Tuesday, December 31, 2019


An antiques expert in England has learned (the hard way) not to jump in where angels fear to taste.

Glass specialist Andy McConnell inspected a sealed bottle from the 19th century on the BBC show [Antiques Roadshow], and decided to sample its mystery contents in front of an expectant audience.

. . .

Mr McConnell used a syringe to transfer a sample from the bottle to a tumbler, and sipped at the mystery beverage.

“It’s very brown,” he told the audience at the time.  “I think it’s port. It’s port or red wine, or it’s full of rusty old nails and that’s rust.”

In a programme broadcast on Sunday, Fiona Bruce delivered bad news to the specialist, after experts at Loughborough University had analysed the contents of the bottle.

She said:  “You thought it might be port or wine.  That would have been nice. Inside were these brass pins.

“The liquid: urine, a tiny bit of alcohol, and one human hair.”

The bottle also contained a small shelled creature, in what Bruce announced was a measure to keep evil away.

She said:  “What this was was not a bottle of port or wine, but a witch's bottle, buried in the house as a talisman.”

There's more at the link.

I suppose one could ask a sommelier to confirm that, but I think it would be smellier rather than sommelier!  It'd certainly be the urination of you . . .


No s***, Sherlock! - California edition

To nobody's surprise, another moonbat California initiative is bearing poisoned fruit.

A few years ago, California passed one in a series of bills aimed at emptying the jails and prisons. Proposition 47 carried the disingenuous name of "the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act" and its stated purpose was to keep non-violent offenders out of jail. To achieve this goal, the state decriminalized a number of lesser offenses, including retail theft. The law raised the value of the amount of merchandise someone could steal while still only being charged with a misdemeanor to nearly one thousand dollars.

To the great surprise of the government, people noticed this change and began taking advantage of it. They have now recorded multiple years of steadily increasing, organized robbery. These plots are known as “mass grab and dash” thefts and they generally involve large numbers of young people all entering a store at the same time, grabbing armfuls of merchandise and dashing back out to their vehicles and hitting the highway. Not only are robberies on the rise, but arrests and prosecutions are down. Who could possibly have predicted this?

. . .

“It’s a boldness we’re seeing like never before and just a disregard for fellow human beings,” said Lieutenant Mark Donaldson, Vacaville PD.

He explained these crimes have evolved into more than just shoplifting. It’s organized retail theft and he says it’s happening across the state. Cities like Vacaville, with outlets and shopping centers located near major freeways, tend to be a target for these organized retail crime rings.

. . .

... when you make it easier and less risky to steal larger amounts of goods, people will steal more merchandise. Did it really take a rocket scientist to figure this out?

There's more at the link.

What can I say?  This is what happens when you let progressive far-left moonbats, with their heads in ideological clouds, make laws affecting the real world.  The consequences are always far less desirable than those they imagined - but they don't care about that.  Those of us who worry about such things are not "woke" or "enlightened" or "caring", like they are:  therefore, our thoughts, feelings and desires don't count.  We peons must just put up and shut up.  (Subtext:  "or else!")

Next stop:  Virginia Democrats' war on the Second Amendment.  What's the betting it'll have similar, unintended (and emphatically undesirable) consequences?  They won't believe that, of course.  They never do.  Their theories trump reality.  Just ask them.


Important lessons to learn from the Texas church shooting

I've been watching the security camera footage of the Texas church shooting last Sunday, and reading as much as I can find about it.  It contains some important lessons for all of us, not just in terms of church security, but our personal approach to security as well.

Here's an excerpt from an interview with the man who shot the criminal.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

Wilson recalled the events leading up to Sunday's shooting and said there was concern about the individual as soon as he entered the building due to the way he was dressed, in a long coat with a fake beard and wig.

He said church security trained an A/V camera on the man and that a member of the volunteer security team, Richard White, sat behind him in the auditorium.

Wilson said the man had stood up and left the auditorium once to use the restroom and that he'd talked to Anton "Tony" Wallace as he served communion before returning to his seat.

Wilson said the man then stood up and pulled out a shotgun and that's when both he and White drew their guns.

"Richard did get his gun out of the holster, he was, I think, able to get a shot off but it ended up going into the wall. The shooter had turned, shot him and then shot Tony, and then started to turn to go to the front of the auditorium," Wilson recalled.

Wilson said he didn't initially have a clear shot on the shooter and had to wait a half-second or second for parishioners to clear out of the way. He said he then fired one shot at the gunman's head and that the shooter ... immediately went down.

"The only clear shot I had was his head because I still had people in the pews that were not all the way down … that was my one shot. When I teach people, I teach them not to shoot the head unless that's all you have," Wilson said, explaining that it's easier to hit a person in their body because it's a larger target than the head. "If that's the only shot you've got, then that's the shot you take."

There's more at the link.

My comments:
  1. If there was "concern about the individual" from the start, perhaps it would have been better to approach him as he entered, or prevent him from proceeding through the doors into the main body of the church.  If you let the fox into the henhouse, you can expect trouble.  Yes, this is a difficult problem;  you may end up being seen as "exclusionary" to those who are "troubled", or "elitist", or "intruding upon people's civil liberties".  I don't see it that way.  If the church is private property, it has a right to enforce its standards upon those who enter;  and those standards should include compliance with any security procedures it may put in place.  That can be signposted at every entrance, making it legal.  In today's world, it's not a bad idea.
  2. The first man to be shot was a member of the church's security team.  Watching the video of the incident, he was clearly caught off-guard.  He took almost three seconds to get his gun out - and that was too long.  He was the first casualty.  Lesson to be learned:  if you're suspicious of something or someone, you need to be keyed-up and ready to react as fast as possible.  That includes having your firearm in a position where you can get to it easily and quickly, and draw it fast enough to matter.  Action beats reaction, almost every time;  and it cost two lives to demonstrate that yet again.  You may even wish to get your gun out of its holster ahead of time, and have it ready in your hand or another more convenient location in case of need.  Certainly, if you're likely to be sitting down, you need a holster that lets you get the gun out fast while seated - a crossdraw (like this or similar) or shoulder holster (like this or similar) being probably the fastest from that position.  We also need to wear garments that will not impede our draw stroke.
  3. Wilson did very well indeed to keep his cool and wait for a clear shot.  His first round ended the problem, then and there.  He has an extensive shooting and law enforcement background, which were major contributing factors to his success;  but he kept his cool under pressure, and applied his training and experience to the problem.  Most of us don't have that training or experience.  Would we be able to make a one-shot stop, over a distance of 18 yards, in the midst of gunfire, screaming people, and rapid movement all around us?  Most of us would not.  Certainly, those without adequate training and practice will not.  This illustrates the need to get both adequate training and regular practice, so as to be prepared when we need to be.
  4. It's all very well to train for "body shots", as representing the biggest target;  but sometimes we can't see that target.  What if you're lying on the ground, and you see the shooter's feet on the far side of a car twenty yards away?  If you shoot under the car, you can take out one or both feet, and immobilize him.  If he falls to one knee, you can shoot that;  if he falls on his side, shoot his arm or his head.  We have to train for any contingency that may arise.  It's all very well to say "Oh, I can't do that - I don't have the time" or "I don't have the ammo budget" or "It's too much trouble to keep it up".  What is your life, and the life of your loved ones, worth to you?  That's how much effort you'll put into it.  Your actions, or the lack thereof, will speak far more loudly than your words, if the crunch should ever come.  As for hitting a pinpoint target, try the training methods I described in this article, and even a novice will make rapid progress.

I'm very sorry that it cost the lives of two innocent people before the shooter could be put down.  That's a tragedy that will affect everyone who was there, and the families and friends of the dead most of all.  It is, indeed, praiseworthy that the church had taken the time and trouble to set up a volunteer security team, and select at least one person who was skilled and experienced enough to solve the problem.  I hope and pray other churches do likewise, in the wake of this example.

As for the shooter . . . let his name be forgotten, and his memory consigned to the trash dump of history.


Monday, December 30, 2019


I don't think cartoonist Stephan Pastis is looking forward to the new year . . .  (Click the image to see a larger version at the cartoon's Web page.)


Doing greater harm by trying to do good?

I note that New York's new discovery reform laws, which take effect on Wednesday, contain a double-edged provision that might threaten victims of crime.

Have you ever made a call to 911 to report a crime?

Next year if you do, your contact information will end up in the hands of the suspect police arrest.

It’s a new reality of New York's discovery reform laws taking effect just 12 days from now on January 1st.

. . .

Albany County District Attorney David Soares is dreading the conversations he knows we will have to have with crime victims.

“By the way, I have to provide your cell phone number to his lawyer in a few weeks. I don’t know how I’m going to have these conversations with a victim,” Soares said.

. . .

Come January 1st, 2020, he says state law will mandate prosecutors hand over the contact information of victims and witnesses to criminal defendants within 15 days of arraignment. Even if the witness wants to remain anonymous or gives false information to protect their identity, Soares says he will have to reveal the tipster's identity.

“There are people who call 911, report a crime and hang up the phone. In two weeks, I have to turn over your real information,” Soares said.

There's more at the link.

I can see legitimate reasons for this provision in the law.  If you've been reported by a nosy neighbor who calls in reports on anyone she can see from her bedroom window;  if you've been the victim of someone who's making false reports about you in the hope that you'll be "swatted";  if you've broken up with a former partner who's now out for revenge;  all these and other circumstances might be good reason for you to know who's reported you.  They may help to cut short a number of criminal prosecutions before they start.

On the other hand, what if you've been raped, and reported the crime to the police, and they caught the rapist?  He may have known you only as "that woman in the park".  Now he'll also know your name and address.  What's the betting that he might have his buddies show up and threaten you (or worse) in an attempt to get you to withdraw the charge?  What if you reported an act of dangerous driving by a motorcyclist, and his buddies in the biker gang are now after you to take revenge for your "disrespect"?

I don't think they thought this law through sufficiently . . .


Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sunday morning music

Paolo Benedetto Bellinzani was an 18th-century Italian composer.  Not much of his output is remembered today, but his Sonata for Flute in D Minor is one of them.  It's a light, pleasant piece that makes easy listening.

I hope your post-Christmas digestion is recovering from the overload - just in time for the New Year celebrations next week!


Saturday, December 28, 2019

Saturday snippet - deterring a thief in Haiti

Max Hardberger has written several books inspired by his time at sea, first as a marine captain, and later as a well-known recovery expert, "stealing back" ships and other big-capital items that had been stolen from their owners.  In his book "Freighter Captain" (officially a novel, but which is obviously and unashamedly highly autobiographical), he describes several months in command of an old, ramshackle tramp steamer trading between the USA and Haiti.

Theft was a perennial problem in Haiti, with light-fingered visitors coming aboard in the dead of night from canoes or small boats, and stealing anything that wasn't nailed down.  Something clearly had to be done about it.

     It was one of those pawn shops that specialize in police supplies. The proprietor was a big, bearded man with an automatic in a quick-draw holster. I bought three pairs of Smith & Wesson handcuffs at $28 each. I also picked up two jumbo cans of pepper spray.
     As I was going out I noticed a rack of Wrist Rocket slingshots on the wall by the door. I picked one up. “Ah, hah,” I said. “I know what I need this for.” I stretched the rubbers a couple of times, then put it on the counter. The man tried to sell me a pack of steel balls as well, but I said, “I’m on a ship. I got all the ball bearings I need.”

. . .

     The next morning, before I went on watch, I looked around in the engine room until I found a drawer of old bearings. A good chief engineer never throws away a bearing, no matter how badly worn, because someday it might be better than a frozen one. I chose half-a-dozen of the worst, broke the races with a ball-peen hammer, and gathered up the steel balls. They were about half-an-inch in diameter and perfect for my purpose. During the long morning, between satnav and radar fixes, I practiced with my new Wrist Rocket slingshot using a plastic jug on the hatch cover as a target, but without much success.

. . .

     I went down to the engine room and cracked some more bearings before climbing to my perch in the darkening wheelhouse. I ranged my ammunition on the dashboard and put the Wrist-Rocket slingshot close to hand on the autopilot console. Things had settled down on shore, with only a few cooking fires still burning. The electricity was off again. The streets were dark, with candles flickering in the windows.
     The ship rocked quietly. The moon rose huge and lopsided into a lattice of high clouds. The party on the Gitan Express died a natural death, and the only noise left was the thumping of generators.

. . .

     I lowered the pilot ladder on the starboard side, to make it easier for anyone wanting to come onboard. About 0300 hours my first customer arrived, a dreadlocked figure gliding across the bow of the ship in his canoe. I got a couple of ball bearings from the dashboard and went out on the wing of the starboard bridge, behind the deck lights. I didn’t have long to wait. The pilot-ladder ropes started shaking. I put a ball in the leather pouch and positioned myself.
     His head eased up over the bulwark, dreadlocks first. He studied the front of the house carefully, then slid over the gunwale and took up a low crouch on deck. He moved silently aft. I leaned over to keep him in view as he approached the front of the house. I let him get to the rear corner of the hatch, about twenty feet below me, before I drew the tubing back and let the ball fly.
     My aim wasn’t good. The ball pinged against the deck and landed in the water with a splash. He spun around. I took aim again and the next ball got him behind the ear. It whacked against his skull like a lug nut hitting an oak tree. The would-be thief dropped to the deck without a twitch and sprawled against the hatch coaming with his head in darkness.
     I ran downstairs. No one was awake. I could hear snores through the cracks in the doors. I went on the dew-covered deck. The Haitian was still motionless, one arm across his chest and the other flung wide.
     I picked up a piece of broken dunnage and held it ready as I bent close to him. He was breathing slowly and regularly. I looked at his face. He had a large boil in the middle of his forehead that made him look like he was about to sprout a horn.
     I went back and knocked softly on Yussuf’s door. “Yes?” I heard him call sleepily.
     “It’s the captain. I need some help. Keep it quiet.”
     He opened the door in his underwear.
     “I just knocked a thief out with my slingshot. I need help getting him into his canoe.”
     His eyes opened wide. He closed the door to drop the hook and came out. He stared at the thief, still motionless.
     “He looks dead, Captain. You sure you didn’t kill him?”
     “He’s breathing. That’s all that counts. Let’s get him into his canoe and shove him off.”
     “That where you hit him?” he asked, pointing to the man’s forehead.
     “Naw, that’s some kind of sore or something. I got him behind the ear.”
     The man snorted loudly, once, and turned on his side. Yussuf stood up. “He’s okay. But what if we put him in the boat and he rolls out of it? He might drown.”
     I gave a sharp grin. “He shouldn’t go boating at night. Dangerous creatures about.”
     “Let me go get the AB’s.”
     I shook my head. “Let’s do it ourselves. The fewer who know about this the better.”
     We made a bight in a one-inch rope—a smaller rope would have cut into his skin—and looped it under his arms. We handed him over the gunwale and lowered him to his boat. When his feet were a few inches above it, we made the bitter end fast and I went down. Yussuf lowered him into the boat as I guided his feet. I unfastened the rope and pulled it out from under him. He never regained consciousness, but he did call out once in Creole, a small, lost cry that disappeared into the darkness as soon as it was uttered.
     I stood on the bottom rung of the ladder and untied the boat. The bow wheeled away. When I got up on deck it was already at the edge of visibility, and a few minutes later it was gone toward the western reaches of Miragoane Bay.
     I chuckled. “I bet he has a hard time figuring out how he got there when he wakes up.”

That excerpt rings very true to me, having enjoyed (NOT!) the hospitality of all too many Third World ports of call.  The rampant theft, incompetence, nepotism and filth of such places is beyond my ability to describe it.  Suffice it to say that "frontier justice" such as that described above is all too common.  If the owners of the goods concerned want to keep them, they have no choice, as the police are worse than useless;  but if the thieves don't bring back what they need to survive, they'll starve (or their gang bosses will torture and kill them as an encouragement to the other members).

It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, one that most of us, in our First World civilization "cocoon", don't know at all.  For that, be thankful.


Friday, December 27, 2019

A nifty, low-cost camper van conversion

I've long wanted a travel trailer or small camper, something Miss D. and I can use for weekend getaways, or even for a week or longer.  However, it's been financially impossible for us, and looks like it'll be that way for some time.

Nevertheless, I keep my eyes open for good ideas in that area.  I was struck by this article about a low-cost conversion of a 2017 Ram cargo van.  It's filled with interesting touches and useful ideas, as well as lots of photographs.  Here's an excerpt.

When we bought her, our immediate thought was to hire professionals to build it for us knowing how little experience we have in building anything! We called a few companies who builds camper vans and realized just how expensive it is. So we’re down to doing it ourselves as our only practical choice!

As I mentioned earlier, my husband and I have zero knowledge in building anything! Well, except for a few Ikea cabinets he’s assembled in the past! So we thought why not use Ikea in building our van?! Not only is it inexpensive but also easy to build and mount!

We had to figure out what we wanted to have in the van based on the lifestyle we plan on living. Aside from the obvious things like the kitchen and bed, we added a desk, shower, cabinets and drawers to our must-have list. We had to assess what things we’re bringing in the van and how much storage we really needed.

. . .

Most floor plans for self-converted camper vans will have the bed sitting on a high platform in the rear by the back doors. The best part of this layout is the amount of space under the bed where some use to install custom drawers and cabinets. For our floor plan, we’ve decided on placing the bed behind the cockpit purely because we didn’t want to have to build a platform. Unfortunately, because of the wheels in the back, a platform is necessary to fit a bed. As it turned out, this made the van seem more spacious with the kitchen the rear! Also, we’ve been able to take incredibly beautiful pictures with this layout! The spacious hallway (as I call it) gives room for incredible photos when the back doors are open! Similarly,  we’ve been able to take dramatic photos laying down in our beds when the side sliding door is open! Also, I really like that I can open 2 back doors in the rear kitchen while cooking! It helps aerate the van!  Lastly, our bed has the best vantage point whichever side the scenery is! While laying down, depending on where the best view is, we can open either doors to take it all in!

Initially, we wanted to have a small shower for when we are on long road trips but still have to decide if we really need it or not! The space where our fridge is placed is where we intended the shower to be in. So far, 5 months into van-living, we don’t have a pressing need for a shower. We mostly have gyms where we go and have taken showers outside our van using a portable shower when in state and national parks.

There's more at the link.

The beauty of this conversion is, one can do it to almost any van, not just a more modern unit like the Ram (which I really like, BTW - I just can't afford one!).  The article provides links to the furniture and accessories at Ikea, which was very useful.  (I had no idea that a tiny, compact kitchen unit existed until I read about it there.  I could build that into a writer's shed outside.  Hmmm . . . )

This is also useful information if you want to put together some sort of bug-out vehicle for the family.  A decent-size van like the Ram (particularly a model with a higher roof, and/or in its 2500 or 3500 higher-capacity versions) could tow a 1-ton or 2-ton cargo trailer with no trouble at all.  This conversion, plus the trailer, would give you sleeping space for a couple or small family (a lot sturdier and more secure than a pop-up tent-sided camper), plus the ability to take essential supplies with you.  That's not a bad idea at all.


Gun violence, race and culture

A fascinating article at Medium examines the map of suicides and homicides in America involving guns, and comes to some conclusions that are sure to be controversial - but the author seems to make a good case.  Here's a very brief excerpt from a long and detailed article, that you really should read in full (the maps are essential to understanding the author's case).  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

We hear a lot of banter from the “anti-gun” media that these problems are gun problems, and they’ve concocted this “gun deaths” number in order to lump these into the same problem and gloss over the differences. But if the problem were “guns,” then the hot spots on the suicide map and the hot spots on the homicide map would coincide, and would be related to gun ownership rates. There are only a few places where they overlap. Most of the hot zones for suicide have low homicide rates, and most of the hot zones for homicide have low suicide rates. The difference is stark.

. . .

How on earth is any of this possible? It certainly doesn’t fit the “it’s the guns” narrative. If it were “the guns,” then these hot spots would mostly overlap. There are a few overlaps ...  but most of the country exhibits the exact opposite behavior than we would expect from the “it’s the guns” hypothesis.

Let’s dig a bit. We pointed out over a year ago in our “solutions” article that the main problem with homicide, demographically speaking, was within the black community, and the rate numbers for this are outrageous ... Black male firearm homicide victimization rates are 35 times that of white women. They’re the ones getting shot ... Gun homicide in the United States is largely a poor black problem.

. . .

Put even more hastily and sloppily, gun homicide and gun suicide are behaviors, and behaviors are functions of culture ... What I can say, from grinding on these maps for several days, is that “gun deaths” as defined are a deeply cultural problem, and only slightly (if at all) related to gun availability. Not just for homicide, but for suicide as well. Further, the cultural and genetic makeup of our country is so different than other countries, that comparisons between them and us are simply not viable.

Most importantly, in a country where firearms are never going to be magically evaporated, with a guns per capita rate far beyond the saturation point of easy availability, we must seek cultural solutions to cultural problems, and medical solutions to genetic ones.

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

The article is from an author who calls his Medium page "Handwaving Freakoutery".  He looks to have some very interesting entries there, and I'm going to have to spend some time reading and noodling over them.  For example, another article looking at the firearms dilemma is titled "Newsweek‘s Bogus Gun Rhetoric Misses an Amazing Find".  It looks intriguing.


Thursday, December 26, 2019

Santa's journey - Royal Tank Regiment edition

It seems that, for their last PT parade before Christmas each year, the Royal Tank Regiment in the UK (the oldest tank unit in the world) stages a fun race for wannabe Santa Clauses in their makeshift sleighs.  This Christmas was no exception.

Having to eat six mince pies and drink half a gallon of milk at the halfway point might be described as cruel and unusual punishment . . .


Frustrating Big Brother about firearms

We're seeing more and more talk from the political extremes in the USA concerning imposing their views on others, or violently rejecting such attempts.  A good example may be found in Virginia right now.  A newly-elected Democrat majority is threatening to impose draconian restrictions on firearms rights, which has led to a backlash where almost 90% of the counties in the state have passed resolutions declaring themselves "Second Amendment sanctuary zones", or words to that effect.  The language from both sides is becoming more heated, and I think there are serious implications for the future.

(It's also worth noting that the legislature in Virginia is dominated by a very few counties surrounding Washington D.C.  The vast majority of the state's other counties voted for Republican candidates;  but those inhabited by government workers from Washington, a typically Democratic constituency, overwhelmed the rural votes.  This has caused great resentment among "down-state" voters, for obvious reasons.)

There are a few practical steps that anyone can take if they want to get their guns "off the radar screen" - i.e. removing as much as possible of the paper trail that links them to firearms currently in their possession.  That paper trail is based on the Form 4473 that all gun buyers fill out when they purchase a firearm from a dealer with a Federal Firearms License.  The transaction is logged in the dealer's official books, and details can be (and usually are) recorded by the ATF on a regular basis.  Technically, there are laws prohibiting the establishment and maintenance of a national firearms registry, but there are widespread rumors that such laws are honored more in the breach than in the observance.

Private firearms sales and purchases are entirely legal, however, in most parts of the country, and in most cases don't need to be recorded anywhere.  Furthermore, the ATF used to state explicitly on its Web site that if one bought a firearm as a gift for another person, one could indicate on the Form 4473 that one was the purchaser, even if it was to be handed over to someone else (obviously, without the latter details being recorded).  They removed that published advice some time ago, but they've never officially withdrawn or contradicted it:  so, as far as I know (I am not a lawyer, so don't take this as legal advice), one can still do that.  When in doubt, consult the ATF or your lawyer.

One can use these legal methods to rearrange one's firearms collection so that tracing it (for whatever reason) can become much, much harder.  For example:

  • If you have a MasterBlaster 2.0, and your buddy Fred has a MasterBlaster 2.0, and you both like them, what's to stop you swapping guns?  The paper trail to your gun (through its serial number) ends with you, even though you no longer have it;  and ditto for Fred.  It's even more effective if you involve a third and/or fourth party in the "swap chain", as it adds further layers of anonymity.  If anyone asks you where your original MasterBlaster 2.0 is, you can answer (entirely truthfully) that you disposed of it legally.  If asked to whom, you can (equally honestly) answer that at the time, there was no legal requirement to keep a record of that, so you didn't;  and, in the absence of such a record, you wouldn't like to speculate, for fear of a faulty memory.
  • You can buy guns "off paper" from private sellers (following all regulatory requirements, of course, such as no illegal across-state-border transactions).  I've done this many times, and sold many firearms in the same way.  Web sites such as ArmsList make it easy to find firearms you want that are being offered for sale in your area by those from whom you may legally buy them.  Most gun shows I've been to have people walking the aisles with privately-owned firearms for sale;  some even have areas set aside for such people to wait for potential customers, where the firearms can be inspected and negotiations conducted.  Word of mouth is also a useful tool;  for example, many gun ranges will offer the opportunity to meet with other members, where news of who has what for sale or to swap may be exchanged.  In almost every case, unless the seller demands that you sign a bill of sale listing your contact information, there will be no record of the transaction.  (I typically refuse to sign such a document.  To me, "private" means "private".  Period.  If the seller insists, I don't buy the gun.)  Remember, however, that e-mails and/or phone calls used to set up the meeting can be recorded, and may provide a trail of evidence.
  • Online ammunition and accessory purchases (e.g. holsters, spare magazines for a pistol or rifle, etc.) are recorded by the seller, and can be tracked by anyone accessing your Internet history or credit card transactions.  I don't usually worry about this, because I can't afford to stockpile immense arsenals of equipment or ammunition.  However, if it bothers you, you can usually buy the same things at a gun show (the bigger ones will have almost anything you could desire).  You can pay in cash, rather than use a credit card or check that can be traced, and walk out with wheelbarrow loads of gear, if that's what you want.  Private sales are also entirely legal in most (but not all) states.  More than once, I've ordered several thousand rounds of ammunition for myself and friends.  When it's arrived, I've split it up and delivered their portions to them.  I've also joined "group buys" spearheaded by other individuals.  The person doing the buying can be identified;  but those who paid him cash for their share of the ammo, and took private delivery, cannot.  Gifts of ammunition for Christmas or birthdays are also legal in most states, and untraceable.

Some states are now trying to restrict the purchase of ammunition (e.g. California).  There are, of course, ways to evade such restrictions.  I'm not going to comment on their legality;  after all, it would be irresponsible of me to advise anyone to break the law.  Nevertheless, according to my shooting friends in and around that state, the number of carloads of ammunition that have gone back and forth across the California border since that legislation was passed must be well into the tens of millions of rounds by now.  California tries to stop such traffic, but it's not always successful.  (A visibly heavily-loaded vehicle, with only the driver visible inside and nothing on the seats, is an obvious invitation to a cop to check what's in the trunk - so don't do that!)  What's more, civilly disobedient citizens and organizations in surrounding states have been known to aid and abet bypassing such restrictions, more or less discreetly.

Of course, it might not be a good idea to get rid of all one's traceable firearms.  After all, if there's a paper trail suggesting you once owned several guns, but when the authorities ask about them, you claim you got rid of them all, that's going to look very suspicious to them.  I think it may be better to retain some that are "on paper", so that if registration or confiscation becomes a reality, one can demonstrate that one is a law-abiding citizen, and register or hand in those guns.

There are those who argue that we should stash one or two firearms, some ammunition, and basic accessories (a holster, cleaning kit, etc.) in a "safe place", so that if the authorities confiscate weapons, we'll still have access to them.  I'm not sure whether this is truly practical.  After all, if things come to such a pass, it'll be illegal to possess a weapon, period;  and, being a known former firearms owner (particularly if you're a shooting enthusiast), you'll probably be under increased scrutiny.  Do you think you can evade that to dig up your weapon(s)?  Even if you do, what are you going to do with them?  Where will you hide them?  Carrying them won't be a good idea, because you'll be on a "suspicious list" of those likely to do that.  Still, if that floats your boat, there are many ways to accomplish it.  (They do not include your shooting buddies' homes!  Where do you think the authorities are going to look first?)

Finally, recognize that there are regional differences in the way firearms are regarded.  What might "fly" in the Washington D.C. environs will be fiercely resisted in rural Virginia.  What the loony left might try in New York, or Massachusetts, or Connecticut, simply won't wash in Texas, or Oklahoma, or Arizona.  Even in so-called left-wing states, such as New York and Connecticut (news reports at those links), mandatory registration of so-called "assault weapons" has been a dismal failure, thanks to widespread and deliberate civil disobedience by firearms owners.  I can only imagine how similar laws would be received in more firearm-friendly states like Texas.  I know that many law enforcement leaders in the latter state have come out flat-footed and said they will not enforce any law that they regard as being in conflict with the Second Amendment.  I'm pretty sure their officers are 100% behind them - because those officers would be the ones in the firing line if they had to attempt confiscation, and they know it.

In short, one can still legally, in most parts of the country, privately sell or buy weapons, swap them with friends and others, conceal large-scale ammunition purchases, and generally take steps to ensure that a significant part of one's collection is no longer directly traceable to oneself by means of invoices or Form 4473's.  Start doing that now, while it's still legal!  In some parts of the country, it's no longer legal, and gun owners there have to deal with a much more difficult situation.

I have no problem whatsoever making any attempt at gun tracing or registration (the usual prelude to confiscation) a whole lot more difficult.  I think our Founding Fathers would approve.


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Pre-Christmas curmudgeonly thoughts

Received via e-mail, origin unknown (clickit to biggit):

I might try #9 there, after Christmas dinner!


Chicago's quality of life, by the numbers

I note that according to HeyJackass (which Second City Cop calls "the ONLY trusted source for actual crime numbers" - and do read the comments there, too), Chicago has passed another grim milestone for 2019.

Five-hundred-plus homicides in a year . . . The latest mass shooting in Chicago says a great deal about why the numbers are so high.  Note that the gathering concerned was to honor - HONOR!!! - the memory of a thug and criminal who tried to carjack a vehicle, and was shot in the attempt.  Congratulations to the shooter, and thank you for removing a menace from the streets of Chicago.

Chicago cops just don't seem able to get a handle on the enormous crime rates there.  No matter how much is spent on them, no matter how many of them there are, the politically correct keep tying their hands and preventing them from doing what's needed to clean up the city.  I truly can't understand why the people of Chicago tolerate crime figures like those.  If the Texas city where I live had that sort of problem, I think the police wouldn't have to sort it out:  the local residents would.  All the cops would have to do is provide cleanup services.

Of course, as we've seen many times in these pages before, Chicago's a basket case in so many ways it isn't even funny.  Consider its fixed costs as a percentage of the city's operating revenues:

(See the original chart at the link for an interactive version.)  In 2018, the city had fixed payments relative to revenue of 44.2%.  In other words, for every dollar it collected in taxes, 44.2 cents were already committed or obligated - at least in theory, if not in practice - before it spent one single cent to pay for its day-to-day needs.  That's no way to run a city - or a corporation or a home, for that matter.  It's crippling the entire city administration, and is one reason why cops can't achieve more against crime in the Windy City.

I have friends who live in and near Chicago.  For the life of me, I can't imagine why . . .


Monday, December 23, 2019

There's something fishy going on here . . .

I had no idea that the United States was the largest producer of farmed Caspian-Sea-origin beluga caviar in the world!  The New York Post reports:

Caviar prices are plummeting — but if you want the best price, you might want to find a dealer.

. . .

Even if you don’t have a special connection, caviar is becoming more accessible than ever. Wholesale prices in the US have plunged more than 50 percent since 2012, from $850,000 per ton to $350,000 per ton last year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

At the same time, US caviar consumption is up dramatically. Imports jumped to $17.8 million in 2018 from $7.6 million in 2014.

The democratization has been made possible partly by an increasing abundance of high-quality, farmed caviar from China, which accounts for about half of what was consumed by Americans last year, according to the US Census Bureau.

But it’s also because of American entrepreneurs like Mark Zaslavsky and Mark Gelman, who took extraordinary steps 16 years ago — flying live, rabbi-blessed Caspian Sea sturgeon over from Europe, sloshing in tanks — to set up a domestic farm that has since become wildly productive.

Indeed, Zaslavsky and Gelman say their Florida-based Sturgeon Aquafarms is now the world’s largest Beluga farm, with more Beluga sturgeon (16,000) than in the entire Caspian Sea. (The farm just donated 160,000 fertilized eggs to the Caspian Sea — whose caviar was banned in the US in 2005 over extinction fears — to help with re-population.) Their Marky’s Caviar shop at 1067 Madison Ave. offers caviar from the aquafarm, in addition to high quality farmed caviar from around the world — and a nightly eight-course tasting menu via Eleven Madison Park alumnus Chef Buddha Lo.

For New Yorkers dining out, the cheapest option at Midtown mecca Petrossian is now a 30-gram tin of “Royal Transmontanus” caviar from California that sells for $54 — down from $77 last year, says Serguei Aver, general manager at the Petrossian Boutique & Cafe at 911 7th Ave.

. . .

At the higher end, Tsukimi created a take on scrambled eggs with caviar and sea urchin as part of its $195 per person tasting menu. Industry Kitchen even has a $2,000 caviar pizza, with Stilton cheese, foie gras, truffles and 24-karat gold leaves that has to be ordered 48 hours in advance.

. . .

When the Soviet Union fell, the Russian mob took over much of the caviar trade and used profits to help fuel arms, drug and human trafficking deals, experts say.

The number of Caspian Sea beluga sturgeon plunged from 26,000 in the 1960s to 2,800 in the 1990s.

There's more at the link.

(Reading that, I can't help thinking of the verse, "There was fish, fish, in a little dish, in the store, in the store..."  How many of you remember "The Quartermaster's Store"?  I learned the unexpurgated military version, which for obvious reasons I won't reproduce here!)

A caviar pizza for $2,000?  Some people sure have more money than sense!  I'm amazed at what people will pay for what are basically nothing more than fish eggs.  I'm sure they'll roe the expense later!


Big Brother - vehicle edition

Earlier this month, I pointed out that "If you allow "smart" devices to listen to you non-stop, you're crazy".  That article examined the security risks of allowing smart devices into your home, because you had no idea what they were listening to and/or recording.

Now comes news that your car is almost certainly spying on you just as hard, if not harder.  Please watch the short video below;  or, if you prefer, read the report about the investigation.  Both are mind-blowing in their implications for our security.

It turns out that almost every modern vehicle is recording just about everything it can find about you, including your contacts from your smartphone, your driving style and habits, where you go, how long you're there . . . the whole schmear.  We have no idea how much of this is being uploaded to the vehicle's manufacturer, or what they're doing with it once it hits their servers.  Their conditions of service simply give them the right to collect it - and we're told nothing more.  We can't even opt out of it unless we deliberately refuse to subscribe to many of the services we've come to take for granted in modern vehicles;  and even that may not be enough to ensure our privacy.

The author of the article concludes:

To limit what private data your car collects about you, Fowler recommends not connecting your phone directly to your car via the built-in USB port and to use 12-volt chargers instead. He also suggests using an app called Privacy4Cars to make sure you delete your data from cars you use but don't own, including rentals or when you borrow one from a friend.

These tricks might not be enough when the upcoming 5G networks arrive and allow vehicles to transmit more data in less time. Coming soon to a dashboard near you.

There's more at the link.

Sadly, even the app mentioned above, Privacy4Cars, requires you to connect your smartphone to your car to use it!  That seems self-defeating to me.  The app's Web site provides links to several videos on their YouTube channel about what it does, and how car manufacturers collect your data.  They make interesting viewing.

Most frustrating from my point of view is that one can no longer buy a new car without such monitoring hardware and software installed.  The manufacturers no longer sell them.  Even if I specifically tell them that I don't want their real-time services such as OnStar, how do I know they aren't recording data anyway?  And how do I know that might not come back to bite me if it gets downloaded somehow without my permission, or even my knowledge?  I can see that data being used by divorce lawyers, private investigators, or even police, and I'd have no way to know about it or prevent it until it was too late.

That's why I won't connect my cellphone through the car's systems at all.  I'll use it stand-alone, not even with a Bluetooth connection, much less a USB cable.  It's the only way I know to stop my data from being stolen.  With the advent of 5G cellular service, even that may not be enough.

I wonder if one can burn out the vehicle computer(s) that do that job, while leaving the rest of the driving electronics intact?  I suspect not . . .


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sunday morning music

Enough with the Christmas muzak already!  Let's have something that's both tuneful and prayerful.  Words aren't necessary.

First, here's Mannheim Steamroller with "Fum, Fum, Fum".  It's a very old tune from Catalonia in Spain.  (Lyrics at the link above.)

Next, an ancient English air, "Greensleeves", the tune of which was adapted in the 19th century to the Christmas carol "What Child Is This?".  Lindsey Stirling does the honors.

Here's a hymn from the Orthodox Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, which was set to music by Tchaikovsky in 1878.  It's not Christmas music, strictly speaking, but it seems to me to fit in very well with the season.  It's the "Hymn of the Cherubim".  I know this performance is not instrumental, but if you don't speak the language, it might as well be!

And finally, my favorite Christmas hymn/carol, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel".  This instrumental rendition is from The Piano Guys.

Let's never forget the Reason for the season.


Saturday, December 21, 2019

Saturday Snippet: a Viking teaser

During my ongoing recovery from my heart attack last month, I've been trying to work on the books I have in progress.  It's very difficult to write creatively when the new medication I'm taking makes me breathless, dizzy, and too easily tired.  The combination doesn't do much for my muse!  As a result, when things get too confused, I put aside my regular projects and try to noodle on other things to get my mind out of the same old rut, and keep at least some creative juices flowing.

The snippet below came to me a few weeks ago.  It may go nowhere, or it may develop into a historical fantasy novel in due course.  As yet, I can't say.  Even so, I enjoyed being able to craft something new for a change, instead of worry over previous work that I just can't seem to polish into the shape I want it.  So, here goes.

     I had lived seven summers when it all began.
     I remember Egil, the King’s son, striding through the surf and up the narrow beach that afternoon, stones and shells crunching beneath his wet, dripping sandals. He was a tall, strong man, his red hair and beard blowing freely in the wind, the light of laughter in his eyes and on his lips. His chest and arms were well-muscled from years of training with sword, spear, axe and shield, and wielding an oar in the teeth of storm and gale. His legs were like tree-trunks, broad, solid beneath his kilt, looking as if they would bear him forever.
     Our thane stood halfway up the beach at the head of his men, gray-haired, bent with age, but pride still in his eyes. He had fought alongside the King, Egil’s father, through many years against the Dansk raiders who sailed up from the south to plague us. As Egil reached him, he said for all to hear, “We are blessed by your presence, Egil the Strong. You are well come. What brings you to the Westmark?”
     “The waves and the wind, Aagi, old friend,” Egil replied with a broad smile. “We have fought well this summer, and taught the Dansk raiders to keep their distance, at least for a time. My other ships have sailed off to their own homes and hearths, but I bethought me to visit you before I returned to Kingsmark. I have a surprise for you – three of them, in fact.” He turned his head, put two fingers in his mouth, and whistled shrilly.
     His crew had been climbing over the side of their longship into the surf. Now they reached up to those still aboard, who handed down a woman and two babes in arms. Those already in the water carried them to dry land and set them down on the beach, handing the babies to the woman. She threw back her shoulders, and raised her head in what looked almost like defiance; then she started up the beach towards us.
     “By Odin’s beard!” Aagi exclaimed, goggling in astonishment. “It is Ragna Torstensdottir! She was taken by Dansk raiders two springs past!” Behind him, the rest of the adults joined in a chorus of surprise, some in wonder, some in anger. We children watched in silence.
     As Ragna came up to him, she said, “Yes, Thane, it is I. Prince Egil and his men freed me.”
     “And the children?”
     “The raiders who stole me were from Goran Sigurdsson’s steading.” An angry murmur ran around our menfolk as they heard the hated name of our most persistent adversary. “They told me they had taken me as a gift for him. When they returned there, he forced me to become his concubine, and begat these twin boys upon me. Prince Egil killed him in single combat, and brought me home.”
     Aagi’s face grew troubled. “You… you know our laws, Ragna.”
     “I know our laws, yes, yet I plead with you for their lives. These children did not ask to be born, yet they are dear to me. They can grow to be good members of our clan, as good as any other. Why should they be punished for the sin of their father? Goran forced me, which was evil, but he is dead. Let that punishment rest upon him, who was the evildoer, and not upon my sons, who have done no evil at all.”
     Immediately a hubbub of comment broke out among the people. Some of the men spoke for Ragna, while others demanded the immediate death of the children of the enemy. Aagi spun on his heel to face the crowd. “Silence! Silence! I rule here, and I shall decide, in accordance with our laws! They prescribe death to evildoers, but as Ragna says, these children have done no wrong. We must think on this.”
     “What’s there to think about?” old Yngvar demanded crossly. He was one of the sticklers for the old ways, always inveigling against youngsters who failed to honor, respect and observe every jot and tittle of the laws of our forefathers. “Rape is an evil. They are therefore the fruit of evil. They should have been exposed at birth! Since that was not done, let them die now, and so remove the poisoned fruit from our midst!”
     I know not why I spoke. Perhaps it was a god speaking through me, for children were strictly forbidden to interfere in the affairs of adults, and I knew better. Even so, I suddenly found myself asking aloud, “Is it different for men than for sheep, then?”
     There was a sudden silence. I quailed inwardly. Everyone was looking at me. Aage frowned mightily, and opened his mouth. I knew he was about to order that I be beaten for interrupting my elders and betters – but Egil spoke first. His tone was puzzled, but kindly.
     “What do you mean, stripling?”
     I stammered, “M-Mama always says, i-if I find a ram that has s-strayed from another flock, to let him t-tread our ewes that are in season before we r-return him. Their lambs will bring new blood to our flock, and s-strengthen it.”
     There was a moment’s silence, then Yngvar shouted angrily, “So that’s why my ram was so exhausted when you returned him last month! You–”
     Whatever else he had to say was drowned in a roar of laughter. Even our thain was rocking with merriment. Egil and his men, who had by now come up the strand to join him, laughed the loudest of all, and so did Ragna.
     As the noise subsided, Egil called, “Old man, your ram may have been tired, but I daresay he was very happy!” That drew a fresh explosion of mirth. As silence returned, he added, “They say that wisdom is sometimes heard from the mouths of the young. What is your name, boy?”
     “I – I am named Alvar, my lord,” I managed to say. “My father was Lage Olofsson, who was killed two years ago, fighting the raiders that took Ragna. My mother is Meta, his widow.”
     “I have heard the name of Lage Olofsson. He was a good fighting man, they say. Alvar Lagesson, I think you have spoken wisdom this day. What works for your flock can work for people, too, it seems to me. I will testify for all men to hear that Goran Sigurdsson was a brave man, a skilled fighter and a worthy foe. His warrior’s blood would not diminish another clan, to be sure – rather the opposite. What say you, Thane Aagi?”
     “Aye, for all that he was our enemy, we know he was a braw fighter. I think you are right, Prince Egil. He is dead at your hands; therefore, the price for his evil deeds is already paid in full. That being so, it seems to me that his get will not stain our clan’s honor, but rather strengthen us. Furthermore, no dishonor attaches to Ragna for having borne them, for she had no choice in the matter. Does anyone gainsay this?”
     He turned to look at those standing around and behind him. There was a moment’s silence, then a growing murmur of assent and agreement. Even old Yngvar stood silent, unable to think of a countervailing argument that would carry enough weight to be convincing.
     “Then so be it. Welcome home, Ragna Torstensdottir, and your sons are welcome with you. What are their names?”
     She gave a great sigh of relief, and her shoulders relaxed. “This one,” hefting the babe in her right arm, “is Torgeir, and this one is Kare.”
     “Then I declare Torgeir and Kare Goransson to be sons of our clan, and blood of our blood.” He turned to Prince Egil. “Will you feast with us this night? We shall roast sheep for you, and we have fresh-brewed mead.”
     “That sounds like a meal fit for warriors! Yes, Thane Aage, we shall rest with you this night, and go on our way in the morning. We thank you.”
     “Then run your ship up the beach, and bring your men. I shall send guards to watch over it this night.”
     As our people made haste towards the Great Hall to begin preparing for a feast, and the visitors turned back to their ship to make it secure for the night, Egil squatted on his haunches in front of me and looked me in the eye. “That was well said, Alvar Lagesson. It took courage for one so young to speak up like that, I’m thinking.”
     “I – I thank my lord for his kindness.”
     As he moved on, Ragna stopped in front of me, and looked down with a warm smile on her face. “I thank you, Alvar. I shall not forget what my sons and I owe you for your words this day.”

Well, there you are.  Did you like it?  Hate it?  Please let me know in Comments.  As I said, it may go nowhere, or it may grow.  We'll have to see.


Friday, December 20, 2019

I think the metric system just struck again . . .

I had to laugh at this report from England.

A WACKY dad left his neighbours in stitches after accidentally ordering an inflatable Santa the size of his house.

Matty James bought the £100 blow-up decoration off eBay thinking it would spruce up the outside of his home.

But instead of the 8ft Father Christmas he was expecting the nightclub owner was left in disbelief as he began to blow up the jolly giant.

. . .

The supersized Santa ballooned into a 25ft accessory, towering over the neighbourhood and blocking the Southport resident’s windows.

"When I woke up in the morning I looked out and his head would eclipse the window,” he said.

"Downstairs in the front room, when you opened the curtains, there was a big Santa bum in your face.”

There's more at the link, including more (and larger) photographs of the immense Santa.

I bet I know what happened.  He thought he was buying an 8-foot tall Santa figure, whereas it was really an 8-meter Santa.  8 meters, in the metric system, translates to almost 25 feet in imperial measurements.

Oh, well . . . if size matters, he's got it in spades this Christmas!


Hypocrisy laid bare

I didn't think it was possible for some of our politicians to sink to new lows.  They've already plumbed so many depths, so shamelessly, that anything worse seemed beyond them.  I was wrong.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated Thursday that she would delay sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate, seeking more clarity on the rules for President Trump’s trial and potentially pushing the proceedings well into the new year.

Mrs. Pelosi’s comments drew condemnation from Republican lawmakers and President Trump, but the California Democrat said that she couldn’t select impeachment managers and advance the matter without more details about the Senate’s plans for a trial, which she has said should be conducted in a manner that she considers fair.

. . .

The Constitution doesn’t spell out the exact procedure for articles of impeachment being sent to the Senate, but specialists across the political spectrum say that Mrs. Pelosi has the power to delay sending the articles.

. . .

Some Democrats have expressed support for delaying sending over the articles of impeachment indefinitely, as a way to apply pressure on Mr. McConnell to allow witnesses and to obtain documents from the administration.

“We have one card to play here, which is the timing of its conveyance to the Senate, and how can we use that card to try and make the process balanced,” said Rep. Jim Himes (D., Conn.). “I think the speaker has a point of leverage. And she’s going to use that leverage to make sure the trial is fair.”

There's more at the link.

The Constitution is very clear that the House of Representatives and the Senate control their own modus operandi.  Neither can dictate to the other how it should conduct its affairs.  For Ms. Pelosi to insist that she won't carry out her duties unless the Senate bows to her will in the way it does its business is so ridiculous, so over the top, that it's beyond pathetic.  In a sense, it puts the cherry on top of the charade that has been the entire impeachment process.

From the very start, this has been the most hypocritical process imaginable.  Remember all the hype about "the whistleblower"?  Turns out there wasn't one.  In fact, there has not been one single witness produced, during the entire impeachment proceedings, who had or has first-hand knowledge of anything of which President Trump has been accused.  Not one single first-hand witness.  Instead, they've all been third-hand allegations:  "I heard that this happened", or "I was told that this occurred", or "It seemed to me that this implied that".  Such testimony would never convict any criminal in a court of law.  It's hearsay.  It's not testable or verifiable.

Then there's the way Republicans were refused the right to ask a number of important questions, and denied the ability to cross-examine important "witnesses" (who weren't).  This was so outrageously biased that even some Democrats cringed at the sight.  It was blatant hypocrisy on display, and those guilty of it appear quite unashamed by it - more's the pity.

Now we have this.  A party-line vote in the House has produced articles of impeachment that are so vague, so non-specific, that almost any President in US history could be accused of the same "crimes".  Not content with such chicanery, Ms. Pelosi is now trying to use them as a lever to manipulate the Senate, over which she has no control whatsoever.  How would she react if Senator McConnell tried to force her to run the House of Representatives according to his wishes?  She wouldn't be very happy, or very polite - but she has no problem trying to do precisely that to him.

Of course, the articles of impeachment are now a matter of official record.  I sincerely hope that Senator McConnell brings them to the floor of the Senate with or without Ms. Pelosi's cooperation, and opens them to debate and a vote there - whether or not it's an actual trial.  In fact, since a trial in criminal or civil court can't take place without formal charges being presented (and that's what articles of impeachment are - they're charges), perhaps he'd be justified in demanding that they be submitted by a given date and time.  If they're not, then he can move to dismiss the charges on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.

I truly don't understand how any supporter of the Democratic Party can tolerate so grave an abuse of power, so blatant a trashing of the structures of this Republic to promote partisan political interests.  If the Republican Party tried to do precisely the same thing, the screams of outrage from the progressive left (and almost all the news media) would be apoplectic . . . but when it's for a cause they support, all we hear is crickets.  That speaks very poorly for the ethical and moral sense of those on the left.

I've said before that I don't support either political party - I vote for the individual.  I also don't like how President Trump behaves, and have serious problems with some of the ways he conducts himself.  Nevertheless, he's very clearly the victim here, not the perpetrator.  I sincerely hope that these bogus charges backfire on all who conspired to pass them, and redound to their electoral doom next November.  That would be nothing more than poetic justice.  As for Ms. Pelosi . . .


Thursday, December 19, 2019

Stocking stuffers from friends

Several friends have published new books in recent weeks.  Here they are, in no particular order.

First, J. L. Curtis (more widely known as blogger Old NFO, among other things) has published the fifth and last volume about his protagonist, John Cronin, in the "Grey Man" series.  (It was originally planned as a trilogy, until he got carried away!)  This one's titled "The Grey Man - Twilight".

The blurb reads:

Never count an old man out, even when he's hanging up his hat!

Deputy Sheriff John Cronin is looking forward to a quiet retirement, working on the ranch, and handing it off to his granddaughter Jesse. And he's got to pass on a generation worth of investigations, but it's not as easy as handing over the case files and the keys. First, he's got to train Aaron Miller to fill his role, from the way to dress for rural juries to the finer points of stakeouts and murder investigations, Texas style.

Between the oil patch workers and the cartel's drug runners, there are plenty of loose ends for him to tie off… or terminate…

I was part of the alpha and beta reading team for this book.  It's a lot of fun.

Next, Tom Rogneby (known in the blogosphere as DaddyBear) has brought out the latest short novella in his "Boogeyman" series, "A Woman Scorned".

(When he posted the first version of the cover, I couldn't resist pointing out to him that both the car and the lady had masked headlights . . . )  The blurb reads:

Never cheat on a succubus.

Martin Shelby's latest client is a woman out to hurt her husband where it matters most to him - his pride. She's teamed with the best lawyer in town, and The Boogeyman is out to find the evidence to turn her shark loose in divorce court.

But indulging a taste for younger women isn't the only shady thing her husband's been up to, and the blood in the water is all too real as the body count starts mounting…

Finally, Alma Boykin's published the seventh in her paranormal "Familiars" series.  This one's titled "Eerily Familiar".

I really like what Alma's done with this series.  She tackles disturbing subjects like evil, witchcraft, etc., but in a very sound, wholesome way, showing that they're not to be trifled with, but also not to be feared by those who are properly rooted and grounded in God and good.  Very refreshing, considering some of the nastiness out there (like this one, for instance - that sent shivers down my spine when I read the report!  Anyone who'd even think of, let alone write or produce, a book like that goes straight into my "highly suspicious" little black book!)

The blurb for Alma's new book reads:

Something hunts the hunters…

Something waits in the shadows, watching. Lelia Chan and her Familiar, Tay, hear vague rumors of trouble among the shadow mages. Everyone's heard rumors before, and keeping her boss happy is more important. Then a painting tries to capture her friend. When her mentor and good friend André and his Familiar, Rodney both go missing, Lelia has to take charge.

She's not ready. No shadow mage ever is. But she'll find a way or die trying.

Things worse than than death hide in the shadows. And they LIKE meeting over-confident young mages…

I've read and enjoyed all three of the books listed above.  Recommended.

(Oh - and there's also my new Western novel, "A River of Horns", if you like my books!  It was published just a few days ago.)


Doofus Of The Day #1,059

Today's award goes to the American Civil Liberties Union for this stupidity.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is calling for men's restrooms to include tampons in order to prevent discrimination against "every person who menstruates."

. . .

The left-leaning legal group argued that it wasn't a "full or accurate portrayal" to say that women are the only ones who "menstruate, get pregnant, or breast feed [sic]."

"Menstrual stigma and period poverty can hit trans and non-binary people particularly hard," the post read.

. . .

This wasn't the first time the ACLU made a head-turning comment about gender. On "International Men's Day," the group declared that men could both get their periods and give birth.

There's more at the link.

Dear ACLU, kindly read a couple of medical and/or biological textbooks.  By definition, no man - no person of the male sex or gender - has the necessary plumbing to menstruate (or get pregnant, for that matter).  Therefore, there is no need for menstrual hygiene products in spaces that are, by definition, reserved for males.

Of course, if someone wishes to defy medical and biological reality and pretend that they're male, when in fact they are female . . . that's another matter.  I, for one, see no point whatsoever in indulging their pretense.  For them, I suggest that menstrual hygiene products be made available where they're more appropriate - in female restrooms.  Anything else denies reality, and is a waste of time and money, IMHO.

I addressed the ACLU's previous nonsense on this subject in two articles, here and hereNothing's changed.  The medical and biological realities cited in those articles are as real today as they've ever been, and no touchy-feely, unicorn-fart-fueled, politically correct, moonbattish delusion is about to alter them.


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Ever heard of "khinkali"? Suddenly, I'm hungry . . .

I've had dumplings in many and varied forms, from the American standby of chicken and dumplings (the latter not being "dumplings" at all in the classic sense, but simply dough cooked in the chicken sauce), to Chinese dumplings (and their closely related cousin, potstickers), to variations of the theme in many countries.  I've enjoyed most of them.

However, until I came across this article, I'd never heard of "khinkali", a dumpling claimed as a native dish by Georgia.

At the height of summer, Tbilisi is a heat trap. Ringed on three sides by an amphitheatre of mountains, the Georgian capital sits in a valley where stifling, humid air collects. Right up until evening, just traversing the city can be a life-sapping slog.

Walking the streets in June, it is surprising, then, to see families sit at lunchtime around restaurant tables piled high with swollen, boiled dumplings, named khinkali (the kh is pronounced as a throaty h). Each is almost the size of a tennis ball, and nearly bursting with meat, spices, herbs and all the juices that ooze from these uncooked innards as the dumping boils, which end up trapped inside the dough to make a puffy orb of broth.

Often, all you see are the post-meal remains: a graveyard of thick, pinched dumpling nibs, from where the khinkali is sealed. As you eat, you grip this dough-handle, and then discard it like so many headstones for departed snacks. Despite Georgia’s reputation as the birthplace of wine, a frosty beer is understandably the preferred summer accompaniment.

At first sight, a few dozen dumpling-tops suggests that a gut-busting quantity of meat-filled dough and broth has been consumed in the middle of a sweltering day. But with the first bite into a khinkali, it is easier to understand going back, again and again. The rush of broth that escapes has a delicate flavour of just-cooked spiced meat that’s comforting but neither heavy nor greasy.

. . .

During blistering winters in Tusheti, temperatures regularly fall below -15°C, and villages on the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains are cut off by metres of snowfall. For centuries before becoming restaurant favourites, khinkali were a warming offering for Caucasus shepherds, with chopped lamb or mutton at the centre, which was replaced by ground beef and pork as the dumpling migrated to the city.

At Tbilisi restaurant Sofia Melnikova’s Fantastic Douqan, chef Lena Ezieshvili makes some of Tbilisi’s most celebrated khinkali from a Tushetian recipe that mixes seven parts beef to three parts pork, adding coriander, pepper and cumin.

There's more at the link.

Intrigued, I looked for recipes for khinkali, and found quite a few through a quick Internet search.  This one provides a step-by-step photographic guide, very useful for novice cooks and those who aren't sure how to proceed.  Here's how it portrays the finished product.

I think I know what I'm going to try to cook, the next time my turn comes around to cater to the regular suppers of the North Texas Writers, Shooters and Pilots Association!