboard, crashed onto a sheep and mule ranch just outside Roswell, New Mexico.

This is a well-known incident that many say has long been covered-up by the U.S. Air Force, as well as other Federal Agencies and Organizations.

However, what you may NOT known is that in the month of April, year 1948, nine months after the historic day, the following people were born:

Barack Obama Sr.
Albert A. Gore Jr.
Hillary Rodham
William J. Clinton
John F. Kerry
Howard Dean
Nancy Pelosi
Dianne Feinstein
Charles E. Schumer
Barbara Boxer
Joe Biden

This is the obvious consequence of aliens breeding with sheep and jack-asses.

I truly hope this bit of information clears up a lot of things for you. It certainly did for me.

And now you can stop wondering why they support the bill to help Illegal Aliens.

Er . . . if you say so!


"Net Neutrality": all is not what it seems

I note that the FCC is considering abandoning Obama-era regulations preserving so-called "net neutrality".  According to Wikipedia:

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments regulating most of the Internet must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication.  For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.

That sounds admirable in principle . . . but there's a hidden flaw that makes the entire argument specious.  The FCC made things worse, not better, for many consumers by enforcing net neutrality under the Obama administration.  Its present discussions may reverse that problem.

Karl Denninger explained it in a long submission to the FCC back in 2014.  I urge you to read his article in full, but for the sake of brevity, here's a summary.  (He owned and ran an Internet service provider during the 1990's, and has remained technologically current since then, so he knows whereof he speaks.)

He begins by describing the reality of service provision in almost any sector, including the Internet.

All providers of Internet service, for cost reasons, oversell.  That is, a service provider who has 100 Mbps of aggregate capacity in and out of his or her network will sell far more than 100 1Mbps connections to the public.  This is very similar to how roads, water, telephone and electrical systems work.  There were approximately 7 million people in the Chicago metropolitan area in the 1990s when I was operating my ISP, but all 7 million of them could not possibly travel on the freeways in the area at one time.  My home has 200 amp electrical service but there is not sufficient electrical power available from my power company for myself and all of the other people in my neighborhood to each consume all 200 amps of electrical power at once.  I have a connection to the water main at the street and nominally there is 40psi of pressure at my tap, but if myself and all of my neighbors open all of our taps at once the pressure will drop to nearly zero, because the main cannot serve every house in my neighborhood using its full capacity to deliver water at one time. And while we all have cell phones in our pocket these days, and used to have a phone on the wall or a desk in our homes, if everyone tried to make a call at the same time the majority of them would not go through as there is insufficient capacity for everyone to make a phone call at once.

. . .

Most Internet access at the consumer level, with the exception today of cellular phone delivery, is unmetered.  That is, I pay a flat price no matter how much I use.

. . .

As the Internet has developed there have been people who have sought to try to shift their cost of innovation and content delivery to others.  These people often couch their "innovation" in lofty terms, as if they are somehow providing a public service.  What they are actually doing is attempting to run a business at a profit.  Today's pet example is Netflix but they are hardly the first.  Youtube, back in its early days, created somewhat-similar if less-severe issues of the same character we face today.

Mr. Denninger goes on to point out that Netflix is effectively dumping the cost of delivering its product onto every user of the Internet, whether or not they subscribe to Netflix.  Effectively, every subscriber to Netflix is using far more Internet bandwidth than his neighbors who are not, just as if he was using more water, or more electricity.  He's "hogging" the capacity of his area, reducing its availability for other uses and users.  This is only possible because net neutrality prevents Internet service providers from charging Netflix for its excessive consumption of Internet bandwidth, relative to other services or consumer demands.

Netflix has developed what many view as a "disruptive technology" through on-demand delivery of movies to the consumer.  In order to perform that function they must deliver a multi-megabit/second uninterrupted stream of data to your computer that meets certain specifications.  Any failure to deliver this stream, even momentarily, results in your display "stuttering" or stopping entirely.

. . .

The problem Netflix and similar services produce is that the technical requirement to deliver their service on an acceptable performance basis to the end customer is dramatically more-stringent than existing requirements for other Internet services.  Netflix purports to sell their service to the end customer for $8 per month.

But this premise, and thus the entire business model Netflix is promoting, is a chimera and unfortunately the common law of business balance (which states that you cannot get something for nothing) has caught up with them.

. . .

If Facebook delivers a sufficiently-large number of video ads such that it begins to impact network performance and thus forces upgrades of the ISP's infrastructure who should get the bill for that upgrade?

If the bill falls only on those who use Facebook and thus view their ads consumers may (rightfully) reject Facebook since the additional cost imposed on them is not present so they can look at a picture of their friend's cat, but so companies can advertise to them!  It is thus strongly in the interest of Facebook to hide this cost from those users by trying to impose it on everyone across the Internet so it cannot be traced specifically to their commercial, for-profit activity.

The same applies to Netflix.  If a sufficient number of people subscribe to Netflix the stringent demands for delivery of Netflix bits to the consumer will force the ISP to upgrade their infrastructure.  Who should get the bill for that upgrade?

If the bill falls only on Netflix customers then their bill will likely more than double; suddenly that "$8/month all you can eat" video streaming service might cost $25 or even $50.

Mr. Denninger sums up:

If the "Net Neutrality" argument wins the day it will force ISPs to bill all customers at a higher rate to provision that level of service to them whether they want it or not.

Why should a customer who has no interest in having high-bandwidth advertising shoved down his throat pay a higher bill because Facebook has decided to force him to watch those ads in order to use their service?

Why should a customer who doesn't want to watch Netflix pay a higher connection charge to an ISP because 20 of his neighbors do want to watch Netflix?

. . .

At the end of the day what those arguing for "Net Neutrality" in the context of today's submissions are demanding is the ability to use government force to compel the subsidization of a private, for-profit business service.

I find it impossible to argue with his conclusions.  They're factually correct.  What's more, they directly impact me, and other Internet users like myself.  I don't watch videos over the Internet very often, and certainly not through services like Netflix or YouTube or Hulu.  Nevertheless, almost every evening, I find my Internet access becoming slower and slower (despite paying a premium for fiber-optic, high-speed Internet service) because so many other customers are downloading and playing movies and TV shows over the same service.  Why should I be penalized for their pattern of entertainment consumption?  In a fair world, they'd be paying a higher price for their Internet service in relation to the amount of shared bandwidth they're using.  I would be paying much less for mine, because I wouldn't be using nearly the same amount of bandwidth that they are.

This is, in so many words, what's at stake in the current FCC debate over "net neutrality".  It's simply, "Who's going to pay for the infrastructure required to deliver Internet content to the consumer?"  I'm firmly on the side of those who say that the user should pay according to his consumption.

I note that we already do precisely that in terms of road maintenance taxes.  They're usually built into the price of gasoline or diesel.  Those who travel more, consume more fuel;  and therefore, in buying more fuel, they pay a higher road tax than those of us who travel less.  No-one objects to that at all - it's a fair way to distribute the cost burden of road maintenance.  Those who use them most, pay the most, and vice versa.  Why should the same principle of cost distribution not apply to the consumption of Internet bandwidth?

The problem from Netflix's point of view, of course, is that if its customers have to pay a lot more to access its services, they may not remain its customers for very much longer.  Its survival as a business depends on consumers like me subsidizing the Internet access of its customers.  However, I don't regard that as a feature.  It's a bug - and I want it eliminated, no matter what it may cost Netflix.  Why should it - or any other company - get a free ride at my expense?


The over-regulated driver may soon be... you?

A recent video about the impact of monitoring technology on the long-range trucking industry discusses so-called "electronic logging devices" and their effect on drivers.  However, it doesn't take the next logical step.  If these regulations appear to reduce accident rates and increase safety for truckers, how long will it take before the electronic devices they mandate appear in consumer vehicles, too?  Is there any technical or regulatory reason why the authorities should not mandate that every driver on the road must use them - or be forbidden to drive at all?

Watch the video with that in mind.

Given the massive increase in the number of computer chips in modern vehicles, I can't think of a single reason why such monitoring systems couldn't be designed into our cars and pickups from the ground up.  If we, as drivers, failed to comply with their requirements, those systems could simply disable our vehicles, or force us to drive at greatly reduced speeds, all in the name of "safety".

Even if that doesn't apply countrywide, you might find cities with big traffic problems forcing the adoption of such policies as a method to control drivers.  For example, in areas where there's a slowdown or traffic jam, vehicles approaching them could be electronically commanded to slow down, or their drivers "advised" to take an alternate route.  If police wanted to catch a fugitive, vehicles all over town could be instructed to slow down, making sure more of them would be caught in the dragnet, because they couldn't speed past a potential roadblock before it could be set up.

The possibilities for "Big Brother" are endless.  I'm sure plans like that are already among the wet dreams of the statists among us.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Thanksgiving trifle

After posting my recipes for Thanksgiving trifle last night, I thought you might like to see how the alcoholic version turned out.  Clickit to biggit.

Note the cat in the background, who's decided she doesn't like whipped cream that's had a dose of bourbon folded into it!


Let us give thanks

I'm sure many of us have worries, problems or hassles that tend to weigh us down.  However, today, let's put them aside, and be thankful for our many blessings.  In particular, if you live in one of the so-called 'developed nations', remember that many of your problems pale into insignificance compared to those who live elsewhere.  There are literally millions of people in the Third World who'd cheerfully commit murder in order to live the lifestyle of the poorest of the First World poor.  That's how much better off we are.

I'm thankful for the grace of God, for my wife, for my friends, for my relatively good health despite a partly disabling injury some years ago, for living in a free country . . . for so many things.  It's good to remember them all on a day like this.  It's not just about the turkey and trifle.

Whoever and wherever you are, may you have much for which to give thanks, and may your celebrations be joyful.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

You wanted my trifle recipes? Here they are.

In a comment to my previous post, reader Deborah Harvey asked for the recipe I was using to make trifle for Thanksgiving.  I ended up making two, one with alcohol and one without, the latter being for kids, and those who may have to drive after the meal.  I'll provide both recipes.  They're how my mother used to make trifle in South Africa when I was growing up.  They're based on traditional English recipes, with colonial variations.  I'm using fruit and alcohol more readily available here in the USA.

1.  Non-alcoholic fruit trifle.
You will need:
  • A container, preferably glass, about 9"-10" round and 6"-8" deep.
  • A sponge cake to fit in the bottom of the container, either whole or broken into pieces;  alternatively, ladyfinger biscuits.  I prefer not to use pound cake, as I think it affects the flavor;  but YMMV, of course.
  • A one-pound tin of canned apricot halves, preferably in natural (i.e. non-sugared) syrup.
  • A one-pound tin of fruit cocktail, preferably ditto.
  • One box/packet of orange Jell-o or equivalent.
  • One box/packet of lemon Jell-o or equivalent.
  • Custard powder of your choice, enough to make 2 pints, plus the necessary ingredients for it (sugar, milk, etc.)
  • 2-3 cups heavy cream, suitable for whipping.  I prefer to make more rather than less, because if you have too much, you can always discard it or use it for something else;  but if you have too little, your trifle will be incomplete.
  • A jar of Maraschino cherries.
  1. Put the sponge cake or ladyfingers in the bottom of the glass bowl, spreading them out evenly to cover the area completely.
  2. Drain the apricot halves, reserving the syrup.  Place the halves face-down on the sponge cake, spacing them evenly across the bottom.
  3. Drain the fruit cocktail, reserving the syrup.  Spread the fruit pieces over and around the apricot halves, making sure to produce a level surface.
  4. Combine the two packets of Jell-o and prepare according to directions.  Use the fruit syrup reserved in steps 2 and 3 as part of the cold water to produce the finished product.
  5. Pour the Jello-and-fruit-syrup mixture over the sponge cake and fruit in the bottom of the bowl, using just enough to come to the top of the layer of fruit, but not completely submerge it.  Either discard the rest of the Jell-o mixture, or chill it in other containers for other uses.
  6. Make the custard according to directions.  Spread a layer of custard approximately 1" thick over the fruit (thicker if you prefer).  Use a ladle to spread it slowly and evenly, so as not to disrupt the layer beneath it.
  7. At this point, if the depth of the bowl allows it, you can make a second layer of sponge cake or ladyfingers, fruit, Jell-o, and custard. If it's not deep enough for that, that's OK.  Remember to chill the bottom layers, to set the Jell-o and custard, before you add more warm Jell-o above them!  This can be tricky, so be careful.
  8. Put the trifle in the fridge to chill.  It works well if you do all the steps so far the previous evening, chill it overnight, then finish making it the following morning.
  9. After the trifle has chilled, whip the cream as long as necessary to produce thick, sturdy peaks.  Spread the whipped cream in an even layer over the custard layer (I usually try to make the layers equally thick, but that's a matter of taste).
  10. Decorate the whipped cream layer with maraschino cherries.  Serve, and enjoy.

2.  Alcoholic fruit trifle.
You will need:
  • A container, preferably glass, about 9"-10" round and 6"-8" deep.
  • A sponge cake to fit in the bottom of the container, either whole or broken into pieces; alternatively, ladyfinger biscuits.  I prefer not to use pound cake, as I think it affects the flavor;  but YMMV, of course.
  • A pound of fresh blackberries, and a pound of fresh raspberries.  (If you wish, you can substitute berries of your preference, such as blueberries or strawberries;  just make sure they work with the liqueur you plan to use.)
  • Custard powder of your choice, enough to make 2 pints, plus the necessary ingredients for it (sugar, milk, etc.)
  • 2-3 cups heavy cream, suitable for whipping.  I prefer to make more rather than less, because if you have too much, you can always discard it or use it for something else;  but if you have too little, your trifle will be incomplete.
  • A jar of Maraschino cherries.
  • Alcohol of your choice.  Sherry or port is traditional for use in trifles, but I've also made them with brandy, rum, and bourbon.  Use good quality liquor!  The cheap stuff just doesn't taste as good.  Also, pick a liqueur in which to marinate your berries, whatever they may be.  Not all liqueurs will taste good with all berries, so pick a combination that works for you.  For the trifle I just made, I marinated the fruit in a brandy-based liqueur.
  1. Put the berries into liqueur and let them marinate for an hour or so.  I suggest putting them in separate bowls, because the flavor of each combination will be different, and this helps to preserve it.
  2. Put the sponge cake or ladyfingers in the bottom of the glass bowl, spreading them out evenly to cover the area completely.
  3. Take about half a cup of port or sherry (or your chosen liqueur) and sprinkle it over the sponge cake or ladyfingers, wetting but not soaking them.  (If you want to use more, you can, but you don't want the alcohol to overpower the other flavors, so be cautious.)
  4. Drain about half of the berries, using a slotted spoon, and spread them in a layer across the sponge cake or ladyfingers.
  5. Make the custard according to directions.  Spread a layer of custard approximately 1" thick over the fruit (thicker if you prefer).  Use a ladle to spread it slowly and evenly, so as not to disrupt the layer beneath it.
  6. At this point, if the depth of the bowl allows it, you can make a second layer of sponge cake or ladyfingers, liqueur, fruit, and custard.  If it's not deep enough for that, that's OK.
  7. Put the trifle in the fridge to chill.  It works well if you do all the steps so far the previous evening, chill it overnight, then finish making it the following morning.
  8. After the trifle has chilled, whip the cream as long as necessary to produce thick, sturdy peaks.  Spread the whipped cream in an even layer over the custard layer (I usually try to make the layers equally thick, but that's a matter of taste).
  9. Decorate the whipped cream layer with maraschino cherries.  Serve, and enjoy.

There you have it.  I think they work very well.  Of course, trifle lends itself to endless adaptation, so you can play with the recipes as you see fit, substituting your own ingredients in place of mine, adding more, or whatever.

My two trifles are now chilling in the fridge, prior to having the final cream layer added tomorrow morning.  Miss D. and I just have to resist the temptation to sample them, to see how they came out!


Be careful out there, friends

I know many of my readers will be traveling this Thanksgiving weekend.  Some of you have already left home;  others will do so after work today.  Wherever you are, and wherever you're going, please be careful, and travel safely.  I'd like to see all of you safely back home after this long weekend.

As for Miss D. and I, we'll be joining our friends locally for a jointly prepared Thanksgiving supper tomorrow.  I'm making an English-style sherry trifle, according to my late mother's recipe, which is bigger and more complex than some.  Fruit, sponge cake, mixed fruit Jello to hold the fruit and sponge cake together, ladyfingers, sherry or port to soak into them, lots of custard, and plenty of whipped cream, all topped with maraschino cherries.  That should keep us going for the weekend!

Have fun, y'all.


Hot food from a hot rocker

Ian Anderson, the composer and musician behind rock supergroup Jethro Tull, is also a fan of Indian food - so much so that he's written an introduction to it for his fans.  Here's an excerpt.

First of all: meat, fish or vegetable as a main course? Let’s get the big and scary bit out of the way. Dry or in a sauce? Spicy-hot or mild and creamy?

The great thing about Indian cuisine is the availability of vegetarian options. Lentils, greens, roots and branches, are all conjured up to please, titillate and satisfy. Perhaps in the form of an integrated and complete Vegetarian Thali, attractively served in a “silver” dish of that name, the chance to sample several small vegetable portions will be found. No longer the poor cousin of the carnivorous night-out nibbler, you may indulge yourself with glee, ghee (purified butter) and total satisfaction in your descent to the ultimate in Vegan gluttony. Whoops, forgot about the butter...

Let’s first consider the mild: Korma, Passanda and Muglai are the words to watch for. Liberal in their creamy mildness, these dishes, from different areas of the Indian sub-continent, will be face and bowel-savers when the chips are down.

For those who favour the dryer, purer and not-too-hot taste of the source meat or fish, try the Tikka or Tandoori versions.

Really spicy hot stuff will be tackled head-on in the Madras or Vindaloo variations on the theme. Brave but occasionally foolish forkers, like me, will feel compelled to go for the Phal or Tindaloo, those macho show-off botty-crippling dishes which we become strangely ever-addicted to. Nothing disrupts a band sound-check like the pervasive after-effects of the Tarka Dhal (lentils and garlic).

There's more at the link.  Very useful if you don't know much about Indian cooking.

I grew up in South Africa, which has a large Indian population (Mahatma Gandhi worked there as an expatriate lawyer and civil rights activist - and, during the Boer War, as a stretcher bearer).  Thus, Indian food has a rich history in South Africa, affecting and being influenced by the Dutch cooking of the Boer settlers and the English cooking of Imperial Britain.

One of my not-so-fond memories of my early working years is of taking an Indian colleague home after an all-night shift in a computer room.  He invited me to join him and his wife for breakfast.  She served cold curry from the refrigerator that she'd made for supper the night before.  Even cold, it was so "hot" (i.e. spicy) that it felt as if my mouth was on fire - and, a day or so later, my nether regions felt likewise as it completed its travels through my alimentary canal!  Despite that, I came to enjoy a "warm" curry now and again;  so much so, that I cooked one for my wife and our landlord, early in our marriage.  I was chewing thoughtfully, and opining that it needed a touch more of this spice and a smidgen more of that, while perspiration was pouring down their faces and they were gasping for breath.  That's when I realized one can develop a tolerance for curry that isn't universally shared . . .

Be that as it may, I continue to enjoy curry, and my wife has developed a taste for the milder versions thereof.  She makes a pretty good chicken curry, which we enjoy together from time to time.  If you've never tried curry, it rewards the effort - provided you start with the mild stuff!  Don't jump straight into a vindaloo.  Your digestive system will not only not thank you, it'll actively punish you a day or two later.  Remember the song "Ring of Fire"?  You'll have one too.  Yeah.  Right.  That ring . . . and love will have nothing to do with it!


Doofus Of The Day #986

Today's award goes to the directors of a Catholic school in Adelaide, Australia, whose artistic judgement has turned out to be, in a word, catastrophically inept.  A tip o' the hat to Australian reader Snoggeramus for bringing it to my attention.

AN Adelaide Catholic school has been forced to cover and cordon off a new religious statue after raising eyebrows for its unfortunate design.

Blackfriars Priory School, at Prospect, unveiled the statue late last week of St Dominic handing a young boy a loaf of bread, which appears to have emerged from his cloak.

One of St Dominic’s miracles was the ample supply of bread.

But the sculpture’s unintentionally provocative design has had unintended consequences and created a flurry of activity on social media ... the school was forced to cover the statue with a black cloth after students took inappropriate photos on Friday and by this week it had been cordoned off.

One Instagram user wrote: “Like who the hell designed, approved and erected it and no one thought about it?”.

Another user wrote: “Blackfriars is not alone. I saw heaps of similarly dodgy ones while living in Chile”.

Other users commented: “surely this can’t be real” and “can’t believe this happened”.

There's more at the link.

Verily, the mind doth boggle.  After all the publicity about Catholic priests and child sex abuse, for a Catholic school to display a statue like that, even if it does depict a saint and a well-known incident in his hagiography . . . the sheer stupidity, the lack of common sense and understanding of whoever approved that design, is truly epic.  He, she or they need to be removed from their posts at once, before they do any more damage to what is otherwise probably a very good school.

(Of course, we can guess what the schoolboys must be saying about it!  During my own school days, I can't recall that we were ever renowned for our respect for authority.  Given their irreverent national heritage and Australians' well-earned reputation for "taking the piss", schoolboys down under must be doubly so!)


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The (in)famous Pachelbel Rant

Following my most recent Sunday Morning Music entry, I had a number of people ask to hear Rob Paravonian's (in)famous "Pachelbel Rant".  I've put it up before, but how can I resist doing so again?

Great stuff!


More about IFAK's (Individual First Aid Kits)

Following the Las Vegas shooting last month, I wrote about the need to keep an IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) on hand if possible.  Even if one can't use it to best effect oneself, one can make it available to emergency personnel, whose own supplies may run low in a mass casualty event like that.  Aesop added his own expert opinion on the subject.  If you haven't already read both articles, I recommend doing so before continuing with this one.

Regular readers will know that I've been friends with Kelly Grayson, a.k.a. Ambulance Driver, for many years.  He's a senior and widely respected paramedic and EMT, and is in demand as a speaker on the emergency medical conference circuit.  When I met him again at Blogorado last month, I asked him to post his thoughts on the best IFAK components, for the benefit of all of us.  He's done so at his own blog, along with some very important considerations about when and how to use it.  Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite.

YOU, as a bystander, are going to be judged very forgivingly on the actions you take, as long as you stay in your lane. You don’t have a duty to act, and nobody expects you to do trauma surgery in Shooting Bay #5 when Cletus violates more than his customary one of Colonel Cooper’s Four Rules of Gun Safety.

But in this era of YouTube instructional videos and online marketplaces that will allow you to purchase sophisticated medical equipment without so much as a certificate to demonstrate you know how to use them, you can put yourself into precarious legal footing rather easily.

Sure, you can watch a video on suturing and wound closure and practice a few times on a pickled pig’s foot, watch a video on intravenous cannulation and procure the proper supplies, buy a King airway and watch the instructional video, but if you start using that stuff in anything outside a TEOTWAWKI situation, you have stepped far outside the protective boundaries of the Good Samaritan Law, and are now practicing medicine without a license.

And you’re gonna get your ass sued, and rightfully so, because something will go wrong, and you don’t have enough education or training to know what you don’t know.

So I’ll boil it down to what you, a layperson, can do without running afoul of the tort (and maybe even the criminal justice) system: Putting stuff ON a victim, pretty much okay. Putting stuff IN a victim, not kosher.

There are some exceptions to that, like for example, wound packing in severe hemorrhage, but if you stay away from specialized invasive medical devices, your chances of getting sued lie somewhere between slim and none.

With that in mind, here’s what I recommend you carry in your range first aid kit, and this is the same basic equipment I give to all participants in my Shooter Self Care classes [see reviews of a previous class here].

There's much more at the linkHighly recommended reading, particularly in these troubled and more dangerous times.

Thanks, AD, for stepping up to the plate with your advice.  I'll be following it.


So much for a modern college education

Jim Goad brings the smackdown to current US college standards.

American colleges are no longer institutions of higher learning. It would be more apt to refer to them as state-sanctioned seminaries for the secular religion of Cultural Marxism. Instead of strolling out of college with nimbler minds, students now stumble out into the real world with their brains scrubbed clean of the ability to hatch a single independent thought.

. . .

Rather than being instructed in crucial matters—such as how to detect logical fallacies and distinguish between what’s objective and subjective—modern students indenture themselves to the loan-peddlers for the dubious honor of taking inane courses such as “Kanye Versus Everbody! [sic],” “Sci-Fi Queered,” “What If Harry Potter Is Real?,” and “How to Watch Television.”

While piously posing as staunchly anti-racist—whatever the hell that means, because it can’t be quantified—students are instead encouraged to channel all of their latent racial hatred toward the very idea of white people.

. . .

American colleges no longer bother to even pretend that they’re teaching students how to think. Instead, their noble mission is making sure that every last trace of a dissident thought is mercilessly shotgunned out of their students’ brains before unleashing them into a world where they have trouble tying their own shoes without doubling their normal dose of antidepressants.

So let the colleges die. Let the teachers—almost to the last gender-fluid one of them an Armchair Marxist who fetishizes the “working class” from afar—learn what it’s really like to earn a living.

For grade school and high school, hire teachers who know how to keep their personal ideology out of the classroom. Have them act like boot-camp sergeants in drilling the three Rs into kids’ soft little skulls.

The current yearly average cost for a college education runs from about $10K for state residents at public colleges to a little over $30K for public colleges.

For about a thousand bucks, you can buy a cheap laptop and an internet connection for a year. And if you’re remotely intelligent and inquisitive and motivated, you can find all the knowledge the world has to offer online. We need more autodidacts and fewer casualties of collegiate indoctrination.

The only intelligent thing to do with modern American colleges is to get rid of them.

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

I've had contact with a fairly large number of current students and recent graduates over the past decade or so.  Almost uniformly, they astonish me with their lack of knowledge and lack of understanding of the real world.  They appear to have been taught to demand that the world conform to what they think it should be - and their thoughts have been trained and formed almost exclusively from a Marxist rhetorical perspective.  They bear little or no relation to reality.  There are, of course, some honorable exceptions to that rule;  but I'd say four out of five students don't qualify, in my experience.  Obviously, some fields (e.g. medicine, engineering, etc.) require a college education;  but in the fields of liberal arts, the "soft" sciences, etc., I can't help thinking that most students would be better off not going to university at all, given current academic standards (or the lack thereof).

I also wish more young people would consider part-time instead of full-time tertiary education.  I could never afford to go to university full-time, so all four of my tertiary qualifications were earned part-time;  two through correspondence study, and two through evening classes after work.  I missed the "social experience" of life on campus, of course, but looking back, I can't say that did me any harm.  Instead, I graduated every degree free of student loan debt, and having earned an increasingly good living in the process.  Such distance education degrees are freely available to US students, particularly if they register with overseas institutions such as Britain's Open University or the University of South Africa (there are many others).  Even better, the academic standards at foreign universities are often higher and more rigorous than those at US institutions, and free of many of the "politically correct" requirements that bedevil US curricula.  That has the potential to deliver a superior education to students who are prepared to put in the work necessary to take advantage of it.

The Internet wasn't a factor when I did my degrees, but it would have helped enormously.  Nowadays, when many Ivy League university lectures are available online, either free of charge or for a relatively small fee, it's indispensable.  What's more, there are many accredited "online institutions" dedicated to providing low-cost, high-quality education.  I know a couple of young people who are auditing lectures online from several different universities, then using what they've learned to "test out" of the subject requirements at the state universities where they've enrolled.  Through careful planning, they've found they can complete more than half the required coursework in this fashion, and cut the time needed to earn a Bachelors degree almost in half - not to mention saving tens of thousands of dollars in course fees and related expenses.

Finally, of course, many jobs don't actually need a university education - it's just become expected by default.  Mike Rowe deserves kudos for setting up the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, which offers "scholarships for jobs that actually exist", encouraging work-seekers to enter apprenticeships and technical studies instead of colleges.  I highly encourage any young person looking for career opportunities to consider its programs.  If I were younger, believe me, I'd be banging on his door first thing!  Compared to most US colleges today, that's a no-brainer decision.